Tuesday, June 05, 2007

White-knuckled

Chica, in a recent post quoted Phyllis from The Young and the Restless as saying, "I'm holding on so tight that my knuckles are white." This reminded me of the way I used to feel. I wrote about it in my new yet-to-be-published book, A Firm Place to Stand, and thought I would share it here. This also happens to be a theme we will discuss at Living Room this Friday.

I dedicate this post to Chica.

I Don’t Believe in If Anymore
©marja bergen

With the greatest determination, I used to cling to what was left of my mind’s composure. I felt as though I were hanging from the edge of a high rooftop, white-knuckled, panicky with fear. How long can I hold on like this? Can I maintain my strength? What will happen if I let go? Exhaustion overwhelmed me. Far below was the hard ground and no one to catch me if I fell.

But I did fall – quite often. These experiences were devastating and difficult to recover from. The support I received from family, friends and my doctor was helpful, but I was alone in the battle.

Rudyard Kipling’s poem If was like a bible to me during many years of my illness. I described in Riding the Roller Coaster how meaningful this poem became, how I patterned my life after its good counsel, how I carried it with me for many years. It encouraged me to become a productive and responsible person. I still think highly of the poem and try to go along with most of its advice. I follow through on my dreams, don’t worry about what others say and try as much as possible to “…fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run.” But I no longer listen to the challenge Kipling leaves us with these words:

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will, which says to them, “Hold on!”

For twenty-three years, I tried to live out those lines when I was in crisis. I tried with my best willpower to survive the mental turmoil that overtook me. I was determined to be strong, hanging on to whatever I could, but not finding much of substance. Those were times of anxiety and fear.

Coping with crisis finally changed for the better when I could no longer deny that God is real. I realized I didn’t have to depend on myself alone. I could relax my grip and trust in someone much stronger than me.

The faith I learned to have in a God who loves me too much to let me go helps me cope better with stress. Extreme difficulties no longer develop as often. Sometimes I still have a fear of falling, and for good reason. But today I have a Bible that tells me, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NLT) Remembering this gives me comfort when I need it. I am not as afraid anymore.

Challenging periods will always be part of my life. There will be times when I’ll have trouble. I may even fall. But I know that when I do, there will be someone there to catch me and stay with me as I recover. I’ll never be alone again.

Hanging on the wall across from my bed is a photograph of a child’s small hand resting comfortably on her father’s big hand. Underneath are the words from Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” During tough times, I look at that photograph and feel a sense of peace. No longer is there a need for white-knuckled fists, no longer a need to rely on my own inadequate strength.

5 comments:

Chica. said...

Thank you, Marja, for thinking of me as you wrote this post. I do often feel like I'm hanging in the midst of life without a safety net.

I'm glad that IF and your faith in God kept you grounded. I find that a little difficult, okay--a lot difficult,right now. I know I copied and pasted the poem for you at an earlier date, but I didn't take the time to comprehend it.

I studied it more at length and I get it now. If you can be content with a small success and not a grandiose success you will win at life. *sigh* Now that's something to ponder. I'll blog on it at a later date.

Thank you, Marja.

JayPeeFreely said...

I hope to see your book out. It is always nice to meet a real author and that has a story to tell.

Mel Alarilla said...

Dear Marja,

I'm sure glad I came across your blog. My, you sure are a candle in the lingering darkness all around. Your struggle against your illness, as well as your recognition that there was Someone stronger than you are, and that you cling to Him for your own strength and soul sustenance, is simply anazing. You are a source of inspiration for the countless suffering souls out there who can't seem to figure out where the oppression comes from. God bless you for all the encouragements you write to your fellow sufferers. I am a Christian just like you and I have given my life to the Lord and to His service. Here's a special verse for you. "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him." Continue to shine like a star in the dark and foreboding sky as you lead other suffering souls to the feet of master healer- Jesus Christ. God bless you and your loved ones more and more each day.

Yours in Christ,

Mel Avila Alarilla
of "Random Thoughts"
Mel Alarilla of "Blessings"
Philippines

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Marja,
What a lovely post. Great writing too. I think your new book will be terrific!

Susan

marja said...

Thank you, Chica, jaypeefreely, mel, and Susan for your comments. If I could now only find a publisher for this thing.