I Don’t Want to Be Eaten By a Saber-tooth Tiger

I don’t know how to describe this. It’s one of those things that is a mix of emotion, color, and a couple random words.

Forgive me if I ramble. I don’t know how to put this in simple words. This is me processing this and allowing you to read my brain.

You’re welcome, Darling Creepers.

There’s an experiment where scientists put a group of people in a room with music playing softly. They encouraged them to talk among themselves and do whatever. Then they turned the music up really gradually. The people in the room never noticed the music turning up. It got so loud, during the experiment, the people were shouting to be heard, but they didn’t notice they were shouting and they didn’t notice that the music was louder. Finally, someone realized it was super loud, and they all found themselves in agony over how loud it was in the room.

That’s kind of how my life is right now. In this exact moment. I think.

Almost two years ago, my life was overshadowed by black. It was a black like what you get when you’re in the deepest parts of a cave.

That kind of black is scary. There is absolutely no light for your eyes to see, so your brain freaks out and starts imagining you can actually see things.

If you hold your hand in front of your face, your brain will say you can see it. But you can’t. If you touch the outline of a jagged point on a rock, your brain will paint a faint picture of it for you, but it really has no clue what it looks like. It could be that a saber-tooth tiger has crawled in the cave and yawned, and you’re really petting its tooth. You think you’re touching a rock because that’s what your freaked out brain is telling you, but you don’t really know if it’s a rock or a saber-tooth tiger tooth because you can’t actually see, no matter how much you think you can.

This is one of the reasons people go insane if they’re left in that kind of darkness too long. It’s also why they fall into deep, dark holes even though they thought they saw a safe way.

The point is, in a darkness that deep, you can’t trust what your brain is telling you you’re seeing. It’s too dark for your brain to really know what’s going on.

When your life is in a darkness that deep, your brain lies to you again.

“You can’t tell anyone how you feel; they won’t understand.”

Lie.

“It would probably be better if you just stopped breathing. Whatever way you could come up with to manage that would be fine with me.”

Lie.

“Maybe if you cut a little deeper next time, everything will feel normal again.”

Lie.

It’s so dark, your brain is making things up because it’s freaking out, and, it all sounds so convincing, you want to believe it. Bad idea. A lie is a lie, no matter how cleverly it’s dressed up. Even if it’s coming from the brain you trust.

The safe, hard, steady rock you think you’re touching is really a yawning saber-tooth tiger and, as soon as it closes its mouth, it’s going to bite your face off.

So, who do you trust when your brain is a freaked out, lying, traitorous organ?

Well, purely by accident, someone came along and reminded me that I wasn’t alone in my darkness. They brought me a flashlight.

I refused to use it for a really long time, but I looked up today and discovered something.

My world’s not black anymore.

Like the people in the experiment, my discovery of this change was sudden, shocking, and strange. And it happened without my consent or overt desire for change.

Looking back, I can see where my world has lightened. I can pinpoint moments where my world changed colors, ever so slightly, and I never noticed.

I can also pinpoint the moment it started changing. It was when someone brought me my flashlight.

It wasn’t that I turned it on, and I could see again. I didn’t do that. Remember, I refused to use it.

In that moment, I learned I wasn’t alone. And I learned there were other things I could trust.

My eyes were lying. My brain was freaking out. I was hearing things that wanted me dead.

But I still had all my other senses.

They say that, when you go blind, all your other senses enhance. I think they’re right.

My brain was telling me the tooth was a rock, but my nose knows what stinky, saber-tooth tiger breath smells like. I trusted my nose and learned to walk away.

My brain said there was no one there in my darkness, but my hands met other hands around me, reminding me I wasn’t alone.

My brain was telling me lies about what I should do to myself, but my ears heard quiet whispers of love that grew as I listened harder.

And I took a step.

I think that, with every step I took, my life got a little brighter, but I was so busy being distracted by everything else going on in my life, I never noticed the change.

It was gradual, and I don’t think I’m completely out of the cave yet. I may never be, but now I remember that the sky is brilliantly blue and leaves are full of seventy million shades of green. I remember that darkness doesn’t always win, and I can trust my life to Something much larger than me.

I can’t always see. I can’t always trust my brain. I can’t always believe the terrible words in my head.

Yeah, sometimes I walk back into the darkness because the light hurts and, quite frankly, I don’t always like touching people.

I do know, however, that there is no darkness where Light comes in. I know that, when the depths of the cave steal my voice, the Spirit inside me intercedes and interprets my senseless groans into cries for help. And I know the Light comes. Not all at once, but slowly, as I let Him come, as I walk toward Him.

The Light always beats the darkness.

In this moment, I’m in The Dark Place. I define myself by how smart I am, and I just did terribly on a final. It drastically affected my final grade in the class, and I’m beating myself up over it.

I also know I won’t be here long. Right now, The Dark Place I’m in is so much lighter than The Dark Place I was in a month ago.

All that to say, I’m constantly moving. My life is a mix of forward and backward steps. I’m not always headed in the right direction in the fastest way possible, but I am always headed somewhere.

Ultimately, I’m making my slow trek back out in the sunshine. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to have really bad days, but I think that’s okay. Ultimately, I’m going in the direction I need to go, and I’m learning coping mechanisms and how to hand things over to God and better ways to communicate with people while I’m going.

I think, even though I’m in The Dark Place this evening, I’m still headed in the right direction. I’m not walking by myself, and I’m not about to get my face eaten off by a saber-tooth tiger. That’s progress.

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Firm Foundation

Anyone who knows me well knows I struggle with depression and a bit of social anxiety. It’s a dark shadow that lurks somewhere in the back of my brain, waiting for the right moment to come and smother me.

There was a time in my life when I didn’t fight the depression. It consumed me. The shadows filled my soul and were the only thing supporting me. That was a bad time.

I don’t know how much you know about shadows, but I know quite a bit. They’re insubstantial. They don’t really support anything. They block the light. They leave you cold. They smother you. And, once they’ve taken over a place or person, it takes a really powerful light to get them to vanish.

Dear 6 Beautiful Readers, because you actually read what I write, I thought you might know me well enough to learn that about me.

Technically, I have Major Depressive Disorder. I know that the depression is the result of a neurotransmitter imbalance in my brain. My norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin levels can get really messed up. But I can’t leave it at that.

If I convince myself that I’m only struggling against a neurotransmitter disorder (something I can’t do anything about), I give up. And I can’t do that. I tell myself that it just can’t be helped, and that’s when I get myself into trouble.

I don’t take meds – I probably should, but it’s never really come up. Even if they were offered, I would probably refuse them. I always forget to take medicine, so it wouldn’t do any good, anyway.

I have learned, however, through my fight with this, what exactly I have to do to bring the light back into my life.

It got summed up so well for me today. It all comes down to your foundation. Today, at church, the preacher talked a lot about Luke 6:46-49. It goes like this:

46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?
47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like:
48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.
49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

Basically, if you don’t have a strong foundation, when the bad things in life hit you, you’re going to collapse. But, if you put your strength in the Lord, if you make Him the Cornerstone, if you build your life on His Word, if you surround yourself with like-minded people, you can pull through.

My belief that my God is strong enough to handle absolutely anything keeps me going. I ground myself in The Word and His promises of protection, healing, love, compassion, mercy, and grace. I know that, when I take a flying leap into His arms, He’ll hold me close and shelter me from the storms. He is the ultimate light. There is nothing brighter than Him. The shadows flee at a hint of His presence.

For me, community is a major part of my foundation. This is made very difficult by my social anxiety. Depression, however, is something you can’t fight alone.

I’m really private about it, though. I have trouble telling my friends and the people who support me when I need help. That’s not a good thing. I know I can’t do it on my own, but, for some reason, I always try to.

Even when I don’t go to them and explain what’s going on, though, I can still draw strength from them. Surrounding myself with fellow Christians, people who can help me stay on the right track, is imperative for my survival.

Sometimes, though, the depression sneaks up on me. I get really stressed or exhausted or run smack dab into one of my triggers, and I’m in the middle of it before I know it. That’s why it’s so important to already know The Word – to have that foundation firmly in place.

At that point, I don’t have the strength or inclination to open up a Bible. I don’t want to pray. I don’t want to reach out to the people around me for help. I don’t want to leave my bed. I don’t want to eat. I don’t want to see anyone’s face.

I do, however, have a part of my soul, firmly rooted in The Word and God’s Truth, that absolutely refuses to give up. It sends whimpering, plaintive cries up to heaven. It knows I can’t stand on my own feet, so it begs my Father to pick me up and hold me close. It whispers the verses I’ve memorized in my ear so I start to remember who and Whose I am. I believe that’s the Holy Spirit, strengthened by the food I feed it.

This is my foundation. This is what I build my house on. It provides me with shelter, and, when the storms knock my house down, it’s what I rebuild on. This is my shield. This is my protection. This is how I fight the darkness in my life.

My depression is more than a neurotransmitter disorder. There is hope. It is something I can fight. I ground myself in the truth of my Savior, and the darkness cannot hold on. It vanishes.

Psalm 91

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

I Will Never Pump Gas Again

Did you know that, when the little man inside the gas station swipes your card for you, you don’t have to get a specific amount and then stop there like when you pay with cash on the inside?

I didn’t. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Today, I needed to put gas in my car because I’m a responsible human being (not really). So, after I got out of lab, I went to the gas station to fill up my tank. I figured it would take a couple minutes and then I could go about my day.

I have never been more wrong.

So, I get to the gas station, hop out of my car, forget my credit card, crawl back in my car to dig it out, swipe it on the little swiper thing, and nothing happens.

You know how the little screen always goes, “Credit or Debit?” Well, it didn’t show up. It just stayed suspiciously blank. So, being the genius I am, I swiped it again.

Still nothing.

So, I figured, “Third time’s a charm!” and I swiped it again.

Whoever thought of that phrase should be shot because they are a filthy liar.

So, I went inside.

I waited patiently in line behind two people, walked up to the little man, gave him my brightest smile, and said, “Can I have $10 on pump 5, please?”

He frowned at me, took my card, swiped it, and I left to merrily pump my gas.

But my life is never that easy.

I noticed, as I was walking to my car, that the screen hadn’t cleared.

“Well,” I thought to myself, “maybe I just need to hit the button for the kind of gas I want. Maybe it just needs a little prodding.” So, I hit the button, and nothing happened. Well, it beeped at me very angrily.

“Well,” I thought again, “the screen for the credit card is messed up. Maybe this screen is messed up too. Maybe it really has cleared and is waiting on me to pump the gas.”

Just to be safe, I stuck the gas thingy that bestows gas upon your car into the gas receptacle (I’m full of technical terms today) and squeezed the trigger.

The screen was not broken. It just wasn’t working.

So, assuming my gas pump was broken, I went back inside. I waited until the little man was done dealing with the two people in front of me and said, “It’s not working. What do I do?”

“You have to push the button for the gas – either the 92 or the 87.”

“I did. The red light beside the 87 is staring at me evilly.”

The man behind me started laughing. The little man at the counter sighed and told me to try again.

I went back outside and jabbed the button a few more times, assuming I was right and the screen was broken. It kept beeping angrily at me, not working.

I went back inside.

He saw me coming.

I was very afraid his eyes were going to get stuck in the back of his head.

He made me wait for him to check out two more people and then said, “You told me pump 1. You’re at pump 5. I need your credit card so I can refund you and put the money on pump 5.”

“I said pump 5!”

“No. You said pump 1. I put your credit card in pump 1.”

I decided not to argue with the man who was going to give me my money back and went back to my car to get my credit card.

By the time I got back, there were four people in line. I had no clue this gas station could ever be this busy. Like the patient little creature I am (that’s a joke), I waited until he had taken care of those four people and then signed the receipt he gave me and handed him my card to swipe again.

“Now, you want $10 on pump 4?”

“Yea… NO! Pump 5. I’m on pump 5.”

He frowned at me again and swiped my card. I hoped it was the right pump.

I went back out to my car, and the screen had cleared.

“Aha!” I thought, “It’s not broken.”

So, I merrily pumped my $10 worth of gas, but it did that annoying thing where it stops right at $9.99. Of course, I needed that penny’s worth of gas. So, I tried to do that thing where you pinch the trigger super fast and light and only get 1 cent out of it.

I failed.

Somehow, I ended up with $10.10. I felt terrible. There was no way I was going to drive away, owing the gas station 10 cents. I would feel like I was stealing. I would feel guilty for forever. I was also getting the feeling the little man was getting really sick of seeing my face.

But my conscience won out. I dug around in my car and found a dime.

I walked back in and saw his eyes narrow and his frown deepen. I smiled the most cheerful smile I could manage and said, “I went 10 cents over. Sorry!” as I handed him the dime.

He gave me a look of terrible pity and horror, held up his hand as though to keep me from coming any closer, and said, “Go. Just go.”

So, I left.

And then, I got home and told Twin the story. That’s when I learned that the 10 cents was actually charged to my credit card. So, the poor man probably thought I was the dumbest creature he’d ever come across.

To make matters worse, I was wearing my scrubs. I hope he doesn’t think badly of my entire profession because of this. Poor guy. But now he has an extra dime!