It boiled, it raged like a thousand infernos as I sat in a dark tunnel of shame fearing the crushing weight that surrounded me. I contemplated suicide. I wanted to die. I needed to end the pain I felt every day.
It's Thursday again, which means another Transparent Thursday. What is Trasparent Thursday? Well, I feel God pressing on my heart that I need to be real and raw with people. I feel very strongly that people are suffering each and every day, and far too often they are not reaching out and receiving a warm embrace by the people in this world. I am willing to step out and admit some hard truths in my life in order to shed light on some serious issues in our world.
Beloved comedian and actor Robin Williams died this week of an apparent suicide. My heart breaks for him, his family, and for this world. My heart truly breaks.
I know the pain far too well, which made my heart break even more.
I could try and explain mental illness to someone that's never experienced it. I could try and give you an account of how deep the pain goes. If I tried, I would begin by saying depression is like being engulfed in a room filled with hot, smoldering flames. If you try and breathe deeply, as to allow clean air into your body, you are overwhelmed by the sooty smoke that has overhwelmed your every crevice.
As Ann Voskamp put it yesterday in her blog, "suicide is deciding there is no way but to jump straight out of the burning building". (Remember, I can't link things, but you can go directly to her blog by putting her name into google.)
Mental illness is greatly misunderstood, and my heart breaks on an every day basis. It's misunderstood by those that suffer, and those that don't suffer. It was misunderstood by me for far too long.
There's this idea too often that someone can just "will" themselves to feel better. There's this idea that someone can just "find joy" or "trust in God more" or "have more faith", "pray harder", "repent". Too many of these statements are spoken to those that suffer from mental illness; I've had these spoken to me far too many times.
Until you have walked through the engulfing flames of depression, until you have wondered whether this world would actually be a better place without your presence, you cannot possibly understand the unselfish feeling of wanting to end the pain.
How is this unselfish? When you are enveloped my mental illness, suffering seriously from something that controls your brain, and you have no idea where your worth comes from, the most selfish thing you can think of is continuing to grace this world with your presence. You are so completely convinced that you are unworthy and this world is better off without you, that you don't for a moment question that you are being selfless by taking your life. In a moment of despair, a person suffering from depression may reach out in a way that you can only understand if you have opened it's door and walked along it's dark and gloomy path.
I have walked that path. Many times in my life I contemplated suicide. Most recently, one year ago.
One year ago, as I had 5 children, a loving husband, and a Savior who loved me, I contemplated whether I could live one more day with the pain I was experiencing.
Why? I'm sure you're asking yourself that question. Why would someone who seems to have such a great life, 5 children, a loving husband, be so selfish and committ suicide?
The answer is easy--mental illness.
I suffer, each and everyday. This is something I am only just now embracing, and only TODAY have I been brave enough to speak the truth outloud, but I suffer from a debilitating chemical imbalance.
The problem is, there's not a lot truly known about what happens in the brain; only a lot of assumptions. Assumptions come from those that suffer from the imbalance, and those that don't, and no one can seem to admit that the person who suffers is not some weak, pitiful person that needs "spiritual healing", but a loved and holy vessel created by God for a purpose.
I lock my lips tight when it comes to my own mental struggles. I readily admit the things that were "done" to me, and the things I did to myself, but the weakness that lives within my brain, the true imbalance that makes day to day life hard, I don't admit that to anyone. I will happily talk about my sister and my dad's Bipolar Disorder, but talk about my own chemical imbalance, something that barely has a name, that is something I simply was not ready for.
Last night was the first night my husband and I had an open conversation about it in almost eight years of marriage.
He admitted that he has struggled with the same idea the world has; that one day I will just be better. He has waited, and prayed, and waited more, for God to relieve me of this "sin" he saw residing within me. He admitted to hating the instability that would come out of me. He admitted that for the majority of our relationship, he has been hoping that this piece of me that caused so much "ugly" would just dissapear. He admitted he didn't love me through those moments.
Yes, he loved me, greatly. I have a truly amazing husband. But, love me through those tough moments of instability, that is something he has never been able to do.
Until last night. Last night, my sweet and adoring husband loved me just as a I am, imperfections and all. He took the worst part of me, and instead of screaming at me about how "crazy" I am, or "selfish" I am being, he wrapped his arms around me and pulled me in tightly.
He spoke some very tender words, but the most amazing thing he did was simply embrace me.
I have never been embraced in this physical world despite my sufferings. I have not had many intereactions with real human beings that wrap their arms around me and despite my imperfections tell me that I am a holy and loved woman, set in this world for a purpose.
Jesus has spoken these truths to me many times in the past few months, but not a real human. My husband stepped into the hands and feet of Jesus in this earthly plain. He embraced the role God chose him as, my leader and helper, and he gave me exactly what I needed--acceptance.
That's what we need more of in this world. We need to wrap our arms around one another and love each other despite the many great and deep personal trials people are walking through.
I always believed my problem was spiritual, that if I just believed something more strongly or obeyed just a little more, God would one day miraculously heal me. I prayed prayer after prayer that He just relieve me of this thorn.
I shared openly in my book, less than Three, about how much I suffer from panic attacks, but I still didn't see how deep my own mental illness runs. I believed even just a few months ago while writing that many of my problems were from this world, circumstances placed on me.
I know now, my brain is the problem. I have a brain, that for 30 years has endured so much violence, so much pain, it has taken on disturbing and unhealthy ways of coping. My brain is imbalanced because of sin, not because of one particular thing that happened to me.
I accept that. I wrote it over and over again in my book, but yet I still couldn't speak the words.
I suffer greatly from a chemical imbalance that affects the way I process this world and how I in turn react to this world.
Can I be healed? Oh, yes, He is a good God and a strong God.
Will I be healed, I hope not.
Yes, you read that correctly.
I hope not.
I hope, that until the day He takes me home, I suffer from this pain in my side, this debilitating weakness because it has shown me how much greater He is than I am, and how much I want to love a world that is suffering greatly.
Grace is poured out over my body and my mind each and every day, and I hope to extend that same grace to the people around me; even if they don't extend the same grace to me.
It's truly difficult for people who don't suffer from something they have no control over to understand the instability. But, that doesn't make it okay to judge or make assumptions. It doesn't make it okay to tell someone they need to be stronger, or that they are being punished and under some spiritual attack. That is not helpful or of Him.
I urge you dear, friends, to begin being honest about mental illness if you suffer. Be honest with yourself, with your friends and family, and with a doctor if you need to. But, first, be honest with Him. Admit that you suffer, and that it is okay. Admit that within this world, you are less, but only less than Three, never anything else. Admit that you cannot walk without His strength, and then walk in His strength. Admit that just because you are completely walking in His strength, doesn't mean you will not, possibly every day, suffer from something you cannot control.
If you do not suffer, and have no idea about what goes on within the mind of someone that suffers, please do not assume that you do. Just because you can process things the way you are "supposed to" or because you have a clear mind focused on what you perceive to be "truth", doesn't actually make you right and the person that suffers wrong. A person that suffers is not "less than" anyone in this world. A person that doesn't suffer from a mental impairment has their own battles and trials they will have to walk through and endure, and I wish this world would see that sometimes their trial is truly learning to love someone they see as "weak" or "less than" because they will draw the unsuffering person closer to Jesus as well.
That's what we all need to do. I do it through my sufferings now. Today, as I sit here tapping away at my wireless keyboard attached to an iPad that is probably on it's last weeks, I know how deeply and severely I suffer every day, and I have the privilege of leaning into Someone greater than me all day as I walk with this thorn--I rejoice with this thorn.
I suffer greatly every day, and I can say that to a world that needs to hear it. I am not ashamed of my weakness, I am however ashamed that I have not loved myself and others despite the mental impairment that may reside within. But, I release that shame, and step into grace--grace for myself and grace for others.
Will you do the same, friend?
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
2 Corinthians 12:9