Depression Is a Disease, and I Have It

The acting world has lost a legendary performer, a gifted comedian and dramatic actor. And according to early reports, it appears that Robin Williams’ death was the result of suicide. He had been open about his experiences with depression in the past, and that takes courage. Mental illness, and maybe depression in particular, is still stigmatized and misunderstood. (Buzzfeed has this great list of 21 Things Nobody Tells You About Being Depressed that just might help.) I’ve seen it in many of the social media responses to his death. So I feel the need to clear up a few things here, since I have quite a bit of experience from which to draw. I am living with depression myself, and I grew up as a member of a family in which depression and attempts at suicide shadow many of my childhood memories. I know a thing or two about what depression is, and what it isn’t. Continue reading “Depression Is a Disease, and I Have It”

Up In the Air

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I’m typing this at 30,000 feet. Actually, that’s a guess; I’m not sure what our cruising altitude is. But anyway, I’m on an airplane somewhere between Charlotte, NC and Boston, MA. Since I have a window seat, I’ve been passing my time peering out at winding rivers and geometrically plotted parcels of land and cars the size of ants making their way to somewhere important. The rest of the time, I’ve been reading Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber. A Lutheran pastor with an irreverent wit and punch-in-the-gut honesty, Nadia makes for a great traveling companion. She is just what I need, as I look down on the world and think, inevitably, about God. Continue reading “Up In the Air”

I’m Hard to Shock Anymore (Even When I Get Asked for a Lap Dance)

I won’t say I’ve heard it all, but as a hospital chaplain, I hear a lot.  There are things people say in the midst of crisis that they wouldn’t say otherwise.  Things that a few years ago would have made me blush or left me speechless, I now take in stride.  When I was called to the room of an elderly patient who was actively dying, I found his children and grandchildren gathered around the bed.  I expressed my sympathies, listened to their stories about him, and at their request prayed for a peaceful passing for him at the right time, as well as comfort and strength for his family.  Before leaving, I asked, “Is there anything else I can do?”  The patient’s grandson, a few years younger than me, asked, “I don’t guess you do lap dances, do you?”  His mother used his full name as she smacked him in the back of the head, looking at me apologetically.  “What?” he said.  “Not for me, for Grandpa!  You never know what might help.” Continue reading “I’m Hard to Shock Anymore (Even When I Get Asked for a Lap Dance)”

Why You’ll Never Hear Me Say “God Doesn’t Give Us More Than We Can Handle”

I was sitting at the bedside of a tearful patient, a woman hospitalized with pain and bleeding after her fifth consecutive miscarriage.  A few hours after she checked in, she got a phone call from a family member telling her that her youngest sister had been killed in a car crash.  Her nurse asked me to visit her that evening, and so I sat, holding her hand, telling her how sorry I was.  Then she said it.  “I know they say God won’t put on us any more than we can handle, but I . . . I just . . .”  She fell back against the bed, sobbing too hard to speak.

“But it feels like more than you can handle right now,” I offered.  She nodded and squeezed my hand. Continue reading “Why You’ll Never Hear Me Say “God Doesn’t Give Us More Than We Can Handle””