Not much surprised me these days, but I was surprised to see my momma in my doorway that morning.

"You know that quote about our loved ones from the other side being able to help us? Well, we're going to need them now, because I crashed last night. I am where you are."

No. Oh no.


I had been surprised to see my momma in my doorway because it was backwards. These last several months, it had always been me darkening her doorway.

It had started with,

"I don't think I can marry him."

And after that had been resolved, it became,

"Can we pray together?"

"I don't know why I'm not feeling better. Can we pray together?"

"I feel like I blew it somewhere."

"I feel like God isn't listening."

"I did something to push Him away." 

"I feel like I'm losing my faith."

"I wish I could go back."

"I never should have gotten engaged."

"I feel broken."

"I wish I was still a good person."

Each phrase was my effort to sum up the terror and anxiety I had been feeling all day into a few words. Each time I stood in their doorway, my parents responded with love and encouragement. In the beginning, I would breathe it all in and feel confident in the future again for a short time. But the panic had always returned by morning, accompanied with the sense that I had descended even deeper into hopelessness. 

It was apparent that my parents were becoming distressed and frustrated at their inability to put my fears to rest. My insides were screaming, "I just wish for a second you could know how this felt." I wanted to be a normal, healthy 20-year-old. For goodness sake, most of my high school friends were out living on their own, some were even married and expecting children while I laid in the fetal position on the couch in my parents' room. I wanted to move on with my life and quit pretending I was okay, to really be okay. After another night-time discussion, I went back to my room and as I began to not fall asleep for the night, repeated over and over, "I wish they knew how this felt. I wish someone knew how I felt."


My wish had come true, and I couldn't be more mortified.

I had said that I wished they knew how I felt so that they would be able to understand why I couldn't snap out of it, not so that they could experience the blackness of this pit and the horrors of mind that came with it. 

Mom led me to her room and sank to her knees. I joined her on the floor as she offered up a prayer.

She hugged me. I didn't deserve it. I had betrayed her. I had brought this upon her. I didn't know what to say. I went back to my room. 

I heard the bath water start to run and then turn off. 

Several minutes later I heard my mom on the phone. She asked to speak to her doctor. The tone of confidence had dropped from her voice. I only caught bits and pieces. "I tried to get in the bath, but I feel like if I'm able to do that today it will be monumental."

I truly had thought things could not have gotten worse. How terribly, terribly wrong I was. How much longer was Dad going to be able to hang on before he slipped too? How would he work? Who would care for the kids? How would we survive?

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. 


"I don't understand these feelings of worthlessness you're having. You're not wretched." 

I was sitting in the office of another trusted church leader. I needed someone to agree that I was wretched, so we could start piecing the broken shards of my life back together.

He brought up the name of a man who the media had been following for the last several months after he admitted to murdering his wife. 

"THAT is wretched. You are not wretched."

How could I explain to him that yes, I was. I had slowly, purposely etched away at my mom's well-being til she crashed. Do you know what an incredible woman my mom is? A pillar. And what about the rest of my family? I stole their wife and mom from them. I was likely stealing their own well-being from them. I did that. I couldn't formulate all that into a sentence, so I let him think I agreed with him.

"Have you been reading the scriptures?"

I had. And every time lakes of brimstone and weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth were mentioned, I related on a whole new level.

"I think you need to read them some more."

Many afternoons Dad came home and found us just where he'd left us eight hours before. The blinds were closed and there was a staleness in the air. 

"How are my beautiful girls?" he would say. Less true words had never been spoken of me.

One Monday he appeared with flowers. 

"I love fresh flowers," my daddy said. "They bring life into the house."

The next Monday he appeared with flowers. 

"I have decided we will have fresh flowers on our table every Monday until my girls get better."

How could he be so cheerful? I was floored. I hated to tell him that there weren't enough flowers in the world.

But even I couldn't argue that the house felt better with them there.

 "I feel like my identity, like my very self has been stolen," Mom confided.

"Like you have clothes on your back and food to eat, and you've never been a slave, or in a concentration camp, or through a war, but you can relate to the suffering of humanity on a whole new level?" I threw it out there, holding my breath to see what she'd say.

"Yes, yes."

She knew. And as much as it killed me to know that, I was no longer alone.

Next Chapter: Running Away