People say tornadoes sound like freight trains when they’re on the ground.
I’ve never been in a tornado, but I have seen (up close and personal) the destruction caused by them. And, in a way, I’ve survived a different type of tornado – one that struck my heart and my life.
It was 2013. I was in debt up to my eyeballs, I had health problems the doctors couldn’t diagnose, and the man of my dreams…well, I thought he was going to propose. I really did. But he ended up leaving instead.
The breakup came by text message, right before Valentine’s Day, and right before a big trip he and I were supposed to take.
My life came crashing down in what, quite literally, felt like an instant.
After the dust settled, I began clawing my way out of the hole I was in. I saved money however I could: by eating cheaply or not at all; by scraping deodorant from the bottom of the deodorant stick; I even cut open spent toothpaste tubes to salvage whatever paste might be left.
I also canceled all my travel plans, including the trip I’d been planning with my ex, and I refused to go anywhere except to work and to the doctor.
No more makeup or clothes.
No more hair products or haircuts.
No more going out.
Basically, I let myself go. I had to – because of my finances, yes, but I also didn’t see the point in trying anymore. If such intense, horrible heartache could happen in an instant, why bother? I was only setting myself up for failure. At least, that’s what I thought.
Battling extreme depression, I tried to tell myself that my writing was enough, that I didn’t need anything else. But no matter how much I poured myself into my work, I couldn’t make any progress. And nothing, absolutely nothing, quenched my thirst.
Thirst. The very word makes my throat dry as I remember that season of my life. It’s like I was searching for something and hadn’t even known it. Acceptance? Love? The kind of love that wouldn’t toss me out like yesterday’s garbage?
As the weeks unfolded, I succumbed to depression more and more. I was mired in darkness—and not the kind that’s fun and exciting. It was the kind that’s gut-wrenching and heartbreaking.
Emptiness, by its very nature, is weightless – yet, the emptiness inside me somehow carried an unbearable weight.
The weekend of my birthday arrived. Desperate to make the emptiness go away, I partied so hard I was sick for three days. My friends took pics of me passed out at my dining room table. In one pic, my forehead was resting on a banana (“banana pillow birthday” someone captioned the pic).
I had hit a new low.
That same weekend, an F5 tornado struck the small town of Moore, Oklahoma, killing 24 people and injuring 212. The tornado was a mile wide, and it was on the ground for 37 minutes. The destruction was inconceivable–like a nuclear bomb had obliterated the small town–and I was moved by the images I saw on TV.
More than moved. I had a long history of recurring nightmares about tornadoes, especially when I was a kid, and I felt drawn (like a calling) to go and help with the cleanup and relief effort.
The idea sparked purpose in my heart. This was my chance to do something that would make a difference. Sure, I was incapable of helping myself, but I could help others.
Yes, I thought to myself. I could lift people up. I could rescue them…little did I realize, I was the one still in desperate need of rescuing. You see, I went to Oklahoma, thinking I was going to save people.
In reality, it was Christ who led me there because I needed to be saved—from destructive behaviors, from unhealthy mindsets, and from a whole lot of brokenness.
Stay tuned for the conclusion on Thursday….