Friday, September 24, 2010
So this morning in the moments between preparing child #2 and child #3 to catch the bus, I picked up a book on the side table and read a chapter. I’m not sure where this book came from. We have had about a half dozen or less young women come trough our house over the summer months; someone must have left it behind.
About 6 or 7 pages in I wanted to throw the book in the trash. That is what I thought of what this woman had to say….It’s trash…simplisitic Christian crap that the church has been throwing around and espousing for years. The kind of crap that makes me want to take a machine gun to something.
I am SO sick of Christian books and teachers that act like anti-depressant medication is concocted in a meth lab or is laced with cocaine….or that doctors are handing them out like candy on Halloween to any patient that is sad. It is arrogant and makes a mockery of the medical profession and all those who truly have depression.
So hear is my view from the other side of the street. God fearing Christians who love Jesus die every year at their own hand. Yeah, you got it…they commit suicide while the church stands by and keeps shouting about the evils of prozac.
And an even larger number suffer in silence, either not going to church or not sharing their struggle with other believers because they have been told that they just need to repent or have more faith. Shame on us.
It’s time for the church to stand up, confess how it has failed these Children of God and start advocating for them. We need not just clergy who can offer them hope and a place to struggle well, but lay people as well. “I’ll pray for you” just isn’t going to get it.
First, we need to acknowledge that depression and sadness or grief are not the same things. For those suffering with true clinical depression, sadness may be a minor part of it. Check out what are commonly accepted as symptoms of depression.
Major depression is when a person has five or more symptoms of depression for at least 2 weeks. These symptoms include feeling sad, hopeless, worthless, or pessimistic. In addition, people with major depression often have behavior changes, such as new eating and sleeping patterns.
- Agitation, restlessness, and irritability
- Dramatic change in appetite, often with weight gain or loss
- Extreme difficulty concentrating
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
- Feelings of worthlessness, self-hate, and inappropriate guilt
- Inactivity and withdrawal from usual activities, a loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed (such as sex)
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Trouble sleeping or excessive sleeping
Second, we need to stop acting like we know what we don’t. Many people who have depression need to be under the care of a doctor and/or counselor. A good, loving, godly friend may mean well but they shouldn’t be a substitute for medical care.
And let’s share a little bit of information about anti-depressant/anti-anxiety meds. Like all meds they come with side effects, and people tolerate and respond to each Most of these meds must be built up in your system before they work fully or properly. That means 4-6 weeks. During the build up time the drugs can have side effects that may subside once the build up period is over. Or they may persist. There is no way to tell except to take the medication for 6+ weeks.
The first drug the doc tries may not work for the patient; but it will still take about a month or more to determine this. If the drug does not work well for the patient, it must then be weaned out of their system over 4-6 weeks. Although some drugs can be started before drug one is completely out of the system, some can not. Some that are”kin” to each other allow you to jump from one to the other.
I say all this so you will know that, finding the right medication can and often is a lengthy process. Once the right drug is found, it can be an immense help, but rarely would I consider medication the “quick-fix” that it is often taunted to be.
In fact, many people taking these type of meds live with side effects just in order to receive the benefit of the medication. Added weight gain and loss of sex drive are just the two most talked about effects. Many are not nearly so “pleasant” as a few extra pounds.
Third, the church needs to stop treating the depressed person as the problem. We need to allow people to share their own stories of depression in order to encourage and educate others. To that end, here is a little bit of why this issue is such a personal one to me.
In my early twenties, I spent a year in counseling (awesome Christian counselor) thanks to my boss ( who was not a believer, BTW) who knew I was depressed and insisted that I get help. Counseling was immensely helpful. I worked through many painful things from my pasts as well as destructive behaviors I had developed (nothing salacious). My depression lessened and became more episodic. I began to see depression as a result of how I dealt with experiences, and found as I took them fully to God the depression would lessen or go away.
That worked well for me until I started having babies. My pregnancies were long and I was depressed throughout regardless of how I felt, how much time I spent with God, or my circumstances. With the help of my doctors (once I finally broke down and told them what was going on), I began to see that I was experiencing clinical depression, a depression that had more to do with what was going on physically in my body and not just emotionally and spiritually. They determined that when pregnant, the hormonal changes I underwent caused me to chemically imbalance. I needed anti-depressant medication during the pregnancy to rectify this. Once I delivered and my hormones reverted to their previous state, the depression would subside.
This was the first time I could see for myself that my depression wasn’t directly correlated to my own sin. It was also my first experience taking anti-depressant medication. I began to educate myself about depression. From counseling I had learned what some of my triggers were and how to spiritually and emotionally combat depression. Now I learn more about what was and was not depression. I began to be able to recognize depression as it began to grab a hold on my life, as opposed to being blind until the depression was in full swing.
During these years I began to experience an unusual seasonal depression. I went through about 5-7 years of this, starting each spring and lasting hrough most of the summer. This was the most frightening depressive experience that I have been through. I was a stay at home mom with two toddlers/baby/preschoolers. There were many days that I awoke fearful that I couldn’t be a good Mom to them that day, but I knew there was no alternative. It was not an unrealistic fear.
Thankfully, again my doctors helped me. They began to see that I see-sawed way too much in and out of depression, and began to treat my depression as chronic, putting me on a daily dose of anti-depressant. As they explained it to me, they felt between my family history and my experiences over the last 5 or so years, that it was likely that my body was always deplete of serotonin. They recommended that I begin to see anti-depressant medication as something that I would take daily for the rest of my life, much like a diabetic takes insulin on a daily basis.
That was probably 10 years ago. I take a daily dose of Effexor. It makes me a “well” person. No amount of prayer or faith can compensate for the lack of serotonin I have in my body. It helps me to be able to be all that God intends for me to be….Mother…wife…friend..co-worker. I still have bouts with depression, some small some larger and deeper. In fact I went through one of those this spring. My doctors changed my meds a little and that has help it not to be so severe.
The medication doesn’t make me “happy”or “joyful”. Only Jesus can do that. It does help me not to struggle with deep rage over “nothing”, debilitating indecision, and crippling self-contempt. I am thankful for depression and the way it has helped me to draw ever closer to God, but it still scares the hell out of me everytime I feel it coming. I never know how long or how deep the bout will be. But this I do know: God will be with me everyday of it AND I am going to take that anti-depressant medication everyday of it too.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
this entry was written July 27, 2010 but for some reason I didn't post it....
Well I started this blog months ago with a post about a passage of scripture I didn’t like, so to speak. Now this one is about a passage I don’t get, or maybe I don’t want to get it. Oddly enough, it is in the same book as the earlier passage..the book of Mark. (7:24-32?).
In Mark 7 a Greek woman comes to Jesus desperately seeking the healing of her daughter….sounds a lot like the first Mark passage, too, doesn’t it? (That one was about a father seeking healing for his son.) Now wouldn’t you expect Jesus to heal her daughter? Me too….and he does. But what gets me irritated is what he says before he heals her. He tells the woman that the children must eat before the dogs. Say what? Is Jesus really calling this distraught woman a dog to her face? Yeah….at least I think so.
Any way I look at this response by Jesus, it makes me uncomfortable. It doesn’t jive with my ideas of a compassionate and patient God. Now I probably do not understand all the cultural nuances here, but a dog is a dog. The Jews were God’s chosen people, but Jesus came to open up salvation to all. I mean this comment is something I would have expected from the Pharisees or stupid Christians today, but not the Almighty God.
I just find it so hard to believe he is putting her off because of her ethnicity. Before and after this passage, Mark records Jesus healing others who are Gentiles (non-Jews). Why would he single her out because of her race? Well,, I’m looking for answers here, so help me out and post your thoughts.
I do have an idea that I’m wondering about. Perhaps Jesus is healing both Mother and daughter…and both by his words. The daughter is healed as he says she is. But what about the mother? What is the ache of her soul? I wonder if she felt unworthy of God because she wasn’t a Jew? Perhaps Jesus spoke to her, her deepest fear and by doing so gets her to speak forth what she longs for…to be worthy of his love even though she is not part of the chosen tribe. Her response to Jesus is that even dogs eat the leftovers. Is that her plea to belong…to be worthy of his love, his attention, his healing touch? What do you think?
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Today, I thought the sermon was just for me in an odd sort of way. You see, I had this startling experience yesterday while reading the book of Mark, and today Mike made me feel a little bit less odd about what I felt yesterday. After reading the story of the rich young ruler in Mark 10,l sat the Bible down and thought, “Jesus, I don’t like you very much.”
I have been reading through the book of Mark, wanting to see his deep love for me and not just when am good. It has not been going so well. What I have found is a Jesus who I don’t get and sometimes don’t like. Kinda scary to even say it out loud. I find myself irritated or offended by what he says…not his actions...I see love in them, but still….he gets under my skin with what he says.
When Mike said today that Jesus was unconventional, the light bulb went on. That is exactly what I am rubbing up against so hard. No one gets a free pass from Jesus in this book. Every time he speaks he is challenging someone, causing them to rethink what they believe. He makes the Gentile woman seeking healing for her daughter voice her fear that Jesus is only for the Jews. He picks grain on the Sabbath. He doesn’t even give the rich young ruler any kudos for what he has done to serve God. One challenge is met the next day with an additional one.
Jesus is turning Israel on its ear. Gigantic crowds are following him, constantly pressing in to be healed. He is teaching to thousands at a time. There is no escape. There is no privacy; finding some quiet in which to be alone with God or just to be alone with the disciples to teach them is becoming increasingly tricky. And everyday he does something new that is off the rocker unconventional.
After 10 chapters, yesterday I felt like giving up and walking away…it was just too much. I want a Jesus on a quiet mountainside to whisper sweet words of affirmation to me. What does that say about me? Do I just want Jesus to make me feel good about who I am? Do I follow him because he makes life easier? If I had been a contemporary of Mark, would I have given up, and walked away back to the synagogue whispering my criticisms of the Lord of my faith?
This time reading through the gospel of Mark what I see is a land and a people in conflict and turmoil. It is hard times. Things were not as they seemed in the Sunday School flannel board stories of my youth. Hanging with Jesus was hard and scary. It took a lot of courage and faith. If my faith is going to be authentic, I need to stop striving for the “peaceful, easy living” and man up and enter into the fray…that alone would be an unconventional step in this day and age. And that is where I need to start.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Last week I made plans to meet with God. Not just for our morning ritual, but an extended time...from the time Huck got on the bus until the time he got off at 4 in the afternoon. I had no plan or agenda, just an inkling that being alone with God might be a good thing to do. Just me, my journal, and my Bible (well several Bibles to be exact....I like different translations).
As I arrived at my quiet little spot, I was overwhlemingly aware of my fear...what if God didn't show up? What if I am still and quiet and He doesn't speak to my heart? What if all I get out of this is alot of awkward nothing? I was so afraid that although I knew I wanted this time to be just about me, God and His word...I brought a big bag of books (remember, the back-up plan).
I spent the first hour procrastinating and the next two snoozing on the couch. I don't think this is what Ty Saltzgiver has in mind when he talks about day long retreats of silence. But I am who I am, and this is honestly what I did.
But as I began to drift off, I felt him speak to me. It was something true, out of the blue and quite profound. And when I awoke, we picked up with that thought (the thought is for another entry). I was so surprised...He really did show up...and in spades. Where he took me that afternoon was somewhere I needed to go but had not antcipated at all. I felt like God pulled me even deeper into our relationship in order to bless me for the long haul.
Brennan Manning tells the story of a hermit who advises a young executive about the Christian life with a pitcher of water:
"Now watch the water as I pour it into the basin, " he said. The
water splashed on the bottom and against the sides of the container.
It was agitated and turbulent. At first the stirred-up water swirled
around inside of the basin; then it gradually began to settle, until the small
fast ripples evolved into larger swells that oscillated back and forth.
Eventually, the surface became so smooth that the visitor could see his face
reflected in the placid water. "That is the way it is when you live
constantly in the midst of others," said the hermit. "you do not see
yourself as you really are because of all the confusion and disturbance.
You fail to recognize the divine presence in your life and the consciousness
of your belovedness slowly fades.
It was an amazing day. I am thinking about planning another one for late in the summer. Maybe this time I won't even bring the back-up book.
Friday, March 26, 2010
Huck has now become a Yu-gi-oh (did I mention I hate Cartoon Network) fan of late. As the youngest he is always in tow, going somewhere to either drop off or pick up one of his sisters. And in the spirit of Yu-gi-oh (I don't even know if I am spelling this right), he wants to "duel" me. Well, I feel for the boy because I don't even want to be in the car driving around... so I humor him and we "battle". I don't really understand this dueling, except that it is all about smack talk. And there are very few rules.
Huck is always "playing cards" and introducing monsters that are conventional to the show. Not me...cause I try hard not to watch the show. So when we first started dueling I would "throw down" cards from our everyday life....Eli (our dog), Grandma (with her laser shooting wheel chair)..you get the idea. One night I tried to "throw down" only characters from the Bible. So now (just as we are preparing to celebrate Easter) Huck had added one Bible card to his arsenal....the JESUS card. The Jesus card has the power to resurrect monsters from his graveyard.
After he threw down the JESUS card three times in one duel last night we started talking about resurrection. He listened and then asked me, "Mom, if Jesus is in my heart, how can he be in heaven too?"
I said, "well that just shows how powerful he is he can be in more than one place at a time."
"Does that mean he clones himself?"
"No. He is just so powerful; He can be with you right now and Daddy who is on the airplane at the same time."
Friday, March 5, 2010
So this week my love for organization morphed over my love for tutoring. After working for about an hour with the kids, I began to sort/research AR books from the class library. The kids were tired of the few AR books they could choose between. And I felt certain that some of the other books in the classroom library were probably on the AR list.
I worked until lunch but I wasn't through...so I kept working. I left at the end of the day with 6 big stacks of AR books. But I still wasn't finished. Here is where the obsessive Ginny takes over. So I went back today to finish the project. And I did.
When I arrived this morning I felt very obsessive about order. I mean, wouldn't it be better to spend my time one-on-one with the kids? Does organizing books really make a difference? Well, the answer is YES! As I gathered the books, something began to happen. The kids began to take notice. "We can take tests on ALL these books?" Yes! They could hardly wait to look through them and begin reading and testing. And I can't wait to help them with their tests next week.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
But by the time we left Belk I had this sneaking feeling that my sore throat had very little to do with how much I had been yelling. And now, 72 hours , 1 shot of penicillin, 3 nights of night sweats and way too many old episodes of Friday Night Lights, I have re-emerged. Being sick does strange things to you mind. Where have I been? Well, here is where my mind has been, at least.
CLEANLINESS: It is not next to godliness...I assure you it is much more a neighbor of neurosis and perfectionism...but still, this place looks horrible. If I am ever chronically ill someone will have to step in or DSS will take our kids for reckless endangerment, just allowing them to live here. I mean, I'm not the cleanest housewife, but how do things get so bad so fast. I can't even put the dishes in the dishwasher because it is already full of dirty dishes...and we won't talk about dirty clothes, or pet spit -up (no one ever sees what the pets do but me...I mean, how is that possible?) Why we don't have a problem with ants is beyond me. I mean this place is like a buffet of dropped food all over the kitchen. Thank goodness we have cats, or we'd have rats, too.
GODLINESS: I have been married for 16 years and been sick many a time over that period. Never Has Mr. Brown stepped to the plate like he has this time. He has loved me, brought me goodies, left me alone, taken care of the kids, taxied them to various practices and church, and even made meatloaf and "the best macaroni and cheese ever". I don't deserve him, but boy did I choose well all those years ago. So if your dating, just ask yourself, do you see this guy serving you by sleeping on the couch, getting up early with the kids and fixing dinner (not Papa John's) when you are older and your figure has sagged? It a question worth serious pondering.
PASSING GAS: Why does my family spend so much time doing and /or discussing this activity? I mean are we abnormal? Shouldn't this be a taboo subject? What do other families talk about? I received a Christmas card from a friend today, yep February 23, that noted her boys are learning Latin and reciting poetry at their new school. I don't think we will be sharing a meal with them any time soon. We might blow them right out of the water...cause I think Ruth has mastered burping the alphabet.
CHOICES: In reading my friend's letter and catching up, I was so amazed at how different our lives are. We've made different choices about careers, what part of the country to live in, hobbies, education (for us and our kids). Knowing her husband and her as I do, I'm not surprised by their decisions. I wonder if she would be surprised by mine?
CLEAN SHEETS: Clean sheets are truly one of the luxuries of middle class life that I do not take for granted. And after three nights of the sweats....I can't wait for clean sheets tonight!
KINDNESS: Such a powerful but often elusive virtue. I think next to love it is what makes home home.
Well, I would tell you more but I have to go. Huck just farted in the tub and wants to now tell me all about it it. It is good to be back and living life in this dirty, smelly filled with love Brown home. I am one lucky woman.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
We ate lunch at Shane's Rib Shack by the mall. That certainly brought this longing to the forefront of my mind, but it was already there. Last time my parents were in town I took them to Shane's for lunch. My Momma loved it. My dad and I sat there for a half hour after we had finished, sipping sweet tea as we waited for her to finish her meal. She has always been a slow eater.
I came home and read the paper, and lingered on an article in the travel section. It was about an exhibit on Princess Diana that is currently in Atlanta. My Mom loves Princess Di (or at least she use to) . How fun would it be to go to Atlanta together and view her wedding dress...and all 25 feet of the train. We could gaze upon her crown and oh and ah over her other dazzling outfits on exhibit. We could grab lunch at some hip place in Buckhead, maybe even go shopping before heading back. I wonder what we would talk about....the kids, I'm sure.
But we won't go to Atlanta and enjoy the day I dream of. Maybe this week, I will meet my parents for lunch in Burlington ( a midway point for us), or maybe in a couple of weeks they will come down and watch the kids play basketball. But regardless of when and how and for how long I see her, I will still be missing my Momma. For what I miss has been gone a long time. My mother's disease has evaporated a part of our relationship. What I have is good enough, and for it, I am grateful. But some days I just long for more.
Friday, February 5, 2010
I have come to realize it is the gift I want to most give them as well. Over Christmas when I was away from them for several weeks that drifted into January....I began to think that tutoring was not so important a kingdom thing. It didn't really change things...or help them and maybe I should reconsider how I use my time. But then I went back...
Time is not only what the kids desire the most but it is truly the most helpful thing as well. So since the snow day Monday cleared things off my calendar this week, I gave them more time. This week with each kid... I reviewed 25 sight words (simple, common words that kids are taught to recognize by memory) and helped them read 1 book to me.
This is what I saw: a handful of kids who after a half a year in school still can't recognize more than five words (two of which are "a" and "I"), some who still don't know their letters or the sounds that go with them, some that didn't remember in which direction to read the letters ( so than "on" is read "no"), and a handful of kids that probably need a referral to the speech therapist. A few of them are already starting to give up on themselves and believe they can't do it. It can leave you wondering if your time makes any difference at all.
But the majority of these kids were really, really trying...they have a great desire to learn to read... and are proud of their improvement. Their faces light up when they achieve something new. ALL OF THEM love to read books one on one. They love being read to...such a simple thing. I wish I could show you a picture of the face of child who realizes for the first time that he can read...he is smart enough to do this.
What they need most...benefit from the most is my time.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
I'm experiencing a kaleidoscope of emotions, and its beginning to feel like waking up each day to a hangover. I feel alive to be so moved by all that God is showing me. But I want to act...to do something, anything...that will make a difference. I'm angry because it seems like God won't tell me what to do. I dream, and then God allows those around me to go and live my dreams. And when I do do something, it seems so incredibly insignificant...like a raindrop on a pond on a very rainy day. I don't know that I even believe that the things I do matter at all in God's economy.
And on top of it all, I'm beginning to hate the church. Well, and at the same time I love the church. But I hate how the church gets so many things wrong....so many things that really matter. I hate how the church cuts off gay and lesbians from God. I hate how the church lets people all over the world live in poverty. I hate how the church likes hanging out as the church but doesn't like going anywhere uncomfortable to be the church. And I hate that all I hate about the church is true of me. GK Chesterton was once asked what is wrong with the church. He replied, "I am!" Right there with you Mr. Chesterton.
I feel the tunes of my college days nesting in my brain. " How long will I sing this song...." My days here on earth are numbered; forty plus years of them have passed never to come back. I don't want to waste my life, and "I still haven't found what I'm looking for...."