Do You Know Your Purpose?

mission

We all have those moments when we wonder just what our purpose is here on earth. As someone with depression and suicidal thoughts from time to time, the question sometimes gets modified. We begin to wonder if we have outlived our purpose. Is it possible to have outlived your purpose?

In mid-April 2010, I was really pondering this. I had just completed my fourth hospitalization in a psychiatric unit. I was homeless and I just didn’t know what was next in my life. I began to wonder if I had already fulfilled my purpose. After all, I had been an academic advisor for nearly 10 years and touched many, many lives already. Maybe my time was up.

The day after this was really weighing on my mind, I got on my computer and saw a quote on one of my regular websites:

Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: if you’re alive, it isn’t.

~Richard Bach

I’m sure this was all part of what would lead to giving up the option of suicide. While it felt like that decision was made in an instant, it is clear that there were other things happening and people entering my life that would lead up to that decision. (Read more about that here.)

A couple of weeks ago, June 13, 2014, I received a potentially life changing phone call that was another confirmation that perhaps I had not outlived my purpose on earth.

Because I did not recognize the number, I did not answer the call but immediately checked the voice mail:

“Criselda Marquez, this is Lisa with the National Marrow Registry. You signed up with us at Odessa College back in 1999 and you have come up as a possible match for a patient. We are doing some testing on the blood we have frozen but I want to ask you some health questions to see if you want to continue.”

HOLY COW!

I couldn’t return the call fast enough! Hell, yes, I want to continue!! My initial thought was that I could not pass up the opportunity to help someone have a better life.

After a little phone tag, I spoke directly with Lisa in Texas. She works for the National Marrow Donor Program, Be The Match. She was calling to inform me that I had been identified as a potential bone marrow match for a 25 year old young lady with leukemia. We spoke for a few minutes as she gave me a little more information, confirmed my contact information and we hung up.

All of the sudden it hit me…

If I had killed myself four years ago, as I so desperately wanted to do, I wouldn’t be around so that this young lady could possibly benefit from my life. This is HUGE! One friend couldn’t have said it better: To be able to do that for someone – one of life’s biggest joys. Kuddos my friend. You are here for a reason. God is not finished with you yet.

I passed the health questionnaire stage. After providing consent for further testing, we sit and wait. It could take 2-6 weeks for the next stage of testing to be completed. This will let us know if I am a true match for “Texas,” as I’ve named her. Even if I am not a match for “Texas,” because they have done the extra testing, I could be called again for someone else.

In reviewing their website, it appears that the age of the donor is pretty important in long term survival of the recipient. “Doctors request donors in the 18-44 age group over 90% of the time.” Guess how old I am…43. {shivers}

If it turns out I am a match, my donation will likely take place here in Indiana…unless I happen to be in Texas at the time. Depending on the donor center, I may be able to have anonymous communication with “Texas” for the first year after the donation. After that time, we would be allowed to reveal ourselves to each other. I truly hope this will be the case if I am a match. While not being able to get updates or have communication would not stop me from donating, I think I would feel like I was left ‘hanging’ by not knowing the outcome.

I will definitely keep you updated with any news.

I encourage you to consider supporting the cause in some fashion. Visit Be the Match’s website (http://bethematch.org/Support-the-Cause/) and learn about joining the registry, donating financially or donating cord blood of your soon-to-be-born baby.

 

Match Badge

It Took Over 26 Years…Part 2

My earliest memory…something I remember without reading from a journal…of being attracted to another woman was in 1996 or early 1997. This was just months before I would finally let myself believe that I was gay. I was at Barnes& Noble browsing the books and this person came up and asked if I was finding everything okay. Without looking up right away I answered that I was. By the time I finished answering I looked up and saw who was speaking to me. To just say that I got butterflies in my stomach would be an understatement. I had a whole, freaking migration of monarch butterflies in there! Then I realized it was a woman speaking to me!

WHOA! Wait just a minute, here! What the…was going on here?!

Up to that point, I had never had such a strong physical reaction to seeing another woman. (As it turned out, she was a golfing buddy to my first partner.)

As I mentioned previously, this was not the first time I had reason to question my sexual orientation. It goes back to at least high school days. Apparently my best friend and I would have words about the fact that I was attracted to other girls. I have no idea what I would say, but she did tell me later that this happened on more than one occasion. This is one of the instances of ‘filing’ away that information for another day. I suppose since my comments did not meet approval, I figured I shouldn’t share them again.

I never really dated boys in high school. I did have a crush on a couple of them but the most that happened was one buying me a mum for homecoming and me getting him a garter. (This is a Texas tradition that you can read more about here and see pictures here.) We didn’t even go to the homecoming dance.

In my senior year, I did have a “relationship” with John. I put that into quotation marks because I’m not sure exactly what to call it. We were best friends and we did kiss and make out; but we never went on a traditional date. I would go to his apartment…yes, he was nine years older (oops)… or we would go for a drive. We would talk on the phone for hours. Besides kissing and making out from time to time, that was the extent of anything sexual between us. We never declared ourselves to be boyfriend/girlfriend. When I left for college, it became very ‘on again, off again.’ We just couldn’t let go of each other completely. I still believe to this day that if we had gotten married, we would have stayed married until the end because we got along so well. Other than those two, there were no other boyfriends. (A note about John.  He died in January of 1997. I truly believe it was his death that finally freed me to finally accept that I was attracted to women.)

It wasn’t until about my junior or senior year of college that anything more happened with men. I still did not have a boyfriend, or date guys; but I did have experiences with guys…multiple guys. I ‘messed around’ a lot with mostly married men. I did everything but have intercourse with these men in one-night stands. After all, I was a good Catholic girl…I couldn’t have intercourse, that would be a sin! For the record, I do recognize that being with married men is also a sin, but in my mind at the time it was less of a sin. Doesn’t make sense to me either!

For many years after coming out, I joked that I was simply “looking for love in all the wrong places.” I viewed these men as being safe because there could be no long-term commitment.  Now, after spending hours reading old journals and processing it all, I realize that it was an attempt to be more like my college roommates…who were all attracted to men. I didn’t know it, but I think I was trying to make myself ‘straight.’ I was doing my own version of reparative therapy.

One affair lasted several months and went on during the first year of my graduate studies. At some point after this ended, I must have been questioning myself again as I tried to talk to one of my undergraduate professors about being gay. She did not take too kindly to my assumption that she was gay and would not have any kind of conversation with me related to homosexuality. While this bothered me, I just mentally shrugged it off and once again ‘filed’ away the idea that I might be gay.

Near the end of my graduate school career, I had to write what was called an ‘Annotated Autobiography.’ At the end of the writing, I addressed sexual orientation in the family. I commented that both my sister and I had questioned our orientation ‘but I had not to the extent that my sister had.’ Again, I had ‘filed’ this away and dismissed any notion that I might be gay.

What amazes me about all the times I would ‘file’ away any thought of being gay is how I didn’t seem bothered by my questioning. I know it is easy to repress memories as part of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but I guess I feel I should have been more bothered by not being able to get answers to my questions. I suppose it was just my mind protecting me until I was truly ready for the answer.

Throughout all of this, I was still very active in the church. I attended on a regular basis and was somewhat involved at the Catholic Newman Center on campus. As I finished graduate school, I became involved in the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) and was a sponsor for a friend of mine to complete the sacraments to become a full Catholic. Even after I moved 1.5 hours away, I continued to drive to San Angelo every other week to be with her during the meetings. In the fall of 1996, I got involved in a local RCIA in hopes of continuing to help those that wanted to become Catholic. Shortly after signing up, I found it difficult to get myself to church on Sundays. Nothing had happened at church…no upsetting homilies, no run-ins with staff…nothing. I just could not get myself to attend. Soon, I was no longer involved. I couldn’t understand what was happening.

Within a year, I would come to understand what was going on inside of me.

questioning

This Is Our Church

So many of us that have come out have also had to struggle with the teachings of our churches. I was no different.

Susan Cottrell & FreedHearts

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“The singing was the most beautiful sound in the world! More than once, I had to stop singing and just listen. I couldn’t get some of the words out through the tears. Some would say that in those moments, our sexual orientation didn’t matter. For me, though, it did.”

Yesterday, I shared the first part of Criselda’s moving story. Today, I am honored to continue to share that with you, in her words, from her heart…

I was raised Catholic, with strict Catholic rules. One that stuck with me for many years is: “Once a Catholic, always a Catholic.” So, when I realized I was gay, my struggle with the church really began.

I attended mass with my partner but did not receive communion, because I knew I was not living according to the church’s teaching. Finally, I quit attending. As much as I longed to be in church, I…

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Giving Up the Option of Suicide

April 29 marks four years since I gave up the option of suicide. I never could have fathomed what that one decision would end up meaning in my life.

I spent many, many years with suicide as a viable option to end the pain of my depression. Each time something would happen, or even nothing would happen, and my depression would worsen, I would just long to be dead and out of pain. I just wanted to be rid of the heaviness, the darkness and most of all the thought of having to live another day with all of that. I wasn’t ‘living’ anyhow, so why not make it literal? It wasn’t so much the desire to kill myself as it was just to be free of the depression.

Having that ‘option’ was my security blanket. It was how I coped with the depression. And, somehow, it was also what kept me living.

So why didn’t I ever attempt anything? It wasn’t for lack of desire; and it wasn’t because I thought of how it might affect those I left behind. I just didn’t have a clean, reliable plan. Plain and simple. What was reliable, shooting myself or going in front of a train, wasn’t clean. What was clean, using pills and alcohol, wasn’t reliable.

April 29, 2010 brought a different way of thinking.

Here’s how that played out: I had just visited with Pastor Peg. She, once again, questioned if I really had been serious about suicide since I had never made any attempts. This line of questioning was becoming very annoying! I got in my car to go to my therapy appointment and sitting there in the church parking lot, before I even put the key in the ignition, it struck me, “I just need to do IT!” By “It,” I meant to kill myself. I meant it with all my heart! However, as quickly as I had that thought, or quicker if that is possible, I decided to write a note to my therapist that simply said, “I will kill myself one day.”

My therapist and I had an unspoken agreement that I couldn’t take back anything that I physically gave her. By giving her that note, I was giving up that option as a way to deal with my depression. My therapist smiled, looked at me and asked, “So why now?” All I could say was, “I want to have a stronger relationship with God and He is about ‘living.’ Suicide is about ‘dying.’ I can’t have one while still holding on to the other.”

Somehow, over the years, I had placed God behind a glass wall. God was still visible, but I couldn’t hear or reach out to him because of that wall created by my desire to not live. I always said that I never quit believing during the time I didn’t go to church; but I also didn’t reach out to him during my darkest days. Now I can see why…*I* had put that wall there…and *I* had to be the one to break it down.

I finally had reached the point where I longed more to LIVE in Christ than to DIE on earth and the only choice I had to fix this was to give up the option of suicide…so I did!

Within just three months of that decision, I attended my first service at that church, obtained housing assistance to get an apartment after being homeless for a year (more on that another day), and got the job I still have nearly four years later!

Today I can honestly say that I am happier and more balanced than I have EVER been in my life!

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.

Psalms 40:2