Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Deafening Silence

Meredith Andrews has a song called "Can Anybody Hear Me?" and some days I just put that song on replay and cry.

Do you know what it's like to never be heard?

I do.

I also know what it's like to be heard, and it's an amazing feeling. But for the most part, silence surrounds me.

Maybe you've been there. You're quiet, socially anxious and fearful of people's judgments. It's a valid concern--the world is full of harsh critics eager to rip your faith and innocent hope away. However, there are a lot of gentle, caring people in the world too. The sad thing about this all is that we who are quiet usually have a hardened view of reality/society and assume that everyone is out to hurt us, so we put up the walls, lock ourselves away and throw away the key--all in the name of protection.

While it is momentary protection, the walls eventually grow stronger with time and soon they are solid brick. At that point, it's really hard to break them down. Has anyone had to get out the jackhammer to get through your barriers? Yeah, I know that feeling too. =)

"I know You're here with me, I just need the faith to see. Nothing can separate me from Your love"

On the opposite spectrum of walls is open pastures. These aren't necessarily good either, because we can easily let in people who can, and probably will, hurt us. So where's the balance?

"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it" - Proverbs 4:23

Guarding your heart is not putting up 10 foot walls, or letting people walk right in. It is healthy boundaries, recognizing the signals you're giving others, thinking with your brain and not your heart, and keeping in constant communication with God. Our first mistake happens when we do a two-minute devotional each day and leave it at that. I'm starting to recognize the wisdom in continual prayer and reflection--sizing myself up by God's standards and how His Word says I need to live my life.

He may feel far away, but He's still there. Calmly waiting for you to come to Him and ask for help. You may pray but hear nothing. This doesn't mean He's not listening, instead He's probably trying to get you to listen closer, to trust in Him. To believe that when He says you are a precious creation--His treasure to be exact--He is telling the truth.

It may sound silent, but try something that our culture doesn't value: Just Listen.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Lost: Depression & Suicide Prevention - what would you do to save a life?

"Why am I even alive anymore? I don't understand. I'm tired. I'm frustrated. Nothing matters anymore. I'm sick and tired of being the living dead." 10-16-07

Two years ago I lost my reason to live. I was so depressed I could barely make it through the day, and even then it was all a daze. It took over a year of treatment and therapy to even see the sunshine again. For this reason, I've committed my life to making a difference. My life verse sums it up: "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice" (Proverbs 31:8-9)

"I'm falling...drowning...locked in an emotionless closet. I can't let it out and I can't keep it in. I can't deal with the worry and stress and it's tearing my heart out." 3-7-06

The Adolescent Mental Health Initiative estimates that at least 1 in 8 teens struggle with depression. Because depression often leads to suicidal thoughts, it is understandable that 90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of death. Furthermore, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for ages 15-24 and the 5th for ages 5-14 year olds. Regardless of age, in the U.S. someone dies by suicide every 16 minutes, but an attempt is made every minute (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention).

The reasons behind depression and suicidal feelings are complicated and vary for each person. But the fact is, it hurts. We feel extremely guilty, hopeless, worthless, anxious, isolated, lonely and very very alone. We feel these mostly because of past circumstances or chemical imbalances, but also partly because most people don't understand or show they care.

While none of us have the power to actually save someone's life, we do have the ability to help people find hope again. First, you can do some simple things: talk, listen, hug, and love those who are hurting. You can get down to their level, understand, encourage and pour into their lives. You can watch for suicide warning signs: making a plan, giving away possessions, changes in behavior, slipping grades, increased self-medicating, etc. and listen when you hear or see them. Coming alongside someone who's hurting--helping them reach out to professionals and get on the path to healing is the most important thing you could ever do.

Resources: http://www.twloha.org/ (To Write Love On Her Arms)
http://www.yspp.org/ (Youth Suicide Prevention Program)
1-800-SUICIDE (National Suicide Prevention Hotline)

Remember, you are not alone. <3

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Walls Are Coming Down

"Oh, no, my walls are going to break, so close it's more than I can take. I'm so tired of turning and running away when love just isn't safe." - Britt Nicole "Safe"

You're been hurt. People may have abused, ridiculed, bullied, manipulated, or trapped you. You probably feel like it's not safe to love and you have every right to feel that way.

The stats are currently that 1 in 3 girls will be abused by age 18 and the chances of abuse during a lifetime is 1 in 2. For young men the stats are about 1 in 6 being abused before 18 years old.

These are gloomy statistics and there seems so little we can do. I can attest to this fact because as a survivor of childhood abuse, I am a part of that statistic and nearly every doom-ful statement about abuse victims, self-injury, suicide, depression and all the rest.

Every memory has eaten away at my heart, burning away the joy and hope--replacing them with bitterness, anger and hatred. I'd give anything to be whole again.

Do you know what it's like to never be heard?

Do you know what it's like to literally feel the pain as your body wastes away and your soul dies?

That's what every abuse victim feels.

The world is hopeless and black and there is no light. Happiness is acidic and nothing is worth it.

We lose ourselves, our passions, our hopes and dreams. We cry all the time or can't cry at all. We assume that it's our fault we're being/been hurt and expect it to happen again. We're stuck in a horrible pattern of abusive relationships that we can't seem to escape. Why? Because it's easier to stay where you're comfortable--stick with the norm, and that is usually with guys or girls who take advantage of us.

Lost and alone, life as it should be ceases to exist.

Chances are you've been there or know someone close to you who has. Empty promises, endless battles and countless tears later, you're left with shards of glass slipping through your fingers representing the leftovers from your life.

Thankfully through it all, I am more than a statistic. There was a time when I was defined by the pain, but my soul has been resurrected with new life. I am not over the hurt, but I am recovering. I am healing and accepting God's healing love every day.

"Those damaged goods you see in your reflection, love sees them differently, love sees perfection... You're not the worthless they made you feel, there is a love they can never steal away." - Matthew West "Broken Girl"

It's hard to trust after everything has been ripped from you. It's a challenge to let God take control of your life once all the control has been taken from you. But, please hear me when I say there is hope. It can seem so dark, but there is a light in the distance.

I have watched so many people take the first step from darkness to hope, and it is a beautiful thing. It starts with a very simple thing: breaking your silence. If you are a victim of any kind of abuse, I encourage you to speak up. Tell your story. It's an amazing thing, but every time you tell your story, the abuse loses some of it's power. The more you talk, the less it hurts. It's your story to share, and it will make a difference.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God" - Isaiah 43

The world may seem really dark right now. Trust could be a foreign word. But I promise you this, if you take the first small step of faith, you will begin the journey to freedom and wholeness. You don't have to believe it will happen, just know that it won't be like this forever.

The Power of Testimony

Three weeks ago I had the opportunity to share my life story with a small group of young adults. All eyes were on me as I opened my heart about the painful experiences I'd been through and how God is putting my broken pieces back together.

I held back tears and became vulnerable while the silence filled the room. It was difficult, even though I've shared my testimony on several occasions because I feared that I would be judged and would lose the group's approval.

No such thing happened, of course. In fact, last weekend at a retreat, one of the girls shared that some of the things I had said had stayed with her for two weeks. As she cried, I cried and felt the warmth of value surround me. See, I have a fear of not being heard, not being noticed and not being valued for who I truly am. Hearing that my story impacts people is the greatest gift anyone could ever give me because it means my pain is worth it. I am making a difference because of where I have been. I am not defined by my past, but it is a part of me, shaping me, making me stronger.

"You're either in a storm, going into one or coming out of one. Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass...it's about learning to dance in the rain."

Keep persevering. Your day's just begun.