It’s 11:23pm and I’ve been driving the same freeway over and over–past the exit closest to my parents’ house, U-turn, back again. Earlier this evening, I was brave enough to take the exit. But I whipped into a parking lot and hunched down in my truck, chewing my nails. I watched shoppers go in and out of the TJMaxx. They all seemed so normal, happy even. Nobody–not one person!–was glancing over their shoulder convinced the Rapture was about to happen and maybe they’d get left behind. I stare across the street: a mattress store, Adams Music, a bank. All normal things. All absurd to me.
Friend: You need to go home. Take your medication. It will be better in the morning, promise.
Me: I don’t want to be this person, a person who needs medication to function. I feel ashamed!
Friend: I understand. But if you had diabetes, would you feel ashamed about needing insulin?
I jam the keys back in the ignition and roar off. Hours pass. I drive. I cry. Near midnight, I take my parents’ exit and cruise down their street. I slow to a stop in front of their home. Lights off. Silence. I try to imagine how I’d break the news. Hi, Pastor. Hi, Pastor’s Wife. I’m your daughter–the one with such weak faith she used PRESCRIPTION DRUGS instead of prayer to help her with anxiety. Yes, she was a bad example, your daughter. A very poor Christian witness. But wait, Mom and Dad. I have some good news! I wanted to be a strong Christian. I wanted to be pleasing to you and God. So, I quit the meds. I don’t need them anymore, see? God saved me, God delivered me from all my fears and now, look! I’m all better!
And then I laugh.
Because that was the kind of crazy I used to call normal. It’s the kind of madness I called ecstasy–a strange, religious high from my former life–back when God was my drug. Back then, I thought I could just “pray away” my anxiety. But I’m not living that life anymore. I’ve made a new life for myself. I just need to go home to it.
Elizabeth, are you home yet? Please go home. You are loved.
You are precious. You are whole. Text me when you get home. Then call me tomorrow morning.
This is what surrender looks like: a glass of water and two white pills in the palm of my hand. I stare at them, these little pills that keep me sane. I’ve gone three days without them. My mind is a howling, jagged whirlwind. I slug down the pills and bang the cup down on the counter. I’m still upset about this–that I need these pills, that I can’t just CONTROL my anxiety myself. I wish–I wish to GOD–that I’d had a different past, hadn’t been raised in a cult, wasn’t such an anxiety freak all the time and—I hear the click of little nails on tile and my dog scampers into the kitchen, tail wagging. She loves me. Anxious, sensitive, often triggered soul that I am–to this dog, I am lovable and perfect. I scoop her up in my arms and carry her to bed with me.
Morning: the howling in my mind has quieted but my brain feels bruised and fragile, wobbly like half-set Jell-O. I pick up the phone and make the call–because I need help.
“Of course I can get the twins from school,” my Dad says, kindly. “You OK?”
“I–I was at your house last night,” I say, suddenly. “I–I drove away because I was ashamed. I just don’t want to disappoint you. I didn’t want to be…The Daughter With Emotional Problems, ya know?”
I cover my mouth, shocked. I’d spilled it all out.
Dad is quiet and then he chuckles. “Oh, Liz, I love ya. And thanks for bein’ honest with me! I want you to know I’ve learned a few things in the past few years. I’m not disappointed in you, I’m glad you’re getting the help you need.”
“Oh—. Thank you, Dad.”
“And you can come to our house anytime. Anytime, ya hear? All you gotta do is knock on the door. Sittin’ out in in the dark isn’t gonna do ya any good!”
He’s right. I’m tired of sitting in the dark. I have nothing to be ashamed of–I’m a survivor. Yes, I have scars. Deep ones. But I’m getting the help I need. And I love the person I’m becoming….