The circle of “Overcomers” where I sit as often as I can has many valued traditions. One of those traditions is that on the last Saturday of every month, we honor those in our midst celebrating one or multiple years of recovery from what ever it was that was hurting/killing them.
On April 12 of 2015 I sat outside a different church service in uncontrollable tears. My divorce had just been finalized that week and subject of the message that morning was the “sanctity of marriage”. This is the church where my ex-wife and kids attend and at the time I was taking the kids there on the weekends they were with me.
As I sat outside waiting for the service to end, not even having made it through the medley of love songs that was created to introduce to message, I desperately reached out to people, including my ex-wife, needing someone to give me permission to feel what I was feeling. My unhealthy dependence on people, my addiction to their approval for things as basic as my own feelings, hit me in the face. I mark it as Day 1 of my recovery.
Yesterday, I sat in that circle and was thrilled to be presented with a coin emblazoned with the roman numeral, “I”. But as I looked back on the last month, and the last week in particular, two images came to mind. One was of a victory parade as Hollywood has captured it in the streets of ancient Rome. Generals riding in chariots with their troops marching in triumph, their captives being led on display through the city, and the citizens lining streets to honor the victorious “heros”.
The second image was of the foot soldier, also returning from victory, but instead of marching in a parade he drags his tired, wounded, aching body back across the border into his homeland. And instead of spending the next weeks receiving the accolades of kings and nobility, he wakes up every morning wondering exactly what the difference between winning the war and loosing the war really is. The scars of the battle are visible on his body and echoing in his mind. But as he takes another deep breath, looks at his family getting about their day, he is reminded of the simple reality in his life after the war. It’s summed up in two words: not dead.
The week leading up to this celebration of 365 days of moving toward a stronger life, of managing my depression and anxiety so as to not wish for my own death, felt more like the tired foot soldier than the conquering hero.
- I’ve lost any vision for the future. Having not been accepted to graduate schools and not offered jobs I felt extremely well matched to, I’ve had a hard time seeing what the future may hold, let alone the next steps I need to take to get there.
- I’ve been dealing with a bully. Really it’s a culture of bullying toward to the transgender community disguised as a need “protect women and girls” in public restrooms. That culture found a voice in a candidate for our country sheriff who pledged to “beat any transgender woman coming out of a women’s bathroom…until she woke up in whatever hospital they dragged her to.”
- I was left out of a party. If that sounds trivial, it’s because it really is. I didn’t get mentioned where I would liked to have. It wasn’t mean spirited, it wasn’t personal and it wasn’t anything I was entitled to. It just felt like another blow to my already wounded self.
But as I thing about the last week, I have to see it in context of the last year. I have seen God bring people around me who love and care about me and the journey I am on. I have learned to articulate my thoughts about how I relate to God as a transwoman and as part of the LGBT community. The desire to live now outweighs the desire to die, even in the darkest moments; even to the point of seeing how others in my shoes who have the same grim outlook on life are giving into that darkness. That realization has ignited a fire in me to see the church that Christ died for do a better job of helping my people find life and not driving them to death at their own hands.
I haven’t needed permission from anyone to feel what I feel. I can live in my own head, stand on my own feet and relate to God and other people from my own perspective; free of the masks that used to hide the bulk of what God has created in me.
As my friend and mentor handed me that coin last night, knowing I was hurting, she gave me a hug and I wasn’t sure she was going to let go. I was certain I wasn’t letting go.
We never look ahead at another year.
Just another 24 hours.
So I woke up today. I am taking deep breaths. I’m better than “not dead”.
I am alive.