Showing posts from October, 2017

My Pet Demon, Part Four: Be a Tree, Not a Stump

Not a picture of a healthy relationship. Wait. What? That's what I remember thinking the first time I heard The Giving Tree  referenced in a church service. For those who aren't familiar with the classic picture book by Shel Silverstein, here's a quick summary: a tree loves a little boy. The little boy enjoys what he can get from the tree. Things are fine as long as the boy is little (though his primary way of demonstrating his affection for the tree is to carve a heart into its trunk, so already we're off to a questionable start). But as he gets older, the boy demands more from the tree than just its shade. He wants its apples to make money for his adventures, its branches to build himself a house, and when things fall apart, its trunk to build a boat to sail away in. Except for asking for these things from the tree, he neglects it. Finally he returns as a tired, defeated old man. The tree, now just a stump, has nothing left to give. That's fine, say

My Pet Demon, Part Three: Collateral Damage

I know the feeling. It's not easy loving a person who's living with depression. In the throes of an attack by the shadow demon, depressed people become irrational, spiraling down into a bottomless pit of despair. No lifeline is long enough to haul them out, and they may even turn angrily upon those who would try to ease their minds by talking some common sense about the fears they're expressing. Sometimes it becomes apparent the depression victim just needs to be alone, but communicating that truth can be perceived as rejection, a terrifying feeling to have when you're already convinced of your own worthlessness. Now imagine being married to that person. I've been in relationships with people who suffered from depression, both situational and clinical, and it's no picnic. But that's not why I'm writing this today. If you've read either of the previous parts of this series, you know I've had an off-and-on relationship not just with

My Pet Demon, Part Two

Taming a demon is hard work. My personal demon was a depression that had begun scratching at the door of my consciousness when I was a teenager. The demon found opportunities in stressful and frightening situations, especially when they came in multiples. For instance, the anxiety of living in a big city (Dallas) for the first time, added to the uncertainty of pursuing a new career (ministry) after just one year in a first career (music education) I had spent half a decade studying for, was compounded by the self-doubt of never having had a romantic partner at the advanced age of 23. Put together, these stimuli plunged me into my first experience of what I almost immediately began calling my demon. It would be at least six years before I accepted that it was, in fact, the mental illness called depression. Long before my first formal therapy session--sometime in the fall of 1985--I knew that my own process for dealing with these bouts of sadness would involve meditation, ex

My Pet Demon, Part One

The longest relationship I ever had was with depression. It started in my teens. I was not, for the most part, a melancholy child, though three years of middle school torment probably contributed to the darkness that set in around the time I turned fifteen. Moving from Idaho to Oregon had felt like an escape, and I loved high school. But one day, after walking home, I found myself rushing up to my bedroom, locking the door, throwing myself on my bed, and sobbing into my pillow. I didn't know where it was coming from: I was nowhere near as lonely as I'd been in middle school, I was receiving plenty of praise from my teachers, and I was already established in the leadership of my new Scout troop. Still, something inside me was not right, and the only way I could deal with it was to muffle my sobs behind a locked door, hoping no one in my family would find out how much psychic pain I was in. The crying jags would hit me from time to time throughout my high school year

Teacher Voice

You know this voice. I used my teacher voice twice today. It's a common experience among teachers that entire years of children have personalities that remain consistent throughout elementary school. Last year's kindergartners, for instance, were a charming bunch of cuties, and that's held true with them as first graders. This year's fourth graders, on the other hand, were challenging to work with as third graders, and while I don't have personal experience to back it up, that seems to have been true of them going all the way back to kindergarten. It's certainly true of them now, and it was, in fact, a fourth grade class that brought out my teacher voice for the second time this morning. The first time it came out was with a second grade class. That's not quite fair: there was really just one child in the class who led me to use the voice that is like a heavy spear, projected across even the largest room, a voice that communicates both authori