“She is yearning for shelter and affection that she never found at home, she is searching for a hero to ride in to save the day, and in walks prince charming and he knows just what to say, momentary lapse of reason and she gives herself away..” Does Anybody See Her?– Casting Crowns
Everybody wants a family. Everybody wants to feel loved, everybody is searching for heroes. Some people have none of those and so it is hard for those people to find a reason to keep breathing. I am so glad that is not my story now. And if it is yours, it doesn’t have to be. Most of you have been following my story from the first blog I posted.
We were settled from the move from Clearwater to Citrus County and by settled I mean DirectTV had come so I could watch the Jaguars play. It was almost Thanksgiving 2009. The move from Clearwater, to Citrus County was bitter-sweet. It is only about 90 miles, maybe even less—and I had at least that many thoughts going through my head as I drove back and forth during the move. I stood in the driveway of Crissy’s house in Clearwater and loaded the remaining things in my gray Ford Escape. Mile by mile clicked by and I realized that my emotional state and motivation for making the move was reflective in the name of the car I chose to drive.
Somewhere a long the way I realized that I needed time– time to heal from the inside out. I realized there were no programs, medicines or meditations that would fix what was broken. I needed to be a wall flower, I needed to stop talking. I needed for people to not know the “story”.
Settling in the new house brought it’s own set of problems as I had moved 3 times in 4 years. I was comfortable, in fact, very comfortable at my church in Clearwater and I knew I would miss this church that had served as a triage for my heart and gapping wounds. They were first on the scene; they loved me well—they served as a shelter for me, so it was hard to leave.
Led by one of the finest men I have ever met, Calvary is a big church with a single mission, and that is to do life together. I am reminded now as I am writing this about the first time I saw the sign on the corner by that big church, and it’s theme “for life’s journey”—and that is a perfect way to describe the role of Calvary in my life. More specifically, the Rice’s (pastor’s family) walked some dark roads with me. I often think of the chorus of this song when I think of the Rice’s and the role they chose to play in my life.
“Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see? or does anybody even know she’s going down today? Under the shadow of our steeple, with all the lost and lonely people searching for the hope that it is tucked away in you and me, can anybody see?”
I spent a lot of time with them, they would come pick me up for football games; we would go out on the jet ski, watch sports, and I even busted a romantic evening that Willy had planned for Cheryl one time. It was around Christmas time and she agreed to feed me if I helped her grade papers. We got to the house just in time to watch Willy add a third plate for the meal he had made for them; and I think I even remember him blowing out a candle! It was hilarious. The Rice’s just did life with me, as they continue to do with their ministry and as they did before I came along. Both of them shattered my paradigms and Willy was one of the first people to help me understand that the men who had harmed me in my life were the exception, not the rule. When I got out of the hospital I went directly to their house and he hugged me and there was and still is power in what he did not say. He laid the foundation for those who would come behind him after my move from Clearwater.
“She is running a hundred miles an hour in the wrong direction. She is trying but the canyon’s every widening the depths of her cold heart. So, she set out on another misadventure just to find she another two years older but she is three more steps behind”
The new house brought great opportunity for me to sequester myself and completely shut down; and it was an opportunity I took often. We began to work the business, and I threw myself into it full boar but after work I would shut myself in my room and try to stop my brain. It seemed as though the move set me back a few steps as flash backs became more frequent and the demons seemed more intense than ever. Having been triaged by my team of people in Clearwater, the glaring wounds had stopped bleeding long enough to get me to the Intensive Care Unit, where I would be watched closely—but only by family and only in small amounts of time. There was something very purposeful about keeping my world small; so that I could effectively deal with 3 decades of trauma.
Eventually, I came off of life support, but my Citrus County team had a lot to do as I moved my way through the pain and to a rehabilitation phase; it was in this phase that some of the darkest moments occurred.
I was better, and because I was better, my brain started dealing with some of the deeper issues; without my permission, I should add. The night terrors got worse, I would often wake up in the middle of the night curled up in a corner of my bed with my arms up and protecting my head. It took 5 minutes sometimes to remember that it was 2010 and not 1978, 1987, 1994 or 2007. I was safe; and ironically that made my life miserable.
No longer in fight of flight, it was time to work it out. It hurt, it hurt like crazy—and I would still fall into a cycle of shutting down. I did what I needed to do when the demons would present themselves in the way of flashbacks or a huge variety of health issues. I would work on it, as much as I could on my own. My rehab team was led by my doctor, who’s jaw dropped when I asked him if I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. One would think that that diagnosis was obvious, but not to me, I didn’t understand why I was still dealing with some of this stuff. Life continued to happen and in that process something happened that would help me not only work it out with fury, but quietly and without anybody noticing, some order was being restored (although I hesitate to use restored, I am not sure I ever had it) as I had the opportunity to “do life” with Crissy’s family, including her older brother Glenn.
I had reason to spend a large amount of time with Glenn for 3 years. Some people reading this blog know him and you know that he is 6’4 of ridiculous talent with a heart as big as his stature. He drove this LOUD truck and every morning when he would roll into our driveway for work, and a little piece of me felt safer. There was something very comforting about having him there when we knew that there were still threats to hurt me; there were threats to kill me.
Day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year Glenn loved me well— he always referred to me as his sister, and he still does—and he talked me off a lot of bridges. His tender way of calming down a situation is really difficult to describe. But he was there, everyday—and for each bridge, each cliff, each step he had advice and a plan. He poured into me and suddenly I realized that I had a brother, and another example that my experience with men was the exception, not the rule. He built value in me. There were all kinds of times he had to assure me that I was not going to be homeless, that his family was with me to stay, no matter what. It was and still is a sense of safety that I have never known, and even in these dark times God continued to show up in the way of Willy, Glenn and many like them.
That year trickled by and as it did, my body began to respond to night terrors. My brain began to respond to ignoring deep pain. All of it classic PTSD symptoms. The pain I felt during that time was necessary; but abundantly confusing; I just could not understand why I could not just move on; so I continued to beat myself up on that. But, I found that my rehab team in Citrus County were rebuilding in me; and oftentimes they would ask me to stretch longer; run further; and lift more weight than I ever had before.
Hanging in The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a painting simply telling the story of Hagar. Hagar, as a result of her decisions, found herself in a vast open space; she had nowhere to go; she had no support. Save her son Ishmael, she was alone and would be forever. But, suddenly she heard a voice, a voice that said “I am a God Who sees you.” (Genesis 16:13) It is one of my favorite stories in the Bible and it occurred to me that He, in fact, also was my God; and He sees me. Understanding and believing this truth was a defining moment in my story. And, He made himself abundantly clear by providing so many people Who saw me and who heard me. Some could argue that Hagar’s decisions got her to where she was and she deserved to stay where she was without God or a community who served as triage, ICU or rehab. But God doesn’t operate that way, though if you know the whole story, you know that there were consequences to her decision that are still here with us today.
So, believing that He saw me, and that He knows my name was huge, and I finally got released from my rehabilitation team, because it was time for me to figure it out how to move on with my life.
If I had a microphone and everybody who ever has dealt with trauma of this magnitude, I would say this to you: it is a fight worth fighting. At some point you will feel like the pain will never go away. I would tell you to start with triage; find the people who will stop the bleeding. Find Intensive Care friends & family who will watch over you with a fervent vigilance—make your world small for that period of time. And then, pick the rehab team; you will hate them sometimes. But know this, they see you; and they want to help you from going down today.
Using that same microphone I would encourage those of you who love people like me to step up, be loud and take the chance of them hating you. Getting out of dangerous marriages or relationships is a huge step, but it is one in a series of steps. Look for her. Hear her. Prevent her from going down today.
As 2010 came to an end, I found myself at Mayo Clinic and what I would find out there was life changing. But that is a story for another day.