My depressed mind

Psalm 31

Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
          my eye wastes away from grief,
          my soul and body also.
10  For my life is spent with sorrow,
          and my years with sighing;
     my strength fails because of my misery,
          and my bones waste away.

11  I am the scorn of all my adversaries,
          a horror to my neighbors,
     an object of dread to my acquaintances;
          those who see me in the street flee from me.
12  I have passed out of mind like one who is dead;
          I have become like a broken vessel.
13  For I hear the whispering of many —
          terror all around! —
     as they scheme together against me,
          as they plot to take my life.

My strength fails because of my misery. Yes, I get that. Depression, as they say, is the absence of vitality, not the absence of happiness, though those things can quite easily go hand in hand. Parts of my body hurt for no discernible reason. I am dragging. I am unfocused and unmotivated. This is how depressions hurts.

I find it interesting that the Psalmist adds to the list of his depressive symptoms the scorn of both his neighbors and his adversaries. Of course, he would be the scorn of his adversaries. That’s what adversaries are for. But he’s also “a horror to his neighbors”, “an object of dread to his acquaintances”. How much of this is in the Psalmist’s mind? How much of it is his perception of what people must be thinking of him because it is how he sees himself? Adding to the fact that many think less of him, he is also troubled by those who think of him less. “I have passed out of mind like one who is dead”. It is not just the hurt of the adversary or the distain of the casual passerby, it is the sense that loved ones no longer think about him or care for him. That his state has sunk so low that he is nothing but a faint memory to his friends and family. These are the tricks that depression plays on your mind.

Tradition holds that it is David who wrote these words and that he wrote them in a dark period of his life. So it is natural for him to have these sorts of feelings. And of course it is easy to jump to the portions of the Psalm where he returns to proclaiming his faith in God because, heaven forbid that we dwell on the sadness, loneliness and despair.

Right now, my brain is playing tricks on me. It is telling me of the horrible person I am and reminding me of the horrible things I have done. It is telling me that I deserve nothing good. It is getting in the way of my doing the things I enjoy. The fact that I can step outside of myself and see this happening is, in fact progress, but it does not make the hurt go away. I confess that I am depressed and broken. I wish that I could escape from my brain.

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