Mental Health: Specifically, Mine

I’m giving myself permission to do a bad job right now. Sometimes when I do that it turns out to be better than when I try to do a good job. I’m sure there’s a lesson in that, but I refuse to learn it. In any case, what I’m about to write is expected to be short, narcissistic, and not very helpful. I say this because I should have written this on Monday, so that the newsletter can go out in a timely fashion. But every time I turned to writing, I just stared, wondering what to say. So now I’m just going to say what I’m thinking, whether it’s helpful or not.

Today, I did not want to get out of bed. This happens sometimes. Getting out of bed means dealing with the world. First, the cats. Then texts and phone calls and emails. Depending on the day, the dogs might be downstairs, waiting for me to disappoint them.

We talked about mental health on Sunday and I felt good about it. I think I even suggested that I’ve got a pretty good handle on this stuff. I was overconfident. It’s amazing how quickly it slips away. But before I go down that rabbit hole, let’s talk about some good things that came out of the conversation on Sunday.

First, this series began with the suggestion that we are not as welcoming as we could be to people with disabilities. As we looked at physical disabilities, I think that’s true. But looking at mental disabilities, specifically mental illness, I think we do pretty well. I know that I have been able to share my own experience. It’s very rare for ministers to be able to do so. We’re supposed to have our shit together so that you feel comfortable bringing us your shit. But the reality is that it creates a two-way judgment where parishioners feel shame for their struggles and ministers feel the pressure of having to be perfect. It’s one reason suicide among ministers is higher than average. One aspect of striving for a non-hierarchical church is that I don’t have to be the exemplar. My only promise is that I’m walking the same roads you are even if I’m not sure where they go. So thank you for the blessing of your presence, for walking with me on this journey.

Second, one of the benefits of everyone feeling comfortable sharing their struggles is that we can see how particular those struggles really are. There was a good kind of tension in the conversation, I think, around the value of medical interventions in treating mental illness. Some have found it to be a key to survival. Some find it destructive for them. It’s important to listen to each person’s experiences and support them in whatever way they need. Personally, I don’t want medication and, generally, I find that mindfulness and therapy are helpful. Sometimes writing a public journal like this is good for me, if not for you.

My depression is situational, even if I don’t always know what the situation is. I usually notice the anxiety first, then I try to figure out why it’s there. I mentioned that over the past couple of months, a lot of mundane stuff broke in my life and fixing it was always more complicated than I expected it to be – and in some cases I made it more complicated by my own inability to deal with the mundane. But now I’m through all that and I was feeling better. Until this week.

I think the current situation is that I’m feeling anxious about what lies ahead. I had some good ideas, I think, and that led me to make promises that I’m not sure I can keep. I fear that over the next few weeks y’all will finally figure out what a fraud I am, how much I take advantage of your good graces, that you, like my dogs who only love me, will be disappointed again.

I said on Sunday that we should make friends with our demons. I’ve been fighting this one instead. As expected, that just gave it more power. It shut me down, paralyzed me. Now, through this writing, we’re having an awkward conversation. We’re not friends yet, but we’re starting to see each other. Maybe that will be enough so that I can fold laundry and go to Ikea for those cabinets we’re going to build tonight – and don’t forget to order the pizza. Maybe if I can do those things, then I can read all the things I need to read and write all the things I need to write and maybe someday be the minister that I need to be. (See? Not friends, yet.)

At least I feel like I kept one promise: short, narcissistic, and not very helpful. You’re welcome.

Comments 3

  1. Scott, you always amaze me with how great you are at being a real human. You are honest and vulnerable, and I am grateful for you even when you forget to order pizza. I’d trade you for a “together” pastor any day. To make friends with this demon might be to begin to see the ways they are valuable for your ministry. I feel permission to be human. Thank you.

  2. Scott,
    Your comments today are very helpful. You are an authentic person of faith. That is inspirational.
    Thank you for the courage to be authentic. It’s a blessing.
    Isabel Docampo

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