Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Pills for spiritual crises

I just came across this post from one of my favorite bloggers, Finslippy. My heart goes out to her because I know exactly how she feels. Exactly. I dealt with the feelings she describes in that post -- the sleepless nights, looking around at everyone else thinking, "How can you act like you don't know!", the total despair -- for seven years. Eventually intellectual laziness and getting a crazy job pulled me out of it, but I still fight those feelings occasionally. In fact, having a recurrence of these feelings is what threw me into an urgent search for religion.

Reading her post now, it strikes me as a good old fashioned spiritual crisis. It's bound to happen to smart people who aren't particularly religious. It says a lot about our culture that she was encouraged to see a psychiatric professional who diagnosed her with a syndrome and put her on medication to make her feel better. There was a time when she would have been encouraged to see a priest, which surely would have been a better call. Even if you're not Christian, what people in those situations need to do is have deep, intense discussions about the meanings of life and, most importantly, death. Taking a pill may make you forget for a while, but it doesn't change the facts of the situation, and the feelings will bubble up again sooner or later.

The heavy, heart-sinking feeling that Finslippy describes is what keeps me going in this little spiritual quest of mine, even when it seems hopeless. Because even if I never end up believing anything, I must find something that I can raise my son to believe. Even if I'm not sure it's true, it's better than the alternative. I never want him to feel that way.


At October 06, 2005 8:19 AM, Anonymous Steve G said...

All I can do is empathize and keep encouraging. In that effort I'll share just a bit of my own anecdotal experience.

My own spiritual quest began exactly as you describe. I still remember the day I was in the shower, eyes closed, and.....WHAM! It hit me like a punch in the gut. Holy S..., I thought, I am going to die! We all are! I was terrified! I literally ran out of the shower, dripping and naked and wept in my wife’s arms for what seemed like hours (she probably thought me nuts, but never said so).

That was the beginning of a serious depression that lasted not nearly as long as your own. I went to see a help. I babbled endlessly about it to my wife and parents (I am eternally thankful to both of them for putting up with my insufferable chatter during thatt period). No help. Finally, the thought occurred, maybe there is an answer in faith. I began the search. After years of searching, reading, studying, praying, talking, etc., during which I continued to have on and off bouts of depression rooted in the prospect of death, I finally came to accept that God existed.

Like yourself, believing at first was an intellectual exercise that gave 'some' limited solace, but not a lot. But the proof is in the pudding as they say. As the message of hope began to be understood (by me), the message began to pervade my thoughts, to seep into my being. The hope overwhelmed the fear because it’s a stronger and truer thing. My paradigm slowly changed from seeing the world in terms of death, to seeing it in terms of hope. I want to emphasize ‘slowly’. This didn’t happen over night, in fact it took years of diligently continuing (and still continuing) to seek God. Nor does it mean that one never has fear or doubts again. But the overwhelming power of hope continues to dominate. It does get better, bit by bit, but it only gets better by living the life. It’s a bit like Pascal’s wager (the real wager, not the matrix) that if you can live ‘as if’ you believe for one year, you ‘will’ believe at the end of the year. The life of faith proves itself to you. Have hope!


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