Yesterday morning, this scene spoke to me of depression.
Weird, I know. But it did. As I took in this scene, I saw the bench that was partly submerged in water and not easily accessible from the path, the cross and the church a long distance away and barely noticeable/felt, and the light of the morning sun just barely peeking out of the trees at the edge of the scene. When I was in the midst of my times of my depressive episodes, I felt like I was on that bench – feeling like the waters were rising all around me and no one could reach me (and also that I didn’t want anyone to reach me). I felt like God, Jesus, the Holy, Presence, was unreachably far off and distant. I felt like there was barely any light in the world at all. I remember so many times feeling like a shade had literally been pulled over my eyes and the world was darkened without light, without color, without vibrance. This scene vividly brought me back to those times and also a recognition of how far I have come in my healing journey.
This has been on my heart a lot recently for several reasons but partly out of a book I’m reading by Ryan Casey Waller called Depression, Anxiety, and Other Things We Don’t Want to Talk About. I heard about this book via a podcast a few weeks ago and Rev. Waller is spot on when he shares about how we (generally) and the church (specifically) doesn’t do a good job dealing with mental health.
In the most recent chapter I read, he writes the reality of this…
Break your leg in a snow skiing accident? A church staffer will call you. You might even get a card in the mail. Get diagnosed with breast cancer? The prayer warriors will rally around you and your family. A meal train will get rolling toward your house before you even have a chance to tidy up. Need open heart surgery? Your small group is coming to the hospital. And maybe your pastor too.
But what happens when your wife can’t get out of bed to dress your children for school and is eventually diagnosed with major depressive disorder? What about when your twenty-two-year-old son goes missing after a night of smoking weed and is discovered by the police the next day rambling incoherently in a grocery store parking lot and a few weeks later gets diagnosed with schizophrenia? What does the church do when you’re forced to resign your duties as a deacon because you need twenty-eight days to dry out in rehab.
I can tell you what usually happens in these situations. I can tell you what I have seen. The church gets quiet. Like college-library-on-a-Saturday-night quiet. And this silence is not only deafening; it is also spiritually crushingWaller, Ryan Casey. Depression, Anxiety, and Other Things We Don’t Want to Talk About (pp. 62-63). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
I resonate with this both as a pastor (on the side of the caregiver) but also as one who has been through it. I resonate with the memories of the months that went by where no one other than those closest to me seemed to see that there was a problem and also with the shame that I felt that I was even battling it and how I feared to let anyone else into the struggle. I resonate with the sense of the crushing-ness of feeling spiritually empty and feeling abandoned. And I resonate with the ways that the church has mostly ignored this reality that is all too prevalent in the lives of people.
I share this today because this book is reminding me of how vital it is that we are open about this reality in our lives. I want to let you know that if you want someone to talk with, I am here. Your story and your situation is your own but there are ways I can empathize and understand what you are facing.
When I really first began my first steps towards healing it was inspired by the words of a friend who told me to pray the Psalms and in the Psalms I found my own voice in those ancient words and songs. Waller quotes Steve and Robyn Bloem’s book Broken Minds: Hope for Healing When You Feel Like You’re Losing It when they wrote about the Psalms:
The Psalms treat depression more realistically than many of today’s popular books on Christianity and psychology. David and other psalmists often found themselves deeply depressed for various reasons. They did not, however, apologize for what they were feeling, nor did they confess it as sin. It was a legitimate part of their relationship with God. They interacted with Him through the context of their depression.
So, I’m here. I’m still on the healing journey and I can say that color and life can come back to a scene like this. You’re not alone.