I was listening to Bethel this morning (it’s my go-to, especially when I’m struggling with my mental/spiritual health), & the lyrics, “with every breath that I am able, I will sing of the goodness of God,” resonated with me. Breathing seems so ordinary until you can’t do it, right? Like, we just expect lungs to inflate & deflate. We expect the transition of oxygen to our cells to be seamless, to be subconscious, until it’s not.
When you’re aware of every breath, it’s stressful–>which can contribute to anxiety–>which also makes it hard to breathe…But singers gotta sang, right?!?
Worshippers HAVE to worship. It’s how we’re wired–it’s what God made us to do, even those of us that may only sound mediocre to others. When He makes you to do something, He shuts that fire up in your bones and it HAS to come out, even when you don’t think you’re able.
If you cut the hands off of a drummer, they will rig a set and keep a rhythm with their feet (just ask Rick Allen). They literally have cadence running through their veins–try sitting next to my sister during ANY kind of musical performance. She will tap on whatever is handy, impulsively. I think she probably taps rhythms out while she sleeps–it’s who she is. She. Is. A. Drummer. It’s who God made her to be, regardless of the job that pays the bills. When God creates you to worship Him in a certain way, it consumes your entire being.
I have always been surrounded by music. I remember singing Gatlin Brothers songs while washing the dishes, or The Oak Ridge Boys, or even Madonna, Skynyrd, or Cash. Church hymns line the wrinkles of my brain–“The Old Rugged Cross,” or “In the Garden.” My mom’s harmony laid the path for my own, & the Baptist church I was raised in taught me deep lyrics & rich melodies, & how they all worked together to worship Jesus. For my sister, it was the rhythms and the guitars. For me, it was the voices, and since I can remember, I have sang my lungs out whenever possible…
But sometimes, I can’t.
Asthma is a jerk–I’ve made it no secret just how I feel about the contemptable beast. Most of the time, I go on uninterrupted. No one would know I actually have a partially-paralyzed vocal chord from my cancer surgery. I sound almost normal, and God knows I haven’t lost a lot of volume (in short bursts). Vocally (when I can breathe), although I’ve lost a lot of power and duration, things sound almost the same, which had originally stressed me out the most about the surgery. I don’t even think about that, most of the time. Breathing, however, is another story. Vocal chords work based on how air moves between them. Asthma likes to rear its ugly head this time of the year, & this time it’s BAD–like, ER, steroids, and more steroids bad. Nothing really seems to be touching it, & I’m struggling with worrying about it (amongst the stress of everything else). “With every breath that I am able?” Oh, Jesus, what if I’m not?!?
Then we praise Him in the silence.
We praise Him with our voices, and when those run out, we find other ways to give Him glory, whether it’s a blog or a note to a friend, or a silent prayer, or even just a hug to someone who needs it. We praise Him with whatever we can do or find, because regardless of the method or ability, IT’S WHO HE MADE US TO BE.
So, “with every breath that I am able, I WILL sing of the goodness of God,” even when I can’t breathe, even when I’m stressed, even when I’m run-down, and even when I don’t think I can function. He still is, and I am still who He created me to be. I’m going to push aside the emotional aspects of this, and focus on that.
In the month of June, for multiple reasons, I had a mental health freakout. My anxiety hit the roof, I wound up face-to-face with unresolved childhood trauma; there were parenting crises, & things at work were coming to a boiling point. When one area of my life goes haywire, I can generally process. When EVERY area of my life goes haywire?!?!?! My brain broke.
I wound up reaching out to my pastors, a counselor, & a friend; they all counseled me to take a break, & after pushing the guilt to the back-burner I asked my boss if I could take 4 vacation days over the Fourth of July holiday.
Those four days turned into TWENTY.
For my first day of my vacation, I spent an entire day with my mom. I had her ALLLLLL to myself! We had an amazing time, shared stories, had some adventures, got the car stuck on the side of the road in no-man’s land, & I cherished every single minute. I love my mom, & I love learning from her. It looked like this break was going to be awesome!
On the second day of my self-imposed mental health break, I received a text that my son had been directly exposed to COVID. My initial reaction was, “Oh. Well, I guess that’s really nothing new.” It’s not that I didn’t take it seriously–rather, we’d been so good about masks, hand-washing, etc. The environment in which he had been exposed was a small group of kids and 2-3 adults. I notified my family, but that same day I received word that I needed around $2000 in car repairs, so I had more pressing things on my plate…or so I thought. Two days later, our plans for celebrating the Fourth with my family moved forward as usual.
We spent most of the time outside, and my parents have a large, airy house. Towards midday, I looked at my son & thought, “He seems off. NO WAY.” Out loud, I said, “Mom, do you have a thermometer?”
Lo & behold, my beloved boy had a temp of 102. The bottom fell out of my stomach, & the anxiety hit me like a punch from Conor McGregor. My mom looked at me and immediately prayed; we gave Jericho some aspirin & began hourly temperature checks. We kept him hydrated; outside of the fever & a lack of appetite, he was as keenly interested in the fireworks as ever before, and in less than 24 hours, he was perfectly fine. Whew!!!! We’d spent a lot of time outdoors, so maybe it was just a sinus bug? The next day, we went to the zoo (we were masked), & all seemed fine! He seemed a bit crankier than usual, but it was bloody HOT, so it wasn’t completely out of the norm. Life moved on.
The next day, I had some tests to run at the hospital. I’ve had a lot of issues with pain and inflammation this year, particularly in regards to my legs. The cramping, aches, and stabbing pains have left me unable to rest, & that’s contributed to my mental health struggles. The testing took two hours; after I left, I noticed that I wasn’t feeling all that great. I stopped and got what seemed like a super-bland lemon-berry slush, & made my way through the hell we all know as Wal-Mart. By the time I got to the car, I felt like I was coming down with the flu–I still hadn’t put it together.
The following morning, I had a telehealth appointment. By the end of it, it was determined that I had better get tested; I was supposed to return to the office the next day. I opted for a rapid test & set up the appointment for later that afternoon. By the time of the appointment, I couldn’t drive, & had to ask David to come and get me. The test, to my surprise, was positive.
I spent the next 5 days in bed…& somewhere in there, David got sick as well (he never bothered to get tested). I stayed in bed from Wednesday evening through Monday afternoon.
People, COVID sucks. If you haven’t had it, it’s horrible. I am still pretty sure that the three of us had a more moderate version of it in February, 2020; I thought I had it again last November, but I never tested positive. THIS, though? This has been infinitely worse than both respiratory things I had in February & in November. It’s been 3 weeks; I still have major chest tightness and unrelenting fatigue. I feel like my lungs have been destroyed by a cheese grater. David still has a cough, along with the fatigue. We haven’t gone ANYWHERE with the exception of work & Jericho’s summer school, since the holiday weekend. I tried to go into a store last week, but couldn’t do it. It’s bad enough that I asked my sister to take Jericho for the weekend just so we could rest & sleep (she’s NEVER cared for him on her own before, so this was a huge ask. Not only did she volunteer to take him for the whole weekend–I had initially only asked her to take him for a day–she knocked it out of the park! They had a TON of fun, & the pictures are awesome!! She braved Sky Zone!!!!!), and so that Jericho could get out of the house.
If I didn’t have a nebulizer, albuterol, & a CPAP machine, I don’t think David or I would have been able to avoid the hospital. I have monitored our oxygen saturation like a vulture. We both have medical appointments at the end of this week that will make sure we’re recovering, but seeing David as sick as he’s been? That’s been terribly alarming to me. He’s never really sick, & he’s terrible about taking anything when he is. We’re both exhausted. The reports that this can take a long time to come back from are not anything I want to read–ain’t anybody got time for this!!!!! Neither one of us can taste or smell anything properly, which I suppose is fantastic for the diet; it’s frustrating for me, because I like food!!!!!! And when you have a taste for something, but can’t taste it?!? ACK!
I personally think COVID was designed from the pits of hell. It’s debilitating, demoralizing, destructive, & deadly. All of the conflicting information, the division, the inconsistencies–I am sick & tired of reading about masks, vaccines, incentives, etc., because from the very beginnings of this mess, the “facts” have constantly changed. I’ve been dragged for being unvaccinated–if I’m willing to keep wearing masks and washing my hands, why do I need to be vaccinated? I’d rather do that, than inject something into my system that is proving to have inconsistent results. And now that I’ve got all of these lovely antibodies, it’s giving me more time to think about the vaccine, the information, the consequences, and the benefits. I’m the type of person that the more something is pushed, the more likely I am to take a step back & say, “wait a minute.” Vaccine incentives & the constant propaganda is off-putting to me, especially based on government involvement. I’m completely content to do my part to reduce the spread/exposure by wearing masks and washing my hands (and social distancing–I love social distancing), & I feel like that’s generally enough–isn’t that what they told us for the first 10 months of this mess?
We take preventative measures to protect ourselves & others. I’m not an anti-vaxxer, but I am someone who has been known to have the weirder, more rare reactions to various drugs, & I don’t want to take any chances. Wearing a mask has zero side-effects to me (I know that’s not the case for everyone) & I am happy to do so. I’m not going to rail on anyone who doesn’t want to wear one (but I will not hesitate to tell you to step off if we’re indoors & you’re not wearing one, ‘k? I’m not getting this crap again).
With all of the preventative measures that David & I were taking, we still got COVID (and it’s pretty clear to me that we got it through our son). With vaccines, people are STILL getting breakthrough cases of COVID. It’s become very, very evident that the designs of this disease are just evil, & even with all of the things we try to do to comply and/or to prevent, it’s mutating past the expectations. I don’t honestly have a lot of hope for a COVID-free future.
Please take every preventative measure you can take! Get your vitamin C (it’s particularly good for the lungs), get your N-Acetyl-Cysteine. Boost your immune system (chiropractic adjustments have been shown to boost your immune systems!), wash your hands, wear your mask if you want. Be cognizant of your surroundings and your distance from people, even when you’re outdoors. Know that your kids can be little germ vessels, and help them take personal responsibility for their hygiene–I think that’s the one area where we let our guard down.
COVID SUCKS. Period. David & I are trying to get back to “normal” at a much slower pace. To everyone who has reached out in prayer; to the family that dropped off an amazing meal; to the friends who gave us an Instacart gift card; to INSTACART: THANK YOU. We have appreciated all of the love, prayers, and support. Please be patient with us as we try to get caught up on things & as we try to get some energy back. This feels like a long road to come back from, & I feel like we’re going to need a lot of grace with ourselves and from others!
After losing my Uncle Charlie last week, my Aunt Bonnie passed away this week. I wasn’t “close” to either of them, but they were still people in my circle, and still people that I knew and laughed with at family functions. I’m not going to be falsely dramatic and say that I’m devastated, etc., because it’s not true; however, any time you lose someone in your circle….someone you’re connected to, in any way…there’s a sadness and a sense of loss. Both my aunt and my uncle were on different sides of my family (my maternal uncle, and my biologically-paternal aunt). They both had wicked senses of humor (I still remember my Uncle Charlie making fun of my parents’ Christian bumper stickers on the “church van” one Christmas, LOL), and my Aunt Bonnie had a laugh you could hear 3 houses down. I think we may have had that in common. Family relationships can be complicated and tangled, and hard to explain–but they’re still family, regardless of whether you see them every few years, or every day.
My family, like many others (but few that I know of, directly) contains adopted family members, step-family members, biological family members, and a few people that we aren’t technically related to, but may as well be. We’re a mid-western melting pot. I remember being so sad about it when I was a kid; everyone in my tiny school had one mom, and one dad, and 2 sets of grandparents, and “normal.” What the heck is “normal,” now? I was sad because I was 7 or 8, and I didn’t understand what a blessing it was, to have so much variety in the definition of that word: “Family.”
“Family” means a lot of different things (and it sure as heck isn’t defined by blood, because that doesn’t BEGIN to make sense in many families). For me, it’s primarily that nuclear group that’s “in my bubble,” thanks to COVID: Mom, Dad, Sister, Husband, Son, Extra Parents. My in-laws, whom I haven’t seen since March because of COVID, are in that group, and I miss them. I miss all of them.
I think that missing friends and family magnifies any loss, even when you’re not that close to someone. This crazy COVID world has us all on edge, all isolated and spread apart, and all feeling the tinges of loneliness (for some, it’s much more than “tinges”). I had a moment yesterday where I was almost in tears, because I miss my friends; I miss spending my Friday afternoons having lunch with friends, getting things off of my chest and/or listening to them do the same.
I miss planning play dates with my kiddo (WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO OVER CHRISTMAS BREAK?!?!?!?!?!). I miss calling someone and saying, “Hey, can we come over?” (Let’s be truthful–I almost never call anyone and say, “hey, come over to my house!!” because I have no parking and I feel self-conscious about the mess of having 3 people crammed into a very small space. But if I COULD call someone and say, “Hey, wanna come over?” I’M AT THE POINT WHERE I WOULD.).
So, this is a short blog (for me). I’m sort of “in the mullygrubs,” as we say (but not at the point where I’m sobbing into my morning coffee. Maybe this blog is a way to get it out of my system before I get that far?). I know of a few people that are really struggling in this season–from loss, from the election issues, from winter blahs, whatever. This tends to be a season where many have a hard time finding their joy in a “normal year,” but this year? There are some dark struggles happening, and the spiritual/mental battles being waged are MAJOR. We’re a world in need of Hope, more than ever.
Writing is one of the ways that I refocus, and that’s what I’m doing here. Yes, you’re basically reading my personal therapy session and I have little-to-no concerns about oversharing–but you probably know that by now! 🙂 I choose Hope…I choose Joy. It doesn’t mean I’m not sad; it just means that I’m leaning on Jesus and pushing through….like a lot of people.
Please pray for Connie, Tammy, Travis, Tiffany, Alvin, Sabrina, Richard, Dena, & their families; they’re missing someone they loved so much, so close to Christmas. There are a lot of families really hurting right now, and all any of us can do, is pray. Don’t forget to reach out to your friends and family right now; stay safe, but stay sensitive to those nudges from the Holy Spirit to not forget those that need to hear kindness and concern right now.
We’re gonna get thru this year, people. We’re allllllllmost there…. 🙂
I think I reiterate this every year, but I. Love. Christmas!!!! I’ll spare you all of the things I love about it, but I think I love it more every year.
I really, really love Christmas songs–the Name of Jesus is proclaimed on virtually EVERY radio station, every TV station, all over Hulu, Netflix, Disney+, EVERYWHERE, and music is constant! Sad Christmas songs make me like, three times more emotional than any other sad song–can we NOT?!?! I like happy Christmas songs, and I’m not going to apologize for it. I usually start the Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving, but I started early this year because COVID is sucking my will to live. Thanksgiving bummed me out a bit, and I don’t know what our Christmas is going to look like this year (I miss my church homies, and I miss baking for them!), but in the meanwhile, there is-and-always-will-be, Christmas music.
Our church is meeting in home groups for the foreseeable future, and has for some time now. It’s taken some time to adjust to, but interestingly enough, we no longer meet on Sunday mornings (GASP! It almost feels blasphemous to say it out loud). Once a month, we meet corporately on Sunday afternoon (we livestreamed the last meeting, since we’re being uber-careful about ‘Rona), but weekly, we’re meeting on Friday nights (currently on Zoom, again, due to COVID). This means that Sundays are…wait for it…FREE. Wait, let me retype that as how I truly feel: FFFFFFFFRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (said in my Adam Sandler/Bedtime Stories voice)
I’m usually doing laundry or stuff around the house, since it’s the only time I’m not cramming full of other household things. This week, though, outside of a 7:30pm meeting (again, Zoom), our whole day was blank like canvas. I slept in, we had soup, there were Wii games and yelling, and it was nice. “You’re rambling, Cass. Where does this tie into Christmas?!?” you ask…
I found a YouTube Channel that plays Christmas music on a livestream. To my surprise, it’s pretty good!
The scene above was on our TV in the living room. If you look at it full-screen, you’ll see the details, down to the little dog parked down by the threshold of the fireplace. This is such a cozy scene; it reminds me of my parents’ house, and their best friends’ house, and the house I imagine for myself when I can’t sleep at night (what, you don’t play Imaginary Decorator when you can’t sleep?), and interestingly enough, it matches my Christmas decor.
David & Jericho were in the kitchen building a Christmas present for “someone,” and I was listening to their conversation…I was sitting on the couch, reading a book (!). None of us were out of our pajamas, and the Christmas music was playing in the background. I was suddenly struck by the beauty of this simple moment. I had such a breath of gratitude in my spirit.
I can remember being in a friend’s house and seeing their family together…the dad and one of the daughters was singing in the kitchen, working on dinner, while the mom and the other daughters & their husbands were milling about, talking about various subjects. Grandkids were running up-&-down the stairs in their beautiful home, and I had a moment of awe that was spiked with a bit of jealousy. This was AMAZING! Like, this is the kind of scene that TV tells us is normal, but that life says is anything but! I felt like I was on a 90’s TGIF sitcom, in one of those sappy “aw-shucks-hug-the-dog” moments. What was this?!?!?
I can remember being in the kitchen in the house that I grew up in, and I don’t remember what we were doing, but my mom, my sister, & I were all singing Gatlin Brothers’ songs. That’s one of those moments where everything was happy, and harmonious (literally–my mom’s a killer harmony singer), & I remember breathing it in and sealing it in my brain (BTW, click the link to hear the GBs if you’ve never heard of them). They’re still awesome).
The moments we get to stop and build a metaphorical monument in our brains–where we take a bit to breathe in what we’re seeing and feeling, and we seal that memory–are so precious. I have a ton of amazing memories of life in general, but especially at Christmas. I’m learning that no matter what gift you have for someone, you can’t force those moments. Those moments happen by the grace & love of Jesus–those moments are in & of themselves, like spontaneous worship. Those moments hit us in our spirit–they catch our attention and remind us to stop and to thank God for the life that He’s given us. They’re completely genuine, without pretense; they probably happen far more often than we know, because we’re so busy. Having that blank Sunday to rest and stop allowed me to remember what I was surrounded with, and to be so, so thankful.
Maybe that’s a blessing in all of this COVID garbage–maybe it’s giving us time to stop and think, to stop and appreciate who we have and what moments we’re surrounded by.
I’m so thankful for the Beautiful Moments…I know this little blog doesn’t go very far, but one thing it does do is serve as a marker for the memories I want to keep. I want to remember seeing the Christmas lights, the sappy scene on the TV, the silly pajamas and the paint on the kitchen table. I want to remember a lazy Sunday full of cozy blankets and soup, & a good book.
I want to remember that feeling of gratitude, and to go back to it on the days where I’ve lost my focus and have let the Hamster Wheel of Life detour my emotions. I want to hold onto the Beautiful Moments, and to pay attention so that when they come along, I’m ready to take that deep breath and to seal it in, to give thanks to God for making it all possible.
May this Christmas be a time of Beautiful Moments for you and all of your family…if I don’t see you until the New Year, may your 2021 be (and this is where I don’t say, “less of a dumpster fire than 2020”) a year that brings you closer to God, and closer to each other. Peace and Love to you and yours!
There’s nothing I love more than misheard lyrics. Let’s be honest–if you’ve ever been stuck in a car with me (I’m talkin’ to YOU, David!), then you know I sing with the radio non-stop (as does my child, LOL. Karma!). You may also know that I’m a master of covering my tracks when I don’t know the words to something. It’s seamless. 🙂 From lip-syncing the ubiquitous “peanut-butter-jelly-watermelon” over the unknown track, to filling in whatever words that sound like the proper lyrics, I can fake my way through a lot of things.
Anyways, I’ve noticed that I apply these same concepts to misheard scriptures on a regular basis. “Why am I hearing the Bible?” you may ask? Simple explanation (please click the link because it’s awesome): The Way St. Louis Bible Reading Plan
Our church is following a daily Bible reading plan, and I absolutely love it. I love it because if you click on the link above, then click today’s verses, there’s a small “volume” icon on the upper right:
When you click on the icon, an audio version of the Bible passage (by the acclaimed Max McClean) plays, which give me a fantastic way to listen to the day’s passages on my way into the office (I’d like to say that I’ve gotten holier on my commute; alas, this is not true. I’m a work in progress.). I’ve been able to stay caught up for the most part, and it’s been very thought-provoking. It’s also been a great resource to help me stay focused throughout the anxiety issues I discussed last month (which are doing MUCH better, so thank you for praying for me!!). I’ve really loved hearing the Word on a daily basis, and it’s sparked some fantastic conversations with my husband.
Yesterday, though, something very interesting happened that made me laugh, and ties into the whole, “misread lyrics” start to this blog: I misheard a Bible verse.
What I heard, though, was, “So rend your hearts and not your governments.”
Pause–think about that, for a second. “Rend your hearts and not your governments.”
Now, I know the message in the verse itself–“don’t focus on showing outward grief or repentance for your actions; have true repentance in your hearts, and come before God with true mourning and by turning from the ways you’ve been living.” The verse is all about ending fakeness and false narratives. Be real, or don’t bother–don’t have Instagram-I’m-sorries without true, heartfelt changes. It’s particularly relevant for today’s world of staging EVERYTHING for that photo finish. God wants us to be genuine with Him–after all, He’s never been anything BUT genuine in how He loves us, right?
But check out my misheard verse again: “So rend your hearts and not your governments.” Let’s look at that, because I can’t get it out of my head:
This week, President Trump went into the hospital with COVID-19 this week. Love him or hate him, the leader of the greatest nation in the world was hospitalized with a disease that has proven fatal for thousands of people. I was shocked to read that many, many people wished him sickness and/or death, simply because they disagree with the politics/personality/policies he has implemented or statements he has made on social media.
I’m not so sure why I was shocked (minus the fact that, well….that’s kinda treasonous).
I mean, people post how much they hate the President on a minute-by-minute basis…but to wish him death? That’s pretty obtuse. I’ve had issues with every single President that’s run this country since I was eligible to vote, and have never wished that they up-and-die; what the heck, people?!??!?
The anger and rage in this nation by any people group that feels slighted for whatever reason, is palpable. I’m not dismissing groups in that statement. I’m saying that there are SO many angry people, and SO many reasons to be angry, and SO many causes, that no one can keep track of who-what-where-why anymore, and it’s all blurring together in one giant black hole of rage that’s suffocating the country.
Anger is legitimate. It’s a legitimate emotion, & it’s worthy to be heard. God gets angry, right? Right. He also gives us specific instructions on how we handle anger, and wishing death on people doesn’t really seem to be part of the plan of action. Ephesians 4:25-26 says, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one another. 26“Be angry,yetdo notsin.”Do not letthesunsetuponyouranger.”
If we’re unhappy with our government, wishing death and violence isn’t the solution. Positive changes by positive actions are the only solution. Vote. Period. If you don’t like who’s in charge, we live in an amazing country where We the People have the rights and the abilities to make the changes we want to see.
Mishearing Joel 2:13 made me stop and think about all of the comments, the snide remarks, the fighting and arguing, etc., that I’ve heard over the past few years regarding the leadership of this nation. Everyone has their agenda and is screaming to make their voice heard, but no one is listening. Our words have an impact; our words reveal the intentions of our hearts, and if we’re screaming and shouting at each other, we’re not walking in love, right?
I’m so tired of the fighting, even (especially) amongst Christians. We’re sacrificing our relationships with God and our testimonies to unbelievers in the sheepish support of a political person or party. We’re called to follow Jesus. We’re called to walk in Love, like Him. What does that look like, in a minefield of political and emotional pitfalls?
“Rend your hearts and not your governments.” I think this misheard verse has caused me to stop in my tracks and take a few steps back…I have to check my heart, and repent for some of my own attitudes. I’ve had to recommit to praying for our government and for our nation, and to process whether or not I’ve been more concerned with how my convictions have worked, verses how they have looked. What are the issues I say I care about, and what have I done to not only educate myself regarding those issues, but to advocate in love for those issues?
The online fussing and fighting is not something I get into myself, very often; however, I definitely read quite a few of them (I enjoy my tea, thank you very much–okay, that’s just not nice, Cassidy).
I am alternately appalled and humored by what I read, and I’m occasionally concerned that some people need hired protection based on their keyboard commando statements.
It’s not worth it. Don’t sacrifice your testimony for the dung heap of online bickering.
“Rend my hearts and not my garments.” Stay focused on what is true, honest, pure, lovely, etc. Please join me in praying that a new attitude of such things would cover this nation in grace, and that our leadership (before, during, and after the election) would be sustained and protected. Focus on real, genuine love and faith, rather than “likes” and “zings” in online forums. Maybe then, we will see the healing in this land that the Bible speaks about in 2 Chronicles 7:14, which we so desperately need in this land of anger and rage…
“I hear the subtle hum inside my head as I push the pillow further into my face, trying to stifle the sobs that are trying to escape: ‘You’re crazy. No one is listening. No one can help you. You’re losing it. Give up already. This is where it all falls apart. You can’t do this much longer. Admit that you’re failing. Admit that you’re nothing. You’re dying. You’re drowning. You’re dying. You’re drowning.’
Over and over, the words run through my head, fast, then slow…louder….louder….it’s a tattooed rhythm that, if I don’t stop it, will become a non-stop stranglehold that stops the air from escaping my lungs.
I feel the panic rising, and I try, try, try, TRY to breathe…I try to pray, calling on the Name of Jesus, knowing that He’s there but completely unable to grasp His peace or to hear His voice. I’m failing in this…just another thing that I’m failing at…
The water rises, and I can feel the pressure…my chest hurts, my heartbeat is heavy and erratic, and I wonder if it’s the stress, or the new medication for the never-ending headaches that seem to be beyond my doctor’s diagnostic abilities. Change a medicine. Order a test. Get some bloodwork. Never tell anyone that your head is about to explode from the weight of all that has been layering up to bury you over the past 6 months…
Don’t tell your mother… Don’t tell your dad. Don’t tell your husband; he doesn’t understand and he thinks you just “love” going to the doctor… Don’t tell your boss…you need this job, you can’t go anywhere else, and you have to make them think you’re on top of your game… Don’t tell your friends…they’re sick of hearing about one health issue after another. Don’t tell your pastors, because you can’t seem to pray this away… Don’t tell your sisters…don’t tell your brother…
Surely taking it all to God is enough…. But I can’t sleep, and no matter how much worship music I pray, how hard I cry out, or what I say, there’s no miracle cure for this….
Five days…two weeks….three weeks…. How long have I been like this? The inside of my cheeks are raw from chewing the sides of them….my skin is a disaster, and for whatever reason, I’m in constant, unrelenting pain in my wrists, feet, back, shoulders, and fingers. It might ebb or secede, but it’s always there…”
These words…my words…were written last week. Last week…it seems like a lifetime ago. I’m not going to say that I’m not struggling, even now, but last week? I LOST IT. We’re talking, hide in my room, cry into a pillow, have to explain myself because my kid saw me lose it, Lost It. I’m still fighting through this, and I don’t say that in some way that says I’m some kind of a warrior or something dramatic. I say it because that wave of overwhelming anxiety is standing on the brink of my sanity for whatever reason, and I know I’m one wrong comment away from falling back into it. Just acknowledging my own fragility makes my chest tighten…I don’t want to go there again. I never did call my doctor…I should have, but I did a Google search on a medication I was trying to get off of, and figured out that panic attacks, massive depression, and suicidal tendencies are side effects of not tapering off of this medication correctly.
That’s not saying that I wasn’t tapering off of the medication–and yes, it was with a doctor’s supervision. I must have gotten confused on the specifics of the tapering, because it hit me like a ton of bricks, and I swear to you, I will deal with migraines until I’m blind before I go back on that medication again. My anxiety is usually manageable, but for the past 3-4 weeks, it’s gotten out of control, and last week nearly did me in. I know that sounds awfully final, but I was not in a good place.
Fortunately for me, God broke through and very lovingly, in His way, reminded me of two things: He loves me, unequivocally. Also, He gave me people in church leadership who know me and love me well, and can handle my frantic text of, “I can’t talk. Pray for me.” They know me well enough to know that I don’t say things like that, and that something is seriously wrong. They checked on me later on, and made sure I was okay…I also had a friend that knew the details of what was up, and listened–sometimes, that’s the biggest thing.
I have such a blind eye sometimes to toxic relationships…like, I’m just used to putting up with so much crap from certain people, that I haven’t even noticed what a blister they’ve rubbed on my heart, until it’s abscessed. I have forgotten to protect my heart, even though I know that when I don’t, it trickles down to my family. When chemistry goes bad (you know, all of those neurotransmitters in your brain that need to stay level or else you go off the goofy-crap-o-meter), coupled with the damages of stress and toxic relationships, it’s the kind of combination that results in only one thing: A CATASTROPHIC EARTH-SHATTERING KA-BOOM.
You know what I told my son last week, when he heard me crying in my bedroom?
I said (after I had pulled myself together), “You know what, Buddy? Everyone’s brain is a little different, and sometimes…
Sometimes, Mommy’s brain is kind of broken.
It gets overwhelmed, and it gets hurt, and then Mommy sort of crumbles and breaks down.
But it’s going to be okay…and I always know that. I just sort of have to reset sometimes, and crying, and getting all of my hurt out, does that; sometimes, Mommy’s medicines make things a little weird, too. I just have to process a whole bunch of stuff, and I will figure it out. Jesus knows what hurts, and what’s in my heart and in my brain, and He will sort it all out.”
How do you explain mental health to a seven-year old?
I have no idea, but I’ll tell you one thing: I’m always going to try.
Maybe if at 7, I had understood any concept of mental health, I would have been able to understand when mental health was good, and when it was challenging. Maybe if at 7, I had understood mental health, I would have developed the language I needed as a teenager, as a college student, as a young adult, as a grown woman, to understand that mental health challenges are NORMAL, and are just as treatable and as common as a headache, once you begin the conversation with the right people. Maybe if at 7, I had understood mental health, I would be aware that you can’t process spiritual concepts like prayer and healing, when your brain is so affected that you can’t sleep, or your eating habits are jacked up, or you’re so anxious that you can’t focus on beginning to get the Word of God into your mind. Maybe if at 7, I understood mental health, I would have understood that things like sadness, anger, stress, pressure, anxiety–NONE of these struggles mean you are a bad person, or that God loves you any differently or any less.
So, for better or for worse, I am always going to be honest with my kiddo about my broken brain.
There are physical, chemical reasons for emotional/mental imbalances…there are also spiritual reasons, and there is healing that needs to be done on multiple levels. I’m grateful for medical health…prescription medication is very helpful, even though getting the right balance of the right medication is tricky (if you’re going through this, please give yourself grace, and be candid with your doctor and with your family! It’s so, so hard, and I don’t think I’m there yet…I thought I was, and then these last few weeks hit). Spiritual health and support is KEY–please talk to your church leadership, and if they’re not the type that will respond to your text or your call for help, FIND A NEW CHURCH. There is no place in the Body of Christ for the pastor that will not shepherd his flock, and I speak from experience. I’m talking pastors, elders, home group leaders–you have to have someone in the church that will help you when you’re hurting. It’s biblical. We’re not made to go through these battles alone.
I’m still working my way through this storm. I’m not on the other side yet, even though I probably seem almost normal (whatever my “normal”) is. I’m waiting on some test results, and I’m probably going to look back into therapy. I still find myself getting caught up in the whole, “it’s expensive, and I don’t have time!!” but then I find myself making time for other things, so I need to figure this out. Stress is INTENSE, especially right now, as we’re one of many families that’s been impacted financially from COVID-19. My stresses and my mental struggles are so miniscule compared to some that I’ve heard about; I know I can’t compare myself to others, and sometimes it works against me (most of the time), but still. These are not the best of times. I’ll be glad to wave goodbye to 2020…and these past few weeks are burned into my brain as the pinnacle of the worst times I’ve had since all of this began (even worse than the spike of depression I dealt with in May).
There’s always, always, ALWAYS hope on the horizon, though, and I will not stop praying that I have my eyes open to the beauty in all of this. There are some amazing experiences that we’ve got to do and to witness through all of this. There have been blessings, there has been laughter, and there has been much to be grateful for. My biggest struggles have been in my own head, and regardless of the reason, I am so grateful that God does not abandon His own, even when they’re stuck in their own headspace. He breaks through in ways we may not even realize…we can’t give up. This world is quicksand, and it’s only getting thicker….I’ve had a recurring theme in this blog over the past year, though, and that’s how He is our Rescuer…He is our Anchor, and He’s also our Life Raft…
So, now that a week has gone by, I look back at the words that I wrote and the heaviness, though still tangible, is fading. I know it’s close by, and can lay back down at any second, so I’ve been doing some things that I know are preemptive…They’re not cure-alls, but they definitely help:
I have some kind of worship music playing in the background all day long at work. Right now, I’m into Maverick City Music and I’m always into Bethel. I also like just about anything by Forerunner Music (International House of Prayer).
I stopped looking at the news for more than a few minutes a day. I can’t deal with the state of this nation anymore, and I can’t handle the anxiety it induces, particularly during this election year, so I’m just checking basic headlines and I’m leaving it alone. Also, I DO NOT ENGAGE IN ARGUING WITH PEOPLE ON SOCIAL MEDIA. I also don’t tolerate people arguing on my pages. It’s nothing but a waste of time that does more to harm the body of Christ and further the thought pattern that Christians are nothing but argumentative, arrogant fools, and I won’t be a part of it. I Peter 3:15-16–I’ve quoted it enough on this blog that I’d better live it out, right? See an opinion you disagree with? Scroll on by. There–didn’t hurt, right? 🙂
I’m sticking to a routine, which is easier since my son is back to in-person school (glory to GOD, y’all!). This includes getting in daily Bible readings or listening to a daily reading. Here’s the plan I’m using: https://thewaystlouis.com/bible-reading-plan/
I’ve explained that certain messes in the house absolutely must be cleaned up, and need to stay clean, because I can’t handle it–messes aren’t peaceful, and I need peace. Since only one of us is working right now, that falls on the other to take care of. This mandate doesn’t win anyone any friends, but neither does having a mental breakdown at 4:30 in the afternoon. I’ve found this image helpful, as it explains things I didn’t realize (and if you’re the one in charge of cleaning, don’t take this as any kind of shade or guilt–that’s how I initially took it, and I started getting worked up over it, and then I realized that hey–I can only do so much. This is just the psychology behind it, and dang it, I’m gonna give myself some grace!!):
5. Deep breaths. I’m absolutely serious about this. I’ve botched a few presentations lately, and I’ve botched a few personal conversations lately, because I get so anxious and nervous that IJustStartTalkingAndICantShutUpAndBeforeIKnowItISaidWHAT?!? And, like toothpaste, you just can’t put those words back in the tube. It stinks. So I’m making myself breathe, deeply, and close my eyes, and refocus–sometimes in front of people, which leads to #6:
6. I’m being brutally, painfully honest. Posting this blog isn’t easy. Admitting my mental state from last week isn’t easy. Telling my husband that I’m cuckoo-crazy-pants isn’t easy. Watching him stomp up the stairs because I’ve unnecessarily snapped at him isn’t easy…and neither is apologizing a few seconds later, when he’s reemerged to find out if the weather’s changed. Admitting that I can be tumultuous (I’m being nice) isn’t easy. None of this is easy. Realizing that one tiny pill can upset this apple cart of a crap brain isn’t easy (and it’s incredibly, incredibly frustrating…not only to deal with, but to get doctors to understand). Having to make myself visibly stop and breathe/blink when in a conversation with a co-worker so that I don’t start bawling, isn’t easy, and neither is looking them dead-in-the-eye and admitting that, “hey, I’m sorry–I’m a mess right now while we adjust some medications” is NOT EASY, and I have to wonder what the professional impact will be. I’m not afraid to ask for kindness if I need to, I don’t think….but–
#7. I am worth it. My mental health is worth sorting out and worth paying attention to. My stability is worth fighting for, especially for my family’s sake, because being a wife & a parent is everything I’ve ever wanted in my life, and dang it, I’m not going to watch that relationship be affected or lost because I didn’t put the time, the education, the prayer, the help, into it.
If you’re still reading, please know that above all, YOU ARE WORTH IT, too. Jesus says so, and He’s said it from the beginning of time. You–not some ambiguous people group. You, as an individual, YOU are so loved, and you are so worth PEACE….I think that’s what mental, and spiritual health, all tie into–peace. We can’t have peace in our hearts when we’re fighting so hard, but we can’t give the battle over to the Lord when our brains are imbalanced. It’s a battle against flesh (the brain) and blood (the spiritual), and it’s one that starts with Him. He uses all sorts of things–meds, prayer, health and mental care providers–He has endless resources, and He loves you so much that He’s in this fight even more than you are.
You’re loved. Keep fighting. We’re in this together—I’m not saying that to be trite; I’m saying it because it’s true. ❤
In my last blog, I mentioned that if you look hard enough, Hamilton lyrics can be applied in the majority of life’s situations. I’m doubling-down on it, especially right now (does that get hyphenated? Hmm…). Ever since I first heard the soundtrack, the song, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?” has resonated with me:
I often think of the difference between the written and the spoken word. I had English teachers in high school & college who invested so much into me and into my writing…I hope I’ve made them somewhat proud (and that they’re forgiving of the occasional run-on sentence and/or “excessive verbiage” that one of them often accused me of…and rightfully so…have you read my blogs?!?!?). I’m often told that I write as if I’m speaking to someone, that I’m a “conversant writer,” and I’ve always found that to be an interesting compliment. Like, is that a back-handed compliment? Is it a compliment at all? I’m actually not sure.
My goal is always to write with honesty, even when I contradict myself (which seems more common through these crazy, fluid, everything-is-uncertain time). I don’t mind it when someone messages me and says, “Hey, you’re wrong,” or when they respectfully disagree with me (I have one particular friend who excels at respectful disagreements. I look forward to them, and yes, he’s actually changed my mind on Facebook, so it DOES happen). I’m constantly learning, and I hope that’s my permanent state of being. I firmly believe that when we stop being honest, and we stop being open to other perspectives or to discussions with those whom we wouldn’t necessarily agree with, that we stop learning, and when we stop learning, we stop growing. Honesty and respect are two words we are sorely lacking in society these days, so I want to buckle in and hold on to them more tightly than ever before…
The written word leaves a legacy—it’s the opportunity for us to claim our narratives, for us to leave our mark somewhere, even if it’s just in cyberspace. Every stroke of the keyboard is an indelible impression on the universe that may someday disappear, but with the retention of the digital world, probably not completely. Our Twitter feed, our Facebook statuses…every single one of them is marked in the annals of the digital history of the world. That’s insane—especially when I consider just how many idiotic posts I’ve made and/or “liked” over the years. It gives us an opportunity to truly think before we post: How will this affect my job? How will this affect my family? How does this reflect my faith?
Someone once told me to never end a blog on a bad note—to always try to find a way to end it with hope. I took her advice to heart, and I’ve tried to do that in every situation. I haven’t always succeeded, but sometimes, forcing myself to refocus and to view life through a lens of hope has been such an incredible healing process. Even when I’m drowning in my own cynicism, and I want to wallow in whatever pathetic state I’m in, I have to stop. It’s about His story and how He’s working in and through my life….even when I’m being “pathetic.” He Still Works—through all of us.
I have found myself thinking about the lyrics of Hamilton, and about the concept of legacies, for a few weeks now. It’s not because I have some kind of morbid fascination with death (in spite of how much of it is inundating our media these days). I think it’s because the older I get, the more I realize how short time gets. Days fly by, one bleeding into another, and it feels like it’s going even faster in the wake of COVID-19. I’m on my hamster wheel of work-home-work-home-work-weekend-work, and it feels both exhausting and never-ending. The needs are never met, the questions aren’t getting answered, and there’s no stability, so it seems especially draining. There’s no time to stop—to just stop—and to process before something else comes along to upset the apple cart (THERE IS NO CART! AND THE APPLES ARE FALLING EVERYWHEEERRRRE!). Murders in the St. Louis area are up by 30%, and there’s no justice. The nation is fractured and broken, and we’re on the cusp of an election that would take an act of God to be peaceful (please, God, do something). We are speeding along an Autobahn of chaos, and there is nothing stopping the insanity (that we can see).
The anxiety builds…and it’s tangible.
Time is shorter in unsettled waters…
“Who lives, who dies, who tells Your story?”
I want to.
I hope that I have.
For me, the spoken word gets me into trouble. My lack of a filter combined with a face that physically can’t stop emoting bundles together to create some kind of idiotic verbal Thunderdome. I swear far too easily (a lazy man’s way of expression), I ramble too much, and I struggle with interrupting people. I’ll say it—I’m obnoxious (at times). The spoken word is fleeting & annoying…No one remembers your spoken words, but they sure as heck remember their impression of you based on what you said. I hate to think about what people think of me and of what I represent, based on verbal conversations.
The written word is permanent, and WILL be used against you…
So, how do you want it to be used?
To answer Hamilton’s questions…
I don’t care who remembers my name….have I written in such a way that people remember the Name of Jesus? The Hope that He brings?
Have I kept His flame burning throughout what I write? Will my own words be enough to convict me, if my faith becomes prosecutable? Have I lived a life of clear faith, or have I been satisfied with a lukewarm life of treading water?
“I ask myself, what would you do if you had more time? The Lord, in His kindness He gives me what you always wanted He gives me more time…”
Have I done enough? Have I told Your story? Have I glorified Your Name?
I’ll keep writing “like I’m running out of time.”
It’s not enough.
*Photo Credit: Hamilton magnets by HeyThatsCuteStudio on Etsy–Shop St. Louis! Shop Single Mom!
I think it’s fair to say that most of life’s situations can probably be addressed in lyrics from Hamilton, if you look hard enough. That’s the genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda. If I had a .015% of his brain power, I’d have figured out how to make the whole blogging-thing a career by now. 🙂 Say what you will about the man’s politics–his creativity & talent are simply unparalleled, both currently and in history, and his ability to turn a phrase? RIDICULOUS.
You know what else is ridiculous?!?!?
The fights in this nation right now, over a simple, easy-to-use, potentially fashionable scrap of material.
Wearing a face mask has become this ridiculous, left vs. right, conspiracy-theory laden soap box, and it BLOWS. MY MIND.
I’ve gotten to a place where I don’t feel like I can trust people, where what they say doesn’t match what they do….I don’t feel like people are being honest about their COVID exposures (like, why am I finding out that I may have had a secondary exposure, a week after the fact and through a different person than the one I was with?!?), or about their testing (I’m negative). I promise you, if I’m looking at you, I’m secretly wondering if you’re actually following recommendations, or if you’re gonna be the one that passes along a disease that could kill me.
That’s where I’m at.
I just want to “stay alive.” I know that sounds dramatic, but tell that to the over 1,000 people in Missouri that have died from this garbage (& yeah, I know the amount of flu deaths is higher–this furthers the reason to wear masks during flu season as well as during the pandemic).
I fail to understand why wearing a mask, or a requirement to wear a mask, has become some sort of, “You’re inhibiting my freedoms! If you wear a mask, you’re just a slave to the media!!” HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?!?!?
Look, man, I don’t want to catch this COVID crap. I don’t want to inadvertently pass it along, either. I just want to “stay alive,” and I want my family to do the same. Wearing a mask may or may not be the “best” or “most convenient” method of prevention, but it doesn’t hurt. IT’S NOT HURTING YOU. It’s not hurting me, either.
Frankly (and this won’t win me any anti-mask friends), I feel like if you’re so selfish that you don’t want to wear a simple, little piece of cloth on your face, then maybe you need to check your heart. Are we so arrogant that we can’t stop and pause for a second, and wonder if we may inadvertently infect someone with this virus? Are we so arrogant, and so blind, that we can’t possibly fathom that we may catch this thing ourselves??
I feel like a certain faction is stuck in that whole, “well, nothing bad will EVER happen to me” line of garbage that some people like to believe (Christians are particularly bad about this, thanks to a hot streak of prosperity-laden garbage preaching in the 90’s). They’re stuck in this faction that they’re so awesome, that germs couldn’t POSSIBLY stick to them and be passed along to someone….’cause they’re PERFECT.
Y’all are delusional, and you’re gonna kill people.
SO, now I’m struggling with not being in fear so much of the disease, as I am afraid of the lack of honesty and reality to the people I’m surrounded by.
If you’re angry at a store because they’ve decided to make it a mandate that you wear a mask when you go through those doors, check your heart. THEY HAVE EMPLOYEES TO PROTECT. They have massive liabilities, should they have a positive test affect their business. This nation hasn’t been this financially fragile since….well, since Alexander Hamilton built our financial systems. It’s only by the business practices of our current President that we’re not up a creek right now (say what you will about the man; his trade arrangements and positions on jobs are doing wonders for our country). Businesses need to stay open; people need and want to work. If your arrogant self marches in their store, even if you’re asymptomatic, and inadvertently infects people, then you could cause the fallout from this pandemic to continue going on for months…Or you could inadvertently be responsible for someone’s death from the disease…
Wearing this tiny, 4×6″ piece of material on your face ISN’T HURTING YOU. It’s keeping you from spreading as many germs, and it’s keeping you from inhaling as many germs (it’s obviously not fail-proof. No one is believing that lie). It may not be comfortable (I’m broke out from mine), but they’re inexpensive to make and to buy, and it’s a simple thing you can do to prevent and/or slow the spread of this disease.
I can’t understand how the anti-mask faction justifies the risk over their own comfort. Because people can’t be personally responsible and take control over their own actions, now the police and the government have to step in like we’re selfish little babies, and make masks a mandated thing.
Because people can’t be personally responsible and take control over their own actions, stores like Wal-Mart are requiring you to wear a mask for your own protection. How stupid is that, and how personally insulting is it that WAL-MART has to tell us what to do?!?!? WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY WHERE FRICKIN’ WAL-MART IS TELLING US WHAT TO DO. I’m offended by the fact that it’s come to this point (also, I hate Wal-Mart–but y’all already know that).
EDIT: I came across this meme and laughed so hard that I had to add it back in here. Please don’t be offended—okay, maybe be offended a tiny bit–but c’mon, you KNOW it’s true!!!!!!!!
Look, I don’t particularly like wearing these dang things. I have to wear one in my office, so I get it…but I also, again, don’t know or care about the comings-&-goings of other people in my office. I don’t know or trust that they’re being responsible on their “off” time, and I’m not taking any chances. I know the science is questionable, and my trust isn’t in this little piece of material; my trust is in God.
The Bible tells us to ask for wisdom, and to act with wisdom. My wearing a mask doesn’t mean I’m a lemming or a leftie; it simply means that I CARE about my own health, and the health of those around me.
Our freedoms are not being taken away because a store asks us to mask up–that’s a conspiracy-theory laden mindset, and you can go down those rabbit holes all day long. Just put some tin-foil over your ears, if that’s your line of thought. 🙂
There are enough conspiracies out there that are MUCH more frightening than a simple, 4×6″ piece of materials, people.
Just wear the dang mask. It’s seriously not hurting you, and in some cases that you may never realize, it just might save your life.
And don’t get salty with those stores that are requiring a face covering–you have no idea what it’s taking for business to stay open right now, and if wearing a little piece of fabric over your pie-hole keeps this economy going? To quote a company I shall never name again, “just do it.”
For a list of Missouri mask requirements, click here.
For CDC mask information (which, as we all know, changes every day–this fact has NOT escaped me, people. I trust them about as much as I trust Missouri weather), click here.
And, to listen to the full soundtrack of Hamilton (because it’s amazing), click here.