All the feels.
I have felt them lately. Every single one.
Much like everyone else in the world right now, 2020 has thrown us the wackiest of curve balls. We've lost a lot at the hand of this virus.
My daughter's 6th grade graduation.
Said 6th grader's end-of-the-year field trips.
My own graduation.
An entire season of softball.
Right on down to the end of the school year last year.
And I've been so bitter about it all.
And now, as fall rolls in, schools across the country are going back to school...
My oldest daughter has lost out on her first year of middle school.
My youngest daughter has lost out on her first year of school - pre-K.
My middle daughter - the social butterfly - misses her friends.
I had to walk away from my job to stay home with said children.
Only one of said children (the youngest) was actually able to have a birthday party this year.
They've missed out on parties.
And soccer is starting. But we are not playing this year.
As an education major, this whole home school thing is a nightmare. Teachers, parents, and students everywhere are stressed out, maxed out, and stretched thin.
This back to school season feels so... wrong. Nobody seems to know what is right, what is safe, or what direction to move in. As a self-proclaimed extreme planner, this whole situation is my biggest fear. Even bigger than the boogie man in the closet.
I. CAN'T. PLAN. A. SINGLE. THING.
And boy have I felt every single emotion possible.
Anger over the things we've lost.
Defeat over the things we can get back.
Anguish over the things that have changed.
Acceptance of a "new normal".
Fear over this crazy world.
Sadness over the loss of experiences.
Panic over the inability to plan.
Anxiety over the plans I had laid out that changed.
Depression from not seeing anyone. Ever.
Concern for the health of my parents and loved ones.
Happiness for the time I've gained with my family.
Stress from making decisions. SO. MANY. DECISIONS.
Desire for normal to come back. And COVID to go away.
If this season of life has taught me nothing else, I have definitely learned that my planning nature is toxic. It does not matter how much I plan my life out, if it is not God's will, it will not come to be. Period. We had so many things planned out and things we looked forward to that now will not happen.
Literally everything is canceled. Rescheduled. On hold. In limbo. Up in the air. No one knows what it is the "right" decision.
He knows what we need and when we need it. He is never early, never late.
And somehow, I can't help but feel like we all needed this reset of the mindset. As frustrating as it is, God knew we needed to reevaluate our lives. Most of us run around like headless chickens, day in day out, never finishing the rat race.
He knew we needed a slow-down and He knew we weren't going to take it without a little force.
All these emotions are normal, mama. You are not alone. It is scary. But it will be ok.
Have confidence that God's got this.
"I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." - John 16:33
A few days ago, I was listening to a sermon by pastor Steven Furtick, where he talked about the relationship between Samaria and "some area". Sometimes, we just have to go through Samaria (some area - pain, grief, struggle, etc.) to get to where we're going.
In John 4, Jesus was passing through Samaria when he entered the town of Sychar, where Jacob's well was. Jesus was tired (side note - even Jesus got tired sometimes!) He stopped and sat at the well to rest. Soon after, a Samaritan woman came to draw water from the well. This woman showed up at the hottest part of the day, while most would come early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid the heat. So, why was she here in the middle of the day?
This woman had a reputation. She came at the sixth hour to avoid people, because people talk and everyone knew she had 5 previous husbands, and the man she was currently living with was not her husband at all. Still, she needed water; but she did not expect to receive the living water she got that day. Jesus could have taken a shorter route - but he knew he had to go through "some area" to meet this woman in a divine appointment at the well.
Jesus asked the woman for a drink. She was so taken back; who was this man, a Jew, asking her for a drink? Jews were not known to associate with Samaritans. Jesus reveals himself to her as living water, then as a prophet by sharing what he knew about her 5 husbands and her current relationship. She told him she knew of Christ and that he would explain everything she needed to know when he comes.
What this woman was about to learn was that she was standing face to face, conversing at the well with Christ in the flesh. Jesus made his pass through Samaria because he knew this woman needed grace and freedom from a life of sin. She traveled to this well at the sixth hour, during the highest heat to avoid the ridicule of people - yet, here she stood at the well with the high priest himself.
Friends - we all go through things. We all trip, stumble, and fall; yet, Jesus never turns his back on us, never fails to love us, never leaves us nor forsakes us. We are never too far gone to reach back and grasp the love of Jesus.
Furthermore, Jesus chose to associate with the people in which the world had turned away from. What higher example of love is there? As his people, shouldn't we love each as ourselves, despite their shortfalls?
This world is a scary place these days, friends. Love can change the world. Be that woman that chooses love over hate. The one who loves like Jesus.
Anxiety: A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome; desire to do something, typically accompanied by unease; a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.
Depression: A mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.
Anxiety with Depression: (in my own words) Hell on earth.
My history of anxiety basically begins at birth. I have been a naturally anxious person as far back as I can remember. I honestly don't know what I would do if I ever woke up one morning and my anxiety was just gone. I wouldn't know how to cope.
Anxiety runs deep in my moms side of the family. Almost everyone, including her and several of her brothers and sisters, are riddled with extreme anxiety. I guess I "inherited" it.
As a small child, I remember being fearful of so many silly things - many of which have carried themselves right along into adulthood. Things like storms, the dark, fire of any kind, and death. Some I have outgrown, others linger, and still yet some are circumstantial. Some parts of my extreme fear were established in me by my mother - not intentionally, she always meant well - and others, literally and figuratively are just engraved in my DNA.
My earliest memory of fear and anxiety was when my grandmother died. I wasn't allowed to attend her funeral because my mom didn't want me exposed to that. My mom and my aunt took "shifts" attending her funeral so me and my cousin didn't have to go. This was also my first experience with death.
Soon after, around 5th or 6th grade, my anxiety hit its peak following my dad's heart attack and major surgery. My mom left me alone with him - literally for ten minutes - to run an errand down the street, and he passed out on me. I thought he died. I called 9-1-1. It was bad, and I was traumatized. And around a year later, my mom faced gallbladder surgery - not really a big deal, but after all that, I was mental toast. Enter my first experience with severe panic attacks.
I remember seeing a therapist at the ripe age of around about 10, where I was placed on my first antidepressant, Celexa. I don't recall it doing much for me, other than excessive weight gain. I went from underweight to overweight in the span of a couple years. Middle school is a blur and I'm honestly not sure if I stopped the medication at this point.
In high school, however, I would have done darn near anything to feel loved and valued. My home was unstable and full of anger and hate. I NEEDED to feel valuable - a trait I still struggle with today. I dated boys who I knew were trouble, I got involved with some people who were clearly bad for me, and ended up involved in a long-term relationship (3 years) with a guy who was mentally, emotionally, and physically abusive. I remember finding myself back in therapy at this point, and back on Celexa. The weight came on quick again, and around my junior year of high school I quit taking it. I haven't taken anything for anxiety since because of the risk of weight gain with everything.
Immediately following high school (literally the day of graduation) I met some new people, where the following weekend I ended up meeting my now-husband. Our relationship grew quickly and before we new it, we were parents-to-be. Exactly what I swore I would never do with my life, became my life almost overnight. I was an expectant, teenage mother out of wedlock. Still, my anxiety remained manageable for a while. I first learned of my then-boyfriend/ now-husband's cheating behavior when I was four months pregnant with our first daughter. We worked through it and eventually were married, where two more children followed.
Our girls are our greatest gift from God. They changed my life so much. They gave me purpose, meaning, and fulfillment. But still, his cheating, lying, and manipulative behaviors never stopped.
In March 2019, my husband had his first (to my knowledge) physical affair - unbeknownst to me, he was involved with another woman mentally, emotionally, and physically for almost a year. Prior to this event, his behavior had always remained emotional - texts, messaging, etc. Albeit difficult no matter the extent of an "affair", this was by and large the biggest hurdle we'd ever encountered. He spent hours a day talking to her, texting her, using "secret" apps to talk to her, and even spent time with her in person.
Until this event came to light, I thought my anxiety was well managed without medication. What I learned through the experience of my husbands physical affair is that my anxiety was not managed at all - it was suppressed and ignored; hidden in shame, tucked away where no one could ever see it.
Since March 9, 2019, I have been unable to hide my anxiety, my depression, my downright fear and loss of interest in anything. I spent then next month physically ill, which ironically led to significant weight loss (hey, some light in the dark). This experience has been like a parrot on my shoulder, constantly reminding me of what he did, how worthless I am, and that nothing even matters in life. I was able to rope it in for a while, but only with the help of a therapist - both individually and in our marriage. I was written various prescriptions for mood stabilization. I tried one, Zoloft, which made me a very mean and angry person. I gave it up because I didn't like who it made me. I haven't tried anything else because of - you guessed it - the risk of weight gain.
To make matters worse, I quickly found that her name was going to haunt me forever. Joy. They stole mine from me. And everywhere I tried to look for healing, there it was. Do you know how many times that word is in the Bible? Neither did I, but I do now. 88 times in the Old Testament and 57 times in the New Testament. 145 total times in the Bible. And every time I turned to scripture, that word was there. Reminding me, haunting me - and it almost turned me away from God.
Nonetheless, we spent the next year working hard. He was putting forth effort and changing things about himself like he had never done before. Although painful, I think this "reset" was much needed to get our marriage on-track. God was hard at work in the midst of our lives.
So, fast-forward one year later to the exact date - March 9, 2020 - I have learned how to cope. We have grown in our marriage. Counseling is doing us a world of wonder and I am still seeing changes in my husband like I have never seen in our 13 years together. Things are looking up; in fact, the best they'd ever been.
But, on this very same day, one year later, my kids come down with something. I was already plagued with the memory of what I had learned a year prior, already having a bad day... then cue the headache, fever, body pain... diagnosis - flu A. Enter anxiety, because that's what anxiety does. None of my kids had never had the flu, ever, and with 2/3 of them being asthmatics, it was scary. So, my anxiety was running like a wild stallion let out of a stall. Ok, God, I hear you - I'll focus on my kids today instead of the past.
And that very same week - enter COVID-19 in the US. We missed most of that week of school due to the flu and we never got to return to the building this year.
Talk about anxiety shock. It felt like someone was using a defibrillator on my anxiety because God forbid it take a snooze. COVID-19 is anxiety's worst nightmare. Germs. Viruses. Unknown variables. Danger. Shut down. No unnecessary human contact. NO HUMAN CONTACT. NO. HUMAN. CONTACT. Anxiety doesn't play well by itself...
Suddenly - more aptly, overnight - I found myself being a work-at-home-mom, teaching students virtually and trying to homeschool my own kids as well. Sports were cancelled, school was cancelled, restraunts closed... goodbye, world; hello, home. Literally overnight. Enter more anxiety. My husband eventually ended up working from home as well, which helped my anxiety tremendously. However, all good things must come to an end, and he had to go back to work eventually... and honestly, that came rather suddenly and created a snowball effect... (enter - well, you know, even more anxiety).
-Husband abruptly returned to work after 2 months of being at home with us, leaving our "routine" upended (anxiety talking)
-Followed by a (minor, but still serious) car wreck, with all of us in the car... (could have been so much worse - praise God it wasn't)
-Followed by the garage door deciding it didn't want to work any longer...
-Followed by the air pump taking a crap and quitting...
-Followed by the added financial stress of buying a new car and repairing the broken stuff during a time in which finances were tight and no one knew if we'd even still have a job the next day...
-Followed by me catching my husband involved in something he shouldn't have been (thanks, stress)...
-Followed by a period of a couple back-to-back days where I was home alone during severe weather... (again, anxiety talking)
-Followed by our one-year-old dog having a random seizure (this is the event that sent me over the edge - thank God my husband was home when it happened).
*All in the time frame of barely over one month. In short, May was hell.
Anxiety: triggered. Max capacity has been reached in a short amount of time. Enter panic attacks of an extreme nature. I found myself at the doctor within the week begging for medication to help me through.
Y'all. I don't freely take medication. I struggle with taking pills (thanks, anxiety). I NEEDED IT. And you know what? I refuse to be ashamed. I can't do this on my own. I need God every single day and I need Prozac and Hydroxyzine to help see me through this current season. I know the medication is temporary, just like the anxiety. But God remains steady. He knew I would fight this battle and He has been there with me every step of the way, as a child and now as an adult.
"You formed the way I think and feel. You put me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because you made me in such a wonderful way. I know how amazing that was!" Psalm 139:13-14.
I am THAT woman. The one who doesn't, and likely wont ever, have it all together. Who will always be a yeller. Who will always love others deeply, with her whole heart. Who will probably always be filled with anxiety and depression.
Thank you, God, for making me That Woman. And thank you for the reminder that is Philippians 4:13.
(Originally written 6/15/2020)
You know, the one who has your back no matter what? The no-judgement, wants the best for you in every situation, cheers you on in everything you do kind of woman? As women, at some point in our lives, we all need that woman by our side. It's impossible to do life without that kind of friendship. Unless you really just don't have that kind of friendship... but, that just teaches you to be that woman for others.
The past two years of my life have been the wackiest roller coaster ride I've ever been on. This ride has featured 75 loops (not to mention the 6 corkscrews), 150 dark tunnels, and one ginormous splash at what I thought was the end... only to start over and keep going, but this time it derailed on corkscrew number 3. And now it's on fire.
2020 has thrown us all such a curve ball that no one has a swing secure enough to even make contact with the ball. Life is hard. This blog was originally created as an outlet for venting my emotions and daily struggle with anxiety, depression, and general life in a time when the world is shut off from one another; however, it has the power to be so much more. I believe in being fully transparent, and that is what I plan to do here - because that's what it takes to show other women that they are not alone in this ever-changing world.
You are not alone in your struggles. Ever. Even when you are physically by yourself, God is by your side. I am laying my life out before you because I would have moved mountains in my darkest days to have had someone by my side telling me I could make it. That they've been there, and they understand. Let's just be honest... motherhood is hard. Friendships are hard. Careers are hard. Marriage is hard. Life. Is. Hard. But in some form or fashion, we are all that woman.
The woman who has it all together.
The woman who hasn't figured it out yet.
The woman who knows what she wants.
The woman who can't recall her own kids birthdays without thinking.
The woman who strives for more.
The woman who desires to be the best wife possible.
The woman who longs to recover from a lifetime of trauma.
The woman who loves her spouse with all she has to offer - even when it isn't much.
The woman who is the most Pinterest-worthy mom on the planet.
The woman who loves her kids the best way she can.
The woman who home schools her kids.
The woman who can't wait until her kids walk out the door to catch the bus each morning.
The woman who counts down the seconds until they are home in her arms again.
The woman who gives and gives without ever taking for herself.
The woman who stays home.
The woman who provides the most income for the family.
The woman who does it all.
The woman who struggles to step out of bed each morning.
In some way, we are all her. And we can make this world a better place when we share what we have to offer others. So, by offering words of encouragement through my own trials as a woman, I hope to bring forth a little comfort and bring life into your weary soul again. Your life is worth living, no matter what you've been through. It's never too late to turn it around.
Philippians 4:13 has pulled me out of the pit of despair many times in my life. If you hang around long enough, you'll hear it all the time.
Life is hard. Don't do it alone. Be that woman for someone else. Straighten another woman's crown without ever telling another soul it was even crooked in the first place.
Be that woman for someone else. The one you needed in your darkest moment. Be light in a dark world. Be that woman.
Just a wife and mom who strives with her whole heart to be the best version of the woman she already is - that woman.