Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Don’t Drink the Fabuloso: For Suicidal Christians Too Afraid (or Too Condemned) to Ask for Help

Yes, you read the title right. Do not freak out. For my charismatic believers, do not get the holy oil and start speaking in tongues and/or casting out demons that may not actually be there. Just let me explain.

A Brief Synopsis of My Mental State

I am not okay. (Again, do not freak out.) I will be okay, but right now, I’m not. I’m struggling. Between job rejections, lack of sleep, and life, plus the 3-year trauma anniversary of my suicide attempt and subsequent Baker Act that lasts all week starting on Sunday, I am a mess. (For those of you who don’t live in Florida, the Baker Act is what happens when someone, be it a counselor, doctor, or friend, has reason to believe you are a danger to yourself and/or another; and, as a result, you are locked up in a psych ward or mental health care facility for a mandatory 72 hours, or longer depending on arbitrary tests from a psychiatrist on staff. You tend to lose your humanity in there). I was cleaning the kitchen earlier tonight, and as I was hanging the drying towel on a nearby cabinet door, it opened, and my eyes locked with the purple cleaning solution sitting inside. The next words out of my mouth will probably surprise you, they did me after I uttered them: “Don’t drink the Fabuloso.” I sighed a sigh of exasperation and I swear I think Holy Spirit groaned with me, too. The last thing I want is to make the holy Trinity feel my pain.

Trying to Protect the Almighty

That’s an odd thing isn’t it? To think that I could attempt—and succeed—at protecting God from my emotions and suicidal thoughts? I think the reason why many of us do that, or at least I do, and I could be wrong, is because we’ve gotten so used to putting on a mask and pretending that we don’t think about drinking Fabuloso or gulping down sleeping pills with alcohol, or driving our car into the nearest tree to escape the unbearable pain, but that we’ve got all our ducks in a row instead. That’s not how a relationship works. Transparency and vulnerability, especially with God, are necessary for trust and growth.  A Christian apologist and friend of mine, Michael Patton, writes extensively about the value of transparency in his blog. I tend to refer to it often when I need a reminder or encouragement.

The writer of Hebrews says that we always have help in the form of Christ. He writes, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). We should not feel embarrassed or guilty of our suicidal thoughts when our reality becomes too much for us to handle. This is why the safety net of communication with the Triune God is there (and other resources if need be). Even if no one around us understands our struggle, He does.

The Shame of Silence

I think one of the main reasons we try to put on a brave face is because suicide is such a taboo subject in evangelical Christian circles. The only time it’s mentioned is when a Christian, especially a prominent, popular one, chooses to die by suicide; and even then, the topic is not really discussed, but is rather used as a source of gossip and as a tool for condemnation. It is my personal belief that God wants us to be honest about where we are, even if others don’t get it. If Elijah, who was running for his life from Queen Jezebel (aka the Prophet Killer), could be passively suicidal (that is, longing for death but not actually intending to take one’s own life) and admit that to God, who later sent an angel to strengthen him, surely we who are loved fiercely by the same God can follow his footsteps and be real about our situations and thought processes; that’s the only way to recover and heal. The shame of suicidal ideation only controls us if we don’t speak on it. If we sit in silence, out of fear or anything else, then the suicidal ideation festers within us until we see no other way out and by then, it may be too late.

A Final Step: Have Courage

This is supposed to be the part where I tell you that the next immediate step you need to take is to pray for
God to take away your suicidal thoughts, but I’m not going to do that. (I can hear some of you scream “Heresy!” with heavy stones in hand aiming at me; calm down. Don’t stone me yet.)  If you’re like me, prayer don’t always work. At least, not right away. Sometimes, you need a little more than words to reassure you that your life is actually worth something and that’s okay. That doesn’t make you a bad Christian with poor faith, it makes you human. A beloved Christian apologist and father figure once told me, “It takes courage to move from brokenness to greater wholeness,” and I have found his words ring true even now, years later.

So, if you need something more than the quiet presence of God, go find a trusted person in your life, be it a friend, pastor, or (gasp!) a therapist. Put down the alcohol, or pills, or food, or Fabuloso, or whatever you’re using to numb yourself with and start being honest with someone who will understand and help walk you through this difficult season. If you feel you can’t keep yourself safe, maybe consider in-patient hospitalization. Whatever you do, be honest, take your journey one hour at a time if need be, and stay safe.

I love you.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

A Fictional Psychological Scene: Is it Believable?

Dear Lovelies,

I am awake and writing because I have horrible insomnia. I wrote this scene that may or may not go into the novel that I’ve been writing off and on for three years now (For more info about the writing process, you can read here and here). Sexual assault is mentioned and the setting is a mental institution. Consider that your trigger warning.  I wanted to ask: Is this scene believable?

~

“It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I’m not supposed to be here,” I say more to myself than to the psychiatrist sitting in front of me.

“I hear that a lot,” he says with a small chuckle. “You think you’re the first college student I’ve had in this chair?”

I don’t know if he actually wants an answer or not, so I stare at the yellow ducks on his black tie, trying not to squirm in this god awful uncomfortable chair. It’s plastic and navy blue and reminds me way too much of high school. At least there’s no gum stuck to the bottom. I want to tell him everything, and simultaneously, I want to keep my mouth shut. I want him to understand me without lumping me in with the rest of the people he’s seen who resemble my life’s story or age group. Why do I care so much what he thinks? I ask myself, but I already know the answer: I care because he’s the only one here who has the power to discharge me or keep me longer than the mandatory 72 hours; and I’ve already been here for 28 of them. My eyes scan around the room, noticing his accolades, books, and degrees.

He brings me back to the present. “Nicole, I can’t help you if I don’t know what’s wrong.”

I chew the inside of my cheek, while trying to come up with a feasible answer without telling him the whole truth. “I’m just stressed out with school and thinking about life after graduation fills me with a shit ton of anxiety.” He stares at me, his chin resting in his left hand, and I stare at his wedding ring. “Cool ring,” I say because that’s what you do when trying to fill the void of an awkward silence—you ramble. He doesn’t take the bait.

“So, your university counselor thought Baker Acting you would be the best solution to your school stress?”

I nod as nonchalantly as possible.

“I don’t think that’s the whole story,” he says. I swear his eyes soften and his voice grows even gentler than it already was. “Why don’t you tell me the truth? The sooner you do, the faster I can discharge you. Believe it or not, but I don’t want you in here.”

He sounds so fucking sincere, I almost tear up. I pull myself together, though, and offer him a small bone. “I have PTSD from being sexually groomed and assaulted last year for five and a half months.”

“By the same person?”

“Yes.”

A brief pause. What do you say to that? How do you comfort someone who has been hurt in such inexcusable, dehumanizing ways? When he speaks again, it’s to apologize, sympathetically, for my “misfortune.” I don’t respond. Talking about it, even in past tense, is triggering for me, so I start to shut down. The memories float through my head anyway.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Deconstructing Christianity- The Cost of Saying Yes

~For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.” (Luke 14:28-30)~

It would be foolish for one to decide to build a house without the financial means to see the endeavor all the way through. Likewise, it is equally foolish for one to consider being a Christian without considering all of what that means. As someone who has grown up in the church, knows all the Christianese there is to know and can put on a passionate worship display that would rival even the most devout, I find it curious that I never actually considered the cost of Christianity until I became an adult. Maybe because as a child and teenager, the decision was already kind of made for me, being raised in a Christian home and all. That’s just what you do—follow after your parents and don’t question it because they’re wiser, they love you, and have your best interest at heart, right? Following God seemed so much easier when I was 15, as opposed to 25. Maybe because, now, the stakes are higher. Or maybe because I have autonomy and can make decisions on my own. Whatever the reason, I find myself in an interesting place of discovering what saying yes to God actually means.

Prime example: It’s been almost two months since I said yes to God (again) and for the past few days, I have found myself wrestling with this reality: In this life, God owes me absolutely nothing. Meanwhile, I, a finite being, owe him everything. We who have dropped our sinful nature to pick up our crosses (see? church jargon) are not promised easy, comfortable lives, or even good paying, full-time jobs. The only things that are certain are that God’s love is endless, boundless, and powerful and that we will suffer while we live this finite existence.

I am ashamed to admit this but I have wondered if God was worth it or not? Is an invisible Being who is powerful enough to destroy His entire handiwork with water worth being submitted to if He willingly comes down to a tiny speck in a giant galaxy to save His people from themselves and gives them a love that many deemed worthy of their own death? Is it worth it to completely surrender to a God who knows the depth of pain, even if one lives in poverty or experiences life’s worst hardships? Is He worth it if I don’t get the job I want, or if He never, in this lifetime, completely heals me of cerebral palsy or PTSD or anxiety or depression? Is He worth it if I lose everything and everyone I love?

I’d like to say “yes” 100 percent of the time, but I’d be lying if I did that, and I’d rather not do that you, dear Lovelies. I am a fickle being with unstable emotions. Most of the time, and only by His grace, is my answer “yes.” His manuscript instructs us not to waver in faith, but I do sometimes, especially when life gets hard, and life is hard right now. Nonetheless, my heart, deceitful though it may be at times, belongs to Him. I think counting the cost of Christianity is not a one-time event, but a process. When I feel myself wavering, I remind myself of Job, which I’m currently studying, or of past experiences of His kindness and love (like the fire pit experience). The cost of saying yes to God is a great one, but I’m willing to pay the price because the value of what I get in return is much greater than I ever anticipated.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Something Like Love (The Birth of a Flame)

It started or, depending on your view of things, ended Tuesday night. Watching ancient paper documents from long ago employments, along with other things like wood and paper plates, burn in a fire pit in the backyard of my group leader’s house was, for lack of a better word, magical. There’s something intriguing about seeing something decompose right in front of you. You throw a meaningless piece of paper into the fire, waiting for the flame to lick the edges, and soon, it becomes one with the other mass of flammable objects.  Your eyes grow big with wonder and amazement (well, at least mine did) as you stare at nature, seeing the paper transform from a crisp, white thing to a mini cauldron of charred blackness, never to revert again to its original state. It was mesmerizing.

Throughout the night of food and fellowship (and revenge via multiple games of Brazilian Uno), I spent a lot of time by the fire and the one word that would not leave my mind was “altar.” It shouldn’t surprise me that, at this time, I still continued to feel God pursuing me, despite me wanting him to stop. His pursuit of me seemed to increase over this month, though I do not know why.

~

Twelve days ago, in the wee hours of the morning, around 2:35am, something happened. I felt something that I’ve not felt in some time: a prick in my soul that indicated to me that maybe something was wrong with the direction my life’s going, as far as spirituality and purpose are concerned. Call it God touching my heart or conviction, but it felt like someone pinching a sore spot in the middle of my chest. It started with a conversation with my best friend who called to gloat about Taylor Swift’s latest album (she’s convinced she’ll turn me into a Swiftie but that’s never happening). During that conversation, we talked about guys, our parents, and reminisced about our college days. Eventually, the topic turned to Christianity, and Jesus specifically. I asked her how could she still believe in Jesus/God after everything she’s gone through? (Like me, she too has had traumatic and painful experiences in her life.) Her answer surprised me. She said that without God, she would be literally dead and that she would not exist anymore. Also, she explained that one particular experience in her life would not make logical sense if not for spiritual means.

As we talked, I interjected at times with reasons why I felt I couldn’t come back. “I can’t pray,” I told her. “Every time I try, I have a panic attack.” She asked me why would I be afraid of God when he loves me? “Simple,” I responded. “Trying to converse with a divine Being who has the power and ability to snatch the breath out of my body at any given moment is kinda panic-inducing. Just sayin.” She was silent but I could almost hear her eyes rolling in the back of her head as she pondered what I’m sure she thought was a stupid statement. She made me get out of my cozy bed and grab my Bible which was, and still is, on my computer desk. I obliged, not because I saw it as an opportunity to engage God, but merely because she asked and because she is my best friend. Low motivation, but it worked. Every defense I had, she countered with Scripture. I was more than annoyed, but I continued nonetheless. To my surprise, and despite my annoyance, she directed me to various passages of Scripture through what I now know as guidance from Holy Spirit. I know this because there’s no way she would have been able to duplicate that process on her own if I asked her the next morning. There is one passage in particular in Job that stopped me in my tracks and made me so angry I considered ripping my Bible to shreds. I cannot remember the chapter or verses, only my immediate response. I was pissed. I was infuriated, but in my anger, I realized the next morning that I engaged with Scripture, which was her point all along (Mission accomplished, dear friend!).

~

I’ll be honest, I don’t know what’s  going to happen now. I’m still the same analytical, inquisitive person I was before so I doubt I’ll stop being curious and asking questions regarding theology, God, Christianity,  etc. The main emotion I felt Tuesday night while staring at the fire was tiredness. I was tired of feeling empty, miserable, and purposeless. I was tired of consciously engaging in suicidal ideation. I was tired of running away from God, especially with the knowledge that He wasn’t going to stop pursuing me just because I wanted Him to. I did end up having a panic attack though in the middle of worship because, as previously stated, He’s a divine being who could snatch the breath out of my body at any given moment. The trigger was either that or the spiritual abuse I’ve dealt with from other Christians throughout my lifetime. Regardless, after I calmed down and went back outside, I said a silent prayer, in the midst of watching the fire wildly dance through the night, that was basically, “Okay, okay. I hear you, God. I wanna stop running. Can we just start over?” To that prayer, I’d like to add, “You keep telling me to trust you but I don’t know how. You say you love me, but I struggle to believe it. Can you be patient with me while I learn to let you love me?”

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Being in a State of Unicorn

Yesterday, J., my therapist, suggested, in the middle of a conversation, that I write down every emotion I was afraid to face and name while going through this process, this balancing act, of belief. The first thing I wrote down was “confused”. That one came too easily, followed by more expected feelings like “emptiness” and “loneliness.” The last one I wrote was the hardest to write because I didn’t want to admit it; I was afraid of what naming it would do to me (it almost caused a panic attack): “Abandonment.” As stated in my previous blog post, I’ve lost friends and acquaintances while on this journey. It hurts, I’m not gonna lie.

At his request, I sat with those feelings for a minute and just when I thought they’d overwhelm me, he surprised me with another challenge. “Now, look at the top list again. If those things were not present, how would you feel?” The first word that popped into my head was “light” but that didn’t seem like the best descriptive fit, so I wrote “iridescent” and then “peaceful” after that. Again, I had to allow myself to feel those different emotions. I felt free. He later asked me what that felt like, to feel those happy feelings and actually give myself permission to feel them. I told him it felt unicorn.

Tonight, as I cleaned the kitchen, broom in my hands and Katy Perry’s “Roar” in my ears, I felt unicorn. Doing something horribly mundane like sweeping while listening to music made me feel so peaceful. It took me by surprise at first, but then I enjoyed it. It’s hard to retrain your brain, I think, if you’re accustomed to thinking in a certain way, but it’s not impossible. That’s not to say that the hard things in life will be better overnight because of positive thinking, but it’s nice to not have the negativity weighing down so much. So, tonight, my trauma can’t touch me. Tonight, I can express myself without fear. Tonight, I am unicorn.