A few weeks ago I wrote about meeting a new friend, Eugena Maguire of Parenting Human Beings.
Eugena is a Canada based social worker, parent coach, and former ‘struggling foster parent’ who created a podcast, Unpacking Depression, where she interviewed people to better understand the nuances, struggles, and beauty of those who care for depression.
Eugena’s work in supporting parents – and in embracing depression – is heartfelt, sincere and beautiful. She and I met through our common mentor and teacher, developmental psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld.
As you may know, depression and anxiety – alongside my eating disorders – have long been companions of mine, and for so many in my family line. There are lots of jokes in my family about the ‘terrible family mental health genes,’ but the jokes reveal a tender vulnerability underneath, and real sorrow.
They also reveal tremendous strength, and courage – and the wonder that arises when we meet the suffering of each other, and ourselves, with mercy and keen listening.
As I think of all of those who have danced with depression, anxiety, or other forms of mental illness, and the suffering it brings for so many of us, I want to pause, to honor all who have found themselves in this particular place of lowness.
Isn’t it something how our lowest experiences can bring such shame – such feelings of failure, as if we’ve gotten life wrong? As if our pain is something bad, some way we’re falling short?
I’m reminded of something my sailor friend Michael told me about how mental illness is viewed in Middle Eastern culture: “Be kind to the mentally ill, for they are with God already.”
It has been my extraordinary privilege to companion many loved ones through the bellies of depression, and to travel through my own. I say that without romanticizing or covering over the intense pain it brings.
For all those who have known this particular and often excruciating form of suffering, may you know you are not alone, and that you are held in dignity, and in love.
There is something you are bearing on behalf of all of us. And there is a medicine you are also carrying and bringing forth for all of us, too. Bless your holy labor, and the ways you bless us.
When we recorded the podcast, Eugena and I had one of those conversations that stretched far and wide, and that could’ve gone on and on into the wee hours of the afternoon, for all the ways we felt cradled by our time together.
I hope you feel the love that held us, holding you, as you listen.
Oh, one last thing – our time together inspired a poem, The Ugly Cry, about the ways that crying, and grief, is often pathologized, mocked, or seen through a lens of shame in our culture. Writing this poem helped me feel more curious and welcoming to my tears, and I hope that reading it offers the same care for you.
Together, we are healing the shame of being human. We are learning how to befriend our vulnerability, and our grief, so that this cultural view can shift. May it be so!
Artwork: Forgive Your Guilt by Eddy Sara, part of a series on mental health and befriending emotions. Used by kind permission of the artist.