(in response to the question “Do You Believe In God?” over at Storylane)
I was brought up strictly Catholic. In college I dabbled in Buddhism and Hinduism, studied the Qaran (Koran?) and Judaism. But I never understood what faith was, or God, or Love, until after I hit rock bottom. When I was 28 my childhood years of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse all came to a head and I had Complex, chronic Post-Traumatic-stress Disorder. I began having psychotic break-throughs daily, along with auditory hallucinations from my Bipolar Disorder. I was chronically dissociating and hearing voices and existing as if on a different plane, dissociating into a godless existential space where no one could reach me. I was spinning out of my life. I lost my job, my friends, my sanity, my house, and my fiance within a year. I admitted myself to “the bin” when the voices and the dissociating and the psychosis became too much to bear. I showed up there like a child in a woman’s heels, banging on their yellow security door, crying “help me, help me” into the intercom.
My entire life, for as far back as I can remember, I was empty. I spent most of my twenties searching for some kind of substance of me. I got lost in a city, drinking and drugging and sleeping with anyone. The emptiness only grew and darkened and it wasn’t until my biological father died on the bar room floor from drinking that I had my first major panic attack and psychotic break. I moved home and tried to recover. I went to college and had a daughter; I made the Dean’s list, I was nominated for a writing scholarship in New York, and my essays and stories in college were coming out like a fever. I began writing about my past, which I’d never done before. I was remembering things I’d never remembered before. And the sickness took flight. I had to drop out, being to ill to face class every day. Too ill to face life every day. The emptiness was no longer a pit but a festering wound that I knew I’d have to face head on. But I knew I couldn’t force it–I had to hit rock bottom patiently. It would come in its own time. And when I was engaged and living a happy, safe, comfortable life, my body broke down. My mind soured.
In “the bin” there was no god. There was no heaven or hell, just a pointless meaningless world where nothing and no one mattered–we were all products of chaos and chance. I’d have flashbacks where there was blood on my face and a blindfold on my eyes and I’d sort of come to and I’d cry for all the sadness in this world. I was beyond empty–the girl that was empty was now dead. She was gone. And not worth finding, I believed. I was gone. She was gone. I’d stare at myself in the safety mirror which was like a metal pan bolted to the tiles in my high-security private room, and I’d stare into my black eyes. There were no stars in them. No light. I was terrified of showering, terrified of the way certain lights fell across the carpet. I’d close my eyes on my cot and try to imagine my grandmother but all I pictured was this black creature with red eyes–every time I closed my eyes. I ended up in the bin four times, I couldn’t survive at home, being so afraid of everything, especially myself. The psychosis was an oily, hellish plane of reality where no one was real, no one could help me. My family would have to hold on to me and say I was ok and I’d shake and shriek and say “I’m not going to make it, I’m not going to make it!” I wanted to die. This continued for a couple years, every day, like that. And the nights were just as awful–I was afraid I’d hurt my daughter so I stayed with family. I was afraid my breath would quit this body too and that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. I don’t know how I went through two years of that. I don’t know how I survived. I was so afraid I’d kill myself (because when I was psychotic I thought I’d lose control of my body) that I avoided the bath with my pink razors. I’d slam the medicine cabinet on my pills and run away crying. In a nutshell, I was nuts. Clinically insane.
But one day, early in the spring, I was sitting on the back porch watching bees, and it was like I suddenly woke up. And it all made sense. The emptiness I’d carried around my entire life was gone. I wasn’t in pieces anymore. Sure the pieces needed sorting out, but they were back together somehow. And one night, I wrote a poem about Jesus being with me and God loving me and carrying me when I couldn’t walk–that I fell to my knees and sobbed, overwhelmed by some foreign love for me coming from somewhere. I knew I hadn’t been alone, because I would have died had I been. It all fit together–the teachings of the Buddha, Hinduism, the Upanishads, the Vendata, the Koran, the Bible, Jesus–they were all one and the same. They all meant the same thing. I was a child of God. I wasn’t alone on this journey. I don’t know how it came to be, I just knew it to be true with my entire being. Even now, every time I go to church I have to hide my tears because I’m overwhelmed by a power and love I cannot name. God, the Atman, the Godhead, Yahweh–whatever you want to call it–breathes into every molecule of our beings and the world around us. I have found a sort of peace. I have a certain kind of grace that is quiet and private. I’ve aged so much in so few years…and it was worth it. God was merely awaking me. In the dark–that cold, lonely, hellish place–he never left me alone. He/It carried me. Carried me like water.