August 12, 2014 by theresiugoes
One of the worst things about getting the diagnosis was the knowledge that to get better, people would have to know. Husbandsylv already knew, obviously, but family and friends would also need to know because this was not something I could face alone. I needed support.
And so, when a lot of my friends read my blog and said to me, “I didn’t know/you didn’t tell us/you carried this alone” I didn’t hear it as a cry of concern and frustration. I read it like an attack. Another person I’d let down, another thing to be ashamed about, another thing I couldn’t get right.
I had spent the last twelve months ashamed to be experiencing such deep pain. I was ashamed that as a Christian, and a Bible College student and a minister’s wife no less, I was crippled by sadness and fear. Surely the Word of God should give me hope in my darkest hour, and it did – but not enough to “fix me” proper.
I was afraid of opening my family to judgment. My husband is incredible and my daughter is delightful – I didn’t want people judging him for being unsupportive, or our decision to move away from our families and friends as unwise, or my daughter for feeding through the night.
I am really lucky to have great support systems in place – many wonderful friends and mentors I could turn to – but I felt so isolated. I’d spent a year, believing my head when it told me that no one would understand; that I shouldn’t burden them with my struggles; that they would all see me for the frekazoid I was.
And there was a level of pride involved, too. I like to appear to have it all together. I like to tell myself I have it all together. That I’m strong, that I’m a helper and I don’t need helping.
Of course, they were all ridiculous fears – the rational side of me knows this and cares less about what other people think. But they were very real to my irrational self, and plagued me day and night.
But most of all, there was the stupid big fear of facing what needed to be faced. Dealing with the root of the depression, which was more than a hormonal imbalance and the result of a lifetime of avoidance. Avoiding grief, ignoring my broken self esteem, not acknowledging the guilt that weighed me down, not addressing the shame that bound me. Unlocking suppressed memories, talking it all out and bringing it to Jesus.
That’s the nature of the beast, I suppose. In my mind’s eye, the beast is a scarier version of Jabba the Hutt.
Here was this big, scary, warty monster, keeping me locked in a cave. He taunted me, mocked me, and ridiculed me. He stifles any rays of hope and any glimpses of outside light. The beast isolated me, and then reminded me of that isolation day in and day out. He taunted me with it, and convinced me that nobody cared or even knew I was locked in his cave.
The beast grew as my sense of isolation increased. He fed on it, and it made him more powerful. He convinced me that only he could interpret the loving words of my friends, family and the Scriptures, so gestures of warmth struck me like barbed wire on my already raw skin and words of concern pounded like a gavel of judgment.
It was exhausting to live with him. It was tiring to fight the beast, and if he let me out of the cave momentarily, he would chain himself to my foot. So I lugged him around, ashamed of his stench and held back by his weight.
Other times, I’d be allowed a day pass, and be funny, charming, and insightful in the real world. But when I returned to the cave, like I knew I must, he reminded me that all of my achievements couldn’t have been, because here I was, again in his cave.
And there was a terrible shame in the comfort he provided. Although big and domineering and ugly, when I was in his cave the light didn’t shine on my wounds and the scars seemed less real. I could ignore the wounds because his taunts consumed and distracted me.
And the whole time, he tried to lull me to sleep. To tell me to close my eyes, because if I did, he’d be gone. If I just closed my eyes, the fight would be over.
I knew there were others in the cave. Sometimes I heard their cries, too. But I was too afraid to find them, because then they would know that I too, was in the cave.
And yesterday, as the world poured over the details of Robin William’s life, and his depression, I felt his shame. That because of his death, his entire life had the stench of the beast; that he didn’t make it out of the cave, and now we all know he was in there – and not on his terms. He didn’t get to do the victory march, to tell us all how he has overcome. The beast won.
I’m lucky I found my way out of the cave, although sometimes I still feel it’s shadow, sometimes the beast coaxes me back and other times he meets me on the outside.
I’m still walking my road to recovery, and I’m so grateful to those who have joined me on the journey. But most of all, I am reminded of the need to reach out to those still in the cave.
You are not alone. You are not weak, or wrong or silly.
You can make it out of the cave.
I will walk with you.