The other day, I heard a woman laughing at herself. It wasn’t just a chuckle either. It was that full-blown guttural, laugh until you cry kind; the kind that leaves you breathless. She had done another “crazy” thing and was finding much amusement at her own expense.
Later that day, I heard my laughing woman being chastised. “How reckless your words were!” they accused. “Don’t you know that you cannot use terms like ‘crazy’ to describe yourself?”
My laughing woman has battled mental illness her entire life. She has been very vocal about her struggle, and yet here she was, years into her own recovery, being told by a complete stranger that she was not allowed to use certain words because they were “reckless.”
For a moment, I just sat with that sneaky shame and correction; impossibly born from a beautiful, rare moment of unabashed joy. It seemed to whisper, “You can’t smile this way.” It smugly leered, “Shame has no time for joy.” It sternly ordered, “No, not like that. You are doing it wrong.”
I felt like I was going to jump out of my skin screaming, “Baby girl, you can call it what you want! You earned the right to tell your own story!”
Mental health awareness is NOT an agenda. It’s real life.
Let me tell you something. Though the work is feverish, pain has no payout. Though the labor can seem eternal, inner turmoil does not give birth to progress in an amount that feels even remotely equitable.
If allowed, however, it can produce honesty. While it can (and often begins) through a cycle of shame, over time and out of survival even, a harvest of vulnerability and rawness can emerge from such brokenness.
Beyond survival, there is another rare, but remarkable fruit that through much toiling, can be grown from the seeds of this hidden shame; nourished by the sweat of suffering and despair.
There is something different about this particular blossom we call “laughter.” A stark contrast of color among the muted weeds and trampled brush.
No, there is no payout, but laughter can be a wonderful bit of plunder.
Learning to embrace who you are and where you are can be a sweet bit of victory.
Seeing the bit of funny in the midst of mental chaos can be grounding.
See, from where I’m standing, that roar of laughter looked an awful lot like healing.
So, to her and anyone else out there who may have bravely brought your secret war out into the open, I pray that you fight it honestly and without shame.
With the strength and dignity of a noblewoman, I pray that you keep on laughing at the days to come (Proverbs 31:25, NIV).