*This post was originally written on January 5, 2016*
I’ve always been the ‘loud’ one of the group. Besides the fact my voice naturally carries (I’m pretty sure the telephone reps in India can hear me without a phone), I had major problems with my ears growing up resulting in my eardrums rupturing more times than I can count, having 14 sets of tubes placed in my ears – 4 of which were suppose to be permanent – and, finally, having surgery as an adult to correct a hole in my right eardrum. But after spending two EXTREMELY intensive weeks in a mental hospital, I discovered there were deeper psychological reasons for my fog horn level voice. First, my inner child, let’s call her ‘Little Rebecca’, has been crying out desperately to be heard ever since her time was cut short at the tender age of 7.5 when she began taking care of herself by getting herself up and off to school in the morning and getting herself home to doing the household grocery shopping at age ten to being responsible for all of the cooking, cleaning and laundry by the mere age of 13. Second, the survivor/fighter within me who took over when Little Rebecca was crushed has used my voice like a puffer fish uses its body. Being loud, even to the point of being obnoxious, can and has been a very effective defense mechanism. Only now I’m learning (unhealthy) ‘defense mechanisms’ don’t actually protect you from the pains of life, and instead inflict personal pain, even holding it in.
I’m not 100% sure how I knew, but from the moment up arrived at Lakeview Hospital Behavioral Health Unit I knew they would be able to help me. And, in fact, they not only gave me my life back but set in motion the ability to live and thrive as I do so. I had daily visits with a psychiatrist and I asked her in our first visit how I could maximize my time there since I knew it would be short, and I wanted to be certain when the time came for me to leave two weeks later and walk into the magical, snow-filled night I had done my part. And believe me, there were plenty of days where I didn’t ‘feel’ like doing anything, even breathing, especially on Christmas day when I had never felt more alone. My primary goal I made in goal group that wretched Christmas morning was to just get through the day. My second goal, however, was one I made everyday for my last 6 days there. I would continue practicing being gentle and kind to myself and others by speaking softly, listening with real intent instead of waiting to respond, and beginning and ending each day with positive affirmations I had written down. I began to notice a theme the more I read them; the ones which touched and spoke to me focused on my being safe, lovable and not having to earn love, and forgiving others and myself. I am still surprised by how dramatically and instantly the energy in the room changes when the voices are soft and kind. It is definitely much more of a challenge maintaining a softer, kinder voice in this noisy, chaotic world, but I have never backed down from a challenge and I’m sure as hell not about to start now.
I was blessed with incredible insight during my stay in the loony bin while trying to figure out my own personal ‘crazy’. A key insight was about Little Rebecca (by the way, talking about yourself in the third person is so weird) and she and I had some very long overdue conversations. They went a little something like this:
I am so sorry you’re childhood was cut far, far too short. I am sorry you had to start taking care of yourself alone when we moved away from Grandma, especially knowing how much we still love and miss her to this day. I am sorry for the almost non-stop abuse you had to endure from that time on; first, when we moved in with Mom’s friend and her teenage son and daughter tried to smother you with pillows, push you down the basement stairs, and even keeping food from you. All of which you suffered in silence because they convinced you they would kill you if you ever said anything. I am so sorry for the beatings that started when you were only ten years old because Mom was trying to ‘discipline’ you but they continued until we were 30. Again, suffering all the while in silence because you didn’t want people to see Mom like that because of how much you loved her. I am so sorry for the intense sexual abuse you endured from 14 to 16 years old, mostly by Mom’s co-workers. This you did not suffer through silently, but still nothing was ever done about it because the perpetrators were higher ranking military officers and Mom and her friend/co-worker thought no one would believe you and coming forward would jeopardize her job. And I am so, so sorry the prime of your teenage and high school years were stripped from you while being publicly humiliated and crying in a voice never heard.
But, oh my sweet, tender-hearted, kind, giving, loving, gentle Little Rebecca, I did hear you and, more importantly, I hear you now. I would give and do anything, everything to give you that time back, to make right all of those heinous wrongs, and replace the nightmarish memories with nothing but giggles, friends, joy, and love. And, I am sorry how those horrific memories now flood our sleeping moments like never ending tidal wave after tidal wave crashing over us. I will tell you, Little One, what I can and will do – I will hold you close and wipe away your tears so you know from now on you will be forever safe and I am crying with you, sharing your sorrow and pain. I promise I will no longer run and hide from or pretend and deny those memory-filled nightmares but instead will face them head on – yes, they scare and frightening me, too, but we were strong enough to survive those moments and now we’re strong enough to clean them out to live. How I wish with all of my heart I could take back all the bad inflicted upon you and especially the pain and destruction we subsequently inflicted upon others, but I can’t. I do PROMISE you, from this day forward, to make each and every day we have left count, to have meaning and, most importantly, to accept, give, and share love – first, to ourselves and, then, to everyone else around us.
Sweet Rebecca, you ARE lovable. You do not have to ever earn love. You are now and always have been “good enough”; your individual worth is great, regardless of your weight, hair color, the amount in your bank account, or anything else. It just is, if for no other reason than your infinite desire and capability to love and be loved. I am sorry to say there will still be days when those wounds and battle scars still feel fresh, especially when we see others in the same pain or when we see and feel the pain we’ve caused in others. But ALWAYS remember, love covers a multitude of sin.
I love you, Little Child, I love ME; I always have. I just didn’t know it. I promise I am going to spend the rest of our life building a life worth LIVING, filled with our OWN family, both of blood and by choice, laughter, happy and joyful memories, friends, peace, stability, hope, faith, love, and charity. The greatest of these being charity, the pure love of Christ. In Sheri Dew’s book ‘If Life Were Easy It Wouldn’t Be Hard’ she takes charity a step further by talking about BEING charity – not being charitable or charity-minded, but being charity as a state of self. This is an endeavor we shall seek after all of our days and be gladly for it. I may not be able to blot out all of the atrocities done to you or heal the deep scars they left, but the healing balm of the Atonement provided by the infinite sacrifice Christ so lovingly provided for ALL of us we can and WILL be made whole. There’s a great deal I need to and will repent of, and since repentance means change I see no better time than now. So while I am working hard with my eternal Brother to make whole the hurts I’ve inflicted, I will be doing EVERYTHING within in by power to right EVERY wrong and sooth every gash I tore in my relationships. Time to put our walking shoes on, Little One, we have quite the journey ahead of us. As President Henry B. Eyring has counseled, every road the Lord puts us on leading to safety is uphill, and we’re committed with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland for ‘However Long and Hard the Road’. Because from now on the pain we will experience in this life will no longer be in vain (was it ever, really?), our life is no longer our own, and will finally be LIVING our life, and, sweetie, it’s a gloriously beautiful one. Just. Like. Us.
Whew. That was long. And intense, incredibly intense – thanks for sticking with me through it. I’ve never thought of all the ‘Little Me vs Big Me’ all the way through like that before writing this. Many of my repressed memories come alive in my nightmares as a side effect from one of the medications I was placed on in the hospital, and they keep breathing during the day through flashbacks. I wish I could eloquently and effectively encompass my time on the fourth floor in a hospital in Bountiful, Utah but I am at a loss. While it only adds up to two weeks out of my whole life I am forever, irrevocably changed by what I learned, what I experienced, what I felt (much for the first time), and all because of those wonderful, extraordinary workers who help create beautiful, loving souls from broken, wreckage of hearts and minds, never asking for anything in return but for you to do your part. To just try, and while you’re stumbling around and drowning, feeling like Helen Keller living in a place so murky, so ominous it seems as if your blaze is forever extinguished and your symphony is silenced they provide new kindling and a rousing chorus until you rediscover your spark and write a new verse. I realize I may be glorifying these mere ‘hospital workers’ and I’m ok with that – because they saved me, in ways I never thought possible.
My shrinks (yeah I had two) talked to me quite a bit about forgiveness, mostly forgiveness of self since that’s where it must begin, and one of them kept telling me, “Forgive yourself for being human!” I struggle with that so much because I immediately have thoughts like ‘I should’ve known better’ or ‘If I was good or good enough I would’ve made better choices’. Now I know thoughts like that are wrong, and I’ll go so far as to say they’re lies Satan is constantly yelling at me, you, at everyone trying to drown out the whisperings of truth because he knows the potency of truth is like a long, slow burn. It begins quietly off in an empty corner of a crowded space while hotter, quicker fires scream their flames all around them. Then, as their cries only seem to fade and grow hoarse, the glowing crevices begin to surround them growing brighter, feverishly and stealthily devouring the white heat violently screeching and howling in protest. So, my dear friends, if you, too, find yourself thinking thoughts such as these or, worse, believing them as I still struggle with some days let us take a lesson from Jack and Jill and fetch a pail of water or grab a fire extinguisher and drench those flames. And in those moments when you feel like you don’t have anything left to give, close your beautiful eyes, bring your erected index finger to your perfectly puckered lips, take in a slow deep breath through your nose, and with all your might go, “SHHHH!!” And then smile. By doing these things you will fuel your personal embers of certainty while suffocating the wildfires around you. Perhaps that’s the “bottom line” lesson I have learned through all of this: we will never alleviate and console the deafening grief and sorrow consuming us by snarling and wailing in return, even if it’s ‘justified’. The only restorative, sustaining cure is to tenderly, meekly whisper expressions of kindness and love. If I whispered them now would you hear me? Would you see me? Would you care? Or would you look away to the arms of tomorrow? Would you look at me and see to the other side of the mirror? Would you dare to see yourself and radiate millions of fractures of light and love? I hope so. I hope one day, on some level, we ALL will. Each and every day.
As I write this I am heading to court where I hope to go to jail. Yeah, I know that sounds crazy, but I need and want to be accountable for my actions, regardless of the circumstances surrounding them. I will not be able to move forward in my life in any way until I get this taken care of – FIRST. And while my legal issues must be dealt with, they are not my priority. My top priorities are righting the wrongs I did to those who I love and love me, begin repairing the trust and relationships I have completely torched, and doing everything I can do now in my repentance process. This past Sunday (it was January 3) was my first time attending church since this all came to a head in November. I have never been shown so much love and have so many people tell me how happy they were to see me there while at the same time feeling like Alma the Younger in being ‘the vilest of sinners’. That was because of the paradox of repentance in never feeling closer to Christ and His love/support while acutely feeling the agony from sin. I’ve said before sin is just pain manifested into actions but sometimes, and certainly in my case, sin is also a direct result of poor choices, full of pride weighing you down into valleys of remorse. I am so incredibly grateful, especially in times like this, I not only have the Gospel of Jesus Christ in my life, but I also believe – I KNOW – my Savior is real, He is the living Son of God, and because He FIRST loved me enough to suffer beyond anything I could ever endure so He would be able to truly succor me as no one else ever could, my suffering in mortality is but a small, temporary moment. I will be saved and strengthened with and through His infinite, atoning Grace after I’ve done all I can do. And guess what, my dear friends – this glorious gift is available, RIGHT NOW, to you and all mankind. Now that’s something worth listening to. All my love.