Fear

Step 9-Making Direct Amends: My Letter to the Good Guys

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So, when step 9 came around, my sponsor suggested that I write an amends letter to men, which upon my dismay she edited it to be an amends letter to the good men out there. Conveniently enough, I never got around to it. I never made that amends. Well, as those in recovery and anyone who believes in a loving higher power can attest to, sometimes God makes you do the steps that you didn’t want to do. With the #YesAllWomen and #NotAllMen trend going around, I thought this would be a perfect time to write my amends letter to the good guys out there, so I can finally release my bitterness. So, here goes.

 

Dear Good Guys,

Hey, I guess I haven’t talked to most of you before, but I’m Noelle. I’m working the twelve steps and a part of those steps is making amends to all people we have harmed (except when to do so would injure them or others). I’m 30 years old at this point, so I guess I should make a point of apologizing to you. I apologize for generalizing you, for lumping you in with all the men that have hurt me. I was wondering the whole time where the f&%$ you were, but according to my sponsor, I can’t hold you accountable for something you did not know was happening to me, so I apologize for blaming you. I’m apologize for grimacing at you every time I walked by you. That probably wasn’t very nice of me. I apologize for assuming all men are sociopaths, when the percentage is actually significantly smaller and you were out there being a decent human being with genuine feelings and a heart for your fellow humans. To those of you I’ve gotten to know on an intimate level, I’m sorry for treating you like dirt, just because that is what had been done to me. I realize now that you, too, are human beings and I was being just as low as the men I’ve held so much resentment towards all this time. I’m especially sorry to the ones who fell into love/like with me and I ignored because I was annoyed by your “neediness.” I could’ve found a more compassionate way to handle that. Overall, I just want to say I’m sorry for being exactly like the a holes that have inspired me to build this gigantic wall around my icy, lifeless heart. From now on, I will do things differently.

Sincerely,

Noelle

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God has recently made it very clear to me that I’ve been holding on to this bitterness for dear life, and it is time to let it go. I honestly do not know how to function without it. All I have left protecting me now is Jesus Christ, and I know that will be more than sufficient, but I feel naked nonetheless. So, this is me, making amends to the good guys, and giving my dear, lovely, comforting hatred of the male species over to God. He’ll know what to do with it. Because honestly, it never has actually served me well.

Photo on 2010-07-09 at 06.35

 

 

What is God Telling You Right Now?

I have an assignment to write about what God is telling me, what God is saying to me right now. Honestly, more often than not, I have no idea. Probably because I listen to myself more than I listen to God. I have a constant narrative of selfish chaos running on loop in my brain.

For those who don’t speak Christianese, there’s this prayer saying that you hear a lot among Christ followers. “Break my heart for what breaks Yours.” Basically, we want to know what breaks God’s heart. We want to know how things going on in the world feel to God. I have prayed that prayer often.

See, sometimes people say “God hates ________.” This drives me crazy. I adamantly believe that God cannot, will not, does not hate. At all. God is love. Love can’t hate. Hate is a very strong word, and doesn’t belong in the same sentence with the word “God” unless there is a negative between the two. But sure, there is a lot in our world that HURTS God. How can there not be? God loves us so, and yet we do many awful things, the worst of which are done in the name of God.

I think a lot of “Christians” listen to themselves when it comes down to the truth about homosexuality. They’ve read the bible, and whatever trivial rules they overlook, they always highlight what it says about the issue. But when it really comes down to it, they don’t see LGBT people as human beings. They think it is a sin, and instead of seeing a human being, they see a sin. Nevermind the fact that if we were going to be going around calling people out by their sin, they wouldn’t be human beings either. 

I try to understand it, but I believe I can’t. I believe that God has placed an ache in my heart for the matter. I believe the way people treat LGBT in the name of God breaks God’s heart. We are ALL God’s children. Yes, of course, that means our LGBT brothers and sisters, but it also means the bigoted haters too.

I don’t know what God wants me to do with this knowledge. Feels quite useless, and quite frankly painful. I can’t handle the state of our world right now. In the U.S. we are quickly reverting back to the pre-civil rights movement days. And in the world as a whole, we are seeing treatment of gays that is reminiscent of the ways Jews were treated in the beginning of the holocaust. Why would any of us want to go back to that?

I’ll tell you why, because people make assumptions too much about what God is telling them. People listen to what they are told, or what comes up in their brains, and they honor it. No matter how it makes others feel, they honor it.

I want you to know that there are a large number of God’s children hurting on this planet, and there are a great many of God’s “followers” perpetuating that pain. And as much as either side sees the other as not being human beings, the fact is that they are. The fact is that both sides are just following their hearts.

I do not believe that it is okay, for any reason, to make someone feel, or to treat someone as though they are less than you. You do not know when the day will come when the shoe is on the other foot, when that will be you being thought of as less-than. As long as we’re quoting the bible, remember that it says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” (Matthew 25:40)

So, as long as your making any human being feel less than, you best heed their concerns of maltreatment. For however you treat them, is how you are treating your God.

And quit telling yourself that you are treating them with love. You are not. They do not feel loved by you. I can guarantee you, that is the last thing they feel.

So, what is God telling me right now? What God is telling me right now, is that God is hurting. That these things hurt God. And I believe that the magnitude of God’s pain far exceeds mine, but this pain is breaking me.

Now, what is He telling me to do about that? I have no idea. Because the situation feels, quite frankly, hopeless. I don’t feel like there’s anything I can do about it. Surely, there is something God could do about it, but short of intervening upon free-will, I haven’t a clue. So, I’ll just keep going on in my daily life, waiting for some great revelation about how to fix the world’s problems.

You take that whatever way you will. I’m pretty sure that this post will piss off either side in one way or another, so I actually hope no one reads it.

It Really DOES Get Better

Take it from someone who has been there, it really does get better.

For those of you who don’t know the It Gets Better Project all started in 2010 when Dan Savage, in response to a rising number of suicides linked to bullying, made a youtube video with his partner to inspire hope for young people facing harassment.

The It Gets Better Project’s website says: “The It Gets Better Project’s mission is to communicate to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth around the world that it gets better, and to create and inspire the changes needed to make it better for them.”

The idea is great, but I also believe it is universal.

It doesn’t just apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, nor victims of bullying or high school students.

Whoever finds this post and is struggling:  It really DOES get better.  I promise.

I’ve recently been following the heartbreaking story of Rehtaeh Parsons, a young woman who was raped, then bullied until she decided to take her own life.  I wish this message had found her.  Because it does get better, even for those of us who have lived through the most devastating, terrifying, and degrading form of violence there is.  Even for Rehtaeh, it could’ve gotten better.

I’m in tears as I write this, because I didn’t make it to this conclusion for lack of trying to kill myself.  I had two life-threatening attempts, but somehow lived to know that these things come out on the other side.

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the light at the end of the tunnel

Life isn’t as hopeless and painful as it can, at times, feel.  I know there is plenty of pain to be felt, and despair to be trudged through, but I know something else too.  I know that as dark as it can get, it can get that much brighter.  I know that these feelings that consume, even they will fade away and make place for new ways of feeling.

I used to be so certain that the darkness would last forever.  For me, it was a good 28 years or so before the clouds started to part and make way for light.  I can look at that time now and understand what growth came from it.  I know that I am that much stronger because I went through it.  And I see now how my experience can benefit others.

That’s everything this blog is about.

Sometimes, in my darkest moments, I had a twinge of hope that kept me alive, even when I wanted so badly to die.  My hope plagued me, because it seemed to work against all the hurt I knew in my life.  I just wanted to let go, and sometimes, I did.  But I know something about that nagging particle of hope still imbedded somewhere deep within.  It was a glimpse.  It was a glimpse at what could be.  And for me, what now is.

I wish Rehtaeh could’ve known this.  There are so many people out there right now, who I wish could know this.  I don’t even know your names.  I didn’t even know Rehtaeh, but right now, I cry for her like she was a dear friend.

If you’re looking for some shred of hope, a reason to stay alive, I pray the words of this stranger can be that for you.

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clouds parting, making way for light

I don’t believe suicide is selfish or wrong, because I know it is not an act entered into lightly.  I know the despair it takes to bring you to that decision.  But it cannot be an option, because your life has worth, and meaning, even if you don’t believe it.  The anguish doesn’t become extinct through your death, it is simply passed on to others.  To those you loved most.  No, the anguish is defeated only through living a meaningful life.  Through sharing your struggles with others.  Through finding your joy.

None of us are as alone as we sometimes feel.

It may feel like it is taking to forever to get there.  But you WILL get there.  It may feel like more than you can bear.  But you CAN bear it.  You may think no one understands, but I do. You may think this darkness is all you will ever know, but you will live your fair share of joy as well.

It really DOES get better.  I promise.

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 IF YOU ARE IN CRISIS, CALL: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Contact the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for more resources.  

Plenty of people are waiting to help you at any time.

Step 9: Making Amends

I finally reached step 12.  Although, steps 9-12 are an on-going process.  Nine is making amends.  Ten is taking a daily inventory, and admitting when you’re wrong.  Eleven is working toward a conscious contact with God, through prayer and meditation.  Twelve is helping others the way you have been helped.

I have worked all twelve steps, but these last four, I will still be working daily.

To be honest, I’m writing this blog post as encouragement to myself, prior to making more amends.  I’ve made an effort to do two so far, but going back to where I’m from is going to give me an opportunity to make a lot of amends with a lot of people.  Most of these, I am glad to do.  An apology for all of these people is long overdue.

There are a few, however, that I am scared to approach.  I’m sure a lot of people face at least one that they are hesitant to do.

See, the process is one of humility.  We admit that we were wrong, even in the cases where the other had a hand in it as well.  It isn’t our place to expect an apology from them.  We  are only responsible for our wrongdoings.  It is our chance to do what we can to clean up the mess we have left in our destructive wake.

Through the process of our inventory, we started to become humbled by finally facing head-on, the harms we had caused others.  The amends continues to humble us, but also empowers us.  It is our chance to clean the slate, and an opportunity to do things differently next time.  Finally, we can do all in our power to right our wrong, even though time cannot be rewound and actions cannot be undone.  It is a powerful step.

I’m hoping you all will pray for me in this process, that I will have the strength to do even the hardest ones, completely and with compassion.

This isn’t going to be easy, but I do hope it will help me in my work toward being a better person, and living a more fulfilling life.

Surviving Elementary School

“Seeds of faith are always within us; sometimes it takes a crisis to nourish and encourage their growth.”           ~Susan Taylor

I don’t typically watch the news.  I have a computer and a T.V. without cable, or even basic access.  I stick to Netflix, and I get my teeny bit of “news” from Philip Defranco, on YouTube.  That’s about as much as I can take.  In 2009, I had a therapist tell me to stop watching the news.  I took her advice.  I had, at the time, become overwhelmed, baffled, and distraught over the Shaniya Davis story.

I couldn’t understand how, someone could do that to their daughter.  I couldn’t understand how someone could do those things to a 5 year old.  I was starting to drown in a sea of headlines and news reports of just how evil this world is.

And it is true.  This world can be a very evil place.

I have spent a good chunk of the past few years overwhelmed by an issue that the rest of the world seems underwhelmed about: sexual violence.  Such violence is beyond an epidemic in our world, and repeatedly, our response is victim blaming, and sweeping it under the rug.  It makes me cringe to know that 1 our of 4 girls, and 1 out of 6 boys will be the victims of sexual abuse by the age of 18.  How do people walk around in their own little bubbles, oblivious of something so heinous?

I don’t know, they just do.

In some of the work I have done, I have teamed with people who had similar experience and ambition, wanting to do something on the matter.  What have I found?  That there are victims out there working toward solving a problem, without even having dealt with the issue in their own lives.  It is like someone with a still gaping and bloody bullet wound trying to fight for gun control.

First, you need to address your own trauma.

The hard part is, no one else is stepping forward to solve the issue.  All of those people who’ve never had to suffer through the trauma have no interest in dealing with something so dark and ugly.

This is just what I have found.

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I look around me, and I see people becoming passionately driven about the issue of guns and asking themselves, “what could of we have done to prevent the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012?”

I would never venture to claim that this question is not important, pertinent, or should not be asked.  I do, however, think that it is too soon to be torn apart by these issues.  Our hearts are still breaking from what happened, and the details that continue to unfold.  Our stomachs are still twisted by what the children of Sandy Hook must’ve witnessed that day.  Chills are still shooting down our spines to imagine what evil it takes to commit such an act.

How have we allowed this to lead to a divide?  What the survivors need right now, is a community to come together in support around them.  They certainly have a long, tough road ahead of them.

Repeatedly, through the past several years we have witnessed tragedy and allowed it to, even for a short time, bring us together in mourning and solidarity.  For the first time in my life, I have witnessed the opposite happen.  That is what breaks my heart now.

I think ALL of us will agree that something has to be done to attempt to prevent these massacres from happening again, no matter what side you’re on.  What that “something” looks like will start to materialize as we work on the matter.  I trust that.

At this point, I don’t care what that “something” is just yet.  I am still far too stricken with grief to start thinking strategy.  Am I alone in this?

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I look at the faces of the victims, and my throat starts to tense.  I hear their stories, and my eyes are filled with tears.  I cannot look at December 14th with a hard heart.  I find peace in my belief that these children are safe and happy now.  I find strength in the stories of heroism in the adults that fought for these kids with their very lives.

I remember too, those who survived, and I give them this message: you can overcome your trauma and live a fulfilling life.  This may be a struggle, but it does not have to defeat you.  This dark moment in your lives can become a place of strength, and a place of motivation.  You are in the thoughts and prayers of so many, and we will still have your hands when the heavy realization hits you of just how blessed you are to have faced and survived a trial that many will never even have to face.

To the rest of us, I say: stand down.  This is not a fight.  We are worn and we are weary.  We have faced far too much as a country this year.  Yes, we must address this issue, but please, for God’s sake, can we take a moment to grieve first?

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To all of us, I plead:  Do not let this destroy us.  We will march forward and we will advocate for the changes necessary to prevent such tragedy in the future, but first allow yourselves to grieve.  Before you stand up to fight, address your own trauma.  Make sure that when your time comes, when your voice rises, that you are in a place where you are strong enough to argue your side.  So many times, I have seen angels fall short here, and lose the drive to carry on.  We can heal.  We can overcome.  But first, we must grieve.

A heart must finish breaking before you can begin to mend it.

It is true that this world can be an evil place, but what is also true is that each of us has the ability to contribute to the good.  If you are going to pour fervently into this world, be sure that what you are pouring is positive.

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Resources:

Post Traumatic Growth

NY Times PTSD Article

A Little Old Lady With A Walker Once Taught Me…

One afternoon, I was sitting with my mother on a bench at the front of one of those cafeteria restaurants.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been to one of those, but the elderly seem to frequent them.  The food is awesome and affordable, and the only downside is having to wait in a (sometimes very long) line for your food.

Anyway, as we were sitting there, a little old lady with a walker started walking into the restaurant.  Right behind her, a woman was pushing an elderly relative in a wheelchair.  She must’ve been unable to see how far away the lady with the walker was, because she accidentally hit the little old lady in the back of her ankles.  As the lady stumbled, I watched with horror, unable to figure out what I could do, and afraid that she was about to fall to the ground.  Though the lady stumbled, she did not fall.  She was startled, but caught her breath, and walked on.

As she was stumbling, something stood out to me.  Not knowing whether or not she was bound to impact against that floor, every step she took, she said “Thank you, Jesus!  Thank you, Jesus!”  That struck me as bizarre.  I remember leaning over to my mom and whispering, “If she almost fell, why would she be thanking Jesus?”  My mom’s answer was simple, but powerful, “I guess because she didn’t fall.”

At the time, I thought, wow that’s really stupid.  I mean she almost just fell, I would be pissed at that lady who almost knocked me over!!!

My, how time changes us.  When I look back now at that powerful, teachable moment I’m amazed by that woman’s response.  I almost envy it now.  I think wow, what a positive perspective to look at something like that and see the good in it.

I think we could all learn a lesson from that little old lady with a walker.

All I used to look at was the negative.  Something small wouldn’t turn out my way, and my whole LIFE was OVER!  Such drama.  All I could see around me were the things that were going wrong.  All I could have seen, had I been in that old lady’s shoes, was the fact that some reckless lady who doesn’t know how to push a wheelchair almost plowed me over.  I’m a defenseless old lady, I would think.  How could she?! 

angry old lady

How often we look at something and lament over what didn’t go well.

How little we look at a stumble, and rejoice in the fact that we didn’t fall.

It is my prayer for myself and for all of us, that we become a little more like that old lady.

Tonight, on my way home from the gym, I stopped at a red light.  Suddenly, there was chaos right in front of me.  Two cars almost hit each other, and then neither one could decide who should drive away first.  In a fury of frustration and anger, the driver in one of the cars threw up his hands, beat his steering wheel, and spit furiously what I can only assume were violent expletives.  There were two cars who almost hit each other, and the drivers were enraged by the series of events.  Two cars that almost hit each other, almost.

Safe, with both cars still in tact, they drove away cursing the universe for the negative thing that just happened, never seeing the pain from which they had just been spared.

How can we let one small unpleasant event dictate our days, or even our lives?

How can we overlook all of the little successes and blessings, thinking nothing of them?

That little stuff we’re overlooking… that’s the powerful stuff.

I look back on that small event at a cafeteria restaurant in North Carolina with gratitude.  At the time, it seemed like nothing, but it stayed lodged in my memory through a lot.  I am grateful that I can look back at that moment now and understand what that lady was thinking when she thanked Jesus repeatedly as she stumbled.

Wow!  Thank God I didn’t fall!  I may have stumbled, but I didn’t fall!

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Staring Down the Pink Elephant

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” –Mother Theresa

On March 27, 2011, my life officially changed in an incredibly dramatic way.  I stayed for hours after church, hesitant to go home, and hesitant to make a commitment.  I stared back and forth at the pulpit and the exit, long after the service had ended and everyone, except for 2 friends and myself, had gone home.  Every time I looked at the doors, as much as I didn’t want to admit it, face it, or act because of it, I knew if I walked out those doors without God, I would die.  The pain was like a wrench in my gut, twisting with the thought of making that decision.  I didn’t want to lose myself, and as much as I felt like I wanted to die in that moment, I knew the truth was that I wanted to live.

I had stayed after service, hurling questions and arguments at the pastor, who mostly left it up to me, to look inside myself for the answers.  He knew that nothing he could say was going to be easily accepted by me.  And this had been the truth since the moment I had first stepped into this crowd of people who would become my family.

When the moment finally came, it was almost midnight.  In the following weeks, I would buy a little plaque that said “Even miracles take a little time” from the disney film Cinderella.  Without knowing what I was diving into, I dove, because I realized that if I wanted to live, I didn’t have a choice.

That night, I made a commitment to follow God, to be His faithful servant, to become the person He wanted me to be, and live the life He wanted me to live.  It wasn’t an instantaneous transformation.  It took time, and I fought.  I fought everyone around me, and I fought with God himself.  Quite violently, I might add.

The fact of the matter is, though, that I don’t take commitments lightly.  If I say that I am going to do something, I do it.

In the months that have followed, the transformation has taken over, and my life doesn’t even resemble what it looked like a year ago.  I am living in a different home, city, and state, with different friends, a different church, a different perspective, and a different way of living.

When I opened my mind to a church that truly conveyed a life modeled after that of Christ, it was a battle.  I always had this concept “well, if they really followed Christ, it would look like this…”  The difference was, this church actually embodied that.  Did I cut them any slack because of it?  Ohhhhhh no, definitely not.  I gave them hell for dragging me there.  I sat on my seat, arms crossed, scowl painted firmly on my face.  When they sang, I didn’t move.  When they greeted each other, I didn’t move.  Did that make a difference?  No.  They treated me, from the very first moment, like I was family, and that never wavered, even when they learned of our differences.

I wish I could say that churches like that are common, but they are the minority.

I came in with all of my doubts and anger.  I was drowning in resentments of what churches had done to me and my loved ones for years and years.  I hurled this resentment toward these innocent people with my laser beam death stare, and they never once treated me differently.

Eventually, I had a realization.  I expected these people not to judge me.  That is what real Christians would do.  But what about me?  Shouldn’t I be willing to do the same for them?  Why was I taking out all of this resentment on people who had never harmed me.  I judged them before I had a chance to walk through the door, accusing them of judging me.  That was my hypocrisy wake up call.  I had to give them a chance, if I expected that of them.

So, I did.

“Do not condemn the judgement of another because it differs from your own. You may both be wrong.”  –Dandemis

That is when I realized that they were actually everything I had always thought churches should be.

Go figure.

I wish I could say that the judgments stopped from that moment, but as I have grown in my faith, I have noticed the other side of my friend pool shift.  They don’t directly tell me they hate me, but they definitely are weirded out and leery of this change in me.  As though the fact that my newfound relationship with God gives me a reason to live, just isn’t a good enough excuse.  I have, as of late, felt incredibly judged by a lot of my friends who are atheist or agnostic.  They are immediately on the defense with me, as though I am going to show up on their doorstep with a pamphlet.  As much as I understand that feeling, I don’t understand it coming at me.  I am not suddenly a horrible person because I believe differently.  I have started to realize that I feel far more judged now than I ever did when I was spiritually ambiguous.  The funny part is that, though I do have some strong specific beliefs, I am still spiritually ambiguous in a lot of ways.  And as for the current religious/political blur, none of my political beliefs have changed.  In fact, I would say I stand stronger in my political beliefs than I did before, because I believe that, although they are not the norm in my spiritual community, they have been distinctly placed on my heart for a reason.

I guess that, although so much of my life has changed, the only parts of me that have changed were the parts no one wanted here in the first place.  I am not destructive anymore.  I am not as selfish.  I am working hard to live a productive life.  I stay focused on ensuring that I am being kind to myself and to others.  I am learning balance.  I am implementing self-care.  I am capable of so much more.  I am grateful for each day, and I genuinely want to live it.

So yeah, something HUGE changed, but it didn’t change my heart.  My heart is in the same place, I am just learning how to put it into action.  I am learning to act upon the passions that have driven me all this time, and to grow and heal so that I am capable of doing that work.

So this is for those of you out there who think I have been brainwashed or suddenly became incredibly stupid.  This is not the case.  I heard that your IQ starts declining at 25 anyway, so maybe that part is true.  I’m just not the asshole I used to be.  And the truth is, that I am thankful for all of my friends.  For those who do not need a God to give their lives meaning, I do not judge.  I have learned in AA that living a life without a higher power is just a prerogative that some of us do not have the luxury of indulging in.  I need God to take a step further in this life, to march on.  The passions I have for change to come about in this world, are not efforts that I can make alone.  I will surely need God behind the work I want to do for our world in order to make it a safer, more beautiful place for each and every one of us to thrive.

I don’t plan on apologizing to my spiritual community for my political beliefs, and I don’t plan on apologizing to my political community for my spiritual beliefs.  I am going to march forward living in the way that I feel God guide me.  And you two groups can sort that crap out amongst yourselves.

That’s all.

“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation.  It’s the one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.”  

–Paulo Coelho 

My Prayer

I am on your time, God, not my own. I thank you for teaching me patience. I am here to serve you, not myself. I am grateful for steady work and faith in your favor. I trust your promise. I trust that your view reaches lightyears beyond my own, and that your dreams for me go beyond any that I could dream for myself. I will be an honest representation of your life-saving love. I commit to doing your work, to being a shining beacon of light and love to those around me. If ever an opportunity to help my fellow human being arises, I will do so without hesitation. If moments of darkness surround me, I will keep my eyes on you. When circumstances threaten this foundation, I will not let them shake me. When I fall short of these promises, I will make amends to those who are affected. I thank you for teaching me forgiveness, both given and received. I thank you for teaching me unconditional love, that I may live this life fearlessly, and help others to do the same. ❤

God, Guide Me Home

I don’t know where to begin with the struggles I have recently faced and the miracles that have blossomed out of them.  I know God has blessed me with a gift for writing, but I ironically believe that words can never suffice.

I kind of feel the need to fill you in about my journeys over the past 6 months.  November 20th of 2011, I entered residential treatment for bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, an eating disorder, and substance abuse.  Over the past few years, I have struggled with intense depression.  I experienced depression most of my life, but it had intensified over the past 3 years, and I was being hospitalized pretty regularly.  That was the main reason, I decided to look into residential treatment.  That is how things seemed from my perspective anyway.  Looking back on it now, I see so clearly how God had His hand in everything.  He chose where I was going to go, and the moment I would arrive and leave.  He carefully chose my treatment team, and my fellow survivors that I would meet along the way.

The work that I did from November 20-May 1 was the most intense work of my life.  It was incredibly difficult to face the most trying moments of my past head on, and conquer them.  We worked from 7 am to 10 pm daily, on dissecting and addressing our traumas.  In that process, we were strengthened and equipped to move forward.

I worked with some incredible therapists while at Timberline Knolls.  My primary therapist was a Christian therapist.  At first I was uncertain as to whether or not I could share the ugliest parts of my past with her, but we built the trust and she constantly reminded me that I needed to push forward.  She helped me to stay focused on the tasks at hand, my purpose of a life spent serving the God who had saved me.  He pulled me through before, she promised, He won’t desert me now.  Sometimes she was the only person who I could listen to, the only person who knew just what to say.

My family therapist sacrificed so much time to care for me directly, and was moved when she witnessed me evolve.  I worked with specialists, art therapists, expressive therapists, and DBT therapists.  We took every single angle in addressing every single issue.  I was blessed with a team that I felt truly cared for me and believed that I was capable of overcoming.

Aside from my team, I met so many other residents who proved to me that survival was possible.  They proved to me that some of the most beautiful people in this world, are the people who have been through the most.  And you would never even know it.  We would spend our brief bouts of free time, laughing, coloring, knitting, or in fellowship.  You would never look at these women and know the horrors that they had lived through.  Getting to know them on a personal level made me realize why I am so passionate about working against the issue of sexual violence.  It helped me face the need in this world to build women up, to help them know that they are valuable, lovable, worthy, beautiful, and strong.

I cannot say enough about the impact that these women had on me.  Through high school, college, and even in church, I feel like my strongest friendships were built with the women who were there to witness me break and rebuild.

May 1st, I left to go to “transitional living” in the Los Angeles area.  After a week, I left.

The weeks since have been incredible, difficult, reinvigorating, transformative, and inspiring.  It hasn’t all been fun.  I have had moments of incredible stress.  Two weekends ago, I started to fold.  I wasn’t finding a job.  I wasn’t finding a home.  I was starting to believe I wasn’t capable of accomplishing everything I had dreamed of doing.  I quickly felt as though the presence of God was draining out from around me.  I started to lose faith.  I started to lose hope.

Last Sunday morning, I went to a church that I had been looking into since I arrive in San Diego.  I was certain that I simply needed to find a spiritual community.  Initially, I found myself trapped in one of those, “Seriously?! Really?!” moments.  You know, like the Saturday Night Live skit.  Almost as soon as church started, I was worried.  The sermon was on TRUTH, and I started to consider what my pastors would say on the issue.  I imagined them saying that the enemy will lie to you, tell you that you are weak, or try to convince you that you are the person you used to be.  I imagined them reminding me not to listen to the lies, that the voice that told me I was capable and worthy and loved was the voice of truth.  That voice was the voice of God.  This sermon didn’t go anything like that.  If you can consider for a moment every single controversial political issue that has ever arisen in which churches felt moved to comment, that was in the sermon.  Abortion.  Homosexuality.  Other religions.  Evolution.  The pastor even fit the justification for rape into his angry rant, explaining that men have and natural reaction to scantily clad women… “they’re just wired that way.”  That was the point when I started frantically looking toward the doors.  Just so you know, if you ever start to question whether or not doors will be barricaded if you try to make a run for it… you should probably make a run for it.  I calmly headed to the doors, as if I was heading to the bathroom, but I just kept walking.

Let me tell you something that I genuinely believe.  I believe there are people who are directly being used by the enemy (satan, evil, etc) through the church.  The media has highlighted several of these recently in North Carolina.  I believe that this can be the devil’s strongest tool against God.  They are puppets for evil who hide behind the guise of Godliness.  On a daily basis, they are driving more and more people away from the love of God.  They are IN THE CHURCH, but working for the devil.  It is a perfect set up.  I am probably going to pay for this, but I am calling them out right now.  They do not work for God.

I have been in churches whose motives are genuine and true.  I have experienced churches where miracles are started, and hearts and minds are opened.  It is true that they are rare, but they are out there, I promise.  I didn’t not know, until recently that they even existed.  I did not know that church could be a spiritual experience.  I thought church was a punishment, a bore, and a waste of time.

When last Sunday morning unfolded, I was pretty pissed.  I didn’t resign myself to the disappearance of God, like I might’ve in the past.  I let the experience infuriate and motivate me.  That was NOT going to be my first experience of church in San Diego.  I was NOT going to let go that easily.  I set out for the rest of the day, focused on my recovery, and on turning things around.  I had a healthy, balanced lunch, and came home to find another option.  I recalled that I had looked at a church with a Sunday evening service, and I decided to try that one out instead.

I have missed my church back home dearly.  I was almost certain I wouldn’t find a comparable church anywhere else.  That being said, I was wrong.  My church in NC is awesome.  They are loving, welcoming, and intentional representatives of Christ.  Their hearts are moved from truth.  Their lives were saved by the purpose they found in God.  One of my church’s focuses has been children with special needs.  The Pastor’s sister is a special education teacher, and one of the most devoted families in the congregation is a beautiful family whose son has autism.  The issue is close to their hearts.

Being that my passion has long been the issue of sexual violence, I have dreamed of finding a church who was committed to working on the issue.

See, it was my work in Women’s and Gender studies that led me to God.  I was driven into the area of study by personal experience and a motivation to change the world.  The passion to do this work has been powerful and unyielding.  It is the very reason I titled this blog “Incurable Hope.”  Because the issue of sexual violence feels hopeless, but the glimmer of a hope that things can be changed is the only thing that has kept me going all along, even when I wanted to give up.  I could have easily given up on myself, but I couldn’t give up on the masses of people across the world whose lives are devastated by such violence.  There were times when I felt like one of the only people who cared about it.  I grew overwhelmed, daunted, and weary.  I was in a perpetual tug-of-war between letting go, letting go of this purpose, of this life, and of this fight; and holding on.  Just before midnight on March 27, 2011, I gave it all over to God.  I had come to the point where I wanted to quit, and I knew that faith would be the only thing that would pull me through.  It was quite a stretch.  I believed in God, but I was cynical, jaded, and bitter.  I was irritated by all this “He” talk, and I thought “God” was the hateful dude who was hatin’ on the gay folk.  I surrendered anyway, and hoped for the best.

What I have found on the other side of that commitment has been incredible.  It has not been easy, but behind all of it, I have found purpose.  I have seen grueling struggles give birth to huge life changes.  These are changes I have been craving for years, growth that I have yearned to experience.  I had been stagnant, and God had been waiting.

I had considered residential treatment, but God made it happen, with nearly 100% coverage from my insurance company, something that is incredible, and sadly, very rare.  I made plans in the months before treatment and in the weeks since, but God constantly reminds me that he has more in mind for me.  I have met people who have blessed my life.  I have heard stories that have fueled my drive and reinforced my compassion.  I have pushed through and overcome trials that can often cripple or kill people.  In short, the blessings have been numerous.

Last Sunday night, I found a home church here.  It is a different kind of church, a church focused on changing the world in a positive way… “not by making a point, but by making a difference.”  By being living examples of Christ’s love in a world that doesn’t know it.  Keep in mind that this world is not unfamiliar with that love due to a lack of churches.  Oh no, I come from a town where there are almost more churches than people.  They have had a KKK rally and a cross burning in the past couple of weeks.  Lack of churches is not the problem.  The truth is that church is completely useless if it is not conceived from the genuine nature of Christ’s love and compassion.  And how many churches do you know that are like that?

The church that I found has a ministry that is committed to working against sex trafficking, both here in the U.S. and abroad.  The moment I saw that, I knew God had led me to my church.  He led me home.  Thursday night’s service focused on impacting the world around us, being kind, lending a hand to someone in need.  Simple gestures that are huge in a cold and distant world.  It helped me realize why I had been guided here.  I have been driven to do this work, and what I found in doing it, was that I couldn’t do it alone, in fact, as Alcoholics Anonymous puts it, “No human power could…”  It is true.  Doing it alone would’ve killed me.  The world is largely unconcerned with the issue of sexual violence.  It is just too much.  I honestly believe that things can change with a sturdy spiritual foundation, with God behind the work being done.

I have been very active in AA, doing step work with a sponsor, and attending meetings regularly.  The entire concept mirrors how I came to believe.  We couldn’t do it alone.  We needed God to help us overcome.  And it is true also with other change.  I have watched women devote themselves to the work of fighting sexual violence, and drowning in the hopelessness of the issue.

What makes me laugh is that, as I reflect on my old view of this struggle, I see that I wanted to change the world.  The task seems far less daunting when I consider that it was already saved.

I don’t presume to know where things will go from here.  God’s plans for me are irrelevant until they come to fruition.  I move forward in pure faith.  I know he will not let me down.  I know he has my best interest at heart.  I know he has my back.  With that knowledge, what more do I need?  With God, all things are possible. 🙂

 

Continuing Treatment: A Matter of Life or Death

There are days when I can’t understand how anyone couldn’t love me.  I think I’m beautiful, funny, creative, and intelligent.  Some days this is part of a healthy balance of recognizing my value and appreciating my positive qualities.  Other days, this is a symptom of my mood disorder.  They can probably come off interchangeably, but I can tell the subtle difference.  On my manic days, I feel undeniably sexy, confident, and virtually unstoppable.  I quite frankly believe that everyone wants me.

Then there are the days when I my heart sinks at the thought that I’m completely unloveable.  I think everyone has days when they feel unloveable, whether it be because they are having a rough hair day, or they realize they’ve said something they didn’t mean to a friend.  For me, days like today are more heart breaking… far more gut-wrenching.  It can be painful to hear a love song, and feel personally affected by the adamant belief that no one could ever feel that way about me.  It can often be agitated by blemishes or physical imperfections, but the reality of what I face day-to-day with mental illness make love seem so distant, partly because I have a lot of work to do before I can get there, and partly because of the ways I can lose control of my mood when I am out of whack.

Neither the enticing confidence of mania, nor the crippling distance of love during depression are often issues for me.  I admit that so much time had gone by since I had felt this way, that I had come to question my diagnosis of bipolar disorder.  The past few weeks have been quite an obstacle in these aspects, though.

It isn’t completely uncommon for the things you do during mania to come back to weigh on your insecurity during depression.  All of these symptoms have been absent for so long, that they almost feel new this time around, and yet, at the same time, they feel naggingly mundane.  It all starts to feel as if any effort previously put forth was just a method of buying time, or delaying the inevitable.  When I was well, the fear that these symptoms would resurface would haunt me.  Now that they are back, it feels as though they never really went away.

I cannot pretend that life seems like the most viable of options in times such as these.  All of my senses mislead me.  Every single thing that happens is riddled with a slight paranoid urge to question.  “Did that thing just happen, or was it orchestrated by someone with ulterior motives?”  Everyone’s words are the opposite of what they really mean, and their actions are digs at my sanity.  I cannot honestly approach the question of whether treatment is a viable option, because in my head, there are cheaper, easier, and more immediate solutions.

And then, all of my effort toward recovery is always riddled with side notes of the times I tried before, and relapsed.  And relapse in my head is really just failure.  And failure is really just a waste.

Considering recovery isn’t easy.  Recovery takes time, money, and effort, and beyond that, it takes an initial desire to be better, to move forward… which in this state, really just feels exhausting.  The times I’ve written here, I’ve been feeling hopeful, but I figured that my transparency might help people understand my journey better.

I cannot say that considering suicide is easier, though.  Suicide, when done in a conscious state, requires effort.  It requires motivation, and calculation.  You have to consider what methods will work most effectively, and weigh the risk of survival after an attempt.  You have to consider your loved ones, and funeral arrangements.  I can’t speak for others, but I cannot fathom that most who take their own lives, don’t (no matter how irrationally) weigh the affect that it will have on loved ones, and decide it is still the better option.  It is difficult in the thick of despair to look at your situation and know if it would be more practical and efficient to die, or if it would make more of a mess than already exists… more of a mess than one can even fathom.  And the irony is, that those who haven’t faced that situation, can’t even fathom honestly believing that there is some clean efficiency to suicide.  In my head, it sounds logical, but when I see it typed out, it reads as completely absurd and thoroughly insane.

In either situation, you have to think about the things you’ll miss.  For instance, if I go into treatment now, I’ll miss my birthday and my trip to visit my sister and my nephew.  But if I die, I’ll miss the rest of my birthdays and my nephew growing up.  I’ve spent birthdays in treatment before.  Once, I missed a concert of my favorite musician for treatment.  Also, if I go into treatment now, I’ll miss graduate application deadlines for the upcoming school year.  If I die, I’ll never know if that could’ve gone anywhere anyway.  The fear the perpetuates thoughts of suicide is that you will go forth and continue to face the same failures of the past… that you will live and it still won’t be worth it in the end anyway.

I suppose the logic driving madness is to consider the affect that my life has had on the lives of others, and what does any of our lives come down to, if not that?  I cannot say, in my current state, that my life has contributed anything of value to this world.  From where I stand, all my effort has been in vain; and all my lack of effort has be cruel and spiteful.  If you asked my loved ones, it is probable that they would argue that my life was of great value; but possible that none of them could back that up with evidence or specific instances in which I contributed something valuable.

I realize that relationships are fluid.  People come and go.  The time we have to connect with one another ebbs and flows.  Our moods shift.  Our locations change.  We take up new hobbies, and grow tired of old ones.  We become different people.

Over the past few weeks, I heard a song on XM radio that made me laugh.  It is called “High School Never Ends” (by Bowling for Soup).  It is an amusing song about the ways that the so-called “real world” functions very similarly to the way high school did.  There’s a line in the song that stings a little for me, though.  The chorus says: The whole damn world is just as obsessed with who’s the best dressed and who’s having sex, who’s got the money, who gets the honey’s, who’s kinda cute, and who’s just a mess.  But the end of the song adds: And I’m pretty much the same as I was back then… HIGH SCHOOL NEVER ENDS.  And I get this, its not uncommon for people to feel as awkward as they did in high school and maintain similar behaviors.  But that last line gets me.  When I look around at the people I knew back in the day, the truth is that, for better or worse, most have changed.  They’ve gotten married, had kids, are managing careers or going to school.  What I see all around me are people working toward their potential.  And yet, I feel completely stagnant.  I have a BA that I somehow achieved since high school, and little else to show for the nearly 11 years that have passed since then. I’m single, unemployed, depending on my parents, and struggling on a daily basis with emotional stability.  I do have to say that I’ve made achievements in conquering disordered eating.  I no longer use self-injury as a method of coping.  I’ve overcome addictions, and learned a lot.  I’ve met tons of people with a wealth of stories and backgrounds.  When I face myself at the end of each day, though, I feel empty-handed.  I feel as though I have little to show for the time that has passed.  Everything I do feels like existing in a constant state of planning for the things that I could one day accomplish, but never actually accomplishing them.  There are days when I consider having a kid just to muster some sense of accomplishment, but I know that in the end, my failure at that endeavor would just pour salt on the wound of my lack of accomplishment.  I’m not suggesting that reproducing automatically equals accomplishment.  I wouldn’t even say that of a career.  These things do, however, suggest some sort of movement forward.  I don’t feel like my life has lacked in experience, I simply feel as though I’ve done nothing with all the experience and wisdom that I have acquired.

I have to stop, I know this all sounds like a pity party.  I can hear the hard-asses out there groaning and mumbling some bullshit line referring to my boot straps… yadda yadda.

I want to add that the burden of disappointment in myself doesn’t extend solely to what I have or haven’t accomplished as a result of challenges I have or haven’t had to face.  Being faced with moments when suicide seems viable isn’t my biggest obstacle.  What is worse, and what feeds those very flames, is the way I am to those I love when times are hard.  I can’t even explain it.  I become absolutely beside myself with not only rage, but disdain for the people who care for me the most.  Maybe it is bitterness.  I suppose it is possible that I am resentful for their efforts, whether I feel unworthy of them, or because I just want permission to leave this God-forsaken life behind and move on.  There are times when I suspect that the only way to move forward is to succumb to this illness.  There are points when I want to surrender myself to God, and moments still, when I fear the only way to surrender is to quit trying altogether.

In a day, I can change from being genuinely convinced that, despite all my failings, I have a good heart; into a monster, who can’t control her actions, or the fiery words spewing forth from her tongue.  No matter what I do or say, the resentments that I feel for others, consistently translate into self-loathing after the storm clouds have broken.

I guess I just needed to get that off my chest.  It certainly does help to have a chance to articulate what I am struggling with, but also to offer that insight for those who don’t understand or who suspect that they are alone in such struggles.

All that aside, I want to end with the fact that I am currently making an effort to seek residential treatment.  I have been hospitalized a total of 6 times, 3 of which were involuntary after suicide attempts.  These hospitalizations have lasted the length of 2 days to 2 months.  The kind of treatment that I am seeking now is not emergency care for my safety, but an effort for a consistent, lengthy, ongoing treatment.  Residential treatment can last between 20 days to 9 months, and is sometimes followed by intensive out-patient treatment.

The ultimate goal of such treatment is to get an oft derailed train back on the tracks, and to maintain it there for the purpose of transitioning into independent daily living.  It is often necessary for people whose trauma, illnesses, or addictions are such that daily living is interrupted on a continuing basis, and weekly therapy can do little to offer the stability needed to move forward.

A close friend sent me several links to different residential facilities, and of the choices, I picked one.  I have already emailed them, and will speak with them further today to make plans for admission and discuss cost options.  The facility that I am looking into is an all women’s center in Illinois.  The length of treatment in this facility varies from client to client, based on individual need.  It is possible that I will be gone for several months.  It is also very possible that the cost of treatment will be overwhelming, with or without insurance assistance, though I am hoping my insurance will assist in a substantial way.  I do feel very blessed to have this as an option, and it irritates me that such treatment is so expensive, and as such, is out of the realm of possibility for many who face mental illness.

I suppose that this has become the critical moment at which I must decide between facing the uncertainty of both the future and the end, and deciding which is a safer bet.  Neither decision is ever easy, straight forward, or without its costs; but I suppose we act despite that, no matter which road we choose to take.

I do not feel it just to ask anything of anyone, especially with the responsibility that I feel placed upon my own shoulders in the effort of recovery, but I am graciously accepting prayers by any who read this and feel inspired to lift me up in that way.  I also want to ask for any encouragement that anyone out there has to offer.  Obviously, you can comment here.  If you wish to send me a private message, you can reach me at incurablehope@gmail.com –Beyond that, I don’t know what else will help at this time.  I myself am praying that one of these days, I will know success, and feel myself consistently moving forward.  In this moment, I want to shake the feeling of stagnancy that plagues me, and to reach a point where I know that I am loved and supported, even in the depth and silence of the night.

I suppose that it eventually comes down to seeing my purpose playing out, rather than simply suspecting that it exists.