Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Maybe Tomorrow

I’m sitting in my apartment, alone, as rain throws itself hard against my windowpane and I can’t stop crying.

Independence comes with a price.

I scour Facebook newsfeeds and absentmindedly notice how everyone looks so happy, or sad, nothing in between.

The silence is getting to me.

I pick up my Kindle and start to read, a distraction from reality: the “promising” job I applied for turned out to be a scam. (More tears). And I’m supposed to be strong and move on and apply myself harder, spread myself like Swiss cheese on warm bread, a melty invitation for strength to rest, but this hurts.

And I’m tired.

So I’m going to bed. Maybe, maybe tomorrow the sun will shine again.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Your Support System isn’t Your Therapist, Your Therapist isn’t Superman

Dear Lovelies,

It’s time for some tough love and hard truth pills. Here’s the reality of the situation: Your support system isn’t your therapist; your therapist isn’t Superman.

We all know recovery isn’t linear and there are ups and downs, twists and turns, and even resting places on this journey. There will be days when we are not only our own worst enemy, but are a fire-breathing dragon to our friends and support system who may never tell us we are because they love us and want to protect us.

This week has been difficult for a variety of reasons. I’ve struggled with the temptation to self-harm. I’m having to force myself to attempt to process my hard-to-identify emotions, while dealing with my spiked symptoms and destructive behavior, along with depression and anxiety. This is not an easy task. Part of the reason why this is so hard is because of stress. It is also partly due to the fact that my “dark night of the soul” times happen at night when none of my support system is available because they’re sleeping or busy. So, I’m on my own here, which could either be scary or motivating, but that depends on me.

Take Responsibility for Your Mental Health

I don’t mean to sound invalidating but truth of the matter is that your recovery process is your process and your responsibility, no one else’s. I think that’s a pillar missing in the mental health community. Everyone emphasizes having a support system and reaching out to a friend or therapist when you’re in need—and yes, having community and a safe place to take your mask off is important—but what happens when your go-to friend isn’t available to talk you down off the ledge and/or your therapist leaves the office to go home and decompress from his clients? What then? Are you going to let anxiety and depression whisper sweet lies in your ear as you struggle to sleep?

Your friends don’t really care about you; they only tolerate you to be nice. You need to be stronger. You don’t want to be the ‘suicidal friend’ forever, do you? If you tell anyone what you’re thinking/feeling, they’ll hospitalize you and it’ll be all your fault. You’re a burden. Stop whining, you’re making everyone around you uncomfortable. You’re so selfish.

Here’s the Truth of the Matter

Your best friend may be the greatest listener of all time, giving you empathy and compassion galore, but she will, at some point, have to take care of herself and her needs. Likewise, your therapist, despite his caring, gentle nature, may grow calloused of going around the same mountain with you repeatedly. They can’t save you.

Sometimes, you have to walk this journey alone. Learn to sit with your emotions and actually feel them. Color, draw, jam out to music or cook a meal. Avoid your triggers and desensitization. Change your thoughts (I know that’s a hard one). You are going to be okay, with or without a support system.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

For Taylor

None of us clapped
after he read
AN ENTIRE ACT OF SORROW
and I wonder if Rebecca
is the bridge he still can’t burn
which is to say,
if he was there, could he,
would she have allowed him to, be her knight
in shattered armor?

He offered no thanks
after finishing,
like lost gratitude
upon someone waking him
from a most terrible nightmare.

He stood silent before us,
almost like he regretted
that 10-year line,
almost like he was the one
who opened the window,
sent her flailing to death’s kiss.

But speculation,
and even hindsight,
are broken mirrors
giving vision only to that which
is possible but can never be.

Author’s Note: Yesterday, I went to see Taylor Mali read. This is my response to one of his poems, AN ENTIRE ACT OF SORROW. The “knight is shattered armor” line is his.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Viewing God Through the Lens of Trauma

Earlier today, I read through my friend Michael Patton’s post “On Leaving My First Love” and found similarities between where he was years ago and where I find myself now. In it, he speaks of his life’s difficulties, arguing with God, and finally coming to a place of surrender. I am somewhere between pulling myself up by my bootstraps while trying to kinda sorta trust God and giving up completely on everything. This is the comment I left on his blog (unedited):

“Damn dude. I’ve been sitting trying to figure out why I felt tempted to leave God again; this may be part of the reason why. I fell out of love with God when my heart turned bitter. Like you, I still believe in Him, still throw myself into the throes of theology to ease my weary heart, but I don’t trust Him. I haven’t done what Peter told us to do: “set apart the Messiah as Lord in your heart…” 4 years of trauma-induced C-PTSD, mental illness, life stresses… “Trust me,” God says. How can I when my life isn’t going anywhere? I’m trying and praying and hoping for His Word to match my life and… silence. Struggle after struggle, night terror after night terror. What’s the point?”

It is so easy to chalk this up to just “a lack of faith” and go on about my day, but there is so much more to it than that. Or, that’s what I like to think. I just got off the phone with Michael; we talked for an hour and a half about the depression and doubt he experienced when his sister died by suicide several years ago. We also discussed my own spiritual walk and why I feel so disconnected from everything, especially God.

Faith used to be so simple. God says something, I believe it, and that’s it. Any uncertainties I had about the Bible (why would God destroy everything with water?) or the world (why would a good God send people to hell?) was brushed under the rug with the unspoken understanding that God was wiser than I was and in control of everything, so surely, there was no logical reason to question Him…

And then, trauma hit. And with it, an ocean of doubts and questions:

Why didn’t you stop it from happening?

Did you let me go through this just to teach me a lesson or as a medium for someone else’s healing? What kind of sick bastard are you?

Am I damaged goods because of this?

How are you going to heal me from this tragedy? Is healing even possible?

As the months went on and I started experiencing symptoms of PTSD, more questions and doubts emerged, especially after rounds of dealing with well-meaning Christians:

They tell me to “speak those things that be not as though they were” and “God will use this for your good” but I just had the worse panic attack of my life so far. Are you punishing me?

Is my faith weak or nonexistent for not believing you’ll heal me when the hallucinations of my abuser are more real, more constant than your supposedly loving touch?

Are you listening? Do you even care?

It got to the point where my heart just broke because I couldn’t see how a good God could not only allow this to happen but then just sit back and watch the aftermath unfold with not even so much as a whisper of recognition in response. “So, this is who you truly are,” my heart concluded. My anger turned to silent apathy.

~

I told Michael tonight that my heart was dead and that I missed the days of my youth when faith was blind, easy, and I repressed my intellectual side, as it is way easier to relax on the back of Christian theology and apologetics than sit in the lap of God and let Him hold me or whatever. I told him that in looking at God through the lenses of trauma, I was having trouble trusting God’s love, sovereignty, and ultimate plan. His response shook me.

“…Of course, you don’t believe God loves you. Your heart’s broken.”

I interjected. “My heart is dead, Michael.”

He responded. “Your heart’s not dead. Your heart is broken. If your heart was dead, you wouldn’t feel the pain you currently do… God has to be control of everything, otherwise suffering would make no sense… I know a lot of people think that God created them for a specific purpose, to fill some ministry or evangelical hole, or to use them and their suffering for someone else’s benefit, but that’s not why we were created. God created you because He wanted to have a relationship with you—and He was excited about it!—that’s the sole reason…”

I contemplated what he said. “The sole reason God created you was for a relationship, just you and Him.” Somehow that made me feel one thing: betrayed. For the majority of my life, it’s been said to me, either directly or indirectly, that the reason for my existence was to bring God glory AND… There was always something attached to that whether it was “bring God glory AND be a light for someone else” “…AND be involved in ministry” “…AND learn lessons through pain without complaining or losing your faith…” the list goes on. I feel like if someone had sat me down and told me this earlier in my life, I could have saved years of legalistic behavior and religious performance and jumping through hoops in vain attempts to make people like me or appear “spiritually strong” when I was dead inside.

Looking at life, and God, through the lens of trauma is hard. Even when sunshine greets you in the early morning like a long-forgotten friend, you still hold, in the back of your mind, thoughts of escape and every day becomes a survival game where you’re just waiting for the next bad thing to happen. When every day is survival of the fittest and you’re trying to do what you can to move forward, while secretly hoping for a sign that God is actually for you, making the concept of “God is in control” into the background music of a chaotic soundtrack of life is daunting. I guess what I’m trying to say is that even with God being in control and aware of everything that happens, and allowing certain experiences to be had as apart of His unknown will, some things just don’t work out. Death still happens. Toxic environments still exist. People still silently suffer from debilitating depression and anxiety. God owes no one anything and that’s a hard reality to come to terms with, whether you’ve been traumatized or not.

I want to believe. Help my unbelief, Lord.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

An Honest Conversation about Suicide

I did not want to write this, but it needed to be said. This is hard for me. Please give me grace.

An Honest and Vulnerable Prayer

God, please, if You are, at all, merciful like they say You are, like I know You to be, please kill me. Please. I will never ask for anything ever again. Just…please? I can not do this anymore. I just wanna be with You. Is suicide so bad if it means I get to be with You?

This I prayed in hushed whispers between crying and screaming sessions with my tear-stained pillow, off and on for two and a half hours, early Monday morning before the sun made its debut. God did not respond, at least, not like I thought He should, so I sat in silence for a few minutes before continuing.

They say You have a plan, a purpose for every creation You breathe life into. What about me? I can’t find any direction. I’m not needed. I’m just a burden to my family and friends, just a parasite taking up space and resources. Are the PTSD and depression enjoyable to You? Why won’t You just be kind and kill me?

Like Job’s friends should have done for the duration of his suffering, God sat with me in utter silence as I wept and wiped tears on my pillow. Under normal circumstances, having someone sit beside me in silence and understanding, if not empathy, would be comforting, even welcoming. But for God to do it? Somehow, it seemed wrong and cruel, especially since I was, in an albeit roundabout, twisted, and wrong way, searching for peace and an end to my pain.

A Conversation Starter

Despite fleeting moments of happiness and distractions, I’ve been dealing with heavy bouts of suicidal thoughts all week. Don’t worry, I’m not actively suicidal. I’m not gonna kill myself at the end of this. Having an honest conversation about suicide is not easy. It is scary and uncomfortable for both parties, but oftentimes, it is necessary for lives to be changed and saved. More than once, my pastor-friend Michael Patton had to talk me down off the ledge. I truly believe that was God-ordained. He’s got his own family history with suicide, so he’s one of the few people I could trust with this.

The first time Michael had to talk me down, I told him, in no uncertain terms and after reading his post, “Suicidal Thoughts on Suicide,” exactly what I was thinking. I considered the outcome of such a drastic move.

Having an honest conversation about suicide is not easy. It is scary and uncomfortable for both parties, but oftentimes, it is necessary for lives to be changed and saved.

Being Honest about Suicidal Ideation

I told Michael that I didn’t want him or my family and friends to feel pain from my decision. He replied, in his typical fashion, “Well, of course, we would. Sheesh.” I continued to ruminate over possibilities. I gave him examples of what I thought people would say in regards to my death: “Trauma got her.”  “She was such a talented writer…so much potential. It’s a shame she wasted it.” Or my biggest fear: “Maybe she wasn’t a Christian after all.” He disagreed with me about the last one, as I knew he would. What he said next, left me silenced for several minutes.

He said to me, “I don’t know how most of us don’t do it. There are just five things holding us back:

  1. We know it is wrong and we don’t want to go against Him.
  2. Fear of death. No matter how strong we are in the faith, God has built in a healthy fear of death. It will always be there when we think about killing ourselves.
  3. Not wanting to let others down or hurt them.
  4. The slight hope that our sadness will end and we will still find purpose and relevance down the road.
  5. The love of life [love of writing he added later for me]. We are built to love life. It is ingrained in us. And when we think straight, we remember our basis of human instincts and experience (breathing, eating, sex, aesthetics, social interaction, laughter, etc.), no matter how short-lived, bring us pleasure.”

I smirked and told him that 4 and 5 didn’t apply to me because “hope is hard”. He responded in the typical-Michael Patton way: “Well, that’s three of five. It’s settled. You’re not doing it… Man, I should train people for the suicide prevention hotline!”

I could do nothing but laugh and shake my head at him. He had me.

During another conversation that same week, Michael said: “I am so sorry… God will give you the ticket when the time comes [that was a C.S. Lewis reference].” After telling him that I was, essentially, a basket case of stress and anxiety, he went on to say, “I’m sorry. I really don’t know what God’s plans are for you, so I don’t know if it will get better even though I think it will.”

I wholeheartedly appreciated the fact that Michael admitted he did not know if it was going to get better. Many Christians do not do that. Maybe because they are afraid to be weak or wrong in front of other people, I don’t know, but I appreciate Michael not holding his hair back when he threw up” by showing me that he does not know everything, nor does he have all the answers to every question I throw at him.

It is refreshing, but even more so, it gave me a better understanding of the nature of God. Specifically, that He is infinite, while I can, unfortunately, control nothing, not even my own death.

An Interesting Realization

So, by the end of these conversations, I realized one important thing: God did actually respond to my suffering, just not in the way I thought He would. I was expecting an overwhelming sense of peace or an audible voice booming down to me from above, but none of that happened. Instead, God chose to respond to my death wish by using an existing friendship to open my eyes a little wider to get me to see that maybe I’m not alone. Maybe I’m not a failure, maybe I have something to offer to somebody, and maybe, just maybe, He does love me.

Sometimes, or most often than not I think, God heals and speaks to us not by grand gestures in the sky, or with a loud voice, but in the quiet moments, and by the people we already know, love, and trust. He places His wisdom and care in the hearts of men who share His love to those who need it most.

It has been a hard week, and the prayer at the beginning of this post still crossed my mind and made its way past my lips at random intervals, but not as fervent as before. I’m starting to find hope

By God grace, it should be easier to handle as I continue to be have open, honest conversations with the godly people around me who love me and are praying for me.