exmormon, mormonism

God is My Oxygen…

I work with people who struggle with mental illness and addiction.  In one of my groups this week, one of my clients who has struggled with addiction for most of her life was talking about the difficulty of trying to stay sober everyday.  She has almost 30 days clean and she talked about how sometimes she will go into the place where they hold AA and NA meetings and she won’t leave all day long because if she walks out the door she will use. She has come a long way in the short time she’s been in our program and she said something that really stuck with me this week. She said, “My worst days sober are still so much better than my best days using”.  I think that I could relate to that because, although I have never been addicted to drugs, I have lived in a world where I had an addiction and I was filled with despair and hopelessness. My addiction was cutting, and the despair and hopelessness was fueled by the knowledge that I would never be good enough.

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I cut for the first time when I was in 6th grade.  I remember the day very clearly.  It was a Saturday, I had a friend who had spent the night on Friday night and sometime late Saturday morning she went home.  I had gotten in a fight with my mom, I don’t remember what we fought about but this wasn’t an uncommon thing.  I was stubborn (still am) and liked to do things my own way (still do).  After the fight with my mom, I called and talked on the phone with my friend about wanting to kill myself, she didn’t believe me.  I don’t think I believed me either.  I had to clean the kitchen that day, I was cleaning the kitchen and washing dishes, I took an kitchen knife and slid it across my wrist.  It hurt.  It was just a scratch.  I did it again, another scratch.  The cuts were very superficial, barely breaking the skin, but it was my secret, something I had control over.  When I went to school on Monday I showed my friends.  They were worried and scared. They showed me a lot of attention and told me how important I was to them.  I liked the attention. It fueled my desire to do it more.

It didn’t take long for this to be how I coped with everything.  My mom used a straight razor to cut my dad’s hair.  I conveniently would take 1 or 2 out of the box and keep them with me or hide them in my dresser drawers.  I had one with me at all times.  When something would go wrong in my life, no matter how small, it became an excuse to cut. Bad grade on a test, cut; fight with friends, cut; woke up in a bad mood, cut.  It wasn’t long before it became old with my friends and they weren’t giving me that attention I wanted, so I kept cutting and didn’t say anything.  It still felt like it gave me a sense of power and control in my life I didn’t have anywhere else.

At times when I felt like things were really bad, fights with my mom, fights with my friends, I couldn’t wait to get home and get out my razor blade and cut. I craved putting the razor to my skin.  I craved the sens of release that would come when the blood would start flowing.  I would have times I would black out and not remember cutting. I rarely cut in nice uniform rows, most often they were chaotic.  I would just run the razor blade over my skin over and over every which way, no order, not caring, it was a release of emotion.  And then, I would have an emotional crash, and I would sleep.

This was my life day in and day out.  The smallest things would push my buttons and I would have a reason to cut and I would find a reason or make a reason.  I would manipulate situations and people so I would have a reason to cut. I didn’t know any other way to cope and I didn’t understand the emotions I was feeling.  As I got older and into high school I became more and more hopeless.  The secret I was hiding about my cutting, ugly scars that were materializing all over my body, and the shame and guilt that was building within was fueled by daily seminary lessons on living a life of morality.  Weekly Sunday school lessons and young women’s teachings about integrity, faith, accountability, living by church standards, and dying inside because I really didn’t know how to do these things.  I wasn’t made to be this way.  I knew with every fiber of my being I would NEVER measure up to the standards that were set for me.

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I tired and tried every day to be the person I was “supposed” to be.  I tried so hard, I read the Book of Mormon, and tried to understand and feel something.  I didn’t, I thought “There must be something wrong with me.”  Every time I tried harder it would drive me deeper and deeper into depression.

I was so lost and alone.  I was so broken, I had no sense of who I was or where I belonged.  The harder I tried to draw near to this god that my religion taught me about the more broken and hurt I felt.  Who was I? Why would God want me?  I had no desire to be the person that the Mormon church taught me I should be. I remember being in high school and laying in my bed and truly feeling hopeless.  I remember thinking “I will never be enough.  I can never do enough, so why even try?”  I know that it is only by the grace of God that I made it to where I am today.  If God had not put Brian in my life in high school I’m not sure I would have made it.

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Just after Brian and I started attending a Christian church, God began to do a lot of healing in our lives.  We became pregnant with child 3.  This was one of the points that was leading us to divorce.  Brian didn’t want any more kids.  I did.  It was a topic that wasn’t even up for discussion, and although I became pregnant earlier than we had planed, we were excited.  When I was 7 months pregnant I tore my meniscus. In high school I had torn my ACL and never had it repaired.  So at 8 months pregnant, I had knee surgery.  Before Christ this would have caused me to have a mental break down and sent me into a tail spin. I would have felt worthless and hopeless and that I couldn’t do anything right.  Kassidy was 3 1/2 weeks early but completely healthy.  My knee surgery went well. I didn’t cut.  When Kassidy was about a year old we found out we were pregnant again. I did go into a bit of a tail spin with that.  We didn’t plan to have any more children.  Being pregnant with Kassidy was hard on my body and I had toxemia.  But Brian was my rock and reminded me that God was in control and we just needed to trust Him.  I became very sick, my blood pressure was so high they had to deliver Aspen 2 months early.  I didn’t blame myself or have a break down.  I handled this time in my life well.  Especially for being someone who struggled with depression and coped with life by cutting.

Within the next 4 years there were many more struggles and major life changes that in the past would send me into a compete mental break down.  It is only by the true grace of God that I am alive today.  Things sill go wrong.  I still have struggles.  Sometimes it is the smallest things that I struggle with but I always remember that God is in control, I am already forgiven, and I am enough.  If I keep my focus on Christ then no matter what is thrown my way I can manage.  John 10:10 NLT says “The thief’s purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”  It is Satan that fuels my fire when I am having struggles.   When I trust in God and remember He is in control it doesn’t make the hard times go away but it makes them a lot easier to manage.

Every time I think back to where I came from and where I am today, I am truly in awe.  God’s hand print is on my life.  There is no way I would be here if it weren’t for God wanting me here. I still get overwhelmed with life sometimes.  This week the littlest of things have been my struggle.  I dropped my phone in the toilet.  I have lost my wallet. I have some things at work I’m struggling with and some things in my personal life I’m working through.  And this week God took my Love, My rock the thing that is tangible away from me and I had to stop and really pause and rely on God.  Brian had training out of town this week and although I talked to him on the phone, it was hard.  Remember, I threw my phone in the toilet, my communication with Brian was limited because I didn’t have MY phone.  We couldn’t text or talk like we normally do.  What amazes me is the same thing 15 years ago would have caused me to have a complete break down.  I would have cut, binged and purged, and made him feel guilty about being out of town for his job and having a good time. I am so grateful that God has brought me to place where HE is my rock, my sanctuary, my refuge.  God is my safe place.

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I’m just a small town girl… Living in the world.  My hardest days with Christ are far better than my best days with out Him!

LDS, mormonism

Leap of faith…

This week I need to give a shout out to my amazing kids.  I’m not sure how they turned out so well.  Thank you Zak, Chey, Kassi, and Aspen for letting me include you in my blogs.  And to my amazing sister in Christ, Lisa, you give me the courage to keep going and sharing my story.  Thank you for always being there for me, for encouraging and giving me feedback, you’ve helped me uncover some of myself.

I really struggled this week with coming up with something to blog about. In grow group this week we talked about grace and knowing where your heart is so you can do what God is asking you to do.  I feel like I have kind of covered those topics in my previous blogs. When I sat down to blog nothing was coming together, the topics that came up this week didn’t flow.

I told my husband maybe I should just skip this week. I had to work on Saturday and also spent some of Saturday creating the power-point for church so I didn’t have time to blog yesterday.  He encouraged me that I am doing what God wants me to do by blogging and I need to write something.

So what is on my heart today is my testimony.  The events that happened that led me to Christ.  This is a story I have shared with some.  The details I have shared with few.  I am open to what God wants me to say and do with my story so I am just going to let the words flow and see where they go.

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Brian and I were “sealed” or went through the LDS Temple wedding ceremony 9 months after we were married civilly.  This was a special circumstance the Mormon church allowed because my oldest sister was getting married and would allow us to attend her wedding.  Shortly after we went through the temple we quit going to church.  The Temple wasn’t quite what we expected.  We still attended church on occasion, holidays and special occasions.  I think we basically still believed it all but, it just wasn’t important.

When I gave my life to Christ Brian and I had been married for 6 years.  We had 2 amazing kids, our son Zakary was 4 and daughter Cheyenne was 2.  We were able to put on a good face.  Many people thought we were doing well.  Brian had been working at his job, that quickly became his career, for 4 years.  I was working part-time as a paraprofessional at a local school.  We had moved 10 minutes from our home town and were just living our lives.  Brian was doing his thing and I was doing mine.

Over the years, my depression had worsened.  I was depressed daily.  It was hard to get out of bed.  It was summer so I wasn’t working at the time. Before I went to bed I would turn the TV to the Disney channel so all Zak had to do was turn it on.  He would get up and turn on the TV, and a lot of the time, he would get himself and Cheyenne cereal for breakfast before I would get out of bed.

I had a lot of guilt and shame in my life.  I wasn’t happy.  I still loved Brian a lot, but felt that our relationship was distant.  He worked shift work and there was a lot of time I didn’t see him and we didn’t spend time together.

The internet was fairly new and I spent a lot of time in a chat room.  I had a man I talked to often.  I was able to pretend I was someone different.  He gave me praise and verbal affection that made me feel better, at times, but also added to my shame and guilt.  My cutting also escalated at this time.  I cut a few times per week.  I also would binge and purge because I thought, if I was thinner, I would feel better about myself.

I hated myself, and hated everything about my life.  I didn’t want to live, but didn’t want to live my kids without a mom.  I struggled daily with suicidal thoughts. I would contemplate a plan and think about how I could make it happen.  As a person who assesses suicide risk I now understand how serious my suicidal thoughts were.  I wanted to die, I just wasn’t to the point that I was willing to go through with it yet.

A few weeks before I was at my rock bottom Brian and I had somewhat of a fight.  I don’t know if I would really call it that.  We were talking, which we didn’t do often at that point.  I so wanted to be special to him, his soulmate, and he said he thought he could’ve been happy with anyone.  At that time he obviously wasn’t happy with life either.  We were at a breaking point and considered divorce.

I was so frustrated and angry.  Everyone told me, Brian and I would get a divorce because we got married so young.  But I knew we were meant to be together.  He was my savior.  He was my knight in shining armor.  He was my everything.  If he didn’t love me, if he didn’t want me, then what did I have.

A few days later I was taking a bath and hitting my head against the bathtub hoping I would knock myself out and maybe drown.  While I was in the bathtub, I was creating a plan in my mind of how to end my life.  I was considering shooting myself, we had a gun in the home.  I was thinking of shooting Brian and the kids too. Brian didn’t deserve to live if he didn’t want me, and I didn’t want the kids to not have parents. I was trying to figure out the order of events.  When I got out, I knelt in front of the toilet and stuck my finger down my throat. The whole time thinking of how I would end our lives. This is what I did.  This is how I coped with my life that I felt was so out of control. While I was sitting in front of the toilet between purges, tears started streaming down my face, and I cried out to God and said, “I don’t want to do this any more.”

While I was kneeling in front of the toilet, the phone rang. I thought it might be Brian because it was late and he was at work.  It was an acquaintance.  Someone I had only met a few times.  Her husband worked with Brian.  I didn’t really know her but I answered the phone and talked with her.  She said that God had put me on her heart and she felt she should call me.  For the first time ever, I was honest with her about what I was doing. I told her about the struggles I was having.  I don’t open up to people.  Brian was the only one who knew of my struggles and yet I was pouring my heart out to someone I barely knew.

She was the first person who told me God loved me just the way I am.  That there was no such thing as being good enough for God.  All I had to do was ask Him into my heart.  That was such a foreign concept to me.  And yet, in that moment, it felt so right.  It was so clear and I felt comfort, calmness, for the first time in my life since I could remember, I felt thing were going to be OK. I had hope, a reason to live, a reason to survive.

In that moment I said the sinners prayer.  I don’t believe it is the words that save me, but the belief in my heart that changed, and truly accepted that God was in control and Christ died for me so all I had to do was accept that and live for Him. This friend invited me to church and we’ve never looked back.

After I gave me heart to Christ, my depression lifted, not to say I didn’t have struggles.  I only cut 1 time after that.  I didn’t binge and purge any more.  I was healed.  God came into my life in a very powerful way and healed my life and my marriage.

Brian and I agreed to stay together and work on our marriage.  We both agreed that God had to be the center of our marriage in order for it to be successful.  We found our home church, Journey, 7 years ago and are grateful for our church family.  We love them more than words can express and we have grown so much in our time there.

I would love to say since then life has been unicorns and rainbows.  It hasn’t.  In fact, since then, I think we have faced some pretty big storms.  None of them have been as big as facing divorce, depression, and suicide.  We have 2 more amazing daughters Kassidy and Aspen.  We are blessed beyond measure.

The concept of grace was hard for me to grasp.  I said the sinners prayer every Sunday for a year.  I’m still learning that some of the things I thought were truth, didn’t come from the Bible. I had to learn new ways to cope, and I had to find myself.  But I have realized over the years, the closer I grow with my Lord, the better I know myself.

I am truly grateful to my friend who followed a prompting on her heart.  I will forever be indebted to her.  I don’t know where I would be if God hadn’t stepped in in saved me and my kids that night.  It’s scary to think about.

So in Mormon tradition, I want to bear my testimony.  I know the Bible to be the only true word of God.  I know that Christ died on the cross for my sins and it is only by His grace that I am saved.  I don’t believe in religion.  I believe it is important to have a relationship with Christ.  I believe in the Trinity.  That the Father, His son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are One.  I believe that Jesus Christ came to earth, died on the cross, rose from the dead, and ascended to the right hand of the Father.  I believe He will return.  I believe all you have to do for salvation is to accept Christ into your heart.

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I am so grateful for the joy and blessings that come from just having Christ in my heart.  I’m grateful for the chains that were broken, that were keeping me from being able to find happiness and accept myself.  I am grateful that I don’t have to be perfect, and that I am perfect, in my imperfection. I am grateful for, not just overcoming my struggles, but for conquering them.

I share this only to help others.  I know I am not alone.  I know I am not the only person who grew up in Mormonism who struggled with depression or thoughts of suicide.  I write this to reach out, and let you know, there is hope,  hope in Christ, hope for something better.  God loves you just as you are.  He created you and wants you to come just as you are.  There is more to life than struggling with being good enough.  You are enough, right here, right now.   If you are struggling, please contact me.  I am more than willing to talk to you or help you in whatever way I can.

I’m just a small town girl…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwsvqVmFV6Y