Thanksgiving 2011 was the last time I checked myself into the psychiatric ward. Seven years.

For this blog, I thought I’d share pictures of friends made in the last three years.

I’ve come a long way since then. Everything started to turn that December. But today a friend shared about a scene from a show where a girl entered the hospital due to a suicide attempt and how in the show her mother came and was understanding and compassionate.

My mentor for a period and friend forever.

I was taken back by how strong my emotions were and the memories that were triggered from times I entered the hospital or confided in a friend or family member about my suicide attempts. I was never met with understanding or compassion, but rather disdain and dismissal. I think my family motto remains, “If you ignore it, it will go away.”

My sweet, beautiful friend.

Oh well, I can’t change them. I can only be responsible for myself and working on my behavior and my actions. I realize in many ways I was always a bit of a conundrum for my family. Three boys and a father who yet doesn’t have a clue about the female gender.

Moving almost 1,500 miles away does help me to feel safe from the tension of my family. A move across country allows me the opportunity to feel a measure of peace and enjoyment on Thanksgiving. I don’t mean that we solve our problems by geographical space. I have done and continue to do the work to heal from the wounds of the past. Still there are things I have yet to work out internally that remain painful.

Another beautiful friend so dear to my heart.

But December 2011 was when I read “The Battlefield of the Mind,” by Joyce Meyer that provided much freedom. December 2011 was also when my friend spoke what God told her to, that he still had a call on my life. It was more than mere encouragement. It was a declaration of the Lord that carried a weight and power that I’ve never felt before or since. Such a power that it is still very much the impetus propelling me forward.

One of my greatest friends ever.

I had begun to work on stepping back from suicidal ideation after I survived my last suicide attempt in April of 2008. I believed and still believe that I survived because God wasn’t done with me. For me that’s what it took to believe he still had purpose for me.

Some of the ladies from our one year anniversary of completing our CR step study.

God is the one who led me to the psychiatric ward and psychiatrists and counselors starting in the fall of 2008. The Christians around me weren’t equipped with compassion which is what I believe provides the true power to address the issues I carried. Ironic, they were so superior in their supposed knowledge, yet completely inferior in their ability to actually carry out the instruction of Jesus Christ to heal the sick and cast out demons because of their very arrogance in the scripture.

So, God had to send me to psychiatrists and counselors and hospitals to try to find kindness because there was none for my situations in my church.  It’s so sad and I know still true for many today in churches. I am not saying it is true in every church or every situation. This is part of why I love the Celebrate Recovery ministry. This is why for me Celebrate Recovery feels like true Christianity because we take in those who are broken, those who are blind spiritually, those who are oppressed to help lead them to victory and freedom.

When I was 13 I took every single pill I could find in my house. It was technically my second suicide attempt, although the first didn’t get very far. I genuinely thought I would die. But instead I woke up when one of my brother’s, Carter, arrived home from a party with a cousin. It was the middle of the night in February and we went into the kitchen where I vomited all those pills across the large kitchen floor.

I brokenly confessed my deed. My female cousin, Shar, looked surprised and taken back, but my brother Carter simply looked mad. And the weight I felt from the perceived condemnation and condescension settled in over me on top of my already weakened, devastated state. He never spoke to me about it to this day, but the next day he did invite me to join him while he babysat our leadership’s children. I was terribly sick the entire day and could barely move.

And the more I live, the more I think everyone is broken at some level and very in need of honesty, accountability and love. I know not everyone thinks they need help, or will admit they need help. I get that. I know that. And I know that Celebrate Recovery isn’t the means God will use for everyone. But it’s the means he used for me and I love it.

It has provided me a community where I don’t have to hide or lie or feel ashamed about my struggles with depression or my past struggles with suicide and drugs. Even now, I can see how food is my current drug of choice and I can speak about my journey to freedom and victory. I can speak about my weakness and get encouragement instead of condescension and condemnation.

In Celebrate Recovery (CR) we celebrate periods of sobriety with chips.

In Celebrate Recovery we mark milestones of victory and tonight I just wanted to share with you how I am seven years clean from the psychiatric ward. For several years I needed the psychiatric ward as a safe place when my emotions and negativity threatened to swallow me up. It was a place I could go to step out of the craziness of my world for a moment. It helped me find a space of peace for a few days over the course of several years.

I’m grateful for the healing God and my Lord Jesus Christ have brought me so that I no longer need to check myself into a psychiatric ward to avoid harming myself. I am very grateful that God has brought me to a safe place in Celebrate Recovery where I have made true friends who love me for who I am. I am grateful for the progress I’ve made and that Thanksgiving is no longer the worst time of year for me. I still have a long way to go to be where I want. But I’ve come a long way from where I was. And I just wanted to celebrate with you all.

I decided to put pictures in this blog of friendships made in the last three years since I began my Celebrate Recovery step study. Not all these friends are from step study, though many are. And there are some not pictured. Going through photos from the last three years, selecting these pictures left me grinning so big, my face began to hurt. Of course, these are highlight moments with a lot of tears and hardship in between. But I found it to be a beautiful glimpse into the redeeming work God has done and continues to do in my life.