My aim isn't to write beautiful words. My aim is to be changed by God, write about it, and pray others are too.~ Jess Connolly
I'm a 23 year old college senior living in Nashville. I'm a believer and follower of Jesus, and I try to live out the life of love He's called me to everyday. I enjoy writing and hope my random ramblings are enjoyed as much as I enjoy writing them! Thanks for reading. :)
I’m back. Barely. The first few weeks of September have been… hazy. My mental health hasn’t been kind (Not that it’s ever kind), but it’s been even worse than normal thanks to a host of things, but namely a migraine med switch that lists depression as a dang side effect. That’s one way to send a depressed person spiraling down: give them a med that makes them more depressed! Sigh. I have been weaned off the med (PTL) and will deal with the migraines for now. Because i’d rather a migraine cause my head to hurt than depression cause me more hurt.
ANYWHO. This week’s word:
This one took me a couple minutes before I finally said screw it, hit the timer and just word vomited. You’re welcome!
support. What does it look like to support someone?
Show up. That’s it, y’all. Show up.
Don’t feel like you have to have all the answers.
Don’t feel like you have to fix everything.
Don’t act like nothing is wrong or everything is perfect if it’s not.
Sit. Listen. Talk. Pray. Hug. Cry if you need. Laugh if you want.
Support isn’t hard. Being a part of support groups like ACA (adult child anonymous/adult child of alcoholics) was one of my favorite communities– because it was real. And we supported each other. Not by fixing or trying to make it better. But by just being there.
I love that one of the definitions of support is to “hold up.” Because that’s what we need: we need to hold each other up, because sometimes, when we’re down for the count, we can’t hold ourselves up anymore.
In this season of crazy depression and stress and in-between, I’ve felt like my in-person support has been null and void. Not because of them at all- they’ve always been there. But because of me, and the fact that depression makes me distance myself and makes it hard to open up and talk about anything. It lies and says I’m a burden so I just shut myself off and fend for myself.
But when things got hazy the past couple weeks (aka when things got epically worse thanks to the migraine med with increased depression as a SIDE EFFECT), my support system showed up. They texted. They commented. They prayed. They shared. They listened.
When I finally got the courage to ignore the depression that said I was a burden and ask a friend to go to dinner with me (the first time I’d left the house for something fun with friends since my birthday– 2 months ago!) she (and another friend) immediately said yes. And it was good. And so needed for my tired, sad, and lonely soul.
My people, the ones that have felt distant lately because depression forces me to keep them at an arm’s reach. They held me up. And I’m so grateful.
I discovered this song (and this whole awesome album) this week and OMG WHERE HAS IT BEEN THIS WHOLE SEASON.
I can’t help but think of good ol’ Mr. Rogers with this being the word this week:
It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood!
A beautiful day for a neighbor!
Would you be mine?
Oh, could you be mine?
I don’t think I got the whole gist of that song as a kid. It was sing-songy and sweet, but I don’t think I really understood the gravity of the words.
Oh, won’t you be my neighbor?
I have a hard time letting people be my neighbor.
I love being other peoples neighbor– taking care of people, helping people, loving people. But I don’t let others reciprocate it back to me.
I’m an introvert who most of the time prefers, needs alone time to be the best version of herself. Being with too many people for too long stretches me thinly.
I battle depression on the daily. It’s a lot easier to tell people I’m fine and things are going well, instead of telling them the whole truth and burdening them with my darkness. I had a friend ask me how I was this week and was actually honest (I’m on the struggle bus right now, y’all) and she was able to help me. Funny how that works.
I’m an enneagram 2 (The Helper) who looks to the needs of her neighbors on the regular but doesn’t trust her neighbors enough to let them take care of her needs when they arise. I don’t know how to figure out what I need when I focus on everyone’s needs around me, so mine go unmet.
(sidebar: I listened to a podcast today about 2s that blew my mind with knowledge, especially on this topic. If you are or know a 2 on the Enneagram, go listen here.)
I love being a neighbor to people. I just need to learn how to let others be a neighbor to me.
It started to storm in my neck of the woods shortly before the sun set on this long day.
I felt like I was suffocating stuck in this house, so I quietly moseyed outside at the first ring of thunder.
I sat down on what barely constitutes a front porch to watch. The thunder and lightning rolled on their own for a few minutes before the rain started.
The rain came in waves– small droplets against my feet to start, slowly increasing in size and strength as the thunder got louder.
No symphony could imitate the sound of the raindrops crescendoing, hitting the ground louder and faster with each drop.
Soon, we were caught in a downpour, with lightning lighting up the sky and thunder booming so loud you could almost feel the ground shake.
And I sat there and watched. On that little front step, I watched the sky turn dark and the rain became so thick it looked like fog. I listened to the thunder roll in. I “counted” the time between the lightning strike and the thunder, like my Papa taught me to when I was little.
I sat there and exhaled for what felt like the first time all day.
I didn’t think about the ache in my back and what the cause is.
I didn’t think about another favor my mom needed me to run for her.
I didn’t worry about the amount in my bank account.
I didn’t feel my usual pang of loneliness.
I just sat and enjoyed God’s handiwork.
I love storms. I love the dark, cool effect storms bring to a hot, humid day. I love the natural light and sound show lightning and thunder put on (even if thunder scared me as a kid).
I have every reason not to like storms.
They’re messy. They’re an interruption to the normal rhythm. I can’t really plan them or plan around them, they have a spontaneous mind of their own. Sometimes they’re scary or dangerous. They can ruin fun days or plans in an instant.
Those are all things I don’t particularly like about life… fear and spontaneity and lack of plans or change of plans. And yet, storms are still one of my favorite things, despite all of these qualities.
In a lot of ways, I think the things I hate about everyday life are why I love them.
I love the way rain feels on my skin, soaking the bottom of my sweats as the wind carries the rain onto the porch.
I love how they force me to push pause and sit still for awhile.
I love how they display the majesty and power of God, captivating me with wonder instead of fear.
They remind me to slow down. To breathe. To quit trying to do everything for once in my life and just be for awhile.
So I sit and watch. I let the heaviness and the lightness overwhelm me.
It doesn’t take long as I watch for me to start thinking of the metaphorical storms life’s been hitting me with this season.
The fatigue, sleep issues, and physical health problems that have been plaguing me since May… I’ve had some sort of body ache, stomach problem, or a migraine nearly every. single. day. for months.
The depression that has enveloped every part of my being since moving home… since my birthday, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve left the house for something other than running errands with my mom. I’ve spent almost every day in my pajamas, with Netflix and food as my crutch. I don’t color or Bible journal anymore, or much else that brings me joy. (Being on launch teams has kept me reading, which is a blessing). I don’t sing or worship. I don’t play games. I don’t hang out with anyone, or even try to. It’s not a good place to be.
Moving home– both living back in my boring little hometown and living with my mom– has been both blessing and curse. I’m grateful for a roof over my head, but I feel like either a punching bag or a live-in servant most days… it’s not fun. And living where you literally have zero friends anymore is freaking hard, especially when you’re depressed and won’t ask your friends to come here to visit lest you feel like a burden on them.
Job stuff… I won’t even go there. I’m slowly trying to build a portfolio of freelance writing work, which I’m excited about–writing is my favorite, after all. But I still can’t get over the fact that I was rejected or ignored by so many other opportunities, ones I would have excelled at. Ones that would have helped me stay in Nashville.
So I sat there… and let the heaviness of this season hit me as hard as the rain hit the pavement. And I cried.
I cried… because let’s face it, this season has been hard. So, so hard. And I’ll never understand why.
I sat there amidst the tears and looked out. The storm continued to pour at a steady pace now. I felt myself calm down… I just inhaled and exhaled, focusing on the storm in front of me instead of the storm in me.
I felt this deep sense of peace surround me as I continued to enjoy the storm, despite sadness lingering. I forced my hands to unclench, palms upward. I prayed through tears; I don’t remember the words. A lot of my prayers have been wordless or breath prayers these days; I can’t seem to find words to convey the sorrow of life’s storms right now. But nonetheless, I prayed. I breathed and prayed, palms up, eyes looking outward towards the storm.
The peaceful feeling overtook the tears. I just felt wrapped in this sense that He was right there in that moment. In the moment, I did something I rarely do these days… I sang. Before I could even think about it, How Great Thou Art and How Great is Our God started tumbling out, in my shaky off-key voice.
Because even in the midst of the messy, not-going-as-planned, absolutely terrifying storms of this season… He is still God. And He is with me.
He is still God. He is with me.
A short time later, the storm started to slowly die down. I decided to head back in, my back pain raging as I stand up. I may have come back inside to my own storm, but the peace from the storm outside is still here with me.
The storms inside my life may still be raging, but I cling to the thoughts from the storm outside: He is still God. He is with me.
And even during the darkest of storms, His goodness shines.
Maybe that’s why I love storms so much.
Thank you, God for the storms… for the beautiful, wonderful storms of the world, and the messy, unplanned ones in me.
Since there’s no youtube version of this one… here’s to hoping this works.
I’m sick and tired, literally. Somehow I got a cold in the middle of August. I haven’t even been around people, yet somehow here I am with my throat throbbing and my nose so stuffed i can’t breathe. Good times.
I’ve tried to write three times, but just don’t have the concentration to even get coherent thoughts out. So instead, in honor of the theme, I’m posting a few of my favorite spoken word poems. I love poetry in all forms, but I love, love spoken word. Poetry comes alive when said, performed aloud.
Love her so much.
Sarah Kay is another favorite. I could’ve posted all of hers, but this one was just beautiful.
Instead of trying to come up with mangled words in my sick brain this week, I watched these two poets speak for me.
Do yourself a favor and go listen to their other poems too. Sometimes we need others to speak for us when we can’t.
My first thought with this word was some good ol’ classic TSwift:
I don’t know what I want, so don’t ask me
‘Cause I’m still trying to figure it out…
Because lordy mercy are those words relevant in my life right now.
I’ve been trying to figure my life out for about 2 years now, after quitting student teaching and trying to come up with a plan B for the only career I’d ever planned.
Some people re-make their lives and change careers at 40. I decided to re-make my life at 23, because I’m an overachiever. 😉
I’ve been trying to figure out my place– where I’m supposed to go, what I’m supposed to do, who the heck I’m supposed to be. I’ve been consistently stuck, applying for jobs I thought I might like (and never hearing back or getting rejected), or dreading the thought of applying for a job I have experience in (aka education/with children) because I know I could get hired.
To say I’ve been caught between a rock and hard place is an understatement.
Over time, I’ve finally begun to realize there was one place I could go for a job that I was afraid to admit:
I’d always considered it a hobby, something I do to fill the time and express myself. It was something I’d always enjoyed, something I knew I was good at– I was published for the first time at 16, so I knew it was something I was capable of doing pretty well. I was mightily successful writing papers in college and helping teach others about writing in the school writing studio. It was just something that came naturally to me from a young age, and something I honed in on in school. But I figured teaching would be my job, writing would be my outlet and side hobby.
I never thought of writing as a career. There are a lot of fears going into it– stability, not a lot of money, finding writing work (and places that will pay you for your work!), disciplining myself to write often and on deadline. I figured if I could write in some way as a side hustle, but never as a career. I knew I wasn’t a fiction writer or a book writer, so what the heck would I write?
But a year ago, that started to change. About a year ago, I wrote this blog about reclaiming me– trying to figure out who I really am, not who everyone else wanted me to be. I wanted to find my place in the world, what I wanted to do. This is where I started to think more about what kind of job I really wanted. The more I thought about it, the more I realized the only thing I wanted to be was a writer. It is exactly who I am. Writing is my place. It’s what makes me the happiest, whether I’m writing blog posts or lengthy instagram captions (#microblogging for the win), or devotionals or articles. Writing is something I enjoy, it’s something I’m good at, and something I can use to glorify God all the while as a career. At a meeting last week, the guy I was speaking to said my eyes lit up when I mentioned my love of writing– that’s exactly what it is. Teaching never did that for me, it was just a job.
So I’ve begun taking the leap of working as a freelance writer (and hopefully, curriculum creator). Last week I met with some people at the United Methodist Communications office (I’m a member of the UMC, and a good friend of mine is the chief communications officer there!) and spoke about potential freelance work. I also talked to the editor of the Children’s church curriculum at the United Methodist Publishing House and am applying to write curriculum on a freelance basis for them.
And today, I got my first contract for a writing project.
It’s the first time I’ll be paid on contract to write for a living (fingers crossed they like my piece!), and I’m freaking excited. Once I’m successful with them, I’ll begin to branch out more to other writing jobs, but for now, I have a few things from them to get me started.
While telling my dad all of this, he exclaimed, “You’re getting paid to write! Isn’t that what you’ve always wanted?”
It really is. It just took me awhile to figure out. Writing is the only place I want to be.
I think I’ve finally found my place in this world, as TSwift sings… even if it took some convincing for me to admit it.
(this was longer than 5– I wrote a freaking soliloquy, oops. And was having issues with wordpress messing up my words, so I had to stop my timer to figure it out!).
like I wasn’t going to include this earworm after quoting it… it’s forever stuck in my head (and now, yours!).
If you follow along with She Reads Truth’s studies, you know that the newest study is on 1 and 2 Samuel, centering on the life of King David. This is the first time I’ve studied David himself, so I’m excited to learn of his history and the background to his kingdom.
Before we get to David though, we have to get through Saul. And before him, Samuel. And before him, his mom, Hannah.
I’ve read and heard these stories in sermons or devotionals, but this is the first time I’m actually studying them intensely (even broke out my good study Bible!).
The first part of 1 Samuel 1 is all about Hannah’s desire yet inability to have a baby. Her husband, Elkanah and his other wife have babies, yet she hasn’t had any, and it’s breaking her heart. It doesn’t help that Peninnah, the other wife, keeps throwing her kid-less-ness (is that a word? it is now!) in her face, rubbing salt in an already-bleeding wound for poor Hannah. Frankly, I think Peninnah is the root of this whole “mommy-wars” culture where we bully other moms/parents for not parenting the “right” way– I fully expect Peninnah to eventually start bashing Hannah for weaning Samuel early or not baby-wearing.
OK probably not, but you get the picture.
Back to Hannah. So she’s with her husband and his other wife and kids in Shiloh, to worship and sacrifice and all that jazz. At one point after a meal, she decided to get up and pray.
My words don’t do the story justice:
Once after a sacrificial meal at Shiloh, Hannah got up and went to pray. Eli the priest was sitting at his customary place beside the entrance of the Tabernacle.10 Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord.11 And she made this vow: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut.”
12 As she was praying to the Lord, Eli watched her.13 Seeing her lips moving but hearing no sound, he thought she had been drinking.14 “Must you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your wine!”
15 “Oh no, sir!” she replied. “I haven’t been drinking wine or anything stronger. But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to the Lord.16 Don’t think I am a wicked woman! For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.” (1 Sam 1:9-16, NLT).
So Hannah ate. Then she pulled herself together, slipped away quietly, and entered the sanctuary. The priest Eli was on duty at the entrance to God’s Temple in the customary seat. Crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to God and cried and cried—inconsolably. Then she made a vow:
Oh, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, If you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain, If you’ll quit neglecting me and go into action for me By giving me a son, I’ll give him completely, unreservedly to you. I’ll set him apart for a life of holy discipline.
12-14 It so happened that as she continued in prayer before God, Eli was watching her closely. Hannah was praying in her heart, silently. Her lips moved, but no sound was heard. Eli jumped to the conclusion that she was drunk. He approached her and said, “You’re drunk! How long do you plan to keep this up? Sober up, woman!”
15-16 Hannah said, “Oh no, sir—please! I’m a woman hard used. I haven’t been drinking. Not a drop of wine or beer. The only thing I’ve been pouring out is my heart, pouring it out to God. Don’t for a minute think I’m a bad woman. It’s because I’m so desperately unhappy and in such pain that I’ve stayed here so long.” (Message version)
It was quite obvious that she was having a come-to-Jesus moment (if that was such a thing in the OT). She was distraught, at her wit’s end, and just over the whole situation.
Have you ever been that way? Lord knows I have. More than once… or ten times. But who’s counting?
She tried so hard. She longed so greatly. Despite the hurtful words slung at her, the pangs of jealousy, and her complete and total sadness, she carried on.
She could’ve taken matters into her own hands (a la Sarah and Abe). She could’ve gotten angry. She could have given up and resorted to a childless life (which was culturally frowned up at the time).
But she didn’t.
She took all her anguish, her sadness, her hurt, her anger– all the emotions stirring inside her– and she released them back to God. Despite her discouragement, she still looked towards God. She trusted that he was still in control and that he would listen to her pleas and cries.
With anguish and sorrow, she told God exactly how she was feeling.
She didn’t sugar coat it, but instead let herself feel the weight of her pain, and gave it up to God.
She poured out the contents of her heart, she left it all there at the altar for God to hear and do something with. She left her problems and her tears with him.
Reading Hannah’s story, I realized I don’t see a whole lot of me in her.
I see a lot of who I want to be.
I am an emotional person. I have been my whole life, sometimes to my detriment.
And yet, it’s hard for me to be personal or emotional when it comes to how I interact with God. Praying most often feels like a honey-do list or a one-sided conversation. (It’s hard for me to understand the concept of prayer as talking to God when I’m the only one in the room… but that’s another story for another day). I can write emotional things about what I’ve learned or what He’s doing, but I don’t typically feel the emotion or direct my feelings back to God.
It’s like the episode of Friends where Chandler couldn’t cry. No matter if it was a sad movie or uplifting book, or his dismal family situation, Chandler just couldn’t cry. He felt sad or upset but just didn’t know how to express it, nor did he want to. Unless you count the sarcasm and funny jabs he used to cover up his feelings as expressions of emotion.
Yes, I did just compare my faith life to a character on Friends. That’s just how I roll, people.
I just want to feel something, anything, when I’m talking to God. I want to connect to what I’m doing or what He’s doing or how I’m feeling about this or that, instead of feeling like I just use prayer and connection with God as a list of concerns or prayers for everyone but me.
With all the crazy going on in my life, I want to be able to just let it go and actually open up about it. I want to actually feel like I could admit how I really feel to God, but I don’t know how.
Even when I’ve felt emotional or upset about something, I don’t know how to talk to God about it. I just don’t get how to let myself feel these things when I come before him. I usually just list off needs and concerns and maybe about something I learned in scripture, but it’s honestly rare for me to try to actually use prayer as a place to be open and honest and real about myself.
When I feel these things– sad, anger, frustration, all the not fun emotions— I normally don’t run straight towards God. I avoid. I close myself off, I isolate myself from Him (and others, intentionally or not). I usually run to something to numb me instead– food, Netflix, mindless internet searches or social media scrolls. That’s where I find my comfort and peace in times of trial instead.
When I’m happy and things are going well, I’m good to go to God with thanks and joy. I can tell about my day and how I’m doing when I’m happy and feeling good. But when I feel anything but, it’s almost like I’m afraid to say so. I don’t know what He’s going to think or say if I’m anything but joyful.
And frankly, life hasn’t been all that joyful lately.
I think a lot of my struggles with having a relationship with God where I’m not afraid to cry out to God and give him everything is fear.
I’m afraid of what God will think of me when I’m upset about this or that (when He has it all planned out, I just don’t know about it yet).
I’m afraid I won’t be heard. Prayer confuses me sometimes (a lot of the time) because as much as I love being an introvert and not talking to people some days, I get frustrated not being able to see or hear or feel God with me. I’m afraid I’m just talking to the wall a lot of the time.
I’m afraid God’ll get tired of hearing me. I usually worry and fret about the same. things. (aka control) all the time, you’d think I’d have figured it out by now but I haven’t.
But I think my biggest fear is that God will see my mess and my life and just not accept me. He’ll run.
Plenty of others have. Why wouldn’t he?
I’m afraid to be honest with God. I’m afraid to let myself get real and cry out when I’m in the depths because I don’t want to be left there alone. I already feel alone enough these days. So I keep my life and my prayer focused on the happy positives and focus on praying for other people, in the hopes that I won’t lose him too.
I spent so much of my life thinking I had to come to God perfectly and shiny with my baggage hidden. I think there are times I still slip back into this notion, and my prayer life highlights that. I struggle to admit when I’m struggling; it’s easier to say I’m fine and just let all my feelings fester inside me. Instead of letting God into my mess, I run and avoid him until I think the mess is hidden enough that He’d want to spend time with me, or would want to listen to me. But that’s not a way to live, especially when scripture clearly shows us how much Jesus calls us to him just as we are, mess and baggage and all.
I think sometimes I slip back into the notion that God is another person I have to please, another person I have to earn love or praise from. I can’t bring him my bad stuff because it’s a mark against me. I can’t cry out to him when life is hard because that means I’m not grateful; or I can’t bring him my mess and my baggage because that means I’ve messed up, I’m not good enough for him.
I have to do it all, be it all, and go through it all with a smile, because otherwise, I’m not pleasing God. This is where I’ve spent so much of my life– faking fine and trying to do it all in the hopes that the real, broken me won’t be seen.
I can’t let myself be anything but the image I put out there.
So I instead feel completely disconnected–unattached to God and others, putting on a happy face and doing all the things to help people, instead of addressing my own needs and hurts and fears to God.
I call God my Father, but I treat him mostly like a wish granting factory, or someone I’m conducting a transaction with. I don’t get intimacy and connection; I get work and to-do lists and longing to fix all the broken things around me, but not the broken things in me.
But I want more. I want God to be more than someone I’m trying to please with all my to-do’s and helping people.
I want a friendship for my lonely, isolated heart. A confidante I can be honest with in the serious and the silly, someone that will empathize and help me (even if it hurts).
I want a nurturer. Someone to take care of me. I take care of a lot of people, but never let people take care of me.
I want someone to listen. To remember. I have a knack for remembering even the minute details about a person. I know not everyone has this ability to love in this way, but I’d love to just be thought of sometimes (or be reminded that I’m being thought of).
I want to be noticed. I want to be known, to feel like I’m not just here floating along without purpose.
I’d love for God to be all these things for me. But I don’t know how.
I long to be connected to God in a way that I can feel like I’m known. Seen. Remembered. Acknowledged.
I long to be connected more than just to talk about the needs and prayer concerns or to-do list of things I’m listing off to you before I go to bed, like a business agenda.
I want more of a friendship with my Father instead of a contractual relationship, where I do this and that to be counted as “in.”
I don’t want to hide parts of me from Him for fear of being outcast or ignored. But I’m still afraid.
In the Message version of 1 Samuel 1, the title is “Hannah Pours Out Her Heart to God.” I want to do that. I want to feel comfortable enough that I can not just rattle off a list of concerns or tell God all the good things I did for Him today.
I want to feel like God is the mighty counselor and loving Father he says he is. I want to believe that he is the one I can vent to, pour my heart out to when I need it, be a confidante and holder of my hardest hurts.
I want to not live in fear of his judgment, but live in light of his friendship and love for me.
My friend Osheta Moore quoted a blog post of hers in her beautiful new book, Shalom Sistas:
“Being a Christian feels less like a to-do list of righteousness and more of a to-be posture of relationship. I want to be open to his feeding and present for his gathering. I want to be accepting of his gentle leading and willing to be carried.”
I want that. I don’t want to live like I can’t come to God for everything. I don’t want to live striving to check off my to-do list before I can come before him. I want to sit in the to-be posture and let Him be who he says he is to me, mess and sadness and all. I need to let him carry me, instead of insisting I can carry myself.
God tells us to come to Him if we’re weary, and he will give us rest.
Not come to him all shiny and perfect, and he will make us work. That’s not what he says at all, but it’s what I’ve believed.
We can come to Him for friendship and support, not for our chore list. I want to believe that.
I just need to learn how to connect to Him in this way, because pouring my heart out to God isn’t something I quite know how to do.
and in a funny twist of fate only God could provide, I read this blog post this morning by Bonnie Gray, and it seriously took my breath.
from the post:
“God longed to be my soul’s confidante. Deep where I felt lonely — where I struggled to receive and make space for me — God wanted me to rest as His beloved.”
Jesus. If that didn’t fit in the middle of my lonely mess, I don’t know what will.
God has a wicked sense of humor sometimes, and He really does know exactly how to meet us where we are. I’m starting to get it.
I want to know you, Lord, like I know a friend… that is my prayer.
From the head to the heart, you take me on a journey…
Since moving home, my mental health has taken a huge hit.
There are a lot of reasons for this. Leaving my job/my kids so suddenly, transitioning home (which isn’t exactly the healthiest place for me to be in the first place), not having access to counseling, being separated from my community, figuring out job things-– these are all factors at play.
And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of it, truthfully.
I’m just sad. And anxious. And then sad some more.
Add bored, lonely, and jobless on top of that, and you’ve got quite the spectacle. While my depression hasn’t taken as much of a hit (though being isolated and rejected a bit hasn’t done me any good in this area, and it’s been slowly getting worse), it’s my anxiety that has struggled with all this change the most.
My anxiety tends to manifest in a few different ways, primarily in physical symptoms. My stomach aches, my chest hurts (think how your chest hurts when you’ve been coughing a lot… that’s the feeling), my head throbs, I get random aches and pains, heartburn, so on and so forth. A lot of my anxiety is tied to my health, so when I get anxious because of one or more of these physical symptoms, my anxiety gets worse… it’s a cruel, unfair cycle.
Another way my anxiety manifests is in my insomnia, my inability to get to sleep. My inner night owl comes out to play, and not just ’cause I enjoy the night life.
So since I’ve been home, it’s been getting harder for me to sleep at night. I’ve been awake since 2, 3am most nights. Melatonin helps me get to sleep, but it’s willing myself to take them amidst the voices in my head wanting me to stay awake that’s hard. Because I’m scared of sleep, I stay up until I physically collapse, usually overthinking myself to sleep instead of counting sheep.
This is unsustainable in the long run, especially when I DO start working again. I cannot survive going to bed at 3 am and waking up at 7 or earlier to get to work, unless I’d like to become a zombie on The Walking Dead (I don’t).
I’ve nearly become nocturnal, sleeping during the day and staying up all night, filling out applications and dawdling on the internet. It doesn’t help that in the midst of all this, I was diagnosed with anemia, thus another reason I’ve been so fatigued/exhausted/drained, on top of the lack of sleep. (Now that I’m getting that under control, my fatigue is getting much better during the day! But getting to sleep at night is still a struggle).
I was out with my mom on my birthday a few weeks ago, picking up my birthday cake at Publix. I went to get some iron supplements (for the above anemia diagnosis) when a new sleep supplement caught my eye. It’s a gummy by the company Olly, called “restful sleep.” It has melatonin in it (which I have survived on since my mental hell started nearly 3 years ago). It also had an ingredient I didn’t know, L-Theanine. On the bottle it’s described as “an amino acid that encourages calmness so you can hush those voices in your head and drift off.”
Man, I need an IV of that stuff 24/7. Anything to shut the damn voice recorder in my head.
I ended up buying some, and it’s been great. I’ve been sleeping a lot better than I did with just melatonin, and I think part of that is because I’m not (mostly) sitting in bed overthinking everything before I go to bed.
Another thing I had to do when I started taking this stuff: Despite the anxiety telling me to stay awake, I’ve been forcing myself to go to sleep earlier.
I’ve begun using bits and pieces of the bedtime routine I started in therapy after my panic attacks started: Write my to-do list if needed, turn my phone on do not disturb and turn the laptop off, make my bed (yes at night, i know I’m weird) read my bible study/devotional, say my prayers before my head hits the pillow. This signals my body that it’s not time to burn the midnight oil, but time to gear up for rest.
I hate it. Every fiber of my body hates it, because I lie down to sleep every night so scared, even with supplements and routines. I’m scared of dying in my sleep. I’m scared of the future and not knowing what’s next. I’m scared of financial struggles and paying bills and getting out of my mother’s house. I’m scared of everything and anything. It all manifests itself at night, when my stomach starts aching and my heart starts racing and I begin my tossing and turning dance routine (that my back and shoulders pay for every dang morning) as I lie down to sleep.
I will never understand why this is part of my life. I hate it.
Every night I pray the same prayer: just wake me up tomorrow, God. Let me sleep through the night and wake up the next morning. Please don’t let me die in my sleep. This hasn’t changed since my initial anxiety disorder diagnosis a few years ago.
There was one particular night a few weeks ago where I was just freaking out as I got into bed– unable to get comfortable, feeling sickly and sweaty and just inconsolable. As I was praying this particular night, I was exasperated. Defeated. Tired, but trying desperately to fight sleep. It was in this time of trying to get this desperate prayer out that I heard a voice. A thought that was undoubtedly not mine, because it was the complete opposite of where my mind was:
“Let go of your grip.”
That was it. “Let go of your grip.” When I heard it, I stopped and just thought for a moment.
I was lying in my bed on my stomach, my head in my pillow, arms over my mattress. My fists were clenched tightly, for no reason. But as I heard this voice I relaxed and let them go slack.
Let go of your grip.
There’s a lot of unknown in my world right now.
As my friend Kaitlyn so eloquently put it, “I have literally nothing together about my life.” Nothing. Absolutely nothing!
And to think, I used to believe I had it all figured out. Then life actually happened.
Control of everything in my life has slowly slipped from my grasp the past few months: my career, my home, my community, even my health… it’s all unraveled in some way recently, ever so slowly.
I’d love to say I’m okay with it, this losing control, thing. But I’m not. At all.
I hate losing control. I like knowing my steps before I move. I like having everything about my life in my grasp, right in front of me so I can determine where to go and what to do.
Letting go of my grip on my life and all that’s in it is extremely difficult. It means letting go of control. I don’t like relinquishing control– and as my fellow control-freak Monica Gellar-Bing says, relinquish is just a fancy word for lose. Losing control is something I loathe.
I’m afraid that if I let go of control, things won’t happen like they’re supposed to (aka like I want them to).
Letting go means surrendering all I am and not knowing what’s next with it all. I don’t like surrendering.
But then I remember who I am surrendering it to.
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7
I love the Message version of the same verse:
Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.
Here’s another one:
God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. Psalm 23 (Message)
“That’s right. Because I, your God, have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go. I’m telling you, Don’t panic. I’m right here to help you.”
Isaiah 41:13 (Message)
And my favorites:
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Ephesians 3:20 (Message)
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” John 13:7
I can let go of my grip, even when I’m fearful and frustrated with the whole control thing, because I know who has a grip on me.
It doesn’t make it easier to let go of my grip. It doesn’t make relinquishing control a happy thought. But I’m realizing that letting go doesn’t mean everything is out of control. It means that it’s now in control of the one who goes before me, the one who knows me and my life and my plans better than I can.
I can let go of my grip on my fears, my future, my plans, my everything when I know that they’re being caught by the same God who catches me.
My prayers before bed are a little different now.
My stomach still hurts, and my heart still beats out of my chest. But I take a deep breath and try to relax into sleep anyway. I still pray for God to wake me up everyday, because I still live with the fear that I wont. But I pray something else too now.
Alright God, I’m letting go of my grip. Please take all of this from me so I can sleep.
Take my fear of the future. My struggle with my career path. My worry about money and finances. My loneliness and frustration. Take my worries, my annoyances, my sadness. My overthinking and trying to plan it all on my own. Take all of what’s forcing me to grip my hands so tightly that I can’t let them go to find rest.
Letting go of my grip, I let His grip catch it all.
Maybe someday I’ll believe that letting go of my grip will be something good for me. Hopefully someday I’ll see the fruits of giving it all up to God and going to sleep. But until that day, I’ll say this prayer on top of everything else I pray, and hope to God someday this all makes sense.
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. Romans 8:26-28 (Message)
Pastures- Housefires (listened mostly to this album while writing)
this one too. Sound of Surviving-Nichole Nordeman (her whole new album is great)
I blame my mother for this habit– our house has always come close to being hoarder-esque, filled with random knicknacks and antiques and things of the like.
I’ve collected different things over the years: beanie babies, Disney Mania CDs (am I a 90s kid or what?!). pug-related things, books. The list could go on.
But my favorite collection is in my keepsake box.
It’s not a typical collection of pretty things or seemingly important items. It’s a box I’ve had for many years (actually I had to replace the box itself in college, because it got so full it wore out!).
Rather, I use my keepsake box to collect my memories and things that remind me how loved I am.
In it you’ll find every birthday/holiday card I’ve gotten since childhood, notes from church friends or college friends and mentors. Ticket stubs and programs from various events, church bulletins from important days, pictures, small key chains or other random mementos others would probably throw away. I’m too sentimental to let these things go, because they each take me back to a moment in time or a person in my life who means something to me. And that’s important.
As the cliche question goes,what would I take if there was a fire? Besides my dogs, it would be the most important item I grab.
When I’ve been in the depths with my mental health, battling depression and anxiety, the only thing that gave me a glimmer of hope– a small reminder that I was loved and cared for and thought of– was the containments of that box. It gave me peace and reassurance when my brain couldn’t. When I’m low and sad and frustrated at the world, it’s where I go for comfort and hope that maybe I’m still meant to be here.
I know we aren’t supposed to store up our treasures on earth, and I get that. But the items I collect in that box are more than things– they are a lifeline.
I was going to write on something COMPLETELY different (or I was trying to, at least), but I kept coming back to this. It’s hard. I didn’t want to write this post. But I’ve been sitting on my laurels with this for quite some time, and God is finally pushing it out of me, one blog post at a time. (I’m actually working procrastinating on an in-depth post on this topic. Ugh. Why, Jesus?!?). Anyway, here ya go. *deep breaths*
I am a comfort-seeker. I like safe, I like secure, I like control. When I can’t be a fixer or a helper, I become a numb-er: numbing myself from whatever I can’t fix until it’s not a problem anymore.
My biggest source of comfort isn’t scripture or worship music or anything Jesus-y.
I’ve been a food addict (my personal opinion, I’ve never been officially diagnosed) since childhood. I’m also an emotional (cry-baby according to my family) person, and when my emotions overwhelm me? I eat.
I would sneak food from the kitchen when I was upset with my grandmother, or eat leftovers from dinner off the stove.
At 25, I tiptoe into the kitchen still for late-night snacks, for fear of waking my mom up.
I celebrate victories with cake or ice cream or my favorite meal.
I calm my anxious nerves through baking.
I relieve stress by cooking.
I eat snacks when I’m bored.
I numb myself with candy and sweets.
I’m an emotional eater, bored eater, anxious eater.
Food is my greatest comforter. When I’m eating something I love, I feel safe and peaceful.
This is not how food is supposed to work, I’ve learned.
I comfort myself with food, and have done so for at least 20 of my 25 years.
Real talk: currently eating butter bread, because it sounded good and I have felt crappy all day.
I don’t run to Jesus for comfort. I run to food.
And I don’t know how to run elsewhere for it. Because Jesus doesn’t make me feel full and secure quite like cake.
–curls up in corner because vulnerability is hard–