I’m Sorry: A Reflection on 10 Years

“At least we didn’t get you pregnant,” he said as he slammed my locker shut on the last day of eighth grade, just like he had done every day before.

The truth is: I was going to wait to post this. I was going to wait to post it until May 19th, 2018. 10 years to the day after I was raped in a school bathroom by some guys I thought were my friends.

But in all actuality, the truth is: I never wanted to post this, never wanted this story to get out. I wanted to keep it under lock and key in a trunk, buried away under the deep recesses of my memory, never to be open. Because people can’t hurt you if they don’t know you, can’t hate you if you don’t let them in. People can’t love you if you don’t let them in.

And I’m terrified of being loved.

Because the truth is, as much as I’ve spent the last (almost) 10 years trying to outrun my past, trying to forget it, there’s a part of my story that I never wanted to admit, too painful even for myself. What happened in that bathroom is one thing: I relive that every day with flashbacks and triggers and panic attacks and random encounters at Dick’s Sporting Goods. And I’m almost to the point where I can say, “This is what happened to me. This is what they did. But I’m stronger now.”

“At least we didn’t get you pregnant,” he smirked at me, his hazel eyes and nicotine breath forever seared into my mind. But what he didn’t know, what I’ve spent the last 10 years trying so hard to outrun, the secret that’s literally killing me is this:

Just a few days before the last day of eighth grade, just over a month after being raped, I had a miscarriage.

I had a miscarriage, and I feel ashamed:

ashamed that it happened; ashamed that I’m sometimes glad it did.

ashamed that I wonder what my life would be like if the baby had been born; ashamed that I think my life is better right now.

ashamed that I was 13 years old and terrified to tell my parents, my entire church community what happened because how would they respond?

ashamed that I was 13 years old and secretly glad that I lost the baby because I didn’t want to face the stigma of being a pregnant teenager, especially in the church.

ashamed that at 23, I’m still worried about what my church would have thought 10 years ago if I had shown up to Sunday morning worship pregnant, the whispers, the stares, the shunning. What happened? Are you going to put it up for adoption? This could ruin your life you know.

ashamed that at 23, I still feel ashamed for feeling guilt and shame over things that aren’t my fault.

And I’ve gone over the “what if”s in my head over and over and over again. What if

What if

What if

And now that the cat’s out of the bag, I feel as though I have to apologize:

Sorry for telling you; sorry for not.

Sorry for feeling guilty; sorry for knowing it’s not my fault.

Sorry for feeling shame; sorry for knowing that I’ve come so far.

Sorry for letting you in; sorry for feeling like a burden.

Sorry for regretting not jumping off the side of the parking garage that Monday back in September when I drove myself to the ER (because there are days when I regret that, and then feel guilty for regretting it).

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry..

I’m sorry…

I apologize a lot because I’m scared of living, scared of taking up space, scared of breathing.

I know how fragile this life can be, and I know how delicate the line between life and death because I walk it every day.

And maybe, if I apologize enough, invalidate myself enough, my impact on the world will be lesser, the crater I leave behind won’t be as great: a great void narrowing instead of expanding.

People can’t miss you if you don’t let them in. People can’t miss you if you never existed in the first place: invalidate yourself into oblivion.

I’ve come so far in the last nine months, the last four months specifically since beginning work with my current therapist.

And what we’re working on is Radical Acceptance: it is what it is.

My life is what it is. My past is what it is. My future will be what it will be. This moment is filled with me typing this post, backspacing again and again, trying to get these words right. Maybe lessen the blow because, after all, words do hurt, despite what that childhood adage might say.

And last month, I got baptized, signifying that I was ready to let go and let God. I was going to give up control, give up my story, give up my past, and let God work in my life, through my life, in spite of my life.

But, I’m stubborn. And I’m scared:

scared of living.

scared of loving.

scared of being loved.

scared of giving up control because I’m afraid I won’t be able to find my way back out.

I’ve spent the last (almost) 10 years of my life just surviving: moment by moment; too scared of the future to even plan for one.

But I want to live. I want to thrive. And holding on to these secrets, the parts of me I’m sure will scare people away if they knew, the parts of me I deem unlovable or too ugly or too broken are literally killing me.

“You want to drive into trees a lot,” the full weight of these secrets are on the gas pedal, and I’m not strong enough to pull them off.

Not alone.

Because that’s the thing about secrets: they weigh a lot more than the truth, and they’re harder to carry over the distance of life.

Many friends make light work.

And all I can do is shine a light on my broken parts, reveal them for what they are, for who I am. Because take me or leave me, I can’t keep apologizing for who I am.

(I’ll probably still say sorry a lot and continue to invalidate myself because trying to dig through 10 years worth of garbage to move what I know to be true from my head to my heart is a long process, painful, sometimes unending process.)

“You inspire me,” my therapist, Brandon, said to me today. “Do you realize how strong you are? That you have a purpose in life?

Because I don’t look at you and see your baggage. I see a young woman with a bright future who’s trying her best to navigate the storms of this life, who’s trying to process her past and move forward, who’s fighting so hard to stay here, who loves deeply and cares fully and feels wholeheartedly, who’s unabashedly wholehearted: who gets up in front of people and says: This is me. This is what I’ve been through. This is how I’ve been hurt. But I still get up in the morning and try my best to get through the day.

And to me, that is inspiring.”

This is real. This is raw.

This is me.

Love me, hate me, pray for me, complain about me. It doesn’t matter.

Nothing you say to me can be worse than what the voices in my head say to me on the daily, but I’m working on it.

I’m working on so many things.

And right now, what I’m working on is this: fully illuminating my past so that it can be a light for my future.

I can’t hide in the dark forever.

I can’t be scared to live, to exist, to breathe, to take up space.

I’m here. I’ve been hurt deeply and profoundly, and sometimes I feel so unworthy of love.

But I’m not going to stop living.

stop loving.

stop being who I am.

Because I don’t want to run from my past for another ten years.

because a) I have asthma and can’t run very far for very long. and b) simply surviving is so very unfulfilling.

So I’m sorry.

But I’m also not.

I can’t spend the rest of my life dodging trees while running from my past.

This is me: jumping fully in, ready to admit that I was raped and lost a baby, and sometimes I feel 100% at fault.

This is me: starting to recognize that I’m worthy of love.

Sorry it took me so long to catch up.

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And Jesus Wept

I was sitting in the first row of the choir loft of the sanctuary today, listening as my pastor prayed for peace of mind and hope and strength. And when he concluded, as my mind started to wander, and my thoughts started to get the better of me, he interrupted me, thankfully, by asking, “Out of all the thousands of Bible verses you have memorized, which is your favorite?”

Instantly, I panicked. My mind went blank. All the verses I have cataloged in the back of my brain by reference and topic instantly were sucked out of their storage containers by the cosmic vacuum that proves that the universe has a sense of humor. I could not remember a single Bible verse.

I eventually settled on Philippians 4:13 “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” And then I added, I also love Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the Heavenly realms.” 

But now, as a few hours have passed since my caught-off-guard moment, and all the Bible verses have reorganized themselves in my brain, I have a better answer: Ephesians 6:7 “Fathers, do not exasperate your children.”

I’m kidding; I’m kidding, sort of.

John 11:35, the shortest verse in the Bible, states simply: Jesus wept. 

And for me, this is the most powerful verse in the Bible. You see, sometimes I think I’m alone in my pain–nobody understands how I feel; nobody will love me if they find out how hard it is for me to stay alive.

But, you see, Jesus does. Jesus understands how I feel; He loves me despite what’s happened to me, despite the battle raging inside of me. And He loves you, too.

I share my story because I don’t want anyone to feel as alone as I feel sometimes. I don’t want people to feel like they’re alone in their pain, alone in their shame. I don’t want people to feel like nobody could ever understand what they’re going through.

As I’ve been open and honest about my story, especially how hard these last few months have been, I’ve noticed something: I have become the support system for other people. I have friends who message me when they’re having a panic attack because I understand what it’s like. I have friends who tell me “Hey, I was raped, too.” I have friends who tell me that they have also lived with depression for a while but have kept it to themselves for fear of being judged.

And here’s the thing, guys. I love every minute of it. I love every minute of hearing other people’s stories and having those people in my life who are brave enough to reach out. Because it’s taken me this long to figure out that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Maybe I can’t stop my own panic attacks or pull myself out of the darkest nights, but if I can be there for others, you bet your bottom dollar that I will be.

Here’s the thing: this week has been harder than most. I’ve been trying to hold it together all week, and I feel like I’m failing. Tonight at the gym, instead of sitting on the bench for five or ten minutes to collect my thoughts, I had to sit there for nearly an hour, blaring music, trying to drown out the world. And on the way home, I had to pull over because I could not stop the tears flowing from my eyes; right now, life is so hard, and sometimes I feel so alone and like nobody understands.

But here’s the thing: God does. He weeps right along with me. In the moments when the panic sets in, He walks me through it. And during the nights when I’m not sure I’m going to live to see the sun, He wraps me up in His arms and carries me through the darkness.

I used to think that I was a terrible Christian because I was raped, because I have depression and anxiety and suicidal thoughts, because I sometimes still struggle with self-harm and battle an eating disorder that I thought I recovered from a long time ago.

I’ve come to realize that none of that is true. On the nights when I’m so tired, I can only let out a whisper of a prayer, God hears me. He has not forsaken me.

And one day, He’ll redeem me.

Because life is so so tough right now, but I have faith in the hope that I hold onto during the darkest nights.

I am a Child of God, and Jesus wept.

To the Friends and Family of Someone Living With Depression

I can’t tell you how many suicide notes I’ve written over the years. I mean, there was the first one on the night I actually attempted suicide seven and a half years ago. I found that one a few years ago tucked away in a polka dot notebook I had forgotten I had. After reading it, I took the letter with me as I went for a drive to clear my head; tearing it up and then throwing out the window as I drove, trying to leave my past in the past.

There have been others, too. My “In Case of Fire, Break Glass” safety net. When you live with suicidal thoughts, you’re always on edge, wondering if you’ll make it through this day; wondering if today is the day the demons you’re fighting take over and win.

It’s not that I want to be writing suicide notes. Trust me, there are a million other things I’d rather be writing. But it’s almost a compulsion, an obsession. It’s like if I don’t get the thoughts out of my head, they’ll eat me alive. I write them because I don’t want to have to use them. When the storm hits and the levees break and I’m not sure I can stay afloat, I write them–word by word, line by line, feeling by feeling–taking what I feel and trying to put it into words is the closest I’ll ever get to having a superpower. Then, when the storm passes, when the waters recede, and the sun begins to shine again, I delete them from my phone; I rip out the pages of the notebook; erasing evidence of the pain I was in; trying to leave the feelings of despair and hopelessness behind, trying to transition to happiness and joy.

But life isn’t black and white like that: if depression is black and joy is white, then I live in shades of gray because for every suicide note I’ve ever written, I’ve told at least 10 jokes. Because if writing is my way of staying afloat, telling jokes is my way of quite literally pulling myself out of the water. Also, I’m a Bills fan, and sometimes the only way to make it through a season of watching them pluck defeats from the jaws of victory is by making jokes.

Here’s the thing about life: it’s full of contradictions. Sadness and joy coexist at the same time, in the same soul. On some of my darkest days, I’ve laughed the most–like deep belly laugh, laugh so hard tears come out of my eyes, laugh so hard I throw my head back, hand on the neck, eyes basically closed. And it’s this sudden change from utter despair to joy that reminds me I am alive.

I’ve been having a hard time lately, many of you know this. You’ve read my blog posts, you’ve seen my Facebook statuses; you’ve been there with me in my hard moments.

So, here’s what I need you to know: there are days, many days when it’s hard for me to get out of bed, when the weight of the world seems too much to bear, and when I am standing and singing worship songs one minute and then collapsing and sobbing in my pew the next. These are also the days when I am reminded of happy moments. And these happy moments are enough to keep me putting one foot in front of the other until they’re not. Because they’re just that: moments. Beautiful, but fleeting. If you combine enough of them together, sure, they can shine like the shine, illuminating the future standing in front of me.

But here’s also what I need you to know: I can’t build armor strong enough to protect me from what’s going on inside my head. And neither can you.

And it’s frustrating: for you and for me. It’s frustrating because you ask the question “What can I do?” but what you really mean is “What can I do to fix it?” And therein lies the problem.

You can’t fix this. I can’t fix this. Medication and therapy can’t fix this. All they can do is make what I’m dealing with more manageable. They can make the sunshine a little bit longer, stave off the darkness a little while longer, but they can’t erase it.

Neither can you. But that doesn’t mean you can’t DO anything. Because, yes, you can’t do anything–not in the way you want to.

But, if you ask the right question, you can still DO something.

“What do you need?”

What do I need? I need support and encouragement and love. I need hugs and laughter and to cry it out. I need someone to sit there with me while I work through it on my own. I need someone to listen while I talk it out. I need to know I have people in my court, on my side.

So, no. You can’t fix it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t DO anything.

Somedays I’m so weak and hurting and broken, I feel like death is the only way out. I know it isn’t. There’s a difference between what I feel and what I know. I’m coming to understand that both of them are valid. I have to give each of these parts of me a voice. Let them say what they have to say.

The hardest part of life is admitting our weaknesses because we all want life to be perfect, and we try to portray it as such. I’ve come to realize that pretending life is perfect is doing a disservice to yourself. We have to be honest with ourselves and each other.

The hardest part of the last few months for me has been not ignoring what I’m feeling, telling people what’s going on in my head, being honest with you all about the struggles I’m facing. And yes, it’s been scary because people have gotten annoyed with me for sharing, frustrated because they see that I’m struggling and they feel helpless, and some have even told me that “Facebook is not the place to tell people what’s really going on.”

Maybe it’s not.

But I can’t hide behind a status. I believe in honesty.

I believe in recognizing our own weaknesses and giving the darkest parts of ourselves a name: depression, anxiety, PTSD.

And right now, I’m oh so very weak. But sometimes it’s in our weakest moments that we find the strength to reach out, to ask for help.

And I’m so glad I did.

 

Flight Risk (20 hours in the Psych ER)

 

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Monday, 5:15pm: “Hey, it’s me. I’m in the Emergency Room. I’m feeling suicidal. They sent me to Psych. I left work. I don’t want to be here. I want to go home,” I choked on the words between sobs while on the phone with my dad. This was not how I wanted to spend my Monday afternoon, or any afternoon really. How did I end up here?

Monday, 2:45pm: I look up from my notes I took during a training on Friday to read what I have typed. Only, instead of reading about how to use Skype for Business, the only words I see are the only words that have been going through my head for the last week: I want to die. I need to die. I want to die. I need to die.

“Well, shoot.” I think to myself, “That’s not good.

You see, this is how it starts, how it always starts: a nagging feeling that won’t go away; a thought on repeat in my head. And then I cycle downward: a roller coaster there’s no getting off of; a hole I can’t climb out of; a mountain I can’t climb.

This is how it starts, how it always starts: with me trying to talk myself off the metaphorical cliff before I metaphorically jump; trying to talk myself down before I do something drastic.

And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked myself down, how many times I’ve come so close, how many times I’ve thought I just want this to all be over.

But I can tell you this: it’s exhausting. It’s exhausting to struggle with suicidal thoughts 98% of the time. It’s exhausting to feel like you don’t deserve to be here, don’t deserve help, don’t deserve the love and support that you get from the friends and family who surround you.

Sometimes it only takes one person who listens, who is somehow able to convince you that you do deserve to be here, you do deserve to get help, despite what all the voices in your head are telling you.

When you’ve been struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts for as long as I have, you start to see the signs, read the writing on the wall if you will. And every time you enter that spiral, it gets harder and harder to get out, to talk yourself out of it.

And I have to tell you this, friends, I have to, even though it hurts: on Thursday, I was so so so close to ending it all, but somehow, by some sort of miracle, I was able to call the Suicide Hotline.

So, on Monday, when I felt myself entering the spiral, I knew that if I didn’t go to the ER, I would not make it out this time. It’s a terrifying thought process, guys, knowing that your life lies in your hands, or rather, legs, finding the strength to get yourself the help you deserve.

Because you do, guys. You do deserve the help.

But I’m also telling you that it’s not going to be easy, especially if you drive yourself.

It took me 25 minutes to get out of the car once I got to the hospital, and I was panicking each and every second of those 25 minutes: I cannot do this. I literally cannot do this. I’m not strong enough to do this. I could just jump right now; I’m literally almost on the top floor of the parking garage. It would be so so much easier.

Eventually, however, I made it out of my car and into the hospital. Eventually, I made it through the halls of the hospital I have been in so many times before: the hospital I was born in; the hospital I’ve visited family members in; the hospital I had my appendix out in. But this time, the hallways felt so much longer than they ever have before, and I felt like the walls were caving in around me. And when I made it to the ER doors, it took me another 15 minutes to walk through them: to remind myself that I deserve to be here, to get help, to get better. That I don’t deserve the bad things that happen in my life.

And here’s where it starts to get hard, not because I don’t remember what happened because I do. I remember everything. It gets hard because I don’t know how to tell you what I’m about to tell you. But I’m going to try because you all deserve to know. And maybe even my lack of words will be enough to help someone else.

I don’t know how to tell you that as I was sitting in the general ER next to the elevator that goes up to the Psych ED (or CPEP from here on out), I already felt dead. If you ask the tech who brought me up to the CPEP, she’d tell you that I had dead eyes–there was nothing behind them: no light, no life, no hope. When one of the ER nurses came to retake my heart rate, because having a panic attack while sitting in your car really messes it up, she said, “Poor thing. You look like a ghost.” I didn’t have the energy to tell her that I felt like a zombie: mostly dead, not really living, trying hard to fake my way through life.

I don’t know how to tell you that I wasn’t considered a flight risk because I drove myself, but I really wanted to be anywhere but there: gone, dead, home, whatever, anywhere but here. That my urge to run was greater than my urge to live. 

I don’t know how to tell you that the CPEP is the best place to have a flashback, and trust me, you’ll have many. There are only so many times you can hear Get off me. Get off me. Get off me. from someone being restrained before your own trauma catches up to you. And everything you’ve tried so hard to forget over the last nine years comes rushing back to you. If anybody understands how traumatic rape can be, it’s the ones who deal with the aftermath, the ones who see the broken, hurting people walk through their doors every day.

I don’t know how to tell you that I felt like I was 7 years old again, and for the first hour before my dad arrived, I’ve never felt so alone.

I don’t know how to tell you that I feel guilty for being “strong” enough to get help because I feel like it diminishes the strength of the people who didn’t.

I don’t know how to tell you about the guy who had been in the CPEP for three days because there where no beds upstairs, who, after my dad left at 4:30, sat next to me as I slept because no one should be alone here, especially not pretty girls with sad eyes.

I don’t know how to tell you about me waking up at 5:30am on Tuesday sobbing because of the teenager they brought in who was restrained, and when the nurse asked me what was wrong, all I could say was he’s scared and wants to go home. Because here’s the thing about that place: everyone there feels too much. Not only do we feel our own pain, but we feel each other’s. I felt their pain when they told me their stories, and they cried with me when I told them my story at 8:00am on Tuesday after being with them for 15 hours. I poured my heart out to strangers when I have a hard time telling people I know what’s happened. I told them everything: the rape, the self-harm, the eating disorder, the suicide attempt, the suicidal thoughts, the relapsing.

I don’t know how to tell you that you lose track of time because the only clock I could find was the one behind the locked doors of the nurse’s station. Everything’s locked. You can’t get in or out without a key. You’re physically trapped, which is fitting because every single person there feels trapped in their own mind.

I don’t know how to tell you that being there 18 hours before I saw a psychiatrist instead of the normal “get in, get out in 6 hours” probably changed the way this story goes, probably saved my life, probably is why I was discharged instead of held for 24, 48, 72 hours.

I don’t know how to tell you that I had a hard time yesterday adjusting to the “real world” after being in CPEP for 20 hours. That place began to feel like home, not so much because of the place itself, but because of the people. It’s like when you visit a foreign country and experiencing culture shock when you return back home. I miss the way the people made me feel: you know the warm feeling you get when you are around people you love. Because they understood my pain in a way that most people can’t. They reminded me that I’m not alone. They touched my life in a way that I can’t even describe, and I honestly really hope they’re doing better.

We’re all muddling through life, and sometimes it’s good to be reminded that there are people out there who are hurting as much as you are, struggling right along with you.

I’m so so so glad to be alive. I finally feel like a whole person instead of a broken nothing. I feel alive. I feel happy, but life is still hard. I’m still struggling with so many things.

But I know now that help is not too far out of reach. I deserve to be here.

You deserve to be here, too.

 

Open Letter to my Depression

Dear over-bearing body sharer,

I now understand how Sisyphus felt everyday when he finally got the boulder to the top of the hill only to have it roll all the way back down: joy and immense despair all at once. Because in that moment, all his hard work failed to pay off. Likewise, I too think I’m over this hill, and one small action causes me to stumble and roll all the way back down into your arms. And then I have to fight to find my footing, to find the strength to stand up and try again.

I do have this to say about you: if nothing else, you are persistent.

But other than that, I don’t really know what else to say to you. I’ve referred to you with many titles. You are the Mr. Hyde to my Dr. Jekyll, the Yin to my Yang, this Omnipresent sadness. But more than any of those things, you are perhaps most like a volcano: sometimes you’re active, but most of the time you’re dormant, bubbling under the surface of my facade, waiting for an (in)opportune moment to burst forth.

And notice I said, “inopportune moment,” because that’s what it is. An ideal time for you proves to be the worst time for me. Like in the library last week. Dude, what you did was harsh and mean and cruel, which makes sense because you’re a bully. But let’s be honest, I was all fine and dandy until you pointed out the group of girls a table over from me, laughing and whispering. And I know they most likely weren’t laughing at me or whispering about me, but you showed up and made me feel so inadequate, I honestly, truly thought they were.

And in an instant I went from self-confident to insecure, which happens more than I’d like to admit.

The whole insecurity thing isn’t even the worst of what you do to me. The worst is your cousin anxiety you bring over for dinner once and a while. Our conversations are anything but reassuring.

I can deal with the feeling of numbness you sometimes decide to bring home. But I can’t deal with the constant fear of being judged, of making a fool of myself, of being alone. Because when your cousin Anxiety shows up, I over-analyze everything. I can’t sleep, because I’m afraid to dream. I can’t get out of bed, because what if the floor collapses under my feet? No, staying in bed is definitely safer.

People keep telling me I’ll grow out of it. It’s just a phase. But, I’m not so naive to believe that. I’ve been trying to fight against you for long enough to know you’re not going anywhere. You’re like the people I try to avoid when I see them in public, but I can’t avoid you. We occupy the same space. You are a part of me, and I can’t hide from myself. I can’t fight against myself. And I most definitely cannot preform a lobotomy and separate you from me.

So, I must live with you. And I don’t always know how to deal with the feelings I experience, the thoughts that zip through my mind, but that’s why I write.

If I didn’t know better, I’d think you are trying to kill me. But I’ve been there, and I’ve written that letter. And I’ve also burned that letter (and by burn, I mean “I’ve torn you up into a million pieces and threw you out the window as I was driving). I’ve come to realize, though, you’ve helped me discover a lot.

Yes, you’ve shown me the valleys, but when you’ve allowed me the occasional room to breathe, I’ve seen the heights. And yes, sometimes the thought of ending it all enters my mind, but when I reach the heights and don’t want to jump, all I see is beauty. And even though I have to convince you to let me out of bed, when I take that step of faith, I realize the world isn’t so bad.

You’re the reason I need to remind myself to breathe, and the reason why sometimes I’m so focused on breathing in and out, I forget how to put one foot in front of the other. But, I’ve learned that sometimes forgetting how to walk is better than forgetting how to live.

Without you, I wouldn’t have found the passion to change the world, to impact others lives. But without you, I’d have the courage to do so.

I’ve learned to live with you. Learn to live with me. Because what’s yang without yin? 

We’ve learned from each other. We’re in a symbiotic relationship, and I can’t escape. I’m not suffering because of you. I’m living despite you. And I want others to do the same. Because this life truly is beautiful.

You’ve taught me I’m stronger than I think I am. You’ve learned I will always prove you wrong.

But ultimately, I’ve learned if we work together, we can change the world.

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.

Game of Comparisons

Note: I wrote this piece in January, and I’ve wanted to share it so many times since then, but I’ve never found the courage. I’ve shared most of my story, but I haven’t shared all of it (except in hint form). And I believe that now is the time to share all of it, because over the last 6 months I have worked so hard to overcome this problem, and I’m pretty sure I have it beat.

Remember that this is a judgment free blog 🙂

 

Game of Comparisons

By, Kaleigh Distaffen

I have never been particularly fond of myself, and my self-esteem has always been relatively low. So, I believed too much, was too over trusting, and was too naïve to know any better. In other words, I believed what people told me I was, I trusted everybody was my friend, and was too naïve to know that I was worth more. It came as no surprise, therefore, when I was sexually assaulted that I believed everything those guys told me.

“You’re not pretty enough. You’re not good enough. You’re worth nothing.”

These words repeated over and over again in my head, never shutting up or slowing down. The Game of Comparisons started, and I lost every time.

She’s pretty; you’re not pretty enough. She’s skinny; you’re not skinny enough.

 Soon I became so full of self-hatred I was virtually incapable of feeling anything else. Every laugh, every smile, every tear was forced out. I felt dead—a human void of emotion is no human at all. In order to feel something, anything at all, I began to cut myself. And every time I cut myself open with the razor of hate, you’re worth nothing echoed in my mind. This routine continued day in and day out for six months. Eventually, cutting wasn’t enough anymore. So I stopped eating.

Well, ok. Technically, that’s not entirely true.

I stopped filling myself up. I started eating less and less, only eating enough to stop my stomach from rumbling. Sometimes, if I completely hated myself, I would skip a meal here and there. The cutting, not eating, and the voices continued for another year and a half. Until one day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted to die.

And I almost did. But there was a quiet voice in the back of my head whispering, you are good enough. That tiny voice was enough to give me hope that things could get better.

Over time, I stopped cutting. But I didn’t start eating again. It got worse. The summer before Senior Year, I went two weeks without eating anything but a few crackers every day. Senior Year I didn’t eat lunch: Partly because I was taking too many classes to have a lunch period; mostly because I couldn’t stand the thought of people watching me putting food in my mouth.

If I didn’t like myself, how could I expect anybody else to like me enough to want me to eat?

Graduation came and went, and for the first time in a long time, I almost, kind of, maybe a little, liked myself. I started eating a little bit more than I had before, and was pretty much excited for college.

Until I went to college, that is. It’s funny. College is much like High School, at least my High School. There are the same groups of people—the popular kids, the athletes, the music nerds, the nerds. If I didn’t fit in before, how was I supposed to fit in now? At a College like Roberts, where the number of girls heavily outweighs the number of boys, I have found many more people to compare myself to.

When I walked into Garlock on the first day of classes, I was terrified by the number of people sitting there, talking amongst their groups. I saw many beautiful people. And I wasn’t one of them.

Sitting alone at a table the first day, I was overcome with feelings I hadn’t really felt in a few months. So, I retreated to the library; there among the books, I felt comfortable. Nobody cared how much food I ate, or didn’t eat. Nobody cared that I sat alone, procrastinating on important things, while scribbling away in my notebook.

But the Game of Comparisons continued, and I lost every round, even the ones I didn’t participate in. Only this time, it was different; the voice wasn’t saying “you’re not.” The voice was saying, “I’m not.”

I’m not good enough. I’m not pretty enough. I’m not skinny enough. I’m not ‘insert adjective here’ enough.

And trust me when I say that telling yourself you’re not good enough is a whole lot worse than having someone else tell you. It’s true, you know. You are your own worst critic.

Every day I would look in the mirror, hate what I saw, and would compensate by being someone I’m not. And it was physically and mentally exhausting. Between the not eating and the not being, I was having a really tough time.

But when you spend all your time in the library, among the books and the silence, you have a lot of time for soul searching. Towards the end of November, I was sitting quietly sitting at my table, trying to study when the quiet voice was back. Then, it hit me. I wanted to stand on my chair and tell the world, “I am having some major epiphanies going on up in here.” But, I didn’t. I was in a library, and shouting in the library is highly frowned upon.

So, I went in the bathroom and cried.

Three things hit me that day.

  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 feed 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 have figured out what mine is: fear and self-doubt.

3. I decided I shouldn’t spend so much time in the library, because it was making me all emotional (but that will never happen because I love books too much).

Even though I have figured this out, it’s still a struggle. I’m only ‘fine’ 20% of the time, which is good but not great. But it’s a whole heck of a lot better than 10%, which is how I felt before. There are still many days when I don’t want to eat (which is more than I’d like to admit).  Often times, I can eat a little bit every meal; but some days, I don’t like myself enough to force myself to eat (At the time that this post was written, that was the case. However, since I’m Italian, and therefore genetically bred to love food, I have decided that food is too delicious to not eat). 

Sometimes, when I’m sad, hate myself, and don’t want to eat, I look at the lines on my hands. They remind me that I have been stitched together by the master sew-er, and I’ve learned that sometimes, that is enough.

 

 

 

Related Posts:  “Accidental Inheritance”   “Your Body is Not Your Own”  “Testimony 2.0

A Rose By Any Other Name

How did you get all those scars?” is not a question you want to be asked by a three-year old. But it happened. To me. Today. I panicked.

Because how do you tell a preschooler, who still believes in magic and Santa Claus, life can be cruel? How do you tell a child there was a point in your life where you hated yourself so much, you wanted to die? You must choose your words carefully. You must pretend you are walking on glass.

I wanted to tell him:

I hide in the shadows, because in the right light, scars on my wrists become visible. And these darkened lines on my wrists are only the worst of what I’ve done to myself, because the rest of the lines of self-abuse are practically gone. Because when I cut myself, I never cut in the exact same place twice, and I only cut deep enough to draw blood, not deep enough to scar: blood reminds me that I am alive, and that’s all I wanted to feel. And I couldn’t have scars, because if I wasn’t beautiful without scars, how could I be beautiful with scars?

But that doesn’t mean my struggle is any less real. Because, once upon a time I had hundreds of self-inflicted cuts well-hidden beneath my clothing. My upper arms, abdomen, and upper legs constantly stung, and when they healed, I made them again. Because I thought I deserved the pain. I wear my scars proudly, but I still hide them. They serve as a reminder of where I’ve been, but I’m still afraid people won’t accept them. And I want to be loved.

And I fear that if people know that I used to trace the names my attackers called me into my skin, that’s how people would view me. And I can’t be viewed that way, so I hid those too.

And every place I cut was for a different reason. My arms: because I’m not strong enough. My abdomen: because I’m not skinny enough, and that’s where unwanted hands were. My legs: because I couldn’t run away from unwanted advances. And since I couldn’t admit I was sexually assaulted, how could I admit I was harming myself? 

But, there came a point when I needed people to know something was wrong. And I was never very good at asking for help, so I cut in places where people would see, and I cut deeper. The razor eventually traveled down my arm, towards my wrists, and I purposefully made the cuts on my legs look like I accidentally cut myself shaving. I needed help, but I couldn’t ask. Because strong people don’t ask for help, or so I thought, and I had been weak for far too long.

Even after the help came, I carried a paperclip in my pocket, because I was addicted to the sensation of metal running up my arm. That paperclip was like my security blanket, and I used it for far too long. And eventually, I gave that up too. And now I’m here, living my life, with only a few well-concealed scars remaining. But sometimes, the urge to revert back to old ways is great, so I use ice instead.

But, you can’t say that to a child. So, instead I told him:

“When I was younger, I was clumsy. I tripped and fell a lot, and sometimes I got cut. This scar on my hand is from when I tripped and grabbed onto a thorn bush. One of the thorns cut my hand.”

This answer satisfied him.

And it satisfies me.

Because even roses have thorns, and I want to be a rose.

Someday, I’ll be a rose.

Dear Attackers: A Letter

Dear Attackers,

You’ll probably never read this, and that’s ok. Because now that High School’s over, I don’t have immediate plans of seeing you again.

But I just wanted to let you know that I forgive you. This decision is one of the hardest I’ve ever made (let me tell you that I am a very indecisive person, I think. So every decision I make is relatively difficult). But, in order for me to get on with my life, it needs to be said.

I forgive you.

I forgive you for hurting me. I forgive you for making me feel like I was worth nothing. I forgive you for making me believe that I would never be loved and that I would never amount to anything.

I forgive you because I have proven you wrong. I am worth something. I deserve to be loved. I will do great things.

For a while, you destroyed my faith in God. For a while, you made me believe that I was so ugly, so broken, so worthless that not even a perfect God could love someone so completely imperfect.

I called out to God so many times without an answer, and I began to wonder if he had forgotten my name and the sound of my voice. His name became a rotten taste on my lips, because if there was a God why did he allow his people to suffer?

But suffering happened. I could do nothing but watch as my innocence was stolen from me as if it was never my own. And I wanted to fight back, I did. But fighting back becomes exhausting, which is probably why I sleep all the time. So, I let you take advantage of me. What else was I supposed to do? You were popular; I was not. And since school is filled with the wrong kinds of people, I said nothing.

But God knew what happened. God saw. And even though I tried to destroy the temple he made. Even though I cut myself open with all the hate that I could muster, he stitched me back together.  Someone perfect loved someone so imperfect that he didn’t run away when I wanted nothing to do with him, and as I lay in bed crying, he wrapped his arms around me and refused to let me go, despite the screaming.

That’s why I forgive you. It’s not because of my own power, but God’s power.

These last five years have taught me so much about myself. I’ve learned that finding yourself is the same thing as losing yourself. I’ve learned that beauty comes from brokenness. I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I think I am. Albert Camus once said, “But in the end, one needs more courage to live than to kill himself.”

It’s true, you know. It would have been easier to give up; it would have been easier to just do what you said. But, that would be akin to me admitting defeat, which is not something I do easily. I prefer winning and coming out victorious. So I fought. And I fought hard. Even when the air was knocked out of my lungs again and again, I got up screaming through the pain, determined to prove you wrong.

And I think I’ve done a good job of proving you wrong thus far. And even though the odds are stacked against me, I refuse to give in. I’m going to keep fighting to stay alive.

A lot can happen in 5 years: you grow up, you change, you learn to forgive.

Today I am forgiving you. Today I am saying goodbye.

I won’t forget what you did. But I’ll use it to help others, because everybody has a purpose, and I have found mine.

 

What doesn’t kill you

…makes you stronger.

Kelly Clarkson once told me that little nugget of wisdom. Well, Kelly, I hope that’s true. Because Depression hasn’t killed me, yet. But, I sure as hell* hope that it’s made me stronger.

( *I don’t swear on principle, but sometimes when you’re writing, swear words used in moderation help make a point. )

In one of my more recent blog posts, “You’re Better Off Dead,” I also wrote about this topic. Apparently, I need to reiterate.

People who live with Depression are often misjudged to be weak, selfish attention-seekers. I have never in my life heard a statement that is more false than that one.

Allow me to paint you a picture:

Imagine that you are fighting by yourself in a war against an army that is 7 billion strong. The other army has all the weapons available to them; you, on the other hand, have only a plastic fork and a metal trash can lid to defend you. Clearly, you don’t stand much of a chance. But, you, being the innovative person that you are, use the fork to dig yourself a hole. You jump in the hole, and use the metal trashcan lid to cover the hole and protect yourself from the bombs and bullets that are raining down on you.

This is Depression. The bombs and bullets are life and everything it throws at you. The fork is the voice inside your head telling you to fight like hell to survive—a voice that can be silenced so easily. The metal trashcan lid is your own personal sanctuary, wherever or whatever it may be.

My personal sanctuary is my bed. On my good days, it takes me an hour to get out of bed after I wake up (and that’s only if I have someplace to be). I’d much rather curl up in my bed, hide under the blankets, and not face life. But I get out of bed. I face life. I fight with my plastic fork, and even when I am too weak to take one more step in that marathon called Life, I do anyway. Because even though it feels as though I am sometimes breathing through a straw, my lungs are still filled with air. And as long as my lungs are still filled with air, I refuse to be another teenager lost to Suicide.

Because I easily could have been another Suicide statistic.

But, I chose life.

I chose to fight. And even though I don’t go through every day undamaged, even though my Depression causes me to regret somethings I do, I live. I do not suffer from Depression; I am living with Depression.

One day, I will die. But it will because I lived.

Depression will not be the death of me.

Depression:  “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”