Can we talk?

Friday from 4-5pm is my favorite hour of the week, hands down. It has been since November, when I first met my counselor and we made Friday our day.

I remember being so terrified to pick up the phone and make an appointment. My hands trembled and I made a friend sit in the car with me while I dialed.

I’d tried counseling before…unsuccessfully. Therapy turns out to be less meaningful when a counselor looks at you in the middle of deep depression and tells you that they’re hoping to “make you better” in four sessions or less. I didn’t need a quick fix. I needed someone to listen and try to understand. I needed someone who promised to stay even after I divulged all of my deepest darkest hardest stuff. So I decided not to go.

But I got into another dark place this year. So dark that on some days it was hard to know if the light ever really existed or if it was just a figment of my naive imagination…a fantasy I’d been clinging to. Those were the days when it took all of my energy to get out of bed in the morning. I’d be driving on the freeway and fight the urge to turn the steering wheel abruptly and fly off the overpass. Those were the days where the pain of living felt so excruciating that ending it all seemed like the easy answer.

Like I said, the days were dark.

At the end of the day though, I didn’t swerve. That was January and here I am now and honestly I’m not even sure I could pinpoint a reason why. I think there are many reasons.

I have a few people in my life who I give 1000% of my heart to. By that, I mean that I am completely honest and raw with them. Unfiltered, unpolished, ALL ME. They see me in my times of sincerest joy, fiercest anger, deepest shame…you name it. They are knee deep in the trenches of life with me.

They were aware of my darkness. They knew when I was at my lowest and they entered in with me. They showed up when I didn’t ask them to. They called me when I didn’t text back. They brought me dinner and lavender soda when I couldn’t get out of bed.

They told me they loved me and then backed it up with their actions.

I’ve yelled at God a lot this year. I’ve wrestled with doubt. Not about whether God exists, but whether He is good. When you look around and all you can see is pain and death and suffering in the people and places around you, doubt is a normal emotion to struggle with, although I didn’t feel like that at the time.

Christians suck (yes, that’s the appropriate term) at talking about our doubts. It’s this weird taboo subject that we avoid because it might involve other people questioning our faith…and we care so much about other people’s opinions that we are swayed by that potential and keep our doubts bottled up inside of us, which eats us alive by producing guilt and shame.

I made a conscious effort to talk to people about my doubts.  

I started counseling again. I picked up the phone and made an appointment. I showed up despite the fact that I felt like vomiting and I told my counselor the whole truth about everything I could think of despite my fear that being completely known by someone would lead them to walk (or sprint) away forever.

We talk for an hour every Friday. We go over the week. I talk about about how I’m feelings, my fears and my insecurities without wondering if she is judging me. She validates me. She makes me feel heard and known. She makes me feel normal. She reminds me that I am human, life is messy, and we are all still learning. She tells me that she cares for me.

I walk away from counseling each week feeling heard, known, and loved. 

I’m writing this post tonight because I think all too often we fail to be transparent in the ways that we need to be. We hide behind facades and screens and we scrape together paper town lives that look real and wonderful from the outsides but don’t even exist in reality.

Mental health is a scary subject. No one wants to admit that they’re hurting and don’t know why and need help. It isn’t fun to get on the Internet and admit to however many people that I have struggled with severe depression throughout my life. People tend to get uncomfortable when you tell them that you’ve been suicidal before. The subject is swept under the rug for the most part…or people talk about it after the fact.

I don’t claim to have all of the answers when it comes to mental health. The conversation is so much larger than twenty-somethings who feel hopeless and struggle with depression (although depression is a huge conversation in itself).

More than anything, I want to be someone who boldly steps into the conversation with transparency. I struggle with mental health and I think we, as a society, need to do a better job about walking into that conversation with open arms and fighting hearts. We need to be open to what other people around us are struggling with and we need to fight for the health of the people we love.

I don’t necessarily think that friends, doubt, and counseling is the perfect recipe to finding health for everyone struggling with depression. I know people who would tell you that medicine saved their life. I know others who would tell you that they needed to change their schedules and priorities drastically in order to find health. I think everyone’s needs look a little different. And that’s okay.

Just because we don’t have all of the answers doesn’t mean there aren’t any. There are ways to move forward and care for those who are struggling, but we have to be willing to listen. We have to be willing to show up even when we’re not sure what we should give.

But first, we have to be willing to talk.

 

 

 

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Stay with me.

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“I know how hard this year must have been with you going to college and being away from home and all,” he said as I tried to fight back the inevitable tears coming to my eyes.

He told me about his new home 300 miles away and plans to go away for a semester and trips planned with new friends to pretty places far away & right there, under the familiar glow of the same streetlights I had played tag under as a child, I realized he was completely wrong. This year was not hard because I had gone away to anywhere. It was hard because I stayed.

I am utterly convinced that the most difficult command is never to “go.” Going implies moving, being away, change. “Go” is new, fresh, exciting, unknown. Scary and thrilling. It implies somewhere else, somewhere besides here, in the same sleepy old town you’ve always lived in where you carved your name into the big oak in the park one July afternoon as a child. Somewhere besides the rut you fell into when life became a routine and everything felt so familiar.

As hard as I fought, as much as prayed, as big as I dreamed, my command was never to go. My command has been to stay. Stay in the city you swore you’d leave for college. Stay involved with the high school you grew weary of after four years of turbulent friendships and always being The Different One. Stay in the place where broken memories and Promises Of No More still haunt pieces of your heart. Stay and watch as others go.

He was wrong. Going wasn’t the hard part, staying was. And as he told me about his “going,” I felt the sting that the open wounds of “stay” held, leaving me bound by chains of stagnancy.

“Sit here and don’t move. Don’t go. You’re not leaving. He isn’t changing his mind. Don’t move, just be.”

Overwhelmed with envy as my peers get clean slates, perfectly white canvases to paint as they wish, I dream of new people, new cities, a new me. Why was school in Colorado or California or New York never an option? Why here? Why staying?

I dare you to try to recreate yourself in the city you’ve lived in for nineteen years. I dare you to grow and be different. It’s hard. So, so hard.

But even as I write, I know that going could never produce healing for me. Going could only ever act as a band-aid, as temporary relief to deep pain. Staying means I cannot run from the pain. Staying means sitting with the sources of my injury… my pain… my stinging wounds…right in front of me, head-on. It means heartache and digging up the gray parts… the parts I’ve tried so hard to numb and ignore.

Staying is the hardest command, but staying means healing. Others must go. I will stay.