One Small Step for Man…

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” – Neil Armstrong

When you really think about it, what a powerful statement that is! What a true and quite often unnoticed truth it is, too. Many scenarios rapidly come to mind when I think of practical examples of this and it’s been something flowing through the last few weeks of thoughts for me. I have been working with an ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) therapist over the last year and a half and this recently came up in conversation. When we are experiencing big feelings or what feels like overwhelming tasks or life circumstances, it is very often a small choice that can, over time, make a big difference. For example, with ACT therapy, there’s significant focus on one’s personal values and learning to make decisions based upon those values. Over my time in therapy and as I really began to highlight my values and what that looked like in my little life, they often led to rather small shifts in my everyday choices. I struggled and felt silly when I found myself discussing with a therapist something as insignificant as the snooze button on my alarm, but now more clearly than ever am I really seeing what “small steps” can do for my purposeful living.

Let me explain the snoozing and how a delightful domino effect can happen. As I spent time reflecting on my personal values, a particular area that landed at the top was my parenting and being as present as possible for my children. Digging a little deeper, that leads to practical examples such as creating more opportunities to be able to actually look them in the eye, giving them my undistracted attention when I’m not washing dishes, on my phone, rushing to get myself dressed, etc. This led to the very simple, but oh so difficult for me choice dating back to circa 1990, which is waking up in the morning to an alarm at a reasonable hour that allows for dressing and eating in a civilized manner. This may sound foreign to those of you who are actual grown-ups and don’t still act like a 13-year-old in the morning, but that damn snooze button is my arch enemy and causes me to wear my hair in a ponytail 362 days of the year, bark at my children to get up and find their other shoe, do a lot of sweating getting loaded up in the car and possibly tempt speeding to school. I am not present on those mornings. However, when I PRACTICE making a simple shift in my choices and drag myself from the bed to the bathroom when the alarm goes off, I then have the option of having a cup of coffee in quiet, matching my socks or accessories with my underwear, helping kids with breakfast and sitting down with them while they eat, and just plain feeling better and ready to face the day. I could go on and on with ways that the dominos continue throughout the day, but you can likely imagine that it leads to meeting other personal value goals like productivity, creativity, etc.

What led me to begin typing this morning is another small change I’ve been recently working on (and failing a lot on, too) is that dang social media habit! The brain and fingertip mindlessly tap on the app and suck me into a vortex of time-sucking, productivity-wasting, and guilt. That’s a bit dramatic, but something I despise nonetheless. It continues to come up in therapy as a frustration for me and at this last appointment, we set a very simple goal to try. I’m (supposed) to quickly set a 5-minute timer on my phone right before opening a social media app. When it goes off, I choose to take two slow breaths and then decide if I want to keep scrolling. It’s my choice at that point, of course, but it gives me a small window to assess whether I’m enjoying the scrolling as a mental break or if it’s mindless and unhelpful. Maybe this sounds silly, but this very small, seemingly insignificant choice, can potentially help me with living my life focused more on my values of productivity, mindfulness with my faith, self-care of my mental and physical health, being more present and available with my dear children, creativity projects, renewing my love of reading, etc.

This message and encouragement goes for big and small goals. Have a disaster of a mess in your house? Start with one thing. One thing at a time. Feeling the overwhelm of weight gain or emotional discomfort? You get to choose to start with one small thing. In the mental health world, the phrase used for helping those struggling with depression to find health and routine again is called Behavioral Activation. It was certainly one of the hardest pieces for me when my depression was heavy because you simply “don’t want to” to the nth degree because it feels almost painful to take the first step, but it is the first step that slowly leads to the feeling of hope that we desperately want. Wherever you are today, whether that be in the depths of frustration or simply aware of an annoying habit, set a tiny goal with realistic expectations of the classic “one step forward, two steps back” and keep going.

You Make Me Happy When Skies Are GRAY

“I like to start my notes to you as though we’re already in the middle of a conversation.” (Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail) It is true. I’d like this place to be one where I take an idea and run with it, without any care that I may sound like a babbling idiot. We all have random thoughts and ideas we find ourselves wondering and because I have this outlet of a blog, I often think, “I should write about that!” Ask me 4 hours later and that thought is long gone, hence the few and far between posts. However, today I picked up my laptop to ramble. In a very tender children’s chapter book called, “The Tale of Despereaux”, the author uses the phrase, “Dear Reader” at different points in the story and it feels as though she’s sitting right next to you as the story develops. I read that book years ago with my students and it’s stuck with me. What a cozy feeling.

So, Dear Reader, I wonder where you are as you read. How are you feeling? Do you have trouble brewing in your heart or gut? Maybe a heaviness you can’t pinpoint? Or, you may be feeling light today. Oh, I hope so! That feeling is notably better than the latter. I very often feel a smattering of both and although I like to have things in better “order” than that, I’m trying to work at letting feelings come and go as they please.

If you are new to this blog, I have a history of intense anxiety that eventually led to a correct diagnosis of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Along with depression struggles, it’s been an uphill climb at times. I feel hopeful though. While at the beginning of my struggles my number one goal was just feel better and beat myself up because I couldn’t “snap out of it”, today I see more clearly that no one lives in a black and white world with any success. Last year I jumped on the Word of the Year train and found it to be quite encouraging, so this year I chose the word, GRAY. Having OCD, my brain wants nothing more for things to be in order or to feel “just right”. This word reminds me that my thoughts, feelings, habits, relationships, weight, digestion, confidence, behavior, and even the weather are ever-changing! I can sub-consciously try to keep all my ducks in a row, but it’s inevitable that one or two will waddle off track.

Do you think you have any spaces where you are placing unrealistic expectations? Are you giving yourself a hard time for things that you think you “should” have in order? Here are a few phrases that you could try adding in to your inner dialogue (because there are very likely negative thoughts that fly through without you even knowing!): “Well, I don’t feel very good/just how I want to feel, but I’ll let that sit next to me while I carry on.”, “That feels really frustrating! Anyone would feel that way, but it doesn’t have to rule me right now.”, “I wish I hadn’t eaten that, but I’ll have a glass of water and try to remember next time that I don’t like this feeling.”, “This feels yucky, but experience shows me that it will pass in time, so I’ll give it space and focus on what I value in this moment.”

Virtual Hugs. Love, Emily

Productive Productivity

I had a solid sleep last night and woke up with a productive mindset. Had breakfast out on the table for the kids and was prepping lunches while my coffee brewed. This type of morning gives me a boost of both energy and confidence; I’m doing it “right”. After finishing a cleaning task and snack break this afternoon, I felt weary and laid down on the couch. I set my phone alarm for another shot at the highly beneficial 20-minute cat naps that everyone says are so good for our brain and body. I knew it was a long shot, but as expected I hit snooze and took three or four 20- minute naps. Whoops. I was doing it “wrong”. That is not how I’m “supposed” to use my time. Think of all the projects yet to be done around the house. What about the books I’m wanting to read? This is not how I anticipated my productive day.

The example of my day isn’t too big of a deal. I imagine lots of folks feel frustrated that they didn’t use their time wisely, binged too many episodes, or ended up taking a 3-hour cruise type of afternoon nap. It happens. What also happens is that some people use what therapists may call “black or white thinking” and put a tally in their “failure” category. Maybe your column has a different title; unworthy, bad mom, etc. Do you do that? Do you use your actions to determine your value? I believe it can very often be a subconscious tally we might give ourselves. However, over time, we can begin to feel the weight of those negative tally marks. We have given ourselves so many reasons or examples of “evidence” of our unworthiness that we can start to believe it.

Although I sat down at my computer with a completely different goal in mind for this post, I’ve found myself working through something myself and if I needed the reminder then maybe you do, too. Dear Reader, if you find yourself feeling lousy and feeding yourself assumptions about your character based on things you do or don’t do, start to pay attention. Something to start trying is to introduce realistic truths such as, “Yeah, I took a longer rest than I wanted to, but maybe I’m more tired than I realize. Instead of beating myself up for it, I’m going to try and be kind to myself. I don’t always take long naps and I do value being productive, so I’m going to choose to move on forward with the rest of my day and do the best I can.” Another reminder is that the people we love may have their own tally marks going on inside their minds; aim for compassion towards them, too.

Love, Emily

Warning: May Be Habit Forming

I have an ongoing list of habits I’d like to change in my life, but the list has been sitting stagnant for a while. I give it a go and then often very quickly it fades away and I’m back to my old ways. I’m sure you’ve heard a million times like I have that a habit needs at least 21 days to develop or stick. I’ve mastered a 3-5 day window pretty well! What are the habits you have that you’ve tried to change or positive habits you’d love to develop? I’m consistently reminded of healthy habits that I strongly believe would make a big difference in my physical and mental health, but doggone if they are tough to corral and keep going. 

My list likely looks similar to yours in that I’d really love to keep a regular habit of physical exercise; for me that is yoga. I absolutely love yoga. It challenges me; I sweat buckets and with the focus on breathing and toning, I feel great at the end. My word of 2020 was INTENTIONAL. I want to be wiser with how I spend my time. I spend entirely too much time on social media or other well-intended apps. I’ve found that although not really obvious, I pick up my phone to skim Pinterest or slide through Instagram or Facebook as avoidance. There’s certainly nothing wrong with social media and even using it as an escape or break. It’s all about the balance! That’s the tricky part for me. I’ve written on this a few years ago, which proves my point that it’s an ongoing irritation for me. 

One thing I am very thankful for is that I’ve been working with an ACT therapist over the last few months and it’s been very helpful to address this issue. ACT stands for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. As I’ve written before, I was thankfully diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder after over a decade of traditional therapy and not knowing what was wrong with me. I was able to receive ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) Therapy, which is the gold-standard for OCD. After my ERP therapist and I felt I was at a solid place and could easily recognize where OCD plays and how to respond, she recommended ACT therapy as an encouraging place to spend some time. It’s been excellent and quite helpful. 

Similarly to ERP therapy for OCD, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy focuses on accepting thoughts and feelings as they come rather than tensing up to them or doing our darnedest to make them go away; unfortunately that never works and ends up feeding the “monster”. I tried that for years. One of the buzz words for ACT is VALUES. Here’s what I’ve been learning that has begun a shift with those pesky habits I want to kick and the ones I’d like to stick. 

There are a few ways to apply this idea of values, but I’ll stick with the habit forming goal. I’ve done a little experiment by tracking how I spend my time over a week. Not only have I jotted down a word or brief phrase to describe what I did during that hour or chunk of time, but I gave a 1-10 score on A. The importance of it B. The enjoyment of it and C. The difficulty of it. I already knew what time-sucking habits I disliked, but this gave me a visual of what that actually looks like and FEELS like in a typical day. After even a couple days of recording, I could more clearly see that I was able to recognize that I felt blah or yuck during an activity and it made me consider whether I wanted to keep doing that, I.e. skimming Facebook Marketplace. 

I believe I’m naturally bent toward procrastination, so setting a goal of being intentional about the things I value means I have to apply major self-control and discipline. This takes practice and lots of it. Some of my personal values focus on self-care, availability and quality time with my children and husband, arts and creativity, rest and faith focus. With those as my goals, I need less time spent on nonsense or non-productive time. 

Does it work to berate myself because I “can’t get my act together” and become “practically perfect in every way” like Mary Poppins? No. I’ve tried that, too. Another piece I’ve grabbed onto from therapy is how easy it is to beat myself up. I’m getting better at paying attention to that ugly, negative self-talk and shifting to self-compassion. Let’s go with an example: I’m currently sitting on my couch finishing up this post that I began a few weeks ago. If I reflect back on my Saturday so far, I tend to gravitate to the negative. I didn’t sleep well last night, had about 2 minutes of prayer/reflection time before quickly getting distracted by an idea I had for our new home and going to the computer. I haven’t exercised yet. I did have good intentions of starting a furniture painting project, but they didn’t have the right wax at the store so I gave up. I’ve been sitting after lunch skimming Facebook and eating chocolate covered almonds from the Costco-sized bag that keeps luring me in even though I have regretted eating them afterwards almost every time I do so because I’m trying to lose weight. Sigh. Stank. Ain’t nobody got time for that. 

ACT would encourage me to notice the stinky thoughts floating on down my metaphoric creek and then think, “what would be something I can do right now that would line up with one of my values?”, “what was something on my list of projects that I wanted to start this weekend?”, or “Let’s look at the clock and figure out how to better balance my afternoon.” Weave those into some self-compassion statements like, “I gave into the sweet treats, but I did a good job choosing a healthy lunch and I’ll be exercising later today”, “I didn’t get a great night’s sleep with all of that dreaming, but I was able to sleep in a bit and rest.”, or “I know I feel frustration over not making changes as quickly as I’d like, but I do notice that I’m catching myself quicker and I’ll keep at it to make progress.” 

Be kind and keep going, dear reader.

You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine. -John C. Maxwell

Would Ya Look at That View!

Right now I’m sitting in a cozy chair with one of the most beautiful views in my hometown. My in-laws live in a stunning home on the river with spacious windows that allow you to see the river out back (does that sound like a real estate listing description, or what?) 

I feel almost completely content and generally hopeful. Because of its rarity and because my brain is usually busier, I do not take this for granted. I’ve sat here many times before and this morning, I’m reflecting on just how terribly awful I’ve felt during those times. As you know, often and disappointingly so, the yucky times tend to nab a more prominent part in our memory bank. 

We are here this morning because our home has just been put on the market and we’re staying out of the way this weekend to keep it tidy. Ironically, the emotional and mental breakdown I had sixteen years ago occurred in this beautiful home. While my in-laws were living in their seasonal home, we briefly moved in here while our home was being built. Upon moving in, I wrote a joyful journal entry expressing all I hoped to accomplish and in which creative outlets I planned to dabble. Quite drastically the next entry spoke of complete confusion and misery. Just like the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, “my life got flipped, turned upside down” and constant, intense anxiety ruled every hour. 

I feel uneasy as I type because of how sensitive I am to those memories. My OCD wants me to stop typing it for fear that “it’ll come back”. So, I type some more! The heavy tears, shivering as though I had a fever, drastic weight loss, the fears over taking Zanax to get to sleep, a dear friend encouraging me and watching to be sure I a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, waking at 5:00am to immediate nerves…it was such an awful time. 

Over the years, I recall sitting in this chair at times to hide away during social gatherings, as I did my best to put on a smile and hide the heaviness or strong anxiety I had coursing through my insides. I remember sitting here crying on a beautiful Easter Sunday, but I was not able to see the beauty. 

Even though it feels heavy to recall all of these memories and I somewhat regret bringing it back as it puts a damper on my initial cozy contentedness I referred to at the beginning, I think it’s vitally important to do so because I want to possibly bring HOPE to someone that may read this. I don’t feel that way today. Yes, there is always the possibility of doing a crash and burn tomorrow and my OCD takes a liking to that idea, but I am not in misery. I’ve had great difficulty and pain over the last sixteen years, but it’s also been a time of up and down learning and growing. Life is hard. If you struggle with a mental illness of any kind, it may be something you have to manage for life, but it is not a death sentence. There is help. With practice and consistency, there are tools and habits that can help us learn to make space for discomfort so that we don’t make those feelings worse. There is always HOPE, dear reader. 

OCD is Not an Adjective

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the 26th Annual OCD Conference in Austin, Texas. If you read my first post about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, you’ll know that I painfully struggled for over a decade before being correctly diagnosed two years ago with OCD. This disorder is greatly misunderstood and this isn’t helped with media’s portrayal of being “so OCD” about organizing and germs.

Throughout the weekend’s events, I met people from all walks of life and from different parts of the globe that are affected by OCD; sufferers, parents and siblings of sufferers, and the therapists and doctors that serve in that field. I met several doctors and therapists that have been extremely influential in my journey with books they’ve written or podcast/Instagram postings. The sessions covered a variety of topics with panels of both experts and sufferers that shared their experiences. Because OCD can reveal itself through many different themes (contamination, intrusive taboo thoughts, relationship, etc.), there were specific support groups scheduled for the evenings. This quickly became my favorite part because I was sitting amongst men and women of different generations and from all over the country and world that knew exactly what it was like to think with a “sticky” OCD brain. There were laughs and tears and conversations that went late into the night. Without getting too dramatic, it was beautiful.

OCD is not an adjectiveI think I have always known that there is relief and hope found when you know someone else understands a similar struggle, but that became magnified through my experience at the OCD Conference. I’ve made friends and will keep in contact between different time zones so that we will know and be reminded that we are not alone. I plan to attend each year so I can learn about new advances in treatment, ideas and encouragement on learning to live with OCD, join forces to advocate for mental health awareness, but most importantly, to gather with others that understand.

If you or someone you know struggles with intrusive thoughts and/or obsessive thoughts that lead to compulsive behaviors, inward rumination, seeking reassurance or avoidance, look further into OCD as a possibility. The International OCD Foundation’s website can give you more information and help you find the support you need.

Restoration

Just yesterday I was reading about a fresco that was being restored and in the process, the colors revealed were much brighter and more colorful than anticipated. It was debated as to whether they should continue to restore and reveal the more vibrant colors or keep it dark and familiar. I don’t know what the final verdict was, but the story was being compared to how we can treat our own inner “restorations”; what we allow to be revitalized or renewed, or what we would rather keep covered.

As with most of my blog entries, this one originated from an aha moment I received somewhere over the last several months. When we compare our lives to someone else, it’s very easy to go one of two ways: either “they have it way better than me” or “I’m really not that bad off after all”. The first one is generally slathered in envy and the second could sound either grateful or prideful. When we focus on the latter, there is sometimes a temptation to downplay one’s own struggles or life experiences.

“Oh, I haven’t had it as bad as her/him”

“I don’t really have anything to complain about”

“My childhood really wasn’t that bad compared to theirs”

Do any of those sound familiar? They have been engrained in my brain for at least a decade as I’ve muddled through mental health counseling. Unbeknownst to me, I carried a fanny pack of guilt that told me I should just get over this already because I shouldn’t need, AKA don’t deserve, to seek counseling. It wasn’t until recently when I heard someone say that the healthier route is to validate our hurts. True, maybe ours aren’t as “awful” as someone else, but they could still be impacting our choices even today. I’d encourage you to recognize the wounds, big and small, that bother you. Don’t minimize them or push them away. I don’t mean we should put all of our focus on our hurts and dwell or discuss them all the time, but respect them for what they are. Just like the fresco, you deserve to be restored and revitalized, too. If we give respect to our hurts and honor them by doing so, maybe we can lay them down in a healthy way that may free us up to live lighter. Get a bit of counseling if you think it may help. I personally believe that every single human being should seek occasional counseling to help us “stay on top of our game” in life. It has the potential to give us perspective on circumstances, relationships, goals, etc. You are worthy.

Dear Discouraged Brain,

Dear Discouraged Brain,

I know you feel heavy and uneasy. Upon waking up you were probably reminded that you “have this problem” and are apprehensive about the day. The basics feel more like a chore and that scattered feeling in your brain makes it seem like not much is getting accomplished in an organized or timely manner. That irritable button gets pushed a lot at the smallest things. Forcing a smile is almost painful when your sweet children engage in a story or tell you something silly. I know it’s really hard and you hear the thoughts streaming that are saying, “It’s not getting any better”, “I shouldn’t feel like this”, “Why do I have to struggle with this?”

Here’s the honest truth. You do feel the way you do and it is all valid. You are allowed to feel sad and angry that this “thorn” seems to get the better of you some days. BUT, you do not always feel like this! I’m writing this letter from the other side of the hill. It’s not too bad over here. The weather fluctuates with a few rain showers here and there, but overall, life is worth the living! I just did a belly laugh not too long ago and giggled at a meme on social media. I woke up this morning and started thinking right away about something I wanted to accomplish with work and around the house. I feel tired right now and do wish my brain acted a bit more like my neighbor, but all in all, I am doing ok.

Each “setback” on this ebb and flow style of mental illness is an opportunity. That isn’t just a line (even though it sounds like one). When you get practice time, it’s a good thing. Because it’s so easy to forget when it feels heavy, here are a few reminders: When the flood of yuck comes, slow that breath and make room for the discomfort. Practice the “radical acceptance” of every previous step and where you are right now. It is important to make a to-do list to help you feel productive, but leave some room in there for rest and self-care (even if you don’t feel like it). This will pass through and the light will peek in, but only in its own timing. Every circumstance is allowed and purposeful. I am really proud of you and I love you.

Love, On the Brighter Side Brain

Welcome, 2017!

Where are you right now? Are you emotionally spent from the holidays? Tired and weary? Or maybe you’ve taken down your Christmas decorations and are feeling organized, energetic and optimistic about the coming year? Or, like me, you may be a bit of both depending on the time of day.

I have been struggling over the last couple of weeks, off and on, with my basket of uneasiness and depression. I am very thankful that it didn’t suck all of the joy from my Christmas celebration with family. It has been an unwanted guest for many beautiful gatherings in the past, so I appreciate the break.  I had a hard time sleeping the night before last and as I’ve written before, that encourages my anxiety monkey to hold on tighter than average.  It nags at me and makes me feel heavy. I’m short-tempered with my children when I want to be patient and attentive. Yesterday I took my kids on a long walk and purposely tried looking up and out. I’ve spent thousands of hours looking inward at the way I was feeling and being consumed by my thoughts and worries over those thoughts. I’m tired of doing that. I want to kick it’s ass. But, I’m a vulnerable prey to it’s grip and it’s a tough battle sometimes.

I believe my most recent “batch”, as I call them, was instigated by stress. That’s fairly common, but it’s so easy for me to dismiss that stress and not connect the dots as to why I may have gotten stuck on an icky thought or feel defeated. I want to make that point clear, so that you, dear reader, are not also falling victim to the “shoulds” of life. Last week when I was cringing against the potential avalanche of scary feelings that I dread and wondering why I’d gotten stuck, I briefly spoke with my Mom about it. She pointed out the added stress I’d had of preparing for Christmas and my daughter’s family birthday party, on top of the everyday Mom duties. I knew it had been a bit stressful, but as I referenced above, I had dismissed it and thought, ” I should be able to handle it and anyways, it’s fun stress!” As I spent some time reflecting on the previous few weeks, I could recall a sense of intensified pressure I’d been putting on myself. I wanted things to be just so, holiday fun and festive, trying to maintain an almost neurotic clutter-free zone in the house, planning out when we’d do Christmas movie nights, cookies, light cruising, etc., etc. Will everyone jive at the birthday party? (divorced parents make for added stress). The house should be just so. It’s my job. I should be able to handle all of the extras.

This certainly carries over into my mental health struggles, too, because I often feel and hear myself thinking, “I should be over this by now” or “I shouldn’t be feeling this way”. That’s not fair inner dialogue and only consistently heaps pressure on our heads as mothers/husbands, spouses, Christians, friends, siblings, sons/daughters, so on and so forth. What are you “shoulding” about? Several years ago I did a self-help program for anxiety and depression and a lesson theme was, “Stop Shoulding On Yourself!” Often times we don’t even hear it or like me, we keep at a distracted, busy pace and don’t notice that the “shoulds” are wearing us thin. You may not have a kick-in-the-pants anxiety monkey like I do, but beware that the stress and “shoulds” may peek out in other ways.

If I were giving myself advice, which is really what a great deal of my blogging is, I would say that it’s important to be open to warning signs of the stressors. Stress is normal and at certain times, depending on circumstances, it can be at an all-time high. That’s ok, but it’s an even more important time to try your best to take care of yourself. All of the basics that we hear a million times and often push to the back of the line, like exercise and a somewhat balanced diet. Being mindful of the amount of time we spend in front of a screen, distracting us from quiet. We need quiet, if only in little batches. Prayer. Remembering that things could always be worse and we have many things to name as blessings. Above all, I’d remind myself that we are good enough. I struggle with that daily, but it still remains true. We can do our very best and that may vary from day to day. Life is not a lick like I thought it would be and much harder than I ever anticipated. I am humanly unable to get it all right and be as I think I “should”. I will do my best and keep working on taking care of myself, so that I can be my best, and that may not look like what we think it should. Let’s try and remember that for the incoming year. Another worthy reminder is that we will get caught up in the “shoulds” again and again, but being gentle on ourselves and recognizing it earlier each time will help ease it over time.

We welcome you, 2017! New Year, you remind me of a “bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils”, as Kathleen Kelly says in my all-time favorite movie, You’ve Got Mail , and I look forward to a new slate. A new quarter in school. A fresh start. I tend to be a frightened little girl about the future, but I welcome you, nonetheless. Cheers!

Oh, You Again…

I’m here on one of those days. I have a nervous energy deep in my gut and feel unsettled. I felt it poking at me the last couple of nights and then felt like I was awake almost all of last night, with every little thing startling me and a bundle of anxiety. That starts the spiral worry. You know the one that says, “what if I can’t get to sleep tonight and then my day is filled with anxiety tomorrow and then what if this snowballs and I can’t sleep tomorrow night, or the next?” It tries to frighten me that I might fall into the pit again; the one filled with anxiety and uncertainty and overwhelmingly reminds me that I’m not in ultimate control of my circumstances and emotions. Sure, I know I have the choice to focus on slowing down my breathing, etc., but if a wave of fear or uneasiness is going to hit, it will do so. However, I know I can do many things to keep it from being so loud and scary, but I don’t always do those things like I should because I get caught up in my life and striving for the next good thing. 

I think that’s what’s going on right now. I’ve got a mix of everyday stresses, extra financial stresses, hormones, the “anniversary” of when anxiety took hold of me 12 years ago, poor eating, etc. Maybe my little brain is telling me it’s feeling overloaded and scared. That’s ok, little brain. I’m not mad at you (although I’ve been known to say an ugly thing about you from time to time, wishing I could switch brains with someone else or just buy a new one). Hating my circumstances doesn’t help the matter. There’s a big difference between the frightened Emily of a decade ago and where I am now. I’m still feeling all of those worries, fears, disappointment, and sadness, but I know some of the nicer things to remind myself of, like, “it’s just nervous energy and I don’t have to give it control” or asking God how I might grow during this time rather than fighting against it. What I think God reminded me of this morning is the phrase, “Keep going”. He told me that years ago when I felt like I couldn’t take another step because life was so scary to me. I did keep going then because I had no other choice and slowly, at a snail’s pace, I found some wiggle room and could breath. I’ve not yet gotten to a point where I feel free or Easy Breezy Beautiful Covergirl, but I’m hoping God has more of that for me, snail’s pace or not.  I hope He helps me to draw near to Him and that I fall in love with Him in the process. What I have learned over the years is that if I sit down “in it” and give these feelings credit, it will only feed it and delay movement back to healthier days. It’s a huge challenge not to engage, but I’m praying God will help me today and every day to lean in to Him and keep going.