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Leighton

Adam,

I think you've hit on precisely why so many people who've dealt with depression are leery of talking about a "relationship with God"--there is no relationship without trust, and there is no trust without at least some form of predictability and accountability. I think one of the biggest things that led a couple of my friends not to survive their early twenties was people--well-meaning people, every last one of them--making promises on behalf of God ("(S)He will grant you peace, comfort, (s)he will be as close as you want him/her to be") that God had either no desire or no intention or no ability to follow through on. People whose brains have the proper balance of neurotransmitters can (often) depend on their experience of prayer or meditation to turn out a certain way and lead them to a certain state of mind, with proper discipline and practice of course, but people like us aren't so lucky. If a personal experience of God is supposed to be so foundational to faith, it seems more than a little suspicious to me that it's only readily available to people whose brains work in a certain way.

Just as a tangent, not all forms of Christianity think personal experience of God is important; the church I grew up in thought following the rules was where it's at [CoC's slant on this is a holdover from a radical reaction against Calvinism's determinism], and experiences of God should be avoided if possible. There was one lady who thankfully is now in a halfway house under psychiatric supervision who, I think, might have described her inner life as you do, except she would have described the woman of light and hope as Satan, trying to distract her from doing "the right". At the time she also had a few other problems, as she thought her father was God [the creator-of-the-universe God]. Last I heard she seems to be doing okay now when she takes her meds, but she'd be doing a lot better if she didn't think medication was one of Satan's temptations.

Anyway, getting back on topic, what was harder for me than anything else was not so much that God wouldn't communicate with me (because really, I've been depressed my whole life and without even realizing it I'd gotten used to "losing God" just when I needed her most, and yeah it's painful, but you get used to pain after a while); rather, what nearly destroyed me was realizing that not everyone has it like this--some people, most people probably, can "call upon the Lord" or something and (so far as I or anyone can tell) actually get a response sometimes--they actually feel comforted sometimes when they ask for comfort. "What the hell?" I wanted to say. "Does God just hate me? Am I supposed to build character or something while everyone else gets these extra-special handouts? Why does everyone else get peace and strength and all I get is a mouthful of ashes?" The manifold Campus Ministry talks where we'd hear over and over and over "God will answer anyone who asks, just ask!" were the worst of it; I think most people who cry out to God in the bitter watches of the night fall back onto themselves in despair at least once in a while, but nobody really talks about it, and it's really painful to pretend it doesn't happen.

Thankfully, when I actually talked to one of my professors about this problem, he was wise enough to send me to the student counseling center to get depression counseling. This was one of the Big Things that eventually led to me abandoning my faith, though (because what I had faith in my whole life, I realized, was not God, but what people had told me about God): God can cure any ill, heal all wounds, reconcile any schism, comfort any loss--oh, but if you're that bad, you need to see someone about getting put on meds. WTF?

Anyway, I say all this to say, yes, it's bad to be going through this; and eventually the "real" problem (not that the other is any less substantial) of coming to terms with people's coercive, benighted expectations of what your inner life will be like will crop up too, if it hasn't already; but these too shall pass. It's good that you're blogging about this, because it means you don't have to deal with this whole mess alone.

Adam

Leighton

I am so thankful that you understand my situation in the depth that it seems you do. I wish, all the time that I didn't face it alone and I know that there are people who will be there for me. I just don't have it in me to ask them for help. I feel like a coward going to a professional, though I know it would be good for me. I'm also very scared that I won't have any hope left if I go that direction. I'm sure most of them are unfounded fears but fears all the same.

Anyway, thanks for understanding. It means more to me than you realize.

Scott Jones

I like how you wrote that Adam. Thanks.

Kristen

Thanks for writing this. I've seen my sister go through these times. It's the most painful thing I've ever experienced (though I think far less painful than what she goes through)- to see her in that place and not be able to do anything to get her out of it. I don't have any answers, but my heart goes out to you.

Amanda

I randomly ran across this and basically it is the story of my life... Seriously, I read it over and over eating up every word because I related so well. I've thought to myself so many times in the past "man, I must need a lot of character building..." just because of all the Sunday School answers I memorized when I was younger. Not so much the case anymore :~) Anyways, thanks for posting this. I thought it was amazing.

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