Tender and Taboo

Talking on the phone with a friend, I closed my eyes to listen. In their story about love, grief, mental illness, and marriage, I heard the sound of hope walking away, like barefoot footsteps waking down the hallway to the bedroom.

The problem is that echoes of hope are not enough. The problem is that hope needs to have handles on it so that we can hold on. Or even better, hope needs to be tattooed onto our skin, right over our heart.

I imagine catching hope on my tongue like a snowflake, letting it melt into me. But hope does not fall from the sky. And hope isn’t a rainbow bumper sticker getting shampooed in the car wash. And hope isn’t something you can pop open a can of and drink.

Where is hope for people living with mental illness? I write about this tender and taboo topic of mental illness and marriage in Blessed Union because for too many of us hope feels far away. I believe that people like us who experience mental health challenges can be hopeful.

We live in the liminal space of not yet. We can be stuck and hope to get unstuck. We can be sick and hope to get better. We can be down and hope to get up. We can be numb and hope to feel again. We can be depleted and hope to be renewed.

Mental illness and marriage might be a tender and taboo topic, but it’s also a hopeful topic because breaking the silence about it makes it less taboo. Perhaps the energy we’ve put into keeping it taboo will be redirected into creating spaces of honest conversations. And maybe there in those tender talks we will begin to hear the footsteps of hope making its way back towards us.

Published by Sarah Griffith Lund

Leader, preacher and author of *Blessed are the Crazy: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness, Church and Family*

One thought on “Tender and Taboo

  1. I just got your book a couple of weeks ago. This describes my marriage to a tee. I have been married to my husband for 10 years, but knew him for 30(I was with my sons’ father at the time and was with him until he died.) He has seen me at my “best”, and went through the darkest periods of my life (4 hospitalizations and me getting jailed for 2 serious crimes due to undiagnosed psychosis). He has loved me unconditionally, and lets me lean on him when I need to, but allows me to take responsibility for managing my mental health treatment/issues. We met others like ourselves through a NAMI group, and it was good to know we weren’t alone. Sometimes I have a slip, and he will gently remind me to take care of myself. Sometimes I don’t like it because I think I am on top of things, but I’m not always aware that something is off, and I would get upset and think I’m being criticized. Now, I simply acknowledge his concern (even if I don’t always agree) and do what I can to change/adapt the behavior to the best of my ability, and I admit, I’m happier a result. Thank you for being honest about your joys, challenges, and the wisdom obtained going through it.

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