To Be Seen Again

One of the hardest things I have been dealing with these last few months is a sense of not wanting to be seen. I don’t want to be seen by the world, by the people in it, by even friends of mine and sometimes by my own family. It’s as if everyone is going to see all my pain and shame just by looking at me and even worse, they will see how much I’ve failed.

In my mind it’s like nobody has anything better to do than to look at me and judge me. Which we all know is a complete fallacy, a trick of the mind, but a really good trick because it feel so true.

The real truth is that I don’t go out in the world judging people. I’m not sizing anyone up. If I ever do it’s because of some sort of envy or admiration, which can be both good and bad. But in my heart, I don’t want to judge anyone and I believe a lot of people feel the same way. Additionally, most people are really only interested in their own stuff, their own life, their own weight gain or loss, their own hair, their own makeup, their own outfit and just so focused on themselves that they really aren’t looking at me.

On several occasions recently I’ve shared with my husband that I feel unable to do something because I just don’t want to be seen. It’s an undeniable feeling, it’s intrusive, it’s anxiety producing and just plain sad. He tries to understand. He’s good like that. But I don’t think I fully understand it. It’s part of this depression, anxiety, bipolar goop. It’s part of a shame I’ve lived with for too long. It’s actually quite self-centered. I’m truly not the center of the universe, or am I? 😉

I know a large measure of this is due to body image issues as well. Can anyone relate? I’ve gained A LOT of weight over the last year due to poor diet, inactivity due to depression and medications. For all the wrong reasons, when I am overweight I feel under-lovable. The more the weight, the less worth I have. And during this time, I need to feel loved more than ever. It’s as though if I’m not pretty on the outside, then you will know I’m not pretty on the inside, either.

Whether it be society, childhood trauma or self-sabotage, it doesn’t matter the cause because I’m stuck in the feeling of wanting to disappear, regardless. But somehow, deep inside me, I have to find the love. I have to find the love for myself, I have to find my identity in Christ and the courage to bravely face the world despite how much I feel like shrinking back inside myself or under the covers.

So, I’m working on that. I’m facing the world when I have to and sometimes when I don’t. Like when I went to the Go Blog Social conference several weeks ago, or when I went to a bible journaling meet-up this past weekend anticipating a small crowd (turns out there were only two of us there). And when I go to church on Sundays, I’m facing it. And I’m spending time in the Word again. I’m listening to worship music and spending time in devotionals and Bible study. I’m bible journaling. I’m listening to faith based audio books (never have done this before) and surrounding myself with His message. (If you are struggling with feeling beautiful and lovable I highly recommend the “You’re Beautiful” devotional that comes in the “Beautiful” devotional kit by Illustrated Faith. I’m working through this now and it’s touching me right in the most tender places of my heart.)

I’m doing these things and more (like starting to incorporate healthy eating habits into my life again). I am taking action. And I’m working to really embrace the fact that my worth is not completely tied to my appearance. I am seeking the knowledge that it can be okay for my pain to be visible and it can be okay that I am visible again. Maybe the world wants me in it? Maybe the world will be a slightly better place if I participate in it? Maybe, it will be good to be seen.

The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”.png

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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!

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.