“I had seen birth and death, but had thought they were different…” : a precis of the last few months

June 18, 2014

It’s nearly four and I have too few words for this. Every time I’ve tried to say something or think of a way to say it I’ve been stymied by my wordlessness, by the total inadequacy of the language of my mouth and the language of my keyboard to- explain, to tell you, to- draw the vast darkness of sheer and sweeping cliffs of water or the enormous unspeakable blackness of a sea that swells and moves and swallows all that enters it, cold and living and unfathomable. The vastness of an infinite, uncontainable universe of stars and the endless black vacuum between, and twelve small buckets to try and contain some of it, to make some of it visible and sensible, to make sense of an infinite vastness of ocean. That’s how I feel about trying to talk about this.

It’s been a few months now. I’ve been-

so I have something very like PTSD, and I only really recently found out, and it’s been a little bit devastating. Everything else suddenly makes much more sense, now, in a really horrible kind of way; the depression, the anxiety, the exhaustion, the grim despair and blood and death. The dissociation, the coping mechanisms, the panic attacks, the terror. Ten to fifteen years of inescapable psychological abuse can, I think, be classified as a trauma. So I’ve been slowly uncovering and wading through and running and hiding from and consumed and slowly crushed into burning little smithereens by the fact that I am, and have been for such a very long time, a hopeless wreck of a human being, and the process of doing so is ruining, slowly and surely, my academic prospects and general chances of not failing at the one good thing I have found in a very long time. I am destroying myself by being, unavoidably, myself. It’s wonderful.

I am understandably full of bright and dazzling hopes for my future at present. Come frolic with me in the garden of my castles in the sky.


So I took my childhood picture books to heart, apparently, and ‘we can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we hafta go through it’ might be ingrained into my psyche. I’m dealing with all this as directly as I can, somewhat compulsively, because making sense of why is how you gain some measure of control over how you behave, and the more you understand, the less likely you are to be a confused bloody flailing bellowing wounded mess of whys (see: university, 2007-2010). But it is very, very hard and I spend so much of my time trying to understand and work through it, or exhausted from trying to understand it, or in total despair because actually, genuinely, my life and the inside of my head is a fucking ruin. Or else I’m hiding from all of this, or just sleeping because I am up to my ears in coping mechanisms.

When I’m not doing all that, though, I feel like I’ve been doused in kerosene and set on fire and I’m burning and wretched and everything is going to, is inevitably and inexorably going to, end in a trainwreck of suicide-inducing proportions, and I’m not joking, I’m distantly terrified that it’s going to get to the point where one day I will just have no more fucks to give, no more energy or tolerance or strength to survive this and no actual reason to keep doing it, and so I will go ‘fuck this shit’ and stick my head into a gas oven (the Plath) or find a car and a fur coat (the Sexton. Not doing the Woolf, though. Nobody likes drowning).

I am so not the happiest camper right now, and I am ruining any hope of a future that doesn’t involve burying myself in a bed and never waking up again because I cannot keep up with my schoolwork while dealing with a fuckton of unmanageable shit. It is a lose-lose kind of deal and can you blame me for not wanting to be conscious through most of this?

Honestly, not to belabour the point unnecessarily or anything but my schedule looks something like this: be in pain, desperately avoid pain, be anaesthetized from pain, try to process and make more manageable some fucking awful, really fucking stupid brain horror you’ve lately uncovered, or be flat out exhausted from trying to do all of that while scratching in a futile and frustratingly ineffectual manner at that eternal burgeoning mountain of overdue assignments, while dealing at the same time with draining social situations and other people as well as the paralysing terror that comes with knowing you’re fucking doomed and this all ends in death and destruction and soul-crushing loss, while occasionally and half-heartedly googling ways to die. Turns out there are many, many ways to maim yourself and/or leave yourself a vegetable if you don’t get it quite right, which is rather an amusing deterrent. Also, turns out that a paracetamol overdose means you die in slow and absolutely horrific agony over something like a full week as your organs slowly fail on you while you’re still in your body, which I totally didn’t expect because really, we hear way too much about painless suicides (someone needs to tell popular media that there’s no such thing). So I’m glad I looked that one up.


Frankly, it’s also and quite simultaneously not as dramatic as it all sounds, largely because I’ve been some colour of this for years (see: rest of blog). So I’m more or less a pro at operating in the everyday eat-food-talk-to-people-go-to-class sphere of life, which does mean that often I’m not entirely aware of the wreckage and screaming underneath my everyday ‘oh hey it’s morning, I should drink tea, isn’t tea amazing’ operating software. So it’s not precisely like I’m consciously lurching and bleeding and sick with terror all day every day every waking minute, because what the hell are effective coping mechanisms for if they don’t help you cope?

The problem, though, is that just because I’m not immediately conscious of all that’s going on doesn’t mean it’s not still there. So the less I’m aware of it the more bewildered and frustrated and horrified I become when my brain just doesn’t work because it’s mysteriously exhausted and I cannot actually make three words fit together, or when I spend nineteen hours in bed and wake up at seven in the evening with my skull hurting from too much sleep, or I read and read and compulsively, addictively, obsessively read until I feel so sick my head is blazing with pain and my eyes would like to stab themselves out of my skull. I don’t know where I was going with all this, but really, the long and the short of it is that I’m a mess and I am, as per usual, fucking up my life, and that what terrifies me is that once I have entirely fucked up my chances here I will have nowhere else to go and no actual reason to live (or: the end of 2012 all over again, only this time I won’t have bible college to retreat to because I will have fucking well burned all my bridges here, won’t I).

God. I’m a cheerful wreck.


On the bright side, God appears to be having a field day with this. It’s all a giant learning experience of blood and fire known as ‘discipleship’, innit? And it’s all fucking horrible but I get it now, I do. I’m starting to get what resurrection means. I understand, now, some of what Paul’s saying in both letters to the Corinthians about death and rebirth, about seeds needing to die, about the death of Jesus in our bodies so that his life might be made visible, also in our bodies. With death so much a part of how I see everything right now, I’m beginning to understand, in my own body, that death is always followed by resurrection. That death is also rebirth. Hard and horrific and painful as this is, I see the Spirit active and working in this, shaping and remaking me with blood and fire (‘blaze, Spirit, blaze, set our hearts on fire’. I do not think you know what you are asking for, cheerful hymn-singing pew-sitter. burning hurts).

I shoulda been so, so much more careful before when I asked for these things, when I asked for transformation and new life and the presence of God. I had no idea what I was talking about, what I was asking for. This God burns and hurts and cannot be looked on without dying, without being incinerated and destroyed in some way, and to ask for his work is to invite death into your life, to open your arms to death and offer him the hammer. To walk into dying. Transformation, after all, is death; to be transformed is destruction as well as new creation. But that’s what baptism means, innit? Death, death of your old self, your only self, the only self you’ve ever known, all the past, presents and futures of you, and death hurts. Death hurts a fucking awful lot. But oh, God, I’ve never understood the Bible better, when it talks about losing your life to gain it, and those metaphors of buried seeds. After the first death, there is no other, because after death is life.

I believe much, much more and I understand so much more than I did several months ago.* I don’t like it one bit, but I don’t need to like it. I just need to accept it, and allow it, and keep going and be obscurely, blessedly, blood-and-horribly encouraged by the fact that this doesn’t all end in death and trainwrecks and cataclysmic unredeemable destruction. That death doesn’t even end in death and trainwrecks and cataclysmic unredeemable destruction. Christianity is an invitation to die, after all, and to be unafraid of our own death in every shade of what death means, because we have been promised an enormity of a life at the other end of it by someone inextricably present in the entire process. It’s a death we undergo so that we might surface, finally, into life, life that has no end, life unhindered by everything to do with pain and evil and loss. That’s what the living and dying and living again of Jesus is a promise of. Death, resurrection, and life, unhindered and unfettered, green and wild and so very different and new as a young tree is from the seed you buried, so very, very long ago.


Also, also, oh my God, John Donne, you absolute bastard. ‘Batter my heart, three person’d God, for you as yet but knock, breathe, shine and seek to mend’? ‘ That I may rise and stand,o’erthrow me, and bend Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new’? John fucking Donne, do you know what the hell you’re asking for? Pain and blood and death. Are you fucking insane.


I don’t know what I’m going to do, really. I don’t know what the hell to do with any of this, except for what I’ve learned by now is a good idea: one thing at a time, one step at a time, one fucking breath at a time. We endure for the sake of the life ahead of us, the weight of glory so vast and so full and so bright and wildly joyous that all this blood and death and wretched fucking pain is, and I quote, ‘slight and momentary trouble’ in comparison, and oh, oh, I am so not a fan of you right now, Paul. Get out of here. Go to Rome.


But oh God, the resurrection and the life, even while dying.



*Also, apparently, several years ago. Seems I clearly understood the pain and torture aspect of Christianity, but didn’t entirely get the resurrection and presence-of-God part. Getting that now. God, how we grow. I hate it all, I really do, but even if it ends in death, it doesn’t end in death.
(all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.)

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