Diagnosis: Heartsick

Recently I took my 5th grade son on a tour of his new school, which happens to be my old high school. I hadn’t been there in years, and I winced at the possibility of flashbacks. Fortunately it was so altered I barely recognized it. I breathed an inward sigh of relief and thanks. Those teen years were some of the worst in my life. By the time I finished high school (crawled out, barely breathing, just survived), I had been diagnosed with ADHD and depression.

Small wonder. For years I had been verbally bullied, same kids since elementary school, no way to hide or escape. I internalized the pain, remembered every insult, relived every incident nightly. My heart was battered mute. And those last few years I went from a good student to just barely making it. Why? Where in the world had my talent gone? Why were the simplest homework assignments major struggles and timed tests nightmares? The final straw came in the form of an AP English class — something I should’ve reveled in, eaten up, breezed through. But I was floundering. I had no social life, and it looked like I would just squeak through my senior year. Small wonder the doctor prescribed Zoloft.

For five years I floated along, experiencing neither joy nor deep sorrow. A few laughs, a few tears, nothing serious. Took my vitamins, sat in front of a special “Happy Light” designed to mimic natural sunlight. I went through life in a slightly numbed state until my marriage. It was a new year of hope; God had been warming my heart, and I had a good man who really loved me. It seemed like a good time to try weaning off Zoloft, to take the risk of experiencing emotions again.

Slowly, so slowly and gently, I learned how loved I am. Each passing year has brought new depth to my relationship with my husband, an opening of old wounds so that truth could be applied, the revelation of my identity and worth as a person. Healing. Eleven beautiful years of healing.

Do you know what I realized? My heart was sick, and Zoloft only treated the symptoms. Vitamins and Happy Lights couldn’t repair the damage. I needed to be told that  I have worth and value in God’s eyes, that I could find my identity in him. I needed to be loved on, held, told how beautiful I am, told that those horrible words spoken to me were lies and I shouldn’t let them take root in me. I needed the men in my life to stand up for me and protect me, the women to share their love and affection and what it means to be a woman. All that beautiful medicine has been applied in liberal doses over the past decade, and I am no longer depressed. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick; but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).

 

I have to wonder how many of us are suffering physical symptoms of sick hearts? What might be cured if our doctors would look beyond our bodies to our hearts and minds?

 

 

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An Intermingled Reality

I have ADHD, no hyperactivity. My symptoms displayed themselves so quietly, my parents didn’t notice until I was in high school. Then my disorganization, inability to focus, constantly spinning thoughts, and communication issues wreaked havoc on my senior year. I went into college getting to know myself and struggling to manage these disabling parts of me.
Writing was the one thing I did well. As letters formed on the paper, the thoughts in my head untangled and separated into a smooth new order. It didn’t matter whether it was a persuasive essay or a short story, I was able to communicate my ideas and be understood.
Then my church’s college group began a class in journalling, which is simply this: Focus on God, let him know you are listening, then write down what he says. Well, I’d felt twinges and leaps in my heart before — I thought that was how God spoke to me. Period. I was frustrated right off the bat. The man in the video made it all sound so simple. Everyone can journal. Everyone can hear God’s voice. You simply have to focus. Yeah, buddy, that’s never going to happen for me!
But I tried anyway. In my mind I went to the loveliest, loneliest place I could think of — a dock jutting out into a Massachusetts bay, little waves murmuring as they nudged the posts, a big moon shining like a spotlight on a tiny island bristling with dark evergreens. There in my mind Jesus sat next to me, legs dangling over the edge of the dock, and he turned his head and looked at me. When I asked him a question, he answered. I wrote it down, and the words kept coming — a soft whisper in my mind. Loving, chiding, amused.
I’ve been learning to listen for that voice throughout the day. Sometimes it’s in a song, a movie, a book, the words of total strangers, a “coincidence,” my Bible. He speaks to me, and I am always astounded by what he says!
My new project is a book about a young pregnant woman whose town experiences a somewhat lengthy power outage due to a major storm. Her husband is gone on a business trip. She doesn’t have any pets. Her world is suddenly silent. She begins to hear voices in her head, some that confuse and frighten her, some that are gentle and kind. Interesting things happen when she listens to the gentle voice, and horrible things happen when she listens to the confusing voice. So far it’s been fun to write, drawing a lot from my own experience and friends’ stories.
Up until now.
My physical, material situation hasn’t changed much, but something has shifted inside me. It feels tight, constricted, lonely, silent. God isn’t speaking to me in the same ways, and certainly not as often. Small words reach me like drips of water. The rest is static. White noise.
Now, it may be my fault that I’m not hearing him. Maybe my heart and mind are off, distracted, busy, iced over. But he did say a desolate time was coming. Winter. A winter of the soul.
How interesting. Right at the time of a new novel about hearing God’s voice.
Are my reality and my fiction so intermingled, so importantly tied together, that I must first live what I write about? Do I have to experience that silence my main character lives with before voices burst in on her world? Do I need to relearn what it is to hear God’s voice?
Maybe I’ve become arrogant. Maybe I’ve gotten used to him speaking to me all the time. Maybe he’s taken a step away to see what I’ll do without him so near me. Maybe it’s time I learned to simply stand when static buffets me. And trust he will speak to me again.