4.20.2011

Random Dissonance - Color

"Depression is something that makes you lose your sight."   Michael Schenker
Spring is one of my favorite times of year.  Since one of the things that helps me feel centered and balanced is gardening, it makes sense that I should enjoy the blooming season.  This Spring, for the first time ever, I have successfully produced a crocus bloom in my garden.  (I really live in the wrong region for crocus to flourish.)  But the elements worked together in perfect harmony with the dna of the crocus bulb to produce a flurry of early Spring purple near the front walk of our home. 

As I sit typing today, Spring is nearly in full swing.  My Mayberry, USA is an agricultural town surrounded by fruit and nut trees.  And for a couple of weeks each year we are swathed with the pink and white blooms of almond, peach, nectarine, and cherry trees.  I have often wondered if from above, it might appear that our town is floating in a pond of blossoms. 

With a deep sense of admiration for blooming trees, I have planted 2 in my front yard, and planned the timing of their bloom to last into the early mid Summer.  Even our larger shade tree, which does not bloom, begins it's leaf season in a blaze of bright red infant foliage.  Spring color is in one sense the reward for a yard carefully planned, consistently cared for, and attentively nurtured.  Looking out the window into our yard, my vision is today bathed in blue, purple, pink, white, red, yellow, and coral.  Happy Spring to me.

Last Spring, deeply entrenched in the barrage of my emotional tempest, this visage of color had no affect on me.  Every bloom felt grey or brown.  Just as nearly every experience of my very blessed life had seemingly been reduced to it fundamental operation, Spring had been reduced to the change of temperature, which would mean little more than changing the household thermostat and needing to mow the lawn with more regularity in order to prevent my suburban castle from being "that house" on the block.

Realizing then that my life had become a colorless landscape of brownish greys and greyish browns, I considered a serious breech of my previous commitment to hide my malaise at all cost.  I began to think that the convergence of causes for my depression had surrendered to physiology.  There is a saying in psychology that I have not forgotten since my college days.  "Neurons that fire together, wire together."  A purposely obvious play on the axiom about family prayer, the saying points out that in the human brain, stimulus that is repeated over time creates a well-worn pathway in the brain, which will replace the previous "normal" pathway for brain functions.  In other words, if you do (or feel) something repeatedly for a long enough period of time, it becomes your new normal.  This is how we form habits.  (It is the key to breaking habits too!)  But it has a more insidious meaning for those who experience depression.  If you stay depressed long enough, those emotional pathways in the brain will become your new normal.  Your brain will travel those neuron highways regularly and you will suffer what is called "clinical depression."  I was taught that a person who has a normal depression that lasts for 6 months is in the risk zone for becoming medically depressed and needs the help of pharmaceutical therapy.  It had been nearly 15 months for me and I was ready to call the Dr.  It seemed that a life on prozac, lithium, or celebrex couldn't be any worse than the colorless post-storm life that I had settled into. And truthfully, it would have been better (should it have come to that).

This for me was a deeply humbling moment.  I had lost.  I had reached the end of me and had found myself wanting.  In a world where I had always had a way out and a vision of the vibrantly colorful "good" that hovers just below the surface of every dark and colorless challenge or struggle, I had become color blind.  My stiff upper lip, my determination to muscle my way through it alone, my rehearsed prayers, my desperate prayers, my self-diagnosis:  all the best of my efforts came to nothing.  They came to nothing, and I admitted defeat.

This experience is not new to me (reaching the end of myself...).  I had a similar experience when I met my wife.  My beautifully crafted plan for finding God's ideal woman for me seemed perfectly logical and attainable given the right amount of effort, accompanied by doses of prayer and wise counsel on my part.  At 25 I was at the end my efforts again and gave up.  THEN, THEN, God brought the beautiful wife of my youth into my life.  Though I had been a close friend of her  brother for nearly a year, been in her home on many occasions, met every other member of her family, it was not until I had admitted defeat that God opened the door of His will to me.

And so it was with the storm that turned my technicolor life into sepia.  No matter how well I prayed, no matter what effort I put into the healing process, no matter how strong my self-will, I would not receive God's healing until I had come to the end of myself.  And so it was one Thursday in October.  When I had reached the end of myself, God was there!  And like Dorothy landing in Oz, color!
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones. (Proverbs 3:5-9)
(Take some time and read all of Proverbs 3 - There's a lot of incredible wisdom and spiritual insight recorded there.)

1 comments:

Debi May 25, 2011 at 5:24 PM  

I am just shocked there are so few comments on this blog series and then again I'm not. All the stiff upper lips moving from bible studies to church services. Too ashamed to admit that they haven't prayed through it. Or unable to admit that they've considered all those same prescriptions just to ease the weight of their gray elephant they drag silently behind them. Please continue to edify on this subject for all the silent readers who need hope.

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