Monday, August 29, 2016

Finally . . . In Which She Spoke the Dreaded 'S' Word


A few years back, a ministry leader wrote and asked if I might have a compelling friendship story to share for a book she was pulling together.  I poured many prayerful hours into my submitted saga.  Sadly, production came to a grinding half when more pressing concerns piled onto her plate and with deep apologies she returned my hard won little manuscript back to me.

And I shelved my story.

Some months ago, I felt that familiar yet scary tug to step out on a limb.  Adding the last few paragraphs, I submitted my carefully chosen 714 words to (in)courage.  They said, 'no, thanks.'

Shelved again.

In recent days I'm feeling that familiar yet scary invitation yet one more time.  I've been trying to discern what that's about.  And I feel led to finally hit the publish button on this little memoir of a very dark season in my life some 11 years ago.  I humbly open this significant corner of my soul today because I strongly believe that someone out there needs to know that yes, there is a way forward from the horrendous, all-encompassing pit of anxiety and depression. 

Yes, oh yes ... there is hope.  Yes, oh yes ... you have a future to live for.

And if you aren't that person, you most likely know someone who needs to grab ahold of these words.

I think the timing is just right considering I just sang the praises of being 60+.  My desire is simply to share hope.  The power of deep relationship.  The reminder that just because a counselor / ministry leader has a bunch of letters after their name doesn't mean they're immune to brain health issues.

And I want to sing praises of the powerful healing touch and gracious redemptive work of Jesus Christ.  And His desire to use our pain to offer comfort to others because we've been there, done that.

The apostle Paul said it best when he wrote, 'Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God {2 Corinthians 1:3-4}.


In Which She Spoke the Dreaded ’S’ Word

She’d always been the deepest of wells, this dear friend.  I often found myself leaning forward to listen as she spoke because I knew that what came from her heart was usually worth paying attention to.  For decades she brought a steady, calming wisdom to our relationship, a solid spiritual strength borne from a lifetime of relentless heartbreak.  We had been there for each other, an unspoken mentoring back and forth, a lovely weaving of support.

But then came a mid-life season from the pit of hell.  And a moment in time where she had the courage to speak the unspeakable ‘S’ word.

It was a long ago time and place, a slow fade that morphed into something horrific.  A minor surgery gradually kicked off a cascade of physical maladies.  An undiagnosed Lyme disease collided with a wicked awful season of perimenopause, wrecking havoc in my body.  Prescribed antibiotics and hormones seemed to vie for attention and do nothing but confuse my already weakening system. 

In my family, serious illnesses, a military deployment, and other unsettling experiences added to the pile.  Meanwhile, this novice pastoral counselor was making her way through the minefield of church politics with its endless posturing and maneuvering.   Counseling and teaching, designing a recovery program, and being available to the church family morphed into an unhealthy 24/7 absorption, a distinct lack of balance made all the more troubling by lousy boundaries and an unwillingness to say ‘no, thanks.’

Over a period of months, the most horrific anxiety crept in followed by terrifying bouts of depression, crushing and immobilizing me like a heavy wet blanket.  I watched from somewhere far away as the life drained out of me, as body and soul began to close down.   And I began to sink into a pit of fear-fueled despair and hopelessness.

No one seemed to know what to do.  Responses ranged from heartfelt prayers to an occasional brisk ‘just snap out of it.’  Others simply backed away, helplessly watching from the sidelines as the essence of who I was disintegrated right in front of their eyes.

And then that dear friend called one afternoon.  My listless responses let her know that I was in a dangerous place.  And out of her great wisdom, she gently placed the dreaded, unspeakable ‘S’ word right on the table. 
 
‘Are you thinking of suicide?’ 

Her courageous question was spoken quietly, but it was quite clear.  And someone finally gave me permission to speak the awful truth of where I truly was.

Wisps of relief encroached on the aching exhaustion, the terrifying fear.  Hope began to seep in and I finally told my husband how desperate I had become.  It wasn’t long ‘til we pulled together a healing team  … a doctor monitored some carefully chosen meds, an experienced counselor came on board, a wise spiritual director guided me into being attentive to God’s invitations in the midst of it all. 

And I claimed a six month ministry sabbatical.
 
In the midst of my despair, I pleaded with God to redeem my brokenness, and I began to cling to these reassuring words that the Spirit began to whisper deep  - ‘I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten … and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you’ {Joel 2:25-26}.

When all was said and done, I became a much wiser, more empathetic counselor.  I truly got it when I listened to a woman in the pit of despair.  I could be a steady, authentic presence for her because I had traveled on a similar dark path.  I could offer her realistic hope because God had given me an overabundance to share.

And my friend? 


Although hours now separate us, she still makes her thoughtful presence known.  She was with me when we got the news that our littlest grandchild died last fall, just two months after my dad had gone home to be with the Lord. 

But this time there were no daring questions. 

Instead she offered the quiet grace of her presence ... and her stash of colored pencils and glittery gel pens as we colored the hours away, sharing a grief-laden silence together.






P.S.  Always take someone's talk of suicide seriously.  Please call 911 or take them to your local emergency room immediately.  For more education, check out the National Institute of Mental Health.

And in case you're wondering ... yes, my family, close friends, and those clients along the way who needed great big helpings of hope already know the story ... 

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sharing my story with

62 comments:

  1. What an important, inspirational message! Thank you, Linda!

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    1. Jandi ... please pray with me that this post will end up in the hands that need it most.

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  2. Praying for you and your family, Linda. Thank you for your good works.

    God bless.

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  3. Oh Linda, my heart weeps with you here. Thank You, Jesus, thank You, LORD for your powerful, pursuant love that NEVER forsakes us. Thank you for being honest You have truly blessed me in your sharing. Believe it or not that last post of mine was a HUGE step for me...one prompted by several nudges (just as with you). May God multiply the blessings from your courageous step.

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    1. Not for a moment does He forsake us. Amen, Anna. You've said it well. That you are blessed here today encourages me greatly.

      He's got us where He wants us when we're listening to His promptings ... even if they don't make sense.

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  4. Those words brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. How awesome is our God to place the right people in the right place at the right time.

    Also, I remember vividly your concern for me while going through the destruction of my marriage. You gave me permission to leave the shambles behind and move forward. Hope is a marvelous thing.....and I believe only God has the patent.

    I have been really touched lately by a song by Lauren Daigle called I Wiil Trust in You. Check it out.

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    1. Yes and amen to 'leaving the shambles' behind! Every once in a while we look back and reflect, and then only to give praise to God and to encourage others with what He has done.

      Praise God He has the patent on hope! Well said, friend!

      I'll check out Lauren's song ...

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  5. Thank you for your vulnerability and willingness to share so that others may benefit. We are so grateful for a Savior who can use us no matter our life experiences.

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    1. Indeed, Jonathan. He is an incredibly powerful Redeemer who loves us deeply. How blessed we are ...

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  6. Nothing gives us more hope than for someone to open up and share their sorrow, grief, despair, and loss of hope. Well written, life affirming, and hope inspiring--your piece is a ray of light in a dark and cloudy sky. Thank you for sharing & I too have known the blessing of a friend wise enough to ask the hard questions. And yes, our wounded hearts are much more open to listening and truly hearing what others are saying.

    Blessings, My Friend!

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    1. Where would we be without those kind of friends, Lulu? A cord of three strands is not easily broken when the Lord binds us together.

      And we don't need a ton of people gathered around. If we have just one or two who love us well, we are rich indeed ...

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  7. Thank you for sharing this part of your story, Linda. I didn't know. But now I know I can talk to you if I or a friend ever need help with this. I just found out today of an acquaintance from a few years back who committed suicide last Friday. She was my age. :(

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    1. Oh Lisa, I am so very sorry. This, a tragic loss. Sometimes there are no words ...

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  8. Thanks for sharing this, Linda. I'm sorry you had to walk through such a dark and difficult time but I love how you can see God bringing good from it as it gives you understanding to enable you to help others. I'm sure sharing your story here will bring hope and comfort to many too.

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    1. Your last line is my prayer, Lesley! For I know that my story is similar to a multitude of other women's mid-life sagas. My heart beats with theirs ...

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  9. Such a tender story, Linda and an important one to share. Yes, I believe there are many who are benefitting from your open heart to share from a pain that once was the deepest but now is being renewed daily with hope. That is what you share always in your words. Keep writing them, keep being a light in this dark world.

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    1. You've encouraged me greatly this morning, Debby. And others will be spurred on by your hope-filled words, too. I love doing community with you ...

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  10. Linda, my dear friend.

    I read your words and see the fingers of God etching carefully His master work in your life.

    The deeper lines hard, shadows deep and the words a treasure. Every inch says, "I love you with an everlasting love." Each shadow reveals His, "No matter what I've got you." and in the deep, hard lines I read "But the Lord is faithful..."

    Thank you for sharing. Don't worry about where it ends up. The story written on your heart shines greater than those beautiful colorful prisms from the Hope Diamond. (P.S. have you ever noticed a diamond doesn't shine beautifully until it rests in the center of The Light?)

    No wonder He calls you "friend."

    Blessings

    Chris

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    1. Ah, yes, God is the Master Craftsman. You're so right, Christine! He's the One who orchestrates our days, redeems our pain, uses our stories.

      What a wonderful Savior!

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  11. How thankful I am your voice wasn't silenced by suicide. You're brave, Linda. You've shared a part of you with us that might literally save a life, and one that faced rejection along the way. I shook my head in understanding. I stood in a similar place years ago. And funny enough, it was while my husband was deployed. We serve and are loved by a faithful God who sees us past even suicide. Sending loads of hugs your way, Linda.

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    1. Our hearts resonate, Kristi! Yes, if one person is positively impacted when we tell our stories, we can only give Him praise.

      So deeply grateful that He spares our lives, aren't we ...

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  12. Beyond words beautiful, Linda. Such a story of courage, faith and love in the midst of a life falling apart. Thank you for sharing this inspiration with us.
    Blessings!

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    1. You're right, Martha. Life falls apart. Whose hasn't? Yes, yes, the One who loves us best of all picks up the pieces and mends us together once again.

      Maybe better than we've ever been.

      He is able ...

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  13. You truly spoke from the heart on a very hard subject. I'm so thankful that God brought you through that time and that you can now use it to help others.

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    1. You were there.

      Thank you, thank you, K.

      xo

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  14. In this day in age, when people put up walls and happy faces to show the world that all is well in their perfect worlds, I so appreciate your honesty and "rawness". It's inspiring to those of us struggling.

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    1. Wearing a mask is oh so stifling. Sharing our stories at the right time in the right place with people who are safe is a real victory lap. Trusting that someone will be blessed by the reading is the icing on the cake.

      So glad you're here with us, Val ...

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  15. Linda, wow. What a moving, inspirational, and vulnerable essay. I am so glad you chose to share it.

    There is a need, in my corner of the 'world'; 22 combat veterans commit suicide every day.

    God bless you, my friend.

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    1. Yes, Andrew, sadly the tragedy of the brain illnesses our veterans are suffering is staggering and tragic indeed.

      Here's a few resources that might be of help to those you know who are struggling valiantly -

      U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs -
      National Center for PTSD / Family & Friends
      http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/family/

      Military One Source
      http://www.militaryonesource.mil/

      Military Outreach USA
      http://www.militaryoutreachusa.org/

      Veterans Crisis Line
      1-800-273-8255

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  16. Precious friend, thanks so much for sharing this story! My story is not yours in the details, but the theme is one I relate to. I had two similar periods in my life. One came when I was an insecure late 20's mom of a second child and got hit with postpartum depression that no one talked about back then. I felt helpless and alone and the pastor I turned to for help was far from it, but thankfully a wise wonderful older woman whose home was where a Bible study was held took time to listen well and long. One day I took courage to call her and have some one-on-one time with her. I will never forget her words before I left "You're going to have victory over this". I walked on her faith until I reached the other side of it. Then in my late thirties some crushing wounds from a women's ministry reopened old wounds and I felt so much shame and guilt that I considered all options. After all, I was not a kid and actively involved with ministry. Why couldn't I lick this? One day our assistant pastor's wife called me and asked me how I was doing. I risked telling her. (This was a different church.) She asked me if she could call another pastor on staff who had training as a counselor. I agreed. Sadly, I had to wait a month for an appointment, but he really did have skills, gifting, and patience and I received the healing that had not really come before. He also believed in me and asking me to go through his lay counselor training. That convinced me to enter graduate school and leave teaching. That happened more than 35 years ago and He continued to clarify my identity in Him and help me see and know His perfect love for imperfect me. As I sat in the counselor's chair for 30 years, I sought to thank Him by giving others hope because of Him and because I had been there. Love and hugs to you!

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    1. Dear Pam ... I am beyond grateful that you have shared a few chapters of your story here with this community. We are in unique positions to offer care to others after we ourselves have been in the pit.

      I am sorry for your pain, so sorry that you had to wait a month for an appointment, sorry that there were those who didn't understand what you needed.

      But, God is the Redeemer isn't He ... 'I sought to thank Him by giving others hope because of Him and because I had been there.'

      What a powerful testimony you have shared with us today. Thank you for joining me in being vulnerable. May He somehow honor the telling of our stories ...

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  17. Linda, thank you for posting the PTSD resources. It's important.

    I kind of hesitated to add this, but when I was teaching college for a few years I made myself available as a 'safe place' for gay and lesbian students. I didn't approve of the lifestyle then, and still don't, but everyone deserves a place to be able to cry, and get a good hot cup of Earl Grey, when the discontinuities of life become too much to bear. Suicide rates in that 'community' etnd to be pretty high.

    I don't know if I did the groundwork or not, but one gay guy who came by often eventually married...a woman! And had several kids...and became a Baptist.

    God uses some weird paths sometimes.

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    1. I love what you wrote, Andrew -->'everyone deserves a place to be able to cry, and get a good hot cup of Earl Grey, when the discontinuities of life become too much to bear.'

      We're all wounded in some way, shape, or form. Oh to have more safe havens where people can be themselves, where they can experience the compassionate love of Jesus Christ.

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  18. Thanks for sharing this part of your story, Linda! As a spouse of someone who once thought long and hard of suicide, I long for there to be people everywhere to be a "safe place" to share about one's hard thoughts. My husband has no close friends really and so I was his only safe person to tell. We all need friends like the one you describe. You are blessed to have her!

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    1. Yep, we're talking about safe places and safe people here today, my friend. I'm so sorry you were alone during such a terrible struggle.

      It begs the question, 'what needs to change in my life so I can be safe for others?' This is something most of us could offer if we only were willing ...

      God have mercy.

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  19. This really touches my heart, Linda. There have been times in my life when I have been very close to suicide, so I know the feeling. I'm so sorry you had to go through such a deep depression. But you know what? When I read this, I thought - I just KNEW she has a deeper empathy that would only come from one who has been through something herself. God has been and will continue to use your pain for a purpose. Thank you for sharing this vulnerable story. I believe it in my heart that God will use it for many, mine included. Blessings and hugs to you!

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    1. I thank God that He has spared your life, Trudy. I know you have impacted many women with your life story, myself included. May there have been some words here today that assure you that you are not alone.

      We are in very good company ...

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    2. Yes, Linda, you definitely make me feel less alone. I love your company along this journey of life. This verse has been on my heart since I read your comment last night - "It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not."

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    3. Lamentations 3 has been a long time favorite of mine, Trudy. Why am I not surprised that those words of comfort and hope beat in your heart, as well?!

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  20. Linda, this post reaches into some deep places in my heart. I can go there with you for some of your story. So thankful that our Jehovah Rapha sent you a friend, a counselor, a physician, and a husband to walk with you through that dark valley. Thank you! Thank you for sharing your heart. I know many will be blessed because you were obedient.

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    1. You've encouraged me this morning, Leah! I've tried to be obedient to the Lord's leading on the what / when / how of sharing this significant piece of my heart.

      I'm grateful to do community with you in this season.

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  21. Linda,
    I'm so glad you shared your story since our stories are powerful markers of hope from the other side to those who are still waiting for the fog to lift. Your insight as a counselor and your practical advice are invaluable and I truly believe that's part of what makes your compassionate heart so strong! Sometimes we hesitate to share our hard times with others but that's what knits our connections together sometimes more powerfully than anything else. So grateful to be a part of your online community, treasuring your honesty, wisdom and encouragement! xo

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    1. Gosh, you're so articulate, friend. Thank you for putting into words some of the reasons why this has been the time and place to offer this level of honesty.

      Or, as the other Valerie wrote yesterday, 'rawness.'

      'Markers of hope.' Indeed, indeed.

      So thankful you're in my life ...

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  22. Linda, I am glad you did not let those letters behind your name stop you from being authentic and sharing your struggles. Yes, those God-led roles that include designations are important but I see sometimes where leaders can be fearful of losing their roles if they share their real struggles. But that is where we shine and can show Christ love and healing to the world. Thank you for shining your light!

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    1. The letters and the roles they lead to tend to be overrated, don't they ... and you're so right, Lynn, I've seen more than a few people hide tight behind them, masks in place.

      You're a wise one, for sure. I'm so glad to do community with you!

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  23. I can't begin to imagine how hard this was to write -- and then to click on "publish." But thank you for doing it because we need to know that it is possible to live past the deep pits and the hot fires. You are a treasure - refined like gold.

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    1. Yeah, seeing the words in black and white was a bit weird a few years ago. But hitting PUBLISH this week was a victory and a prayer all wrapped up in one.

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  24. I have also struggled with thoughts of suicide and a depression that was unrelenting. I wish that I knew then the truths that I know now. The fact that I was in a battle for my very life was apparent then. Somehow though I didn't know enough about the Bible or my faith and I didn't realize that I wasn't just dealing with a physical and mental struggle. I didn't realize that spiritual warfare was a huge part of it and I didn't know how to fight. So I did the only thing I could and I clung to Jesus. Now I see more and more each day how the attacks of the enemy are holding people hostage. Praying that your message reaches the right person.

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    1. Hi Deanna! I knew I wasn't the only one. I'm trusting that this conversation will encourage others to rest knowing that they're not alone.

      Anxiety and depression are real physical illnesses that need medical diagnoses and treatment. They can't be explained away in spiritual terms, although we certainly are spiritual beings. And yes, the enemy of our souls will use anything he can get his hands on to take us down.

      Our health and sanity, for sure. Praise God that HE has won the victory.

      So grateful you're here today, Deanna.

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  25. Linda, where to start? It amazes me that your precious story of hope was not accepted and published, but perhaps the Lord has a better meaning for it here, in this online community, as I see so many who have already responded to your post after having been touched significantly by it. The "s" word came to me in a very real way in the form of a family member who went through a terrible dark period, and I was literally on the phone with her as she was about to end her life, and had the weapon in hand ready to be used. It was the most gut wrenching thing I have ever been a part of, and a larger miracle than life that took place... as I prayed silently while speaking to her, pleading with her... another family member showed up unexpectedly, and took the weapon away from her. GOD is so faithful. You wrote so beautifully, because the "s" word is something you think will never happen to you, but we have no idea what situations in life could suck the life from us. Thank GOD for hope in Jesus! He answered my prayer that day on the phone! My family member has passed from that dark period of her life into a beautiful place where God has blessed her abundantly, and I never cease to be amazed at how God intervened, and prevented such a tragedy! Your words struck a chord in my heart, and I appreciate your sharing it so much. Hugs to you today dear friend!

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    1. Thank you for sharing your family story, my friend. Chilling and miraculous all at once. I praise God with you for sending His angels to rescue this dear one from the pit. Literally. How encouraging to hear that she, too, is in a beautiful place of abundant blessings in this season.

      I so appreciate you sharing this difficult season in your family's life, and ask that God will bless you because you've been courageous enough to do so.

      I'm guessing that other readers will find your words to touch their hearts deeply.

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  26. Dear Linda,
    Thank you so much for taking your story and sharing it with us. I was deeply blessed by your authenticity and I'm so glad your friend asked and that you got the help you needed. ((hugs)) and much love, dear one.

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    1. The older I get, the more I value authenticity, Dolly. Especially the kind that points right back up to the One who's freed us to be fully ourselves.

      Grace, grace. All of it.

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  27. You are so inspiring, and I am so glad you shared this. Too often we sweep our pain under the rug until it becomes giant. We think no one will understand, but they do.
    What a beautiful friendship you have!

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    1. For sure, we can end up tripping and falling over our self-imposed silence, Sarah ... Let's hear it for rolling up those rugs and shaking ourselves loose from the junk buried beneath ... when we find safe places and kind people to walk arm in arm with us.

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  28. I'm so grateful you shared this story with us. It's so much more than a story really - you shared your heart, and in doing so, allowed light to flood in an area that I assume once felt so dark. So beautiful, so brave, so wonderful!

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    1. I'm so thankful for God's healing of my body, my brain, Kylie! And oh, how I get it when I sit with women in those dark seasons of life. We worship the Redeemer, the Hope Giver, don't we ...

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  29. I am so happy that your story shows the wonderful way God lifted you out of your depression. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen. My nephew committed suicide 8 years ago, when he was in his mid-20's. He left a pregnant girlfriend, 2 younger siblings and an extended family that adored him. It has been painful watching them try to continue their lives without the acceptance of a loving God to help them through. People have to be more open to conversations with people in the midst of depression instead of walking away because you don't know what to say or who to recommend that they talk to.

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    1. Marilyn ... as God brings your family to mind, I commit to lifting them up in prayer. May they see the grace and peace of Jesus as you continue to connect and encourage them. The grief journey can linger long ...

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  30. Dearest Linda, I know with certainty I responded to this post. Where did my computer send it? I am awed by the gift your words are to so many who feel alone and without hope. I am touched by the beauty of you, laid bare here in your most broken moments. Your grief teaches and reaches out to the world now. Your words inspire and heal and ... help. I am humbled by your writing. Keep writing. It is your gift to all.

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    1. Oh, I'm sorry, friend! I hate when I hear that precious contributions have somehow vanished into thin air. Thank you, thank you for taking the time once again to tap out such words of encouragement. I am blessed to do life with you, even from afar ...

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'I want the people in my life to know that when they come to me, with whatever is on their mind or heart, they will be heard. I am dedicated to hearing the hearts of those around me.'
~ Adam McHugh, The Listening Life

Linda