“Think of a time in your life when despair was replaced with hope…” (Brian McLaren, “We Make the Road by Walking, p. 170).
She came in the wee hours of the morning speaking through my fog and debilitating fatigue. With her small hand she would stroke my forehead and cheek calling to me in the darkness. I remember clearly: laying in my bed with my fourth child growing in my womb and my heart broken by the devastating consequences of “living authentically in community.” It’s a buzz word churched people love to use among themselves. It’s one way they celebrated their awesomeness – we are real, bring your hearts, you can trust us. One of the many phrases that we had often used together – when I was one of them. But here I was reeling in the darkness, alone, & suffering from the heartbreaking consequences of trusting their small circles. I wondered will depression end?
Was this what depression looked like? Was this what depression felt like? Was this sorrow – this lowness of spirit – what so many hushed and hid and dealt with alone? Was this the silent soul stealer? Would I make it out of this alive?
Finding Wholeness & Healing in the Darkness
The tears were never ending. I curled up in a ball on the bathroom floor and wept. Then I crawled on my hands and knees and sitting on the shower floor with the hot water streaming down across my body and face I wept even more. My whole body ached at the pain of being so easily discarded. Tried without a trial, pushed out for speaking truth, left to my own devices for having too many questions. Those questions and concerns had come too close to revealing shameful places, hidden spaces, lies upon lies upon lies.
And I wept. I cried until my body went dry.
She was so little – our oldest. Having recently started school that fall she would get up early to start her day, but I could not move. I could not lift my body out of the despair and the fog. The darkness was so real and so thick I could feel it around me and within me. The murky black hovered over my life and my heart… I could not breathe above it. I was gasping for air. I was drowning and no one could hear my cries.
“I feel like I am standing in the middle of a giant pit…a pit of despair. It is difficult to go from one extreme where you trust, love and give your heart to an idea, you entrust your good stuff and not so great stuff to people that you believe you can trust…To the other extreme where it’s all a big joke, where it is really just an idea…Do you know what it feels like to be pushed into a pit of despair? There is an extreme sense of hopelessness and fear that can overtake, overwhelm. Being pushed is not fun.” (Jessica K. McGuire, “Pit of Despair,” Jezamama Blog: March 31, 2009)
These women who had declared that it was safe to “bring your heart” before them and among them – showed their truth. It was ugly. It was haunting. You know how they say people leave a mark on your life? Well, they left my heart stained and my life scarred. I was burned. I was broken. They gathered in small circles and hashed out deals over coffee and prayers. They sealed fates. They mocked life. I would never be the same.
As they whispered words, I crawled into the deep, cool covers of my bed with the double blinds pulled tightly over the light … and I slept.
I slept the stink of them off my life. I cried the stain of them off my heart. I wrote the truth of them onto the page. I fought to find myself – despite their words.
I am not sure of the exact moment when life began to heal…
I am not sure when the darkness finally started to lift. I think it began to back away when I began to write. I wrote despair on pages. I filled up journals with doubt, fear, shame, and hurt. And they came. They came with their accusations and the bitter anger and the lies. I kept writing. I wanted to give up God. And they feigned innocence, shock, and confusion. I wrote anyways.
In the middle of the grief, I gave birth to our fourth child… a son. And we laughed at how perfectly he fit our life together. I wept even more at how exhausting he was – at how much he stretched me as a mother. He was so demanding and needy in ways that none of the others had been.
I had to find space to breathe, to keep the darkness away so I took to the path.
I set my feet to the trails, the forest, and the water’s edge as often as I could and I ran. Then I started to take a small camera – and capture every bit of holy I could find.
The words would flow and the images of healing were everywhere I stepped. I leaned into the silent places with intention.
The Divine met me there with hope and peace and healing and light. She taught me how to see again. She taught me truth. Soon I was sprawled across the front lawn in my bathrobe capturing mushroom details and dew drops on grass blades and the sun. Wow. I would set out on the bench by the water and wait for her.
Countless Homeless Sunday mornings were spent anticipating the sun’s daily appearance. I reveled in how she greeted the morning. It is a sacred hour.
This was the sun telling the darkness that it was her turn to shine. Watching her shimmer across the water and despite the fog, as she did her work anyways, witnessing the miracle of the sun’s glory every morning gave me stirrings of life and light.
I began to hope again. Despite the murk. In the midst of sorrow and grief I began to shine too. I found myself through the words and the images. My voice got stronger. The darkness was pushed further and further away from me. The brighter I got – the more the darkness shifted away. As the light around me and within me got brighter I found my own doubt, shame, fear, and hiding slowly pushing further away too.
So will depression end?
It will come. Out of the blue you will be slammed full force by someone’s hurtful ways, or the consequences of your own choices, or because that is what happens living in this broken world – sorrow, grief, doubt, despair, depression.
There is nothing wrong with you. This is not who you are now. It is a not so simply something that is happening within you and around you and to you. For a time you might try to eat or drink or shop or rage your way out of it. You might need to find a therapist or medication or both. None of these are weakness – it actually takes strength to ask for help. To know you need help – we have helpers in this world for a reason. Their presence is his presence and strength to us in the impossible places.
What I can clearly see now that I did not recognize then was that I was suffering from depression and despair and a loss of hope. It was the direct result of stress and brokenness related to a shifting faith. I was heartbroken. My spirit was devastated. I was left completely alone by people I had thought would have my back and my heart, my family and my life. At first what felt like an unbearable torture actually became the catalyst for healing and growth.
That was seven years ago…
That is a lot of sunrises. That is a lot of words.
Resurrection will come. Wait for it.