Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Recession, Depression, Confession

A friend told me last week she’d stopped watching, listening to or reading the news.

“Too depressing,” she said.

From gas prices to the national debt to the stock market crash, there is little in the news to be happy about. As early as 2008, when the current recession began, mental health professionals were seeing a rise in patients with depression, from Wall Street executives to hourly wage earners.

New college graduates are not getting jobs. Older Americans are losing their careers in mid-life.

Many people cannot sleep. Heart problems have gotten worse. People cannot pay their medical bills. Clinics are seeing more suicide threats.

This economic downturn—both public and private—has tested my faith. I struggle with depression. It’s not just the economy, but my stage of life—menopause—and other life situations.

The husband and I have been through some tough times. While our children were young, we chose to have one income so that I could be a fulltime home-maker. There were no trips to DisneyWorld. Part of our wardrobe was secondhand clothing. But many of our friends were in the same boat. We had all we needed and were happy.

So when the current situation hit us with a reduced income, cutting back came naturally. And God has a history of taking care of us. I leaned on that heavily. We continue to pay the mortgage and the bills, fix stuff that breaks and eat delicious home-cooked meals.

But the husband and I have switched roles. I go out to work while he stays home, busy with many projects. When I worked less hours, I used to babysit my grandkids a couple days a week. Now I see them for a few hours every week or two.

Then last spring, I got an e-mail about one of my favorite musicians, sent by one of his close friends. The musician had lost a contract that had provided him with steady income for many years. He lost his house. He and his family moved into an apartment. They were robbed; the thieves took items of sentimental value. He had health problems and, without health insurance, no money to pay for medical care.

Near as I can tell, he’s been serving God faithfully for lo these many years. He’s a creative genius when it comes to songwriting and music projects. While all his music is not about God, he has always had God at the center of his life. So God should be providing all his needs, right? God should have provided the mortgage money, right?

This really unsettled me. I felt like, gee, if God did not intervene in his situation, why should I be allowed to keep my house? Eventually, reason led my emotions back to reality: I am not him.

And then there’s the guilt. With millions of people starving to death in Somalia, how can I feel deprived that I can’t eat out as often as I used to or that I can’t take a pricey vacation?

When I realized how depressed I was, I got even more depressed.

“To fight depression, it’s important to eliminate counterproductive habits like gambling, substance abuse or over- or under-eating and rely instead on therapeutic activities like exercise, meditation and hobbies,” said Dr. Rosalind S. Dorlen, psychologist, in a Nov. 5, 2008, CBC News article.

After reading this article, I realize that I do have some healthy responses to stress. I have no addictions that cost money. I walk or bicycle nearly every day. I am thankful for my family, job, my good health and that of my husband and children. I work in the garden. I am working on a college degree. I read good books, have good conversations with friends and enjoy a glass of wine three or four nights per week.

One thing I stopped doing when my faith was in question was having “quiet time,” which consists of reading my Bible or spiritual material, meditating and praying. That was a mistake. Whether I’m feeling it or not, I must feed my spirit. Doing so gives me the ability to see things as they really are.

I’ve made other mistakes, too, which, as my vision clears, I am beginning to see.

We’re all in this together, folks. As Gerald May says in “Will and Spirit,” “…even in our aloneness we are together, for we each have it.”

Perhaps it would help to acknowledge that to each other.

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