In his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul, borrowing from Hosea, writes, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” Paul writes what was then known as a taunt song, a song that was sung by victorious armies after defeating their foes. Humor is scriptural and it is a powerful ally. While I have no guarantee that my depression will not return, I find that I am less afraid of the disease because over time—and don’t overlook those two words—I have come to be able to joke about it. This is not to trivialize the disease or dismiss anyone living with it. It is just that, for me, humor allows me to take something that was once so all-consuming and see it as manageable. It is the spiritual equivalent to turning on the lights in your childhood bedroom to show yourself that there were no monsters in the closet or under the bed. Humor is my light switch and I think that it is harder for one to be afraid of something they can laugh at once their lights are on.
The Platitudes: A Beatific Parody (A parody loosely based on Matthew 5:1-12 and actual things people said to me during my depression)
And now a reading from the Book of Jackariah beginning in the 24th chapter with 7th verse: Now when the Jew and the Gentile saw the blogosphere, they went up on a mole hill and sat down. Imagining the attention of even a smattering of their readers, the Gentile spoke—seeing how this week it is a parody from the gospels—whereupon the ever irreverent reverend said,
Blessed are those who do not ask, “Have you just tried cheering up?” for they will remain on my Christmas card list.
Blessed are those who do not quote lines from Rodgers and Hammerstein like it was gospel. Verily I say unto all who say, “When the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window,” for those who say this I will be looking to shove them out of said window.
Blessed are those who don’t point out that “its all just in your head” for they will not be here forth known as Captain Obvious. (other reliable modern translations include the phrase, “where else would a mental illness take place, but in one’s head?”)
Blessed are those who do not feel compelled to share with you about that one time they were really bummed-out for a few days after the Panthers lost the Super Bowl equating their post-game malaise to your four years of crippling depression for they will not be kicked in the shins.
Blessed are the merciful who don’t point-out how “it” could be worse for they will not be condemned to a hell that resembles the DMV in August when the A.C. is out.
Blessed are those who don’t insist “that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” for they are aware that there’s nothing Nietzsche could teach you.
Blessed are those who don’t encourage you to come off “all your meds” for they are not spending inordinate amounts of time on WebMD.
But blessed are the patient, the consistent, the kind, the thoughtful, the time-takers, the meal-makers, the care-givers…
Blessed be anyone who will abide with a soul who is in the abyss.
(Click here to hear our first attempt at a Podcast. Remember this is only a test.)
You are addressing people who may be motivated by biblical platitudes. Most people aren’t psychologists and don’t really know what to say, so they say what they know. They aren’t trying to be flippant or snide, they are just trying to be positive. Most people see positivism as the answer to those who live a nihilistic existence and fail to understand this just causes disdain and scoffing on the part of those they think they are trying to help.
When the person trying to help realizes his/her efforts are of no value, s/he withdraws and tries to avoid the person being consoled. It’s not necessarily a friend lost, rather, it is a friend avoided. In my experience, dealing with a severely depressed person takes a huge amount of determination and perseverance. Since you guys respond to parables, think about this: you are dying of thirst, but in order to get water you have to walk through broken glass. When you get through you get the water, but your feet are bleeding and they may still get infected or you may develop tetanus. The result is that whenever you are confronted with this situation you think of every possible way to get water without walking through the glass. There are a few things we can take from this: 1. Reciting an over used cliche to a depressed person is the equivalent of putting on shoes to walk through the glass. You don’t have to feel the pain. 2. Any excuse to avoid the pain will work, but usually results in, not only avoidance, but also alienation, thus, making one more depressed because they feel a friend has been lost. At this point your friend has decided s/he doesn’t know enough to be of any help.
This whole situation seems to exist in a vicious cycle and I, for one, do not know how to break the cycle.
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The parable of broken glass challenges me to work at clearing the glass from the path. In my most acute state of depression I was too sick to judge something as flippant or snide. It was only as I recovered that other’s platitudes were recognized and were upsetting. There are several things that I can do as a person experiencing better mental health. I need to share ways that one might approach a person living with depression (e.g., share their inner-dialogue/feelings, use I-Statements). I would share how important one’s physical presence can be. And if there is still too much glass then focus on a depressed person’s caregivers. And as a person in better mental health it is my responsibility to comfort those who are sicker and the voice that informs the sicker person that his/her friend/family is not trying to be insensitive or uncaring.
So, following the second platitude closes the window on defenestration?
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Bill Gates couldn’t have made a better statement about Windows…. Well played sir, well played.