“Sometimes, more than band-aids or Bible verses,
more than rescue or repair,
our friends just need someone willing to sit with them in the muck.”
~ Alicia Bruxvoort (Proverbs31.org)
In conversation with a friend last week, she asked, “How do you get through a cancer diagnosis without antidepressants?”
It’s a valid question.
Those who know me know that I have struggled with depression and, over the course of the past 20 years, have been on and off antidepressants and in and out of counselling. In large part, much of it was postpartum related; manufacturing human beings is taxing work. The toll on a mother’s body, heart and mind is great.
But life can be hard too. For me, a separation, divorce, single parenting, going back to school, keeping a roof over my head, all these things stretched me far beyond what I had the capacity to manage.
During those years, I had a host of people who came alongside me and just planted themselves there with me in my muck. Family and friends who listened as I cried bitter tears, borne out of rejection. Friends who sat with me in my loneliness. And friends who celebrated milestones with me, as bit by bit, I walked through the pain and anger and challenges and came out the other side a little more whole. A little more healed.
Despite how sad, dire and overwhelming my life may have looked from the outside, there was something beautiful and magical happening on the inside. I was being changed.
God surprised me.
He took this broken girl and pieced her back together and set her on a solid foundation of faith.
During that time I was in the pit, I received an anonymous note in the mail; a delicate piece of stationery with a bible verse scrawled in black ink.
“Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
~2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Depression. Divorce. Death. Diagnosis. When we’re in the midst of life’s muck, our troubles seem anything but light and momentary. They are all we see. They are all-consuming. They are suffocating. They can be terrifying.
During my separation and divorce, I lost count of how many times I cried out saying “I can’t take this anymore!”
And just when I thought I’d reached the end of my rope.
God surprised me.
An innocuous little note in my mailbox with a reminder of where I needed to set my eyes: not on the storm, but on the anchor. Not on how things appear or what I can see. But what’s below the surface, unseen, holding fast.
Though I’ve been off the meds now for many years—eight or nine, I’ve lost count—God continues to surprise me. He knows what I am capable of and regularly pushes me there. Out of my comfort zone and into rough waters. Beyond what I think I can bear.
And so, when a cancer diagnosis comes along, no matter how big that storm may seem and how rough the waters get, the foundation remains. It’s the anchor that holds me.
And He continues to surprise me.
These waters are rough. I see the storm. It rages within me, below the surface—because that’s where my battle lies right now. Rogue white blood cells multiplying at a mind-boggling pace. Crowding out the healthy ones. Slowly robbing my body of oxygen.
But my eyes are fixed on the anchor. And he’s given me a gift of peace in the midst of it.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I don’t know what storm you’re in the middle of.
Front and centre in my mind is Cancer. Not only my own, but the overwhelming and heartbreaking diagnoses of people around me. Good people. Healthy people. Loved people. Inexplicably tossed into this hurricane, that has no respect for life. That blows through and leaves a wake of destruction, of lives torn apart.
I know that at this moment, you’re feeling everything there is to feel. A jumble of thoughts and emotions: panic, fear and, at times, inexplicable peace. You’re thinking that there is nothing in you that can handle what you have been given. It’s way beyond what you have the capacity to manage.
You may be right.
But you are not alone. There is a host of people ready to walk through the raging waters and battering winds with you.
I am ready to walk through it with you. Eyes fixed on what is unseen and holding fast.
“When we have nothing to give, we can give ourselves.
When we can’t fix the problem, we can offer our presence.
When we can’t heal a hurt, we can hold a hand.”
Let God surprise you.
*And as a side note, let me say this: Sometimes antidepressants can make the difference between sinking so deep you can’t extricate yourself from the pit and staying on the surface so you can access the light and healing. Antidepressants aren’t a form of weakness or admission of failure. There is a very real chemical imbalance that occurs in the brain as a result of depression that is cyclical and perpetuating. Antidepressants can help to balance and re-align those chemicals. Meds, combined with effective counselling can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. And I will always advocate for life. Always.