Tag Archives: Grief

A Raging River…

>>>>> Yes, this post is incredibly long…what do you expect when it’s been so long since I posted. Don’t click away. Bear with me, read it until the end. Please. <<<<<

2017 Raging River

The past few days have been quite overwhelming. Change is inevitable yet so often, difficult to accept. Loss is painful, excruciating. This sums it up…

Life.

Let’s say you’re on a journey. We each have a different path. Some have flowers and butterflies early on and some have briars and thorns. Maybe some have briars and thorns the whole way. Let’s say the briars and thorns are the hurt, pain, and trauma that stings, cuts, and scrapes like the briars. Then you make it to a river. It’s fierce. It’s scary. You know to get to the path on the other side, free from the briars and thorns, you’ve got to cross the raging waters. And let’s say therapy is the stones laid out before you. You just have to take the step. You make it to the first one, catch your balance, plan out your next step and prepare to move forward. Some stones may be slippery. You may twist your ankle. It’s not an easy crossing but you press on. You step to the next stone, getting closer and closer to the other side.

The let’s say grief gets in the way. Grief over loss, losing the stones. It stops you in your tracks. There aren’t anymore stones laid out for you to step across. All you see is raging waters. You feel the sting of cold water splashing against your scraped and scratched up legs. You feel lost and alone. You wonder if there is hope…but as you glance back at the stones you’ve crossed, you’re reminded there is hope. You found it a few stones back.

Where do you go from there?

Your journey halts. You’re stuck on that stone for who knows how long while the water crashes around you. It’s overwhelming. It’s painful. It’s scary. You beg for more stones. You cry out for stones from the deepest part of your heart. But the stones are gone. How do you get across. How do you reach the other side without drowning?

You know it will happen…you just don’t know how. You know it won’t be with those stones and that is where grief has settled in. Maybe you’ll fall a few times. Maybe you’ll get soaked but you’ve made it far enough to know the river won’t take you.

Where is your path leading you? Are you headed through flowers and butterflies or are you tangled in the briars? Are you safe on a stone or treading water just to breathe? Or have you crossed the river and reached the other side, with soft green grass, the shade and protection of a giant weeping willow tree, a cool, gentle breeze, and a place to rest, where you can look back and see just how far you’ve come?

I wrote that sometime last night. Words usually come easy for me but the ability to accurately explain my feelings, well, not so much. This seemed clear enough to create a visual of what I’ve been feeling.

Why all this? I do want to offer an explanation. I owe that to myself.

Abandonment.
Abuse.
The insecurity of home.
The lack of support, love, and nurturing.
A childhood lost.
A girl growing in a world alone, a world that has mostly been cruel.

If your own mother and father don’t love you, why would anyone else?

That is a question I’ve asked over and over again. A parent’s role in a child’s life involves love, nurturing, protection, direction, guidance, support, and so much more. Those are things that can’t be replaced by another person. It’s an ugly fact.

I’ve bounced from house to house, never really feeling home.

Abuse.
Foster care.
Grandparents.
Homeless.

I’ve been in and out of therapy since around age 11. At 15, I wanted nothing to do with the therapist the courts ordered me to see. I was stone cold hard. My walls were so high, no one could touch me. It was great. And it was lonely.

At 19, after losing the one person I knew without a doubt loved me, my Papa, a part of me died with him. He was the only person that had given me a reason to live all those years. He was the one person who taught me what real love looked like, how to be kind and respectful, and how to love others unconditionally.

At that point, life became careless. I was a firefighter. Back then, female firefighters were rare. I loved that. I loved being the tough girl. I loved the idea that I could step into a burning house, with flames all around me and knowing they couldn’t touch me. I embraced the idea that I would gladly give my life in order to save someone else. In fact, I wanted to.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2

And today, twenty years later, I can say there have been many times that I ached to find home. Not a home this world can offer, but an eternal home where there is no more pain and suffering.

Admittedly, I’ve attempted to take my own life. Several times. And yet, here I am. I look around and see raging waters. But I also see the path continues. I’ve learned that somehow, I’ll find a way.

So, where I am today is in the midst of grief. They say being able to feel is a part of healing. Well, I must have done a lot of healing in the past few years because I’m definitely feeling this. It’s heavy. It feels like I’m choking. It feels like there are rocks in my lungs. It feels like I’m covered by a blanket waiting to be smothered. It’s incredible pain. I’ve never known pain like this because I was never able to feel like this.

Over the past four years, I have been seeing a therapist. She’s the last of a long list of attempts to break through my walls…and she did. No one else had been able to do that. Not because they couldn’t but because I couldn’t let them. I couldn’t trust. I could talk about my past and all the wrongs but I couldn’t feel. No one could knock down the walls that kept me safe from the pain of the world around me.

Kara did. I don’t know how she did. She says I did the work.

Therapy is an odd thing. My opinion of it has changed frequently and probably will continue to change. In many ways, it’s amazing. You have the opportunity to share anything without judgment. Without anger. Without being punished. Now, don’t get me wrong…that doesn’t come easy. It takes a long time to learn that it’s a relationship where it’s safe enough to trust. A LONG TIME! (for me anyway)

But when you find that person, the one who can really see you, the one who lets you know it’s okay to breathe, the one that reminds you, you’re not alone, the one that bears ALL your secrets, the one that has loved you in spite of all you’ve been, done, and are…when you find that one, it means the world to you.

Kara isn’t perfect. She’s not some magical creature with a wand that wipes away all the wrong of the world. Nope, she’s pretty normal. She’s just a regular human being who struggles like the rest of us but we clicked. She taught me to trust. That was something I’d never been able to do.

She taught me…

to trust – that taking the chance can be worth it.
to believe – to believe I am strong, worthy, lovable, wanted.
to seek hope – that even in the darkest moments, hope is there.
to love – to love myself, to see my worth, to know myself.
to dream – to imagine where I would be when I made it to the other side.
to embrace – to seek truth and embrace it.
to grow – that I didn’t have to be afraid of who I would become.
to change – to bring truth in to erase all the lies I’d believed.
to feel – that it would hurt like hell but it would be so worth it.

And that’s where I am. I am feeling. I am grieving. When my Papa died, back in 1997, I cried off and on for three days and didn’t speak to anyone. I felt dead inside. That was about all I could feel. I wanted to die with him. I was numb. I was lost. I was alone. I wasn’t able to grieve because I had no idea how to really feel anything other than empty.

Grief sucks! Plain and simple – it absolutely hurts like hell. Losing someone who has meant the world to you, by death or by the end of a relationship is incredibly hard.

Two days ago, Kara told me she’s leaving her position in a private counseling setting and heading into the school system. It’s what is best for her and her family. It wasn’t an easy choice, but one she had to make, none the less. I care greatly for her and want the best for her and her family…I just wish I could be a part of her best.

I was/am devastated. DEVASTATED.

This woman, the one who knocked down my walls, helped me learn to breathe, taught me to find hope, and to press on, to fight death and find life…she’s leaving me. And all I can think of is I knew this would happen. Everyone leaves.

A father who never cared enough to even meet his daughter.
A mother who chose the man who sexually abused me for years, rather than her own daughter.
Teachers who cared but couldn’t realistically move on to the next grade with you, every year.
Lawyers, advocates, foster parents, friends, houses, family, etc.
A grandma, who much like myself, bounced between emotions, never really being able to express unconditional love, but rather love based solely on conditions, and fits of rage and anger.
A Papa who meant the world to a little girl who had no one else, who had the hands of strength, the heart full of love and compassion, a presence of the only thing safe in the world.

Whether by death or by walking away, the people that have mattered most, who have cared most, who were supposed to love, protect, encourage, support, etc. – they all leave.

And that’s where I’m at.
Kara is leaving.

I know it’s not the same. I know she truly cared. She’s dedicated four years of her own life and time to helping me. She’s put in countless hours of watching me stumble over words, back track on progress, question everything she’s said, argue or debate her truths vs. my truths, and lately, she’s watched me cry.

For years, pretty much all my life, crying wasn’t an option. Crying wasn’t safe. Crying made things worse. Crying meant something was wrong. Crying meant you weren’t strong enough.

But Kara taught me it was okay to cry.
She taught me I was safe with her and it was safe to cry with her.

She never took advantage of my vulnerability and what I viewed as a weakness. She viewed it as strength. Progress, she would say.

I can’t tell you the exact day when I first cried with Kara. I can tell you it wasn’t that long ago. It’s only been within maybe the last year that I really felt like I was stepping across the stones that created a path to somewhere better. And she was walking with me. Holding my hand. Offering hugs, when I was able to ask.

You may wonder, why is it a loss? It’s not like she died and is gone forever.

But it is a loss. That’s where the ugly part of therapy comes in…

Kara always said the therapist/client relationship is like no other. It’s complicated. There are ethics and boundaries she has to adhere to for my own good, but they are incredibly difficult to accept and understand. You’d think just the fact you’ve spent so much time with one another, that would be enough, but it’s not. Ethics, boundaries and the design of the therapeutic relationship don’t leave a door open for anything when the relationship ends. It most definitely is a loss. It’s a death.

And that’s what I am grieving.

I am grieving the loss of the person who knows me better than anyone else in this world.
The person who has taught me what safe love looks like, what love really means.
Who has given up much of her own life in order to save mine.
The person I pray for and want the best for, yet ache to be a part of her best.
Like with my Papa, I am grieving the person who showed me I mattered, that I was loved, that I was wanted.

I have an amazing husband. He’s caring, patient (very, very patient), gentle, and understanding. For the most part, I’ve shut him out of my therapy life and my healing journey, mostly because I’m stubborn, and partly as some lame attempt to protect him from my own heavy baggage. It was safest for me to view the time I had with Kara, in her office, as the one place, the one person I could actually let see the real me. I treasured that time. I cherished it. And I learned over time that I didn’t have to carry it all with me when I wasn’t there. She was safe enough that I could leave it all with her and actually live life in the in between. There’s so much comfort in that.

I have three beautiful, smart, amazing kids. I adore them. They are great kids just like my husband is great. They are my biggest fans, my biggest source of support, and they are honest enough to be brutal when I wear something wacky!

As much as I love them, it’s not the same. Theirs is a relationship where they depend on me. They receive unconditional love and support from me and in return, they love me back. They look to me for comfort, protection, guidance, and so on. They need me. They come to me for hugs or to fix everything.

That’s what I’m missing. That’s what I’ve lost. There is no one on this earth that can fill that role. There is no one who has known me forever, who calls me theirs, who has done and would do anything for me, who has wiped away tears, picked me up when I fell, held my hand through the hard times, and taught me what a mother’s love is supposed to look like. Kara did that for me.

And honestly, I am so truly blessed. My home…my family…I have found in my church. It took me years to get to that point to but I believe all that time, God was preparing me, teaching me, growing me. And He’s given, and He’s taken away. I’d like to put in a direct request that He stop taking away but it seems when He takes away, He helps me find many other things/people to keep me moving forward.

I have some amazing people in my life. There are women who have walked this journey with me, who have been my allies, my support, my stones along side Kara. They’ve prayed for me. They’ve kept me accountable (sheesh!). They’ve guided me and taught me. And painfully, when I look at them, I see what wonderful mother’s they are to their children, how they pray constantly for them, how they love them with such a deep, genuine love. And I see how they have that with their own mothers, how they have those people that have always known them, always cared, and always called them theirs. I realize there is no perfect family. I realize it’s a really messed up world and every family has its issues. Still, it’s hard to be loved by these amazing ladies and know I will still never matter that much…so much that I would be first in their lives, that I would be right in line with their other children, that they have watched grow from the tiniest fingers and toes, picked up from falls, held when they were sick, ached with every ounce of their body when their children were hurting. That’s what I grieve. Even Kara couldn’t offer that.

But here I am.

The river might be raging but I can still see the other side. I’m determined to someday sit beneath that giant weeping willow tree, feel the warm sun bearing down on my face, the gentleness of the soft green grass below me, and the freedom to breathe.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

But for a moment, let me grieve. This is healing, right?

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Back to Life…

2015_BacktoLife

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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