Just Keep Swimming

Disclaimer: this post is a post I’ve been mulling over for a few weeks now. I’ve been trying to figure out the way to treat this subject with the sensitivity it deserves, because yes, I can be open and candid about it, but for some people it’s just not easy. The wounds are too fresh. I’m showing you my cards here. I’m wiping off my poker face. I’m putting it all on the table. This post, like so many others, is about suicide. And I need, no, I want, you guys to know that before you keep reading. Because I understand that some of your wounds are fresh, but I also know that sometimes talking about can speed up the healing process. I also know that sometimes talking about it can make it worse. So, if the latter is the case, stop reading. I don’t want to make your burden heavier than it already is. Make yourself a cup of tea and go to your happy place. If the former is the case, make yourself a cup of tea and read this post. Either way, I want you all to know that you are loved, and there are people out there who understand your pain, who will be willing to help carry your burden.

 

It’s been 4 years, 1 month, and 1 day since I attempted suicide. I survived. Yet, so many others do not.

I’m not going to give you statistics, because if you want to know, you can look up the numbers on your own. I’m not going to give you statistics, because this isn’t speech class where I need numbers to convince my audience to agree with me. It’s not that I don’t have facts, because I do.

Fact: Suicide is a moment.

Fact: Depression is a race.

Fact: Suicide is a moment. A moment when someone decides they are tired of running.

Fact: Depression is a race, and if you stop running for even a second, it catches you.

Fact: Suicide is a moment. A moment when someone decides they are tired of running. In that moment, it doesn’t matter that there are people who love them.

Fact: Depression is a race, and if you stop running for even a second, it catches you. If you stop and rest, it begins to grow on you.

Fact: Suicide is a moment. A moment when someone decides they are tired of running. In that moment, it doesn’t matter that there are people who love them. Because all of sudden, life hits them in the chest, and they realize this sadness will never go away.

Fact: Depression is a race, and if you stop running for even a second, it catches you. If you stop and rest, it begins to grow on you. It’s like a vine that blocks out the sun, a python strangling the joy out of you, and rust that corrodes the bones.

Fact: Suicide is a moment. A moment when someone decides they are tired of running. In that moment, it doesn’t matter that there are people who love them. Because all of a sudden, life hits them in the chest, and they realize this sadness will never go away. And they dare themselves to do it.

Fact: Depression is a race, and if you stop running for even a second, it catches you. If you stop and rest, it begins to grow on you. It’s like a vine that blocks out the sun, a python strangling the joy out of you, and rust that corrodes the bones. And it’s so easy it sit there and let it consume you, because it whispers to you of an eternal sleep.

Fact: Life is made up of moments.

Fact: Life is a race.

When I am up high, I get scared. Because I’m telling myself, I could really do this. I could. But then, when I think these thoughts, I think of how great it would be to fall in love, how great it would be to travel the world. And I return back to normal. But I hold on to the moment and the thought of what it would be like to travel through the air. And I know I’ll probably never take myself up on the dare again, but the memory gives me a comfort that the day is mine to choose. Because the memory of how I felt in that moment when I swallowed those pills is tucked away in my brain like a sour candy stored in my cheek. I don’t like sour candy.

Some people do.

Some people take themselves up on the dare, because they don’t see how life can get any better. And I can understand why, because sometimes I’m tired of running, which is usually 2.5 minutes after I begin, because I have asthma.

Some people take themselves up on the dare, and they leave their families behind. And their families are left picking up the pieces and are trying to make them fit. But like a jigsaw puzzle with a missing piece, it will never be the same.

And we can’t save everybody, but we should certainly try.

Because I know first-hand how devastating a suicide can be. My mother lost a cousin to it, and my dad did too. And they almost lost a daughter.

And in the last year, my high school has lost two graduates to it, and now the families and friends are wondering why.

I don’t know the reason for other people, but I know mine.

And I think society is talking about it more, which is good, but I think people need to better understand that this is a disease. People like me can’t just snap out of it. Because we can recover for a while, but it will inevitably return, so we live our lives in the moment. The future is scary, and it’s not always guaranteed.

Because it’s all too easy to drown in an ocean of tears, and sometimes we forget we can float in salt water.

 

 

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Clock Tower Ministry

“What time is is?”

“I have no idea.”

“Oh, wait… We’re sitting under a clock tower.”

*facepalm*

This past week was my favorite week of the year: Bible Quizzing Nationals! Every year, this is a week where my faith gets tested, my hatred towards high stress situations becomes apparent, and where friendships are made and strengthened. This year was no exception (I regret to inform you I was unable to watch my youngest sister in her Semi-Finals for Individuals, because of stress. And, had she made it to the Finals, I wouldn’t be able to watch her there either. I rather enjoy not being bald and having finger nails. If not being able to watch her makes me a horrible sister, oh well. Persecute me).

However, my experience this year was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in all my previous years of Quizzing. Last year was my last year being involved as a student in Quizzing, and as such, this year was my first year being a Coach. Being a Coach is a completely different than being a Quizzer, and like in every situation, there are goods and bads.

Bad: I miss jumping.

Good: My knees don’t hurt, and the skin on my elbows is intact.

Bad: I miss knowing things.

Good: I don’t have to study, because studying: Ain’t nobody got time for that!  (Study kids! It’s important!)

Good: I can talkasquickly or as s l o w l y as I want to.

Even better: I can still make my point in 20 seconds or less, so don’t get into an argument with me.

Being a Coach this week afforded me the opportunity to get to know some people. And a lot of the conversations I had took place at this clock tower in the center of my College Campus: 17595_10201556207572955_2020817768_n

The thing about this clock tower is I hated it. I hated it when it was being built, because while it was being built, the shortest route from one end of campus to the other was not able to be used. I hated it after it was built, because I kept running into it. I hated it because even though I’m in College, I have a hard time reading analog clocks.

This week, my perspective changed. Every night, I would sit here, and I would talk to anyone who needed a friend. I would talk to the misfits, the lonely, the ones who were struggling, the ones who were metaphorically lost, the socially awkward, the ones who needed someone to cry with, the ones who needed a hug, the introverts who just needed someone to sit with. Basically, I sat and talked with anyone who reminded me of myself. We all had something in common. It provided healing for me, and I hope it started the healing process in them.

Yesterday, my Dad told me he was proud of my “Clock Tower Ministry.” I mean, he’s supposed to say that, because he’s my Dad, but I’m proud of me too. Because there was a time not too long ago when I would have been the one who needed someone to be at the Clock Tower, and I might not have found anyone there. And I would have been too shy and afraid to ask if I did find someone. But this week, I was the person at the metaphorical Clock Tower. I was the one standing in the Harbor with my light glowing, safely guiding people home. And if this is the only worthwhile thing I ever do in my life, then so be it. Because I wouldn’t have changed it for anything.

 

This week, I was President of the ACFCL (Assistant Coach and Fanclubing League), which let me say, is fantastic! Because this week, I was able to watch a lot of the teams from my Church quiz, and I was able to cheer them on without the pressure of having to be at this place at this time.

And for that, I am thankful.

Because this week, I learned something about myself. I learned that even though I am insecure, even though I am loud and obnoxious in large groups, even though I have been broken in the past, even though I have no idea what I’m doing ever about anything, even though some days I believe I’m worth nothing, even though I am a misfit, I can help others. I can be their listening ear of understanding. I can be there to share their laughs, to listen to their struggles, to sit there in silence when words just aren’t enough, to be their shoulder to cry on, and I can be their Fan Club when all they need is a little encouragement.

And that is why I am thankful for this ministry and this week, because I was surrounded by fantastic teens from all over the country. I am surrounded by teens who are hungry for the word of God, and who are destined to do great things. I am thankful for the people I meet, the people I talked to and got to know, and I am thankful for all the students who stood at the front of the Auditorium and shared how God has worked in their lives. And I am thankful for the people I didn’t meet, the people who attended, and the people who couldn’t.

Because I left this week more fulfilled than I ever did when I won trophies and accolades. This week reinforced the concept that people are what matter.

Questions You Can’t Ask Me

WAIT! Stop reading right now. If you haven’t read my post, “Things You Don’t Get to Say to Someone with Mental Illness,” read it before proceeding by clicking here.

Have you finished reading it?

Yes? OK, you may continue.

I’ve always been curious about the world, and I’ve always asked questions. In fact, according to my parents, my first words were “How’s it work?” So, it’s not hard to understand why I believe that asking well-­thought out, somewhat unusual questions is one of the best ways to get to know someone.

However, if you plan on getting to know me anytime in the near future, here are a few questions you cannot ask me.

1)      What is your favorite video game?

Because I want to be able to say something cool like Halo or something. But I’ve only played Halo once with a friend, and I did pretty well. But then I wanted to play by myself, and it was going well until I got to this part where very suspenseful music was being played. I just couldn’t handle it, so I freaked out and quite playing.

 

But I like PacMan. Pacman’s good.

 

2)      You’re an English Major? Are you going to teach? What are you going to do with it?

Yes, I am an English Major, but I am not planning on teaching (at least not right now). I have no idea what I’m going to do with it, because there are so many things to do, and I don’t think I am ready to decide right now what I could possibly be doing for the rest of my life. Because I didn’t think I’d make it this far, and right now the world seems so vast and the future so foreboding. And right now, I’m just trying to figure out how to use what I’ve been through to help others.

 

I’m writing a book.

 

3)      How are you doing? (or similarly, How you doing kid?)

Right now, I’m not doing much of anything except trying to survive. Some days I use up all my energy getting out of bed in the morning because the ground looks pretty shaky, and sometimes it takes everything to believe that I will be ok. Those are the days when I know I won’t be able to get along with people, so I hide away in my room. But really, this is pretty normal for people like me. So a better question to ask me would be…

 

4)      How’s it going?

It’s going. Because life moves quickly but also so slowly, and I move right along with it. Although sometimes it seems as though I’m moving in slow motion, because I have no idea what I’m doing or where I’m going, and I’m just trying to figure it out. So I’m going with the flow and also against the flow, because if society is going to tell me that I’m not beautiful, I’m going to prove them wrong, because my battle proves otherwise.

 

5)      Can I see your scars?

No, you cannot. Over the years, I have learned to wear my scars boldly, because they are a reminder of where I’ve been. And they serve as hope for the future. And I’ve had too many people make fun of me because of my scars. Self-harm is not a joke. It is not funny, and it is not something you should make fun of to get a laugh out of people. It’s a serious problem. It’s not ok to diminish the severity of this issue by taking pictures of fake blood in the shape of a heart or whatever because you think it’s beautiful. Because let me tell you, every time I cut into my skin I felt a little bit less beautiful, and I hated myself a little more, and I’ve spent the last three years trying to undo it. IT’S NOT OK. It’s horrible when you get to that point when you feel self-harm is the only way to feel pain. It’s horrible when you become addicted. And I hope I never walk that path again, but every day the struggle is real. It’s not a joke. And it’s not ok to use my scars or anybody else’s as a joke or an example of what not to do. Everybody deals with pain differently. Don’t make anybody hate themselves more than they already do.

 

So no, you cannot see my scars, because while you may think they’re beautiful, I don’t. I do my best to hide them, because all I want is to feel beautiful.

 

6)      How are you feeling?

I don’t know how I’m feeling. I’m feeling happy and sad and sometimes nothing at all. And I don’t want to feel this way. I don’t want to be cautiously happy and overwhelmingly sad. I’d give anything to not feel this way—my left kidney because I only need one, part of my liver because it’s the only organ that regenerates, my lungs because I feel like I’m drowning, my heart because I doubt anybody could ever love me, and if I still had my appendix, I’d probably give that too.

 

So really, I’m feeling everything and nothing, but most of all I’m feeling terrified. Because life is unpredictable, and I don’t know if I can deal with anymore hurtful suprises, and I’m trying to make sense of this chaos, because out of chaos comes beauty, but when I look in the mirror all I see is ugly.

 

Please don’t ask me these questions, because I don’t have coherent answers. All I know is that I’m trying, and therefore, no one can criticize me.

Testimony 2.0

The first word is always the hardest.

It’s hard for us to admit that there’s anything wrong. It’s hard for us to admit that there are things that have happened to us that have destroyed the person we once were. There are things that have happened to us that have drastically altered the course of our lives.

And we can’t admit we’re broken. So we go on wearing a happy face, rocking our own cape, because we are told that we should deal with our problems ourselves. And then we look in the mirror one day and realize we don’t recognize the person looking back at us.

I didn’t recognize the person looking back at me.

The first word is always the hardest. But I’ve heard when telling a story, it is most effective to start at the beginning.

But, I can’t start at the beginning, because I’m a “Good Christian Girl,” and the story I’m about to share doesn’t happen to “Good Christian Girls.”

And I don’t really know how to talk about it, and sometimes, I feel like I can’t talk about it; so I’m sharing it here.

When I was in 8th grade, I was sexually assaulted by 5 guy friends of mine. They stole my innocence. They tore my proverbial Cinderella dress leaving me in my Cinder Rags. They stole it in a bathroom at school. And while I can’t get it back, the act itself isn’t what’s left me broken.

It’s what they said. “You deserve this. You’re worthless. You’re never going to amount to anything. No one will ever love you.”

And I couldn’t tell anybody because school is filled with the wrong kinds of people. It was my word against theirs. And they were popular and I was not. So I suffered in silence.

The suffering turned to self-hatred. The self-hatred ate at my soul until I felt nothing. I was breathing, but I wasn’t alive. So to feel alive, I began cutting. And with each cut the words “you deserve this. You’re worthless. You’re never going to amount to anything. No one will ever love you” echoed in my mind.

Eventually, after months of this daily battle that left my skin bloody and torn, I decided that wasn’t enough. I started eating less because everybody loves the pretty, skinny girl.

And I didn’t fit any of that criteria. But I wanted to. Because if I couldn’t love myself, who else would be able to.

And over time all these feelings piled up, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I tried to kill myself. I probably would have succeeded too if a little voice in the back of my mind hadn’t told me, you are good enough.

I threw up the pills I took.

I decided to live.

I decided to fight.

And every day I’m still fighting.

Because even though I don’t cut anymore, the urge is still always there. And I don’t know everything that triggers memories to come rushing back. And I wish I did, because then maybe I could tell you what to stop doing. But I don’t. So I can’t. But I will tell you to watch my reaction to jokes, to unexpected physical contact, to certain images, to people that remind me of someone I’d much rather forget. Little unconscious facial expressions can reveal so much about a person.

Don’t tell me I’m a bad Christian for hating myself. God is one of the only things that forces me out of bed in the morning.

Don’t tell me I deserved what happened. Nobody deserves pain like that. I was young, naïve, and didn’t know how to deal with the pain I was going through.

I see many beautiful people while going about my day. I’m not one of them. I don’t think so.

But that’s ok.

Because I’ve figured a few things out.

  1. I am capable of so much more. In the battle between Who I Think I am and Who I could Be, Who I think I am won every time, because that’s what I let get a hold of me. that’s what feeds off my energy. It doesn’t have to be that way.
  2. We are all capable of doing something great. I am, you are, we are all. But we all have something holding us back.

Every mirror tells me something different. I can tell myself that I’m beautiful over and over again, until I’m blue in the face, but there is an irrevocable flaw ingrained deep into the recesses of my brain that refuses to let me believe it. And even though deep in my soul I know I’m capable of greatness, there is something holding me back. And until I figure out what it is, until I figure out how to overcome it, I am destined to live in my own shadow.

I’m held back by fear and self-doubt. Fear that I will never be good enough, and enough self-doubt to give all the arrogant people a healthy dose.

Even though I know all this, it’s not enough to stop the feelings. It’s not enough to cure me. it’s not enough to make me whole again. But it’s enough to keep fighting. And you can be damn* sure that I will.

Sometimes when I’m sad, or hate myself, I look at the lines on my hands. They remind me that I have been stitched together by the master sewer, and I’ve learned that sometimes, that is enough.

 

*Pardon the swear word. I don’t swear normally on principle, but it’s emphasis. It’s important.

Learning to Love…Myself

I don’t like people.

I, er… What I mean is… I guess… technically that’s a lie. I don’t do well with big groups of people (and by big, I mean more than 5). I’m fine one-on-one. I can make eye contact, have an intelligent conversation and really connect to people. But as soon as you stick me into a room with more people than I can count on one hand, I turn into this socially inept creature. I stumble over my words. I play with the rubber band around my wrist. I twirl my hair around my fingers. I bite my lip. I look everywhere but at the people around me. I don’t make eye contact. It’s as though my brain completely shut down. 

Sometimes, if it’s a really bad day, I will be louder than I wish to, or I’ll trip over my own two feet.

This whole social anxiety, introverted-ness thing makes college kind of difficult. I’ve never made friends easily, and I’m not that trusting. I feel uncomfortable in my own skin—almost as if the skin I wear isn’t even mine, as if it’s on loan from someone else. But I’m trying really hard to fix this. I really am.

And yet, I still hideaway in the library among the books, because that’s where I feel the most comfortable. The written word has always been better at communicating what I want to say better than my spoken words ever could. The books don’t judge me. The notebooks filled with my words don’t judge me as I pour out my inner thoughts, struggles and questions. Books and notebooks just soak it all in.

And that’s where I sit, day-after-day, wanting to meet people, but being unable to–two sides of the same coin that’s never in harmony.

I prefer to be alone, because it allows me to ponder and think. But I still thoroughly enjoy talking to people. I like connecting heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul, one-on-one, without the fear of judgment.

But I don’t know how to make friends.

Is this all a product of my past (besides the obvious introverted part of me)?

I feel as though I’m completely useless and broken, pieces that don’t fit together as they should. I have been hurt in the past. People have left me broken and bleeding, again and again. My heart heals itself, but my brain doesn’t. And I’m trying really hard to step out of my comfort zone, leave the library, talk to someone new. I’m just scared that I will be judged, or worse, not liked. Because, more often than not, that’s how I feel.

…because in that moment, I had never been hurt so harshly by anyone before. It was as if all my flaws had been impeccably arranged in front of me for the world to scrutinize. There was no gray area, no pointing out the things that made me special, admirable, or wanted. It was all the things about myself that I hated, all listed out. They were a despicable finger pointing at me, ridiculing. My ego had never been bruised in this way before. There was not a drop of self-confidence left in me after that. I have searched introspectively for things that I could grasp, hold on to for dear life, thing that once gave me a reason to love myself. I don’t always find anything.

But I’m trying. I’m learning to love myself. And slowly, but surely, I’m gaining my confidence back. Some days, I’m more confident than others. But sometimes, I wish I could be the mysterious and fascinating girl with long, flowing hair that you read about all the times in novels; the girl who always becomes the love interest of some amazing boy. They share lovely memories and talk forever of nothing and have a sweet relationship. Sometimes, I wish I could be the girl who is always sure of herself and who always has something interesting to say.

I want to be that girl.

“I’m quirky, silly, blunt, and broken. My days are sometimes too dark, and my nights are sometimes too long. I often trip over my own insecurities. I use music to speak when words fail me, even though words are as important to me as the air I breathe. I love hard and with all that I have… and even with my faults, I am worth loving.”

I just don’t know how.

Strength

We all have these stories—these moments in time that make us who we are. You, me, them, all of us fight battles every day; some of them threaten to destroy us. Others try to rewrite us; and still others seem to define us. There are moments in our past that we would like to change; if there isn’t, you haven’t lived enough—you haven’t stepped out of your comfort zone, taken risks, made mistakes, made a fool out of yourself in front of a guy that you like.

We all have these demons that try to tear us down: society, family, friends, schoolmates, ourselves. It doesn’t matter. People tear others down to make themselves feel better. And sometimes, it’s not words that are used; looks or actions can be used—looks of disgust or hatred, pointing and jeering, laughing and whispering, or being ignored. Some people are good at brushing things off.

I am not one of those people.

Is there some confidence gene that I am lacking, or is it because I have been bullied most of my life? I honestly don’t know. Is there something wrong with me, or is there something wrong with society that doesn’t allow me to be comfortable in my own skin? I still don’t know.

All I know is that I am not alone; other people have these feelings, too.

And I wish I knew how to help these people. I wish I knew what to say to these people to make them like themselves. But, I don’t; because I can’t even love myself. Sure, there are days when I feel confident, beautiful, and strong. Then someone prettier walks by; someone who has confidence radiating from their soul; someone who is more liked than I, and I lose all confidence I had. There are days when I feel great, and it can be ruined with a look. Better yet, I can make myself look like a fool because I say or do something stupid to be noticed.

I’m tired of being ignored.

If I could go back and change my past, I would. I’d take away the bullying, the sexual assault, the nights of crying myself to sleep; the countless times I made my skin bleed would all be gone. And I’d be fine.

But I can’t; so, I have to make do with what I am, and what I’ve been through. It’s only made me stronger. I’ve grown and I’ve changed. And I still struggle with inner demons and inner battles to not hurt myself again. Every day I think of reasons why I should cut my skin again, and every day I have to think of reasons why I shouldn’t.

If you have these feelings, I’m sorry. I really am. Nothing I can say will take away the pain. But I promise you there’s hope. You are stronger than this. I believe in you.

There is something beautiful about being broken, and yet, somehow, finding the strength to stand tall. Being thrown down, wind knocked out of you over and over again, and refusing to accept that fate means you’re strong. Being strong means standing out in the storm, with the wind howling around you, threatening menacingly to knock you over, rain pouring down like a hurricane; there you stand, rain-boots and all, your dashed hopes and dreams stitched into your skin, rain-boots overflowing with the tears of the earth, collecting all this world has to offer. You know that rain washes away pain if you just let it. Strength is refusing to give up when the whole world is against you; strength is having the scars to prove it.