Archive for the Life Category

The edge of insanity

“Very few people could stay sane in your home. You are not a failure.”

Drews, Toby Rice (2011-03-30). “Getting Them Sober, volume one — You CAN help!” (“Getting Them Sober” Book 1) (Kindle Location 1445). Recovery Communications, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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“I was standing on the precipice. Something had to give or else I was going to have to numb more often.” I was standing in a friend’s kitchen when I had that epiphany. Granted she had said something that flipped the switch so that light could come on. But at that moment, I realized just how close I came to losing it – completely.

Truth is, I had already lost it. It just hadn’t become apparent to anyone else. My bubble of control of my carefully crafted public persona had burst and I couldn’t get it back together. It’s probably safe to say that bubble was cracked and extremely fragile from the get-go. Lord knows I was sick before I ever took that first drink.

Lately I’ve been pondering why. Why when I hit that wall and fell apart did I reach out for help instead of turning to my old standby of numbing and escaping? I mean, I did, but not what I would have done had I not sought out therapy and group support. Why was I able to get that honest with my doctor?

I think back a few years to a periodic reinvestigation I went through for work. It was by far the worst one I’ve gone through. It occurred to me during that process just how isolated I was. I didn’t look at it that way exactly. I just looked at it as a red flag that I didn’t have any kind of a social life outside of work. And since I had been considering going back to church anyway, I decided that going to church would keep me from looking so isolated. Because I had an appearance to maintain. We found a church we liked, and I was able to make enough friends that I could list a few for my next reinvestigation and wouldn’t look like such a loner.

I always laugh when I think about that one. I listed Petra as a reference, and then I turned around and told her my junk. Of course at that point in time, I didn’t dare tell her everything, but a lot. I hadn’t set out to make “real” friends. My goal was my typical not-too-deep friends. (Which I differentiate from shallow.) Molly and Karyn got all up in that inner circle too. Actually, Molly is the root of that whole circle. She is the one who wouldn’t let me sit quietly on the sidelines observing. This might seem like I am digressing, but those ladies, Sarah, and Jessica (whom I don’t know quite as well as the others) played a key role in the beginning of my journey back to sanity.

Although I still had to hit bottom.

But it became real easy to get real with Petra and Karyn. Not surface-level, but “Hey guys, here’s my junk! I’m depressed and my marriage is a wreck!” I couldn’t train for 2 half marathons with Karyn and not end up in some deep conversation. I still say it was all Molly’s doing. She “forced” me to help set up for VBS with Petra and Brittany. Heck, she somehow managed to talk me into being the music leader for that VBS. She got me running by talking me into joining a newly formed local running club. She wouldn’t have asked me to lead the music if I hadn’t managed to become one of the worship leaders on Sundays. That wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t joined the worship team due to an intense prodding in my gut. The girl who quit the youth choir in high school because she wasn’t going to do a solo ending up leading worship? That’s doesn’t compute.

None of it computes.

I was just thinking the other day about how several people I know who grew up in similar legalistic Baptist environments as I, and walked away wanting nothing to do with Christianity. Sure, I walked away, too, but I always felt called back.

I’ve been through a lot of doubt and blaming God, and the doubts and blame have always boiled down to wrong beliefs about His character based on wrong teaching. I’m even no longer willing to go so far as to call it false teaching because I am less inclined to attribute malicious intent and instead give the benefit of the doubt that it’s just lack of discernment because we naturally expect our pastors and teachers to be humbly teaching us truth.

So why was I drawn back? Why didn’t I lose faith and hope? Why, when my carefully constructed and controlled world fell apart, did I not give up, give in, and self-medicate myself into oblivion?

Grace.

Grace blows my mind. There is no reason whatsoever I should have been delivered from my self-destructive attitude and behaviors. Nothing I did to deserve deliverance.

Just grace.

Laws do no transform hearts. Legalism doesn’t provide any protection from temptation. Rules don’t heal broken hearts nor do they sooth deep crushing pain.

Oh, but grace.

Grace will turn a heart of stone into living flesh. Grace will turn self-centeredness into love – genuine love – for “the least of these,” and not because of what the “least” can give them.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

And grace will restore you to sanity even when you are sure you have passed the point of no return.

No magic formulas

When I have a problem, I want a simple, clear-cut solution. I want it fixed, and I want a simple plan to do so. I also want immediate results, but that’s another matter.

Being the self-sufficient perfectionist I am, I am all about some self-help. Ah, yes, give me a blog post with 3-10 steps on how to fix what’s wrong. Give me a book that explains the real reason that whatever it is is broken, along with the steps I need to take to fix them. Oh, it’s a Christian blog or book? Score! It’s gonna do the trick!

That is, as long as I believe that God moves according to the works I do or behaviors I do not do. Which is to say, I have to do certain things and avoid other things in order to earn God’s favor.

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What I found from the vast majority of the Christian “self-help” books is that they are largely written as prescriptive when they are actually experiential. They also tend to be upper-middle class, suburbanites who have “traditional households” where the husband works as the breadwinner, and the wife is a stay-at-home mom. Sure, the wife might write and speak at conferences, but the entire family dynamic is still “traditional.” (And I’m not saying nor wish to imply that there is anything wrong with the “traditional” family model.)

I fully believed that if I did the things in those books, that things would get better. Our marriage would be better. Our finances would be better. Our kids would be model students. Yet, the harder I worked, the worse things got. “I’m doing all the right things! Why isn’t this working?!”

The number one reason following the directions/suggestions in those books and blogs doesn’t work is this:

All that crap falls apart when active alcoholism, drug addiction, and/or abuse are involved.

And that’s when you are left with “you reap what you sow.”

You made the choice to take that first drink.

You made the choice to marry an alcoholic/addict.

“Submit to your husband and pray for him.”

Guess what? That doesn’t necessarily work. Especially if you both came from dysfunctional families and neither of you have dealt with those issues. Though you absolutely should be praying for him, and he for you.

I want to make perfectly clear that I am not saying the typical Christian self-help book is not useful or helpful. Like any other type of non-fiction, some are great, some are fluff, and some just stink to high heaven. Often even the fluff has really good nuggets.

What I am saying is that there is no quick-fix, easy step-by-step method – Christian or otherwise – that is a magic formula for fixing a marriage or getting out of debt or beating an addiction. There is no “Do this and everything is going to turn out great just the way you want it” system that can guarantee you are going to get what you want (or more honestly, what you think you want).

A marriage doesn’t get fixed by one spouse doing all of (or even most of) the work.

You don’t get out of debt by subscribing to a get-rich-quick scheme, and this includes the “magic tithe.” (Malachi 3:10)

Repercussions from abuse do not go away by submitting to the abuse nor by forgiving (voluntarily and certainly not coercively) the abuser.

Children raised in a dysfunctional home are not necessarily going to be model students no matter how intelligent they are.

Life is hard and takes a lot of work. Don’t let anyone sell you an easy path to happiness. There isn’t one, and this is particularly true for followers of Jesus. Odd are, when things get particularly rough, you will find yourself screaming at God, “I did all the right things! Why am I the one being punished?!?!” And you know what? He won’t strike you down. But in that moment, you will be left with a choice.

“Do I really believe?”

My answer to that question became the guide to how I look at my circumstances. Because ultimately that determines whether I will be grateful for what I have, or bitter at what I don’t have.

It is always possible to be thankful for what is given rather than resentful over what is withheld–one attitude or the other becomes a way of life. – Elisabeth Elliot

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV

What I read this week – 1/22/16

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I do a lot of reading, and when an article resonates with me or is interesting (or funny or weird), I will post it to Facebook. I posted an article recently in a private group along with a plain statement about who the article reminded me of. One of the members thought I had posted that comment on my personal wall, which would have been a bold move, but a jerk move. And that’s when she called me out for how I post articles clearly (from our perspective) directed at certain groups passive aggressively. #truth Anyway, same person made the statement that she sees articles I post and makes a mental note to read them later, but then doesn’t. So I offered to send her an email compilation. Instead, I’m going to do a blog post so that I am actually posting. And perhaps adding some commentary.

10 Things That Scare Me About the “Purity” Culture

The “Purity” Culture came along after I was a teen, so I missed out on the purity rings and dating my dad stuff. Which, I didn’t want to go anywhere with my dad anyway. However, I was still taught much of the legalism behind the Purity Culture, and bore the weight of not measuring up alone and also got some added shame piled on me from not being “good” enough.

Sheila also wrote a great follow up to that one:

A Letter To All Those Who Feel They Have Lost Their Purity

Why You Should Tell Your Story, Even if It’s Messy

I have learned in the last few years that while my story is unique, it’s also not. There are loads of people who have gone through similar things and are struggling with similar stuff, and we need to know that we are not alone and someone else understands. Which isn’t to say that I’m not freaking out a little bit about speaking this weekend and telling my story. Even though I’ve done it before.

because this is the year you’re facing your demons & fears

“Have you ever had to face a monster? What did it look like? Where was it lurking when you found it? What did it take to face it without getting taken under?” I am actually in the process of facing a “monster” that’s been with me my whole life.

To You who Shames Yourself

I think those of us who grew up in an abusive environment are especially susceptible to self-shaming. Part of my “monster.”

What Have I to Fear

Petra and I had a really good discussion over this one even though she didn’t read the article. But I quoted the money quote with the article, so she got the gist of it. And I made this comment: “You know this is my “passive-aggressive” means of calling out all my uber-conservative christian fb friends who think the sun rises and sets on Franklin Graham and Fox News quoting 2 Chronicles 7:14 as if it’s even applicable because they have their flags so tightly wrapped around their bibles they can’t see that they really worship at the alter of American prosperity rather than following Jesus and enduring the suffering that he told us would come with truly following him.” And that was when she told me to drop my shoulders and breathe. Haha!

You’re All One Team

Good stuff from Joseph. I don’t care where you are working, or whether it’s volunteer or paid, when your teams are not working together, it hurts everybody.

Biblical Womanhood … Not What Many Think (RJS)

I’ve had to say this before, and I will say it again. I am not a “man-hating feminist.” I don’t believe that women AS A WHOLE should rule. But, neither do I believe exclusive male-rule is what God planned for mankind. I believe patriarchy is a result of the fall and male headship is part of the curse. Men and women are each uniquely gifted, but not according to gender. Men and women were created to lead together. To have dominion over the earth together. To have one gender asserting complete control over the other will always end up resulting in oppression, abuse, and blame shifting.

Rather than end on a contentious note, I will share a bit of a conversation I had with Petra yesterday via FB messenger. The whole thing was made funnier by the fact that I didn’t have my glasses with me at the start of it and couldn’t read it properly on my phone. But she told me that we should have gone to Fayetteville last night to see Peter Cetera. Not that she was really up for it, but I have my own reasons not to go to, well, most concerts.

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2015 – Year in review – sort of

2015 was the year my world finally finished falling apart.

I don’t remember many of the details of the exchange between my daughter and I last summer. I remember saying something that ended with “my world is falling apart.” To which she replied, “It’s not falling apart; it’s just changing.” To which I replied, “Yeah, well, I guess I don’t deal well with change.” And that’s when she said, “Yeah, that’s the autism,” and the conversation ended.

Stolen from the friend who originally posted on Facebook.

Stolen from the friend who originally posted it on Facebook.

So much changed that I found myself several times last year asking myself, “Who even are you?” Really though, I’m the same person I’ve always been, but I’m just a little bit less scared. I really noticed it that day I stepped up and volunteered to sing at church in my friend’s place when she had to step down last minute. The DragonLady doesn’t volunteer for stuff, and she certainly doesn’t volunteer for big stuff. But I also got called out for being passive aggressive right at the end of the year, so, you know, baby steps.

Also, my son finally talked me into playing WoW. Gaming is such a time suck. *sigh*

Anyway, I know it’s the 2nd day of 2016, and I’m just now posting my year end review. Because I really don’t like them, but whatevs. Here’s my 10 most popular posts of 2015 according to one of my tracking accounts that doesn’t capture every visit. Because Google Analytics overwhelmed me. haha!

10. Raise Your Hands

This one is 2 years old, and I’m sure it’s still getting hits because of Bon Jovi. As a brief follow-up, I’m much less uncomfortable raising my hands while singing now.

9. When I realized my greatest loss

8. “and he will rule over you”

Oh, yeah. I dropped my shaky adherence to complimentarianism.

7. Triggering Onions

There was a LOT of onion peeling that went on.

6. “…and the wind won’t stop.”

“That’s my soul up there.” Oh, the pain. And it’s gotten much better. Until the next weather system moves in.

5. Real Freedom

4. Dumping the junk

This is all well and good until I find myself having to do another 4th & 5th step. ;)

3. “The needs of the many…”

Blech. But I referenced Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

2. #medicatedandmighty – It’s complicated

Erin is a new friend, and I’m so glad I got to meet her before she got all famous. Ha! Seriously, she is such an inspiration. A Wonder Woman.

1. The pain of letting go

This. Still. Hurts. Funny how my most popular post is the one where I announce I kicked my husband out. Not haha funny. But, he called me yesterday, and we talked for over an hour. And it was a good talk. And then I cried for a couple of minutes until my daughter came out of her room yelling, “ARE YOU FINALLY OFF THE PHONE?!?”

So, yeah, happy new year!

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When Christmas isn’t so merry

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How does one get through the holidays with so much broken in the world?

What about the military members who are spending the holiday season in inhospitable parts of the world rather than with their families? What about their families who acutely feel their absence?

What about the prisoner? And his or her family?

What about the elderly in the nursing homes?

What about the disabled in group care homes?

What about the fathers who will not be spending Christmas with their children because of separation or divorce?

What about the mothers who will not be spending Christmas with their children because of separation or divorce?

What about the children who can’t be with both of their parents at the same time because of separation or divorce?

What about the parents who can’t afford to buy their kids the gifts they want for Christmas?

What about the parents who can’t even afford to feed their children?

What about the families that will be together, but the holidays will be miserable because of addiction or alcoholism or straight up abuse?

What about the families who lost love ones during this or past holiday season who are dealing with the 1st or 3rd or 14th Christmas without?

What do you do with broken people at Christmas?

What do you do when you can’t fix what’s broken?

What do you do with the broken-hearted?

What do you do with your own broken heart?

How do you make a difference?

There is so much pain and suffering in so many people’s lives right now. Broken people who cannot be fixed by slogans and cliche. People who need more than a trite saying or Bible verse no matter how much truth is in it. It’s in these times of pain that we need our pain acknowledged as being real and complicated, and that someone is there with us. Not to try and fix us. Not to tell us we made our own bed even if our pain is due to our own making.

We need someone there to remind us that we are not alone in those dark moments where we feel utterly alone. Even if it is to just sit with us silently while we weep.

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In the mud

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When I was in Kindergarten, I remember one day standing on the sidewalk, and it had been raining. Someone ran up to me right in front of me kind of in my face, and it surprised me so much that I stumbled back, and fell off the sidewalk onto my butt right in a puddle. I got significantly wet enough that a change of clothes was required.

When I got home wearing different clothes and carrying the ones I had worn to school in a bag, my dad questioned me as to what happened. I told him, and then proceeded to get a dressing down for falling down.

Naturally I fell into that puddle on purpose.

Because I was berated for falling, I began to develop a fear of accidents. That fear was reinforced over and over again throughout my childhood because I had a lot of accidents. You know, like kids do. The constant fear, however, led to a compulsive need to control my environment in order to prevent accidents and extraordinary efforts to cover up any that happened in spite of all of my careful prevention.

A life lived in constant fear is not a life lived well.

A life lived trying to anticipate what ifs is a life devoid of peace.

Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free. The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:5-6 ESV)

As a child, I lived in constant fear that was reinforced by an emotionally and mentally unsafe environment. I was always on guard because I never knew when an attack was coming nor what might precipitate one. Thus I became unwittingly and unwillingly addicted to excitement and therefore sought out ways to feed that need my body had for adrenaline.

Fear-based perpetual outrage.

Our news media makes huge profits off our need to feed our fear and anger. Social media provides us the means to instantly share and thereby stoke the anger and fears of our hundreds of friends and followers. We square off into our various tribes demonizing and dehumanizing whoever doesn’t agree with us. Because, after all, we are the enlightened ones and are therefore better than them. So we seek out more like us, and more information to back up our beliefs.

We are obsessed with being right instead of desiring to be at peace with and/or understand our neighbors.

We have convinced ourselves that we must be in absolute control of the world around us so that we can feel safe.

All the while the media profits from turning left and right against one another – brother against brother, sister against sister. So divided are we that we are losing cohesion and ultimately destroying the security we crave.

And while we are trying to control our surroundings to keep from falling in the mud, we fail to realize we are flailing around in the puddle that we fell in a long time ago.

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Onions and old wounds

“I’m so afraid of the way I feel.” – Lindsey Buckingham

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Some days are rough. When they string together into a season, it really sucks. Some days I just want to stop feeling. Except I don’t. Lord knows I’ve done enough numbing.

I know that healing is painful, and slow. I know that sometimes you have to push yourself through the pain because that is part of the healing process too. Like when I had my appendix taken out. I was sick as a dog for a week prior to the surgery. I mean, it ruptured, so, yeah. I was BAD sick by the time I had emergency surgery. It is a miracle that I wasn’t sicker. I was exhausted, hungry, and sore after the surgery. I didn’t want to do a thing except lay there drugged up wishing someone would leave a donut close enough for me to reach even though I wasn’t allowed to eat. But my mom made the nurses make me get up out of bed and walk no matter how much I complained about the pain. Not because she wanted me to hurt, but because that was just part of the healing process – getting up and moving forward.

Once upon a time, I broke my wrist. I was in 5th or 6th grade. It was a playground accident, and it was a complete accident. I would even go so far as to call it a freak accident on a seesaw. I told no one because I knew that if my dad caught wind, I would be held solely responsible for both cause and effect. Obviously it wasn’t a bad break, but I found it really hard to get through basketball practice with minimal use of my left hand. The physical pain was mild compared to the emotional pain I expected to receive. It’s probably why I have such a high tolerance for physical pain now.

Hiding an injury from a parent out of fear of punishment for getting hurt in an accident is not normal.

The kids and I were heading home from the dentist last week, and I had some road rage going on. Big surprise to anyone who’s ever had to ride in the car with me. Anyway, Jamie says, “I don’t think I have ever experienced road rage.” I said, “Good. I hope you don’t.” After a bit more discussion she said, “Well, it is a lot easier to be mad and yell at someone when you aren’t face to face with them.” Could it be that a childhood of helplessness and unresolved anger is behind my road rage?

I had to get the pimp car fixed last week. It was something I didn’t think I could fix, but the tow truck driver was confident I could have done it myself. Anyway, after fixing the harmonic balancer (fancy name for crankshaft pulley), they recommended an oil change (it was really low), and coolant flush (coolant was really dirty). I declined having them do it because 1) I already had the oil and filter purchased to change the oil, 2) I’ve flushed coolant before and can do it myself, and 3) I look for any ways I can to save some cash. Well #2 was a huge mistake. I managed to break the petcock. Not so bad that I can’t work around it, and it still works, but still. It was frustrating and I bitched to Petra who proceeded to tell me that I don’t have to do everything myself even though I am capable because I don’t have anything to prove. Um, yes, I do. It’s irrational and insane, but yes, it is almost a compulsive need to prove that I am capable of doing it all and am not “stupid” and “irresponsible.”

I’ve reached a point where I have gained back all the weight I had lost and now need to either lose some weight or buy bigger clothes. I am opting for the former. I went to the doctor Monday because I had some paperwork for him to fill out for my insurance, and I needed a couple of prescriptions redone. Especially when the nurse reminded me I have asthma and I looked at my inhaler that expired over a year ago. My doc told me not to beat myself up over the weight gain as it is a normal reaction (physically and mentally) to what has gone on over the past few months. And now I can rein myself back in and “eat an apple and go for a walk” instead of binging on carbs and sugar.

4 years ago, he suggested a 30 day no-starch diet to break my addiction to carbs. Of course, I was also running regularly then too. So I decided to put myself back on a healthy diet high in vegetables and fruits. And running when the weather is nice enough. Twice in the past week I have gotten a bunch of veggies to roast. (Fiber is my friend. Seriously.) But my veggie prep time is slow. I am clumsy with a knife, so I can’t rush. My left hand has enough scars. But, I digress. Jamie decides she is hungry whenever I am doing this slow prep work and gets in the way while bitching about how slow I am and how I’m doing it wrong, and blah blah. And it really, really pisses me off.

It’s a trigger.

Once upon a time, I decided to make a bologna sandwich. I was maybe 12 or 13. Old enough to do it myself. It was during summertime so we had fresh tomatoes, and I was going to slice a tomato for my sandwich. Well, Daddy peeled everything, including tomatoes, so I proceeded to peel the tomato as that is what you do when it’s all you know. He walked in as I was doing it and had a conniption over how much of the tomato I was taking off with the peel. He went on and on and on until I melted down and just grabbed my sandwich and ran out to the barn sobbing with the sandwich I no longer wanted.

I vowed to never ever peel another tomato again.

And when Jamie starts bitching while I’m prepping, I relive that tomato incident all over again, which of course means I am very snippy with her.

Sometimes I wonder if I am ever going to heal from all those old wounds, not to mention how on earth do you?

You may believe that if you begin to cry you will never stop.1

I remember wondering “How broken do I have to be?” Now I am wondering just how broken I really am. I like fixing things. When I fix a light, a car, mower, or appliance, I feel empowered as if I do have some semblance of control over the world around me. There has been so much helplessness that fixing material things makes the broken parts of me not seem so terrifying. I can look at myself and say, “You know what? You’re not stupid. You can fix stuff. Not everything, but a lot of things. You pay your bills on time, and when you don’t, it’s not intentional. You’re not a failure.” And that works until I get tired from going wide open like I’m Superwoman.

That’s when I feel the wounds of that broken little girl.

That’s when the that old familiar voice starts in. “You’re in over your head. You’re a fraud. You’re about to fail big in front of everyone and they are going to point and jeer.”

I know it’s a lie. It’s just hard to fight your mind when you’re already tired and worn down – when you’re still hurt.

Psalm 13 New International Version (NIV)

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

1 Woititz, Janet G. (1983). Adult Children of Alcoholics. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc p198

I used to think ___ but now i think ___. #OutofSortsBook

Sarah Bessey’s new book, Out of Sorts, released last week. She is doing a synchroblog with a writing prompt about how and why we have evolved in our beliefs over the years. I’m all about a writing prompt, even if it takes 3 days to write. Ha!

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I think so differently about so many things now, I don’t even know where to begin.

I always felt torn between 2 extremes. I either felt so utterly broken that I was beyond hope, or I felt like I had all the answers and was in the fast lane with the saints on the stairway to heaven. I think the self-righteous arrogance was a coping mechanism to deal with the massive inferiority I felt. I would find people whom I was “better than” in order to feel better about myself. Of course that was only when I was sober.

Truly, underneath any bravado I put up, I always felt less than. Not good enough. As I wrote about not too long ago, “If I couldn’t ever measure up to my dad’s standards with my behavior, how could I ever hope to measure up to God’s standard of absolute holy perfection?”

I thought I knew who God was, but I really never saw Him for who He really is.

For many years I did not consistently have someone in my life speaking truth to me about the character and nature of God. That means I definitely did not have someone reminding me of the Good News – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I forgot that I couldn’t earn my way to God.

I had neither a dramatic falling away, nor did I have a dramatic return. I had a gradual descent into a breakdown where something had to give. Things started to change from the time I realized I was having a breakdown.

I changed when I realized I needed help.

It began with a medical doctor appointment where I walked out with an antidepressant and a couple of recommendations/referrals for therapists. Then I not only picked a therapist, but started attending Al-Anon. While I was largely silent in Al-Anon for a while, I sat in that first session with my therapist and verbally vomited on her. I told her things that I had never ever said out loud. To anyone.

I learned first in my therapist’s office to be honest about both my present and my past. To talk about what happened, what was happening, and how I felt. And nothing would ever be the same, especially once one of my close friends told me I needed to quit drinking. And that’s when I had to get really honest.

When you grow up in a fundamentalist culture with an abusive father, you learn things about God that just aren’t true. Sure, I believed Jesus saved me, but I didn’t fully believe I could be and was forgiven. I had to revisit everything I thought I knew about God, and tear down a lot of false teaching of legalism. I had to work through a lot of resentment not just with the religion of my youth, but with God himself.

I used to think that God was just waiting for people to do the wrong thing in order to enact a swift and thorough punishment for the least little infraction. Therefore, I had to be on guard all the time to not mess up, and when I did (because we all do), I lived in bondage to shame and fear. For many years, my only relief came from a bottle.

But having been delivered from the compulsion to self-medicate, I now know that God is kind and loving and merciful. I now know without a doubt that Jesus is enough, and because of Him, I don’t have to try to earn my way into the Father’s good graces. I am fully known and fully loved. The Holy Spirit wasn’t the one filling me with fear and shame. Oh, no. It’s the Holy Spirit that reminds me who I really am – a beloved daughter of the Father.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36 (NIV)

“It takes some effort to look like this!”

DOLLY

I had an appointment with my feelings doctor a couple of weeks ago. It was one of those where I tried really hard to direct the conversation where she wouldn’t ask me any probing questions. I failed. I should have known that I would have to leave out a significant even from the previous 3 weeks to get past that question. Heck, Petra had already asked me that question so I really didn’t want to have to answer it twice in one week. Thankfully we didn’t stay on that topic, so there was no meltdown. But she got a little more probing in another area.

She always asks me about playing with the church band, exercise, meetings, and any social time outside of those. She knows my history of anxiety and depression, and I had already disclosed a panic attack I’d had the week before. I know I am doing all the things I need to be doing to keep myself busy and not isolated. Nothing good ever comes from when I isolate. But then she asked me if I enjoy the activities I’m doing, and I said, “Yes, I really do. But it often takes a lot of effort to make myself do it.”

Someone told me once, okay multiple times, that the dread of doing something is almost always worse than actually doing it. As I told my therapist, I don’t think I should have to work so hard to make myself do something I know I will enjoy.

I think part of it is because I let myself get overwhelmed unnecessarily. Like what happened with that panic attack. Something unplanned came up that had to be taken care of right away, and was something I shouldn’t have had to take care of as it was supposed to have been taken care of 2 months ago. I was angry over a resentment that got picked at. Well, that was the evening the kids decided to both barrage me with “When are you going to teach me to _______?” That was when I walked outside, grabbed the shovel, and called my sponsor because self-talk wasn’t working and I needed someone else to tell me the same thing I was telling myself but not believing: “Stay in today.”

And, no, I didn’t bury anybody with the shovel.

But I got some probing questions which I didn’t answer. Later, though, I had a completely unrelated conversation (initially) in which I verbally vomited all over Petra, and said, “Huh. That’s what my sponsor was trying to get at earlier.” Funny how that happens.

Sometimes I forget that I am going through a very difficult season. That’s when I wonder why it is so difficult to get out of bed in the morning and get ready. Many times I sit on the edge of my bed trying to work up the motivation to get dressed for work. It’s not that I don’t want to go to work. At least not really, because I normally enjoy being at work once I’m there. I work with really great people who made me laugh and laugh hard.

There is something to be said for the effort of putting one foot in front of the other and doing the next right thing when I don’t want to. It is, after all, what grown ups do. When I enjoy the activity that I have to put so much effort into making myself do, it is worth the effort.

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#medicatedandmighty – It’s complicated

This is it people. Two prescriptions to maintain this crazy. Wish me luck.

A photo posted by @muthalovinautism on

That is my friend Erin Jones. Her story has just blown up over the last few weeks. It’s a story about hitting bottom, and getting help back up. I encourage you to follow her on Facebook and/or check out her blog at Mutha Lovin’ Autism. Her story is shedding light on mental health, and seeks to break the stigma associated with mental illness.

I’m standing with her.

#medicatedandmighty Standing with my friend Erin @muthalovinautism and sharing my story of needing help, and before and after pics. I might have been running regularly in 2012 and looking ok on the outside, but I was trapped in a cycle of self-medication and denial. Midway through 2013, I hit a bottom, and started getting help. 5 months after I started taking an antidepressant, I stopped drinking. 17 months later, I stopped smoking (again). 18 months later, I put on makeup and a skirt, and told my story to a room full of people. 20 months later, I weaned off the antidepressant because it gave me the emotional reset I needed along with my program to feel my feelings without fear of them and without being consumed by them and work through the pain if the issues I stuffed, suppressed, and numbed for most of my life. #throwbackthursday #tbt

A photo posted by Martha Nemec (@dragonlady42) on

The last time I posted, I mentioned wrestling over sharing my unsanitized story. Since then, I have added My Story to the menu above (below on mobile). Because I have reached the point that I am ready to share it. Because one thing I have learned in recovery is that I am not alone and someone else has done or experienced something I have. Which means, there is someone out there who thinks that no one can possibly understand what he or she has been through.

It’s what my Manifesto is about. It’s about letting just one other person know they are not alone. And someone cares.

And there is hope.

I may or may not be on the autism spectrum. I don’t have a diagnosis, but I show a lot of signs. I’m still not convinced that I developed symptoms that would be considered on the spectrum due to trying to cope and survive the abuse as a child. Regardless, I have never felt “normal” and came up with my own coping skills which work well for a child, but not so much as an adult. I am certain that the abuse and all the methods I used to cope contributed to my own mental illness – namely depression and anxiety.

Y’all, you can’t function “normally” when you are bouncing between the 2. Self-medicating will prolong the inevitable breakdown. Stuffing and suppressing will only last for so long before you blow up. And the isolation will slowly wear you down until you want to die. Whether by your own hand – quickly or slowly – or through recklessness, without professional help, you will find yourself in such a depressive state that death looks like the only viable option.

And I know firsthand, you can’t just pray that away.

No, you need people who have been there and back and will walk with you or just sit with you without blaming you or trying to fix you. If you have been struggling with depression and/or anxiety, you probably do have a chemical imbalance which will require medication. Years and years of stress will throw the chemical balance off because your body has been on alert for so long it doesn’t know how to not be on alert.

It absolutely is a physical, mental, and spiritual sickness. You can’t just treat one area and expect the other areas to recover also.

And you absolutely cannot fix yourself.

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