Sunday, October 18, 2009

Depression Part I

"He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity..." Isaiah 53:3

I have always found comfort in this passage. I guess it because I can relate. It's not that I am a suffering servant but I am a man of suffering. I suffer from depression.

I recently finished a book that has helped me come to terms with this illness. The book Lincoln's Melancholy has helped me realize that I am not alone. Mr. Lincoln and myself, at least, have suffered the effects of the illness. Of course I write that in jest, however, I know that I am not alone even though my melancholic temperament and depression often makes me feel as though I am the only one to experience this.

So, here, I hope to write about what I have been going through for all of my life but most especially the past year.

I have been of the melancholic temperament for as long as I can remember and the experts would tell me for as long as I have been alive. As with all temperaments, the melancholic has it's blessings and curses. I am blessed with intense creativity and powers of meditation. I am cursed with a dark view of the world and my place in it. I am blessed with the ability to feel deeply the hurts of others. I am cursed with the tendency to give up on that which I perceive as not perfect. I can find joy in the most seemingly insignificant event and spiral into an unfathomable darkness as a result of an insignificant event.

I have suffered from this temperament and it's related illness, depression, for some time. I will not go into past details, many of those are recalled in my Conversion Story. Instead, I will begin with what has been the most difficult ten months of my life thus far.

I remember thinking, "I think they took my soul rather than my stem cells" shortly after donating PBSC to help save the life a young man with blood cancer. When it seems as though any other person would be rejoicing at the opportunity to save another's life, I fell into a deep, dark depression. I lost my love for writing, and stopped writing in earnest on any of my blogs or in any of my journals. I struggled with the very existence of God and I lost my will to live. I wasn't suicidal but I wasn't wanting to stick around either. (Incidentaly, I learned later that the young man made a full recovery which did give me some joy.)

I dutifully kept up all outward appearances. I did my job well and spent time with friends but I was dead inside. I was a walking shell of a man. Only my wife had any inclination of how much I was suffering internally. Yet, even she had no idea what was going on inside my mind and heart. Even those closest to me had no idea that I would drive to work praying for someone to cross the line, crash into me and end it all. The only thoughts that could drive away this darkness was the images of my wife and children.

I sought help from my brother, a priest, and told him of my sufferings and asked his advice. We talked and that helped but I had neither the will nor the power to practice those things he advised. I continued groping in the darkness finding happiness only in wrestling with the kids or talking to Nicole. Yet, when the wrestling ended or the talks ceased, I sank quickly back into the blackness.

There were times of joy but they seemed short-lived. They were often cut short by some stupid event that would cloud my vision and cast me back into the pit. I could be full of joy after spending an evening with extended family, eating, drinking and having a great time, and then stub my toe or not be able to find a screwdriver and fall helplessly back into despair.

This cycle continued throughout the spring of 2009. It was a roller coaster to say the very least. By the time school had let out and my work was done for the summer, I was in dire straits. I pinned all of my hope on recovery on my trip with Wilderness Outreach. It was peg that could not hold the weight, but it alleviated my suffering for a time and provided a window for God speak to me.

To be continued....

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