Dogs, Friends and Africa

I have a lot on my mind and don’t know where to organize it.  I find that writing out my thoughts helps me sort through my emotions and process.  I get up every morning and journal.  Sometimes I make the mistake of reading my old journal entries.  Like old, old journal entries from 10 or 15 years ago.

It seems like a different lifetime, a different person, a different movie that I’m viewing.  Who was that guy that I was hung up on?  I forgot that I worked there, man I was miserable.  Oh I forgot about that apartment off of Maple.  I used to buy a bottle of wine, grab my dog and park on the top level of the parking garage and watch the stars come out and the city get noisy.

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My dog is dying but he’s still alive.  He’s curled up next to me on the couch.  This is our happy place.  Him tucked next to me, me smelling his head and playing with his ears.  I’m suppose to put him down but I don’t know if I have the strength to do it.  I can’t imagine coming home and him not being there.  He’s always been there for me.  A sense of stability in the midst of all my wanderings and detours.

But the thing is, I don’t need Hunter anymore like I’ve needed him before.  I got married and now I have a companion and friend that talks back to me.  I didn’t realize this overwhelming need I have to pour love into something.  And now I can do that with my husband.  I’ve said it in my previous post, but letting go of Hunter is letting go of an era.  A life of singleness, insecurity, being alone, unbalanced.  And I’m ready to make that step.  I’m not saying I wont ever feel alone or unbalance again, but I’ve got a new helper.

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I have these core tools in my life that keep me stable and healthy.  Yoga, my relationship with the Lord, eating well and a lot, long walks, journaling, open communication with my husband and family.  These things ground me and help balance out the crazy.  If I think about it long enough I can probably think of others.  Mantras, ya, I have lots of mantras that get me through my day.

I don’t know how to ease into this so I’ll just say it, one of my clients committed suicide last week.  It really threw me for a loop.  It actually sent a shock wave through our whole community.  She was a loving, graceful, joyful mother of three.  I don’t know all the details but from what I do know, she had a mental break and in a point of weakness that seemed to have hit suddenly, she took her life.

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There are no pretty answers to this tragic event.  I keep replaying all our conversations.  It just doesn’t make sense.  What does stand out in her story is she seemed like everything was ok.  I would have never guessed she was struggling.

I fear that mental health is still a taboo subject.  We place such high expectations on our selves.  We compare our lives to others online.  We isolate more and prefer to interact through cyberspace.  It takes extreme courage to be honest and real with someone else.  It takes grace and patience to provide a safe space for someone to open up.  Then what do you do after someone opens up and it’s not pretty?  It takes perseverance to commit to the relationship when it gets uncomfortable and might become a strain.

Her death has made me become hyper aware of my friendships.  Am I being open and real?  It’s one thing to blog to the oblivion, it’s quite another to stare face to face and open up.  Am I asking honest, real questions with my friends?  Am I being a good friend?

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I went to South Sudan two times with an amazing ministry, Seed Effect.  They do micro finance in extreme places.  My job when there was to gather stories.  And man, did I have my hands full.  For a country that has experienced civil war for 25 years and is currently at war, every person has seen death close to them.  Many times in a vicious way.  And every person has an extreme story of physical pain and suffering.  When I came home the first time I thought, man, and here I am complaining about traffic!  I thought in America, we are so privileged and have nothing to complain about.

The second time I came home from South Sudan I felt like I had more of a balanced view of suffering.  In South Sudan, the suffering is very extreme and it’s primarily external.  Rape, murder, child soldiers, family deaths, starvation, disease, the list goes on.  In America I feel like the battle is more internal.  We isolate.  We compare, we struggle with perfectionism and getting everything right all the time, can’t keep up.  Depression, bipolar, postpartum depression, anxiety, struggling to get through the day, unhappy at our jobs, wishing we were somewhere else, unsatisfied, body issues.  If you’re not struggling mentally at some time, I guarantee you know someone that is.  And we’re not talking about it.

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I know this doesn’t change overnight.  But I encourage you to find a friend and go there with them.  Have a real, check in, how’s life, conversation.  If you open up, it is most likely they will too.  Not a text, not a Facebook thinking of you praying for you message.  But a real face to face check in.  I’m preaching to the choir here, because it’s hard for me to take this advice.

I believe by having the courage to become more vulnerable with others we can remove the stigma of mental health and can encourage others more fully.

So I’ll work on taking my own advice too, and let’s get out there!

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