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May 26, 2011

Depressed/Under Stress

[I'm not qualified to diagnose or treat depression. Well, at least not directly; not as a health care professional. These are simply the thoughts of a guy who signed up for a free blog.]

The most common condition in my physical therapy clinic, by a long shot, is depression. Those two little boxes on our health history questionnaire are almost always checked off. "Who's not under stress or depressed?" said the patient with low back pain as she completed her paperwork today.

On one hand, clinical depression is a mystery to me. I haven't studied it formally, and I've never been particularly depressed or anxious. Some of us just don't have that bend to us. No, some of us are too arrogant, stubborn, prideful, or dishonest with ourselves to be depressed. We fall, for sure, just not in the direction of depression. I do question if any minister, mental health specialist (or anyone else who does deal directly with depression) is very well qualified to understand or treat depression if they haven't experienced it themselves.

On the other hand, I do claim to know at least something about depression. Anyone who pays a lick of attention should know something, because it's everywhere.

I know that bringing up perspective and poor decisions and God's sovereignty is not exactly therapeutic when someone is stuck under a crushing cloud.

I know that there is a significant genetic predisposition to depression. Or is it environmental. Does it matter which it is, if we recognize that depressed people have absolutely not always brought it on themselves?

I know that three days of gnawing back pain and lost sleep will make anyone quite emotional if not substantially depressed. Stress and anxiety and depression absolutely effects pain perception, cycles the misery, ups the ante.

I know that a lot of beautiful, intelligent, genuine Christians suffer from depression. They bare witness to the fact that faith or lack of faith is not the bottom line here.

I ask why. Why so much depression so often affecting so many different types of people? Is there anything we can do about it? How may I actually help someone suffering depression, or at least not further hinder them?  How, where, what can we do to save our children from this thing where they grow up and the vast majority of them are checking the "stress/depressed" box on their health history questionnaire?

In 50 or 500 years, will our ancestors remember our age as the second great depression? Do you imagine there's some element(s) of modern living that are highly damaging to the human psyche? What's really going on here? Is it our expectations, our knowledge base? Are there choices we're all making, seemingly sane and good choices, that bite us in the butt 10 months or years later?

I just can't imagine that it's only due to improved diagnoses and social acceptance of depression. In the old days, people may have been hungry or persecuted or oppressed or dead at a young age. But I can't imagine that so many suffered from depression.

There have been times when I've  been able to help friends. A little movement, a little less arthritic pain, a little lighthearted laughter. There have been more times when I've struggled to do nothing more than be present, listening. There are times when I pray for less understanding and more gentleness and compassion.

"Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith. But they are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can take them, our share in the passion of Christ." -CS Lewis

May 15, 2011


just another free saturday - what we try to do when not catching frogs.

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May 03, 2011

the life cycle of frogs

It's a warm spring day with nothing scheduled. The dad has worked hard to give his children the gift of a free morning.

I ask them what they'd like to do today. Play ball, go to the park, anything at all? Of course they want to catch frogs and other creatures. They've repeatedly asked for nothing more or less since the last time we came home with two bucket loads of tadpoles.

Off we drive with nets and buckets, to one of the many local watering holes; swamps and ditches and vernal ponds. Along the way we spot daffodils and tulips marking a season of new life, celebrating them with the excitement of Christmas lights in December.

For the next 50 minutes we scoop and slosh, collecting frogs, small fish, a turtle, and most of all, mud. Maggie never learns that thing about slimy frog eggs being gross. Ben nets his first tadpole; a moment that I never want to forget. You would have thought he netted Moby Dick.

Owen catches a frog and Maggie releases it. Luke turns up a small catfish. The excitement almost makes me forget about the organic smell that will linger in the car and the hours Amy and I will spend cleaning kids and shoes and laundry.

I know it's worth it - the time, the smelly car, the inspection for tics. I remember countless hours spent in the woods behind my parents home making new "old shoes," learning lessons in a small, mucky sanctuary of life known as "the swamp." The swamp was my favorite place to go until about the age of 13.

Then I had other things to do. I recall, a little later, riding my bike during college years at Slippery Rock. I was off to important places, and never had the courage to actually go poke around in the bogs and small ponds in and around campus. But I stared at cat tails with deep longing. The call of spring peepers was an instant reminder of the simple, joyful wonder of youth.

I've fished for trout, like dad did when he took me all over creation with net in hand. But that's just goofing around. I'm so thankful for the four tadpoles with me. I almost forgot how spectacular frogs are. For a minute there I thought there was something better to do than muck around in a swamp.


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This past Sunday at LBC, Pastor Fedor spoke to us about leaving a lasting legacy, structured from a quote by Dr. Crawford Loritts Jr.

"Out of struggle comes strength."
Comfort and wealth have the potential to turn us into the walking dead.

"Out of strength comes discipline."
 Discipline starts when we realize, in humility, that we have no strength of our own. Truly blessed are the meek.

"Out of discipline comes integrity."
Consistency establishes trust. There are no short cuts because we instill values primarily by example - how we live.

"Out of integrity comes your inheritance."
What will be left on the day you die; on the day the last memory of you winks out of existence? Hopefully much more than a certain "standard of living."

Do you "buy" this order of things? Hearing the story of Fedor's past, and considering how he lives now - it makes me want to pay attention, and gain understanding.

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