The Hard One

I am bubbling over with ideas and things that I want to say in this blog today, but I keep hearing from God the push to be honest. Completely honest. And for me, that means telling you about the deepest, darkest place that I ended up in. About the time when I wanted to die. Then, I guess, everything else about this blog with hopefully make more sense.

I’m going to try and start at the beginning, or at least, the beginning as I see it.

I’ve always been a pretty happy person. Certainly I have always thought of myself that way. I’ve had an amazing life, I’ve lived in some incredible countries and I have wonderful friends all over the world. I came to faith in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, surrounded by amazing people who already knew and loved God and helped me walk with Him in a thousand tiny ways. When I came home and left all that behind, it was unbelievably hard. I walked right away from God for a long time, and walked towards all sorts of destructive things instead. Maybe I’ll blog about that some other day.

I moved to a new city in 2010, to start my nurse training. It was pretty terrifying. For some reason, although I was still in my own country, I just couldn’t seem to find anyone like me. Do you know what I mean? Friends who really understand you, who come from the same place as you and who share your worldview and maybe a part of your history.

It was tough, but after a year or so I found God in the midst of it, found a church where I felt I belonged and gradually discovered some true friends, wonderful and loving friends.

I finished my nurse training and was qualified, and then worked as a nurse in intensive care for another two, nearly two and a half years. At some point, I went away to spend a weekend with some friends, and at the end of the weekend, was horrified to discover that I was happy – for the first time in over a year. That’s when everything started to break down.

I had no idea how incredibly unhappy I actually was. I had been completely suppressing all of my negative emotions for years. I was surrounded by people who wanted me to be happy – so instead of processing any pain and hurt I encountered – and in ICU there is a lot of that – I just buried it, and pretended like I was okay until I started to believe it myself.

Once I had realised how unhappy I was, everything started to unravel. The stresses of work were far too intense. I lived with three lovely but complex girls, and even being around them for short periods was too hard for me. My church was going through the incredibly painful process of the staff essentially firing the team vicar.

I applied for – and got – a new job, in another new city. The new job was with the same patient group but no longer in ICU, so I hoped that the pressures would be a lot less.

Really, I think there was a lot of running away involved here. I just could not see a way out of the issue, while managing to stay where I was. And I absolutely believe that God was in my moving. If I had stayed, He would have helped me work through this in that place – I believe really strongly that He works in us wherever we choose to go – but it was better for me, at that point, to leave.

It comes back to me now that before I left that city was the first time that I wanted to kill myself. I had struggled through a bad day at work, come home to a kitchen full of conflict and sniping from the housemates when all I wanted to do was cook, and disappear. I bolted as soon as I had finished making my food. I sat upstairs in my bedroom, tears flooding down my face, trying not to make noise and alert the others – and told God that it was all too hard – that I just needed to leave now. I knew – I still know – that after death is Love. God is love. And peace. Life was so hard and so exhausting that I wanted to die rather than continue.

What I don’t remember is how I managed to come through it that night. I suspect that the promise of change on the horizon was enough for me to cling on to. Certainly, after that night, the process of changing jobs seemed to speed up and before I knew it, I was moving city and trying to fit all of my stuff into a tiny, top-floor bedsit.

At first, the change was brilliant, but very quickly it got hard again. Working in an entirely different ward makes you feel completely unskilled as a nurse. You don’t know how to do the simplest of tasks, because everything is done differently. It was only when my ability to work to a high standard as a nurse was effectively shattered that I realised how much I had made that my identity. Being an excellent nurse was who I was, it defined me as a person. But that meant making a mistake showed me up as a failure. Any criticism was received as criticising me as a person – not some slight flaw in my technique in some obscure procedure.

I started working with the counsellor whom I still see now. And we dug deep through my head and gradually discovered the roots of the problem.

It turns out, I hated myself. I was constantly hyper-critical of everything that I did. I had been for years; it wasn’t until I worked consistently in high-pressure situations that it gained strength and became a pressing problem. I was never good enough for some mythical high standard that I measured myself against. Therefore I was a failure, I was useless, I was pathetic. And once I could see these thinking patterns, the more obvious and powerful they became. I focussed on them. I tried to fight them, and was left constantly exhausted by the battle that raged inside my head.

A negative thought would arrive and pierce me in some vulnerable area. Then I would think – no, that’s wrong, I shouldn’t be thinking that, why am I thinking like this? Why can’t I stop? Why am I so useless that even my own thoughts are horrendous?

I tried to trust God, I tried to let Him in to fix it all, but I couldn’t, because I still hated myself – I couldn’t see how it could possibly be, that He could love me when I was such an awful person.

Over and over again, I wound up at that point where I cried out to Him for it all to stop. I started to plan how I would end it. I’m medically trained; I know how to inflict the most damage with the least effort.

One night, much the same as many others, I came totally to the bottom of myself. I could see absolutely no reason to continue. In my journal, I cried out to God – I can’t do this any more!! It’s too hard.

And He replied. He said, Okay.

What?

He said it again – Okay. Come. If it’s too hard, then come to Me, and I will give you the rest that you are longing for. And I will love you.

Seriously?

Yes. Because I love you. I made you, and I love you, exactly as you are. Here, in the very depths of your agony and suffering, in the desire to end the life that you have been taught must never be ended by your own hand – I love you, here, in this.

If you do it, if the war that is raging in your head is just too hard, then I will love you for all eternity. You will find peace and rest in My arms. I will be so happy to have you with Me.

But my daughter – my darling, beautiful daughter – if you don’t, if you keep going just one more day, I will still love you. And I will be more proud of you than you will ever know.

I will love you if you kill yourself. I will love you if you don’t. Nothing you can do can make me love you any less.

That night was my first step up from the depths. I chose life, I grabbed hold of God with both hands and clung on tight. I really believed, for the first time, that I am loved, just as I am. I don’t have to do anything or be anything to earn that love. It still blows me away.

The path forward from there has been very steep and very difficult. Once or twice I’ve hit a plateau, thought that I was ‘fixed’ and promptly fallen sixty feet back down towards the abyss again. I am slowly, very slowly, changing my thought patterns and breaking the old, destructive cycles. I am so, so grateful that I trusted God, and I chose life.

I don’t know how to describe what I have gone through. While I was certainly depressed at times, I have never really suffered from depression, for which I am eternally grateful. I would feel anxious about things when I was struggling, but again, that does not describe what was really going on underneath the surface. And I have never struggled with food – again, a great blessing.

Sometimes I think of it in terms of Psalm 23 – I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death. I have faced my desire to kill myself. But I will fear no evil, for your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

For me, the rod and the staff are the iron-clad certainty that God is always with me – no matter how deep, how dark the place I am in – and that He loves me, even when I completely incapable of loving myself.

Today, I still struggle, sometimes. I forget how loved I am. I had a really hard month recently – everything just seemed to go wrong, all at once – and at one point, I heard that voice again, the one whispering about how much better it would be to just stop. To let go, to go to God. But this time, another voice answered back. My voice. It said – no. I am worth so much more than that. I am loved. I am the daughter of a King.

This message is not just for me. It is for you. I don’t know what brings you here, what your story or your hidden suffering is. But I do know that God loves you, He adores you, He cherishes you. Nothing you can do, or think, or say, can make Him love you any less. You are His child, He designed you and made you and He delights in you. You are the child of this King, this God.

If you are at that precipice, I am so sorry. I have felt the excruciating pain that you are feeling. But He is there with you. And if He has led you here – no matter how random a route He chose, it’s always Him who brings you comfort, always – He is telling you that HE LOVES YOU. And if you can hold on, just for another moment, just for another hour, just for another day – He will be there with you, holding you, every second, and He will bring healing to you. He will bring you out of this dark place. I am living proof of that.

God bless you.

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