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.

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Can You Hear Me Now?

It has been a while since I have posted publicly to my blog. At times I feel it is best my thoughts remain private, but right now, I only feel I need my voice to be heard.

I don’t know how many tines I have written about the invisible terrors mental illness causes. I have probably spoken on this topic far more than I could count. One thing I often don’t talk about though sexual assault. Now for those who may be triggered or have a hard time reading about these types of things, I do encourage you stop now. I would never want anyone else to relive trauma.

Now, every form of abuse I have suffered still causes me problems in my life. This very specific form of abuse however hurts me in ways I can’t even comprehend.

I want to tell a brief story. There was a young man who came to my work place looking for a home. Now, to everyone else, he probably seemed normal. If anything, maybe he seemed to be a tad bit conceited. To me, he was different. This man’s personality, his actions, & his mannerisms flipped a switch in my head. In my mind, I have seen him before. Even though I probably had never actually met him, my mind knew him. My mind recognized his mannerisms and set off a warning alarm. My body’s fight or flight defenses turned on because all of a sudden, It wasn’t a stranger. This man wanted to hurt me, degrade me, rape me.

I don’t know him and he probably is an okay guy, but from past experiences, my mind and body thought this man was threatening. It pulled to mind gruesome memories and details that I never wanted to think. Now, do you want to know the worst part? It was noon and I still had to work six more hours before I could go home and cry.

One of the worst feelings a sexual assault victim can feel is degraded and unheard. My mind screams internally and my body feels numb. Those same describing words could be used to describe several of the sexual assaults I have survived. I’m fighting this deadly feeling and I can’t say a word.

Why don’t I say something? Well, times like these happen more often than I care to admit and if I said something every time, I would surely turn into the boy who cried wolf. That is why I stay silent. I keep quiet until I get to a time that my body produces a physical reaction: sobbing, yelling, convulsions, hair pulling, etc. I wait until this happens because I know people will see something is actually wrong. They will be able to hear me. They will be able to understand. It’s like my mind is screaming “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW!?”

I hate living life like this. I’m in constant fear. I wonder if anyone can relate. My therapist suggested I get a doctors note so if I feel unheard, people will believe me. My everyday life consists of trying to stay calm and trying to remain normal. I practice many coping skills throughout the day just to function.

Sometimes it’s even worse after I go to therapy because it brings things up that I would rather ignore. I have been hurt too much and I’m mad that it’s able to control me. I’m mad it can hold me hostage. I’m mad it can take me away from my work. I’m mad that it effects my intimacy with my husband. My mind is mad and now it’s screaming at all the men who hurt me “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?”

That is why I wanted to make this public. I want people that know me, to hear me. I want them hear the silent screams for help. I want others who read it to relate or to hear others. Think of the four closest women to you. Now pick one. Statistically one in every four women are sexually assaulted in their lives. Let our voices be heard. Because sexual assault isn’t just a “me too” Facebook post and then let’s all forget. Sexual assault is a monster that devours its victims daily.

So this goes out to those who feel like they can’t be heard. And I ask those around me, can you hear me now?

When the Pieces Don’t Fit

I have, for a long time, struggled with the almost invisible clash between modern medicine and religion.  There are some who go to extremes on way or the other.  Being the subject I advocate against, Mental Health, seems to be one of the hardest clashes against religion.  Being a pronounced follower of Jesus the Christ, I sometimes have a hard time myself trying to reconcile how all of it works. What is spiritual, what is physical, or is everything a combination of the in between? For answers I look to two places but still I find a hard time finding an intersect.  Should I give up everything I know of mental illness or do I abandon my faith for lack of understanding? I think both are an extreme but I do have so many questions left unanswered.

The topic was brought up today as I met with my old roommate from the Mission School.  As we enjoyed raspberry iced tea and created with watercolor, we were able to discusse life, work, friends, and of course God.  Through our conversation I felt as if I was playing devils advocate.  For every statement she made I had a question to counter.  It made for great conversation and even knowing the amazing nature of our friendship, it was ultimately the best time I’ve ever spent with her. 

We discussed mental illness and both agreed that there is undeniable evidence that it is indeed physical.  The issue however came in when we started discussing spiritual aspects.  She asked me if I have forgiven myself for suicide attempts and wanted to know how I was feeling about an unfortunate circumstance surrounding my time at the School.  That’s when I started to question things.  If my illness is purely physical, should I be repentant of something that I had no control over? Or did I have some control and just made a wrong decision? We talked about spiritual warefare and though I don’t deny it’s existence, I have a hard time believing it plays a role in mental health.  We did say it was physical after all.  Do prayers help more than medication? How could medication be a cure to a spiritual problem? None of it fits together.  

Through my studies of psychology and philosophy, I have learned a lot about the state of human existence.  The brain is complex and masterfully created -by The Creator.  However, when studying the bible I learn to “lean not my own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).  So if I can’t trust my perception of reality, how can I even believe in God at all.  Of course, the great philosopher Rene Descartes built his entire belief in a higher power upon the phrase, “I think, therefore I am”. But how can I believe anything if I can’t even trust my own understanding. Does the brain contain the soul? Is the soul a separate entity entirely? Are the two entertwined while on this earth? 

Realizing that got away from mental health some, I believe it is relevant to the conversation.  I believe and trust my understanding of modern medicine, specifically psychology and psychiatry.  I also see how my understanding aligns with what I’ve witnessed in my own life and with others.  But does this disprove the existence of God? I don’t believe so.  I have seen so much evidence for the existence of the God of Moses, to say he’s not real would be ignorant.  Somehow these two things exist together and I just can’t wrap my mind around it.  That’s okay though.  I don’t think I have to.  It is something I would like to know more about.  I’d love to speak with psychologists and theologians and learn as much as I can. I do believe that those of us with mental illnesses in Christian communities need a voice and I hope to be that.  

I think the best way to end this post filled with questions is with some truth. I am alive because God created me.  I am alive because modern medicine continues to save my life daily.  God created medicine for us to utilize.  God loves me.  I have bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. God could take those away from me.  He could choose to allow medication to manage my symptoms for the rest of my life.  No matter what, God is for me. He is for you. I am for you too.

Thoughts and feedback would be great! If you know a lot about the topics discussed please contact me and let’s have a conversation.