May 25, 2016
Encouraging Others By Vickie Stam
Just about two years ago I was blessed with the opportunity to write something on the topic of "relationships" and then read it in front of a group of about forty women. I was thrilled, honored really. No one had ever asked me to write something for such an event and then share it. I thought this would be an easy task given the fact that I knew these women. They were none other than my church family; women I was surely comfortable with.
But the more I thought about this topic, the more I wondered what I would say. I am divorced and remarried and so I asked myself if this is what I should talk about. But --- would everyone be accepting of this even though they already knew this about me? Hmm, suddenly I felt a little nervous. But, knowing that it's never been a secret, I pressed on. I sat down in front of my computer and plucked at the keys. But, only a few paragraphs in I couldn't help but think about the many turning points in my life from childhood to adulthood and something struck a cord with me. I decided to write about depression and the affects it has on everyone, not only the person who is suffering from it but also those around them. This is an illness that takes its toll on relationships.
This would surely expose a secret my family lived with all the while I was growing up. It was something we were forbidden to talk about. As a child, I knew something was wrong in our home but I didn't really understand what it was.
My mother's illness was something most people didn't already know about. Writing about it helped release those feelings that were tucked inside my heart. Standing in front of those women that day was not as easy as I thought it would be. I was putting myself out there. I was careful when I was writing. I made sure the words reflected my situation and not that of others. Everything I shared was from my own experience. This was my journey. Even so, I wondered if there would be anyone in the room who had gone through a similar situation. I prayed that my words might encourage someone else. Let them know they are not alone.
All eyes were on me when I stepped up to the microphone. I held tight to my papers and read slowly and clearly, making sure my eyes did not drift from the page. Making eye contact with my friends would certainly open the flood gate. If the tears started, I'm not sure I could have stopped them. I began by describing my family in a single narrative, "dysfunctional."
Here is an excerpt from the story I read:
"It seemed so complicated. Yet when I sit down at night to watch television I'm reminded of what made it that way. Commercials illustrate its devastating affects. Brilliant actors portray characters feeling empty, sad and hopeless. Even comedians earn a living by making people laugh about something that has the potential to break a person."
"The year was 1963. I've been told my mother changed that year. She was no longer her ordinary self. Despite being married with two children and a loving husband, the news she received was too overwhelming. I can only imagine the expression on her face that screamed, this can't be happening."
"Inside her womb God was forming my fingers and toes and a beating heart. He chose to bring me into this world even if my mother wasn't prepared. Every tear that fell, I never felt a thing. Sadly, she began to withdraw to a dark place; somewhere my father couldn't go."
A few pages later I was finished. There wasn't a dry eye in the room. God had certainly used me to open the door for others to share some of their own experiences around depression. I was not alone.
My mother's depression left its mark on my family; a mark that we will never forget. During my adult years I learned that depression affects everyone differently. I learned that it wasn't her fault. It's an illness; something with no simple cure.
Since her passing in 2009, my sisters and I have talked at great length about the mark we carry; the one that seems to never leave us. Still, we harbor no bitterness -- only love. I know that God walked with my family through those dark times and today I miss her more than words could ever express. I loved her back then and I love her still.