you are worth the fight.

snowpic

Let’s be honest. Sometimes January is hard. Some call it the “after Christmas blues”. I call it ” I want to have sand between my toes blues”. I am done with schedules and making lunches that don’t involve swimming somewhere in the day.  Don’t get me wrong I love the snow. I am a Michigan girl threw and threw and I love big sweaters, cute boots, gingerbread lattes, homemade bread, stews and building snowmen with my kids.

But January also brings with it a grayness of that blankets me. There are days when it feels just too heavy to breathe.

Last January, was the lowest that I have ever been. From December to March I daily battled fear and anxiety that left me feeling like I was screaming underwater and no one heard me crying for help. I tried to paint a picture to those that were not in my daily life that we were all holding it together. Because that is what we do. When we feel like our world may come crashing in on us. We hold it up. We need others to believe that things are going great. Because if we actually took the pictures of reality we would have to face it. And facing it seems just too raw. Either way I was held captive inside my own mind by one who only brought darkness and lies. I couldn’t bear for that truth to be known.

So I did what I needed to do. I went to counseling. Every week I sat on a couch and poured my fears out into those walls. I sat there as my therapist reassured me what was true and what were the lies that kept beating into my very being. Because at that point I could not discern the difference.

I let people in. And by let people in I mean that I was very selective. Very. Only a handful of those I love know the truth of what the battle looked like in my soul.

But the in between. The in between moments were just for me and Jesus. I learned how much I needed my Savior. His word was the only thing I could read. I came to understand the depth of His love for me. I was such a mess and I needed Him to be gentle with me.I clung with everything in me to Exodus 14:14.  The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still. He does. He needed to. I would lay in bed closing my eyes picturing him building a wall of protection around me fighting the battle that was determined to take my soul. And he fought. He guarded. He won. He won long before I was thought of but the spirit inside of me needed to believe.

This year. This year I know and am aware of what my triggers are. The things that draw me under quickly.

Lack of sleep– this girl needs it. Like at least eight hours a night. I have a friend who goes on like four or five. Yeah, not over here. Lack of sleep gets my thoughts all jumbled up and my judgment less than par.

Food– I feel better when I eat better. So if I am all about the junk food then I am not caring about myself well. Even though I do crave the most delicious Pistachio ice cream from Grahams something fierce.

Exercise– I actually have just realized this more in the last year than before. I love exercise. I love feeling stronger and more in control of my body. It also raises my serotonin level and self-esteem.

Connection– When I am feeling depressed I become an introvert. Not like a Zen introvert. More like a “you just piss me off” introvert. Not saying that a day or two of regrouping is a sign that I am in trouble. It saying that if I am ignoring phone calls and texts for days you might want to show up on my doorstep. I might be angry but I need to know I’m not in this alone.

Jesus– most of all I need him. I need to soak in his grace. I need to know I am still being fought for.

So sweet one, if this is you. If this is where you are at or where you have been you are not alone. Keep fighting. Keep choosing love, as my sweet friend begs me. Choose to believe that you are more than the lies that tear you apart. You are worth fighting for.

this year, this year let’s tell the truth.

cropped-train.jpgSweet girl , I see you. Roaming aimlessly through the grocery store, legs heavy, wondering if anyone else can see. I can see that it took every fragment of energy you could assemble just to get dressed today. Trying not to make eye contact with the cart coming towards you. Inside screaming “please don’t talk to me, please just don’t”. I see you. I see you in the store wandering through aisles touching random clothing. Touching something that won’t drink anymore energy out of you. I see you. I see you driving through the Starbucks waiting for a stranger to smile at you with no expectations. A short conversation about the weather is all your soul needs to know it is still sane. I see you. I see you picking up your kids from school ringing your hands together, trying to suppress the anxiety that the other moms give you. I see you. Measuring yourself against them without ever exchanging a word. I see you sitting at dinner shoving food down your throat praying that it will all come back up. I see you in church. Sitting, pleading that the darkness that you feel is pursuing you isn’t evident to all. I see you feeling more alone in church than by yourself. I see you. I see you crying when your child asks what is for dinner and you don’t have the strength to think past cereal. I see you when someone asks you to make a decision and you claim that you just can’t. I see you when you the night seems to engulf you and you beg God for the sun to rise earlier that day. I see you when you hear your husband walk out the door to work and everything in you wants him to recognize that you should not be alone. I see you.

You are not alone sweet one. You feel alone. I know you do. You seem to think you are the only one.  Except that there are others out there who want to scream “Me too!”. They want to come alongside you. Hold your hand. And whisper so gently, I see you.

 

After suffering from post-partum depression after each of my children.  I have decided that I no longer want to let the darkness control my life. I will be a voice for those that depression and anxiety hold captive.

I wanted you to know that this is a safe place to say….me too.

when Christmas sucked.

When all I could do was breathe. And breathing even hurt.

Last Christmas sucked. Just sucked. From the outside I am sure I gave the impression that everything was amazing. I had just returned home from Uganda with our newest son and we were one happy, send out Christmas cards to pretend we were, happy family. We lied. I lied. It was me. I lied to save myself. To save myself from all of you knowing that we were falling apart. And by we, I mean me. I was falling apart. I couldn’t breathe. It hurt too much. I cancelled Christmas. I literally cancelled going home for the holiday. I could not imagine being in a room full of people that wanted to love me. When I could not even stand the thought of a person hugging me much less wanting to talk to me. I could barely get dressed. I felt like if I brushed my hair and my teeth it was a productive day. People wanted to visit. It was torture. Torture to pretend that life inside our house wasn’t falling apart. Torture to pretend that I wasn’t broken. A broken mess of a mom not even trying to be a wife. I could not tolerate who I was or who I was pretending to be. It felt like my skin was crawling and I wanted to run away. But I was too afraid to even leave my own home. I became obsessed that something horrible was going to happen to me and my kids. And I thought that if I just removed myself from the equation that everyone would be better.

That is just the tip of the Christmas package of pain last year. Under many more months and layers of therapy we uncovered deep fears and anxiety that suffocated who I was for months.

So sweet one….I get it. I get that Christmas may be excruciating for you. That you just want to wake up and it all be gone. The expectations that others place on you or worse yet, those that you put on yourself will never be met. And it’s ok. It’s ok to be in pain. It’s ok to be lonely. It’s ok to say out loud that it sucks. That is hurts. That you can’t find the joy. That it hurts to breathe.

Just know that you are not alone. I get it. And I am sure if we were all more honest and didn’t send out “everything is sunshine and my life looks like Pinterest” Christmas cards, we could all start to breathe. We could all start to heal. And give each other grace that where you are this Christmas is enough.

The emptiness that screams….

There is this void inside of me. I think if we are honest with ourselves, we all have this.

I think I’ve always known mine was there. An emptiness that screams. Like me. Need me. Invite me. Laugh at me. Hold me. Notice me. Love me. Listen to me. Hear me. Believe in me. Trust me. Walk with me. Dance with me. Pick me. Don’t leave me. Want me. Fight for me.

When I returned from Uganda a year ago I came home with a chasm of emptiness. I am sure all that were there noticed it when I walked through the gates at O’Hare. Although I am sure it was masked by the fact that I was looking just so ravishing after traveling 26 hours straight with a child that was bighting me .

After being in Uganda for over eleven weeks and only released from the country because a certain large organization was called in, you could say I came home with some “issues”. One of the biggest issues was my overwhelming sense that I didn’t belong. I didn’t know how to fit back into my own family. I had left that role for so many months that my family didn’t even know where I belonged. And I had this devastating ache that I would not be able to ever reconnect with my friends. That we would never see things in the same light again.

It wasn’t until recently that I could voice exactly what that need was, I wanted to be heard. Really heard. But I couldn’t. I wanted others to understand the depth of what I had been through. I wanted them to see international adoption in the same revealing way that I now am understanding it. I wanted someone to tell me that they understood the deep pain that suffocated me. I wanted someone to realize that I missed out on three months of all of their lives and felt like I never caught up. I wanted someone to see that I was struggling to know what my role was in the home. The older kids had to be in charge so many times that they had a difficult time letting me be mom again. And here I was scared to be mom because I carried so much guilt around for being gone. I wanted someone to know that I needed to reconnect. And I didn’t know how.

In retrospect I know this wasn’t fair. To them. To me.

I wanted others to fill a deep longing. A deep pain. A deep fear that only Christ himself could heal.

This morning it was apparent I still have parts of the emptiness that are still exposed. I was feeling so alone and disconnected from others. I was drawn into the lie again that they will fill the emptiness that only He can fill.

So in the emptiness I will cling. In the emptiness I will heal.

In the emptiness He will make me whole again.

blue walls and other things of going off the deep end.

This is a portion of a journal entries written over six months ago. It is only a fraction of what God has been doing in my life these past five years. He is changing me. Renewing me. And it is His story of healing that I am in the process of putting into a memoir of redemption and the unexpected struggles of depression and anxiety. Grace.

She stared at the walls. Blue. Light blue. Not light robin egg blue. Or you’re near an ocean blue. More like you have just been locked up blue. You have just officially hit rock bottom blue. Your dignity and pride are stripped away blue. Your soul is naked blue. The no one who can protect you now blue. She sat. Staring. Tears running down her cheeks, raw from the tears that had been shed in the last 24 hours. Hours filled with question after question. Name? Date of birth? Medications? Next of kin? Children? Where are they? Insurance? Are you going to harm yourself?

That is the question that got her here. That landed her in this hallway. That brought her to this dejected place. A place where she was just a shell of who she used to be. Frail and exposed. When she looked at the nurse with some sort of cheery scrub on, something that a toddler would find delight in and vacantly said “I don’t know”.

She wanted to disappear. She wanted it all to just stop. She wanted her heart to stop beating so fast. She wanted it to just end. To wake up far away from where she was. With no responsibility. No decisions to make. No one to ask her anything anymore. She wanted to hide. She wanted the voices in her head to cease. The voices that told her things she would never utter out loud. The voices that took control of who she was of who she never wanted to be. The voices that told her she wasn’t safe. She wasn’t safe to be in her own skin. She wasn’t safe to be around.

This is where it had all landed her. The months of anguish she had endured all boiled over her that Sunday morning. And by Sunday evening she was being watched by a police officer. Monitored one on one so that she wouldn’t harm herself. Her purse was taken away. Her clothes gone. She was left laying with a paper gown trying to plead with the doctor to not lock her up .She hadn’t shaved her legs or worn pretty underwear. Her mother always told her to do these things. Although I am sure her mother never thought her daughter would be laid out on a gurney being evaluated by a psychiatrist that December. She wanted to melt into the bed. She wanted to disappear. She wanted to wake up from this nightmare. “Please” she is pleading with him just don’t lock me up. She knows what it’s like. She does . She knows how they over medicate. She knows that people at church will find out. They say that they will look past this and forgive her. But they won’t. She knows.They say grace. But judge by the law. She knows that she will be looked at as the “crazy mom who had to be locked up” “ The mom who couldn’t handle it” “ The one who fell off the deep end” She knows how she will never be the same. She will never be who she was meant to be.

She sat staring at the blue wall pleading with God to show up. Begging Him to be real. In this moment of all moments in her life she needed to feel Him. To hear His voice. To feel His arms wrap around her. She pictured herself at His feet barely able to lift her head clinging to His ankles. Begging for mercy to be tangible. For this one moment all she ached for was hope.

Infomercials and other things I believe.

My nine year old likes to announce to us the latest infomercial that he has seen. He gives us all the reasons why we should invest “three easy payments” for the newest gadget. As his skeptical older sisters like to point out to him that just because it’s on TV or even the internet does not mean that it is real. His sweet tender heart cannot fathom that. That someone would try and sell us or tell us something that wasn’t real. He wants to believe.

I too within the last year have wanted to believe that everything that others were telling me or selling me was real. My husband likes to point out that my naivety about the world around me is one reason that he loves me. That I truly believe that people were good, and true, and that a plate of cookies on their doorstep would make anyone be my friend. I just wanted to believe.

But when it comes to my relationship with God is where I stop believing. At least that is what you would think if you heard my prayers or saw my anxiety level at times. That I really don’t believe. I want to believe but my actions and conversations at times play out differently. I am human. With a human heart. And my human heart although born solely to worship my Savior is swayed to believe others.

Believing that I am still the girl with a scandalous past. That it will always define me. I believe the voice that tells me I am always on the brink of another panic attack. I believe the voice that tell me to make idols out of people around me. And when they disappoint me I am easily frustrated. I am drawn to believe that I will never be pretty enough to keep my husband around. I listen to the voice that tells me that I am not smart enough to write the book that needs to be written. I fall asleep to the voice that tells me that the darkness will win and people are better off if it does. I believe the scale when it says that I am not and never will be the size I was in college. That I cannot be healthy and strong. I believe people when they tell me I am not who they need me to be. I believe the magazines and blogs I read that tell me that my kids need to be in better schools and that it is all my fault that I can’t give that to them.

Last Sunday in church though as I sat there listening to a song during communion I heard truth. I heard the voice of God so clearly whisper to me “ live in freedom”. I sat there with tears streaming down my face in awe of how perfect God is to me. He knew that my past had been on my heart for the entire service. That I sat through a sermon on Lust thinking that this was a sin that I did not struggle with so really it was a ”free pass Sunday” . I could just pray for those around me who struggled with it. Instead images of my past kept coming back to me and I found myself heaving tears. I couldn’t catch my breath. The vivid the images of myself in past situations from over 15 years ago still haunt me. As I sat there I knew that I still carried it. Carry it. Everyday it still defines me. I am still listening to it. Listening to the past that wants to clutch me there and never understand forgiveness. To experience freedom. And to hear truth.

Truth is….God. He alone can heal me. He alone is my comforter. He alone will protect me. His will alone will be done. He is my freedom. He is my love. He is my beauty. He is my father. He is my all in all. He is the beginning and the end. He has control. He is the only voice I need to hear. He is my truth.

faithful.

Today was the National Day of Prayer. I didn’t stand by the flag pole or go to any ceremony of special significance. I instead went to be with some of those that have been instrumental in these past few years. Women who prayed fervently for me when I didn’t know what to pray. Women who prayed for our sweet youngest before we even saw his face. Women who get all the “adoption issues” and laugh when there is nothing left to do. On this day of prayer though I am reminded while scooping out buttered noodles for all of our little ones to eat, that our God is so faithful. Nothing like buttered noodles and a house full of little children from all over the world to bring the National Day of Prayer to another level.

I was reminded so clearly this past Sunday about how far He has brought me. It was four months ago that I was dreading going to a large gathering at church. I didn’t want to go; I was afraid to go. The people. The questions. The answers I couldn’t give. The eye contact . I would have rather just hidden in the ladies’ room all night and hand out towels than have an adult conversation. I dreaded anyone asking about adoption. Uganda. My life. My heart. All of it made me want to wear a sign on my forehead that said “now an introvert” or “too damaged; stay away”. But I went and made it through and begged God to start healing me.

And then He healed.

Last Sunday as we gathered for our church’s corporate prayer and worship services I stood with arms open wide ready to receive what that Spirit has in store for me. I was no longer crying the whole way there trying to conjure up a story as to why I couldn’t speak with anyone. I still didn’t talk to as many people. And I am ok with that. I know what healing feels like. I don’t know the exact moment it happened. It took weeks, months, and long nights. I do know what it is like to not be afraid to wake up in the morning. I do know what it is like to have God so intimately speak to me and show Himself to me that I only I could see it. I do know that it is like to lay everything down at His feet. I do know what it is like to speak the darkness out loud and it lose its power over me. I do know what it is like to bathe myself in Scripture day after day just to be able to breathe. I do know what it is like to ask for help. I do know what it is like to feel the hand of Jesus lift me from the pit. I do know what it is like to have people I have never met in person before reach out to me and just encourage at just the right time.

I do believe in a healing God. I believe that HE heals. I do also believe that we need to participate in the healing. That we need to be honest with ourselves and others; that we need to die to ourselves every day. I believe that part of healing is realizing that I needed to take better care of myself. I had been separated from my kids for so long and then came back in a depression that I no longer wanted to miss out on life. Part of that is knowing that God gave me this body and mind and I need to take care of it. It honors God when we take care of what He has given us. I do know that He heals. I have felt it. I have seen it. I am a product of it.


 

This song has been my anthem.

circles.

Keep your circle small. Words a once die hard extrovert had ignored for years. I thought well they must be talking to my introvert friends when they say this. I thought I needed my friends all the time and the more the merrier. But that came with my people pleasing attitude. I wanted others to be happy. I wanted to be happy. All the time. I wanted to talk to strangers in lines and know their stories. I wanted to be available to anyone anytime to meet for coffee, play date, lunch, pick up their kids, watch their pets all the time I wanted to be available. You could call me day or night and I would probably pick up the phone. Or text and I will surely get right back to you. Can you say codependent much?

Before I even left to go to Africa this past fall there were signs that life had gotten out of control my circle had gotten so big that it was more like a circus ring. I wasn’t present anymore. I wasn’t a good friend. I sucked as a mom. And don’t’ even get me started on what kind of wife I was being. But so many people had supported us through this adoption and I wanted to make sure that I please them. I wanted to make sure that I had said goodbye to everyone. That I had taken every chance I could get to meet with my sweet friends and even people I barely new. Because if I was being an example for my church and faith community than I had better run myself ragged and burn out right? That is what being a “good Christian” is all about. Seven days before I got on the plane to Uganda I experienced my first full blown panic attack. I lay on my couch as my friend talked me off the ledge and told me what was going on with my body and spirit. I continued to have panic attacks until I boarded the plane. If that wasn’t’ a sign that I needed some space than I am not sure what it. In order to give myself space and room to actually think on my own God had me fly thousands of miles away and look myself in the mirror. In Africa I never experienced another attack. I was limited as to who I had contact with and the only communication I had with people back home was all dependent on if we had power that day. Yet they came back again before I even got on the plane to come back to the states this past November I knew my circle needed to be smaller. God had so clearly shown me that things needed to change. I was bringing home the sweetest little boy who was dealing with horrendous fears of his own. He needed space to grieve and this mama did too. Even the thought of walking in to the airport with all my family and friends there to welcome us home sent me into a panic attack. They continued throughout the next few months. Some days were better than others. Then there were days when I needed someone physically to remind me that I was ok. That I was safe. That God is faithful and He alone can save me. I asked for help. I actually participated in the help process. Many times we ask for help because we feel like it is the right thing to do but we fail to actually “do” the healing process. So I took meds, I changed the way I ate, I showed up for therapy, I stopped any alcohol consumption, I exercised my tail off trying to raise my serotonin levels, I said no, I stopped watching 99% of what I used to watch on TV. I am sensitive to what I see and hear. I choose to leave conversations. I choose to not be around those who make me anxious. I am not ready to have a house full of people yet. I made my circle much smaller. Although some are are upset with me that I cannot be who I used to be I need to be ok with that. I cannot meet up with them when they ask. I cancel when I feel that my anxiety is coming to the surface. I am not volunteering for anything without running it by my husband and family first. I try and avoid being away from my family especially during the week. I confide in only a couple of people. I need to feel safe . I want to feel safe. I am healing. And in healing my circle is small.

“ It is important for you to control your own drawbridge. There must be times when you keep your bridge drawn and have the opportunity to be alone or with those whom you feel close. Never allow yourself to become public property, where anyone can walk in and out at will. You might think that you are being generous in giving access to anyone who wants to enter and leave, but you will find yourself losing your soul.” – Henri J. M. Nouwen

done hiding.

I am struggling. There I said it. I am done hiding. I am done pretending. I am done making excuses. I am struggling.

I can lie and tell myself that I didn’t see this coming. That I didn’t see depression and anxiety creeping toward me in the middle of the night. That many nights I feel like the walls are closing in around me with such darkness that I am afraid to even move. I can’t lie and say that I have been begging for someone else to tell the truth and tell me that adoption is hard. That being away from your family in a third world country for 12 weeks isn’t hard. I can’t lie and say that I haven’t begged God for mercy. That I haven’t screamed at Him and asked Him why I wasn’t let out of the country sooner. I rant and rave for days about all the injustice I saw and babies who were not orphans taken out of the country. I get so angry about all of the bribery, threatening and entitlement I saw others Americans around me display. How the nightmares of it all keeps me up most nights. I can’t lie and say that the images of my friends suffering to feed their own children doesn’t go away when I close my eyes or turn the music on louder. I won’t lie and tell you it doesn’t make me question God. Asking him why? Why do I have clean water? What makes me so special that my kids can be educated? Why do I have a roof over my head that doesn’t flood up the walls every time it is rainy season? Or why don’t I have to worry about malaria every time my child gets a fever?

Yes. I am wrestling with God. Some days are better than others. But other days I feel like Jacob. And I know I will never win. That God will continue to wrestle with me until I get it right. Until I lay it all down. All of my fears. All of my anxiety .All of the nightmares. All of the helplessness. All of the hopelessness. All of my depression. He wants it all .

When I got home I had realized just how much I had endured. How many times I had been told that I could not leave the country. How many times I had seen and felt suffering of those around me and now it is all coming back . All at once. Adoption is not rainbows and unicorns. Adoption is messy. Especially in the country I was in. There are so many more questions I have now that I am back. Don’t take me wrong please. I am for adoption. But I am also for families staying together. I am for sponsorship. I am for supporting the family so they can “be” a family. I am for health care for mothers and education for children. So don’t take what I say the wrong way. Just know that I am really struggling with all levels of ethical choices things right now.

And when I am struggling I need some space. I need space to breathe. Space to feel. Space to be angry and confused. Space to pray and think. Space to get the help I need. Space for those who really want to be in the mess with me. And yes I do believe in meds and therapy. Believe me I believe God created Prozac on the 8th day. You don’t have to wonder why I have turned into an introvert. Or why I am “ignoring” you. I am not. I am just feeling. And feeling is hard.