It is with resolve that I write…
You know, it is pretty funny (or maybe a little sad) that I look as this blog and realize I haven’t really written here since April of 2013. Just a few months more and it would’ve been a whole year. In 2014, I resolve to change that.
I guess it is possible I was too busy living life to sit down and write about it, but that is still no excuse. Writing is one of my passions, and this blog is one of my outlets, and I plan on honoring both of those things more in the coming year.
A little bit about 2013: This past year was a big one for me. I drove across the country from San Diego, CA to Greensboro, NC and am now living in the frigid midwest or northeast. Somewhere in between, I guess. I have spent so much time with my nephews, watching them grow and absorbing their cuteness, and honestly, every time I see them after a day or two, I’m still shocked by how adorable they are. I can’t get enough, although I’ve had my moments where I was grateful to be able to go home at the end of the day. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to be such a huge parts of their lives, helping them become who they are meant to be, and yet I have none of the pressure of parenting, which I now realize is not meant for me at all. I get an inside glimpse at the responsibility involved in parenting, and know I haven’t the stomach for it at this point in my life. Although, I have been considering for quite some time now, the prospect of eventually being a foster parent, at some point down the road. I feel there is a big need for loving, caring foster parents, and that is a role I could one day hope to fulfill.
I find myself censoring myself a lot on Facebook, because I have two sets of friends who are polar opposites of each other. I don’t say much there anymore because I risk offending one side or the other. I consider this my neutral ground, where I can be more candid. Those who are meant to, will read it. So I will confess that along with having applied to grad school for social work, I have also applied to seminary, and that I’m hoping prayer will lead me in the right direction.
God blessed me with such a beautiful year, that I could not be more grateful. I cannot think of any ways in which this past year could’ve been better or more fulfilling. I spent this past Sunday telling my story to a group of people for the first time since treatment. I was terribly nervous at the prospect, but I honestly blocked it out right after doing it. I was glad it was over, and didn’t want to torture myself with lamentation over what I meant to say, or should’ve said. I wanted to let it be. What I was meant to say was said, and I can leave it at that. It was a big accomplishment for me to end the year off.
I want to set my intentions for 2014. First of all, I will come here and write more. After all, I’m not paying for this URL to let it sit unused. I will finish my application process for school. I will pray more and spend more time in the word. I will work toward being gainfully employed, and work toward moving past the traumas I have experienced in the past. I will learn to open myself up more to other people, and thus make more friends. I will find the church where I’m meant to be. I will spend more time praising God for all of the blessings I have received. I will continue growing in recovery, and sharing my recovery with people who can benefit from my experience. I will continue to help raise my nephews into considerate, compassionate, and gentle young men. I will hold those I love a little tighter, and savor my time with them a little more.
Those are my intentions.
I hope God blesses you with a joyous year! Thank you for reading, come back again soon! Sending my love!
It Really DOES Get Better
Take it from someone who has been there, it really does get better.
For those of you who don’t know the It Gets Better Project all started in 2010 when Dan Savage, in response to a rising number of suicides linked to bullying, made a youtube video with his partner to inspire hope for young people facing harassment.
The It Gets Better Project’s website says: “The It Gets Better Project’s mission is to communicate to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth around the world that it gets better, and to create and inspire the changes needed to make it better for them.”
The idea is great, but I also believe it is universal.
It doesn’t just apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, nor victims of bullying or high school students.
Whoever finds this post and is struggling: It really DOES get better. I promise.
I’ve recently been following the heartbreaking story of Rehtaeh Parsons, a young woman who was raped, then bullied until she decided to take her own life. I wish this message had found her. Because it does get better, even for those of us who have lived through the most devastating, terrifying, and degrading form of violence there is. Even for Rehtaeh, it could’ve gotten better.
I’m in tears as I write this, because I didn’t make it to this conclusion for lack of trying to kill myself. I had two life-threatening attempts, but somehow lived to know that these things come out on the other side.
Life isn’t as hopeless and painful as it can, at times, feel. I know there is plenty of pain to be felt, and despair to be trudged through, but I know something else too. I know that as dark as it can get, it can get that much brighter. I know that these feelings that consume, even they will fade away and make place for new ways of feeling.
I used to be so certain that the darkness would last forever. For me, it was a good 28 years or so before the clouds started to part and make way for light. I can look at that time now and understand what growth came from it. I know that I am that much stronger because I went through it. And I see now how my experience can benefit others.
That’s everything this blog is about.
Sometimes, in my darkest moments, I had a twinge of hope that kept me alive, even when I wanted so badly to die. My hope plagued me, because it seemed to work against all the hurt I knew in my life. I just wanted to let go, and sometimes, I did. But I know something about that nagging particle of hope still imbedded somewhere deep within. It was a glimpse. It was a glimpse at what could be. And for me, what now is.
I wish Rehtaeh could’ve known this. There are so many people out there right now, who I wish could know this. I don’t even know your names. I didn’t even know Rehtaeh, but right now, I cry for her like she was a dear friend.
If you’re looking for some shred of hope, a reason to stay alive, I pray the words of this stranger can be that for you.
I don’t believe suicide is selfish or wrong, because I know it is not an act entered into lightly. I know the despair it takes to bring you to that decision. But it cannot be an option, because your life has worth, and meaning, even if you don’t believe it. The anguish doesn’t become extinct through your death, it is simply passed on to others. To those you loved most. No, the anguish is defeated only through living a meaningful life. Through sharing your struggles with others. Through finding your joy.
None of us are as alone as we sometimes feel.
It may feel like it is taking to forever to get there. But you WILL get there. It may feel like more than you can bear. But you CAN bear it. You may think no one understands, but I do. You may think this darkness is all you will ever know, but you will live your fair share of joy as well.
It really DOES get better. I promise.
IF YOU ARE IN CRISIS, CALL: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Contact the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for more resources.
Lessons I Learned in 2012
I see a lot of blogs doing years in review. I would do that for you, but I feel that, although I have learned a lot and accomplished a lot in 2012, I haven’t done anything exceptionally noteworthy. I was looking back over my year, and what I realized is a year summed up in learning. I have grown a lot this year, through experience and through trial and error.
In the spirit of a new year, I will share my top ten lessons from 2012. I pray that the next year is full of new lessons, exciting growth, solid accomplishments, and exceptional love, for all of us.
Top Ten Lessons I Learned in 2012:
10. Life is worth living. I know this sounds like a pretty basic concept, but it is one I did not believe for a really long time. I felt like every day was just a repeat of the one before, and every situation was going to end grimly. Let me emphasize, every situation will end badly, if that is the intention you place upon it in the beginning. Your world, your life, is what you make of it. Keep deciding that you are cursed, and you will be. Place positive intentions on your day-to-day life, and on your goals, and they will manifest before your very eyes. This year, I took one of my business cards and on it, I wrote down what I want for myself in the next year. I carry it around with me daily, and I believe these things will unfold in my life. You can do the same with a dream board. Take a poster and create what you want out of your next year. Watch it happen. I did this during my hospital stays, and I always conveyed stability, health, balance and love. These things are now ever present in my life. It is like magic. Whatever you put your energy into, you will have.
9. Doing what you’ve dreamed of is worth the experience. I always dreamed of living in California. I was just sure I’d feel at home there. This year, after treatment, I had an opportunity to move out to California. I took the opportunity and have been here since. I love the weather, and having access to beautiful beaches and sunsets. Living here does have its pros and cons, but I am so glad I took the opportunity to come here. I’m acutally living out one of my wildest dreams. How amazing is that? I’ve also learned that this particular city isn’t somewhere I plan on settling down. I wouldn’t have known that, if I had not tried. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be here.
8. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, but traveling is hard. As a result of living out my dream, I’ve been transplanted a very long distance from a lot of people that I really love. Being here has made me realize how much I truly appreciate these people, but it has also made me realize that I’d like to be closer to them. Traveling is difficult, I’m sure most of us would agree. And expensive. I love my loved ones that much more, but the added cost and stress of being away… is it worth it? I’ll keep you posted. I have, in the meantime, made great friends out here on the left coast. So, I have multiplied my love. That’s always a good thing.
7. Recovery is a lot of work, but I’ve never done anything this important and this necessary before. My sponsor always reminds me that recovery has to come first, before everything else. I know this is true. I cannot have success in work, school, family, or life, if I do not work on the one thing that keeps me stable and keeps me sane. Without recovery, all those other things are irrelevant because they aren’t even possible.
6. Failure may not be an option, but neither is perfection. I’ve always heard the cliché that failure isn’t an option. I think it is this phrase alone that birthed perfectionism. “I’ve got to do it,” turned into, “I’ve got to do it perfectly.” I walk on a thin line between two extremes. Balance is crucial for me. I know I can have an “all or nothing” attitude, and I have to remind myself constantly that an accomplishment is an accomplishment, if I didn’t do it perfectly, at least I did it. We are always our own worst critic. Ease up on yourself a little. Strive to do well, but don’t corner yourself into unforgivable expectations. I see a lot of people in recovery around me either throwing their hands up, or striving to attain the unattainable. Expecting perfection is like driving into a brick wall. It doesn’t matter wether you do it quickly or slowly, eventually, you’ll hit that wall. Eventually, you’ll be devestated by the fact that you messed up. We all mess up, it is inevitable. Learn to brush it off and keep moving.
5. Doors will open, when you’re ready to see what’s on the other side. God knows, timing is everything. If you hold out and have faith, things will turn around and trials will end. You may think that things are impossible, but I am here to tell you that the impossible is possible. Lil’ Kim used to be a hero of mine, and now my music taste is almost completely faith-based. I used to dread waking up in the morning, and now I’m grateful for each new day. This year, I’ve reconnected with several people that I was certain I’d never hear from again. Things change. Doors open. Anything is possible. These things hardly ever happen right away, but they will happen when you are ready for them.
4. Belief makes miracles happen. Did you know that the true power of prayer is in the belief that those prayers will be answered? As I said, the impossible is possible. They key to seeing the impossible unfold before you, is believing that it will. If you ask God for something, but doubt that He will give it to you, don’t expect it. If you hope for something, but believe it could never be, it never will be. The power lies in what you believe. You are manifesting the outcome with your very thoughts and intentions. Just believe.
3. Every cloud has a silver lining. It wasn’t until this year that I realized, what that little old lady with a walker taught me. I stumbled, but I did not fall. BAM! Silver lining. I got in a car accident, but I am safe. BAM! Silver lining. I’m struggling with finances, but I believe everything will work out for my good. BAM! You get the point. Yes, hard stuff happens. Yes, we have our struggles and our trials. Yes, sometimes we fail, or people fail us. But we learn from all of these things. We grow. Every time you lose someone, there opens an opportunity for someone new to come into your life. Every time you struggle, you have the opportunity to learn, grow, and know how to change outcomes for the better next time. Don’t see your losses or failures as a devastation. They are opportunities for new and better things to unfold in your life and your circumstances. Don’t look at what you lost, look at what you gained.
2. The hard moments will pass. A recent campaign that set out to encourage gay youth struggling with bullying and prejudice has gained new ground. The concept behind the campaign? It. Gets. Better. This idea, though it once seemed preposterous to me, is true. It does get better. The hard moments will pass, things will turn around. Sometimes it is a waiting game, but you have to hold strong, because I guarantee you things will start to look up. Look, if anyone knows this, it is me. So, trust me. I waited 28 years for my life to change, and it happened. I finally see this world in a new light. I finally love myself and those around me. I finally want to get as much out of this life as I possibly can. I finally believe. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely. The hard moments will pass, and as you get used to watching them come and go, they will get more brief and less intense. The hard moments will be blinks in your vast reel of days, weeks, months, and years of the incredible that your life will become.
1. God is good. I have experienced and accomplished a lot over the past year, all of which, I am completely grateful for. At the end of the day, when my work is done, I thank God that I have had an opportunity to do this work. I have been treated for the traumas I have endured. I have met tons of new people. I have an incredible sponsor and incredible supports. I have experienced new and exciting things that I never could have imagined. I am living in a city that I used to think was only a distant dream. I am living a life that I wasn’t sure even existed. I have everything I could ever want and more. All of this, is because of God. I have done a lot of work, but only because God has provided me the opportunity to. I was in treatment for 5 months, because insurance covered it. If that isn’t a miracle, I don’t know what is. I worked with some of the best therapists in the country, because God gave me that opportunity. I am grateful for all the support I have received, but none has been more important than that of my God. I could sit here and try to claim this has all been because of my hard work, but that would be a lie. Without God’s timing, ingenuity, and grace, all of my hard work would have been worthless. At the end of my year, as I reflect, I am certain that this is the most important lesson I have learned. When I had no faith, belief, or hope, desperation stepped in and gave me God. God restored my faith, belief, hope. God instilled in me a gratitude for my desperation. God gave me a life worth living, and the desire to live it. Without God, I’m not even sure I would still be here. At the end of the day, I know that everything I learned this year, I learned because of lesson number 1: God is good.
Resentment, Roll Away!
I know the holidays can be this expectation-filled, anxiety-ridden ball of stressful days in rapid succession. Let’s be honest, once Halloween hits, you know it will be the new year before you know. At least, that’s how it goes for me. I know the year is over with pumpkins and costumes. The rest of it turns into a blur of get-togethers, sugar overloads, and family reunions.
I know a few people who were dreading the days they would have to spend with family. There’s a huge expectation of presentation and performance with holidays. We have to put on like we’re happy, and we love our dysfunctional relatives. We have to catch up, and cherish time spent together. We have to make a perfect turkey, ham, sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie, or other goodies. We have to spend money and give presents we can’t afford to make someone think we can. We have to try our damnedest not to micromanage, helicopter parent, or argue.
Heck, I’m visiting my sister, and I have already argued with my dad who happens to be 3 states away. It is a stressful time. We have a performance to nail, and dealing with traveling doesn’t make it any easier.
I’ve learned something in the process of working the twelve steps that helps me in these situations. See, a big part of why we [drink, use, overeat, under-eat, self-harm, gamble, shop, or ___(fill in blank)___ ] is because we carry around resentments. It is a big part of step four, to work through those resentments–to realize that the people who have hurt you are sick, and need your compassion and sympathy; and also, to see your part in things and remedy the situation as best you can.
A lot of people go back to their addiction(s) of choice because they get a resentment, and it takes them back into sickness. This is why, as in step 10, we continue to take a personal inventory and when wrong, admit it. Resentments will kill us. Resentments keep us firmly rooted in the problem.
This is why, I tread lightly on the grounds of my anger. I do not want to become rooted there. I have noticed that when I become angry, I can step away from the situation to let my feelings work themselves out. It is easy, after having a little time, to realize where you too might have overreacted. This is very helpful, not only in recovery, but in dealing with people or situations that can overwhelm you, such as holidays.
Always remind yourself of how precious your time is. October to January just flew past your very eyes. Keep that in mind. Years and lives fly in much the same way. Your in-laws or family may rub you the wrong way, but your time with them is short. This may either be a blessing, or a reminder to enjoy them while they are here. Either way, it is a good thing to keep in mind.
“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”~ Dr. Seuss
The Power to Change the World is Already in Your Hands
I’ve had an incredible year, and for the first time in a looonnnnggggg time (if ever), I hate to see the year go. But I do know that a new year brings new beginnings, and I’m so excited to see what God has in store for me, because I know it will be good.
Yesterday, for the maybe 5th time, I watched the documentary, “I Am,” an incredible film that has changed my life. It got me thinking about how my part in this world can change everything. It made me realize that I don’t need power, or money, or my own non-profit organization to change the world. We are all interconnected, and my very mood has an affect on something else going on in this world. All I want to do is pour positivity and love into this world. Knowing that my heart’s signals set off a butterfly effect on this planet, makes me want to keep a smile always on my face.
When I was miserable, I thought I was the only one suffering. When I consider that my life changes, might’ve changed some vibration in this world for the better, it makes me appreciate my new happiness that much more. Someone else’s life might’ve changed for the better with mine. Beautiful.
“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.” ~John F. Kennedy
In that respect, I made a decision for my New Year’s resolution. I don’t often make resolutions, and when I do, they do not look like weight loss or habit-changing. I want to contribute goodness to this world. I want to do my part to set a positive chain of events in motion, every. single. day. I made the decision to go out of my way to practice a random act of kindness every day for the year 2013.
My prayer, is that God presents me daily with an opportunity to help someone, and that in doing so, I start to make a shift for the greater good.
I will be writing about this experiment/resolution here, but I will not specifically name who I helped or how. I’m not doing this to receive kudos. I’m doing this to show those around me that even the little things can change the world. And to suggest that maybe others try this as well. I will be writing about it to discuss how this venture helps transform my life and perspectives in the process.
A Little Old Lady With A Walker Once Taught Me…
One afternoon, I was sitting with my mother on a bench at the front of one of those cafeteria restaurants. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to one of those, but the elderly seem to frequent them. The food is awesome and affordable, and the only downside is having to wait in a (sometimes very long) line for your food.
Anyway, as we were sitting there, a little old lady with a walker started walking into the restaurant. Right behind her, a woman was pushing an elderly relative in a wheelchair. She must’ve been unable to see how far away the lady with the walker was, because she accidentally hit the little old lady in the back of her ankles. As the lady stumbled, I watched with horror, unable to figure out what I could do, and afraid that she was about to fall to the ground. Though the lady stumbled, she did not fall. She was startled, but caught her breath, and walked on.
As she was stumbling, something stood out to me. Not knowing whether or not she was bound to impact against that floor, every step she took, she said “Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus!” That struck me as bizarre. I remember leaning over to my mom and whispering, “If she almost fell, why would she be thanking Jesus?” My mom’s answer was simple, but powerful, “I guess because she didn’t fall.”
At the time, I thought, wow that’s really stupid. I mean she almost just fell, I would be pissed at that lady who almost knocked me over!!!
My, how time changes us. When I look back now at that powerful, teachable moment I’m amazed by that woman’s response. I almost envy it now. I think wow, what a positive perspective to look at something like that and see the good in it.
I think we could all learn a lesson from that little old lady with a walker.
All I used to look at was the negative. Something small wouldn’t turn out my way, and my whole LIFE was OVER! Such drama. All I could see around me were the things that were going wrong. All I could have seen, had I been in that old lady’s shoes, was the fact that some reckless lady who doesn’t know how to push a wheelchair almost plowed me over. I’m a defenseless old lady, I would think. How could she?!
How often we look at something and lament over what didn’t go well.
How little we look at a stumble, and rejoice in the fact that we didn’t fall.
It is my prayer for myself and for all of us, that we become a little more like that old lady.
Tonight, on my way home from the gym, I stopped at a red light. Suddenly, there was chaos right in front of me. Two cars almost hit each other, and then neither one could decide who should drive away first. In a fury of frustration and anger, the driver in one of the cars threw up his hands, beat his steering wheel, and spit furiously what I can only assume were violent expletives. There were two cars who almost hit each other, and the drivers were enraged by the series of events. Two cars that almost hit each other, almost.
Safe, with both cars still in tact, they drove away cursing the universe for the negative thing that just happened, never seeing the pain from which they had just been spared.
How can we let one small unpleasant event dictate our days, or even our lives?
How can we overlook all of the little successes and blessings, thinking nothing of them?
That little stuff we’re overlooking… that’s the powerful stuff.
I look back on that small event at a cafeteria restaurant in North Carolina with gratitude. At the time, it seemed like nothing, but it stayed lodged in my memory through a lot. I am grateful that I can look back at that moment now and understand what that lady was thinking when she thanked Jesus repeatedly as she stumbled.
Wow! Thank God I didn’t fall! I may have stumbled, but I didn’t fall!
I Stand Amazed
Driving home from a meeting tonight, I listened to my favorite group. They’re called All Sons & Daughters. This song came on: (close your eyes and listen)
This song brings me to tears.
Part of it is the way the describe the heart ache of watching Jesus on the cross, and the way the promise of His return is the only thing that kept them holding on. I totally understand this. It automatically sends me to a place where I think about that sacrifice that He made for me. For me! How totally absurd is that? I’m not even a smudge on the pages of history. I’m just one of billions of people walking this planet. But wow, He had me in mind while making that sacrifice. He wanted to set ME free. Of course, He wanted to set all of us free, but we weren’t just faces in a crowd to Him. We weren’t just another number among the billions. He had each of us in mind on that day. And there was this pain. Can you imagine what it was like to watch Him die? How it would make your heart ache to see someone you love go through that? But they held on, believing He would return. And here I am today, holding on with the same promise in mind. I never used to understand why people would look forward to the return of Christ, but I get it now. I would be so happy to get to be near Him.
By the time the song is over, I’m so aware of that sacrifice and what it meant for me. I am so humbled by Him making the choice to make such a sacrifice to set me free. I know that everything I have, I have because of God. All of it. All I want is to be the best person I can be, for God. I can never be worthy of what He did for me, but I want to be as close as I can possibly be. I want nothing more than to be a good person for the sake of trying with everything I have in me to repay this debt. I know I cannot repay, and He wouldn’t even want me to. He didn’t do it with our compensation in mind. He did it knowing that our freedom was the reward. Can you imagine how joyous it is to see someone you love set free from the bondage of this dark world?
I give you all the glory, God. I can never repay You, but I pray you see my heart and know how grateful I am to my very core. I’m nothing without You. Everything I have, I have because of You. Everything I have accomplished, is because of You alone. I want nothing more than to know You more and live a life that gives You glory. I want nothing more than to serve You. I am forever indebted to You, and forever grateful for You. I love You with everything I have, every fiber of my being. I am Yours.
I have this ache within me, knowing that I can never repay God for all that God has done for me. What a humbling feeling.
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.
Away Down The River
I swear that death typically doesn’t consume my thoughts most of the time. The past week has just been a really tough one in that aspect. Last week, with the suicide of my sister’s old friend, Amanda. This week, with the suicide of teen blogger, Jamey Rodemeyer. Tonight I learned that my friend Joda, who I worked with at TGIFriday’s in Asheville several years ago, passed away yesterday. I guess it was only about a year or less ago, when my friend and I went to visit him at Friday’s. He was complaining of a strange pain, and we both urged him to see a doctor. I was moving out of town, but my friend assured me that she’d stay on top of him to get it checked out. Not long after, he was diagnosed with lymphoma. Then tonight, Troy Davis, a man convicted of the 1989 murder of an off duty police officer was put to death, after many desperate attempts to save his life since new evidence and witness recants seemed to disprove his guilt. I’ve been sitting alone tonight, frustrated and in tears. I almost feel like the world is losing its angels in rapid succession. I clicked on a friend’s link, that led me to a site about tribute tattoos. Then I started reading about the woman they are a tribute to… Her name is Sara, and she is a fellow blogger. Her blog inspired hope in many people, and the tattoo tributes said simply “choose joy.” I read about the tributes, and a little about Sara. I don’t know much, but I’m certainly interested from what I’ve seen, in reading more of her blog. The past few entries have been written by someone named Shannon, who is updating on Sara’s worsening physical condition, with the theme of “choose joy” remaining throughout. I’m leaving early in the morning to head to the mountains, so that I may attend Joda’s memorial service. I even considered leaving tonight and going to watch the sun rise on the parkway alone. It is so still, so calm up there, that it feels like the world just stops and you can finally get a chance to breathe. I definitely need a chance to breathe right now.
Tonight, I’ve felt a consistent twinge of heartache for the losses of the past week, but when I really thought of Joda, and I could hear his voice, it made me smile every time. Tonight, I’m praying for everyone and their losses, that Amanda has found peace and her family starts to heal… That Jamey’s life and death, can open our eyes, and drastically change the way we deal with bullying… That Troy’s family and friends can find solace in the hope that he has gone somewhere far more just than this world, somewhere in which truth is pursued and upheld. I pray Joda is in heaven, clad in white, dancing and singing… happy as can be. I hope Sara transitions smoothly, and that her message spreads far, like ripples atop oceans, reaching from from distant shore to distant shore.
“The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us and we see nothing but sand;
the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone.”
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.