Shortly after my youngest brother was born, I was observing my mom who was listening to another mom talk about her kids’ desires for siblings when suddenly, the other mom turned to me and said, “You should pray for a baby sister.”
It had never occurred to me that I could or should pray for things before. God doesn’t want to hear what girls have to say. God doesn’t care about what girls think. Why would I pray?
It wasn’t that I had something against praying. I had never thought of it before.
I went home that night, slightly excited at all the new possibilities.
I laid in bed and prayed a silent prayer something like what my favorite 3-year old prays. “Jesus, I want a baby in Mommy’s tummy. Bye.” (No, really. I’m quoting the little munchkin word-for-word.)
Ok, so it wasn’t quite that irreverent.
The possibilities that were opened by even the idea of prayer gave me great hope. I took the Bible verse about praying without ceasing quite literally. I prayed and prayed and prayed. I asked God for a baby sister. I asked God to please heal me from a dermatitis that I developed rather randomly a while previously that just didn’t go away. Those two things were the things I prayed about most. I prayed for years. About 8 years after the dermatitis showed up, it mysteriously disappeared and has never come back.
When I was older, I stopped praying for a sister. My life had gotten so chaotic and difficult that I didn’t want anyone else to have to live through what I was experiencing, so I stopped praying. Stopped hoping. Stopped dreaming.
Oh, I still prayed for other people — but I felt so hopeless about everything in my life that I just gave up on ever having anything I wanted. But that is another story for another time.
At some point, I began to withdraw from people around me and from life in general.
I don’t remember a lot from this time, but I do know that I worried a lot about the economy (I was 8….) and what would happen if our greed and selfishness as a society completely overtook us. I didn’t have the words to express that specific fear, but I actually lost sleep over how many people were selling stocks and how many businesses were losing money and going out of business.
Around that time, my parents tried to get me to exercise. I went for a walk with them once, under protest.
I didn’t have the energy for walking.
I didn’t want to be outside.
I didn’t want to be where people could see me.
I didn’t want to be exposed to the Big Bad World where someone could easily snatch me away.
My parents did try to encourage me, but I was stubborn. I went for one walk and then I started to spend most of my time behind my closed bedroom door.
I spent all of my free time alone in my room, reading.
I read classics like Anne of Green Gables, Emily of New Moon and Little Women. I read all the books written by Janette Oke and Grace Livingston Hill and, of course, I read books suitable for daughters of the Patriarchal movement, such as the Elsie Dinsmore series.
I was in a funk. As time elapsed, I became more and more reclusive, eventually reaching the point where I didn’t have much desire to leave the house at all, and if I did leave, I was very anxious to get back home. The only time this wasn’t true was when I was going to be seeing my grandma, who had always been loving and nurturing toward me.
Occasionally, I had what I now understand were panic attacks. They would come on suddenly and without any real trigger. I’d start to worry about something or anything or nothing at all. Literally, I could be anxious about nothing at all. The only words I had to describe what was going on was that I was scared. I would have this feeling of dread for no reason and then I would start to feel sick to my stomach. These episodes usually happened in the evening and then when it was time for bed, I wouldn’t be able to sleep because I was “scared.”
This problem led to other problems, such as not being able to watch any TV whatsoever because if I watched TV, I would get scared, have a panic attack, sleep fitfully, have nightmares and then be up the rest of the night.
One could assume that if watching TV had this effect on me, reading books would have a similar effect. Not so. Reading had a calming effect. TV was too much action and noise. When you read a book, you have to process it for yourself. You see what you want to see, not what the filmmaker wants you to see. When I read a book, I was able to make the picture in my mind as not-scary as I needed it to be. And since the books I read were about things that I found appealing and happy (for the most part), this was a really good coping mechanism for me.
On the other hand, since I liked the fanciful world of literature way more than I liked reality, reading caused me to withdraw more. Oh, yes, I learned lots of interesting and helpful things. For example, in every single lovers’ quarrel in these stories, the problem was lack of communication or miscommunication, and I learned the importance of clear, concise communication. Unfortunately, I had no real instances where communication was needed, so while I knew this to be true, I had no way to practice, experiment or otherwise work on my communication skills.
I was so low for so long that several times, I contemplated ending my life. I was no longer afraid of death and the awfulness of my existence made me ready to be done with it all. The only problem was that I hated swallowing pills, guns and knives were messy and gross and I couldn’t think of any other options. And, I was far more afraid of surviving a suicide attempt than I was of continuing on my awful journey called life.
* * * * *
I’m going to end this post here, but I did want to take a moment to say that I have never attempted suicide and I never will. I’m too much of a chicken (thank the Lord for that!). The Lord has given me tremendous courage in some areas and tremendous uncertainties in others — and He picked the perfect areas to give strength and the perfect areas to allow uncertainties. He did it that way both for my good and for His glory. In some ways, even though fear has caused a lot of pain and problems in my life, it has kept me from doing many self-destructive things, and for that, I am very, very grateful.
IF YOU ARE STRUGGLING WITH SUICIDAL THOUGHTS/BEHAVIORS, PLEASE GET HELP!
The people at the National Suicide Prevention Hotline are there to help and support you. Please call 1-800-273-8255 if you are struggling.
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Mari is the middle of 5 kids — and the only girl — in a male-dominant, semi-quiverfull, rather patriarchal homeschooling family. She was raised in a patriarchal church and most of her social network as a child consisted of children of patriarchal or quiverfull families. This is the story of how she was sucked into the patriarchal/quiverfull belief system, and how she was lovingly (and in some cases, not so lovingly!) escorted out. Read her blog at: http://www.marismuses.wordpress.com
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce