I want to be very clear that I am not crazy. And I think that fact is something more beneficial to me than to anyone else. My self-assurance is a lot of me telling myself that it’s okay to hurt and to feel the distance and the loss created by circumstance and time. Last year taught me something very specific, and I didn’t learn that it wasn’t true until about 10 days ago.
Let’s back up a little bit. I have depression. I may always have depression. About a year ago was the cumulation of all the worst things I have ever felt and believed, and in that chaos, it created something in me that I still carry shame for. I became the worst version of myself. “Myself” is even a pretty far stretch. Thinking about it right now, it’s like remembering things that happened while I was drunk, and waking up having to deal with the problems that this other version of me caused.
Anyway, back to the story. I was the worst. As things go, people don’t generally want to have something in their lives that is the worst. Naturally. So, making the appropriate decisions for themselves, various people around me decided to “uninvest”. That’s a delicate way of saying that I was exiled in a very literal way.
Let me go ahead and take this moment to say that these people are great, Jesus loving, kind hearted, people, who were making a choice that was best for them in that hell that I created. I hold nothing against them. That being said, the whole monster that started this mess was the stupid depression that lived in the silence, that filled every free space in my thoughts and feelings. This depression decided that it is a good idea to take the situation I found myself and create something worse. Something I almost didn’t recover from.
All the counselors and books and therapists will tell you the same thing. Isolation is bad. You need to have people around you. You need to have community and friends. Not wanting to sit in the place that had already destroyed everything I loved, I decided to give that a try. I was going to reach out to anyone and everyone I could think of. I refused to be alone.
What I didn’t expect was the silence. The number of people I contacted to do something, grab lunch, get coffee, etc, who didn’t reply at all was, to say the least, staggering. I see and know now that life is busy, and that people have full lives and that they can’t always make additional plans or even, at times, decline an invitation. That’s just how life is.
I say that I can see that NOW. At the time, in my fragility, it broke me. I was already broken; dragging most of my pieces in a paper bag behind me, but this thing took my bag and rolled over it with a car. In that place, in my understanding, the only logical conclusion I could draw was that I was radioactive, toxic, a time bomb that smart people who care about themselves, want nothing to do with.
So there I developed a set of symptoms; wanting someone to have a conversation with, wanting my phone to ring, wanting to be wanted. Not a good set of symptoms in that frame of mind. I started going on dates from a series of apps that I now know way too much about. (Ask me sometime, I’ve tried them all). The trouble with that was that I wasn’t dating for any reason that could be considered good or healthy or smart. I wanted to treat my symptoms, and this was my plan. I honestly didn’t really like any of the guys I met, but that didn’t stop me from seeing them again, even a few times. It was treating this symptom because, in those moments, someone wanted to see me.
As you can probably guess, that didn’t end well, and certainly didn’t actually help me. Most of what I felt there was actually a lack of feeling, an indifference, because deep down I knew it was all wrong.
Around the time that all that came to a close was when the recovery program at my church placed me with a permanent group of girls with who I would walk through a series of steps toward recovery. We weren’t allowed to date, so it took that off the table completely, and I began to work through a very serious, life changing process.
So much of what I worked through was believing that God loved me and chose me and that without Him, my life was unmanageable. Check. Learning to trust that He is the only one who can restore me. Check. Week by week, I dove into this thing, desperately wanting to find something good at the end of it. The thing is that I was actually making very real, tangible progress. My choices began to reflect these teachings, and I began to develop healthy habits.
Sometime part way through this thing, I tried the whole “reach out to people” thing a second time. “You were in a weird place, it’ll be different now, it’s okay to try again.” Except that it wasn’t different, it was a lot of the same. I think this time, however, it didn’t break me. I chose not to give it the ability to hurt me, almost expecting so little that the disappointment was minimal. I’m not sure exactly.
Anyway, although it didn’t break me, it did convince me of something- the something I mentioned at the very beginning- you know, the hook that kept your reading this far-the big reveal. It, along with the memory of the other scenarios I had been in, told me very clearly that I’m not good for people. Yes, God loves me a whole bunch, and that will never change, but that if I get close to people, their lives are going to be made worse. So if I care about people, the friends I am trying to connect with, the best thing I can do for them is to just stay as far away as I can.
So I did.
I learned how to live my life, go to work, come back to my apartment, and be okay. I wasn’t going to pursue any new friendships or ask for anything that would require any sort of commitment from anyone else. I had already identified the parameters of the boundaries that had been set when dealing with me, and as long as I didn’t say or do anything that would compromise those, then those people would be okay. Living in a world of a LOT of internal dilemma, leads to a great deal of selfishness, and I was determined to put other people first, maybe for the first time in my life.
The thing that happened next is the boring part. I accepted this life. I accepted that I would never have someone to tell secrets to. I accepted that people would never see my apartment. I accepted that talking to people at work was enough human contact to sustain me indefinitely. I accepted that I would never get married. (If I have the ability to love someone enough to marry them, shouldn’t I love them enough to spare them from me at all?) It became normal. And I was okay with it. If a day ever got tough, I just reminded myself that this is what is best for everyone else, even if they don’t know it. (Especially if they don’t know it.)
And that was it. It was okay. It wasn’t a worse life, just a different one. Nothing was going to convince me otherwise.
Then, randomly, I got introduced to a song that was released earlier in the year, but recently remade into a duet. The song is called “I Won’t Let You Go” by Switchfoot. At first, it seems like a declaration of support and commitment between people, the concept of no degree of pain or darkness being able to tear it apart, the epitome of what I have found myself craving.
Anyway, I listened to it on repeat for a while before I looked up the meaning behind it, and that changed the whole point of the song. I don’t want to paraphrase here, so I’ll just give it to you exactly as it’s written:
“I tried to sing this one from the other side- from the inside of love, from the conclusion of the story. If the author of time and space, the one who breathed my soul into existence, were to sing me a song about trust, it might go something like this, “I love you and I won’t let you go.” I believe that where you put your trust begins to define you. This is a song about learning to trust in a transcendent love that will never leave me.
You want peace but there’s war in your head.
Maybe that’s where life is born. When our façades are torn. Pain gives birth to the promise ahead.”
Hearing this song over and over again, now hearing it as a proclamation from my God opened up a place of hearing other things from Him, and this is where I got my lesson. I began to feel words that could not have come from me, words that I didn’t really believe at all, so I started to write them down. Obviously this part is paraphrased, because how could it not be, but this is the gist I got from it.
“Why are you working so hard for those people to love you? Why is it your focus that those people want you in their lives? Why is my love not enough for you? Some people will only ever see the broken places that you’ve been. Some people only see the damage that you caused.
They don’t see you like I see you. I can see your heart, I can see who you really are, I can see the things they’ll never be able to see. The way you carry the weight of your past, ever the reminder of who you once were. The way you continue to love the people who want nothing to do with you.
You walk this earth as if you haven’t been forgiven, as if you will be burned at the stake for your choices, for your suffering. This world has convinced you that you are the problem, that you are a disease, a spreading infection, but that’s not the truth. The world may hold you at arm’s length and tell you that you don’t belong, but while they flee from you, I draw near.
They may have sent you to quarantine for the spots on your skin, but you are no leper. If you can let go of this thing you want, I can show you that you don’t need it, and then I can give you the thing that will spread life within you.”
So now, 10 days later, I’m reevaluating all kinds of things. What does this mean for me moving forward? How do I undo the plan that I solidified? Does this mean I need to make myself vulnerable again and try to develop relationships with people? It’s all a grey area, reproaching something I completely abandoned. All I know is that I need consistent reminders of this truth, so I have added actual reminders in my phone and changed one of the letter signs at home to say something that I am still working on believing.
It’s this thing that now, not only am I allowed to have good things in my life, but my existence in someone else’s life is no longer considered a bad thing. It opens up a new door for hope, but also reopens the door of the fear of rejection and abandonment. I think they sometimes sort of go hand in hand. So I guess my current status is “cautiously optimistic”.
You are not a disease,