a lesson in faith

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In the past week, I have been finding myself facing battle with an old friend–depression.

Yet it is in stark contrast to the youthful, immature depression I once knew, when I believed the cloudy gray life I lived was all that there was and that there was no true escape. Fast forward to now, after years of self-growth, self-improvement, and therapy, I have now what I would call a “mature” depression. When I get in my depressive episodes, I am acutely aware that I am roaming minute to minute in the gray, with the knowledge that I am not the depression, and I am not really stuck. Feelings pass. Situations change. The things my depression are trying to convince me of are false. But it does not make the depressive episode any easier to bear through.

It is like someone hijacked your brain and is steering your thoughts and feelings down paths you know is not realistically accurate. But because you’ve been taken over by D, your stumbling down them regardless. Then you are left feeling so overwhelmed–overwhelmed by sadness, loneliness, hopelessness, and a feeling of bleakness about your life and where it’s headed. I know that I am doing great things with my life, that I am making a valuable mark on this earth. My mind is aware. But still, it is difficult to fight through the feeling of dissatisfaction with yourself and the world, or the feeling that things will never change.

I was driving home from work today, and I found myself asking God, “How do I get myself out of the black hole I’m in? What are you trying to teach me through this? What are you trying to bring forth through me?” I know well enough by now that God teaches us through pain. But at that moment, I could not gather what I was supposed to learn. So sitting in traffic, I paused and listened. Then I could hear God replying back, You need to have faith.

With that, I had an epiphany. Here I was, fighting and fighting to make things work, to get what I’ve always yearned deeply for, but to no avail. Losing friends, people going MIA, stress where ever I go… it has felt as if nothing I do would give me the life I have been aiming for. Things have been falling apart instead. So I have felt hopeless and helpless, like I am stuck with this unsatisfying life I have been trying so hard to change. But then it became so clear. There are no options left at this point, because faith is all I have left. Nothing else is working, because God wants me to choose the one last option. I can either stay where I am, or walk out onto unknown waters.

This has always been my problem. I am Peter, who is afraid and does not trust that God will allow me to walk on water. I am fearful that I will sink and meet my death. So of course God sees it fit that I learn to have faith–to face my fear of sinking. The God who calms the storms. The God who can move mountains. The God who splits seas. I must have faith.

So, my fellow readers–for those of you who know what I speak of, who are also struggling: when it seems as if there are no other options, perhaps that is because God is bringing you to the one option that will help get you through whatever you are going through. Allow your courage to rise, and have faith. You’ve been through worse, and just as it has before, this period too will pass. Life is impermanent. You’ll get through this.  And in the meantime, let yourself go, walk out onto the water, and have faith that God will give you strength to conquer the waves.

an open letter

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You say my vulnerabilities are a warning flag of “emotional instability.” That I am sensitive. You use my emotions against me to prove your created perceptions of me (and your fears) right, using them as evidence for your weak arguments. Arguments, that are tailored only to buffer your fragile ego–while simultaneously putting me, and others around you, down.

Well, let me be perfectly frank with you.

My sensitivity is both a gift, and a curse. While things affect me easily and elicit deeper responses than you may feel comfortable, it also helps me to love and care very deeply, to reach to people in the midst of their pain, to let them feel they are not alone. My passion and vision walk hand in hand with my gift/curse. Yes, I take your words and actions seriously, and I feel them in my heart. But honestly, someone who believes instead that words and actions should be tossed around without care and “taken lightly”–like throwing knives freely around a crowded room–tells me there is something grave to be said about you.

Second point. I am a human being. Which means I hold both strengths, and vulnerabilities. Which means I will not always be consistently happy and perfect all days of the week. For you to use my vulnerabilities against me, again, speaks to your issues and fears. It is easier to judge and criticize another, than it is to face yourself and your insecurities.

And if I may add: I’ve been through a lot of shit. Some very, very tough shit. It is through God’s grace that I am a survivor, and thriver. I have my moments of weakness, and my scars–I will not deny that. But despite everything I’ve been through in my life and despite the struggles that continue to come up, I am standing strong here today, doing what I’m doing and radiating resiliency. I live out my passion with every breath I take. I endure whatever life throws at me and always seek to reap wisdom and knowledge from those experiences. I expand my consciousness with every moment of suffering and despair. I use my experiences to increase my empathy and counsel others. I choose to live with pure authenticity and courage–giving people me and nothing less. I allow the hard times to come like waves, and I fight, and fight, and fight, to hold onto faith, hope and love. I don’t give up. I never give up.

You can make whatever judgments you want, hon. Call me sensitive. Call me a bitch. Call me unstable. Call me whatever you please. Because if this letter does not show you who I truly am and speak to my indisputable strength and solidity, I don’t know what does.

Perhaps you are just too blind to see it.

facing the unconsious

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The fear inside me grows heavier and heavier. All the darkness and pain scare me, yet I have no idea why. It’s as if I am staring into the eyes of a monster, but I can barely make out its face. It resides in the deep recesses of my unconscious, and my startling inability to discern its name, appearance or nature leaves me without any words. All I know if that when I sense its presence, I am overcome by a deep need to abort. I run the other direction.

And here, is where my insight falls short, my awareness runs out, my tendency to shift toward positivity breaks down. Nothing works. I am up against an enemy that I do not know.

Freud argues that our unconscious is composed of unrealized, and often socially unacceptable, desires and wishes, along with traumas and painful memories that our mind has worked to repress. Most of us are only aware of things existing on the conscious plane, unless our developed defenses are challenged and/or we work to build our self-awareness of the ways our unconscious leaks out in our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Considering this, my current situation is pushing me up strongly against my normal defenses. I am sitting in the in-between, within the tension of what I want to do, and what is best for me. I am at the brink of self-sabotaging, and I know it, but the other, darker part of me is fighting for control, pushing me to run. Run from what? What truly scares me is my inability to answer that simple question. I don’t know. But here I am, pushing, running, numbing, kicking and scratching, anything to keep me from falling in too deep, from being captured and seen. If I move enough, never stay in one place for too long, I’ll somehow be safe. There is safety in my evasions. And this is why I cannot settle. There is something in the water that will get me if I do.

Nothing makes much sense, because logic and intellect sink like swords in quicksand when you are up against the creatures of your unconscious. There’s a reason why we are running away and repressing them in the first place.

There is one thing I do know for sure. In order to get to the healthier, better place, we have to venture through the thick of the unknown forest. We have to rise up to our monsters, our demons, and make the choice to push up against them. If we run, they win. If we repress, they’ll continue to control us in our ignorance. It’s so much easier to run… but by running, we are choosing to live in bondage. This is uncharted territory, and this is the difficult call: to trust, and to have faith. Trusting in God, trusting in yourself, trusting in the fact that despite the arduous nature of the journey, if you keep trekking, you will make it out of the forest. You will overcome someday. The call is for you to submit yourself to the unknown, and have faith that through all the dark and pain, you are reaching a better place, coming closer to a healing you so desperately need… closer to becoming a better you. The more you challenge and push up against yourself, the clearer your inner self becomes. The more control you end up gaining.

The journey, therefore, calls upon courage. Courage is not a personality trait, as some may believe it to be, but an act that anyone can do. It’s about making a choice. Despite fear, I will press forward. I will enter the tension and allow myself to be moved. Here we stand at the precipice, faced with our choice: to jump, or not to jump? That certainly is the question.

dare you to move

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To live is to move. Even in fear, pain, or stagnancy… it is especially in those moments in our lives that we are faced with a constant choice. Will we rise to and above the challenge, or will we stay down, to die perhaps a spiritual and inner death?

I had a meeting with one of my mentors a few days ago, wherein I was challenged, yet also deeply inspired. And I went home and found myself listening to Switchfoot, which led to more fuel being thrown onto the heady flame. “Dare You to Move” has now become the theme to this current phase in my life. Why, you may ask?

For months, I have been feeling stuck and stagnant. I have been locked and trapped in my past, the pain I continue to hold, and the disappointments of today. Nothing seems to be going right and deep down, I feel broken, alone and unbelievably restless. My frustration increases knowing what I am doing to myself and what has gotten me stuck in a hole. Professors and even my own therapist have praised me on my level of insight, yet before, I found it so much a curse than a gift. The old cliche of “ignorance is bliss” rings true, because in ignorance, I do not have to feel. I can continue on numbing and pretending everything is okay. When you are battling depression, or anxiety, or whatever demons you may have, the easy path becomes so very tempting.

Although I did not intend the conversation to take this turn, I ended up sharing with my mentor some of my current struggles. He then proceeded to push me (metaphorically speaking), and challenge me. I told him I need to reflect more on my issues, and he disagreed, “No, you don’t need to reflect anymore. You already know what you have to do. Now you just need to do it.” In short, I need to move.

This is what my mentor helped me to realize: Despite your fears, despite the hurt you will inevitably feel, you have to connect. You have to love. You have to risk vulnerability. Our four walls and comfort zone seem so very safe, but in reality, they are hurting us. They are starving us from what we need, causing our hearts to begin dying a slow and painful death. “I mean, look at you,” my mentor challenged. “You’re proof of that. You’re not happy right now.” And I didn’t argue with him, because I knew he was right. Because this is the thing about me: I hide. I hold back. I put up walls so people can’t get too close. All of this I do, because I don’t want to get hurt, rejected, or judged. I have been so many times in the past. I’ve been knocked down, kicked around, teased, and worse, ignored. That in my deepest moments of pain, I went unacknowledged. Even though I fear loneliness, I would rather choose the certainty of being alone, than the pain of being both rejected and alone. So it is easier for me to not trust people, and deal with things on my own.

But living that way, means we live in a state of constant fear. We do not rest when we are hyper-vigilant with every being we come across, and it is exhausting to persistently maintain those walls around our hearts. Maybe in your past you’ve been pushed down, or hurt in the most grotesque way… so you’ve stayed lying on the ground. Maybe it feels safe there. But in that state, the tension is there, “between who you are and what you could be. Between how it is and how it should be.” Although it may not seem so, in that we always have a choice. Are you going to move, or are you going to stay down? Are you going to reach toward the potential of who you were meant to be, or will you let it die away?

I realized that for the past five months, I’ve been choosing to let my potential die. To let myself stay down and others keep me down. But now, I am making a different choice. It’s not easy to get up, to move when you are still in pain from the fall. That is why God dares us to move. Because it takes the courage each of us have buried inside us to do. In the challenge, we grow.

The thing is, if we choose to live, it is guaranteed we will feel pain. All of this time I have been focused on the “pain” part, rather than on the “living” part. In the end, our true nature is to connect, to love. That is what it means to live. That is why He pushes us, dares us to move, to lift ourselves up from the floor, like today never happened. There, we move toward fulfilling our nature.