A Broken Spirit is not Despised


So there we were, my two littlest girls and I, creating another batch of playdoh cookies.  The girls were happily mashing discs of colorless playdoh together to make “oreos” while blissfully singing another round of Baby Shark, Space Unicorn. and Spaghetti Cat;  I sat across from them.  Sobbing. 

I am not talking about a loud boo-hooing, ugly cry.  This was an ominous, reckless torrent of silent tears.  They continually brimmed, poured over my eyelids, ran down my face, collected under my chin and pooled onto the plastic craft table.  Brimmed and poured.  Brimmed and poured.  I had to use a kitchen towel to sop it all up.  This was for about the fifth day in a row.

Crying while playing playdoh just means that I am a high-functioning malcontent. 

–Or–maybe it signifies the return of my malady.

Is there a healthy way to battle depression?

How do I get through this tunnel?  It seems so so long.  I don’t know.  But when I am in it, I am sick.  Truly ill, and recognizing that makes me feel a little more free.  I know I have done everything in my power not to feel this way, for it not to be true, to reason my way out of it, to ensure I have the right nutrition and chemical balance. 

But it just is.

Do you see how everything starts with the word “I”?  I this, I that.  What a shamefully selfish place to be.  I am so self-involved.  Jarrod Jones wrote about this in his Ten Ways to Support Someone with Mental Illness.  This is an inherently selfish disease, but what disease is not?  You can break your pinkie toe, and the pain will take over everything in your day, become all you can think about. 

Depression is much the same way.  I can’t think about anything else, I just want it to stop.  And so I have to wait.  I must wait well. 

I wake up in the morning and think–am I going to be better today?
Let me get my coffee and hopefully this fog will vanish.

It’s still here.
Is this real?–Is this in my head?–Am I making a choice?

I have found some freedom in resignation, akin to moving on in the stages of grief.  I don’t like this about myself, and I scratch to get away from it all.  But it festers like a nasty emotional infection.  I can’t undo any of this with all the positive thinking in the world.  So I wait.  I am not going to try to hash it out anymore.  I am going to just settle.  Just be.

I do everything I can to wait with my dignity and grace intact:

I talk less.  I do less.  Plenty of good comes from doing and saying less.  I take comfort in that.  I relish the quiet time with my husband.  There’s nothing more to discuss about all this.  If I can’t change myself, he certainly can’t change me.  So we sit quietly.  He sits next to me shoulder to shoulder.  Holds my hand.  We enjoy a quiet cup of coffee.  A funny episode of TV.

I fall asleep earlier.  The storm in my head makes me tired.  I crave silence and wear earplugs to block everything out.

Am I being mean to my family?
They deserve an upbeat mother who throws parties and is a cheerleader.

They are getting quiet-me.

I am still functioning.  Doing laundry, making all meals, making sure they are all bathed and fed.  I make lunches and make sure everyone gets hugs and kisses even if I feel like an empty ghost.  I get up and take the little ones for an outing.  That’s worth something.  They have quiet-me to take them around. 

That has to be better than couch-me.

I still attend my bible study groups.  I still host my brown bag lunch group.  Even though I feel utterly disconnected, I go through the motions, and the motions matter.  I won’t stop trying.  I keep putting one foot in front of the other.  That is what I am doing for my family.  They have to know that I am doing everything I can.

I say “I love you” to everyone.
That’s everything I can do, regardless of how I feel

What will people think? 

There are recognizable triggers for my crashes but I don’t need to unpack them here.  

My mindchaos makes no sense to people who see my happy marriage, five healthy children, an “adventurous” life, my health, and the myriad of other blessings I enjoy daily.  People in my closest circles, with whom I have privately shared my struggle, have literally recoiled before me.  It’s bewildering when someone reacts to me that way.  

Yet one of my darkest seasons taught me that there just are people who can not handle pain.  I have to forgive them for that.  

I have begged my family not to share my situation with anyone…because I don’t want to be labeled “a negative person” and then written off entirely.  I don’t want my cyclical melancholy weirdness to interfere in friendships or cause someone to feel rejected.  So, in a rather desperate bid to be understood, I’ve started selectively telling my friends about my struggle with this.

But what if they don’t believe in depression?
Transparency is risky. 

The most crushing reality of all this mess is how I feel untied from my husband.  I see the look of helplessness on his face and another layer of guilt grows.  I can see how my hurting hurts him.  I best get myself together, and quickly before the tide turns, and *he* just can’t anymore. 

A broken and contrite heart the Lord will not despise.  

This scripture I’ve read 100 times before, but it came freshly alive in the midst of all the quiet and fear and darkness.  It was sheer light breaking through.

  • Am I broken?
    Yes.  A thousand times yes. 
  • Am I contrite?
    I wake up and empty out my pockets to God every day.

I know the twofold root of my mess:
1.  A messed up (sinful/selfish) heart.
2.  Not being exempt from the disappointments and maladies of our broken world.

Still, brokenness overcomes me and whittles me down to the bone.

But all this: the feelings, the anguish, the spirit of confusion, the quietness…

What breath that is for me when I feel like I can’t find air.   

I’ll continually pursue healing, and

  • He
  • won’t
  • despise
  • me
  • like this.

He can when everyone else can’tSome people have no grace for this, but His grace is sufficient for me: I don’t need validation from outsiders.

God is here–He is near to the brokenhearted, saves those who are crushed in spirit (Ps. 34:18)

He won’t recoil.  

pc: Hannah Daroczy

20 comments on “A Broken Spirit is not Despised”

  1. Thank you for being so transparent and open about your struggle. So often we forget that we all fall short, none of us is perfect but yes, His grace is enough.
    I love how Isaiah put it in Isaiah 49:8-9, He will help us, He will keep us, He will restore us, He will say to the captive, come out and to those in darkness, be free! What a beautiful promise!


  2. Thank you for your transparency. It is a shame that these subjects seem so taboo in our society because I feel so many of us are struggling with the same issues and could be encouragement for each other as we face our battles. I was just crying with my husband last night because I have been so lonely for a friend. I haven’t found someone I truly connect with in 10 years. Many days it is one foot in front of the other. Wondering what is wrong with me, sinking in my despair and loneliness, facing illnesses alone. Knowing that the Lord is with me and thankful that David, “a man after God’s own heart”, reveals his depression and agony of spirit in Psalms. Still, I seem to walk with my head down for days, sometimes weeks, before I remember to call out to him on these issues. Praying for you as you battle…our minds can be so damaging to our hearts.


    1. I am sorry for your feeling the pain of long term loneliness. Sometimes this lifestyle makes me feel like our best years are being wasted, especially when the Army makes us live far away from beloved family, which should fill our loneliness buckets. I have come to accept that perhaps there will only be two or three people in my adult life who I connect with, and everyone else is just a nice acquaintance. I think the plethora of David’s psalms indicates God’s vast understanding and patience with depression and mental anguish… God is far far more merciful with our sadness than other people are, or than we are on ourselves.


  3. Oh Leigh, yes a million times. This is me too. And there’s not much worse than the guilt of feeling like I’ve got everything everyone wants and still, I go down into that place. Have you ever read “The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Women’s Work?” If not, put it on your list. You hit on some of the ideas in here but wow, the value of the mundane when depression hits can’t be overlooked. Anyways, thanks for writing this. It’s nice to feel less alone.


    1. I can’t wait to read that!! Thank you for telling me about it. I think it’s the guilt of all of it can pile on and make it twice as bad, or more. If I peel off the guilt about it and just begin to live with it in acceptance, perhaps it would not be as dramatic. Thanks for getting me–I truly wish we could cross paths again in real life.


  4. He can when everyone else can’t. Some people have no grace for this, but His grace is sufficient for me: I don’t need anyone else’s validation.
    We love you.


  5. Hi my friend! Thank you for openly sharing your struggle with us. That takes courage and strength. Know that I am praying for you, that God be your rock and fortress and pull you out of that pit. I once went through it and I know how even though I was still functioning as a mother, wife, a church leader, etc I felt disconnected and like a dark cloud was hanging over me. It was in those moments that I remembered doing some prayer walking around my neighborhood or in my backyard that I experienced God as my fortress, my rock, my shelter, my place of safety, and my strength. I remembered how I finally understood what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 and it became a reality in my life. Love you my friend and miss you. I am only a phone call away. It is still the same number.

    “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:10; 13


    1. Thank Jocelyn, the dark cloud is scary and even when you know you’ve done everything to eradicate it, it makes you feel powerless and victimized by a resistance following you around everywhere… i am very glad God revealed himself to you in that dark spot. He has also revealed himself to me in the dark place, however it usually takes longer than I want it to. I don’t have a ton of patience to wait it out. But I know in my heart that he uses the shocking pain to remold us.


  6. Oh how I love you and your brutal & truthful honesty! Keep doing the motions, you are so right in saying they matter. Sending you love and many prayers to help you through the cycle. I see you. I hear you. And I love you!


    1. Being seen and heard, and loved–is everything. You are the kindest most understanding, most gracious friend on planet earth. I appreciate your grace toward me when I have not been very lovable.


  7. Leigh – I always knew you were such a strong woman -in body, mind and spirit. You are brave and vulnerable in sharing this and I give you so much credit for your honesty. Many prayers for you during the hard times. Keep up the fight. ❤️ Sending hugs.


  8. As always, I appreciate your candor. My heart breaks in to a million pieces reading your struggle, but I relate to every single word. I think you have articulated what so many feel but cannot find the words to express. I love you friend. Whether you know it or not, you show such strength in sharing…


    1. You have epitomized unconditional love toward me. I have been very unlovable around you before and you stayed. 🙂
      Thank you for supporting me and for showing me what loyalty looks like.


  9. Flawlessly said. Thank you for sharing your heart. I too, hear you and feel you. I hate that I’m reading and responding to this so many months later. I’ve always known we were kindred spirits since the day we “re-met” and still have not found a friend who understands the inner workings of my head like you. Keep taking steps…discipline becomes desire. Wallowing is too easy, and since when have we ever taken the easy way?! XOXOXO


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