The Boat in the Backyard: A Father’s Depression and a Boy Who Finally Understands

skiff.jpegThis piece about my dad, and how his depression impacted my life, is a statement of my faith in Jesus Christ, the one whose Gospel gives hope to dads and sons everywhere.

This is the story of how I was robbed, and blessed, at the same time, by the same man. And how God gives hope to me, my family and my children now, in the midst of my many imperfections.

If you struggle with depression or are touched by it in the life of a father, parent or spouse, may the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you, now and in the future.

This one is, was and always will be, for my dad, and the boat in the backyard.

READ: “The Boat in the Backyard: A father’s depression and a boy who finally understands.”

7 thoughts on “The Boat in the Backyard: A Father’s Depression and a Boy Who Finally Understands

  1. Thanks for this post, which I just read today here in December 2007…I grew up with a mom who was depressed, technically paranoid schizophrenic, and had a lot of bad mental illness treatment in the 60s and 70s. I pray to break the chain, and am struck with great fear whenever my teenagers get sad, thinking that we are going back into that great blackness.


  2. Michael – I’ve been visiting your site for a year or so and have benefited greatly, but this essay touches me deeply and painfully. I just turned 45 last week and admit that I am terrified that my father’s darkness has enveloped me. Because I have a beautiful four year old son with an incredible spirit, I pray for God’s mercy in allowing me to break the chain. Thank you for the hope you’ve offered here. Blessings to you brother!
    Jim H.


  3. Thank you so much for posting this wonderful essay! It’s one of the best things I’ve read on any blog I’ve encountered, or even in any other type of printed media for that matter…

    As a LONG TIME sufferer of depression, I really appreciated your article about the struggles you had with your dad’s depression. As a father myself, I’m very conscious of the negative effects that depression can have on one’s relationship with their own children, and often this only furthers the downward spiral of depression.

    It is only by God’s grace that I can even function at all, and if it’s OK, I would like to share ONE THING that has really helped me to cope with my own depression: blogging.

    An excellent observation you made in your essay is how the use of a CB radio really seemed to help your dad break out of the cycle of depression…something that the drugs and treatements were powerless to do. So why should a silly CB radio be an effective treatment? Or blogging for that matter? Because interaction with other people, especially with the “security” of an anonymous electronic persona, can really benefit a person who feels there is no hope and nothing that they can contribute. I do not understand the psychology or the spirituality behind it, but something as simple as blogging has done more to help me to overcome my own depression than all the treatements and prayers I’ve had combined.

    For reasons I won’t go into, I hate drugs of all types, will only take them if there is no other recourse. There was no way that I was going to deal with my depression by taking anti-depressents. If there were going to be any breakthrough at all, it would have to be via some sort of “treament” or therapy that did not involve drug use. For me, that therapy was blogging, and just writing in general.

    I was fortunate that I had medical counselors who were as weary about anti-depressents as I was, and encouraged me to “do things” that might help alieviate it, like excercise, change of diet and so on. None of those things really helped, but it gave me enough encouragement to keep trying to find some sort of activity that would.

    The idea to take blogging more seriously came while reading the paper “We Know More Than our Pastors” which Tim Bednar has posted as an Acrobat file at his e-church blog. While reading about the impact blogging has had on his own spritual formation, something “woke-up” within me, and I realized that blogging might be the ticket I was looking for. I had been blogging for two years before reading Tim’s paper, but I never really took it very seriously, I just did it to goof around with some new technlogy.

    But now I’ve decided to dedicate my blog to the emerging church movement (a.k.a. “emergent conversation”) and do everything I can to encourage people to take an active part in this strange new phenomena. But mainly, I was writing to encourage myself to explore it, and be a part of it.

    I still post the odd article that catches my interest, but I intend to focus more on this amazing move of God. I even went so far as to go out to the local Christian bookstore and purcahse a Brian McLaren book! WOW! That guy has a way of expressing things about Christianity that really makes it alive and powerful.

    Yes, I realize it seems bizzare, but bloggig and the emerging church movement have done more for my psychological and emotional good than anything else I’ve tried.

    But then who woulda thunk a CB radio could help a depressed person feel some joy again?


  4. It took me a couple of days to find the time to read this post – but I’m glad I finally did. There are many themes in your experience of your dad that intersect with my relationship (or lack thereof) with my own father. The shame, the anger, the arguments, the shock treatments – and then living with the fear that the monkey could be on your back too. An added tragedy could be that the lack of treatment and understanding that existed in the 60’s is now being over compensated for. Every time someone has a bad day or experiences the slightest mood swing they’re diagnosed as bipolar. The culture of over-diagnosis that now exists only serves to achieve further marginalization by trivialization for families like yours and mine that have lived through the never ending dark night of the soul. Thanks for reminding us that what we do and say – or don’t do or say – matters greatly in the formation of our children.


  5. I saw so much of myself in the description of your father. Depression has made my life so bleak. So far, no medication has ever helped. The only thing that does help me, is my sure knowledge that the Lord loves me, and no matter if I ever overcome this or not, He will still love me.
    I am so thankful for that.


  6. IM, nice post. Long time reader first time commenter. Timely post, preparing a discussion for early childhood educators this weekend on why boys fail in school and the role of fathers. If it’s men who pass on or model an enthusiasm for life and a gutsy attitude then the opposite can be just as true.

    Robert Bly said that “When a father, absent during the day, returns home at six, his children receive only his temperament, not his teaching.”


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