This past weekend, the girls and I went to our favorite city to see our favorite band in concert. Because it’s also the city where Kaia wants to go to college, we squeezed in three college visits, along with some sightseeing. I couldn’t have known my well-intentioned plans were a potential recipe for disaster.
Things started off well – the concert on the first night was amazing. The first college visit felt like a great fit for Kaia. We took advantage of free parking near the El and took a trip downtown to hang out for the day. Lots of pushing, getting lost, and high temperatures ensued, and by the end of the night, we were wiped out.
As we sat in the hotel room, eating our delicious deep-dish pizza, Kaia began to lose it. Epically lose it. She began to say things I never thought I’d hear her say.
Maybe I don’t want to go to school here. You’ve wanted to go to school here for years; it’s all you’ve talked about since the first time we visited and every visit since and all the time in between visits.
Maybe I don’t want to go to college. More consoling words from me.
I just don’t want to do this anymore. Deep breath, ok, what’s happening here?
I’m not saying I want to kill myself, but I’m just so tired of all of this. I just want it to be over. The wheels of my brain skidded to a halt.
The next couple of hours involved lots of tissues and tears, sobs and hugs, soul baring and sadness. We talked about her feelings, her perceptions, her worries and her fears. “I don’t really want to kill myself,” she kept repeating. “I’m just so tired of everything.”
It happens that I’m reading a new Forward Movement title by Ryan Casey Waller called Broken, mainly because I’m interviewing the author for our donor newsletter. That’s how God works in our lives sometimes, isn’t it? God give us just what we need, just when we need it. That’s the case with this book.
Kaia’s I don’t want to do this anymore took me back to my fourteen-year-old self who tried to slit her wrists but hates the sight of blood so much she couldn’t go through with it. It took me to my close friend, John, who committed suicide when we were both twenty-five. I thought about the recent rise in suicides in my school district, especially in younger kids, victims of bullying. The one thing they all have in common? No one likes to talk about it, and if so, not for long.
Suicide permeates our culture and society, irreparably damaging families and individuals, yet we whisper about it behind closed doors. News stories about these tragedies come and go. After I consoled my daughter to the point of exhaustion, I laid awake trying to create a plan for how I would support her emotional life during this critical year – her senior year in high school. I prayed to God that God would grant us peace, and help me find what Kaia needed to feel more positive each day than negative.
When I woke up, I remembered something I had read in the introduction of Broken:
I am learning that we need to pour out our brokenness, not to God, but to each other, so that we can know that we are not alone. Something sacred happens when we make ourselves vulnerable to one another—we connect. And in connection, we find healing and life.
I liked that passage so much that I marked it with a purple Post-it flag. I couldn’t have known then how much that passage would affect me. The first thing I thought about was that I wasn’t going to bury this episode with Kaia and act like it didn’t happen. How many times have I heard distraught parents and friends say, “I didn’t think she really meant it” and “I never thought he’d really do it?” Too many.
Ryan Casey Waller is right. By sharing in our brokenness, we find healing. We find God. We find ourselves and each other. Just like the lights in the picture above, only one or two wouldn’t make a big difference. But when we all shine our lights, the darkness is no more.
Broken is a great book for parents, and youth group leaders—Waller asks lots of soul-searching questions that help you explore your personal faith. His writing style is very down-to-earth and easy to access. I plan to use a few of these essays with my youth group.
One essay that really hit home is called “that time I needed therapy.” As he shares his story of finally seeing a therapist, Waller urges us to seek help for our mental problems in the same way we would seek help for any other illness. I’ve always shied away from getting help, even though I know I could benefit from it. Reading about Waller’s experience helps me feel like I’m deserving of healing, too.
As for Kaia, she’s feeling much better – the next college tour went well, and she’s back to seeing herself as a student in her favorite city. A few more days into the school year have her feeling more secure in her friendships. She’s beginning to open her mind to the concept of counseling; the fact that her older sister saw a counselor for a year while dealing with a suicidal friend helps.
As for me, I’m not sitting silent and letting this one go. I’m getting help for her, and for me. How about you? Do you have anything happening in your life with your kids or teens that you need to talk about? Go ahead and talk about it with you friends, your therapist, your priest, or share it on Facebook. You’ll find, as Ryan Casey Waller and I did, you are not alone. You’re never alone.
Do you ever feel alone in your brokenness? What do you do? What can you do differently?