On Performance

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On February first of this year, a man by the name of Benoit Violier made headlines. His Swiss restaurant was crowned the “best in the world” in December of 2015. His restaurant named Restaurant de l’Hotel de Ville had won 3 Michelin stars, and made it to the top of France’s Le Liste above more than 1,000 restaurants worldwide. Violier was found in his home with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head. Swiss chef Fredy Girardet stated: “He was a brilliant man. Such talent, and an amazing capacity for work. He was so kind, with so many qualities. He gave the impression of being perfect.”

Almost 10 years ago, in an interview for a movie, Jim Carrey is reported saying “I think everyone should get rich and famous, and get everything they dreamed of, so that they can see that this is not the answer.”

What is our culture creating, that the pursuits of wealth, fame, and being the best are the ultimate achievements? More than that, the message seems to be that these things will finally fill the void in our souls. Maybe with enough “things,” enough accolades, enough praise from others, we will finally be able to calm the persistent voice that fearfully echoes “You are not enough. You are worthless.”

A phrase that haunts me is what Girardet noted about Violier: “He gave the impression of being perfect.” Of having it all together. Of needing nothing. Perfection, as we all cognitively know, is impossible. Yet this striving, this performance is all smoke and mirrors to somehow save ourselves. It leads to shame, isolation, and despair.

What if the answer to this existential question of worth and purpose has an existential answer? What if, upon realizing the things of this world will never satisfy our deepest longings- getting married, obtaining a promotion, an award, money, power, fame, beauty, kids, etc.- what if the response is humility to recognizing perhaps only Jesus is the perfect shape and substance to fill the inner void? It does not entail judging or minimizing longings and desires, but more acknowledging and finding rest amidst them. It’s a perspective shift from relying on yourself to showcase your worth, to resting in the worth that is sung over you in tender tones and gentle offerings. Our role then is to receive our worth, rather than to create it.

Worth is not found in what we do. If that were true then it would entail that children, the elderly, and the disabled would not have worth until they became positive contributors to society. Worth is found in who we are- our position as children of God, as sons and daughters, reflected in our character, how well we love others. Performance afflicts us all and there’s always Imposter Syndrome lurking in the background (more on that in another post).

What could our lives look like if we were kind and gracious to ourselves? What if we pursued excellence not for the sake of validating our worth, but out of a passion that leads to joy instead of despair? What if we ceased striving? 

Identifying Post-Partum Depression

Courtesy of Bethany Mccormick

Post-partum Depression is often misunderstood and confused with the “baby blues.” The maternity blues is a fairly common, and transient, experience that occurs within the first ten days of giving birth. It is mostly attributed to hormonal fluctuations and will stabilize within about a ten day period. Post-partum depression (PD), however, does not have these attributes. It often develops somewhat slowly and “under the radar.” A smaller percentage of women within the population will experience PD. It can begin as early as two weeks post-partum and as late as a year. The good news is that if a woman seeks help sooner rather than later, PD can usually be confined to the first year. Unfortunately many women ignore their symptoms or feel guilt or fear in seeking the help that can bring healing. Untreated symptoms allows the depression to stick around beyond the first post-partum year and have negative effects to mom, baby, and the family.

Some of the symptoms of PD will obviously overlap with other types of depression including (but not limited to): worry, tearfulness, irritability, sadness, guilt, lethargy, and  appetite changes. Some nuances specific to PD are inability to cope with the new baby and extra anxiety about the baby. One theory concerning the onset of PD takes into account our more isolated and individualized Western culture  which does not lend itself toward much social support. New mothers without partners, family, or involved friends might feel the weight of parenthood in a more negative and isolated way. Another more common risk factor is the heaviness of expectations that the mother has for herself, or that others around her have for her. These expectations for what a mother should be and/or feel can wreak havoc on a new parent seeking to do the best they can in the situation they may be in.

If one has concerns that they might be experiencing post-partum depression, I would encourage you to seek help immediately in order to address it before it becomes a more severe issue. There are many avenues for mitigating the effects of PD and moving beyond it. There is hope for an efficient and effective recovery for mom, infant, and family.

Cows and Buffalos (Thoughts on Depression)

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Courtesy of James Douglas

Around 1 in every 6 people in the United States will experience a depressive episode in their lifetime. Women are 70% more likely than men to experience depression in their lifetime. Only about half of those with diagnosed depression seek treatment, which can skew the numbers and indicate that the prevalence rates are higher. In any case, hearts are struggling.

When a storm is coming, the animals seem to have a keen sense of it. As humans, we may not be as attuned to nature as the birds, but we do tend to be aware of when our hope begins to fade and the darkness of depression threatens. When the clouds gather and the thunder grumbles, cows do what any sane animal might do, they run away from it. Not desiring to be trapped under a deluge of water or the strobe effect of lightening, they run as far away from the oncoming system as they can. Unfortunately, nature has a way of winning out and moving faster. The storm, unless it dissipates, will overtake them. Buffalos, though, go a different route. They run into the storm. They turn toward it and enter in to fear and the darkness. And they make it through to the sunshine in much quicker time.

Depression is a lot like that. People’s greatest fears concerning emotions, according to Brene Brown, are shame and grief. Depression touches on both of those emotions. It says you are helpless, hopeless, and you can experience isolation in your despair. If we want to avoid feelings of shame, grief, sadness, and pain, we will do whatever it takes to fight it off and bolt the opposite direction. Depression is the oncoming storm, and should you choose to run away from it and fight it, you will linger in the darkness for much longer than you would desire. Entering in to it to learn what it has to teach you is the pathway out.

There is no quick fix to depression. But I believe God gave us feelings as signals in our lives that are worth acknowledging. There are many instances of characters in the Bible who struggled with depression (Jeremiah and David to name a few). The Psalms are filled with laments and grievous words. Yet these people were chosen by God. Sometimes it was a consequence of unconfessed sin, or the overwhelming pain observed in the world, but there was always a purpose. God can use anything, and he certainly uses depression in the lives of men and women. Perhaps it’s a wakeup call, a signal things are not right, a growth experience, or even a doorway to greater freedom. It takes great courage to walk in to the storm. Being honest with your self, and with your experience is a step in the right direction.

[Depression is a painful and difficult illness, sometimes chronic. If you feel you are experiencing depression please seek help]