Friday, September 29, 2017

God is so good.

First off, our air conditioning died this week. When you have a heat-triggered seizure disorder and the temperature is still in the 80s outside, that's a pretty big problem. BUT the tech who came to check things out and told us what was wrong called his company (who has worked with my grandma for as long as I can remember, pretty sure since before I was born) and they loaned me a stand-alone unit for my room for free for the week until we can get our house's A/C fixed, and it's also strong enough that with our fans, we can circulate enough air through the house to make it bearable. Plus, the weather is supposed to cool off a good bit for the next few days. PLUS, when my grandma found out, she didn't freak out. She was calm and told my mom that she could afford to fix it, and that it was her responsibility as the homeowner, so not to worry about anything. She was so chill I was kind of thinking "Who are you and what have you done with my grandmother?!" So yeah, all big praises there. Honestly, I was feeling pretty sorry for us at first...then, I remembered what's happening in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. So yeah, all big praises there.

But really, the main reason I wanted to write this post is because God has proven himself so good this week, beyond anything I could ever possibly even imagine I deserve. After how utterly broken and hopeless I felt last week, how close I was to giving up entirely, God has shown up so big and faithful. Love has been coming at me from every direction, including from the singer and the band who did that cover that helped give me the courage to call the Hotline, and it's like God has been saying "See? This is what you could have missed. People want you there. You're supposed to be there. I'm not done yet."

Sometimes, I feel so replaceable to people. Not because of anything that they do, but because I get it in my head that there's nothing I can offer that they can't get from someone else. Someone who isn't sick and tired and in frequent need of reassurance and almost always stressed out. But the five people (other than my therapist) who know the details of what really went down last week, everything that I was thinking that pushed me into that dark place last Thursday, they have made it so clear to me just how much they value me, how much they respect me and want me around, that it's hard to miss the lessons right in front of me. I'm not as replaceable as I think I am sometimes. I'm not as invisible as I feel sometimes. I'm nobody's charity project. Not anymore.

It's ridiculous that I'm still learning and re-learning these things after all this time, after all the times they've told me what they told me this week, but sometimes, I just need the reminder. And more than anything, I am thankful beyond words that I have a group of people who know the real, not-hiding-anything me, who see my scars and baggage, and they just aren't bothered by any of it. They aren't scared or annoyed by it. They are patient to tell me they love me and reassure me as many times as I need to hear it. They get that it's not that I don't believe them. It's just that I need them to remind me of the truth of how they feel when my mind starts lying to me. Because sometimes, it's next to impossible for me to shut down the lies in my head when they get started without someone else's voice there to help.

I'd be lying if I said I'm 100% back to myself now, but what I can honestly tell you is that last week, I didn't see a way out and thought I'd never find one; now, while I still don't really know what I'm going to do about a lot of things, I at least believe I can figure it out. And I largely attribute it to the people who have reminded me so clearly and loudly this week that no matter what happens next, I won't have to face it alone. I won't have to face anything alone ever again, if I'll just let them be here. If I'll believe them over the lies in my head.

God is just so good, y'all. When I lose sight of everything important, when I lose sight of Him, I start falling, but that's never the end of the story. I am surrounded by people ready and waiting to catch me. When I feel like the world is out to get me, they are there to make me feel protected. They help carry my burdens, they help carry me, when I forget how to breathe. And these five people that have been here this week, I met them all pretty much by accident. An exchange trip I wasn't supposed to be allowed to go on (and almost wasn't allowed to), a Religion class I joined to run a Twitter account, a soccer team I only met because the one player I knew insisted, and, of all things, a fan fiction website.  That's the kind of stuff that just makes you go ONLY GOD. There's not a doubt in my mind that He orchestrated all of that.

God is big enough and powerful enough to use anyone that He wants to. So while I'm not entirely sure if it was my friends' intention this week to make me feel really glad I'm still alive, God managed to make me feel that through their words, anyway. So hey, I'll take it.

Anyway, there's your friendly Friday night reminder that God is awesome, my friends make me feel so loved, and I'm glad I didn't hurt myself last week.

Tomorrow? Wolfpack game! Back to Carter-Finley for the first time in 4 years. I'm stoked.

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Saturday, September 23, 2017


That phone number right there, it saves lives, y'all.

How do I know?

Because it's the phone number to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, and I called it on Thursday.

I'm not writing this post to make you go "OMG! What happened?" or tell me you love me or tell me how sorry you are that I'm struggling.

I'm writing this post because September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

And I'm writing this post because it's something that nobody really wants to talk about, and so many people suffer in silence because of that. Trust me, a big part of me really doesn't want to write this post - I'm shaking trying to type out the words - but I feel like I need to. The people you think have everything going for them, the people who can appear to be doing so well, the people you put up on a pedestal as your role models because they seem so fierce and you wish you had the kind of innate fierceness that they do, those can just as easily be the people who are struggling with depression or other mental illness and suicidal thoughts as those who have made it known.

I was so ashamed to tell my best friend today what happened, honestly. I thought it'd make me appear weak. I thought that it would shake the belief he's always held in me, that it would shatter his desire to be my constant cheerleader. But it was after some wise words from him that I realized (remembered?) that depression, mental illness, they don't make a person weak. The chemical imbalance in my brain does not make me weak; it's part of what makes me me. My strength lies in the fact that I've never let the demons win. I've never given up fighting, no matter how low, or broken, or close to giving up I've felt.

But more importantly, my strength lies in the fact that despite everything this world has thrown at me, I still desire more than anything to love people and be kind, in the fact that that is my core characteristic when I owe the world nothing at this point. I'd honestly never thought of strength like that until he said it. But he's right. Love in the face of unrelenting bullshit, I can't imagine anything stronger, more powerful, more beautiful than that.

When people get to know my life story, and they learn everything that I've survived, they often start to look at me like I'm more capable or successful, or just better, than them. "I could never deal with all that you deal with." That's what I hear almost every time. But what the vast majority of people don't hear or see or know about, everyone except a handful of my closest friends, are the times that I am breaking down, feeling absolutely crushed under the weight of my day-to-day life. I put on a good face for most people, but for a select few, I'll show when my heart is broken, when my mind is clouded by anger and frustration and fear, when my eyes can't see another inch and my feet can't figure out how to take another step forward because everything just seems so. hard. They know when I'm hitting my breaking points, and they refuse to let me go.

It just so happened that Thursday night, I didn't tell any of them. One, because when it got really bad and dark, it was incredibly late and I didn't think I could wake any of them up. But mostly two, because I had it in my head that I didn't want to be a burden to them, that they have their own lives with their own problems, and it would be so much easier for all of them if I just wasn't here. Their lives would be "less complicated." After everything I went through to get the incredible family of friends that I have today, and knowing how much they love me and everything they've stood by me through, I still thought it would be easier if I left them. That was one of the (many) things that pushed me to the edge that night.

I didn't actually attempt suicide on Thursday. Today, I'm really grateful that I didn't. But I considered it, in a way that I haven't really done since high school when I was dealing with relentless bullying. There are three things that stopped me.

One, this song by a rapper named Logic, and the cover by Alyson Stoner and Next Town Down, all about someone who is suicidal calling that hotline. Whether or not you're in that state of mind, you should listen to it. It's incredibly powerful.

Two, remembering what two of my soccer brothers told me last summer after my heart stopped during that surgery - that losing me was a possibility they couldn't bear to think about, that it would destroy them. Despite the fact that I thought it would make their lives less complicated in the long run, I knew I couldn't hurt them like that.

And lastly, the woman I spoke to at the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. She talked me off of that edge when I didn't have anybody else to call and made me start to believe in myself again just a little bit when I couldn't see a way forward and felt like giving up.

If you're reading this, please hear me. I don't know what you're going through, and I may not be able to help or understand it, but the Hotline, it works. It worked for me. Please call if you need help. The world needs you.

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

The past few days.

You know your life is kind of sad when you are as excited to go to the doctor as I was to go to the neurosurgeon on Thursday.

Too bad nothing good really came of it.

The doc was irritated because my neurologist sent me to him before doing all the tests he could have done, and I didn't have all my records from Duke and my brain surgeries, because no one told me I needed to bring them. He needs to run a bunch of other tests plus get all the records from Duke before he can tell me anything. So I have to a) get Duke to fax him all my records, b) get Duke to mail me CDs of all my scans to bring to my next appointment, c) get a bunch of labs, d) get a shunt series (X-rays), and e) get checked out by a neuro-ophthamologist. I talked to my old neurosurgeon from Duke's office yesterday, and they emailed me a release form that I can print out, fill out, scan, and email back to them, so I've got to talk to my uncle tomorrow since he's bringing me meds anyway. I'll get the labs done next Monday the 25th at my primary care. The shunt series can be done as a walk-in next time I go down to see this doc. They sent the referral to the neuro-ophthamologist who will call me to make an appointment. Hopefully the fact that I don't have vision insurance won''t prevent me from being seen. Also, usually when a shunt is infected, there is redness around it, but there's not around mine, so that's a good sign; however, he's very concerned about how sensitive I am to touch on my head, so he "hopes it comes together quickly," because it's not a good sign that I can't stand for my head to be touched. If the labs and X-rays don't show anything, all he can do is tap my shunt, which he really doesn't want to do because of my history of meningitis (Duke docs are pretty sure I got meningitis thanks to them tapping my shunt when the valve broke). Meanwhile, I get to spend another month or so in constant, unexplainable, excruciating pain.

So...that's fun.

Yesterday, Mom and Mommom left for 10 days in Pennsylvania. I was going to go, but decided that I'd rather have 10 days to myself and hopefully be able to get some job applications done. (So far, that's been a no go thanks to my freakin head.) The silence is weird, but refreshing. My aunt and uncle are leaving on Tuesday, so then it'll just be me and Chelsea in town, but I don't even have to see or talk to her every day, so it's no big deal.

Today, I woke up feeling pretty good (well, pretty good for me, anyway) so I thought that after my afternoon of sports, I'd be good to get some work done. Ha! Guess again. As soon as the last game I cared about was over, my head felt so explosively painful I couldn't do anything but sleep. I can still barely turn my head. On the upside, the Wolfpack won, so there's something, I guess.

Sigh. I'm so tired of feeling like shit.

Here's hoping tomorrow is better. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. Story of my life.

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Monday, September 4, 2017

A post about bullying.

When I was in third grade, Becky O'Neill called me stupid, because I wrote my Js backwards. I told her, "J's a hard letter. You never know whether to hook left or hook right." A right hook from Ashton Bellman in junior high was meant to swell me up and make my tiny nose normal-sized. At least, that's what he told me. And in high school, Ryan Mundy called me many things I dare not repeat but still replay in my head from time to time, all because I did theater instead of playing football.

Sticks and stones, right?

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words...A stone I can take. A quick break, yeah, that I can shake. And though you've never punched me in the face, every syllable you speak stabs through my spirit and hardens my heart. And though my hand makes the cut, your words are the accomplice, seeking to accomplish I know not what other than to bury some sense of loathing you have for your own self. I know you hate yourself so much; otherwise, you wouldn't be so obsessed with hating me more. No eye has seen and no ear has heard just how much I care about what you think of me, because I would never show anyone other than the darkness of my bedroom and tear-stained pillowcase. Just in case Mom and Dad could hear my cries, I suffocated my suffering in a cotton case grave and believed all the lies you told me about who I am, or what I would become, or whose fault it was. 

It got worse when your fingers started saying what your mouth was too cowardly to utter. Under the influence of your description of me, I learned to despise many things about myself, not because they're so bad, but because if I didn't have them, then you wouldn't have noticed them and be powerless to use them against me. The pricks and pins of pricks' opinions spins my whole sense of self out of whack, and so I shacked up in the safest place possible: on the island of invisibility, on the shore of "don't make any waves," at the corner of complacency and fitting in. I hide in the back country of cowardice praying you won't notice this insecurity factory I call a life, or a family, or a faith, or a body. And even today, I'm not lying when I say I could care less about what people think of me, because I could. I could care much, much less, because I still care a whole lot.

But you are not my source. You are not my well. If your opinion of me were the last cup of water in a desert, I would throw it in your face, and even though there's still a trace of the pain you caused, those scars are hard as armor and so faint that sometimes I can't even see them anymore. Because the sticks that used to harm me have been crossed, the stone that used to bruise me has been rolled away. Sticks and stones were your weapon, but sticks and stones are His way. So say all you want; a better Word has been spoken. Lie all you need to; a greater Truth has been revealed. Hold me back if you must, but my future has been sealed.

Sticks and stones, right?


It's been a while since I've really thought about the bullying I experienced growing up. Progress, right? Well, then things like this poem come along, and I realize I've still got a lot more healing to do than I thought I did...and I've never been more thankful.

Most people know that I was bullied pretty intensely when I was a teenager, to the point where I was forced to leave the church I'd grown up in and spent the vast majority of my high school years contemplating suicide. I was surrounded by so many people telling me that I was unwanted and that I would never be loved that I became convinced that they were right. Even when I got to Campbell and met the people who proved they were wrong, became my family, and loved me at my lowest, my brain couldn't reconcile the truth in front of me with the lies that had been engrained deep into my soul.

I think I've gotten better at it over the years, but listening to this poem made me remember that those wounds are still very much a part of me and how I view the world and relationships. I still struggle to understand why people like me as much as they do and to accept the love that I know in my heart I deserve. I can't help but wonder how different my life would be now if I'd had words like Jon's to hear when I was younger, if I would have sabotaged so many friendships out of fear and shock.

I know the truth now. I know who I am as a person, as a friend, and in the eyes of God. I know how loved I really am. Just today, one of my friends from my neighborhood in NYC called me. He originally said he only had five minutes, but we ended up talking for nearly half an hour, and one of the last things he said to me was a reminder that I am never alone and never forgotten, even though it can feel that way being stuck in this town so far away from the people who know and love me best.

Let's be real: bullying sucks. I know that sounds obvious, but this is something that I think most people don't talk about because they're afraid to, or they're ashamed and they haven't fully recovered from the lies and the hate drilled into their heads. I think a lot of us get bullied, even the people we think are untouchable, the people we think have it all together and everyone likes. People are cruel sometimes, and while it'd be easier to say something cliché like "Why can't we all just be nice to each other?!", the reality is that we don't live in a utopia where that's possible. We're broken, and we hurt, and it's easy to take that hurt out on someone around you you see is vulnerable. I definitely was vulnerable and easy to attack, especially being in a small school where it was easy to be known for all the wrong reasons.

Words can break you. Physical wounds heal. The bleeding stops. The bruises and scars fade. The pain goes away. But mental wounds? They seep into your soul like red wine into a white couch that you have no idea how to get out, except you can't throw out this couch because you've only got one and you're stuck with it for life. So you scrub and scrub and pray that God will perform some miracle and it will go back to the bright white it was before, and some days you think it has, but other days, you look at it, and you notice the faint reddish-purple droplets still lingering and become convinced that it's all ruined, that you're ruined, and you might as well give up.

That's what happened to me. I became so convinced that I was too broken to be redeemed or ever be worthy of love that I stopped trying to find it, but more importantly, I pushed it away anytime I thought it was getting close. I hid. I tried not to be seen so I could avoid what I believed was the inevitable end of someone else telling me they hated me. But people like my soccer boys and my Reformation brothers, they saw me saying "no" and refused to take that for an answer. They made me their family when I didn't think I wanted them to and pursued me when I tried to run from them. They are the reasons I finally began to understand that maybe I am worthy of love, after all.

But ask any of them and they'll tell you the lesson doesn't always stick with me. I've said more times than I can count that I don't understand how I got so lucky to have them, and it's partially because it still seems so unbelievable that everything has changed so drastically. God used two groups of guys I never really intended on meeting to begin with to show me that His declaration of my worth is the final say. He is the voice of truth, and He tells a story completely opposite from what I grew up hearing and believing. It's like Jon says; my future has been sealed because my self-worth lies in a foundation that no person can ever shake. I know it's true because I actually trust people now. I'm not afraid of loving and being loved just because I've been burned or I've heard a lot of terrible things said about me. I stay determined to see the good in people because God sent me people who saw the good in me when I didn't see it in myself.

Do I remember the things bullies told me? Yep, pretty much every single one of them. Do they still sting? Yep, some days more than others. But do they define me? Not in the least. And that change in my perspective is 100% all God's doing through the Holy Spirit and His working through the people He's surrounded me with.

Praise be to God.

If you have scars from bullying (which, really, I think more of us do than we care to admit), go listen to Jon's new poem, "Sticks and Stones." It's embedded in this post. Bring tissues.

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