Honesty

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

change

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

P1010856_2

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

 

 

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.

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. 🙂

 

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.

Back to Black: One’s Rock Bottom Can Be Another’s U-Turn

I recently watched seasons 1-5 of “Weeds” on Netflix streaming.  SPOILER ALERT: When U-Turn dies and Nancy gets a U-Turn sign tattooed on her ass, I was inspired.  I actually considered doing the same.  It just seemed like a funny message, and a clever/convenient double entendre.  Similarly, I’ve always been moved and energized by the (now classic) “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake.  You knowHere I go again on my own! Going down the only road I’ve ever known! Like a drifter, I was born to walk alone… You get the point, there’s a lot to be said for travel euphemisms?  I don’t know. I figured I should start my first post in a while with something nonchalant and silly.  But the truth is, I’m writing tonight because of a realization I had today.  I figured, at this point, if I have an audience, I don’t know who they are, and I’m a lot less concerned about that. I don’t have an agenda, besides telling my story.  For a moment there, I got so caught up in delivering a hopeful message, and doing it a certain way, that I lost myself, and stopped writing.

This morning, singer Amy Winehouse was found dead.  The rumor is that an overdose is what finally did her in, at the ripe ol’ age of 27.  It startled me for a second when I realized she was 27, and then saw her birth year.  I’m 27.  I too, was born in 1983.  We all know the rock star references that are made here… Jimi, Janis, Jim, Kurt, etc.  I’m no rock star, but I’ve been calling myself one for about a year now.  I grew a little worried after proclaiming such a title and then realizing my age.  My blog before this one was called “Musings of a Self-Proclaimed Rock Star.”  It was amusing, but also cathartic, and often raw.  I’ve decided to make it public again and you can find it.  Even since closing the blog, I’ve been tweeting under the name @RockStarMusisings.  Yes, I’m coming out.  I’ve come to realize you either hide nothing, or you hide it all.  Hiding shit is far too much work, and I’m far too lazy to work that hard to keep other people comfortable.

Amy’s death jolted me into this moment in a way nothing else has.  I read the parts of Russell Brand’s blog post on her, that were shared on msnbc.com, and I realized that Winehouse and I have a lot in common.  As for addictions, mine have come and gone, and the only one that has ever REALLY threatened my life, is food.  Mainly because cocaine is expensive; alcohol can be miserable; and sex become tedious.  Man!  Whew!  I had forgotten how refreshing honesty can be.

All that aside, I felt like Brand was really making an appeal to non-addicts to realize that addiction is a serious illness that kills people, and otherwise saying little about Winehouse besides the fact that she was distant, and a genius that we only saw at a glimpse.  Now, I know you’re wondering where I am in that description, but I’ll elaborate.  I don’t think I am a genius, but even now, it breaks my heart to realize that I, much like Winehouse, have  held the world at such a distance that if I died, the world wouldn’t realize what it had lost.  I agree with Brand.  I think Amy Winehouse was incredible, and the media reveled in her slow demise, and mostly missed the light that she brought to the world.  And this is our world.  It is shitty.  But what hurts me about what we have lost with the death of Amy Winehouse, is that we have no idea.  That sultry voice, that deeply rich, dark soul.  She had such a wealth within her, and we will never get to know it.  We can joke all we want.  When I first heard of her death, I blah blah blahed about who was next, Lindsay or Charlie.  But Amy wasn’t just another troubled soul, and musical genius aside, she was a human being.

I’ve heard through social networking that Amy’s mom commented about making mental preparations for this day, knowing it would (or thinking it might) come.  This takes me back to the days after my suicide attempt, when my mother was staying with me.  During a heated argument one day, she admitted that it is hard to move forward, and stay involved, because on some level she knew I would do it again, and I might just be successful next time.  She voiced to me that her distance was an attempt to keep herself safe, and to cope with that remaining chance that I won’t survive.  As inexcusable as that may be to many of you out there, who have no idea, I understand it.  Amy probably understood that.  As much as she probably wanted to be sober, and not let herself and her loved ones down over and over again, she probably understood their distance.  She probably knew that they had to keep themselves safe.

Tonight I was reflecting on addiction and I realized that it is a thin line between giving up on, sticking by, and enabling an addict.  You have to love them unconditionally, but you have to set boundaries.  You have to draw a line, but you have to let them know that you always want what’s best.  I know that a lot of times, to an addict it looks like loved ones are walking away, when in reality, they’re doing all that they can to save the addict’s life, and maintain their own sanity/safety.

I was truly blessed to have dodged hard addictions, but as I type this, I’m sitting in a chair in the corner of my room, next to a stain on my wall.  The stain is from my last suicide attempt, and the vomit left behind.  My walls are a pale purple, but around the stain, you can see an aura of pale blue, where friends came and tried to wipe away the evidence before I got out of the hospital.

I get that Amy Winehouse was one of those whose death was “bound to happen,” out of all of us… I get that.  But I also agree with Russell Brand: She didn’t have to be.  I know there is a misunderstanding about artists.  Most people think that your best work is done while you’re in the pits of despair, but one can only survive down there so long.  I get that you can’t enable, but I wonder who was fighting for her.  From where I’m sitting, there were jokes about her condition, just as there continue to be, but little else.  Of course, I don’t know about her personal life, but usually the people who are consistently surrounding an addict, are also addicts.  Generally speaking, addicts, when battling head-to-head with their condition, have one priority, the drug.  All others are simply extras in the movie reel of their lives, just background music.  Life isn’t lived as a series of moments, goals, accomplishments… life is composed of getting high, and the plans that you devise between highs to achieve the next high.  Funny how something so simple can completely consume you.

So, I’m not a musical genius.  So, I’m not in the public eye.  So, I’m not wealthy or producing records that are going platinum, or performing in front of thousands.  So, I’m not hooked on heroin.  So, I’m not caught by the paparazzi, wandering the streets at night, disheveled and distraught.  Do I need to be?  Frankly, I feel that this world knows more of me than it did of her, despite her fame and notoriety.  She was a ghost to us, and now the presence that we felt subtly, though oft ignored, is gone.  Will we realize the void, no matter how quiet, that remains in her absence?  Perhaps, not.  But this little earthquake that has left me thinking, and sometimes speaking out loud, to myself and those around me, “I can’t believe Amy Winehouse is dead,” perhaps there is something to be said for that.  I believe it is possible for our souls to ache for something that we don’t even realize that we’ve lost.  When someone accomplishes so far below their potential, we all lose something very great, especially in the way of art, which can inspire us so deeply and undoubtedly change the world.

I am 27.  For so long, but especially so over the past few months, I have held the world at a distance.  I am uncertain of why.  I suppose it is mostly out of fear.  There is always the fear of what people will think, and fear of failure.  As a survivor of sexual violence, there is also a fear of being revicitimized.  We fear trying, but not reaching our potential.  And to the contrary, there is a fear of reaching your potential and being disappointed.  I’ve feared losing people, only to push them away in the end anyway.  There is a fear of living, and all that “living” entails.  The rush of love, and the pain of loss; two things that, as hard as we try to force them apart, are always packaged together.  And there is a lot of pain, and certainly plenty of loss to be experienced out there.  People leave because they want to, or leave because time rips them away from us.  There are stubbed toes, broken bones, burns, cuts, and bruises.  There’s rejection, and dismay.  There’s fear.  Oh!  The crippling fear.  It all comes full circle.

I realize now that there are people out there, who are so gifted, constantly stuffing down their potential, for whatever reason.  I imagine Amy had something inside of her that haunted her.  It could’ve been huge, or just a twinge of pain that she couldn’t stand to feel.  She wanted to shut it up, numb it out, or kill it.  And eventually she succeeded, but for that, what did she lose?  And on a universal level, what have we lost?  Another little bit of hope that could’ve inspired the next step in improving this damned world?  Perhaps it was her voice on a tattered CD out there, that was playing on repeat for the kid who would grow up to do something great for this world, simply because her voice kept her/him going.  What voice will that kid hear now?  Or maybe Winehouse’s voice was the last of its kind, an endangered soulful echo that has now become extinct; and because of our blatant  lack of appreciation, the voices of generations to come will resemble that of Ke$ha or Rebecca Black. Dear God, the horror.

I understand that there are parts of my spirit that ache, but I’m willing to withstand it for the sake of something good.  If I have anything to offer, no matter how great or small, I do not feel it is my right to destroy any remnants of hope this world may have.  For all the fear, for all the pain, I have to believe that there is purpose.

Do I believe that there’s a reason that I (or any other troubled talents out there) am alive and she isn’t?  Well, besides the fact that heroin is like playing russian roulette with a nearly fully loaded gun, no.  Eating yourself to death takes more time.  I attribute my failure to stick with addictions to a short attention span, an empty wallet, the fact that I’m easily bored, and a fear of commitment.  In the grand scheme of things though, she and I have both toyed with our mortality, and any way you look at it, the game can only end one way.  When the game is over, one fact becomes blazingly obvious, there was a human being who is now gone.  On top of that, she was a human being who held a wealth of talent, the depth of which we can never know.  I think that’s what frightens me the most.  If I have more to offer, as I believe I do, it is scary to think that being entangled in fear and doubt could stifle that gift.  I too, could die without having shared of myself, or utilized my opportunity to contribute goodness to this desperate world.

We all have the potential to offer beauty to this world; in the end the big question is whether we will fight it or let it flourish.  I’d like to think that this realization is a bit of something good coming from tragedy, but I suppose only time will tell.  It is nice to believe that every screeching halt in one life’s potential, can cause a u-turn in another.  If someone was headed towards an early end, another sudden silencing of greatness, maybe Amy can be a reminder that there are other options, and so much more to see along life’s detours.

My deepest prayer for you, Ms. Winehouse, is that somewhere out there, you’ve been blessed with a peace that you never managed to discover on earth.  And if you’re down, I’m hoping that even on your cloud, you’ll still step up to the mic from time to time.

********

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you… It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

~Marianne Williamson

********

My VERDICT is IN on Lady Gaga

Look, as an artist, I respect Lady Gaga (her voice, the music, the lyrics), and I get what she trying to do… but the whole concept of being “born this way” is kind of ironic to me coming from her, because I want to be like “No… honey, no you weren’t. You were not born from an egg that was being carried by an entourage, from which you emerged with a flashy-ever changing wardrobe and a totally smokin’ bod.”

Over the top? Maybe. I think I was born resistant and rebellious. I mean, I refused to come out for quite some time before they cut my mom open and drug me out.

I think it is great to encourage people to be themselves, but these artists need to be a little more honest with the mirror when they claim they’re being themselves. Jessie J’s song “Who You Are” is AMAZING, it says “its ok not to be ok.” Which is a line I really appreciate, and it really helps me when I’m dealing with raw emotions. But there is one line where she says, “Brushing my hair, do i look perfect? I forgot what to do to fit the mold,” which kind of irks me. For those of you who have seen Jessie J, her hair IS perfect. She may be a little unique, but she fits the mold quite well: tall, skinny, pretty. That is why I appreciate the YouTube cover of the song by Meghan Tonjes. She’s a big girl, with an amazing voice, and she’s gorgeous… but everything about her is just more REAL. (And her voice is better than Jessie J’s anyway) And when SHE sings “its ok not to be ok” I believe it so much more

***************************************

Why can’t we have artists like that? Artists who are real, and natural, and embracing it??? When I look at Lady Gaga, I always think that. It is easy to say that you’re different, and you want people to be themselves, but they can’t really look to you to as a role model of how to do that… when you are very typically beautiful, but you throw on a mask, some wigs, and a WILDLY OUTRAGEOUS garb to simultaneously negotiate and highlight the ways you fit into heteronormative beauty standards. You want to REALLY challenge us? Go get fat, or something.

This also applies to Beyoncé, who has put out songs like “If I Were a Boy,” and “Run the World.” I feel like those songs are so manipulative, because they reinforce pretty horrible things while trying to play it off as though they are are challenging them. Also, Beyoncé… I saw you recently. You were blond. Please, stop sending the message that young black girls would be prettier if their hair was blonder and straighter. If you want to blow our minds for a minute… go all Erykah Badu with that shiz. I’m not saying all black women should go  “au naturel,” but there are far more famous black women out there who look whiter and whiter every time I see them, and that’s not fair.

Here is a great analysis of the Beyoncé phenomenon:

***************************************

Gaga, your voice is pretty incredible… but I often feel like your music and your entire performance really play down your talent, when you should be embracing it. That’s why I always appreciate your performances on SNL more. You tend to start songs with a piano and just you, in a flashy costume, REALLY SINGING. Once you move on to the PERFORMANCE of it, though… YOU get lost, and all I hear is “blah blah blah.”

I don’t even want to buy your CD, even though I think I’d enjoy it. I feel like I’d be buying into this whole market of people who DO know how to “fit into the mold” while claiming they don’t; or telling me to be myself, when I have no way of knowing the difference between who they really are, and what they portray.

I miss more genuine representations of rawness and humility in music… the ones that don’t just claim things without the substance to back it up. That’s what I like about India Arie, Janis Joplin, Lauryn Hill, and Ani DiFranco… (sometimes p!nk, although she gets caught up in the marketing of it all too).

I get that marketing plays that game of “Buy this, because you’re not good enough, and this will make you better,” but can’t we reserve that technique for make up, diet products, and plastic surgery? Can’t we let the voices and the music speak for themselves when selling MUSIC?!?! I don’t care what you look like, the only thing I want from music is inspiration.

Music is SOOOOOOO POWERFUL. I get that it is a commodity, but can’t we just PLEASE get away from that for a while???

I want to look at musicians as ARTISTS, not just PERFORMERS. And I need to see women turn towards this model so much more, because the male artists out there have way more freedom to do it already.

I want to see female artists who ARE themselves. Where is the market for that? I want someone who looks something other than perfect singing me a song that tells me that she loves herself as is, and wants others to do the same. You can say it all you want, but actions speak louder than words. I get that you want people to see YOU, Gaga… I get that you’re into the flashy thing… but a few minutes of crying about being bullied as a kid in a documentary doesn’t convince me. I’m not saying walk around all the time crying about it… I’m just saying that I need more time of real YOU, not masked, costumed you… just you. And yes, I realize that you naturally fit into a lot of preset beauty standards, and maybe the flashy garb is an attempt to negotiate that… I get that, and I can respect it. But, I KNOW you have days where you aren’t made up and costumed. I WOULD LOVE to see you like… in some effing PJ’s or something!!! Just relax!!!

Russel Brand recently tweeted a pic of wife, Katy Perry without make up. She was horrified, and made him take it down, but I don’t know why. She was obviously caught off guard in the pic, but she was natural… and beautiful. I’m telling you, dear celeb women, you’re celebrities for a reason… you have something naturally already. Don’t feel so hard-pressed to dress it up and make it up like you aren’t good enough as is. How horrible do you think it makes us feel to see that even the most beautiful of women feel the need to hide within costume of what others think we should be?

You know how they have those “DON’T GET GAS DAYS” when gas prices spike, as sort of a protest??? I would LOVE to challenge ALL CELEBRITY WOMEN to go out one day, and walk the streets with the paparazzi entourage following… in nothing but pajamas. No make up. LET US SEE YOU!!! OWN IT. Hiding yourselves doesn’t help you, and it doesn’t help other young women out there who look up to you. I know some of you have tried it in a photo shoot here or there, but it is safer to be without clothes and make up when you have lighting and a good photographer. Just saying.

And yes, I realize that looking up to celebrities is stupid as it is.  I GET THAT. Most people DO NOT.

AND CELEBRITIES ARE IN OUR FACES ALL THE TIME… and I guess I’m just as sick of people selling lies as I am by the fact that we actually buy them.

I’m done with my main point. But I’ll add a few perspectives, to open your mind.

Here is a recent vloggity by Philip DeFranco (love of my life). I really appreciate this message, and I totally think more men need to say it just as much as women need to say it (and mean it). I do also realize, though, that it is very valuable coming from women who say it and live it… Mainly because so many of us, too often, look to men to validate our worth.

***************************************

Also, I realize that I’m not a musical person, and lyrics always hit me more, but I also appreciate the honesty of slam poetry… it is like music to me. Just a beat, and words. I know honesty isn’t totally marketable, but I wish it could be. I’ve posted my favorite slam poet, Buddy Wakefield here before, so this time, I want to share some slam poetry from an eclectic group of youths who are featured on HBO’s series “BRAVE NEW VOICES” which is presented by Russel Simmons.

“1893” by Jamaica

“That Girl” by Alysia

on the lighter side, but still completely raw:

“Ode to Philip Seymour Hoffman” by Aimée

I’ll end with my recent revamp of the commonly used Marilyn Monroe quotation:

“It is true that you don’t deserve me at my best, if u can’t handle me at my worst, but you should probably know that my worst is intense and my best is brief.”  

~Noelle Aviña 🙂