Dear Daniel

Dear Daniel.

I wish I could express to you clearly…

I wish I had the words. My life is brighter because of you. My heart is fuller because of you. My hope is greater because of you. My confidence has grown because of you. The way you smile Daniel lights up a whole room. The way you are so animated is like watching a show that I just can’t turn off. Your eyes light up and get crinkles around the corners when you’re really happy. You’re hands may be rough but I feel so so safe inside of them.

The way you kiss my cheek, my forehead is the same way you kiss my lips, like I am the most precious, valuable, beautiful girl, something i have never felt in my life. The way you cup my face when we are snuggling, makes me close my eyes, and I genuinely feel like nothing can get better than that moment.

You have opened your heart to me, let me in to see all the corridors of your heart. You let me brush off the cobwebs that hang on the ceiling rafters, even though sometimes it hurts, because you’ve understood the value of connection and intimacy, over the value of hiding in shame.

You gently ease your way into my heart, goofy laugh and bright eyes, weakening my defenses and every lie I’ve believed to push people away. You stay. You don’t quit. You don’t leave. You are resilience in its purest form that I have ever seen. You are happiness even when you’re a grouchy grandpa. You’ve grown in humility and taken a dagger to your pride and selfish ambition, to love both yourself and I better. You make me want to know the depths of God in a way that I’ve been struggling to see my entire life.

You make life so happy. You are the surprise that I never saw coming. You are the song that I didn’t know the words to until it began. You are the whisper on the wind that entices me into the quiet autumn days that i love so much. You are the heat of the sun that causes my skin to glow. You are the heartbeat, pounding in my ears, you are the you are colors that I refuse to wear but can’t stop staring at, taken by their beauty.

You are what I never thought would happen. You are everything and more. You are my love. And I am honoured to have everyday, today, tomorrow and forever by your side. I no longer wait for a moment to arrive. My everyday life is that moment that I never thought would come. You are my best friend. And you are the greatest gift that has ever been given to me. I love you.

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Dear Daniel

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

When I Tell The Truth, I Find The Truth

Over the weekend, I told my mom that I hope I die before she and my dad do, because I’m not sure I can handle anything else going to hell in my life. I said it calmly and nonchalantly, and she didn’t say much but nodded and knew I wasn’t going to do anything stupid. But doing something stupid and thinking something stupid are two, very different things. 

Before I digress…

I second guess everything I write because I’m all like, eeek no, don’t want my Christian friends to think differently of me, because honestly, that’s what a lot of Christians do. I would say people in general, but non Christians are seemingly a million times more empathetic than Christians, and the only thing that they seem to lack is the tangible hope at the end of grief. But I don’t careeeee. Because I’m a writer and words are my thing, so I’m not going to mince words for comfort sake. If you don’t like to be mildly uncomfortable, I completely understand and strongly suggest you click back on to Amazon or Facebook and exit out of  this, because here goes. 

I digress…

For the last few months, if not this whole year, I haven woken up and started my day wondering if that day would be the day that I will finally die. Honestly hoping and crossing my fingers. I told my mom this too. See, I’ve never been a dreamer, and I’m scared of failure- so by the time I turned 18 I was hoping I’d be dead by 22-23. But, here I am, at 25. See, generally I’m pretty clear headed, but in 2012 I found myself on a suicidal rampage, have straight up demonic hallucinations, seeing my death in front of me as if it was actually happening, and doing many things including but not limited to: cutting up and down, not sideways, eating a ton then purging hard, taking steak knives and pressing them as far into my stomach as I could handle, and taking handfuls of my depression and anxiety meds at a time, hoping I would die. But here I am, at 25. A lot of this spiraled from getting raped, something people didn’t talk about then. I was feeling too violated to tell anyone, so I kept it pretty quiet. This led me down a winding road of PTSD. Another not so awesome thing that people don’t really talk about. 

Fast forward, it’s 2017. And PTSD is that SOB that came back with a vengeance following some pretty jacked up events from last year. But I didn’t know it. Again, I was hiding grief and shoving it down in to a well so deep that even an echo couldn’t reach it. Except an echo did reach it. Somewhere between January when I created my vision board of hope for the year, and March, PTSD snuck back in for the first time in about 3 years. And it was a quiet but powerful storm. It started with anxiety, which I always had, but it came in pretty violently- in the car, in social situations, pretty much nonstop. I was becoming super sensitive, more than usual because I was grieving but didn’t want to tell anyone because of shame. Then came agitation, isolation, and finally insomnia that’s been paired with crying myself to sleep often. I’ve brushed it off the past few months, thinking that maybe living in community was just overwhelming me. I didn’t want to talk about it- so I just kept going. 

And then, in the beginning of September of this year, I started getting sick. Throwing up day after day, not with cold symptoms, just throwing up. Then came vertigo, migraines, and nightmares. These episodes happen maybe 3 or so times a week and would crush me. So I got a gym membership. Like cool, let’s get healthy because you’re gross. Now, a few months before this, I had a girl run up to me in church and poke me in my arm. No big deal, right? Except I was in excruciating pain. It hurt more than I was expecting and honestly I think I mugged the hell out of the girl because I didn’t understand why she poked me so hard. That became my norm. My skin hurt so much. So the gym just added more pain to what was already hurting. Then, a few weeks ago, the sweet Mom who lives upstairs was coming down the stairs and I didn’t hear her and I freaked out so hard and screamed at her, my heart was racing and I almost cried from fear.  Just ask her, it was honestly funny and embarrassing, an hour or so later. That fear, the jumpiness, hasn’t happened to me  in years. Then finally insomnia, and my intense fear of being attacked at night, which brings me to writing this post at 4am because even my sleep aids don’t work anymore. 

I don’t want to say what happened last year. And when I have bad days and someone asks me how I am, I usually say there’s something going on with my family or I have to work, anything to get me out of talking. But something did happen and I’ve been stuck in this wind tunnel of shame and regret and grief. To scared to speak, regretting everything, and grieving the pain that I felt on a much more visceral level than I have in my entire life. I’m in pain and I’ve hidden it pretty well. But it’s creeping into my everyday life, and that’s harder to hide. But I’m not suicidal. I mean I think about it often, but I don’t have any plans. But I do wish either: A) Jesus comes back soon, like today, or B) I die peacefully…or painfully- either way is fine as long as it happens. Because I’m exhausted. I think about it often and it’s not that I’ve lost hope, but I’m tired. I’m anxiously awaiting for the day when faith is turned to sight, every tear will be wiped from our eyes, and all that is wrong will be made right. Ugh. And I guess maybe I’m too young to be this tired, but I grew up too fast and I’m a 25 year old with the life experiences of a 50 year old and I’m already done with it all. I’m ready. And I sit in this tension of being surrounded by Christians who say now but not yet, and I haven’t seen the now or the not yet and I question if either exist. And on the other side I hear Christians who condemn me in my brokenness yet worship church leaders who are just as broken but look better in their brokenness because they have a platform. 

And understand, this isn’t a shaking my fist at God in pissiness because He’s not doing things “my way.” Not at all- because in the midst of the mental, emotional, and physical trauma, I’ve found myself in a basement apartment with a beautiful family that feels more and more like home everyday. And sometimes I’m too scared to say my grief for fear of sounding ungrateful, because I am grateful beyond words. But I’m also broken. And if this grief requires repentance then God, lead me to it. And if this grief is part of the journey, then God bring me through it. But my small human brain is painfully aware of how much I, and many other grieving Christians, don’t understand. I’m handed ideas by many, many people, who think they have answers, but the evidence of that answer would be fruit. And it’s ok for people not to know, there is no expectation on my end that anyone would know. Now we see in part, then we will fully know. But that doesn’t remove the ache that comes with the experiences that have unresolved grief.  

So here’s the ugly truth, though there’s so much more I could say, but I’m just not ready to go there yet. I’m not quitting, I’m not tapping out. I’m not running back to the sin and self destruction of years past just because I’m hurting. But I’m broken and aware of it, maybe more than I ever have been in my short, but long life. And at the end of the day, despite my feelings and questions, I will wait for Him whom my soul loves, even though I don’t understand. I will sing truth until I believe it, I will read truth until I see it, and I will breath in truth until I become it and it inhabits every crack and crevasse of this broken heart. 

When I Tell The Truth, I Find The Truth

Waiting Out The Storm

It’s been a quiet summer on the writing front, as if all of my creative juices sputtered out to a halt like a car emptied of gas on the side of the road, and they are only now just picking up. Summer is over and fall is almost here; the time of year where everything inside of me comes alive. It’s been and interesting summer; processing grief, loneliness, changes, and hope deferred, whilst at the same time, entering new seasons, Heavens supply being multiplied in my life, a home found, and new friendships being made.

It’s interesting processing joy along side of sadness. I’ve always felt this impossible weight to try to be ok, and wanting to “count it all joy.” But instead of that, it became an uphill struggle, fighting for joy and peace, finding no joy in the process and shaking my head at God, sure that he had lost his frickin mind. Joy has never come easily for me, nor has optimism.

I’m finding myself in this place in my life where I don’t hide my face from grief, I don’t cover it up, I don’t pretend that it’s not there, but I also am learning to not let it consume me whilst I wait for breakthrough. It’s funny, in churches people want to pray things away, and if those things are not removed then you are either a) living in sin, or b) not in faith for healing therefore you will never be healed till your heart changes. But what if neither of the above are true? What if you are pressing in, not giving up, setting your sights higher and still not seeing a breakthrough- Then what?

I remember my first taste of depression and anxiety when I was in third grade. I didn’t know then, but it has been a battle I have faced for the majority of my life. And for a time, a lot of it was intensified because I didn’t know how to let go of pain. I clasped on to it and all of it’s lies, letting heartache define me rather than teach me. Now, I’m not sure why it lingers. I’ve been prayed for, had hands laid on me for deliverance, oil put on me, chastised, condemned, and corrected.

But it’s wild, because in the midst of it all, while people are giving me their solutions for how to fix my heart problems, God Fathers me through it all. Through my anger and unbelief towards him, through my frustration with Christians not loving, just yelling. Through my tear filled nights where I feel like every breath has been knocked out of me and I could very well die. I know the bible says that Jesus is acquainted with our grief, and for some reason that doesn’t really permeate my brain and it doesn’t comfort me. But what does comfort me is the fact that He holds me through it all. even when I don’t want help and I don’t want to be held.

I’ve received so many solutions from people, and have asked God for grace and humility to receive and be taught by them. But what I haven’t received, outside of Jesus, is someone who doesn’t get tired of me walking through this. He doesn’t give up, he doesn’t quit. He doesn’t leave when I get pissed and want to end my life. He fathers me through it. I long for answers, and more than that I long for healing and freedom. But moreover, I’m grateful that while it has not arrived yet, Jesus is still teaching, leading, and loving me through it all. And that has meant more than any possible solution that has been brought to me.

“Cheer up, don’t be afraid. For the Lord your God has arrived to live among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will give you victory. He will rejoice over you with great gladness; he will love you and not accuse you.” Is that a joyous choir I hear? No, it is the Lord himself exulting over you in happy song. “I have gathered your wounded and taken away your reproach. And I will deal severely with all who have oppressed you. I will save the weak and helpless ones, and bring together those who were chased away. I will give glory to my former exiles, mocked and shamed.” Zephaniah 3:16-18

Waiting Out The Storm

Mercy

For a few months now I’ve been on a journey to discover what Mercy really means. Bethel came out with a song called Mercy and I definitely sang it like I meant it for a while, but I realised I had no clue what it meant and it left a bitter taste in my mouth singing a song that I didn’t understand.

Last night I was at a worship night at a friends farm. Afterwards guy came up to me and started talking to me. Over the next hour and half he went over multiple topics, from sin to the cross. He then talked about healing and freedom. He talked about so many topics that my brain was kind of spinning and I was fluctuating from freedom to condemnation to joy to confusion to conviction. I didn’t know where my heart would land as I tried to take in all that he was saying.

On the drive home I turned on some worship music and the introvert in me pulled into my brain as I began to process all that was said. Mercy came to mind, and the way he so passionately spoke about mercy hit me like a ton of bricks. Mercy. A word that made me so angry with judgement and despair. Suddenly a reel of footage went through my brain and I saw all of the bad things that had happened to me. The things that had broken me. And I was filled with disappointment and grief and judgement. I was so so angry about all the things that have happened. Then a reel of an event that happened just a week ago came through my brain.

It was the snowday, and a lot of my friends came over to my house to get snowed in together and eat food and watch movies. There was wine a champagne and it was fun until something went south. I said something that unbeknownst to me hurt someone else. Out of hurt they spoke back and out of confusion I came back at them harder- and it was off. Back and forth we went, but I didn’t realize or care how hard I was going. Finally, she said something and I rolled my eyes and stayed quiet. After a few seconds I realized how hard I was and I was disgusted at myself. My anger quickly fizzling into despair as I stumbled over my words, trying to process what just happened, quickly apologizing for fault though it was a commotion in the house and nothing I said at this point could be heard. I withdrew into myself, angry at what I had said, mad that I had one drink too many and my words which could have been kind simply became a poison. In that moment I hated myself. Even though the person was wrong it didn’t make my response ok. Soon after I hid into my room, tipsy and tired, I took a few sleeping meds and cried because I felt guilty and ashamed. But crying didn’t help, and the sleep meds hadn’t kicked in yet. So i grabbed a blade and self harmed, something I haven’t done in such a long time. The next day I woke up realising how badly i cut and was upset, wanting to hide in my room for the rest of the day.

Mercy.

The word brought me back from the memory, which made me sick. Though shame could have consumed me, it didn’t. Instead mercy did. In that moment and in this moment as I write, I realized that for the first time I encountered the mercy of God, and it took my breath away. I have been unable to fathom mercy because I failed to receive, so there was no way in hell I could I could give it to anyone. As I began to realize moments in my life where I had failed to show people mercy, this one moment, ingrained in my mind was monumental to my understanding of mercy.

This word, mercy, that I still don’t understand has the ability to bring the more freedom to my life than I’ve ever seen. It’s incredible that a God who is Holy and Righteous and Just would grant mercy to me. I realized the judgement seat is a large one, made for One who lives and reigns in perfect judgement. And that is not a seat I long for- though it has been for a long time. The seat I crave, with the dull understanding that I have of it, is the seat of mercy. For the first time in my life, I crave the seat of mercy. I am humbled by the movement and breath of righteousness. I am in awe of Holiness that I am yet to walk in. I am amazed by a love that as far as the east is from the west, He has removed my transgressions from me. I am taken aback that His mercy will never run out on me.

 

“You delight in showing mercy, and mercy triumphs over judgement,

oh Love, Great Love, fear cannot be found in You..

and there will never be a day, where You’re uncertain of the ones You choose.” 

 

“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:12-13

Mercy