Two years ago, I sat on a pew in what may likely be the last church I ever pastor. I was exhausted. You can really only cry for so long before, even though you’re still upset, your body just says no more. It is a horrible experience. You’re drowning in the tears you can’t shed. I sat crying on that pew with a bottle of hydrocodone cough syrup and a month’s worth of Ambien and Xanax. I had half a bottle of leftover oxycontin from a then recent surgery. I had even rifled through my wife’s meds gathering a cocktail of still more pain killers and opiated-cough syrup.
I called my wife, “I’m sorry. I’m upset again. I’m in the sanctuary.” I just wanted her to know I wasn’t at home. I called my Mom and I began to cry again. I wanted her to wake me up like the last four years was some fever dream. I knew she’d hear me. I knew she would come. I knew she’d never call the police or EMTs. “God. I’m done. To hell with you. I’ve fought this damned disease for four solid years, but today it wins. I’m done. I don’t care. I quit. To hell with you. Amen.”
I began to down the cough medicine in big gulps. I drank, then I waited. I wanted that opioid rush to make it easier to pop the Ambien and then the Xanax. I drank, then I waited. My last prayer, “God, I hope this enough.” Then came the rush, I thought, “I wish I had had cancer. Cancer would come with casseroles. Cancer would come with my friends shaving their heads in a show of solidarity. Cancer would come with awareness ribbons. Cancer would come with Relay(s) for Life. Cancer would come with comments about my courage. No one would hate me if after years of me fighting cancer I chose not to take further radiation treatments or discontinue my chemotherapy. No one would call me weak or selfish. And when I lost my fight with cancer, no one would say, ‘He just gave up.’” I thought, “my depression came with few casseroles. My depression sentenced me to solitary confinement. I’m not going to wear a green ribbon like some scarlet letter. I can’t organize a walk. I don’t even want to walk.”
After four years of the medications not working and their side-effects becoming too much, I quit. Even in my haze, I scolded myself, “Such a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” At the time, I thought, “who knows if this depression is temporary?” You lose the battle against depression opting for less quantity, its not viewed as an act of mercy, but murder. “I wish people knew that taking one’s life can feel like sneezing to a severely depressed person, that it can be a mere reaction to the body’s strong message, that after fighting a sneeze for years and years, some people simply cannot not sneeze anymore, that they should not be condemned or demonized for sneezing.” (Therese Borchard, 2014).
“Above all else, we choose to stay. We choose to fight the darkness and the sadness, to fight the questions and the lies and the myth of all that’s missing. We choose to stay, because we are stories still going.” (Jamie Tworkowski, To Write Love on Her Arms) I saw tomorrow because of those who wanted to see me in the morning. I’m here because of others. I am grateful for those who lightened the load that was crushing me. And I write with a gracious guilt from not having thanked these persons sooner.
Blessed is the wife who persists. …the wife who wanted me to get out of bed each day. …the wife who wanted me to dress myself. …the wife who wanted me to clean up after myself. …the wife who wanted me to eat something. …the wife who wanted me to do something, anything! …the wife who wanted me to be a husband. …the wife who wanted me to be a father. Blessed is she who is a pain in her husband’s ass for her husband will be there tomorrow. Blessed is the man whose wife possesses unflinching strength. Blessed is the one who is married to an angel who dresses her gentility and love in insistence. Blessed is the daughter who helps her Daddy find his happy. May he exhaust his vocabulary and years seeking the words to express how she is that happiness. Little girl prayers and little girl hugs are blessings that are hardly little. Blessed is the son whose mother did the best she could. Blessed is the son whose mother embraced him even when he didn’t want to be held. Blessed is the brother whose sister took weekends to babysit him. Blessed is the he whose sister needs no explanation of how her brother got to where he is because she knows the path he has travelled. Blessed is he who has a friend that covered for him and cared for him. Blessed is he whose other suicide attempts were interrupted by invitations to eat lunch. Blessed is she who shared that ministry might only be for a season. Blessed are those that freed me from a ministry that I then saw as an ecclesial death sentence. Blessed are pastors who pray with wisdom and heartfelt sentiment. Blessed are the clergy who visited their patient in a psychiatric unit. Blessed is the pastor who unburdened me by hearing my confession. Blessed is the Duke Student who exhibited pastoral care beyond his experience. Blessed is the neurologist who referred me to the Mood Treatment Center. Blessed is the aggressive therapist for his patient saw tomorrow. Blessed is the trauma therapist who gave me the wherewithal to face my life. Blessed is the psychiatrist who angered me by not prescribing meds that agreed with my addictions. Blessed is the Eastern European doctor who electrocuted me. Blessed is the friend who invited me to lunch, invited me to volunteer and, in doing so, invited me to begin living again. Blessed is the campus minister who gave me a purpose and an identity. Blessed are his students who welcomed me into their sanctuary. Blessed is a welcoming remanent of a church. Blessed are family friends who cared for my caregivers. Blessed are a brother and sister of Abraham who connected with me in heart and mind. Blessed am I for those who prayed. Blessed am I for those who checked on me. Blessed am I and may a live long and bless others.