Psalm 23:4 (part 2)

Psalm 23:4 NKJV – Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil; For You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

I love that David is speaking out the truth over himself and his situation. In the first three verses, He speaks declaratively. I am cared for. I have everything that I need. I have safe places to rest and be renewed.

Have you ever done that? Especially when you are feeling exactly the opposite of what you are saying? I most definitely have.

When my feelings don’t line up with the truth in God’s word, you better believe that I speak His truth over my life.

In verse 4, David starts out by acknowledging the reality of his situation. It make look dire. You may be facing a difficult situation that feels like the end. You may see no positive ending in your future. I can imagine David, hiding in a cave believing that he would be captured and killed at any moment; or heading out to face Goliath the giant. In the natural, death was pretty likely in both those scenarios. David faced a lot of pretty discouraging and dangerous situations in his lifetime It would have been so easy to wallow. It would have been so easy to get stuck focusing on the reality of right now BUT….

David chose to believe that whqt God said was true and that He was going to believe His promises regardless of how awful the situation looked.

Have you walked through valleys in your life where it seemed like the end? Where the darkness of death hung over you. Maybe you’ve run out of money and can’t buy groceries or pay rent or bills? Maybe you are facing layoffs at work? Maybe you have a strained relationship that feels doomed? Maybe you are actually facing a life threatening illness? There are so many dark valleys that we face in our lives.

We get to choose how we act and react in every situation.

David speaks up again and says, “I will not fear.”

I think that all too often our first “ human” reaction is one of fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of lack. Fear of loss. Fear of death. Fear of feeling out of control. Fear can easily and quickly overwhelm us, making it impossible to even be able to think straight. Fear seems inevitable but God…

David says, “I will not fear because You (God) are with me.”

God is with us. The creator of heaven and earth is on our side. He loves us. He is our Protector. He is our Provider. He is our Defender. He is our Healer. He is our Strength. He has promised to never leave or abandon us. If we truly grasp the enormity of what this means and how great His love is for us, then we too can walk through life without fear.

The verse ends with Your rod and staff they comfort me. These were tools the Shepherd used to do his job. They indicated his authority as the Shepherd. It was his job to care for to protect, to guide, to comfort, to feed, to defend, to lead the sheep in his care. He used these tools to do exactly that.David knew all about caring for sheep. That was his job. It was his responsibility to care and protect for the sheep. The sheep trusted their shepherd. They knew the Shepherd’s voice and would go where He led because they trusted him. They felt safe and cared for. They knew that the Shepherd was reliable and dependable and loving and caring.

We can go through terrible, difficult times that feel like the the end of the world and trust that our Shepherd is always there for us, leading us and guiding us; and taking care of us.

It’s possible that there were times that David’s sheep had to walk through a treacherous pathway to get to a glorious meadow where they could rest and feed and care for their young. They may have needed to trust that even though it looked pretty dicy that the Shepherd knew what he was doing and that blessing and peace and rest was on the other side. If they would just trust and follow His voice, they would wind up in an incredible place.

Will we choose to trust that our Shepherd has our best interests at heart and follow where he leads no matter how dark it seems?

If we do, then we too can say,

Even when your path takes me through the valley of deepest darkness, fear will never conquer me, for you already have! Your authority is my strength and my peace. The comfort of your love takes away my fear. Psalm 23:4 TPT

Hurry Up and Wait

I woke up this morning from a sad dream. I’ll take those over nightmares any day but they are not my favourite kind of dream. I think the absolutely absurd ones are my favourite. Do you have a favourite kind of dream? Weird question, I know!

Anyway, back to my feelings! I felt sad and discouraged. It felt like my world was weighing so heavy on me.

I couldn’t easily shake the heaviness so I got up and got ready for the day. I grabbed a coffee and headed out to my garden. I watered a few plants, checked on my seedlings and then felt frustrated.

Some of my seeds sprouting

I was frustrated because I want them to be grown and mature plants producing beauty and nourishment.

I looked at my garden and felt irritated. You see, right now it’s in the beginning stages of growth. It looks an awful lot like “dirt”. The seeds are hidden and even the young plants are pretty sparse and gangly looking.

Cucumber seedling emerging

I know what it going’s to look like in a month from now. I planted healthy flower and vegetable seeds and it’s a certainty that at least some of them will grow. I also planted some more mature seedlings and provided that I tend to them and give them what they need, my backyard is going to be full of gorgeous greenery, flowers, veggies and herbs. There are going to be butterflies and bees flying around pollinating. Dragonflies will be zipping around and the ladybugs will be everywhere.

In less than a month, I’ll be harvesting salad and adding in herbs to my food. In 2 months, it will be even more stunning. I’ll have plants that reach over 6 feet tall and some that spread wide and it’s literally going to look like a garden oasis.

I can see it in my mind. I can picture myself drinking coffee in the morning or a glass of wine in the evening while I water plants or sit and relax.

But I’m impatient and I want it now. This all ties back to my dream. There are things I’m working toward and hope for that I don’t see the full fruition of and it’s easy to get discouraged if I get stuck in the here and now.

But I can trust that if I’m planting good seeds and tending to them; that the laws of sowing and reaping are as certain as the changing seasons. Even if I don’t know exactly how long the growth process is, I can trust and believe that at the right time, it will happen.

That’s easier said than done but I will keep reminding myself of this when I feel discouraged or frustrated. And I’ll try to remember that no amount of wishing or hoping or dreaming can make things happen any faster than they are supposed to.

Plant the seeds, nurture and tend to them until you see a harvest. It will happen.

Oh Disappointment.

I had an experience today where I felt misunderstood and I received (To be clear, it was never said that I was a disappointment. I would hazard a guess that I heard it through my own hurts and trauma) the message that I was a disappointment.

Oh my! Did that ever trigger me. I can feel myself spiralling downward and I don’t know how to stop it. Okay, let’s process this.

I can remember as a child, feeling like I’d disappointed people and it feeling devastating because I was trying my hardest to be good, to do good. The message I received was that “my good” wasn’t enough. That’s got to be so hard for a little one who is looking for worth and validation from those who love them.

How can that be? What would lead me to accept and believe that I’m not good enough? Did I feel rejected? Did I feel a relational separation or distance when disappointment was expressed?

That’s definitely another huge issue for me. I’m desperate to feel connected and accepted in relationship. Is that wrong? I don’t think it is. Isn’t that what we were created for? To be in relationship. If so, then a separation or distance would feel intolerable.

I wonder if, when I was a child, disappointment and relational distance was used in an effort to affect behaviour? I don’t believe it was done maliciously but I also don’t see how that is not traumatic regardless of intention. I can think of several instances where both disappointment and relational separation were used, at home, school and church. At that point, that was my whole life.

So how do I deal with this.

Well it sucks. It’s brutal to receive a message that indicates that you’re a disappointment and that the comfort and love that you crave and need in relational safety will be withheld if you displease someone.

When I think about the little parts of me. The small child that I was, my heart breaks for her. No child should feel like they are a disappointment. No child should receive the message that they aren’t good enough and no child should be left to figure out relationship on their own.

I can’t fathom doing that to my kids. There are times when I’ve been disappointed in their actions and I’ve tried so desperately hard to pull them close and indicate that I love them even if I didn’t particularly like a choice or action they made in the moment. I’ve tried to make it abundantly clear that they aren’t defined by any one action and that my love for them never changes. I communicate that I see the good in them and I speak it out over them. I want them to hear and know and believe that they are the incredible people that I see them as.

So how do I do this for myself.

Well, I guess a start could be reminding myself of all the good that I do see in me. I can speak out over myself that I am a good person. I am loving and kind, considerate, thoughtful, and encouraging. I want to do my best and to be my best.

And, I guess it’s possible that my best might not always be appreciated or accepted or even good enough for others. While I might wish that I was always appreciated and accepted and seen as good enough, the mature adult parts of me can recognize that’s not really realistic or even really necessary.

Oh but to the small parts of me it sure feels necessary, sometimes. Those wounded parts want to feel loved and safe and connected.

So, I will tend to those parts of me. I will be gentle with myself and compassionate towards myself and show love to myself. I will act towards myself in ways that foster relationship and connection, especially with the small parts of me who struggle to believe. Because I am good enough and I am worthy of love and connection. Even when I struggle to believe and assimilate it, it’s still true. I will look for those who are gentle and compassionate and loving towards me and I will notice and be so thankful for every interaction that affirms the truth.

I am a blessing. I am loved. I am cared for. I am safe. I am good.

Getting Started

Someone recently shared a photo with a book that I was intrigued by.

I love writing and I’m tired of feeling burnt out. This book “Journal Therapy for Overcoming Burnout” hits both of those issues and so I went onto Amazon and purchased it. I opened it up, sighed and put it on my bedside table; where I’ve looked at it every day for almost 2 weeks but done nothing with it.

Why would I be needing a burnout journal? Isn’t everyone kind of a little stressed? It’s been a hell of a past couple of years with the pandemic , no? When you add in all the previous life adventures that we’ve been through, it’s a wonder I haven’t crashed and burned long before now.

Well, honestly, I did

In fact last summer, I crashed and burned in the most spectacular way. By spectacular, I mean devastating. I kept going trying to “take care” of everything and everyone except myself, until I couldn’t any longer.

It’s been a tough year, as I navigate the fallout from the crash and attempt to “do life” in a way that is honouring to both me and those I love.

I want to be the very best version of me that I can be. I believe that I am kind and considerate, compassionate, caring, understanding, respectful, loving, encouraging and many other wonderful descriptive words.

My own childhood traumas and triggers have me doubting whether anyone else sees me the way I do and if for some reason they don’t see the good in me, am I delusional? Am I actually a bad person? I can’t fathom that and yet, those little parts of me seek approval and can’t quite believe that they are good enough to be loved and accepted. It sucks.

Sometimes…..most of the time, I want to dive head first into pursuit of emotional healing and other times the insecure parts of me feel overwhelmed and fearful that there is just going to be more pain and hurt. I feel like I’ve experienced at least “a world of hurt” and probably deserve a short break from it.

I don’t think that’s how life works though and I’m more than willing to put in the work necessary because I want my best life and I’m responsible for creating it.

So, I sat down for 5 minutes this morning. Read through day 1 and wrote for 3 minutes. It wasn’t nearly as hard or difficult as I had made it out to be.

Sometimes, we just need to get started. Even if we do it scared. Especially when we know we will benefit.

Is there something you’ve been putting off that you know will benefit you? Is there a small first step that you can take? Sometimes, I find that “putting it out there” helps to hold you accountable or gives you that “kick in the butt” to get going.

Why the Focus on Gratitude (Part 5)

The title doesn’t really fit because I’m not focusing on the “Why” aspect of Gratitude, but to keep it as part of the series we’re just going to go with it.

I love talking about how practising Gratitude helps me but I REALLY LOVE sharing practical ideas and ways to help others put the practise into action so that they can see and receive the benefits for yourself.

There are many different ways to go about putting a practise of Gratitude into action but before I offer practical ideas; I have some suggestions for you to think through.

I talk about a “practise of Gratitude” because we as humans are hardwired with a negativity bias. It’s easy for us to focus on the negatives in life, on those things that aren’t going well; and even if you get to a place where gratitude seems to be a habit (a behaviour or action that is repeated almost subconsciously); it’s likely that when life becomes stressful or overwhelming, the natural wiring of our systems will revert back to negativity. This is where a “Practise” or purposing to do things differently from before with the intention of getting better is so important and helpful.

You actually need both Habits and Practise to be successful.

One cool thing about Gratitude is that when we practise being grateful, the brain releases dopamine and serotonin and those two “happy chemicals” make us feel good. It’s an instant boost to your mood. When you’re struggling, that’s a really good thing. However, when you’re struggling, if you don’t have habits to fall back on or a plan in place, it’s way too easy to slip back into “Stinking Thinking”. Oh, I’ve been there way too many times. It’s not beneficial or helpful.

So, my suggestions are:

  1. Determine what you want
  2. Decide how often you are going to practise
  3. Create a Plan
  4. Have a support system
  5. Continue on regardless

I’d suggest either writing it down or just getting super clear with your intentions. I like to write so I’d probably write in a journal, something like this…

I want to start a daily practise of Gratitude because I want to improve my mental health and be more aware and focused on the good things in my life even when things are tough. For the next 30 days, I’m going to share, every day, with my family and friends on Social Media, a photo of something I’m grateful for and describe what I’m thankful for and why. Even if I miss a day, I’m going to carry on. I don’t have to “make up” the missed day but I can if I want. I’m going to try and find something to be grateful for before noon and will definitely take a few moments before bedtime to think back through my day, if I haven’t already posted.

The reason I do this is to get clear with myself, what my intentions are. It’s so much easier to stick to it, if you create a clear plan. You don’t have to write anything down, just getting clear with yourself is enough. Then, get started and make it happen.

Different ways that I’ve heard of or seen people practising gratitude.

  1. Write in a journal – Start your morning or end your day with a couple of things that you are thankful for. It could be a list, bullet points, a paragraph or even a drawing.
  2. List on the fridge – I’ve seen lists on a fridge of the things people are thankful for. You open and close the fridge multiple times a day and it’s pretty central and prompts you to do it when you walk by. Plus seeing a piece of paper fill up as you create the list is so satisfying.
  3. Gratitude Jar – Get a decent sized jar, some scraps of paper and a pen, set them on your table. This could even be a family project and again, its so satisfying to see the jar fill with all the reasons you are thankful. When it’s full or at the end of the allotted time, take them out, read through and remind yourself of all the good in your life.
  4. Digital Images or Memes – This is one of my favourites. I take of picture of something that I am thankful for and create a digital memory. You can take the images and put them together in a photo book when you have enough and it’s a great reminder and keepsake.
  5. Post on Social Media – Social media is filled with garbage and negativity. Can you imagine how inspiring it would be to see 4 or 5 of your friends or colleagues posting daily about the things they were grateful for. You can be part of that. Make it happen.
  6. Sticky Notes – Get a pad of sticky notes and write down what you are grateful for. Stick them to a wall in your 0ffice, or bedroom or bathroom. Put them someplace where you will notice them and as you add more and more it will encourage you and those who see, to be thankful.
  7. Poster – Purchase one of those huge sheets of cardstock from the dollar store, decorate it however you want and start writing all the things you are thankful on it.

You could just hold a memory in your mind, create a word document on your computer, send an email or daily letter to yourself, create a Group on a social media platform, paint, draw or choose something else entirely.

I find that doing something tangible really helps me. To see a journal, jar or wall fill up or a list get longer encourages me to keep going and it reminds me by just being out and in my field of vision.

While you are putting this practise into play, there’s a good chance you might miss a day or forget. JUST! KEEP! GOING! Think about it like this, when a baby is learning to walk, we encourage them over and over and over. We champion them. We prop them up and when they take one or two steps together, we cheer “They’re walking!” Then they fall. We tell everyone we know that the baby is walking, even though they only took two steps in a row. Why? Because we believe they are going to get it. We prop them back up and encourage them to keep going because we know, we are CERTAIN they are going to do it.

We don’t turn away in disgust and say, “You stupid baby. You fell. You’re never going to get this. You failed and you might as well just give up.

So, believe in yourself as much as you’d believe in that baby. Encourage yourself with as much fanfare as you would that sweet babe because YOU ARE WORTH IT.

You’ve got this! I believe in you.

Why the Focus on Gratitude? (Part 3)

Thanks for the love and support on my previous post! It’s meaningful to hear (or read) your messages and comments. I share because I know I’m not alone on this journey; but at one point, I thought I was and that felt awful.

If my sharing helps even one person to know that they’re not alone, or if it helps explain what it’s like to live with this aspect of mental illness to someone who doesn’t understand, or if it raises awareness or even opens conversation, then it’s worth it.

I previously mentioned all the things I use to help me cope. Things like therapy, medications, exercise, diet, journaling, sleep, nature, being present and gratitude all contribute to a healthier, happier me.

I could spend a long time talking about the journey from where I was to where I am now, and how I got here. Maybe I will add to this series but the point was…

Why do I Focus on Gratitude?

Why? Because I believe that practising gratitude has made a HUGE difference in my life.

I have had my share of struggles and challenges. In Jan 2005, our 4th child, Nathaniel, was stillborn. That rocked my world. We never got a clear reason why. It was “just one of those things that happened” according to the drs. It was devastating. After that, we tried to have another baby. I got pregnant 4 more times over the next 2 years and lost them all. Again, Drs had no answers. The 5th time was the charm and Josiah was born in 2007.

To say that my mental health was challenged during this time was an understatement. I was sad and grieving but also, anxiety was at an all time high. It was not a great time for me. I spent the 9 months of Josiah’s pregnancy terrified that he was going to die. I had brutal rumination every waking moment of the day. Combine that with 9 months of “all day” sickness and you have yourself a serious party. I was desperately wishing for a dr. to admit me to the hospital because I felt insane, all of the time.

I was so thankful that Siah was born healthy and was finally earth side but the years of intense anxiety had done a number on my brain. I was terrified that something might happen to him; and that we might lose him too. I was severely anxious all the time and basically white knuckling it to make it through each day. At this point, I didn’t have an anxiety diagnosis. I wasn’t on meds. This was part of my, “it’s normal to feel anxious after you’ve lost a baby and I should be able to handle this better than I am.” period of life. I just had no clue what “better” could look like.

In June 2010, our eldest was diagnosed with Leukemia, one week before Judah (our 5th child) was born. Talk about holding space for conflicting emotions, we had the immeasurable joy of one child being born combined with the heart wrenching pain of seeing another fighting for their life.

The birth wasn’t what I had planned. Going home alone after the birth wasn’t what I had planned. Parenting 4 kids alone wasn’t what I had planned. Nothing was going according to my plans.

I’m a hard core planner. Well, I was. Now I’m more of a loose planner who hopes for the best but is willing to flow with whatever because I’m aware that I have absolutely no control in this life.

One afternoon, a couple of months into the cancer journey, I felt like I was approaching rock bottom. I was exhausted, depressed, hopeless, devastated, I felt alone and unsure as to how I was possibly going to do “this”. It was too much. Way too much. I couldn’t fathom carrying on but I didn’t have any other choice.

I have no idea why, but I picked up my camera. I determined in myself, to capture 10 photos of things around my home that brought me joy.

A Rainbow of Cloth Diapers

I purposed to take pictures of the beautiful things in my life, no matter how mundane or ordinary. In fact, I was looking for the things that most people would gloss over.

A sleeping baby

My life felt like it was a run away train barrelling towards a cliff and there was nothing I could do to change where I was at.

Perfectly clean floors

I had no control over anything. I was helpless and hopeless; or was I? I couldn’t change my circumstances but I could change what I was focused on. Even if it was for just brief moments of time, I could focus on the beauty around me.

Perfectly moist Banana Muffin

I could shift my focus from the chaos, devastation and difficulties surrounding me and seek out the good, the beauty, the light. I could choose to be thankful for any little thing that I could find.

It took a bit for me to get started because I was so used to seeing all the bad things that were happening; but once I got started it got easier.

My gorgeous backyard

I honestly believe that practicing gratitude saved me. It didn’t change my circumstances. Things were still SO tough. I was still overwhelmed. I was still exhausted and had no idea how I was going to carry on but purposely shifting my focus from negative to positive, even for a moment, gave me a brief moment of respite.

My Sweet Jeremy – age 10

That brief moment of gratitude filled my heart and soul with happiness. Even though nothing had changed externally; internally, there was a shift. A minute and fleeting shift but a shift none-the-less.

I’d love to say that from that moment on everything was sunshine and roses. Um…but it wasn’t. And honestly, that was just the beginning of my gratitude journey. It was a brief foray into the world of living with gratitude.

The “cancer years” were a pretty dark time. And although I did practise gratitude sporadically, and mostly when things got really dire; it wasn’t until a couple of years later that I attempted my first 30 days of Gratitude.

That’s when I really started to realize how powerful and life changing it could be.

Why the Focus on Gratitude? (Part 2)

Where were we?

Oh yes, in hell.

Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? Are you ready for a story? It’s a scary story.

Ok, it’s not horrifying but it’s my reality and it’s exhausting and when I get overwhelmed by anxiety, it’s really, really hard to deal with.

In bed with a migraine – March 2022

My Brain: There’s something wrong with you. You probably have cancer.

Me: I have a headache. It’s a migraine. I’ve been getting them for years. I’ll just took a med and I’ll take it easy and be fine.

My Brain: Ya, but what causes it. No one else in your family gets migraines. Not like you do. It’s probably a brain tumour.

Me: It’s a hormonal migraine. I get them every single month around this time. It’s annoying and yea, I wish I didn’t deal with them but with meds, it’s manageable. Relax!

You have no idea if it’s a tumour or not. It’s not like you can see inside your head or like you have a diagnostic tool you can easily access. You could have one growing and have no idea.

It’s not a tumour.

You got dizzy when you stood up from bed this morning and your hand was going tingly and numb. You even felt nauseous.

I have always felt dizzy when I stand up too fast, that’s nothing new. Thank you, POTS. My hand was numb because I was sleeping on it. And I only felt like I was going to puke, when I was brushing my teeth. Stupid gag reflex from being sick during my whole pregnancies. There is nothing new to be worried about.

The fact that you are downplaying all of this means that when you finally take things seriously, it’s going to be too late. It’s probably already too late.

Me: I’m fine. You really need to stop this. It’s not helping. There’s nothing wrong and you know it. This is your brain lying to you.

Also Me: Ya, but what if that’s right? If I discount my worries then how will I know if there is a problem. I’ll just tell myself to ignore my intuition and end up not being able to be treated before it’s too late.

My Brain: If it’s a brain tumour it’s too late anyway. Not like you’re beating that. It’s probably skin cancer that has metastasized into your brain. You’re totally screwed. You have way too many freckles and moles.

Me: Are you kidding? How can I possibly be having this conversation with myself? I’m crazy. I’m absolutely crazy. I’m bullying myself and I can’t possibly “out-think” myself. This is ridiculous. How can I make this stop?

Ocean Sunrise – April 2023

This type of conversation with myself could and would happen for 18+ hours a day. While I’m making breakfast or dinner, taking kids to school, folding laundry, watching TV, driving to an appt… just loops and loops and loops. When it’s really bad, I can’t seem to stop the conversation or thoughts. It keeps me awake at night thinking through worst case scenarios. It wakes me up, if I do get to sleep; and it’s really difficult to find something that distracts me from the rumination.

Now, I don’t actually hear voices and it’s all me; but I have felt like I’m warring against myself for as long as I can remember. It’s traumatic. Imagine feeling like you are in a battle or war for years and years and years. Imagine the mental gymnastics when you contemplate that it’s yourself that you are fighting against. How do you protect yourself from yourself? Is it even possible to do?

The ruminating could be about a conversation that I had with someone and parts of me are trying to convince me that I messed up and the other person thinks I’m awful. It could be about any health issue imaginable. It could be that one of my kids is sick. (That particular one is hard because one of my kids did get life threateningly sick and so I know that it’s a real possibility and not just an imaginary thought.) It could be that a neighbour is annoyed with us for some weird reason like my kid was too loud. Most of the things I worry about are either health or socially related. Once in a blue moon, I might have a bizarre thought, like the wheels of my car might all come off at once while I’m driving; but that’s ludicrous enough that I can laugh it off. The ones that are hardest to deal with are the ones with a tinge of truth or possibly reality to them. Those are particularly difficult to shake. I can’t just “logic” myself to not worry.

It’s exhausting. It’s like the alarm system in my brain is set to a hair trigger release and it fires at the slightest issue. Once it gets going, it’s so difficult to get it turned off.

I’m fortunate enough to currently be in a good space. I have the right meds on board. I’m fairly balanced and stable. I’m not currently in a state of rumination but, it also seems to cycle. Winters and our rainy season are particularly hard on my mental health but summers have been tough, too. I’ve had a number of summers where I seriously contemplated checking myself into a hospital because I could not get my mind to settle and it was so overwhelming that I could hardly cope.

Knowing that summers have been tough and knowing that summer is coming, I’m preparing as best I can. I’m doing as many “right things” as I can. Not in a frantic or panicked way, I’m just trying to make good choices. Eating better, getting enough sleep, exercise, journaling, therapy, medication, getting outside, practicing gratitude and staying present.

I wouldn’t say that any one thing is my magic elixir that makes everything all better; but each thing layers on top of an other and together they are more effective than any one thing on their own.

Part 3 tomorrow…don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions!

Why the focus on Gratitude? (Part 1)

I talk a lot about gratitude. I truly believe it’s life changing and has even been life saving for me.

I don’t entirely understand why my brain works the way it does. I mean, I know that there are chemicals and hormones at play and they require balance in order to work properly. I just don’t know why my brain isn’t balanced and working properly all on its own.

There are aspects of the way my brain works that I adore. There are other aspects of the way my brain works that feel devastating.

I love the way I can remember things. I love that I am continually hungry for knowledge. I love the way my brain seeks out puzzles to solve in efficient and effective ways.

I also find it devastating. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have ruminating thoughts. I, sometimes, wonder what I was like as a child. I have memories but not a clear grasp of who I was. If there was a before and now I’m living in the after? Or if I always felt like this? I don’t know. I have nothing that I would consider a significant traumatic event, that might signify a “before” and having watched my kids grow up with anxiety and other mental health challenges, I believe that a huge part of my story is genetic.

Chemical deficits that lead to faulty wiring in my brain and body; or maybe generational trauma, but that’s getting deeper and headier than I was planning on getting in this post.

Regardless of the why, I’ve experienced anxiety and rumination for as long as I can remember.

For the most part, it’s under control. But I’m ever so aware, that this stability isn’t guaranteed. I don’t know exactly what triggers it but when it happens, it feels like it blindsides me.

I know it sounds strange to say that’s a good thing, but it is. I, now, have periods of time where I’m not ruminating and that’s incredible; because I have had periods of time, in my past, where I couldn’t stop the thoughts from looping.

I think the hardest part of this was growing up thinking that everybody experienced this and that they were just doing a better job of managing it than I was. I thought everybody’s brain worked like mine and they could cope a lot better than I could. I felt defective, and not capable enough to handle the regular every day pressures of life; but everybody else was doing it, so I just needed to try harder and be better.

I had no clue that it wasn’t normal to over think and over analyze every conversation you had. To pick apart everything you said and did; and based on that information, to judge yourself as lacking, foolish, inept, and basically just so stupid. I had no idea that most people didn’t hyper fixate on every social interaction and determine that others were judging you for slight social miscalculations or flubbed non-verbal nuances. That was just my normal.

But my normal was often hell. (to be continued)


Dear 16 year old me,

You’re gonna be okay. These overwhelming feeling of insecurity and intrusive thoughts are part of a life long anxiety disorder, probably a chemical imbalance and you will eventually figure that out. You’re not broken or awful.

It’s okay that you’ve not had a boyfriend, yet. You’re going to find an incredible boy who will grow up to be an even more incredible man. You are gorgeous, smart and powerful. It’s okay to be a strong woman. Your strength will serve you well in the future. You don’t have to pretend to be something you’re not and who you are, is incredible. You’ve got this!

Dear 26 year old me,

3 kids, eh? You’re a rockstar!

That littlest one you’re holding?!? He is going to teach you more than you ever imagined was possible. You are going to learn patience and compassion, communication, persistence, gentleness, love, and so much more.

You’ve got a lot of life ahead of you and lots that I wish I could protect you from. You’re in for a world of heartbreak, trauma and devastation; but the flip side of all of that hurt is the most glorious awareness of grace and mercy. You are going to learn to love, have compassion and care for others in a way that will rock your world, in the best way possible.

That strength I mentioned earlier, it will do you well as we navigate these dark days ahead. You will survive. I promise. Even though it may feel like you could die from the pain and heartbreak, I can promise you that you won’t. You’ve got this!

Dear 36 year old me,

Can you believe that we have 5 incredible kids? Those 2 miracle boys born after all those losses…..AMAZING, eh? It’s a lot of work, but this second round of parenting is so much easier than the first round, isn’t it?

You thought the losses were tough but you’ve got another decade of unfathomable heart break. Between 3 years of Pediatric Cancer treatment, the physical, mental and emotional fallout from the treatment, mental health issues, trauma, school issues, and so much more – this is the decade that is going to really test you. Even though you will feel that you are walking a fine line between surviving and breaking, you will survive.

This is the decade that you learn just exactly how strong you are. Even if you wish you weren’t as strong because you’re exhausted and sometimes you wish it would all just go away or stop – you’ve got this. One day, one hour, one moment, one breath at a time. Breathe girl, breathe! This season won’t last forever.

Dear 46 year old me,

I truly wonder what this next decade will bring. I’d like to believe that the pain of the previous 2 decades will lighten up some. It’s been intense enough to last a lifetime. But the gifts that have come along side the pain have been glorious. In spite of all that we’ve been through, we’ve had the most incredible life and it’s not over yet!

You are wise! You are strong! You are brave! You are beautiful! Trust yourself! Trust your instincts! Believe in yourself! Believe that you have a voice! Believe that your dreams are valid and important! Believe that you can affect positive change in the world! Believe that you are a strong and powerful women. Know that your strength is one of your super-powers. Keep going to counselling! Keep reaching for inner healing! Have patience with yourself! You are a work in progress. You’ve got this!

Waiting For the End…or the Beginning

With 2 weeks left in this year, I’m desperate for the year to be over.

I’m exhausted. I’m overwhelmed. I miss hugging the people I love. I miss…..everything. I miss normalcy. I miss the way it used to be.

Too often I feel miserable!

Not the sad, despondent kind of misery but the angry, annoyed, grouchy kind of miserable.

It doesn’t really make sense to be wishing this year away because between December 31, 2020 and January 1, 2021 nothing magical will have changed. There will be no “returning to normal.”

I think what I’m desperately seeking is HOPE.

Hope that things will be better.
Hope that things will get easier.
Hope that things will change.

I’m so tired of “holding it together”.
I want to cry when my kids start to squabble.
I want to send them to their rooms just so I won’t have to muster up the energy to help them navigate their own feelings of exhaustion and stress.

I want to be on a beach, in the sun, doing nothing.
I want a magically clean house.
I want time to be able to take care of my responsibilities.
And the energy to actually do them.

I want space to breathe without feeling like I’m gasping for air.
I want space to be able to paint and draw and write.
I want to feel like I’m enjoying life and not like I’m constantly having to search for the glimmer of light within the darkness.

There is no “returning to normal.” I’ve been through enough trauma and tragedy to know that life doesn’t work like that. I know that holding on to the idea that things will go back to the way they were is not helpful for me. I need to grieve what has been lost and move forward. To find and create a new normal; but that’s not always easy…….

I’m tired.
I’m so very tired.
And that’s okay.

It’s been a tiring year.

Maybe in the “waiting for the end”; I’m also waiting for the beginning of what is to come.