With as much stealth as I could muster, I made my way to the dilapidated building. I paused for a moment, unsure as to how I should proceed. The enemy was somewhere behind me, of this I was certain, and my hesitation gave fear the opening it needed. A feeling of dread swept over me, a certainty of imminent attack making my blood pulse. Spinning around, slashing with my knife, I encountered only empty air. I raised my weapon, mean and black, and perused the area…
I swore at my son the other day. Well, not exactly at him, more at his disability and how much work it puts on me. Even as the words flew from my lips, I knew I should be horrified. Ashamed of myself. Instead, all I felt was a bone-deep weariness.
I’m tired. So, so tired.
I’ve been at this homeschooling gig for over 15 years now. Most of those years have been a struggle with varying degrees of language disabilities. It’s hard. My youngest two, who are not learning disabled, have been given the dregs of my time, attention, and enthusiasm.
Today I am guest posting over at Me Too Moments For Moms.
When I saw these ladies were doing a series on depression, I immediately thought of this post. It is one of the earliest missives on this blog, but I dusted it off and asked Lisa if she could use it. As I polished it up, I was reminded anew that depression need not steal my joy. It is a message I need to revisit from time to time, and I hope it blesses some of you.
You are not alone!
Grace and peace to you–
Follow me over to Me Too Moments For Moms. Leave a comment and let us know you were there!
My husband is a pillow freak. To be fair, I now fall into that category too, but when we were newly married I didn’t get it. I mean, seriously, who needs four pillows to sleep comfortably? He did eventually convert me and, on this particular day, I was grateful for the over abundance of heavenly plushness gracing my bed.
Two days ago, I sank into my lush, soft nest and cried. This wasn’t a hopeless, overwhelmed, or angry crying bout. These were I’m-incredibly-weary-just-want-to-feel-better-not-sure-I-can-stand-it-anymore tears. It’s rare that I get to this point, but after three weeks of what is quite possibly the worst flare up of joint/muscle/nerve pain I’ve ever known, I was done in. I’m so very tired of hurting.
Her breathing was so shallow, I thought she was dead. Relief washed through me. Then her nose twitched and I felt a pang of guilt. She sighed and heaved herself to a standing position. Lurching like a small, furry drunkard across the cage floor, she settled beside the hanging water bottle. It seemed to take enormous energy; poking her tiny, pink tongue at the metal ball to release a drop of water.
We had seen that Xena, my daughter’s beloved pet rat, was declining. But on this day, it was as if some cosmic vitality switch had been flicked. Her life was at an end, she just didn’t know it yet. For two days we watched her lackluster breathing. Her movements were jerky and frightening. Listless, she looked at us with bulging eyes that bled.
Masquerade! Paper faces on parade…Masquerade! Hide your face, so the world will never find you! (Phantom of the Opera)
I glanced in the mirror, then quickly looked away. There was just too much raw reality looking back at me. I grabbed my makeup brush and furiously swept powder over the canvas of my face to hide what was there. Exhaustion. Vulnerability. Self-loathing. Pain.
A little more color around the eyes, I thought, so no one will actually look into them. I then dressed carefully. It would not do to give any clues to my true frame of mind. Perhaps a few shiny baubles to detract from my face, and…viola! The perfect mask with empty eyes stared at me from my reflection.
In my last post, I confidently shared my no-guilt lifestyle and how you too can be free of the shackles of this misplaced emotion. I have written several times about silencing the voice of your inner critic. Yet, this past week or so, I have felt more guilt and listened to more lies from my inner voice than I’m comfortable admitting to. Truth is, I didn’t even realize it was happening.
When I make my children forage for dinner because I just don’t feel like cooking, I do not feel guilty. When I need to back out of a commitment because I am ill, I am perfectly at peace. When I must say no to some good endeavor because my schedule is full enough, I feel good that I know my own limits.Those are all acceptable reasons to fall short of supermom status. No guilt. No inner struggle.
But this thing is different.
I have flare ups of pain. Pain in my hands, my toes, my knees, elbows, upper back muscles…well, just about everywhere. Not all at once usually, but it travels randomly and strikes with no warning. It usually starts out as aching in several joints, lasting for days or weeks. If it is a bad bout, it will progress to include muscles and even more joints. It is quite depressing when it lasts too long.
When it is so bad that I can’t get dinner on the table I am wracked with guilt. When I must back out of an engagement because I need to go home and lie down, I am ashamed. When I must say no because the thought of saying yes to one more thing makes me want to weep in exhaustion, I am disgusted with myself.
Recently, I was at the end of my endurance, feeling sick and overwhelmed. Then, like rays of sunlight bursting through a bank of thick, dark clouds, clarity struck. I could see what I was doing to myself. I could clearly hear the voice of my inner critic whispering lies, steeping me in guilt. How could I have missed this when I have written on these things so often? Why have I allowed that inner monologue to run rampant, creating this undeserved condemnation?
I’ve been pondering why this is different. Why do I feel such guilt and revulsion just because I hurt? I suppose there are a few things. For one, I have no control over this. These bouts come and go with no discernible pattern. I find this lack of control terribly embarrassing. Or perhaps it is pride. It is only pain, right? I should be strong enough to pull myself up and deal. After all, I know that many of you are coping with far more debilitating physical issues than mine. I think though, that most of all, it is fear. Fear that you, my friends, will think I am weak. Or crazy. The doctors can’t figure out what this is. My own hours of research have yielded no good leads. My illness is no illness at all, and this shames me.
So I hide. I put on my mask every morning and I smile. I make sure my children don’t know how much I hurt because I refuse to let them grow up with only memories of a sick mommy. But I have to confess, I get so very tired of pretending sometimes.
Masquerade! Every face a different shade…Masquerade! Look around—there’s another mask behind you! (Phantom of the Opera)
I know that some of you are wearing masks too. We mask our pain, our depression, our hard life situations and pretend that all is well. I suppose that to some extent, it is natural to put on the facade. In fact, I daresay that in some ways it is a good thing. After all, if we exposed our naked emotions at all times, it would alarm and distress others as much as if we were to go streaking past them. Maybe more so! But still, I find in myself a longing for more reality in my relationships.
It’s hard to be vulnerable, isn’t it? Many of us have been burned. Betrayed or misunderstood, we become unwilling to allow others into our private pains. Yet we desperately need to have someone come alongside and help. To be like Aaron and Hur, holding up Moses’ arms until the battle is finally won.
I finally let a few close friends in on my secret. I let them know that I was at the end of ‘being okay’. And guess what? Not a single one shunned me. No one told me I was being a whiner and to put my big girl panties on. None of them told me I must be crazy. Instead, they showed me what friendship is. They covered for me when I needed to go home. They watched my kids at the park so I could nap. They prayed for me and gave me hope that maybe I’m not such a loser after all.
What if we all tried a little more honesty? Now please hear me; I am not advocating emotionally flashing or verbally vomiting on people. But what if, when asked, “How are you?” you were to honestly answer. Would the sky fall if you admitted that you need a hug, or someone to pray with you? I think not.
Our loving Creator has put us together for a purpose. We are to walk together through this sometimes ugly and messy existence. Allowing others to safely bare the scars of living gives us opportunities to speak words of hope and life. By being vulnerable ourselves, we give others the opportunity to serve us in our need. Our burdens are lightened. True connection happens. Only then can we fully share in the beautiful moments. To feel the fullness of friendship. Ultimately, the world will look on, and know by our love that our God lives.
Lord, help me to end the masquerade. Give me the courage to set aside my pride and allow your people to lift me up when my strength fails me. Let me hear only your voice, and to not bear the unfounded shame and guilt that the enemy would heap upon my heart. Give me eyes to see your precious ones who are drowning in silence, and give me your love to lavish upon them. Let us show the world how this is done. Amen.
I do not want to write this post. In fact, for the past two weeks I have been hiding from God. Like Jonah fleeing from his mission to Nineveh, I have been desperately leaping aboard any ship that may distract me from plumbing the depths of this issue. And, also like Jonah, I have been swallowed up. Not by a whale, mind you, but that behemoth called depression. Like the stomach acids of that famed sea mammal, this depression eats into my mind and gives me no rest. Why this is so difficult for me has been a large part of my despondency and I will address that in a bit.
This is the final part in my short series regarding the words we speak. If you missed the other parts, you can read Words: The Heart’s Mirror here, and Words: The Effects of Verbal Vomit here. Now, on with our regular programming…
As I’ve been exploring this topic, I am seeing that it isn’t enough to guard the words that come from my lips, although that is important. But to simply leave it at that is to slap a band aid on a slashed artery. The well spring of my words is my heart, yes—but there is a middle man I have yet to address. My mind.
I live with a heart renewed by Jesus Christ. I must allow my heart to filter my speech. But if I am not conscious of what I am feeding my middle man, filtering my speech will be a constant struggle and I end up not being all that different from any one else on the planet.
“…Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8, NLT)
A steady diet of healthy input to the middle man is needed to keep my heart’s filter working optimally. Everything I allow into my consciousness will affect this: my conversations, my choice of entertainment, music. If I am not filling my mind with the words of Christ, with thoughts that are excellent and praiseworthy, then my filter breaks down and my words betray me.
Now this is not just an ABC formula: read your bible, don’t swear, listen exclusively to Christian music, and don’t watch R rated shows. Setting some parameters is good, but legalism and pride can so easily creep in and blind us. I’m thinking deeper. Those musings that we allow to run rampant in our minds, though we’d never dream speak them. Negative thoughts allowed free range, growing and becoming bloated. Left unchecked, they fester like a boil until the vileness seeps out in other areas of our speaking. Thoughts not taken captive unto the obedience of Christ will degrade our heart’s filter just as much as a steady diet of foul and violent entertainment.
And herein lies my reluctance to write this. How can I tell all of you to be mindful of your words, to perpetually renew your heart with God’s Word, and reign in your thought life when mine is currently in shambles? My middle man has been gorging on unhealthy fare. My time in scripture has been minimal. I obsess on my critical thoughts of others. My inner critic has been resurrected in full violent force and is gleefully wreaking havoc in my mind. My middle man has grown fat and complacent. He sits there stuffing himself with junk food and belching vile words from my lips. And it is entirely my fault. I am the one choosing to feed him these things.
By confessing this, I must commit to change. To repent. A word that sends shudders of disgust up the spine of the unbeliever. What an archaic expression. Even as a Christ-follower the word rankles my rebellious nature. But I know that it simply means to turn. To turn from what I am doing that is negatively affecting my relationship with the Lover of my soul. To actually put His words into practice and become different than the average bear.
I want the filtering process to be so easy that I no longer have to think about it. I want the struggle to end. I want my words to bring healing, promote instruction, and be like a gift to the receiver.
I believe it’s time for my middle man to go on a diet. How about yours?
“A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash.” (Proverbs 15:14, NLT)