We are all broken. All of us. In some way or another. If we weren’t, we would be perfect, and that’s impossible here on earth.
Yet many of us (me!) can struggle with perfectionism or idealism. Ironically, this doesn’t mean we do everything perfectly, rather we can have this uneasy feeling of not being good enough or measuring up or doing things the right way. We must have missed the memo! It’s stifling and a huge issue, no wonder anxiousness and depression runs rampant.
In getting to know Jesus more and deepening my faith, I expected to feel immediately wonderful and enlightened.
It really triggered that weak part of me, and I had a deeper sense of being imperfect, of not being good enough and I began comparing myself with others. I easily slipped into an idealistic view of how truly faithful people must be, and here’s me screaming (putting it nicely) at my kids, ticking every sinful box, (does hiding in the bathroom with a family-size chocolate bar count as gluttony?). I get frustrated and impatient. This is certainly not the view that fits into the neat little box in my head.
The reality is that we’ll never be complete, or whole until we reach Heaven. I dare say we are perfect now with our weaknesses and failings. This is what life is. It’s messy and gritty. Do we stop trying then and become complacent? No! Everyday we must face ourselves as we are, face the parts of us we don’t like and wish were different.
But we can allow God to work with us and through us, lifting us to make the effort to strive no matter how many times we fall. Let’s keep moving and trying for better, for a richer life. Not in a self-abusing way or in a way where we allow the negative thoughts to discourage us and disqualify us. We can’t do this alone. Pray as if it’s up to God, work as if it’s up to you.
Gosh I’m not perfect, far from it, my struggles are like yours; but surely we can be grateful for the lessons learned. Empathy to feel with others, courage and strength to face difficulty and Hope for eternity which is promised to us. Hope. It’s not about having a life without struggle but having Hope amidst that struggle... that’s a good place to start.
There’s been so much tragedy on the news lately, so much weighing down the world. It makes it especially difficult when one tragic event or bad news overlaps another. You feel your emotions get back into check until another bit of news slaps the other cheek. It’s hard to escape with instant headlines, posts and shares over social media. And there’s always that person who keeps you updated on who’s sick or dying or divorcing! The world can seem a little bit hopeless again and you wonder what’s good out there?
I was once a believer that our minds could handle anything and it was a show of strength when you could be exposed to these things and not be affected... that it’s up to us to work on realistic thinking!
While there’s truth in this, I think we need to help our minds along a bit. Our minds are very powerful when used correctly, but there’s a side to them, that when gaps open and darkness and constant negativity or tragedy enter, it can and will affect thinking patterns and therefore moods.
Instead, we can choose to focus on light. It’s not a sign of weakness or not being able to cope. I also don’t think that it means we’re burying our heads in the sand and being out of touch with the outside world, as some people might have you believe. Unfortunately the darkness and negative aspects of the world will continue whether we focus on them or not. We are making a choice to fill ourselves with light.
We’re better off offering a prayer for peace in the world, a genuine heartfelt prayer for the healing of everyone’s mind, body and soul. Let’s make a conscious choice to focus on the good around us. When we do this we can find that it’s the little things we usually miss...little miracles of the day...Someone letting you in the traffic or queue, or a smile from a passing stranger, a warm hug, a heart conversation or general kindness and goodness that’s around us; what we miss with our ‘big picture’ mind that unfortunately hooks onto dark (it’s in our trajectory that our minds work this way). Let’s make a conscious effort to let go of tragedy, choose to switch off, scroll past that post on social media, miss the news, pray for people and look towards God.
Some challenges that we have or hear of seem unnecessary; and we struggle to see why they need to happen. They can seem pointless.
I have seen this in the last few weeks.
Sudden/tragic deaths of loved ones, illnesses of children, loving couples unable to conceive. Why? Why is this God’s plan?
When I was working through recovery I was told that it was important to find a reason in all of this suffering. Our lives were not meant to be easy that’s for sure! If God can’t take it away from us, then pray that He gives us the courage to face it.
I felt that this was a good way to look at it- it gives me a great source of comfort. I naively once believed that praying was my golden ticket to a desirable result. I know I prayed a thousand prayers to turn me into a Saint when I was at my darkest time! And it wasn’t taken away from me as quickly as I thought it would that’s for sure!
But I know He gave me the courage to face it. I needed to go through it for reasons that became clear later.
For other situations above it may not be so clear now. But perhaps not being able to conceive means having the freedom to share your time or skill.
Or having an unwell child makes you and others around you appreciate the fragility of life; and the new knowledge you can share saves another’s life. Or experiencing grief means you are a support for others who experience grief. It may seem trivial but your purpose may be to help just one person.
It makes sense why people who face insurmountable tragedies begin support groups to help others.
My saviour once suffered greatly... she was actively suicidal, clinically depressed, institutionalised, agoraphobic and so on. Years of suffering lead to recovery, which lead to her writing books, starting associations, helping thousands of anxiety and depression sufferers to recover, and teaching them to help others. All of this a result of her darkness. When I asked her about this she said, “Well I’m fortunate for what I’ve done now, but I could’ve done without the lesson!”
Honest and true. We can all do without such ‘lessons’. We can only try to see reason behind it, some purpose, and turn it into SOMETHING. Perhaps then we will see God’s plan🌺
The way to recovery for me was a shift of perception. On how I viewed my anxiety. What helped me was seeing my life in a bucket, filled with stresses and worry and responsibility. This full bucket was causing me to be unsettled. Not necessarily anxious but not at peace either.
At my most difficult time, when I was suffering from daily anxiety, my bucket was overflowing. I had reached my stress threshold and my bucket couldn’t hold anymore. The overflowing bucket was causing all the difficult anxiety symptoms. It’s when we don’t see this, overlook the cause and focus on that flowing anxiety, that keeps it alive and makes us feel stuck in a vicious cycle.
There are two things that keep the bucket flowing. The fear of the flow (symptoms) and whatever filled the bucket in the first place. When we try to ‘get rid’ of the anxiety with lots of bandaid options out there, then it may stop the bucket flowing for a bit, but it keeps us on edge that it’ll flow again. We all have a stress threshold and some reach theirs quicker than others.
Some lucky people never reach it and can handle a high level of stress with no issues! It’s different for everyone but when that point of stress is reached, that’s our wake up call. And it may not be running around/responsibility/work type of stress. It’s usually emotional stress, personal baggage, worrying about things that are not in your control, being concerned about how people see you, comparing yourself to others. These are sure fire ways to fill that bucket right up, when these days life is such that it’s already half full! We can look at anxiety as our teacher, shaking us by the shoulders to take stock of what we’re carrying and to take care of ourselves. It may mean to slow down or speak to a professional or challenge our thought pattern.
Rather than fear what is happening, we could see this as a guide of what NOT to do, or what NOT to think. The problem is that most people only focus on the anxiety and either fear it or fight it thus keeping that flow. Once there is an acceptance of what’s happening, we have the first step to stopping that flow, working on what’s in that bucket, and clearing it out for long term recovery 🌺
There’s been such sad news lately and it always highlights the conversation that needs to be had about mental illness. While that’s a great thing, there’s a risk that people self diagnosis or fall into a ‘victim’ or ‘hopeless’ trap. Particularly if they paint their feeling with the same brush of the person they’ve read about and think it’s one of the same. As I’ve mentioned before, sadness is NOT depression and worry is NOT always an anxiety disorder. Factors surrounding someone’s will (or lack of) for life vary greatly and cannot be compared. Any comparison can be stifling.
We are a culture of victim and blame.
I was once told that depression and anxiety sufferers are usually the least self-responsible people. They’re responsible for everyone else but themselves, this explains why they suffer.
I know I was a real victim for a long time. I would hide behind ‘it’s not fair... this is not me... I’m not good enough... I can’t change...I’m not strong.” With these statements I gave myself permission to do...absolutely nothing! Not seek help, not be self aware, not try to look at things differently and not be self-responsible.
If acceptance is the first key to recovery, then empathy is on the same key chain. This is not to be confused with sympathy or victim mentality. Empathy is understanding your situation or feelings. And using this to move forward. Sympathy however comes with sense of pity and a lack of self-responsibility because it implies that the situation is beyond your control.
It’s easy for us to fall into the victim-self and blame our spouse, our job, our parents or the prime minister! (We shouldn’t blame ourselves either!) These things may need addressing, but if we continually do this then we take away our power and hand it over to the mental illness on a silver platter.
Going back to the first point; while reading of these suicides is incredibly sad, we need to pull ourselves out of the victim and hopeless state and believe that there is light, truth and hope in seeking help. Not being passive and leaving our reality to chance or letting our feelings dictate our life. And certainly not be drawn into a false idea of hopelessness about it all. 🌺
Before I found the right help, I clutched desperately to any advice. ‘Just love yourself,’ was one. ‘Everyday say to the mirror, I love you, and give the mirror a kiss.’
So I did exactly that, I kissed the cool mirror but inside what I really I wanted was to jam my fist into the glass. How was I ever going to feel anything but hate or at the least resentment at myself for not being who I wanted me to be... ‘stronger’ than this, better than this, ‘happier’ than this?
The way I saw it, I was causing me, misery. It would be like trying to switch on love feelings for someone who was causing your life hell. No easy task. Well meaning advice to love oneself can create a deeper feeling of hopelessness when those expectations to feel this emotion are not met. We see those motivation captions everywhere but what does it really mean?
“Don’t believe that love nonsense,” my therapist had told me. She was great like that. Really real. “Start with CARE...simply care for yourself,” she added. “You’re on the right track by seeking help with me aren’t you?”
It made sense. Care enough that you can stand up for yourself or say NO if you need to. Care enough to take a break, do something for yourself, or follow a passion. Care enough for yourself to live in a healthy way. Care enough to ignore the negative and abusive self thoughts that try and hold you back. Care enough to seek help. “And if you do all these things... how can the love not naturally grow?”
It doesn’t have to be massive changes or giant leaps, it’s all in the little things you do. Build on those little decisions until you feel ready to tackle bigger ones or make life changes. *
To be honest, I even found the care bit hard. I was extremely hard on myself and I cared very little for myself. It was a big roadblock for me. Until I was able to find out exactly why I was so hard on myself, why I couldn’t give myself a chance and why I blamed myself so much, I really wasn’t getting anywhere. So yes it’s not as easy as being ‘your own best friend’ for a lot of people. Good advice, but as always you need to have a closer look at all those roots beneath to understand why the tree doesn’t grow 🌺
I was deeply saddened this week to hear of a few suicides. Some people may view this as a ‘cop out’ or a selfish act. For me, it is a reminder of how extremely crippled I felt when I had an anxiety disorder. How, although thankfully just the thought of self-harm was terrifying for me, I can see why anyone would feel that this would be the only way to escape the sheer hell that one feels.
It’s difficult to fathom how debilitating depression or chronic anxiety can be. How much of a changed person you feel you have become. How it totally affects your behaviour, your words, and crushes your sense of self. And how just living day to day, going to work, placing one step in front of the other can be an enormous effort.
You feel lonely and isolated. You feel hopeless and DIFFERENT to everyone else. We think others are allowed to have these illnesses and we can empathise with them and “forgive” them.. but us… no this is not us… we are “stronger” that that.
Continuously denying your experience, no matter how horrid it is, is the very thing that keeps it there... and then makes it worse. Accepting that this is you for now is the first key to recovery. No-one needs to live like this. It is not meant to be a way of being nor is it just part of a person’s make. You should no longer say “this is just the way I am” or “I’ve learned to live with it.”
It is dis-ease of mind and emotions. And it doesn’t matter what brought you to this time (from life stresses to life challenges), anxiety can be a sign that something is amiss in your life. That Enough is Enough. That your thought pattern is unhealthy or destructive. It maybe highlighting that you need to put yourself first for once.
Perhaps you are trying too hard to do everything perfectly or trying too hard to be all things to all people. Do you see yourself as the “go to” person, the one that fixes everything, or do you place upon yourself unreasonable responsibility or guilt?
These are usually the ones that suffer the most. The ones that have been too strong for too long.
Let this be your year for change.
In my experience a good reliable therapist is paramount for support in recovery. Find one. And take back the power
I had no intention of writing. I certainly didn’t ‘feel’ like it.
When I was suffering from an anxiety disorder, part of the recovery process was to try and find ‘me’... through the realisation of a passion or dream that perhaps I had previously felt unable to reach for. I mentioned to my therapist that I enjoyed writing when I was younger, back when I dreamed of writing a novel. I was told to start with that, to look into a writing course, or just simply pick up a pen and write.
I didn’t feel like it. There was nothing stopping me other than the fact that I hadn’t written for so long and I felt that I didn’t know if I could. I felt unskilled and I wasn’t even excited by the thought. But one thing I knew, was that back then, I loved it.
So I enrolled in an evening course and on the first day, I became lost getting there, was almost an hour late; and when I did find the place, I called my husband from the carpark and told him I wanted to come home. He encouraged me to stay.
I entered the classroom late, feeling left out from the class that had bonded in previous courses, brought the wrong writing tools and I vowed that I would see the night out and never return.
I did return and when given writing tasks for homework, I felt burdened by them. But over time, I felt that I was enjoying it again, and slowly it was becoming more exciting for me rather than just a feeling that I had to do it. The old passion came back and I’m so very grateful that I pushed through.
If I waited until I ‘felt’ like I wanted to write, I would never have done so. Sometimes we need to give it a nudge.
So how do you know then, what goal to reach when it is not a clear yearning or perfect ‘feeling?’ It was suggested to me in this case, then go for a wish or a dream that you had when you were young (because really that’s when the best dreams were, before we knew ‘too much’) Or go towards that little inkling or tiny voice inside. It doesn’t need to be strong. It just needs to be soft enough to dust off those thoughts that weigh you and that dream down. And if it’s not your thing in the end, then at least you know you gave it a go, and that in itself is a great thing 🌺
I was asked this the other day by a terrified person who was struggling with her consuming anxiety.
I know I used to be concerned about this myself back then, and had my fears put at ease once it was explained to me.
The good news is that in the medical world, there is no such thing as a ‘nervous breakdown’ any longer. As crappy as one can feel when all consumed with anxiety and depression, the good news is that what they’re feeling is as bad as it gets.
Nervous breakdown is a term that was once used to refer to a wide variety of mental illnesses, an easy way to blanket over these issues when even the medical world was shaking its head.
People fear the term because they perhaps picture themselves in a psychotic state or hunched over and rocking forward and backwards, losing all sense of reality. I know I had that image!! The breakdown of your nerves is pretty much what happens when you have an anxiety disorder or suffer from acute anxiety. The constant fear of anxiety is a highly stressed state that can fray nerves, leading to heart palpitations or light headedness or knots in stomachs or any other of the many many symptoms. This leads to the anxious thoughts leading to more anxious feelings and the vicious cycle continues.
That’s it. It’s not great. But that’s it. There is no other big bad breakdown around the corner waiting to get to you.
I hear this is a common fear so I hope that this can be comforting to those who fear the anxiety is going to seize them whole. I put this in the other basket of fearful thoughts that are common ‘what if I go crazy... drop dead... lose control...” None of this ever happens from anxiety. You are hundred percent in control (which can itself be the problem), and too smart for your own good. It’s all still there, including your mind, you just need to learn how to work with the logical part of it.
This is why it is important to ask questions and educate yourself about what is happening.
Your knowledge about mental illnesses is absolute power here and will be your saving grace.
If you know that this is as bad as it gets (as terrible as it is for now) then you can take those steps forward to begin healing
I have been chatting to a few school-aged children lately, who are feeling overwhelmed by anxiety. It has been an educational an eye-opening experience for me and I have found a running theme amongst in conversation. You feel misunderstood.
Anxiety/depression amongst children and teenagers are on the rise. The pressure on you these days is great, and social media is a real issue. You’re growing up in a world obsessed with body-image, celebrity and materialism. Where your family life may be loving and stable, your peers may be experiencing the opposite as there is a real breakdown of family values in society too – so this may adversely affect the behaviour of your peers towards you (increase of bullying). We went through similar stresses at your age, but we were lucky that we could ‘hide’ after school easily, there was no contact by mobiles, text messages, apps or social media once school let out. It was good for us to be able to go home and leave issues in the schoolyard, whereas it follows you around.
I am hearing that you think your parents don’t understand what it’s like being anxious or depressed. They do. It’s easy for a professional or an unrelated (but trusted) adult to empathise with you, and you may wonder why your parents can’t be the same. Parents have this interesting way of blaming themselves for their children’s issues. We feel they are ‘taking after us’ or it’s because we didn’t ‘bring them up right way’ that has made our children ‘sensitive’ or ‘emotional.’ We must have done something wrong??
I know the first time my daughter’s teacher took me aside and said that my daughter is having trouble managing her emotions and she is feeling anxious, I burst out into tears. I was in a difficult place at the time myself, so of course I blamed me. And frankly, on the inside, I resented that she was ‘following in my footsteps.’ I was so terrified that she was going to be like me where anxiety was concerned, that at times my fear manifested into anger, rather than being empathic. Of course that did more harm than good. I knew deep down that it wasn’t her fault, I was angry at myself because I perceived it a failure on my part.
I am fortunate to have grown in mindset in this regard. Some parents have not had the privilege to seek help, or the right help, or they have not been taught to deal with their own issues or emotions. They may not have learned the tools to self-help. That’s not their fault, they just haven’t been taught. You may think that they ‘should’ know and understand, but to be honest a full blown anxiety disorder is difficult for many everyday adults to understand (those who haven’t been through it), let alone a parent who is at risk of having their ‘failures’ exposed, this is even more of a difficult thing for them to understand or accept. They want you to just get ‘over it.’
There is scientific proof that we can have a biological pre-disposition to anxiety and depression. So perhaps your parents, grandparents, great grandparents have gone through this. It was not socially acceptable to be so open about this once upon a time. Your generation is lucky that there is a conversation about it and certainly some very good help out there.
So reach out, confide in a trusted person. You are not alone and like many things in life, this will no doubt be a passing faze. Don’t lose faith in your parents. Because they love you, because they don’t want you to see you suffer, and because more often than not, they’re own personal experience is proof that they know more about this then you think they do.