Chapter Twenty-Three

** WARNING: This post contains a section that discusses suicide and depression. It could possibly be triggering. If you are struggling with these issues I would suggest either skipping this post and reading others or skipping to the end of this post. I promise there is a happy ending. **

 

Today I am twenty-three.

For some, birthdays are no more than a regular day, maybe some presents, or good wishes and cake. Nothing ever really changes when you turn another year older. It’s not like you wake up and suddenly have matured a year. It’s a gradual process, and your birthday is just a marker along that path.

My family has made a big deal out of birthdays for as long as I can remember. We (the whole family) would wake up and open presents before we all went our separate ways to work or school. We would pick out a special birthday dinner – whatever we wanted – and probably have a party (or two…or three) at some point.

This year I have a different outlook on my birthday than I ever have. I have never been more thankful to be alive.

I’ve never been happy to be alive.

I mean, I probably did when I was younger, but at that age you don’t understand the whole “life” thing yet.

As a child, I remember that I had this vague idea in my head that I wouldn’t live to be 18. I had a small voice in my mind that said by the time I reached 18 I would have gathered the courage to end my life.

I had a twisted sense of hope that came from knowing my life would end soon enough, ending the consuming fears and misery. I thought it was just a feeling or maybe my fragile, mental state saying that it was “Gods will,” however, I can now recognize it as depression. On some level, I must have known that it wasn’t completely normal, because otherwise I’m not sure why I never said anything.

I woke up on my 18th birthday. I felt shocked, relieved, hopeful and distraught, all at once. I pulled myself together enough for the next year and a half to make the world believe I was OK, to make me believe I was OK. That’s when things started to unravel. I began spiraling downwards, convincing myself this time I wouldn’t live to see 20.

I was 19 when I first attempted suicide. I cringe thinking to those days. Thinking the words: I am unlovable.

The years that followed my whole family was in continuous crisis mode. They never knew what the next day was going to hold. Heck, I was so far removed from reality that I didn’t even know what the previous days looked like never mind the coming hours.

Somehow [clearly through the grace of God], I made it through countless life or death situations.

I don’t know how many times I have tried to end my life, nor do I know the exact number of streets I’ve crossed, [purposely] without waiting for cars to pass first.

I can’t count the exact number of scars on my skin from each time I carelessly slid a piece of metal through, silently hoping I would bleed to death and never wake up.

I don’t know how many hours I have been lost along train tracks waiting for a train to come and end it all.

I have walked across this train track bridge [the view now terrifies me!]:

*Bridge photos from London Free Press

If a train had come while I was walking across this bridge I would have not survived. I had hoped I would slip through the holes between the pieces of wood I walked over or through the sides.

*But this excruciating, long chapter of my life is closing.*

I’m well on my way to recovery!

Twenty-three is fresh.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have been working towards bible college for as long as I can remember. I am moving into a transitional chapter of online courses and I am already halfway through my first course: Intro to Old Testament Studies. I’m loving the content!

I have said this is a transitional chapter because I’m practicing the coping skills I’ve perfected while living a very simple, low-stress life, now in a more stressful life. It’s proving tough but I’m happy to report that there have been no suicidal thoughts that have come with any intent. The thoughts are more fleeting. They come almost out of habit.

My brain doesn’t work the same as it used to, nor does the rest of my body. I have been out of school for 4 years. Those things themselves throw some consequential challenges into life.

I got a 77% on my first midterm! I’m proud of that. I worked extremely hard and did not think I could manage more than a 60.

Good & amazing things have come from this chapter!

LIST OF GOOD THINGS/ACCOMPLISHMENTS DURING “DISABLED” YEARS:

I had extra time to spend hours reading Gods word and just resting in His presence.  Not everyone gets this wonderful opportunity.

My personal relationship with God is stronger than ever. My desire to experience Him, love Him, and obey Him, is sometimes more than I can handle (In a good way)!

I was diagnosed with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder that had been going on for 11 years before diagnosis. I don’t know when/if I would have been diagnosed had I not started having seizures.

I have overcome treatment-resistant major depressive disorder, after the better part of three years was spent in a psychiatric hospital.

I’ve overcome some intense psychotic episodes.

I have a better ability to empathize with other people’s sorrows. It’s the kind of empathy that you can only gain from going through a dark and difficult time.

I have completely stopped self harming. (Nearly 2 years without cutting!) Just a day ago, an ER nurse even commented on my scars looking old.

*I also now view self harming as a completely ineffective coping mechanism, but because of the addictive nature it is still tempting.

About 4 years after the OCD diagnosis, the disorder is almost managed now!! **HUGE HUGE ACCOMPLISHMENT THAT REQUIRED AN CRAZY AMOUNT OF WORK**

I have my own website/blog that actually gets a large number of views (that is if I actually post…oops…)

I have been doing a lot of painting and drawing **even with a tremor!

I have trained a service dog! (With a lot of help from family, a friend, and a trainer). Now I have an incredible, life-saving dog! I wish I didn’t need her as “medical equipment”, but she keeps me laughing and I constantly talk to her. (I have learned that when you are alone in public, it’s much more fun to pet a dog than to awkwardly pretend you are texting someone…)

I have had time to draw, write, and spend time with my family before I prepare to move away for school.

Now I see that this life I live is actually so wonderful! So long as God continues to use my struggles for His glory (I have no doubt He will), I don’t mind them being there.

For a long time, birthdays acted as a sort of ‘countdown’ of my life, filled with nothing but doom. Now, they serve as a source of hope and strength, reminding me I have – and will continue to – overcome.

I have come a long way in the past few years. Now I’m able to look back and say I survived. Now I’m able to look forward and say I can continue surviving and thriving.

My child self never thought I would make it to 18, but here I am, almost five years after 18, with a desire to keep living as long as God allows, so I can do and accomplish all that he has planned for me.

Today I begin chapter twenty-three.

Anchor Answers

“Why?”

“How long?”

That’s what we really want to know. We want God to answer, to give an account of Himself.

“How long will the pain last?”

“Why did he leave me?”

“Why did she die so young?”

“How long will I be unemployed?”

“Why won’t they leave me alone?

“Why me? Why now? Why this?”

Sometimes we learn the answers; often not. But still, we ask.

The asking is built into us; we can’t help it. We ask, “Why?” because we understand cause and effect. We ask, “How long?” because we discern beginnings and endings. We ask because we’re human. Even Jesus, the divine human asked, “Why have you forsaken me?”

SUFFERING:

“Why?” and “How long?” don’t ususally have clear answers. However, there are other questions you can always know the answers to. They have a definite yes or no, with a clarity that anyone can grasp. BUT…I hope you won’t ask them when you suffer.

Is God here?

Does God care?

Is God part of this?

Did God cause this?

Does God have a purpose for this?

Is God punishing me?

Will I be okay?

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I say that I hope you won’t ask them when you suffer, because I know you’ll need the answers before you suffer.

The answers are so much harder to find in the storm. It’s also easy to disregard the truth in the midst of a storm because we may be too wrapped up in confusion, fear, anger, or feelings of loneliness.

But, we rarely think about these things before we need them. We are often like a grasshopper who wasted the summer away without ever thinking about preparing for winter.

People who expect suffering to come will read and think and pray and wrestle with these questions well before the storm hits. Then, in the storm, they hang on to those truths for hope and comfort. Without them, suffering preys upon our pain or grief injecting fear and doubt that eats away at our hope.

I will be honest and say that I wasn’t completely prepared for a huge storm to shake up my life. These days I know that there is another storm just around the corner. We can’t escape these storms as Christians but God will be here, with us, through all of it.

The ANCHOR ANSWERS:

With clear answers to these questions, we have an anchor for our souls and a reason to hope. (Hebrews 6:19)

A biblical perspective on suffering accepts the certainty of suffering but embraces the hope of God’s reign over it.

Everyday, I fight a storm that seems to never let up. On the outside, I’m conversing with a friend, playing with my dog, or writing; but in my mind I’m struggling to hold the door closed against a biting wind of anxious thoughts.

What holds me together is truths that I hold onto.

*I know God is real and He is here, holding the door against the storm with me.

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*I know God cares, having the empathy of one who has experienced ultimate suffering and sorrow himself.

*I know God is in this with me, like a father who wraps his little child in his coat and bears the worst of the wind.

*I know we live in a broken, cursed world full of sin, death and suffering, and yet God directs all things as the Sovereign Lord of all. Even though I cannot fully grasp this mystery of providence, I know my suffering does not escape His loving notice, nor is it beyond His power. I know she is neither a victim of fate, or the devil.

*I know Gods purpose toward me, as a believer, is only good eternally. And although the path in this life has many hazards, God makes even these serve my greater, eternal good.

*I know God is not punishing me for Christ was fully punished in my place, and lives again as the Mediator of my favor with God.

**And therefore I know, with soul-deep certainty, that I will be okay. My God and Savior made a promise.

THIS is the anchor for my soul!

I hope and pray that this can be a comfort and hope for your soul as well!

The world is scary and full of trouble. You can arm yourself against the day of trouble with the truth.

Knowledge that if you belong to Christ, God is here.

He does care.

He’s in it with you.

He has a purpose.

He’s not mad at you.

You will be okay.

If you’ll take the time to find out if this is true-by reading the Bible-then, you can know before you need to know.

You may find that knowing these things is a greater comfort than knowing why or how long.

 

Just BE

When All You Can Do Is Be:

Some days are harder than others. There are trials and challenges. We face issues that change the course of our entire lives. We deal with seizures for which healing has yet to come, anxiety that is yet to be managed, marital problems yet to be mended, longing for relationships, or a feeling of distance from God.

imageOr maybe we feel like we aren’t doing enough in our lives as we watch others who never seem to go through the hardships that we face daily, that some of us have even experienced for years. We feel pressure to do the “normal” daily activities that most people do without a second thought. Then, we feel an overwhelming sadness when we just can’t do them no matter how hard we try.

We just feel weak and worn out.

imageGod sees you. He loves you. He says that you don’t have to measure up to any standard but His.

Even when all you can do is simply be: you are loved by God.

It doesn’t look the same for another person as it does for you. He knows the trials, the pain, the weaknesses. He only wants your heart. Love Him with your whole heart!

Maybe no one else will hear your cries, feel your loneliness, or see your pain, but God sees you and you matter to Him. He hears your every heart cry and He is a Father who loves you.image

If all you can do is simply be with Him, He’s more than okay with that. He knows you inside and out, through the good and the difficult.

You may see others running back and forth doing everything under the sun, but even though difficulties are in front of you, you are still pressing into Jesus.

You are just being with Him. This counts far more than you know. It counts to Him. In His eyes it is worth more than all the gold in world because you are His precious and dearly beloved child.image

May His love cover you and fill you today.

Stellar Kart Lyrics:

Me and Jesus

When there’s nowhere else to turn
All your bridges have been burned
Feels like you’ve hit rock bottom
Don’t give up it’s not the end
Open up your heart again
When you feel like no one
Understands where you are

Someone loves you even when you don’t think so
Don’t you know you got me and Jesus by your side
Through the fight you will never be alone on your own
You got me and Jesus

 After all that we’ve been through
By now you know I’ve doubted too
But every time my head was in my
Hands you said to me
Hold on to what we got
This is worth any cost so
Make the most of life
That’s borrowed
Love like there’s no tomorrow

 

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