I remember sitting in group therapy, listening to people recalling their stories. I listened to an older woman tell of her family not caring about her, and her not feeling loved or appreciated. I watched a 20 something young man pick at and chew his cuticles nervously trying to drown out the itch for drugs. I sat next to a girl, probably a few years older than I was, pulling her sleeves over her hands in order to conceal the stitches in her wrists where she had sliced them with the tops of soup cans. I sat and felt so alone. I was 16, and in a rather dramatic and not so effective way had swallowed a bottle of pills to try and kill myself. I sat, in oversized, faded, yellowish, obviously been used, washed and reused on many people, pajamas (if that’s what you could call them.) My feet covered by socks with tiny scuffed rubber circles that were supposed to help you not slip on the floors. Never had I felt so alone, afraid, ashamed, and sad.
I knew that after group therapy it was visiting hours and I would be back in my “room” waiting for the next group activity. Today was different, I had a visiter. It was the youth pastor from our church. He came in and sat down on the chair beside my bed. After what seemed liked a gazillion minutes he started to speak. I don’t know why I expected words of encouragement, but i did. That is not what was given. To his credit, he was young, and it must have been slightly awkward to have probably been asked to do a “visitation” with a suicidal, trouble girl. He started out with something like.. “do you have any idea what you have put people through?” I shook my head yes, and instinctively began to emotionally crawl inside of myself. Then came the “why would you do something like that for attention? That is so immature and thoughtless.” The words; no matter how much into myself i tried to hide, stung the open wound on my heart like salt in a cut. Tears brimmed on the edges of my eyes, I stubbornly wiped them as quick as I could with the sleeve of my pajamas and stared blankly out the window while he then began to pray for me, using the same tone and verbiage as before. He left without even saying goodbye or saying that he would be praying for me or any of the things you think will be said.. and it hurt.. a lot. After that visit I felt more empty than I had before he arrived. I stood up and found my way to the hallway and stepped into the line to receive my medication. I was in the hospital for 5 more days.
This week I was sincerely saddened to hear of Amy Bleuel’s passing. I have championed her movement, Project Semicolon. Being a survivor of depression and suicidal actions I felt the weight of her passing deeply, and quite heavily. Amy passed by suicide. I have read so much crap about it too. I have heard heartless, mean, things that have been posted about a woman who lived and gave her all to be a voice for those who suffer with mental illness. She gave a name and a movement to us who feel like giving up. I cannot even imagine the countless lives that have been touched, and literally saved by her bravery to speak about her own struggles in such an open and honest way. We live in the age of everyone knowing our image we project, and being petrified of our lives being on display without an instagram filter applied while we wear clothes to impress, and makeup thicker than a homes foundation, and a caption that screams, “LIKE ME!” We virtually scream for others to like us and “like” us. Never before have we put on display such a distorted view of ourselves. Then, here comes Amy, putting on display every unfiltered, un-covered by makeup of any kind flaw and struggle. She made people feel the truth which is “it’s ok to not be of.” Let that sink in a bit before continuing to read. “It’s ok to not be ok.”
Back to me in the hospital. Most of us are the young pastor who visited me in the hospital. We are so uncomfortable with seeing anyone in their mess that instead of offering hope we offer condemnation. We offer our opinions without taking the time to listen to anyones vulnerability. I am not suggesting that we enable anyone to continue in destructive behavior, so save that argument. I am also not suggesting we become someones therapist. I AM suggesting, no, I am plain calling it out… we need to have more compassion for those suffering with mental health issues. I literally shudder as I typed out “mental health issues” and tried to think of another way to say it so no-one would judge me.. but then I typed it and I own it. I suffer from depression, which is a mental health issue. I had been silent for a very long time, sitting in shame and hoping that I would just be able to not succumb to the darkness that would come every now and then, finding me on the floor of my closet thinking of ending my life. Over the last 5 years I have been more open about my struggles, and you know what? I find the weight not as heavy. Maybe because the excess weight of shame was shed. I find myself more open to talk to other people who need someone to talk to about their junk as well. Let me be clear, I believe in Prayer, I believe in the power of prayer, I also believe that there is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. I am a follower of Christ, and I do not stand condemned by any humans opinions of my struggles. I am, in Christ, a new creation, which means that the struggles I have are now not just mine, they are carried by Him as well. I have had God use my struggle to help others, and I am not one to tell God how to do what He does. I am not one to demand God take away any sufferings I have just because they are not “fun” for me.
Long story short, I mourn the loss of Amy. I pray for her family. Just like I know she would say if she could, I say, don’t let this be the end of your story. There are more days ahead. Don’t make a permanent decision to a temporary problem. Don’t allow shame to silence you forever. Be willing to show love and compassion to even those who make you the most uncomfortable. The God who is able to heal is also the one who commands us to Love others as we love ourselves. Life is short, LOVE well