Lauren Casper Online »

Shame and fear. They often go together… afraid because you feel ashamed, or afraid if you open your mouth and admit to that thing that you will be shamed. And while they sometimes operate separately they almost always have the same effect – they silence the one they’re oppressing. They bully into hiding. And in silence and hiding they are allowed to grow and weaken their subject. To make her feel like she’s the only one. That no one would understand. That she’s the lone sufferer in a sea of people with picture perfect lives. And it breaks my heart.

So we hold it in and pretend we have it all together just like everyone else seems to. And the idea that weakness is wrong or brokenness must be deserved continues to be perpetuated by the silence. The truth is that we’re all just a little bit broken and so we live in a world of silent broken people pretending to be fine. But when someone finally makes it to the other side of a struggle and breaks the silence, or speaks up in the midst of the suffering our ears are tuned and we get a little tinge of hope. Maybe we aren’t alone after all. Maybe we don’t have to be afraid or ashamed because there are other people out there going through the same thing. Whatever that thing is for you.

When I wrote “Can You Imagine?” over a year ago I was stunned when it had been shared on facebook over 3,000 times the week it published. But it started making sense when the emails came pouring in from women dealing with infertility. “Yes!” They would write… “yes I can imagine because I am living this and it feels so good to know that I’m not alone.” And there the hope is born that maybe we don’t have to be ashamed. That maybe it’s okay after all. Other people are going through it too and having all those same feelings you do… maybe it’s okay.

Here’s the thing I didn’t write in that post above: “Can you imagine spiraling into a season of depression but being afraid to tell anyone?” I’ve never suffered from clinical or long term depression. But I did go through a season of what I can only describe as depression during the worst parts of our infertility journey. It was hard to get out of bed some mornings. There were days that John would come home from work and I had just managed to get myself showered minutes before. So many days I wondered what on earth I was here for… because the very thing I wanted to do and the only thing that felt like it was of any worth or meaning was the one thing I couldn’t do. Be a mother. I sobbed on the couch and in the shower and by myself often… sometimes daily. And I kept it to myself – only John knew how sad I was all the time.

When I went out to public events, or church, or to see friends, or family holidays I plastered a smile on my face.  Sometimes I would have genuine moments of happiness, but not the true joy that was normal for me. Occasionally I would let a friend or two in and tell them I was sad about my infertility, but I never let on just how bad it really was. I was ashamed. I felt like I should have better control over my emotions. That I should trust God more. That if I was just a better Christian I wouldn’t feel this way.

I’ve heard on more occasions than I want to remember that depression either is or can be caused by un-confessed sin in a persons life. I think this is a dangerous message to be coming from the pulpit – not because I totally disagree. I’m sure there have been many times that people keep terrible secrets or have awful habits that cause them some depression. But to say it every time we have any sort of discussion in the church about depression creates a dangerous mindset that depression is caused by sin and then it turns into depression equals sin. And that perpetuates stigma and a culture of shame and silence. Because what Christian wants to admit to depression when everyone around them is going to assume they must have some terrible un-confessed sin in their lives? And if we can’t admit to something then we can’t get help.

Here’s the thing. Every single person on this earth has sin in their life. All of us. We’re human and we mess up something daily. It’s just the way it is. When a person is diagnosed with cancer or some other disease we don’t start with asking, “is there un-confessed sin in your life?” No! We cry with them and make food and pray and offer to sit with them at doctor’s appointments and pray for them and listen and love them. This should be our response when someone tells us they suffer from depression. Every time. First thing. And this should be our response when someone tells us they’re struggling with infertility.

I remember the six months that I drove an hour to my OBGYN every single week to sit in a waiting room alone among a bunch of pregnant or brand new mothers. Eventually they came to get me and I would go back to a room where a nurse stuck a giant needle in my backside. It hurt to walk for a couple days. Every week. For six months. And on the hour drive home I would cry the whole time and feel so lost and alone. I could have used a friend and I had several who would have dropped everything to take turns coming with me. But I was afraid to ask, afraid to tell them just how hard things were. I didn’t want to appear weak or faithless so I kept it to myself and waited until John came home from work and I would cry on his shoulder and he would listen and I would feel better for a little while.

The thing I want you to know is that I never got professional help of any kind because I was ashamed. And none of the doctors or nurses in our fertility clinic ever asked me how I was doing. In all four practices we’ve been with over the years not one medical professional asked how we were handling things emotionally. It was all 100% medical. The only time I ever cried in front of my doctors and nurses was when I was in the middle of a miscarriage. I always held it in until I got in the car. It shouldn’t be this way! And I’m sure it isn’t for some practices. They should have asked. They should have told me it was okay and normal to feel depressed. They should have guided me to some resources. They deal with infertility every day! Shouldn’t they know this by now?

Thankfully for me my depression was just for a little while and as the shock and the hardest parts of our infertility struggle wore off, so did the depression. As I learned to accept my infertility and look toward the future and what might be possible I began to find joy again. As we walked with determination through our first adoption I found renewed passion for life and purpose for my days. And the truth is that God was just as good in my infertility as he is now, but I was having a lot of trouble seeing that and I could have used some help. Some support. More than just scripted platitudes. I could have used some corporate tears and compassion. But I didn’t know how to ask because I was too afraid.

Fear keeps us quiet because we’re human, and let’s be honest – we all say and do stupid things. (Some more than others… but we’re all guilty.) Fear tells us that if we’re honest and share those deeper parts of our hearts we’ll be misunderstood. Fear tells us that people won’t react in a kind or loving way, so it’s safer to just keep it in. But when something happens (like the loss of a comic genius) and people start speaking up we can help ease fears and end stigmas. Some people will still say things that hurt, but we just might find our community of people who understand – who have been there too.

This isn’t just a post about depression and it isn’t even a post about infertility. It’s about being better at community. It’s about being better as a whole at compassion and our national discussion of, well, everything. It’s about creating an environment within every church of love and grace and how we address suffering. It’s about not ignoring or dismissing something because we don’t understand it. And I need to be better about it too – I have so much growing to do in this area.

If you’re one of those women silently suffering in the middle of her infertility story please take heart! There is a ministry being built as I type this and I can’t wait to share it with you! Stay tuned here or keep up on my new facebook page because I’ll be announcing there sometime in the coming weeks.

** update: As I’ve been thinking about it more, and chatting with my mom in the comments section, I feel I should clarify something. Depression is a term we use fairly often even when it may not be the appropriate term. Depression is a pathology and what I experienced can be better described as grief. The words I wrote remain true, though, whether you are experiencing grief or true depression. You have nothing to  be ashamed of – don’t be afraid to reach out and seek help. : )

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  • Amy - Very eloquent Lauren and you are right about how hard it is to ask for help when you feel sad. As you know I really have zero patience when people say bad things happen because ‘you have unconfessed sin’ or ‘you don’t have enough faith’. Yuck. That is not helpful. At all. And I don’t believe that viewpoint is rooted in truth.

    Everyone takes their own unique, personal path through the obstacles and challenges of life. For some people there isn’t a trigger to point to…depression just happens to them. Others like you can point to a particular reason that began a dark time in their lives. I’m glad you are happy now with your beautiful family. Love you.ReplyCancel

  • Amy - Hi Lauren! On further thought there’s one more thing I want to say for your consideration:
    The sorrow you describe sounds to me not like depression, which is a pathology (illness), but grief, which is a normal human response to profound loss. Grieving can certainly become pathological in some cases, but your grief resolved itself over time in what seems, to me, like a very healthy and constructive process.

    I just wanted to say that because there is such a big difference between the two kinds of sadness, although they can share signs and symptoms in the short term.

    Love you!ReplyCancel

    • Lauren - Thanks mom! That’s a really good point, and I hadn’t thought of that. Our society uses the term “depression” so freely that I think maybe we’re (meaning me) uneducated on what it truly is. Example: “I gained 10 pounds this year, I’m so depressed.” “My favorite TV show ended… I’m depressed.” “I can’t watch the news anymore – I get too depressed.” It’s used so casually that maybe we just don’t understand the gravity of the actual disease. I’ll try to figure out how to re-word this post so it reflects that better, because after thinking about it I do agree that grief is a more accurate term for what I experienced. Thank you! Love you!ReplyCancel

It’s not a big secret to those who know me well that I absolutely hate flying. It’s not the lines, the tight seating, or the occasionally rude airline staff. It’s fear. Every bump and dip has me white knuckling the arm rests. As the plane descends and we get closer the that runway my breathing evens out and with touchdown my muscles relax again. Some flights are better than others, but I never love boarding a plane.

A few months ago I had to fly to Tennessee to speak at an event. The two flights to get there, while short, were some of my worst. We first  took off in the middle of a thunderstorm and never flew out of the rough weather. The ride was bumpy and jolting. My palms were wet and my heart was thundering out of my chest. I wanted desperately to talk to someone to get my mind off the flight, but to my great annoyance the man seated next to me was sound asleep (and had been the entire flight… the nerve.) So I took out my Bible to read something comforting but I could not focus on the words. Eventually I grabbed my notebook and started journaling some thoughts. I was a little surprised at what I wrote when I read over it later.

You see, when I fly my preference is the window seat. There is something very comforting to me about looking out that tiny window to see the clouds as a steady white line below us. When the plane feels like it’s lurching and dipping and bumping it’s way through the sky, I can look out and see we are cruising just fine – that white line is steady and straight below. In my moments of greatest fear I look out the window and see that all is fine regardless of how rough things feel. But lately all I’ve had are isle seats. Sometimes my seatmates like to look out the window too, and I can look past them at that white line of clouds when I need to. But usually I’m seated next to seasoned business men who do this every week and just want to sleep through the flight. They board, the shade goes down, and I’m left blind. In the dark. Unable to look out when I want that comfort that everything is okay. Or sometimes the window is left open but we’re flying through the clouds instead of over them and my visibility is blocked again. It’s rough, bumpy, and I can’t see if everything is okay or not. These are my moments of greatest fear, and my moments of deepest faith.

My life has followed this pattern more than not. God doesn’t give me a telescope into my future. I have no idea how tomorrow will turn out. Sometimes the sun is shining, everything is fine, and I look out the window to see puffy white clouds and know I’m doing alright. But often I start flying and the shade is drawn or I’m heading through the clouds and I cannot see. How will this turn out? Will this crash and burn and fail miserably? Will my heart be broken? Will things be okay? And those are the moments in flight that I have to trust through my fear that God is just as able. The reality is that my trust is not in my visibility or in a steady line of puffy clouds… but in the One who made the clouds and me and my life. The One who makes my flight path both bumpy and smooth and sometimes re-routes me and always brings me home safely… even if it wasn’t my original definition of “safe” or “home.”

*I’ve started fresh with a new facebook page and I’d love to have you join me over there! Just click here to like the new page and follow along with this blog!*

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