For What It’s Worth

When faced with ones own mortality, the mind tends to reach for something or someone to hold on to.  Now, I’ve stood face to face with death a few times now and I can honestly say, each time, the piece of life I was holding on to, the piece I was going to miss the most, was constantly changing.

Now as I sit back and ponder the fragility of life I feel as if I have a collection.  The hands of my mind hold close together as they are filled now with marbles of meaning. Each marble is a different size and color, but every marble is something that is priceless to me in this life.  These things are what make life worth living.

Now I ponder how the berevity of life effects each and every living being.  We all will, one day, face our deaths.  Movies and Books try to play out immortality as if it’s achievable. Worse yet, they glorify it as if living in this broken world forever would be a great thing.  Now I know that there is an eternity with God.  I also know that there is a much worse eternity.  But I also know that in this reality we face a certain death. Regardless, I still must hold on to this life, these marbles, while I’m here in this reality.

Recently, I was reminded of my mortality. This time, it was out of my hands.  I’m not sure how long this life has for me.  Nobody really does.  I could live another 70 years or I could die tomorrow.  But when I hear something that truely makes me look my life and death straight in the eye, I realize that this is always there.  My death, my mortality, is always lingering over me whether I am consciously thinking about it of not.  And if I truly want my last moments to be filled with meaning and perpous, I know that I have to live every single day like it’s my last… no not skydiving or traveling, but truly catering to the things I am most passionate about.  Because I won’t be on this earth forever, but maybe I can make an impact that will. And for what it’s worth, I’d rather live a short life filled with tons of meaning, than a long life wasted on selfishness. 

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Nameless

I want to share with you a little story. Before I start, I will tell you about the events of my day. I went to work and slept for 7 hours when I got home. I ate dinner and finished a painting.  Now I’m going to sleep again.  Think in your head now about that day.  What about that day sounds good? How about bad? What in the day seems out of the ordinary? 

Have you thought about it? If so, here is my story.  Once upon a time a very lost and broken nameless woman found finally found peace. She began doing things that helped her move forward in life. She grew in her love for God and others. She fell in love and got engaged. Everything in her life was beginning to be normal for the first time in a long time. What did normal look like? Well, it meant being semi-social. It meant not thinking about suicide.  It meant holding a steady relationship.  It meant working hard and liking work.  

Slowly, however, she started to question the normality in her life.  She wondered how long she could keep it up. Soon she felt things start to overwhelm her.  She couldn’t be at home without being overwhelmed with thoughts of good, bad, and even meoncholy things. Her brained never stopped working.  It made her physically sick.  Soon the things she once enjoyed in life solely became distractions from the chaos in her mind.  She would work as many hours as she could to not just earn money, but keep her mind distracted.  When she wasn’t working she would sleep to turn off her mind. When she couldn’t sleep she would distract herself by planning her wedding, or painting, or doing her makeup, or taking a shower. She would do whatever it too to stop her mind. Soon she began to wonder what the point of it all was. Soon she began to question her point in reality. She began to question the point of life.

And soon, this girl who thought she had began to defeat depression, was now overwhelmed with a sorrow that encompassed her whole body. Every nerve in her body was in excruciating pain.  She would sob uncontrollably for no reason other than she wanted turn off her brain.  She would die if she knew she wouldn’t be leaving those she loved behind. She knew she had a future, but she feared her future would look like this. 

This nameless girl is one you may know very well. I’ll bet you though, that I know her better. And this story though written in the third person, is the true story of how I have fallen back into depression. I wrote this today as my fiancé reminded me that sometimes the best way for me to get things out of my mind is to write them down. So I’ll admit, I’m sick in the brain. But as a quote from my favorite band that is tattooed on my arm would say, “Our brains are sick, but that’s okay.”

Am I Strong Yet?

I try to forget.  I’m often quite good at pretending it all never happened.  I’m so completely and utterly satisfied with my life right now, I don’t want to take the time to remember everything I have been through to get me here.  It’s Woman’s Day and I as a woman want to say some things that I believe are important for people to know. 

Women tend to be inherently labeled as weak. While tons of examples can be given of strong women, I want to give you all my personal example.  First, let me give you some information about me.  I’m emotional; I cry about everything. I once cried because I wanted Taco Bell in the middle of the night.  I also cry about important things, like losing someone close to me.  I’m silly.  I joke and laugh.  I love makeup because it makes me feel pretty.  Do I sound like a strong woman to you?

Most people only see what’s on the surface and don’t want to learn about the real stuff.  So here is why I am strong.  I was abused physically and sexually for two years and never told a soul and lived my life as if everything was okay.  I did deuga so I could feel loved.  I was raped on multiple occasions.  I tried to kill myself on multiple occasions as well.  I spent the better of two years in hospitals.  I went to strangers homes to engage in sexual intercourse with them putting myself in dangerous situations.  I had to stop going to school because I couldn’t make it out of bed.  Do I sound strong now?

No? Well what if I told you I have been out of the hospital for almost a full year now. That I have a wonderful fiancé whom I love and we love with a mutual respect.  What if I said I have been holding a steady job that I have been thriving in even when it’s hard to get out of bed.  What if I told you I’m happy and taking the right medications so I can stay this way.  What if I said I fought the hardest fight to stay alive and now I’m alive and encouraging others to stay alive.  What if I told you I am no longer a slave to my insecurities or fears.  What if I said people around me joke about rape, suicide, and drug use and I’m able to remain hopeful in the fact that I have overcome.  I can be ridiculed and called names and it doesn’t bother me one bit because I know where to find my worth. What if I told you I have forgiven those who hurt me and I pray for them daily.  Am I strong yet?

The thing about strength is it looks different to everyone.  I feel strong knowing I survived.  Women like me are everywhere and they all have their own story to tell. Celebrate women by celebrating the fact that they are overcomers. It’s hard to remember, but I will never let myself forget. 

Dear Strength,

I haven’t written in a while. You see, so much in my life has changed. In a few short months I feel like I have done basically nothing with my life; yet I managed to get engaged, thrive at work, and make plans for the future.  Not much can take me down. I fight my bipolar depression every day. I’m so much stronger than I was a year ago.  In just a couple months in fact it will be a year being Hospital free. I’m also happy to know my last suicide attempt was far over a year ago today. Looking up but always looking out for what’s to come. My doctor says that it’s like living life knowing that at any moment you could fall and bash your head. So I tread carefully.

Politics and social justic projects occupy a lot of my mind in different moments.  I have so much to learn, so many opinions forming.  I enjoy seeing debates about this and that and try to form an opinion.  I often write about how I feel about different issues.  Most remian unseen.  It’s keeps my mind occupied though, so I like it.

I often fight between my future and today. If I live too much for the future will I be missing out on today? If I love for today, how will I properly plan for the future. What part of giving my worries to the Lord means not being proactive.

I do love wedding planning. Financially it is hard, but I know no matter the cost, the wedding will be rich in Love for I have found the man whom my soul loves.

The hardest thing to accept in this moment is being well doesn’t mean I have to be fine. I accept my hard days but I struggle to accept a label of being better.  Mainly because I do struggle. The awareness I want to bring to this and so many other hidden diseases makes me want to bring to light that fact that even when is seems to be over it may not be.  

In my free time, I’ve found I’ve lost a lot of my interest in doing the things I used to enjoy. I think I haven’t felt a need for them like I used to.  Working to get back into certain things to help me stay mindful has been important to me.  I like studying and doing research on various things, mainly psychology related. I still enjoy fleshing out, brainstorming, and writing my book. Though I’ve figured now it’s more about writing it for me and maybe publishing it someday. But for now, it’s still for me.  I still love listening to music.  It gets me through everything. I haven’t played much music lately. Hopefully that’s something I can add to my list of things to do.

Honestly, the real thing I want to say is that no matter where you are at in your journey, just keep on trudging through.  Once you find a goal to focus on, strive to live for that. Keep on building a life worth living so when you feel the want to end it, you can look up and say. Nope, it’s not worth it. 

Love strong and dream big.

Shalom 

The First Chapter

I sat alone in the stone-cold room.  Everything was white, the only color came from the wood stained cubbies where one could keep personal items.  Again, I sat alone.  The bed covered in white hospital linens was surprisingly comfortable, in a very hard and impersonal way.  “What have I done?” I thought to myself as I looked out the locked sixth story windows.  Everything outside was bright and colorful as falls tend to be in Michigan.  Everyone was bustling around with no cares in the world as if blind to the prison above their head.  I heard a faint knock on the door.  As I turn, I try to hide my tears because I have to be brave.  Brave, as if what brought me here wasn’t a terrible sign of a coward.

The two woman standing in the doorway did not look like anyone I would ever want to make acquaintance. The one in front was shorter, probably in her mid-fiftys.  She had on a pair of blue scrub pants and a graphic tee that covered up her large braless chest.  The other woman was around the same age.  She looked like she was a mixture of angry and scared.  Her blond hair was matted to her head. She adorned the same light blue scrub pants and a different graphic tee. “Where the hell am I?” I thought as they stared into my cold room.  The one up front removed what looked like a short, unlit, plastic cigarette from her mouth.  She cleared her chest with a raspy cough and began to speak.

“Hi, you just got here right?” I reluctantly responded though my instincts told me to do otherwise. “Why are you crying? You shouldn’t be scared. It’s okay. Come here.” She prompted but I decided to listen to my head and stay put.  “Come here!” she said a little more forcefully.  I felt obligated to move. 

I met them in the brightly lit hallway.  One man was speed walking back and forth from one end to another.  I could overhear a loud conversation going on down at the nurses station. “Would you like to join us to watch tv? We have tv here.  There is also a Wii. If you wanted we could color as well.” The bolder one asked as she inhaled on the plastic cigarette. 

“I think I’m just going to stay in my room for now. Thank you.” I tried to be as polite as possible even though everything on the inside was screaming.

“That’s okay.  I’m Barb and this is Nancy.  We can help you if you need it.  Come sit with us at dinner. It’s at six in the Day Room.  I’m not sure what you’ll be eating but I ordered a pizza. It’s great.  You can order whatever you want. Some of it is good, some isn’t.  I’ll show you the menu later. Okay? Nice meeting you.” She explained in almost a motherly and nurturing fashion. I looked her over again making sure I didn’t mistake her.  She was another patient, there was no doubt in my mind about that.  I was confused and scared; mainly scared.  Once again, I thought to myself, “What have I done? Where am I?”

“It’s really not that bad.” I heard Barb yell from the other end of the hall.  I quickly realized I was standing in the middle of the hallway by myself.  I scampered back into my room.  I looked around once again and the white walls and the reality was setting in.  I was in a Mental Hospital.  I admitted myself.  I’m probably not getting out in time to take my finals.  My mom probably hates me or is worried sick.  And the fact that truly drove me to my knees in tears: I wanted to die, I couldn’t die, and I was completely and utterly alone.

 


 

I guess I should take a step back for a second.  It’s not every day that one would just find themselves in a mental hospital. Not every day for most people at least.  For the most part my life was completely and utterly normal.  My parents are still together.  I graduated High School with a high GPA.  I was attending my second year at a local University.  I had tons of friends, many people said I was a socialite and that everyone loved me.  The issue is, I sure as hell didn’t love myself.  I hated myself to the very core of who I was.  It’s not that I didn’t see good things in myself, its more that all my bad traits so deeply overpowered anything good in me it was as if I was a hollowed-out soul.  My body kept moving but everything inside me was already dead.

Why did I hate myself so much? Well, that’s a question that took many years of therapy to answer.  The reasons could easily be pinpointed to a few underlying details.  For one, I was alone.  Not in the sense of not having people in my life, but in the fact that I felt this emptiness inside me that would not go away.  I thought that the only thing that would make me feel better was having a man to love me.  That brings me to my second point.  I thought I was ugly. No person could ever love someone as ugly as me.  I had pretty eyes which I always made to be my only good feature.  I was Fat. Not overwhelmingly so, but I wore a size 18 which will be found in the front end of plus sizes.  My hair was blah.  Nothing I did to it could make it look half as good as other girls.  Did I mention I would constantly compare myself to other girls? I couldn’t ever compare is probably a better thing to say.  So overall was my life hell? Well no, It just wasn’t great though.  Pair that with a plethora of drugs and being raped in High School and well, you’d have me.

I started seeing a therapist a few months prior to being sent to the hospital.  The cutting and constant wanting to hang my body from the ceiling sort of tipped me off to those around me.  I started seeing Josh, a Psychiatry student going for his Doctorate.  He worked at the University Counseling center.  Students recieved ten free one-on-one sessions a semester, so really there was no point in not going.  The sessions were a train wreck from the get-go.  I didn’t want to talk and the dude was shy and awkward.  It didn’t make for a great combo, but I didn’t know any better.  We would work our way through each session seemingly getting nowhere fast.  If anything, I was getting worse and worse.  I became numb to emotion so I could walk out of their smiling ear to ear, strike up a conversation with a professor walking by, and in the back of my mind be planning my suicide.  I felt as if I had perfected the art of depression. 

Apparently, I didn’t perfect it enough because after 11 sessions (he thought I was such a desperate case he kept treating me even after my free appointments were up) he decided I was too much of a risk to myself to continue on the way I was.  I sat in his extremely dark office as he was turned around on the phone speaking in hushed tones. It always bothered me that his office was so dark.  I mean, it didn’t even have a window.  How can someone treat depression in such a dark room? I think he tried to make amends to that by adding hundreds of different little stress balls he collected throughout the years.  They seemed to make him happy enough. They just creeped me out.  He hung up the phone and turned around.  He said that University Police were on their way to watch and escort me out once the ambulance arrived. 

Why did I need an ambulance?  I could have a friend drive me.  And the Police? I’m trying not to stand out as a freak.  Talk about attracting the wrong kinds of attention.  My mind was racing.  I knew I had to tell my mom but I was worried about what she might say. “Hi Mom they are sending me away so I don’t kill myself. Xoxo Love you.” That did not sound like the thing a daughter should tell their parent.  I did call her.  She was as confused as I was about the ambulance but apparently, it was just procedure.  She told me she didn’t know it was as bad as it was, that she loved me, and that she would meet me in the emergency department once we arrive at the hospital.  I then handed my cell to Josh who explained to her more.  That’s when I started sobbing.  It was as if every emotion I had been holding in the past couple years have come pouring out.  I wanted more than anything to die, especially now.  Now I couldn’t. Psychiatrists and police officers surrounded me.  The next few hours happened so quickly that I can barely even remember them.  I was taken out by wheelchair even though I could walk just fine.  I was put in an ambulance and after what seemed like the longest ride of my life, we arrived at the emergency room.  Security came to meet the EMT and they looked stunned when they saw me step out of the vehicle. “Do you need a wheelchair?” they asked to me.  Then turning to the EMT they asked quietly, “I thought this was a suicide case.” 

“It is.” They responded as they all looked at me standing there. God, I was a freak.

My mom arrived shortly after they got me into a ‘safe room’ in the ER.  Basically, the room had nothing but a bed in it.  Not even a blanket was their because I could use it to hurt myself.  If anything made me was to kill myself, it was this room.  It was bone dry and cold.  My mom walked in crying.  We had some hard talks as we waited for the doctors and social workers to deliberate on what is best to do.  Finally, after 6 hours, the word came that I was being admitted.  Up on the sixth floor of the hospital was a Mental Health unit.  It seemed like a silly place to put a psych ward since jumpers could have a heyday that high up.  That was none of my business though.  They had me stand up in my hospital gown and sit in a wheelchair.  A nurse grabbed me the most comfortable pair of hospital socks ever and  I waved goodbye to my mom.  She said she loved me a would be back.  That was that.

A few minutes and some long hallways later and I was entering the strangest looking hospital floor I had ever seen.  There was crafts, puzzles, and games lining the window of a large room that had couches and a big screen tv that was locked behind a plexiglass wall.  They took me into a room to file so much paperwork my head was spinning.  Finally, the nurse showed me around.

The Unit was set up as on long “L” shaped hallway.  There was the big “Day Room” where meals were eaten.  That room held all the activities.  It also had an exercise bike.  Two smaller rooms lined the shorter hall.  Both had fogged glass windows.  They had wipe boards and appeared to be classrooms. Across from the dayroom was the nurses station.  There was a phone with a short chord hanging from the wall where we could make calls.  Down the longer hall were the patient’s rooms.  Most contained two beds, each separated by a curtain.  My room was at the complete end of the hall.  I had the bed near the window which was nice.  I also didn’t have a roommate when I walked in.  She showed me my cloths that they had taken and examined for anything that could be dangerous and told me I could change out of the gown.  As she left she said just to come to the nurses station if I have any questions.  With that, I was alone.  I quickly changed out of that awful hospital gown.  I sat down on my bed and looked around.

That my friend is where I left off.  This is only just the beginning of a very bumpy ride. The next few years of my life that are laid out in this book only grow more and more horrid.   One thing that I’d like to say from the begining is this. You will see that through everything that happens, I come through alive.  Not only am I alive but you will see how I am able to use each and every thing that I went through to help change the way people see mental health.  Though this story is about me I wrote it for everyone.  I want people to know this is all normal.  I want people to see how sick I truly was and how mental illnesses are real illnesses.  I also want people to believe in that fact that there is hope and it will get better.

A Day of Rest

Busy is the word that I could define my life with.  I slow down for moments of peace and contentment but I’m always back at it again.  I feel saddened that I have been unable to share much on my blog during this time.  Not only because I love writing, but also because I love sharing my thoughts and feelings.  I wrote three posts that I never ended up posting for one reason or another.  I seem to be a bit more filtered than I was in times past.

I want to share a bit on The Sabbeth and how it has come to be so important to me.  The Sabbath is typically and historically a day of rest, more specifically a day of rest with God.  To learn more about the sabbath, the good book to Genisis does a good job laying it out.

I honestly never understood the sabbath as a child.  It seemed odd to me the we are taught to keep all these commandments yet the one about the sabbath I never saw walked out.  Honestly, even those who choose to not work on Sundays seemed to spend their time after church watching football.  What then is this all about? I was always curious.

At a Bible teaching in college, our speaker that evening told us how God want us to use the sabbath to rest in him.  He presented to is how this could be don’t by simply thanking him for all our good things, enjoying time with him, or enjoying his creation.  He told us it was important and that it didn’t necessarily have to be on Sunday, as long as we set aside a day for this special type of rest.

I think I practiced this one week after hearing that messaged than it was back to my old ways again. Still, I didn’t understand. 

Then my mind went through chaos.  My mind was never at rest and it cause some terrible things to happen.  In the hospital I learned the practice of mindfulness and being present in the moment.  It’s close to meditation just without the spiritual nature.  For the past year I have been working extremely hard to practice mindfulness daily.  Sometimes I just need to get out of my head and into the present.  

I have noticed how important that is to me and how I need this type of rest, just like I need sleep, to function.  That’s when I hit this reality of why God not only asks, but commands rest. He knows we need it.  He knows that resting in this way is a vital part of living a healthy life. I can now understand what it means to take a sabbath. It’s not necessarily all day bible study and it’s not all day napping.  It’s using one day a week to celebrate the day. Thank God for all the beauty you see around you. It’s feeding your body and taking some time to let your body rest.  It’s also meditating on him word and spending time in prayer.  It’s going somewhere to get things done and constantly reminding yourself of Gods goodness and using that to help bless others! The Sabbeth is no burden friend’s.  It’s a blessing.  It’s a celebration.  

Hold strong to what is true. Show who God is through your words and actions.  Be the man or woman God created you to be.

Shalom

Evangelizing to the American Athiest 

Shortly after my return from Guatemala, my life spiraled out of control.  In my last blog post, I spoke in depth about a short period of the hell that has been the past few years.  Another defining factor in this period of my life was an intense struggle of faith.  During this struggle I came to a point of all or nothing and made the decision to forgo my faith that I had one held so dear.  I told myself and others I was agnostic and I got a variety of responses from some of the Christians that had been in my life.  Many comments were not at all helpful and some even turned me further from the truth.

Looking back now, I can discern why some of those comments that were intended to be helpful, turned into a bitter resentment.  I decided to write this post for my Christian friends and followers.  I want to open up a discussion of how we can best evangelize to the American atheist.  These are the ones who know what Christianity is and who Jesus is and decide it’s not for them.  

Before I state my opinions on what I think is the right way to reach the “American Atheist”, I FIRST what to touch on some things that I think are unhelpful in situations in which you are interacting with someone who is an atheist.  This list I will keep short because I do think that ever interaction you have with someone is different and their is obviously no formula to the perfect way to evangelize.  So with that, I urge discussion and questions! Let’s begin, shall we?

The Westboro

So, it is commenly agreed upon in Christian Circles that the way The Westboro Baptist Church evangelizes is harmful.  Many even say their hateful speech could show that they aren’t even Christian.  So why do so many then do a smaller scale version of what they do? That means, instead of using love in sharing Jesus with others, one will point out others sins in a way the is demeaning to them.  I’ll call this “The Westboro”.  Don’t know exactly what I’m talking about.  I’d suggest looking at any of the heated political news stories.  You are sure to see people hateing other in Jesus name.  So in your own personal interactions, do you ever judge someone who shouldn’t be judged? Or judged when judging isn’t helpful? Evangelizing those who are unrepentant and don’t follow Christ don’t follow the same moral set of rules we as Christians have.  Our moral code is written for us in the Bible and assuming we believe in Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we should want to follow those rules as a way of loving our Lord! Since atheist don’t even know or love Jesus, they have no reason to follow our set of rules and laws. And we as humans are not their judge.  We can hold other Christians accountable, but to our unbelieving friends, holding them accountable to something they don’t even believe is rediculous.  So if we have a friend that is watching porn and they are not a Christian, their is really nothing stopping them from indulging in such a thing. Besides maybe some studies that show Porn can be harmful to relationships, they have no reason to stop watching.  In this example, if we were to Westboro them, we could say something like, “It’s so disgusting you watch porn. You shouldn’t watch porn because it’s awful and God hates adultry.”  In this more extreme example, you can almost see why the unbelieving friend would laugh you off and reasonable say “Well f@#% your God then.  I never wanted to follow him anyway. Why would I want to now.”  This is a more obvious one but I so often see this logic used for many other things including lying, sleeping together before marriage, drinking, drugs, abortion and gay marriage.  So what do you think? Have you ever used or have seen “The Westboro”? 

Good News

So with that, how should we evangelize? Well I think the best way in my opinion, is to just befriend them; and not for alterier motives either.  Befriend them and love them unconditionally and see what you can gain from them in return.  Don’t hide your faith from them, but don’t preach to them either.  Realize many adult atheists in America probably went to church at some point in their lives and probably were burned by it.  Don’t add to their judgement of Christianity.  Instead, be like Christ to them.  Love them even if they never choose to follow Jesus in your lifetime. Try your best not sin around them, and when you do, admit it to yourself. Say something like, “I know it may be silly to you, but I really don’t like swearing because of my faith. Could you try to catch me if I swear?”  This indicates to them that you are truly committed to your faith and they may even be envious of the hope they see you have.  When I was agnostic a pastor of mine constantly talked to me and befriended me.  He would be honest about him wanting me to come back to the church but he said he would never force me.  It was his love that made me search.  I don’t think I could have ever just went to a church service believed again.  It was rooted deeper than that.  It was me that had to want to research not just Christianity, but other world religions and make the decision on my own.  It was friend who stayed by me that encouraged me to search for the joy they found in Christ.  It wasn’t those who said “you’re smarter than this.” or “Don’t let the enemy get you.”  It also wasn’t the Westboroers that said “Sex is a sin that will lead you to hell.  Don’t prostitute yourself.”  nor was it “Depression and Mental Illness is simply spiritual warfare.”. Those people were not helpful at all.  So what do you think about this?  Should we pursue the American athiest in a more aggressive light, or do you like the approve of an unconditional and loving friendship?

Let me know your thoughts here in the comments or if you are a personal friend, in my Facebook page.