I want to write, to articulate what’s happening within the walls of my mind, in my heart. But instead I type, and erase. Type, erase. Type, shut my computer. It’s hard to put words to the racing in my mind. But it’s something like powerlessness. It’s doses of manic. It’s the past, the future, and the present all pushing and shoving and vying for attention I don’t have the energy to give. Which do you tend to first? I fear it’s actually impossible to evaluate all the ways these scars have built and destroyed you. So in a panicked effort to feel some ounce of control over it all, I’ve set it all on fire.
Growing up I was a quiet kid. I was compliant and submissive, and caring- which I think were qualities mistaken for an advanced maturity, although I did grow up very quickly. I was trusted with family secrets and painful honesty from the time I was small, and in a baby people-pleaser’s fashion, I readily heeded more responsibility than I was ready for. Now, there have been countless times in my life when I’ve been so grateful for that early exposure to life’s harsh realities. I’d dare to say, it’s largely protected me from the quick, cold shock of young adulthood that most experience. But, carrying weight I wasn’t ready for, over the years has left me deeply exhausted. It’s caused me to crumble under the normal pressures that people my age would typically manage pretty well. And to add further to the exhaustion, I’ve come to obsessively doubt my worth if I fear I’m not serving or taking care of everyone else, or performing exactly as others expect me to. If I’m not doing it all perfectly, or moving forward with a decided purpose or end goal, I fear I am not enough.
To top it all off, a year ago last month, I felt my heart stop.
It was 7am on a Tuesday when the phone rang- my sister. The call had woken me up, but at first sight of her name on the screen, I felt my breath catch even before I answered. It was a strange time for her to be calling. My head still on the pillow, I answered with a sleepy hello, but what came next was my worst nightmare coming to life. For years I worried this day would come, I had prayed desperately against it. The man who nine years prior had come into my own room late at night, had now done the same to her. He’d taken something from the both of us that we’d never get back, and more so, he’d done something to our family that even today still seems irreparable. I won’t go too far into all the details of that story, for it’s still evolving. But I bring it to light because, for me, it has only festered in the darkness. The damage from that experience has been much further-reaching than just the physical act, and it’s the relational implications of it all that have proven to be most agonizing. Betrayal, denial, isolation, the heartbreaking fumbling of a family not knowing how to hold each other up in the weary and painful aftermath, those are the things that haunt you.
I’ve managed to do pretty damn well despite it all. And obviously life’s not all bad. I’ve experienced many seasons of thriving, felt deep beauty and love in community, and I know I’ve got the greatest ones in my corner. But I guess when you suppress grief and deny need for so long, there’s no controlling it when that pot boils over. It becomes it’s own kind of fire.
And so all of this has brought me to now. In the last two months, I’ve shattered. The overwhelmed frenzy that goes on in my mind has steered me to alcohol as my new prayer for anxious relief. The burning in the back of my throat replacing the pain of feeling such panic, faithfully delivering me to a place of hazy liberation. I’m offered some twisted illusion of power, and short encounters of closeness from a few one-night stands. I know there is no good that can come of all this, but I do it anyway. I have spent a great deal of “day afters” in a shameful, nauseous state. Still hurting. Still tired. No more in control than the day before. But what else? That’s the question I’ve asked myself. What else do I do? It seems as though everything I’ve done up until now has been pointless. My striving to live a perfectly acceptable and pleasing life, my adhering to the rules, and my agreeable nature has not yielded the healing or wholeness the world had promised me they would. My faith in the Lord, my perception of Him so apparently skewed, dwindling. My patience for His timing running out. It feels as though He has not been faithful to me at all. And so in all my harrowed state, I lit this flame. I cry out to loved ones around me, but I’ve insisted on burning alone.
And so these summer months I’ve been standing in the fire. Moving through each day in a fog, acting out to try to feel anything other than what I’ve felt- overwhelmed, grieving, tired, insecure, and uncertain. Some have called it depression. I wouldn’t have come to that conclusion on my own, but I guess that’s what it’s been. The panic attacks definitely add up to make me believe it. I’ve been trying to not feel shame for it, but that’s a battle of its own. But I’m telling you, I can’t live in the fire anymore. I don’t know what the days, weeks, or months ahead will look like, but I’m putting the matches down. I’m not even sure I know what I mean by that, because I don’t know how to fix this, but something’s got to give. I can’t continue this way. In my heart, I know I’ve got support, and I know the Lord is faithful to our suffering. In my head, it feels impossible to believe Truth. But I guess I’m just going to start taking baby steps towards health; cutting some things out, adding a few others, protecting time and space in each day for me, to do the things that give me rest and life. And we’ll see. I’m just dying to live my days in joy again.
I had to write all of this down. And I had to be honest about where I’m at. It’s taken me over a month to sort it all out into this post and to share it with you, and for a lot of you it probably comes as a shock to read. Most everyone knows me as the bubbly, hope-filled, optimist who does a crazy good job at being both open and honest, but ultimately hiding the deep and raw pain that’s simultaneously throbbing underneath. The mask has to fall at some point. But that girl is still me, and she’ll thrive again, too. To my loved ones who might be reading, I’m sorry if you’ve felt like all you can do is stand back and watch the fire burn, the blaze around me has made me second-guess love and intention, and I hate that. But I am grateful you haven’t left me alone. Thank you for loving, for staying, for showing up. I intend on writing a follow-up post later on when I gain more clarity, and hopefully it’ll be an update with a little more resolve. But for now, it’s one day at a time.