“So, what have you been up to lately?” she casually asked across the table strewn with half-drunk margaritas and now cold food. The dreaded question finally happened and an annoying ache clawed at my belly. Taking a deep breath, I came up with an answer that seemed appropriate to the evening and less shame-filled than the truth that bit at my tongue like top-shelf tequila.
If you only knew.
My heart had been ravaged by unbearable grief at this point in my story. Infertility had paved a path of unspeakable shame and I felt betrayed by my own body. My soul grappled with a resurgence of self-harming and suicidal ideations. I needed a safe place to land, a place I could whisper words too difficult to bear. I needed to feel that my pain and shame would not be met with placating words that are often given when grief is uncomfortably raw.
My eyes cautiously sought her own. I wondered if her questioning was merely a couple of friends catching up over drinks, or whether the intention was to liberate my mouth and wash away the darkness that shrouded the truth. In the midst of my pain, I chose the path of least resistance and retreated further into my silent suffering.
If you only knew.
If you only knew that when couples announced a new pregnancy, it felt like my world would shatter into ten thousand pieces, all over again.
If you only knew how I cringed at being invited to baby showers and viewed them as a visual reminder of my body’s failure. I avoided them like the plague.
If you only knew that when you said “Just relax and it’ll happen” or “You’re so lucky you don’t have kids” or “Are you pregnant yet?” my gut lurched sickeningly and my body burned dark red, dripping with shame messages.
If you only knew how depression shaped a hollow shell of who I used to be and then filled that shell with lies that kept me shackled to hopelessness and fear.
If you only knew that I believed God had truly forsaken me and left me to burn inside a house of raging fire. How I needed, waited, prayed to hear His voice that would not continue to leave me in abandoned silence.
If you only knew that I was in so much pain I returned to self-harming as a way to punish my body and heart for a grief that could not be controlled.
If you knew, would you, could you look at me with kindness and weep with your fellow sister the way Jesus did for Lazarus?
Today, after years of counseling and a continuous commitment to protect my body rather than harm it (a commitment that was splintered last year and is currently in the process of being rebuilt), I have grace for my bleeding heart. I can speak what I should have gloriously screamed so people could wrap tender love around my wounds. I am embracing the strong woman I have always been and refusing to let silence steal my words. I am learning to speak my truth with confidence, regardless of how others will see me.
When will we catch the shadow of another fleeing into silence and invite them back with tears and open hands?
When will we take a breath during the stillness of our conversations? It takes curiosity and an ability to hit the pause button on a girls-night-out to remember the hidden weight our friends may be carrying.
If we only knew, what could we offer those around us? Could we sit in the awkward silence together and grieve? Could we take up the sword and go to battle for each other? Could we simply, authentically ask questions to know, truly know, what lurks behind the margarita-infused smiles and laughter?
I know it’s possible. I wouldn’t be here without the warrior words, I want to know.
Mal Arnold is a passionate Latina wife and mother who is a chaser of dreams and believes in living life with abandon. She writes to pour some of herself out for any who care to experience her heart, but is also an avid reader, lover of old movies and going on journeys with family as well. She has seen heartache and trauma in her past and is learning to let her Maker heal her broken places.