I recently read an article (http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/how-to-love-someone-with-depression/) that has helped me to continue to gain insight into myself, my life, and thoughts on how to “move on” from previous failures and shortcomings. In particular, this quote stuck out to me, “This is because my depression completely changed my entire outlook on life, and it changed who I was as a person.” After having lost my job and leaving the ministry I went through what is to date, the most severe period of depression I’ve gone through thus far. I locked myself away in my apartment (which was the only tie I still had to that town) and it became my prison cell. As I mentioned before, it got so bad that I very nearly committed suicide, but some final reserve of self-preservation saved me from putting a bullet through my own head. Even after leaving that town and getting resettled in OKC, I wasn’t entirely out of the woods. I then had to learn how to endure an employment situation that was not always financially stable (to date, living from paycheck to paycheck has been one of the most terrifying experiences of my life) and was not always particularly rewarding. While I’m finally working in a job that is meeting so many of my goals (teaching, living abroad, financially stable, worthwhile experience that can help me find work in other places abroad), I’m still finding places that are damaged. I’ve recently discovered the severity of just how much I lack a sense of hopeful future, in spite of all of the good that I am encountering right now. It has certainly given me a new appreciation for the struggle between the head and the heart.
I used to think that the head and the heart only disagreed on matters of love and passion, but I’ve found that irrational fear, unreasonable sadness, and numbing apathy provide just as much conflict with a rational mind if we speak of the heart as the seat of our emotions. (Fun fact: In ancient middle eastern cultures, the bowels were considered the seat of our emotions, so many words from those languages have ties to their words for guts, and may very well be why when someone does an act of particular fortitude or bravery, we still say that the person has “a lot of guts”). Mentally, I know that I shouldn’t be afraid, angry, sad, or so entirely apathetic in those times of instability, but I keep right on feeling when I shouldn’t and not feeling when I ought to. I send constant messages to myself saying, “Hey you! Come on! Get it together!” but instead I spend an hour on the floor hugging the backpack that I’m supposed to be using to carry my stuff out to the coffee shop so I can work. (Note: backpacks are not good huggers, they are too clingy and just kind of hang there. *rimshot*)
Fear has been a big struggle recently in part due to that lack of hopeful future. I’ve made some tentative contacts with a master’s program and have received very positive responses, but I have yet to apply. Even though this degree would set me up very well for what I want to do with my future, the things I want to be doing with my future (full-time professor of Theology and Church History) might be going extinct (due to the advent and increasing popularity of online classes and now open online classes that are offered for little to no money – this is excellent as far as educational accessibility is concerned, but bad for me if I expect to feed myself as a professor and am getting a degree geared towards that purpose). Furthermore, churches and I still aren’t on the best of terms. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have found a good church home in OKC and to now be participating in a fledgling house church of ex-pats here in Korea, but in general the idea of attending a church holds very little attraction, interest, or concept of benefit (to any party involved) for me. Realistically, if I want to work as a professor of theology, that’s going to need to change, but even if it does, the position for which I am attempting to educate myself may not exist.
Honestly, I don’t know what else I would do with my life. I need to eat, have a roof over my head, and realistically be capable of providing for the well-being of others, but I’d like to be able to attempt to do so with some hope of enjoying myself as I work. What else would a master’s degree in theology and research be good for? How would I feed myself, much less a family with that? This is one of the few things in which I’m genuinely competent and enjoy, but there isn’t a likely future in which I can be reasonably reliable for the well-being of others much less myself. I realize that this is the reality that many people face, but what point is there in a continued existence? Existence for the sake of existence seems rather pointless. Eat, work, sleep, repeat until you die; even though we’re not meant for the history books, there’s got to be more than human existence than a cycle without destination. If that’s all I have to look forward to in the future, euthanize me now, please. So yeah, that whole lack of vision for a hopeful future. I don’t function particularly well in an economy and society where I expected to make and push product (even in jobs that are supposedly “people oriented”) rather than develop people and help them to do, think, and be better in their relationships with themselves and others.
There is some semblance of hope though. For whatever reason, God is the reason I wake up in the morning. There is a future. I can’t see it, and I can’t see what is likely for me. Honestly, I’d say this makes a fair amount of sense given that I didn’t realize until recently how much I still had left to rebuild. So, I can only assume that at some point I’ll find another high place where I can get a vague sense of where I’m going to head in the event that the current plan fails. So, here’s to the day where I will rediscover that I feel hope when I use the future tense.