I haven’t written in a long time. You know, the name of this blog is “Bare Ash”, but I don’t think I’ve been very Bare. I think I’ve covered myself up with many things. Most of what I’ve written here has been about some concept outside of myself. Fertility charting, political issues, religious issues. All of those things are good things to be talking about, sure. But if I’m being really honest with myself, writing about things OUTSIDE is easier than writing about what’s going on INSIDE. And writing about things OUTSIDE is not why I started writing in the first place.
Outside is easy. I can point my finger so easily at you. And you. And you. I can look out and see all of you hypocrites messing up. I can look out and criticize racism and bad religion.
But this past week, my insides came pouring out. And I want to tell you about it. I want to be bare.
I don’t think it was a coincidence that so much happened in my insides during Holy Week, the week leading up to Resurrection Sunday. Last week, Palm Sunday, I was refreshed by a really great church service where the pastor talked about spring cleaning. It’s a tradition during Holy Week to deep clean your house, in an act of preparing a way for New Life to enter. The act is meant to help us open our hearts to God’s spring cleaning. The pastor explained that we all have racism and bad religion and hypocrisy inside of us. He pointed out, gently (that’s crucial in a pastor), a fact we’ve all known – it’s easier to throw stones than to notice our own sin. But that’s what Jesus asks us to do. I thought, yeah, I want that. Let’s do some spring cleaning.
Wednesday, Eric & I had a fight about who knows what. It was just a normal marriage communication breakdown, but it sent me reeling. I couldn’t go sleep next to him. So, I stayed up and journaled. The only words that came out onto the page were dark, horrible things that I felt about myself. Bad wife. Absent friend. Spiritually blah. Addicted to TV and my phone. Busy. Unkind. Closed off. Isolated. I was so broken inside. So full of death. Worthlessness. Hopelessness. My insides were showing, and they stunk.
I went to my counselor the next day. Maundy Thursday. The day Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. I told her about the journaling. And I cried for the full hour session, unable to really explain how horrible I felt. She explained that the death inside of me has a name: depression. She strongly suggested that my struggle can be helped with a physical change. That while the cognitive therapy we’ve done, trying to change some of the thought patterns & beliefs inside of me, will continue to be crucial, the depression may not ever be fully treated without a biological change. She had me call my doctor to set up an appointment to be prescribed with some kind of antidepressant. Making that call seriously took a full year of therapy. I’m the type of person that doesn’t go to the doctor for medicine until I’ve spent 4 sleepless nights coughing up a lung. I’m the type of person that does everything in my own power to fix whatever’s wrong with me, because I caused the problem somehow. If I’m sick, it’s because I didn’t wash my hands enough. If I’m depressed, it’s because I haven’t been exercising, I haven’t been reading good books, I haven’t been healthy enough… I believe I don’t deserve help if I caused the problem. I should fix it myself. I should be able to fix it myself. My counselor says most of the things I believe are actually things that depression has convinced me of. I haven’t had the doctor’s appointment yet. I have about a million apprehensions about being “prescribed”. Maybe I’ll write on that another time. It’s notable to explain, for the purpose of this blog, that the really yucky nasty stuff inside of me is a holistic nastiness. I’m about to tell you about some of the resurrection I experienced this Easter, but it’s important to note (for myself and for those of us struggling with depression) that this disorder is not just an issue that can be solved spiritually. Depression can be treated holistically, with medicine, cognitive therapy & maybe spirituality, whatever that means for each of us. I’m still working on embracing all of those components of treatment. But, for now, I’m going to tell you about the good stuff that happened spiritually, aware that my depression hasn’t been fully treated… yet.
Good Friday, I had a bunch of work to do. So, I felt fine. Busy. Distracted. On Saturday, I had another breakdown. I couldn’t function without crying. Eric & I sat down to make some videos for a client, and he noted that I looked miserable. I screamed and cried and finally calmed down enough to explain that I FEEL MISERABLE. I feel like a bad wife… a bad musician… I felt like everything I do is bad. I told him to tell me it wasn’t true. To remind me who he fell in love with. Because I’ve forgotten. In the course of this breakdown, and him telling me more about who I am and why he loves me, I realized something really important… I REALLY don’t remember the good parts of who I am. I could only think of terrible things to write in my journal and terrible things to think about myself because that’s all I’ve really noticed for a while. Depression does that. But life circumstances do that, too. The choices I’ve made in response to hurt has done that. And I started to ask, “Why are my walls so high? Why is my heart so hard?”
The last couple of years have been a little tricky. After graduating college 3 years ago, I decided to stay in Worcester and dedicate myself to a church community that I really, really loved. It turned out (as it always does) that the community was much more broken than I thought (as they always are, THEY ARE PEOPLE!!!). After all of my college friends moved to different places, many people in the church community started moving and leaving, too. In the course of 6 months, the closest friends I had all lived in 5 different corners of the world. Some people got really mad at me for dating Eric. Some people got really mad at the church for a million different things. Everyone was pretty upset and broken and hurting, and a lot changed. I walked in with an open and bare heart, and REALLY quickly covered up. Hardened up. Began protecting myself. Building walls. Those years culminated with us leaving the church and the community 6 months ago. In those 6 months, my walls haven’t gotten STRONG and IMPENETRABLE. I have successfully and somewhat purposefully isolated myself, in the hopes that being alone means I’ll never be left, never be disappointed, never be so broken by broken people again.
During this year’s Lent, I think I heard 5 different sermons or talks about forgiveness and soft-heartedness. That was annoying.
Spring cleaning is annoying. I mean, who really wants to get down on their hands and knees and scrape the dirt from the corners of the house? I certainly don’t.
Like I said, the voices inside of me speaking death are the voices of depression. However, I have to admit, I’ve certainly not starved them. I’ve fed them with my isolation. I’ve fed them in their safe, dark place and encouraged them to believe that other people are bad and painful and mean and don’t trust them and stay way and stay alone and stay hurt… I’ve learned that depression gets louder when we are all alone. Depression really likes when we have no other voices getting in. I gave it the stage. I gave it a megaphone and silenced everyone else trying to get in.
This Saturday, I was overwhelmed with death. I stayed up late the night before Easter watching The History Channel’s The Bible miniseries. Right around midnight, a (very white) Jesus was nailed to the cross and screamed at God. I screamed at God. I felt that bloody, deathly cross inside of my own heart. I felt the nails piercing through me, with each horrible belief I’ve held about myself. Bad wife. Horrible friend. Worthless. Hopeless. Jesus was nailed to the cross. He felt it. He knew. He knows what it is to be human in this deathly, violent world. And he screamed at God. Why have you forsaken me? Why have you let death win? WHERE ARE YOU?
And then he rose from the dead.
He rose from the dead.
The story wasn’t over.
All day Sunday, I heard again and again that HE IS ALIVE. I felt again and again this LIVING JESUS, full of love and hope and knowing, alive in my heart where the death was overtaking me. Fighting for me. Dwelling deep inside this soft heart that still lies somewhere beneath the walls I’ve built. Reminding me that it was never destroyed, it’s only been covered up. He was inviting me to uncover it. To cry and cry and cry, and bleed and let it hurt and let it be revealed. Showing me that I was made in His image. Generous and open and funny and kind and honest and GOOD. He said, “That’s who you are. That’s who I love. That’s who Eric loves. And YOU are not lost. YOU are just covered up. Come out, come out, come out… Arise, my darling…”
I don’t know why my depression can’t die. I don’t know why there is still pain in the world when Jesus claimed to defeat death. I don’t really get that. I keep believing that if I just believe harder, that he will take it all away. But it doesn’t seem to work that way. At least not for me. And not for 99.9% of people who struggle with depression. So, don’t ever tell someone struggling with depression that they should just pray harder. Believe me, they have. I don’t know why there is a Friday. But somehow, I got to Sunday this weekend.
I felt resurrected this particular Sunday. And I believe in that power. I see that there is death inside of me, but I also believe there is LIFE living in me. I can FEEL it. I can feel the shades being ripped open, and the dust being swept out of this bitter winter. I can feel my heart coming out of its dark hiding, bleeding and beating and wanting to be more honest and open.
Bareness is terribly scary. But there’s this blog, and I called it bare ash. So, I’d like it to be a place where I can be actually bare. I’d like to let my heart bleed and beat here. I think maybe writing about depression and pain and resurrection and the brutiful (as Glennon Doyle Melton, my favorite blogger, calls it) will help me deal with it. I think that’s a really big part of who I am. An honest, open writer and artist. And I think I have to keep remembering that. Writing helps me remember where my soft heart is located, even if it seems and feels so tightly locked away. And I wonder if it will help other people deal with the same things, too. I hope so.
Here I am. Bare Ash. Finally, and again. Thanks be to God.