The last two weeks have been challenging to say the least (hold about 2-3 days in there). I can’t get away from the situation I tried desperately to get out of. Everywhere I turn, whether to my phone, email, WalMart or just conversation with my wife about friends sets me in a rough place.
I thought I had closure, and in some ways I did recently – enough to remove quite a bit of bitterness – but I truly can’t get away. And while I know I need to, I feel bad that I can’t – either mentally, verbally or physically. And the worst part about it is that I feel guilty that I can’t & guilty that I even need to.
Apparently folks are curious as to how I’m doing & it’s complex. So here’s the real answer (at least recently).
My transition away from ministry and my church has been way more difficult than I thought it would be. I knew it would be challenging but knowing it was the right thing made me think I’d be walking in blessing, favor and a desire to connect with people like I had way back when. In March and April of last year I really hunkered down and found a true sanctuary and refuge in my home. I sense that again, but unlike then I want to stay at home. Everywhere I go I run into people. Sometimes I avoid them, sometimes they avoid me and sometimes I’m doing great and try to engage with them! When I avoid I wonder if they saw me and if they think that I was avoiding them. When I think they avoid me or seem weirded out by me, I feel like a three-legged puppy and think that my “coming out” was stupid. When I’m doing great and say so, I don’t think people really believe me. And then there’s the “is it okay to ask” question that is quite funny because folks always ask a question and then ask if it’s okay they asked it. Just ask! Pretty funny, actually. It’s all just awkward.
Now I know that a big part of this awkwardness is my own fault. I mean, I set boundaries that I thought were clear but apparently confused more people than helped them. Maybe they helped me, but I don’t know. And I guess I’ll never know. I do think that if I hadn’t set up boundaries I’d be getting a lot of advice, which would have been much tougher. My boundary in talking with me as I said in church and on this blog was:
Treat me as the same guy I’ve been, but if you can’t, please don’t feel bad. I get it. Unlike diabetes that is an accepted disease in folks’ bodies, many aren’t comfortable with & frankly, don’t believe in mental neurological illnesses. There’s a stigma attached that people don’t get. And if you are one of them, I totally understand. I was just like you! You can ask me any question about my experience & I’ll answer if I feel comfortable. Feel free to call or text me & ask how I am & if I want to answer truthfully or not, I will; I’ve been living behind a mask for so long that if I need to protect myself in that moment, I certainly can again. If you call or text and I don’t respond or send you to voicemail, don’t be offended. Remember that I’m in a time of healing. I don’t know how long it will last, but know I really am doing very well right now.
Maybe I just imagine others’ response. Maybe I’m too worried about my reputation as being bipolar than my reputation as being God’s child. Maybe folks really do feel uncomfortable with me. Maybe it’s just weird for them, or maybe, like I mentioned in an earlier blog, time goes by enough that you feel bad mentioning stuff because you haven’t for so long. Frankly, it does feel like it’s too late. And I think that’s why it’s so awkward. Preached this bombshell of a message Dec. 11, attended Dec. 18, Christmas Sunday the 25th, and I was gone.
Some have sincerely tried to love me, yet I’ve made it impossible for anyone to do so. I think it’s because I don’t even know what I want or what’s best for me. Certain people trigger a ton of thoughts, certain people tax me, certain people I wouldn’t mind chatting with or hanging with (though my homebodiness prevents me quite a bit), and certain people I just don’t know – and I’m so moody that all this can change by a situation, a mental trigger or even when I wake up in the morning! Sherry keeps saying it’s such a roller coaster ride – and it is. It makes sense why I feel bad for her, my kids and our family & why I feel bad for others who are trying to love me and I’m responding either shortly, not at all or fine one moment and not the next.
I think a big part is just being in ministry. There are people who are your friends or think they are and the relationship isn’t reciprocated to the degree that they think. Many of them start out as being discipled by you or viewing you in the light of a “pastor,” and you view them in the light of a disciple, someone you are to try and build up in the faith. Time goes on and you walk with them helping them to be real (by being vulnerable yourself) and in doing so either they think they’re friends with you or you humble yourself knowing you’re a jacked up sinner just as much as or even more than them – and suddenly your discipling is morphed with friendship. You still view them as someone to disciple but when you are hurting, like I am now, they think you’re that three-legged puppy. While it’s true you’re hurting, the reality is that a.) it could have been avoided, b.) your relationship isn’t viewed by you like it is to them, c.) you feel guilty because of b, d.) they have blessed you so much either financially, with gifts or some other thing that makes you feel like you “owe them,” e.) you know that your relationship for them is more valuable than it is to you, f.) you feel like you need to move on and feel bad that you do and don’t know how to do it, g.) you want to be friends with them but don’t want to exclude others so you avoid them so as not to offend the others who would find out that you want to be friends with others and not them, and h.) something that I haven’t thought of because I’m confused myself by g.
It could have been avoided in some ways. I haven’t said it before, but the #1 reason why I shared about my journey was to protect the church. Not the number 1 reason why I was going through what I was (though certainly the situation played into it), but the reason why we decided I needed to let it all out. If I would have disappeared there would have been more questions than anything else and even more rumors would have been slung around and the potential to damage the church intensely. Think about it. It’s true. And why would I have gone “crazy” and suicidal 365 days ago? Because of the situation I was in. It was impossible (go ahead and insert Matthew 19:26 or Phil. 4:13 or whatever you want here, trust me I’ve plagued myself with this, too). I knew back them that what I am experiencing now would be as tough as it is right now or harder and I didn’t want to face it. People don’t do the math too well, and I’m glad they don’t because it again saves people and potentially the church from damage, but the situation I was in I knew would be this difficult or harder. I think that’s why I believed death was a viable option. Suicide is a horrible escape that I don’t long for but like so many figures in Scripture (and I know many of you reading this), you think death might be easier than dealing with what’s before you. And that’s where I was. Hurt myself? I’m too much of a pansy. Want to be dead? Yes, I’ve been there before. And it was 365 days ago.
Among the cool things about this whole journey include: God DID make a way out and give me hope for me and Pathway when I thought it would be impossible and would tear apart the church if they really knew the truth of my heart and mind; I’ve had better peace with my nuclear family; I’ve been blessed with some meds that have helped (though I’m beginning to doubt some of them as I’ve recently had another change); I think I’ve helped some people realize it’s okay to be real and to investigate their own hearts and minds; and my wife is in school studying to help folks a portion of the amount she’s helped me – and that has been hugely insightful to us as well.
And I believe God is sovereign in this. My bitterness is gone. My pride is waning in regards to church. I am identifying with and through Christ and not as a “pastor” and I’m being humbled more than I even thought I was previously. I am Christ’s. I may say I live for Him, but I only can if I am His – and with His help. 2 Cor. 3:5.
I personally hate passive aggressiveness. Sometimes my blog has been that way. Other times I’ve tried to rise above it. Yet I don’t know any other way to let folks know where I am. They keep asking my wife and I think her answer is something like, “That’s a loaded question. He’s up and down.” And when folks ask to help, we just don’t know what to say. We’ve had three people (or maybe more, I can’t remember), bring us meals. That’s been a huge blessing, yet it makes us feel guilty we don’t really need it, though it does help financially. We had one person anonymously gives us hundreds of dollars (wow – that’s been huge). I’ve received phone calls and texts, a few letters & emails that are very sweet – everyone’s heart has been amazing and a select few people are doing their best to be the church, the hands and feet of Jesus. And yet, those same sweet things have been enormous triggers that set me off into more depression and difficulty. It’s just so tough. I don’t want to say to people, “please don’t contact me,” because I have my reasons for each one that I don’t want to share and don’t want to say those reasons. And yet not saying those reasons makes them question why I can’t talk with them and I can to others. Hopefully getting a job will take a lot of my plaguing thoughts out of my skull. But maybe they won’t, I don’t know.
I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave His life for me. Galatians 2:20 How I wish I could implant that in my cranium 24/7, write it on my contacts and seal it on my heart. I’m not living it out, but I am making the necessary steps I know. I had one guy tell me I just need to “let go.” I’ve done that with many things, but others I don’t know how because I need space and I don’t know if I can ever get back to where most of the relationships were – and I don’t know if I want to. It is a heart and mind thing, it’s just tough. I’ve been given a way out, thank you Jesus! There’s just many ways relationally where I’m just not out. It’s no one’s fault really, it’s just tough. And while I don’t know how/where/when it’ll end up, I have faith in God’s Sovereignty, His grace and love and do appreciate the hearts of so many who long to love the best way they know how. I have HOPE. That hasn’t changed. It’s just tough.
I’ll say what I started with. I need separation. I need Southwest Airlines because I “need to get away.” And yet I know this awkward process I need to learn to deal with emotionally, personally, humbly and gracefully.
And so I continue with my gift of making simple things complex . . .