Thursday, August 21, 2014

Transparent Thursday--I contemplated suicide last year

It's that time again. I'm about to miss it to be honest, but hopefully I'll get it in before the clock strikes midnight. I debated and warred with myself all day about whether I really wanted to write today. I knew what day it was, and I knew what I felt Him pressing on me to talk about--and I just didn't want to obey. 

I met a girlfriend for dinner and then we went to a suicide awareness program, and I heard it clearly--write. 

Write, Ashley, write. 

Be honest, be transparent, be real. 

So, here I am, at almost 11 p.m. on Thursday, or what I like to refer to as Transparent Thursday, finally submitting to His will and writing what is on my heart. 


It's a terribly hard subject to discuss. 

It's hard on people experiencing the desire, and on those that are wondering whether someone may take that action. It's just simply hard. 

It's even more difficult to talk about than it is to understand. If we're all honest, life can be extremely dificult and at one time or another most people have had at least one thought of not wanting to not go on anymore. The desire is small, and just a passing thought in most, but it is a real thought it many at least once. Understanding can be easier sometimes; but talking about suicide, that seems to be extremely difficult for people. 

People don't use the word, people shy away from asking questions or getting invovled because the very idea that someone might kill themself seems preposterous. But, people are feeling this way. Many, many people are currently feeling this way and have struggled with feeling this way. 

I have. I have struggled greatly through various seasons of my life with the desire to not go on any longer. I have wanted to die, simply not wanted to live one more day. I have thought about it, desired it, and talked about it. I have handled myself poorly, been ashamed of what I had done, hidden the truth and various other things in order to deny that I was "the crazy one" who had struggled with suicidal thoughts. 

Last year, roughly this same time, I last struggled with the very real desire to end my life. 

We were living with my mom and sister, and as I share in the book, less than Three, our time there came with many difficulties. My sister was struggling with her own affliction, Bipolar Disorder, and I was suffering from severe depression coupled with social anxiety disorder. I felt disgusting, I felt like everyone in my life thought I was worthless, I thought my family hated me and felt they told me so, and despite the loving husband and 5 beautiful children, I heard and saw only the criticsm, only the negative talk about me, and I wanted to end the pain. I thought, "they would all be better if I was gone". 

That is not true. No one is better when they are the ones that are left by a suicide. No one is better when someone's life is taken far too soon because they found no worth in their life. 

We ALL have worth in our life, and we are all dealing with immense pain at times. Pain runs deep, and affects each and every single one of us differently. Just because one person is strong, and doesn't easily think they want to end their life, doesn't mean that the person that is struggling with the thoughts is somehow "less than" or not "worth" investing in a realtionship with. 

We need to invest in each other's life. We need to engage, and walk through this life with one another. 

I wish I had known this truth last year. I wish when I was so weak, that I contemplated slitting my wrists, that I had reached out to God first, and was filled with peace that transcends all understanding. 

But, I didn't. I didn't reach out to God, and when I did reach out to those that were in my life, I was met with very real, and unfortunate responses. Responses that I understand when I look at them through human lenses, but when I look at them through Holy Spirit lenses, I realize the responses responses made the situation more difficult to handle. 

When we hear that someone wants to die, that they are possibly suicidal, far too often we call that person selfish. Far too often we ridicule and demean the person in an attempt to get them to see how ridiculous they are being. The problem with this is--it tells the person that is struggling that the person they are opening up to, thinks they are above them. 

We need to desire to walk through life together, hand in hand, always pointing to a Man on a cross along our way. We should always point to Him, and always want to walk with each other, admitting we can all fall victim to the sin of not finding worth in our life.

I am fortunate that something within me desired to live more than the desire to die, because I could very easily have succeeded in ending my life. But, God pulled me through that last season, He lifted me off the bathroom floor as I the blood trickled down my arms, and He gave me the strength to reach out to my husband. Brian was there, he embraced me, and he promised to walk with me as I got better. He never brought it up afterwards, and when I felt shame afterwards, he only pointed out how sinful he was, but in different ways. He continuously points to that Man, upon a cross, and reminds me that I am not crazy, I am simply a troubled woman, drawing closer to a perfect God. 

My hometown has been hit recently with this very real situation, and my own family has walked this road again with another family member, and my heart simply breaks for each and every single person that is struggling with this very real sin. 

I don't mean sin as in "they are just disgusting sinners", but it is an affliction that they are dealing with, and one that overwhelms their entire mind and can seem impossible to overcome. 

But, He can deliver. And we can join in His fight to walk with His children here on earth. We can join Him; I want to, do you, friends? 

I want to admit to anyone that needs to hear it that I too have struggled with that feeling, and they can feel safe and loved enough to admit the truth if they are struggling as well. 

If you are currently struggling with suicidal thoughts, I urge you to reach out to a friend, a family member, and first and foremost, Jesus. Call out to Him, and pray that He bring someone into your life. He will answer, and He will bring help! 

If you have previously had suicidal thoughts, and know that someone is struggling but you don't want to admit that you have too, I urge you to be honest. 

If you are a survivor of suicide, I urge you to use your story to tell others of what you walked through. 

And, if you have attempted suicide or previously had thoughts of suicide, I urge you to feel NO shame, and speak out! Be a light, and draw the darkness out! 

Be well, friends, you are less than only Three. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

chemical imbalances are real and need to be talked about more

It boiled, it raged like a thousand infernos as I sat in a dark tunnel of shame fearing the crushing weight that surrounded me. I contemplated suicide. I wanted to die. I needed to end the pain I felt every day. 

It's Thursday again, which means another Transparent Thursday. What is Trasparent Thursday? Well, I feel God pressing on my heart that I need to be real and raw with people. I feel very strongly that people are suffering each and every day, and far too often they are not reaching out and receiving a warm embrace by the people in this world. I am willing to step out and admit some hard truths in my life in order to shed light on some serious issues in our world. 

Beloved comedian and actor Robin Williams died this week of an apparent suicide. My heart breaks for him, his family, and for this world. My heart truly breaks. 

I know the pain far too well, which made my heart break even more. 

I could try and explain mental illness to someone that's never experienced it. I could try and give you an account of how deep the pain goes. If I tried, I would begin by saying depression is like being engulfed in a room filled with hot, smoldering flames. If you try and breathe deeply, as to allow clean air into your body, you are overwhelmed by the sooty smoke that has overhwelmed your every crevice. 

As Ann Voskamp put it yesterday in her blog, "suicide is deciding there is no way but to jump straight out of the burning building". (Remember, I can't link things, but you can go directly to her blog by putting her name into google.)

Mental illness is greatly misunderstood, and my heart breaks on an every day basis. It's misunderstood by those that suffer, and those that don't suffer. It was misunderstood by me for far too long. 

There's this idea too often that someone can just "will" themselves to feel better. There's this idea that someone can just "find joy" or "trust in God more" or "have more faith", "pray harder", "repent". Too many of these statements are spoken to those that suffer from mental illness; I've had these spoken to me far too many times. 

Until you have walked through the engulfing flames of depression, until you have wondered whether this world would actually be a better place without your presence, you cannot possibly understand the unselfish feeling of wanting to end the pain. 

How is this unselfish? When you are enveloped my mental illness, suffering seriously from something that controls your brain, and you have no idea where your worth comes from, the most selfish thing you can think of is continuing to grace this world with your presence. You are so completely convinced that you are unworthy and this world is better off without you, that you don't for a moment question that you are being selfless by taking your life. In a moment of despair, a person suffering from depression may reach out in a way that you can only understand if you have opened it's door and walked along it's dark and gloomy path. 

I have walked that path. Many times in my life I contemplated suicide. Most recently, one year ago. 

One year ago, as I had 5 children, a loving husband, and a Savior who loved me, I contemplated whether I could live one more day with the pain I was experiencing. 

Why? I'm sure you're asking yourself that question. Why would someone who seems to have such a great life, 5 children, a loving husband, be so selfish and committ suicide? 

The answer is easy--mental illness. 

I suffer, each and everyday. This is something I am only just now embracing, and only TODAY have I been brave enough to speak the truth outloud, but I suffer from a debilitating chemical imbalance. 

The problem is, there's not a lot truly known about what happens in the brain; only a lot of assumptions. Assumptions come from those that suffer from the imbalance, and those that don't, and no one can seem to admit that the person who suffers is not some weak, pitiful person that needs "spiritual healing", but a loved and holy vessel created by God for a purpose. 

I lock my lips tight when it comes to my own mental struggles. I readily admit the things that were "done" to me, and the things I did to myself, but the weakness that lives within my brain, the true imbalance that makes day to day life hard, I don't admit that to anyone. I will happily talk about my sister and my dad's Bipolar Disorder, but talk about my own chemical imbalance, something that barely has a name, that is something I simply was not ready for. 

Last night was the first night my husband and I had an open conversation about it in almost eight years of marriage. 

He admitted that he has struggled with the same idea the world has; that one day I will just be better. He has waited, and prayed, and waited more, for God to relieve me of this "sin" he saw residing within me. He admitted to hating the instability that would come out of me. He admitted that for the majority of our relationship, he has been hoping that this piece of me that caused so much "ugly" would just dissapear. He admitted he didn't love me through those moments. 

Yes, he loved me, greatly. I have a truly amazing husband. But, love me through those tough moments of instability, that is something he has never been able to do. 

Until last night. Last night, my sweet and adoring husband loved me just as a I am, imperfections and all. He took the worst part of me, and instead of screaming at me about how "crazy" I am, or "selfish" I am being, he wrapped his arms around me and pulled me in tightly. 

He spoke some very tender words, but the most amazing thing he did was simply embrace me. 

I have never been embraced in this physical world despite my sufferings. I have not had many intereactions with real human beings that wrap their arms around me and despite my imperfections tell me that I am a holy and loved woman, set in this world for a purpose. 

Jesus has spoken these truths to me many times in the past few months, but not a real human. My husband stepped into the hands and feet of Jesus in this earthly plain. He embraced the role God chose him as, my leader and helper, and he gave me exactly what I needed--acceptance. 

That's what we need more of in this world. We need to wrap our arms around one another and love each other despite the many great and deep personal trials people are walking through. 

I always believed my problem was spiritual, that if I just believed something more strongly or obeyed just a little more, God would one day miraculously heal me. I prayed prayer after prayer that He just relieve me of this thorn. 

I shared openly in my book, less than Three, about how much I suffer from panic attacks, but I still didn't see how deep my own mental illness runs. I believed even just a few months ago while writing that many of my problems were from this world, circumstances placed on me. 

I know now, my brain is the problem. I have a brain, that for 30 years has endured so much violence, so much pain, it has taken on disturbing and unhealthy ways of coping. My brain is imbalanced because of sin, not because of one particular thing that happened to me. 

I accept that. I wrote it over and over again in my book, but yet I still couldn't speak the words. 

I suffer greatly from a chemical imbalance that affects the way I process this world and how I in turn react to this world. 

Can I be healed? Oh, yes, He is a good God and a strong God. 

Will I be healed, I hope not. 

Yes, you read that correctly. 

I hope not. 

I hope, that until the day He takes me home, I suffer from this pain in my side, this debilitating weakness because it has shown me how much greater He is than I am, and how much I want to love a world that is suffering greatly. 

Grace is poured out over my body and my mind each and every day, and I hope to extend that same grace to the people around me; even if they don't extend the same grace to me. 

It's truly difficult for people who don't suffer from something they have no control over to understand the instability. But, that doesn't make it okay to judge or make assumptions. It doesn't make it okay to tell someone they need to be stronger, or that they are being punished and under some spiritual attack. That is not helpful or of Him. 

I urge you dear, friends, to begin being honest about mental illness if you suffer. Be honest with yourself, with your friends and family, and with a doctor if you need to. But, first, be honest with Him. Admit that you suffer, and that it is okay. Admit that within this world, you are less, but only less than Three, never anything else. Admit that you cannot walk without His strength, and then walk in His strength. Admit that just because you are completely walking in His strength, doesn't mean you will not, possibly every day, suffer from something you cannot control. 

If you do not suffer, and have no idea about what goes on within the mind of someone that suffers, please do not assume that you do. Just because you can process things the way you are "supposed to" or because you have a clear mind focused on what you perceive to be "truth", doesn't actually make you right and the person that suffers wrong. A person that suffers is not "less than" anyone in this world. A person that doesn't suffer from a mental impairment has their own battles and trials they will have to walk through and endure, and I wish this world would see that sometimes their trial is truly learning to love someone they see as "weak" or "less than" because they will draw the unsuffering person closer to Jesus as well.

That's what we all need to do. I do it through my sufferings now. Today, as I sit here tapping away at my wireless keyboard attached to an iPad that is probably on it's last weeks, I know how deeply and severely I suffer every day, and I have the privilege of leaning into Someone greater than me all day as I walk with this thorn--I rejoice with this thorn. 

I suffer greatly every day, and I can say that to a world that needs to hear it. I am not ashamed of my weakness, I am however ashamed that I have not loved myself and others despite the mental impairment that may reside within. But, I release that shame, and step into grace--grace for myself and grace for others. 

Will you do the same, friend? 

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
2 Corinthians 12:9

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Transparent Thursday--sexual intimacy

As I've been walking this new path with Christ, I've asked Him on numerous occassions what in the world He possibly thinks He is doing--how absolutely ridiculous that I would question my Creator after all that He has already revealed to me. I know it is ridiculous, yet I still ask Him. 

It's weird to me. 

I'm sure it is to you as well, friend. I'm sure at some point you have looked up to Him as I have and said, "what could you possibly be thinking?" 

I think the question initially is okay, not a sin really. But, letting that question move to angst or worry, allowing it to trickle lies in our hearts, that is a sin for sure, I believe. And it is one that I fall victim to far too often. 

As I'm walking closer and closer with Him, I keep asking Him and then myself what He is doing. The things that He is revealing to me, the path He seems to have me on, it's so foreign to me. It's completely honest and open, unhindered and unashamed of the gospel. 

Releasing the book, less than Three (I cannot put links or anything in my posts because I only post from my tablet as of right now and I cannot figure out how to do all of that...yet) was scary. I admitted things, revealed things, said things that I knew were going to hurt me and others. I knew that someone could use my words and twist them into something they weren't meant to be. I knew that someone may be hurt by the story that I believed God wanted me to share, because it involved them. 

I felt for the first time in my life, that obedience to Christ was my only option, and I still had to reveal all that He meant for me to. I felt stronger than I have ever felt in my life that God wanted to do something and that He would stretch me and teach me along the way; I simply needed to obey. 

So I did. 

And we are a month out of releasing the book, and into the stages of walking in the truth that He revealed--a process that has been grueling in and of itself. 

Walking in the truth that He showed me has been just as difficult as hearing the truth.

This morning was evident of that in my life. This morning my gingerman and I got into a tuffle, and it was by no means anything he did and everything I did. 

I contemplated writing all day, and knew without a doubt that when I finally obeyed and sat down to write, He would take me to scary territory. 

He has proven faithful, yet again. 

I am writing about a topic that is so very scary, but one that I know He wants me to discuss. 

Relational intimacy. 

Intimacy with your spouse (I say spouse loosely, for I am not naive enough to believe that every person is married and has a spouse) is extremely important and vital to any thriving relationship. 

And let's be honest, who wants to be in a relationship that isn't thriving? 

I can't imagine anyone who would happily settle for mundane and dull. 

We all want to thrive, however we all get into places where thriving is truly the least of our desires. 

I used to have no desire for my husband. Sure, we have four kids, but not because we were intimate every day by any means. We have gone through terrible spells where I couldn't bring myself to be intimate with him for weeks. 

I was terribly sad a few years ago when I opened up to a Christian friend about my intimacy problems. I needed encouragement very badly. I needed someone to help me figure out where my sexual confusion was coming from. 

I didn't think I received anything from her. God is showing me today though, that I may not have agreed with what she had to say to me, but I believe very much that God desires for us to be intimate with one another when we are fulfililng His laws, and within those confines He desperately wants us to experience intimacy. 

Intimacy can be difficult for me sometimes. I crave it, but I have never been truly able to allow myself to be vulnerable and intimate with someone--believing instead that I was created primarily to give sexual pleasures to men and in turn hating them for it. 

God is releasing me from this burden, this weight, and He is carrying it as far as the east is from the west. 

He is revealing to me that a relationship cannot thrive without true sexual intimacy; where two people are being truly vulnerable with one another. 

This morning, as I snapped at my dear gingerman, I realized it had been a few days since we had been intimate, not weeks but mere days, and we needed that connection to come back together. The desire I wanted from him, to feel needed, that desire that I believed he couldn't give me, God wants me to experience that, and sometimes it comes in the form of intmacy with my husband. 

There is no greater connection between two human beings than sexual intimacy. It can either bring two people as close as God ever meant for two people to be, or it can cause such terrible confusion that destruction ensues. 

I am tired of the destrcution that has ensued in my life because of the confusion. I want to thrive in a healthy relationship with my husband, being intimate and connected on the level that God meant us to be. I don't want to listen to the world, or even my own confusion, I want to listen to God. 

God doesn't tell us to hate intimacy. God doesn't warn us to not be intimate. He simply urges us to do it within certain confines. 

Why? I believe because within His true and good confines, we can experience a level of intimacy with God that cannot be experience any other way. 

Song of Solomon 7:6-10  reveals that there is something good and desirable within intimacy, the question is do we desire intimacy?

Intimacy means going to God first, and saying I need you to fill me. Intimacy is going to God and asking Him to fill us when we cannot be filled within this world, so that we can in turn be filled by our spouses. 

It's a beautiful and breathtaking process. 

Why did I write about this weird topic today? For encouragement. 

I want to encourage you friend, if you are experiencing a time of sexual confusion, not being intimte with the one you love, I urge you to draw close to God. Allow God to reveal truth about your situation so that you can experience all that He desires for you with your spouse. 

Experience intimacy and watch as it enhances every relationship in your life. Experience intimacy with the one you love, and watch it fill the deepest voids in your life--experience intimacy outside of what God meant, and watch as destruction may creep in. 

And remember, you are less than only Three.