It’s OK not to be OK
Nonprofit Sip of Hope (https://sipofhope.com/) in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago is the world’s first coffee shop that gives 100% of it profits to support proactive suicide prevention and mental health education. Their motto, which I wear on a band around my wrist, is “It’s OK not to be OK, Have Hope.” Indeed, it is.
I think of Greg Boyd, renowned Princeton educated theologian, prolific author, speaker, and pastor-teacher who is quite up front about his adult attention deficit disorder and his period manic episodes, as well as his abusive childhood.
I think of John Green, a phenomenally successful blogger, educator, YouTube sensation, and author of books for young adults, who is up front talking about his deep irrational anxieties and obsessive compulsive disorder.
And, historically, figures like Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Martin Luther suffered from what today would clearly be called a form of deep, chronic, major clinical depression. The list could go on.
The point, though, is that one can have a significant mental disorder and live a full, flourishing, meaningful life that impacts others for good. No shame. No judgment. Life beats us up. Genes get out of whack.
Yes, we need help. Sure, there are medications which, when used in conjunction with talk therapy such as cognitive behavioral intervention guided by a trained psychologist, can be of help.
But the truth is, all of us need help regularly, whether from a physician, surgeon, mechanic, IT professional, spouse, neighbor, or psychologist. We’re in this boat called life together. It really does take a village to raise a child.
My maternal grandfather committed suicide when my mother was seven. My paternal grandfather died in his 30s leaving my 12-year-old future father in charge of providing for a family. My oldest son committed suicide. On my birthday.
And when Elliott died by suicide, a genetically weakened link deep inside me snapped. I have off and on battled against major depression ever since.
It’s lonely, just like grief is lonely. No one is you but you. No one feels exactly like what you feel. No one has had your identical life experiences. No one has your exact genetic makeup. And, because most people are not diagnosable with a mental disorder, most people do not really understand. Well-meaning people give really unhelpful advice. No one but God can truly empathize.
I have had massive panic attacks that lasted for hours. I have spiraled into deepening anxiety, felt out of control, thought I was dying. I have at times felt like an astronaut drifting untethered in a vacuum of dark space. I have at times felt like I was locked in a one-person submarine that lost its power and is drifting slowly into utter darkness and the certainty of being crushed out of existence.
But, you know what? It’s OK not to be OK.
It’s OK because there are people who love me.
It’s OK because there are professionals to help me.
It’s OK because there are people who have experienced something similar and can begin to relate.
It’s OK because God loves me and will never leave me. He walks with me in the darkness.