Are You Okay

They don’t stop. The tug and pull. The nudging. The thoughts all blur together. Down the rabbit hole I go. I’m being driven mad. So many feelings and thoughts that don’t make sense. And in the midst of the confusion, the only voice I can make out is the one that says JUMP. And as I walk over the bridge of Freeway 57, I really want to listen to it.

Yes, it happened again. The hesitancy, the awkwardness, and the distrust were building up as I sat on the picnic blanket eating my 8 little chicken wings in the middle of the church picnic, surrounded by a group of people I couldn’t talk to. I felt the separateness and after failing to shut out all the hateful thoughts in my head, I knew I couldn’t stay. So I walked away. When I got to the sidewalk, I kept walking. When I got to the main street down on Yorba Linda, I kept going. Over Freeway 57 and all the way back to the parking structure I almost jumped off of 2 weeks before.

Short Rant. I hate this question: Are you okay?

Why do I hate this question?

  • Because most of the time, this question gets asked in a public setting, where the person being asked will always feel the pressure to answer in the affirmative. There is a room filled with more than a dozen other people, do you really expect me to break the last bit of resolve I can muster? There are more appropriate times to cry. And as much as I value transparency, breaking down in a room with a bunch of people I don’t know that well will never feel safe. And maybe I’ve been conditioned to say, Yea I’m fine. Sometimes, those are the words that come out of my mouth before my brain even processes the actual question.
  • Also, because the person asking already knows the answer. Nobody asks anybody this question unless they think the party in question is NOT okay. Which in most cases, the party is definitely not well if they can’t even pretend anymore.
  • Plus, if I answer with, No I’m not okay, then I’ve condemned you having to dive down the rabbit hole with me. You, my poor friend, would be forced to ask me follow-up questions and sit there listening, and feeling confused and unequipped to help. You’d have to waste your precious time on trying to care for me when you can be doing something else, or talking to someone happier and more fun. And that kind of sucks for you doesn’t it? Because if you try to throw some half-hearted encouragement and then just walk off because you didn’t REALLY want to open the can of worms, you’d come off looking like a real jerk. And I cannot condemn you to that sad reality.

And those are SOME of the reasons as to why I have a hard time answer this question. Because I WANT to tell the truth, but the truth is so risky. It’s not anybody’s fault. Because, technically, they tried. They at least made the effort. And to be honest, if I ever do end up jumping off a building, that will be the one thing that keeps them from feeling guilt.

“O well, we tried. So our hands are clean.”

“She just didn’t want help. Can’t blame anyone but herself”

“You can’t control what people do”

“It’s sad, but it’s nobody’s fault”

All valid statements. So why does it hurt to hear them?

The fight for joy is the fight to see. I can’t see the path in front of me. I don’t know what tomorrow looks like. Whether I’ll be okay or not. I can’t differentiate the people who love me from the people who will hurt me. I can’t see the glory of the gospel. I don’t know what is true anymore.

I know the word is so important. So, so important… Be grounded in the word because that is the only real true thing we have. And even when we have it, it’s hard to see it for what God intended. I keep fighting to see God for who he is, but I don’t see anything. It’s so blurry. So, so blurry…

The Ledge

I’m over the railing and my foot inches closer towards the cement ledge. I look over and down. It’s a 4 story vertical drop. I don’t even remember how I got up there, alone at the top of the parking garage.

2 hours ago I was at lunch with all the other happy people. Willa and Maurice sat down at my table and began picking at their food. More people came and they were smiling and laughing, and I was all too aware of the difference between their disposition and mine. Their happiness pointed to my inability to be present in the moment with them. I was in a bubble again.

I sat and stared at nothing. I only heard the muffled conversations of normal people around me. I was aware of two things: my guilt and my fear. I looked at Willa and Maurice, sitting quietly, both aware of my state of sadness. I was dragging them down. Miserable me always ruining the mood… I turn and see Greg, laughing and conversing with the other ten plus people at the table. I was in conflict. Because as much as I didn’t want to be a downer, I couldn’t help but feel hurt and sad that everyone else seemed so joyful. I shouldn’t feel that way. I want them to have a good time. Then I knew… I didn’t belong in this group. I’m not one of them. I saw myself as separate. Emotionally, mentally, physically, everything. I shouldn’t be there.

“I’m going to head out,” I said as I got up and walked away. But I didn’t leave. My engine started and I realized I had nowhere to go. After a minute of thinking, I turned it off. I chucked the keys to the side, frustrated that I was still stuck in the parking lot of the plaza, my sort of friends only a 10-second walk away. Why am I so selfish? I don’t want to be… I prayed.

God, please give them a joyful day. Despite how I feel or how I am, give them a day of rest and peace. May their worries escape their thoughts and may you give them the confidence and perseverance to face tomorrow, whether it’s work or school…

My heart continues to pull. I hate the fears I have about Renew. I hate overthinking about my relationship with this community. I hate thinking about how I will become too much for them. I don’t want to be scared of being thrown away anymore. The only way to stop the storm on the inside is to leave 100 percent. If I have no friends, then I have nothing to care about, nothing that can hurt me. I wouldn’t be able to want or wish. I don’t have to face disappointment. My fingers move fast. I leave every chat and Facebook group related to Renew. I LEFT. I throw my phone to the side as soon as I’m done, for fear that I may see the emptiness of my page and regret it all.

I’m crying. The pamphlet I picked up at Pastor Tori’s funeral the previous day sits in the seat next to me. I’ve been reading it over and over. He died a week and a half ago. Sudden cardiac arrest. I detached. Unlike everyone else, I didn’t cry when I heard, I didn’t cry when I saw the casket. But now it’s different.

Pastor Tori led a humble, faithful life. He used to be a Dean at Truth seminary. He loved the bible, the history, the context, the old dusty facts that many people lose patience with. And he loved the dinky little church in Covina so much that he would spend every weekend driving 200+ miles to teach them. He rejected job offers from other ministries for a little group of misfits. It didn’t matter that the members were immature and young and disorganized. It didn’t matter that in the years he was there, the population saw little growth in numbers. He was committed to his community, joyful and calm in all seasons, faithful in serving, and always devoted to the word of God.

And I left that church for Renew. Guilt. I never realized how much I learned from him. Guilt. I never thanked him for his teaching. Guilt. I told myself before the funeral that I will see him again in heaven and there will be opportunities to thank him. But my heart was wrenching and I wanted to forgo everything. Guilt. He was so faithful to his little community. Me? I just ran away from mine… Guilt! Guilt! GUILT! 

Meridian Parking Garage. I left Renew, yet I found no place to go but the parking place in front of the building Renew rents for their services. I got out of the car and walked over to the concrete clearing on the side of the parking garage. The railings of the 4th floor overlooked this area. I wasn’t sure why I was there. My legs moved on their own. I looked up and tried to measure how many Me’s it would take to measure up to the top. It didn’t look like a very far drop from where I stood on the ground. My legs moved again. They ignored the stairs. Instead, they circled around and around, passing the empty parking spots until I was finally at the top, completely exposed to the open sky. I think they were stalling for time. I’m not sure. I reached the rails. I climbed over. My knee, the only thing guarding me from the fall.

We’re caught up now. For a moment, no thoughts cross my mind. I feel empty. The wind blows around me. I inhale and my lungs intake so much air like they’re afraid they won’t ever breathe again. A new emotion swarms me. I can’t do it. I climb back over, slide to the floor, hold my head and scream. I scream so hard and loud, my throat hurts. Now, I really have nowhere to go. NO ESCAPE. The only route I could take, I didn’t have the guts to do it.

TRUTH AND LIES. Truth and lies. Truth and lies… Everything blurs. God is silent. God is good. God is always present. God is working. There is redemption. There’s no relief. God messed up when he created me. God is working all things for his glory. I still have faith. I’m too broken to be saved. I hate the world. I love people. Jesus died for me. Jesus loves me. He pursues me. He left me…

How real is heaven…

Wait. Wait. Wait. WHY. WHY. WHY.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer – Romans 12:12

My story wasn’t meant to end today.

I’m watching everything through a bubble.

I remember sitting in my car in the parking lot outside the food/tea place we said we’d all meet at. It was 10:30 pm. We’d just finished climbing and everyone drove their separate cars. They were already inside and I’ve been parked for about 20 minutes. I couldn’t go in. I didn’t want to… but I did. I remember asking myself, why aren’t you going in? More sitting. More waiting. But for what? It’s not like I had an answer to my own question.

It dawned on me that only an hour ago I was laughing, joking, and socializing like a normal, happy human being. And even though nothing in particular happened within that one hour, besides the 10-minute drive down the street to the tea place, I found my mood had made a complete 180. I felt sad, anxious, and burdened. My head felt heavy on my shoulders yet it was void of any coherent thought. I didn’t believe I could go inside and smile. I couldn’t see myself being social or laughing. I imagined myself walking in, hesitant and gloomy, and I was afraid that everyone could see it. Or worse, not notice it at all. More time passed in silence as I stared out at the lot, my friends’ cars sitting stationary and scattered.

A buzzing went off. A jolt of appreciation and relief struck me. Deep breath. Slide to answer.

“Where are you?”

“Outside. In the car,” I replied.

“Okay.”

A minute passed and then he was sitting in the passenger seat next to me. He knew. His face said it. But not in the worried or you-need-to-get-help kind of way. No urgency, no pressure, no awkward silence, and no contorted thinking-about-the-right-thing-to-say face. Calm and un-worrying, but still observant. That’s what I like about Greg. He can know that something is wrong but he still treats me like I’m perfectly normal. I don’t feel crazy.

“Come inside. Don’t worry, it’s low pressure in there.” Fine

Deep breath. He was right. I was quiet for the most part, but I talked well enough. My insides churned and I felt sick, but on the outside I was fine. And that was all I wanted to achieve when I walked in. To act and look and BE perfectly sane, even if nothing I felt made sense. It was weird. I heard every word that came out of their mouths, but it sounded both muffled and clear, and a little too loud. And even though I was sitting at the table with them, barely 6 inches away from the closest person, it still felt like I was separate. I don’t mean in an outcast-ish or I-don’t-belong kind of way. It was like I was there, but stuck in a bubble. I was watching everybody through some translucent film that made me both present and separate. I can see and I can hear and I can talk, but the experience of it all was just a little bit off.

Fast forward a couple hoursEveryone walks off to their cars to go home. I’m about to open my door when Greg gets in from the passenger side. Maurice and I exchanged a look before him and everyone else drove off. I get in.

“I think you have anxiety and depression.”

I don’t say anything. Do I believe him? I think back to the panic attack at Ben’s house and the small scaled ones through the following week. I concluded that the culprit was stress. But maybe not… I didn’t think this would be a chronic thing. I’m not crazy and I don’t want to be depressed. Depression isn’t for me, I told myself. If I have to, I’ll force myself to be HAPPY – that’s who I want to be so I’ll just be that. I’ll talk loud and laugh and joke! Yes, I can do that. I’ve been doing it my whole life!

Yet, I didn’t shake my head or argue with him like I usually would have if some other person tried to point it out. I just listened quietly and nodded my head here and there while Greg went on to recount his experience with depression.

“I’m not saying you have to rush to get help. Take your time with this.”

I nodded again.

Time… Friend and Foe. I can drag time on for as long as I want but I can never escape it. It’s been almost 2 months since my first panic attack and about a month and a half since that conversation with Greg. I’ve been coasting since then. But time catches up.

Last night was the first time these words ever came out of my mouth: I have depression. Funny how it takes weeks of frustration and insomnia to finally get the words out of me. I don’t really know where I’m at with this now, but I think I’m starting to see things a little more clearly.