Strong and Vulnerable

The other day, I received a comment saying, “You are very strong to let yourself be so vulnerable.” It struck me as odd. Am I strong and vulnerable at the same time? It doesn’t seem possible to me. I looked up the definition of vulnerable: capable or susceptible to being wounded or hurt; open to moral attack, criticism, etc.

strong chain

I thought about the definition and whether it applied to me. Am I capable or susceptible to being wounded or hurt? No way.  I can’t imagine anything that could physically wound me from this blog.  I’m accustomed to feeling pain. I like to stare down pain that comes from cancer, surgery or treatments. Really, cancer? Is that all you’ve got? I dare it to hurt me more. If it does and I can’t stare it down anymore, I have access to good drugs. It’s a win, win for me.

For a split second, I do feel susceptible to emotional pain. Wounds have healed, but sometimes they come close to the surface again and frighten me with their power. Emotional pain can threaten who I am and who I want to be. There are no drugs to get immediate relief.  I’m afraid to stare emotional pain down. So, I release the fear and let my Father take care of it.

Am I open to moral attack or criticism? Yes, I am. Am I worried that someone may say something hurtful? No, I am not. I’ve spent too much time not knowing what I believe in and not believing in myself. I’ve come too far to back down now. God and I have talked about everything I write about. If He and I are good, nothing else matters.

I decided that yes, I am strong and I am vulnerable. Some people may not like what I write or disagree with me. When I speak from my heart and what I say is a testament of what God has done, He will use it for good. That is more important than any fear I have.

2 Corinthians 12: 9-10: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Control is Everything

Several years ago I struggled with depression. Below is something I did during the struggle. I remember when I told my therapist what I had done, she was very concerned. But, I couldn’t understand why. I wanted her to see I was fine, that I was going to be just fine. If you know someone dealing with depression treat them with care. They are looking for a way out. Hold their hand as they find the path.

house dark path

Today is the first day back from a trip with family and friends. It was a mentally strenuous trip. I was tired from keeping a smile on my face and not letting anyone see that I was breaking on the inside. Things happened on the trip that stirred up old memories and deep pain. The actions of the same people were causing the hurt. I felt like a little girl sitting in a corner, watching people live their lives with their backs to me.

I’m taking a sick day so I can regroup and get my mind together. While on the trip, I had pushed the pain aside to deal with it at another time. It was now time to look at what I had put away. As I slowly allowed myself to feel the hurt I started to panic. I was afraid it would overwhelm me.  I had to stop and find a way to prove that I could stay in control.

Guns have been a symbol of escape for me. I know they can quickly bring death. If I can control something so powerful, then I should be able to control the hurt. I went and got the gun out of its hiding place. I held on to it and sat down. I gently set it on my lap and looked at it. I was very careful to point it away from me because I didn’t want to hurt myself. I thought about how powerful the gun was and what it could end.  I can control this, I can do this. I felt relief. My mind is still strong enough to keep the charade going.

Isaiah 35:4 – Tell everyone who is discouraged, be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue…” 

I Have Cancer and I’ve Never Been Happier

A few weeks ago I was in the den learning how to build a blog. My husband walked in and he sadly dropped into a chair. This particular day was after I learned that I needed chemo again and a few days before my first treatment. He had been in a funk and I wasn’t sure what was causing his down mood. I asked him if it was the miserable Texas heat or did he feel sick or was it me getting chemo again? It was me getting chemo again.

joy fire burst dark sky

I looked at him and knew he was sad, angry and worried. My response to him was, “I’ve never been happier.” Cancer is having a good go at my body and I’m not thrilled about chemo. I don’t like feeling physically tired and sick, but my soul and the heart of who I am are full of joy.

After many years of thinking I was forgotten and had no purpose, I am at peace. Instead of letting all the bad things in my life keep me locked down and stuck, I’ve let them go and set myself free. I have taken those bad things, turned them around and pushed them away from me. They are now stories of hope and how God can and will release anyone from any burden they carry. What had once caused pain now brings peace.

It took many years to get the courage to start this blog. In my mind, I kept the idea to share my story in a small box and stored it away as impossible. I slowly let the impossible become a dream come true.  The day I published my first post, the second after I pushed enter, God whispered to me, “well done”. Since I was very young I’ve pursued approval, love, acceptance, purpose, happiness. And in that second, I had it all.

Today my body hurts. As I relive that moment after my first post, joy overtakes the hurt. Cancer can’t touch joy that comes heaven. Cancer doesn’t stand a chance.

Romans 15:13 – Now may God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace as you believe, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Surgery Isn’t An Option

This is a chemo week. A few days ago, I talked to my oncologist about a new side effect I had experienced over the weekend. I wanted to make sure it wouldn’t keep me from getting my scheduled chemo treatment. After a brief discussion, my oncologist said I was good to go.

lonely tree day clouds

Since my cancer diagnosis, there have been many times I have contacted my oncologist or surgeon with questions about how I was feeling. I’ve asked if I should be concerned about an ache or pain or if there was a medicine I could take that would help with nausea. In each instance, I always received an answer quickly. A prescription would immediately be called into my pharmacy. An appointment would be scheduled and I’d see the doctor in a matter of hours. One time, I called my oncologist at 1:30 regarding a pain under my rib cage. I saw the doctor at 2:15. He sent me to get an MRI. I had the MRI done, got the results and I was back home by 5:00. In less than 4 hours, I knew there was nothing to worry about and I could move on.

If depression could be treated similar to the way cancer is, there would be many more happy people in the world. The pain from depression is relentless. I had medicine, but it took weeks to make a difference. My psychiatrist and therapist had limits in helping me. They couldn’t order a blood test or an MRI to stage my depression. There was no quick fix, no surgery, no infusion. All they had to work with was what I was willing to tell them.

They would regularly ask me two questions to gauge my condition: do you have thoughts of harming yourself and do you have a plan to kill yourself. For a long time, my answers were yes and yes (I actually had 2 plans). Based on the answers we would then discuss if it was safe for me to go home or did I need to go to the hospital. Based on these answers, we would plan next steps. After many appointments, I walked out of their offices and into the world hoping I would make it back to them.

lonely tree day cloudsWith cancer, I know where it is and how it’s growing. I know the medicine I will take to kill it and the medicine to take to feel better. I know how chemo is effecting my blood counts and what to expect during and after chemo treatments. There are so many more, hard, cold facts with cancer. I can deal with that and understand what’s going on. There is a lot of vagueness with depression. It was difficult to understand why I hurt and why I didn’t want to live anymore. I didn’t know what was next. My treatment plan was my therapist throwing me ropes of encouragement and hope.  I stumbled along, hoping I could hold on to one of them and not sink deeper.

Revelation 21:4 – He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.

 

Moving on to Nothing

I have struggled with depression for many years. What I have written below takes place several years ago, when I was quickly unraveling and sliding into deep depression..

road dark

Another day and nothing really bad happened. I’m getting more and more stuck in this not caring mood. There is just not much I care about and it feels strange. Why care? I honestly don’t know. I’m dreading work. Staying home in silence probably not a good option. I’ll coast in automatic. I’ll listen for You, but know You’ll be quiet again.

I guess I don’t really know what I’m looking for. I don’t know what I want, I don’t know who I am. My birthday is in a few weeks. Another year going by and what do I have to show for it? Have I succeeded at anything? Have I made progress? Why care?

I’m great at being neutral. I stay in the middle where it’s safe. Being neutral is probably worse than being good or evil in Your eyes. Can I be such a failure? Nothing, that’s me. I stand for nothing, accomplish nothing, nobody will remember me. Easily replaceable, easy to forget. An afterthought by friends, family, co-workers. Why care?

My biggest fear is I’m an afterthought to You. I can’t think of anything that could be worse than You forgetting me. Yet at times, I really believe that you have. I have to find something inside me to help pull me up, but then my next thought is I don’t care if I get up or not. Everything feels so uncomfortable. There is much I want to ask from You. But, if you give it to me, then I’ll have to do something and step out of the darkness. If You give it to me, I’ll have to be among the living.

I’ll just let it go.

Jesus, teach me that I am Your child and that is my identity. You don’t make mistakes and You created me for a reason. I will hold tightly to Your hand as You lead me through this life.

Choose Me!

hands raised colorfulThroughout my life, I always wanted to be chosen. In elementary school, I was the kid chosen last for teams in gym class. I wasn’t the little girl that everyone liked, with pretty bows in her hair and the latest lunch box. I usually had the buttons on my sweater crooked and my shoes untied. If I left the house with bows in my hair, I lost them before I got to school.

In junior high, I was not the girl chosen by the cute and popular guys. In 6th grade, my best friend and I liked the same guy.  For some reason, I thought it would be a great idea to make him choose between the two of us. And no, he did not choose me. Why I would set myself up for this, I have no idea.

I attended a small, Christian high school. There were many girls from wealthy families. They were thin and beautiful and drove new cars. I put them on a pedestal. At lunch, everyone sat in circles. I would have given anything to have one of them invite me into her circle. One day, I got brave and sat just outside a circle and hoped I would be let in. A girl moved so she was in front of me and left me on the outside. After that day, I spent many lunch hours in the bathroom so no one would see me eat alone.

In my family, I am the middle child. I have a smart, pretty, outgoing older sister. She had lots of boyfriends and a ton of self-confidence. She was not afraid to take on the world and tell anyone who would listen, they were going to do it her way. I also have a sweet, younger brother. He was such a cute little boy with big, blue eyes.  I thought it was very important for my parents to now have a son. In my young, romantic brain, I knew I would never be as important as him because he would carry on our name! I felt invisible between the two of them. I was gray compared to their vibrancy. I loved them desperately and was always willing to stay in the background.

In my late teens, I started a 10 year relationship with my first love. For me, this was that see fireworks kind of love that I knew would last forever. I desperately wanted this man to choose me. I convinced myself that there was something about me I could improve, that there was something I could do better.I did just about everything but cut out my heart and hand it to him. I hung in for a long time, hoping he would see that I’m not that bad and I was worth choosing. He never would, he never did.

I’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to be chosen. I wasted a lot of tears when I wasn’t. It took me a long time to understand and believe that it was their loss, not mine. You have to take a little more time, make a little extra effort to get to know me. I now know that I’m totally worth it.

John 15:16 – You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatever you shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

I Am Found

lone boatAnother day in a haze. Should I thank You for this day when I don’t want it? It was painful to get up this morning. I am thankful to You for the gift of sleep. I did not want to leave that escape to go out and be a part of this horrible world.

I watched the people at work. There was a party – lots of talking and laughing. I wanted someone to talk to me, I wanted to be sought out, I wanted to be that girl who always says something clever. Funny how these are the same things I’ve always wanted throughout my life. I ended up going back to my cubicle where I quietly watched, safe and alone. After the party, I did talk to one person. I know I’m in her thoughts. Maybe she will pray for me. Maybe You will listen to her?

God, why can’t I find You? Could You please send just a little comfort? My soul is cold, numb. I need to remind myself that things could always be worse and I should be thankful for what I have. I am thankful for my son. For his maturity and his good heart. If the price to pay for his happiness is for me to be unhappy, I will gladly accept that.

I hate my life. I hate being stuck. I hate making the best of a bad situation. I hate being an afterthought. I hate smiling when I want to scream. I am here, but I am too insignificant to be noticed.

Jesus, teach me that You are always seeking me out. It’s impossible to comprehend how You are in control of everything, You are the King. Yet You see me, You know me, You are with me.

 

You Must Fight, Together or Alone

On a bright and sunny Tuesday in late March, 2015, I had a doctor’s appointment with my GP. I had concerning symptoms and I wanted to get them checked out. My doctor ordered a CAT scan to make sure everything was OK. I had the CAT scan done the next day. They told me it would be at least 24 hours until I received results. Instead, within 2 hours, my doctor called to tell me I needed to see a colo-rectal surgeon.

never stop fighting 1

I remember standing in my kitchen and listening to my doctor get out of breath as she rushed to get the phone number of a surgeon. She was saying things like “thickening of the colon wall” and “more than 10 lymph nodes”. I was waiting for her to say, “you will be OK” or “this isn’t anything to worry about.” After she gave me the phone number, I asked her if this was really that urgent. She paused and then loudly said, “YES!”

I called the colo-rectal surgeon. His office had already been contacted by my GP and they were ready to squeeze in an appointment for me the next day. After I hung up the phone, I put my head on the kitchen counter. Physically, I’ve never been really sick. My body always figured out a way to heal and move on with very little fanfare. My gut told me it really was urgent. I cried.

Within a few days, I was officially diagnosed with Stage III rectal cancer. I was completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of support. Cards, emails, food, prayers, well wishes, gift cards, offers to help with cleaning and home improvements! It was like Christmas just for me. People I haven’t heard from in years, even people I didn’t know, were reaching out to me. I don’t think I ever felt more loved and cared for. All of these wonderful people carried me through this past year.

I then thought back to the day I was diagnosed with depression. That day was one of many days I felt closer to dying than living.  I held this diagnosis close to me. Struggling with depression is a lonely fight.  Maybe that’s why it’s so difficult to make it out of the dark.

Romans 8:37 – Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who has loved us.

Just a Hug

I have begged You to help me. Just a small sign of encouragement to let me know You are here. Maybe a hug from someone. Someone to take an extra moment to look at me and see I’m hurting. I feel I’m covered in darkness and don’t understand why people close to me can’t see me struggling. Yet, You give me nothing. What have I done? How many times do I have to be at the bottom?

Girl Face Sad

I think You made a mistake when you put me in this world. I have no place in it, no purpose. I assume I’m supposed to learn something while I’m at this place, but I’m only relearning the lesson to shut down and protect myself. I’m only continuing to close myself off from the world.

Speaking to people is a chore. Responding takes an effort. I have lost my closest friend and your silence leads me to believe I have lost You too. All I see for me is a road of meaningless days, dimly lit, half alive.

Jesus, teach me to look for people who are hurting and reach out to them. Sometimes, a hug can help more than a pill.