Monday, August 25, 2014

Writing As Healing

The ink from this pen draws out the deadly infection that festers in me. As a poultice is placed on a snake bite to draw the venom out of the blood, the pen grabs and pulls out all of the ugly and spills it out on to the blank page. My canvas.
It is my catharsis, my own form of homeopathy. It is amoxicillin for the soul.
When my heart is heavy, my fingers ache to roll a pen between them. Like a sleep-deprived man craves the quiet of night, or a crying child longs for the hushing and cooing of his mother. Like the charcoal that's administered to a patient who has guzzled a bottle of pills, my heart whispers to me that all I need to be well is to write. Words are the agent that purge my soul of impurities.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” 
― Ernest Hemingway

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” 
― Maya Angelou

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Quotes About Depression

There are so many great quotes here regarding depression and the struggles that go along with it. I share these not to encourage you or myself to wallow in the struggle, but as a reminder that other people have felt what we feel. We are not the first and we certainly will not be the last. Before the link, however, a couple of my favorites:

“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.” 
― C.S. LewisThe Problem of Pain

“Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?” 
― John KeatsLetters of John Keats

“It's not all bad. Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing—they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me.” 
― Stephen Fry, Moab Is My Washpot

Which ones resonate with you?

My Too-personal Relationship With Depression

In the wake of Robin Williams' passing, depression has been on everyone's tongue. Is it really that bad? Is help available? At what point does a person decide that life is no longer a good option for them?
I have not been blogging lately. Still writing, but not blogging. But I've been thinking about blogging...when I could and would be forthcoming about my struggle with depression.
My friend, Janet, sent me a link yesterday:
In this candid talk about depression, the speaker talks about how he would come home and see his answering machine blinking and instead of being grateful that he had friends and was cared about, he was overwhelmed at the thought of having to call people back. In my own experience, it's not only the act of picking up the phone, but the act of feigning happiness and contentedness with life.
The toothpaste falls off the edge of the sink and there is a pit in my stomach that I will never have this house picked up.
The kids are fighting and I want to hide under the covers.
The kids are laughing and playing and I want to hide under the covers.
The sun rises and I grieve the turning of night in to day...the absence of sadness that sleep bestows on me is my only respite.
Noise hurts...physically pains me.
I isolate. Friends tell me they are hurt by my lack of reaching out to them, making plans with them, breaking plans with them.
I fold up in to myself.
I wake up in the morning and count the hours down until the day has finally passed and I can climb back in to bed. “I didn't want to wake up. I was having a much better time asleep. And that's really sad. It was almost like a reverse nightmare, like when you wake up from a nightmare you're so relieved. I woke up into a nightmare.” ― Ned Vizzini
If I had to give a visual image of what each minute feels like when I'm battling depression, I would tell you that it feels like I'm lying on the hard ground, barely propped on my elbows, army-crawling my way from one moment to the next through the gravel of life. There are days, where I see that picture of myself in my head and wonder how I will make it through the day.
I feel like a buoy in the water being thrashed by the waves. And every damn thing feels like a tidal wave. Every. Damn. Thing. A buoy is an object that floats in the water to show areas that are safe or dangerous. The water feels dangerous...when I desperately want it to feel placid.
For years, I did my best to present myself as flawless. Happy always. Constantly trusting in God. Accepting difficulties with grace. And it was exhausting. Because I am anything but flawless. And the more I grow in to myself, I'm okay with that. I would much rather be authentically broken than inauthentically perfect.
SSRIs have been helpful during the hard times and I have no shame about saying that I have needed the help. Therapy (frequently) has been a tremendous help. At one point, my therapist said, to me, "Y'know, Kendra, you need to get off your high-horse. You seem to have this perception that you are supposed to be perfect. Do you think you're perfect and not allowed to struggle? Do you think you are set apart from the human race? And more than that, do you think that you are above God's grace?" And that metaphorical albatross was set aloose.  
All of this to say, that I don't have the answers. I don't know why some of us suffer with depression and some of us don't. But I will say that I am certain many suffer in silence and complete isolation...never confiding in anyone about how painful life feels. And if you are one of those people, you are not alone.

“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.” 
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Monday, July 7, 2014

Dealing hope...

I am so inspired by this man's story of struggle and redemption.  Take a few minutes to read it and be encouraged by the promise of renewal.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The words written on the palm of my son's hand...

Another day chock full of regrets and wishing I could take those words that flew out of my mouth so freely and shove them back down my throat.
Having a kid that has special needs is so hard sometimes.  And I know that others have it so much harder than I do.
But the way that he responds when he is hurting is the very thing that fills me up with this anger that bubbles and spits until the fire is rampant and I can't put it out.
He left and I held my head in my hands and cried.
I picked him up at lunch time to tell him that, although he didn't have the right to speak to me that way, mom is an adult and has a responsibility to act like one.
He holds up his hand and shows me the inside of his palm where the words, "I feel sick," are written in sweaty, smudgy ink.  He looks at me with pools of water teetering in his eyes.  One blink and it will all come pouring down like a building being completely demolished in one fell swoop.
I take his hand and I turn it over in mine.  Those uncalloused hands that I admired the day he was born.  The valleys that have been forged between now and then...
On his ring finger, the word, "yes" is written.  On his index finger, the word, "no," and on his pinkie, "I don't know."
"I didn't feel like talking today, so I wrote words on my hands," he says looking down at his untied tennis shoes.
"That's a pretty creative way to avoid talking," I say.  "And good," I tease, "that you didn't write anything on your middle finger, or people might think you were flipping them off."  
He smiles wryly.  I take him by his shoulders, square him up to my face and look him in the eyes.
"Nobody has a right to yell at you.  Ever.  I'm sorry."
He tells me he forgives me.  We hug and get smoothies and french fries and talk about Indiana Jones and video games.
Yes.  We are that dysfunctional.  Saying hurtful words, crying, offering grace and asking forgiveness.
We are all of those things and I am painfully aware of the gamete of human emotions a single person can feel within the span of a single day.
The heart is always learning and re-learning and it is a very tiring sort of thing.
But I lay my head down tonight...forgiven, broken, a vessel being filled up with so much that I crack daily.
And tomorrow, we'll do it all over again.  Today, I hope we've learned to do it with less carelessness and greater grace.  
The beautiful is inextricably bound up in all of those gaping wounds.  I teach grace out of my own brokenness and redemption through my own failings.  
And that thing about beauty for ashes rings heavily in my chest and in my mind.  It's what I cling to.  What I hope for.  What I hold on to with white-knuckled hands so that the ugly doesn't get the prize that I am fighting so damn hard for.  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I never said I wasn't a hypocrite

For all of those who say they don't want anything to do with church or religious people because they are all hypocrites, it is true. 

How could it not be?  The church is a group of human beings, presumably striving for holiness.  A people hopelessly flawed and forever struggling against sin.  Of course, every single person who claims to believe in Jesus Christ commits a multitude of transgressions--it is who we are.  An imperfect people forever engaged in the daily struggle of becoming perfect.  Or how about just becoming better? 

So, when a friend texted me last week and said that there were a few openings for a two-day retreat put on by the Dominican Sisters, I hesitated.  

We go to church every week, our kids go to a Christian school and we say our prayers before dinner and bed.  I have always struggled, however, with my faith. 

I can remember asking my mom at ten years old, "What if I don't believe?" 

When I decided to convert to the Catholic faith, it wasn't because I was absolutely convinced that it was all true.  Rather, I felt that I was being called to have faith--to trust.  In John, chapter 6, Jesus asks the twelve apostles, "Do you want to leave too?"  And Simon Peter answers, "To whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life."  I heard Scott Hahn, a Catholic theologian speak on this scripture.  He said, Simon Peter didn't know any more than any one else, but he chose to put his faith in Jesus.

And that is where I find myself very often.  Putting one doubting foot in front of the other.  Making one decision of faith at a time...struggling always.

What I found at the retreat were so many beautiful women.  It was not what some might imagine.  Perhaps you might think that the people attending a retreat like that have it all together.  That they are holy and shake their heads at those who are not.  But it was nothing of the sort.  As the priest spoke compassionately about the struggle with sin, I watched women cry.  I watched heavy tears fall.  I witnessed women filled with humility and a desire to better themselves.  I saw that we are all trying so hard and often failing miserably.  And that is okay.  It is good to be vulnerable.  And it is good to receive God's grace.

The priest told a story of going to confession with a friend of his.  Afterward, his friend shared what the priest said to him, "My friend, I feel you have let me in to the parlor of your heart.  What is in the back closet?  The locked box?"  We all have those things and often keep them hidden very well.  But how freeing would it be to take off the mask and allow others to see us as we are?

And if they call us hypocrites, we will say, "Absolutely.  Would you expect anything less?"  I live a life that professes God through my actions and my words.  I also stumble, sin and endlessly contradict myself.  The woman that I am is in constant conflict with the woman that I desire to be. 

The story goes that St. Thomas' sister asked of him, "How do you become a saint?"
And he replied, "By willing it." 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fantastic Quote Friday

My children have the first stanza of this poem memorized because I say it so often and have often written it on our white board at home.  It is as much a reminder for me as it is for them.  These are beautiful words to live by.
Live fully and deliberately, my friends!

“Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.

Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in.
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with your old nonsense.

This new day is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on the yesterdays.” 

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Collected Poems and Translations

What is your favorite quote about beginning anew?