A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Much to practically everyone’s complete and utter shock, I found God in 2014. I discovered who He was while curled up in a pathetic heap on the floor of my shower in the month of October—my favorite month—deep in the midst of an earth shattering panic attack. It was so bad, I briefly considered going to the emergency room. The realization that I couldn’t drive set in and the rational side of my breath whispered “You’re not dying. You can work through this. That will be an expensive car ride. You’re taking resources from someone who may need those poor, underpaid EMTs more than you do. Breathe, breathe, breathe.
Irrational side of anxiety brain told me to shut up—in a more explicit manner—because that’s what anxiety does and there’s nothing you can do about it except wait it out.
When my own personal pep talk didn’t take the edge off, I just prayed. I wasn’t sure who or what I was praying to, but I prayed verbally between heavy sobs, because I was lost and broken and did not know where to go. It’s hard to climb up out of the dark hole of depression when you can’t tell which way is up, down, in or out.
In 2014 I was at the tail end of a very abusive relationship. One of the biggest struggles with removing yourself from an abusive situation is finding out where to go once you’re out. If I had a clear “step two” to moving out of my apartment, I would have left a year earlier. But I was making scarcely above minimum wage so going at it on my own was a dead end. I asked many of my friends if I could move into a spare room and was met with endless amounts of resistance. No pets and a lack of a desire to have roommates were the refrains I heard, leading me to another brick wall. It’s not their fault. I never really opened up about what was really going on in my own home. I did not want to go to a shelter because I wasn’t in physical danger. I was so cripplingly depressed that searching for resources to help me felt like a monumental task. As a last, desperate resort I took to Craiglist and posted an ad. “Normal post-grad woman looking for an equally boring roommate. Quiet and neat. Comes with a cat who is the light of my life. I can either be your new best friend or we can literally ignore each other.” My ad was met with offers for sex in exchange for rent, a stipulation that I might babysit their kids, or part ways with my cat. Brick wall, brick wall, brick wall. I couldn’t go back home because that was another bad situation for me. I considered living in my car if it meant leaving the barrage of emotional attacks I dealt with day in and day out.
One day, I just broke. Shattered into a million little pieces. The realization that I couldn’t do this myself anymore, and I sure couldn’t rely on anyone else. It was the final stage to the feelings I had been grappling with for 10 months. First, a jealousy of my Christian friends who had peace and comfort in the midst of chaos. Secondly, a desire to be an “enlightened atheist” who knew the scriptures in and out to be able to defend my lack of belief. I began reading the Bible and religious blogs to better understand what I was reading. Thirdly, a curiosity to attend church to alleviate the devastating loneliness and lack of community I felt in my life (Hello, mid-20s struggle bus). I started online shopping for churches, browsing and rebrowsing the same websites as I contemplated which one I would attend. I wrote “Church—9:30am” on the Sunday lines of my planner week after week before crossing them out as I chickened out and didn’t go.
The first church service I attended was all about good relationships. So, I definitely felt that God nudge. I didn’t know that going in, but I sat there, alone of course, surrounded by dozens of families and couples, contemplating the own very abusive relationship I was in. And felt those words wash over me as if Joe was talking to me directly. That was, I believe, in August 2014.
I kept going to church in secret. Not telling anyone, but went on Sunday mornings. I would go against my usual lazy nature and wake up, throw on a full face of makeup, get cute, and disappear for two hours. My boyfriend did not even look at me or ask questions while he played World of Warcraft. I could leave, and he was completely disinterested in my comings and goings. I kept at it for months, and in October 2014 I found myself on the floor of that shower mid panic attack.
No one else was saving me. I sure couldn’t save me. I had felt God pulling on my heart strings for weeks. Suddenly, and most unexpectedly for the raging and hateful atheist I was, I just believed. That won’t make sense to a lot of people. Sometimes I don’t even understand and I most certainly cannot even begin to explain it, but I placed my faith in the unseen and unexplainable. I had been oscillating between disappearing and killing myself for a year, but for the first time in a long time, I just felt at peace.
It gave me the strength to move forward, taking one tentative step at a time, as I moved away from my abusive relationship. I squirreled away my money—any that I could find. I swallowed my resolve and moved home, even though I knew that physically it would be very painful. My parents smoke like crazy in their home. I meant I wouldn’t be able to breathe. It meant living in a crippling state of agony knowing I would be that person who reeked of smoke, just like I did in high school. It would bring back every terrible memory of feeling terrified of how badly I smelled. But in one swift moment, it just hit me. Resolve washed over me. I moved everything I owned in one Sunday afternoon. I packed everything in trash bags. I did all of the heavy lifting down three flights of stairs. All while he stared at me, when he realized he was losing the power he once lorded over me.
I moved home. I cried, a lot. I prayed with urgency. I found God when everyone else let me down.
That’s the story I’ve wanted to tell for months and just didn’t know how. And I still didn’t give it the justice it deserves, but perfection keeps you from moving forward and today I choose to step forward, one tentative step at a time. I started a new blog, moving away from Conquer the Universe, and this is my deviation from the “New Blog! First Post!” post. How’s that for trudging across the road less traveled? That deserves a blog post all of its own, but I shall save that for another day.