Whirlpool Depression

I could do better.

I am late, oh so very late.


My self narrative doesn’t include the effects of my chronic illness. The disease drains me of energy as a gigantic whirlpool in the middle of my self narrative. The whirlpool sucks. It sucks my energy, and drains my self-image of all color, leaving me with a raft of tasks that I had desired to do with me at the bottom of the ocean looking upwards.

I’ll go to bed with the goal of waking up the next morning and to write more on my next book. But when I wake up the reality of my day floods in, and down the drain goes my energy, and ability to think clearly.

If you look at my last four paragraphs you’ll notice that each one begins with a self oriented pronoun: “I,” “My,” and “I’ll.” I’m furious that the disease drags me down the drain into a self oriented nether world. My heart wants to help others through sharing who I am and listening deeply to the hearts of others.

The dis-ease is tremendously strong and frequently overpowers my will. The illness doesn’t care about my goals or desires, but I do.

When reading this over, I hear the depression that is with me today. Today the depression is hard to overcome. But with the pain and the difficulty breathing my body just wants to curl up in a fetal ball somewhere close to a fireplace. The warmth would be nice, but succumbing to the illness makes things worse.

Which brings up the point that I’ve only recently understood: there’s a big difference between taking care of my body and succumbing to the illness.

When I take care of my body, I feel better afterwards. However when I succumb to the illness, I feel worse afterwards. This morning I knew that laying in bed would be succumbing to the illness because of three indicators:

  • The present – staying in bed was a powerful driving force, but had no joy to it
  • The future – when I looked at the future I didn’t feel like I would have more energy and joy when I did finally get out of bed
  • The past – the pain and breathing difficulties were similar to what I had before and been able to do things to contribute to the world without damaging my health.

I’ve been disabled by the disease, to one extent or another, since August 1985. That’s a long, long time. If I had succumbed to the disease, consistently allowing it to control my life, I’d either be a basket case or dead.

One of the pieces of wisdom I have garnered over the years is that the path of joy adds to the world and brings me closer to God.

[Most of the readers of this blog will understand the difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is fleeting and can sometimes have a hard edge. Happiness adds little to the world except that it’s better than sadness (sometimes). And happiness is fleeting, needing to be refreshed again and again, day after day. Joy is like a drop of water on a sponge, where the soul absorbs the nutrition and grows softer in its interaction with others. Alternatively, happiness is like a drop of water on a rock, sliding off the stone needing constantly to be refreshed.]

Writing today has lifted my spirits and warmed my heart. May your day be joy filled, and your path bring you ever closer to the person you want to be.

Finding Joy

It was 4:30 this morning. Our new pup was asleep on my chest. A half hour before he had awoken me to go out for his “necessaries.” Now, I lay in bed remembering the joy he showed as he bounded through the early morning snow.

I remembered my exuberant joy as a child. How do I breakthrough my adult and disease barriers to reclaim something that feels as valuable as that wildly exuberant joy?

This joy is valuable because:

  • it feels so close to God
  • it allows me to see the world more clearly (i.e. with fewer filters)
  • it helps bring joy to others
  • and it’s more fun for me.

My major adult barriers are:

  • financial insecurities
  • feeling that I “should” be helping others more
  • not feeling that I know enough/am enough to truly help people.

My disease barriers are an ever-changing kaleidoscope of problems. Many of these I’ve talked about before: intense pain, extremely foggy mind, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, poor balance. Most of these come and go except for the pain and difficulty breathing.

The latest addition for my disease barrier to joy is, for me, a particularly nasty one.

When I was young, I had polio. It was “cured.” But it left many long-lasting effects. I’ve written about my troubles breathing because the polio damaged my diaphragm. Within the past few weeks this damage has caused a secondary problem: each time I breathe my diaphragm hurts, a lot.

So how do I put aside the emotional/mental effects so that I can tap into the joy of being close to God?

I get closest when I write, or teach, or do deep research to help society be better (see my Narrative Leadership website). But these barriers, especially the disease barriers, make this extremely difficult.

The task I’ve set myself of reclaiming my joy seems like a wonderful task, well worth the effort. I don’t know how to do this, but it feels like my life’s trajectory has set me up to carry out this goal.

In the meantime, I’ll just bask in the reflected glow of my new puppy’s joy.