(This is a bit of a departure from the norm, I know, and I’ll be back to my regularly Xander-heavy and pregnancy neurotic postings ASAP. I promise. I mean, I have the material. We took him to see SANTA today.)
Oh, December! The excitement of snow. The hot chocolate so rich it tastes like a melted candy bar. Festive music. Colored lights. Birthday. Christmas. Tree decorating. Santa. So much fun, so much joy. So. Much.
I love the holiday season. I love it all. I love the food. I love the cheesy TV Specials. I love the red sprinkles on my Starbucks drinks. I love the gift wrapping, giving, and getting.
I’m also always so much more contemplative in December, as many of us are. The long hours of darkness, maybe, prompt deeper introspection than usual. Or maybe the symbolism of the approaching new beginning makes us reflect on things past.
One December, fourteen years ago, I tried to kill myself. Dramatic, yes, isn’t it? It feels very dramatic just to type it. And it’s not even like it’s a new story. I’ve told it and written it a few times before. But, every year at this time, I think about that….period…a bit. Not obsessively, and not with melancholy or, I don’t know, regret, even. I just think about it. I reflect on it. I remember. It doesn’t bother me, maybe because it was so very long ago, and I am such a different person now. It’s almost like telling the story of a scar you got falling out of a tree in second grade. It happened. The end. Sometimes it even feels like a memory of a movie or a book – something that happened to someone else completely.
I had just withdrawn from my first year at Wheaton College (I would later return and graduate from there, which is a decision I still wonder about sometimes) with a severe case of PTSD, stemming from undealt with childhood abuse (not anyone in my immediate family). I was a complete and utter mess. I had horrible nightmares, and had no idea where dreams ended and reality/actual memories began. I blacked out for long periods of time. I couldn’t focus and had no appetite. I was so scared, all the time. Scared that I’d be found out. That my piers would realize I wasn’t as Christian as they were, that I was broken. Scared that God had given up on me. Scared that there was no God to do any giving up on in the first place.
So I left that environment and came home, well, to Alabama, which had only been home for about 8 months or so, but it was where my family was, and where I needed to be.
In what little part of my brain that was still thinking before I took all those pills, I did not think of the suicide attempt as an attempt to die. I just wanted quiet. I wanted calm. Peace. I wanted to not be so damn scared. I had this tiny little idea, somewhere, that if I was successful, the bad part of me would die and the good part of me could come back and be the person I was supposed to be. Years and years later, I had a therapist who listened to my account of this night and told me quite certainly that I’d had a psychotic break. You might think I’d find this scary; I mean, who wants to be told that they were psychotic at any point in their life? But I always found this to be a comforting thought. It wasn’t just that I’d made a really horrible decision – my brain was broken.
I look back at the girl that I used to be and I’m torn between wanting to slap her upside the head and wanting to give her a big hug. I want to tell her to just wait. Just wait and see what’s coming. You’re going to meet this amazing man who makes the world a magical place just by loving you. You’re going to have a job that makes you feel smart and important. You’re going to get a puppy who is the craziest ball of fur on the planet. You’re going to visit some beautiful places. You’re going to have the most mind blowingly awesome child who will change your world in ways you never thought possible.
The truth is, sometimes life really, really sucks, for whatever reasons (or for no reason).
It’s okay to want a break. It’s okay to hit pause, to ask for a time out and demand a rest. But don’t toss it all in now. Give it some time. Things get better.
More than that.
Things get really, really good.