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 . . .
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.