Thursday, December 21, 2006

Fighting For Joy: 20 Must Haves

I made a promise in prior posts to dedicate a future post to my list of the top 20 items I believe I must have in place in my life in order to fight well and persevere through depressive "seasons". The future is at hand. The list is nothing near extraordinary as it contains what most might construe as common sense. Nevertheless, a list is a list, and being bent toward the conventional, lists are helpful.

You could jump ahead and read the list. But please come back to this part and try to understand the reason I even have a list in the first place. The list serves a greater goal to become more like Jesus. The list is not in existence so that I eliminate depression from my life. My goal is not to make depression go away and to never have a "dark" thought again. I used to make incredible jumps in my thinking about the cause of depression and I would conclude that depression is a terrible thing and must be avoided at all costs (especially for a man.) I believed pain from depression must be soothed no matter what. I would conclude that if I am depressed then there is something massively wrong with me and I am somehow outside of God's grace and mercy when I am depressed. This is hindsight please understand. I never actually verbalized that I thought I was outside of God's grace. But I see now that I lived those thoughts out - by listening to what depression was telling me and obeying its commands, and thus staying depressed. Depression became a style of relating for me, a way of interacting with the world and the people in it, and with God.

I realize I just described my battle with depression in past tense. The battle though is a current, present reality that I will engage for the rest of my life. One day though it will be over. This is not fatalistic thinking. It is the already-not-yet Kingdom of God.

The goal of fighting depression is not to eliminate depression but to grow and become more like Christ. I have come to a belief (but not to a complete understanding) that God in his sovereign control over all things, grants me depression so that my heart breaks and turns from the things of this world and to Jesus. With that said, belief is one thing and living it out is another. I live with hope that God will complete His work. I don't grab hold of depression and live comfortably with it (that would be living in sin by deploying strategies of sin management) but I see depression as a summation of everything that is in my heart that is against God. Therefore, I fight it because I am fighting sin itself, and fighting sin is what God commands.

The List
  1. Grace infused resolve to fight for joy.
  2. Daily Prayer - with focus on other people.
  3. Getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night
  4. Exercising at least 5 times per week. Cardio for 30 minutes at least 3 times a week.
  5. Nutrition. Moderate carbs. Moderate protein. Low sugar (I didn't say no sugar) Prolonged sugar use really whacks out my blood sugar levels. Lots of water. Vitamin supplements.
  6. Managing back pain. Stretching and Flexibility.
  7. Avoiding alcohol use.
  8. Maintaining body weight no more than 200 lbs.
  9. Discipline in Life Management: Managing finances. Managing time. Having a schedule. Managing stress at work.
  10. Seeking forgiveness from wife and kids.
  11. Reminding myself of God's big picture. My purpose in it. My identity in Christ.
  12. Being honest with those I trust and who understand my desire to align life with God's grand story. I must also allow them to keep me accountable to what I say I believe.
  13. Avoiding excessive use of caffeine for energy.
  14. Avoiding a lifestyle of procrastination and clutter.
(The list of 20 items got pared down to 14. If I worked more on it, I could get it down to 10 or under I am sure.)


Carla said...

Thank you for this, Pat. You are helping more people than you know by sharing your struggle. Fight the good fight, babe!

erin said...

If these 14 items are not in place, is it impossible to fight? Or just harder? This is very interesting to me because it's a struggle that hits very close to home. Thanks for sharing, Pat!

PS said...

Erin, I will answer but in another posting. I promise to post sooner than later though.