The sun shone bright in a cloudless sky transforming the small crowd of friends and family into featureless silhouettes in the blinding early morning light. Squinting and nervously palming my fresh cup of coffee, I shared the story of my last attempt at taking my own life( it had been nine years just a few days before). With loving smiles and a few joyful laughs, they formed a loose circle with me at the center. With a few encouraging, prayerful words, they shouted a countdown and showered me with confetti and praise for having come so far. It was a kind of homecoming after years of wandering in the wilderness of mental illness and repeated attempts at self-destruction.
Later that morning, our pastor shared a message on depression and suicide. With my permission, he shared an overview of my story — a story I was in the middle of reliving on this blog. After the service had ended and most of the congregants had left, the preacher came to me to pray over me. In his prayer he thanked God for my progress, then asked that God would give me strength to face any demonic opposition I would stare down after sharing my story so publicly.
Several weeks later, I was given the opportunity to elaborate on my struggles with mental illness during a Facebook live devotional I was asked to do for our church. I shared some of my battle with bipolar disorder. I shared the Gospel. And shared how I find joy in spite of my difficult mental health. Within a week I was so low that I nearly spent the money I was supposed to use to pay my mortgage to buy a gun and kill myself in the lower half of my backyard. The attack had begun, and I’m truly very lucky to have made it out alive.
That was almost four months ago. The depression has been tidal, washing over me in waves of differing depths, some lapping contemplatively at my ankles, others pulling me under and dragging my knees through the sand. The days are usually bearable. But at night I have to stay awake until I can’t hold my eyes open, knowing that once they close I’ll start to consider how best to stop the morning from coming.
While I admit that there is an undeniable spiritual dimension to the oppression I’m facing, I’m convinced that so much of this is the inevitable result of pursuing a different kind of life than I’ve pursued in the past. Certain unrelenting environmental factors are pulling me deeper and deeper into the abyss of self-loathing and unworthiness, all while I’m making greater and greater strides to lean into my convictions about how life should really be lived and how I should respond to my various talents and callings. The conflict between facing down blatant, unapologetic abuse on one hand and being affirmed for chasing after a life of love and shepherding on the other is tearing me apart mentally and emotionally.
In his book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson says, “Whenever we say no to one way of life that we have long been used to, there is pain. But when the way of life is in fact a way of death, a way of war, the quicker we leave it the better.” He continues with this comparison: “There is a condition that sometimes develops in our bodies called adhesion — parts of our internal organs become attached to other parts. The condition has to be corrected by a surgical procedure — a decisive intervention. The procedure hurts, but the results are healthy.” As I’m facing down the sources of these soul-splitting contradictions and the worst bout of depression I’ve faced in years, a decision is inevitable.
Its been four months of this pushing and pulling of waves. I’m exhausted. I can barely function. I’m physically and emotionally out of service. My family is suffering and praying daily that I’ll come back to them. It’s time to make a call, make a change, and shake the dust off my feet as I leave a life that is no longer compatible with the one I’m called to live. This pain is just the pain that comes from being pulled from one life into another.