Thursday, March 23, 2017

A sermon, a devotion, and a few scattered thoughts

Hello blog-reading-type-friends,

Wanted to share a few things with you:

I had a short reflection published in Georgetown University's daily Lent devotional, which you can read by clicking here.

I also preached this past Sunday at Dumbarton United Methodist Church, as part of their "Unpacking Church Words" Lenten series. My "church word" was grace. You can listen to the sermon here; the texts were Exodus 32:9-14, Ephesians 2:4-10, and this comic strip:

So check all that out if you're interested.

As far as "Lithium for Lent" is going: I'm at the part of my book-writing project right now where I'm doing some reflection on medication and meaning. Here's a short excerpt from one of my favorite books on the topic, John Swinton's Resurrecting the Person: Friendship and the Care of People with Mental Health Problems, with references to sociologist David Karp:
The act of taking medication for mental health problems is a clear affirmation that the person has a stigmatized emotional disorder, and as such, requires a dramatic redefinition of his or her concept of "self." .... One of Karp's interviewees puts it thus: "I didn't want to be told that I had something that was going to affect the rest of my life, and that could only be solved by taking pills. It was sort of definitive. I had a label, and it was a label that I thought was pejorative." Thus, even if medication does reduce symptoms and allow a person to achieve a better quality of life, this does not necessarily mean that the person will perceive the medication in a favorable way. In my experience this deeper meaning ot the process of taking medication, highlighted by Karp, is highly significant with regard to the care of people with mental health problems (pg 73-74). 
So, that's a brief synopsis of the problem that I'm supposed to be reflecting on and addressing. I've done some writing on it before, like this post called "Lithium and a Prayer." 

But I'm having a bit of trouble concentrating on it, for several reasons, one of which is this:

Questions of meaning aside, my medication makes me feel kind of crappy all the time.

Don't get me wrong. "Crappy" is better than "breakdown." "Crappy" is better than "hospitalization."

But it's still...just...crappy.

I don't want to whine about it too much. It isn't the worst or most awful thing. It just is what it is -- a a stomach ache, a wee bit of nausea, a sort of steady low energy. Just...crappy.

So here I am, trying to be really articulate and reflective about medication and meaning and spirituality and all these themes I'm trying to weave together in this book I'm writing, while trying to scrape together the various part-time jobs and commitments I have, and feeling, overall, just a bit crappy.

And so maybe that will be the chapter title for the book:

"Just a Bit Crappy."

Which is a better way to feel, anyway, than nothing at all.

So maybe, if you get a chance, just say a quick prayer for me. Oh, and I'm almost to the point where I'll be sharing book excerpts on my Patreon site, so if you haven't already visit over there and maybe become a patron. Thanks!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Lithium for Lent

Hi folks,

As you probably know if we're friends on Facebook, last month I had a bit of a rough time, mental health wise. One of the effects of that was that I stopped updating the podcast, so I wanted to do a quick recording and share it with folks who follow the podcast, just explaining what was going on and talking a bit about my plans for the podcast. If you're interested in that, check out this short episode of Fooling with Scripture:
  Here's the gist of what's been going on with me:

I lost track of the basics.

By "the basics" I mean, I wasn't sleeping right, I wasn't eating regularly, and because I wasn't eating regularly, I stopped taking my medication regularly. I wasn't doing the Mental Illness 101 stuff that I know I need to do to keep myself healthy and on my feet.

And so I crashed. And it sucked. And it meant canceling things, and backing out of commitments, and not being able to help Leigh out with things, and every time something like this happens, I worry that I will lose friends, or colleagues, or jobs, or trust. And to some extent, some of those things might be true. And the anxiety that comes with that makes the mental health issues I struggle with even worse.

(It is, by the way, entirely appropriate for you to point out the irony that the post before this one on my blog is about self-care.)

I've gotten back on my feet, and things are getting better. I'm back to the basics. And what I've decided to do for Lent is to focus on my mental health, not as a selfish thing, but as a way to contribute to the health of my community and to keep myself in a space where I can hopefully do some work for the common good.

I'm calling this effort "Lithium for Lent," because who doesn't love a good alliteration? I'm going to be focusing on the basics. I'm also going to start going to a support group, something I haven't done in a long time. And I'm going to be using Monica Coleman's book Not Alone as a daily devotional.

I'm also going to be sharing some blog reflections about mental health and mental illness. Not every day. I'm not going to force it. Some of these might even be previews of my book, or at least things I'm working out for my book. But I will share what reflections come up in this time, if any.

So that's where I am right now. Today is Ash Wednesday. In the Ash Wednesday service, while people are receiving ashes, we usually say something like: "Remember from dust you've come, and to dust you'll return. Repent and believe the gospel."

Which is sort of like saying;

"Remember you are human, mortal, limited. You've come from dirt and you'll return there, so return to that, and believe the good news."

The good news here isn't, "You're more than human." It's "You're human. You're limited. That's exactly where God's grace meets you, in your mortality and your flesh and your dustiness and your limits."

So I'm entering a season of remembering my limits, remembering my humanity, my mortality. Honoring my limits. Re-seeing them as holy, as exactly the place where God's grace meets me.

If I have let you down or disappointed you or strained your trust over the past month, I pray you will forgive me. But more than that, I am praying for the remembrance of dust, and limits, and good, good news.