Friday, September 20, 2013

The Connection Between Spirituality and Depression

In FreeThinker, Barry Dukes reports on a study that suggests that religion/spirituality could be the cause of depression.  There are plenty of comments on the page and here's the link if you like:

http://freethinker.co.uk/2013/09/16/depressed-it-could-be-that-religion-or-spirituality-in-particular-might-well-be-the-cause/

I didn't want to get lost in the sea of comments and I really didn't want to weigh in on the angry debating that went on in those comments, but I did want to cogitate a bit on the content of the article, as one who is steeped in religion and spirituality and has also struggled with a depression so deep that I often wonder how I'm still alive. 

I'm not trying to brag--but I have tried very hard to be a faithful Christian. I've proven my faith and pressed on when I saw nothing to confirm that faith is valid.  I've tried to pull away from those areas of religion that really are unhealthy, even evil, and tried for a benevolent spirituality.  I'm not ready to chunk it all, like some of my atheist friends have, but while it may or may not be the cause of my depression, it sure hasn't helped it.  

But there is a flaw the logic of the article.  

Depression is linked to a lot of qualities but none of them are necessarily a direct cause. A large number of creative people suffer depression.  Does creativity cause the depression or is it linked some other way? If you told the painter to stop painting would that cure his depression? Would a depressed writer feel better if she quit writing? Would you tell the musician to stay away from music? 

There is strong evidence to suggest that depression is caused by chemical imbalance in the brain, and in fact, many have been helped considerably with medication (I'm one of them). 

I think people turn to music, artistry, and faith to assuage their desperation. I know I have. It doesn't always work and yes, it can make depression much worse. Anything that has a power to do good can also be warped to do evil, including and probably especially religion.

My sense of spirituality makes me reach past what I can see for something less tangible... something that may help me make sense of things and make me feel better.  I like that quality about myself--reaching for the unknown, searching for that mysterious Presence, hoping it is benevolent.  

But does it make me happier? 

Well... no.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

So This is My Angel?

"You look like the kind of angel they'd send me...." 

Bill appeared to me in a dream last night. I saw his truck stopped in front of a railroad crossing. I was so happy to see him. He got out and I looked him over. He looked good, the same Bill I remember who smiled all the time He was still kind of stout, a little younger and stronger looking than I remembered. He didn’t speak. Just smiled that delighted smile of his. I hugged him and noted past how massive his shoulders were, just like they always had been even when he was an old man.


He used to come by my office everyday, laughing, then crying, then laughing again. He thought I was so smart. “Old School,” he called me.  


They said he was very different after his stroke. More talkative, more jovial, emotionally fragile, and not as capable. They said he was touchy, that you had to be careful not to hurt his feelings.  But the only time he ever got upset with me is when I was slow to let him help me fix my car. I was overwhelmed at the task and I wanted to put it off. He remembered that he once could work on cars. He couldn’t anymore, but he found a mechanic and pushed me to get it dealt with.  Ultimately, I was grateful for his meddling.


People thought I was a great guy for spending time with him. I did watch over him a bit when I could. I took him to the doctor and the hospital. He loved food and so did I, and I treated him to dinner as often as I could.  


He always said he was watching over me, and that he came to the office to check on me and cheer me up. Bill was alone and he was sort of a community project where everyone looked after him.  I always humored him by agreeing with him that he was taking care of me.  


However, I wonder now if that wasn’t the truth. It has been a few years since I did his funeral, but I still miss him.  And last night when I went to sleep, I felt lonely, as I often do. These days, I feel the isolation more and more.   It was so good to see him in my dream, appearing long enough to show me he was still there.   

Is he an angel? Has he been watching over me all this time?