My Closest Friend(s)

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A few months ago, Disability Concerns began a story project. We invited people affected by mental health issues to send us their own stories, poems, and art work to share with others. Stories of Grace and Truth now has 27 pieces. Here is one that was submitted by someone who prefers to be known publicly as CKH. To read more stories, or to submit your own, head over to Stories of Grace and Truth.

I look normal. I am a creative, people-loving person. But there are times that I don’t feel normal. Since high school I have had periods of depression lasting months. I wondered why I felt so awful until I received a diagnosis. In my 40’s and 50’s the periods of depression turned into years—even with medication. I lost a job that I loved.

I was so lonely. I lost friendships during these dark periods. Who could understand the hopeless look in my eyes? My times of being a recluse? My distance from God? Was I losing my faith? My mind? I understand the words of Psalm 88: “Darkness is my closest friend.”

I learned the power of lament. Surely God would listen to my dark collection of thoughts. I don’t want to live anymore. Does God have a purpose for my existence? When will this pain end? Gradually I trusted a few faith-family friends with my deepest thoughts. Was this God’s love embracing me through them? Was this God’s healing ointment? Maybe I wasn’t alone.

I still wonder sometimes if my friendships will last during a depression. Will they call? “How are you?” they ask. Do they want to know the painful truth? Sometimes it’s better to say “fine.” I only need a few friends who are willing to accompany me during the dark times.

As God has given me friends who understand and stay with me for the long haul, they are God’s presence, his compassionate ear, his protection, and his love in concrete form for me.

Oh God, stay with me, be with me. You are my closest friend.

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Being a person raised on hymns as expressions of God's Grace and as lessons for Living Life in Christ, I am often reminded of the song "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" and "The Only Hope We Have is in Christ Jesus." There is Comfort and Joy in song.