Looking for the Helpers

loveneverfailsIt’s been a week since Orlando. It’s been a year since Charleston. Anniversaries of tragedies can resurface all the feelings of shock, anger, and grief that we initially felt. The grief of public tragedies lately has been overwhelming for me. Through the combination of clinical depression, a deep sense of empathy, and a vivid imagination, I get stuck imagining myself over and over in the place of the victims when I hear the horror stories in the news. I had to stop listening for a while. But still again and again my mind returns to the Pulse nightclub a week ago, and Mother Emanuel AME church a year ago. The only thing that makes it bearable for me is to do what Fred Rogers said his mother taught him to do when he saw horrible things on the news: “Look for the helpers.”  Continue reading “Looking for the Helpers”

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Depression Doesn’t Care That You’re Happy

I’ve written quite a bit here about my experiences with depression. It’s something I’ve been dealing with for a long time now. And yet, some days it can still catch me off guard and knock me down before I know what’s happened. I’ve had a few of those days lately. It’s hard to explain to people who’ve never been depressed. If they notice that I seem down or if I tell them I’m sad, the first thing they ask is, “What happened?” And in most cases, that would be a reasonable question to ask. But in this case, in my case, there really is no reason. Or rather, the reason I’m depressed is that I have depression. Continue reading “Depression Doesn’t Care That You’re Happy”

May the Stigma End

There’s not much of May left, so I’m getting this in just under the wire! May is Mental Health Awareness month, signed into recognition by President Obama in 2013. I’ve written quite a bit about my own struggle with mental health here, and in my recently-released book, I touched on how growing up in a family affected by major depression eventually contributed to my calling as a hospital chaplain. Continue reading “May the Stigma End”

I Picked the Wrong Week to Quit (or “A Perfect Example of Eucatastrophe”)

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Things have been great lately. Really, really great. It’s not an overstatement to say that 2015 has so far been one of the best years of my life. I’m watching my dreams come true, literally. You can almost see it on my face in this picture from my first author event. Since I was a little girl I’ve wanted to be an author, and now I am one. I’ve written a book that I can hold in my hands, and it feels wonderful. People are buying this book and reading it and telling me in social media comments, emails, and old-fashioned handwritten letters how much it means to them.

We had a fantastic party this month at The Charleston Museum to celebrate the print release of the book, and it was everything I had dreamed it would be. Continue reading “I Picked the Wrong Week to Quit (or “A Perfect Example of Eucatastrophe”)”

#BlessedAreTheCrazy: No Longer Protecting Secrets

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This is Mental Illness Awareness Week, and I’m proud to be participating in this synchroblog to celebrate the launch of Sarah Lund’s new book, Blessed Are the Crazy: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness, Family, and ChurchI come from a family in which mental illness — especially depression and anxiety disorders — and addiction have had a huge impact. As a little girl, I remember the great lengths my family went to in order to protect the secret that my mother had been hospitalized for depression. I felt the shame of it, even before I understood what it meant. I was afraid other kids at school would laugh at us if they knew, and any time a group on the playground was whispering, I was sure it was about me and my family.  Continue reading “#BlessedAreTheCrazy: No Longer Protecting Secrets”

Hope Is Stupid

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I’ve always considered myself something of an optimist. But lately, it sure is hard to stay one. The other night, I had a very emotional conversation with my roommate, and she told me, “You can’t give up hope.” I blurted out, “But hope is stupid! You just keep wasting time hoping for things that never happen and then you feel like an idiot, and all the realists get to say they told you so.” I was, admittedly, in a pretty bad place, in the midst of all the terrible news in the world and a big disappointment in my personal life. Sometimes I just want to be miserable for a while and not have anyone try to talk me out of it. Continue reading “Hope Is Stupid”

Depression Is a Disease, and I Have It

The acting world has lost a legendary performer, a gifted comedian and dramatic actor. And according to early reports, it appears that Robin Williams’ death was the result of suicide. He had been open about his experiences with depression in the past, and that takes courage. Mental illness, and maybe depression in particular, is still stigmatized and misunderstood. (Buzzfeed has this great list of 21 Things Nobody Tells You About Being Depressed that just might help.) I’ve seen it in many of the social media responses to his death. So I feel the need to clear up a few things here, since I have quite a bit of experience from which to draw. I am living with depression myself, and I grew up as a member of a family in which depression and attempts at suicide shadow many of my childhood memories. I know a thing or two about what depression is, and what it isn’t. Continue reading “Depression Is a Disease, and I Have It”

The Last Thing I Expected

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Last week was pretty terrible. It started with a death that was particularly tragic even by the standards of someone who works as a hospital chaplain, and it would have ended with a funeral, except that I could not bring myself to go. So much of my own emotional baggage resurfaced in the wake of this situation that I knew I would be no good as a caregiver if I went. The sadness weighed so heavy on me that I could hardly get out of bed. And then, mercifully, there was the weekend, and a friend’s birthday to celebrate, and unexpected moments of grace. Yesterday morning was good, in real and simple ways that I don’t want to lose. Continue reading “The Last Thing I Expected”

Up In the Air

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I’m typing this at 30,000 feet. Actually, that’s a guess; I’m not sure what our cruising altitude is. But anyway, I’m on an airplane somewhere between Charlotte, NC and Boston, MA. Since I have a window seat, I’ve been passing my time peering out at winding rivers and geometrically plotted parcels of land and cars the size of ants making their way to somewhere important. The rest of the time, I’ve been reading Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber. A Lutheran pastor with an irreverent wit and punch-in-the-gut honesty, Nadia makes for a great traveling companion. She is just what I need, as I look down on the world and think, inevitably, about God. Continue reading “Up In the Air”

Where God Was Alone and Afraid

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In May of 2007, just after finishing divinity school, I went with a group of about fifty classmates and a few professors on a tour of Israel and Egypt. Seeing the places where so many of the stories I had read in the Bible took place – some of them very little changed by the passage of centuries – was powerful stuff. My mind always returns there at this time of year. This is what I wrote in my travel journal the day we visited Gethsemane: Continue reading “Where God Was Alone and Afraid”