Inexorable Depression, Death, God’s Plan, and Unfathomable Power: A Tale of Life

Inexorable Depression, Death, God’s Plan, and Unfathomable Power: A Tale of Life

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Depression Isn’t Uncommon

The following post is vulnerable. It does not dictate my self-worth or how I feel about myself these days. In gruesome detail, it looks at issues of mental illness or distress, reviews deleterious ruminations that some are given to, and then looks at practical ways to combat them in populations that suffer from such forms of emotional malaise. I need to be crystal clear in stating something: this looks at only one aspect of my personality. There is a flip-side where I am too wildly jubilant, too hubristic, too vain about my looks and mind, and far too willing to discard the opinions of others as being a waste of time. As it’s said, with enough narcissism, the thoughts of peasants can never hurt you.

Ever since I was a little child, I’ve had issues with depression. Certain diagnoses and traits within my family have led me to conclude that I most likely have a “hardware” problem in my brain, rather than a “software issue.” Even as a kid, I remember not liking little things that led to distress for me, such as music. If music ever made me feel anything—and it rarely did—it would invariably be sadness and despair. Musical anhedonia is an actual condition due to the wiring of one’s nervous system, and I know that I have some of it, but this was something else: just a feeling that mechanical hopeless was closing in. Unbeatable, inexorable defeat. 

These feelings impacted other aspects of my life, but I didn’t ever express them to any degree, as there’s nothing that can be done about them, Still, I didn’t ever want my friends around after school (I never had friends over), as my mind was typically tired from the wearying stress of something that I could never articulate. It was like an ever-present shadow. Even walking the stairwell in fourth grade and smelling the scents of the elementary school, it triggered nothing but a feeling of things have passed away. It was remarkably hopeless. Hopeless.

I believe in genetic entropy, so I don’t think that my existence is at all unique. Genomes decay, and errors result. God has always sustained me, giving me assurance that better things await, and that my life, if not so useful to myself, might be of value to others, perhaps even in death. Revelation 2:10-11 He always sustained with the outdoors, ensuring that I was raised in them—without them, who knows what might have become of me. They are very beneficial to one’s mental health!

That said, I would describe the emotional toll of whatever this mental malady is as “sheer, awful torment,” and in such a way that it causes me self-loathing if I let it. As an example, I remember once seeing my fiance (before we broke up) come out of the house to greet me as I pulled up, and I felt a hideous lack of connection. It was as if I were moving a puppet’s strings, because I felt no emotion whatsoever. No love, no sadness, no joy. In place of all of that was the thought, “This is my mate.” What a horrible person to be, right?

As I’ve said before, however, people do mean much to me, and it’s more complicated than simply feeling robotic, because those moments are transient, not the baseline. I do feel connections, and I recoil at hurting others—to the point that, by the time I’m ready to commit, the female has always sensed, “Yikes, there’s something off about this one,” and rejected me. Often even with a sense of sadness. This isn’t anything wrong with their decision making, mind you, even if the outcome would have been much better than their analysis led them to conclude. For all of my weirdness, I am caring, giving, and want the best for people, period—even those who have done me great wrong. And I know that I have wronged many.

Typically, I have only ever slept well in the outdoors. I sleep so poorly that I routinely have people thinking that I’ve been in a fistfight, mistaking my tiredness and fatigue for black eyes. Sometimes I haven’t been able to sleep at all, with thoughts of failure and worthlessness not able to be banished. Thoughts have plagued my mind—girlfriends who have called me boring, scrawny, average; unfit for marriage. Bosses telling me that I’m a dumbass, a bottom-feeder, etc. It is not that their words have hurt me, or their opinions have damaged me. Nothing so personal. It’s that I’ve had those thoughts about myself even when I’ve had a big smile on my face. In those sleepless moments of beating myself up, I have simply prayed for deliverance in some form. Prayer helps a lot. (See last verse.)

You Must Know that You Have Value

This is a long, tedious, and vulnerable post, I reckon, but it has a purpose. If you suffer from depression, you have to know that you aren’t worthless. If everyone who had those thoughts died at the same time, the world would fall apart. Even if it were to seem that not only could you do nothing right, but no one else in the world liked you, you wouldn’t be alone in that, so keep God and serving Him as your ground and stay. Why do I say that? 

 “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  He said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” The Lord said to him…’Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:9-18)  

Can you imagine Elijah’s despair?  This is not uncommon to man. You are not alone.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.” Psalms 22:1-2

We see here a cry of despair. Let’s keep reading, though:

“Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.” Psalms 22:3-5

What starts out as despair becomes trust. We can’t let immediate pain or distress trick us into not trusting in God. Instead of saying with Frodo, “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” why not say with Mordecai, “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

If you brain constantly attacks you—if looking at a sunset causes you to feel despair, as it has for me—there are ways to combat that. The two most effective ways I know are as follows:

And with those two things mentioned, I must tell you a story of a man who cried unexpectedly.

A Reason to Die; A Desire to Live

When I was in boot camp, Master Sergeant Wagner had our loved ones send us each pictures of their faces. He brought us into a large room and made sure we had our flashlights. In that room, he told us, “You’ve just been shot. You’ll be dead in 3 minutes. Your life is fading. Take out a pen and a piece of paper. I don’t care what you write, but I want to make this clear: this is happening. You are dying because you signed up to serve your country. And now you have three minutes to write down what’s going through your heads as your blood seeps out onto the ground. So write.”

It was very weird. What? What would I write? I started writing as fast as I could to my family. As I wrote, MSgt Wagner started dimming the lights with the dimmer switch.

“120 seconds left.” 

I wrote about how much I loved them.

“90 seconds left. Take our your flashlights and your photographs.”

We did so. The room was growing very dark. 

“Shine your lights on those photos. They’re smiling, aren’t they?”

Pain buckled the muscles around my eyes and caused them to quiver as I wrote as fast as I could. I tasted salt water catch in the edge of my mouth.

“Stop writing. Now. No finishing. You’re dead. Turn off your flashlights.”

The pictures went black as did the room. 

The lights came back on and MSgt Wagner looked at everyone, most of us trying to act manly, with faces suffering from an odd problem of overhydration.

“So how many of you penned a letter to the United States of America in those 180 seconds? I’ll tell you how many. Not a single damned one of you wrote a heartfelt letter to your dear country as you were dying. Not a single damned one of you. Do you know why? No person dies for their country—no person, in their last moments, thinks, “I hope America will be safe.” No. They think, “I sure hope this doesn’t cause my family grief. I hope they’re protected and cared for.”  No one dies with visions of their flag. That isn’t what brings ultimate value to your lives, and the flag does not look upon your body with grief. Remember that. Never forget what you fight for. Never forget what is actually valuable in life. It’s your family and loved ones.”

His…well, I don’t know what to call what MSgt Wagner did to us, but it highlighted something: serving others is imperative. In wars, it is rare that people desire to give up and die. The injured in battle, on the edge of death, hear their loved ones calling to them to fight on. The injured, when their comrades are hurt, will fight through pain, blood loss, and peril to save them. They perform Herculean tasks to help others. 

Yet when people are depressed, they give up, feeling alone, worthless, pathetic. They want to reach out to death and end the agony. Why? Why is someone being shot at, always bleeding to death himself, able to press on and save others, and yet another might want to just die, despite living in a four-bedroom house?

I think it comes down to serving others, and being a part of something larger than oneself. Loneliness isn’t the physical absence of other people. It’s the sense that you aren’t sharing anything meaningful with them. It’s the conclusion that you are not a part of a future which is bigger than yourself—and with that decided, you end up with no reason to continue your existence at all.

This is why it is critical to get people who are depressed involved in things that involve teamwork toward achieving a goal. It regrounds them. Even if their life must be forfeit in some terrible manner, such as through war, it means that it will not be wasted through suicide or apathy.  (As it’s been correctly written, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” —John 15:13)

A life of service brings reward in a way that wealth, sex, and drugs cannot—and just think of all the people getting those three things who have decided to tragically kick their own buckets because everything in the world can’t replace a sense of meaning in life. Those things have no ultimate meaning. But serving others; working as a team, these things are vital to the heartbeat of the soul. God thus tells us about serving:

  • The reason for others is to help us serve.
    • And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of service. (Ephesians 4:10-12)
  • The reason we’re blessed with any talent at all it to help us serve.
    • As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11)
  • The reason we have freedom in Christ—and free will—it to use it to serve.
    • For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ( Galatians 5:13-14 )

Serving others improves everything: those around you, the world; you. It makes life worth living. And that brings me to something very, very important, for you and for others.

Don’t underestimate the power that you wield, for you may be someone’s miracle. 

If you’ve got a plumbing problem and you pray,”God, help me,” He is going to send you a plumber, not just sort of weld your pipes magically or miraculously. If you’ve got an electrical problem, he’s going to give you an electrician. 

So do not underestimate your power. You may be someone’s miracle and solace. “God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus.” (2 Cor 7:6) God accomplishes much through the loving activity of His people. 

You may be someone’s miracle, and someone else may be yours! 

My Parting Note

As a parting note, despite ALL of the above, I’ve had an actual psychiatric evaluation and it was noted that I expertly handle my own circumstances. This is all due to the fact that God puts purpose in my life, and purpose gives you unfathomable power. There is still more power to be had, though, and with that I say: I can’t wait to have a wife who is by my side, serving others and serving God with the fullness of her heart. A team like that not only has power in their own lives, but power in the lives of others, to change them eternally for the good. 

If you ever need help, reach out to me. I’m imperfect, weird, only 69″ tall, and have an odd last name, but dang do I want your success, and you’d better not question that! Also, my favorite animal is wombats. That alone makes me trustworthy. 

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