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No, You Can't Quit

Yesterday, in my Psychoanalysis class at Union Theological Seminary, the wonderful Professor shared this beautiful story about a couple. One of the individuals in the relationship had been in a season of depression. I mean, deep depression. It got to the point where this person decided on their own that they could not suffer any longer. They had been through so much and they had decided they would throw in the towel. But before they did that, they went to their partner and they told their partner that they were sorry that their depression was so bad and was weighing on the relationship and they asked the partner for permission to leave. They asked their partner for permission to bow out of the relationship, to bow out of the life they had created because their mental health had become unbearable.

This story hit me hard in class because I, too, have dealt with bouts of depression, especially over the past year as I came to terms with the reality that I was leaving most of what I had known behind for this new thing God was doing in my life. The partner of the person in crisis, after being asked by the suffering person for permission to leave, told them, "No." No, you can't leave. No, you can't throw in the towel just because you think you're a burden. There are people around you who care about you and who want to journey with you to a healthier season in your life. No, you can't quit.
There have been several times when I've wanted to bow out of life--to retreat into the shrinking cocoon of my depression. There have been times when I've wanted to quit. I remember last June, one of my friends invited me to her birthday celebration in another state. We'd be staying at a cabin in the mountains and enjoying a weekend of adventure; and I remember telling her I couldn't go-- that life had just gotten too hard, emotionally and financially, for me to figure out a way to make it. I thought that I was being responsible--fiscally responsible and emotionally responsible, as I dealt with myself over the summer. But a few weeks later, I was in the company of this friend and some of our mutual friends and they said "No." Just like the supportive partner mentioned above, they said, "No, Mia. You can't quit. You're coming with us." They said, "We got you. You deserve a vacation before school starts again. You're coming with us."

After my grandmother passed in late November, I was experiencing a range of emotions triggered by her death, by the expense of attending her funeral while already under so much financial stress, by the fact that the end of the semester was approaching and I was behind on school work. I was a mess. I remember coming home from the airport and crying in my partner's arms for 30 minutes, just overwhelmed by life. I texted my friends the next day, the same group of friends who said, "no, you can't quit on us," back in the summer. I told them that I was overwhelmed, that I would not be able to participate in our Secret Santa coming up because I did not have the resources. I tried to bow out, but before I did--like the partner struggling with depression in the story above-- ran it by them first, almost as if I were asking them permission to leave...to quit. Again, my friends said, "No, you will celebrate with us, we're still getting you gifts anyway." One friend even gave me some money to buy my Secret Santa person a gift so that our tradition could continue. They held onto me tight when I wanted to throw in the towel. They made me realize how important I was to them and the world--that they wouldn't leave me in my sunken place but they would journey with me to my healthier season. They didn't let me quit.

I always thought of myself as the partner in a relationship who wouldn't let the other person quit. I've been both partners, lately. What I admire about the partner in crisis in the  aforementioned relationship, is that they asked for permission so that they could be held accountable. While they knew the condition of their health was adding weight to their relationship(s), deep down inside, they also knew that they were accountable to their community, and most importantly, to their partner. This is important because while the psychological concept of "self" dwells in individualism and the inward journey towards enlightenment, the ontological "self" is always in relation to community. There is an accountability that naturally comes with the ontological and metaphysical self because, as John Donne said, "No man is an island." The "self" ultimately learns and grows and evolves in community--in relationship. Survival is communal. And this is not to suggest that one should ever stay in abusive spaces or that the inward journey is not important. Isolation can be necessary but for the purpose of how your "self" can better relate to community when you emerge.

So, don't quit. Get you some people in your life who say, "No, you can't give up." Surround yourself with partners who say, "We need you--the world needs you." Hang on to the thread of life just a little while longer. Tip-toe on this tightrope just a little while longer. Your healthier season is upon you. I'm grateful for the people in my life who held me tight when I wanted to retreat into my depression. I'm glad that they didn't always leave me alone when I thought I needed to be left alone. They grabbed the towel before I threw it in and wiped the tears with it.

Don't quit.
Don't quit.
Don't quit.

We need you.

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