Posts Tagged ‘Depression’

Mother’s Day is My Day?

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I’m over at Life & Liberty today thinking about Mother’s Day and why it’s hard for me to claim the day as mine. Click the title to read that post:

Why I’m Ambivalent about Mother’s Day

Disney’s Frozen and My Rant about the ‘Rents (Spoiler)

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The parents in Frozen inadvertently fueled the monstrous side of their daughter’s powers.

So, I’m pretty sure I’ve got a whole book in me about Disney’s Frozen because I like it so much and it really gets me thinking. I’m writing a pair of essays for Life & Liberty about what the movie can teach us about the use and misuse of power, but I wanted to insert this between those essays to expand on a problem I have with the parents in that movie.

*SPOILER ALERT* This essay discusses major plot points of the movie including surprising twists to the story. If you have not seen the movie and do not want to know how the story unfolds, do not read this essay.

In my first Frozen essay, Disney’s Frozen and the Misuse of Power, I wrote the following about the role that fear plays in how the main character misuses her powers:

As we get to know Queen Elsa, we see that she has a great struggle within herself that is grounded in fear. Her particular fear is that she will hurt someone with her powers just like when she accidentally struck her sister, Anna, with them in when they were children.

In all fairness, the wacky troll that heals Anna and the girls’ parents feed right into Elsa’s fears. The troll erases Anna’s memories of Elsa’s magic and warns Elsa that fear will make her powers more dangerous. The parents then keep Elsa away from other people—including Anna—as much as possible.

The more Elsa tries to conceal and control her powers, the more afraid she becomes and the more of a threat her powers present. So primal is her fear, that it manifests violently against others—including her beloved sister—in order to protect them from her.

I mentioned the parents in passing, but the truth is that they played a significant negative role in their daughters’ lives by keeping them apart, isolating Elsa, and hiding the truth from Anna.

I suppose it makes a more compelling story to have the girls grow up with this gulf between them. It makes it more dramatic when Anna–who has been shut out by Elsa for so long–stands between Elsa and the sword intended for her.

Locked Away

Storytelling devices aside, it’s pretty terrible to lock a girl away just because of one mishap with her powers.

As we see early on, Elsa’s powers can be used to create the most amazing, fun and beautiful playscapes. She and Anna enjoy the winter wonderland that she creates in the castle ballroom. The accident in which Anna gets struck by Elsa’s powers was because Anna was so absorbed in her enjoyment of her sister’s creations that she misjudged a jump from one snowy peak. It was only in trying to give Anna a safe landing place that Elsa accidentally struck her sister with her powers.

There was no malicious intent in Elsa’s actions. She was not some monster, she was a young girl with an extraordinary gift that accidentally got out of control once.

I understand that the parents were concerned for Anna’s safety. And they were concerned for the safety of their kingdom. I get that, I really do.

But there had to have been a better way. There just had to have been.

I’m not a perfect parent, but I do make a point to honor my kid for who he is. And I try to encourage his best gifts rather than squash his potential at the first sign of struggle.

The obvious key to Elsa harnessing her powers for good was the emotional support she received from Anna and others at the end of the movie. What if the parents had been giving that kind of support all along?

See, to me, that’s a big part of a parent’s job. As kids discover the range of their capabilities, parents are in a unique position to help their kids learn appropriate applications of their skills. Kids can live more fully into the positive & appropriate applications of their skills when parents come alongside them and allow them to practice using them.

I recognize that practice can be messy. There will be risks, missed marks, and set-backs. These are hard, but the best skills are worth honing for the good they can bring to our world.

But Elsa’s parents didn’t allow her to practice her powers. They decided for her that she shouldn’t because they assessed that the risks of her using them were too great. By imposing strict control on her and isolating her they seemed to think they could eliminate the risks associated with her powers.

At Risk

Risk-elimination, no matter how well-intentioned, is as destructive as it is naive. We can never eliminate all risks and to try to eliminate risks is only to introduce different risks.

People are not meant to live isolated lives of fear. We are given gifts and skills to be used for the good of others. When people don’t get to use their gifts then they are at risk for shame, self-loathing, and depression because of the belief that their skills are bad. And when our abilities are not harnessed and guided for good, then the risks get exponentially greater when our abilities manifest in negative or destructive ways.

And so, by trying to eliminate the risks of Elsa using her powers, the parents in Frozen made the situation worse. Elsa hated herself and her abilities and no matter how hard she tried to stop using her powers, they could not be contained. And not having practiced positive applications of her powers in a loving environment, she did not have the emotional resources to direct them for good.

On top of that, their deception of Anna came with additional risks. Of course, there was the obvious risk of Anna losing her favorite playmate. But beyond that, and I want to tread carefully here because I would not want to crush the spirit of a dear soul like Anna, but the parents never dealt with the risky behavior of Anna that led up to the accident with Elsa’s powers.

Anna was a free spirit and we love that about her. Nonetheless, learning to look before she leapt could have served her well in life. She loved and trusted easily which are admirable qualities, to be sure. But instead of helping her learn to manage the risks of her approach to life, the parents enabled her to remain oblivious to the dangers they posed.

And the risks of Anna’s approach to life were great. Let us not forget that the man who tried to kill Elsa was the man with whom Anna had jumped into engagement after singing and dancing with him for just a few hours. It was not Anna’s fault that Hans was a bad guy, but she was responsible for putting in charge of the kingdom a man she barely knew.

Of course, we know how the story ends and that Anna’s power of love saves the day. So, like I say, I wouldn’t want to squelch this power of Anna’s! But the parents could have been better resources for her as a child by allowing her to see the risks involved in loving and trusting so fully and so readily.

As I say, I realize that the situation the parents created sets up a great story. And this is only fiction. But those parents just bug me.

The Fragile Bond of Mother & Son

My son had a fall today and it was a sobering moment.

We had been goofing off when he fell backwards and hit his head. All I could do in that moment was to completely freeze because if I had reached for him as he was falling, the shift of my body would have made him fall harder.

I just waited and pictured the worst in my mind.

You know how they talk about people having their whole lives flash before their eyes? Well, in that moment when my son was free-falling, his whole life flashed before my eyes.

And, of course, what that meant was my entire career as a mother flashed before my eyes. And I thought about all the ways that I have let my child down.

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I can never quite decide if this portrait my son drew of me is flattering or frightening.

I’m pretty sure he doesn’t see it that way. He got up and let me comfort him and we both vowed not to try that stunt again.

He was a bit stunned and his head was a little sore, but he was okay. Nothing was broken and he was still alive and able to speak, hear and all that.

The worst case that I imagined had not occurred, not even close.

He was okay.

But I sobbed, uncontrollably.

I sobbed over what might have happened–that I might have lost my child in a fall that I was partly responsible for.

I sobbed thinking about the time when he was a babe in arms and we both fell and I almost lost him then too.

I sobbed thinking about the times that I am cranky or cross with him even when he has done nothing to deserve my bad attitude.

And I sobbed thinking of all the times when I have put him off when he has wanted me to play with him because I just wanted to finish writing or reading whatever I was working on.

And I sobbed thinking about how hard it was for me to bond with him when he was first born because my postpartum depression put such a whammy on me.

And I sobbed worrying if my bond with my son will be healthy and strong as he gets older.

And I just wanted to hold him and pray and hope that we will be okay.

And now, he is waiting for me to finish writing this so we can spend some time together…I want to make it count, because I really do love that kid more than I can say.

How The Internet is Almost as Funny as God

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Who knew the Internet and God had this one thing in common–a be-careful-what-you-wish-for sense of humor?

God recently showed his sense of humor when he answered my prayer for more preaching opportunities.

In my current setting I don’t have a formal, ongoing, paid position in my church. Instead, I use my Deaconess training* here and there with a mix of paid and volunteer tasks in my own church and in other churches around my area.

Some of my most favorite work–times I feel most alive–are the times when I get to preach or speak. I’m still working on developing a formal speaking ministry. But the preaching opportunities are easier to come by when neighboring pastors need back-up, so I prayed for more of them.

It had been months since I preached last, but then, this fall, my church invited me to preach our Advent series. That would be 3 chances to preach and I was thrilled! Then a neighboring pastor called me with an additional 3 dates this month for which he needed back-up.

Suddenly here was December with 6 chances to preach! I just had to laugh at God’s sense of humor in answering my prayer in such a big way!

In a similar way, the Internet showed its sense of humor when it challenged my fears about being relevant with my blog. Last week I wrote the post How Being “Relevant” Eludes Me (click the title to read that post) and I lamented to the Internet:

I have a ton of ideas about what I want to write about. But I just never know what’s going to resonate with people.

I watch my blog stats (the details that I can view as a blog administrator about how many visits there are to my blog and what posts are being viewed) more closely than I need to. And I fret when something I feel good about doesn’t get as many views as I wish it did. And I hope, in admitted vanity, that this blog will really take off.

I know all the right things I should be thinking about my blog–that if even one person is touched by my writing then I am doing good work here. And I am always, always glad to know when that one person is touched. Please keep writing comments and e-mails and Tweets and Facebook messages to let me know because, truly, that’s what keeps me going when one person at a time is indeed touched by my work.

But right or wrong, I want to reach more people. And sometimes I shake my fists at the Internet and ask, in all ignorance, “What’s it going to take?”

And the Internet seems not to answer.

And then I had this really crummy day when I almost didn’t write anything. Except I have been trying to write more often and I was determined to post on Monday or Tuesday. Monday was a migraine day and I truly could not write. So it was Tuesday or bust. And despite my depression knocking me down, the idea of skipping Tuesday was worse than the idea of cranking out something irrelevant.

And so, I wrote Eat, Sleep, Preach: A Deaconess in Depression (click the title to see that post) and that post got a lot of attention. In fact, it became my most viewed post ever! Wednesday was my all-time biggest day on the blog. Lots and lots of people reached out to me in one way or another to express empathy or appreciation for what I wrote. Thanks to all who supported me by reading, responding to, or sharing the post. I am deeply grateful.

And I had to laugh at the Internet’s way of giving me such a big day over a post that I almost didn’t write on a day when I just wanted to stay in bed.

See what I mean? God and the Internet are both hilarious!

* I was trained and consecrated by the Lutheran Deaconess Association (LDA), an independent Lutheran diaconate based in Valparaiso, Indiana. The LDA allows me to keep the title of Deaconess despite not having a formal call as they recognize a wide range of service as diaconal. For more about my journey of becoming a Deaconess, see my post How I Became a Deaconess (click the title to read that post).

Eat, Sleep, Preach: A Deaconess in Depression

My depression is knocking me down this week. The will to do anything is elusive. My sense of worth is shot.

It’s not rational it just is.

You can’t talk me out of it.

I can’t even talk me out of it.

I’ve had my ups and downs over time and I’ve been on a bit of an upswing lately–feeling good about my writing and podcasting and all that good stuff.

It was in an upswing that I decided to finally start writing for real. I was tired of letting my depression hold me back in life and tell me I wasn’t good enough and didn’t have enough to say. I told my depression to go straight to hell and I was going to do this thing.

But that damned depression is creeping up again.

I mean, there’s the normal-people self-doubt and comparison trap that I get into sometimes and those bring me down, but there’s always something or someone that helps snap me out of those.

But this week–I’ve just been a mess and there’s nothing that can snap me out of it. I’m just a tear-stained, frumpy-clothed mess.

AdventPreaching2013And I hate this part of my story.

I much prefer the part of my story in which I’m the shiny-happy preaching Deaconess. (See photo.)

I’ve heard people criticize social media because of the way that people carefully curate their image–showing only their good sides, posting only the favorable photos, sharing only the triumphant moments.

To be sure, I want you to know about my highs! I want to tell you about my latest podcast that I’m proud of! I want you to see the action shot of me preaching.

But you deserve to know about today and the other days like it. About how I didn’t want to get out of bed. About how I stayed in my pajamas until I got the text that my husband was on his way home for lunch. And about how when my husband got home for lunch he cooked and loaded the dishwasher while I sat in a corner in the kitchen and wept and poured out my tale of woe.

I want to be honest about the whole of this life of mine. I’m the preaching Deaconess and the lady who doesn’t want to get up until after noon.

I know my depression isn’t the worst in the world. I did make it out of bed, so that’s something.

And the fact that I’m at this keyboard is because, as I told my journal today, if I can do nothing else, I will write about my damn depression. Because I’m doing this writing thing no matter what.

God knows there is so much more I want–and need–to write about. There’s so much to say I could burst sometimes.

I don’t want to write about my depression, but it is the elephant in the room right now and it takes too much energy to ignore it. It won’t let me think of anything else right now. So I’m writing about it. Because I’m doing this writing thing.

Photo by: Melissa Wickel