I'm aware that this idea only appeals to a very select audience, but for the 4 of you who read the title and went, "Oooo...," this is for you.
She was quite scraggly when we decided to take her. Allergic to fleas, and covered in their bites, it was definitely a blessing for this cat to be rescued from the outdoors. She's a cross between a tortoise shell and a calico - beautiful colors splashed all over her. Her original "owner" had named her Funny Face. But I know that this soft-spirited kitty did not appreciate it.
I was actually the hold out. I didn't want that cat because she wasn't all that soft, and certainly less approachable than the others. But, there were three cats in the lot, and who were we to break up the "family"?
We re-named her Reeses due to the chocolate/peanut butter colors spread over her. (OK, so you have to really use your imagination to see it.) And she was the last cat to "come out of her shell," so to speak.
As a matter of fact, the kids are still waiting.
Reeses is my cat. She chose me. She will go to no other person; let no one else pick her up or even touch her. When the kids enter the room, she runs like the dickens. Which is weird, because the kids are the ones who feed her. We have had Reeses for 5 years now, and no child has ever been able to pet her a full stroke.
But once every child has gone to bed, she immediately comes out from hiding and finds me on the couch. It doesn't matter if I have room for her on my lap or not, purring, she will find a space. Heaven forbid, however, if my husband, on the other side of the couch should cross his legs, speak, breath, or in any other way make his presence known. Because that will give me about a 15-minute break from Reeses on my lap.
When the family has gone to work and school, she will often wait for me on "my chair." Usually, she doesn't get up when I try to sit down, so I will actually have to lift her and put her on my lap. And if I stayed in my chair for the whole day, she would stay with me until the first child home from school opens the door. After that, I would see her again around 8:30 pm.
She chose me.
I did nothing to be picked. I didn't even want her in the beginning. Don't think the kids aren't reminding me of this all the time, either.
I don't know why she picked me. I can brag to everyone about how much she loves me and wants to be with me, but I can't brag about how I deserve it. All I know is that something about being the one who gets her makes me feel pretty special. I'm the one who knows how soft she is. I could swear that cat smiles when she looks at me.
And she's just a cat.
Imagine how special it feels to be chosen by the God of the universe.
*In case anyone is concerned that I have become some kind of Egyptian cat-worshiper, please let me remind you that this story is just an allegory. I do not think my cat or any other animal is a god. No matter what they themselves think.
So last week was officially Mental Health Awareness Week. Which means I am late, and I hate that. So, let's just look at this post as getting a jump on Mental Health Awareness Month, which is in May. Crazy, isn't it?
Oops. I said it. "Crazy." A word that's becoming more taboo than slang. Because it's real.
Crazy. A word meaning "mentally unstable." Though, it can mean a slew of other things too.
"Let's go crazy."
"That dinner was crazy bad."
"These kids are driving me crazy!"
Okay, that last one was a little closer to the truth. Here's my story.
A few months after my third child was born, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression (PPD). Not the "baby blues." I wasn't just sad; I was overcome. The time before I was diagnosed gave me a good look at how helpless a person is when she has depression that goes untreated.
Why was it so bad? What happens to me when things are bad?
1. The voice. It's my own voice, but it is not controlled by me. This is the worst and hardest part of my depression, and also how I know when it's getting worse. It starts with one sentence - a question -"So, what do you think?" That may seem innocuous enough, but it's a question without an answer. I can't think any other thoughts. There's no space to give an answer. This is immobilizing because when I realize the record is playing, skipping, I become anxious in my inability to think any other thought. I can do the reflexive motions of blinking and breathing, but I couldn't tell myself to blink or breathe. I'll find myself wandering from room to room, because my brain can't give a direction to do something. The stress of this is exhausting.
Sometimes, the question changes. But it's always in the 2nd person, which I find unnerving.
2. Negative thoughts. Sure I know they aren't true, and I do everything I can to keep them to myself so others won't yell at me for thinking them, but they flow through my brain like water in a stream. In my untreated condition, I hear about how ugly, fat, or dumb I am. For some reason every awkward or humiliating moment in my life seems to float to the surface. And again, it's always in the 2nd person - "How can you be so stupid?" "Why on earth would you do such a thing?" "You can't wear that. People might see you!" "You're too fat to go out like that."
"I hate you."
Either these thoughts are blinding, or depression truly affects your vision. I "see" myself as overweight. (Though I would NEVER say this out loud - I am completely conscious of young ears around me. I can't really even believe I'm blogging it.) Thankfully, I had a friend in college tell me, "Nobody who wears a size 6 can call herself fat." I know my weight, BMI, and cholesterol. I am aware I am not overweight. But I can't see that. I can only "know" it.
Even more than that, I'm bothered that my appearance means that much to me in the first place. (In my untreated condition.)
3. Anger and intolerance. If I can't see myself doing things right while in my untreated condition, neither can my family. My angry outbursts at my children was my number one reason for talking to my doctor. I never beat them, and really, they laugh at my spankings, but I yelled myself hoarse. I hope they don't remember that Mommy too clearly.
4. Tears at the ready. This goes along with #3. Inevitably, I would see how I yelled or believe the voices. It really isn't how I want to be, and remorseful tears would begin.
Then I started medication. Amazingly, everything went back to the way it was supposed to be. (Notice I didn't say "normal.") That was my first clue that the medicine was filling a gap of something missing in my brain.
My brain lacks the proper balance of chemicals. If they aren't righted, my brain/body doesn't function as it should. Just like if a diabetic doesn't have the right balance in his body of insulin, bad things could happen to his body too. Sure, he could pray for God to make the insulin in his body work, and I don't doubt He could do it. But maybe, God's answer is the medicine created to help get those chemicals in line. The same goes for depression.
Another point to make in my situation is that I have a small tumor on my pituitary gland (located: in the brain. function: control the release of hormones to the rest of the body.) This may or may not have any effect on the other chemicals released by my brain. It could be this way for many other women as well. Twenty-five percent of American women have such a tumor, and very few know it. (Mine was found after an MRI scan of my brain looking for a source of seizure problems.)
In case you missed it, yes, I said it. I take medicine for depression. Hopefully, you would never have guessed it, because I am good about taking my medicine. I take the lowest dose possible of venlafaxine. But on a day that I forget to take it, I can certainly tell.
Why am I so nervous about revealing to the world that I am on medication? Because some of you don't think I need it. Some of you are of the ilk that medicine is a drug, (okay, it is) and that drugs are bad. Sometimes yes. But not always.
After a few months on the medication, my doctor and I decided to discontinue it. I firmly believe when medicine can help, it should be used, and when it is no longer needed, it should be stopped. (Logical, right?)
You see, I tried going off a few times. Each time has been the same. Right back to the same voices and behaviors I experienced in in my untreated condition before. I tried to get used to it, to see if maybe it was some kind of withdrawal, but with symptoms increasing over the next few weeks, my doctor and I decided I needed to go back on.
To note: I've done the same thing with my cholesterol medication. My cholesterol skyrockets when I am not on meds.
Back to the issue of my faith. Tracy, Why don't you just ask God to help you through your difficult moments?
Although I see the VALUE of prayer, and I KNOW that God could bring me out of this pit if I ask, when the neurons are misfiring and causing the broken record to play, I can't find the room in my brain for any other thought, valuable as it may be. I literally cannot pray.
Will I ever get better? I have no idea. I'll keep trying to find out. It would be great to give up the medicine, and I am perfectly willing. But I'm not willing to live without all the proper chemicals my brain needs. If my brain will manufacture them on their own, great! If it needs some outside help, I'm okay with that too.
Why was it so important to tell you all this? Because to this day I am waiting to hear that someone else has gone through what I have. Hopefully the person who has was looking for me too and maybe now realizes that it's time to talk to a doctor. Every brain is different. Some just need a little more help adjusting in life.
*Note- This is based on my personal experience.
** Please visit the site below for more information and complete list of symptoms.
I do remember your real name, but I also understand how much privacy you want regarding this matter. So, even though your name is something else, I'm addressing you as "Jane," a name I find so beautiful, I gave it to my own daughter.
Jane- a name attached to a person. Not "young lady," as adults tend to address you when they are bothered by your attitude. Not "little girl," because you aren't, though I wish someone else would understand that you are still someone's little girl. You are a teen - that awful time in your life when some will treat you like a kid when you want to be looked at as an adult. And others will unfortunately see you as more mature than you could possibly be.
I haven't heard back from you since the first time you sought my advice on one of those social websites. I like to go on there to stay in touch with the audience I write for, but I think I may have another calling for it as well. You see, I never intended to be a teen leader, but God hasn't let me stray from it since my husband and I started teaching youth group. Now, my heart is bonded to the fate of the teens I know, like it or not.
But this isn't about me, it's about you.
I'm so glad it came up on the chat thread about how wrong pedophilia is, because I had no idea how many kids just didn't know about it. And I'm not sorry about the rant I went on about the evil hearts of men. Too many victims are taking the blame on themselves.
Only a couple of girls took me up on my offer for more advice on the matter, and since you were one of them, I will tell you as a representative of them how brave you are to have taken the first step. I don't think most girls can bring themselves forth to talk about such a sensitive issue as sexual assault. Especially when you are barely old enough to even know what that is.
But you do. And it breaks my heart that you do. Someone took it upon himself to teach you in his own way. I hate that he has ruined you for your future happiness.
When I say ruined, I hope you understand that this is not your permanent state. As a matter of fact, that's why I wanted to write you this letter. And I'm putting it on my blog for those other girls who have not yet mustered up the courage to say anything to anyone about what has happened to them. To those girls, I would still say, please, please tell someone. You could save many others from what you are going through, and start your own healing quicker. But even if you don't, there are a few things I want EVERYONE of you to know.
1. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
(That's not in all caps to shout at you, but so that if you see nothing else on this page, you see that.) Approximately 1 out of every 3 girls is sexually assaulted before they turn 18. It's probably more than that, because those are only reported cases. Imagine how many girls have not told anyone? So, yes, you probably KNOW someone who is suffering with the same secret.
2. You are NOT in TROUBLE!
One main reason girls often don't want to tell is because they are afraid of getting the man in trouble. (As many as 95% of girls know their perpetrator.) That's usually not an accident.
Men always know that molesting a girl is wrong. But often they try to make the girl think that she has some of the responsibility too. YOU DON'T! Look at it this way, were you the one who suggested anything immodest to this man? No, you didn't. How do I know? Because I know you are uncomfortable with even the thought of it. (I was a teen girl once.) So, no matter what that man says, you are not the one who will be in trouble. He is breaking the law, not you.
I do use the word "man." I am talking about anyone over the age of 18, even though an 18-year-old- might not always seem like a man.
3. You are not permanently DAMAGED!
If something has happened to you once, you might feel like it's all over. Your virtue is gone. You're now one of "those" girls. A lot of girls feel that way and then think they need to act that way. (You don't, but something tells me I don't need to tell you that.) And what's even worse is if a man continues assaulting you, you might not see a way out of it. You've given up. (I'm not sure which of those cases is yours, since you didn't disclose it to me, so you can pick whichever fits.)
If the latter is true, I encourage you again to please tell someone so that you CAN get out of this situation. If you don't think your parents will listen or believe you, tell a teacher or youth group leader. (They will tell your parents, but they are also obligated to tell authorities too. And the authorities must take you seriously.) Someone can get this to stop for you! Since we talked about these steps before, I pray you went ahead and told someone.
Once the abuse has stopped, healing can begin. There are people trained in this kind of thing who can talk to you about it. Most likely, you can find one of these people at your school. A normal life can be ahead of you.
4. YOU ARE NOT ABANDONED!
First, you need to know that people close to you care about you. I don't know your life, but I know someone, somewhere cares about you. It might not be someone in your family, or it might be. Someone, somewhere wants to see you grow up happy. Chances are, there are plenty of people who do. Heck, I don't even know you, and I hurt for you. I hate what has happened to you. I want you to be freed from the pain you are enduring.
Because of the things that have happened to you, it's normal for you to feel alone or like no one cares. Don't believe that lie. Don't let depression win! Make a list of people who care about you (Put me on the list. That's Tracy with no "e"), so you can bring yourself to a better place for them, if not just for you.
Those are the practical things you need to do. Now, I need to remind you of the bottom line truth.
You aren't going to feel like you have the energy to go through solving this problem. He did that to you. He's making it seem difficult.
But you can. Not on your own. God will give you what you need to take the next step. He has put someone in your life to help you through it, so you don't have to go through it alone. He is telling you plainly that you can overcome this, no matter how hard it seems. The Bible tells us in Philippians 4:13 that we can do all things through Christ, who gives us strength.
And let 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 be verses to bring life back to your spirit:
"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."
Come back to those verses as often as you need to so you can be strengthened.
What happened to you is a part of your life, Jane. And on behalf of all the adults in your life, I want to say I am so very sorry that it has happened to you. So truly sorry. But I want you to be courageous and overcome it. I want you to know that I am praying for you every day (by your real name). I pray that God will take you as His own child to bring you comfort and healing, to restore your life and and turn your sorrow into something beautiful instead.
You don't need to write back. I know you've heard everything I can give you. And I'm going to believe that God will finish His work in you. Thanks for reaching out to me.
With Christ's love,
Passion Under Grace,