Nov 29, 2009


A week ago I was a depression skeptic - I thought people with "depression" were just grumpy or sad people who couldn't deal with life. Today I'm a believer; I feel like I'm getting just a taste of depression for the last few days. Not even real "clinical" depression - the debilitating kind that prevents someone from working or really doing anything. I'm just having a mild case of "postpartum" fatherhood anxiety - some "baby blues" maybe? Still, it's been enough to make me a believer. I'm feeling knots in my stomach, and in my soul - my spirit even. The experience has shattered any conceptions I had about distinctions between body, mind, and soul.

The thing about it is that there's no real reason for it? My baby is the perfect baby - she hardly cries, she's happy and healthy, she wakes up once per night, and even then mom usually takes care of her without even waking me up! My company recently made lay-off's, but my job is secure. (Though maybe I have some survivor's guilt?) We don't have any money troubles. There's been no recent death in the family or anything. But I'm still anxious for no reason. And I think this is a symptom? Feeling without reason? Or is that a symptom of womanhood? Maybe I'm turning into a woman. Frak.

As a former skeptic, I'm totally unprepared for what these feelings are doing to my faith. I know this depression is in my mind and body, but I can also feel it spilling over into my soul and spirit. I'm avoiding my daily office prayers, I'm avoiding even looking at crosses, crucifixes, and my other Catholic "bling." I don't think I'm losing faith, but there are certainly moments where I feel like it's hidden from me.

While reading Merton, I thought 'contemplation' could be my vocation. But in one of his chapters, Merton describes the path to contemplation as winding thru a desert with no clear evidence of a destination; rather accidental and occasional encounters with an "oasis" of God. I think I may have read just enough Merton to be dangerous - I intellectually wandered out into the desert without emotionally preparing for it. I'm suffering for it now.

If anyone reading this has real depression and especially if you've felt it creep into your spirit, I'll pray with you for God's healing to reach into that special place in your body, your mind, and your soul that needs to feel him so desperately.


Saint said...

Your feeling a bit of a Dark Night of the Soul (probably not THE one you'll experience, but a mini one, maybe some post-conversion anxiety, haha). It's the feeling you get when all the shiny glittery things inside that you were feeling... you realize are supported on a pure rationalistic level, and that faith is something deeper than ration or feeling can provide. It's a level of faith most people never come to, and they're often quite happy with the shiny happy feelings. It's a level many come to and break, and some come to and drive through it. Mother Teresa said the Dark Night of her soul was her entire life.

There is despair in true faith. The increase of wisdom IS the increase in sorrow. And the more we realize of God, the more we realize the lack of Him. This is a natural step in the development of faith.

For more on this subject: "The Dark Night of the Soul" by St John of the Cross. It's a bit on the ascetic side, mind you. And heck, might even prone in on some William Blake.

luke said...

Sometimes I feel like breaking. Like really, I can see how this could drive someone actually crazy or insane. I want the shiny happy feelings back without seeing any of the darkness.

But I think you're right - this is part of growing up in faith. Just weird that it was seemingly triggered in me by the birth of my daughter.

Michelle said...

My mother battled depression the whole 12 years I knew her. I struggled with it in college. My brother struggles with it off and on. I don't know if it's necessarily a genetic thing for us, but I know that as a child of God I don't want to be harbored down by depression. I think I often feel more spiritual depression than anything - times when I don't want to pray, when I don't want to talk to God, when I don't want to examine my sins. I feel like I've been in that place since I moved to Seattle last June. With no church home yet I feel so out of balance. I want to pray, but can't. I want to start good habits for this child in me, but somehow even its little kicks aren't enough motivation.

I echo what "Saint" said above, though, about Mother Theresa. She always felt a constant emptiness. I keep reminding myself of her, especially during times where I feel like God isn't there. We grow during those times of emptiness, if not more than during the happy times because it is then we can tell God "Though I don't know if you are there, I will trust you." And that takes much more faith.

Maybe I should pick my Mother Theresa book from the shelf and read it. Maybe I just need some help from the saints during this time! :)

luke said...

Amen to that, Michelle. I have to share some thoughts Alan Creech sent me on the dark night of the soul ...

"We may also be going through a kind of "dark night" in which God is allowing us to feel the pain of moving from one level to another - or as St. John of the Cross described it - like when a Mother weens her child from the breast and puts him down to walk on his own feet instead of being carried all the time. Frankly put - that shit hurts! It's no fun at ALL! And you just wish God would pick you back up, carry you, and suckle you till you felt better. He knows better than us that there are simply times when we need to go from "here" to "there" and that requires us being "weened" or "put down." These kinds of things are actually good because we are growing - but again, growing pains are painful."

I can deal with this. I still just wish God would pick me back up and put me back where I was, but I don't want to dwell on that. I really think what Saint said - that faith is deeper than ration or feeling - is something I need to embrace. I have a pretty sharp mind and I think I've relied too much on my reason in my faith; probably why I enjoy apologetics so much too.

Maybe Merton's advice of detaching and emptying ourselves so that God can fill us up is simply too much for my egotistical mind. I want to keep looking for some illusory "reason" to believe in God when what I really need is faith.

Maybe this is a first step God is encouraging me to make. Hopefully I can make it without falling down too hard or retreating back to my old place.