Posts Tagged ‘#AlwaysKeepFighting’

*This post is dedicated to my weekday Starbucks barista. She knows why.*

I love birthdays. LOVE them. In a few short days I’ll be turning the corner on another year alive and this positively thrills me. Growing up I would anxiously await my birthday, hoping no one forgot it (it’s happened more times than I care to admit) and maybe something good would happen to me and at least one part of life wouldn’t be disappointing. Alas, year after year I was disappointed and my hope broken. It wasn’t intentional, it was simply life at that time in our family. And each year I’d pick up my broken hope and tuck it away until the next birthday. Then things in and around me changed.

I grew up. Relationships changed. Where I lived changed. What I did changed. How I viewed the world changed. I stopped cutting and burning myself. I returned to my faith. I left an abusive relationship. I forgave those who’d done incredible wrongs to me. I started working to forgive myself. I began taking opportunities that scared me, stepping outside of my comfort zone, and all those other cliches we tend to roll our eyes at. And my perspective shifted. Life became fun and more scary and comforting and unnerving. Life opened up and I saw every dream I’d dared to dream move closer to reality. I used to dream and wish and hope to be a published writer, so one day I took a chance and submitted a piece to a website I was confident would turn me down. And they didn’t, they took me on and I wrote for them for two and a half years. And that time was exhilarating. I traveled around the country. I went to conferences as a credentialed member of the media. I broke a couple stories. I met some of the most compelling people in the country. I lived. And it felt good to live. It feels good to live.

One of my favorite people in the world told me shortly after we met how much she hated her birthday. HATED it. She’s been known to cry and hide from the world when her day comes around. I was crushed for her. Life is worth celebrating. Making it through 365 days of challenges and victories, heartache and love, fears and conquered mountains, failure and success is deserving of some kind of positive acknowledgement. To be alive and have a chance to make life better is a gift. This year I pushed her to celebrate for an entire month. Everyday I texted her a reminder to celebrate and love herself and be proud of her accomplishments. Everyday was a chance to celebrate how much better the world is because she’s in it- my world is better because she’s in it. She hardworking, driven, compassionate, caring, giving, loving, loyal, and considerate and she needed reminded of that. And for an entire month she celebrated how amazing she is.

So now I actively celebrate my birthday every year. I buy a pretty dress to wear no matter what my plans are for the day. I proudly declare my actual age (32, almost 33). I thank God for another chance to change, grow, love, become, live. I’m not proud to admit it, but it took two drug overdoses and someone trying to kill me to wake up to how amazing life is. And life is AMAZING. Life is a grand adventure waiting to be taken. Life is a spectacularly grand adventure waiting in anticipation for each of us to grab its hand and run, headlong into the unknown.

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Admitting where I’ve been this week is difficult. Explaining why is impossible. My life is full of good. I have a solid job with excellent benefits. I own a reliable, sensible car. My landlord is a gift from God. My church family is one of the greatest blessings in life to-date. I sing in the choir. I have family and friends and friends who are closer than family I love fiercely. My life is far from perfect, but there are some great things going on in it and it’s the life God has given me to embrace and live. Despite all the blessings, I struggle. Still. Again. Again. Again.

I don’t mean to upset or freak anyone out, but Friday after work I called the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. No, I’m not suicidal. No, I don’t want to give up on everything. No, I don’t want to die. Life has been emotionally rough. I had a gluten contamination early this week and it’s thrown me off. There have been several changes- big and small- in my life this summer and change is something I struggle with handling gracefully. I’ve been running non-stop for the past couple of months with nearly everyday booked. Some events have been wonderful and others completely draining, but nearly all of them have pushed me past a healthy point mentally. There has been no re-filling myself in between. And before there are suggestions of saying “No,” I struggle with using that word. I know I’m a people-pleaser. I know I over-extend myself until I break. I know I don’t reach out and ask for help before things are bad. These are flaws I need to work on.

Back to why I called the lifeline. August 14, 2015 will mark 10 years I haven’t cut or burned or clipped or bitten or scarred myself. It’s a big milestone and I’m fighting to reach it. When I begin to feel like I’m falling into The Abyss, I want to self harm. And the longer I go without dealing the more intense the desire gets.

As I’m typing this out- being vulnerable to I don’t want to think about how many people- my hands keep hovering over the keyboard, debating how and what to say next. How much do I reveal? How much do I expose myself? Will what I write scare the people I love? Will what I write alienate those I care about? Will what I write embarrass my family? This is a scary place.

This week I failed. If I’m honest, I won’t celebrate that 10 year milestone, because I caved. It’s probably going to sound completely trivial, but it’s still a failure. As I was driving home from work at some point in the week, I became intensely overwhelmed with, well with I don’t know. And I dug my nails into my arm. Dug until just before blood. I felt nothing- no pain, no relief. Nothing. I failed only to feel nothing. So I called the lifeline as a last-ditch effort to keep from completely giving in to the desire to rip my own flesh to shreds.

I love the people in my life. If one of them needs something, I will drop everything to go running to them. I do not expect the same in return. Not because they aren’t good friends or family, but because I know each of them is going through their own ups and downs and hardships and life milestones. They don’t need me at my worst demanding their attention, too. They don’t deserve the burden of dealing with the dark places in my head. I love them enough to not subject them to going through what I go through.

My friend Jedediah posted a quote of hers on Instagram:

“In a world full of fake and phony, I’m searching for the real. Real souls, real hearts, real faces, real bodies, real everything. Because you over there, with your scars and brokenness and imperfections, I think you’re kinda beautiful. -JB”

Now, I know she didn’t post that just for me, but it spoke to me. Some friends have expressed concern over the last few days about my social media absence and lack of response to messages, and I’ve been scared to tell them what’s going on. Again. Again. Again. Most of my scars are faded or covered by my HOPE tattoo, but they’re still there. They’re still connected to invisible scars in my mind that ache and sometimes come screaming to the forefront. And it’s embarrassing. And scary. And humiliating. And they prove how imperfect I am. They show where I’m still broken. And because of them I don’t feel beautiful.

But I’m still here. Still fighting. Again. Again. Again. Again.

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Below is an excerpt of a post I wrote shortly after actor and comedian, Robin Williams committed suicide:

Depression is a void. It’s an abyss. It’s a chasm. It’s a violent, invisible storm. It’s suffocation while breathing normally. It’s walking through life as a person and feeling invisible while simultaneously feeling like all eyes are on you, judging you. Depression is smiling and laughing and doing what’s expected of you while counting down until you can crawl back into bed because you were exhausted before you even crawled out of it that morning. Depression is living and, not just feeling but, KNOWING you’re dead already inside and yet still hurting so much you’re blinded by it.

Now for the hard part of writing all of this: I still struggle. I’ve been struggling the last couple of weeks. This past weekend I was at the grocery store. It was a routine trip, and I was in the office supply aisle to pick up Post-Its. Next to the Post-Its were X-Acto knives. If you’ve ever known- or been- a cutter or person who self harms, you know several implements may be used, but there’s always a preferred method and/or tool. My arm holds the scars of hundreds of cuts. It’s safe to say, in the course of the years, I inflicted well over 1,000 cuts, digs, gouges, and burns on my body. So as I stood there, looking at Post-Its, my eyes landed on the thin blades. Normally I avoid the section of a store these knives are kept, but I really did need the Post-Its. There I stood, staring at an art tool that, in my hands, is a means of self destruction, and I froze. Instantly I had a physical reaction. I felt the cold blade across my skin so real, I could taste metal. But there the package hung, a small bit of metal encased in plastic and cardboard. Completely benign yet my insides were turning savagely. Begging my hand to reach out. I didn’t stand there long. I couldn’t. I walked away, my palms sweaty and mouth dry but no blades in my cart. I didn’t feel victorious. I still don’t. Because I wanted that knife so viscerally, I felt shame and the darkness and pull became darker and stronger.

Talking about what goes on in my brain is difficult. When I say out loud what I’m feeling or thinking, it sounds silly. Trying to quantify wanting to be alone AND needing to be connected to someone who cares without sounding completely nutters drives me inward more often than not. No two people experience or cope with depression in the same way. And those who have never dealt with the darkness may never come to terms with not truly understanding what it’s all like. But if you struggle, reach out. If you know someone who is caught in a losing battle, talk to them. Talk about anything. Physically reach out and wrap your arms around someone. We don’t have to understand why or what or how a person is dealing or not dealing, just being present- really present- can save a life. If you’re unsure of what to do, how to help, or where to get help, check out the Suicide Prevention Lifeline for resources. And for heaven’s sake don’t go all holier-than-thou on a person who’s contemplating suicide or self harm. Love them, hold them, talk to them, smile at them, give them a flower or pack of gum or one of those Cokes that has their name on it. Just don’t go all judge-y or preach-y on them. Trust me, they’ve been preaching to and judging themselves harsher and longer than you ever could.

It was a vulnerable moment for me, admitting the struggle and attempting to put words the jumble of everything going on inwardly. Some days are easy. Some days are impossible. Most days I don’t want anyone to know how dark or how often it gets dark in my head- they don’t need that burden and I don’t like being that exposed.

My sister, Sarah (the one in the ponytail), has dealt with her own dark places her whole life. Some of our dark places are from the same events, some aren’t. We’ve fought being close over the years because of the commonness in why we struggle, but we’re finally in a place to see and appreciate who each of us is, and embrace each other- flaws and dark places included. Our fight isn’t identical. How we fight and why we fight are vastly different. But we fight and recognize the spirit in each other to keep going. She’s the one who bought us the matching shirts designed by actor, Jared Padalecki to help raise money for TWLOHA (To Write Love On Her Arms). If you aren’t familiar with the organization, please spend a few minutes checking out their website. I’m grateful for people like Padalecki who are using their fame to help those who, many times not just feel but, are invisible to the world.

The top photograph of Sarah and me was taken when I picked up my shirt from her. Her boyfriend, Doug, was taking our picture and we kept shifting for the best angle. “Strong arms cuz we’re fighting!” I directed. We made our strong arms and then burst into laughter. Doug captured that moment of naked glee. Sarah kept trying (unsuccessfully) to point out a flaw she saw in herself in that moment. I don’t see it; I choose not to. I see two sisters. I see two sisters who love each other. I see survivors of unspeakable horror. I see two vibrant rays of light. I see two scarred, but beautiful women. I see two fighters.

Always keep fighting.

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