The Illness of Mental Horror: Sketching At Coffee Demons

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Or is it the horror of mental illness? Sometimes, something as simple as your morning cup of coffee can evoke a sensation of horror—given the right mental state.

I don’t hear much in the way of a conversation about mental illness, particularly in Christian circles. After all, if we supposedly have the Holy Ghost living inside of us, somewhere, working something “good” in and through us, then I can understand why, for some, there doesn’t seem to be much room for mention of anything as dark as mental illness.

But I’m particularly interested in a conversation about those of us who are what I will call The Functionally or Marginally Un-Well. You know who I’m talking about. Perhaps you or someone you know fits this description. You (or they) are, or may be, a believer, a professing Christian. They manage to hold down a job, go to the store, talk on the phone, mingle with friends, go to movies, produce creative work, etc. They manage to keep up an appearance of mental stability, of wellness. I’m only able to write about this because I’m confessing here. I’m one of those “Functionally Un-Well” people. I manage to keep up appearances, on good days at least. I’ve never been institutionalized. I am a Christian, whatever that means—I hold to the creeds, eat and drink Christ’s body and blood, and cry out to God in my utter helplessness. I’m a confirmed Anglican, although I’ve never felt so adrift, so un-confirmed if you will, as I do now.

Point is, I don’t hear a lot of conversation in the church about those of us who walk about as functionally-unwell. That could also just be me. If I’m confessing to my own unwellness, I am more than likely looking at any given picture through a distorted lens, and hearing things through a distorted filter. But I’m not aware of a larger conversation about this, among believers. Why would I even want a conversation? Because these illnesses spread into every crevice of one’s life—including one’s spiritual walk, one’s occupation/vocation, one’s ability to earn a living and even to thrive as a human being in the world at all. I’ve cancelled shows as a singer/songwriter in my deep anxiety and fear. I’ve lost well-paying job contracts and turned away potential illustration and design clients. I’ve ruined relationships. I’ve stared over into the abyss of divorce several times in my 12 years of marriage.

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How does one crawl out of one’s own head?

There are your blatantly serious mental illnesses, and those come in all shapes sizes and degrees. These being the textbook disorders that make great movies. I’m not so much talking about those—the kinds that ultimately land well-meaning people in hospitals. I’m talking here about the illnesses of depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsivity and paranoia—to name a few. I suppose any one of those modes of being really has a quiet, subversive part to play in the later development of those more overt disorders that writers and movie makers latch onto. For now, for this article, I’m really thinking about the quiet, day-in day-out weight of something like a deep, unrelenting depression. Something suffocating and inescapable like oppressive anxiety.

Those are the bedfellows capable of taking one’s morning coffee ritual and turning it into a journey across gnarled fingers, crushing depths, need for oxygen, layer upon layer of mangled scales and sharp protrusions of thought/anti-thought. Isolation. Oblivion. Where lifting a pencil to touch the fibers of a sketchpad feels like an overwhelming journey, an immensity of hard-fought effort.

I suppose it’s a redemptive thing that in me, an illustrator, this journey casts me back into the wilderness of the sketchbook time and time again. The Spirit drives me there. Or whatever. But with that comes this breed of functional dis-functionality that the course of my life has been marked by—and I’m not sure where to take that. What does one do when neither extreme—neither prayer nor medication—seems to bring any lasting relief?

 

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36 Comments

  1. Sally

    Ah, the Body of Christ. This is why we must share our lives with each other.

    There are people in my life for whom it is my job to make sure they get out of bed in the morning — because sometimes depression says that’s not a necessity.

    There are people in my life that I must remind that the voices in their head are telling them lies and half-truths.

    And there are people in my life who remind me that I am valued and loved — because I have voices, too.

    You ask, “What does one do when neither extreme—neither prayer nor medication—seems to bring any lasting relief?” — We share a little bit of ourselves with someone, and they say, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.”

  2. Jamie

    “What does one do when neither extreme—neither prayer nor medication—seems to bring any lasting relief”

    You do this. You talk about it. Then, others will tell you their story. It may not bring lasting relief, but it may bring enough. I say this because that’s what I think the psalms mean.

    I wonder what church would be like if we made our worship more like the psalms. I wonder if it wouldn’t be a greater help to all.

    If the psalms are supposed to be a map to how to pray (publicly!) to the Father, then they are the benchmark of human experience and NOT the extreme.

    That benchmark sounds more like your experience than that of a “well” person, whatever that it. They are filled with fear, anxiety, paranoia, and despair. For every jubilant psalm, there are two laments. There are some without a “turn” toward obvious hope (39, 88), some of extreme anguish (137), and some that express a longing to break free from despondency, but also an inability to do it (42, 43). There are psalms of external fear (3), psalms that ache for hope (27).

    Your feeling of no relief when you pray is even expressed there (22). And then there is Jesus’ quoting psalm 22. If we read this right on Good Friday, we should hear a man screaming, and mostly from mental anguish – not physical pain.

    It’s strange, isn’t it, that our worship doesn’t look like the worship in the psalms? I think we are afraid of the internal reality they display. It seems out of control.

    That’s our own cultural peculiarity, likely; our failing to trust God’s word and submit to him in our worship.

    Praying for you. For relief to come often enough to sustain you, for the church to walk beside you, for the Lord to meet you in your suffering, and for the help you will give through your work and your honesty.

  3. Anon

    Just wanted to say… I was unsuccessfully treated for severe depression for 3 years, and prayer, diligence, study, and medication all failed me. Turns out, I’m bipolar, but called “type II” since it’s less visible than normal bipolar disorder. Sometimes, the manic phases only make me look more functional than usual, in face. So I’m not trying to get in the way, but if you’re really struggling for several years with no improvement, you may have been misdiagnosed in the past and have something deeper going on.

  4. DougMc

    Thanks, Chris. I agree that this is a conversation that has been largely missing from the body. I grew up with a paranoid schizophrenic grandmother drifting in and out of my life, her behaviors frightening at times and her destruction of relationships disturbing, and for a season during college wondered if I was walking some razor edge myself, but by the grace of God that particular bullet didn’t have my name on it. Still, I’ve lived my life with impulses, compulsions, intrusive thoughts, etc., and with long seasons of dark clouds obscuring daylight, and I’ve watched other family members wrestle with serious anxiety and panic attacks. I think Sally is right in her prescription. The only relief is in honest community. Your willingness to be vulnerable and thereby open that door for others is no small thing. It is one of the necessary foundational works of the Body of Christ and something that can only be done by the broken, for the broken.

  5. Pete Peterson

    @zpeteman

    This is a great post, Chris, and asks some great questions.

    The responses here have been excellent as well. I believe community and honesty is the best defense against this kind of darkness. There are people in my own life whom I constantly have to remind that the voices of those who know and love us are infinitely more reliable than the voices in our heads. When we retreat from the people who can remind us of what is really true, we leave ourselves at the mercy of the voices who desperately want to seduces us with lies.

  6. Peter B

    Exactly what Sally said.

    I’m seeing a lot more discussion of mental illness in Christian circles lately, and I’m glad. Not “happy” glad, but more like relieved — that people are waking up to the reality that our bodies are groaning along with the rest of creation, and for many that means the brain part of the body.

  7. Melinda

    I’m seeing/hearing more hope that this conversation about mental illness and faith (Christian faith in particular) is becoming more common and influential for the good.

    “Mental illness” is such a vague, non-descript, society shame laden term. However as one who has a stroke impaired mother and neurologically impaired young daughter – (both of who function in the unwell but not severely disabled “categories”) I live first hand the impact of brain health on human experience and relationship.

    I believe that neuro/physiological functioning is the foundation of human experience. This is a complex and difficult idea for many to consider and integrate with their faiths. Impaired cognitive functioning (like developmental disabilities, TBI, autism, addiction, etc.) challenge many of the modern day faith pillars – such as free will, faith, works righteousness, grace, etc. Those of us who live the impaired realities and functioning of mental illness know that if God’s work and love is real – then it exists equally in the midst of the broken flesh of illness and addiction. The body of Christ needs to cling to the Holy Spirit in such a way that we loose all our sacred cows and preconceived ideas – to allow God to work and speak so that all can be loved and welcomed into the presence of Holy. Mental illness is not a sin – but it is one of the broken realities that our world holds.

    It’s time for the body of Chrisr to step forward and humbly share and speak of the presence and work of a God amidst the broken flesh of this world. Thank you for offering your voice.

  8. Pete Peterson

    @pete

    Funny thing-recognizing/admitting to one’s own struggles with mental illness, anxiety, depression doesn’t make that struggle any less a reality, or any less difficult. There’s some part of one’s self that thinks, “If I just share my struggles, they’ll evaporate. I’ll feel better. I’ll behave differently. I’ll ‘act normally.'” But no. It doesn’t change anything. A person diagnosed with cancer doesn’t experience physical healing once they share that diagnosis. However, the vulnerability-and your willingness to listen/respond-it still helps in some deeper, mystical way. If that’s how the Body is supposed to function, then I’m grateful for that much.

  9. Kelly

    Greatly appreciate the article/beginning of a good conversation. I have worried too about this dynamic in the modern American church. How many have hidden behind a mask for so long they don’t even know who they are? But how to be brave and honest in a place where being “functionally-unwell” is not acceptable (at church, anyway)?

  10. Aaron Wolcott

    Chris, thank you for your courage letting us into your life in this post. As someone who from time to time gets ambushed in the back alleys of my mind, it was encouraging to see a conversation started on this topic. To echo what so many have already said here, I think that community and having others who will speak truth into our lives when we can’t hear it for ourselves is so important.

    Your post also reminded me of a section on suffering in the book “Called”, by Mark Labberton, that I recently read for a class I’m taking. In it he described suffering as more than just circumstance. He described it as part of some people’s vocation, particularly artists who often look at the world through a more intense lens than others. While I don’t think that such an acknowledgement allows room to wallow in our suffering, I do think it is worth noting that artists often do suffer, especially in their minds, because of the stark view they can see of the world. That, I think, is where community comes in; as artists create, with words or music or pencil, they need others who will continually remind them of truth and beauty and resurrection hope. That is what the Rabbit Room is for me – a place where I am reminded that while the world is broken, there is still joy and hope and laughter (I’m sure there is an appropriate Buechner quote about laughter here but I’m not coming up with it at this moment).

    Again, thank you for your post and courage in posting it. Blessings upon you.

  11. Loren Warnemuende

    Thank you for sharing this, Chris. And I really appreciate the comments, too.

    I am continually humbled by the close family and friends in my life who have lived with this “functioning un-wellness” and worse. From my perspective they often shine brightly with Christ because they know him and his suffering, and yet they keep moving forward and hanging on to Him. I know they don’t feel it or see this light, but the world around them does. I do.

  12. B.

    “…A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…” A man who wept to the point of blood, pleading that the cup should pass. But, a man who submitted to the Father’s will because at the end of the suffering, after all the grief and horror, there would be victory.
    The sharing helps by giving us space to breath. Just a few seconds of air sometimes is all we need to believe that someday we will be above, even come to the point of walking on, the waters which seem to surround and enclose. He doesn’t ask us to conquer on our own, or even promise that in this life we will – simply that someday, somehow, someway, it will be right….

    “It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.”
    ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

    “The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”
    ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

    Not, that those words are a magic spell which will suddenly make everything right. But, they are true. And believing that there are things such as truth is sometimes what gets one through the next ten hours, minutes, or even seconds.

  13. Jennifer Hildebrand

    Thank you for your bravery in sharing your journey. And there is so much encouragement here.

    For me depression and anxiety are cyclical, and when the dark times come, I’m always reminded of this quote from Kierkegaard: “What is a poet? An unhappy man who hides deep anguish in his heart, but whose lips are so formed that when the sigh and cry pass through them, it sounds like lovely music…. And people flock around the poet and say: ‘Sing again soon’ – that is, ‘May new sufferings torment your soul but your lips be fashioned as before, for the cry would only frighten us, but the music, that is blissful.”

    This feels true for so many kinds of creatives. I don’t know if that gives the struggle purpose or not, but it often feels accurate. And often great works are born out of the battle. I don’t know if it’s a kind of brokenness within us or just an intentional carving and shading in our creation, but it sure feels like brokenness when those times come. And, yes, community is crucial, especially the right kind of community — those who really “get it” are often in the fight themselves. Maybe the best we can do is to try to ebb and flow together — the one who is up lifting the one who is down and then the converse in time. I’m just not sure.

    Again, thank you for your transparency. Honest conversation on this topic is a blessing to so many.

  14. Joshua

    Chris,

    Thank you so much for your courage and honesty. As another who often feels functionally unwell I really resonated with and took encouragement from your sharing.

    The thing I have been thinking about lately, which despite sounding like a downer I actually find quite encouraging, is that the healing which we are ultimately looking for is not in this life but in the next. I’m not saying that we don’t seek partial healing in this life and receive and rejoice in receiving whatever healing God sees fit to bless us with, but my ultimate hope is not in finding the right magic socks which will transform me, but in the eschaton when God will re-form me free from sin and brokenness.

    I’m not even sure why I find this so encouraging, but part of it, I think, stems from the fact that this awareness decouples my hope from the day to day one-step-forward-two-steps-backward process of seeking healing and recovery. If my worst day does not detract ultimately from what God is doing, and if my best day doesn’t compare to what he will do, that is profoundly hopeful.

    At least I find it so. I hope this encourages you, and I am praying for you.

    Thanks for sharing.

  15. redheadkate

    I think often of The Emperor’s New Clothes. It took one person speaking up before everyone else was willing to admit what they all saw. But rather than pointing out the Emperor’s nakedness, the harder thing is revealing our own.

    Thanks for this post. I struggle with this. So do some of my family members. We need more conversations like this.

  16. Janns Barber

    I love that you shred your monster drawings with this article. They caught my attention when you first shared them on FB. I agree with Kate, we need more conversations like this. Thanks for your vulnerability.

    The voices can come from several places, good and bad. Sometimes the things we heard in childhood, from well meaning folks who loved us, are the ones that torment us the most.

    I don’t believe there is a final “cure” for many of us. In a way, that makes me think it’s a bit like hunger. We ask Jesus to provide what we need for the day and the next morning we start over again. Some days there’s plenty of food to go around, some days we’re only given a few morsels, but perhaps it’s still enough to get by.

    Peace and light to you, Chris.

  17. Cara Strickland

    I love this. I too am one of these functionally unwell souls. I was very afraid to admit that at first because I didn’t want people to think I was crazy or unsafe to be around. I didn’t want to be more isolated than I already felt. I didn’t want to tell church people that I was in *gasp* therapy. But when I started to be honest, both online and in person, I found myself not nearly as alone as I thought. Now the conversation is easier to start, and less scary. Lovely to have you starting it here.

    (If you’d like to read something I wrote about this, it’s here: http://carastrickland.com/2014/10/06/making-peace-with-my-mental-illness/)

  18. Josh

    “How does one crawl out of one’s own head?”

    You don’t, at least while you’re awake! Sleep is usually something of a vacation from the potentially tyrannical self. While you’re awake, you can sit with your head in silence, and rest in God.

    Even more importantly: continue to learn how to Love yourself. Be the Good Samaritan to your own Soul. Practice self-compassion.

    Also, you might stop referring to yourself as helpless before God. An Anglican bishop I know calls this “slave-talk.” I ain’t nothin’, Massa, I ain’t nothing.” Yes you are. Connect with the immensity and Goodness of your own Soul, a Soul created by God in Beauty, and made for even more Goodness and Beauty.

    Continue to be the Lover you always have been and are now. It’s OK to Love, even and especially when it hurts. There is nothing you can do and nothing you have to do to earn Love- so lavish it freely upon yourself as you always have tried to do to others. As the hymn says, let Christ’s hands become your own- and use those precious hands to let Love flow into your own Heart. Remember to Love yourself as you Love neighbor. The most Beautiful thing about you is that you have a Good Heart that orients towards the Good. That’s all God asks: that we make a little effort. I know you do far more than that, and you always have. As Gandalf said, “come back to the Light.” And if you can’t do this now, know that God is with you in the darkness. As Mechtild of Magdeburg said, God is there even when the memory of the Light goes out.

    We’re over thirty now, James. Let’s let grace find us again. God is still sitting at the lunch table with us, watching Mr. Turley twirl around with a chocolate milk carton, “writing our last paragraph” alongside us. As Meister Eckhart said: “God hasn’t gone anywhere- it’s we who have gone out for a walk.”

    And when your Soul is in pain, know that it is a sign of Life and vitality- a sign of the Holy Spirit. People with large Souls suffer in this World. As Aslan said, “all things die- even me.” Everything suffers too- even God. Like God, move towards your own pain (phil. 2:8-10) rather than away from it. That is compassion, the ability “to suffer with.” Your Heart is not so fragile a thing that it will completely break. Love always resurrects. Trust that Love, the most intimate name of God, is limitless, and wait to be proven wrong. The answer to the experience of less-than-Love is not to recoil into even less Love- it is to radiate even more Love. When you can’t go any further, collapse into God. When you have the strength to act, don’t stop, and don’t ever give up.

    And always care for yourself, as much as you care for others. Don’t leave yourself. Stay with yourself, and treat yourself as you would an innocent and pure four-year old child- in other words- hold yourself as God holds you now, and always has- with an unending, undying, unalterable Love. There is nothing you can do wrong- not ultimately. That’s unconditional Love. So find the courage, here and now, to Live fully and to Love wastefully (John 10:10). Be happy, when you can, as often as you can. For Life is Good, and meant to be a blessing.

    I Love you as I Love myself- Josh

    7X7

  19. Ryan Sprague

    I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else mention this in the comments so I thought I would mention where I seen this conversation occuring in a room other than the rabbit’s. Randy Alcorn (Heaven, Safely Home, etc,) endures and writes about his own seasons of being functionally un-well, often referring to Spurgeon’s writings about the same dark seasons. http://www.epm.org/blog/tag/depression/

  20. helyn

    Great post and conversation/comments. I do think ‘mental illness’ is more apparent in so called creatives – mulled over this for years (of living at half-mast) and I see an element of prophetic-ness in the seeing beyond the surface part and parcel for creativity. But who wants to dwell in tortured-artist-ness? David’s psalms have been mentioned: now there’s a poet-prophet- man after God’s heart … I suspect if he was about in today’s church he’d be labelled a drama queen. And maybe gagged…
    The following links are to RR podcasts that gave some light into the tunnel I was dwelling at the time: the first two gave me chills and tears of laughter at the same time, the third a bigger perspective and hope for our voices….

    http://www.rabbitroom.com/podcast/episode-35-part-i-recovery-through-song/
    http://www.rabbitroom.com/podcast/episode-35-part-2-recovery-through-song/

    http://www.rabbitroom.com/2013/03/episode-38-art-in-the-kingdom/

  21. helyn

    I also remember an early RR post from Jason Grey about how a friend hugged in for a full five minutes. Just to let him feel….
    a friend like that is worth more than his weight in gold…

  22. Pete Peterson

    @pete

    I greatly appreciate the “functionally un-well” distinction you make in this post. Yes, I think Christian circles (at least online) are having more open conversations about depression, anxiety, and mental illness, and I am grateful for that. I’ve always felt a strong empathy for those who silently struggle, who you wouldn’t know were depressed just by looking at the outside.

    But personally, I’ve struggled with sometimes being on the borders of that world — not in a debilitating state, but recognizing the darker, “un-well” times and not knowing if it’s okay to call it depression. I’d tell myself “Oh, suck it up. It’s not that bad. There are people who have it far, far worse.” I wonder if so many people think depression = severely debilitating disease (the stuff that makes good movies) that now those of us on the fringes are nervous to talk about it? I’m thankful to say most of the time I’m not in this place, but what do you do when those times of unexplained sadness, anxiety, or apathy come?

    So I guess… thanks for opening up this conversation here, and reminding us that the “mental illness” takes many forms. Sharing doesn’t make the pain go away, but it can ease the burden, I think.

  23. john

    I hesitated to comment since I firmly believe that influence is earned most often by personal intimate contact, but your article struck a chord that made me hope that though I am a complete stranger, I might be able to light a candle in the darkness. Being a missionary in Africa for 12 years I have faced my share of darkness, personally and with other believers. I have passed through experiences of mental, physical, and spiritual… ‘horror’ is how you might put it. It has taught me a lot about dark places.
    Though brevity is not my gift, this should be a comment not a book. Though we in the ‘West’ love to sub-divide our lives into neat rooms of influence – spirit, soul, body- where little, if any, affect is connected between the parts, this view forgets that we were created a ‘whole’ person. That the fire in the spirit room leads to smoke in the others, and a flood in the body can mean water damage in the soul. What I am seeking to convey is that all three parts must be maintained, as they can have great effect on the whole. I have had times as a missionary where I was so emotionally stressed as to be physically ill, so spiritually attacked as to be emotionally paralyzed.
    Check each part: spiritual, internal, and external. Deal with any footholds that might give place to the devil. Ask if it might be spiritual warfare. (At times I have faced fears and dread that have been so strong that they produced the feeling of being physically sick). Soul- the control center of this tangled mess of emotions, will, and thoughts- seems to be the mind. Body- is there something that can be changed either in life-style, habit, or health?
    Though we are one house with three connected rooms, the throne room is still the spirit. I have witnessed sufferers refuse to be limited by their circumstances, no matter how dark the hole, spiritually, emotional, or physically.
    They have learned that speaking truth pushes back the darkness. I have had moments here where only the candle light of a single verse held in faith was the hope that passed me through oppressive nights. Thank you for being honest. Though honesty seems treacherous, it’s the quickest way to truth. The hardest things I have had to do is tell the ones I love that I struggle and admit the darkness that is inside. But then amazingly the light grows as we speak the truth together.
    Thanks for reading,
    From a reader working in dark places

    ***Just a link to a book that might be a blessing***

    http://www.amazon.com/One-Thousand-Gifts-Fully-Right/dp/0310620856/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=

  24. Just me

    I keep coming back to this and trying to write a comment, and then not posting anything. It isn’t because I have nothing to say, but because there is too much and I simply don’t have the ability to express what I mean in words. Or perhaps I just lack the courage to write them, knowing that there are actual people out there who might read them.

    I know the struggle. While I would never have thought to make a drawing like that, I can look at it and instantly understand… my coffee looks like that sometimes too. Right now I’m in a time where somehow my best friends look like strangers and I can’t feel connected to anyone, even God. For me, depression is something that comes and goes, and sometimes is more severe than others. But when it is happening, it can last anywhere from about a month to several years, and it changes EVERYTHING. As you said, there is nothing in my life that is untouched or untainted by it. Despite trying many different approaches for dealing with it, I still can’t name a single thing that I can do to stop the depression from happening or end it more quickly when it comes. I have only found things that help me endure it and hopefully avoid making it worse while I wait for the night to end and the sun to rise again. So far, it always has. The depression does end eventually. It also returns just as consistently, but at least someday I have the promise that it will stop and everything will be set right, including me and my brain. I’m waiting for that day with what is sometimes a rather desperate hope.

    But what I really wanted to comment on was something you said, not in the original post, but the follow up comment. I find it really true… sharing about depression doesn’t make it stop. Several people have said I should talk about it more, that it will help somehow. They don’t seem to understand that talking about it hurts, sometimes intensely. It is hard and it doesn’t come naturally. My natural response is to hide weaknesses, especially really big ones that I can’t seem to do anything to change and expect people to react badly to. I can’t see any specific benefit to talking. It doesn’t actually solve anything. It doesn’t stop the depression and there is rarely anything that someone else can do to help me. They can’t change the way I feel, and often it upsets them if they know. Plus I’m afraid that even the people who love me will not be able to handle walking with me through this over and over and over, without becoming frustrated or burned out or deciding that I must be doing something to make it keep repeating. A cost/benefit analysis says that telling people just doesn’t make sense.

    And yet…
    There is something in this that I do not understand. Perhaps it is something like Aslan’s “deeper magic” or just something too intangible for my mind to grasp. I’m finding as the years go by that God is getting increasingly insistent and forceful in getting me to talk about the things I have kept secret. The times I have tried to do that (badly, I must add… I know that people didn’t really understand and I couldn’t explain) haven’t resulted in any breakthroughs or lasting relief. But sometimes they have provided a little bit of “daily bread,” enough to keep me going just a little bit longer while I wait for daylight to return.

    I’m sorry to hear that you are struggling and I will be praying for you. Your willingness to talk about this has challenged me. Perhaps I need to be talking to someone again… and posting here is probably a good start, even though I am not brave enough to put my name on it at this point.

  25. Emily

    I have said for years, “Who protects me from myself? I can stop talking about ‘it,’ but ‘it’ never stops going on in my head.”
    Thank you.
    Those of us who are functionally unwell need this safety.

  26. Amy

    What, you too??

    “Marginally un-well”…thank you for verbalizing this vague feeling of not-quite-rightness hovering at the peripheries of thought and reason.

  27. Pete Peterson

    @pete

    Again, I say-thank you, each of you-for bothering to read and to respond. I’m humbled, grateful and in the process of learning/gleaning from each of you as you share, as well. Perhaps the Enemy did not foresee some of what surely must be his handiwork being dragged out and discussed in such a way as to be a great comfort and benefit to a few members of the Body? Maybe some of The Shepherd’s sense of humor/irony, in His dealings between that Wolf and we sheep.

  28. JamesDWitmer

    Chris,

    I’m coming back to this post, late, because I just have to thank you for writing this.

    When you tell us what faithfulness – the most simple faithfulness and hope – have cost you; yet you’re still on your feet, you inspire me to face my worst days with just a glimmer of the courage you’re forced to learn.

    You also remind me that we look for a King and a kingdom, where joy writes the songs and the innocent sing them. That kingdom is coming, and it’s not just a nice thought – man, how desperately we all need it. The hands of the king are the hands of a healer.

  29. Beck

    Hello, Chris.
    I’ve been perusing the Rabbit Room archives and came across your post. I’ve asked myself that question: “How does one crawl out of one’s own head?” many times, and your description of a “quiet, day-in day-out weight of something like a deep, unrelenting depression” reminded me of one particular period of intense functional un-wellness that I experienced a while ago. During that time, I clung to three things. I thought I’d share them here so that perhaps they could be of some encouragement. The first was something Ann Voskamp said: “the greatest triumphs are always our most solitary ones, and all great triumphs begin with the decision to get out of bed.” The second was Zephaniah 3:17, “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” And the third was Romans 8:35-39: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all things, we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present or the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

    Also, as I contemplated your words and my own experiences I came to a realization I’ve never really clarified to myself before: that bottomless pit of depression and despair I felt I was trapped in has now become a passage I travel through on my way to understanding another person’s suffering. Does that make sense? I mean that having lived through cycles of being functionally un-well, I’m now able to empathize and respond to others going through similar experiences in ways I wouldn’t have before, in ways I wish others had responded to me at that time. It sounds very obvious and straight forward now that I see it typed out, but having this realization has made me see that the Lord kept the promise he makes to all of his followers, and did indeed work that dark time into something good.

    Just Me – I say a loud and resounding YES to everything you said about sharing with others. I too find it very difficult to share with others, for all the reasons you mentioned, and it’s something that God is teaching me to do more of.

    Thank you for sharing this, Chris. Hold fast to what is beautiful and good, to those moments when you’re reminded of the light. You are not alone, and are being thought of and prayed for.

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