Truth, Understanding, Insight


7th December 2020, hej


2) The Journey There (or how I may have avoided it)

Our society is competitive. We hear often of executive “burn out” and victims of the “rat race”. Some alcoholics once were striving for great things.

Behold, is it not of the LORD of hosts that the people shall labour in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity? (Habbakuk 2:13)

There are three sources for sins,

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (1Jn 2:16)

Modern life seeks to uphold the ideal that we satisfy the desires, to be “fulfilled” to meet our expectations. That we are allowed and even encouraged to strive after what we covet.

In all cases of Depression I have heard of, and these people did not abuse alcohol or drugs, there were a few factors common. The first is a long period of stress. In at least two cases I know it was study combined with life pressure. The stress was applied by the person to themselves. Another case was a problem son of religious people who for a long time struggled with their son over his return again and again to drug use, and the resultant problems with police. The second factor was lack of sleep, which studies confirmed does have a link. ( Whether the stress led to a lack of sleep or the lack of sleep increased stress, it is not known, but the majority of our society, especially students, are sleep deprived and have poor sleep patterns ( The third factor which might be suspected as contributing is a health failure of any sort. The fourth is a curious one in that so many who are busy are not getting good quality exercise (Sleep Foundation)

I fitted at least one pattern. I was striving after great things, to be with those who were esteemed by the world. In doing a PhD, I was working as post graduate researcher for a high profile government research project. I was also teaching, and at the same time involved in a highly stressful design of for a famous jewellery store, for the type of wealthy clients who think you have the honour of working for them.

I was working weekends and late nights. I travelled often to work 12 hour days and travelled to conferences. I was staying in places and not sleeping. I had had Chronic Fatigue for six months but was strong again, having got to the point of being able to cycle an hour to the University. I played tennis once a week to 9-10pm. I was often on a high. I was often fighting things though and stressed. I was often stressed to meet deadlines. But I was very self confident. I could not be told my way was wrong.

The key factor was 'pride' and 'self confidence' leading to high expectations of self. There was both physical over reaching and mental over taxing.

Thou are wearied in the greatness of thy way; yet said thou not, “There is no hope: thou hast found the life of thine hand; therefore thou wast not grieved. And of whom hast thou been afraid or feared, that thou hast lied, and hast not remembered me, nor laid it to thy heart? have not I held my peace even of old, and thou fear me not? I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works; for they shall not profit thee. (Isaiah 57:10-12)

There seems a common thread of over work and over stress, combined with illness. There is a long known link between stress and sickness.

Retrospectively, in analysis, the meta-issue was that I engaged in Society. So why is it our society is sleep deprived, coffee-driven, 'go-go', when the hope of the Bible is an agrarian one rolling casually with the seasons? It is said in the Bible that the ideal of the future is every man sitting at rest under his vine tree,

And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken it. (Micah 4:3-4)

The second point is that our society is competitive and confrontational. People in general would rather argue things out and fight than to compromise and resolve differences. There is a culture of taking people to court and standing on ones “rights”. Also many people are 'issue' driven, thinking they are right and trying to persuade everyone else. It is well known now that conflict reduces immunity.

Our Lord got to the heart of it in his advice to a world which was not dissimilar to ours,

But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there remember that thy brother has ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. (Matthew 5:22-25)

And also we are advised,

And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: (Ephesians 4:23-26)

One of the serious issues of Depression seems to be troubling thought patterns that go on for days, and weeks and months. If you are fighting a court case, such as in a divorce, or on a civil matter, or against a neighbour or it will go on and it requires much effort to disengage the mind from your own “rights” and the others “wrongs”. Such a period of high stress might, in combination with illness, be a trigger.

Another is academic or other achievement. It seems we can place such high pressure on ourselves studying or to achieve some goal, that we can wind our thinking and our life focus that it becomes hard to relax. Fundamentally, this is 'the pride of life', but also is linked to a culture of “self esteem” and “self worth”.

The Bible requires us to not have self esteem but rather to be totally broken in spirit. The Bible requires us to be depressed! In following its advice to not strive, to not esteem ourselves great, we might avoid depression!

For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and tremble at my word. (Isaiah 66:2)

The word in Hebrew for poor means “depressed, in mind or circumstances - afflicted, humble`, lowly`, needy.”

If we live a life and actively depress self esteem we will avoid Depression!

Isaac Newton is a famous case having a well known era of three dark years. This was preceded by: striving very hard after knowledge, exposing himself to high levels of chemicals in the pursuit of that knowledge and winding it up by an ongoing and acrimonious argument about academic precedence (standing on his rights). He was blessed in having friends who rescued him, and looked after him despite his emotional ravings. He was not mad, he had depression, and for him no doubt his copious writings on the Bible came to be a comfort as he strived for this rather than worldy things. He withdrew from stress and exposing his ideas. In this time he took a job at the Royal Mint and ironically earned a knighthood for his dedicated work. The pattern is he humbled himself and then was honoured. Only now are his writings on the Bible being analysed, and he was preserved from having to argue about them, but not publishing. He sought peace. It is curious that all who I have talked to who have loved the Bible have gone through the 'darkness' and sought God there, speak of feeling close to God.

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saves such as be of a contrite spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

It seems of great benefit to achieve a broken heart and spirit

For thou desire not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delight not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. (Psalm 51:17)

For thus says the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. Isaiah 57:15

It seems the fate of all servants that at some point, or all points they draw close to God, through suffering. If is it not from persecutions, it will be another aspect of our lives. Somehow we have to change our attitude ourselves to the blessed state that our Lord loves,

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:

And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. (Matthew 5:1-9)

The meek do not argue and fight. The depressed and poor in spirit do not seek to take on the world.

Our society thinks we ought to be happy and self confident, our Lord asks us to be depressed and lack self confidence in seeking blessing!

Controlled depression is a desirable state, a putting aside a place for any pain and emotional upset in a place of understanding.

Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools. (Ecclesiastes 7:3-5)

It requires a certain humility in attitude to desire and accept rebuke.

We might avoid the pain of Depression by having a spirit of not striving at any level, and accepting we might be wrong at all times.

Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger rests in the bosom of fools. (Ecclesiastes 7:8-9)

There seems great virtue in controlling strong emotion such as anger, by eliminating it rapidly. Also to not be stressed or 'hasty in spirit'.

There seems no real cure for Depression but to unwind the pattern behaviour and thinking that led to it, while at the same time dealing with the physical aliments one by one. Drugs merely mask it.

Patterns of behaviour are built up over years might take possibly some years to re-program. It may require a serious change in life.

It will require the identification of the sources of stress and their practical elimination and/or attitude change to them. It may be also require the elimination of the idea people rely on you. If you rely on God, then others may do so.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

This meekness, and accepting how others treat us, seems a key.

Some Disturbing Things

The individual experience is going to be distinct. There are some things to know, which it is going to be hard to deal with. In the winter Depressed people may seem perpetually cold, and feel the cold more than others. They might need hotter room. They will also feel the heat more than others. Research indicates that this also goes with people who have been distressed by relationship break ups, or other distress.

Things that are sad and/or angry will seem much more sad and more angry. But a joke which before was funny might seem not funny. Words, including of songs, that normally people let drift by them on the radio or TV or in adjacent conversations are heard more distinctly. They may have a great impression.

Reading is difficult as it's hard to focus on words on paper. And the head feels always full of fog or under a slight dark-feeling pressure. And being 'keyed-up' means it's harder to focus. The emotions, and being easily upset, sadness and blackness mean that novel reading might not be possible.

Normally relaxing activities may not be relaxing, as relaxing is not possible, due to streams of unwanted thoughts. People might be afraid to relax because then the thoughts come crowding in. Time does strange things it can seem to elongated so hours drag, then a day may pass like time lapse, very very fast.

There might be a search for greater meaning and a burst of creativity, as the brain goes into over working, and is sensitive to ideas.

But the thing that might scare people is what a person with Depression might say. I will not write the stupid things I thought and said. I found that others I meet who went through Depression thought themselves mad, and they worried about being mad. We are not what we think. What is going on I suspect is that junk in the mind is being thrown out, as we do in dreams. More than that some things that come into the mind just don't make any sense, so they are best put aside and a door shut on them.

They are best forgotten. It's a struggle to forget them, but one day they go to come back no more. It becomes a technique that when a thought came I didn't like I would say to myself “life” to override it, also to close mental door of my mind on it. Each time it comes close it back and replace with one that is good. I will return to this.

The person who hears them will be shocked. My advice is to turn their thoughts immediately, and never, never delve into it or reinforce it. It's not real. Mine were not. Most imagine they are dying and they are not dying. They think they are sick and they are not as sick physically as they fear. There are sensations which are physically felt which are not real. We are not imagining it, but it's the brain doing something on its own to produce those sensations as it's worn out.

The hardest part is thoughts of self harm. This must be understood, by both carer and sufferer, which is a very hard fact for normally intense and conscientious people that for this time, “we are not our thoughts”. We do not do what we think. We must be able to dis-associate, and to think 'Its ok, I don't mean that, is just my brain'. Then to learn skills of driving conscious thoughts to replace the 'stream of conscience'.

There is then a curious thing: that we need to relax, but can't, that we need to stop thinking but must put more effort into thinking. That we need to rest and not do anything, but yet we can't.

People with depression may also be unable to relate to people being bound by their mind, as if in a dark zone behind glass. But having caring people nearby they can trust to blurt out whatever they need help on, is needed. So they seem very selfish, and may lean on the person nearby. All you may need to do is to be there, and to not worry about what they say.

The most powerful thing that will get people through this stage is a belief in God, and a desire to serve God with their whole heart and strength. Everything that must be felt must be suffered in patience. We are not to take life or make marks on ourselves,

Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:28)

We have also advice to give us the key to enduring suffering, even if we do not deserve it,

For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: (1Peter 2:19-21)