Slippery Slope

I didn’t know it was depression until I couldn’t feel the happy. That is, I had really good news and nothing about it felt good. I know, intellectually, that it is good, but I don’t feel happy.

Sure my therapist uses the word, “depressed,” in our conversations. I ignore her. I am not depressed. I was sad. Grieving. Then stressed out from more responsibilities than one person should have. But not depressed. I know depression. Depression is numbness. Not feeling the happy.

But it’s a slippery slope. I said this in the last blog (months ago) where I wrote about grief. About my refusal, my inability, to hide my grief. Writing it, showing it, having witnesses to it eased it. Nearly immediately. Being seen took away the power of the deep morose waters beneath my skin. I wasn’t happy about my losses, but I was no longer stammering-tearfully-gripped by it. Thank you. All of you who read what I write. Thank you for pulling me out of the grief.

Still, I slid. Into silence. As I tend to do when things become difficult. I don’t write. I don’t blog. I don’t produce anything beyond what it narrowly required. I am working it out. I am cooking, driving, teaching, meeting, reading, grading, traveling. I am tucking in, doing laundry, picking up toys, setting boundaries, waiting out tantrums, sitting at playgrounds, packing lunches, lifting a toddler high in the air until she giggles. I am worshipping, praying, reading, healing. Strategizing. No time to reflect. Not able to give one profound musing on it all. Survival mode.

So I slid. From grief to busyness to stress to injury right on into can’t-feel-the-happy.

Then I slept. Really slept. On an economy plane seat to a monastery in the mountains of southern Romania for a conference. Every non-meeting moment, on a flat monk’s cot. I slept. And began, just a little, to return to myself. I remember all those women who write about how the demands of mothering young children are the exact opposite of a depressive’s health plan – sleep deprivation, irregular eating schedule, inattention to self-care. Their words of warning took away the surprise, but not the effect, of combining a depressive condition with meeting the needs of a lovable but inexhaustible young one. So a week of sleeping in the midst of the chants of orthodox monks atop a chilly summer mountain brought me back to myself and the damn slope I slid down.

Monastery Caraiman

Monastery Caraiman

While there, a friend back home told me he was having a difficult time. I remembered the words of the gospel classic sung by Mahalia Jackson:

Lord don’t move the mountain
But give me the strength to climb it

Personally, if God can move a mountain out of my way, I’d really appreciate it. But if that’s not going to happen, then I want the strength to climb it. I take solace in knowing that generations of black churchgoers have prayed this prayer and found the wherewithal to ascend the challenges in their way.

I came down the mountain. By the rickety path through the woods with a couple of new friends as we sought out a taste of home (in the form of a pizzeria). On a shuttle bus down narrow winding roads fit for one lane of traffic at a time. From grief to can’t-feel-happy.

With a little sleep, some time, good friends and a plan, I think I’m finding the strength to climb. And as I do, I’ll be able to see the other side. And write something about it.

Book Monica A. Coleman to speak at your event.

Monica speaks with heart and vulnerability as she discusses some of the most challenging issues of our day. She speaks out on issues that churches and society often keep silent: mental health, sexual and domestic violence and religious diversity. In the pulpit, she offers a refreshing view of how scripture leads us to community and social action. In academic lectures, she blends her knowledge of religion, cultural studies and literature with social issues to offer new visions of faith. In every setting, she shows audiences how our faith can free us to be more and more of who and how God calls us to be.

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Book Monica A. Coleman to speak at your event.

Monica speaks with heart and vulnerability as she discusses some of the most challenging issues of our day. She speaks out on issues that churches and society often keep silent: mental health, sexual and domestic violence and religious diversity. In the pulpit, she offers a refreshing view of how scripture leads us to community and social action. In academic lectures, she blends her knowledge of religion, cultural studies and literature with social issues to offer new visions of faith. In every setting, she shows audiences how our faith can free us to be more and more of who and how God calls us to be.

Read More