The Devil and Michael Boyle

For at least 15 years, and probably longer, I have suffered from depression.  I suppose I am fortunate, in that my depression is not as severe as it is for many people, at least based on some people's accounts that I have heard.  Nevertheless, I truly have it, and it has very real medical symptoms.  When the episodes hit, my appetite goes to nothing--I've gone a week eating only a couple of meals that I forced down through pure willpower.  I've had whole months where I would wake up every morning to prolonged bouts of nausea.  I know when I'm really in for it when, like clockwork, I suddenly snap awake at 3 or 4 in the morning, no matter how tired I am from the previous day's early rising.  So, I know that it is a real, physical condition.  And, fortunately for me, one that has proven responsive to antidepressants.

That's one, completely correct and descriptive way I have of understanding what is going on with me.  But it is not the only way.

People ask me if I believe in the devil.  I certainly do--I've met him.
Most often, he comes as a voice.  My voice.  His message to me varies depending on the circumstances, but the theme is remarkably consistent.  Whatever it is that I am doing, whatever challenges I am dealing with at the time, he tells me that people are watching me and constantly keeping score of my wins and losses.  In his calculation, any wins that I have are a product of the talents I have been given, and thus don't count for much.  The losses, well, the losses are all on me.  Despite stacking the deck against me like that, he tells me that this is the reality of the world, and that I better get to staving off those losses before someone notices.  And people are taking notice of my losses, no matter how trivial.  Any minute now, there will be a reckoning for those losses.  If those around me--co-workers, friends, family, whoever--haven't said anything yet, well, its only a matter of time for the hammer to come down.  Or, at least, so he tells me.

But its not simply about the day-to-day things where others are keeping score.  Ultimately what is at stake is the one thing that I want, and what everyone wants--love, and to be loved.  That love is always conditional, he says.  It is conditional on my ability to cover up my warts and imperfections.  People must not see the real me, he says, the one that is broken and flawed and scared and wounded.  Why would anyone love that?  He's not being cruel, he says, he's just being real.  No one would actually love you for you.  And if they appear to, either I have done a good job of conning them, or otherwise their apparent love is really just for show--a misplaced kindness borne out of pity.  Because, he says, I know the real truth, and I know he is right.

For a very long time, I have been convinced that his voice actually is my voice.  Recently, I have come to start to separate his voice from my own.  I don't believe it is my voice because I do not think I am as cruel as he is.  I don't think I've met anyone as cruel as he is.  But more importantly, I have come to see that he is a liar.  People are not keeping score, waiting to pounce of every trivial error I make.  The people who love me actually do so with full knowledge of who I am.  And the God that I have believed in my whole life doesn't look at me the way the voice tells me that everyone does.  In fact, He sent His son to prove it to us, and to me.

So, the voice is a liar.  But they are lies that are sometimes hard to ignore.  And I know that there will be times, the dark times, when I will believe those lies.  I have before.  I am sure I will again.

Yes, I believe in the devil.  I've met him.

Comments

Mike, Jason is here for a day or two visiting us now. I am married to his Dad. He reminded me of your blog and I'm interested in your thoughts. These are common thoughts among religious people. I think Catholics suffer a lot more than Protestants, but Jews are probably not far away. Thanks for sharing and if you want to talk further, please email me directly at mplichtman@live.com.

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