Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Of Darkness, Strength, and Pain

A year ago I almost killed myself. I spent four hours curled up under my bed, clicking the safety on and off of my gun while I sobbed. I'd made some choices that ended my life as I knew it, and I couldn't find a good reason to keep living. In the end, I decided to spite the object of my pain by not giving her the satisfaction knowing she'd gotten under my skin that thoroughly.

I've dated several women who've survived some truly terrible things, and the ex that I was pining over was no exception. We tried to have the classic BYU-I Do romance: engaged a month after becoming friends and married three months later, but that didn't work for us, and I chose to take all of the responsibility for that. Not everyone comes to the point of suicide like this, but the end result is the same: you make a choice to either end the pain, or live with it.

In my limited experience, the latter option has two variations: get professional help, or lie to yourself and pretend everything is fine. Lying to yourself eventually results in another long night looking down the barrel of a 9mm, so I recommend getting professional help. The hardest part of getting help is that you have to admit that something evil and disgusting and terrifying is inside you, which is harder than just ending the pain.

The "logic" behind killing yourself is absurd to most people who haven't been there, but it's perfectly clear to those who have. Think about an earth shattering event; your father dying two weeks before summer vacation, your mother getting diagnosed with cancer, your brother-in-law choosing drugs over your sister, your nephew getting thrown off an overpass by the jerk who used to sell him crack. These kinds of disasters happen without warning, and can destroy your life, unless you choose to be stronger than the pain.

I've known some impossibly strong people, and I've been trusted enough to hear a few of their stories, and I'll share one while preserving anonymity. 

One of my close friends was raped during her first semester of college. She wrongly blamed herself, and picked up cutting as a form of self-punishment. When that didn’t erase the memories, she became anorexic as a way to express her hatred for herself for surviving what was done to her. One day, she realized that every time she skipped a meal, every night she was too hungry to fall asleep, every time she opened her veins, she was giving more and more power to the monster that had violated her.

So she fought back, she redefined herself without fixating on her traumatic exprience. She started eating normally, she picked her social life back up, and she started loving her body instead of torturing it. She immersed herself in the Gospel, and chose to serve a Mission to help others through the conversion process. It’s been said that a life well lived is the best revenge, and I couldn’t agree more. What happened happened, and nothing will ever erase her scars in this life, but it’s not how she decides to define herself.

She started by ignoring the problem, then she tried to end the pain, and when that didn’t work, she ignored the problem even more. Nothing in her life turned around until she got help. It took years, but eventually she overcame the darkness that forced itself into her story.

I went through the same steps, and thought I was doing great at avoiding the darkness and the pain until I spent the night curled up with a handgun. I couldn't let my pain have that final word, so I got help. It was horrible, looking my demons in the eyes and coming to an understanding of how much darkness was inside me, but the peace and the relief I now feel is infinitely stronger than the Hell I forced myself to live through.

I now define my life by my constant choice to be strong, not by the mistakes I've made. If you're not sure you can be strong enough to keep going, get help! Turn to a trusted friend, a roommate, a psychologist, anyone who can sympathize with your pain and hold your hand as you walk out of the darkness. It'll be the most difficult choice you ever make, but there's no price that can be put on saving your own life.

Take a deep breath, and look up.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Saturdays Are Fun

Any thoughts on the new layout? I fiddled with it for a couple days, it's just about where I want it. My goals might be obvious from the new layout; but I'm going to write them out for your benefit, not necessarily in order of importance:

Goal #1:Nutrition
The biggest hurdle in my way is being 35 pounds overweight. Now, my scale and the scale at the Recruitment Center disagree, but the Air Force doesn't care about the scale in my bathroom. The last time I lost this much weight it was done in an unhealthy manner, so I'm going to try to find accountability buddies.

Goal #2: Buddies
Being part of a community creates support and accountability. I tend to stress eat, so going back to school has potential to wreck my goal. Having people who are working in the same direction I am will help with being responsible, and will help with staying motivated when I get stressed or depressed.

Goal #3: SchoolingI have a love-hate relationship with my school. I love the atmosphere of BYU-Idaho (the Spirit of Ricks), and I enjoy the small-town vibe of Rexburg, and I'm not opposed to the winter weather, but I have yet to find a study method that works well for me. That's my own fault, and I'm working on it, so I'll be blogging about school occasionally. I promise not to complain.

There's my current life plan! Be healthy, have friends, stop failing classes, be happy! I'd love to see a couple people get the spirit of my adventure and start their own, tell me if you do!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

30.10.06: A New Face

Friends, Idahoans, and Fellow Americans,

I'm changing the format of my Blog! When I was out being a Missionary, the preachy journal-esque aspect was perfect, but it doesn't really fit my current dreams, goals, and desires. Back then I was an eclectic wannabe-bohemian teen seeking to find my core. I pretty well did that, so I'm shifting gears! I'm going for more of the musings of someone entertained by the changes they see in life, internal and external; someone who's curious to see how this develops, rather than dissecting every bit of information for it's current relevance and meaning.

I'm almost two dozen years old now, which means I've lived a quarter of my life. It's been a good quarter, and the next one is going to be even better. Why? Because I decided so! Happiness is a choice, a choice to find joy in the daily failings and successes of life. There will always be a chemical element in the human brain that pushes one towards depression, but choosing happiness can take the edge off of it. How much of an edge? That's between you and a qualified therapist, but my brain can be kept happy by loving how warm my bed was, how brisk the morning air was, the swelling of the major chords the morning in Music and the Spoken Word, and the smell of the banana pancakes I'm working on.

But I digress...

My new goal is to get fit, get in the Air Force, and get really good at teaching people how to not get killed by the environment. The first step is the most important, as it'll not just get me the job I want, but it'll also get me in a better place physically. So follow me if you like the idea, don't if you don't, I know that I'll always have my mom, and that's really enough for me... until I get married, if my wife wants my body heat, she'll need to comment occasionally.

I've got some redesigning to do, I'll hear ya on Side B!

Friday, April 1, 2016

April 2016: Easter is a Second New Year

Here's the top three big things I'm looking forward to in April:

Moving to Texas! 
I'm headed to Bryan to work at Texas A&M on the grounds crew.

Taking a break! 
I haven't had more than 11 days without schoolwork since last January. I really need this.

This is the same as the first one, but I really love going somewhere new and letting it change me.

Speaking of things I love, I love Easter! I love the refocusing and re-centering it brings to my life. I observe all of Passion Week, in my own little way, and that has made a huge difference in how I think of Christ and the Atonement. By stretching out my joy and contemplation for a week, especially with it marking the end of Lent, I am prone to having deep insights into what's been going right, and what's been going wrong.

To really understand what's been going wrong and what's been going right, we're going on a little adventure, using Easter over the years as guideposts along the path;

2012: I was days away from starting my Mission, the biggest and scariest thing I'd ever done, and I couldn't have been more excited. I had done everything possible to prepare myself, and I was as ready as I ever could have been for it.

2013: I was a year into my Mission, and loving it! I was with some amazing Missionaries and Church people, and a lot was happening back home. My favorite sister got married, my favorite Seminary teacher passed on, and I was, for the first time in my life, really understanding the universal appeal of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

2014: I had just gotten home, and my blog post makes it obvious that I was:
1. Sleep deprived thanks to my baby niece, and
2. Not sure what to do with my life next.
There was a generally hopeful tone in my words, but also a lot of confusion.

2015: There was no blog post from this time, but I remember it pretty vividly. The confusion had stacked up to the point that I was on three different antidepressants, and twice was not allowed to leave my therapist's office because he thought I would kill myself. It was a pretty dark time, but I hadn't even found the path that would lead to my darkest days.

2016: To say that there was a night-and-day change would be to shortchange the Atonement of Christ! Everything in my life got better, no more drugs, no more therapy, no more suicide, and a whole new lifestyle. In a way, I did kill myself; through Jesus Christ, the person I was died, and someone similar but different came out of the experience.

Easter is a Second New Year. We can all stop, catalog how well we've been using the Atonement, and decide that we'll change up a few things before Easter rolls around again. For me, it's dedication, the relentless pursuit of excellence that blasts through adversity and leaves a Hell-shaker standing where a weakling once was.

What are you going to do with your life?