Wednesday, February 12, 2014

"The Light will Come"

Music has always been a source of healing and letting up my frustration.  Ever since I can remember when I sat down at the piano and started playing my anger and frustration would magically leave through the tips of my fingers.

One of my favorite artists is Michael McLean, I listened to him at a Woman’s time out many years ago.  
He spoke of his ongoing battle with depression.  I was floored.  I had met the man on several occasions when I attended his production of the “Forgotten Carols.”  He has such a remarkable God give talent for music.  I never in my wildest dreams believed he suffered from depression.

At this time out event I purchased his book, “Hold On, The Light Will Come” which told the stories behind his songs.  As I was re-reading it I came to this story that I had just skimmed over when I first read the book.  The article is entitled, “Something’s Broken In My Brain” I will now let Mr McLean tell his story:

“People familiar with my songs are scratching their heads and wondering why they’ve never heard of this one.  Answer’s simple:  As of this writing, I haven’t recorded it anywhere but in my own head.  There’s been something about the process of reviewing the lessons my songs have taught me that has given me the courage to share this one.

I started taking medications for my depression after being unable to deal with it any other way.  Diet, exercise, prayer, service to others, reading the scriptures, therapy, getting rest—
all these food things were blessings in my life
 but not cures for my condition.
I can’t count the times I was overwhelmed with guilt for being depressed when I had been given so many wonderful gifts:  a remarkable woman who loved me, great kids, a supportive extended family, an interesting career, 
and enough money to pay the light bill.

What kind of creep gets everything on the Christmas list 
and then pouts in his room?
An ungrateful little snit.  (That’s an n by the way, and if you can’t find the word in a regular dictionary, call my relatives who have been indentifying snits for generations.”
Somewhere in my messed-up brain I knew I didn’t deserve all the gifts I’s been given, but to make matters worse,
 I was unable to find joy in the blessings.

It all came to head when I was in New York City 
at a festival for new musicals. 
The Ark had been selected as one of the ten musicals to be showcased in two off -Broadway theaters for producers and theater owners from all over the country. 
It was a truly thrilling opportunity, but I felt no enthusiasm for it.  Only fear.
Fear because I couldn’t remember things.  
Chords to songs I’d been playing for years escaped me.  
People I’ve known and loved, worked with and admired for as long as I can remember—
I couldn’t remember them when I saw them.
Fear that the fraud police had finally received the warrant for my arrest as an imposter. 
Fear that I’d done nothing in my life, with my family 
or my career or my community 
or my church, that had made any difference at all.  
All those wonderful things people had been telling me for years were lies.  
Those folks were just being nice, 
but I knew what they really thought, and it wasn’t good.  
All passion had faded; all self-confidence, 
fleeting as it had always been, 
was completely gone, and I was exhausted.

A journal entry from September 29, 2000,
 gives a pretty accurate description of how I was feeling. 
The sad thing is, this was written on a ‘good day’ 
when I had enough energy to actually write something down:
“I’m tired.  Really tired.  
Don’t think a power nap is going to cure this weariness I feel.  
It’s a bone-deep kind of tired, and it’s a melancholy kind of tired.  I’m tired of being me.  
Tired of fighting the same battles with myself day after day…
tired of carrying the same old burdens, same old struggles, 
same old hang-ups that have been plaguing me most of my life.
There’s something not right about the way I feel
 and I’m not sure what it is. 
Perhaps it’s a chemical.  Maybe I’m just lacking the serotonin
 (or whatever it’s called) levels in my brain that would enable me to feel joyful, hopeful 
ABOUT ANYTHING, and not so tired.  
On the other hand, it might be behavioral.  
My actions, my lifestyle, my work, my schedule…all of this may be the cause of these feelings. 
I wonder if the chemical rush of my creative work
 and artistic lifestyle
 has given me a false sense of balance in the past.  
Maybe my overactive involvement in music, performance, writing, speaking, 
teaching, producing, selling has been my way to counter the feelings of weariness—
emptiness that often overwhelms me—OR—the way I live my life 
is what has actually created the state I’m in.  I don’t know.
In my heart and mind 
I know that my Savior and Redeemer is the One 
whose ‘burden is easy’ and whose ‘yoke is light’…
but learning how to transfer my burdens over to Him has been a bit of a challenge, 
to say the least.  Truth Is, I don’t think I know how to do it.
I HAVE experienced His loving comfort, and the easing of the pain, 
but I don’t know what it was I did that helped that happen.
If I say my prayers, ‘I’m tired—tired of carrying all this baggage, 
could you carry it for awhile?’  
I’m stuck by the feeling that after ‘a while’ I’m going to have to deal with some of those issues that I’m temporarily avoiding,  That’s part of why I came—
to learn how to overcome these things—so I want help. 
I need help. 
But I also want not just to have my burdens carried by Jesus, 
I want Him to teach me, if that’s possible, 
what He’d like me to do to reduce the burdens 
I may be creating in my life.
It’s good to know that I’m not carrying the burdens of grievous sins 
or unresolved wickedness from my past.  
I love my wife and children.  I do pray, I walk the walk, 
keep the commandments, pay my tithes and offerings and try to do what’s right—
but perhaps there’s something I’m missing.  Sins of ‘omission’ unrecognized.
I’m on a plane to Knoxville, Tennessee, 
where I’m scheduled to speak to a group of single adults.  
This event has been planned for months and months.  
I’m afraid these folks are about to hear from someone with virtually every blessing 
they’ve ever prayed for and yet I feel as depressed as many of them 
AND I HAVE NO EXCUSE.  What’s up with that?
I’m tired of whining about all of this, even if the whining is only to myself. 
I’m sure that if I suck it up and focus on the task at hand 
and the service of others that much of this will ease up somehow.  
But my problem is that all this service and trying to give and share and lift others seems, 
at times, like a foolish attempt to postpone facing that which is truly weighing me down.
This weekend, the word spoken and the songs sung will be for me.  
Those songs have always been a message for my own heart—
perhaps I should listen.”
A week or two after I returned from that conference, 
the feelings of hopelessness and despair got darker and darker.  
My memory got so bad that I thought I might have Alzheimer’s. 
I went to see my therapist and doctor, skilled and capable people 
who cared about me and who suggested I try taking a pill.  
An unimpressive, tiny, pink pill.  I didn’t want to take a pill.  
What if I became hooked on some happy little drug 
and avoided facing the real issues of my life?  
What if it robbed me of my ability to think, and feel, and write?  
What if the price I had to pay for my art was this suffering?  
Would I lose whatever gifts I’d been given if I was medicated?  
What if ‘better living through chemistry’ proved my greatest fear:  
that I was an emotional cripple who couldn’t get through life without a crutch?
The whole pill business scared me, but not quite as much as the thoughts I was thinking
 during my worst bouts of depression.  
So I took the advice of my doctor and therapist and took the medicine
 they prescribed for me daily for four weeks.  Nothing changed.
This didn’t surprise me, really.  It was all to simple.  
Take the pill, the cloud will lift.  Right.
Surely there was more I needed to do. 
What kind of victory over this demon could I claim if all I did was take the pill?  
And then one morning, I woke up and something was different. 
It wasn’t euphoria.  It wasn’t a rush.  It wasn’t like the end of a happily-ever-after movie.  
It was just…normal.  
It took a while to realize that this feeling, this normal thing, was real 
and could be sustained beyond a few fleeting moments. 
I don’t quite know how to describe what it was like to feel normal, 
or at least what I thought normal must feel like. 
I’m not sure anyone feels ‘normal,’ but for me it was sort of like this:  level.
Everything wasn’t always uphill or down.  
That pushing down, pressing, claustrophobic darkness was gone.  
I felt good when the sun was shining and sad when my friends were blue.  
I celebrated weddings and cried at funerals. 
I felt naturally excited about things that were worth being excited about, 
and not like the end of the world when I made a mistake.  
I could remember things, like the names of people I cared for 
and the cords to the songs I loved.  
The regularness of it all was and is simply wonderful.  
I’m amazed that somebody figured out how to do this for me and others like me, 
and believe me, I’m grateful.
But the lesson of all this didn’t begin to really sink in 
until I found myself scratching out some lyrics alone in my truck 
after a five-hour drive to a concert.  
The entire drive I marveled at the way I felt and had been feeling 
since the medications kicked in.  The resulting song is a creation I called:   

“Something’s Broken in My Brain and Only Pills Can Fix It”

"Something’s broken in my brain and only pills can fix it
I fought this thing for years in vain, believing I could lick it
I tried and failed and felt so weak; it made me quite the cynic
And then I heard the heavens speak:
“Mike, get thee to a clinic.”
I thought the meant the clinic for my own immortal soul
So I trudged down to the church to wait for God to make me whole
Then something happened 
then and there that came as quite a shocker
I heard the voice of God say, 
“Mike, I meant get thee to a doctor.”

“But you’re the God of heaven and earth, 
My King, my Lord, my Master
Why not just heal me here and now?
It’s cheaper and it’s faster.”
He paused so long I thought He’d gone and then, 
in all His glory
He shared an insight that will be the moral of my story
He said, 
“I whispered to some scientists who couldn’t see 
the one who guided their research was none other than me.  
You see, I know you wonder if I hear prayers when you say them.
Well, I’ve heard all your cries for help long before you pray them.”

My gratitude for my pill has led me to believe, 
as the song suggests, that there’s somebody in heaven who hears 
and answers many of our prayers long before we pray them.  
I also think that everything any of us has been given is meant 
either to help us personally or to be a means of helping someone else. 
Is it possible that many gifts are given to one person 
on a seemingly insignificant day that are really meant to be opened 
and used by someone else at some distant, gift less tomorrow?
Perhaps the songs I write are my way of making deposits into some melodic bank account, 
all waiting for some future withdrawal.  
Hard as it is to imagine sometimes, 
I believe all of us can be the tools in heaven’s hands to answer someone else’s prayers.  
If you sense my optimism you have probably guessed that, 
yes, I took my pill this morning.”

Michael wrote another song entitled: 
Hold on the light will come.” 

I have found the lyrics to this song quite powerful 
probably because the composer of these beautiful verses has found the truthfulness of these words:

“The message of this moment so clear 
and as certain as the rising of the sun
When your world is filled with darkness, doubt and fear,
Just hold on, hold on, the light will come
Everyone who’s ever tried and failed
Stands much taller when the victory’s won
And those who’ve been in darkness for a while
 kneel much longer when the light has come
It’s a message every one of us must learn
 that the answers never come without a fight
And when it seems you’ve struggled far too long
Just hold on, hold on, there will be light
Hold on, hold on the light will come
Hold on, hold on the light will come
If you feel trapped inside a never-ending night
If you’ve forgotten how it feels to feel the light
If you’re half crazy thinking you’re the only one
Who’s afraid the light will never really come
Just hold on, hold on, the light will come
The message of this moment is so clear 
and as certain as the rising of the sun
When your world is filled with darkness, doubt, and or fear

Just hold on, hold on…the light will come.”

I am so grateful for Michael McLean's inspired lyrics and his willingness to share the lessons he has learned through his lyrics.

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