on bad news and “what next?”

What the crap is going on? Seriously, people. Some have buried their heads in the sand and think it’s just another day, like any other. Fox News argues one narrative while MSNBC argues the opposite. Pick a side and move onto the next controversy. But it’s not just like any other day. As the brilliant philosopher Lloyd Christmas profoundly pointed out, “we got no food, we got no jobs…OUR PETS HEADS ARE FALLING OFF!”

That’s about all the humour I have in me today. It feels like everything in the world is falling apart, and I’m struggling to find the hope that’s always lifted me out of the pit. I’m not even in the middle of it. I’m far removed from the chaos, or at least I feel that way.

The cracks started to show in my heart and soul with the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Even before that, the Russian oppression of LGBT people brought about fear and frustration in my soul. Russia just brought the full court press the past year. I successfully squashed that anxiety by telling myself it’s far away, and doesn’t really impact me, sad as it is. Then a country was invaded. And a plane was shot down with 300 innocent lives on board. It’s not so easy to ignore.

Then the conflict between Palestine & Gaza reached a boiling point. They always fight, right? So why should this time matter to me, a 30 year old Canadian kid with no ties to the conflict? Then Israel invaded and destroyed buildings and towns and people. The death toll is above 2000. That’s not a number that is easy to ignore. Christians and much of the west blindly support Israel, to the point that they ignore the violence and overuse of force against vulnerable civilians. I’m not saying Palestine is right. But that doesn’t make Israel right, either.

Then Mike Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri. And I’m losing my mind. Because I have no idea what it must feel like to be scared to walk down the street the way every black individual in the USA must feel. I’m losing my mind because this is all bullshit. Every new piece of information that comes out of this is worse than the last. Coverups, brutality, media suppression…a kid is dead because of his skin colour. And the talking heads on the cable news distract us from the fact that a family is grieving and justice is broken. Ferguson is a small example of the underlying tension felt all across America. Don’t even get me started on Aboriginal issues in Canada. Different culture, similar stories. No trust or peace. Our police aren’t nearly as heavy handed. If anything, this situation makes me respect our police more. But the racial tension is alive and well.

Then Robin Williams committed suicide, and my heart breaks. Not because celebrity deaths are any more tragic that the stranger down the street. But because he brought so much joy with his humour and deep soulful acting, yet was as filled with darkness, which stole his life in the end. My first date was to go see “Jack,” about a boy whose body aged 4 years for every year of real time. So he was a 40 year old 10 year old. I held hands for the first time to Robin Williams frenetic, childlike energy. I cried watching him develop a relationship with Matt Damon’s character in Good Will Hunting. “It’s not your fault.” Seems rather like an appropriate statement in this circumstance. And people are calling him selfish and a coward. And Christians are suggesting that the only cure for depression is prayer and Jesus, and real Christians don’t get depressed. Christians continually make depression out to be a result of “sin” or a “lack of faith”. These sort of asinine voices make me want to just quit. As someone who fight depression and has prayed and read his bible and has struggled to grow my faith these past 10 years, I know these false ideas to be damaging garbage. Robin Williams death is not as important as what’s going on in Ferguson or Gaza, but dammit, it sure is depressing. And if feels like the cherry on the turd sundae of this weeks news.

The first couple stressors are concerning situations, but distant enough that on their own, I can distract myself from the horror. It requires intentional distraction, but we in the west are good at this. I am good at this. The next story hits closer to home. We all know someone who could have been Mike Brown. But I’m just a white, middle class Canadian. If it was possible, I could ignore it. But it’s not possible anymore. I am so tired of it these stories. It’s too much. White people can no longer stand by and say these stories don’t apply to them. We are all human, regardless of our skin tone. But I feel so powerless to do anything. The depression angle hits closest to home. That could be me without the support system I have. That’s been people close to me. I’m watching someone I love fight the battle of their life right now. It’s not as simple as “have more faith.”

Life seems to be falling apart.

Kyrie Eleison. God, have mercy.

Romans 8 is about the only place I can land on days like this. This world is broken and I’m crying out, but the world groans with us in our pain and desperation for redemption. And while hope seems to be lost, the promise of God is that we cannot be separated from his love. We can’t. Nothing will stop it. And that’s all that’s keeping me going these days. The promise that Gods love is greater than the mess we’ve created. Neither angels nor demons, height nor depth, rubber bullets in Ferguson or the helplessness of depression. NOTHING can separate us from Gods love.

The way I see it, there are two options. 1. Put our headphones in and listen to another mindless pop or worship song, pretending all is well and right with the world.
2. Wake up and start paying attention. Participate in Gods Kingdom.

If you are like me, you will feel overwhelmed and helpless at times. So what? How do the people with bombs flying over their heads in Gaza feel? How does the community of Ferguson feel today? Being overwhelmed doesn’t give us the option to disengage the brokenness of the world. If the children and families dying in Gaza can fight for hope, we should be able to as well without falling into the pit of cynicism and despair. So I can be sad. I can mourn. But I can’t give up.

People ask, why doesn’t God do something? Tough question. Shane Claiborne always says something along the lines of wondering why we always ask God this when he looks right back at us and asks the same question. So will we do something? Or will we keep blaming God for the mess we’ve created?

Stand up for justice. Don’t mindlessly pick a side in the ideology battle. Stand for what is good and noble and right. Bombs in Gaza are not right. Neither are bombs in Israel. Fight for justice on both sides. Suicide is not the best option. But neither is someone feeling so alone and hopeless they feel nothing is worth living for. Don’t blame the victim of depression, be the voice that gives them a reason to live. An eye for an eye in Ferguson, Missouri will not solve racial injustice and abuses of power. But neither will ignoring injustice that has happened and maintaining status quo. As a white person, I may not understand their fear, but I can stand beside them and demand justice for those who are oppressed. We are all humans on the same voyage. It’s time to wake up and get involved. Speak up. The world is going to be set to rights someday. Let’s join the work God has called us to. Otherwise, what in the world is the point of all this? God is a Godnin the business of making beautiful, new things. I have to trust in that. Otherwise, I have nothing.

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when you are overwhelmed, overwhelm
August 12, 2014, 8:59 pm
Filed under: Stuff

Good perspective.

My Men and Me

IMG_5469

Might you be feeling the same as me? Too much, too much. Too bloody much going on out there, and the suicide of Robin Williams is just one more drop in the already heartbreaking flood of sadness and despair, and it is overwhelming.

Overwhelm: bury or drown beneath a huge mass… swamp, submerge, engulf, bury, deluge, flood, inundate…

There’s a tsunami of horror in our world, and it’s not hard to feel desperate.

The truth, though, is that I’m not the one in the water. I’m standing on the shore, watching while the whole world (it seems) drowns in front of me. The water is barely lapping at my feet as I’m considering vacation options and cleaning my home and feeding my kids who will at some point today complain about something for which most other children in the world would give their left leg. This is the hard…

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on being told to ‘stop being divisive’
August 2, 2014, 2:42 am
Filed under: Stuff

Great quote.

chrisrandall306's Blog

far too often, the “stop-being-so-divisive” line is used by those in power to diffuse, or even silence, difficult conversations about why things might need to change. — rachel held evans

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on being a son of an S.O.B

i barely dodged the swing. my cousin ran around the car to my rescue, pushing him to the ground and standing between us to avoid an escalation in the conflict. to this day, i’m still not sure what i did. i stepped out of my car and this guy comes at me full steam. the same guy i had been laughing with earlier that week for using the phrase “son of an SOB.” it was funny because he essentially called me a “son of a son of a bitch.” i thought we were friends, and we were. but this came out of nowhere. he was an oddball and had am intensity about him. i liked him, but i knew he was strange, different from most. he usually wasn’t trying to be funny with his rants and comments, but he was, and we all laughed. i think we treated him as more than his mental illness, although i can’t be sure. i was a teenager and didn’t have any frame of reference at the time. to me, he was just a strange kid that made me laugh. it was probably a fine line we walked between laughing with him and at him, but i wasn’t tuned in enough to know the difference. so he took a swing at me, and i’m still not sure why. maybe it was because i was laughing at him. maybe because mental illness makes no sense.

mental health is a real son of a son of a bitch. i hate that word and how it’s used, but the phrase my friend coined makes sense of the repetitive frustration i feel about this subject. and if anything should be termed “son of an SOB,” mental illness fits the bill. i didn’t understand it at the time, but now i know why my friend had been so up and down. living with bipolar disorder and ADHD will do that to a guy. ecstatic and smiling ear to ear one minute…sulking and moody the next, ready to snap. meds balancing him out until he forget to take one, then everything came crashing down. i don’t claim to know what all mental illnesses feel like, but i know what my mental illness feels like. and it’ s a son of a son of a bitch. here’s some statistics.

1/5 people personally experience a mental health issue at some point in their lives.

1/4 of deaths age 15-24 happen because of suicide.

nearly HALF of people who experience depression/anxiety won’t see a doctor.

i was diagnosed with depression nearly 2 years ago. for years, i had been living in a fog, okay one day and falling into the depths of despair the next. as a youth pastor, i tried my best to put on a happy face, but the cracks kept getting larger the deeper my depression took hold of me. i didn’t want kids to feel as hopeless as i did. meanwhile, i told them all about the extravagant love God has for them, but believed the nagging voice in my head that told me i was the exception to that rule. every christian struggles with that on some level, the belief that God’s love and grace is really as good as he says it is for everyone but themselves. the difference in my case, i think, is i internalized the idea that if God hated me, i must be worthless. and if God hated me, i might as well hate myself. because i’ll never measure up anyway. and if God hated me and i hated me, then my family must hate me. i must suck at my job and be a failure at the rest of my life as well. these are the lies that went through my head every day. and it didn’t matter how much evidence was presented to contradict these lies, i woke up each day feeling worse than the one before, stuck in a perpetual cycle of feeling worthless. my depression didn’t start with a faith crisis. i felt hints of it as a teenager, but when the core of your theology says that you are loved by God and you feel anything but, you start to feel an unresolvable tension.

like most stubborn men, i refused to admit i had a problem. i kept fighting the emotions and despair and refused to admit things were bleak, even when my wife told me for years to go talk to someone. my doctor, a counselor, anyone. i wasn’t sleeping. i wasn’t functioning well with work or my family. for a while, i could pretend everything was okay when someone walked into my office or stopped by for a visit. but i slowly lost that ability. it was easier to just quit going out. so i ignored my friends because it was easier to sit at home. but i couldn’t avoid my family, so they watched me sink into myself, trying desperately to distract myself with movies and television, which in retrospect made the problem worse. i went through the motions and worked as hard as i possibly could to pull myself out, convinced it was a spiritual problem. often depression can be confused for spiritual struggle. i felt hopeless. i’d wake up one day and try, only to fall flat on my face. i was angry, losing my mind at the smallest things. it felt inside like a pot of boiling water, and each day was a battle to stop it from overflowing from the pot. but each day, i would lose it. i still remember going to get an oil change. the sign said $39.99. they started and were halfway done when they informed me there was an extra $15 charge because i had a unique oil filter. i rolled up the window and yelled and punched my steering wheel, as if the car door was a noise blocker. i’m pretty sure i scared some people. but the anger was overwhelming and for no reason. all i wanted to do was overeat and watch mindless entertainment. it got to the point where the distractions couldn’t do their job anymore, so i finally listened to my wife. i saw my doctor.

hearing the words, “you are clearly depressed, and i think you need help” felt surreal. the shame and stigma attached to mental health is everywhere. it’s better than it used to be, but the feelings of failure don’t go away with a diagnosis. the fear of what others might think is very real. to have a name for what i felt gave me my first glimmer of hope in some time. so i grabbed a hold of it, still struggling, but ready to do battle. and i still am. i take a pill every day that levels me out and helps keep the darkness at bay. i fought the embarrassment, feeling weak, but knowing i needed help. so i swallowed my pill and it helped. it hasn’t cured me, but it’s helped. it’s one step in what’s been a long process of waking up again. it took months to share this with my extended family. longer still to tell coworkers and friends.

even now, i don’t shout it from the rooftops. i casually mention it in a blog post and share links on twitter or facebook about mental health issues, but i still feel it lurking. even when i do mention it, it’s only for a passing moment, and i don’t linger. if i do, people will ask questions. and if people ask questions, that means i’d have to be honest about my darkness. and if i’m a pastor and a christian and a husband and a father, shouldn’t i be all put together and whole? even as i write that, i know it’s garbage. but that’s what depression does. it takes the lies our mind tells us and makes them real to us.

well, i’m not a pastor anymore. and the idea that they, or any christian for that matter, should be all put together and never struggle is a load of bullshit anyway. good thing i’m not a pastor anymore. i just said bullshit. the idea that anyone should have it all together is ridiculous. we all want to be healthy, and good for you if you are. but when we are pretending for the sake of a facade we want to present to the world, that’s where depression does its damage. it hides in our fake smiles and mindless distraction.

i’m tried of watching people i love struggle.

i’m tired of making excuses for my depression and letting it have control.

i’m done worrying about what people think, stressing constantly over “if only they knew…”

i’m fed up with feeling alone and watching others pretend they are okay when it’s clear they are not.

mental illness does not have the last word. and if all i do is sit and wallow and pretend all is well, then i’ve already lost. i don’t want that for my kids. if they are fighting a battle, whether it be mental, emotional or other, i want them to be open about it, brave and courageous. i don’t feel any of those things most days. but i’m tired of letting it own me. and i don’t want others fighting the same battles i am to feel as alone as i did. everyone knows someone fighting a mental health battle. it’s just a matter of whether they voice it and you are paying enough attention to see it.

so here’s a rant from one depressed guy to the world. whatever you struggle with, know that you aren’t alone. talk to a friend. talk to a doctor. talk to a counselor. if you aren’t struggling, great! but let people know you won’t judge them if they are. let them know you will walk with them and give them hope. we all are that someone or know that someone. practice compassion on yourself. practice compassion on others. it makes a world of difference to have people know your darkness and love you still.

 

one final statistic.

Once depression is recognized, help can make a difference for 80% of people who are affected, allowing them to get back to their regular activities.

there is hope, no matter how hopeless it feels.