Thinking Out Loud

April 6, 2019

Press ‘D’ for Depression

Filed under: blogging, Christianity, health, personal, weather, writing — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:00 am

The result of an image search for depression: This one seemed to sum it up best.

I haven’t been writing much here these last few weeks. The ideas come — sometimes I don’t write them down — and the computer beckons, but I either don’t write, or prioritize other writing, such as our devotional blog which continues to grow.

I’ve never been diagnosed with clinical depression. I’m still fairly certain that the textbook definition, which you can read about here, is not applicable. If those symptoms do apply however, be sure to seek help.

In my life depression has always been circumstantial. Change the circumstances, I’ve told myself (and God) and my outlook on life will change along with it.

As a result, I’ve tended to be judgmental or dismissive of those whose depression, not otherwise diagnosed as genetic, or chemical, or the result of family history, seems to be circumstantial like mine.

So you can imagine my response to Seasonal Affective Disorder, the acronym for which is, quite appropriately, SAD.

‘Spring is coming,’ I will say to myself and others, ‘Just a few more weeks and we’ll be basking in sunshine.’

But then this winter never ended. Spring never seemed to arrive. We changed to Daylight Saving Time but the environment missed the memo.

As I write this, on April 6th, a warmer day is forecast for my part of Ontario, but there are still clumps of ice by my front door (which is in shade) and at the end of my driveway. I can see some neighbors houses with some packed snow (caused by snow ploughing) which hasn’t fully melted.

There was no January thaw this year.

Our week in the Caribbean was literally over far too soon.

And no matter what scientists tell you, living in Canada as we do, we are convinced that 0°C is definitely much colder than 32°F.

Furthermore, we’re not compelled by family traditions or a hyper business-driven economy to be on the road when common sense dictates otherwise. Americans simply risk limb and life to get the family — or the packages — where they need to be. Canadians stay home where it’s safe and pour another bowl of chicken soup.

No wonder I feel sad. Correction: No wonder I feel SAD.

Then last week I got sick. Like many of our friends, we held our heads high saying, “I haven’t been sick all winter.” But then, as March was giving way to April, our bodies simply ran out of immunity before the weather ran out of cruelty. (“Forget this” was my immune system’s exact words.) After directing my physician yesterday to issue a more powerful degree of opioids [Note: This could foreshadow another column in about three months*] I finally got a few good hours of sleep last night.

Sleep is good. Sleep is needful. Sleep also wards of depression.

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

So yes, like the guy in the John 5 story, I wish to get well. I want a sunny day, chasing the clouds away. I want to be walking on sunshine. I want joy, I want fun, I want seasons in the sun. (See, the codeine isn’t affecting me at all.)

I want a week of this (about 93°F for you non-metric laggards; 0 mm of rainfall is very approximately 0 inches of rainfall):

If the drugs don’t work, I may be forced to try chocolate.

*The opioid crisis is real. So why doesn’t my computer’s spell-check know the word? How can so many systems in my computer be updating so often, but the machine’s basic dictionary not know a word defining an urgent medical crisis in the First World? Anyway, I didn’t want anyone to think I was treating this lightly. If you know someone still taking the pills, or cough syrup, or whatever; long after the illness has left, they have a problem and need to seek help.

January 27, 2018

Today’s (Cough!) Blog Post (Cough, Cough!) is Late (Cough, Cough, Cough!)

Filed under: Christianity, health, personal — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:57 am

My wife was kind enough to share her terrible cough with me. (To think I always say she never gives me anything.) After walking around for a week smugly congratulating my superior immune system, I capitulated to the inevitable and started coughing a few days ago. It certainly does help you to appreciate the healthy days.

She just left for choir practice. I’m not sure if she plans to just stand in the loft next to everyone else learning the music, or simply sit in an empty seat at the back with her sheet music. I hope she doesn’t give it to anyone else.

Before she left she asked me for a kiss, on the grounds we’re both sick now anyway. I took the Jon Acuff route and gave her a side hug. There’s something counter-intuitive about kissing someone when you’re coughing. 

Someone once told me that doctors don’t catch things because all of the exposure to dozen of sick people every day builds resistance, and the contacts tend to be short; tend to be fleeting. When you live with someone, it’s different.

As I’m typing this I’m having to go back and correct spelling on a larger-than-usual number of words. Tired I guess. Working the backspace key and thankful we’re not back in the days when a serious typing error meant having to insert a new piece of paper and start from the top of the page.

It’s interesting that WordPress has kept the strikeout strike-out option but removed the option to underline. (I had to do that through the text editor.) Am I rambling? Lack of sleep. Eyes hurting from staring at the screen.

So thank-you Mrs. W. for the lovely gift. Forgive me if at some point in the future, I give it back.

Which brings us to today’s homework challenge: Martin Luther’s 95 Theses as Early Example of Blog Post. Discuss. (Cough, cough, cough! Ouch!)

December 10, 2016

Diagnosis: Words

Filed under: Christianity, health, personal — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:53 am

diagnosis-words-articleThe man picked up his car keys and rattled them a few times. The dog’s ears perked up.

“Wanna go in the car?”

At this the rather large Shepherd Cross started skidding on the tile kitchen floor in excitement and then began jumping up trying to catch the keys from its master’s hand.

“Okay, okay let’s go;” he said and yelled up to the second floor to his wife, “I’m just gonna stop at the hardware store after I’m done at the vet.”

At the mention of the word ‘vet’ the dog stood still for a split second and then bounded down the stairs into the basement where it retreated into a back corner hoping not to be found…

…It’s the question kids always ask when told they have a doctor’s appointment: “Am I gonna to haff to get a needle?”

Nobody wants to be poked or prodded and like dogs, we have a long-term memory for things which have upset us as children, such as previous doctor visits.

But when you get older and have had a few exploratory procedures done, the poking and prodding isn’t what you fear, it’s the diagnosis; we fear the words.

Such was the case last week when the specialist I was seeing for the first time, walked me back from another room, told me to sit down and began with, “There’s no easy way to say this…”

My concern wasn’t anything he was going to do but rather what he was about to say.

For my regular readers, this wasn’t a life-and-death situation, but it was and is upsetting to say the least. The words are important. The words matter. The doctor basically spoke a condition into existence, at least from my point of view, that I was unaware of.

My next day continued as had the day before. Other than a new medication to take, nothing really changed except my awareness that something was changing. Age. Decay. The passing of time on a clock that we can’t turn backwards.

We don’t fear the condition so much as we fear hearing the words associated with it. He didn’t say anything as devastating as probably tens of thousands of others around the world heard that day, but it was the experience of hearing someone break any kind of medical news to a patient.

NIV 2 Cor 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  5:1 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.


November 20, 2015


Filed under: Christianity, health, Humor — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:33 am

okay to laughIt’s probably the world’s most-used (and overused) acronym on emails, but not everyone actually laughs out loud in the course of a day, or for some, even a week.

For many people, it’s hard to laugh right now. Circumstances are somewhat dark, or tense, or frustrating; you’re under a cloud. I get that. I’ve been there.

But for others, the problem is this: Laughter is a surprise emotion, and if you already have guessed the punchline, or noticed the bucket of water above the door, then having seen what’s coming, usually the best you’re good for is a smile.

Unless you’re one of the people who simply laughs at everything. I know you bring joy to a lot of situations, but always bear in mind that when your friends are making a point and want to be taken seriously, that’s not the time for hilarity.

I’ve spent a lifetime of figuring out punchlines before they’re spoken. I know that readers at this Christianity-focused blog may not appreciate all the plot-lines on Modern Family or The Big Bang Theory, but these two sitcoms represent the top of their craft and there is some really good writing that goes into each and every episode. With both this week, I did find myself quite literally lol-ing, even if I wasn’t exactly rofl — look it up — or experiencing a laughter so severe it causes certain body parts to disconnect.

And you need to laugh. The medical folk tell us it’s good for you. Whether it’s Mr. Bean, or Inspector Clouseau, or Basil Fawlty, or Tina Fey; or just that naturally funny person who is in your sphere of influence. Having a pet will also bring down your blood pressure, although they say you have to actually pet the pet for that to work. Dog food and cat litter can get pricey, but laughter is free.

Jesus LaughingAnd the Bible got there first: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine,” at least that’s how the old KJV puts Proverbs 17:22; but I much prefer to leave you with The Voice Bible’s “A joy-filled heart is curative balm.” That’s right, curative balm. I guess it’s part of trying to make your translation stand out from the rest of the pack.

Which reminds me…

…A conservative Evangelical Bible translator walked into a bar. “Gee,” the bartender said, “We don’t get many conservative Evangelical Bible translators in here.” To which he replied, “No, and at these prices you’re not going to get many more.”

Finally, from the movie Uncle Buck, a song that’s been stuck in my head ever since.


July 12, 2014

Mental Illness or the Pressure of Everyday Life?

Filed under: health, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:25 am

The pile of newspapers and magazines next to our bed is not something I am particularly proud of, but it does yield some interesting treasures on a daily basis. Recently, I unearthed a copy of a Fall 2011 edition of U. of T. Magazine, the alumni magazine of my school, the University of Toronto.

The cover story was written in anticipation of what was then the upcoming revision to the DSM, which is a kind of Bible for people in the fields of psychiatric medicine and psychology, that has actually been revised several times before.  All I want to do here is isolate six paragraphs that struck me for a variety of reasons.

Mind Games cover story…[Edward] Shorter’s critique is more general. He thinks that the DSM is both an example and a cause of psychiatry’s wrong turn beginning sometime after the mid-20th century. He says the profession moved from a relatively small, relatively valid list of mental diseases – many of which could be treated effectively by tranquilizers, lithium and first-generation antidepressants – toward a vast list of disorders with no scientific validity. Some of the disorders overlap so much that they are almost impossible to distinguish from one another. Worse, he says, some of the disorders are really descriptions of normal, if difficult, human experience…

…The current American Psychiatric Association task force, comprising 29 psychiatrists and other mental health specialists, wants to recognize that many conditions often overlap – for instance, anxiety and depression – so that a diagnosis of only one or the other doesn’t always make sense…

…“There isn’t any other discipline in medicine that depends on consensus for its scientific truths,” says Shorter. “Consensus really means horse-trading – I’ll give you this diagnosis if you’ll give me that diagnosis. That’s the way they do business in politics. That’s not the way you do business in science. The speed of light wasn’t determined by consensus.” …

…“One of the disadvantages is instilling in people the idea that normal life includes chronic medication. This has been a terrible development in the last 30 years, the idea that you cannot have a normal life unless you’re on pills.” …

…Dr. David S. Goldbloom, a University of Toronto professor of psychiatry, says that Shorter has identified a real issue in psychiatry − the underlying cause of a disorder is often not known. No blood test or X-ray can confirm a diagnosis. That means psychiatrists are left to make diagnoses strictly according to symptoms. But that doesn’t mean the diagnoses are without value. …

… The problem of “diagnostic creep,” in which normal human emotions are classified as pathology is also a valid concern, he says. “Being sad, angry, afraid or joyous − that is part of the normal fabric of human experience. How do we draw a line when sadness becomes depression, when joy becomes mania, when fear becomes paranoia?” he asks. …

[…You can read Kurt Kliener’s whole article here …]

Mental illness is a fact of life for many families. I thought that this article helps to raise some issues that non-academics need to be more aware of.

I don’t want to minimize what is a real challenge for so many, perhaps even people reading this right now. But the line that struck me was, “some of the disorders are really descriptions of normal, if difficult, human experience.”

Life is hard.




August 30, 2012

Having Trouble Sleeping?

zzzzzzzzzzz — Oh! Are we on?

I believe that the Bible can inform many more areas of life than we give it credit for. And I believe that a big problem many people face but don’t talk about has to do with their sleep life: insomnia, sleep deprivation, etc.

So I was intrigued when Dr. Charles Page asked me about doing a guest post here. At first, I thought he’d do something similar to what’s on his blog — a scriptural study on sleep — which we could run as a Bible study at C201. But then I looked at what he sent me, and decided the issue needs to be raised among a greater audience.  So if this issue touches you read this, or if involves someone you know, send them here today to get the discussion started.

Surrendered Sleep

Living in this nanosecond digital world that never seems to slow down can leave your head spinning. Who has time for sleep? If you snooze – you lose.

Emerging out of our 24/7 lifestyle are issues with sleep and rest that could not even be conceived of in past generations: air traffic controllers falling to sleep on the job, exhausted health care workers having more complications, drivers having accidents falling to sleep at the wheel, sleep disorders reaching epidemic levels. Remember Michael Jackson?

What’s the answer? Sleep Medicine? A new mattress? Sleeping Pills? Herbal remedies? Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? Polyphasic Sleep? A new internet fad for insomnia? Two cans of Red Bull for breakfast?

Revisiting the truths of God’s word gives us insight to many of these complicated issues involving sleep and rest. I present to you no formulas but rather a Christ centered focus and a biblical framework for making sense of what is becoming one of the biggest issues of our day. As we explore the scriptures several attitudes surface:

A Calm heart:

Jesus modeled the perfect balance between activity and rest. Trusting calmly in the protection and provision of His Father, Jesus slept peacefully in the bow of a ship in a raging tempest. Having the Spirit of Christ within we who believe can rest in the peaceful assurance that God has our back–no matter what storms come our way. Like Jesus, His followers should never lose sleep over worry, fear, loneliness, anxiety, relational tensions or tasks left undone. Based on His unmerited favor, God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves as we sleep, providing for our needs and protecting us from harm’s way.

A Responsive Heart and a Servant’s Heart:

On the flip side, our Lord’s eyes never closed in the garden of Gethsemane. Surrendering to a greater purpose, Jesus prayed and prepared for the suffering of the cross. We typically think that the best way to prepare for a challenging day is to get as much sleep as possible. Ironically, the Lord acted in the reverse. Discipleship sometimes calls for sleeplessness to fulfill God’s purposes and plans for our lives–and the lives of others. It may be as simple as rising early in the morning to listen for God’s leading and prepare for the day.

Have you ever awakened in the still of the night for some unknown reason? Perhaps it’s just some undigested Pizza? Or perhaps—it’s the Lord of the universe waking you up to pray for an unknown trial on the horizon, waking you to serve or a brother in need.

When God calls his followers to give up rest, He also supplies them with mercies that are new every morning. The yoke of exhaustion is easy and the burden of sleeplessness is light when we consider that the Lord is working in and through our lives.

An Enduring Heart:

Sometimes there are no answers for why we suffer with sleep–incurable sleep disorders, the pain of chronic diseases–those “ten thousand sleepless nights” mentioned in a popular song. Perhaps suffering with sleeplessness truly is a blessing in disguise. God’s grace is made perfect in our weakness. However, believers can victoriously endure understanding that heaven is just around the corner. Sleep will no doubt be much lower on our priority list as we experience the eternal presence of Jesus with incorruptible bodies, worshiping in the presence of the saints and the angels. Forget sleep! So whatever sleeplessness believers endure in this world pales in comparison to the glory that shall be revealed when we arrive at our final destination. Insomnia may be a reminder that we are truly not home yet.

It’s all about surrender. As we diligently seek God’s kingdom, prioritizing Him first, He has promised to supply all these things–in our sleep or in our sleeplessness. Surrender your sleep to the One whose eyes never close. All praise to Him–our best thought by day or by night. Waking or sleeping–may his presence be your light.

Dr. Charles Page is a surgeon, author and father of five who enjoys watching sunsets with his wife Joanna in their Texas sized tree house. For a free download of an overview of the spiritual principles of sleep, check out the Surrendered Sleep blog at

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