Dear Misfit, do you know how amazing you are? No really. Have you ever thought about how special you are? We’ve never met before, I don’t know you all by name and I won’t pretend to. I don’t know all of your stories or understand everything you all have-or are- going through, but more than anything I wish that I did. To those of you out there who feel like you don’t belong, I’m here to let you know that you’re not alone. I understand, I really do. If you’re like me and feel like your living on the wrong planet, you’re probably wondering why your even here. Whoever you are, I hope we get to meet one day. We’ll sit down, have coffee, and I’ll be glad to listen to your story. Your story matters, it deserves to be told. I want you to know if you ever need a friend, I’m here. Not to judge you, but to listen and offer support. I know what it’s like to be differn’t, not the special kind but what’s considered to be the weird kind. I know it’s hard to live in a world where you’re not accepted, a world built for the people who conform to society’s standards of what is normal. It makes life hard. And for me, being a High functioning Autistic means that I have invisible struggles that no one around me knows about or understands. I remeber when I was first diagnosed with High-functioning Autism at 17. When I was told I had Autism, I didn’t even know what that meant. But when I did find out, everything suddenly made sense. A lot of unanswered questions that I had about myself had finally been answered, but it was difficult to come to terms with. No one had ever told me about Autism growing up, Autism awareness just wasn’t widespread. No one talked about it, not my parents, my school, or even my community. It made me feel so alone and misunderstood. I was confused, angry, & scared. I thought there was something wrong with me. If you feel the same way about yourself, I just want you to know that there is nothing wrong with you. You are not broken or defective, you are not useless or dumb. You are perfect just the way you are and you are more special than you realize. You matter and you have just as much a right to be here as anyone else. Whatever your differences, that does not make you any less of a person. God made you this way for a reason and I don’t believe that he makes mistakes. I know things probably didn’t turn out the way you expected, but I thank God for you with all my heart! Never forget, that’s the truth.
I don’t like being alone. I don’t like being misunderstood. I’m not perfect and like a lot of people my life is comlicated and messy. I won’t lie and pretend that everything in my life is sunshine and rainbows, because it’s not. Autism makes my life hard because Autism has its challenges. Its taken years just to teach myself the basics of normal life and socializing that most people don’t have to think twice about. After studying some small talk scripts online, I can finally make comments about people’s appearances and the weather. Facial expressions, nodding my head to show I’m listening, forced eye contact, etc. Everything that I’ve learned I’ve had to teach myself. It’s not that I didn’t have emotion, I just didn’t know how to express it. I’ve come along way, but as far as I’ve come, I still have a lot to learn and I know deep down that I’ll never be normal. I’ll never be just like everybody else. When people see my monotone face, they still often look at me like I’m an alien from mars. And you know what? That’s okay. Being Autistic isn’t easy, it’s affected me my whole life even before I knew what Autism was. I’ve tried so hard to “fake normal”, but try as I might, I know that I will never fit in the way that normies will and I realize that not everyone is going to accept me for who I am. This use to really bother me a lot, but overtime God has helped me to see myself the way that he does and I’ve realized that I’m exactly who God wants me to be. Now I love who I am and I can only hope that God will use my testimonies that I am about to share with you all today to inspire others to love themselves as they are. No matter who you are, you have an extraordinary ability to see the world through a differen’t perspective and make the world a better place. There’s a man at my who attends my church with Aspergers who since his diagnosis has dedicated his whole life to supporting, encouraging, and loving children, teens, & adults on the Autism spectrum. There are so many amazing misfits out there that God has used in incredible ways, there stories just don’t get told. The world is more beautiful because of people like you in it. Thank you for exisiting. You are important even if you don’t think so and the world needs more people like you! I thank God for every unique individual out there who dares to be themselves. I want you all to know how much I admire you all for staying true to yourselves even as you struggle to find acceptance in a world that struggles to embrace people outside the barriers of what is normal. Maybe your’e like I was and you’re struggling to fully accept yourself as you are, for you guys I pray that you will see yourself the way that God does. Whatever your struggles, just know that you are amazing just the way you are and today I want to encourage you to see yourself as the incredible person that you are and encourage you to push through whatever struggles you may be wrestling with.
When the Ordinary become the Extrodinary:
“I watch the world from behind walls, a world I will never be a part of. I look around, I beg in the silence, ‘Will you notice me? Please see me’ But like shadows in the night people pass on and my words fall on deaf ears. My tears fall like rain and cuffed by balls and chains, I am an echo in the wind…” My thoughts and prayers, The Invisible Girl, 2014. © 2019 https://karynshaven.wordpress.com All rights reserved.
When someone waves at me, I instinctivley smile and wave back. In that one moment I feel exhilarated- and then that moment ends when I realize that they weren’t actually waving at me. This happens to me all the time as if it were a rule set up by those with selective visibility. I’m the girl in the back corner, the little flower on the wall that stands separate from the crowd. I’ve never really existed in society, infact to most I might as well be invisible. I’ve lived in the same area attending the same events for about seven years now, and it’s taken about seven years just to get an occasional ‘hi, how are you?’ from the people around me. Before that no one even knew I existed, I couldn’t get so much as an eye glance from anyone. Talk about being a ghost in the room. I’m so used to being ignored by people now that I often just tune out all the noise of the world and enjoy the company of my own imagination. Not that it would matter if someone noticed and talked to me anyways. I can’t complain much, but sometimes having Autism can be hard because it often means that I can’t think of more than a few sentences to say to people. Do you ever feel like you don’t matter? Like your just the ‘third wheel?’ The one everyone just tolerates? You hang out with your group of friends but most conversations are going on without you. Maybe your the unnecessary accessory of the group that just tags along. The one no one acknowledges, the one who is friendless and alone. As awful as it is to say, we live in a world that sees what it wants to see and disregards the people and things that it doesn’t want to see. We all might as well be faceless figures walking around with x’s drawn on our faces. We all want to find a place where we belong, friends to fit in with, but a lot of times we’re cast in the shadows instead. The one thing that really has helped me cope with this is my family and faith. There are no strangers, bums, or outcasts in God’s family. There’s a place for everyone in his Kingdom and there’s a place for you. You are incredible the way you are and even if people can’t see you for it, that doesn’t make it any less true. To those of you who feel like you don’t belong, I just want you all to know that I keep you guys in my prayers. You are not forgotten. You are not alone. You are not unnoticed. You are not friendless. God sees you and so do I, you are known by him, and he understands your feelings and struggles (Genesis 16:13 & Psalm 139:1). Jesus was a nobody who spoke of a truth that nobody wanted to hear. Nobody even acknowledged him before his ministry. Without that angel who appeared as a star to alert the Shepherd’s and guide them, they wouldn’t have known about Jesus. Jesus wasn’t so different from us. He was raised in a humble and insignificant town, growing up an average every day Joe-blow. And even when Jesus was acknowledged by the public, the majority of people didn’t want him. In fact, many turned away from him and straight out rejected and abandoned him. When his ministry became more known, the pharisees said he was demon-possessed (Matthew 12:24), his parents thought he was crazy (Mark 3:21), and his brothers not only didn’t believe him but also ridiculed him (John 7:3-5). Like I said before, he was hopelessly misunderstood by his culture. People made fun of Jesus (Mark 10:34, Mark 5:40, Luke 16:14, Luke 23:35) and his disciples, his close friends, left him. His comrades who he shared everything with, and spent the last three years with, fled at the first sign of trouble (Mark 14:50). Some friends he had. He was a man who suffered a lot of pain and sorrow. We treated him like someone of no importance, like someone people would not even look at but turn away from in disgust. If anyone in the world were truly abandoned, it was Jesus. Jesus loves the bums, outcasts, the lepers, and rejects of society, the people the world forgot. The world says were nobodies, but Jesus took us in his arms and shared in our pain and rejection. We may not see him, but we have his angels watching over us and we have God watching over us. Maybe you’ll never have your name in lights, maybe you’ll never get invited to the places you want to go, or be acknowledged by the people you want to see you, or maybe you’ll never get that promotion you’ve been wanting. But that doesn’t make you a nobody because to God you are a somebody. Your amazing just the way you are and I hope you know that someone appreciates all that you do, even the little things you do are not forgotten by God (Hebrews 6:10). Blessed are you my friend because it’s people like you and me that he uses. God picks up the nobodies and he either turns them into somebodies or he uses them to do the impossible.
- Abraham became the father of 17 million Jews (Ge. 17:5)
- Joseph went from a slave to ruler of Egypt (Ge. 41:40)
- Naaman’s servant girl, an Israeli captive’s advice saved the Kings Commander’s life (2 Kgs 5)
- Esther was an orphan who became queen and saved her people from genocide (Es. 2:7 & Es. 8)
In the bible there’s a story about a boy from Bethlehem. He was the youngest of his seven brothers, a nobody and a misfit among his family and people. Unacknowledged by his Father and shunned, ridiculed, and utterly hated by his older brothers, he was the outcast nobody noticed. His name was David. Isolated, alone, unwanted, unneeded, no one cared about him. His own Father didn’t even bother to call him in from his field duties when Samuel was looking for Israels future king among his older sons. I can’t even imagine how David must have felt when his Father finally called him in from the fields and he saw that he was the last one to arrive. All eyes were probably on him in that tense silence, and while we can’t know how David must have felt, I can tell you how I would have felt: Excluded, ignored, and left out. God noticed David when no one else did and he took that same shepherd boy from his pasture and made him King over an entire nation (Psalm 78:70 & 1 Samuel 16:12, Psalm 89:19). A bedraggled runt went from tending to the sheep of his family’s pasture to tending a kingdom and kicking a 9ft giant’s behind with no military training (According to The Masoretic Text). Yeah David had experience defending his Father’s sheep from lions and bears, which are in itself fierce predators, but taking on a giant? I don’t know about you, but I don’t know if I would have had the guts to do that. I mean, standing up against someone six feet taller than I am? I can’t even imagine going up against a 7ft giant, to entertain such a thought is laughable. And I can’t help but wonder, did laughter roar across the Israeli army when they saw David? Did his own brothers turn away in humiliation? If they did, I can’t imagine the silence that must have followed as David’s stone knocked Goliath dead to the ground. If there’s one thing I see God do the most in the bible it’s glorify the nobodies. God isn’t impressed with looks, fame, or fortune, he cares about the hearts of those commited to him (2 Chronicles 16:9 & 1 Samuel 16:7). Out of all the testimonies that I have heard, the most common one I hear is how God has used the ordinary to do the extradoniary. He takes the weak, powerless, and unimportant in the world to take the hand of the strong and baffle and utterly astound them. It always amazes me how God uses such insignificant people and uses them for such feats. You probably won’t find yourself running a Kingdom, leading an army, or sipping tea with the Queen of England, but don’t ever discredit what God can do through you. Regardless of gifts or talents, strengths and flaws, no matter how big or small your work matters, you matter. And God’s truth about you matters so much more than the world’s opinion of you. You’re somebody special to somebody bigger than you and I, special enough that he always has your back and only wants what’s best for you. Whenever you feel unloved, unseen, unheard, unappreciated, remember who you are to God because when it comes down to it, that’s all that matters.
Loneliness: The Blessing in Disguise
“I am trapped, shut away in a tomb, a container which retains my weary soul. Sealed in a crypt, I am shackled in chains of loneliness, the bonds which no one can see-” The Invisible Girl, MTAP 2014, © 2019 https://karynshaven.wordpress.com All rights reserved.
Once upon a time, there was a little girl who just wanted to make friends. That was her dream. She wanted to be friends with other kids so badly, but she was a little odd, so the other kids ignored her. She would bend over backwards trying to fit in and be like everyone else, but the harder she tried, the weirder people thought she was. One night, she got down on her knees and prayed, “God I want to be a friend to others, please help me to make friends.” But her prayers went unanswered and she began to wonder, was she asking for too much? All she wanted were friends she could hang out with and talk and laugh about stupid things with, but she was alone instead. That girl is me. Not everyone wants to be a loner, but for many people that’s the case. In 2018 a Cigna study found that nearly half of Americans report feeling alone (Source below). No one should feel lonely, but when you are, remember that you sometimes God puts us in lonely places for incredible reasons. I know what it’s like to be lonley. I’ve experienced a lot of social isolation throughout my life and it breaks my heart to think of all of you out there having to go through the same thing. Lack of social interactions has left me with little to no friends. People think Autistics are un-affected by loneliness, but the truth is, we aren’t. Some of the loneliest people you’ll meet are on the Autism Spectrum and research is finally beginning to shed light on this. According to research, ASD people are four times more likely to be lonely than the general public. I know there are a lot of forsaken souls out there, and that’s the part of me that’s hoping you will understand. People say that teen years are the worst times in your life, that it’s the hardest times you will ever have to face. And they weren’t wrong, but I want to help you imagine what it’s like to be on the Autism Spectrum and lonely. To be thirteen and lonely is hard enough, but to be thirteen, lonely, and autistic… there’s nothing worse. I’ve never really had friends, never suceeded in making any either. I’ve never felt like I’ve truly belonged or fit in anywhere. I didn’t comprehend “normal”, and there are still many things that I don’t understand when it comes to social cues and the emotional world, which in itself made me feel isolated and alone. It’s pure torture being in a room full of people and still feeling lonley. I remember all the times I was in a crowded room, watching everybody laugh and talk freely about whatever they wanted to, I wanted to join in but I never knew what to say. Every day I practiced a million different scenarios in my head one but could’t come up with one conversation line. Besides that, everyone looked so engrossed in their conversations that I thought it would be rude of me to just walk up and interupt them. I suppose I could have waited and watched for an opening to go introduce myself, the promblem with that is that often times because everyone hung out in larger groups, their conversations almost never broke. You would have to be watching the group the whole time in order to catch the right moment, and I don’t know about you, but I think most people would consider that stalking. I’ll never forget the one time I did walk up to a group to say hi. There conversation ran cold, their smiles fell, and they’re faces challenged my right to be there. They way they looked at me made me feel like some kind of leper. They didn’t have to say anything, they were giving out a silent but clear message that I wasn’t welcome. They might as well have just come out and said, “You’re not one of us, you do not belong with us. Go away.” I stepped back, mute. Message recieved. Their words knived my heart, making it bleed steadily. I wish I could say that I just imagined it, I wish I could forget, but I can’t. Something in me died that day, I can’t even begin to tell you how lonley and angry I felt. I cried but the pain wouldn’t go away. Socially disabled. Socially isolated. Socially clueless. It all brings about the most lonely feelings in the world. I was lonely for so long, I didn’t want to hurt any more. I just couldn’t bear it anymore, so I just gave up trying to make friends and avoided social events all together. What was the point of trying? I couldn’t hold conversations, every trail I tracked always led back. And nobody cared that I was there, in fact I’m pretty sure that I could have dropped off the face of the earth and they wouldn’t have even noticed that I was gone. I cried many tears for the friends I couldn’t make, the conversations I couldn’t hold, and the rejection I felt from those around me. I remember all the years I spent watching my peers, talking and giggling all around me, their backs all turned to me. What’s that like? I thought. Can I be a part of it? Even today, I’ve learned to be okay with being by myself, and yet I can’t help but glance at the happy smiling faces around me and think to myself: What are you talking about? What’s making you smile and laugh like that? Or when someone waves in my direction, I turn around- a small part of me still hoping it’s me their waving to- but it’s always the guy behind me or the girl next to me. I’ve felt the hurt of loneliness, darkness broke through and I almost let it destroy me. But it was that same loneliness that God used in my life to point me to others who are hurting. Looking back, I realize that the promblem wasn’t everyone else, it was me. I thought too highly of people, I had too many expectations. I had this unrealisitic idea in my head that everyone should get along, love eachother, and be friends with everybody. I lived in a fantasy world with a false idea that it was my right to be loved and accepted by others. But I’ve realized that the world is not my friend and it’s not it’s responsibility to be. That’s when I realized that I must stop being worried when other people don’t like me or don’t want to be my friend. We love exalting ourselves and idolizing people, but Jesus takes this idea that were more important than everyone else, burns it to the ground and dances in it’s ashes (John 15:20). Jesus didn’t come to be served, but to serve. Life’s not all about us, it’s about God and others. I have a t-shirt at home with this saying in it that I just love: Love God, love people. It’s taken me years to realize and accept that my mission in life isn’t to be noticed or fill my own tank of loneliness, it’s about living for the world to see Jesus. Life isn’t about how people can bless me, but how I can bless others. Everyone has a purpose, everyone is important, but our purpose and worth was meant to glorify God. You are more precious than diamonds and you are loved more than you ever know by a God who made only one you, but that love and was not intended to be spent just on ourselves, but to be shared with others. And I was only about to realize this because of loneliness. Sometimes our greatest pain is what becomes the link that draws us closer to others and for me that only became possible because of loneliness. Sometimes loneliness is the light that makes us aware of those traveling downthe same path as us and beckons our hearts to help them through it. I was haunted by the pain I saw in my lonley smiles around me. I didn’t want anyone else to feel that same hurt. I wanted people to know that they’re not alone. I wanted to be a friend to people, even though I knew it would be impossible for me to reach people. The thought of conversations terrified me, but I wanted to make friends anways. I wanted to let the people like you out there know that you have a friend out there who thinks about you and cares for you. I wanted to be there for those who are hurting and comfort those in need, and I still do. Sometimes I think suffering ties us together, making us and those around us stronger in that bond. And if hurt draws me closer to people in that way, then maybe loneliness isn’t so bad after all. The hurt of loneliness isn’t a game, I get that. I probably don’t sound like it because it’s not something that people are always willing to accept. But I’ve seen what happens when someone doesn’t accept hurt, they set out with all these expectations for life only for those dreams to be dashed along with their heart and soul. Believe me when I tell you that what you do next and how you respond to this pain right here and now, that’s what makes the difference. I’ve seen other people hurt. I’ve heard their stories, but no matter how horrifying the rejection was, each of them had a choice: You can let that hurt and loneliness drag you down and fall to the shadows. You can let darkness ooze into your soul and ensnare your spirit, or you can accept that you can’t get rid of all of the hurt and move forward. For me, moving forward started with researching ways to reach out to others. But how could I reach out and bless those around me? How could I be proof of God’s love? I’m awful at conversations, but I realized that I have a knack for writing, that’s when I started writing letters. Slowly its expanded into a little at home, card-making ministry dedicated to encouraging and sharing the love of Jesus with the people the world forgot. There is a purpose for those who wait. And if I had to go through the pain of isolation and rejection all over again, I would. Not because I enjoy loneliness, I hate it with every part of me, but I would go through it again if I had to because of how God has used that hurt to help others for his glory. Loneliness is one of many tragedies in the world, but it can also have a purpose. Loneliness can open our hearts to love and bring us to a state of genuine compassion. Not to say that all suffering is all for divine purpose, with that said, I don’t believe that God wastes suffering either. God can take that pain and turn it something beautiful, if you let him. I use to think that loneliness was a curse, but I’ve learned that it can also be a blessing. I want you all to know today that you are not alone in your feelings. There are people out there who care about you. Never forget the friends you’ve never met. You have friends you don’t even know yet who care about you and are praying for you. Friends who understand your struggles of loneliness and understand your pain and frustration. Friends who are cheering you on through every storm. You can do this, you are strong enough to fight this hurt, I have faith in you. From the friends you haven’t met yet, I hope you know what an amazing person you are. You are good enough and you deserve the best. So have a great day, you deserve it.
“And though I am shut away in a castle, waiting for rescue as I watch the world drift by, I have not lost my faith in you. Though I am un-noticed, I am never abandoned. Let the stormy gales lift my heart to you. I come to the one who understands every pain and heartache. Through many tears you have helped me triumph over each one-” The Invisible Girl, MTAP conclusion 2014, © 2019 https://karynshaven.wordpress.com All rights reserved.
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Hope for the Depressed:
“The world once shined bright, but now it seems so dark. I am lost, so lost. My innocence, my love, my dreams, my hopes… their all gone-” Tears, MTAP short version, 2014. © 2019 https://karynshaven.wordpress.com All rights reserved.
Warning: Trigger warning, some people may find this article disturbing. (Viewer discretion is advised. Read at your own risk.)
To those who’ve felt Depression or are depressed, I’ve been there and I want to help you through it. You are a gift, a light that brightens the world and you were made to fill a purpose that only you can do. You are not a burden, you are a blessing. You aren’t weak, you are strong. I know you don’t feel brave or strong, but you are, you just don’t know it yet. I have faith in you, you got this! I know it’s dark, I know it’s cold and scary. The scariest part of having depression is being suicidal but being afraid to die. It’s okay if your crying, I cry all the time. I get it, you’re miserable and life stinks right about now, and I want you to know that you are not going through this alone. I can’t truly understand how you feel, but I’m here if you need me. If you need a hand, take mine and we’ll wade through these murky waters together. I am a victim of depression and I know what it’s like to live in the absence of hope. I have Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), something that affects 11 million people. It’s been so long that I’ve forgotten what happiness feels like. If I was ‘happy,’ I wouldn’t know it, I am no longer able to identify it. There are days I feel nothing at all, I’m just numb and then there are days when I feel the weight of sadness. Some days my chest hurts so bad that it feels like someone is squeezing my heart. I’ve been fighting this battle since I was thirteen. It’s almost been a decade now and I’m still going strong. I have High functioning depression, which means I can fake normal and plaster a painful smile on my face, but inside I am dying. Despite common misconceptions, I am suffering with a ligitamiate mental health disorder but you wouldn’t know it because I live what appears to be a seemingly normal life, but really it’s just a mask that foreshadows the torment of depression. For about a year, mabye two, not even my immediate family knew what was going on. I think my family may have sensed sometihing was wrong but wasn’t sure what. Back then if I even tried doing anything fun, my depression only grew worse. I almost resorted to cutting, I started marking my arm with a red marker to mark the places I would cut. One night years ago when everyone else was in bed, I made the attempt too, but then I freaked out at the last moment. I was so petrified that I never tried it again. I had no motivation to wake up, after several hundred attempts to try and make friends and failing miserably, and finding myself standing outside the cliques of those around me, I lost all motivation to socialize. And then, I lost the motivation to live. I didn’t want to die, I was afraid to die, but often times I didn’t want to live either. I felt like I was drowning. I was in such a dark place that while I never made the attempt, I often contemplated suicide. I still remember crying every night, wishing I would go to sleep and never wake up. If not for God and my family… I don’t even want to think about what might have happened. After I went into crisis, I ended up in the emergency room, which is the only reason I was able to get in and see a psychiatrist and was prescribed an anti-depressant. Unfortunatley in my area most pscychiatrists are overbooked with patients and the wait list to see one is long. The only way you can see one fairly quickly is if you are sent to the emergency room because of a crisis. I was prescribed an antidepressant but the medication only took off the edge off my sadness. It was better than not being on any medication, but I hated the fact that the medications often times gave me some unwanted bad side effects. The Anti-deppressants had a tendency to aggitate my acid reflux, resulting in terrible nausea or the bassal contrictors in the medication would restrict blood flow and turn my toes blue even though I was wearing layers of fuzzy socks and warm slippers. But the hardest part was how my body would build up a tolerance to the depression meds, making it difficult to find a medication that actually worked for long periods of time. I never did really find something that worked for me and I’m not saying this to imply that Anti-depressants don’t work, because some do and some don’t, it all just depends on the person. But for me, it didn’t work like I wanted it too. It took five years for me to officially come out of crisis and around seventeen for my depression to become slightly tolerable. In all it’s taken about nine years for things to start getting better for me. I still have depression, but I’m much better than I used to be. I still have off days but I am finally at a place where I can at least attempt a smile and laugh a little. I am thankful for that.
Depression eats you alive, maybe it’s eating you now as you read this. Maybe you feel like there’s an anchor dragging you down into the abyss with no hope of reaching the surface. I know it’s hard to believe this right now, but there is a silver lining, I promise. For those of you who are struggling, I just want to wrap my arms around you and let you know that everything will be okay. Things really do get better and things will change. It’s okay to be struggling, it’s okay to need help. Don’t suffering in silence, don’t fight this alone. There are people out there who care about you and want to help you through this. If you’re out there, unable to find the strength to rise. If you’re out there, ready to give up and end it all, don’t give up on yourself, you have so much to offer this world. Maybe you are at your lowest point right now, maybe you’re broken, and that’s okay. It’s okay to be weak, it’s okay to be broken. But I don’t think your weak, I think your strong. Your doing your best, and that’s all that matters. Do you know how strong you are to survive the deplorable conditions of Despair’s dungeon? Do you know how strong you have to be to keep on living? To keep thriving through this battlefield? True strength isn’t based on the amount of battles we win and just because we fight doesn’t mean that we will win the war. True strength is measured by every moment we spend either fighting in those war zones or surviving it. For every minute you keep on living in that psychological dungeon, through that overwhelming hopelessness, you are strong in that sense. And you do that by you do that by taking it one second, one minute, one hour, one day at a time. Despair loves it when we take the easy way out, he laughs at us when we give up. It’s what he wants us to do. He dedicates his life to torturing us, whispering into our ears that we are not enough, that we have nothing to live for. He tells us that we deserve to die, that are lives are meaningless and empty. John Bunyan couldn’t have expressed this any better in his book Pilgrim’s Progress. Two pilgrims friends named Christian and Hopeful are on a journey to the Celestial City. Along the way they are attacked by a giant named Despair and taken against their will to Doubting Castle where they are thrown into the dungeon. Despair puts them through harrowing torture and does everything in his power to get them to end their suffering by taking the easy way out by ultimately ending their own lives. When there is no light and it seems there is no other way out, when it seems there is no hope, Christian begins to consider it. Basically in his conversation to Hopeful he’s saying, ‘But killing ourselves, surely we should consider it. After all, wouldn’t it be better than suffering like this?’ Despair’s words had finally reached Christian, they were strangling what will he had to go on. It doesn’t help either when our friends, family, co-workers, and even society itself belittles our sickness. They tell us that we are lazy, that we are feeling sorry for ourselves, that we’re ungrateful, that we should be like non-depressed people, or that we should stop procrastinating and just get over it. Such is the stigma and ignorance of the society we live in. It’s a shame that there is such a lack of education in our schools and in our cities about mental illnesses has led people to say things about our mental disorders that make us doubt our worth even further and make us want to give up and die. But depression is not a matter of lacking contentment, feeling sorry for ourselves, or just being lazy. I know this better than anyone. I may not be rich, but I never considered myself poor. I didn’t have the latest fashions, my clothes were hand-me-downs from my cousins. I didn’t have everything I wanted, but I’ve always had what I needed and that was enough. I was always content with what I had. Even now when I feel hopeless and sad I still know that compared to the rest of the world my family and I are so blessed. What I lack is not contentment or thankfulness, what I have is a mental illness, a chemical imbalance in the brain that not even depression meds can fix. I know it’s hard for people without depression to understand, but this is not something Depresees can just chase away by being thankful or even by sheer will power. Depression is a pervasive mental disorder, a sickness that like a terminal illnesses is beyond our control and sometimes can’t be cured even with the assistance of medication and therapy. And despite the common misconception, that doesn’t make me weak, and it doesn’t make you weak either. You can be mentally strong and still have a mental illness. Some of the most courageous, strongest, people you’ll meet are those who suffer from a mental disorder. When our mind turns against us, when society patronizes us, we fight through the emotions and stigma. We struggle. We fight. We are wounded. It may take us two or three times more effort than the average person but we get through it one day at a time. Our efforts aren’t understood or appreciated because we aren’t physically sick, if we were, I think people would be more understanding. Our hearts reside in the depths of an abyss bound in chains that no one else can see and because of it we are judged and misunderstood. Often times that means we’re alone and abandoned, but we fight to survive anyways. That’s what it means to be strong. If that isn’t what you call true strength, then I don’t know what is. I still don’t feel happy, maybe I never will, but I’ve learned that it’s okay to manage your depression but never fully recover from it. Maybe the darkness will always be there, but in that darkness God will always be there too. Jesus isn’t silent in your suffering, he understands because he battled with sadness too.
“My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me-” Jesus of nazareth, Mark 13:34.
“(Jesus) A man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief-” Isaiah 53:3.
Your cries weigh heavily on his heart, Jesus really does get you. God doesn’t always heal us, he doesn’t always help us escape our prisons or the demons that torture us- because that’s not what he promised. I just want you to know that it’s not because he’s lost patience with you or is disappointed in you. You’ve done nothing wrong. But if I’ve done nothing wrong, then why depression? Some of the greatest pain out there is not designed to teach something meaningful or isn’t used for a greater purpose. It is without reason, there is no means to justify it, it’s just unfair and has to be dealt with- as horrible as it is to say that. I’m sorry, I wish the world wasn’t like that. But know this, God will always be there to hold you. Psalm 55:22 says that if we give our burdens to God he will sustain us. The word sustain means, ‘to support, to keep going.’ And that’s exactly what God promises to do for us throughout the bible. God brought me low and then he has comforted me. Matthew 5:4 says, ‘Blessed are those who are sad for they will be comforted (NIRV).’ A radical and audacious declaration. How can I be blessed? It is an unusual blessing indeed. God’s ways are mysterious, which is why people often hate his plans so much. We hate what we don’t understand, what we cannot explain. When the rain begins to fall, it’s okay to feel negative emotions, you don’t half to be happy all the time, and you shouldn’t feel ashamed about it. It’s in the rain that we become stronger as people. When darkness creeps into your soul and when you are lost in the dark, hold on to the light. If you look to the light and remember it, the darkness will not overtake you. And as you pass through this valley of weeping, God’s presence although unseen, underheard, un-felt is still beside you in the storm.
“Hope that is seen is not hope. Who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience-” Romans 8:24.
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools-” Psalm 84:5
The Hebrew word baca (baka) translates as ‘to weep’ or ‘balsam tree.’ While the true meaning is uncertain, the New living translation refers to it as the ‘valley of weeping’ or the ‘vale of tears’. It would be a befitting term for King David who seemed to have battled with depression (Ps. 6:6, 69: 1-3, & 42:11). I’m no scholar, but it seems that he could have possibly had a long-term mental disorder. I don’t know about you, but I take David’s words as an encouragement to find strength in the God who preserves and sustains us through every storm in life. I think the greatest thing we can come to learn and accept about depression is that the storm doesn’t always pass and that it’s okay not to be happy. I know that’s the American Dream: to be successful, have more, to live the dream, and to be happy. There’s nothing wrong with having hopes and dreams and I’m not saying that we should all be negative eating nightmares. With that being said, there’s also nothing wrong with accepting hurt. Sometimes it’s okay to be sad, sometimes it’s okay to cry. I’ve learned is that it’s in hard times that I have had to learn to dance in the rain. Once upon a time, dark clouds began to roll in and what started out as a perfect, sunny day turned into a dreary wet one. On that particular day I found myself stuck in the middle of a downpour with no umbrella. My first reaction was to grumble and complain, but as the silver droplets danced on my skin, the coolness soaking my hair and clothes- I remembered one of my favorite books, ‘Eye of the Oracle’ by Bryan Davis. My favorite scene in the novel was when the main protagonist, a slave girl named Mara, danced with Elohim in the rain and rises as Sapphira Adi. That’s when beautiful words from the book poured unbidden into my mind and I felt a sudden need to stand in the rain. As I stood there, the rain seemed to wash away every slavish strife that tortured my mind. Since my teen years and now into adulthood, my life has been one big internal struggle with a million different things. It’s in those times that I always like to imagine Jesus extending his hand like he did for Peter when he was drowning. And I imagine myself taking that hand and letting him pull me close and spinning me in a pirouette. Sometimes all we can do is stand in the rain and let ourselves be held by God. When faced with sorrow and hopeless defeat, let God take care of you. Let him hold you and guide your feet with each step. Dance child and feel God’s love, let it be the benevolent and sustaining power that supports you. Let it attain all your sorrows and transform them into crowned blessings. Maybe the darkness will always be there, but so will God.
“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown-” Isaiah 43:2.
Maybe the storm won’t pass, but God will always be the lifeline that keeps you from drowning. Maybe you will stay mired in darkness, but in that darkness there will always be a light. No matter how deep the shadows, no matter how lonely, empty, or despairing the darkness may be, you can always be sure of finding that light in the dark. God will always be there for you, ready to light your path and guide you even when you cannot see it. No matter how long the night, no matter how deep your pain runs or how dire the situation, never give up, for a day will come when the dawn will shine again.
If you, a friend, or a loved one needs support in the US, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1-800-273-8255.
Scrupolsity, the mental illness that kills Christians:
Religious Ocd, also known as Scrupulosity- “A religious or moral obsession characterized by doing the right thing whether it be religiously, morally, or ethnically. Also defined as a pathological guilt, thoughts, or significant fears concerning religion. It can also include uncontrolled thoughts, images, or urges of blasphemous thoughts in which one curses God.”
Scrupulosity makes life miserable doesn’t it? Sometimes it just makes faith seem impossible. I’ve read your stories- how so many of you suffering want to give up on the faith. And it just breaks my heart to hear those words because I understand, I really do. My most recent encounter with it was so bad that I woke up in the middle of the night, the anxiety from my thoughts was so intense that I leaned over my trash can and just about threw up. Maybe the overwhelming fear you face seems impossible to go through, but you can’t give up. If you do, then everything you’ve done, everything you’ve endured until now, it will all be for nothing. I know it’s hard, I’ve been there. I know your scared, I’m scared too. Some nights all I can do is cry because I feel so bad that I’m having these nightmarish thoughts even though I know it’s not my fault. Scrupulosity is a very good torturer. Like all forms of Ocd, it knows what upsets me and how to get under my skin. It knows how to make me mad, how to make me cry, and how to push me to my breaking point. And then somehow manages to convince me that’s all my fault. Who else out there can relate to this? How many times has Scrupulosity told you that you should be able to control your thoughts? How many times has it told you that you should be able to ignore them, but instead you let it happen? That you want these thoughts? How many times has this doubting disease told you that this is the unpardonable sin? That if God exists he must hate you, that he’s never going to forgive you. You’re way past saving, so why even try? For you guys, I pray that God will breathe light into your darkness and be the torch that ignites your soul for him. I’m writing to you, my Scrupulosity friends out there who feel alone and I’m here to offer you the same reassurance that was given to me.
You slump into bed exhausted. You put everything you have into fighting the noise in your head, but you often wonder if your even trying at all. A thousand thoughts race through your mind. What if this is sin and not actually scrupulosity? What if I’m doing this on purpose? What if I actually want these thoughts and feelings? Will God hold me accountable for my thoughts? Is this the unpardonable sin? I don’t know your heart, but if you can’t shake your thoughts that’s a pretty good indicator that this is Ocds doing and your thoughts are not intentional. Also, it’s never your fault when Ocd hits. If you were doing this on purpose and actually wanted these thoughts, you would be happy to have these thoughts and you’d be content with the state your in. Finally, this is not the ‘unpardonable sin’, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is something that can no longer be duplicated today. The unpardonable sin was the pharisees deliberately denying the truth, slandering the holy spirit, and accusing Jesus of being demon possessed even while knowing that Jesus was the Messiah. The only unpardonable sin today is the continued state of unbelief, there is no pardon for those who die refusing to believe Christ and utterly reject him forever even unto and after death. So no, no matter what curse words or other blasphemous thoughts you have about God, you have not committed the unpardonable sin. Finally, God knows your heart (Psalm 139:1 & Psalm 44:21) just as he knows that there’s nothing you or I can do to stop these thoughts from happening. And for the record, I don’t believe that he holds us accountable for them. God understands, he knows our hearts even when you and I don’t. I know it’s scary not knowing what’s in your heart, but we weren’t there 2,000 years ago. Jesus knew our hearts before he even spoke creation into existence. What do you think of that? Even though he knew we would have these thoughts, urges, and impulses, he still doesn’t treat us as we deserve. And you know what? He still loves you and I and there’s nothing that we can ever say, think, feel, or do will ever persuade his love to wander from us. His love is so perfect, holy, and pure, it is unlike anything we can possibly understand, it is so much bigger than us. Which brings us to another question that I hear you guys ask: Why does a God of love allow me to have Scrupulosity? It’s an age old question I’m afraid. God doesn’t send suffering into our lives, but he is a God who suffers with us. Bad things happen because the world is full of sin but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care about us or isn’t there. When bad things like Scrupulosity happen, he suffers alongside us and he gives us the strength we need to get through it. Jesus weeps with us through every pain and heartache. When you doubt his love and faithfulness, imagine him wrapping his arms around you, shielding you from every blow of the whip that should have struck you and me. Imagine the bloody footprints Jesus left behind while on his way to calvary, imprints that will never wash away. Imagine the red liquid oozing from his five wounds dripping onto you, flooding your soul in a cleansing wash of mercy.
Jesus says, “I love you no matter what. I did it because it was you, I did it for you. You are reason enough.” (John 3:16, Romans 5:8, 1 John 4:19, Ephesians 5:2, ESV)
And when you can’t see the light, never forget that that’s where faith comes in. I hate Scrupulosity, but as much as I hate it, I can’t deny that I am grateful for the things that Scrupulosity has taught me. Every day it teaches me that feelings and thoughts aren’t reliable and you can’t base your relationship with God on it, because if you do, your heading for a world of trouble. It also teaches me that true faith is demonstrated when we step out into the darkness even when we can’t see the light. When you feel stuck with no way out and it seems that there is no end. When your disappointed and discouraged and what little hope you have is slipping away, take God’s hand and let him take the lead. I don’t know about other Scrupulosity sufferers, but my Ocd likes to mock me a lot.
“Are you ready for another beatting?” I looked to the sword weilding demon gloating over me. Her words were a snare, threatening to drag me down into the depths of despair. I tried to stand, but my body was anchored to the floor. My torturer laughed, “Ha, you failure! You are so weak!”
With labored breath, I grabbed my sword and crawled onto my hands and knees into a standing position. I clutched my side and lunged at the specter, a new passion burning in my eyes. “You’re right, I am weak,” I replied, “But God is strong.”
Maybe that is why God allows me to have this mental illness, to remind me that his grace is sufficient in weakness. I don’t have all the answers and I can’t say why Ocd happens, but there is something else that I have learned from it. Ocd is often the fire that leaves misery and ashes in its wake but while it can destroy the spirit But I’ve learned that it can also become the awakening fire. When the bellows fiercely stroke the embers, it causes me to step out in faith. God has brought me low, to a place of total surrender and utter dependence and acceptance of my weaknesses. Take it from someone with two different forms of Ocd, it is something that forces me on a daily basis to step out in total surrender and utterly depend on God’s power. It strips me of all pride and forces me to fearlessly trust God in everything amidst doubt and slavish fear. When I am weak, God is strong. I wrote this a few months back during one of my most harrowing encounters with Scrupolsity. I don’t know if it’ll mean anything to you, but I trust that God willing perhaps he will use it to provide those of you struggling with Ocd with encouragement. Here is the entry:
August 11, 2019
Dearest Father, I bow down before the throne of God, pouring out the full weight of my heart. I present my deepest sorrows and woes, the hurdles of frustration and discouragement. A knot of fear twists my stomach, my thoughts threatening to bring about a vomiting session. I am taken captive by thoughts that fight me at every turn. Foreboding dread overshadows me as the cold flesh of my captor’s hand takes hold of my arm. She drags me through the dark dungeon to her chamber of horrors. Can words ever tell of the unspoken torture of the soul? Can it whisper insight to the pain endured on the dungeon’s rack? Can faith prove strong enough as a demon’s hand spins the wheel, stretching its victims beyond will? Can joy survive the whip of regret that tears away all peace from the backs of the ones who kneel before it? Chained in darkness, I sit alone in a prison where no light can filter in. After these past six months of twenty-four hour periods of torture, I count yesterday’s afternoon intercession as a blessing. Yet days of darkness threaten to snuff the light of faith. When it seems things can’t possibly get any worse, my tormentor conspires new and creative ways to torture me beyond what I can stand. Once upon a time, my worst nightmare towered over me. I scooted back, my heart trembling. “You think God can hear you?” The shadowed fiends face contorted in a mask of rage as she pointed a fiery finger at me, “Hypocrite! Do you think God is a fool? That he can’t see the falsity you utter? Elohim is a Holy God, he could never love an abomination like you!” I shouted my defense but my voice faded into nothingness, unseen, unheard. She suspended me by the collar, and with her red eye beams drilling a new stare into me she shouted, “Are you so conceited that you have been blinded to the darkness in your own heart? Your heart is as festering and rancid as your thoughts. God can’t forgive a miserable wretch like you!” With callous disregard and disparaging remarks; her words are a subtle poison that burns like liquid fire. Sinister voices sing hatred into my heart, their breath of lies a snare set to deceive. O God… I can’t hold out much longer… Everything about me is strangled out by a lie, I can’t tell what’s real and what’s not anymore. God of wondrous love, on the wings of hope, catch me as my heart preys to despair. Lift me from this dungeon floor as I crawl to you in weakness; help my feet to fly and my heart to soar. Let us ride on the wings of grace, lifted up by the winds of promise that through your forsaken son, my cold shackles clatter to the ground, and I can one day fly away from this dreary dungeon to be with you. I clench these cage bars that entrap my soul and look to you, another tortured victim, who has suffered far more than I ever could. I look to you, the one who has saved my life many times over. You whom I have shared all my sorrows and tears, all my pain, my joy and laughter with. You are the light that casts out my darkness, that spark of light that always persists. Soon a happy ending awaits and I look forward to the day when I can stand before you. I long to be comforted by the warmth of your embrace, if you are near me I can do anything. When I am near you, my heart feels free. Someday soon, I’ll meet you at Heaven’s altar and our hearts shall join as one, forever intertwined. Until that day, the discomfort of these chains are fleeting. The fetters of today can never shackle my soul, my spirit remains stitched to yours alone, apart from you my heart is never truly free. You are my creator, my life-giver. You are the Master of my life, the one who teaches me to do what is right. You are my companion, my solace in times of trouble. You are my protector, keeping me from descending into the chasm of despair. You are my strength in weakness. You are my hope in sadness, the restorer of my soul. You are my future, an end to that search for meaning and purpose. And above all, you are my saviour, the one who has delivered me from death. You have been amazingly patient with me, always guiding me. So no matter what may befall me, I will never abandon my beloved just as you will never leave or forsake me. Even if you make me stay in this prison, render me to these chains, and leave me to contend with this mistress of evil a while longer, I shall be content. For you will not abandon my soul to sheol forever (Psalm 16:10). Though sorrow may last for the night, joy comes in the morning and light shall prevail over darkness… (End of article)
When I wrote this, I was at my weakest and yet when I look back on this jotting I see God’s strength in my writing. I was breaking under the pressure and yet God still gave me the comfort, love, and patience I needed to endure. God is so good! And it makes me reflect on 2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV.
‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness-’
Sometimes weakness is what God uses to show his strength in a way that we otherwise would miss out on. As the Pastor of my church, Mr. Reidy once said, “Life is full of valleys, setbacks, disappointments, and sometimes tragedies. There are things we learn in the valleys that we don’t learn anywhere else.” When all else fades and we are blind and stumbling in the dark, the situation entails us to go beyond our thoughts and feelings. We are required to go beyond our facts and logic and become willing to trust in God alone. I don’t understand pain, I don’t understand suffering, many nights all I can do is whisper, Why God? But in all this I know that I am called to trust in the one who holds me. Ocd is how God teaches me faith and everyday I ask him to let me not think too much on what I do not understand, nor see in the things of earth, but to let my eyes be fixed on the things of Heaven so that I might be able to see and understand that which is not seen nor easily understood. I think that while God does not cause suffering he sometimes allows it in order to strengthen our character. Other times it is to see if we are willing to trust him and endure until the end of darkness. We start out as lumps of coal but it is under extreme pressure that we either break or are made into precious gems. God isn’t looking for perfect people or amazing faith, but our faith is shown in our willingness to wait. Trials are the proof of our genuine Faith (1 Peter 1:7), they are what refine us (Isaiah 48:10, CSB). While Ocd is the hot iron brand that scalds our hearts and blisters our faith, it can also draw us closer to God. I don’t know how long I shall be able to withstand the flames, but no matter what happens to me, I know that while the anxiety will always be there, so will God. He walks with us through the fire, therefore I shall not fear when the flames that melt my flesh to muscle and bone. If I have been called to burn in the flames a while longer, even here I shall be content so long as God is close beside me (Psalm 130:5, Psalm 27:14, NIV). Afterall, sometimes flowers grow in unexpected places. Did you know that there’s actually a flower that grows after a wildfire? The Papaver californicum, also called the ‘Fire poppy’ or the ‘Fire follower’ is a rare flower in California that begins to grow in the ashes after smoke of fire triggers the germination stage (See in sources below). Sometimes our suffering is what strengthens our character and transforms our faith, causing it to blossom in ways it otherwise wouldn’t have. Our present sufferings are but a passing annoyance that cannot compare to the glory that awaits us. I wish I could stand with you in your mental anguish, but I have only words to offer instead. Never forget God’s truth about you. Ocd doesn’t define you, it is not who you are. And when you feel guilty about saying the worst possible things to God, God is faithful to forgive. God’s love for you is eternal and no matter what you’ve done or how many times you rebel, his love- it was and is always for you, and nothing you do will never change that. When Ocd infiltrates every part of your life, remember that God is bigger than your Ocd.
“My grace is all you need. Only when you are weak can everything be done completely by my power-” 2 Corinthians 12:9, ERV.
God has already bestowed you with the power you need to stand firm, it is a precious gift from him. He sympathizes in your weakness and secures you in his arms, a protective hold on you that he will never relinquish (Psalm 63:8, Isaia 41:13). He stands firm like a foundation stone and in his mercy and love he fights for us.
Jesus says, ‘No matter what happens, I’ll always be here for you. Your pain is so great, please, let me bear it with you.’ (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5, Isaiah 53:4, & Matthew 11:28-30)
Yaweh-Shammah is here for you, Jehovah-Jireh fights with you, for you, and through you (Exodus 14:14, NIV. Romans 8:31, NCV. 2 Chronicles 2017, ESV). God is not far and neither is that glimmer, that spark that has the power to ignite your soul and set your heart free. Take your sword now, champion. Arise and stand with me sons and daughters of light. Let God renew your heart and restore your broken spirit, let his perfect love cast out all your fear. Ignite! Let the light ignite the fire within your weary soul. Let your hearts be set ablaze by the love that God alone can give and bask in the warmth of his glow! For it’s in the fire that we are transformed, it’s in the ashes that we are rebuilt, and it’s in the pressure that we are fashioned as diamonds.
Hey friend, I am honored to have shared my heart with all of you out there and I pray that God will take my thoughts of love to a generation that needs them. I don’t know if my words will make a difference or not, infact as I write this I’m afraid that I’m coming off as insenstive and self-absorbed. I feel so much love for you guys and I want to share that love with all of you and be an encouragement, but I don’t have the words to express it. Just know that I keep you all in my prayers and I’m here if you need me. Thank you for all taking the time to read this. Take care and God bless.