This morning, the world gleams, scrubbed clean by an overnight washing. Amidst the whispering grays and muddy browns I caught a glimmer outside my door, and I was captured by the shine. The air smells like earth and Bonnie thinks the flooded out earthworms that line our street a delicious snack.
This week, I cleaned out my garden boxes, pulled up stubborn weeds and gathered the maple leaves that have collected in the corners. I tilled the soil and broke up any large chunks with my fingers. I took an inventory of seeds leftover from last spring and made a mental note of what is still needed. But I held off in the planting, enjoying the look of the smooth, flat surface of the beds. I love to dream about what will happen in that sleeping soil. The anticipation is part of the joy.
Though my greens still wait to unfold from shell, I have planted other, not so lovely seeds these past couple days. Wounding words from someone I love sit heavy in my heart and they are taking root. I am watching this happen and I cannot seem to pull them up out of the soil of my heart. Things have been dark for so long and I am tired. I do not feel safe to speak for fear my words will be twisted, ridiculed, turned against me in some way. So I have been quiet, praying inwardly, loathe to let my voice escape.
Last night I searched the concordance for scriptures on depression. I need more arrows in my quiver. My reading kept bringing me back to the book of Joel, and I was broken by what I read. This unknown, undated prophet describes “the day of the Lord,” a period of judgment in which strange and terrible things will come to pass; things like, days covered in darkness, armies that invade like consuming fire, and the moon turning to blood. As I read, this dreadful prophecy, it seemed an apt metaphor for what mental illness can do to a family.
What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten.” (v.4)
This is the kind of empty I have been feeling. So much has been taken from us by this locust-depression. Who can describe how it devours and steals all that is light?
A nation has invaded my land, powerful and without number, it has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness. It has laid waste my vines and ruined my fig trees. It has stripped off their bark and thrown it away, leaving their branches white … Surely the joy of mankind is withered away.” (vs. 6-7, 12b)
According to the World Health Organization an estimated 350 million people worldwide experience depression. It is an epidemic. Although there are effective treatments for depression, less than half of those diagnosed ever get treatment. When we talk about depression, we refer to more than the normal ups and downs we experience on a day-to-day basis in response to life’s hassles. Depression is a cluster of symptoms that occurs for an extended period of time that can be a serious health risk.
Is it okay to talk about this here? We’ve been navigating this thing alone. Some weeks are better than others but some days, the locusts swarm and I feel like I am eaten alive. My West Virginia morning posts have been part of my therapy, a way to find beauty in this not-so-beautiful place we are in.
The prophet Joel says,
‘Even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’ Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.”
I have been unable to pray this dark time away. I have worked in mental health now for over twenty years, but this experience feels like a millstone around my neck when it comes to helping someone I love. I cannot control how another person seeks healing. So I will be sharing the journey through the eyes of the other—the one who loves and sees and keeps trying. The one who grows tired but still can look out over the soil of a relationship and dream about seeds.
This coming week, this is my memory verse: