Healing

The Difference With God

The argument I hear a lot from people who get offended by my spiritual beliefs is, “What kind of God lets . . . happen?”

Now, let me start by saying this, I don’t argue about my spiritual beliefs, though I often find that people want to argue with me.  I don’t have a problem with people believing or not believing whatever they please.  I’m not here to change anyone’s mind.

I do however, argue with myself.  I pose these questions to myself, and to God, and give them serious thought.  I’ve thought about the question a lot.  Since I’ve been reading The Shack, I’ve had an opportunity to really think about the answer to that question.

This is a bit of a SPOILER ALERT, but the book takes an opportunity to teach us that, due to free will, bad things often happen because people make bad choices.  After a year spent in treatment, healing, and acceptance, I finally do accept that as an answer for some of the bad stuff.  Certainly, life would be meaninglessly dull were it not for free will.  We would all be the same, doing exactly the right things, the same things.  We’d be drones.  The relationship between us and God would be more of a dictatorship.

The truth is that people only come into a relationship with God through a choice, often made in a moment of desperation.  When I chose to know God, I was in a place where I had nothing else to lose.  Well, maybe one thing could’ve been lost; my life.  I knew that I had had glimpses of life, or happiness, and I wanted those more than I wanted to die.  And even though I had NO IDEA what a relationship with God would mean, I walked into the uncertainty knowing it was my only hope.  For the first time in my life, I made a commitment.

We come into this relationship, because we make a choice between what was and what could be.

I don’t want to be a puppet.  My relationship with God means so much more, since it was I who wanted in.  It was never forced on me.  We all, at some point, have that moment, that way in.  We all make this decision.

That being said, free will is both a blessing and a curse.  Because we are not forced into goodness, or perfection, we also have opportunities to choose darkness.  Because of that choice, people can be hurt or lost, for seemingly no reason at all.  Someone chose to hurt me as a child, and I was left to clean up the wreckage because of their choice.  This is common.

I kn0w that in the midst of pain, it is hard to accept this answer, but after a long examination of my beliefs, I do agree.

In my head, I’m still left to make sense of the things that aren’t caused by a bad person or a bad choice:  An illness.  A miscarriage.  A natural disaster.  The list could go on; a list of all the things that cannot be explained away by free will, and the nagging question: why?

What repeatedly arises is the difference, for me, between a life without God and a life with God.

I used to blame God for everything.  Why I even believed in God is still baffling to me, because I was angry at him, and blamed him for everything that went wrong.  Oh the moments I spent actually cursing at God with a grimace on my face and an angry finger pointed to the sky!  I do not understand why I believed in a God that was so horrible to me.  Why not just NOT believe in him at all?

But I did, and I gladly took every chance that arose to hate him.

At this time in my life, I looked at every bad thing as a punishment, or simply an act of a spiteful God.  Because I’ve had a chance to work through healing, I see things differently now.

I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore.  I used to start cursing at God if I dropped my books.  No big deal, but there I was having words with this hateful God of mine.  Those things don’t get to me anymore.  A pause.  A deep breath.  And there I am, picking those books back up.  No. Big. Whoop.  That changes a lot.

I see the value in free will, and I understand that there are people who use that to accomplish negative, and even evil acts.

Most importantly, I see the error of my own ways.  Working the twelve steps certainly gives me some perspective on the destruction I have left in the wake of my bad decisions.  I see now that I can’t control what others have done to me.  Wounds are left behind by sick people.  I was sick once too.  I hurt people too.  My job now isn’t to dwell on fixing what others have done to me, it is make amends for the things that I have done to others.  They call it “keeping your side of the street clean.”  I do my part in making the world a better place, making up for the hurts that I have caused, and doing things differently now.

Yes, I see things very differently now.  And when I think about the things that cannot be explained away by free will, I know that these are life’s experiences that make us who we are.  We have to struggle.  We have to face hard stuff.  Who would we be without these hardships?  These tragedies?  Just as we would be without free will: drones.  We would have nothing to bring us together, or make us unique.  We would be weakly little things, incapable of facing anything.

When I think about how strong I am because what I have faced, I know I wouldn’t trade a single experience.  I have the ability to say that I am a survivor.  I have a faced adversity, and come out on the other side of things; stronger because of it.  I also know, because of my past, that you can’t put anything before me that I won’t be able to conquer.

Is Time on My Side?

“Lose not yourself in a far off time, seize the moment that is thine.”  ~Friedrich Schiller

I heard a song recently that brought up a lot of new emotions for me.  Some of you may remember it “Graduation (Friends Forever)” by Vitamin C.  Don’t judge.  I don’t know why I download this crap, but I do.  It started playing, and at first I wanted to turn it to the next song, but I didn’t.  As I listened, it wasn’t far into the song that I burst into tears.  I don’t know, blame it on hormones.  It is a pretty awful song, but as I listened to it, it suddenly hit me how old the song was, and how old I am.  I started thinking about how life was when I was in high school, and how it felt like every single day was going to last forever.  Days go by so quickly now, that years are over before a blink or a breath have the opportunity to complete themselves.

“The clock talked loud. I threw it away, it scared me what it talked.”  ~Tillie Olsen

 

I have been struggling a lot lately with this, as I do twelve step work.  I suddenly feel like all the time I spent “living it up” was time wasted.  All the years that actually last for a minute, are gone, and I barely remember them.  Now time flies so quickly that I see people around me getting married, having kids, having second and third kids, doctorates being earned, marriages ending in divorce, and/or lives ending, period; and I’m left with my head spinning, still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life.

There’s this sinking feeling in my gut, like everyone who was ahead of me by a small head start has now nearly completed their lives, and my proverbial clock is ticking.  Not even my reproduction clock!  I can’t even support myself at this point.  It is my death clock.  My death clock is now ticking, people.  This is serious.

“Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them.”  ~Dion Boucicault

I get that my life hasn’t been a waste.  It took a lot of ups and downs to land me in the spot where I am now standing, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have the growth, perspective, and relationship with God that I now have.  My relationships with everyone around me have improved.  How could they not?  We’re maturing.

I know myself well enough to know that this is what it took to get me here, and nothing short of it would have sufficed.  I am stubborn and hard-headed and feverishly determined.  It is just that this is the first time I have started to put those qualities to use toward something productive.

“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” ~Abraham Lincoln

Look, I matured an unnatural amount with in an incredibly short period of time.  In the time between last August and now, I have learned so much, and evolved so much.  I love who I am, and the opportunities I have had are such an incredible blessing that nothing I could ever do would be enough to thank God and my loved ones for the support it took to have them.  I also realize what a privilege it is to have had the kind of treatment it takes to overcome the things I have struggled with.  I never forgot that while I was in treatment.  I was pained to see what a small portion of the population has access to that kind of healing, and I had to keep pushing forward because I knew if I wanted to be a part of any positive change in this world, I had to start with a positive change in me.  It took a lot to accept such a huge gift.

So now, in the interest of candor, I will tell you what I face.

As soon as Vitmain C’s song ended, Eminem came on.  “Lose Yourself.”  I know this was a God wink.  😉

 

It is like God was saying: you used to have your whole life ahead of you, but time has passed, and before you even know it, your whole life will be behind you.  Time to jump in with both feet.  This is not the time to hold back or freeze up.

I gave you this life, LIVE IT!  This is your chance, USE IT!

“Let him who would enjoy a good future waste none of his present.” ~Roger Babson

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 

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. 🙂

 

You Intended to Harm Me

April is sexual assault awareness month.  I have a group of friends, who are all survivors, who live all across North America.  We keep in touch and share our struggles with and fight against the issue of sexual violence.  This month, we’ve decided to share each other’s blogs as we post about S.A.A.M. and what it means for us.  One of those friends/survivors is Sheena.  Here is her Facebook page.  Here is her blog.  She sent me interview questions, which I answered, and decided to share on my own blog.

Before I get to the questions, I want to share the shirt that I made last night, as a part of a survivors group.  It is for the clothesline project.  You can find out more about The Clothesline Project here.  It was started as a grassroots effort to give survivors the forum to speak about their experiences as an aid in the prevention of and awareness around violence against women.  Survivors are encouraged to make t-shirts conveying their “testimony to the problem of violence against women.”  As I watched women all around me, I tried to think of what I wanted to say in regards to the issue.  I wanted to express my pain and anger, but I also wanted to share my hope that we have the power to turn things around.  I drew an image of a bird coming out of a heart, but the words continued to evade me.  Then a bible verse popped into my head.  It is Genesis 50:20 and it says: You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.  I think it adequately expresses the fact that we have the power to turn around what has been done to us and stop the cycle, a theme that was common as I answered the interview questions from Sheena.  Here is a picture of my shirt:

Ok, and now for the interview!!! Enjoy:

1.   Who are you?

Noelle: Freelance Writer, Future Banjo Prodigy, Recovering Addict, Self-Proclaimed Rock Star, Christian Feminist Slam Poet, Survivor

2.   Does Sexual Assault Awareness month and Childhood Sexual Abuse Prevention Month hold any significant meaning to you? If so, why?

Yes, because I’ve experienced both and I think they are both completely unacceptable and unacceptably quiet experiences in the lives of far too many people.

3.   What is your story?

TBA  😀

4.   According to some statistics, very few people report abuse & assault crimes. Why do you think that is?

Because our legal and medical systems, as well as our entire society as a larger whole pressures those who experience such violence to stay silent.  Often times this pressure is carried out in the form of shaming and further abuse of victims.

5.   Do you think abusers, rapist, molesters, pedophiles and the likes can be reformed, healed or changed?

I think anything is possible.  Ask me if it is likely, and I will say no.

6.   What do you want others to understand about those who have been victimized?

That such violence is completely unacceptable.  That victims receive little to no support after such acts are committed.  That our culture allows and even endorses sexually violent behavior, and that it is EVERYONE’s responsibility to start examining the way we live and making a genuine and vigorous effort to change.  And that such violence is devastating in the lives of victims, but with support and dedication, such violence can be overcome.

7.   What’s been the most difficult thing to deal with as it relates to what you’ve experienced?

The most difficult part of my experience to deal with is how I was treated after I was victimized.  Again and again, I was either completely ignored or simply not believed.  I was belittled, accused, ignored, and silenced, not only by the legal system, but by my loved ones.

8.  How have you dealt with your own personal rage at the traumatic things that have happened to you?

Honestly… I haven’t.  I’m still working on simply allowing myself to feel the rage, because I spent my entire life trying not to feel any of it.  Whenever I do feel rage, I want to sit with it, embrace it, and express it.  I feel like I deserve that.

9.   What was an unexpected thing that aided in your growth and healing?

God.  It was very hard for me to get past the idea of God as a man, or that God had allowed these things to happen.  I was angry and full of blame.  What I realized was that I was misunderstanding God.  I had always listened to what others believed God was, and I didn’t like what they had to say, but I lived with that God for a long time.  Now, I realize that God is more personal than that.  God isn’t some giant angry white dude in the sky with a long beard.  I see God in a way that comforts me.  I also had to make the distinction that God and people are two different things.  People have free will.  People f*ck up, in major ways.  God doesn’t hurt us, God is there to comfort us when people have.

10.   What encouraging words do you have to offer for anyone who has ever been abused or assault?

Keep going.  Don’t give up.  We have the power to change things.  What happened was unacceptable and inexcusable.  Allow yourself to feel, and remember that everything you feel is valid.  Trust yourself.  This doesn’t have to break you.

11.   What have you learned considering your experiences?

Too much to write here.  So much.

12.   What do you think is the most important thing the world needs to hear?

We hold the power to turn things around.

13.   What brings you ultimate joy?

My future.  My nephew.  God.  My dog.  😀

14.   What’s your favorite quote?

“Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”  -Dorothy Bernard

15.   Who inspires you? Why?

My sister, because she taught me to question authority, and that you can make your own family without recreating the mistakes of your parents.

16.   Is there anything else you’d like to share? This is your space to say whatever you want to say unedited, unscripted and without any filters.

To Be Continued… 🙂

The Awakening: August 2nd and the Days Since

(Finding a Balance Between Jesus Christ and King of the Hill)

I was initially hesitant to post too soon after my last entry, but after really evaluating, I decided to try to catch my audience before they disperse.

I’m not even sure where to begin.  My last two posts were about people we lost too soon to tragic circumstances, though my perspective in each instant contrasted starkly.  One was written 5 days before my most recent suicide attempt.  The last post was written a month and a half after that attempt.  My thoughts seem transparently similar, but there’s a mystery smeared between those two posts, like something spilled on the few pages of a book that contain the climax.  The pages are stuck together, and everything between “before” and “after” is almost inconsequential; or at least, that’s how it seems.

Let me plead that this is not so.  I realize the posts are eerily similar, both addressing people I only knew at a distance, after their lives were lost in tragic circumstances.  Both even pose my conflict about why some lost the battle, and others like myself, have a chance at survival.

It seems as though, since my post about Amy Winehouse, her parents have suggested that she lost her life from complications attributed to alcohol withdrawal.  In my opinion, these circumstances make the story that much more tragic.  She was making an effort, but the addiction consumed her in the end.  I was almost astonished at how long it took most media outlets to come out with these details.  When I got out of the hospital, I googled the story and found this explanation, and yet it was 2 or 3 weeks later before the media spoke about it.

Friday, my sister and I discussed the multi-faceted nature of mental illness, and the mystery that is our brains.  We talked for a moment about how various mental issues seem to have similar characteristics.  Though it may stir controversy, I’ll give an example.  My dad recently saw the HBO film “Temple Grandin” about a woman born in 1947 with autism.  It was very enlightening.  I didn’t realize that autism was even acknowledged back then, but it also irked me to realize how much more misunderstood it was.  I thought it was bad now, but it was far more misunderstood then.  The doctor’s initially blamed Temple’s mother for her condition, but she refused to accept the accusation.  With diligent attention from her mother and aunt, Temple excelled in life, and even more so in academics.

My dad was moved by the film, and sent a copy to my sister and myself.  As I watched it, I identified things about Temple that I related to myself, and that I had observed in others.  For instance, as is an issue with autism, Temple was overwhelmed and anxious in situations that offered an excess of audio, visual, and tactile stimulation.  I completely understand this.  I was recently started on a medication for ADHD because I had been withdrawing, and increasingly irritable in social situations for the very same reason.  I ended my day on Saturday with a grocery store panic attack due to this issue.  So many people, noises, products, and the agitation of my shirt shifting, and my purse strap rubbing against my neck.

Similarly, one of my former boyfriends was diagnosed with schizophrenia toward the end of our relationship.  The illness didn’t present itself blatantly as hallucinations and paranoia, like most assume.  It started progressing in his speech, which was disorganized, and indirect.  It got the point where I just couldn’t understand him.  Also, he started to become hyperaware of details.  If in a room full of people, he would notice the way a dust bunny in the corner of the room was dancing atop the hardwood floor.  When sitting with his mom in a diner one day, he started talking about a rabbit, as if his mom should know exactly what he was referring to.  It wasn’t until she turned around and saw the painting of a farm with a rabbit in it, that she understood the origin of his thoughts.  Temple was similarly observant, noticing and understanding things that no one else really had the awareness to note, or the ability to care about.

The brain certainly is a mysterious thing.  Being as such, I am often frightened by what the brain can do.

Alzheimer’s is another example.  It has been arising in the news more and more.  I told my sister that I couldn’t cope with losing a loved one to Alzheimer’s, because it would be so similar to how I lost my ex to schizophrenia.  I cannot stand the feeling of having lost someone who is still physically right in front of you.  I do realize that they are making many great strides with Alzheimer’s… I just wish they’d do the same with mental illnesses like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

There is so much we have yet to understand about our brains. The brain is simply powerful, and being as such, it can either serve as a powerful motivator or a powerful hinderance.

When I look at my post on July 25th and compare it to my post from September 16th, it would seem as though the same person wrote it.  And yes, in literal terms the same body sat at the same computer to bang her fingertips against the keys and make words.  Perhaps even the same brain was behind what was thought and said.  I suppose you could determine though, that the difference was completely spiritual.

I had gone down to Asheville with my parents for my cousin’s wedding.  As I mentioned earlier, social situations are not my forté, though I manage surprisingly well most of the time.  July 29th was not one of those days.  I went to the rehearsal dinner at a local restaurant, greeting old friends and family members whom I have not seen in a while.  The room was hot and crowded, and I had already been stuck in a car for 4 hours with my parents, which is quite a feat.  The drinks that night were incredible!  Freshly squeezed mojitos, margaritas, and sangria with fruit.  I’m not sure how many I had, but I remember the food being equally as satisfying.  There was so much commotion, that I don’t recall much else besides that and the heat.  After eating, and feeling like was about to die through the sentimental slide show, I grabbed the car keys and split.  I went to the car and sat with the air conditioning full blast until my parents left and we headed back to the hotel.

The next evening was my cousin’s wedding.  We had been warned about the heat and mosquitos, so I had already decided that I couldn’t do it after my anxiety the night before.  The situation seemed pretty simple to me, sometimes, social situations can just be too much.  My sister gave me positive feedback for my boundary-setting, and the rest of the day is a blur.  The only thing I remember from that day is getting car sick while my dad explored the wealthy neighborhoods of the city.  Besides that, I recall that my dad took me out to a Mexican restaurant after they returned from the wedding.

I’m uncertain as to why everything else is a blur, but I remained in that state until Tuesday morning, when I woke up completely back to normal in a women’s psych unit.

Apparently, in the wee hours of July 31st I decided to end my life.  I say apparently, because that’s how it appears.  I do recall being somewhat melancholy, mainly about my future with regards to relationships and my chances of survival with mental illness.  Other than that, it really wasn’t much out of the ordinary.  A friend of mine was alarmed by what I had said to my ex, and my sister reflected that she should’ve been alarmed by the things I said to her.  When I had a chance, I glanced back at those conversations, and if I had been them, I wouldn’t have been alarmed initially either.  I’m typically a dark person, with an even darker sense of humor.  Despite my recently blossoming spirituality, I have a significant past of depression and suicidal tendencies.  It would appear to be a thin line with me.

The truth is, though, that I haven’t felt that way since March.  I made a significant spiritual commitment to God in March, and dangerous depression hadn’t really been an issue since.  I’m uncertain as to why, 4 months later, I would decide to end my life without much of a warning.  In the past, the spiral downward for me has been lengthy and gradual.  This was sudden.

My only medical explanation is that I had started a mood stabilizer a week and a half prior.  Many psychiatric medications can have unintended counter-effects; so that is a possibility.  I had taken the medication in the past, but only in the context of a complete medication cocktail.  I had not been on any psychiatric medications since March.

As for spiritual explanations, I have a few.  I’m not sure this is the time or the place to delve into that.  If anyone has questions, I’ll be willing to answer them, and I’ll probably stick with basics for now.

So that Sunday around 3 am, without explanation, I overdosed on 100 dramamine and 40 ativan.  My dad and several police officers found me the next morning.  Everything until Tuesday morning is a blur, and most of what I know now is what has been told to me by people who were with me.  I was taken to the ER in an ambulance, and stayed there until midday on Monday, August 1st, when I was transported via ambulance to another local hospital to be admitted into their psychiatric unit.

When I woke on Tuesday morning, and as the day wore on, I started to realize everything that I had been through.  What started to really dawn on me, was the miracle of my survival.  I spent the week that followed, bonding with women in similar situations and in prayer.  I also spent a good amount of time reading the bible, and was diligent about attending morning devotions.  It was unusual to be in the unit at that time, because when I woke up, I went back to being my “normal” self and otherwise basically “sane.”  I recognized within a few days that I was good to go home, but it doesn’t really work like that in psych units.  I was patient, and participated a lot.  At one point, I started to feel so desperate to get out and do stuff, that I thought being there might make me crazier.  This is a big contrast to the times I’ve gone in before.  My previous experiences in such a setting left me fearful of returning to life, uncertain if I could handle life’s curveballs after being in such a controlled environment for a week or two.  As eager as I was to get back to life, I made an effort to utilize and appreciate my time there.  I developed friendships with some really incredible women, and learned some new things about myself.

Spiritually speaking, I will contribute this: prior to this experience, I made a commitment to God, but after doing so, carried on with life as usual.  I suppose I expected things to unfold like I’ve heard people promise… “make that commitment, and all the baggage you’ve been carrying will dissolve.”  I basically spent about a month and a half on my couch, watching “King of the Hill,” and waiting for my issues to go away.

It didn’t quite work like that.

I had gone to 6 am prayer at my church a few times in the 2 weeks before my suicide attempt, and spent the time praying, but also in meditation, focusing on developing my bond with God.  I focused closely on the prayer that the people around me wouldn’t become distractions in my relationship with God.

See… basically, I’m a bit different from the majority at my church.  I think outside of the box, and I’m far more liberal than most.  No… like FARRRRR more liberal.  As for politics, though, I really don’t see how that should affect spirituality and vice versa.  My problem was that, I was capable of putting myself in that setting and being open enough to listen to what had to be said about God, but in casual conversation, I allowed minor opinions to affect how I felt about everything that I had grown to love.  I also felt like I was often overlooked and invalidated because I am so liberal.  The gist of it is: I could open my mind enough to go there, and they could open their minds enough to welcome me, but it stopped there.  If they couldn’t otherwise accept my views, then that wasn’t really my problem, and it was just another opportunity for people to get between my relationship with God.  I started to feel like the people around me wanted me to change my ways of thinking to look more like theirs.  That’s when I bailed, and turn to “King of the Hill.”

I think a lot of people have that sort of reaction.  Most of the people I know who cringe at the thought of “Christians,” do so because of people they’ve encountered who use their faith as a weapon of judgment and condemnation.  I don’t blame them.  Until recently, that had been my main experience of Christians too.  I realize now that my experience of “Christians” really has nothing to do with my experience of God, and how I feel about Christ.  Nope, those were two TOTALLY DIFFERENT THINGS.

My experience of survival after my suicide attempt, however, made me realize that my relationship with God was far more important than any judgment I had previously faced from people who claim Him, as well as any judgment I had previously put upon people who claim Him.

I realized a lot, actually.  In the days after my literal reawakening, I had an increasing spiritual reawakening.

I had always heard the quotation that said “It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)  I came to understand that giving up on people because of the ways they judged me was hypocritical.  If I expected them to not give up on me, I had to offer the same.  My experience was sort of like God whispering in my ear to add, “people aren’t the point of spirituality anyway.”  I do appreciate fellowship, but I also realize that I’m never going to fit into the mold of what people associate with followers of Christ.  That’s fine by me.  I had previously grasped onto all my bad habits, addictions, and toxic patterns because I assumed they held my identity.  I didn’t want to lose my empathy, my creativity, and my quirkiness for the sake of dropping the negative.  My experience made me realize that wasn’t an issue anyway.  I realized that my past wasn’t haunting me anymore, and yet, I was still unique.  I was focused and unmoved by things that used to break me, but just as determined to be an advocate for people with mental health issues and survivors of sexual violence.

I could pretend like it was “just” a suicide attempt, and nothing more, but it was more for me.  When I got out of the hospital, I was surprised by people from my past who reached out to me for support.  I also had a new outlook on life, and new thoughts on spirituality and mental health.

I used to think that suicide was a conscious and calculated decision.  In my past experience, that was the case, but this was different.  For whatever reason, I was in an altered state that went beyond not thinking rationally and became more dissociated.  I realized that there are times in people’s lives when they will be in that state and take that drastic action without ever having made any decision at all, and without having much, if any, control over their actions.

For this very reason, I realized that I’m only in control of so much.  I can take my meds, stay on schedule, respect my boundaries, and still fall short of taking care of what I need to survive.  That’s when I realized that God is far more necessary than I had ever admitted.  It is also when I realized that people are too insignificant for me to accept them as obstacles between God and myself.  And on top of everything, I finally let go of the baggage I had lugged around for so long, because I knew that there are things that I can’t explain, things that are far bigger than myself.  I had enough of a glimpse at the bigger picture to understand the purpose of my suffering for personal growth, and yet, the insignificance of it on a universal scale.

I would lie, and tell you that everything has been hunky dory since, if I thought compromising my integrity could serve some greater purpose.  It won’t.  It has been a struggle.  I have faced speed bumps in my day-to-day life.  I have argued with fellow church members.  I’ve gotten in fights with my parents, and had moments when I felt helpless.

I see those moments as fleeting more than I ever have before, though.

I used to think that upheaval was a constant state of being.  I used to feel resigned to my plight.  These days, I’m more of a fighter.  When conflict or turmoil arise, I reach out.  I talk to loved ones and I pray constantly.  When I’m being completely honest with myself, I see the obstacles as insignificant, and I’m overwhelmed by gratitude.  When the past starts to creep back in to haunt me, I simply acknowledge that allowing it to haunt me will serve no greater purpose in this world, especially if I aspire to help those who have been through the struggles that I have been through.

I’m nowhere near perfect, which is fine.  If we were perfect, humility would be difficult.  I tried to keep that in mind when I felt the twinge of humiliation when reflecting upon being found naked in a hotel room, incoherent and surrounded by vomit.  We all have our moments, and none of them look the same.  It isn’t important to dwell, but it is important to acknowledge what we’ve faced and allow it to be an opportunity for learning and growth.

I feel more capable than ever.  I don’t feel limited by my circumstances, because I realize that all things really are possible now.  I’ve started pursuing new paths that I’ve known were in my future, but have consistently put off due to a nagging fear of failure.

Are there days when I’m fearful?  Not really… but moments?  Yes.  I do sometimes fear that my past will creep up, like a gaining wave, and overpower me.  Do I let that cripple me?  No.  Well, yes, but not for long.  I’m human.  I make mistakes and bad judgments, but I’m learning, not only about life, but about what I am capable of as a new person.  I’m learning about myself in a spiritual context, and considering more and more who I am to God and who God is to me.

It is an odd thing to carry the possibility of hindrance in your brain, while everything else you feel is completely new.  I suppose, in the end, it all comes down to being motivated by your newness, and always keeping your brain in check.

In closing, I want to share some important scripture with you.  I focused on Psalm 91:11 while in the hospital, for the sake of reminding myself that God is watching over me.  The only translation I had in the hospital was the King James Version, which isn’t my favorite.  When I got out, I read each translation of it, and I settled on The Message’s version of the passage.  It is awesome, and motivating.  Whenever I have doubts, these words help me feel safe.

Psalm 91:1-14 (The Message)

You who sit down in the High God’s presence…

Say this: “God, you’re my refuge.

I trust in you and I’m safe!”

That’s right—he rescues you from hidden traps,

shields you from deadly hazards.

His outstretched arms protect you—

under them you’re perfectly safe;

his arms fend off all harm.

Fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night,

not flying arrows in the day,

Not disease that prowls through the darkness,

not disaster that erupts at high noon…

no harm will even graze you.

You’ll stand untouched, watch it all from a distance…

Yes, because God is your refuge,

the High God your very own home,

Evil can’t get close to you,

harm can’t get through the door.

He ordered his angels

to guard you wherever you go.

If you stumble, they’ll catch you;

their job is to keep you from falling.

You’ll walk unharmed among lions and snakes

***

p.s. I also want to add that my month and a half with the Hill family of Arlen, Texas wasn’t completely useless.  I did learn this:


“King of the Hill: Born Again on the Fourth of July (#13.14)” (2009)
Lucky: You took the wrong message from what that preacher was screaming at you. You can’t go throwing stones at others until you’ve thrown a bunch of stones at yourself. 
Bobby Hill: I guess you’re right. 

Lucky: Besides, saving souls is not your job. That position is taken, in Heaven by the Big Man, and on screen by Morgan Freeman.

Cheering On Your Rapist?!

Three Cheer For Rape???
(I don’t know how to link on wordpress from my phone, so copy and paste the link below to understand this blogpost)

http://ephphatha-poetry.blogspot.com/2011/05/three-cheers-for-rape.html

This breaks my heart, because it is exactly what I’ve been struggling with… What do you do when society constantly reinforces your worthlessness? It is so hard to single-handedly fight the majority of people, and the main attitudes of apathy or indifference on the subject. How can we even address self esteem and body image in girls, when we simply say “you’re beautiful”… That’s not enough. It starts with how cases like this are handled!!! It starts with the messages we receive that boys are more powerful, then goes to saying boys are more valuable (misdemeanor charge for rape?!), then as a girl marches past that obstacle, she’s told to suck it up and do what she’s told… Her opinion doesn’t matter, her PAIN doesn’t matter, SHE doesn’t matter… So how about we start there, rather than taking girls who’ve been through trauma, and putting a bandaid over the wound by patting them on the back and believing that saying they’re pretty will be enough, when everything else in the world (our actions) tells them they are WORTHLESS!!!

How Grace Transformed “Let it Be” into “Let it Go”

I always thought that Christians were the most judgmental people in the world. So, in accordance with that belief, I accumulated a lot of friends who hated religion, and therefore anything having to do with God.   Even the word “God” was like a curse word to them.  Then I met a group of Christ-like people, who finally proved to me what I thought God was all about, all this time.  I’m now learning how judgmental the spiritually irreverent people in my life truly are. THEY ARE THE VERY THING THEY HATE… and they don’t even realize it.  I realize now that being nonjudgmental has nothing to do with whose side you’re on; just as being open-minded has nothing to do with surrounding yourself with like-minded people.  I have slowly made an effort to open my mind to people who don’t think like me, only to realize we have so much more in common than I had ever noticed; and also that what we do have in common is so much more important than our petty differences.

***

The process hasn’t been simple, but the more I’ve given it over to God, the more I’ve watched the pieces fall perfectly into place.

***

There are a lot of people in my life who think I’m completely insane, or that I’ve suddenly become extremely simpleminded.  You should recognize: I’ve always been completely nuts, and never have I claimed sanity.  I simply realize now, that I had a choice to make: one option would diminish my quality of life, and shorten the length of it; and the other would fulfill my life, and give me a purpose to move forward, with a complete disregard of the past hurts (and there have been a lot of those).  Based on that, my decision was really quite straightforward.

***

I think even most of the people who have supported me in my journey to God, really don’t fully understand how perfectly it has all worked out.  The fact is, that I know my Source now, and nothing else really matters.

***

For the people from my past who just can’t even grasp where I am, or how I got here; I know that it has been kind of ridiculous to observe.  This is mainly because, I’ve hidden my transition from a lot of people while it has been taking place.  I have been the only person to witness and experience the ENTIRE process, and it has been BEYOND mind-blowing.  I’ve arrived at a place in my life that I NEVER would’ve imagined I would find myself.

***

I’ve come to a conclusion of the 2 places that I want to explore taking it from this point.  First, I need to write a book.  Written communication is my strongest gift, and the only way to attempt adequately conveying what this experience has been like for me.  It is clear that explaining it in a blog alone, won’t reach as many people, and will break up a testimony that needs to be expressed as a whole.  My second realization is that I want to go into counseling (of some sort).  These paths are crazy things to consider pursuing, so more processing is certainly in order.  But I do trust that these endeavors are crucial.

***

To the people from my past, let me just say this: I’m not going to judge you because I suddenly understand God’s love.  Your fear of that is based on your own misunderstanding of God; for which I don’t blame you.  When I started going to church, I walked in with the same misconceptions about what I would find there, mostly based on my previous experiences with religion and church.  This isn’t about religion, or church.  This is about a relationship.  I’ve fallen in love with something that will never reject me, or let me down; and have unlocked my own capacity for unconditional love in the process.  I don’t mind that you’re filled with judgment when you learn of my new relationship with God.  It doesn’t bother me, because I know where that comes from, and your feelings are very valid.  This is about being in a power struggle with a world that was constantly fighting me, only to realize that it is neither them, nor me, in control.  It is also about the very concept behind this blog: incurable hope.

***

Hope was the one thing that kept me going, and also the one thing that left me completely crushed when I realized how powerless I am in this world, despite my passionate drive to change it.

***

I know that a lot of my old friends are terrified that I judge them now; or that I’m going to try to change them; or that they are suddenly different in my eyes.  If there is any difference now, it is simply that I love them that much more, and am that much more grateful for their roles in my life.  I’ve been blessed in so many ways, and even the pain of the past makes so much sense to me now.  I’m full of forgiveness, love, and gratitude.  I won’t say I’m not judgmental, everyone is; but I’m not any more judgmental than I was before, and I am probably even less so.

***

Who is to say where things will go from here?  I’m filled with so much light, that my only hope is to carry that with me everywhere I go, and to convey it to those who are in the depths of where I’ve been.

***

I’m not going to shove anything down anyone’s throat.  That would most certainly contradict the very things I’ve been working against my whole life.  Understanding God’s love, however, helps me to realize that I am not opposed to sharing that with others.  It is obvious, though, that this is most efficiently accomplished through acts of kindness, rather than hate and judgment.

*

This is how many are:

Titus 1:16–They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. (NIV)

*

And this is how we should all be:

1 John 3:18–Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and truth. (NIV)

*

I think that people who live in God, and allow God to live in them, really cannot help but offer that to others, solely through the contagious nature of JOY.  Everyone wants to be happy; that’s why drugs are so addictive.  Unfortunately, addictions and basic consumerism are based on the concept of fulfillment as a commodity.  Let me save you some money… you can’t buy this.  If I could box it, or bottle it, or make it a pill, I would WOULDN’T.  I come from privilege, and I realize the way that being handed something seriously devalues it.  You can only truly appreciate something that you had to work for.  You can’t get this in Penthouse magazine, from a drug dealer, or in a luxury car, through a vast collection of Manolo Blahniks, on a yacht, within wrinkle cream, after liposuction, in a mansion, or in flight on your private jet, to get to your private island… you can’t find it in manipulation, deceit, or unstable relationships; by watching reality TV, and even in reading self-help books… you can’t even find it through the pages of  a Bible, at a church, in your best Sunday dress, or by following religions or various religious principles.  (And you definitely CANNOT buy it at Wal-Mart)  This has to come from within.  It is a process.  Though my process is my own, I had to go through hell to get here.  Honestly, it hasn’t even been something that I strived for.  Quite the opposite, I kept my feet planted firmly in the past, and fought this with all my might, for as long as I could.  I went through a lot of BULL to arrive at this conclusion; and this isn’t even where I intended to end up… NOT EVEN CLOSE.  But, this is where I am.  And I am so grateful to have finally arrived!

***

While I was in the hospital last fall, we talked about the concept of “letting it go.”  I realized one day, while listening to a version of “Let it Be,” (by the Beatles) that this is where I was comfortable.  I could accept that things were the way they were.  Certainly, there was nothing I could do about the past.  I thought, for sure, that I would dwell comfortably there for the rest of my life.  I understand now, that letting things be, was the first part of letting them go.  You have to accept what was, in order to let go of the burden.  As Oprah puts is, “forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past can be changed.”  Before this moment in my life, the concept of forgiveness left me utterly baffled.  Now, I fully comprehend its purpose; and I’m filled with it.

***

I definitely don’t want to lose friends as a result of my changes.  In the end, though, their reaction to it doesn’t affect how I feel, and it won’t affect me.  I suppose I expected more.  I understand the ways in which the institution of religion has traumatized many people.  I do recognize that such supremacy and ostracism are committed under false claims of God, and I won’t be a part of that.  It is simply my hope that those who are embittered by the representations they’ve seen of God, will hesitate to judge me according to the lies that they’ve heard.  And I certainly hope that, through my love and understanding, I am a more honest representation of just who God is.  I know that God’s capacity for goodness is perfect, and I never want my imperfections to hinder the communication of His LOVE.

***

This entire transformation has totally turned my world upside down, in an AMAZING way.  All I know is, all the gaping voids in my life have disappeared.  My neediness has subsided, and has made way for LOVE.  The walls that I placed around my heart are gone.  I don’t rely on myself to filter out people who might hurt me (I never did a very good job of that anyway).  God is like an invisible electric fence around my life.  Only people who offer love, and incite growth within me, will know where the entrance is.  And anyone outside of that category, who just happens to make it in anyway?  Well, at least I know they’re there for a reason now.  I don’t think I’ve ever really considered the concept of grace.  I couldn’t define it for you right now, if I tried… but I TOTALLY get it!!! ❤

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AND OF HIS FULLNESS WE HAVE ALL RECEIVED, AND GRACE FOR GRACE. (John 1:16–NKJV)

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“If our hearts really broke every time we fell from love, I’d be able to offer you confetti by now. But hearts don’t break, y’all, they bruise and get better. We were never tragedies, we were emergencies. You call 911, tell them I’m having a fantastic time.”

-Buddy Wakefield

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[* disclaimer:*]

[*if you get too distracted by cussing to appreciate the possibility of poetry within it, just skip the following video 🙂 *]

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Put Down the Shot of Bailey’s & Walk Away from the Guinness

I think the title of this post is a pathetic attempt at cracking a joke about a pretty intense situation.  As unhealthy as avoidance may be, sometimes humor is the only thing that gets me through tough emotions.  I double-dog pinky promise (?), I will take a break from the whole suicide issue after today.  I’m not saying it won’t arise again, but I’ll certainly hold off.  I really do not intend to overload or over-unload on the issue.

All that being said, though, I cannot deny that today is an important anniversary.  I think it is so important to reflect on where I was 2 years ago today, and just as much so, to revel in how far I’ve come since.  It has been a grueling, enlightening, and incredibly slow two years.  At the same time, I can’t believe it has been that long.  I almost feel as though my life has been a broken record this entire time, and is only now moving on to another track.  Or maybe I’m just trashing the record and putting on another album.  Or hell, maybe I’m throwing out the record player and upgrading to an iPod.   (I’ll just skip the 8-track, audio cassette tape, compact disc, and briefly promising, mini disc!)

*****

This isn’t an easy read, so I’ll go ahead and drop that warning now.  But maybe it’ll give you some insight into me:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The day was a pretty normal one, as far as I remember it.  School.  Work.  It was the usual routine.  Then he called, toward the end of the day.  I don’t remember him saying much besides “we need to talk.”  I knew what that meant.

Let me build this up adequately.  We had been dating for 2 and a half months, not long, I know, but in that time, we had made some serious plans.  I had started searching out venues for our New Years, New Orleans wedding.  We had our children’s names picked out.  Aurora Scheherazade and Nalani Esperanza.  It was perfect, because we were going to have daughters, feminists.  And he, was going to change his last name to my name.  He hated his last name because it reminded him of his child molesting, oppressive, abusive father, anyway.

He had hooked me on that story.  He still suffered severe insomnia from the nights he had to stay up as a child to protect his sister from being molested by his father.  He would stay up all night, and when his dad would head into her room, he would get up and start a fight with his dad to stop him.  On the one night he thought it safe to sleep, his birthday, he lost track of time, and lost track of dad.  When he woke up, his sister had been raped.  He never forgave himself.  It is a dramatic story.  One I fell for hardcore.  One I imagine he uses a lot, especially on women who he intuits as having a history of sexual abuse.  I’m not saying it isn’t true, maybe it is.  Who knows.  I’m just saying, that I, as a survivor myself, with fuzzy memories of my own, have grown ridiculously tired of people using their histories of abuse as tools of manipulation against me.  That’s all.  Yes, its a fucked up situation, but no one need make it more so, by utilizing said fucked up situation for personal gain.

He had me good.

So, here he is, calling me at work to tell me we need to talk.  It was ridiculous.  We had the conversation not two weeks before about how cruel it was for people to say that to someone without explanation.  How it leaves you hanging.  I didn’t know whether it was a joke, or I should be seriously concerned.  I had a feeling it was the latter.

I immediately called my friend when we hung up and told her I needed to meet up for drinks.  So we did.  Dinner, and drinks.  I had bacon cheese fries  and alcohol for the last time that night.  GAG.  I told her about the situation and as she reassured me that there was hope for our relationship, I assured her that it was over and I need to prepare myself.  It was St. Patrick’s Day.  Irish Car Bombs were $5.50.  I had 4.

Then he called.  I sat in the car.  He told me he wanted to come visit next weekend, but he had a lot to think about.  I told him that if he wanted to dump me, he should go ahead and get it over with.  So he did.  And in true dramatic fashion, he just said, “Bye.”  He hadn’t even attempted to attach a “good” to it, probably because of the blatant contradiction within the combination.  I talked him into promising he’d talk to me after this night, but we never spoke again.  I started to cry, despite being pretty numb.

I went into the bar, had two more drinks, then left with my friend to go on the hunt to retrieve her boyfriend’s car from a tow lot.  After we did that, she and her boyfriend’s sister decided to drop me back off at my car.  I quietly obliged.  I knew my plan.

I had consumed 6 Irish car bombs.  I was pretty wasted, but I found a way home anyway.  Once home, I walked the dog, got the vodka and orange juice out of the fridge and feverishly started rummaging the house for all the sleeping pills I could find.  It makes me physically ill to think about, even today, as I look back.  But I will march on.

I went upstairs, took 3 gulps of the pear vodka, and chased them with orange juice.  I then began to pop the pills out of their wrappers, one-by-one.  When I was done, I got on my computer.  I messaged one of my old friends I used to work in a restaurant with to tell her what I was going to do.  She was the only person online.  She got pissed, because, as I had forgotten, her mom tried to kill herself once, and she was VERY sensitive about the issue.  I was an asshole.  That only made me more convinced.  I tried to text and email messages of apology, mainly to my sister.  She’s always been the person I’ve been most concerned about disappointing.  I did not send these messages.

I went back to my bed, sat down, and counted the pills.  102.  I took all 102 pills in 3 heaping handfuls.  Just.  Like.  That.  It breaks my heart to think about this moment.  The moment after I swallowed them.  I can feel the sobs coming up in me now, as though I just swallowed them, just now.  My first instinct was not quite regret, but almost.  I thought, “What have I done?”  Then I thought about the fact that so many people say that people who commit suicide go to hell.  I went to my bed.  I knew it was going to be over soon.  Crying, I sat there, and prepared to lie down and let go.  I started praying.  “Please God, don’t let me go to hell.  I don’t want to go to hell.”  Over and over again.  Soon, I was out.

There’s not much to remember after that.  The rest is hallucination.  And vomiting.  I just remember sitting up at one point and vomiting all over myself, although, I did not realize this is what it was.  I hallucinated it to be slugs and maggots slithering down my body.  Even when I got up, I was hallucinating that when I stepped in the vomit on the floor, I was stepping in puddles of maggots.

I don’t remember at what point this happened, but I saw my grandmother, who passed less than a year before walking out my front door, waving goodbye.  I don’t know what that was about.

Around 8 am, I awoke, groggy and disoriented.  I panicked.  I was alive.  I needed to be in class and at work.  Soon.  I could not drive, though.  Unsure of what to do, I got onto my school email to see that a coworker who lived near me was online.  I asked if she was going to work.  She was.  I asked if I could get a ride.  She called, and as funny as it may sound, I was so disoriented, that when she asked for my address to get to my house, I started to give her my email address.  I was having a hard time getting my head together, but I managed to get her there.

I walked my dog, changed out of my vomit-drenched clothes, and climbed in my coworker’s car.  At this point, I was regaining my ability to walk.  When I had first gotten up, my knees would cave at each step.  Honestly, I must’ve reeked of vomit.  All morning I was rubbing my fingers against my ears and chest and trying to figure out what the stuff coming off my skin was.  It was dried puke.  I looked, smelled, and acted very out of character.  She was disturbed by my presentation.  “Are you ok?”  She asked.  “What’s wrong?”  I knew I had nothing to lose after the night I had been through, so I just let her have the truth.  “I tried to kill myself last night.”  My voice shook as I said it, trying not to laugh or cry.  “Do we need to go somewhere?”  She asked eagerly. “No.” I insisted.  I demanded that we go to my class.  I couldn’t miss it.  I had missed the previous class.  I couldn’t afford it.

When we got to campus, I knew my knees were too weak for her to drop me off on the sidewalk.  I would surely face-plant.  I gave her a dollar to park in the garage.  When we parked I realized I couldn’t find my phone.  I was out of it, and realized also, that I would be this way in class as well, which would look bad if called on.  I looked at her and resigned myself to going to the counseling center.  She walked me there.

I told the receptionist that I wanted to see counselor on call.  When he came out, he called me by my first name 3 times, until the receptionist told me that he was calling for me, and I snapped back into the moment.  I went in and relayed the story.  He sent me to the hospital.  I refused to go via ambulance, due to cost, so they sent me in the back of a police car.

I stayed in the ER for most of the day.  I stayed in the psych ward for 3 days.

Needless to say, I traumatized my coworker.  She went to work and school that day, shaken.  Today, it is still awkward to interact with her.  She saw me at a very vulnerable point in my life.  It is almost as though she saw me naked, and we don’t know how to act about it now.  I put her through a lot.

She isn’t the only person I put through the wringer.  Two of my very close friends came by to get my things in order, once they found out.  They took care of my dog, and upon seeing the state of my bedroom, they cleaned up after me.  This, too, breaks my heart.  I think it probably resembles what it must be like to find a friend who has killed themselves, to find a friend’s home in such a condition after they have tried.  One of them said to me, “I couldn’t let you come home to that.”

The first who helped was the friend I had drinks with the night before.  She was very angry with me at first.  Especially when she came to visit me in the hospital and I spoke frankly about the situation.  Over time, and through talking, we are working on healing.

The second, the one who “couldn’t let me come home to that,” is no longer friends with me, in large part due to this entire situation.

I learned a lot from that night.  I learned a lot about how much people love me and the lengths they are willing to go to for me.  I learned that I do not need to drink.  I learned that I can live life without bacon cheese fries, something I honestly did not know before that night.  I learned that your perspectives change a lot once you’ve swallowed the pills.  I realized how scary that moment is, the moment after you do that action and truly believe you are going to die and this is it.  I also realized that deciding to end it is as difficult as asking for help; but asking for help is less traumatic and usually ends better.

I wish I could say that I came out of the hospital and rejoiced in my survival.  It didn’t exactly work out like that.  Two years later, I’m still getting to that point, though with cautious optimism, I’ll say I’m closer than ever before.

I am infinitely more grateful for everything good in my life, and I try to make that as clear as possible, as often as possible.  I don’t want anyone in my life to feel unappreciated.  I want really badly to be a better friend, but I do realize that being good to others requires that you are better to yourself.  I recognize I need to have a healthy balance of helping others and taking care of myself.  I’ve lost a lot of friends through the past two years.  Luckily, I’ve recently gained many new friends, who I’m fairly certain God has handpicked for me.

The darkness certainly creeps in, but I’m searching constantly for the light.

Overall, at this moment, I am filled with gratitude.  So many important people have fought for me when they were exhausted, frustrated, and testing their own limits.  I’m definitely better at asking for help, even though I still do it begrudgingly.  Every little bit of joy in my life is crucial.  I hold to it with a tight grip, because I know my life depends on not letting go.

I’m going to share 3 poems.  The first is one I wrote right after my suicide attempt.  The second is one I wrote one year later.  The last is one I’ll write today.  You might not get to see that one until tomorrow.

I have so much love to share, and while I’m always praying in the back of my mind for people who find themselves where I’ve been.  Today, I say a *special* prayer for anyone who finds themselves in the free fall between the decision, the action, and the anxious anticipation of morning, or hell.

On Friday or Saturday, I shall return with an exciting account of my anniversary day rituals and celebrations of life.  Until then, I send my love and bid adieu! ❤

*

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Canyon Dance (March 2009)

There’s a powdery film that coats my car

in spiky yellow balls

(a spring snow of sorts),

and the only thing that could baptize it

are storm clouds.

At night I can see the

lightning

breaking in the distance

and I don’t know whether it is

hallucination

heat

or rage.

There’s something so simple in “hello,”

something concave,

and riddled with vacuity.

It is far more distant

and detached

than “goodbye;”

far more settled in its self-loathing,

far more dissociated

and damned.

This something holds me tightly

releasing me and

twirling

till only our

fingertips are touching;

swinging me in and

dipping me so low,

my hair is

reaching for the floor.

It dare not drop me.

I dare not weep,

the air so thick between us

that love could fit inside.

*

***

*

Absolute Bearing (March 2010)

I don’t know how to tell you, without telling you

I don’t know how to say

that at first I counted the days like thick blue waves

crashing in rhythm on the shore

that at first they slithered by, excruciatingly,

the skin of a moistened worm

tearing as it accordians across the pavement

after the first fresh spring rain

and the days since have melted me into waiting

have mourned me into loss

rebirthed me into being

and inspired me to write

at night i can feel the walls shaking,

as though they could simply explode,

exposing me to the night sky

to the crisp winter air

a winking moon

and shimmering stars

and In my shivering slumber

I will unceasingly resign myself to the knowledge

that i chose this revelation

and I will lie in waking

a steward of this ship

‘till the morning sun warms me

and I can finally rest

*

***

*

(To Be Announced- March 2011)

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Pause Passion & Translate Joy in Tragic Times

This is why they say “kill your t.v.”:

I did it.  I know I shouldn’t do it, but I did it anyway.

The news.  Ok, well, Inside Edition.  But really, any form of news can transport me into a chaotic space.

Honestly, I was hoping for something other than constant coverage of the devastation in Japan.  It is heartbreaking, and so WAY beyond my capacity for comprehension.  Unfortunately, the little things that are happening all over the world are like aftershocks, or even, small shifts that lead to earthquakes like the ones we’ve recently witnessed.  Earlier, while on the phone with a friend, I mentioned how I just yearn, so deeply, for people to come together before catastrophes occur.  Is that too much too ask?

Well, that’s a loaded rhetorical question.

So, before I proceed with my personal contribution to an effort to spread positivity across the world, I want to say the following:

I have very strong convictions about very controversial issues.  I consider myself a feminist, not because I’m “for” or “against” one side or another, but because I believe people, all differences aside, deserve equally dignified and respectful treatment in all areas of life.  That includes access to health care, equal payment, equal opportunities, encouragement, and overall safety.  For this reason, I support many feminist, anti-racist,  and LGBTQ organizations.  For similar reasons, I am pro-choice.  I actually recently came across a self-proclaimed conservative who summed up my beliefs on this issue better than I ever could.  She and I shared similar beliefs on the issue.  But we’ll get back to that.  I’m an avid advocate for survivors of sexual violence.  I don’t know what else to say about this, except that it is probably the issue I’m most passionate about in my life.  It is part of the incurable hope that has simultaneously driven me and stunted me.  Often times, the epidemic of sexual violence is so overwhelming to me.  Between the epic silence that has protected perpetrators and re-victimized survivors; the simple misogyny in our daily lives that perpetuates such violence; and the judicial/systematic/structural abuse of victims… the issue can easily ignite to an atomic level of exasperation within me.  The discrimination of fat people irks me, royally.  Mental illness and the stigma attached to it, are issues that require much open discussion and mind-blowing testimony.  When a lot of people are scared to bring it up, I tend towards feeling the tug of necessity about proclaiming its role in my life.  The same goes for suicide.  For the most part, I encounter little opposition on the issues of anti-racism (probably because it has become so taboo to be racist, not because racism doesn’t exist), fighting sexual violence, and even mental illness (half because people don’t know how to respond when I bring it up, and half because everyone has some sort of experience with it).  Mostly though, on the approach of queer issues, abortion, details of sexual violence, suicide, and especially feminism, all are met with trepidation.  This anxiety occurs on both sides, because these are issues that people either don’t want to talk about, or that collide in passionate and sometimes violent opposition.

I also think it is important to notice that these issues intertwine in many, many ways.

***

“At the end of the game, the king and the pawn go back into the same box.”

-Italian Proverb

***

On that note, though, I’m starting to realize that we all share far more common ground than we realize.

***

“It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself.”

-Eleanor Roosevelt

***

When I started to accept that I need to listen as much as I expected to be listened to, my eyes began to open.  As proud as I am to be passionately political and shamelessly liberal, I’ve started to meet people who fall somewhere on a spectrum, rather than being drastically positioned at one extreme or another.  I recognize now, that you can call yourself whatever you want, but chances are your a healthy mix of a lot of things.  I used to be terrified of that concept.  It felt safe to intensely oppose one side or another, by labeling and placing everyone in one of two boxes.

The world is so freaking expansive, though, you can’t fit that many people into 2 boxes.  It gets cramped.  I’ve had to drop the whole “if you’re not with me, you’re against me” idea, and honor the fact that we can oppose AND agree on all sorts of things.  As important as community is, our life experience is very individual to us.

I think that was probably more long-winded that I was intending.

I mentioned the movie “Crash” in my post yesterday.  I think this movie sums up my point.  Basically, there is a potential for good and bad within all of us, no one fits into a box, and when it comes down it it… we may be living extensively multifaceted lives, but we’re doing it on the same f*ing planet.  If nothing else, can we start with that commonality?

I know… idealistic and sentimental.

Well, bugger off… a woman can dream, can’t she? 😀

So, in yesterday’s post, I believe that I, with good intentions, referred to everyone who has ever helped me, as a TOOL.  As true as that may be (i kid)… I meant it lovingly.  All of those things/people are basically my foundation, my safety net, my loves, my crisis coping skills, first-aid kits, and my lights.

I’ma take it down a notch today and share something little that brings on a glimmer, or gently fuels my fire on the daily.  I might just start ending each post with something like this.  🙂

Time to get silly.

I got this one from a friend today:

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“Laughter is the shock absorber that eases the blows of life.”

-Uknown

 

*sigh* … big day tomorrow