Sunday, February 8, 2015

"Months of Misery" and Job's Friends

My wife and a friend are making bread, about 15 feet from my desk. They're having a great time, and I'm trying to not get distracted while writing this post. The results may be interesting. Or confusing. I'll let you decide which.

Thanks to some very powerful prescriptions, my ADD-inattentive and major depression isn't nearly as hard to handle as it was: which reminds me of this morning's first reading.

With Friends Like These - - -

When the book of Job was written, about two dozen centuries back, Edomites had a reputation for being wise. Edom means "red" in Hebrew; it'sa name, more like a nickname, given to Esau.

Edomites claimed Esau as their ancestor — he's the chap who sold his birthright; under oath, yet; for a bowl of lentil stew. That doesn't justify what Jacob did later, tricking their father into giving him the first-born son's blessing.

Quite a few folks mentioned in the Bible aren't good role models. Instead of getting upset about it, I take that as reassurance that God can and does work with folks who are sincerely imperfect.

Esau felt like killing Jacob after that, understandably, so Jacob hid out with Laban. Esau caught up with Jacob later, "accompanied by four hundred men."

By the time Jacob stopped talking, Esau had agreed to meet Jacob later, in Seir. Jacob headed for Shechem, with a stopover in Succoth, and that's another topic. Topics.

Since I like the occasional rip-roaring tales of adventure and conflict, I'd probably read Sacred Scripture even if it wasn't strongly encouraged. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 133)

The Esau-Jacob-birthright subplot is in Genesis 25:30-34, 27:1-46, 33:1-20, by the way. Rachel, one of Laban's daugters, became Jacob's wife. That part of the story picks up around Genesis 29:5.

Rachel is Joseph's mother: that's the Joseph who got sold as a slave and wound up running Egypt, and that's yet another topic. (Genesis 30:25, and 41:40-41, for starters)

Descendants of Joseph, understandably, think very highly of Joseph son of Rachel. In my culture, a great many Catholic boys have Joseph as either their personal or middle name: honoring Joseph, foster-father of our Lord — and that's yet again another topic.

That doesn't have much to do with Job 7:1-4, 6-7: which is from Job's response to Edomite wisdom.

- - - Who Need Enemies?

Eliphaz from Teman, Bildad from Shuh, and Zophar from Naamath, show up a few chapters earlier: Job 2:11.

They have Edomite names: and like I said, Edomites had a reputation for wisdom back in Job's day. Much of what they say makes sense, including one of my favorite bits from the Bible —
"2 But man himself begets mischief, as sparks fly upward.
(Job 5:7)
But — and I've said this before — cherry-picking favorite verses from the Bible isn't always a good idea. That's why the Almighty gets confused with an action movie hero on occasion. (April 27, 2014)

Eliphaz started the first round of 'help' back in Job 4, Job's response starts in Job 6, and that gets me back to today's first reading. Finally.
"So I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights have been told off for me.

"If in bed I say, 'When shall I arise?' then the night drags on; I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.

"My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle; they come to an end without hope.

"Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again."
(Job 7:3-4, 7:6-7)
Job is not having a good day.

He'd been doing everything right, when Sabeans stole his oxen and killed Job's herdsmen. Then Chaldeans did the same with his camels and handlers, a freak storm killed his sons and daughters, and Job got a severe case of boils.

Small wonder that his wife told him to "curse God and die:" after which those four friends arrived "to give him sympathy and comfort." (Job 2:9, 11)

Sitting in ashes and scraping himself with a potsherd may have been his way of mourning his losses, or expressing sorrow. It occurs to me, though, that Job may have been employing a home cure, using Kshara, a Ayurvedic medicine.

That doesn't make Job a Hindu, any more than my household's learning Soo Bahk Do makes us Buddhists: and that's still another topic.

Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries: With Pits

Compared to Job, my life's been a bowl of cherries. "Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries" still gets recorded occasionally, and that's — what else? — another topic.

I was able to walk during most of my childhood; my mother had a stroke when I was 12, but it didn't kill her. Four of our six kids survived birth, and so did my wife the last time around.

Sure, it hurt to walk, or stand, or sit, or lie down: but it hurt in different ways, so I didn't get bored. Besides, I learned to sleep in the least-painful position, so that wasn't a problem.

Our surviving kids are fine; and my major depressive disorder and ADD-inattentive, or maybe Asperger's, got diagnosed a few years back.

It's nice, not struggling to make my brain work: but a potpourri of neurological glitches didn't keep me from learning skills for jobs ranging from delivery guy to radio disk jockey and advertising copywriter.

Depression and Death

On happily-rare occasions, I've felt like killing myself. The first time was in my teens. I decided I could out-endure the current crises. (December 14, 2014)

Turns out, I was right. It helps that I'm stubborn as a mule. Stubbornness isn't a virtue, fortitude is, and I've said that before.

Not everybody makes the same choice, though. Robin Williams apparently couldn't take it any more last year. (August 17, 2014)

Don't bother waiting for a rant about the evils of suicide, and how only bad or weak people do it. Suicide is a bad idea, we're not supposed to do it — but "we should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives." (Catechism, 2280-2283)

Besides, I might have decided differently, a very close friend killed herself, and I take Matthew 7:1-5 very seriously. (February 1, 2015December 14, 2014)

Not everybody who has depression commits suicide. Vincent van Gogh almost certainly did, and Joseph Conrad tried to, but he apparently died of a heart attack.

Mark Twain died of a heart attack too, an assassin killed Abraham Lincoln, and J. Robert Oppenheimer's throat cancer probably helped start his terminal coma.

Major depressive disorder isn't lethal, by itself, probably. Folks with this disorder have shorter lives, on average, partly because we're much more likely than most to kill ourselves. We're also more likely to drop dead from heart disease and assorted other illnesses.

Feeling hopeless or irritable most of the time doesn't help us concentrate. Neither does the very real lack of enough neurotransmitters — serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine — we use for thinking. Not everybody with depression winds up homeless: but many do.

Nerves in the peripheral nervous system handle signals to the diaphragm, heart, and other vital systems.

These nerves use dopamine, one of the neurotransmitters that's in short supply with major depression. I'd be surprised if low neurotransmitter levels in our organs' control circuits didn't eventually kill us.

Praise the Lord and Pass the Prescriptions

While I'm typing this, my brain runs through about 20% of the oxygen and energy I'm using. That's a huge fraction of the body's energy.

I could worry about humanity facing extinction because our brains are 'too big,' but that doesn't make sense. (October 31, 2014)

God gave us brains: and expects us to use them. (Genesis 1:26, 2:7; Catechism, 355, 1730, 1778, 2292-2295)

God is large and in charge. I rely on the Almighty for my life, health: and continued existence. (Psalms 115:3; Proverbs 19:21; Catechism, 268, 301)

But "life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God...." I'm supposed to take care of my health, within reason. (Catechism, 2288)

That includes taking prescribed medications that keep my brain running smoothly: smoother, at any rate.

Could God miraculously sort out my glitchy neurochemistry, replace my appendix, and pull my hairline back to my forehead? Sure: like Job said to God, " purpose of yours can be hindered." (Job 42:2)

Do I think that'll happen? Not likely, and that's — another topic.

(Image from NASA, ESA, F. Paresce (INAF-IASF, Bologna, Italy), R. O'Connell (University of Virginia, Charlottesville), and the Wide Field Camera 3 Science Oversight Committee; used w/o permission.)
(Part of the 30 Doradus Nebula, a turbulent star-birth region in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way.)

More about my brain and getting a grip:


Diana said...

I don't think Big Pharma is the answer for everyone.

There are many alternative modes and treatments that have nothing to do with Big Pharma.

Not judging anyone who finds pharma useful, but I get worried when I read the whole "biochemical imbalance," rhetoric. I also never call anyone mentally "ill."

God bless.

PS: What happened with the bread?

Brian Gill said...

I appreciate your words, Diana: and agree, to a point. I am also touched by your concern and - I hope this is the right word - sensitivity.

However, I am - in objective truth - mentally ill. There's something wrong with the way my body processes chemicals needed by my neurons: particularly the ones in my brain.

I can, and on rare occasions have, acknowledged this truth by saying "I'm insane." "Mentally ill" may sound better: but both statements are simple acknowledgements of the same truth.

I'm also balding, and was born with defective hips. These are also truths that I deal with. Happily, neither has quite the same negative social consequences as being mentally ill.

I publically acknowledge my conditions in part because there is a chance that folks will reconsider their attitude toward crazy people. ;)

Besides, I'm retired, and so don't have to convince an employer that I'm a good risk as an employee.

I don't buy 'miracle hair growth' patent medicines, because it's not necessary.

I was finally convinced to get my hips swapped out by the family doctor and my wife - because that was a good idea. It was taking me more than a minute to move about six feet along the kitchen counter.

The way my brain works, my (lack of) hair, and my hips are not - I am reasonably sure of this - the result of deliberate wrongdoing on my part.

I'd love to have the power to think real hard, and move my hairline back to my forehead. ;)

That's not gonna happen.

I'd also love to have the power to tell my body's cells to start processing serotonin and other chemicals properly.

That, too, is not a practical wish.

So, I use the tools available to deal with the way my brain works: prescribed medications; counseling; and a great deal of effort.

If I could do without the medications, I would. I don't even like taking painkillers.

As it is, those prescriptions make it possible for me to focus on thinking about the way I act - instead of focusing on just thinking. :)

Brian Gill said...


I knew I was forgetting something.

The bread is delicious - and there's been another batch baked since you wrote.

It's been an - interesting - week, and I didn't remember to check comments until this morning. Sorry about that.

Again - I think "again" - thank you for taking the time to comment.

Brigid said...

I'm mentally ill, too, and it drives me even more nuts when people try to act like there's nothing wrong and people with ADHD/Aspberger's/depression/whatever are perfectly normal. "All they need is love, just like everyone else." No, no, and most definitely NO. People who are mentally ill require counseling, specialized training (for those with developmental disorders learning how to deal with other people can be a *chore*), and, yes, often medication. As much as I hate taking the stuff, I've been on medication and I've been off medication. Medication is better.

Brian Gill said...

Indeed, Brigid.

For what it's worth: I think you'll find, as I did, that it is possible to learn the habits of observation and analysis that make dealing with others a tad easier.

That has been my experience, anyway. I still make analytic errors; misreading the nuances of expression, posture, gesture, and tone, that make up so much of person-to-person communication.

Oh, well: nobody told me this would be easy. Actually, a few did: and that's not quite another topic. ;)

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I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

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Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

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