Wednesday, January 16, 2013

On Liars and Hypocrites, Jeff Foxworthy style.

"If you've ever made change in the offering plate, you might be a redneck." - Jeff Foxworthy
Well....have you?  It's okay to admit it. I won't judge you, nobody can hear your answer, and God already knows, so....

My last post, On Jesus and Zoloft, apparently resonated with a lot of people. I've gotten e-mails and comments and private messages from people all over the world. In the first 48 hours, it was up to almost 200 views. (Up to now, I'd be lucky to get 20 views on any single post since starting this blog last year.) As of today, the page view count is up over 350. Craziness.

I had the post drafted for over a year. For 12 months, I pondered its relevance. It's usefulness. It's necessity. I just couldn't bring myself to publish it. It was probably fear. And pride. Mostly fear.

Last week, I got the courage to finish and publish it thanks to one of my favorite bloggers, Jamie Wright, (aka Jamie the Very Worst Missionary.) She posted a nearly identically-titled post to the one I had drafted. Coincidence? I don't think so. You can find that post here. It's worth reading. And she's worth following. I promise.

Sadly, the most common theme in the comments and messages I received (and also in Jamie's comments on her post) was that the person suffering from depression and/or anxiety had been chastised by their church...for having it. Even more so if they were taking something for it.

I read comments like, "They told me I wasn't praying hard enough" and "They insisted there was some sort of sin in my life I wasn't dealing with properly" and "They told me my faith just wasn't strong enough and I needed to repent" and "Depression is just anger turned inward; Jesus is the only medicine I need."


I get migraines. With them, I usually get severe nausea. I have a prescription for both the pain and the nausea because, otherwise, I'm in the ER getting IV treatments to make them go away. If someone came up and told me I was getting migraines & puking my insides out because my faith wasn't strong enough, I'd probably clock them upside the head with my bible. Ok, I wouldn't really do that...but I'd imagine myself doing it and then I'd feel better for a while.

I absolutely love this comment on Jamie's Jesus or Zoloft post: 
"Why do we continue to treat depression as anything else but a chemical imbalance in need of treatment? No one would even consider that having diabetes is a sin."
So. True. Why are prescription medicines acceptable for migraines but not for depression? Cancer but not anxiety? High blood pressure but not panic attacks? What gives anyone the right to say that one is medically-justified and the other is not? 

I'm actually not surprised though. It doesn't surprise me one bit that the church...have these opinions. Churches are full of people who have no clue about what it means to live and love like Jesus. Churches are full of hypocrites. And liars. And thieves. And adulterers. And the self-righteous and arrogant. But, quite frankly, if they weren't full of these people, churches would be empty. And that includes the stage or podium from which the ones we might hold in the highest regard stand.

But before we go chastising those people and their wretched way for criticizing us for being depressed or anxious, guess what? I'm part of that crowd, too. And I'm willing to bet, whether you're a church-goer or not, or a follower of Jesus or not, so are you. Don't believe me? Well then, let's ponder this a moment, Jeff Foxworthy style.

If you've ever argued with your spouse on the way to church, and then smiled as wide as you could smile when you stepped into the building and told everyone who asked that you were doing "great" might be a liar.

If you've ever found yourself imagining life with someone other than your might be an adulterer.

If you've ever told your kids to stop yelling at you...while yelling at might be a hypocrite.

If you've ever looked around your church and judged the gay couple in the back might be self-righteous and arrogant.

Want to keep going? No? Me neither. But I've done all of the above and I'm heartbroken over every single one of them. But don't be too quick to judge me here. Because my guess is you've probably done them, too. (It's okay to admit it. Nobody can hear you and God already knows.)

Back to the medicine soapbox. I do believe that not everyone on medicines to treat depression or anxiety should, or needs, to be on them. Our Western-world medicine approach is so freakishly fast to offer up a pill to solve everything it jerks a knot in my stomach. Pharmaceuticals are more overused and overprescribed in the United States than in any other country in the world. And I do think Jesus is a large part of the answer for every soul battling these demons (among every other demon known to man...and God.)

The problem is we have become a society of "believers" who think it is our job to put people fighting battles different than ours, or out of our realm of understanding, in their biblical place. But guess what? It's not biblical of anyone to do that. In fact, it is quite the opposite. So who are we really serving when we condemn someone for their battles? Whose interest do we really have at heart here? And, why? 

I am so saddened by all the people who think it's their right to tell someone what's wrong with them and how they should go about fixing themselves. I'm even sadder that it's the people who are supposed to be the least judgmental and the most loving (i.e. our brothers and sisters in Christ) who do this the most. That's not love. That's not compassion (both of which we are called to exemplify in the name of Christ.) Nope. That's judgment with a capital J.  
"For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." - Matthew 7:2
The truth is, the people who are so quick to judge those of us with depression or anxiety (or any other condition they deem un-Christian) are the ones who need the most grace. People who think Christians shouldn't "struggle" with depression or anxiety or anger or homosexuality are grossly misguided and misinformed. And they only make matters worse with their "Jesus is all you need" approach. 

But instead of allowing the judgments of others to eat away at us and bring us even further down in our struggles, let us consider this:
Just because someone, Christian or otherwise, says it, DOESN'T. MAKE. IT. TRUE. It doesn't make it noble. It doesn't make it biblical. And it doesn't make it right.
We cannot control what others think of us or say to us or about us. But we can control our response to them. And we can have grace on them. And we can, amidst the hurt they may have caused or the struggle they may have unknowingly intensified, remember that, like them, we are liars and hypocrites, too. 


If you've ever loved your enemies and prayed for those who persecute might be like Jesus

And that trumps anything anyone could possibly say or do to you.

Love and peace to you, my fellow depressed or anxious or angry or self-righteous or arrogant or gay or lying hypocritical followers of Christ. You are LOVED, no matter what anyone else says or thinks of you. Don't forget that.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

On Jesus and Zoloft

I'm totally depressed.

There. I said it. 

Oy. My mom is so going to call me over this one. 

I was, in total honesty, sitting in my office tonight, weeping, when I saw a post by one of my favorite bloggers come across my Twitter feed. Like...hands on my head, rocking back and forth, sobbing into my sleeve, weeping.

You can find her post here. It's worth reading. More importantly, it has given me the courage to write this post that has been drafted and on my mind for over a year. Because I know I am not alone. I have a feeling most of you are depressed, too.

“That's the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it's impossible to ever see the end.” 

― Elizabeth WurtzelProzac Nation

I was supposed to be at my monthly dinner tonight with my bible study girls, eating wings and drinking a glass of Malbec. But I was reminded of a deadline I had long missed that needed my attention, and when I became a blubbering emotional mess over it (and other things) I knew I couldn't go anywhere. I'd be crying my eyes out for sure, in the middle of the wing ding place, over my onion rings. Lovely.

Three weeks ago (and unbeknown to my doctor...and my husband) I weaned myself off of my 8+ year love/hate relationship with Zoloft. I know how to taper but I'm still feeling the effects of withdrawal. I honestly didn't think it was working anymore. Until now.

For years, I've hated myself for being on it. I hated myself for regularly forgetting to take it two days in a row and remembering only when my lips would tingle. I hated the emotional roller coaster I would find myself on when I would forget, then remember, then forget again. More than anything, I hated the sarcastic little remarks I would get from various people about me needing this little "happy pill" and what a hypocrite I had become; this so-called "Christian" who leads 2500+ people in worship on Sunday mornings.

The truth is, it didn't make me happy. I realize now it was doing something, but it didn't make me "happy." It just eased the anxiety and lessened the depression I knew was always hanging around in the background, waiting for me to forget to take my pill so it could forge its way back in. But I was never happier because of it.

I have always been a very happy and outgoing person by nature. Ask anyone. I am optimistic to a fault, and can find the positive in every situation. But now, having been off of my medicine for a few weeks, I have become quite the emotional wreck (my apologies to everyone at last Friday's 7pm showing of Les Miserables.) I'm crying at absolutely everything. Some things are justified of my tears. Some are questionable. But my life seems more of a disaster than usual (which has been mostly tolerable until now.) I find myself considering drastic measures to rid myself of how overwhelmed and depressed I have become. (Drastic as in major career moves and relationship assessments, not as in jump-off-a-bridge, suicidal drastic. You can stop worrying, mom.)

Now, I'm left to wonder if the only reason I was able to do everything I have done for the past eight years is because of the skewed reality this little pill offered. And I wonder if I should try to get that skewed reality back, or if these realizations are a blessing of some sort and I should work to set my path straight before entering that easier form of reality again. Regardless, I'm making an appointment with my doctor first thing in the morning. (You're welcome, mother.) Cuz this crying-all-the-time thing is for the birds.

As I sit here, out of Kleenex, dried tears stuck to my cheeks, I am reminded of what my doctor first told me when I was considering going on this medicine so many years ago. If I had cancer, I wouldn't refuse chemotherapy. If I had diabetes, I wouldn't refuse insulin. God wouldn't want me to forego any treatment that could make me better, and that includes treatment to be a better version of this daughter he created. 

Thanks for the post, Jamie Wright. For the reminder that being Christian doesn't mean we have it altogether, on the inside or the out, and that's okay. And for helping me remember that God does not want me to feel guilty over the person he created. He loves me. Zoloft and all. Just as I am. And that is all that matters.

On Roads Not Taken.


Some embrace it like an old friend. Some fear it like a terminal disease. Regardless of who you are or what your stance, one thing is for sure. Change is inevitable. 

When I was a kid, I used to rearrange my room often. Being the night owl that I am, this usually occurred well into the evening. One minute, I'd be sitting on my bed listening to Heart, and the next minute I'm sliding my bed across the room. The first few times, my mom came into my room, a concerned look on her face, and she would ask me why in the world I was doing this at this hour. I had no explanation other than I just felt like a change or I couldn't sleep or why not now? After a while, she knew better than to ask anymore; I'm sure she just rolled her eyes at the familiar sounds of change coming from my room above. I loved changing my room. This change, I welcomed. This change was always good. This change...I could control.

Unexpected change, on the other hand, is not something I - and probably you - generally readily embrace. Just when we think we're on the right path, going in just the right direction, the winds change and we're forced to choose something different. A new road. An uncharted course.

New paths are scary; treacherous. We take inventory of their cost and we search for their meaning. The direction is unknown; the terrain questionable; what lies along the way, and at the end, a mystery. And mysterious unknowns are extremely intimidating. They make us exponentially vulnerable; they open us up to new opportunities for failure or a regression of progress we once fought so hard to make. They put us at risk of losing things that are important to us. Like People. And Pride.

But like a once well-worn path no longer trod, roads not taken will, eventually, become overgrown. So overgrown, in fact, that when we find ourselves upon them once again they may seem completely impassable; impossible to venture down. And it is likely we will inevitably regret not taking them the first, or second, or third, time around, when it might have been easier. 

Roads, however, that continually come into view over the course of our lives; roads that we once passed by without attention or much notice; roads we may have seen but not have been ready or mature enough or wise enough to know how to investigate each time they came into view; those roads are still worth being explored. We might need a machete by the time we decide to take it, but at least the road is still there. Waiting. Calling.

We cannot experience the beauty of a new road if we are resistant to change. And we may, one day, be filled with regret over our resistances and weep over roads not taken. 

Embrace the changes that come, whether welcome or unexpected. They define you. They refine you. They create your story. And take the road that's calling you. Take it before it's too late.

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined." 
- Henry David Thoreau