I read a very interesting post from Laura Droege this morning. She says ‘I’ve… found that the more open I am about the illness, the less it defines me.’ Laura writes about her battle with mental illness with a tender honesty. There is a real strength in her writing – one that only comes through endurance. It’s a fascinating post, please do click the link.
As for me, I refused for years to admit that there was anything wrong, because as far as I was concerned it was my life that was the problem, not me. Over time, God brought me to a place where I had to face up to the fact that I was not well. I have been on medication for over a year and for the first time in my adult life I am not depressed. As I told my psychologist with whom I’ve just begun therapy, the stupid thing is that I never knew I was depressed until I began taking anti-depressants! I just thought that that was normal because I couldn’t remember life not being horrible. Praise God for medication (and even more for my patient, loving husband)
As I thought more about Laura’s post, I recalled a time, years ago, when I was a teenager. I was receiving treatment at a private hospital that specialised in rehabilitation after serious head injury. One day in the summer, my nurse and I were standing by a window looking at the garden, green and vibrant with colour as only an English garden can be. A butterfly fluttered into view and settled onto the purple flowers. I remember the purple and the green, but I don’t recall what plants they were. Just behind the butterfly was a young man in a motorised wheelchair. We realised he must be paralysed from the neck down because he was controlling the chair with his head. My nurse sighed and tutted as she saw this young man, “Oh,” she exclaimed, “don’t you feel sorry for him!” This was a statement, not a question.
I looked at the man and frowned. “I don’t.” I replied.
My nurse turned towards me, aghast, “You don’t feel sorry for him?!”
“No.” I said, but I couldn’t explain why.
20-something years later and I think that what I instinctively grasped was that people must be endlessly pitying this young man – and to pity him continually deprived him of dignity; instead it somehow defined him by his injuries, rather than as a human being. Christ never saw people as defined by their brokenness, in whatever way that was manifest. On the contrary:
‘Some men came carrying a paralysed man on a bed, and they tried to carry him into the house and put him in front of Jesus. Because of the crowd, however, they could find no way to take him in. So they carried him up on the roof, made an opening in the tiles, and let him down on his bed into the middle of the group in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw how much faith they had, he said to the man, “Your sins are forgiven, my friend.”
The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees began to say to themselves, “Who is this man who speaks such blasphemy! God is the only one who can forgive sins!”
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Why do you think such things? Is it easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? I will prove to you, then, that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, pick up your bed, and go home!”
At once the man got up in front of them all, took the bed he had been lying on, and went home, praising God.
Luke 5:18-25 (GNT)
This is also why the debate around the abortion of disabled foetuses is frightening, whatever your views on abortion in general. My son has autism. There is no pre-birth diagnosis for autism. If there were, would women choose (and in some cases, be encouraged by medical professionals) to abort their child, like they do with Down’s Syndrome? Is a disabled child ‘worth’ less than another child? Is their individuality defined by their disability, or by their humanity? What if we could diagnose susceptibility to mental ill health, short-sightedness, asthma or dyslexia? I’m loathe to say it (because often references to these things are made when a person has run out of other arguments) but didn’t the Nazis promote the same thing when they tried to ‘exterminate’ the disabled and the mentally ill? Eugenics: alive and well in the 21st century, disguised as ‘informed choice’.
My son is not autism. He is a fearfully and wonderfully made human being. He is a soul. And in reality we are all broken, in one way or another. Many people spend their whole lives trying to ‘make up’ for their brokenness: think of the cult of celebrity, for example. Many, many people think being ‘famous’ will make them happy, or being famous will make them ‘better’. Wealth is another way people try to fix their brokenness, sometimes they choose to pursue power. None of these things actually work. They may appear to, but all they can ever do is paper over the cracks. They don’t fix the structure. They’re just houses built on sand.
I don’t know if any of us are ever truly ‘fixed’, but we each have a God-given dignity that, when we put our trust in Him, when we recognise the grace given in this blessing of dignity, we are set free from all the lies the world (or our own heads) would have us believe. We don’t have to struggle to fix ourselves. We just have to exhale, and to lean on Him.
‘So Jesus said… If you abide in My word [hold fast to My teachings and live in accordance with them], you are truly My disciples.
And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.
They answered Him, We… have never been in bondage to anybody. What do You mean by saying, You will be set free?
Jesus answered them, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, Whoever commits and practices sin is the slave of sin.
Now a slave does not remain in a household permanently (forever); the son [of the house] does remain forever.
So if the Son liberates you [makes you free men], then you are really and unquestionably free.’
John 8:31-36 (Amplified)
I wrote about a similar theme in my post ‘Why I am Not a Survivor’. The link is to the right of this page. Thank you for reading. Do you have any thoughts on the subject?