Sometimes this is what life looks like.
Peaceful. Relaxing. Beautiful. Put together.
Sometimes this is what we actually feel like on the inside, but often times it’s just the show we put on for the outside.
More often than not, the inner battle going on in someone’s life isn’t shared with the outside world. Not with strangers on social media. Not with friends. Not with family. My heart hurts to see the news of so many taking their own life from the hurt that they may not have ever even shared with another soul.
It’s caused me to do a lot of thinking this week. Because this week also happens to coincide with my first trip to a counselor. And just the thought of typing that word out to share with the world gives me a little bit of anxiety. Why? Because somewhere along the way, we decided we could share of our physical sufferings with each other, but hide the sufferings of the heart.
There are many posts on social media asking friends to get help when needed. There’s posts about how depression, anxiety, disappointment and shame know no boundaries. There’s posts asking churches to do a better job with mental health and not just asking someone to have more faith.
In light of recent events, there’s a story I’d like to share. My story.
A couple of years ago I experienced one single event that I allowed to take root in my heart and dictate what I thought of myself for the next two years.
Looking back now, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the lies I believed. While I haven’t yet arrived on the other side of it all, I do think I’m finally on my way. I want to share some things as I process through them in my own mind, and hopefully they may encourage someone else too.
I believe that one of the strongest plots of the enemy is to keep us in isolation from others. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
I knew that in my head, but here’s the thoughts that screamed louder…
No one cares. And those who do would blame you because you got yourself into this. You failed someone else. And if you failed them, who’s to say you won’t fail again. As a wife. As a mother. As a friend.
About the time I was ready to talk, the enemy struck again and I found myself in a situation where I felt left out.
See…you don’t belong. They don’t want you there. You have no place. You have no one to tell.
Because that’s how the snowball works. Even though I have friends…even though I have family…because I thought so little of myself I believed others did too. I was afraid my fears would be confirmed through the mouths of others. That I would hear out loud what I had heard on the inside. Which goes to show that just because it looks like someone has people, doesn’t mean they don’t feel alone.
Guilt and Shame.
If I sat across from you and had coffee and shared my heart and my hurt, you might even be surprised at what all this fuss is about. But guilt and shame are like that. They aren’t of God. The Holy Spirit may shed light to our shortcomings, but only in a way to move us closer to Jesus. Guilt and shame say there’s no way out. You are trapped. There is no moving closer to Jesus. There is no moving at all. They are a bondage, wrapped so tightly that others don’t see them.
We want them deep because we are afraid that if we were to expose them, others would see us for who we truly are. A broken failure with no hope or a future. Only that’s not who we are. That’s what the enemy wants us to believe. And that’s why he wants us to bury them deeply. He knows if we share them in the light, that healing can come.
The Point of No Return.
The other lie I believed is that if I’ve already messed up, there’s really no room for improvement. I’ve been weighed. I’ve been measured. And I have been found wanting. There’s no reason to try to move forward, because you can’t go back. And if that’s who you are (or who the enemy says you are) then it’s not like you can ever be anything more than that.
Isolation, guilt, shame, no turning back. That doesn’t sound like the life Jesus promised.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10
How do we find abundant life?
Choose people over isolation.
Healing for me started by accepting a coffee invite with a few friends who would become my safe place. I didn’t know then that they’d be a part of my healing. I only knew I was so broken that I didn’t even care what they thought. I just had to get the thoughts from my head to my lips. But you know what I found? Friends who cared. Friends who had known something was just not quite right with me. Friends who said we are in this with you and we are for you.
They became my Aaron and Hur like in Exodus 17:11-12. “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up-one on one side, one on the other- so that his hands remained steady till sunset.”
Invite people in. Don’t believe the lie that you are the only one. Don’t believe the lie that no one cares. And if you get a bad response the first time around, be brave and try again. It is worth it.
Choose help over guilt and shame.
Forgiveness and freedom come from Christ. That doesn’t mean help accepting that freedom can’t come from others. I finally said yes to counseling and oddly enough it came from some advice in our adoption and foster support group at church.
Counseling is a common part of adoption families. I was asking an adult adoptee about how his parents introduced the option to him and if it ever felt odd. His response was that it was something that his family had always done, long before he needed it. “Everyone needs counseling” he said. “Everyone should see a counselor every few months. If things are good, someone gets to celebrate it with you. If things are hard, you already have an appointment with someone who can help you through it.”
I thought, here I am wanting my own children to feel open to doing something that I won’t allow myself to do. I will tell others that this is a great option all day long, but then I won’t humble myself enough to actually schedule a darn appointment. While I think most would agree that counseling is a great and needed service, few of us will ever accept the help.
I decided before my first appointment this week that I would take the advice given. My ways had gotten me nowhere. I would allow others in. I would seek advice. And if the time comes, I will accept medication as well. I saw a dermatologist for my hand this week, and a counselor for my heart.
There’s always a return.
If you have gotten to a place where you feel like there is no return, I hope you hear this. There’s always a return. I believe in this book called the Bible and it is full of returns.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow-not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” Romans 8:38
But from one friend to another, don’t go through life alone. I get you because I’m one of you. It can get better. Invite Jesus in. Invite people in. Don’t be afraid of seeking professional help. Depression does not discriminate, but neither does hope.