Am I a Christian?

I’m going to share something I often keep to myself. I don’t share this for many reasons, but I feel sharing it now may help me uncover some unanswered questions I have rattling around in my brain. I’m currently reading the book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. I was hoping reading through some of the the book might encourage what little faith I do have buried inside me. Those who have known me for some time may think I have always been a fairly devout Christian. However there is a lot of “junk” I think about that often makes me squirm in my seat. It makes me question what I believe. I even often think I’m better off not knowing. I think that being a good person is all that matters. Yet, the religious upbringing I had sits in the back of my mind nagging me to figure it out.. or else.

So, here is my story. Like I said, maybe putting pen on paper so to speak is just what I need to help answer some questions.

I grew up in a Christian home and attended a Christian School through the eight grade. I was naive and innocent entering high school. I quickly learned innocence was not an option in the real world. I learned it was time for me to decide who I wanted to become. I decided I was not going to be a church girl. I did everything in my efforts to make myself cool, to make myself popular. I lied and cheated my way into what I thought was the “it crowed”. Though, I did realize even though they accepted me, something about me didn’t quit fit in. It was at this point I decided to abandon all my religious upbringing. I decided to take on a new role. I loved all things that I knew my parents would disapprove of. I smoked, I drank, I swore, and I hung around people who were like minded in those things. My senior year was in my mind my best year because I felt like I finally had it all. I lived for staying out late and getting high in my friends garage. I loved watching raunchy movies. I loved making out and doing more than just making out. I thrived on it. I couldn’t allow myself to be caught at home on a weekend. It was such a rush. Tons of bad things happened during this time but to me, belonging to this group of people meant far more to me than occasional getting hurt. It was the best.

Now enters my freshman year of college. I was so excited to be moving out of my parents house and to be independent of them. I had ideas in my head of party’s and drugs and how much fun I was going to have. As it turned out, my first couple weeks of college sucked. I felt so alone. The “cool kids” in my dorm didn’t like me. They never invited me to hang out or to go to the dinning hall. I didn’t fit in anymore. I was back to square one. In this new place I needed a place to fit in again. That’s when I found His House, a Christian fellowship group on campus. The people were kind and genuine. They accepted me when others didn’t. I had found my people. So much like I did in high school, I assimilated myself to these people and there beliefs. I took on a role of college girl that loves Jesus. It felt comfortable for me as I had grown up in a Christian home. Yet here I was able to make it my own. I spend the better of three years in this group with these people. I’d like to think a lot of my faith during this time was sincere. Perhaps it was. A lot of what I see looking back at it though is how I was different behind closed doors. How I lied to fit in. How almost every move I made was to help me become more popular in our own group. When the depression took me, it was so easy to let go of the faith I loosely held.

I held onto my faith the next couple of years because even though I was out of school, many of my friends were still those I had met at His House. It was also still a good way to get friends. Church is a great place to meet people. If I’m honest, I wouldn’t tell people I’m Christian in the hospital because I didn’t want that to be a part of my treatment. It was easier to just be without the burden of faith. I did struggle with ideas with my pastors regarding my depression, but answered were not comfortable in such a horrible crisis. I sought after even more fellowship as my yearning became stronger to be a part of something. I started attending Bridge Street Mission School.

If there is anything good I can say about this time in my life, it’s that it taught me so many valuable lessons. I had a family where I was loved. I learned humility and I learned to serve others. I learned discipline and the value of hard work and dedication. I learned how blessed we are to live in the United States. It gave me a heart for the nations. It also totally and completely ruined me. Let me back up first.

At the schools we lived together, ate together, and did everything together. It was the greatest. I never felt like I belonged so well in my entire life. It is during this time that I think I had a really genuine faith in God. With all the outside distractions stripped away, I felt like I was completely surrendered to God. I was alive… that is until I wanted to die.

You see, they didn’t understand depression. They didn’t get that it was a physical disease that I couldn’t control. They more or less thought it was a demon. They more or less thought God would heal me… but funny thing is… he didn’t. This one thing had always made me uncomfortable, despite all the good things the school brought me.

Before we went abroad, they basically gave me guideline as to what would constitute me coming home. I agreed to them. One was if I attempted suicide. I did. They sent me home, here is the thing about that… I attempted my very last week there. They sent me home the next day and charged me for the plane ticket. I attempted suicide because I was in a very dark spot after seeing some very traumatic things. I also felt alone there because no one understood my darkness. I understand why. But I don’t understand the aftermath. I was told I could no longer be a part of the school. My home, my friends, my family, and o could no longer be a part of it because I have an illness. They didn’t welcome me back with open arms. Instead they shunned me like I was a dirty person. I hated them. I hated the God they believed in of this is their version of compassion.

I took my rage and anger, and turned it into destruction. I cut myself, I Drank, I swore off God, and I desperately tried to fill the hole those people had left in my life. I started sleeping around to fill the void. It got so bad that I almost got myself killed in a shady motel room. I gave up. I gave up on God and everything else in my life. This is my rock bottom.

Three years later and I’m still recovering from the hurt that the leaders in the school caused me. Three years later and they are still my number one objection to Christians and Christ. Healing is a slow process but I’m finally getting to a point where I want to know truth. I want to know if this life is it or if there is a God. And if there is a God, I want to be a Christian that shows compassion. I want to be one that has doubted, and struggled, and hated, and fought.

So, no, I’m really not a good Christian. I’m just a person trying to find the truth. I’m just working to make sure others know they belong.

Advertisements

The Side Effects of Depression

Among really good times, still lurks a heavy darkness. Depression continues to change me. It changes my mind, my relationships, my job, my home, and the way I view the world. It just finished changing my job and my home (for now) and now it’s changing my perspective. Regardless of how difficult changing jobs and housing has been, it has been a pretty positive change in the long run. I realize how incredibly draining and toxic my work environment was. I’m learning how much I was under appreciated. Finding the perfect job for me showed me how much potential I have and how much I can achieve. Moving into a new apartment that’s not falling apart and hosts a fair rent is a bonus, despite moving pains. Overall, I am incredibly happy with the way things are going,

What still lurks beneath the surface? It’s the constant fear of something about to go wrong. It’s the sinister knowledge that life can be really shitty despite everyone’s best efforts. It’s knowing that the only reason I’m alive is from just a couple handfuls of tiny pills that are worth more than my car. It’s knowing that missing taking even just one of those pills on one single day could send my life in a tailspin. It’s knowing that no matter how many pills I take, how many therapy sessions I have, no matter how many coping skills I know, how many hospital visits I log, or how many doctors I talk to, I could still decide to end it all someday. Lurking inside is the unforgiving truth that despite my best efforts, I may live in the darkness of depression for the rest of my life.

All of these things become almost a side effect of depression. Because when depression isn’t consuming my mind, the weight of living with depression does. So yeah, things seem to be looking up, but I tread on eggshells. I’m learning to realize that my optimism can sometimes be my downfall. It’s realizing that the lower my expectations, the less likely I will be let down. Depression sucks, but if you’re forced to live with it, you have to learn to adapt to make life as pleasant as possible.

He Changed Me

I always went to church, in God I believed

I always thought I was a “good girl”

How can just a couple moments change a life?

I thought I loved this man, but on that day

He stole my heart, my mind, my brain.

He destroyed my body

On the other side I stood… cold.. alone.

My heart once on my sleeve, now scraps in a dogs teeth.

I silently screamed as I wore a feeble smile.

Lost in that moment, I would never be the same

But, just a couple moments can change a life.

I met a man the other day.

He spoke softly to me when he told me “You’re beautiful.”

Those words felt weightless, valueless.

He took my hand, and got down on one knee.

He said, “Darling, will you marry me?”

How could I trust another man?

But change takes courage, courage to hope in a better tomorrow.

I said, “Yes. Happily!”

One thing is sure, I’ll never look back.

One man destroyed me

One set me free.

Learning to love myself, I will be.

Just a couple moments, can change a life.

Where is The Hope?

Why does it feel like there is nobody there when you need them the most. People always say they are there to listen, but bail out the second hard stuff is mentioned. Sometimes I just want someone that is unbiased to hear me out when I’m in pain, but therapy isn’t just one phone call away. Unfortunately, a reality of life if we are always alone. At the end of the day it just me. I will be the only one buried in my grave.

Prayers these days feel more like whispers of rage and hope seems like a fleeting wish. I wrestle too much with my mind that I can’t seem to grasp even an idea that maybe there is a better tomorrow or maybe that there is more to this horrible life. I’m like Daniel in the Lions den but I’m being devoured. Or the three courageous men in the furnace except I’m being consumed by the fire. Oxygen refuses to remain in my lungs as the throat that is life slowly shuts and I’m struggling to find my next breath.

I often feel like death is the better option as opposed to struggling to stay alive. My world is getting increasingly smaller with every faithful step forward. Like I am swimming against the current, I’m so close to being whisked off to sea.

Where is the hope?

Chapter 2: Big Brother

The sun was setting over the small lake side town in which the hospital resided. I wasn’t sure of how much time had passed as the only clocks were located in the commons. I could tell evening was approaching because it was getting darker and I was getting anxious. I found the lights and turned them on. Looking around the room, I noticed peculiarities about the place. The mirror in the bathroom wasn’t glass, the toilet paper was placed in a hole in the wall, and every hook in the room collapsed with just a slight amount of pressure. “These people really think of everything,” I thought to myself as I settled back on my bed. My stomach was telling me it’s time to eat something. The man that was packing the hall seemed to have stopped, so I figured now was my chance.

Slowly, I crept out of my room as if I was in a horror film. I walked on the far left side of the hallway looking in to every room as I passed. I got to the front desk expecting to be greeted with a million questions, however, no one said a word. Relieved, I went into what Nancy referred to as the “Day Room” and looked around. There was a large TV that was sealed behind a plastic wall. It hosted some sort of game show at the far end of the room. To the right of the tv sat a small book case. Couches and chairs surrounded this small area to give it a living room appearance. Behind the couch was the table. It was long and stretched the rest of the length of the room. A couple people sat at the table either coloring or reading. There were games and puzzles along the wall to the right of me.  Just above the games sat a large window that gave nurses and care providers a clear view of all of our movements. This made me feel like I was a child in a not so pleasant way. Behind me, stood a refrigerator. It stated that the contents were for patients only. I opened the fridge to ease my curiosity only to be disappointed by what I found. Cheese was my only food choice and it looks as if they had enough milk and juice boxes to start a school lunch program. I grabbed myself a chocolate milk and sat down at a secluded table that was separate from the main one. I didn’t feel like talking to anyone so I figured this solo table would be my best bet.

I continued to observe in silence all of those around me. The man previously seen pacing the halls now sat at the large table reading a newspaper. A smaller Latino woman sat kiddy corner to him. She was coloring some sort of adult coloring book page. At the opposite end of the large table sat a larger, unkempt, man that was mumbling something to himself. He frequently used hand gestures and threw his head on the table. At the time, I was more afraid of him than I was concerned for him as to what he might have been going through. The only other person left in the room was a man that was sitting in a chair near the television. Though he was near the tv, it was clear he wasn’t watching it. He was staring coldly at the floor. Sporting black hoodie with the hood up, he was puffing on his e-cigarette. Now, I don’t know if it was his sheer look of doom and dread or my growing curiosity, but suddenly I knew I was not the only one here that felt so alone.

Time seemed to stand still whenever I had a moment alone so I don’t know how long I was lost in my thoughts for, but eventually, the room started filling with more and more people. Barb and Nancy walked in, quickly spotting me. They sat at the only two seats left at my little table. I let them talk and ask questions. I had little interest in having a real conversation. I only paid attention when what they were talking was relevant to me, such as, what time meals come. I also quickly gained interest as they detailed out visiting hours and pointed out a wall phone I could utilize.

Our time talking was halted when a tall well dressed man with shaggy blond hair entered the room. I had remembered seeing him sitting behind the front desk earlier. He turned off all the lights and started talking about this thing called “mindfulness” and how we were about to practice it. I was skeptical of the whole ordeal. What made it even worse is he started the practice with a singing bowl. I was getting weird a voodoo vibe and I it made me super uncomfortable. The good thing was that during the practice, everything was quiet and still for once. The next good thing, was that after we were done, dinner was served.

Very slowly uncovered all my food. Bland chicken salad and wheat bread is what was on the menu for me tonight. I was definitely going to take Barb up on her offer of showing me the menu. I took a few bites but I just shoved the rest aside. I cleared my spot at the table and walked to my room.

I sat down on the bed, this time feeling a little lighter as I was growing more familiar with my surroundings. I looked out the window again to see the town alive. I watched out the window as if it was a blockbuster movie. I let my imagination drive the stories that popped into my head. From this high, I felt like this was the Sims in real life. The only thing is, out there– it was real life, but in this room, was some sort of nightmare.

The hours passed slowly and I was excited to see my parents during visiting hours that evening. We cried and laughed. I told them all the strange things I encountered. They told me they loved me and that this is the best way for me to get better. And after what felt like only a few minutes, the clock struck eight and visiting hours were over. I hugged them goodbye and they reassured me it was all going to be alright. I put my brave face on and watched them leave, the secured doors locking behind them.

My parents had pick up some cloths from my apartment so I went back to my room to make it feel just a slight bit homie. I wanted to shower and change out of my jeans. I felt gross on the outside which didn’t help my internal feelings any. I walked down towards the nurses station to ask about shower supplies. I was realizing that almost every patient was wearing the same blue colored scrub pants. As they walked past me in the hall, I wondered if I could have a pair. I asked the people at the desk and they handed me a small cup that I could dispense shampoo into, a small bar of soap, a pair of scrub pants, and another pair of sock. It was the little things that made me happy. A nurse walked me to the linen closet showing me where I can get towels or extra blankets at night. She pointed out the shower rooms were located across the hall from the patients rooms. She left me as I walked into one and shut the door. The door didn’t lock for my own safety they said, but I would have felt safer if no one could walk in on me naked. Regardless, I tossed the cloths aside and stepped under the warm stream of water. I was washing away everything that had happened today and I wanted to walk out of there with a new attitude.

After my shower I pulled on the scrubs and threw on a dirty t-shirt they must have grabbed off the floor. I walked into the calm day room and went straight for the bookshelf. I picked one out and brought it back to my room. If I had to be locked in here, I might as well make the best of it. I was on a mental vacation and this is exactly what I needed.

After a short time reading I drifted to sleep. I had shut the door when I came into my room and I remember waking up to find it halfway opened. Every 15 minutes or so shoes would squeak into my room and squeak right back out. They were like big brother, always watching.


Check out the first chapter HERE

Lukewarm Memories

So you know the feeling you get when you start reminiscing about years gone by? That warm gentle feeling of nostalgia that washes over you like a wave. You know, that feeling you get when you hear an old song, see an old item, or go to a place you haven’t frequented in some time. I generally love that feeling. Remembering gives me a warmth.

Unfortunately, tonight.. remembering feels cold.

I’m not sure how my brain came to this place. I was thinking of such good days and good times. Those memories life’s my head with joy. That is, until I found conflict in my memories. I found bad things in a good memory. Can it still be a good memory if it is filled with bad things? Should I still hold on to these types of memories or work to let them go altogether?

Here is an example. I remember spending many summers on Lake Michigan at my Grandpas property. I think so fondly of that place. I remember imagining growing up to take my husband and kids there. Alas, that never can happen. Now should this negative effect such a positive memory? No? Well here is a harder one.

One of my favorite things about high school was how extroverted I was. I loved being social, hanging out at friends houses, going parties, and honestly doing some things I know I should feel guilty about. However when I remember some of these times, I still find a sense of warmth. I’m glad I had those experiences because I think they shaped me into a well rounded person, I’m even thankful for some of the memories I have with some less than wholesome people. Shouldn’t I inherently dislike the memories if the I dislike the people?

Do you see why I’m conflicted? I don’t want to give up these parts of my past. I often feel like in order to heal, I must erase certain things completely out of my life. Problem is.. I don’t want to erase everything out of my life.

Of course I want to erase some terrible awful detailed memories that come to haunt me. However, to erase people, places, or things would take away a lot from what makes me, me.

I think I made some pretty poor choices over the years. I also think I have made some extremely wise choices over the years.

So, should I be in conflict? Should I let go of people who hurt me? Should I even let go of the memories we have shared (especially good ones)? Should I continue to hold on?

I don’t have the answers. I wish I did. All I can do is keep being strong and being the best version of myself.

Sandy Toes and Autumn Leaves

I’ve given up before. I’m actually pretty good at it. Things that don’t come easy for me I tend to just quit. I think it’s the curse of being a gifted student growing up. I’m extremely smart. I retain information just from hearing or reading it once. I grasp concepts without having to put much effort into it. It’s a blessing. It’s also a curse.

My gifts put me in good standing at school. I didn’t even have to try. I was the envy of my brother who put hours into his school work while I completed mine hour before it was due and I would still get and A. I can’t imagine the type of scholarships I might have received had I actually tried.

It was a blessing. It was also a curse. College was easy the first couple years. Much like high school I could breeze by in many of my classes. Then I started taking classes that I didn’t get. I tried desperately to understand but I couldn’t. I needed to study, but I didn’t know how. I wanted so badly to give up because it because overwhelmingly hard. I was failing. I couldn’t give up because I had too much money and my future seemingly riding on me doing well. It took me some time to figure out how to study and learn. But I did, and I was able to continue on. This is the first time I experienced the struggle of holding on.

In other ways I would give up when things got hard. Taking piano lessons was hard as I never wanted to practice new music because I hated the process of failing. I have many projects that were left unfinished when I decided it took to much time and effort.

In my adult life I feel that inner voice telling me to give up. When my job is overwhelming I so often want to quit. When I don’t feel like facing the world, I will sleep all day. When I’m struggling with my mental health, I will want to end it all.

All these things plague me. One thing I’m wiser about now, is giving up is a double edged sword. If I gave up on any of these things, the rest of my life would crumble with it. Giving up simply can’t be an option. Unlike learning how to study, this will take more than a couple months. This is a lifetime of work.

Life isn’t easy. The choice I must make is life must be worth living. Life is worth living for my husband and family. It’s worth living for my friends. Life is worth living for travel and adventure; for vacation and sandy toes. For the autumn leaves and the delicate snowfall. Life is worth it.

When you let the good outweigh the bad, only then will you have the willpower to conquer your inner demons. You can silence that voice that says, “It’s easier to quit.” Because yeah, it may be easier to quit. But it sure as hell isn’t worth it.