What I Wish I Could Say

Preface: I’ve been trying to write these thoughts down for a while now, but often times the hardest part of being a writer is trying to figure out how to best tell the story. And I don’t know if this is the best way to tell this story; I don’t know that there ever is a “best way” because, in the search for perfection, we all fall short. I’m telling it anyway because I have to. It’s a compulsion of mine: I want to be heard, and maybe with being heard I can give a voice to those who feel like they don’t have one. Depression, anxiety, and mental illnesses in general steal so much, and sometimes they steal our voices. And I refuse to let them steal mine. What is below are bits and pieces from conversations I have had with my therapist over the last few weeks, clipped together in a way that’s orderly and coherent–unlike what’s going on in my head, unlike my conversations with her. Therapy is wonderful on so many levels: it’s made me more observant of my own behaviors, allowed space for me to be self-reflective, to ask the tough questions. But it’s also made me feel worse because now I’m talking about what I’m feeling and the thoughts in my head instead of just ignoring them. And maybe, by sharing this, it will help someone else.

I went out and looked at the stars last night: climbing out of bed at one in the morning, a blanket wrapped around me as tightly as possible, tiptoeing down the stairs, trying to avoid the squeaky spots, opening and closing the kitchen door as quietly as possible to avoid detection. I do this a lot: look at the stars, especially when I’m panicky, anxious, on edge. There’s a beauty about them, illuminating the sky to make it appears as though it’s 50 different shades of grey as they dance around the wispy clouds. Unfortunately, there’s too much light pollution where I live to get the full effect of their beauty, but it’s enough.

I do a lot of the other thing too: tiptoeing around, walking as close to walls as possible to avoid detection, making myself smaller–hoping to take up less space both physically and metaphorically. Maybe if I pretend I’m invisible, I’ll actually become invisible; invalidating myself and my feelings to hopefully leave fewer footprints behind.

It’s not that I don’t want to make an impact on the world. I do. But there’s this constant fear in the back of my head that I won’t make it out of this cycle; I’ve been down this spiral so many times, and maybe this is the time I won’t make it back up. So, maybe, if I pull away, stop talking to people, stop letting people in, they won’t be affected by my absence as much. Erasing myself from their lives because it’s harder to miss someone if they never existed in the first place.

I feel like people have given up on me–we can’t fix what’s going on, so we might as well not bother doing anything. Even though there are so many things people can do if they just ask the right question: what do you need?

But maybe it’s not other people who have given up on me; maybe it’s me who has given up on myself.

I’ve been broken for so long, been trying to pick up the pieces, and I keep dropping them. Maybe I think there’s no hope left for me because I’ve felt hopeless for so long. Because the anxiety and the depression keep coming back, and every time they come back, they become harder and harder to beat. And I’ve written so many suicide notes over the last four months, I’ve lost track. And I’m trying my hardest to stay alive; I’m doing all I can–going to the store, having coffee with friends, writing as much as I can, leaving my house, going to the gym–but this unbridled panic won’t go away. I can’t leave my house without my anxiety shooting sky high, can’t go to the gym or the store without having a panic attack, can’t have a panic attack without it being accompanied by suicidal urges.

But the point is that you’re trying to stay alive. Your sense of self-preservation is kicking in. 

But what if my self-preservation isn’t enough to stop the thoughts in my head from taking over? Like I can eat food and not self-harm and go to the gym, but what’s the point if I can barely make it through a workout without feeling like the world’s going to collapse around me? What’s the point if I don’t feel safe anywhere, not even in my own home or my own head? If I feel this hopeless right now when I’m doing everything right, what happens when something goes wrong?

You handle that when you get to that. One step at a time. 

My favorite mixed idiom to use is: I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it. My brain has always raced to the finish, trying to think up every possible “what if” that could ever happen, trying to solve problems that probably won’t ever happen. I talk myself out of doing more things than I talk myself into doing. But the point is: I don’t feel safe. And maybe I should have given up a long time ago.

But you didn’t. You reached out. You got help. You checked yourself into the ER the last time you felt suicidal.

It wasn’t the last time. It wasn’t even the worst time recently. I’ve thought about checking myself in again. There have been nights, many nights, where I’ve thought I wouldn’t make it through, where I should’ve asked for help, and I didn’t. I don’t want to inconvenience anybody, be a burden to anybody, which goes back to the walking as close to the walls as possible, not making eye contact. I don’t want them to see me the way I see myself.

How do you see yourself?

I feel like the worst person in the world. Even though I know it’s not true. I’m afraid to let people in, to tell them what’s going on in my life, the thoughts in my head because I don’t want them to hate me the way I hate myself. Which is ridiculous because I know that what’s going on in my head are lies and that if I keep things to myself, they will eat me alive. But I’m afraid people will give up on me because “I’m too far gone, too broken, not worth enough.”

I think those things about myself all the time, feeding off the lies told to me by the people who broke me. And I feel shame and guilt for thinking those things, for feeling like I deserved what happened to me, that it’s all my fault. Some of the time, I still feel shame and guilt for what happened to me.

I know it’s not my fault, and that nothing gone in my head is rational, but I don’t know how to tell people what I feel without sounding crazy. Maybe I am.

But maybe it’s the world that’s crazy, maybe it’s the world that’s broken, and maybe I just feel that chaos and brokenness more because I’m more sensitive: I feel what people around me feel. So not only do I feel what I’m feeling and my own hurt, but I feel what they’re feeling and carry their hurts with me. And that’s a lot of hurt for one person.

It is a lot of hurt for one person. So how do you deal?

 I don’t deal, not always. I used to block out what I was feeling until I became numb, and then I would self-harm to feel something, anything. Physical pain is easier to fix than emotional pain. And now I write, and sometimes I still self-harm. But I’m learning to deal.

After my dad left the ER, one of the other patients came and sat with me as I slept, not in a creepy way, but in a “We’re all in this together. Pretty girls with sad eyes shouldn’t be alone here.”

But maybe it’s more than pretty girls with sad eyes who shouldn’t be alone. Maybe none of us should be alone. We should know that we have people in our court supporting and encouraging us, praying for us and loving us.

And right now, I’m drowning. Trying to tread water as I keep my head above the waves, but I’m oh so tired. I’m oh so weak.

But you’re recognizing your weaknesses, and you’ve given a name to them.

That’s all any of us can do, really. And right now, I’m having panic attacks and suicidal urges, and I’m feeling hopeless and like I can’t find my way out, and that’s ok. It’s ok to feel these things, to admit that I’m struggling, to admit that my life isn’t perfect. And the only thing I can do is what I’m currently doing: trying to stay alive despite what the thoughts in my head are telling me, despite what I’m feeling.

Because sometimes, when my soul is heavy, when the depression and anxiety are too much, I look at the stars. The same God who painted the night sky in all of its shining glory created me, and that is enough.

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You of Little Faith

I have a hard time getting out of bed. To a point, I think all of us have days like that: days when it’s rainy and damp and chilly; days when we’re so tired because sleep didn’t come easily, if at all. And I don’t want to diminish those days because I never want to invalidate anyone else’s feelings, invalidate other people’s bad days.

My “hard to get out of bed” days are my every day. Every day it’s hard for me to get out bed: the weight of the world and the weight of my pain are too heavy; the fear of “if I get out of bed, I will die” is too high.

One of these feelings is new, relatively speaking. The other one has been my lifelong companion, a friend I didn’t ask for. One that’s moved in, crashed on my couch, invaded my personal space, crowded me out, made me feel like a stranger in my own home. This is anxiety: the constant feeling that I’m going to be late for an appointment I didn’t even make, the impending due date for a major project for a class I’m not even taking, hearing the Imperial March but never running into Darth Vader, discovering a bomb and hearing the beeping get faster and faster and faster but it never exploding. All the time. 24/7.

I’ve always felt this way. I never realized that it was abnormal. I always thought everybody felt this way: so unsure of themselves, feeling like they were going to throw up every time they opened their mouth to speak in class, unable to make eye contact whenever talking to someone, never wanting to meet someone new because “what if they get to know me and then they discover that they don’t like me?,” wanting to find the nearest exit every time they are in a room with more than five people.

I don’t want to say that my anxiety controlled my life when I was younger. But, it did. I was so unsure of myself that I didn’t want to take up people’s time. So, I didn’t talk to people, didn’t ask family members to play games with me, tried to make myself as invisible as I possibly could. And, on the days when I was super stressed, when I had actual tests and was afraid to go to school because of the bullies, I would pick at scabs until they bled. Scarring my body before I even knew what self-harm was.

Growing up in the church, I was always told that God was an all-knowing, ever-loving God. He so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son and so on and so forth. He formed us in our mothers’ wombs; He knows the number of hairs on our head; He knows us inside and out, and He has a plan for our lives.

I was also told that He would never give us more than we can bear. And if we read our Bibles enough, pray enough, are a good enough Christian, He’ll protect us from the bad. Bad things happen to bad people; good things happen to good people. If I really, truly loved Him with my whole heart, if I surrendered everything over to Him, He would protect me from the evil in the world.

And I believed it.

Then one day when I was in eighth grade, I was raped in a school bathroom. When you’re 13 years old and already so unsure of yourself, what they tell you becomes what you believe: slut, worthless, unlovable, ugly. Those four words have been on repeat in my head, and sometimes, at the worst moments, I relive those 15 minutes over and over and over again.

And because of the anxiety I had carried with me for years, I didn’t tell anyone: I was scared, didn’t want to be blamed, just wanted desperately to be loved, didn’t want anyone to know that I was now dirty. I cleaned myself off, went to my locker, grabbed my backpack, climbed into my dad’s car, and kept silent for a year of running into them in the hallways every day, having one of them breathe down my neck as they sat behind me in class, having my stomach do somersaults everytime they smirked at me.

And sometime in that year, I met a new companion: Depression. He moved in and with him, the doubt came too.

Was I not a good enough Christian? Did I not love God enough? Did God not love me enough? Was there even a God? Because if there is a God, how can He allow things like this to happen?

Sometimes depression is sadness. Sometimes it’s anger or despair or hopelessness. Sometimes it’s complete numbness. And that’s what I was: numb. For three or four years, I felt nothing. Yes, there were occasional moments of happiness and laughter, sadness and tears. But that’s all they were: moments, beautiful but fleeting.

And because I wasn’t feeling anything, I started self-harming. Physical pain was better than emotional numbness. And then, when that wasn’t enough, I stopped eating. We all want to feel in control of our lives, and I could control the number of calories I ate. So I did. I restriced and restriced and restriced because I wasn’t deserving. I didn’t deserve to eat.

I tried to erase the parts of myself I didn’t like, tried to erase the feeling of their hands on my body. I tried to make myself someone worthy of love despite the continual fighting off the demons in my head who were telling me otherwise.

And then one February night during my Sophomore Year of High School, I stopped fighting. For one second, I stopped fighting the voices in my head. I was oh so tired.

I could use a million metaphors to describe what happened next, but this isn’t Star Wars: there’s no “metaphors be with you” to lessen what I’m about to say:

That was the night I attempted suicide. I wrote a note, swallowed pills, laid in bed, and then watched the snow falling outside my window sparkle in the moonlight. When I think back to this night, there’s a disconnect in my brain: because on one hand, it was beautiful: the fluffy snow sparkling in the moonlight. But, on the other hand, there’s nothing beautiful about feeling like there’s no hope, there’s no way out.

In the next moment, as I’m able to quiet my racing thoughts, there was a still quiet voice in my ear, “You’ll be ok.” 

And that was enough. In that moment, that was all I needed.

I found that suicide note a few years ago, tucked away in a polka dot notebook I forgot I had. I would like to say that after reading it, ripping it up, and throwing it out the window as I drove down the expressway, I never wrote another one, but that would be a lie.

I’ve written more than I can count. In the last three months alone, I’ve written at least 15 on the nights that I’m not sure I’ll make it through the storm. But, after the storm subsides, when the winds calm down, and the waters recede, I delete them from my phone, erasing the words I’m so ashamed of writing.

Being raped shattered me, as it would anyone. And nine years later, I’m still trying to pick up the pieces. Nine years later, I’m still trying to rewrite the definition they gave me.

 

I’m 23 years old now, but not much has changed: I’m still so unsure of myself; I invalidate my own feelings to make room for other people’s; I don’t want to take up people’s time;  I’m still learning how to ask for help.

Somedays I still self-harm. I have flashbacks and panic attacks, mostly at the gym because there are too many guys that I don’t trust, and not enough people that I do. Two months ago, I almost drove into a tree. On purpose. Because sometimes I’m still convinced I don’t deserve to be here. One month ago, I drove myself to the ER because instead of writing a manual on using Skype for Business, the only words on the screen in front of me were: I want to die. I need to die. 

Somedays, I use up all my faith when I get out of bed and trust that the floor won’t collapse beneath my feet.

And I want you guys to know two things: 1. There’s a difference between what I feel and what I know: most days, I feel like I want to die. But, I know that I actually do not want to die. And 2. that you can’t fix this. There’s nothing you can do to take all this pain away. But, if you rephrase the question “What can I do (to fix this)?” to “What do you need?,” the number of things you can do skyrockets from zero to so many: I need a hug. I need prayer and support and encouragement and love. I need people to sit there with me as I’m trying to work through what I’m feeling in that moment. I need people to listen to what’s going on in my head. I need people to let me feel what I’m feeling and not get frustrated. Because, trust me, no one’s more frustrated than me.

I’m frustrated because I should be better. It’s been nine years, and in those nine years, I’ve felt nothing; I’ve felt anger; I’ve forgiven, and I’ve tried to move on. I’ve been hurt and harassed and there are stories that I’m not ready to tell. I went to Guatemala and led a young girl to a God that I wasn’t even sure I believed in at the time.

And why haven’t I left? Why haven’t I walked away? The truth is, I have. For so long I was angry at God for letting this happen to me. For abandoning me. For leaving me for a younger, prettier, less broken model.

But, here’s the thing: so many times over the years I have been reminded of God’s grace, of His goodness, of the love He has for me. On the night I attempted suicide, He whispered, “You’ll be ok.” He snapped me out of it as my car was heading for a tree. He gave me the strength to ask for help, to drive to the ER even though I was terrified, because I was terrified.

Right now, I’m oh so weak. But God, He’s strong enough for the both of us. He’s carried me through things I wouldn’t have made it through on my own.

And even though I have so many questions: Why did this happen? Why did I survive when so many people do not? What on earth kind of plan do you have for my life? Does beauty really come from ashes?, I know that there are things that my finite brain can’t even begin to comprehend.

Sometimes, all we can do is give a name to the darkest parts of ourselves, and turn the rest over.

My name’s Kaleigh, and I have Generalized Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Major Depression, PTSD, and Suicidal thoughts,  and I’m letting God do the rest.

Because that’s all I can do–all any of us can do. Because I can’t fix this. You can’t fix this. Medication and therapy can’t fix this. They can make it more manageable, but that’s it.

Only God can fix this. And I’ve come to accept the fact that maybe it won’t fix this in the way I want Him to. Maybe depression and anxiety and the memories will always be a part of my life. He knows what He’s doing and the plans He has for my life. I still struggle with guilt and shame and the feeling that everything that’s happened in my life is somehow my fault. But, sometimes, every once in a while, He’ll fill me with this sense of peace, a reminder that He’s got this, even when I have no faith, when I feel hopeless, when I’ve lost sight of the light.

Last Sunday, I woke up and my anxiety was through the roof. I felt out of place, uncomfortable, a stranger in my own body. I got up, went to Sunday School, and went to Church, trying to maintain normalcy when all I wanted to do was die. As the last song was ending and the closing prayer was started, I collapsed in my pew and started sobbing. And then, somehow, I don’t quite remember how, I ended up at the prayer rail, still sobbing because God reminded me in that moment that He’s taken my guilt and shame; He reminded me that I’m worthy; there’s no one too broken or dirty. And when I finally stopped crying, when I finally found the strength to stand up and turn around, there were a whole bunch of people surrounding me with open arms and tears in their eyes, reminding me that I’m not alone in this. None of us are alone in life.

So, yes, somedays are hard. Most days are hard. But on those days where I can’t get out of bed, where my faith seems too small, where I’m afraid that despite my best attempts at self-preservation, my suicidal thoughts will win out, where the depression and anxiety seem like too much to bear; on those days, I look at the lines on my hand.

They remind me that the same God who created the stars in the sky, the falling snow, the sunrises and sunsets, the rainbows, and the color-changing leaves of autumn stitched me together piece by piece.

And sometimes, that is enough.

Towers and Earthquakes

Here’s the thing: we spend so much of our lives building an identity–a tower of self that is our foundation, what we base our whole life on–that when life begins to chip away at it, we begin to feel lost and confused.

I remember being younger and building my identity around people in my life, mostly friends, sometimes family. The problem with building your identity around others is that it’s permeable–there are cracks in the foundation, allowing water to get in, eroding away the tower brick by brick, piece by piece.

I left Elementary school with a reasonably adequate sense of self. I thought I knew who I was, what I was doing because when you’re one of the big kids in the school, you think you’re unstoppable, and maybe you are.

But then you’re not. You go from being the kid who’s gone around the block a few times to being the new kid in school. And it’s not the moving up of schools that bothers you because you’ve accepted that growing up and getting older is a part of life.

The problem is that you’re now a small fish in a big sea–you don’t know where you fit, where you belong, who your friends are. Something happens to people in Middle School–everybody is trying to find themselves, figure out who they are, and figure out where they fit. And everybody starts doing this at the same time, creating an upset in the social balance, causing hierarchies to form.

The massive upheaval of self-identity causes bullying to start. You try not to let it get to you. You try not to let the names they call you, the things they say to you influence your life. But they do.

And they did for me, too.

They began to chip away at my tower of identity bit by bit; it began to crumble, but because of the foundation, no matter how shaky it was, I wasn’t really scared of it falling.

But then it did.

When I was in eighth grade, I was raped. And it changed everything. It took everything. It took away the foundation I had spent 13 years building. It took away everything I thought I was. It took away my ability to say “No.” because if one guy asked me out, I rejected him, and this happened, what’s to stop it from happening again.

Being raped was like an earthquake–you’ve all seen the images: the violent tremors, the collapsing buildings, the swirling dust, the weakening skeletons still standing.

Being raped was a lot like that: quick and violent, and when the dust settled, all that was left was a shell of who I once was, who I wanted to be.

When it was all over, I was depressed and broken, lost and confused. I felt as though God had abandoned me.And I didn’t tell anybody. When it was all over, I cleaned myself up, covered the bruises as best I could, and carried on with my life as if nothing had happened.

The pain I was feeling was too intense; it hurt too much–I shut down. Becoming numb was easier than feeling, especially when the voices started, repeating over and over and over the events of that day, the words said I wanted so badly to forget: Slut. Bitch. No one will ever love you. You’re worthless.

I was depressed for so long, so numb that I had forgotten how to feel anything at all. That was when the cutting started. I wanted to feel something, anything. The pain reminded me I was alive, and it became addicting. Even that soon became not enough.Soon the self-harm escalated to self-loathing, subtly over time. One day, I woke up and couldn’t remember the last time I had eaten a full meal. The roaring of my stomach quickly drowned out the voices in my head.

I needed to grasp on to something, so I grasped on to the thought that maybe this would end someday, because even the idea of death is better than grasping on nothing.

Then, one day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I was tired; boy, was I tired. I let my guard down, stopped trying to shut out the voices in my head. I just wanted peace.

I don’t remember swallowing the pills, but I remember throwing them up. It came after a moment of peace and a whisper: You’ll be ok.

And I was, but not right away. Because I didn’t get help, because, I know this doesn’t make any sense, but I didn’t want to be seen as weak. So I pretended nothing had happened.

Then I broke down. I couldn’t take it anymore. I was so tired of feeling alone, so I started telling people my story. I got help. And it’s been a long, long process.

I don’t know where it ends, or who I will be when I get there, but I know it will be beautiful.

Where I am right now is beautiful.

I’ve started rebuilding myself piece by piece, bit by bit. And here I am today. My foundation is stronger now because it’s built on the assurance that I am a child of God, no matter how angry I once was at Him, He never left my side. He brought me back. He rescued me from me.

My identity is no longer founded on others, and I’m stronger now.

I am beautiful now.

 

 

 

 

Recovery: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

(a continuation of my last blog post, “Bear Hugs From God”)

One of the biggest problems I have as both a reader and a writer is romanticizing things that should not be romanticized. I write poetry and use metaphors to try and make sense of my feelings, without actually acknowledging my feelings. It’s not really even that, though. What it really is, is that I’ve written about my past so many times—I’ve tried to lessen the pain by using metaphors—that I’ve forgotten to write about my present and my future.

My past isn’t beautiful. What I’ve been through isn’t beautiful.

There’s nothing beautiful about rape, depression, self-harm, eating disorders, and suicide attempts.

What’s beautiful is the fact that I’m still here. I’m still fighting. What’s beautiful is God’s grace—his mercy.

But, if you know me and my story, you already know all of that.

What’s beautiful is where I am now, and where I will tomorrow and 5, 10, 15 years from now.

What’s beautiful is recovery and healing, but even those aren’t always beautiful.

Sometimes recovery means hospital stays and feeding tubes and uncomfortable conversations.

Sometimes recovery means mending bridges you burned, going back to the people you’ve hurt with your tail between your legs to say, “I’m sorry.” It’s knowing that while you were hurting, you may have hurt others, too.

Sometimes recovery is learning that total healing doesn’t always come on this side of life. It’s having to be ok with that.

Sometimes recovery is being angry, and then sad, and then angry again. It’s about learning to use those feelings to motivate you to live every day, not just survive every day.

Sometimes recovery means grasping for straws, hoping that you can find one to hold on to. If you can find one reason to stay alive, no matter how small, it makes day-to-day life so much easier.

Sometimes recovery means doing things you don’t want to do. It’s like my sister talking about the Super Bowl: “If the Patriots and Panthers both make it, I’ll cheer for the Panthers, but I won’t be happy about it.”

I’ll ask for help if I need it, but I won’t be happy about it.

Sometimes recovery means not being afraid to fail and having faith that God knows what he’s doing. You know like Peter. “Ok, God. You called me out upon the waters, but I sunk. Now what?” And God replies, “Have some faith.” Oh.

Sometimes recovery is a bear hug from God, but often times it’s more like Him carrying you while you’re kicking and screaming, “But I want to.” You know like how a parents tells a child not to touch the stove because it will burn them, but the child does it anyway? And then they get burned. Or how a child throws a tantrum in a store because mom won’t buy them candy, and then when they get home, they’re put in time-out. It’s sort of like that—learning from your mistakes.

Like you’re standing on a bridge, and God says, “Don’t you dare jump.” But you do anyway. And then of course you hurt yourself. And God picks you up, wraps your ankle, and says, “What did I tell you? This time you just sprained your ankle, but next time, it could be worse. Don’t do that again.” But of course you do it again, just to make sure gravity works. And God keeps saving you over and over and over again. He doesn’t have to, but He does.

Sometimes recovery means remembering how great God’s love, grace, and mercy are. It means being grateful because you are so unworthy of any of it.

Sometimes recovery is trying so hard not to revert to old habits. Repeat after me: “I will eat today. I will not pick up that razor. I am beautiful.”

Last night, I was angry—don’t ask me why because I have no idea—and I was being mean to myself. I knew that if I went to bed with those feelings, it would lead to a terrible today, and a possible relapse. So, I went to my happy corner: the corner of my room, under my bed, next to my desk, in front of my bookcase where I have blankets and stuffed animals. And I curled up there, and I wrote for a while, and then read Edgar Allan Poe for a while.

After about an hour of this, God and I had a conversation. The exact details don’t really matter. But it played out like a parent talking to a child:

“Do you know why I put you in time-out?”

“Yes. I was angry and being mean.”

“Correct. And you’re not angry anymore?”

“No, I’m not.”

“And you promise not to be mean?”

“I’ll try my best.”

“That’s all I ask. You can get up now.”

Sometimes recovery is about learning how to keep bad feelings in yesterday to make for a better today and tomorrow.

Yesterday, I was angry.

Today, I am content. Today, I am “Carpe Diem”ing. Today, I will do my best to prepare for a better tomorrow.

Bear Hugs from God

When my dad discovered that I was self-harming, when he pulled up my sleeves and noticed the fresh-that-morning cuts on my arm, he pulled me into a giant bear hug—the kind only dads can give—and refused to let go.

I imagine God is the same way, especially when it comes to those who have walked away, those who have doubted, those who have lamented and struggled.

I doubted for a long time, but I’ve had faith for longer.

Doubting is easy, having faith is hard.

When you’re being raped, it’s hard to have faith that one day God will use this for good.

When you’re cutting yourself open and starving yourself, it’s hard to have faith that God made you, and will continue to make you, beautiful.

But there I was, having faith I was starting to outgrow. When I was little, it fit like one of my dad’s t-shirts: large and floppy. Now that I had struggled, it fit like one of those old t-shirts it’s time to get rid of: too tight in the middle, with holes in the armpits.

It’s hard when your faith is shaken. You begin to wonder if it was strong enough to begin with, if you were a good-enough Christian to begin with. Doubt begins to creep in when your faith doesn’t seem big enough.

I never stopped having faith, but I let doubt take control. I was like one of those tight rope walkers who tense up and fall when they look down and realize how far away the ground is.

The night I attempted suicide was a night much like this one. I remember it vividly: the house was quiet; snow, sparkling under the light of the moon, was falling outside my window. The roads were covered in snow, and tree branches were dancing in the wind. It was beautiful and magical, serene and tranquil, but it wasn’t enough to save me.

My doubt was.

As I lay in the darkness of my room, waiting for the pills to do their job, I could see the light of the moon shining bright.

The doubt I had been feeling for years had eroded a place for hope and faith. And I know that doesn’t make sense, but believe me when I tell you that one the night I tried to kill myself, I was angry at the beauty I saw outside. I was angry at the way God had created nature and man, called both good, but he had seemingly abandoned me.

I was angry, but I still held on to a little bit of hope.

So as time slowed down and the earth began to slip away, I made a last ditch “I don’t know if God exists, but if He does, I hope He hears this because I’m all out of answers, and I can’t do this alone” cry.

And He did. And He answered, not with a shout, but with the gentlest of whispers.

“You’ll be ok.”

He answered with a whisper, but I’m sure He was like: “Finally! I told you that you couldn’t do this alone, and I was here cheering on the sidelines like an idiot screaming, ‘Come on, you can do this!’ But you weren’t paying any attention to what mattered. You were too focused on your past to think about your future or your present.”

And He’d be right. I was.

When my dad discovered I was self-harming, he pulled me into a bear hug.

When he discovered I tried to kill myself, he pulled me into his lap and threw his arms around me, as if to say, I’m never letting you go.

I imagine God did the same when I finally surrendered my pain, my past, my failures, and returned to him.

I imagine him saying, “Come on, Child. We can get through this together.”

 

Celebrating and Grieving: 5 years ago, I was given a second chance

Today I am celebrating, but I’m also grieving. I’m celebrating because five years ago God saved me from myself. I’m grieving because other people are not as lucky as I am.

Many people are not as lucky as I am.

And so I’m torn. I want to celebrate the second chance at life I was given, but I also want to be sensitive to those who are grieving, especially to the family who, one week ago, lost a brother, nephew, cousin, grandson, son. I’m acutely aware of their pain, and I want to respect it.

But I don’t really know how to celebrate and grieve at the same time. I imagine it’s similar to rejoicing your grandfather’s life while at his funeral. Except it’s not the same thing. One person lived; one person died. I lived; Jake didn’t.

And I don’t know how to explain that. I don’t know why I’m still here and why he’s not. My life isn’t worth more than his, so I don’t know why I drew the “second-chance” card.

I have so many questions and not enough answers—I wish I had more. I can wish things were different, but I don’t know what good that would do.

The only thing I really know how to do right now is say I’m sorry.

I’m sorry. I truly am.

That’s all I can really do. I don’t know the circumstances of Jake’s death, and I don’t really know the family, so I have to be content with knowing that everybody around them is grieving also.

I’m grieving too.

But is it selfish to be celebrating?

Maybe. Maybe not.

But right now, in this moment, I need to be celebrating because depression is unpredictable and destructive.

And I need to celebrate the fact that I’ve lived one more year. When you’re living with depression, every day you wake up is a celebration because our minds are fighting a civil war for control of our bodies: death versus life. And it’s not that we want to die, because we don’t, at least not most of us, not really. We just don’t know if we want to live. At least not like this. It’s like we’re living in this purgatory between living and dying, waiting to decide if we’ll be sentenced to life or death. We feel like we’re stumbling through life–a tumbleweed being blown by the wind–a witness to life, not an active participant.

Depression and other Mental Illnesses cause you to feel as if your world is spinning out of control, a merry-go-round that doesn’t stop.

We’re not crazy. We just feel like the world is too heavy for us. It’s a roller coaster that only goes down. It’s a never-ending tunnel filled with darkness and a thousand tons of dynamite. We’re wandering around in this big world, and we feel so small. We don’t know if we’re ever going to be ‘ok’ again.

And we probably won’t. Because even when we’re happy, we’re always cautious. We know the darkness is just around the corner. It comes in waves, and right now, we might be swimming, but soon we’ll be drowning. And with each wave, it gets harder and harder to get out of bed, to breathe, to think, to have any energy whatsoever.

You have your own opinions on suicide, which is your right. You have yours, and I have mine. I also have my own theories about why some people die young(er than others). But right now, none of those are important.

What is important is trying to understand.

Depression is a battle, and five years ago, I almost lost. I should have lost. But I didn’t, and I wish I knew why.

In the middle of my deepest, darkest moment after swallowing those pills, God called me back here. I still don’t know why.

However, I do know that God knows what’s best even though sometimes what’s best can hurt the worst.

I do know that five years ago, in that moment, my demons were in control of my mind and body. I had to get out. (Imagine a fire consuming your house. You have to get out even if the only way out is by jumping through a window.)

I do know that God knows what He’s doing, and I wish I knew what He is doing, but I can’t pretend to know the inner workings of the omnipotent, omniscient mind of the Almighty.

We can’t always choose whether we live or die. But Jesus did. He chose to die for us so that one day we can be with Him.

We will be with Him.

I don’t know everybody’s circumstances, but I do know mine (and if you’ve read my blog, you do to).

I don’t know why I got a second chance, but I’m trying to make the most of it.

I rejoice in the good days and the bad days because depression is unpredictable and powerful.

I rejoice because I know that whatever happens in this life, God is in control.

Late Night Thoughts: I’ll Be Ok

The most common question I get is, “What you were wearing?” As if that makes a difference. I was in 8th grade, and my whole life I had been taught that, as a woman, I have to be careful what I wear because it could be distracting to boys.

I was wearing jeans and an extra-large hoodie if you must know.

The second most common question I am asked is, “what did you do to provoke him?” Nothing. Unless you count him asking me out and me saying, “no,” because he was a jerk who slammed my locker shut every day, who used to pull my hair because he liked the way it curled.

Now before you say, Boys will be boys, or, that’s how he shows you he likes you, let me tell you that I grew up hearing that if a guy is mean to you, he likes you.

“He’s pulling my hair.” He likes you.

“He stole my ball.” He likes you.

I took that to mean that if someone is mean to you, they must like you.

“He beat his wife for years.” He loved her too much.

“Why didn’t she leave?” She loved him too much.

For years, I was mean to my body: I cut myself open. I watched myself bleed. I starved myself. I belittled myself because I believed that in order to love my body, my being, I had to first be mean.

Meanness, I thought, was the way people showed love: Love is born out of hatred; Abuse is a symbol of love.

How messed up is that?

“Why did you do this to yourself?” I was trying to love myself.

“Why didn’t you leave?” Trust me, I tried. But something pulled me back.

You’ll be ok.

People like to believe that most sexual assaults and rapes are committed by strangers. However, that’s not the case. (Trust me, I’ve done the research. I know the statistics. 1 in 5. 1 in 7. I wrote a 12-page paper on the prevalence of rape in society and the way society treats the victims and the perpetrators. Sometimes, society doesn’t get it right).

I knew the guys who did this to me. I went to school with them. I saw them every day before and after until they dropped out. Win for me.

I graduated High School. They didn’t.

I am going to graduate from College soon. I’ve come a long way.

The things they called me, the things they told me, still echo in my ear.

Slut.

Bitch.

You’re asking for this.

You’ll never amount to anything.

Nobody will ever love you.

 

Maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s not.

But I love me. It’s taken me years to get to this point. It’s taken me years to realize how beautiful I am I have the advantage of knowing where I’ve been and can compare it to where I am now. And with all these facts laid out before me, how can I not love me?

There are days when I want to go back in time and say to my 13-year old self, It’s ok. You’ll be ok. It will get better. I want to take her by the hand and show her the people she’ll touch, the people she’ll meet, the lives she’ll change. I want to tell her the story of her 19-year old self going to Guatemala, sharing her testimony with a group of Junior High students, and leading a young Guatemalan teenager to Christ because of her story. I want to tell her about the hard days and the sad days and the in-between days. I want to remind her that one day the sun will come out, and she’ll feel better. I want to tell her that despite the cyclic nature of Depression, she can get through this.

I’ve learned life is beautiful, and I want her to remember this.

I want to tell her that one day she’ll learn about the power of words, how writing can change a life. When she discovers this, she will have found what she wants to do with her life.

I guess those guys must have been wrong about me then.

My 13- year old self would love me.

My current self loves me.

God loves me.

He’s the One who called me back that day.

You’ll be ok.

Some days I have to remind myself of this, especially on the days when the weight of the world is on my shoulders.

God loves me anyway, and I’ll be ok.

Rain is a Metaphor for Life

Are you ever having a good hair day and the rain ruins it? Yeah, me neither. With the way my curls are sometimes there but never fair, I’m never having a good hair day, but that’s why I love the rain. I can start over. Rain symbolizes rebirth, which means renewal, and we could all use a clean slate. Because I think sometimes we forget that the rain can wash everything away if we just let it. And I don’t know about you, but there are things in my life I wish I could forget, I wish I could erase, I wish I could go back and prevent. But I can’t. So I write instead.

Because there was once a time when the tears and the pain would draw blood, but now the tears and the rain draw ink instead. Blood is thicker than water, and my sins have been wiped clean by the washing of His blood. And my house is built on a firm foundation.

So, yes, I love the rain. The way it drips down my face, the way it straightens my curls (unless I’m in Seattle, where the rain just makes my curls more defined), the way it soaks through my hoodie to my bones, and causes my jeans to stick to my legs like an extra layer of skin. Some days I could use an extra layer of skin to protect me from this world.

When I was little, I thought rain was the tears of God. It was a comforting thought to believe that God can cry, too. People told me I was ridiculous. “God can’t cry. He’s the embodiment of perfection, and perfection doesn’t cry.”

John 11:35 says that Jesus wept. And I guess I like to believe that perhaps this fully human part of this fully perfect God can cry with me. Sometimes I like to find comfort in the belief that the Creator of this vast and endless universe feels the same emotions I do. This thought wraps me up like a blanket and keeps me warm on the coldest of nights. And on days when it feels like this winter will never end, I take comfort in the fact that the seasons are ever-changing, and just as they change, I do too.

I’m not the same as I was 5 years ago, a month ago, or even yesterday. And I thank God for that. Because I’ve learned to love myself, I’ve learned to love people as well. And sometimes knowing where to look to find the best in people is the only way to get along.

We all need those people to walk along beside us, to carry our crosses when it gets heavy and we’re tired. I’m so glad I’ve found mine.

Because sometimes I need to be reminded that the ocean I think I’m drowning in is only a puddle. We all need to be reminded of that once in a while.

And sometimes we all need that person to be our Rihanna, who lets us stand under their umbrella, because, no, the rain may not be your favorite. But, it’s certainly mine. I sing in the shower and dance in the rain. Because you can’t see the rainbow with any rain, and when the rain stops, everything is so green.

We all need that renewal once in a while.

And the melodies dancing on the roof and the fingers tapping on my keyboard in time with the drops remind me that even God is sad sometimes, too. And that is enough to remind me I’m not alone in this world.

I am Weak All Week

Truth time: I am not as strong as I pretend to be.

I’ve been through a lot in my life: I’ve been sexually assaulted. I’ve battled Depression. I was Anorexic for a long time. But I’m not as strong and put together as I wish I was.

Many days, I don’t trust the ground to stand strong under my feet.

Many days, the weight of the burdens I carry is enough to crack my ribs and puncture my lungs.

Many days, I use up all my faith getting out of bed in the morning.

But then there’s God. In my weakness, He is strong.

1 Corinthians 10:13 says, ” No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

Every day we are tempted. My temptations are different than your temptations. My sin is different than your sin. But we are not that different, you and I.

We are both made of atoms and cells and organs. We are both living and breathing. We both inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide.

Every day we are tempted. I am tempted to stay in bed all day, and cut myself off from the world. But everyday I am able to stand up under my temptations, because God has provided a way out.

I sin everyday. I have sinned against myself, and probably at some point, I’ve sinned against you. But I have been forgiven by the perfect forgiveness found in Christ. I have been washed clean by the shedding of his blood.

I am not as strong as I pretend to be.

In fact, if I was chosen to be the modern-day Atlas, you know the guy who has to hold the world up all by himself (talk about the weight of the world being on his shoulders), we’d all be dead. Thankfully, I’m not the chosen one, and thankfully, I don’t have to hold the world up by myself.

I’m not the chosen one. But I am chosen.

You see, I have a God who has chosen me to be a part of His glorious Kingdom. I have  God who knew me before I was born, who knew me before I was even a blip on anybody’s radar. I have  God who has called me to do great things. I have a God who has comforted me in the storm. I have a God who has carried me through the hard times. I have a God who has placed the stars in the sky and knows them by name. I have a God who has seen the inner thoughts of my heart and loves me anyway.

Talk about the unconditional love of a Father.

When I was little, my dad would ask me: “Kaleigh, how many fathers do you have?”

“Two!” I would reply, “I have a Heavenly Father and a Down-here Daddy.”

I am thankful for the both of them.

But I am especialy thankful for my Heavenly Father who is strong enough for the both of us.

Un-eligible Princess

If you could use your imagination for a second and imagine me standing in front of you, I’m terrified and shaking and trembling but I’m reading this with a smile on my face. Because I’m terrified of speaking in large groups, but when I’m reading my words from the page, I’m the only one in the room.

Right now, it’s one in the morning, or 7 at night, or pick a time any time. And I’ve written many things already tonight. And the number of words I’ve written in my life is probably greater than the number I’ve spoken. And that’s ok. Because with every beat of my heart, my blood carries my words throughout my body, reaching my brain and my fingers until I itch for a pen.

But there was a time when I would have reached for the razor instead. I would have watched as my blood trickled from my skin and the tears from my eye flood carried the words I didn’t know how to say from this body of mine. Because I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve, but a part of it leaves when I sit down to write. Because my heart cries tears of pain and joy and desperation, and all this accumulation turns into inspiration late at night.

And I’m well-versed in the art of poetry (and also math, but Calculus 101 and 102 demanded my wrath). But poetry is not a mathematical equation, unless you’re Shakespeare with his sonnets, and his perfect 14 lines of iambic pentameter.

Because

Any

Sentence

Is

Poetry

If

You

Write

Like

This.

And if that’s poetry, I’m not a poet—try my way though. Because my prosetry may include rhyme and meter, because I grew up counting meter for music, so I’ve met her (be)fore. And anything is a metaphor if you try hard enough. I draw poetry from life around me and the pain inside me. Because every so often, I think ‘why me?’

And I believe my words are beautiful. Because they have the power to open minds, change minds, encourage minds, and maybe one day convince someone to be mine. Even dressed to the nines, I don’t feel fine, by which I mean beautiful.  Because what’s beautiful about scars? I mean Scar was the bad guy in Lion King, and I’m the Daughter of the King, so don’t my scars make me the “Next Un-eligible Princess?” And I try to hide mine, because I drew the line and connected the scars on my skin, and one day I picked up the pen instead.

Because writing makes me feel beautiful. And my writing is beauty filled, and people tell me they’re proud of me. And if my writing can help thee, then it shall be. Because I don’t want to hide these red razor lines on my abs and my thighs, so I transfer them to my writing, which is fine by me. My scars say “I have survived,” but these demons won’t go away, which is why writing is here to stay. Because this pain is enough to drive me insane, but my words are enough to keep them at bay.

Because not too long ago, I believed that beauty was directly proportional to weight, which made me hate society. Because when did it become ok to say things to ourselves we are too afraid to say to anyone else? And when did skeletons become goddesses teaching us to not need? Because what does thin mean to you? Sophistication, adoration, adulation, a vaccination against segregation? And if that’s beauty, I’ll stay ugly.

Because I’ve always been too big, too loud, too quiet, too excitable. But that’s ok, because my heart is too big to be contained in jeans too small for a stick. And although some days I hate everything about who, what, and how I am, it’s ok anyway. Because I have enough pain to write novels like Bronte. And they will be beautiful, because slowly and surely, I am learning to love myself. There are parts of me that shine like the stars. Because my eyes are full of wonder, and when I make a blunder: I still walk into the light.

So I can no longer believe that my value is tied into how much I weigh, because whoever said “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” clearly never tried Red Velvet anything. Besides, I have better things to worry about. I mean, I have a book to write, and lives to change, and people to hug, and stories to tell. And the last thing I want people to remember me for is my weight. I want to be remembered for doing something great.

But right now, in this moment, I’m 19. I’m here, and I’m so afraid. But my courage is roaring like the sun, because I’ve made it this far, and I know I’ll be ok. So when I get up in the morning, and my legs feel like they might buckle, I’ll have to trust that they are strong enough to keep me from falling. I am strong enough. Besides, if they’re not strong enough in that moment, life goes on. And I can try again tomorrow.