Lately, I’ve found myself running further and further away from vulnerability. But, it finds me. It’s been vital to my path of healing after an extremely difficult year.
In a world where it’s easy to share your life’s highlight reels, I felt the need to share the messy behind the scenes life I’ve been living. Why? Because we all have a messy, “backstage” life, and sharing your “ugly” may be the reason someone else acknowledges theirs…and finds healing.
I’ve known my whole life, one of my greatest life callings would be mothering children. I spent many years waiting, and waiting, and praying, and waiting, and feeling alone, and crying tears all over my empty arms. I would have never chosen the circumstances which brought us our boys. Ever. But, God chose us, for them. I have no doubt God had His hand in it all, all this time. I am grateful, and humbled.
When a blessing also becomes the greatest stress of your life, and you are already so hard on yourself, guilt takes root. For clarity, they aren’t the stress. The constant feeling of not being enough for them IS the stress. The constant fear of doing something else that hurts them becomes your constant anxiety, when they’ve already been through so much. The wounds they carry you can’t just fix makes you feel completely powerless. Every perceived mistake is ammo for the inner critic.
Mix all this with an “emotional sponge” style personality, soaking up the feelings of those around you and carrying them as your own. You are feeling your stress, your husband’s stress, and everything the boys are feeling. You put responsibility on yourself for keeping everything and everyone together, a job you were never meant to carry.
Add a collectively full-time, bouncing around here and there career (even if you thrive on the bouncing around.) Life changed faster than you could adjust to, for a while. There was a whole lot of exhaustion. Lots of exhaustion. For a few months, I could barely make it through a day without crashing.
Then, grief enters. A huge, gaping hole in your life is formed after losing someone you love dearly, very suddenly—your “bonus” father and love of your mother’s life. I wasn’t just grieving for me, but for her, and for everyone else in our family.
All the feelings of not being enough, and powerless, completely escalate when you are just trying to survive the day to day. When you are walking around a broken person. This results in more guilt. More feelings of adequacy. More anxiety.
A few months pass. Even though you are functioning better, and yes, comforted by knowing your lost loved one is living in God’s glory, the stress is greatly affecting your body. You get tension headaches you’ve never experienced before. You have moments of completely shutting down that actually scare you. You feel anger you aren’t used to. The guilt grows stronger. You beat yourself up even more, which results in more stress, more exhaustion, and more anger—at yourself.
When you are already knocked down, you then lose your precious puppy, who has been like a baby to you during all those years you didn’t have any actual babies. He was sick, but the passing was sudden and unexpected. More grief. More stress. More anger. More shutting down. More feeling like you aren’t enough. More things you could not and cannot fix.
A few months later, you are functioning better, again, and you credit God for bringing you through it all. But, we live in human bodies which aren’t invincible. You recognize the toll it’s all had on you when you start reaching towards unhealthy coping mechanisms you kicked to the curb years ago. Even though I was already receiving support which had been helping greatly, I knew I needed to ramp it up. Be even more vulnerable. Show my weaknesses and my imperfections when it absolutely killed me to do so. (And still does.) But, it has been the key to my healing.
To my own demise, I absolutely hate asking for help, of any kind. I have to be desperate. But, I’ve realized over the years, we ALL need support. We need each other. You can be the greatest swimmer in the entire world, but if you are stuck treading water in the middle of a vast ocean with NO life preserver (support), you will drown. Why? The ocean is bigger than you, and will overwhelm you. It isn’t a personal problem. It’s being human.
Sharing my “ugly” with those who are trustworthy to receive it—both professionals and dear friends/loved ones—has been extremely hard, but so vital to my healing and resiliency. I don’t share any of this for pity or attention or anything of the sort—it’s the last thing I would want, and God knows I’d rather hide in the corner, but I just felt lead to share these experiences, and what it looks like to come through to the other side. We all have our struggles. We all have seasons in our lives which are tougher than others; and we may just need to be seen, heard, and understood.
There is light at the end of this journey. I’m truly feeling better, and I’m constantly learning to reframe how I think, and not put the responsibility of the whole world on my own, feeble shoulders. In the midst of the hard, God has been bringing me closer and closer to the desires of my heart, in my career and in life, which has been a bright spot during this tough year. I have continually felt the need to slow down. I mean really slow down. Like take a nap when I can and need to, because my body is still healing…without feeling guilty. (I’m still working on it.) To stop pushing myself 10 miles past my limits, when I can help it.
I can also see healing and growth in the boys God entrusted to us, although the journey is far from over. I know God is responsible, and I know He has used me (and many others!) despite all the messy and ugly, despite all my feelings of inadequacy. It’s not because I’m worthy, but because I’m there. It’s humbling. I’m continuously learning to simply carry what God has entrusted to me, and let God be God, who can handle the weight of the whole world
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