Today I said goodbye to a psychiatrist who pumped new wind into the mental health sailboat I’ve been chartering for the last 5 years. I knew the end was coming. I got the letter in the mail that she was moving out of her private practice and into the refugee community — a space where there need to be more people like her.
There’s that temptation to stand at the door and not let her go. There’s this real feeling inside of me that I could block the doorframe with my arms and just tell her she needs to stay put because of someone like me? Well, I need someone like her that continually shows me hints of hope and gold in this march through depression.
Never, never, never did I think this area of my mental health battle would be redeemed. Never did I think the person who wrote my prescriptions and sent me off to the CVS pharmacy for a refill of Prozac would also be the one to pray over me before I left her office or tell me, from her space on the couch, that God is in this mess. That is how she has ended every meeting with me for the last three years, by asking me in her soft voice, “Mind if I pray for you before you leave?”
In our first meeting, my doctor told me1/3 of people go on medication, come off it, and never have to go back on it again. Another third go on medication, come off of it, and have to go back on it when symptoms return. The last third is on it for their entire lives and that’s okay, too.
I’ve never had a doctor tell me “that’s okay, too” in regards to mental health and medication. Words like “that’s okay, too” are like water to me in the dry of a desert that has never seen rain.
Ever since that first meeting, I’ve been sharing her wisdom with anyone who will listen. I’ve been watering my part of the planet with “that’s okay, too.”
If I could, I would stuff her in my pocket and take her everywhere with me. I would pull out her and ask her for advice because I really like the God she references in daily life. I like the possibility and “what could” become my relationship with God when she talks to me. I guess that is why people come into our lives: To change us. To shift our perspective. To walk us through the woods or show us where we may have taken the wrong turn. To welcome us into the “that’s okay, too.”
I know people don’t fit into pockets but, if she did, then I would introduce to all my friends. I would introduce to every person who ever doubted that God shows up in the mess and the mud. I would introduce her to you if today was the day your faith was failing and you were finding it hard to just look up.
I would tell you that today I sat on her couch and grappled with the frustration of not getting over certain feelings in the exact amount of time I feel they should be gotten over. Have you ever been there before? You uncover some anger or some lost hurt and you are upset to find that the feeling doesn’t go away so quickly.
“THAT WAS MY FRUSTRATION TODAY. I WANTED CERTAIN FEELINGS TO MAKE A NECESSARY EXIT AND GO HAUNT SOMEONE ELSE.”
“But I am realizing I just need more God every single day,” I told her. “Like, I wake up with the same feelings and here I go — bringing them back to God once more.”
“And that’s the goal,” she says to me, smiling like she has it all figured out (or she has just become content with the not knowing). “The culture tells us the goal is to be independent but we get older and the goal is simply more dependence on God.”
She goes on to tell me that Mother Theresa, someone I will never be, was surprised to find in her later life that she needed more and more of God. That she was messier and messier with age.
I don’t want to become messier with age. I want to get tidier but it looks like the forecast is just the opposite. It looks like growing older just means more space for more mess. More capacity for more mess. More grace for more mess. And I guess, what my doctor is trying to tell me, is that more mess= more dependence on God.
How hard does that sound? To me, it sounds very hard.
How inconvenient does that sound? To me, it sounds very inconvenient.
How much do I want a different answer? Oh yes, I would like that very much because I can take the credit for different answers. I can be the hero when I don’t need to depend on God. I can pat myself on the back when the center of the story is me and not God.
Yet my story doesn’t seem to work best that way. I am surprised to find as I get older that the only time I feel the most utter and solemn peace is when I hand the keys back to God and just humble myself enough to ask him to fill all the small spaces in my day.
If it feels messy, that’s okay.
If you struggle to depend on God, that’s okay.
If you sometimes wish for a different story, that’s okay.
If you want to scream and cry and get real mad, that’s okay.
Just do me one favor? Run towards him, not from him. It might take a while to heed that advice, to really take a step back towards him. It might look like a few more miles (or 100 more miles) in the opposite direction. It might look like stubborn will and a “can do” attitude until you exhaust yourself into dependence. All of it makes sense. All of it will become part of the story.
It might take a really long while for you to go back to God this time around — and that’s okay, too.