One Year Later, a Million Things Greater.

This is the last of my three-part series on love in honor of Valentines Weekend. I did not write it yesterday, because I was busy hiking and eating a delicious dinner that my handsome hubby prepared. As I finished off the evening watching the first of a 2-night edition of The Bachelor (sue me; I haven’t stopped yet), I could not help but stop and reflect on how different and frankly, better, my life is than it was at this time last year.

You see, Valentines Weekend was the first time my depression and anxiety ever got so out of hand that I winded up in the hospital.  I was sent to a short-term facility so that medical professionals could figure out what was going on and treat me accordingly.  At this same facility, there were many people there for more serious conditions, and there were those there to detox.  As someone who has never even seen a drug in person, much less taken one, I was shell-shocked to say the least.

Although I hope I never relive that experience—which I do not think I will, because my health is actually a priority now—I would not take it back if given the chance.  I learned more about what it means to be loved in the brief amount of time that I was hospitalized for depression than I have learned in my short 22 years of life.

I learned that Colby and my family were “in it for the long haul.”  Even though they could only celebrate the holiday with me during visiting hours and all we could do was color pictures or play cards, they drove over an hour to see me each day.  They never complained.  On the contrary, the laughed with me, told me mindless gossip, and did everything in their power to make me feel normal.  Colby in particular could have bolted, but he didn’t.  As a matter of fact, he is sitting right beside me, playing a video game in the home we share together.

I learned that you can find love in the most unlikely places.  All of the staff in the hospital where I stayed were wonderful to me, and that is an understatement.  They went above and beyond to make sure I was comfortable, and they got to know me as a human being, not as a patient.  One of the staff members even brought me books and shampoo when I started running low.  It seems like a small gesture, but when it feels like you have lost or are at least in the process of losing everything, the smallest kindling of love feels like a forest fire.  I will never forget these people or the help that they gave me.

I learned that love means forgiveness.  A major cause of my depression flaring up is that I was angry with quite a few people.  I was also angry with myself.  I have always felt guilty about being angry with people or angry at all, because I have a pretty awesome life.  I have a tendency to ignore my feelings until I can do so no longer.  Then, I explode, and if I do not obliterate everything in my path, I come pretty freaking close.  When it came time to face the fact that I live with two mental illnesses, I also had to face the fact that I am a human being with human emotions, and that the first step in forgiving people and forgiving myself was to embrace my anger.  Only then could I move past it and love everyone as my heart desired.  This Valentines Day, I can genuinely say that there is only love in my heart for all of those around me.  It is an incredible feeling to have.

I learned that God loved me in all of my brokenness.  Another cause of my melt-down, for lack of a better term, was the faith crisis I was in the midst of.  I have spoken about it in other blogs, but in case anyone reading is not familiar with this aspect of my story, I will share again.  Right before my illnesses became unbearable, I had been troubled by my faith, or lack thereof.  At the time, I was tired of religion, especially Christianity.  I was Agnostic, but I did not tell anyone and did not acknowledge it myself.  I saw no love or compassion in the church, and I refused to see God that way.  So, I isolated myself.  I was probably like this for a year.  I struggled, but I was too ashamed, embarrassed, and fearful to share these struggles with anyone.  Living in the Bible Belt puts a lot of pressure on younger generations, as you can imagine.  When I was hospitalized, I got the opportunity to take recovery classes and learn about skills and processes that could serve as non-evasive treatments for mental illnesses or addictions.  Spirituality was one of the main tools they emphasized.  At some point, I remember one of the staff members, who identified herself as a Christian, saying to me, “Jill, don’t you realize you’ve been forgiven?  You don’t have to do anything else.”  Such simple words, and yet they sparked the biggest epiphany of my life.

I am forgiven.  I do not have to do anything to earn God’s love.  Trying to do so is dangerous and unfulfilling.  Love is all He feels for me, and I get the chance to share that love with others.  How blessed am I?

I do not live the glamorous life I hoped for when I was younger, but I would not trade the life and love I have for anything.

This Valentines Day, I live back at home, a place I never thought I’d be, but a place that has pleasantly surprised me to say the least.

I live in my great-grandmother’s old home, and I can see pieces of her and her love everywhere.

I have my dream job in which I can show love to young people every day.  I know that they need it, because I needed it at that age and still do.

I have awesome relationships with my family, and I can pretty much see them whenever I want.

I have a husband who I know will fight for me, because he had to a year ago.

I have the love of God enveloping me each second I breathe.

I’m not sure that I could ever want or need any more love in my life.

For that, I am eternally grateful.

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