The Black Dog, The White Pill, and Liturgy

The Black Dog, The White Pill, and Liturgy January 15, 2016


My name is Jonathan.

I suffer from depression. I have as long as I can remember, although I didn’t always know it was there or what its name was.

I’m okay most of the time now. Some days are still better than others. Some months, too.

But I have strategies. I have routines. In one of the more hilariously ironic (and lifesaving) moves I’ve ever made, I married a mental health therapist. Before her, I didn’t have a name for how I felt. Now I know, and I’m thankful for that.

Oh, and I take pills.

Wellbutrin is like a sacrament in my life. It’s a gift, a grace. The nightly discipline of popping the little white pill helps bring me back to my senses. It lets me feel like myself. It helps me be productive and kinder to the people who matter most. But some days, and like so many before, I’ll feel the little shadow creep up on me once again.

Of course, the deep-fried, Southern Baptist Christianity of my upbringing didn’t jive with the whole being depressed thing. It said so, and continued to say so through crystal-clear remembrances of pastors and Sunday School teachers and R.A. leaders from days gone by. And the things they said were horrifying.

“All you need is Jesus,” they said.

I’ve already found Jesus. And I still feel awful.

“People who know Jesus don’t just walk around feeling sorry for themselves.”

I can’t help it. Maybe I don’t really know Jesus. Maybe I’m going to hell.

“Modern psychology is a lie! God’s put his own anti-depressants right there in the Bible. Claim his promises and you’ll feel better.”

I must not be doing it right. I must not have found the right verse.

“Depression means there is sin in your life. If you’re depressed, you must repent!”

I repent. All the time. For everything. Even when I’m pretty sure I’m not doing or saying or thinking anything wrong.

“Whenever you feel bad, just praise and worship, and all your troubles will melt away.”

That’s not the worshiping. That’s the kick-drum. And it doesn’t work. Not for long, at least.

I  tried not to believe this crap, of course, but it’s hard when it’s what you’ve been taught by the people and institution you trust.

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