An Itch

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.

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Robin

rw

I know this is a weird photo choice, but it just captures how fun he was and how much fun people had with him. photo from http://www.today.com

Celebrities’ deaths don’t usually affect me too much. My world and theirs are so far removed from each other, that other than a passing regretful thought, my world remains unchanged.

But Robin Williams is another story. Besides the fact that I grew up on his silliness and characters and watched Mrs. Doubtfire more times than I could ever possibly count, he left this world in a way that has become my greatest fear.

I desperately want to hug his wife. I want to hold her and cry with her and pray with her. I hurt so much for her, knowing the heartache that she has experienced even before his death.

There have been more than a few references on social media to some less-than-grace-filled opinions about depression-based suicide (insights along the lines of Christians Shouldn’t Have Depression, You Have Depression Because You Don’t Have Enough Faith, Pray Harder, Get Over It, etc.).

I would imagine that many of those opinions were shared by people who have never for one moment experienced depression themselves, nor watched a husband, wife, mother, father, brother, sister, or friend fight.so.hard. against this evil darkness and the lies with which it attacks. And this made me mad.

My first reactions were thoughts like, Who are they to weigh in on this? They have no effing idea what they’re talking about! They have no right to speak into this-they don’t know what it’s like!

But after my husband (Braveheart himself) intercepted a rather bitter, resentful facebook post I almost made, I recevied a text from a friend. A text of sweet support, letting me know that all this news coverage had brought us to mind and she was thinking of us. And in flooded all the experiences, people, and relationships we have that are so opposite of the opinions I mentioned earlier.

Yes, there are ignorant motormouths who will spout stupidly about hurts and illnesses they know nothing about.
But there are also parents who will attend conferences about mental illness because they want to be able to offer support.
There are parents who will take calls at any time of day because they have known this darkness themselves and can offer solidarity and comfort.
There are pastors who will lovingly counsel and pray you through dark moments in your marriage brought on by this illness.
There are life group members/friends who will listen, seek to understand, and refuse to stand in judgment, praying for and beside you instead of preaching at you.
There are best friends who will hold all your dark secrets and love you even more deeply because of them.
There are friends at church and at work who know just by looking at you when things are not well, and give you permission to have a crappy day.
There are co-workers who will let you vent over happy hour margaritas and not shy away from the hard topics.
There are other people silently suffering who find hope in the sharing of your own struggles, and who will stand with you in solidarity and hope because no one is alone in this.
There are blessings to be found despite this illness, and there are loving, grace-filled, gentle people to offer friendship and support. There are people who need your own love, gentleness, and grace. It’s my prayer that I can offer that. It’s my prayer that we all can.

I only post when it’s bad. Sorry.

Fuck.this.shit.

Spoiler alert: I’m a little drunk right now, because it’s been THAT kind of day. I normally eat a fairly (okay-semi) vegan diet (plus a little cheese and a donut here and there), but today I have eaten a Snickers bar, Flaming Hot Cheetos, two quesadillas, and Famous Amos cookies.

I’m on a bender.

This is what happens when my Mother in Law falsely accuses my husband for the UPTEENTH time of stealing a bunch of money, on a day he already feels like shit. This is what I do when I watch my husband struggle with the will to live while his own father won’t PICK UP THE DAMN PHONE to offer encouragement. No, that’s beneath him. He delegates that job to my husband’s cousin. Because his father can’t be bothered. This is also what happens when my brother in law calls my husband’s anguish “dramatic” and makes it clear that his brother’s depression is inconvenient for him. Fuck him.

Did I mention I’m a bit drunk? Honestly, I’m impressed that this is as articulate as it is.

Thank the Lord for Pinot Noir, Cabernet, vending machines,  and Gossip Girl on Netflix. I’m all about product placement. Without these distractions, I’d be a mess.

Oh. Wait.

For those who actually read this, if you are a father, BE A FATHER. Unconditionally. No matter how uncomfortable it makes you or how inconvenient it may be. If someone in your family has any form of mental illness, just LOVE THEM. Do not add to the pain. Please. I plead with you.

Happy Monday, Folks.

Get it.

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.

Get it?

Facebook Statuses I Wish I Could Post

1. I hate this fucking day.

2. Shit.All.Over.The.Fan.

3. My 36 year old husband’s tantrums will rival your 2 year old’s any day.

4. How many more times am I going to have to clean up my husband’s messes when he is depressed?

5. I had no idea that offering to help take care of said messes was a felony-level offense.

6. Can we just catch a fucking break?!

7. All the chocolate and wine in the world cannot make this day better.

8. God, I hate this fucking disease.

Shalom

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day have come and gone. One of the most stressful, anxiety-filled seasons of the year (along with the joy, wonder, awe, etc.). In a very compartmentalized part of myself, I dreaded it, because of all.the.things. The parties, the can’t-get-out-of-it commitments, the family drama (of which we have oh-so-much. Yay us.).

When your husband has depression that robs him of every last ounce of energy for dealing with people and socially normal things, the Christmas season feels a little like a ticking time bomb. How long before he’s d.o.n.e. and retreats into The Pit? How long before I have to come up with reasons for why he’s not at this or that party…again?

I kept waiting….and waiting….and then cautiously optimistically enjoying events…but still waiting. And, it never came. God has blessed us with 2 of the most consistently healthy, wonderful months we’ve had all at one time, ever. It’s been beyond-words amazing. Peace-filled, restful, restorative. A calm in the midst of a storm, a reprieve from battle.

So I (we) have enjoyed it, and not tried to analyze it too much by writing, but instead praise God (every.day.) for it and live it.

The Hebrew word “shalom” means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.

Just, yes.

This has characterized the last 2 months for us, and we pray it continues. Forever.

Take every victory.

grace

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.

And then he dropped the P-word

Saturday was busy, but great. We had tons of fun catching up with old friends at a wedding-laughing, dancing, and feeling “normal.” Happy Hallelujah.

Sunday, after spending the whole afternoon at urgent care to get meds for an infection (for me), he drops this bomb on me: he’d been watching porn for fully half of our 22-month baby marriage.

WTF. Seriously?!

Is there at least ONE sin/vice/struggle that we don’t have to battle? So besides choosing filthy, exploited images over me for. eleven. months., he had lied about and hidden it for. eleven. months. My heart was already bruised from carrying the burden of a spouse’s depression in isolation for so long, and this just bloodied even more.

I love him. He has sought council for this from pastors and other men at church, he has not viewed porn in 4 months, he’s read books about its damaging spiritual and relational effects, and he came to me-I didn’t catch him in it. He came clean, humbly and out of great pain and love.

But.

It hurts. A whole F-ing lot. And so I am staying home today because trying to slog through the work day yesterday with this weighing on my heart and mind was too damn much. I have a date with a running path, my Bible, my Jesus, and His ocean, which somehow always seems to hold comfort and answers from Him. Broken Hallelujah.

On making it worse…

I have prayed that God would use this blog and the words in it to encourage others who are walking in shoes similar to mine. The problem is, I have no encouraging words right now.

I broke down last night, the sobbing, snotting, hiccuping kind of break down…you know, the pretty kind. The burden of silence with this disease was too heavy, and I could not handle it another second. My sweet husband came to the rescue as much as he could-said he would call our pastor, tucked me in to bed, and ever the Braveheart, encouraged me to “hang in there.” Every ounce of strength he had was used to bolster me up.

Which made him spiral into The Hole today. And it is my fault. I know this because he told me so. I am so not good at being supportive of him when he is not well. I can hold it together for only so long before I become a scared mess. It’s like a sick form of super power. Not only can I not fix it, I can make it worse.

It doesn’t seem to matter how hard I pray through the pain, pray against the cynicism, fear, and lies that attack us both, pray for healing. Eventually, fear and emotional exhaustion catch up with me at the. worst. time. And it just makes him more sick. 

The amount of self-loathing that comes with this is fairly impressive. I need no condemnation, because I’ve got that covered.

Release Valve

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.