“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me“
These words, ascribed to Samuel in the account of Ruth, have a new meaning for me. Because I am a Christian? Because this feels like the right answer to life’s need for appropriate piety? No, not really. These words speak to my humanity at this present moment, a moment where I am taking on board a new faith, and a new understanding of the life I am called to lead. I am in a place of absolute submission; exhausted, afraid, unsure but nonetheless real submission.
For the first time in my 41 year life, I have had to accept a part of me that I have denied for many years and this post, brothers and sisters, will now serve as my confession. As Ruth accepted, so I accept – with all the poisons and toxins that it brings in this present season of the life of this unworthy man. Never let it be said that acceptance is easy, even if it is right. The simple fact is that I am struggling for my life with mental illness. Those who know me will know me to be energetic, direct, relaxed, and on the whole happy. 2013 has, for reasons beyond me and within me, gently crushed much of that from me, so that I am presently lifeless, furtive, on the brink of temper much of the time, and for myself, without an ounce of care. This is hard to write, not least because these feel like the words of a third person, and because surely Christians (and ordained ones at that) shouldn’t feel this way with the Resurrection Hope coursing around with the haemoglobin. The fact is, dear reader, I am not in control of these feelings (or lack, to be honest). I am outside of myself, detached, looking in.
I write as a Digital Disciple, but one who has distanced himself from the digital world in the present time. In my current malaise I mistreated someone very badly in the context of the behaviours of depression which are adverse. I seek to hurt no-one and I failed in achieving that – so I have walked away. (My account was also hacked at the same time, which was annoying) The social media is a great place. Until you are where I am, and where others are – in a world characterised by depression. Social media largely demands interactions by lone individuals who coincide in a central, digitally enabled place. That place is distinct and detached from anyone partaking of it, but it becomes the realty, the venue, the place. Standing at the centre and looking out, social media is a collective of people, alone. Alone is OK if you find the ground beneath you made of stone. Find sand at your feet and the created reality becomes as tentative as the present reality. Unpredictable changes in mood or appetite, a diminished sense of what is correct or incorrect – those things become the tools of the devil. That sand consumes and in the end, one is buried.
Depression is strange, and the effects of its medication equally so. I have a wonderful and supportive wife, two gorgeous life-giving children. My love for them is real but the job of protecting them is pragmatic. I have a job to do, so I do it. I feel oddly disconnected from them, as I do the rest of it. For my own self I couldn’t give any less of a toss. I don’t really care if I live or die. I feel nothing. I do my job in the pragmatic way of one who knows that the job must be done, but at the present time I feel nothing. Faith is a business arrangement, a car-park chat, a transaction. This is the new faith that I have to accept at the moment. Intellectually I know that I am unwell and I seek the appropriate treatment for that illness – through talking and tablets. Emotionally, where emotion can be found, I regard myself as a freak, a nutter, a basket-case. As a digital disciple, I regard myself as an offender, unsafe, not to be trusted. Oddly though, I have not lost my sense of God’s presence. I found myself in an impotent rage recently, and directed it right between God’s eyes – I swore quite a lot at the Lord of Creation and Maker of Basket-cases. I demanded. I issued ultimata. I threatened – but in the end, just told God to effing well walk close by if He wants me to take this poisonous b*astard road. God is walking with me, I sense that (even if I cannot feel it). I accept God as my God, in a new way. I know that when I die, God will be there to scrape up what is left and take me home, even if in my darkest moment I lose the battle within and bring that day about – and yes, I have thought about that too. A lot.
Why am I writing this stuff. Navel gazing is least among my chosen sports and I find my navel to be unsavoury and to be honest, I’d rather not talk about it. I’d rather walk away with the inner stoop and myopic gaze of one who is getting through a day at a time. I think that I writing this because I know that in the fearful and wonderful world of social media, and indeed even for some of those who are reading this, there are those who are where I am. They may be in peril in those hidden places where we sit and converse digitally. They may be people of faith who find depression and its appetites to be sinful and abhorrent and will have forgotten that they, like me, are sick. If that is you, you are not the only one. Plead with God, but accept Him. Even in hating God you have to accept Him first. Whatever works.
With what is left in me I pray for you, but ask, dear friend, that you pray for me that God may bring me back from the edge of this precipice that I am looking into. It’s a long way down, and there isn’t a WiFi signal.