Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011What lifts you? - Friday Five

Sally is in the dumps. I have been there so many times that I feel I should pay rent to the landfill. In fact I just got an appointment with a new shrink yesterday. I have taken medication since the early ‘80’s and I am so thankful for it. I know that my symptoms come from being a ‘quart low’ of serotonin, as were my father and, I think, my grandfather. I also think I have a niece who struggles with it but refuses to get help.

Sally writes:

Over the last few weeks I have been struggling with depression, I know that from reading other folks blogs that I am not alone in this, and from time to time if not suffering from depression that everyone feels down. With that in mind I wonder what lifts you? So I'd like you to share 5 things:

1. Scripture : My all-time verses come from the book of Ben Sirach in the Apocrypha: Chapter 2—the whole chapter. It calls me to my toughest self—one who can stand up to the challenge of Christ’s call. It gets my juices going to fight the enuni that is so much a part of a pastor’s life. We often pick up all the troubles of those we serve and keep them rather than give them to God. I used to have a green rug in the rectory (where I met with parishioners) and tried to remember to leave their problems on my green rug so that it would fertilize it!

2. A piece of music: I am a classical music hound. I listen to Gregorian chant to meditate, or listen to some major work that I like that fills me with purpose and strength like: Mahler 7th or the Brahms’ Requiem. I was a music major in my undergraduate days so music runs around in my soul. There is the 2nd movement to Ravel’s piano concerto that is so lovely that it makes me cry—and that is one of the things that helps me when I am down—the gift of tears is God’s way of helping me cope with the ‘stuff’ in my life.

3. A place. There are ‘thin places’ in my life. As a Celt through and through, place is important to me. There are few churches that become that place but out of doors is important. I have not found any new places here in FTW. Some of our revgals came over and helped us organize the office in our home while J was so sick. I now have a quiet office to think and pray. I also love to be near water or on it.

4. A person/ group of people: As an extrovert, people are so important to me to keep my spirits up even if they are on the internet. I can’t tell you how many times it has been one of the revgals who have said the right thing on one of their blogs, or an email from a friend that has helped me get out of the doldrums. Meeting with colleagues –often women not of my own denomination have been a boon. Just the vocabulary of ministry is just enough different to bring me some new view of faith, ministry, family, whatever is often just what I need.

While I do not solicit this, every once in a while I will get an email from a former parishioner who lifts me. But the all-time lift I got was when I wrote Bp. Jack Spong whom I had never met and asked him what he did to not give up when the arch-conservatives were trying to take over the Church. He wrote me and asked me to “come die with him for the salvation of the Church and for Christ Jesus.” I have never been so challenged to ministry in my life. I find that when people I respect challenge me when I am down, I am able to respond better and more fully than if I am coddled or comforted.

5. Something you do...There are several things:

Exercise. And this is probably the hardest to do when I am down. I am not normally a ‘movable object’ and this contributes to the depression.

Talk: If I have to, I find a therapist. When J was so sick, I found I needed someone who was a professional who could help me sort out my thoughts and fears, my whines and whimpers, my uncharitable thoughts and grumpies, own them and forgive myself so that they wouldn’t overtake me in dealing with her. It just took a few sessions, but it did the trick. I find that introverts tend to process it differently but just being willing to look at our fears is a big step to recovering from depression. For me, depression is God saying to me that I am hiding from something in my life that God wants me to look at. Sometimes it is a spiritual issue, sometimes it is a personal issue, but I am always better when I allow myself to name the fears I have and turn them over to God. The therapist or spiritual director can often help me ask myself the right questions so that I can get clear. Fear is the biggest impediment to my ministry—and I don’t think of myself as especially fearful. And most of my friends would see me as rather bold. But it is those temptations to think of ourselves as incapable or not worthy that sometimes sneak into our thinking that erodes our confidence and faith. I would ask all revgals and revpals: Do you have a pastor?

Rest: Often my depression comes on when I have allowed myself to over commit, or over do. Since over-doing is in the gene pool of us clergy types, I have to give myself permission to really rest—sleep, read some dumb who-done-it novel and forget the parish, the world, the family for a few hours.

Eat right: Depression and eating often go hand-in-hand with me. If I can be intentional about eating good food, well-prepared and healthy even if I have to eat out, it helps.

Being Nice to Myself: There is such a temptation to beat myself up while depressed and that it makes it worse. When I recognize that depression is an ILLNESS, not just a failure to cope, it makes a bit more sense. Then I can treat it like a common cold rather than a defect of character. If we have the sniffles, it is not difficult to go to bed early with a hot toddy. When we see depression as a normal part of living and that we ‘catch’ depression from our families, parishes, the world, just as surely as we do the flu then we can deal with it a bit better and without the guilt that we often lay at our feet.

Don’t Sweat the Big Stuff: When I am really depressed it is really hard to ‘find’ God. It feels like I am looking for God from the wrong end of binoculars. I have learned not get upset and fear that I am going to lose my faith. God IS there; you aren’t. Depend upon the support of the prayers of those who love you. Ask for those prayers and trust that they are there when you cannot pray.

Feel free to contact me—anyone who has problems with depression. Us depressive types need to stick together to remind ourselves that we are not alone and that the world, our lives, our parishes, our families or our careers are not coming to an end.

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