The Slough of Despond (trial-size version)

My apologies to any regular readers who’ve been wondering why I haven’t posted since Monday.  It seemed like for much of this week, I was low on energy, low on motivation, had trouble getting organized or applying myself.  I managed to get the basic stuff done — showering, making meals, breathing — but that was about it.

Believe it or not, it wasn’t until Wednesday evening that I realized what was going on.  I was depressed.

Now, depression isn’t something new for me.  I’ve had to deal with it on and off since I was a kid.  It got a little serious in my high-school years — never enough so that I needed to be institutionalized or prescribed medication, but it did affect me in some deep ways.  Giving my life to Christ when I was 17 blunted that quite a bit; it’s a lot harder to be depressed when you know that an infinite, omniscient Being is looking out for you.  So I don’t get those deep-black, unable-to-function periods of depression that others I know have (and need constant meds and regular counseling to combat).  But still,  every so often that gray cloud sneaks up on me again, and then I have to deal with it.

Well, this time it didn’t sneak up so much as charge me and whack me about the head and shoulders with a cricket bat.  The first trigger was my experience on Sunday at Quail Lakes Baptist Church — or more precisely, writing about that experience (see my previous post), since the congregation had been recommended to me by a longtime friend and I didn’t want him to feel bad just because my going there had gone so badly.  Add to that the troubles with my car, which ended up spending the better part of three days in the shop for what was supposed to be a few hours chasing down some oil leaks.  (Complication: somehow, unbeknowst to me until now, the previous owner had hit something, and in the process managed to knock the front edge of the frame back just enough — about 1/4 inch — to make it nearly impossible to remove the oil pan.  It took the poor folks at SpeeDee two days just to get it loose, and they darn near had to remove the engine to do it.)  And of course a rainy winter and my continuing dearth of paying work didn’t help.

(Again, my depressions aren’t nearly as serious as many people’s, and I’m not going to minimize their experiences.  Some people suffer from a serious enough chemical imbalance that drugs are the only way for them to keep going.  If you’re in that position, you not only have my sympathy, you have my admiration at your courage.  It’s not an easy thing to deal with, and I don’t know if I could handle it as well as you do.  My mild bouts of the blues are harrowing enough for me, and they don’t even remotely compare to yours.  Just want to make sure we’re clear on that.)

Funny thing was, I spend two days after that Wednesday-night revelation trying to figure out what tools I needed to deal with this occasional visit by that black cloud.  I applied my advice to myself on dealing with stress (the same stuff I mentioned in last Friday’s post), since sometimes my depression is fueled by misdirected tension.  That helped a little.  I talked with the Supermodel about it, who was liberal with her hugs and prayers.  That helped a little.  She even bought me a bag of Swedish Fish, one of my favorite treats, from the local stop-‘n-rob.  That helped a little too.  And this afternoon, I finally got the car back from the shop, two fixed leaks and $550 later.  That, actually, helped quite a bit.  But nothing cleared the cloud completely.

And then this evening, as I was sitting at the computer reading an article, I checked on my emotional state and found that the depression was just … gone.

(Sound of heel of hand smacking forehead.)

Remember above, when I said my depressions were occasional?  As in, not permanent?  THAT’S the part I’d forgotten.  That’s the part that makes them so much less than what many people have to deal with.  They pass.  The thing I had most needed to do was just wait until it passed.  And today, it did.

One of the lessons I have worked hard to teach the Supermodel is that most problems do not get solved by waiting for them to go away — you actually have to do something to solve them.  But one of the lessons the Supermodel has worked hard to teach me is that some problems DO just go away — and that attempting to “solve” those can often make them worse.  My own side trips into the Slough of Despond (John Bunyan’s term, if I recall aright) are an example of the latter.  As long as I just keep walking, I’ll come out the other side none the worse for wear, and get back on track without much trouble.  This time, I’d totally blitzed on that.

Do I feel a little foolish?  You bet.  But at least I’ve documented it here, and maybe next time I’ll recall this, re-read it, go, “ahhhh … got it,” and not try so hard to push away something that was leaving anyway.  That should make my life just a little bit easier.

Well, that and Swedish Fish.  Nummy …

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One Response to The Slough of Despond (trial-size version)

  1. J. Wilson says:

    You have a gift for words and reflection Ray. Keep it up my brother. After reading your last entry; now I think you (myself included) understand more of why I am so interested in the treasures you may discover along, this congregational journey.

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