Depression and Faith
This is only JW (should that be JW.Org now?) related in that it is connected with religious faith which dominates a person's life. But many similarities, I feel.
I never was a dub, was raised in a 'Gospel Hall' tradition, have been for many years an agnostic/atheist and am a fairly cynical/suspicious individual as befits an ex-30 year detective. I try not to be judgemental and consider myself as open-minded and very much 'live and let live'. My major life issues at the moment are:
1. Renewing my drivers licence
2. Getting some cosmetic work done on my car
3. Diplomatically and politely extricating myself from a relationship with an older woman
4. Deciding where to move on to next.
So, nothing really substantial.
My younger sister and her husband have retained their fairly fundy xtian faith - and, indeed, probably got together and got married because of it. They are good people - always willing to help anyone of any faith or none. My BiL has co-founded an independent 'free church' church, has spent time helping out in deprived places in Eastern Europe, and (being ex-military) works with SSASRA, a non-denominational organisation which provides pastoral care to the military.
I disagree with their religious views, but I cannot fault their commitment, or the good work they do. BiL and I have many lively discussions about religion but they are rock-solid in their views.
Their faith has seen them through some horrendous times. They had three sons. The eldest has (I suspect) a form of autism. He will never be able to live on his own. The youngest is in the military, has seen some dreadful tours, but is scheduled for redundancy. The middle son, the brightest (and close to my own kids) was killed in a senseless road accident aged 13. I and my kids spent many hours at his bedside whilst he was in a coma.
That sets the scene. My sister and BiL retained their faith through all this - and I would never challenge it because of the comfort it gave them.
Yesterday, out of the blue, my BiL came to call, just 'for a cup of tea' (as we say here in the UK). He is a wreck. He came to see me because he knows that I suffered a 'burn-out' many years ago, have experience of depression and 'got over it'. He was in tears (no problem, been there) and is on medication which I hope will help.
This was not the time for a religious discussion, but a couple of things came up.
I am an unreconstructed atheist and sinner, take my pleasures where and when I can, and gladly accept any hypothetical punishments which the deluded believe is coming to me (my words not his). He is a man who has always lived by his faith, has relied on it to help him through, has done many good works in its name.
I hope that with appropriate medical help he can come through the other side of this. I did. I hope his religious belief helps him. 'Whatever gets you through' as they say.
There is a time for every thing (is that Ecc. something in the OT - I have an earworm of The Byrds) and right now is not the time for discussions of deep religious accuracy.
I can't help but wonder -how many dyed in the wool dubs are in my Bil's position? At least he can share without being branded 'apostate'.
BiL just called to see me.
\his opening words were 'I am a broken man'. No he isn't, he is a strong man, I couldn't have dealt with the stuff he has.
I am calling on all my reserves here in a bid to help my sis and BiL through this without calling thier faith into question.
I can't be the only one doing this, can I?
I don't think calling his faith in to question at this stage would be helpful at all, for him to lose that now would just add to his problem.
With the life experiences he has had I should say that without doubt he needs specialist counselling, not just Meds. His G P may be able to get him counselling, as may the Military ??
Meds help in the short term, but do not tackle the underlying problems, sometimes some form of Meds are needed in the long term, but are only advisable once the Counselling has taken place.
Please get him to accept professional help, and to realise his problems are not a weakness, not his fault, it is simply an illness, and illness does not care what person it afflicts. He needs help from you too of course, simply listening and reassuring him are so good, and necessary, because Depression can easily spiral downward until suicide or similar drastic action is the result.
This can happen in no time, so don't delay.
I wish you well in your efforts for him.
Counseling has helped me.
I used to believe that God was watching all the troubles and violence in my family and had a Plan for it all. This slowly caved in over the last few years. But what some might have viewed as strength had its roots in a passivity that slipped quickly into feelings of helplessness and depression.
Broken? Your BIL must get help to realize that his compassion and love make him vulnerable. Who doesn't hurt when the ones you love suffer and die? We all are subject to this breakage, aren't we?
He may have the questions rising from within that many of us have finally spoken out loud about God. And if he is still getting comfort from faith--then I can only say that God didn't answer Job either when he was pressed to the limit. (Ironically the Jews in the Holocaust looked to the book of Job--the man who never got a straight answer from God.)
Is it a comfort to find yourself just a regular unchurched member of suffering humanity? Or is it a greater comfort to believe in God and suffer without understanding God's reason for your suffering? Both are s**t storms.
Strong or not, he should go and TALK--Talk to someone that won't judge him a saint or a sinner for whatever comes out of is mouth.
And glad he could talk to you.
But depression and faith seem to have a real co-dependent relationship with each other-- I found/find it hard to develop a healthy perspective on a life after having thoroughly saturated my thoughts and actions with the ligatures of christian theism for nearly 60 years. All the best to him and to you.
Joe, you are a good friend. And that is what your Bil needs now more than ever. I feel so bad for you because I can sense how bad you feel for him.
I overheard a man in a restaurant talking to his wife and he said to her, "What is the best thing to say, when you don't know what to say?" She said, "I don't know." and he said, "Nothing."
That has been a hard lesson for me to learn. At times, just say nothing! Be there, that is all that you can do. You probably don't have the answer, I know I haven't had it many times. Despite thinking most of my life as a JW that I had ALL the answers! What an arrogant %^@ I must have been.
You have one great thing that he needs. You love him as your Bil. That is all you can give. And Brother, that is special.
I hope the best for both of you. Your comment really touched a chord with me in my life and situation.
its really something to have faith and depression in the same scentence isnt it?
it is sad that he feels so unfulfilled. has he expressed what he, in a perfect world, would like to have 'permission' to do?
it seems hes been doing more than a normal person should be expected to do. the fact that anyone needs to be on pills to cope means they are coping with too many things and feel inadequate. it seems like his family situation alone would overwhelm someone, let alone take on the emotional weight of others. does he not feel worthy? is this ministry of his a way of escaping the pain of his losses and struggles? or does he feel an obligation?
maybe its the guilt that is catching up with him, and hes tired. he needs to know its ok to refocus. he getting worn out and yes he needs a break.
can you imagine knowing from the day your child is diagnosed with a condition like autism that you will never be free from the burden of this sort of human being? never have privacy with your wife? always having interupted plans, and having to include in every choice you make, this child and his condition?
this is why so many adults with autism must be put in an assited living group home, because the parents get overwhelmed and literally go nuts. we arent made to have to care for our kids till we die. I know of a couple who had a son with a handicap, adn when they got to be in thier 50s they had to put him in a group home because they physically had thier own health problems and couldnt help him anymore. and the mother passed away, and the son still lives in the group home away form his father and sisters. it wears on a person. it can destroy a persons mental state. as can seeing the injustice in the world especially the military.
Id say, if he hasnt already done so,
he so needs to not feel guilty and needs to step away from this 'ministry' hes doing, and minister to his own family and himself,
and feel proud doing it. thats enough burden.
we cant all save the world single handed and to me we all think we can. As a wife, Id feel pretty cheated if my husband sent his valuable time and emotional checking account on others all the time and not on our relationship . having an autistic child is a full time emotionally and physically draining situation. sometimes thats all we can deal with, nothing more should be expected of a couple. where is the help for them?
[Im sure your aware of how some anti depressant drugs make a condition worse. they also make some people suiciidal and overweight. Ive seen it. once you get on those things your on them for life, they slowly destroy your energy, you sex life, then your body[liver kidney] and brain. I have wittnesed this in the past. ive learned much t from research , some found from cchr.org] Id advise somehow him getting off of them. no one should have to submit to chemicals to cope with life.
is it possible hes seeking your advice and approval ? does he feel his faith is in question because he feels like a failure or like he doesnt deserve help too?
does he feel his believes have failed him? what does his wife wish for him to do? she has the right to have him whole for her.
maybe he came to you perhaps becasue he sees how your life went on despite the non belief in a God. your still breathing and your life seems no worse off than before? maybe he feels you have some key to sanity.
would he feel relieved if he knew that we do not, and never will, understand a book like the bible, and for any man to interpret it and expect someone else to live by those interpritations is simply working for nothing but the apporoval of those who ingterpreted it, and he need not continue down the path of self loathing? that we dont need a bible to tell us how to be a good help to others? i think,
faith is what we have , when we belive. I do not believe in weak faith, you either have faith or not. all it is is believeing jesus died for us. thats it as far as im concerned.
perhaps he would like to read the book, in search of christain freedom by ray franz. he needs to be free of the guilt , the expectations, the anxieties , no matter what ather persons think he should be thinking feeling or doing. we can worship ourselves alone in our home, we dont need to be part of anything.
I hope somehow you find the key words to help him feel better and hopeful.