She Fought the Good Fight

It’s been roughly 24 hours since I found out that my dear friend, my mentor, a visionary to this world, lost her battle with depression. I’ve tried to make sense of it. I’ve read over our last conversation that took place just a few days before she died a hundred times trying to find something, some clue, anything that would help me make sense of this. And each time I’m left with more questions than answers.

I’ve searched for words for myself and for the people who have reached out to me. I’ve searched for words that I could say to Amy, for the words I wished I would have said sooner. But y’all, I’ll be honest, this is hard. And it hurts like hell.

I’ve said goodbye to two beautiful souls that this ugly illness has consumed in the past two months. And both of these have impacted me on such a deep level.

I get those ugly thoughts. How intrusive they are, how much they can suck the life out of you. I also know what it’s like to have an incredible support system that I know I could call on in a moments notice and they would be there for me. I know this because they’ve done it.

I wish that Amy knew how many people were there for her. That would have fought through hell for her. 

Amy, I could never fully express how much you impacted my life. The laughs that we were able to share, the adventures in Chicago, the honest and transparent conversations we had meant more to me than you will ever know. I’m thankful that God brought us together when he did. You took a chance on a girl who only wrote as a hobby and as an outlet. And before I knew it, people from all over the world were reading the words that God had laid on my heart.

You were a fierce dreamer. You believed in people who had stopped believing in themselves. You believed in a world where suicide would no longer be an option for people. You fought for a world where suicide would no longer be an option for people. And it breaks my heart that you were unable to believe those same words for yourself.

You can rest easy now though. Those of us that are still here will continue to fight for the stories of those around us. We will be bold and walk into the most broken places with people who are hurting and need the love of Jesus. 

You taught me so much in the short time we had together. And on the days that seem impossible, I’ll keep your words near my heart. I love you so much my dear friend. And I will see you again one day. 

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It Takes Two.

Today I sit here reflecting the life that was my mom’s. It’s crazy to think that it’s already been two years since I said goodbye to her. There have been a lot of things that have happened over the last two years, equal parts good and bad. But there is something so beautifully different about this year.

In the days and weeks immediately following her death, I was on autopilot. Simply just going through the motions. I was far from being okay, but I wasn’t about to put anyone else through the personal hell I was battling through. So I faked it. I put on a smile and convinced the world that I was okay. Some believed it, others didn’t. But regardless, I wasn’t going to budge.

And then one evening in June, I decided that enough was enough. That I just couldn’t physically or emotionally do this anymore. And I am so eternally thankful for the people that fought for me in that moment. You are a big reason why I’m still here.

When the first anniversary rolled around I think I was still trying to convince myself that I was okay. And for the most part I was. But I still held on to so much regret, so much anger, and so much resentment.

There was so much that was never said, by either of us. And so much that was that was never made right. And instead of letting go of all of it, I kept it there and refused to let the wound heal. I stayed angry, knowing that it wouldn’t change anything and knowing that the only person I was hurting was myself.

Anger and bitterness can change a person. Even if you don’t think it’s changing you, it is. And it wasn’t until these past few weeks that I realized how much it had.

A month ago if you would have asked me how I felt in regards to today, I probably would have avoided your question like the plague. I was dreading it because I knew I wasn’t ready yet. I wasn’t ready to let go. I wanted to keep all my anger and bitterness because I still thought that it had a place.

But it doesn’t.

I cried the day my mom died because well, that’s what you do. I cried because I was left with this unimaginable pain and a void that I thought could never be filled.

I cried one year later because I was still hurting and was still angry at her. I wasn’t ready to let her go because letting go meant that I had to accept the things that were both said and unsaid. And I just couldn’t do that yet.

I cried today because I’m finally at peace. I’m finally ready to let her go and to let her rest in peace. I can’t unsay the things I did and neither can she. But I can say the things that I didn’t. That for the past two years I’ve been unable to.

I forgive you. I love you. I will see you again.

I think this is the part of the grieving process known as acceptance. And if I’m being honest, the thought of that is mildly terrifying. To accept means to let it go. To let it go means to move on. To move on means to live my life without her.

But I’m ready.
I have the most beautiful people in my life who I love more than life itself.
I have the eternal grace of my Father.
And I have the memories and love of both my parents in my heart.

There will no doubt still be days that are hard. And I will break down and cry. But there will be an underlying sense of peace about them.

I said goodbye to my mom two years ago. But what I should have said was see you later. I’m thankful for that promise that we have in Jesus.

Today I will walk in grace. I will probably cry more, but these will be tears of peace and of healing. I will remain hopeful. I’ve got a lot of life left to live, a lot of people left to love, and a lot of purpose left to walk in.

So Mom, I love you. So very much. I’m not going to dwell on the things that can’t be changed, but rather live a life that you would be proud of. This isn’t goodbye. This is see you later. Tell Dad that I love him and to try and not be so ornery. That goes for you too. Leave the light on for me. I’ll see you again soon.

In Remembrance.

Today, I’m reflecting on the life that was my mom’s.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since I said goodbye to her.
A year since I last saw and touched her face and held her hand.
A year without hearing her voice.
No midnight Words With Friends requests.
No seeing who can send the silliest Pusheen sticker on Facebook.

I’ve spent a lot of time this past year reflecting on this moment. The moment that my life changed forever.
I remember every conversation that I had that day and the days following and how I desperately tried to make sense of what had become my reality.
And even a year later, I still find myself trying to make sense of everything.

I miss my mom. I miss my dad.
I know they are together now. And I know how great that is.
But it doesn’t make the hurt go away. Not completely anyways.

I know that over time, this day will get easier.
I know it will.
And maybe even one day it will make sense.

But all I know today is that the time I had with my parents was so much shorter than I wanted it to be.
All I know is that I get incredibly jealous of those of you that can actively gripe about your parents silly annoyances and how I desperately wish I could still have those same arguments with mine.

The idea of another empty Mother’s Day and Father’s Day is one that I don’t typically look forward to.
The barrage of commercials and social media ads only serve as a constant reminder of that which I no longer have.

So to those of you that still have both or only one of your parents left on this earth, hold them tight the next time you get a chance.
Make sure they know that you love them. Show them that you love them.
Call them. Spend time with them.
You never know when the next time you say “See ya later!” will be your last.

If I had known that Saturday night that I would never have the opportunity to talk to my mom again, there is so much more that I would have said. There is so much more that I wish I would have said.

Those things will forever be stored in my heart.

I know that they still know that.
That they are with me.
I feel them in the breeze.
I think that’s God’s way of reminding me.

I Guess I’ll Muddle Through, Somehow.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. If I’m being honest, you’d be hard pressed to find a Christmas song that I don’t like, hah. But this one is particularly special to me this year.

There is a line in the song that says “Through the years, we all will be together. If the fates allow. Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.”

Most of us like to associate that with our families. Each year when the holidays roll around, we gather with loved ones and enjoy each others company and reminisce about years gone by. And typically at the end of the night, when we pack everything up and head home, we hug and say “Let’s do it all again next year, Lord willing,” and we go about our lives.

We’ve become habitual in taking for granted those precious moments. We assume that we’ll all be together again the following year, so we put little effort into making the rest of the year meaningful.

My wish for all of you is that you enjoy these special moments and savor them. I pray that through the years, you all will be together.

This year, I’m learning to muddle through somehow. This year, I will have a simple Christmas. I miss my family oh so dearly. The simplicity of Christmas Eve by my Granny and Papa’s fireplace and Christmas Day at the lake with my Mama K and Papa.

I’ll be okay though. I’ll muddle through.

So to all of you reading this tonight, have yourself a Merry little Christmas now.

What They Don’t Tell You Part 2

Once again, I’m putting a disclaimer/trigger warning at the beginning of this post. These words are painfully honest and broken, but they are meant to be shared. So please read at your own discretion.

 

What they don’t tell you is:
Your grief will come in waves.
Some days you will be perfectly fine and enjoying life in such a way that people would question whether or not something tragic has recently happened to you.
But don’t let that deceive you.
Two hours later, you can find yourself completely falling apart and on the verge of making a thousand terrible decisions.

What they don’t tell you is:
You will find out details of things that were going on in your mom’s life the days and weeks leading up to her death that won’t sit well with you at all.

What they don’t tell you is:
You will write painfully honest and broken words and leave them in your youth pastor’s desk.
You will immediately regret writing it and leaving it for him as soon as you get home.
Your anxiety will be through the roof until you get a response.
Your anxiety will still be through the roof even after you get a response.

What they don’t tell you is:
You won’t give two craps if you relapse. You won’t care how close you come to that line.

 

No one prepares you for what life looks like after you bury both of your parents in the short span of twelve years.
People will try their best to offer advice, but in all honesty, they don’t know how to deal with it any more than you do.

You will get so tired of hearing the same cliches over and over again that they will actually start to make you nauseous when you hear them.
You will also have an overabundance of sarcasm and sass. See previous sentence.

You will try to make sense of the events that have unfolded, but will never be able to.
You will keep yourself so incredibly busy that you really don’t have enough time to even sit down and catch your breath, and your body will let you know that, but you won’t care, and you will keep pushing yourself.

Sleep becomes your enemy and you will have a love-hate relationship with it.
Your body will avoid it at night at all costs, which does nothing but lead to a host of unwanted thoughts, and it will turn around and crave sleep during the day, but you have a life and responsibilities, so napping all day isn’t an option.

You will make sure you keep your cardigans handy.
You won’t need to go into details about why.
You know that people aren’t stupid, but neither are you.
This isn’t your first rodeo with this, even though you thought the previous one was your last.
This one is different on every level. And this one scares you at times.
This time only one person knows how serious it really is.
And that’s for the best right now.

You will struggle to open up to people about how you’re really feeling.
You won’t even know where to start to talk to them, and you certainly don’t want to impose on them.
You come to the conclusion that you have a hard enough time trying make sense of it for yourself, much less try and explain it to someone else.
So you’ll just decide not to.
It saves on the headaches.

You will give advice until you don’t have anything else to offer, but are unable to take your own advice.
You will tell people that they are loved. That they are valuable. But you will have a hard time owning those words for yourself.

 

You will again have the underlying anxiety that people will begin to bombard you because they are concerned for you.
While you appreciate their concern, and you really and truly do, you can’t handle being smothered.
The more you’re smothered, the more you will shut down.

But in the end, you know that this is a day to day process.
Some days are good.
Others are bad.
A lot of times the good and bad happen in the same day.

You know that there are parts of this that you are still leaving out.
Things that very few people know.
Things that I’m not quite ready to be completely open about yet.
But they are things that you will eventually share.

Because grief demands answers.
But right now, I don’t have any for them.
What I do have is brokenness and struggle.
But I don’t carry them alone.

And for that, I am thankful. 

What They Don’t Tell You.

I feel like I should put a disclaimer at the beginning of this post, because it will be one of the most brutally honest entries I’ve ever written.
So disclaimer: I’m sure there will be things written in this post that won’t sit well with some people.
I feel like I should also put a trigger warning in this as well for those of you reading this that struggle with self harm at all.
So trigger warning: There will be some very candid and blunt talk about my journey/struggle with this.

 

What they don’t tell you is:

Despite the fact that you’ve already been through this once before, it doesn’t make it any easier the second time around.

What they don’t tell you is:

This literally feels like my heart is being ripped from my chest and there isn’t a darn thing I can do about it.

What they don’t tell you is:

People will let you down in the days following. They don’t mean to and it’s not their intention, but ultimately they will.
The ones that you expected to be there are usually the ones that aren’t. And I am mostly to blame for that.
Opening up has never been easy, and it’s always been common for me to run and avoid difficult and uncomfortable situations.
It’s incredibly easy for me to just give the simple and routine answer of “I’m doing okay” to avoid having to have conversations with people, even though the whole time I’m thinking to myself, “You’re an idiot if you actually think I’m okay”.
But the thing is, it’s hard for me to open up, and there are only a handful of people that I feel comfortable sharing the really dark and painful and oftentimes uncomfortable things going on in my little head. And if you aren’t one of those people, which chances are you aren’t, I’m not going to open up to you. 
Don’t feel bad that you don’t know what to say to me or don’t know how to relate. I don’t need you to relate to what I’m going through and I don’t expect you to know what to say.
What I do expect is for you to just be there. Whether it be in silence while I talk or to just keep my mind from actually imploding on itself.
Again, I know I’m really terrible at communicating this and if you aren’t one of the few people that I trust with this kind of stuff, I’m probably not going to say much to you, just knowing that the offer is there means more than most people realize.
Maybe it’s more of I’m letting myself down rather than other people letting me down. 

What they don’t tell you is:

Life goes on, and people move on; with or without you.

What they don’t tell you is:

You will be angry 90% of the time. It doesn’t matter at what. You’re just angry.

What they don’t tell you is:

You will question everything that means something to you. Friendships. Recovery. Your faith. All of it.
You will question if it’s worth having close friendships because you are terrified that they will end without warning and you’ll be left to deal with all of this all over again.
You will question every bit of recovery and if it’s even worth it.
You will question your faith and wonder if it’s even worth the trouble and heartache that it’s brought you.
You will feel terrible for questioning that last one for several reasons. You know deep down that God is sovereign and that somehow His glory will be shown through this, but right now, you just can’t seem to see that. You are in a leadership position in a church and you will wonder how in the world you are supposed to set a spiritual example to students when your very foundation has been rocked to it’s core.
You know that one day this will all make some kind of sense and are just holding on until camp arrives because you hope it will bring you a much needed spiritual renewal before you lose your mind.

What they don’t tell you is:

Recovery quickly, and maybe subconsciously, takes a back seat. You won’t care if you relapse. You won’t care if you have a bad day or setback. In fact, you won’t care when you do have a bad day. You will try your best to maintain the attitude and lifestyle that is recovery, but you will soon learn that once again, you are fighting for your life. You won’t know how to navigate your own journey, much less anyone else’s. But you will inevitably have people that will literally drain the life out of you while you repeat yourself over and over to them to no avail. You will try to have grace when it comes to those situations and you will try to remember that you were once where they are, all while reminding yourself that in all actuality, you are exactly where they are. You don’t know how to navigate recovery any better than they do. But you will try your best to make sure that they make it and give little regard for yourself.

What they don’t tell you is:

That addiction will come back and slap you in the face with so much force it knocks you off your feet. It will be nothing like the first time it happened. You will look back at 17 and laugh at why you thought those days were so difficult. The simplest tasks will soon become some of the hardest and most uncomfortable. Shaving. Cooking prep. Working on craft projects.
You’re not stupid. You know exactly how to tear apart a shaving razor until all the plastic is gone and you’re left with what you think you want. You also know exactly how to take apart a crafting blade and can do it with ease.
You know where to hide these things so no one will find them.
You’ve played this game before and for a long time.
But it’s different now.
At 17 you had much more to lose and much more at stake and people to answer to.
At 25, you make the rules.

What they don’t tell you is:

There’s no way to mentally or emotionally deal with the reality of both of your parents being gone while you’re still in your twenties. You will try to make sense of it. Remind yourself that after twelve long years apart, they are finally reunited. That works for awhile. Then the reality of that statement sinks in. While they are enjoying each others company for the first time in years, you’re jealous of the fact that they are together and in the best place imaginable, all while you’re still here left to deal with the mess of what’s been left behind.

What they don’t tell you is:

That most people will read this and immediately want to assume a few things or smother me with a million unwanted questions.
They will assume that I’ve relapsed. They will assume that I need an intervention.
They will ask over and over if I’m okay. They will beg and try and force me to talk to them.
Whether I have or haven’t relapsed, and whether or not I may be close to one, is information that only a small handful of people will be told.
If you are one of those people that you know I would tell you that information and I haven’t up to this point, then it’s safe to say that I probably haven’t.

I realize that all of this is ultimately part of the story that I’ve been telling, it’s not a chapter that I’m ready to publicize with everyone.
There are a lot of edits and revisions that need to be made before I share the dark and difficult realities of what’s going on inside my mind.
This is a chapter that is very painful and it’s still being written. There will come a time when it won’t be so painful, and I can share it, but I’ve got to make sense of all of this the best that I can before I can do any of that.
And right now, none of this makes sense.

It doesn’t make sense that two weeks ago, my mom suddenly and unexpectedly died.
No warning.
No nothing.
Just dead.

Saturday night I talked to her like everything was fine.
Everything was fine.
Sunday afternoon everything changed.

Brain aneurysm.
Done.
There are no warnings for that.
There’s no preventing that.
There’s no surviving that.
They just happen.All the while we just think that her headaches are nothing more than just the same headaches she’s had for years.

Monday morning you try to somehow make sense and come to terms with what you are about to endure.
At 25, you’re about to be an orphan.
But no one thinks of it that way when you’re an adult.
And suddenly the bonus family you’ve had for the past twelve years of your life, may or may not be your family at the end of the day.
After all, the link that brought you together will soon be gone.

The family that will still be there is torn in a million different pieces already, so you wonder how much and how well they will hold on.

Your phone will turn into Grand Central Station between all the phone calls, text messages, and Facebook notifications going off constantly.
You will copy and paste the same responses because you literally don’t know what to say to people.
You will put your brave face on anytime you talk on the phone because the simplest thing chokes you up.
You won’t even be able to form words when you talk to your youth pastor when you call right after you leave the room. You’ll just stand there and listen and try to respond the best you can, hoping they can understand what your saying.

You will check out from life for a couple days and hope that spending that time with your best friend will keep your mind occupied, but you’ll find yourself crying while looking up at the trees as the breeze blows through the leaves.

You will come back to the real world and go straight to your safe haven to be greeted by the warm embraces of your church family.
You’ll try your best to smile at them, but you ultimately know that you aren’t fooling anyone because you look like you haven’t slept in days, which you haven’t, and the color that was once in your cheeks is long gone.

You will celebrate Mother’s Day six days after losing yours and wonder how you could possibly make it through without falling apart.

You will find solace in the simplicity of a shower. You will sit with your back to the water and check out for a few minutes.

You will find out that whether you like it or not and whether you want it or not, this is now the road you are travelling.
There are no U turns.
There are bumps.
There are potholes.
It’s a long, long road.
It’s facing the reality that you are now without parents for the rest of your days on Earth.
It’s trying to make sense of that statement.
It’s failing to make sense of it for now.

But it’s knowing that someday you will. 

Like a Ton of Bricks.

Last Monday, I had the daunting task of saying goodbye to my mom.
In the blink of an eye, everything in my life changed.
An aneurysm ruptured in her brain and in the blink of an eye, she was gone.

The initial phone calls and conversations led me to be irritated more than anything.
I didn’t want to spend my Sunday afternoon at the hospital.
I figured and assumed that it was just a result of some poor choices she had made once again, and didn’t see the need to waste an afternoon there.
But I went.

When the doctor came in and told us what he thought was going on and that we send her to Tulsa, my annoyance turned to concern.
Crap. There really is something wrong.
Upon finding out later that night that it was an aneurysm that had ruptured and that there was nothing that could be done, I began to deal with the fact that at 25, I was going to be without both of my parents.

Last Monday, around 11 that morning, I said goodbye to my mom.
She danced into the arms of Jesus and was welcomed by her mother and my dad.
She doesn’t hurt anymore.
But that doesn’t take away the hurt that’s been left here.

It’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that after twelve years apart, my parents are together again.
It’s even harder knowing that I will be without them for awhile.
I used to think that I wanted to be much older and more accomplished in life when Jesus returned, if it happened in my lifetime.
But now, well, I wouldn’t be too upset if He came back tomorrow.

If I’m being honest, and this is the place where I seem to share my brutally honest thoughts, I haven’t prayed, like really honestly prayed, since last Sunday.
It hurts to pray.
And right now, I’m a little angry at God.
I’m trying my hardest to hold on to the promises of His word and to tell myself that He is still in control and is still sovereign, but it’s hard.
I mean really hard.

It’s no secret that I’ve struggled with self harm for almost a decade now.
The past fifteen months, I’ve found myself in a good path of recovery.
But again, if I’m being honest, I want to relapse.
I don’t even like the idea of that.
I don’t like the idea of cutting.
It honestly makes me cringe thinking about it.
But I don’t have words for what I’m feeling right now, and quite honestly, I don’t want to feel anything.
I’ve worked incredibly hard the last year and a half, and a lot of people have fought with me, and by no means do I want to let them down.
But this isn’t a scenario that I ever planned for.

Please don’t think that this post is my admission or declaration of giving up.
I am by no means giving up.
But I am fighting one heck of a battle right now, and I’m barely hanging on right now.
My answers have become so routine now.
I get the same questions ten plus times a day, so I flip on my little switch and just recite the same answers.

No one prepares you for this.
No one teaches you how to deal with this.
Life is heavy right now.

I know that I will be okay again.
But that day is not today.
Right now, I’m simply just existing.
And that’s all I can do.