Darkness and a Mound of Ashes

FullSizeRender (2)I hesitated to write this.  Seeing it on the page only makes it more real.  I hesitated to post it even more, as the act of putting this out for public consumption feels sinfully self-indulgent.  I wrote it, then put it away, then pecked at it again, then let it sit for a couple of weeks to see if I still felt that this was full of the brutal honesty I intended to be.  In the end, I guess my purpose is this:  Down the road, I want my girls to understand that my problem isn’t their fault.  I also want them to know that it is always OK to reach out for help.  I want them to know that if they are struggling, they need not suffer alone.  Insisting on bearing burdens alone isn’t self sufficiency; loneliness is only the state of listening to your own unwise counsel.  And for you, dear reader, know this:  Don’t hesitate to find the help you need.  After spending the past several weeks inventorying the last 40 years of my life, I wish I had reached out much earlier.


Dear Alexandria and Mary Ellen,

Some of the things I have written about in my series of letters you’ll remember. Many of the events you likely will not recall.  These past weeks you will remember.  Of that, I am sure.

I am so desperately sorry for what you’ve endured.  My temper is short.  I yell constantly.  I even got so angry that I punched a hole in a wall.  I just couldn’t find another outlet.

Obviously, I am not my usual self.  I am consumed in darkness.  But, it isn’t your fault.  It is mine.  Or maybe it is the fault of whatever circuit in my brain has finally ceased to behave in a reasonable fashion.  That notion seems like a sinful cop out.  Listening to you ask your mother why daddy isn’t happy fills me with grief and self-loathing.

I wish I knew the reasons why this is happening.  I don’t.  I know things— or pieces of things.  In a very short period of time, the world that I thought I knew has suddenly stopped making sense.  God’s voice has disappeared completely from my life.  I lost my desire and ability to pray.  I  have became exhausted and have had a tendency to retreat to the most unhealthy forms of anesthetic.  I feel confused, lost and utterly unworthy.

Or maybe it hasn’t been such a short period of time.  Over the past several months, I steadily began to feel as though I was losing my grounding in my faith.  I wrote recently that I was having a hard time discerning God’s direction for my life; I felt as though I was struggling to simply hear His voice.  It isn’t a crisis of belief; I know and understand that God exists.  No, it has been more of a feeling of unworthiness.  Intellectually, I know that God’s grace is available to everyone.  My antenna just seems to be broken.  I cannot even form the words to ask for His intercession.

The time frame of my crisis doesn’t matter, really.  I haven’t been able to coalesce an understanding of  what has happened yet.  Sure, there are painful things to deal with, but nothing that would warrant the absolute grief I am experiencing.  I feel like I am walking through life looking at things through alien eyes.  Everyone seems happy, and in being so, they are completely foreign and unintelligible to me.  My inability to control my thoughts and emotions is incredibly frustrating; my anger over my actions and feelings knows no bounds.

The doctor used the word “depression” as a possible explanation.  This is all new territory for me, but that word seems completely inadequate to the task of describing what I am experiencing.  I’m not ready to label whatever this is, but if it is depression, I feel I must apologize to every person I have ever known who has said that they suffer from that affliction; I failed to comprehend the depth of their burden.  I have never experienced such soul crushing pain.  It is as if an unfathomable darkness is stalking me and I am left with no place to hide.

There may soon be real effects for you to bear.  My employer has been incredibly gracious and has granted me wide latitude in dealing with this crisis.  Obviously I cannot— and will not— fly.  To me, being physically and mentally fit to fly is paramount to preserving the sacred trust I am given when I walk onto the flight deck.  I positively will not make any compromises when it comes to safety. Even so, that grace from the airline won’t last forever.  Well, counseling starts tomorrow.  We’ll see.

I was going back and re-reading some of the letters I have written to you.  I hate to admit it, but I find no solace in them.  I feel like a miserable liar.  If I meant even half of what I have written, then surely my faith would find root in some little speck of fertile ground. I’m afraid that I find myself planted firmly in the dead ashes.  It is as if once firm truths have been stripped of their childlike simplicity and have become impossibly complex.  Every notion is a Gordian knot of “what ifs” wrapped in a heavy blanket of guilt and inadequacy.

Suddenly, I am remembering old Job.  He cried out to God from the ashes, too.  Maybe I’ll spend some time with that book today.  Well, Job was an upright and faithful man in the eyes of God.  I am quite sure that I cannot claim the same advantage.  Job even had friends, albeit rather unhelpful ones.  I don’t even have an Eliphaz or a Bildad or a Zophar.  I feel as though I am enduring this utterly alone.  I have tried not to burden your mother.  That was a mistake.

Things are so much harder when you are only listening to yourself.

Dear God, I thought I was happy once.  Why am I walking this path?  Why must this be my cross?  I feel as though I have no right to feel this way; did not our Lord and a whole host of saints endure so much more?  There is food to eat and a roof over my head.  I didn’t wake up this morning next to a bomb crater and a dead family in Aleppo.  I am not in a position to complain.

Am I doing this to myself?  Am I driving the nails on my own cross?  Maybe I am.  We are often our own uncompromising jury, uncompassionate judge and sadistic executioner.

I hope the answers come soon.

I am sorry for what you are seeing me go through.  The unfairness of this to you and your mother represents a burden that I simply cannot begin to bear.

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