Lunch in an empty office

And still I thought I was ok.

She sits in his office, his kids’ drawings to her right, his workbooks and diplomas to her left, signifying that yes, I am certified to help you. She starts crying again. The third time today. She can’t go more than 24 hours without crying lately it seems. Maybe that’s good, one of her support people told her, you have so much built up that needs to be let out.

She lies on the floor of her room because climbing into bed seems like too much work, requires energy that she does not have. She’s been lying on the floor a lot lately—the world seems studier when there’s more than just your feet touching the ground. It’s safer. Nothing can hurt you if you’re lying on the floor. Unless the ceiling collapses. What if the ceiling collapses?

She knows she needs to text somebody because nobody’s home, because she’s getting bad again; the depression is back and louder than ever. And even though she learned a long time ago that people get mad at her when she doesn’t reach out, she still feels like a burden, like everybody just ‘puts up with her’ because it’s the decent thing to do. I really want to self-harm right now. It seems like the only answer.

She only has two answers for when the pain becomes too much: suicide or self-harm. She’s learning how to live in the in-between. There’s a middle ground somewhere called Life. Use your skills to survive this moment. Hold an ice cube in your hand until that sharp, cold pain is all you can think about.

Sharp, cold pain. It’s getting colder these days, harder to get out of bed. She only gets out of bed now when she has just enough time to get dressed, swallow her Prozac, and drive to work without being too late. Maybe I should call in sick today.

She didn’t call in sick today. Or the day before. Or the day before. There’s too much work to do, too much to be done, too many people to let down. Swallowing the pain in her throat, choking back the tears in her eyes, she stands in front of the copier, watching it spit out paper faster than she can count the reasons to stay alive. Breathe. Just breathe.

She stands in the doorway of his office, not quite sure if she should enter or not. Maybe she’s not quite bad enough to interrupt his emails. But then she remembers what he said about using her voice to stand up for herself, to make herself heard. Ummm.. sorry to interrupt, but I just need to stand here for five minutes. Something about the darkness and the books makes me feel safe and protected, and I need that right now.

They told her she should get a dog, something to pet when she’s feeling too much, something to keep her company when she feels alone in her own house. She hasn’t stopped looking at dogs since, falling in love with each face, dreaming what it would be like to have a companion of her own. I couldn’t decide between a boyfriend or a dog, so I’m getting a dog.

She uses jokes to mask the pain she’s in. Humor has a way of lessening the blow. She’s not allowed to make dead jokes, though, it’s too familiar, too uncomfortable because there are times when she holds pills in her hands wondering if this won’t be the time that the feelings become too much.  You’ll be ok.

She thought she was ok. She thinks she is. But there are so many times, without warning, at the drop of a hat, when her anxiety takes over. Where memories take over, where she closes her eyes, and they play on repeat in her mind: a highlight reel of things she wishes were outtakes, bloopers, things that weren’t supposed to be in the script. I was raped. I got pregnant. I had a miscarriage all before I was in high school.

She’s so happy to be alive. Despite her constant not okayness, she is alive.

_______

She tries so hard to hold it together, not to cry in front of people. But after church on Sunday, someone came up to her and said, “Call me when you need to, even if it’s 3 in the morning.” And at that moment, all the weight of her unworthiness fell on top of her, and as the tears fell out of her eyes, slowly and then all at once, all she could say was, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

You have nothing to be sorry for, they all tell her, this isn’t your fault. You’ve been strong for so long, now it’s time to let people help carry you.

Don’t leave me. I’m afraid everybody’s gonna leave me.

But they don’t leave her. They’re there, watching, replying to her text messages, assuring her she isn’t crazy even when she asks the what ifs. What if the ceiling collapses?

______

She’s captivated by sunsets and rainbows and the color-changing leaves of autumn. Life is too beautiful to miss anything.

She’s moved to tears by music and by puppies and by the way her friend’s daughter says her name, growing up in front of her eyes.

She laughs until she cries. She cries until she becomes numb. Suicide or self-harm are the only two answers.

­­­­­­_______

She texts her best friend, you know when you’re taking a test and you know you have the right answer, but then you panic and think it’s the wrong answer? That’s what it’s like to be suicidal.

She writes and speaks in metaphors because a. she was an English major, and b. that’s the only way to express how she feels in a way people can understand. I want so badly to be alive, but part of me also wants to drive into trees. And I don’t know how to fix that.

“You can’t fix that. All you can do is to do what you do every day. You fight so hard, and I know you’re so tired, but we’re here. We’re here for you. Let me be your lifeline.”

­­­_________

She closes her eyes and her mind drifts back to the day she made this decision.

She picked up the phone and dialed the number that is so familiar to her.

Dad, It’s me. I’m in the Psych ER. I was feeling suicidal.

Suicidal with a bright future. She’s come to learn that both can be true.

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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.

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.

Therapy: poetry recap

Sometimes thoughts get in my head and I can’t get them out..

Sometimes thoughts get

In my head

And I

Can’t get them out.

Sometimes I

Can’t get them out.

Get them out.

Get them out.

They get stuck.

Trapped like a fly in amber.

Preserved for future generations to test

Preserved

Preserved

Stuck

Stuck in a rut.

Panicking,

Panicking

Whyamipanicking?

Alexa, how fast can a heart beat before it explodes?

Alexa, how many deep breaths do I have to take before I can breathe normally again?

Alexa, how much does anxiety weigh?

Alexa, if anxiety weighs nothing, how come my shoulders feel so heavy?

Alexa, how come?

Alexa, how?

Sometimes thoughts get stuck in my head and I can’t get them out.

Sometimes.

This is a sign of healing, he says,

As I’m sobbing in his office.

As he whispers through teary eyes, you’re worth it.

Thoughts

The more vulnerable I am, the more suicidal I become.

The years of being told I’m not worth it bubbling up to the surface.

A volcano of trauma.

Get

What are you thinking?

I don’t want to be here.

I know, I can see the distress on your face.

Stuck.

What’s your favorite color? Pink.

How many things are pink in this room?

I can see that your healing.

Feeling everything is a sign.

Some days I feel like I’m hanging on by a thread. I’m so tired: physically, mentally, emotionally.

I can see that.

It’s ok not to be ok.

Muscle Memory

You know the way your hands remember how to tie a shoe?

The way your legs remember how to ride a bike?

The way your fingers remember how to find the letters on a keyboard

Or the notes on a piano?

Sometimes my wrist remembers where I used to slice it open.

My body feels empty but my wrist

My wrist starts stinging–

A sharp reminder that I don’t have to do this anymore.

Muscle memory

Sometimes I wonder if organs remember trauma.

If cells store memories like a bank, passing them on like inheritance from one generation to the next

A family story passed down over the years.

But like all stories, dis tor ted over time.

A game of telephone with your own life.

It happened this way.

It happened this way.

It happened this way.

Memories refracted and reflected as you wade through the ocean of trauma, pacifically.

I’m afraid of healing. Afraid of feeling. Because healing means feeling and I’ve been numb for so long.

Numb is safe. Once I felt too much and tried to numb the pain with pills

Testing gravity to see if

F

A

L

L

I

N

G

Was the only way down

I’m afraid that if I kept telling my story,

people will stop listening, walking the l i n e between “too much brokenness” to be comfortable and “too much healing” to be exciting.

All I ever wanted was to be

Heard

I whisper. So I don’t have to apologize for stepping on cracks.

Muscle memory

The way my brain attaches on to a thought and doesn’t let it go

The way I always manage to find my way home

Despite getting lost in my thoughts and using a map that ends with trees

Muscle memory

The way I remember to say I want to live despite a part of me screaming out

No you don’t.

Muscle memory.

The way I remember to breathe

Calm my

Racingthoughtsmyracingheart

The way I remember to exist in a world where I’ve tried to be invisible for so long.

Muscle memory.

my cells have passed down my trauma over the years. My brain reacts when there’s nothing to react to

Red alert when there’s no danger present

A Bomb shelter in the midst of peace

Muscle memory.

One day they’ll pass down the story of healing

How

I’ve made it this far.

Your body wants to keep you alive. Skin regrows. Blood cells attack. Bones heal.

Memories fade.

muscles can be retrained.

Waiting for me to say:

It happened this way.

Yeah. But it didn’t end that way.

7-1-3; it’s me

It’ll only hurt for a minute, they said. Only a minute and then you’ll be used to it.

It’s been ten years, and I’m still not used to how it feels. I’ve been numb for so long, letting my mind leave my body every time I started to

F e e l anything

My mind’s way of protecting itself from the pain

D I S T A N C I N G itself from the broken/ness.

In order to work through the trauma, you’ll have to feel it. Feel it all. Let it be.

Exist in the moment

(But first I have to survive the moment)

Ice cube

Distracting

Go for a run

How do you deal with the feelings you’ve spent years running from?

You can’t do this alone.

I know I’m opening a door but here’s my number

Text when the feelings drown out hope

Text when the voices in your head cause you to forget all you’ve learned

Text when you forget how to breathe. How to survive

Internal debate: a noun where you decide if you’re worth the text. Bother him at home?

Maybe his job;

Is his job.

Got a phone call at midnight on July 3rd. 4th of July party at church. A young woman on the brink. Talked her off the ledge.

Sometimes that’s me

Walking the ledge

Teetering the line

Dealing with pain myself

Fighting the lion smelling like antelope.

You have to feel to deal to heal.

You deserve to be here, and I’m not gonna let you tread water by yourself. I’ll be your life preserver.

Ice cube

Distract yourself

Opposite action.

For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.

For every emotion, there’s an equal and opposite emotion.

Death. Life.

Sorrow. Joy.

Panic. Peace.

I’m leaving these skill cards here because this is my safe place in this building.

Safe place

Safety

Working through tough things- t r a u m a t i c things hea/rt/break/ing things means safety net

Emotionally

Skillfully

I need to feel things in order to move past this. In order to put my past in my rearview mirror.

Sadness. Anger. Depression. Panic. Suicidal. Joy.

On a scale from 0-5, how high is the panic, the emptiness, the loneliness?

5

5 means suicidal

5 means crisis

5 means alone in a room full of people.

I have to remove the skill cards because you don’t want them there.

They look nice on my books.

If this place stops feeling like a safe place, we’ll start banging heads together.

Together.family.strength.healing.

Feelings intensely pounding like waves.

Waves

Come; g o

E b b; flow

Life. Composed of moments.

Learning to survive each one.

It’ll only hurt for a minute, they said.

A minute. A moment. It eventually passes.

I believe them now.

It’ll only hurt for a moment.

It only hurts for a moment.

Cutting yourself open when you want to be dead but will settle for feeling instead

hurts for only a moment.

Letting the feelings in when you’re trading your ghostly figure for a skeleton?

Hurts for a moment. Kills for a moment.

But in the moment between life and death,

Reach for the phone.

7-1-3, it’s me.

I know you’re shocked. I am too. But you see

Here I am

And I’m ready

Ready to take the plunge

D

I

V

E

In and feel

To heal

Remember the ice cube.

They look nice on his books.

One mindfully be present

I’m glad you reached out.

Inhale. Exhale.

I am too

The Trauma Tree

I thought being baptized would solve the problem. I thought that if I publicly declared that I was “giving it all over to God,” I’d stop wanting to drive into trees.

But the thing about trauma that makes it dangerous, that makes it so hard to work through, is that sometimes the only way to get past it all is to let it destroy you.

Trauma is pervasive and a darn good liar. It gets into your head, rolls around a little, and then sets up roots in the center of the belief that you don’t deserve to be alive, you deserved everything that happened, you’ll never be more than what was done to you.

Here’s the thing I’ve learned over the last 7 months as I’ve aggressively worked through everything: in order to get past the past, in order to start living in the present for the future, you have to actively work through the trauma, digging down deep to pull the trauma tree up from the core of your identity by its roots. And I’ve found that the deeper I dig, the deeper the roots extend–the more damage they’ve done. It’s not just a single event that happened ten years ago; it’s a lifetime worth of things I’ve pushed aside, little things I’ve ignored, big things I’ve blocked.

And each time a new root is discovered, each time a core “belief” I’ve thought about myself is challenged, the more my foundation is shaken. Trauma takes away a person’s identity. We start to define ourselves by the trauma. And as we work through it all, we become more lost, more confused.

At least I have.

At the moment, I have no idea who I am.

And that’s ok. That’s ok because there’s one thing I’m sure of: I am a Child if God.

As I work through dismantling the foundation on which I built my life–the bricks that told me the world would be better off without me, that I wasn’t important, the from the age of 4 told me how I felt would never be important–as I work through all of that, I’m learning how to validate the 4-year-old girl who wanted to shrink herself into oblivion, how to validate the 13-year-old who wanted to be anywhere else but that bathroom. I’m learning how to validate the parts of myself that I’ve invalidated for so long.

Trauma has taught me how to live in a world of disconnect; I can separate my feelings from my existence and live in numbness. Until I can’t, until the weight of all the emotions I haven’t felt come crashing down around me, and I want to drive into trees for no other reason than my head telling me “you need to,” and the deepest hurt telling you that “that’s the only way to make this heaviness disappear.”

I feel alone in groups of people because I don’t feel real, like I’m watching my life play out before me, like I exist slightly to the left. I can’t connect my emotions to my trauma. I know what happened to me, logically. But there’s this disjoint: my emotional connection to what happened is misplaced. I can talk about being raped without getting emotional, but then the smallest thing happens–a guy makes a creepy comment, I do something embarrassing, some one criticizes me a little bit–and I become suicidal: displaced emotions, delayed response, a rush of feelings amidst the numbness of existence.

It’s this emotional disconnect, this traumatic disjointness that has my therapist most worried; that has him scheduling 2 or 3 appointments at a time, not just one. If I can make it this long…

It’s the suicidal ideation that’s always been present. But it’s hard to talk about because “what 4-year-old wants to die?”

It’s a chemical imbalance exacerbated by trauma. A trauma that has defined so much of my life.

And I’m working on it. Because I don’t want it to define my life. I don’t want to be sitting at my desk and all of a sudden think “I should drive into a tree” because even if I’m not thinking about my trauma consciously, I’m thinking about it emotionally.

My emotions are playing catch-up. Because for years I lived in numbness. Not allowing myself to feel was the only way to deal.

But now, I have to feel in order to heal.

And I’m feeling it all: pain, shame, hurt, sadness, anger, humiliation. And it’s making me panic–making me operate at a constant level of anxiety that I didn’t know was possible.

There’s a tension in my head, and it’s all valid.

I’m valid.

And this wasn’t the post I wanted to write. I had another one planned. But I started typing, and these are the words that came out.

Trauma and humor go hand in hand. I use humor to relieve tension (real or made up). And there’s this tension inside me all the time: the battle between the traumatized “you’re worth nothing side,” and the rational “you have value side. And it’s this battle, this constant never ending war that makes the healing difficult. The more I uncover, the stronger the traumatized side gets, and the more energy I have to put into the rational side of me.

Because the fact is: I do have value. I deserve to be here. And one day, I’ll discover my purpose for existing.

I have to reconcile the two parts of myself: the traumatized part and the part that wants to move forward. Because right now, my brain is still protecting me from the past even though the past is not currently happening.

I’m learning how to exist in a world where my past doesn’t define me, learning to live in the overlap of pain and hope.

I don’t just want to exist. I want to thrive.

This tree is heavy and digging it up is painful and dirty and it’s leaving me open and vulnerable.

But sometimes the only way to move forward is by clawing your way out, fighting tooth and nail to ignore the voices in your head, yelling at them: “you may be loud, but I am stronger.”

Because sometimes, the quietness of hope is the loudest thing of all.

And sometimes you find out the tree that was protecting you from pain was actually blocking you from growing.

I am More than You Bargained For

Sitting in his office with tears streaming down my face, he sat there patiently waiting for an answer to the question he asked five minutes before: What’s your reason for being alive?

The heavy silence, filled with the weight of all the pain I’ve been carrying for years, was only broken by three small words, uttered—not strongly, not confidently—but brokenly and weakly: I don’t know.
 
Because the truth is that I don’t know. I don’t know. 
And the next words out of my mouth, buried so deep I had long since repressed, shocked even me: I’ve wanted to die since I was five.
 
The problem is, he said. The problem is that deep down in your core you don’t believe that you are even worthy of existing. The problem is that there are two parts of you. One part 100% believes that you don’t deserve to exist. And the other part knows that’s not true. And until we destroy that part that lies to you, the part that you’ve built your whole existence around, you’re gonna continue to want to drive into trees.
 
It shook me to the core, but deep down, I knew he was right. He’s always right. I’ve known him for six months, and I’m pretty sure he knows more about me than I know about myself.
And I know this post is supposed to be positive, Chris. (Yes, I called you out in a blog post. Deal with it.) I’m working on it. But in order to get to the positive I have to work through the negative, the nitty gritty, the messiness.
And right now, I’m a mess. I’m hurting and broken and I’m trying my best to work through all of this. But I’m so afraid that the more I share, the more people are going to want to up and leave.
And maybe they should.
But, also they shouldn’t. 
 
But.
 
What if. 
 
I’m sorry. 
(These are words I say to lessen the blow, to invalidate my own existence—maybe if I say them, it won’t hurt as much when I’m gone—games I play in my own head to convince myself that maybe I’m not worth all the time and effort people are putting in. I’m not worth the late-night texts or the mid-panic attack “I’m trying to stay grounded” freak outs or the “these are my safe people that I can tell things to” burden or even the “I’m pulling out the big bro card” moments.)
But the truth is.
The truth is.
I am.
Brandon had me make a list of things that I am. Positive words that describe my good points. And I could think of none.
None. 5 minutes of silence and the only word that kept popping into my head was: unworthy. 
 
Then he said, Let me rephrase it this way. If I asked so-and-so to describe you, what would they say you are?
 
I assume you mean besides annoying? I asked. They’d say ‘smart and funny and curious and caring and loving and strong.’
 
There you go, he replied. That’s a start. Your homework is to go and make a list of things that you are. 
And I thought and I thought, and the more I thought, the more I wanted to drive into a tree. It’s not like I don’t want to be here because I do. I have a job I love, a job I’m good at, in a place that I love, with people that I love, with family and friends who love and support me through it all.
But..
But..
But sometimes it doesn’t matter and all that’s keeping me here is my faith that there’s something bigger out there—a God who made me for a purpose (even though sometimes I feel like he made a mistake when he made me)—all that’s keeping me is my faith and my sheer stubbornness to prove the voices from my past wrong: I’m strong enough to fight this.
And here’s where the positive stuff comes in, the positive words that I’m still trying so hard to believe myself. The words that come into my head for a moment, and I try to hold onto them for as long as I can, but they’re tricky and quick and sometimes they get away.
But.
But.
I’m trying my best to make my hands quicker, make my brain listen, and as the words pour from people’s mouths, as they come through over texts and emails and social media comments, I’m trying so hard to remember them. To hold them tight, to put them in my pocket and save them for a rainy day.
I’ve wanted to die since I was five. But I’m strong. I’m resilient.
I was raped at 13. But that does not define me. I’m more than what was done to me by people who don’t even matter. I’m stronger than they bargained on, braver than they thought, more loved than they wanted to admit.
I had a miscarriage. But I’m so many people’s second mother.
I had an eating disorder. But I am beautiful, I was beautiful. I am beautiful.
I have panic attacks for seemingly no reason at all. But I laugh and make jokes and have one of the sharpest wits.
I am broken and hurting. But that’s allowed me to see the ironic side of life, to find the humor and joy in the little things.
I feel unworthy and dirty. But I am loved. I am a Child of the King. I’ve been baptized and have been washed clean.
I am loved. And that. That is enough.
No ifs, ands, or buts.