Editor’s note: On Sunday, June 30 I announced that I will be resigning from my role as youth leader at Crossroads of Faith UMC as a result of my health issues. I will be moving in with my mom and sister who live near Rockford. Below is the letter I read to the congregation.
I never felt like I chose to be a youth leader here. From the second I interviewed for the position, I knew I was called to serve in the role.
I interviewed in front of what seemed like 45 people on the staff parish committee in the farmhouse, which was about 94 degrees that day because it lacked air conditioning. It was all pretty much a blur except that I remember looking down to the end of the table, past all the members of the committee, and seeing the most reassuring smile I had ever seen in my life. It was Pastor Wes. And his eyes let me know that everything would be all right.
That night, after I left here, I barely slept. I had never felt such a strong call from the holy spirit in my life and I knew in my heart that I would get the job, even before Wes called to offer it to me the next day.
And so, when I got here, I stayed.
I stayed even when I saw a mouse. I stayed even though the church met in a tent and the youth group met in a barn. And I stayed even though the work was sometimes grueling and exhausting and difficult.
And I loved every single second of it.
I loved it when somehow, by a miracle of God, 12 kids went on the very first mission trip to Oklahoma. I loved it when 18 went the next year to Denver. I loved it when they all got back and ran up on the church stage and shared their excitement with the rest of the congregation.
I loved it when the youth pulled me aside and trusted me enough to share their deepest secrets and heaviest burdens. I loved it when they would text me after night group and tell me that the lesson was exactly what they needed to learn that night. And I really, really loved it when we’d all sing together, with our arms crossed over each other’s shoulders, standing as if to say, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”
As many of you know I have been pretty sick since February. Feb. 3 to be exact. I remember because it was the Super Bowl. And I woke up that day with some pain on my right side. Then, the next day I went to the emergency room. Since then I’ve seen four different specialists, I’ve gone to an average of two doctors appointments a week and I’ve gotten to the point where I’m now taking 19 pills a day.
My current diagnosis is intercostal neuralgia, which I assume is latin for my it feels like there’s a butcher knife in my right ribs — all the time. Unfortunately, all the doctors at all the hospitals I’ve sought treatment at have yet to figure what is causing this horrible pain.
I cannot tell you that either.
What I can tell is what it has done to my life.
In five short months, it has chipped away at every single aspect of it. It has literally made it difficult for me to do my own dishes, or wash my own clothes. Some days, the pain is so horrible that I literally do not get out of bed at all.
I feel like I went from 100 miles an hour to 3 miles an hour in one second and the shift has been incredibly jarring.
Sadly, this pain has also taken away my ability to lead the youth at this church. It started with small things. At first, I was skipping first service or missing leadership meetings. But now, I’m at a point where I can barely get through the morning group and I will no longer be able to do the evening group.
And so, it with more sadness than I can possibly express, that I am announcing my resignation from the role of youth leader at this church.
Things have lined up for me to go live with my mom and sister in Rockford and I will be moving out of my apartment in August. My last Sunday with the church will be August 11.
I am still planning to go on the mission trip to Alabama. We will be taking an extra adult, so that I will be able to rest during the day and then simply be with the youth in the evening. I know that it will be hard for me to go on that trip, but I want to go and I refuse to let this pain take that away from me.
I truly hope everyone knows that I did not make this decision lightly and that I did not go down without a fight. But I have realized that I am truly too sick to continue in my role and that I need to take some time to be with family now and hopefully work on getting better.
Personally, I would appreciate your prayers for healing. But more than that, I would appreciate it if you could please, please pray for the youth during this transition time. Change isn’t easy, no matter how old you are, and I know that the next few months will be difficult for them. I love the kids here more than I thought was possible and I am truly sorry I have to leave.
Thank you for having enough faith in me to allow me to serve here for the last three years.
Love and prayers,
I know in my heart how much of an emotional wreck I am right now.
I’m pretty sure it’s not normal to think about suicide every single day.
I saw this picture the other day, or a couple weeks ago, or something on an article on Buzzfeed about a self-harm blog, and it was a picture of a wrist with a cross on it, and on the horizontal line it said hospital and on the vertical line it said morgue. And I think about that picutre way more than I should.
It’s just that. It’s just that it all hurts so much.
And the only time it doesn’t hurt is when I’m on so many drugs that I can’t think straight or see straight or have a normal conversation. The only time I get any relief from the pain that feels like a cindar block on my right ribs and a butcher knife stabbing me in the side is when I take so many drugs that I stumble around my apartment. And I hate it.
I hate it so much.
I cry because I’m in pain. I cry because I’m on drugs. I cry because I’m on drugs and they aren’t working and I’m still in pain.
And I hate all of it.
And I just want all of it to end so bad.
And I feel like I’m screaming with everything I have left in my heart for help, but nobody can hear me. Or nobody wants to hear me.
I feel like my fingers are on the edge of a giant cliff in the middle of a forest and the dirt beneath them is slipping and I can’t figure out how to hold on.
How do you possibly explain to someone that you’re just about out of strength? That your faith is pretty much dried up? And that everything you thought you believed you don’t believe anymore?
I feel like the doctors are mad at me when the stupid crap they keep trying to do isn’t working. And I feel like they think I’m over exaggerating how much pain I’m in.
I feel like I need an insane amount of emotional support right now, but I have no idea where to find it. It’s like I’m looking at my body from a distance, and I can stand outside of the situation and see how much help I need, but I can’t seem to figure out where to get it.
Because how do you just bring up in conversation that you’re in so much pain everyday all day that you want to kill yourself?
When people ask you how you’re doing, you can’t just shout, “HORRIBLE! PLEASE HELP ME! I NEED HELP!!”
This pain is wearing me down. It’s getting to me. And I can see it happening. And I don’t know what to do about it.
I don’t understand it. I don’t know where God is in this.
All I know is that I hate it. I hate all of it.
It still feels like there’s a butcher knife in my right side.
I know, I know. I talk about it all the damn time.
But when you feel like you have a stab wound every second of every minute of every hour, you tend to bring it up in conversation.
You also tend to use words like “damn” more often. Actually, I’ve found myself swearing with abandon these days. It’s a habit I picked up during my time in newsrooms, and then was sort of forced to drop when I started leading young souls on Sunday mornings. However, when you’re at a level nine pain most of every day, swear words just seem more appropriate. At least for me.
You can tell yourself you’d choose more poetic words in my situation, and maybe you would, but I seriously doubt it.
I’m keeping it relatively clean on here because I think there’s some clause against swearing in my advertising contract. I’m hoping damn doesn’t count. On the scale of swear words, it’s pretty low on the totem pole.
I know there are a lot of people who believe that swear words are just a cop out. That true writers don’t need to depend on them. But I’ve never been against them, personally. Rather, it’s my opinion, as a writer, that it’s best not to limit your tool box. After all, swears are a string of letters just like any other words.
And my life has been in a state of swear words lately.
If there was ever a time to drop the F bomb, it’s when you’re trying to explain to someone how you woke up one sunny day in early February with a little bit of pain on your right side, and then the next day you were in the emergency room and since then everything you ever thought you believed about the world and your life and God has been tested.
Sometimes, only Hell will do, when you’re trying to tell someone the state you find yourself in most nights as you lie there on your back, praying you’ll just get it over with and die already, because there is no reason that anyone, anywhere should have to live in this kind of pain on a daily basis.
And sometimes, the only phrase that I, personally, can think to drop when I’m so angry at my maker that I want to slit my wrists, rhymes with Son of Witch.
Don’t worry. My pastor tells me God has big shoulders. He can handle it if I’m mad at Him.
I’m still on an insane amount of pills. I’m still in so much pain some days that I can barely will myself to get off the couch to go to the bathroom. And I still don’t know what the Hell is causing this.
I am seeing a pain psychiatrist though. She’s helping me with my depressive state. Personally, I like it best when she just lets me vent without getting annoyed that I’m talking about the fact that I hurt like Hell. Again. And crying like a water fountain the entire time.
But I’m also working on some other stuff with her. Like last week, she asked me to start keeping a gratitude journal. I’m supposed to write down three things a day that I’m thankful for. They can be anything. Like, I could write that I’m thankful for sunshine, cable TV and Taco Bell. Any three things at all in the world. I just have to write them down.
It doesn’t seem like it should be a hard assignment, but for someone who’s drifting deeper and deeper in the depths of the darkness, it can excruciating. In fact, I resisted this assignment so much that I put it off for three days with the lame excuse that I wanted to wait until I could go out and buy a new journal and start this thankful list thing right.
Before the pain started, I used to pray to God every night, and part of my pattern was to tell Him things I was thankful for from that day. But as things have just gotten worse and worse and I have felt only silence from Him, more and more nights have gone between prayers, and I’ve been thankful for less and less.
Finally though, last Saturday, I was at Walmart, and there was beautiful little journal with lovely pink flowers on a pale green background and I realized I couldn’t put it off any longer.
And so, I started the stupid list.
Five days in, well, I kind of like it. I kind of think it’s helping. It’s kind of become something I look forward to each day. When I write something down on it, like, “Conversation with my brother Steve,” or “Hanging out with my boyfriend Eric,” it somehow helps me appreciate it that much more the next day.
And when I have things, even small things like “air conditioning” or “sleeping late”, to appreciate, well then, I can start to see a little bit of the light again. It’s kind of bright, but it’s pretty glorious.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. — John 1:5