Saturday, June 27, 2015

An Open Letter to My Bestie

First things first: who coined the word "bestie"?! It is another modern word that ranks high on the scale of stupid, up there with "adorbs" and "totes". All that sounds dumb if you ask me. Second, I must confess that this title is very misleading; I don't have a bestie. I've never had a bestie. I've never stood in a friend's wedding, I've never stayed up all night sharing secrets, and I've never kept a very close friend for more than a couple years. And I'd like to tell you why.

My name is Joy, I'm 29 years old, and I've suffered from a debilitating mental and emotional condition known as Borderline Personality Disorder for a majority of my life. If you type that into Google, you will find terrible things with that search, and I am not terrible things. I am not a stereotype, I am not a stigma, I am not a list on a health database online or in a book, and I am not crazy or psychotic. I do not hurt myself and I do not deal with rage. I simply go through stages of thinking processes that often render me incapable of maintaining and keeping close relationships. In short, I run people off. I am terrified of being abandoned, so I make for damn sure that I leave people before they can leave me. Problem is, most of them wouldn't have left me. I am just always so convinced that they are going to abandon me that I make sure I don't get hurt and instead am the "leaver". I always end up hurt anyway, but I like to tell myself that I got hurt because of what I said and did instead of what the other person said and did.

One of the main characteristics of Borderline is a concept known as "switching". No, that doesn't mean that I have more than one personality. What it means is that Borderlines often go back and forth between adoring and loving someone almost to the point of being obsessed, to being angry with and almost even hating someone. When I start to feel that a close friend is falling out of my life, I start to get bitter and resent them to the point that it makes me angry with them and think and say nothing but bad things about them. If they start to come back around, I love them again and all is right with the world…and repeat. This thinking is hazardous and it is often this mindset that completely tears apart my close relationships. It is a terrible, awful thinking process, and sometimes I have no idea how to make it stop. I know that I hate it, and I know that my thoughts aren't real, yet they still always manage to make an appearance and confuse my hurting little heart.

I was first diagnosed with this condition when I was about 17 years old. Looking back I had had this problem for much longer than that. Diagnosed by my therapist once again at age 22, no one bothered to tell me that it was placed on my permanent psychiatric record. I did not find out about it until six years later, and I was appalled that I had been given this label. I was really convinced that this condition did not apply to me. But as I've worked through therapy and coping techniques as well as done a lot of research on the subject, I've realized more and more that the diagnosis was completely justified. It was a hard truth to swallow, and it continues to be.

When I am in a good mental and emotional state, I can recognize my thought processes and I attempt to stop and/or reverse them. I have read so many books and I have had so much therapy on the issue, and I know how to handle it. Most of the time, anyway. I try so hard to keep my close relationships healthy so that I don't end up sabotaging them from the inside out. Most of the time I succeed at this, but sometimes I still completely fail. It makes me afraid to make new friends and terrified of getting into dating relationships. Borderline is a lifelong process and sometimes it goes into periods of "remission" which I am lucky to have had for long periods of time as I've gotten older. Occasionally it still comes back to haunt me, though. Those times are hard, and they involve lots of tears and lots of fears. There is obviously no cure, but it is a condition of the heart and mind that I am now no longer trying to hide. Instead, I am openly sharing my journey with Borderline, knowing that others have these same issues and they don't need to be suppressed by society. Mental health stigmas are so very, very ugly, and those who suffer need not be ashamed.

If you have been a good friend of mine and the relationship suffered an ugly, bitter, or sometimes only silent end, I am so very sorry that it happened that way. If you currently are a good friend of mine, please know that if I haven’t already, I will likely attempt to throw you out of my life at one point or another, and it is never your fault if that happens. If I have already managed to or do manage in the future to hang onto you, or if you have managed or will manage not to let me scare you away, God bless you and I am more grateful for you than you could ever possibly imagine. I will not use my condition as an excuse, but I will admit to succumbing to it from time to time, and usually have no intention of doing so. It’s just the way I am programmed, and I am constantly trying ever so hard to conquer the thought processes.

We all have issues. It is a fact of life. I spent a long time trying to hide mine, but at some point I decided that it wasn't so bad to be an open book. To openly hold out my hands and share my wounds, in hopes that the world can see that being transparent is not so bad. I don't want to be a label. No one should be a label. Don't be a label, and don't give labels. Instead, own up to your own suffering. Mourn with those who mourn, and rejoice with those who rejoice. We are all in this together, and no one can change your past or mine. So embrace it. It makes us all better off in the end. And that is the truth. Press on, my friends. Nothing should hold you back from loving and being loved!

(***If you suffer from or think you might suffer from this condition, there is help and there is hope. Go find it, and if you can't please come and ask me. You don't need to nor should you have to do this alone. There are books, therapy, and support groups that can help you cope. Utilize them!!***)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

No Matter Where I Am, Healing Is In Your Hands

I didn't mean to, but I looked up. Though I had been sleeping in a room with a full-length mirror for almost five days, I hadn't looked yet. I didn't think I wanted to look. And I didn't mean to, but I looked. What my eyes took in made me think that a look of horror should be on my face while I was looking, but when I glanced up and met my own eyes, there wasn't one.  It was just of simple grief. A delicate, frail, deep-purple-eyed, pale expression. As I slowly removed more of the clothes on my body from top to bottom, my eyes were locked. It was everywhere. They were everywhere. My arms from shoulder to elbow were stained with big, round bruises from needles that injected medicine to keep my blood flowing while I was trapped in a bed. From elbow to fingertip, more small puncture wounds than I could even try to count from attempted, failed, and a couple successful IV sites. And on my fingertips themselves, small red dots from being poked over and over and over, day in and day out for the duration of my trial so I wouldn't go into shock. This was just the beginning. My eyes then turned down and saw the massive purple hematoma on my lower abdomen from the stress that was caused inside my body, and over to each side of it were small spots trying to heal from where I had been cut open. As my gaze kept going, I zoned in on the huge bruises at different levels of healing that were on my inner and outer thighs from injections that had to be administered to keep me safe from my own body. Beyond that, there was just one more lone bruise on my right foot from a 4am blood draw that took an hour to be successful, and unfortunately will never be forgotten. To add insult to injury, there was stuck-on adhesive all over me from heart and lung monitors, reminding me that I had been much more sick than I had even realized. As I had undressed and watched my beaten body be revealed into the mirror little by little, I hadn't watched from my own perspective…I had watched in the mirror as I gently and painstakingly placed my fingers over each spot on which such pain had been inflicted. There were so many of them. So many…

 I love scars. I always have. I think they tell stories and I think they are necessary for us to see our own strength and what we are capable of enduring. Unfortunately for most of us, scars come more often from the inside than they do from the outside. We are never truly fully broken, but man, we sure are cracked. At those moments when I saw how damaged my body was, I realized just how hard it had cracked me on the inside. I'd never had anything even relative to a near-death experience, but when you lay in a bed in a cold, empty intensive care unit hospital room, mostly alone, for days on end just staring at nothing in the silence, it gives you a little perspective on just how valuable this earthly life is. This place is not our home, and oh, did I long for home during those days and the few immediately following, but I knew which Home I was longing for, and it isn't the one with a street address. The Home I longed for was the Home where not only did the light shine through all the cracks, but also that healed those cracks and made me whole again. All my many cracks. So many…

 It's likely that not many of us know what it is like to come to the edge of existence in the middle of the night, and once was enough for me. The great fear that has consumed me since I came home and all the bruises faded is relentless, and it haunts me in my sleeping and in my waking. To confirm my greatest fears, my records shared with me after I got home had the word "septic" written in them. Sepsis…that's where you die, right? I could have died. I could have died? How? Why? What if I had died? It was so quick. Is that how it happens? Is that how you die? I had and have so many questions. So many…

 I have a friend who faced a life-threating health issue just a couple short years ago. A very, very scary issue. I reached out to her in the days following my terrifying experience in desperation as to what to do with these hard questions that I didn't know the answers to. It was both frightening and comforting to know that she didn't have the answers to the questions either. To know that even if she did, her answers would likely have been different than the ones I might could muster up. However, she challenged me to the thought that we could really die at any minute…any second, even, totally unexpected. That's a hard one to wrap your head around. Her words made me cry tears of gratefulness. I had been given another chance. I had been given more time to do the work I was sent here to do. I was still alive, and I wanted to be ALIVE. I wanted to be a light. I wanted to be a story. I wanted to be so many things. So many…

 So, as I end this thought, I must share some words that my dear friend gave me, the words that helped me fall asleep that night beyond my wild imagination full of fear and wonder. She told me…"At any moment, any day we could die. I have no idea why we were brought to the edge and pulled back. I have to believe there's a reason but maybe I'll never know". And every word she said is true. We were pulled back. We tasted the end without even knowing it until later, and we were pulled right back where we left off. Maybe to be lights. Maybe to be stories. Maybe just to appreciate this tiny blip of time otherwise known as life on earth. When it's time to go, we will all be brought to the edge, but we won't be pulled back. We will fly. Bruises, holes, cracks and all. We will fly…and that day will be a sweet, sweet day, for so many reasons.

 Yes, so many…

Friday, January 10, 2014

His Love Is Fierce, His Love Is Strong, It Is Furious

I had a sudden twinge in my memory tonight of something I wrote on my trip to Brazil in 2008, and had to run and find my journal. It's not been a good week, and I don't only mean for myself. It was the last half that I recalled, but when I read the whole entry, the context of it also struck me. This is what I wrote:

(March 2, 2008, Garca, Brazil)
"This morning I rode the bus to church next to a girl who was sold into slavery for fifty cents at the age of eight by her own parents. What do you do with that?

I think we are all given our own hell to survive in life, and we all think for a moment that it couldn't be any worse. But for these children...these children have seen hell. And it renders me speechless.

Oh, help me love."

There is so much injustice in this world; both in our personal worlds and in the world as the big picture. SO. MUCH. Pain is all relative, none of us hurt more or less than others, but we all DO hurt. And that pain we feel? That thing that affects us? It often, if not always, makes absolutely no sense at all. People get sick. People die. People are treated unjustly. Animals get sick. Animals die. Animals are treated unjustly. Bad things happen to good people. Important things fall apart. Circumstances and people and decisions and events JUST DON'T MAKE SENSE.

So what do we do about? How can we fix it? CAN we fix it? I'll tell you this much: we cannot change it. We can change how we accept it. We can change how we approach it. We can even sometimes change letting it happen again. But...we can't change IT. We can't change the fact that we have felt and will feel pain. We can only change ourselves, by examining what it DID to us, what it did to others, what it did to the world.

My point here, my friends, is that last line that my naive mind managed to muster up while my mouth was speechless at pure horror:

"Oh, help me love."

That's what we do. We love. We love God, we love others, we love ourselves. It's that simple. We freaking love the hell out of each other. Love covers over a multitude of sins. Love heals, and love prevents. We don't hate, we don't judge, we don't lash out, and we are not cruel. We love. And that love that we were gifted with to be able to give to others and to ourselves....well, it conquers all. It doesn't erase the bad, but it writes itself all over it and it stops more from happening. Love. In that bold, dark thing called injustice, unfairness, senselessness, hatefulness, whatever word you'd like to use....we love. We

Go and love...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Everything My Heart Cries Out For

A good number of years ago, as I sat at the dinner table with friends on a Saturday night, I felt the familiar feeling of my mind and my heart wandering away from my surroundings and into my inner-most thoughts. I don't remember what I was going through at the time, but I remember my heavy heart. I broke the "no phones at the table" rule and sent a text message to an older and wiser close friend. I simply asked, "Does life get any easier as you get older?". I remember what her exact words were in reply: "Yes. It really, really does." And I believed her. If only I would have known...

Looking back over the five years since that conversation, I wonder how in the world I am still standing. I don't know how, in that short time, that that many things could knock me down, over and over. I suffered greatly, and every year, every month, every week, every day, every hour and minute and second, I prayed for it to end. Every New Year's Eve I wished and hoped and prayed that the promise of a new beginning truly would live up to its name. But it didn't. So many friendships lost, so much "starting over", so many disappointments, so many poor choices, and more tears and darkness than one should never endure.

Five years later, in a tiny house with strangers, with a new heart and mind, at a wonderful job, with less true friends than the fingers on one hand, the best family both blood and not, the ability to find the silver lining, new ways of thinking, developing trust and vulnerability with people I love that love me back, no more looking over my shoulder at what has already passed, with the relentless love of my God forever surrounding me, with no less tears than of years past, and with nothing short of a miracle, it did. It ended.

Never in my life have I ever had the ability to shed tears of pure joy and immense gratitude until this past year when the light broke from behind the dark, stormy sky. The beams has been hiding there the whole time, but under my shroud of covered darkness I had no idea how to look up and find them.

I still have the occasional hard time wrapping my mortal brain and heart around the ugly, unexplained terrors of this world, but mostly in the case of the hardships of others. I do truly believe that the bad, scary things of this life are suffered and endured in order to allow us to show our scars, no matter how deep, to others going through the same things. I always say, "There's a reason that God created more than one person". We are to pass on our hope and peace, the kind that surpasses all understanding, to the ones who desperately seek it.

I always have a vision when I feel compelled to reach out to others who are hurting and looking for the light. It is the vision of me holding out my hands, palms up, so that the one in despair can see my deep scars, just as Jesus held out His hands to show His disciples that He and His suffering were real and that He truly died and came back to save us.

I will strive to put the promises of my long-awaited year of hope, love, and joy into others who don't know if the night will ever end. It ends, my dear ones. Morning IS coming. Keep pushing through, keep holding on to the promises that we have been given. They're there. I promise that they are. Look left and look right at the people and the things that have been sent to you to hold you up, and grab ahold of them. Hold on tight. Then look up. Know that behind those storm clouds there are rays of bright, beautiful light streaming directly from the promise of every tear being dried and of no more death, sorrow, or pain.

Hold fast to the fact that you know another who has walked through the fire and come out only slightly burned. I have been bound by the chains of death, of immeasureable loss, of addiction, of a broken heart, of despair, of hopelessness, of fear, of unbelief, of giving up, of being blinded by the pitch dark, and so many other things.

But you know what? I have been given in return a new heart, the ability to love and be loved,  the great, glorious gift of redemption, unimaginable hope, a peace that helped me learn to breathe again, the blessing of some incredible people to walk next to, and the knowledge to pass on to others that it DOES end.

Just hold on. Stay alive. Ask for help. Let that tiny sunbeam deep within your soul carry you to brighter days. Know that you are loved. It will end. It really will. Take it from me. Keep going. Just. Keep. Going.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Another You

Yes, you.
A different you.

I would tell you how much I love you, but it would be wasting my time. You already know. I loved you to the death of us. A heartbreaking, slow, painful death. I would say that you broke my heart, but really I broke my own. And it hurt. Oh, did it hurt. But I don't have to tell you that. You know what a broken heart feels like, especially now. You know.

When I saw you, I don't know what I felt. Half of me wanted to run the other way, and the other half of me was thrilled that you were there. Yes, thrilled.

I don't believe in coincidence. I know that there's a reason that we were both there. And it was glorious. Being with you again, that was glorious. And so many other things.

I know that things can never be the way they were. I know that we can't pick up where we left off. I screwed up, on so many levels, and I know that that was the end. But apologizing to you, that healed a part of my heart that I didn't even know was still broken. I truly am sorry. I am.

Leaving you that night, that's a completely different story. If I knew how to cry, I would have. All the way home, I would have cried. I just wanted more than I got. But I'm grateful for what I had.

I believe in redemption. I believe in healing. I believe in restoration. I believe in ME. And I'm asking that you would, too. Please?

I love you. And you know. You KNOW.


Thursday, September 16, 2010


It can't make you happy.
Nobody talks about it.
Everybody thinks about it.
You can never have enough of it.

Money has never been a huge issue in my life. I admit there are times that I have worried about making enough, but it was more about what I wanted than it was about what I needed. I've always been comfortable. The bills have always gotten paid. Until now.

I am in some sort of transition in my life that doesn't make any sense. I took a job God asked me to take, only to lose it six weeks later. I'm now struggling to survive on minimum wage and something just isn't adding up. I've been questioning God for a while now, and I pray hourly for there to be enough money.

There it is again. The money. It's not about the job. It's not about God. It's about the money.

We started a new series at church this week called "Empty Promises". It's about idols and the things in life that take all your time, thoughts, and energy. My pastor made the point that things like money won't give you peace. And yet, I must be a really screwed up believer because it seems the idea of having enough money WOULD give me peace. It WOULD help me sleep at night. But would it really?

I don't know what God is doing in my life right now, and I don't know if I have enough faith or patience to please Him. But I do know that when questioned about the things that take all my thoughts, money is at the top of the list. If you're honest, it's probably on yours, too. I'm praying that God shakes me of this in the coming weeks. I pray that even though it seems that I don't have enough, I can learn that He is my enough. And that money doesn't matter.

Can it make you happy?
Can it change your life?
Will there EVER be enough?

I don't know the answers to these questions, but I have a feeling I'm going to find out.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Tonight I had a sudden, impromptu chance to visit a dear friend that I hadn't seen since her wedding nearly five years ago. I found her on facebook a few weeks ago (oh, technology) and was excited to finally have the chance to see her again. It had been too long.

We worked together when I was still in high school, and she was a little over my age now. Those were fun, carefree days that include more laughs, pranks, and strange occurrences than I can ever remember. My memories of her are very fond, and she is someone that has stayed on my mind through the years we haven't spoken.

She is special to me not only because of the fun times we shared, but because of the trip we took to hell and back together. The trip during which she held me, and held me down. She sat next to me (or under me, depending on how hard the day) while my mother lay in the hospital dying. She knew my heart, and she was the only one I would let hold me when I would finally let go and cry. She loved my mom, and she loved me, and that love has always stayed with me. Even through five years. Five long, hard years.

So when I saw her tonight, it was hard to know where to begin. Hard to know which stories to tell, hard to know which events were significant enough to share. Hard to remember what happened when, hard to describe how things felt when they happened. Hard to know when it went wrong, hard to pretend like it's always stayed good. Hard. Just hard.

As I thought about this tonight on my way home, I realized that maybe this is something that more people than just me struggle with. Wondering when it all went wrong. Wondering when good went bad, and when darkness fell. Wondering at what point I became no longer whole, but damaged instead.

I've been trying hard to fix myself lately. Doctors, medicines, changes in attitude and thinking; whatever it takes to fix me. A good friend recently told me that I didn't need to fix myself, because I wasn't broken. She said that I was simply learning and discovering and growing, and I just don't know how much of that makes sense to me right now. I know I'm not broken, But I'm damaged.

So when I wonder where it went wrong, when I could actually look back and see that everything in my life had gone wrong, I wonder how I can reverse it. How I can "fix" it. And that part...I know deep down that that part isn't broken either. It's dark, and it's hard, but maybe it is just damaged, too. Just like me. Maybe life is just a beautiful disaster, and maybe I wouldn't change a thing. Maybe it's made me who I am. Maybe it's helped God to change the heart He has given me. Maybe it's opened my eyes.

Maybe a lot has gone wrong, and maybe it seems like nothing is right, but maybe, just maybe I've done the best that I can. And maybe that is enough.