I’m moving! The Art of Losing is moving to Heart of the Tico, my new website/blog where I will post everything about my life and ministry in Costa Rica. I will stop posting links here after the next few blogs posts, so please subscribe over there! It’s the same me, same writing, just a different space. I love you all and would love to take you all with me when I move.
The most vulnerable part of my heart.
I was in fourth grade when I became reserved. I have memories of my younger childhood when I would run around the playground chasing kindergarten boys, giggling about the third graders holding hands down the slide, and playing with friends on the monkey bars.
But when I got into fourth grade it changed. I had a few friends, but really there was only one best friend — Heather. I remember feeling alone in groups of people and feeling like I wasn’t enough. I felt like I couldn’t do things well enough whether it was in sports, music, or academics (though I was very smart). I stopped trying because I always thought I would fail. With everything. Fifth grade was pretty much the same, but sixth grade was much worse.
And this is the part where I share the most vulnerable part of my heart that I have only ever talked about with a few close friends (four, to be exact). When I was in sixth grade my stress, anxiety, and depression were awful. One Wednesday night after church (Missionettes, aka “Jesus’ Girl Scouts”) I went into the bathroom and plucked out my eyelashes. Usually this is the part where people laugh. What?! They are astounded that anyone would do something so strange. Yeah, I know. I am too.
But one by one, I tried to make the rows of lashes even. I don’t know why it was my eyelashes except that maybe it’s because it was something I could control. I could control the perfect lines of my lashes and eyebrows, trying to make them perfect, unlike the craziness of my life that I couldn’t control — my mom’s depression, my parent’s fighting, my dad yelling at my older brother. I couldn’t stop those things.
It didn’t make me any more perfect once they were all gone. Instead it made me full of shame. I was the funny-looking girl with ugly eyes. I looked like that for months because when they started to grow back, I would pluck them again — still feeling a sense of stress-relief.
It was at this time in sixth grade that I withdrew from everything. I felt uncomfortable talking to people. I felt unwanted and alone. I felt invisible. My depression worsened, but I didn’t know it. I didn’t have a name for the feelings I had.
When I was 16 I told my mom that I was depressed and she told me it was just because I was a teenager. My mask was good. I became very good at lying. Not even my mom who also suffered from depression could see it in me. Fast forward five more years, to my junior year of college — just last spring. I cried multiple times a day. I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t force myself to get out of bed to do anything. I wanted to be sucked up into a black hole and disappear. Sometimes I would dream of falling asleep and not waking up for 10 years, just so life would be different.
I went to a counselor at SPU and she told me that I seemed like a very strong person, despite the many hard things in my life. The counselor told me I was fine. Even though I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. Even though i couldn’t make it a day without crying. Even though I felt hopeless in every area of my life.
Finally I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with severe depression. There is a test they had me take that has a scale of 40-70. If you are at 50 or less, you’re normal. At 60, you are depressed. At 70, you are considered severely depressed to the point of being suicidal. I scored 78.
I have been on antidepressants for a year now. There are some days I still feel it, but the depression is no where close to what it has been. Most days I feel normal, praise the Lord!
But I know there are other people — other young women — who still struggle with depression like I do. When I was 16, I wrote this (probably to showcase on Myspace):
[11 Jul 2006 | Tuesday] if I had one wish
If I had one wish: I would wish that my future self would come back and tell me how stupid and insignificant high school drama is.
and because we all know wishes don’t come true, I’m stuck dreaming and hating and wishing and crushing over insignificant things that wont matter in 5 years. but the thing is, right now, they matter.
Well, they matter to me.
to everyone else they are just as stupid as they will be to me in a few years. so why do I find myself crying over things that don’t matter?
As I read it now, my heart aches. There is nothing I can do to change my past, but there are other aching, 16-year-old hearts that I can choose to see and choose to love. I desperately wanted someone to lead me and teach me and see me. But where was the future-me? Where was the girl I could look up to and who would tell me that high school drama wasn’t everything?
Teens don’t have to feel alone, but it takes adults to step into that loneliness to make a difference. It takes YOU to step into a youth’s life. That is my purpose in Costa Rica. I have observed in Costa Rica that it’s more difficult because Latinos are not used to being vulnerable and sharing their hearts. (Many American teens aren’t either.) That is why I’m going. I’m going to love and encourage these young girls who think they are alone. They’re not. And you’re not. And we need to show the world that.