“His mind… had a leak in it somewhere, some little hole through which now and again would pour the whole darkness of the darkest night.”
-Wendell Berry (That Distant Land, p. 88)
When my mind is leaking, I’m very focused on myself. Very focused and very confused and very frustrated.
I live in a house with eight guys. It is a four bedroom with cars streaming out of the driveway like a fancy party. Netflix or Battlefront or music is almost always pulsating out of the living room TV. Cooking meat wafts in from the kitchen.
Random yells, thrown object thuds, and laughter.
And me. When my mind is leaking, I lay alone in my room upstairs. I lie in bed and try to will myself to get out of it. Out of my bed and out of my mind.
But I just don’t want to. My brain is leaking, but not on the outside. It is an internal bleeding of sorts, leaking out of my mind and into my stomach, creating a rock impossible to digest.
Random yells, thrown object thuds, and laughter leap up through my floorboards. I should go down there. I should get out of bed. My comforter is too hot anyways; I’m beginning to sweat.
But I lie there and sweat.
My mind leaks.
“I was just so tired of keeping it all inside.”
I was on the phone with a friend last night.
He’s gone through a bad breakup and wants to feel good. Happy and good and content.
But he can’t. His brain is leaking, and he thinks no one is noticing him.
It’s not that he doesn’t have people all around him who care for him; it’s just that no one knows he’s struggling. He smiles and remains quiet and looks content.
But his brain is leaking in his insides and the rock in his stomach keeps growing larger. He goes to class and sits in silence. Goes to work and patiently waits for the end. He says hello to friends and talks about God and goes to Bible studies and sings worship songs at church.
He said his insides were beginning to ache because of the leaking. He finally had to do something. So he told his friends what was happening and asked them to pray. And he told me, “I was just so tired of keeping it all inside.”
I just finished reading a story by a guy named Wendell Berry last night. It’s about a small town in Kentucky and the people living there. One of them, a guy who went by the name of Nightlife, had a leak in his brain and began wandering around the forests and fields, totally isolated and alone and lost inside himself.
The men of the town decided to follow him. Beginning with one guy, the group soon grew to five strong, quietly following him at a distance to make sure he was all right. Nightlife “looked like somebody who didn’t know where in all the world he was, who didn’t know anybody else was there to see him, much less follow along after him.”
So they followed him for an entire day and night, forgoing work and family and friends. They had to make sure he was going to be all right.
Finally Nightlife stopped, turned, and talked to the men. He sounded a little crazy, since his brain was leaking and all, but he talked about what it felt like. He talked about the parable of the lost sheep and what it felt like to be that sheep with a leaky brain. He said,
“It’s a dark place where the lost sheep tries to find his way, and can’t. The slopes is steep and the footing hard. The ground is rough and stumbly and dark, and overgrowed with bushes and briars, a hilly and a hollery place. And the shepherd comes a-looking and a-calling to his lost sheep, and the sheep knows the shepherd’s voice and he wants to go to it, but he can’t find the path, and he can’t make it.”
Then, after all that was said, they went inside and ate.
My mind was leaking a week ago. I was trying to process a whole plate of thoughts from the past. I think the pressure of the thoughts themselves was the cause for the leak.
I asked Micah and Adrian, two of my roommates, if they wanted to go get some food. We went to a little Vietnamese restaurant; I tried to sit with my back to the Sunday Night Football game out of reverence for good conversation. Micah ordered Boba tea. Adrian ordered some kind of soup or something. I ordered water.
We laughed a lot at the beginning, and we laughed a lot at the end. In the middle I opened up about the leaks in my mind. I told them I was good at pretending like everything was okay.
They looked at me and laughed.
Me: “Why are you laughing?”
Micah: “You really think you’re good at covering it up?”
Adrian (still laughing): “You’re not. I can tell every time.”
Me: “What? I thought I was really good at pretending!”
Micah (laughing again): “You’re not. I can always tell how you’re doing. You’re just a different person when you’re sad or anxious. You’re obvious. I can always tell when you need to talk.”
I spent so much time laying in my bed too hot under my comforter thinking I was alone. I never realized I had people following me all day and all night. I never realized I was obvious.
I was a lost sheep, sure, but I had a village of people behind me and the Shepherd in front of me.
When my friend told me he was tired of keeping it all inside, I realized we were in similar spots. Walking around normal on the outside with rocks on the inside, thinking were completely alone and completely unknown.
After my friend told me he was tired of keeping it all inside, he told me that he was surprised at the amount of people who texted him and told him they were praying. He didn't expect that many people to reach out.
The way he talked about it, it seemed like he turned around to find an entire village following him.
Just like me.
Both of us are lucky to have people who follow us when we are pretending.
To my dear reader,
When your brain is leaking and you feel completely alone, reach out to people around you. Be vulnerable. Leave a trail behind you in your wanderings and ask people to follow you. We all get mind leaks every now and again, some of us more often or more severe, but we all get them. Please ask people to follow you. Tell them about the leaks. Tell them what it feels like to be a lost sheep.
It is very scary to open up to someone. The pain at first can feel harsh and unbearable. It may seem more tempting or easier to just bury it and continue on your isolated journey, but isolated journeys do not lead to healing. Lost sheep sometimes need to know they are followed.
Please, please, let others follow you, talk with you, and love you through them.
Please, please, let others show you and lead you and guide you to Jesus.
your friend and your fan,
P.S. Please let me know if you can relate. It will remind me that there are others on the journey with me.