A perfect world for me would include Wanting, with a capital “W”. We would want and have the energy and motivation all included, like a first class Qatar Airline’s ticket with real linen napkins for your glass of water with gas. We’d feel the desire to do things, and good things too. We wouldn’t crave that trash like cookies, ice cream, or chips until we couldn’t taste it any more. Nor would it drape us over couches all day watching tv or fill our heads with cotton-candy audiobooks.
A place of safety would have us full of urge and interest for growing our inside parts, the creative parts, the parts that parallel play with what is Love. We would Want, like a coil that unravels, like my puppy seeks my hand, like the people on Easy Street in a better place.
Wanting is a gift. It isn’t a right. People who have never lost it, they just have no idea about existing in the absence of it. But those poor souls who have lost it, who don’t Want, who have felt it leave them like a mist into the ether, that is hard.
I’d like to tell you a story to help you understand. And there are so many patients clamoring to speak, but my own voice for them is clipped by limited skill and talent. Their voices are most eloquent. For this, I refer you to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, (NAMI), who are people for people. An awesome resource.
However, in my own effort, know this: Wanting is a gift. I’ve seen what it looks like when it is gone, and it is vacuous, a void, a space where if not filled, devils come to occupy. The devils of our broken minds. Depression, that is dark. Down down, feeling like it will suck you into the earth and plants will grow out of your carbon compost.
Priscilla asked me why she felt this way. Why was the gift taken, without clear reason? That familiar phrase, “I don’t have a reason to feel this way. Everyone says I should feel good about my life. But I don’t. I don’t even care if I die. I don’t care about anything.” It’s a familiar phrase because many in Priscilla’s patient cohort say almost the same thing word for word.
I don’t proselytize in clinic but I am open to whatever religion people come in with and how they practice it in the world of mental health. For Priscilla, this was her conflicted outcry.
“I need help. I can’t go on like this. I’ve prayed for help. I’ve asked God to heal me. But I’m still so depressed. Please pray for me. Please help me.”
All the like minded believers are feeling super fine with her right now. “Yes. Pray about it. God can heal you.” And maybe some are thinking she must even be a little culpable. Even if at a dusty genetic level. Yet for whatever reason, God has gifted them with lovely Wanting. Not her though. Many here would think emotions and behaviors are spiritual issues, moral, and connected to salvation. I do. …As a psychiatrist, may I? But looking too close at that, at moralizing emotions and behaviors, is like poking the IRS, so all is quiet.
Her outcry, “Please help me!,” was a spiritual request synchronous with a physical and temporal one. “Please help me…” feel and behave well. It’s sounds of Naaman asking Elisha to remove his spots of leprosy. Or the crippled beggar, stretching his hand out to Peter. Or Esther fasting to beg for the lives of her people. “Please help me.” The spiritual is there with the body.
In my life, having practiced in medical research as well as clinical care for 18 years, and after a super super long many years of schooling, after having walked through church and daily Bible study, (and this is a run on sentence as that’s what this unfolding in my professional experience feels like sometimes), I am comfortable with asking God to help Priscilla, whilst helping her see and achieve how God, S/He, is going to do that for her through a medical approach.
But the absence of Wanting in her life, wanting to get up in the morning, wanting to read her Bible, wanting to take care of her kids, to shower, to have sex, when she doesn’t want this, it isn’t fair. It isn’t because she was bad, or is less than any of us, or doesn’t have the ear of God. I’m very comfortable saying that she has a treatable objectively identifiable medical illness. Thank God. God is all that is good, and kind, and God has mercy for us bleeders, the jacked up, the mean spirited and the ruined. God sees what is wrong with our bodies and minds, and God doesn’t resent us getting medical help. How absurd otherwise.
Self-Care Tip: Give yourself a break and ask for help. There is a better place. Keep on!
Questions: Have you ever experienced the absence of Wanting? Or seen it in someone else?
What did it look like? Please tell us your story. We need to hear.