This has been a difficult few days.
Kate Spade early in the week. The news of Anthony Bourdain today. And as it turned out, I happened to watch a documentary on one of my favorite 70’s bands this week, Badfinger. They sang the amazingly beautiful and happy song, No Matter What. And I was a little stunned to watch the unsettling account of the brilliant lead singer, Pete Ham, who hung himself… at just 27 years old.
There is one thing more difficult for me to talk about this than any other part of my broken past.
Though I didn’t know any of these amazing and talented souls, I feel a kindred spirit with each of them. I find myself mourning in their pain. I feel like I know exactly what they were feeling moments before they made the bewildering choice to press stop on life. I have no judgement for any of them. Only a silent prayer that their pain has ended.
I actually hate the word depression.
It sounds to quaint. Too manageable.
I would rather it be called Monster. Or F’ing SOB.
If that abbreviation offends you, then perhaps you have never suffered through the kind of depression I am talking about. Because anyone who has, knows it is all that… and worse.
In my recent book, Death by a Thousand Lies, I talk candidly about my oldest son’s suicide attempt in his mid-twenties. There is also the account of my walking head-long into traffic after the exposure of my horrid secret life to my unsuspecting family.
I know this savage beast well. Sitting in the hospital waiting to hear if the doctors were able to flush 200 pills out of my son’s system. Looking down from the 17th floor patio deck of my downtown Dallas apartment. Leaning. Imagining. Contemplating.
Looking back, it was easier for me to beat a twenty-five year porn and sex addiction than the fight I have endured to assuage the sadness I was experiencing in my own soul.
The most perplexing thing was this,
I could have the most wonderful day ever. Sunshine and song. Friends and good fortune. A cheerful sense that God was with me.
And then it would hit. Hours later. Sometimes minutes. No warning and seemingly no way out. The only way I can describe the feeling is like this... being dropped in a deep, dark hole with absolutely no way out. It’s more like horror than sadness. You feel pain in every part of your being.
Your mind is haunted.
Your body listless.
Your heart is spiritless.
You don’t want to talk. You don’t want to move. You just want the pain to end. I would pull the covers over my head and go to sleep sometime fives times a day. Because other than ending my life, that was the only way I could escape.
At least until I would wake up again.
Depression is an indiscriminate assassin.
It doesn’t matter how little or how much you have in this life. It can find you.
And there are no snappy little “Jesusy” answers that work.
“Press in with prayer brother.”
“Speak to that mountain.”
“This too shall pass.”
I’ve heard them all. You might as well spray me with a semi-automatic nail gun.Stop it. Do you think for one minute that I haven’t tried all of the above?
So Blaine, how did you overcome it?
I honestly would say that I have never completely overcome it. I have seriously weakened it’s impact in life. It doesn’t carry the sheer weight and endless pursuit of my happiness that it once did.
For the most part, my days are bright and hopeful now. I wake up with a sense of joy and optimism. And perhaps most importantly, I have come to believe that Jesus is right there in both my joys and my sufferings. Not with a magic wand to make things come and go. But just present.
There are still dark seasons of the soul that will gut-punch me every so often. But I feel like I know what to do in those times now.
I take heart in knowing — it will not last.
I confide in my dear wife, Lori.
And in her gentle way, she helps me walk through it.
I protest my dark thoughts.
And if I have to, I seek out an escape. Sports. A good movie. A nap. A trip to Starbucks. Anything to get my mind in a different space.
And more often than not, a day or two later, I will break through.
But seven years ago, it wasn’t that easy. I was in the fight of my life. For my life. And there wasn’t any one thing that romanced me out of my perpetual despondency. It was a coalescing of many…
Two solid years of counseling.
Understanding how depression works.
Opening my heart up to my family and friends.
Exercise and a healthy(er) diet.
Developing a life liturgy. (prayers, readings, meditations)
Learning how to sabbath well.
Prescribed medication. (which helped immensely)
One of my counselors told me that our soul will go into grieving for at least one year when we suffer a major loss in life. Divorce. Financial devastation. Public humiliation. Loss of career.
I had all of these happen. It was the most abrupt and godawful twelve months of my life.
So it took time. And I learned to patiently take every inch of hope that began to reappear in my gaze. Until finally, I truly felt like the worst was past me.
And without being Jesusy — I am profoundly grateful today for God’s beautiful gift of life. I stand amazed at his his endless pursuit of my soul. I take in the absolute beauty of His creation each day. And I see His fingerprints on so many parts of my life.
And I am aware that Jesus is close. Close enough.
Until that indescribable day. When all is made right. And our mortal takes on immortality.
How I long.
If you suffer with any of what I’ve described, know this my dear friend…
“He is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
You are not alone.
But don’t suffer in silence.
To raise your voice.
May God grace each one of us to see past the happy countenance of those that suffer among us. Not to provide all the answers. But rather all the love.
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