The Sixth Street Bridge

The Sixth Street Bridge
At the tender age of 17, I walked across this bridge, alone, into Downtown Pittsburgh, with $300 in my pocket that my mother had given me to get an abortion. I went into the Fulton Building (in the picture) and did what I was told to do. I didn't have a choice - if I did, I wouldn't have chosen abortion.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Finding My Voice

I've been writing this blog for almost three years now.  I did not set out with a plan of any kind when I began writing.  It just seemed like it would be an okay place for me to talk about my story and all the rest and whoever read it, read it.  I did think that if I could help just one person then I would have been a success.  I'm not really worried about the success of this blog any more and haven't been for a while.  My blog has become a place for me to talk about my abortion and everything else in my life that partially stems from that trauma and all that surrounds it.  It has given me a place for my heart to speak when I can't manage to speak with those closest to me.  My blog has given me a place where I feel like I am heard. I don't know if I'll ever speak publicly, non-anonymously, about my abortion, but I've done a lot of other things on this journey that I never thought I would do, so I won't say never.  Until then, this blog has become my, "I Regret My Abortion" sign. 

About a month or so ago a regular reader of my blog, Kim Ketola, contacted me about coming on her radio show for a live interview.  Post abortive herself, Kim published her book, Cradle My Heart, Finding God's Love After Abortion, in 2012 and her radio show offers a "safe space for you to connect with others who are finding God’s love–especially after guilt and grief related to abortion, addictions and other life-controlling issues." 

Knowing that I blog anonymously, Kim and I arranged for the interview via email and agreed on a pseudonym to use for the show.  I didn't think a whole lot about saying yes to Kim's invitation, but I was quite anxious leading up to it. What if someone recognizes my voice?  What if I'm really bad at it?  I'm a writer, not a speaker! What if my Mom hears it?  Adding to the anxiety was that Kim wanted me to talk about my abortion experience itself.  I knew that it would be difficult as I've only told the story, out loud, a few times and it doesn't get any easier.  Saying the words can send me right back there on that table, in that space and time, and render me utterly ignorant of all the grace, love, and peace that has reigned down on me since that day so long ago, yet so near in my heart and mind. 

I suppose the main reason I agreed to do the interview was that it would give me a chance to use my voice and not just my words and that, I thought, could be very powerful and perhaps just as beneficial for me as perhaps it might be for someone who may be listening.

So last evening, my phone rang a few moments before the live show and then I had the chance to use my voice to tell my story.  I think it went well and it helped immensely that Kim understood where I had been.  Of course, time constraints make it difficult to share every single detail, but I hope what I did get the chance to say was enough.  Upon that statement, a dear Priest, whom I cherish, would ask, "Enough for who?"  I suppose my first thought would be enough for God, but I don't have to be enough for Him. I hope enough for someone who may have been listening, is still hurting from an abortion, and afraid to seek help. 

After the interview, my mind was swirling for a few hours. One of the callers who phoned in was quite passionate about my forgiving myself.  Believe me, I know!  But, it remains difficult.  Maybe one day it won't be difficult.  It's hard for me to picture a day when I'm completely at peace with my journey and all of its steps, but I know not to say never. 

If you are postabortive and you've been reading my blog or you just got here - please know that no matter how desperate and overwhelmingly dark my story gets at times, there is always, always, His mercy that is bigger than all of it.  That truth is what keeps me going even on my darkest of days.  I would be no where without it.  I am nothing without it. 

Here's a link to my interview with Kim, if you'd like to listen... Connecting your story to God's story after abortion.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

One foot in front of the other...

I haven’t been writing for a while, probably the longest stretch of non-writing I’ve had in the last few years.  I just haven’t been able to; just the simple act of putting pen to paper or hands on the keyboard proved too much.  Lent usually is a time when the words come pouring out of me – but that’s not the case this year.   This year Lent seems to be what, hopefully, is the tail end of a depressive episode unlike any other I’ve had in decades and damn close to being one of the worst.  My biggest problem with depression is that I have it at all, that I have that label and it’s written in my medical history over and over again with a list of medications stopped and started to try to manage the symptoms because there seems to be no cure.  No amount of optimism, faith, trust, love, hope, sunshine, or happy circumstances can crack the darkness of depression – that is, until it does.

I know I must sound like a broken record on this blog. I sometimes go back to see what I've written in the past few years and I’m sad to say that my topics don’t branch out all that much.  I’ve been here before on this blog and in my life.  As much as I try to deny the diagnosis and inevitable accompanying symptoms, depression haunts me. The symptoms of depression exist within me on many levels and reveal themselves in varied ways.  Some of them can be managed with medication, some respond to just the distraction of the daily routine, and others I can just push away or aside if I’m able to focus on something, anything good.  The sunshine, a glance from my husband, the dog, the laughter of my girls, the words of the Mass, the Eucharist, or a great cup of coffee can sometimes offer a temporary reprieve.

This time, however, the symptoms ingratiated themselves far down in the recesses.  I feel this depression physically as though I have a pile of bricks on my shoulders as I go about my day. I feel my heart beating faster.  I can't concentrate.  I'm forgetful. It feels like I’m choking but nobody notices as the lump in my throat never subsides and the tears fall profusely against my will.  I have learned over the years how to successfully hide the symptoms of depression and have gotten good at functioning in spite of what I’m feeling and what is stirring about in my mind.  The suicidal thoughts and grand schemes remain and it takes an exhaustive effort sometimes to not pay attention to them.  

Adding to all of this was an allergic reaction to a medicine that I was taking for about a year.  It seemed to just stop working one day and I had horrible itching and hives and slight fever.  I had to immediately stop taking it – which is never a good idea with any antidepressant.   The timing couldn’t be worse for a medication change over and the subsequent waiting period for the new medication to start working.

Thank God, the new medication seems to have started working ever so slightly, just in the last week.  I am starting to feel as though I can breathe again and I’m able to concentrate a little better which may be debatable by the readers of this particular blog post.  I’m far from 100%, but I’m at least headed in that direction.  I have to be.  

When the veil of depression descends, it touches every part of one’s life; at least it does for me.  Everything just goes black.  I go through my days like a robot already programmed with the required tasks to accomplish.  There’s no joy, there’s no laughter, there’s no happiness.  Everything that’s bad  is magnified and the anger becomes angrier.  And when it’s really bad – there’s nothing.  

Nothing is the scariest part.

While I’m in the nothingness, my mind starts to rewind back to every bad thing that’s ever happened to me.  It’s not just the abortion –it’s everything from start to finish.  It’s everyone who’s ever hurt me and it’s me convincing myself that I deserved it.  I start to replay moments in my life over and over again, obsessing over the details, trying to remember even more clearly what would better be forgotten.  The soundtrack of my mind accuses me of any and everything.  Before long I’m walking around and even sleeping with a thousand thoughts, all of them bad, sucking the very life out of me.  Everything in my life is then viewed through these gray glasses where any glimmer of goodness is darkened.  Anything that’s remotely good, my mind convinces me is actually bad.  I am a horrible person. A complete whore. You aren’t fooling anyone.  You’re a joke. God doesn’t even know who you are. There is no God. 

Things that are nuisances most of the time become overwhelming and paralyzing.  And pretty soon I’ve descended so far down that even attempting to crawl out seems pointless so I don't even want to try.  Where would I start?  It doesn’t even matter anymore.  I’ll just stay here.

Wouldn’t it just be better if I weren’t here? Wouldn’t it be better if my husband didn’t have such a screwed up wife? Wouldn’t it be better if someone else raised my children, someone who they would listen to?  Wouldn’t it be better if I just ceased to exist somehow?  If I just faded into the background while their lives continued on?  Maybe if I just disappeared now, before things get any worse, then perhaps their memory of me would be better than the reality.

For weeks I felt in my soul that this was true.

Even when I don’t admit it, even in the blackness, there remains some small flicker of light which is just enough to make me reach out for help, to ask for help in any convoluted way, so long as it brings the help I need and the help I didn't even know I needed.

I’ve found hope in a few places to sustain me the last few weeks and hopefully will continue until I’m on the other side of this depressive episode.   Apparently, there is nothing I can do to make my husband not want me and believe me…  I’ve tried.  I have succeeded in making him not very happy, but I can’t convince him to leave me.   No matter how depressed and miserable and irritable and mean I can be, he still likes me.  No matter how much I retreat physically and mentally – he’s still here.  No matter how many times I remind him of my past and how I’m damaged goods and I had an abortion – he’s still here.  And even in the worst of this depression, there remains a sacred space and time between a husband and wife where love is all there is.  There are moments where all of these feelings and depression and memories cease to exist and peace and joy take their place.   He’s chosen to love me through it, again and again, whether I allow him to or not.

In my darkness and solitude I begin to convince myself that my children would be better off without me. They don’t love me. They don’t listen to me.  They don’t respect me.  But, every so often, a smile comes across their face that reminds me that I am irreplaceable in their lives no matter what kind of day we’ve all had.  No matter how long I sit on my bed and convince myself that I don’t even deserve happy, healthy, beautiful children because I killed the first one, one of them inevitably busts in the door and reminds me that my love and attention is what they seek out above all others and there is nowhere else they will find it.They are oblivious to my horrible past and my present despicable behavior doesn't really matter to them either because there are far more pressing issues at hand like nails that need to be painted, snow that needs to be played in, or books that need to be read.

Even in my darkness, I’m reminded that no matter how much I yell at God and pout and lament every bad thing that has happened in my life, there is good that remains.  No matter how much I try to ignore Him and shove my Bible and all my spiritual reading stacked on my nightstand into the drawer in a juvenile attempt to tell him to @#$@ off, He remains… waiting.  And when I go to find him, He’s there.  When I come limping back, crushed under the weight of this ridiculous mental state that has no rhyme or reason that I understand, He’s there… waiting.  Just when I think He actually listened this time when I shouted in my mind, “what’s the @#$#ing point? I don’t need you,” He somehow reminds me that I do.  Sometimes it’s the lyrics of a song, sometimes it’s the beat of my own heart, sometimes it’s the touch of his hand. 

Because of my abortion, because of my past, because of my depression, because I am a wife, because I am a mother… I need him.  And even just because, I am... I need him.  He’s the light that remains.

No matter how hard I try, my emotional state or station doesn’t predict His existence in me. He’s here regardless.  When I’m broken and crawling through the dust or happy and laughing - there’s no criteria that needs to be met for needing Him.  I used to think that I had to be perfect before coming to him, perfectly worthy to go to him – lately I’ve been afraid that if I’m not broken I can’t go to him for I’ll have nothing for Him to fix.  I often think of myself as the woman about to be stoned, or the woman reaching out to touch the hem of His garment – but I never really think past it and what happens to the woman after she gets up and goes on her way?  She must have had a life after that moment.  What would her life have been like after touching, really touching, Jesus?

I wonder if He would still take my hand and hold me when I’m not broken in a myriad of shattered pieces?  Could I ever so slightly began to see myself through His eyes and allow love to grow within and He would still be there for me for any reason… or none at all?  Does He only pay attention when I’m at my wit’s end and my life is in shambles?   Is He still paying attention when I’m content in the love of my family?  Does He only listen when I pray out of desperation or does He ever listen when my ramblings put a smile on his face?

Would my husband? Would my children? Would Grace – whom I came to know only after I was so broken that I had no choice but to face her? 

In all of my depression and self-pity and self-destruction I think about how no one could possibly love me, or even like me.  And there He is, in the middle of it all, showing me that unconditional love exists in the very air I breathe every day. 

I pray that as I take each step out of this episode of darkness – that He’s there in the sunlight.