depression

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On Suicide (after Robin Williams’ passing)


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I wrote this originally as a facebook status yesterday, and the response was rather overwhelming–probably more people interacted with it than any other post I’ve ever written, so I thought to share it here also, in the hope that some part of my experience will be helpful to others.

 

 

Most people who commit suicide do not want to die. They want to be whole. They want to cure what ails them. If they are addicts, they cannot forgive themselves for one more lapse, knowing that however long and hard fought their sobriety, there will likely be another, and sooner or later the will to start over erodes. Surrounded by those they love, given assurances, they remain tortured, feeling like they have disappointed and failed so many times that this grace, this love, could not possibly be true, and if true, surely not lasting. And so they turn to what they can control, convincing themselves that the world and all those people would somehow be better without them. And they are always wrong.

 

Still others are depressed or struggling somehow with mental health. They try to figure it out with meds, they get counseling, they endure the well meaning but terribly misguided comments of friends and family who explain that everything is going to be alright, or, worse, that they can somehow snap out of it if they would just think more positively about life. And slowly they are drawn into the abyss of loneliness and hopelessness, until one day they have the courage to make it stop, and they feel, for once, like they can choose. And though it is always the wrong choice, let us not judge, for most of us have been spared this fight and do not understand it. Rather, let us love without expectation and without condescension, which might be the only hope for any of us.

 

Faith

When I Am Weak…


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“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I have never known the truth of those verses in my own life until today.  Today—as I returned to grief on the 8th anniversary of my grandfather’s passing, on the heels of the Super Bowl and sex trafficking, Coca-Cola commercial controversies, and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s struggle with heroin reminding me of my dad—I didn’t have it together.

I’m a person who has it together.  I’m self-disciplined, successful by most standards, faithfully married, dad to two great kids, in control.

I don’t need God.  Not like I’ve seen people need him, anyway.  People who know their limits and have felt the failure of having reached them.  People who, by their own doing or someone else’s, have seen their lives spin out of control or take a direction they never intended.  I didn’t have much of a head start in life, probably got started late in fact, but most appearances wouldn’t indicate it these days.  Call it grace, favor, hard work, blessing, whatever you want, but the curse didn’t reach me.

And that has always been my problem.  I have always been my problem—because I don’t worry about things, I don’t feel like there is anything I can’t handle.  I’m not really afraid of anything.

But I do get tired.  And I move toward pain and grief and not away from it.  At first, many years ago, I did it to try to understand, and then to try to take it on or confront it somehow.  Neither worked.  Now I move toward it to heal, and out of that healing, heal others.

I fought back tears all day today.  On the phone with clients, coaching clients ironically, it was literally all I could do to keep talking and listening and asking questions.  And in the 5 or 10 minutes I had between a few calls, I wiped away the tears that wouldn’t wait any longer.

Today I didn’t have it together at all.  Today I wasn’t in control.  Sure, I could have, and probably did, fool the people I talked to all day on the phone, but I was weak.  Tired.  I wanted to go to bed and wake up to a different day.  I wanted to disappear, as much as I ever have in my life, I just wanted not to feel the way I was feeling any more.  I didn’t want to eat; I didn’t want to help my kids with their homework after 11 hours at work; I didn’t want to carry the laundry downstairs for my wife; I wanted to be selfish and withdraw from everything, just for a little while.

And as I reflect on it now, the whole of this day, I am struck by the notion that millions of people wake up this way every day, and go to bed hoping, praying, that when they awake tomorrow it will be different somehow.  Yet for all their will, prayer, desperation, or support, all of their tomorrows become todays, and all of their todays become yesterdays.  All the same.  And they lose hope, turning back to the addiction or medication or withdrawal from the world, or whatever they do.

And I don’t blame them.

Because today I wanted to join them.  Today I would have done just about anything to feel better, to be able to function as I normally do, to push grief to the back recesses of my mind and be at my best.  Just about anything.

But I have too much history for that.  I have learned from the mistakes of others, and do not repeat willfully what I can avoid by example.  So I did what I needed to do.  I ate. I helped my kids with their homework after a long day at work.  I carried the laundry downstairs for my wife.  But there is no way I have done these things well, or in my own strength.  If you have read anything I have written for the past 3 days and received anything from it at all, then you have the Spirit to thank.

Because for once in my life, I am weak.

And I am not at all ashamed to say so.  In fact, I’m writing this to boast about it.  I’m writing this to be thankful for it.

Because someday one of you reading this will think to reach out to me, and you will hesitate because of something you have seen me do, or some attribute or accomplishment I have…  but then you will remember this, and you will find the courage to call or text or push send.

And we will both be glad you did.

Because we will be weak together.

And together is always better than alone.

courage

Courage.


I first watched this video because it was linked to a post by my friend Kelly.  I resonated with it not so much for the music or for the video, but for the lyrics.

Brave.

Don’t run.

Stop holding your tongue.

Let your words be anything but empty.

Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live.

Maybe one of these days you can let the light in.

Show me how big your brave is.

One of my greatest causes in life is to give other people courage.  People are afraid of all kinds of things—afraid of their past, afraid of the future, afraid of dying, afraid of being alone, afraid of what others think of them, afraid of failing…  it seems like so much of what we do is driven by fear.

And yet “perfect love casts out fear,” and the thing God says to us more than any other is, “Do not be afraid.”

I wonder if we are afraid because we don’t feel like we are loved.  Because if you feel like someone loves you, like they will stay no matter what, like they are on your side forever, then all of a sudden it doesn’t matter as much how many times you fail, or that you aren’t as smart or pretty or whatever as someone else is.

But that never should have been the standard to begin with.

You see, part of the reason I want my life to be about inviting people to courage is because I believe with everything I am and have that the whisper of greatness was spoken into every single person who has ever walked this earth; that before the beginning of time one who knew your name before anyone ever uttered it set a light in you that was meant to shine forever.

Too many of us have forgotten that.  Too many of us think that courage is dancing in a town square or jumping out of an airplane or zip lining.

No, courage is living your life the way it was meant to be lived.  Courage is hearing that whisper and doing what it says.  Courage is a lifetime, not one time, which is why for some among us, courage is as simple as getting up this morning.  For some, courage is living today because what they really want more than anything is to die.  For some, courage is a first or second or third day without the drug or the drink or the person or the job or the life they had imagined.  For some, courage is just making it through today.

But courage is also fighting the battles with and for others while we fight our own.  It is taking the time to listen or help or encourage.  It is realizing that if we are courageous in this moment, then it is not just for ourselves.

Courage looks a little different from everyone.

Courage looks a little different for everyone.

But it always leads to a life of significance.

Mine looks like this: someone reading this will write me a note; it might be right away, it might be months from now, but it will start with something like, “I’m sorry to bother you, but I didn’t know who else to reach out to…” and I will say, “It took a lot of courage for you to reach out like that, and I will help you in whatever way I can…”

So if you are that person, know that my courage is waiting for your courage whenever it is ready.

And whether you are that person or not, I’d like to know what your courage looks like.  I’d like to know what you’d do if you were not afraid.  I’d like to hear your story of what happens when you exercise courage, and I’d like to see you be that way again and again and again.