Jars of Clay
By Lara Ferris
A Story of Recovery and Redemption
My life has always been a bit of a contradiction. My above average intelligence and nearly flawless memory enabled me to be an excellent student. However, this same brain that allowed me to achieve academic success also caused me to suffer spontaneous episodes of inexplicable rage, feelings of self-loathing and bouts of severe depression. On the surface I had all the ingredients for a healthy, normal life: a stable home environment, loving hardworking parents, a great younger brother and a nurturing extended family. We lived in a moderate middle-class suburban neighborhood, my mother ran a daycare out of our home so she could be there when my brother and I were not in school, and my father worked as a Teamster. My parents both worked hard to provide us with all the things they had lacked growing up. My brother always had the latest cool sneakers, I always had spending money and we both had all the popular toys. I got good grades, I stayed out of trouble and I had friends. I appeared to be happy. And I was, most of the time.
Other times I felt like a complete fraud. Around my family and friends I was generally cheerful and calm, but alone in my room I would succumb to negative feelings of self-doubt, hopelessness and despair. The darkness would come, and I would allow it to wash over me until I was adrift in a black sea of torment. Writing saved me; it’s the only thing that kept me from going under. I began writing at a very early age. First came silly juvenile rhymes, followed by haiku and sonnets about young love and heartbreak and then came the good stuff. The real, raw, visceral, primal stuff. My words spilled forth like blood from a seeping wound. In fact, that is exactly what they were. Writing was my therapy, my catharsis. I didn’t write because I could, but because I had to. Those words became my lifeline, the one thing that kept me anchored when I felt myself drifting. To this day, I never underestimate the power of words; they can hurt and they can heal.
I was very protective of my writing. I let the general public see the sappy, fluffy, romantic poems. But I kept the dark stuff hidden. I didn’t let anyone see that side of me. I lived in constant fear that the facade would crumble and my true identity would be revealed, an identity I worked very hard to conceal. So I never showed it to anyone, not even my mother, whom I’ve always been very close to. I often wonder how my life might have been different had I shared my words and the thoughts and feelings behind them. But I didn’t. And so my mood swings, occasional depressive episodes and even my sporadic angry outbursts were all attributed to adolescent hormones and teen angst. The real underlying cause, my mental illness, went undiagnosed and untreated for over twenty-five years.
Those were interesting years, filled with lots of ups and downs. I got married and divorced…more than once. I gave birth to three children. I owned a home. I lost a home. I lived on my own and I lived with my parents. I held down a career for 19 years. And all the while the battle in my head continued to rage on.
It all came to a head six months ago. I was in yet another unhealthy relationship, unemployed, battling a severe technology addiction and living a secret double life built on lies, deceit and immorality. I had been frantically spinning plates like a clown in a circus for so many years. One day all those plates just came crashing to the ground. I was on the verge of losing everything—my family, my children and even my life—until I agreed to seek immediate help.
It wasn’t easy. It still isn’t. But I am very fortunate to have so many people invested in my health and well being. Psychiatrists, counseling, medication, group therapy, social workers, family and friends have all combined to make my recovery a reality. But the most integral piece of the puzzle is my renewed relationship with the Lord. I found a church home and attend every Sunday, I am involved in a women’s Bible study and I have surrounded myself with godly women of faith. God’s unfathomable love and mercy astound me every day. He has broken the chains of addiction and freed me from the captivity of my own dark mind.
One of my favorite Bible passages is the story of the Potter and the clay. We are but clay in the hands of the Lord. He has the power to shape us into vessels of His grand design. And should those vases become marred or shattered, He can rebuild them into something even more extraordinary. So don’t be afraid to be broken. For the jars that have been pieced back together are the ones that let the light in.