Open Letter to my Depression

Dear over-bearing body sharer,

I now understand how Sisyphus felt everyday when he finally got the boulder to the top of the hill only to have it roll all the way back down: joy and immense despair all at once. Because in that moment, all his hard work failed to pay off. Likewise, I too think I’m over this hill, and one small action causes me to stumble and roll all the way back down into your arms. And then I have to fight to find my footing, to find the strength to stand up and try again.

I do have this to say about you: if nothing else, you are persistent.

But other than that, I don’t really know what else to say to you. I’ve referred to you with many titles. You are the Mr. Hyde to my Dr. Jekyll, the Yin to my Yang, this Omnipresent sadness. But more than any of those things, you are perhaps most like a volcano: sometimes you’re active, but most of the time you’re dormant, bubbling under the surface of my facade, waiting for an (in)opportune moment to burst forth.

And notice I said, “inopportune moment,” because that’s what it is. An ideal time for you proves to be the worst time for me. Like in the library last week. Dude, what you did was harsh and mean and cruel, which makes sense because you’re a bully. But let’s be honest, I was all fine and dandy until you pointed out the group of girls a table over from me, laughing and whispering. And I know they most likely weren’t laughing at me or whispering about me, but you showed up and made me feel so inadequate, I honestly, truly thought they were.

And in an instant I went from self-confident to insecure, which happens more than I’d like to admit.

The whole insecurity thing isn’t even the worst of what you do to me. The worst is your cousin anxiety you bring over for dinner once and a while. Our conversations are anything but reassuring.

I can deal with the feeling of numbness you sometimes decide to bring home. But I can’t deal with the constant fear of being judged, of making a fool of myself, of being alone. Because when your cousin Anxiety shows up, I over-analyze everything. I can’t sleep, because I’m afraid to dream. I can’t get out of bed, because what if the floor collapses under my feet? No, staying in bed is definitely safer.

People keep telling me I’ll grow out of it. It’s just a phase. But, I’m not so naive to believe that. I’ve been trying to fight against you for long enough to know you’re not going anywhere. You’re like the people I try to avoid when I see them in public, but I can’t avoid you. We occupy the same space. You are a part of me, and I can’t hide from myself. I can’t fight against myself. And I most definitely cannot preform a lobotomy and separate you from me.

So, I must live with you. And I don’t always know how to deal with the feelings I experience, the thoughts that zip through my mind, but that’s why I write.

If I didn’t know better, I’d think you are trying to kill me. But I’ve been there, and I’ve written that letter. And I’ve also burned that letter (and by burn, I mean “I’ve torn you up into a million pieces and threw you out the window as I was driving). I’ve come to realize, though, you’ve helped me discover a lot.

Yes, you’ve shown me the valleys, but when you’ve allowed me the occasional room to breathe, I’ve seen the heights. And yes, sometimes the thought of ending it all enters my mind, but when I reach the heights and don’t want to jump, all I see is beauty. And even though I have to convince you to let me out of bed, when I take that step of faith, I realize the world isn’t so bad.

You’re the reason I need to remind myself to breathe, and the reason why sometimes I’m so focused on breathing in and out, I forget how to put one foot in front of the other. But, I’ve learned that sometimes forgetting how to walk is better than forgetting how to live.

Without you, I wouldn’t have found the passion to change the world, to impact others lives. But without you, I’d have the courage to do so.

I’ve learned to live with you. Learn to live with me. Because what’s yang without yin? 

We’ve learned from each other. We’re in a symbiotic relationship, and I can’t escape. I’m not suffering because of you. I’m living despite you. And I want others to do the same. Because this life truly is beautiful.

You’ve taught me I’m stronger than I think I am. You’ve learned I will always prove you wrong.

But ultimately, I’ve learned if we work together, we can change the world.

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Things I Learned In School

While I was learning a^2 + b^2 = c^2,  binomial expansion, and Implicit Differentiation, I was not learning that life is not a math equation. You can’t plug in different variables, different circumstances, and get one definitive outcome, one definitive life. My life is different from your life is different from his life. My experiences define who I am as do yours. There are only two experiences every person has: birth and death; how we get there, and what we do in between is completely dependent on the individual. You can graph where a person’s been, but you can’t graph where they’re going. You can graph the past, but you can’t graph the future, because life isn’t a line or a parabola, or the sum of an infinite series, or etc, etc, and there are too many “what ifs” to get a clear picture anyway, even if it was or were (for being an English major, there are a lot of Grammar rules that continue to confuse me).

But, that was a tangent.

Hey, speaking of tangents, did you know tangents only touch a circle once? And circles don’t have points, and I guess neither did that fact, because school teaches you facts, but not how to apply them. It teaches you to think, but not how to reason. So, yes, I’m really good at spitting back whos, whats, wheres, whens, and whys, but not the “so what?”s. I’m still trying to figure out how the past has influenced my life and how I can influence the future. And as to where my story fits in the grand scheme of things, I’m still trying to figure that one out, too. But as I’m beginning to experience more things, that picture’s becoming clearer. That’s an equation I hope to solve one day.

Mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell. But, I bet you knew that already, didn’t you?

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, which I learned in Math, but I understand it the best when I’m trying to find the quickest route to avoid someone or the shortest walk to class in the cold of winter or the pouring rain.

Weight equals mass times gravity, and you learn this in physics, but you understand it when the bathroom floor pulls you against its cold, flat surface after you’ve emptied last night’s calories.

All matter has mass. But you don’t learn it school what it means to matter. You have to learn that on your own, and I’ve discovered that you matter because of what matters to you. Your level of mattering is directly equivalent to how much what you care about matters to you. Your value is not inversely proportional to your weight; it’s directly proportional to the amount you care.

You learn competition, because this whole system of class rank separates the “good at memorizing,” from “the not so good.” But how well you do in school has no bearing on how successful you will be when it comes to the ‘real world.’

You learn about Supply and Demand and Opportunity Cost, but you won’t really understand until you have to live paycheck to paycheck, or until your Dad has to work three jobs to make ends meet and he has to decide between earning money and spending time with the family.

You learn about interest rate and the idea of loans, but you’ll wish you paid attention when it comes time to pay back student loans.

You learn about Total Surface Area and Volume, which becomes helpful when you have to fit a week’s worth of dirty dishes into a dishwasher.

You learn how to compare yourself to others, but not how to love yourself despite others.

Life has taught me many things, and learning how to love myself is one of the hardest.

I’ve learned life is hard, some days you will hate yourself, but there’s always hope.

Why doesn’t school teach you that?

Enough

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my trip to Guatemala and about how much I miss it. And I realized I haven’t shared this story with anyone yet, so you, readers of this post, will be the first.

There will come a moment when your life makes sense: your past connects to your present connects to your future. And when this happens, it will be like one big ball of “Eureka! So that’s why this happened.” Because it that moment, the Healing Process begins all over again, and it almost doesn’t matter how much pain it caused you. Because in that moment, all that matters is how it’s changing lives in a different country.

It happened to me in Santa Cruz, a little tiny mountain village in the middle of nowhere, Guatemala. It happened to me on the day I shared my Testimony with my teammates and the Spanish speaking Junior Highers. It happened to me after we made Salvation Bracelets with the Elementary schoolers. And it happened to me when a Junior Higher asked me, “Podemos hablar?,” which translates to “Can we talk?” but carries so much more weight.

And I told her: “Por supuesto!” Which means, “Of course,” but there were a million thoughts running through my head at a mile a minute, and I was thinking, “What did I do now? Did I offend her in someway? Oh gosh, I’m really not prepared for this.”

But, I was. And so we did talk, just the two of us. In Spanish. For an hour. And my heart started to break as she thanked me for sharing my story, and it completely shattered as she told me her own. Because sitting across from me, next to the soccer field, was one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen, and she’s sitting there telling me how she doesn’t feel like she’s enough. She doesn’t feel like she’s strong enough, brave enough, good enough, and like she doesn’t have faith enough.

And I tell her I understand. Because there are experiences that transcend all barriers. We are not from the same country. We have different cultures, and I’m trying my best to speak her language, but boy, do I understand.

And she begins to cry as she asks me how I do it–how I find the strength to get up every morning. And I sit there wondering the same thing. I look at my wrist, and I see the bracelet with the colored beads I made earlier. And in that moment, I know what I need to do.

And as I rip it off my wrist, and tie it to her’s, I tell her: “Black is for your sins. Red is for the blood of Jesus shed for you. White is for the forgiveness of sins. And blue is for baptism and a relationship with Jesus.” And then I tell her again to make sure she understands.

“Negro es para tus pecados.

Rojo es para la sangre de Jesus.

Blanca es para la compasion.

Y azul es para la relacion con Jesus.

That’s how I find my strength, and now you can have it too.”

And then we prayed a prayer, and she accepted Christ right there, and this time I cried tears of joy, because she had found the joy I found.

And as I said goodbye to her as I prepared to leave the village, I realized moments like these are why my struggles are worth it. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that love transcends all languages.

And I was reminded of that over and over again as the rest of my trip progressed. I was reminded when we took the orphans out for dinner, and one grabbed my hand and said, “Sientense conmigo.” Sit with me. Sit with me. And I was reminded again when she fell asleep on my lap on the bus ride home, and I had to carry her off the bus and hand her off to someone else. And the way her eyes lit up when she saw me the next day and the next day, reminded me again and again how powerful love is.

When we went to the dump this little girl who didn’t know me from Adam, ran up to me,  and reached her hands up as if she was Adam and I was God. I’m no Savior, but that night I was a hero, because I brought love to give. And when I picked her up, the big smile she wore on her face was enough to make me realize we all want the same thing. We all want to feel loved. We all want to be safe.

And when the people in the dump who live on ‘not enough’ invited us into their homes so they could pray for us, I felt undeserving. Because, yes, I’ve had it rough, but at least I have enough. Right now, in this moment, you don’t. So I should be praying for you. But as they prayed I realized how much faith they had. And I want faith like theirs.

Because there are days when I don’t feel like enough. In those moments, I think back to these memories, and I realize: I have enough love to give. I am enough.

Continue reading: https://alltherestisunwritten.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/set-a-fire/

Ice Breaker

The first day of class is always my least favorite day of, well, ever. And it’s not because I have to be around people and have to change out of my pajamas. It’s because of the stupid “Ice-breaker” games that teachers like to play.

“Let’s play a game,” they say. “Tell us something about yourself.”

Let’s not play a game, and say that we did. Because I’m sitting here wondering, where do I begin? Where’s the line between too much and not enough? And where’s the point of suspense that’ll keep you wanting more? Because there’s a lot I could say, and I never know how to start.

So, I get the ice breaking by saying,

“My name is Kaleigh. I’m 19 years old. I’m an English Major. I play piano, and unlike some of my favorite books, I don’t have an appendix. Oh yeah, I also make stupid jokes, punintentionally mostly.”

And that usually gets a laugh or two, but I’m sitting there thinking, you still want to get to know me? Are you sure? Because there are so many things you don’t know…

Like, did you know that when you ask me how I’m doing, I usually lie and say I’m doing fine, because lies are easier to handle than the truth.

You shouldn’t love me because I’m broken. You should love me because I’ve found beauty despite the brokenness.

I’m not afraid of dying, because I was once afraid of living. But I am afraid of trying to die, which is why I’m afraid of heights.

The last time I cried was two weeks ago in a Walmart bathroom, because I saw three of the guys who made me this way. Or maybe it was last Thursday when my head hurt so bad I couldn’t do anything, not even think. I cried tears of pain and joy, because it took a debilitating headache to stop the thoughts of self-destruction, which is ironic. I guess.

And irony is one one of my favorite things in the world.

Did you know that my name means “Beautiful,” or “laurel crown,” which is funny because most days I don’t feel beautiful, or even remotely like a Princess. You gotta love irony.

I believe in the power of words, which is why I’m a writer. And I also know that words are in fact capable of hurting you, despite what the popular phrase says.

Did you know that despite the healing I’m experiencing there are days all I want to do is lie on the floor and cry, because the only thing that makes sense is brokenness? The Healing Process sure does take a long time.

When I laugh, I laugh hard and for a long time, and it usually ends in an asthma attack. I’ve found joy, because I’ve experienced pain. And I think everybody should experience both, because you can’t have a rainbow without any rain.

Did you know that these scars on my body are from a time when I was so full of self-hate, I became numb and couldn’t feel anything? I needed to feel something, so I cut myself open.

I’ve learned that people will tell you lies as they steal your innocence, but repeating them over and over again does not make them true. And losing yourself is the only way to find yourself.

Did you know that when we discussed eating disorders in Health, I sat there tapping my foot trying to burn more calories? Or that anytime we discuss the topic of rape in class, I feel like walking out, because five years later the memory is still painful, and I still feel the shame and guilt even though it wasn’t my fault.

If you call me beautiful, I won’t believe you. But if you call me ugly, I’ll sit there and agree with you. But that’s beginning to change, as long as I don’t look in the mirror for too long.

Did you know that I sit and write the same thing over and over again because I’m still trying to figure all this out?

Some days I use up all my faith getting out of bed in the morning. I pray to God that the floor will stand firm under my feet. This is how I know what true strength is.

But, most of all, did you know that all I want in this world is for people to know they’re not alone? I want to know I’m not alone, and that I’m lovable despite the brokenness.

 

But, I don’t say any of these things. Because this is an Ice Breaker, and not an Ice Already Broken.