The Fear and The Faith.

I have a confession to make: I am scared.

I’m scared of the what ifs and possibilities. I’m scared of what could or could not possibly happen. I’m scared of car accidents and bad weather. I’m scared of my parents dying before me and I’m scared of growing up. I’m scared of being too happy and being too sad. Most of all, I’m scared to let people in.

We live in a society of surface transparency and surface openness. We pretend to know really deep things about all of the things and have grand ideas about how the earth works and about whether or not there is a heaven or hell. We never really face each other, or greet each other with openness. Part of that is wisdom- but I think a bigger part of that is fear. I know that’s the case for me.

Growing up I had no voice. I didn’t talk back and I didn’t really have a say or an opinion. I remained quiet. And as soon as I learned that I had a voice I was told to quiet down by a well meaning but very wrong family member. But I listened. I became a swirl of ideas and thoughts and emotions. I’d come home from school afraid that that day would be the day my parents died and I’d never see them again. In fourth grade I had a parent teacher conference and I was so scared about the outcome that I ended up making myself terribly sick with pneumonia, bronchitis, strep and asthma. Needless to say anxiety and panic have always followed me.

In the last three years I’ve discovered what it means to have healthy communication, and in that I’ve been learning the value of my own thoughts and emotions. I’ve been learning to give myself space to consult with myself and figure out what I’m thinking. But more than what I’m thinking I’ve been learning about what I’m feeling, and it’s explosive. Surviving an unseen trauma makes a person feel voiceless. If I’m not walking with a limp or if I’m not facing something in a public way, it can almost feel unimportant and nonexistent. Because people forget, or feel uncomfortable with talking about them. Surviving multiple unseen traumas can make you feel like you’re dead. Actually dead. And that’s what I’m realizing about myself.

The other night I was talking to my guy, and I mentioned to him how I have such a hard time connecting to my own body. I feel trapped inside myself and I feel nothing for my body. Its caused me nothing but trouble, rape after rape, violation and abuse and so much self hate. And in that moment I was reminded by my therapist about the reality of disassociation, and how for me, a big coping mechanism has been my body and brain shutting down mid trauma to cope. Because of this, I have a really hard time caring for and loving my body because I don’t recognize it as me. Just a body that I’m stuck in.

This week I’ve been panicking, unable to sleep, my body fighting me with sickness and pain. Fear has been consuming me, even just at my work desk I’ve had to get up to walk around or go to the bathroom because I’ve been sick with fear. And today I realized that I am only experiencing the side effects of untreated and unhealed wounds.

I swear I’m getting to the point here….

The point is this. I have sat in silence for 26 years. Afraid to speak up. Afraid of anything. Seeing the world through a perspective that craved to protect rather than open up. Everyone has wounds, whether they’re healing or festering we have wounds that run deep. And the more that we accept the reality and the importance of uncovering these wounds, the sooner we will heal. It’s estimated that 40% of the adult population struggles with anxiety. An estimated 70% of adults will experience trauma in their lifetime and another 20% will go on to develop PTSD. I happen to fall into all of these categories. And for a long time I felt like I was addressing it. But I was just shutting down any voice that cried out in pain, shoving them in a lock box never to be seen or heard of again. But in the presence of love fear has to flee.

My boyfriend, sweet Daniel, drives me crazy, but I am sure of many things with him, and his love and desire for me is one of them. And he’s simply reflecting the love of Jesus. And we know the verse, “perfect love casts out fear ” (1 John 4:18.) Daniels’ love isn’t perfect, but it’s a reflection of the perfect love of God, dying to kiss and heal my broken places. Desperate to break the chains that bind me. Hopelessly, endlessly, desperately grieving for my trauma and my broken heart while simultaneously shattering concrete barricades and setting me free.

As I come up to my least favourite time of year, my anxiety and panic start to rise as another year, another July, comes and goes, marking two of the greatest traumas I will probably ever experience. And usually this time of year I pull back from people, wrestling daily with fear, and panic attacks, nightmares and insomnia. The greatest thing about the love of God is that it casts out fear and rescues us in our brokenness. My unseen traumas are not unseen to Him. My years of voicelessness are removed as he gives me a voice to speak and faith to believe that he hears me. The phrase “fear not” is found in the Bible 74 times, and “be not afraid” is found 29 times. The love of God is saturating every single one of those verses. That is an astounding number of times to mention fear for a person like me, who struggles with fear and panic. And it makes me think that God was considering the fragility of our humanness deeply, when he formed us. And because of who He is we don’t have to hide and pretend to be brave or whole or healed. He pulls us up out of the pit, sets our feet upon a rock, and calls us his beloved. There is no fear in love.

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The Fear and The Faith.

Now We See In Part

As I process though good and bad emotions, I’m wanting to lean more into the good. They both come from the very same place, but their end destination is very different. So here goes…I know most people love spring- whether it’s the color of the blossoms kissing the brown branches or the warm air breathing on the skin, sending waves of excitement through every nerve as anticipation of warmer weather is almost over- people love spring. And summer. But I dislike both. The smell, the air, the excitement or the anxiety makes me panic. It’s too much. And it’s like, my brain is already on overload.

Spring 2013 is when I overdosed, and the last time I tried to commit suicide. I had 50 or so pills, a cocktail of sorts, swimming through my system as I failed once again to process grief. It felt like nails scraping the chalkboard of my mind or claws ripping the skin from my bones. It was endless nights, closing my eyes counting the sheep, counting my breaths and then ripping the sheets back, flicking on a light, grabbing my laptop and planning my suicide, night after night for year. It was my brain shutting off in the middle of class and then turning back on mid flashback, my own breath choking me awake violently as visions of unwanted skin to skin, my tear soaked face, unending nausea, panic and hours of questioning, swabbing, and photo taking commenced.

I am not good at unveiling my fears, ending the cycle of disassociation, asking for help and giving people chances. When I overdosed I believed it was my only option. It wasn’t, but it was the only one I recognized and needed at that point. Something inside of me flipped its shit and couldn’t take it anymore. I was aching. Every step and every breath became unbearable. I was miserable with memories that i couldn’t and still can’t really share. I was more than ready and willing to let go of every breath I had left.

Five years out.

It’s been five years. And if you told me that I would be where I am now, let alone alive i would have probably politely nodded and laughed to myself at your stupidity. Some days I still wish I wasn’t here, part of me craving to be reconciled to the God who breathed life inside of me. But then part of me wonders what will I miss out on? What beauty is there left to uncover. There’s a verse that I cling to on my worst days, remembering the promise that’s yet to be fulfilled:

“In the same way, we can see and understand only a little about God now, as if we were peering at his reflection in a poor mirror; but someday we are going to see him in his completeness, face-to-face. Now all that I know is hazy and blurred, but then I will see everything clearly, just as clearly as God sees into my heart right now.” 1 Corinthians 13:11-13

Since 2013, I’ve realized how much of the big picture I have failed to see. In attempting to end my life I wanted to throw it all away. There was nothing worth waiting for. But now I realize I was wrong. And there have been things added to my story that could never bring me the full joy that Jesus brings, but they certainly reflect the joy that he brings. Now we see in part. I long for the day where he makes all things new. I ache for that. But everyday of my still living, breathing, radiant life, I come closer and closer to the reality that God and heaven aren’t as far away as they seem. The process, though, sometimes painful, has become one that I now think may be worth sticking around longer to see how it all turns out because, as of right now, it feels like my story is only beginning.

Now We See In Part

To My Younger Self

To my younger self, and for the young ones yet to come. There’s a lot of weight in being able to love yourself properly. There’s life changing, breathtaking, endless possibilities in allowing yourself to be wherever you’re at, 100% of the time. Even if that somewhere is in the floppy untied shoes of a pimple faced teenager, that feels so uncool next to all of the “actual cool kids”

We are young, and we are naive, and we are so desperate for independence. We are desperate to leap from the nest, with outstretched wings, ready to tell Mom and Dad off, believing we are ready to be on our own. But, I’d say to you, wait a little longer. Hold off just a little bit longer. Let your Mom kiss your head and hug you tightly. Let your Dad tease you about your silly teenage ways a little longer. And if your parent is a single parent, well, wait even longer. Ask your parents for help. They love you, and want the best for you, even if it’s not what you think is best. Because in no time at all, you will look back, and that time will be nothing but a vapor, a memory that you can’t even remember properly.

I look back at me as a kid, from what I can remember. And honestly, it kills me. I wish I knew that I was loved. I wish I knew that I didn’t think I had to sell myself short with the hope that someone would notice me. I wish I didn’t waste all of that time, lying to my parents faces, hiding behind fake smiles and a fake personality. I wish I wasn’t so hard on myself. I wish that I had learned that I was good enough so that I would value the friendships I had instead internally battling with anyone I thought was better than me.

I wish that I had known that it’s okay to speak up when someone hurts you. I wish that I had known that I had the ability to change the course of my life just by speaking up, becoming brave, simply by asking for help. I wish that I had known that if a man touches me “there or there” that I could tell an adult and I didn’t have to be scared and that I wouldn’t have to perpetuate a cycle of abuse for years, even into my adulthood.

I wish that I didn’t need more than two hands to count the number of friends who have died, living to fast, too eager to grow up that they forgot to slow down. I want to bring them into the future with me, but all I have are memories. Fragmented memories.

To the younger ones who are reading this: Slow down. The world will not go on without you. There is no one on this earth that is worth forsaking your happiness, dreams, hopes, and peace of mind for. There is no one that can love you better than your parents. And if you don’t have any, then think of someone who loves you most, even if that’s yourself. Life is so short. It’s a vapor. You, believe it or not, are not invincible. You can be broken. You can die. One day you will look back, and you will wish, just like me, that you had slowed down just a little more.

Enjoy each moment to the fullest. Hug your family members, whether they be blood or by choice, a little longer. A little tighter. More often. Forgive when you can, and always move forward. Don’t lose yourself trying to be someone else. You, are one of a kind. Infinitely valuable. Ridiculously talented. Exceptionally needed. Eternally wanted. You are bright, beautiful, and full of life.

To My Younger Self

Peonies

peonies… a strong yet delicate flower, where if the roots take just right, it can grow on and on for 100 years. ———————————————————

the last few weeks (months) I haven’t been sleeping. And it has been wearing me out. I’ve been having nightmares day after day and the last week and half they’ve only gotten worse. I’ve gone from no panic and PTSD symptoms to a painful and familiar trip down PTSD lane. with the good (my amazing, charming, loving guy), has come the bad (years of unresolved, swept under the rug, trauma that I thought I had moved on from). Having a boyfriend is great, but it doesn’t make the problems go away… they just all bubble to the surface. ————————————————————-

I’m exhausted. I’m emotionally worn out. I’m mentally fatigued. I’m also a little more than pissed off. As most trauma survivors will tell you, a few years after trauma you’ll experience some level of PTSD. But the Doctors say it’ll eventually fade out. But here I am, as if everything happened only yesterday. —————————————

I didn’t get a half sleeve because I was a bad ass. I got it because I was in significant amounts of pain the day I got it, and the only thing I could think to do is get a tattoo where it wouldn’t be considered self harming. I decided that day to get the tattoo I’d been thinking about: Peonies. I wanted flowers, to represent growth and life coming from pain, and grief. It was an outward symbol of a hopeful, prophetic growth that I longed to see come from my life. And for years the garden of my heart and soul has been taking root, learning and blossoming. And the little seedling has finally decided to pop its head through the dirt and the rubble. And it’s painful. And it’s difficult. And honestly most days I go between feeling nothing at all, and a sort of pain that can’t be described. I feel an immense amount of love and care and simultaneously a heavy weight of loneliness that I’ve never felt in my life. The process of growth is painful. There’s nothing beautiful or poetic about it. It rages, rips and shreds through everything that’s fighting it, especially if the call on that plant is to grow abundantly.

Peonies

Finding My Voice

The last few weeks I’ve been on edge, sitting on a cliff and holding my breath. Hyper conscious of every inhale and and shake, every nerve in my body. I’ve felt more happy than I thought possible and more sadness than I have before. It’s trying, feeling two polar opposite emotions at the same time.

I’ve started going to therapy. Which is great and awful simultaneously. Great because I’ve been able to untangle a lot of fine pieces of yarn in my thinking, but awful because I’m a whirlwind of emotions as I piece together my life and remember more and more things I’d like to forget.

Psychologist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross identified the way humans process grief in five stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Now I did study Psychology in High School and College, but never truly caught on to the whole five stages. Mostly because, as I am now realizing, I opted to go straight for depression, not purposely. But I was trapped within events, and social pressures, and personal pressure, and people pleasing. I didn’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill. I didn’t want to be a burden, which left me alone to carry all of my burdens.

Therapy has encouraged and pushed me to find my way back to those very first stages of grief, and I’ve realized in my efforts to protect other people from what I was feeling, it only encouraged mindsets of isolation, fear and anxiety. My life had becoming a breeding ground for every negative, unresolved emotion and I didn’t even realize it.

I’ve tried in these last few weeks to begin taking steps to properly heal. And in the process I’ve encountered more disdain from loved ones. I’m not one for speaking up for myself, but for the first time in my life I tried, and I was immediately shut down. I’ve shame spiraling through loneliness, anger and confusion. It was as if as soon as I made a step to free myself from grief, I was met by a massive do not enter sign. This has taken a toll on me emotionally, and if you ask my boyfriend he’d tell you that I’m a glass bottle, ready to burst and shatter at annnyyyy moment. He says it’s a good thing, I’m not so sure.

Despite what has happened, I’ve decided to go ahead with being brave anyway. For years I have compromised my joy for the sake of protecting those that I love, in an effort to keep the peace and not “rock the boat”. And that’s great and all but it actually isn’t. For people who have experienced abuse and trauma, the most important thing to hold on to in that process is their voice. And I’ve allowed my voice to be the voice of reason for everyone but my self. I made concessions to others’ fears and experiences as if I had none of my own. That’s has suffocated me, and additionally suffocated my relationships with people.

The hardest thing to do, when you’re facing great loss or grief, is to find your voice. And I’ve seen the quotes about not letting anyone steal my voice and yadda yadda And I thought I had done that. But instead I was screaming behind a wall that formed as a 2,000 foot enclosure. Inside the wall are spiders and bugs and hungry lions and bears, eager to eat me alive. While outside there’s banners and streamers and balloons everywhere. Funnel cakes and cotton candy and all the things that welcome people to stop and stare and take and be merry. Unbeknownst to the visitors, there’s a side door for anyone and everyone to enter in, if only they’d look past the candy and music and decorations. The music and laughter is so loud that no one would have a clue that’s there’s a screaming girl just behind that giant wall, limbs being mauled by everything that wishes to destroy her.

Therapy is giving me a voice. It is taking the wall down, brick by brick. And with each brick that is removed, the guttural screams are finally reaching the outside of that wall, and like an earthquake, the cries are shaking down the streamers, causing the ground to rumble and shake, and brick by brick the wall does fall.

We all have a voice. Some a whisper, some a roar.

If you can roar, roar for others.

If you can only whisper, keep trying.

Every roar started small.

M.L. Shanahan

Finding My Voice

Breathe In, Breathe Out…

Sunday Evening, I spent it with my sweet guy.

Our dates have turned into spontaneous events, rather than being planned.  Since neither of us have normal schedules, with Daniel working nights and me nannying, it’s nice to have “meet in the middle” times.

On Sunday evening, our date started out with listening to music, talking deeply, and then out of the blue, it happened. What started off as a beautiful sweet evening,  turned into a nightmare as I was consumed with panic.

It was my first flash back/ panic attack in four years.  Four Freaking Years. I could feel it coming before it even happened, and I realized I had about 5 seconds to…too late. Before I realized it, my brain had self destructed, with memories I thought I had laid to rest. To my furious surprise, the memories were awoken, like a starving bear, shaken awake mid-hibernation.

I looked at Daniel and fell apart. Crying and pushing him away, then pulling him close, then pushing him away. Between gasping for air and floods of hot tears streaming down my face, I could see his worry but I couldn’t help him. All I wanted to do was save him from me, and I couldn’t. 

I curled up in my bed, and tried to hold in the tears, failing miserably and wishing I was dead. Every emotion from the day of my flashback was now very much alive and present. I felt like the little 18 year old me again. Vulnerable, open, exposed.

It was as if my mind was a record player with cinematic abilities. I was forced to hear and feel everything that I didn’t want to ever hear or feel again. Daniel had faded into the background and honestly, I pretty much forgot he was in the room with me. I covered my eyes and cried.

Survival.

A few weeks prior, my friend suggested I see a counselor, soon after her husband suggested the same. Then my doctor suggested a psychologist. Maybe it’s fear, but as soon as I start looking for a therapist on my computer, my body shut down and tenses up. I’ve spent the last almost 7 years learning how to survive, how to not need ANY help from anybody. I am afraid to let anyone fully see me, heart fully exposed, resting on a table for all the world to see.

Breathe.

Through the darkness I heard Daniel whisper, “how can I help?”  I bit down on my lip hard, realizing that I didn’t know what I needed at all. I didn’t know what could help, I didn’t know what to say. So I cried. And when I was done crying, I began to breathe.

breathe in, breathe out. breathe in, breathe out.

Breathe. I know that’s what they tell you to do in “those” movies. You know the ones where someone is having a epic meltdown and everyone says “just breeeatthheee” and the panicking person looks like they want to stab everyone who keeps saying “just breaaatttheee.” But, it worked.

So, I sat and breathed with the ache and the pain that once more decided to rear it’s ugly head. I sat and breathed with in pain that chilled my bones and caused every bone, muscle, ligament and tendon to ache. Each breath went through me, leaving me feeling hollow, like the summer winds that sing through caves. Breathing ached. Breathing hurt. And in that moment, I felt more alone than I had in such a long time. But, I didn’t run.

I sat there, with the pain that knew me so well. I sat with the tears that I had desperately wanted to cry for years. And I sat with myself, who I’ve always hated more than any other being. All of the good, all of the bad. I breathed it all in, then I let it all go. 

Breathe In, Breathe Out…

Pretty Injuries

Here’s a whole fluster cuck of feelings but it’s honest.

I don’t have pretty injuries.

This might sound coarse and unkind but I genuinely don’t mean for it to be. But I don’t. I don’t have injuries that come in pretty packages and bows, like “my boyfriend of two weeks broke up with me” sort of injury. Or the “I broke my leg and gunna need a cast for 12 weeks” sort of injury. I don’t have any pretty injuries. The ones you can talk about without feeling too vulnerable and exposed. But I wish that I did.

Yesterday I had a flashback. And this specific one hasn’t happened for years. You can guess how surprised I was when I went from being happy and calm to one of my most epic meltdowns in a year. I’ll spare you the details of what I saw but not of what I felt. I felt it coming and I had about 5 seconds to recognize what was happening before everything went down hill. Thankfully my guy is kind and patient and understands but honestly it was like my brain reverted to 18 year old me and I didn’t even recognize myself. I wanted to throw up and I wanted to run.

I think the hardest part about trauma is the endless silence that comes with it. It’s not something you bring up over coffee, and it’s heart wrenching to want to just tell someone how you’re feeling when it’s a morbid topic of conversation. It also feels pretty awful when you finally thought you were ok, only to realize that you actually aren’t. Yesterday, for the first time in three years it happened again. And I don’t feel like myself, and I don’t recognize myself. I feel a little on edge and more than a little depressed.

These are the parts of me I’d love to be able to explain away. I’d love to not have anything to do with them and to be honest I’d be stoked if having my memory wiped was an option. But it’s not. It’s not a pretty injury. It’s not table conversation. It doesn’t have the advocacy the sexual harassment. It makes most people uncomfortable and it’s a lonely, invisible injury. And I don’t understand it and today I hate it and I have wished for more than one moment that I was anyone but me, anywhere but here, feeling anything but this.

Pretty Injuries