Thursday, October 3, 2019

"You risk looking into my eyes..."

"I wanna gamble and fall in love with you." - Lacey Sturm

I remember when I first laid eyes on him. I thought he was the most beautiful man I had ever seen. I love telling this story because...well it's silly. I'm ridiculous. I was just dragged to a birthday party, got drunk, saw Matthew, and cried in my mom's boyfriend's car for an hour because I thought he'd never want to speak to me. (It probably wasn't actually an hour but time gets pretty messed up when you're drunk, lets be real.) The next day, one of us (probably me) found the other on Facebook, and then Matthew wouldn't stop texting me. Now that I was sober, I realized how dumb this all was. Why would this beautiful man bother with me? I had no idea. Why did he keep begging me to hang out? I had no idea. Eventually, I just hung out with him so that he'd realize that I'm lame and boring and then he'd leave me alone, I'd cry for two weeks, and life would carry on. Nope, that's not what happened. Clearly!

Our first date was too weird. No joke...I met pretty much his entire family in one day! I was like. "What is this?!" Then we watched "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II".....why I agreed to that is still a mystery to this day. Trying to hide my sobs during the entire movie was a nightmare! I have no idea why he would want to keep talking to someone who hid in her hoodie all night, but here we are! We've also been inseparable ever since. I honestly think the longest we've been apart is a week.

I remember the first time Matthew said, "I love you." I'm pretty sure I said something like, "Don't you go throwing those words around!" while he said, "I don't!" and I responded, "Okay. Well...I'm in LIKE with you." Yeah..I said that...But I knew I was in love with him before he even said it, I just would never have admitted it so soon! I just felt so safe with him, and the first time I fell asleep in his arms, I knew I was in love.

We started dating in 2013 and it's 2019 and I have no idea where the time has gone or what my life would look like if I never would have let myself fall in love. In the beginning of our relationship, I didn't want to, because I let Matthew in at a not so good time of my life. I remember a few conversations that went along the lines of, "I have enough problems, I don't need to add to them." I tried to push him away, but it wasn't possible. I fell in love so fast and I was scared. I didn't believe that I deserved to be loved. Before Matthew, I never wanted a relationship. I liked the idea, sure, just like anyone else, but the reality was: dating me came with baggage, and I'd die before letting anyone else help carry it. But for whatever reason, Matthew didn't care, and I guess I didn't care about his baggage either.

We've come along way since 2013, and I don't want to get into specifics because this blog is about me not Matthew. I'll just keep it simple: we helped each other heal. We grew together. We bettered ourselves, and it's my belief, that we showed everyone that we are capable of more than what is shown at face value. Neither of us were ever perfect, nor will we ever be, but together we did our best. Together we built a life for ourselves. Together we continue to grow and heal. We continue to love each other despite our faults and mistakes. We just fit.

Every time I look at Matthew I don't know how he could love me. This woman who he's watched become broken, so many times. This woman who acts out in fits of rage. This woman who cries herself to sleep. How could he love such a big ball of anxiety? I don't freaking know, but I'm thankful. I'm thankful for his love. I hope I'm a good enough wife to show him that. 

I may not know why he loves me, but I know why I love him. I love the way he smiles when he looks at me. The way he's so passionate about stupid video games, the way I am with films and books. I love how confident he is and how he doesn't let anyone bring his confidence down. How hardworking he is. I love his laugh. Oh Lord, how I love those hazel eyes. I love that stupid little smirk he does when he's being a smart ass. I love when he tries to scream metal in the car. How he spent forever listening to the "Harry Potter" books. I love that he accepts who I am and doesn't try to change my quirks. I love his quirk even if they drive me nuts. I even love when he loses things when they were just right in front of him. I love that he wants me to lay with him until he falls asleep even though I want to go watch something stupid on TV. The way he's so loud and passionate about what he believes in. His stupid nickname for me...I even love that. He supports me through everything. He encourages me to be the best woman I can be. I love that he never ran away every time I've lost myself. I could list a million other things, but most of all, I really love the man I've watched him become. 

Two years ago, on October 7, 2017, I married this man. We became "one flesh" (Ephesians 5:31), officially. It's I like to say. It will always be the best day of my life, simply because I got to marry this man. I could've gotten married in a potato sack in the middle of God knows where and I would've been happy. There's no man I would have rather chosen to spend the rest of my life with. There's no man I'd rather have holding my hand while I walk through this earth everyday than his. As long as I know that his face is the one I'll be waking up to every day, for the rest of my life, I think I'll be okay.

The future awaits us, my love, and I can't wait to see how much more we grow together.

I'm proud of us.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Suicide Prevention Month - My Story

"'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.' He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!'” - Revelation 21:4-5

 I think we all long for this moment, Christian or not. A moment where there is no more pain, sorrow, or suffering. Can you imagine? Some of us do. We think about it, plan for it, or even run right to it. I know that I have done all three. 
  It's not a secret that I've been through struggles. My body shows it; a canvas of scars I painted from years of inner torment. I don't have the pleasure to hide my past, like most. It's out there, on display for all to gaze and ponder at. My scars make me look like I'm constantly looking for attention every time I wear short-sleeves or dare to wear shorts. I feel like a harlot, with unwanted eyes and unwanted comments about my body. It's okay though, the conversations the scars can bring when someone is brave enough to ask, "How can I stop?" make taking off my hoodie worth it. These conversations can sometimes go a little something like this: I've been through hell and back, you want to hear about some of it? Okay, let me tell you. Well, today, I'll tell you some of my story, willingly, with my hoodie on. I guess it's up to you if you want to listen, and it's okay if you don't.

 (Pause here, the following could possibly trigger anyone struggling with an eating disorder, self-harm, or having suicidal thoughts. If you are struggling text the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741)

   I've dealt with mental illness, from a clinical standpoint, since I was sixteen years old, but I most likely started having symptoms when I was eleven years old. I started self-harming and having a terrible relationship with food when I was twelve years old due to trauma. (A story for another time, the ages probably don't make sense, but maybe someday I'll be brave enough to share.) When I was sixteen years old, I started starving myself to a point where my body started having some physical problems that had to be treated by doctors, and that's when the diagnosis's started happening. Long story short, I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa, OCD, Depression, and my mother found out I self-harmed. (Sometime in 2010, I was diagnosed with GAD. In 2011, I will be diagnosed with PTSD. In 2016 I found out I never had Depression, it was a misdiagnosis and that I have only ever had Anxiety related illnesses. In 2016, I will be diagnosed with PTSD, Chronic Anxiety, and Panic Disorder. Right now I'm currently diagnosed with PTSD, Chronic Anxiety, OCD, and an Eating Disorder.) I find it odd looking back now that I never considered suicide at that age. I continuously harmed myself, but suicide, as far as I can remember, hadn't crossed my mind. 

  It wasn't until I was eighteen that suicide became the "option". I remember that day: September 9th, 2009. Ten years ago, sitting on the floor in a fit of rage, after a terrible fight with my mother. I couldn't wait to get this "church thing" over with with my friend from high school, because that night was "the night". I had made previous plans to go to church with this friend. Church wasn't something that I ever did. I didn't know who Jesus was and I had never opened a Bible before. I had only heard of Jesus from a few Flyleaf songs. I had just made the plans so I could see my friend. I didn't know that this night would become life-altering. As I sat on my floor I remember saying, "Well, God if you're real and all, I guess I'll see you soon." I planned on killing myself after everyone went to bed.  But, I'm here, so plan = failed. Or not a fail? Because God saved me that night, because I'm annoying and I have to know everything. The pastor talked about salvation and I raised my hand in the middle of a sermon (sue me, it was my first time at church, I didn't know the rules), and I asked what that meant, the pastor told me he'd talk to me after the service, this ticked me off because patience was not my virtue. Afterwards, he directed me to his wife who explained it all to me and asked me if this was something I wanted to do. In my head I was like, "Well, duh, I'm about to go off myself, I want to go to the nice place because my life is already Hell and Jesus seems like a cool dude." But really I was like, "Sure." Once she started guiding me through the salvation prayer I felt a warmth that I cannot explain, so I won't try. I heard a male voice say, "It's going to be okay now." I looked around but I was only surrounded by my friend, the pastor's wife, and some other young women, and I started sobbing. I knew I had heard God, and I chose to live. 

  I don't want to sound "preachy", but this is my life. This is what happened. God saved me in 2009. I needed Him, and I fully believe that He kept me alive to be able to type this right now, but this isn't the end of my story. (No matter how much I wish that was my happy ending.)

  After that "honeymoon" period that I believe every Christian goes through, my mental health plummeted. In 2011 and going into 2012, I was dragged into a whole new darkness I couldn't get out of. It was different than before. I self-harmed every single day, and I didn't do it to just relieve my anxiety. I needed to do it. If I died, so be it. I couldn't care less. These are the scars that haunt me to this day. I was also diagnosed with Bulimia Nervosa. I binged and purged five times a day at max. I stole money for food. I spent my entire savings account on food. I shoplifted food, laxatives, and razor blades (to be honest I got ticked off when they started putting them in cases that can only be taken off at registers). I ended up in the psychiatric hospital at some point, in hopes that I would find some help and answers, but instead I realized it was really just a place to go for a really long sleep and a break from life. I was the patient in the ER getting stitches, yelling at nurses and doctors over repeated questions, that I didn't understand why they had to ask over and over again. Calling doctors stupid because they're asking me if I tried to kill myself with laxatives. "Yes doc, I tried to crap myself to death. Dumba**"  Or calling them stupid for asking me if I tried to kill myself while my arm is soaked in blood, and responding with, "Yes doc, I came in voluntarily because I wanted to die. You f**king idiot."  I'm the one who had to be pulled back by two adults from attempting to harm my sister after she wrote something ugly about me on the internet. I was overdosing on sedatives several times a month, but I just wouldn't die. I mixed alcohol and benzos and still wouldn't die. I felt like such a failure because no matter what I did, nothing would kill me. Even when the doctors told me, "If you don't stop binging and purging, you will die," that answer wasn't satisfying enough. I was a nightmare. A terrible human being to be around, I'm sure, and I'm also very sorry to anyone who had to be around me during this time. So deeply sorry.

  I did decide to try and get better though, in 2013. I stopped self-harming in 2012, but I couldn't let go of the eating disorder. It would take until about 2014/2015 to say that I was fully in recovery from it. I won't lie though, I'm not perfect. I've self-harmed since 2012, but does that mean I'm not in recovery? No, that just means I'm human. I relapsed into my eating disorder in 2018, does that make me awful? No, it makes me human. (I'm in recovery now though, so don't fret!)

  Suicide never left me, however. I don't know if it ever will. I hope so, I guess we'll see. Although, I never thought about it much from 2013 to early 2018, because I separated myself from everything I had become to know. I was a Satanist and became too "proud" to ever become a "statistic". I suppose it worked in my favor; I did stay alive. But I did consider it again, sometime in May of 2018, but then God saved me again. He's pretty good at that, isn't He? I gained everything I thought I wanted and needed. The most important thing I gained that became my "life" was music. I was in a band, doing what I loved to do. I was replaced, or kicked out, I guess I'll never know the true story, and I no longer care, but at that time my whole world came crashing down. I already started slowly relapsing into my eating disorder and then my only escape left me. I sunk deeper into my eating disorder for comfort. I watched myself become thinner than I had ever been. I didn't care that it pained my husband or worried my friends. I only cared after one day, when I went to go to sleep, and I was alone, and the weight of everything weighed down on me so hard that I considered swallowing an entire bottle of benzos. I was crying in my bed, (ugly crying, super ugly crying. The really embarrassing kind of crying that you hope no one in your life ever sees you do. Yeah, that kind.) And I yelled in my room, "WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?!" And I heard a tender, calm voice say, "Be still and know that I am God." I stopped crying. I was stunned because I had not heard this voice in many many years. It was familiar, gentle, but it unnerved me. I was a Satanist. Why would I hear it? Maybe it was just in my head. I was obviously slowly going insane. But I went to sleep, the pills utterly forgotten. Then weird things started happening. Friends from the past, that I used to go to church with messaged me saying they were praying for me. I hadn't talked to them in years. Why would they pray for me? Because God wanted me to know that it was Him, and I'm a stubborn little brat, that's why. So I said, "Fine God, I give everything back to you. I'm yours. Let's do this."

  But suicide still haunts me. Why do I fall asleep so peacefully to images of myself dying? Why do I constantly think about killing myself but also not want to do it? Will it ever end? I know that I want to live. I know that I want to give life a real shot. I don't want to end up like Marilyn Monroe. So why? Why do I linger on it? Why do I long for it like a friend?

  This past year and a half I've lost so much. I've let go of people that were supposed to be there for me but that I've realized are actually not good for my heart. But it's deeply painful to lose people you love so much that are still living. Maybe that's why sometimes I want to die.Maybe the lingering of suicide is there because I miss the music and the loved ones I've lost. But also, maybe I chose to stay because I've gained so much more. I've gained new dreams. That emptiness I've felt for years that I thought Satan was filling, is being filled by the One who fills me with love. That girl who let others opinions or actions bother her so much, became a woman who doesn't care. Who will speak up without fear, because she knows her identity doesn't align with a stranger's opinion of her. She's now a woman who's confidence is growing. Who, yes, has PTSD, Chronic Anxiety, an Eating Disorder, but doesn't make them her identity. She doesn't let them kill her. She doesn't let them run for pills to overdose on, run for a sharp object to bleed with, or to find a heavy object to beat herself with. They are simply illnesses that are a part of her and not everything that she is. She is a Christian, and loves God and loves seeing everything He's doing within her. She's a wife, who loves her husband no matter his faults, like Christ loves her. She works hard for everything that she has because she's grateful and not proud. She tries her hardest to be the best she can be, but no longer reaches for unrealistic perfection because that perfection will kill her. She's simply thankful for another day she's alive and breathing, even on the bad days. She's growing, and that's all she wants to do is to grow. She's becoming a woman. She's letting go of that scared little eleven year old girl who has been trapped inside her for so long.

  And that's why I chose to live. Someday I want to be a loving and gentle mom. I want to be a more kind, caring, and loving wife. I want to love my hardest. I want lead by example to show anyone that needs to know: that you can start healing no matter where you start. I remember the girl I was, but I look towards that woman I want to become. I keep her in mind, no matter how many set backs I have. I hold her in my heart. I pray for her, because, to be honest, she probably needs all the prayers she can get. She is me after all.

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 3:12-14

Until next time,
Ashley <3  

"You risk looking into my eyes..."

"I wanna gamble and fall in love with you." - Lacey Sturm I remember when I first laid eyes on him. I thought he was th...