Scott’s Column: Depression & Resilience
Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones
May 12 2021
Last week I was in a down mood for much of the week, so on Friday morning after I dropped Sebastian off for school, I headed to my favorite breakfast place, Lisa’s Radial Café, to read the newspaper, drink coffee, and eat pancakes. And from there headed out to Chalco Hills Recreation Area to walk along the unpaved trails through meadows and woods enjoying sunshine, birdsong, and lilacs. I felt much better.
Back in January I was in a dark hole. We had just announced our divorce. Plus there were all of the lingering effects of the last year from the pandemic, parenting full-time, remote schooling, getting tear gassed and shot in the back of the neck by a pepper ball, and more. As I was in that darkness, I reached out to a couple of friends and my sister, and they helped me craft my plan.
That night I emailed my physician and asked for an anti-depressant, which he prescribed me the next day and which has greatly helped. I talked to my counselor. I talked to my spiritual director, who suggested various prayer practices. I talked to a few friends with similar experiences for their wisdom and advice. I took book recommendations and began reading a lot of helpful material.
Getting my first vaccine shot in late January also greatly helped. I was fully inoculated by early March and was able to begin interacting more with friends and family, who were also getting their shots. Social life began to return, and I needed that.
My reading has helped. Brené Brown’s Rising Strong is about embracing our vulnerability and how to develop resilience. Esther Perel’s Mating in Captivity discusses the issues facing contemporary relationships. Bessel Van Der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score is about how trauma affects us physically and ways to heal. Katherine Woodward Thomas’s Conscious Uncoupling is an excellent guide for how to divorce well; I read that book in January and then returned to it in the Spring, working slowly through the exercises and spiritual practices it recommends.
Many of my mornings these days start with such reading and then a passage from the Bible. For Holy Week my spiritual director advised me to read through John’s version of the Passion narrative, praying with the text. It’s amazing what different words and phrases leap out at you from a familiar passage when you apply a new lens. Equipped with ideas from my reading, I’ll go for a morning walk during which I pray, reflect on the reading, and sometimes engage in a recommended meditation from one of the books. Most days I also pray a version of St. Patrick’s breastplate prayer, calling on the presence and power of Christ to surround me. When I get home I try to do at least 5-10 minutes of yoga, facing toward the east as the morning sun shines brightly through the windows. Namaste.
Nature of course helps with depression. Even in the winter, I would bundle up and go for long walks on various trails and am doing even more this spring. Back in the winter it was fun watching people walk, skate, and fish on frozen Standing Bear Lake. One morning in April I saw twenty-two deer in Chalco. These walks are also times to think, pray, and listen to music. Early on I was listening to a lot of medieval church music for the calm. On the day I got vaccinated it was the Scissor Sisters and there was a definite spring in my step. Another day in early January an old friend called, and we talked for a long time as I walked on the Field Club Trail. She shared from her experience and wisdom and ended the call by praying for me and singing to me. It was a blessing.
I’m glad for the arrival of spring so that I can garden, work on the yard, and fill my patio and porch with flowers. I’ve also added a lot of houseplants. They freshen the air, add visual interest, but also are something to tend. And I find comfort in the tending.
Because there were some gaps on my walls calling for new art, I’ve started looking for new pieces. A friend on Facebook posted a photo of some paintings I really liked by Patty Talbert, so I arranged to visit her studio and bought two. During the pandemic and the uprising for racial justice, Patty had painted a series of works looking for joy. I thought that fit perfectly with what I needed. Her painting is hanging in my home library, where I eat breakfast most mornings. Every day I look at her painting and am reminded of joy.
It’s been good to spend time with friends again. I’ve had a handful of people over or met them out for drinks and meals. Others have called and sent notes and messages.
I’m much better now than I was in January, though I’m still on the healing journey.
I don’t write this column because I’m seeking caring responses. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As a pastor I have always felt it important to be open and vulnerable and to give testimony to my faith journey and how spirituality intersects with the various aspects of life. In this season I have good news to share about coping with a life crisis, building resilience, and healing from mental illness. I’ve been finding the rituals, practices, and treatments that are helping me. If you find yourself in such a season of life, I encourage you to reach out and get help and to use the tools available to you.