You can’t wake up normal from this. But you gotta wake up.
My family keeps secrets. Secrets that are only shared when you are close enough to smell last week’s laundry rotting in the garage. And my mom does her laundry almost everyday. The thing is, most of what is kept is done so due to fear of others’ stigma and ridicule.
Like mental illness.
When you read that last sentence, did you feel uncomfortable? I hope so. Both of my parents have siblings with a mental illness. And my sibling has a mental illness. Not even friends we have known for twenty years know this. In our lives, psychiatry, psychology and counseling are not just career options, they are what we live everyday. But, we operate in two realities; that of home and that of the public. Even when our friends have similar circumstances, the confirming words are seldom spoken aloud.
There is a saying the outpatient clinic uses that is something like “Mental illness affects us all.” I think it is overused to us all.
The limited number of hospitals specific for treating mental illness and limited resources creates more stress on a family that has been up late with a loved one when the darkness came. Sometimes, the darkness comes suddenly, swiftly, and violently. Other times it comes in like a fog, hazed and grey, but nonetheless there. You learn how to “talk” and what to listen for.
But you really learn to listen the most.
Listening, not just hearing, is the most important action you can take. Listen to your friends. Listen to your family. Listen to what they are saying, how they are speaking, how they are changing. Look up from Angry Birds and look at those in your life. Look at yourself. Stop trying to drown the pain, escape the reality, or distract through disconnect. Educate yourself on how deep depression is. I wish I could say it gets better over time, but it doesn’t without help. The right help. From our own experience, it takes a family that listens as well as providers who will listen to the patient when the medication is just not working. A team who can recognize that the darkness is getting heavier and the fog thicker. Take depression seriously. Really, shut up and listen. Then, get help.
Most of my friends believe that my favorite movie is Star Wars…all of them. Well, they are wrong. It is Cinderella, the version released by Disney in 1950. This is the only movie which I’ve watched hundreds of times and still cry at the same scenes. Yes, I just admitted this on the Internet. Disney’s Cinderella is deceptively simple. Looking at it as a kid, it was a simple fairy tale with the hero triumphant. As a teenage girl, I saw the story of the girl getting the guy. However, as an adult it became a different story. Below is what I consider the most emotional scene of the movie. It is not because we think Cinderella has lost the chance to go to the ball, meet the prince and change her circumstances.
All of this may have been what the writers wanted, yet there is more here.
Leaning over a cement bench, she sobs the following through bitter and painful tears:
“It’s just no use…I can’t believe, not anymore…there’s nothing left to believe in…”
I imagine this is not the first time she has come to this garden in tears or pain. If you pay attention to the beginning of the movie, this is the same garden she and her father are shown in when he was alive. She may come here even when her stepmother and step sisters are asleep to feel a connection to her deceased father. What is clear is that this moment was her breaking point. Although she may not have been perfect, Cinderella is shown to be rational and reasonable up to this point. She has maintained her composure and dignity even in the face of humiliation and numerous daily set backs. Yet, it is the selfish, spiteful, and bitter tearing of her dress that finally breaks her down.
Does not life feel this way at times?
Of course many of us realize that tearing her dress is representative of all her hopes, dreams, goals, and beliefs being shattered and broken. How many of us have come to a breaking point when our world seems to come crashing around us? You, the person who has been optimistic and encouraging others, smiling through your own pain could not bear another set back. Yet, that set back came. The moment of crisis and the day of despair when what took years to build was stripped away in an instant were too much on your plate. In our darkest moments, how easy it is to say as Cinderella “There’s nothing left to believe in…”
I know it may be easier to quote James 1:2-3 than to believe it or to hear I Peter 1:5-9 than to take it to heart when in the middle of distressing circumstances. I know because darkness surrounds us all like a fog and the fog can be as thick as velvet. And the season can last longer than we would like leading us to pleading with the Father for the veil to lift from our life. Yet it is imperative and most urgent that you and I see beyond our present. Even as the Fairy Godmother said: “If you had lost all your faith, I could not be here. And here I am.” Your faith in its most honorable form is what God is after. He uses what we have, our heart, and our circumstances to get us where He needs us. The trying of your faith and the set backs, heart ache, heart-break, and pain on this side of life are the very things that can polish and perfect you, forcing you to stand out to our Prince of Peace.