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  1. I might be weird, but I find the anhedonia to be a sweet release. I spent my life previous in a constant rush of emotions, and taking a vacation from any kind of feeling is a relief to me. I want to be a robot for a while.
  2. This morning I slept through my alarm and woke up an hour and a half late. Meaning my handful of depression meds and mood stabilizers were an hour and a half late. I lay there with my eyes closed, letting the feelings just wash through me, like the therapist always says. Admit them. Permit them. My depression scares me. Underneath the apparent calm provided by the fistful of meds I take three times a day, it smolders. All it takes is one late dose and it starts pushing through. I lay there thinking, "How did I live like this for decades? How did I function?" Try explaining it to someone else. Tell them about the battering ram that punched a hole right through my chest, that aching is all there is. Tell them about the mind spinning in a thousand different directions, each thought growing offshoots and suckers, each offshoot digging tighter. Tell them about the boiling rage at the helplessness of it all. Tell them about the depersonalization, that floating off of the me and the entry of the void. Tell them about the nausea and the pounding in the ears. Tell them about the sensation of choking and the air that has no oxygen. Tell them about the black fear. Of losing control. Of losing hope. Of going mad. I am grateful for the meds. I am. But why should I need them? What happens if sometime I can't get them? It's not a purely theoretical concern. I remember Hurricane María which hit my town in 2017. I had not yet been diagnosed with depression, and I never would have admitted it then anyway. I spent the first 16 days afterward in bed. Want to help the neighbors with their tree? No. Can you help me look for gas for the generator? No. Want this bottle of cold water? No. Looking back, I see what it was. It would be months before the stores reopened. A year before the power came back. What if that happens again? What will I do? I know there are solutions, but fear answers to no logic. A thousand other thoughts force through, squashing me down into a tiny corner of my tortured brain. The fact that a few pills and a glass of cold water will push them away for a time makes them all the more terrifying. I have pitched my tent on a volcano. Scenes from La Palma in the Canary Islands pass before my eyes. The heat and stench of sulfur below, forcing up, forever seeking to break through.
  3. To add another shower thought to the above, I understand the temptation to despise Christians who think we can just "pray away the depression" and "march into Jericho in victory." All their platitudes fall saccharine on the ear and they just don't add up for me. But years of working both in ministry and lay ministry with people from across the spectrum has convinced me that the way we approach God, like the way we approach politics, has a lot to do with our personalities. These, in turn, are more influenced by our genetics than we'd care to admit. One day it occurred to me that happy-clappy namers are the "morning people" of the faith. "Morning people," science tells us, are genetically predisposed to process melatonin in the liver more quickly than the rest of us, dropping their serum levels sharply around 3 AM (for normal people it happens after 4 AM). They have hyper sensitive suprachiasmatic nuclei, which are the part of the hypothalamus that kicks your body into producing the "wake-up" hormone cortisol. I've noticed that these kinds of people tend to be bubbly, positive, CCC-music-listening, life-coach types who don't think too deeply and love to embrace the day by rushing out at the crack of dawn to hit the beach and yay God in their kayaks. They like to quote Psalms 119:147 and Mark 1:34 and ascribe a level of virtue to praying and Bible study early in the morning. They can't imagine why someone would dread Easter sunrise service and wish everyone would join them for their morning coffee klatch. But ultimately, it's a personality thing. It's a genetic thing. They like getting up early; it floods their system with hormones like serotonin and oxytocin, and they associate that rush with Holy Spirit miraculous fuzzy-wuzzies. I've learned to shake my head and bear with them. Their experience of life is different. Their perception of the promises of God are informed by their experience. We live closer to the bleak side. For them, the path may be flanked by thorns, but they are attached to roses. So I don't judge them anymore. Or hate on them. They don't get it because they can't. One day, perhaps, a crushing life experience may teach them empathy, or that experience may send them off the edge into even deeper delusion. I may smile indulgently from time to time, but I certainly don't allow their Pollyanna attitudes to embitter me toward God or the church. It's not fair to them, and it's not helpful to me.
  4. Don't go to college unless you know what you want to study, because even when you do it is hard and a big time sacrifice. Study a trade. You can make seriously great money in the trades because every successful person needs someone to weld the bridge they take to work or to install the air conditioner for their warehouse, etc. Only go to college if you WANT to go to college, and then for a specific reason.
  5. They politicized this from the start and made it all about us vs. them so that those of us who are naturally more educated and more liberal politically would shut our brains down and refuse to think critically because we were afraid of being associated with a certain Cheeto-haired politician and his followers. It was a stroke of genius. For two years, we liberals have lined up to support everything we oppose, from invasion of privacy and body autonomy (mask and vaccine mandates) to school closures that hurt poor kids the most (they are the ones who depend on school lunches and don't have reliable Internet) to unquestioningly championing Big Pharma and even supporting punitive policies that disproportionately affect minority communities (Black Americans, for example, have the Tuskeegee experiments ringing in their ears and are suspicious about attempts to make them go first, we Puerto Ricans remember well the U.S. government's secretely experimenting on us with radiation, smallpox, and sterilization). Even as an MD who believes in vaccines and has all three shots, I am astonished by how a sickness has been used to divide us, set us one against another, and tear at the fabric of our society while overturning all the laws and rights we fought for decades to enact. It is like we have forgotten the bitter lessons of the Gay Panic AIDS campaigns of the 1980's. Don't let them continue to manipulate you. Take precautions like hand sanitizer and social distancing, get vaccinated if you think you should, and live your life.
  6. The only time I feel safe is around bedtime, with my head under a pillow and my wife sitting next to me reading.
  7. The fact it turns on, boots up, and runs for a bit before crashing suggests a heat issue. The processor is getting too hot and shutting off most of the cores to protect itself, or the RAM is. Check carefully to see if gunk has worked its way into any of the little vent slots. If you can, open the phone all the way to the motherboard. Often lint will form a glob between the camera electronics and the processor, since that is a weak spot in the case design. It could also be the battery. As batteries age, they create more heat, which creates more resistance, which creates more heat. A replacement battery may help. A trip to your local cell phone repair place for a new battery and a spritzing out with an air can and it might be as good as new.
  8. Stay away from shallow, name-it-and-claim it modern theology. Older churches like the Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Reformed understand and value the doctrine of suffering. If you have not been exposed to it, the doctrine of suffering does not try to explain away suffering or say "This is all about molding you to be a better person!" Instead it says that we all suffer, God included, and we share the suffering and trials of Christ as part of being a "living sacrifice." Our sufferings are sanctified and used to help others, but it is acknowledged that they ARE suffering and not some kind of warm and fuzzy "blessing." It says suffering is an inevitable part of living in a sinful, fallen, rotting world and is not something to be prayed or happied away. I find this approach to be a lot more understandable and realistic.
  9. I swore off the news long ago. It is nothing but a drumbeat of negativity, aimed at keeping viewers in a perpetual state of anxiety. Turn it off, go outside, help a neighbor. As we say in Puerto Rico, "Los buenos somos más." (We good people outnumber the bad.)
  10. Heavenly. Beautiful sunny skies and a nice breeze.
  11. Most extended release tablets do not dissolve in the presence of stomach acid, but rather in the basic enzymes found in the small intestine. These enzymes come from your liver and pancreas. Both organs also produce chemicals, including sodium bicarbonate, to neutralize the acid in the food as it passes from your stomach to your small intestine. This raises the pH so the enzymes can do their work. If either of these systems breaks down, your food will remain acidic and digestion of proteins and other important nutrients will be hampered. Both the liver and the pancreas are heavily affected by alcohol abuse. If I were your medical professional, I would order liver and pancreas function tests stat. You need help for that drinking problem immediately. It could be developing into a life-threatening condition. Please note that this is only general advice, not medical advice, and you must speak with your medical professional about it.
  12. Plenty of people accomplish great things from their bedrooms. Proust wrote his greatest fiction in his bedroom. Mozart composed in his bedroom. Emily Brontë wrote Wuthering Heights in her bedroom. Martin Luther ended the Middle Ages from his bedroom. Florence Nightingale did most of her work in her bedroom. Larry Page founded Google in his bedroom and the first two years he ran it from there. Justin Bieber launched his career from his bedroom. Find something amazing to do in your bedroom. If it is where you feel safest, it is where you can be greatest. Success breeds success and maybe one day you can leave your bedroom, but there is nothing preventing you doing great things there.
  13. Some days life has no meaning, just as some days there is no sunshine. I am sure I am preaching to the choir here, but doubtless part of the issue is that you work 5 days and your husband is on duty the other 2 days. Maybe find a couple days during the week that are "off off" together. See if the local seminary has a student in need of pastoral experience who can cover the hospital visitations and other lay responsibilities on those off days.
  14. As I read through the heartfelt posts on this blog, I see a recurring theme: I feel like a loser because I have never succeeded. I feel resentful because no one respects my opinion. I feel lonely because I am ignored. I feel unloved because no one loves me. I am here to tell you that these thoughts, like all the other ones depression puts in our minds, are lies, damned lies. I want to share a little bit of why I know that depression is lying to everyone who thinks this way. The following may come across as a humblebrag, but I assure you it is not. It is me sharing personal experience. 1. I feel like a loser because I have never succeeded. No. That is a lie. I have had more success in life than any one man deserves. I was the first in my school to get a perfect SAT score. I sailed through an Ivy medical school on a scholarship. By the age of 28, I was Chief Surgeon in a department of a very large and respected regional medical center. By 30, I was on the board of the hospital, making me my bosses' bosses' boss. I got called to the state Capitol and even the U.S. Congress to give expert testimony. I went on television shows. I did medical consulting for Hollywood scriptwriters. Did I feel successful? Never for one minute. I never felt like I fit in, that I deserved any of it. I would wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, certain that everyone could tell I was pretending. Success is not the answer. 2. I feel resentful because no one respects my opinion. People sought out my opinion. I published a book that was reviewed by The New York Times. I went on NPR and CNN to be interviewed for my book. I got offered research fellowships at respected universities, keynote speeches at symposiums. Still I felt a weight in my chest day and night. I was never happy for colleagues when they succeeded, even though I brought the cake and the piñata. 3. I feel lonely because I am ignored. You do not want the spotlight, trust me. Not when you deal with our pain. Stage lights are hot. Media is pushy and nosy. The higher up the tree the monkey goes, the more his bottom shows. The pressure to perform and smile is a crushing burden. Through it all, I felt alone and adrift. I felt no one understood what made me tick. I felt all the attention came from people who just wanted something from me. I started turning down requests to give commencement speeches because I felt like an almighty fraud. What did I have to say to those kids? I am nobody. I got handed life on easy mode. I happen to be gifted with words, gifted with academics, and tolerably good looking. I'm not a god. Being treated like one is a sugar rush that leaves you hungry. 4. I feel unloved because no one loves me. That could be true. Or it could just be a feeling. I have a wife who loves me, friends who went to bat for me and were there for me when the guys came with the white jackets. People I barely knew showed up to help my wife and the kids. I never felt loved, but I was and am. This last point is one I want to hammer home the most: Just because you feel unloved does not mean you are. Lots of people are unloved. If you are one of them, there is no judgment here. But maybe you're overlooking something. Look again. I walked away from the big city, the bright lights, all of it. I am putting the pieces back together in a small private practice. I am lucky that even after all of what happened, I have options. I recognize that. Don't cite privilege to me. That has nothing to do with the main point. The main point is that your depression is lying to you. Your depression is not because of anything. It is a lying liar that lies and lies and lies some more. Call your depression out on its lies.
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