Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Stained Glass Masquerade

Is there anyone that fails?
Is there anyone that falls?
Am I the only one in church today feelin' so small?*

Yesterday was a hard day for me. Not many people know this (until now, anyway!), but a couple of years ago I was diagnosed with a mild mood disorder. It's not pervasive enough that I've sought relief with medication, but it's there. I am aware of it and can compensate most of the time. Yesterday wasn't one of those times. Yesterday several of my triggers came into play at the same time. Schedule changes can be triggers for those with mood disorders and my schedule had been disrupted somewhat by a quick road trip with my daughter. We'd returned late the night before and I was tired from that. My husband, being the sweet guy he is, volunteered to take my other daughter to school and let me catch up on sleep (which was another step away from my normal schedule). I also had some emotional stress  I'd had a counseling session several days ago which had left me feeling rather frustrated with myself. To top it all off, I had some biochemical/hormonal fluctuations going on. Strangely enough, I don't get the typical grouchy PMS. But at a point in my cycle where most women are feeling great, I can sink into a few days of mild depression. Yesterday was that day... and the depression was heightened by the frustration and introspection caused by last week's counseling session.  

It was bad. Really bad. Honestly, it was one of the worst depressive episodes I've had in quite awhile. I knew I was in trouble when, after sleeping in way past my normal rising time, I still couldn't bring myself to leave the quiet isolation of my bedroom. Seriously, it was after noon before I managed to make myself crack open the bedroom door and venture out. That's not me. I do better with mornings than I do late nights. I wasn't tired. I just didn't want to face anyone.  I wanted to curl up and disappear inside myself – dead to the world and numbing myself with sleep.

As miserable as I was, though, the last thing I wanted to do was to admit it to anyone.

'Cause when I take a look around
Everybody seems so strong
I know they'll soon discover
That I don't belong

So I tuck it all away, like everything's okay
If I make them all believe it, maybe I'll believe it too
So with a painted grin, I play the part again
So everyone will see me the way that I see them*

Truth is, I wanted to hide – even from my husband who knows and understands the mood disorder I struggle with... the husband who was there in the counseling session last week to see and understand the frustration I was feeling from that. The man has never shown anything but love and support in those times. And yet... I still desperately wanted to hide, even from him. I wanted to pretend everything was okay:  I'm "normal" (whatever that is); I've got it all under control....

Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain?*

I knew I should be honest with my husband. I knew I should let him know so he could at least be praying for me. But... I just couldn't seem to do it.

Is there anyone who's been there
Are there any hands to raise
Am I the only one who's traded in
the altar for a stage?*

I managed to pull myself together enough to pick up my daughter from school, but I skipped the trip to the grocery I should have made on the way home. I just didn't have the energy for it. Once home, I sat in front of the TV with my daughters, numbing my mind and snacking on potato chips and chocolate. Not the best idea for a diabetic... but the overwhelming depression overrode my usual caution and restraint. Eventually, I could no longer ignore dinner preparations. So... still concealing the problem from my family, I made up (i.e. invented) a new casserole from the few ingredients I had on hand. For all anyone knew it was planned that way in advance. I never said a word about making it up as I went, and they enjoyed the new dish.

The performance is convincing
And we know every line by heart
Only when no one is watching
Can we really fall apart*

We sat in front of the TV after dinner, allowing me to continue in my hiding. I knew, though, that the time of disclosure was coming. Once we are snuggled into bed each night, my husband and I spend time talking and have a nightly devotion. I knew that once we were behind those closed doors, I really did need to admit to him what was going on.  

But would it set me free
If I dared to let you see
The truth behind the person
That you imagine me to be?

Would your arms be open
Or would you walk away
Would the love of Jesus
Be enough to make you stay?*

In truth, I don't need to ask those questions when I'm considering disclosing to my husband. I'm not sure why it's still so hard to admit to him that I'm struggling when I know I will only receive love and support. It's amazing how overwhelming the desire is to hide – even from those we know will love and support us. Once we were alone, though, I swallowed hard and admitted to my husband that I was fighting depression. Then, in an effort to be even more honest, I corrected myself: "No, actually I'm not fighting it. I'm sinking into it." Even at that I still had trouble bringing voice to just how deeply I was struggling. I felt his arms tighten around me, and his breath on the top of my head as he began praying for me. I had known that would be the outcome... so why did I find it so hard to do? Why is it so incredibly hard for us to be real?

Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain?
But if the invitation's open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain on our stained glass masquerade*

And I remembered... just the day before I'd been listening to the song "Stained Glass Masquerade" and had felt frustrated (once again) by the lack of authenticity in our churches. Our churches should be a place of where we can be real and find healing and support. Instead, all too frequently, they are a place where we paint on the face and answer, "Oh, my week has been fine.  How about yours?" Our shared prayer requests are filled with requests for our co-worker's daughter, neighbors, extended family members...  but where are the pleas for our own broken hearts? I've seen friends leave the church because they were tired of playing the game; wearing the face; feeling so alone... so isolated... so different than all the other "happy plastic people" they saw there. We've traded the altar for a stage and people are tired of the performance.  I'm tired of the performance.

But if the invitation's open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain on our stained glass masquerade*

I constantly question what we can do to help bring about that change... to extend the invitation. I ask the question even as I fight it myself... even in the comfort and safety of my husband's arms. It is SO STINKING HARD!  But I can only think of one way: one person at a time... starting with me.

Is there anyone that fails?
Is there anyone that falls?
Am I the only one in church today feelin' so small?*

Hi, I'm Jenn.  I sometimes struggle with depression. And yesterday was a hard day... a really hard day....


*"Stained Glass Masquerade" by Casting Crowns
Listen here.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Into the Silence....

When I was six or seven...
I adored him.

He shared his secret with me.
Brought me into his confidence.
I wouldn't betray that.  No way would I betray that.
I adored him.
And so I kept... SILENT.

Later... he was in trouble.  Someone had told.
It wasn't me.  I frantically told him it wasn't me.
He knew.  He knew I'd kept his secret.
I didn't betray his trust.  I wouldn't betray his trust.
I adored him...
and now I'd proven my loyalty... my ability...
to keep... SILENT.

So he asked more.  And I gave more.
At least I thought I gave more.  Actually, he just took more.
He took... my innocence.
He abused my trust. He abused my loyalty.  He abused... me.
But I didn't know.
I thought I was special.
I didn't know... that I was just used.
I thought he liked me... thought I was special.
We shared this secret, he and I.
I adored him.
And so I kept... SILENT.

When I was eight...
I knew.

I sat beside my mom, a book in her lap, as she explained:
Ovaries. Eggs. Fallopian tubes. Uterus.
A beautiful gift of love
within a marriage.
And just like that I knew.
And I knew that he knew.
And I knew that he knew that I didn't know....

And I knew anger.
He knew.  He should have protected me. He didn't.
He knew. Yet he led me into it.
He knew... that I didn't know.  And he used it against me.
He didn't care.  He didn't think I was special...
just a little kid... too dumb to know any better.
Silently raging inside.
And I did feel dumb.  I did feel foolish.
For crushing on him... for believing he cared.
For not knowing.
And so I kept... SILENT.

And I knew shame.
It wasn't really mine, but I carried it anyway.
Children of divorce and children of abuse.
Somehow we take the blame.
"It was my fault.  I let him."
My fault.
"I wanted his attention...
wanted him to like me."
My shame.

 And so at the tender age of eight
I knew.
I knew the wrong.
I knew the anger.
I knew the shame.
And I knew that no one else could ever know.
I knew.
And so I kept... SILENT.

But little girls can't keep silent.  Not entirely, anyway.
I acted out.
Things I shouldn't know.  But I did know.
And the older I became, the more I understood.
And the deeper the shame.
Not just for his actions.  But for mine.
And I knew... no one could ever know...
what I knew.
And so I kept... SILENT.

When I was eighteen...
I told.

Circumstances forced my hand.
And I told.
I told what he'd done.
And I told them I knew... it wasn't my fault.
It was something he had done... to me.
I told.

But not everything.
I didn't tell the shame I felt from my little girl crush.
I didn't tell the shame I felt from letting him touch me.
I didn't tell the shame I felt from wanting his attention
even after it happened the first time...
wanting his attention...
 to know I was still special
the next time.
I didn't tell the shame I felt... from the things I'd done.
I didn't tell the shame I felt... from things that still controlled me.
I didn't tell.
I still believed no one could ever know the whole.
I told.
And yet I kept... SILENT.

When I was forty-five...
I realized.

For the first time I put a name to it.
I'd known what had happened
but somehow
I hadn't put the name to it.

But then
I saw his actions... named in a book.
A book for survivors.
Sucker-punched... I saw the words
in black and white... on the page in front of me
and I realized
exactly what had been done.
A form of sex.  Abuse.  Sexual... abuse!
And for the first time
I realized I'd been harmed.
For the first time... in all those years...
I began to see the damage.
Lack of trust.  Lack of confidence.  Not good enough.

Counseled:  "It's not your fault."
My head knew. I realized. But my heart still felt shame.
Foolish for crushing... believing... trusting....
Shame for acting out.
I could say I was abused.
I could even begin to admit I was damaged.
No shame in that.  It was something done to me.
But the details?  My part?  My actions afterwards?
No... no one would get to see that.
My counselor knew.  My husband now knew.
No one else could ever know.
I realized.
And yet I kept... SILENT.

When I was forty-seven...
I saw.

For the first time I saw how I treated that little girl within me...
telling her she'd make a fool of herself if I let her out.
I saw it wasn't other people who saw her as foolish.
It was... me.

I saw...
how satan had hijacked the woman God created me to be.

And I began to see myself
the way my husband sees me...
the way God created me.
A beautiful creation.
All of me.
I am loved.
I am enjoyed.
And for the first time
I could enjoy that
revel in it
delight in it.

And then...
I saw...
a story.
Another survivor.
She broke her silence.  Shared her story.
And hundreds of others followed
bringing their stories into the light.
I saw the beauty.  I saw the hope.
I saw the healing.
I saw just how much...
stories matter.

I saw...
Silence is not protection.
Silence is prison.
Silence is isolation.
Silence allows evil to go unchecked.

I saw...
Freedom and healing
are found in breaking the silence.

I saw...
There is beauty in sharing the story.
Beauty in discovering we are not alone.
Beauty in opening the door for others to step through.
Beauty in shining a light on the path
for others to follow
to share their stories
to break the silence
to find their stories... matter.
They are not... alone.

I saw.

I SAW!!!

And I can no longer
keep... SILENT.

I must... SPEAK.
Share my story.
Open a door.
Shine a light in the darkness.

I must... SPEAK...


Note:  The story I referenced above is an amazing read filled with hope and healing.  You can find it online at at