Thursday, December 26, 2013

truly He taught us to love one another

My family and I have the privilege of doing the music at our church on Christmas Eve for our 5 pm Mass every year. My mom organizes the whole thing and conducts, while my sister and I sing and my dad and brother play guitar and cajon. This year, as I sang O Holy Night during the Offertory, these words pierced my heart in a new way.

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease

As I sang these words, this is all I saw.

The altar servers led the gift-bearers down the middle aisle, in slow and meaningful reverence with the crucifix held high. My eyes were transfixed upon Jesus on the cross coming ever-so-slowly closer to me as I sang about His love. And there it was, right in front of me. This is how He taught us to love one another. By laying His life down.

O Lord, hear my prayer, and teach me to love.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

moving forward

I've been so stuck on editing my past drafts that I haven't posted yet, that I haven't been able to move forward and keep writing. So I am going to let them go. Moving on.

A few months ago I posted about a few health problems I was worried about. I had two periods a month for three months. I was quite worried about what was going on with my body, but my PCP didn't seem to have any thoughts. I had many girlfriends send me info for OB/GYNs because I shared I didn't have one I liked. Unfortunately, none of them were near me or took my health insurance. So the search began.

And I found a doctor who has absolutely changed my life already.

My first appointment with him we sat down and discussed my history - which is really insane. It's really a lot. All my hormonal issues, depression, anxiety, etc.etc.etc. Now two periods a month. I asked him if he was overwhelmed, because let's face it, I wouldn't blame him. He looked me in the eye and said, "Of course not. This is what I love to do. Let's figure this out."


I have never had a doctor say anything like that to me. My PCP is wonderful, and so is my therapist. But no one has looked at me and said we will find an answer. I felt such peace and even excitement - to think that after years, I truly think I found the doctor who is going to help me change my life.

Dr. Bender quickly decided I was going to need multiple blood tests and ultrasounds. We scheduled an appointment for that next week, and I was so anxious just to get it done.

My therapist, Dr. J, asked me if I was nervous at all about what I might find out. I told him, "The worst thing he could say to me is, 'I don't know.' I just want an answer. I'm ready for whatever it is."

So we did blood tests that confirmed my PCOS diagnosis, and then we did ultrasounds. Yep. My ovaries have cysts and follicles. No surprise there.

But then we sat down and needed to talk about the 1.3 cm mass he found. In my uterus. We needed to talk about my aunt who has uteran cancer right now. We needed to talk about my mom who is a breast cancer survivor. Okay. Let's talk.

"We need to get it out as soon as possible. You need surgery."

And all I felt was peace.

After begging and begging for an answer, I finally had one. I didn't care what it was.

"There's a 99% chance that it is only an endometrial polyp, but we won't know until we do pathology reports."

So we booked the surgery for two days before Thanksgiving. My amazing Michael flew out from Colorado to be with me. I wasn't scared, but he held my hand anyway and prayed over me and with me. I felt so safe and I knew God was in this, I knew He had led me here, and I knew no matter what happened, He is good and I will be okay.

A week later, we had a follow-up. Dr. B showed me photos of my uterus.

"You see that smooth spot?"

He pointed to the right side of the photo, a small area of smooth pink tissue. The rest of it was white and lumpy. I've never seen the inside of a uterus before - so I definitely didn't know what I was looking at.

"That's what your uterus is supposed to look like. You had more than one polyp. We removed every single one, including the tissue surrounding it. You had polyps in the tissue itself."

There were so many, I almost laughed. And then the only real question - of course -

"Were they benign?"
"Every single one was benign."

Praise God.

"Your period will hopefully regulate itself after this."
"What about my mood swings?"
"There's no way of knowing. Hopefully. We'll have to wait and see."

But the most beautiful part is, he and I had been discussing me going on birth control, just as a last-ditch attempt to regulate myself and find some stability. And I told him I think I want to hold off. I'd like to see what my body does on its own now that these have been removed. I have had so many OB/GYNs, and every single one of them would have said: "Fine. Suit yourself." He said: "I agree. Call me if you want to start them in a few months and we'll meet and talk about it."

Thank You, Jesus.  Thank You, Jesus, for an answer, for a doctor who is fighting for me. For a doctor who sees me and listens to me.

I am eager to see how my body will adjust now. But I am feeling a little glimmer of something I haven't felt in a long time.


"Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."

--Romans 5: 1-5

Friday, October 11, 2013

reflection friday

once in a while on friday i will post a diary or journal entry from the past, to let you into my whole story and journey with depression - not just what is going on currently. 

april 20 & 21 

"life is kind of weird right now i must say.
i feel... disoriented? i don't know the right word.
i kind of feel out of it. and confused. and really unhappy, almost depressed. and really stressed out. yet i'm not. i'm still smiling, and i still laugh at everything, and i'm still finding happiness in really simple things like i usually do. i feel close to my friends, but far away. i want to be at home, but i want to go away somewhere. i want to surround myself with people, but i want to be alone. what happened to me, and when did it happen?...

do my eyes really show it? that i'm tired? that i'm bored? that i'm stressed? that i'm sick? that i'm unhappy? that i'm restless? that i'm confused...?

why do i act happy, and when i act happy i feel happy, and then when i'm not distracted anymore i go back to this. 

i don't like it.

i miss me a lot.

i'm not really depressed. i don't feel sad. but somehow i know i am. i know i am. i just don't know why.

my eyes are making me sad. i don't like it."

it's amazing to go back to old journal entries from when i was 16 years old and see myself trying to figure it out - trying to get some answers. i would sit on my bed for hours every day after school and just cry and cry and cry before i started my homework. at the time, it seemed like high school drama. i mean, everyone in high school goes through drama and heightened emotions - all the changing hormones make everything seem like the beginning or the end of the world. even still, i think i knew somewhere deep down that something was wrong. i don't necessarily remember that feeling - that sense that maybe i was depressed. but i wrote it down. i knew i was depressed, i knew i was sad and i didn't know why. it's a tough thing, to start struggling with depression as a teenager, when it's so easy to write someone off as a drama queen. i wish i had listened to myself better, i wish i had asked for help sooner. i just didn't know. and it's okay not to know for a while, i think. but when you do - when you do have that feeling deep down that something is wrong - i encourage you to ask for help. let your family know. let your friends know. tell someone who loves you. ask them for help. ask them to encourage you to see a therapist if you need one. tell someone. 

listen to yourself. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

the feeling helpless days

last month, i started spotting a week (to the day) after my period. i didn't think much of it, until it lasted a week and it became heavy enough to be another light period. two periods in one month? not a fan. i figured it was no big deal.

until the same exact thing happened this month. two periods in one month two months in a row is a little disconcerting to me, especially with all my hormonal problems.

so i made an appointment to see my doctor (my PCP) to discuss this with him, as well as ask about increasing my dosage of anti-depressants. i'm on effexor 37.5 mg right now and my therapist and i agree that i might need to go up to 50-75 mg, because my current dosage, although in the beginning worked wonders, is now merely taking the edge off... and i need more than just taking the edge off.

so he agreed to put me on 75 mg, but didn't have any thoughts on my two periods-a-month problem, except to go see an OB/GYN. he followed that by saying, "except what are they going to do for you? probably just put you back on birth control."

and i just started crying. it feels sometimes like i'm just running in circles. i'm trying so, so hard to break the circle, to find something that works, to get better. and it just feels like i'm back at the beginning: the birth control pill.

i don't want to get into details today about why i don't want to go on the pill. what is important is that it is not an option for me, and to many doctors it is the only option, which is so incredibly frustrating. it makes me so sad and feel so helpless that so many doctors won't look beyond the easy route. they won't invest in you as a person and understand why you don't want to go the easy way. the truth is, the birth control pill is the easy way, but it is not the best way. the truth is, the pill is only a band-aid and i want more than that. i want answers. i want to help my body from the inside out. i want to get to the root of it and fix it. the pill will not do that. it will only make everything seem better on the outside. no thank you.

so my doctor upped my dosage of effexor, which i'll try in a few days when i run out of my current dosage. i'll keep you posted on how that goes.

but in 3 weeks i turn 26, and i no longer have health insurance. what then?

how does a girl with so many health problems survive with no health insurance? and have i mentioned i'm broke? so even if health care all of a sudden becomes affordable, i can't even afford groceries right now, let alone any kind of health insurance.

so i'll be insurance-less. my doctor and i are trying to see if i can get a 90-day supply of my medication so i'm covered for a while, but he doesn't know if i'll be able to. and he still wants me to see an OB/GYN regardless, which i know is what i should do. however, i don't have an OB out here. i had one in denver that i loved. she was catholic like me and believed we could find answers outside of the pill. i have yet to find one like her out here. and i only have 3 weeks.

i left the doctor feeling so helpless and scared.

i just want to get off the roller coaster for one day. i want answers, i want to be better, i want to feel like there is hope.

and i know there is. i know Jesus is my hope, and my goodness have i learned to lean on Him through all of this. thank God for that. i know God is pouring grace over me. i know He is.

it's just days like today, it's hard to feel it. that's just the reality of it.

Jesus, be my hope. be my help.


and right after i posted this, i read this blog:

when your life feels like a little bit of a puzzle

with this quotation:

"depression isn't a cut that needs a bandage -- it's a cancer that needs a battleplan."

thank you to ann voskamp for these words that made me at least feel understood today.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

choosing joy

So, I hate to travel.

When it comes to my anxiety disorder, there is nothing worse than being in a new place, with new people, where I don't have a car, don't know my way around, can't make my own food... Basically, where I feel like I have no control.

I just took an 11-day trip to the east coast with my boyfriend. I don't even know how to begin writing about how amazing, exhausting, wonderful, emotional, anxiety-producing, joyful (etc.etc.etc.) it was. I feel like I've been gone for months. It started in Boston for his roommate's wedding that we were asked to sing and play at.

The first night in Boston, I had a huge panic attack. I got off the plane and was already upset about who-knows-what, got into the rental car with Michael and barely spoke a word, and once we parked at the hotel we would be staying at, I started sobbing hysterically saying, "I hate traveling. I don't want to be here. Why did I come here. What am I doing. I want to go home. I want to go home. I want to go home." And thus began the panic attack.

When I have panic attacks, I usually end up on the floor because I can't handle the weight of my own body and the floor is the only thing that feels sturdy enough to support me. So I wound up on the hotel room floor, sobbing and stuck on my tape: "I want to go home. I want to go home. I want to go home."

(I'll tell you more about how my brain plays "tapes" on repeat another day.)

I will be honest with you.

The rest of the night I was a total brat. I don't need to go into details, but suffice it to say I made the night awful for Michael, because in my selfishness, I didn't want to suffer alone.

The next morning, I had the realization of what I had put Michael through and I cried all over again, apologizing profusely over and over and over, even though Michael had already forgiven me. (This is what I call the PMDD hangover: realizing the morning after how awful you behaved the night before and feeling guilty, disgusting, and unable to forgive yourself.)

Michael forgave me and hugged me and told me it was time to make a choice: Was I going to make this trip a great one or a horrible one? I had the power to choose. 

I realized the best way to say "I love you" to Michael was to be the radiant self that I know I can be and that I know brings Michael so much joy. We were about to go to his roommate's rehearsal dinner and wedding the next day, and I could choose to be overwhelmed by all of these people that I barely knew and be miserable all weekend, or I could be the chatty, larger-than-life, bright and joyful woman that I know is really me, when I am not clouded by depression, anxiety, fear, sickness. And I chose it. I chose that girl.

But I didn't choose her for me. I chose her for him. I chose her for Michael. I chose her out of love and selflessness, not to feel better. Because love is an action and a choice, not a feeling. So even though I was feeling anxious, panicked, overwhelmed and more selfishly - that what I was going through was more important than anything or anybody else - I still chose joy.

I want to be selfless. I want to love. To actually love. Not to love when I feel the emotions of love, but to love when feels the most impossible. Because he loves me when it is the most difficult. It is when I am the most unloveable that he loves me the most and the hardest. (Sounds like what Love is supposed to be, doesn't it?)

It was this night when I realized what it actually meant to be selfless and love Michael: to choose something I didn't feel like choosing for the sake of his happiness and wellness.

And what joy when that choice ended up making us both feel more in love, happier, closer, and more alive. Praise God.

"In the first reading of the Eucharist today I heard: 'I am offering you life or death...choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live in the love of Yahweh your God, obeying his voice, holding fast to him' (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).
How do I choose life? I am becoming aware that there are few moments without the opportunity to choose, since death and life are always before me. One aspect of choosing life is choosing joy. Joy is life-giving, but sadness brings death. A sad heart is a heart in which something is dying. A joyful heart is a heart in which something new is being born.
I think that joy is much more than a mood. A mood invades us. We do not choose a mood. We often find ourselves in a happy or depressed mood without knowing where it comes from. The spiritual life is a life beyond moods. It is a life in which we choose joy and do not allow ourselves to become victims of passing feelings of happiness or depression.
I am convinced we can choose joy. Every moment we can decide to respond to an event or a person with joy instead of sadness. When we truly believe that God is life and only life, then nothing need have the power to draw us into the sad realm of death. To choose joy does not mean to choose happy feelings or an artificial atmosphere of hilarity. But it does mean the determination to let whatever takes place bring us one step closer to the God of life.
Maybe this is what is so important about quiet moments of meditation and prayer. They allow me to take a critical look at my moods and to move from victimization to free choice.
This morning I woke up somewhat depressed. I could not find any reason for it. Life just felt empty, useless, fatiguing. I felt invaded by somber spirits. I realized that this mood was lying to me. Life is not meaningless. God has created life as an expression of love. It helped me to know this, even though I could not feel it. Based on this knowledge, I could again choose joy. This choice means simply to act according to the truth. The depressed mood is still there. I cannot just force it out of my heart. But at least I can unmask it as being untrue and thus prevent it from becoming the ground for my actions.
I am called to be joyful. It gives much consolation to know that I can choose joy."

--Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey

Saturday, September 7, 2013

the days you remember you're still sick (or) behold, I make all things new

I've been on Effexor (an anti-depressant) for a little over 2 months now, and it really has done wonders for me. It's one of those things that I want to write about -- medication, I mean -- but today my purpose in writing is just sharing my current reality with you.

Last night, I went out to get drinks with two very dear friends. My friend, Mark, shared with me his story of depression. I already knew of his struggle, but last night's conversation went very deep and tears were shed and love and understanding and compassion were shared. It was a beautiful moment for both of us -- to remember that we are not alone. Someone understands. I don't want anyone to understand this sort of sorrow. This sort of feeling of being in prison, in hell, being tortured by your own body and mind. And I wish I was being over-dramatic. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. Ever. So to hear my friend share in this hell with me felt both like my heart was breaking for him and like I was looking in a mirror. So I wept, and he wept. I wept out of empathy, hurt, heartbreak, love, compassion, and to be honest, self-pity. I am so sorry for myself sometimes. (I think there are moments where that's a good thing and moments where that's a horrible trap. But that's for another time.) He wept because of his own pain, his own heartache, and after feeling so broken and so alone, someone could finally look him in the eye and say "I understand." 

I was able to understand and love him last night, and encourage him that everything was going to be okay. There were so many nights where all I wanted to do was die and here I am, on medication that is working for me and feeling like a healthier version of myself.

And then today I lost it.

There are days when I just feel like an utter failure. A total, complete failure. I want so badly to be "better". I want to be healthy, to be well, to be able to deal with life like a "normal" person. To be able to multi-task. Or remember things. Or be able to focus on more than one thing at time. To be able to not get overwhelmed to the point of wanting to die. I want to be a great girlfriend, the girlfriend who can be the encouraging, beautiful, supportive, gracious woman who I believe my boyfriend deserves. I catch glimpses of her sometimes. But when I am sick, when I am so overwhelmed and suffocated by lies and grief and sadness, I can't see her anymore.

Today I couldn't see her.

After a beautiful night where I felt so sure, so grace-filled, so whole, so ready to encourage my friend and love him through the darkness, there I was in the darkness myself once again, not 12 hours later.

I just moved to another city after spending the last 4 months with my parents and siblings in order to let my heart heal in a safe place. I am so scared to not come home to my sweet brother every single night. I am so scared to spend so much time alone. Alone with my own thoughts, my lies, my fears. Alone with my TV, the thing I cling to so desperately to not get inundated with darkness sometimes.

I just started a new job. I am so scared to fail. I am scared of hating it. I am scared of doing everything wrong. I am scared of everyone hating me. I am scared of not being good enough.

My best friend is getting married, and I am her Maid of Honor. Michael's roommate is getting married, and Michael and I are doing the music for the wedding. My aunt is sick with cancer and we are going back east to go to both weddings and visit her and my family. I have so much to do to prepare for all of these things that it feels impossible.

Everything just feels impossible.

And I just crumbled. I cried and cried until there were at least 30 crumpled up Kleenex next to my bed. And Michael stayed on Skype with me and told me to look at him and told me everything is going to be okay. I didn't believe him. I am done with the episode now and I can look at it and know everything is going to be okay. Everything is always going to be okay.

But when you're in an episode and the world is spinning and your head wants to explode and your body just aches to not feel so desperately sad -- you just don't believe that it will be okay.

There is a depression, a sadness, that is so physically painful that it actually feels unbearable. These are the moments that I feel like dying. These are the moments when I think I legitimately can't handle feeling like this -- it is too big, too much, for my body.

And I cry and cry, just hoping that the tears will get out of my body and take the sadness with them.

And I just feel like I failed. I was doing so well. I was so happy. I was so stable. And here I am, having an episode again. I'm still sick.

The truth is that I will always be sick. I have struggled with depression for 10 years and this will be a battle I will fight for the rest of my life. And I can kick and scream and bang on the walls of the prison cell.

Or I can let it be. And I can rest.

I know that Jesus is near me. I know He is carrying me. I know that this is my cross for a reason.

It is so that I can share my heart. So that I can weep with the broken-hearted. So that I can hold someone's hand and look them in the eye and say "I understand" and mean it, from the bottom of my aching heart. So that I can pray for people who are depressed with an earnest heart. So that I can encourage people who have lost faith to pray. So that I can teach people to understand mental illness better. So that I can love more fully, more deeply, more genuinely. So that I can experience joy in a way that most people could never understand. So that I can, hopefully, glorify God in my suffering.

All I want is to love Him and to be loved by Him. I can kick and scream and cry and stay in this prison and wallow in self-pity. Or I can let Him come into this prison with me and hold me.

I had a vision in April when I first decided to move home. It was a vision of myself - my whole body was like shattered glass, big shards of glass that would fit together like a puzzle to make up my body. But the pieces were all separated an inch away from each other. And from the inside of this glass was this huge light -- a light bursting from the inside out, pouring through these shards of glass and shining bright through all the brokenness.

That is who I long to be. Broken in body, but bursting with light in spirit.

My body will always be sick. But my soul will rejoice in the Lord, knowing that He has blessed me with an illness that brings me closer to Him. It is the way He makes me holy if I let Him. It is the way He loves me the most when I let Him. It is the way I can glorify Him best by His grace.

And so my soul shall rest in the Lord, knowing that in Him there is peace. There is joy. There is love. There is comfort. There is light.

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a great voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; and he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.

And he who sat upon the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new.' Also he said, 'Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.' And he said to me, 'It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water without price from the fountain of the water of life. 

...And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 

And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb."

--Revelation 21

Thursday, August 29, 2013

i love you, i love you, i love you

"I am your God, I have molded you with my own hands, and I love what I have made. I love you with a love that has no limits, because I love you as I am loved. Do not run away from me. Come back to me -- not once, not twice, but always again. You are my child. How can you ever doubt that I will embrace you again, hold you against my breast, kiss you and let my hands run through your hair? I am your God -- the God of mercy and compassion, the God of pardon and love, the God of tenderness and care. Please do not say that I have given up on you, that I cannot stand you anymore, that there is no way back. It is not true. I so much want you to be with me. I so much want you to be close to me. I know all your thoughts. I hear all your words. I see all of your actions. And I love you because you are beautiful, made in my own image, an expression of my most intimate love. Do not judge yourself. Do not condemn yourself. Do not reject yourself. Let my love touch the deepest, most hidden corners of your heart and reveal to you your own beauty, a beauty that you have lost sight of, but which will become visible to you again in the light of my mercy. Come, come, let me wipe your tears, and let my mouth come close to your ear and say to you, 'I love you, I love you, I love you.'"

--Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

it was then that i carried you

One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes of his life. For each scene he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonging to him, and the other to the LORD. When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life. This really bothered him and he questioned the LORD about it:

"LORD, you said that once I decided to follow you, you'd walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don't understand why when I needed you most you would leave me."

The LORD replied:

"My son, my precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints...

It was then that I carried you."

Most people have heard of or read the "Footprints" poem, and I hesitate to post it because of its over-use. But I hope you keep reading.

There is a night that I return to often in my memory. A night that I will never forget, because it was the night that I was at the lowest I have ever been, and hopefully will ever be. 

It was the night when I discovered what true love is.

When I moved to Denver to be near my boyfriend, Michael*, we were so excited about being in the same place after dating long distance for a year, that we didn't think through how challenging it would be. Take the normal challenges of quitting your job, moving away from your friends and roommate that you love, leaving your family, and starting over and add onto that a mental illness and you've got a recipe for disaster. I just didn't know how sick I was. Denver showed me.

I had a job that I hated, I couldn't make ends meet financially, I was living alone, my family was 1,000 miles away and I had no kindred spirits. No friends beyond friends -- people who knew me, loved me, and were safe. The people I met and knew and befriended in Denver were amazing and I don't mean to  toss that aside. But being so sick, so depressed, living in such darkness, I just needed people who understood and loved me no matter what. But all I had was Michael. 

And he became my rock. My confidante. My best friend. My everything.

And he never abandoned me. Not when I would scream at him for no reason. Not when I would fight with him over nothing at all. Not when I would cry desperately for his attention when he had other things to do. Not when I threatened to crash my car on my way home because I couldn't stand to be alive. He never left and never gave up.

But this one particular night, it was worse than ever.

Michael and I had made plans for the evening to get together and watch a movie. I was counting on him to come over, but what I thought was a set plan was a "maybe" to him -- a simple miscommunication. But I couldn't handle it. My mind took this as this ultimate rejection, the deepest pain possible. It's not something I could ever explain. Everything seemed to come crashing down in that moment. I just felt so desperately alone and sad that I couldn't take it anymore.

I tried to get out of my work clothes and into my pajamas, but as I got undressed, the weight of the world and all my pain and sickness and darkness crumbled onto my shoulders and I fell to the floor in hysterical tears. I couldn't stand up.

I lied there crying in my underwear for I don't know how long. I tried to get up to brush my teeth, but on the way to the bathroom, I collapsed again. I saw the bottle of sleeping pills on the bathroom counter and I thought, "What would happen if I took as many as I could?" What would happen? Would I finally be able to die and stop feeling like I was locked in a prison cell? Would I finally be able to breathe? I couldn't handle the weight. I couldn't handle being so desperately sad that it was physically crippling. 

Clutching to my faith in God, I reminded myself once again that I would never, never do that. With whatever determination I had left, I crawled back into my room, forcing myself to move one inch at a time. This took every ounce of willpower I had.

When I got through the door, I collapsed in a heap on the floor. I somehow managed to call Michael and say, "I need you."

Before I knew it, Michael came to my apartment and saw his girlfriend, lying on the floor with no clothes on. So desperate, so miserable, so vulnerable, so broken.

No words were exchanged. Michael came to me right away and with all the love in his aching heart, he swooped me up off the ground into his arms and carried me like a baby into my bed. He dressed me and rubbed my back as I finally drifted off into sleep, the safest haven I had from my sickness.

He saw me in my brokenness and loved me anyway.

It was then that I carried you.

Michael has blessed me with the gift of a selfless love that is the truest reflection of Christ's love I have ever seen. He saw me in my weakest, darkest, ugliest place and loved me anyway. Not only did he love me, he carried me. He picked up my burden and took it upon himself.

But the beauty is that Michael is not Jesus, and He cannot be my everything. Part of the reason Michael suggested I move home in April was because he had become my everything. He needed to step out of the way for Christ to come forward, for Jesus to be my everything once again. 

I weep at Michael's love for me. I weep at his giving nature, his compassion, his selflessness.

And I think of what this shows me about Christ's love. Michael's love for me is absolutely insignificant next to Christ's. And when I think of that... my goodness am I overwhelmed.

Jesus' love for me is never-ending, infinite, selfless, giving, compassionate, nurturing, unconditional, understanding, empathetic... It is the love of a confidante, best friend, brother, father, husband... all in one. I am overwhelmed at the thought that anyone could love me that much.

But how can I deny it when He has given me the gift of a mirror that I know shows only a fraction of this love? 

It was then that I carried you.

Jesus was there that night, carrying us both. I cannot imagine the heartache my sickness has caused and continues to cause Michael. It is something I will never understand and I have a hard time forgiving myself for it, although I know it isn't my fault. But Jesus carries him as he carries me, through the suffering, the sorrow, the darkness. 

I am humbled and overwhelmed and at peace knowing that, even in my brokenness - no, especially in my brokenness - I am in the arms of the Man who loves me the most in this world.


*names will be changed in this blog to protect privacy

Friday, August 23, 2013

who i am: sassy, silly, sensitive, serious, and strong

So now that the dreaded first post is over, let me tell you a little bit about myself. There is much to say, but since this is a blog dedicated to speaking of my mental illness, I will jump right in to tell you the basics.

When I was 21 years old, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. This is a hormonal disorder that affects about 1 in 10 to 20 women. I will post details in the future, but what is important to know is that my hormones are not normal, and many women with PCOS struggle with depression and anxiety, irregular periods, ovarian cysts, and it is the greatest cause for infertility in our country.

This year, I was diagnosed with Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder. This is also a hormonal imbalance that causes severe depression and anxiety for a time period of up to 14 days before a woman's period. It can be extreme to the point of suicidal thoughts, and is not something to be taken lightly. The symptoms are alleviated soon after menstruation begins, but begin again soon after, depending on how long a woman "PMDD"s before her period.

I have a history of depression regardless of these disorders, which has also come to fruition in anxiety disorders, including OCD tendencies.

I intend on sharing details about all of these things with you, especially because so many people are unaware of PCOS and PMDD. I hope to bring an awareness and to maybe take away some of the fear people have about the phrase "mental illness."

Although my blog is about my mental illness, this aspect of my life does not define me. It absolutely makes me who I am and I am grateful for the ways it has shaped me, but I want you to know about me.

I am sassy. I have a giant personality, I love to laugh (I have a hugely boisterous laugh), I love to talk, and I have an attitude. Not a bad one. Just an attitude. I can take being teased and I'll always give it back. I can be a little larger than life sometimes. I am silly. I grew up in a family that ranks each other from funniest to least funny. Seriously. (It's all in good fun). Humor is everything to us, and we have no shame in being goofy and ridiculous. Have I mentioned I love to laugh? I am sensitive. I feel things very, very deeply. I am empathetic and love to listen. I have a big heart and love to love people. I get my feelings hurt easily, but it's okay. I get incredibly upset if I think I've hurt someone else's feelings. I love to read books and spend time alone and write and look at butterflies. I am serious. I love heart-to-heart conversations. I love to analyze things and reflect on them deeply. I love to make deep connections with people.

I am strong. I've struggled with depression for ten years now, and I have been through the depths of despair (as Anne Shirley would say). I have come in and out of the darkness many times, and I want to share it with you and I want to let the light in. I want to share what I have learned in hopes that I can offer some of my strength to anyone who might be reading. I have learned so much over the years and I feel God calling me to write it down, as I keep journeying.

"Here I am... I desire to do Your will, O my God." 
--Psalm 40:7-8

PS -- I reserve the right to use whatever grammar and punctuation I choose in this blog. If it bothers you, I apologize. sometimes i love the way it looks and feels when nothing is capitalized. call it the e.e. cummings in me.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

breaking the silence

"There is no such thing as happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life. Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart! and never forget that until the day when God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words: wait and hope."
--Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

this is the story of my struggle with mental illness. this will be a place of hope, healing, joy, prayer, sadness, suffering, perseverance, and truth. 

i long to share my heart with the world, and feel called to do so. i hope my truth will touch someone else's heart in some way.

in high school i had a beautiful teacher who loved words. she had the soul of an artist, a poet, a writer, a believer. on our senior retreat she would give everyone a word - their word - a word that encompassed them as a person. she would tell us that this was the word we were born to say... the word we were born to be

she would say that there are so many silences waiting to be broken, with words that only you were born to say.

she gave me the word "soul-singer", and later, when i returned to the retreat as the spiritual director she gave me the phrase "song sung true."

i hope to live up to these words. i am breaking the silence and saying the words only i was born to say. i choose to live my life as a song sung true - a song sung from the very bottom of my soul. this will be a place to share that song with you, and i pray that you will find some hope and maybe even some joy along the way with me.

in loving memory of Kathleen Nicholas