I’ve had this itch for a while now-a thought, a longing that won’t leave the back of my mind, that keeps resurfacing.
I want this thing so badly-for me, for my husband, for people who battle the same battles as my husband, for the wives/husbands/sisters/brothers/parents/friends who watch these horrific battles unfold and can do almost nothing about it.
I want the church to be a place of freedom, peace, rest and comfort for those with mental illness and their families. Jesus has always already been this place. I want His bride-the Church- to be this place, also.
I want to be a part of it. Or start it.
But I don’t know how. I don’t know exactly what it would look like. I don’t know where to start, or who to talk to, or if anyone would come. I don’t know if others want this. I don’t know if I could do it. I don’t know if I could start, lead, or participate well in this. I don’t know if I’m emotionally strong enough to handle it.
But I do know that there are so many more people than we realize who are fighting this war. I do know that God’s heart hurts for this even more than mine does. I do know I want to see Biblical, healing, supportive ministry in this area. I do know I’m not qualified. Sometimes I know that I’m called to this. But other times I don’t know that at all.
I don’t know a lot, but what I do know keeps growing in strength, crowding out the uncertainty, the fear, the insecurity.
But I still don’t know.
I’m just going to say it. I resent cancer patients a little. People get cancer. Not as in, people are diagnosed with cancer. People understand it. It’s tangible (more or less). So when people announce prayer requests for someone with cancer, everyone gets it. They respond with sweet, encouraging comments and reassurances that they are, indeed, praying. They rejoice when the chemo side effects let up or when a cancer patient’s spirits are lifted and they can get out of the house. Those things are wonderful-small silver linings that are actually huge victories in the day-in-day-out-war waged by a person with cancer.
But we also live with a cancer. One that most people don’t get. What would people’s responses be if I posted something about how badly-desperately-we needed prayer last night because the darkness of this cancer threatened to take us both down with it? That I have begun and ended every one of the last 4 days in tears and anxiety from watching my husband suffer from this illness? What would people reply if I announced that my husband had thrown a tantrum of epic proportions while I was out running that resulted in a destroyed 3-drawer plastic organizer and a broken glass picture frame.all.over.our.bed (no joke) and I’m constantly anxious because he is fairly unpredictable right now and could everyone please pray for peace and comfort?
Would people rush to our side-literally or figuratively? Or would they just stay awkwardly silent, because….what the hell do you say to the wife of someone with major, chronic depression?! And let’s be honest, depression just is not as glamorous as cancer. It’s a lot harder to relate to it. It’s only a short distance from actual, legit Crazy Town. Fighting cancer is noble. Fighting mental illness is messy.
Ok, so maybe I should clarify: I resent people’s general response to cancer vs. depression. Generally. Overall. And I resent the hypocrisy in stigma between the two diseases. Yes, I know cancer is terrible. I would not wish it on anyone. It is horrendous.
But so is depression. And there is far less support for it, when that support is fiercely needed.
I just wish that I could send out a mass email, facebook post, text, carrier pigeon, anything- to ask for the same prayer and moral support that families of cancer patients can. But I can’t. Because generally, overall, people don’t *get* it, and it will just end up hurting more.
Tonight, I let God be the strong one.
Frankly, I’m really bad at it anyway (as evidenced by, well, every other post I’ve written here). When I force myself to be the strong one, I have the stamina of a fat kid on a running track (I was that kid, so I would know). I can be understanding and compassionate for about 1.2 minutes. Then fear, frustration, and discouragement set in and shit hits the fan…tons of it.
But God is slowly and surely breaking that stubborn, self-sufficient and self-reliant part of me. Turns out, His grace really is more than sufficient, and He is perfectly reliable like no human could ever hope to be.
This will sound annoying, but I can find no other way to explain it. The whole “let God be your strength” thing is so theoretical-until it’s not. When I finally gave up and decided to trust Him, leaning into His strength just made sense. I found I was incapable of doing anything else. It is life-giving, and full of comfort, and, even in the midst of pain, filled with deep joy.
With it, I was able to hear my husband’s pain without panicking. I could comfort without falling apart. I could hold him and not pull away. I could stay in the pain with him and not implode. Victory. Only His strength can do this. Mine just.cannot.
I cannot deal with this illness, or support my husband through it, by myself. I am weak, selfish, and paralyzed by fear. But He is strong (like, ninja strong), loving, and invincible.
He is everything.
My husband has chronic depression. Has had it for 17 years. He has taken 25 different medications, been in 15 years of therapy, has been hospitalized, has taken supplements, has radically changed his diet. And we are still here.
Some days are good, happy, productive. They are full of light and hope and laughter and songs and work. But the other days-those are void of light. On Those Days, the light is crowded out by sleep, pain, bitterness, and sometimes, even hope of death.
Those are the days I can’t breathe.
Try it. When your loving, talented, ambitious husband tells you he wishes he were dead…I dare you: try to breathe in that moment. It’s impossible.
Maybe, if I write, I will be able to breathe.
You see, family is compassionate, but I can’t tell them about how dark it really is. Church family says that we “do life together,” but I worry what they would think of him, of me, of us.
Maybe, if I write, I will be able to breathe.