eight years in recovery

***trigger warning***

last month i missed a pretty important anniversary (…i don’t want to talk about it). but because that is so unlike me, and because it is affecting me deeply that i forgot to remember something that has impacted me so significantly, i decided to celebrate a normally private anniversary in a public way.

this week is eight years that i have been self-injury free. i say “this week” because i don’t remember the exact day, just that it was the beginning of february. but i do remember the exact scar that made me stop.

and i am sharing this anniversary with hope; mostly for growth. because i have realized this school year that i am not as comfortable with this element of my past as i thought i was. i still cringe when people joke and speak nonchalantly about cutting or jump to the defensive when curious people happen across my scars.

and i have noticed how frequently the thought still pops into my head. it never really went away, i have just learned better ways to respond.

self-injury is an addiction, it is a coping mechanism in the same way that drugs and alcohol are. it is a strategy to manage pain. for several years of my life, cutting was what helped me to feel present in my body, and gave physical manifestation to what was happening inside of me that i had no words for and no other way to express.

it is not a joke.

it is part of the reason i am on my way to becoming a therapist. i am here today because i had a therapist who wasn’t satisfied with letting me stick with my unhealthy coping mechanisms. i had people who saw the scariest, darkest parts of my soul and loved me anyway. and i literally have the scars to remind me where i have been and how far i have come.

eight years, here’s to the rest of my life.

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rainbow wheel

some days i feel as if i am staring at a spinning rainbow wheel. i have committed to starting this conversation, both within myself and as part of a bigger theological discussion. and yet…i find myself stuck, wondering where to even begin. i guess i should just go for it.




i had a dream this week (that i actually remember). i dreamed that i had a family. i had a husband and two little boys. we went on adventures, we joked, we held hands. i was happy.

i want that life. i have tried for the last three years to convince myself that i don’t. because it hurts. it hurts to know that i want a partner to travel the world with, and kids to love and teach and learn from. it hurts to know that i am nowhere close to having that life. i have convinced myself to let this dream go, because i have also convinced myself that i will never have it. to hope for it hurts.

because the truth is, for as much as i want that, i can’t imagine that life for myself. i just can’t picture it. i think there are two reasons why: first, i can’t imagine a man with the qualities that i want/need that i can also stand to be around every day. second, i can’t imagine anyone who would actually want to love and be with me every day.

these two premises are deeply problematic. the first makes me incapable of love, the second makes me incapable of being loved. or perhaps more appropriately worded: incapable of loving and incapable of allowing someone to love me. the first makes me unable to hold someone else’s complete vulnerability, and the second makes me unable to trust someone with my own vulnerability.

to me, love is not safe, it is dangerous. it is not worth risking for.

this is somewhat shocking to articulate. in friendships, i tend to love freely and deeply. i continue to risk and invest in friendships, even when i know they can only last for a time, and even though i have been hurt in the past. i can’t comprehend how i can be this way in a friendship and not in a relationship.

to sum: it seems i don’t know how to love within the context of an intimate dating relationship, and it also seems that i still believe that i am unworthy of being loved. so there’s that.

what does this have to do with this conversation about sexuality? to tell you the truth, i’m not sure i know. but it would seem that if i can’t seem to wrap my brain around being in a relationship with someone, it is not a surprise that i can’t wrap my brain around sex.

sex, like many other things, serves a function for everyone. for some, it is merely an act intended for procreation. for some, it is merely an act that satisfies some physical and biological urge or need. i see sex as an act of utter vulnerability – a vulnerability that i can’t comprehend.

some questions that i have moving forward from here:
– why do i still feel unlovable?
– what is it about vulnerability (in dating relationships) that scares me so much, given that i am pretty good at it in friendships?
– how should sex function in our lives? how do we distort that function? what does that distortion do to us as humans?
– is my desire for a family simply related to enculturation and gender stereotypes? is it just because i know that staying single means that eventually i will be the only one of my friends who is still single, and that is a lonely place (for an extrovert) to be?
– is sex part of what it means to be human (the everyone has sex argument)? if i don’t ever have sex, does that make me less human, or somehow deficient?

big questions.

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give me my words

give me my words.

i am no longer asking,
demanding.



for too long
the words i have performed
have formed me into
a walking contradiction
projecting a truth
i don’t truly believe.

for too long
the words i have performed
have filled me with
vacancy
the substance of lacking.

for too long
the words i have performed
have named me
Unlovable
too ugly, too intense, too broken, too…



give me my words.

i am no longer asking,
demanding.



i need my words
because they give
form
shape
boundary
definition
and clarity to
pain.

i need my words
because they
fill
embody
hold
and dwell in
emptiness.

without my words
i simply feel
FULLY
and
DEEPLY
with nowhere
for that to go.
so it just sits,
those feelings
(those words)
just sit
inside
and they grow,
they take life,
they begin to
breathe
taking my own breath
and stealing my strength.

i need my words
because they give me
strength
and power.

power to name
because there is
power
in a name
and power in naming.

i need my words
because they communicate
hope
truth
truth that i need to hear
over the sound of lies
that i have believed for too long.
FOR TOO LONG.



give me my words.

i am no longer asking,
demanding.

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framing the conversation

the beginning. here we go.

i created this piece over the summer, you may remember it. it is a piece that came out of a different process than anything i had created up to that point. i had no vision, i had only a canvas and time, and that is what came out. i sort of liked it, which was unexpected. so i hung it on my wall.

little did i know that the words on that canvas would come to describe the nature of my existence this year.



conviction. creativity. courage.



conviction. the idea that something is important, meaningful, reliable and carries weight. but more than that, conviction is standing in that place. what is conviction unless you are willing to fight for it? conviction without action is simply a thought.

creativity. this has nothing to do with artistic ability. it is imagination, the ability to vision, to see things from different angles. creativity is a state of mind, a way of being, and a way of interacting.

courage. courage depends on fear. there will always be things to be afraid of: things that threaten our safety and our comfort. courage is deciding that fear doesn’t can’t win. courage is stepping into vulnerability because you know it will be worth it.

and this is where i begin a conversation about sexuality. with conviction, with the creativity needed for nuance and (hopefully) sensitivity, and with courage to look deeply into myself and to speak with honesty and humility.



sexuality is a broad term. when i am talking about sexuality, i don’t just mean the act of engaging in intercourse, and i don’t just mean those other things we add to the category of “hooking up” with others. sexuality is about connection and communion. sexuality is something that has to do with how we relate to and interact with others. our sexuality is somehow deeply connected to our identity, and you don’t have to be having sex or in a relationship to be sexual.

with that said, my intentions in walking through this topic include, but perhaps are not limited to:
– articulating and understanding my own story around sexuality
– accessing the deep truth that i have come to believe about myself and others as a result of my story, and hopefully finding healing
– asking the bigger questions about what is even at stake in this conversation about sexuality
– providing a space for others to engage this topic with me or on their own

i will probably talk about sex, pornography, homosexuality, marriage, and some of the other typical things you would expect to hear along the way. but i will also talk about God, being made in the image of God, communion, and more. i will probably ask a lot of questions – because i have a ton of those. i don’t have a ton of answers. questions move us forward, definitive answers can sometimes halt conversation. so i am just going to start thinking, and talking, and asking questions.


if this topic interests you in general, check out Thank God For Sex, a project that is committed to this conversation.

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sexuality and identity

year two can be summed up or categorized by three themes:

creativity
sexuality
formation

nearly every conversation i seem to be having is about one or more of these topics, and often, all three.

that said, i feel very strongly that i have some work to do. perhaps some healing, maybe some confession, certainly some articulating of my own story that helps me to find clarity.

there is going to be a lot of uncertainty on this journey. i will probably say a lot of things that will be in process. i may not want to land on them for a long time, or incorporate them as axiomatic for my life, but they might be where i am at any given moment. i will also be raising and addressing what i think are valid, honest, and important questions. because of these things, and because if i am posting it might keep me accountable to actually do the work, i think that i will be posting this journey here – but with some limitations.

first, i wont be advertising on my facebook. this will most likely severely limit my audience. that’s okay. this means that the people reading it will be people who want to hear it, not just people who stumble upon my post in their newsfeed.

second, i reserve the right to password protect any post i desire. usually it will be because it is intensely vulnerable for me to share, and i am unsure about it. if i decide to password protect a post, my hope is that it doesn’t stay password protected for too long, just long enough to run it by trusted sources to affirm that it is worthwhile to the conversation.

ADDENDUM: third, my hope is to be able to experience some of this process creatively as well. that may mean that you see more poetry (Lord willing), perhaps artwork, etc. know that in sharing those things i am simply trying to articulate my own process, not necessarily contribute to a larger conversation.

so…here it goes.

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still more

air rushes in
and for the hint of a moment
i am full
i am filled
until
the flutter of
adrenaline kicks
and just as quickly
the air escapes

the salty droplets
seem to halt
at my lashes
because i can’t bring myself to
let go

there is a weight
so heavy on my chest
as the rhythm repeats:

in, full
panic, out

because i know
deep down i know
there is still more to process
still more pain
still more lies to dismantle
still more truth to unfold

this is me
i am strong
i am confident
i am whole
i am known
and named.
it isn’t a lie

yet
words
and memories
still swirling around
still stuck in my heart

words
and memories
like bricks and mortar
keeping this wall
impenetrable

but why?
my biggest question is
why?

why is love still the issue?
why have i gotten so good at portraying an image
no matter how true
that it is the only thing even i can see?

why don’t i believe it?

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“therology”: holding hope

last quarter I took a class in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) on worldviews: what are they, how do they color our interaction with the world, and what are ours? one assignment in this class was to interview a practicing therapist about their worldviews, their practice, and what they see their role as. after the interview, we shared with the class some of the themes or responses we received from the therapist.

while my interview went incredibly well and I learned a lot about what it means to have faith and to be a therapist, the most profound moment that came out of this class for me was during another group’s presentation. they talked about how the therapist they interviewed had said that he viewed his role as a therapist as one who holds hope for their client.

holding hope.

i resonated with this idea, because i have realized that this tends to be something that i do naturally. i have noticed times when i seem to be the one in a group attempting to call out strengths or victories when others are criticizing or feeling defeated.

after some further reflection, i realized that holding hope is not only the task of the therapist, but it is also the task of the theologian.

theological hope

theologically speaking, hope is foundational. as a person of faith, i place my hope in a God who, in God’s fullness, chose to become fully like me so that i may become fully human and be drawn into a deep and abiding communion with that God and with the rest of humanity. i have hope that there is something more, something better, and that it is possible here and now. the theologian lives in this space.

therapeutic hope

generally, a client comes to therapy because there is some indication or recognition that something is wrong. it takes a profound amount of courage on the part of a client to walk into a room with a stranger and admit that there is a problem that they have no idea how to fix. this is the space that the therapist steps into. the therapist answers that courage with hope. the therapist says yes, something is wrong, but it can get better, and i am here to help.

hope binds the therapeutic process to theology. the formative act of “doing theology” and the formative act of “doing therapy” go hand in hand because of the hope the the act of doing will lead to something more and something better.

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