It’s Been Almost 30 Years: Time to Tell

Listening to the preaching this morning from Revelations and considering “after these things….” Scripture records history and it records prophesy. It details lives of individuals as well as nations and groups of people, and in it we find true words to guide us on our paths and to shed light on our journeys. Here’s a bit of mine.

It has been almost 30 years since my time of great shame and brokenness. Having had a struggle from early childhood throughout adolescence and into early adulthood, a complete breaking occurred. I was Mommy to a precious little angel-looking girl with eyes as blue as clear sky and hair like golden silk who looked to me to protect her, to love and teach her, to be strong for her, and I was not able. The innocence of childhood looking to me for what I did not have and seemingly could not find…it broke me.

I was working full time in a bank and trying to hold myself together but was finding each day harder than the one before, harder to cover the complete lack of peace; the overwhelming cloud of worry that would not abate. I did not know what to do. I finally got to the place of acknowledging something had to give or I simply could not continue to breathe. Sounds foreign to anyone who has not suffered in this way and all to familiar to those who have. There’s something here for everyone to learn. I know the journey continues to offer lessons to me just as it did this morning when memory took me back to a place I’ve not mentioned to many but find now it is time to tell.

It is time to tell that the breaking resulted in voluntary admission for psychiatric treatment for myself – a humiliating experience at the time, and one that came with reactions of every kind from those around me and those far from me. Everyone had their opinions…

Once admitted, I found others who were outwardly in far worse condition than I was in. Their lives had taken turns mine had not so we seemed very different. In many ways we were, but I soon learned that in other ways we were alike and that is where we would meet – around common suffering.

I saw grown men weep when they heard in the stories of others how strength wielded against one with lesser strength devastates the mind, heart, and soul of the victim. I heard those men give words to their life stories – connecting what they endured at one point to what they perpetuated against another later on. I saw forgiveness and healing and help in an unlikely place…

My first night there, I felt afraid and so very alone. Though I had checked myself in, I could not check myself out – not until I had spent at least 3 days, so I was stuck. The irony is that I went there to escape terror that existed inside myself only to find myself terrified of being in the place I went seeking relief. The first night, though, while lying there in silence and dark, the lady sharing the room spoke and asked, “honey, would it be alright if I prayed?” I had thought she was sleeping until her gentle voice broke the silence with the question. I welcomed her prayer. She lay there and began to call on The Lord. I will never forget what happened within me as her words rose to heaven from a place that felt so isolated – forgotten by the larger world – behind locked doors. The Holy Spirit’s sweet presence was palpable and I let the tears flow down my cheeks as I silently thanked Jesus for coming where no one else could come; for His attention to “the least of these” of which I knew I was one…

I’ve not shared with many this piece of my story. The lingering memory of words that still ring in my mind of what was said to and about me then has kept this all-important message locked away. One of the hardest was the “preacher” who said “all that is wrong is she has gotten away from The Lord.” Thinking about this today and my soul rejoices in this: The Lord did not ever get far away from me. I would never claim I didn’t make many errors and commit sin during this or other seasons of life, but I can testify to the faithfulness of my Savior despite my failures. Other things that contributed to my silence on this is the truth that much of what occurred in my mind and heart is still a mystery to me. When a person goes through such dark, disturbing, years’ long valleys, the effort to just keep breathing and hanging on clouds most everything else. The inner world consumes most of one’s energy making all else faded and dim in comparison. What others remember of me during those years would likely be quite different from what I remember because I was sucked into a dark place – one I tried to hide from others and one I longed to escape…

What was transforming for me there was that I was able to give voice to all of what consumed my mind. I found people who could listen without judgment and with deep compassion. And I met the very best friend I’ve ever had. She is still my dearest friend. There was a 1 year period wherein I received lots of inpatient and outpatient care. People invested their time, wisdom, energy, and love in my life. They kept me engaged in therapy until they had built within me some hope and belief that I could get well; that I could live without the sense of doom and terror that had been ever too close all the years of my life. I was asked one evening sitting there in the hallway of the hospital, “if you could do anything with your life when you leave here, what would it be?” I remember my answer with clarity, “I would go to school and get an education so I could be a teacher.” To which the person responded, “well, do it.” And hope took root that day in this, then, GED holding drop-out. Within a few months, I was enrolled at Kennesaw State University…

Two scriptures keep coming to mind this morning as they relate to my experience. Psalm 40 says of The Lord, “He inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock…And He has put a new song in my mouth, even praise to our God…” And psalm 139 speaks to that lonesome time all those years ago when feeling so dejected – when in process of trying to heal from what I did not understand: “Where shall I go from Thy Spirit? or where shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea: even there shall Thy Hand hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me: even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hides not from Thee; but the night shines as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to Thee.” I love how Jesus sees all need the same. Humans stumble at “mental illness,” because most do not realize it is just another result of the fall – no more or less real and in need of compassion and help – than any other affliction. It is time for all who, like me, personally know this journey through mental and emotional anguish, to speak up without unnecessary shame. When I got up to come to the computer to write this all down, I felt as if I was undoing a cloak of pride and laying it aside for a needful cause. Everything, everything is always about more than me; more than you or me. Unless I’m willing to risk a bit of harm or loss for another, my love is simply not enough. So I offer this today in hopes of reaching another with life-giving breath to believe healing is possible…

Many of you know much of my story but haven’t known this part until now. No doubt, you’ve noticed my peculiarities, my deeply held convictions, and my obvious sensitivity to human suffering. Some know my educational story of having been a drop-out and then getting opportunity to get a degree and go on to earn a graduate degree. My passion for teaching is soul-deep. My love for students and for those they will serve is rooted in my own lived-experience of need, met need, and healing that comes through Godly love. I want to give the best I have to give, and I cannot do that without offering honesty, authenticity, and transparency. This life…it has been one rugged and amazing journey. I wouldn’t trade it for one of lesser suffering. I wouldn’t trade it for one absent of the unique experience through the valley of the shadow. No one will appreciate peace and the Joy of The Lord more than the ones who have known the opposite. No one will go to the lengths necessary to reach the broken other than the ones who were once broken and are now healed…

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3 Responses to It’s Been Almost 30 Years: Time to Tell

  1. Carol Garrett says:

    Andrea, your story is such an inspiration in so many ways. I was honored when you shared this with me several years ago, and it moved me then and it moves me now. The thing that has stuck with me the most is the lady who shared your room that first night at the hospital. I believe her prayer that night brought the Holy Spirit into that room to bathe your healing process. Thank you for sharing and giving God all the praise. Love you.

  2. Angie Lewis says:

    I was busy when u sent this and just remembered to read it. It gives me hope and I know will encourage so many others.

    Sent from my iPhone


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