At Arm’s Length

Have you ever been worried sick about a friend or loved one suffering from some illness who keeps everyone at bay?   It can be a terrifying experience.  I have had both close friends and family who suffered from clinical depression. There were days when I despaired of ever being able to reach, love, hug, comfort, or talk with the person I loved because they would not let me in. It seemed the worst kind of torture. They had shut a door between us, and I felt powerless to get them to believe that I loved them and wanted to help.  All of my attempts to reach them kept the door more tightly guarded. Although I loved them and worried desperately about them, the darkness they fought seemed impenetrable. I had no idea how to help.

Over the years I’ve noticed similarities between what I have dealt with, and the experiences others write about who are in recovery from alcoholism, anorexia, physical & emotional abuse, as well as individuals who lost someone they loved to suicide.

My friend Les shared on the pages of my blog his own experiences with depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide.  Reading his words proved helpful to me — like a mirror to his life. I wish I had known some of the things he shared at earlier times in my life when it seemed as if all my attempts were futile and all of my assumptions wrong.  If you like, you can read Lester’s  post here:  An Insider’s View of Depression, Anxiety, Thoughts of Suicide, and Traveling the Road

Two other posts seemed helpful as I pondered how to write about this.  Kathy Tetlock’s blog, The Cedar Canoe: Life After Suicide, is a blog I read fairly often.  She wrote a post about her mother, which I found helpful: Is this going to get better?

Just recently I read an article from another blogger who writes a blog called Beauty Beyond Bones that talks about what was helpful to her when she was fighting anorexia.  It is almost the mirror image of what I am writing about.  The Problem with Tough Love in Eating Disorder Recovery 

When someone is struggling with depression or some other illness, those in proximity often get shut out. Family and friends rarely get roadmaps with directions on how to proceed. We walk on eggshells as best we can, trying not to push those we love further away. When people are concerned about us, about how we are holding up, it is often difficult to answer, as we may not feel at liberty to explain.  We may just be at a loss for words to explain grief too deep for describing.

Loving someone who suffers from severe depression, or other serious illnesses can cause crushing grief, worry, fear, and sorrow. I admit to shedding many tears over the years as I tried desperately to think of another angle to try, some gentle, non-threatening way to reach them, to convey compassion, love, willingness to listen or to help – if only.  If only the door were open a crack and I was given hints as to what might help or what I could do to improve the situation.

Truth be told I used to have lots of quiet conversations in the shower, hoping that the noise of the shower would drown out the noise of my sobbing.  I would beg and plead to the Lord for some insight into what might help.  I would sometimes talk to my dead father — asking him to say prayers on our behalf.

I often write about God but many of you don’t know me and may not always understand what I mean.  I am not a sweet-and-pious-me-&-Jesus person. Instead of describing myself as a religious person, I would say that I am bound to this concrete reality that is God. When I say that prayer helped me, I don’t mean that as some sweetly pious you-should-turn-it-over-to-the-Lord exercise, but as a rock solid there-is-no-place-else-to-turn reality.

Despite the darkness and the closed doors, I remember what my pastor once said in a sermon, “worry is the fear that God won’t get it right.”

Have no fear. Keep on keeping on. Keep the faith, keep on loving, keep on caring, do the best you can do and keep turning to the Lord in prayer.  The Lord triumphed over death and the grave.  Turn your worries and fears, your solitude and tears over to the Lord.  Let it be on his shoulders.  They are strong.

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