By Norris Burkes Jan 22 2017
In case you missed it, last Monday, January 16, was “Blue Monday.”
Supposedly, this is the day that many of us feel depressed. That’s because we are feeling the combined stress of bad weather, broken fitness resolutions, consumer debt and post-holiday blues.
According to a CNN story, “…the science behind Blue Monday is more than a little dubious — its origins are in a 2005 press release for a UK travel company.” Apparently, the travel agent who coined the word was trying to woo customers to visit the brighter corners of the world.
I’ve traveled this globe a bit, and I promise you, the blues can follow you anywhere.
In 1999 they followed me from my assignment in Turkey to the sunshine state of Florida. However, this was a bit more serious than a case of the blues. A dark depression dimmed my world for more than a year — at times nearly extinguishing my light altogether.
This depression was so deep, that at times I was unable to do the simplest tasks. I couldn’t order from a fast food menu, my wife had to drive me to work and my kids became nearly invisible to me.
I remember comparing my feelings to those experienced in the doomed Russian submarine Kursk. Her surviving crew penned some desperate messages in their last hours of air. The messages were a kind of doublespeak that death would not overtake them, yet that their end would be swift.
That is the power of depression: it can grip your soul and leave you feeling like the men in that boat. The whole time you pray for rescue, yet you shiver with hopelessness. The fright becomes not so much about dying, as it becomes the terrifying thought your existence will always be like this.
Even so-called mild depression can seem like a coastal fog introducing the formidable presence of the unknown. And like fog, depression swallows everything in its path, bragging that nothing exists that it cannot swallow. It will lie to you and tell you the sun will be no more. Like a tule fog sweeping across an endless landscape, it attempts to transform the relevant into shapeless voids.
It is anachronistic to apply modern psychological terms to the New Testament, but I do believe Scripture suggests that Jesus experienced depression.
Jesus is known to have wept about the death of his friend, Lazarus. He felt overwhelming disappointment with his disciples’ lack of vigilant prayer and his splintered cry from the cross echoed the dying soldier’s cry for his mother. His overwhelming burden for his followers was said to have darkened the stage of Calvary for three hours.
The trip out of my fog and into the healthy air began with an admission that I was overwhelmed and needed help. It took some time, but with the assistance of family, friends and pastoral supervisors, counseling and clinical intervention, I found my way out.
Of course, there are still days when I sense the fog bank of depression returning. When that happens, I double down on the three-prong strategy that’s always helped me thrive beyond just surviving.
First, I center myself with prayer. Then I look for ways to reach outside the limits of my own needs and help those around me. Finally, and most important of all, I surround myself with those who are able to affirm my calling, hear my heart and grant me grace.
And that’s the best way I know of that will keep you out of the blues and in the pink.
Some of this column was excerpted from Norris’ latest book, “Thriving Beyond Surviving,” which can be purchased at www.thechaplain.net. Write Norris at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, Calif., 95759. Comment line via (843) 608-9715.