Monday, September 15, 2008

The grim stealer-further.

I don't know if people would want to talk about this. Sometimes it helps - each to their own. When I got caught in the grip of depression, it lead to some quite bizarre forms of empathy.
I can imagine myself in situations quite unlike the real life I lead. For example: I used to dwell on what it would be like for a slave: someone abducted, sold into bondage, and forced to do whatever the person who 'owned' me chose, no matter how exhausting, demeaning or hateful. It could break the spirit. And the bitter reality is that human creatures have had to live that way. That thought used to impose on my mind and become a morbid obsession which I could not shake off. Other times the situation on my mind was that of a person whose marriage breaks up, and who loses their home, their contact with children, and who suffers a blow to the heart that can leave them psychologically winded and flattened. It is how some people find themselves derelict, living on the street. Another scenario was being left seriously disabled. If you've seen that film "Born On The Fourth Of July", in which the soldier is left paralysed, you might remember the line: "Who's going to love me?" in the sense of making a marriage with him. It could be derided as self pity if you were callous enough to deny the sheer pain expressed in that comment. The point being, what a shocking and heart-breaking thing to happen to someone. And I would go on and on beating myself up imagining things like this, and descend in a black pit of despair at the thought of it. I can think of just one positive: it was a way of sharing to some extent in the hurt and suffering of others, which is what a human should sometimes do if they are going to call themselves a caring member of the race.
The danger lies in the feeling so overwhelming you that you go down yourself. I do not believe I was ever dangerous to anyone except myself. It would not have been my reaction to go mad and kill my family or some pure horror like that. What did happen, which was scary, was that I became careless of danger. On a really bad morning, driving to work so bleak that I hardly knew what I was doing, I nearly caused a serious accident. I pulled out of an intersection in the path of a truck, which only narrowly missed a collision. The driver yelled wildly at me, I heard it because the two vehicles passed so close; and it was a reminder that I was putting stress on others. That truck driver did not deserve the trauma of being involved in a major, possibly fatal, accident. So I needed to get a grip and think of others. The condition is much improved now because I'm out of the job that was driving me over the edge; and because the doctor found an anti-depressant medication that works for me. But the entire experience was shocking. It was impossible not to feel bitter and bleak about everything. What I might have done without the help of God is desert my family, run off somewhere trying to escape the misery, thinking that somehow I would find a new and better life somewhere else. It would not have worked. There would have been too much hurt to the ones I abandoned. Knowing that would have spoilt any attempt to be happy somewhere else. Now that the foulest moments are past,
I'm seriously thankful I didn't lose it to that extent, or let myself give in to selfishness. And yet the thing can blind you to reason sometimes. The 'grim stealer' can lacerate your mind and distort your perceptions, horribly. Another odd reaction was that I used to want to eat things I normally never touch, like licorice. Then there were the night sweats, as if I had a high fever; and the nightmares, the worst of them literally sickening. The thing I need to be glad of is that I was got past it. Last night's T.V. viewing narrated the suicide of a teenage girl who could not get past it. That's another bitter theft: a bright young life stolen. I wish that I could do something like the ghosts of Christmas past, Christmas present and Christmas yet to come in "A Christmas Carol". It would involve taking people on a journey, showing them what can happen if....and showing them that there will be better times ahead, if they wait it out. The wretched thing is, the victim can lose hope. It can be a huge rescue operation if instead they can be sustained until they get past it. Effective medication is a God-given life saver. It can also make the critical difference if the sufferer knows that other people understand and care. Happily for me I had a family and friends, and congregation members, who did understand. But some people, including some I worked with, could only make futile cliched comments about 'trying to get your mind on better things' or ( I got to hate this one!) 'implementing strategies to counteract it'. (Useless!)
Every age seems to have a particular scourge that afflicts it. The list would be too long to compile here, but some examples are the plagues that hit the world in the Fourteenth Century - bubonic plague, which killed a third of the people between India and Iceland. The rest of the world was then unknown to European chroniclers. We can't know what happened there. There were appalling wars which ravaged entire populations, as well. Historians and commentators have said much about them. One particular blight of the late Twentieth and early Twenty First Centuries is clinical depression - the grim stealer which can leach the will to live out of the human heart. I owe a debt of gratitude to friends and loved ones who helped me through it, and to Christian faith. Without that, I could have lost any sense of hope and the will to fight on through it. It is easy to see why that old fable has Satan gloating that depression is one of the deadliest weapons.
I should finish by saying: anyone who has been there for a depression sufferer, and aided them in getting through it, has done a fine thing that could have saved a life. May God commend you for caring.


Amber said...

Hey Andrew,

This comment is so not related to your blog which makes me now realize I could have just emailed you but I wanted to make sure you knew that I received both of your comments and I am truly thankful. Thankful for your prayers for me and for leaving me a comment. I am a fan of Frank E. Peretti, I have read Piercing the Darkness, but I will definitely check out the book you suggested. I pray that God blows your mind today and that you continue to chase after him and seek to dwell in his presence and doing his will. Don't be a stranger Andrew. I will check out your blog. Peace and Blessings!

Randi Jo :) said...

thanks so much for sharing this. I'm so thankful that you found a medicine to counteract this horrible sickness.

It is a serious & real thing - not something that can always be 'willed' away or wished away by controlling our thoughts. THere's so many different levels, scenarios, situations --- we can't just assume that somebody isn't trying or is just negative.

anyway - i'm not sure I had anything to add. I'm just thankful for sharing and showing that vulnerability. another great post

Nadine said...

Thanks for stopping by today and for your words of encouragement. I appreciate all that you shared.

I did take a glimpse at your book and it looks very interesting.

Janae said...

Thanks so much for the comment on my blog. I too have looked at your website and read the excerpts from your book. I liked what I read and will look for your book at my local bookstores. FYI-I am changing my blog to private so let me know if you would like to continue to look at it. My email address is on my last blog post or you can just comment back. No worries about the hurricanes for me and my family. We are safe! Hope all is well with you and your loved ones as well. Take Care!

makemeaspark said...


No wonder you are so kind as to speak kindly to a stranger. I have found that my melancholy side makes me more sympathetic also. It seems like the more you suffer, the more you can understand and have sympathy for others suffering. I know that i am really simplifying some great biblical principles by saying that in such an unspiritual way...

"the grim stealer which can leach the will to live out of the human heart."

I recently experienced a bad bought with the grim stealer, myself. I know my posts got kind of sad there and you happened to come by and leave an encouraging word, and it did make a difference!

Even though I am part of a large and loving Para-church group, because I miss attending many events I am not thought of by my friends very often, they are so used to me working odd hours etc. So I have had to pull myself out of the depression and ask for help. Fortunately, because of my training, (on the way to getting a Masters in Counseling)i recognized that something was seriously wrong with me when not only was I crying WAY too often, but that my cognition was impaired(I had trouble counting money at work, during a purchase and got confused looking for my daughters long time best friend's house). I immediately started taking my St. John's Wort twice a day and upped my b vitamins, and added some valerian at night so that i could sleep. I am still not completely out of the woods, but have surrendered my life and feelings to several faithful friends who check up on me and are making me see my doctor. Although my problem is probably hormonally based, it is still serious.

Please keep up the encouraging of people out there Andrew and I promise to buy and read your book when I am back on my feet financially.


NLT said...

This is not related to your post but I just wanted to say htanks for the book suggestion! I will def. check it out! Good luck with your writings! Let me know if you write anything else! God Bless!

Greg said...

Hi, Andrew. Thanks for being the first to comment on my newly re-dedicated blog.

I was moved by your post. While I've never felt the kind of depression that almost took your life, I've had times in my life, when everything seemed hopeless. We want to be in control, but in fact, there is so little that we're actually in control of. I am reminded of the parable in the NT, where Jesus talks about the materialistic man who wants to raze his old barn and build an even bigger one, so he can have enough to retire on. But he fails to prepare his own soul, if the Lord calls on him the next day?

It is a comfort to know that God is the One in control, and not us. He knows everything from beginning to end, and think about this: whatever our problems are, whatever comes up, no matter how overwhelming it seems, He's had ALL ETERNITY to plan for it. He can show us the path out, if we will only trust Him. Hard to do, but that's living our faith.

I'm thankful He's led you through it! Don't be a stranger, and stop by again sometime.

Farrah said...

Hi Andrew!

I am so glad that Jesus has helped you! I take medication myself for chronic illness, so I would not condemn you for taking meds. Your post brought to mind this piece of scripture:

Phil. 4:
[4] Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.
[5] Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
[6] Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
[7] And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
[8] Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

God cares for our mental health as well as our physical health. When I find myself slipping into a negative mood, I sometimes recall these scriptures to remind myself of some things.

The first scripture talks about rejoicing always. Though I was a Christian long before illness entered my life, it was only after illness I really learned what it means to rejoice always. It required effort on my part to make my heart thankful. I began to give thanks each and every day for the little things and big things, for the numerous blessings in my life. Not since childhood had I looked out my window during a drive and really noticed the beauty in the sky, etc. and taken the time to thank God for it. I began to thank Him for sleep after waking up even if it was only a few precious hours. Making this effort to be thankful made my heart more happy and resulted in more joy in my life.

"Be careful for nothing" but pray. When I am worried about something, I often pray. This greatly helps. I even pray for help with the worry itself! I want to trust my Lord, as He has always taken good care of me. People who find themselves in these situations you mentioned will be helped and comforted by Jesus if He is with them. So when I find myself worrying about how I would handle it if something horrible happened, I can find comfort knowing that if it did happen to me, Jesus would help me handle it. I even believe that God can numb the pain if a child were being tortured, etc.

Verse 8 is very applicable to your post. I used to read a popular magazine called Reader's Digest. It frequently had true stories about criminals and all the horrific things they did: murderers, rapists. Details about their victims and how they were or weren't caught. Anyway, I eventually stopped reading it for several reasons, but one was that when I read those stories it took away my peace. I lived in fear, I was spooked that it might happen to us. I realized that I needed to stop reading those stories and stop thinking about it. I knew this scripture back then and applied it to my life. It says to think about things that are lovely, pure, of good report, praise, and virtue.

I have had to remind myself of this when I read too much news and begin to despair about the awful state of things in the world and in my country. It can make me sad or angry if I dwell on it. The mind is a very powerful thing. Most of the criminals who do the worst sexual crimes will say that it all began in their heads: fantasizing. Thoughts result in actions. So when a thought comes to my mind that I realize is ungodly or unhealthy such as anger toward someone who has hurt me, I immediately rebuke it in the name of Jesus and turn my thoughts to something else. :-)

I'm not saying all this, because I think you need to hear it but because it is what has helped me have good mental health and it might help someone else who reads these comments.

Marshal Art said...

For every negative thought that might bring you suffering, I pray that God immediately plants in your mind a reason to celebrate to balance it out.