When You Love Someone Who has Depression: More than Overcomers

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It’s tempting to have that extra glass of wine. One more piece of chocolate cake. Sleep another hour, stay at the office late. There are different ways of coping, some adaptive, some maladaptive. We tend to find the things that will help us make it through. If I can just get through this day, this season, this year.

Cope. Most place its origin from the Old French couper, meaningto strike.” It’s a derivative of the word coup.

Coup. My dictionary defines it as: 1. a highly successful, unexpected stroke, act, or move; a clever action or accomplishment. Or 2. a brave or reckless deed performed in battle by a single warrior, as touching or striking an enemy warrior without sustaining injury oneself.

It’s battle language.

Depression is a battle, yes. That’s what we’ve been talking about all these weeks long: how best to fight. And yet, the Bible tells us we are more than overcomers. There are times when surrender is necessary. When, rather than cope, we sit down at the table with depression and look it straight in the eye, pour it a cup of coffee. No more hiding, no more dulling the emotions, no more fighting.

Surrender.

It doesn’t mean to give up. It means letting go of the notion that we can control any of this. It means accepting this is a part of the person we love and, hard as it is, we love them anyway. All of them. Scars, pock marks, dark thoughts, wintery ways. All. To surrender means to embrace the whole. Only then will we be able to let go of the disproportionate power depression has over our lives.

Surrender. Embrace. Let go.

Live again. Victoriously.

Practice:

~practice surrendering. When your loved one comes to you with all the broken parts of his or her day, resist the urge to offer solutions. Simply sit with him or her. Hold hands. Let your heart be filled with love and sit in this place of embrace.

~if you can, talk with your loved one about the cognitive distortions depression anchors them with. Don’t speak about it in a “fixing” kind of way, but rather, simply notice how it has changed the way they see events in their life. 

~continue practicing remembering. This will help as you practice surrender. Everything will fall in its proper place.

**This Friday series contains reflections on loving someone who has Depression. If you are in this place, or know someone who is, I hope you’ll join me in this journey. We have one more installment to go. These words cannot replace medical or psychological treatment, but I hope they will be a source of encouragement.

Part I: When You Love Someone Who has Depression
Part II: West Virginia Morning: When You Love Someone with Depression, II
Part III: Good Friday
Part IV: Interview with Dr. Michelle Bengtson
Part V: When You Love Someone Who Has Depression: Stigma
Part VI: When You Love Someone Who Has Depression: Pray Together
Part VII: When You Love Someone Who Has Depression: Grow
Part VIII: When You Love Someone Who Has Depression: Moments of Light

How to really See a Person


We stand at the window and look over the snow-strewn landscape. The dome of our state capitol building gleams in the forefront and its gold leaf shimmers against the backdrop of powdered sugared trees sprinkled on the hills. 
“It sure makes a pretty picture,” I say, writing poems in my mind.  
But this one says nothing, sitting still in the wheelchair, lost inside the head. 
This one had an accident and the legs no longer work. 
And I’ve dealt with angry patients, and patients who lie, and ones who want to do it their own way because they have been loved well. But the hardest ones are these—the quiet ones. So many times I’ve wondered what kind of patient I would be and I let my mind linger there as we settle into the stillness like a snowflake melting into the earth. 
I don’t know that I would have the grace of these people—the ones who suffer my invasions and probing questions. I don’t know that I would be a favorite. 
I think too much. 
I am thinking this as I wheel this one back to the room. I think about how Jesus put himself in my place and how he asks me to do this same thing every day. Some days I am too consumed with myself to do this hard thing that he asks. But today, when I heed this command, my heart becomes glass—a fragile mirror of ice, melting. 
Maybe one moment will not matter. Maybe it will not make a difference inside the accumulation of time that make up the spread of days. But I must live as if it will. So when I look at this one, I am looking at myself; I am looking at Jesus. 
And at least one heart is changed because of the way I choose to see.

A Walk to the Capitol

The day that President Obama gives a speech in the rose garden about immigration we arrive in D.C. And after we check into our hotel we make a big circle around the city using only our legs. We walk around the Washington Monument and gape at decorous fountains and snap pictures around too many tourists.

Everything has a plaque, everything has a story. We go to the Holocaust Museum that first afternoon and have our hearts broken into a million pieces and Jeffrey keeps looking at me with big eyes.

President Obama talks about dreamers and The Dream Actand earning citizenship and I am looking at blown-up photos of the MS St. Louis full of Jewish refugeesthat were denied safe haven by the United States in 1939. Wikipedia tells me that it is estimated that approximately a quarter of its passengers, back in Europe, died at the hands of the Nazis.
I wonder about their dreams.
Jeffrey wants to know why. Why would we come to a museum about something so horrible? There are names etched onto the glass wall that we walk through and I touch a woman’s name. Salomea. I trace the letters of her name on the glass and feel our souls touch. I lean my forehead into this ocean of names and breath a fine mist onto the glass and close my eyes. Is it possible to drown in an ocean made of glass?
They need to be remembered, I tell him.
It’s all so sad, he says and his words hang in the air around us. Too small.
We should never forget, I say. We can’t turn away from the hard stuff just because it feels bad. We need to learn from it. We need to see.
God knows their names, I whisper to myself.
He turns away anyway.
At night we walk down to the Capitol. It feels like our legs might fall off from all the walking, but we don’t want the day to end. The city seems so quiet after dark. We hear a lonely trumpet echo up empty streets. There are people sleeping in the middle of the sidewalk and in the doorways up and down the avenue. He carefully steps around them.
Mom, I feel so bad for these people, he whispers. But he doesn’t look away.
I want to put plaques up beside each one. I want to read their stories. 
We walk side-by-side up the street—breathe in the night air. And when we go as far as we can go, we stand and look up. The dome is aglow from the inside and I think about freedom.
And I can almost feel this boy’s heart growing inside of him as we stand, shoulders touching.
Don’t look away, I pray. Don’t ever look away.
Blogging in community with Michelle and Jen today. Love you girls!
And also with my sweet friend Jennifer: 
 

And Emily too:

Sunday Sermon Notes

I Am the Resurrection and the Life
John 11:25-26

When they brought

the cross
in, I gulped
and wondered at
the ease; at
Him
doubled over under
dense wood. And
when small fingers
clasped stems, tucked
them into wire…
death breathed
life and I sat
straight in my
pew. daughter of Jairus,
Lazarus, and Him—
knew first breath
two times.
she spoke of bats
and pea soup and said
resurrection can come only
from that which
is dead.
Tennyson, she said, called
it “passing the bar”,
and someone else,
“a dreamer’s sleep”…
but I do not fear
death.
how dare I beg
God not to take one
into the joy
of the resurrected life?
How dare I, she said.

Rejoice for them.
Rejoice for them.

And I felt the truth
of those words.

But…
two rows behind
me–the couple
who lost
love
to cancer
last year.
we begged
for
him.
hope does not
disappoint, my husband
said. but I was just
looking for
humility…
compassion.
joy
on this Easter morning.

so i touched
him
on the shoulder as
we filed out.
and he knew.

photos: the flowering of the cross at church this morning.

To Touch a Heart

These thoughts are racing around in my head, crashing into one another and shattering…leaving only fragments, dismembered and dissatisfying. Images flash, faces and conversations…grief is a terrifying thing. But hope…with hope there is new life.

There is a wheelchair. I am conscious of a glint of sunshine, flashing off the metal. A slumped figure, broken body. She beckons me with her finger. I go to her.

“Something has died inside of me,” she whispers.

“Your hope has died,” I whisper back.

I think about the man. The man who spoke to us today. He told the story of his accident, at sweet thirteen. His life forever changed, loss of half of his family…he found hope.

He tells of how a nurse would gently scratch his arm with her long nails. Up and down, up and down. He says he will never forget that woman. He will never forget the ecstasy of that gentle sensation; when all of his body was in agony, and he could not feel from the chest down. He speaks of compassion. He wants to teach us.

“You can have compassionate boundaries,” he says.

I see the glint of sunshine flash off the metal of his chair. He says so much more. But my heart stops with this thought: sometimes we need to be touched.

She sits before me still. Shattered by what life has handed her.

I reach out to her and rub her arm. Tears fall, unheeded.

There is a man. His wife sits nearby. My breath is heavy between them. We talk about dying. And I feel something slip away. It is unnamed. But I know that it is what is left after years of loving and living, of watching children grow and watching them go, of sacrificing for one another and holding one another up, of hoping…

I can walk away. But they cannot.

I wrap my arms around a shoulder. I feel the healing power of this…this touch.

One by one, they lay their burdens at my feet. And I think, Who am I? I am blessed to share in these stories. I am honored to be present in this moment.

My drive home is clouded by the moisture in my eyes. The sky is so blue, the sun so bright. Time stands still.

I want to be home. I want to hold my boys. I want to be so present with them and ingrain the moment in their memories. I want to breathe hope over them, into them, let it fill up their beings until it spills over into me and all the surrounds us.

I sit on the steps and watch them play basketball. Soon there is a quarrel. Smallest one comes and sits beside me, pours out the unfairness of the world.

But I am still carrying the pictures with me, the images from the day.

So I just hold him. And he cries in my arms. Tears of frustration. Irrational, little boy tears that must be shed in the growing up.

I love you, I whisper.

And I feel it. The healing power of this touch.

This is what God made me for. This is my reason. To touch. To love. To have compassion that tears down the boundaries. His love for me knows no boundaries. Why should mine?