Friday, May 13, 2011

You fail us not

It's a shame that I haven't been blogging lately, because this last year of my life has been one of the most interesting.

The biggest thing in my life right now is dealing with the aftermath of the burglary and subsequent-but-unrelated shooting. In the moment, these things were terrifying, but we made it through pretty well. We weren't harmed. We got an insurance check to cover everything stolen from us. The police have deactivated the case and they never found out who did it, but I don't think it would matter much to us if they had. It's clear that it was most likely a random, opportunistic kind of thing, and we're more or less safe now.

The very worst and most lastingly detrimental thing about these incidents has been the overwhelming anxiety I've had since. I've had episodes of anxiety before--severe stress and random panic attacks. But nothing has been so lasting and so crippling as this. This anxiety is killing me. It's straining my marriage and it's challenging my relationship with God--albeit in a good way.

For the first few weeks after the burglary and shooting, I couldn't even stand to be in my house. It wasn't my house anymore. My house was always a sanctuary to me--someplace that would keep me safe from everything outside that could hurt me. But after February, my house was the last place I wanted to be. I even rejoiced going to work because it got me away from my house. In my house, people could get in easily, lurk in hidden places, and do terrible things, and no one would notice right away. In public, at least, if someone tried to attack me, a bunch of people would see.

I was eventually okay with being in my house during the day, but the night still remains terrifying to me. The post-traumatic shock of being here and hearing the shooting still resonated with me. I'd sit in our living room on a perfectly normal night waiting for the loud crash of someone attacking us. I was constantly braced for the worst. I'm still jumpy. I'd get scared when Bryan and I would both be gone from the house at night, knowing there was no one there to defend it.

The evenings are better now, but the worst part has been and remains to be sleeping. I'm more sleep deprived than I've ever been because of this. I lay awake late at night while Bryan sleeps peacefully, vigilant for unusual sounds. I down to about three or four mini panic attacks a night--down from like a hundred huge ones. I have to stay up reading or doing work until I'm too exhausted to stay awake any longer. When I finally do fall asleep, I'm awoken pretty easily by anything--the dog making noise, people outside, the wind.

In the morning, Bryan leaves for work at about 3:45, and I'm alone in the huge, dark, scary house. This is the absolute worst part of my day. I lay in bed all alone, trembling, listening to the darkness, formulating escape plans and clutching my phone and my dog close. I count the minutes until the sun rises. Something about the sun being up makes everything infinitely more okay. There's no danger at all when the sun's up. But it's a long, arduous stretch before the sun comes up.

For a few weeks after the burglary, I was so scared that I would barricade myself into the bedroom every morning with the dresser. Eventually, I decided that this was unhealthy and something I needed to stop before it took over my life. Barricading myself from the rest of the house only made me fear what was in the rest of the house.

So my plan was to get over this and face my fear head on--with Bryan's help. Every morning, before he left for work, we'd walk through the house together to make sure there was nothing there. And there never was. When he left, I was still scared to be alone, so I'd stay awake in the living room. The living room is in the middle of the house, so I can hear anything that is going on. I'd stay awake for the hours before I had to start getting ready for school or work by reading, doing homework, or watching crappy movies on Netflix. Eventually, I let myself start falling back asleep on the couch at around 5:30 a.m, when I somehow determined it was less likely that someone would break in.

As you can probably imagine, this is an exhausting life to lead. I was tired all the time, and I dreaded waking up every morning to spend four hours sitting alone on a couch hyperventilating. A few times, I couldn't face going through it at all, and I simply wouldn't come home. I stayed the night at my friends' house a few times just so I could get a semi-normal night's sleep (disregarding the huge guilt I had for leaving my husband home alone).

In April, I went to a women's conference in Estes Park. The theme of the conference was "The Alabaster Jar," about the story in Luke 7:36-50 of the sinful woman who poured an alabaster jar on perfume on Jesus's feet. This was incredibly expensive perfume that would be saved for her eventual wedding, and back then, women had nothing but marriage, so this jar had literally all her hopes and dreams in it, and she poured it out in devotion to God, surrendering all her hopes over to Him. At the conference, we talked about how all women have their own alabaster jar--something that we're storing up all of our hopes and dreams in, and how we need to give it up to God and trust Him.

At the beginning of the conference, we had to write down our biggest concern. Mine came to me easily. I was afraid for Bryan's safety and well-being with me gone at the conference for the weekend. I was relieved to be far away from my house for a night, but I was afraid of my emotional state when I had to return to the fear. So that's what I dealt with all weekend--the anxiety I have about my house and its safety. Eventually, I realized that I'm trying too hard to have control over my safety. I can fortify my house as much as possible with barricades and alarms, and I can be as vigilant as I want to the detriment of my sleep, but if God wanted something to happen to me, there's no way I can stop it! I need to trust that whatever happens to me--if nothing bad ever happens to me again (doubtful), or if I go through horrific tragedy, that it's for God, not for me. I need to trust that God is good, and that his will is bigger than mine.

This is difficult for me, because sometimes (often) bad things happen to good people. And I am far from a good person. But God has a purpose for everything, and His will is good. And I may never see the outcome of the things that happen to me. And it's not necessarily for my benefit. I could be killed, but it could be good for the kingdom of God. So that scares me... because I don't want to be killed. But I have to trust that God has a place for me, and even the worst things that could happen to my body cannot touch my soul. God has that taken care of.

So at the conference, I surrendered my alabaster jar of fear and control over my circumstances. I gave it up to God, who, of course, already had control over it. I don't think God wants me to stop trying to keep my house safe, but I recognize that I can't keep everything out. So I tried to stop getting up every morning and keeping watch from my couch. It hasn't been an easy transition. I'm still terrified every single night and every single morning when Bryan's not there. I've been able to force myself to stay in bed and try to go back to sleep, but I only actually fall back asleep about half the time. Once, it was when I was horribly drunk, and most of the rest were when I was insanely busy and exhausted during the last week of school.

But it's gotten progressively better, and we have hope in sight for a big change (more on that later). And I've seen God work through this. A lot of the time I've spent lying awake has been spent reading my Bible, and it's been constant reminder after constant reminder of how God is in control, how He loves me, and how He has already rescued me and will continue to. He's been able to help me identify my fear and my control issues, and I'm working on them.

The robbery, and even the shooting even though I wasn't really involved with it, have affected me and hurt me deeply. It's probably something that will affect the rest of my life. But there has been healing, and God has been at work through this tragedy, and I know that He will continue to work.

1 comment:

Kess said...

Wow! Ashley, this was such a powerful post! I'm sorry you had such a tough time following those traumatic incidents, but at least some good has come out of it, in that it's driven you closer to God and relying on Him.

It's lovely to read your post. I've always enjoyed your blog. Like you, my favourite blogs are those that, in your words, 'just talk about their life.