Detox: My year in hell and back again


One year ago today, on my 35th birthday, I was in the midst of the deepest depression of my life. I felt bad for the two friends who took me out for lunch, I was too dazed and sad to care.

In the 4 months prior, I had lost my adoring boyfriend, my other most supportive friend, my community house, and access to meaningful work. And with it all, my sense of who I was.

With no safe place to live, no one in my entire Vancouver community had the capacity to house or support me the way I needed to be. I felt so alone. I felt abandoned.

The week between Christmas and New Years was spent in the Psychiatric Assessment Unit at Vancouver General Hospital. The anesthetized, white,empty walls and people numbed with drugs all around me made me feel much, much worse.

It was like all the goodness in my life had been killed off, and I was in mourning. Just a few short months before, I had been enjoying the time and love of my life in Brazil. I had been writing more, making new friends, growing in confidence and joy. And now this.

At the advice of a friend, every night I lit a candle beside my crucifix on my bedside table, turned off the lights, and listened to Taize music. img_0094-3

One song I listened to on repeat was this: Within our darkest night, you kindle a fire that never dies away.

For me, the fire that God kindled was two-fold. First, God gifted me with the ability to sit in and feel my pain. Not try to fix it, explain it, or pray it away. Second, God gifted me with the desire to learn the shit out of my pain, and grow as much as I could during it.

Sidenote: I am not one to buy the bullshit that everything happens for a reason. It is not helpful for anyone grieving or suffering to hear this. It trivializes the pain and is condescending and not helpful. But I do know this. Suffering provides an opportunity to either turn bitter or better. It’s up to us what we make of it.

I moved back to Barrie, ON, to rest at my folks place. Being in a safe and warm and supportive house helped.

Reading good fiction like The Hunger Games helped. It reminded me of what I love: well-written Story, courage, justice, feminism, peace. The Gospel.

Playing with my nieces and nephews helped. They reminded me of who I was: Aunt Jenny; silly and fun and creative.

Being near my dog Bailey helped. His deep love, fierce loyalty, and gentle presence made me grateful to exist alongside such a miraculous creature.

In Toronto, amazing new and old friends housed and supported me for weeks on end. I was recommended a life coach, found work, a loving house community, and the best therapist one could hope for. I have processed a lot that had been bubbling beneath the surface for decades. I have healed and grown so much. I have learned so much about myself, the mystery of pain and darkness, about God, and about relationships. This last year I have been a student in Life the Freedom School.

Today, on my 36th birthday, I have great friends, a phenomenal house community, incredible neighbours, family and my pup near by, an amazing church, and meaningful work on the horizon.

But above all, I have a fully restored sense of who I am. I have truly learned what the poet Mary Oliver teaches, “Love yourself. Then forget it. And love the world.”

What a difference a year can make! With the support network of a deeply listening and loving community, anything is possible. And looking back, with my own willingness to enter the darkness, feel the pain, mourn it, and then learn all I can, the year was transformed from a shitty waste of time to a deeply significant one.

As Richard Rohr says, “If you don’t transform your pain, you will transmit it to those around you and to the next generation.” I would add you also destroy yourself and waste your pain.

I am grateful I had a supportive community to allow me to enter into this unchartered, painful, yet deeply transformative year not alone.

And to God, my everything: For all that has been, thanks. And for all that shall be, Yes!


2 Responses to “Detox: My year in hell and back again”

  1. 1 Ru January 4, 2016 at 9:38 am

    Hi dear! Did you know I could write basically the same about myself? I’m happy you are happy. 🙂

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