Wednesday, August 9, 2017

for when a hard thing happens and your feelings are not your friend

Ever have one of those weeks? When you are surprised by a hard thing you never saw coming and it catches your heart and you can't even breathe. When your feelings are hurt - you feel betrayed, you are disappointed, you are bewildered, you're sad. When you protect yourself from feeling the hurt with anger, bitterness and vindictiveness. When you are feeling all of it and your physical, mental and EMOTIONAL responses are wildly unpredictable and pretty much none of them feel good.

And all the time you're angry and bitter, you are looking outward and blaming, but then you also submerge yourself in an internal dialogue that goes something like this:

I'm a stupid idiot.
If only I would have ...
If only I wouldn't have ...
If only I could have ...
WHY did I invest myself? I know better!

And all of those implicitly lead to this:

I'm not valuable.

Hurt feelings = I'm a stupid idiot = I'm not valuable.

Or is that last part too big of a leap?

I don't think so. Because a constant dialogue in your head about what a creep you are turns into self-loathing. The dictionary definition of loathing is this:

strong dislike or disgust; intense aversion

Whoa. Strong words, right? But if this is how I feel about myself (and by the way I'd never talk to anyone else the way I talk to myself) then I am loathing mySELF. My thinking, my feeling, my speaking, my behavior, all of it - I loathe.

How can I possibly feel valuable when I dislike myself so strongly?

So while the circumstances of my hurt feelings were difficult, I have realized these two things about myself:

First - Ick. I don't like feelings. (Well I pretty much knew that, but it's a good reminder.)

SecondWhen I feel betrayed or rejected, I catapult back to being that betrayed, rejected kid, especially the teenager, and also to that betrayed, rejected young woman. I think most of us have felt that way at some point in our lives for any variety of reasons.

[If you've never felt like that kid or young woman, I'm so happy about that for you. For real I am.]

If you're like me and get stuck in old old feelings sometimes, here's two things I can do:

First, I have to recognize that the way I'm feeling is triggered by things that happened in the life I was living many long years (decades) ago. When that old junk rears its ugly head, I tend to REACT out of those hurt feelings, out of those blaming feelings, instead of RESPONDING thoughtfully and in a grown-up way.

And when I react instead of respond, I often regret what I said/did, or at least replay it endlessly doing the coulda woulda shoulda thing.

And so that endless loop now includes talking crap on myself.

I have to recognize ALL of that.

Second, be introspective for a little while. Pay attention to the trigger, to the feelings - identify their source (if I can). By doing this I am able to separate old hurts from current circumstances. I can explore why that old thing made me feel this way now. I can begin to release myself from that self-loathing because the old thing has suddenly lost its power over me. Do I still feel hurt? Yep. Do I want a repeat of the thing? Nope.

And now I can choose my next move (if any) wisely. I can put aside the old thing, and rationally handle the new thing by responding instead of reacting. I can be sad without being devastated, I can wish things had been different without blaming myself for what was beyond my control. I can be disappointed instead of angry. I can be bewildered without attributing the cause to myself.

Always always I need to own up to my part, though. Sorting through old junk is helpful and valid when it's used for me to grow in a healthy way. Excusing my current bad behavior because I got hurt a long time ago is not helpful or valid.

So there's the tension of not being too hard on myself while simultaneously taking responsibility for what is mine.

If I make healthy adult choices, nothing may change but at least I will have no regrets about the way I handled myself.

IF.

I want IF to turn into WHEN - I want to always respond instead of react, I want to take responsibility for my stuff right away, I want to do these things without hours (days, weeks, months) of feeling all the feelings and talking to myself terribly.

I want to be ok with the "but nothing will change" outcome that is so difficult for me to accept.

I want to have no regrets.

It's surely an up and down kind of process, but I've hopped on the ride. Separating the old from the new has truly transformed the way I've looked at my recent hard thing. (Don't get me wrong, this was a days-long journey of screaming emotions before it dawned on me that I was reacting to old junk, not the new thing.)

And I'm so grateful, because while I still feel sadness I am not angry. I have peace about the hard thing, and I have no regrets about the way I handled myself. Eventually the web of lies I told myself was banished (well, taken down to a low roar anyway) and I am left with some hurty feelings ... and peace.

Above all, I'm valuable. I. AM. VALUABLE. Other people don't determine my value, God does. He did. He will. Who will I believe? Humans or God? The God who created me in HIS IMAGE loves me just as I am. After all, he made me just like I am. He's the one I can completely rely on, because he never changes.

And you - YOU ARE VALUABLE. You are also created in God's image, and you can rely on him when the humans hurt you because he loves you and he never changes. Don't leave him out of this process, this journey, this introspection. Take courage, for he will NEVER leave you. He longs to guide you.

What's your hurt right now? How do you handle your triggers? Do you talk to yourself in a not-nice way? Do you believe the truth about you?

I pray you believe it.

Angie







Wednesday, May 24, 2017

on life ... because I disengaged

Angie here. Remember me? Once upon a time blogger?

Gotta just take my own advice here and do SOMETHING to re-engage.

Here's my disclaimer: I don't really have any idea what to say.

And here's my safety net: Just because I sit down here today to make a start I have to let myself off the hook for more than this one post today.

Because if I try to anticipate or plan for more my heart beats hard and my face feels flushed. (Although ... hot flashes.) My stomach gets butterfly-y and I just want to shut off the computer and turn on Netflix. Again.

I feel like I've been on a year-long submarine ride. It is dark and the air is stale and every time I felt like I could maybe come up for air the periscope spied something scary (real or imagined), and down I dove.



It's so weird. The deep dark sea feels safe and predictable, but really it is not. The danger is creeping, it's internal, and what's going on at the surface feels irrelevant and unreachable. So I sit in my fake safety and do constant battle with the incessant negative ever-looping messages playing in my head, listening with shame, hanging my head in defeat.

Blah blah blah. Lots of "always" and "never." All or nothing. Everyone or no one.

So much drama lives in the dark.

And apparently I've spent the better part of the last year making sure the stupid submarine stays submerged and if it dares sneak toward the surface then all the alarms go off - DANGER - and down I dive.

Lots of hiding - from predators, yes, but mostly from the LIGHT. And other LIFE.

[Clearly I was prepare for a long voyage and packed plenty of food because I have not suffered a bit in that regard. Oh wait. I thought that was funny, except that I constantly feel guilty because I gained a bunch of weight. Gee whiz.]

Ok but here is what I really want to say. I've come up for air. The sun is out, chasing away the darkness and all that comes with it.

I hear my Heavenly Father's voice again, beckoning me near, reminding me that he is especially fond of me. I weep now, not out of desperation or depression, but out of thankfulness that no matter how deep I dive he is with me. If I can't hear him, he is with me. If I can't see anything good, he is good. If everything seems terrible, he is my redeemer. If my situation doesn't get better, he won't waste my pain. His lovingkindness is everlasting and constant and is always there, present and active, no matter how I feel.

And that even though I have not leaned on all these truths while I was in the submarine, that does not make them any less true and I am longing for the time when I am aware of every bit of this and all the other things I should never forget even when I am diving.

It's baby steps, I must take my own advice. Today, I will be thankful. I will post this.I will sit in the sun next time it comes out, eat something that is actually good for me, and maybe, just maybe even do some kind of exercise in the not too distant future.

I had surgery on my hip again last week (WHAAAAT? Yep it's my third hip replacement. On two hips. I guess it's that New Math.) It went well, and recovery seems to be on a fast track that I no longer thought was possible.

I've got a summer full of grandkids and Nini Camps coming up, and I'm excited. Some cool stuff is happening with my book, "Peering Into the Tunnel, An Outsider's Look Into Grief." A couple of organizations have picked it up to use as a resource, and possibly there are a couple other really exciting things in the works. Right now it's available on Blurb (search my name or the book title and it pops up), and I'm working on getting it over to Amazon as well. (Anyone know how to do this? It's like a foreign language. But I'm determined.)

Wish I could say I climbed out of the submarine and blew it to smithereens, but I'm still retrieving my life from its bowels - the parts of it that are worth hauling up, that is. It WOULD be impressively fun to watch, though, so when I'm ready to do that I'll let you know so you can get tickets.

Watch for me here, if you would. Check in, if you can. It helps me. Let me know where you are, what you wonder, how we can live this life engaged and free. Join me in the journey.

Out of the darkness,
Angie








Friday, March 17, 2017

on grief ... for when you've disengaged


Your friend lost a loved one. A family member lost her  job. Another is sick, another is dealing with infertility, another is going through a divorce. One has a wayward child. And so on. You love her, and you wish you could somehow help her, make it better, ease her pain.

But instead you disengaged from her. The immediate crisis is over, and maybe you’ve been busy, and maybe you just don’t know what to say, you’re so afraid to get it wrong that you don’t do anything at all.

And now time has gone by and gone by and you feel guilty about it but you also feel like it’s too late to fix it. You got it wrong, you vow to do better next time, but you still wish you could have a do-over.

Don’t feel bad. You are not alone. This is hard. There’s no easy answers. But now, your wishes keep crowding into your mind and you don’t know how you could possibly re-engage after all this time.

Your friend might be angry with you. Disappointed in you. Even resentful toward you. These fears are real, but are they valid? Maybe. Maybe not.

What now?

First, determine that you are going to try. You are going to reach out, even though you feel guilty and afraid. You are going to do this with love and no expectations.

Next, arm yourself with some information. What do I say? How do I act around her? Will she reject me and if she does what do I do with that? (There are lots of resources for this step, including a little book I wrote called Peering Into the Tunnel: An Outsider’s Look Into Grief. No pressure but if you’re interested you can get a copy here.)

Then, prepare yourself. Maybe she will welcome you with open arms. But maybe not. Maybe she can’t right now, but down the road she will. Or maybe she won’t. Oh man, this is scary.

You must be willing to be your most vulnerable self. You must be humble. You maybe should apologize (you’ll know if you should, I promise). And you must be ok with the result regardless of how your overtures are received.

Really? This sounds like the perfect setup for rejection, right? Yep. It is.

But you know what? Even if your overtures are not well-received, if there is no option for re-engagement right now because your friend can’t, or won’t, you should do it.

It? What is it?

Maybe start simple. Send a “thinking about you today” text.

Send a card. Even if it’s been awhile.

Remember those important days. Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries.

Offer to do/be whatever you have to offer. It might not be much, but that’s ok. It’s the offering that matters. It’s the willingness to humbly re-engage, even if you’re scared.

But you also have to be prepared that you may not get the response you hoped for. For various reasons. She simply might not be able to engage on the level you desire. Maybe not at all. Truthfully, she might be disappointed in you. Don’t be surprised. Be humble. Don’t grovel, but release your guilt and shame. Let it go.

But if something like rejection happens, you will surely be sad. Disappointed. You expected to be received differently. Your job is to do your thing, whatever it is, and release the results to God. I mean, really release them.

Maybe, just maybe, down the road she will be able to engage with you. The important thing is to TRY. And keep in mind that there’s a very good chance that the simple act of reaching out, however that looks, may now or later be a comfort to her. Be ok with that, even if she never tells you.

If she does welcome you, then what? You still might not know what to say. You did NOT expect this, and now you’re paralyzed. Please please please do not disengage again. Don’t force yourself on her, be wise about how far to go, and follow your instincts. Because you have them. Follow them. Do.

Here’s something helpful.



Remember not to pour in  your own worries and struggles on them. Maybe later. You’ll know. But certainly not at first. If you need to dump out your own pain, dump out. Determine where you are in this drawing, and be willing to pour into anyone in a circle smaller than yours.

This could be costly for you. You need boundaries.  But mostly, you need to let go of your guilt and just do it. Just reach out SOMEHOW.

And then pray. No matter what else does or doesn’t happen, pray. For wisdom for you, for comfort for her. That somehow you will be a comfort to her. That you will be ok with the result.

Again, trust your gut. If you don’t know if you can trust yours, ask a trusted friend or family member. Dump out for a minute and let them pour into you the wisdom they have gained from their own experiences.

Love her.

Don’t forget to love her, even from afar.

Engaged,

Angie

Friday, January 27, 2017

for when you can't just snap out of it

Wow you guys. Thanks for reading my last post ... the response was almost overwhelming to me. Your messages of "me too!" and "I'm praying for you" both helped me to remember that I am not alone, and people are caring about and praying for me.

Both matter to me, a lot.

So thank you for hearing, and for saying all the stuff I forget to remember.

I think I will go a little farther down that road today. I want you to know what I feel like, because maybe you do too and you feel guilty and shame and that your mind is your enemy. I want you to know because maybe you don't know what to do or say or how to care for the struggling ones around you.

First, though, I must make this disclaimer:

What I am about to tell you is what this season looks like for ME, and not everyone is like me and not everyone experiences these things and if yours looks a little different (or a lot different) it doesn't mean your struggle is not legit. But maybe there is still something relateable here for all of us no matter what world we're living in right now.

So here goes.

Sometimes I have to put "take a shower" on my to-do list for today.
Sometimes I still don't do it.
Sometimes I don't care if my house is even remotely clean.
Sometimes I forget to do laundry and I run out of underwear.
Sometimes I eat all day long.
Sometimes I don't eat all all.
Sometimes I sit in my recliner and Netflix binge and color all day long.
Sometimes I forget what I was going to say or I just can't find my words at all.

Sometimes I sleep and sleep.
Sometimes I don't sleep at all.


Yep. I'm an overthinker when I want to be sleeping. 

Sometimes I just can't take your phone call.
Sometimes I cancel plans with you.
Sometimes my social anxiety is so crippling that the thought of a gathering makes me cry.
Sometimes I am so so sad and I don't even know why.
Sometimes I do know why and I still just can't get over it.



Often I isolate. I'm so far up inside my head that I can't be anywhere else.

Sometimes I am busy and it makes me feel better for a little while but then I don't anymore and I thought I was better and I can't understand what just happened.


Sometimes life seems pointless because I can't see a second in front of me and time moves so slowly and I am blind to where I am going, and then hopelessness can engulf me.



Here's a good overall illustration:


Because sadness is there but all the other stuff is there too and at any given time one of these things may overwhelm all the others.

I said my mind is my enemy. A lot of those descriptive words, if not all of them, happen inside my brain. And I sit in the silence of guilt and shame and wish I could just "get on with it." Whatever it is. Whatever I'm avoiding. Whatever I'm doing or not doing. Guilty thoughts are my constant companion.

Sometimes my thoughts swirl in an endless circle that never accomplish anything and even though I MIGHT be aware of it I can't make it stop.



Sometimes, honestly, well-meaning folks, even those who love me, are not helpful. Sometimes they make me feel worse. 



If you don't know what to say, these are good.

But keep your expectations low, because even if you say all the right things I may still seem like I'm pulling away but trust me I heard you and what you said matters.

If you are reading this, if just one single person reads this and it makes them say "me too" or "there's something I never knew before," then it was worth it to tell you these often embarrassing things that happen to me. That are happening to me even now.

I yearn to "just get over it," and I think that by February or so this mess will lift and leave me alone, and in the meantime I will remember that no matter what I feel or don't feel, do or don't do, Jesus does NOT want me to live in shame and guilt. He wants me to live free in the light of his love for me. I will remember the past times when he showed up big and trust that he will show up again. That his mercy and grace can override my pain, that if (when) I can get out of my own destructive brain he is right there waiting for me.

Sometimes I just can't get this. I believe it to be true for you, and that helps me to understand that it MUST be true for me no matter how I feel right now.

He is the light at the end of this tunnel. Even in the darkness, He waits. He is for me. He has plans for me. And when this episode is over, He will be standing there and I will see that He was there all along. THAT's what keeps me moving through the tunnel.

Sometimes I forget this. But he is for me. Whether I remember or not, he is for me. He will not abandon me. He extends grace and mercy to me even when I can't extend it to myself. Maybe even more then, because he knows I need him to reorganize my brain and see myself as he sees me.

And this:

He is a mighty Savior. He will rejoice over you with great gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will exult over you by singing a happy song.

Can you imagine?? He is rejoicing over YOU. He is singing a happy song about YOU.

Hang in there, dear ones.

Love,
Angie







Friday, January 20, 2017

for when you've fallen apart

Well, here I am again. Finally, huh? It's been six months since I went dark, about five months longer than I intended to. You may remember that I had a hip replacement in July and then signed off til I recovered. Expecting that to be in about four weeks, as it had gone when I had my first one done three years ago.

But sometimes things just don't go as planned, as expected, as hoped for.

Without needless detail, the deal is that because my "new hip" leg is now over an inch longer than my other one, I never fully recovered. I still haven't. I will most likely have to have revision surgery, and start that recovery process all over again, hoping against hope that it will go well and that THIS time, I WILL recover. Constant pain is my companion, and that just plain stinks.

Then came November. November is never my friend, nor are December and January. Seasonal Affective Disorder ... depression ... anxiety ... sadness ... lack of motivation ... isolation ... all of it.  ALL.OF.IT. hit at once and combine that with pain and discouragement made for a falling apart. I have, you see, gone to pieces.

You might not realize it, because I can still post the funny stuff on Facebook. And sometimes that's the reality of where I am, taking joy in the funnies, but sometimes I am hiding my real face.

It's still January, and I am still in the throes of my November December January depression, and I'm hoping February will be better, but honestly, I'm not REALLY all that hopeful.

This stuff is for real. If you are like me, depression seems always to lurk around the corner, dread precedes what seems like the inevitable every darn year.

If you've never experienced this level of bummed-out-ness, good. It's pretty awful, and I'm glad you don't have to deal with it.

But because so so many of us will struggle with depression at some time or another during our lives, many of you have been (or are now in) the boat that feels like it is sinking in a storm, and you feel helpless to steer let alone keep your head above water.

Symptoms vary, and you can't put depression and anxiety in a box. There is no "right or wrong" way to be depressed. We need each other, we need all kinds of each other. We need medical help to correct brain chemistry. We need to not be ashamed or guilty because we are struggling.

We need to GIVE OURSELVES A BREAK. Depression is not a choice. Ever. Who in this wide world would choose all this?

We need Jesus. We need to know that He is a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief. Yes indeed, He is God, but He is also man. He sympathizes with us, He loves us, He stays with us in the darkness, He lights the way when we're climbing out of the pit.

Remembering this is the hard part. Remembering that God is compassionate, gracious, comforting, and extends never-ending lovingkindness to us. These are FACTS, people, whether we feel them or not.

If you're like me, meds are necessary to climb out of my own head enough to trust in the truth about God, about Jesus, about the Holy Spirit that lives in the heart and soul of all who believe.

I must be diligent to stay in the Word, to hang on tight to this understanding companion that is Jesus, even when I feel the most alone.

A man of sorrows? This is an identifying character quality of Jesus, and when we are sorrowful, sad, depressed, anxious, Jesus knows. He gets it. Even if our people don't, He does. We can cling to His promises in this darkness, trusting that He will bring us through it, back into the light.

I'm trusting hard, but I'm still in the darkness. Just being honest.

It took real effort to sit down here this morning and share my heart, my difficulties, my pain. It is hard to be vulnerable even with safe people when I am isolating.

We need Jesus. We need each other. We need kindness, understanding and grace. We need help seeing the forest of joy when we can only see trees of despair.

Love your depressed ones. Fellow strugglers, trust in Jesus. If you can, FORCE yourself to engage with the people who bring joy and love and all that stuff you feel like is missing right now. For me, this is my husband, a few friends, and my kiddos and littles. Sometimes I can't. Sometimes I do anyway.

I need a push now and then, a loving push from a kind friend to lift my head. Be brave and search out those folks. Take courage and be vulnerable. Ask for help. Go see your doctor.

Mostly, hang on. The night does not last forever, and joy comes in the morning. God says so. I choose to believe it, and I'm hanging on for dear life.

All my love, to the depressed and the ones who love the depressed,
Angie