By the Rev. Dr. Amy Gohdes-Luhman
You don’t want to be around me on Tuesdays. I am not nice. And there is nothing worse than a mean minister, except a mean minister faking nice.
I try really hard to be sure that I am not in the office on Tuesdays. Or at least not in the mornings. I am usually fine by the afternoon.
My unscientific hypothesis on why nearly every Tuesday begins as a down day for me, is that on Tuesdays I experience an adrenaline drop. Or some sort of chemical or emotional drop. There is no place I feel more energized or at peace than the pulpit. Sunday mornings are a mental and emotional high for me (even if they go badly) and that lift in my mind and heart carries me through Monday. But on Tuesday, I cry. Not every Tuesday, but pretty much every Tuesday. I cry about anything, usually whatever “news” video that Yahoo thinks I need to see when I open my email. I weep.
I am lucky to be able to recognize a pattern and it is fairly mundane.
But I know in my own family, that patterns of sadness or anxiety are not always that manageable. Sadness or anxiety that causes you to change your own preferred pattern of behavior for days in a row, for weeks or months is different than the occasionally or even regular down day.
People suffer from depression, anxiety, anger or frustration in ways that can be crippling. And we don’t really have the ways to talk about it like we would talk about diabetes or arthritis. We feel ashamed or embarrassed when we feel so dark inside that we just cannot put on a fake face one more day. We scare ourselves with thoughts of suicide, so much so that we certainly couldn’t tell anyone else what we are thinking. So we suffer alone.
And as Christians, we are people of profound hope, so being hopeless must mean we aren’t even good at being Christian. And so we are certainly not going to pop the happy bubble at church. Happy and hopeful Christians would get mad at us or, at best, simply not understand what we are talking about.
This is a bleak picture, that I pray is not so dark, but I worry that it might be. Carver County has been rocked by undiagnosed depression, suicide attempts, and death by suicide. So it is time to change behavior and start talking. And if you are depressed, that will be hard to do.
But others around you can start modeling open dialogue about depression and mental health and wellness and sooner, than later, it will be a good and normal thing to treat your depression with as much openness as you would your diabetes.
The Mental Health Consortium of Carver County, which came into being this past spring, is meeting monthly and is committed to education in matters of mental health and wellness. The consortium is made up of a variety of community voices including those who serve in our mental health fields, law enforcement, clergy, and school officials.
From this consortium, a grass-roots Mental Health Community Group has been formed and had their first meeting Sept. 11, a gathering that was covered by the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Their next meeting will be Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. at the Waconia Moravian Church and is open to all who are interested actively relieving the public of any stigma attached to issues regarding mental health.
Finally, an opportunity for community-wide education is slated for Saturday, Nov. 17, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia.
One can register on-line at www.ridgeviewmedical.org, click classes and events and browse for “Suicide Prevention: A Community Forum.” Dr. Dan Reidenberg, the Executive Director of SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) will be the keynote and there will be breakout sessions for youth and adults. This is much-needed step in holding up our community’s wellness as paramount to our own.
We are not alone, nor should any one of us feel that we are. Let’s be together in November.
The Rev. Dr. Amy Gohdes-Luhman is the pastor at Waconia Moravian Church.