As long as I can remember, I have had days that I feel very thin – like my flesh is stretched to the point it could rip away and leave me bare and vulnerable. Many days of my youth, and still sometimes as an adult, it has not felt like there is much of worth under that skin. On some deep level, beyond rational knowing, there sits the feeling that nothing under that skin matters.
It has been more than 13 years since the first time a counselor used the word “depression” with me. If I had known what depression was I might have recognized it even in my late teens, but it was not until the years between the death of my father and my mother’s cancer that I even began to know the name and the shape of the demon that weaved its way through every part of my life.
With time I have learned how to wrestle and control my life. I don’t win every day. But more and more often I do win. Medication has helped in the past, as has counseling. But sometimes even when I know that how I feel doesn’t make sense and isn’t reasonable, I can’t fight it. It is how the disease works.
My depression still terrifies me. It has tried to take my life before, and I know that someday it might again. I have known better, stronger people whose lives it has taken. So I respect my noonday demon – I give it its due and I never look away from it. With the struggles I have had over the past few years, people are sometimes surprised that my dystonia, and the loss of function in my hands and arms, along with tremors throughout by body, have not scared me more. I think it is in the end because my depression has always terrified me the most. My dystonia can take my body, but it cannot take me. But darkness of my demon comes to take all of me.
This is mental health month on our campus. It is an important reminder of how many of us in our Spartan community struggle with their own demons. We as the church have always been uncomfortable with mental health. It is something that we don’t talk about or we pretend that prayer is supposed to fix it. But the church is filled with people who struggle with mental illness. We are singers and secretaries, pastors and parishioners. We are here and it is where we belong.
When I ask you to reach out – to love, to care, to comfort – it is not just because I know the statistics. It is because I am one who carries the dark passenger and know how badly I need someone to give that love and compassion. Sometimes I have been the lost. And someday I know I will be again.
I believe that Christ calls us to one hope in the resurrection. But I know that for each person and each community, the expression of that hope looks different. For me, it is the hope that one day the Easter sun will rise and the darkness will never come again.
May God’s grace lead us all to sing out for those who can’t sing for themselves. May God’s love and hope carry us through the darkest of nights together until the morning. May God bring us together in love as the first rays of warm sun fall on each of our faces that Easter morning, when all of our demons will never come again.