“Suddenly people were looking specifically for evidence that backs up the narrative they’ve already accepted, excluding anything that didn’t fit.”Dead End Girl by LT Vargus and Tim McBain
I’m going to pose a few scenarios. I’d like you to take a few seconds and see what your mind and body give you. If you really want to dig deep, jot down notes. What I’m asking is that you imagine this scenario and listen to your reactions (your mind will give you some words and your body will have a “knee jerk” reaction).
Did any of these “hit” you? They all hit me – that’s how I developed the list – I thought of the times in the last few days that have caused me pain.
I could write about all of these and likely will eventually. But, today, I’m going to focus on an issue that came up with my daughter. She is a gymnast at Iowa State University. Her sophomore year she broke her ankle and missed a good deal of the season and never competed fully. She is now a junior and based on her training over the summer and fall, it seemed she was about to have her best gymnastics year ever. She was on track to be a major player for her team. She poured herself into rehab and came back stronger than ever.
On Friday, December 1, she called to tell us she’d torn her Achilles tendon and would be heading into surgery. By the time I got to Iowa, she was through surgery and it was much more serious than anticipated. They had to put in a cadaver rather than just fix her own. Her season was over just weeks before it began. And, now she has the long climb back, which will be taxing emotionally and physically.
I was so angry (and still am). Not at her of course. At GOD. You see, I walked away from God five years ago and just days before this event, I was planning to try to re-find my faith. I was even planning to go so far as to ask someone from my past to be a mentor and helper in this quest.
As I drove to Iowa, here’s what my mind fed me (this is the narrative): This happened because you thought about going back to your faith. If you’d just stay hidden from the world, stay away from people, these things would not happen. God does not like you. He never has. He never will. You are unlikeable. Your mother didn’t like you from day one so why would God or anyone else? Look around you, no one likes you. Not really. And those Christian friends you used to have – they ran like rats on a sinking ship. Are any of them around? Nope. Not one. Can’t you take the hint? Go back to ignoring God, maybe He’ll ignore you – He has no use for you and He’ll keep poking at you until you break. He likes to watch you break. It gives Him a cheap thrill. God likes to punish you and He knew this would do it and do it well!
As I drove, I became tighter and tighter, angrier and angrier. I tried (am still trying) to forget religion all together. I spend a lot of time trying to convince myself there is no God or no God that actually cares. Because, you see, if God cares, why all these attacks? Why does He hate me so much?
Before you start judging me and defending your belief system, let’s go back to the point. What story am I telling myself? Where does that story come from? Where are elements of truth versus utter lies? As the quote above says, what have I already accepted instead of looking at what doesn’t fit? Where am I looking for proof that my narrative is right?
When I discussed this with my husband, he looked at me as if I’d grown horns (understandably, he looks at me like that a lot). “June,” he said, “she’s an athlete. Injuries happen. It’s not personal. It’s just the nature of the game. If you can adjust your thinking, you won’t suffer.” He’s right. I watched too many football games this weekend and proof of his rightness was taken off the field over and over again. Yet …. I can prove my narrative right in a thousand ways. Sydney’s injury was simply a new piece of evidence.
As of this writing, I haven’t been able to change the narrative. Rationally, I’m able to see the wrongness (even silliness) of the narrative. But my mind and my body are holding on to the story that my daughter’s pain is BECAUSE GOD HATES ME. Needless to say, I have some work to do around this.
I have one of these narratives for each of the scenarios listed above. Most not quite as harsh as this (thank goodness). If I analyze these narratives, I do see common themes. What about you?
I’ve already admitted I need to do some work around this and I’m trying to figure out how. The idea of finding faith again causes something akin to a panic attack. So, I have to back off and find another path. But, I can’t do this work if I don’t take the time to 1) listen to the narrative, 2) admit the narrative to someone I trust, 3) start to dig into the pain buried in the narrative, 4) do the work to find the lies in the narrative and change the story.
Wish me luck.
Someone called me this week – one of those past Christian friends. We had a perfectly-pleasant superficial conversation. She ended it with “I’ll be praying for you.” The narrative from above kicked back in – I actually almost begged her not to pray for me because now I’m afraid that God will remember me again and poke me until I squeal. A new narrative joined that one – my mind reminded me that most people say those words and never follow-through anyway. Pressure relieved!
Lots of work to do …. So much work to do. Right this very second, I’m trying to find the courage to contact that former friend and ask for her help – but if she rejects me (even if the reason is perfectly valid), I will spiral into the abyss. UGH!
Am I alone?
Dead End Girl by LT Vargus and Tim Mccain
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In April 2012 I had a mental breakdown. The real thing. I have about 36 hours that I don’t remember....