The Unsilenced Struggle
By: Danielle Calhoun
A few months ago, we laid my grandpa to rest. The food was eaten. The hugs were given. The out-of-town relatives returned to their homes. Then, something quietly (and internally anticipated) happened. I broke down and sort of lost it. I fell apart. I let go. I was undone, and, worst of all, I felt it coming. I prayed ahead of it. I had the foresight to know how to prepare for it. And yet, it still happened.
When my husband and I were in counseling about five years ago, my therapist (a wildly kind, wise, and amazing woman of faith) indicated I may have been unknowingly battling depression the majority of my life. Like most people raised in the church, I ignored her diagnosis at the time. Even though I didn’t want to acknowledge the label, I did openly accept her expert advice and suggestions for working through tough times. She graciously provided me with the basic tools and strategies to live alongside these deep feelings in a safe way. I thought I was ‘fine’. Don’t get me wrong, her professional care was beyond transformative and helpful, but I still wasn’t ready for how this present season of grief was about to reveal the ugliest episode of this battle I have experienced yet.
Mental health is the most underrated, disqualified, and unspoken aspect of living life as a believer, in my experience. We all have struggles of some sort that we typically try to repress, overcompensate for, self-medicate, or unintentionally leak out onto others around us. And yet, at some point in every single person’s life, we are confronted HEAD ON with some sort of crisis that stops us in our tracks and forces us to take inventory of our heart, feelings, coping mechanisms, thoughts, and how they have impacted our story.
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”
Psalm 139:23 NIV
Many Bible scholars believe the prophet Isaiah, David, Jonah, and Job all fought depression and anxiety. So if these characters of faith were bold enough to navigate these unseen frontlines and still be included in the story of God’s grace, surely I am no less seen in my struggles either.
The other day, as I met with my discipleship mentor, I prayed, “Let every single tear have purpose.” I believe tears are the most accurate roadmap towards our deepest, most raw, and unhealed wounds. They bring us one step closer to the transformative and mysterious process of God’s healing within us. I believe when I ache with deep sadness and have an open heart ready to examine the source, there are things I can glean from that suffering. Not only has this raw vulnerability helped me connect more authentically with others, but it has also brought the connection between myself and my Creator into an even deeper light.
One thing is certain, though, even in the moments of what feels like unbearable heaviness, my story, life, and experiences are not an accident, and I am not alone in this fight.
“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9 NLT
This past month, I’ve fought back swelling emotions at every turn. I have held internal pep rallies in my spirit and prayed fervently to try and maintain composure and to keep it together, while also thinking, ‘I’m about to lose control. I need help. I can’t keep it together today’. Then, like the onset of a summer storm, the tears flow and they keep coming in and out of my daily life with little to no warning, and I am exposed in my vulnerable brokenness. I am reminded of the woman at Christ’s feet who humbly washed His feet with her tears. Every time I read that story, I relate so dearly to this woman. I could bathe the stink of the wilderness right off of John the Baptist with the amount of tears that have fallen from my eyes this past month. Thankfully, the Bible doesn’t say, ‘Blessed are the ones that hold it all together and never need tissues.’ No, the Bible says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4 NIV)
Let me be clear, this struggle has impacted everything.
My kids look at me with concern and regularly ask, “Why are you sad?” I genuinely can’t give them a solid response. I have been simply overcome with sadness these past few months.
My sweet husband wants to fix the hurt within me and offers prayers and all the earthly solutions he has to give. I know in my heart I have to let this prayerfully play out in its own messy, humbling, and ugly way, but, at the same time, I know it’s going to require more than time to heal these wounds. It is going to require prayer, action, and community.
I shamefully hushed the severity of my battle for four weeks, internally questioning, ‘Is this how it happens?’ I genuinely don’t feel like I’m going to harm myself, but maybe that’s the bait – feeling like you’ve got it in control, so you don’t ask for help until it’s too late.
So at the end of May, I let go. I got ugly honest. I exposed my heart to the light and the truth and stopped pretending I had it together (even though I was fooling no one). I spoke. I told my most trusted, loyal friend (my husband) and my inner circle exactly what I was up against and why I kept everything hidden in the dark, unsaid.
The truth is, this deep heaviness wants to keep us isolated, silent, and locked away from the light of God’s truth. The truth is, we are not alone. God, in all His goodness, is with us in each moment and has the most beautiful people placed in our lives to step into the mess and help us walk it out. The truth is, we are loved beyond all understanding. It’s literally incomprehensible how deeply we are loved by God. The truth is, we are worthy of sharing our scariest thoughts and seeking help, with safe people, when we need it most.
So I am here. I spoke up. Then, my sweet circle showed up. They lifted me up in love and in prayer. They walked beside me, slowly, not rushing the process, but rather, sitting in the mess. They offered to help me find a counselor and told me they were going to hold me accountable to follow through. So I did. Then, they uplifted me when I moved forward in each new step forward. I didn’t realize I needed that part so dearly.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
Galatians 6:2 NIV
And we continue to walk this slow and steady walk, one tear-stained step towards healing at a time.
So, when you think you’re too broken or too afraid to share your most vulnerable secrets, thoughts, or hurts, please pray that God will reveal someone trusted and safe to join you in this battle. Then, get vulnerably real. You are worthy of being fully known and loved and supported through every high and low this life has to offer.
No depth is too deep to hide you away from how much greater, deeper, higher, and wider God’s love is for you. You are seen, heard, known, and intimately understood by an infinitely adoring Comforter. You are enveloped in His peace, grace, compassion, and love every single millisecond of every day of your human life. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of this truth.
You are dearly loved.