When You Thought You Let Go

Skipping through a few of my posts since I started blogging again and gah! – what a negative stench! Apparently this is what happens when you think you’re good at healing from events that turn your world on its head. Just because you managed to survive one massive overhaul doesn’t mean you’ll skate through the next one. In fact, I’m pretty well convinced that I would have made it through this one better if I hadn’t had the first one.

Short story: I was married at 22 and thought my husband and I would be together forever. I imagined growing old with him, raising kids, hosting Christmas for grandkids and great-grandkids. It’s was all there. Then my world spun on its ear and I discovered that he had managed to lie to me for nearly a year about… something I divorced him for. I was 25. I spent the summer after we split to recuperate at an apple ranch in Washington state. I walked a lot. I wrote a lot. I cried a lot. After four months all that was left to do was wait for time to distance me from what had happened.

That was five years ago, and it was the most pain I had ever felt. Compared to that, the last couple years of turmoil should have been a walk in the park. My tolerance for life being unexpected should have barely been touched, but that’s not how emotional pain tolerance works. Each successive hit brings back the memory of the pain you suffered before. You may have healed from those experiences; you may have even forgiven the people involved, but the depth of pain you endured leaves a scar at the bottom of your heart after it dug its way in. You can’t go back to feeling things at a more shallow level, especially if they bear any resemblance to the events that wreaked havoc on your life before. If it was deceit, then deceit will cut you deeper. If it was betrayal, then the scent of betrayal will burn your senses.

People who tell you that you need to forgive and forget should be expelled from your circle of advisers at this point, by the way. You’re not actually bringing up the past. You’re over the past. You’ve moved on. You’re just changed now. You can’t process events the same way you did before. Everything goes through the filter of your experiences. You may be completely healed from what’s happened, but your emotional memory, like muscle memory, just can’t help itself.

You cry more easily and you eat comfort foods more often because your physiology has grown accustomed to seeking out the endorphins and serotonin and that are released when you cry and eat carbs. You feel like a basket case, because your body is giving you signals to reach out for things that will make it feel better.

So your emotional memory is on autopilot and you’re heading down a long path of regret all because of what…? An event that, in the grand scheme of life, doesn’t really affect you as much as you think it does. You’re disappointed with how things have turned out, but you’re over-thinking it. You’re taking it too hard. And you’re actually blaming other people for the fact that you’ve now gained 45 pounds and you’re a depressed train wreck.

Okay, so there’s really no use in chastising your inability to cope. What do you do now? How do you dig your heels in and refuse to keep sliding down this slippery slope of negativity and self-absorption. [Huh – Maybe starting a blog and venting wasn’t the best step.] So what do I do now? How does someone with a proven track record of inconsistency start to turn their life around? Just become a consistent, driven, disciplined person? And then fly to the moon while I’m at it; skip over to mars and setup a colony before I head back to earth to smack whatever insensitive idiot gave me that advice then figure out a real solution.

My naturopath has actually given me more hope and direction through this than anyone. He told me there are actually new studies that show there’s a particular gene responsible for supporting the brain’s natural ability to make serotonin. In many people with depression, this gene is either damaged or completely missing. It’s like those people don’t even have a chance! He cited an Ivy League school on that research, but I don’t remember which one. I’ll have to get some literature from him on that.

In any case, he’s the first one that held out some hope that I might be able to take care of myself without taking a fistful of antidepressants and side-effect-balancing drugs. I may be able to just take a certain kind of folic acid to give my brain the building blocks it needs to make happy-brain chemicals. I don’t know what kind yet. I have another appointment in January. He wants to test my neurotransmitter levels first to confirm whether his genetic theory proves as true in me as it has in others he’s treated naturally for depression. From family history, I’m the fourth generation to have struggled with depression, so we’re both fairly confident that my genes aren’t helping my coping ability very much. I may have to take this folic acid supplement forever if he turns out to be right, but it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than antidepressants, and it won’t mess with the rest of me like western meds do.

I’m sure I’ll post an update when I discover more, but that’s where I am on my depression-treatment journey. Happy new year, everyone!

How to Husband Your Best Friend

Four years ago I told an old friend of mine that if he ever developed feelings for me beyond friendship, he should just keep them to himself. I was determined to not be responsible for another broken heart. I needed a companion – someone to vent to that had meaningful feedback to offer. As much as I loved my girlfriends, they were all pretty busy being married and having babies and not having a clue about what it must be like to be divorced and childless in your mid-twenties. They had mommy brain. I needed a philosophical, logical, intelligent brain to keep me together.

It didn’t hurt that he could write. Actually, I’m fairly certain his verbal abilities were one of the first things that laid a foundation of legitimacy in our relationship. It was a subtle confirmation that he valued his education and paid attention in school; at the very least, it meant that he was well-read enough to pick up on things. “We could be pen-pals,” I smiled to myself. “At least I won’t feel like I need to grade his paper every time he writes me an email.”

Then the entourage came out of the woodwork. I was newly single and my status hit the market before I was prepared to handle it. I was brutal. [See above command to keep all feelings at bay.] And I was fragile. I was still processing the layers of my grief-laden divorce, and I could never quite predict when something might trigger a ragged insecurity, or a love-filled memory. I remember going to my old, faithful friend during times that I couldn’t make any sense out of my emotions or my actions. Somehow he would weave an explanation of logic around them, and I would feel a little less like I was losing my mind.

Our conversations became more frequent, and I started informally dating a few of the guys I met. One of them proposed, ring-in-hand, six days after our first date. In a fog on unbelief, I said yes. I was still a mess. Over the course of several months, I tried and failed to fit my fiance and I together. I moved out, and all the while my old friend was still emailing and messaging me while I tried to figure everything out.

A few months later my old friend recorded a song – a cover – he was working on, and he emailed it to me. My heart skipped a beat, and I wondered at that. His voice was ragged, but it soothed a longing I didn’t know was there. Music. It’s so much a part of me, and I’ve pushed it away so much as a result of circumstance and manipulation and hurtfulness; I didn’t know how much I needed it, but He did.

Within two months, I found myself walking through the airport with my hand in his, smiling like a fool. How could I have written him off? When I realized my respect for him rivaled any I held for another human being, I knew I had found my match. My respect blossomed into a deeply-rooted love, which gave way to a mutual affection unlike any I’ve ever known; passion stole it’s way into my heart. Six months later we were married on the beach where he proposed.

And that is how my best friend wifed me. He didn’t push. With an easy confidence, he strolled into my life and was everything I needed, even more than what I wanted, and exactly what was meant to be. Three years later now, I love him better than ever.

When It Doesn’t Get Better

Have you ever had a cold that wouldn’t go away; or a nasty backache? How about resentment that doesn’t go away with forgiveness. Sorry, I guess I dove into the deep end there pretty quick.

I feel like such a whiner on this blog, but why stop now? I’ve always preached that writing is the best form of therapy I know… but it’s not working this time.

I run to writing like it’s my last hope when things are tough. I started this blog. I’ve filled countless pages in my journal. I’ve written notes on random pieces of paper. I’ve even tried writing in a sketchbook; instead of writing in straight lines, I write diagonally, in circles. I create art with words. It’s not pretty. I’m not even proud of it when it’s done. But I’m doing the work! I’m doing what I know to do to dig myself out of whatever pitiful hole I’m in.

Ugh… I wish I could say I’m self-deprecating and my self-confidence just needs a boost; but that’s not it! I wish sitting in a room where everyone tells me I’m amazing would fix this. I wish I could figure out anything that would fix that doesn’t sound completely impossible. And before you tell me I should start praying for the impossible, let me stop you. “Praying for impossible things,” and I don’t get along. Believing in the power of God to make my wishes come true is not a thing.

My relationship with God isn’t about what He can do. It’s about who He is. And right now, He’s showing me that He loves people more than I do. He loves them enough to let them go. He loves them enough to let them believe things about Him that aren’t true. He loves them even when they reject Him. He loves them even when they twist His words to hurt people.

He loves them more than I do.

Being stretched like this is never something I sign up for, but I know My Redeemer Lives. He knows my future. He knows the strength I’ll need. He knows the wisdom that will help the ones I learn to love. He knows, and I’m committed to finding whatever it is I need in all this.

But, God, it hurts.