One of the biggest reasons I started blogging was because I wanted to learn to accept my mental health condition. I had been hiding it for so long behind a mask of normalcy that I had split myself into two people. One version of myself did her best to seem normal, embraced the values of perfection I had been conditioned to persevere toward, and tried not to get in the way of others around me. The other version of myself understood that the world around me and the value system I had been conditioned to accept was fundamentally flawed; that life was messy and hard and full of complex realities. This second version of myself kept wanting to assert herself and push the other, more compliant version, aside. These two sides of me seemed to always be in conflict. On the outside, I was a good Mormon mom who cared for her children, went to church every week, didn’t cause problems, and did what she had been taught. On the inside, I was full of doubts, fears, and building resentment.
This blog was a way for me to give voice to my hidden version of myself; the self that is broken and needs the Savior. The blog became a place I could be proud of my suffering and rejoice in the ways it leads me back to Him who is Mighty to Save. Why then have I struggled these past months to post?
My mental health recovery path has been full of difficulties, but the greatest one has been acceptance. Each time I take my medication, each time I can’t get out of bed, each time I finish another counseling session, each time I fall short, I remember my broken. It is so hard to see the beauty in it! I wish I could be whole and healthy and normal. I wish I wasn’t faced with the reality of my broken mind every day, but that is the life I’ve been given.
There is also so much beauty. I went to the STEM Academy meet the designer night last night. My second son started high school this year. He proudly led us to his various classes and introduced us to his teachers. He’s an excellent student with exceptional teachers who will help him achieve his potential. He’s taking his first AP class, so he will already start earning college credits. His older brother is in the top band as a Junior and is also college bound. My third son is thriving in his STEM Academy. My youngest loves kindergarten. In spite of my failings and flaws, my boys are growing and learning and off to a good start in life.
No one has a perfect life. We all struggle mentally and emotionally. Death, disappointment, illness, and accident visit everyone. It’s messy and hard and unfair and complicated; but every life is known to God. He suspends his judgment until the end of our lives. In the meantime, he asks only one thing of us; that we be honest with ourselves and others; that we confess and forsake our sins and follow the Savior. Why is that so hard for me?
Why am I so tempted to live a lie? Why am I so determined to put on a mask of conformity to please other people instead of an authentic image that pleases God? Why am I afraid to post on my blog? Why am I afraid of the judgement of those who don’t yet understand? We are broken! Not just me. We are all broken. That makes us all equals. I need not cower in shame.
Yet shame is what I feel and I can’t make the shame go away. And so I wander. I’ve left churches and temples made with hands and return to Eden; to the garden. I feel a pull to plants, animals, water, and soil right now. The last two months have been intense. Lots of joy, lots of sadness, lots of change. Bombs, pandemic, deaths, injustice, man’s inhumanity to man……it takes its toll. Every day I’m reminded that this world isn’t safe. The world is not a safe place.
We have a butterfly garden we started four years ago. The first year, we couldn’t keep enough milkweed in the garden! The monarchs laid so many eggs, I could hardly keep up. We released something like 32 monarchs that summer. Every day we would release the butterflies to fly away to Mexico for the winter. It was so amazing. For the past three years, we have grown milkweed and it has had nothing but aphids. This summer as the months passed, I thought that this year again, the monarchs would miss us. I was wrong.
We started getting eggs the second week of August. Lots of them. We also found little caterpillars everywhere. We scooped them up and put them in our crates and enclosures. We didn’t have enough. We bought more crates. There were more caterpillars. We gave some to friends. We drove along the freeway to find milkweed growing in the wild because we were running low in the garden. Twice a day we would clean out the cages and check on our babies. We had over fifty!
Once we brought in a leaf that had predatory eggs on it that we didn’t see. A caterpillar ate the eggs and got sick. It split open to reveal the larvae that had killed it. Even with all our precautions, our caterpillars were not safe. We started washing every leaf before putting it in a crate. We felt relief every time a caterpillar would make its silk button and “J hang” because that meant one less caterpillar would be eating and pooping. The chrysalids began piling up.
Occasionally we would lose a caterpillar to “the black death” which is assumed to be some kind of bacterial infection. We would remind ourselves that of all the monarch eggs that are laid each year only about five percent survive to adulthood. Our efforts were dramatically improving the odds of success for our little friends.
The day we had our first butterfly eclose, or emerge, from chrysalis was magical. It is a miraculous thing to behold. The chrysalis begins to darken. There are no signs of life, and black is usually synonymous with death. If you look carefully, you can see the muted orange of the wings concealed behind the membrane, but even knowing this is normal, it looks eerie. Then the chrysalis splits and the animal within unfolds. At first it looks misshapen and wrinkled, but within ten minutes, the enormous wings flatten out and the transformation is complete.
The second day of school after dropping Austin off for Kindergarten, I took pictures and videos of these animals as they made this miraculous transformation. I don’t believe that this experience has happened by accident. I know that God sent the butterflies. I know that he knew that I needed them. He knew. He cared. He sent his winged messengers. The world isn’t safe! The caterpillars know that. The butterflies know that. The Afganis know that. The marines who died in the bombing knew that. Their families know that. There is a 100% chance that each one of us will die. Eventually this world will take our remains back into itself and we will decay and crumble into nothing. That is our fate. And yet, today we live. Today He loves us. Today He sent His butterflies to me. He also sent me a dream.
I dreamed I was witnessing a wartorn group of refugees leaving their homes and traveling together in families. But instead of people, they were monarch caterpillars. There were large ones, presumably parents, and there were small ones that clung to the backs of the larger ones. What did this dream mean? I feel that the caterpillars were Afgan refugees. The dream made them into caterpillars because to me, the monarch caterpillar is full of beauty and potential. God sees the refugees as full of beauty and potential too. The world won’t understand. They will see the mess and the work of caring for them; the protection they will need and the space they will require. God sees those things, but also the beauty that comes when his miracle transforms them.
God works his will in large and small ways. He sees the refugee and he knows the beggar in his need. He never will forget his people and his hand will never be stayed. His majesty will transform the Earth and the inhabitants will rejoice. I will live each day and pray that I can be the person he wants me to be. I will serve where he calls me to serve. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
I am broken and blessed. I can live authentically and honestly, embracing the redeemed person I am, unfettered by the sins of the past. I am broken, just as those who came before we were broken, but the present brings opportunities for renewal and rebirth. Our God is a God of transformations and redemptions, so I rejoice in my broken and I rejoice that my sins have brought me to Christ who heals me; not in the way I want to be healed, but in his wisdom he leaves the scars. I rejoice in my scars and refuse to hide them. They make me His and I rejoice that I am His. Fearfully and wonderfully made.