RUNNING ON EMPTY
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is Part One in a series about my long struggle with depression and how I was shown the way out.)
I remember that day well. I found myself in a psychologist’s office after being referred by my primary care physician for memory, concentration and anxiety problems. The psychologist looked me over, asked me some prefabricated questions and then pronounced me significantly depressed.
At that moment, the only thought to run through my mind was, “But I’ve always felt this way.”
The feeling I had at the time was not necessarily sadness, that I could tell. I had thought maybe it was a mixture of middle age crisis and overwork. Yet, there was something very familiar with it – it had seemed to come and go most of my life. Or did it merely strengthen and diminish, but never truly go away? I mostly felt … empty.
About two years earlier I had been laid off of my newspaper job of nine years. Since then, I had spent time doing freelance work while trying to find stabile employment. I tried out for one job, but found my mind unable to function, to remember.
So, there I was, feeling very lost. And empty.
“What do you like to do in your spare time?” the psychologist asked. “Do you have any hobbies?”
I couldn’t think. I had a cartooning hobby, but since the loss of my newspaper job even that felt like work now. I did it, but there wasn’t as much pleasure in it anymore.
As the questioning went on, I felt like the psychologist was making me into one of those company executives who never had time for his family. But I was creative. Creative people couldn’t get that way! They were too … creative.
In truth, however, I no longer felt creative. And I spent most of my time at my computer working on projects that might earn me a couple extra dollars. As a result, I wasn’t spending much time with my family. All that work I was doing made me feel like my car was stuck on ice, without any traction.
As a Christian, I knew God had to be in this experience somewhere. Could it be that this long-term unemployment and empty feeling were part of His plan? Maybe this situation wasn’t about me as much as it was about growing closer to God?
I kept remembering the verse from Psalm 46, “Be still and know that I am God.” Meanwhile, in the back of my head I kept hearing this still, small voice, “I’ve got this.” Relying on these required a lot of faith, but they proved to be the first step in my healing process.
Kurt J. Kolka is a graduate of two Christian colleges — Concordia University in Ann Arbor and Anderson University in Indiana — where he studied both Bible and theology, as well as journalism. Contact him regarding this column at kurt.j.kolka.writer.artist@