This too shall pass

I took suicide off the table as an option the other day, and I’ve been panicking ever since. Not so much at the thought of killing myself being a solution. Sometimes the thought of living is much more terrifying. For so long, my brain told me that suicide was the only solution to a problem I was too young to even know I had—having passive suicidal thoughts at five-years-old, thinking that maybe a fall down the stairs would kill me and be easier to deal with than trying to live in a world where I felt alone.  

Eventually, the thoughts weren’t passive anymore. They became active without a plan—the most dangerous kind, popping up out of nowhere for really no rhyme or reason. Because as much as I tried to convince myself I wanted to live, there was always this thought in the back of my mind that maybe I really didn’t, and that was enough to keep the thoughts creeping up. That’s the problem with being suicidal: your brain tells you to die even if all you want to do is live.  

So, I took suicide off the table as an option because I’ve spent the last year of my life trying to do all I can to keep going. Therapy. Medication. Learning skills. But sometimes I doubt if I can do life. What if one day, I fail? Not that I have any intention of failing, but even the worst things start with the best of intentions—and I intend to live.  

What if I fail one day?  

And I hate to ask that because as a Christian it seems counterintuitive–why would you fail when you have the best reason to live? But this is bigger than spirituality and sheer willpower. It’s a chemical imbalance, a brain defection. That’s the ugly truth of a depression-ridden brain that uses suicidal ideation as a way to feel less anxiety. It’s a way out. If things get bad enough. It’s so easy to live in the dark, to hide there. It’s so easy to believe that the only way out is to remove yourself from the world. It’s so easy to believe we’re too broken to be saved. 

And in order to stay, to stay here, to live in the light and find the things worth living for, I have to rewire my brain, use my skills, fight until I’m exhausted, fight until I’m sobbing and panicking because I’m undoing the only thing I’ve ever known.  

I want to be able to say that now that I’ve chosen life, living’s going to be a piece of cake. But that’s not the truth—none of us get through this life unscathed. We all have struggles, pain. We are neither 100% positive nor 100% negative all the time. Time is not linear. And we exist in these pockets, and some seem like they last longer than others. And sometimes it seems like the pain is going to last forever, but I promise it won’t. And even though I don’t believe that myself, I’m promising myself that this pain won’t last forever, that it’ll come and go, ebb and flow. 

And sometimes, when the bad moments hit, I give it a beat, a breath or two, a moment or five, and eventually, I find myself in a different moment: when the light shines a little brighter and the weight doesn’t seem so heavy. These moments aren’t always moments—sometimes they’re days or weeks, but i know that this too shall pass.  

This too shall pass.  

This panic at living shall pass.  

This belief that I’m too broken to live shall pass. 

With suicide off the table as an option, life is the only option I have left. The only option.  

And it’s terrifying and messy and beautiful and ugly and tiring and exhilarating, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Because today I chose life, and tomorrow I’ll choose life. And when those thoughts creep in, I’ll take a beat or two and say, not today. Not today. This too shall pass.

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How trying to drive into a tree taught me to let go

You have to let it go; in order to move forward, you have to turn it all over. 

Yes, Brandon, but I don’t know how.  

. . .  

I look out over the sea of faces before me, and I recognize what is looking back: brokenness. It’s as familiar to me as the back of my hand; I could pick it out in a crowd, just as easily as I could pick out myself on my good days. I recognize it because I, too, am broken. I am them.  

I stand on the platform in the sanctuary singing songs about how great God is, but half the time I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it somedays because the trauma is too loud, shouting my past at me through a megaphone, and it’s in those moments that I forget how good God is. I forget how good God is because I’m too focused on the anger I feel. 

I sit in therapy, and I talk about how I’m angry: at myself, at them, at God. I’m angry at myself for all the hurt I caused myself and others along the way, angry at them because if I wasn’t raped, who would I be? Angry at God because where was He in all of this?  

I sit in Celebrate Recovery and I have to admit I lied. The answer I wrote down is not the real answer I should have said. I thought I had let the anger go, but I hadn’t let all of it go–I was still as angry at myself as I was a year ago. 

Anger is destructive; it destroys that which is beautiful, corrupting happiness, sabotaging the future before it even happens, eroding your identity away before you even recognize it’s happening. Anger is blinding, forcing you to focus on the past instead of looking towards the future. 

Or, in my case, it causes you to try to drive into trees.  

You see, friends, anger has this way of sneaking up on us; one minute we’re fine; the next, we’re sobbing on the side of the road because we tried to drive into a tree. I thought by now I’d be done with that, should be done (but that’s a negative self-judgement, and I’m not allowed to make those).  

And I didn’t know how to let it go—how to hand over the anger, the trauma, the depression. I didn’t want to let go of it because letting go means giving up control. Meant giving up control, and I don’t feel in control. 

Driving home last night, my world changed forever. The anger consumed me so much, I tried to drive into a tree. Last night, I saw the faces of those who hurt me the most, and felt peace, not anger. Instead, I was angry at myself for not being able to let it go, and it was in that moment of suicidal anger that God took it all.  

He took it all. 

It took directing the anger at myself for me to let it go—fully and completely. And for the first time in my life, I felt that everything was going to be ok.  

Defining yourself by the past does not allow you to move forward, makes you fearful of the future, makes it hard to establish an identity.  

Wallowing in brokenness worsens the lack of identity.  

It’s so easy to let our brokenness define us that we forget we can be healed. It’s so easy to isolate ourselves in our suffering that we forget that Jesus himself wept, that He cried out on the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He, too, felt forsaken and dejected, rejected and disgraced. He, too, was trying to find God in the midst of the pain and brokenness, trying to find hope in the darkness. 

Aren’t we all? 

Aren’t we the same ones who wandered in the desert for 40 years trying to find the Promised Land? 

Aren’t we the same ones who wondered if God could calm the storm?  

Aren’t we the same ones who walked on water to Jesus and started to sink when we started to doubt? 

Aren’t we all the broken ones, the hurting ones, the weary ones, the ones who wonder if God really cares, if He’s really there at all? 

Sometimes, I do. And it took me trying to drive into a tree that God really is there—He really does care, and He can take it all. He can take it all. You just have to be willing and ready. 

I’m willing and ready.  

Kierkegaard, PTSD, and Reclaiming My Self

…why bother remembering a past that cannot be made into a present?

Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling

I don’t know who I am right now.

Reading Kierkegaard probably hasn’t helped. 

. . .

It’s easy to romanticize the past, let yourself be defined by the past, let the past dictate your path in life.

For so long, that’s all I’ve done. I’ve let myself be defined by what was done to me, by what other people told me I am… was (is there a difference?)And I don’t know how to step out of that–how to separate myself from the trauma, the PTSD, the depression, the anxiety. Outside of those, who am I?

Who am I?

That’s a question I’ve been asking a lot of people lately. My friends, my pastors, my therapist, even my dog have all been on the receiving end of my identity crises. (Yes, there’ve been more than one.) I’m trying to heal, to move forward, to move through, and the only way to do that is to face the monster head on, to weather the storm, to stand your ground in the fire, let it burn you, and then rise from the ashes–stronger than you were before. Than was before.

I feel so lost. I’m terrified of the future because I don’t know who I am right now. 

I don’t know who I am right now, but I know who I want to be. Because I know who I once was.

I am laughter. It echoes down the hall as we discuss how our other coworker cannot win our fantasy league. It reverberates off the walls as I make fun of myself for being how I am.

I am a fighter, a survivor, delivered, redeemed.

I am healing and recovering and rewriting my definition, no longer letting things that aren’t personality traits define me. I have depression and anxiety and PTSD, but I am not those things. I cannot be those things because they’re not adjectives.

You cannot be what aren’t.

I am my father’s daughter, an adopted sister, a child of the King. Beloved, chosen, called, loved.

I am not defined by my past or holding on to it any longer, but I’m using it to make a difference in other’s lives.

I am present. I’m here, fully engaged, feeling the feelings as they come, surviving the moments by using what I have.

I am loud and I’m quiet, and my emotions don’t always fit the situation. Sometimes I overreact or under react, but I’m working on that, too.

I’m a learner and a questioner, a writer and a leader. And sometimes I don’t know how to be everything that I want to be.

I don’t know where the path I’ve been on is taking me, but life is understood backwards and lived forwards.

And there are problems in life I can’t solve: like why do I try to die when I so badly want to live?

Why does healing have to be so hard?

I am fearful of the future because I can’t control it.

I am living for the future when for so long I wasn’t.

I am doing what I can because I am.

I am. I don’t know who I am, but it’s as simple as this: I be. I is. I am.

I challenged her to write a post in which she doesn’t mention her past

I forgave myself today, kneeling at the altar.

You can’t move forward if you’re angry at the past–

angry at yourself for things that are not your fault,

for relapses you could’ve controlled if you had just. . .

just . . . re  a   c  h  e   d   out,

for relationships you purposefully sabotaged because you don’t feel worth anything.

Maybe forgiveness can’t change the past, but maybe

it can change the future.

I cried at the altar today, got angry at the altar today, wanted to scream at the altar today.

I feel sometimes as though I’m being to/rn in two–

the part of me that wants to die fighting against the part that wants to live,

a tug of war with my soul

(I want to live).

Forgiveness can’t change the past,

but perhaps

perchance

purposefully

it can change the future.

The future–God can find us in our brokenness–

is waiting for us in our brokenness–

meets us in our brokenness–

is beautiful.

I challenged her to write a post in which she doesn’t mention her past–what happened to her,

he said to him as they sat across from me, my head buried in my hands.

I forgave myself today.

I was angry today, trying to turn it all over to God,

but Satan?

He won’t let me.

The punk.

What do you want to do with your life? He asked,

as I sat in his office, trying to hold back the tears threatening to overflow from my eyes.

I want my story to be used for good, make a difference, beauty from ashes.

I want to know that there’s a purpose for all of this, not a giant game of yo-yo with my existence.

Breathe in for four. Hold for four. Out for four.

How many animals begin with J?

On a scale from 1-10, how are you?

Why can I help someone else out of a panic attack but can’t help myself?

My mind goes blank as soon as I get to 100.

100

99

98

97

count backward and breathe.

I forgave myself today,

trying to move forward,

Here’s his phone number. Promise me you’ll use it in case of an emergency.

Right now, I’m moving through the fire–and this fire?

Future?

I don’t know where it will take me.

Hopefully somewhere great.

But right now? This journey ahead–

looks

daunting. threatening. foreboding. And,

I’m not always sure I can do it. I

forgave myself today. For things that may happen in the future

as I walk , walk , walk , this

w

i

n

d

i

n

g

p

a

t

h

of healing.

Because I don’t know what the future holds, but I want to be a part of it.

I’m chasing happiness, and though it feels like a 50pound weight is

d

r

a

g

g

i

n

g

me down, i still stand.

I move forward.

I breathe.

And I let go.

The Messy God

I think it starts with someone getting up there on a Sunday morning and acknowledging their brokenness, I said to him as we sat at a table at a local McDonald’s. We were sharing our brokenness with each other: him, the brokenness of his family; me, the brokenness of myself. We can’t fully and truly embrace each other until we know each other’s brokenness. 

. . .   

I’ve extended the olive branch many times, and it always ends the same way, he said. They’re angry at me.  

They’re not angry at you. They’re angry at the trauma, at the world, and they take their anger out on you because you’re a safe person. I do it all the time. I did it just last night to one of my safe people. I twisted his words and threw them back in his face, not because I was angry at him, but because I was angry—am angry—at myself, at the world, at God. Sometimes I wish secretly that he would just hate me because then it would validate the way I feel about myself, which I know is irrational and illogical because he chose to walk this journey with me. 

. . .  

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. But isn’t that also sanity? Doing the same thing over and over again hoping that some good will come from it? I get up every morning hoping that the day will be better than the one before, that I’ll be able to handle whatever life throws my way better than I did the day before. Is that insanity? Or does that make me sane? Does my choice to live each day, to take each day as it comes, even if the day before was rough, even if I know this one also has a chance to be rough, make me insane?  

. . .  

It shouldn’t be like this. I shouldn’t be sitting at work and feel the need to press a knife to my wrist. Feeling nothing was easier because I could make myself feel by self-harming. Feeling everything is harder because it happens all of a sudden, without warning. 0 to 100 in the blink of an eye. It’s going to get harder before it gets better because until I allow myself to feel all the emotions I suppressed for years, my emotions won’t regulate themselves.  

. . .  

God found me at the altar. He was there waiting for me in the messy place. He met those guys in the fiery furnace and didn’t walk out with them. He was there waiting for them—in the mess, in the fire. He waits for us in the messy place, over and over and over again. Does that make God insane?  

I ran away from God, turned my back on God, got angry at God; and still, He waited for me in the messiness, in the brokenness, in the darkness, in the fire.  

Life is messy; healing is messy, but God gets down and dirty with us. I don’t know why He does what He does; why I am the way I am; why I’ve been through what I’ve been through; why there’s all this hurt in the world. But this I do know: God has shone the brightest in me in the midst of my pain and hurt. I’ve met people I wouldn’t have met, have grown stronger than I ever would have. I’ve been on my knees crying, and I’ve found my way back to the cross, back to where He was waiting for me all along.

This is how you move forward

She’s one of the strongest young women I know, he said as they sat across from me, burying my face in my hands. Because despite what they were telling me, despite two of my biggest supports sitting across from me telling me, with tears in their eyes, I still didn’t think I was worth it.

I had signed the release form months ago: why shouldn’t a therapist be allowed to speak to a pastor, figure out the best plan to help me heal, cooperatively, emotionally and spiritually. Healing isn’t a one-man job. It takes a community. An army. A whole support of people. A group of ants can lift a potato chip. A group of people can lift a burden of years of hurt and trauma.

This is how you move forward.

I’m panicking about the future because I don’t know how to live for it, I said in his truck on the way back to work from the hospital.

Maybe you don’t live for the future. Maybe you live for the present, the current moment, he replied.

The current moment. The present. How does one live for the current moment without reverting back to the past? Without trying to frame it around the trauma? Without having the memories echo down the empty halls of the feelings I have at the moment?

Right now, I feel numb. But numbness doesn’t mean not healing. Healing means allowing yourself to feel all the feelings as they come.

This is how you move forward.

You learn to rely on your own strength–finding the balance between reaching out and reaching inward. Sometimes your biggest support lies within yourself. The strongest thing you can do is realize you are able to do this on your own. You have the skills within you, the support around you, and the love outside of you to make this happen.

I can make this happen.

This is how you move forward.

You realize that this isn’t going to be easy. I’m terrified right now. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’ve started to live for it: lying next to me on the couch as I write this is a dog, so dependent on me, she follows me into the bathroom. Monday, I had a conversation with another pastor about meeting God at the altar and turning things over to Him. And this pastor had so many things to say about my future–being a voice for the broken, writing and speaking the stories of people who don’t have the words to speak for themselves.

I never wanted to be any of those things. Never thought my brokenness could be used for good. Never thought beauty could come from my ashes. The future? The future is something I’m so unsure of.

This is how you move forward.

You acknowledge that the future can be terrifying, but you live because this life is beautiful, even if the road is long and dark up ahead.

This road is long and dark up ahead, but I see this light trying to push through like the sun after the rain, and that’s enough to keep me going. Because I don’t know what the future holds. But this I do know: I don’t walk this path alone.

This is how you move forward: you breathe. In and out. You take one step and then another. You get back up when you fall down.

You get a job. You buy a car. You get a job. You continue to go to therapy even though it hurts. You allow yourself to feel the pain, even if the pain tells you to give up.

This is how you move forward: you face each day, you face each unknown with the courage and determination that’s gotten you this far.

Because you’ve made it this far. And you can keep going.

 

God Friended Me

O Come to the altar, the Father’s arms are open wide. 

My heart stirred. A quiet voice was speaking to me, go to the altar. Let it out. Let it go. 

Please don’t make me do this, I hesitatingly prayed. I don’t want to be one of ‘those’ people—the hurting, the broken. What must it be like to be unafraid to come forward and kneel and ask for healing, for forgiveness? The truth is, I am one of ‘those’ people. I am hurting; I am broken. I don’t know how to be anything else.  

O Come to the altar, the Father’s arms are open wide. 

I made my way down to the altar, body shaking, trying to hold back the tears threatening to fill my eyes: I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to exist. I don’t want to be broken anymore. As I kneeled down at the altar, the dam broke: I started sobbing and shaking. I felt people gather around me, one on either side. And then, the pastor said words I never expected to hear, not at this church: I’m feeling God move in this place; those who are able, please come forward to the altar and gather around your brother and sisters. Step into the aisles as we become a family. 

O Come to the altar, the Father’s arms are open wide.  

It was in that moment that God moved, that the Holy Spirit moved, as people flooded around those kneeling, I felt one of my other pastor’s place his hand on my shoulder. I heard the voices of some of my biggest supporters whispering prayers behind me. And I felt God move. Sometimes I doubt God. Ok, actually a lot of the time I doubt God. But I always manage to find Him in the doubt, moving through me like the wind. Oh, there He is. 

O Come to the altar, the Father’s arms are open wide.  

Last week, I relapsed. Hard. I cut myself badly enough that it could’ve killed me, should’ve killed me. And I felt guilty. And I felt dirty. And I felt unforgiveable. But God, God met me where I was, kneeling at the altar, tears streaming down my face, my brokenness and shame on display for everybody to see. And He didn’t judge. And He didn’t leave. And He didn’t call me unlovable. He opened His arms and said, Oh, there you are. I’ve been waiting for you. 

O Come to the altar, the Father’s arms are open wide. 

I felt God move in that place, in the sanctuary with a hundred of my closest friends gathered around me, around us. In that moment, I let it go: the guilt, the anger, the shame. I let the miscarriage go. I handed it over to God, and He whispered, Finally. 

There’s still a lot of work for me to do, things for me to let go of, things for me to hand over to God. I’m codependent. I feel as though my only two choices are self-harm and suicide. There’s so much pain and heartache. But sometimes it’s not about what God’s going to do in your life; it’s about what He’s already done in your life. God trusts you enough to make it through the difficult moments, so He can make beauty out of the ashes. He makes ministry out of misery. He uses broken people to help broken people because we’re all broken in some way.  

He changed my life yesterday. It took five minutes at the altar, kneeling, panicking with, tears streaming down my face. People whispered in my ear, I love you. I’m praying for you. For the first time, I believed them.  

God was felt in that place yesterday.  

As I got up from the altar and started to walk away, I was embraced with so much love by so many people. I have never been more acutely aware of the fact that I’m not doing this alone. We are not doing this alone.  

God friended me yesterday. He’ll friend you too.  

Kneeling at the altar. Crying in your bed. Driving in your car. Walking through the woods. He’ll meet you where you are. He’ll love you as you are. And when you turn your eyes towards Him and surrender your burdens, He’ll say, without judgement, finally.  

This is not what I wanted to write.

I don’t know what I wanted to write, but this wasn’t it. I started writing about trauma and memory loss and how four years of my life are missing. Then it was a poem about OCD and WebMD and how, like oil and water, they don’t mix.

And now it’s this. What is this?

I don’t know exactly.

It’s confusion and pain and anger. It’s me trying to make sense of the mess going on in my head. If you heard the conversation between my anxiety, my OCD, my depression, and me, you’d laugh too. Or go crazy.

Maybe I’m crazy.

I told him that once, sitting in his office, as we discussed God and trauma. Maybe I’m crazy for believing that there can be a God in spite of what happened to me. Maybe I’m crazy for feeling the need to drive into trees, for feeling the insatiable urge to cut my wrists open and watch them bleed.

Maybe, he replied, we’re all a little crazy.

Is craziness doing the same thing over and over expecting different results, i.e., insanity. Or is craziness not having it all together, pretending to be ok when all you want to do is collapse into a pool of nothingness.

Nothingness.

Nothingness sounds good right about now. I have to feel things in order to heal.

Heal. Heal. I want so badly to heal. Right now, I’m angry. I’m sad. I’m hurting.

I’m hurting, and I want so badly to just stop. Maybe self-harming would help.

No. That’s dumb. That won’t accomplish anything except more pain.

Is it the OCD telling me I need to cut?

cut. cut. cut out like paper dolls. strungtogethersodelicately.

Delicately, some days I feel like I’m hanging on by a thread. Somedays I’m afraid that the thread tethering me to sanity will break

and

i’ll

fall

fall

fall

down

into

nothingness.

I’m a frayed knot.

This isn’t how it’s supposed to go. It shouldn’t hurt this bad. I’m celebrating how far I’ve come, celebrating recovery and all that means.

Yet still. Still I hurt. And I question. And maybe I search for answers in all the wrong places, but this thread hasn’t broken yet.

Still. Be still.

Be still and know.

I know.

I’m ok.

I’m 4-years-old, seeing a dead body for the first time.

I’m 5-years-old, having my body traced discreetly on the ride home.

I’m 6-years-old, wondering what it would be like to be dead.

I’m 13-years-old, wondering if I’ll forever be dirty like they said.

I’m 24-years-old, trying to undo what’s been done, trying to accept that I’ll never be what I’m not.

But I still hope there’s more than this: more than pain, more than suicide, more than self-harm.

Will I ever again be able to sleep without fear? Not have parts of me try to race me to the grave? Will I ever really be ok in my own skin?

Forgiveness is not forgetting. It’s letting go.

Progress is not forgiveness.

Maybe progress is what this is: taking my racing thoughts and writing them out.

Progress is breathing.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Just. Just be.

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.

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.