Sunday, January 4, 2015

Hope & Healing are possible

Seeking and accepting help can lead to true healing
One problem with depression of all kinds is diagnosis. Because shades of darkness surround me like the Rothco Chapel paintings, how am I to discern what level of darkness I'm experiencing?
Ignore the words said in ignorance:
  • You're too young for depression
  • Pastors are not supposed to be depressed
  • Depression is a sign of moral failure and spiritual weakness
  • Don't be so selfish
  • I can gut it out on my own

Listen to words that can truly encourage you:
  • Help is available
  • Taking care of myself is not selfish or weak
  • I don't have to live like this
  • I can get better  
  • I am worth it
Our system clearly needs healing, if it is producing more sickness and burn out than health. Clergy depression is taboo and a problem to be fixed if you listen to anyone concerned about clergy retention. Not too long ago, I heard a seminary dean bemoan clergy taking prescribed anti-depressants.

But compassion can be described as feeling with someone in their pain. Do clergy have some sort of invisible God-shield that repels all sorrow and sadness from affecting us?  

Thank God for saints like Henri Nouwen, who shared his honest and naked soul in his amazing journals, such as The Road to Daybreak. In the Wounded Healer, we see how self care will always be a necessity- and our responsibility- if we intend to remain and grow in ministry.  This paper by Robert Randall is one of the more informative I've found on the topic of clergy depression.    

Symptoms of exhaustion (the other stigma in pastoral circles) or depression should never be ignored or denied or discounted. Getting help is very important and the sooner the better. Even though you may have resisted it for so long, remember: learning self-care is a sign of hope and encouragement to others who have lived in ignorance or denial too long.



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