Holy Smokes – it’s been 9 months since I last blogged! (Note to reader: all my posts start with such an exclamation because I’m the worst, most inconsistent blogger in the history of bloggers the world over so it really is no longer a valid introduction and I shall cease – henceforth.)
I’m sort of back and wondering just how on earth to re-gain my mojo after withdrawing from the Social Media scene (and pretty much all life as we know it) for a significant period of time.
Even as I type I’m trying to decide what angle to come at this because SO MUCH has happened yet when applying the bigger picture….not much has happened! Hence the silence on the blog front. I had nothing to write about. Literally nothing. I hit a big fat rut where I went to work and I came home and I participated in the mandatory aspects of life when I really preferred to just not. The days turned into weeks, the weeks rolled into months and I slowly realized that my life was becoming a blur of work and sleep. I was not participating well in this thing called life and I grew a little despondent. (Side bar: I grew a lot despondent. I watched episodes of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. And I enjoyed it. There. I said it. Forgive me Father for I have surely strayed from the path of the sane & logical….)
I was never going to publicly admit or put down on paper that I was battling my own version of anxiety and depression. Name a reason, I thought it. “What will people think? How humiliating. I always preach a message of joy in the Lord and contentment – where the hell is my joy & contentment? I’ve never struggled with it before. Hormones? Yep. Anxiety? Absolutely not. I’m way to old to fall into that now. I don’t have anything to be depressed about, I have a great life. Sure, I have flat days but I’m not that flat that I can’t function….” until I realized that I actually wasn’t functioning well. And for someone that doesn’t like to fail….hello cycle of vicious anxiety. Some mornings I would sit on the edge of my bed after a shower, unable to get dressed and willing my heart to stop pounding & racing, simply at the thought of having to engage in life. I would have hot flushes in the middle of business meetings where my palms would sweat and my brain would scramble mid-sentence, thought or idea. Most days I would fall into bed at night exhausted from doing the bare minimum of living. Sound melodramatic? I have a pretty accommodating personality but If I had a pet peeve it would be unnecessary drama in every day life – and suddenly this was my reality and my very own private hell.
(Gee whizikers….this post took a turn when I started typing…let’s roll with it shall we and see where it goes?!)
What I didn’t realize was that because I had never experienced this before, it was very situational and with time & with the right input and the right people around my life – this wasn’t a life sentence. Healing would come. The lights would come back on, my heart would no longer race at random and inconvenient moments, interest in the world around me would spark once again and dreams for the future would be restored.
Can I tell you one of the most frustrating things well meaning people said during this time in my life? “Just do what makes you happy. You need to look after you.” Can I just take a moment to respectfully address this concept?
Fact: I was kind of depressed. Fact: I was extremely vulnerable therefore my feelings got hurt very easily. Fact: Life was no longer engaging. It was passing me by.
The thought of living a life with the only end goal being ‘do what makes me happy and look after me’ was entirely & utterly depressing. Every time someone said it, I would go home and cry my heart out. Sure, I understood the general sentiment. But every time I did something that was not for me, that was outward focused, I would be cautioned by a well meaning soul that I needed to slow down and think about myself.
Do you know how long I had already spent thinking about myself? I’ll tell you. A lot of time. To much time. I was consumed by my own hurts and feelings and sending myself kind of batty.
Sure, my life could do with some more adventure – I did have a tendency to be performance oriented and work a bit hard. Taking a Cooking or Samba Class would certainly bring a smile to my face and bring an element of joy, a welcome break in a busy week but to what end? I was lacking a sense of purpose. I had gotten knocked off course and a 12 week cooking class absorbed in the world of butter, vinaigrette’s and pickled jams wasn’t going to resolve that or fill the void.
And if we are going to get philosophical, there had to be more to life than just being happy, right? If there wasn’t, then what the hell had I been doing for the last 37 years? Even though I knew it was not their intent, every time someone said it to me it felt like a slap in the face and kind of invalidated all my experiences and my life choices to date. Experiences that actually had brought me a great deal of joy and contentment. I created a narrative in my mind that said ‘these people think I’m a push over and that I have no will power or ability to make good life choices’.
Let me share with you some of the wise advice I didn’t know I needed until it was delivered by some of the best people I know. It is somewhat contrary to what all the self help books are telling the kids these days but it catapulted me out of myself and back into the land of the living.
I didn’t know I needed some fiercely loving but firm words of truth to pull me out of where I was at and to help me see that some of the thinking patterns about myself were unhealthy. It takes guts and love for someone to see your despair and be willing to speak truth into your life despite the risk of you alienating them. Once the horror of truly being seen had washed over me and the immediate spark of anger out of self preservation had subsided, I sat down and took stock. There was truth in their words and I needed to participate in the process of change. I didn’t know I needed encouragement that I wasn’t a total failure, that I was needed and valued and even wanted. And I needed it consistently even though my pride would argue otherwise. Where there is truth – there must be love. And I was getting both in spades. I didn’t know I needed someone to tell me ‘Kath, you have more to offer this life. You have something to give and only you can give it.’ Deep calls unto deep. Telling me just to be happy only validated my fear that I didn’t have anything else of value to offer this life. I didn’t know I needed to be reminded that God had a plan and no amount of heartache or drama or self imposed sanctions could knock that off course. As Lisa Bevere so aptly says ‘If you think you’ve blown God’s plan for your life, rest in this. You, my beautiful friend, are not that powerful.’ I didn’t know I needed to be told that there was the time & grace to heal and that this wasn’t forever. I had time. Better days were coming, my future was bright. It was time to begin to unpack all the chaos going on internally and allow someone to speak into that and allow God to get in and around my heart.
That is not to discount professional help. If you need help – sit down with your Doctor and start the process. Coming off the back of a 12 month long illness, I was aware that my lack of physical health had contributed to the downward spiral in my mental health. These things can’t be messed around with. But I also knew I needed to start talking again and dealing with the heart issues.
We live in a world that has created such a strong sense of self preservation, for fear of not measuring up or for fear of getting hurt or simply because we have been doing it on our own for so long, its hard to let go and trust. We can default to ‘doing only what makes us happy’. But happy is a feeling. We can’t always be happy. We can’t replace trouble, grief or heartache chasing fleeting moments of happy. If we could, then my habit of emotional eating would have successfully filled the void a long time ago! These things must be felt, acknowledged and dealt with so we can move through to the other side. Life is happening and it’s full of challenges and ups and downs and happiness 24/7 is simply not attainable.
However peace is. Peace in the eye of the storm. It’s something I’m still working towards because that means absolute reliance in my ever loving Creator instead of in my self.
Do you know what else is achievable? Finding purpose. Finding a reason to lift your eyes from your self and to invest into the life of another. We were never created to be lone rangers – relationships is where it’s at. You may not always ‘feel’ happy – but you will experience and actively participate in this thing called life. You will overcome challenges, you will find joy & contentment, you will experience heartache and sadness, you will develop resilience, you will learn new things and you will do it with people you love and who love you.
Greater love has no man than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
P.S – apparently in the scenario above I’m taking a cooking class with the CWA. Which could explain why the concept did not bring me joy. Note to self : Dream Bigger.