In 2019, I learned the importance of rest. In 2020, I’m learning the importance of stillness & silence. I’m a worrier by nature. I like things to be safe & secure. I don’t like change or new things. Everywhere I go I have a place where I sit or stand & a person I sit or stand next to. At grocery stores I always park in the same one or two rows & I typically go at about the same time every time—when there are the fewest people. I thrive in routine & predictablity. 2020 has clearly thrown a wrench in my survival. Except, in 2019 I learned the importance of rest. From 2017-2019, God was preparing for 2020. 2017-2018 was a long succession of fairly minor inconveniences one after another feeling like one big pile of ick! 💩 2019 was a year of learning to rest so the little things wouldn’t turn into a big thing. Now, 2020 is a year of personal growth. A lot of things have happened for all of us & I haven’t freaked out. 2017 & 2018 me would’ve freaked out. Early 2019 me would’ve freaked out too! 2020 me has almost freaked out a few times, but then I rest & I’m okay. So, now I’m practicing not only rest, but also stillness & silence. As a Christian, in the stillness & silence I hear God. As an introvert, in the stillness & silence I recharge. As an Enneagram 6, in the the stillness & silence I feel safe. There’s no noise or chaos in stillness & silence. There are no people in the stillness & silence. God whispers in the stillness & silence. And let me tell you, there’s been a lot of personal growth in the stillness & quiet. And this is still a new practice for me! This is where I get to practice stillness & silence in the morning. I’ve also been practicing during the day. I’ve kept my phone put away while waiting in line or at a stoplight (we all do it) & I drive in silence sometimes. How are you practicing stillness & silence? How could you if you’re not already? 😊
Irrational Fear – Unreasonable Fear
Panic – Sudden Unreasonable terror
Technically speaking, I’m not afraid of heights. As a child, I was known to climb as high as I possibly could in any tree the adults around me would let me climb. Sometimes, my brother, sister, and I would climb to the top of our roof or treehouse and try to jump off without getting caught. So, no, I’m not afraid of heights. I am, however, afraid of falling or more specifically failing. I can’t go on rollercoasters because I’m afraid I’ll fall to my death. And sometimes, I can’t even climb stairs without a sudden panic overwhelming me for fear that I’ll manage to fall and hurt/kill myself. It’s irrational. I know. But as with my arachnophobia the logic of knowing it COULD happen is often far more convincing than the logic of knowing the odds of the bad thing not happening are in my favor.
I stood at the top of this 3-story rickety staircase for what felt like 5 minutes trying to slow my breathing and calm down enough to go back down the steps I had just climbed up. I wish I could say this doesn’t happen often, but it does. This happens all the time, not always with staircases, but often with life in general. I’m irrationally afraid of falling and failing. I regularly experience moments of rapid heartbeats & shallow breathing because of an irrational anxiety I can’t seem to shake.
Are you like this? Do you have irrational fears? It’s okay. You’ll get through it. Take a deep breath and remember 2 Timothy 1:7. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (NIV)
In 2017, I moved into a brand new apartment complex that caused me problems from the moment I applied to move in. Every month if not every week my sister and I faced one issue after another. For the first 5 months, it was delayed move-in dates. Then it was a messy apartment, bad electricity, five different management groups (including an aggressive male manager and an embezzling female manager), and finally the inability to pay rent at all so we had to sign an agreement to hold off on our eviction so we could pay. We broke our lease two months early so we wouldn’t be evicted the next month. I don’t regret moving into the apartment. I still think God asked me to live there. The whole experience, however horrible, has taught me a lot.
In 2016, I started to let myself get into more credit card debt than I could pay off in a month. In 2017, I went through four job changes. In January 2018, I quit working until April 2018. That’s when I started driving for Uber Eats and Doordash. Now, I’m waiting for a reply to an application and interview to be a bus driver for the school district in my hometown. I have no regrets about any of these decisions, except the debt, and I feel like most of it was God-led or at least God-blessed. I’ve learned a lot since leaving my high-paying job in 2017 and I’ve grown closer to God. That said, I’m currently caught somewhere in between broken and healthy.
Everyone seems to think I’m this hopeful person. Many have even said as much. But, I’m not. I’m not a hopeful person. I have Hope, but I’m not hopeful. I put on a good face and talk about the good that might come of a situation, but inside I’m expecting the worse to happen. I look for the bright side, but I live in the shadows. Every hopeful comment I make is fueled by fear. Fear that things won’t work out. Fear that I’ll mess things up. Fear that I’ll fall into the darkness again. I think about it sometimes. The temptation is there. “Just this once,” I think. “If I hurt myself just this once, then maybe the fear, the stress, the anxiety, and the pain will go away.” I don’t do it, but I think about it. Science says it works. It says physical pain releases the “happy hormone” that makes the internal pain go away for a little while. Why not do it? Just this once? It’s not healthy. It’s an addiction. Every time I see alcoholics, drug addicts, and even those “good vampires” on TV trying to keep themselves from giving in and going over the edge, I get it, because I have my own addiction. “The happy hormone.”
I try so hard to be hopeful, to put on a happy face, and to pretend everything is or will be okay, but I don’t really believe it. Because I know the Lord, I know in the end everything will be okay, but I often don’t believe it will be. Or maybe it’s not that I don’t believe it, but that I doubt it? Yes, God has provided for me many times in the past. Yes, He’s already pulled me out of a dark abyss in the past. Yes, I know He will work out all things for my good, but when? I’ve been in these shadows for almost two years now, longer if I take it back to when I started to let myself get into credit card debt which is really what created this mess in the first place. God has provided everything I’ve needed up to this point. I haven’t gone in want or need, but I’m still here in these shadows that are threatening to become another abyss.
Every day I’m toddling on a thin line between breaking and growing. Every day I fear this is it. This is what’s going to throw me over the edge. Every day I pray for deliverance and it doesn’t come, not in the way I want it to come. I know He delivers me from temptation, if He didn’t, then I would have already given in by now. I know He delivers me from depression, if He didn’t, then I’d be well into the abyss and not just on the edge dangling over it. Why won’t He deliver me from this altogether though? Why does He let me live in these shadows when I so desperately want to get out. Why does He allow me to live with my consequences when I’m so desperately trying and praying to fix things?
I assume it’s because He loves me. I assume it’s because He’s teaching me things. I assume it’s because He’s a just God who sometimes delivers us from the consequences, like Hell, but most often lets us learn from the consequences for next time. Shouldn’t that leave me feeling hopeful? God loves me enough to teach me why I shouldn’t make foolish decisions. He loves me enough to show me through these circumstances that I’m stronger now than I used to be. I wouldn’t have been able to live in this circumstance a couple years ago. I would have drowned in fear and anxiety. I would have thrown myself over the edge into depression and self-harm. So far I haven’t done that this time though. He’s strengthened me and He’s showing me that through the struggle. And He loves me enough to strengthen me as I learn to fight for myself with Him by my side. He could deliver me completely. He could make my credit card debt disappear, give me a car that never deteriorates, and a home that is mine, but He isn’t and He likely won’t, not now at least. God loves me, He teaches me, and He strengthens me. This knowledge should leave me hopeful, but if I’m honest, then I have to admit it doesn’t leave me hopeful.
I know and trust He will protect me, love me, and provide for me. But it’s so hard to live by faith alone. It’s so hard to live remembering His past provision and looking forward to His future provision when I’m living in a present ocean of uncertainty. When I have so much debt and so many bills that I can hardly see straight. When I don’t know where the line is between working to prove my faith and resting in my faith. When I don’t know where the balance is between healthy stress and unhealthy anxiety. It’s hard. Being a Christian is hard, especially when you’re a Christian who battles mental health issues.
Most days, I’m not hopeful because I don’t know how to hope. I’m constantly fighting a battle between anxiety and rest, fear and hope, depression and joy, doubt and faith. I know everyone is fighting this battle, and some seem to be doing better than others. Many seem to be doing better than me, but I can’t think about others fighting this battle right now. I already feel for everyone all the time as it is and that’s part of the problem. What problems are mine and something to worry about? Which problems are someone else’s that I need to let go of at least for now? Which of my problems do I need to work on and which ones should I let go of? I don’t know. That’s the problem. That’s why I’m somewhere between broken and healthy. I know in my head that God is good and He provides but in my heart and soul, I’m not sure about anything.
Most of the time I end my posts with something hopeful and positive. I’m not going to do that this time. I don’t know how to do that this time. I don’t know if I’d believe it if I did. I started the “D.A.R.E to Hope” part of this blog for one reason. I was broken and looking for truth so I could dare myself and others to hope. You’ll see on the page About D.A.R.E. to HOPE that D.A.R.E. stands for “Desolate, Accepted, Renewed, and Encouraged.” I’m somewhere between these places of identity right now. I’ve been accepted, renewed, and encouraged by God and others, but I’ve really been feeling desolate lately. I wish I could say I haven’t been, that once I felt accepted, renewed, and encouraged I never felt desolate again, but that would be a lie. It would make a hypocrite. I wrote The Mask; Her Aid and created this blog so I wouldn’t be that girl anymore, the girl who pretended everything was okay when it wasn’t. So, I’m not going to pretend right now. Everything’s not okay. I’m not in a good place right now. I’m not necessarily in a bad place either. I’m just kind of somewhere in between.
Once upon a time, I was the girl who hated herself, got stressed out about everything, and had major anxiety attacks that led me to self-harm. High school, allegedly the best years of your life, were the darkest years of my life. I went from slightly insecure, to totally insecure, to unsure if I even wanted to be alive. How could life ever get better than it was? Life seemed so dark and hopeless. Four years later, I’m here to tell you that life get’s better. That’s why I created this blog less than a year after I left the hole of darkness I lived in for a while. I built this blog for myself, because I needed encouragement. I still need encouragement, but not the same kind of encouragement that I needed when I started DARE to HOPE. Now, I need the encouragement that comes from being able to write about better days.
My whole life, I’ve been incredibly accident prone. I drop everything, sprain/twist my ankle more frequently than any person should be capable of, and I’ve been in more car accidents than I care to admit. I’m also a perfectionist, so being clumsy and accident prone and also a bit of an airhead sometimes, is pretty much the worst thing I can be. Scratch that. It was pretty much the worst thing I could be. It’s taken years, but now I know how to handle stressful situations like screw ups and unplanned events.
On Sunday morning, I got in another car accident. Honestly, I wasn’t even surprised it happened. I have the worst luck with cars. Not just because I’ve been in way too many car accidents, but also because I tend to have random car problems at the worst times. Anyway, I live in San Antonio and right now pretty much every major street and highway in San Antonio is undergoing construction work. I live off of one of the major roads being worked on and it leads into pretty much every other road being worked on. It wouldn’t be such a big deal if it wasn’t for the fact that I really can’t avoid the construction because this road only goes one way into the city, the other directions leads more to the outskirts and farm land. That’s kind of irrelevant though. The point is, I was in standstill traffic and then suddenly it started going again, but seemingly out of nowhere, the cars in front of me started to slow down. I tried to stop, but my breaks kind of spazzed out on me and only worked halfway. Granted, I was probably too close to the guy in front of me to begin with, but I wasn’t any closer than anyone was to anyone else. I rear-ended him, he rear-ended another lady, and she rear-ended a second lady. For the first time ever, my airbags deployed and I was in a multiple car collision that was partially my fault (it started because the second car hit the first car and startled me). Needless to say, I was panicking a little bit, especially because the airbags deploying made me really nervous about how I and the others would come out of the accident. By the grace of God, everyone came out unscathed and the other three drivers were able to drive away from the scene. My car is probably totaled though, which sucks because it’s a mustang and I’ve always wanted a mustang.
Anyway, the whole reason I was driving in the first place–I don’t drive unless I absolutely have to, because I hate driving so much. Do you blame me? I have a pretty bad driving history. Two speeding tickets and a lot of accidents from turning left–was because I was going to church. Sunday mornings are the worst times to get in a car accident if you and all your friends and family are church people, by the way. Thankfully, I had made plans with my best friend, Shelby, for the same day, so I immediately thought to text message her that I wouldn’t be at church after all. I also called my parents and grandfather and text messaged a roommate who had been at home still when I left the house. Except for Shelby, none of them answered right away and when they did, they ended up being farther away from me than Shelby was, so when worship was over at church (she’s on the worship team) she came to pick me up and drove me to church for the second service for worship. Then we went to hang out like we had planned to before my accident.
If it were up to me, then there wouldn’t have been a car accident. If there had to be a car accident and it were up to me, then it wouldn’t have happened at the right time to cause me to miss church. That being said, I am glad it happened on a Sunday morning and that my best friend was able to pick me up. The best part though, is that it happened on a day when I had plans with her. Years ago, if something like this would have happened and I was left alone to deal with it, I probably would have ended the day with some form of self-harm before crying myself to sleep. If this had even happened a few months ago, I would have been having a panic and or anxiety attack the whole day. As it is, I still probably would have freaked out a bit more this time if I had been left alone, but I wasn’t. Even when things happen and cause negative circumstances, God is working out all things for the good of those who love him. I got to spend half the day with my best friend, which was a great distraction from what had started as a bad day. Still though, some anxiety did break through my time with Shelby, and once I wasn’t with her anymore, especially when I had to drive (borrowing my dad’s car) the anxiety really started to try to take over. By the grace of God, I was able to stop it from taking over though. If you need this encouragement today on how to avoid stress and anxiety and the worries of this world, then here’s a list of what helped keep me calm. Maybe you can use it for yourself?
- Text messaging and hanging out with my best friend.
- Retail Therapy (in my case two books and a movie I’d been wanting to for a while)
- A worship session with the Lord
- Taking control of what I can control (in this case finding a replacement car)
- Punching a punching bag and left some weights (read dumbbells)
- Taking a peppermint, lavender, lemon, and eucalyptus spearmint bubble bath that was hot it was like a sauna while in a darkened bathroom (think candle light, but with night lights and flashlights) and pop music playing while I soaked for a while before taking a shower to rinse/clean off (baths are a nice idea, but I can’t just take a bath. I need to shower after soaking in the tub)
- Watching a heartbreaking romance while eating popcorn and trying not to cry.
- Following it up with a cheesy rom-com Chick Flick and some wine.
- Expressing myself in an artistic way to reduce the left over stress of the day. (drawing, painting, writing, playing music)
- Taking a deep breath and reminding myself that I’ve made it this far so I can’t give up now, because God is on my side and He wants me to succeed as much as I want to succeed, even if my success is nothing more than not breaking down. You may not know this if you’re not anxiety prone like I am or if you’ve never dealt with any other kind of regular mental/emotional breakdown, but keeping yourself together when it seems easier to break down is actually a HUGE accomplishment if you don’t just bottle your feelings up inside and actually release them in a healthy way.
Anyway, I just wanted to share this with anyone who might want to read it. I was proud of myself when I realized I made it through the day without any major breakdowns even though the threat was at the back of my mind all day. Like I said, I used to be a girl who dealt with stress in a very negative and unhealthy way. Anytime I realize that I’ve dealt with it in a (or more) positive and healthy way, I just have to give myself a pat on the back and smile over the fact that “they” were right. It DOES get better and what doesn’t kill you really DOES make you stronger! I hope this post encourages you, because it encouraged me just to be able to sit down and write it. It’s amazing how therapeutic writing and reading can be; don’t ya think?
If you’re reading this and can think of any time, even the smallest of moments, when you made it through a moment that you wouldn’t have been able to get through in the past, then share the memory with me. I’d love to hear and maybe draw encouragement from it for myself in the future! 🙂