The pages of my journal in the latter half of 2007 are bare for the most part; quite uncharacteristic for me during that period of life. There is a story to be told, which those pages allude to tellingly.
I was in a murky depression. Embarking on my forties, in a crisis of vocation, having recently married, surprised how unanticipated my life had become. Life deconstructed.
This depression came as a Fujita-5 tornado, rapid and sudden; its signs only clear from hindsight. Those symptoms appeared, unwittingly and unfairly, on our honeymoon.
Here is one story of how depression involves fracture of the mind creating enormous emotional fragility and spiritual crisis:
On an innocent enough Saturday morning I changed the engine oil in my Hyundai. I’d done it dozens of times. The job done, I started the engine. Checking everything was working as it should I was shattered to find oil running all over the driveway. I shut the engine down and ran inside absolutely broken, sobbing tears like a baby. I met Sarah in the kitchen and fell into her arms, before flopping to the floor. She didn’t know what had occurred and it took her a little while to find out. I was inconsolable. Normally I might react angrily that the job went badly; but in my depression there was no agency for such fight.
The fracture in my mind had contributed to the spilt oil in the first place; with depression it’s so hard to keep the mind on task. I had failed to remove the old O-ring. With a clear mind I would never make such a fundamental error. Yet, as I recall doing the task, my lack of self-confidence was poignant. Neither the mind nor the emotions could hold me up.
As I reflect over that initial period of our marriage I quickly feel for the plight my new wife must have found herself in; her new husband completely insecure of identity, warred upon from within, defences down, a victim of a broken mind, that ran unchecked according to its own will, and a heart vulnerable to the cognitive chaos it sat under.
For a period of just over three months I had a daily battle. I was in a paid ministry role and felt completely inadequate to discharge that duty most of the time. Many times I had to put my depression to one side and pray that the Lord would uphold my mind and my emotions whenever I was ministering with the youth. God was incredibly faithful. My senior pastor, too, graciously allowed me to continue in the work. To have to continue to show up helped. But there were days, also, when I couldn’t function, and nobody could make me if I couldn’t make myself.
Coming Out of It
What ultimately drew me out of that depression was the Word of God — Proverbs to be exact. I began reading a chapter of Proverbs per day, and remained on that plan, meditating on chapters of about twenty verses daily, for eighteen months. That book of the Bible saved my mental, emotional, and spiritual life. I read little else of the Bible during that time. Proverbs was a book in season for me.
Focusing on Proverbs got my mind engaged and steadied my emotions as the Holy Spirit spoke encouragement’s life into me. It showed me how important the steadiness of studying one book or section of God’s Word is. Proverbs gave me the character of God as a structure for the wisdom I sought.
Through Scripture, God was able to steady me enough to heal the fracture in my mind, and that helped fortify the fragility of my emotions.
Thankfully I came out of this depression about as quickly as I entered it.
And, for the record, I took SSRI antidepressant medication. They were important; about as important as recognising the signs and symptoms and admitting I was out of control. As soon as I have recognised I’m out of control, quickly I’ve been able to address the confusion and start on getting well again.
May God truly bless you as you go gently with yourself,