Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Brief Summary Of Mood Swings

Sometimes I am peaceful and content. Happy to sit and read, or sit and watch TV, or go for a walk, or have a conversation. These are wonderful moods.

Sometimes I am bored and nothing can satisfy me. I have no interest in literature, in film, in the outdoors, or in anyone who happens to talk to me. These are frustrating moods.

Sometimes I feel beautiful and I don't mind people seeing how beautiful I am.

Sometimes I feel as though I am trying to be beautiful, but am failing, and everyone can see that not only am I not beautiful, but that I dared to try to be beautiful.

Sometimes I just feel ugly, but okay with it. I don'd mind people seeing my ugliness.

Sometimes I feel ugly, and I am ashamed.

Sometimes I am sad, but willing to smile at people and try my best. These are adequate moods, and possibly the most frequent ones.

Sometimes I am sad because of sadness, because I see so many terrible things in the world and I can't do anything about them. I am so sad that I cry and I feel like nothing will ever change, nothing will ever get better.

Sometimes I am sad because others are happy, and for some reason I can't manage to be happy even though I have no excuse to be sad. My life is more okay than a lot of other people's. I should be happy, but I can't be. So I am even more sad.

Sometimes I am confused and flustered because people look at me and talk to me and ask me questions and I don't know what to do. It gets difficult to breathe and I try to hide. These are dangerous moods, scary moods.

Sometimes I am angry, usually at myself. But because I can't fix myself, I start to get angry at everyone else too because I am just frustrated. I lash out at people even though they've done nothing wrong, and then I feel guilty and get even angrier at myself.

Sometimes I hurt so badly that I don't care anymore and I become reckless. I want to cut away my pain, drown it in alcohol or chocolate, physically beat it out of my brain. I want to throw myself away however I can in an effort to not be me anymore, because who I am disgusts and shames and disappoints me that I just want to be someone else.

Sometimes I hurt so badly for so long that I want to die, to go to sleep forever. To lay down on the floor and never get up. I'll think about the ways this could happen, the things that could bring this about. I get scared and stop thinking about it. These are dangerous moods, scary moods.

Sometimes I am indescribably happy, somehow able to see the rainbows and the little glint of light in the darkness. I want to spread this happiness, so I do. I want to live, so I do. I want to do everything, so I do.

Sometimes I don't want to talk about myself, because I don't want people to freak out. I don't want to go back to the psych ward, so I don't talk about the occasional, fleeting thoughts of suicide. I don't talk about how badly I want to hurt myself. I don't talk about my problems and insecurities because I believe no one can do anything about them, so what's the point?

Sometimes I am brave, and want to talk about myself. I want to share my story and accept help, and to lend help when I can. I want to turn my pain into beauty, to become a phoenix rising from ashes. I don't want to be a broken reed.

Sometimes I am sad.

Sometimes I am happy.

Sometimes I am.

Sometimes I am not.

--Dexter

Monday, November 24, 2014

An Inspiration To Us All

Confession:

I want to inspire people.

I have always wanted this in some form or fashion. In some ways, this is why I dance. I want to inspire people to feel. To feel something. I want people to see me dance and feel. I selfishly want to be the reason for their response, the source of their inspiration.

These days, I want my whole life to be an inspiration. An inspiration to others suffering from depression and anxiety, an inspiration to other survivors of abuse and assault, an inspiration to others fighting addiction. I want to be a person who can help, but in order to help, I have to have it all together, don't I? I have to have survived, right? I have to have beaten all of my problems to a pulp in order to help others do the same. Don't I? Don't I have to be perfect?

Because I'm not. I pretended to be for a while, and I did so very well. I didn't hurt myself. I socialized. I fought my anxiety and left my room. I ate three meals a day. I confronted triggers with a careless ease. I had it all together.

But not really. And now I have it even less together. Come February I will not celebrate a one year anniversary of no self-abuse. I walk quickly from class to class in the fear that people will look at me too long. I cry myself to sleep because my memories hurt so much and I feel utterly helpless to do anything about it. I hate myself for being so pitiful, so hypocritical, so needy, so self-righteous.

Me? An inspiration?

More like an example of what NOT to be when you grow up, kids.

I know I don't have to do this by myself. I know I can't. I know that God is the only one who can.

Sometimes it's just so damn hard to accept that. Sometimes it's damn hard to even know how to accept that. I don't doubt Him, and yet I still find myself wandering around hopelessly. I don't know what to do with myself. I feel like I'm desperately trying to stay above water even though I've got on floaties and giant puffy vest. Even though I'm in no danger of sinking, my head still ends up underwater. I'm all upside down and discombobulated and I don't even know how I got that way.

Who doesn't want to be an inspiration to others? And yet who never finds themselves floating on their tummies, staring at the murky depths of the sea?

Sure, you're floating. But you've still got water in your lungs.

I should take up emo poetry.

People tell me I'm too cheerful to be goth. Maybe it's the pink hair. It takes care of being cheerful so I don't have to.

--Dexter

PS. This all sounds really depressing. I'm sorry. You shouldn't have ventured into...

DEXTER'S DEMESNE
*cue dramatic sound effect, i.e. shattering glass, throbbing heart, shotgun blast, etc.*

PPS. I'm experimenting with giving myself a catchy intro to all of my posts (see previous PS).

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Perfect Moment

There is no such thing as a perfect moment, she has learned that much in her short life. However, there are very very good moments. Moments so good that it becomes a sort of fantasy, a dream, a desperate utopia that she can never again reach. Those moments become idolized in her mind, so that eventually they do become perfect moments, because she has ceased to remember the imperfections.

She’d gotten Star Wars mugs, one with Han Solo and Chewbacca and another with Greedo and Boba Fett. She didn’t want to use the mugs at first because they were special, and she wanted to save the first time for a special occasion. The special occasion ended up being the next day. She chose Han Solo because he’s her favorite, and she made the hot chocolate with milk instead of water because she wanted it to be perfect. She curled up with her hot chocolate and watched Spider-Man cartoons.

The hot chocolate was not perfect. It was delicious, certainly, but it had many faults. It was not as rich and creamy as her imagination had told her, and it was somewhere between lukewarm and hot. Still, it came from a Han Solo mug and she gulped it before it got too cold, enjoying every minute of it and knowing that it was not perfect.

A few hours later she struggles with the homework that is due the following morning, trying to make herself do it and remember it and master it. But all she wants is to rest, to put her head down for a minute or a year or an eternity. She wants to be done with everything. With school, with life. She wants to curl up under thick blankets and never wake up again. She finds herself daydreaming about Han Solo mugs of hot chocolate, and she wishes with all her heart that she was in that moment again, blissfully sipping the perfect cup of hot cocoa.

She just wants another perfect moment.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Positive Affirmations

Ever since I was in the hospital, I've been doing positive affirmations, but I've been doing it my own way. Positive affirmations are when you look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself something good about yourself, basically. "Whispering sweet nothings to my reflection," is how I once put it. Although the point is that it's not nothing, it's true.

I'm not exactly one to say things to myself in the mirror, but I do do them. When I do my Bible study, I always finish with writing down my positive affirmation. And let me tell you, it is hard. The first month or so of it were full of times when I almost didn't write it down, when I couldn't bear to put down the words, when it took me several minutes for me to scribble it as fast as I could. Because I just don't believe it at first. Of course, that's why they exist. To get you to believe the truth.

My very first positive affirmation was "I am brave." I was recovering from sexual assault as well as confronting my lifelong anxiety problems, so I had a ton of fear to deal with. I told my reflection it was brave a few times, and wrote it in my prayer journal daily. Eventually, I got to where I could write it pretty easily. Eventually, I got to where I believed it. Eventually, I got to where it started to show.

After a while, I needed to add a new affirmation. My second one was "I am beautiful." I have always entertained the fantasy in the back of my mind that I am secretly gorgeous and fabulous and all of that, but of course I've never believed it. I've always been afraid to try because I feel like I'll just show off how ugly I am. But I started writing it down along with "I am brave." It was just as hard as "brave" had been. But it got easier. Now it's second nature. Now, I can even look in the mirror and be okay with what I see (on good days, of course).

Today, I added another affirmation. "I am loved." It took me a long time to write it down. My faith has been somewhat stagnant recently, my personal Bible studies off and on. It feels extremely arrogant and presumptuous to say that I am loved. It feels like I am forcing other people to love me, like I am telling them that they love me and they can't do anything about it.

But it is true. I am loved. I am loved by God, I am loved by the Captain, I am loved by my family. By my mother, who I've honestly never quite understood and I admit I've questioned her love before. I am loved by my siblings, who I've also never understood. I am loved by my father, who I had never once questioned before but now have suddenly started to doubt. I am loved.

I don't know what the heck is going on in my heart and soul right now, honest. I do my Bible study at random, sometimes going weeks without opening my Bible. I don't always make it to church. I love God. I know He loves me. I don't doubt Him at all. Maybe I don't feel good enough for Him right now (which is silly), or maybe I've let myself get too caught up in my personal miseries.

Whatever it is, I'll get through it. You'll get through it. I am loved. You are loved too.

--Dexter

Monday, September 1, 2014

Boredom.

One of two things will happen when I've been bored for long enough. Sometimes they both happen. The first option, which I try to avoid, is I get depressed and literally sprawl on my bed or the couch or the floor for multiple hours before dragging myself to the shower. The second option is ponies.

I have a very, very large collection of mystery figurine ponies. 38 total, currently.

So yesterday I pulled them all into the living room along with some of my larger figurines, a dalek keychain, and my Thor action figure. They had a very exciting adventure in which Fluttershy taught the others that by showing the elements of harmony to enemies, they could make friends. Of course, Twilight took all the credit and then regenerated into an alicorn. Typical.

But this is what happens when I'm left alone all weekend with nothing to do. Dalek's start harmonating instead of exterminating. I watched TV for three hours yesterday. I played about six hours of computer games. I drank a lot of coffee. I annoyed a lot of people with constant text messages about how bored I was.

Sorry about that.

But I have to admit, I had fun with those ponies. They bring me great joy in life. No doubt we'll have many more adventures in the future.

--Dexter

Monday, August 18, 2014

6 Month Anniversary

I know, I haven't been so good about updating the blog over the summer. I just had a lot going on, but nothing really seemed important or interesting enough to write about. I got a summer job at a burrito place, where I guess I learned a lot about how to deal with people. I starting running to keep in shape and renewed some old friendships. I changed my hair color.

And now here I am, a sophomore in college. Classes start Wednesday. I'm in an apartment with some friends I met last year. I just won a game of My Little Pony Monopoly about two hours ago. Life's going along pretty nicely.

It has been six months since I entered the psychiatric ward. Six months since I wanted to die. Six months since I've hurt myself.

Not gonna lie. It's kind of a big deal.

No, I'm not "all better." I still have daily battles with depression, anxiety, and all the fun stuff that came along with the psychological trauma. I function slightly better in the real world, but often times, it's hard. Often times, I end up in my room on my bed, wishing for a fraction of a second that I could just let everything go. Often times, I catch myself trying to come up with ways that I could hide cuts from people. But I haven't actually done anything.

And y'know what? I think it might be getting easier to survive.

Six months is a long time. Sometimes the only thought that keeps me "clean" is the knowledge that I've made it this far, and if I fall even once then I'm back at square one. I don't want to have to tear off a new sheet and it be zero days since the last incident. Heck, I want to be sitting here in February, writing about how it's been a whole year since that awful day I found myself in the psych ward.

That's kind of why I'm writing this. Because even though I'm pretty optimistic right now, I know there will be days when I won't be. And maybe by putting all my thoughts down, by letting you all in on this great anniversary, I might be able to get through it.

I just can't let myself forget who I was, and who I am now, and all the people I've been in between. God has led me down a winding and exciting path, and I know He has plenty more in store for me.

--Dexter

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Dexter's Guide to Freshman Year

So a few weeks ago I finally finished my freshman year of college! Trust me, this is a big accomplishment. I had so many hurdles and complications throughout the year that it's a miracle I made it all the way through, especially with such a good GPA. Now that I've been through the hell of freshman year, I thought I'd help out all the folks who are on their way into college by writing a stereotypical guide for survival.

Tip #1: Ask For Help
When you're new on campus and in your department, it's okay to ask where things are and how things work. Sure, you can figure it out by careful planning and observing, but you might make a few friends by just asking.

Tip #2: Say Hi to People You Know
When you see someone in passing from your class or something, just say hey. If you have time, actually ask them what's up or how their day is, and wait for a reply instead of continuing on your way.

Tip #3: Make Friends With Classmates
This way you have help if you get stuck or miss class, plus someone to commiserate with if the class is miserable. The easy way to do this is to ask a neighbor about an assignment or compliment them on their shirt.

Tip #4: Take Food From the Cafeteria
Our cafeteria has to-go boxes, but even if yours doesn't you can grab an apple or a banana or something and just carry it out. I usually take this to serve as my breakfast, because I never want to go to the fresh early in the morning before class.

Tip #5: Set Boundaries With Your Roommate
If you don't know the person you're living with beforehand, make sure they understand what they can and can't touch. And then if you notice them taking your food or your clothes or something, start hiding your stuff or just calmly ask them about it, like, "Hey, have you seen my bear shirt?"

Tip #6: Find Safe Places
Sometimes you just need a place to chill between classes, or you just don't want to be stuck in your dorm room all day. Find places on or off campus where you can settle down and study or relax. I like the campus Starbucks and the local coffee place T-Bones, but the downsides to those places are that I usually end up spending money on coffee.

Tip #7: Splurge
Every once in a while, you deserve coffee, so go buy yourself a freaking mocha.

Tip #8: Don't Splurge
That said, don't buy yourself a mocha every single day, because your bonus bucks will run out fast. Sometimes you have to just settle for instant coffee or the cafeteria coffee. Try mixing it up by adding hot chocolate mix and a small candy cane.

Tip #9: Don't Lose Your ID
Punch a hole in it and keep it on a chain, buy a special case for it, do something besides just tuck it in your pocket, especially if you have small or loose pockets. One thing I like to do is tuck it into my socks, because it rarely falls out and I can constantly feel it there. Just don't lose it because it's a pain to get a temp card and then replace it.

Tip #10: Register at Dawn
Especially if you're trying to get into a small, good class. As soon as registration opens, REGISTER.

Tip #11: Don't Hang Out With Friends in Dark Places at 2:00 AM

Tip #12: Check the Weather
If it's raining, you want to be prepared with boots and an umbrella. If it's cold, you'll want a coat when you're hiking across campus. If it's hot, you better hope you didn't wear jeans and long sleeves.

Tip #13: Get Involved
Everyone loves saying this and annoys the crap out of me, but it's kind of true. But this does not mean you have to join a bunch of organizations, or even join any of them. I go to RUF and then I started my own book club. Sometimes it's really as simple as bullying your friends into hanging out with you.

Tip #14: Be Open
Admit One Direction is a guilty pleasure and someone else may admit it too.

Tip #15: Embrace the Awkward
If you say something awkward, just keep talking. Eventually you're so awkward that it's endearing and people think you're cute.

There, now I'm sure your freshman year will be a complete breeze.

--Dexter

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

You Were God's Enemy, But He Died For You Anyway

I'm reading through Romans. I feel like I have been for a while, but I'm only in chapter five. It's not just a recounting of stuff, it's like reading a sermon. A dang good sermon. So I'm encouraged to really think about what I'm reading. It's not just comforting words or anything like that, it's actual thoughtful stuff. I mean, it is encouraging, but... y'know what I mean. I have to think about it. So I'm inviting you to think about it with me.

Romans 5:1-11 is about peace and joy. I've basically heard the same message my entire life in Sunday schools and Vacation Bible Schools, but somehow every time I read Romans 5 it hits me and I'm overwhelmed. It's just... so incredible.

1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

Backstory: up to now Romans has been talking about faith and righteousness. It's pretty darn good stuff, so go read that and let it marinate in your head for a while. I plan on looking up some kind of study on it because I want to understand it all better.

But anyway. Rejoice! Through faith we have been justified, and God's glory is awesome!

3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Our suffering is ultimately for the glory of God. How we react to suffering, what we say during our suffering, how we treat others involved in our suffering all can be used for God's glory. Through such suffering, we will grow in perseverance. And the more we persevere, the more we will grow in character. And the more our character grows, the more we will grow in hope. A pessimist might say that if you hope for too much, you'll just get disappointed. But here's the thing about putting our hope in God: He's already given us everything. How can we be disappointed when he's already "poured out his love into our hearts?" When he gave his son Jesus to die for us? When he gave us the Holy Spirit to live among us? How can we be disappointed when we put our hope in God?

6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

You were a filthy sinner when Christ died for you. We couldn't do a thing about our filthiness.

7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.

I just love this. Who would you die for? Who would die for you? 

8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Christ didn't die for a righteous man. He didn't even die for a good man. He died for a filthy, broken, twisted sinner. He died for you. He died for me.

9Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! 10For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

Jesus died for you when you were basically God's enemy. Now that he's died for you, given everything for you, do you really think he'd abandon you? No! He will keep saving you, keep you safe.

11Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Rejoice!

--Dexter

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The One About Sexual Assault

I wrote my last post solely for myself. That's how I deal with things: I write about them. It helps me figure out exactly what's going on in my head. But I wasn't sure I wanted to actually tell people what had happened, so I wrote it in the third person and just posted it. I figured people could take it how they wanted. Apparently I'm not as sneaky as I thought, because everyone I've talked to knew it was about me. But whatever.

Anyway. You would not believe the number of messages, texts, and face-to-face conversations I've had about that post. So many people have told me that I'm brave or that my story was powerful or that it means a lot that I wrote what I did. I honestly hated those conversations because I wasn't sure what to say, but the ones that sucked even more were the ones where my friends would tell me that the same thing happened to them. I never would've guessed. All I know is that I wish it hadn't, and I don't want it to happen to anyone else.

So this time I'm telling the whole story. I want you to understand exactly what happened and exactly why it scared and scarred me so much.

I knew the Guy Who Touched Me beforehand. We were friends, kind of. He liked me more than that, but we'd had that conversation already and I was very clear about The Captain and how I didn't like being touched even casually anyway and all that stuff. Even then, the Guy would still poke me or hug me or tap me on the shoulder and stuff like that. Things that don't bother everyone, but always bother me, especially if I've told you specifically not to.

But anyway. I honestly really liked the Guy as a friend. He's cool, nice, funny, and musically talented. But he's also a flirt and fairly immature. Still, I wanted to be friends with him and I didn't like being mean to him. He would always get really depressed if I was short with him or got upset when he touched me, which made me feel awfully guilty. No matter how hard I tried to not be guilty, I couldn't help it. And that's probably one of the reasons why he kept on casually touching me even when it made my skin crawl.

Still, he was never mean to me.

One night he was staying up late on an outside patio kind of place on campus. His band was going to play for a wedding and he had to practice. He asked me to keep him company, and since I couldn't sleep, I said sure, what the heck. I had a test the next morning so I brought my notes and studied. There were other people out there too, playing games and doing stuff like that. It was fine for a while; he practiced, I studied.

At some point he mentioned being thirsty. I, being always prepared, pulled out my water bottle and let him have some. I don't remember how he drank from it. Not until recently did I consider the idea that he put something in my water. The way guys use roofies was explained to me, and the Guy could've easily done it. I don't even remember watching him while he drank, if he drank at all.

Anyway, he gave me back the water. We continued doing our thing, but I started getting tired. I don't remember the details, but I remember talking a lot more than usual. I honestly can't remember what I said and what I just thought. I was on a bench, leaning back against a table. My legs were in a chair across from me. I fell asleep on the table.

I remember feeling his hands on my legs at first, and eventually they went up my sides and down my arms. Later on they went to more personal spaces. I can't remember if they went under my sweater or stayed outside. I can't even remember what I had on under the sweater. I'm fairly confident that nothing got under my jeans, but sometimes I really just don't know.

I also don't know how long it took my to wake up. I remember him saying my name over and over again, and when I woke up he was sitting in the char, my legs in his lap, looking at me with concern. I asked how long I'd been asleep, and he said he didn't even know I was asleep. I don't remember what time it was when I fell asleep, but when I headed back to my dorm the sun was rising. I got about an hour and a half of sleep before I had to get up and go to class.

We were still friendly for a while after that, but something bugged me every time I thought about it. I don't remember even giving myself time to decide if what had happened was a dream or reality. I just locked it inside somewhere and refused to think about it, refused to tell anyone because of the shame I'd have to deal with if I admitted it was real.

Seeing the Guy got worse and worse. Eventually it got to where just the sight of him would fill me with terror and I've experienced several panic attacks just by seeing him. Suddenly I can't breathe and my stomach feels like it's about to explode. I generally lose my appetite for the rest of the day and it's painfully hard to calm down after one of these episodes.

Then just the idea of running into him made me scared. So scared that I stopped going to the cafeteria, which meant I stopped eating. I didn't leave my dorm at all if possible. I started getting even more skittish around other people. When I did go out on campus I was constantly on the lookout, constantly on edge. When The Captain asked me if the Guy had done anything to make me so scared, I told him he'd never done a thing. I didn't know why I was so scared of him.

But then I when I started talking to a doctor she asked me some questions about trauma and listed off symptoms. I said no to all of them, even though every question made me think of the Guy. Paranoid, going out of my way to avoid certain situations, unable to stop thinking about it, etc. Eventually I confided in a psychologist, and we delved pretty deep into what happened. He unlocked the memory and I started learning healthier ways to deal with it instead of hiding it.

Recently I was doing research for a class and stumbled across a page about emotional/psychological trauma. The symptoms all sounded familiar. And all the things it told you not to do, I'd done. Isolating yourself, hiding it inside, not telling anyone...I'd done them all. I keep thinking that if only I'd admitted that it had happened, I might not have fallen so far into fear and depression and all that other crap. But I never once considered that I might actually be suffering from emotional trauma.

I guess the point of all this is to try and educate people on safety. When you hear sexual assault, most people think of rape. And it doesn't matter that people tell you it's common for the victim to know the assaulter, you still don't quite believe it. You don't look around at the people around you and think, Gosh, he might sexually assault me tonight. I mean, why would you?

I'm not saying you should be paranoid and think the worst of everyone. I guess all I'm saying is don't give your water bottle to people. And if you do, for pete's sake tell someone. Don't you dare hold it in because I can promise you it's just going to eat you from the inside out.

Dexter

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Trauma Patient's Story

She thought she’d forgotten it. Of course, just the thought that she’d forgotten it meant that she hadn’t. The fake pleasure of not thinking about something doesn’t actually bring any real comfort. The centipedes in her stomach didn’t stop their hourly trek around her insides and her lungs didn’t fill any easier. But there was a certain fog in her head, letting her pretend that it had never happened and that she’s fine. If it happened to come to mind she would put it out of her mind, one way or another. As long as she didn’t have to think about it and acknowledge the bugs in her stomach and the guilty shame haunting her head.

But being in the psych ward really makes her think, especially when a psychologist sits down and starts asking her about her life. He pulls at the strings until she unravels and the story is out. She’s never told a soul before and reliving the moment makes it seem so much realer than she remembers. Will the doctor be mad at her? Tell her all the things she’s done wrong? But as she finishes her story, she frowns a little, ending with a quiet, “I guess it wasn’t my fault after all.”

No, the psychologist answers. Not at all. I’m glad you can see that. He tells her to think about it more and not be afraid of thinking about it. She promises she will.

Later on she sits in the dayroom, watching her fellow patients and dutifully thinking about that night. It’s hard to remember the details and it’s even harder to confront the emotions that come with them. Confusion, worry, fear, disgust, shame, guilt, terror. It was almost pleasant, feeling hands slide up her calves, then back down, then back up, then back down. But behind the pleasure is confusion: something is not right. Those hands are not supposed to be there, and she really doesn’t think she likes it anymore. The hands slide higher up her thighs and she starts to get a little worried about what is happening, but she can’t open her eyes to look around. The warmth of the hands seep through her jeans as they go all the way back down her legs, then all the way back up. They skim her hips and go up her sides, then all the way back down. Back up, back down. She settles into the discomfort of the dream, feeling helpless to escape and not knowing what to do. Her own hands won’t respond to push the stranger away.

At some point the hands go to other places and fear starts to take hold. Her sweater isn’t thick enough to hide her breasts and she cringes in her sleep, trying to twist away but finding it alarmingly difficult to move. The hands go back to her ankles, then go back up. This time they find the space between her thighs and she instinctively closes her legs tightly, whimpering. She desperately tries to wake up, desperately tries to convince herself that she is still asleep.

Someone is telling her to wake up. Yes, yes, I want to wake up. I want this to have been a dream. She finally gets her eyes open and look up to see him looking at her worriedly. She asks how long she was asleep. He says he didn’t even know she was. This scares her for some reason.

She wants to tell her boyfriend what happened and why she is worried. But she feels dirty and guilty and ashamed. What if he is mad at her for letting someone else touch her? Because she did let him. She should’ve been able to stop him, to realize what was happening, to wake up. Her already weak self-esteem and strong self-hate die and blossom in kind. How could she have let it happen? She decides to never tell a soul and locks the memory up inside.

Back in the psych ward the memory has been unlocked. She is finding it hard to breathe and the centipedes in her stomach are running rampant as if trying to escape. She can’t handle the people around her and she can’t handle the feeling of those hands and the overwhelming sense that she’d never been asleep. She finds the nurse.

The psychologist tells her to write an unsent letter to the man who touched her, to confront her own feelings about what happened. She does so after a day of telling herself that she is brave. In her letter, she tells the man that she cannot feel guilty anymore and refuses to blame herself for what happened. She says that she will never let him touch her again in any way, casual or otherwise. She will stand up for herself and say no. She will be brave. She later reads the letter to her psychologist and says she is going to tell her boyfriend about what happened. The psychologist approves.

She is still scared, but she is determined to be brave. The memory is unlocked and dealt with, out in the open for a trusted few to understand. She will no longer let her fear and self-loathing consume and limit her. Instead, she will be brave, raise her head, and walk on.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Isaiah 40

A while ago, I started doing my Celtic Daily Prayer book with The Captain. It's not really daily anymore since I'm all the way over here in Hattiesburg, but we do it when we can. Last night one of the Bible passages it had us read was the end of Isaiah 40. On my own I've been reading through Isaiah, and today happened to be the day for Isaiah 40.

Now, I understand why the Celtic Daily Prayer book keeps things short. They're short little readings and then you have three selections of the Bible, so having one of those three selections be a whole chapter would be a little much. But the chapter is so good and so powerful. It's all marked up in my Bible now and lots of it has been reproduced in my prayer journal. The chapter is called Comfort for God's People, and that's exactly what it is. It's an assurance of God's power, authority, and care. If y'all don't mind, I'd like to go through it all again.

1Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

And that's verse 1. Already we're into it.

2Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, and her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins.

God really does care about hard work. He's not going to toss us away once we've done our job, so to speak. Not at all.

3A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. 4Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken."

I'm going to be honest here. I'm no deep theologian and I'm not really smart enough to understand every bit of this passage. I don't know exactly what this means, but it looks to me like we're going to get to see God's glory one day. God's glory. And we won't die from the beauty and the glory because we will have no sin in us!

6A voice says, "Cry out." And I said, "What shall I cry?"

"All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. 7The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. 8The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever."

What I had never noticed before is that people are basically grass here. We wither and fall just like flowers, but the word of God will last for eternity. God's word is true and constant and eternal, just like God himself.

9You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, "Here is your God!" 10See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.

Don't be afraid to spread good news! Shout it so all can hear! After all, it is good news. And it's news for everyone.

11He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

Remember when I contemplated an aspect of God every day? Shepherd was one of them, and here we have another comparison of God to a shepherd. Can you imagine being gathered up in God's arms and carried close to his heart? It's like the ultimate hug -- from the God of the universe!

12Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? 13Who has understood the mind of the Lord, or instructed him as his counselor? 14Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding?

I'm reminded of my favoritest favorite part of Job here, when God's all, "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?" (Job 38:4). This reinforces God's authority and his ability to comfort us. Sometimes we think, "What could God know about what I'm going through? He's never had to live here, he's never been depressed, he's never been scared." But he created us. Not only that, but he experienced it all firsthand through Jesus. God does not need to be instructed or enlightened or taught. He knows.

15Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust. 16Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires, nor its animals enough for burnt offerings. 17Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing.

So God was just like, "Who are you to question my knowledge?" and now we're all like, "Crap, who are we to even be noticed by you." We're tiny little nobodies. Our countries are tiny little nowheres compared to him and the sum total of all his creation. And yet...he still cares for each and every one of us.

18To whom, then, will you compare God? What image will you compare him to? 19As for an idol, a craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and fashions silver chains for it. 20A man too poor to present such an offering selects wood that will not rot. He looks for a skilled craftsman to set up an idol that will not topple.

God is incomparable. No on cast him, no one overlaid him with gold, no one fashioned silver chains for him, no one selected material for him, no one hired anyone else to do any of those things.

21Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded?

God's been trying to tell us for a long time.

22He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers.

Yeah, we're that insignificant.

He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.

Now that's what I call a pillow fort.

23He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. 24No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

It's kind of scary when you think about just how tiny we grasshoppers are, and just how easy it would be for us to just disappear.

25"To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?" says the Holy One. 26Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

I'm sure you've tried counting the stars before. First of all, oftentimes we can't even see all the stars. There's either too many other lights or too many clouds, plus we can't even see all of the stars at the same time of the year. Even if we were to find the perfect stargazing time, I guarantee you that you would miss a few stars or count one too many times. But God knows them all by name, and never ever passes over one of them.

27Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God"?

You might think, "Well, because you're the God of the universe and you're probably too busy counting your stars," but that's not true.

28Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the Everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

Basically, there's no way you'll ever be able to understand the understanding of God.

29He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Thank you, Lord.

--Dexter

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Sharing God's Word

So you know how when you graduate, a ton of people give you books about following God or making your way in the world or learning how to continue in God's word when you go off into the big scary world? Well I received, along with many other books, Follow Me by David Platt. I've been (inconsistently) reading a little bit each day, and today's pages were a major slap in the face for me.

When it comes to sharing God's word and love, I've always kind of believed that it's okay to not actually verbally do so. I've never been good at speaking, in public or in private. But my ballet school taught me how to say important things with dance, and that is something I've treasured for many years now. I decided that it was okay not to speak about God when I could just dance about him. Of course, the obvious problem here is that I can't just break out in a dance any time I feel like it. But maybe I still don't have to start every conversation with, "Have you heard about Jesus?" Instead, I thought I could live the life God commands, so to speak, and then open up my mouth when the opportunity arises.

Now, this philosophy sounds outright stupid when I write it out like this. I swear it made more sense in my head. Or maybe it really is just stupid, because this is what David Platt says,

"There's some truth here: we want the character of Christ to be clear in our actions. At the same time, when Jesus told his disciples that they would receive his Spirit and be his witnesses in the world, he wasn't just calling them to be nice to the people around them. Whether in a courtroom or any other circumstance, the basic function of a witness is to speak. . . . But, you might think, it's not that easy to start speaking about Jesus to the person sitting next to me at a coffee shop. We all have fears that quickly rise to the surface - the fear of offending someone, the fear of saying the wrong thing, the fear of being rejected, or even just the fear of initiating an awkward conversation. Yet such fears are only a sign that we are forgetting who we are. We are followers of Christ who have been crucified with him: we no longer live, but Christ lives in us."

Now, this takes on a whole nother meaning when said to someone with social anxiety. It's gotten to where at school I won't leave me room if at all possible, causing me to skip meals almost every day. But being in my room is no better, because I have a roommate. Her presence prevents me from eating the food I keep in my dorm and makes me feel continually nervous and on edge. Nothing against her -- it's entirely my problem. And now that I'm home, things have only gotten a little better. I still don't leave me room sometimes for fear of running into my own family. I've panicked several times in public when there's a large crowd, dragging The Captain away from situations that he doesn't mind at all.

And I'm supposed to talk to those people?

Yes. Yes, Dexter, you are.

But I have been forgetting who I am. I've got the freaking God of the universe with me. He's not going to abandon me and throw me to the wolves. If I'm so afraid of a negative response, then where exactly is my faith in the God of the universe? Yeah, maybe I will get a negative response, but God's still there. I still belong to him.

All I can do is remember who I am and who He is and pray for the courage to go on. Or at least the courage to step outside my bedroom.

--Dexter

PS. Btws, Happy New Year :)