Feeling scared

I’m scared. Scared of what I might be facing in a few months. Scared of whether or not I’ll have to tell certain family members. Scared of whether other people will have to know. I don’t want anyone to know. And yet, there’s a part of me that wants my pain validated. That wants my story told. I don’t want pity. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. But like any normal human being that’s ever suffered–and suffered alone–sometimes I just want someone to weep with me, to agree with me that I’ve endured some pretty excruciating pain.

I bit the bullet and saw a doctor yesterday. And I’m going to have to see more. The word “surgery” was thrown out there as a possibility. I don’t want to have to have surgery. But if it looks like it’s necessary, my life-long secret pain will no longer be secret. I will have to tell some people I don’t want to tell. One person in particular I dread telling, because I blamed this person most of my life for my pain. There are so many traumatizing memories associated with this pain that it’s taken me over thirty years to finally confront it, and over thirty years to truly forgive certain people associated with it.

So, naturally, I’m feeling a bit frightened. I wish I could crawl into a hole somewhere and this nightmare would just disappear. But I can no longer hide from it or imagine or wish it away. I have to face it. I have to face what has been the primary source of pain and brokenness in my life, starting from the time I was a child. I know I’m not alone in one sense, as I’ve expressed on here before. I know now there are other people out there who’ve suffered as I have, and in some ways worse than I have, so that comforts me somewhat. But in my own social circle–which isn’t that big–only two people have any idea of what I’ve been through and continue to go through. No one in my family knows. I’ve kept it a well-guarded secret, because in my family–as much as I love my family–that’s what you do: you bury things. So I’ve buried it quite deep for over thirty years.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in the days ahead. My relationship with God is on the rocks right now, so I find turning to Him for comfort and strength very difficult. (I’ve decided I must be a bipolar Christian–it’s always hot or cold, up or down, with me in my walk with God. Right now I’m in a down period.) I have very few people to turn to either. No one but my counselor even knows I’ve seen a doctor. As usual, I’m alone in facing this mountain in front of me. And while there’s a part of me that wants to keep it that way, there’s another part of me that longs for others to come alongside me and, if nothing else, weep with me and pray with me. So often, when I’ve lain weeping in my bed, or hunched over weeping on my bathroom floor, all I’ve wanted is someone else to weep with me and tell me, yeah, you’re dealing with some pretty crummy stuff. Because carrying a burden of pain all alone has been utterly soul-crushing. And sometimes I wish I felt more freedom to tell my story, to release this burden completely, and somehow find a redemptive ending to it.

Maybe someday I will feel more freedom to tell my story. The fact that I’m finally even confronting this excruciating source of pain is a huge step in and of itself. But my story isn’t over yet. And maybe it won’t be till it’s completely over that I’ll feel free to share it. All I can do now is hope for the best. And try hard not to be scared.

Pressing on…no matter what

This past Saturday I had the opportunity, via my community college, to visit and take a brief tour of the university I intend, Lord willing, to transfer to next fall. The visit excited me about my future goals, but was also a much-needed wake-up call to the realities of the possible major life-changes I am facing in the near future.

I am not your “typical” college student. It has taken me sixteen—sixteen!–years to figure out what I want to do with my life, and so here I am, in my thirties, pursuing a bachelor’s degree. I don’t regret many of my life choices over the last eighteen years or so–I’ve spent nearly a year living abroad, I’ve traveled to other countries, where I’ve done missionary work and volunteer work such as teaching English, and I’ve had many other life-enriching experiences. I’ve also worked at various jobs, some pleasant and rewarding, some very stressful, unpleasant and unfulfilling, which I think have made me a pretty well-rounded, versatile person. All of my experiences since graduating high school oh so many years ago have shaped who I am and have helped me discover where my passions, interests, and strengths lie, so that, finally, I can say with some degree of certainty: THIS is what I want to do with my life. I am definitely a late-bloomer. And I am ok with that.

Part of my late-blooming journey can definitely be attributed not only to my indecisiveness, but to not-so-pleasant life circumstances beyond my control, such as a major health crisis in 2007 that not only sent me spiraling into debt from medical bills, but into a mental and emotional breakdown which I am still trying to recover from. My life has not been easy. It has been characterized by setback after setback, and many physical, emotional and mental struggles, to the point where, even now, if I don’t see things improving in a very dramatic, immediate and tangible way, I am so tempted to give up. To give up on life, to give up on trying to get better, to give up believing anything good, happy, or ultimately lasting will ever come of my turbulent existence.

So my visit to the university this past Saturday left me with mixed emotions. I absolutely loved the campus–it was beautiful, with grand, old buildings, steeped in history (the university was founded by one of our first presidents), and full of a lively academic atmosphere that got my pulse racing with excitement. I could just imagine myself poring over my books in one of its spacious libraries with vaulted ceilings, strolling along its green lawns to my various classes, and just generally immersing myself in this whole new experience known as real college. I know, for most people my age, such feelings of excitement are long over, but having only attended community college so far, going to an actual, four-year university is both daunting and exhilarating at the same time to me.

But even as I pondered the exciting part of possibly going to this university, I also let myself face the inevitable challenges that would await me. I am no stranger to hopping on a plane and traveling half-way across the world completely on my own, to a place where I know no one—I’ve done it more than once, and I enjoyed it. In fact, I’d be doing it now, if I had the money. I was born a wanderer and explorer, and I love immersing myself in new environments and seeing new places. So the idea of moving to another city, only about an hour away from where I live now, to attend a university, shouldn’t frighten me. Admittedly, part of me can’t wait to move to a different city, to get out of the boring, hum-drum place I live now. But, strangely, another part of me is a bit frightened. Even with all the traveling I’ve done, I’ve never faced something quite so daunting as college. On my own. In a city where I know no one. For some reason, this intimidates me more than trekking across the globe on my own (which I’d do in a heartbeat, if it was safe, and I had the money). I know part of it is that I know how awkward, alone and out-of-place I’ll feel, at least initially, amidst a throng of preppy, much-younger, partying-type college “kids.” At least at the community college I currently attend, I am not the only “older” student, and there is much more diversity over-all in the types of students that go there. So I blend in rather well. But I know the environment will be far different at the university. And I wonder how I will cope with trying to connect and form relationships with many of my fellow students. I wonder how I’ll find community in a city where I don’t know anyone. I wonder where I’ll live. If I’ll have roommates. If I’ll like my roommates. Suddenly, all these “what if” scenarios start floating through my mind, filling me with fear.

I have come a long ways from where I used to be. But I’m still struggling. I still feel fragile, faltering and unsure of myself much of the time. So this prospect of going off to a university, in a new place, while exciting, also scares me. Somehow, facing the pressures of a university environment and college life frightens me more than going to live in a country I’ve never been to before. Consequently, over the last few weeks, I’ve been struggling a bit emotionally, as I ponder not only the realities of the challenges ahead of me, but of the continued issues and hurdles I’m dealing with in my everyday life. And that’s when the dark thoughts start to push their way into my mind. You’ll never get better. You’ll never succeed. Your life will end before it’s even begun. Why bother trying. Why bother trying to get a degree. Why bother trying to change your lot in life. If you have trouble finding meaningful relationships and friendships where you are now, what makes you think it’ll be any easier in a different city? Why bother with anything? You are a failure. Yes, despite all the positive things you’ve done in your life, you are still a failure. And that’s all you’ll ever be. So give up. Just give up.

Fighting such thoughts has been very depressing. I try to give myself pep-talks, but they’re only so effective. I try to quote Scriptures to myself, but they seem to only give me temporary relief. I admit shamefacedly that I am tempted, very often, to simply listen to all those dark voices and give up. Give up on myself and give up on life.

But I’ve got to press on, no matter what those dark thoughts tell me. If there’s one thing that frightens me more than any of my other fears, it’s living a wasted, completely self-absorbed life. No matter what those familiar, dark voices of despair tell me, and even though, yes, most of the time all I can see is how far I have to go instead of how far I’ve come, I know I was meant for more than this broken life I’ve lived so far. Somewhere deep in my spirit I know. And it’s this fear of not becoming who God intended me to be that drives me forward, even when it feels like hell itself is standing against me. Perhaps one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever received was from my current counselor, who told me I was “remarkably resilient.” This came after she discovered, in greater detail than I’ve told anyone before, exactly what I’ve been through and continue to deal with. I wonder myself sometimes, why, God, am I still here? And that’s when I know, if there is any resilience in me, I certainly can’t take credit for it.

I am super excited about the prospect of attending a university and hopefully one day acquiring my bachelor’s degree. I hope, and pray, with all my heart, that if I get that degree, I can use it to serve God on the mission field. That’s my goal. That’s my dream. But the reality of the difficulties that will cross my path as I go in that direction is ever present to me. I just hope I don’t finally cave to the feelings of discouragement and despair that so often hound me. I’ve come so, so close to caving.

I don’t want to waste my life. No matter how difficult the terrain, I must keep trekking. One foot. In front of. The other.