Forgiving God

Depression is hell. I always heard it described as that. Throughout me having a YouTube channel, so many people have written those words to me. Teenagers and kids as young as elementary school— they have so many questions for me of all these things hurting them. And through the years their messages have taught me so much wisdom about the world: that it’s filled with hidden brokenness and masked insecurity, confusion and chaos and divorce and betrayal and mental illness. Everyone has their set of demons.

Starting when I was fifteen I replied to every single message. I internalized their emotions and wrote back paragraphs. I prayed for them. And cried with them. When I was sixteen I opened a message from an 11-year-old boy. It was just a few lines. He thanked me for saving him. For saving his life. He told me he had thought of me right as he was about to kill himself. That he’d thought of my videos, of my happiness and decided to live. Suicidal messages became a constant and I saw my ministry of helping these people as urgent, that I needed to reply to as many people as possible.

Four years later it was me. I was the one describing depression as hell. I wrote it in my journal entries. I thought it again and again those rare times I cried, rather than feeling numb. I said it out loud when I had enough motivation to pray— the few times when I could think of anything I wanted to say to God.

I was in college at the time taking all of these Religion classes.   There were PowerPoint’s and handouts, lively discussions about etymology and Hellenistic culture, textual criticism and the existence of the soul. On the days I did wake up and go to class, I was laughing and debating—all reactive to what everyone was saying.   It did feel genuine on occasion. But I wasn’t there. My mind was autopilot.

I skipped church most weeks. Either I slept through it or intentionally avoided going. The sermons were too complex for my depressed brain to process and the songs had this positivity in them that stemmed from some close relationship to God that I couldn’t at all relate to. Hearing everyone around me singing and processing the joy in the meanings of the songs would make me cry. I was so physically close to all these Christians— sitting in-between my best friends within this metaphorical City of God— but it was all a hoax, because my soul, my mind was far away. My essence locked away from them, locked away from God.

There are all these metaphors throughout the Bible of God’s love for us being like a parent and for me depression felt akin to how a child would feel if their mom or dad left for work in the morning, but then never returned. The child is worried, calling them, texting them… but there’s no reply. The next day you wake up and they’re still gone. You contact your siblings and neighbors, the people at your dad’s job and they tell you He’s fine, that He’s been showing up. Your older sister tells you she contacted Him and asked Him to reach out to you, but then He doesn’t.   You send longer texts, write out full blown physical letters— trying to reach out… You miss Him intensely and keep reminding yourself that your Dad loves you, that He’d never try to hurt you… but you have no logical explanation for why He has deserted you when you need Him the most.

A couple months in something really awful happens and you run outside crying and your Dad is standing right there, waiting for you. You mumble some disjointed sentence about what happened and he sits with you as you cry, neither of you needing to say anything. He holds you and let’s you cry more and it feels like he really understands. You both sit there in silence as you cry and you feel so secure. But then before you’re able to explain to Him that you’ve been crying so much since He left and that you miss Him, that you just need to know why, He’s gone again.

He doesn’t come back for several months. You feel it is pointless to keep reaching out when you know He won’t reply. So you stop thinking about your Dad and promise yourself you’ll reinstate the relationship when your medicine kicks in, when your depression is gone. You’ve been hanging out with your Christian friends a lot and they speak passionately about how He’s visited them and have such a strong relationship. You have photo albums that you look through, memories that you think back to and you struggle to remember everything, to stay faithful when you’re in the worst mental anguish you’ve ever experienced.

A year passes and I’ve graduated from college and still find myself avoiding church. When I do have the courage to go, I inevitably cry during worship and then feel disconnected from the sermon. In the churches I go to we never talk about those angry lament Psalms or the time Jesus did nothing when his cousin John the Baptist was beheaded or all the times in the Old Testament when God completely ditches His people for decades at a time because of one mistake they made.

Four different times that summer I was sitting in a Bible class and as we were discussing the Book of Job, it felt like my wound from God’s betrayal was opened up and stabbed into.   Each time the meaning of Job was brought up within this framework of an explanation of suffering: Why do bad things happen to good people? God’s response to the problem of evil. They taught that the story of Job tells us: God allows Satan to unveil all this evil into the world to tempt us and attack us and make our faith stronger. He kills people in our lives, puts us through awful illnesses that almost kill us and through all of that our faith is being strengthened and through all of that the question is: Will we remain true to God or will we curse Him and die?  

According to those interpretations of Job, I bowed to Satan and cursed God. I was in the second category where I literally cursed out God, ignored Him, walked away, stopped going to Church, wanted with so much of me to stop believing, for God to not be real, for my life to end. According to these evangelical interpretations, I was condemned. I saw no meaning in my suffering and still see no meaning in the anguish and confusion I experience in mental illness.

During Depression the connection between my body and soul feels as if it is hanging on by this fraying string and sometimes it is cut off completely. Mentally and physically I feel cut off from the world around me, as if there is a great fog or body of water severing me from everything around me and severing me from my own thoughts. When I finally got out of my severe depression episode in 2016 as all of my medicines kicked in, my “back to normal” sense of self was so damaged, twisted up and fractured that I felt even more lost and confused than when I had been in depression. Some nights when I would be up late laying in my bed, not able to sleep, crying about my diagnosis, trying to process it and process my sentence of lifelong intermittent depression— I would conceptualize it as parts of me had been murdered.

One of my friends from Pepperdine studied Job in-depth, wrote his masters thesis on it and rejects that the Satan figure is speaking of the Christian conception of the Devil, but instead that this sah-tan is an angel, a servant of the Lord. As I re-read Job the year after I graduated college, an alternate meaning of the book stood out to me, that none of these characters even existed, that Job is an allegory for how God wants us to love Him for Him intrinsically, not for anything He blesses us with like emotions, Christian community, comfort, joy, possessions, peace… but loving and worshipping God alone for who He is.

The “hedge” in Job 1:10 stood out to me and seemed to be the key to understanding it, “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?” I thought of everything in my life that was a hedge around me: the extreme emotions of feeling physically surrounded and comforted by God, the intense joy and peace and love I felt from my relationship with God, so strong that I often cried. The Christian community of my family and close friends, the intense intellectual rush of spiritual growth that would fill up dozens of pages in my journals all at once. God’s challenge for all of is for us to discover who He truly is, to love the core of Him apart from everything He blesses us with.

I’ve learned that the last part of Job can be translated in dozens of different ways, that the ambiguity of Hebrew has been dumbed down to make us believe it must be enclosed into a single meaning. Job 42:6 is often translated as, “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” But it can also mean “I’m giving up mourning, I give up lamenting and I am comforted.”[1] Interpreting Job within the scheme of the entire Old Testament tells a much deeper story. Questioning and struggling with God was always a core part of Judaism. In Genesis 32:22-31, Isaac’s son Jacob physically wrestles with God. And He is chosen by God, His name changed to Israel because of this struggle.   Genesis 32:28, “Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

40 of the 150 Psalms that teach us how to pray and have relationship with God are Lament Psalms, calling out to God and questioning within brokenness and struggle. Ecclesiastes also goes in-depth into suffering and injustice, in assessing the meaning of life, often concluding that good and evil circumstances randomly affect people with no purpose. Ecclesiastes 4:1-3, “Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed—and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors— and they have no comforter. And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive. But better than both is the one who has never been born, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun.” Ecclesiastes does not end with some brilliant gold nugget of truth on why evil happens, but merely tells us to “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” -Ecclesiasts 12:13-14

If you try to solve the problem of evil with a simple answer, you’re wrong. You’ll leave people who go through deep suffering discontent and feeling invalidated, with little peace or hope. There isn’t an answer. An idea called “Skeptical Theism” was a creation in Philosophy of Religion in the late 90s. It is something we talked about in my Philosophy classes at Pepperdine and is what kept me believing in God, within my mess of feeling so deeply wounded and confused. It is best illustrated visually with two circles, one big circle of God’s omniscience and a smaller circle within it of all of human knowledge. If God is being put on trial for allowing so much evil and pain in the world, based upon our limited human knowledge, God IS guilty. But because there is so much we don’t know, won’t know until Heaven, Skeptical Theism tells us that we can have an agnostic outlook that God would be good if we knew everything in God’s circle.

But Skeptical Theism is not a modernist creation, it is embedded into the literary structure of Job. After dozens of chapters of Job’s friends invalidating his emotions and coming up with seemingly brilliant, but flawed arguments to explain why God has allowed so much evil to happen, there is this beautiful section of God speaking to Job starting in Chapter 38, in which He describes these depths of the universe and physical creation and the inner-workings of the soul. Essentially, God is explaining some of what it is in the larger circle that we do not have access to.

God is not belittling Job’s questioning, but affirming that His wisdom is far above any human knowledge, that we can trust Him and that He’s strong enough to handle all of our doubts and questioning and anger toward Him. Job 38 begins not a scolding of Job’s struggle, but allowing Job to enter into further depths of God’s wisdom. God doesn’t resolve Job’s “problem of evil” struggle with a neat answer, but through asking him to enter into dialogue and relationship with Him.

Last summer I was watching back a lot of my old videos. One of my subscribers wrote to me earlier in the year—told me if I ever feel lost, forget who I am within the bipolar that I need to spend time listening, remembering my younger self. I watched back my videos coming out about depression and then bipolar and I cried, wishing I could go back to my younger self and hug her— tell her she’s doing enough. I’ve gone back and watched videos of when I was in high school, starting college and I’m talking all about my favorite parts of the Bible, all my enthusiasm in learning Koine Greek and talking about the cultural context of the Bible. I’m giving advice about praying and prioritizing and sometimes I feel so jealous of my teenage self.

She was so close to God and she was growing, being changed and feeling so encouraged and loved. There was this intensity to annotating her Bible and going out in nature to pray out loud about her friends and emotions, expressing all her opinions and experiences and crying so much to God, being so vulnerable when she was hurting, but having this purity and innocence and naivety to her of having no concept of what future pain and brokenness and chaos was about to enter her life. There’s always this pureness to when we’re younger. A beauty in the naïve. A calm in not understanding what it is to be fully scarred and emotionally wounded beyond recognition.

Sometimes when I think back to my younger self it feels like I’m looking at a whole other person. I feel so disconnected from who I used to be. From who I am. 2015 and 2016 was a year and a half of my life feeling locked away from God. And I’m back now. I’m healed. I’m on my medicine and it’s over, all of it is supposed to be over and I wish I could feel safe knowing that and not be scared anymore, not feel hurt whenever I think of God.

In Evangelicalism it felt there was not a place for me to cry in church. The messy, suffering, permanently marked essence of struggling through a chronic mental illness… did not have a place of rest for me within my Christian communities. We always would pray for things to go away, for God to intervene, to heal….but with Bipolar it’s different. People would misinterpret 1 Corinthians 10:13 and tell me God will never give me something beyond what I could handle or isolate Romans 8:28 and says all of this is for God to do good, and those simplistic misinterpretations as the answer to my suffering hurt me and pushed me away from God even more.

I thought of the one in four suicide rate of bipolar, the one in two suicide attempt rate. People in severe depression kill themselves because it is too much for anyone to handle, because there is no good, no answer coming out of being born with a broken, twisted soul. God can’t heal me of this; because there’s no cure. And if there was, it would erase my identity, because bipolar is an intimate part of me. I don’t want to be healed, but I need to be loved. I need God. I need to feel God. And I need to be understood by God in my suffering.

I never felt anger toward God. That would be so much easier. I wasn’t confused or scared or betrayed, I just felt hurt. I missed God so much through my depression when my brain was incapable of staying connected to Him and that hurt me.  I wrote to Him, thought of Him every day— heard updates from other people of how He was visiting them but for me, He only showed up a few times and then was gone again, without explanation.

It felt like an abusive relationship.  The Cimorelli song “Acid Rain” perfectly emulated how I felt toward God.  I told myself over and over again that it wasn’t real. That God leaving me, deserting me wasn’t real. That it didn’t actually happen. It was all in my head. Literally all in my head.   God was with me when I couldn’t feel Him; He’s always intimately a part of me. It was just my brain damaged because of genetics.

And I thought of how God prepared me so much in advance to have a healthy, loving internal world as I lived through depression. Throughout my life growing up, He shaped me into someone who would be unconditionally gentle and forgiving with her self talk. He gave me a half dozen extremely loyal friends who helped me to feel alive and motivated when I was at my worst. He worked the most through several of my friends who don’t even know God exists, is alive and active, He loved me through them.   What God did is amazing. He helped me so much. All throughout those months, I told Him that, acknowledged that, thanked Him for that.

But for a year after there was still this emotional block, this build up of hurt that I couldn’t get past.

I thought that all I’d need to do was verbalize that I felt hurt, talk it through with God, pray and cry and discuss how I wanted things to change moving forward (like how I would with any other relationship) and then I’d be able to forgive emotionally. I did that. I did it several times. I let myself cry so hard at night to God that I could barely breathe. I told God that I forgave Him, that I understand— that I just want us to be close again.

But I still felt deeply wounded.

Forgiving is usually so intuitive for me. I have this restrictive view of free will: If someone hurts me, I understand how their past experiences are affecting their current behavior and I overlook and forgive. With emotionally forgiving, it’s easy too. I am so in the moment—have these huge, overwhelming emotions but then when a few hours have passed I’ve processed and moved on.

With forgiving God it was so different, because I can’t understand Him like I can other people. It was frustrating trying to forgive Him with all of my mind, trusting with all of my thoughts and will, but still frozen in my emotions.

The only time I was angry with God in being Bipolar was the end of my senior year at college, I realized a minute into the prayer of complaining to God that it is completely random who gets passed on genetics to develop a mental illness. And then two minutes after that, I was thanking God that I’m dealing with this and not one of my friends. And I continue to pray that same prayer, that no one I love has to deal with this much pain and sickness and isolation and fear and disorder.

As I began intellectually trusting God again, I started praying smaller prayers, reading small sections of scripture, intermittently playing a worship song on my guitar, occasionally attending church. I didn’t know how to get my heart to fully trust, to surrender all the way, but I felt that God was patient. That He created me and knew that it was against my nature to keep going back to someone who was intensely hurting me.

It happened gradually, over months and months and months. I began to see God intervening through my prayers again, started doing my devotions and soon they became daily and for hours. I began to piece back the parts of my soul as I slowly recovered from the brain damage of severe depression. I went to therapy and worked out every day and started church hopping, trying to figure out what I believed. I got to know God all over again, as though I was a child or coming to the Faith for the first time. I re-developed my theology, started reading intensely about Early Christianity and reading in-depth through all these parts of the Old and New Testament.

I attended Orthodox and Catholic services for the first time and felt this immense comfort in staring up at the Crucifix and understanding that Jesus felt extremely disconnected and abandoned by God when He was on the cross, that on earth he physically experienced what I did when I was in depression. I watched people taking Real Presence communion and realized it was alive, tangible, physical in a way Jesus had never been to me before! I felt the stories of Jesus in the Bible come alive as I worshipped with all the icons surrounding us of the Apostles and Mary and Joseph and all these Christians through the years. I cried every Mass and prayed to God as I knelt during communion.

I read through intense stories of the Early Church and understood that the Martyr culture in the first few centuries demanded that they never would have intellectually abandoned God because of the Problem in Evil in the way a post-modern, Western Christian would. I began seeing aspects of the Prosperity Gospel in Evangelicalism and understanding that suffering is expected, accepted in Catholicism, I was amazed as I read through stories of these Christians who were martyred, how they saw their suffering and murders as sacrifices to God, as something that connected them more intimately to God. I felt spiritually healthy, immersed in a liturgy culture that equally read through the Old Testament, and found myself amazed by and immersed in parts of the Bible I hadn’t read in years.

When I began converting in I felt comfortable and at home crying every Mass as I knelt and prayed during communion and realized that my mind never would have been humble enough and intellectually open to the Truths of the Early Church if I hadn’t been broken down all the way by depression. I stopped viewing my relationship with God as emotional and about my perception of growth, but more as actions of worship. I understood fully that faith is not a feeling or mere intellectual ascent to beliefs about God, but actions of service and trust and love.

A year later as I received my First Communion at my Confirmation, I felt no emotion at a time when I thought I would cry out of joy. I was in a depression and felt stressed and confused and fear and even apathy, but as I took Real Presence communion and processed what it meant, I felt extreme comfort that it no longer depended on what I felt, but that Jesus being physically a part of me and every Catholic was real in a way that superseded and overcame whatever I believed or felt or was struggling through.

My hell and purgatory will be experienced throughout so much of my time on earth through me being Bipolar. An addiction to the rush of mania, a numbing of my true self through medication, and a loss of reality in depression. This is my cross to carry and I’ll never be healed and my full self until Heaven. So often it feels too much for me to bear and I have prayed to God countless times to take me into Heaven in that moment, so I don’t have to keep struggling through this in living. But He keeps me alive and listens to my lament prayers and sends me people to love and understand me and make me feel alive when I feel disconnected from everything around me.

At my First Confession, my Priest told me to not be so hard on myself, that God does not expect me to keep holding onto Him when I feel He has let go of me. How that is work to heavy for me to bear. He encouraged to not view reading my Bible as a duty, but rather as an opportunity to let God speak to me when I need Him the most. And I try to.

Bipolar continues manifesting in me in different ways and every day is hard in different ways. I try to stay on my medicine and pray and get enough sleep and be healthy. I experience God so strongly at mass and feel with my Priest and the Church Fathers like I have spiritual guidance and mentorship for the first time so long. I’m never fully at peace and I still feel confused and hurt by God at times. But I let myself wrestle and struggle, because I know God is big enough to handle all of my emotions.

[1] Hicks, John. “Forgiving God” Pepperdine Bible Lectures, Malibu, CA, May 3, 2016.

Stolen

I spend so much time being friends with my mental illness and staying positive amidst the chaos it brings into my life, that sometimes I invalidate my own emotions toward being bipolar. I force myself to forget the worst parts of it and to push away how I actually feel.   But I do allow myself these purging moments once every few weeks where I let myself cry and cry and hate this genetic glitch that has ruined so many parts of my life, ruined me.   And when I let myself fully feel all of my anger and fear, it is startling to realize that I have so much hatred toward something intimately a part of me. In those moments there are lots of intangibles and spectrums of emotions I could never put into words, but a lot of my anger and hatred toward bipolar rests in what it has stolen from me.

The most obvious is the years of potential when my first major depression episode set in at the end of college. Looking back on what should’ve been these amazing semesters in my favorite upper div major classes turned into sleeping through lectures and missed assignments and quitting my youtube channel and all my time spent toward studying but even my best being failing grades. Then there are years of these beautiful memories of friendships and family that are just gone, complete blanks for months and months at a time and the inability to recall things when trying to remember. Even while medicated, I continue to have these extreme memory lapses and often feel like the people closest to me are strangers.

But the fractured identity part gets me the most, how I often feel like a stranger to myself. After recovering my personality and interests and sense of self when healing from depression, the reality of my bipolar diagnosis setting in made me realize that a lot of humanity has been permanently taken away from me, because I can no longer trust my own emotional realities. I can no longer trust myself. It’s a warranted and necessary invalidation, a constant invalidation. And for me its survival.

When I’m slightly depressed verses hypomanic verses balanced on meds my perspectives on situations and emotions toward something or someone can completely change. As in, polar opposites. But this manifests in a type of self deception, because it is through seemingly rational logic proofs. What I think I want, who I think I love, what I believe I’m passionate about— there can be little continuity as I switch between mood phases and it’s a constant battle within myself to discern what parts are fully me.   What’s even worse is that emotions from when I am in depression of doubting someone or doubting myself get brought into my normal reality as well. Depression can completely lie to me and convince me something it wants me to believe is true, but once I’m out of depression that stays with me and can never be fully unraveled from what I believe.  When there are the strongest impulses, intuitions, emotions, even audible voices in your own head it is difficult to ever fully separate that from you.

What’s even worse is the lack of stability in my different realities.   Bipolar constantly changes in how it manifests. So it is not as simple as manic self, normal self, depressed self— and just switching between. My experience in depression now verses six months ago is completely different. Same with mania. And then a few symptoms from mania can become intermixed in depression and create a brand new type of reality called a mixed episode. And again, what mixed episodes are for me is always changing. There’s little continuity in my daily experience of how it feels to be me and there never will be.

My emotions mean nothing to me anymore. In regards to guiding me toward truths about myself or how I understand love or the way I find motivation. Instead, I think of things in terms of logic proofs and what I can determine to be objective. In college, determining my philosophical beliefs on various things in epistemology, philosophy of religion, and free will was so important to me in retaining a sense of calm, because in our analytical philosophy department there was no room for gray area. Constantly changing my philosophical and theological beliefs to get in line with the closest thing I could determine to be objective truth provided a rare reality to my life and I took it very seriously. Being infused in a post-modern culture that constantly denies objectivity, trading it in for relativism, is something that angers me and even feels like a personal attack; for years I have debated friends and changed many people’s minds to believe in objectivity. For most people, they can be certain that most of their daily experiences and thoughts within themselves are this objective perception and emulation of themself, for me I can never be sure.

Detachment is a word I’ve come to despise. Emotional detachment. I routinely force myself to be emotionally detached from myself, intentionally zooming out from my own emotions and subtly invalidating and questioning my experiences, never certain that my reactions and assessments and emotions are real. I’ve had experiences of a sudden onset of extreme anxiety, overwhelming physical stress, paranoia or these intense crying spells that are related to nothing and mean nothing. Detaching myself from these meaningless extremes is comforting and necessary for me to survive and feel less crazy within this.

But when detachment is forced on me within a relationship, it is hell. What feels like a war zone ensues in my mind. It is the feeling of suddenly losing all romantic interest and attraction toward the person you are with. For me it is stronger than a dull apathy and more like white blood cells trying to kill and destroy something invading me. The person closest to me suddenly feels like a stranger and someone I don’t want to be with. The shock feels like being Lucy on 50 First Dates or one of the characters in Freaky Friday— confusion and not feeling connected to all the previous memories and experiences of the relationship. Breaking up during this detachment period remains the norm for bipolar relationships and certainly contributes to the 90% divorce rate. Everyone has inner dialogues and debates within themselves, but in detachment mine seems to be an entire self taking over my brain—trying to steal away my happiness—my actual self tangled up within and fighting so hard for control, trying not to drown and give in to all the impulses to break up the relationship.

Processing that I am bipolar is the awareness that every relationship I will ever be in will feel chaotic. I will sometimes feel extremely unwanted and rejected just because I’m in depression. I will go from feeling the relationship is perfect to needing to immediately get out— and it will happen overnight—like a switch going off in my brain. My perception of the relationship will be chaotic, regardless of how healthy and peaceful it is. Relationships require some amount of emotional discernment in choosing to be with someone, choosing to stay or leave and as someone with bipolar I lack the ability to ever trust my emotions as being fully mine. Saying “I love you” is not emotional for me at all but more a promise of actions regardless of how I feel, a promise to stay even when it means fighting within myself and denying myself the craving of full-blown mania.

Bipolar is the best and worst part of me. It is a curse and a gift and this constant ride of overwhelming extremes of being human. I couldn’t imagine myself without the extremes and when I’m perfectly medicated I even miss the chaos. Writing everything down helps me to remember and discern truths about my world and through that I analyze and analyze and analyze and when everything still ends up being contradictions, I’m grateful this has forced me to be more inquisitive in doubting and questioning what is true. Everyone could probably do better at debating themselves and analyzing their emotional experiences and although I wouldn’t wish anyone to have my war-zone level chaos, I understand that having my sense of self constantly severed and rocky and stolen allows me this rare advantage of constant reinvention and this gravitation toward always changing myself and my beliefs.

Tinder Debate with an Atheist

I had a lot of fun going on casual dates with guys from Tinder last year.  And I made a video reading some of my tinder messages. This was one of the more intellectual conversations, in which I debate an Atheist!  His profile said something about how he doesn’t respect Christians and loves the scientific method, so I thought he’d be a fun person to dialogue with!  Adam is not his actual name.

 

Lizzie: Hey Adam! Nice to meet you 🙂 I think that life is inherently meaningless but I also believe in God. Thoughts?

Adam: Hey Liz, it’s nice to meet you too. Well my thoughts depend on what sort of God you believe in. Are you religious for instance? Or do you believe God just created humans and hasn’t intervened beyond that?

Lizzie: I’m very much a skeptic about a lot of things, so Descartes-esque. I was the only one in my Epistemology class who couldn’t move beyond that haha I don’t think we can know anything 100% beyond our brain and thoughts. I am a practicing Christian though and I’m very serious about it. But most of my intuitions are deistic and I’ve gone through times of wishing God didn’t exist. So Christianity I’m at 85%. And Deism probably 90%. But I do think everything is meaningless in the sense that Christianity never explains the purpose of God creating the world. And then it is all injustices and pointless evil.

Adam: So I’m not the most well-versed of specific Philosophers, but I believe in the scientific method and of course that does not prove anything 100% but proves things to a certain confidence interval. I practice rational skepticism. Now to me, practicing Christianity means that you’ve decided your life does have some inherent meaning that dictates your daily choices (morality coming from God, as opposed to a human construct like I believe it to be). If you believe we can’t know anything beyond our brain/thoughts, why are you so sure of the existence of God?

Lizzie: I think there is emotional and rational {for my beliefs} so when I was growing up it was more of reading through the Bible and having this emotional resonance with all the different people who wrote parts of it… like this thousands of years interconnected story with all this insane foreshadowing from like 6,000 BCE to when Jesus was on earth and some of the prayers written in 1,000 BCE have this extreme similarity to my life and stuff going on today. It feels real. Reading through all of it makes me feel like it’s alive. And then, I have experienced myself change dramatically: core parts of me that I can trace back to consistent prayers I prayed years ago. I should be a jerk in a lot of situations, really impatient, critical, judgmental, but now I am gentle and good at emotional support and always patient. Of course everyone changes and develops themselves, but for me it seems so extreme. And I think it is because of God.

So that was growing up but once I got to late high school/college I learned all about objective truth and universal morality, which is why I remain a theist. My last year of college I took several classes of historical context of the 1st century, the person of Jesus, copying of scrolls that became the New Testament, etc. and that validates Christianity for me. There is this scholar named N.T. Wright {look him up! He is the #1 religion theologian in the world right now} and he published all this research on the concept of “resurrection” how it was understood by the Greco-Roman world and Jews at the time right before Jesus. Right around the time that the early Christians claimed to have seen Jesus resurrect from the dead, there were these 4 major disjuncts to how everyone understood resurrection. So Jesus was claimed to have come back to life but in a new body that could walk through walls and stuff and this “zombie like” concept of resurrection was brand new. The Greek thought of the day was that the body was bad and you wanted to become fully spirit/immaterial. So Wright says we need a historical explanation for why this small group of uneducated Jews went around telling everyone Jesus resurrected bodily. Where did this ideology come from? And he says the best explanation is that Jesus really did resurrect in bodily form. That’s where they got it from.

There are eyewitnesses who recorded a ton of it down into parts of what became the Bible. And hundreds of other supposed eyewitness who went around teaching that Jesus was resurrected, that He is the Son of God. So many of these people were tortured, killed.. eaten alive in the Colosseum because they refused to deny that Jesus was resurrected from the dead.

Adam: I’m going to tell you succinctly what I think about all of that. There is no scientific evidence that someone can die and be brought back to life several days later. I’m in medical school and it just isn’t realistic whatsoever. Nor is the idea that someone can be born from a virgin. It’s not medically possible for a virgin to be impregnated. The texts of the Bible have been translated countless times which calls into question the accuracy of the stories, and I’m not really all that interested in what social constructs people created 6,000 years ago to explain things we can explain with technology and science.

Lizzie: You’re right. And I think that’s the definition of a miracle. We don’t have any physical evidence like we couldn’t find the grave of where Jesus was buried and dig up his body and disprove it. But modern science was created in the Enlightenment era from Philosophy and so the scientific method is exactly what I’m using with Resurrection historical arguments.

Adam: Hmmm so what do you think is more likely? Maybe he wasn’t buried there at all? Maybe he didn’t exist? Maybe someone stole his body? No, you think it’s more likely someone came back to life from the dead, which you just agreed isn’t medially possible. Trust your instincts instead of making that leap. No, you’re ignoring the scientific method, and choosing to believe in a “miracle.”

Lizzie: I studied Philosophy at my college but also took a ton of Religion classes and there is something called textual criticism where you trace back through all the ancient scrolls, date them, find the location they were found etc. and based upon where the scroll pages, fragments are found you can take the slight differences “copying errors” and figure out what the original wording was.  There are something like 5,000 Greek manuscripts we have that are from the New Testament and all scholars including Atheist religious scholars agree we have a 99.5% accuracy of the original wording of the New Testament, because we have 5,000 scrolls.  But then with Aristotle we have about 50, Homer around 700. So if you want to deny the reliability to the original of the New Testament then you also have to give up any sort of reliability of all the other literature, history from around that time.

Like I said, I wish God didn’t exist sometimes. Because everything seems so meaningless and evil. I feel sometimes chained to being a Christian because of the resurrection historical stuff. Like I emotionally don’t want to have to accept God allowing so much evil, but rationally I have to.  And we actually had a whole class in my Philosophy of Religion class ON miracles! It was fascinating!

Adam: That’s nice, and I’m sure you enjoyed it, but just because you took a class on it doesn’t make miracles exist.

Lizzie:  Of course not! But one thing that I really liked was this article by Peter Van Inwagen {my favorite Philosopher!} ​ on this argument called Russel’s China Teapot. It’s a really funny thought experiment, that this random teapot is out in space just spinning around!! But he makes this point of “initial probability” which is where you’re at.

So we’ll say 0 is the probability right now for Jesus resurrecting and his mom being a virgin. So the argument is this:

  1. The probability of Christianity is 0
  2. There is no reason to accept Christianity
  3. Therefore, we should assign a probability of 0 to Christianity being true

So then for the argument, my intuition is that we’d have to have really REALLY strong evidence to change the prior probability from 0 (i.e. disprove premise 2.)

And here is a medical thing! So you know about a base rate for a disease?

Adam: So the thought experiment is you want me to disprove argument #2?

Lizzie: Yupp

Adam: And I’m not sure what you mean by a base rate for a disease

Lizzie: It is confusing for me too, because I am really bad at statistics. It is something about false negatives and false positives. So you could say that 1 in 500 tests for one disease brings out a false negative. So then if you test positive you might say that it is 1/500 chance that it is actually negative. I am so bad at math! I need you to explain this to me

Adam: I can’t prove a negative thing (i.e. That God does not exist), which I why I’m agnostic (and basically an atheist although it’s really a matter of semantics). I don’t think religion is a necessity in this day and age. How can you pray to a god that oversees thousands of innocent children get killed every day? Or that says gay people can’t get married? Are the people who don’t believe in the Christian god doomed to burn in hell for eternity? Religion is something that was created thousands of years ago because people didn’t have the scientific tools to explain the things they didn’t understand and to give them some comfort about dying. It’s not necessary anymore.

Lizzie: With base rate for the Resurrection, we think it is 0. Because we have never seen a miracle. But if the resurrection WAS a miracle then that would up the base rate to 1. I know it is crazy.

Adam: Yes it is, so I’m not going to believe that. It’s very simple.

Lizzie: *seems* crazy. You sound like my agnostic best friend with all of your problem of evil! Those are all of my intuitions too. I cried so much this summer because of all the violence and isis and shootings.

Adam: Problem of evil?

Lizzie: It is just a label for what you said.

Adam: Oh okay

Lizzie: How there is so much suffering, evil in the world and God is not intervening, yeah! I almost became agnostic this summer because of that. Like I said, I wish God didn’t exist sometimes. Because everything seems so meaningless. But I find a lot of agnostics/atheists who have not at all thought this through, looked into it. Meaning they/you think theists have the burden of proof. Whereas 400 years ago & for the history of the world atheists would’ve had the burden of proof.

Burden of proof is the most important thing, because it is so much easier to refute an argument then to create a valid argument.

When you were speaking of miracles, you were giving me the burden of proof. But then when you brought up all the texts being mistranslated and copying errors, etc. you were giving yourself the burden of proof so it was easy for me to refute it.

Whereas forcing me to have burden of proof for miracles is this HUGE THING and so easy for you tear apart.

Lizzie: Sorryyy my phone died! Thanks so much for this discussion! I LOVE debating theology.

Adam: ​You’re welcome, always fun to have some discourse about something like this. But if you’re going to assert the existence of something (god) the burden is definitely on you.

An Open Letter to Psychiatrists. Signed, A Bipolar Girl

Since diagnosing myself with Bipolar one year ago (yes, I had to diagnose myself. keep reading) I have been frustrated, invalidated and continually disappointed by mental health professionals. And no, the tone of this letter is not angry because I’m in a “manic episode” it is the response any normal person would have to incompetency within a professional field.

Besides the amount of suffering and brain damage incurred in Depression and the destruction caused by impulsivity in Mania, Bipolar has a 1 in 4 successful suicide rate. As someone who has dealt with the extremes of the illness and experienced suicidal thoughts; and as someone who has read the stories of hundreds of other people with Bipolar through my YouTube, it is extremely disappointing how many people are slipping through the cracks and how attempts to help us often do the opposite. The dialogue seems to be that people with Bipolar are at fault for avoiding treatment and going off medicine. But all of the problems I’ve experienced have clear solutions and seem to instead result from a black-and-white and over-feminized view of mental illness that does not allow for an understanding of subtleties in how Bipolar manifests.

Up until the beginning of 2016 when I was finally put on mood stabilizers, I had been to a dozen different therapists and psychiatrists since late high school and none of them had mentioned I might be Bipolar. It is in my family history and that was always brought up at these appointments. I had been experiencing crazy sleep patterns, abnormal eating, vivid dreams, extreme empathy, times of intense crying, strange shifts between introversion and extraversion, spikes of creativity and an extreme over-involvement, etc. since high school and even middle school. Looking back, I can see that all throughout college, I’d been experiencing slight depression and hypomanic episodes, but none of that was noticed by mental health professionals.

Questions trying to track if my eating habits had changed always asked of a time I’d either lost or gained weight. Questions of sleep changes demanded a time when I’d lived for days on 3-hours of sleep for no particular reason. Empathy and vivid dreams were completely left out of the discussion. And everything else was attributed to personality traits.  Entire depression episodes were overlooked because my depressions manifests not as a sadness or insecurity (the typical way females experience depression), but as a physical and mental fatigue and sometimes anger. What I’ve observed is that if symptoms do not perfectly fit into the DSM criteria i.e. are not full-blown, professionals act like nothing is wrong, nothing to medicate, end of discussion.

The only reason I was finally diagnosed and put on medicine is because of comments made by my ex-boyfriend who had discussed his observations of me with a therapist; and because of intense research I did months later based upon intuitions which led to me to an article on cyclothymic disorder. I had to make arguments to a psychiatrist I went to, essentially manipulate him to prescribe me lithium after he demanded that my hypomanic spikes do not signify Cyclothymic Disorder or Bipolar. I am an extremely assertive person and I found that fighting through the mental health industry, fighting with insurance companies, demanding and persuading that my intuitions and observations of myself signify Bipolar is the only reason I was able to get treatment when I did. I still wouldn’t be diagnosed if I hadn’t gone above and beyond to do my own research and to fight against what Professionals kept telling me. I saw slight mania in myself before it manifested into full-blown mania— something the professionals were not able to do—and getting on mood stabilizers before that happened was integral in protecting myself from even more damage.

I understand we shouldn’t over-diagnose people. But I wish the emphasis were on treating the symptoms and protecting people’s brains over fitting specific criteria perfectly. Western culture, and thus Western medicine, is extremely black-and-white and I find that Bipolar has the tendency to be ambiguous and to develop gradually, but even those tinges of the disorder can be extremely destructive. Just giving a heads up to someone when they exhibit some symptoms that seem to be pre-Bipolar would be extremely helpful. Explaining to clients details of how Bipolar would look full-blown and educating them during a therapy or psychiatry session when they are exhibiting bizarre sleep patterns, extreme empathy, vivid dreams, etc. would allow the person to know how to get help when they later see it coming out.

I personally have moved around a lot throughout my life— especially with leaving for college— and many people also find themselves in situations where they’re not consistently going back to the same professional. The only constant is the patient and so to try to fill in the gaps rather than keeping all your thoughts to yourself. It would be helpful to educate us on mental illnesses that could later manifest. A huge part of Bipolar is this unawareness within the person who is Bipolar that their behavior is abnormal. We tend to experience emotions as more encompassing and intense than everyone else throughout our lives. Our minds may be racing, we may be talking fast, not sleeping or eating normally, obsessively working on a project; to us it feels normal. And partially because we have felt and lived within extremes our entire lives.

Expecting us to see depression or manic episodes in ourselves when we have not even been educated on what that is, is asking for us to not get treatment and to end up in dangerous situations. All that most of us know of Bipolar is a 15-minute lecture from our high school Psych class and stereotypes we here of being “so Bipolar.”  That is not enough for us to notice when symptoms are manifesting.  Explain to us what it is.

Mania can spike immediately. Major Depression can spiral down to disabling a person within weeks. Manic episodes can crash into suicidal thinking with no trigger. Bipolar can kill us and cause brain damage. It ruins relationships, causes us to get fired from our jobs, and to fail classes. It is so destructive to us and extremely dangerous. It needs to be treated with severity and we need to protect people in advance by communicating during therapy and psychiatry sessions when someone seems to be within a pre-Bipolar state of mind.

 

Here are 7 subtle indicators we might be Bipolar that are not in the DSM:

  1. Crazy sleep patterns all of growing up. Since elementary school, every time I’m sick my body will sleep for about 20 hours. This has always been seen as crazy and abnormal. Going into high school, I found that I could do fine on 3 or 4 hours of sleep. I became a pro at pulling all-nighters and then crashing on the weekends. A lot of times I was up late at night and would disturb my family. Sometimes I’d be eating in the middle of the night and be fine not eating all throughout the day— just these bizarre changes in energy levels. Jet lag would also be experienced very intense by my body. It would require so much sleeping to recover from. Since being a teenager and throughout college, often it was impossible for me to wake up to alarms, like my body needed 9-15 hours of sleep and even if I set 8 alarms, I would remember none of them.

 

  1. Intense writing and texting. Calling people in the middle of the night is outdated. But also not applicable to introverts. I would never randomly call someone without planning to, in any situation. And when I’m manic, I’m not necessarily more social. I just prefer being by myself almost all of the time. But calling is outdated! Instead ask about really long texts and messages or impulsive Facebook posts. I’ve sent angry emails or extremely long affirmation texts when I’ve been manic. I’ll type out straight-up essays in the notes section of the phone, perfect all the grammar and send them to my friends at 2AM.   Everything will be effusive tones and the words will feel like they’re pouring out of me trance-like, but as a writer and an introvert, increased socializing will never mean calling someone in the middle of the night. Instead, mania manifests for me more in written form.

 

  1. Depression as something physical. I had a therapist once who tried to undiagnose my bipolar a year into being diagnosed, because I explained to her how my depression doesn’t feel like sadness. It was annoying and unprofessional. My brain in general tends to be more “masculine” in how I value logic over empathy in making decisions, am extremely assertive, etc. and I find that the mental health industry is over-feminized with therapy techniques and understandings of depression.   Men tend to experience depression and mania more as anger, but also depression in bipolar just tends to be more physical symptoms— almost like a sickness— we’ll feel fatigue and our brains being slowed down. We’ll get headaches and sometimes feel dizzy or feverish and have tons of vivid dreams leading up to it. We’ll have the extreme changes in appetite and sleep, but sometimes none of the emotional affects of what people typically think of as “depressed.”

 

  1. Hypomania and depression could be entrenched in us going back years. We might have been talking fast for a while and just be faking a manic personality whenever we shift into a slight depression. This might be so intuitive, that we’re not even aware. We might not even know what it feels like to not be stressed and tense or to not be over involved, because it has become our normal. We might not understand the concept of “racing thoughts” because for years and years we’ve had consistent times of intense epiphanies and rushing creativity.

 

  1. Physical symptoms. In mania our body temperature and heart rate increases and our pupils become larger. All throughout high school, there would be times when I would suddenly feel so hot and uncomfortable. It was the same times when I would feel angry or be really stressed, i.e. a slight mania.   And the times when I was in a slight depression, I would get compression headaches. I’m at a point now, where I can feel my mania based upon if my heart is sometimes racing and I can see how manic I am by just looking at my eyes. Even the types of dreams I have can show what episode I’m in, i.e. nightmares and bizarre dreams before mania and monotonous vivid dreams before depression. In fact, consistent vivid dreams are one of the biggest indicators for Bipolars of going into a depression episode. These physical symptoms have been for the most part completely ignored in therapy and psychiatry sessions, based upon my experience. I think they’re easy indicators in diagnosing and in helping us understand when we might be in an episode.

 

  1. General intensity. If we do things like listen to the same song on repeat for hours, journal 20 pages in one day, seem to be at high alert just a lot of energy in being our personality, these are all indicators that we might be Bipolar. Ask us what we do and what we are involved in and focus on how we talk, rather than what we’re talking about. Read our body language. Focus less on finding this extreme contrast between our “normal” and “mania.” Bipolar is engrained into our permanent brain chemistry, where we feel in these extremes our entire lives. If you see the beginnings of some other symptoms, the intensity and extreme empathy may indicate we are likely to develop Bipolar. And communicate that.

 

  1. Extreme empathy. Most of us experience that intensity in an emotional way, manifested as an abnormal amount of empathy. We feel other people’s emotions as if they are our own. We’ll react so strongly to natural disasters or shootings or extreme poverty. When someone we love is hurting, it feels like our own problem.   And our empathy feels like emergency. We’ll care a lot about social justice issues and horrible tragedies going on in the world. We cry for other people and just feel everyone’s emotions in this encompassing way. We feel your emotions as our therapist or psychiatrist and we feel when you don’t understand and don’t have empathy for us.

If we have these symptoms, just tell us we might develop bipolar. You don’t have to over-medicate, just educate. Give us book suggestions or print outs with specific symptoms to look out for.

And when it comes to medicating, explains to us how it works and why we need it. Don’t just write a prescription or we’ll feel your callousness, not feel understood and not want to come back to treatment. Understand that some of us highly identify with our Bipolar attributes and are really scared to medicate away our personalities. Don’t ignore the identity question. Don’t assume we want to be medicated. Ask us how we feel about our diagnosis and how we feel about being medicated.

Understand that a huge part of being a successful Psychiatrist for someone with Bipolar is persuading us to comply with treatment, and do that gently and with compassion or we’ll resist. If you don’t explain to us in-depth what Bipolar is and how dangerous it is, but also how it has all these creative attributes, we might not believe that we’re actually Bipolar and we certainly won’t trust you to change our brain chemistry. If your attitude toward all types of Mania is that it is 100% bad, we will for sure go off medicine and not come back for treatment. Some of us enjoy some amount of hypomania for creative and productive purposes in a way that is actually really safe.  If you don’t understand that, you’re just asking us to run away from treatment.

We need to be understood and we need to understand.

If you can’t feel empathy or lack people skills, maybe this is the wrong career for you. Or maybe you just need to change, adapt, expand how you practice psychiatry and increase your emotional awareness.  Learn how to emulate emotional validation and unconditional positive regard. We are suffering and often suffering much more than we show. It’s scary for us to talk about this and when we feel that our symptoms are invalidated again and again and not understood, we don’t want to come back and be vulnerable during an appointment.

We need to feel safe and we need to be understood.   We need to feel like medicine is a team effort and that we are choosing our treatment plan, working together with you.   We need to feel in control.  It’s scary when part of who we identify as is defined as an illness and so if you try to just understand and empathize with our perspectives, we might actually enjoy coming back for treatment.

-Lizzie

What It’s Like Being Bipolar

It’s a different way of experiencing the world. Everything feels more commanding and intense and textured and encompassing. It’s to feel absolutely deeper and stronger than other people. Everything is attached onto layers of meaning and analyzing and intensity. You talk too fast, laugh too much and react stronger to sounds and sights and emotions. You feel intertwined with other people because you feel their thoughts and scars and fears as if it were your own. Everything in your life feels interconnected, part of a deeper purpose. You find spiritual metaphors in the ordinary and in a conversation your mind races ahead to brand new subjects with questions and questions and more questions. You don’t mean to come across as flirtatious. You don’t realize you’re being confrontational. And a day to you feels like what would be a week to anyone else. So many emotions and thoughts and epiphanies are packed into every moment and you feel exhausted being with people, like you’re performing… like you need time away to process and process and process this crazy roller coaster that is your life.

 

You have this intensity of focus where you’ll forget to eat and sleep, completely lose track of time when you’re immersed in something. You’re creative and passionate and sometimes when you’re writing, it feels like the words are just pouring out of you as if you’re in a trance. You have this mission impossible attitude about everything, where when you’re fighting for something you don’t give up until you win and get your way. You’re charismatic and charming and so full of life.  But then because you know people so well, know how your emotions are coming across, can feel how you’re affecting them it’s so easy for you to manipulate. You’re impulsive, you think in black-and-white extremes, and you’re psychically empathetic. You crave to feel free and that’s why you won’t medicate easily.

 

When you’re in depression, you lose yourself. You stop fighting and trying. You just need to sleep and sleep and then lay in bed until you fall asleep again. You’re exhausted and you feel constantly sleep deprived, even when that’s all you ever do. You don’t have the energy to eat or shower or pick up your phone. It takes an insurmountable effort to get out of bed and to leave your house. Your bed feels like the safest, most comfortable place and you don’t want to be anywhere else.

 

Your thinking is slowed and contorted. Sometimes it feels like you’re trapped within a glass box or in a fog or that everything happening is as if you’re underwater. You mind goes blank on words to say in a conversation and you can’t understand what you’re reading or studying. It is almost impossible to make decisions like deciding what outfit to put on or what to order at a restaurant. You start crying when you realize you can’t complete basic tasks. Your texts go unanswered, appointments unattended, and you start to push away everyone in your life. You feel stressed, overwhelmed and you’re falling behind.

 

Your memory has been obstructed and when you think of the past few months, you can’t latch onto things… like it’s all trapped within a fog. It terrifies you when you’re taking to your friend and realize you cannot at all remember what they’re referring to. You feel completely disconnected from yourself, like a phantom and a third-party observer within your own brain. It’s being trapped in your personal version of hell, where you’ve lost everything that was you.

 

It’s thinking of killing yourself, hearing voices telling you how to kill yourself and then being so terrified and confused, crying and crying, wondering how you ever got to this point.

 

It’s spiking from that back into Heaven. Everything is euphoric and perfect and your life is amazing again. You have a rush of ideas and going through that inspired so much new writing. You analyze your depression and now you understand God better, understand love better. You came up with new philosophy theories, can now understand theology better. You throw yourself into all these new projects and your heart is beating so fast at night that you can’t fall asleep even if you wanted to. Your pupils are huge and your face all lit up and animated when you talk to people. Everything is your favorite and everyone is your best friend and everything is good and beautiful in the world. You see through to the core of people— to their hearts. You’re all trusting and forgiving. You reach out to everyone and make strangers feel like you’ve known them your whole life.

 

Your dreams have always been extremely vivid.  But now you’re waking up from these intricate storylines and they’re predictive of what your symptoms will be the next day. When you’re in depression, the dreams feel more invigorating and real than when you’re awake.  When you’re switching into mania, they are anxiety nightmares— searing into your memory these twisted, creepy images you won’t be able to forget.  You brain locks down parts of the dreams into your actual memory. And you start to get lost within defining your reality.

 

But then you feel so happy that you cry. You feel so overcome with thankfulness that you cry. You feel so immersed in peace that you have to cry. You feel like you’re running ahead of everyone else and you feel misunderstood by them. They don’t feel with the intensity that you feel and they can’t comprehend why you feel emergency toward so many things and they cannot feel all the textures of your passion and gratefulness and empathy and you wonder if you’re even capable of being fully known.

I Have Questions

I wrote this poem last night, while listening to Camila Cabello’s I Have Questions on repeat, so I titled it accordingly! Her emotions in the song helped me SO MUCH in processing my own.  This is something I’ve been struggling through in considering becoming Catholic and I don’t expect anyone to immediately grasp it.  The meanings of the pronouns are constantly changing, stanza-to-stanza, and they’re not necessarily about specific people or even about people.  So this is enigmatic, but it is a consistent story line!  One of the stanzas toward the end is about YOU as my YouTube subscribers, let me know if you figure out any of the meanings 😁💒
 

 


It’s a special kind of betrayal
When someone can twist
How you see another person
So that you’re scared and angry
Feel Hatred toward Her
Think She Judges You, would
Just Try to Control You
When you’ve never even met Her


He says I idolize people
Expect too much of them
Craving this perfection and purity
That none of us can be
But I keep crying because
I just wanted a truth
And we can’t even agree on
What is true.


They say: Jesus is truth
Church is about Love
It doesn’t matter
It doesn’t matter
Nothing is perfect
We’re supposed to be
d i v i d e d

But I’ve seen too much

We all just want control
So we write our own histories
Create different theologies
Skip over certain verses
And claim we’re the truth

We label who’s going to hell
Who’s the craziest
Most cult-like
Who’s the least
christian

And we brainwash ourselves against
Researching beneath the division

I Have Questions
that can’t be answered
And Emotions
I’m scared of,
Without Words
To explain to you
what’s tearing down
all I’m intertwined in,
Because They Swore
this was the Truth.

Maybe I’m guilty
of praying beyond
What I could handle
Trusting people
who are a part of Her
Reading too much
Of what was wrong,
But I’ve Always had Too
Many Questions

I know you care,
But you think
You have all the answers
before I even speak
Because you’d never accept
You could be wrong.

And you swear this is the Truth.

My heart was born open, all-trusting
And you shaped it as hostile and hateful
You weren’t protecting me
You were blinding me, constricting my soul
And you hid my mind from Her.

But I’m scared. I don’t want this,
I never wanted it to be true
But now I believe
in more,

And I Have Questions within my questions

You wrote me you feel at home
And they’ve welcomed me in too
But I already have a home,
A family I was born into
They’ve loved me my whole life

Maybe we were all adopted against our will.
And I’m mad, but I grew my whole life
To love whatever this is,

I feel loyal

But I still have questions.

We used to fight wars
Disown our families
We couldn’t live in the same countries
Now we solve it by never
discussing our differences
Just making up what we think
the other believe.
We’ve given up on Truth
Traded diversity for
superficial unity.
Smiling at you,
then whispering
as you turn away

But my thoughts are rushing forward
Further than I wanted
God’s Surrounded me,
Freezing my pride
And I wish I could just go back.
before I knew any of this
Because I never wanted
us to be this wrong.

If I spit out the truth
Half of you will reject me,
Half of you won’t care.
But your acceptance
is shallow
when you don’t understand.
You don’t want this either,
But you’ve Never
cared about truth
To you,
Love is a
feeling.

But Church has to be more than that
Love Has to be more than that
She is beyond that because
God has to care about more than
That type of love

Six months ago
I would’ve rushed
To protect anyone
From thinking this
But I’ve read beyond
what I wanted
to be true.

They’ve all been praying for me
For different things,
for me to think like them

And I trust
That they have good intentions,
But not everyone
has a humble heart
Not everyone,
can be right.

But they have answers
To my questions
that you could never answer

And so many of them
have been here
Made this journey
They’re surrounding me, telling me
What to read, what to believe
How to leave.

But I loved you with all of me.
And you’ve hurt me a lot,
I’ve doubted, rebelled against you.
But you’ve showed me God.
So I trusted. And I’m still here.
Can these thoughts be betrayal,
when my future is for you?
You’re not perfect, but neither is She.
I don’t want to leave.

I want to go back to Medieval,
when this wouldn’t be my choice.
We’d all be the same
Of the same birth.

But I’m captured in this loyalty
And I choose these people who’ve
shown me Christ and
taught me how to love.

The world is still.
And they’re not angry at me
for believing the rumors
about Her.
They applaud me
Say it’s not my fault.
But I feel guilty
And I’m crying,
Because I went years
Without asking these
Questions

Moving On (An Open Letter About My Ex)

Some day you’ll forget how it felt being with him.  You’ll laugh with your best friend about the times he made you cry.  You’ll be able to hear his name without your heart beating so fast. You’ll pass by him at school and smile at each other— nothing more.   You’ll hear from a mutual friend about a new girl he’s dating and feel happy for her and for him.  You’ll go the morning and then a half day and then a whole day without thinking of him.  And you’ll begin to slowly forget him— over time losing the memories you swore you’d never let go of.

But right now, you haven’t even begun healing. It feels like a family member died from your life.  You switch between feeling emotionally numb to crying so hard you can barely breathe.  All the words he labeled you with in the heat of the breakup are seared into the forefront of your mind, and they entrap you in insecurity.  You lay awake most nights till two, three in the morning thinking and thinking and leaving your room when the crying gets too loud that you’ll wake up your roommate. You can’t conceptualize a future where you’ll ever feel yourself again, without him as a part of you.  Right now, you’re in the beginning of the mourning phase and you’ll stay here for a long time.  It’s good that you’re here.

 

It’s been a couple weeks and nothing has changed.  You think of him the moment you wake up and then all throughout the day. A song lyric, the way someone phrases something, a quote he sent to you, a promise he made— brings him back into vivid consciousness. You see him in so many crowds.  Every guy with a blue hat or dark hair seems to be him.  You pass by him so often on your campus and lingered eye contact, a few seconds of the sound of his voice… triggers so many emotions.  You have a playlist of dozens of songs that remind you of him and you torture yourself listening through the music, analyzing lyrics and replaying memories, holding on so tightly because you don’t want to forget any part of him.

You’ll agree to meet up to give each other closure and it will cut you open even more.  When he’s walking away, you feel this urge to call after him and tell him to turn back and stay with you longer.  But instead you turn away and walk back to your dorm alone.  You cry yourself to sleep that night.  The day it ended your best friend gave you chocolate and stroked your hair while you cried.  She’s been with you every day, but it’s not helping.  You’re always surrounded by people, but you feel lonely.  They don’t understand the depths of you like he did.  They can’t get to the parts of you he hurt.

For months after you’ll want to reach out to him, tell him all of how you feel.  So you write out texts and letters and messages that you never send.  You practice conversations in your head of what you’ll say the next time you see him. But you never reach out, never acknowledge because you’re scared of hurting him even more.  You’re scared he doesn’t want to hear from you. And a part of you believes so strongly he wants nothing to do with you, that he’s already stopped caring, that he’s rapidly forgetting.

You try to stay away from him, because everything hurts.  And you utilize so much self control to never reach out to him, to avoid events he’ll be at, to not bring him up to your friends who know him.  You desperately want to see him, talk to him, but you need to protect yourself.  This one song he played one time when you were together brings back every emotion of him so strongly.  It comes on the radio way too often and you always force your friend to change the station.

 

It’s been 6 months and you still cry yourself to sleep.  The breakup comes over you like waves.  You’ll go a couple weeks and feel over him and healed, but then it’ll hit you all over again.  You feel tangled up in him, like you couldn’t move on even if you wanted to.  He knew these depths of your soul you’d never shown anyone else and you grew together and he changed you.  You still can’t separate yourself from him and that’s okay.  That’s good.  It’s beautiful how much you cared, how much you still care.

You miss him terribly and you’re up late one summer night, googling and reading through chat forums discussing if sometimes you go through a breakup and never end up healing from it.  You read stories of people who 5, 7 years later are still hurting and missing the person and it’s terrifying— what if that’s you?  What if you never heal?  At the same time, you can’t imagine ever forgetting him.  You don’t want to.  You don’t want to move on.   You want him back and you know you’ll end up with him in the end.  You have to.

It’s been a year and he says he’s over you.   But so many times when you’re crying about something, you still have the urge to reach out to him, like you still want him to be strong for you.  You pray for him a lot and you think so often how in Heaven none of this will matter, all the hurt will be healed and you can be best friends with him again.   You’ve gone on dates, talked to new guys and they interest you and it’s fun.  They make new parts of you feel understood, but none of them are him.  Half of your favorite songs remind you of the relationship.  All the new music you listened to while you were together, you deleted from your iTunes, but you connect memories of him to so many songs you listen to.  He’s been out of your life for so long, but he’s still there.  Friend after friend tells you to “just move on”— to stop talking about it, stop thinking about him. But your heart isn’t that simple.

 

It’s been two years and you realize one day you haven’t thought of him in a while.  Most of your best friends now, you didn’t even know when you were with him.  You have new mutual friends who never knew you as a couple.  You still can’t talk to him without being awkward and stuttering on your words, so you don’t approach him.  You still feel attracted to him when you see him and it’s annoying, but you know it doesn’t mean anything.  You start talking to a new guy and don’t immediately compare him to your ex.  He’s a lot different and he embraces the parts of you that your ex wanted to change.  He reminds you that you’re supposed to be outspoken and bold and emotionally intense and he likes that about you, because he’s the same.  You feel understood  just by listening to him.  And you’re not scared of being hurt.   Your connection with this new guy is so simple, and you feel now what you lacked with your ex.  You’re not insecure anymore and you go back to loving and growing the parts of yourself that your ex labeled as wrong.

It’s been three years and who you were when you were with him was a completely different person than who you are now.  Looking back, that’s what moving on from him came down to: changing and growing.  You only got over him, when who you were became too far away, too different from who he knew you as.  You’ve cared so much about another guy and you understand now why it couldn’t have worked with him.  And you’re glad it didn’t.  But one day you wake up, engrossed in a dream that he was in.  It was vivid and it felt so real.  Your heart is beating so fast and you think back at the past few days, wondering what triggered it.  You think of him for the first time in weeks and on your morning run, you listen to a song that was out when you were with him.  All the emotions are gone, but you can still remember some parts of him.   And you’re grateful.

He changed you.  He made you into someone more humble and gentle and open-minded.  He changed your theology and philosophical beliefs far beyond what was comfortable, but he was right about so many things that you only realize looking back.  He understood parts of you better than you did.  And at the time he made you feel understood and known in a way that no one else had.  He made you laugh when you were crying and he showed you different ways to look at the world.  He loved you so well and even though it was chaotic and imperfect, it was a beautiful relationship and you wouldn’t take back any of it.

 

You’re back at your old college now to see some of your friends graduate, and he’s graduating too.  You pass by him in the hall and don’t feel anything.  You just exchange greetings and keep walking.  And it feels right, that there’s nothing there anymore.  During the ceremony, your mutual friend tells you his plans for the future and you smile and laugh and feel happy for him, because it’s so him, so him.

And it’s comforting to you, that some parts of people never really change.  You’ve known for a while that you’ll never go through a breakup as awful as it was with him.  You were chaotic together and he was your first love.  There’s nothing left to say anymore, because you’ve processed everything.  He was really important to you in the past.  And that’s all it is now.  All that it has been.  He’s been dead in your life for a long time, and it just took way longer for your heart to catch up with reality.

 

8 Reasons Why You’re Single

The new Daya song “Hide Away” came on the radio the other day and I listened to the lyrics for the first time–  it made me so angry!  It’s promoting a horrible message, perpetuating a dysfunctional relationship culture.  She’s asking throughout the song why she can’t find a guy to be with and her relationship philosophy throughout the song tells us exactly why.  It’s not just a song, because music reflects our culture and people really think like this.

Here are Eight Reasons why you’re single:

  1. YOU are the one who is hiding away.It’s ironic how the crux of the song: “Where do the good boys go to hide away?” could actually be pointed at Daya herself. A lot of times we blame guys for not “making a move” or “telling us how they feel” while also expecting them to be “down for the chase/putting in the time that it takes.” Playing hard to get is confusing to everyone involved. Expecting the guy to always be the one reaching out to you is an unfair double standard and it is not realistic to all personality types.  As a female, you can make the first move by introducing yourself, messaging someone, starting up a conversation. If you’re not going to do that, then the least you can do is be responsive when someone does reach out to you. Don’t feign apathy or a busy schedule or the guy may actually believe you’re not interested.   The guys with the best of intentions are not wanting to make you into a game, so be straight up and transparent.

 

  1. You’re intimidating.Some women with bold, assertive personalities can come across as intimidating to guys who are more shy and introverted.  Everyone is scared of rejection, but introverts who are notoriously bad at small talk and don’t fit into the mold of the “superman” guy Daya speaks of may never make a move. In the first verse she brushes off laughing around the guy as a negative thing and in the second verse does the same with listening to him. “Boys seem to like the girls who laugh at anything/ Boys seem to like the girls…talking them up about the things they do so well.” None of that is a negative thing! Making someone feel accepted and affirmed and comfortable when they’re around you is a good thing!  And it is necessary if you want someone to approach you.  Listening is the most overlooked virtue and being genuinely interested in what someone is good at and passionate about is so attractive.  Making someone feel understood and known by asking them questions and actively listening and validating them will cause them to want to keep talking to you.

 

  1. You reject and friend zone people interested in you. Being open to different types of people and not judging by appearances or first impressions is really important if you want to be in a relationship. It feels good to be close-minded, to jump to not giving a guy our number, immediately friendzoning him, deeming him not attractive enough or not good enough to be with us. That may make you feel powerful or attractive, but it also means you’re single. It is so common for the guy best friend to really want to be with you, and then for the girl to continually friendzone him.  Sometimes we crave adventure and impulsiveness and intense emotion over comfort and stability and peace.  And seeking out this newness and infatuation may make us unhappy in the end if we’re ignoring, overlooking the people who are right in front of us.

 

  1. You have high expectations. Whether its the type of person who you’re with—their look or personality, or you want a guy who pursues you or acts “romantic” in a relationship in a specific way, you’re not open. It’s good to have standards and prioritize being with someone who you connect with on a deep level, but don’t complain about being single like you’re in this helpless position.  You COULD be in a relationship, but are choosing to be single!  In the second verse of the song, Daya sings that she wants the guy to chase her and “To supply all my heart’s demands/ Because he’s going to save my life like superman.”  And in the chorus she is singing how all she wants is “a little company” but no, she wants a fairytale relationship.  She wants the idea of a relationship rather than the person.  You should be in a relationship because you meet someone who you love being around and who you love listening to and understanding.  It should be about the other person, not just about how they’re making you feel.

 

  1. You’re not over your ex.You still think about your ex, talk about your ex, compare new people you meet to your ex. Hearing in-depth about your breakup is likely to turn people away.  And that’s a good thing.  You need to take time away to just be single and heal.  Sometimes you’re at a place where you shouldn’t be in a relationship.

 

  1. You’re not confident and happy on your own. You hear so many stories of someone swearing off relationships, then the next day meeting the person they marry.  Or how you’ll only get in a relationship when you’re not seeking it out. The reason for that is confidence. When you’re independent and love yourself without needing validation from another person, when you are completely content and happy on your own– that strength shows through and it is attractive.  The healthiest relationship is when both people are already fulfilled and happy on their own and don’t need each other, but want each other.  Being emotionally needy and reliant on someone else for happiness or for all of your emotional support is not attractive or healthy and it shows through.  Not being confident shows through.  How you feel about yourself will also play into how you make other people feel. If you accept and love and forgive yourself, you’re likely to be like that toward other people and attract people to you.  In “On Friendship” Aristotle argues that you can only be a good friend to other people if you’re first a good friend to yourself.  The same goes with loving someone in a relationship.

 

7 .You’re not good, you’re just nice.  I was just re-watching the movie version of “Into the Woods” and at the very end one of the Witch’s songs has a sentiment like this: “You’re not good, you’re not bad, you’re just nice” and it epitomizes Western culture.  We think that by not being awful, by just omitting evil that we’re being good.  But Augustine talks about how good is not a lack of evil, but an actual substance, it is all these additional actions of being self-sacrificial that are required to be an exemplary person.  Some guys complain how they’re so nice, yet always get rejected… that women always go for jerks and that nice guys finish last.  But that thinking is a bit misled.  Being “nice” by not being a jerk doesn’t mean you’re automatically an excellent, inspiring person who other people want to be around.  And women do this as well, in “Hide Away” Daya says: “I’m a good, good girl who needs a little company” while listing off this huge list of demands of what she wants from a guy. Relationships aren’t about you. If you start by focusing on another person, making them feel known then maybe a relationship can begin.

 

  1. You just haven’t found the right person yet.This is cliché because it’s true. I think it is rare when timing and everything works out.  It is rare and amazing when two people who connect on all these different levels, share similar values, are both emotionally in a good place to be dating… also live in the same area.  For all of that to happen, THAT should be shocking to us!  All of us will get married some day if we want to, and that only takes finding one person.  You might spend so much time worrying about how you’ll end up “forever alone” but instead spend time thinking about how you might end up having a failed relationship, getting divorced, hurting your children in the process.  We have the rest of our lives to be in a committed relationship and that should intimidate us, scare us because of how high the divorce rate is.  Instead of complaining and sulking about being single, we should analyze ourselves: things that have scarred us in the past and any negative emotional patterns that have come out of that.  We should think about our flaws and figure out what we need to change about ourselves so we’ll be better able to love someone in a relationship.  Instead of investing so much energy in finding the right person, think about how to become the right person for someone else.

 

The One Who Didn’t Care

I noticed him the first day of class.  The way he responded to the role call was wrong.  He looked up, confused, and I remember laughing at him.  Not making fun of him laughing, but entertained by how endearing his awkwardness was.

He made our class that semester so entertaining.  He would appear calm and collected, but then suddenly react so intensely to something said.  It was jolting, but also hilarious.

I remember our dynamic that semester as me constantly laughing at the way he phrased his ideas and him entertained by how irritated I got at the constant ambiguity in anything our Professor said.

Guy-who-didn’t-care completely disregarded classroom etiquette by reacting out loud to what someone was saying, while they were still talking.  Somehow it was always relevant to the class.  He was so passionate in arguing about these minute incongruities in what we were studying and that shook up the would-be-serious environment of an ancient history class into something electrifying.

We created this ambiance in our corner of the room of ditching that pseudo-professional tone that usually dominates academia and replacing it with this impulsiveness in having so much fun finding ideas to probe at and deconstruct.  It was this dichotomy of not taking anything seriously but at the same time being so intense in our perspectives.

One day during the discussion I noticed that I was mirroring him with my body language.  And that he was mirroring mine.  And I noticed when it became constant.  If he changed the way his arm was resting or if I shifted my feet, the other would change positions to match.  Sometimes it happened at the same time, involuntarily throughout an hour of class.

He always watched for my reaction when the token sexist guy in our class said something completely outrageous.  This happened way too often.  I’d start whisper ranting to get all my frustration out and we’d both just be laughing as we tried to process that this was actually happening.  By the end of the semester we’d created this routine of reacting with matching “mutual disbelief” faces anytime this guy…said anything.

 

I knew he noticed me.  And I knew it could never work between us.  We were both graduating, our lives headed off in different directions. He was moving across the country for grad school.  I was preparing for missions work in Thailand. It all should’ve faded out.  And it would have, if not for this chance encounter…that left me SO ANGRY at him.

 

My guy friend and I were disputing this policy at one of the admin offices of our school. The same office where guy-who-didn’t-care happened to work.  My friend and I are both Philosophy majors, meaning we’re trained to create logical arguments and identify fallacies, so I was confident things would go well.

Everything was calm as my friend and I expressed our views.  We were initially shut down, but then walked the administrators through some objections and counterexamples.  When there was zero openness or mutual understanding— after they had agreed with all our definitions and premises— I got frustrated and began to speak faster and louder, becoming overtly persistent.

I had noticed guy-who-didn’t-care in my peripheral as we walked in and after a few minutes of me thoroughly explaining our position, he signaled me out and slowly said, “Let’s stop being so emotional.”  I turned toward him— shocked— processing that he’d said something so blatantly sexist, and watched as he proceeded to train wreck through all my arguments.  His tone was patronizing and demeaning as he spewed out everything he hated about what I thought.  It was terrifying to me that he could change from chill to lethal in half a second.

His expression was piercing and he was relentless. I felt like I was in the middle of a Debate tournament— my adrenaline on overload during cross examination.  My mind was racing with all these intuitions of how to shut him down.  He would give me three seconds to speak, before interrupting again.  I laid out questions trying to back him into a corner, but he was sidestepping me, presenting this revoltingly legalistic definition of Justice.  His arguments were all disanalogous, but he couldn’t see that because he refused to listen to anything I was saying.

Eventually I stormed out of the office with my best friend who proceeded to validate how awful this guy was.  I was so angry I almost started crying.  And I never get angry.

 

I couldn’t look at him the next day.  He was a complete jerk.  Also, disrespectful.  A bit sexist, and lacking all understanding of formal logic.  It was frustrating that this guy I’d respected all year turned out to be so incredibly callous.  He kept making jokes, as usual, and it was frustrating that I still found him funny.  Annoying when I found myself even more attracted to him.

Inevitably, my anger toward him faded and I found myself stoked by his intensity and laughing with him all over again.

 

A few weeks later, he came up to me after class with some thoughts on something I’d said in the discussion.  It was obvious to me that this was more an excuse to talk to me than a genuine quest for knowledge.  Although knowing him, it was probably both.  He shared this argument from a book he was reading that expanded upon my point, and he didn’t notice when I lost focus for a second just to watch him talk or when I reluctantly pulled myself back into the conversation to respond to him.  After, I made some joke about the philosophy we were reading, and reached out to touch his arm as we laughed.

Then I brought up what happened. I told him I was confused in how he was so demeaning.  But that I’d been disrespectful and lost control.  He apologized too and all was well.  I didn’t understand at the time but with him I felt secure, so I explained that I have Bipolar Disorder, how I was in a bit of a manic episode when I lost control and that otherwise I’d never escalate my anger.  He reacted so fast, turning away and his face all shocked like he felt awful.  I started laughing and laughing as I told him it was okay, that since I’d been hypomanic he hadn’t hurt me at all, that I was okay!

 

Soon after, I played the “studying together” card.  Depression all semester had left the course material a blur, so I did need help.  It ended up being him tutoring me…interrupted by countless side discussions of our research and theological views and details of our lives. He locked me in this intense eye contact that got me all nervous and stoked.  I had never talked with him so much and his intellectual power was intimidating.

My medications had finally kicked in and my mind was waking up after months and months of being twisted all around and slowed up in depression.  We were talking through all these religious topics that I’m so passionate about, but it felt disorienting.  Using all my brainpower to communicate and think— it was confusing, uncomfortable.  I kept up as best I could, trying to grasp hold of the right words, trying to evoke how I’d always expressed my theological views, trying to steal back all the parts of me that depression had begun to erase.

All I told my best friend later was that he’d told me his life story. She laughed, but that’s basically what happened.  He’d walked me through this intense experience from his childhood and as I imagined a younger version of him being undermined, I felt myself tearing up.  His powerful exterior was pushed aside, unveiling something so vulnerable. That night I thought back to everything he’d said and I cried for him.  I needed to be closer, to wrap my arms around him and hold on so tightly— I wanted to heal all the brokenness, make the scars fade away.

 

After that I made so many excuses to see him. I knew he saw through me, but he kept letting me in.  I asked for his number, and always texted him first.  I told him he was charming.  When he was being patronizing, I called him out.  I’d get so close to him when we were talking— barely holding back my love language’s impulses.

Any social rules I usually swore by in talking to a guy were thrown out the window.  I let myself be as assertive and use as much initiative as my personality has always wanted to.  I knew I was being intrusive and so forward and I knew he didn’t care.

In return he didn’t filter himself around me.  He cursed and interrupted and was so judgmental.  He would go on these epic rants about what annoyed him during the day or some idiot person he’d interacted with a while back. He showed me some of the books he was reading: he annotated them like I do, but instead of underlining inspiring passages or writing out something to further a thought, he’d write “stupid” or “wrong” with an arrow pointing toward whichever paragraph was clearly irrational.

 

He knew a lot of people were turned off by his personality.  The way he explained it to me made it sound like he found it hilarious. He told me the percentage of people who think he’s a jerk when they meet him and then how those numbers change as people get to know him more.  My friends were in the first category.  I’d been so upset the day we’d had that chaos interaction, and had ranted to them about how awful he was.

They still thought he was this uncaring jerk and were so confused why I liked him.  My guy best friend joked that I was being “that girl” who keeps going back to an emotionally abusive boyfriend— convinced that he has the best intentions despite all his actions proving otherwise.  My roommate was bothered by how I wasn’t completely frustrated with him: “He’s taking you for granted!” she’d say, “He isn’t appreciating you at all.” I tried to listen to her, but would just start laughing at how true it was.

He barely ever reached out to me.  He didn’t pursue me.  There weren’t these beautiful affirmation lines he used to make me feel special.  He didn’t ask questions in a conversation, or use non-verbals to show he understood.

It was better than that.  He made me feel special by letting me into all these facets of his mind.  He affirmed me by letting me refute him and then interrupting me and then me interrupting him and then one of us realizing something of what the other was saying.  He made me miss him by his intensity: the way he always made me laugh with his bizarre or brilliant way of assessing and overanalyzing all his emotions.

Any compliment he gave me, anytime he referred back to something I’d said a while back, it wasn’t because he was trying to make me feel a certain way.  It was just that he happened to remember or appreciate something I’d said.  His temperament was a natural chaos and his kind of charming was unintentional.

 

This was the first time I’d liked a guy where I was certain going into it that he wouldn’t screw me over emotionally.  It was because I knew he didn’t care.  He didn’t care enough to put so much effort and fake affirmation into playing with some girl’s heart.  He didn’t care enough to think through black and white judgments toward a person so early on.  For him caring wasn’t this premeditated action; it was simply being himself.  His behavior that was coming across to my friends as callous was exactly why I respected him.

The jerk-esque ambiance, the ways he didn’t care: it was comforting.  I knew I wasn’t interacting with a contrived version of him.

It was refreshing not having to tiptoe between being just enough affirming and the right amount of hard-to-get, while coming across as really chill.  I ditched all the superficial.  In our conversations I didn’t feel this underlying awareness that I could be seriously hurt, that I needed to be so intentional and careful in how much I shared.  I wasn’t scared when he led the conversation to something of so much emotional depth, because I knew he wasn’t manipulating me to be more vulnerable or to get attached to him.  He wasn’t one to control people.

 

He revealed all these facets of himself and I was content to listen for hours.  It was fascinating learning more and more of how his mind works.  So often when he’d pause to think of how to phrase something, I’d immediately supply the right word— like I was tracking ahead of him— and then he’d continue with what he was saying. The way he expressed himself was so vivid and listening to him was this constant suspense.

He should have been difficult to read in the sense that his listening face lacks all expression, but I grasped his communication style early on.  He was intuitive to me because he’s consistent.  He has this incredible capacity to explain the logical processing and analyzation of his perceptions and how that translates into actions.  His emotional intelligence is obvious and that was calming in a way I hadn’t experienced before.  Nothing about his personality comes across as peaceful or gentle, yet there was this feeling of stability he’d always emulate.

 

Summer was approaching, and I was enjoying the feeling of normal— meaning, my Bipolar was stabilized!  This time it wasn’t some slight-hypomanic-phase hoax, it was for real.  My medications were all the way kicked in and my brain was balanced, but I didn’t feel mentally strong.  I was completely out of depression: all my energy and passion was back, but I wasn’t doing well on tests and so often I’d be unable to think of words in a conversation.  It was this feeling of reaching out for something— like a belief or some opinion: how I argue for it and all the evidence I hold.  The exact location of the information would be so familiar but as I was about to grab onto it—              …a chasing after the wind.

This happened so much around guy-who-didn’t-care, because most of our conversations oriented around something like exegesis or epistemology— stuff that required my full brain power.  I’m sure he didn’t notice, though.  It’s like in Harry Potter: the typical Muggle reaction to witnessing magic is brushing it off or ascribing it to something normal…that’s been my experience with people writing off blatant depression symptoms.

I was beginning to realize that I had to learn how to trust my brain again.  Expressing myself in complex ways…it was unsettling.  I could sense these faint intuitions leading me to what I wanted to express— and I’d just have to blindly start talking, hoping something coherent would come out.  Often it did.  Other times I’d cut short my thought or pause or demand he help me think of the right word.  Usually I’d default to asking questions.

Listening would be difficult too…I hadn’t noticed it as much around other people but everything about him was more intense, in-depth, complex— constant intellectual..into social critique..leading into some crazy emotional background story of his life!  Talking to some new guy you’re attracted to wouldn’t seem to be the ideal situation to be working through brain damage— but it was, ideal… all these discussions were beginning the process of rewiring my brain.

I don’t think it’s widely known, but recurrent depression does cause brain damage. MRI scans have observed parts of the brain such as the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex as the first to begin to not only slow down in neural activity— but to shrink, as depression worsens.  Essentially, once you’re out of depression it takes even more time for neurogenesis to restore everything.  Instead of physical therapy, mine is mental.

When I told him about my extreme empathy and that I’d cried for him, he confessed that he doesn’t feel empathy at all.  Instead of thinking: Serial killer! I laughed and laughed and was even more fascinated by this guy who was given such a different mind in which to impact the world.

I told him aspects of my depression I hadn’t shared with anyone else.  I could feel that he was emotionally strong, that he could handle darkness in a way most people can’t.  That hearing about someone’s demons and their version of hell wouldn’t crush him.

It was puzzling to me to have found someone who I didn’t feel the need to protect.  My kind of caring is to shield people: from the world, from whatever’s hurting them, from myself.  This year I’ve been shielding people the most from symptoms of my bipolar.  It’s become second nature for me to deceive those around me to how bad things actually are.  I always thought I’d have to keep certain details of my depression between me, God, and my Psychiatrist; but this gave me pause.  It was fascinating for me, processing that there are people who can handle other’s pain without also breaking.  The ability to be emotionally disconnected from people’s experiences, the ability to not care— is a gift.

 

Parts of me were coming back faster than others: My laugh was tuned back to the right octave.  I was able to thoroughly process lectures in class. I didn’t feel this pressure to constantly exude energy.  And I wasn’t afraid anymore to meet new people and start up conversation.

was afraid of my emotions. They didn’t seem to belong to me.  I was experiencing non-manic happiness, non-depressed comfort— a balanced amount of focus and excitement and procrastination: it was all unfamiliar.  I couldn’t access the history of how I had always processed and analyzed my inner self.  Running on autopilot; trying every day to stay afloat— it had not been living.

I found so much comfort being around guy-who-didn’t-care because he felt familiar. All of his emotional intensity…it reminded me so much of myself.  It reminded me of these core parts of my convictions and all these facets of my emotion-to-rationality connections.  He reminded me so much of who I’d been before mood phases had deconstructed my sense of self.  Spending time with him was like these constant epiphanies of realizing aspects of myself that had been diminished or that I’d forgotten.

 

We’d always talk theology and it was refreshing that we shared all these random (and “completely unorthodox”) theological views— like how it seems that no one has a soul or that the world only makes sense if everyone is saved…and that of course homosexuality isn’t condemned in the Bible.

We talked so much about feminism and he immediately grasped how constrictive it had been for me, growing up in a church that doesn’t give women an active role.  As I explained to him the research I’ve done of women having actual leadership roles in the Early Church (which, yes..is also expressed in Scripture) I found him to be up-to-date and so well-read on all these details of first century cultural context.  He was emotionally validating— not through expressing empathy, but because he was coming from a place of intellectual integrity.  It wasn’t about making me feel understood, but seeking truth.

 

One day he told me that he used to hate Philosophy.  I told him I would’ve hated him then.  We started talking about different Ethical Theories and I explained all my Utilitarian intuitions (doing what’s best for the greatest good of the greatest number of people) and that I feel so drawn toward acting based upon how I’m affecting others. I conceded that it’s a flawed moral theory in the sense that the greatest good is often ambiguous, but that it seems to be the most compassionate way to live.

He countered with… Virtue Ethics?!  I reacted so fast— interrupting him to rant about how no one actually respects that, how it’s completely impractical, outdated— how we’d skimmed over it in my Ethics Class because it’s so convoluted!  He calmly listened, no facial expression per usual, and then explained his interpretation.  He lives out Virtue Ethics by analyzing each decision and choosing the action that will shape Him into being more like Christ.

At the time I remember judging him.  His ethical intuitions were selfish…and wrong! I thought about Bible Verses like Philippians 2:3, Romans 12:15, 1 John 3:16-18…all exemplifying that Christians are supposed to think of others before themselves.  It seemed to me that Virtue Ethics demanded this constant focus on self, and that made me so uncomfortable.

Part of me kept listening to him as I let myself think and think and process.  I thought about his lack of empathy— how he isn’t constantly bombarded by everyone’s emotions.  I thought of how he often ignores people, straight up doesn’t like someone upon meeting them.  How he enjoys using his gift of an acute social awareness to create an atmosphere that makes someone feel so uncomfortable. <- And how he finds that highly entertaining.  I thought too how he is frustratingly protective of his time.

But then I thought about myself: how my empathy overwhelms me.  How I’m so often paralyzed by the brokenness I feel around me.  I reflected on doing ministry at Pepperdine and all the time I put into my YouTube channel… how I get overwhelmed trying to help everyone, how I’ll be crying so much that I can’t focus on school or take care of myself.  I lingered on all the times I’ve gone to the opposite extreme: disseminating some core part of myself, to ensure one of my close friends feel comfortable, more understood in our friendship or to compensate for feeling guilty after hurting someone I love.

 

I thought back to who I was at 18.  I’d been free, so free.  When I changed, it was because of God, because of my prayers with Him and devotionals I heard at Church and the hundreds of hours I spent reading my Bible.

  1. Before the Bipolar mood phases set in.  Before that made things all chaotic.  Before I’d experienced heartbreak or being used.  Before I knew what it meant to be scarred.
  2. When caring about a guy meant months of crying myself to sleep because I’d broken him.  When insecurity wrapped around me because he’d labeled me as something flawed.  When the happiest I’d ever been was in Thailand, constantly reading my Bible and devotionals every morning and so much praying and talking about Jesus and theology all throughout the day at the Christian Center.
  3. When loving God meant not getting enough sleep, being drained by emotional support, leading multiple small groups, not having time for my classes— my bible studies and prayer times being the last priority.  Leading. Working. Taking on dozens of hours of logistics and admin stuff for my school’s campus ministry. When loving God was all focused outward.
  4. When I lost myself.  Over and over again.  When the stress from doing so much for God kicked in the worst major depressive episode.  When I started failing classes.  And losing pounds.  When my mind became so used to being depressed that whenever it lifted, I didn’t recognize myself.

 

I thought back to this guy I was talking to— how he doesn’t feel empathy.  How he must have some objective perspective on loving people.  I thought about who I might be without my emotional sensitivity, without caring for everyone I pass by, without feeling intimately connected to people I read about in the news.

Not caring so much, not feeling empathy… I tried to imagine what the world might be like for him: He probably feels that it isn’t practical to care about acquaintances he passes by. He knows that always dodging around people’s feelings prevents us from speaking truth. He recognizes that caring about people more than Christ isn’t Biblical.

 

My empathy leads me astray. This attribute of compassion— evangelicalism views it as the ultimate spiritual gift.  Maybe because our society is obsessed with feeling.  Feeling loved.  Feeling understood.  Feeling connected with God.  Feeling cared for.  I’ve grown to idolize feeling compassion for others, so much so that my empathy has become all tangled up in my pride.  How easily something so good can turn into an idol.

I look back now and realize I’ve been diminishing my impact on people by letting my empathy control me. The violence happening all around the world and in our country this summer, has been a reminder that changing our focus off of God to all the brokenness and terror in the world is hopeless, debilitating. It robs our minds of experiencing God’s light and of seeing Good in the world.

Christianity is a dichotomy.  It’s a crazy trust exercise.  God wants us to be intimately involved in the world, to devote so much energy to righting injustices and bringing people to know Him, but for that not to be our focus.  He wants us to address terrorism, insecurities, racism, mental illness, divorce, abuse, death… without becoming immersed.

The last thing Jesus said to His disciples while on earth involved a typical Hebrew greeting, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21) At the time, they must have thought back to a similar thing he’d shared with them at the Last Supper, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  -John 16:33.

It’s a theme that is constant throughout Jesus’ ministry. During the Sermon on the Mount, He says: “I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear…” (Matthew 6:25) and to instead “Seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness so that all these things will be given to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

God has a long-term perspective we can’t see.  He cares immensely about our individual spiritual growth— with an intensity that doesn’t fit into a Utilitarian framework.

 

Soon I was having my own last supper with three of my closest friends.  We were the few who hadn’t left campus yet.  It was 10 o’clock at night and we were finally eating dinner as we’d spent the whole day packing.  Final stories were shared.  Plans for the next morning finalized. Our inside jokes were referred to again and again.  We watched some comedy video my guy friend found as I finished up the last of my vegan ice cream.  Soon the dishes were done and the kitchen cleaned up— it could’ve been just another night.

My best friend who feels like my younger sister was hosting us at her place.  She kicked our guy friends out of the apartment so it could be just the two of us.  I hugged her so tightly and it hit me that in a day I’d be 3,000 miles away from this place that had become my home.  She spoke of our friendship and my impact on her faith. I reminded her how she understands all the facets of me, how she makes me feel known.

I brushed her tears away and smoothed her hair, because we share the same love language.  She laughed as she cried, saying it’d been so easy for her— that I was her first friend here and that it’d been perfect how she hadn’t needed anyone else to feel understood, how she wishes every relationship could be this simple.

Then she said something so profound: that I’d shown her what it means to be human. She told me the town she grew up in hadn’t been genuine and open, that she hadn’t felt true peace until coming here and experiencing God. The guys interrupted at this point, loudly banging on the door, saying it was time to go—  they wanted me to get to the car ASAP so they could go play Heroes of the Storm!

“Shut up!! Be patieeent” I yelled, carrying out the vowel sounds.  She elaborated on what she meant and I understood, but this odd feeling lingered.  I hadn’t done anything.  I wasn’t aware of having done anything to merit that kind of influence on her life.  She was this freshman I met my junior year who happened to be philosophical and emotionally intense. She’d been in my Bible study.  We’d dressed up as frozen characters for Halloween.  We met on Wednesdays to read through Hebrews together.  I was the first one she told when she wanted to get baptized.

I’d always thought of her as an intellectual equal.  Our dynamic was just talking for hours on and on about ideas.  I loved being around her.  She was one of my best friends.

She had been my only friend at the time who seemed to fully grasp what I saw in guy-who-didn’t care.  I had explained to her how it was like getting into all these depths of his mind and she understood.  She’d told me she wanted to meet him.  She didn’t judge him when I explained that he really wouldn’t want to meet her.

I hugged her for the final time and told her I loved her, to always take care of herself.

 

That day I was going through awful withdrawal symptoms because I was tapering off one of my Bipolar meds.  I’d promised to meet up with the guys to game, but I needed to be alone.  I walked the dorm halls by myself.  I journaled out a prayer to God.  I walked around outside after I got a workout in.  I thought back to all the ways I’d grown and changed over the past four years.

 

The next morning I left for LAX.  I never said goodbye to him.  He was busy with work and I’d spent my last days of college with my best friends.  On the airplane flying home I thought of him and started writing down so much of what I felt.  Once I was back home and alone in my room, I let myself cry.  Not because he had hurt me, but because I missed him. He had showed me enough of himself that I could imagine a relationship with him, one that would be so simple.

After everything I’d been through with Bipolar, it felt so nice to be crying about a guy.  It felt amazing to fully feel.  It surprised me how right I’d been about him, that he hadn’t hurt me at all.  The depth he’d revealed of himself and the lack of closure— it should’ve made me feel so rejected and confused… but instead I was laughing and laughing as I was crying about him, as I was remembering everything.

 

That’s the end.  We haven’t talked at all this summer.  I haven’t written him.  I know he doesn’t want me to.  It’s unlikely that we’ll see each other again… and he wouldn’t find a reason to contact me.

But this isn’t just about him.  It’s about all of us.  Guy-who-really-cared is someone who was uniquely intense and able to make me feel so understood and clarified at such a vulnerable time in my Bipolar.  He wasn’t trying to act as a therapist (he’d find the concept hilarious) or be super compassionate and gentle— cognizant that I was battling out of depression, he was just being himself.  And that made an incredible difference in my healing process.

I wrote so much more but it’s not all mine to share.  He was enigmatic, but not apathetic. The timing was all wrong.  But maybe we were too— empathetic opposites…dolled out these unnatural amounts of caring.

It’s been a few months and our life trajectories are proceeding as planned. I wrote out a letter to him but never sent it.  I want to thank him, let him know how much he helped me in getting back my sense of self… but it’s not wise to stir up old emotions.

His perspective on life isn’t all zoomed in like mine, so he knew stronger than I did how much this couldn’t work.  He knew what to do to avoid hurting me, because he’s the one who cared.

 

 

 

Guy-who-really-cared, thank you.. for everything.