Making the best…

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Making the best out of what may feel like the worst…

What is your worst?

Maybe it’s…

a night of drunkenness, confusion, and bad choices
a lifetime of neglect or abandonment
a failed marriage
suicidal thoughts or attempts
witnessing or being involved in domestic violence
rape or sexual abuse
murder

Maybe it’s…

financial struggles or bankruptcy
a job loss
the loss of a loved one
infertility
feeling inadequate as a spouse, parent or child
self-hatred
an eating disorder
self-injury

Maybe it’s something else.  Whatever your worst is, please know this truth…

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28

Did you hear that, friend?  You may not believe it right now but will you please read it again and plant that little piece of truth deep in your heart.  I pray that one day, you will believe it.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28

God has not given up on you…even in your worst…especially in your worst!  He is working all things for good.  Even your worst.  That’s a truth to hold tightly.

Your worst doesn’t seem very good, does it?  I know mine doesn’t.

My worst was a childhood filled with physical and sexual abuse, neglect, and abandonment by the very people who were supposed to love, nurture and protect me.  Trust was foreign to me.  Love was engulfed with lies.  Innocence was stolen, striped away.  Years went by and with every day that passed, my shame and guilt grew.  I bore the weight of acts that were never mine to carry.  I retreated into my own little world, building walls all around me.  Those walls kept people out, protected my very fragile heart, and left me incredibly lonely and scared in what I saw as a dangerous world.

Along the way, people came into my life and showed me that life didn’t have to be as scary as I once saw it.  Little by little, I began to see that I could extend a slight be of trust…though never fully…never even close to fully.  But a little was a lot at that point.

Later, my worst led to other worsts including multiple suicide attempts (read here), many years of depression and many thoughts of dying, self-injury (cutting), eating disorders, alcoholism, smoking, promiscuity, and more.  I realize at some point, I had a choice in my actions and trust me, I have paid some pretty big consequences for those choices, but I also believe, had my innocence not been crushed as a little girl, many of those worsts would not have followed.

Today, I am a wife and mother of three amazing kids.  I have been part of a wonderful church family for nearly 16 years.  I am surrounded by some incredibly loving, caring, supportive people.  I am blessed far beyond anything I ever expected.

And you know what?

Life is still hard.

But…

Out of the worst, has come the best.

My worst, though it still leaves me with extremely painful, terrifying, and crippling moments, has also highlighted my bests.  Because of the life I have lived, my heart aches to reach out to others who are hurting, who are broken, who feel damaged and worthless, to pour the love into them that I, at many times, so desperately wanted.  Compassion is something I know well.  My ability to understand pain and to withstand pain is enormous.  I have experienced many things that allow me to be able to relate to so many others in their struggles.

We all have a worst.  Our best just might come from our worst.

In my worst, one of the things I missed the most was my voice.  Innocence was stolen from me and along with it, so was my voice.  For years, I just lived through the abuse, silently.  I couldn’t tell a soul.  I had no one to tell and even if I had told, I feared what would happen.

One night, at the age of 11 years old, I prayed for God to give me the courage to tell…

And He did.

That next day was the first time I told about the sexual abuse I had been living through for years.

Telling did not magically make things better.  Honestly, in many ways, it made things worse.  A lot worse.  Life became more difficult.  That was the first time I believed it was my fault and I began to carry the weight of all the shame and guilt.

I wrote a lot.  It was my outlet, my survival.  I have always loved to write.  I haven’t always written when I should and many of the scary things have never been put into words…even on paper, but I have, over the years, written a lot.  That’s probably why I love this blog so much.  As I’ve said before, for me, writing is like the air I breathe.  It’s a lifeline.

Even though my voice was stolen, I still had words…I could write them.  Someday, I pray He will give me the courage to speak them in front of others.  Through my worst, God has shown me some of my best.  He’s used something so horrible, so dirty, so broken, and turned it into words that have reached deep into the hearts of others.

I teach Bible studies in my church.  I am so unequipped for that but God has been with me every step of the way.  He has used these classes to grow me, teach me, and draw me closer to Him, while also blessing me with the privilege and honor of getting to know some amazing people who saw something in me and took a chance on taking my classes.  I hear many thank you’s, but honestly, I feel like the one receiving all the blessings.

God has given me a voice.  What was once stolen from me, He has made new.  He has given me a platform and a voice and each day, He gives me the courage to step out and use it.  He’s given me a heart of compassion to help others through their own struggles, to reach out to them in their time of need.  I fail often.  I will continue to mess up but my intentions are good.  He gives me grace.  Each and every day, He takes the ugliness of a life gone wrong and shows me the many ways He is making it right.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  Ecclesiastes 3:11

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  Revelation 21:5

He is taking my worst and making something beautiful out of it.

Friend, He wants to do the same for you!

 

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Paper Scrubs and Perspective…

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Paper scrubs. 

You know what I’m talking about, right?  They come in a lovely, muted shade of blue.  They’re large and easy to slip on over clothes.  Many hospitals have them for their staff and patients.

After my suicide attempt last month (read that story here and here), I had the pleasure of donning a couple sets of these paper scrubs.  The first set was in the first ER I visited that morning.  I wore them until I was released and allowed to put on the clothes I had arrived in.

From there, we traveled to another ER where I would later be admitted into the hospitals mental unit.  In that ER, I was so graciously given another pair of blue paper scrubs, only this time, they were ginormous (is that really a word?).  I stepped out of the bathroom and kindly asked the nurse if I could have a smaller pair because these were huge.  She seemed agitated.  Who wouldn’t be in that situation…Overworked.  Underpaid.  A stressful environment.  And a patient who doesn’t value her own life making what, at that point, probably seemed a silly request.  Needless to say, she was not sympathetic to my request.  Those giant blue scrubs were mine.

All of my belongings were taken, including the hat that was hiding my less than clean (glued to my head from 2 day old natural oil and hat head) hair.  I sat in that ER, not in a room, but in the middle of a hallway, wearing my nifty (note sarcasm) blue scrubs and my greasy hair.  I was there with two dear friends who helped me laugh it off and make the most of a pretty scary day.  They didn’t care how I looked.  They loved me anyway.  (Thanks ladies!)

So, those blue scrubs were quite embarrassing.  Nothing screams out of the ordinary than to be the only patient in the ER with paper scrubs on.  They might as well have stamped a big label on the back that said…

“Attempted Suicide = Another Fail!” 

That’s how it felt.  I thought everyone that saw me could see what I’d done and I added that to my mental list of failures.  I was there.  I was alive.  I was just as broken as before.  And now, I was on my way to the mental hospital with awesome paper scrubs, greasy hair, and no dignity.

If that doesn’t encourage the depressed, then what will?!

After a five hour wait in that ER, I was finally taken to the mental hospital building down the street.  I was escorted by two people who spoke very little.  The only thing shy of feeling like a prisoner was the fact that I wasn’t in handcuff’s.  They loaded me into what I like to call a creeper van.  You know the ones you see on TV when the news is reporting a BOLO for a kidnapping.  It’s always an old, creepy 15-passenger van.  Well, this was one of them.

I climb up into the van in my giant scrubs and off we went.

Down the street, we pulled in at the mental hospital.  This was a separate building from the main hospital.  I could make some sarcastic jokes here too but I don’t want to go overboard with that so I’ll leave it be for now.

My sweet friends were able to follow us to that building.  What a blessing they could ride in their own car and not in the creeper van!  So I was escorted by my two quiet guards and dropped off in the waiting area where two ladies met us.  They went through all the rules about what I could and couldn’t have there.  Unfortunately, my awesome App State hoodie, black sweats and tennis shoes didn’t make the cut.  So, off my stuff went along with my friends and I walked through the heavy, no way out of here once you enter, doors in my blue paper scrubs, bright yellow hospital no-skid socks, and my jacket that actually past the approval list (thanks Old Navy for my fleece jacket…it passed!)

Once behind bars, I mean those big locked doors, there was no getting out and things got real.  I was alone.  Sure, there were folks there…but it was late and all the patients were in bed.  I had my vitals checked by one nurse and then was sent to a room with another nurse.  In that room, any dignity I might have managed to tuck in my paper scrubs pocket went out the window when I had to remove them to have all the markings on my body viewed and documented in my chart.  Because I have been a cutter for years, there were many scars marked on the chart.  More shame.  More embarrassment.

At that point, the nurse grabbed a hospital gown.  You know the ones…wrap around, tie in the back, you’re lucky if they don’t show all your glory…yep, that’s the ones!

And in that moment, everything changed.

Perspective changes everything.

Those blue paper scrubs…had been embarrassing.  Humiliating.  They had screamed to all, I thought…

Bad choices.
Stupid.
Crazy.
Worthless.
Criminal.
Garbage.

But in that moment, when the gown became the next option, those blue scrubs were like an outfit right off Rodeo Drive.  No money would have been enough to show the value in them.  After a quick glance at the hospital gown and a moment frozen in fear, I managed to spill out a very desperate and wimpy, “Can I just keep the scrubs?!”

I’m certain she saw the look of terror and heard the sheer desperation in my voice and she kindly agreed that would be okay.  Thank you, God!

Those paper scrubs had just become my saving grace.

Why?  Why had things changed so drastically and so quickly?

Well, let me explain a little something about perspective…

You see, before my clothes were taken, they were my clothes.  They were things I had picked out.  They were comfortable.  They were mine.  When they were taken away and I was given something I had not chosen, I was no longer comfortable.  I was bitter.  I was angry.  They had taken away what belonged to me and there was value in my things.  I saw no value in the paper scrubs they were giving me because in my anger, I felt it was punishment.  I felt like I was being punished by having my own things taken away and substituted with their hideous paper scrubs.

When I went into the mental hospital, I no longer had anything except those blue paper scrubs and my jacket (which had no hood and no strings, mind you, or it too, would have failed the permitted list).  Those scrubs had become all I had.  They were mine.  They weren’t the most comfortable (remember, they were huge…we’re talking I was walking on the legs of them with the waist pulled up to my chest huge.  The shirt hung almost to my knees) but they covered me.  And that was extremely important to me.

I didn’t realize until yesterday why they became so important, why my perspective changed so quickly.

Having experienced what feels like a lifetime of sexual abuse, modesty is not just important, but necessary for me to feel safe.  I can’t sleep without blankets wrapped around me.  I’m not comfortable unless I’m covered.  The idea of wearing that hospital gown was the idea of being exposed.  It sent me back to my childhood and memories of being exposed, fear, terror.  Something as simple as a gown can be such a huge trigger.  In that moment, standing there with that nurse, I imagine she not only saw my terror but she probably couldn’t help but see that helpless little girl begging for protection.  Those blue scrubs became my protection.

Perspective changes everything.

When I had things, the blue scrubs were an embarrassment, something else to be ashamed of.

When I had nothing and was at risk of losing the blue scrubs, they meant the world to me.

That night, I was stripped of everything…

Except the blue paper scrubs.

If I had known a month ago, just how meaningful those paper scrubs would be to me now, I would have kept them.  I would have held onto them as a reminder of the grace and mercy God poured onto me that night as I stood there like a frightened little girl begging to keep the scrubs that no longer screamed of shame and imprisonment but of safety, protection, and comfort.

And later, after I was escorted to my room, once again I was reminded…

Perspective changes everything.

I’m a writer.  It’s my therapy.  It’s like the air I breathe.  Words are my lifeline. 

Remember, I had been stripped of everything shy of the blue paper scrubs and my coat.  I sat on my bed and tears poured from my eyes.  (This in itself is huge.  Before that week, it had been nearly a year since I had cried and even then, they weren’t tears for myself, but for another horrible situation.)  I sat there, talking to God, begging for Him to get me out of that hell, crying out to Him in frustration and anger, believing I didn’t belong there.  Yes, I cried out in anger at God!  I’m pretty sure He can handle it, in fact, I am pretty sure that’s exactly what He wanted me to do.

In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.  Psalm 18:6

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.  Psalm 34:17

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:30

God knew I was desperate, scared, lonely, and angry.  He could handle it…and He did.

He gave me the courage to get up and go ask for a pen and paper.  Now, remember, things are pretty different in the mental hospital because everything that you once had privilege to is now considered a dangerous weapon that you could use to harm yourself.  The nurse kindly handed over a tablet of paper and the guts of pen.  Most folks know I am a huge pen snob (if you ever want to give me a gift, I love all colors and super smooth, lol).  She handed me this tiny three inch stick of ink.  You know what the inside of a pen looks like, right?  Imagine yourself writing with just the inside…not the nice, comfy, hard plastic shell…nope.  At that point, that pen and paper were the most amazing gifts I could have received.  It would do just fine…and it did.

God provided for my needs in that moment.

I went back to my room and wrote for most of the night.  I poured out my heart.  Looking back on those words, they seem silly now but in that moment, they were real.  They were words of hurt, pain, fear, loss, rejection, punishment, imprisonment, shame, embarrassment, regret, anger, and so much more.  Those words were everything and the fact that I was able to write them down and I have them now to look back on…that means everything.

I had nothing…but paper scrubs, a pad and the guts of a pen.

In that moment, I had everything I needed.

And later, when I desperately needed to try to sleep, I thought of Memphis.  He’s this adorable, (worn out and grungy well loved looking) stuffed hound dog that I sleep with every night.  He’s brown and has long floppy ears.  I snuggle him as tight as I can and while I sleep, the two of us are inseparable.  I’ve had him for about 15 years and have slept with him almost every night (shy of the brief period of time when my three children fought over him).  In the hospital, I didn’t have Memphis.  That was one more reminder of all that had been taken from me.  What I did have, was a solid white less than soft, bath towel.  Not to discount Memphis in anyway, but in that moment, that towel became the comfort and safety I so desperately needed in order to allow myself a few minutes of sleep.  I balled up the towel to about the size of Memphis, wrapped my arms around it and cried myself to sleep, still wearing my blue paper scrubs, my coat and resting my head next to my paper and guts of a pen.

I was safe.

I was cared for.

I wasn’t alone.

God had been with me. 

He had provided for me in every way I needed.  He had filled my heart and mind with His word.

I will not die but live and proclaim what the Lord has done.  Psalm 118:17

Which I repeated over and over that night.  I wrote it out on my paper.  He reminded me of the words of a song I had listened to many times in the days leading up to my suicide attempt.  (For King & Country, Shoulders)

“…My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders
Your shoulders…”

He gave me those blue paper scrubs. 
He gave me a pad of paper and the guts of a pen. 
He gave me a plain white towel.

And He gave me a new perspective.  He gave me His eyes to see the gifts these things were.  When I felt everything had been taken away from me, He met me right where I needed Him to.  He opened my eyes…not to what I was missing, but to the gifts He had placed before me when I needed them most.

My words can’t express the emotions and gratefulness I feel from gifts I received that night.  My words will never be enough to say just how amazing it was to feel His presence that night.  It was my darkest moment and yet the most precious moments of realizing just what an amazing and good God was with me that night.

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”  John 6:12

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”  Deuteronomy 31:8

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Thank you God, for saving me.  Thank you for providing in my darkest, most desperate moments…nothing is wasted.

I pray my story reminds you…you are never alone.  He is there, even when you think He isn’t or even when you turn away from Him.  He loves you and is waiting for you to come to Him.

Perspective really does change everything.

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The Fight for My Life…

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I spent months debating the idea of suicide.

I debated and weighed out all the pro’s and con’s.

I thought about my family and my friends, what I thought would be easiest, least painful for them.

What would seem irrational to most made perfect sense to me.

There was a plan and a date.

I wrote a goodbye letter.

And all that time, I kept trying to hold on, to convince myself I was strong enough to keep fighting.  I confided in a close few, just enough to reach out, to not feel completely alone, to have somewhere to turn, just in case.  They loved me through it.  Even though I had been honest enough to tell them I was thinking of dying, I still held back on the deepest feelings.  I still kept them at arms length.  I still pushed them away.

One month ago, I faced the fight of my life.  I’ve already shared most of that story here.  Three times, I was ready to say goodbye and three times, God intervened.  One month ago today, I followed through with the plan to take my own life.  There is no real explanation on why I am still here other than God is not done with me.

Memories of that night, that week, the past months, have played over and over, but especially tonight.  That happens.  Anniversaries become planted in our brains.  When things happen, dates are pressed into our minds and they become triggers of all the emotions we felt.

That night changed my life.

I laid down in my bed, pulled the covers over me and expected to drift off into a peaceful, eternal sleep.

Obviously, since I am here writing to you all, I woke up.  That next morning, a new life emerged from that bed…

A life I did not know how to live.

Things happen.  Life throws some pretty ugly punches sometimes.  We all face hurt and pain and sometimes, it can seem never ending.  I don’t know what I’m doing any more than the next person.  We’re all just trying to survive, trying to make something of our lives, trying to keep breathing.

For months, I had stopped trying to breathe.  And now, I’ve been thrown into this life where I have to actually try to breathe.  It’s the complete opposite of what I’ve become used to doing.  Every breath had become excruciating…and now, I’m expected to just breathe.

This was not the first time I had attempted suicide.  Depression and suicidal thoughts have long plagued this worn out mind of mine.  These thoughts don’t go away overnight.  They don’t magically disappear.

It’s a battle I still fight every single day.

More often than not, it’s a battle I fight multiple times a day.

It’s a daily fight for my life.

In this world and especially in the church, there is a stigma attached to mental illness.  In the church, many think you are simply not praying enough, doing enough, reading enough Scripture, you’ve turned away from God, you’re neck deep in sin, and so on.

That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

I am closer to God than I have ever been.  He has been the one constant, the one consistent source of comfort, strength, and hope.  He has given me everything I’ve needed to prepare me for the moments He was certainly not surprised by.

And the people who witnessed the events of that week back in February saw for themselves some pretty amazing stories that played out that week…stories with no explanation other than God having His hand in it all.

Too often, we expect perfection or at least something close to that.  Even though we know it’s a sinful world filled with hurt and pain, we don’t really allow for suffering.  We say, and I’ve said these many times myself…

Feel better soon.
It will be okay.
Just let it go.
Give it to God.
Get over it.
You just have to move on.
It’s not the end of the world.
Are you still worrying over that?

I could go on and on with the things we say in difficult times.  Most times, we mean well.  Sometimes, we just don’t know what to say, so we say nothing.

Tonight, I’m putting it out there again.  Life has always been hard.  Life is still hard.

When you’re in that place, that place of being ready to give up everything for the sake of ending your pain, nothing can stop you…or at least it couldn’t me.  I did all the right things.  I reached out.  I was honest with people.  I sought help.  I kept myself around people 24/7 like I was told to.  And still, it happened.  The thing was, as honest as I tried to be, I also tried to convince myself I wouldn’t really do it…that it wouldn’t really happen, even though deep inside, I knew I was only lying to myself.

The best thing I could have done to save my own life would have been to first, be honest with myself and second, be fully honest with those I trusted and confided in.  By doing neither of those, I almost lost my life.  If you are in that place…if you are having those thoughts…if you are so overwhelmed by the lack of hope, unbearable pain in your heart, that you can’t imagine facing one more day, admit that to yourself and then admit that to someone who can help you.

People told me I was loved.  I didn’t believe them.
They told me they needed me.  I felt in the way.
Friends showed support.  I felt like a burden.

I doubted that anyone could care that much.

Depression is ugly. 

It plays with your mind.  It clouds your judgement and twists your thoughts.

That week, I spent more time in my Bible and reading Scripture than I ever had.  I prayed.  I cried out to God.  I felt His presence.  It was clear to me, even in that darkness, that He was there.  As each day passed that week, it became more and more clear that He was not finished with me…that I had to fight this fight.

I gave up anyway.

But God…

God never gave up on me.

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.  Proverbs 16:9

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.  Proverbs 19:21

I am here and rather than being in the fight of my life, I am fighting for my life.  It’s a daily battle of fighting through the thoughts that have convinced me…

It’s too hard
The pain will never end
There’s no hope
You’re too much of a burden
You’re in the way
There’s too much hurt

Since then, I have felt just as lonely and unheard as before.  I have kept everyone at a distance just like I did before.  I have continued to keep myself surrounded by people but my heart has still been sealed off.  I have hidden behind a  smiled.  I have told others “I’m okay,” when I know I’m really not.  Not much has changed as far as those things are concerned.

But something has changed.

February changed me.  I’m not the girl I was before then.  I’m desperately clinging to the one source that never left my side.  I was clinging to God before, but now, I’m clinging to Him more than ever.  Instead of turning on music I can relate to, I’m drowning myself in His word…every chance I get.  I’m listening to music that reminds me others are suffering too.  I’m embracing the stories that have poured in…the pain others have shared with me because they found strength to share their own stories after I shared mine.

February taught me so many things.

I have learned that in order to make it through this, I have to fight.  Before, I was ready to give up.  Depression steals your will to fight…but I have to fight anyway.  I have to battle the depression, the thoughts, the feelings…and fight for my life.

God has a plan.

I don’t know His plans.

I do believe I am here for a reason.

We all have a purpose.  We all have a voice.  For now, all I can do is be honest with myself and use my story, my pain, my voice…in the hopes that someone else will hear they matter too.  You matter!  I am fighting for my life and yours is worth the fight too!  Don’t give up.  Fight the fight!

He’s still bringing me back to life.  It’s not an overnight fix.  It’s a process.  It’s growing.  It’s learning.  It’s hard.

But it’s life.

If you are having suicidal thoughts or are in a crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1800-273-TALK (8255).  They have trained counselors available 24/7 to provide free, confidential help.  Seek help.  Call a friend.  Go to your local Emergency Room.  You have nothing to be ashamed of and you deserve help!

A great song to listen to … Ellie Holcomb – “Marvelous Light

“…With years of keeping secrets safe
Wondering if I could change
‘Cause when you’re hiding all alone
Your heart can turn into a stone
And that’s not the way I want to go

So I walk out of the darkness and into the light
From fear of shame into the hope of life
Mercy called my name and made a way to fly
Out of the darkness and into the light…”

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A year later…

The last time I drank a soda was on March 12, 2014.

Today marks one year later.

I don’t miss soda.  At the time, I thought me quitting Diet Coke was nearly impossible.

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Matthew 19:26

Until that point, I literally drank almost two 2 Liters a day.  Yes, two large bottles of Diet Coke, every.single.day.

I do believe the timing was right and God helped me through that.  I had one day of headaches and other than that, no real side effects from coming off soda.  That day, I started drinking water…lots of water.  And now, that’s all I drink except the occasional hot chocolate!

That day also began a weight loss journey for me.  I didn’t really set out to intentionally lose weight.  I think the initial goal was just to make a change.  I don’t even know that I really meant to be healthy.  Like I said, I was just looking for a change.  I started tracking calories, making better food choices and that Friday, on March 14th, I started walking.  My walking quickly increased to longer distances and longer times.  I was averaging about 3 miles a day for nearly 6 months.

From March to sometime in August, I had lost about 55lbs.

Since then, I’ve kind of fluctuated back and forth between 55-60lbs.

I haven’t walked regularly since August but now that the days are longer and the weather is warmer, I hope to get back into a regular routine of walking.

I need to walk.

I need to walk for my health…physically and mentally.

Please excuse the crazy giraffe head in the photo below, lol.  The one on the left was taken at my daughters 4th birthday party in November, 2013.  The one on the right was the same outfit and taken in July 2014.  I had to get all new clothes but I did keep that outfit as a reminder of how far God has brought me.

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So, today is another new journey.  Last year, it was physical health while my mental health was fragile.  It’s still fragile.  It always has been.  Maybe that won’t change…but I know from last year, if I hadn’t had the combination of changes like stopping soda, drinking water, eating better, and walking, I wouldn’t have lost the weight I lost.  It’s time to make better choices for my mental health too.

In this new journey, I’m going to focus more on healthy things for my mind…learning to be more open, share my struggles, focus on God’s power and strength to carry me through these hard times, soak in His word, turn to Him more rather than turning away.

He’s proven over and over this year that He will not abandon me, even in those darkest moments.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake [abandon] you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

I’m going to focus more on His truths.  That’s the direction my life needs to go.  His truth.  Writing.  Teaching.  Speaking.  Family.  Friends.  And God at the center of all of that.  That’s my fresh start on March 12, 2015.

And along this journey, I hope God continues to give me words to share here.  I’d love to see this blog grow.  I’m thankful for the people who’ve been touched by my stories, my life, my sharing.  I hope that continues.  Really, this little place started out mostly just as a journal to myself but it’s been such a blessing to hear from so many who are walking this journey with me.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Do you have any new goals? 

Any new plans that you hope will change you for the better, physically or mentally?

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Simple Words…

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I’m a former firefighter and a firefighter’s wife.

I know the power of simple words…

“Thank you.”

Those are some of the most reassuring and power-filled words…not only for the receiver but also for the giver.

Today, I am extending my own thanks after many “Thank you’s” have poured my way over the past week.

Last week, I shared about the trials I recently faced in my post “Back to Life.”  It wasn’t an easy time and it wasn’t easy sharing about it either.  But I knew, I had to share.  I had to share because my story needed to come from me.  I had to share because God’s story needed to shine through my brokenness.  I needed to share because it was the right thing to do.

In sharing some of the most intimate parts of this messy life, I admit, there was a little concern.

What will people say?
What will they think of me now?
Will they abandon me?
Will they look down on me, think less of me?
Will they forgive me for being broken?

Some of those questions, I realize now, weren’t even necessary.  “Will they forgive me for being broken?”  If you’ve asked yourself that before, don’t.  We are all broken.  Period.  It’s not up to others to fix me…or to judge my brokenness.  We all have dirty, ugly parts.  We all have broken pieces of our lives.  We all need mending.  My brokenness is God’s to heal…and slowly, tenderly, and carefully, He is bringing me back to life.

Today, I want to thank all of you who have poured out your words of understanding, encouragement, support and unconditional love.  I’ve received Facebook messages, emails, blog comments, emails and more emails.  The responses have been overwhelming…good overwhelming.

You’ve shared your stories of encouragement.
You’ve shared your appreciation for my honesty and transparency.
You’ve shared your own heartaches and moments of despair.
You’ve shared your tears.
You’ve shared your wounded, broken places to remind me I’m not alone.
You’ve allowed me to remind you that you’re not alone.
You’ve reassured me that I am on the right path.
You’ve given me a voice and allowed me to use it.
You’ve listened and you’ve heard.

I could go on and on … the list of thank you’s is extensive.  Thank you.

Such simple words cannot express my gratitude.

Three weeks ago, I didn’t think I would see March.  Today, it’s March 11th.  We’re nearly half way through this month.  Three weeks ago, I thought my life was over and I was okay with that. 

Today, I am thankful for the air I breathe.

Today, I am thankful for the words I was able to write last week…the words that spilled from my heart when tears wouldn’t fall…words of desperation, fear, chaos…and blessings…so many blessings.

Today, I am thankful for my faith in a greater power, the One who has saved me time and time again.

Today, I am thankful that He has placed people in my life to help hold me up.

Today, I am thankful that those people are letting Him lead them, that they are choosing to walk this road with me, choosing to encourage, support, and love me.  No one is obligated but they have chosen to be a part of this beautiful mess.

Today, I am thankful for all those near and far who have shared their own pain and grief, who are sharing their own wounds in the hopes we can heal our wounds together.

Today, I am thankful for this life that has been given to me, for the desires He has placed on my heart to speak, write, teach, and love.  I never imagined I would share the scars of my past as I have here…but I do believe God is using and will continue to use all my broken pieces for His good.  For that, I am thankful.

Today, I am thankful that He gives me purpose.  He takes all these ugly parts of my life and is using them for something beautiful.  Hope.

Today, I am thankful He is bringing me back to life.

It’s not easy. 

For weeks now, I’ve asked, “What now, God?  What now?”  Life after a suicide attempt is not easy.  When you are in that place, ready to embrace death, willing to breathe your last excruciating breath and kiss this world goodbye, when you are ready to be in the loving, gentle, safe arms of Jesus, and you face the reality that you’re still here, living this broken, messed up life you tried to run from…well, it’s not easy.

I am learning to breathe.
I am learning to face each day…in a new way.
I am learning to live again.

You see, I couldn’t live the way I did before February 21st, 2015.

I was gasping for air. 
I was drowning. 
I was dying.

I certainly wasn’t living.  There were things that brought me life…joy…happiness.  Those are the things I held tight to the night of February 21st, when I felt more alone than ever…my desire to write, teach and speak, my family and friends, and God.

I am thankful for the Words God had planted in my heart and mind that week.

I will not die but live and proclaim what the Lord has done.  Psalm 118:17

I am thankful for the songs lyrics from For King and Country, “Shoulders” He gave me to remind me I was not alone.

“…My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders
Your shoulders…”

I am thankful for the time He blessed me with the privilege of getting to know some amazing people who were broken and hurting just like me.

I am thankful He brought me home with a fresh perspective on what matters most…on life…on living.

And though there are still doubts (those don’t magically go away over night)…

He has given me hope, not just in today, but in tomorrow. 

Three weeks ago, it hurt too much to think about a tomorrow because it felt that day would not come.  Today, I am thankful that I have hope in tomorrow.

Sweet friends, may I ask you to pray for me and my family…because I am relearning many things.

I am learning how reconnect with those I’ve pulled away from.
I am learning how to love my family and friends again, to let them in, to allow them to love me.
I am learning how to live.

He is bringing me back to life…and I am thankful.

Thank you for being a part of this journey.

Today, I am thankful for Chris Tomlin and his song, “Thank You God for Saving Me.”  Go…listen to it…and think of all the things you can thank God for today!

“…I called your name, you heard my cry
Out of the grave, and into life
My heart is yours, my soul is free
Thank you God for saving me
Thank you God for saving me…”

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Back to Life…

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I am currently leading a Bible study at our church based on the book, Living So That, by Wendy Blight.  If you have not had a chance to read it, add it to your list.  It’s an amazing book digging through Scripture and life.  Wendy does an excellent job taking us on a personal journey of growing closer to God.

Chapter 4 of Living So That is about trials.

We all face trials.  We all deal with suffering, pain, grief, loss, and so much more.  Life is hard. 

I bring this up because the time is right to share this story with you.  I spent last night sharing with my class about this recent trial I faced.  I needed them to hear it from me.  I have spoken with a few other people that I needed to tell face to face.  Now I need you to hear it from me…I need my story to come from me.  (warning…it’s long!)

It’s no surprise to most of you that I struggle with depression.  It’s something I have dealt with most of my life.  My depression is based on circumstances and experiences.  The past year has probably been one of the hardest years but also one of the most rewarding and growing.  Over the past year, as I’ve struggled with my depression, I’ve also dealt with thoughts of death and suicide.  I’ve written about it.  I haven’t hidden that.  I’ve admitted that times are hard.

Today, I’m going to let you in…I’m going to take you on a journey inside the mind of depression and suicide.  My husband says, “Depression steals your will to fight.”  And he’s right.  Depression stole my will to fight.

On Sunday morning, February 15th, I went to church with my children.  My husband was working that day at the fire department.  Admittedly, I sat through Sunday School not really listening to our Sunday School teacher (Sorry David!).  I was distracted.  My thoughts were elsewhere.  My thoughts were on death and dying.  I looked up in the back of my Bible, “Suicide.”  That word is not in there, but death is.  I started flipping through my Bible and reading verses about death and dying.  I read the notes.  I debated those thoughts in my own head.  I wrote in my journal.  I spent the entire hour of Sunday School reading and thinking and about death.

This is not new.  As a person with depression, it’s something I’ve faced many times.

I don’t belong here.
Everyone would be better off without me.
This hurts too much.
I can’t take anymore pain.
I will never heal from this lifetime of hurt.
I can’t keep living this way.
I’m not really living.
Life is too hard.

When you’re in that place, the thoughts of dying make sense.  It’s hard for anyone who’s not there or who hasn’t been there to understand.  While my thoughts may have been irrational, they just made sense.  I believed I could finally be free from this lifetime of pain and at the same time, I believed those that love me would be better off without me.  I was convinced dying was the right answer.

I left Sunday School and hesitantly headed to preaching with my boys.  Our music minister stood up and said, “We may not know what the person next to us is thinking.”  He was right.  I looked around and thought, “He’s right…no one here knows what I’m thinking.”  And I looked around the sanctuary and wondered, “How many other people here are thinking the same thoughts I’m thinking?”  I was thinking of dying. 

I wanted so badly to run up on stage, grab the microphone from Rodney and say, “Stop worrying about how you’re dressed, what you’re hair looks like and how pretty your smile is…let’s get real…people are hurting here!”  But I didn’t.  I wanted to grab my friend Julie and tell her what I was thinking…but depression said, “No!”  I wanted to walk over to my friend Keg, grab her hand and take her out of there so I could tell her what I was thinking…but depression said, “No!”  When my sweet friend, Ambra, came over to hug me, I didn’t want to let go.  I wanted to hold her and tell her what I was thinking…but depression said, “No!”

I had never felt more lonely than that moment, standing in a sea of people in my own church.

Rodney read from Psalm 118.  I can’t tell you now exactly what verses he read that morning but it prompted me to go back and read it in my Bible.  I came to Psalm 118:17 and knew that was exactly where God had directed me that morning.  And later, I would learn why…

I will not die but live and will proclaim what the Lord has done.  Psalm 118:17

That was the verse I read on the morning when I was preparing to die, just moments after Rodney had said to a church full of people, “We may not know what the person next to us is thinking.”  I will never forget that morning.  I had not wanted to be there but there was a reason I was there.  That morning, our pastor preached a sermon on…suffering.  I may not have wanted to be there but I needed to be there.  I needed to hear that message.  I needed to hear that verse. 

The day went on as usual but the thoughts did not go away.  In fact, by that evening, I was convinced that Friday would be the day I would say goodbye.  I was certain.  I was sure.  I had peace about it.

Monday morning, February 16th, I spoke with my best friend, Jennifer.  She reminded me that they were coming to our house for some family fun time Friday evening.  I love them all dearly but I was not thrilled about them coming.  It was messing up my plans.  She had no idea what I had been thinking and I had no intentions of telling anyone.  I thought out the rest of my week and realized I had commitments or appointments every day except that Monday so I thought to myself, “Well, it’s just going to have to be today.”  By that evening, I was ready.  My kids went to bed.  My husband went to shower.  I went to the kitchen and grabbed a mixture of pills.  I had been sitting in the living room that evening reading Chapter 4 from Living So That and reading Scripture.  I sat back down next to my Bible.  Three times, I prepared to take the pills and three times, God intervened.

First, my therapist emailed and I asked her if we could talk by phone.  She agreed and she called but I couldn’t tell her what I was thinking.  I had stuffed the pills in my Bible until after I finished talking to her.

Next, I opened up my Bible to read where I had stuck the pills.  It was Deuteronomy and I thought, “I am not reading there.”  But there was a letter tucked into that same page.  It was something my middle son, Caleb, had written back in November about the things he was thankful for…me being included.  The last sentence of his letter said, “These are the most important things and would be terrible to live without.”  I put them back in my Bible.

A little bit later, I was ready again.  I held the pills in my hand and was just about to take them when I heard my husband coming into the room.  I quickly shoved them back into my Bible.  I was angry.  I grabbed all my stuff and headed for the bedroom.  It was bedtime.  My plan had failed.

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.  Proverbs 19:21

The next morning, our kids were home due to an ice/snow storm.  We played outside and while we had a great time, I couldn’t stop thinking about how differently their day could have been.  I also couldn’t stop thinking about the thoughts.  I kept thinking the thoughts would stop, they would go away, it was all behind me…but it wasn’t.  That afternoon, I met with friends, Keg and Julie.  I had no intentions of telling them what I’d been thinking or done.  I was determined not to tell anyone.  I couldn’t.  Partly, I didn’t want to admit it and partly, I didn’t want anyone stopping me.  When I met with them, they could tell something wasn’t right.  My sweet friend, Julie, wouldn’t let up.  She kept asking until I finally told them.  The encouraged me to talk to my therapist and to be honest with her.  They supported me.  The loved me in spite of me and my choices.  They loved me through it all, unconditionally.  Everyone deserves that.  Everyone needs that.  I needed that.

I met with my therapist that Thursday afternoon and I told her all about Sunday and Monday.  And I cried with her.  For those of you that know me, you know I don’t cry…rarely.  I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve really cried.  That day, as I told her about wanting to die and how I had it all planned out, I cried, big, heavy tears.  Of course she was concerned and insisted I have someone with me at all times for the next few days.  I agreed.

Friday morning, I met with my friend, Keg, at a local coffee shop.  We worked on our Bible study from Living So That.  Over and over, we saw connections with the Bible study and the things that had transpired in my life that week.  It was clear how God was working, how He was present through it all.  I felt hopeful…yet at the same time, my thoughts still clouded, still heavy.  My therapist called to check on me.  I still couldn’t tell her I was okay.  I didn’t feel okay but I wasn’t really sure what I was feeling.  I had some extra pills I was supposed to give to my husband…but I didn’t.  Instead, I stuck them in my purse with others, just in case.  I still thought it was all behind me.  I tried to believe that.  That evening, our friends came over for our family night.  We enjoyed our time with them but I’m sure Jennifer could tell something wasn’t right with me.  Finally, we had a chance to talk.  I shared with her about the week.  Like Keg and Julie had, Jennifer loved me through it.  She was concerned for me but she was thankful I was sharing with her and I was alive.  She loved me unconditionally.  I didn’t tell her the thoughts hadn’t gone away.  I couldn’t tell anyone.  They left our home a little after 11p and we all headed to bed.  Tony laid down.  The lights were off…I grabbed the bundle of pills from my purse.  I can’t tell you where I was when I swallowed them…I’m not sure if I was in the bedroom, the bathroom or the kitchen, but I swallowed them.  I didn’t tell anyone.  I laid down in my bed and expected to not wake up.  I didn’t really think beyond that.  I didn’t need to.  I had thought about this for months.  I was ready.

Depression is an ugly thing.  It clouds every thought but in such a way that is so convincing.  I said it before…those thoughts make so much sense to the person going through it.  It affects how you view yourself, how you feel about others, your inability to function in healthy ways and make appropriate or healthy choices.  I could hold it together.  From the outside, I looked okay..and sounded okay.  I’ve spent my whole life perfecting an appearance that “I’m okay” because I’ve had to.  I was always alone.  I had to take care of myself growing up.  I had to be okay just to survive.  I learned to shut off feelings, to shut them out.  I learned to push people away.  I learned to say the right things so that I always appeared “Okay.”  Now was no different.  Though I had opened up to a few and admitted my struggles, I still kept them at a distance and withheld my deepest thoughts.  Depression was killing me.

Saturday morning, February 21st, my husband woke me up to tell me goodbye as he left for work.  That was about 7:30a.  I didn’t tell him what I’d done but as soon as he left, panic overtook me.  I was scared.  What had I done?  And I was alive…I wasn’t supposed to be alive, I thought.  This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen.  I hadn’t gotten sick.  I hadn’t felt anything.  Nothing happened.  Nothing…and I thought, “Now what?”  Concerns were…

How long does it take for these pills to take effect? 
Are my kids going to see me suffering now? 
Am I going to get sick? 
What’s going on with my body now? 
Am I dying and just don’t know it yet? 
Should I go to the hospital? 
Should I tell what I’ve done?

I called my husband at work and told him what I’d done.  He didn’t get angry but he was concerned.  He told me to call my therapist and see what she thought I should do.  I called her.  She told me to go to the hospital.  Tony came home from work and stayed with the kids while my friend Julie took me to the hospital and we were later met there by another friend, Keg.  We were there nearly all day…from around 830a until about 4p.  Between the doctor and a social worker, I was cleared … mostly based on the idea that I would go to another hospital that had a mental unit where I would check myself in.  Keg and Julie drove me to another hospital where we had to wait in yet another ER.  We spent about 5 hours in that ER before I was transported to the mental hospital a block away.

I was scared.  I had no idea what to expect.  I was worried about people finding out.  I was afraid of what others would think, how I would be judged, condemned, criticized.  I was afraid that I would lose the opportunity to continue teaching Bible studies.  I was afraid people would deem me inadequate…for having a broken mind…for having so much pain that I was ready to give up on life.  It wasn’t fair that those were my concerns…but in a world where mental illness carries such a stigma, that’s what we face, on top of the struggles that are already too heavy.

At the mental hospital, I was stripped of everything…my jewelry, my clothes, my hat, my shoes, everything.  I walked through those doors with nothing of my own except the bra and panties I wore underneath paper scrubs and my coat.  The doors locked behind me.  I had no idea when I would get out or what kind of life I would face in there and after I left there.

It was late.  All the other patients in my unit were already in the bed.  I had no clue what kind of people I would be there with.  I didn’t know what to expect.  A nurse checked my vitals.  Another nurse took me in an office to ask me questions.  There, I was stripped and all the markings on my body were marked in my chart.  I’ve been a cutter since I was 14 so every scar on my arms and legs was marked on this chart.  It was humiliating but I understood it had to be done.  I was there for protection.  They had to ensure my safety and part of that was in knowing about my cuts and ensuring I didn’t do anymore harm to myself while I was there.  I was sent to my room…a cold, dark, lonely room.  I thought about that Sunday, when I had stood in that sea of people and felt more alone than ever…until this night.  I was truly alone.  I had no one to talk to.  I was scared.  I was physically alone.  I had been stripped of everything…even my dignity. 

But God…God never abandoned me.  Those words he had planted in my heart and mind that Sunday morning…they replayed over and over in my head…

I will not die but live and proclaim what the Lord has done.  Psalm 118:17

I asked the nurse if I could have a pen and paper.  Now, if you’ve never been in a mental hospital, you may not know this but when they give you a pen, it’s not a real pen.  It’s about 3 inches long and not much more than the ink portion of the pen.  Me, being the writer and pen snob I am, had to adjust quickly and be thankful that I, at least, had something I could write with.  In that moment, that pen and pad of paper meant more to me than anything.  I was beyond grateful.

I wrote page after page that night as I sat in my dark room, alone.  I wrote about my fears.  I wrote about wanting to hug my children.  I wrote about the things that mattered most and how God had brought me there to show me what mattered most…writing, teaching, friends, family, and God as the center of them all.  I wrote that in my little make shift journal with my nothing of a pen…but that night, that pad and pen were everything.  I poured my heart out to God!

I wrote that verse…I will not die but live and proclaim what the Lord has done.  I cried.  I cried out of fear.  I cried because I missed my life…the life I had tried to run away from.

And then the lyrics of a song God had planted in my heart and mind came up… (For King & Country – Shoulders)

When confusion’s my companion
And despair holds me for ransom
I will feel no fear
I know that You are near

When I’m caught deep in the valley
With chaos for my company
I’ll find my comfort here
‘Cause I know that You are near

My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders
Your shoulders

Those words and God’s words brought me comfort that night.  I can’t think of a more fitting verse or song.  God knew exactly what I would need.  When I had been stripped of everything and everyone, God was there.  He didn’t abandon me.  His words brought me comfort.  I didn’t have a Bible.  I didn’t have a radio.  But I had those words planted in my heart.  He had given me those words when I needed them most.  I was not alone.

That morning wasn’t any easier.  I was still a mess.  I was still crying.  I was still scared.  I missed my kids.  I missed my life.  I missed my freedom.  I felt like a prisoner…trapped in this hospital and trapped in my own world of desperation and hopelessness.  I begged my therapist to get me out of there.  I needed to go home.  I learned quickly to put back on my “okay” mask so I could get out of there…and that’s exactly what I did.  Tony was able to come visit me that day at 1p.  It was so great to see him…and to make things even better, he brought me real clothes that I could wear!  I had no idea how great it felt to wear my own clothes (instead of paper scrubs) until they had been taken away from me.  Once I put on my own clothes, I felt like a new person.  I met with the doctor that afternoon and he asked me a ton of questions.  I answered them beautifully…because I had to get out of there.  I didn’t lie to him…but I wasn’t fully honest with him either.  I just answered what I needed to in order to get out.  He said I could go home in a day or two and at that point, I knew I could make it that long.  I was ready.

I spent the rest of my time there getting to know the other patients.  They weren’t freaks.  They weren’t scary.  They were broken people just like me.  In our unit, we were all there for the same reason…we had all tried to take our own lives.  Twelve of us…but these hospitals stay full…so there are many more.  As Rodney said on Sunday morning, February 15th, “We may not know what the person next to us is thinking.”  Like the person at the drive thru window of a fast food restaurant, the person in front of us at the check out line at Walmart, our child’s teacher, our own pastor, a family member, a neighbor, our spouse or child, anyone…any of these twelve could be anyone.  They are normal people.  We all face trials.  We all face suffering.  We are all at risk for depression, brokenness, and in need of help.

That weekend, I met…

A young man who’s father had abandoned his mother and four children.  They were now struggling to survive.
A nurse who had felt so much grief and loss that she held a gun to her head.
A middle aged woman who felt she could never be good enough or do enough as a Christian woman.
A young man who, as a young boy, had found his father’s badly decomposed body.
A teenage girl raising her own three year old and two siblings after losing her mother to cancer.
A mother of two boys who’s husband was leaving them.
A middle aged woman and former Christian school teacher who didn’t know what to believe anymore.
A teenage girl struggling with an addiction to drugs while raising her one year old son.
A young woman, also struggling with drugs, who had lost custody of her two daughters.
An elderly woman who’s mind wasn’t working quite right anymore.
A middle aged man who had simply lost his way.

They were real people.  They came from normal lives…just like you and me.  It was simply more than they could handle.  How alone did they feel?  Here I am, a wife, mother, friend, and Bible study teacher and I felt incredibly alone in a sea of people.  Did these people have anyone?  If they didn’t, how much more alone did they feel than I felt?  I have support.  I have friends who have shown me over and over they aren’t going anywhere.  I have a church family that loves me and supports me.  I have people encouraging me and telling me they are there for me.

And yet, I felt so incredibly alone.

As my husband said, “Depression steals your will to fight.”  And it had.  But that wasn’t the only thing it stole.  It stole my desire to seek help, to reach out, to find comfort, to trust others, to be honest about my struggles.  It stole my hope in humanity and in life.  It filled my head with clouded judgement…lies that made sense.  Depression is not something we can just magically wave a wand and say, “Be gone.”  It’s an illness…just like cancer, just like heart disease, just like diabetes, just like anything that affects your body.  Depression has affected my whole life.  Depression stole my desire to love my family.  For months, I had shut out and pulled away from my own husband and children.  Now, I have to learn to reconnect with them.  I have to force myself to allow them back into my heart.  Depression says, “I don’t want to do that,” but this is what I have to fight through.  I have to fight to survive.

I wrote yesterday about our dear friend, Brad, who passed away on February 21st from cancer.  Brad’s lesson to me is to keep fighting.  Even when I don’t want to, I have to keep fighting.  He continues to remind me the fight is worth it.  God will use this.  God will do something with all this pain, all this suffering.  God will use it…maybe to remind someone else they are not alone.  To tell someone else, “The fight is worth it.”  Maybe to give someone else hope.  That’s why I’m here.  I have to believe that.

Those people I met in the hospital were a gift to me in many ways.  They reminded me I wasn’t alone…but they also opened my eyes to mental illness.  Being someone who’s suffered with depression her whole life, you’d think I wouldn’t be one of the ones that adds to the stigma but even I had feared the people I would meet in the mental hospital.  Even I had judged them.  And I was just like them.  I was wrong.  They are good people…with broken hearts, broken minds.  They need compassion, understanding, support and love.

Monday morning, February 23rd, before I was scheduled to be released, our unit met in the TV room for some group time.  It was a morning of great discussion.  Everyone chimed in.  We talked about the stigma of mental illness, how alone we all felt.  We shared and learned that we all had the same feelings.  Each of our stories were different.  We had all come from different lives, different ages, different upbringings, but our pain and our grief was the same.  We had all lost hope.  We had all experienced incredible pain and suffering.  We could understand each other.  We weren’t alone.

We got a Bible from the nurses desk…a Gideon Bible.  I have to tell you this story.  I’ve never been a fan of Gideon Sunday…when the guys do the sermon that day and it’s all about how the Gideon Bible is used and changes lives.  Honestly, it simply never mattered to me.  I never thought I would be in a place where I would need a Gideon Bible.  But there I was, desperate for God’s word and what did they give…a Gideon Bible…with the dark blue cover.  We brought that Bible into the TV room and I started underling the verses I that I had been reciting over and over.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  2 Corinthians 10:5

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  2 Corinthians 12:9

I am torn between the two:  I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith.  Philippians 1:23-25

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.  1 Peter 4:12-13

If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.  1 Peter 4:16

And the verse I held tight to that Saturday night as I battled between life and death…

I will not die but live and proclaim what the Lord has done.  Psalm 118:17

Suddenly, that Gideon Bible meant more to me than I could have ever imagined.  A group of us started reading aloud from Psalm 118.  We read in front of the rest of the group.  One young man said, “I don’t believe in anything,” but he sat there beside me and read those verses with us.  I had the opportunity to talk to him, to ask him questions.  He assured me he’d read in the Bible and it didn’t apply to his life.  I encouraged him to read it again.

God used that time…not only to heal some of my own wounds, to remind me of what matters most, but also to encourage others.  I am not ashamed of what I’ve done or where I’ve been.  God is using this.  God will use this.  This is my story…of coming back to life.  I’ve been dead.  I’ve prayed for death.  I’ve begged God to take me away.  All this time, I’ve cried out to Him in desperation to be free from this pain and all this time, I’ve known He’s got a plan for all of this, believing there is purpose in my suffering.  I don’t regret going to the hospital.  And I don’t regret how things happened that difficult week back in February.  God taught me so much about myself, people, how to live, what matters most, and more.  He didn’t abandon me.  He gave me strength, courage, and hope when I needed it most.

On the morning of February 21st, I thought I would not wake up.  I am here today because God is not done with my story.  There is no other explanation.  I have to believe that.

Does it make everything easy now?  No!  Far from it.

I came home a changed person.  When I walked out of the hospital that Monday morning, February 23rd, I walked into a freedom that I no longer understood.  I walked back into a life I wasn’t sure how to live or if I even wanted to live.  I had been stripped of everything in the hospital…to ensure my safety…and walking out, I was given back all the things I’d once seen as privileged only now, I could no longer view them that way.  They were now weapons I had used to harm myself.  Things as simple as sitting down in a restaurant and having access to a knife.  Or coming home to my hair dryer and straightener…both tools I use daily and now, I saw my straightener as a weapon I’d used to burn myself.  My view of people had changed.  Now, I look at people and wonder…

What pain are they hiding?
How can I help them?
What can I say to give them hope?
Do they know they are never alone?
Do they know they matter?

That week changed me.  I will never be the person I was before then.  While it was traumatic and scary, while I had hit rock bottom, God was my rock.  God was the foundation I fell upon.  He comforted me when no one else could.  His words filled my mind when no other sounds came.  His words filled my heart when nothing else could.  I feel closer to him than ever.  Through this darkness, through this painful journey, He’s only drawn me closer to Him, to a place where, when I had nothing else, He was what mattered.

This is why I share with you today…

I will not die but live and proclaim what the Lord has done.  Psalm 118:17

If by my sharing…

Someone finds hope.
Someone is reminded they are not alone.
Someone believes they can make it through one more day.
Someone reaches out.
Someones decides to press on.
Someone finds their will to fight.

Then it will all be worth it.  My suffering and my pain means nothing if I am too afraid to share it.  I am not ashamed.  I am not afraid.  What can man do to me that hasn’t already been done?  What can anyone say that I haven’t already said to myself?  Nothing.  No one can deny or take away from me, the fact that in those darkest moments, my faith is what carried me through.  My dependance on God, His word planted in my heart and mind, songs of Him being with me, are what got me through.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

That’s just it…I have to be honest and share because God will use my pain and my suffering in order to comfort someone else with the same comfort He’s given me.

He prepared me for this trial. 
He is bringing me back to life.
He is worthy of praise.

If you are having suicidal thoughts or are in a crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1800-273-TALK (8255).  They have trained counselors available 24/7 to provide free, confidential help.  Seek help.  Call a friend.  Go to your local Emergency Room.  You have nothing to be ashamed of and you deserve help!

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