Crossing the Street to Peace

Naomi Judd’s battle with depression saddened me in a way few understand.  Hers was a “drug-resistant,” lifelong struggle with a disease that eventually took Naomi away.  She fought abuse and poverty earlier in life, worked diligently to become a nurse to support her children, and used her Christian faith to live through hardships.  She gained fame with her God-given musical talent, was loved by her family, and lived in comfort.

“So, why did she take her life?”  “What in the world could be so bad that she no longer saw any good?”  “I don’t understand how she could be so selfish.”  These are examples of comments people who don’t understand say after one hears about a suicide.

Lack of mental health knowledge and compassion is akin to a person who lives in poverty versus the individual who has always existed with the proverbial silver spoon.   If one has lived most of their days happily, how can they possibly understand some find it difficult to just discover peace?  

My own battle

When I was a little girl and watched my friends be carefree, I recall thinking, “I wish I were like them!”  As far back as I can remember, I was always a bit embarrassed being me.   I tried to hide my wheezing caused by asthma, my allergy-induced swollen eyes, or the eczema that covered my arms.  The Oscar-worthy comedic acting routine I used was to conceal the pain deep within my soul. 

I loved people but was never sure that anyone truly loved me.  Because of my health issues, I felt like a burden, a loser, and since I wasn’t the smartest kid on the block, I deemed myself to fail.

Did anyone understand me?  No, not even my parents.  I was called too sensitive, too emotional, and told to be more thankful. 

The asthma was gone before I was thirty, and the allergies were under control.  However, the cheery act was up, and the little girl fell to the floor.  The hiding and charade were over when I raised my hand for help.

I tried to be more grateful, prayed to God for aid, and wondered why I was not like my pals.  I once told a friend who wanted to comprehend how I felt, “I envision myself on a busy street in New York City.  All the people hurry in one direction, talk to each other, laugh as they walk, and enjoy the sunshine.  On the other hand, I am walking alone on the other side of the street in the rain, but not sure where I am trying to go.  I want to join the others, but I can’t find a way to cross the road.”

Hope on the way for some

Naomi Judd suffered from treatment-resistant severe depression.  She was open about it and shared her journey, hoping to help others as she tried to help herself.  However, I cannot imagine her despair and anxiety. 

After receiving my own clinical depression diagnosis, I imagined that I would cross the street to normalcy one day.  In the beginning, I, too, was drug-resistant and used therapy, jogging, and prayer to get through the hours.

Looking back, I am thankful I wasn’t financially comfortable.  I needed to work to put food on the table for my children.  That was my sole motivation for living, which undoubtedly saved my life.  Even when the depression tried to kill me, I fought, in the end, to live.  But let me tell you, at times, it wasn’t easy, and I thank God today that He saved me from me.

When the newer medications for anxiety and depression arrived, I was one of the lucky ones they helped.  Naomi was not so fortunate.  She tried everything from potent drugs to complex therapies, but she lived with hearing the whispers of depression daily.  I suspect the voice told her that she was a burden, unlovable, and useless, and though the crowds applauded her, she could not cross the street.

On some dark days, even I still hear those same faint, annoying whispers.

A Promise

Friends, family, and advisors help, or they try.  What a person suffering from mental health issues does not need is to be judged by others who haven’t walked on that agonizing road alone.  We, who suffer from depression, do not need to be told how grateful we should be or how selfish we are, and we certainly don’t mean to be thoughtless.  In those dire moments when we contemplate ending our lives, most of us feel we are making yours miserable, so we should leave.  Understand, the depression causes our minds to become ill and grow weary.  

So, Naomi, I promise to continue being transparent to help those who suffer cross the street toward peace.   I pray you found it. 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  1-800-273-8255

A More Perfect Union

Why do I feel that “We the People” have collectively taken on more than we can chew?  News is flying at us faster than that speeding bullet regarding so many diverse, complicated, and polarizing issues.  Does anyone out there have Clark Kent’s telephone number?

A tragic war is raging, inflation is climbing, a recession looms, gun violence is rising, and evil COVID has not left the building.  We add the conflicts over abortion laws, immigration issues, and spar over books in school libraries.  Oh, and let’s not forget climate change, fires, tornadoes, and hurricanes.

You are lucky if you can get through a day without a headache.  And, if you did avoid a throbbing head, perhaps watching television will help you relax.  But, alas, your “Happy Days” rerun will be interrupted by the same old, tiresome political rhetoric of potential candidates slinging their mud.  Yep, you will proceed to bed with a bona fide migraine.  I am so sorry.

Empty church pews

Last Sunday, I returned to the pews of a church I attended years ago.  I sat in the same seat I once occupied and turned to see if I recognized anyone, and I did not.  Many of the pews that were once full of worshipers are now empty.  And, I saw no children and few adults under age fifty.  “Maybe they were all at the earlier service,” I hopefully pondered.

My other thought was that folks were hidden under their Sunday morning bed covers to avoid the world’s reality.  I can’t say I blame them, but hiding from our troubles is not the answer.

We can blame many of our woes on ourselves.  We can politicize everything from a peanut butter and banana sandwich to a hurricane.  Some events, such as inflation or supply chain issues, are partly due to the worldwide COVID outbreak and its havoc.  But one of the pandemic disasters was how we turned on each other over our polarizing opinions while watching millions die from the disease.  Many lost their families, while many others lost their hearts.  In the end, it hurt us all. 

And we wonder why many folks are not sitting in the church pews.

Yes, sometimes we are a mess.  We do dumb things, act foolishly, become self-righteous and hypocritical, forgetting how blessed we are.   But I believe one thing to be true of all of us…. we cherish the freedom we have in our country.   And, like those citizens of Ukraine, we will fight together in trenches to protect it.

War changes our perspective

Yes, a war is raging.  That war can remind us of what is vital in our world today.  When evil comes to visit, we will unite in battle.  Our differences are forgotten the minute a bomb falls on our soil, and we will band together to defend America.    That is what we must remember as a diverse group of people living under the umbrella of freedom.

It’s an odd emotion knowing there are so many people suffering in Ukraine while we freely, angrily clash with each other over our dissimilarities.  Instead,  Ukrainians have set aside their personal ideologies and merged to defeat tyranny.  And today, they collectively loathe the person who is determined to take their freedoms and independence away.

I am confident we will never agree on the abortion issue or what books should be allowed in school.  We never will all vote for the same person to lead us, and because our beliefs are different, we will still have backyard arguments.  However, we must stop much of the angry, conspiracy-laden, and hate-filled rants we have endured in the last few years.

Maybe our lack of respect has to do with those negative political ads that tell you not to vote for the other candidate.  Perhaps, those running should try a different tone, like explaining their platforms or touting their accomplishments.  Condemning others to win usually causes me to vote against those who do because they give me that migraine! 

No more vacancies

And we wonder why those church pews are vacant.

We may have taken on more than we can handle ourselves, but perhaps we can obtain strength and resolve from a higher power.  Maybe we should settle ourselves by sitting on a church pew, looking up toward the cross, and asking the Lord to help us quell our bitterness.  Using respect, honor, compromise, and understanding will please not only God but bring others to Him.

And that’s how we stop hurting ourselves and our children.  We can unite to foil the evil within us, find solutions, and prevent the violence and dissent we endure.  We, after all, are free to do so.  

“We the People of the United States in order to form a more perfect union….”

Let us try.

Still Miraculously My Own

My three-year-old daughter stood below me, gazing at her mother’s swollen belly.  And, while pointing, questioned, “Did you have me in your tummy, like that?” Her nose scrunched in disgust at the thought.

It was a moment in time that is as clear today as it was forty-nine years ago.

 “No, honey, I didn’t carry you in my tummy.”  I leaned down, looked into her soulful brown eyes, and explained, “Your daddy and I chose you.  We went to a beautiful castle full of infants, and when we saw you, we said, “That’s the prettiest baby in the world!  So, we wrapped you in a pink blanket and brought you home.  Always remember, Amy, you are special and unlike anyone else.”

“Whew, that’s good, Mommie, ‘cuz I wouldn’t want to be in there!” Still pointing to my abdomen, which was carrying her baby sister. 

I watched her as she walked away.  She was happy as a lark and relieved she came from a castle instead of a fat belly.  Tears mixed with relief, a touch of sorrow, and extreme thankfulness begin to pool down my cheeks. 

Amy never forgot the castle

Within the next three years, she shared a room with her toddler sister, and a surprise brother was added to amuse and pester her. 

When Amy was eight, I realized she had never asked another question about her birth.  She knew she was adopted, but it appeared it wasn’t a big enough deal to discuss. 

Actually, I would often forget myself!  When you have three kids and are working full time, you can forget where they came from or why they are there!  Y’all know what I mean, right?

It was open house night at her elementary school.   “Mommie, everyone in 3rd grade had to draw an outline of our bodies on paper and write about ourselves.  They are taped on all the hall walls.  It’s funny!”  Amy explained as we walked through the school doors.

She was correct; life-size paper cut-outs of 3rd graders were lining the walls everywhere.  When I glanced far down the longest corridor, I noticed a large group of parents and children were gathered around one paper outline, reading the biography of a child.  Amy grabbed our hands as we moved closer to the crowd.

The throngs of people were looking at our daughter’s display.  Many with tears in their eyes as they read Amy’s three-page story.  Every other 3rd grader had written a one-page note, but not our Amy. 

“My name is Amy, and I am special.  I am adopted and proud to be.” She wrote.  Amy relayed the story about the castle, the pink blanket, and the family she belonged to now.  Her pride in who she was, was nothing compared to the thankfulness I had for her being ours.

Good news

Through the years that followed, I would occasionally say, “Honey, if you desire to find your birth parents, I will help you.  But just so you know, the person who cradled you when you were sick and the one who changed and washed all those yukky diapers is your mom!”  She would snicker each time I would say the words, but she knew I was serious. 

I watched my gifted honor student daughter complete college, obtain her master’s degree in counseling, volunteer for her communities, move to the west coast, return to the east coast, and help our family through divorces, illnesses, good times, and disasters.     

She phoned a couple of years ago and calmly said, “Mom, I know who my birth parents are.”  I was beyond elated for her.

A mother’s love measured

 She discovered her birth family by happenstance through DNA results on a heritage website.  Unfortunately, both of her biological parents had passed away, but she found half-siblings and cousins.  She has learned about her ancestors and has met a few who remain today.  Her first cousin, who resides outside New York City, has a three-year-old daughter with Amy’s soulful brown eyes and the same golden curls surrounding a recognizable inquisitive face.

Today, we are all still the same.  We have an expanded family thanks to Amy, and we possess even more love than we did when we first saw the prettiest baby in the world wrapped in pink.

Isn’t it true that being a mother is not about how you become one but how much love you can give?  God hugged me the day Amy was placed in my arms, and I knew it.  Adoption is as stunning as childbirth, as beautiful as a castle, and nothing but love for a child is what makes it all magical.

“Not flesh of my flesh nor bone of my bone,

But still miraculously my own.

Never forget for a single minute:

You didn’t grow under my heart,

But in it.” 

Fleur Conkling Heyliger, author

*The story was blessed by one incredible daughter.