My Darkest Demon: Depression, Part 1

Depression.

Deep, dark, constricting, suffocating depression.

I had just turned 40. No problem with mid life crisis. I had MLC at 35. Go figure. My wife had planned a special trip to Colorado Springs. We were getting ready to ride the train up Pike’s Peak and my eight year old daughter had a seizure right there in the hotel room. Out lives changed forever.

I had a dream. A multimedia company that would produce Christian drama, music, film, and published works. The Foundation of Inspirational Arts was born but by my 40th birthday, it was in shambles. My dream was dying.

I had been the drama leader for our church drama team for almost four years. During that time, we had gone from two major dramas a year to the following schedule:

  • 4 Dinner Theaters
  • 4 Sunday Evening Worship Service Full Length Dramas
  • 1 Major Easter Pageant/Drama with cast of hundreds
  • 1 Halloween themed “Eternity House” with huge special effects and multiple dramas.
  • 2 “Saturday Night Alive!” young adult variety shows with live music, videos, and more drama
  • A full time youth drama team with two “dinner theater” type productions per year
  • A full time children’s drama team with an annual “SNACK at Night” variety program featuring children acting out dramas for other children
  • 1 weekend drama festival
  • And, of course, the FIA (noted above)

I am a doctor working full time in the field of radiology. I was the vice chairman of the Long Range Planning Committee charged with developing a plan to relocate our church from a neighborhood setting to a major intersection in town, a move that was opposed by 1/4 of the church in a bitter, contentious fight. I am the father of two children both growing at that time age 8 and 11.

Oh, and I was trying to get published. I was successful! A collection of children’s dramas was published by Contemporary Drama (Meriwether Publishing) entitled “Montana Holmes’ Adventures in the Bible”. I made all of $300 advance and was told I would get no royalties because the collection would not sell for long. It was still a best seller 10 years later!

Now, add all of that together. I was a little stressed. I was a little STRESSED!

It was late September. My daughter had her seizure in June and the neurologist said she may never have another seizure. I was walking and a car pulled up. It was the lady from across the street from our house. My daughter had another seizure.

That was a Saturday morning. Saturday night the FIA had a blow out and one of the actresses showed up on my front porch screaming and insanely offended she was not the “main” actress for all of our upcoming productions. Sunday, my best friend and music director chewed me out for putting together a quartet to sing in my place instead of a solo.

It was near midnight and I saw everything crumbling. My dreams were dying. The FIA was over before it started. My publishing career would be over because my days as drama director for my church was over. My daughter had epilepsy. I was a failure as a father, a doctor, a drama director, a writer, a singer, a best friend. You name it. I started pulling my hair out by the roots and sobbing uncontrollably. My wife sat there watching me descend into the deepest, darkest pit of despair I had ever felt in my life. Oh, and there was one other dream that died — a big dream — I cannot talk about.


I felt like a skier at the top of a mountain faced with a pristine slope of fresh snow only to watch it begin to crack and fissure and to feel the snow shifting under my skis and realizing I was at the top of an avalanche and if I didn’t ski fast enough and just right, I would be ground to bits by the churning snow and rock. I fell that night and the avalanche took me and tumbled me and ground me and tore me asunder and left me broken and frozen at the base of the mountain I had been climbing for four years.

I woke up the next morning and I still had my family and my job. But, all of my dreams were gone; dead; stripped away never to return. I was paralyzed with fear and anxiety. I was off from work that week and I stood at the door to my bedroom with my heart racing. My wife had taken the kids to school and gone on to one of her appointments and I was totally alone in the house. I would have to cross the living room to get to the kitchen to get breakfast. And, the foyer was off the living room and there were two tall, slim windows on either side of the front door. What if someone was standing there? They would see me like this! I was so scared and frightened. I ran across the living room and that was the beginning of a week of total panic and fear. My pastor and best friend came by that Monday night and I locked myself in the bedroom. I wouldn’t come out. I couldn’t come out.

I left the house early each morning and drove to a nearby town and wandered the mall all day to avoid seeing anyone I might know. I didn’t know what to do! My life was over!

I talked to my sister that week and she told me I had a problem. Church was my problem and I had developed some bad “Habits” at church. She said, anyone can break a bad habit in 30 days. So, I talked to one of my good friends and made a pact with him that I would take a break from church for six weeks and would return on the first Sunday in November. I left town every weekend and went to visit friends in other cities and went to their churches.

Finally, I sat outside Samaritan Counseling on a cool November evening watching ordinary people walk through the front door of a Victorian era style two story house. I didn’t need this! I could get over this depression! But, I realized something very profound. God had been trying to get my attention and I had been ignoring His voice. I had been holding up all these wonderful things I was doing for God and telling God to go ahead and bless them. But, God had something planned for me and the only way He could get me to do those things was to break me, strip me of all I wanted to do, leave me broken and crushed so that I had no choice but to look up to Him. It was in this realization that my healing began when I surrendered everything I held dear: dreams, hopes, aspirations to God.

And so, I stepped out of my car, walked up those wooden steps and entered that house of healing. Two years later, I was coping and handling life far better than I could ever have imagined. God showed me three things that helped me begin to heal. First, I developed my LifeFilters. I discuss these at length in the book I co-authored with Mark Sutton, “Conquering Depression: A Thirty Plan to Finding Happiness”. Second, I began a daily regimen of Bible reading, prayer, and devotions. Third, I kept a journal. I used “My Utmost for His Highest” devotion journal. Each day, I would read the Bible passage and read the devotion, AFTER I had written down what had happened in my life that day. By “bleeding” all over the page, I was able to confess so much to God and learn to rely on His word. It was amazing how whatever it was I had been through that day was reflected in the Bible passage and the devotion.

Mark Sutton, my pastor at that time, came to me after hearing about LifeFilters and confessed he also suffered from depression. At a lunch at our favorite restaurant, Oxford Street, he asked if I wanted to help him write a book on depression. He would handle the spiritual/counseling portion of the book if I would handle the medical part of the book. We talked about the 30 days it took to break bad habits and decided to break the book down into 30 small steps, one for each day. We also developed more LifeFilters for each day.

I was excited to be a part of this book project because I truly wanted to help anyone suffering from the horrible depression I had been through.

So, that is my story up to that point. Later in the week, I’ll tell the story of getting the book published. It is amazing!!!!

About Bruce Hennigan

Published novelist, dramatist, apologist, and physician.

Posted on July 24, 2011, in My Writing. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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