Inspiration

Chapter 1: I’ll Make Them Pay

“The pain of the mind is worse than the pain of the body.” Publilius Syrus (Roman author, first century BC)

I’ll make them feel pain for their conditional love, I thought.Wait. Was this my thought? Where did this idea come from?
Yeah! That’s what I’ll do. I’ll make them feel my pain forever.
Suddenly, I realized I had a boisterous one hundred-voice choir in my head, echoing my thoughts and feelings.
Or was it their song reverberating in my head? I don’t know!
The disharmony of the voices never let up!
Go to the train tracks. Throw yourself in front of a fast train. They won’t know why I took my life. I have to write a letter, don’t
I? Yeah, I need to write a letter. I want them to know—they were responsible.
I grabbed my spiral notebook, ripped out a sheet, and began to scrawl my final goodbye.

Dear Family and Friends,
I am sorry to have caused you so much pain and embarrassment
recently—so much that you wouldn’t look me in the eyes during
the entire weekend I was home for Christmas. Yes, I know it was
because you couldn’t bear the fact that I chose to cut my hair—a
mortal sin according to your beliefs. Of course, you’re also angry
that I left the church, and I’m now going to a black church—even
though they’re also one God, apostolic, tongue talkers who are Jesus
ONLY believers, as you would say. But, I don’t get it! I don’t
understand how you could say that our church was the only way
and had the truth, yet shun me. Where is the love? Or is only God’s
love unconditional? I can’t bear the pain of conditional love. I knew
what to expect when I chose to leave the church, cut my hair, pierce
my ear lobes, and wear blue jeans. I’ve seen it my entire life. But, I
was completely unprepared to experience the reality of conditional
love for myself. The emotional pain and distance is simply too much.
It haunts me day and night. It’s all I think about. I needed your
love. I’m sorry. I love you. By now, you may be feeling a measure
of what I’ve been feeling for more than a year. Sorry, I just can’t
manage the torment and pain any longer.
Please forgive me.
Cheryl

Trembling inside and out, I folded the gloomy suicide note, tucked it inside an envelope, licked the flap, and sealed it.
I wrote the letter—done!
I opened my desk drawer and placed it inside.
Eventually, someone will find it, I guess.
The one hundred-voice choir chanted to me: Go ahead. Kill yourself. Make them pay for their conditional love. Make them feel the pain you feel—FOREVER!
Afraid that one of my friends would show up unannounced and intercept or delay my plans, I hurriedly put on my jean jacket, took a deep breath, glanced up and down the hall, and exited my dorm.
It was Saturday. Students were either in their rooms, the library, or off campus enjoying the day.
The field covered with fall foliage—once vibrant with hues of red, orange, and yellow had faded. The leaves crunched and crackled underfoot.
The scenic campus was no longer in view. The air was damp and chilly. I was cold and fear was building with each step.
My tight hamstring muscles were being stretched with every stride, up a very steep embankment. Out of breath, I reached the top of the rugged hill, looked down, and stared at the railroad tracks.
Any minute now, a train will speed by.
The dissonant choir in my head urgently chanted louder and LOUDER while my soul absorbed their message.
Just do it. Go ahead, just do it; they don’t care anyway, no one cares.
Fearful, I kicked my feet across the dirt and noticed a corroded railroad spike. I held the cold metal in my hand and stared at the six-inch spike. Does this look anything like the spikes that impaled Jesus’ hands and feet? I don’t even want to think about His suffering right now!
Questions assaulted my mind.
I don’t want to live with a disfigured face or a maimed body. What if I don’t die? I don’t want to fail. Can I do this? Is this really how I want my life to end?
The inharmonious choir with their jarring voices repeated the familiar stanza: Go ahead. Kill yourself. Make them pay for their conditional love. Make them feel the pain you feel—FOREVER. The tug of war continued between my ears.
Why do I need the unconditional love of my family and friends? Can’t I learn to live without it? I don’t know. I’m so confused and depressed.
Hot tears cascaded down my cold cheeks.
More afraid of the unknown than the known, I threw down the rusty spike and walked away from the tracks, down the embankment, and pensively strolled back to my cold, sterile dorm room.
My plan was derailed. Now what?
I jumped into my disheveled bed, pulled the goose down comforter over my head as I had nearly every day for the past several weeks, and prayed. Please, God, please don’t let me ever wake up.
Twelve hours later, and much to my chagrin, I awoke. I was overwhelmed. Panic engulfed me. I didn’t have a plan B. I’ll probably fail all five classes. I’ve missed too many to catch up. The one hundred-voice choir had now grown to what sounds like two hundred assaulting voices. Just do it. Go ahead. They don’t care anyway. No one cares. The gloomy song continued.
Oh my God! I’ve got to get help. I’m too embarrassed to return to my classes. I don’t want to hear my classmates say, “Oh, I thought you dropped,” or, “where have you been?”
It’s too complicated, my life! I don’t want to face my professors either. Maybe I should go see that counselor my friend talked about, if I can even find her number.
I dialed three times. Each time, I hung up. I don’t know what to say. I’m too afraid.
Hungry, I walked to the cafeteria for breakfast. My friend joined me.
“I’m not doing well, Friend. I can’t seem to pull my life together.”
“Did you call the counselor?” “I tried, but I chickened out—didn’t know what to say.”
“Cheryl, please call her. Set an appointment—I really believe she can help.”
“Really?”
“Yes!”
“Okay, I’ll call her later today.”
“I’ll give you a ride if you need one.”
“K. Thanks.”
I walked back to my room.
My belly was filled with scrambled eggs, apple cinnamon pancakes, and hash browns. Food helped reduce my edginess.
Encouraged by my friend, I made the call. I had an appointment the next day.
The counselor began the session, “Cheryl, how can I help?”
“Uh, it’s difficult to know where to begin. It’s just that, uh, I don’t know. I don’t know where to begin.”
“Tell me about yourself.”
“Uh, myself, huh?”
She smiled and waited with a look of anticipation.
“Well, my friend told me that I should talk to you. I’m not doing very well.”
“What’s going on?”
“I’m failing all of my college classes.”
“Failing?”
“I never go to class. I can’t study. I can’t think. I’m d … de …I’m depressed.”
“About what, Cheryl?”
“Mostly my family and friends.” Tears began to sneak out the corners of my eyes. She noticed and handed me a tissue.
“My entire world has shattered to millions of pieces, and I don’t know what to do. I can’t seem to function. Every day, it gets harder and harder for me just to get out of bed.”
I felt comfortable telling this complete stranger my story. She listened well and asked thought-provoking questions. I must have rambled on for twenty minutes.
I began to see her twice a week.
She introduced me to a psychiatrist who prescribed anti-depressant medication for what he described as a major depressive disorder.
My counselor seemed to care a lot. But, it felt like we talked about the same thing—I relive and repeat the same stories of injustice.
“Cheryl, you will eventually learn to live without your family and friends’ unconditional love.”
“But, it hurts so bad!”
“The pain will ease with time; you’ll develop a new set of expectations and relational skills for dealing with your family and friends.”
“But, I want justice right now! I want to hear them say, ‘I’m sorry, Cheryl, for causing you pain. Please, forgive me.’”
Will I ever hear those words, and if so, how many months or years must I wait? Can I wait? And, what do I do with this gnawing, internal pain?
I gritted my teeth and tried to stuff it.
I tried to shelf it.
I tried to compartmentalize it.
But, the pain is stored in the strained muscle fibers of my neck.
I can’t turn my head—my neck is locked.
Ouch. These disabling, acute muscle spasms—this is a real pain in the neck.
I can’t sleep. Pressure. Pressure. So much pressure!
This reminds me of those days when Mom and Grammy would spend hours in a hot summer kitchen canning garden produce. They used an old, stainless steel pressure cooker that had a noisy jigger valve—a pressure regulator that rocked back and forth on top of the lid. It sounded like the cooker would explode if the pressure continued.
Well, my emotional jigger valve was going crazy, and I didn’t know how to release the pressure inside.

Copyright Cheryl Ott 2012| ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Excerpt taken from Chapter 1
Stubborn Love: A Recommitment To Live When Giving Up Seemed So Much Easier

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