I wasn't going to do this. I really, really wasn't. But people far braver than I, people with far bigger reason to speak up have so how can I stay quiet?
The SpeakLoudly hashtag on Twitter has been going crazy all day. If you don't know the story yet, read the post where it started on Laurie Halse Anderson's blog.
The posts that have brought me to write this are:
C. J. Redwine, a rape survivor and Christian.
Myra McEntire, another Christian view.
Veronica Roth, with her Christian view.
A Pinch Of Panache, Lindsey, with her open letter to Wesley Scroggins, another Christian view.
Can you see where this is going yet? They have all written posts far more eloquent than this will be, but I can't stay quiet. Bare with me cause this will be messy and seem really pointless to start with. It's rough and I'm not going to bother editing it.
I am a Christian. I am a ME/CFS sufferer. I have suffered since I was 11 years old, that's 10 and half years now. More. It'll be 11 in January. What does this mean? It means I am not 'normal'. My body can't cope with life. I get exhausted from simple things, doing laundry, reading a book, sitting up in bed. Not, sleep-will-cure exhaustion. I mean, physically can't lift your arm, you leg, your head exhaustion. The kind that comes with burning muscle pain, headaches, brain fog that means I can't form simple sentences. Can't tolerate sound, light, certain materials on my skin. Body can't control it's own temperature, so often to hot or can't stop shivering. Can't think. Can't sleep. Can't go to school, hang out with friends, can't have a life.
I missed 4 straight months of my first year of high school. I lost all my friends. I suffered depression on and off for most of these years. A darkness that had me taking a knife to my wrists on more than one occasion. Doctors who couldn't do anything. A younger sister who thought it was unfair I got to stay home when she had to go to school, unaware of my pain, how lonely and isolated I was. My parents couldn't stay home with me, they had to work. So it was just me. At 11, all through my teens, all through school, home alone. I did manage to pick up 4 GCSE's with the help of a special school program. I was there 1-3 half days a week for a year at 14/15 and 3 half days a week at 15/16, and they got me through exams. A semblance of normal.
I started college, full time, a dumb idea but I wanted to work with horses so dammit I was going to learn real management of them. Failed. Couldn't cope. Took more and more sick days until I had to drop out. Twice. Two years running. Depression reigns. Still couldn't keep a friend. Didn't know how to talk to anyone. Too different. No one understood. So I stayed quiet. Tried to be as 'normal' as I could be. Very unsuccessfully. Everyone just thought me more and more strange. How could they without having it themselves? That list above of symptoms, all of which I've had to greater and lesser degrees over the years? You think you know, but trust me, unless you have it, you can't, not fully. I don't say that to be harsh, it's just a simple truth, one I've had to come to terms with and accept.
Went to church as a kid, every week. Mum's a Christian, so of course I went. Got sick and started to wonder, how could there be a God when I was so sick? When I was so alone and couldn't keep a friend? When I was as far from normal as I believed possible? What was wrong with me? If there really was a God, he certainly didn't care about me. I am in tears writing this. Again. I've done it before, not online but for my Baptism, and it was one of the hardest things I've done. I think this may be harder.
I got, kind of forced, though unintentionally, by people my mum knew at church to join the new youth group format, small groups, once a week, a bit of a chat, bible study, talk, prayer and social, depending on the week. It coincided with the start of college, the first time. And it was okay. Turned out, as much an outsider as I felt, it was okay. But I still didn't really believe. Or I thought so, but how can you be angry at something you don't believe? Anyway, I went, I didn't really connect with anyone, but I liked learning, I liked talking with the leaders. At that point I was far more adept at talking to adults than teens who had no worries, or that was my take. I was young, scared, depressed and very naive, forgive me. Over time though, I realised I'd stopped being mad and started to believe. Really believe. I started to pray, alone not just when I was told to. I started to worship. And there is where I really met God and came to know him.
A loving, forgiving God. A God who doesn't hate. Doesn't censor. Doesn't turn His back on anyone. I grew and grew in my faith. Through a second drop out at college. Through more depression. I came closer to God. I was baptised and I made friends, at long last, who seemed to get it enough, that it seemed to be okay with. But the real breaking point? The one where I knew, no matter what, God was there, and He always would be. Was the night I got the news the person responsible for helping me come back to God, for helping me learn to speak out, to not keep my illness quiet, had had an affair. To say I was devastated is an understatement. I was shaking too hard, in shock, that mum had to drive me to that nights meeting. There was a youth meeting that night, where the minister and his wife came in, answered all questions people had, and then prayed. And they prayed that those who offered the problem, the hurt up to God, would be okay. And I did, I prayed that, because I knew there was no way in hell I could get through that alone. And the tears that hadn't stopped flowing, stopped. I felt more at peace then than I had ever felt til that point. And the depression was gone, it hasn't been back since.
And I am Free. I can Speak. I can finally talk about my illness, my depression, the pain, the anger, the hurt, the loneliness, the fear. I am not a perfect Christian, not by a long shot, and no such person exists. I sin, regularly, but I repent. I love God, I praise Him when things are bad and when they're good. Because without Him I wouldn't be here. Without Him, I would be lost in a dark, dark world. I have some really great online and real life friends now who I can talk with about anything and everything. I have a future because of God. He never turned from me, I turned from Him. He was always waiting, reaching for me. And I will never forget those times where prayed has pulled me from darker days again.
That's my story. That's me Speaking out. Speaking Loudly. Because I can. Because it's my choice, my right, and I should never have had to hide. Not what I deal with, not that I suffer, far more than I said for many, many years. I am stronger, in mind if not body, for Speaking out. It's raised awareness with those I love. It's raised my awareness of the suffering of others. You know what I did when I was too old for that youth group? I started helping. The first year I did was the year leading up to that disclosure that almost destroyed me but became my healing. The second was dealing with the fallout, the healing, and the third I had to stop because it was too much. But it was great, I learnt a lot, about God, about those around me and I am so, so glad I was there.
My suffering is not what Melinda's was in Speak, or C.J.'s in reality, along with thousands more, women, girls, boys and men. But I was suffering, and I was doing it in silence. Speak is about Speaking out. Not hiding. Not ignoring the reality of the world that surrounds us. I want every victim to be able to stand up and say 'I'm a survivor'. Speak could help people, teens, children, do just that. How is banning a book that could help a good idea? How is the book immoral? Because I don't see it. Not at all. Speak out, and Speak Loud. Because anything else will destroy lives. I believe in a God who wants that. I believe in a God who heals. Bad shit happens, to good people and bad. It happens to those from all races, religions, rich and poor. I wish our world was a better place, and things like this, like hiding the truth because someone doesn't want to believe it happens (and I can only assumes that's the reality, because anything else is tragic), is just going to hurt and make it worse. Speak Out, Speak Loud and don't ever, ever stop. Rape isn't sex. Rape is Rape. It's violent and ugly. It's something the victim is never, NEVER responsible for. Speak Out. This one man wants us all to shut up. Not. Fucking. Likely. Been there, done that, it doesn't work, it makes life miserable, unbearable.
If you made it to the end of this, I thank you. My faith is something that rarely makes it on to my blog. It's personal and complicated and I rarely know what to say. But like I said, far better people than I have spoken out today, how can I not.