Thursday, May 16, 2013

Writing to Heal - Mentally

“I lie inside myself for hours and watch my purple sky fly over me.”  Imaginary, Evanescence

This line describes me to a T.  

What’s something you’re good at?

As an introvert, I’m good at self-reflection, or introspection.  I spend a lot of time thinking: thinking about things I’ve said, or should’ve said; things others have said, or shouldn’t have said; things that happened, or shouldn’t have happened.  I think about motives, words unspoken, and cryptic messages.  When I was younger, there were plenty of opportunities to do so, and I jumped on them.  My weak, untrained, na├»ve mind couldn’t grasp the consequences, however, and I caused myself a lot of grief by dwelling too much on the negatives.  I internalized so much and took things personally when I shouldn’t have.  As a result, I beat myself up for no good reason.  

1. Lack of self-esteem and self-worth caused me to feel judged by others and withdraw inside myself.
I’m not sure when this started but sometime after I turned 10 my self-esteem started to plummet.  Perhaps it was due to the various friendships I had that were going in different directions when I entered middle school and junior high.  Friends I had grown up with were pursuing other friends and leaving me behind, even though I thought we’d be friends forever.  I can see now that that only happens in rare instances and fairy tales.  At any rate, I began to feel like I wasn’t good enough for them and, subsequently, judged as some sort of weirdo because I didn’t like the same things they did.  I pulled away from them, uninterested in spending time with people who didn’t know me anymore or didn’t want to keep spending time with me.  Then there were my new friends, who soon became at odds with my old friends.  I felt torn between my two groups but couldn’t choose one group over the other.  I only disclosed certain things to certain friends, and even then there were times I would lie because I feared their rejection or judgments if they really knew the truth.  As I feared rejection more and more, I slowly isolated myself and set up defensive barriers that kept others from getting too close to my thoughts.  But I ended up defending the wrong thoughts.

2. Spiritual attacks weakened my mind
The good thing is that I know my brain is working.  The bad thing is that it usually works too much and in the wrong direction.  See, I’m not very good at arguing or debating, so when I am confronted with a fact that is logical but inherently wrong, I struggle to fight against it.  For example, when I was faced with one of Satan’s lies (“You’re worthless”), my mind considered the “facts” (I was a financial burden, I’d never be good enough, the pain and frustration wasn’t worth it, etc) and dwelt on them until they were planted so deeply in my heart that they took root and choked out any gospel truth that might’ve been there.  With no biblical foundation, I fell.  I fell far, probably to about as rock bottom as I could go, before the light of the truth reached me.  But I was so good at not fighting back, at not seeking out hope, that eventually my mind trained itself to fall into the rut of accepting the false facts as truth and live in the secrecy of the darkness.  And no one suspected anything because I didn’t trust anyone enough to admit it.  My unobtrusiveness and reclusiveness held me back in my dark corner of the world.  
And I liked it.  I lived for me, my desires, my solitude, my privacy.  No one needed to see me for who I truly was.  And why would they want to?  I was bitter, angry, and self-loathing.  Who wants to spend time with someone like that?

3. Repressed guilt ate away at me
Like I said before, I felt like a financial burden on my family.  I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when I was 8, and besides the fact that all the health care changes were most unwelcome, the cost of my health care skyrocketed.  My medical supplies were numerous and expensive, and my family was struggling to make ends meet.  Dad’s work was unpredictable and we lived paycheck to paycheck.  I hated feeling like I was adding an extra expense to their already overwhelming list of expenses.  Those guilty feelings soon turned to anger, despair, and suicidal thoughts.  After all, if ending my pain and misery ended their financial burden, and if I would never be good enough at taking care of myself, why shouldn’t I?

4. I defended angry, hateful, depressive, and suicidal thoughts
The wall of secrecy I built in my mind harbored the very thoughts I should have been fighting against.  
  • Anger toward God for giving me diabetes
  • Hate for the disease that fueled my depression and pulled me into thoughts of suicide.  

I hated life and hated to think about living in the chains of diabetes for the rest of my life.  How could a loving God sentence me to such a miserable existence?  I couldn’t fathom His plan because my mind was focused on the pity party it was throwing, and hey, it was a party of which I was the focus!  Sometimes it felt like I was the only one who cared about how I felt, and I can see now that that’s because I didn’t let, want, or trust anyone else to know what was going on...not even God.  You can probably see how my self-deception led me to believe no one else cared, and so then why should I keep living?  A burden no one cares for is worthless, and they’d be better off without me.

My mind deteriorated.  I fought with myself on a daily, moment-by-moment basis.  Live or die?  

I was a coward (thanks to God) who couldn’t imagine the pain I’d inflict on my family, who, although they didn’t know me, instilled a sense of loyalty and devotion in me.  It was too much to ignore.  I held on through high school, and God met me shortly after.

I’m grateful beyond words that God met me.  He reached down, personally (through a dream), to tell me that He did care and that if I wanted to follow Him (like He could see me pretending to do) I had to turn my life around – or rather, trust Him to do it.  I wasn’t alone.  He’d been with me all along, and I believe He let me reach my lowest point so I could see clearly how much I needed Him to save me.

My defenses have been lowered.  They fell when I confessed my sin and need for His salvation.  I’ve been working to build up new defenses – walls that protect the truth of God’s love for me and the purpose He has for my life.  My worth is measured in the price Christ paid on the cross.  He was rejected and alone so I would never have to be.  He carried all of my burdens to the cross and left them there.  I am no burden.  I am a beloved daughter of God.  

And while I’m still fighting against Satan’s lies, I’m learning that I’m not fighting alone.  For every lie there is an absolute truth that cannot be changed, and there is a loving God who worked through my trials to bring me to salvation.  What’s more, He is still working in me and will continue to do so until His purpose for me has been fulfilled.  He’s doing the same for you, in your life, whether you can see it or not.  His fingerprints are all over every inch of creation.  

That’s the God I serve.  Don't make the same mistake I made.  Don't let your anger shut Him out.  Humble your heart.  He knows everything about you.  You can't hide anything from Him.  Let Him carry your burdens.  Let Him hold the position He truly is in Your life: Lord.  Let Him heal the hurts and the scars you still carry in your heart.  He's the only one who can, and He's waiting for you to run into His open, loving arms.  

“Lord, please help me to remember that You are my loving, personal God and Father.  Help me face and conquer the fears I am still facing, the fears that still dwell in my scarred mind.  Some scars run deep and I cannot heal them alone.  Give me strength to trust You in all things so that I can heal and continue to live my life fully for you.  In Your name I pray, Amen.”

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Writing to Heal - Spiritually

I’ve always been a writer.  Ever since I was little, words have fascinated me.  And it’s not by chance, or by accident, that my mind is wired to creatively express itself through the use of written language.  I can’t thank God enough for this gift, this talent, He’s given me.  I think it has literally saved my life. 

I love words and I love writing.  Writing has been my pain reliever.  My journal has always been my best friend.  When hard times overwhelmed me, pen and paper comforted me.  They gave me someone to talk to, someone to confide in.  Someone who wouldn’t judge me but would listen willingly and allow me to pour out my soul with no inhibition.  I felt safe in the confines of the pages.  Books transported me to other worlds where I could focus on other people who were facing problems other than my own.  Problems I sometimes wished were my own.  But writing now allows me to see that problems in my own story are worth facing and sharing, too.  It’s in the process of sharing them that I’m healing.

I can’t number the times I’ve been hurt (who can?) but several times were enough to leave lasting scars – scars that haven’t seen the light of day yet.  They’ve been allowed to sit and fester; to linger and haunt me; to affect my life years beyond what’s good for me.  But I don’t want them anymore.  They’re about to be cast out of the dark shadows of my soul and, through writing, I’m going to heal.

Just like every sinner alive, I’ve been hurt in every way you can imagine.  I’m not going to sugarcoat anything for you.  This is real life, and there are real people out there struggling with the same things.  They need to know, like I wish I’d known, that they are not alone.  They are not unloved.  They are not worthless.  They are not an accident.  Their struggles are not in vain.  Their problems are not without a purpose.  This post will focus on the first category.  

1.  I’ve been hurt spiritually
-Poor spiritual foundation due to a lack of sound doctrine teaching in my old church.  I truly believe that had there been a stronger focus on teaching sound doctrine to the congregation, my spiritual life would not have been as neglected as it was.  As it happened, I did not receive a formal or thorough spiritual education until after I graduated from high school.  As you will see later, this delay had a detrimental impact on my spiritual, mental, and physical well-being.

-Lack of encouragement to pursue Christ as my own.  He was always my parents’ Savior, but never mine.  I was told He was a personal God, but I had no comprehension of what that meant or looked like, so I settled into the motions of pretending to be a Christian.  I wore a mask and lived a double life: the happy, Christian mask covered the face of a lost sinner ensnared in her own sin.   

-Too much emphasis on my own works and behavior for God’s favor in my life.  It was always up to me to look in the mirror, see what was wrong, and fix it.  God was just there to forgive me; to put a spiritual Band-aid on my sin.  But I needed MORE than that.  I needed a new heart…a new LIFE.  I was dead, living in perpetual sin, believing it was all up to me to live the life God wanted me to live.  But I couldn’t live that life because I was a walking dead man, alienated from the will of God.

-Lack of knowledge of God’s true character led to vulnerability, especially to lies.  Because I did not know who God truly was, or what He was truly like, it was very easy for Satan to, in the midst of my suffering, fill my head with lies about God’s nature.  I did not really know how loving, faithful, patience, gracious, and merciful God was, so Satan's deception led me to believe that He was impersonal, far away, uncaring, angry, and uninterested in my worthless little soul.  My heart was entangled in a web that could only be dispelled by the light of the Word, which did not reach me until after high school.

Through my love for creative writing, I have taken on the task of incorporating bits and pieces of my personal life into my stories.  I hope that these stories, and the characters within them, can reach out and touch the readers in a real way, right where they are.  Time and time again, I have witnessed the power of God at work in the smallest of ways, which amazingly enough, are the most personal of ways.  It is the reminder of those personal touches, as I like to think of them, that the God who made me, saved me, and loves me, is the God who delights in reaching out and touching me right where I am.  It is through those touches that I have started on the path to healing spiritually and I have faith to bring the rest of these scars to the surface.