To the girl who’s up late tonight, fighting personal demons that no one sees:
I’m a storyteller, so I’ll begin with mine:
I sit in the bathroom, fingers at the back of my scalp searching for the coarse hairs. I pull one, two, three at a time, pluck the root, let the hair fall to the floor. Against the white tiles, I see a pile beginning to grow and I take my foot across it, scattering the hairs. I throw some in the trash can, flush some down the toilet, never worry about the ones that fall onto the carpet.
It’s been 15 years. They never see.
I sit up late, on my phone or in my head dreaming of a world where I feel safe, seen, and understood. I train my eyes on the wall, thinking and dreaming of worlds I’ll never see except on paper in another half-written manuscript. I cling to dreaming about a love that would save me, only to wake up to the thought that no one could ever step into a life like mine and find something good.
It’s been 20 years. They never see.
I eat lightly in the morning, semi-lightly in the afternoon, but heavy in the evening-midnight hours. It’s all the binging, none of the purging, all of the looking in the mirror at my expanding body, none of the things that will nourish my body. I sneak snacks up to my room, shove wrappers sporadically into the trash can so no one would notice five bags of cookies right at the top. I go to the vending machine at work, shove a candy bar in my pocket and cover it with my sweater, speed walk to my desk, and duck down to eat it.
It’s been 18 years. They never see.
I stay up late, ridiculously late, to the point my body is always tired, always exhausted. I average 4 caffeinated beverages a day. I sleep until the latest alarm goes off, throw my feet over the side of my bed at the very last minute, shower slowly, and drag myself into work.
It’s been a decade. They never see.
This is not a casual fight, so this is not a casual letter. I have an idea how you’re spending this night. I know how thick nights like these can get, the storm in your brain never letting up, that voice in your head that never stops, the harsh emotions that seem impossible to push through. I know that if you’re struggling with addiction, you get a lot of crap advice about just stopping what you’re doing. I know if you’re dealing with mental illness you get a lot of crap advice about getting ahold of yourself. So I’m not here to give you advice–as you can imagine I don’t have a lot of advice, good or bad.
But I do have a bit of hope and I’m seasoned in this fight. With that, I hope you read the rest of this like a letter from your sister who’s been in this fight, unknowingly, close to a decade and a half.
I don’t know the steps you need to take to get help. I don’t know your specific situation. But I do know that you’re seen. I do know you’re not alone. I do know that a path out of this dark moment is being mapped out for you. I do know that your story isn’t over. I do know that you matter. I know you’re loved, desperately and intentionally and fully.
I heard a Steven Furtick message about a week ago about the man in the Bible who Jesus cast a legion of demons out of, how the man had been up late in the night crying in his torment, how Jesus might have been up late too hearing the man’s cries. I didn’t fully connect to this message until he mentioned that a lot of Christians will say they’re nothing like this man who lived amongst the tombs, but asked, “But how many of us have been out walking amongst dead things?” Ouch. That was the first time I ever was able to connect with this man in the Bible, but oh how much I found in common with him.
I will be the first to tell you I have my ups and downs with God. One week I’m listening to messages on Spotify and driving around backroads with one hand in the air, belting out a Lauren Daigle song, and the next I’m sullen, to myself, and won’t talk to God at all even when he nudges me. But he is kind and he is good and he is the only one who does see the full picture. He sees me crying out amongst the tombs. He is the only one who goes looking for me when the 99 are present and singing his praises. He is the only one who spoke life over me and the only one who continues to speak it even after I’m spinning in my own filth, weaving songs of death. He springs new life from dead places. Me. He springs new life from me. And he won’t stop. Letting me go isn’t even a thought in his mind. He loves me. And he loves you.
Before I continue, I do want to note here that all my days aren’t bad or hard to handle. I have days of pure joy, don’t get me wrong. Recently, I’ve gone for swims and rocked the bikini and gone to therapy and walked downtown eating popcorn with my brother and gazed up at velvety skies full of stars and pet some baby goats. I’m sure that you’ve got your share of good and bad days too. I’ve found that finding healing looks like adding in the good, at first. It’s like the bad moments plus some of the good. Fighting the dark is discouraging because at first all you see is dark, plus a little light, and then it’s up to you to keep digging to find more of the light. Amongst the dark, friend, you’ll find a world of good waiting to be excavated out of the dark. Sometimes it just gets worse before it gets better. And maybe tonight isn’t a bad night, but an opportunity to add something in that’s good, an opportunity to find healing, an opportunity to reach across the aisle and ask for help.
I don’t know your name and I don’t know what you look like. I don’t know if you’re up working through life stress, mending a broken heart, laying there with a knot in your stomach at the thought of work tomorrow, waiting for him to call, or up dealing with the mental illness only you know about. I don’t know if you have a support team you can lean on or if you’re out there feeling all alone. I don’t know how things will turn out, if you’ll wake up tomorrow feeling refreshed or if you’ll wake up tomorrow still feeling defeated, but I do know how long these midnight hours can linger on and how heavy the load can feel right now. I know how cruel that inner voice can be–the thought that there’s no one for you, no one understands, no one thinks anything of you, and even worse, the thought that if you were to disappear your absence wouldn’t be met with sirens and people calling your name but maybe your absence would be met with silence.
We who struggle this way, with mental illness and low self-esteem and addiction or whatever it may be that’s keeping you up on this Thursday night, know that hope is not something that we can easily manufacture into the fractured pieces of our hearts. So here are a couple last thoughts to mull over before you turn over to get some rest tonight:
- God is on the move. You are in his sights. He is laser-focused in on you and your situation and he is in it with you. You matter, don’t you see? Doesn’t something deep in you spark to life when you hear that? I hope so. You’re allowed to rest, babe. You’re allowed to just sleep and let tomorrow take care of itself.
- If you Google it, the definition of warrior is simply, “A brave or experienced soldier or fighter.” And if you go a little deeper in you’ll find the word “combatant,” which indicates someone engaged in fighting a war, the antonym of this being “non-participant.” Do you know what that means? It means that as long as you’re braving the battle, taking one step at a time, never backing down, you’re a participant in that battle. And are you still here? Are you still moving even though you’re tired and worn down? Are your eyes opening every morning? They are? Wonderful. You’re a warrior. Maybe you’re new to the fight, maybe you’re a seasoned fighter, but either way you’re really freaking brave and I’m really freaking proud. This is the fight of your life and you have everything you need. You’re going to be okay.
To conclude, if you’re here and you’re with me in this let’s do three small things right now:
- Think of one person that you’re going to see tomorrow who’s going to be happy to see you. Can you maybe tell them what’s going on with you? Can you maybe see if they’re willing to step into this battle with you? (If you’re thinking that such a person doesn’t exist, might I suggest…maybe you’re not looking closely enough. Look harder, press harder in–that person is there. I promise.)
- Think of two things you’re going to do this weekend for you. That glass of wine isn’t going to drink itself, friend. That Netflix series you’ve been binging won’t watch itself.
- Think of three things that were really freaking good today. Say them out loud. Tomorrow you get to discover three more things that are good.
Anyway, know that I’m right here with you. The night moves on and the enemy is nearby and the battle is tense, but you are strong and you are brave and you will make it through. And it might not be the story you dreamt of, but who’s to say it’s not going to be so much better than what you imagined? Who’s to say what will happen? But you’re going to get up tomorrow, make yourself a cup of coffee, breathe some fresh air into those lungs, and try again. That’s all you can do, babe. Whatever’s stressing you out or trying your patience or breaking your heart isn’t allowed permanent residence.
You’ll figure this thing out. How do I know?
You’re a warrior.
Much love to you,