Hi, I am Katie, a believer who struggles with codependency, anxiety and depression. I did not know my own heart and who I was until the last several years.
I wrote this poem one evening at a meeting when we read Psalm 139. It told me a lot about myself and God.
I try to hide
I try to hide
I try to hide
by keeping busy.
I try to hide
I try to hide
in the light.
I try to hide
by the words I say.
I try to hide
how I feel about how I look.
I try to hide
in my job.
I try to hide in many ways.
No matter where I go or hide You, Lord Jesus are Always There!
(based on Psalm 139)
Most of my life I have hidden who I was from others. I would hide behind a mask of nothing is wrong and I am OK I put up walls around me by pretending nothing could hurt me. I used anger and people pleasing to put up those walls and barriers. I learned to do all of this because my heart was broken in a million pieces and never had a chance to heal.
The family I grew up with is Mom, Dad, a twin sister, and brother. I was born with scoliosis kyphosis, severe curving of the spine.
I had back surgery when I was 2 years old in 1973, at the time I was the youngest person this surgery had ever been done on before. After the cast came off and my body grew I had to wear a cast from my hips to my neck all the time unless I was in the water. I love swimming and being in the water. The brace limited my motions and activities I could do. I wore the brace all the time till about 2nd or 3rd grade. After that I only had to wear it at night or if I was having back pains. I was one of those kids who was always picked last for teams during recess or I was told I could not play at all and watched from the sidelines wishing I could. I asked if I could be part of the swim team and got told no cause if I dived wrong then I could injure my back more. I was very aware of the other kids making fun of me and teasing me due to my disability. If I sat any place on the bus besides behind the bus driver I would be abused by other kids, like putting several wads of gum in my hair or being hit or kicked. My twin sister ignored me and them so it would not happen to her. I never felt beautiful growing up. I also felt like I did not have friends, so I was lonely. But the one thing about my back brace that brought me joy was my yearly trip to the Mayo clinic with my dad to get a new brace as my body grew. It was a special time just the two of us. Dad often carried me around, while mom had my twin sister. I was a Daddy’s girl and he was my world. Every family picture from when I was little was Daddy holding me. My favorite thing to do would just climb into Daddy’s lap and watch Star Trek with him. If I could not do that I would just try to do what ever I could with Daddy. I remember going to the hospital and just sitting behind him playing quietly as he diagnosed x-rays.
Basically my world revolved around my Daddy. Each morning he was home and not at the hospital he would wake me up with a kiss. Well one morning I woke up before he did having to go to the bathroom. I ran in and tried to get back to bed before he could get there. As I was coming out of the bathroom I saw Daddy coming down the steps from where the guest room was carrying bedding. I was scared because I knew something wasn’t right. His bedroom was across the hall from mine. Why was he coming down from the guest room? I asked him right then, “Are you and mommy getting divorced like Carrie and Kim’s parent were?” He told me “No” and gave me my morning kiss. And everything was OK again because I trusted my dad.
Not much time passed before Mom and Dad sat the three of us kids down to talk. They told us they were getting a divorce. My world shattered. My dad had lied to me. I could no longer trust my Dad. I don’t remember anything else said or done that night at the family meeting. I remember the next day at school my whole body ached, especially my knees. I went to the nurse and she called my dad and he came to get me. He had to “break” into the house because he had given my mom all the keys and moved out while we were at school. I could not tell him why I was hurting and not feeling good. I just knew I was hurting and had no way of expressing it.
Dad moved out and we saw him the first and third weekends of the month. He lived in an apartment for awhile where we would visit him. I am not sure how much time passed before he married my step-mother and moved in with her and my stepsister. The other thing that changed was that I started going to daycare by 6:30 in the morning and after school we went back there. I rode a different school bus with different kids now. I still lived in the same house; the only person missing was my dad. And through this change I did not cry at all. I stuffed all my feelings of being scared, alone, and angry.
My life felt out of control and there was no way to fix it. To try to regain some sort of control I learned to do what ever anyone around me wanted me to do especially authority figures. If I did what others wanted maybe they would not leave me like my dad had. I took ballet because it would help my back. I did the oboe in band because mom said it was a cheep way to rent an instrument from the girl down the street. I did t-ball cause that is what I was told to do. I did not pick out what I wanted to do and eventually quit doing every special activity. So when later in life I did express an interest in art lessons I was told no because I never stick with anything that I choose to do.
Another thing I did to regain some control was to do things I thought would get my dad’s attention. In 6th grade scholastic fair we were choosing which station to display. I picked the bones of the body because of Dad being a radiologist. I knew every bone and was so proud of my display. I asked Dad to come. He told me he would be there. Then he never ever showed up. It wasn’t much but it was the one thing extra curricular that I did that I wanted him to go to. Through it all I never shed a tear. I went on and showed everyone what I could do but the one person who I wanted to show the most was not there. He went to my brother’s soccer games and my sister’s recitals for band, but he did not come to my scholastic fair. I felt insignificant and unwanted.
So when doing great at science did not work I rebelled and started failing science so that Dad would have to tutor me. But he only helped me on the first and third weekends. He did not have any extra time for me. When I got bad grades my mom would compare me to my twin sister telling me I was just as smart, so why was I doing badly. My mom controlled all my choices. I could not take a class in school without her approval first. I had to have my hair cut however she wanted my hair to be. I did not care because in my mind I wasn’t pretty anyway. When I did dress up like for prom or more formal stuff I heard oh you would be prettier if you did this or this. I felt inferior and ugly. I could never achieve any standard my mom set.
When I did blow up in anger or cry as a kid I was told I should not feel that way, big girls don’t cry. Or you should not yell at your brother or sister. So I stuffed my feelings deep inside and wore a mask all the time, hiding the pain even from myself. If I did not know the answer when we played games then I was belittled or yelled at saying I should know the answer. My mom was verbally and emotionally abusive to me. I learned to try and please mom and do whatever she said because then she would not blow up at me.
When I was at Dad’s house, my sister and my stepsister would exclude me from stuff. They bonded and I was jealous that I was not allowed to play with them. I was an outcast there as well as at school. And as we got older my younger brother was bigger than me, he would physically abuse me and hit me and my sister. When I tried to tell Mom or Dad what my brother was doing to us they did not believe us or we were told to hit him back. They thought it was normal sibling stuff. My mom was forced to believe us when she came home from work and his fist had gone through the window. My sister and I had fled to a friend’s house down the block.
Through all this pain I never let on that I was hurting to people around me. I was lonely. I did not have friends. I now felt like I did not have a dad or a twin sister. My sister had a friend who took me to Vacation Bible School. I heard about Jesus. I was old enough to join the youth group at the end of that summer. My mom decided going to church activities was better than an alternative, so she let me go to church activities. When I was grounded I was grounded from church. So I was having fun and finally felt accepted at least a little bit by some people. For three years I did youth activities. One night I went to a concert and I walked forward to accept Christ in my heart because they were talking about how you would never feel lonely again if you did that because you would have friend that lived in your heart. Even though I did not totally understand this I did it because I was so tired of feeling lonely. And for a bit I did not feel lonely. I was now a Christian who was still hurting inside and did not know what to do with the pain I had been stuffing.
My stepmother always asked questions that a new Christian and teenager would not know the answers to. She experimented with reincarnation and many other weird beliefs. And this made me feel even more unwelcome in her house. I even felt an evil presence in the house especially my bedroom. Now as an adult my stepsister claims that room is haunted. I wonder if there was a connection. Often when I visited my dad and her I would hide up in my room or somewhere with a book to read. I got lost inside books. Books were safe and could not hurt me. Books offered me escape from reality around me.
As I got older I began asking mom and dad questions about the divorce, things like why? Mom told me dad had an affair with my step mom. When I asked Dad his side of the story, he told me it was not my business. I began to hate and blame her for my parents separating instead of just feeling unwelcome. And still I did not cry. I did not even realize this is what I was doing because I would not look at things in my life that were bad. More pain was added that I had to hide.
But I still lived in a house with a controlling and verbally abusive mom. A house where I was beat up by my brother. I still felt like an outcast at Dad’s. I never had learned to trust my dad again. All the pain was still inside waiting to be released. The lonely feeling came back. I finally got the courage to talk to a pastor about my brother hitting me. My pastor who contacted my mom to talk and get help for our family. The result was that I got in trouble for telling an outsider a family problem. So I did not talk about family issues again. More verbal and mental abuse happened.
When I graduated high school I wanted as far from all my family that I could and I wanted to go to a Christian school. When mom would not say yes to SBU here in Missouri , I found one that met her educational standards. My twin sister and I went to Baylor. While at Baylor all the emotions I had been stuffing my whole life began to come out. I struggled academically and emotionally. I became suicidal. I tried going to a counselor on campus and I felt like my Christian beliefs were being torn apart, so I did not go back. I kept hearing about the Father Heart of God, but I did not understand or trust God as a Father. I understood Jesus as my friend and that was it. The night I had planned to kill myself I went to Friday night college worship from the church I had been attending. I did not sing or anything. I just sat and watched the crowd around me. I left in the middle of a song and just stood outside for a bit. My home group leader saw me leave and followed me. I started voicing all the questions I had about God as a Father and I argued with him, full of hate and anger. He gave me his home phone number and told me to call him if I wanted to talk more, when I insisted on leaving to go home. I went back to the dorm to try and kill myself and I see so much of how God intervened now. I had planned on taking pills because my roommate had tons around. But her bottles were empty. Then I was going to slit my wrists but my sister had borrowed my cooking knives for a camping trip. Third I was going to go wreck my car with me inside in a river but I could not find the keys I had just put down. What I saw on my desk was my friend’s phone number. I called him and told him what was happening. We talked this time instead of me arguing with him. I really listened. And I looked around my dorm room as we talked and my roommate’s pill bottles were full and there were my car keys on the desk right by where I had found the phone number. My friend made me promise to meet him the next day and I did. He went with me to our college pastor. He helped me tell the others in our home group. I began to realize I wasn’t alone and I had friends I could really share my heart with. I had some girlfriends who I could call in the middle of the night if I had suicidal thoughts. I would go over and sit with and talk to for hours. But I still really only talked about some questions and doubts about God, not all the pain inside me. But I was learning to reach out to people around me. I ended up flunking out and moving home after 4 years in Texas .
When I moved home all the same problems were there. The part of me that had opened up to friends at college shut down again. My mom made my decisions for me. I did what was expected of me to try and avoid the yelling. I did not see my dad and his family a lot. I went back to community college and got my grades up. I transferred colleges. While at school I meet Matt at a Bible Study. Part of me was shocked that anyone could love me. When he told me he loved me I could not answer him back because I did not know my own heart. I struggled for months trying to figure out if I loved him or just liked him. I finally realized that I did love him. As we continued dating, he proposed not long after I told him that I loved him. His proposal was like a scene from a Disney movie. We walked down an old dirt road, where the trees interlaced above letting in beams of light. In the trees turkeys were roosting and gobbling at us. We walked to a field filled with flowers and monarch butterflies. He had table set up with lace table cloth and sparkling cider.
We were married. I thought now my life is going to go great and continue to be the wonderful fairy tale. This was not the case. My husband has been diagnosed with depression . He stopped taking his medicine and with in the first three months of marriage became suicidal. He has been suicidal several times throughout our marriage. I had his mom and doctor telling me it was my job to make sure he took his medicine and wasn’t depressed. And I embraced this. Along with stuffing my feelings, people pleasing, fixing and controlling people and things around me was what I did to cope with life. It was my job as his wife to make him happy, instead of accepting him for who he was and what was going on in his life. All the while, I did not known how to let people in until I blew up or felt crazy out of control.
Finally my life was out of control enough that I heard about CR from SS class I had been attending. I came to CR at first to learn how to fix my husband but soon realized it was a safe place for me to start dealing with and let out some of the pain I had stuffed all my life. I was part of the codependent group we had at the time. I met a wonderful group of women who I began to open up to. At first I only talked about my marriage problems. I found a sponsor and she urged me to do an inventory. The first time I did an inventory I listed some of pain I have shared with you, but said I was OK and had dealt with it. But God opened my eyes and told me different. He knew my heart better than I knew my own heart. He has gently yet firmly shown me how and when to deal with the issues of my life. I found it hard to get to know myself, since I had never even acknowledged the pain was there. I began asking God to show me my heart and what was there. He has given me friends to walk through the pain with me. And He is walking me through it. I learned to trust Ben as he shared his heart several times and asked to start counseling with him. Later I also joined a step study and it helped me go deeper into my past and look at myself.
While attending meetings and listening to the principles of Celebrate Recovery, principle six spoke to my heart the most. “Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I have done to others, except when to do so would harm them or others.” Offering forgiveness was a concept that I had encountered in many Bible studies, but was not something I realized I needed to do also. It meant I had to actually stop denying the pain inside me. I actually had to back up a principle and examine myself and admit to myself first that I had pain and hurt I had buried deep inside before I could even admit to someone else or to God.
I started by learning to grieve and forgive my dad for lying to me. I had to learn to grieve the loss of my family and the divorce. I started learning to cry which often happens during worship services. Then God and I had an argument about forgiving my step-mom. She had always said she could find God in other ways than Jesus and I blamed her for my parents divorce. I challenged God but really I was trying to defy Him. I said to him why should I forgive her because she will never have your forgiveness because she will never ask for it. She will never become a Christian. Well God’s ways are not ours. I received a phone call from my sister telling me my step-mom was a Christian. I was so excited and angry at the same time. There went my one excuse for not obeying God. Ben taught me to pray, God forgive through me because I don’t know how. Eventually I choose to forgive her out of obedience to God. When I went to say goodbye to her before she died, it was like walking into a different house. I was able to look at her and my heart was breaking because we would not have time together to talk. In forgiving her and stopping blaming her I realized I loved her. I went from feeling hate and bitterness to feeling love. It took looking at the darkest part of me filled with hatred and obeying God in forgiving to learn that I loved her very very much. My favorite memory is still right before she died because I knew I loved her and she could die knowing I loved her and forgave her. This miracle is what has kept me going and digging down inside to get out other items I have been stuffing and not dealing with.
On his own my brother came to me and apologized for how he treated me as a kid. He said he should never have hurt me in that way and he had never hit a women since he became an adult. I talk with my dad on a regular basis now, and I feel welcome to come over when ever I want. He and his new wife include me in family activities making me feel loved and accepted. I am opening up and sharing my feelings with my husband and learning to communicate better. I am listening to him and accepting him where he is at now.
My mom began complaining to me about my Oma (my grandmother) and the things she would say or do. In my mind I was thinking these are the same things I have heard you say or do to me. I just listened to her. I told her I was sorry for how verbally and mentally abusive Oma was. My mom left the room and came back later. She said I was right that Oma was being abusive. My mom then apologized because she said she had treated us kids the same way. She asked me how was she to forgive when Oma keeps on hurting her. I was able to teach her the same prayer I had learned: God forgive through me because I don’t know how.
In my marriage, I am learning to control myself. I am no longer in charge of my husband and his issues. He is responsible for himself. I am learning to tell him what is going on inside my heart. I am opening up and sharing my feelings with my husband and learning to communicate better. I am listening to him and accepting him where he is at now. The more I share and open up with him, the closer we become. If I shut down and stop sharing is when there are walls between us. I can not change him. I can share with him how I feel about his choices and how those choices affect me. It is up to God and him, not me. This is still a constant struggle for me daily, and moment by moment. Our marriage is so much better than it was four years ago. In being honest with Matt about my own feelings and what is going on inside me I have received grace, love, and acceptance from him. We need to continue talking and growing and sharing.
Most days I can say that I am so grateful for what God has brought me through. For all of it is a part of who I am and what God has made me. I do still struggle with codependency, depression, and anxiety It is still a struggle for me to not stuff my feelings and hide myself behind masks. With Matt having health issue that we will deal with the rest of our lives together it has brought a lot of anxiety and worry to my life. Just a couple of months ago Matt had another health issue. Last fall recent more tests were ordered and doctors sent me hiding my feelings inside myself again. I began to close off myself and stopped sharing with Matt and other trusted friends. I even stopped sharing at Delta, my recovery group that I help facilitate. Last January, I found myself deeply depressed, crying and not knowing why. Recently I have restarted learning to take care of myself instead of focusing on others. It was a struggle to admit that I needed help again. I needed help digging to find out what is going on inside me. I needed more than help from friends, I needed to reconnect with God. I have started by just reading the Psalms and sitting with God. I also chose to share with some trusted friends and at Delta small groups. Also this last year has been a year of loss which shattered my heart even more. I have lost my job, my step-grandma, and my beloved Aunt.
Gerald Sittser said in his book A Grace Disguised says: “My sister, Diane, told me that the quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and that the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise. I (Gerald) discovered in that moment I had the power to choose the direction my life would head, even if the only choice open to me at least initially, was either to run from the loss or to face it as best as I could. Since I knew that darkness was unavoidable, I decided from thatt point on to walk into the darkness rather than try to outrun it, to let my experience of loss take me on a journey wherever it would lead, and to allow myself to be transformed by my suffering rather than to think I could somehow avoid it. I chose to turn toward the pain, however falteringly, and yield to the loss, though I had no idea at the time what it would mean.” Jesus and others are walking with me again in those places that hurt. I am continuing to learn to hide myself in God. This last year I have found myself feeling my feelings as they have come. I have cried and yelled at God. I have sat with him. I have shared my heart with myself, with God, and with others. God is transforming me through sharing all of my heart with others.
I leave you with a poem I wrote recently.
Hiding in God
You are there when my heart hurts.
You see all of me.
You bring light to the darkness.
You transform my business to stillness.
You give me courage to look inside myself.
You give me courage to say what is really on my heart.
You show me my true beauty.
I hide in You, God, in true community.
For you are where I put my hope and trust.