Every Spring I spend the last few weeks of March climbing out of a hole. Call it seasonal affective disorder, depression, the blues, a funk, whatever it is when Fall turns into winter I seem to literally fall into another me. A me that I don't really like honestly. A me that is less patient and kind, less fun and friendly, less than who I know myself to be. Nothing too dark, not crying in the corner by myself me but just not me. Every March I climb back out of it. I can feel it happening. I can feel the irritability start to fade away with every ounce of sunshine that soaks into my skin. I can feel my laugh come easier. I can feel it happening. Usually by May I'm back. Found myself again.
This year I was going to stave off the hole. I was prepared. I was ready and waiting like a lion for the pounce and it came anyway. It hit me again. I felt shame in it. I felt loss in it. And that just makes the hole bigger. I felt the irritability rise as the temperature outside decreased. Energy for five kids seemed harder. Typically outgoing me, turns inward. The mundane everyday occurrences of life were enough to freeze me in an overwhelmed state some days. Subtle things mostly.
This year I learned from it all. I learned we all need grace. Sometimes, big huge double portions of grace. We usually need the grace when people feel least like giving it to us.
I learned that people get nervous when you just say you're blah, maybe even depressed, fighting the blues. I realized how heavy the stigma of mental health feels. I think it's because people don't know what to do. I can hear about your influenza because I understand how that is transmitted. I know you need rest and fluids to help you feel better and I know that in about a week you'll be back to normal. Mental health isn't quite as neatly packaged. There isn't any of that in-a-week-to-10-days you'll be all better proclamation.
I learned that partly that stigma comes from others questioning your faith. There are people out there that don't get it. They do not understand the whole hormone, chemical imbalance, psychological aspect that comes into play. So they think you can pray it away or if you were in the word more or had a better relationship with Christ, then the darkness wouldn't come. I want to smack those people. In the less of me times and the happy Spring/Summer/Fall me times, I want to smack them. They make me feel less than and shame on me for giving them that power. It is in those times I depend on Him even more. You can long to feel close to Him and still feel far away. Even when you seek His face. Even when you sit at His feet. That is where the faith comes in. You trust He is there. You know that this is part of that less than you you and that your feelings are just feelings and the TRUTH is He is right there with you. In the Fall and the Climb. He is with you always and you read the truth and you rest in it and wait for your feelings to match up. Those people that don't understand, that's their issue. Not yours. Let them carry that.
I learned that there are so many others out there like me that don't feel like they can tell anyone because of the judgements, the looks, the stigma. One in five adults suffer from some form of mental health issues but no one ever talks about it. (I could now go on a rant about the state of mental health in our country and the school shootings and the divorce rate, homelessness, etc but this is just to say, reach out.) Be the kind of friend that someone can call and say I'm struggling lately. And you don't judge. You listen and you support and encourage. Be the kind of friend that lets people in. That lives authentically and shares your life with others, even the not so you you. Be the friend that steps out in trust and says, I'm hurting and could use your prayers. I'm in a hole. My marriage is in a hole. I feel like a loser mom lately. Be the friend that can say that and the friend that can hear that without judgement. Offer grace and prayer and maybe cook a meal or take them out for coffee or a nice long walk.
I know we like everything to be okay. I know it is most comfortable for everyone to think that life is without struggle. I know we want to believe that everything is as cheery as our instagram pictures make it look. I know we want to read through Facebook posts like a copy of US weekly and see how great everyone is doing. We want it to all be okay. So does the person in the hole. And sometimes there is no real reason that they feel that way other than they do. And that is okay. I know the hole is scary and you don't want to get too close but it is okay to hang over the hole and reach out a hand. It is okay to just say I don't know how to help but I'm praying for you. It is okay to just say the ridiculous to get a laugh or to drop off their favorite Starbucks just to say you aren't alone there in the hole, I see you struggling and am here.
I learned that comparing ourselves to others is almost always a recipe for disaster. Do not let your contentment in parenting, marriage, what you're wearing, your walk with Jesus, how much you're making, your weight, any of that depend on how others are doing it. You are fabulous even in the hole. Usually you haven't really changed, just your circumstances have and your fabulousness is still there it's just harder for you to see at the moment. But it is there. And so is HE.
I learned almost all of us have been there. Few choose to admit it.
I learned I feel like I have to explain this all away by saying it's not that bad and my family is still great and we are happy and I do count my blessings and I am appreciative of all I have. I feel like I need to say most days are fine and it really is good. That is the fear of the judgements I guess but then I'm back to the people that just don't get it and well, I didn't write this for them. I wrote it for you, the one in the hole. The one that has just climbed out and the one that is clinging to the ledge. I see you. I know. I don't know what got you in there. It doesn't matter. Maybe it's a seasonal thing, or a life's curve thrown at you. Maybe it's from poor choices you've made or injustices done to you. Maybe it's genetic, hormonal, chemical imbalance. I don't know what got you in there and it doesn't matter. What matters is you are not alone. I've been there. I see you.
I learned that I put that shame of the stigma on myself and I won't do it anymore. I learned that I am that kind of friend that can say it and hear it. I learned that it is something I will most likely struggle with for the rest of my life and no matter how prepared I feel, it will come. I learned to not let that make the hole wider and deeper. I learned that I crave sunshine like my husband craves his momma's cooking. I learned that my God is greater and that feelings are fleeting but Truth just is. I learned that we do not extend grace ever enough and that there is nothing more lovely or humbling than receiving it. I learned that for me, I can not exercise it away or take enough supplements and herbal remedies or pray or study His word or cling to my faith enough to make this go away for me. I learned that it is okay to need help with it. Whether that is medication or counseling or whatever that looks like for you. I learned that I expect others to be okay with it but wasn't okay with it myself. I'm over that. Do I struggle sometimes? Yes I do. Is my life still beautiful? Absolutely. Is God ever present? Indeed He is. Always with me. I have an enormous tapestry of blessings in my life to be thankful for. I'm not about to let a little hole ruin that. Somedays, when the sun is shining and the wind is gently blowing through my open windows, I can barely see it anyway. And I have 3 seasons to prepare for the next round!
Is 46:4 "I am He, who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you. I will sustain you and rescue you."