Want to see what a depressed missionary looks like?
That's a picture of me, in April 2003 when I was suffering from major depression with a little side of psychosis every now and again.
A depressed missionary looks a lot like an un-depressed missionary.
I think depressed missionaries are like depressed regular people: we're all really good at keeping the pain hidden away. We're not sure if it's safe to tell the truth about how we really feel.
Yesterday, a friend of mine asked me how long it took me to write As Soon As I Fell.
This book is like an archaeological dig, really.
The oldest part of the book is Michael's birth story, and he turns 20 in a couple of weeks. In the hormone daze after his birth, I wrote a letter to family that was pretty raw and real about how the whole thing went down.
This was back in the day when we had a computer but no internet in the Solomons, so I wrote this letter, printed it, and Andy photocopied it to mail to our family.
Well, I thought it was just for family.
On the way to the photocopier, he read what I'd written and thought it was so hilarious that he copied it for 75 or 100 of our dearest friends and sent it off to them as well. I guess those people were my first beta readers.
Once we got the real internet (pretty sure we were the last country on earth to get it), and a satellite phone, writing those stories for an audience became a lot easier. So Part 2 of the book is journals and emails from about 12 years ago.
When we came back to the States in 2007, I really wanted to write this book. A couple of people had read parts of it and liked it, so I gave what I had (mostly Part 2) to a friend at church who's authored several books, and asked him to read it. He gave me some really great advice, which ended up shaping the book in a pretty significant way.
Alan told me to find the most significant part of the story and bring it to the front. Then go back and write forward. I loved that idea, but then I was completely stymied.
I did not know what was the most significant part of the story.
I could not figure it out.
I would put different stories in the front, and it just wasn't right. I mean, the birth story is hysterical. The evacuation story is tense. The dedication story is inspiring. But I had no one story to pull the whole thing together.
I would fiddle with it and it would just never work.
Andy would keep telling me to write the book already, and I would try again and it wouldn't work.
Anne Lamott would come through town and I'd go to her readings and I'd just KNOW that I had to write this book. And I couldn't figure it out.
One of my great fears was writing a book that would be alienating to people. I mean, my life has been weird. Crazy. And I know the weird and crazy part is fun to read about. Heck, I love to tell those stories. They're a blast. But there's a huge element of "You're a crazy lunatic and nothing like me" if that's all I tell you about myself. It may be fun and fascinating, but it doesn't bring us together.
A lot of my life has been lived alone, in strange places. And I'm tired of being alone. I want to tell a story that brings us together. Not just for you, but for me, too.
I want to know and be known.
Eventually, I realized that the conversations I had with my close friends, about my own personal journey through depression and healing, was the common ground.
No matter where you live, no matter what your life is like, you have to learn to care for your own soul.
I didn't know how to do that. I think a lot of us don't know how to do that. And I don't think there is one particular right way to do that, that works for everybody. There's just all of us, walking together, loving each other, and letting ourselves be Loved.
And so that is the story I'm telling. That's why the prologue is that particular story.
(I'll share the prologue with you Monday, on release day!)
So there's a very long answer to the question: how long did it take you to write the book?
One of my Amazon reviewers said that she doesn't think the story is over yet.
Ain't that the truth.