Monday, December 15, 2008
'Tis the Season to be Jolly -- or Not...
"Tis the season to be jolly, Fa la la la la, la la la la. ..."
Oh yeah? Well, not for everybody. I ws thinking about that while getting ready for Meeting for Worship yesterday. I was thinking about some of my best friends and how they and I might be considered by some an emotionally/mentally motley crew. I have friends who are bi-polar, depressive, in therapy, attending 12 step programs, etc. And I'm prone to depression and panic attacks -- thank Heaven (literally) for a good doctor and Paxil. We're a walking, talking illustration (it sometimes seems) of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
I used to think this was a bad thing -- as in I should be ashamed (especially of my own "abnormalities"). But another thing I realized as I looked over my friends (and me) is that we are, by and large, sensitive folks, caring people, and very creative. Many of us are writers, musicians, artists, and the like. And not second rate either -- well, present company excluded. Some have had books on the New York Times bestseller list. Others sell every piece of art they create. I mean, I'm blessed with a rather amazing bunch of people who are my friends.
Most of my friends are also deeply spiritual people. Very spiritually aware. And this is sometimes a very tough season for us. For some reason, while everyone else is "Merry-ing" it up, I'm often more in a "Bah Humbug" mood -- or worse. Part of it, for me anyhow, is the disconnect between the festive and celebratory that often ignores the deeply spiritual aspects of the season -- the coming of the Christ. The coming of Light into this time of extreme physical (and sometimes spiritual) darkness of these shortening days. It's Light I need. And I'm not the only one. As one friend said to me recently, "A scary and dark season in some ways....need more Light."
As I thought about bi-polar, panic attacks, depressives, seizures, et al, I also wondered which Bible characters had those traits. Or saints. Others have thought a lot about this, but it was new to me. Which made me wonder not if encounters with the Spirit were symptomatic (i.e., which DSMIII classification does this fit in?), but rather if my friends and mine "abnormalities" were actually doorways into a deeper life of the Spirit.
Of course, since I think too much, other questions came to mind. One was, "Am I more spiritually aware as a person prone to panic attacks/depression than those who are not?"
Well, I thought, that's more than a little a bit spiritually arrogant.
But I did begin to wonder if Jesus was preaching today on the hills of Galilee, would He do a beatitude for us today? Perhaps something along the lines of "Blessed are the emotionally challenged, for they shall feel and see God's presence in amazing and scary and hopeful ways?"
All I know for sure is that I am grateful for my friends, my encounters with God, and my relatively panic-free life. That I am at a place where I feel that, while this might be a good day to die, it's an even better day to live. And that my friends share their joys and sorrows and ups and downs with me -- helping me to realize that Jesus laughs and cries in hearts and souls throughout time and eternity and that God will keep me safe though all of life. Even if it kills me.
Two resources I've found helpful are Therese Borchard's "Beyond Blue: A Spiritual Journey to Mental Health" on beliefnet.com (http://blog.beliefnet.com/beyondblue/). She writes with honesty and wry humor -- and I loved her "12 Bi-Polar Days of Christmas." And Dancing With God Through the Storm: Mysticism and Mentall Illness by Jennifer Elam.