Oct 10, 2017
This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.
I work in a public field.
I’m an Ordained Priest in the Anglican Church and while I’m often surrounded by people, I am by nature, a strong introvert. In my line of work we are expected to be “on” all the time and are, in fact, “on call” every day.
I have struggled with depression all my adult life and in fact, had a really rough winter where I had off-the-chart anxiety. Anxiety is new for me. I’ve have small bouts of it from time to time, but never at the same time as a depressive episode. It sucks. And I can’t smile and pretend it’s okay. Because it’s not.
We are called only to lead an authentic life.
One of the things I preach most about is that God loves us exactly as we are. We are called only to lead an authentic life. It is said we most often preach the sermons we need to hear, and one Sunday as I was preaching just that, the words caught in my throat because I’d been feeling very disconnected, vulnerable and depressed.
I turned to the congregation and shared with them that I struggle with mental health issues. I struggle with depression and anxiety, and while most days are good, are manageable, some days are hard, and this was one of those days. I asked for prayers, took a deep breath and continued with my sermon.
Butterflies are symbols of new life.
Afterwards, at coffee hour, one of my parishioners came up and told me she struggled with depression and thought she was the only one. Then another parishioner joined the conversation, and another and another. Soon we were a growing group of people who were united not only in our love of God but in the struggles we face day to day. We’ve never formally gathered since then, but it’s interesting to see different people check in with one another from time to time. It makes my heart happy to know we can be united through a struggle and it be an affirming connection.
This year I turn 50. I have debated about getting a tattoo since I turned 30. I finally decided what I wanted to get. And in fact, instead of one tattoo, I got two. On my right leg is a stylized butterfly. Butterflies are symbols of new life. And as I learn and grow in who I am as a woman with mental illness and a leader in the community, I continue to find strength where I didn’t think there was any.
Butterflies, I have learned, have no idea what their wings look like. They don’t know how beautiful they are. And isn’t that the way it is for those of us who struggle? We push and pull and cry and scream and eventually submit to the exhaustion. Then we are able to stand up, push our shoulders back and say “here I am.” And we begin again.
I’m not yet finished.
Behind my left ear is an infinity symbol with a semi-colon over the cross of the infinity symbol. It represents my lifelong struggle. The infinity symbol reminds me that I will have struggles with mental health all my life and the semi-colon reminds me that my story is not yet over. Together they represent who I am. A broken woman attempting to live a life of integrity and while there may be times I’m tempted to give up, I can’t do that because I’m not yet finished.
I still have life to live, stories to tell, hearts to touch, hands to hold and love to give.