The Thinnest Thread Across a Chasm: I Survived.

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I did this photo shoot a few years ago with a ton of smiles and silly faces—but this picture was a bit closer to how I was really feeling. It was during one of the most miserable seasons of life, when depression had hit full force and I was contemplating The End every waking moment. I had gained over twenty lbs from binging and I randomly fell asleep in my office and I kept letting go of the steering wheel, daring myself to crash. No one knew what was happening; I tried to tell someone but he laughed it off: “Look at you, how could you be so stressed when you’re so blessed?” So I kept up the smiles and silliness, all while my insides were wax dipped in acid, melted to the thinnest thread, stretched between bones across a chasm. I was Zeno’s paradox, motionless in motion. I was begging God to kill me.

I wanted to give up: but no. God said no. He was stubborn, and so I was, too. I hustled. I fought the dark with everything, both fists swinging, screaming and laughing at the same time, crawling by my bare fingernails to the lip of the well I had been cast down. Slowly, painfully, somehow, I made it through, mostly because I kept waking up and I was astounded to find myself still breathing, and because I gained ground by inches. Colors returned; the fog lifted over time; I found people I could tell; I got a dog and I lost the weight and I survived. It’s not as romantic as it sounds, and I don’t know if the next one will win. But that time, at least, I did. He did. God didn’t answer my prayer then, and it was the best “no” that I’ve ever gotten. I’m here, just barely. So is He, completely.
J.S. Park

Journeying Together Through Depression


Thank you to Nissi, Andy, Sandra, Crupa, and Amber for picking up my book on fighting depression, How Hard It Really Is. Grateful to Sandra for picking up five copies to give away. Praying the book blesses each of you.
J.S.

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/How-Hard-It-Really-Is/dp/0692910360

Ebook: https://www.amazon.com/How-Hard-It-Really-Is-ebook/dp/B073TX15LB

Depression: The Sneak Attack Phantom


This is the Preface to my book How Hard It Really Is: A Short, Honest Book About Depression.



Depression is a rumor, until it is reality, and then it’s as if nothing else was ever real. Still, no one will believe you. I find it hard to believe it myself. I wrote this book for those who believe, and for those who want to.

Depression is, when you’re in it, absolutely ridiculous, because it seems to be the most important thing in the world when it’s happening. At the same time, it robs the world of any importance, as if nothing could ever happen again. It is a nightmare of infinity wrapped in cellophane.

Whenever I describe it happening, it sounds absurd. And it is.

At the grocery store I’m thinking about how to grill this salmon, and my chest folds inward, a curled up canvas of wax paper in a cruel, gnarled fist. It’s the familiar feeling of drowning, of disappearing in frothing acid. I fight back both tears and laughter, and I tell myself, Everything’s fine, everything’s fine, a cognitive trick to pull myself out of the falling, but nothing is fine, nothing is fine. There’s nothing I can do. My basket full of trinkets is weightless and a wrecking ball. I see people rushing to somewhere, but the illusion of significance slips away in a long, defeated sigh. I hate this part. My shoulders crumple because I’ve stopped holding them up. I can barely look at the cashier and I don’t remember paying when he hands me the receipt. I can’t turn on music in the car; it’s unbearable to turn the wheel. I’m someone else’s ghost in someone else’s body.

I wish I could say it gets easier each time, but I never know how long it’s going to be.

I never know when the colors will come back.

I never know if this will be the one that wins.

The bad news is that I don’t have a magic formula, a six-step cure, or a silver bullet. I wish I did. But I don’t believe there’s a right combination of words that will unlock depression.

The best thing we can offer each other is each other, our set of experiences, our voices, our ears, so that the tunnel is less intimidating and the light is not as distant as it was.

I wish I had more than this. I wish I could cover every angle. Maybe, though, I can cover a few.

At the very least, I can tell you what I’ve been through, and what’s worked for me. And maybe some of that will work for you, too.

— J.S. Park | How Hard It Really Is

I Need Your Help: Test Readers


**Edit – June 17th**

Dear friends: The draft of my upcoming book on depression has been sent to your email. Test reading has begun! If you’d still like to join, please email me. Love y’all friends, and thank you again for making this possible. — J.S.

pastorjspark@gmail.com



Hey friends, I’m giving away a draft of my book on depression before it’s released. All I ask for in return are feedback and a review on Amazon.

If you want to be a test reader, please send me your email to
pastorjspark@gmail.com

and I’ll send it as soon as it’s ready. The final book will be out this summer. Love y’all, friends. — J.S.

I Hate My Life and Myself and I Want to Die: What Do I Do?

Anonymous asked a question:

I find myself begging God for death almost every day. On the days I don’t, I’m numb & I’m just going through the day hating my life. It’s hard not to compare myself to the rest of my peers who are doing great things & I’m just here painfully existing. My 1st degree didn’t get me any jobs in my state, so I’m stuck working a job that doesn’t pay much to help me afford a secondary degree. I know I’m not the only person suffering from the effects of a rigged economy, but how am I to remain positive?

Hey dear friend, I’m very sorry for all that’s happening. I want to tell you that you’re not alone, and that I got a ton of love for you, and I’m certain that everyone here does, too. I’m praying for you right now, even as I write this.

I have to say this too: If you feel like you’re in danger of hurting yourself at all, please go talk with a trusted friend and talk these things out. Please consider getting with a qualified, certified person who can help. I hope and pray that you won’t make any big rash decisions during a downward spiral, and that you’d first talk it over with someone, face-to-face, even if that means forcing yourself to get there and giving your decision-making power to someone else, however long it takes. Just talking about it can be enough sometimes to take another step.

I want to share that I’ve wrestled with depression for as long as I can remember, and I did attempt suicide over ten years ago (half a bottle of pills, I lost 13 lbs. in three days, and was Baker Act’ed into an institution). I get into self-loathing loops of hopelessness all the time, like someone has just yanked my guts through my chest in one fell swoop and I’m crumpled over with completely cold apathy, not caring about a thing. Several years ago, I had a complete breakdown at my workplace from the work environment (in which the boss laughed it off), and a year later, I was fired from that very same job. Co-workers got way ahead of me, which was absolutely fine, but many of the people that I called “friends” deserted me. Life is unfair. It can be cruel. Things don’t always work out.

The reality is, our dreams get crushed, and people will leave or cheat or abuse us, and our perseverance doesn’t always pay off. Prayers can go unanswered for a lifetime. I sit with some hospital patients who don’t want to leave because their life outside is so desperately miserable. Even a perfectly crafted life can come crashing down in a second, when external forces suddenly strip us of all we have built. Most of us are not prepared for how harsh and brutal that life can be, because no one gives the hard talk about what it’s really like.

Continue reading “I Hate My Life and Myself and I Want to Die: What Do I Do?”

Does Social Media Really Help a Cry-for-Help?

shatterrealm asked a question:

When Internet strangers rally together to assure a suicidal person that they are loved and precious, are we really helping? Or are we making things worse by arguing with their depression? Should we simply be referring them to professionals?

Hey dear friend, this is an excellent question that I can’t possibly hope to adequately cover, but I’ll offer a few thoughts on this to consider.

– On one hand, if you can save a life with words, do it. I think it’s absolutely a good idea to press in when someone expresses depression, anywhere, every time, all the time. It might really pull back someone from the edge, even for one more day.

I can’t really stop to evaluate the whole thing on whether it’s real or not, or if it’s really helping. That’s not for me to decide right then. If someone is drowning in a river headed towards a waterfall, I don’t ever want to think, “Am I enabling this person to not learn to swim?” I can think about that later. At this very second, I have to throw a lifeline, or I’ll jump in there myself.

– On the other hand, I’m less sure about how this will work for the long-term. It’s the old dilemma: “Give a person a fish for a day or teach them how to fish for life.”

In the short-term, rallying together online can certainly be helpful for a person who cries-for-help. I’ll be the first one there. But at some point, the online world becomes very limited in truly helping a depressed person. It doesn’t go deep enough, and in some cases, can actually be more harmful.


Continue reading “Does Social Media Really Help a Cry-for-Help?”

Holding On or Letting Go: The One Friend I Want to Help, But Can’t Anymore.

Anonymous asked a question:

For a while now, my best friend has been struggling with depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. I am the only one that knows this. She takes a lot of her issues out on me … But I can’t take the emotional abuse anymore. It’s an unhealthy relationship that has stopped being a friendship.

I have been asking God what to do. I have sat with her in her mess. In her screaming. In her crying. In her hopelessness. I have tried to give advice. I have prayed for her. I have been patient and worried and angry all at once. I have been bitter because everyone else gets to experience the side of her that I used to know, the happy, loving girl that puts on a mask to hide her pain.

I have decided to tell her that I can’t be the person she needs me to be for her. That she needs to seek professional help. This is going to be a really hard conversation … If you have any advice, I’d love to hear it.

Thank you so much for your honesty and for reaching out to me. I’m also very sorry about the heartache that you’re experiencing; I absolutely know how hard it is to decide between holding on and letting go.

I have to say this upfront, and it’s going to be a wildly unpopular opinion: You’re on to something that most people won’t admit, that “love” and “friendship” do not mean exhaustively giving ourselves out to the point of toxic self-harm. That would be unfair to you and enabling and coddling to your friend, which would end up destroying everyone involved.

Here’s something even more unpopular, and please believe me that I have a hard time writing this. I think that most of us have been bombarded with the Hollywood idea that if we help someone enough, that person will eventually get to an “epiphany” full of high fives and hugging, and that their recovery will get on some upward trajectory. You’ll also be demonized if you “leave someone behind,” especially if you’re considering to possibly “leave behind” someone who is depressed or suffering a mental illness (and I’ve suffered from depression for as long as I can remember, so I’ve been on both sides of this).

Most of us hate to admit when we don’t have the qualified “training” to help someone, and there’s a secret guilt when we simply don’t have the energy or time. So we almost force ourselves to help everyone, which can be good, because most people simply need encouragement and listening, but there’s a very small percentage that need something way beyond us. By now you’ve seen how truly difficult it is to bear with someone who might be beyond your “ability.” What you’re going through is commonly known as secondhand trauma, like secondhand smoking.

The truth is, most of us are unequipped to fully help someone who is suffering from an overwhelming mental illness. In fact, social workers and psychologists tend to get cranky about people who think they’re doing “hero work” by helping the mentally ill. It’s basically like a painter trying to perform open heart surgery. I know that even the best of my friends are limited when it comes to dealing with my own depression. I don’t hold that against them. What I see is that you’re not so much asking for permission to give up, but for permission to rest and to have a wise distance.

And I’m here to tell you, keeping a distance even from your most well-adjusted friends is not “leaving behind” your friend, but simply a necessary rhythm of friendship. Of course, I absolutely believe we’re meant to be there for someone, that no one is excluded from our love and company, and that we must move towards people who are hard to love. I’m not at all saying that it’s okay to give up, or that it’s okay to cut someone off at the earliest convenience. Yet there must be a point when we recognize that someone is abusing our trust, and that professional counseling is not only an option, but a very real next step.

I advise two things.

Continue reading “Holding On or Letting Go: The One Friend I Want to Help, But Can’t Anymore.”

The Revised Edition of “What The Church Won’t Talk About”


My first published book What The Church Won’t Talk About has turned a year old, and for its anniversary I’ve made a revised second edition with over 16,000 words of new content, plus a new cover. The paperback is here and the ebook is here!

The Foreword is by the amazing T.B. LaBerge and the updates include topics like marriage, ministry, social media, race, career, and fighting depression. The first edition is still available here.

The rest of my books are here.
Be immensely blessed and love y’all!
— J.S.


My Book Just Dropped In Price!



Hello wonderful friends! My book has just dropped in price to 8.99 on Amazon!

It’s called, What The Church Won’t Talk About: Real Questions From Real People About Raw, Gritty, Everyday Faith.

The Foreword is by the amazing T.B. LaBerge of tblaberge and the cover art is by my most excellent friend Rob Connelly.

I talk about a ton of things, including doubts, dry seasons, depression, relationships, porn addiction, trials, abortion, sexuality, social reform, family conflicts, and apologetics. If you’re blessed by the book, please consider writing a review on Amazon!

Love y’all and be blessed, dear friends!
– J.S.


A Letter to Social Media and Google Search Experts: You Don’t Understand Mental Illness (and I Wish You’d Try)

If there’s one thing I learned after a celebrity takes his or her own life, it’s going to social media and seeing that no one understands mental illness.

I’ve been a lifelong sufferer of depression, and not even I myself completely understand what’s going on inside.  Most of us assume it’s more of a choice instead of a disease, but it’s difficult to explain how even our choices under depression feel hopeless and powerless, like walking through a fog that has drained the colors out of everything.  There’s no particular reason it happens.  Mental illness doesn’t primarily come from external causes, but we blame ourselves, and so does most of our world.

My guess is that depression and anxiety and other such illnesses are not sexy enough.  Cancer portrayed by Hollywood has the inverse effect of making you skinny and attractive, and movie-autism gives you special math skills like Rain Man or perfect innocence like Forrest Gump.  It’s not fun watching a grown man just weep for two hours.

There will be no movie for my uncle, who has schizophrenia and paranoid delusions, and will often randomly get on his bike to ride from Florida to Ohio, with beans in his ears to block out the “demonic voices.”  It’s not tailor-made for a fundraiser.

That’s not to take away from any of these illnesses: but it points to our obsession with polishing our pain into a marketable story.

An illness like depression often leads to the inevitable symptom of death by suicide, and because of this, many will mock and sneer.  “They chose to do it, it was selfish.”  But unless you’ve actually been at the verge of this inescapable inner prison, then it will naturally seem over-dramatic and hysterical. No one understands unless it’s them, at the absolute edge of their darkness feeling like there are zero options left.

I understand this urge to criticize the mentally ill.  It’s not visible; it’s not physically tangible.  We inherently grade people based on their accomplishments, but even more, the “beauty” of their brokenness.  It’s an ugly thing.  We accept some diseases and not others.  We celebrate victory over cancer and Ebola and from organ transplants, but not depression, even though they all potentially lead to terminal conditions.

We only take mental illness seriously when it leads to death — but even then, we find such diseases beneath our charity, because we perceive it to be within the victim’s control.

Continue reading “A Letter to Social Media and Google Search Experts: You Don’t Understand Mental Illness (and I Wish You’d Try)”

YouTube: “We Can Disagree, And That’s Okay”


Here’s my first YouTube video, called “We Can Disagree, And That’s Okay.”

You like cats AND dogs? That’s okay.
You’re into science AND religion? That’s okay.
Single and not looking? That’s okay.
Introverted or extroverted? That’s okay.
You prefer romantic-comedy Ryan Gosling over Oscar-serious Ryan Gosling? That’s okay.
Republican or Democrat or neither? That’s okay.
Cheese on your ramen noodles? Well … maybe not okay.

Please subscribe to my channel and love y’all!

— J.S.


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Question: I Don’t Want To Live Anymore

Anonymous asked:

What do you do when you feel like you just don’t want to live? Like, you know if you trust in God and stand on His promises that things will get better, but that’s not the point…you just don’t have the desire to live anymore. How can that feeling change? I mean, it’s not like I don’t enjoy life sometimes, because I do, I’m just tired of it. :/

 

Dear friend,

I completely understand you and I used to feel this way everyday.  An old friend used to tell me, “I’m just living ’cause I can’t die.”  As morbid as it is, this is how we felt for a long time, and most people just didn’t get it.  They would reply, “Life is a gift” or “God is good” or “Live everyday like it’s your last,” but even knowing all that didn’t change anything.

I thought that because I felt this way, my life was worthless and there was no point to waking up and it would end without much significance in a vaporous whimper.  I’ve tried to kill myself.  I drank, a lot.  I’ve never really told anyone, but I once went through a season of cutting.  A few times, I gave away all my things because I was for sure I would go home and end it. 

Finally, in a hospital bed with a stomach full of half a bottle of pills, that was rock bottom.  The doctors were sure if I fell asleep, I wouldn’t wake up.  It was too late to pump my stomach.  They fed me liquid charcoal to neutralize the acid.  I waited.

I fell asleep.  You can feel death, you know.  It’s like someone is unraveling a thread at the back of your skull, like sinking into yourself.  It felt like my legs were dangling in water.  But in that moment, hanging over the abyss, there it was.  Not a neon sign or a grand eloquent vision, but a simple expression of something beyond this world.  You’re not done yet.  You have more. You have ME.

I woke up.  I was later Baker Act’ed into a mental hospital for two days, then released back to the world.  I had lost thirteen pounds in three days and had roomed with horribly tragic mental patients who had far worse problems than I.  Back into the sunlight, I suddenly didn’t want to waste my life anymore.  I couldn’t stand the thought of having died in that hospital bed.

Continue reading “Question: I Don’t Want To Live Anymore”

Are Depression and Anxiety a Choice?

Anonymous asked a question:

A lot of hurting young people on my dash. Is depression and anxiety a choice? My pastor believes it is. “Generational curses”, “biblical strongholds”, etc. Thoughts?


All right, dammit: Who is this pastor? I’m a fifth degree black belt and I can break into a house by scaling a wall, so give me an address and a picture and I’ll have a friendly interrogation with him. I’m trying to see what he means — but no.

Seriously though, most people who don’t suffer from depression or anxiety just don’t get it. It’s like telling someone you have a migraine and they offer you a glass of water. You sort of want to punch their face off.

Pseudo-biblical language that doesn’t even speak to reality only shortcuts a huge issue. You can tell me to “rebuke it in Jesus’ name” all day long, but I need some freaking help.

Let’s get this part right: while not all our emotions point to legitimate choices, having feelings is NOT wrong. You’re allowed to feel your feelings, all right? It’s okay to be a human being and no one should ever blame you for that.

If you’re denying your emotions, you’re also denying your humanness. Even the spoiled little princess on the latest reality show gets a fair hearing on why she flipped a desk about getting the wrong-colored car (hint: it’s not about the car, but her emptiness). What’s important then is to examine why this is happening and how to react in the moment.

People go through different seasons and occasionally experience severe internal weather patterns that you don’t just “choose” your way out of. There’s no easy off-button for those cloudy emotional fogs that suddenly overtake you. A lot is at work here — upbringing, situations, spiritual warfare, personality — so blanket-answers will not help.

Continue reading “Are Depression and Anxiety a Choice?”

The Warfare of Discouragement

One day you’re smooth-cruising through the halls, high-fiving random strangers and yourself and soaking in the standing ovation, and the next minute you’re in the valley of a fresh oozing wound inflicted by the ugly, brutal weapon of words. You’re playing the endless loop of that three-second sentence, a fishing knife scooping out your guts, forcing your chin down like it weighs the size of the world. At any moment, in any place, discouragement can uppercut your soul and keep you down way past ten.

The occupational hazard of ministry, a wise pastor once said, is discouragement. That’s true for all of us. It’s unavoidable. It’s a fog that seeps into all our work, our words, our interaction, even the taste of food and the vibrancy of colors. There’s really no dancing around it, so we must deal with it.

At the center of this fog are truths and lies that fight for our sanity, and that war will be brought to the battleground of our emotions. We must, kicking and screaming, bring that fight up to the doorstep of our mind and in light of God’s Word. Regardless of how we feel, there’s a truth that exists. We press into it, or don’t. Press in.

Continue reading “The Warfare of Discouragement”

Question: The Ground War Against Depression and Anxiety

Facingfugue asked:
Hello! Your posts are a blessing. I see that you come from an area of knowledge in the psychology area as well spirituality . I have been struggling with anxiety attacks for the past two years. Do you have any advice coming from a perspective of a Christian as well? I have been doing C.B therapy but it really is not helping a lot. I used to be very depressed because it made me feel helpless, but Christ has been my refuge and HE has been my joy. The anxiety has been much harder to work out though

Thank you for your kind words!  I’m not sure I’m too knowledgeable about psychology but it does interest me a lot.

I’ve also suffered from depression for as long as I can remember. There was a suicide attempt in 2004 and I have cut myself before. CB therapy (Cognitive Behavioral) can be good for pointing out certain patterns and schemas, but may not be as helpful for treatment as you already know. 

Both therapy and the church can be really bad at handling depression.  Some people stuff it with drugs and others will say it’s “all in your head, get over it.”  Those who do not go through depression have no idea how debilitating it really is. 

There’s probably no formula/advice/plan I could give that’s 100% effective, but I can try to help from experience.  I’m also assuming that you already highly value prayer, reading the Bible, relying on the Holy Spirit, and attending church.  Medicine is also totally appropriate. That’s all the air warfare; here’s the ground war.

1) Be as honest as possible. Without being a victim about it, let people know what’s going on. Tell somebody. I made the mistake of hiding it too often.  Not that you want to announce it with trumpets, but even one or two close friends or your pastor should know when you’re feeling depressed or anxious. Some people will definitely be uncomfortable and ungracious, but then those people aren’t the ones who get you anyway.

Continue reading “Question: The Ground War Against Depression and Anxiety”