Will you be my Valentine?

“They say love is blind. I disagree. Infatuation is blind. Love is all-seeing and accepting. Love is seeing the flaws and blemishes and accepting them. Love is accepting the bad habits and mannerisms, and working around them. Love is recognizing all the fears and insecurities, and knowing your role is to comfort. Love is working through all the challenges and painful times. Infatuation is fragile and will shatter when life is not perfect. Love is strong and it strengthens because it is real.” – Unknown

 

I have very mixed feelings about today. It is the first Valentine’s Day I have spent alone in a very long time. There has always been someone special by my side. Or at least someone pretending to be special. The above quote made itself known to me earlier today and it both inspired me and broke my heart. It inspired me because that is what real love is. It’s out there. Maybe I’ll experience it someday. It broke my heart because clearly none of my romantic relationships have been based on mutual love and support. I don’t know that any of my partners have actually loved me, and that is a hard pill to swallow considering how much love I feel I gave.

 

While reading an Elephant Journal article called I didn’t Quit My Marriage. I survived It., I came across another quote: “When we realize that we can’t single-handedly make a relationship with another person work, we have to choose ourselves. We begin to hear our hearts screaming for us to get out. We begin to honor our intuition, which tells us that this situation isn’t healthy for us, that we must do whatever it takes to make our lives better. We figure out that we cannot save our partners when they choose not to fight for the relationship” (Jackson, 2016). As you can imagine, this spoke to me on a number of levels. It seems like I’ve needed constant reminders lately that I’m not a failure. My divorce does not mean I am broken, used up, or that I have nothing left to offer anyone or anything. As difficult as it is to make myself believe it, I am not a failure. Another reason that quote spoke to me is because I need to remember that I am not responsible for saving everyone else or picking up their slack. I can only do so much. I can only fight so hard. I can only give up so much of myself before the other person has to start giving just as much. Both parties have to want to make it work for the right reasons, otherwise it is a lost cause. Finally, those powerful five words: we have to choose ourselves. I can’t control anyone but myself. I can beg and grovel until I’m blue in the face, but I simply cannot force someone else to love me. Ouch. Believe me…I have done some begging and groveling. A lot of good that did me, huh? In the end is has left me alone. And perhaps that is the best place I could possibly be. I am forced to choose myself.

 

“A few bad chapters does not mean your story is over.” – Unknown

 

I’m sitting here in quiet contemplation. I have a candle burning, but no music. I have one small light on. How many others are out there spending Valentine’s Day alone, wondering why they don’t deserve someone by their side. I know that thought has crossed my mind several times today. For those of you out there like me, this is the conclusion I’ve come to: today is a Thursday. That’s all, folks. I am no more or less alone today than I was yesterday or will be tomorrow. I am no more or less deserving of love today than the next person. The difference is, their time and their person came. I am still waiting for mine to come. There’s no shame in that. A little patience never hurt anyone, right?

I don’t have a lot to say tonight. I mainly wanted to reach out because I know there are plenty of people out there like me. Pick yourself up, go look in the mirror, and ask yourself to be the best Valentine you’ve ever had. You know yourself better than anyone. You will never abandon yourself. You, like me, just need to learn to love that person in the mirror just as much as you love anyone else. You have a lot to give. Don’t let that love go to waste on someone who will never give it back. Instead, learn how to love yourself so that you know how to let someone else love you in the future. You’re always there for everyone else…it’s time to be there for you.

 

Dear self, will you be my Valentine?

 

References

 

Jackson, C. (2016). I Didn’t Quit my Marriage. I survived It. Elephant Journal. Retrieved from https://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/08/i-didnt-quit-my-marriage-i-survived-it/

 

 

One Obstacle at a Time: Overcoming the fear of healing

“It just occurred to me that many people are actually afraid to heal because their entire identity is centered around the trauma they’ve experienced. They have no idea who they are outside of trauma, and that unknown can be terrifying.” – Unknown

According to my favorite source, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, an obstacle is “something that impedes progress or achievement” (2019). What an interesting concept that an obstacle to healing is fear of healing itself. I totally buy it. I, for one, have achieved a sense of identity in the fact that I have three failed marriages. Whatever emotional or mental trauma led to each divorce is unique, but the fact that all three marriages ended ties them together into a package with an ugly little bow called pain. It is terrible that I would find identity in that pain, isn’t it? My past experiences helped to make me who I am, but they aren’t who I am, right? Try convincing my heart of that. Good luck – I’ve been trying for years. That would require healing.

The other day, my Uncle shared some thoughts with me from a book he is readying called  Healing for Damaged Emotions by David Seamands. He said that the point made in the book that really hit home for him is this: “Ask yourself if you want to be healed. Do you really want to be healed, or do you just want to talk about your problem?” Wow. I really do believe that God brings about quotes and conversations exactly when they are needed.

I think back over my adult life and see many partnerships with people. I see betrayal. I see fleeting moments of love. I see some good times. I see an ocean of tears. I see brokenness. I see extreme highs and extreme lows. I see depression. I see a lack of empathy. I see selfishness. I see too many chances given.

How on earth am I supposed to separate all of that from all of me – the person who is deep down inside me somewhere? It’s difficult to say “He didn’t love me” without also thinking “No one can love me.” It’s hard to accept “He didn’t understand my anxiety” without also accepting “My anxiety makes me unworthy.” How do I leave “I loved you until I got to know you” in the past and only see “Someone will love all of me someday”? I am the common denominator is all my failed marriages. How can I not take that and make it part of my tainted being? How do I not see myself as a blemish on the face of love? I am a failure on so many levels.

There is my trauma: That I was denied the love and acceptance I have so desperately been seeking from a life partner. To heal from this trauma means that I am willing to dry my tears, pick up the pieces of my heart, and either go it alone happily or try another partnership one day. Both options terrify me. Both options depress me. I have no confidence in myself as part of a healthy relationship, but the idea of spending my life alone is almost enough to do me in. I don’t believe God made me to be alone, yet alone is where I keep finding myself. I am afraid to heal because none of the options seem sustainable to me.

While I have been struggling with this off and on for years, it has been in the forefront of my mind and heart this week. While feeling particularly down and anxious today, I came home with the intention of sitting down and trying to wade my way through some of these emotions. As so often happens, I came across someone else’s beautiful and tragic words just as I sat down to start this blog post. It hit me right in the emotional gut. It’s a short article by Kate Rose called All She Ever Wanted to be was Someone’s First Choice (2016). These portions in particular made me ache.


“Sometimes she was partially chosen, in pieces and bits for those parts of herself that they loved to taste. But regardless of how sweet her smile, or how hot her bare skin burned, no one’s ever stayed and said they wanted more.

Perhaps if she’s honest, she’ll admit that sometimes she’s wondered if she was unlovable – that maybe it was her lot in life to remain without someone to hold her close during the dark nights that sometimes seemed too long.

She doubted her truth and wondered if there was something wrong with her – if she just loved too strongly or too differently. Possibly she was just a little too passionate, or maybe it was just that the fire burned so bright behind her eyes that anyone who dared to come close enough feared they’d be burned up within the flames.

Yet even on occasions when she’s wondered what was wrong with her that no one ever chose her, she knew deep down it had nothing to do with her at all.

She doesn’t doubt her worth anymore, and instead she knows that it’s just going to take someone truly spectacular to understand the song her heart sings.”


Reading this makes me want to not fear healing. I want to get to the point that I know deep down that my failed relationships are not all because of me and my shortcomings as a human being. I want to give myself permission to love passionately and not be afraid that I will scare someone off or get my heart broken again. I desperately want to be that confidant woman who knows what she deserves and will accept no less. I am worthy…aren’t I?

“Stop apologizing. You don’t have to say sorry for how you laugh, how you dress, how you make your hair, how you speak. You don’t have to be sorry for being yourself. Do it fearlessly. It’s time to accept, this is you, and you gotta spend the rest of your life with you. So start loving your sarcasm, you awkwardness, your weirdness, your unique sense of humor, your everything. It will make your life so much easier to simply be yourself.” – Unknown

In an effort to feel better about myself and more confident, I have been trying to put my very best foot forward each day this week. I have put a little more thought into what I’m wearing, doing a little makeup, and recognizing that I am beautiful on the inside and out. The trouble is, by the end of the day, I come home exhausted. Am I trying too hard? Am I being fake? Am I just pretending? And then my buddies Anxiety and Depression sidle up next to me and settle in for the night.

Going back to the idea of being afraid of healing, I must confess that part of me is afraid that true healing means I will indeed be alone for the rest of my life. And that thought breaks my heart. I just can’t wrap my brain around having so much love to give, but no one special to whom I can give it all. Regardless of faith, friendships, and family, I just don’t know how I would get through life as a single person. I can’t face growing old with Depression as my only soul mate. Clearly I have a long way to go down the road that is hopefully leading to healing. My first obstacle to overcome is fear of what healing may bring.

References

Obstacle. (2019). In online Merriam-Webster dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obstacle

Rose, Kate. (2016). All She Ever Wanted to be was Someone’s First Choice. Elephant Journal. Retrieved from https://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/04/all-she-ever-wanted-to-be-was-someones-first-choice/

Expectation versus Reality: Am I here to love without being loved in return?

I have had many conversations of late with my loathsome friends, Anxiety and Depression. They like to present to me all the reason I am not good enough for anyone. They enjoy mocking the goodness in me. They seem to thrive on reminding me that I am full of love, but still can’t find someone who will accept that love. I know this has been a common theme in some of my blogs. Hopefully it’s not too repetitive. I just know that if I struggle with it so regularly, there are others out there feeling the same things too, so I might as well continue to write about it.

The crux of my ongoing dilemma is this: If I can accept the fact that not all people have the same love language – the same way of showing they care – then why shouldn’t I go on loving people without expectation? As long as I take care of myself along the way (this is the piece I have been missing up until this point), is it really that terrible to give without receiving in equal quantity or quality? Yes, boundaries need to exist. But maybe I can find a balance. It’s hard for me to not take on an “all or nothing” attitude about everything – either I give all of myself or I give none of myself. Considering how much joy I feel when I perform random acts of kindness or help someone in need, why should I rob myself of that simply because I don’t know if the sentiment will be returned? It’s like a dance – without the right balance between expectations, boundaries, and self-care, I will topple over regardless of who my partner might be. (note: if you know me, you know I’ll likely topple over anyway due to my extreme lack of delicate grace or lightness of foot)

Henry David Thoreau says that “there is no remedy for love but to love more.” That tells me that if I have been hurt as a direct result of loving someone, the only way to overcome that pain is to continue loving others. It’s the same idea as getting back on the horse when you’ve been thrown off. If you don’t get right back on, you may develop a fear of riding. I don’t want to develop an aversion to loving others. To not love others would be to deny the very core of what makes me who I am.

Author and life coach Gary Bishop tells us, “The expectation of people loving you or respecting you is a pointless exercise, too. Be free to love them the way they are and be loved the way that they love you. Free yourself from the burden and melodrama of expectation; let the chips fall where they may” (2016, p. 183). I had to read that several times over when I first came across it in Bishop’s book Un#@%! Yourself. I love that he uses the phrase “be free” – the idea of loving someone without expectations really does seem liberating to me. It is also incredibly liberating to give myself permission to accept the ways in which someone shows me that they care. Just because it is different to the way in which I would show love to them, this does not mean they don’t care. To expect something means “to consider reasonable, due, or necessary” (Expect, 2019). Who am I to think it is necessary for someone to show me love in a specific way, and to then refrain from showing them love because of that unmet expectation? Dr. John Johnson explains that “if I believe that my expectations alone will bring me what I want, I am using magical thinking and setting myself up for disappointment” (2018). Johnson goes on to say, “What happens if the other person has no interest in living up to that expectation? We feel shocked, morally indignant, and resentful. Expectations are premeditated resentments.” What a powerful perspective. If I expect someone to show me love in a certain way, all I am doing is setting myself up to be disappointed. Whereas, if I offer love with no expectations one way or another, I will be pleasantly surprised if they care about me in return, but will not be disappointed if they do not. In the case of the latter, I can go on my merry way with the knowledge that I showed love and appreciation to someone else. That is enough. That is what I’m here for.


“What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how it is supposed to be.” – Unknown


With all of these epiphanies happening in my mind right now, it doesn’t change the fact that I feel lonely and wish for my person. I would be naïve to think that I can go flitting around like a fairy, throwing love on other people like fairy dust, without feeling alone in the dark times. While I throw expectations out the window, I recognize that I must also keep my feet firmly planted on the ground. The reality is this: if I don’t show myself as much love as I am showing other people, expectations and weariness will climb back through the window and pounce when I least expect it. Depression and anxiety will not be far behind. All that to say, I want to love without hesitation or expectation, but I also want to respect myself and make sure my cup is constantly being refilled. That is the key to making peace with my loneliness.


“Sometimes I worry that I won’t find someone. That the person who deserves all this love I have to give is out there with someone else. I worry that I won’t find a love to believe in, that I won’t find a hand that fits with mine. I don’t know how I can miss someone I’ve never met, but I do” (Peppernell, 2018, p. 92).


If I let myself focus on what I don’t have, how will I not become depressed? I don’t have the one person by my side who has my back and will be with me until we’re both old and grey. I don’t have someone to snuggle with at night. I don’t have someone to talk to about my day. I don’t have someone with whom I can go on adventures, eat dinner, or share in this crazy roller coaster called life. But what are all of those? EXPECTATIONS. I realize more and more with each passing day how devastating expectation can be. So get rid of them. Or expect the worst case scenario (my friend Anxiety likes this idea). If I expect to spend the rest of my life single, showing myself and others love, while never finding that one person to love me wholly in return, then I won’t be disappointed when it happens. On the other hand, if I assume I will be alone for the rest of my life, I will be ecstatic if I do happen to find someone. It will be a happy and unexpected blessing. I think there’s a reason that thesaurus.com lists “amazing” and “wonderful” as two synonyms for unexpected (Unexpected, 2019).

Another gem from Gary Bishop is that “the only thing that’s guaranteed in life is that it’s uncertain” (2016, p. 113). I interpret that in this way: life is short and nothing is promised. Each day could be our last. Each hug could be our last. Each compassionate word could be our last. Each random act of kindness could be our last. Each intentional act of love could be our last. Why waste time wondering if we will receive any of those in return? Just do it. For God’s sake, just love others without an agenda. Don’t let expectations get in the way of your purpose. That is my challenge to both myself and to you today.

 

References

Bishop, Gary. (2016). Un#@%! Yourself. New York, NY: HarperOne.

Consumed. (2019). In online English Oxford Dictionary. Retrieved from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/consume

Expect. (2019). In online Merriam-Webster dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/expect

Hollis, Rachel. (2018). Girl, Wash Your Face. Nashville, TN: Nelson Books.

Johnson, John. (2018). The Psychology of Expectations. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cui-bono/201802/the-psychology-expectations

Peppernell, Courtney. (2018). Pillow Thoughts II: Healing the Heart. Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel Publishing.

Strayed, Cheryl. (2015). Brave Enough. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.

Unexpected. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/unexpected

Quicksand: When depression sucks you in

Trigger warning: depression

Depression is sneaky. Just when you think you have it right where you want it (controlled and behaving itself), it comes out of nowhere and sucks you back in. Depression and quicksand have a lot in common – “with quicksand, the more you struggle in it the faster you will sink. If you just relax, your body will float…” (Bonsor, 2001). After weeks of putting on a brave face, trying positive self-talk, and pretending like things were good again, all that struggling and false positivity made me sink faster and faster.

I’ve been thinking today about how dangerous it can be to pretend like nothing is wrong. I’ve exhausted myself and now I have no energy or spark. I’m fine – I’m not a danger to myself or others – but my motivation is at an all-time low. While I’ve been talking a big talk about learning to love myself and not wanting anyone else until I’m ready, the loneliness has been eating me alive inside. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s not a loneliness that can be eased by friends or even family…rather it is a deep, gut-wrenching ache for my person, who may or may not exist.

My motivation is low because it seems silly to work hard and perform great self-care, when at the end of the day it’s just me. As crazy as it sounds, it’s exhausting to not have someone else to love, care for, and do things with. It’s exhausting listening to audiobooks just so I feel like there is someone else here with me. It’s exhausting to figure out how to cook dinner for only one person. It’s exhausting to have so much to share at the end of the day, but no one to share it with. It’s exhausting to have love and passion building up in me, yet no one to share it with.

I came across this audio clip on YouTube. Based on some of the comments, it is from a show called Teen Wolf. I’m not cool enough to own a TV or watch TV shows, but I’m sure other people have heard of it. Anyway, the video is stunning because it is just audio set to melancholy music. I imagine drowning in water would be very similar to suffocating in quicksand.

I also love this dialogue because it shows the difference between someone going through [insert whatever illness here: depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc.] and someone who has probably never been to that level of emotional and mental distress. Watch, listen, or read with an open mind. Feel what many of us feel on a daily basis. The female speaker makes some great points, but it can be extremely hard to reach out and grasp that kind of hope when you’ve been sucked into an invisible brain sickness. One might argue that the male speaker comes across as stubborn, fatalistic, and pessimistic. I call him honest…and a kindred spirit.

“I’m Fine” – Stiles Stilinski (acciostilesx, 2017)

“You know when you’re drowning, you don’t actually inhale until right before you black out. The instinct to not let any water in is so strong that you won’t open your until you feel like your head’s exploding. Then when you finally do let it in, that’s when it stops hurting. I’m fine. Yeah…aside from the not sleeping, the jumpiness, the constant overwhelming crushing fear that something terrible is about to happen.”

“It’s called hypervigilance. The persistent feeling of being under threat.”

“It’s not just a feeling, though, it’s like it’s a panic attack. You know, like, I can’t even breathe.”

“Like you’re drowning?”

“Yeah…”

“So, if you’re drowning and you’re trying to keep your mouth closed until that very…last…moment… what if you choose to not open your mouth? To not let the water in?”

“You do anyway…it’s a reflex.”

“But if you hold off until that reflex kicks in, you’d have more time, right?”

“Not much time.”

“But more time to fight your way to the surface.”

“I guess…”

“More time to be rescued.”

“More time to be in agonizing pain. Did you forget about the part where you feel like your head’s exploding?”

“If it’s about survival, isn’t a little agony worth it?”

“What if it just gets worse? What if it’s agony now and then it’s just hell later on?”


 

I also came across this video, which is similar to the one above in that it is just audio and music. It touched me because I can relate on so many levels to this woman, whoever she is. Depression is devastating. I guess that’s what I want people to understand. Listen to these words. I hope they open some eyes and hearts to understand that mental illness is real…it’s powerful…it’s hard. This post in general is not me crying for attention. It is rather me crying for understanding. Try to suspend any judgements that she should be trying harder or should just pick herself up by her bootstraps. It doesn’t always work that way. Notice how she constantly refers back to sounding crazy…that’s because this society stigmatizes a very real struggle. That’s why I’m putting myself out here like this…not for the praise or compliments on my writing skills, but rather to help other understand that 1) you aren’t alone, 2) we should not be ashamed to tell our story, and 3) we aren’t crazy. If you know someone struggling with depression, give them a hug. It might be the one thing that gives them something to hold on to.

I’m Not Okay (Emotionless, 2017)

Why is this so hard?

This is so sick.

Like, why is this so hard?

Just say it.

I’m not doing great.

In fact, I can’t remember the last time I felt THIS BAD.

I think I’m having…I think I’m going through…

Why is this so hard?

I think I’m going through another depressive episode.

Why am I getting so emotional? Like, nothing has happened.

Literally overnight I went from being completely fine

To feeling really, really low out of nowhere.

And…I…it’s not…I’m not sad.

I know it’s not just being sad, because

Nothing in my life has happened

For me to be sad.

My life is good.

Nothing bad has happened.

There’s nothing that’s changed in the last two days

That’s caused me to feel this way.

And I recognize these feelings.

These feelings are the feelings I had when back when I was really depressed.

And it scares me.

There was always that fear in the back of my head that it would come back,

But I guess I just wasn’t prepared for it.

I don’t feel good about myself.

I feel really unconfident, let’s say.

I don’t want to show myself to the world.

It’s almost like a switch has gone off in my head.

I think so low about myself.

And I don’t know where it’s come from.

And I know it’s just in my head.

And I know that I sound really crazy right now.

But this is how I feel.

Like I’m always on the brink of crying.

I’m always really emotional

And I don’t know why!

Literally three days ago I was fine.

Which makes me sound so crazy!

And the sad thing is,

I know exactly what I’m feeling

Because I’ve been through this before.

If I need to fix this,

I need to fix it myself.

For me.

And I don’t know how to do that.

You know I hear words in my comments sometimes like

Oh, you’re so inspirational or You’re a good rolemodel.

And I think that’s why I made this video,

Because as much as that is incredibly flattering

And thank you for feeling that way,

I can’t help in my brain, read that

And feel pressure.

I read that and I think,

Okay, I need to be someone worth being a rolemodel.

I need to be, like, up here

So that I can justify people feeling that way about me.

And sometimes I don’t feel up here.

Sometimes I feel really down here.

And I feel like I can’t live up to that standard.

And I know no one’s forcing me to be a certain way

And that it’s me putting that pressure on myself.

But I think that’s why I’m making this video…

To show you guys that, you know what?

I’m not okay.

I’m not doing great.

And it sucks.

I hate that I cry all the time.

Every one of my videos I’m just crying all the time.

You know what?

This is the reality of having mental health issues.

This is how you feel sometimes.

I don’t even know what to say, other than,

This is how I feel right now.

And I don’t feel very good.

I just feel like I want to hide.

I want to hide.

I want to stay in bed all day.

And I want to hide away from the world.

If I’m to describe this feeling,

It’s like this sinking feeling inside.

And it’s just weighing me down.

And it’s just like this sad, sinking feeling

That eats away at you all day.

No matter what you do to distract yourself,

The feeling always comes back.

And it just eats away at you

And makes you feel so small.

A week ago I was this happy, confident,

Like, I was so passionate. I was happy.

I was loving life.

And now it’s just flipped. Like that.

And it just controls your life like that.

And I realize when I’m saying that, I sound crazy.

Because if you don’t have mental health issues,

You’re not going to get it.

And it does sounds crazy, I know.

If you said a week ago I’d feel like this, I would say no.

I don’t know.

This is…I’m just a mess.

What am I?

I’m so all over the place.

Yep…this is real life.

This is me being honest.

 

References

Acciostilesx. (2017). I’m Fine – Stiles Stilinski. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OC48yGWuVNY

Bonsor, Kevin. (2001). How Quicksand Works. HowStuffWorks.com. Retrieved from https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/geology/quicksand.htm

Emotionless. (2017). Free audio – I’m not okay. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVa4xJtrvtQ

 

 

 

An Arduous Journey: Letting go of what should be and loving what is

not broken

“Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to, it’s not for them.” – Joubert Botha

 

You could beg someone to heal you

In all the ways you can’t heal yourself.

But other people are not bandages.

You are your own journey.

The pain belongs to you.

(Peppernell, 2018, p. 72)

The most common definition of the word Journey is simply “an act of travelling from one place to another” (Journey, 2019). There is a secondary, weightier, definition: “A long and often difficult process of personal change and development” (Journey, 2019). Change is never easy. There are always growing pains, the fear of the unknown, grief for what may be lost in the process, and a constant ache for that which is familiar and comfortable. Physical journeys, as in travel or change in residency, can be challenging; however, I would argue that personal journeys are the most difficult. Like the above quotes suggest, what can be most difficult is the sense of aloneness when others don’t quite get it or simply can’t help. But they have their own journeys that they should be worrying about. What is important in personal development is you.

So what do you do when it’s you who doesn’t understand your journey? It is for you, so clearly you should understand it, right? Not so fast. I think if we fully understand the why and how of personal development, it wouldn’t be difficult. We would just do it and call it a day. For me personally, my lack of understanding stems from my inability to let go of what I think should be so that I am free to love what is. I view myself, in particular, as I feel I should be. This makes it impossible to cherish all aspects of myself. My goal this year is to learn how to let go of how perfect I feel I should be, while learning to love the imperfections that make me the unique human I am.

I explained to my therapist this week that I know where I want to be as far as self-love and a greater appreciation for my own worth, but I don’t know how to get from Point A to Point B. I see Point B, but don’t have the roadmap to get there. She encouraged me by saying, “Recognizing point B is an important first step. However, don’t discount the journey from one point to another. You figure it out as you go.” We talked about how the journey along the way is what teaches us, stretches us, and grows us into the person we want to become. If we rush the journey, we may miss many important and fulfilling growth opportunities – some may be more difficult than others, but they will all be vital in allowing our personal development to take place.


“I know this transformation is painful, but you’re not falling apart; you’re just falling into something different, with a new capacity to be beautiful.”     – William C. Hannan


My Point B looks a little bit like this: I have achieved a level of self-love and self-esteem to either embrace being single and enjoy being alone with myself, or to have the tools and self-respect I need to be a contributing partner in healthy relationship. Note: by “healthy relationship” I mean one that involves equal amounts of give and take from each partner. Ideally, I would love to say I end up in a wonderful relationship with someone who, for once, respects and love every side of me. I am realizing, though, that I would again be getting stuck in what I believe I should be doing. That may never happen. If I am looking for it to happen, I will be more likely to force something that isn’t meant to be. I believe this would continue the cycle of broken and unhealthy relationships, which is the last thing I want right now or in the future. Enough is enough.

I keep coming across sayings about love and relationships. It’s almost like life is throwing my new goals back in my face. It’s saying, “You think you can learn to love being single, well here…have this to think about what you’ll be missing.” I have been able to take these sayings, however, and really dissect their meanings. I see bits and pieces of my own journey towards self-love.


“It’s all about falling in love with yourself and sharing that love with someone who appreciates you, rather than looking for love to compensate for a self-love deficit.” – Eartha Kitt

This one definitely hit home. It literally is my journey. My entire adult life has been spent trying to invent a sense of self-love and self-worth through my relationships with others. Obviously this is not healthy or successful. The definition of insanity, which may or may not have come from  Albert Einstein, is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” (brainyquote, 2001-2019). I know I am a little bit crazy, but I’d like to think I’m not insane. Having three sets of divorce paperwork in my possession, as well as my bad habit of jumping straight into another unhealthy relationship, would suggest otherwise. My desire to find identity in who I can be for someone else, instead of finding my own identity and then going into a relationship with self-confidence, has simply not been effective. Unless I want to go on with this insanity, I need to stop doing things backwards. That is why this journey is so important. If I can learn to love myself – the good, the bad, and the ugly – then it won’t matter if I end up single for the rest of my life. If that ends up being the case, I will spend the rest of my life with the one person who loves and appreciates every aspect of me. What more could I ask for?


“I don’t want my idea of you. That’s too easy, and it isn’t real. I want you, faults and all. And I want you to want me, faults and all, not any ideas you have about love.” – Waylon H. Lewis

I’d love to say this to someone special, but for now I need to learn how to look in the mirror and say these things. I will never find happiness in the quite moments with myself if I am unable to let go of who I wish I was and embrace who I am. Until I can say this to myself with confidence, it will never be an honest statement to anyone else.


“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” – Thomas Merton

Much like the quote before this, these words resounded with me because it involves embracing how perfectly imperfect we are. If I am to accept others and love them because of their imperfections, not in spite of them, I must first learn to do the same with myself. My struggle in the past is that I have always been very forgiving and accepting of my significant other, but do not demand the same in return. The reason I do not demand the same in return is that I do not see myself as worthy of forgiveness and acceptance. My mindset has always been that other people make mistakes because they are human, but how dare I make any mistakes. It’s not that I don’t view myself as human – that truly would be insane – but rather I do not view myself as worthy of love because I am not perfect. I had a conversation with someone the other day in which she said her goals for 2019 are to be more empathetic and to show more forgiveness. I told her I am able to offer that to others, but not myself. As my therapist told me later that same day, realizing that is half the battle.


“You must remember that you are human. Filled with thoughts and feelings that will make you ache until the pain feels it might stay. But it is not here to ruin you. The ache is here to remind you that you will survive, in anything you do” (Peppernell, 2018, p. 82).

 

“You aren’t the things that haunt you. You aren’t the pain you feel. You aren’t defective or broken. You’re human, you’re doing the best you can, and you have so much more to offer the world than the demons you’re fighting.” – Daniell Koepke

I am doing the best I can. I’ve always hated that statement because it feels like an excuse. I didn’t manage to meet that deadline, but I did the best I could. I didn’t get 100% on that test, but I did the best I could. I couldn’t save my marriage, but I did the best I could. In my mind, doing the best I can is just a cop out – it’s an easy way out when you simply don’t want to put the effort in. Christina Perri’s 2014 song Human reminds me that “I’m only human and I bleed when I fall down…I’m only human and I crash and I break down.” Why is it okay for me to accept that of others, but not of myself? If someone asked me to describe myself and my life right now, I would probably say, “I struggle with anxiety and depression and have been divorced three times.” But that’s not who I am! I am a human with struggles that have broken me down, but I am also kind, compassionate, and have a heart big enough to swallow you whole. Why do I not automatically include that in a description of myself? Because 1) I haven’t figured out my identity, 2) I focus on all the negative things, and 3) I don’t love myself enough to give myself a little credit. I am not defined by my mistakes. I truly am doing the best I can. Sometimes that takes more effort than anything else.


Her Time

She has been feeling it for awhile now – that sense of awakening. There is a gentle rage simmering inside her, and it is getting stronger by the day. She will hold it close to her – she will nurture it and let it grow. She won’t let anyone take it away from her. It is her rocket fuel and finally, she is going places. She can feel it down to her very core – this is her time. She will not only climb mountains – she will move them too.

Lang Leav

I am a firm believer that God and the universe place you exactly where you need to be. Whether or not you then take your first step forward is up to you. The option to turn around and run back in the direction of the familiar is an option as well. There may be nothing but regret and discouragement there, but hey…at least it’s familiar. Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t, right? I realize that it’s time to stop running back to the familiar. It’s my time to climb mountains. I’d love to get to the point where I can move them as well, but for the first few steps of this difficult new journey, just climbing a mountain will be difficult enough. I don’t know that rage is the right term for what’s simmering inside me. I would rather replace that word with hope. To have a gentle hope bubbling inside me sounds so much more powerful to me. I have hope that I will learn to embrace my anxiety, and in doing so, love myself a little more. I have hope that I will learn to value my depression, and in doing so, love myself a little more. I have hope that I will learn to love others without sacrificing my own body, mind, and soul in the process. I have hope that I can somehow learn to love all aspects of my mind – if I cannot do that, the fear of those aspects will allow them to control my life. Hope and faith are, to me, essentially the same thing. Matthew 17:20 reminds us that even just a tiny amount of faith can move mountains. So I am acknowledging that with hope and faith simmering away in my heart, I will someday be able to move mountains.

Finally, I am leaving you with two quotes that give me goosebumps. Having such a big heart has unfortunately come back to bite me several times over. That being said, I don’t feel that is a good enough reason to shut that part of me down. Instead, I am hoping that a byproduct of this arduous journey towards loving who I am, rather than who I feel I should be, is that I can love those around me with an even greater passion and effectiveness. If I can learn how to protect myself from being used and abused, my compassion will be able to reach out and touch even more people. It’s exhausting to have my cup emptied time and time again. That exhaustion steals me away into a depression that tells me repeatedly that I am not good enough…that I don’t deserve to be happy…that I am the reason the relationships fail. I begin to believe those words and tell myself that I should be more giving, that I should be more accepting of the abuse that I receive in return for my acts of generosity and kindness. As the below quotes suggest, I am beginning to realize that being a good and loving person does not mean being a sucker. I realize that I can give of myself freely, but must understand that others should be giving to me in the same manner. Relationships are destined to fail if one gives all and the other gives little or none. Maybe someday I will find my person. But until then, I am going to do my best to find myself. And in finding myself, I hope to be able to give of myself to others in a more natural and healthy manner. How exciting this journey will be.

“Be the love you never received. Be the acknowledgment you never got. Be the listener you always needed. Look at the younger versions of yourself within you and give yourself what it is you always needed. That is the first step of healing. If you want others to see you, you must see yourself.”  – Vienna Pharaon

“Be the person who cares. Be the person who makes the effort, the person who loves without hesitation. Be the person who bares it all, the person who never shies away from the depth of their feeling, or the intensity of their hope. Be the person who believes – in the softness of the world, in the goodness of other people, in the beauty of being open and untethered and trusting. Be the person who takes the chance, who refuses to hide. Be the person who makes people feel seen, the person who shows up. Trust me when I say – be the person who cares. Because the world doesn’t need any more carelessness, any more disregard; because there is nothing stronger than someone who continues to stay soft in a world that hasn’t always been kind to them.” – Bianca Sparacino

 

 References

BrainyQuote. (2001-2019). Retrieved from https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/unknown_133991

Cover photo: http://www.unsplash.com

Journey. (2019). In online English Oxford Living Dictionaries. Retrieved from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/journey

Peppernell, Courtney. (2018). Pillow Thoughts II: Healing the Heart. Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel Publishing.

Perri, Christina. (2014). Human. Head or Heart. Lyrics Retrieved from https://genius.com/Christina-perri-human-lyrics

Cold, Lonely Nights

It’s not actually cold in my apartment, but “cold, lonely nights” sounds better than “lonely nights.” Might as well be dramatic about it. The “lonely nights” part is certainly true. Weekends are difficult for me because it’s me spending time with me. To mix it up a little bit, sometimes I hang out with me. I don’t say this because I don’t have friends. I have plenty of friends and acquaintances who would likely spend some time with me if I asked. I had an offer to hang out with a couple friends tonight and turned it down in leu of spending a quiet evening at home. I am not referring to the loneliness associated with being the only person in a room or house. I am talking about the loneliness associated with feeling alone when in a room full of people. I’m talking about the loneliness that comes from not having a person…my person.

If you are having your own cold, lonely night, you have some time to spend with me. Come on a word adventure with me — see if you can follow my train of thought by reading these definitions. On their own, they are just words. Once the concepts are put together, they tell a story.


Lonely: “Producing a feeling of bleakness or desolation” (n.d.).

Desolate:Joyless, disconsolate, and sorrowful through or as if through separation from a loved one” (n.d.).

Joyless: “Not experiencing or inspiring joy” (n.d.).

Inspiring: “Having an animating or exalting effect” (n.d.).

Animate: “To give life to; make alive” (n.d.).


The story is this: When I am without my person, I am missing the piece that enables me to really experience life. Again, this sounds a little dramatic. Okay…it sounds a lot dramatic. But it begs the question: can we as human beings be truly happy alone? Can I be happy as a single person? “There seems to be a strong stigma about loneliness,” says Dr. Karyn Hall. “Not feeling free to talk about loneliness adds to the problem and to the judgments of the experience” (2013). Hmmmmmm. This sounds strangely familiar. Stigma…shame…not being able to tell our story. Sounds a little bit like our societal struggle with mental illness, right? In an effort to bash one more stigma to pieces, I want to tell you a little bit about my loneliness.

I like how Karyn Hall (2013) describes loneliness as an experience. Yes, I experience the emotion of loneliness…I feel lonely…but I also am in the midst of an experience or journey. It is so much more than just a feeling. It is a living, breathing companion who at times seems to physically smother me like a heavy, wet blanket. When it comes down to it, though, loneliness is a pretty crappy companion.

I have a tendency to jump into relationships with users. Because of my empathetic nature, I give and give, which attracts people who take and take. I have very low self-esteem or appreciation for my own worth, which subsequently leads to relationships in which I give much and receive little. I tolerate them for way too long because of my perception that I don’t deserve any better. If I see a need, I try to meet the need, regardless of the toll it takes on me physically, mentally, and emotionally. The vicious cycle inevitably leaves me burnt out and alone, while my so-called partner is off looking for their next giver.

Once again, I bought myself a one way ticket to Loneliville. My goal with this post is not to have a big, elaborate pity party. However, I do feel a need to acknowledge my loneliness. It’s awful. When I hit rock bottom several weeks ago, it was largely due to the fact that I know how much love I have to give, yet so far no one wants me enough to honor the commitment they have made to me. It is devastating to realize that I have so much to give, but no one to give it to. I feel like the opposite of a panhandler – instead of standing on a street corner begging for money, I am standing there trying to shove $100 bills into passing hands.

Part of me wants to scream, “LET ME LOVE YOU!!!!” I shouldn’t have to do that, right? All this love should attract other people who have equal amounts of love to give and equal amounts of respect for other human beings. In a perfect world, maybe. Unfortunately, that’s not how this world works. Goodness attracts exploitation. Generosity attracts profiteers. Empathy attracts emotional/physical/financial capitalists who only want to know what’s in it for them.

A friend of mine recently helped me see my pattern in a different light. Instead of seeing only good in my endeavors to make another person’s life better by showering them with love, kindness, and generosity, I am actually in the throes of an addiction that could very well cost me my life if I’m not careful. To be an addict means “to devote or surrender (oneself) to something habitually or obsessively” (Addict, n.d.). To be addicted to something means to have “repeated involvement with a substance or activity, despite the substantial harm it now causes, because that involvement was (and may continue to be) pleasurable and/or valuable” (MentalHelp.net, 2019). I am addicted to the false sense of identity that is achieved by being the person who would do anything and everything for someone else. I have convinced myself over the years that if I can give of myself to another, even to the point of being completely used up, then I have worth. I am never just Amber…I am so-and-so’s wife/cook/cleaner/landscaper/[insert whatever else fits]. I put a positive spin on it and say that I am doing so much for someone! Yet, I don’t see the “substantial harm” it is doing to me, myself, and I. I am willing to sacrifice my very sanity and emotional health so that another might be happy.

So here I sit on this not-so-cold cold, lonely night, pondering ways in which I can break this cycle without being consumed by the loneliness necessary to break the cycle. Unfortunately, I only know how to attract people who do not have the ability to give back to me all that I am willing to give to them. In order to learn how to attract a better sort of person, I have to develop an understanding of my own worth. I know that. I see that. I understand where I need to be…I just don’t know exactly how to get there. The rational part of me knows I have worth and that I don’t deserve to be used or treated like my own needs are not important. The emotional (the slightly irrational) part of me aches to feel wanted and needed again. I was made to love others. How do I turn that part of me off while I learn to love myself?

You might think it would be easy to just replace “my person” with a whole bunch of friends who also need love and kindness. But there is something to be said for having someone to come home to after work and vent to about the day’s silly issues. There is something to be said for having someone to sit with while you each read a book or watch TV. There is something to be said for having a person to snuggle up to when it legitimately is cold in the apartment and your freezing feet need a warm place to rest. I miss those parts of a relationship. It’s hard to deny myself those wonderful things in an effort to save myself from the other stuff…the damaging stuff.

My good friend, Amy, wrote some wonderful thoughts about dating and relationships. She suggests that “we need to let go of our expectations and hold on to the reality of what our lives have become… I’m not going to say smile about it, because really, it’s not always easy to be alone” (Thompson, 2015). It’s not easy. But not all things are meant to be easy. I strongly believe that I deserve happiness. My goal now is to believe that personal happiness is not a byproduct of sacrificing all for the sake of another’s happiness. There’s no such thing as second-hand happiness.

Every time I hear the door of my apartment building open, I hope for just a second that it’s my person coming to save me from the demons of loneliness. I envy my neighbors who have more than just their own self to keep them company in the evening or on the weekend. Maybe someday I will have that. Maybe someday I will love myself enough to realize I deserve someone who wants my happiness as deeply as they want their own. Maybe someday.

 

References

Addict. (n.d.). In online Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/addict

Animate. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.dictionary.com/browse/animate

Desolate. (n.d.). In online Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/desolate

Hall, Karyn. (2013). Accepting Loneliness. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pieces-mind/201301/accepting-loneliness

Inspiring. (n.d.). In online Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/inspiring

Joyless. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/joyless

Lonely. (n.d.). In online Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lonely

MentalHelp.net. (2019). Definition of Addiction. Retrieved from https://www.mentalhelp.net/articles/definition-of-addiction/

Thompson, Amy. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/Goombasmom/posts/10157179571807845?comment_id=10157180441362845&notif_id=1546607601861178&notif_t=feedback_reaction_generic

Merry Christmas to the misunderstood and the lonely

It’s Christmas Eve. So many familiar songs of the season fill the air as families and friends gather to exchange gifts, eat good food, and enjoy each other’s company. In particular, the words by Noel Regney stand out to me today: “Do you see what I see… Do you hear what I hear… Do you know what I know…Listen to what I say…” (1962). Although I know mental health awareness was probably not on his mind when he penned those words, I can’t help but feel that countless people with mental illnesses can relate as we are struggling to “fit in” or simply survive this Christmas.

Seeing those bits of the song pulled out and pieced together, I see a plea for understanding. Experience truly is a brutal teacher. Those who have never experienced mental illness can sit next to someone with anxiety, yet have no notion of how consuming the illness can be. Those who have never experienced depression can sit next to someone with depression, yet have no understanding of the hopelessness that accompanies the illness. The same can be said of all mental illnesses. Unless you have walked in my shoes, you unfortunately will never understand just how deeply these issues influence every aspect of my life, including holidays with family and friends.

With this in mind, I thought I would write this short Christmas post to say “I get it” to those people out there who are struggling through Christmas feeling misunderstood or alone in their struggles. You are unique, as are your individual struggles, but you are not alone. I’m right there in the thick of it with you. There are a few things I try to do or to keep in mind at social events. Whether I am with a group of strangers or with people I have known my entire life, sometimes one or all are necessary. 

  1. Enjoy the little things – focus on how delicious your food tastes or the sound of Christmas carols in the background.
  2. Think about what is happening right now, rather than what could happen or what might have happened.
  3. Escape to a quiet area when a group setting becomes too overwhelming
  4. Establish an ally – someone you can pull aside if you need help getting out of an endless anxiety loop.
  5. Don’t be afraid to leave early if you need to do so for the sake of your mental health.
  6. Set boundaries – don’t participate in activities that make you too uncomfortable.

Finally, if anyone is reading this and is struggling to survive this Christmas, reach out to me. My email is tealmhawareness@gmail.com. You are not alone. I am happy to commiserate or talk about shared or different experiences or coping mechanisms. Christmas is about love and acceptance, not pain and loneliness.

References

Regney, Noel. (1962). Do You Hear What I Hear? Lyrics retrieved from https://www.lyrics.com/lyric/1449506/Star+Bright/Do+You+Hear+What+I+Hear-The+Little+Drummer+Boy