Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Sunday Prayer

Dear Lord:

Why—yes, “why,” that accusatory word—why have you made your place of worship frightening? Perhaps it isn’t you who have done it, but have you allowed it? Or is it that you allow my fear? Fear of the people, the words . . . fear of you.

People: there are so many. Even in a congregation as small as Redeemer. So many. And they want to talk, and greet, and not shake hands, but hug, and, naturally, I assume they are judging.

Words: hurt. The words that come out of the pastor’s/preacher’s/priest’s/vicar’s mouth are a mystery: what they will be and what they mean. Will it be a “better yourself” sermon? That I cannot take anymore.

You: sure, the Bible says to fear the Lord, but I don’t believe the fear I feel is the fear required. And it isn’t a singular fear. I fear that you will show up, even though I also hope you will. (You have been quite absent.) And I fear what you will be if you do. I fear the existence of my half-hearted belief is trivial.

Sincerely and brazenly,

Monday, September 14, 2015

Anxiety has a Say

Anxiety is a pig. It’s smart. And ugly. (Sorry if you think pigs are cute.) It grubs about. And that’s where the analogy ends. It shakes, it paces, it cuts. It takes a walk, a drink, a pill, a razor. It smiles and laughs at whoever it afflicts.

It doesn’t need a tap root. (Although it will grow one if given the chance. It’ll go straight to the heart, infect everything with a sick pulsing and lack of self-possession.) It crawls along the surface of the skin, creating a network of interlocking insanity, sealing over any escape. The pressure of the trapped angst causes rattling like a tea kettle: shuddering and shaking.

So you pour in liquid and solid to hopefully counteract the chemical mishap inside. A beer, a glass of wine, a Snickers, a lorazepam. Something. So you walk, pace, hopeful to move out the shakes. So you cut, knowing no other way to release the pressure—the tea kettle needs an opening—and knowing no other way to alert the world that the water is boiling; it’s time to turn off the flame.

And it works. And it doesn’t. The beer, or wine, is a wonderfully distracting flavor, but your alcohol tolerance is much to high for a buzzed relief. Walking moves the legs, great, but the hands continue to move on their own. Cutting lets out a deep seated strain of Anxiety. And it feels so, so good. But. But nothing. It’s perfect.

Until the regret, the guilt, the New Anxiety. The, oh, shit, that’s gonna leave a mark. Once the beautiful blood and satisfying scab are gone, once, if ever, the anxiety goes, the mark will not. The, oh God, I wasn’t supposed to do that. This is the only body I get. This will hurt someone else. The, someone else? Who else? Who is going to see this? What will s/he say? What will s/he do? The inability to stop seeing it, feeling it, acknowledging it.

Oh, yes, Anxiety is smart. The shaking that turns into pacing turns into cutting, and cutting revives the seemingly dead, dying Anxiety. Anxiety won’t die. Not if it has a say. Or a razor.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

On how I was rejected from a Christian Counseling program for being too honest

July 2015 I submitted my application to a Seminary, hopeful for the opportunity to become a counselor, and not just a counselor, but one with an awareness of faith and its importance in the field of mental health. I submitted my application, my references sent in their letters, and on July 31st I interviewed, in jeans and (what I consider to be) a blouse with a kind, open woman. We chatted, I answered questions, I listened, she thanked me for my transparency.

I stumbled when she asked me about faith. I did not know what to say. The honest answer was silent confusion, but I tried to verbalize my struggle. The damage, though, had been done—I called my prayers “trite” in the application; I called my spiritual life “confused.” I didn’t point to any community or relationship with God.

I didn’t provide the cliché hipster response of, “yeah, well, Jesus is really important to me, I’m searching for a community where I fit in, but, yeah, I definitely feel God’s presence leading me.” No. None of that crap. It’s bullshit. Buyable bullshit labeled as authenticity.

No, none of that. Just the honest, I’ve been to Church about a half-dozen times in the last eight months. (Since Church-going signifies piety.) The honest, I’m no longer a fifteen-year-old church-attending, praying, mission trip going, small-group frequenting, loving kid. The real, I work on Sundays, pray with a quick “please,” “thanks,” “no thanks,” avoid team projects (such as mission trips), and I have not been in a small group for ten years, and I don’t miss it.

And that’s all there was to it. Perhaps they saw troubles and struggles with Christianity as the tip of the iceberg, but they were wrong. Treat me as though I have Asperger’s. IT’S ALL TRUE. THERE’S NOTHING HIDDEN. I wouldn’t know how to contain it. The honesty must come out. I’m a little black and white with these things: all or nothing.

With pain, we all learn to manage it with more or less dexterity. And then we have the choice of sharing it or not. And if we share it, to what extent? I have learned to manage my pain with quite a bit of dexterity, and I have learned to share: the truth will set you free. And I mean the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me God. And it has bitten me in the butt.

Examples from my application?

I’m not sure what my personal goals are . . .

Mistake: insecurity

I struggle with breaking out of my introverted mold; introversion is fine, I just need to take care not to block my peers out, as the relationships I form during this program are important. (Aren’t all relationships?)  I also deal with general anxiety disorder and Bipolar II. If I am not careful, the anxiety will undo my will to complete my studies and participate fully. The bipolar is something somewhat unpredictable—should the depression kick in, I may need to take time off.

Mistake: admitting to introversion
Mistake: admitting to blocking out people
Mistake: admitting to real diagnoses and their real consequences

Looking at my  GPA from college, I am not eligible for the program . . .

Mistake: admitting to a flaw in a very precise sense

Spring 2013 depression retuned with a struggle I hadn’t faced since eighth grade: cutting. My professors were very supportive and patient, but my GPA reflects the depression, not their support.

Mistake: admitting to the existing of a struggle bigger than my will, and not attributing healing to God

. . . come April 1st, 2014, [my counselor] took me on a field trip to inpatient care. She sat with me for easily eight hours as they evaluated me and finally decided that I was okay to go home.
            I could detail 2014 for you—heck, I could write a book on it—but I think it is sufficient to say that it was the darkest year of my life.

Mistake: I went that far. Who admits to a trip to Behavioral Health?

You see, they didn’t want that kind of honesty. It would have been difficult, but I think I could have constructed a novella on the non-existent Christian-me, and they would have eaten it up. A lip-smackingly delicious piece of literature. Nom, nom, nom. You’re admitted, model student.

Until I master the art of fiction and large scale lying, I’ll be here. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

An Introduction

Welcome to Honest Memoir. The lack of exclamation mark may seem to connote a lack of welcome, but, you are, indeed, welcome, and I thank you for coming.

The title for this blog seems a little silly, “honest” memoir? Is not memoir, inherently, honest? I wish it were. But people are not inherently honest. Besides, it is only as honest as our memories, and the memory can lie.

But we are getting distracted. The topic was honesty not dishonesty. What are some synonyms for honest? Straight, forward, frank, virtuous . . . and all these words have their own connotations. That is what I am getting at here when I say honest memoir: memoir that is forward, frank memoir, memoir told straight. As for virtuous? I am of the belief that speaking straight is a form of virtue. Memoir, told honestly, is then virtuous.