How can I feel God if I can’t feel anything at all?

I’ve gone to church all my life. I’ve attended services from many different denominations, but I grew up Presbyterian; conservative pres at that, and we’re definitely not the most forthcoming of people. There’s a reason why we’re called the “frozen chosen.”

That didn’t stop me from getting swept up in the excitement of music festivals and seminar, and the emotion of testimonies and alter calls. If it’s really possible to be “on fire for God,” I felt that. Occasionally. It’s hard not to be touched when 80,000 voices are signing hallelujah.

Upon returning to real life, that is, my real frozen chosen, Evangelical Presbyterian church, we were (i kid you not) always subjected to a lecture warning us of the inevitable fall we would have off of our spiritual high.

In a lot of ways they were right to warn us. The idea was to encourage us to not fuse faith with an emotional high. If your faith relied on an emotional high, what would you do in the low points?

On the other hand, I also grew up being taught that God has a physical (okay, spiritual) presence, and that if you don’t feel the spirit, you need to take a closer look at your faith. Other people feel moved by the spirit. Other people feel calmness, or a sense of clarity, or a sense of passion for the word or works of God.

I can’t feel anything, so how on earth am I supposed to feel the presence of an invisible God?

The problem is, I’m now in my twenties and I’m decidedly not an emotional person. I don’t get sad, but I don’t get happy either. I look back at concerts and events that I attended and try to remember the emotion I felt during them, only to realize that I haven’t felt that way in so long–I can’t remember how euphoria feels. I don’t remember what it felt like to have a spiritual high; to be connected to the spirit. I can’t remember the feelings of sobbing, begging, sadness I had a child when I pleaded with God for the life of a family member or friend.

Nothing excites me, nothing upsets me. Part of it is nature; I’m highly depressed and heavily medicated. Part of it is nurture;  I was brought up to be logical, not emotional.

When people talk about feeling the spirit now, I struggle with finding a point of reference. I can’t feel anything, so how on earth am I supposed to feel the presence of an invisible God?

Have I reached a point in my faith where my belief hinges on my ability to feel the spirit? No, if that were truly the case, I wouldn’t believe in a great number of things. Happiness doesn’t vanish from the world if I can’t feel it. On the other hand, how can I call myself a christian if I never feel the spirit? I’ve been taught that that’s not possible.

So what do I do? Is this a phase of life? Is this a side effect of medication or mental illness? I’m still a leader in the band at church. I’m still a youth leader. What am I supposed to do if my heart isn’t in it right now for the sake of God?

I think the only thing I can do is to keep on going. I was warned as a kid not to become complacent with my faith; don’t just go through the motions. But what if that’s all you can do?

I enjoy playing music in the band. I love working with the kids. I like discussing social issues through a christian lens, and figuring out where I can be of the most help in this crazy world.

Maybe if I can’t feel God right now, I can just keep going on and do Their works. Maybe that’s what we can do in seasons where we don’t feel God, or anything at all. If we keep our hearts as open as we can, and pour out compassion, empathy, and kindness, maybe the spirit will find its way back in.

If we keep our hearts as open as we can, and pour out compassion, empathy, and kindness, maybe the spirit will find its way back in.

 

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How can I feel God if I can’t feel anything at all?

I’ve been away for a while

During the summer, my brain felt like it was on fire with activity. I really began, for the first time in a long time, to think about my place in the universe. For a long time, I could not see my place in the universe; that if I disappeared things would stay much the same.

This summer, questions began to circle in my head, and I began to deconstruct the faith and social structures in which I was raised. Here I was, a queer democrat in an evangelical republican world. What was I supposed to do with all of the teachings I had learned growing up? Was I going to hell for being gay? Does God even care that I’m gay? Are evangelicals the only ones who get into heaven? What makes John Piper so special? Have I lost my mind because I don’t hate Muslims? Am I going to hell because I voted for Hillary?

I started this blog to sort through those questions. I find that putting my thoughts down in the physical realm helps me fully realize them.  During the summer, I had a lot of energy for this blog. Unfortunately, that energy seems to have disappeared. I’ve been sick for what feels like half a lifetime. I wake, feeling as though I had run a marathon in my sleep. I work, through a foggy brain with a memory that seems to have deteriorated.

My boredom used to turn into creativity. It’s how I wrote an album, drew a comic, and created music videos. Unfortunately, my boredom now puts me to sleep.

I had a few tests done to make sure my sleepiness wasn’t due to a sleep disorder. The doctors determined that it wasn’t, which leads me to believe that it’s just depression. It’s just the cloud of nothingness rearing its ugly head again.

Hopefully this won’t last long. I’ve got a wonderful girlfriend to help me through it all, but I’ve learned my lesson about relying on people.

Anyway, I’ve been away for a while. I’d like to set a schedule for posting, but this is going to have to be one of those blogs that goes inactive whenever I have a mental crisis or whatever.

Be good to each other.

Interior of a bedroom with a blanket and a window showing smoke and other houses outside

I’ve been away for a while

My 2017 resolution was just to survive the year. Turns out I did!

Setting the bar seriously low, folks.

But genuinely, my 2016 was so incredibly rough, and I couldn’t see my 2017 getting any better.

In 2016, among other things, I attempted to come to terms with my sexuality, made a halfhearted suicide attempt, met the love of my life–my first for everything, including heartbreak–relapsed into self harm, was sexually assaulted, was cheated on, lost 20 pounds, developed an alcohol reliance, began taking medication for depression. And on the first day of 2017, my heart was broken again.

I thought for sure, it would be a miracle if I survived the year, since I barely made it out of 2016 alive–literally.

But here I am, sitting at my desk in the year of our Lord 2018. I’ve survived.

2017 wasn’t great by all accounts. But I learned to fight for what I believed in. I found a voice for the issues that matter to me. I let a best friend go. I bought a house. I had no help in doing so. I’ve been lonely. My entire family moved out of the area. I had a major crisis of faith. I’ve been struggling with a sleep disorder. I slept with a long time crush. I entered my second relationship. I’m finally confident in my sexuality.

So what now for 2018? I would like my life to be manageable. Survival is a step below managing, and definitely far from thriving. Maybe I’ll thrive by 2019. Or 2020. For now, I’ll settle for managing.

I’d like to manage a relationship with grace and confidence. I’d like to manage my house with less anxiety. I would like to have a job that allows me to manage my own skills and time. I’m already managing my depression, but I would like to manage my sleep disorder in the same light.

Whenever I’ve set a specific goal list for the new year, I always end up disappointed in myself. So this year, I’m continuing the trend of being realistic. I just want to manage.

My 2017 resolution was just to survive the year. Turns out I did!

On having faith and swimming with sharks:

This is an account of a sexual assault I wrote in September of 2016, one week after it happened. I have never posted it, until now. It’s been a year, and I’m releasing it now as a cathartic thing.

CONTENT WARNING: Language, Sexual Assault, and Sharks. 

In April 2016, I wrote a piece chiding my coworkers for being paranoid. They’re scared of their own neighbors, which I saw as being small minded and faithless.

Have some faith in your fellow men. Truly, it is not likely that you will be attacked, especially in your own backyard. Just as the danger of sharks is wildly overestimated, the danger of being attacked is as well.

There aren’t any sharks in your backyard.

The fact is, as I’ve learned rather heartbreakingly, there are sharks. There are sharks everywhere.

The fact is, that 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lives.

The fact is, no matter how much self-defense and self awareness you have, the preparation isn’t always enough.

The fact is, your city isn’t safe. Because there are goddamn sharks. Everywhere.


I want to have faith in the world around me. Faith that the man behind me on the street is going to mind his own business. Faith that strangers are safe. Faith that strangers are just like me; out for a walk at night, trying to live, not trying to cause issues.

I want to have faith that people are good. At their core.

Growing up in the church, I was taught that people are flawed at their core. Slightly more harshly, I was taught as a teenager that people are despicable. You should deny yourself — hate your sin, which is all you are — and follow God.

That’s another topic, one that put me off. I didn’t think that type of thought was productive, especially since so many young people (like myself) struggle with depression and other things. No matter how flawed humanity is, I couldn’t stand the thought of looking my friends in the eyes and telling them they were vile at their core. I made up my mind then make an effort to see the good in everyone, no matter how difficult it was.

My mission wasn’t to save people or make excuses for bad behavior, but rather to expect the best in people. Expect that people, in general, wouldn’t bite.

It’s like swimming with sand sharks. They can bite, technically, but more than likely, they won’t. I expect that outcome to occur.

I didn’t want to walk around paranoid of being hurt, especially since I had no prior experience to warrant that type of thought. But facts are facts. And the fact is, people aren’t good at their core. And sharks bite.


I was sexually assaulted on September 1st, 2016. I was physically unscathed, but my worldview changed.

My mistake, my entire mistake with this situation was that I put entirely too much faith in a strange man.

I went to the square because there are people in the square always. It’s well lit and it’s often patrolled by police.

I went to the square because i was too drunk to drive home. I needed about a half an hour yet.

I went to the square because my other friends went to a club and I didn’t want to.

My friends usually walk me to my car, much to my annoyance. I’m a bit stubbornly independent. I didn’t take all those self defense classes for nothing! Plus, this city is safe.

I want to believe the best in people, so when a man approached me in the square, I didn’t immediately freak out. I also know that it’s better to talk with people instead of trying to avoid them. Humanize yourself to them.

He was a short, built Indian man. Dressed oddly, but well. He was wearing a red and white striped sweater. I had seen him at the previous bar.

“Hey, I don’t mean to freak you out,” he said in s heavy accent. “But you were at the other bar, right?”

“Yeah,” I said, still buzzed and outgoing-feeling. “Yeah I was.”

“Where are you headed?”

“Right here, man. I have to sober up.”

And we talked. We talked for a good 20-30 minutes. Just about basic stuff… where he was from, what his ambitions were, what I did for a living.

He talked about his family and I like it when people talk about their families. It reveals a lot about their character. He has sisters.

“I’m sorry… Can I touch your hair?” This question wasn’t out of the ordinary. At least he asked– I’ve had strangers caress my hair before without so much as a ‘hello’.

“Yeah I guess.” I began to formulate my exit from the situation. My brain was still working slowly.

“You have the coolest hair. My sisters… they love it when I braid their hair.” I  thought that was sort of sweet. He obviously missed his family. And he seemed to have a respect for girls.

Then he asked the dreaded question. “So are you single?”

I laughed. Of course. “I am yeah.”

“Really? Because I thought one of those guys you were with was your boyfriend?”

“No. Not to freak you out,” I said cautiously, “But I’m actually gay.”

I don’t usually play the gay card. I just don’t think it’s anyone’s business. And I’m not even sure it’s 100% accurate. But he didn’t seem to want to leave me alone, and I had to try something. I didn’t know if it would work. He was from a different culture, one that doesn’t treat LGBTQ individuals kindly. He was also currently attached to my hair. He was strong. What if he attacked me?

He didn’t. But it didn’t make him leave either.

“So, you’re a lesbian, then?”

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

That was a stupid question. I don’t remember my answer because at that point it became apparent that he wasn’t going to stop touching my hair. His hands were tangling and scraping my scalp… the back of my neck. They reached around my throat.

“What’s your name?” I asked, turning my shoulders to him, dislodging his hands from my neck.

“True. Like true or false.”

I lied about my name. “Nice to meet you.” I shook his hand, and had my out.

“I’m going to head home,” I said. “It was nice talking to you.”

He wouldn’t leave me alone. He clung to me as I walked, leaning heavily and wrapping his arms around my waist. I just wanted to go home. My brain was now racing; what if he jumped in my car? What if he abducted me? Who could I call? Where could I go instead of my car? My friends lived across town. My guy friends were at a club and wouldn’t hear their phones ring.

Luckily there were people standing on the sidewalk not half a block from my car. They looked suspicious as well, but at least they were unlikely to all stand by in the event of something tragic.

I made eye contact with a few of them. Trying to signal that something was wrong. They did nothing. They were ugly.

He was touching my stomach and my thighs through my clothes. My shirt was cropped and soon he was touching skin. His hands drifted over ribs and hip bones, slipping under the waistband of my pants. Fuck no.

“You don’t feel like a woman,” he said in my ear. “Your skin is soft but you have muscles and bones. You’re more like a boy, right?”

“I guess.”

“That’s why you’re gay, right?”

We were at my car. Thank God. I reached for the door handle and he wouldn’t let go of me. He was a lot stronger than I thought. He was pressed uncomfortably close to me, and his hand was still under my shirt.

“Can I touch you?”

“What?” His hand was under my bra. What the fuck. What the fuck. “I would prefer if you did not.”

“Oh,” he withdrew his hand momentarily, only to put it under my bra again, groping my breasts. “You know what this does to me? You make me so happy. You make me hard.” Yeah, I know. I could feel it. Repulsed I finally forced my way out of his grip. He still had hold of me. “Can’t you feel anything?”

What was I supposed to feel? Desire? Fuck no. Repulsion? Yeah.

“You don’t get turned on?”

“No.” I said firmly. Finally, I had my car door open. I wedged it between his body and mine.

“What do I do if I see you again?” He said. “You make me so happy. Thank you for making me so happy. I’m really drunk.”

“Get home, sober up,” I said, closing the door and driving away. I wasn’t buckled. Wasn’t sober. Wasn’t staying there.

My skin was crawling where he had touched me. Motherfucker. Mother fucker.

Why did I let him do that? Why didn’t I stop him? I should have done something more.

My friends left me.

I was very cold. I turned on the heat.

I hate this. This week has been shit.

I hate this. I hate that this is even a problem. What do I do with this? I don’t let people touch me. Only one person. One girl. Ever.

I had something loving briefly. And everything was wonderful and happy and good. I have a lot of love in my heart. I don’t understand why someone would take advantage of a good conversation.

I don’t understand how you can say you love me, and leave me. Cheat. Everyone leaves. Everyone always leaves and I don’t know what to do.

The world sucks. Men are rude. I don’t want to go to the club. I don’t want to speak to anyone this week. I need about 8 showers.

I know it could have been a lot worse. I just…don’t have a great ratio on sexual encounters. I’m half scared of guys anyway. I’m incredibly slow to trust and I thought I was getting better at that.

I’m not angry at him, I’m mostly angry at myself. I had the power to leave the situation and I didn’t until it already was bad. I should have been more careful. Should have swallowed my pride and gone to the club with the guys, even though she was there with the guy she left me for. I’m so fucking good to her. She comes to me about everything. I can’t tell her about this. It’ll come across as desperate for attention. And she’s already very protective of me, and this won’t make it better.

I haven’t come out to [male best friend] yet, but I told him about this. His reaction was not what I expected. He didn’t take me seriously. He’s not a serious guy, but for fucks sake, I’m his best friend. I was scared. I know when I come out as gay to him, he’s going to correlate the two. This didn’t help the gay (I’m going to make that joke as long as possible) but it definitely didn’t cause it. I hope he gets that. I hope he understands.

This whole week has been whiplash. People being absurdly kind when I didn’t expect it, and people being uncharacteristically cold when normally they are the sun. I’m trying to not dwell on things, but an event like this has shaped my worldview. I don’t trust the streets of Lancaster, I don’t trust her when she calls me wonderful. I don’t trust that I can have a nice conversation with a strange man. I don’t trust myself to act appropriately in a stressful situation. I don’t trust that I can go to my oldest friend about serious life stuff and have him respond appropriately.

Fuck. I need a damn break.


Five days later, I caved. I sat on her porch and told her everything.

She sat with me and listened. Took me seriously. Made me smile. Held me when I cried.

“People are good. People are good.” I repeated those words over and over, trying to convince myself.

Her hand moved to my back in a gesture of comfort. I wasn’t crying. In fact, I was trying to put a positive spin on things. But she knew better. She sat with me while I fell apart. She pulled me close, rocking me back and forth on the front porch until my walls crumbled and I sobbed silently into her chest. She held me still.

“People are good,” She affirmed. “You are good. You are so good.”

“I don’t get why I’m so upset,” I said.

“You have a right to be. Be angry.”

“I don’t want to be.”

She stroked my hair. Kissed the top of my head. Her heart was racing. I wondered briefly what was going through her head.

“We’re friends, right?” I said quietly.

“Of course. Why?”

I was silent. She didn’t press the issue. I composed myself. My heart was too full. I couldn’t just keep saying ‘you’re the best, you’re the greatest.’ My words needed to reflect my feeling. In whatever way that was.

“Because I tell my friends I love them. A lot. But I don’t want to make it weird.” I raised my eyes. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” she returned. I heard her clearly this time; it wasn’t whispered or slurred. “I love you so much.”

On having faith and swimming with sharks:

This Dumb Brain of Mine

I was sitting in the passengers seat of a 12 passenger van. My boss was driving. We had been talking but had both fallen silent as we prepared our minds for the 13 hour day ahead of us.

Suddenly he speaks up with more transparency than I had expected from a man, a boss, my senior.

“I don’t know how to say this other than to just come out and say it,” he began. “But sometimes I get car anxiety? And I’ve got that right now so pardon if I just… talk to you about it a bit.”

I felt like rejoicing in that moment. Not because of his discomfort, for sure, but because I know how to handle this situation. I get it. I totally get it. I have anxiety too! I understand panic attacks and I know how to work through it! I’m on medicine that severs my overactive brain connections and steadies my breathing. I! Get! It!

Because I get it, I didn’t say any of these things until the moment was passed. He needed to talk. He needed me to listen. I asked leading questions and kept him talking for the last two miles of the drive. And after his feet were firmly on the ground, and after he had thanked me for listening, was when I shared my experiences in turn.

It’s okay, I tried to convey. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. I get it. 

I have two very dear friends with whom I can be fully open about mental health. They get it too; different struggles within our same biology. They taught me how freeing it was to be open about mental health; how essential it was for improvement and healing.

Unfortunately, they’re not around as much. And double unfortunately, people don’t want to hear about my brain.

My dumb brain.

Talking about mental health makes most people deeply uncomfortable. They do not know how to respond, or they have been raised to not discuss such things, or they just flat out don’t believe that a person’s brain could really behave that way.

Just get over it. Just calm down. Exercise. Eat right. Sleep.

The only thing that’s really helped me at all with anxiety or depression has been being honest with people. Truly, brutally honest, down to how many pills I take, what they’re for, how I got the scars on my thighs, how many times I’ve thought about dying.

But today, I’m sitting at work and struggling. Today, nobody wants to hear about my issues. I know, because I’ve tried to explain and it has fallen on unresponsive ears.

So let me tell you about my dumb brain.

Because of depression, I don’t really care about my body the way I should. I didn’t care that my insurance card was out of date on Thursday when I went to pick up my medication refill. I didn’t care that I ran out of said medicine on Wednesday. I didn’t even care when my anxiety swelled on Saturday and my chest constricted; it made me better at my part time job–more effective and more sharp.

Because I didn’t care for my body, it’s now Monday and I am in FULL withdrawal mode. I’ve been taking this medicine for 1.5 years. it’s in my system. It’s in my brain. Today my brain has been misfiring; zapping electric currents in the form of nightmares and waves of nausea in between hours of fuzziness. Brain static.

Today my body is crying for help; and as I sit at my desk, accomplishing nothing of value, I’m kicking myself for my lack of caring. I can barely stand without falling over. Can barely turn my head without a wave of nausea striking my every nerve.

Fuck, man. My brain is dumb. And all I really need is for someone to say, “I get it. I understand. Tell me how I can help you. My brain is dumb too.”

This Dumb Brain of Mine