I wouldn’t go back to last year, not for a minute. The mere thought of it makes me start to feel ill. I definitely didn’t think to myself last year while everything was going on “hey this would make a great blog post one day.” I wasn’t secretly glad to have a topic worth writing about. Frankly, I just wished none of it happened and I could post a gift guide or keep on slinging skincare. But I kept going back to that word; my theme – vulnerability – and I knew if I acted like this wasn’t happening, then I was nothing but a liar.
So by the end of 2017, I was both physically and mentally exhausted, not to dissimilar to this year actually. But 2018 exhaustion isn’t wrought with fear and doubts, just good ol’ fashioned ‘I’ve over-committed in every area of my life and I have two kids’ kind of exhausted. I’m fortunate enough to have been surrounded by a discipleship group the last two and half years. These are people in our life we trust implicitly, see often and allow to speak into our lives, even if it’s hard to hear. Sidebar: we ALL need those kind of people in our world am I right?
It was one night in one of our gatherings after my post went live that one of the women who is a psychologist kindly suggested I come in to see her. As I do when anyone gets too close, I shrug it off, make a joke and try to act cool. But secretly my husband and I had already discussed it and he had suggested I talk with her. So off I went. Honestly at first I felt like this was going to be a huge waste of her time. After all, I was fine – this was just a weird year; fantastically unlucky in sickness. Overall life was great and it’s not like I’ve not suffered any major traumas or abuse. Sure I’ve had some extremely hard good byes – another post on another day perhaps – but really, I didn’t feel like I someone who “needed” help.
But over the weeks and months, I realized not only did I need these sessions, but they had became a lifeline for me. Truthfully I dreaded almost every session because I still felt awkward but by the end, I was always sad to go. Every session was filled with new little gems, learning to look at things differently and effective strategies for dealing with my panic and anxiety. I really feel the most valuable thing I could learn was how I’ve been wired and what I can’t change. Some things are just who I am and how God made me – so no point trying to fight that. What I can do is learn to re-train my brain to deal with situations and stress in a much healthier way. Again, if you know me well, you know I’m a huge over thinker – to the point that it’s considered chronic or dysfunctional. I’m wired to think things through and be analytical, which can be positive attributes. But those thoughts were being allowed to rule my day and control my emotions and belief systems, which is where I came undone. I’ve summed it up as succinctly as I can but I can assure you the process is neither simple or quick. What I can say is that it’s worth it. In twelve months, I’m starting to feel like a new person. I haven’t yet got it all figured out and it’s tiresome at times to feel like I’m constantly talking to myself to re-train my brain, but I’m seeing progress. The best part? No panic attacks since the end of last year. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my moments where someone just says the word ‘gastro’ and my entire body starts sending off alarms (crazy, I know!) but now I’ve got ways to talk myself off the proverbial ledge so I don’t end up in a ball on the floor again. And like anything, when you practice it enough, you get better at it and it becomes a habit – the good kind.
So if you’re still reading this, the biggest takeaways from me would be:
- Talk to someone, specifically a professional. Don’t be too proud. No one has their life together like they make it look like on Instagram anyway. I don’t like talking about my feelings at all (just ask my poor husband) and even I can say that this is the best thing I’ve done for my mental health… ever.
- Find something that works for you. For me, I like to write. Even in my time with God, I find it easier to write to Him than to pray out loud. I also love worship music and it’s something that instantly calms me down so it’s playing in the car, at home and in one ear of an earphone at work so I’m constantly filling my head with truth. I’ve also added reading to this list. If I’m immersed in a great piece of fiction, I’m too distracted to be stressing over something else. It sounds crazy but it does work to keep my mind off wandering places where it shouldn’t go.
- Learn to say no. Nowadays it seems like ‘busy’ is the best thing you can be. How are you? Oh really busy. Like my boss says “you don’t get to own busy.” EVERYONE is busy and I’m really not sure why we made it a buzzword as if translates to being important or productive. Busy has only made me tired, burned out and flakey to be honest. Do I want to help people whenever I can? Of course. But I can’t be all things to everyone and now I’m okay with it now. Isn’t it better to focus our attention to one thing at a time and do that thing well?
Lastly – but most importantly: “keep focusing on the things that are above” Colossians 3.1