Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

On the Rare Mornings I Feel Too Much

On the rare mornings I feel too much, my heart slams itself against my trachea and the world nestles hard on my esophagus. It is not unlike a hummingbird flinging itself against a still, sharp, rain-washed window.

On the rare mornings I feel too much, my breathing collapses upon itself, repeatedly, like someone squeezing my cheeks together in a vain attempt to release the smoke inside. Breathe, baby but I can’t. I never can. My brain is on the fastest merry-go-round and I fight to not faint. I fight to remember and remind myself that I am more than one of PTSD’s lovers.

On the rare mornings I feel too much, I feel like I’m betraying J. somehow. I hear his voice instructing me to balance my thoughts, to breathe, to speak truth aloud, but this merry-go-round of death is too quick, too cunning. It knows my soft spots and how to exploit them, so that all I want is to curl up cat-like in my bed that’s always a little too warm—even with the fan on—and never move again. It takes an act of the supernatural to not be afraid on a morning where mantras and breathing techniques prove themselves inadequate. Maybe, if I statue myself, he won’t find me.

On the rare mornings I feel too much, I wonder why my friends are my friends. I question if they only tolerate me. They tell me they love me, but warn me, as subtle as a caterpillar crawls up the flesh of a human arm, to “get over” my trauma because it’s been seven years and “don’t you wanna move past it?” It is seemingly trite advice for a body—a life—massacred by trauma and memories. Or maybe, I’m just projecting my insecurities into places they shouldn’t be.

On the rare mornings I feel too much, I hear my mother quoting the Bible, the part that says, “Be anxious for nothing…” and I want, ever so much, to body slam both her and Jesus.

On the rare mornings I feel too much, I throw myself into the jaws of theology to let my analytical mind escape the acidic rain of my tortured hippocampus, the part of my brain that loops trauma memories on repeat like a good 90s song. I can’t be PTSD’s lover when I’m reading A. W. Tozer and C. S. Lewis.

On the rare mornings I feel too much, the world keeps moving. No one cares. People walk and drive to work, to church, and to the bar. Children are picked up from school or ballet or karate. Wives try to remember who they were before they became mothers, and husbands cook a meal most chefs would envy. I wonder what Heaven tastes like.

On the rare mornings I feel too much, I force myself to cook breakfast, if for no other reason than “my body can’t survive without food.” I watch the sunset in all its glorious wonder and eat whipped cream from the can. I fight to remember and remind myself that I am not one of PTSD’s lovers, and that trauma doesn’t own me.

Posted in Christian Life & Theology, Stuff No One Talks About

Closer Than Your Next Breath: How Self-Reliance Spits in the Face of Grace

We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God. He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts.

A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

I read those words yesterday morning and did little more than agree with them and marvel at the language Tozer uses throughout The Pursuit of God. I wrote a digital note on my Kindle that read: “Help me know, recognize, live in the reality of the fact that You, Lord, are indeed, closer than a breath away.” I breathed then, deeply and intentionally, to illustrate that point to myself. God is closer than our next breath.

Do me a favor and just sit with that for a minute. The God who created the stars, the planets, and every complex system in your body is not far off in some unreachable place up in the clouds, He is here. Closer than your next breath.

I did not feel the weight of Tozer’s words until later.

***

Yesterday was a trying day. I had errands to run and doing them throughout the city on the bus is no easy feat, especially when pressed for time. So when I got home, I ate, slept, ate again upon waking, and then, did the human thing and made a choice to sin. Note I didn’t say I “fell into sin” or “made a mistake.” According to the dictionary, a mistake is defined as “a wrong action or statement proceeding from faulty judgement, inadequate knowledge, or inattention.” That’s not what yesterday’s action was. And for the record, we humans “fall into sin” the way we fall in love—by choice. Nonetheless, I digress.

There is a moment between temptation and the act of sin (or escape). It is in that moment that choices are made, whether beneficial or not. I did not choose the road less traveled; I chose the wide, vast road. I chose self-reliance instead of grace. The Scriptures say that in the flesh “dwells no good thing” and the writer of Proverbs echoes this. In Proverbs 14:12 he writes, “there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” I knew the action I chose to do yesterday was wrong but it did not hit me until I was in the midst of preparing for bed that I had committed more than just the obvious sin I was seeking repentance for. So I repented again. Not for the obvious sin, but for the “lesser known” ones: the sins of omission, namely the sins you don’t know you commit until the Holy Spirit reveals them to you. In relying on my own strength and in my ability to logically think my way through temptation, I, essentially, slammed shut the “way of escape” God provided and ended up with more regret than I could stomach. And that’s when Tozer’s words from the morning hit me.

GOD IS NEARER THAN OUR OWN SOULS, CLOSER THAN OUR OWN SECRET THOUGHTS

When the weight of the inspired theologian’s words hit me, I wanted to hide. I couldn’t of course, because you can’t hide from God—everybody knows that—but I wanted to try anyway.

I didn’t.

Instead, I sat in silence and I felt Him waiting on me. (Imagine that, God waiting on me to speak to Him!) I panicked through my prayer but I finished repenting and ended my prayer with thanks for His ultimate sacrifice: Jesus.

Now, I see that Tozer’s words were not meant as a threat, as if to place fear into the hearts of sinners, but as a reminder to those whose hearts belong to God, as an invitation to intimately know the God who is nearer than our own soul, closer than our next breath.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

The Art of Sexual Grooming

Step 1:
Befriend someone and study her
like scientists examine microscopic organisms
beneath the ocean’s surface.
Learn her likes, dislikes, if she hates her parents and why.

Step 2:
After learning that she’s a loner looking for simple companionship,
start eroding her carefully constructed walls,
break down bricks with warm hugs, a soft hand on her back,
and promises of forever friendship.

Step 3:
Teach her about her body.
Educate her on what it can really do,
the things her mother and school never taught her
because they were “dirty.”
She’ll thank you later.

Step 4:
The first time you put your tongue in her mouth,
she will recoil, but don’t worry.
Persistence is key.

Step 5:
The first, and only, time she is drunk around you,
she will be suicidal and threaten to go to her room downstairs
to cut and bleed to death.
Do not get her help.
Instead, carry her to your room,
and when she starts to thrash about, seeking reprieve in death,
hold her down, grab her wrist (but not too hard),
and introduce her to your manhood.
When she is startled and traumatized enough to be calm,
to stop seeking hope in permanent silence,
remove her hand, sit her upright, and make her orgasm.
Even though she cannot consent,
you’ll think yourself a hero
for preventing her from prematurely dying.

Step 6:
When you force her into the shower
and arouse her against her will,
she will tell you “No.”
Do not stop until she says it two more times.
She’ll see the monster you truly are
but, of course, by then, it’ll be too late.
You’ve got her wrapped around your entire hand.
Congratulations.

~

An Additional Step:
Make her miss you.
She’ll be free of you one day, but not today.
Today, you still affect her.
She will message you on Facebook on an unsuspecting night,
and find you the same way she left you.
There’s no explanation for what she did,
except you groomed her too damn well.

Four years later, and she still feels its effects.
She blocked you afterwards but she still knows by heart
your boa constrictor ways.
She still sees your face in the shadows of her bedroom,
still feel your hands wrongfully claiming her,
but is comforted by the memory of cocoon hugs and tickle fights,
of meals shared and belly-aching laughter
when the world became too much,
which is bat-shit crazy,
but you did your job well.
What else is there to say?

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

A Diagnosis is NOT a Life Sentence

Dear Lovelies,

It’s 4:08 in the morning as I type this. The reason I’m up this early is that I was thinking of the past few years of my life, as it relates to thorns in my flesh. I was thinking about the conversation I had with my friend, and how we agreed that it is distasteful, detrimental, and dangerous to claim a diagnosis that you don’t actually have. On the flip side of that, a diagnosis can be the gateway to healing.

When I got diagnosed with the first thorn in my flesh (aka “mental illness”), it was the second week of my junior year of college, after Labor Day weekend. After telling the male Indian psychologist what had been happening that week, and years prior as far as my thought process was concerned, he diagnosed me with clinical depression. That diagnosis was not surprising. What did surprise me was the way he immediately started pushing antidepressants on me in an extremely aggressive way. It was because of his aggressive approach (and the fact that I prayed for guidance after he momentarily left the room) that I decided against taking antidepressants and went to an on-school counselor instead.

The second thorn in my flesh happened October 30, 2014. That was the day I got diagnosed, officially, with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I say “officially” because my counselor had unofficially diagnosed me with it two days prior after I told her my symptoms. I doubt that conversation would have happened if not for a conversation I had with an out of state friend a week prior. I was telling him about what happened on a particular day, how I had walked out of yet another class because of flashbacks. He simply asked me afterward, “Are you sure you don’t have PTSD?” That was the beginning of a long road to healing. I am forever grateful to him. So, as it stands currently, I’ve had this thorn for 3 years, 2 months, and 5 days. It’s been a wild ride. The first two years were a hellish nightmare because I had no help. My on-campus counselor wasn’t trained in trauma, so for the rest of my junior year and the entirety of my senior year, I was on my own. Things got worse once I left college.

It’s hard enough having a diagnosis, experiencing the symptoms, and not being able to function even with a support team. Take that away, and you feel completely lost and alienated, especially when you’re surrounded by people who don’t necessarily understand the need for psychology and therapy after traumatization. In the summer and fall months following my graduation, I was told by many that I shouldn’t accept or claim the diagnosis I had received, that I was either being tested by God or pursued by Satan, and that I should just pray and read Scripture, which I did, but in the wee hours of the morning when I woke up from nightmares and went straight into a panic attack or flashback, Scripture wasn’t helpful. It helped me when dealing with the spiritual warfare I faced in conjunction with PTSD, but that was it for me. I often felt like if I did experience heavy symptoms that Scripture and prayer couldn’t resolve, then I was simply letting the diagnosis control me; I wasn’t trying hard enough to overcome it. Truth be told, PTSD was controlling me, to the point I couldn’t function, but not because I hadn’t read my Bible and prayed enough. It was because I hadn’t found a therapist yet. I felt like going to therapy was weak and “a white person thing,” certainly not for a Black Christian. I got over that way of thinking real quick when suicidal thoughts became more prevalent.

After being in therapy for almost 1.5 years, I have since learned that a diagnosis is not a life sentence, in and of itself. It only becomes one if you allow it. If you refuse to apply coping mechanisms or do the exercises your therapist gives you, if you just give up, then, yes, your diagnosis has turned into a life sentence and has left you immobile and not able to function. However, if you give life a chance, in the middle of symptoms and diagnoses, you’ll find that you can live. You can make better choices, grow in love and trust, and have a good relationship with yourself in the midst of mental chaos. A diagnosis does not automatically mean a life sentence. Go live.