Traveling down a winding road…
As many of you know, I have written a book of my essays and thoughts. Several of you came to a book signing or two over the last month and, of course, I thank you. I have given speeches and traveled some unchartered territory with a new map that often makes no sense, but I just keep on driving down the winding road.
After my third book signing event recently, I reflected on the folks who I have met and the questions I have been asked over the last six weeks. The most inquiries and comments I receive are regarding my transparency, my faith and my struggles with clinical depression.
When I think about these three components, I realize just how intertwined they are. I have found during the years the two factors which help scare depression away are transparency and faith. How many times when folks are depressed do they try to hide sadness behind a veil of untruth?
I knew when I was a young girl that something about me was different. I was too sensitive and shed too many tears in the quietness of my room. I hurt a lot. I did not want to feel others’ pain or my own; instead, I wanted to be normal like my friends. I never wanted anyone to see the truth of just who I was until one day.
On that day I was in the psychiatric unit of a hospital. It was 40 years ago, and I was in a group session one evening with roughly 25 patients and a staff of doctors and nurses who were asking each of us questions.
Sherri was a new patient who had been admitted the week before. She was funny, disturbingly irreverent and could make a crowd feel better with her comedy routines. But a question kept haunting me about her, “Why was she there?”
Sherri was a diabetic. She was driving erratically down the road when police pulled her over believing she was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Once they realized she was not, they took her to a hospital and found she had not been taking her needed medication. Sherri was then admitted to the psych ward to determine why.
She battled the staff and physicians by refusing to admit there was an underlying problem. Sherri just wanted to go home, but until she could do so, she was intent on making others laugh and feel better. All the other patients thought there was nothing wrong with Miss Sherri because Miss Sherri was surely “happy.”
During our session when the doctors asked our resident comedian why she thought she was in the hospital, Sherri replied with a funny comment and the room shook with laughter.
I didn’t laugh. I was sitting across from her in my rocking chair when I raised my hand. “Do you have a comment, Lynn?” asked a nurse. “Yes, I do,” I replied while still calmly rocking.
The dimly lit room quieted, and I looked straight into Sherri’s eyes.
“Sherri, you are lying not only to us but to yourself,” I said, and then continued. “You are hiding behind a persona which folks adore and expect. The truth is that you are trying to kill yourself by not taking your medicine. Even though you make us all happy, you are not happy, and that makes me sad.”
My words made her cry and then, as if the sky opened, she spilled her story in front of all. She finally came out of her self-imposed exile and into an accepting world where she could still be funny but be the real Sherri. She had work to do, but I hope wherever she is today she is truly happy.
As we left the room, a psychiatrist stopped me. “Lynn, I’ll bet you have been told many times that you are too sensitive, right?” I laughed, and replied, “Yes, it is a curse!”
“No,” he replied, “it is a gift.” From that moment on I decided not to be afraid of speaking and trying to save another from the despair of depression. It takes a lot of courage to live but takes no courage just to be who you are called to be. None of us need to become someone else’s image of ourselves, but we do need to live in the image God intended us to be and be comfortable doing so.
And, that is where faith comes in. God uses us to do his will even when we must travel down winding roads that make no sense.
Lynn Walker Gendusa is a columnist from LaGrange and the author of “it’s all WRITE with me!” She will have a book signing at Dogwood Books in Rome on Nov. 17 between 1 and 3 p.m.