Friday, April 18, 2008

Proverbia-The Naked Soul-2

I'm a bit nervous about this post as it is very personal. However, one of things that we are learning in our current trial, is that God wants to use us to help other people. In order to do that, we need to experience suffering in such a way that both humbles us and makes us empathetic to the cause of those who suffer.

Our current suffering involves my wife, again, which is another reason to be leery of posting. The last reason to be nervous about the post is the nature of the trial. My wife is depressed. She is not exactly sad about the various trials that she has encountered. She is depressed. It is Major Depression or Clinical Depression, as the diagnosis goes. I wish they called it something else because most people do not understand what you mean when you say Depression. They assume you are having a rough go of it and need to snap out of it. Or, they assume that you are in an emotional funk related to specific causes, say the death of a loved one. And my wife's father did die this last October. And, I do believe that his death has a great deal to do with where my wife is at right now. It, along with several other highly stressful issues, caused her to tip over into this thing we call Depression.

But the thing itself, Depression, is not sadness. It is not grief. If those emotional states were her problem, it would make sense and be treatable with basic pastoral care. Incidentally, that is how we intitially pursued this. However, it became increasingly evident to me that I was unable to address the core issues of what was going on in my wife's brain. And I think the word Brain here, is appropriate, as opposed to the word Mind. We associate Brain activity with physiological reactions. We tend to think of Mind as the arena of the soul. So, we think if someone is having mental (Mind) trouble, they are automatically having soul trouble. But that is clearly NOT the case.

However, the body and the soul ARE closely related. The soul, at least on this earth, cannot be healthy without a certain basic level of health to the body. This is why Jesus tells us to feed and clothe the hungry, not just send them away with a blessing. So, when a Depressed person does not have a minimum level of Happy Chemicals, they cannot relate to the world in a proper emotional state. This is not simply the same thing that occurs when you are bummed out. When you are bummed out, say about the test, about the job interview, about the death of a loved one; that all makes sense. Depression is not having the emotions to feel that way nor to be happy about pleasant events. It is a creeping hopelessness and despair which obscures reality.

We've all known pessimists, they see the glass half empty. A depressed person sees everything that way. There is no joy in Muddville, even if mighty Casey has hit a homerun. Ya great, we won, so what? I should be happy but I'm a miserable wretch.

The Naked Soul, what's that? It is being laid bare before the Lord and His people. When a healthy body or a healthy mind is taken from you, what is left but the soul? But God is watching over our souls in an intimate way. And, He does, in fact, mean our trials for good, even if we are unable to see it at the time. For His own good reasons and purposes, He reveals us for what we are, naked and helpless humans who are in need of constant care from their Father. We can all see this truth with infants, they're helpless, but then we grow strong and independent. But God would have us all wholly dependent upon Him. While this is humbling and at times difficult beyond our ability to grasp or even hang on, it is God's kindness and mercy to us. It is good for us to realize that in Him we live and move and have our being. We say that, but we can only know it, when all other safety and strength is taken from us. God is still our fortress and rock. Job understood. Where else can you turn?

I can post this about my lovely wife, Katie, because I have a different understanding of these things than I used to have. Well meaning Christians do not understand what is going on here. Some have offered help in the area of dealing with sins, reading the right Bible verses, or even dealing with demonic forces. And while we should do all of these things to some degree and in the right way with various issues, none of them gets to the core of the nature of this problem of Depression. Something has tipped in the brain and it needs to be healed and restored. This can be helped with some medications, although the pharmecutical route is also very much a trial and error process. But we are thankful if the medications deal with some symptoms. The problem here is that there are also many troubling side effects. In my mind, this route should be viewed as a temporary solution.

The main healer of the mind seems to be rest and time. Perhaps there are also some other avenues to pursue that may prove helpful in the long-term. There are vitamin supplements that help brain function and mood. There is growing evidence that these supplements are more helpful and safer than pharmaceuticals. This is all new to me but we are pursuing every possible helpful option.

Part of the reason this is difficult to express is that many Christians simply view depression as a spiritual problem. Easy answer, consult Job's friends. Part of the reason that I have chosen to blog about this is that we have been very open and frank with our church about this as well as numerous friends in the community. The word is out and we are not trying to hide anything. We trust that the Lord will bring Katie through this and as a result we will be able to help other people who have suffered a similar situation. In fact, that is already happening.

Finally, my wife has had several good days in a row, about five. That might be as many good days as she has had in the last six months. So, we are hopeful that the tide has turned and that she is on her way up and out of this. We appreciate your prayers. God has been faithful to us through this entire process and we give Him thanks. His ways are inscrutable but in due time, we do see some of the whys. We pray He will continue to reveal His glory through our weakness.

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