One of the Many

This is a hard post to read and contains discussion of suicide. Please use your discretion.

His dark curly hair looked greasy and unkempt, and a scar marked his face. He walked with a limp I couldn’t figure out. Maybe a leg that bowed in the wrong place? His face did not reflect pain, but his gait was slow. Awkward.

The first time I saw Pete* was in the waiting. Waiting for someone to tell me they could take care of me. Waiting for a bed to keep me safe. He was waiting too. Pacing.

 

With exhaustion beyond what I could bear, tears spilling over, I sat in a chair next to the nurse’s station and waited again. I was closer to a bed and medication to help me sleep, but there were details to cover. Blood pressure that needed to be taken. More questions that needed to be asked.

There was Pete. He limped to the nurse from the other direction. He had a room and a bed, but he was looking for his medication. ‘What if I have a seizure?’ he asks. He was quiet but persistent. His face looked beaten down, weary. So very tired.

I was led to my room and finally fell into sleep I was desperate for.

 

With a new day, I sat reading a book in a room that had light and windows and quiet. Pete came in to use the phone. I asked if he wanted me to leave, but he said it didn’t matter. He called someone he was tender with, someone who brought out the child in him. He told her how he had tried everything, and the only option left was electroshock therapy. There was one hospital in town who could provide the right anesthesia and treatment.

He had gone. He had done everything he knew how to do. He was giving his all trying to stay alive. And they wouldn’t take him. 

They told him they only took patients who had been Baker Acted. In our state, that means a person who has been deemed a danger to themself or others. So he told the hospital—the only hope he had for treatment—that he was suicidal.

They did Baker Act him. But instead of treating him, they sent him to a different hospital.

 

The next day we sat in a group. Pete sitting right next to me. He shared another glimpse of his story. He was giving up. After trying so hard to get help, he was going to kill himself when he left. Living with schizoaffective disorder, a combination of schizophrenia and depression, he had no friends left. 

No one who knew his story. No one who could drive him to a hospital or sit with him while his brain was shocked back to health. No one who cared whether he lived or died. I sat in horror as he shared his neighbor had offered to sell him a gun so he could take his life.

Pete had been in this crisis-treatment hospital several times before. The last time, he was there for 21 days. Crisis after crisis, hope remained elusive.

 

A few hours later, it was time for me to leave. The right medication had worked. My husband picked me up, and I went home to kids who love me and need me. I went home with hope.

Pete stayed, and I don’t know the rest of his story. I don’t know how long he stayed or if anyone picked him up. I don’t know if he found the strength to keep fighting for the help he needed. I don’t know how the story ends.

But I do know Pete will stay with me for years to come. His face, his hopelessness, his story. I wish I had the chance now, when I have the ability to think again, to tell him that I care. I care about his pain. I care that he was created by the God of the universe and is beloved. He has worth and value, and his life matters. I want to hear his whole story. I want to speak over him his right to hope and help.

 

I am a working mom doing this crazy thing called grad school because my heart grieves for Pete. It grieves that he feels so very alone. It grieves that he is trying hard to stay alive, and a broken system does not help him. It grieves that Pete is only one face of many stories.

Every life matters. Every life deserves love and hope. I do not want to turn my head away from Pete’s reality. I want to love him like Jesus would. I want to love him as if he were Jesus.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. 

Matthew 25:35-36

Please think of Pete tonight. Pray for him when he comes to your mind. Pray for his life and for hope to come to him.

Advertisements

The Spinning of the Fan

A week ago today, I was in the hospital.

Not entirely because my body wasn’t working. But because my mind wasn’t.

Sleep had eluded me for two weeks, and the weeks before that had been pretty rocky. Night after night, I would take my sleeping meds and then stare for hours at the spinning of the ceiling fan. Spinning and spinning and spinning. Hours into the night, I would get up and read. Sometimes I would write. Sometimes I would fill my tub with water and soak until I wrinkled.

Around 3 or 3:30 or 4, I would crawl back into bed and try again. Just a few hours would pass before my pseudo-sleep was broken by the garbage man. Or a kiddo. Or simply the sun coming through my window.

I have walked this road long enough to know my non-negotiables. They are what I have learned give me the very best shot of a good day or a good week: I need to get dressed and leave my house every day; I need to connect with someone on a daily basis and see my counselor every week; I need to live in relationship and not isolate; and I need sleep. Lots of good sleep.

What happens when sleep is stolen? When meds and oils and sound machines and cold air and heavy blankets aren’t enough? What happens when I try everything and still watch the endless spinning of the fan?

I broke.

The words of my hope-speaking counselor rang in my head, “Keep yourself safe.” Of all the answers I was hoping to hear, this is the only one I felt I had any control over. Try as I might, I could not make my body sleep. I could not keep thoughts of harm out of my head. I could not make my brain keep track of details to maintain conversation.

But I knew I could keep myself safe.

For weeks I stared at the question. How would I know when I was so sick I needed treatment? I had seen my doctor. I had tried new meds. I was doing my list of good. But it was only getting worse.

Last Saturday, I knew. I knew I was unable to take one more night of eyes wide open on the spinning fan. As physical as depression has been this summer, the mental onslaught finally came. It was pure desperation.

I do not know what makes a brain twist relief into harm. To say my brain does not struggle with ideations of harm would not be true. It would merely be an escape from the absurdity of explaining madness to one who has not walked the same road.

Please do not think less of me. Or of any other person who lives with a brain that speaks lies. Applaud the bravery, instead, of damning those lies with help. Of knowing there are limits and not trying to pretend we can respect them by ourselves.

I texted a friend who has also stood on the edge. He spoke what I already knew but needed desperately to hear. Go.

I am filled with endless words of the two days I spent inside those walls. They will come.

Today, I speak of grace. Of truth. Sometimes asking for help is the very strongest, most courageous thing you can do. I had nothing left from which to fight and yet I slayed. I fought by surrender.

I kept myself safe. That was all I could give, and it was everything.

Every story has peril and victory, pain and joy. Mine is no different, and neither is yours. Help is God’s tangible grace to us. Ask for it. Receive it. Give thanks for its expression.

I am home now, and I am sleeping again. New meds were God’s provision, and there is no shame. I can think clearly again, and the battle in my brain has lifted. My tribe has loved me well and with action. I am so grateful.

Keep yourself safe friends. Listen to your limits and be kind to them. Tomorrow needs you.

A New Ending

The past several months have held light. Hope.

I have felt stronger and more resilient. Not completely myself, but I am catching glimpses of who I used to be. I can imagine again what it might be like to live in joy and experience that sweet place called thriving.

H966MN75RM (1)

Healing did not come in one day. It has come in hours, over months. Hours of friends showering me with grace as they listened to me share over and over again how I felt like the darkness was winning. Hours with my hope-speaking counselor declaring resilience when I could not believe it for myself. Months of me recognizing the need to make choices that are good for me, even if they are impractical or feel an extravagance.

Bad days come farther and farther apart. When they do come, I still have memory of the good. I know bad won’t last forever. I can rebuke the darkness that enters my mind because I remember the truth I had known just days before.

Health did not just happen. Every day I have fought for it.

I have listened to my body and sought relief for my worn-out adrenal system. I have learned to be grateful for medicine that brings the serotonin-stability my body is too taxed to create on its own.

I have gone to the gym when I didn’t want to because exercise is good for a depressed body. I have napped when I needed to nap. I have texted a thousand times over with my faithful people just to say, “I need to know someone sees my struggle.” I have scheduled lunches and appointments on days without commitments so I would have a reason to get dressed. I have sought out the sun.

And week after week I have sat in my counselor’s office to wrestle with my own brokenness. I have been more honest with myself than I ever have. I have sat with the hard. I have felt my disappointment. I have quit running. I have learned what mindfulness is, and I practice it. I fight to validate what I am feeling instead of telling myself it doesn’t matter. Slowly I am learning to breathe instead of panic. I am choosing to see myself as strong instead of the vulnerable curled up waiting for a fatal blow.

Health is one good choice at a time.

Over the days, the weeks, the months, the choices have added up. They have become habits of the healing kind. They are pieces of a puzzle being built to lift the weight of depression.

It was not long ago when I couldn’t imagine a future. Every single hour felt overwhelming, and I did not think I would make it. I could not fathom a day when depression would not rob me of life.

But here I am. The future has a new ending.

I Will Remember

Last Friday was a hard day. I have had two months of better days and even good days. With all-out abandon, I loved them.

Gratefully, I have been waking up in the mornings ready to face the day. I haven’t been driven by when I could nap or how to avoid social situations I didn’t have energy for. I have been able to think clearly again and actually enjoy parts of my day.

There has even been that magical word hope lingering.

NI0YGOJIMK

What a crazy thing depression is. It filters every thought so drastically. One day living in color and the next living a silent black and white.

I don’t know if it is a good thing or not that I have been in this long enough to recognize the monster tainting everything. On Friday I fought hard to remember the experience of joy. Even though its scent still lingered, it felt as if it had vanished in the quiet of the night.

My thoughts drifted to hopelessness. They went right back to the place I had spent months trying to escape.

“There is no point.”

“Life is just a purposeless passing of time.”

“Would anyone even notice if I wasn’t here?”

I felt invisible. Alone. Desperate. I felt it deeply. It totally sucked.

It sucked for many reasons. One is the fatalism it brought. Another is the absolute defeat in thinking there might never be an end to the darkness. One can not live without hope, and that defeat took all my hope with it.

I tried to remember. Even days earlier I had felt fully different. Days earlier there had been purpose and contentedness. I had felt the sun and colors made my heart skip a beat. I knew it was possible for me to live outside the darkness.

Darkness shades everything. Even in recognizing the monster at work, I could not change my perspective. I only hoped it would pass.

I had coffee with a friend. I got my toes done. I bought sunflowers. I texted those who know me and told them the day was hard.

And then I took a nap.

When I woke, the world wasn’t quite so heavy. Hope had not quite returned, but I wasn’t drowning. A full night of sleep brought more energy. A morning at church and afternoon on a football field brought even more. Three days later my heart is full and the sun dances again.

It was a hard day. That’s it. It wasn’t forever.

I will remember it passed. I will remember I chose to do things I knew were good for me. They didn’t make it all better, but they were good choices. Healthy, gracious choices.

I will also remember how my mind turned on a dime. I will remember how twisted my thinking became and how it passed. I will remember putting one foot in front of the other and coming to the other side.

I will remember my resilience. It is where hope dwells.

The Land of the Living

Last week I shared my story with the team I work alongside. They are a grace-filled and safe place. Though answers are few, it is good to be known. It is good to let others help carry my weight. I am grateful for the opportunity to borrow hope.

One who has walked through similar darkness shared a word that challenged me deeply. And planted hope.

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13

I needed to hear this. I wish I would have heard it six months ago.

Hope feels to be a magical word when in the world of depression. In fact, my best description of depression is the absence of hope. That is what makes it so, so dark.

One of the places I have struggled most is in what my hope should be placed. I thought my hope should be in the resurrection (and in part, it should). But I also desperately need a hope that isn’t an eternity away.

On my darkest days, I longed for the rest heaven would bring. I didn’t want to die as much as I didn’t want to live. Glory is a great hope, but it is far away. I remember the days glory consumed me. I longed to be relieved of the world. I wanted it all to be over.

QG5Z36E3VM.jpg

During this season, I have clung to God’s word. I have poured over every verse that speaks joy and hope and strength. I have prayed them when I felt the very opposite. I have tried to believe when nothing in me experiences their validity.

When darkness chokes out hope, it is hard to believe there is goodness in the land of the living. It is hard to believe there ever will be goodness in the land of the living.

It is hypothesized several figures from the Bible struggled with depression. David, the author of Psalm 27, is among the most prominent. The psalms read like his ancient blog posts through a darkness of his own.

This verse does not just speak to the hope of glory. It talks about goodness this side of eternity.

So today I am seeking something other than resilience. I am asking for more. I am asking to see the goodness of God in the land of the living.

May the day hasten when I can declare it with the confidence of David.

Limits

I was feeling brave last week.

I was looking for a place to work, and my mind went to the coffee shop I used to love but is now tainted with memories of trauma. I had been once before for a meeting, and it had been hard. Maybe even a little ugly. But I had survived.

Desperately I wanted the physical reminders of trauma to be gone. I didn’t want my heart to race uncontrollably. I didn’t want to feel lightheaded, and I didn’t want to think my stomach might betray me.

I wanted to be able to walk into the darn coffee shop and work the hours away.

But I couldn’t do it.

Danger

Pulling up to the light at the edge of the parking lot, the gravity of my body’s response was too much. The panic grew too strong. My mind could not win the war being waged. I wanted to fight, but instead, I had to flee.

The next hours were spent lying on my couch trying to recover. It didn’t come easily. In fact, it took days.

The past months have been filled with hard work. I have gone to the scariest of places and opened myself to the most vulnerable of emotions. I have pursued healing with relentless passion, and I believe it is coming.

But I still have limits. There are still places that are too tender, too wounded to move past quickly.

Once upon a time, those limits really hacked me off. I didn’t want to acknowledge their boundaries. I resented they were so unyielding.

Today I find myself respecting them. Do I wish they weren’t there? Sure. But I have been growing in grace. Instead of fighting, I’m willing to embrace my limits exist. Those limits are the basis of how I can care for myself.

This is a shaky road I walk. Every step is a risk. But I am seeing the risks pay off. I am seeing kindness replace condemnation. I am making choices that are good, even when they feel like the last thing I want to do.

I can not say enough what a precious thing hope is. Hope is growing friends. It’s growing.

 

 

 

A Parting of the Fog

62Y9CO7LG4

The clouds outside were dark, and the rain fell and fell until puddles claimed more than not. Grey threatened to invade and take up permanent residence in my psyche. Every hour felt hard.

As I wallowed in my own melancholy and loathing of the darkness, I had coffee with a new friend who has walked a similar road. There were not answers, but there was rest in knowing I’m not the only one. I welcomed the relief of hearing someone else share the same struggle of doubt and fear.

Depression tells many lies. One I hear often is that nobody sees me. I struggle to believe my little story is of any consequence.

On a day that same week, I was at the office later than normal. Another new friend found his way to my space. He reads my words and knows my longing for freedom. He recognizes it because he once had to fight for his own freedom. He is a speaker of hope, and he took time to speak hope to me.

The day that follows brings lunch with an old friend. A friend who knows brighter parts of me. She asks about the hard places because she wants to see them. She is not afraid. She has heard about the darkness for years, and yet she still asks. She speaks light and beauty and grace and hope.

My heart reflects the grey and gross outside my window, but my fog parts for awhile. This is grace. This is God caring deeply for me.

He sent one after another until I relented and could do nothing other than acknowledge His tender care. The lie that tells me nobody sees was crushed for a time. And the dark outside my window did not completely invade. Light came repeatedly through the words of those He put around me.

He is caring for me. Often I can only see the faintest glow right in front of my feet, but with every step I take, it is there. He continues to provide, despite my anxiety and dread otherwise.

This is hope for me. It wavers, and it comes and goes, but I will remember the week it pulsed strong.

It was good.