No matter what

This is a beautiful blog post toward personal growth.

In Others' Words...

There are people who can walk away from you. And hear me when I tell you this! When people can walk away from you, let them walk. I don’t want you to try to talk another person into staying with you, loving you, calling you, caring about you, coming to see you, staying attached to you. When people can walk away from you let them walk. Your destiny is never tied to anybody that left.

People leave you because they are not joined to you. And, if they are not joined to you, you can’t make them stay. Let them go. And it doesn’t mean that they are a bad person, it just means that their part in the story is over. And you’ve got to know when people’s part in your story is over, so that you don’t keep trying to raise the dead.

TD Jakes

I first saw…

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Suicidal Cancer

If you were diagnosed with cancer and had years of; treatments, prescriptions, hospitalizations, of pain, that stopped you from living any sort of normal life, with no guarantee of recovery, would you feel hopeless? If you had to live with this set of circumstances for years; five years, ten years, twenty years, a lifetime, would you question your ability to go on? How much heartache would you carry while others went on and lived normally healthy lives, while your existence was consumed with one thing … CANCER.

Sadly, for some people mental illness isn’t much different, it’s a debilitating illness that effects every aspect of their lives. This isn’t a cause and effect situation, there isn’t anything they did to cause it, nothing they could have done to prevent it.  They felt pain, suffered, saw a doctor, got a diagnosis, worked on treatment options and went on trying to live. For some, this means years of exhausting many treatments options, many hospitalizations, many broken relationships, many job loses, all due to an illness that unfortunately Science hasn’t been able to cure yet.

When we describe mental illness but give it a different title that people can relate to, like cancer, people are able to see it in a new light. When we think in terms of uncurable cancer, it seems understandable that there would be a loss of hope in one’s life. People are able to muster up some sympathy for a person in this situation.

I know as humans we judge others out of our own experience, traditions, and religion or otherwise personal belief system and I try to keep that in mind when reading others views on mental illness and suicide, but at times I find it difficult. I can always tell when some famous writer tries to tackle the idea of suicide and they have no personal experience in dealing with debilitating mental illness.

I can tell by their word choices and simple explanations. I can tell by the way they offer up meaningless options to the idea of suicide, solutions that would be great to choose if someone were well. Solutions they believe they would have chosen, and of course that anyone in their right mind would chose. The problem is when a person is at the point of suicide, there mind isn’t right, they are sick, and suffering.

People want to address the act of suicide but fail to see the victim’s lifetime of struggle, of pain. I can tell by the way they chose to judge the person who took their life, instead of understanding that that person is a victim as well. A victim succumb to their illness.

Some people want to throw out judgements that offer no grace, only damnation for someone who is clearly already suffering beyond what is bearable to them and mostly likely would be to others of us. We would never dream of doing this to someone who lost their life to cancer or an illness of the body.

As a society we fail to accept that mental illness can be a terminal illness for some. There is involvement on the victim’s part to make it terminal, but at the same time it’s important to understand that the body has a breaking point, it will quit after enough pain or illness is inflicted, but the brain is different.

The brain, unless physically injured, will continue on despite any amount of neurotransmitter dysfunction. Having been through hospice with my grandparents, at the end there seems to be a resolution, they are ready to die because of the condition of their body. But with mental this doesn’t happen, it can mean illness with no cure and no end.

I’m in no way condoning suicide, it’s not my judgement to make. I’m just trying to bring some understanding to it, hoping that with understanding will come grace. When someone takes their own life, I deeply grieve, for them, for their families. I’m grieved that the victim wasn’t able to find peace in this life, that they felt there wasn’t enough hope to give themselves more time.

I’m glad the scientific community is finally starting to make huge gains in the area of the human brain.   I’m hoping it will make mental illness more legitimate to society, to people that haven’t had it impact their lives in some way. I’m hoping for improvements in medication, and treatments so that suicide never has to seem like an option. I’m hoping that one day mental illness won’t be terminal.

Sola Gratia / By Grace Alone

 Ever tried? Ever failed?

No matter. Try again.

Fail again. Fail better.

~ Samuel Beckett

I am applying for college right now and am doing it with both excitement and trepidation. I have tried to be successful in the academic arena for years and have struggled. Years ago, before I had a family, there were a few semesters where I earned honors, but most of the semesters were marked with “D” for dropped or even worse when I was really struggling, an “F” because I didn’t even take the time to officially drop the course. My odds haven’t been the best I admit, I’ve attended approximately five different community colleges over the span of 15 years, with only 40 units to my name.

It’s easy to judge myself for this failing and I do. I feel shameful that I’m the only one in my family that doesn’t have a degree, that hasn’t succeeded professionally. I contribute some of my lack of academic success to not having enough discipline and immaturity. But in all honesty, most of those years were filled with the struggle of battling depression, and undiagnosed Bipolar disorder, of just surviving and supporting myself financially.  This is not a cop-out, it’s just part of hindsight that comes with accepting one’s self and being willing to grow.

Finishing my degree, has been more of a long-term goal for me because it has taken a back seat to the more immediate needs of my family, of working and of just the fact that I was so overwhelmed with life it seemed an unattainable dangled carrot.

While going to college may not seem a big deal to others, it’s huge for me. Its part of the process of grace I’m trying to have for myself, for my life, past, present and future. I’m giving myself another shot at this, despite my own cognitive internal doubt that has held me back for years from risking, from believing in myself, from investing in myself.

My husband/family want a guarantee that I’m going to finish this time. Their doubt used to stop me in my tracks, stop me from trying. I would go through all of the reasons it could not work, and then I would get stuck there and not commit to college out of fear, of uncertainty, of the risk of failing again. It was like a huge momentum that I would just succumb to.

My husband doesn’t want to invest the money and time because there’s a not a guarantee that I will finish. And he’s right, I can’t guarantee that the financial burden I’m taking on will definitely be well spent, I can’t guarantee that I will walk down the aisle with a diploma in twenty-four months.

I want to make this guarantee with all of the certainty in the world, but I’m not going to. I can guarantee that I will try, that I will put my best effort forward, that I have every intention of graduating this time. And frankly, that’s enough for me for once. It’s enough for me to feel like investing in myself again, to do something for myself for once that isn’t about my husband and children.

I’m excited that I’m giving myself the opportunity to succeed, I’m excited that I feel I am at a place emotionally where I can and want to challenge myself and take on a long term goal. Despite others reservations and self-talk that tries to stop me. I’m taking this opportunity in my life to give myself a second chance, I’m excited that I’ve found grace for myself and some amount of belief that has given me momentum to move forward in an area where I’ve been stuck for years.

I’m not letting the self-talk doubt stop me this time. When it starts I hear it, I hear all of the reasons I could fail, all of the things that could get in my way, all of the uncontrollable circumstances that could occur in life. And I let doubt run its course. But then I start the rebuilding process of Grace. That it’s ok to try, without trying there is no chance of success, that risking is part of life, being uncertain is natural, that it’s ok to succeed and it’s ok to make mistakes because both are necessities of personal growth.

I’m encouraged and I want to encourage you. When you get to a place where you catch your breath and you have room for more, take the personal challenge, invest in yourself, give yourself a chance to try, to make mistakes, to succeed.

Find grace for yourself. Sola Gratia / By Grace Alone my friends.

A Well Lived Life

Those brave of heart really want to know us. They hear what we say when we have no words. They are ok with who we are, even when we can’t find the grace to love ourselves. They see our weakness, see us and are ok when we bleed.

I have a morbid, sarcastic sense of humor and a very detailed memory. With that confession, I share these memories with a sense of self-reflection and admiration for those who have chosen to participate in this well lived life with me. Some of these recollections were painful as hell at the time but I can laugh about them now, some are still painful but have brought a significant amount of meaning to my forty plus years of life.

This is an unchronological, unfiltered list of my life well lived. Grab a glass of; wine, coffee, sparkling water, put on some; ABBA, Johnny Cash, Dave Matthews, Led Zeplin, and let the ride begin.

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Some of you were my first crush.

Some of you had to wipe my mascara stricken face from your shoulder.

Some of you I learned to “mother” with.

Some of you saw me in a speedo before my thighs touched.

Some of you were my brothers when I didn’t understand men.

Some of you learned with me that Grey Goose isn’t a flock on Animal Planet.

Some of you were my roommate and taught me how to cook.

Some of you cried over an Autism diagnosis with me.

Some of you taught me about faith by being Christ to me.

Some of you tried to be my trainer and realized that the only thing I do better than lift is drink.

Some of you are my last love.

Some of you laughed at my dark sense of humor.

Some of you are related to me and I’m sorry.

Some of you let me live with you instead of in my car.

Some of you became a foodie/ wino with me and we now shop at Lane Bryant.

Some of you have enjoyed my obsession with Neurophysiology.

Some of you were parents to me when mine were broken.

Some of you loved me when I hated myself.

Some of you learned that a Volvo can be totaled.

Some of you were my first love.

Some of you are with Christ.

Some of you taught me the love of the written word.

Some of you took me to dances because no one else asked.

Some of you taught me that the black & white only exist in a crayon box.

Some of you taught me that National Geographic boobs are still beautiful.

Some of you have loved me from miles away.

Some of you share my intense love of sports despite the fact that I kicked your ass on more than one occasion.

Some of you have been tattooed with me.

Some of you married me thinking I was Mary Tyler Moore.

Some of you know in my teens and twenties are erred on the side of law and that now I err on the side of gospel/grace.

Some of you should have stopped reading long before this list even started and can still do so.

Some of you unknowingly walked through the darkness with me.

Some of you annoy the shit out of me but we tolerate each other because you love my husband or children.

Some of you taught me that I’m both saint & sinner at the same time.

Some of you have taught me that love is not about sexual orientation.

Some of you are my soul mate.

Some of you were my parents when mine were broken.

Some of you helped me to remember things I wish I had forgotten while drunk.

Some of you know I’m serious when I say I should have been a lesbian with cats, those same some of you know that it wouldn’t matter I’d still bitch.

Some of you have been a far greater example to my children than I could ever be.

Some of you brought me to Christ.

Some of you are the reason I’m alive today.

Some of you know I almost lost my faith.

Some of you repeated a grade in school with me.

Some of you went to my first concert with me.

Some of you told me the truth on no uncertain terms.

Some of you broke my heart.

Some of watched me bitterly grow to hate the church but embrace Christ.

Some of you inherited me through marriage and again I’m sorry.

Some of you understand the kernel of truth.

Some of you remember that if you shit in the woods it only makes noise if the people skiing behind you catch up with you.

I encourage each of you to take the time to go through your inventory, be it your FB list, journal, photos, writings, etc. and reflect upon the living you’ve done, your life details and those who have participated in it with you.

My Yellow Ovals

I lay my yellow ovals on the sterile, porcelain counter
wondering how the day will transform
and when I should take my emotional temperature.
I don’t want to be bothered by it.
I want it to just be an unconscious
undertaking like it appears to be for so many others.
I want to just live.
I don’t want to have to be reminded of milligrams of stabilization.
Don’t want to report back
or have to ask others for mood feedback.
It strips me of my independence
and self-perception.
Makes me vulnerable in a juvenile sort of way.
Reliant on others opinions
and faulty neurotransmitters.
I’m too old, with too much life experience,spend too much time caring for others to be reduced to this sort of infantile bullshit.
But there are no alternatives.
I have tried
to exercise them away
to pray them away
to explain their existence away
from prying children’s eyes.
So I grudgingly start and end my day
the same way
by swallowing down
my broken reminders
My yellow ovals on the sterile, porcelain counter.

Genetic Happiness

What portion of our own personal happiness is based on genetics? Are we predestined to live out our happiness according to some biological measure? Some people do have a more natural ability when it comes to happiness, some people find it easy to be happy. For others it takes more effort. Do some of us have to try harder to be happy? Recent research says 50% of our happiness is predetermined by our genetics…. Does that thought make you happy or unhappy? What is our set point happiness?

I’ve always been intrigued with the concept of happiness. At times happiness has seemed so elusive, that I’ve had to question my own understanding and pursuit of it. In this pursuit over the last twenty years, I’ve read hundreds of Psychology and self-help books, and have watched many documentaries. It fascinates me, from a personal, psychological, spiritual and scientific standpoint.

I understand for some, the idea of pursuing something intangible makes no sense, and of course to those that are lucky enough to carry some genetic disposition to optimism, almost ridiculous. If you are still reading this, and don’t understand my need for this quest, by all means go back to your half-full glass of Chardonnay and salute the Creator for your gift.

Others would question whether happiness lies in genetics, whether some receive functioning neurotransmitters by sheer creative luck. And I understand the desire to take some responsibility for our own happiness, we want to say I did X, Y and Z and because of those actions/choices I earned my happiness degree. The problem with this reasoning of course is that some of us have done the same X, Y and Z and have still not graduated … we’re forever students.

I want to understand happiness in more specific applicable terms, than just platitudes. If one more genetically happy person tells me it’s a choice … I’m going to choke on my own vomit. Happiness is not just a choice carrot that is dangled in front of you …I’ve put an abundant amount of effort into trying to make it be, so much so in fact, my German ancestors must be rolling over in their graves with pride over my diligence. I’m trying to be happy damn it.

I’m not wanting to grasp happiness to give some sort of meaning to my life, my life already has meaning to it. This meaning reaches far beyond any sense of self I may have and looks beautiful on the face of my children and in these moments happiness seems tangible to me. My pursuit in no way diminishes them and I in no way expect another person to bring about this elusive happiness in my life, this is my pursuit.

For many years I accepted and told others that I was ok with the forerunner of happiness which is contentment. It’s disheartening though at times to work so hard and only be able to achieve 2nd place. Mind you, contentment does have its place and time, it’s admirable in its own right as is 2nd place but it doesn’t mean I want to give up on understanding how some achieve 1st place. And so onward I march.

My belief is as follows, and it’s not a credentialed or degred opinion, so take it as such.

I believe that as individuals we have a genetic happiness predisposition, a start point if you will and that this start point is not flexible in nature, it is written in one’s DNA and it remains a constant from birth to death. I believe our happiness set point is like other areas where genetics give us a heads up or not, it is no different than athletics or intellect. That being said, I think there is room for one to contribute where genetics leave off. To say happiness is a choice, is misleading, but to say that we can chose to make the effort to contribute to what we’ve been given, is more accurate and can be essential to our own well-being.

I found the documentary Happiness informative and it gave some credibility to some of my own ideas about a genetic happiness set point, I’ve shared just some of the basic information, it’s a documentary worth watching.

Happiness Psychologist Ed Diener, twenty-five year study of happiness, has given the following breakdown for happiness:

  • 50% determined by our genetic / set point
  • 10% determined circumstances/health/social status
  • 40% unaccounted for / intentional behavior, things we can do to be happy

Psychologist, Liz Seymour writes, “…variables such as age, education, health, income, personal appearance, and even climate are ineffective at overriding our genetically determined set point.”

“In other words, if your genetic set point favors misery, making a lot of money or even getting a rock hard body won’t tip the happiness scales in your favor. Sure, you may temporarily feel better following an achievement or gaining some material possession, such as a house, but within a year you’ll be back where you were before the changes occurred.”

I find encouragement in this breakdown, because it gives 40% variation to work with, to put my pursuit into context. These percentages don’t take anything from me, instead they help me to better understand where I stand. While my genetics have perhaps put me at a deficit of 5o%, they’ve contributed to my inquisitive nature and love of learning, and experiencing life, they’ve given me 40% to be undeterred in this pursuit.

 

Missing My Friend MANIA

Started my new meds.  My Pysch progress report would read, “Mania is gone and by all measures depression seems to have lifted”. This is progress and I should be happy, the medication has shown some success in balancing out my life. But, I miss my mania.   I say MY mania, because I imagine to each person there’s something independently personal about it.

I miss my mania because she came unexpected, crept into my life with her new perspective, different from the old drudge of depression. She brought with her energy.

I finally had the physical energy to formulate an exercise plan so I could achieve my long time goal of getting back into shape and losing weight. Every day I worked out for at least an hour, sometimes longer as I pumped music and lost track of time, lost myself to this new discipline.

Mania replaced the drudgery of slow moving depression. She brought an emotional and mental energy with her, and self-esteem. Years of depression meant low energy and after doling out scraps to my family it meant little or nothing left for myself. She told me I could change things about myself that I have struggled with for so long, she showed me a future I wanted.  She made me see I could actualize the self I wanted for such a long time.

With emotional and mental energy, I could sit and write every day, ideas would just come to me, words had special meaning, I didn’t have to sit and ponder in my thoughts. She told me to get off the couch, she wanted more for me than just dishes and laundry, she had ideas about going back to college, finishing what I started before I became so devoted to everyone else but myself. She gave me back a sense of self, she was a whirl wind of bravado.

I miss her.  I want her back, but I realize that she and I were unlivable to others. While she propelled me forward, she was bold and wasn’t afraid to take all that energy and direct it in one direction, on me. She was the selfish. She moved so quickly that she lost patience for those that couldn’t keep up. She drove and voiced things more aggressively. She was irritated with the small details of life and didn’t want to be bothered by them. My husband hated her, he preferred the slow me, the couch me, the more accommodating me. My children didn’t have words for the morphs that transpired in my life. But I could see while she valued me, she wanted less to do with them. She couldn’t be bothered to read a book to them or show affection, she was onto the next thing already, missing some pretty important parenting moments and opportunities. My best friend dreaded her presence as well, communication became more complicated to keep up with and self-preservation was at the forefront of her thoughts.

Now I’m left with how to reconcile what she started. I still see what she wanted for me, but I question if those goals were just too lofty for where I’m at in my life.  Is going back to college now doable, while helping three children get through school? My skinny self is almost unobtainable, exercise is burdensome again, and comes after my long list of other obligations, the pounds are creeping up again. Writing is more of a chore, the words are there but I have to make the effort to formulate them into sentences. Everything is taking more effort again, with much less of the enthusiasm.

Grieving her absence. Trying to accept that she can’t be a part of my life. I don’t think this makes any sense to my husband, children, or friends so I don’t even try to explain it. It’s my grief alone. Struggling to not be resentful over the fact that mental illness has resided in my life for so many years and made certain goals seem unobtainable. At the same time, trying to be grateful for the fact that I’m not bed ridden with depression, but that I’m functioning now. Trying to grasp onto the fact that I’m lucky, that some with mental illness aren’t as fortunate and bare an immense burden much larger than mine. I’m trying to reconcile it all in my mind. I’m trying.

Control Freak

I have to read whole books on how to let go. Then I have to read them again, and again and again and again. They sit on dust filled shelves, until I’m at the end of my tear-stricken rope all because I can’t control the finite details in my life. I read my Bible to be reassured that while I’m not in control, God is. I know this … because I’ve read it over and over and over … and I get out my, Stop Being A Control Freak book and start the process of letting go all over again.

I have to let go and let God to maintain some sort of life semblance and sanity and I say that in the loosest meaning of the word sanity… it’s more like a bloody shred of existence some days.

Letting go means I have to be done with it and not try to manipulate and control the outcomes based on my fear, lack of faith, with my crocodile tears, with my over- controlling, over-bearing personally that loudly, takes charge of things and people without permission. Without any sort of forethought I charge ahead, because to be still, to be stagnant was never allowed in my family growing up. We physically and mentally moved, my Father stood still for no one. He was always marching two hundred yards ahead, with only the end in sight and a family trailing behind him. He came to be lovingly known as Captain Ron. We sailed, hiked, biked, swam, ran, camped, kayaked, skied, played tennis, Frisbee, football, baseball and often all in one vacation. We didn’t stop to let things be, to let things go, to see and feel a moment, we moved. If things weren’t as we desired, if people weren’t as they should be … we bore the responsibility of making them what they should be or we thought they could be, as his girls we moved mountains with our small, thick calves and spirited naive. Captain Ron out-walked my Mom, after twenty-one years of marriage she hung up her hiking boots.

I am my Father’s daughter, I move …. In a desired direction, dragging bystanders with me, despite resistance, because I cannot be still even after 40 years.

I have to let go. It means I have to accept that God may do or not do as I see fit. It means I have to stop … I have to be still, even within my own racing, reorganizing, prioritizing, mind. I need to be still and not feel guilty about it. It means I need to be grateful for what I have received despite what I deserved and grieve for what I didn’t deserve but received.

Letting go for this guilt-ridden Midwestern, German girl, means giving back to God that which was never really mine by fleshly name or birth. Their ties with God began long before me, they are his lineage.

Letting go hurts … it means I see dirty grout, dirty souls on my tiles. It means accepting mildew-lined shower curtains, teenage-boy shoe odors, late night Science projects, un-matching socks, over flowing trash cans, incomplete homework, unmet needs, unshaven legs, and frozen pizzas and I can’t fix it all.

These things exist, I can’t hide them …. Despite my downstairs closest. I can’t by my own fruition change them, I only have two hands.

Letting go means that my best effort isn’t pretty, it’s damn embarrassing at times. Letting go means accepting that. It means my life isn’t orderly, my marriage isn’t always harmonious, my language isn’t always holy, my kids aren’t always respectful, it’s an all-out, unorganized, mess at times, in fact if I’m honest, a lot of the time. It means that I’m too tired for anything but honesty anymore before God and Man and at times if I want complete honestly and humility from another human being I go to an AA meeting instead of Bible Study.

Letting go means we don’t have to be the neighborhood picture-perfect Christian family. It means, I don’t put Christian Easter signs on my lawn, it’s under watered and our gardener is underpaid. I don’t hang Christian platitudes on my front door, it’s smudged with finger prints and the path way is littered with bikes, scooters and half drank juice boxes. I certainly don’t put the Christian bumper stickers on my minivan, because I will pray for your soul only after I’ve driven you off the road and then for my own forgiveness.

Letting go means, I no longer have the short or long list of well-meaning, but over-simplified answers and their attached Bible verses. Especially when it comes to marriage and raising children.

Letting go means, accepting that some of my children have diagnosis beyond my control and because of that others don’t get enough attention. It means knowing the neighbors can hear loud, spirited language floating up from the trampoline in my backyard. It means my six year old daughter spits like her brothers. It means that fish have been laid to rest in my backyard because of miscalculated PH balances, accompanied by hamsters that were over loved and underfed. Letting go, means honesty with my children and no pretenses, saying I’m sorry to them and accepting their apologies. It means trying to parent them with the same grace I’ve been shown by Christ.

Letting go means that while I can’t leave my children with a legacy of unstained-righteous choices and holy living, I can leave them the example Christ has made in my life. I can leave them with the example God gave with his 12 disciples, who had a letting go/sin spread sheet longer than mine, and he worked through them. And right here, right now, despite my/your/their mistakes, sin, pain, he can work, let him.

I want my children to learn that their thick calves are not meant to move mountains, instead they’re meant to bend so they can rightfully let go and give it to Christ, because he’s the one true mountain mover.

Hollow Days

Some days, weeks and months I go through the motions.

I prepare meals, assist with homework, go to church, attend baseball games, attempt intimacy and provide transportation when needed. I say I love you and try to embrace my children, my husband and my life that is. Some days this doesn’t feel like enough for me and I’m sure it’s not for them.

It takes all my emotional energy to just exist, but it’s not much of an existence. I’m hollow. I’m flat. I’m a shell of a person.   My life consists of doing things for others out of obligation.

I signed up for this/my life fifteen years ago, when I thought I had some depression and that is was completely treatable by my morning coffee and Zoloft. I signed up for a lot not knowing there would be times when I had little to give. That when there was so little of me left, I would cling onto my last morsels of self, for preservation’s sake. This naivete meant not realizing that having lives depend upon you for sustenance and nurturing and not being able give it freely, produces a tremendous amount of unbearable guilt.

Some of the fifteen years were better suited for that morning fix, or I was better suited for it. There have been a lot of days, weeks, months, and this last year that make me doubt my decision and myself, I call them my hollows.

I want to feel love and connection to those I’ve committed my life to, but during the hollows all I feel is an urge to flee. I know logically that fleeing would fix nothing, that I cannot be free of myself, that I have to put my big girl panties on and address it here in this life that I’ve committed to. I know that love is more than a feeling, it’s a commitment and that the emotion of love will come back after the hollows leave. And I stay. And it does.

I want to appreciate my life, I want to enjoy it. I have so much. I know I’m fortunate. Many have it much harder and are not as blessed, but this line of reasoning doesn’t help me at all, I wish it would. I read about young moms that die of cancer and their grief stricken families, and I want to grasp this … and tell myself to stop the bullshit in my head. I want to. I want to hold this knowledge so tightly that it frees me from myself.

My family can sense these hollow days, I am more distant, angry, sad or irritated. My husband will try to fix it, though I’ve asked him to stop. I try to just move forward with the best of intentions on these days. I try to reassure them that I will come back around on another day, maybe tomorrow. I tell myself this as well. I want it for myself and for my family, I want better. A better me. I want years, month, weeks and days with no hollows.

The Church’s Struggle with Mental Illness

Before moving forward with this blog, I would like to clarify that there is a distinction between the church and Christ, the latter of which my faith is in. And that currently I am in a church that does their best to embrace me even if they don’t fully understand my affliction.

Some churches still struggle to view mental illness as anything but an existential thought of one’s moral/spiritual compass.

At sixteen, I experienced this first hand in an evangelical church, it was the beginning of my first bout with severe depression. I tried to be happy … I went to church and followed their rules ….I prayed for their joy, their fruits of the spirit and I believed. I tried their prescription for me:

  • pray more, differently, with scripture in it, on my knees
  • stop sinning
  • volunteer my time
  • take communion, tithe
  • repent, confess
  • just put on a happy face,
  • have more faith, read my Bible more,
  • accept Christ’s healing

I NEEDED to believe. Nobody needs to believe more than the broken, nobody knows belief until their broken.

And while well intentioned church leaders questioned my faith, the quantity and quality of prayer and self –sacrifice, I was in ever, increasing deep despair. They seemed to reason that my depression was a result of non-repentant sin, thus I was causing my own depression. Now, at forty I have enough life experience to reason my way out of that box, but at sixteen I wasn’t equipped to handle this sort of bad theology.

It caused me years of continued and unneeded struggle, within myself and in my approach to wellness. Counseling was considered a last ditch option, and if it was to be done by a pastor on staff, not a licensed therapist. I value pastors for their theological knowledge and their pastor care, however I believe without the proper training/education they can do more damage than good.

Medication was also frowned upon, and so I spent years trying nutraceutials; 5HTP, St.John’s Wort, the range of B Vitamins, all to no avail. Finally after six years of this journey, that had more to do with my brain chemistry than my spiritual life, I met a Christian therapist that helped change this wrong perspective and put me on the right path. I am eternally thankful for her and others that do exist within Christianity and the walls of the church that understand.

So, what plagues some of our churches when it comes to mental illness? I would say, causation and stigma … old concepts that for much of the world have been distinguished but are still lagging somewhat behind in some churches.

Causation is an ugly road to travel, it leaves a lot of carnage in its path, and it casts blame. The church does exhibit leeway for causation for that which it comprehends. Obesity causes heart disease, but we never hear, please remove yourself from the potluck line or the church will not be able to visit you while hospitalized from your quadruple bypass surgery. Any smokers here? Sorry, there will be no offering taken to assist you with your medical bills for COPD. Alcoholics … when you have cirrhosis of the liver we will not pray for you, sorry. The church can relate to those struggles, we’ve all had too many doughnuts, toked up during college, sipped from a boisterous Cabernet and then found ourselves embracing the cold, hard porcelain truth. But there is a lack of understanding of mental health issues often in many churches.

In mental illness, there is causation, but it needs to be assigned responsibly; it’s brain chemistry, neurotransmitters, genetics, and circumstances … causes that are not sinful in nature.

Dear Church,

Why must we with mental health issues hide out? Despite the fact that it’s not just your congregations that suffer from this illness, it’s not just you’re laymen who are somewhat less theologically astute. In fact some of your pastors, theological professors, Vicars, elders, are bumping into each other in the pew with shit grins on their faces because they can’t admit they struggle with mental illness, because they cannot let you see them. They don’t want to be fired, held spiritual hostage, have their faith questioned, they don’t want their families embarrassed.

This illness is different in that it affects our cognition and ability to see ourselves as we are. We are already struggling from an eternal perspective. We question our salvation, God, our desire for life, it’s a heartfelt existential crisis … and we can’t think our way out of it, any more than someone with cancer can think their way out of cancer and into remission.

Please Church understand, we’re not stupid, we don’t want this, our neurotransmitters are functionally incorrectly at the current moment and we could use your help. We desire to live, we desire to have our paradise lost renewed, we want to find comfort within your arms, we want to evangelize with you for Christ … and some of us will do it in ugly sick places you don’t want to go. Please embrace us, accept us, send us out in faith knowing that Christ can work through our brokenness, some of our wrists have bled like Christ’s … we get it .. We’ve almost died to our illnesses, please let us live in peace … not just God’s peace, but yours.