He may not be ready to call himself my boo. But he’s something to me. We’re something to each other. We are both broken and scared. But he has a light in him, y’all. A light he can’t even see right now. He is amazing. And I may be crazy. But I believe in him. And I’ll keep hanging on.
“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.” – Haifiz of Shiraz
Is there anything more exciting and yet more excrutiating than those first hesitant and hopeful steps into a relationship? It’s so breathtaking! The getting to know each other. The tentative first hours together. The sometimes awkward small-talk because you don’t really know each other yet. The titillating flirting. The late night texting. The will he or won’t he. The heart racing anticipation, but at the same time, the constant dread of humiliation.
It’s a treacherous obstacle course of anxiety, insecurity and impatience. How’s my hair? How’s my ass? Why must I have these stretch marks on my hips? Why can I not carry on a conversation that’s not awkward and nervous? Am I cute enough? Am I womanly enough? Am I too much of a tomboy to be desirable? When’s he going to make his move? Should I make a move? What if nobody makes a move?!? Should I start going to therapy more than once a week? Should I play hard to get? Should I be more aggressive? Should I be inscrutable? Should I be an open book? Should I share my feelings? Should I play it cool? Should I be one of the boys? Should I grow my hair out? Should I cuss less? Should I cuss more? Should I act sweet and innocent? Should I be dirty and suggestive?
Have I texted too much? Should I have kept that freak out to myself? Oh my God! He thinks I’m insane! He took me to breakfast before he went to the airport! He must like me! I haven’t heard from him in six hours! He must hate me! Oh my God! I think I’m insane!
What does he want? What do I want? Should I increase my Paxil dosage to 40mg a day? How do you keep God in a grown-up relationship without being boring and prudish? Do you tell him he’s cute? Is that emasculating to a grown man? Do you tell him he’s super hot? Is that slutty of a grown woman? What if he doesn’t like me? What if he does?!?
Lord, it’s so hard. I have no idea what I’m doing. I feel like I’m twelve years old. Wasn’t that really easier? “Do you like me? Check ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”
I don’t want to get hurt again. My heart has literally ached from disappointment. But I can’t build anything with somebody unless I risk the pain. It’s so scary. It triggers every bit of insecurity and anxiety and fear and neediness I have inside me. Can I try again? Every disappointment cuts deeper than the last. Am I good enough? Is he worth this? Can I ever make a relationship work? Is there hope?
It’s all I have.
(And would it be wrong for me to ask for prayers about it?)
It was December of 1994 and I’d never been happier. In April I had met the man of my dreams playing coed softball on the nine red dirt fields at the Softball Country Club on North Decatur Road. Now we were engaged to be married in April of 1995. We were renting a cute little house together in Decatur. (We were livin’ in sin, y’all! My mother is STILL ashamed.) It was the first Christmas I’d ever spent with a boyfriend, much less a fiance! I was stoked!
Now the two of us didn’t have a lot. Our entertainment center was something he’d put together in the welding shop at work out of angle iron and plywood. He was driving a primered 1976 Camaro painted Ford Lead Red with a 1979 clip on the nose that was painted black. There was also a hole in the passenger side floorboard and the seatbelt didn’t work right. You had to pray really hard that you wouldn’t fall through the floor OR fly out the windshield when you rode in it. He had recently bought the car to refurbish, but he said he met me and got “distracted.”
I know it sounds like we were rednecks, but that’s not exactly it. I guess we were just young, practical people raised in the country who were slowly working our way up to where we could afford more classy stuff. But for now, despite the lack of fancy stuff, we were madly in love and ready to celebrate our first Christmas together. We even had our Christmas card picture made in front of our tree wearing our matching purple softball uniforms, holding bats and wearing Santa hats. (Please feel free to pause at this juncture to go vomit. I completely understand.)
The week before Christmas finally rolled around. We had finished all our shopping, wrapped all our gifts and placed them lovingly under the tree. We were so excited and proud about the presents we had purchased and couldn’t wait to give them to our families! We felt we’d done a particularly good job shopping for the kids in the family. And we were especially jazzed about the foot and a half tall, stuffed white Power Ranger we’d bought our nephew Brian! We knew it was going to make him lose his little-boy-at-Christmas mind.
The final annual ritual before Christmas Eve was my Christmas shopping trip with my mom. I took the Friday before Christmas off and headed to Douglasville in my schlumpy, brown Ford Taurus. Momma and I had a fun time walking around the mall for a little bit and then went to lunch. (That’s really what the trip is about – the eating.) Afterward, I headed back to Decatur, looking forward to the long afternoon with nothing to do. I drove contentedly east down I-20 enjoying the sunshine warming me through the window on a cold day and nodding my head along with The Chieftains drumming out of my tape player.
Finally, I pulled up in the driveway of our house and got out of the car. But something was strange. Why were there cardboard videotape cases from movies I’d never seen laying in the driveway? I walked up to the back door and suddenly realized it was hanging out of its frame. It had been kicked in. A chill ran all over me. I walked in the door, through the kitchen and into the living room. Our computer and stereo were gone. My leather jacket and camera were gone. But worst of all, our Christmas presents were gone. All of them. The burglars had even unwrapped some of them first, took the presents, and left the wrapping. There was nothing left under the tree but a few bows, some empty boxes. and torn and ripped pieces of gaily patterned wrapping paper. I walked on into the hallway and the door at the bottom of the steps to the attic was standing open.
And finally it occurred to me, “Oh my God! What am I doing? There could still be somebody in the house!” I think I actually peed on myself a little, I was so scared! Even though I didn’t know our neighbors, I ran across the street to their house. I knocked on their door and told them our house had been burglarized and asked if I could use the phone. (These were the prehistoric days before cell phones.) I called the police and my fiance. But at that point, there was really nothing anybody could do except say they were sorry. And there was nothing I could do but cry.
I walked around the house the next few days frightened at every noise, angry at those burglars and terribly sad that everything was wrecked. Everything had been so perfect. How could it have turned out so horribly? Our ONLY first Christmas together was ruined and I was inconsolable. What were we going to do? There was no way we could afford to replace all those presents.
Then, at my lowest, most disconsolate moment, something remarkable happened. My fiance came home from work one afternoon a couple of days before Christmas looking dazed. He threw his briefcase down on the dresser and sat down hard on the end of the bed.
“When Frank at work heard what had happened, he talked to his wife Susan and they felt so terrible that they wanted to give us some money so we could go replace the stolen gifts.” And he reached in the front pocket of his shirt and pulled out a folded check for $150. And there was nothing I could do but cry.
We went back to the mall that night determined to do the best we could to find presents – again – for everyone on our list. We knew we weren’t going to find another white Power Ranger like the one we’d gotten Brian though. They were the super-hot item that season and they were sure to be sold out. We just resigned ourselves to that fact. We walked into the toy store at North DeKalb Mall hoping to find him something half as good. Sure enough, they were sold out of the foot and a half tall stuffed white Power Rangers. We walked disappointedly around the store looking for something else instead.
Then suddenly I stopped dead in my tracks. I squealed and jumped up and down right in the middle of the store. There, in the metal cage of assorted stuffed toys was a glorious, greater than we ever even wished for, FIVE FOOT TALL, STUFFED WHITE POWER RANGER! Needless to say, Brian squealed even louder when he opened it on Christmas morning. It was more than we had ever imagined.
I may have lost my faith in some portion of humanity that Christmas, but I also learned that despite all the mean people, there are even more folks in the world who will lift you up and restore your belief in goodness and generosity.
And I learned, as crazy as it may seem, that there really is some kind of ineffable Christmas magic that might just surpass your wildest hopes and dreams – maybe even this year. Keep the faith.
This sweatshirt was the number one item on my Christmas list this year! So beautiful! I can almost smell the grass, hear the crack of the bat and feel Gerald Laird’s stubble underneath his catcher’s mask!
Also on my list was this fantastic Star Trek Transporter Room Bath Mat & Shower Curtain Set! Set phasers to STUNNING!
Then to round it out, I asked for a few books, some clothes, a mattress cover, and GU energy gels and Met-Rx bars to power my running habit. Hopefully, in a few weeks I can check some of these items off my list of wants. But there’s something I’d like even more…
You know I’ve been on this campaign for hope, right? Am I so naive to believe we can really change the world one person at a time? I do think the world is like that insurance commercial where each good deed leads to another. So what I really want is a kindness revolution for Christmas!
I talked a little in my last post about the dinner I went to last week at Candler School of Theology. Dr. Greg Ellison delivered a talk entitled “Cut Dead But Still Alive: Caring for Marginalized Populations.” And brother, was the dapper Mr. Ellison speaking my language!
He shared this William James quote with us:
“No more fiendish punishment could be devised, were such a thing physically possible, than that one should be turned loose in society and remain absolutely unnoticed by all the members thereof. If no one turned around when we entered, answered when we spoke, or minded what we did, but if every person we met ‘cut us dead,’ and acted as if we were non-existent things, a kind of rage and impotent despair would before long well up in us, from which the cruelest bodily torture would be a relief.”
So who are the people who are “cut dead” – rendered invisible – in our society? Young black men? The poor? The disabled? The homeless? The elderly? The sick? The transgendered? The socially awkward? The abused? The hungry? The mentally ill? All of these. More than these.
Dr. Ellison discussed Social Psychologist, Kipling Williams‘ list of four fundamental human needs: 1) Belonging 2) Self Esteem 3) Control and 4) Meaningful Existence. Everyone needs these four things to be able to function in a healthy way in the world.
He went on to talk about the three threats to hope. The first is despair. Despair can lead to one of two outcomes, either disgust or depression. The second threat is apathy. Apathy can lead us to either lethargy, or what I have written in my notes as “present-bound inclusive.” Whether I wrote those words correctly, the gist of it was that apathy can lead to saying “What the hell? I don’t care what happens to me, so my actions, good or bad, have no meaningful consequences!” And the third factor that threatens hope is shame. Ellison says that guilt is the belief that I’ve DONE something wrong, but shame is the belief that I AM something wrong.
Towards the end of the lecture, we read a long quote from the work of Howard Thurman who was a writer, a thinker and a civil rights leader. For me the most powerful sentence was this one.
“It is better to be the complete victim of an anger unrestrained and a wrath which knows no bounds, to be torn asunder without mercy or battered to a pulp by angry violence, than to be passed over as if one were not.”
So my mission – my passion – is to let people know that they ARE, that they count, that they are not invisible, that they belong, and they have something to offer. How would our world change if “rage and impotent despair” were banished? How would society look with less despair, less apathy, and less shame? What would it be like to live in a world where everyone has a sense of belonging and a feeling that they are good enough to be accepted, that they have some control over their lives and well-being, and have opportunities that give their lives meaning? What if everyone had hope.
I have felt hopeless and worthless – like I didn’t matter – like there was no good reason to go on living. I’ve had a friend tell me they’re not sure they’re going to be able to provide Christmas for their family. I’ve seen what the feet of the homeless look like after weeks of endless walking. I’ve seen people looking forlorn at work and walked by without speaking. My good friends at church told me they sat in the pews there every Sunday for two years before anyone spoke to them. I never call my Aunt Jo and she’d love to hear from me. There are so many tiny, simple opportunities for change, opportunities to bring hope and joy and inclusion, that go past us every day.
So the best gift you could give me this Christmas is to find at least one invisible person to bring into the light. Reach out and let someone know they matter, that they are good enough, that there is a reason for them to be. Help them see that they ARE.
I know we can do it. We can set a revolution in motion with even the smallest actions. Not everyone can be a mighty warrior for justice like Nelson Mandela, but everyone can be a tiny spark that ignites a fantastic blaze that can change and refine the world! Let’s do this.
Read what some other outstanding bloggers have to say about this!
(Rising Bloggers click the link to add yours!)
As some of you know, I’ve been thinking, searching and praying about whether or not I should go to seminary in the fall. If you’re new to me and this blog, I’ll briefly summarize. After coming out of a long summer of depression, I was so thankful to have survived it that I felt led to somehow share hope with others. I want to let people know things get better, pain and grief are not forever, individuals are not invisible, and there are people who care for them just as they are. It was clear in my heart and mind that God had called me to this task, I just wasn’t sure how I was meant to accomplish it.
I went to Candler School of Theology at Emory University to study for my M.Div. when I got out of college in 1990. But I only went halfway through the program before deciding to quit. (This is how you wind up with a lifelong job in the exciting world of Audio Visual services. No! It wasn’t my college major – Church Administration was.) Anyway, that was long enough ago where none of the credits I accrued would count now. I’d be starting over from scratch. And what was it I wanted to do with a seminary degree? Hospital chaplaincy? Counseling? I wasn’t sure, but I figured I’d have time to decide in the three years it would take to get through the program.
I was certain that if I went back to school, I would want to go full-time. I’m 45 years-old. Ain’t nobody got time to go to school part-time for six years and then change careers when they’re my age. I was pretty sure that between scholarship money and a part-time job I could probably swing the $25,000 a year tuition. But there were still books and food and my condo and all that other stuff you need to live. I have a job that pays pretty well and has excellent retirement plan and benefits. Did God want me to leave all that behind, take a pledge of poverty and go back to school?
I knew that Candler gives out five big Woodruff Scholarships that give full tuition and a stipend for living expenses. But I discovered the other day that the stipend is only $10,000 a year.
I’ve also spent a lot of time talking with several people “in the business” about this decision. But the advice that hit closest to home was from a friend who had been in a similar situation and quit her job to go back to seminary. She talked about how much she had given up. And she told me to think about the fact that if I want to work for change in the United Methodist Church, I may be in a better position to do so as laity instead of as a minister who is employed by the church and subject to its rules and regulations. I thought that was an excellent point.
So I think I’ve finally made a decision. I’m not going to pursue seminary. I’m going to keep my job. (I’m single and really have to be careful about my money. And I REALLY want to retire one day!) I’m going to pursue my call from within the church initially through my home church at St. Mark United Methodist. Our staff is reorganizing and along with it, our Outreach and Missions Programs. I’ll be joining the Missions Committee in January to begin to formulate a new plan for missions at St. Mark, and I will continue to work in our Breakfast ministry with the homeless of Atlanta.
Hopefully, through this work I can continue to hone the focus of my personal ministry. But maybe my calling is just to make the world happier in general. I went to an excellent Table Talk dinner at Candler last week where Dr. Greg Ellison, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling spoke. (I go into that in more detail the next time I blog.) But the crux of his challenge to us was to change the world three feet at a time. He actually gave us each a 3 foot long paper measuring tape from IKEA and asked how the world would be different if we acknowledged and respected every person we encountered within that three foot radius of us – if we treated those people with kindness and dignity and open-mindedness and love.
And that’s just what I’ve been trying to do. I might be naive, but I believe in the transformative power of simply treating others like people who deserve respect. I try to make eye contact with everyone I pass and smile or say hello. I’m trying so hard to make sure no one is my path is invisible. I believe if we all feel valued and cared for, we then also have hope, and with hope and dreams and possibilities the world will be a much brighter and kinder place.
Until this summer, I didn’t know I could have no feelings. There was nothing but the flat, affectlessness of depression. Nothing made me happy. Nothing made me want to leave the house. I never looked forward to anything with anticipation. I never wanted to be around anybody. I had no hope. I had no reason to live. I just lay on the couch in front of the tv with a blank mind. And I finally got in trouble at work for just sitting at my desk and zoning out in the same fashion – just without the blanket. Things were actually better in a way until about five years ago when I stopped drinking.
I started drinking in graduate school when I was going though a severe, but undiagnosed depression – that kind of depression where you wake up in the morning and feel normal for a second, and then the weight of the sadness falls on your heart for another day and you remember. I went to night classes at seminary drunk, skipped internship events, finally dropped out of school and got kicked out of my apartment by my best friends because I had turned into such a bad roommate. But things were better because alcohol relieved some of the pain.
I moved to Virginia-Highlands into a filthy, crappy old apartment, worked nights at Emory in the AV department and drank too much while running up debt on my credit cards. After about 2 1/2 years of that, I was so tired of being sad. I decided to take up softball again after several years hoping to find a way to recapture some passion for living instead of just a passion for feeling nothing through drinking. I not only found a bunch of softball at the old Softball Country Club on North Decatur Rd.; I also found a husband! My husband’s father had been an alcoholic, so he was totally against drinking. I quit for him, but also because I was so happy, I didn’t need to drink anymore. My pain and sadness were gone! There was no need to mask my feelings. My life was finally happily settled!
And then the regular day to day reality of living with someone, even someone you love, started to settle in. I didn’t know how to communicate about the things that made me mad and sad and anxious and scared. I was hurt and passive-aggressive and resentful. I started having a beer every now and then when my husband was at the ballfield to relax. Then I started thinking that if he really loved me, he wouldn’t do things that hurt my feelings or make me mad. I needed someone who would treat me the way I deserved. So I had an affair. And my partner in the affair promised me if I left my husband, he’d leave his girlfriend and we’d be together. So I got an apartment and did just that. All I could take was the stuff that would fit in the five trips I made in my car between my house and the new apartment during that day when my husband was at work. I left most of my books, my baseball cards and my dogs. (You can’t keep Labs in an apartment.) And I left my husband, who I thought I’d love forever, after ten years of marriage.
And, indeed, I wound up getting treated just like I deserved. Of course, my partner in the affair didn’t leave his girlfriend to move in with me. I was devastated. So I got up every day, went to work and watched the clock because I couldn’t WAIT to go home and drink to numb the hurt. I’d come home and sit out on my porch on a ballfield chair or in front of the TV and drink Coors Light or Vodka & Diet Mountain Dew (Hey. I was living in Conyers. Don’t judge me! When in Rome…) until I’d pass out on the couch, usually watching “Little House on the Prairie” because it was so very soothing. I will say, I got a LOT of reading done that year because I could never sleep. I could only pass out and then wake up, go to bed and not sleep.
One day when it became obvious that my relationship with my partner was over, I snuck away from work in the middle of the day, went home and got drunk. And of course, the office called and needed me for an emergency. I had only been back at work for about 30 minutes when my boss came in. It was obvious I was drunk. Fortunately, I didn’t get fired. I was just sent home. But I was so ashamed. I was the golden child; I was gifted; I was supposed to go into the ministry. And somehow it had all come to this. I felt like the dumbest, dirtiest, most foolish and worthless person on the face of the earth.
So then I started my drinking in the mornings on the weekends. Vodka & Diet Mountain Dew at 9am? Sure, why not? After about three months, my divorce was final; and after about six months, I decided I needed to get back in the world just to pridefully prove to people that I hadn’t ruined my life, that I was doing OK and was ready to happily move on.
I met a guy at a Christmas party and by June had moved to Midtown Atlanta to live with him in his condo. And we drank a lot! I’m pretty sure that there for a while we were technically minority owners of The Vortex. At least once or twice a week, we’d still be sitting at the bar there at 2am when they had turned on the lights and were sweeping the floors. But we were good customers and good tippers, so they never seemed to mind. Then we’d come home and sit on the balcony of the condo until 4 or 5 in the morning drinking Bloody Marys. Who needs more than two hours of sleep? Sure I was going to work hungover a few days a week, but I was having fun. So what if some days I had to just sit at my desk with my head down on my folded up jacket because the world was still spinning from the night before?
Things went on like this for a few years, but then when the economy went down the toilet, my boyfriend lost his job. We were just living on my salary and I was scared to death! What was going to happen if I lost my job too? I started drinking more and more. We had a very convenient convenience store on the bottom floor of my condo, and I could just swing through there every night after work and pick up a six pack of Heineken Light. I’d sit on the balcony and drink all six and fall asleep on the couch. And after a while, six weren’t enough. I finally worked my way up (down?) to a twelve pack of Natural Light every night. (I couldn’t afford to drink twelve Heinekens every night.)
I was drinking too much to go out in public to drink any more. One of my biggest fears was that I’d go out drunk and make a spectacle of myself. I wanted to get drunk as hell to quell all my panic, but more than anything I wanted to stay in control. I finally decided that I needed to get a handle on the drinking before something really bad happened. So I started by telling myself I’d just drink two beers. But if there were four more in the refrigerator, I couldn’t keep myself from giving in and drinking those too. Then I tried just drinking on the weekends. But there always seemed to be an excuse to drink during the week too: I had a bad day at work, I had something to celebrate, I had something to mourn, everybody else was drinking at Tin Roof after Thursday night softball. I was even playing ball (trying and failing miserably) while I was drunk off my ass. I was starting to realize that I couldn’t stop drinking even when I wanted to.
On February 22, 2009, a Sunday, I had been at the condo drinking all afternoon. When a friend called to ask if we were coming to the condo’s Oscar party, I told my boyfriend I was already too drunk to go. But they convinced me that it would be fun. I agreed to go, but told them I wasn’t going to drink any more. But when I got downstairs to the social room, there was free alcohol. I was powerless. I drank through the whole Oscar ceremony and then we proceeded to our friend’s 4th floor condo to keep drinking. When we drank up everything we had there, they convinced me to go back down to the social room and see if there was any alcohol left there. I found a half-full bottle of some kind of pink wine in the refrigerator and went back to our friend’s with it. The last thing I remember was sitting on my friend’s couch drinking this DREADFUL wine, smoking a cigarette, feeling sleepy and thinking to myself, “I don’t need to fall asleep on this couch with this lit cigarette.”
About an hour or so later I woke up sitting on the floor leaning against the wall next to the elevators on the 20th floor down the hall from our condo. I couldn’t get up. I knew I needed to get to our door, but I just couldn’t rouse myself and passed back out. Finally, I woke back up enough to make it home and my boyfriend was standing in the kitchen FURIOUS! Apparently, an hour earlier, we’d left our friend’s condo together and when both elevators opened at the same time we decided to elevator race to the 20th floor. (I have no recollection of this.)
My boyfriend was on the phone with the police when I walked in reporting me missing. He’d been all over the building and couldn’t find me anywhere. I was mortified. This wasn’t getting drunk and passing out. This was getting so drunk that I blacked out. My body was still awake, but my brain was asleep. I guess I’d been somewhere in the building wandering around for the previous hour, but I have no idea where I went. (I had some neighbors I didn’t really know who would giggle at me and say, “Hi, neighbor!” everytime I saw them on the elevator after that, and so I suspect they were somehow involved in whatever happened that night.)
I was scared shitless! I could’ve wandered out on Peachtree St. and been raped or robbed or hit by a car. The police had been called! This was the “out of control” I had been so scared of. My boyfriend and I both called in sick the next morning. When we woke up, I remember us just laying there in bed looking at each other sheepishly. We both whole-heartedly apologized and stumbled to the living room and fell miserably on our respective couches. I remember being prone on the love seat staring at the ceiling numbly through the entire run time of “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” on AMC. (That’s a long time! A long, long movie and all those commercials, y’all!) I was so frightened that it was hard to breathe. I literally felt like there was some kind of evil force trying to suck my very soul away. I knew this had to stop. But I didn’t know how I was going to manage to quit drinking when I’d tried so hard to manage it on my own and failed.
The next day at work I poked around on the internet and found the Addiction Recovery Guide‘s Alcohol message board. People there had stories that sounded just like mine, but they were getting better. They encouraged me to find a recovery group. Then one blessed soul there gave me a sound “kick in the ass” challenge and I relented and went to a recovery meeting. Thank God! I found experience, strength and hope in the stories of my fellow recovering alcoholics. I went to this group almost every Monday through Thursday for a couple of years. I learned so much about myself and my faults and strengths. And I made friendships and support structures I’ll have forever. And I honestly have not wanted a drink since the day I walked in that room. (It doesn’t work that way for everybody. I am truly blessed.)
My boyfriend moved out a couple of years ago. The time had come. The relationship had run its course. And we parted as friends. But it was so nice to feel like I had the freedom that came with singleness. I could watch whatever I wanted to TV. I didn’t have to worry about where someone else was. I didn’t have to be quiet in the mornings. I relished all that for a while and then last year just kind of lost myself in Dr. Who for a while. Distractions had become helpful denial. I never wanted the leave the condo except to go to work and church, and I certainly didn’t want to do anything with other people. And then, as I mentioned in a previous post, the big depression started settling in around November of last year.
I fought it pretty well until Mother’s Day this year, and then the wheels came off. I called in sick that next day because I couldn’t get out of bed and the sadness and depression hit full bore. By summer, I couldn’t feel anything at all. (I felt happy for only and exactly THIS moment all summer long. Really.) My heart hurt all the time. Sometimes I’d just lay on the couch, cover my head with the blanket and pray for a bus to hit me since I was pretty sure I was too cowardly to kill myself. I’d wake up in the mornings with my heart racing. I’d lock myself in the bathroom at work and cry. I didn’t want to drink again. But I sure did recall why I had, how it numbed the pain and worry and sadness. Once again, I was out of control and powerless and I knew I needed help.
I called the Wellness Center at work (bless my liberal workplace!) and met with a nurse who discussed my depression with me and who gave me the number to call to find a therapist that was in our insurance network. When I got up to leave she asked me, “Are you going to call?” When I answered, “Maybe,” she sat me back down and made the call for me. (God bless her too! She’ll be getting a Christmas card this year!)
I scheduled an appointment with a psychotherapist (Dr. Weiner) and started meeting with her weekly. We started discussing my issues with relationships, anger, vulnerability and trust, including the effect childhood sexual abuse has had on all facets of my life. I started feeling better about myself when I understood more about how all the pieces fit together. And I slowly started feeling feelings again.
I started working through “The Courage to Heal Workbook” to learn about coping and healing. My friend loaned me a book called “The Gift of Imperfection” that was a tremendous help towards my understanding that I can live my life without shame and be my authentic self without fear. And I saw a psychiatrist who prescribed Paxil for anxiety and depression.
I knew for my whole life, particularly as I got older, that I had a touch of social anxiety. (And the alcohol had helped with this tremendously.) I was generally afraid of people, especially if I didn’t know them really well. But I didn’t realize until I got into therapy how much fear and anxiety I had about EVERYTHING. I was afraid to go someplace I wasn’t familiar with because I didn’t know where I’d park. I was afraid to try something new because I was afraid of how embarrassed I’d be if I wasn’t good at it. I was afraid to go to a movie because what if I didn’t like it. I was afraid to spend money on myself because what would I do if I went broke and had to be homeless. And heaven forbid if I had to go somewhere and make small talk with people! *passes out*
I can’t begin to tell you what a difference the Paxil has made. Between the therapy and the Paxil, I’m only afraid of things I should be afraid of like bears, the bubonic plague and Velveeta. I make eye contact with strangers on elevators and say hello. I went to Atlantic Station where I’d never driven before, figured out the parking and found the store I needed without breaking a sweat. I had company spend the night last weekend. And I invited people over to watch Dr. Who next weekend.
But most importantly, it’s brought back my joy and my hope for the future and my dreams. Little things like bringing a smile to someone’s face make me happy again now. I’m thinking about going back to theology school and trying it sober this time! And I’ve discovered that I love writing and would like nothing better than to find a way to do more of it.
So the point of this long-winded, meandering, narcissistic story of my adult life is this. If you are hurting or struggling, there is no shame in it. And there is no shame in asking for help. In fact, the only way to heal is by getting help. We can’t do it alone. It’s the aloneness and isolation that push us farther and farther down into our abyss. Reach out to someone. Reach out to me. There is help. There is hope and there is no shame. Healing and recovery and renewed joy and hope are possible. And they feel incredible.