Since my major healing experience on May 28th of last year, I’ve been writing my way through what it’s like to live a life free of mental illness, and more than that, free of most negativity. I am TRULY happy, TRULY bursting with joy from every one of my seams.
Stuff still happens. Right now, my attending (main) doctor believes that the reason I’m sick is because I’m too negative, which, number one, makes no sense because I’m NOT negative, and number two, simply MAKES NO SENSE. In past years, that would have sent me reeling. Now, it’s hardly a blip on my radar. I am free from seeking fulfillment or contentment in anything anyone can do for me or provide for me, including things I can do or provide for myself.
Here is the first half of the last chapter of my new book, which may or may not ever become a real, published book… but I hope it does!
Today was just another day, but, more so than usual, my heart is bursting with gratitude.
My mom picked me up from the nursing home yesterday around noon. The weather was foul and the roads fouler, and I couldn’t stop telling my mom how appreciative I was that she understood; we’d both been sick that week, so I hadn’t gotten out, at all, in 8 days, and for my always-want-to-do-well, anything,-as-long-as-it’s-new-and-different mind, eight full days in a ten by twelve foot space was mind-numbing. She got that, and she made the drive out, forty-give minutes on snow and ice, to get me. I am grateful.
First, we stopped at my sister and brother-in-law’s where I got to kiss the daylights out of my 8-month-old nephew. He squealed, and he squealed. And when we squealed back at him, he squealed again. They moved back into town from New York City, where they’d both lived separately and then together, just two month before the baby was born. It’s never far from my mind that I could be miss Mr. Baby (my nickname for him) because I hadn’t seen him in eighth months, instead of missing him now, after a separation of eight days. I am grateful.
I have a lot of great loves in life… anything pink, Diet Mountain Dew, kitties, writing… another one is crafting. I especially love to make things out of paper. Knowing this, my mom and I stopped at the craft store to get a few things I needed to make my sister’s birthday gifts. Money, I have not, so I make most of my gifts. I was proud that I kept the supplies for this one to about $3. We picked up a few clearance items as well. I know money is sort of tight for my mom right now, so I was trying to get everything for under $15, as that’s all I have in my bank account for the rest of the month. When we got to the register, they had Hello Kitty valentines. I had my eye on them. I didn’t have another $3.99 to spend. I even commented how much fun it would be to hand them out to the other residents. My mom said yes, but you can make them by hand. We got to the register, and she had gotten me the much-coveted valentines! The poor cashier heard more than she bargained for, as I chattered endlessly about how I’d hand them out and write that Jesus loves them on each and every one and oh, oh, I would use my new tiny little cat stamp to sign each one! It’s a day and a half later, and I’m still so excited over the prospect of spreading the joy that is Hello Kitty (she is pink and she’s a kitty) to the other, elderly residents here. I am grateful.
At home, I found out that my mom had dug up some pink, red, and white construction paper, ribbon, markers, and sequins. Put together with the load of craft supplies I brought, we had the makings of dozens of valentines! We spend today cutting, gluing, braiding, punching, poking, stringing, glittering and otherwise creating a bounty of paper love. I have cards for my friends (with handmade envelopes!), my family, the staff here, all the residents (thanks to Hello Kitty!), and we even made decorations for my room. As I said, crafting is one of my great joys in life (it’s a Mom phrase, which is a lot better than farting cross-ways, admittedly), and to know that my mom went to the trouble to spend a day crafting with me warms my heart right up in this frigid weather. She told me that she was hoping to get together with my sister and I and do a different craft every month. It’s such a joy to spend time with my favorite people doing one of my favorite things! I am grateful.
I got back to my little nook in the world at the nursing home and began to put things away. I have a hospital bed and two tray tables. I also have something like five sets of plastic drawers, plus a built-in wardrobe; this is the totality of the storage space I have for my entire life. I have a nightstand and a small refrigerator that works well enough to chill Diet Mountain Dew but certainly not well enough to keep real food cold. All this, in a ten-by-twelve-foot half-a-room. I’ve long had one tray table on the left side, where I keep odds and ends including drinks. This is the side against the wall. On the other side, open to the other side of the room and the door, I’ve had the other tray table, that holds my computer and cell phone (away from the drinks!). Since I got here nearly a year ago, I have gotten in and out of bed on the wall side. I decided to move both tray tables to that side, opening up the room-side of my space completely, which gives me a much easier way in and out of bed. My roommate (who is 88 and sweet as can be) and I were laughing ourselves into stitches because my brain could not figure out how to get my body into bed on the other side! I kept trying to get in backwards, since I always got in with my left side first. I kept spinning in circles, tangling my many medical tubes and wires… oh, it was funny. I did finally figure it out… finally! Anyhow, as I was moving things around, I saw $3 and thought to myself that it must be a second $3, because I had just put the… oh, no. It was the same $3 I didn’t just put in my bag. So, I just had $3, not $6. I then realized how in awe I had been in the fraction of a second during which I thought I had $6. I though, I’m rich! Then I praised God for the fact that I feel rich when I have $6. It’s not that I don’t realize that, by not having money, I depend on my parents. I get that. But, by studying in school, I’m working toward the day that I will support myself. I’m grateful for that, too, and I can’t wait to get to a point where I don’t have to ask my mom for every single thing I need. But, I will forever be thankful for the perspective financial poverty has given to me. I get $28 a month from the state and that it is, my friend. But, by living through that, I am able to be grateful for every penny. I see so much potential in $6 and what it can do, as, I think, billions around the world would also see. I thank God that I know this. I am grateful. I’m also grateful that it’s so much easier to get in and out of my bed, now that I’ve finally figured it out!
I’ve had the same cell phone since 2008 or 2009, at least five years. It’s been on its last legs for several months. My dad doesn’t want to update the contract. I’m okay with that, because I don’t like change, and my fingers certainly don’t appreciate having to acquaint themselves with new keys. I’ve been perfectly content to keep my oldie-but-goodie, not-a-smartphone-in-its-wildest-dreams, stand-by phone, because it’s familiar. But, five years into our shared journey together, I realized that I had to set it to rest. My mom offered me her most recent phone. She used it lightly for two years, but it’s in great shape. I happily accepted it (although, my fingers weren’t quite so happy with me, as the set-up is totally different). I’m as technologically-inclined as the next girl, but something’s been wrong with back-up assistant on my phone since I got it, and I don’t understand what the problem was or how to fix it, so my numbers aren’t backed up… not a problem, until now. I spent ten or fifteen minutes and put them into my “new” phone manually. I thought, wow–I’m a 26-year-old woman, and I have such few contacts in my phone that I can manually switch them over in no time at all. Not to mention, quite a percentage of my contacts are doctors. But, then, I thought that I should thank God that He has blessed me with quality of relationships over quantity. How many people want exactly what I have? I am grateful that I am the one who has it.
How many people are searching for happiness, for completion, for purpose? How many people can say they know, deeply know, all three, at 26?
I spent 25 years, five months, and 19 days in misery. I was depressed, anxious, and unsettled in every way. I had personality issues that made me look at everything from a selfish standpoint. I couldn’t fix it, in small part because I had no idea what life could be. I knew I was unhappy, and I sought desperately for a fix… I looked to other people, I looked to the never-ending search for physical beauty, and I looked to secular sources of “help.” None of those things were ever going to change my heart. I didn’t have the power. No one else had the power. Therapy and medication didn’t have the power. I believe that meds (which, following surgery, I have not restarted except for a very small dose of one med– which I hope to come off when the time is right, and that time is not right now) and therapy are imperfect solutions. They are the best the world has to change broken hearts, but they cannot reach into a heart and speak life, joy, and hope into it. They can make depression manageable, sometimes very much so… but the only One who can speak into a heart is the One who created it. It’s like a violin-maker– only the one who makes violins can truly repair a broken one. The rest of us might be able to put the major pieces back together, but to get truly beautiful music out of it– and life, real life can be like truly beautiful music– the one who made it has to be the one to fix it.
One more note on medications and therapy, because I would be remiss if I didn’t say this: They absolutely have a place. I believe that good counseling, which has to be Christ-centered, and openly so, can be a crucial part of getting well. I was never able to find good counseling, and the worldly versions of make-your-dreams-come-true made me want to shout, “WHERE IS JESUS IN THIS?!” I stuck with it for the first five or six months after feeling the change in my heart, because I wanted my family to be comforted, until they realized that the change was permanent. If you’re in good counseling, stay in it. If you’re on meds, stay on them. There may be a time when those things won’t be part of your life, but if they are right now, there is nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t mean your heart isn’t or can’t be healed… it means that you’re on a journey. As am I, as are all of us.
I wish I knew why hearts break. The only thing I can say is another statement of gratitude. Several times recently, while praying, my heart has poured forth with this: Thank you for my journey, Lord. I immediately stopped and thought– what is this! I am thanking God for all I went through! Do I really mean that it was worth it all, all of the horrible nights, the self-harm, the starvation, the very broken heart… was it worth all that… so that I could be…
I’ll say it again. Thank you, Lord, for my story… for every step along the way so that I could come to a place of knowing and loving You as I do today. I pray for healing and wholeness for the people I’ve hurt along the way. The only way I know to even try to right those wrongs is to seek to live out His love in every word, every deed, every day…
But as for me, I praise Him for the journey, yesterday, here and now, and whatever new joys come with tomorrow.