God of the Trauma

I don’t remember the walk through the hospital–I was on autopilot, parking in the parking garage, taking the elevators to the hospital lobby, and then walking through the doors to the Emergency Department, backwards to the way most people do it. Everything about this was backwards. 

“I’m suicidal,” I said to the lady behind the desk.  

A nurse came over and took my pulse. “Are you on drugs,” she asked. My heart was racing because wouldn’t yours be too after panicking the whole way through? 

And in that moment, I never felt so alone. Despite the crowd of faces around me, the ubiquitous ambiance caused by the humdrum of the hospital—heart monitors and pagers, codes and alarms.  

I still feel alone in a room full of faces. Disassociation: existing, but slightly to the left, feeling numb when feeling everything. 

I’ve come so far since walking into the ER, farther than I ever expected. Healing more than I ever anticipated.  

I don’t know if the trauma I went through was worth it, but I do know this: my faith has never been stronger. Maybe it’s because I’ve been blessed with a therapist who happens to be a Christian, whose path overlaps with mine in multiple ways. Maybe it’s because we can not only talk and unpack the hurt and the pain, but because we can also unpack the questions I have about my faith—how can God? Why does God? What does God?  

My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? 

I have no idea if the pain was worth it: the years of starving myself to make the parts of myself they touched smaller; the years of self-harm to get rid of the skin that they touched; the years of feeling nothing because feeling nothing has to be better than feeling everything. 

I’m learning now that blocking painful emotions and feeling nothing is the most dangerous thing—numbness guides me towards trees. And in order to ‘heal’ in the way that the God of perfect love wants me to, I need to feel. Jesus didn’t shy away from painful emotions. Even if those painful emotions left him crying out on the cross alone and forgotten. 

Sometimes I feel forgotten by God. On my dark days when I can’t remember what the Son of Hope looks like. On the days when the question of “why” is the only thought running through my head, but I’ve learned that if I dwell on the “why,” the “because” will never show up.  

I’ve learned that I do not suffer alone. Sometimes in the midst of your own struggle, it’s so hard to remember that you’re not alone. That you’re not struggling by yourself, that other people get it. I let myself move from hurting to self-pity and back again, spiraling from all the nobody could ever understand how much I’m hurting thoughts.  

The truth is: we’re not alone in our pain. I’m not alone in my pain.  

I have met people with amazing stories who have overcome some powerful things—drug addiction, rape, suicide attempts, abusive relationships. I met people that night in the emergency room that have impacted my life in more ways than they’ll ever know. Even Jesus understands my pain, and He’s right there mourning with me, hurting with me, rejoicing with me.  

I don’t have to justify to anyone why I still believe in God. All I have to do is tell them my story because through it all, despite my curiosity on how they can, people have stuck by my side through it all. For me, God was found through the love of others. Imperfect human love for a hurting person illustrated the unconditional love of God for one of His children. 

And I’m still trying to figure out where my purpose lies in all of this, what plans God has for my life. But I do know this: He can salvage good from even the most evil things in our lives; He can bring hope into the hopeless places and healing into the broken places. And He loves me more than my support team loves me. When I feel like I don’t deserve their love, their support, their words of encouragement during the hard times, how much more don’t I deserve the love of God? 

I’m continuously reminded that people deciding to love me isn’t up to me—it’s not a choice I can make. All I can do is allow myself to be loved by them, to let them see the ugliness, the darkness, the real, raw, I don’t want to be here me, the me who struggles to stay alive but really, really wants to keep fighting.  

But they haven’t left. 

God hasn’t left. My brokenness hasn’t left and my struggles certainly haven’t left, but He’s using it all for His purpose.  

Not my will, but Yours be done.

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It’s Ok to Not Be Ok

Do suicides go to heaven?

I was four the first time I saw a dead body. It was my great aunt. My great uncle picked me up at her open-casket funeral, placed his hand on her arm, looked at me with tears in his eyes, and said: “She’s in Heaven now.”

Do suicides go to heaven?

Heaven. I learned that Heaven is a place people go when their bodies are cold; they look slightly different: like at any moment they could come back alive—suspended animation—toeing the line between there and not there. Like at any moment they could start breathing again.

Breathing again. Am I ever going to learn how to breathe again?

Every funeral I’ve been to since, the passage of time has been spent counting the number of breaths not taken for every breath I took. Wondering how it would feel if I too had a crest-fallen chest.

Why won’t they breathe? Why can’t I breathe?

Trauma has this way of sneaking up on you, camouflaged in the shadows of okayness. One minute you’re laughing and smiling and singing in the shower. The next minute it feels like a tree is being pulled out of your chest, unaided

by sedation, burning, screaming, God take the pain away.

Is this what drowning feels like?

It’s easier to believe God doesn’t exist when you’ve experienced hurt or pain. It’s almost easier to believe God doesn’t exist. Because if He did exist, if an ever-loving God exists in an imperfect world, why, why do bad things happen? Why does He allow bad things to happen? Why?

You’re moving forward. Stepping out of your shame, owning your story, living your story.

But maybe those are the wrong questions to ask. Maybe it’s not why do bad things happen? Maybe it’s what do I do when these bad things happen? Maybe it’s how do I move forward? What is my purpose within all this?

You know, somewhere deep down, I feel like this is all my fault. Somewhere, deep down, I feel like I don’t deserve to be here. I can’t remember a time when I wanted to be alive.

You see, trauma sucks. And sometimes, I still blame myself for all that has happened in my life. I feel like, maybe, if I had done something different, none of this would have happened: I wouldn’t have been raped, gotten pregnant, had a miscarriage, had a mental breakdown.

How can I want to die but still be doing everything I can to live?

If none of that had happened, I might not have been diagnosed with anxiety, OCD, and Depression. Things I’ve struggled with my whole life but made worse by life—chemical imbalances exacerbated by circumstances. I would have spent my whole life wanting to die without ever getting the help to fight it.

It’s ok not to be ok.

I’m learning how to be ok with not always being ok. Trauma is not a prerequisite for mental illness. I had one long before the trauma, and I’ll have one long after the trauma is worked through. But it doesn’t define me. I am more than my past, more than my present, more than the battle raging inside my head.

I am suicidal. And for so long I tried to hide that, until I couldn’t any more. I just have to make the part of me that wants to live louder.

I thought being baptized was going to fix me. It did not. It just gave the negative voice in my head I call Gertrude more fodder: you aren’t worthy of being a child of God. You’re a terrible person who will never get to Heaven because of what happened to you.

Do suicides go to heaven?

Could my purpose be to write about God and mental illness? Because there’s still a taboo about not reading my Bible enough, not praying enough, not having faith enough. Do you know how many Bible verses I quote throughout the day just to keep me going? How each day is one continuous “God help me” prayer? How much faith it requires for me just to put one step in front of the other?

Dying is easy. Living is hard.

It’s so hard to live when every fiber in your body is telling you to die, every memory in your brain is telling you that God made a mistake. But God didn’t make mistakes—He doesn’t make mistakes. Every day I choose hope, but hope really isn’t a choice any more than your heart beating is a choice. Hope is inherent in all of us: our body tries so hard to keep us alive. Our wounds heal themselves; our cells regenerate; our DNA multiplies and divides to keep us living. Having hope is easy. What’s not easy is stepping out of shame into hope.

Do suicides go to heaven?

What about all those people who keep on living even when they want to die? I spent so much time wanting to die, I forgot how to live.

Finding GOD in the OCD

I texted them last night: How do I distinguish between the voices in my head that tell me over and over to do things being OCD or being God? 

There are no easy answers–to that question or the other questions I’ve been asking lately.

If we operate under the assumption that everyone has a purpose, and that I got a second chance at life because I have a purpose, what about those who didn’t get a second chance? Do they not have a purpose, or was their purpose to die? And if so, what kind of messed-up God makes that someone’s purpose? 

Sometimes I question myself into a spiral; actually, I question myself into a spiral quite often. OCD does that: once a thought gets into my head, I can’t get it out. On repeat, over and over again, evolving, evolving, evolving, questions, questions, check on them, check on them, what if, what if, what if. 

I’m still here. I must have a purpose. But why do I not want to be here? How can I have a chemical imbalance and a purpose? How do I reconcile the fact that God is good with the fact that what happened to me happened? How do I exist in that overlap?

How?
How?

How?

This is how the spiral starts, continues, ends.

God has to at least exist within the realm of my OCD thinking because I can think myself into spirals by asking tough questions that have no answer, but I can also sometimes be content with sometimes not having the answer.

And maybe therein lies the answer to my first question: How do I distinguish between my OCD thoughts and the voice of God?

Maybe God lies in the contentment.

In the crazy chaos of OCD-induced repetitive thinking, calmness.

Contentment in the spiral.

I have to check to make sure they don’t hate me. They hate me. They hate me. They hate me. 

I have to text them because the voices in my head are screaming at me, and texting them gets rid of them.

I can’t tell if the nagging voice in the back of my head telling me to check to make sure they’re ok is the OCD or God.

I have to check. I have to check. I have to check. I have to check.

Breathe. Breathe.

Quietness in the storm.

Contentment in the chaos.

God exists within the realm of my OCD thinking, hope exists within the realm of my repetition.

God exists.

God.

Exists.

Exist

Dear Child,

This is an assignment long overdue, and I apologize for that. What do you say to a 4-year-old child when the 24-year-old adult doesn’t know what to say to herself?

I’ve been told to write this letter many times, to validate you, to make you heard because for so long you thought you had to be quiet, not take up space, not ask for help.

The only way to navigate life was to do it alone.

And you did it alone. For 19 years, you struggled quietly, sobbed behind closed doors, let yourself waste away until you were just a hollowed-out shell where your purpose used to be.

But sweet, beautiful, little girl, who laughed at life and stole animal crackers off the snack cart before dinner, you were never meant to walk this path alone.

Little girl with big blue eyes opened in wonder at the world, your teary eyes were never meant to cower in the dark.

You see, life. Life. Life is alive.

What to say about life except that it’s alive, ever changing, fluid. What’s true one day is not always true the next.

And what’s true is that one day, you’ll be hurt, and you’ll be hurt some more.

But sweet, sweet child, it’s not your fault. And the years of pent-up emotions blocked by numb feelings aren’t your fault either.

You adapted because you wanted to survive.

And survive you did. You made it this far. Farther than you thought you would. Farther then you hoped you would. Farther than you dreamed you would.

Right now, you’re 4-years-old, and some days you wake up and wonder why you’re alive. Sometimes you forget to look both ways before you cross the street. Sometimes you don’t want to get close to the edge because you want to jump.

Sweet girl, I hear you. I see you. I validate you.

One day, you’ll be 24, and you’ll be sitting in your therapist’s office crying because you don’t want to be here. Alive. Breathing. Above ground.

You’ll dare cars to hit you. Hit me. Hit me. Hit me. (There’s a reason you’re not allowed to make dead jokes.) You’ll hold the extra pills in your hand, hesitating before you put them back.

But. You are worth it. Your therapist reminds you of this as you sob in his office. He’ll whisper it through tears as you break down, letting the years of hurt and pain wash over you.

You’ll hear it from your adopted big bro over and over and over as you’re the first one to leave events to protect yourself from trees.

You’ll hear it from within. Because there’s a part of you that wants to thrive, not just survive.

Child, you are worth it. Despite what people will tell you years from now. Despite what the hands tracing your body on the bus tell you in a year. Despite the whispers in your ear 9 years later in a school bathroom. Despite the emptiness in your stomach where a baby should have been.

Child, you are worth it despite all that. Because that doesn’t define you.

It hurts and healing sucks.

And I still don’t know which way healing’s going to go, what it’s going to look like: is it gonna be some bright light, weight lifted, crying because we’re free? Probably not.

It’ll probably be acceptance: radical, life changing acceptance.

Child, I hear your sobs in the night. I see your tears in the locker room mirrors. I see the moments you look in your eyes and don’t recognize me looking back. I hear your whispered no’s. I hear your silent prayer for God to take you in the night.

I hear you. I see you. I’m validating you.

I feel the ache in your heart to be loved, to feel understood, to feel wanted.

Child, you are all those things.

All those things and so much more.

Child. You have a future brighter than gold. You care about others, and one day, you’ll even laugh again (trust me, on this. You’ll be a big punster).

Child. Life will be hard.

Child. Life will be beautiful.

Child. Life will be tears of sadness and laughter.

Child. Life. Life will be.

Breathe.

You. You will be.