With some sorrow, I have decided to take Noah Knows off the proverbial shelf until the font size and several errors can be fixed. I hope to have it back and better than ever soon. Thanks for your patience.
“So…Judah was brought to me, warm and toasty from his bed, with a huge poopy diaper. He was SO adorable, I just had to squeeze him and kiss him all over his face before going ahead and changing it. And it made me think…this is how God is with us. We just have to bring our shit to Him, and He will take care of it. He doesn’t care how stinky we are, he just loves us because we are adorable to Him. He doesn’t want you to sit in your shit and get all rashy. He wants to help. Let Him.” ~me, in 2011
When I wrote out this metaphor five years ago, I had no idea that I would need to take my own advice so much in the years to come. I would need to cling to this idea, this thought that god loved me in spite of my stinky status, to trust in the master diaper-changer, and let the shit go. Before those years, I struggled off and on with letting go and letting god but nothing like the challenges that would threaten my very survival on this planet that beset me shortly after writing this glib post on Facebook.
Long story short, I did not take my own advice.
I rejected his ministrations, though they were meant for my good. Instead, I sat in my shit. I got rashy. And the longer I sat, the rashier and more painful my soul became. And then the pain led to rejection and the rejection led to anger and the anger to bitterness.
I felt abandoned by god and by the faith I had so clung to for my entire life.
I wandered, for years, wallowing in stink, thinking it was my lot in life to be an example, a warning, a lesson in what happens when you trust too much. I never saw that I was doing the rejecting, that I was the one clinging to the shit of mistrust and suspicion. I believed there was nothing left for me, that all the good that had happened in my life was done and over. That only the dregs of acrid regret was left for me.
Like a child with poopy pants, I became accustomed to the smell. I hardly even noticed it anymore. But other people could smell it, in my bitter words and angry actions. Like a child with poopy pants, I got used to the feel of shit on me, thought it was my lot in life from hereon out. But the rash got worse and worse–it started to bleed and ooze and get infected and I longed for health again.
I don’t know how he did it, but he broke through. He was relentless in pursuing, like the proverbial hound of heaven, chasing after me, waiting for me to just turn and find him there, arms open wide, party at the ready. He knew I had been wallowing in the muck, but he washed me yet again and made me clean.
The doubts are still there, gnawing at the edges of my mind. They have always been, and they will always be, but I can choose to focus on faith, to trust that those doubts and fears have a place in making me more tolerant, more loving, and more accepting of others. I know I am not perfect, but I am staggering forward, one day at a time, sometimes on my knees in supplication and gratitude.
There is a balm for your rash, and a cleanser for your shit. There is only the wish to make it better. Like a child, we must come and offer ourselves up, trusting in the hands that cradle and soothe.
He is a good, good father. He doesn’t resent your stench, any more than we resent the babies we have for theirs. He only wants to remove it, to apply balm to your sore spots, and to heal you. And the whole time, he is lavishing you with the kisses of sunshine and birdsong and laughter and peace, if only you will allow him.
When I was a teen, I had the incomparable benefit of being able to visit the Louvre. The artwork I saw there stunned me and left an indelible imprint upon my heart and mind. I’ll never forget the hushed and solemn atmosphere of that beautiful place, as good as any church for engendering feelings of reverence and awe in me.
Some of the paintings were small, like the Mona Lisa, and others covered entire walls of the enormous palace. Battle scenes in life sized proportion stretched out before me, Biblical scenes came alive in vivid color, historical vignettes brought my studies to life, and countless portraits caused me to stand in studied wonder.
As a teen, and as an adult, I have been a devotee of the Impressionist Movement and the works of art it spawned are among my very favorites. The feeling of movement, the bright colors, the fresh subject matter–it all combined to create what I think are some of the most beautiful works of art in history.
So it’s no surprise that I think of God as an Impressionist. The divine artist at work in my life is no doubt holding his palette, dabbing at my life with the quick, practiced strokes of Renoir standing in an open field, marking down each vibrant red poppy.
One truth about Impressionist art is that it is best taken in at a distance. Because of the nature of the flowing colors and sense of motion, the images only coalesce and make sense when looked at from a few feet away. The true beauty and vibrancy can only be appreciated from the proper perspective.
This is true of my own life as well.
Like a small child at a museum, however, I stand with my face practically pressed against the paint, unable to make heads or tails out of what I am looking at.
Step back, God calls. Step back. See my hand. See, I am still at work, I have not rested nor forgotten this painting. You are my masterpiece, and I will complete what I have begun. Come, draw close to me. See from my perspective.
And, wonder of wonders, the closer I am to him, the more I see the big picture. The better my focus becomes, and I can relax and trust the master artist. His plan for this paltry piece of canvas, stretched across the years I am given, is better than any I could conceive.
When I was a little girl, I would throw up every time I got a shot. I would worry so much and so far in advance of the actual needle that when the time came to receive it, my muscles would be so tense that the doctor would have to jab harder just to get the damned thing into my flesh. Hence, it was twice as painful and traumatic as it needed to be.
As a woman, I’ve learned that physical lesson over and over again in childbirth. Labor pains are, well, painful. But they do a good work, and if you resist and tense up, they hurt worse and worse. Delivery 101. Not only that, but labor itself winds up taking longer. Longer, and more painful. Who wants that? I was taught–and I learned–to relax, to appreciate the waves of agony for what they were doing: bringing a blessing into my life.
So here I am. Older, but no wiser. Learning all over again how to relax, how to submit, how to stop striving against the pain of this life and instead let it flow over me, let it wash me clean, allow it to bring a blessing into my life. The more I thrash and scream, the longer it takes, and the more painful it is. Why do I do it?
Lack of trust.
I have a deep seated fear that I will simply give birth to the wind and nothing more, that the agony is worthless and void.
This is a lie.
If I will but persevere, if I will trust the one who is orchestrating the music and madness, then I will find that there is great purpose in the pain, that it is bringing with it a great blessing.
Can I trust that much? Can I trust that when things become even more intense and I think I cannot go on one more moment, the event is even at that moment on the horizon? That birth is imminent?
I remember how comforting it was during labor and delivery to hold my beloved’s hand, how he let me crush it as each contraction overtook me, how he didn’t leave my side but whispered words of encouragement even as I struggled. What a beautiful metaphor for the one who stands beside us through the mess and muck and into the glory.
Because it is that: messy. Oh, how very, very messy. And so frightening at times. But if we listen, we can hear the whispers of the encourager as he tells us to persevere.
For so many years now I couldn’t hear the whispers over my own cries. I felt abandoned and distraught. But I believe they were always there. And I’m determined to listen once more.
I was just a week out of the mental hospital for suicidal ideation when you said it.
“No mother who truly loves her children would ever think of killing herself.”
I’m sure you meant well…maybe you were thinking you were the first one to ever voice such a thought, that perhaps such a radical idea might shake me out of my destructive pathways.
You were wrong.
Instead, your words destroyed my newly-burgeoning sense of well-being. My optimism, already fragile, quavered and began to crumble.
You see, I respect you. I love you. I have nothing but good will towards you. I only wish I could convey to you the depth of how wrong you are.
I love my children with all the power of my fractured heart. I would gladly throw myself in front of a bullet or fight a bear with my bare hands for any one of them. They usually keep my feet firmly grounded to the earth, my reason for being and my all in all.
But sometimes, you see, the thoughts in my head begin to spiral. They’d all be better off without you they whisper. You are only screwing up their lives. Soon, they no longer whisper. They scream and shout, day and night. I begin to believe them. They’ll be stronger without you! They’ll move on and be happier!
The most recent time this began to happen, and I began to contemplate the best way to make it happen, I recognized it as a very dangerous sign. I knew the voices were false, I just didn’t know how to make them stop. So I committed myself to the hospital in the hopes that I could be safe and feel better.
Fortunately, it worked. I do feel better. I am moving forward.
Until your comment.
It took a supreme amount of willpower to prevent myself from going to a very dark place after your words, but I managed to do it. For this I thank a stellar support group and proper medication.
Mental illness is not a choice. No one makes the decision to have Major Depressive Disorder, to be Psychotic or Schizophrenic. These are diseases, the same as diabetes or congestive heart failure.
I recognize that I have the disease called Bipolar Disorder. This makes me susceptible to drastic mood swings and irrational thinking.
Maybe you’re one of those who has the luxury of believing such a diagnosis is bunk, that psychology is a farcical science. If you are, then we haven’t much more to say to each other.
For both of our sakes and the sakes of our precious families, let’s strive to understand one another instead. I only want to educate and inform.
I hope you can find it in your heart to listen.
hold me together
keep me aright
help me to trust thee
teach me to live
walk me in wholeness
and wholly forgive
all of my frailty
my anger and fear
as I also pardon
the ones far and near
who cause me to stumble
and shake me within
open my lips now
to once more begin
to sing of your praises
spark yet within me
a holy rebirth.
So I was in the mental hospital. Again. For suicidal ideation. Again. I wanted to be done with this life, wanted it so badly I could taste it. A strong beam and a belt is all I needed.
I’m feeling much better now. Something about focused time alone, group therapy, meeting other people with the same struggles and feeling less alone, medication adjustments, and one-on-ones with counselors and doctors, makes all the difference.
I met many fantastic people. People with so many various sorrows. So many diverse difficulties. People heartbreakingly young and heartbreakingly old. I was truly humbled to be in their presence. They taught me a lot about being human, about being real, about being me.
There are no walls in the mental asylum. “What are you in for?” is a normal, even expected, question, and one that is almost always answered with brutal honesty. Compassion overflows. It’s a (hopefully) safe space.
Some people talk to themselves, and to invisible entities. Some are volatile and noisy. Some are withdrawn and quiet. Some become friends. All have something to teach. All are worthy of grace.
How do I carry what I have learned into my daily life?
It is a legitimate question, and perhaps one with numerous answers. For me, it is to focus on each day and its daily issues, and not to dwell on the past and what I cannot change. It means to examine each thought and emotion and ask “Is this true? Is this beneficial?” and if it is not, to toss it away. It means not living in the future either, where nothing is certain and fears have fertile soil in which to grow.
Some of the best people in the world have struggled with mental illness. Mine is bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder. Yours may be called something else. The most important thing to remember is: you are not alone.
As a Christian, I look to the Bible for some semblance of comfort in my illness. I didn’t think the word had much to say about it until I looked closely at the story of Nebuchadnezzar. Did you know that this pagan king actually wrote an entire chapter in a book of the Old Testament? He ruled Babylon, and went mad towards the end of his life. As the Bible puts it, he ate grass like a cow and grew his fingernails out like claws. In the end, however, he was restored to health by miraculous means, and he praised the Lord as a result (Daniel chapter 4).
Can I do the same? Can I see the Lord’s hand in my healing, even if it comes via pharmaceuticals and therapy and modern medicine?
Yes. I can.
I can bless the Lord’s name in the thick of it, in spite of everything, and with the comforting knowledge that I am in the company of kings. Even when I don’t understand what’s going on, even when my sanity is tenuous, I can speak God’s name, for it is the very sound of my breathing.
That’s me. I freely admit it.
Is my God big enough for me to throw myself in his lap and pound on his chest in frustration and fury?
Is my God big enough to cover me while I thrash and wallow and gnash my teeth? In the ashes? In my brokenness and anguish?
Can I admit that I am broken? And be okay with that?
Can I open my lips and thank him for all this life offers?
I can. And I will. My very life depends upon it.
What’s the worst thing you can say to someone who suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?
Nothing at all.
Let me clarify: Say you’ve been having an argument. You think it would be best to just go to sleep and leave things to cool off until morning. So you roll over in bed, turn your back to me, and say nothing.
Or you’re texting, and things have become heated. You leave the last text from me just hanging there because you’re tired of the discussion and you don’t think there’s anything left to say.
Nothing is the worst thing you can “say” to me, as someone who suffers from BPD.
You see, when you have BPD, you don’t just “let things go” in a disagreement. You don’t just “get over it” when things go wrong. Seemingly insignificant things can start a spiral of self-loathing and despair that is impossible to overcome without excruciating amounts of effort. While you may think that just saying nothing is better than saying something “wrong”, it is actually the worst thing you can do.
Without closure, the mind of a person with BPD goes into overdrive. First, there’s the anger. We have all kinds of things we NEED to say, to get them out of our heads so they stop circling endlessly in there. But you’ve made it clear that you’re done, so we can’t. We’re stuck obsessing over them for the next 24 hours or more.
Then there’s the self-recrimination. You hate us. Obviously, you simply can’t stand us anymore. We’re worthless. Not worth the time of day. Let’s face it, we’re sh*t.
After that comes the bitterness and fatigue. We become so exhausted from the inner monologue that we shut down and spiral into depression. Nobody cares. What’s the use in trying anyway?
I understand that sometimes you walk away because you just can’t handle the drama anymore. Sometimes you have to walk away so that you don’t lose what little temper you have left. But maybe reading this will help you understand the effect it has on me. Walking away, turning away, not returning a text, giving me no closure, is saying, to my mind, I don’t care about you. I don’t care what you have to say. You’re not worth my time anymore. This relationship/friendship is over.
So the next time you’re finding yourself tempted to just let the sun go down on your anger, reconsider. Let us have closure. Please. It means the world to us.