From reading prior posts, you may well gather that my life and mind moved at the speed of light. I created a life where there was no time for me; there was no time or consideration or thought that I was headed off a cliff; there was not a thought that I needed to push on the brakes; there was no reverse, stop, or park to my automatic drive transmission. I plowed through work tasks, all chores, anything and everything; I bulldozed through difficult complicated situations like Samson flicking a pebble. I shifted gears automatically from tasks, assignments, and responsibilities weaving in and out, switching lanes, and exceeding the speed limit without blinking. If it needed to be done, I got it done. There was never a question in my mind to question whether to do it or not, I did it. My life was full and fast. At that break neck pace, I could have never identified that something was wrong, I really truly believed I was “fine,” there was nothing wrong with me, I was successful and had finally achieved a life I thought I would never have or for that matter deserved. Outwardly, I was an autonomous robot that knew how to sincerely mimic life and present an appearance of being highly responsible, independent, dependable, reliable, loyal, loving, kind, persevering, all together, everything going for me, never let them see me sweat, and a tower of strength. No one saw that my mind was constantly racing figuring life out by the seat of my pants, creating a meticulous, organized, on top of everything existence.
No one knew of the severe sleep deprivation. I could only sleep 5-6 hours a night on average, at times 3-4 hours because my mind never stopped. It had always been that way. I did not understand that this was abnormal. It was when we stopped going to church that on Sunday mornings I wound down enough to sleep a little longer. This had the opposite effect on my system; I was exhausted on Sundays and on bizarre occasions found myself crashing for an extended Sunday afternoon nap. This supported the therapist ideology that one does not have to go to church – I needed the extra sleep on Sundays to refuel my tank for the week ahead. Yet, not a Sunday passed that my mind was convicted about not attending worship service; my heart and spirit were saddened because I loved church.
I kept therapy a secret from everyone except my husband. Quite honestly, it came natural not to speak of therapy; I never spoke to anyone, including my husband, about my childhood, my dysfunctional family, my stresses and labors through college, my husband’s life, our complicated relationship, my feelings, discouragements, battles, and my inner world. My husband, in his word, truly thought I had everything together, I had a busy life, assumed I had a lot going on, and I was managing it. There were no signs or evidence to suggest otherwise. I buried anything and everything that would suggest weakness, failing, falling, asking for help, or giving up. I was fortified and kept confidences like a reflex, including keeping my own secrets from myself. I had learned to cope and be all-sufficient from very little on; I learned that I could not depend on or trust anyone accept myself, sadly enough, not even God; I learned to take care of myself and figure out life by myself; I learned how to suffer and survive; and I hung no trespassing signs surrounding my inner world that allowed no one entry.
I have a genuine deeply caring sensitive spirit. My husband says, “You think about everybody. You have a spirit of compassion, mercy, and great love for others.” I step into other’s feelings as easily as sand slips through cracks. I experience another’s emotions as if they were my own, but it is as if I cannot experience my own. I cannot tolerate injustice and used to fight quiet crusades on the behalf of others. I wanted others to be happy; I wanted to relieve other’s burdens and fears; I wanted to alleviate conflict so others could have peace. I would sacrificially do and give anything to anybody to make him or her happy. And, I had abundant scripture to support my behaviors and actions. Yet, as written about in prior posts, I was unconscious ignorant, empty, self-imprisoned by beliefs and rules that filtered and sorted accordingly, bearing inner crosses, and continuously swallowing a massive heartache deep within every piece and part of me. That heartache coursed through my underground like tributaries, seeping through every crack, crevice, joint, fissure, rock, cavern, and cave. Those dark empty places within, where the heartache coursed, carried anxiety, depression, despair, fatigue, fear, grief, at times hopelessness, hurts, insecurities, loneliness, low self-esteem, melancholy, nightmares, nervousness, pain, panic, sadness, sorrow, suffering, worthlessness, silent screams for help; I needed “food” to feed my starving heart, mind, and soul. These internal demons lurked about within unbeknownst to my conscious mind. As an adult, I endured a number of fender benders, but no external severe catastrophic accidents had occurred to weaken and shatter my resilience to shine light into the internal darkness.
I did not know that I harbored a deep yearning hope for someone to unconditionally love me; a yearning for someone to authentically care about my needs and feelings; a yearning to be genuinely heard and it all matter to someone; a yearning to be fully understood; a yearning to be sincerely wanted not for what I could do or give, but just for who I was; a yearning to be accepted and cared about for just me; a yearning for someone to validate me and find me worthy; a yearning to not feel used, abused, objectified, and taken advantage of; an unquenchable yearning for a mother to hug me, sit close to me, hold my hand; a yearning to find a safe place to land; I wanted to be loved and truly matter to somebody.
The therapist imbued these yearnings and hopes and I, without question, in my vulnerability, cut a small opening in my crime tape letting her enter just a smidge into my inner sanctuary and persistently gain small measures of trust. I tethered myself to her like a small child clinging to the leg of its mother.
I remained in overdrive charging forward into my actualized life; the therapist was constant in securing her interest in me; and I continued masquerading in my illusionary world under the mantra “I’m fine.”
I was unaware that there are rules of engagement, ethics, and professional boundaries that therapists are supposed to practice. Being oblivious to these rules, ethics, and boundaries, I could have never distinguished that a therapist can violate these guidelines. When she said we were going to be best friends, I was flattered, curious, and taken to a different level in the relationship. Given my history and personality type, I treasure real friendships and place great value on them. I am a very kind, deeply loyal soul, and easily taken advantage of, particularly in this therapeutic relationship. I marched to the beat of her drum; I owned her imagined feelings that truly never existed; and I dismissed my inner voice. I was ripe for the picking and she knew it!
Now keep in mind I was persuaded to abandon my family. Over the next month, we began to talk about church. My husband and I belonged to a small IFCA (Independent Fundamental Churches of America) church of approximately 100 people on a good day. The college we attended was IFCA. We segwayed right in step with beliefs and practices into this church. We loved this church and became an integral part. We had developed a very close relationship with the pastor, his wife, and children, having dinner together no less than once a week. We were in attendance Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening. I was the church pianist, my husband did dramatic readings, we taught Children’s Church for a number of months, we taught the Junior High Sunday School class for a short season, and we did janitorial rotations. For some unknown reason, I began feeling disillusioned; I felt like the church was consuming my very life, as if a small piece of sand was irritating my oyster flesh. I would spend countless hours prepping preludes, congregational hymns, offertories, postludes, and at times special music throughout the week. We prepared Sunday school and Children’s Church lessons. Saturday evenings began feeling like torture as my perfectionist anxieties escalated in anticipation of Sunday’s demands. At one point, my Sunday morning looked like this:
Get to church at 9:15 am to prepare the classroom for teaching the Junior High Sunday School class; teach from 9:30 am to 10:15 am making sure we were always done right on time so that I could race upstairs to play the prelude while people filtered in and took their seats; play two or three congregational hymns; play the offertory; play one more congregational hymn; children were then dismissed for children’s church and we would head back downstairs to teach Children’s Church making sure we concluded at 11:45 am sharp so that I could rush back upstairs to play the closing congregational hymn and postlude.
At the point I began seeing the therapist, this was my weekly prep and Sunday morning routine, and I was burning out, which trickled into displaced feelings and irritations with people in the church that typically I could ignore or tolerate. Particularly, there were two curmudgeonly older women who together reigned with a cruel iron scepter making sure there would be no changes or altering of traditions. One month, my husband and I were asked to fill in for the woman who normally arranged the flowers and such at the front of the church. When not in use, a large Bible was displayed on the communion table. One Saturday when we were filling in, we decided to move the Bible to the ledge of the baptismal, place an arrangement of wheat in a vase along with a matching plate and chalice on the communion table. When we arrived Sunday morning, one of the women marched herself up to the baptismal, took the Bible and placed it back on the center of the communion table. They were bullies; I had experienced that enough in my life; and I refused to let it go without approaching the woman. I asked her why she thought it necessary to move the Bible back to the communion table. I will never forget her smirk and smug attitude, stating, “Because that is where it belongs!” I walked away and let it be as not to create a scene or conflict, which I could not manage. That morning for offertory, I played an arrangement of “Blessed Assurance” which crescendoed at various parts. Afterwards, this same woman accused me of playing the offertory in anger. I looked at her and had to walk away. This type of nonsense wreaks destruction in a church and strips away unity. Throughout the next few sessions, I shared these and other frustrations I was encountering at church with the therapist, not understanding that I was overwhelmed and fatigued.
Now I chose this particular mental health institution because “Christian” was in the facility name. I assumed all employees were Christians. Never make that assumption, ever! As I shared my experiences with the therapist, I encountered opposition to church in general. She began exploiting her feelings about church. People in the church are judgmental, critical, and she said a number of times some stupid quote about you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian, just like a car does not have to be parked in a garage to be called a car. She skillfully began discouraging me from church attendance. At that time, she certainly did not disclose that she herself was not a Christian, so I believed she was a Christian. She began encouraging me to distance myself from the friendship with the pastor and his family, telling me it was not a healthy relationship. She began telling me that there are no absolutes in life, everything is relative, and there are no truths or moral absolutes about going to church or not going to church. She persuaded me into believing these people were just hypocrites. I needed to give myself permission to walk away. In hindsight, she added fuel to the fire and made the situation seem worse. She used words like, “to tell you the truth,” “to be honest,” and “believe me.” I was in the center of her fumes! I did not dare risk disagreeing with her.
And, slowly I began pulling away from church. At first, I stopped attending Wednesday evenings. Gradually, it spilled over onto Sunday evenings. Slowly, I missed a Sunday morning here and there until I was not attending at all. As I allowed church to dissipate, I was being drawn in closer to the therapist. She continued to tell me that we were going to be best friends; she told me we were going to be sisters we never had; she told me we were going to grow old in a nursing home together. She was paying special attention to me and my little ones inside grew increasingly connected and groomed.
The one thing that I have held dear since childhood is daily reading my Bible. I love scripture! I love how it is planted in the very essence of my being and surfaces randomly in my mind. Whether I have read it in secret as a child, daily in high school during lunch quietly escaping into the library, at every job during morning break, over and over, my Bible is precious to me and is my truth. I did not allow the therapist to take that from me because I never told her of my daily scripture reading, but I did quench the still small voice within and began listening to her.
Satan masquerades as an angel of light! Satan is cunning! Satan leads astray! Satan is crafty! Satan deceives and lies! Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy! Satan is a stumbling block! Satan does not have in mind the concerns of God! Satan accuses! Satan prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour! Satan roams back and forth throughout the earth! Satan outwits and we are not aware of his schemes! Satan torments! Satan tempts! Satan is lawless and has no absolutes!! Satan will fool you!
I continued reading a couple more chapters in the book, Codependent No More, and writing out the exercises at the end of each chapter in my big notebook. I accomplished chapters 11 and 12 by the next appointment. Chapter 11 stabbed into low self-worth. Did I really have low self-worth? Really? That chapter is smothered in yellow highlights. Chapter 12 dealt with changes, disappointments, losses, and the grief process. In an academic way, I took in the information and did the ‘homework,’ Was I really learning? Absolutely! Was I able to break my life down and apply anything? Absolutely not! There were ideas and concepts that made a whole lot of sense; I saw myself in considerably much of what I was reading. Truthfully, I remained busier than a Wham-O Super Ball thrown down the highway. I did not have the skill sets to break down my life and understand psychological issues on a deeper level, for that matter, I did not know there were deeper levels. I was skimming the surface of a very deep therapy and personal abyss. I thought the therapist would begin discussing what I had already handed in at this next appointment.
I was uneasy heading out to the third appointment, given what had occurred at the second appointment. Believe you me, I learned quickly that I was responsible to get checked in one way or another. Thankfully, when I arrived a receptionist was at the desk, checked me in, I took a seat in the waiting room, and the therapist came to get me shortly thereafter. My thoughts – thank you, thank you Jesus that there were no mishaps, I got it all right!
I entered her dim office and sat down in, what would become my permanent chair choice, the chair right by the door. Her disposition seemed different. The atmosphere seemed lighter; something about her had changed. She smiled at me, was very warm, and quite attentive as we talked. Now I presumed we would get right into discussing my ‘homework’ assignments – not at all! She dove directly into our marriage.
The first issue she opened up for discussion was the inequity and division of labor within our household. We discussed my husband working full-time in the corporate offices of a large local retailer; he had been there nearly 15 years, maintained an excellent work record and attendance, and was a very steady loyal man of routine. I was two and one half years into my fifth job (by choice) working full-time in the accounts department of a local hospital. I must admit, I liked all the various jobs I had worked, but occurrences that disagreed with me, schedule changes, or staffing/environmental changes sparked disunity within me and I would move along – nine months, two years, eight and a half years, two years, ten years. I never had difficulty securing employment. I was always a faithful employee; I learned fast and worked fast; I maintained high accuracy and work performance; and I was on top of everything. In fact, in this current job, I collected one million dollars in outstanding receivables in less than six months; there would be no bad debt happening on my watch. So, together my husband and I consistently earned a respectable wage; we had carved out our career niches – the difference being, all else! His company never offered overtime. It seemed that every employer I worked for offered abundant overtime. Of course, I worked as many hours as possible and of course, he never minded; we both always welcomed the extra income in our successful endeavor to pay off student loans early.
On the other hand, home had become a circus for me; I was the seal trying to balance the ball on the end of my nose. I was doing ALL chores – laundry and ironing; cooking and dishes; dusting; vacuuming and floors; bathrooms; kitchen; budget and paying bills; keeping track of birthdays, holidays, and gifts; prescriptions and supplements; lists for groceries, personal care needs, and household products ; mowing and raking; little home repairs; washing and vacuuming vehicles; hosting our friends for dinner; etc. Oh, if I asked him to help, he did with minor dragging, but we functioned like the tortoise and the hare. I knew what needed to be done, jumped right in to get it done without grumbling or much thought, and consistently maintained a meticulous organized home. He had no sense of owning home responsibilities, motivating himself to help, and from my vantage did not really seem to care. There were a few times I came to the end of myself. We had serious conversations about him helping. One particular time, I worked a double plus shift getting home at one o’clock in the morning. For some delusional reason, I thought he would have cleaned house that evening given I worked an eighteen-hour shift and we would have the weekend to rest and do something fun. When I opened the door, absolutely nothing had been done – NOTHING! In the blink of an eye, my mind went racing to his past. Had he betrayed my trust and our established accountability? Not in the ways of his past, but in ways I could not define at the time. A demon rose up out of the dust of my weariness. I spewed venom demanding to know what he had been doing all this time. His response, “I made a conscious choice to do nothing!” He arrived home from work, fixed himself dinner, and relaxed watching TV all evening. The battle became fierce until three AM! There was nothing forgettable or forgotten about those two looooooooooong fierce hours! He always sincerely said he was sorry; he always promised to change and do better; and I always extended grace (so I thought!) Yet, within two weeks, he would fall back into his role of not helping out and not owning any responsibility and I would fall back into my role of shouldering the weight of the world and doing everything. He was not male chauvinistic; he never treated me as a submissive female set on earth to serve him. We were both cut out of far different cloth, but I had no understanding of those concepts. The glue that held us together was our spiritual convictions, a dear friendship we had developed despite our fractured imperfect selves, and our beliefs that we treat all people with dignity and respect. We were never condescending or belittling to each other and we never called each other names. He lived in an oblivious carefree world. I lived in a hyper-everything world. By year 15 of our marriage, I was feeling used, taken for granted, taken advantage of, and unloved by a gigolo.
I was tired. Parts of me felt like I had been in a severe accident, had been in a coma for the first 36 years of my life, and now teeny tiny parts of me were waking up, and I did not recognize this place. I never said those words to the therapist because I did not recognize any of that until much later. The therapist listened intently and though I do not remember verbatim our conversation, I remember feeling like for the first time ever someone was listening; someone was hearing; someone was caring and that right there was the bait dangling on the hook.
She advised me to start asking him for help. I told her I did not want to be his mother; I should not have to ask him for help; he should be a responsible adult. I told her about some friends in a similar yet much worse situation. We would go to their house for dinner and play Euchre or Hearts. Her husband was male chauvinistic and expected to be served, was condescending, and I could go on. When we left their home some evenings, my husband would comment on how sorry he felt for her. It was disparaging and disheartening for me that he could see and attest to her misery and had zero compassion for me. One time driving home, I said to him, “How is it that you can feel sorry for her, but not for me?” He fell silent and did not want to talk about it.
The therapist also suggested I stop doing any chores related to him – his laundry, his ironing, paying the bills, etc. She said to let him run out of underwear and see how he feels about that. She said to let the lights be shut off once and see how he responds. I could not do those things. It felt cruel and irresponsible to me. Between the book and her minor suggestions, I tucked some thoughts away. I needed time to think through and gain more understanding before making choices that certainly seemed unkind. In no way did I ever want to hurt him, harm him, or burden him. The mind is a battlefield, particularly when you simply do not understand or ever experience healthy dynamics.
The homework was never mentioned. The book was never mentioned. Without knowing it, I was in thick therapy fog. I was a blank slate, vulnerable, and completely ignorant of therapy! When matters are left open-ended and unspoken, my mind splinters into various parts trying to understand. Was this book just some additional enhancement to therapy that I needed to dissect and comprehend in view of our discussions? I really did not know, but I did not have the skill set quotient. What I did know is that I would be continuing through the book because I thought that was an expectation as part of therapy whether mentioned or not. For me, it was like academic homework. I would get the assignment completed to the absolute best of my own ability. I would figure this out!
I arrive home from my first therapy appointment. I share with my husband my experience. He asks me what I thought about the therapist. I said, “She’s OK” and show him the recommended book, Codependent No More. We chat a bit about me not knowing what to do at check out. He assures me everything is fine. I kind of am able to put it aside, but truthfully, I tuck it all away inside.
I am a bookworm. I love books! I own hundreds of books. I have a list of want to ‘own or read’ that surely rivals the Library of Congress catalogs. I welcome reading Codependent No More, especially learning that the answers to my current life flailing’s were within these pages. That is right, all the answers to correct whatever is wrong. That very night, I embark upon the ‘Introduction.’ Here are a few enticing sentences I highlighted:
I saw people who constantly gave to others, but didn’t know how to receive. I saw people give until they were angry, exhausted, and emptied of everything.
Yet, these codependents who had such great insight into others couldn’t see themselves. They didn’t know what they were feeling. They weren’t sure what they thought. And they didn’t know what, if anything, they could do to solve their problems…
Sadly, aside from myself, nobody knew how badly I felt. My problems were my secret.
I was so responsible, so dependable. Sometimes I wasn’t sure I had a problem. I knew I felt miserable, but I didn’t understand why my life wasn’t working.
I saw people who had gotten so absorbed in other people’s problems they didn’t have time to identify or solve their own. These were people who had cared so deeply, and often destructively, about other people that they had forgotten how to care about themselves. The codependents felt responsible for so much because the people around them felt responsible for so little; they were just taking up the slack.
And, the pain that comes from loving someone who’s in trouble can be profound.
It’s difficult to convince codependents – those who by comparison look, but don’t feel, normal – that they have problems.
These few insights lured me into a place of hopeful thinking. All I needed was to complete this book, attend and talk in a few therapy appointments, and I could wrap this investment of time and money up in about (my thinking – 20 chapters, read one a week and do the exercises, see the therapist every other week) 20 weeks, about five months! I can do this; this is nothing! I like to read; I like to write; and I like learning. I will know what is wrong; what to do to fix it; and permission granted to speed along my fair maiden! And, they lived happily ever after! The end! WHAT A FANTASY! I had no inkling about what lie ahead!! Ignorance is NOT always bliss!
I buzzed through chapters one and two like they were children’s books, picking up ideas, words and phrases like fatigue; some things were becoming an effort; my family and friends think I am a tower of strength; always in control, always ready to help; fear; believing lies; sick of shouldering the burden and feeling responsible for the success or failure in relationships; guilt; I’m falling apart very quietly; have I been depressed for years?; I should be able to snap out of this; long ago I had shut off my need to give and receive love, I had frozen that part of me that felt and cared, I had to survive; I am trapped and cannot find my way out; something dreadful that I couldn’t explain had happened to me and has now snuck upon me; “adult child”?
The only chapter assignments thus far were to purchase a large notebook and record my responses to assignments, the above being the first, identifying these things (and people, which I did in my large notebook!) All done in two days! Hmmm…this might move a bit faster than I first calculated. But…all this is something to be considered. Little did I know that this was like peering at the Hubble Deep Field, ten billion light years away!
You can be assured that I did not stop at chapter two. In fact, I sailed through half the book and exercises up to chapter eleven by the time of my next appointment. I learned a couple definitions of codependency. One particularly stood out, referred to by Robert Subby in his book, Co-Dependency, An Emerging Issue seemed most to have a ring of truth for me:
“An emotional, psychological, and behavioral condition that develops as a result of an individual’s prolonged exposure to, and practice of, a set of oppressive rules – rules which prevent the open expression of feeling as well as the direct discussion of personal and interpersonal problems.”
You see, silence and secrets fell on me like snow on the mountain peaks. I never spoke to anyone at any time about my childhood; about feeling alone in this life having to figure it all out for myself; about learning to survive on my own; about my husband’s problems and the struggles in our marriage; about an entire host of things inside of me that I did not, could not, and should not discuss, and furthermore did not weigh in as conscious topics to be discussed. For the first half of the book I sponged in information, identified concepts, learned characteristics, learned about detachment, undependence, removing the victim, the concept of setting myself free, and living my own life. I cognitively had an influx of information. Now I am one to extract knowledge, think on it, dwell on it, break it down, shred it apart, ponder on the pieces, mince it to fragments, toss it into the fire for purification (scripture reading and prayer,) and construct my truth. This I had done and I was all set for appointment number two!
This time, I did not feel like I was driving to my funeral; I was filled with a little more confidence; I knew where I was going; I was prepared with my homework in hand; and I moved with familiarity. I arrive at the facility around 5:30 pm for my 6 o’clock appointment. I assumed I was to check in with the back receptionist as I did on the first visit, as the sign indicated. When I got to the back receptionist, there was no receptionist; in fact, there was no receptionist at either the front or the back desks. I thought maybe because the appointment was after normal business hours that I should wait in the back waiting room, where I sat at the first appointment. I sat there thirty minutes; no one came, not one person. There was not another patient, another therapist, another body anywhere; there was silence. At 6:30 pm, I thought perhaps I was wrong on the appointment day and/or time. Maybe I already missed the appointment, maybe I wrote down the wrong day, maybe I’m not supposed to be here, maybe I went to the wrong place and don’t even recognize it, am I in the right place, and onward my inner confusion mounted. I decided I would leave and be done with this entire unsettling mistake. I stood up quietly and quickly began to make my way to the exit. I get a couple steps past the front receptionist desk and here, “Deeon?” I turn around and there stood my therapist in her stilettos and fine clothing. She asks, “Where have you been?” I said I was in the waiting room where I was last week, there was no receptionist to check in with, and so I waited back there. Now, I am quite keen on discerning people; she was miffed! She looked at the clock, and said, “Well, we have a half hour, so let’s go to my office.” I felt like a child being whisked away to the naughty room. I sincerely felt terrible about the confusion. When we sat down in her office, she asked why I had not gone up to the receptionist area again to check in. I again stated there was no one there. She boldly told me that I was responsible for checking in, otherwise no one would know that I was there. Between her edge and my guilt, internally I took full responsibility for the mishap, blamed myself, and completely lost my voice to speak. I have no idea what she said for the remaining twenty minutes, not a clue. Departing, I took a deep breath and said, “What would you like me to do with this homework?” She said, “I’ll take it” and she did. And then she further stated in a nonchalant manner, “There is no one to check you out or set up another appointment. You will need to call in tomorrow to schedule your next appointment.”
I was never so glad to step out into the dark night and cold air. On the drive home, I wondered if I was losing my mind. What are you doing? Why are you doing this to yourself? Maybe I should not be doing this. I do not think she likes me. Why doesn’t she like me? Why didn’t she check for me in the waiting room? I do not think I should call tomorrow for another appointment. I think I should stop now. Maybe this is how therapy goes. Maybe you are the one responsible. Maybe they do not tell you how to do things to see how you will do things. Maybe you are being over-sensitive. Perhaps your misery is actually just your own melancholy, your personality type. Maybe some pastors are right – maybe my issues are really a deeper spiritual challenge. But, I read my Bible every day on morning break, I pray every day throughout the day, I go to church, I try to live a responsible life of integrity, and I certainly sacrificially help others. What is wrong with me? You know that self-talk? I had so much chatter going on in my head; I thought a large family of hungry squirrels had taken us residency.
By the time I arrived home, I was convinced this was not what I should be doing and shouldered the responsibility for this failure. Now, my husband is an easy-going type of guy. Through the years, I have learned that he will take the opposing side, but had not wisened up to that yet. I shared with him the situation and he convinced me that everything would be fine, I needed to call the next day to establish my next appointment, it was just a coincidental mistake, and she likes me otherwise she would not have told me to call for another appointment. In his own ignorance, he neutralized and counterbalanced my thoughts, he too not knowing what lurked ahead. I called the facility the next day. My next appointment was scheduled out for two and one half weeks later. Truthfully, that did not set well with me either, but I thought it must be normal. Despite my internal uneasiness, I did not know what was abnormal.
After reading Part 1, perhaps you can sense the pressure gauge inside of me very slowly climbing. The 2004 holiday season was finally over, the decorations put away, and the home put back in order, but for some reason I could not get myself put back in order. Yearly, beginning sometime in October, my tender and sensitive spirit always turned downhearted throughout the approaching and during the holiday season of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. I did not know why. Outwardly, I appeared “Tis the season to be jolly…fa la la la la la la la la.” Inwardly, I could not explain what I felt; now I know it as empty. This year was no exception, other than I noticed a deeper melancholy was hemorrhaging. I blew it off scurrying as always through the demands, commitments, and festivities thinking, come the solace of January my spirits would settle into a calm, respite, familiar routine place. Surprisingly, I did not regain my composure. The melancholies hung around like a London fog, creating a haze inside. I was having difficulty concentrating at work, struggling to accomplish the high volume of work I took on, lagging behind at home, occasionally missing church, and constantly hearing my inner voice, “What is wrong? Come on, we got this! We’re fine” and praying God would give me the strength each day to manage that days demands. Abnormally, I took a vacation day from work the second Wednesday of January just to catch up at home with cleaning, laundry, ironing, etc. hoping that would resolve my sense of being overwhelmed. Unusual, I fell behind again. I repeated taking another vacation day two weeks later. The turbulence inside of me was creating chaos in my typically highly organized, structured, meticulous world. I was struggling to maintain my ‘normal.’
About ten to eleven years prior, while working, I came upon a daily radio show broadcast through our local Christian radio station entitled, “Minirth Meier New Life Clinic.” I would have the program streaming for the daily hour at my desk, but only caught snippets being engrossed in work. I picked up that they were psycho something with clinics in Richardson, Texas. I did not give it much credence until one day, I overheard them speaking about being overweight and implications that could suggest a deeper problem, and the faint concept of depression. Hmmm…I chewed on those for a time, but the broadcast was soon terminated and those contemplations slipped into oblivion, so I thought. My second Wednesday in January while home, those Minirth Meier thoughts resurfaced. As I continued noticing lags in my ability to keep up, an inner voice began saying, “Maybe we need to get some help.” At first, I brushed that off as quickly as it came, telling myself, “No, we don’t need help, we just need to try harder! Come on…we got this!” However, as the lagging continued and I could not get on top of everything, the thought switched to, “We definitely need to get some help.”
I had no idea where to turn. I knew of a couple psychology professors’ names from the college I attended, but that was out of the question. I could not ask anyone; I could not show weakness; I could not be vulnerable; I could not let down my guard; I could not risk tainting my image – the stakes were too costly. I had jumped high hurdles my whole life to build a life that I never thought I could have or deserved. When I moved to this city for college, on occasion I would hear people jest about needing to be locked up in a padded cell at the local mental health facility. I wasn’t even sure what that meant; a padded cell? It was years before I learned the actual name of the facility. Whoever said it, I asked what the place was. They chuckled and explained it was for the crazy people. It actually made me rather sad that they were laughing at those people, but even then, it meant nothing to me. I began looking in the yellow pages and came upon a huge ad for that local Christian mental health facility. I figured Christian; surely, this would be the place.
It takes dogged courage to reach out for help! I had fear assaulting me like golf ball size hail from heaven. The very thought of calling constricted my throat, tightened my chest, and instigated heart palpitations. For about a week, I would pick up the phone to call, giving up before ever dialing the number. Inwardly, I am a strong soul. There is a bravery that rises inside of me that eventually pushes fear and emotions aside to face the giant. Friday, January 28, I quietly slipped away from my desk into an unoccupied office and dialed the number. A voice answered stating, “….Christian Mental Health Facility, this is…, Intake Specialist, how can I help you?” I silently wondered what ‘intake’ meant, but proceeded to explain that I was having some issues and wanted to know if I could set up an appointment. She asked if a LLC would be OK. I had no idea what that meant and said, “I suppose.” She gave me the name of the therapist and scheduled a new patient appointment for February 10, 2005 @ 4 pm. She said she would be sending me paperwork in the mail to complete and asked that I have it ready to turn in when I arrived. Ah…sweet relief…first step taken…NO!!! My mind became a raging forest fire with flames shooting in every conceivable direction second guessing myself, running through every imaginable scenario possible, who is she, will I be able to talk to her, what questions will she ask me, would I like her, what if I don’t like her, would I find the location OK, maybe I shouldn’t do this, what if somebody finds out, etc. My mind split in a million directions and I became engulfed and consumed with nerves! I thought about it every single day.
Driving to my first appointment, I felt like I was driving to my own funeral. I was somber, detached, and flat. I could hardly speak a word all day without it catching in my throat. I had an underlying nervous hum inside. When I arrived, there was a front and back receptionist area. The front receptionist area had a sign directing everyone to check in at the back receptionist desk. I checked in barely audible giving my name, handed the receptionist the paperwork, and took a seat in the waiting room. I was vigilant watching everyone, listening to everything, and taking in my surroundings! My inner voice prompted me to take flight and flee like a lone wolf into the dark of night, “It’s not too late!” The hyper-responsible part of me would never concede to such an irresponsible act! There I waited! I watched a woman walk past wearing stilettos, dressed quite fashionably nice, carrying paperwork, appearing to be someone on staff. Minutes later, she returns and calls my name. I am scarcely breathing on the quiet trek to her office with my mind repeating, “What are we doing? What are we doing? Oh my goodness, what are we doing?”
Upon entering her office, she took a seat at her desk and left me wondering where I was ‘supposed’ to sit. I took a seat in the chair next to the door, quickly scanning her office space. I took it all in, including her. She seemed friendly and genuine, and appeared as if she knew what she was doing. She sat facing me with her legs crossed scribbling notes on a legal pad as I answered her questions. She says, “So, tell me about yourself.” I lost my mind and my voice; I did not know what to say! I muddled through a few current facts. She was pleasant and smiled. We had more exchange of my current life and slowly I calmed down, found my voice, and could audibly speak. We slowly discussed the issues that prompted me to come. I factually shared pretty much all the details from Part 1. She assessed that I was struggling with codependency issues, wrote down the name of a book on a yellow sticky note, handed it to me, and suggested I read it and do the exercises at the end of each chapter. I said, “OK,” she stood up, we exchanged parting words, and I headed to the receptionist desk by myself to check out, praising God and thanking Jesus that was over!
Here is a glimpse of the exchange at the receptionist’s window:
Receptionist: “So, do you need to schedule another appointment?”
Me: “I don’t know.”
Receptionist: “Did she tell you to schedule another appointment?”
Receptionist: “Do you want to schedule another appointment?”
Me: “I don’t know. What do you think?”
Receptionist: “Well, I’m pretty sure you are supposed to have another appointment. When would you like your next appointment?”
Me: “I don’t know.”
Receptionist: “Would you like one week, two weeks, or something else?”
Me: “I don’t know. What is normal?”
Receptionist: “I’m gonna schedule you for two weeks from now. What time works for you?”
Me: “Evening if possible.”
Receptionist: “How about February 24 at 6 pm?”
She hands me an appointment card and I leave. I felt as ignorant as believing the world was flat! Was I supposed to know these things? What was I missing? Should I have asked those questions of the therapist? I shouldered all responsibility believing I looked like a fool and should have known something that I did not.
On the way home, I stop in at the local bookstore; I purchase the book Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. Ironically, before my husband and I were married, his therapist, who I spoke with only once for about 30 minutes, recommended I read this same book. At the time, I told him kindly that I was not the one with the problems here; I really did not think I needed to read a book. He smirked, wrote the name of the book down, and handed me a yellow sticky note as well. Not with any anger or malice, I crumpled it up and tossed it in the trash thinking he was pointing his finger at me as if I were the one with the problems. There was nothing wrong with me; I was fine!
Ever consider the domino effect where every choice we make represents a domino? Sometimes I imagine my entire life as a series of dominoes falling and colliding and intersecting with a forward push successively creating momentum or lethargy depending on extraneous factors with each topple. Every single day is a series of choices. All of life is a cycle of choices. There are spiritual choices, personal preference choices, obvious choices, random choices, informed choices, uninformed choices, impulsive choices, compromising choices, sacrificial choices, long-term choices, emotional choices, moral choices, physical choices, financial choices, health choices, food choices, charitable choices, educational choices, career choices, transportation choices, relationship choices, etc. Many choices are seamless, not even recognizing them as choices; they become reflexive behaviors. It is possible that one choice could fit into several of these categories. Every category contains good or bad options, pros and cons, accordingly. At the end of the day, a week, a month, a year, a lifetime, I believe it is the uninformed, ignorant choices (whatever category) which lead us into the darkest pits and deepest valleys – the choice you revisit in your mind and so wish you could take back; the choice you make in pure inexperience and unfamiliarity; the choice you make innocently fully believing it to be the right choice; the choice you make trusting God for good outcomes – the dominoes that fall on detonation sensors. I believe it is these choices that God uses to bring Him glory; to discipline us; to mold us like clay in His hands; to endure a long and painful process to purge out the dross and impurities like refined precious metals under heat; to lead and direct us to new places and understanding for our good; to discipline us to His highest value rendering wisdom, knowledge, and understanding; and ultimately to help others along their journey. Trust me, until eternity when “I shall know fully, even as I am fully known,” on this earth I may never fully know God’s purposes and reasons for allowing things to occur, but I now trust Him more.
I would like to share a personal experience, which actually began February 10, 2005 – one ignorant quiet choice to reach out for help, one unsuspecting private phone call to establish a new patient appointment that set off a drastic flash lightning chain reaction of events that haunts me to this day! I actually sometimes ask God, “Why did we have to do it this way?” I pray He will use it for His greater purposes. My first post will be preliminary accounts of happenings prior to this date, which will help give you an understanding of the events preceding my choice. I pray sharing this true story helps someone; gives someone wisdom and insight; and perhaps disrupts potential choices that need clear discernment – maybe that someone is just me! I will share this in parts.
I was in my fifteenth year of marriage still trying to navigate a complex web of marital dynamics stemming from two incredibly shattered people becoming one with all bets against our survival. We were only aware of one atomic bomb of my husbands that spewed debris, soot, and smoke all over us while dating. We spent over a decade of married life weaving in, over, around, and through the wreckage, consequences of choices he had made prior to marriage and on occasion, we still encounter a tiny burning ember that we more skillfully extinguish. After we were married, the rubble and plume of smoke from his explosion engulfed our existence, at times choking the life out of me. During our tumultuous, peculiar dating life, he was in the throngs of a ferocious battle I could not comprehend or understand. I had little clue about the size of the crater this explosion had created, but I did know I was teetering on the edge of a level of crazy I barely survived. I was aware of the framework, but I had no idea of the actual ugly images in the picture. Once I became conscious of a few images, I began piecing more and more together and throughout the ordeal became codependent, making every attempt to rescue him from the clutches of this monster and keep everything a secret. His plume of smoke was so wide, high, and thick that it blinded me to myself. I thought all our problems were because of him. I was normal; I had no problems; I was fine! There was nothing wrong with me. Truly, it is a heavy story of God’s redemption in his life; it is a heavy story of how I lost pieces of myself in the midst of his story. I was well equipped for the mission after years and years of my own buried and repressed life, yet I did not count the cost of my own personal damage until much later. I was an expert at suffering, survival, and denial!
Another atomic bomb that unknowingly flattened me on a level I denied was infertility. At no time while we were dating had we talked about having children. I loved little babies and little kids, but growing up I was not ‘in’ to babysitting, except for a select two. My mother consistently lined up babysitting jobs for me with people I did not know, for weekends, for summers, for evenings. I was ill equipped; I did not know what to do with these children; I had never learned to play, though I had no cognition of that for years and years. At a pre-marital exam, my physician (a great Christian physician whom I respected and loved) brought up contraceptives. He explained everything to me. I was not keen on the idea of taking a pill, but I also knew I/we were not prepared in any way, shape, or form to raise a child in the debris field, soot, and smoke we were currently living within. And always placing myself as the one responsible, I began birth control three months prior to our marriage without a blip on my radar that my husband could have taken measures. We gave no thought to not having children; we were just living life. However, our mothers were not shy in making their desires known. My mother boldly asked deliberately and consistently. His mother would never ask, but instead on multiple visits be crocheting baby booties, baby blankets, and baby jackets with a faint smile on her face as if I were giving birth the next day. We did take note of these things, but again were in agreement, in the wake of everything, it was not time. Around a year and nine months, I no longer wanted to take birth control, we were not totally prepared for children, but heard from friends ‘you are never fully ready.’ We decided I would stop taking the birth control and let nature take its course. Three months later, at another physical, my same doctor brought up having children and pregnancy. I explained to him that I discontinued birth control three months prior. He looks at me quizzically and suggests I get some preliminary infertility testing. It was a world I knew nothing of, but because I am a rule follower, I am present and accounted for at all procedures. Everything is normal. The physician then suggests my husband get checked. Against his every desire, he too follows through with his testing. It is a late summer afternoon. I hear the phone ringing as I am putting the key in to unlock the door. My husband is not home yet. I rush to the phone, “Hello.” It is our physician (kind of a fatherly figure to me) with a solemn tone. He says, “Hello Dee, this is doctor…, are you sitting down.” It all took me back for a minute, as I was not accustomed to him actually calling me; I thought something must have happened to my husband. I sat down and said, “Yes.” He tells me he got my husband’s fertility test results and that we only have a 2% chance of pregnancy. Nonchalantly I say, “OK” as if I had lost a dollar, no big deal. He inquired if I was OK. I said, “Sure, I’m fine.” He hung on the line as if waiting for some reaction of which I had none; I was blank; I was fine. When my husband arrived home, I shared the news with him like telling him the mail had just arrived. It was as if neither of us felt anything, no disappointment, no sadness, nothing. That was it, case closed. This was a loud bomb that I never heard go off, leaving destruction that I never saw for years.
My mother passed away January 20, 1994 from metastasized lung cancer. I never shed a tear – her first cancer diagnosis in December 1987, July 1992 when she phoned to tell me the cancer had returned, first chemo treatment, when she called me at work crying because her hair was falling out, every time she called me on the phone crying, multiple trips rushing 300 miles home; two sleepless weeks at the hospital as she lay dying; at the funeral; or thereafter. This too was an explosion of magnitude proportions leaving debris, smoke, and soot all over my life. I went through the motions managing her treatments, pain, and death as if it were spilled milk. The only residue I carried home was guilt, guilt, and more guilt; consistently wondering if she was OK; hoarding all her belongings for her return; nightmares; and weariness that dredged me like an anchor. But, after being gone for two weeks, I immediately began running forward at a pace that dwarfed the roadrunner. Inwardly, the emptiness and melancholy were escalating, but I was still able to outrun the emotions without recognizing or identifying that was what I was doing. It was my normal; I was fine! I did not know anything about grieving. It was my normal; I was fine! Yet outwardly, I began putting on pound after pound of weight, swelling to an all-time high of 460 pounds. I had no idea food was a coping mechanism that I used my entire life to fill the emptiness within and comfort my painful emotions. You see, psychology, mental illness, depression, anxiety, panic, insomnia, trauma, abuse, PTSD, neglect, abandonment, attachment disorder, etc. were not part of my vocabulary or knowledge. I was not educated in this field. These were my every day normal; nothing was wrong with me! I was independent, successful, and needed no one. I lived under THE mantra, “I’m fine.” Other than the embarrassing morbid obesity, amazingly, I presented an outward level of surpassing normalcy, I had everything together, all was well, I was fine. Inwardly, I had more secrets than a ‘secret keeper’ and I figured out any way possible to keep the secrets a secret from even myself. It is pretty tricky how the mind splinters, divides, and compartmentalizes information removing it from your awareness.
September 5, 1998 my maternal grandmother passed away quietly alone in her home. Another story for another day. We rushed there for the funeral, spent a day helping go through some of her possessions, rushed home with a few mementos in tow, and back to the grind without emotion. It was my normal; I was fine!
Sometime in 2004, another detonation of crushing decibels was released. My family has been riddled with friction, disagreements, narcissism, anger and rage, prolonged silences, passive-aggressive silent punishments, unsettled disputes swept under the rug, cruel actions, gossip and judgments passed down, hurts, wounds, and shredded relationships. I am not pointing the finger at anyone except myself, nor is this the storyline to delve into that world, and nor am I here to break this down for analysis. We are a dysfunctional, fractured people in constant need of forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration – that continual atonement! At this particular time, I once again found myself cast out into that world of dark silence with zero contact. I do not know the exact root that caused the seven years of separation, but this time I made a choice that I would no longer go crawling back with my tail between my legs, offering apologies for unknown actions, groveling to regain a standing in their good graces. I stepped away not knowing I was looking down the barrel of seven plus years of silence and separation. It was tragic. It was years of isolated aftershocks. I felt like an orphan. It was like scraping the skin off your knuckle having a constant sting. It was crushing and yet it was an all too familiar place; I was fine. I am just going to leave this here. For me, sharing the story of my family is like having a Viking reach in and rip your heart out with their bare hands.
I was a severe workaholic at work and home, which I learned as a coping mechanism to outrun and deny any ounce of emotion. Though I changed jobs four times of my own choice, I excelled at surpassing standards, cranking out work beyond imagination, and working overtime – often going in a 6 am and working until 6 pm, working a double plus shift at the end of each month from 6 am until 2 am the next morning, or going to work at 7 am on a Friday and not leaving until 3 am Saturday only to go back in after church on Sunday, then back to the regular work week on Monday. At home, I managed ALL affairs, and I do mean ALL. In silence, we fell into these roles. For years I just did anything and everything; if I saw it needed to be done, I did it. I was hyper-vigilant, hyper-responsible, hyper-organized, hyper-meticulous, hyper-clean, hyper-whatever. I lived at a pace unsurpassed by Hermes. That was my normal; there was nothing wrong with me; I was fine! As time progressed, I began to see that I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders and my husband was whistling off to work happy as a lark without a care in the world. He was fulfilled. Now I gave the appearance of unbelievable stability, dependability, super employee, church pianist, served in various roles in the church, and happy, yet on the inside, I was empty. My entire life I carried a measure of melancholy that steadily increased like a growing stock market price. We began to have a few tussles, but I had crippling fear that his past would resurface at the scent of conflict or disagreement. I chose to remain silent.
My body was letting me know it was under extreme duress! May 1985, April 1992, and December 1998 I was in the ER for heart palpitations and chest tightness – all three visits diagnosed as benign. March 2003 I visited my doctor for heart palpitations and chest tightness. He administered a stress test – diagnosed benign. Not one person spoke anything about anxiety. I now find that bizarre. September 1993 through May 1994 my thyroid levels began functioning at 170%. Specialists could do nothing to slow it down except radioactive iodine treatment. There was never a root diagnosis – no goiter, no virus, no cancer – nothing! August 1996 another ER visit for a 104-degree fever with delirium. They thought it to be a kidney infection, but nothing was ever confirmed. May 2000 and July 2004 broke my right foot, twice in different bones. Except for the ER visits, I went through all follow-up appointments, testing and procedures alone, including fertility. No emotions; I did not need anybody; that was my normal; I was fine!
I praise God for His enduring love, grace, mercy, and presence in my life.
Raise your hand if you have burdens you bear. It does not matter if those burdens are permanent or temporary, heavy or light, exposed or hidden, or even perhaps you are driving with your eyes closed, trust me, eventually you will crash! Come on, raise those hands, we ALL have our crosses to bear in this life. Some crosses are unchangeable and interminable. Some crosses are an adversity lasting an indeterminate, but limited amount of time. Some crosses are things that ‘happen to us’ causing severe ripple effects throughout our entire lifespan. Some crosses are consequences from conscious or ignorant choices made. Some crosses are life, redefining moments that establish a time marker of before and after where life breaks forever, you are now stumbling through an unfamiliar dense forest, and your life story is instantly getting re-written; life will never be the same. Now that all of your hands are finally raised, you ALL can put your hands down now.
If we put together an impromptu list of crosses people bear, I imagine it would be a scroll stretching out unfathomable miles and truthfully still would never be all-encompassing. I have my truly unbelievable ‘stuff’ to me, but I know every single person on the face of this earth has their personal story filled with hardships. I wish I had an anonymous PO Box to receive anonymous stories from willing people about their adversities. I think it would be quite therapeutic and safe to unload a portion of that weight. Whatever your crosses and however you define them, at times the pills seem too hard to swallow. To me I can feel like Sisyphus pushing that boulder up that steep hill; sometimes I would like to let go of that boulder and just let it steamroller over me. Crosses equal suffering! Suffering equals grief, pain, agony, anguish, despair, temptations, trials, and tribulations. I have had times when I felt like I simply could not tolerate my constant-never-ending-at-times-desperate struggling.
For me, I did not exactly win the “Wonderful Parenting, Happy Childhood” lottery. Life was MESSED up!!! Nevertheless, I drove through life with my eyes closed. Externally, I gave the appearance of all together, life was a bed of roses – clean, pruned, good job, faithful employee, bills paid, nice clothes, friends, attend church and served, practiced personal spiritual disciplines, warm and cozy tidy meticulous home (all things said in no certain order,) the only external red flashing beacon of light giving off urgent warning signals was my ever-increasing weight. I was over-qualified at surviving, recovering, and denying and onward I raced through my inner obstacle course. On the inside, I was MESSED up! Weedy vines began choking out and killing my roses! Those vines intertwined around everything; they were killer vines invading and smothering my landscape. Yet, I was merrily speeding through life with my eyes closed at a high rate of speed. I did not even realize these vines had suction cupped and attached themselves to every piece of me, until eventually, I crashed. In reality, I was being internally strangulated by choking vines; I was being attacked by rose thorns causing injurious deep scrapes and cuts; I was slowly fading and dying. I carried crosses labeled spiritual, physical, gender, marital, financial, bankruptcy, loss of house, moving, friendships, family, financial, employment, disability, death, mental issues, therapeutic abuse, medical nightmares, insomnia, buried feelings of emptiness, loneliness, resentment, shame, PTSD, etc. – all symptomatic seepage from my internal brokenness. I was fighting a fierce battle of survival, trust me I had an extreme arsenal of weapons acquired in childhood where I learned how to survive. Eventually, profound despair, exhaustion, and hopelessness turned into a daily crusade of desperately wanting to take my own life. I would sit at work on the third floor, thinking about going down to the vacant first floor restroom and slashing my wrists. I would think about OD’ing on pills. The abyss kept getting deeper and darker the further my mind slipped into searching for an escape hatch.
This is just a mere glimpse at the tip of my iceberg; it is the unseen mass below the surface that truly needed to be worked at chipping away. It takes a whole lot of courage to choose life; it takes a brave soul to look at what lies beneath the surface. It seems the holidays and winter months can capitalize on my weaknesses, even though I have gained many coping skills. I know that I am not alone. There are oh so very many who suffer during this joyous season – sadness, loneliness, estrangement, anxiety, stress, sleep disturbances, fatigue, isolating and social withdrawal, loss of interest in activities, depression, PTSD, grief, tearfulness, financial constraints, fear, shame, perfectionism, frustration, irritability, fixating on the past, physical ailments, aches, and pains, etc. These too are symptoms of floating icebergs. It takes bold audacity to drill down inside those frozen parts and take a hard long forward look at what is actually causing behavioral and symptomatic manifestations of deeper causes. It is hard work! It is hard to get gut wrenching honest with yourself and begin identifying your junk. And, it is even harder to implement the life-long changes in order to stop the hemorrhaging. There is always a different way to manage carrying our crosses. Now, I am no authority or professional, and quite honestly am still in recovery, but we have been able to cut away some of the vines, remove some of the thorns, I am breathing a little better these days, and definitely I am not suicidal.
I don’t begin to know or pretend to know what cross you are bearing; I don’t know if it is a thorn in the flesh, a death, a divorce, a sick child, someone terminally ill, mental illness, personal injury or illness, addiction, family issues, troubles at work, change in work status, less than favorable custody arrangement, financial decline, foreclosure, change in residence, school, or church, betrayal, loss of trust, loss of safety, violated, crime, imprisonment, a bad hair day, or hell on earth. Here is what I do know. There is ALWAYS hope, there is always something to be thankful for, and there are acts of service we can do for others to switch our focus!! I do not mean denial; I mean concentrating on good things. Your situation might not change tomorrow, next week, a month, or a year from now, but there is hope and something to find gratitude for in the midst. You may spend a lifetime praying for something that will never be and at times, it makes your heart so painfully sad that you recoil from life for a bit, lick your wounds, and slowly emerge with renewed hope. Press the reset button and do a good deed for someone else. Somehow, find gratitude and bless someone else. You may spend a lifetime battling an addiction – rising and falling, rising and falling, time after time hoping this time will be victory at last. Do not give up hope! Extend grace and mercy to yourself. Stand up, brush yourself off, and try again! You may be carrying a hidden grief so heavy and painful that at times you are drowning and suffocating. Do not let hope slide away. Look around for even a miniscule something to be thankful for and spread a little joy somewhere. Whatever your cross, keep hope alive, find gratitude in the waiting, and grasp that little mustard seed of faith. Miracles happen everyday!
I want to share a writing by someone anonymous to me:
THE MIRACLE OF CHRISTMAS
The whole Christmas story is full of miracles.
I personally find them hard to comprehend.
It makes no sense.
How could the infinite eternal God become a baby?
Not only how, but also why?
Why would He choose to be born to peasant parents?
Why would He empty Himself of every advantage of His divine nature?
Why would He choose to become a servant and become obedient to death?
even death on a cross?
Why to sinners like us did He do it?
It is because of his all-encompassing love.
I cannot explain it, but I believe it.
I thank God for sending His Son to an imperfect world.
To a world that celebrates the spirit of consumerism
Where Christmas comes from shopping lists, catalogs, and the almighty credit card.
I pray God delivers us from empty cheer and season’s greetings born of obligation.
I hope He delivers us from all the social events that supposedly honor Jesus.
Surely, Christmas is supposed to be more than packages, paper, bows, silver bells, Frosty, Rudolph and all his reindeer friends.
You see the true spirit of Christmas cannot be found in a store window or in a Christmas carol.
Christmas is not giving bigger and better so we can get bigger and better.
You cannot count Christmas by the number of decorations you use.
We cannot even count Christmas by the number of manger scenes and stars we have on the tree.
In fact, we cannot even count Christmas by the number of verses we memorize.
I pray God would grant us the true spirit of Christmas:
Generosity of heart and the love, which caused Christ to wrap Himself in the garments of our humanity.
I pray God shows us the true meaning of Christmas and affirms our worth apart from what we have or what we do.
For reasons which only His Holy love can explain, God gave Christ to become one of us and to suffer the consequences of our sin.
This Holiday season as we’re in the middle of singing carols, baking cookies, decorating our homes and opening our gifts
remember to leave room for CHRIST.
“For unto us was born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
“And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Prince of Peace, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father.”
As we celebrate Christ’s entrance into the world, let us try to make our world a little better.
Mend a quarrel
Call a friend
Seek out a forgotten friend
Do random acts of kindness
Give compliments, encouragement, and appreciation
Do not be critical of others
Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust
Write a letter
Send cards of kindness
Share some treasure
Cook dinner together
Bake something and take it to a neighbor
Pay for someone else
Let others go first
Give a soft answer
Say ‘Thank You’
Encourage one another
Be loyal in word and deed
Keep a promise
Apologize if you are wrong
Try to understand and show acceptance
Express your gratitude
Welcome a stranger
Invite a friend for hot chocolate
Gladden the heart of a child
If you’ve wronged someone, fix it
If you think you’ve wronged someone, fix it
Go outdoors and take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of this earth
Make a difference
I am not talking about the other person
I am talking about you; you are the one that can make the difference.
It starts with you.
At Christmas, we tend to believe all things are possible.
“The wrong shall fail, the right prevail.”
Sin can be forgiven.
Broken relationships can be restored.
Hearts can be healed.
Try to make your little corner of the world a better place!
have never been arrested or confined in a literal prison, bordered by multiple
barbed wire fencings, limited by brick walls, enclosed in cells, surrounded by
criminals, and observed and inspected 24/7 by guards. The objective of
imprisonment is to deter those who would otherwise commit crimes, to ‘pay’ the
consequences for committed crimes, to safeguard society, and to be a “house of
corrections” for hopeful rehabilitation and education for the prevention of
future crimes up on release.
incarceration takes an altered dimension when it progressively materializes in the
mind! My mental captivity, for all intents and purposes, was never intentional.
From birth on, I began erecting a wall brick by unseen brick, a wall so tall
and so thick that neither I nor anyone else could see over it or breach the
stronghold. In fact, I was ignorant that
I had constructed a wall, let alone know when the construction of the wall was
completed. Truly, it is an ingenious work of art. It is strong, stable, and resistant.
It has weathered the storms quite well. However, here is the real truth and
recent revelation – my wall takes an incredible amount of energy to maintain; my
wall comes with a titanic price tag. On several occasions, I just wanted to
give up — the wall has nearly cost my very life.
The greater question is, “What’s behind my wall?” This wall actually serves to protect me from what is on the other side; this wall serves as pseudo safety and security; this wall serves as a barrier and coping defense. All that is behind my wall is all that holds me hostage. What is behind my wall? Years and years and years of denied unspoken pain; my trust is behind that wall; my emotions are behind that wall; unforgiveness is behind that wall; emptiness; all the tears I’ve literally never shed; grief, sorrow, and heartache beyond measure; unexpressed fear and sadness; loneliness and isolation; bleeding wounds of abuse, trauma, suffering, neglect, abandonment, silence, cruelty, intrusion of boundaries, indifference, gloomy days after days, conflicting gender identity issues, suffering, disappointments, timidity, and humiliation; loss of childhood; powerlessness; the darkness and melancholy; PTSD; sleepless and restless nights, anxiety and panic; depression; social anxiety; a host of physical ailments; every pound of excess weight and food addiction; feelings of being a disappointment, unacceptable, an embarrassment, inferior, a misfit, left out, being bullied, and overwhelmed; all the pieces of my broken yearning empty heart; all the shattered and devastating losses of hopes and dreams; denial and defeat; regrets; the attempts to reach out for professional help only to have it cause more destruction; anger, resentment, and at times hatred and bitterness toward each person who contributed to my wall and all the debris and trash that lies behind. I have lost myself and my identity in the rubble.
see, there is more than one kind of prison! My wall and all the ruins that are
piled up on the other side limit me. I am paying severe consequences. The wall
is my attempt to deter more bricks and wreckage, yet the irony is that the wall
is actually creating more. Only by finally receiving quality professional help
am I willing to identify and acknowledge the brevity of all of my pieces and brokenness
that I have tossed and stored behind my wall. Frankly, the wall has little
breaches and it is time for the wall to come down brick by brick; it is time! The
light must shine in and expose all that is hidden in the darkness. It is complex
and deep. Though I am externally freakishly meticulous, clean, organized, and
orderly, behind my wall I am an emotional hoarder. It is time to sift through
each component and determine what to keep, what to give back, what to trash,
and what to let go. It is time to set the captive free. To be quite honest, I
am tired; I have sheer exhaustion and chronic fatigue and no longer have the
emotional capability to preserve my wall! It is scary to me, but I am committed
here is what I know to be truth:
[The Lord says,] “Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
My mother’s due date is to be the makings for a New Year’s
Day celebration or there about, but even at birth, I take the road less
traveled; in desperation, I draw my first breath one month late. I am purple
from head to toe, having difficulty breathing, and my skin is pealing from
being in the womb too long. My mother tells me in that day, they did not induce
labor; they allowed life to happen naturally. Her labor did not progress; it was
prolonged with exceptional pain. Laughing, she tells me she screamed quite loud
throughout the entire ordeal, annoying the staff, the doctor, and probably the
entire labor and delivery wing. Ultimately, she rips the curtains off the
hospital window. She says the doctor strongly urges them never to have any more
children. Because I am struggling to survive (the story of my life,) my mother does
not hold me. The medical staff work on me as she says she prays, “God, please
let her live. If you let her live, I’ll give her to you.” My mother tells me
that my father took one look at me and says, “She’s an ugly little shit!” So,
near dying, one wants to give me away to God and the other thinks I am ugly!
Let’s get this late New Year’s party started!
My brother is a little over two and half upon my arrival. He
has been an only child, grandchild, and nephew his entire short life thus far. Naturally,
all dote upon him. I am told he is full of life, always on the go, in to
everything, very active, all boy, and always hungry. In the pictures I have, he
is one cute little boy with brown naturally curly ringlets of hair! When I
begin talking, I call him “Bubby” and he calls me “Sissy.”
One Easter, for some insane reason, my aunt brings us each live little yellow baby ducks. Now, we do not live on a farm; we are city folk. What pray tell are we going to do with ducks in the city in a small yard? My brother wants to see if they can swim. He goes out to the garage; I follow him. He gets out a five-gallon bucket. He fills the five-gallon bucket with water from the garden hose. He goes back indoors and gets the baby ducks. He places the baby ducks into the five-gallon bucket of water. We are standing over the five-gallon bucket watching these baby ducks trying to swim for their very lives. The baby ducks do not know how to swim; they gurgle to the bottom of the five-gallon bucket and drown.
My brother loves playing with matches and fire. Where and
how that began is a mystery to me. Again, my aunt for some insane reason, buys my
brother a white Styrofoam life-size surf board and lifesaver ring. We do not
live near water. We do not own a pool, other than a little plastic yard pool in
which these items do not even fit. They are useless to my brother other than futile
folly. I am unclear how my brother has a book of matches, but outside at the corner
of the house, he begins breaking off little bits of the surfboard and ring,
setting a match under the pieces, and watching them melt. I vividly recall standing
aside watching the melting with great intrigue. He runs out of matches in his
matchbook and asks me to go inside and get more matches out of the drawer. I
do. He continues melting Styrofoam as a black soot mark begins accumulating on
the corner of the house. My mother comes home, rounds the corner, and I literally
think my brother’s death date has arrived. Her wrath swoops down upon him like
a typhoon. Now, I strongly believe in proper discipline, rules, boundaries,
consequences, punishment fitting the crime, etc., but corporal punishment and ear- splitting vocals cause grave life-long
trauma to a child.
Frequently, I hear my mother and father say, “We have to break his spirit!” Before I am five, who knows what that cognitively means, but visually and audibly that meant watching my mother turn into a category five hurricane with rantings and screaming at decibels beyond the Krakatoa Eruption of 1883 chasing after a little boy. Now my brother says he probably deserved everything he ever got, but harsh physical spankings and cruel punishment equate to abuse and I refuse to define it by any other term! How about they take responsibility for safeguarding access to matches and such, playing with him rather than leaving him up to his own mischievous wiles, and seeking out participation in constructive activities, which they had no interest in doing throughout our entire childhood. They wanted him contained and controlled by punishment and sought measures to “break his spirit” not considering they were breaking much more than his spirit – his self-esteem, his belief and joy in who he was as a little boy, changing his internal chemistry into someone he was not created to be, and emotionally creating defiance, anger, and rebelliousness. They did not break his spirit, they altered and wounded his spirit.
My father is rarely home. He works three jobs. One I know, he scrubs, buffs, and polishes floors at night in an office building. A couple times, he brings the buffer home to do our floors. We get to sit on the buffer for a ride as he swirls the machine all around the room. His main employment is working for the grounds department at the state university. He enjoys that job and does it for his entire career, working countless hours in the winter plowing snow around the clock. A co-worker of his plays Santa at Christmas and travels about the town visiting little children at their homes. My father arranges for him to drop in for a visit to see my brother and me during a few Christmas seasons. Santa boisterously emerges through the front door shouting, “HoHoHo!” I run for the bedroom, but my brave brother goes right up to Santa, sits on his lap, and tells him everything he wants for Christmas. I keep my distance, peeking around the corner to see. I am still given a little netted stocking filled with candy. One Christmas we get bicycles. Mine, of course, has training wheels. We do not stay long, but in the snow, my father takes us to the school playground to ride our new bikes. Before I am five, I gravitate toward my father. He really does not have much of a clue about me as my mother keeps a solid grip on my life. In his absence, he thinks my mother takes care of everything for the kids. However, he certainly gives his two cents about doctors and dentists. My mother is not to take us to the dentist while we have baby teeth. He thinks that is a waste of money. We do not see the dentist. I am given a toothbrush, shown where the toothpaste is, and how to put the toothpaste on the brush, but I am not taught how to brush my teeth.
My mother tells me I was a sickly child. My nose dripped constantly. I struggled with severe constipation to the point she says she was frequently checking and administering some type of medication from the doctor. I have chronic earaches. Apparently, my mother hears of an old wives’ tale that suggests if she heats dry salt up in a pan on the stovetop, puts it in a baby sock, and places it on the child’s ear, it will draw out the pain. I beg for salt socks regularly. Did it draw out the pain? Who can say, but it is comforting and soothing quietly lying down on the couch with my hot salt socks pressed into my ears. I have migraine headaches, primarily on Sunday afternoons, that pierce my skull, throbbing and pulsating with a rhythm of a bass drum. She speaks to the doctor and gets another type of medication. I yearn for the isolation of a quiet dark room to lie down and let the pulsating subside. My mother tells me I was an angel sent from heaven. She tells me I never cry. She says I sleep all the time. She says she flicks the bottom of my feet to wake me up to eat. She tells me mostly she props a bottle up for me to drink in the crib and walks away, only to find the partially drank bottle somewhere on the floor. She tells me my brother wants me to come outside and play with him, but I am just a baby, so he decides to bring in a bucket of dirt and proceeds to pour it in my face. She says I nearly suffocated, turns me upside down to get me breathing, and has a terrible time getting all the dirt out of my eyes, ears, nose, and throat. She tells me I do not like to be held except for my paternal grandmother. She tells me that I do not talk. She says it is because my brother speaks for me. She decides to send my brother to my grandparents for a week and somehow forces me to speak. My speech is abnormal; I talk like Elmer Fudd for a couple years. I remember my mom and aunt mimicking my speech and words. It feels like they are making fun of me and laughing at me.
My mother tells me when I am able to sit up by myself
without tipping over, many days she sits me in the middle of the dining room
floor surrounded by toys and goes off to take a one to two hour nap. She says
that I never move or cry; I sit there until she returns. I actually have a
foggy memory of a few of those times.
At age three and four, I begin to have some of my own clear memories.
My mother loved to watch, I Love Lucy in
the mornings. Many mornings she sits me down beside her with a basket of
laundry and teaches me how to fold washcloths and dishtowels – perfectly, while
watching I Love Lucy. If it is not
perfect, we start all over again as she watches The Price Is Right and The
Young and the Restless. I eventually learn how to fold all the laundry –
perfectly. In the afternoons, she takes a nap and begins giving me a choice. I
can either take a nap or stand on a chair at the kitchen sink washing the
dishes. I no longer want to take naps and always choose to wash dishes. By age
four, I am a master class laundry folder and dishwasher – with perfection.
Now I am unclear of my naughty behaviors, but I am very
clear on spankings. My mother spanks me; I do not cry. My mother spanks me
again; I do not cry. My mother becomes infuriated and spanks me again; I do not
cry. My brother tells me it became laughable to her. I remember this escapade a
couple times. She is out to break me as well.
I have no recollection of being played with, other than by my brother. Before I was born, I believe an uncle built my brother a super large roofed sandbox that stray cats used as their litter box, and a swing set was erected in the side yard. I want to say I was three. My brother and I are playing on the swing set. He pushes the swing sideways at me, gashing my forehead open. My mother rushes me to the ER where I am stitched up, not crying, all the while asking for my dad. I have no memories of sitting in laps, being read to, being told ‘I love you’, or any of those warm safe and secure feelings.
The doctor decides to remove my tonsils and adenoids. My mother decides that my brother will have the same procedures done at the same time. It is summer. We are confined to house arrest in the mornings and limited activities in the side yard for a short bit in the afternoons. We each wear ice cuffs around our necks for a few days; we each drink pink medicine. My earaches cease and my speech clears up. I am five.
I do not know about you, but I have a lot of “stuff” swept
under my rug, not literally, but figuratively. Things I want to ignore, avoid,
deny, and conceal. It is peculiar how we think things magically disappear
forever if we sweep them under that rug. The irony is this, those hidden
“things” might be out of sight, your conscious awareness, but I am here to tell
you they are not vanished and gone! I’m talking anger, resentment, conflicts,
injustices, grudges, problems, unforgiveness, pain, hurt, secrets we hold as
weapons against others, secrets about our pasts, responsibilities, other
people’s feelings and problems that we have taken responsibility for, mistakes,
fears, sadness, loneliness, guilt, things we don’t want to do, inappropriate or
embarrassing behaviors, addictions, and unconfessed secret sins – anything that
we want to keep in the darkness; anything we do not want exposed to the light,
anything we have not dealt with appropriately, anything we do not want to own
or deal with, and anything that holds us in captivity. The things we have under
our rugs hold us prisoner, bound by shackles and chains to our current
existence! Those things are not dead or departed, they are very much alive and
present! In fact, they compound, intensify, and worsen the longer they remain
under the rug. Those high, wide, and deep piles under my rugs created grave
damage, horrific pain, and frightening levels of exhaustion the longer I
remained in ignorance, the more I kept tripping over them, and the harder I
Now, I believe we consciously choose to ignore things and
brush them right under that rug, but once the situation is under the rug and it
is a continuous ‘state of affairs’, I believe we begin a pattern of
unconsciously and reflexively tossing any related circumstance on that interrelated
pile under that rug, creating a mountain and quite a mess. It becomes an
undertow. Those unseen currents below the surface of our rugs are moving in a
different direction. They are dragging us backwards all the while we are fighting
a losing battling to move forwards. They become weighted burdens that create a
constant force of resistance and restrict us. They hold us back; they break us
down; they create anxiety, depression, hopelessness, addictions, whatever
unhealthy means you choose to cope; they destroy life! Here is the hard truth,
it is HARD WORK and takes a lot of energy to clean up!!! It’s about being
willing to put yourself under the microscope; it’s about dissecting every part
of who you are; it’s about methodically looking at every single piece and part;
it’s about being authentic and down in that pile of dirt under the rug all the
way to the core open and honest. HARD WORK!
As a living example of what I mean, let me share a little
trail of breadcrumbs from my life. Growing up, as a family we did not deal with
emotions or feelings; we did not talk about, acknowledge, or give credence to
their existence. I became a blank slate. I repressed my emotions and feelings
continually. It was nothing intentional; I knew no different; it was my normal.
It is not that my feelings and emotions did not exist; in ignorance and led by
example, I concealed them under my rug. Repressing them became reflexive; I did
not even know I was doing it. Who knew what a repressed feeling or emotion was
as a little child. I normalized the environment. I did not know it was abnormal
not to cry, not to show anger, not to talk about how I felt, and not to share
painful heartaches. I interpreted normal as no outward reaction to anything.
However, I became quite adept at monitoring and reading the atmosphere, the actions,
and the faces of my family; I became a vigilante, unconsciously annexing my own
and everyone else’s feelings and emotions, like extra-sensory perception. I
harnessed and retained them all unbeknownst to me. They became a monstrous pile
under my rug, which in turn created a riptide undercurrent effect in my life – generating
an addiction, crafting destructive behavior patterns, producing mental and
physical health issues, and a whole host of other crusades. I must say this, my
blank slate of feelings and emotions piled up under my rug are not the total cause
and reasons for my issues, but they are a huge piece of the pie. And now, my
feelings and emotions can bleed out inappropriately. Though in many respects I
still have that reflex to hide my feelings and emotions, I am super
tender-hearted as when unhealed skin weeps; I can be reactive; I can be like a triggered
pressure cooker to something totally unrelated; I can be a workaholic racing
through life at warp speed trying to outrun my amassed pile of feelings and emotions;
and at times I devour isolation and quietness to still the screeching chaos
inside. Hopefully, you can get a glimpse of this trail of breadcrumbs that
leads to the piles under my rug.
So, here’s the question – what’s under your rug? What are
you ignoring, avoiding, denying, and concealing? Only you can answer that
question. Only you know your story. I suspect, if you are willing to look closer,
you can follow your own trail of breadcrumbs to your own piles under your own
rugs. About a year ago, I got the absolute best broom in the world to help me
clean this all up. It took many, many years and a whole lot of heartache, fear,
and frustration, but God in His mercy laid His trail of breadcrumbs to guide me.
Now I do not know why He waited so long and I do not know why I had to endure
what seems to me wasted years, but I have learned to trust His sovereignty and
timing. If that still small voice within is speaking to you, listen and pray.
If that still small voice is nudging you and whispering that something is not
right, listen and pray. If that still small voice is telling you it is time to
move on or to do something different, listen and pray. I am telling you listen
and pray. Give yourself permission to say, “No, it doesn’t have to be this way!”
You do not have to remain stuck. You do not have to be miserable. You do not
have to stay in unhealthy relationships or patterns of coping. You have
permission to live and breathe. The breadcrumbs will lead you; give yourself permission
to follow them even if it is just baby steps to the piles under your rugs. Even
in writing this, it is like continuing to give myself permission.