Day 11 of my medical leave. I learned a few things today. Some good, some less good, but all hopefully helpful in this journey to wellness.
First, I learned that I have a vitamin D deficiency. Among all the things I was tested for, this was probably the least serious, and the easiest to remedy. I’m now taking a daily supplement, and my level should stabilize within a few months. Apparently vitamin D is connected most clearly to bone strength, and this deficiency, if not remedied, may have put me at risk for several bone diseases. There is some evidence, however, that a D deficiency is correlated with depression. From what I’ve read, it seems like it’s not clear which is the cause and which is the effect, however. Does this vitamin deficiency lead to depression, or does depression lead to the deficiency? (One thing I read even suggested that folks who are depressed tend to stay indoors, so that could lead to a lower level of vitamin D, which is produced by the skin in response to sunlight.) Either way, it doesn’t hurt to take the supplement. Either it will help the depression, or it will reduce the chances of developing something else as a complication of the depression. I don’t think I’ll ever know if it helps, actually, because of the timeframe. From what I’ve read, it takes months for the body to restore itself to normal levels of vitamin D. By that point, I will have tried so many other things to work on this. (In all honesty, I am being a terrible scientist. Trying a bunch of things at the same time is no way to learn anything. However, I’m not in this as a scientist, but as a person who just wants to feel better.)
I also learned (again) that deleting all the games from my phone in an attempt to stop playing doesn’t accomplish anything. Within an hour, I’d downloaded a new one.
I learned that I continue to struggle with what God’s grace means in my life. I have so many good things going for me…a good childhood, wonderful parents, wonderful children, a wonderful wife. Many good friends I can rely on for anything. Plenty of money for what I need and a lot of what I want, a job I usually enjoy, a congregation who is so supportive and caring. Not to mention all the privileges I was born with: I’m a white, straight, cisgendered middle-class American man. It doesn’t get much more privileged than that. And while I am glad that I have all these privileges and relationships, I find it hard to attribute them to God’s grace. And here’s the reason: not everyone has this. I am comfortable saying that God is with us no matter what, because that’s something I can say (and have said, in many sermons) to anyone, no matter their station in life. And I do believe that God is with me through this journey, walking beside me, holding me at times, kicking me at times, but always there. But it’s hard for me to attribute good things to God. Why would God gift me with this, but not you? This is the question of evil that theologians have wrestled with for centuries…I know I’m not breaking any new ground here. But it’s hard. If I can’t attribute my blessings to God, then what are they? Just luck? On the other hand, if I do attribute them to God, then what does that mean? Why am I the recipient of these special gifts? Why me? I’m grateful for them, truly I am. But I just want to know why me?
Another, somewhat connected, thing I learned is that I don’t view joy or happiness as a normal part of my life. I certainly experience them, but they don’t linger. They’re fleeting. Feelings of sadness and self-loathing and fear have a nest inside me; they roost comfortably in my soul, but joy? Happiness? They’re just passing through, spending a night while they migrate elsewhere. Psalm 30 says, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” My experience is the opposite. For me, joy may endure for a while, but guilt and sadness are here to stay. I’m going to work on this with my spiritual director over the next weeks and months.
And finally, I learned that I’m not out of the woods yet. I’ve had a nasty low today. Started this afternoon, and I’m still in it now. Frankly, I’m surprised that I wrote anything. But I’m grateful that I did. I’m on the path. Still near the beginning, but I’m on the path. I think.