The Fight

The world is a dark place.

Sometimes you wonder if Thanos was on to something.

Maybe Daenerys was justified.

After all, the evil in this world seems to have pervaded every aspect of humanity. The government oppresses the weak. Leaders of the church abuse those who they swore to protect. Brothers turn on brothers for their own gain. World leaders murder their own people over who they love and call it morality. Political systems are built to increase the power of the few at the detriment of humanity itself.

But just as the dark seems to have won, just as the last few specks of light seem to have flickered out, you see them.

Children rising up and demanding change in the name of a better future.

Women coming forward to testify on the horrors they’ve endured at the hands of men with the hope of gaining an equal ground.

Corporations donating their tax breaks to the protection of our world.

Men with their husbands and women with their wives showing the world that love is love and only light can come from love.

What Thanos didn’t see, what Daenerys was too blinded by her own ambition to realize, was that humanity becomes the strongest when the darkness closes in. We gather together and fight for the lives and dignities of all people in all places of all walks of life. Together, as one species, we stand up and tell the darkness it won’t win. We look in the eyes of the evil and let it know it has met its match.

So even though the powerful voices in our world tell only of the darkness and our powerlessness to defeat it, we rise together and prove that we can.

Humanity is one. And we are bringing light to defeat the dark.

Why the tattoo?

People ask me why I have the tattoo that I do. Here’s my reason:

Isaiah 40:28-31 says,

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

My entire life I have wished I could fly. Not just in an airplane or with an epic jet pack, though those would be great as well, but I myself, with no outside assistance, flying through the air. Not even in the Superman type of flying where I can soar through the sky at inhuman speeds, though that would also be cool. More in the way of floating.

I’ve suffered from depression for years. There are seasons of wonderful reprieve, and there are seasons of terrible darkness. As I have had to cope with the dark seasons, I have learned of the peace that can come from a long walk to nowhere particular. In my darkest moments, this is my therapy.

A few months ago, I began to process through some things that I had suppressed my entire life. All of the pain that I had hidden away came crashing to the surface and poured into the forefront of my mind. The feeling was overwhelming, and there were nights that I couldn’t imagine continuing. A few nights in particular, I strongly considered taking my life.

On one of these nights, I did what I always do and went for a walk. As I slowly walked down the dark street, trying my hardest to avoid openly weeping in front of some stranger’s house, I closed my eyes. I continued to walk down the street with closed eyes, aware of my surroundings yet no longer fully present.

I pictured myself slowly rising, my head turned heavenward as the earth slowly fell away. The pain, fear, despair, hopelessness, and desperation fell with the earth, leaving only me and my breath. I was weightless; the problems of the earth below had no hold on me. For the first time in what seemed like a long time, I was free. I slowly kicked my feet back and forth, the rhythmic sway in tune with my heartbeat. For a few seconds, in this mesmeric trance, I was free.

I know I can’t fly. I know I never left the ground. My feet were still chained to the pavement, with no hope of defying gravity. My problems never really fell away.

But for a moment…

These verses remind me that even though I’ll never be able to fly on my own, I can still find freedom. I will get weary. I will stumble and fall. But if I hope in the Lord, he will strengthen me, and I will soar. No longer bound to the earth and its entanglements, but finally free.

I may not be able to fly. But through the Lord, I can be free.

That’s why I have this tattoo.

The Uncanny Valley

As I walk outside, I notice.

Something isn’t right.

The sky is oddly yellow; the trees a shade or two off. A slight breeze bends the blades of grass, a little too much.

This must be a dream.

The birds aren’t chirping and the crickets’ song is a key too high. The world around me has an almost manufactured feel, as if created by an imperfect and fractured mind.

A mind like mine.

I look around me, taking in this uncanny valley of dream-reality, and begin to realize…

This isn’t a dream.

This is reality.

And a storm is brewing.

Fantasia (Flash Fiction)

The glistening city of Fantasia appeared overnight. Before it, the only reality we knew was darkness. This darkness was not simply the absence of light; it was the absence of anything but ourselves. To the individual, it was the absence of all but self. There was nothing to hold onto. The sudden appearance of Fantasia with all of its light, music, and smiling faces was overwhelming, but in a good way.

For years, the darkness was nowhere to be found. Its disappearance was a gift. All of a sudden the world had light. It had life. It was beaming with love and companionship that for so long had been naught but a distant thought. I, and those like me, breathed a sigh of relief at the blessing that was this new life. Nothing was going to take it away from us.

That is, until the darkness returned once again.

Fantasia was the city of light, the city of dreams, the city of hope. The darkness had been not only a sad reality, but a lack of reality altogether. Fantasia was our first and only look at what reality actually was. Or so we thought.

The darkness came slowly back. It began with an odd dimness around the edges of the city. Storm clouds seemed to lurk on the edges of the horizon. Everyone noticed, but nobody acknowledged. For there was no way that something that isn’t real could penetrate that which is real, right?

But the darkness continued to move in. No matter how much light the city produced, nothing could penetrate the darkness that was coming. Little by little, the outer edges of the city fell into darkness. Though everyone knew what was coming, nobody seemed to notice. As darkness increased, so did pasted smiles. As seeming nonexistence penetrated our reality, people became more and more determined to ignore it. To continue to live in the light of Fantasia as if nothing was wrong. As if the darkness was not getting closer and closer by the minute.

I was no exception.

Even to the last minute, when no smiling faces were left, and the only light left in the world was a small cylinder in which I was standing, surrounded by an ever increasing blackness, I pasted on a smile. I thought to myself that Fantasia would come back. That the darkness was simply a dream.

I was fooling myself.

As the darkness overcame me, and the last light of Fantasia blinked out, I finally admitted to myself the truth. Fantasia was not my reality. The darkness was the only real plane of existence, and Fantasia was nothing more than a construct of my mind, an attempt to escape the permeable darkness. I had lived in a pseudo-reality while silently ignoring the voice in the back of my head that told me it was all fake.

Fantasia was never there. I guess you could say it was only a fantasy.

Paintings, Light Breezes, and The Little Engine that Could

As many of you know, I have been struggling with depression for years now. It was only within the last couple of weeks, however, that I was diagnosed with Recurrent Major Depressive Disorder. Basically this means that I will most likely struggle with depression my entire life. While this is a scary thought, and certainly a daunting challenge, this news was somewhat of a relief to me.

Yes, I really did just say that. I was relieved to learn that I have this condition. It validated my thoughts; it gave me an assurance that this wasn’t just all my own twisted way of messing with myself or getting attention. I have a legitimate mental disorder that causes my brain to throw me into depressive states and hinder my ability to come back up to a normal state of mind. It gave these thoughts and these doubts and these feelings a definition. I can’t express enough how important that was to me.

I have been trying my best ever since to shorten the depressive states and to make them less frequent. Obviously, I try to distract myself. To quote Car Radio, one of my favorite songs by Twenty One Pilots, “silence is violent.” When I find myself alone and bored, my mind quickly plunges into a depressive state. Here is a sample of just some of the thoughts that plague my mind:

Why is nobody here? Do they all think I’m annoying?
Are they only my friends because of some obligation or pity?
Does anyone truly care about me?
Why do I have to even do any of this?
What is the point?
When can all of this just end?

These are the thoughts that constantly plague me. They have lead me to some dark places, and they only get worse. I can’t control these thoughts, I don’t want them to come to me, but that’s how depression works. So, to battle that, I have decided to fill my life with as many positive reminders of the sanctity of life as possible.

To that end, let me tell you a little story. One of my best friends also suffers from depression. A good portion of our conversations revolve around this very topic. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, the importance of someone that understands can’t be overstated. Anyways, we were both pretty bogged down in life and whatnot, and I decided we were going to have what I so eloquently call “A Night of Spontaneity.” Basically, we met on campus and my friend had no idea what we were going to do. We walked to the Kroger off campus and each purchased something that reminded us of our childhood and brought up positive thoughts. She bought a Finding Nemo coloring book. I bought The Little Engine that Could. This was one of my favorite books as a kid, and still is to this day.I remember reading this book and thinking that it meant I could fly, or I could become President, or I could bring my stuffed dog to life. Now, this book means so much more. It reminds me that I can beat this; that life is not impossible. I don’t have to just wonder when this life will end, I can try and enjoy it. I can live.

The other day I went to a local park with my friend Matt. We sat down on a bench and looked out over the fields at the white, puffy clouds floating lazily across the sky. The way the light fall breeze combined with the breathtaking view laid out before us made me stop for a minute. Finally, I had a moment of silence that didn’t end with me questioning everything and falling deeper into the darkness that engulfs me. I felt God’s creation, and for a moment, I felt like I could fly.

Last night I went to an open mic night with two of my closest friends. One of them was performing (and did a fantastic job). Soon after I walked in, they had a raffle and gave away a painting that one of the artists had painted. As soon as I saw the painting, I could feel my mood improving, I could sense once again that little bit of light that was piercing the darkness. There was just something about the painting that made me feel at peace. I knew that I wanted that painting. God must have known as well, because out of about 30 people that were present, I won. This painting (pictured above) is now prominently displayed in my dorm room. Every time I look at it, I feel a little bit of peace.

You may wonder why I am telling you all of this. I mean, who cares? It’s just a bunch of odd, quirky little experiences. Well, here’s something else you should know: I am a very sentimental and symbolic person. I always have been; I always will be. These little symbols help to remind me that life is not only possible to accomplish, but worth the fight. I still have down days and I always will, but it’s the little things that bring me back up.

If you are struggling with something like this, then look around. Tell someone. Let them know. Don’t do it alone. And find your own Paintings, Light Breezes, and The Little Engine that Could. It may save your life.

Recovery

As many of you know, I struggle with depression. In fact, I have struggled with it for so long that I hardly know what life is like without it.

It’s become a part of me.

This year has been especially rough. I have not been my usual self. My friends began to worry about me and my family began to notice a change in me. Every day I thought about the futility of my life and felt completely alone. I overthought everything from jokes to quick glances. Everything somebody said or did was, in my depression soaked brain, a statement of their disdain towards me. I worried that every relationship I have ever had was just a superficial relationship out of mere obligation and pity. I had become susceptible to the idea that I was worthless.

That’s what it’s like to deal with depression. At least, that’s what it’s like for me. There is no trigger, nothing to indicate when it will hit me. Most of the time I am overcome with loneliness, doubt, and self loathing. I doubted my faith and felt abandoned by my God. That alone threw me even deeper into the pit of depression.

At least, that’s what it was like before.

4 weeks ago, I started attending therapy through the Counseling and Health Services offered by my university. 4 weeks ago I was in utter despair and lost in my depression to the point of thinking I would never see happiness and joy again. I spent more time collapsing in on myself than anything else, and I was pretty much at the end of my road. Remember, this was just 4 weeks ago- 4 sessions with my therapist.

I am not ashamed to admit that I need therapy or that I am depressed or that I don’t have all the answers. God created us to rely on Him. As a ministry major, I have always had this idea that I need to have my life together all of the time and never waver or struggle, and if I do I could certainly never show it. My job- my entire future- depends on helping others through this very same storm that has been plaguing me for so long. It is through that storm that I am growing into the minister that God intends for me to be.

4 weeks. 4 weeks ago I was broken, battered, bruised. I had no hope, no ambition, my entire life was full of apathy. Today, I am writing this with the joy of being able to say that I am in recovery.

This does not mean I am cured. I still have dark moments, dark days, and crippling thoughts. But I am once again able to experience hope, joy, ambition, life. I can finally see the end of this road I have been traveling for so long. I don’t know how much longer I will be struggling with this, but I am finally able to say that my struggle is turning into strength. It’s a long, arduous journey, and it’s one that we can’t travel alone.

If you are struggling with these same issues or any like it, please let me or someone else know. You can’t recover on your own. We weren’t created to do this alone. We are creatures of community.

It’s a long road. Don’t do it alone.

I love you guys. May God grant you all peace and joy. Thanks for your continuing prayers.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” -Isaiah 41:10