Wednesday, April 24, 2013

This is my story...

    I have thought a lot about whether or not I would try and write the story of what has gone on with me over the past months and years, to help people understand what it has looked like for me, or more for myself to understand what was and what now is. Half the time I won't remember most of the details, but here is my best attempt.

 It's hard to know when something "started", because so many aspects of life pour into the why's of life. But I pinpoint a lot of it back to my last pregnancy. First of all I went from having a long "single life" to being in a relationship,engaged, married and pregnant all within one year. That is a lot of change in one life.

 When I found out I was pregnant I don't think I was ready, it didn't feel like the right time for me or us, too early into learning to be a wife, let alone getting to know Daniel. Of course there is a guilt in that because your child is growing inside of you that you will love with all your heart but it wasn't an immediate excitement. 
During these first few months I also started dealing with intense "issues" with my work and church, which were one in the same. This isn't about talking crap about that time or those days, I have worked through a lot of that and forgiven, asked for forgiveness, processed and learned but it doesn't take away the fact that it was a really hard time for me. I think I was left wounded far beyond what I was even capable of recognizing that would leave lasting effects on me. Not only that, but I know the enemy used small wounds to  create huge insecurities in me because of the time of life I was in. 

I believe so much of this time, as I think about it, was an identity crisis. Everything I was changed so fast that I had no idea who I was, who I was supposed to be, or what was right, true or good. I was the "missionary girl" who traveled the world, was passionate, bold, fully engulfed in ministry and all the while I was trying to find my place to land, this was still who I was, who I saw myself to be. The one who gave advice, the one people went to when they needed something done, the one everyone knew, loved, appreciated, etc. This was the me I was, this was the me I knew, this was the me I liked and had become, in a sense, proud of.

After quitting my job and an enormous amount of drama, bitterness and resentment that sat in my heart caused due to rejection and pain I was left to be a newly pregnant wife, adjusting to who I was now. I felt like even if I tried to get back into ministry, serving, whatever, I was constantly filled with terror of being misunderstood or worse, not being valued at all. It felt like that person was gone, no one knew her, or cared to find out or see any worth in me. My own insecurities playing on every off comment and sideways glance.I retreated. 
As my pregnancy progressed, my first time experiencing this bodily change, I felt hopelessly alone. It started to feel as though everyone in my life was against me. My spirit screamed with insecurity and anything that was said to me I took on and wore as if it were my truth, my identity, since I wasn't sure about anything anyways. I was constantly told how "big" I looked while pregnant. Struggling with body image my whole life, these comments resonated deep in my soul. I've realized how much of my identity as well had been my "beauty", my hair, being able to rely on that, even if my inside was broken. Not that I was ever really OK with myself, but I found it to be a comfort. During those later months of carrying Ashton I would look at myself and did not recognize myself. I had cut my hair short just months before getting pregnant, I had a really wide spread nose, my cheeks started eating my smile, and my eyes looked dead. I think there was a part of me that just believed this would never end, this is what my new self was, and I hated it and yet it matched so much of the brokenness in me as well.
 When I finally had Ashton, after a traumatic time in the hospital, an unexpected c-section, and long recovery I felt abandoned in a foreign place. Here I was with this tiny thing, that needed me all the time and I was having so many emotions I felt crazy. I was happy and in love with my new child, I was exhausted, I was bittern and angry, I was frustrated, lonely, sad, determined. I couldn't handle what I was facing. More than anything I remember feeling rejected. The constant lies that began to sit in my head were so strong. And I think more than anything I began to reject myself. I wasn't good enough for anything or anyone.
I would be extremely mean to Daniel, and I can't recall why exactly, except maybe for being frustrated about so many things in my life that he would not and could not fix. I began running and lost most of my baby weight, and all the while this was positive, the reasons were because I felt being anything over 200 lbs was a disgusting excuse for a person. I did it mostly, because I hated myself, and I believed other people hated me for being fat and disgusting, but who I was was still hurting and broken. The truth is that there was definite postpartum depression that had explanations to it, my overwhelming feelings, but to me, it just looked like another reason to hate myself.

Just about this time we decided to move to Denver. Ashton was about 9 months old when we moved to be a part of a church plant out here. It sounded like a dream and I was so excited to get back to what I knew, adventure and ministry with the Lord. Off we went. 

It was nothing like I thought it would be. It was hurt and struggle on top of hurt and struggle I had left behind. It compounded and reinforced everything that I believed about myself, that I would always be too much for people, a little intense, and they would reject me. Over and over again. It felt like everyone I knew was rejecting me. I would look happy and I would go through the motions as usual, because that is what people expected of me, that is what made it easier for other people to accept me. To show how I was really feeling would only make my fear of rejection even more real, even more possible. So I lived in denial, until it started getting really bad.

After about a year of living in Denver I started breaking down. My self loathing had reached an all time high and I felt helpless, hopeless, and trapped. I started having panic attacks, especially when things felt overwhelming to me. I felt like I was out of my mind, out of control, just stuck. I would tell Daniel how much I hated myself and felt like people would love me when they realized it was too late to love me, at my funeral. He didn't know what to say or do to help me and I just felt even more abandoned and alone. It seemed to me that everyone else was going along merrily on their way and couldn't be bothered with a broken and needy person like me. I needed someone to save me, someone please save me.
I went to a psychiatrist for the first time and was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and was prescribed medication. I started taking it and started feeling much better. Around this time my brother and sister in law moved here and we moved into a new beautiful apartment complex together. I had been so lonely that this was welcome relief to be able to walk to my family just steps away. My sister in law even offered to watch Ashton so I could reach for one of my dreams of running a marathon before we tried for another baby. 

During this time, things started to get better for me. I think being in the sun and exercising all the time was great for my hormones, body, well being. I felt proud of myself and was doing fun things with my blog and just living more fully. The church plant endeavor had ended and I felt we were released from under that and we went looking for another church. Things seemed to be falling into place and Daniel even got a promotion at work which was something we had prayed for, for so long. 

I lost 30 lbs, I ran a marathon, I felt successful and proud of myself, but there was still brokenness underneath. Something I wasn't facing, something I was literally running from. Who was I? Was I runner? Was I a hair blogger? Something I was leaving God out of altogether. 

I started wanting to get involved in church, it had been so long since I was really involved in church activities, somewhere that I felt I belonged. I sort of dove straight in. I started co-leading a small group, helping with kids crafts, and being on a leadership team for a mom's group. All very good things. Ah ha! These people will help tell me who I am or at least these things will be closer to the version of me that I am used to. I started praying more, trying to believe more in faith, but the truth is, all along this journey I had found it harder and harder to trust God. Where was He? Why wasn't He helping me? What was going on?

As I involved myself I felt increasingly weak, tired, sad, helpless. October rolled around once again and now we were facing some major financial stress again. I had been living in this comfortable place of beauty and now we were down to the wire of where we could find to live for hundreds of dollars less than what we were paying now. The stress began to rise and one too many balls in the air for me means becoming completely shut down. We also decided to try for another baby during this time. Another added stress it all, but I felt it was my duty to comply as though I had no say in it. Like the world was telling me, now or never. But I was scared about it, scared about everything that had happened last time, scared about all the issues and problems that seemed to stem from that experience. Fears and anxieties rising, and then, no baby...disappointment and the voices THIS IS WHAT YOU DESERVE ANYWAYS, YOU DON'T EVEN LOVE YOUR OWN CHILDREN.

 The only way I can describe these feelings is like drowning. I have seen a quote about depression that it's like you are drowning all the while watching everyone else around you smiling and waving. It's completely isolating and feels like no one understands or cares to try and understand. The only thing that I knew was that I was far too much to handle, and really not worth it. The tears started and never really stopped. I felt completely helpless and when I tried to be social my emotions would become so much that I literally could not  be in that situation anymore. One time Ashton was screaming for his way, I could not handle this, I put him in the car and started to drive away from the family gathering that we were at. 

This may be hard to hear or whatever, but this is my story, and so I share it with you because I am convinced that if the enemy can take us out, by whatever means possible, he will. I would have fantasies of driving off the road and that shards of glass in me would feel better than what I was feeling. I was having these thoughts on that drive and felt almost of out my body if not out of my mind. Who could save me? Who could deal with a screaming child and a psychotic mother, where could I go? Daniel wouldn't be home for hours. What was I going to do? I called my sister, who happened to be on her lunch break and she listened to me. She is wise beyond her years and just calmed me down and prayed with me. I made it home, even though she asked me to pull over. She asked me if I needed her to come out here and be with me and I knew I did. And she did.

This feeling of deadness or pain or whatever it was, I just wanted it to go away. I can't even think back on that time with any clarity because it's so confusing and blurry to me. I knew I needed help but I don't think I believe I deserved it, and I acted that out through my perception that other people thought I was faking, being dramatic, or just annoyed with me that I couldn't pull myself up by my own bootstraps. They were right, why couldn't I get it together? So I thought.

I beat myself up about everything, and boy did Satan know this. One day I lay on the couch and sobbed the whole day, feeling like I couldn't even make a complete thought that made any rational sense. My family was going to dinner for one of my brothers birthdays and all I could think was that Ashton hadn't had a nap that day and he was going to be crazy and I just couldn't handle it. So we didn't go. I felt bad, but what fun or good would I have been?

The next day we went to church which always helped me feel at least a little bit better. In the middle of lunch where I was just fine and talking excitedly about church and ministry I got a text that sent me, literally  into another world and state of mind. Feelings that others thought I was garbage where confirmed right there in that text. I slowly felt like I was losing any semblance of myself and felt like I was at the bottom of some deep hole while someone or something was throwing dirt in on me. I immediately knew it was an attack from the enemy but I had no strength or truth residing in me to stand up to it. I was done for. I had to escape this feeling, and the only thing that felt like it would let out this extreme pressure was to hurt myself. Here we were in the middle of this "family" day and going to pick out pumpkins. I couldn't take any more rejection and these voices loudly screaming in my head, YOU ARE WORTHLESS! JUST DIE! LOOK EVERYONE AROUND YOU THINKS THAT TOO, EVEN YOUR OWN FAMILY! I felt like an anxious, uptight zombie as we walked into the pumpkin patch. Every twinge of an attitude towards me felt like a million knives jabbing into my head and heart and self. It seemed as though everyone was against me, I tried to verbalize my neediness but I just felt like there was this laughter at my deep pain that I could not fix. This evil laughter and lies, YOU ARE SO STUPID, WHAT A LOSER, YOU ARE SO NOT WORTH ANYTHING! 

As we were driving to my brothers house I couldn't stand it anymore. Everyone always mad at me, me mad at myself that I couldn't be more perfect, make everyone's lives easier, stop being broken, I just couldn't take it anymore. I began to scratch myself as hard as I could on my arms and neck. Daniel was driving and tried to hold my hands down but it was the only relief I could see. As soon as we parked I grabbed my phone and just started running. I had to literally run away from this moment and just started running down the street. When I think back on the time the overwhelming feeling I have still is being annoying. WHY ARE YOU SO F*ING ANNOYING ASHLEY. {the enemy cusses you see}. YOU ARE SO DIFFICULT AND NO ONE CARES, JUST SHUT UP WITH YOUR WOE IS ME NONSENSE.

And I ran and my dad tried to talk to me, but this wasn't like when I was growing up and I needed an attitude adjustment, this was far deeper, greater, a wounding of years of lies that my self could no longer adjust to or take. We went back to my apartment and we prayed and cried and the torment still yelled at me. THIS IS NOT REAL, YOU ARE SUCH AN F*ING FAKE, YOU JUST NEED SOME ATTENTION YOU LITTLE ATTENTION WHORE! THERE ARE MORE PEOPLE IN THE WORLD BUT YOU.

No one knew what to do, not even me. Sitting in the darkness, hopelessness, in chains, needing a Savior.

I went and saw a counselor the next day, I got into the doctor in the next few weeks and was back on medication that started making a big difference. The medication gave me what the doctor called "margins", to give me just a little space between what was happening to me and me. 

Why wasn't anyone taking this as serious as I felt it was. No amount of explaining could help them understand. Didn't they know telling me to go to Denver Seminary wasn't what I needed, I need a Savior! Please SAVE ME!

The new year rolled around and I was feeling normal if nothing else. When all of the sudden, I knew, I was pregnant. This was something that I had actually prayed in the summer. That if He wanted me to have another child that it would just happen without me having to rationalize it too much, because I would rationalize myself out of it because my fears were that strong. I was excited and to be honest, scared. I knew I couldn't be on my medication anymore. I didn't want to tell everyone because of my broken body image and self hatred. 

I stopped taking my medication and started crashing. I am sure a mix of that, pregnancy hormones, my doctor scaring me with the possibility of miscarriage and feeling nausea, I was a complete mess. We told my family when I was 6 weeks and everyone was excited for us, but I was still scared. 

Around this time my husbands sister passed away from a brain tumor and we headed to California for her funeral. Daniel was going to go by himself but I decided to go with him. I think it was a mistake. I got to my sisters house and immediately felt overwhelmed and yet because it was a last minute trip I didn't want to inconvenience  her at all, especially because it was my brother in laws birthday party that weekend. I once again, could not handle my emotions or feeling and wanted to run away, but this time had no where to run. Daniel had left for the entire day for the funeral since we didn't want to bring a three year old and I had a meltdown. I was sobbing and shaking all the while my precious son asking me to stop crying and getting mad at me because he doesn't understand. I perceived my sister was annoyed with me, because I perceive everyone to be annoyed with me, maybe because I see myself as annoying. Certainly not lovable or worthy of love, someone please save me. Finally she saw me crying and struggling with Ashton and we arranged for me to hide out in the guest bedroom because I couldn't face going out into the party. WHAT A FREAKING ATTENTION WHORE. YOU ARE SO ANNOYING AND FAKE AND EVERYONE HATES YOU. ESPECIALLY YOUR FAMILY WHO ARE F"*ING TIRED OF THIS. But I just wanted to be saved, I was so helpless, please someone save me.


We got back and I was finally given the name of a lady who does Soul Care whom I could meet with and so I arranged that, I knew I was desperate for some feedback and I believe this week was when things started turning for me. One of the first things that she told me was that it seemed evident that God was pursing me, just sit and receive His love. 

I can almost imagine Him chasing me with His love saying "Here I am, I died to save you, let me save you, I will save you". I wanted my family to understand and see me and tell me my life was worth it and not be irritated or annoyed with me. I wanted my church friends and staff to tell me some magical solution that would make me better or hope that if I served them long enough and hard enough that somehow I would feel better, that they would save me. But Jesus didn't want any of that, so shallow, so empty, so temporary.

He allowed to me to get to a point where I was and am so desperate for a Savior and knew that my deepest cry was for someone to save me, that I knew the only real answer was Him. He didn't want me to serve Him, be perfect, act right, be more like some super Christian. He just wanted to love me, just the way I was. Love me even though I wasn't reading my Bible for an hour a day or couldn't bring myself to pray, love me even though I felt so guilty for being scared that another life was growing inside of me. Love me even though I stopped helping or serving in any capacity at church, even then, I was still worth loving. That there was nothing I could do or say or be more of in order for Him to want to come save me and set me free. Show me what a prison I sat in and He was coming, to be my Savior. The only one who could.

And we, He and I, are in that process. And I have learned that the only way I will find out who I really am, is to know Him close enough to see myself through who His eyes. That the things I labeled myself and found comfort in claiming myself to be were all so superficial and just that labels. We are walking through this at this very moment, and while I still look through these clouded lenses through my own self doubt, and trying to learn once again that He is the beauty and worth in me, that He is not in a hurry with me. He has given me the power to be more than a conqueror and He is teaching me once again to tell the Enemy who I am in Him and to shut up, because I am His. I know, He was fighting for me all the time. And He is teaching me how to be a fighter again, to stand in His authority and believe that even when people fail me, He never will. That if I am OK with Him, it doesn't matter what if everyone else approves of me or gives me recognition or validates my worth, because I only need Jesus.

I know this journey is far from over, and that my dependence on Him is vital. But I trust He is leading me to full freedom and that through His truth and love I will become the person He needs me to be to tell others about this Savior we so desperately need, even after we've been "saved".

1 comment:

  1. What beautiful vulnerability, Ashley. Someday you will look back on this (the effort it took to put all your pain on the page) and be thankful for the reminder of what God has done in your life. I love that he is relentless in his love for us!

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