“Shit! I Think I’m Depressed Again!”

Depression is a word to describe feeling bad or frustrated or sad or fed up or mad and all kinds of other emotions and circumstances. Marriages get depressed and so do churches and businesses. Cities get depressed as when the Canucks lost the final game of the Stanley Cup (June 15, 2011) and hooligans rampage. It is such an encompassing term and confusing experience that any sensible person will misunderstand when someone says “Shit! I think I am depressed” (as a client friend said to me the other day).

So… here is some of what I see when a person says that they or their family are “sick of being sad.” (It’s like when…)

  • Persistent sameness and consistent sadness (like when a couple watch TV most nights to avoid conversation or conflict)
  • Heavy tiredness and sapping of energy (like when a young Mom can’t get out of bed to care for her newborn)
  • Zapped self-confidence (like when a real estate salesman avoids meeting people for fear of rejection)
  • Difficulty concentrating (like when the at-home computer consultant who does everything and never completes a task)
  • Not being able to enjoy things that are usually pleasurable or affirming (like when couples are too bored to make love)
  • Finding it hard to function at work (like when the restaurant server who keeps getting fired for flipping off guests)
  • Worrying about suicide and death (like when a church teen wonders excessively about heaven and hell)
  • Self-harm (like when a preteen girl is compulsed with avoiding food)
  • Undue feelings of guilt or worthlessness (like when the OCD who figures only 100% is ever good enough)
  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness (like when a grade 4 boy who is scared of school)
  • Avoiding people (like when a friend is afraid of getting hurt or harmed so keeps away from even closest friends)

So what do you do? Find someone (a pastor, a counsellor, a friend) who will listen and care and maybe pray. Or contact us to see if we can provide some direction or a referral.

How Talk to Your Counsellor about Sexual Brokenness (Guest Blog)

One of my client-friends read my last blog about “How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex” and she commented, “There is lots of information about this topic in books and on the web. The harder one is “how to talk to your counsellor about sexual brokenness.”

My comment? “You’re on!” Here is what she wrote.

Like much else, sexual healing can begin with the decision to become well, based on the belief we are intended to be so.  Once the decision is made we have a foundation. Healing can be built. Progress can be measured.

The next step can be a hard one to take — speaking.

Why is this hard? Our culture’s obsession with all things sexual creates the illusion that we are all experts. We are not. Understanding our own sexuality remains challenging. For some, the effort to speak of the sexual pain woven into personal history is daunting, even near impossible.

We may  feel that as adults we should know how to speak the language of sexual confidence and identity. But when that confidence and identity is exactly what has been so deeply hurt, we find ourselves without words.

Conversations that build a language rich in affirmation of our decision to become well are initially more important than conversations disclosing the details of “what happened.”  Speaking too soon about “what happened” can potentially repeat, or even increase, the hurt we carry. Having words to describe our goal of wellness for all parts of our life and being gives us hope, and hope protects us.

Once this language of sexual wellness is learned, there can be greater confidence of being seen in the light of the sexual identity we are aiming for. If I can say what I want, perhaps I can be what I want. This new language can ease the grip that sexual pain from the past has on self image. It seems a slow process, but our hunger for affirmation quickly renders words of hope familiar and we find ourselves becoming comfortable in the foreign land of healthy sexual identity long before we arrive.

The Ways of a Listener

“I can’t speak with you right now. I am in the middle of a sentence.”

“You know, you don’t have to say everything you know.”

I learn great things from my client friends. The first comment came from a couple interchange that was lively, funny, heated, pointed – good conflict, in other words. The second comment was reported by a man who discovered that he didn’t have to win every argument, position himself in every discussion or make a comment on the wary ways of his teenagers.

There are thought to be three basic styles of listening, one better than the other two.

1) The first is “listening to be right.” Competitive listening happens when we are more interested in winning a verbal war or promoting your own point of view, than in understanding somebody else or their thoughts. It is the communication style of the arrogant (“Knowing it all, why would I waste time understanding someone else?”).

2) In “hearing” (“I heard what you said!”) the listener is passive, meandering in and out of the verbal stream, not engaged enough to make a comment, not passionate enough to disagree, and not thoughtful enough to carry the conversation further. Weak and wimpy or, at best, distracted and dismissive, less a communication style than a communication impairment.

3) Participative listening creates a partnership, a team activity with all the cooperation and friction this implies. Engagement is high because you are interested, expressing interest and inviting interest. It is interesting conversation and it goes somewhere and with some panache (a word my Dad used which still sounds wonderfully soul-ish to me).

It might be helpful to know the ways of a listener. I feel myself irritated with me when I listen to prove my rightness; and I feel even more miserable when I sense someone is waiting to find my logical fault. But I love talking when there is an interchange of meaning and (e)motion. It feels to me like being a member of a motorcycle gang (the friendly kind), all of us moving in the same direction, creating lots of lovely Harley noise, and with élan (another word my Dad used to use).

Creating Space — Loneliness

“When we feel lonely we keep looking for a person or persons who can take our loneliness away. Our lonely hearts cry out, ‘Please hold me, touch me, speak to me, pay attention to me.’ But soon we discover that the person we expect to take our loneliness away cannot give us what we ask for. Often that person feels oppressed by our demands and runs away, leaving us in despair. As long as we approach another person from our loneliness, no mature human relationship can develop. Clinging to one another in loneliness is suffocating and eventually becomes destructive. For love to be possible we need the courage to create space between us and to trust that this space allows us to dance together.” (Henri Nouwen)