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Bethany G. Paget

Midwife of words

31Days – Twitter, facebook and internet love

I had lost or walked away from almost every friend I had.  It was either that we’d grown apart or that there was “a thing” there that prevented the friendship from growing.  Whether it was or the other person is what I have been working through because I know that there were times, years and people that I wasn’t faithful to.  Just as there were people that I needed to be there for me that weren’t.

I have worked and am still working through a lot of the things that prevent me from having healthy relationships, with anyone.  Most of those were worked through as I built a relationship with my therapist.  As I did that my relationships started to change, whether for the good or the bad.

I have walked away from several people who were extremely unhealthy and toxic, including my family which has been hard.  Not a lot of things hurt more than a severed relationship with someone who was supposed to be so much more.

I have waded through grief from losing relationships that were based on so much rawness and vulnerability that losing that relationship hurts.

Grieving that brings out all of those alone feelings.

Then I am reminded of the amazing community that I have built.  Twitter, an amazing writing community that I was a part of, people in my skin life and some new friends that I met through other friends; this is what makes up my community.

I would never have been able to value the beauty of these relationships if I had not been a part of the Story Sessions community.  The women I formed relationships were just as valuable as discovering my voice under the rubble.  Those relationships turned to other relationships that have led me to spending half of my summer with a valuable soul and her family.

I cannot even begin to find to the words to thank EVERY SINGLE PERSON that has helped us.  And there are many.  All of those things happened because of my online relationships.

I have been incredibly blessed by my relationships with each and every person and I want you all to know that my heart is so full.  Each one of you has stood beside Abigail and I as we have waded through these murky waters.

I never imagined that people I have never (well some I have) met would be so generous.  People who were generous with love, kindness, prayers and support when things got out of control.
These are men and woman who I can share my heart with and know that they hear me and they know that I hear them.

These people are my family.

As Always,

Bethany

31Days – Reflections of, the way life used to be

Nine years ago I was a wreck. I was stoned as soon as I woke up and stayed high on something until bed. Jeffrey and I fought non stop and I secretly longed to leave, though that wasn’t even an option. I wanted to go, I was tired of his abuse and I was weary mentally.

Everything made me cry.

We were living in North Florida in a house that wasn’t ours, and our occupancy was contingent on Jeffrey keeping his job. They shut the power and water off on us, right after thanksgiving. The week I found out I was pregnant with Abigail.

The drug use was still constant even after leaving Kansas. Our goal had been to move to Florida and get clean, but that didn’t happen. Without the crack and the meth we were nothing. Fighting constantly led us to both start smoking ridiculous amount of pot.

I look back at the time and hurt for the girl that felt trapped in a relationship that was over six months before I actually left. I hurt for how wounded and anxious she felt. I loved Jeffrey, I really did. I began to see though after I got pregnant that I HAD to leave, to save my life.

I did leave, on a warm February afternoon. I almost slept in my van that night but finally found a place to stay. I went back to motel the next day and knew I was done. I packed my stuff and left. I wanted to make it work with him and be a family but it was obvious that he didn’t want that.

Even after I left I was still a mess. I wanted so badly to believe that I was fully healed by God. At that time I wasn’t even fully aware of how much trauma I really carried. I was living in a peach colored, happy go Jesus world. It would hit me until I moved back to Colorado and my pretty pink bow life fell apart.

I didn’t understand why God, who had supposedly heal me would allow the struggles I was having.

Even though on the outside I was trying to maintain a Godly image I was dying on the inside. It was a hard thing to do to even get up in the morning.

Then I look at who I am today and how those early days, as hard as they were have shaped me. I know my circumstances right now are terrible but I am really trying to focus on healing. Once I started that process of picking through the pain my internal balance changed even though my circumstances continued to get worse.

When I reflect on who I used to believe God was I can see why everything stayed a mess. Healing the internal was all about what I was doing on the outside ie: bible studies, groups, conferences and mentorship. I perceived that if I wasn’t doing those things than I wasn’t invested in growing as a Christian. So while I knew my bible stuff and worship songs and prayer those things weren’t causing growth.

Sometimes I miss that girl I was 9 years ago. She had such courage, courage that she gives to me today to continue to persevere even though circumstantially things are rough. She was also very faithful, faithful to her friends and God. That girl still lives in me, the one who slept with her bible to fight off nightmares. The girl who put scripture around the house to stay protected. Her hyper vigilance to do those things is understandable. Even though I am not that vigilant these days with my faith, I still cling to Jesus as though I have run out of breath. He has been the one constant.

Through everything Jesus has been the one to show me love and the way to loving myself. I cannot walk away from that.

I know my journey is dark and murky but these are some of the most beautiful times.

Because I learned about self, and that I don’t need to continue berating myself to be equated with a saint.

I am human and so is my journey.

As Always,

Bethany

31Days – Faith and Mental Health

I hold some anger towards God for my adolescent and teenage years.  As if they aren’t bad enough I had a mental illness on top of it.  It wasn’t easy to navigate those murky waters while my boat had a giant hole in it.  I spent many nights crying and asking what I did so wrong to God to deserve what I was going through. I hear that wounded part sobs and it just crushes me that my 16 year old self thought that God was punishing her with a mental illness.

It is partly because of those feelings that I don’t talk about my mental health struggles to often.  There is still a part of me that feels deep shame, mostly from outside sources.

I became a Christian when I was pregnant with Abigail and I have often spoken about how fast things changed.

I was medicated, pregnant and full of Jesus Freak-ness.  I thought I was better, that God had fixed my depression and PTSD.  It was assumed that he did because the change seemed like it happened overnight.

Now I see that it was because I left an extremely abusive relationship and was free from all the toxicity that went along with it.

Towards the end of my pregnancy I started to get comments about my medication.  Things like “When are you going to get off that medication” and “It doesn’t seem like you are really trusting God”  Those messages would be repeated to me for the next three years at the church I started going to upon moving home.

The message was very clear: “Christians who take medication and go to secular therapists are not trusting God”

The underlying mentality was the suffering is beautiful thought.  Often compared to Paul and the thorn in his side people would tell me “Pray for healing” “Trust God” and “Medication really is bad for you and you shouldn’t take it because so and so did and such and such happened”  I was anointed with oil as much as I could be, I got saved like every weekend and that third baptism was thrown in for good measure.  I didn’t want to fail God in any way.

I was in a relationship with a guy from that church who said to me; after I had just told him that I was suicidal tell me that “We need to pray for three months before talking about medication again”

I wanted to be the dutiful, submissive girlfriend I thought I was supposed to be and said ok, that I would wait.

It was an incredibly difficult time in my life.  I was struggling in so many areas and trying so hard to keep up with the people around me.  I wanted them to really see the joy (that I thought was there) radiate from my smile.  In reality I was depressed, suicidal and ready to walk away. I didn’t because I wanted to remain a people pleaser and a good Christian woman.

I was being mentored by a woman who said to my face that mental illness doesn’t exist and that psychiatrists and therapist are tools of satan.  As much as I wanted to stick around and be mentored, keeping up my appearance I couldn’t after that.  I struggled with my mental health and the church’s response.  When she said those words to me I was done.

Thankfully the boyfriend and I broke up a few weeks later and the first thing I did was call a psychiatrist so that I could get back on my medication.

I have been medicated since then and started in therapy, with a surprisingly fantastic therapist.  It’s been three years and I have faced several demons (not literal) in that time.  The layers of wounding keep peeling back allowing more pain to see the light and be healed.  I believe that I was put with this particular therapist for a reason.  She does happen to be a believer and that has strengthened my growth tenfold.  She has been an integral part of why I am able to stay with Jesus.

I cannot ascribe to the “suffering is beautiful” or “suffering is because of sin” mentality.  Life is fucking hard and because abuse happens often it’s victims are left with broken pieces of life.  There is no beauty in feeling so suicidal one would do anything to die.  I have been there, thankfully I am not anymore.  That kind of pain is gruesome.  To tell someone in this situation that they need to trust God and pray more is just asinine.  The people that I know that have been in that place have said that they blame God for where they are.

I know that the more I heal the more I will grow in my faith.  There is a part of me that has to work through my anger at God for those years I was tormented by crazy mood swings, uncontrollable anxiety and fear.  The years I spent in and out (mostly in) different psychiatric hospitals in several different states.  The deeply entrenched suicidal thoughts and self hate; those years were terrifying.  There is no beauty in that.

It should not be this hard.  I know many who have left the church because of their mental health struggles.

Even when a big name evangelical loses someone to suicide it still comes back around to trusting God and His plans for our lives.

I doubt that is how God wants it to be.  I believe that science and medication and therapists (in whatever form) were given to us by God to use for our good.  This is why I don’t struggle with balancing a strung out brain and wanting to please God anymore.

I ache for how many times the “Just trust God” message has been pushed through into my friends ears.

I long for Jesus to whisper to 16 year old me that it wasn’t her fault nor was it God’s.  I had no chance in this world given what I was born into.  God didn’t cause nor did he turn away from my abusive childhood.  Do I have another answer, no I don’t at least not right now.

However I am learning balance and boundaries, safety and compassion for myself and for those around me, especially where there is deep hurt.

I also know the truth about medication and therapy for me.  I have learned what I need to be a whole person, not balancing mental health Bethany and Faithful Jesus follower Bethany.

It has taken a long time for me to get to this place.  I am comfortable where I am at, both in my healing and in my faith.

As Always,

Bethany

31Days – Faith and Motherhood

If you have been a steady reader of my blog you would know that I struggle in my relationship with my daughter.  I haven’t kept it a secret and the reason why is growth.  I am vocal about how hard it was to accept that I was going to be a single mom. I desired to get married so Abigail can have a dad.  My faithful readers know that this last year has been incredibly difficult for me, which thus makes it difficult for Abigail.

If it wasn’t for faith, grace and redemption I wouldn’t be able to write this post.  I started out motherhood incredibly conservative.  As a new Christian I absorbed all the parenting advice I could because I wanted to make sure that I was raising a Godly daughter.

When every parenting book said to spank, I did; even though it felt wrong in my spirit.  I saw how the children around me that were spanked and realized I didn’t want to be like that at all.  Abigail was four and in therapy I laid down ALL of the parenting books. I decided that I was going to start listening to Holy Spirit on how to raise her including discipline.  It was the best time of my life.  Abigail and I started getting along a lot better.  For once I started to have hope that our relationship really could be restored.

We have been in therapy together since she was 3 (stemming from an incident that happened in 2008) As I did my own work, Abigail did her own work and then we worked together as a family.  It was an incredibly eye opening experience as I started to see that many of the things I did in my early parenting were things my parents did.  Having that knowledge set me free to really do things different, and I have.

The last year has probably been the best for the two of us.  I have learned where my struggles are and how they affect my parenting.  I learned that being firm and giving consequences doesn’t mean that I am a mean mom.  It means that I have chosen to do things different and that I am actually showing her how much I love her by being firm, never wavering.

It’s tough to be on top every day; being single definitely has a lot to do with those rough moments we experience.  It more often than not results from me being too busy or too tired.  I have learned to identify what Abigail is feeling based on how she is acting and it usually has nothing to do with what she’s really upset about.

Being a parent with C-PTSD and raising a daughter with PTSD certainly makes for some difficult moments.  It’s in those moments though I have seen God through the darkness and have believed that he’s actually moving.

My faith is definitely under the microscope right now as I examine where I was, where I thought I was and where I want to be. That starts in the right now of excavating my faith and walking through my murky Jesus waters.  I do know He’s on the other side.

God means what he says when he says he loves his children.

I know that much to be true.

As Always,

Bethany

31Days – Poetic Faith

Questioning faith

Which was once the beat of my heart

Jesus

My only company

My mind goes back to see,

Those first days

Fresh

New

Bold

Now I look so hard to see,

to see if you are really there

To seek for truth

Are you the Father?

Are you the son?

Are you the one that they said

was to come?

My spirit has faded

As I have moved

Through the seasons

Those questions I had

That anger I shared

The uphill battle

The twists and turns of days into nights

I wanted to leave you on that dirt floor

Where you sat with me

While in despair

I got up alone

Even looked back to see if you were coming

But you said

“Child I’ll be here and there with you”

Dirt floors or dancing, or face down crying

I am your Father

You aren’t alone

Poetry really is my first love when it comes to writing. It is also an amazing way for me to write about this faith excavation.  I am looking deep into my heart and what I have walked through over the last 8 1/2 years to see if there is any shred of faith left.

So far I still believe.  I’ve been through enough with God alone to ever walk away from him.  Though the truths are changing.  I no longer see him as an angry judge who expects perfection.  I see him as a God who loves, that he is love and want us to love well.

I believe our mission as followers of Christ is to be loving, open, willing to forgive and so much bigger that we can ever imagine understanding.

I have been hurt by the faith community but more and more people of faith (all different ones) are coming into my life and causing even deeper questions.

I have also learned that questions aren’t bad.  God knows we get angry and can handle it all.

The biggest thing I have learned is love.

As Always,

Bethany

31Days – The Pedestal

I moved into the crisis pregnancy home on February 2, 2011.  I was four months pregnant and still addicted to drugs.  I was incredibly willing though to stop, walk forward in life and learn how to take care of this baby that I had been blessed with.

The house parent that lived in the house with us was this older woman who had been a single mom.  I was older than most of the girls that move in and that gave me more privileges than the younger girls.  When we went to the church service where I went forward to the alter call Olga (the house parent) was over the moon.  She was every time one of the girls went forward.

Something felt different though with me.  I didn’t want to do drugs anymore so they started saying that God removed my addiction from me.  Looking back I can see that he didn’t in fact remove my addiction.  The cravings left but my addiction manifested in other areas, as it sometimes does.

All of a sudden “my story” was this amazing thing that was talked about everywhere we went.  I was asked to speak at conferences, at benefit nights and in church services.  According to the women who were involved with the house I was a walking miracle.

I soaked that stuff up because no one had ever thought of me as special before.  Now that they did I needed them to keep speaking about who they thought I was going to be.  I still saw no future (while I was pregnant) I had no idea what was going to happen after I had Abigail.  So their words of God doing a big thing in my life were enough to sustain me.

When I moved back to Colorado and started going to my former MOPS group there were women there who said the same thing after I shared my story.  I started to believe it and suddenly saw myself like Beth Moore speaking about Jesus from a platform in an auditorium or stadium.  That became what I strived for.

I would share my story whenever anyone would ask.  I attended bible studies to “grow” and I even joined a ministry hoping that, that would open doors for me to become a famous Christian.  I can see my flawed logic now.  I was living for people to SEE me and THINK I was special, that I really was this walking miracle that people said I was.

Things started to change though.  My grip of perfection started to slip, I felt like a fake every time I spoke.  I would be speaking somewhere and sharing my story but internally I was telling myself “do you really believe this.”

I had everything laid out for my future and because it was for God I was sure that he blessed it.

Then all of a sudden everything was gone and I was left wondering where those “big plans” for God were now.

Slowly over time as my faith shifted so did that idea that I needed to do those BIG things for him.  I started to think simple and see each act of love as a big thing.

It didn’t matter the act.  Whether I was bringing someone a meal after surgery or taking care of Abigail during one of the hardest seasons of my life I started to see those things as BIG things.  I wasn’t doing them because I wanted to earn major props with God I did them because He called me to love.

I still see that now.  I don’t participate in any type of church activity but what I have learned is that God calls us to love extravagantly.  Whatever that looks like in my daily life I know that I am doing what I am supposed to do.

I want to live a life of love, not a life of striving to be known.

As Always,

Bethany

31Days – Faith and Boundaries

I grew up in an incredibly abusive home.  It wasn’t just my parents who abused me, it was the unhealthy people that I was surrounded by.  I had parents who were unaware of what was going on around me.  They also were not teaching me, or setting an example for what I would need to know to be a healthy adult.  The biggest one of those was boundaries.

There were no boundaries growing up.  I wasn’t allowed to have my own space, thoughts or life really.  The privacy factor was huge because as a punishment my parents would remove my bedroom door.  That gave me no healthy boundaries for myself and it also made it impossible to ignore what my parents did in their bedroom ie: sex.

Not knowing what boundaries actually were made it difficult to establish healthy relationships.  This only got worse as I got older, including after my salvation experience.  I thought that all of a sudden I was going to be healthy and whole. I wasn’t obviously and my struggle with boundaries continued.  I was passive aggressive in my relationships and always had incredibly high standards of what relationships should look like.

Being co-dependent also made it difficult to establish relationships.  I found a lot of my relationships ending because they weren’t healthy.  My interpersonal relationships were suffering because I had no idea what I was doing, when to say yes and that no doesn’t change relationships.

When I started therapy that was one of the first things I was able to learn.  I practiced each place I went, setting small boundaries around myself.  I found my relationships (most of them) improving.  It was then time to start setting boundaries with my family.

That was the hardest one because the way my family thrives is being 100% co-dependent on everyone else.  They wouldn’t survive without constantly being up in each other’s business and continuing to tell us kids (as adults) how to live our lives.

They were small boundaries at first but even those weren’t accepted well.  They would throw my faith in my face and tell me that I wasn’t acting like Jesus.  When in truth holding onto Jesus as the ultimate boundary setter I continued to heal my life while being safe around my parents.

Setting the boundary a year ago of having no contact wasn’t something I could do alone.  I wrestled with the decision for a really long time until God let me know that it was time.  His spirit was ever present as I told my mom that I didn’t want to speak to her or anyone in my family.  I was firm in stating what I needed for myself (not something I have ever been able to do) and did not back down when they pushed up against that boundary.

It’s been difficult not having them in my life.  Regardless of how abusive they were they are still my family.  I have stuck to that boundary though and the only reason I have is because God has been ever present and continually shows me that His promises of family are true.

We may be born into blood families but that doesn’t mean that’s where we are supposed to grow and thrive.  I have found more acceptance from people that I have met on this faith walk.  They have taken me into their families and loved me like I was one of their own.  Learning how to set boundaries has helped these relationships grow and thrive.

It was hard to hear no at first but as I became more comfortable saying it to other people it has become easier to hear it.

I believe fully that it’s God who has caused this internal change.  I did the work and walked through the process but He was ever present to love me and remind me that in doing the next right things that I would continue to grow.

As Always,

Bethany

31Days – Wonder Woman

After I had my surgery I went back to being a single mom and doing everything myself. There were a few people who came around and brought food, helped me get A on the bus and came over just to spend time with me. After a month that wore off and I was alone again; taking care of Abigail wasn’t incredibly tough because I was so medicated but the being alone hurt.

A friend of mine who had the Chiari decompression surgery a year before I did was incredibly supportive. She and her mom and sister did so much for us. One day her sister said to me “girl I don’t know how you do it. You are wonder woman.” I didn’t feel like Wonder Woman at all but I clung on to the hope that I really was doing okay.

The time since my surgery has been incredibly difficult and every time I start to feel like I cannot handle it, I remember what my friend said about me being Wonder Woman.

It doesn’t mean that I can handle everything, get everything done in one day and unfortunately I cannot fly. What the nickname does help is pushing me one step forward a little each day. In Wonder Woman I find the grace and strength to work through the shit that is my life right now. I know and believe that things won’t always be this way.

To commemorate my nickname and the healing that has come over the last 18 months I got a wonder woman tattoo this past weekend. It was a healing experience and allowed me to reflect on this time that I always call so hard and terrible.

Truth is, it has been hard and terrible. What I see as positive though is that I didn’t crumble and walk away, back to the old way of life. I have refused to let go, lie down and give up. The only reason for that is that I refuse to let go of the tiny morsel of faith I have left. I believed this whole time that God really is going to see me through this. While I can’t see what the future holds, He can and He knows that getting me through is ever so important.

Getting the Wonder Woman tattoo was about more than just having beautiful work on my arm, and the starting of a sleeve. It’s about holding onto the truth of faith.

I have the evidence of faith on my upper right arm and neither it, nor I are going anywhere.

IMG_0966.JPG

As Always,

Bethany

31Days – The End and the Beginning

I haven’t really said much about my career prior to the last couple of years.  I started working in the substance abuse/mental health field in 2007.  I started as the victim advocate for our domestic violence program.  I worked there in various capacities until 2009.  That’s when I found my job at the crisis detox units.  I was an on-call counselor for a year and a half until I transitioned to a full time position at the location in Aurora.

I had always thought that I would go into the substance abuse field.  I knew I wanted to be a therapist and this was a good start.  I went on to become certified then was promoted to day shift supervisor.  Everything was in place according to my plan.

After I became supervisor things changed overnight.  Without warning I had responsibilities that should not have been mine.  My boss treated me like his assistant when it was suitable for me, but when it was suitable for him I was his day shift supervisor.

It became an unbearable place to work.  I was constantly talked about behind my back and in front of my face.  When I discovered there was a plot to get me fired I decided to leave after I came back from Africa.  I was going to start looking for another job.  I wasn’t going to allow myself to be abused anymore.

Turns out I didn’t have to quit.  When I returned to work I found out I had been suspended pending an asinine investigation which reveal nothing.  I wasn’t told if I would be paid during this time so I went a month wondering if I was going to get back pay.  When I didn’t know how I was going to get by God showed up in a really big way.

I never went a month with my rent not paid.  We never went without food or gas for my truck.  He provided through his people and it kept us going for months.  That continued into the months after I got sick.

It is those things that keep me hanging on.  I knew we were going to be okay in that moment.  But then the season continued and I feel like I have been left high and dry.  I don’t feel or see His presence so big in my life anymore and I am struggling with that.

That is part of the reason that I decided to write on faith for 31Days.  The God that I knew then is not the God I know now.  The God I see Him as these days is one more of love and grace, justice and peace and one that wants his children to love rather than hate.  I don’t think he is prissy God either but that he knows that the only way out of this mess of a world is to love.

I miss my job, I know I am not supposed to be there anymore, it was an incredibly hostile work environment.  What I really miss is that I had a plan for the future.  Everything seemed very settled and laid out before me.  Now there is no plan but that doesn’t mean that God isn’t still God in my life.  It doesn’t mean he’s no less here and that he will still indeed provide.

Holding onto those promises is much harder when life is not consistent at all.  However I know him to be a steady God, and can believe that he is not going to leave mow.  He has already brought ne this far.

I don’t see him wavering now.

As Always,

Bethany

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