Third Time

The roof. Sitting on the edge, both feet dangling out. The 3rd time. How did I get there again? I don’t remember. What caused me to go here? I don’t know. I just did… And it’s scary how comfortable I was. Like each time I get up there, I’m a little more daring.

I probably should have picked a less visible place, but I wanted to watch the cars zoom by on the freeway for awhile. Okay, maybe I haven’t lost ALL my marbles. Some survival alarm in my brain still thought to send the code word. Man, what am I doing with myself?

More debris. Now I have a fear of stairs… Great. More trauma added to the volcanic ash. I can’t walk by a staircase and not think about where it leads to… Keep fighting. Don’t walk up. Another battle to worry about.

Also, panic disorder… Apparently, you can develop this if you have habitual panic attacks. Like after a certain amount of panic attacks, you become paranoid and fearful about when your next panic attack will come, which is basically another stressor that induces new panic attacks. Another downward spiral… Great…

PTSD. The symptoms?

  • Bad Dreams/Nightmares? Check
  • Flashbacks – reliving trauma? Check
  • Angry outbursts? Check
  • Distorted feelings guilt/blame? Check
  • Loss of interest in enjoyable activities? Check
  • Feeling “on edge”? Check
  • Blocked out memories / blank spots? Check
  • Frightening thoughts? Oh yeah…
  • Lack of sleep? Check, Check, CHECK!

Article after article. Book after book. About trauma, coping with anxiety, various types of depression, psychotherapy, cognitive behavior therapy, energy psychology, neuropsychology and so on. Rewire. Reprogram. FIX ME. Because there’s something terribly wrong… I’m terribly wrong. No friend really gets it…

The fatigue is getting to me…

Last Morning

Some of us stayed an extra night here. The cabin felt ominously empty, but I kind of like it. Peace and quiet, outside on the deck facing Lake Arrowhead. I can’t find a better spot to write.

Yesterday, in presence of God. 20 minutes. That’s how long I stood there, watching the boats, listening for Jesus. It was honestly the only moment for semi-rest I found all weekend. He’s here, up in the mountains. Somewhere… Not exactly beside me but too not far off. Pastor Josh, this is really really hard (I wonder what everybody felt like doing this at the Renew retreat).

Fun. Climbing onto some guy’s truck, hanging off the bumper, and wailing as they drove us down the mountain. I doubt he would have stopped and offered us a joy ride if the girl-guy ratio was anything but what it was.

Rocky and steep. There was a lot more grabbing, jumping, and climbing than expected for such a short distance. But that’s how I like my hikes. Also, if they end up at a waterfall where people can go cliff jumping. Highlight of the weekend? Yes.

Episode. Then night came and it was almost 8:30 by the time we made it back to the cabin. People were either cooking or showering or gaming. And I just went upstairs. Nothing bad happened. It was fun. All of it. And somehow I still ended up on the mat, curled up in a ball and wishing I were dead. I saw myself at the bottom of the staircase inside Renew somewhere, in some empty hallway, on the ground and shaking. I felt ready to make it to the roof. And then I stop myself from thinking… Why is it always thoughts about Renew that make me this way? They’re not a bad church… What’s wrong with me… Maybe it’s him.

This entire weekend, last night, even this morning… He’s always there. Popping up anytime I might actually feel safe. It’s like a demon put on his face and invaded my mind. It just doesn’t stop. How can God be present in one moment and gone in the next?

A bee fell onto my laptop! Omg… Okay, I’m done.

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…

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.

I’ve Stopped

It’s 2:12 pm in the afternoon. I’m supposed to have a job interview for a full time HR position at 3pm today. I canceled. Something inside told me it wasn’t worth the trip.

I haven’t written a thing in… days? A week or two maybe? I’m not even sure. My stories stay frozen in time. And I don’t even want to think about drafting another dead end idea for a novel. I haven’t had the heart to do anything. A lot went on this month. To save time, I’ll sum it up in a list. In the month of November (which is still not over so who knows what surprises are still in store):

  1. I drained all the money in my bank account because I found out I owed my school some money that I hadn’t realized. Bye bye rainy day account. But that’s okay. What’s security anyways?
  2. I wrote my research paper for my HR class and at the last moment decided not to turn it in. That was 2 weeks ago. And I think the final exam for that class is today too, but I guess I’m not doing that either. Even with an A in the class the last time I checked, I doubt I’d pass now.
  3. I felt relief, then guilt, then anger, then it cycled back again.
  4. I left my church and tried a new one.
  5. I dusted off the type A hat in the dark closet of my mind and put it on. (I had to go to a potluck where everyone I met was super Type A personality.) The hat fit fine and I felt stylish in it. But after a few days, I realized my Type B sweatshirt was much more comfortable.
  6. I experienced for the first time what it was like to feel like a minority in America and to be powerless next an authority who held all the cards. And I was just a by standing witness.
  7. I held it together…
  8. and then I didn’t.

I don’t know what kind of picture this paints for the reader. Because the reader is not me, who wants to talk about my problems but also doesn’t want to dig around in them. Sometimes my head goes on a rant and doesn’t stop. It starts to sound really whiny after a while. After all, who am I to complain? A lot of people go through the same things. Everyone worries about the future, everyone goes into a slump here and there, nobody has real security, and everybody either moves forward or stops. If it wasn’t obvious already, I’m the latter. I wish I were one of the ones who are still moving, still pushing, still swimming against the current with purpose. But I felt like I’ve been going in circles all this time. So I slowed down. And eventually, that turned to not moving at all.

And now that I’ve stopped, I’m not sure I remember how to move.

It’s probably just soon-to-graduate depression, right? Just an extra thing to overcome with time?… I had more to say. Something with a point to it, but I seem to have forgotten. So I’ll end here for today.

My sign off –

Real Life drags me out of bed by the ankles and my fingers cling to the frame in protest.