Trav­el­ing down a wind­ing road…

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL - LYNN WALKER GENDUSA

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.


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