In this week’s episode things start to take a darker turn as Melanie and Seth explore the world of mental health and talk about the impact that it has had in their marriage. Seth shares a story of self harm, an anonymous friend shares her battle with depression, and Melanie and Seth walk through some of the early signs in their marriage that they really needed help. Dr. Les and Leslie Parrott of Seattle Pacific University also join in the conversation and share their thoughts about the impact that mental health has on relationships.
From the desk of Melanie Studley
(e10 is SO good and packed full of amazing things so this post is only addressing a small portion. Please listen to the whole episode and let us know what you think!)
There were several moments as I’ve listened to the AOM that have been particularly life-giving and eye-opening for me. The first one really came in episode 10 I believe. Melanie was physically really sick, recovering from surgery and Seth had to fill in the gap. They talked how marriage isn’t spouses giving 50/50 or 100/100. We always like to tout that equal effort all the time is necessary and required – or that it’s NORMAL. I remember hearing her talking about that and just crying. Something just released in me, like I finally had permission for my marriage to be lopsided and still be *good*. There will be so many times when Richie will not be able to be there for me, he may be running at 0%. It doesnt mean our marriage is bad or that I am unworthy, it’s just simply what he has the capacity for at the time. That also doesnt mean that I have to give that 100! Damn! That’s when I give everything I can muster and then my community comes in and fills the gap.
Something I have been thinking a lot about is how, when we do it right, our community doesnt fill the gap from their own portion, they become almost like a conduit for God to fill the gap. When I am at 30% and you,as part of my community, come over to my house and love on me – whether it’s sitting and talking about the deep stuff, helping me with my to-do’s or watching my kids for me – you aren’t depleted when you draw that strength and love from the Holy Spirit. That is the reason that self care, vulnerability, empathy, and love have such an impact on how healthy, deep, and impactful a community is.
We have to take care of ourselves and be the best version of ourselves. I believe that we were beautifully and intricately designed by a Creator. If God took the time to design me and create me, then it really stands to reason that I should honor that by taking care of God’s creation. If I was given a body and talents and a mind then I should take care of those things! Being able to lay myself down and sacrifice for others is wonderful and needed. I think that as Christians we tend to gloss over the second of the greatest commandments (given by Jesus, yo!) and that is to love your neighbor AS YOURSELF. Does it say “as much as you love money”? Nope, that’s because loving your neighbor is a good thing. Just like loving yourself is. You were beautifully and thoughtfully designed. We need to find in ourselves, the delight that the Father sees in us. Even writing that sounds so foreign. I struggle with loving myself or seeing any beauty in myself at all, let alone anything delightful. That’s not a good place to pour from is it? Seems like the flow would get all jacked up by all that insecurity in the pipes! (I have an insane love of metaphors, please dont leave me).
We have to have empathy for others and know that people are more than what we see on the surface. No matter what you or I have experienced, someone else has had it much worse, and someone else had it much better. I love the line in Pastor Stopped By where Toby says “A man can’t teach you Jesus, He can only teach you Jesus in him,
The stories can’t be unraveled from the places they’ve lived”. Every person is unique in the culmination of their story, we may both go through the same event but walk away with very different experiences. A large part of the way we interpret and react to situations is due to our own history. You also have to factor in that we all have different bodies and chemistry. We all experience physical pain at different levels, what might only be a mild sting to one person, could be excruciating to another. It’s not a lack of character, it’s how your nerves react to stimuli. So we all have these different filters and lenses we see things through, even if we have walked similar paths. What I am getting at here is that we just dont know what another person has been through so be empathetic. If they tell you how they feel – believe them. Feelings come and go but sometimes we need help processing them. Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt, some grace, and a whole lot of empathy.
We have to be vulnerable and open ourselves up to hurt. We need to do it wisely and with great care – but when we care share our own hurts and pains and insecurities and share those burdens, we create deep and lasting bonds. Bonds that withstand time, that are forged by trial. Sharing those stories of pain, in a way lets the other person experience the pain in your story and deepens the connection. Being vulnerable is trusting another person not to hurt you or to take advantage of the weak places. I know that when I reach out and try to reach a place of vulnerability with someone, you can tell pretty quickly whether or not they are going to or interested in returning that trust. If someone is not ready for that with you, that’s ok. You can still love them.
We have to commit to loving well. We reallllllly cant love someone well if we dont know them, right? We may be able to love them, but we can love them so much better if we know them. That goes back to being vulnerable with each other and finding out what areas another person has the most pressing needs. We have to have that empathy for their situation, even if we think we could do it better. We have to take good care of ourselves so that we have the energy and love to give. Loving someone well means that you want their best life for them. Sometimes that means we do hard things – like pointing out things that are hurting them, walking with them through suffering, pushing them to get help. It isnt all sacrifice, in fact I would say the wonderful parts FAR outweigh the hard ones. There is such beauty in deep and abiding community. It’s life-giving. It gives meaning and worth beyond the commercial value that society gives. How does this all come back to marriage? Well first off – it doesnt have to. Second, marriages are kinda like micro communities, right? Do I get points for that?
Sometimes I get off on tangents.