My Heart Laid Bare — A Tribute to Mike Eisenbath

Deal W. Hudson
July 23, 2015

This evening “The Christian Review” will publish the 17th column by Mike Eisenbath. I hope our readers fully realize how remarkable these columns have been.  Few people are willing to expose themselves, be completely honest about their personal darkness, and risk the shame of being viewed as weak, sinful, or lacking faith.

Most writers won’t allow themselves to be viewed in a negative light even when talking about their sins; they make their confessions as if on a Hollywood sound stage with lighting that romanticizes their “journey” to salvation.

Mike doesn’t add any gloss to his story. The honesty of self-revelation is daunting, but Mike digs more deeply into himself with everything he publishes. Like the great 19th-century poet Charles Baudelaire*, Eisenbath’s writing could be collected under the title, “My Heart Laid Bare” (1857).

I almost used the more familiar phrase “dark night of the soul” to describe Mike’s work, but I chose not to because Mike never writes to draw attention to himself or to portray his struggle in heroic terms.  I mean no disrespect to St. John of the Cross (1542-91), but over the centuries his “dark night” has become domesticated and trivialized by application to routine bouts of unhappiness.

Mike does not want us to be interested in Mike per se but to recognize that the paralyzing depression that grips so many of us, to a greater or lesser extent, can be treated.  And the treatment begins with admitting the problem, confessing it aloud, and no longer hiding it from others.

Mike Eisenbath

Mike Eisenbath

Mike Eisenbath was one of the leading newspaper sportswriters in the nation when his depression hit him, literally out of nowhere.  One day he could not get out of bed.  He had to quit his “dream job” at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch where he had just covered the MLB home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.

Mike admits that since leaving his highly visible role as a sportswriter he would be forgotten. He admits his despair has led to several suicide attempts. But, once again, there is no attempt to dramatize or to seek congratulations for surviving.  Mike doesn’t keep such “embarrassing” things to himself as an attempt to help others. As he wrote in “Why I Don’t Keep My Depression to Myself“:

“People keep all sorts of things in their lives a secret. Opening yourself to scrutiny can be challenging. That said, the best decision we ever made was to open our situation not just to family and friends, but to the world at large. That is how I have come to recognize the disease as a gift.”

That suicidal depression can be a “gift” is a difficult assertion to accept, at least at face value.  But a look at the website, “Offering Hope for the Journey,” created by Mike and his wife, Donna, will convince you, as it did me, that he’s telling the truth.

To explain why the writing of Mike Eisenbath is so important, I will offer a statement from the Polish poet, Czesław Miłosz,  in his 1980 speech accepting the Nobel Prize for literature:

“In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.”

I want to thank Mike Eisenbath for the courage of breaking the silence about depression, about thoughts leading to suicide, and suicide attempts themselves. Love and supported by his wife Donna, Mike has risked everything — put everything “on the line” — to help others to ease the burden of their interior suffering.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11.28)

* T.S. Eliot called Baudelaire “the greatest Christian poet since Dante.”

 

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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