Goodbye.

I remember the night we first talked. It was right before Thanksgiving and she asked if I had plans. I remember wondering if I should lie as I watched the raindrops fall on my windowshield. It was one of those dark early November evenings. The streetlights were already on and my best friend was sitting in the passenger seat next to me patiently listening.

“No, I don’t have plans,” I told her. I decided not to lie. Normally I spent holidays with my family but it had been an especially hard season and I just didn’t have the energy to plaster on another fake smile and pretend like everything was fine.

I spent my Thanksgiving alone in a dark house watching tv and drinking the lavender soda he had brought to me. He had brought dark chocolate too. He said he had looked up what paired best with it. That was the beginning of my spiral into one of the deepest, darkest, most confusing seasons of my life. It was also the beginning of two of the most beautiful, significant relationships of my life.

I called her that night in November because I was suicidal and desperate. I had spent several days googling ways to kill myself and I knew I needed help. A friend recommended that I try the counselor he had seen after his dad passed, so I mustered up every ounce of courage in my body to make the call. I was honest that night on the phone. I told her about how I felt worthless. I told her that I was exhausted and tired of striving. I told her I was tired of my life looking so different from the people around me. I told her I would die if I could. Her voice was kind on the other end…and full of compassion. I felt hope as she asked me questions. I started seeing her the week after Thanksgiving.

I saw her for an hour every Friday afternoon and he was there for all of the in-between. I met him at work and was curious about the boy who was cute and different and willing to chase after chickens and stray dogs with me. I was just as honest with him as I was with her and I found him to be kind and full of compassion. I stumbled through the darkness and he walked alongside me through it. He came with lavender soda and mixed cd’s and a hand to hold. I fell in love.

The two of them quickly became intertwined in my mind because they were my safest places in that season. They were the ones who got to hear all of the thoughts no one else did. I undressed my soul for them and they remained steadfast through the pain and joy and fear and in-betweens.

But seasons are just exactly that. They are seasons. Inevitably, they must end and I found that sometimes they bring people with them too.

My seasons with those two have ended. They are over now and I just want to know how.

How do you say goodbye when you aren’t ready to? How do you walk away from people you’ve given pieces of your heart to?

I guess I’ve just never understood goodbyes because I can’t reconcile them with love. Over and over I’ve told myself and others that love is a verb. It’s an action. It requires tangible evidence. It involves showing up and doing work. Saying you love someone means nothing if you aren’t doing anything to show it. I have always made love and presence synonymous. And if not physically present, at least in spirit.

They were such a beautiful picture of that kind of love. They met me in my mess and didn’t walk away or ask me to clean up. They laughed with me and cried with me and it was hard and painful but there were sweet little moments and lots of growth. There was love.

And then came goodbye. And I found myself lost because it all ended just as soon as things started feeling sweet and I just wanted to know why. Why did goodbye have to come?

But I’m learning that sometimes we don’t get the answers we want and oftentimes the answers we want aren’t the answers we need.

Sometimes goodbyes are just as inevitable as the seasons changing. And sometimes we aren’t given the option and instead of wallowing in our loss, the best course of action might just be to recognize a relationship’s value for that certain season, because no matter how much we might want to walk through every season with someone, it isn’t always possible. Sometimes it just won’t work. Sometimes it isn’t reciprocal. We don’t always get to choose our goodbyes and honestly, I’ve had to wrestle with that because once I give a piece of my heart to someone, I want control over it. I want to keep it close to keep it from being damaged. I want to be able to keep it within reach and make sure it stays safe, but that isn’t how relationships work. We give pieces of ourselves to others and we must recognize that there is risk involved. Once we give a piece of ourself away, we don’t have control anymore. Relationships aren’t about controlling other people, they’re about two people in dialogue, walking through life side-by-side on the good days and the bad days. And that involved vulnerability which leaves the potential for the most beautiful kind of love but also tremendous heartache.

C.S. Lewis has this quote that I love that says,

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love at all is to be vulnerable.”

We’ve got to be aware when we step into the lives of others that they will leave their own unique mark. And sometimes no matter how much we love someone, that mark will end up being a scar. We can’t let fear lead the way when it comes to love. We must choose to love anyway.

A few months ago my counselor told me about a friend of hers who said that when we love someone and have to say goodbye, we can choose to mourn the loss or we can celebrate the fact that we got to experience something so wonderful in the first place.

I laughed and cried and disagreed when she told me that the first time, but I can’t help but think now that maybe she was right.

Goodbyes are inevitable and not always ours to control, but isn’t it a beautiful thing to experience love in such a way that makes goodbye so hard?

 

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Can we talk?

Friday from 4-5pm is my favorite hour of the week, hands down. It has been since November, when I first met my counselor and we made Friday our day.

I remember being so terrified to pick up the phone and make an appointment. My hands trembled and I made a friend sit in the car with me while I dialed.

I’d tried counseling before…unsuccessfully. Therapy turns out to be less meaningful when a counselor looks at you in the middle of deep depression and tells you that they’re hoping to “make you better” in four sessions or less. I didn’t need a quick fix. I needed someone to listen and try to understand. I needed someone who promised to stay even after I divulged all of my deepest darkest hardest stuff. So I decided not to go.

But I got into another dark place this year. So dark that on some days it was hard to know if the light ever really existed or if it was just a figment of my naive imagination…a fantasy I’d been clinging to. Those were the days when it took all of my energy to get out of bed in the morning. I’d be driving on the freeway and fight the urge to turn the steering wheel abruptly and fly off the overpass. Those were the days where the pain of living felt so excruciating that ending it all seemed like the easy answer.

Like I said, the days were dark.

At the end of the day though, I didn’t swerve. That was January and here I am now and honestly I’m not even sure I could pinpoint a reason why. I think there are many reasons.

I have a few people in my life who I give 1000% of my heart to. By that, I mean that I am completely honest and raw with them. Unfiltered, unpolished, ALL ME. They see me in my times of sincerest joy, fiercest anger, deepest shame…you name it. They are knee deep in the trenches of life with me.

They were aware of my darkness. They knew when I was at my lowest and they entered in with me. They showed up when I didn’t ask them to. They called me when I didn’t text back. They brought me dinner and lavender soda when I couldn’t get out of bed.

They told me they loved me and then backed it up with their actions.

I’ve yelled at God a lot this year. I’ve wrestled with doubt. Not about whether God exists, but whether He is good. When you look around and all you can see is pain and death and suffering in the people and places around you, doubt is a normal emotion to struggle with, although I didn’t feel like that at the time.

Christians suck (yes, that’s the appropriate term) at talking about our doubts. It’s this weird taboo subject that we avoid because it might involve other people questioning our faith…and we care so much about other people’s opinions that we are swayed by that potential and keep our doubts bottled up inside of us, which eats us alive by producing guilt and shame.

I made a conscious effort to talk to people about my doubts.  

I started counseling again. I picked up the phone and made an appointment. I showed up despite the fact that I felt like vomiting and I told my counselor the whole truth about everything I could think of despite my fear that being completely known by someone would lead them to walk (or sprint) away forever.

We talk for an hour every Friday. We go over the week. I talk about about how I’m feelings, my fears and my insecurities without wondering if she is judging me. She validates me. She makes me feel heard and known. She makes me feel normal. She reminds me that I am human, life is messy, and we are all still learning. She tells me that she cares for me.

I walk away from counseling each week feeling heard, known, and loved. 

I’m writing this post tonight because I think all too often we fail to be transparent in the ways that we need to be. We hide behind facades and screens and we scrape together paper town lives that look real and wonderful from the outsides but don’t even exist in reality.

Mental health is a scary subject. No one wants to admit that they’re hurting and don’t know why and need help. It isn’t fun to get on the Internet and admit to however many people that I have struggled with severe depression throughout my life. People tend to get uncomfortable when you tell them that you’ve been suicidal before. The subject is swept under the rug for the most part…or people talk about it after the fact.

I don’t claim to have all of the answers when it comes to mental health. The conversation is so much larger than twenty-somethings who feel hopeless and struggle with depression (although depression is a huge conversation in itself).

More than anything, I want to be someone who boldly steps into the conversation with transparency. I struggle with mental health and I think we, as a society, need to do a better job about walking into that conversation with open arms and fighting hearts. We need to be open to what other people around us are struggling with and we need to fight for the health of the people we love.

I don’t necessarily think that friends, doubt, and counseling is the perfect recipe to finding health for everyone struggling with depression. I know people who would tell you that medicine saved their life. I know others who would tell you that they needed to change their schedules and priorities drastically in order to find health. I think everyone’s needs look a little different. And that’s okay.

Just because we don’t have all of the answers doesn’t mean there aren’t any. There are ways to move forward and care for those who are struggling, but we have to be willing to listen. We have to be willing to show up even when we’re not sure what we should give.

But first, we have to be willing to talk.

 

 

 

Finding Hope

Numb. Lifeless. Hopeless.

These words have etched themselves into my soul the past seven months.

I never thought I would deal with depression. My alcoholic mother has cited depression as the reason for self-medicating with vodka for years. I refused to be anything like her. I didn’t understand how someone could be so selfish.

Then, seven months ago, a tsunami hit my life.

I moved in to college…a new home, new roommate, new schedule, new classes.

I broke up with my boyfriend of 4 years… no one to lean on for stability and support anymore, no one to tell me I was good enough.

I changed my major…the assurance of stability and financial support that would have come from a nursing degree dissipated in the blink of an eye.

I thought I had built my castle so strategically. There were strong, high walls for protection and a moat to keep out the water, but my castle was flawed…it was made out of sand, ready to crumble as soon as any hint of change threatened to enter in. A treacherous, icy wave crashed down on my life with ease, destroying everything, leaving nothing but a thin layer of foam outstretched over scattered particles of sand.

For once in my life, I didn’t know how to fix my castle and I had no motivation to try. No temporary relief or quick-fix could mend the damage that had been done.

At first, I felt pain. It was deep and it ached, yet still hopeful.

But as time went on, the pain turned into torment as I became numb. Hope leaked out of my heart. Distress and affliction sucked the life out of me.

For seven months, I have been seeking out new foundations to build a new castle on. I have looked for something to breathe life back into me.

I have focused on getting stellar grades. I have tried obsessing over exercise and counting calories. I tried a new guy. I have filled every minute of my schedule so I wouldn’t have time to think about the melancholy that has a choke-hold on my life. I have contemplated death.

The melancholy is here. It has penetrated the depths of my being, but I find comfort in knowing that I am not alone in my sorrow. The Bible is filled with stories of those who suffer from feeling hopeless.

In Psalm 102, David prays desperately to God,

“Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to you! Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call! For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace. My heart is struck down like grass and has withered; I forget to eat my bread. Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh. I am like a desert owl of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places; I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow in the housetop.”

In 1 Kings 19:4 it says that Elijah,

“asked that he might die, saying, ‘It is enough now, Oh Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.'”

And the real zinger…even Jesus, King of all, Son of God, a holy, precious prince… understands sadness.

In John 11:35, it says, “Jesus wept” after hearing that Lazarus has passed away.

Healing is going to take time. Feeling again is going to take time. Until then, I put my hope in knowing that my Savior understands how I feel. My foundation will be in Him whose heart aches along with mine. He feels my emotions deep in His own soul.

I am not alone.