Rejection

This isn’t a thanksgiving post, especially since the day has already passed (LOL). But with that said, given the week that we’ve had preparing for and welcoming, enduring or escaping family, we all have a fresh reminder that family is a trip, right? I’ve heard it said that there’s the family we’re born into and the family that we choose.  That is, our friends. No family is perfect – even those we choose. And every family comes in one of many shapes and sizes.

Even the family that we’re born into doesn’t always look like the self-contained nuclear family of black and white TV. Like me, many people are raised by a village and your “family” may share some of your DNA or none at all. In my own, bloodlines never mattered and thankfully, they still don’t. But…people are still people (who be peoplin’) and so those bruises and breaks still come along with them.  It’s an unfortunate truth that those who are closest to you can hurt you the most. It’s something from which we can never be immune.  We are often compelled to make choices around how we handle the hurt and those who do the hurting. The same is true about the bruises and breaks that we inflict on ourselves.

When I think of my experience with mental illness, and depression specifically, it seems to me to be a very selfish disease. Not selfish in the sense of being stingy, but instead, self-centered. Depression is a disease that takes our natural pre-occupation with ourselves and both perverts and expands it to the point that it can be nearly impossible to see through or around it to the other manifold aspects of life. With depression, you are always on your mind. And most often, it’s our most unflattering aspects that are the focus.

Maybe it’s the time you excused yourself from an important meeting to go to the ‘potty’ instead of the very adult restroom on your floor. Or maybe it’s the time when you spent an entire day at work and happy hour afterward with spinach between your two front teeth. Or, more seriously, the day someone you thought you knew became a predator and labeled you prey.

Somehow, whether silly or severe, each thought or memory that darts through your brain all have a common and well-traveled pathway. Those tinted visions of ineptitude, a lack of sophistication, clumsiness, gullibility, and whatever else that speeds through your brain all lead to one destination and that’s … rejection.

I find that regardless of who started the assault, because I am with myself more than anyone, the heaviest beatings come from my own hand. And believe me, no-one’s dagger is sharper than my own. Because depression underscores and magnifies the negative and is so self-focused, it can feel nearly impossible to do anything, but reject ourselves. I mean, what other conclusion could there be?

The self-rejection in my life made me want to hide from the rest of the world. I couldn’t let anyone truly get close to me, because if they did, they would see what I see and, ultimately, reject me.  What other choice could there be?

One of the things that is so remarkable to me about this faith thing is that I have never felt rejected by God. It has certainly crossed my mind that God should reject me. But I’ve never had the sense, once I started talking to God (a.k.a praying), that God would ever echo the sentiments that I had about myself.

Even as I complained and mocked myself, I never had the sense that God would agree. I didn’t feel it or see some cosmic co-sign in the heavens. Most days, I saw and felt very little beyond depression’s walls.  But after learning about God’s character, I now have a visual to go with that stillness.

It’s a facial expression that, hopefully, we’ve all seen in the eyes of someone who really loves us. It’s a look of concern.  A head tilted, angled as if to hear me better. A hand holding both cheeks and chin and brows furrowed, signaling the seriousness of the thoughts in the brain above it. And a sadness creeping into loving eyes. When I think of the days where I struggle and depression riddles my every thought, I see Jesus listening intently and then whispering, ‘My daughter, I long for you to always see yourself the way that I see you. But I’m here and ready to remind you again and again for as long as it takes.’

What about you? Do you have a visual in your mind that reflects who you know or believe God to be?  Leave a comment or shoot me an email at creatorskind@gmail.com.

©2021 Creatorskind

Why I believe part 2

I’ll be the first to admit it…I struggle with relationships. The kind of relationship doesn’t really matter – family, friendships, romances and more continue to confound and challenge me on a regular basis. Relationships take work! You can’t be on autopilot and do relationships well. Instead, we have to be able to adapt to the needs of the day, person, and place because what was required yesterday might be different than what is required today.  Relationships have BIG demands, like presence, vulnerability, boundaries, compassion, self-control, and a certain level of inter-dependency. And that’s a tall order.

What I struggle with most in my closest relationships is that “certain level of inter-dependency.” We’re all imperfect. It’s something that we all learn through experience and, eventually, learn to live with.  But, because we’re all so imperfect, we’re constantly bumping up against one another, causing bruises and breaks that sometimes take a lifetime to heal. And what’s worse is that none of it happens in a vacuum. Life goes on and we get the hang of walking with a limp.

The sheer pain of my bruises and breaks had me believing that independence was safer. Self-reliance in everything was necessary, because the less I had to rely on someone else, the less opportunity they had to hurt me. I clung to that belief like my life depended upon it. But it’s not a perfect system.  The walls that I built came down to be dependable for others, but not much else. So, when I struggled, I did so alone and in silence. It’s only in retrospect that I realized that was a dangerous place to be, especially if you have depression.

What’s interesting to me about those nightly walks home is that despite declaring my independence in every other area of my life, when it came to this one thing, I readily relinquished it over and over again. At the time, that fact didn’t register at all. I had no idea that I was laying myself bare before God. In fact, if you would’ve asked me about it, I would’ve thought you were a little “touched in the head” or, at the very least, a little too hard core for my taste.  

But in those moments, I was saying much more than I realized. By simply saying, ‘God please protect me,’ I was admitting that I was afraid. I was admitting that I didn’t have enough power to protect myself.  I was saying ‘God, you’re bigger and badder than anyone out here, please keep me safe.’  I didn’t wait for evidence that I had been heard, I had to move forward.  So, my fragile hope in God’s willingness to help carried me home.

It would be years before I would learn that this dependency was crucial to faith, crucial especially to a relationship with God. Then though, it was just a small thing; one tiny area of life. But over time, it became a reason to believe that God saw me and was interested in what concerned me. It became what I could point to that would give me the courage to approach God again, and again, and again and have the assurance that I would be received. That small request opened the door to relationship.

What about you? Is there something you have brought or would bring to God, if you thought it would be received?

©2021 Creatorskind

Why I believe

I thought that the next logical topic to post about would be why I believe in God.  But the more that I thought about it, the more the “how” seemed to be an equal part of the same conversation.  Really, it seemed like a chicken and the egg kind of thing, because I’m not sure which came first.  Why I believe in God – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is a function of how I came to believe, and vice versa.  And while I may have confused myself on that one (lol), I think that they might actually be the same thing.  So, you may see a bit of both in this week’s post.

I went to catholic school for most of my pre-high school years.  That’s where I was introduced to God.  And in the way that little children often do, I accepted that what I was told was true.  I learned to sit still in church, despite the infinitely more interesting distractions provided by my classmates and my own mind.  I learned to pray the rosary, went to confession, and said Hail Mary’s as penance for my sins.  With my mother, I prayed before bed and believed that I had been heard.  But did I know God?  Did I have a relationship with God?  I don’t know.

In the years to come, now in public-school, my interaction with God had become limited to a daily chant.  “Please don’t let me miss the bus.  Please don’t let me miss the bus.” I would sing those words as I half- speed walked, half-ran to the bus stop.  Eventually, I began to wonder whether I was pressing my luck.  Would I run out of chances?  Would God be done with me?  God was a genie in a bottle with a low tolerance for my nonsense – or so I thought. 

When I ran into situations that a child’s mind isn’t equipped to handle or later, when my teenage brain entered a fog of sadness, distraction, and loneliness from which I could not emerge, I turned to my catholic school roots.  I sought God – the Father through the saints, like the virgin Mary, and my ancestors. I sought the long-gone forebearers that I had known personally, and one, who had been as close to a saint in my eyes as anyone could be. 

I called on them to put in a good word.  I called on them believing that now from their position in heaven that they saw me in a way that they couldn’t while on earth.  In my holy imagination, I believed that they now had a comprehensive view that was unlimited by time, and hopefully, weighted by compassion.  With that in mind, I sought them in the quiet of my bedroom and often with tears that I didn’t understand.  But I felt a little less alone.  I had believed in God.  But would I call this a relationship?  No.  I didn’t really know God. 

I remember the red-edged bible that I had gotten from who knows where collecting dust on my nightstand.  I would read it from time to time, but inevitably, King James’ thee’s and thou’s would command me right into a nap or onto something less boring.  It wasn’t until the middle of my college years, on my own in a new city, that my thoughts again climbed heavenward.  I was feeling both the familiar loneliness of my undiagnosed depression and the now tangible loneliness of day-to-day life without close friends.  It was hard.  I looked around and felt different from everyone else…and very much alone.  I had been released into a freedom that I had longed for while under my parent’s roof.  Yet, I didn’t know what to do with it and  felt like I was failing.  But I didn’t ask my family for advice.  I didn’t consult the saints.  This time, I sought God directly in everyday life, not with a chant, but a request. 

Walking home from the train at night, I started asking God to protect me.  And as I walked the blocks home that were sometimes dark and empty, sometimes marked with stares and catcalls that echoed behind me, or sometimes the footsteps of those that would try to follow me, I would hope that I had been heard.  My feet crossing the threshold would bring a thank you from my lips.  And somehow that simple experience began something inside of me that even today is hard to explain.  It was the same belief, yet somehow different.  After all this time, I’m not even sure that I understand it completely.  But what I do know, is that it was the start of a conversation.  The first tender shoots sprouting from a seed planted over a decade before.        

It would be some time before I would encounter the bible verse, “But without faith it is impossible to please God.  Anyone who comes to God, must believe that God exists and rewards those who sincerely seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).  But when I did, it rang completely true.  Because  not knowing much at all, I had reached out to a God that I hoped would be able or available and discovered a God that was both.  And it was because of that discovery that I wanted to know more.

What about you?  Do you know why or how you came to believe what you do about God, whether positive or negative?  Leave a comment and let me know.

©2021 Creatorskind

One big little word.

I have to admit, I really struggled with my first post – the one that introduced me. Well, really, it was one word in it that I wrestled with. I went back and forth, unsure of the reaction it would garner. But in the end, I decided to call a thing what it is. So…I wrote, “mental illness” and left it there.

Illness. I struggled with that word as a characterization of the turf war that plays out in my brain day after day. I wondered whether “illness” was the best way to describe the cluster of mental health conditions that stormed into my life and send me both to prayer and therapy almost religiously.

I played with using mental health “challenges” instead, but it felt false. If it were anything else, any other condition, I wouldn’t even flinch. I wouldn’t hesitate to mention them in the same sentence. Brain cancer…illness. Asthma…illness. Dementia…illness. And it makes sense because illness is the opposite of wellness. To have a condition is to be unwell regarding that thing or even in general. Yet, the stigma that often accompanies anything about mental health makes me want a little distance. And adding that word to a sentence that also includes God, can turn my simple statement into a loaded gun…dangerous.

It’s a word choice that risks turning you off, possibly, forever. Because to some, mental illness means crazy. And to some, to have a mental illness and claim to have a relationship with God is the very definition of crazy or, at least, misguided. It is thought that a person with mental illness is always someone to be avoided because they might hurt themselves or hurt you. It’s something city dwellers are well acquainted with.  More than once, I have guided my feet to the other side of the street from someone screaming at no-one that I could see, while angrily sweeping up nothing on the sidewalk or chucking groceries out their front door. No, mental health “challenge” is easier to swallow. The only problem is that “challenge” cannot capture the full experience. At least, not mine.

A mental health challenge is feeling lonely after moving to a new city with no connections. A mental health challenge is listening to a whole SADE album on repeat following a difficult breakup and wondering why you can’t let go. A challenge isn’t chronic and debilitating. A challenge is intense yes, but ultimately, temporary. A challenge is overcome and eradicated after a battle.

An illness is the exact opposite. An illness is a war in the body. It is long-term and unrelenting. An illness brings you to your knees. An illness tries to take you out. And by that description, my own experience has been that of an illness. That’s how I have come to think of it. 

If it was a challenge, I might be tempted to tough it out on my own. But because it’s a war, I know that I have to be strategic.  I need weapons and power greater than my own. That’s why I go to God with it.  That’s why I align myself with God, because on my own, depression, anxiety and PTSD would take me all the way out.

With God, I am reminded to do my part. Move my body, eat right, drink water, go to therapy, rest, practice kindness toward myself, take this medication and use what I learn in therapy. With God, I learn to do my part while relying on God’s power to make it through, not my own. I don’t force it. I don’t strain. I glide. I flow. With God, I am able to do the work of living well with a mental illness.

Now don’t get it twisted, there are bumps along the way. It isn’t always pretty. But with God, I learn that my mental state, feelings, and history don’t define me. God does. And it’s God’s word that tells me who I am. Strong, courageous, and unafraid, because God is with me wherever I go, even when my feelings scream otherwise.  God’s grace – the unmerited favor I receive straight from the source – empowers me and makes God’s strength the perfect antidote to my weakness. It isn’t just a belief. It’s something that I know from experience.  So, because of that, I am calling a thing what it is and letting it be known.

What’s a word that you’ve had to tussle with before claiming it?

©2021 Creatorskind