May is National Mental Health Awareness Month
While working in Amber's Garden today I began thinking about my life and how I never would have imagined it turning out the way it has... God's plan for me sure had changed, and was so different than what I had expected. Then, quickly I chuckled, as I remembered God's plan had never changed, I just never knew what the plan was until a few years ago.
I was much to in control of things to have been able to know what God wanted from me. At the basis of what I thought I controlled was the REAL control - fear. It had another name that early on I was unaware of... anxiety. Anxiety guided me to where I would work, the friends I had, the places I went, the clothes I wore, and all the details of my life. It followed me everywhere and was always lying just under my skin like an itch you needed to scratch. Anxiety pushed along the negative thinking of myself, it made me feel unworthy, it kept me in a state of constant fear of never being good enough no matter what I did. It made me feel that God would and could never love someone so terrible. My need for perfection grew through the years, and so did the disappointment when I failed. I was trying to earn my place into someone's heart...even God's. Somehow, someone, someday, might see me as some thing... of value.
Things were completely messed up in my head, brought on by the many years of being afraid ...as far back as memory allows. I know now this is what happens to children living in an abusive environment, and that it was my very "abnormal" normal. There were other things that contributed to my fear in my younger years that lead to my feelings of self-doubt and unworthiness. You would think with my "out of control" home life that going to church might help, but instead it brought more reasons why to be afraid. Even if I could do nothing about my circumstances, I was left feeling afraid of the eternal torment I was told about each week. It was black and white, no gray, no room for exception... fear stole my hope.
When I became an adult I left my hometown church... I was old enough to make my own decisions, and nothing about staying made sense. I left my home to set out on my own, all in hopes of escaping the fear, and finding a place where I could no longer be harmed. How immature I was in my thinking... all I knew was harm, hurt, hopelessness... so every relationship I had for the next fourteen years brought me more of the same. I was dragging my "abnormal" normal right along with me through life. I knew I wanted more than what I had received as a child, and yet I could not seem to find better, in spite of all my planning and hard work.
I know now that my guide, Fear, was still the one that was in control, and as long as that was the case, I would continue on with my self loathing, making poor decisions, and never being able to experience peace and joy. How could I expect someone else to love me if I could not love myself? I could blame all of my mistakes on everyone else, and there were times when I still blamed my abusive childhood... but I knew that was not the truth. I just could not get beyond the fear and it left me paralyzed each time someone yet again left my life.
Then the unimaginable happened, one of my children died by suicide in 2008. There was nothing that had ever happened to me that could measure up to the devastation that I felt after learning of this tragedy. My questions were no longer about what happened to me, but why was it happening to my daughter? I was in fear of losing someone else now in a completely different way. I felt I could not manage one more hurt... I just knew I would break into a million pieces. The pain could not get any worse. I thought I knew pain... but I was just getting to know it.
During the weeks, months, and years after the loss of Amber, came a desire to know what God had planned for me... I mean surely, after all I had been through, it could not have been for nothing.
I felt as though I did not understand anything, and I was at a complete loss of what to do next, the slate was wiped cleaned. I knew to do nothing else, but to "listen" to God. During this state of desperation and pain came this personal relationship with my Father, that I had no idea existed. It was a relationship of love, empathy, and compassion. I had not allowed myself to feel like this before... I was overwhelmed with the deep and consuming feelings of love.
This is when the path began to be clear... during this time when I was stopped by the pain of grief. When I was ready to listen, when I was ready for God to be in control, when I had surrendered my past and everything I felt I had ever known, and began to question with a very open mind and heart all things pertaining to God. Things began to be revealed to me and there were people sent to deliver many different things that would help me in my journey. I began to trust my instincts, because I knew where they came from, and I stepped out in complete faith and entered into the path that had been laid out for me.
I think now how earlier in my life I would not have know the life lessons I needed before entering the path intended. I would not know how to love all people unconditionally if I had not learned to love freely, even of myself. I know now that God always loved me, even when I could not, and that I was already forgiven long before I was able to forgive myself.
So yes, I chuckle to think of my silly plans of long ago with all the demons I carried along the way. When God was always there waiting for me to ask the proper questions. The questions that would open my mind and heart, and would finally lead me to the peace I had always searched for... and all that while tilling the soil in the garden that was built for Amber, just days after her leaving.