Daniel: Did you ever wish you could sometimes freeze frame a moment in your day, look at it and say “this is not my life”?
So here I am typing this out, drinking tea after a cheeky nibble on some cake (strawberry if you were wondering) and I was just reflecting on the last few weeks, and I went to a wedding recently and it was such a beautiful day and everything was perfect! I suddenly realised though how flipping awesome it would be to have tea and cake as a wedding breakfast – I know right? Sod everyone else, the wedding cake itself is ALL MINE but you can all have a nice little cupcake or something to keep you going! (…and then the wine and chocolate would follow after, obviously…)
ANYWAY. So my thought processes were going a bit all over the place and suddenly I was thinking (as I’m sure you were, ha), what about Mr Annie? Does he not get a say in his wedding breakfast? Does he even get a SLICE of his own wedding cake? Or has he literally just married a monster? HA. (But seriously, genuinely may struggle to share the wedding cake) and it just dawned on me, that despite the fact I know I won’t have tea and cake as the wedding breakfast (sigh), it is clearly still a massive part of me that tea and cake is in my life in some way. What I’m trying to say is, the tea and cake goes for anything and everything, not just the tea and cake itself. Say I marry this guy, and I’m not allowed to have tea and cake, I’m not allowed to have the dress I want or the people there that I want and none of this is anything to do with what I want and therefore I can’t represent who I am on my own wedding day. Or that this relationship itself is so heavily dominated by what he wants that I don’t even get to tell him who I am, let alone live it out. This isn’t some feminist ramble (guys let’s be fair and we can give and take as we go along, yeah?), but I don’t want to be with someone who won’t take my tea and cake obsession into the relationship with me. Whatever the tea and cake might stand for, it’s important to me, so it should be important to him, too. Just like his tea and cake, whatever that may be, I’ll take it on too.
So now to the point. You’ve probably already worked it out by now, by tea and cake I’m totally talking about depression here. We all know by now how I feel about depression in relationships – in that it’s not who you are, but it’s a part of you right now. And sometimes, other people have to be around that, but if they love you, then so what? Bit of cheeky 1 Corinthians 13, love never fails, and all that – but anyway, it’s the point. Depression isn’t you, but it might be a part of you. But how would they know that, if you didn’t talk about it? How would you know the tea and cakes of our lives if we didn’t talk about them?
I felt it was only right to write something about Robin Williams in light of what happened last week. See, the thing is, people are actually starting to talk about mental health and I can’t bring myself to complain about it because hey, what is there to complain about right? But it got me thinking and I realised all over again how mental health is NOT something we talk about at church, and it’s not something that I feel I can always talk about at church either. The quote up there is from Mrs Doubtfire which is one of my favourite all time films, and to be honest, when I’m low and the dark dip sets in, every day of that dip I feel like it’s not my life. I look at myself and my emotions, my thoughts of self harm and suicide, my ideas and beliefs that no one loves me and no one cares about me – that I’m worthless and useless and that every bad and hurtful thing I’ve ever had said to my face is in fact true, and I wonder how on earth my life got to this point. Truth is, life has been pretty pants the last few weeks. I’ve been in one of the darkest and most difficult places I’ve been in for the longest time. All of my horrible symptoms have come back, the aching muscles as soon as I wake up, the nightmares, the tears, the sickness and the need to harm myself to make the sadness go away. Praise God, the thoughts of harm haven’t become actions, but they’ve still been there – and that still scares me regardless.
I don’t want to marry someone who I can’t open up to about my depression. Heck, I don’t really want to be friends with someone I can’t open up to about it. Not chapter and verse, but just to say that I’m suffering from it and actually, the crap of life is getting too much for me at the moment, can I have a cup of tea and some cake and an afternoon away from the world with you? – you know, that kinda thing. And it got me thinking about church, and honestly, I don’t want to be a part of a church who I can’t be myself in – sadness or otherwise. I don’t want to be a part of a church community who dismiss mental health issues as something that can be forgotten about or brushed over because no one has a clue what I’m on about, or who disregard how I’m feeling and feel like the best way forward is to preach at me about God’s joy and God’s goodness and hope that it brings a smile to my face. I don’t want to be a part of a church that tells me I’m possessed by demons and they want to exorcise me – to be fair, this one has never happened, but I’m sure some of you reading this will see where I’m coming from. I’m lucky to have the church families that I do, I’ve found a nice niche of people who I can relate to and connect with within these church communities, but it’s the wider picture I’m looking at, and even the wider world.
People with depression both inside and outside the church do not need someone to preach at them about God’s joy. End of. Sometimes it’s appropriate, like praying for it or whatever, but don’t sit me down and tell me that because God is joy I should feel joyful – not gonna happen. I love God, and I know that God loves me – and that he knows how I feel and He wants to be a part of this journey with me. What I need to hear from the church in general is that you want to come alongside those who suffer from mental health problems – and those who support – and be a part of the journey with us. Be Christ on earth for us, and look out for us and pray for us.
Provide us with the tea and the cake and just listen – uphold us, strengthen us. Just as Jesus does. Be joyful in those joyful moments with us and reassure us that the God we believe in isn’t the God who condemns me for being sad or who tells me to ‘cheer up’ and ‘get over myself’ and ‘stop being miserable’ – I don’t believe in that God, do you?
What happened to Robin Williams is devastating. Like so many other people, Robin Williams was a massive part of my childhood and watching his movies with my family on a Sunday evening after eating a massive dinner (see, food is clearly a big part of my day today) will always be a memory I treasure. But like so many other people, I know how Robin must have felt when the lows hit and the lows hit hard. I don’t get the whole picture, I don’t understand all the circumstance, but I know the numbing feeling and I know that depression just takes over like a muggy mist in the distance and you just can’t run away. My prayers go out for his family right now, but they also go out for the church too – so that the church can be the safe place when the mist comes, and show that there is life and recovery in depression. When we make the world aware of depression, we can make the world aware of recovery from depression, too.
For more information about mental health issues, including depression, visit: http://www.mind.org.uk
Peace and blessings x