23 January 2016

community and value

If I was 'theme' kind of a person, I'd have to call 2015 "The Year of Community."  Having found myself almost completely isolated for a year and a half to two years prior, in January of 2015, my church began a sermon series on biblical community.  I was glad to see the series end, honestly, because even if I wanted to (and I didn't), I didn't know how to enter back into community, or where to put myself there. But I soon found out that even though the series ended, the siren call to community was just beginning.  Everywhere I looked:  books I picked up, articles I read, conversations I found myself in, Facebook posts, sermons...COMMUNITY was the word.

It has been, and continues to be a long process, this re-entry into community.  During my months of solitude, I came face to face with just how little I understand or believe in my worth as a person. People who have known me for a long time:  my husband, a few close friends, these I view as having known me in the "before", when I perceived myself as valuable because of the things I did, and so in my mind, they stick around out of loyalty or habit.  But this road has built a new fragility in me, and I am quite often unable to "do" where is my value now?  And so, I find myself terribly afraid when I think about pursuing relationships in this stage of my journey, with brokenness and little else to offer, and yet I am sure I am called by God to community.  Even if you don't believe you were created by God, designed for relationship with him and people, it's hard to deny the evidence that human beings are social creatures.  

So because I love God and want to follow him, I make tentative forays into the scary realm of biblical community.  I am seeking to understand what biblical community even looks like - the same for everyone?  unique to individuals?  all-inclusive?  large?  small?  responsibility?  fit?  requirements?  And it's awfully hard.  

It's one more process.  And in the pursuit, I find myself immersed in another process:  seeking to understand my TRUE value.  I realize that I have no living idea why people would choose relationship with me; I don't expect it, I am surprised every time I hear of someone wanting it.  I am devastated to find that I have hurt others, because in my inability to believe I would be worth relationship, I have held myself aloof and been unapproachable, leaving people wondering why I wouldn't want to be their friend.

Here is Truth, friends.  We are not valuable because of what we offer to the people in our lives, or because of what we do.  We are valuable because we are created and loved by God.  I speak this truth to myself as much as to anyone reading, because so far, I'm not very good at believing it!  If I could truly rest in the assurance that I have worth because God says I do, I suspect that everything would change.  I suspect that my doing and giving would be freer, more open, and filled with joy, less tainted by selfishness and insecurity.  And what is really exciting is that, having seen God's faithfulness in bringing me out of such a long, dark valley in the past, I know he is leading me to a new place of being able to believe in my worth because I am his daughter.  So while I struggle to believe I am valuable right now, I have faith that someday, I will know it.  And my prayer is the same for you.

15 January 2016

a lonely road

It can be a lonely road, this long way.  Trauma recovery and mental illness are not pretty, to say the least.   The pain and illness are mostly hidden.  What is seen is often misunderstood, taken for moodiness, pessimism, self-pity, creating drama.  When you're on the healthy side, it's hard to walk with someone who doesn't get better, in spite of all your good advice!

I've experienced more people walking away from my journey than the years I've been on it.  That has been terribly painful, but I bear no ill will, because I get it.  I have not trusted people, not loved them well.  I've been immersed in sadness and pain.  I've questioned and despaired.  I've known the "right" answers, yet been unable to embrace them because they weren't good enough.  I've had to hear the same good answers and reassurances over and over, so often that even I tired of them; yet still they didn't sink in.  I've barely had the fortitude to walk this road myself; I'm honestly not sure if I'd be cut out to walk it with someone else.

I think some people left my journey - or simply didn't join me - because it was just too weird.  Mental illness can run the gamut:  depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, dissociative identity disorder, reactive attachment disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, and many, many more.  Not everyone feels equipped to know how to respond to mental illness, and that's really ok.  Others left my journey because they discovered their own brokenness - they just needed to focus on their own healing journeys.  For some, I think the nature of my journey was just too painful for them to be a part; it brushed wounds in them that had never healed.  Some who thought they knew me well, really didn't know me at all, and they couldn't walk with a stranger.  Some didn't understand, or just misunderstood different things, or wanted my journey to look more like their familiar, or wanted it to look less ugly.

However the leaving occurred, while I understand and forgive, it was deeply painful.  I came to a point where I simply couldn't bear anymore, and I drifted into isolation.  This solitude was - still is, if I'm really honest - my preferred state; for a long time, there was a disconnect between me and all others.

06 January 2016


Depression.  It's almost impossible to explain to someone who hasn't experienced it.  I see it as a cloud, or a sometimes a wave.  I have a friend who calls it "the black dog" - it hounds you and leaps up on you with no warning.  Depression is difficult to fight because it isn't related to circumstances; though circumstances do exacerbate the heavy weight - so in the black dog analogy, it's bad enough that it leaps up, but it knocks you down and sits on you, too, and then it's super hard to get back up!

I am chased by the cloud fairly often.  I struggle to remember to be kind to myself when I lose the race.  I look at my life and berate myself, because honestly, I have nothing to be sad about.  I have a kind, funny, gracious, loving husband.  I have two really good kids.  We make ends meet with some to spare for going out to eat or to the movies.  I have friends who have seen me through hard things, seen the ugly parts of me, and wonder of wonders, still hang around.  I am relatively healthy and able to be active.  I am wholly loved by my Jesus.  I have much to celebrate! 

For me, depression opens up to overwhelm.  I can look at all the good things and in my head, acknowledge that I am blessed, but still be overcome with deep, inexpressible sadness.  When I am in that place, everything looms large.  It's a huge effort to lift my arms to wash my hair in the shower...even peeling myself up to get into the shower!  Going to work to face 15-20 sweet faces and excited voices for even a minute, never mind 8 hours, feels insurmountable.  Taking down Christmas lights...oh why, why, why do I put them up??  I look around at my house through these dark, depression glasses and I am so overwhelmed by all the "undone" that paralysis sets in and I do nothing at all.  I know getting out for a run would be good for me, but it's cold and my body I stay inside.  

It is really hard to actively pursue thankfulness when you're fleeing the cloud, but it's occurred to me that maybe as I run from depression, I need to run toward something else.  So rather than flagellate myself with the good things in my life, I have tried instead to look for simple, easy things that poke holes in the cloud to let brightness stream in:

we have had a very mild winter so far this year.  However, temperatures have recently dropped to a more normal range for where I live.  This could be a circumstance that adds to the weight of depression for me, but this morning I pulled on my red Canada hat that has strings and pompoms, and my Christmas-new Canada mittens...and I saw a little pinpoint of light poke through, and my heart was almost imperceptibly lighter. 

 Overwhelm still threatens; I could turn away from this life-giving ray, back to the anxiety-producing circumstances, but I choose to stay focused on this one point.  Maybe with enough punctures, then in the brightness, the circumstances won't give way to overwhelm and for one more day, I'll come out ahead of the cloud.