Tag Archives: Depression

You cannot have that

Standard

To the Thief,

If we were to list what you stole from us, we would write forever.

We’ve heard other survivors say that their childhood was stolen. That’s close to being true for us. What you stole was the child within us. We were ancient ruins before we were 10.

When we look back at pictures of us from that time, they look like us…almost. It’s as though they are very realistic masks of the girls we used to be. But blank. Like a light went out. We turned the corners of our mouths up for the camera, because we were obedient girls and knew that’s what was expected—but there was no joy. We were guessing at normal.

We looked tired. We were tired. All the time. You stole our belief that we were safe in the world. Even in our little worlds. When someone who is supposed to love you, supposed to protect you, violates your trust and desecrates your body, you feel as though danger lurks everywhere. If you aren’t safe in the cocoon of your own family, you understand that you will never be safe anywhere.

You taught us to hate our bodies. We still have not entirely unlearned that lesson, even more than three decades later.

We know that if our focus is on the wounds of the past, we will miss out on the blessings of the future, and we are unwilling to allow that. In order to cast out that darkness, in order to banish that hatred, what we finally realize is that we need to forgive you.

We don’t want to carry these heavy things anymore. Without forgiveness, there is no freedom from this. From you. And we want to travel light.

We are going to do our best to let you go. To have this be one thing that happened, a long time ago. Not the defining thing. Not the totality of who we are. Just a chapter in the book of our lives—perhaps never completely closed, but a section we hope to revisit less and less. There is too much happiness ahead of us, too much goodness and grace in the world, to spend time reliving such pain.

We refuse to continue to be your host. We will not feed you anymore. You own a great deal of our past, but we will give you none of our future.

You cannot have that.

It’s time to sit in the sun.

Goodbye.

BostonMAG

Advertisements

But the truth is, we’re all fighting a battle.

Standard

It’s Invisible Illness Week. I don’t think most people know that. But I do.

Somedays I wake up sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I live with chronic, progressive illness. I have since I was very young and it became much more pronounced as a late teenager. And somedays I cry just from being tired of being sick.

I was first hospitalized for it as an “adult” when I was 17. I would not stop internally bleeding. I could not hold food in. I saw glittery stars all day long. The first few weeks out of the hospital was my first time needing a wheel chair. I used those little electric carts at Target. Mind you, I could walk, I just needed to reserve my energy and it was painful to move. All my joints hurt, my head would pound, and I would be fighting to breath. But I so desperately wanted to get out of the house…

You see, I had lost a full sports scholarship to college for my illness. I had to stop working. I did not drive but now I could no longer walk many places so I was completely reliant on friends to drive me to and from. I could not eat much and I also had to be careful when I ate, how much I ate, and what I ate. I had to take over 50 pills a day.  And my mother moved away with my little sister too. My whole world shifted again. At 17 years old. All within the same 3 weeks.

So here I was in target with an older friend, driving around the cart. And I received so many stares from others. They felt like judgements.. judgements that I shouldn’t be using that cart, that my leg wasn’t broken nor was my head bald (as if damaged limbs and cancer are the only forms of debilitating illness). I felt ashamed and thought maybe I should push through it, push through the pain. I have always been sensitive to what others think, to their judgements. To this day, I still struggle to use those motorized carts even when I need them.

I have a host of invisible illnesses that include: chronic pain, chronic fatigue, chronic dizziness/vertigo, ulcerative colitis/Crohn’s disease, asthma, migraines, arthritis, TMJ, Ricketts, visual field loss, PCOS, PTSD,  pseudotumor cerebri, depression/anxiety,  and sensory processing disorder… to name a few.

What you do not see are the 12-15 doctor visits a month, iron and nutrient infusions, or the scar from my breast bone to my pubic area. People who know me, KNOW I push myself, because if I didn’t, I would go no where. I’d live sad, or worse, angry at the state of my life and all the dreams I will never fulfull if I didn’t push myself often. Not many people expect or hope much from me or for me. If I didn’t push myself, I’d lose myself.

I live in a certain amount of pain regularly that I believe many of those around me can’t comprehend, physically and emotionally.

Then there’s a dear friend of mine. We went to get pedicured a few months back for my birthday. She could not keep her leg in the angle required to get the pedicure. She has a neurological disorder too. She barely makes it around. She fights depression. She longs to be a friend and a mother in a way she’s not able to always. Oh how I love her. Instead of going bowling, we go to McDonalds and use the new computerized bowling games there. It’s the only way she can bowl with her young daughter.

This past week has been terrible. I acquired a cold on my plane ride home from a trip this summer. I have not got rid of it yet. I have a low immune system. I had to go into the hospital for a day to get “buffed up” in hopes of fighting it off. Many weeks later, I’m still fighting it. Now it’s my allergy season. It’s worse than I have ever experienced. This past week I had a couple days where I could do nothing. I was in so much pain from allergies and sneezing. My body ached. I needed pain medicine to make it through. And now I have a huge hernia from sneezing so much. And a flair of tendonitis and shingles and asthma. Oh yea, I’m not allowed to sneeze. And I burst a vessel in my nose. And we’re hoping I don’t get pneumonia. And I got a letter from my oh so lovely neurologist that I love. She’s leaving. And I am sad and nervous about that.

Saturday I went apple picking. And it cost me a lot physically. But I did it and I loved it and I am glad. And some days, I will do other things that will cost me physically. Or I’ll help a friend and her newborn when they aren’t well, even if it’s just making dinner and playing with him while she naps. Because it feels good to give, even when I’m not at my finest. And somedays I need the handicap parking, even if I don’t limp when I walk or have some other noticeable ailment. My body and my mind bear the scars of the illness underneath my clothing, underneath my skin.

There are stigmas attached to invisible ilnesses. Sometimes people don’t believe you. Sometimes they say it. Sometimes not. Sometimes you get looks, or worse, they outright ignore you. Sometimes I don’t get the help or care I need. And I’ve learned to push through and care for myself. Sometimes it’s hard that there’s not more physical help. Sometimes it’s hard when there is help that I don’t need at that time.

I cried when I got the letter from my neurologist saying she was leaving the practice. She would validate my physical and emotional pain and try to help me fit in the mold of how modern society works (bigger, better, faster, more). I struggle and battle in a culture that rarely rests or stops or considers that someone (like me!) might not be able to do or participate in the same things in the same way as others. It’s often felt like a constant game of catch up for me. Catch up to how far others are walking, catch up and push through the long shopping day with others, etc. I’ve learned that I can’t easily be accomodated. So unless I know I can either push through something or make an easy accommodation myself, I just don’t show up. And my neurologist, she’s the one who gets how the U.S. functions and how lost I get in trying to find a quality of life in it.

I have an uncle with MS and a friend with MS. Another friend with a rare breathing issue that could kill her if she gets pneumonia. I have another uncle with cancer and a grandfather that’s dying of a brain tumor. My mother has several diseases as does my biological father and two of my sisters. I have had several housemates over the last 5 years that battle depression and GAD and several more close friends with it. Two friends are fighting addictions. And this last month alone I had a student have 4 panic attacks on the soccer team I coach. Yesterday another student confided in me how she often has them about academics too. And last week a student that I coach told me how she witnessed her parents death and was later adopted and now struggles with mental health. You’d never know it looking at these people. Not one. You could go out for pizza with them and it wouldn’t come up. We all adjust. We all fight some days and rest on other days and laugh about it here and there.

But the truth is, we’re all fighting a battle. For some, it’s invisible, unseen to the naked eye and fierce. And we could all use a few kinds words here and there reminding us that we are seen and not invisible, not someone to be mocked or second guessed for using the electric cart or elevator instead of the stairs or because today we can walk up and down the hill but tomorrow we can’t get out of bed. We could all use a little bit more compassion in our hearts and out of our lips.

 

I didn’t choose this, dear friend.

Standard

Dear friends,

I know you know this, but I love you dearly. I know you love me too, but I forget often. I’m filled with thoughts of how unloveable I am, how much of a mess I am, how unkempt and unpretty my life can seem. Many days I feel worthless, so I don’t always believe you love me. Somedays I believe depression.

Do not confuse my bad days as a sign of weakness, those are actually the days I am fighting my hardest

Depression has a nasty snarl around my life. I know you prefer the sunny days, the brighter ones, free from anxiety, free from worry, filled with wonder and exploration. I know you prefer these for me, and for us. Oh friend, how I prefer those days too. I wish I could have these days every day because depression terrifies me. It literally prevents me from life, from the brightness and joy I know Jesus has created me to be. Oh but friend, I try. I try, and I try, and I have not given up. I hope you see the fight in me, that on my hardest of days, I have not given up, in fact, I am holding on with more strength than I knew possible. Please see how strong I am.

Behind my smile is a hurting heart, behind my laugh I’m falling apart, look closely at me and you will see, the girl I am… it isn’t me.

I wish I could have more days where I am more free, more present with you, more able to engage you. But I can’t. I can sense the heaviness come over me, clouding my eyes, heavying my chest, weighing on me from top to bottom. I try to push out of it, to throw it off, but friend the only way out is through.

Often the people with the strongest hearts carry the heaviest ones.

The journey through terrifies me. It feels like I’m losing control and losing my mind. Please, if you notice it happening before I am able to say it, please grab my hand and say you’re with me and you love me. If you ask me if I am ok, I will likely say yes. If you ask me how I am, I will likely say good/fine/okay. Please notice my pain and I am not able to articulate it. Please meet me there. Please help me to understand you are not scared of me or these feelings of mine.

I’m so broken that I can feel it. I mean, physically feel it. This is so much more than being sad now. This is affecting my whole body.

I know I seem to overreact at times. I know it’s confusing. I know sometimes you feel like your trying is never good enough or what I need. I know you sometimes receive anger from me when it’s not justified. I know you understand why it happens. And I know it’s hard for you nonetheless. Depression makes me angry and I can’t think well when I am angry. I am so sorry for this. It’s not an emotion I’ve felt often enough or seen handled well enough to know what to do with, so I feel more distant and disconnected.

Friend, when you notice I seem disconnected, please reach a hand out and connect with me. Tell me you love me and you are FOR me. Rub my back, hug me, sit with me. Remind me you are for me, not against me. Remind me you are on my side, that you know I will make it through, that you aren’t leaving me. Remind me that you can see how hard I try. Believe things alive, right into my very heart.

People think depression is sadness.People think depression is crying. People think depression is dressing in black. But people are wrong. Depression is the constant feeling of being numb. Being numb to emotions, being numb to lie. You wake up in the morning just to go back to bed again. Days aren’t really days; they are just annoying obstacles that need to be faced. And how do you face them? Through medication, through drinking, through smoking, through drugs, through cutting. When you’re depressed, you grasp on to anything that can get through the day. That’s what depression is, not sadness or tears, it’s the overwhelming sense of numbness and the desire for anything that can help you make it from one day to the next.

It can be hard to understand depression when you have not experienced it. I get that. I was like that too. Please always know that I respect you most when you ask me questions, because too often I am not able to just say what I would like to.

There’s many times when I feel like you are better off without me, that I have ruined you, ruined me, ruined others. I feel like you deserve better than me and I can’t ever be enough, no matter how much I try, I will always struggle, and sometimes I wonder if you are better off without me. I rarely will tell you. I fear you’re already too tired to hear from me. Sometimes I may not think it for weeks, other times I fight those thoughts every moment for months. Please watch out for me. Please tell me you see me. Please tell me I am worth it, worth this fight, to you and know that I won’t believe it on the dark days, ever. But don’t hesitate to tell me. I need it. Those are never wasted words, ever. I do remember. And they do fill me. Please hold hope for me.

Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad

I feel like there’s a silence that I keep, one that has me balancing feeling “too” much for you and also not enough for you, one that teeters on wanting to look normal, but feeling so isolated and crazy. Depression is ugly. Most days it takes so much courage for me to get out of bed. No one knows. No one sees that. I force myself to eat sometimes, because I know it’s good for me. I shower and wish I didn’t have to. I make it through. There’s a silence I have to keep. Help me to break the silence. Please know I try, am trying, to find healing in Jesus.

There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds

Please know I am being healed. I want you to be a part of this, dear friend. A part of the healing. Please stay with me and fight this alongside me. You know who I am. You’ve seen me love fiercely, give lavishly, extend mercifully. You know many of the parts of who I am in Jesus that are fighting for healing, for greater strength. Don’t hesitate to remind me of those things, to remind me of who I am, of how good I am, of how good God has made me.

Please be with me. And know I am trying and I am fighting, for me, for us, for healing, for the Kingdom. But mostly, know I don’t want to be here and I didn’t choose this. And know I love you, deeply.

FMF: TRY

 

Half Year Reads Review

Standard

If you’ve known me even in the slightest way, you know I love to watch things grow. I like to be a part of the process. Whether it’s planting a seasonal garden or starting a new facet of ministry, cultivating is ingrained in me, an intense desire and need to work diligently to understand, to know, to grow, and to do my very smallest part to encourage things while they grow.

In 2014 I had to nearly halt one of the ways I grow the most, from reading. It was hard and painful. I felt a bit envious and jealous at times because I was physically unable to read much, while others seemed to do it with endless ease. It was as if I was disconnected from one of the prominent ways God speaks to me and from a place that once brought me much joy. My eyes were injured from a condition that had developed that year and I had some severe temporary vision loss, but also some minor permanent loss.

And my eyes didn’t focus often. I lived nearly an entire year not knowing that one of the major issues was that my eyes were not able to focus, so I was taking in far too much light and exposure and details (like words or small objects on the floor) were often blurred. My eyes were dilated too much. A few weeks ago I had a minor procedure that helped to correct some of this. And alas! I can read better.

So here’s to reading some good books the last few weeks and to ending this first half of the year with a few good books under my belt and in my heart (and the ones that I’m half way through…):

Beyond books, articles and blog posts have been especially meaningful to me.

Clean Eating and why we need cheerleaders

Standard

Roommate and I, we have these little competitions… usually I am the only one interested in the competition part, but in the end, there’s a goal and a prize, and it’s always some sort of treat. And roommate likes special treats. Each month we’ve been choosing an area when it comes to nutrition and physical health to work on, together. We aren’t into dieting, it’s not practical for our everyday lives. We’re not super into rigid exercise schedules, because we both like to not feel burdened by the “have to’s” more than we already are. We enjoy food. We enjoy social connection. We like doing things together. She get’s me. She’s rare. She’s a gem.

She doesn’t need to exercise for weight loss. She’s thin as a rod. She loves pepsi and hot dogs and chips and dip. She’s the kind of friend that will go out with me at 9:30 PM after a particularly heart wrenching day, and pick up chocolate chip oatmeal cookies and Dr. Pepper and enjoy them together, as we process the day. She’s a lover of chocolate and anything salty, of ice cream, and cheesy nachos with a side of quesadilla. She runs occasionally, to justify eating more.

Me on the other hand. I have long since passed my thinner days. A few years ago I gained a lot of weight and it’s sort of just been around for a while. I’m the healthiest eater in my house. I’m typically the dinner maker, plan initiator, got-to-get-out-of-the-city-and-exploreer in our house. Ice cream hurts my belly. I still have candy from two halloweens ago and three Easter’s ago. I cook 2lbs of brussel sprouts and a head of each cauliflour and broccoli a week. And lentils..we have lentils a lot. I need to exercise, but am not physically able to in the ways I used to; in ways I hoped to. But I do have an extreme love for doughnuts.

We’re sort of anomalies, her and I. But it works. We work. And it’s a privilege to be sharing a home.

We didn’t intend to start this health initiative. It just sort of happened. I’m not into New Year’s resolutions. But I am HUGE into reflecting and trying to remember. Back in December, I was reflecting on the year, on positives and not so positives, on people, on relationships, but mostly, on myself. I prayed for several days in this reflective time and made a list of areas to work on in 2015, a page to come back to over and over again when I felt unsure of whether I should really be investing my resources and capacity on these things.

Five categories: Mental, emotional, spiritual, physical, and relational. I got really clear about what areas in each of these I hoped to grow in and how I was going to give myself the best fighting chance at it. I didn’t share it with anyone. It was for me. I was less interested in all the specifics I hoped for coming to fruition (though I hoped they would), and more interest in being clear on what I was going to invest my best into in order to pursue, regardless of the outcome. I had long ago learned that though people might care and love me, life, in many ways, involves many individual decisions and choices that are for me alone to decide, solo. I don’t always like it. It’s just the cards I was dealt. And I do the best I can.

I have long been correlating how all these areas link together, how one area interacts with and is affected in part by choices made in another area. I didn’t get the best genes. I didn’t have the most calm childhood. I have had more health issues than you have time to hear. You could say I sort of have most things going against me when it comes to these 5 areas. In spite of it all, for some reason, God chose someone like me, who’s very different and not really understood very well, because He’s into creating a kingdom that’s not conformed to the image of this world and he needs some differently minded people (more on that another day). So here I am.

I’m not sure when Roommate and I decided this, but sometime in December we wanted to make a shift in our physical health, together. It’s much easier when you have someone with you, someone on your side, someone for you. People who cheer you on and encourage you are rare finds. But so very needed. She’s with me. I’m with her. We’re in this crazy want-to-give-ourselves-a-fighting-chance place together. And it’s really fun.

I’ve received feedback here and there from friends who have loved what we are doing and wished they had someone who committed to doing it with them too. It’s nearly impossible to go at it alone, at least in a way that’s sustainable. Yea, I am thankful for Roommate often. She goes along with my crazy research and gets on board with trying to live into wholesome living, not just for herself, but for me too. She cares about what I care about and wants to support me in my challenges. Sacrifice. She’s a keeper.

So we’re 11 days into “clean eating”. That means nothing processed, with more than a few easy to understand ingredients, nothing dairy except strained plan greek yogurt, lean meat/fish or organic red meat, no processed or added sugars (local honey is okay), and we took it a step further and eliminated gluten-mostly. We eat rice and lentils and grains often. We eat a ton of veggies and more fruits. I eat more meat than I’m accustomed to, which is good for me. She eats far less salt (I am working on eating more, because I need to). We try new foods and dishes. It’s been fun. We grocery shop/farmer’s market together. We cook together often, and sometimes I cook alone, but we always eat together. I love that piece.

We’ve made mango-cashew chicken curry, lettuce & tuna wraps (from the garden!), roasted veggie assortments, grilled almond and sweet potatoes, lentil & carrot soup, curried lentils, yogurt and dill cucumber salads, asian salads, to name a few. We allow ourselves one whole wheat product a week together, this week will be home made whole wheat tortillas. We get a tiny thumb nail sized square of chocolate a day (I sort of ate my whole bar, that was supposed to last the month, on the second day…).

And we give each other and ourselves grace with it. 

We stick to it, but recognize some situations will require flexibility if we want to sustain it. We were invited to a friend’s for dinner and she made a meal that wasn’t on our clean eating list… but we ate it. I had ketchup the other day. I sort of really wanted it, and it turns out, she had it too! We need some flexibility to live. We went into this to grow, not to be more weighed down by obligation.

In order to make lasting changes in any circumstance, they must both be realistic and sustainable. These changes must not expend all our resources nor take over all our capacity. We need adequate support in our lives and from those around us to maintain these changes or additions into our lives. We need people who are with us and for us, cheerleaders encouraging us along the way. We need people like Roommate, who are willing to give, bend, grow, and struggle alongside us, in the muck of everyday. So we’ve been excited as we process what the changes so far have been like for us, what we’ve learned, and challenges we’ve come up against in it so far.

There’s something special, something that’s so right about having someone near you, by your side, for you. This isn’t just about being physically healthy. This is about learning relational health, and emotional health, about mental health. There’s been a lot of processing of life and creation and how it all intertwines in this clean eating journey so far.

I thought this was to help my body physically, but really, it’s been about healing my body holistically. And I feel fairly confident that God intended it that way.

 

On Celebrating the Other Mothers on Mother’s Day

Standard

On Celebrating the Other Mothers on Mother’s Day:

There are parents without carseats, diapers or pacifiers. Mothers who do not have bedtime rituals or middle of the night feedings. Parents without hand-stamped necklaces or birthstone rings. These are the other mothers – the ones in our midst who are quietly hurting.

So today I tell you, parents of babies who are not in your arms. I remember you on Mother’s Day, and you are celebrated.

I celebrate you getting out of bed.

I celebrate you waiting to cry until after your newly pregnant friend leaves.

I celebrate you balling up your fist at the complaining of another parent.

I celebrate you enjoying a quiet evening with your spouse.

I celebrate you crying in the shower at the overwhelming unfairness.

I celebrate you scrolling thru Facebook, steeling yourself against adorable joyfilled photos of families.

I celebrate you going to church and the park and Target.

I celebrate you enduring tests and procedures and needles.

I celebrate you as you slump on the bathroom floor, allowing yourself to feel the cycle defeating you again.And as you rise, choosing to do it all again tomorrow, I celebrate you.

I remember your babies. They, and you, are not forgotten. They matter. You matter. And on Mother’s Day, you, mother, will be celebrated.

 

A Day in the Life: Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, & the Church

Standard

Two dear friends were part of a bible theater project at a local college. The idea was to meet for 6 months and do a bible study of all the women mentioned in the bible. It would be called the Bible Women’s Project and they would create a way to unite and tell those women’s stories, mixed with their own, and make it applicable to today. Not just the Ruth and Naomi kind of stories, but the harder ones, the women who perhaps we’ve misunderstood and who made some grievous mistakes. People who are a lot more like you and me than we’d care to be reminded.

The results were astounding, thought provoking, and deeply affective. Later on, someone asked me what I thought of it. It was hard to take all in. It was personal. It was moving. It was painful. The topics that the play incorporated were hard: rape, murder, submission, genocide, shame, church responses, abandonment, neglect, prostitution, forgotten, unseen, not heard. I could only utter one more thing, “I don’t know how we create spaces where women can tell their story, where we can be heard and seen. I need that. I don’t think I’m alone.” But I feel alone. My safe spaces are gone. I don’t feel seen.

A blogging friend that I’ve recently connected to read some of my posts about Anxiety-Depression, abuse, and PTSD. She recommended a book that her friend’s had written that I have only recently begun reading. I feel compelled to share it with you. Parts particularly stand out to me as I am reading it. It’s a great resource for anyone who has been affected by trauma. I’d recommend it: Love Letters from the Edge. It’s so timely in my life. Particularly, I have found this bit to be helpful:

“The following blog post, adapted from a post from Jim Lapierre, is a vivd description of what it’s like to live with PTSD:”

Four a.m. is her witching hour. She wakes each morning with adrenaline coursing through her veins. Her heartbeat hammers, every muscle in her body tense. She’s in fight or flight mode, but there’s no one to fight and nowhere to run.

The first thirty seconds feels like half an hour. It’s the time in between sleep and waking. What’s real? What isn’t?

It’s much worse than a bad dream. It. Feels. Like. It. Just. Happened. Again.

The tears come, but she fights them. She checks the sheets, but they’re clean. She sits on the side of the bed, rocking back and forth, but it’s a little too fast to bring comfort.

Breath!” Can’t get enough oxygen. Hyperventilating is terrifying. Head pounding. Need light. Need air. Must get out of this room.

She starts the coffee. No chance of going back to sleep now. Go to the bathroom but turn away from the medicine cabinet mirror. Cold water on her face stings but feels real. Still avoiding the mirror, can’t stand the image there. She needs a shower but it doesn’t feel okay to do that yet.

Settle in with some reading-daily affirmations. Get centered. Prayers are sent but feel futile. She never got the hang of meditation. It just gets her stuck in her head. A song on Pandora grabs her attention: I’m still alive but I’m barely breathing. Just praying to a God that I don’t believe in. 

Make plans for the day. Staying busy helps. Make lists. Combine them with yesterday’s lists. Sun’s coming up. Therapy today. Have to take a shower. Fear. Self-loathing. Shame.

Scalding hot water. Pain. Scrubbing way to hard. Still can’t remove the feeling of being dirty. “You know that it’s not on your skin. It’s burned in your memory. It’s a feeling of shame based on what was done to you. It’s not your fault. Please cool off the water. It’s hurting you.”

She doesn’t know that others struggle with these feelings, too. I’ve tried to be gentle but direct with her in therapy. “You’re naked and wet in an enclosed area with nowhere to run or hide when you shower. You close your eyes to keep the shampoo out. You can’t hear what’s going on in the rest of the house. You feel physically vulnerable. It makes sense that you’re scared.”

I want to help her stop feeling like she’s crazy, like she’s the only one who struggles with these feelings.

We talk about how she copes, how she sees herself, how she struggles to have self-control. She confesses what she sees as sin.

“I feel like a little girl a lot of the time.” She finds it hard to believe that I have known a lot of adults who feel like children.

I ask her to recall how she described feeling broken when we first met. She nods. We’ve talked about defining moments in her life-the first at age eight. She was never free to be innocent and her emotional growth was arrested by ongoing sexual trauma and abuse.

She’s thirty-five. Physically she feels like eighty. In the outside world, her composure and behavior are that of a very successful professional. Emotionally/internally she’s somewhere between eight and sixteen, depending on her feelings, stress, and level of anxiety.

She lives with PTSD, an anxiety disorder. She experiences vivid nightmares, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts. She has co-occuring panic attacks and depression. Her prognosis is good and getting better, but the work ahead of her is hard. In truth, it’s one of the most difficult things a human being can do-but it’s not as bad as what she’s already been through and it’s not as bad as living this way indefinitely.

We’re working on strategies to promote a sense of safety. She’s implemented simple ways she can use her five senses to connect to her here and now. She is mindful that when she’s overwhelmed, she is not dealing with her current reality- she is somewhere in her past. She’s making changes to her physical enviroment. She realized that even some of her prized possessions are associated with past memories. They were in her bedroom when she was eight. They’re packed away now-not discarded-it’s just not time for those now.

We’re working on a very difficult piece. She’s begun journaling the content of her nightmares and we’re exploring the themes and memories. She’s accepted that the only way out of it is through it because there is no forgetting.

She’s accepted that it’s OK for a grown woman to leave her lights on at night, hug stuffed animals, and do anything that doesn’t hurt her to make the “shadows” go away. She ‘s getting better and through group therapy and self help she’s connecting to others with similar experiences. She knows now that she’s not alone.

Telling our stories connects us. The best we can be alone is lonely. “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”-Maya Angelou

So friends, I want to both create and be a part of a community where it’s safe to share my story and hear other stories, where pain is lessened and agony feels less intense because we don’t have to bear our untold stories inside us. I don’t know how. It’s uncomfortable. It’s costly. But they will know we are Christians by our love for one another, albeit a messy, sometimes intense and crazy love.

And then those outside of the church, those of us who feel like fringed and forgotten people, marred by the world and carry hurt from the Church, unseen and unheard, find a place to rest, a place to share and receive and give. And that resting ground is leveled with Jesus. And there becomes nothing, I mean NOTHING that separates us from loving each other, because nothing could separate us from the love of God.

Perhaps that’s the gospel in the most simplest of ways: those outside have now been welcomed in lavishly. Behold, He is making all things new.