The Journey to Self-Acceptance Isn’t a Five-Step Plan

self-acceptance journey path lion suit ivy

I’ve been hiding. For a month. And struggling with self-acceptance.

Last month, when I wrote about my depression, it was like a spigot in my heart. A rush of feelings and memories started to overwhelm me. I didn’t know how to categorize them. I didn’t know what to do with them. I couldn’t find the time or courage to write about them.

But I tried.

Confide in People You Trust.

I wrote a long piece, the day after my birthday. I did not publish it. I sent it to Penelope. “I can’t tell what your goal is,” she wrote back.

“I don’t really have a goal,” I admitted.

She told me it wasn’t a blog post. Blog posts are about helping the reader. What I sent her was something different: maybe literature, memoir or story. “You need to write like this every day.”

She’s not the first person to tell me this. Joy asks me repeatedly, “When are you going to write your book?”

My book? What could I possibly have to say? “You mean, a children’s book or something?” I laugh her off.

“No.” She is serious. “Your memoir.”

They’re right: stories are bubbling up inside of me, burning to come out. But I’m scared. I’m scared of getting knee deep into my writing and not knowing how to finish it. I’m scared of what I could discover about myself. I’m scared of my secrets. I’m scared of losing people.

swirly swirl unfocused selfie woods

When you are afraid, it’s ok to hide.

So I ran away.

Instead of dealing with my feelings, I played Dragon Age 2. The game is a story-driven role-playing game. My character’s name is Hawke.

One of her companions drew me in. Fenris is a warrior and escaped slave. Fenris hungered for true freedom and struggled with guilt over acts he’d committed for his master. I was surprised at how much compassion I had for him. I truly cared for this fictional man.

If you struggle to believe in yourself, latch onto someone else.

The more my feelings for Fenris developed, the guiltier I felt. Why did I care about this stupid character so much?

I talked to Matt about it. “Do you think it’s weird how much I’m obsessed with Fenris?”

“It’s completely normal,” he chuckled. “I’m glad you found a videogame you like.” Then he’d go back to playing Mass Effect.

So I tried not to be neurotic. I kept playing the game.

Then it hit me: the emotions Fenris struggled with echoed my own sentiments about coming to terms with my depression and overdose.

I wasn’t in love with Fenris. I was Fenris.

into the woods path lion costume breadcrumbs

Other’s words can be breadcrumbs that lead you through the woods.

The words that came out of Fenris’ mouth gave shape to the feelings that were swirling inside my own heart. When he spoke, it was a foothold for me. I was able to externalize my fears, make sense of them, and release them. Losing myself in this videogame helped me find the courage I needed to move forward.

I will paraphrase his words to tell a nugget of my own story:

 I was a slave to depression for many years. But, in my freshman year of college, there was an interlude of happiness. I met a boy. I knew him only a few months, but in that time, I felt as if I truly lived. We fit into each other’s lives like two broken pieces that didn’t even know they could find wholeness. I became bold, free with my affections.

I visited the farm he was raised on, flew kites in his fields, met his animals, cuddled his young sisters. I was in awe of his family. The life they led felt like coming home. I wanted to fold myself into their existence.

But then he turned on me. His parents would arrange a marriage for him, and I was not an acceptable partner. So he let me go. He did not fight for me.

In the following years, when I faced opportunities for good things in life, I felt unworthy. I clung to my idea of what a perfect life should look like, but I felt discarded. This family represented everything I had hoped for, and they rejected me. I didn’t know how to reconcile that.

These were dark days for me. I struggled to find hope, but, more and more, I just wanted the pain to go away. I feared that suicide was inevitable. And then I ODed, and it was a wake-up call.

I had no way of knowing if I could truly escape my old life then. I didn’t even know what a new life could look like. But I simply had to get away. So I ran. I ran away from everything. I started questioning everything in my life. I was done waiting for a savior. I would find a way to fight my demons myself.

No one thing caused my depression. No one thing resulted in my suicide attempt. Rather, my depression and overdose arose out of the landscape of my life, a collection of relationships and feelings that spanned over many years. Each new memory I uncover is another stitch in the tapestry of my past.

After I wrote this, however, I wanted to delete the entire story. It felt incomplete. Unhelpful. Unstructured. I feared that someone will read it and use it against me. I feared that, in sharing my story, others will try to turn my words against me to distort the truth about my life.

But what if my words are breadcrumbs for someone else? What if my story helps someone else find their way through the woods?

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Calling is unavoidable.

Fast-forward to Sunday. This blog post is written and saved on my computer. I’m thinking about hiding it away.

I was sitting in church. We are members at Mars Hill Church | Tacoma. Matt was helping a friend move, and Phoebe was in class, so I was alone. I was singing. And my thoughts wandered to Pastor Mark. Initially, when the news broke about him stepping down, I wanted to wait for the dust to settle and a verdict to be reached before I reacted.

During the week, Pastor Bubba shared with us how Mark Driscoll quit his position rather than be rebuked by the leadership. It shocked me. I’d hoped for redemption and reconciliation, but I didn’t feel the betrayal until Sunday, sitting alone on the pew. I was overcome with grief. While others sang around me, I sank into my seat, weeping. Because of one man’s rebellion, so many things were falling apart.

I went out to the lobby to find Pastor Paul, an elder I’ve been close to for years. We talked together, wept together and prayed together. And while we were wrapping things up, he asked me, “Do you ever write?”

“Sometimes.” I admitted, cautiously.

“You should start writing daily about these things. I think it will help reveal God’s will in your life.”

I looked up at the ceiling, and I imagined, in Heaven somewhere, God was chuckling at me.

“Ok,” I told Pastor Paul. “I’ll try to write.”

— Erin

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3 Responses to The Journey to Self-Acceptance Isn’t a Five-Step Plan

  1. Sherri Erickson November 14, 2014 at 4:19 pm #

    I’m so excited to see you step into this phase of your life. Writing. It’s powerful. And so are you.

  2. Annaliese Maree November 14, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

    You left a breadcrumb for me Erin. In your seeking to heal grief and find answers about your church and life, you left me thinking about where I am.

    This morning I reached out for the first time for spiritual help, the part of my journey I have been avoiding for over 10 years. I found myself almost jealous that you could confide in someone in your Church, someone you could trust. And while I have many people I do trust in my church, I still did not know who to turn to. The answer all of a sudden came to my mind, and it feels like I keep uncovering tiny shards and broken pieces under the dead leaves on my path, and they are almost coming together.

    My journey started by someone else sharing their story of depression. If not for their bravery I would not be on my path to healing right now. Your honesty and heart drew me in, and I pray you will touch others with your humility and hope. Thank you for sharing your story Erin.

    • ekwetzel November 14, 2014 at 11:42 pm #

      thank you so much