Pull Yourself Together

It was well into summer when I started to lose my grasp on the splintering pieces. On my lunch break, I would drive to a large parking lot for a big box store and cry until I thought I might throw up, and I couldn’t breathe. Even then, I used a wet wipe to compose my features. “Get it together,” I said to my reflection in the visor mirror. Then I would drive back to work, heavy in the knowledge that things might never change.

I’d always prided myself on my ability to hold it together. “You can’t change your circumstances,” my mother would say, “but you can change your attitude.” My six year old self drank in those words, and didn’t realize that certain circumstances were not okay, no matter my attitude.

So I tried to change my attitude, using all of my tricks. I went to yoga at lunch and bought scented candles for my office. I read books instead of talking with my co-workers. But the days continued to roll over me, crushing my spirit a little more every day. My job was slowly killing me.

It started subtly. On the way to work I wondered what it might be like to drive off the ridge near my house. One small movement of the steering wheel, one gentle push over the edge. Or perhaps I could drive into the median. Nothing serious, just an accident. If I was in the hospital, I couldn’t go to work, right?

I’ll never forget where I was and how it felt. I was in my office, at my desk, the one right next to the window that looked over the parking lot. It was hot in the building, and my fan was on, pointed at my hands, hovering over the keyboard. An image entered my mind unexpectedly. I pictured myself walking into the kitchen and opening the drawer where we kept the knives, selecting one, and plunging it into my chest.

The room began to close in and I began to shake. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t focus. I’m not sure how I made it through the rest of that day and home. I’m even less sure how I made it to the home of my small group leader.

Pull Yourself Together by Cara Strickland | You Are Here All through the evening, as the other members of my group discussed the Bible in that small, cozy home to a single mother and three foster kids, I stayed silent. I was afraid to move or speak, because I knew that I could no longer keep it together. My next move would be the end, I would fall apart. I waited as long as I could.

After group was over and we continued to talk, I raised a timid voice. “Can I ask for prayer?” I said.

I sat on the large ottoman in the center of the room, legs crossed. I wasn’t sure how to begin. How do you fracture the image of togetherness? How do you admit that you want to die, and that you are terrified?

It wasn’t the sort of small group that talked about personal struggle. All the prayer requests around the circle were about other people, and physical health. I wasn’t sure if it was a safe place to fall apart, even as I shattered. But I couldn’t hold it in any longer.

There was silence for a time, after my flood of broken words. I waited for the clatter. Hugging my knees into my chest. But it didn’t come.

“Let’s start with therapy,” one of the women said.

“I can call and get you a doctor’s appointment,” said another.

I’ll have lunch with you tomorrow,” said another voice. “I’ll come get you at work.”

“You can quit your job,” said the single mom with the three foster kids.

In the days and weeks that followed that night, I began therapy, went to the doctor, quit my job, and almost jumped out a window high above downtown Denver. Often, after I stopped working and began to heal, I would stare at the wall, trying to muster the energy to drink the tea after I’d made it.

But I returned often to that tiny house, and that warm living room, even to that large, cushy ottoman. I awoke my memories of that circle of people around me, reminding me that I wasn’t alone, even if I wasn’t together.

24 Thoughts.

    • Thank you, James. Sometimes I wonder if I’m done talking about this, but then this piece just came. I’m so thankful for the ways that God has used my pain to encourage others. It’s good for all of us to know that we are not alone, no matter what we deal with. Thanks so much for being here.

  1. Pingback: Pull Yourself Together {at You Are Here} - Cara Strickland | Little Did She Know

  2. Cara,
    I’m not even sure how I found this post but I’m so grateful that I did. I’ve been in that moving car, stood frozen in the kitchen looking at knives and sadly so much more. Grateful to be in a much better place now. Thank you for your story – the reminder that community is important, that help exists and that the shattered can be healed. Peace.

    • Oh Lisa,
      Thank you for sharing some of your story with me. I know the agony of the places you describe and I’m so thankful that you’ve found some relief. I think that community is fatal to the dark forces. They can’t survive when brought into the group. It’s hard, and so needed, for me to remember that. Thank you so much for your comment.

  3. Thanks for your willingness to write about this, and the hope and help that can be found in community. Praying that all people that deal with depression and anxiety can find others to come alongside them. . . men as well as women. This subject is close to my heart as someone I know deals with this.

    • It’s been amazing for me to realize that what is needed in hard situations is usually just a presence. I don’t need someone to say the right thing, or do the right thing, I just need them to be there (and in turn, I just need to be there for others). I hope that you can be that for your friend (and that others can be there for you when you need it). Thank you so much for your comment.

  4. Oh Cara! Your ability to write about it shows that the darkness no longer has control over your thoughts. Hopefully it provides a glimmer of light to those who are still doing battle that it can be different. This is a wonderfully insightful and vulnerable piece…very well done!

    • Thank you, Mary.
      I’m learning that the act of being vulnerable about the very hard things aids so much in the healing. It’s a gift to be able to forgive myself, and sometimes I need words to do that.

  5. Cara, this is such a wise, important thing for us all to grasp: “…certain circumstances were not okay, no matter my attitude.” Thank you for sharing pieces of this journey with us, so that we can learn and pray and walk with you a bit more.

  6. Oh Cara, thank you for being so vulnerable and sharing this intensely personal story. Many Christians refuse to acknowledge mental and emotional pain. I am glad your small community of friends urged you to seek help.

    • Thank you, Lisa. It’s an honor to be so well held after something like this, even in an online space. I’m so thankful that I was able to overcome a background where I felt like professional help wasn’t an option and find it.

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