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 🌺