Depression: I Am A Prisoner of Hope
“When I was young no one committed suicide-- we were too unhappy.” Woody Allen, “Crimes and Misdemeanors”
Several years ago, I was diagnosed with depression-- and not just any depression. I am a special case. I have three different psychological maladies: major depressive disorder, dissociative amnesia, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It seems that I have been depressed for my entire adult life, and if the experts are correct, I am terminal. I have received a life sentence. I can work toward becoming healthier, but I will be depressed for the rest of my life.
Walker Percy wondered whether or not depression was a sane response to life.
I’ve often wondered if Descartes ought to have said, “I hurt, therefore I am.”
My wife openly speculates that I have developed a friendship with my depression such that I don’t want to let it go. Given the excruciatingly slow nature of my progress, I can see why she would see it that way. But I don’t want to stay as I am.
I got depressed for good reasons. Self-protection is one of our strongest instincts, and it saved my life. We are wondrously made. The mind and body don’t allow us to cope with more pain than we can deal with at once. When we come up against trauma that threatens to undo us, our body and mind find ways to protect us.
When we are confronted with pain we can’t handle, it gets deflected to an unconscious part of ourselves where it is repressed until we are ready to deal with it.
Depression is the signal our emotions give us to alert us that it is time to take a journey to look for and process our repressed pain. Since this pain impacts us at every moment of our lives, whether we feel it or not, depression is not to be ignored. It is a signal for help that we ignore at our peril.
My mother used to tell me there is never a good time to have a child, it’s just that some times are worse than others.
That seems even truer of depression.
I don’t get to choose when I am depressed. Something within me decides, and it is up to me whether to suffer or deal with it.
For my part, I have spent most of my life suffering, because I didn’t know there was an alternative.
If I had been listening I would have known I have been depressed for the last 32 years. But I lived in a culture where it was not only politically incorrect to be depressed, it was a theologically impossibility. Minnesotans don’t get depressed; we just have moments of indigestion. Christians don’t get depressed; we merely have moments where our joy doesn’t feel as good as it should. Pastors don’t get depressed; they just have to deal with annoying people.
Me, depressed? Impossible.
I’ve got two Ph.D's and one’s in denial...
Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking relationship beyond the age of Individualism.” He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. He a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.
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