To The Depressed, Drunk, and Suicidal–There is No Shame

Last week, I sat across the table from a soul-eyed woman who shared her story of faith. She told me of her walk into, through, and back into depression. She painted the most vivid pictures of the dark days that roll, the days that threaten to bend her back to ash. On those days, the voices come calling her home, home, home.

Where is home?

“Let’s find out,” she’d like to say on those days, razor blade in hand. Except she never has. The darkness hasn’t yet won. And so long as she’s honest enough to tell her story, it never will. Sixty years of living has taught her this.

***

Last night, I read a friend’s story of her own bout (bouts?) with depression, how the soul’s moon waxes and wanes. The waxing, though, it’s a hell of a thing.

From her piece, I suspect she’s been dry–so to speak–for a few months. She’s found relief from depression through the help of some good medicine, a good doctor, perhaps a few good friends. But more than that, she’s outed her would-be killer by naming it. She writes:

“Shame is the killer weapon of depression, the thing that keeps us from telling anyone all the crazy things we’re feeling, for fear they won’t want to be our friends anymore.” –Janna Young

All the crazy things–don’t they make us all feel so ashamed? All the crazy shame–doesn’t it make us feel so alone? I suspect, though, that as she keeps telling her truth, she’ll find this twin truth–every-slap-one of us is just as crazy alone. My crazy might look different from yours, but if there’s one thing the spin-cycle of this earth has assured us, it’s that we all lose our equilibrium from time to time. We all spin into crazy. We all spin into isolation. At least, that’s been my experience. And if it ain’t yours–good on you. But if it is, believe the gospel according to Janna–there’s no reason to be ashamed of losing your footing.

***

Over the last week, I’ve considered my own bout with “lots of big feelings…” (as Janna writes). I’ve considered the alcohol abuse I hoped might quell those feelings. I’ve considered my own misplaced dependency. (Didn’t the bottle taste so much better than the blood of the Christ for so long? And what was the blood of Christ, even? What was Christ? What was?). I’ve considered the season of sickness that was, and perhaps that season of sickness that might return. (Aren’t I human? Aren’t you?) I’ve asked whether I’d be bold enough to bring the darkness of my own relapse into the light of conversation with friends, or into the written form (thanks, Janna). I’ve boiled these quandaries down to the dregs and read the leaves. The tea leaves tell me that shame hunts, sure. The leaves tell me that love hunts harder, that it’s the shame killer. And so, what’s to fear in the confession of the darkness of my own heart?

What’s to fear?

What’s to fear?

What’s to fear?

***

Finding Light.

If you struggle with depression, suicidal thoughts, or substance abuse, consider dragging it into the light. How? Consider these suggested steps:

1. Tell a trusted and safe friend, a spouse, a confidante, maybe even your dog or cat. Speaking it aloud makes it real. And supposing you tell a human (which I recommend), said human can help you work the process of coming clean.

2. Find a licensed therapist. They’ve been equipped to understand your “great big feelings,” your darkness. They deal with the stuff every day.

3. Surround yourself with a community of support. Perhaps this means joining a twelve-step group, a local support group, or group of like-minded church folks. Find a group of folks to whom you can confess without fear of judgment. Find a group that’s content to support without trying to “fix” you.

4. Rage against shame. Feel the love and support of your community. They love you as you are. No shame. No shame. No shame.

***TINY LETTER***

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  • Nigel

    Can’t agree more that love has been sent to hunt down shame. How I hate it…
    But it won’t fail, and that’s a promise I’m told.

    KNOWING (and the remedy)

    When we catch the revelation of smallness, of being low to the ground, our feet and hands in the dirt, we are closest to home – to the Garden.
    It’s there that we best recall the memory we all carry, implanted when
    we walked behind in His footsteps, following Him through the Garden, warm morning dew between our toes. Sunlight on skin, love in heart, home in mind; shame not in the knowing.

    How desperately I want to never know the pain of right or wrong, good or evil, accepted or rejected – if only I could forget, and once again be wrapped in a certainty of un-knowing. But with juice sweet on lips we traded love for dust there that day, the day we wanted to know. He cried a flood. I think He couldn’t stop until there was nothing left but dry heaving. Never again.

    But nothing can stop love, not then, not now. He knew if our prodigal hearts rejected family, home and hearth, He would just bring home to us instead. Across time and space from before our knowing, the son came and knocked; “I’m on a rescue mission, a camping trip of sorts”. He set up His tent there inside my heart,
    pegs hammered into bone, muscle, sinew and memory – “I’m not leaving”, He said, “I have the compass, we have some despising to do; then we’re going home, you and I. Daddy’s waiting”.

    Hb12:2…Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame