At the end before I quit completely, I was a messy drunk because by then I had to drink a lot to be messed up. More than I want to admit I had occasions of being a mess, stumbling to bed. And many, many Sundays I sat through church with the world’s worst hangover. My faith was shot.
I don’t really know why I was in church, except that I was still keening inside for God to help me. I am glad I was there, in the end. Thankful!
Those days were vile, don’t misunderstand. But I do not feel ashamed. I’ll tell you why in a minute. Anyone who regularly reads my blog also knows I also suffer from major depression and that too wrecked my life. You’re basically non-functioning when it is at its worst.
But I’m talking about why I am not ashamed of suffering from depression or of being a recovering alcoholic.
Why should I be ashamed?
I recently told a group of new friends (They are perhaps more like close acquaintances that I believe will become friends eventually) about my years of depression. I told them quite matter-of-fact, asking for prayer for the process of slowly stepping down from the anti-depressant I take. Afterwords, one of them came up to me and whispered out of the side of their mouth, full of embarrassment and clearly full of fear, “I struggle with depression too!”
In that moment I saw how frightening and risky it was for them to tell me. And I realized all of a sudden that I did not feel that self-consciousness or shame. I quite accept my lot in life. Should I feel ashamed? Am I supposed to be, because I’m a Christ-follower, perfect? I think too often people feel that same reticence. They fear judgment.
This is the real deal. Life is not perfect. Life is what happens when you’re making other plans right? I don’t know who said that? But don’t get me wrong, I have not always felt this way — free and unashamed.
I have been there — Where I could not say these words in one sentence: I– am– an– alcoholic. That four-word sentence took me five years to say out loud and two more to another human being. (Yes, I talk to myself.) And now that I have, I am not going back to live in that shame. So, no I don’t look at the person who shared with me in any judgmental way. I understand the fear.
It took me almost two months to admit to anyone, including Tom for five weeks, that I was depressed. There is an incredible bias or self-conscious reluctance (for Christians especially) to admit to the illness of depression. I run into people all the time. Well forget it. I am not ashamed.
I’ve talked a lot here about alcoholism and family history. Depression runs in families too. Both of these things are simply my Thing. My challenge. My opportunity. Other people have other Things.
As a Christian, what I hope people will hear the WOW in my story— the thing is that God is healing me! Yes, that is what I said. That is what I believe. There’s a psychological aspect to getting past/through/beyond these things, of course. Doctors have played an important part. Medication. Finding balance. But it came down to believing this simple statement:
You are the one Jesus loves.
My father sent me a postcard with this written on it, when I had the first episode of major depression eight years ago. It was framed when I got it and clearly very important to him. He had taken it right off his desk, stuck it in a padded envelope, wrote on a post-it that he loved me, and mailed it off to me. The glass didn’t survive the journey, but the postcard did. And over the years that statement has stayed with me.
When I read that day that “You are the one Jesus loves” I recoiled. My stomach lurched. Because, at that time in my life, I did not believe in the claims of Jesus
I don’t think. I believed in the historical figure and in most of what the Bible said. But, as for Jesus, the human and the son of God, who gave up life in a gruesome way FOR ME, well, I did not believe it. I never believed I was loved growing up. Not by God, not by my parents. And definitely I hated myself.
So the healing that came in discovering how much Jesus actually loved me, well … as you can imagine that changed me. Changed my life. Changed my belief system. Changed how I interacted with and treated others. Changed my priorities.
I am a different person.
I not only like myself, but today I believe I am loveable. I guess psychiatrists would say that my “self-esteem” is stronger. Yay! It’s true. No wonder my mood is better. But in all seriousness, knowing — believing — that Jesus would have given his life for me, and me alone, only me, well, that’s incredible!
[This wasn’t one of those miracles that happened quickly. It took lot a of Bible study, times of prayer, listening to and working hard with my Shrink, giving up shit (drinking, smoking, being mean to people, compulsive spending, obsessive self-centeredness, … still working on perfectionism and a lot of other things.)
What I mean to say is this process took years. Deep times in the word of God (ie. Bible). Time with friends in long conversations. Opening my heart to love from others – especially Tom.]
So, no I am not ashamed of my ills, damn it! (Yeah, Tom thinks I should give up cussing for Jesus too. It’s the last cheap drug to go aside from caffeine.)
You see, all of these thing they are a “weakness” of a sort that humble me and help me stay connected to the true source of everything. And for that, I am oh — so — grateful!
- There’s no cute title for writing about Clinical Depression. (logicandimagination.wordpress.com)
- Do you run from your shame? (logicandimagination.wordpress.com)
- The Types of Assessment Used to Diagnose Major Depressive Disorder (brighthub.com)