Survival

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.

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.

To Those We’ve Lost To The Current That Swept Them Away In The Silence Of The Night

One of my sister’s best friends from childhood was lost to suicide this past week.  You can find this story at this link.  I was going to post this comment on her blog, but I do understand that suicide is a more taboo subject than I sometimes realize.  (As Sinead O’connor recently pointed out on twitter.)  I’ve been meaning to post for sometime, about my own experience over the past couple of months, since I nearly lost my own life, but I’ve had a hard time forcing myself to do it.  Hopefully, I can muster up the strength to do it soon.

Her most recent post was titled “Will She Remember?” and contained a poem she wrote about her daughter, posing the question of whether she would remember these days of her youth.  The post is prefaced by this quotation: “In the happiest of our childhood memories, our parents were happy, too.” ~Robert Brault …and a photo of her daughter.

This was my response:

This is a very haunting question to have as a final post.  Amanda, my dear, I wish that I had words for these moments, but there simply aren’t any.  I have had many friends of friends who have been lost to this battle, but I felt pretty distant from each of those instances.  You were one of my sister’s best friends in middle school, and I remember that.  I also recall seeing you on the park and ride at UNCG, and pretending not to notice, because I’m sure you understand how awkward it can be to talk to people from your past whom you were somehow distantly connected to.  Now, I feel a slight twinge for not saying a simple “hello.”  It makes me wonder if we could’ve hit it off.  I almost died this past July 30th from a similar incident.  I was grateful and humbled by surviving, but now I’m left recognizing that some don’t survive, which makes me wonder why.  I know you are already missed terribly, I can see that from the memorial page they made for you on Facebook.  I also know that few will really understand.  I wish I could offer you that understanding, but I suppose it’d be of little value now.  My heart breaks for your daughter.  I want her to have the understanding of how much you loved her, and the understanding of why things happen as they do, without the pain of personal struggle.  I’ll pray for her.  My heart breaks for you too.  I know what it is like in those final moments, when the world becomes a dream, and you decide to slip away.  Sometimes you feel a stirring beneath your feet, as if the ground is about to open up.  Sometimes you feel nothing at all.  Every time I learn that someone has taken their own life, I pray for them.  I pray for them, just as I did for myself in the moments when the fear set in, the final seconds before you hear the door shut behind you.  I pray for their souls, though I can’t honestly justify the idea that a loving God could punish people so desperate, so consumed by the darkness… for caving under the pressure.  I pray they find peace, love, protection… and strength.  I prayed for you today, Amanda.  I heard the news at lunch, though my parents were afraid to say the words in front of me, my own past being so fresh behind me.  I had a moment alone to go to PetSmart for rabbit food, and I prayed as I walked into the store.  I almost felt as if I was floating, and I could almost feel your presence there.  I understand the loneliness.  I understand being overwhelmed.  I’m one of the few who can comprehend a moment of crisis, when you are certain you have no other options.  I don’t know why I’m here, and you aren’t.  I am torn between feeling blessed and feeling guilty.  I’m also left with a nagging fear that I could still lose the battle one day too.  I pray you are lifted gently to God without judgment or bitterness.  Most people don’t understand the desperation, mainly because they’ve never felt it.  I wish they could understand it without having to feel it.  I know a lot of people make promises to themselves, though, a promise that they would never do such a thing, but who is to say where life will take us?  How can any of us rest assured in what our future holds?  I wish I could stop it.  I wish, for everyone out there at this moment with a gun in their hand, a bottle of pills, a razorblade, on a bridge, or with something wrapped around their necks… I wish it would stop.  And for their sakes, as for my own, I wish it would stay stopped.  The truth is, it ebbs and flows, and we never know when the current may take us under, even when our feet seem planted, and steady.   I wish, when people heard of suicide, they didn’t place judgment.  I wish it allowed them an opportunity to stop and consider with gratitude, how blessed it is to live a life so distant from dismay that you can’t even comprehend such actions.  My heart goes out to you, that you are safe now, wherever you are… I pray you are finding respite.  My heart goes out to your family, friends, and students; that your life and their loss fills them with gratitude and allows them to realize the responsibility of support that is placed upon the stable who dwell amongst the troubled.  I know I never said hello, but I hope my prayers find you now, and you are warmed by my understanding and reassured by the numbers of hearts going out to you and yours tonight.

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If you, or someone you know is struggling with mental illness & contemplating suicide, there are options:

If you NEED HELP NOW… Call the NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

If you are a survivor or have survived an attempt, you can find resources from NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).

To take a stand against the stigma associated with mental illness, you can find out more from BRING CHANGE 2 MIND.

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You can find out about suicide prevention from the AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION.

Please don’t wait until suicide affects you personally, find out how you can help.  The AFSP does a walk to raise funds for suicide prevention research called: OUT OF THE DARKNESS.  It is an 18 mile walk that ends at sunrise.  In 2012, the walk will be in San Francisco.  Sign up, raise money, train, and do something to not only save lives, but improve them as well.  I’m hoping to start a team, and do the walk in 2012.

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Please feel free to leave a comment.

Ask questions.

Share your story.

Do what you can to start the conversation, and take the first steps on the road toward healing.

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(this video was made to raise funds for the overnight walk that happened in NYC this past June)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Marianne Williamson

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Cheering On Your Rapist?!

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

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

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

Victim To Victor: Remaining Open in a World of Slamming Doors

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Honestly, I’ve been avoiding writing since my last post.  I’ve gone through so much, have had so much revelation, and have been quite uncertain of how I should address these parts of my experience.

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I suppose I’ll start at the very beginning, as I heard once that it was a very good place to start.  🙂

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As of 5 weeks ago tonight, I have been medication free.  After a long 6 years on a cocktail of various psychiatric medicines, I decided one night to stop.  It was definitely a dangerously impulsive decision that could’ve been deadly in so many ways.  When I did it, though, that was kind of the point.  I had one last change in medications about a month prior, and had since sunken into a deep, deep depression.  When I stopped the meds, I did it in an attempt at my life.  As the following days crept by, something within me began to transform.  My anticipation of the end, evolved into my hope for survival.

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Let me STOP right there.  I want to say that medications can and do work for so many people.  I maintain, even now, that God would not have given us the ability to create such medicines so that the ability of healing could lay dormant within us.  These medications powerfully alter physical chemistry of the brain, thus affecting mood.  Stopping medications without the guidance of a doctor is dangerous, and especially so when done suddenly.  I have since consulted with my doctor, and remain monitored for sudden changes.

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What I did was not healthy, and very well could’ve killed me.  Somehow (God), it did not.

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The first place I went, after 2 weeks of staying in bed, was to church with some acquaintances who had been nagging me pretty relentlessly to go.  I’ve been asked to church before, but these people didn’t stop.  So I went, and continued to go in the weeks following.  I made the final decision to go one night a few weeks ago, knowing that if I showed up this particular time, they were going to keep expecting me to go.

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As it turns out, the people there were pretty amazing.  It wasn’t because of their devotion to scripture, or their claim of righteousness.  What struck me about these people was that, when everyone I’d encountered before them had given up on me at some point, these people stood by me through the worst of it.  I’ve been unintentionally testing boundaries since we met, and I continue to do so with this post.  (We’ll see where it goes.)

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I was also struck by the joy they experienced because of God, and the love they were capable of sharing because they were so filled with God’s love.  For the first time in my life, I felt I had found adequate examples of the God I’ve always believed in.

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They opened my mind and my eyes to God (love), and last Sunday, around midnight, I opened my heart to Him.  For the first time, I accept the ways in which God can work through me to help others.

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I now understand that I am only capable so much, but God is capable of everything.  I came to this point after years of single-handedly attempting to save a world that is largely uninterested in resolving the continuous destruction taking place.  I realize that I can accomplish more to confront this destruction with God, despite the numerous people who contribute to such destruction in the name of God.

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In the near future, I plan on explaining the extent of the torment of resistance that I experienced until the very last moment of that Sunday night.  I want to elaborate on the journey and explore why there is so much conflict within our surrender to God.  For now, I’ll summarize the event:  Last Sunday, I was mentally and spiritually tormented, and was feeling suicidal for the first time since I had stopped my meds.  I knew if something didn’t change, I would kill myself.  I had waited until I felt it imperative to make a commitment, because I wanted to be certain that these people truly lived by the image they portrayed.  I have to say that the majority of them do, including the people who invited me, and have stayed invested in my well-being.  Along with these friends, I continue to meet people who remind me daily of God’s love.  I’ve met people who have gone through many trials to get to God and people with souls so pure, it is strikingly beautiful.  I am so grateful for all of these people.

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As soon as your wall comes crashing down, however, some people’s true colors become achingly apparent.  I try to remain aware that judgement is one of the clearest projections of a someone’s remaining insecurity in God’s love.  This awareness raises my consciousness of everything I project, while also fueling my forgiveness of those who judge me.

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Because of those who have been living examples of God’s greatness, I’ve been adamant about holding true to my commitment.  The people who have shown me God, have reached me in a unique way.  I was not easy to reach and my mind had been closed.  As it is, I made a commitment to God, and He is my source.  That is unwavering.

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As I’ve been conflicted about the discrepancies I’ve heard within the ministry, I’ve tried to take an AA approach to what I take away from messages relayed from God, through people.  I am now capable of discerning when God speaks to me directly, and when people distort intention by playing telephone with the message.

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It is funny how people can say what they think you want to hear, until you’re reeled in, and then they change their tune.  I never felt judged in this church, before last Sunday night.  Immediately and ironically, after being told that satan would test my faith, I started to hear about all the things I would HAVE to change to be an adequate messenger of God.  After Sunday, I was basically told by several that I wasn’t good enough as is, whereas before that I had been assured that I was loved unconditionally as a creation of God.  I was definitely afraid at first, as though God would reject me now that I had given my life to Him.  I have experienced this pattern in so many relationships with people, but God is certainly enduring.

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I definitely feel without a doubt that God can improve me, but I don’t want to nitpick about insignificant details.

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I believe people interpret God in ways that make them feel safe, fill their voids, and protect them from dismay.  At the same time, instead of receiving what God intends from messages, they often try to conform God to a formula of perimeters according to how they’ve always known Him.

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I do not think mathematics are an accident.  The fact that so much can be calculated, I believe, is proof of God… to say that nothing is by chance, but rather, by design.  But to sum up God within mathematics is pretty ridiculous.  In other words, to say God is only capable of working within a formula, is selling God short.  Like REALLY short.

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I feel it necessary to say, that whenever you limit the ways in which you presume God can speak, you therefore are minimizing His capacity. God works through all things good, whether He receives credit is up to you. Certainly, if you are having a hard time finding Him, there are designated places to turn, but if you REALLY OPEN YOUR EYES, you will see Him EVERYWHERE.

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There are so many presumably “secular” mediums through which God is working constantly.  I don’t know why people limit Him to one book, or one medium of expression.  I have met disciples in this church community who are far more convincing of God’s goodness than the disciples of yesteryear, with whom I cannot relate.  I also know, for a fact, that I have experienced God and God has spoken to me in many many ways in my life… throughout the 27 years leading up to this point.  If He had not, I would not be here (in this moment, or at this spiritual point).  In fact, I probably wouldn’t have gotten far past the age of 4 or 5.  For example, I have seen God in nature, art, and selfless acts of compassion.  Also, for the most part, I’ve been very aware of the sources of messages I’ve received.  The thing that has confused me for so long, has been the voice of a people CLAIMING God with words, and DISCREDITING Him with their actions.  Now I am finally capable of deciphering the people who claim God as their source, and those for whom God IS their source.  This is because, for the first time, I’m giving credit where credit is due.

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So, when I started to feel judgement being hurled at me after opening my heart to God, I was put off.  The difference this time is… I know God now.  I recognize messages that are not from God, even when they come from people who associate themselves with God.  It is usually delivered with an authority.  I know a lot about a lot of things: gender inequality, sexual violence, mental health, literature, and even spirituality–But I always try to avoid, at all costs, ever making a claim of authority.  I know stuff, but I don’t know everything about any issue.  A lot of people have trouble admitting that.

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That awareness is definitely challenging.  If I didn’t know better, I could say “Oh, ok! This is what God is really about? Count me out. Peace!”  But since I do know better, I’m reminded, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”  (Luke 23:34)  I refuse to let PEOPLE come between me and GOD ever again.

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I’m also being constantly reminded that I have a unique perspective to offer.  I know that this is true, both for those who reject God and people who presume to know God.  I feel drawn towards breaking down the barriers that separate these two groups of people.  I do realize that this is a hefty expectation, but I also recognize that with God, all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)

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The scriptures I’m referencing here is very basic.  But sometimes getting back to basics reminds you of your Source.

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I used April Fool’s day to out myself as a new person in Christ on Facebook.  No one got it, mainly because people from my church loved it, and people from my past couldn’t figure out if it was a joke.  I also took the time to proclaim my ongoing commitment to women’s issues, which may not be number one in my life now, but is still my passion–Especially because of the overwhelming role the church has had in the oppression of women throughout history.  I cannot passively allow women to associate that oppression with God.  God has nothing to do with any of that!

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I think people got scared because I used the words Christ and feminist in the same sentence.  It baffles most, though it makes so much sense to me.  Look, we all believe stereotypes, whether it is about Christians or about feminists.  How about this: get to know a few before you form opinions.  I agree with a lot of feminism, while not fitting into the prejudices people thrust upon them.  I also recognize my relationship with Christ, thanks to a handful of Jesus freaks.  If I had judged all people associated with Jesus, based on the majority of Christians I’ve met… I wouldn’t have given Him a chance when He started revealing Himself to me about a month ago.  I claim feminism proudly, so that people may know that feminists are NOT scary bra-burning, man-hating, abortion-promoting lesbians.  And now, I claim Christ proudly, so that people may know His endless capacity for joy, love, and hope–rather than the wrath of judgment by people who mistakingly claim Him.

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Through this, I acknowledge my revelation that being open minded has nothing to do with remaining in safe discourse amongst people you agree with–But rather, open mindedness comes through recognizing stereotypes and the bias of your own experience, and challenging that within yourself.  I also accept that with this message, I will undoubtedly feel the impact of stones against my flesh, tossed by those who think that a forgiven sin, was never a sin at all.

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***GOD IS LIMITLESS***

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“Joy descends gently upon us like the evening dew, and does not patter down like a hailstorm.”

-Jean Paul Richter

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He had me good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Canyon Dance (March 2009)

There’s a powdery film that coats my car

in spiky yellow balls

(a spring snow of sorts),

and the only thing that could baptize it

are storm clouds.

At night I can see the

lightning

breaking in the distance

and I don’t know whether it is

hallucination

heat

or rage.

There’s something so simple in “hello,”

something concave,

and riddled with vacuity.

It is far more distant

and detached

than “goodbye;”

far more settled in its self-loathing,

far more dissociated

and damned.

This something holds me tightly

releasing me and

twirling

till only our

fingertips are touching;

swinging me in and

dipping me so low,

my hair is

reaching for the floor.

It dare not drop me.

I dare not weep,

the air so thick between us

that love could fit inside.

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Absolute Bearing (March 2010)

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

I don’t know how to say

that at first I counted the days like thick blue waves

crashing in rhythm on the shore

that at first they slithered by, excruciatingly,

the skin of a moistened worm

tearing as it accordians across the pavement

after the first fresh spring rain

and the days since have melted me into waiting

have mourned me into loss

rebirthed me into being

and inspired me to write

at night i can feel the walls shaking,

as though they could simply explode,

exposing me to the night sky

to the crisp winter air

a winking moon

and shimmering stars

and In my shivering slumber

I will unceasingly resign myself to the knowledge

that i chose this revelation

and I will lie in waking

a steward of this ship

‘till the morning sun warms me

and I can finally rest

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(To Be Announced- March 2011)

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