Is it possible to visit my 4-year-old niece without watching Frozen? Even if the movie isn’t put on at least once, my niece still manages to sing ‘Let it Go’ multiple times. Can you make it snow? I teased my niece, while she shook her head. “Elsa has power,” Emma wisely assures me, “But I’m just normal.”
While none of us can make it snow, some of us aren’t that different from Elsa. At least, I remember my feelings echoing ‘Let it Go’ when I first saw Frozen in theaters. I was stunned, not only by the visuals, but by the raw, emotional truth laced into the words.
Let it Go isn’t just a song to me. It’s a cry for help.
I may not have ever thrown a blizzard.
But I have built castles. Castles to block out the world and shut the door on honesty.
The counselor said this was normal. Normal for a child diagnosed with PTSD, a child tossed from one home to another. A child victimized and abandoned.
But the counselor never explained how to work through the broken maze of emotion. Instead, I became an expert at rattling off diagnoses.
Reactive Attachment Disorder
Mayo Clinic defines my problem as
‘a serious condition in which an infant or young child doesn’t establish healthy attachments with parents or caregivers’
I don’t need Mayo Clinic to explain what reactive attachment did to me. Every step I took towards people, made me bury myself deeper inside.
At 14, I felt cheated. The world promised prescriptions. Parents were supposed to be loving. Jesus should fix my problems.
Instead, my heart was empty. I didn’t have a single meaningful friendship. My parents laid down rules. Jesus was a distant promise. And medicine wasn’t fixing my problems.
A kingdom of isolation,
and it looks like I’m the Queen
I dreamed of flying far away. Becoming president. Attending Harvard. Opening a school.
None of my dreams involved relationships. I didn’t want to be a mother. I didn’t want a family. I didn’t need friends.
All I wanted was to build my castle. I couldn’t navigate socialization. I couldn’t explain my pain. I could never be normal.
Turn away and slam the door
I don’t care
what they’re going to say
At 15, I was plotting revenge. It wasn’t my fault my emotions were broken. Anyone with a brain could see that. The fault lay with the relatives. The people who abused, ignored, and isolated me. They haunted me. Their empty, hypocritical lives angered me.
There was one person I blamed the most.
God allowed me to suffer. He ignored my cries for help. He put me on earth, when I all I wanted was to die.
He was cruel. He was destructive. He must be a liar.
The Bible wasn’t foreign to me. I was paid a dollar a verse for each verse I memorized. I knew the promises of Scripture.
And to me, each of those promises was broken.
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all
At one time, I had craved approval. I wanted to be used by God. To know Jesus.
But after my 15th birthday, I rejected that. I felt Christianity was a farce, a controlling lie.
God deserved my anger, I rationalized. He couldn’t make me afraid of Him. I had suffered enough, He deserved to feel what I felt.
My life became a haze. A haze of people I didn’t know. A haze of schoolwork, of rules, of upset parents.
You’ll never see me cry
Here I stand
And here I’ll stay
The questions began to rain down. Hours of incessant questioning, of my stubborn refusal to talk. Did I know the answers? There was one thing I knew, no-one would understand my answers.
“Elizabeth, please tell me what’s wrong?”
“Do you want to go back on medicine?”
“Do you want to be part of our family?’
What did I want? I wanted a normal life. I wanted a normal family. I wanted normal emotions.
I did not want the emptiness that filled my waking moments.
Answers alluded me.
It was like playing a game of ‘whack-a-mole’.
Attend this seminar. Talk to this counselor. Memorize this chapter.
I checked off the lists. I said the words. I took the vitamins.
You mean well
But leave me be
Yes, I’m alone but I’m alone and free
Just stay away and you’ll be safe from me
As must as I wanted to, I couldn’t reject the existence of God. He existed, if anything to torment me. I counted the moments till I could escape from Texas. I dreamed of the day I would attend college. I imagined the moment I was in complete control.
But none of my daydreams could destroy God. He hovered, threatened, annoyed. His presence chased, frightened and alluded me. As hard as I became, He still taunted me.
That is the only way I can explain why I wanted to give God one more chance. I was miserable, my moment of imagined freedom still 2 years away, when I heard about a retreat.
My parents paid for it. My mom took me. My friends attended.
The counselors asked me, “What can we pray for?” “What do you want out of this week?”
The answer was glib, I repeated the problem my mom mentioned. “Pray my walls come down.”
I had no desire for my walls to come down.
Each stone was carefully inserted.
Laid in the mortar of broken trust. Polished in destroyed hopes. Maintained in tearless pain.
I lived behind this wall.
Sometimes I touched the stones, wondering what life beyond my boundary was like. Was happiness really possible?
There was one thing that became increasingly clear to me. No matter my dreams, the goals pressed into every waking moment, I was miserable. Vengeance may be possible behind this wall but happiness was non-existent.
My power flurries through the air into the ground
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
I didn’t need a doctor to tell me my emotions were fractured. I didn’t need a family to tell me my heart was frozen. I didn’t need the well-intended advice of a dozen counselors to admit I had a problem.
I walked along my wall, peeking for any sign of a crack. Nothing. The mortar was hardened, the foundation sure.
I sat on the hard ground, my tears long dry. A voice echoed around me.
Do you want to ask God to break the barrier?
The question hammered itself into my consciousness. Had I ever asked God to heal my pain?
The idea had never crossed my mind. It wasn’t a counselor who suggested it. Perhaps that’s why I was more open to her idea. I began to mentally list all I wouldn’t do.
“I won’t cry”
“I won’t love”
“I won’t forgive”
The words had power.
They bound my soul, barricaded the wall, hardened my emotions.
I’m such a fool
I can’t be free
No escape from the storm inside of me
The promise was elusive. Ask God to break the words I had sworn. Give Him one more chance. Just one more prayer.
At 16 and one month old, I did that. My will was stretched, tested, and broken. The song of emptiness, pain, and loneliness was sacrificed. It was traded in for something beautiful.
For the first time, I felt the presence of something bigger than myself. My pain still made very little sense. I didn’t have a clue how to explain my childhood. Emotions, relationships, acceptance were still a distant imagination.
Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on
The storm still rages. Memories are oppressive. Justice hasn’t been served.
Holidays are difficult. I can’t heal my hurt siblings. I can’t restore the broken emotions. I can’t confront and remake my broken world.
But I can’t protect myself behind a wall of crushed dreams. My own words don’t offer any sort of protection.
Instead, I can stand outside the broken wall. I can simply offer up crushed promises. I can allow myself to cry.