To The Depressed, Drunk, and Suicidal--There is No Shame

Last week, I sat across the table from a soul-eyed woman who shared her story of faith. She told me of her walk into, through, and back into depression. She painted the most vivid pictures of the dark days that roll, the days that threaten to bend her back to ash. On those days, the voices come calling her home, home, home. Where is home?

"Let's find out," she'd like to say on those days, razor blade in hand. Except she never has. The darkness hasn't yet won. And so long as she's honest enough to tell her story, it never will. Sixty years of living has taught her this.

***

Last night, I read a friend's story of her own bout (bouts?) with depression, how the soul's moon waxes and wanes. The waxing, though, it's a hell of a thing.

From her piece, I suspect she's been dry--so to speak--for a few months. She's found relief from depression through the help of some good medicine, a good doctor, perhaps a few good friends. But more than that, she's outed her would-be killer by naming it. She writes:

"Shame is the killer weapon of depression, the thing that keeps us from telling anyone all the crazy things we’re feeling, for fear they won’t want to be our friends anymore." --Janna Young

All the crazy things--don't they make us all feel so ashamed? All the crazy shame--doesn't it make us feel so alone? I suspect, though, that as she keeps telling her truth, she'll find this twin truth--every-slap-one of us is just as crazy alone. My crazy might look different from yours, but if there's one thing the spin-cycle of this earth has assured us, it's that we all lose our equilibrium from time to time. We all spin into crazy. We all spin into isolation. At least, that's been my experience. And if it ain't yours--good on you. But if it is, believe the gospel according to Janna--there's no reason to be ashamed of losing your footing.

***

Over the last week, I've considered my own bout with "lots of big feelings..." (as Janna writes). I've considered the alcohol abuse I hoped might quell those feelings. I've considered my own misplaced dependency. (Didn't the bottle taste so much better than the blood of the Christ for so long? And what was the blood of Christ, even? What was Christ? What was?). I've considered the season of sickness that was, and perhaps that season of sickness that might return. (Aren't I human? Aren't you?) I've asked whether I'd be bold enough to bring the darkness of my own relapse into the light of conversation with friends, or into the written form (thanks, Janna). I've boiled these quandaries down to the dregs and read the leaves. The tea leaves tell me that shame hunts, sure. The leaves tell me that love hunts harder, that it's the shame killer. And so, what's to fear in the confession of the darkness of my own heart?

What's to fear?

What's to fear?

What's to fear?

***

Finding Light.

If you struggle with depression, suicidal thoughts, or substance abuse, consider dragging it into the light. How? Consider these suggested steps:

1. Tell a trusted and safe friend, a spouse, a confidante, maybe even your dog or cat. Speaking it aloud makes it real. And supposing you tell a human (which I recommend), said human can help you work the process of coming clean.

2. Find a licensed therapist. They've been equipped to understand your "great big feelings," your darkness. They deal with the stuff every day.

3. Surround yourself with a community of support. Perhaps this means joining a twelve-step group, a local support group, or group of like-minded church folks. Find a group of folks to whom you can confess without fear of judgment. Find a group that's content to support without trying to "fix" you.

4. Rage against shame. Feel the love and support of your community. They love you as you are. No shame. No shame. No shame.

***TINY LETTER***

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Marriage Letter: On Health And Wholeness

Today, Amber and I are resetting the Marriage Letters series. Read here, then follow over to her blog for her Marriage Letter.

*****

Dear Amber,

To be healthy and whole—what does it mean? Is it an achievable thing?

You were barely a woman when we met, a teenage girl throwing off wild, untamable sparks. A free-spirit of the can’t-nobody-stop-me-now sort, you fell for the do-right rule-boy afraid of any shadow of rebellion. You were unbound by orthodoxy, I was bound hand and foot to Christian legalism, and in hot passion we decided the only remedy for our lovesickness was to join these two kinds of disfunction in holy matrimony.

On a warm November afternoon, we made our vows in the church on the lake. You wore a slender sleeveless dress and curled your obstinate hair. You walked the aisle and the cloud of witnesses watched as we made our future promise, “in sickness and in health.”

Two made one, this was the birth of a new life. In all our hubris, we believed that we were created healthy and whole. In our hubris, we believed ourselves invincible in that moment—us versus the world and who would stop us? Isn’t it true, though, that chinks in any armor are often hidden until the battle begins?

Marriage tests armor, and ours is no exception. There was the church run amok, the years of over-worked emotional disconnection, and the insanity of bringing three children into the world in three years. Then there was the faltering health of Titus, the uncertainty of it all, the way I took to the bottle, the way you took to the dark. Each time, chinks in the armor were exposed, and the one flesh of marriage was cut deep.

Though we still bear scars (is there a plastic surgeon for the married soul?), though we sometimes limp in our marriage waltz, we’ve found this to be true—there’s a Spirit who always manages to meet us, to bind fresh wounds, and to bring us into the greater health and wholeness.

Of course, marital healing isn’t all pie-in-the-sky mysticism and supernatural transcendence of tricky predicaments. It’s not all long-suffering perseverance and pulling yourselves up by the collective bootstraps, either.

Healing is a pictureless puzzle, but I suppose we’ve found the corner pieces. It starts with confession—so says St. James, and we’ve found this to be true. “Confess your sins one to another so that you may be healed.” It’s an uncomfortable truism, an alarming disarming that induces the sort of anxiety associated with pubic-nudity. (Yes, really.) [tweetherder]Confession brings sickness to the doctor’s light, brings hope for the healing of wounded marriage vows.[/tweetherder]

We’ve learned, too, that sometimes we’re not equipped to bind up each other’s spiritual and emotional wounds. (We have our limits, after all.) Along the way, we’ve found good doctors who are well acquainted with the soul-healing arts. Ministers, therapist, counselors—they’ve bound our wounds a time or two. Sometimes the healing has been Good-Samaritan free; other times we’ve paid to lie face up on the proverbial leather couch. Either way, there’s no shame in admitting the need for either soul or noggin doctoring.

I suppose that brings me to crux of this letter. We took on a new resolution this year—becoming healthy and whole. The way I see it, the pursuit of a healthy and whole marriage is an extension of our wedding vows—in sickness and in health. On occasion we’re soul sick, but we stick with it, agree to pursue the wholeness of full health.

So this year, I promise to walk toward that confessional healing of old St. James, and to rely on the spiritual counselors and noggin doctors if necessary. What’s more, I promise no judgement should you need to confess, and promise no stigmatization should you need help from your own noggin doctors.

Who knows how 2015 will turn. For everything there is a season, and this might be a year of great joy, or tremendous healing laughter. There’s always a chance it could break the other way, though. Either way, I resolve to help you do what it takes to find health and wholeness, and to remain in it. And being that the good folks on this-here internet are reading this letter, some of whom comprise our family and local community, I suspect there’s a little built-in accountability. (Lord, have mercy.)

Yes, there is a season (turn, turn, turn). But no matter what that season brings, let’s push into health and wholeness together. Deal?

Loving you while limping,

Seth

*****

Now, follow me to Amber's blog for her Marriage Letter. Read there to see how you can participate in this series.

*****

In this month's Tiny Letter (my monthly newsletter), I'm discussing the idea of resting  within church practices. There, I'm speaking candidly about some recent changes in the Haines' household, and I'd love to hear your thoughts. Sign up to read along!

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