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!
Take it from someone who has been there, it really does get better.
For those of you who don’t know the It Gets Better Project all started in 2010 when Dan Savage, in response to a rising number of suicides linked to bullying, made a youtube video with his partner to inspire hope for young people facing harassment.
The It Gets Better Project’s website says: “The It Gets Better Project’s mission is to communicate to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth around the world that it gets better, and to create and inspire the changes needed to make it better for them.”
The idea is great, but I also believe it is universal.
It doesn’t just apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, nor victims of bullying or high school students.
Whoever finds this post and is struggling: It really DOES get better. I promise.
I’ve recently been following the heartbreaking story of Rehtaeh Parsons, a young woman who was raped, then bullied until she decided to take her own life. I wish this message had found her. Because it does get better, even for those of us who have lived through the most devastating, terrifying, and degrading form of violence there is. Even for Rehtaeh, it could’ve gotten better.
I’m in tears as I write this, because I didn’t make it to this conclusion for lack of trying to kill myself. I had two life-threatening attempts, but somehow lived to know that these things come out on the other side.
Life isn’t as hopeless and painful as it can, at times, feel. I know there is plenty of pain to be felt, and despair to be trudged through, but I know something else too. I know that as dark as it can get, it can get that much brighter. I know that these feelings that consume, even they will fade away and make place for new ways of feeling.
I used to be so certain that the darkness would last forever. For me, it was a good 28 years or so before the clouds started to part and make way for light. I can look at that time now and understand what growth came from it. I know that I am that much stronger because I went through it. And I see now how my experience can benefit others.
That’s everything this blog is about.
Sometimes, in my darkest moments, I had a twinge of hope that kept me alive, even when I wanted so badly to die. My hope plagued me, because it seemed to work against all the hurt I knew in my life. I just wanted to let go, and sometimes, I did. But I know something about that nagging particle of hope still imbedded somewhere deep within. It was a glimpse. It was a glimpse at what could be. And for me, what now is.
I wish Rehtaeh could’ve known this. There are so many people out there right now, who I wish could know this. I don’t even know your names. I didn’t even know Rehtaeh, but right now, I cry for her like she was a dear friend.
If you’re looking for some shred of hope, a reason to stay alive, I pray the words of this stranger can be that for you.
I don’t believe suicide is selfish or wrong, because I know it is not an act entered into lightly. I know the despair it takes to bring you to that decision. But it cannot be an option, because your life has worth, and meaning, even if you don’t believe it. The anguish doesn’t become extinct through your death, it is simply passed on to others. To those you loved most. No, the anguish is defeated only through living a meaningful life. Through sharing your struggles with others. Through finding your joy.
None of us are as alone as we sometimes feel.
It may feel like it is taking to forever to get there. But you WILL get there. It may feel like more than you can bear. But you CAN bear it. You may think no one understands, but I do. You may think this darkness is all you will ever know, but you will live your fair share of joy as well.
It really DOES get better. I promise.
IF YOU ARE IN CRISIS, CALL: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
I finally reached step 12. Although, steps 9-12 are an on-going process. Nine is making amends. Ten is taking a daily inventory, and admitting when you’re wrong. Eleven is working toward a conscious contact with God, through prayer and meditation. Twelve is helping others the way you have been helped.
I have worked all twelve steps, but these last four, I will still be working daily.
To be honest, I’m writing this blog post as encouragement to myself, prior to making more amends. I’ve made an effort to do two so far, but going back to where I’m from is going to give me an opportunity to make a lot of amends with a lot of people. Most of these, I am glad to do. An apology for all of these people is long overdue.
There are a few, however, that I am scared to approach. I’m sure a lot of people face at least one that they are hesitant to do.
See, the process is one of humility. We admit that we were wrong, even in the cases where the other had a hand in it as well. It isn’t our place to expect an apology from them. We are only responsible for our wrongdoings. It is our chance to do what we can to clean up the mess we have left in our destructive wake.
Through the process of our inventory, we started to become humbled by finally facing head-on, the harms we had caused others. The amends continues to humble us, but also empowers us. It is our chance to clean the slate, and an opportunity to do things differently next time. Finally, we can do all in our power to right our wrong, even though time cannot be rewound and actions cannot be undone. It is a powerful step.
I’m hoping you all will pray for me in this process, that I will have the strength to do even the hardest ones, completely and with compassion.
This isn’t going to be easy, but I do hope it will help me in my work toward being a better person, and living a more fulfilling life.
“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
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” –Mother Theresa
On March 27, 2011, my life officially changed in an incredibly dramatic way. I stayed for hours after church, hesitant to go home, and hesitant to make a commitment. I stared back and forth at the pulpit and the exit, long after the service had ended and everyone, except for 2 friends and myself, had gone home. Every time I looked at the doors, as much as I didn’t want to admit it, face it, or act because of it, I knew if I walked out those doors without God, I would die. The pain was like a wrench in my gut, twisting with the thought of making that decision. I didn’t want to lose myself, and as much as I felt like I wanted to die in that moment, I knew the truth was that I wanted to live.
I had stayed after service, hurling questions and arguments at the pastor, who mostly left it up to me, to look inside myself for the answers. He knew that nothing he could say was going to be easily accepted by me. And this had been the truth since the moment I had first stepped into this crowd of people who would become my family.
When the moment finally came, it was almost midnight. In the following weeks, I would buy a little plaque that said “Even miracles take a little time” from the disney film Cinderella. Without knowing what I was diving into, I dove, because I realized that if I wanted to live, I didn’t have a choice.
That night, I made a commitment to follow God, to be His faithful servant, to become the person He wanted me to be, and live the life He wanted me to live. It wasn’t an instantaneous transformation. It took time, and I fought. I fought everyone around me, and I fought with God himself. Quite violently, I might add.
The fact of the matter is, though, that I don’t take commitments lightly. If I say that I am going to do something, I do it.
In the months that have followed, the transformation has taken over, and my life doesn’t even resemble what it looked like a year ago. I am living in a different home, city, and state, with different friends, a different church, a different perspective, and a different way of living.
When I opened my mind to a church that truly conveyed a life modeled after that of Christ, it was a battle. I always had this concept “well, if they really followed Christ, it would look like this…” The difference was, this church actually embodied that. Did I cut them any slack because of it? Ohhhhhh no, definitely not. I gave them hell for dragging me there. I sat on my seat, arms crossed, scowl painted firmly on my face. When they sang, I didn’t move. When they greeted each other, I didn’t move. Did that make a difference? No. They treated me, from the very first moment, like I was family, and that never wavered, even when they learned of our differences.
I wish I could say that churches like that are common, but they are the minority.
I came in with all of my doubts and anger. I was drowning in resentments of what churches had done to me and my loved ones for years and years. I hurled this resentment toward these innocent people with my laser beam death stare, and they never once treated me differently.
Eventually, I had a realization. I expected these people not to judge me. That is what real Christians would do. But what about me? Shouldn’t I be willing to do the same for them? Why was I taking out all of this resentment on people who had never harmed me. I judged them before I had a chance to walk through the door, accusing them of judging me. That was my hypocrisy wake up call. I had to give them a chance, if I expected that of them.
So, I did.
“Do not condemn the judgement of another because it differs from your own. You may both be wrong.” –Dandemis
That is when I realized that they were actually everything I had always thought churches should be.
I wish I could say that the judgments stopped from that moment, but as I have grown in my faith, I have noticed the other side of my friend pool shift. They don’t directly tell me they hate me, but they definitely are weirded out and leery of this change in me. As though the fact that my newfound relationship with God gives me a reason to live, just isn’t a good enough excuse. I have, as of late, felt incredibly judged by a lot of my friends who are atheist or agnostic. They are immediately on the defense with me, as though I am going to show up on their doorstep with a pamphlet. As much as I understand that feeling, I don’t understand it coming at me. I am not suddenly a horrible person because I believe differently. I have started to realize that I feel far more judged now than I ever did when I was spiritually ambiguous. The funny part is that, though I do have some strong specific beliefs, I am still spiritually ambiguous in a lot of ways. And as for the current religious/political blur, none of my political beliefs have changed. In fact, I would say I stand stronger in my political beliefs than I did before, because I believe that, although they are not the norm in my spiritual community, they have been distinctly placed on my heart for a reason.
I guess that, although so much of my life has changed, the only parts of me that have changed were the parts no one wanted here in the first place. I am not destructive anymore. I am not as selfish. I am working hard to live a productive life. I stay focused on ensuring that I am being kind to myself and to others. I am learning balance. I am implementing self-care. I am capable of so much more. I am grateful for each day, and I genuinely want to live it.
So yeah, something HUGE changed, but it didn’t change my heart. My heart is in the same place, I am just learning how to put it into action. I am learning to act upon the passions that have driven me all this time, and to grow and heal so that I am capable of doing that work.
So this is for those of you out there who think I have been brainwashed or suddenly became incredibly stupid. This is not the case. I heard that your IQ starts declining at 25 anyway, so maybe that part is true. I’m just not the asshole I used to be. And the truth is, that I am thankful for all of my friends. For those who do not need a God to give their lives meaning, I do not judge. I have learned in AA that living a life without a higher power is just a prerogative that some of us do not have the luxury of indulging in. I need God to take a step further in this life, to march on. The passions I have for change to come about in this world, are not efforts that I can make alone. I will surely need God behind the work I want to do for our world in order to make it a safer, more beautiful place for each and every one of us to thrive.
I don’t plan on apologizing to my spiritual community for my political beliefs, and I don’t plan on apologizing to my political community for my spiritual beliefs. I am going to march forward living in the way that I feel God guide me. And you two groups can sort that crap out amongst yourselves.
“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s the one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.”
I am on your time, God, not my own. I thank you for teaching me patience. I am here to serve you, not myself. I am grateful for steady work and faith in your favor. I trust your promise. I trust that your view reaches lightyears beyond my own, and that your dreams for me go beyond any that I could dream for myself. I will be an honest representation of your life-saving love. I commit to doing your work, to being a shining beacon of light and love to those around me. If ever an opportunity to help my fellow human being arises, I will do so without hesitation. If moments of darkness surround me, I will keep my eyes on you. When circumstances threaten this foundation, I will not let them shake me. When I fall short of these promises, I will make amends to those who are affected. I thank you for teaching me forgiveness, both given and received. I thank you for teaching me unconditional love, that I may live this life fearlessly, and help others to do the same. ❤
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. 🙂