Dear Self,

I know you’re afraid. You’re afraid of being completely real and authentic. You’re afraid of vulnerability. You’re afraid to trust anyone with yourself because you’ve been hurt so many times. I know. It’s scary. It hurts. You’re afraid of many things: of failing, of not being who you want to be, of disappointing those you care about the most, of losing control of yourself and/or your life… and of a cage. I can feel your fear. It holds you in, locks you in a prison from which you cannot escape (or so you think). You are trapped in a cage of fear.

I know you’re lonely. You curl up at night in a cold ball and wonder how you can keep going. In the darkest moments, you ask why God could let this happen if He really is so good and works everything together for your good. And it seems like no one is there for you when you need it most. You can’t understand why you’re still alive, even though your heart is dying. And I can’t answer those questions for you. But I do know that God is good, and He is always with you… and you have to believe that, even when it doesn’t feel like it – even when you doubt it, and even when you can’t believe anything at all. And only the loneliness is real. I know how that feels. And I know how it seems like no one understands, even when they say they do. And I know how you don’t dare breathe a word or sigh of the struggle and the battles you fight, because you aren’t supposed to be struggling. Because everyone else expects you to bow your head and say reverently, “God is good,” and carry on, but you can’t even find the strength to move. And they think it’s a crime against the faith if you fall on your face and can’t get up. I know how it feels when you cry for help from your friends and all they say is, “trust in God; this too shall pass”. I know the loneliness of all of this.

I know you’re hiding. You’re hiding from fear, from pain, from yourself. You’re hiding from who you could be. You’re hiding from the power of freedom. You’re shelled up deep inside yourself where it’s safe and nothing can hurt you – but nothing can heal you either. I understand, Self. I understand so well. I’m in those shoes. And sometimes, the best thing anyone can do, is to just listen – and try to understand. And I know it feels like no one can or will, and so you bury yourself deeper down in. I understand. Hiding is a normal response, but it can’t go on forever.

I know you’re hurt. I know the bitterness and anger it enflames at times. I know the darkest moments in your heart, when you can’t hold onto anything, and only the pain is there, and the loneliness is no comfort. I know the shell you’ve built, the protective shield you hold before you, between you and the world. I know the times you’ve tried to take it down, because your head says “vulnerability is good”, but the shield won’t come down. It’s fused in place from uncounted years of use. I know the fear you have of taking it down, of opening yourself to the world around you again, because your heart knows that to do so will only bring more pain. And I know how hard you are trying to fight anyway, and how hopeless it feels. I’ve heard you ask yourself the question “do I even want to win this fight?” and I know you aren’t sure of the answer. And every time you open a crack and are bitten, it makes it just that much more impossible to get back up. I know. This hurt is my hurt too.

I know you. All of you. And though you can’t see it and won’t hear it, you are stronger than you think, and braver than you believe. You can dare great things and find freedom and healing. But I can’t force you. You must make the choice for yourself, to take hold of everything to which you are heir, everything you have been given, everything that is (already) within your grasp. You must choose. I can’t and won’t make you. True friends never do.

I know one day you’ll look back at this. You’ll marvel at how far you’ve come. You’ll ask yourself if it really ever felt this hopeless and dark, and I’m here to tell that future Self that it was. It’s okay to realize that you’re broken and lost, okay to admit it aloud, even to the empty room. It’s okay to be real, and to let the people in your life know that the plastic smiling face you show isn’t you, and that the real you is screaming for help, to get out, and struggling to break through the chains to a new beginning. It’s okay to be real and raw, even though it’s terrifying. I know this is one of the scariest things you’ve ever done, writing this and sharing it aloud to the world. But it’s okay. Maybe someone out there feels just like you. Maybe it’ll change someone’s life. Maybe it’ll change yours.

Dear Self,

I know this was hard, one of the hardest things you’ve done in a while. But it’s a good thing, I’m pretty sure. And one last thing, a word from Mandisa:

There’s freedom
On the other side of
Things that keep us tied up and afraid
There’s hope in every situation
No matter what you’re facing everyday
But it’s up to you
You get to choose
Your Father is waiting there with open arms

You can be free. You can find your way out of the darkness. But the first step in going anywhere is knowing where you are right now. And now you know, and you’ve told the world. You’ve taken the first step, and maybe the hardest. Just keep going, one step at a time, and you’ll become…

More than you’ve been.

~ Kat

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