Having No Joy and No Hope

Someone in one of my Facebook groups linked the Matt Walsh post on Robin Williams. (I am refusing to link it here because I don’t want to have any hand in generating hits for someone whose ideas I find so utterly off-base. If you want to read it, Google it.) In essence, Walsh argues that depression is spiritual, Williams made the choice to die, and that we can choose to look for hope and joy in our lives or we can wallow in depression.

Yeah… NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Someone who says all of that crap obviously has never been so depressed that they cannot physically pull themselves out from under the covers or so depressed that they just cannot eat. Someone who says that suicide is a choice and they make the choice to straddle their family with grief has never been in so much physical, emotional, and mental pain that it’s like being trapped in a burning building and your choices are to either be burned to death or to fling yourself out the window. (Someone posted a quote about this on Facebook and unfortunately I can’t find it.) Here’s the quote:

“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.” – David Foster Wallace

Why do I say this? I’VE BEEN THERE.

The reason I’m sitting here typing this and not dead 19 years ago is that something intervened 19 years ago in a way that can only be considered the hand of God. The night I planned to end my life, someone was praying for me and God heard those prayers. I can’t really put into words what happened (nor do I want to try because I’m keeping this purposely vague for my family’s sake) but that was the night I gave my life to Christ. Somehow, I survived the rest of that school year and the rest of high school though I came out of it with pretty significant PTSD.

In college, I suffered with depression so intense that it was all I could do to get out of bed some days. I lost a great deal of weight from not eating and there were days when I couldn’t stop crying. Again, God intervened through some of my non-Christian friends who carried me to the health center, sat with me while I cried to the doctor about what I was feeling, and escorted me to my psychiatrist appointments. A few of them also explained to me that if I didn’t start eating a certain amount at each meal, they were going to carry me to one of their apartments, tie me to a chair, and feed me Cheerios and soy milk from a mixing bowl the size of my head. The college group leaders at my church saw what was going on and one of them made me an appointment with the therapist who ran the shepherding ministry. I saw Donna (the therapist) for two years and was on medication that whole time. I was surrounded with enough people who were keeping tabs on me that I was able to graduate a year early despite everything that had happened.

In my current life, I’ve been on meds for 10 years — since Jon’s first parish and while I don’t have many days when I’m too depressed to get out of bed, those days still happen. I’m thankfully functional because I had a physician’s assistant in Minnesota who was committed to finding a medication and dose that worked for me and I’ve built myself a network of people online who *do* check in on me in some way/shape/form and who are not afraid to email me and make sure everything is OK. It’s how I survived everything surrounding Daniel’s birth (the number of people watching me for signs of post-partum depression was pretty massive) and how I’ve survived everything since. This also isn’t a one way situation — I watch *THEM* for signs of these things because I know what I’m looking for.

One thing that Walsh does say and then backs away from is that when you’re in depression that severe, you cannot feel joy — it was honestly (in my case) like someone had put noise cancelling headphones on my heart. You might have some good things in your life but you cannot register any of the joy from them. I seriously have wanted to throttle people who tell me that my depression would go away if I looked at all the good things in my life — don’t they think I’ve tried that?!?!?!?!? Ditto with the people who claim that my depression is spiritual and it would go away if I prayed hard enough. Again… I was praying pretty darn hard and that specific cup was not removed from me. Instead, the way I approached my spiritual life changed.

I remember sitting outside the Cowell Coffee Shop with my friend Jeremy and the phrase “my grace is sufficient for you” came into my head. We grabbed our Bibles (which we had in our bags like good Intervarsity students) and found the source: 2 Corinthians 12:9. The verse reads:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

I’m not saying that this verse cured me of my depression or made every bad thing go away but it did give me a new way to approach mine that worked and that helped me to know that God was with me in the midst of everything I was fighting instead of watching on the sidelines. God became someone to kvetch to instead of this faceless deity who existed on some other plane and maneuvered us around like chess pieces.

Getting back to Robin Williams, I don’t know what his “network” looked like or whether he was on medication or really anything other than he died of asphyxiation and he left a grieving family and fans all over the world who are stunned. I know that he had substance abuse problems which is actually not surprising — many people self-medicate with alcohol and/or drugs just to make the pain stop. I’ve also seen people who are SHOCKED that he killed himself because “he was such a funny guy”. This might be a newsflash to some people but a lot of people who are humorous and funny in that fashion are doing it to hide some pretty horrific pain on the inside. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to me if he couldn’t the joy he was giving people or even any hope that things would get better.

Do I wish he had acted differently? Yes. I can’t imagine the pain of his wife or kids. Do I think he made a choice and said “Screw my loved ones — they’re going to be sad but I don’t care”? No. I think he honestly couldn’t see a way out and we need to respect this. I’m not God so I can’t tell you his eternal placement but I believe in a God who is abundantly merciful so I’m confident that wherever Robin is, his pain is over.

The Simple Woman’s Daybook: August 13, 2014

Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY August 13, 2014

Outside my window… warm. The city is repaving streets so there are asphalt trucks and workers out.

I am thinking… about Daniel’s IEP this afternoon. His school situation got fixed kind of amazingly on Monday and I’m dealing with someone in another school district who is actually treating me (and Daniel) like a person and not like a problem they’d like to make disappear.

I am thankful… for the weekend with my parents and for drama-free drives up and back by myself with Daniel.

In the kitchen… Jon is making himself lunch. I had elevenses so I’m not thinking about food-type stuff for a few hours yet.

I am wearing… charcoal shirt and tan khaki capri cargo pants.

I am praying for… some special intentions, discernment about our next step in ministry, and that this afternoon’s IEP goes well.

I am going… hopefully nowhere tomorrow.

I am reading… A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren. While I was up in San Jose, I also read a couple murder mysteries: Cutwork by Monica Ferris (meh) and Death by Design, a three-pack of murder mysteries by Laura Childs which was good enough that I just requested the other books in the series from the library.

I am hoping… Daniel takes a long nap so I can get some writing done.

I am looking forward to… going to an ordination on Saturday.

I am hearing the ticking of the various clocks in the living room.

Around the house… quiet as people take naps or read or do whatever.

From the learning rooms… the usual: letters, numbers, writing, days of the week, months of the year, etc. School starts next week for Daniel and I’ll be happy to be done “homeschooling” so I can start focusing on freelance work again to pay the bills.

A favorite quote for today… “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

I post this one every couple months but it’s one that resonates well with me.

One of my favorite things… a quiet house.

A few plans for the rest of the week: IEP today, some business calls tomorrow, open house at Daniel’s school on Friday morning, possible date night on Friday night, and heading to an ordination on Saturday.

Hosted by The Simple Woman’s Daybook

7 Quick Takes: Traveling Mercies and A Bunch of Prayer Requests

7 Quick Takes

— 1 —

Traveling mercies. I’m on the road again this weekend. Daniel starts school on August 18th and I want to get some time with my parents before then. I’m driving up to San Jose with him tomorrow and we’re leaving Jon behind to do some premarital counseling sessions.

— 2 —

Prerequisite baseball take. My boys are 3.5 games behind the Dodgers. Grump grump grump grump grump. I also now live in Dodgerland so I get reminded frequently. At least my other boys (the St. Louis Cardinals) are only 1 game behind in their division.

— 3 —

Prayer request. I spent a chunk of today sorting out the mess that my local Social Security office made of Daniel’s SSI. Could you pray that they get off their butts when they get my letter and documentation and fix it? Please and thank you.

— 4 —

IEP. We got the referral for Daniel to an autism program but they’re sending us to Covina for it which is not making me happy because that’s at least a 20 minute drive in morning traffic. I think Claremont is required to provide transportation for him but I’m not sure. Could y’all please pray that the IEP meeting goes well and we can figure out exactly where we’re being sent? (We were supposed to be sent to the school district next door.)

— 5 —

Kindergarten boot camp. We’ve mastered drinking from a cup and using a knife and fork at the table. If only we could master potty-training. It’s the bane of my existence at the moment.

— 6 —

Brett. The cute little boy on my sidebar has met his new family. Could you please pray that they can get through all the red tape that exists in adopting a child? Thanks!

— 7 —

Blog Hop. I participated in a blog hop about writing this week. Click here to read it. It was fun to reflect on why I do the things I do this way and I’m excited to see what the three people tagged have to say.

For more Quick Takes, visit Jen at ConversionDiary.Com.

A Blog Hop About Writing

When I was really little (around 5 or 6 years old), I would write “books” on pieces of paper and give them to people. My mom actually has a pretty good collection of them. I also wrote lots of stories on our Apple II when I was really little. (Yes, I *am* that old.) I got into web design 17 years ago when I had to miss a ski trip as I was home with bronchitis and that cleared the way to start blogging 3 years later.

When Beth Anne asked if I wanted to be part of this blog hop on writing, I was happy to do it. Answering the questions also gave me something to do this past weekend while on a call interview with not much to do. ;)

1 – What am I writing or working on?

Currently, my writing is limited to my blog here at ::Meditatio::, a blog for Brett (the little boy I advocate for through Reece’s Rainbow), and whatever piece I try to whip out for NaNoWriMo in November. Right now, I’m trying to be intentional about posting decent cand unique content at ::Meditatio:: instead of just link-ups. For example, I will probably be posting something on how to do a control journal for your child with special needs this week as well as this and the three link-ups I usually join.

2 – How does my work differ from others of its genre?

To answer this, I’d have to define my genre and the closest approximation I can give is that it is a “personal blog”. I really hate trying to label what I do here because that would just pigeonhole it. For example, I don’t look at myself as a “Christian blogger”. Instead, I look at myself as a blogger who happens to be a devout Christian. I don’t view myself as a “mommy blogger”. I’m a blogger who happens to be a mom with a kid.

So… the way my work differs from those in my genre is that the interests are specific to me. I write about topics as diverse as autism, why the cranberry-colored ELCA hymnal is evil, the doings of my cats, pastor’s wife commentary, Scripture that interests me, the interplay between science and faith, why I am not going to homeschool my child from K-12, my irritation about various political things, and why the San Francisco Giants are infinitely better than the LA Dodgers. (Why yes, that last one *WAS* intentionally added to needle my husband Jon. How ever did you guess?)

Brett’s blog is pretty basic — just prayer requests and updates on his adoption if I have them.

My NaNo pieces involve a pastor’s wife as the main character because I write about what I know best. I haven’t read a lot of the work of other people who write murder mysteries for NaNoWriMo but I think their main character probably involves some kind of element of themselves.

3 – Why do I write what I write?

Short answer: it’s cheaper than therapy.

Long answer: I’m incredibly shy and introverted so I tend to function very much internally and I can get lost in my head. Getting some of the contents of my head out can help me work through something that is giving me a problem and sometimes the feedback I get can be helpful. I password the really difficult stuff and those with the password are people I trust not to spread it around and also people I trust to tell me the truth in love.

The joke about the pieces I write for NaNoWriMo is that I do it to kill off the people who are irritating me at the time. In all seriousness, it’s a creative itch that I don’t get to scratch all that often so I have some fun with it.

4 – How does my writing process work?

I like link-ups because they act as post seeds for me, whether it be telling what five things are my favorite this week, listing 7 short topics on my mind, or filling out a survey of sorts like one does for The Simple Woman’s Daybook. Otherwise, post seeds can be anything from comments on my blog to emails I get to things I see in the media upon which I think I should comment to stories that I think need to be told. Recently, I was getting some nasty comments (which were subjected to my Bloggess-inspired comment policy) left by a troll who refused to be banned so I flipped the nasty comments on their head and used them to talk about who I am as a pastor’s wife.

As far as NaNoWriMo goes, I have a static list of characters and places for the town in which I set my pieces. The characters are based on a mixture of people from previous parishes (good and bad) and occasionally characters who are seriously evil will be based solely on that person without being a composite of two irritating people. The saying, “truth is stranger than fiction” really is true and I’ve found that it is pretty hard to top some of the things people have done in churches where my husband Jon has served. If I know that there has been a big event in the life of a previous parish (anniversary celebration for the parish/wedding of VIP’s/death of prominent parishioner), I occasionally base a year’s piece around that.

Having said all that, here’s the really fun part: getting to introduce you to three people whose writing I love.

Amanda is simply an amazing woman. We met through one of the groups we’re part of online and the two of us have had some great conversations about Catholicism, me explaining aspects of Protestantism to her, and just everything in general. She has written a book called Worthy: See Yourself As God Does which is on my list of books to read and I also had the blessing and honor of watching her courtship with her husband whom she married on May 31st.

Amanda Amanda Sloan is a Belmont Abbey grad, theology nerd, and Director of Faith Formation at her home parish. She is a newlywed and mother-to-be, living in her home state of Colorado with her husband, who is a teacher. When she isn’t working or spending time with her husband, she blogs at worthy of Agape, promotes her book, and is a managing editor at Ignitum Today.

I got to know Hevel through the 7 Quick Takes on ConversionDiary.Com. The two of us have bonded over discussing religion, some politics, crocheting, and just life in general. He has a very unique family (which I can’t keep straight to save my life) and he keeps me updated on the doings of Harel Skaat. :)

HevelHevel is a second hand vegetarian, he only eats animals that are herbivores. He is dedicated to find the best kosher bacon replacement, living the immigrant life in Israel, raising a noisy, multilingual and multicultural family. He loves to crochet, cook, watch Doctor Who, and go to Harel Skaat concerts. The most important week after the high holy days for him is the week of the Eurovision Song Contest.

I discovered Claire only recently and I’m glad that I did. She’s about half my age but I find her writing on ethics, religion, and public policy to be pretty compelling even if I disagree from time to time. She starts college this fall and I can’t wait to see what adventures she has.

ClaireClaire is an opinionated 18-year-old living in Virginia and about to head off to college in DC. She converted to Catholicism in February and enjoys blogging from Laughing Joyously, where she has been subjecting the Internet to her eclectic ramblings for the last six months. In her free time, she likes catching up on all the books she didn’t get to read during high school, good-naturedly arguing with friends, and bothering her legislators.

They’ll be posting their thoughts on writing next week and I’ll link them to here when they do. I recommend you go and check all of them out!

The Simple Woman’s Daybook: August 3, 2014

Simple Woman's Daybook

(This is being backdated and posted once I return to a place where I have an Internet connection.)

FOR TODAY August 3, 2014

Outside my window… sunny and probably around 80F.

I am thinking… about the call process we’re in and where we’re currently interviewing.

I am thankful… for my in-laws watching Daniel this weekend and for the time this weekend to rest, read, and take some serious Sabbath time.

In the kitchen… we’re staying in the church’s parsonage and they stocked it with snacks, fruit, and sandwich-making supplies for us.

I am wearing… my Online Debate Team shirt (because there’s totally someone on the Internet who is wrong) and black capri sweats.

I am praying for… clarity in where God is leading us, for healing for people in my family, that Daniel continues to amass new skills, and for some special intentions.

I am going… to fly home to southern California tomorrow.

I am wondering… where God is calling us to next.

I am reading… Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West. I finished Light from Heaven and Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon while traveling on Friday and read Sugar and Iced by Jen McKinlay last night.

I am looking forward to… seeing Daniel tomorrow when we get home. This is the longest I’ve been away from him ever.

I am hearing the washer at the parsonage rinsing/spinning a load of towels. (I travel with Tide packs so that I can do laundry on the road when needed.)

Around the house… quiet and the washer running.

From the learning rooms… still working on life skills, potty-training, numbers, shapes, letters, colors, days of the week, and months of the year with Daniel so that he can wow his kindergarten teachers this fall.

One of my favorite things… cuddles with Daniel. I’m missing my boy horribly.

A few plans for the rest of the week: flying home tomorrow, catching up on phone calls and Daniel stuff on Tuesday, ICP for the local Regional Center on Thursday, and possibly heading up to see my parents next weekend.

Hosted by The Simple Woman’s Daybook

7 Quick Takes: Leaving on A Jet Plane, Orphan Prayers, and Trader Joe’s.

7 Quick Takes

— 1 —

Leaving on a jet plane. I’m sitting in the Ontario International Airport (California, not Canada) waiting to board a plane for this weekend. Pray for good travel mercies for Jon and I and also for Daniel who is being cared for by my in-laws. It’s the longest I’ve been away from him ever and I’m a bit unnerved. I’m incredibly thankful for my mother-in-law Victoria who is doing the lion’s share for the care.

— 2 —

Control Journal. Earlier this week, I got the idea to make a “control journal” for Daniel like you’d find on the Flylady website. It took me a couple days because I had to take pictures of the steps I take in doing stuff like giving Daniel a breathing treatment and I had to mark up the pictures with instructions but it turned out really well. If you think I should do a post on how I did it, let me know in the comments.

— 3 —

Awesome Trader Joe’s story. I was at Trader Joe’s by myself with Daniel a couple days ago and ended up in a checkout lane next to the automatic doors. Daniel’s stimming behavior is opening/shutting doors so this was a bit too tempting for him and so he made a run for it. In the process of trying to get him back and get my gift card out, I dropped my wallet and everything spilled out. The crew member checking me out looked at me and asked, “Is he autistic?”

“Yes,” I replied.

This crew member immediately grabbed another crew member, told him to watch Daniel for me, and helped me pick up the contents of my wallet and sort it. When all was done, he helped us carry everything to the car and asked me a lot of questions about Daniel and his autism. It turns out that he is a college student studying psychology and he recognized the signs. He made sure we got everything into the car, complimented me on how I was doing this all by myself, and told me that if I ever needed any help like this to just grab another crew member.

So… my deepest thanks to Thomas at the Claremont Trader Joe’s. You seriously made my day.

— 4 —

Why I seriously love Trader Joe’s and will give them my business at any opportunity. My experience in #3 is just the tip of the iceberg. I have never had a bad experience with them ever in the 4 years I’ve shopped there since moving back to the West Coast and part of the reason is that their employees are all really wonderful. They have mini-carts for kids with a “Customer-in-Training” flag on them and they are really helpful for teaching Daniel how to shop at a grocery store and what the names of various types of food are. (It also helps his gait to push the cart rather than riding in one of the big adult ones.) Their corporate culture is very laid back and their headquarters is a very plain two story building in Monrovia. (I interviewed to be one of their database people 4 years ago. I didn’t get the job but I can actually say I’ve interviewed at their corporate headquarters and that I was one of the top 10 candidates for the job out of the hundreds who applied.)

— 5 —

Huh. I checked Jon and I in on the Southwest Airlines site last night and when I got our boarding passes, Jon got position A-16 and I got position B-28. In what universe is that reasonable?!?!?!?

Southwest Airlines, BTW, is incredibly good with Daniel. We flew with them two years ago when Daniel and I went down to surprise my father-in-law for Father’s Day after not seeing him for almost 10 months. (Long story.) They were incredibly helpful in getting him on the plane and giving me help in schlepping everything.

— 6 —

Brett. The family committed to Brett (the adorable child on my sidebar) is in his country meeting him and the other little boy they plan to adopt. Pray for good travel mercies for them and a smooth stay with no bureaucratic hangups.

— 7 —

Another prayer request. Please pray for Hope, the adopted daughter of my friend (and fellow Lutheran pastor’s wife) Dalas. They got her home from her country and she’s currently in the hospital as they try to get her nutritionally stable. Dalas is living at the hospital with her and her two year old son and it’s pretty brutal.

For more Quick Takes, visit Jen at ConversionDiary.Com.

The Type of Pastor’s Wife I Am

I’ve been dealing with a troll for the last couple of weeks who has been using a proxy server and Fake Mail Generator to get past my domain block of them. I’d link them and call them out except that doing so would drive traffic to their site and I’m against being used for free publicity like that. Besides, I really don’t have time to engage their desire to be persecuted by others and to feed their martyr complex.

Anyway, they started leaving me nasty comments several weeks ago (which got altered per my comment policy) and this was among them:

… You, on the other hand, appear to never be able to accept criticism or hear another’s perspective. Gawd – how do you ever manage to survive as a pastor’s wife… or is that why you have to move every couple of years?

Then there was:

Really? Because it seems to me as if you go out of your way to call people names, talk about them behind their back and then twist their words to mean other things. I’m guessing they ride you and your poor hubby out on a rail every couple of years. If there was ever a good example of why priests should remain celibate, you would be exhibit A!

Given that people are pretty surprised that I’m a pastor’s wife when they meet me in person, I thought I’d turn these comments on their head and answer as to what kind of pastor’s wife I am.

A quiet one.

One thing that surprises people who know me online when they meet me in person is how quiet I am. Part of it is that I’m pretty shy, part of it is that I’m a strong introvert, and part of it is that I tend to be pretty irenic as a rule. I have enough of a front row seat to conflict and dysfunction by virtue of being married to someone whose job is to sort it out and thus I really don’t desire to seek it out on my own. I’m also quite aware that I need to keep on peoples’ good sides because they pay my husband’s salary and provide our housing. Not pointing out hypocrisy means that I tend to stay out of trouble.

An invisible one.

The best thing I ever did was get a job 60 miles from home because it meant that I had an excuse not to be at every single church event. Now that I have Daniel, I really can’t go to everything or stay after a certain point because of him on the occasions when I do make it to a special church dinner or service. I’ve been asked frequently what I do as a pastor’s wife and the answer is: “be married to the pastor”. That’s it. There are some things I *like* doing and some areas which fit my gifts but I’m not a hugely visible presence these days.

A secret keeper.

I’m privy to a large amount of information because I’m married to Jon. Without trying, I hear from people about all the dirt happening in the parish because people either tell me or I overhear phone calls. I’ve had a number of people try to get me to spill on what I’ve heard about someone and my answer is usually that I know nothing about that and that I don’t want to know. Anything I hear stays with me unless it falls under the mandatory reporting category, at which point the proper authorities will be notified. (Jon is a mandatory reporter and I am by extension.)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go pop some popcorn to eat while sitting back and watching my troll self-destruct. Later days, y’all!