My Battle With Blue Monday

I’ve never been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, but as I look back at my life I see some patterns that would likely have qualified me if I had gone to talk with a professional.
For those of you that don’t know me, I’ve spent most of my life working as a pastor/minister. There are times it can be tremendously exciting and rewarding and other times where it can be soul-crushing.
Everyone handles things differently and I handled it all very poorly. In the seasons where things were exciting and rewarding, I thought that if I just prayed and worked a little harder, things would be that much better. In the seasons where things were soul-crushing, I thought that if I just prayed and worked a little harder, things would improve and turn around. I learned some painful lessons about performance, prayer, God and people but I need to leave that for another day.
Proverbs tells us that ‘hope deferred makes the heart sick’. I kept hoping that things would improve and the more I hoped, the more they didn’t. In the meantime, I became miserable on the inside and on the outside. Anger, frustration and short temper became part of my brand, especially for those closest to me. (I had no idea how bad it was until long after the fact.) By the fall of 2005, I was in bad shape and needed to step away.
A change of career focus improved things somewhat, but the stress of building a ministry from scratch, some serious financial pressure and a lot of baggage from days gone by, made my inner world that much heavier and darker. To be clear, I had some wonderful people around me who loved me, accepted me and supported me who had no idea what was happening inside of me. It was just too embarrassing or painful to invite them into my that part of my world.
In the fall of 2010, my best friend looked me in the eye and said ‘I’m fat… you’re fat… we should do something about that!’ He proposed a friendly competition with some other ‘fat friends’ where we each put in $100 and the first person to lost 10% of their body weight won the prize.
While I didn’t win the grand prize, I did win the better prize. I began to run as a way to lose weight but quickly discovered that in addition to burning calories, my inner world was getting brighter. The more I ran, the more my mental health improved. I was more relaxed, more patient and basically had more ‘mental endurance’.
I know this isn’t a panacea for everyone and many suffer at a much deeper level than what I experienced, but it’s something that made a huge difference in my life. Part of it is just biology and physiology. I burned off a lot of the negative energy in my world just through burning calories. Part of it is intensely spiritual. I know this isn’t everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ but it happens to be part of mine. God did (and is still doing) a profound work in me in the time I’ve spent running.