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BETTER THAN EXPECTED
July 16, 2008
 
There were dire warnings of dreadful heat and humidity for today; it would be hot enough to wilt the briskest of spirits. But it's turned out to be not that bad here. We haven't even needed to turn on the fan upstairs. Sometimes the terrible things a person expects to happen just don't. You gear up for the worst, and then an anticlimactic little inconvenience is all you get. It's almost a disappointment; now where am I going to put all that worry?

Somewhere far away, I hope. Worry beforehand has so little to do with what actually happens -- it neither causes nor cures anything, ever. I do not think it prepares us for misfortune in any good way -- it simply gives us the chance to experience every sorrow twice, once before it happens and then again when it does. I, for one, would rather be strolling down the sidewalk without a care in the world and be crushed by a falling baby grand piano than creep fearfully around every corner, afraid that something bad is lurking on the other side.

Well, but if you had known about the baby grand, you wouldn't have walked down that street. You would have taken a different route. Maybe, maybe not. They fall fast, those baby grands. By the time I had enough information about the impending disaster to choose another route, the piano would already be on the ground, with me flat as a cartoon beneath it.

Of course, such sensible reasons not to worry are only effective for people who already don't. Those for whom anxiety is a regular visitor can't turn it off easily in response to reasonable and convincing argument. Chronic fear is not about lack of information: it comes from within. The same is true with chronic sorrow: it does no good to point out to the sufferer that she is really blessed in many ways, that things aren't really so bad, that many other people have it much worse, even if all those things are true. Depression comes from within, not from outside us.

There can be so many reasons for these internal woes. The brain's chemistry authors many of them, and they improve markedly with the right medicine rightly managed. The trauma of early life or current stress often contributes to this sorry chemical soup, and often the right talk therapy or behavioral therapy helps. So do some other things, a few of them more than a little strange. Many people spend years struggling to understand themselves and to heal.

For many years, I've thought about how religious faith helps or hinders this struggle, which is my own and that of many others. Just how prayer might be a means toward healing, and how difficult it can be for those afflicted in this way to pray at all. How hard it can be to heed and act on Jesus' words: Let not your hearts be troubled, without either lying or sounding falsely pious or glib. My next book is about this, and I am finding it a challenge to write, though I am not always certain just why.

I would love to hear from anyone who has lived with depression, or is living in its grip right now -- simply reply t this eMo. No two of us are alike, but God is with all of us, no matter what. Perhaps what we have learned from our lives will be of use to others. I hope so. That would redeem a lot.
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