Total Eclipse of the Soul

Last week, on my author blog, I posted a copy of an article I wrote for the Foothills Writers Guild’s First Draft Society. My fiancee said it was her favorite thing I have ever written. The Guild president emailed me to say he thought it was the best piece that has ever been submitted to the First Draft Society. I called it “And Evening and Morning Were the First Day… Or Was It the Fourth?” If you have ever been through a Dark Night of the Soul, I think you will relate.

 

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Widows and Orphans

Repeal and replace Obamacare is a politicism that affects me personally. I’ve talked before about how Obamacare saved my ass – literally. Now the replacement proposal is here. As I said before, this is not political for me. It’s very personal. I’ve heard a few times the health care bill will hurt Donald Trump supporters the most. That is certainly true of South Carolina, which went for Trump. USA Today says that Medicaid cuts are going to hit us harder than most states for a number of reasons.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated 14 million people will lose Medicaid by 2026, and 22 million will lose insurance. Republicans who created this bill expect the states to make up the shortfalls, but because of high poverty rates, our state’s budget will not be able to make it up. We’ve been trying for years to come up with money for our roads that are falling apart. We are already second to last in spending per Medicaid and CHIP beneficiary. We are already 42nd in health status overall. If the bill passes with the Medicaid and CHIP cuts, South Carolina will have to come up with an extra $200 million per year over the next ten years. If we can’t do that, we are going to have to make some hard choices. Lynn Bailey, Columbia health care consultant, put it this way.

[C]uts could set the stage for a “Medicaid Hunger Games” where leaders play needy groups against one another — children against the elderly, the chronically ill against the catastrophically ill, the traumatically injured needing rehab against the substance-addicted.

Does that sound overly dramatic? Just look at the numbers.

  • Nearly 1 million South Carolinians are covered by Medicaid or CHIP. Of these, 75% are working families. So don’t give me that “they just don’t want to work” crap.
  • Out of a total of 20,000 nursing home beds, half are funded through Medicaid. Without Medicaid, where will they go?
  • 60% of Medicaid or CHIP patients are pregnant women and children. Don’t call yourself Pro-Life and take away health benefits from pregnant women and born children.
  • 70% of Medicaid budget is spent on the elderly, people with disabilities, and people with mental illness.
  • 12 hospitals across the state will either close or go bankrupt. What’s that? It’s an emergency, and you have to get to the hospital immediately? Sorry, the hospital closed due to lack of funding.
  • Rates of opioid deaths are above national average. Losing Medicaid will mean many trying to free themselves from addiction will lose their chance to get treatment.

I have always heard a society is judged by how they treat the weakest and most vulnerable. The Bible over and over commanded the Israelites and Christians to care for the orphans and widows because they were the most at risk in that culture.

Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause (Isa 1:17)

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation (Psa 68:5).

“‘Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen’ (Deut 27:19).

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world (Jas 1:27).

You say you believe the Bible. Do you? Who are the most vulnerable in our society? The elderly? People in nursing homes? Recovering addicts? Unemployed veterans? Children? People with disabilities or mental illness? Anyone who is sick and can’t afford healthcare? These are our widows and orphans.

The worst thing about this proposal is they say we have to do this to save money and reduce the deficit, but really, all the savings are going to be spent in tax cuts for people already rich. That’s been their answer to everything. Cut vital benefits and services for the poor and middle class and give tax cuts to the wealthy. That has never worked, it has never produced a balanced budget, and it has never trickled down enough to make up for the losses. The rich get richer, and the sick suffer and die. Is that what a Christian nation does? Is that what Jesus would do? “And he healed all who were sick, except those who were too poor to pay for it.”

Historically, this nation has not done well in providing healthcare for the widow and orphan, metaphorically speaking. The Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, attempted to move us toward better care for people who need it most. I know it has problems, but we could solve them if we had a mind to. So the question is do we want to provide quality health care for anyone who needs it, or do we want to follow a political agenda? What would Jesus do?

The Commencement Address I Imagine Myself Giving One Day

I wrote this comment on a blog I follow.

Awesome post! Here are few lessons I imagine myself telling if I’m ever asked to give a commencement address at my alma mater. Just an outline at this point.

1. Don’t be generic. God made you unique and gave you unique gifts to offer the world. Offer them, and be proud.
2. If you have enthusiasm for something, pursue it. The word enthusiasm literally means “breathing in God.” If you feel yourself breathing in God in any activity, that’s a big clue to your purpose in life.
3. Follow a career path that allows you to focus on your strengths. Don’t follow a path that’s not right for you just because you think you can make a lot of money at it.
4. Don’t try to change your basic nature. If you are extroverted, don’t force yourself to be an introvert. If you are introverted, don’t force yourself to be an extrovert. Both of them have their advantages. Whatever you are, do something that fits your personality rather than forcing yourself to change.
5. Believe in yourself and believe in the Almighty One. Wait, shouldn’t believing in God come first? That’s what most religious people will tell you. What I’ve learned is, if you don’t believe in yourself, nothing else you believe in will have any power for you.
6. Know yourself. If you don’t know who you are, what you believe in, what your unique gifts are, what your personality is, and what you have enthusiasm for, you won’t be able to follow points 1-5.

Do you think these are good life lessons to pass along?

Fell on Black Days

On May 27 in Seattle, Chris Cornell was laid to rest. I know I’ve already written one post, and I don’t want to look like I’m rehashing the same subject. It’s just that so much about the circumstances in which he died touches on my own experiences with depression and hard lessons I’ve learned through them that one post was not enough.

Depression and Grunge music

The Seattle Grunge that exploded onto the music scene in the ’90s sounded like it came from a city where it rained nine months out of the year: Dark, depressed, moody, brooding, and riddled with distortion and druggy haze, but also brilliantly creative and original. If I asked who were the Big Four of Grunge, I think anyone would say, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Cornell’s Soundgarden. We had already lost Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley. In a 2014 interview for Rolling Stone, Cornell said this about them and other area musicians he knew,

The tragedy was much more than the fact that I would never see him again – it was that I would never hear him again. There’s this projection I had with Andy, Kurt, Jeff Buckley and other friends of mine that died of looking into the future at all these amazing things they’re going to do. I’ll never be able to predict what that is. All this music that will come out that will challenge me and inspire me – that sort of romantic, dramatic version of the perspective. When that goes away, for me in particular, it was a really hard thing. And it continues to be a hard thing….

So part of my memory of every record, and certainly Superunknown, there’s an eeriness in there, a kind of unresolvable sadness or indescribable longing that I’ve never really tried to isolate and define and fully understand. But it’s always there. It’s like a haunted thing.

And now those same words apply to Cornell himself. Of the Big Four, three have now lost lead singers to depression and/or drug addiction. The two often go hand in hand. I never got on drugs myself, but I am convinced a lot of drug use associated with these bands was really self-medicating for undiagnosed depression.

Where do “Black Days” come from?

In that same interview, Chris Cornell opened up about depression. On the inspiration behind the song “Fell on Black Days,” he said,

No matter how happy you are, you can wake up one day without any specific thing occurring to bring you into a darker place, and you’ll just be in a darker place anyway. To me, that was always a terrifying thought, because that’s something that – as far as I know – we don’t necessarily have control over. So that was the song I wanted to write. It just took a while.

Cornell accurately described the experience of millions of people living with depression who don’t even know it. You look around at your life, you think you should be happy, and you’re not. You’re depressed, and you have no reason to be. If you can’t be happy when everything in life is going well, how can you ever be happy? Maybe you think there’s no point in going on. Or maybe you sabotage your career or your relationships, so at least then you have a reason to be depressed. It doesn’t make sense to you, but I’m here to tell you there’s a reason for it.

Depression can either be clinical or situational. If there is nothing in your situation that can explain your depression, then it must be clinical. There are a number of possibilities, but the most common is that you have a chemically imbalanced brain. I’ve talked before about the time I went without my AD medication for a couple of weeks, and about the depressed voice in my head. When I was off my medication, the depressed voice in my head came back with a vengeance. But as I took my new medication, the voice went away. What this means is that voice in your head that tells you you’re worthless, you’re a waste of space, you’re a burden, you’ll never be happy so why not end it all, no one loves you, God has forsaken you, blah blah blahthat is the voice of a chemically imbalanced brain.

This is nothing to be ashamed of. Some people are born with a heart murmur. You were born with something like a “brain murmur.” It’s not your fault, any more than the person with the heart murmur. Clinical depression, like all mental illness, needs to be treated like a medical condition.

The shock of my life

I’ve known this for a number of years. Seventeen years ago, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. Before that, there had been times in my life I knew I was depressed. But I had always thought it was temporary. There were times in my life when I thought I was happy. But even then, people sometimes asked why I was sad, or even worse, why I was angry. When I found out about clinical depression, this finally made sense. I might feel happy, but chemically, my brain was still depressed. There was this underlying sadness people sometimes picked up.

It didn’t feel like depression, I guess because it was normal to me. It was the way I had always felt. The thing is, when I was diagnosed, I wouldn’t have said I felt depressed. At the urging of my mother and sister, I got myself tested anyway. The results?

You tested high for depression in every possible way.

I don’t think anyone has ever said anything about me that shocked me more. It was totally surreal. It was something I never would have thought of myself in a million years. I thought, it can’t really be that bad, and yet I knew it was true. Like I said, even at times when I felt happy, people around me thought I was sad or upset. No matter how I felt – happy, sad, good, bad, or apathetic, optimistic or hopeless – every moment of my life, I had been living with a brain that was tilted toward depression.

Don’t believe every spirit

If only someone could have been there to tell Cornell, “These thoughts you’re having are not real. I know they feel real to you. They sound like the Gospel truth. But they are not. These thoughts are just chemical imbalances in your brain. Whatever you do, don’t let these chemically induced voices make life and death decisions for you. Don’t believe these voices in your head. Fight them. Treat them like the enemy, because they want to kill you. Don’t let them. God will help you if you call on Him. God can help you fight these thoughts and imaginations that exalt themselves against the knowledge that you are a child of God with unique gifts to give the world, of which the music is part, but there is much more ahead. Even if you have never believed that before, dare to believe that just this once.

Don’t believe anyone who says Chris Cornell died because of drugs. He died because he had a mental illness, an Anxiety Disorder of some kind. How do I know? Because of the medication he was taking. He did the right thing by seeking professional help for his condition. Medications like Ativan can help some people with Anxiety Disorders, just like Zoloft and Trintellix helped me with Depression. Unfortunately, they don’t help everyone. In fact, for some people, it may make them more depressed, more anxious, and more suicidal. And so it breaks my heart that the very thing that saved my life ended up killing him.

 

image of Chris Cornell and Soundgarden performing at the Sound Academy

Related Posts

Chris Cornell’s Black Hole Sun

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Chris Cornell’s Black Hole Sun

As rock fans know, on May 18, Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell was found dead in his hotel room in Detroit. It was officially ruled a suicide by hanging. His wife says she thinks it was related to Ativan, a prescription drug mostly used to treat anxiety disorders. I know he had a history of depression and drug addiction. That combination often ends in tragedy.

Still, I have a hard time understanding it, because I saw him on CBS’s Saturday Morning show last month, and it looked like everything was going well for him. He wrote the theme song for “The Promise.”

https://youtu.be/I2Bh0vU6_Lw

I was interested in the movie before. The song was so beautifully poignant, I really wanted to see the movie after that. My girlfriend and I both loved the movie. We had never heard of the Turkish genocide campaign against the Armenians, so we learned something important. Cornell made us both want to see it.

Chris Cornell was touring with Soundgarden and excited about the new music they were making. He was proud of the music he wrote for the movie. He sounded optimistic, and it seemed like he had every reason to be happy with his life now. He did not seem like he had any reason to want to die. That’s why the news came as such a shock. And yet I know that’s what depression can do to you.

I don’t know if Cornell’s case was related to depression. The last time he spoke to his wife, he told her he had taken extra Ativan. I’ve posted before about my use of antidepressant drugs. In my case, they have helped tremendously, but they don’t work for everyone. Sometimes they can make the condition worse, so you have to work closely with your physician if you decide to try it. Any kind of psycho-tropic drug affects everyone differently. It’s possible that too much of it took his mind to a place we can’t understand, where hanging himself made perfect sense. The fact that an anti-anxiety drug was prescribed for him shows he was having some struggles.

When your sun is a black hole

I’ve seen it before, especially in people who struggle with both depression and/or drug addiction. They get treatment, they get clean and sober, and they look happy. They show no signs of being suicidal. They get their career and family life back on track. You think they’ve turned their lives around, then BAM! The news hits you like a 2″ x 4″. You saw them just a few days or weeks ago, and you wonder why you didn’t see any signs.

Since my girlfriend knows I have a history with depression, she couldn’t help wondering about me. I reassured her that I’m not just pretending to be happy. I really am, thanks in large part to her. But that’s what happens to the people left behind. It makes you second-guess yourself and everyone you love, especially if you know they have struggled with depression and/or drugs in the past. They look happy, but how do I know? And so with her worried about me, I gave her my word I would never do that to her. Is that enough? I hope so, because it really was the only assurance I could offer.

I wouldn’t do that to her, or my mother, or sister, or father, or niece or nephew, or brother-in-law, or all the relatives I see most every year in our family reunions, or my friends at church. When I think of Cornell, I feel at a loss. Such a great talent. Such a great voice. Such great music he made. He had a wife and children who loved him. If I was shocked, sad, and baffled, how must they feel?

Higher truth

I don’t care who you are, you have people in your life who love you and care about you. Suicide will leave them devastated and agonizing about where they went wrong. Even if it’s just one person who cares, think how they will feel if you go through with it. Even if no person on earth loves you, God does. If you don’t believe in God, God still believes in you.

God put you here in this life in this time for a reason. If you can’t see that reason, keep trying until you do. I’m still not sure what purpose God made me for, but in my lowest points in life, what stopped me from suicide was I didn’t want to hurt my family, and I didn’t want to die without fulfilling God’s purpose for me. I just kept trudging through the darkness, not knowing if I was going in the right direction, with nothing but the hope that someday, somehow, I would find out my reason for living. And now, I’m finally starting to see that as a possibility.

Some of those things I went through for so long when I was really in the depths of depression, I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I would never want to go back there. But the fact that I can see the light now proves I did the right thing to keep living when that was all I could do. And if I can use that experience to help one person who is lost, who doesn’t see any possibility for happiness in this life, if I can convince you to never give up on life because one day I promise you, you will find your way, then everything I went through was worth it.

Keep hanging in there. Seek, and you will find. You can have a happy and fulfilling life. You just need to learn how to stop depression from sabotaging it.

Related Posts

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Announcement and new post

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, and it might be a while before I post again. I said I wanted to blog about the relationship between faith and depression, but it was a lot of work making sure I had a post worth reading every week. Right now I need to focus on writing that pays. However, if by any chance you are still interested in following me, I will be posting on my author page blog about topics related to my writing career. I hope to post once or twice a month but no guarantees.

I do have a new post there called “J. C. and the 12 O.G.’s.” It compares the early Christians with a gang, which is related to how they survived persecution, which is related to a novel I’m trying to publish that deals with Christians being persecuted in the first century. Bizarre, huh? Anyway, you can click the link to check out the post if you want.

Can Antioxidants Help Treat Depression and Anxiety?

Oxidative stress has been shown to be an important contributor to inflammatory conditions, and in recent years has been implicated in the underlying mechanisms that result in depression and anxiety.

Midtown Psychiatry and TMS Center

ADHD Doctor, TXAntioxidants Depression and Anxiety

When it comes to stress-induced psychiatric disorders, anxiety and depression are the most common. I see this often in my practice. We know that stressful life events can produce a state of vulnerability to depression and anxiety in some people. The mechanisms that contribute to vulnerability of mental illness is an area which needs further study. Although promising research has been done in the past few years that indicates that there are biochemical changes that occur in the body as a result of stress that can be addressed. For patients suffering from stress-induced psychiatric disorders, it is essential to understand the role of antioxidants on stress-induced psychiatric disorders so a plan can be created and implemented to help cope with the effects of stress.

Stress and Nutrition

Research has shown that stress places a demand on the body in terms of nutrition. During a period of…

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Quick reads–I believe the “dishonest media” on this one. And Obamacare update.

He said he would build a wall, and Mexico would pay for it.

He signed the executive order to build it.

The press pointed out Mexico has not made a single payment and has said publicly they will not pay for it.

He whined how the “dishonest media” did not say that we would pay, but Mexico would reimburse us.

Mexico said they would not reimburse us.

Paul Ryan said, without batting an eye, the wall would cost between $12-15 billion to build. (He also said the Republican Congress would be fiscally responsible).

He tweeted that if Mexican president Nieto was going to refuse to pay for the “badly needed wall, it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting.”

 

Pres. Nieto canceled the upcoming meeting.

Still think Mexico is going to pay for the wall? Are you willing to bet $12-15 billion on it? If so, I can get you a fantastic deal on a tremendous bridge in Brooklyn.

 

Obamacare Update

 

I do have to give Trump credit for this. Congress seemed all set to repeal Obamacare immediately and create a replacement later. President Trump said he wanted to wait until they had something to replace it with. So, at least this time, Trump was the voice of reason in the GOP. At least someone knows cutting off health care for 20 million people is going to be problematic. In a press conference today, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell seemed like they wanted to work with the new president on most matters. Hopefully that means I won’t lose my health care just yet.