Tag Archives: Pain

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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Quotes of the day…

Out of my norm but I wanted to share a couple of thought provoking quotes with you today.

The first is one I read by Carl Rogers.  The relationship between a client and therapist is not an easy relationship to understand or navigate.  Relationships in general are difficult at best.  I think this quote sums up the true depth of relationships in that we have to take risks, risking ourselves, in order to truly appreciate any relationship…

CarlRogersQuote1

This is a quote by me…I wrote, in my journal this week, after some pretty deep thinking.  Right now, I am comfortably in between.  This is not an ugly place.  This is not a place filled with fear of living or fear of dying.  This is a place of tremendous growth and learning, unshakeable faith, full dependance on God above.  Through all the worry and doubt, all the suffering and pain life has thrown my way, I wouldn’t trade this in between for anything.  This is simply where I am and simply where I must comfortably exist, for now.

JenArmstrongQuote1

The most selfless act… {Part Two}

GiveHope

Read Part One here!

How can you help someone who is struggling with depression and/or suicidal thoughts?

I won’t pretend to have all the answers on this one and it may be different from person to person so I’m going to tell you from my own experience what has helped me and what has not.  There are many websites with tons of information.  One of the first steps you can take is to educate yourself.  Learn what depression is and what it isn’t.  Try to understand how it affects a person, physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Take a stand to know more and then take what you learn, apply it and share it!

For me personally, it has been difficult for anyone to come along and “save me.”  This was never an option.  I simply do not allow others into my darkness…until now.  I will say, the only reason I am sharing this now is because the good that can come from this far exceeds any fears I have of rejection and judgement.  I simply have to be a voice for all of those who cannot find their own voices.

Friends have come and gone.  Many never knew just how clouded my thoughts were.  Only this year, have I really started inviting people in.  Even when I let the walls down enough to let someone in, this depression, the darkness, the thoughts of dying, are things that continue to be locked tightly away, even from my closest friends, including my husband.  This just isn’t something you want to share with those you love.  You don’t want to burden them with these fears, worries, or pain.  You don’t want to create panic in them.  You don’t want to cause turmoil or upset in their lives.  So it stays hidden, deep inside.

I think what I am learning is that if the day comes when my irrational thinking wins the battle, there will be nothing anyone can do.  I don’t say that to scare you even more or to turn you away, I say that to let you know that it is never your fault if someone makes the choice to take their own life.  So many survivors left behind from suicide take on this guilt, wondering if they should have noticed more, done more, or been a better friend.  Don’t carry those burdens.  Just don’t.

Keep in mind these are written from my own perspective but let’s assume they apply to anyone suffering with depression.  If you have a friend who is battling this fight, ask them…really ask them what they need.  They may not be able to answer you right away.  Encourage them to really think about what is helpful and what isn’t and ask them to share that with you!

So, what can you really do?

You may not be able to prevent suicide.  What you can do is extend love, compassion, try to understand – even if you really can’t – simply try.  Be there for me, let me know I am not too much for you, that you can’t carry my burdens but that doesn’t mean you can’t be there for me.  Tell me how much I mean to you, how important I am to you and others.  Just knowing that someone truly cares may be all it takes.  Believing that may not come easy for me.  My mind is filled with lies and all that clouded judgement.  I may not believe that you really care.  I may not even want to believe it.  Keep telling me.  You might get frustrated and feel like nothing you’re doing is working or helping.  You may want to give up on me.  DON’T!  Be patient wit me.  Encourage me to keep fighting.  Keep telling me over and over, that you are there, that you love me, that you know I am hurting, that you see my pain.  I may get angry with you.  I may try to push you away.  I may pull away and try to shut you out.  This is not because I don’t trust you or because I am actually angry with you.  It may simply be my defenses that long ago helped me to survive but now, keep me very alone.    This darkness has invaded so much of me and it will take time.  I may try to avoid you.  Don’t let me.  Due to the depression and the irrational thoughts, I may not be able to make all the right choices, but you can help me by choosing not to give up on me and not letting me give up on you.

From my own experience, what I don’t need is preachy.  I know Scripture.  I know how to read my Bible and I do.  I know God loves me.  I know and believe He has a plan for me.  I have no doubt that God can heal me.  What I need is a friend.  Sometimes all I really need is a person to be there, so that in those moments when I feel so alone and so invisible, someone can remind me I am not alone.  Someone can say, “I am here.”  That’s a hard step for me, to admit I need anyone, and it’s even harder for me to let them in.  In my mind, I feel like too much of a burden.  I feel like I am wasting someone’s time, that they’d rather be doing something else or that everything else in their lives is more important than me.  Don’t let me carry that.  Sure, you have things that are important, but let me know I am just as important and that there is nothing you wouldn’t do to let me know I am not alone.  On the flip side, some may not know all of this.  Some may need to hear God’s word.  You need to get to know your loved ones well enough to know their needs.  Ask them.  If they can’t tell you, keep asking until they can.  But please, please don’t be offended if they are not ready or in a place to hear God’s Word.  You can pray for them and let God work in them through the love your share with them and the light you shine in their life.

I can’t get over it.  Telling me to “Just get over it,” “Let it go,” or “Snap out of it,” does not help.  In fact, what I hear is my problems are nothing, that I shouldn’t be struggling like I am.  Or maybe I hear you don’t have time for me and we both just need to move on.  I take on guilt and shame for being too broken.  I began to question, even more, what is wrong with me.  I know that’s not your intentions.  I realize your intentions are most likely good, that you are trying to be helpful.  If you don’t know what to say, that’s okay, you don’t even have to say anything.  You could offer a hand.  You can pray for me.  You can put me in touch with someone you think would understand.  Please don’t expect me to just get over it.  It simply does not work that way.

I don’t need anyone to fix me, nor do I believe they can.  I don’t need all the answers.  I don’t need you to right the wrongs.  Sometimes, I may just need you to listen, to let me tell you what I am thinking and why I am thinking it without the worry that it will scare you away.  I may need to share the thoughts or memories that flood my mind, without fearing my pain will hurt you.  I may need to scream, or cry.  I may need to just sit and hold your hand.  I may need a hug.  At different times, there may be different needs but I never need you to fix it all or carry it for me.

Take care of yourself.  That’s what I want most.  In doing that, don’t leave me hanging.  I know your family and obligations are important but I need you to remind me that my life is just as important.  If I call you at an inconvenient time, I’m sorry, but if I’m taking the step to call you, then trust me, it’s really important.  Depressed people, remember, pull away, shut others out, withdraw.  So if I have taken that step to call, please know my intention is not to inconvenience you or cause disruption in your life.  If I call, it’s because I am in a desperate moment and am very much in need.  In saying that, if you can’t be that person who drops everything in a moment of need, say so.  Hopefully, I can find someone who will be that go to person.  Encourage me to find two or three people who I can call on at anytime.  Remind me I am loved and cared for and that you’re not bailing on me.  Tell me I am not too much for you but that you also have to take care of yourself.  I will try to understand.  Remember, I don’t want bring pain or suffering to anyone else, but I do need honesty.  And if you are that person, who is willing to accept a call at any given time, take care of yourself.  Have your own support system in place.  If you begin to feel weighed down, don’t shut me out, but seek out support for yourself.  I don’t want you do carry this burden alone just as you don’t want me to carry my burdens alone.

Most importantly, give hope.  Tell me reasons to live, why I am important.  Point out good things in my life.  Remind me of good times.  I may not always hear you.  I may brush you off and not believe you.  I may try to ignore you.  Those are all my defenses.  Those are lies that have filled my mind.  Tell me anyway.  Give hope to the hopeless!

And if you are the person who is walking in my shoes…

Please know, you are not alone.  Yes, I know you feel so very alone.

I know the pain is often unbearable.  I know that sometimes it feels like the weight never lets up.  I realize the fears and worries are overwhelming.  I know it’s hard to believe anyone cares or could possibly care.  I know everything in you wants to run away.  I know your heart aches with every beat.  But you are not alone. 

You may not feel supported.  You may have hundreds who love you or you may have none.  Somewhere out there is someone who will take the time to help you.  Please call a friend.  If you don’t know anyone to call, call a support line, a therapist, a doctor.  Go somewhere and make a friend.  Go to a church.  Go to a hospital.  Go to the police station if you have to.  Just don’t walk this road alone.  Tell someone how you are feeling.  If they won’t listen, tell someone else.  Keep telling until someone hears you.  Someone will listen!

You are not crazy!  You are hurting.  You are lonely.  You are in a dark place and you need light.  You are suffocating and you need air.

It really is okay to need and there are people in your life who will help you find that light.  You may have to seek them out.  I know that can be extremely difficult…do it anyway!  Don’t let your light fade out without trying everything you can to get out of the darkness.  You are worth it.  You are loved.  You are amazing and God can do something with all the garbage you carry.

If you can’t bear your heart to another soul, know that God is always with you.  Even if you are angry at Him.  Even if you don’t want to believe in Him.  Even if you are like I was, that little eleven year old girl who believed her God could never love her or want her, who prayed for Him to save her and never heard her prayers answered, who begged for him to protect her and felt so abandoned, I want you to know, He never left me … not once.  I have run so far from Him, turned my back on Him, been furious with Him, and yet each day, He reminds me that I am loved, He offers me peace and comfort, He extends His grace, and He never lets go.  You are worth it!  You are not alone!

Take off the mask.  You don’t have to be okay.  One of my favorite pastors once said, “It’s okay to not be okay!”  That was a message that I have needed to hear over and over.  It’s okay to not be okay!  Let the tears flow.  Be a mess.  Let others in, let them see the brokenness.  If they truly care and love you, they will love you along with all your imperfections and broken pieces and even more than that, they will want to be there, along side of you, to help you, to be there for you, to listen and to love you.  Let them!

I know this is difficult.  I know this is easier said than done but know I am speaking this as I am going through it with you.  I am facing this just as you are.  I am walking this road with you.  I know it’s not an easy journey but doing it alone only makes it harder and more painful.  I would love to hear from you.  Please know that my heart aches for you.  If you want to send me a message, feel free to do so.  I read every comment and I try to comment back.  I may not be your go to person, but I can encourage you to find one :)  Don’t give up!  There is hope!

www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Suicide Hotline – 1-800-273-8255

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The most selfless act… {Part One}

GiveHope2

I want to welcome you…

Into a place locked away, so very private, a dark and scary place…

To invite you in…

Inside the mind of suicide.

Imagine the darkest night if you will.  No street lights.  Moon barely glowing hidden behind a thick film of clouds.  Faint shadows lurking from beneath the dim moonlight.  Fear.  Anxiety.  Regret.  Shame.  Guilt.  Worry.  Doubt.  Hopelessness.  Picture that same scene day in and day out, over and over.  Occasionally, there may be a glimmer of light because after all, it’s a fight to get out of the dark so you grasp at any sign of light.  There’s panic, seeking something to hold onto, to guide your path through this overwhelming darkness.  A handrail?  The grip of a friend to pull you along?  Clearing your eyes once more, seeking little bits of light, finding them along the way, only to have them fade to dim again.

Imagine tears that pour only on the inside because you can’t allow them to fall freely on the outside.  You can’t bear to let anyone see the pain you feel inside…because you feel if you let them see that pain, they will feel it too and you don’t want to put that pain on them, or anyone.  You carry it on  your own because that’s what you do.  You’re strong.  So strong.  You fight a battle each and every day – a battle to overcome, to survive, to live.

Imagine looking each day at the faces you treasure, your spouse or loved ones, the sparkle in the eyes of the little beauties you call your children.  You stop and stare at them, soaking in each precious memory.  Your heart aches with each beat as you carry a love that is almost unimaginable.  And then you feel it, an ache even stronger.  It’s the ache of letting them go.  You want nothing more than to hold them, love them, be with them.  But somehow, you believe, your love for them is not enough.  You think of how things could be for them if you weren’t in the way.  These clouded thoughts come and in some small way, you know this is not the answer, but you question, “What if this is the answer?”  You consider, many times, the hurt they would feel, the loss, the ache your absence would create in their own hearts.  You want to bring them joy, to give them life, to pour love into them.  You fear the idea of transferring the pain you’ve carried for so long, onto those you love so dearly.  You push through the thoughts and pain.  You stay, for one more day.

Imagine feeling so alone that even though you may be surrounded by people, you feel invisible.  You can’t let anyone in.  Your walls are made of steel.  You wear a smile to hide the pain but if they would only look deep enough, they could see it in your eyes.  You laugh when you really need to cry.  You can’t bear to share the darkness you’re living in, either out of fear of burdening those around you or perhaps out of fear that you will be the one to get hurt, by rejection or even just by the innocence of others not knowing what to do or being able to understand.  Others may pull away out of their own fears or their uncertainty of how they could help or even if they could help.  Either way, you feel rejected.  Alone.  Invisible again.  So to lessen those painful stabs, you withdraw.  You keep the darkness bound tight inside you and all the while, it’s killing you.

I vaguely remember my futile attempt at suicide at the age of thirteen.  I didn’t really want to die.  I wanted to disappear.  I wanted to physically be as invisible as I already felt.  I wanted to hide from the world and from my pain.  I wanted the constant bombarding of painful memories to stop.  I wanted an end.  No one understood.  I was desperate and alone.  It was picture day at school – picture day for the photo that would end up in my freshman yearbook.  That morning, I swallowed a bottle of pills.  This was after days of ingesting a handful here and a handful there.  That morning, I had no restraint.  I opened the full bottle and consumed them all just as the darkness had consumed me.  I made it to school and managed to get by long enough to have that glamorous picture snapped, forever recording the desperation that was invisible to the world around me.  Then came the fear.  Something was wrong, bad wrong.  Did I really want to die?  I remember going to the office and telling them I needed to go home.  They called my grandpa and in no time, he was there to pick me up.  It wasn’t a comfortable trip home I faced, but a trip to the ER, where I very firmly denied any possibility of being pregnant which was the only pertinent question they really asked.  They failed to ask if I had taken anything.  Would I have been honest if they had asked?  I don’t know.  They basically treated me for the flu.  I went home and for a week, a bucket became my closest friend.  I can only imagine the effect those pills had on my body.  What I lived through was nothing less than horrible.  But I was alive.

What I carried with me after that day were all the feelings I had been trying so hard to escape from.  Fear.  Anxiety.  Regret.  Shame.  Guilt.  Worry.  Doubt.  Hopelessness.  I even added a few to the already too long list.  Despair.  Failure.  Weaknessbecause after all, I had failed to give myself the escape I so badly desired.  In times, those feelings and my inability to let anyone into my world of darkness led to smoking, drinking, and self-injury.  I ended up dropping out of college because alcohol numbed the pain and at that time, numbing the pain was more important.  This was not the first time I had tried or considered trying to end my own life, and it wouldn’t be the last.

At the age of twenty-three, I was at what I would consider my lowest point.  I had lost all hope.  I looked at my husband and begged him to leave me.  I cried out to him to take our small son and leave me, insisting they would both be better off without me.  I can’t even begin to explain how much it hurt to believe that and to physically say that to him.  He looked at me and assured me he loved me, he would stand by me, and I was everything to them.  I didn’t want to hear him and I couldn’t believe him.  Soon after, I began seeing a therapist.  I barely remember my visits with this particular therapist but he insisted at some point that my husband take me to a hospital.  I was once again facing those thoughts of disappearing.  We checked into the Emergency Room and waited.  When someone finally came to talk with me, they asked if I was a danger to myself or anyone else.  I told them, “No!”  They sent me home.  Did I lie to them?  In that moment, yes.  I was never a danger to others, but I have always been a danger to myself.  I continued seeing that therapist and he prescribed a couple medications … one for anxiety and one for depression.  I had them filled, several times.  The problem was, I never took them.  I hoarded them, waiting for the right day to come.  Every day I looked into the eyes of a little boy and hated the mother he had.  I prayed for him to have a good life, to be happy, joyful, and live abundantly.  I didn’t feel like he could do that with me.  There are still days I look into the eyes of that little boy who is now a young man, and I wonder, if I messed up his life by being in it.  And now, it’s not only him I worry about, but also his two siblings, my three children.

I managed to survive those dark days and nights.  When that handsome little boy was in kindergarten, on a cool September morning, I pulled my car over on the side of the road after dropping him off at school.  With tears pouring down my face, I cried out to God in anger and desperation.  I clearly remember shouting at God, “This is it, I can’t do this anymore!  I can’t.  You either take over now or I’m dead.”  I want to add here, I knew of God well before this particular day.  I had cried out to Him many times before.  I had prayed for Him to save me, to take me away, to give me an escape from the abuse I had gone through, from the memories, from the pain.  I never believed I was worthy of his love.  Even as a little girl at the age of eleven, staring out my window into the sky, talking to God, praying for protection, begging for a savior, I did not believe He could possibly care about me, but I believed He was there and I hoped that somehow or someday, He would hear my cries.  While change did not come instantly, I know that day back in September, on the side of a little highway in nowhere, North Carolina, changed my life.  Somehow, those simple words created what little bit of hope I needed to cling to in that moment.  I had survived another day.  And I would continue to survive, day by day.

I saw numerous therapists through those years.  One finally convinced me it was okay to take medication for my depression.  I spent a year on Lexapro and it seemed to help.  I managed to get to the point where I came off of it on my own.  A month later, we got pregnant with our third child.  I thought all my chaos and turmoil was behind me.  Life was good and I was living.  I was growing into a mother that I could tolerate and be somewhat proud of.  I was learning to like myself.  I believed my suffering had a purpose and I pursued what I felt I was called to do, reach out to others and remind them they are not alone.  I began teaching Bible studies and opening up about my own dark past of sexual abuse, alcohol, self-injury, depression, and suicidal thoughts.  What I learned was the more open I became, the more others around me felt comfortable enough to share their own pain.  It was working – I was becoming a voice for so many who needed a voice.  They needed to see someone else take that first step, to admit how hard life could be.

Last year, the depression that I thought had long ago vanished, reared it’s ugly self once again.  Only this time, it was the last thing I expected.  After all, I was a full-fledged Jesus girl now.  I spent countless hours in God’s Word, studying and teaching.  I was praying.  I was doing all the right things and I knew exactly what to say to myself and everyone else…except now, it wasn’t working.  Did I have too little faith?  Was I doing something wrong?  Had I not done enough?  Deeper and deeper, I felt myself sinking into that black hole, that pit of ultimate despair.  Those thoughts of doubt resurfaced.  Am I not good enough?  Am I too broken for God to love me?  Am I so damaged that I can’t be fixed?  Am I a hopeless case?  While in my head, I knew none of that was true, those are still lies that creeped in and often screamed louder than truth.  After six years of living life, free from counseling, managing on my own with little issues from my past, the time came when it was time to seek counseling again.  My thought this time was, “I’m in a better place and could just go in, pour out my heart and move on.”  It doesn’t work that way, folks.  You see, when I walked in that door, I knew this had to be the time.  I knew there would be no more therapists.  I knew there would be no more chances.  I knew it was now or never.  I could not start over again.  This was it.  I had to make the choice to open up to this stranger.  I had to let her in and share with her, the most horrifying parts of my life.  It was time to free myself from the torment I had carried too long.  It took a couple months to warm up to her.  We spent those first few months just getting to know each other on a very surface level.  I shared about my family and kids, all the things that were important to me, my Bible studies and friends, etc.  Then came the time…the point where I could no longer hide behind the mask of perfection I wore so well.  I had to face the imperfections, all the broken pieces.  And through the frustrations of feeling I wasn’t doing enough, saying enough, or feeling enough, I climbed further into that dark world, yet again.

Today, I am living each day, day by day.  I am married to the most loving, caring, supportive, and patient man.  He has walked a very long and difficult road with me.  He has stood by me in my darkest times.  He has held me and wiped away my tears.  He has comforted me even when those attempts were pointless because nothing could possibly ease the pain I was feeling.  He has shown me nothing less than endless compassion.  I am blessed daily by three awesome little people who call me mom, yes, me!  I am surrounded by an amazing church family, some of the best friends a gal could ever dream of, beautiful, godly women, friends online – near and far.  I have compassion for the hurting.  I have this incredible desire to be a voice for others, to remind others that they are not alone, to encourage them to keep up the fight.  I am loved and cherished by The One who has never left me, not for a moment.  And you know what, sometimes, it’s still not enough.  As much faith as I have and as much as I believe there has been purpose in my pain and suffering, that God can take all the broken pieces of my life and do amazing and beautiful things with them, as much as I try to hold on to the love of those that surround me, some days, it’s still not enough.  Some days, the darkness is simply paralyzing.  Some days, I still want to disappear.  Some days, I just beg for God to go ahead and take me home.  Some days, I just can’t wait to be free from this place.  But for today, I’m alive.

Depression is not simple.  In fact, it’s very deep, complex.  There is no quick or easy fix.  The further one sinks into this darkness, the less clear their thoughts become.  All rational thinking seems to fade and irrational thoughts replace what should be good, sound choices and thoughts.  A person who is contemplating suicide does not do so lightly.  I have heard many times how selfish suicide is.  I have to say, and I can say because I have been there, suicide is one of the most selfless acts I can imagine.  I am here today because I cannot bear to bring pain to those who have chosen to be in my life, to love me, and to walk this road with me.  I am here because I believe God can use me and will use me in order to help others and I can’t bear the thought of not being here to help someone else.  Even though each day I carry burdens that have weighed me down for most of my life, even though I am constantly reminded that the memories of my past will never truly go away, even though I carry so much hurt and heartache and would love nothing more than to be sitting at the feet of Jesus today, I am alive because I cannot bear to bring pain to others.  There is a desperation inside, that screams to escape, that begs for the mercy of leaving this world.  And when a person has gotten to the point where they are able to commit those final acts that take away their last breath, they have not done so without first considering all the people it would affect and all the hurt they will leave behind.

In the mind of suicide, they feel by leaving this world, they are doing the best thing they can for those they love.  To those who find this incredibly hard to understand, that’s okay and I would expect nothing less than confusion.  But remember, inside the mind of suicide, there is a darkness, one that blinds them from those rational thoughts you walk with, one that creates in them a desire to do no harm or bring no pain to others because they know how heavy that weight is.  In the mind of suicide, they have weighed all the options and feel this is the one option they are left with.  They want nothing more than to free others from their sufferings.  In the mind of suicide, it is the most selfless act they can make. 

In the mind of suicide, the pain they carry outweighs the pain that will be left behind.  In the mind of suicide, all the broken parts of their life are more damaging to others with them here, than with them gone.  For the person who made that choice, the choice to take their own life, do not harbor anger.  Do not carry guilt or debate on what could have saved them.  Move forward with love for them in your heart and have peace knowing that their pain has finally come to an end, that they are no longer suffering, and know that they did not leave you behind without a greater love for you than you can imagine.

In the mind of suicide, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  John 15:13

Some ask, “How can I help?  What can I do?”  Others don’t know what to say, so out of fear of saying the wrong thing, they say nothing.  I want you to know it’s okay.  There are ways you can help.  Together, we can give hope to the hopeless.  Please read Part Two to find out how you can help those who are suffering from a darkness that has stolen their light.  Shine your light!

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We are blessed…

BrokenThingsBlessings

Recognizing blessings, especially in the storms of life, can seem nearly impossible.  Perhaps this comes easy for some of the more optimistic folks, but for me, the gray cloud that often times lingers over my head, also clouds my vision and ability to spot the blessings.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  James 1:17

My husband and I have faced some pretty difficult situations and decisions as parents recently.  We’ve dealt with things no parent wants to deal with.  We’ve doubted ourselves and the intentions of our children.  It’s worn us down.  Last Friday, it was all I could do to take the next breath.  I searched Scripture, trying to make sense of the things that were falling apart around me.  Nothing made sense.

Some things are just impossible to understand.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

We managed to stumble through, day by day.  Each day over this past week, brought new revelations and challenges of it’s own.  Each day, I fought the doubts and fears that have set up camp in my mind.  Determined to hang on to the last little ounce of hope I could, I searched for verses that spoke to where I was.  God used these verses to bring me through some of the most trying times.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

Keeping my focus on Him is the only explanation I have for surviving all I have.  Mountains have crumbled in front of me.  Oceans have swept over me.  Valleys have buried me.  And yet, even through the darkest, God has never abandoned me.  He has remained a constant, a source of peace and comfort.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.  Psalm 46:1-3

“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 you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

We all face heartache, pain, trials, devastating circumstances.  We all experience loss, grief, fear, worry.  At times, the weight has been so heavy I even found myself questioning the worth in taking even one more breath.  That’s a pretty scary place to be.

Recent days have been filled with many emotions, so much hurt and pain, heartache and worry, anger and sadness, and yet the blessings are the lessons I have learned as a wife, mother, friend and child of God.

I learned many blessings have come from very difficult times…

There is wisdom in seeking out counsel and comfort.

Not everyone is capable of helping in every situation, nor should they have to, but we don’t have to walk this road alone either.  God places people in our lives to help through different situations and at different times.  Stopping long enough to consider the right people for the right situation has meant everything this week.

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13

We really do need others.  Not only have I had walls up with my husband, but I’ve had them up with everyone.  Learning to let others in has been a challenge throughout my entire life.  Sometimes, I felt that in order to let someone in, I had to share with them every dirty, ugly part of my life.  What I learned this week is I don’t have to share all of me, but I do need to share some of me.  Not too long ago, I would have argued that and said I don’t need anyone or anything.  I’ve spent most of my life stumbling through on my own.  Only, I was never really alone.  I see now, so clearly, all the places God carried me through.  And in recent months, I’ve questioned life many times.  I’ve questioned my purpose.  I’ve questioned my suffering and the suffering of those around me.  I’ve been lost.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:  If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  Ecclesiates 4:9-10

Communication is absolutely necessary in a marriage.  Neither my hubby or myself are big talkers, at least not with each other.  For him, it may be as simple as he’s a man and just doesn’t “need” to pour his heart out.  For me, it’s deeper than that.  It’s part of keeping my walls up to either protect myself or those around me.  It’s natural for me to push others away, even my husband.  Over the past few months, my walls with him had grown even higher than they already were.  My excuse … I didn’t want to burden him, worry him.  What I failed to realize is that he worries, whether I confide in him or not.  This week, we didn’t have a choice.  We had to talk things through to work together as parents.  Friends encouraged me to let him in and reminded me of where I stand in his eyes.  With that and all that transpired this week, the opportunity came to share with him where I am in my own personal journey of hurt and healing and he was able to better understand me and support me.  He needs that from me and I need that from him.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  Ephesians 4:29

Fear is devastating.  Fear can destroy a person.  Fear leads to irrational thoughts.  Fear cripples.  Fear is a very ugly thing.

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?  Psalm 27:1

We will experience hard times.  We will  face devastating circumstances.  A few times, those circumstances nearly led me to an end and yet, here I sit, pouring my heart out to you.  You are not alone in your suffering.  Last Thursday evening, I thought I couldn’t bear another thing and Friday morning, my day began in disaster.  Was God trying to tell me I could handle more?  I don’t know.  It certainly was not what I wanted or thought I needed in that moment but the blessings have poured out from a situation that seemed hopeless.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

God will use this.  He will take every trial, every stumble, every last bit of imperfection in our lives and turn it into something beautiful.  Even when we cannot see or comprehend, He is still working for our good.

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.  Ecclesiates 3:11

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

He is worthy of praise.  He is mighty.  When all hope seems to fade away and you feel like you can’t breathe another breath, don’t lose sight of the one who’s willing to carry you through.  He just might be carrying you to some of your biggest blessings.

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. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

And since we’re talking about blessings, I hope you will take the time to enjoy this song from All Sons & Daughters, We Are Blessed.

 

The ugly truth…

TheUglyTruth

Have you watched the news on television lately?  With just a few minutes of watching, we’re filled with the realities of our broken world.  Murder.  Rape.  Abuse.  Robbery.  Tragedy.

For many, it’s more than they can handle so they opt out of watching the news.  After all, don’t news stations pick the worst?  Surely things like that are not happening as often as it appears, right?

Wrong!  Bad things happen constantly.  Tragedy strikes every day in the lives of many.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  Ephesians 2:4-5

We tend to shield ourselves from these realities but when we do that, we lose sight of those right in front of us who are facing their own nightmares.

How well do you know your neighbor?  What about the people you greet with smiles and hand shakes each Sunday morning?  The ones who are dressed in their best, hair done and make up perfected?  Kids clothes ironed, bows in their hair, all dolled up.  Those who’s clothes are well worn, tattered, with eyes of emptiness?  How well do you know them?

They are women so ashamed of their bodies they do everything they can to mask their imperfections, some going as far as to hide out in a bathroom after every meal, purging, alone and afraid.  They are men so tired of their jobs they find themselves filled with frustrations, hate and desperation as their family depends and relies on them for shelter and food.  They are families who’s worlds are crushed by the words of cancer.  They are children who hear over and over how stupid they are.  They are daughters who have been told they were special so they have “special” things done to them.  They are sons just trying to be like their dads, screaming and lashing out in anger.  They are grandparents who grieve their lost children while trying to raise their grandchildren.  They are preachers who preach a strong sermon after fighting their own demons the night before.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

These are the stories of real people.  Broken people.  God’s people.  And they sit right beside you on any given Sunday morning, some with their hands held high, worshiping with all the hope they have left, and others who can’t even look up without fear of someone seeing the sadness that fills their eyes as they grasp for even the slightest glimpse of hope through Jesus Christ.

They are real people with real lives and real pain and though you may not see them flash across the screen on the local news, their pain and struggles are absolutely real.

On the next Sunday you head to church, after you’ve rushed around, yelling at the kids to get dressed, argued with your spouse about the week before, trying to finally make it to church on time, will you walk through the doors with your head held high, pretending the world and all it’s brokenness doesn’t phase you and can’t touch you?  Or will you walk through, knowing you are one of the many broken people who have come to find healing and peace from the only resource you haven’t exhausted?

God’s love is for us all.  His love is for the husband who’s sleeping with his mistress then coming to church with his family, all of them affected by this secret but too ashamed to admit it or seek help.  God’s love is for the mother who worries she’s not doing enough or good enough, who fears she’s failing as a wife and mother.  God’s love is for the people who are so lost in a world of darkness they’ve forgotten how to feel so they cut themselves just to feel something, anything.  God’s love is for the man diagnosed with cancer who wakes up with the same fear each day, “Will this be the last time I can hug my family?” and for his wife who faces that same question, “Will this be the last day I get to hug him?”  God’s love is for those with their hands held high, praising Him for all the beauty in their lives, knowing He is truth, He is love and He is light.  God’s love is for the ministers, the worship leaders, the choir, the babies, the volunteers, the teachers, the sick, the old, the young, the weak, the strong.  God’s love is for the hypocrites, the sinners, the broken, the desperate.

God won’t give up on you but He will wait for you.  His love is not with held but it does take action on your part.  Will you take the long and winding road or will you run straight to Him?  Will you seek Him with all your heart?

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:13

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  1 John 4:9-11

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:  “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:35-39

In a world filled with so many ugly truths, truths we don’t want to face or believe, we can have peace in knowing God’s love for us and we can take the love He pours into our lives and shine that light into another persons life.  That is the beautiful truth!

 

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