A very sad headline met my eyes this morning: “US Olympic cyclist Kelly Catlin found dead in her Stanford residence at age 23.”
The following excerpt from Cindy Boren’s Washington post article stuck in my brain like glue.
Catlin was one of a set of triplets; her sister, Christine, wrote in an email that Kelly Catlin was “a really special person — kind, funny, empathetic, and talented at literally everything she did. She just felt like she couldn’t say no to everything that was asked of her and this was her only escape.” (italics and bold mine).
In a recent post “I Am Going to die” I processed the eventual reality of death for everyone and the need to be open to talk about it. It is also important to talk about how often death is sought as an escape. I was hospitalized because I sought death as an escape. Because of mental illness and other factors I found making decisions for my life impossible. Saying a simple yes or no was a weight too heavy to bear. From the onlooker point of view it can seem crazy to entertain thoughts of death. Especially when you have so much going for you.
I remember a doctor in the hospital saying something like, “You have a teaching degree, you have a loving family, you are not addicted drugs….. what is wrong with you?”
That was not helpful.
In fact, the more you have going for you the more the pressure mounts to be happy, successful etc… I didn’t know Kelly Catlin and I certainly don’t know what her thoughts and feelings were but I can imagine the pressure that she faced as her fame and success mounted.
I remember when I first got married to amazing Forest and moved into an amazing house I felt like I couldn’t tell my friends when I was having a bad day. “How could you have a bad day?” one friend asked.
Now I have a sweet, adorable baby girl who is always calm and quiet when we are out in front of others and loud at home. Like her dad, she reserves her grumpy shows for moi. People say, “your baby never cries!” I was almost grateful when she finally cried in church.
For me, the statement “I am going to live” and my recovery of mental health has meant drastically altering my expectations and letting go of my black and white/all or nothing way of viewing myself. It has meant letting my daughter cry with her dad while I run out the door to buy a chocolate bar. It has meant deleting my facebook account and only following 20 or so people on instagram. It has meant saying no to visitors and invitations on Mondays. It has meant giving my friends hugs and listening when they go through hard times but not trying to fix everything. It has meant not trying to rescue Forest from grumpiness when he has to make dinner while also being tired and hungry. This process is ongoing and takes a lot of love and support and grace from others.
One fear in writing this I don’t want to say I have the answers and can prevent tragedies in the newspaper. There are so many layers of complexity to every human story. What Catlin’s story does is remind me to be careful with my heart and body and time.
Being alive means not living in my own strength but in the strength of Christ and my community.
My daughter is sitting on my lap saying with her cries “get off the computer!” And I think I have a poopy diaper to change. And baby smiles and cuddles to enjoy.
Dear reader, may you know that you are loved in the bends of life’s journey. You are not alone. ❤
Next day addition: I had a beautiful dream about living on a big farm on the ocean with a horse and a garden. I felt God say, “be faithful in the little things… there is so much more for you.”
I was starting to feel like my whole life was dirty diapers and a cloudy winter but that is just a sliver. Look up. There is hope.