On Sunday, March 12, I stood up in front of the church family I love and said, “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t continue like I am.” For the next 30-40 minutes I opened myself up and let everyone in on the stuff I was hiding and told them I needed help. I told them I have been having some mental health challenges and have been hiding all of it and pretending I’m fine.
It was scary. I’m a pastor. I don’t know if you know much about Christians or churches but there’s a significant chunk that believes seeking any type of mental health help is unbiblical and even “of the devil.”
Pastors don’t get help. They struggle alone for as long as they can and then they leave ministry to sell insurance or real estate. I have no desire to do that. So I decided to come clean and admit my self-doubt, anxiety, depression, and mental confusion with feelings of being totally overwhelmed.
Even though I was nervous and scared of the thought of opening myself up to everyone, they took it very well and surrounded me with support, love and prayer. I don’t know why I was so nervous about it because, in our church family, we know that life is messy and try to maintain a culture where we share burdens and walk with each other through weakness. We also are not at odds with science and medical advances, believing that God, in his providential love for humankind, has allowed us discovery and knowledge.
I had my first session with a counselor Thursday. Ever since my cancer diagnosis, my thoughts and emotions have run amok and are making me feel feels and think thoughts that are unlike me. Actually, it feels like all my wires are crossed and the me that I am has been disappearing in a hole while people topside toss shovels of dirt on my head. So, I need some counsel to help me sort all this out because I believe mental health is important. Also, I miss me.
Transplant, trauma, starting over, surgery, PTSD, being totally dependent on others, self-doubt, loss of roles, disability, irrational fears, rational fears – phew! I’m a lot. Am I a counselor’s dream or nightmare? I guess we’re going to find out. The good news is that she didn’t have me committed so I have that going for me.
I have homework to accomplish before next week:
1) I need to do some things I like to do that I have not done in awhile – things that have been pushed out by too much busyness and overcommitment.
2) I need to observe my patterns and write, keying in on what usually precedes an avalanche of feels.
No sweat. I can do those things. In fact, I’m looking forward to them.
Robin and I went out to a real restaurant last night where we didn’t place our order with a teenager at the counter. We haven’t done that, just the two of us, since probably Fall of 2019.
I carved out some time yesterday, grabbed my camera and went walking one of the Presumpscot trails with Pom (my dog). We used to do stuff like that. She loved it, I loved it. I remember the calm of just sitting on a log, watching a stream, thinking about nothing, planning nothing and thanking God for life. There were no signs of life on yesterday’s icey, muddy trails but I still found beauty and it felt good to breathe.
I was hoping to photograph some signs of Spring but found only mud and melting snow.
There is beauty even in this in-between season of dirty snow and mud, we just have to search harder to find it. We won’t find it unless we look at things from a different perspective. I studied the inside of a rotting, hollowed-out tree and ended up making my favorite photo of the day there in the decay.
While we were walking, I also stopped to photograph the inside of a woodpecker’s hole, stumps, downed trees and mud. Once I accepted what was, I was able to find the beauty in it.
There’s the lesson of the afternoon – once we accept the reality of what is, we will be able to find the beauty in it.
I could have slip-slided my way back out of the woods, disappointed, without taking a single picture. The signs of life I came for were nowhere to be found. I could have driven home believing I wasted my time and scolding myself for even trying.
I remember one of the most difficult times of my life, sitting in a small room waiting for my mother to die. But there, beside her bed, sat my father holding her hand. She was not conscious and he was in the throws of Alzheimer’s, not fully aware of much. With tears in my eyes I snapped a precious, beautiful picture in the midst of the pain. Their wrinkled hands, with arthritic fingers and bulging knuckles were locked together. It was beautiful. It was powerful. It was precious. I am so thankful I didn’t miss it. Even in the final days of hospice grief, there was beauty if only I would look for it.
I can’t tell you that I’m comfortable admitting that I am seeing a counselor yet. There are jokes and jabs all around us about people who “need therapy.” I don’t like admitting weakness but, I’ve decided to write about it and share my continuing journey with you as honestly as I can, hoping that it might encourage, motivate, educate or inspire you. Or, perhaps it will at least give you someone to pray for.
Thessalonians 5:16-18 (with my thoughts)
“Rejoice always (in God’s faithfulness, never leaving us), pray continually (lay it bare), give thanks in all circumstances (looking for the beauty); for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Thanks for sharing! May the Lord help you to get better every day.
Please give our love to Robin.
Thank you for sharing, Scott! Your self-care walk in the woods and restaurant date with Robin sound like solid positive steps 😊
Praying for you Scott