Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Crazy, Crippled Success

You tell me there is no God, or that you only pray when there is a crisis.

I’ll give you a glimpse into how a personal relationship with Jesus can impact your life.

I am truly going through the worst season of my life. Two weeks ago, I was hospitalized – against my will – for taking 17 Xanax. Yes, 17 Xanax. Doctor’s cannot believe I am still alive. I had to stay in the mental hospital for 3 days for fear I may have seizures going off Xanax abruptly. Let me back up…

I was born with cerebral palsy but didn’t realize I was different until I went off to college where I knew no one. My mom (in God’s wisdom & plan) is a nurse who has physicians consulting with her because she is so medically gifted. My mom went against the schools, the doctors, and anyone who tried to give me a different life. She insisted I be treated like all the other kids, and the other kids did just that. They treated me like everyone else.

I grew up in a Baptist church where I always knew Jesus was Lord. I got saved with my brother, Mark, when a pastor said “if you leave this building and die in a car crash, you will go to hell if you haven’t accepted Jesus into your heart”. I got saved to secure my place in heaven – nothing more.

Fast forward 15 years when I went to Florida State because I wanted to start all over. I knew no one, and that’s how I wanted it. However, since no one knew me, I had to prove myself all over again. School was hard, people treated me ‘disabled’ and I was homesick. The first summer, I became severely depressed. Although I was studying to become a psychotherapist, I am still human. All the techniques and therapies in the world won’t help when you reach a certain pit. The church was of no help, saying things like “just pray about it” or “you don’t have enough faith!” My childhood pastor told me I needed to get married and he was sure SOMEONE would marry me because ‘even circus freaks find someone to marry them’.

Even though I had a lot of friends, I was empty. I didn’t know what to believe anymore but I ALWAYS knew God was there. I remember reading how suicidal people can go to heaven because the only unforgivable sin is not accepting Jesus into their heart. That was all I needed to know. I could handle cerebral palsy and Crohns Disease which had me hospitalized yearly. But the depression, no. I remember the therapist telling me “Go home and watch ‘Friends’” when I told her I wanted to die. No one knew how to handle me being suicidal. So I took lots of pills, and ended up in a psychiatric hospital for almost three weeks. They told me when to eat, when to sleep, when to poop.

All the friends I had left me, saying ‘we don’t know what to do or say, so we can’t be your friend anymore.’ Fine. I swore I would never let anyone get close to me again, and for almost 10 years, I kept my promise. My cats were/are my best friends, all that I needed. I stayed in the house, and started reading the Bible from scratch. I put away all that I had learned in church and started over… looking at everything from Catholicism to Judaism. Soon, the words became alive, jumping off the pages and into my heart. The more I read, the more I wanted. For the first time in my life, Jesus was an ever-present part of my life. I got to know Him. I wanted to be like Him.

But I had secrets. One was I took Xanax whenever life got too hard, which sometimes was daily. My mom knew, but no one else did. My mom told me how dangerous it was, but I shrugged her off, thinking “she just doesn’t understand’. Another secret was dating the wrong kind of men… men who were safe and wouldn’t get too close to me. Men who I could write off without any emotion.

I became successful in my field, asked to participate on more committees and panels than my calendar had space for. I was paid to speak all over the country. And I was a great therapist because I never told my clients to just pray or go watch TV. My life was perfect… just me, my cats, and Jesus.

Then the ‘latest’ man I fell for was a member at the church I went to on holidays. I started attending regularly so I could see him. I was asked to give my testimony, which meant I spent the weekend backstage with the Worship Team. God started showing me how life is about serving others and how He wanted to share my struggles with others so they could see Jesus in my life. So I began sharing my secrets and my weaknesses. And people began speaking more candidly with me, sharing their own experiences.

I began letting people in again, trusting and loving others, and through what can only be the grace of God, people liked me and wanted to be my friend in spite of my revealed secrets. But I still had one secret no one knew: I was becoming a drug addict. Xanax became more important to me than God. Instead of praying, I took pills. Then I was put in a job where my boss yelled at me over my speech. She set me up for failure. Co-workers told me they thought I was a freak because of my cerebral palsy… counselors with Master’s Degrees discriminated against me. I gradually became more depressed, and eventually suicidal. My brother came down and stayed until I could get to a psychiatrist.

Once again, friends walked away for ‘not knowing what to say.’ I had to quit my job, knowing I couldn’t put the needs of my clients before my own. That would be unethical and I just could not do it. So I quit with no income, no plan. Things worsened, I got mad at God and stopped speaking to Him. I told Him I wanted nothing to do with him. Praying is so much a part of my life, that I kept catching myself praying, and then would remember, “Oh, nevermind, I am not talking to You.” That lasted three days. That showed me what hell will be like. That made me realize, I can go through anything as long as Jesus is with me. I never want to be separated from Him again, and He reminded me I was the one who walked away… He never left and never will.

Two weeks ago, I was exhausted… I just wanted to sleep. I took a couple Xanax, then a couple more. I don’t remember anything that happened that night, but had texted someone “I am having trouble breathing… will you Google “17 Xanax” and see if it interferes with breathing?” I ended up in the hospital. This time, I had no Xanax. When friends walked away (as they did before), I had no escape. I had nothing to lose, so I began sharing my experience online. People thanked me… people told me they started going to church, wanting to know this “Jesus” I live for. Someone told me I light up when I talk about Jesus, and when they look at me, they see Him.

That is what life is all about, reflecting Jesus to others. As embarrassing as my life is, I will not hide what He has carried me through. I am His, and everyone can ridicule me, and walk away, but as long as He is pleased with me, none of that matters.

THAT is my God… knowing Him allows me to get out of bed each day. My relationship with Him makes life worth living. Despite popular belief, the Christian life is not easy. Depression is not a sign of weakness. Success is not measured in money or possessions. Success is living so that others want to know how you are at peace during a crisis. Success is loving others in a way that can only be explained by a relationship with Christ. Success is laying down your own life to live for Him.

I am still depressed. I still face poverty and homelessness. I still want to live in isolation, selfishly staying just with Christ. Yet I am no longer suicidal. Instead, I want to do all He has created me for, touching as many people as I can with how my Father carries me… everyday. The world may see me as crazy or crippled or too revealing… but I bet Jesus calls it ‘success’.


~Broken~ said...

This is the first time I've read your blog and it immediately spoke to me. I have many of the same struggles and am still trying to work through them. I'm a bipolar Christian which makes it extremely difficult. I question my own faith at times but know that I am His. I just started my blog today because I felt that He was leading me to tell my story. Needless to say, there are still many more chapters to the story.

Thank you for what you write. You are truly blessed.

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Lisa said...

God bless you! I know you have touched many, many people who have read about your journey - you touched me. We are all broken and we all hurt - we just show it in different ways. Forgive those that walked away from you if you can. Maybe they were frightened, maybe they were ignorant, maybe they hurt too much. Jesus is the only one who will NEVER let us down, PTL!