Success

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

 

 

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!

satan

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!

happy new year

 

 

Right Where I Am

 

I’m sure you’ve heard of baby steps, the small steps we make to work toward a larger goal.  It is keeping the eye on the prize, but starting with little prizes that lead us to the bigger picture.  As humorously as Bill Murray translated it, it can be a seriously helpful concept.

For me, it is a part of daily life.  Even the smallest of accomplishments can be considered a success in your journey to a greater outcome.  And after all, isn’t it said that this life is not destination, but rather, a journey?

What I really love are the people in my life who see my successes, when I see a struggle.  When I came to my sponsor, irritated with unreliable friends, she recognized a new accomplishment in this journey: I had learned what qualities I do and do not want in a friendship.  Success!  (Her perspective reminded me of the little old lady with a walker at a restaurant in NC.)

These are baby steps.

For a while, I walked around with a daily list.  That list contained 25 things that I could choose to accomplish on any given day, activities that would work toward a healthy life.  My goal, was to accomplish as many as possible during each day.  I highlighted as I went along, and could look back on each day as a success.  I had spent time that day, working toward my recovery.

You know, looking back over my years of drama, torment, depression, and darkness, I see that I always wanted to run.  All of my favorite songs were about running away.  To get where is uncertain, but I knew I didn’t want to be who I was and where I was.

Ironically, it wasn’t running that got me to where I wanted to be.  It was baby steps.  And I’m grateful that I had an opportunity to take the scenic route, because it was that growth that I want to hold onto, those moments of revelation that I want to reflect upon.  Today, I hear those songs and I cannot relate.  I can’t imagine anywhere I’d rather be than right where I am.

To illustrate my point, a baby polar bear, learning to walk:

polar-bear-learns-walk

 

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.

HappyNewYearNeonFlash

A Little Old Lady With A Walker Once Taught Me…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

angry old lady

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

always-be-grateful

Is Time on My Side?

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Failure and Success

Here is an important message for those around me, and that I also need reminding of constantly:

Failure and success are not determined by whether or not we fall.  Falls are inevitable in any journey.  Failure and success are determined by whether we stay down for the count, or get back up and keep moving forward.  Falling isn’t supposed to cripple or kill us, it is supposed to teach us how to be stronger as we navigate the  path ahead.

God, Guide Me Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Continuing Treatment: A Matter of Life or Death

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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