Episode 90

Welcome back to the podcast! After a brief break, we're back with new episodes to usher in our third year of podcasting.  We're getting started on a personal note, delving into the science, spirituality, and personal experience living with major depression. What is it and what makes it difference from normal sadness? How do antidepressants work? How do our religious traditions affirm or condemn us in our time of need? All that and how to cure your sadness with electric fish and cocaine. 


Support this podcast on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/DowntheWormholepodcast

More information at https://www.downthewormhole.com/

produced by Zack Jackson
music by Zack Jackson and Barton Willis 



This transcript was automatically generated by www.otter.ai, and as such contains errors (especially when multiple people are talking). As the AI learns our voices, the transcripts will improve. We hope it is helpful even with the errors.


Zack Jackson  00:04

You are listening to the down the wormhole podcast exploring the strange and fascinating relationship between science and religion. This week our hosts are


Rachael Jackson  00:15

Rachael Jackson, Rabbi at Agoudas Israel congregation in Hendersonville, North Carolina, and my superpower is my level of patience and ability to keep going.


Ian Binns  00:34

Ian Binns Associate Professor of elementary science education at UNC Charlotte, and I believe my superpower is teaching Adam Pryor.


Adam Pryor  00:43

I work at Bethany college and Lindsborg Kansas. My superpower is the ability to suck the energy out of a room at any moment I choose.


Zack Jackson  01:01

Or infuse it at any point.


Ian Binns  01:06

It's like the de luminator from Harry Potter, instead of taking the mite away. That's right, all the energy that's right.


Kendra Holt-Moore  01:14

Kendra Holt-Moore Oh, wait, though. Assistant Professor of religion at Bethany college and Lindsborg Kansas. I'm my superpower is the ability to not sleep whenever I have anything that needs to be done. So much so that it disturbs everyone around me who loves me and there is a name for this creature that no longer is Kendra. But instead they call our neck, which is my name, but


Zack Jackson  01:58

it's a great name, though.


Ian Binns  01:59



Zack Jackson  02:02

Zack Jackson UCC pastor in Reading Pennsylvania, and my superpower is the same superpower as Abraham Lincoln. Once Abraham Lincoln's superpower, I'm so glad you asked. Because that's what I want to talk about here at the beginning of this episode. Wait a second, actually, my superpower is transitions because oh, man, that was a good one. You don't make that transition. Even better is talking about the transition. Oh, man, everything is Christian. I'm so happy to be back. By the way, this this break to had was helpful in planning. And I know all of our lives are going crazy right now. But like Rachel said, It is good to be back. So um, this being a science and religion podcast, I do think it's important for us to instead talk about American history.


Ian Binns  03:04

Another one of those transitions.


Adam Pryor  03:07

You're gonna work Abe Lincoln in there, no matter what.


Zack Jackson  03:11

It's, you know, year three, and Abe Lincoln is starting like your one did with Thomas Paine. We're just gonna name drop along the way.


Adam Pryor  03:21

I can't hate on Abe Lincoln, though.


Zack Jackson  03:28

Oh, man. But I want to talk for a second here at the beginning about the difference between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, because there's a lot of differences. And way back in the day in 1858, the two of them were locked in a tight Senate race in Illinois. And, you know, a Senate race in the Midwest in the 1800s was not all that exciting, generally speaking, not like Senate races today. But this one was special. This was the very first instance of American political theater, which we all have come to know and love slash hate. today. Most of that being the fact that it seemed like the issue of slavery was finally going to get talked about because it's been kicked down the road by generations and generations. But now with new states forming now we had to actually talk about the thing. And these two men, they stood on opposite ends of that spectrum. And also, there was a whole lot of new fancy technology that was making this local race into something more national, there was this newfangled thing called the electric telegram, which allowed news of things to spread hundreds of miles 1000s of miles, like in an instant. They also had all of these new trains all throughout the Midwest. And what would happen in these debates is these two men had Is that there would be stenographers there, and they would be writing down the transcript in shorthand as they went. And then at halftime, because there definitely was a halftime, they would give their notes to a person on a train. And that person on the train would write out the shorthand into long form. And then at the end of the train would hand it to the typist at the newspaper, who would then start and then at the end of the debate, the second half would get there. And so by like an hour and a half after the debate was done, the full transcript was already written and ready to be printed in the newspaper, which then got sent all over the Chicagoland area and out into the Midwest and like, this sort of thing had not happened before. So these men were not just talking to, you know, the good folks of Freeport or Galesburg, or whatever, but they were also talking to people in New York, in Virginia, they have this, this debate about slavery became bigger than just this local race. So on one side, we've got Stephen Douglas, a man that is not on any dollar bills. Because he though he won this race, spoiler, sorry. History kind of forgot about him. He was a little guy with a big mouth. He was known by his contemporaries as the greatest debater in generations, if he couldn't convince you and the crowd of the truth of what he was saying, then he would find a way to destroy his opponent so badly that everyone thought the other person was an idiot. He was he was amazing at what he did. He was confident. He was well known. He had the backing of the well established Democratic Party, he had great hair. And then on the other side, we've got Lincoln, a man who was six foot four, and 178 pounds, like literally a scarecrow. And he had a high pitched squeaky voice, and wore a giant hat that made them look even bigger and skinnier, like visually, not a great guy. He was also the member of the Republican Party, which was brand new, didn't have a lot of support. And at the time, he was neither pro slavery nor pro abolition. So he made everyone mad, and nobody really appreciated his position. So like on paper, this should have been such a landslide that we never heard of this Abraham Lincoln guy ever again. But Mr. Lincoln had a superpower. He did a superpower which would propel him into the national spotlight and eventually lead to his presidency. Abraham Lincoln's superpower severe clinical depression. That's right. Severe clinical depression though they didn't call it that. Back then they call it melancholia. But now if he were to be diagnosed, that's exactly what he would be diagnosed with. Which Same as me. So me and me and Ava were like the same guy. Except he was six, four and 178 pounds and I'm six, three and 270 pounds. So you know, a little bit bigger. But anyway, six, three, I am six, three.


Ian Binns  08:26

I did not know that.


Zack Jackson  08:27

I know. I'm only about four inches on your screen. But yeah, real life.


Adam Pryor  08:32

Okay, carry on. Sorry.


Zack Jackson  08:36

So, there are a couple of times in his life that he he went on, like an unofficial sort of suicide watch, where his family, his friends and family in the neighborhood would take turns checking in on him every hour or so. He couldn't get himself out of bed. And his people were worried about him. They removed every sharp thing out of his house. They brought him meals, and this would happen for like weeks at a time. He told a friend of his once that he never carried a pocket knife on him because he couldn't trust himself. There was one time when he was running for Senate, a little girl came up to him with her autograph book and asked for an autograph. And he wrote in this autograph book. The girl's name is Rosa. Rosa. You are young and I am older. You are hopeful I am not enjoy life. Eric grows colder pluck the roses air they rot


Ian Binns  09:38

Wow. Just makes you feel


Zack Jackson  09:43

warm. fuzzies right. For a little girl pulled out and looked at it was like Oh, thanks. I guess it's I think maybe he had some of Adams superpower in there too. Yeah. So, us, people, we people who live with this sort of depression, we kind of, we find ways to cope with it in the day to day grind, how to get through the day when we feel like our souls being sucked into a black hole. For me, I have always found music to be a good outlet, writing music, playing music, or being in nature has always been helpful. For Lincoln, it was being overly productive. He just worked himself until he fell asleep. And really sad poetry, which he wrote, and which he memorized other people's and used to recite at dinner parties. And that would suck the energy out of the room when he did. Or horribly inappropriate humor. He loved dark humor, too, I think most of us who are depressed, like dark humor, but those fixes are kind of like insulin for a diabetic. They, they help you get through the day. But they don't cure anything, they don't fix anything. So his his real transformation came in 1842 when he was 31 years old, and he checked himself into a hospital and received intensive mental care which 1842 this is before there was real medication, or this is pre Freud, and all of that. And so intensive psychiatric stay in those days meant a lot of sleep, quite a bit of cocaine, and Mercury and perhaps some electric shocks. Which by the way, on a side note, people have been using electricity to try to solve head problems since at least the first century. I found I found this out from there's a doctor named scrub bonitas largas. And he writes that if you have a headache, all you have to do is catch yourself a torpedo, which is a type of electric Ray, like, like a sting ray that lives in the Mediterranean, and then put it on your head, and let it electrocute you a few times, and then throw it back in the water and then you'll be fine.


Rachael Jackson  12:21

That's genius.


Zack Jackson  12:23

Yeah, so we've been electrocuting ourselves to make ourselves feel better for a very long time. And we're still doing it. And I'm going to talk a little bit about that later. But whatever he did in there was enough to get him well enough to get out and to get a mission. Like he started to see his depression differently. After that, like it was it was less of something that he suffered through and more of something that he could use for a better purpose. He, he he decided that he should use his suffering, to help alleviate other people's suffering. You see, studies have shown that happy people are really bad at fighting injustice, like truly awful. And I'm sorry to all of you happy optimists out there. It's just not your gift. Happy people tend to overestimate their abilities. They trust people too much. They see the world through rosy colored glasses. And so they don't see the need to change things all that much, because things don't look so bad to them. But we people with depression, we are under no such delusions, we think we can't stop seeing the things that are wrong, because that's just how we see the world. And we're a lot more able to empathize with the downtrodden because we are so often downtrodden ourselves. So our superpower kind of also our kryptonite, also. So Lincoln took that melancholic heart and He pointed it towards the systems that kept kept people enslaved. And while other people talked about slavery as a political issue, as issues of, of, of laws and regulations and logic and history, and blah, blah, blah. When he got up there, he spoke from his heart. And people like modern historians would say that, like, you felt what he felt when he spoke, like when he spoke, you knew that every word that came out of his mouth was coming out of his heart, and that he wasn't just a politician, that he wore his heart on his sleeve. And that level of authenticity is just so rare, that vulnerability and authenticity is so rare in in people that when a person like that comes around who's willing to speak so freely from their own feelings, it's like people listen, you know, Fred Rogers style, people connect with that on a deep level. So that was what came through and all of the communications all of the The newspaper articles that came out, they'd be like, wow, yeah, Douglas was great. But man, Lincoln really believes what he says. And that kind of authenticity became the fuel that would propel him into the White House. Eventually, he, he turned his coping mechanisms into the keys that would unshackle millions of people. His love of poetry became these heartfelt speeches, his need to stay busy kept him focused on the work of emancipation, his dark humor became something that endeared him to people in ways that other politicians didn't, he was just such a unique person who learned how to use his, his depression, for good. And that's something that I can relate with a lot, as somebody who has spent my whole life struggling with depression, and not naming it until I was, I don't know, maybe five years ago, or so, I've talked about my own journey of mental health a bunch of times on this podcast. So suffice to say, I only started seeking treatment a few years back. And it was only when I realized that I wasn't really able to be the father that my son needed that like, I couldn't get myself up to care for this baby, I couldn't feel deeply for him, I couldn't. And I had this this struggle, this debate, when I started taking my first medication. It was like, I stopped being able to be so creative, because music and creativity was one of my outlets for my depression. And so I'd only known how to be creative in depression. And so without the depression, I stopped being creative. So I had to make a choice. At that point, it was like, do I focus on the, on my son on parenting on trying to empathize with him? Or do I focus on my creative pursuits. And that was legitimately hard, because a lot of my identity was wrapped up in that. And sometimes I still wonder, like, what it would be like if I was not on any medication, but I, I'm really grateful that I have chosen to stay on. And from what I've learned about, like, what the signs of depression is, really confirmed that, that it's really important to stay healthy, and not just to get better for a while. And I'll explain why in in a bit after our first break, but yeah, so so my own personal journey, I feel like has mirrored Lincoln's, in some ways, obviously, on a much smaller scale.


Ian Binns  17:51

So far,


Zack Jackson  17:53

so far, sure. But in realizing that the thing that has been my burden my whole life, this depression, actually has become one of my superpowers, not only being able to empathize with people, and to be present in suffering, but to also have the ability to speak from a place of knowledge for people into people's lives who are suffering is not something that somebody without depression can do. And so I'm coming to terms with then how to see that in myself, I'm starting to see it more in characters in Scripture and throughout history. And we'll talk about that in just a minute. But let's take him just just a brief moment. 20 seconds to breathe, because that was pretty heavy. So one of the most helpful books for me. It's written by Andrew Solomon, it's called the noonday demon, an atlas of depression, which if you haven't read, you should if you suffer from depression, it's really helpful. And if you don't, it's really helpful in helping you to empathize with someone else. In trying to define even what depression is. It's very difficult, but he says, grief is depression in proportion to circumstance. So everyone has grief. Depression is grief out of proportion to circumstance. It is tumbleweed distress that thrives on thin air growing despite its detachment from the nourishing Earth. It can be described only in metaphor and allegory. St. Anthony in the desert, asked how he could differentiate between angels who came to him humble and devils who came in rich disguise, said that you could tell by how you felt after they departed. When an angel left you, you felt strengthened by his presence. When a devil left you felt horror. Grief is a humble angel who leaves you with strong, clear thoughts and a sense of your own depth. Depression is a demon who leaves you horrified. Which has totally been my experience of the thing. Again, it's a great book, because it's really hard to describe the, what it feels like to be depressed. And it's even harder to describe the physicality of depression. Can I tell you on a personal note, when I first saw my psychiatrist, and I was like, Hey, can you explain to me what's going on with my neurotransmitters? Like, I've heard I don't have enough serotonin, or I don't have enough of what is this? And it's making me and he said, Oh, well. Alright. So there's a certain sort of neuro mythology out there. That which is a great word, by the way, neuro mythology, that the only thing that is wrong with a depressed person is they have some bad chemicals. They don't have enough of them, or they have too much of them, and there's just out of whack. And if you fix the chemicals, you'll find it. I say it's neuro mythology, because it's too easy. It gives an easy answer to a complicated question. When in reality, we don't entirely know. So we kind of accidentally stumbled into these medications called SSRIs, or Selective Serotonin re uptake inhibitors. And they seem to boost the level of serotonin, which seems to make some depressed people better. So then by correlation, perhaps a lack of serotonin was the reason for their depression. And that's kind of we're just kind of trying things, throwing them out the wall. And if it raises your levels, you're fine. Because the thing is, you can't tell what your what the levels of neurotransmitters are in your body without a spinal tap. Because of that whole blood brain barrier. So there is no way for them to know what your chemical levels are like, and what your neurotransmitters are able to do. And so we just kind of throw things at a wall until they work. So just like on a very basic level, throwing these words around, when any part of your body wants to communicate with any other part of your body through your nervous system, it there's an electric charge that goes through the neuron. And then it gets to the end, where it releases a number of different neurotransmitter chemicals into the little space in between, they call that the synapse. And then they float around and they go over to the next neuron. And when they touch that there's receptors, and they kind of like, you know, the square one fits in the square hole, and this one fits in the circle hole. And they, they go in, and when they latch in there, that tells that neuron Oh, okay, so that's the thing we're doing, okay, cool, and then sends electrical signal down again. And so if you lack a certain type of, of neurotransmitter of chemical, then the transmission is less than good. And so like serotonin, we have found is really important for mood regulation, and for self control for energy. So like, we just assume that people who show these symptoms maybe lack these neurotransmitters. And when we do experiments where we boost them, pay, they get a little bit better. So we assume that they're connected, but we don't honestly know how. And it seems like there are some things having to do with maybe damage in the brain itself, or chemical levels. And then obviously, there's a part of it that's like learned that psychological where it's like you're dealing with trauma, and it's so complicated. And I wish it were as simple as just take a pill, and then you're fine. Me too, right? Ian and I are on the same medication. So we have some solidarity there.


Ian Binns  24:35

I feel like it's a hit or miss process.


Zack Jackson  24:37

And it really is and you don't know if it's going to work for like two weeks and then could either


Ian Binns  24:43

be okay or utterly miserable.


Zack Jackson  24:47

I was transitioning medications at the beginning of the pandemic. And then during Holy Week and Easter in a pandemic while transitioning medications with two small kids at home, and it was the Worst couple of months of my life, because all of my chemicals were thrown out out of balance because of that, you know, and then life itself circumstances were awful.


Adam Pryor  25:11

I feel like the short answer, whenever you end up talking about brain chemistry is like, it's not simple. Like, there should just be like an Asterix by every study about brain chemistry to be like, maybe


Rachael Jackson  25:27

for these particular people only.


Zack Jackson  25:30

Yeah, I mean, the future of this is in figuring out the genetic markers that cause certain things. Because we know that mental illness can be hereditary, I could trace the, the melancholia, in my own family, between, especially through the men in my family, and all of the men in my family chose to deal with it in different ways. Some of them through alcoholism, and secret vices, and some of them through religiosity and prayer. And some of them like me, through medication, and, and therapy, we kind of have all found ways of dealing with this thing that's gone through our bloodline. And my doctor tells me, you know, once we can isolate a bit better, which genetic markers are involved there, we can then just take a DNA test, and then they can create a medication for you, that is tailored to you. And so now it's just like, hey, here you go. Rachel made me a wonderful cross stitch, and sent it to me that says, If you can't make your own seratonin storebought is fine. And I love it and it's in, it's on my wall. Because I need that reminder, the storebought is fine. It's way more important to stay healthy than it is, even if I don't understand the process of it, even if it's like, I hate the fact that my happiness comes from a bottle, I should be able to do this on my own. I'm strong enough now that I don't need this anymore. And I've done this to a bunch of times where I've been like, well, I've been good for six months now. So I'm going to tell my doctor, I want to get off this medication. And then he'll be like, Well, okay, if you say so. And then I'll, I'll have a horrible regression. And then it will be like, Okay, we got to start again. And then it takes me a while to get back on. And it's just the whole thing, because my goal is to get off of the medication and to stop having to have my happiness in a bottle. But the problem is that depressive episodes are a bit like concussions in that every time you have one, it gets easier to have another and they last longer. And they're a little bit worse, actually. Jon Gruden, who's the department chair for Lopez and young. He studies long term effects of sustained stress in the depressive episodes. And he wrote that if you have too much stress and too high level of cortisol for too long, you start to destroy the very neurons that should regulate the feedback loop and turn down the cortisol levels after stress is resolved. Ultimately, this results in lesions to the hippocampus and to the amygdala, a loss of, of neural networking tissue, and the longer you remain in a depressed state, the more likely you are to have significant lesioning which can lead to peripheral neuropathy. Your vision starts to fade in all kinds of other things can go wrong, which reflects the obvious fact that we need to not only treat depression when it occurs, but also to prevent it from reoccurring. Our public health approach at the moment is just wrong. People with recurrent depression must stay on medication permanently not cycle on and off of it. Because beyond the unpleasantness of having to survive multiple painful depressive episodes, such people are actually ravaging their own neurological tissue.


Kendra Holt-Moore  29:03

Hmm. Blood Pressure just spiked. Listening to that.


Ian Binns  29:10

My watch did tell me to take a breath,


Zack Jackson  29:12

your cortisol levels just went up hearing that and you need to find a way to get him back down again. Sustained stress is bad for you. There are natural ways, right? Y'all I'm sure have natural ways of calming yourself. Right. What do you all do when you're in this sustained periods of stress?


Rachael Jackson  29:38

I crossed it.


Zack Jackson  29:40



Adam Pryor  29:43

I ride my bicycle.


Kendra Holt-Moore  29:47

I paced around the living room. physically exhausted myself.


Ian Binns  29:54

I will go out, sometimes about side. Sometimes I'll meditate. Though the Lego do a puzzle, something like that. I picked up golf again, on vacation. So there are times when I've gone to the driving range, if I have the time, I found while on vacation, there was a we always play when we're down there. And the last few times we've gone I haven't played I'd started to bring my old clubs that my dad gave me years ago. So they're very old. And we, I would play with play with my father in law and brother in law down there and I was hitting it pretty well. And it's just like, it's kind of fun. I'm not taking it seriously. I'm just out here enjoying myself and then one afternoon while we were there. It was a lot of downtime. We weren't doing anything. And so I just kind of look my wife and said, Honey, I think I want to go play nine holes by myself. You're out with it. She said sure. So I've called the course because I made some courses right there and they said Yeah, come on. So I went play nine holes by myself put my headphones in and listen to a podcast. And it was a great two hours. Like it really helped. And so we found that Wow, that's so now I bought a new set of clubs. not expensive though. But it's it's very therapeutic. And I found that it's nice for me to go out there and just do that this time for myself to think and and just or let go.


Zack Jackson  31:20

Yeah, well, I was gonna say I hear two themes that the neuroscientist Andrew Newberg has talked about a lot in his books, the the arousal and acquiescent systems in your body, the the ones that you get pumped up, and the ones that you get brought down. And in both of those, if you overdo it, you're the thinking part of your brain starts to shut down, as it focuses on just that part. And you get out of your spatial awareness you get out of your cognitive areas, the parts of your brain that are overthinking that are causing the feedback loop of cortisol to keep going. And so when you work yourself out, like on a bicycle, or walking or running, you're flooding your body with such high levels of these, these chemicals that it's like whoosh, wash afterwards, or if you're doing something repetitive, like cross stitch, or knitting, or golf, or meditation or something that does the opposite, that relaxes you so much that it gets you out of that, that cycle than that to, then once that stupid thinking part of your brain is done overthinking, then the natural parts can get through and flesh it all out. I mean, you see this in religious ritual, right? You either have things like tribal dances, right with the drums and the repetitious things, or you have something like a meditative, like the home, the sound of a slow Bell or something. You even see that that's the difference between modern Christian worship songs and old timey hymns is, is the same kind of deal. You're trying to either raise yourself up and do it an ecstatic state or bring yourself down into a lower state. But both of them are trying to get out of your own head to let your brain fix itself. And that's so important.


Rachael Jackson  33:17

I love I love that I love this idea of especially in religious contexts, without even necessarily knowing why we're doing those things, right, as you're saying those. In Judaism, there's a there's a word for it called a knee goon. And a goon is a wordless melody, or a repetitive, a few words melody that will come up frequently. And we'll just say the same thing for 235 minutes, it'll be the same thing. And there's really something very powerful about that. And so it's nice to know why it works.


Kendra Holt-Moore  34:16

Think it's also really scary, like the people that I know who have depression and have tried, or are in the process of trying all the various medications and nothing's working. It's just scary to her. I feel very much for those people who want a medical solution and are not sure how to navigate like, at least in the meantime, until something works if something is going to work. Not everyone knows how to navigate like other activities to help manage those symptoms. And that When people become really desperate, and so, yeah, I just, I, I know that that is a very scary process for people to just mean it's hard to like go on antidepressants anyway, like it takes, there's an adjustment period and all of that, but for nothing to work, I know people who are like, you know, trying the last thing before they go into like anti psychotics. And that's a whole other category of drugs. That is very, I mean, like, you don't want to mess with that stuff, if you don't have to, because, you know, that's, you have a whole other set of issues that can come up with, with those things. And, yeah, it's just, it's a lot, it's a very confusing puzzle that for some people seems to like not really have a solution, except, you know, whatever it is that you can try, that makes life a little bit more manageable. And like, giving you that ability to reach, not not happiness so much, but like a state of equilibrium. It's like all people really want at that point.


Zack Jackson  36:15

There's some really exciting breakthroughs in transcranial magnetic stimulation. Previously, the last ditch option for people is to, like knock them out unconscious, and then electrocute them a bunch of times in the head, electrode thought shock therapy, it's silent and can lead to memory loss and all kinds of things. But this technique, which is been approved, but your insurance won't pay for it until you've tried, literally everything else takes off course, right? focused electromagnetic stimulation into very specific portions of your brain. So they do a brain scan first. So they can identify where exactly your how your brain is situated. And then they'll do these wonderful tests, where they'll like, they'll, they'll try to locate your like motor centers. And then like, once your hand twitches, they'll be like, oh, yep. Okay, so that's where that is. And then Okay, your nose switched, okay, that's where that is. And then they can triangulate where your mood centers will be. And then use this magnetic stimulation through, like this special hat, it looks like the kind of thing that you use at a like a beauty salon to dry your hair. And it just stimulates that one part. So it's really focused on just that one part. And it, it basically exercises it because the theory is that it's underdeveloped. And so it's like it's massaging it, and it's helping it to move and whatnot. And so you do this for every single day, it's a half hour sessions every day, for a month. And then after that, most people are fine. And they might need to come in for a tune up every couple years or so. But instead of like medication that increases the, the chemical levels in your, in the synapses, this goes straight to the brain, and tries to help massage an underdeveloped part. And it seems to be working really well. And there's a lot of new breakthroughs in the technology. And if insurance would catch up and help more people get it, then it would be it would be so helpful. But I love the fact that we discovered 1000s of years ago that you could electrocute your head and feel better and that we are still doing the same thing but with science.


Rachael Jackson  38:52

It was science back then, too. They just didn't know why.


Zack Jackson  38:56

I call it that. Yeah, he also used to use sting rays while the electric rays to cure hemorrhoids too. But I didn't look into the specifics of how that word


Rachael Jackson  39:08

awkward interesting.


Kendra Holt-Moore  39:09

I have so many questions.


Rachael Jackson  39:12

I don't want to know the answers. I love this idea. And I think and without getting so much on that soapbox. I'm just moving past that conversation guys. Without getting so


Adam Pryor  39:26

jealous derailing. Like, no, no, no. That's all I'll do. I'll stop I'll stop


Rachael Jackson  39:35

is one of the challenges that we have in westernized medicine. And I'm framing it that way because I think even in places that have universal health care, which you know, America certainly needs to get on that bandwagon. But even in those places, it's still crisis management. It's not actually preventative or care. It's It's, it's all emergency medicine, it's all Something is wrong, let's treat what's wrong. Not let's actually figure this out way upstream. So the insurance industries, but also just our frame of mind of saying, we don't have to wait until we see where something is wrong, to try to help a person live the best life that we know they can live. And I think if we change our mentality with that, where we can catch up for a holistic perspective of what life can look like, will enable each other to to thrive in ways that we're not yet capable of. And then I also just want to respond to partly what you were saying, Zach, but not directly to you, but to the concept of this mental health and this, so several people very close in my life also suffer from deep clinical depression. And I suffer so and I have suffered from not clinical depression, but situational. And so it's very, very different than that. But having said that, when I look at our screen, three of us are wearing glasses, right? And we hear this idea, or you have said yourself, sack, you know, I wish, I just wish I wouldn't have to take it out of a bottle. And I wish, you know, I could just find happiness this way. And we've learned that health is health, regardless of whether it's mental health or physical health or emotional health, health, spiritual health, right? It's health. And if we're unhealthy, then we need to do whatever it takes to get us healthy. And none of us are going to be like, Oh, I just wish my eyes would work. And I'm just not gonna wear my glasses today. Because maybe today will be the day that they just decide to work. Maybe today, I'll wake up and my, my astigmatism will magically mend itself. We never ask a person to make that kind of ridiculous jump. And that because we recognize that that's just not going to happen. I'm never going to not need my glasses. Unless perhaps I go through some sort of surgery, in which case, it may or may not help it, but probably not like, especially with my astigmatism, I'm always going to need glasses. And, and there's nothing wrong with that. And so I think if we get to the point of as a society, and then hopefully internally to say, okay, so there's something going on with the physical part that we don't fully understand. We don't know why this is happening. We don't know why this part of your brain needs to massage or is underdeveloped, or these chemicals are or are not working. We don't have the why yet. But if we can get to a point of at least saying, great, we have something that's working. Why make a person feel bad about that. And don't expect yourself to be any different tomorrow. Adam, you don't like this?


Adam Pryor  43:19

Wow. You know, like no


Rachael Jackson  43:22

poker face.


Adam Pryor  43:22

I'm not on board with like shaming people about mental health. Let me start there. That's not okay. Clear? Yep. I'm on board like, okay, so like, usually when I disagree with you, it's just like, full like, No, it's not that


Ian Binns  43:42

nobody can see, can I stop just for a minute? Can you make sure you include all of that in this transition? Cuz fumbling is is awesome. Sorry. So


Adam Pryor  43:52

here. This is what I wonder about though, right? Because I like the I like the eyeglasses analogy, right? So nobody says I'm going to wake up in the morning be like, Ah ha, today, I won't wear my glasses, and my eyes will work. But also, right, like, this is a problem that's really well explained by the reductionism of science. Right? Why do I put a lens in front of my eye because I have a very clear understanding of how the light is refracting into the wrong spot. Right


Rachael Jackson  44:21

now, but 500 years ago, we didn't


Adam Pryor  44:24

know but those pieces of being able to answer the why and the development of the technology were much more parallel than what's going on here. And I think this is the place where I look at I go like, I wonder if issues of mental health fall into a very different category, because I'm not sure there is a good reductionist answer to the why. Like, there's a little part of me that says, like, is this a problem at which science starts to break down in its investigation, because the rules of how science investigates things can't ask all the right questions


Rachael Jackson  45:03

while still living within an hour, an ethical and moral way of treating human beings. Absolutely,


Adam Pryor  45:08

absolutely. Right. Right. But even I mean look like even if you do some of the things that aren't moral or ethical, you may run into some fundamental problems were because these issues, bridge that element of the reductive descriptive nature of neurotransmitters, and big feelings. You know, as my teenager is having, right? There's some, there's some drugs that should be invented for puberty, I've decided


Ian Binns  45:48

a couple of years.


Adam Pryor  45:51

So this is like, I do sort of wonder like, does this become a space, particularly in things like religion and science conversation, where it doesn't follow the neat categories that we have to talk about that. And I think the the hope, especially in Western culture, is that we've put in medical science to be able to do those sorts of things, or are in to heal in very specific ways, the bounds of what that means are really stretched in this case, which, you know, only adds to the feeling of anxiety and depression in the situation.


Zack Jackson  46:54

So what has been your experience from the religious side of depression?


Adam Pryor  47:02

I actually wanted to ask you Zack, like, do you use any, like, specific religious traditions?


Zack Jackson  47:09

In what way


Adam Pryor  47:10

in terms of thinking about ways of, of managing or, or trying to address those feelings of depression,


Zack Jackson  47:18

or when you're talking about managing religions have done a great job with that, I mean, they always talk about doing yoga, for example, doing something to get into your body, or meditation, something to get into your mind. prayer and whatnot. You know, I, personally, I've said this before, too, it's kind of my religious tradition, when I was discovering my depression said that you're too blessed to be stressed, and that depression is a problem for atheists and not for Christians. And, you know, so I know I've worked with, I've worked with my therapist on this, I know that those things are not true. I find more comfort in looking at some of the people in Scripture, like Jeremiah, for example, the weeping prophet literally wrote a book of the Bible called Lamentations. All he does is cry. He is a sad emo boy, who felt so deeply the destruction of Jerusalem, that he couldn't help but weep and his weeping became the song of a generation, and helps other people to deal with the trauma that they were experiencing. And it's something that probably only someone who feels the depths of despair like that can can do. And so like God using him, not in spite of his depression, but because of it was something it's just important for me to, to help categorize my feelings, give them validity.


Rachael Jackson  49:01

I'll add to the religious side to that. In our tradition, it's not necessarily taboo. And it my heart just hurts hearing this idea too blessed to be to be depressed, like it just is revolting. But also we have this term called Shonda, right? It's public shame. So don't talk about it. We're not going to tell you you don't have it. Y'all feel it, but we don't talk about it. And that's where I've decided to make a big change, right saying no, absolutely. We talk about it and using those subtle signs as well as the obvious science, like on my bulletin board in my office, I have, you know, the here's the suicide hotline, business card, and here's the phone number for Nami. National Alliance of mental instant National Alliance of Mental Health Institute, something of that and on my bookshelf, like it's here's the Here's how Judaism and depression looks right. Like I make it very obvious. And then when I talk in my classes and my sermons, I totally talk about it. Right? My sermons at least once a year or during the big holidays, I talk about mental health this year included in this year, I'm using King Solomon. Right? I mean, Zack, right in Jeremiah, I think King Solomon, who wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, he is right, all is futile. You kidding me? Right? Like, all is futility? utter futility. Right? Like there's an entire chapter on how utterly futile all of life is you telling me he's healthy? That is not the sign of a healthy, well rounded person who's saying these things, right? There's existential issues going on. So recognizing that they exist in our tradition, and that we should talk about it right? daska, like, we have to talk about these things. And I think that's the role that science has made that religion can play is allowing people to explore this need of themselves and encouraging them to utilize the best science that exists. To find this way I love the word they can do use equilibrium at a bare minimum, and then hopefully grow from that point.


Ian Binns  51:20

But how do we reach those who mean we talk about instant places in the Bible, that based on how we interpret it shows that you don't need to have shame? If you suffer from depression, or you have depression, right? And yet, the Bible is still as we know, with everything, right, the Bible is still used to instill shame on some people. So reaching the individuals who still feel shame because of someone else, telling them the Bible suggests it. And I know I'm majorly paraphrasing, making this easy, or simplifying it, but those are the people that need to be reached. Right? And we need to be helped.


Rachael Jackson  52:08

And I think the best that we can do is try to make broad, build those bridges of making that happen. Right, that I'm not the person who would have ever said those things I'm right, that that would never, that would never be my way of thinking. Right? But if I can't reach out, they're not coming to me, perhaps I can reach someone who is talking to them. Right that, that in my way of saying these things, I am opening doors for people to open other doors for other people to come in. Right? That that that's that's our way of reaching people that don't want to be reached also is not through us talking. But it's through the overlap. Got to bring in a Venn diagram sometime today. I can't talk directly to the said person. But perhaps we share a person in common that would then say, hey, look at this, here's an alternative to what you've learned. So I don't know if that?


Ian Binns  53:11

Does. That's my first


Rachael Jackson  53:12



Ian Binns  53:14

No, no, no. I think part of the issue we're dealing with here too, though, around mental health, and something that we can address throughout this series is that, you know, if you pull back from the role of the Bible, there's a major stigma in this country around mental health. And I know there are elsewhere but let's just focus on where we are right now. But there's this whole notion that if you have struggle with your mental health in some way that you're not supposed to talk about it, because of the shame associated with that. And then we see the number of military personnel or retirees who you know, it's like 20 or 22, who take their lives every single day. Because they're, you know, taught that and a lot of them are typically men, and they're taught that you know, you're supposed to be a hardened warrior. So you can't talk about these these touchy feely things, and then they end up dead right? We lost that workout group I'm part of that three. I did not know him that well. We met a few times he took his life about a month ago. Because and people were shocked people were like, I have no idea I had no idea is struggling I had no idea that struggling and I didn't know him that well. I'm certain the signs were there but we don't know to look for them if because of the shame he he may have felt but that stereotypically goes with mental health is that that's one of things i've you know, Zack as I've once we met and as we got to know each other, I've always appreciated how on Facebook when you talk about your struggles with depression in your, in your journey with your depression, that you have equated it to things like us. Or arm or something with your heart or something that people tend to talk more freely about than they do if it's something with your brain, right, and that is just another part of your body. So that's that I approach it a lot that way ever since I saw you do that. I thought that made a lot of sense, right? Yeah. And so it's, and we've had many conversations on the show about who is the real me, based on the meal medication or the Minato medication.


Zack Jackson  55:30

You know, one of my favorite things about the Bible as a whole. Both the Hebrew and Christian versions is that unlike most ancient texts, it doesn't seek to idealize people. Like, if you if you're Reading about some Babylonian king from the Babylonian texts, you'll read all about how handsome he is, and how muscley he is and how he never loses and how he's God's favorite person, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But like you read about King Saul, or David or Solomon or like, like David is lifted up as the greatest King ever. And he's written all these songs, and he's such great guy, but man, the Bible tells you all about all the awful things that he's also not. Right. So like the gospels were written by the or supervised by Jesus's disciples. And so they're the ones writing this book, and they are portrayed as such nincompoops in there. Like, they did not try to sugarcoat themselves, they presented themselves as they are. So you can read this. And you can see yourself in it. And you don't see some idealized version that you can never live up to. You see people who struggle, people who are honest, sometimes up How about what they're feeling, and how they're struggling what they're dealing with. And then you see a God that is still good. And that uses, uses their weakness, as as their strength as their superpower. And that is one of the overarching themes of Scripture, as always been that that's why I have these two scripture verses tattooed on my wrists that the one is from Psalm 33, I believe that he spoken all things came into being and the other ones revelation. At, behold, I'm making all things new, that the beginning and the end of the story of the Christian scriptures anyway, begins with his creation on both ends, that it's taking the old in the broken and making something beautiful with it, like, like a mosaic, and not just shaking up the edges sketch and starting over again, because this one got broken. I love that. And I need that, as somebody who dwells in darkness on the regular. That's actually how I met Rachel, was I said that story about how the Bible begins and ends with creation. And she said, whose Bible? my Bible doesn't end that way. And I was like, this person, this person is going to be my best friend, but it's gonna be great. My life is so much richer, because she's in it. Oh, hey, Rachel, I didn't see you there.


Rachael Jackson  58:34

I want to say thank you for taking us down this journey. And for being again, so open and vulnerable with us. Not just the five of us, but anyone who's listening and anyone who feels like we can share this. That we can really share this with others. So please do so right. Even if even if you've never shared an episode or a podcast before with someone, I think having this open conversation about struggles is really important. So please feel free to share this and any other episode.


Zack Jackson  59:13

I just want to say one final thing as we as we wrap up that and then to read you a poem that I discovered that the goal as we often see, it is pure bliss, and hope and joy and laughter and all the good things. And we imagine that mental health is some mental illness is something that is keeping us from that pure bliss and only if only we had just the right combination, we would be happy all the time. And we think of hope as something so blessed and wonderful and I want to affirm the grittiness of life and of you the listener and you my fellow hosts and to say that Sometimes life is dirty and the bloody and is still is beautiful. And so I wanted to finish this by Reading a poem by a poet named Caitlin seda. That's called hope is not a bird, Emily, it's a sewer rat. This is directed at Emily Dickinson, who wrote a lovely poem about how hope is this flattering bird that comes in on the wind and I found this one to be much more inspirational. Also, there's a couple of expletives in there. And so, if you're listening, and you're a child, maybe plug your ears. Also, if you're a child, you're a super cool kid for listening to this podcast so good on you. Okay.


Adam Pryor  1:00:48

And probably you don't need to plug your ears at this point.


Zack Jackson  1:00:54

Hope is not the thing with feathers that comes home to roost when you need it most. Hope is an ugly thing. With teeth and claws and patchy fur that seems some shit. It's what thrives in the discards and survives in the ugliest parts of our world, able to find a way to go on when nothing else can even find a way in. It's the gritty, nasty little carrier of such diseases as optimism, persistence, perseverance, and joy. transmissible as it drags its tail across your path and bites you in the ass. Hope is not some delicate, beautiful bird, Emily. It is a lowly sewer rat. That snorts pesticides, like there were lines of coke, and still shows up on time to work the next day, looking no worse for the wear,


Kendra Holt-Moore  1:01:52

huh. Now I want to cross stitch of that monster, that monster


Adam Pryor  1:02:03

feels like one that could go in my office. snore snorts lines of coke and shows up for work the next day, who's pull that right.


Rachael Jackson  1:02:28

And on a different note, we have decided this year, year three of our podcast at the end of every episode, each one of us is going to share something. And one of the things that I Rachel love to share our stories from my tradition. And so I hope that you enjoy this story this week. And next week, we are going to be so excited to hear from one of the other hosts and each week, we will rotate what our story is. Sometimes it will be connected to what we are talking about. And sometimes it won't. So stay tuned for the end of every episode and let us know what you think. Today I wanted to share a story with you about prayer. And just a note about many Jewish Oh folktales whatever, they always have men as the primary. So if you've heard this story, I'm just gonna change the gender because I don't think men get up all the fun. So just putting that one out there. So once upon a time, no, not really. One day. There is a farmer in the field. And she is tilling away. And she's working really hard because every farmer I've ever met works really hard sunup sundown 365. incredibly hard work. And this person, because she is a farmer, she doesn't have time to study. She doesn't have time to pray. She doesn't have time to be a learned scholar. She does the best she can. She prays to God, whenever she needs to, in whatever way she feels she can one day or very learned scholar comes along, is driving his carriage and he stops and he sees her praying in the fields and he says, What are you doing? And she says, I'm praying. And he responds, you can't pray right now it is not the time for prayer here. Let me teach you. And she says, okay, I've always wanted to be a good Jew. I've always wanted to be a good pray er, and so she agrees. And this very learned scholar comes and lives with her and in the house. And every day for six months. He teaches her When to pray, what words to pray, how to pray exactly the right things, to do the choreography, when to bow, when to shuffle all this stuff when she learns it, because she's a great student. And then he says, Thank you for giving me this opportunity to teach you the right way to pray. And then he moves on. And he leaves the house, and she is still a farmer, tilling the soil every day harvesting and reaping when necessary. And day after day, she slowly forgets she forgets, is it two steps forward? Or three steps forward? And then how many steps back Do I have to take? And do I go left first or right first, I don't know which way to bow. And she starts getting confused. And she starts getting upset because she knows she's doing it wrong. And so she stops praying. And she no longer goes out into the field and says the prayer of her heart. She no longer prays when she's moved to. And that's how she lives her life. And the learned scholar dies. And he goes up and he meets God. And God says, What did you do? to this farmer, he went, God, I taught her. She was such a good student. She learned she learned all the prayers. And after six months, I felt my job was done. And I moved on. He said, I thought I was doing exactly what you God would have wanted me to do. And God responds, how dare you? How dare you. She has not prayed a day since you told her that she did it wrong. She was my best prayer every day, she would pray to me. And she poured out her heart to me. But you came along and told her she did it wrong. And now she hasn't prayed. That is not your role. How dare you. What we learned from this is even if we have all the rights and the rituals, the smells, and the bells and the choreography, there is no right or wrong. The best prayers are the ones that are genuine, whether they be written down, or whether they be in our hearts, whether they be a prescribed times, or it's spontaneous ones. The ones that affect us are the ones that we feel there is no wrong way to pray.


Zack Jackson  1:07:49

This has been Episode 90 of the down the wormhole podcast. If you enjoy this podcast would you do us a favor and share it with your friends. That's a simple way that you can help our third year to be our best year yet. Thanks also to our Patreon supporters for helping us to make this podcast happen. If you'd like to donate to the cause, you can find [email protected] slash down the wormhole podcast. We'll be back in two weeks as Ian helps us to understand the science and spirituality of anxiety and how mindfulness meditation has helped him to persevere. We'll see you then.

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