Out of Denial: How I Found Life in the Bigger Story

Two Men and a Gun

When I was twenty, I got mugged by two thugs in Boston.

I was walking home alone from a friend’s apartment when I noticed two guys approaching me on the dark sidewalk. One of them had a gun in his hand. Before I could think, they grabbed me and shoved me into an apartment building doorway, took my purse, then pulled me back down along the sidewalk.

I realized they were moving me toward the top of a stairway that led down into a dark passage between two buildings.

In shock, I began singing the 23rd Psalm. They called me nasty names and told me to shut up. Soon, we reached the top of the steps, but, before they could drag me down, I threw myself back on the concrete sidewalk and began to shake as if having a seizure.

“My medicine, my medicine, I need my medicine,” I cried, clinging to the stair rail as one of them smacked me in the head with the gun and the other yanked my feet toward the stairs.

Just then, a taxi cab came swinging by with its headlights sweeping. The two guys decided I wasn’t worth it, and they disappeared into the dark place to which they’d meant to drag me. Honestly, God gets all the credit, no question. I jumped up, pumped my fist in the air, and shouted, “We won!”

Now, where did that victory fist come from? Like the singing and the feigned seizure, the answer is a mystery to me. All I knew was that God had saved me!

In Denial

That’s the version of the story I have been telling for thirty years. However, my memory of that night is like the memory of a photograph rather than the memory of the event itself. Some details are missing, and there’s a sheen of unreality on the face of it.

When my old college friend Bob contacted me recently, I asked him his recollection of that time period. He happens to have an amazing memory, and he told me things I had forgotten about that night and about myself.

Here’s how the story should go:

When I was twenty, I was assaulted and robbed at gunpoint and came close to being raped and murdered. I had left a friend’s house in the heart of a dangerous city at 11 PM, refusing his pleas to let him walk me home. I told him, “God will take care of me.” How naive I was, full of pride and risking so much for nothing.

Certainly, the parts about singing, pretending to have a seizure, and then jumping up in victory when my attackers ran are true. They happened without forethought. And I believe God did save me.

Nevertheless, after the fact, I failed to face the weight of what actually had happened, could have happened.

In the following days, with my black eye and bloody chin and scalp, I did not–would not–absorb the impact. I held on to the parts of the story that suited me. A few weeks after the incident, as Bob reminded me, I began walking alone again at night.

Here’s the weirdest part: I forgot most of the second story’s details. I did not remember my refusals of help, my pride and stupidity, or the black eye. Also, Bob informed me about some of our friends who thought I must have been crazy before and after because of my behavior and attitude.

I was shocked by how little of myself I recognized. Truthfully, it was over 30 years ago, but there are some things you just don’t forget. And yet, I do. I did. A lot. It sounds like someone in denial.

Out of Denial

Did I know I was in denial?
Of course not! How can you know you’re in denial if you’re in denial?

What is it exactly?

According to one definition: Denial is a coping mechanism that gives you time to adjust to distressing situations — but staying in denial can interfere with … your ability to tackle challenges.*

The Mayo clinic online staff says: “If you’re in denial, you’re trying to protect yourself by refusing to accept the truth about something that’s happening in your life.” **

My definition is: “Bearing false witness against yourself; being unable or unwilling to acknowledge an unacceptable truth or emotion.”

The shoe fit. I began to wear it.
Even so, how does one begin to come out of denial? How did I move in that direction?

Signs of Denial

Obviously, it’s taken me a long time to face facts about that attack in Boston and about myself as a young woman, to get a true picture of the person I was before I began to come out of denial.

As I look back again at what should have been a pivotal point in my life, I recognize some signs of my denial:

  • I didn’t want to burden others with my problems, wanted independence
  • I isolated myself, preferring aloneness to interaction
  • My isolation created in me a lack of perspective and outward objectivity
  • I thought I had to display a perfect, pure picture of myself to be a good Christian, not comprehending that my honesty and authentic brokenness would draw people to me and to God
  • The pedestal suited me because, at a distance, I could control people’s perceptions
  • I had a lot of answers and not enough questions
  • I had a secret, destructive habit which NO-ONE knew about

Defining Moments

My first step in facing the truth about myself was telling a secret which no-one knew:

When I was in my twenties, I had an eating disorder called bulimia. It was a destructive habit of bingeing and purging but I told myself it was my way of managing my weight. In fact, it was my way of managing emotions and memories too painful to let surface.

In retrospect, I wonder at how much of my story I kept stuffed inside, rarely sharing the hidden parts of myself. Fresh out of childhood, my feelings were trying to surface, but I didn’t have an escape hatch for them. This disorder kept me from dealing with the story of my past.

Then I met Scott, who later became my husband. He helped me take an honest look at my life and begin to tell my story. When I told him about my bingeing and purging, it was as though a tiny shaft of light broke into my cellar. My heart felt less heavy and I began to let the truth about my childhood come out. I began to let go of damaging emotions roiling around inside my gut.

We Write Our Own Medicine

Telling the truth has been an essential element in my spiritual and emotional health and recovery. Actually, it’s essential for physical and mental health, too. When my heart and mind were clogged, my body felt sick and looked for relief.

To keep the flow of freedom going, I began to write songs and stories. When I let my thoughts and feelings escape the jumbled places inside me, they’d untangle on the way out and take shape in creativity.

I also began to say out loud in safe places things I had never voiced. Over these many decades of my life, I have been part of recovery groups, prayer groups, and sharing groups. Counseling and all kinds of therapy have helped in my healing.

The Process

The hardest part of finding life for me has been the slowness of the pace.
The saying goes, “Don’t push the river,” but all I want to do is push.
Get with the program, River, and show me some results!
Problem is, the program is all about trusting the process, no matter how meandering and slow it feels.

Take my physical pain, for example. The list of methods I’ve used to relieve my chronic back, hip, shoulder, and neck pain is too long to share. My saying became, ”nothing works.”

Currently, I’m trying a new kind of yoga which is all about letting go. Instead of finding the balance between effort and surrender like my other yoga practices, this one is all about zero effort and 100% surrender.

Gravity does all the work as I lie on the floor breathing. And paying attention to how my muscles slowly let go of tension. While I do NOTHING. The poses are supposed to do the protracted work of releasing and easing the pain.

So far, I have noticed only a little bit of change. I’m tempted to go negative and declare that this process is not working. But those are old thought patterns.

Instead, I’ve decided to stick with it and trust that the long haul could be the ticket. This may take years of practice in letting go. I’m hoping for the best.

Three Tiers for Life!

What is life in the bigger story?

It’s like a puzzle. We admire the beauty of the cover on the box before we dump the contents and begin the sorting of the pieces. The pile of tiny, jumbled shapes is daunting, but we know there’s a big picture in there somewhere. We just have to begin with one connection, two pieces that make a perfect fit. From there, with diligence and patience, we begin to see small patches of the picture take shape.

Sometimes we swear the designer of this thing left out important pieces. Or someone has lost a few border pieces before us. Or we have dropped a few under the table without knowing, never to be recovered. And yet, we persevere, and the puzzle begins to make sense and emerge as a thing of beauty.

My “formula for finding life,” in a nutshell:

First, Come Out of Denial

You must look for signs of denial. Then you can begin to come out of that dank and dark cave.
Ask yourself: Are you, deep down, a wreck in some way?
In some hidden corner of your life, is there a bruised and broken part of you about to explode from the conflict?

What conflict?
The conflict between what should be and what actually is.
Is there a destructive habit or addiction in your life, even a damaging thought process, that keeps you from facing fears, feelings, or memories?

Here are a few helpful articles: 7 Signs ,  

Ask Yourself These Questions

Second, Tell Your Story

We are wonderfully made creatures. Our parts are all connected and meant to flow together freely. When we turn our insides out, we connect to others’ stories, which reminds us of the big picture, the thing bigger than us. The whole that is much more than the sum of its parts.

When you tell your truths, be as honest as you can. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen if I face the truth about this?” You will probably find that your answer is manageable. Then, do the next right thing to move in a healthy direction.

Here’s a related article I wrote:​ Get Out of Your Head and Into Health.​

I thought no one could handle all my deep secrets. My worst fear was to be abandoned.

But I found someone who could handle my reality.

As I began to share my hardest facts with Scott, some weight began to lift off of my chest. He heard my confession about the bingeing and purging, which I’d done since my senior year of high school, and he didn’t run for the nearest exit. He stayed and carried some of the weight and has been doing so for over 30 years.

Third, Trust the Process

There are many ways to process the pain and suffering of our lives.
You can find safe places, people, and programs that will help you on your journey.

As I came out of denial and started facing and telling the truth about myself, I looked around for more help. The resources I found included a community of friends who were telling their truths, too. I was part of formal and informal groups of women and men intentionally working on their life stories. One of these groups was a 12-step recovery meeting called Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA). Here was a safe place to say hard things about myself and my life. We listened to one another without comment or judgment. We began to trust the slow process of healing and recovery.

Have compassion for yourself as you would with someone else you love.
Remember, Jesus said the second greatest commandment was to love others as you love yourself. This implies that YOU SHOULD LOVE YOURSELF.

If you do not love yourself, how will you be able to love others?
So grab the oxygen mask dangling in front of your face and breathe deeply! Let the life-giving flow do its work. Trust the process.

Those are my three essentials for finding life in the bigger story.

The beautiful scene on the front of the puzzle box reminds me that each annoying little piece really does connect somewhere and can somehow add to my life.

Therefore, I will keep sorting through the pile and finding parts that fit the bigger picture. I will keep sharing my thoughts and discoveries in my bigger story blog.
Thanks for reading, and happy journeying!

Christine

*h​ttps://www.cbsnews.com/news/10-signs-youre-in-denial/


** ​https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/denial/art-20047926

32 thoughts on “Out of Denial: How I Found Life in the Bigger Story”

  1. Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt. It’s an old saying but true. Denial happens until you meet rock bottom and then, if you stick to it and trust God, you start moving forward in a healthy way. Hopefully others are reached with this message. I’ll do my part to help it be seen.

    Thanks to you and Scott and the music you’ve done. My wife and I had met you two at Rocketown a few (mumble mumble) ago and remain longtime fans your music.

    May Abba continue to draw each of us closer to a better understanding of his grace and love.

  2. Thank you Christine for the honesty… transparency… This lets me know that I am going to be ok and that I am on the right track… excited for what lies ahead. I love your music… keep sharing sis!

    God Bless

    Donna

  3. So meaningful and timely for me. Thank you.
    My mother has been the queen of denial her whole life, and as she is languishing in her final days, she fights all she can while on high powered comfort care level pain meds. I have all the same physical pains you mentioned and would love to know more about the yoga practice. I have just begun to write/journal, and feel free to share the feelings I’ve held in and crammed food on top of, (also bulemic my Jr. and Sr. years of high school).
    So fearful of passing the fear and superficial perfectionism onto my duaghters, that I was shaped by rebellion and avoidance- even from the good parts of my mother’s example. As my freedom coincides with strong grief, some of my reactions appear as denial. But, it is well with my soul, despite The churning waves on the surface.

    • thanks for your honesty, Jen. I am still learning that no ONE thing is the “cure” but instead all the little things we do add up to making a difference. (The yoga is called Svaroopa )

  4. What a beautiful true life story of redemption, awareness and love. Thank you for your boldness in sharing such private parts of your life! I adore your music. God Bless

  5. Hey Christine,

    Thanks so much for being vulnerable and sharing your story here. The puzzle has been a helpful analogy for me for years. I have often tried to find some kind of neatly packaged process with a beautiful bow on top that appears to be more acceptable….reality is messier, less defined and truly beautiful for those who have eyes to see. The process and the journey is what makes us rich on so many levels. Thank you for sharing the wisdom from your process.

    • Yes, reality is quite messy, isn’t it? I wish I could keep it clean and tidy but it just doesn’t want to stay that way. Thanks for reading!

  6. Christine, thank you. need that encouragement big time right now… to turn some puzzle pieces picture side up on the table. Face the emerging shape of a difficult season. The poetry of your songs is so powerful but maybe sometimes honesty is the best poetry. Thank you for yours.

  7. Transparency feels fearful at times when we put our bleeding wounds and broken parts of ourself out there before others. Honesty is so liberating and healing though- the real and raw of it Healing for those souls brave enough to share and those that receive. Thank you for your ministry to others.

  8. I love this post for the same reason I love your music – your honesty and authenticity is encouraging. It tastes like truth. Keep up the journey; we’re all just broken people saved by grace.

  9. Christine! It believed by me that your Creator Meant for and yet Means for you to ‘come as you we’d. As well, that your Creator has ‘Used’ you in All stages AND experiences in your Life, both as ‘Christine’ AND as ‘Two As One’, With Scott… again, in Past, Currently, and in what ‘left’ of this ‘Blink Of Eye’ time we tend call ‘Like’; your REAL Life, Eternal, already begun… from beginning, through and For, God’s Eternity. What Gifts Entrusted! Thanks you, and the many, Shared in SO many ways, the many Sharings, including ‘this’; this Sharing of (your) Life! God, is, GOoD!!! David

  10. … Creator… … Means for you to ‘come as you are’… (Sorry… I didn’t catch spell-‘correct’).

    … ‘Blink Of Eye’ time we tend call Life; your REAL Life, Eternal… (Again, did not catch spell-‘correct’ mis-correcting/’inventing’)

    God is GOoD!!! (NOT mistakenly spell-corrected : ) !!!!!!!

  11. Christine, Thank you for being so honest and open with your life. By being honest with ourselves and with others we can be rid of the heaviness that seems to always be on our shoulders. Whenever I introduce myself I always say “my name is like Cleopatra, she was the queen of the Nile. I’m more like the queen of denial.” It always gets a laugh, but makes me wonder if I am living with a lot of denial. Something to think about. I have loved the music from Out of the Grey. I sometimes find myself humming your songs. I have shared cassettes and CD’s with friends. God’s blessings to you and your family.

  12. Powerful! I don’t know if I want to leap for joy or run and hide. Certainly feels like a little of both. After a difficult season that lasted a couple of decades, and is hopefully coming out to brighter days, I can see how the “story” is going to go public for God’s glory, but it gives me a twinge or two at how much the revealing may begin the unraveling. Thanks for your courage in sharing your story and your willingness to let God use it! 🙂
    Kelly

    • Definitely a little of both–joy and hiding– for me : ) Thanks for engaging, Kelly. I pray that your brighter days have finally arrived!

  13. A little honesty about yourself goes a long way in your healing process. I’ve had some pretty horrible things in my past that at 50, I’m still dealing with to this day. Insecurities, etc. It’s hard, Christine. Very hard. If it wasn’t for God’s intervention in many areas, I’m not sure I’d be here today. Thanks for this article.

  14. Thank you for telling your story. I cried through it – It certainly has my wheels turning. I was listening to your song called ‘Nothings Gonna Keep me from You’ while I was reading
    Coincidentally. Lyrics make perfect sense to me right now ♥️

  15. Like the song says, “all my favorite people are broken….” and that includes me. Thanks for this excellent piece, which my good wife sent to me. God bless!
    PS: my Carina and I have been fans of your (and Scott’s) music for many, many years.

  16. Scott and Christine,

    Thank you, Christine for telling your escape story. A Jewish man said, “the Jews are not known for being stupid; we usually find our way out of about anything”. A Jewish man and I invented a self defense panic activation that has to do with getting out of situations, for which I have recently received a “provisional patent” from the U.S. Patent & Trademark office.

    What to do with it; well getting it into production is a chapter that is like trying to flip a page of a book and that next page after several tries just hasn’t flipped yet. It’s obvious to several people that I’ve talked to that this panic device engineered concept will be effective and it’s one of those “we’re going to see this personal protection panic device” soon on the market; whether it’s by China, Taiwan, some other country or through my patent??? U.S. patent laws don’t always over rule foreign patents, so the conventional advice might be for me to get a globlal patent.

    Anyway, this self defense panic device utilizes sound recognition to activate a panic. It’s either an accessory to a cell phone or a standalone device that doesn’t require communication with a cell phone. The owner of the panic device preprograms and prerecords activation sounds, such as “caution”, “help help”, “send police now”; whatever words the owner of the panic device might plan to say if they were in an emergency. For men and youth, the panic device is located in a custom pocket of a compression shirt (like the old style undershirts). For women, the panic device is located in a custom pocket between the cups of a brassiere.

    The unique and advanced technology part, is that the “Sound Recognition Cellular Panic Device” not only listens for words such as “caution”, “help help” or “send police now”, it can also hear vocal sounds such as several hums, the owners screams, three clearings of the throat; whatever vocal sounds the owner vocalizes that matches the sounds that the owner prerecorded.

    Being robbed at gunpoint… hmm. Having read your story while I was first writing the patent application description, I included a feature that during a panic situation, the owner can keep trying to repeat the panic sound they prerecorded, and when the panic device recognizes the panic sound as an actual acoustical match, that the panic device would vibrate (just like your cell phone vibrates) to confirm “emergency panic signal received”. After the central monitoring station receives the panic signal from the cellular panic device the monitoring station dispatches police and GPS locates the owner’s panic device and their cell phone.

    There’s more features like texting, further description on software capabilities, but also there are terms and conditions that this Jewish friend and I were talking about to assert to whoever manufactures the panic devices that privacy and GPS monitoring be for defense; not eaves dropping or invasion of privacy.

    My career is electronic security engineering for buildings; government, department of defense and industrial buildings. As I was escorting a lady who was campaigning for political office, I considered, “we can provide electronic security for buildings; why not yet is there effective electronic security for people”?

    Here now, I wonder if it feels like that wait period; that moment of pause when the Israelites were part way through the Red Sea (also called “Reid Sea”) and they waited.

    About ten years ago, my mom was in the hospital recovering after a valve transplant. She would laugh each time after my wife would say several funnies. Mom had oxygen tubes, so she didn’t talk. She was tilted back and though she would try to write, it looked like scribble. My dad said that one of her brothers came to visit, but he like others was the only one doing the talking. I asked cardiologists and a cardio universities what they do, and I was told that nurses and doctors ask the patient to nod “yes” or “no”. Now, there is a way to communicate by asking the patient to squeeze your finger as you say the ABCs and make words and/or sentences.

    Well, we paid $1,300 or so to have a presentation prepared for patenting. The concept was simple; manufacture a Power Point Presentation pointer with an “up”, “down”, “left”, “right” and an “enter” button so sentences can be spelled out on a laptop and so the patient can send emails. Well eight or so years came about and I was still looking for an opportunity for someone to manufacture this presentation pointer, but that never happened with my being involved. I’ve heard that now there is something like that on the market.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    Kelly

  17. Thanks for your honesty, Christine. The common thread across our lives is amazing to see after all these years, for example ACOA. I’ve recently had to face health issues I’ve ignored far too long, and the process is teaching me to be gentle with myself. Surprisingly it includes a new taste of yoga.

    Your writing is as articulate as ever. May the Lord bless you and keep you close as He uses you for His purposes, Friend.

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