March 5th, 2011 by Kelsey Vandeventer
When I was sad or embarrassed as a little girl, I shuffled around the house with my soft, pink blanket over my head, pretending and half-believing that I was invisible. Sometimes my family teased and played along in good fun: “I wonder where Kelsey could be…” But, looking back, it wasn’t solely a game for me; sometimes my safe space was the room underneath that blanket. Raised in a family that didn’t know how to handle my deeper feelings, the safest option was to hide it from them and even to hide from myself. I grew up with a desire to be known and to be seen past the exteriors but had no way of articulating it. So, for the greater part of my adolescence I dealt, and do deal, with depression because of primarily, I think, a longing unmet.
A low point came my freshman year of college when I became more self-aware. It’s one of those experiences where you’re changed and you can’t go back to how you saw the world before. I began to tell the truth about myself and to sift through what I wanted and needed and what it means to have a self, to be a person. I allowed myself to feel pleasure without feeling guilty; eating fast-food in spite of hearing a carb count reel in my head, taking more walks instead of more classes, letting the goofy out more, and stating my mind, which might have made my parents wet their pants a little. Discovering where the world ended and I began, I found myself faced with a decision to hide or to accept myself, the good and bad, and refuse to feel helpless. I chose to start living my life. At this point, something inside me was fighting to get well that was fiercer than my pain. Sir William Osler says, “The physician that has himself for a patient is a fool.” We can’t do it alone. We need help. I needed help. I decided not to do it alone, and that has made all the difference. So with the guidance of a great therapist and a few good, honest friends, I dove some and floundered more, but eventually touched down to stiller waters, and I began to fill up.
In her book Operating Instructions, Anne Lamott writes, “We must try to look out at the world with quiet eyes.” Instead of pointing a finger, I began to look at myself more graciously and understand myself first, like I would a friend. My own tendency to be judgmental was an ugly truth to face. It was a way I had dealt with shame and insecurity—to disconnect and refuse to be honest or enter into the pain of others and myself. True change happened, and I was happy for the first time that I can remember.
My story is not a new one. God also invited Adam and Eve to come out of hiding because he made them for the light. In my own darkness, I met a Jesus who was gentler and stronger than the one I’d known before. He wasn’t calling my name during hide-and-seek to tease me, wag his big, holy, glowing finger, and shout that He had found me out—that I really am a fraud. No, He wanted me to come out because I was hurting and hurting myself, and He wanted me to be healed.
These were my growing pains, where God found me in my need and called me out of hiding. And his love gave me the space and light to shed my too-small, winter clothes. Though the darkness still threatens me sometimes, I know where my hurt finds healing. I am learning to say with the Psalmist, “I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.” (Ps 31:7)
 Lamott, Anne. Operating Instructions. New York: Fawcett Columbine. 1993.
Kelsey is a native of Southern California and is student at Biola University and the Torrey Honors Institute, studying English and Art. She is also a contributor to Soulation’s Breakfast Reading blog.