My Spiral Into Depression

My Spiral Into Depression

I learned at CCEF  “almost anything can be at the root of depression: a recent illness in which you get behind in your work, hormonal changes, a reversal of fortune, the consequences of simple negligence, guilt over a particular sin, self-pity arising from jealousy or a disadvantageous turn of events, bad feelings resulting from resentment, worry, etc….the important fact to remember is that a depression does not result directly from any of those factors, but rather comes from a cyclical process in which the initial problem is mishandled in such a way that it is enlarged in downward helixical spirals that eventually plunge one into despair.

    Mine came about due to the death of a  vision.

Disclaimer: Going to talk about my faith.  If that sort of thing gets under your skin, stop now, you won’t hurt my feelings. 😉


May 4, 1980 7:48 PM I wrote this in the front cover of a little New Testament:  “I made a commitment to God to live my life for him.”

Translation:  Just like a marriage covenant between two people, as an adult I made an intentional choice to be in relationship with God himself. What had been a mish mash of confusing irrelevant “church talk” the first 20 years of my life, suddenly became a crystal clear intellectual  decision I was free to accept or reject.  Very much like someone wrestling whether to accept someone’s marriage proposal. I remember wrestling with the implications for 3 days, and finally said “Yes!”

Side note-  this is why I am a big believer in NOT pressuring other people when it comes to the spiritual side of their lives. It’s not productive in our human relationships, and it’s definitely not productive when it comes to matters of faith and spiritual things.

Something definitely changed at that point. There was a new restlessness in my life.  I remember looking at 50 different Christian Colleges, trying to decide whether to be a formally trained pastor, or a marriage and family counselor. Decided I wanted to be a bi-vocational pastor, so we moved from Iowa to New Jersey in 1985 (with two kids in tow),  and enrolled @ CCEF,   Carpenter by day,  teacher/facilitator when  I could.  In 1990 we returned to the Midwest with a strong sense of purpose.  I’d  experienced  5 years of intense discipleship/mentoring  in New Jersey and believed God had brought us home to pass on what I’d learned.

Things were great for the first 2  1/2  years,  then  began to butt heads with our local pastor.  In hindsight, God set me up.  Pastor and I had two completely different  understandings for a healthy church.  His was a more traditional model- Two different models..not wrong/ just different.   I on the other hand craved  deeper relationships  that can’t be cultivated when you’re sitting in rows looking at the back of each others heads.  I know I  wore him out with our intense discussions.   It finally came to a head in November  of 1995. We left the church.   The hardest decision of my life (till then) – 90% of my closest friendships were with those people.  Someone told me later, it felt like a divorce- (it did).

I was confused.  I was angry.  (I’m not giving you all the details- this would get too long.)- I believed I would eventually  be a co-pastor that church…instead, I was on the outside looking in.

The depression had probably started  two years previous, and lingered  another year.  Things  gradually got better  by 1996. Here I sit 18 years later and there is still a bruise on my soul.  Just this morning, as we’ve been organizing our office, I came across several magazines and books related to mentoring and discipleship-  I pitched the magazines, and am selling  some of the books on e-bay. I have no aspiration or intention of ever taking an active role in leadership in a local church.  I’m no longer depressed 🙂   just broken- and there is a big difference.

Have you ever wrestled with depression?  What triggered it?  What brought you out of it? (if you’re out of it?)   What good came from it (if any)?

Have you ever watched your life  goal  die?  What was it and where are you at in the process now?

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7 Responses to My Spiral Into Depression

  1. shoreacres says:

    The only thing that bothered me a bit about this post is your use of a “trigger warning.” This new phenomenon drives me crazy. Its use suggests we’re all hothouse flowers that can’t deal with whatever’s coming down the road. But that’s just me — no reflection on you at all, just an observation about something I really don’t like.

    Your musings about the nature of depression reminded me of that character from Lil’ Abner – Joe Btfsplk, the guy who walked around with a dark cloud over his head. I seem to remember he wasn’t so much depressed as jinxed, but it’s certainly a perfect image for depression of any kind.
    Took your suggestion and downgraded the warning to a disclaimer 😉 Always good to hear from you Linda! DM

  2. Depression can be caused by all sorts of things.
    For me it was from the forces days. That and a marriage breakdown.
    It took the help of a young woman (Megan) on the streets like me to get me better.
    “Make friends of what ails you” she said. She made that little difference to how I thought and it was enough. Although the dreams are still bad, some of the players smile. Now I can cope.
    You’ve mentioned that Megan before in one of your posts on your blog…sounds like an awesome wise young woman. Did you ever try to find her after you left your stint on the street? wondering where she is now in life….dm

  3. emjayandthem says:

    This was brave of you to write about; as depression scares so many. I’ve not been depressed as much as I’ve been affected by it – 1brother struggles with it, as do several male cousins and our oldest son. It’s difficult to relate to when you haven’t gone through it yourself. Growing up we heard phrases like “pull yourselves up by your bootstraps and get going” – as though a couple of words could pull someone out of a spiralling funk.

    And while you aren’t in a formal Church role now, I see your mentoring your crew on work ethic as leadership, too. I think we all have gifts to be shared; figuring out those gifts are and how best to use them to help others, that’s praise for Him, too.

    Genetically, I think some of us are more predisposed to depression than others. I tend not to get into a funk..other family members tend toward the dark side if you know what I mean. It was not a fun place to be. thanks for stopping by the blog MJ! DM

  4. I used to dwell on the “what if” and the details of my grand plan a lot. For me that was a real source of tension and anxiety. When I was in the process of getting divorced (I hear you loud and clear thoughtfullyprepping) I was angry and sad and not really very nice to those around me or myself. My plans have never been simple or easy and as I reflect a bit EVER followed the plan. My work is the same. Unlike building to a blueprint it is subject to the whims and desires of countless people, and even when I create a blueprint for work to be done it is a document of all those inputs and each decision gets prioritized in real time by the people building it. Life, for me at least, is like that.

    As I have aged I have gotten more comfortable with plans as a kind of compass rather than a detailed map. It certainly takes the edge off. I am much more comfortable with the winding and seemingly indirect journey to a destination that I can embrace as a reasonable final outcome.

    My wife teases that I am happy-go-lucky. THAT my friend is a tool I use to keep myself away from the abyss. There is a very dark and petty little monster at the bottom of the cliff that wants to tear down everything important to me. I’ve met him and he looks a lot like the guy in the mirror.

    So I offer to you that you have a compass. You can break trail to get to that destination or follow the road, but in the end the idea of your destination and what it is in reality will always be different.

    His path doesn’t ever seem to be a direct one.
    I like how you said this : “As I have aged I have gotten more comfortable with plans as a kind of compass rather than a detailed map. It certainly takes the edge off. I am much more comfortable with the winding and seemingly indirect journey to a destination that I can embrace as a reasonable final outcome.”
    that is how I feel as well @ this point, and as you put it so well. “takes the edge off” of self imposed pressures. I’ve applied the same attitude in the parenting realm, and work. Beats living life with a constant nervous tick. thanks for weighing in on this more personal and sensitive topic Michael! DM

  5. Bill says:

    Powerful post brother.
    I used to spend way too much time brooding and fretting over the decisions I’d made in my life. I was unhappy with where I lived. I felt trapped in a job I didn’t like. I felt that life was racing by, getting away from me, and I’d blown my chance to do anything meaningful in it. The last 3 generations of men in my family died by age 53 (my father was 49) of heart attacks, so I figured I didn’t have much time and I’d wasted it. I could go on and on.
    Eventually I pulled out of that negative, defeatist funk (I don’t know if it could be called depression or not, but it was not fun). But it took a long time.
    I still get blue sometimes, but very rarely. I wish I could tell you how it all changed for me. There were a few significant moments (I recall once just suddenly and unexpectedly resolving to no longer expect an early death) but mostly it was gradual.
    I had some life goals that didn’t happen. But I can honestly say that I now realize they weren’t good goals for me. In other words I don’t think I would have been satisfied if I had achieved them.
    A final thought, for what it’s worth. I’ve come to believe that vocational ministry is generally not how we ought to spend our time on earth. If there is a priesthood of all believers, then it seems sensible to me that we ought to all be tentmakers of some sort.
    Thanks for sharing your story and causing me to reflect on mine. Peace.
    Good to hear from you Bill. I am 100% agreement w/ you on the tentmaker approach to ministry, think it is also a lot more healthy psychologically giving you a more balanced life. Everybody gets to figure out that stuff for themselves 😉 DM

  6. lisalassas says:

    hey DM,
    Don’t think I’ve had any life goals die on me…because I have had so few that I cared about that didn’t change over time. I have, perhaps much more than most, embraced a winding road REPEATEDLY, trusting in the moment and core feelings (strong love, what seems right)– and sometimes just chance and the “choice of not choosing”. Maybe I was like this mostly because a “life plan” was often beyond me, felt like a trap and not something good to dig into and work at– starting very young. Maybe, more than anything, I was like this because I AM genetically predisposed to be on the funky side 😉 . And the highly empathetic side, to boot– so other people’s funks used to take over my mind, too! So depression often pushed me totally off any road I might see ahead of myself…my own momentum was not enough to plow through depression as a child/teen/young adult. I have learned, as an adult (and as someone who has found several coping techniques to avoid the total derailment that depression once was for me), to dig in and move forward, to trust that the WORK of getting somewhere is at least half the joy. I am still moving by “feel” (strong love and what I believe to be right still!), but now I know that the secret to living the life you want is to hold onto, FIERCELY, the kernel of what you care about…but let the rest go, as needed, as warranted.
    I love your blog and get your story, completely, and how you would represent it as “the death of a vision”– but also would venture to offer an alternate reading, as emjay points out. While you had a death of the EXTERNALS of a vision, you are indeed still living your vision– a life driven by a relationship with god, full of mentorship, a kind of pastoring (if for a far flung and more “mutually pastoring” bunch of sheep, where you are both the pastor and one of the sheep, too!), family and marital counseling (often virtually, perhaps indirectly, and again, with respect for the bi-directional nature of advice and the need for advice)…
    Thanks for your non-pastoring pastoring, non-pastor Pastor DM. Trust me, you have, simply by living out your life and concerns and talking about them, been a source of both inspiration and guidance to me. Thanks, as always, for that!
    Thank you for your affirming words! DM

  7. shoreacres says:

    I just read this article, and thought it was really, really good. You might enjoy it, too.
    Excellent, excellent article! Just inhaled it. Think it may have actually stirred up a new blog post. thanks for sharing it. So, I’m guessing you are on the other side of the bell curve? 😉 DM

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