Friday, November 11, 2016

A Different Kind of War

Lest we forget.

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada and Veterans Day in America. We are pausing from our work and taking a day to reflect on the men and women who lost their lives in war, those who fought bravely and are still here with their memories, and those who are serving in dangerous or maybe just far off places defending the innocent or keeping the peace.

I am also pausing today and reflecting on the war. The battles that so many are fighting daily in the pursuit of health, or maybe just in the pursuit of some sort of peace. Specifically, the war on mental illness and addiction.

I think of those I know of who lost their lives to suicide or addiction:
my mother, my friend, my friend's brother, my new friend's son, another friend's son, and the friend of a friend back in my high school days (I went to his funeral even though I didn't know him. The pain of suicide was so near to my heart that I wanted to support his family and friends, and attend for my own grief journey as well), and this week a young man in our community died due to drunk driving. 

I think of my courageous friends who battled or are still battling various forms of mental illness/addictions (and forgive me if you notice I am mentioning you and my brief description of your journey may not be entirely accurate and I can't do it justice in just a few words):

*The woman who suffered sexual abuse as a child, battled marijuana addiction in her teen and young adult years, and as a wife and mother still faces extreme anxiety attacks from time to time. She is a gifted counsellor who offers compassion, wisdom, insightful prayers, and hope to many who are in need of support. 

*The man who fought such extreme anxiety in his young adult years that he was house bound for about a year (even going to the mailbox was no small feat). He now courageously bears his soul through his music and brings healing to others through his vulnerability on stage and in the studio. 

*The friend of mine who probably feels defeated right now. Pregnant again. Living separate from her children. Trying to just get up every morning and put one foot in front of the other. Trying to believe that God can heal her and allow her to enjoy a good life with her kids. 

*The young woman who has experienced all kinds of trauma, who has good dreams and plans for her life, but all the voices in her head are so loud they make the everyday chores of life unbearable and she just wants to run and numb the pain. 

*The man who is burdened with regret over choices he's made that have isolated him from his family and friends. He gets up and goes to work each day to provide for the practical needs of his family, and opens the bottle every night to provide for the various needs of himself. 

These are the soldiers I am thinking of today.

The struggle to live a healthy life is real.

I'm not going to hide the fact that I am in the trenches right now. A few weeks ago I was wondering if I needed to start taking some sort of happy pills. So far, I am doing alright without them, but it's only because I am surrounded by wonderful people who are in the trenches along side me (I say that with full awareness that friends aren't always enough and the need for medication is nothing to be ashamed of, and may yet be in my future). There are days when I have no tears, but then friends show up and cry for me. There are days when I have lots of tears, and friends hand me tissues and listen and pray (and laugh with me as I awkwardly wipe my nose with this stupid piercing in the way! Thanks to Wanda for my new hashtag #notagoodseasonoflifeforanosering).

Here's the deal: I just turned 38. My mom took her life a month before she turned 38. For whatever reasons, she came to the point of giving up on life before she got to be 38. And for various reasons, I find myself having to fight very hard for a healthy life at the age of 38.

I think the main difference between my mom at almost 38 and me at 38, is that she chose isolation and I've chosen community. My mom inadvertently taught me a very important lesson: don't try to make it through life on your own. Having a pretty face, a nice house, and the ability to throw a great party is not really going to satisfy you.

Why am I sharing all this? And why am I doing all of this? Someone told me yesterday that the work I do on myself right now is like an inheritance I can give my children. So, even if I decide I don't really care enough about myself to have a great life, I am now more aware that the work I am doing isn't just about me. Similar to the soldiers who fought (or are still fighting) against evil regimes, I have to keep the bigger picture in mind. This is about peace in the present, but it is also about laying a good foundation for future generations.

I will leave you, fellow soldiers, with a song written by my good, ole pal, Matthew Perryman Jones. This came on while I was driving home yesterday after doing some soul-searching with my counsellor and my support group. I like to hit "shuffle" on my phone and see what songs pop up. This song was so fitting and I marvelled at how well God knows me and how He is fighting for me too, and I had to drive a little further down the road just to take it all in.

Homage for the Suffering
"Here's to you when the rain hits too hard, when the battles that you fight just leave you scarred.. when you're tired to the bone and you've got no strength to move on.."