Practicing Kindness

“Go easy on yourself,” the hope-speaking counselor would say when I left his office. For months, I thought it was just his way of wrapping up.

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Then I began to hear.

I heard how much I dwell on expectations I didn’t even know I had. I heard my own bitter disappointment in being where I am, struggling desperately to climb my way out of depression and anxiety.

Morning after morning I would wake and want to stay hidden. I would sleep long at night and then sleep my day away too. Tears ran and ran. Previous passions sat untouched. Phone calls went unanswered. I hurt desperately, while at the same time feeling so numb I can hardly breathe.

Why is this happening again? What am I not doing right to have landed me in this place once more?

Why can’t I control it? Why can’t I make it stop?

I despise it. I despise that my body is preparing to flee what no longer endangers me. I’m angry at the darkness washing over me. It holds me captive.

“Get it together,” I plead with myself. “Wake up happy. You’ve had too many days of darkness. Choose light today. Choose joy.”

But I can’t choose, and I hate it.

“Hey, go easy on yourself.”

One day, it is too much. The demons are too loud. I sit in the hope-speaking counselor’s office drowning in condemnation.

“Stop that sh*t,” he says. “This is what is going to happen: From now on, when you start going down that road, you’re going to hear my voice in your head saying, ‘Stop it.’”

He speaks compassion into me, and I hear it. Be kind to myself.

It seems so obvious, but it isn’t. Condemnation comes far more easily than compassion, and sometimes it sneaks in so subtly its presence is there before I know it. Being kind takes practice.

Be kind to myself.

As the memories of trauma sneak up on me, I work hard to practice being kind to myselfMy hope-speaking counselor’s voice is turning into my own when condemnation creeps in. I have been practicing. Kindness is beginning to replace rebuke. The work is hard, but the payoff is tangible. The darkness doesn’t always go away, but light is beginning to enter it.

I will continue to practice.

I will be kind to myself.

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My Fit

I hear the silence even now.

I see the dark of my closet surrounding me and feel the tears burning as they pour down my face.

I am hoarse from yelling “I don’t want this!” over and over again.

My chest feels like it is going to explode from my heart racing so ferociously. I can’t breathe. Even my lungs are protesting.

The silence is deafening.

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I hear verses float through my head: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

I scream them too.

God, why aren’t you comforting me? Why aren’t you saving me? I’m mourning like I have never mourned before. You didn’t promise me ease, but you did promise me your presence. Where is your presence? Where are you?

Two years later, I still don’t know what to make of the silence. I don’t know why depression hinders the experience of God. I see countless ways God intervenes in my life, but I struggle even now to feel Him as before.

Months ago, I reached an end. I had no fight left.

Then a cloud pulled back. I caught a glimpse of my reality. Somewhere along the way, somewhere in the darkness, I had chosen to do life on my own. I had decided that since I wasn’t experiencing the presence of God, I couldn’t count on Him. I would need to take care of it.

The problem was I was making an outright mess. I was striving with everything I had, and all I could show for it was complete exhaustion.

I had traded in the truth that God is good all the time and the promise that He will never leave me nor forsake me for the lie that God can’t be trusted. It wore me out.

God, in His tender graciousness, allowed me to give it a go.

Now, I believe, He is right here helping me open my hands. He let me throw my fit, and now He’s helping me settle back down and rest in His goodness once again.

I still struggle to feel God’s presence, His comfort. I don’t know why. More days than not, however, I am able to rest in what I don’t know. I am able to trust even though I don’t understand.

Grace to Grace

One of the delights of my Fall was beginning to connect regularly again with a dear friend.

Every other Thursday I show up to her house with life in full-tilt all around. In the midst of the crazy, we sit and break bread together. We lay our souls bare, and it is easy.

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Just before Christmas, I knocked on the door feeling completely empty. It took everything I had just to show up. My energy was being sucked into surviving the season.

I had nothing to offer but two grilled cheese and some truffle oil on potatoes.

She opened the door full of her own exhaustion. The exhaustion that comes from little ones teething, clinging. The exhaustion of preparing to pack her precious family of six into a shoebox for two days on the road to Grandma’s.

She was being poured out to empty.

In the time between comforting a babe and entertaining a princess, we sat down as we always do. We broke our bread and were grace to one another.

We had nothing to offer other than ourselves, which was exactly what we needed. Exhaustion to exhaustion. Brokenness to brokenness.

I realized that often in relationships, even those we hold most dear, we can feel great expectation to be something other than where we are. Brokenness can convince us we have nothing for another.

But most of the time, we just need to show up. On that Thursday in the middle of my exhaustion, I just needed to show up.

My heart is full over the space where we can be broken together. I welcome the grace we can pour over one another because it is only grace that shows up when we are empty.

Let’s keep showing up. Let’s keep knocking on the door and offering the meager loaves we have. It’s an abundance.