The irony of life is that, so often, we spend so much time and energy running from our fears that we end up inflicting them upon ourselves anyway. I could go all nerd on you right now and explain the psychological principle of the self-fulfilling prophecy, but I’ll spare you the technical language and just write about my own experience…
So, as anyone who normally reads my writing knows, it’s been a really long time since I’ve written. That has been somewhat of a theme this year, but this time it’s for different reasons. I haven’t been overwhelmingly busy in recent months. Actually, I’ve had more free time on my hands than I’ve had since I was in 4th grade. But that’s because I’ve lost a lot. In all honesty, I have written a ton these last few months… I just haven’t had the heart or motivation to share it with anyone. But I have finally reached the point that I can see at least some of what I’m learning from all the loss. The challenge now is how to sum it all up in a short story instead of a twelve-book series…
I have lived most of my life so afraid of loss and so afraid of pain that I have brought both loss and pain upon myself. I feared that if I let myself love, or dream, or try to fly I would only end up with heartache, a shattered future, and broken wings. However, just as darkness is merely the lack of light, where there is a lack of love, there is only hate. Where there is a lack of life, there is only death. And when you never take a leap and try, failing is all you can do.
Really, I could sum up the first part of this year in one sentence: my fears became real. But let me make it a bit more personal.
The first two weeks of my second semester in grad school, I felt confident, capable, happy, and empowered. I believed I was going to conquer this second semester. Also, during these first two weeks I entered my first official dating relationship – I was ecstatic! Things were going so well for me, I thought 2016 was going to be the best year! Then, February 2nd, everything started going downhill. In the middle of the morning, I started hemorrhaging. For some unknown reason, my body had just started bleeding uncontrollably. I missed the rest of my classes that day as I sat in the health center on campus waiting for various medical personal to see me. They ran some tests but hesitated to do anything until they had the results of my blood work. Twenty-four hours later, I returned to the health center and they started me on an intense medication routine in an attempt to stop the bleeding. Exactly 12 hours after my first dose, I woke up vomiting… which continued for hours. And the medication failed to stop the bleeding. I missed most of my classes that week and went home for the weekend, hoping an end was in sight. But this was only the beginning…
One week into my medical disaster, God called my grandpa home – rather suddenly. My heart broke. I will never forget that morning… rushing around to go see him in Hicksville because my dad had received a call that they thought he was going. Then, as I opened the back door to walk out to the car, my dad got another call… this time, telling us we were too late. He was gone. I felt like it was my fault. I was the last one ready that morning – the reason we didn’t get there on time. My dad didn’t get to say goodbye to his dad because of me. If this wasn’t enough, there was the simple fact that I lost one of the most important people in my life. My grandpa was my friend, my encourager, my role model, my example, my bright shining smile and cheerful greeting whenever I needed it most. He always reminded me how special I was. Even though I know I will see my grandpa when it’s my turn to enter eternity, I wasn’t ready to let him go from this side of heaven.
Right after the services for my grandpa, I returned to grad school. I had missed a week and a half of classes and was returning anemic, exhausted, overwhelmed, and packed full of emotions that I didn’t take the time to let out. I struggled to catch up with my academics. February was the busiest month of the semester and I had projects, papers, and exams to make up in every class. I also had multiple doctors appointments to attend. They still couldn’t figure out what was causing my condition and my body was wearing down. I was in constant pain, there was no color in my skin, and I was 20 pounds lighter. Some days, I still couldn’t go to class because I would nearly fall over whenever I tried to stand due to constant dizziness and low blood-oxygen levels. Even when I did make it to class, I would become nauseas from the intensity of my pain. But I was so determined. I fought incredibly hard to succeed in my first semester – I was not going to let this defeat me. So I worked my tail off to catch up in each class. I was doing well on assignments, but my test scores were not as satisfactory as I would have liked.
My fear and anxiety began to grow. I was afraid of what was wrong with my body – and what consequences would result. I was afraid my grades would fall too low – would I be removed from my cohort? I was afraid of what my classmates and professors thought of me – do they think I am weak, high-maintenance, or not good enough? I was afraid of how all of the drama of my life would affect my relationship with my boyfriend – would I lose him because I was too much work?
The day after my 23rd birthday – three and a half weeks after the hemorrhage began – it stopped. [Current update: two months, four doctors, and five diagnostic tests later, I finally got an answer and a treatment. But the process, and the physical consequences, had already done their damage in my life.]
Two weeks later, my boyfriend broke up with me – completely to my surprise. To some people, this might sound silly… I mean, sure, we didn’t date that long and it was my first relationship anyway, so how bad could it have been? But he was someone that I believed to be an incredible person… a man that I wanted to love for the rest of my life. Not to mention, my grandpa had called it “love” before he died… and I couldn’t bear the thought that Grandpa was wrong. Or the fact that he died without knowing the person I would someday marry. He approved of this boyfriend, and I wanted him to be right. Also, I questioned my value… had my fears been realized? Was I not good enough? Was my life too complicated and flawed for someone to love me and want to spend life with me? Was I even loveable? Again, my heart broke. Not just because I had been dumped by my first real boyfriend, but because I had built this up to be more than it ever was or could have been.
And so, I returned to school at the end of spring break even more heartbroken and seemingly alone than I was before. No longer did I believe that I was good enough… to get through school, to have friends, to someday be a wife or mom, to amount to much of anything. I had allowed Satan’s lies to pound inside me and send me on a plummeting downward spiral into despair… and I blamed God for it.
One week before the end of the semester, another fear became real. It was mathematically impossible for me to pass my neuroscience class… even if I scored perfectly on the final exam and lab practical. Never in my life had academic failure been a reality. I was always so far from it! My education was my identity. School was my talent. I had always been “the smart girl”. Now, I felt more stupid than I ever dreamed I could. So, as the semester came to an end, I endured all of the awkward meetings, tear-soaked cry-myself-to-sleep nights, and puffy-eyed walks of shame that came with being told I could not continue with the rest of my cohort. And with one bad class grade, the entire course of my future was changed. And the person I always knew myself to be was changed, as well. I was more angry, more bitter, more discouraged, and more fearful than I had ever been before. I didn’t even want to pray.
So, I returned to my little hometown – the little town that was just as full of pain as the town I just left. And another reality hit me… for the past three and a half months, my best friend – the one I talked to about everything and spent every ounce of free time with – had not been speaking to me. I did not understand exactly why. I thought that coming home would allow the opportunity for us to discuss whatever had come between us… but he denied every phone call and failed to return every text. I could not bring myself to believe that this incredible friendship could possibly have come to an end…
About a month after I got home, just as I thought my heart could be healing, my brother-in-law left my sister… without any warning. Though this wasn’t a direct hit to me, it broke me one more time. And that was it. I was at the bottom. I no longer believed anything. I didn’t believe love was even real… you can’t love people, or dreams, or abilities, or even yourself. For the first time in my 23 years of life, I even doubted that God was real. After all, doesn’t He claim to BE love??
Fast forward… How can I sit here, just two months later, and write about all of this as an even stronger version of the girl I was before it all happened? The easiest explanation is this: God NEVER stopped pursuing me. Despite what I thought, He NEVER left me alone or gave up on getting me through the battle. There were several times that I turned my back on Him, but He didn’t even once turn His back on me. Now, I truly believe He provided the right people and right opportunities to lift me up and remind me of all the truth I’ve always known. He also took it a step farther. He taught me a few incredible lessons that I could only learn through adversity. He reminded me that I need to keep living the life He gave me… and I cannot do that if I am living in fear.
I go to counseling once a week now. GASP! I know… it’s such a shame to be in counseling. WRONG! Being in counseling doesn’t mean someone is ill. My counselor doesn’t sit there and ask me how I feel about things. He actually helps me clarify the thoughts that are already in my head and the words that come out of my mouth. He also helps me see the thoughts that are not true or valid. Last week, as I spoke with him, we came to a realization… the one I wrote about in the first paragraph of this entry: I have lived with so much fear that I have allowed my fears to become real. I am afraid of loosing what I love, so I keep new people at an arm’s length. This way, I can’t possibly become close enough for it to hurt when they leave. I don’t like being alone, but I don’t like making new friends because no one is permanent. I am afraid of failing, so I don’t want to go back to school because neuroscience still stands in my way. So I choose to give up my dreams of getting married, being a mom, becoming an OT, conducting orphanage research, and living an adventurous life for the sake of avoiding my fears. Except there is more to it than that. With those decisions comes a lonely life, low self-esteem, wondering what could have been, fake happiness, silent tears, and so much pain. I lose the very things that I am afraid of losing. It’s crazy! But I never saw it for what it really is… until now.
So now is when I stop the cycle… when I choose to LIVE. I’m going to make friends, even when I KNOW they will leave. I’m going to take chances, even when I KNOW I could fail. I’m going to let my heart love, even when I know I might get hurt. I am going to live, because I DO KNOW that I WILL die. There is so much beauty in life. I refuse to let my fears blind me from seeing it anymore. And I challenge every person reading this to search inside yourself and do the same. Be fearless. Live freely. Because you are free indeed.
*I have been told that I should write a book about my life… the more I write in this journal, and the longer each entry gets, the more I think I should… ;) Thanks for reading!
Hi, I'm Katie... just a girl, living this adventure for the glory of God. Thanks for reading!