After Depression: An Update on My Broke Mind

My life is now divided into two categories: AD (After Depression) and BC (Before the Crash).

Don’t get me wrong, I am not recovered. So “AD” does not mean that it is in the rear view mirror. The best way I can put it is that I am not the way I used to be. Many things are different. I cannot think of one event in my life that has had such a dramatic impact as this depression that I have been going through over the last (…how long has it been?) six or eight weeks.

I wrote about it a couple of weeks ago in a post titled “Broken.” Since then I have been “in and out” of the hole. I don’t really know how else to put it. I have come to use these terms to describe it: a hole, black hole, spiral, vortex, matrix, “the darkness”, and black cloud. Some days I am sane and some days I cannot hardly move. Some days I am paralized with fear due to the mere memory of the previous day’s terror and some days I am at no loss for thoughts on how this is making me a better person and how I am going to change the world because of it. Don’t think bi-polar, as my good days are not THAT good. Today has been good. But as the inaguration of AD slowly distances itself from today, even the dark days are more tolerable than they were before.

One thing is for certain, I don’t have half as much figured out as I did in the past. My world is a bit more confused than it used to be. I think this is good and bad. It is bad because it hurts so much. It is good because I hurt so much more for others. I am sure I will have more to say about this soon (on one of the good days).

Seeking counsel is a funny thing. I know what I would have said to someone who came to me with this type of depression before. Now it is all different. I can now divide the world into two types of people: those who have been through this type of depression and those who have not. And you know what? I can now tell within 38 seconds of talking to someone whether they have really been here. Before, I would have empathized. I had been down before. I had been down for days before. Sadness, hurt feelings, insecurity, being overwhelmed, stressed, and even a bit of despair. I knew what they felt like. The depression that I have had for the last three years sitting with my mother was serious enough . . . so I thought. It is different now. This is different.

On Monday afternoon (don’t remember the date) at 12pm after reading a scathing email from one of those who was mad that a Christian like me was asking for money and not trusting in the Lord the way he believed I should, I broke. Now, now . . . it was not really that email that did it. I get those all the time. Have for years. It was simply one of many catalysts that facilitated the crash. This crash was like nothing I had ever experienced. My unfamiliarity with this type of thing multiplied the terror that ensued. Suddenly, at 12:01 I was a different person. I felt like a part of my mind tripped a breaker. It was the part of my mind which kept me in reality. It was the part of my mind which stabilized my emotions. It was the part of my mind that allowed me to deal with sadness, hurt, pain, and grief in a semi-productive manner. The rational side of my mind simply did not work.

It is different now. This has been unlike anything I have ever imagined. It has been more painful than anything I have yet experienced. And if there is something worse, Maranatha, come Lord Jesus. I was watching 24 the other day (on a good day when I can actually enjoy something) and thinking about the torturing of suspects that they always center on. You know, to torture or not to torture for information and confessions. Well, morality and politics aside, I had an epiphany. Don’t shoot them in the knee cap. Don’t tear their finger nails off one at a time. Don’t make them listen to loud annoying music all day. No more wash-boarding. Just inject them with something that makes them severely depressed. Send them into the black hole that I have been in. If you could do that, they will confess and tell all within 3 minutes and 44 seconds. I promise. They would be happy to go to prison for their secret crimes as long as they don’t have to be depressed. It is different now.

Crying. I have rarely cried in my life. It is not something that I am necessarily proud of. It is just the way I am. I figured it showed some emotional strength, but I also knew it was not really a choice. I just did not cry. Now, when I am “there” in the hole I can cry over anything; I do cry over anything. I look at my kids and think that they are just going to grow old and die. What’s it worth? And I cry. I think about writing or teaching and I say to myself, “You don’t have a clue what you are talking about anyway. Why bother?” And I cry. I think about things I enjoyed before and find it utterly depressing to even think about, much less do. And I cry. I even cried about the canceling of 24! (Although, that is legitimate!) I have a constant ringing in my ears that started that Monday. Sleep cannot be a better friend, but I can rarely find it. It was kidnapped from my life the day this began. 

And you know what? When I am “there,” there is no way to talk me out of it. There is no way to think yourself out of it. Now I get it. I wish I did not, but I do.

“Snap out of it.” That is what I would say in a frustrated moment to Angie (my sister who killed herself after a 1.5 year battle with depression). I am sorry Angie. I now know you could not “snap” out of it.

Angie’s “fall” was not so much different than mine. In fact, so much of it was just the same. Thursday night she went to bed fine. She was not the emotional type. At least in this way. She was strong and stable. I remember at her wedding seven years before saying a toast where I mentioned that her and I were alike . . . not effected by many things emotionally (I did not know how well that went over with her—that’s why I remember it). She just did not get depressed. At least not significantly. Very strong and very stable. However, that Friday morning she woke up and said that her mind broke and she had gone crazy. I had no idea how to take it, but I knew something had changed in a big way. She was flipping out, trying her best to explain it to all of us. She was continually trying to convince us that she had suddenly gone insane and that it was never going to get better. Monday afternoon, after finding no comfort, she attempted to kill herself the first time.

They say that there is a much higher chance for suicide for those who have had a family member suffer such. I now know why. Not that I have gone there. I have not. But I do know how someone in this state could leave everything behind, even their children, to relieve their pain. I get it now. I did not get it. Now I do.

AD is much different than BC. This much is true.  However, this is going to sound really odd (and, mind you, I am writing this on a “good day”), but I don’t really want to go back to BC. I would not wish this upon anyone and I do not necessarily count such an experience as a badge of wisdom, courage, or otherwise. But there is something about this that I need. I say this because I know that God is in control and I sincerely believe that he wants me right here. This is why I have yet to take any anti-depressants, even though they have been suggested to me many times. Please don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the drugs that can heal the problems of the mind that are outside of people’s control. This qualifies. However, I simply feel like I need to be here. God is sovereign over my depression and my depression is not a sin. I am not saying that if this continues and does not let up that I will not go that direction. I am simply saying that for me, right now, I need the AD. While I don’t understand as much as I used to, this I hold on to with all my strength: God’s sovereignty in this is the only hope that I have. I am certainly not saying “Bring it on Lord!” Please God don’t hear me saying that! I am simply of the opinion (today) that God is working something in me that could not have ever happened outside of this. I am different now. I think it is for the better.

I live in fear of the next day’s weather, but I live in the hope that the forecast is in God’s hands. I will never be back to “normal” as normal finds itself bashful of the work of God in me.

I will give you more updates later. Thank you all so much for your prayers.

59 Responses to “After Depression: An Update on My Broke Mind”

  1. I’m going through a very bleak time. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Scott Kessler May 3, 2010 at 12:39 am

    Michael: Thanks for keeping us in-the-know of how you are feeling; I believe I speak for everyone here when I say we love you and care about you. I can actually relate to some of the things you mentioned; I myself feel I “broke” at a point in the past when my wife went through a nervous breakdown and ensuing depression (with a couple of suicide attempts). Although I am fully functional day-to-day, I was forever changed after that period; there are times when I just have to cry about what I perceive as the “hopelessness” of just about everything, something I never really did prior. I don’t think it ever really goes away (at least in my case); it has an ebb and flow of its own. But you DO adapt, and as you said it can, in some weird sort of way, be a “good” thing. Or at least something that changes your character for the “better” (but I think you agree that you can’t really describe with words what is meant by “better”).

    Take care brother, we all love you but more importantly God loves you.

  3. Michael-

    I must say that this is one of the most encouraging posts I’ve ever read. I know that may sound odd, but it is a reminder that I’m not the only one who has struggled with this. For two and a half years I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety, and after being given advice that ranged from total nonsense to some of the most sound wisdom I’ve heard, I’ve learned this: there is a God who’s sovereign, perfect, just, loving, and has experienced the greatest anxiety, depression, and agony too. He didn’t have to, but he chose to. I want to let you know that God has used you through your blog to speak to me in my life, and I’ll keep you in prayer until our Lord returns. Stay strong in what God has gifted you with, my brother. A day is coming when every tear will be wiped away.

    1 Peter 5:6-7


  4. CMP,

    I am glad to hear you are starting to break through. The gift in this seems to be perspective. I’ve read your writings about your sister over the years and your pain regarding that situation is obvious. When you first revealed that you were wrestling with depression the first thing that came to my mind was Angie. It is no secret that you have struggled with Angie’s death, her reasons and your questions of what more you could have done to stop it. It seems you’ve been kind of stuck there regarding your sister, though you’ve moved forward in every other area of your life. I hope as time goes on you will be even more grateful for this new perspective. Through your own experience, you now understand that having the answers is not that easy, that each person’s situation is different and the method of crawling out personal.

    I am currently on my way to AD. More days are good instead of dreadful. I have just purchased a book called “Who Switched Off My Brain”. by Dr. Caroline Leaf about the science of thought and how it lines up with God’s precepts. I would have liked to have had this book sooner. It’s not super cerebral (no pun intended), but I don’t need that right now anyway.

    Again, I’m glad to hear you’re having better days. I will keep praying for you and your family.

    • Hello there, I also went through the most severe depression that lasted around 14 months. I was gripped by fear which was so intense that my stomach went into knots and the depression I endured- which was sheer dread of the future and all that was coming to me and the whole human race- completely overtook me. I had no joy in anything and there was no pleasure.. But I can tell you how it started… I started to believe in predestination. I read Jonathon edward’s vivid description of how he believes God hates us.

  5. trials & tribulations, I had never been in a hospital other than visiting a friend until Aug. 2009. I went in to the Doc for an epidural for back pain which I’ve had many years ( early years of construction work, full contact martial arts tournements, free fall jumping out of airplanes etc.) emergency anyurism where they put in stents, good for a week until the stents crimped, back for emergency where they ripped em out put in new, they hit a testical, then couldn’t walk.then back surgery where they put in rods & screws, all within 6 weeks. Got home & had a stroke. I have a high pain tolerence at least I can put up with it now . I was in so much pain I asked the Lord to take me more than a few times. I wouldn’t wish that much pain on anyone. I’m 57 yrs. old still young in mind. Still on alot of musle relaxers & pain killers & still have alot of pain but tolerated. I now empathise better peoples physical & mental trials. I moved to Florida with no friends or family, no one came to see me, no get well cards, I truly felt so alone. My experiance has given me clarity. I am much closer to our Lord now. which is truly a blessing. I wish you well Micheal

  6. Praying for you Michael, and will keep praying until you’re all the way out of the woods. Thank you for your honesty and humility.

  7. Michael,
    I went through a severe depression for about two years. I hated myself and would cry often at work and at home and I could not tell you why. I prayed for God to just take my life. Your depression sounds much like what I went through and this is what helped me in those dark times:
    1. I read Depression: A Stubborn Darkness by Edward Welch (from Ligonier Ministries)
    2. I focused on the Psalms (memorized Psalm 130)
    3. I had support from co-workers and my family
    4. I got on medication that helped but not completely healed me.
    5. I focused on God’s sovereignty and that this is part of my sanctification
    6. Many scriptures that focused on God’s love for me and that He will never leave me and that He loves me. Romans 8:28 is a real comfort.
    7. I learned what “Wait on the Lord” meant. This was not going to be an overnight learning experience.
    My life is different. I have been humbled, less judgmental, and truly know that God is near even though He can seem so far away. I will pray for you and your family as it effects everyone. Thank you for all you do for those of us that grow from your knowledge and wisdom.

    Read about Oswald Chambers’ depression that made him a great man of God. He would not have been that spiritual giant were it not for the severe depression he went through for about four years.


  8. I’m sorry, Michael. I wish you well.

  9. Michael…

    That was a *very* moving post, and your description of how far down depression can lead very helpful. I will pray for you today. Forgive me for being a nag, but I also really am concerned re your passing on the drugs at this point. As someone who’s part of a ministry where I’ve seen depression play out in some people’s lives, I would urge you to not neglect the gift of God those drugs are. I don’t know you at all, so this is ridiculous presumption on my part. But I do know what I’ve seen happen when people who are depressed refuse medicinal help. The grounds for that refusal range from “I can’t feel as much” to “taking drugs is a sign of a lack of faith.” Your reason is likely neither of these… but I would urge you to consider that reason carefully, then ask yourself if it is right for you not to use what the Lord has provided. Yell at me if this is offensive… I’ve known at least two people who took their own lives after refusing to take medicine for their depression.

  10. Praying for you. Thank you for being open about depression. My family has walked through some very difficult trials with depression and it is amazing how it still has the stigma … even (especially) in church. So sad that is still true today, people like you will help change this. God Bless You and know that you are making an impact on others out there. I’ve become a regular follower of your posts and videos on the web. God is using you masterfully even in your trials.

    Psalm 91

  11. I have struggled on and off again with depression and I can honestly say it has been my best friend and worst enemy. In the book “The Road Less Traveled” the author talks about letting this just be. A difficult thing to do. I think it is the best way I have dealt with it. I just find if I say, “yes I see you there, I know I feel depressed today,” that somehow I have given permission to just be what is. I know that is not the “Christian” way, however, it is the one that works the best for me and others I have stayed in contact with that have struggled as well. It is my “thorn in the flesh”, as I have prayed and been prayed over to have this removed. I have learned alot about others and their struggles in light of all this. I have also had a counselor tell me it is a gift to be able to breath down there in the darkness. It keeps me reaching for Him and keeps Him in the forefromt of my mortal journey. Hope this gives you some insight and relief today. I will put you on my personal prayer list. God bless.

  12. Hi Michael I’m glad you’re improving. I see you’ve reached a point where you understand that what your going through is an act of God to “teach you” [not as a punishment] something for the “consolation” of others.

    But perhaps once again…have you not thought about going to a psychiatrist or take medication to get out of this “test.”? You have to think about your family [wife and children] and if you fall into a depression as deep as your sister? and if you take the same decision she? it would be terrible! May God deliver you of such situation.

    I think with the help of a professional [psychiatrist or psychologist] you can find the source of the problem and then deal with it. Don’t try to do it all by your self. Remember your teaching on “Humanity and Sin” we are not spirits in a body, but we combination of a material part and an inmaterial part

    No need to publish this post, if you wish, but consider – now that you are AD not just your condition, but also others and the purpose that God wants you to acomplish.

    No matter your decision, I will continue praying for you.

  13. Michael, please take all the time that you need to make a full recovery. “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

  14. Thanks for this post and the ones before it about depression. I have not suffered from depression like you speak of, but I have judged people and been frustrated with them because of depression. I see that I don’t understand. It’s not like I think it is. Thanks for taking the time to write about it and share what it is like. God bless you and your recovery.

  15. Thanks for writing about this – comforting and hopeful to those of us who struggle.

  16. I follow your blog off and on and I am always encouraged. I have been in what I call my ‘darkness’ that lasted 5 years. It changed both my husband’s and my perspective on depression and how God uses it. He has transformed my family, but mostly changed my heart. I found that reading Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening encouraged me on my good days. But there were more days when I couldn’t have anything in my mind. This is a hard time, but I am glad you are seeking God in his sovereignty. As hard as life is right now, the little graces God is giving will stay and be there when you are more AD. I found only one thing – love of God for me – was all that kept me going when I wasn’t hiding or weeping. May He give you that one grace to remind you that he hasn’t forsaken you, just hiding behind the clouds. He is keeping your tears in a bottle and knows every one of your fears. The light will shine again in your heart.

    All my prayers for you and your family during this time…

  17. I’m still praying for you Michael & appreciate the update as I was wondering how you are doing. Thanks for the openess and frank manner you are telling those of us outside your immediate family/friends what is happening, that takes real courage.


  18. Michael,

    It’s a privilege to work together at the Credo House. I love ya bro and I’m thankful for your authenticity. Patty and I are praying for you guys.


  19. Keep a journal, just for yourself. We like to think that we’re basically the same person all the time, and few people have the privilege of having that delusion wrenched away. Once you stop believing that you are “basically” consistent, it can be nerve-wracking. Over time, the journal helps a lot. Even if you don’t know how long you’ll be yourself or who you’ll be tomorrow, the journal is a log of everyone you’ve been, in the words of each of those people. Overtime, it takes away the uncertainty and is comforting.

  20. Michael,
    I understand the well meaning of those who may encourage you to use medication, but I lived what you are going through… thinking that God wants you where you are. I did it in reverse, I took the meds for three months and felt the Lord would have me come off of them. I still went through a great depression, but it drove me to Christ in a way I had never experienced. I’m not against meds but I knew for me , this is what God was calling me to do at that time.

    My understanding of what a great depression is has deeply affected my counseling… not as judgmental…listening more… much more grace oriented.

    Thanks for your honesty and I will be praying.

  21. Great post: powerful, open, honest, encouraging, etc…
    Thanks, and prayers for you.

  22. Will continue to pray for you. My wife has been where you are now for many months. The medication she’s on has definitely helped–but many days are still hard, and that’s okay. We have learned that some days are good, some days are bad, and that bad days are not usually the result of bad decisions on her part. Occasionally, bad decisions can help catalyze bad days, but they’re not really the cause. In the meantime, we are learning what it means that God is good no matter how hard and how painful and how long the trials are. Keep holding on to Christ!

  23. Michael –
    A colleague of mine sent me this post. Thank you for authentically pulling back the curtain allowing us to peer inside. I can empathize with your journey and value the words you used to describe it. A year ago I hit the wall and fell apart. I slid into the deepest situational depression I’ve ever experienced. While I’m definitely on the mend, I continue to suffer from depression. It’s only by God’s grace, my incredible wife, and my supportive community of faith that I made it through and continue to plod on. There are good days and bad days – and like you, while I long to be healed, I’m not sure I’m ready to say goodbye to this beautiful tool God uses to keep me weak and completely dependent upon Him for everything.
    Beautifully Broken,
    – Chris

  24. I just got over all these things, and i have pulled my self out of suicidal thoughts about 4 days now. I did it by reading psalms 102 chapter. It does help we all live in afflictions no matter what the consequences maybe. But we can all over come anything as long as we know God is still with us. He is suffering with us. He does understand more then you think. I am sorry about Angie.. I will keep you in my prayers Michael God Bless you. My depression has lasted since August and i have been out of the depresion 4 days now. I am Thankful, my situation dropped me from God and His word, and now i have picked myself up again. Anyone need a good scripture in chapters it’s psalm 102. God Bless you and you are in my heart and prayers

  25. Michael:

    You are one of the beacons of my life and though I don’t personally know you I have followed your blog and site for a few years now. I shall hold you and your family up in Prayer as God steers you through this dark period of your life. Lay your trust upon him who is able to deliver us.

    Take care my brother, and lean upon your wife as she is provided by the Lord to walk with us, to draw along side as one flesh.

    In Christ,

  26. John From Down Under May 3, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    The number of Christians who have confessed on this blog that do/have suffer(ed) from depression is overwhelming! I wonder how many churches could handle such confessions without responding with the usual guilt inducing clichés about negativity, lack of trust, faith and the like. Furthermore, I wonder how many churches are aware of the number of depression sufferers sitting on their pews?

    Who would have thought Michael that your own ‘misery’ would become a ‘blessing’ to others at this time? Kudos to you for your brutal honesty once again and for recognizing some positive aspects of this experience without romanticizing it. Only you will know if God is trying to teach you something and what that is, but one thing is for certain; the ‘P’ from your TULIPian theology is in full test mode right now!

    Being healed and delivered from one’s condition is great, but those Christians who have learned to live with their condition and continue to serve the Lord from a pure heart and a clear conscience are also experiencing a form of ‘victory’, as their condition has not taken them out of the race altogether (I don’t know if this makes theological sense but feel free to disagree). Paul clearly learned to live with something adverse (2 Cor 12:7-9 and Galatians 4:13-15), and so did Joni Eareckson Tada and one of our local exports (www.

  27. Man, Michael, I’m thinking so much right now, but I’m not sure now is the time to share all of it. I realize you don’t know me from Adam, but know that it’s not my practice to troll the web to find people to pray for; there’s plenty to pray about right where I am. I’ve been following your blog for almost a year now and have been praying for you and your family almost from the beginning. I don’t know why except that the Lord keeps bringing you and your wife to mind.

    God bless you, Brother.

  28. @ MCP

    For my entire life my dad has been bipolar manic depressive. I dont struggle with depression but having lived with it in my father all these years I know exactly what it is like for you.

    My prayers and thoughts are with you brother.

  29. Michael Card wrote a terrific book about lament that I would encourage you reading. I found it quite helpful: A SACRED SORROW.

  30. heather and i have been and will continue to be praying for you, brother, and for kristie and the kids… take care of yourself.

  31. Our pastor spoke yesterday about the seven years of his life (while at our church) when he went through what he would call ‘the dark night of the soul’. He almost quit and took a job at boarders. It became incredibly hard to get up an preach. He left the pulpit for a month. He said that at times he despaired of his own life. It was a time of great depression and fear for him as well.

    Yesterday he held up a blue card, which was very significant to him for memorializing what he went through. He said at one point he finally took his eyes off of his circumstances and put them on God. He desperately searched the scriptures. He wrote the references for certain passages which helped him in this turn toward God. Once he made this shift it was the beginning of healing.

    The sermon Sunday was from Jeremiah. He’s been doing a series on bold prayers …in the OT. He described all that Jeremiah was facing…as Babylon laid siege on Israel. God told Jeremiah to buy land (What? Now?)…but it was like God was assuring him that there would be a future, that all was not lost forever. In Him there was still this assurance. In the worst heat of circumstances the prayer that Jeremiah prayed was surprisingly absent of ANY petition. It was purely a prayer of praise. In the worst of circumstances Jeremiah turned toward God and praised Him.

    I hope that you will come to see God afresh, Michael…that you will be able to look past your circumstances and See Him in a way which gives you hope and relieves your fears (and I can understand why what you have been through would be so terrifying…it would be for me!). It sounds as if you are heading in that direction.

    Praying for you.

  32. Michael and others such as Scott who have opened their souls in this thread.

    God bless you for your honesty and your encouragement to all by allowing the full light of day in.

    Please delete or ignore this post if you feel it does not add anything to those already contributed.

    I remember a mentor sharing how depression is the worst of illnesses and how black and bleak it can be. Stay close to the source of light …. to Christ, to God’s general revelation in nature … walk … get out every day … to people … even if they suck … try to be busy … it might help … but many such as Luther found the worst was in the gaps with too much time.

    If God has shown you anything of the future then cling to those promises not just scripture but personal … just like those hobbits with their gifts in the lord of the rings saga … remeber the crystal from galadriel or whomever that shone in the dark cave where that awful spider thing was …

    God gives us hopes and encouragements … remember them my friend … perhaps when the sun disappears there may be some stars to navigate by …

    Remember your future Michael … a helmet of hope … no matter how deep or smelly the dudu of the present … Revelations 21 … all things new … it WILL be worth it … press on

    a fellow pilgrim,


  33. Talking about your depression is a major step towards getting better. I know it was for me. I wouldn’t say I’m out of the woods yet, but letting a few people know (including my pastor) and getting help from my doctor was the best thing I ever did. You seem to be a very “results” oriented person. I am too. I know that in my fledgeling steps into the ministry I didn’t get the observable results that I thought I should have and it sent me into a spiral. You ministry, no matter how you wish it looked to your own eyes, has been a huge blessing to many people. The things I’ve learned from your teaching have kept me from flat out abandoning God and Christ in my own depression. What you do matters…and so do you.

  34. Dear Michael,
    I was very moved by your post today. When I was younger – in my teens and early 20s – I would crash hard into what seemed to be a never-ending black hole of despair. I got the sense that the stopgaps and fail-safes that were in place for ‘normal’ people were not there for me. As I got older, the distance between episodes became much greater, thank God. But one of my other realizations was, for all the talk and all the books and all the advice and suggestions, the depressive event is a highly individual experience. While there are guideposts – and none better than one’s faith and Scripture – there is really only you and your personal fight to maintain some glimmer of promise when none is really present that you can see.
    I pray for you and I pray the tightrope walk brings you into a deeper understanding of God’s presence and your gifts for others. But for now, care for yourself and your family. Be gentle and go in peace.

  35. Daniel B. Wallace May 4, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Michael, I’ve been praying for you since you wrote the first post about your depression. My own family has a long history of depression, and it has affected me my whole life. It’s a harsh teacher who shows no mercy, but when I focus on Jesus Christ and think about his redeeming love and total lack of selfishness, I begin to see through the muck that Depression puts in my way. There’s hardly been a day that has gone by in my 57+ years in which I was not depressed. So, I have no big answers, but I do know that sometimes just doing what we’re supposed to is enough. And always, keeping my focus on him is essential for my survival.


  36. It was something that encouraged me. Thought I would pass it along.

    Poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox: Gethsemane

    In golden youth when seems the earth
    A Summer-land of singing mirth,
    When souls are glad and hearts are light,
    And not a shadow lurks in sight,
    We do not know it, but there lies
    Somewhere veiled under evening skies
    A garden which we all must see —
    The garden of Gethsemane.

    With joyous steps we go our ways,
    Love lends a halo to our days;
    Light sorrows sail like clouds afar,
    We laugh and say how strong we are.
    We hurry on; and hurrying, go
    Close to the border-land of woe,
    That waits for you, and waits for me —
    For ever waits Gethsemane.

    Down shadowy lanes, across strange streams,
    Bridged over by our broken dreams;
    Behind the misty caps of years,
    Beyond the great salt fount of tears,
    The garden lies. Strive as you may,
    You cannot miss it in your way.
    All paths that have been, or shall be,
    Pass somewhere through Gethsemane.

    All those who journey, soon or late,
    Must pass within the garden’s gate;
    Must kneel alone in darkness there,
    And battle with some fierce despair.
    God pity those who cannot say,
    “Not mine but thine,” who only pray,
    “Let this cup pass,” and cannot see
    The purpose in Gethsemane.

  37. Michael, I thank God for touching you as He is and will continue to do as you are learning to lean COMPLETELY upon Him. It is true, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. As any true Calvinist knows, God’s grace IS sufficient because He straightens crooked paths and makes straight ones crooked. I would add, the wisdom gained through this is one of His riches He gives to those found worthy of suffering for the sake of Christ! Perseverance is rewarded by the crown of LIFE! Bless you.

  38. Michael,

    Thanks for sharing your journey.

    As someone who has struggled with severe bouts of depression for most of my life, I can tell you that depression is a severe mercy.

    Though the journey is painful, difficult, and part of this fallen world we dwell in, the gifts of insight, compassion, and empathy it brings are valuable.

    For years, I was able to manage my depression with the simple tool of Scripture memorization, clinging to my faith, even in moments when I felt like all was hopeless.

    However, a few years ago, while pastoring, I found the depression and anxiety overwhelming, and since then have managed it with medicinal assistance. Don’t neglect this option if there is a need–use the counsel of those you love to help determine this–because in the midst of the darkness, you’re not able to see objectively.

    I can assure you that even in the darkness of the mind, God will shine a light, and give you wisdom that only such an experience can bring. What the enemy intends to use to torment our fragile minds, God will ultimately use to reveal His glory.

  39. Michael,

    I suffer from uni-polar depression and a generalized anxiety disorder. My “break” was in August 2008 when I was laid off from my job. I had been married five months at the time. My depression and Calvinist theology determined that the pain (similar to what you describe) was evidence that I wasn’t one of the elect and, being thus, I felt like I ruined my wife’s life. My plan was to kill myself. The depression reached a peak where my wife phoned the police (fearful for my safety) and I was taken to a psychiatric hospital in handcuffs where I spent 6 days in a lock-down ward. I reached a therapeutic level of medication (Cymbalta an SNRI) and found peace. I share this because I want to let you know someone has been where you are. I also share it because I have been your adversary here. Lastly, I share this of my experience – where my Calvinism stopped working medication came in and saved my life. A large part of my AD is that I am no longer a believer (many and varied and complex reasons for this) but, I also don’t believe I am damned. My only suggestion as a fellow sufferer with this disease is that you think of your brain in the material sense and equate it with any other organ in your body. If, your glucose levels were all messed up because your pancreas was not operating properly you would see an endocrinologist and avail yourself of medication that would treat your diabetes. Depression and the brain are very similar to Diabetes and the Pancreas. Depression operates as a Sine wave (exactly as you describe) and the fluctuations will progress in severity unless medical intervention is sought. Prayer can be a balm but if your depression is like mine (and by your description it is) then it won’t be enough. You got a broke brain and the circumstances of that brain are not different than any other part of your body being broken. If you broke a bone you’d see a doctor and get a cast. Be well and be good to yourself.

  40. Thank you for this post. Thank you for not covering up depression but confronting it face on in public.

    As someone who has had major depression for years and been suicidal several times, I must warn you to BE CAREFUL. I have know doubt that God will be very busy in your life right now, and I totally understand what you mean about not wanting to stop AD.

    But beware that God might choose to shape you by His silence.

    Silence of God +Depression =Satan’s fun time.

    During depression you are weak and vulnerable, so don’t be surprised at Satan whispering in your ear and becoming alluring to you like never before. If this doesn’t happen, I am happy for you, but be aware that Satan can manipulate depression to lead you down some pretty terrifying paths.

  41. Michael,

    You have made what we as Christians should be. Out in the blog you do not hide your physical, or emotions disorder. I am very, very grateful as I learn from your problems. It is people like you that “God’s Funeral” by Philip Yancey, will turn into “God celebration with His People.” I will continue to pray for speedy recovery.

    Blessings my brother

  42. Michael, I thank you for being so vulnerable and transparent. I am still dealing with a very deep depression–the kind in which you actually DO lose your mind…your thoughts, feelings and emotions become totally distorted…to the point where you don’t know what reality is. I am taking antidepressants, which have helped somewhat. But I still have lots of crying bouts and have days were I am simply immobilized. If nothing else, its good to know that I’m not the only one going through this. I too read your blog every day and am immensely blessed by it. Dan Wallace is also an email mentor of me and I was blessed to read his post. Let’s just all pray for one another. There’s more in this boat together than you realize. May God give grace to us all–Steve

  43. My lifegroup leader recently said:
    Be Joyful Always – This is a command! A Christian’s joy does not spring from his circumstances, but from the blessings that are his because he is in Christ. The Christian who remains in sadness and depression really breaks a commandment: in some way he mistrusts God – His power, providence, forgiveness.
    Frankly I am with Michael on this one..but would rather not be. BUT, Galations 6:4 helps…

  44. I’d also like to thank you for being so honest. I’ve also struggled with depression, but it hasn’t been as sustained as what you’ve been going through. A while ago, I read some posts you wrote about your sister, and that was one thing that has helped me a lot. No matter how dark it got, I knew suicide wasn’t an option because of how it would affect my family, especially my little brother. Strangely, if I hadn’t read your posts I don’t think it would have occurred to me to think about how it would affect them. I just wanted to let you know that your posts are affecting people and that God is using your honesty and experience. I’ll be praying for you.

  45. Michael,

    Please see a medical professional, perhaps a neurotologist. The sudden ringing in your ear may be a clue that there is something wrong with your inner ear, and your inner ear is connected to your amygdala which may cause your emotions to be volatile at best. I have inner ear disease, and an uncontrollable “out of body” emotional response can be generated quite easily under the right conditions. The first time it happened to me I literally thought I was insane. I was in a deep depression for almost a year, and it was physiological complicated by very difficult circumstances. When the physiological component is dealt with, the other stuff can be addressed and you can get back to some kind of normal.

    Besides the inner ear, there may be other physical conditions and biological predispositions you have that inhibit the “rational” part of your brain from providing the necessary OK’ness feedback to your amygdala, and that may be part of what is keeping you in the insane black hole. You do not have to be on SSRI’s or other medications necessarily for life, but possibly only for a few months to a year, and then taper off. It worked wonderfully well for me.

    The emotional stress you have been through with your mother and sister can only exacerbate any physiological problem which might exist. Please don’t “tough this out.” God’s providence includes the blessings of modern medicine, too. Email me if you want further details.

  46. Michael,
    Please reconsider taking an anti-depressant, there are several good ones out there and one just right for you.

    I had a psychotic, clinical depression with obsessive thoughts that I had lost my salvation and couldn’t get it back. My mind was tormenting me every waking minute. THE ZOLOFT ANTI DEPRESSANT COMPLETELY TURNED ME AROUND in about a week and a half. I became more calm and confident than I had ever been in my entire life!!
    The Lord provides for these remedies and sometimes uses this to heal us!!

  47. You don’t need to do any explaining to me:

    I’ve been there long before you, about two years ago, and it lasted for about three to four months.

    It was in the months after, during which the depression gradually disappeared, that I first read your posts about your sister: you didn’t understand what she had been going through: but I did.

    And now, you know.

    You describe it as pain: I’d do the same, only that it’s not really pain, is it? It’s more like the UTTER LACK of absolutely anything. You feel numb and dead inside like a piece of wood. Or, better said, You don’t feel. You can’t feel. Anything! It’s like a harrowing of the mind and heart and soul. Dead and empty inside.

    You say it’s madness: it is, but it gives people the wrong impression, since they wrongfully associate madness with confusion and lack of clarity: quite the contrary: you get this clear, logical, absolutely irrefutable feeling and understanding that everything and anything is completely void and meaningless, and to even try to refute that would be unsincere and untrue to yourself and to your experience… actually, it won’t even be a lie, it would be simply stupid.

    You say that it cuts out your logic: actually, it enhances it (and ONLY it) to the paroxistic heights, leaving you utterly devoid of any feelings or emotions you might otherwise normally sense.

    Depression is being thrown to the dogs, and anxiety is the paralizing fear that you feel when you know that it’s time to be thrown to the dogs again…

    — And if you wanna know how I got out of it, I’ll tell you, for a generous deposit of several thousand US dollars to my secret off-shore account… :D

    Just kidding… actually, I’ve already told you, repeatedly, what got me out of that dark hole: confession, and fighting against sins and addictions. And a long prayer: when I began it, I was in my month-long depression-state… and when I got up, I was myself again… for the first…

  48. …for the first time in MONTHS!

    I already had all the medicine prescribed by the therapist (the confession to the therapist, the buying of the prescribed drugs, and cure during evening prayer happened all on the same day), I’m not a religious fanatic who rejects modern medicine, I’m not in the habbit of tempting God, nor do such things usually happen to me… but this time God did a little miracle and healed me almost instantaneously, in the course of two hours (we have long prayers). I actuallty returned to myself… I can’t describe it, but, that again, I don’t have to: you probably know what I’m talking about.

    You describe depression as hopelesness: but it’s actually more like senselesness. An empty, dark, cold void of sheer nothingness. But from which God calls us into light, being, fulness, and existence.

    After I came to myself that night, depression came back in the following days… but only sporadically, not constantly, and usually when I was more alone. The intensity was almost the same (a bit more diminished though), but I gained inner strength because I kneew that if I was able, by God’s grace, to defeat it once, I would be able to do it again. And again. AND again. :-) Then the intensity wore off, little by little, and so did the length and frequency of the episodes.

    What’s important is to have loved ones physically present with you for most of the time, to clean your mind, heart and soul of all evil things, like anger and bitterness, to try to love others, forgive then, care for them, give alms to the poor (it does save a soul from death, as it says in the Bible), and to try to get some rest, and some good nice sleep, never stay up late, and do some walks in the park, get some fresh air.

    That’s all I had to say. For now. Take care and God bless! +

  49. Michael,

    I also deal with depression, my father suffers from manic depression, but mine has never been that bad. I agree with what Dan Wallace said. We just need to keep living and do what we are suppose to do, keep serving him and always remind ourselves how much our Lord loves us. We both have so much to be thankful for but we need to remind ourselves of those things.

  50. Somewhere in the archives there is a post that you wrote on the seductiveness of depression. I remember reading it and thinking you captured that struggle pretty well with the analogy that you used, I think it was to do with a landlord and a tenant, but without looking it up I can’t remember, but I do remember it seemed as though it was from personal experience that you were writing. That post must be two or more years old.

    I know you can’t just snap out of it, but you can move toward the mark. I’ve been hesitant to post because I realize your situation is serious. Anti-depressant drugs really don’t have a very good success rate, I’m not saying don’t take them (definitely, most definitely! have someone monitoring you for mood change the first week if you do take them) If you do a search on the effectiveness of anti-depressants , they are not as sure a way to cure as they have been promoted .

    I’m not sure I’ve experienced the depth of depression that you are in now, I do know I have had some prolonged times of being despondent. I’m going to throw a couple verses at you, I “think” your wrong Michael and I think , bless his heart, Tommy Nelson is wrong too. Either Philippians 4:6-9 is true or it is not. I’m not saying you can’t be oppressed and stressed to the point of sweating blood but if you are full of fear, without jeopardy, and anxiety and despondency without hope , then you are not in the garden of Gethsemane. God is not using your depression to teach you , He already has taught you through his word your depression is your struggle(I’m thinking) to come to terms with that teaching. I’ll grant it he is allowing it (I have to :) ) but for you he has promised peace and joy . James 3:13-18 is true, Galatians 5:22 ? I’m having a hard time believing this type of depression is not sin based, meaning it is not of God and if it is not of God it is to be resisted. Ephesians 5: 17-19 is a good place to start . It is trust…


  1. Tough Questions Answered » A Christian Scholar Talks Frankly about His Serious Bout with Depression - May 6, 2010

    […] Patton, over at the Parchment and Pen blog, recently wrote a powerful  post about his struggle with depression.  I was deeply moved when I read his post, as he described what it has been like for him over the […]

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