Archive for June, 2009|Monthly archive page

Depressive Episode

In Mood disorders, Self Improvement on June 24, 2009 at 7:00 am

I’ve been struggling with depression lately–it’s been building for the past two or three weeks. The only thing that has changed is that my psychiatrist cut the dosage on one of my meds. That could be it–it probably is it–but I don’t want to go back on the previous dosage. Because the trade-off is that I’m thinking more clearly.

I noticed that before the depression set in. Dr. S cut my dosage because I complained that my thinking was fuzzy. I couldn’t think of words or think things through. I would forget things as soon as I thought about them. I couldn’t stay on task. Hell, I couldn’t get myself  “on task” to begin with.

But with this depression I’m having trouble thinking and acting for different reasons. My thoughts are obsessive: about how much I dislike myself, about things that could go wrong. All I want to do is escape from my thoughts. So I read all the time and when I’m not reading I fall asleep. I “nap” two or three times a day some days. I never jump out of bed and get going. (Although I’m not a morning person at the best of times.) The only writing I’m doing is for my blogs–and that’s been like pulling teeth. Nothing else appeals to me. I haven’t even been studying my Arabic.

I feel desperate but I’m hanging in there. Because I really want to try to work things out for myself. That could be an exercise in futility. But if my only option is to go back to fuzzy thinking, I’d rather use the brain power I’ve gotten back to figure out ways to fight this depression. What can I do to make myself feel better about myself? How can I reassure myself that the worst is not going to happen?

I haven’t been praying, but then I never have prayed much. I do direct thoughts “at” God and hope that He is aware of what’s going on with me. I’m just not sure how much He is willing to intervene. That makes Him sound so removed. And I’ve always drawn comfort from the concept of a personal God. But I’ve never believed that we can ask Him for things and then willy-nilly He’ll make them happen.

Besides, it’s not more faith in God that I need. It’s more faith in me.


My New View of God

In Culture, International, Opinion, Religion on June 6, 2009 at 11:42 am

After reading A History of God by Karen Armstrong (most of which was beyond me, I admit) I have come to the conclusion that it is sacriligeous for any of us to say that we have the last word on God. Why? Because God, by His very nature, is beyond our comprehension. It’s even sacriligeous for us to call Him “Him.” That’s one reason why I always capitalize pronouns that refer to God, to differentiate between Him and a human man. I would call Him “She” except that would be perpetuating the same misconception. And since I can’t quite handle calling God “It,” I use the male pronouns.

But the probable truth is, God is “It.” The “It.” Like most “its,” He is subject to misunderstandings and met with confusion. And humans don’t like to be in the dark about their gods. Any of our gods. We want to have total grasp of any and all subjects: biology, psychology, chemistry, physics, theology–the list is legion. And when we don’t–or can’t–have total understanding, we make things up to make ourselves feel better.

I wouldn’t say that I have lost my faith, because I still believe in God. I just think it is limiting to latch onto one interpretation of His nature, whether that be Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hindu, Druidism or whatever. I think some explanations have more merit than others, but it is hard for me to say–at this point in my life–that any one explanation is the only true or full explanation. How can God be captured like that?

If we were to be totally honest, isn’t it more accurate to say that “this is the way I experience God”? And since we are all products of our upbringing, history, culture and psychology, doesn’t it make sense that we are going to have different experiences? I believe that God exists, but I also think that people try to make Him fit into their version of reality. People who need a great deal of structure in their life are going to be more likely to identify with a specific set of doctrines, for instance. Or people who see God as an agent in history (or rather, the Agent in history) are going to experience Him in the context of their history.

Thus the Jews hold onto their conception of the Creator God and themselves as His chosen people. Christians have shaped their religion around the philosophies of the church fathers and have identified with a Triune God.  And Muslims see God as the last word in faith and history (according to Mohammad). Obviously I am oversimplifying here. And I’m leaving out the other belief and thought systems. But these are just examples.

I was raised as a Christian. Not only that, but as a Lutheran. I learned to identify with Martin Luther, the apostle Paul and Jesus Christ. (Not necessarily in that order.) It all made perfect sense to me. I was never beset with doubts about the Trinity or the resurrection of the body.  When I became an adult, I joined the Methodist church where I learned about John Wesley and the doctrine of works, not just faith, and the second blessing. Not long after that, I became a born-again Christian. I remained in the Methodist church, but identified with non-denominationals, probably because I felt constricted by the Methodist–and Lutheran–doctrines. I sensed that denominational differences had more to do with historical events and persons than with revelation.

Lately, I have been learning more about Islam and I realize that it, too, fits the culture out of which it grew. I don’t come out of that culture; hence, it seems foreign to me. At the same time, I recognize that Allah is as valid a concept as the God of Israel or the Triune God.  What, other than my background, keeps me from “trying on” another belief system? If I try to use reason and base my choice on comparisons among religions, I come away with the realization that they all have something to recommend them. But they also all have things that don’t make sense to me, or I don’t agree with, or I can’t see making such a big deal about. And I have to take that all into account. I can’t experience God without being who I am.