Self-Care Sunday…Listening, Empathy and Grace

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So this blog post is going to be a bit different from what I normally post.  I had a post already written, a happy little upbeat post complete with a pretty picture.  And then I woke up this morning to the news that a dear friend, someone that I looked up to and admired had ended his life.  The world would no longer be blessed with his amazing photographs, photographs that were so good they many times looked like paintings.  After enduring a very dark time in his life, a time where he felt like he had nothing left to give to the world, nothing worth sharing, he decided that he was too tired to continue. People who have never felt this darkness will not understand these feelings.  And that’s ok.  You don’t have to understand a person to show them empathy and compassion.  To quote the very wise Atticus Finch,

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

There are certain temperaments, the innate intricate way a person is created, that makes them more prone to depression.  People who have this bent have to work twice as hard as someone who is naturally more upbeat and positive to not feel the hurt and the pain of this world profoundly and passionately…in their very core.  I have always been a glass is half full kind of person, many times just thankful I even have a glass.  But there was a dark time in my life.  A time that I felt like the world was closing in on me.  A time when I felt like the people I loved more than life would be better off without me.  And those feelings were very real.  They were not something I could “positive talk” myself out of.  I couldn’t just read a great self-help book and those feelings just disappear.  They were overwhelming, all-consuming and very frightening.  And I was very ashamed and embarrassed to be feeling those feelings.  I never reached out to anyone.  By the grace of God, my suicide attempt was not successful, and I was given the gift of another day and another chance.  And I got the help I needed.  My friend didn’t get that chance, he chose a permanent solution to a temporary situation.  And my heart hurts because of that.  I had talked to him just days before and actually confronted him about my fears that he was considering taking his own life.  And others had reached out to him recently, checking on him, asking him to lunch, trying to get him behind the lens of a camera again, all to no avail.  When I first heard the news, I was hit with a wave of guilt that took my breath away.  I should have tried harder to reach out.  I could have stopped him.  The dreaded “shoulda, woulda, coulda” syndrome.  But after reaching out to some good friends and talking through these feelings, I realized that I couldn’t allow myself to dwell on these thoughts.  I did the best I could.  I wish with all my heart the ending could have been different, but I can’t let it keep me from reaching out to others.  I must continue to listen to others, to hear their hearts when their words fail them.  I must continue to feel empathy towards others who are in the trenches with this dreaded monster called depression.  To remember how it feels and how alone and isolated you can feel in the battle. And I must extend grace to myself in the process.  I am not called to fix people, only One Person can truly do that, and I am called to point people to Him.   I can not feel personally responsible for the decisions of others, because as we teach our children from an early age, the only person you truly have control over is yourself.  But I can continue to share my story, to share the lessons that I have learned throughout my journey.

And I will.

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