I’m getting a new tattoo. Yes you heard me right. I’m getting a new tattoo (I’m sure my mother is delighted to hear this ;-)) . I’m already pretty tatted, but I love ink and I love the stories that they tell. I’ll be getting a partial, if not full sleeve on my left arm. It’s going to be a visual image of the verses Matthew 5:13-16. Those are my life verses. A town on a hill that cannot be hidden, salt of the earth, shining my light for the world so they can see my Father in Heaven. These will all be incorporated. Unlike all of my previous pieces though, this piece will be in color. The reasoning is in this post.
I’ve been working on this piece since December 2011, during my senior year of college. From December 2011 through July of 2012, I experienced some pretty life-altering events. During my fall semester, I had been dealing with horrible migraine episodes. They would come three times a month and stay for 72 hours each time. The migraines were a result of a horrific car accident I was in right after my brother passed away, where I dislocated my shoulder and tore muscles in my neck on my right side.
These migraines were intrusive. I would spend days at a time cooped up inside my apartment, curtains drawn, sitting in the dark, under my covers and vomiting every time I’d try to take a bite of food. I was a recluse. I didn’t come out of my house except to go to class. People thought that I had left IU and transferred schools. When they’d see me out on campus, they ask where I had been and where all my weight had gone. I wanted to hide! I went from 168 pounds to 98 pounds in a matter of 3 months. The doctors tried all different types of medicine, natural and prescribed, but nothing seemed to work. They finally put me on a medicine called Topirimate that I thought was working.
Instead, this medicine had disastrous consequences. What I didn’t know, was that this medicine sent me into a state of psychosis from January 2012 until I was detoxed in March 2012. My heart rate wouldn’t fall below 108 BPM during that time, my appetite was non-existent, I became anorexic as a result of this medication. To be completely honest, I wanted to kill myself. I was low, one of the lowest points I have ever been in my life. I was stuck in my own head, it was as if I saw everything through a chiffon curtain, nothing was clear, my memories were obscured, school-work was piling up and professors were beginning to ask questions. I’ve always struggled with depression and anxiety, which are two generational curses that I have been in prayer for years to be broken.
But when I was in this place, I had no idea I was in this place. The medicine took over, and I was functioning like a robot. I was in a relationship at the time. For the most part, a healthy relationship, but this test and trial was taking away any happiness, even in that. I don’t remember much during that time, only very small little pieces of my life during those three months. Memories come in flashes, but they’re very foggy. For the most part, I remember nothing. Only what my friends and family saw of me.
Around the middle of March, I had lost it. I was going off the deep end. I was starting to realize that I wasn’t ok. I’m not sure if this was because of my prayers or others’ for me, but I kept asking God to show me what was wrong because I didn’t feel like myself. I remember I was sitting in my car after a really heated argument with my boyfriend at the time about why I was acting so weird, and all I could think of was that I wanted to run my car into a brick wall. I wanted to pull my hair out.
My body that I had loved so much was no longer the same body I remembered. I had chopped off all of my hair in the middle of the night one night because it was too heavy for my head during my migraine episode. I no longer had nice boobs and a butt, I was skin and bone, I was hairless, and my mind was mush. I had to buy a foam topper for my mattress because I was too skinny to sleep in my bed without one. I had no self-esteem, I didn’t think I was beautiful, my mind was a mess and my body was failing me. I was no longer me. I didn’t want to live.
Something in that moment before I put my foot on the accelerator, told me to call my mother. And oh does a mother know best. She asked me if I was ok and I simply responded, “Yes.” LIES LIES LIES that was the other voice I heard in my head right then. I hung up the phone with my mom. Turned off my car, went inside my house and sat on my bed. I remember sitting there cross-legged and sensing myself. Praying. I could feel my heart humming like a hummingbird in my chest because it was beating so hard. I called my mom back and said, “No mom, I’m not OK.” She said that she knew I wasn’t and asked if I could drive myself to the hospital. I told her yes and she stayed on the phone with me the entire way. Once I got there I went to the triage desk and told them that I was on Topirimate and that I was having suicidal thoughts. The nurse looked at me with such compassion and quickly started getting a room ready for me. “It’s ok, you’re safe, this has happened before, you’re not the first,” she said quietly to me as she led me to the bed.
I was admitted into the hospital onto a locked floor where they sent me through a detox of this medicine. It’s said that being detoxed from Topirimate can be like detoxing from heroin or speed. I remember laying in my bed that night throwing up, foaming at the mouth shaking and pleading for it to be over, while the woman next to me was detoxing from a meth binge. When I finally went to sleep after 14 hours of what felt like death, I slept for 15 hours. I don’t remember much of that, but I remember that I felt like I had just run two full marathons.
The nurse who had checked me in once I arrived on the 5th floor was a sweet woman. At the time I could’ve cared less, I was handcuffed to a wheelchair and being sent to a locked floor with crazy people. She asked if I went to church and if I was in counseling. I remembered telling her yes and my church and counselor’s name. She said, “Oh I just love Susan, she’s a peach. She goes to my church.” I think I might have even rolled my eyes and asked her to finish asking me questions. But I knew there was something special about this woman. Her name was Nurse Nancy and she would be my night nurse for the next two weeks while I was in the hospital. She soon became my guardian angel.
When I finally woke up after the first 30 hours, I stumbled to the bathroom down the hall and looked in the mirror, something I hadn’t done in 5 months. I didn’t recognize the woman staring back at me. I had no idea that I had cut my hair until that moment, dark circles surrounded my eyes and my cheeks were sunken in. My arms were the size of rolling pins and my thighs had a 3-inch gap in between them (not the sexy kind).
Over the next two weeks Nancy and I became BFF’s. I’d look forward to when she would arrive at her shift at 8pm, and many times she would arrive early to sit and talk to me. One day she came into my room and saw that I was rocking back and forth on my bed, the medicine still running it’s course through my body, anxiety was taking over. She sat down next to me and asked if I had a Bible with me. She took it, opened it up, and started reading verses to me that she said helped her through a rough time.
The first was Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
And the second was Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
She did not know my calling, nor did she know my story. She just told me that a year ago from that point in her life, she wouldn’t have been able to do what she was doing, she wouldn’t have been able to sit and minister to me in that moment because she was in my shoes a year ago. She prayed with me, hugged me, and then sang to me as I fell asleep. Like I said she was my guardian angel.
I was released from the hospital after two weeks and finally returned back to classes. It took longer than normal to let me out because I didn’t have an appetite and they wouldn’t discharge me until I would eat three meals a day without being sat with by a nurse. I was in the last semester of my senior year of college and two weeks in the hospital was not a good look. The day I got out, my boyfriend at that time came over to my house and he ended things. I felt abandoned and I was heartbroken, but I knew it was for the best. I had a lot of self-discovery to do. I didn’t love myself and I needed to start.
But that’s how God works. Sometimes He has to take us to the very bottom in order to bring us to the place He wants us. Sometimes we get so covered and controlled by outside influences, by vanity and looking for a pill to cure everything that we don’t realize what we’re missing. I was broken, I felt empty, but I had Jesus. The other amazing part of Matthew chapter 5 is the beatitudes. During this time, God continued to show me that I needed to be more like these in order to be closer to Him. Matthew 5:1-3 says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
I was all of those things. For me, this was a major turning point and realized this was something that would only add to my story. I began to see how God was giving me this amazing testimony that covered so many bases and could speak to so many people. I began, for the first time in my life, to be thankful that God had called me to be different, that He had called me to, “shine my light.”
Originally when I had received the calling over my life in December 2009, this verse, Matthew 5:16, was spoken over me three times by 3 different people who didn’t know each other each who reaffirmed my calling in the exact same words. I’ve mentioned this in a previous post. One woman who did this was on the airplane next to me on my flight home and randomly asked to pray for me. This verse has shown up in crazy times. God has continuously used this verse to point out my path and calling.
These verses are some of the reasons I knew I was supposed to move to California. That God knew I was supposed to be called out, supposed to be a light shining in a dark place. That I was supposed to be a city on a hill, one that could never be hidden.
But with this amazing realization there’s crazy change and transition. That’s why I want to use color. I’ve always been a black and white type of person. In every aspect of my life. And I’ve reflected that in my tattoos. While some patterns are good (my faith, my dreams, my passions, having a clean apartment and everything having it’s place), others have created some pretty awful patterns (stubbornness, not branching out, going with the known).
Already in this move, I’ve learned to break some of these. To go beyond my norms and comfort zone. To completely rid myself of what I know and step into the unknown. God has been up to something ever since He told me to “go” and hasn’t stopped showing me that this is what He’s asking of me, no matter how uncomfortable. And there’s so much beauty in that. That God knows how the puzzle will come together. That in all of the craziness that is life, God has a plan. And when it comes together, it’s a work of art. A testimony to His faithfulness and beauty. That He loves His children more than anything else, and that He is for me.
All of my tattoos have intense meaning. They represent events, times, transitions, change, and life lessons. They’ve been a way for me to share my faith in the most unconventional ways to so many people. I’m proud of my ink, they tell my story. Don’t ever judge a book by it’s cover because sometimes those things you’re judging are the very thing that someone else needs to hear that could just plant the seed to their salvation. Our lives are testimonies to all that God is up to.. not just my own testimony, but every single person’s.
Please feel free to like, share or re-blog this on your account. Make sure credit is given where it’s due, but I don’t mind you sharing my story. That’s what it’s for.