Letting the Right People into Your Mess: Depression and Community

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Note: I know this isn’t exactly dating-related, but it’s what God placed on my heart to share for this week’s blog post. I hope it blesses someone…

Not too long ago, I was struggling through a deep depression. I had lost an important freelance gig and along with it three months of income. I was spending too much time indoors. I was skipping meals again. And my heart was tired—after a string of rejection after rejection from men who seemed the most promising of men I’d ever met, my heart felt like it had been put through a salami machine. My apartment reflected my feelings—clutter and mess everywhere. I simply had no energy to do but the most basic of things.

One morning, my friend Audria’s name kept passing through my mind. For half the morning, I resisted calling her. I felt like the past few times I had called her it had been for “needy” reasons (gosh darn it, I didn’t want to be the person who only called someone when she needed something). Still, knowing I needed a friend to talk with, I finally called her. I felt like maybe God had purposely brought her to my attention. Not gonna lie though, as I dialed her number, I was cringing. I expected her to be weary of me, to make up some excuse about not being able to talk. Maybe she wouldn’t even pick up.

But she did pick up. Within seconds, I was crying to her about my overwhelm, especially about the dusty apartment that was affecting my allergies and how I simply had no energy to clean it. Audria said she wanted to come over. I resisted, but she insisted.

Community is letting people into your mess.

You see, I had barely invited anyone over since I had moved into my place. I was ashamed of my apartment at times. Perhaps ashamed is too strong a word. Let’s say embarrassed. Embarrassed by my old, mismatched furniture. By the stains on the carpet. The piles of paper. The shelf that bended in the middle that I had no way to fix because I’m not handy and still needed it to store some things. Anyways, I lived in a tiny studio apartment with no storage space, and it was definitely not the ideal place to entertain friends, especially friends who live in nice houses and don’t have saggy shelves or mismatched furniture.

But when I heard the knock at the door, I let Audria in.

I did tidy myself up a little bit before she came, taking a shower and changing out of my pajamas.

When my dear friend came in, armed with cleaning supplies, the first thing she did was put down all the stuff and wrap me in a hug. And then she told me words I had been longing to hear but just didn’t know it:

“I am proud of you. And God is too. He sees you trying to live right for Him. And you know what? If you make a mistake, it’s okay. He knows you will make mistakes. He loves you. He is proud of you. You are doing great.”

I don’t remember all her words, but I do know that I sobbed in her arms.

I had risked letting her into my mess, and I was embraced in it.

Later, when I was driving and reflecting, God gently showed me a mistake I had made, rather brought revelation to an opportunity He had tried to give me while I had chosen the other, more difficult path. But He also reminded me of Audria’s words:

“If you make a mistake, it’s okay. He knows you will make mistakes. He loves you.”

A few weeks later, Audria called again, wanting to give me a file cabinet (she knew I was trying to organize my office, and she was purging for a move). Again, my apartment was a mess and I was in my pajamas. Sigh. This time, though, it was Saturday morning, and I usually tidied my apartment this day. I just hadn’t gotten there yet. But Audria was in the area and wanted to stop by. She kindly gave me time to grab a quick shower. This time, the second time, I didn’t worry about the apartment. In fact, I even invited her in for a coffee or tea. All around me was MESS, but I put the teakettle on for her, coffeemaker for me, and I brewed her a warm cup of chocolate chai. As we settled on the couch, warm mugs in hand, we relaxed and let our hair down. She released some of her stress about moving, and I shared some of my stress about business. We laughed and shared stories and simply enjoyed each other’s company. It didn’t matter that there was mess around. It was like we were in a sweet, peaceful bubble. Who cared about what was around us?

I will forever treasure that morning.

If only we risked letting people into our messes more often, what riches would be found there in the sweet spot?

It’s slightly terrifying to be known. Okay, it’s terrifying. Once the walls start to come down, will they still like you? Will they still love you? When you share your insecurities? Your hang-ups? When the pedestal they’ve built for you begins to fall down?

If they’re true friends, they will.

If there is one thing God has been teaching me in the past few years, it’s that I am loved despite my mess and perceived flaws and also that I need people. (I’m stubborn and want to do it all myself.)

During this time, I returned to a group I love: Celebrate Recovery (a Christ-based recovery group for those with all types of hurts, habits, and hang-ups). Many nights, I cried in our small group, at one point practically running out of the room into the nursery where I sobbed because I had just admitted that I, a professional woman, did not have the funds to buy groceries. (What worried me most was that people would think I was asking for money when really I just needed a place to admit what was really going on.) So I’m literally in the corner of the darkened nursery, sobbing the kind of sobs that rack your whole body and stuff up your whole nose, while these women—these beautiful, strong, authentic women—embraced me. And the next week, one loaded up my car with food; another brought me fancy protein shakes. And soon after, a new friend (now my sweet boyfriend) surprised me with a box of food and a coffeemaker because I had mentioned mine had broken.

During this time, I also found an attentive holistic physician who helped me with the physical aspects of my depression; continued on with personal counseling; and enlisted business mentors to help with my business through a free and awesome program called SCORE. Oh, and I bartered with a friend who runs an organization business—I gave her writing advice, and she helped me figure out what to do about that sagging shelf.

I was building community in all aspects of my life.

We need each other. We cannot do life alone. We are not meant to do life alone.

And the more I realize I am loved, the more love I want to give to others. We love with the love we receive.

There’s a song called “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen with the most beautiful verse that could apply here:

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

You are beautiful. You are worthy of love. Make that phone call. Reach out. And know that even if the other end is silent, Jesus never sleeps. His love never fails. His mercies are new every morning. Lay your pain down at His feet.

His word says:

A bruised reed he will not break,

and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out

—Matthew 12:20

He will guide you step by step out of the darkness.

I hope this encourages someone today.

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6 comments

  1. I love how you follow God’s lead in what you write! I tend to avoid letting people come to my messy house with the dog hair that’s hard to keep up with, but it helps to know other people have mess in their homes, too, like one of my good friends who has piles of papers, mail, magazines, etc. like I get. I just got back from a wonderful six day reunion with three high school girlfriends at the home of one of the girlfriends who has two dogs. After a few days, a fair amount of dog hair had collected on her beautiful floor, and I felt right at home with the dog hair and the abundance of love.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for another wonderful and healing post. I applaud your openness and vulnerability here because I know that your sharing is helping others heal.
    I loved the quote about imperfections letting the light in. I have imperfections in some relationships now that are breaking my heart, but I have handed those hurts over to God. Now I’m relying on Him to shine light through this cracked bell and let it ring again.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi. I thought I posted a comment but I don’t see it so I will try to recreate it here

    Thank you for writing this for I am in this place right now. I have no money to buy toilet paper or cat food. My depression has taken me to an extremely dark place. I’m ashamed of my once clean and organized home. I don’t know how to get out of this hole.
    I feel I have nothing to look forward to. I don’t know my purpose in this world. I’m afraid of everything.
    But, that being said, I am always here for you anytime you need me. I am proud to call you my friend. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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