Life Lessons: What I’ve Learned from a Broken Car Door Handle

The door handle broke on my car, on the inside…on the driver’s side. This funny little thing happened a few weeks ago and I just realized that its happening has taught me a few things – about getting out of my car without a door handle and about life.

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If you know anything about bipolar disorder or depression or anxiety then you probably already know that I’m prone to discombobulation over little things. You may also know that having to open my door from the outside while I am still inside the car causes me anxiety because, you know, people might SEE me doing this. And you may also know that this isn’t a big deal but it can be a big deal in my messy but pretty little head. And today, it struck me, I’ve gotta share this. Some seriously good reminders have come from this. So, here it goes.

  1. Stay calm. When your door handle breaks off and you’re out and about and you don’t know what to do, stay calm for Pete’s sake. Take a couple deep breaths and then laugh. When anything remotely like this happens…your kid poops in his/her diaper right before you leave the house, you brake your key off in the door, you put the milk in the pantry and forget about it…just breathe and laugh. It will make everything better, I promise, at least for a while.
  2. Be prepared. After a few days or weeks of having a broken door handle I have learned that I need to stop and think before I try and get out of car. It’s like somehow, just opening the door now takes several more steps. So I have to be prepared to roll my window down, unlock the door from the inside (because mine automatically locks), put my arm through the open window, open the door from the outside and then…I have to roll the window back up. There may or may not have been several times I have done this improperly, which then leads to bad words and some more bad words, as I curse the door, the door handle and the car in general. So when you’re faced with a situation such as this…something that makes life a bit more difficult than usual, be prepared. Think through the steps and don’t get caught off guard. Otherwise your children may hear words that you are not intending them to hear for several more years.
  3. Take it slow. Similar to the “be prepared scenario”…this situation reminds me that I must slow down before I jump right out of the car. I’m literally put back in my place as soon as I reach for the door handle…that isn’t there. So there I am, thinking through the steps, again. I have to take my time to get it all right because this method is like retraining my muscles or something, those muscles that are for car door opening. But can’t we all be rewarded by slowing things down a bit? Maybe it’s not SO bad that I have to think through this process. Maybe it’s good for my brain. Maybe, if we take our time, less things like broken car door handles will happen? Either way, we’re always hearing that we move to fast and hurry too much through life. Let’s slow down.
  4. Get over yourself. I have an intensified concern over what other people think sometimes, and by sometimes, I mean most of the time. (It’s really not pleasant.) It may be vanity or it may be social anxiety. It may be both. But I know when I roll down that window and reach my arm out, I know that I’m doing something unconventional when it comes to door opening. I mean, have you ever actually seen someone opening their car door in this fashion? I didn’t think so. Part of that may be because this rarely happens or perhaps that you just don’t notice. That last part is the important part. Nobody really notices. I can say that I have conducted some research on this…because no one has yet to stare right at me or say anything to me about it, yet. Even so…I might think that they are watching, so I look around, kind of scope out the situation. I admit, I try to avoid opening the door when anyone is nearby or looking my direction. But, why bother? What does it really mean in the scheme of things? And am I so important that complete strangers are watching me to see how I exit my vehicle? Nope. I know you can probably think of a lot of ways this applies to life. Get over yourself already. (Talking to self.)
  5. Get it done. Finally, I must say, it’s time to get the freaking door handle fixed. No need to procrastinate any longer. (Actually I have a couple of real reasons, but for the point of the post we will say they don’t exit.) Just get it done already. Stop putting off those things that you really need to take care of. Let go of the hassle of having those issues or items hanging around in your head. Clear up space in your mind and in your life by taking care of business, okay?

See, all of these great life lessons came from one broken door handle. I can hardly believe it actually, now that I’ve figured it out. Something that drives me a wee bit crazy daily has actually done me some good. (And by a wee bit, I may mean that it sometimes completely, utterly and undeniably makes me mad, as in crazy mad. Also, I don’t feel bad using the term “crazy” here because, I may actually be crazy, so it’s okay. Just this time.)

Have you ever had something like this happen that reminded you of some important life lessons? Tell me about it? I’d love to hear!

Guest Post: Grace for Your Constant Struggle

I am honored to share a post with you by a new and dear friend of mine, Liz Lalama. This post spoke right to my heart and I knew that it would to others as well! Liz graciously gave me permission to share it with you here. Enjoy!

It’s a new year, yet I find myself back where I was before. It’s time to turn over a fresh leaf, yet I know that the underside of my leaf is just as brown and rotting as the top. I’m frustrated, as I find myself not quite fully experiencing victory over a depressive episode from this past year.

I’m in a similar place that I was four years ago. Honestly, I find that hard to admit. It was only a few months after writing a blog series on recovery that my depression flared up again. I feel uncomfortable saying that. I’m humbled by that fact that I don’t (and never did) have it all together.

Maybe you can relate. Maybe you’re feeling the same struggles and pressures that you were a few years ago, or that you do every year. Maybe you have that one issue you’re embarrassed to say is still a struggle.

In all the talk of moving on, becoming better people, and making resolutions, it’s hard to face the fact that sometimes we just don’t. The reality is that most of the time New Year’s resolutions don’t succeed. It’s been a week … maybe yours has failed already. But I’m not even talking just about the new year. I’m talking about those deep struggles. The ones that we like to hide under the bed and pretend don’t exist. The ones that come back to haunt us after we thought we had won.

As a teenager growing up in the church, we would often have emotional moments on youth retreats where we would write down a sin, struggle, or addiction that we wanted to give up. We would then take those papers and either throw them in a fire or nail them to a cross to show that God had forgiven these sins and they were gone. It was incredibly meaningful and probably overly emotional. But it was very uplifting … until I became discouraged from writing down the same thing year after year.

It’s been years since I’ve thrown a struggle in the fire, but I find myself dealing with doubts about the fact that my struggles still exist. The truth is they didn’t actually burn in the fire. (I think that’s why they call it a “metaphor”.) But even though I’m no longer a teenager, I still find myself wishing I could throw the same old parts of me into a fire. I wish it was that easy.

Maybe like me, at the end of yet another year you find yourself realizing that if you were totally honest, not much has changed. Sure, maybe you changed your hair or moved or made a big life decision or made healthier choices. But you realize that your deepest, darkest fears are the same. Your body still isn’t as healthy as you’d like. That chronic ailment still exists. Your mental illness is still a daily battle. You still lose your temper. Or conversely you fail to speak up for yourself. You still haven’t reconciled your relationships. Even if you have conquered that addiction, you realize that you still have the potential to go back to it.

What are we to make of that? Am I a failure? Are you a failure? Am we a bad Christians? No. We are human. We are broken. We struggle. And that is exactly what a Christian is.

I’m afraid this isn’t a how-to blog. I don’t claim to have all the answers or even just one. But two things I know: We’re not alone and there is grace.

It’s too easy to think that everyone else it all together and we are the only ones who so often end up dealing with the same struggles we dealt with years ago. But if our fellow Christians were honest, we would soon find out that they struggle just the same. And through everyone’s struggle, there is grace every day and every year. There is grace every time I realize I’m still throwing that same struggle into the same fire.

Even the apostle Paul had his constant struggle. He refers to it as a thorn in the flesh (2 Cor 12). We don’t know what his struggle was, although scholars have made a few guesses. I think the fact that we aren’t told makes his thorn in the flesh more relatable. It doesn’t allow us to specify what is ok for Christians to constantly battle and what is not. By leaving the idea of the thorn vague, we are able to understand that Paul’s struggle is everyone’s struggle. I know very clearly what my thorn in the flesh is, and I’m guessing you know yours too. We might pretend otherwise, but truthfully we know the darkness of our own hearts.

Vicious thorns on bush. Sharp and threatening thorns on a plant in black and white

I do not struggle in the same ways as the apostle Paul, but like him I have cried out to God to take it away. Sometimes He has said yes, and sometimes He has said no. But I still have the questions. Why am I left with depression? Why do I deal with this illness that will likely go in and out of remission for the rest of my life? I have been left wondering if God hears my cry … if He even exists.

I often feel broken because I do not handle my thorn in the flesh as well as other people. But I don’t think it was easy for Paul either. He said, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.” Three times he pleaded. He pleaded with God, over and over again. We easily skip over this verse and miss the pain Paul was in, the discouragement he felt in his struggle, just as we do. Even Jesus was so stressed in Gethsemane that he sweated blood as he pleaded with God to take the cross away from him. It wasn’t easy for him either. The pain and discouragement felt when we plead and yet hear “No” is not a lack of faith, it’s part of the human experience.

Paul then goes on, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ I can hear some of you that are feeling very discouraged saying, “Yeah, yeah. Paul’s thorn in the flesh. His grace is sufficient. I’ve heard that.” I said that too. Sometimes I still do. But I failed to really understand the significance of God’s grace being sufficient.

God is not saying, “My grace is enough for you so just deal with this issue.” He is not saying, “My grace negates the need for doctors and seeking support and change.” It’s a gentle phrase, not a harsh one. It’s said in love, and is a reminder that we don’t have to be perfect.

God’s grace is sufficient for who I am. Jesus’ grace says, “It’s ok that you’ve failed. It’s ok that you find yourself in the same place you were before.” This world is broken.  We are broken. Yet we are God’s children and we are loved unconditionally, regardless of how often a thorn in the flesh haunts us. Even if I deal with the same struggle for the rest of my life and only see small and intermittent victory, Christ’s grace is still sufficient. I am still beloved. And so are you.

When we are weak, He is strong. When we fail, His grace is sufficient … unendingly and continuously. Not just once, not even again and again, but constantly, in every breath we breathe and in every second of our broken lives. There is grace.

 

This post originally appeared on Salad At Midnight 

Liz LalamLiz Lalamaa is a blogger and freelance writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. She has a vision for fostering community and always loves a good chat at the coffee shop, on a walk, or at the playground. She writes honestly about life, mental health, faith, and society at her blog saladatmidnight.com. Find her on facebook.com/saladatmidnight or on twitter, @lizlalama.

 

Trouble in Paradise: Vacationing with Depression and Anxiety 

 

 FYI, I’m in Florida visiting my parents along with one of my children at the time of writing this post.

 Apparently I brought some friends with me on this vacation of mine. We’ll call these friends depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. PTSD is always with me too, I guess, but it likes to lurk or hang far back so I don’t know it’s there until the most unlikely of moments and you know, all of these guys can be pretty sneaky.
I don’t expect to see them when I’m traveling or even during preparation for a trip, but they decided to show up, darn it. I’ve actually been experiencing a little bit of a vacation from these friends, so I thought. (We all have friends from whom we need a vacation, right?). They started to make themselves known the day I left for my trip. I think they were actually hiding behind the curtains the day before. Either way, it turns out they never really left.

It’s kind of a problem when you’re a grown up traveling with your ten year-old child and it takes all of your fortitude to hide the tears you want to shed because suddenly you’re gripped with fear, sadness and intense anxiety about leaving your husband and home. I mean, you don’t want to freak your kids out about flying or traveling in general, so you suck it up as long as you are able. Plus, I really don’t think my child, who has some anxiety of his own, would have benefited from that whole “mommy can’t adult today” business in this instance.

The tears fell for me after I spoke to my husband once we arrived safely in Florida, but I had to wipe those away quickly again because I didn’t want to cause my mom to feel bad. And then I thought “This is not the way you’re supposed to feel when you embark on a new adventure, especially one in Florida!”

That’s the thing about these kind of friends…they really like to ruin everything. Last night at dinner my mom told we we were going to go have dinner the next night with some friends of hers and family of ours that also live here. Instantly my eyes shot her a look of complete surprise and my heart sank. It was as if all the darkness I had been fighting fell upon me again. That fast. I was terrified and all I could think was “Please don’t make me do this!” Honestly I was a little annoyed with my mom…doesn’t she know me at all? But…it’s a lot to expect someone to understand social anxiety when they don’t have it. It’s also a lot to expect her to know the intensity with which I’m having to deal with it right now.

I spoke up. I probably could of done a better job of communicating my needs but she heard me and ended up canceling the plans. I’m relieved. I’m grateful that my mom tried to understand as best as she could. But it’s also sad that participating in normal and small gatherings is too much for me at this time.

I can feel depression lurking in the small sadness that is constant. I can feel it in my body and I feel it as a weight in my eyes, as weird as that may sound. I feel depression in a lack of enthusiasm. I don’t feel excitement. I feel kind of numb. And I know what I normally feel like when I go on vacation…it certainly isn’t numbness. This, dear ones, is not feeling like paradise, even though there are signs all around that say it is. My parents even have a mural painted on one of their walls (a big one) with beautiful images of palm trees and the declaration that it is indeed another day in paradise!

I’m trying really hard to not let these pesky “friends of mine” take the fun out of everything while I’m here. My mom and I were able to do our Bible study together last night and that was pretty cool. We also had some art time and she showed me how to do zentangle. These kinds of activities really bring a sense of peace to my soul. I’m surrounded by so much beauty and opportunities for fun. I’m doing my best to take in the little things and focus on God’s creations….from a flower, to a palm tree, to the love of my parents.

I’m determined, these guys aren’t going to ruin my vacation, but it may just not feel like paradise this time. And, I guess that is okay. It’s just the way it is right now.

I Felt Joy

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The other day something strange happened. It almost alarmed me.

I was in the car with my two youngest children. I had just picked up my son from school. Many days he is grumpy and tired after school. He tends to be a bit moody. But this day, he was in a quite pleasant mood and I was grateful. As we began to make our way home I noticed some things that I had not seen in what felt like an eternity.

There were blooms on trees. They were pink and white and a deep rose color and on some they were just beginning to burst out. There were trees in full bloom that I had not noticed the day before. It was a stark contrast to see these beauties next to the many trees without leaves that line our streets right now. The colors were beautiful and almost glowing. I pointed out the first one I saw to my son. I said, “Look! A tree is blooming. Spring is really coming!” And he smiled.

I never thought that Spring would come. I got lost this past winter, lost in clinical depression. I was lost in a big dark deep cavernous hole. The hole got so deep that absolutely no light shined through. All I could see was darkness and all I could wish for was escape. It became so dark that I thought there was no escaping and that things like flowers, trees and plants would never come to life again. The darkness took over me and I tried to end my life.

But somehow, I’m here. I made it to now. And somehow I am seeing light again. And somehow, the trees are blooming. Miraculously, a gift from God, I saw these trees, really saw them, and I felt joy.

I felt a joy that lasted more than a moment or a flash. I felt joy at the prospect that spring was actually really coming! With that joy came hope. Hope for the spring and renewal of my spirit. And with that hope came faith, faith that God was at work all this time and pulling for me, holding on to me despite my mind’s tricks and and travels into the darkness.

Joy is lasting, joy is pure. Joy is something that fills your heart and soul and gives you peace. Joy is a gift. Joy is seeing things with clear vision again. I’m just so very grateful that I felt joy.

 

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 15:13

 

This post is being added to the #momsterslink linky!  Check it out here!

I’ve also added this post to the #sharethejoylinky!

Share the Joy linky at TheJoyChaser.com

Wordless Wednesday: Bible Journaling Week 1

I’ve begun a new journey with Bible Journaling. This is my first week, so go easy on the expectations. I’m finding that this process brings more depth and meaning to my devotional time and I love the creativity outlet. My journaling Bible has really thin pages, so I haven’t figured out how to keep the pages from wrinkling when using watercolors or adding water to watercolor crayons, so please forgive that as well. In the vein of this being a Wordless Wednesday, I’ll let the photos do the rest of the talking!

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It Really is Bipolar Disorder

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I was diagnosed just a few months ago. I suppose I always had a hunch. Others in my family history have dealt with this disease. But I thought I only had major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder (along with it’s friend social anxiety) and ptsd and oh yeah, I’m a recovering alcoholic, too. (This long list just made me laugh a little out loud, I suppose it’s because I have an odd sense of humor. . .I think it’s called gallows humor.)

I’ve experienced symptoms of these other mental health issues since my teenage years. I have always been told what I was dealing with was major depressive disorder and major depression I have always had, off and on. I’ve had 3 hospitalizations now, 4 if you count the outpatient partial hospitalization program I went through a few months ago. But maybe it wasn’t until I became more knowledgeable about the symptoms of these different disorders, or until I noticed the times when I overspent money and/or times I felt super euphoric for no real reason or for the littlest reason only to come crashing down in mood quite rapidly. I’m not sure exactly when, but something in the back of my head thought it was possible. Something else in my head said, “No way! You don’t do the extreme things that are said to be symptoms of bipolar disorder.” Even my psychiatrist said I didn’t meet the criteria when I mentioned it to him a few years ago.

But this Fall, when the most severe symptoms of depression worsened and I began my descent into the pit, my therapist at the outpatient program I mentioned previously confirmed my concerns, then in November, the doctor at the hospital where I was an inpatient confirmed my concerns. And finally, my new psychiatrist after the hospitalization confirmed it as well. Bipolar Type 2 was the general consensus.

Something in me really didn’t believe it though. Something in me didn’t want to have that diagnosis. Something told me that I was going to face a whole new set of stigmas and I did not want to deal with that. Something in me said, no way.

But I took the new medications. I hated the new medications. We switched around some of the medications. We’re still switching around some of the medications. And, believe it or not, I think I’ve turned a corner and I don’t feel like dying, most of the time. (Praise God.) But something different is going on with me now.

I’m waking early in the morning before my alarm clock goes off. (This is really odd for me, as I am a sleeper!) I can’t fall back asleep these days. I now have new found hobbies and interests that are consuming most of my thoughts and time. As in, I can’t stop thinking about them and all the things I want to do and what I should do next and all of the ideas are flooding my brain at once. My mind is racing, as if it’s trying to catch something and I’m running with it (and running really isn’t something I do). It’s not simply that I have a lot of thoughts, I have a lot of thoughts all at once and they are grand and filled with the greatest of optimism and I feel high. My days are full somehow. There are so many things to get done! But guess what? None of them are things that I really should get done. If it weren’t for my meds I doubt I would go to sleep at night at all here recently, at least not until very very late. Additionally, I may or may not be spending money on things I shouldn’t be…and rather impulsively.

I added all these thing up in my head and I did a little research on “what hypomania feels like” and it turns out, I could so relate.

I had an appointment with my psychiatrist yesterday. They took my blood pressure. It was unusually high for me, not dangerously high, but high for me. I found this interesting considering how I’ve been feeling. I told my doctor about all of these symptoms I’ve been having and yep, she thought I was definitely experiencing hypomania. She believes I’m in what’s called a mixed state right now, because I still have depressive thoughts and moods, but am also experiencing the hypomanic highs. She’s made a few adjustments to my meds (again) and now I’m a little worried I’m going to feel sad all the time again.

And truth be told, I’m also a little sad that it’s true. I really do live with bipolar disorder and I have been for a long time. I suppose there is a little bit of grieving that goes on with any new diagnosis, a grieving for the health we had or the health we thought we had, whether it be true or not.

The good news is I finally know what I’m dealing with and I honestly have no reason to attach any kind of stigma to myself. Living with bipolar disorder is no more shameful than living with arthritis. Unfortunately, if I’m really being honest, it’s going to take me a while to believe that in my heart, because for some reason I feel a little more faulty and a little more broken right now.

 

If you or someone you know is struggling right now, please reach out to LIFELINE 1(800)273-TALK for help and support.

 

Go Blog Social: Mommy Leaves the House!

I’m at a blog and social media conference called Go Blog Social right now as I type this. I couldn’t wait to get this post started. It’s such a fun day for this mommy! I wanted to share some of the photos with you ASAP, I think it’s the best way to tell you about the day. It’s inspiring to be here and a big day for me as I think it really signifies a corner I may be turning on my road to recovery from this long bout of depression I’ve been enduring. So…this is a good thing, indeed!

 

What better way to start the day than with balloons and a beautiful city, my city, in the background?

 The sponsors and vendors at the conference were mostly local, all unique and so fun!

   
   

And we had so much fun designing pretty and celebratory photoscapes utilizing the party in a box supplies provided by Fete Box. (I think I just made up that word: “photoscapes” …maybe?) I love how these photos turned out! 

   
   

There were plenty of highly coveted giveaways to boot! Like this beauty below, which unfortunately I did not win. (Insert sad face.)

    

And we left with goody bags that included a free print from Curio Press. This was mine and I think it’s right on, don’t you?

  

All the presenters and speakers were great but my most favorite session of all was the very first one, a mini photography workshop led by photographer Allison Corrin. It was incredibly informative and filled with inspiration, light and goodness. I’m so anxious to put into practice and apply what I learned!

  

I certainly didn’t cover it all here but I bet you can tell that this was just what I needed! Connecting with other bloggers and members of this community gave me a new sense of purpose. I have more tools to pursue my dreams and navigate the new territory I’m currently exploring! Successful day Go Blog Social!

Check out and connect with some of my favorite vendors and sponsors of this fabulous event!

Acorn Influence @acorninfluence

Curio Press @curiopress

Indie Olive @indieolivepress

Hand & Land @handandland

LocalE @shoplocale

Jenna Lynn Designs Planners @jlynndesignery

Ocean & Sea @oceanandsea

Leigh and Marie @leighandmarie

The Bloom Academy @thebloomacademy