Obstacles

Trompe-l’œil: On The Devil’s Deceptive Tool and Deciphering Verisimilitude

These past couple of weeks have not been the best for me, but today was the pinnacle of that theme.  I won’t go into details, but it was the darkest day I have seen in almost two years.  My recovery almost slipped from my grasp, and I became once again certain that the good is all over and my life is more work than I am capable of.  For a few moments, I believed that my loved ones would be better unburdened by my presence in their lives.

The moment was overwhelming, and I am still reeling from the whole event.  I was feeling quite hopeless, but as I was driving home tonight, a thought hit me.  My sister and I had been pondering what could possibly the cause of my troubles.  Do my meds need adjusting?  Is it because I’m supposed to start doing trauma work with my therapist?  Am I going too long between meals?

The main question being:  What could be wrong?

The thought that hit me on the way home tonight was this:  What could I be doing right?

It is a common belief among those who share my faith that if you’re going through hard times, you must be doing something right.  The idea being, you are on the right path, you’re about to accomplish something big for God, and the devil is trying to bring you down, or stop you in any way he can.  Maybe, I thought, I’m doing something right, and the devil is trying to keep me from proceeding.  I had been looking at the problem all wrong.

So, I will tell you what I am moving forward with, now more confidently than ever.

I am applying to seminary.  I feel called to work in ministry with the LGBTQ population.  I believe there is a whole wealth of experience and spiritual growth for both the LGBTQ population and the Christian population, as they relate to LGBTQ people.  I definitely think the devil is, and has been for years, coming between a lot of people and their relationship with God.  The church has always been unwelcoming and unsympathetic toward the LGBTQ population.  And I resolve to be a part of changing that.

Also, I’m definitely going to address the traumas I have experienced.  Obviously, I can do great things once I move past these issues, and the devil is trying to keep that from happening.  I now have more resolve than ever about addressing my trauma.  I know I can accomplish great things on the other side of the work I need to do.

So, suck that, satan!

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It Really DOES Get Better

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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the light at the end of the tunnel

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

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

That’s everything this blog is about.

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

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

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

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clouds parting, making way for light

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

None of us are as alone as we sometimes feel.

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

It really DOES get better.  I promise.

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

Contact the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for more resources.  

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

Surviving Elementary School

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t know, they just do.

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

First, you need to address your own trauma.

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

This is just what I have found.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mended heart

Resources:

Post Traumatic Growth

NY Times PTSD Article

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.