Sunday, April 1, 2012

Men get depressed

She's never called it depression before. I know it's taken me years to say it.

Last week she said he's depressed and I nodded because my soul gets stretched like that too. Depressed husbands make themselves push through. They twist their heart darkness into any other possible shape. They call it frustration or they label themselves "the melancholy type" or they just constrict to the necessary, hiding in bed but barely sleeping. They don't say "I'm depressed" very often.

Some have such rigorous self standards that they face a mountain of daily disappointment. Some wrestle with inadequacy bred into their bones and they doubt every urge or idea. Doubt paralyses them, and risking new notions fills them with terror. Fear that they cannot admit or perhaps cannot see.

Grace is the only solution. But depression conceals grace because it is born of self-criticism and failure. Failure to be what we long for, failure to see another's love for us.

So we talk about counselling and 'strategies' for self-care and the last thing he needs is strategies. He's all strategied up and he's worn out because it's another way to 'do the right thing' and be a good husband or father or person. His fear is of giving his all to God and finding nothing left for himself. That God would steal his soul if he offered it.

Someone else fears that God has nothing good to do through him. The fear robs him of passion and motivation. It leaves him misunderstood, dissatisfied and frustrated with himself. Another friend thinks others don't really like him and that man's wife reflects that she's 'a bit of an annoying person'.

It maddens me, this blindness. That we measure ourselves along such human scales, and our inadequacies become an obsession. Arrogance and pride can be about our achievements. But self- criticism is a type of pride too.

I see us all carrying self-critical burdens and they sap the life from us. God wants us to be free of this. Maybe freedom would come from seeing them more clearly and being willing to give them up. Willing to stop defining ourselves with them. To stop letting our imperfections be the barrier to God using us.

Let's turn the measuring around. Stop applying it to ourselves. Put it up against God, measure the life of Jesus. Start looking for achievement and adequacy where we're guaranteed to find it. Give up the flurry to be good enough. Accept ourselves, not to excuse failures but to stop the distracting internal war.

God is not stealing our souls, he's renewing them. We'll never find ourselves empty or soul-bereft trusting him. He's doing more than we can imagine in us (and through us), if we'll let him.

*NB. I write this, not knowing your particular experience of depression or self-criticism. Please forgive me if this does not ring true for you. I'm just reflecting on some things I've been thinking lately. This is not an exhaustive treatise on depression.

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