Being a Christian in Recovery: Reflections on the Robin Williams Loss

Since last Friday I've been reflecting on the fruits of the spirit:

But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
— Galatians 5:22-23 NIV

WHY I DON'T "GOT THIS"

On Sunday morning I went to a service at Granger Community Church. The new series is called "Help" and Pastor Beeson talked about people that talk like they "got this." That's danger zone for me.

I thank GOD I DO need God.

I DON'T got this. God's GOT this and he's got me.

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Flash forward to Monday night. We all find out that Robin Williams has died of apparent suicide.

What I DO know today is that God didn't put me on this earth to willpower my way through my mental illness. He gave me my mental illness so that I could see HIS will is more powerful than mine could EVER be. Not only that - he did it so I could be a light for HIM in the darkness.

I AM a woman walking with Christ who is in recovery. I only came to the relationship I have with Jesus today BECAUSE I got into recovery. The journey of recovery is what has led me to finding Christ in Me, not "up there, not down here" like I thought he was as a kid. I had to come to the end of me to begin a journey with him.

Why is it important for me to share this? Because I believe there is a disconnect between the faith side and the mental health side. 

I am more than my mind or my thoughts or my feelings. I am who God created to be in soul and in spirit. My thoughts or brain chemistry do not define me, my worth is defined in Christ. My weight does not define me. My worth is in Christ. When I look at my health I don't pretend that I've "got this." Oh my mental health is "fixed" and everything is just "fixed" because I got into recovery and I went to treatment, and I have found God. No, my life has almost gotten harder because I'm facing stuff. But overall,  it has gotten SO much better, because I GET to face that stuff. I GET to be real about that stuff because I've had to deal with it.

I also GET to walk through it primarily because I know that God's got my back because if I ever got to the place where I thought I had my mental health figured out? I'd be in big trouble. My health is a journey and it's physical, mental, emotional, AND most of all spiritual. I consider it an HONOR to be able to be present to things, to walk through the tough days and experiences today. Why? Because I know that God's doing something I couldn't do on my own free wilI.

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Earlier today I was taking notes for this blog. The passing of Robin Williams speaks to me because I "get it" in different ways.  I've lost a best friend to suicide. I've struggled with depression, addictions, anxiety and everything that goes with that stuff beneath the surface. I've walked the road of recovery. I know how much my mind wants to get me. I get it. My mind IS a battlefield.

Do I know exactly what he went through in his final moment internally? No. Do I know exactly what wanting to take my life feels like? No. But I DO know all too well people that I love and care about struggle with it and it's serious #@$%.

I won't take the time I write this blog to debate about all the religious and political debates that surround it. What I will talk about is the stuff of the heart and why treating mental illness and getting REAL about it as an issue is of supreme importance within ourselves, in our society and for the next generation.

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A PERSPECTIVE

I don't know if you've had a chance to read the letter Robin's daughter penned to him (Here it is), but it touched me in a deep way. In her last line of the letter she expresses sadness about losing her father and the hole he left. My Dad was no Robin Williams but many would say, "Your Dad lit up a room and he'll be missed," or "He made you feel like you were the only person in the room." Others came up to me at his wake or sent me messages as soon as they heard about how much my Dad had impacted their life and the choices they made in a good way. Each one made me feel even more lucky to have him as a Dad. Each one made me feel like, "I'm so glad I wasn't alone in feeling the light of his spirit." Their words and stories about him filled up my soul. And with his 3 year anniversary of being gone fast approaching next week all I could think when I read her letter was, "Wow, I get that." Different death circumstances, but still loss of our Dads. Loss period.

I only can connect to that because I learned how to feel when I got into recovery from NOT feeling for so many years. I wouldn't be able to feel the emotions that come from missing my Dad or be able to write or talk about him the way I do, if I didn't get through recovery and learn how to navigate intense feelings like this.

TWO THINGS MAKE MY LIFE:

1) My Recovery

2) My Relationship with God.

I heard that Robin Williams was in recovery in some shape or form. That means he got to a place just like I (and many other people did) where he couldn't take it anymore. His mind was making him turn to alcohol and other addictions and there was no amount of money, movies or Academy Awards that could make that go away. The mental stuff is NOT an outside job. The disease of the mind does NOT discriminate. 

It's an INSIDE job.

DESPERATE TO CHANGE

You can look like you've got it all together and be absolutely falling apart on the inside, and no one ever has to know...unless you are desperate.

You don't give up until you are desperate and I (just like millions of others in recovery) was desperate. What I was thinking, feeling on the inside was absolutely killing me. I had to deal with it because I hadn't EVER dealt with it and all the addictions I'd gone to just were not working anymore at all. So I DID go to treatment and get into 12 step recovery and every drop of knowledge and tool that I got on that journey was only by the grace of God...and STILL is only by the grace of God.

But there's that underlying thought in society that somehow whatever you did to get better "fixed you." Yeah, you know - you go to meetings for a while to "get it" and then your good. You go to therapy and your "good." You go to treatment and you get out and your "good." Oh man is that a lie. You are given the tools to LIVE. That is ONLY when the journey just begins.

So when I had my spiritual awakening and found God in the depths of my soul struggle, I didn't just go "Oh yeah, I'm good. Here we go!" Far from it.

He gave me the courage to take the first, second, hundredth, and continued steps. He still gives me the courage to take every single step. If I stumble and fall HE is there to help me up and so are the tools I've been given to do this:

To LIVE LIFE knowing that one of my greatest weaknesses is my mind and if I just give it to God and keep going to meetings, and getting in the Word, He will keep showing me the way.

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
— 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

WHY IT TOOK RECOVERY

That 12-step program I found when I got into recovery is EXACTLY the door that walked me through to a deeper relationship with God.  Finding a god of my understanding is the route I had to take to find that God is my God. But It TOOK not having rules drilled into me of how to live that opened my heart to HIM. I didn't just "get" this faith I have. I found my faith because I surrendered my life. On the road of recovery, I literally had to relearn and get to know the god of my understanding, the one who saved me. I needed to learn who he was and why he died FOR me and continue to learn from the Word just how much he is FOR me. 

My program complements my walk with Christ. He meets me but I've got to meet him and part of meeting him is that program. It's part of who I am today and my relationship with God ain't nothing that anyone can take away. Once I accepted him into my heart, there was no going back.

I truly feel like my recovery has given me a new faith that is between me and God on a deeply spiritual and relational level. So while the world debates the political or religious ramifications of contemplating suicide, I'm just going to keep walking in the light. That light is recovery and that light is Christ. Period.

I actively face and walk through whatever I have to in treating my mental health or whatever health because no matter what - getting better is an inside job that I GET to do because of who HE is.

WHY YOU GOTTA GET REAL

You've got to be willing to face mental health struggles and not worry about all the crappy stigmas around it or what other people might think. Who CARES what other people might think. This is your livelihood you are messing with and just because you can't see what's going on with your mind does not mean it's something you can just "fix" with a little willpower or positive thinking (or a workout or a diet.) It takes a LOT more than that. It takes facing your crap, dealing with your past and getting present to who you are today.

Who I AM today is a recovering woman in Christ and I know for sure that he isn't scolding me or judging me or punishing me, because he's been with me every step of the journey. He meets me right where I'm at with a whole lot of love and grace. All I've got to do is keep walking, keep facing my stuff, keep growing and keep learning because God KNOWS I'm never going to stop until He decides to take me one day.

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ACTION

I know that mental health issues and suicide are huge issues that I could write even more than I already have on this. I know that it's happening in every generation across the board because my stepdaughter had a classmate take his life last year. I lost a friend. My Dad lost a friend. Everybody often knows someone in some way. That's not what matters. Yes, the lives lost DO matter. But what also matters is how we address it, talk about it and deal with it. Pretending it doesn't exist (in every age and class) is just stupid. Gossiping about it? Doesn't help at all. Being present because you never know if someone is fighting a battle on the inside cause EVERYBODY'S got their stuff on the inside.

You never know who you can help by smiling, listening or just sharing your story. All I know is that not talking about it has to stop. Getting beyond the talk also has to begin. Because if we just talk about the outcome, we'll never get to the root. We have to get to the root and part of that is breaking the stigma so people can find the strength in safe circles to start facing it. I am willing to be part of that change, to provide a safe space to talk about it, but I can't do it alone. So if you've got a testimony, and you see someone struggling - share it. Most of all, don't do nothing cause that's exactly what your mind wants you to do.

If you right now, struggle with how you feel, what you think about yourself, suicidal thoughts, eating issues, addictions or just feeling uncomfortable in your skin in a way that you feel like you can't talk about it? Find someone safe to talk about it with. If you don't have someone, call a suicide help line. Call someone. Get out of your head.

If you can't find anyone you can turn to God. If you are angry at God or feel like he's playing a part in this that's making it worse, I want you to put down absolutely anything you are "thinking" about him - like he's punishing you in some way (been there done that) and realize this:

He loves you more than you will EVER be able to imagine and ALL that he wants for you is to ask for help so you can truly know that he is FOR you, not AGAINST you. I know it may seem crazy. But I'm someone who had God in a box and never let him into my pain because I thought I had to be good enough. But where he wanted to be was in my pain. All I had to do was say, "Help!"

Ask for help. You are not alone. I know when I get stuck in that place, I have to force myself to get out of myself. Whatever it takes, I've GOT to get out of my head. For me it's a walk in the sun, a journal entry, a call, a meeting, a passage, a quote, a music video - ANYTHING to get me out of my head. Maybe some of what you see below could help you at this very moment.

I hope this blog has helped you or will help someone else. Even if one person reads it, I will know in some way I passed on my experience to help another and that in itself does a little bit to erase the stigma.

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GENERAL RESOURCES

If you are struggling or know someone who is here are some resources that helped me on different parts of my journey, and maybe they can help you with yours if you are open to a faith-based perspective:

Here is a list of every verse that speaks to how our mind is a battlefield: http://www.openbible.info/topics/battlefield_of_the_mind. Getting right to the Word will give you some guidance if you seek it. Joyce Meyer wrote a fabulous book called "Battlefield of the Mind" that you can get and hear her talk also very real about how our minds truly are a battlefield. https://www.joycemeyer.org/ (This is a link to her website where you can find not just the book but devotionals, videos and radio broadcasts that speak messages of truth for you to listen to anytime, anywhere.)

Rick Warren, author of "Purpose Driven Life" is serious about breaking the stigma around mental health you can read an article here about that. I am inspired by someone who knows the Lord that is willing to be honest that mental health isn't something to be ignored or kept inside.

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ARTICLES AND BLOGS TO HELP

I won't begin to approach everything that's out there from a mental health side because it's extensive. What I will do instead is recommend that you seek out stories and maybe read some of these articles stemming from Robin Williams' death to give you a better perspective of the importance of dealing with it. Maybe then, it will open up your heart and mind to realize what matters is you getting healthier mentally, not what everyone else is thinking about you. These articles also speak to the most present statistics from all respects and offer some resources. Best advice? Don't try to figure it out for yourself. You will need the help. IF you pray, pray for willingness to ask for it. You and you alone (whoever you are that's dealing with it) has to be willing to face it yourself FOR yourself. So learn what you've got to learn. Keep doing what you are doing until you realize, "Okay this way/my way isn't working anymore. I need help."

So here are some of those articles:

From RELEVANT Magazine: "Suicidal Tendencies: What we Aren't Talking about is killing us." (one of my favorite magazines with a thorough perspective, especially for the next generation.)

Here's a WebMD Article/Newsletter that came out in response to it today: "When Depression Becomes Deadly."

A personal article from someone who has "been there, done that." It's on Huffington Post and it's called, "There's Nothing Selfish About Suicide."

"What the Church and Christians Need to Know About Suicide and Mental Health," from a website called "A Holy Experience."

Lastly, a fascinating article from Yahoo.com about Carrie Fischer's experience with him as a friend called, "Carrie Fisher on Robin Williams: He was the Opposite of Selfish."

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MOVIE CLIPS TO HELP

Here are two actual scenes from Good Will Hunting that speak so truly to the issues behind the surface, to our insecurities, our idiosyncrasies, and our pain and I think it's an important teaching tool.

MUSIC TO HELP

Finally, here are two songs that I think could help you if you are in that space because they've helped me - the lyrics, the artists testimonies, the actual music. They have helped me and I go back to them regularly so I want to share them with you in case music is one of the languages of your heart.

The first two songs are a group called Building 429. I saw the lead singer share his testimony live in concert recently about his brush with suicide and how getting back to God was what got him out of that ugly place...it makes these songs, videos and his voice so much more powerful.

 

This singer below, Dara Maclean is a Christian artist who talks about how our baggage ties us down - another one I saw sing live and heard the hope in her lyrics of letting go.

This is a Christian Worship song that speaks right to depression and addiction and God as the anchor in all our storms. Many days it's the song on my alarm to wake up. It's called, "Shores" and it's by Bryan and Katie Torwalt.

Here is another one, Demi Lovato, recovering music artist and her song, "Warrior" about her story and struggle with addictions and an eating disorder. It gives me chills and she's another one I went to see in concert with my stepdaughter just so I could feel the presence of her as a voice for recovery.