Counseling, Perfect Places, My God Who Loves Me Well

This is a repost. I wrote this on August 5, 2017 at 3 in the morning, as I was sitting cross-legged in my hotel room, unable to sleep. Today a storyteller I look up to died from suicide. The darkness does not spare anybody. I am absolutely floored that Christ carries me through every season I go through, because by myself I wouldn’t have any strength to not listen to the voices. I have had so many close run-ins. So many. Too close. This was one of those days.

I have always, always been vocal about my gray-er days. I have always been open about having gone through a recurring kind of depression and have been supportive of others who go through it as well, but friends– I didn’t expect the feelings I felt the first time I underwent counseling.

The past weeks have been like a slow-burn kind of awful. I was suffering and had hit an all-time low, so last Wednesday I decided to go to our school’s guidance office and schedule a counseling session.

I wasn’t prepared for how ashamed I felt as I stood by the doors of my counselor’s office, the next day. Or how shaky my voice was when I said I was there for the session. I was so embarrassed even though I didn’t have to be.

Her first question was what’s wrong and it felt like a switch to some waterwork in me because I just bawled. I told her nothing was wrong with my life. I go to a nice school and I got a job I love and my friends are wonderful but at the same time everything was wrong, felt wrong. I told her I do not know what is wrong with me.

I barely said anything after that. She then asked questions which had answers that have been brewing in my head. She asked if I ever felt like I was missing out on anything good. I said yes. She asked if there were times I felt my work or my school got in the way of each other, i said yes; if they got in the way of my dreams, I said yes. She said I looked very, very tired.

I mean, the mirror hadn’t been lying to me, either.

She said a lot of wonderful things, most of the time I swear it was the Holy Spirit talking to me. She said I was busy filling my cup with activities and pursuits to please others but whenever my real passions tug at me, I realize I have no room for them and that’s when everything falls apart. I looked like the person who held passion like diamonds in her hands.

“Krizia, if you want to be filled, you have to empty your cup first.”

She said I was going at a frightening pace. I was clearly burned out, and it will only take a while before worse things can happen.

It was the second time I talked to her – the first time was a mandatory counseling session when I was a freshman. But I felt so comfortable talking to her. I said many things I had no courage to tell my friends. Or even my brother. She gave me practical steps on working on my depression. I came in with a heavy, empty heart. I came out with a heavy, empty heart, but now it’s got a checklist. My soul was in a bad shape. I needed to do some healing.

She recommended that I spent a full weekend alone. In her words, read books, do meditation, do what makes you happy. This was a short term prescription. Immediately I thought, oh no, I can’t, I’m busy – but hey, isn’t that the malady of my soul? Isn’t that why I came limping to her office?

Her long-term suggestions were huge life decisions, but I was amazed because some of it, I have been mulling over for weeks now. Her voice felt like a push in a certain direction.

After all that I ate lunch with my brother. He asked about my counseling session – I don’t even remember telling him. He listened quietly, nodded at some points. I forgot how much I missed conversations like that with him. In the past few months I had to be the strong one, between the two of us. Now I get to be weak. And I’m so grateful.

He spent the rest of the day with me. He carried heavy things for me. We decided to buy something we hadn’t bought in years, an Archie Comicbook, and we were excited that we can afford it now. A few years ago it qualified as a Christmas present – now it’s just a little treat.

Friday. I’m at a hotel. I got a place to hole up and rest. And so I’ve been here, hours now, eating ice cream out of the tub and watching home renovation shows. I got little naps in between. My brother is here with me too. I am so grateful that he had been covering my work for me. He’s been so pressured in our Viber workgroups, but he didn’t complain.

At one point a while ago I was listening to Lorde’s new song, Perfect Places, and I love that song so much, because I know exactly what that feels – feeling lost and frantically going everywhere to find the perfect place, but it doesn’t exist, doesn’t exist, doesn’t exist.

And everyone will tell you where to go, what to do, this is how you get rich, how you become beautiful, how you get a good career, and deep down in your soul you’re fed up, because none of it ever worked, you are still lost, still disillusioned.

Lorde sings it this way all the nights spent off our faces // tryin to find these perfect places // what the f* are perfect places, anyway and full disclosure I cry everytime I hear that, because eto na naman tayo, Lord, I still feel lost, there’s still no perfect place

And as I was crying over that a thought comes to me — I will never find anything perfect here. I will always be disillusioned and discontent and maybe, i don’t know, feeling this little void because my Savior isn’t here.

Hear me out. I know that God is present in my life, actively and immensely and I hear Him through His Holy Spirit, my Advocate and Counselor. I know that even to the depths of the darkest valleys His Spirit is with me. My God is with me.

But at the same time, He isn’t here. I can not touch His face. I can not trace the outlines of the nail wounds in His wrists. I want to worship Him by His feet – His literal feet but I can’t. This is a five-year old longing and I know it won’t ever go away. Nothing in this world – not even my dreams – could fill an empty room, my empty hands, my empty heart. I would give anything, ANYTHING to see Him face to face. To spend even just a day in His courts, where the spotlight isn’t on me, and I got no time and no capability to be depressed because His beauty is there, in front of me, to behold and adore and worship

So there I was, in a cold hotel room crying over John 14 and some old songs I used to listen to, and I said Lord, ayoko na, I need You here, and He comforted me with His words,

John 14:

1 Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

The longing was so big, my heart didn’t have enough room for it, and so it stretched and it stretched until it hurt. It hurt too much.

You see, these moments are the silver lining of my large, dark storm clouds. Tenth Avenue North once sang / don’t be afraid, Lord, to break my heart, if it brings me down to my knees / and it’s true. Nothing else humbles me, down to the ground, than the thought that I will never be whole and healed here, as much as I would be when I finally see my Savior face to face. That this is a temporary waiting room for the glory that is His eternal presence. Oh, I wish I could express to all of you the wonder of Jesus Christ. That all these are more than just abstract thoughts to me.

Until then, I have a life to live. A life that, as Christ promised, He came to make abundant and full. So I’m working on this little checklist for my self-care. It has been costly – to a lot of people – but it is worth it. I have a life to live for Christ and I am more than honored to be using it for Him. I do not know how. I am most certainly not qualified.

In a book I’m reading now, the author said a single sentence, “God has loved you well.”

Through seasons of depression and joy and hopelessness and faith – it is true. He has loved me well.

P.S. About my choice of going to a counselor

Somebody asked me why I went to a professional counselor before going to a pastor or spiritual leader. It was not at all about trust or competence issues, I just felt like I needed to hear a voice that wouldn’t be biased about my school or my work in the ministry. I needed to talk to a complete stranger who was trained in handling cases like mine. I had consulted with my discipleship leader about this decision and she gave me a go signal. I am talking to her soon, as a follow-up.

P.S. for my friends

Hi mems, friends, beshies:
I am so sorry if I had hurt any of you in any word or action in the past few weeks. It had been so hard on me. And I’m sorry I didn’t tell any of you about this until after my counseling was over. I know you all have burdens to bear, that I gladly bear with you, but I was too afraid to tell you mine. Not that I didn’t think you would care, I just didn’t want to invalidate your struggles by placing my depression card on the table. I love each of you so intensely, and I wish none of you will experience the utter void of depression. I do pray, however, that you experience Jesus richly in every turn. I love you.

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