TW: Suicide, Self-Harm, Depression
I struggled with how to start this, then decided I’d start with a trigger warning. Because this year was a giant trigger.
2015 was not beautiful. It may have been downright hideous.
In January I also told myself that this felt like it was going to be a year of change. I didn’t know if it would be good or bad, but either way it would be change. Normally I don’t let myself focus on “premonition” type feelings because I just assume they’ll be wrong, but this time felt different.
This was, indeed, a year of change.
My great-uncle died in March, I believe. He was the best friend of my mom’s dad–who she never knew as he died when she was nine months old. Then in May my grandfather–my dad’s dad–died. The memorials and internments for both were within a week of each other in June or July, I don’t remember. My Grammy–who I grew up with–died in October. One of my best friends–and arguably the most influential person in my life for the last ten years–got a divorce this year. I started a new job I didn’t feel remotely cut out for mere weeks before my grandfather died.
All this while I was dealing with vast quantities of anger toward anything remotely “Christian” (did I mention that last year? don’t remember). In 2014 I had–for the second time–left a church community that I had trusted and turned out to be well-intentioned, but manipulative and unbiblical. 2015 was a year of dealing with the personal fallout in a way that left my “faith” shattered and confused.
With so much death in 2015–death of life and of love–the topic of grief was especially triggering for me. Hearing words about how our grief was just selfish emotions because we missed my grandfather even though he was now in heaven made me so flaming pissed that I could barely see straight and I hated the Christianity that inferred God didn’t allow room for that grief–all of which just made me angrier at the church that propagated such nonsense as to claim emotions were mere “smoke detectors” of negative spiritual thoughts. (I.E. you feel bad, you must be doing something bad.)
I am, however, grateful for my crazy family who decided that the absolute best time in the world to pull a joke was during the internment of my grandfather’s ashes. While some people may call it tasteless, the moment when my aunt went to put Grandpa’s ashes in the wall and shouted, “There’s someone already in there!” and horrified everyone before breaking into laughter reminded me that sometimes it’s okay to feel sad AND laugh at the same time.
After the funeral for my grandpa, my grandma came home with us to Idaho for a visit. During this time I decided to try and apply for conventional jobs because why the hell not at this point, and I started at what I’d always been told was the bottom of the barrel: food service. I applied at McDonald’s and Subway and went home and thought nothing more about it. I decided if I got a gig in CdA it would be a sign to stay, but otherwise I was going to go home with my Grandma in Lake Tahoe and just go from there.
To my surprise, I got the job with Subway and used that as a sign to stay in Idaho.
But then that day I got a call-back for a job in Colorado Springs that I’d applied to about nine months before asking for an interview. I said yes, though I was so exhausted at this point of being whipped around that I almost didn’t care.
Interview was Tuesday. They emphatically didn’t want me. And I was stunned that I cared. As in, I fell apart. I had just finished my third (and last) training day at Subway and I have never in my life felt so close to suicidal. It was solely because of the kind and patient people I worked with at Subway that I believe I didn’t find a way to hurt myself.
For two weeks I would walk into that restaurant half a notch from physical shaking and breaking down crying because I just couldn’t do it and was exhausted from trying to understand how to Life. I didn’t understand how to work with co-workers. I didn’t understand “common sense” and every time I didn’t hear something someone said I was terrified of getting shamed and yelled at. But instead I was met with an endless wellspring of grace and kindness and encouragement. Even when I would blank out abruptly during lunch rush at the cash register my manager would just calmly walk behind me and take care of it until I calmed down, and then go back to the line.
But by that time I’d already determined to leave Idaho, the only place I’ve ever been that truly felt godforsaken. I had an opportunity to go to Colorado and decided to embrace it.
And even then when my manager found out…somehow…two weeks after hiring me…he still extended grace and humor. No shame.
While I could wax poetically on how 2015 was the year of grace, I will instead reflect upon the year of grief that was 2015.
2015 was horrible with grief and pain and torn apart hearts and families and just reaffirmed suspicions that Christianity is a screwed-up mess when Christianity told me that grief was selfish and the people that didn’t even claim religion showed me grace and compassion instead.
What I learned this year wasn’t how beautiful the hope in dark places was–what I learned this year was that grief is a natural reaction to the corruption of the world and that I an entitled to grieve over that corruption as it disrupts my very core, my base code if you will. I learned that I am broken and maybe God won’t make me whole, but that doesn’t mean He loves me less. And that doesn’t make me less.
I learned the importance of separating Christianity from God.
The people who showed me the most love this year were not churches–and I went to many of them–but the people at my secular fast food store, my Christian boss I have never met, and my now-roommate who works at haunted houses.
It was these locations and with these people that I felt God watching me and caring for my heart. Not Bible studies, not church sanctuaries. But instead a secular group of near-strangers, and individuals that defy their molds.
I don’t want to talk about grace and trials of 2015 because I fear that gives a certain image of survival I don’t want to give. Optimism and positivity and butterflies have their time and their place, but 2015 was not that place.
I’m still broken and tired.
I live in Colorado now. Two friends–one my roommate, one I barely know–drove eighteen hours in a day to come and get me and my cat and pack up my stuff and one day later, drive eighteen hours back to Colorado. Death Lady is housing boxes and boxes of my books back in Idaho while the Immovable Force kindly lugged those horrible things up and down the stairs.
The difference isn’t that I feel better now and that I’m put together, it’s that I’m beginning to let go of shame for merely feeling as something of God.
Instead, I’m just grateful, cripplingly grateful for the friend who didn’t get angry at me when I was snappy at her birthday weekend because one friend was getting their divorce and at that same another friend was getting emergency help for self-harm.
I’m grateful for the support of my Subway, which changed my life–and saved some of my relationships.
I’m grateful for the friends who would never shame me for saying that my life needed to be saved.
I’m grateful for the acceptance of grief, and for the friend who counseled me through the acceptance of grief as natural.
I’m grateful for my strengthened relationship with my grandmother that I’ve never had before.
In 2015 I found some of my new favorite books and television shows–stories that fed my soul that I never would’ve expected:
- Jurassic World (movie) was a warm hug from my childhood I’d forgotten about.
- Mad Max: Fury Road (movie) showed that you didn’t have to sacrifice depth for the sake of style and fun.
- Hannibal (television show) touched on emotion and empathy in a way that finally helped me to understand myself in a less self-ostracized manner.
- 13:24 (book) by M. Dolon Hickmon showed me that you can write explicitly about horrific taboo topics without losing taste, and, instead, sometimes that offers more respect to the subject matter.
- Supernatural (television show) has just brought me vast amounts of joy that I haven’t felt in a while as I binge-watch with friends equally willing to make fun and have fun.
- Musically, I found new-to-me lullabies that resonated, comforted, or refreshingly distracted my soul:
- New Demons by I See Stars is my Album of the Year.
- Shrines and another eternity by Purity Ring
- Transmissions by Starset
- Nothing More by Nothing More (still.)
- More I’m probably just not remembering.
I’m grateful that even during this hell of a year that reminded me of so much pain and grief and spiritual tearing, God didn’t send me admonitions to be joyful. Instead, God spoke to me in quiet acceptance.
God spoke to me in the smiles and the teasing of my co-workers. God spoke to me in the understanding of my co-workers not to tease me. God spoke to me in the patience of my boss, and the spiritual rest of choosing to not go to church for now. God spoke to me, always, in the life and love of my best friend, Griffin Asher (Death Lady), and her tireless patience with me. God spoke to me in the willingness of friends to drive 36 hours in three days to rescue me. God spoke to me in the spiritual comfort to write this without the fear and shame of “hurting” or “offending” someone because God spoke to me in telling me that my story is important too.
2015 was a horrible year. I don’t hope that next year “will be better,” because I am not promised better.
I’m not even promised to be fixed for what broke before. But I am promised to be loved by God and cared for, and I refuse to let other people–Christians or non-Christians alike–define what that looks like for me anymore. Because God is bigger than people, and God is bigger than the people who claim to speak for Him, and the beauty of my God is that He loves me enough to speak to me for me as an individual, as a daughter loved by Him.