I never had thoughts of suicide or self-harm, that is the truth. But I often thought, I just want to sleep. If I can just sleep then I won't have to feel any of this. I know the desire to escape. Most of us probably know that if we're honest. It looks different for all of us. We all escape in different ways and we do it in tiny ways every day if we're not careful.
I woke up this morning and read this in my devotional:
"Clouds have skirted in heavy from the west. The walls in the kitchen have fallen gray and silent. Joshua's playing it quietly, up and down the piano this morning, the Music Box Dancer. A friend laid out in great detail this weekend how the economy is about to implode. Chronic illness flares. Teenagers ask big questions. I keep smoothing out calendar pages, pushing things back ... What is the answer to anxiety? Joshua's playing so sure, the house lilting, tilting with happiness. That's what Calvin wrote. 'The stability of the world depends on this rejoicing of God in his works.' And again, 'If on earth, such praise of God does not come to pass, .... then the whole order of nature will be thrown into confusion.' Our worlds reel unless we rejoice." (Ann Voskamp)
After finishing those pages and jotting down a few thoughts in my journal, I looked at my phone and saw the news of Anthony Bourdain.
Just a couple of days ago, I posted this video. It's a clip of one of the songs I wrote in the time I was facing anxiety every day.
Soon after that I heard about Kate Spade.
All I can do is claim my experience and what I've learned. And that is this - Jesus saved me from my anxiety. And he is still saving me from it on the rare occasion that it still peeks its ugly head into my day. He didn't delete it. He didn't fix me in one fell swoop. He didn't make life suddenly perfect. But he was with me in it, walking next to me, assuring me of his presence, redeeming things. Were there other factors that helped me along the way? Absolutely. My friends, my church, my family, songwriting, counseling. But I know for sure that darkness could have overcome me if it weren't for the hope and joy that Jesus offers.
And aren't we all just one step away from darkness completely overcoming us? No one is exempt. The prettiest, the wealthiest, the most successful, the funniest, the most extroverted, the most famous. And to be sure that I'm clear - not even those of us who love Jesus and know Jesus and follow Jesus. We are not exempt from hearing the lie that the darkness would love for us to believe. That there's no need for us to be around.
The word I keep coming back to today is permission. Permission to say the words, "I'm depressed, I'm anxious, I don't feel like myself, I don't know if I want to live anymore, I need help, I don't know what to do."
Maybe some of us haven't done a good job of giving that permission to those around us. Can we hear those words from the person who is usually the life of the party? Can we hear those words from the person who has it all together all of the time? Can we hear those words from the person who is always the one that shows up, helps, and gives their time to meet others' needs?
Can we hear those words from the person who has talent, money, success, and fame? Can we hear them without wondering, "But he had all of these things! How could he possibly have been so miserable?" It is that very thought that keeps us thinking there is a formula for mental illness.
If we can hear these words from the people around us, I mean really hear them and allow them to be true without attempting to explain them away, I think things could begin to change.
For what it's worth, this is what I want to say to anyone who is struggling:
The world is not going to be better without you.
You are not a burden to anyone.
You are important and valued and wanted.
Things can and will change.
Tell someone how you feel.
There is hope.