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anxiety, grief, healing, lessons learned

The Loneliness in Suffering

The thing with trials is that they are compounded by loneliness. Many trials are so individualized that no one can fully share in the suffering with you. No one else feels exactly the same way you do. No one else responds the same way to similar events. No one else can bear the weight of feeling through the emotions that accompany your suffering. No one else can cry your tears. So even if you’re blessed enough to have someone’s arm around your shoulders during the tough times, you still have to walk through that dark valley alone.

No one else can cry your tears.

Sure, others have gone through similar trials, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re hurting right now. Having someone say, “I’ve been there; it sucks, but you’ll make it through,” is sometimes helpful. Even better, having someone just sitting beside you silently is comforting. But it’s not enough.

But Christ is enough. As the only fully divine AND fully human being, He understands what we’re going through in ways that no one else can. He was rejected, mocked, and put to death, which led to being separated from God the Father – the ultimate torture. That means He understands when our kids reject our values (which feels intensely personal). He understands when others offer empty platitudes that feel like mockery. He understands separation from the ones who matter most to us, whether by death or by divorce. Our souls crave this deep level of understanding when we are suffering.

Even better than just knowing that Jesus understands our sufferings like no one else does is the fact that He’s offered to switch burdens with us. Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV) promises us rest if we can let go of the weights that are dragging us down:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Trust me, I know how hard it is to give my burden to Christ. It feels more like He’s prying my fingers open one by one and peeling that heartache back. But it’s worth it. You’ll feel better, I promise.

Leave me a comment with your prayer request, and I will spend time sharing your burden with the Lord. Sharing your heartaches with others who will share them with the One who understands will lighten your load. Try it.

moving on, When a Woman Finds Her Voice

Me Too . . . Again

FindYourVoiceLinkup

When I logged back into my lonely blog, I discovered this half-written post. I don’t remember starting it, but it’s still applicable, so I cleaned it up and posted it.

My biggest fear when it comes to sharing my story is that I’ll be judged, condemned, and rejected. What’s the worst thing that could happen if I share parts of my story? I’ll find out that maybe some people weren’t true friends. Or maybe I’ll find out that some people are gossips. Those discoveries hurt. A lot. I’ve had those things happen, and I survived.

But I’ve also discovered that others have gone and are going through the same things that I am. That makes the process a little less lonely. And when I’m able to focus on helping someone else, my current problems seem to diminish just a bit. I feel like maybe that’s where God’s calling me to go with this blog–helping others who are going through separation and divorce, abuse, job loss, financial loss, home loss, car loss, health loss, reputation loss, friend loss, caring for aging parents, suicidal kids, watching adult children walk away from everything you’ve taught them, being condemned at church, starting over . . . again.

So, how do I get brave enough to give a voice and a face to the story that God’s weaving in my life? First, I waited. The beginning isn’t the time to share. I didn’t even know what was going on myself. I journaled, read, and received counsel from a variety of wise sources in the midst of my storms.

Then I looked for people who have been through what I went through. Somehow, hearing stories with which I could identify made me braver about sharing parts of my story.

Jo Ann’s book, When a Woman Finds Her Voice, was a tremendous help at the beginning, and it helped me to find my voice even while others were suppressing it.

Does this mean I have to share all the gory details (and there are a lot!) of every part of my story? I don’t think so. As always when writing, I need to analyze my audience and purpose, then filter through my story through a more objective lens.

Care to rejoin me? Let’s walk together through this journey called life (shoutout to Prince; yes, I’m totally an 80s girl!).

anxiety, healing, medical issues

Stop the Car!

stop signAs soon as I promised to write about real help for anxiety in my next blog post, I had a panic attack because I was afraid I couldn’t deliver. I thought to myself, what on earth was I thinking??? I don’t have any answers! I have no idea what helps me, let alone what would help others, with real anxiety issues. As I’ve just let the idea simmer in my mind for the past few weeks (oops), a few thoughts have come to me. Like all thoughts worthy of being captured in writing, these elusive impressions flit through my head while I’m driving, teaching, in the shower, or in the middle of church, which leaves me anxious that I’ll forget to say something really important. You see my dilemma?

First things first. If you’re having a full-blown panic attack, and you’re driving a car, stop driving! Seriously. Just pull off the side of the road or into a parking lot and let the panic attack finish its torrent. Don’t endanger yourself, your passengers, or other drivers. The panic will eventually subside enough for you to continue your journey. I promise.

Next, if you’ve suffered from overwhelming, debilitating anxious thoughts for more than several months in a row, consult a professional. I’m pretty sure I had a panic attack while I was dialing the phone the first time I made an appointment to talk to my doctor about my anxiety. But to my great surprise, I did not die. Actually, while I had suffered from mild, generalized anxiety pretty much my entire life, I didn’t even recognize these newer, more severe symptoms as anxiety.

We’re all guilty of self-diagnosing ourselves (WebMD anyone?), but sometimes we’re just too close to the problem to know what’s wrong. And besides, most diagnoses are best left to the professionals. Just attaching a name to my feelings, however, gave me a measure of calmness that maybe I could be treated, healed, or at least helped now that I knew what it was.

If you’ve never talked to a professional about your anxiety, start thinking about it. Ask for physician referrals from friends. Pick up the phone and make an appointment. There, don’t you feel a sense of relief now? If you want to talk to someone who’s been there—and is still there to a degree—let me know.

After I got going on writing about real help for anxiety, I wrote over 1,800 words in an hour on that topic. I guess I had more ideas than I realized. So, I decided to break them up and dole them out over a few weeks.

Next up, the Christian answer. My thoughts may surprise you.

lessons learned, medical issues

Let’s Talk about Anxiety

Let’s talk about anxiety. I don’t mean being a little bit nervous or worried. I mean being sick to your stomach anxious. Locomotive circling the brain nonstop anxious. Blurting out irrational thoughts anxious. Can’t breathe anxious. Can’t hold a cup of relaxing lavender tea without spilling anxious. Racing heartbeat anxious.

According to Dictionary.com, anxiety is “distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune.”

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Anxiety is an officially diagnosed chemical imbalance in the brain. When the serotonin, norepinephrine, and gaba are out of whack, a person cannot control her anxious thoughts any more than someone with a blockage in his heart can control whether/when he has a heart attack. Anxiety can also be caused by poor adrenal and/or low thyroid functions. Panic attacks, agoraphobia, PTSD, OCD, and social anxiety are all in the same family.

Sometimes people with anxiety need medical intervention—prescription or natural herbs—in order for their minds to calm enough so that they can focus enough to pray and have faith. Taking medication does not mean people don’t have faith. Medication helps to heal people’s chemical imbalances and calm racing thoughts just as a stent in an artery prevents another heart attack.

How do you know the difference between sinful worry and medical anxiety? Talk to a professional; don’t try to diagnose yourself. Here’s my definition of the difference between being a little worried (sin that can be controlled) and being medically anxious (not a sin, can’t be controlled): sinful worry is being upset about and thinking about not having enough work as an adjunct and a freelancer to pay my bills for the rest of the year. It’s wondering now about how I’m going to adjust my schedule to add more classes to the fall semester (8 months away). Medical anxiety is being unable to stop obsessing about my finances, being so overwrought about my bills that I feel sick to my stomach and can’t focus on what my kids are saying to my face. It’s the Same. Exact. Irrational. Thoughts. Over. And over. And over. And over. And over. And being incapable of stopping or changing those thoughts. It’s trying to pray, but all that comes out is Those. Same. Anxious. Irrational. Thoughts.

As long as we’re being honest here, I suffer from a medical condition called Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Occasionally I suffer from some pretty severe panic attacks. Some days are better than others although the past few months have seen a resurgence in my anxiety levels. Yes, I pray. Yes, I try to have faith. Yes, I read my Bible. Yes, I try all sorts of self-care techniques. Yes, the anxiety is still there.

If you suffer from anxiety, know that you are not alone!

Next time: Real help for anxiety.

about me

I’m Baaaack!

IMG_20151008_201953_794I’ve missed this space! This past week, I’ve been thinking that I needed to get back into regular, personal writing for several reasons.

First of all, I need to get all this hot mess out of my head! I’ve heard fiction authors say that they have no idea how a story is going to end up until they actually write it. I think that’s true to an extent for non-fiction writing as well. I may have a vague idea of my feelings, but I often find myself surprised by their depth and/or direction when I read what I’ve written in my journal. Of course, this space is a bit less spontaneous, but when I listed out some possible blog topics yesterday, I came up with well over 30! My goal was to come up with 7, so that tells me I have quite a bit to share with you all.

Second of all, I teach writing for a living, and I discovered that I haven’t been practicing what I preach. I tell my students that writing becomes easier the more they just do it and that writing well, while an art, does take practice. I tell them that all employers—and life in general—require effective and efficient communication. Like other skills, writing can become rusty if not done on a regular basis. Here comes the oil can.

Third of all, I’ve been thinking of ways to supplement my adjunct professor’s salary, and decided that freelance writing, which I have done already, would certainly fit the bill. But if I want to write stuff that people want to read—and pay for!—then I need to get myself back into the game. While I loved writing for the homeschool market previously, I was never able to make (much) money from it, and frankly, as a single mom, I need to maximize my earning potential within my current time constraints. So, part of the public writing I hope to do in the next few weeks will be exploring new topics that fit within these parameters.

Let me know what kinds of stuff you’d like to read here in this space as well as what kinds of content you’d be willing to pay to read (in other venues).

divorce, grief

The Major Deal with a Minor Holiday

I love pizza even though the gluten in the crust and the lactose in the cheese usually make me feel sick. It’s a special treat nonetheless. But it’s not special enough to make up for the fact that it’s my Labor Day picnic-for-one meal. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a few slices of pizza.

So what’s the big deal about a not-always-so-big holiday? It highlights the fact that I’m alone. Again. Just let me wallow in the pit of loneliness for a little while without trying to get me to see the bright side of the situation. That strategy minimizes my feelings.

Everywhere I look on social media, pictures of families together on special outings crop up. My friends are with their families. Extended families are enjoying time together. The grocery store checkout lines are crowded with people buying last-minute bar-b-que items.

The real problem is that my family–the only family I have close by–is with their other family. They’re together, and I’m not. I don’t begrudge my children time with their father’s extended family. I don’t. Except maybe in a tiny way when it means knowing I’m not welcome in a place I used to be called daughter and sister.

While Labor Day might not seem as big a deal as, say, Christmas or Thanksgiving, I’m still sad at the loss of family traditions. And that’s what makes a minor holiday a major deal.

 

 

change, divorce, moving on, reinventing

Identity Crisis

Us-passportWith my recent divorce, I decided to revert my last name to my maiden name. My married name has all kinds of negative connotations, and I don’t want to be associated with that name or that person anymore. As my girls are in their late teens, they’re old enough to realize that I need my own identity and that they’ll soon be changing their own last names.

Names identify people with other people. Names identify people with certain groups, ethnicity, regions, religions, and jobs.

What I didn’t realize when I decided to change my name is what a humongous hassle the whole process would be! So many, many places needed to have it changed. And, of course, half of them couldn’t just get it right the first time–like the DMV and my bank. Oy! Then there’s the whole email address change. I’m pretty sure everyone on the planet has my old email address. And persists in using it. Furthermore, it’s associated with all of my online bills and every single site I ever signed into in the entire World Wide Web. If one more person asks whether I just got married, I will scream! This whole process was so much simpler (and happier) 22 years ago when I did it the first time.

Throughout this whole process, I feel like I’m having an identity crisis, and I don’t just mean having trouble remembering how to sign my name. I’m not married, so I don’t want my former last name. Even though my father is an honorable man, and I am proud to carry his last name, I am not under his protection anymore as I was when I was growing up. With whose name do I want to be associated? To whom do really I belong?

I belong to God, first and foremost.

The Lord says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are MINE” (Isaiah 43:1).

As long as my heavenly father knows my name, it doesn’t really matter what my earthly name is. That’s comforting.

 

divorce, lessons learned, moving on

The Scarlet Letter

S I’m branded forever now with that letter; you know, the one that screams at people from across the room. Yes, I’ve got that huge S on my chest. You know, S for Speeder. Everyone asks me about it all the time.

“I just heard the news! I can’t believe you’re a Speeder!”
“When we were in college, I voted you least likely to be a Speeder.”
“What happened? I must know all the details! Where were you? Just how fast were you going? How much was the ticket?”
“That place is a speed trap! Better drivers know how to avoid getting caught there.”
“How could you? You grew up hearing the rules every time you were in the car!”
“Didn’t you read the manual on how to avoid being a speeder?”
“Is this the first time?”
And my favorite: “You need to tell me all about it so I can pray for you that you won’t get another speeding ticket.”

They’re right. I did read the driver’s manual, and I did know how to avoid getting a speeding ticket. I knew where the speed traps were. I remember hearing during my childhood how terrible speeding is; those lectures increased in intensity and frequency when I first got my license. I thought that if I bought my car at the conservative sales lot that it wouldn’t be marked for speeding. How wrong I was.

For years, no one noticed that I was a Speeder. Then I got my first warning. From then on I was labeled. Every time a police car was behind me, I just knew the officer was pulling my record. One day I saw a police car at the speed trap. But on my second pass down that road, I forgot. I was just careless, and I got busted. Worse yet, I had to pay a huge fine! Sure, people told me I could fight it and get a lawyer, but I knew I was guilty. I paid the fine. And then I had a record. Oh, the shame! I thought people would never stop talking about it!

Sure, talk died down some, but people still noticed my scarlet S. The next time I got pulled over, I wanted to sink through the floorboards of my car. After all, I had a different car, one that definitely wasn’t supposed to go over the speed limit. Apparently my new car also has the S on it.

To make matters worse, as I pulled away, my phone dinged with a text from my daughter’s friend. She had seen me pulled over. Now my children will find out! I’ll never live this down! I wanted to keep my kids out of the whole speeding mess because I had lectured them numerous times about the pitfalls of speeding, and kids do tend to do as you do, not asD you say. I can’t give that first speeding ticket back. It will always just be there. I will always be a Speeder.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not really talking about speeding. Oh sure, I am a Speeder, but the letter that really stands out is the D. Yes, D for Divorce. The church’s unpardonable, most obvious, most gossiped about sin. Recognize any of those comments above in a different context?

Kudos to your high school English teacher if you get the references to The Scarlet Letter. If you didn’t, go check out a synopsis here.

change, moving on

The Next Half

halfI spent the first 22 years of my life waiting to get married. I spent the next 22 years of my life wishing I wasn’t. (Go ahead and figure out my age; it’s easy.) Half of my life was spent preparing to be a good, Christian wife. Half of my life was spent reeling from the shock of the emotional abuse, being cheated on, and manipulation of being that wife.

As of this coming Tuesday, I’ll be beginning the next half of my life. Don’t confuse me by saying that’s too many halves. Looked at from a different angle, one could say I’m at the midpoint of my life now if I were to have an average lifespan of 88 years. So, I’ve spent my entire life so far wishing for and being something that wasn’t what I expected and is now over. That doesn’t bode well for the next, unknown half of my life.

The past two and a half years have been focused on survival, not on preparing myself for this next phase in my life. While I’m thrilled to be out from under oppression, I almost don’t know how to handle it! For the first half of my life, my parents made decisions for me, and then guided me in making my own decisions. For the next half of my life, I was informed of decisions – when he remembered to tell me. How do I make my own decisions now without panicking?

Here’s my answer:

“And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” – 2 Corinthians 3:4-6

Sure enough, I am not adequate or sufficient. But God is. Pray for me, though, as I continue to make this transition into the next half of my life.

 

lessons learned

One a Step at a Time

I’ve always been big on planning ahead and knowing what’s coming next. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible in life. My life, specifically. Just when I think something’s settled–a job, a legal matter, a kid’s plans–it becomes unsettled. It’s not a question of whether troubles will come, it’s a question of when. Of course, the last few years of my life seem to have had an overdose of woes. L. B. E. Cowman, author of one of imagemy favorite devotionals Streams in the Desert, had this encouragement:

“‘When thou passest through the waters . . . they shall not overflow thee (Isa. 43:2).’ God does not open paths for us in advance of our coming. He does not promise help before help is needed. He does not remove obstacles out of our way before we reach them. Yet when we are on the edge of our need, God’s hand is stretched out.” (Jan. 6)

To me, this means that I need to keep moving ahead even when I can’t see where my foot will land. It’s almost like God’s grace for each moment is in his outstretched hand. I need to take a forward step so I can reach his hand and the help that he is offering. And then the next step and the next measure of grace and so on.

God has proven this principle to me numerous times over the past few years especially. Just when I think I’m about to be overwhelmed in a court case, god provides the victory. When I’m pretty sure I haven’t taught enough courses in a term to pay the rent, he not only provides enough, but gives me an unexpected overflow. When one of my girls makes me seriously doubt my worth and effectiveness as a mother, just the right word of encouragement is whispered in my ear at just the right time.

Life is lived one step at a time with its corresponding handful of grace. I was thinking about digging my toes into the cold sands of fear, but it seems I need to be stepping forward in faith instead.

What about you? Digging your toes in fear or stepping out in faith for a needed measure of grace?