If I am being honest, the last two years of my life have felt like a literal Hell on Earth. If I look back, I can see the frayed ends where my life began to unravel. At the time I did not realize this was the beginning of a long hard road. I fell apart; emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially, and communally. Through all of it I kept saying, “this is hard, but it has to get better”. Month after month I kept assuring myself that it HAD to get better. We all know that saying something out loud does not necessarily make it true.
If I am being honest, I hated the struggle. There are countless memes and inspirational quotes that remind us not to give up. But if I’m being honest, I gave up. Multiple times. I tried to see the good in it, but I mostly just shut down. It is a long story and not one necessary for repeating but it was wretched. I constantly struggled between feeling incredibly selfish that I was not facing my struggles with grace. On the other hand, I also struggled with the idea that nobody seemed to care about my struggle.
If I am being honest, I was mad at myself quite a bit. For not opening up more to friends. For opening up and being rejected. For hoping something good was going to come. For not trusting God that He was faithful. For being frustrated and fed up with His plans. For making mistakes. For setting my Bible aside and closing off my heart to hear His sweet voice. For being rejected. For being forgotten. For assuming people thought a certain way about me. For shutting myself off from the world. For wishing I could do better but realizing I did not have the resources to do so. For feeling like my life was failing. For feeling left behind while others succeeded. For feeling jealous of other peoples’ success. I was so angry because I could not be who I wanted to be nor accept who I currently was.
If I am being honest, I felt insecure. I felt judged for not being where I wanted to be. For not partaking in the American dream. When I was not feeling judged, I was feeling irrelevant. My story did not matter because others had it worse. And that was true. Therefore, I felt as though there must have been something wrong for me to want help in my struggle. Because ultimately, I had food (most of the time) and a shelter over my head. Wasn’t that enough, Kayla? If I am being honest, I was far from grateful. And it made me sick because I have traveled far and wide and held the starving orphan. I had seen the metal shacks with no water or electricity. I had seen the crippled man. I had seen the trafficked victim. And they found joy amidst such horrors, yet I could not. I was just a newly married broke girl in her twenties.
If I am being honest, I felt lost without financial security. Though I knew money is not everything, it bothered me when people said “I know! It sucks being broke!” Mostly because they were still able to buy their daily Starbucks drink while my husband and I wondered if we were able to afford groceries. If I am being honest, the deepest part of my soul wanted to scream out when people commiserated with our financial struggle while they were heading off to vacation. It didn’t feel fair. It felt so fake. If you truly understood, you would help. If you truly knew everything that was going on in our lives, you wouldn’t ask me to go out for lunch because you would know I could not afford it. You would know that I would be too embarrassed to tell you why I could not go out. If I am being honest, we eventually stopped trying so hard to keep up with everything and simply paid what we could. Mail still scares me to this day.
If I am being honest, I felt cheated. Even in the moments I realized my mistakes, asked for forgiveness, and changed my ways. Even when my husband and I made plans to keep moving forward and adjust. Because we were the ones hit over the head. Because adults saw us as stupid and immature. Or perhaps that was just my personal perception. But it crippled my thinking. If only we would listen and follow their plans that they had for our lives, we would be better off. All of the “I told you so’s” when we were picking up our own messes quietly and making amends just beat us down more. If I am being honest, it crushed me into fine dust. Because we are raised to know we will make mistakes. Because we are raised to admit to our mistakes. Because we are raised to fix our mistakes, knowing all the while that we will have a support system to pick us back up after we fall. The support was there but not without ample judgement and condemnation. At least, that was what I felt.
If I am being honest, I felt duped. The people who I thought would be there – the church – were not. It was the worst thing I have gone through to date. It hurt. Deeply. After giving my whole life to the church, I was the one alone and on the outside. Because my reputation stood in ruin while I kept theirs in tact. They were, after all, family in my eyes. It hurts because they didn’t know what it felt like. They sent me and my family packing with an “I’m sorry” and never checked in after that. If I am being honest, I lost my faith in the church for a time. I almost lost my faith in God. I am still trying to get that back. Ultimately, our hope is not in people, but in Someone greater. If I am being honest, I still miss and love that church. I still pray for their success. That is why my heart broke into so many pieces.
If I am being honest, I felt bewildered. I felt like many others were struggling. Yet, nobody ever talked about it. The best I ever got (or gave many times, sadly) was “I’m thinking and praying for you”. No problem was ever solved. No hand was ever held. No tear was ever wiped away. No bills were ever paid. No salve was ever given to those in need. Those who tried to be honest with everyone despite the ramifications were the ones left out in the cold. Meanwhile, those who willingly took and manipulated seemed to be rewarded for fear of their retaliation. I could not understand that that was the world I had entered into. Those who work, in fact, do not eat.
If I am being honest, I am not the same person I was two years ago. And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing. I remember being disgusted with myself. I remember wrestling with both anxiety and apathy, selfishness and seclusion, despair and disillusionment. It felt like the most intense roller coaster ride that never stopped. I write all of these things not to gain sympathy. Or guilt. Or shame. I write this because somebody out there is right in the middle of it. Maybe that is you. Maybe it is somebody you know. This is just one blog post, and this cannot on its own change anything. But it can potentially help change a mindset. The person I am today is still healing. I still have scars and possibly a few open wounds in need of repair. But ultimately, I feel free. Free from condemning myself or feeling condemned.
They say that honesty is the best policy. Of course I usually think about stealing from my mom when someone says that. Over these last two years, I have been more honest with myself, and eventually others. I think being honest with yourself and others must come with a deep sense of humility. We cannot speak honestly without a proponent of love attached to it. Because I grew up in the church, I felt like I was never allowed to feel anything but gratitude. Fortunately, God is gracious enough to stick around through our intense emotions. Once I finally was honest about how I REALLY felt, I found that God was unfazed. He already knew. My friends and family were also able to handle my deepest disappointments. They could see it better than I could see it myself.
If I am being honest, I am still on a journey. Our whole lives will be full of ups and downs. We hear this all of the time but we are never truly fully prepared for snags along the journey. I certainly was not prepared for life falling apart. It was expensive and exhausting. If I am being honest, though, my life fell apart to be put back together. It needed to be. I needed a reality check. I needed to be humbled. And not the kind of humbled that a short term mission trip does. I needed to be gut checked multiple times until I was on my knees. Sure, I was wronged many times over the last two years. But I did not have control over that. I did, however, have control over the heart and soul change that I deeply needed.
Whoever you are, you can do this. Please do not give up. And if you have given up, it is not too late to get back up. It doesn’t necessarily mean that tomorrow life will get better. It may, and if it does, send some my way please!!! If you know or suspect someone is in the same boat, be the change! It sounds so corny, but it is true. I can remember every time someone showed up and put some extra change in my pocket. Or bought my husband and I dinner. Or gave us money so we could go on a date night. It was a salve to the soul. Be the change agent in others’ lives. Don’t let “busy” get in the way of picking someone up off of their face. Life is hard. Let’s not do this alone.