Falling Forward – Mandolyn’s Story
Growing up was hard, but good. We lived just above the poverty line, but we made it work. I had dogs, a yard and a fun childhood. I had very good, loving parents. But, when I think back to this time, I think mostly of my mom. My childhood memories of her are as a hurting, torn up woman, struggling to keep it all together. She had lost a baby boy, her husband was always traveling, she had a daughter with Down Syndrome and Autism, a new baby with colic, and was battling depression and anxiety. At the same time this woman was also trying to be MY mom.
Over the next 15 years a lot happened. We relocated from a small town in Canada to the USA, my parents divorced; there were good relationships and failed relationships, tears, healing and a whole lot in between. In the middle of it all was me.
By the time I was 21 years old I was living and working five hours away from my family in Nashville, TN. Despite working in my ‘dream job’ I felt worthless, depressed and anxious. My heart was broken and I didn’t know how to fix it. I didn’t believe that God would show up and my life felt like it was a shambles. It was very hard for me to be vulnerable about what I struggled with. I didn’t want to be seen as weak. I was a confident feminist who didn’t need help from anyone and I LOVED my alone time, that’s what I told myself anyway.
In reality, I was just hurting. A lot.
And so I drank. A lot.
I drank because I didn’t want to feel.
Because feeling meant weakness, and goodness gracious, I was not weak!
But one Tuesday in November everything changed. For the third time that week I had woken up drunk. My sweet pit-bull Maggie had licked my hands forcing me out of bed, and into the sunlight (the last place I wanted to be) when I received a phone call from my mom.
Now over the last 15 years my mom had been growing, learning, saying, “I’m sorry,” asking for help and flourishing into an incredibly God-centered woman. She was loving, generous, encouraging and vulnerable. She represented everything I was too scared to become. Our relationship was changing, for the better.
I don’t remember everything from that phone call but I do remember saying to myself just before picking up the call “Ok, pretend like everything is going REALLY well.” She had just returned from a Donald Miller Storyline Conference and was full of excitement about what had been shared. I vaguely remember her saying “Donald said something along the lines of: God is like a father sitting down on the floor with a big sheet of paper, looking at his daughter saying ‘Darling, what would you like to create?'”
That. Was. It. That phrase jumped out at me and connected with a yearning and emptiness deep on the inside of me.
‘Darling, what would you like to create?’
God used my mom to tell me that He was waiting on me to create.
So, I packed up my belongings, and my pit bull, told my roommates I was leaving and gave one weeks notice at work. I drove back home to St. Louis to live with my mom and sisters in their small 2-bedroom apartment for 8 months. One night, after having a gut wrenchingly raw conversation with my sweet sister about my depression and alcohol abuse, God started mending my heart. Since it’s hard to find your own space in a small apartment with 3 girls, God started putting me back together slowly as I wept in a cramped bathtub, barely able to get these words out,
Take this fainted heart.
Take these tainted hands.
Wash me in your love.
Come like grace again.
Even when the fight seems lost,
I’ll praise you.
Even when it hurts like hell,
I’ll praise you.
Even when it makes no sense to sing
Louder than I’ll sing your praise.
(Even when it Hurts – Hillsong United)
My journey of healing is still unfolding but my goodness; if there’s anything I could say to every woman it’s this:
- You are NOT broken and you are NOT above fixing.
- Being a feminist does not mean that you don’t ask for help or become cold or sweat off men. It simply means to embrace your femininity without apology, and see other women as allies, not enemies.
- Your bruises and scars make you, who you are now do not hide them.
- Your struggles do not define you use them to guide others.
- Vulnerability is beautiful.
- Mental illness does NOT equal weakness.
- Ask for help.
- God does not make mistakes.