Warning: the post below contains PG-13 content. Read at your own risk.
May has been designated as Mental Health Month where we try to bring greater awareness to mental health issues that we all face. You can read my post last year reflecting on a spiritual approach that Dr. Bobby Conway and his wife Heather brought up in their podcast Unapologetic. The Conways brought up connections to our physical health – diet and exercise – in addition to spiritual attacks. Yes, there is a devil who hates you and would do anything in his evil powers to afflict you. However, for the church to ignore it or reduce it to “sin” is just as unhelpful.
Recently, country music super star Naomi Judd committed suicide and adds more impetus to deal with mental health issues. The fact that the Judd family are celebrities puts the family under greater scrutiny instead of letting them grieve privately. Even Christians are not immune to the pain of suicide. Not long ago, Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and author of the The Purpose Driven Life to suicide. Pastor Jarrid Wilson of Harvest Christian Fellowship also took his own life.
I read that almost one in five Americans deal with mental health issues – either personally or are caregivers to someone who is going through a mental health crisis. It’s not just the known syndromes – the schizophrenia, Tourette Syndrome, bipolar or the autistic or Alzheimer’s. Hollywood has even made movies – A Beautiful Mind, Proof, and The Accountant where the protagonists are diagnosed with one of those issues.
That’s just Hollywood.
Let’s go into the mind of someone who does deal with depression and OCD on a regular basis: my mind.
We begin with the deadening of the emotions. You might ask: don’t you have Christian joy? The answer: when you are depressed, joy becomes an abstract theological concept or the pat Sunday School answer. Slowly, everything turns the same. Two weeks ago, I was at a wedding and it turned into a long ordeal because my car broke down coming home. At the wedding, I was bored. B O R E D. It should have been a happy event; I felt nothing. Likewise, British actor Hugh Laurie (House, MD) once confessed that he saw two cars about to crash on a raceway and felt nothing. This is when we realize something is wrong but what? For those who deal with depression and even suicide, it can be the opposite extreme from unable to process strong emotions. It can be no emotions.
The spiral continues downward. This is why some people start cutting themselves – they want to feel something – anything – even pain. Now, I have never been a cutter but I know where they are coming from. If not cutting, something illicit – drugs, affairs, gambling, pornography, illegal street racing; anything to make you feel something again. But nothing. Again, by God’s grace, I never did drugs, drank alcohol, or anything illegal either. It could have easily gone another way.
“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”C.S. Lewis – Mere Christianity
At this point, we have a choice: go up or go down. The C.S. Lewis quote captures this crossroad. Reach up to a loving God in Jesus Christ. It will never be an instant change. It will take months and years of hard work to be in Christian community and therapy. I have to look up. Be an eagle, not a chicken.
If we choose to go down, the next D – Disengagement. Start walking away and pulling away from people. One of my biggest struggles is feeling like I’m expendable. Like Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo in Rambo II; when asked by his South Vietnamese contact what is expendable, Rambo said: “It’s like being invited to a party but no one cares if you don’t show up.” Who knew that Stallone would later make 3 blockbuster hit movies called “The Expendables” with the biggest action stars of the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s? In my head, it goes back to the original line in the 1980s movie – what if I was invited to a party and no one cared if I showed up or not?
Disengagement is not about self-serving validation or leaving a bad job. I mean, if you have to leave a bad job, just go. It’s not worth it even if it pays well. There are other factors – your family, your marriage, your values and convictions, and yes even the commute – that no amount of money can compensate. Setting aside those issues, disengagement for the depressed and suicidal is extremely dangerous because they are starting to refuse help or advice from others. They are not talking to anyone else because in their mind – who really cares for them? In their mind: no one.
In a sense, that person has already stopped living.
What happens next is really up to them. Stay tuned for more.
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