My God, my God, why have You abandoned me? Why are You so far away from helping me, so far away from the words of my groaning? My God, I cry out by day, but You do not answer—also at night, but I find no rest. (Psalm 22:1-2)

KeithHere are two men that I knew—

  • Keith was rather young while the other, well, George was as old as me … and that’s ancient!
  • Both were energetic extroverts!
  • Both were enormously talented!
  • Both were extremely industrious!
  • Both suffered with chronic depression!
  • Both walked the wasteland of despair never to return!

george 1Sometimes reporters will offer a “full disclosure” statement before relating a story, acknowledging their personal relatedness to the news. So, here’s my disclosure … though perhaps not so “full.” Shortly after I retired from pastoral ministry I had a psychotic break; or, as Archie Bunker might say, I “cracked up!” Diagnosis: acute anxiety and chronic depression. I spent five days in lockdown at Pine Rest, a wonderful psych joint (I mean that sincerely!). I’ll spare you all the other details. Suffice it to say—I often wander in the wasteland of despair.

So, when I began the Basics of Life blog, I determined to do a little part in mental illness / health awareness via Mental Health Monday. My intention is to connect with those who identify with the words of the Apostle Paul: “We do not want you to be unaware the trouble that happened in Asia. We were under great pressure—so far beyond our strength that we despaired even of living.”

Secondly, I hope to shed a glimmer of light in the devastating darkness that hovers over mental illness. C.S. Lewis wrote: “Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and more difficult to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say ‘My tooth is aching’ than to say ‘My heart is broken.’”

By the way, the young man is Keith. From early childhood he was a part of our church fellowship. He became a talented carpenter. George was a seminary classmate and ministerial colleague for 25 years. Without exaggeration he was one of the most influential leaders in our denomination.

Tomorrow I will share both an inspiring testimony and positive news about mental illness research that the National Institute of Health is finding. Stay tuned! In the meantime note this word from Henri Nouwen: “The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares.”

With deep empathy I offer this post to Gary, Camille, Dale and Bonnie.