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The Door

I don’t know why that night was different than any other, why that night instead of falling asleep on my wet pillow I crept silently upstairs and into the bathroom.

It happened one night when I was seventeen. In a single moment, the lightbulb went on and the big iron doors to my soul clanged shut. In that single moment everything suddenly made sense.

I guess I had been depressed even as an infant, and certainly suicidal since the age of eight. Nothing terribly dramatic, or bloody, but my pillow was soaked with tears as night after night I failed at smothering myself quietly in my bed. I learned to sob without waking my two sisters, asleep in the bed beside me. I ached to matter to someone, to become visible to someone, to be cared about, to be cared for, to know I was alive and delighted in. To be loved.

I’m sure I thought that, finally, in death, someone would notice me. And miss me.

I don’t know why that night was different than any other, why that night instead of falling asleep on my wet pillow I crept silently upstairs and into the bathroom. I locked the bathroom door and looked at myself in the mirror. It seemed like a long time, looking, waiting for something. I opened the medicine cabinet and one by one emptied every bottle onto the bathroom counter, aspirins, antacids, cold medicine, anihistimines, old antibiotics, old pain meds, sleep aids, you name it. There was a tiny mountain of pills of every shape and color. Methodically, I began to swallow the mountain. One at a time, coolly watching myself in the mirror. I didn’t feel anything.

When the mountain was gone, I took a swallow of water, drinking from the palm of my hand, turned off the light and sat down on the edge of the bathtub. I didn’t know what else to do. It wasn’t too long before mom got up to use the bathroom, rattled the knob and banged on the closed door. After much banging and yelling, I know I eventually got up and unlocked the door. I guess I wanted to be alive, after all.

There was a sense of urgency, a phone call to the doctor it; suddenly seemed very crowded. There was a big glass of warm water with dry mustard that I was told to drink, I vomited, and then the argument about whether I would be taken to the hospital or not. The doctor confirmed that if someone sat up with me and woke me every hour I could stay at home. My dad would sit on the couch, and I fell asleep with my head on his lap. There was a strange comfort that I had been found, and that I had caused such a stir. I thought that maybe somebody loved me, after all.

***
I woke with a sense of panic and disorientation. Remembered, and then realized that my dad was snoring; and his hand was inside my nightgown, firmly wrapped around my breast. I could hardly breathe. The joke was on me. I had dared to think for a moment that I was loved.

That was the flash. The insight. We all think we ought to be loved; and we think we are capable of love. I realized, with the clarity of a crisp night’s sky, that there is no such thing. We think we love someone, we even tell each other that we do; but in the end, we are each only best interested in ourselves. Love is just a game, to get what we want. I slipped away from his hand and went back into my own bed as the doors banged shut in my soul. And I never cried again.

***
That was many, many years ago. And it has taken me many, many years to begin to understand love again. I began to learn of love when I met Jesus, and found that I was right. We are all incapable of the kind of love we are created for. But GOD loves me, with the Love I craved even all those years ago. And I can know love by this: that He loves me first, even through my closed doors.

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