Thursday, December 08, 2005

Gone

I am depressed. It’s not a seasonal thing. It’s a life thing, possibly a lifelong thing. The outward circumstances are good on all fronts, and there is no objective reason to feel like I’m standing at the edge of a yawning abyss. But I do. And so I think it’s time to see the doctor again. He will probably prescribe what he has in the past – good ol’ Welbutrin, the little purple pill with the smiley face on it. I don’t like taking little purple pills every day, and I’ve tried to avoid them for a while now, but I am coming to the conclusion that waking up crying at 3:30 in the morning is probably not a normal thing. Or crying at work, which can be embarrassing, particularly when one sits in the midst of stoic computer programmers. Got a problem? Let’s work out a problem-solving algorithm. No, on second thought, let’s reprogram your brain, Mr. Spock, so that you can at least act like the emotive part of your being doesn’t operate based on 0s and 1s. I may be dealing with some latent hostility in addition to depression.

This morning I awoke from a dream at 3:30 a.m. In the dream, Kate and I were shopping together (this is one of the many ways I can distinguish dreams from reality). We were at a mall – The Easton Towne Center, maybe, home of Ye Olde Upper Middle Classe, or perhaps Polaris Fashion Place. In any event, it was one of those places where I feel profoundly uncomfortable and cynical, ready to make snarky comments about the walking mannequins and the dummies with wallets. And we encountered Kate’s former college roommate Molly.

Molly has not been a part of our lives for a long time. She and her husband were close friends for a while, but a messy divorce, and alienated kids, and a remarriage, and too many miles and too many years ended all that. We haven’t seen her or heard from her in more than a decade. But there she was, in my dream, arm in her arm with her new husband, walking through the mall. We greeted her. She looked at us. She recognized us. And she walked on without saying a word. Then I woke up crying.

You Freudians and Jungians can have a field day with that one. But here’s what was most disturbing. It got worse after I woke up. It was full-on existential dread. For you non-philosophers, imagine the sense of general well-being that usually permeates your day-to-day existence – your family, your friends, your health, your career, your accomplishments, whatever it is that provides that general coping/hanging-in-there equilibrium– and then imagine somebody turning on the Soul Vacuum and sucking that right out of you. Or maybe it was just this:

“The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:19-23)

No shit, St. Sherlock. Paul. Whoever. But I sure get that “groaning inwardly” part. It’s the sucker punch that comes when you are fifty years old and it’s 4:00 in the morning, and you are wide awake, staring at the ceiling, contemplating the wasted years, the endless unnumbered days that now are numbered, the countless times spent bored, high, disengaged, whatever it was that made you not fully present in the moment. And now you find that the moments cannot be recaptured, that there are whole sections of your life that are walled off from the present. But you can still see the trail of ghosts, unreachable, but all too recognizable. And you find that the older you get the longer the trail stretches – best men and ushers at your wedding, ex-friends and former lovers, people with whom you swore your commitment and your passion and your undying allegiance; now moved on or dead, the victims of too many miles and too many years or simple rigor mortis, relationships that were one-of-a-kind gems reduced to a yearly exchange of generic Christmas cards, or nothing at all -- all, every one of them, residents of the Kingdom of Gone.

This is why I am depressed. Nothing lasts. You invest in the good stuff – not stuff at all, it turns out, but people – and still nothing lasts.

“For in this hope we were saved.” (Romans 8:24) Damn you, St. Sherlock, you better be right. I’ve placed all the chips on that statement, let it ride on that one big lucky number. The hope of eternal life, the shaky bet that this world is not the end, that all of the lost relationships will be found, or will be caught up in something, someone, so big and so loving that they will seem irrelevant. Because they don’t seem irrelevant now. They hold the shape and form of those I have loved, but they are holes, empty air. I look and I know those shapes. But there is nothing there.

20 comments:

Scott Sloan said...

God Bless you Andy. I am praying for you and I am in the same boat, but maybe at different end of it. Depression sucks.

We'll talk more at homegroup tomorrow night.

John McCollum said...

You're beautiful, Andy.

Thanks for putting it into words.

I'm glad you're my friend.

danthress said...

It’s the sucker punch that comes when you are fifty years old and it’s 4:00 in the morning, and you are wide awake, staring at the ceiling, contemplating the wasted years, the endless unnumbered days that now are numbered, the countless times spent bored, high, disengaged, whatever it was that made you not fully present in the moment. And now you find that the moments cannot be recaptured, that there are whole sections of your life that are walled off from the present. But you can still see the trail of ghosts, unreachable, but all too recognizable. And you find that the older you get the longer the trail stretches – best men and ushers at your wedding, ex-friends and former lovers, people with whom you swore your commitment and your passion and your undying allegiance; now moved on or dead, the victims of too many miles and too many years or simple rigor mortis, relationships that were one-of-a-kind gems reduced to a yearly exchange of generic Christmas cards, or nothing at all -- all, every one of them, residents of the Kingdom of Gone.

This is why I am depressed. Nothing lasts. You invest in the good stuff – not stuff at all, it turns out, but people – and still nothing lasts.


These are very deep waters Andy. Thanks for speaking truthfully about faith rather than how it's portrayed on the news, ie: the evangilicals getting upset at Bush's Holiday cards.

Thanks for cutting through the bullshit. It's killing me too. Yes, it does have something to do with age.

df said...

andy, the honesty you put forth in when you bare your plague with depression is endlessly inspirational to me. it gave me enough confidence to be open about my own struggles.

i have been immeasurably helped by that little purple pill, too. even though it's white now. but whatever.

amy and i are going to visit cv this week, so it will be nice to see you and k8.

Karen said...

dan,
i'm sorry you are feeling this way. i really am. i am glad you are willing to do something that may help it. you shouldn't have to feel this shitty all the time. 4 am and up in tears? not cool.

i think you are wonderful. there is something comforting to me to see that you are still working on yourself. trying to rid yourself of the crap that we drag along. i see god working in you and it gives me hope for myself.

as john said, i'm glad you're my friend.

danthress said...

Karen, it's Andy's post.

indesignguy said...

Andy,

I love you brother. Hope to see you tomorrow night. I'll be praying for you.

b

Louise said...

I don't really know you, but I want to wish you well. Hang in there.

Karen said...

dan,
OOPS. i knew that, but for some reason i wrote your name. andy, i swear i knew it was you i was writing to.

but what the heck: dan, i'm glad you're my friend too. :D

-karen

Libby said...

Andy:

Thanks for sharing. I love you. Hang on.

-Libby

Andy T said...

I love you Andy.

Note the timestamp. I'm not so well myself.

I'd love to get together--invest some time together--not to co-miserate, but co-beatify.

~Andy

mg said...

thanks for sharing. you will be in our prayers.

i had a thought on your dream...perhaps God is trying to reconnect you guys with Molly...or at least prompt you to pray for her. Especially with something out of the blue like that, I would wonder if there isn't something deeper behind it all....

John McCollum said...

Andys,

Please come to homegroup tonight.

John McCollum said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John McCollum said...

Andy,

One of the great things about being a parent of young children is that I get to re-read stories that captivated my imagination as a young child.

This morning, I finished "A Wrinkle In Time." In the final chapters, young Charles Wallace -- a brilliant, sensitive, emotionally evolved little boy -- has been possessed by "IT," an malevolent and manipulative presence.

His sister, Meg, tries to rescue him through anger, brute force, and reasoning. In the process, she not only fails, she almost succumbs to "IT" herself. In the book's climactic scene, she remembers what an angelic counselor had told her, "I can't give you any gifts that you don't already have, but you can use the one thing you have that IT doesn't."

When Meg finally realizes that the unique gift she possessed was LOVE, she bravely entered IT's stronghold and spoke words of adoration and admiration and approval and affirmation to her brother until he was released from IT's icy grip.

Like Meg, we all have no keys to understanding depression, no miracle drugs. What we have for each other is love. So here I go:

I love you, Andy Whitman.

You, Andy Whitman enrich my life.

I am thrilled to have you, Andy Whitman, in my sons' lives. I think that they will be better men because of their interactions with you.

And Dan T? I love you, too. You too, Andy T, Jeff C, Mark K, and Brian E.

"IT" lurks at your door. But IT can't have you. We won't let IT.

danthress said...

...people with whom you swore your commitment and your passion and your undying allegiance; now moved on or dead, the victims of too many miles and too many years or simple rigor mortis, relationships that were one-of-a-kind gems reduced to a yearly exchange of generic Christmas cards, or nothing at all -- all, every one of them, residents of the Kingdom of Gone.

This is the part that won't reconcile in my checkbook. Sometimes, adding more people, more love, only makes the heartache worse. Cause, from my experience, all this, all you, will most likely end up in my kingdom of gone. This makes investing very difficult. I've loved hard, from both sides of the faith divide, and everything seems very temporary.

Andy Whitman said...

Dan, I think you're right. It doesn't reconcile. It never will. There will always be a deficit.

The only way I can process this without losing my mind (sometimes I suspect I'm not kidding) is to hold to the belief that this world is not the end. We live in a world where disappointment and a profound sense of loss come with the territory. I don't mean to be morbid, but it's true. Even the relationships that we count on to be the most longlasting and secure -- our marriages -- will come to an end. And we'll walk around with holes in our hearts. Or our spouses will if we die before them. That's reality.

St. Augustine writes about a "God-shaped hole," that part of our lives that will always be restless, will always know that profound sense of loss, until we find rest in God. I think that process starts in this life, and I've experienced real peace and real joy enough to know that it's not all pie in the sky.

But some of it is pie in the sky, and I don't mean that in a disaparaging way. Some of it will have to wait. We'll never experience that profound peace and rest until we are with Christ.

I'm holding out for that, and holding on to it, too. Sometimes it seems it's the only thing worth holding on to. And sometimes it seems as far off and as fanciful as a fairy tale. I don't know how to reconcile that, either. There's an old hymn that states "This world is not my home." I get that. That's about right. There are many days it feels nothing like a home. It's a big apartment, and the tenants keep leaving.

And so I cling to the belief that these lost relationships will one day come to fulfillment. I don't know exactly what that means or what that will look like. But Paul is correct when he states, "If we only hope in this life, then we of all men are most to be pitied." There's a hole deep in the heart of this life that cannot be healed.

In the meantime, there are temporary relationships that bring much joy. We're all terminal cases. It's all too short-lived. But I'm surely grateful that you're around for this season, one that I hope is a long and lingering one.

mommy zabs said...

Andy,
First off I'm sorry you are feeling this way. I too understand at times wanting that purple pill with the smiley face. That pill has been my friend before too. But being pregnant and nursing on and off for 2.5 years now i don't get it, and of course i get bumpy homone emotions to go with it all. I am sad you are feeling so sad. But I do appreciate your ability to articulate a way that I so often feel (minus the getting older part, I have not considered that yet but imagine I will as I get older). That verse in Romans really strikes me. It makes me feel like maybe in some sense my emotions and depression that I cycle through on and off are proof of my sanity. Where as sometimes when we are depressed I feel like we are made to feel less sane. Oh well, food for thought. Regardless we know we serve a good and loving God. And that is something I cling too. I'm so thankful we don't have to endure life without him.

yomama said...

nothing brilliant or profound to add andy, but you're not alone and i think you're great.

love,
maureen

KarlandBethany said...

Andy & Dan-

"This is why I am depressed. Nothing lasts. You invest in the good stuff – not stuff at all, it turns out, but people – and still nothing lasts." -Andy

"Sometimes, adding more people, more love, only makes the heartache worse. Cause, from my experience, all this, all you, will most likely end up in my kingdom of gone. This makes investing very difficult." - Dan

I understand.

I think THIS is what makes the holidays so hard for so many... including myself. Thank you for putting words to the feelings that I could not explain lately.

B--