Twenty-Nine

It was not quite a typical “quarantine birthday” as I was determined to avoid that, despite knowing that it would be different this year due to Covid. I experienced eating in an outdoor igloo for the first time, and my best friend and I made our own fun out of playing We’re Not Really Strangers and doing a photoshoot (with a bit of bubbly involved). The day itself initially felt weird, waking up to the last year of my twenties and doing my best to fight off the anxiety that  comes with trying to have reasonable expectations. 

My birthday has always meant a lot to me, and up until recently have been uncomfortable with sharing why. Living with a chronic condition, I’ve often gone along to get along for the sake of not being an inconvenience (at best) and not wanting to to bear the frustration of those around me (at worst). That’s only the tip of the iceberg, but it boils down to a birthday being the one day out of the year where I could vocalize what I wanted and how I wanted it. It’s a common attitude there’s some extra emphasis when you have this self-imposed standard to be the easy child. The selfless person. The compassionate one. Whether or not I have been, or if others would see it that way, is another story. 

It might have been the pandemic itself, or it might have been the gradual unfolding of 2020. Regardless, the desire to advocate for myself has been steadily growing and getting louder. I’ve alluded to it in previous writings, but learning and putting it into practice truly is a process. Carrying weight that isn’t mine, and taking responsibility when I don’t have to is a trauma response. Deconstructing and choosing differently involves a lot of grace, perseverance, and trying and trying again.

Self-advocacy is a huge step, especially when you’ve spent most of your life asking for assistance of some kind. The need to be helped and the need to be heard can coexist, and should never be transactional. I’ve known this in theory, but overthinking has often gotten the best of me.  One of the biggest challenges of this pandemic is having to sit with my feelings, wading through what requires deeper reflection, and what requires letting go of. It’s hard when I’m hurting or frustrated and can’t just go be with people, or seek out adventure on a whim due to the virus.

It’s exhausting to constantly ruminate on what to say, when to say it, and how. And the more I hold back, the more agitated I get. Of course there are times when my opinion isn’t required, and I’m aware of navigating circumstances when I’m overcome with insecurity versus confidence. There should always be a balance of considering viewpoints and feelings with pursuing self-care and things that give you joy. 

It’s not about getting what I want every time, but putting something out in the open so that I’m not saturated by anxiety and resentment down the road. Even if a situation pans out differently than I’d like, at least I did my part to the best of my ability. Growing in relationships, whether with people or with God, require getting out of your head and into your heart. A wise friend once told me that rejection is better than inaction, and I haven’t forgotten that since. 

There have been various small victories thus far: admitting what works and hasn’t worked when it comes to redecorating my room. Not hesitating to follow up on tentative plans if we’re still trying to figure out details. Being adamant about taking a ride-share to a dinner date because I wanted to feel more independent. Saying “because I want to” without a detailed explanation. As I publish this, I’m about to make the kind of phone call that typically has me crawling in my skin, but I’m not going to get anywhere if I don’t take initiative.

And it’s the small victories that I hope and pray will add up to breakthroughs, both personally and professionally. I’m cautiously optimistic, after having seen how everything can change and priorities can shift so quickly. But the work is still important, and necessary,

Here’s to speaking up, speaking truth, and progressing forward!

When You Need A Little Extra Help

I wrote this as I was holding space for someone whom I’m care about very much. This kind of decision should not be made lightly, and should always involve professional evaluation and input. I wrote this based on my own personal experience, and ask that it do not be taken as gospel.

I take a little pill each day
And I was scared at first.
Would it change my personality?
Would it make things even worse?
I had a lot of questions, which were answered with patience and care.
Follow the instructions
Pay attention to your mood and feelings
And then take it from there.

So I took that little pill each day
And it took a couple of weeks.
Over time I noticed that there was a change
But a change involving good things.
I wasn’t crying as much anymore
And the chest pains went away.
I had the headspace that felt lighter and brighter
And the motivation to go about my day.
Some people say I mellowed out
“You’re not as bubbly as you used to be!”
My friend, it’s called the typical stresses of adulthood
Hormones and PMSing.

Haven’t you heard of puberty?

It’s not always magic and instantaneous
I still have to do the work.
Reframing anxious thoughts and coping with uncertainty
But I stay off the edge, for what it’s worth.

It can take some trial and error
Many options, and not all have the same purpose or results.
But it’s better to try and try again
Then to strive for mental wellness
And yet do nothing at all.

What works for me, may not work for you
That’s entirely okay.
But if you’re not a doctor or professional
Please be careful with what you say.
Some people need that little pill, but avoid it due to fear.
Fear of stigma
Fear of criticism
Wanting to be superhuman in the eyes of strangers
But especially to those they most hold dear.

It’s not a lack of faith
Or a desire to numb out.
I’d rather not get stuck inside the prison that is my head at times.
To be able to connect and build relationships.
To seek and experience joy
Is what life is all about!

So if you need that little pill
There’s nothing wrong with you!
Human beings have complexities
Who need a little help, that much is true.

I think it’s brave
I think it’s wise
And who is anyone to judge?
If you take a little pill
You have my support and love!

When I Talk About…

Initially I wanted to tell as many people as I could, or at least many as I thought needed to know. When you keep a serious problem like an addiction/disorder under wraps for a length of time (whether intentional or not) you suddenly don’t want to have a filter anymore. You want to tell the truth, all the time, believing that’s exactly what you need to do to heal. And perhaps in a way, I absolutely needed to back then.

But as the saying goes, not everyone can handle the truth. And my truth is that recovering from an eating disorder is complex and multi-faceted. Three years later, I’ve come to regard it as something sacred, a big part of my life, but a part nonetheless that not all can be part of. There’s an assumption where if you don’t openly discuss the absolutes of who you are, you must be ashamed of them. Yet what if it’s not shame, but protection, that motivates the quiet? A healthy protection of progress, and protection of self.

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My best friend asked me how I wanted to celebrate, given that the pandemic had put the original plan on pause. My immediate family was supposed to reunite in Florida after my brother’s return from deployment, and we’d even spend a day at Disney. The courage to share with my mother what that trip would mean to me, what I had accomplished personally, was enough of a celebration in and of itself. It was tough to come up with anything else beyond that at the time.

I dreamed the night before the three-year mark about being surrounded by cakes, each one looking too damn delicious for words. And the morning of the seventeenth, I finally came up with a short-term idea (well, mostly). It should involve macaroons or chocolate truffles (two of my favorite sweet treats). I want to get dressed up and go dancing when it’s safe enough. Do a photo shoot. Anything that allows me to appreciate food and my body.

And yet, recovery is so much more than that, and I want it to be a focus as I continue to grow and evolve: it’s about getting in touch with yourself, valuing yourself, and ultimately coming back to yourself.

The romantic in me. That sense of child-like wonder and awe. The sensitive smile with a tender heart who cries easily. She doesn’t need to be found because she’s always been there. She just got buried under a lot of garbage for a while. And though I’ve done a lot of work in terms of getting to know her again, there are aspects I’m still learning to accept and embrace.

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As Sunday ended, I had a hard time falling asleep, so I began to pray:

I’m sorry that I haven’t always loved and cherished this beautiful creation that you’ve given me.

I’m sorry for when I didn’t show it compassion or understanding.

I’m sorry for the ways in which I allowed my body to be disrespected and used. I wasn’t strong enough back then.

Thank you for three years of healing.

For learning how to honor, rather than avoid hunger.

For trusting myself enough to know what I need when I need it.

And thank You for walking with me through it all, especially in the moments when I’ve felt very much alone.

Of course, there is grace; grace for when I wake up too late and feel like I don’t have time to eat breakfast because I must play catch up. Grace for when I chug a protein drinks or various snacks just to get something in my stomach. Grace for when I the constant news of COVID-19 made me want to hug the toilet because I couldn’t hug anyone else. When I fear that gaining weight will no longer mean I’m beautiful, because that’s what I’ve known and was used to

But I am more than that. I have my heart, my mind, and my spirit. My church, listening to podcasts, reading books that make me think, quiet time, all remind me that I have a body, but other parts of me just as much nourishment.

In some respects, with diet culture so prevalent, I’m always going to struggle. I’m now just finding the gumption to call BS when I see it. And it takes a lot of mental energy to let things go when people around me just don’t “get it.”

There are good days, and there are hard days. I’m grateful to be part of each one of them.

Take Me To The Water

When the new dawn broke

So did I

A movement

A leaning in

Beyond books and quiet morning prayers

Becoming a face of what I had once avoided

Perhaps even feared

Quenched in me what I didn’t know I needed

 

Connection

Conversation

And Community

 

But something popped up

Which has me at a loss of description

A cloud? A fence of thorns? Surreality? 

Unprecedented circumstances keeping human contact at bay

Unable to open doors, exchange greetings, or even touch

 

Technology, having been soured by old-fashioned rhetoric

Has now become a lifeline to our loved ones

And to the outside world

But so many

Already weary

Stuck between “new normal” and “temporary reality”

 

More recently, on a walk

The rain came down

And I felt it seep to my bones

But I wasn’t cold, or discouraged

I welcomed it

A washing of current anxieties, grief, and fears

 

And I began to envision again

The new dawn of a new season

Not by a calendar year, but one of hope

Where distance is not bound by six feet 

Gathering freely

Dancing, singing, and embracing

Lingering for a little longer

Not rushing from point A to point B

 

Until then

Lead me to the water

Where peace lives, in my mind and in my spirit

Cascading on my like the falls

Sprinkling like rain

Filling my soul

Again and again

And regardless of what happens, or when

May the well within me

Not dry up

Intentions and Direction

I’ve never been one to make concrete “resolutions” per se, a wistful, yet gargantuan to-do list that seems easy to dream up, but difficult to keep. Over the past several years I’ve discovered the concept of setting intentions, which relies on the balance of discipline and grace rather than depending on the happy-go-lucky feeling of a New Year carrying one through the next twelve months. It doesn’t have to involve a timeline, and can evolve and reshape itself in whatever way helps you to grow. 

 

Start Small

I initially started out with a no-holds-barred journal entry of all that envisioned for the coming year. After splitting it all up into categories (Mental Health, Physical Health, Spirituality, and Creativity) I noticed that a lot of the changes I wanted to make involved regular habits. I thrive when I have a routine, and developing a solid rhythm  makes goal-setting both manageable and realistic. These habits include waking up early (6 a.m. during the week and 9 a.m. weekends), daily exercise and stretching, taking vitamins and medication, and making time to both read and write. While starting early doesn’t always guarantee productivity, it’s better to at least try than risk having to play catch up and foregoing basic needs (i.e. eating breakfast). I’ve learned multiple times over that an evening routine is just as important as what I do in the morning. 

 

Write It Down

And not only in the first few pages of a brand new journal. Set reminders in your phone. Put sticky notes in places where can you actually see them. Buy a planner (a first for me since college!)  Make your to-do list based on what will push you forward, rather than something to just cross off. But nothing will ever be accomplished if all you do is let something live inside your head. When I see it, it’s more like that I’ll follow through with it. 

 

Find Accountability

There is usually at least one person who is thinking along the same lines as you, whether they aim to be more disciplined in a certain area or you need a buddy to help take the scariness out of trying something new. Good therapists can help you get to the heart of why you’re putting something off (Writing essays are often terrifying; not so much due to the topic, but because of the possible heavy feelings/emotions that can and do follow). Ultimately, a healthy network, community, etc helps me to see the things that I often can’t see in myself, and reminds me to keep going when I simply don’t want to. 

 

I don’t remember where exactly, but a short time ago I came across a post that portrayed intentions, resolutions, and so on as a false sense of trying to have control over all aspects of our lives. I scoffed in response, but it stuck with me to an extent, reminding me of how busyness is often displayed as a badge of honor. Don’t forget to leave room for the unexpected, the magic that happens when you’re not planning things down to a science (especially if they involve deep conversations and laughter). If it seems like you’re doing something for the sake of pleasing others more than honoring yourself, it’s perfectly okay to pause and take a step back. And if you change your mind? There’s absolutely no shame in that either. What matters is that you walk with presence, in purpose, and to stay open to all possibilities. 

 

Here’s to a new year, and a new decade; Happy 2020!

The Summer Of…

The sun was shining, the air was warming up again, and I was eager to get out. Not to say that I wasn’t doing that already, but I wanted to experience what many in the city called hashtag Summertime Chi (or at least the parts of it that were for pure joy and not only for the sake of looking good on Instagram). Boats, rooftop parties, and white claws aren’t bad in and of themselves, but I didn’t want to be in a bubble. 

And out of the bubble I got. 

Networking Events. Open Mics (one which I performed at). Comedy Shows. Outdoor Movies. Concerts. And I had no shame in just going to a bar or restaurant completely by myself, so if I wasn’t meeting friends, I had no problem making them. My favorite occasion was when I was waiting for a seat to open up at a well-known football spot, and got to talking with both a Green Bay Packers fan, as well as another who was rooting for the Minnesota Vikings. It turns out that not only did they attend the same University and were part of the same fraternity (albeit different generations), but the older one knew the younger one’s Dad from when they had attended college together. 

You’re a ray of sunshine in a dark basement! One of the oddest compliments I’ve ever received, yet incredibly sweet and genuine. I was grateful that I went against my initial urge to leave and go home, as what usually happens when the anxious part of me starts wondering if the people around me think I’m weird. 

But it got me thinking about the beauty of organic, face-to-face human interaction. That was a repeating theme of the conversation taking place that day. People are incredibly afraid to approach and get to know one another, due to feeling like anyone who does must have an agenda. We hem and haw over how to merely say hello or introduce ourselves without coming across as awkward, or heaven forbid, creepy, thinking that we have some control over the outcome by doing/saying the right things at the right time.

Having been in unsafe situations (particularly with men), I wouldn’t say that I’m naive to what can and does happen when engaging with strangers. Not everyone has the best of intentions, and I cannot overemphasize how important it is to pay attention and trust your instincts. I’m fortunate to have cultivated a strong intuition, and that additionally allows me to read social cues and respond accordingly. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying your own company in public, and it’s perfectly okay to do things simply because you want to. 

After regaling one of my earlier adventures involving a meet-cute at the train station,  I was asked if I was “out of my mind.” I get defensive when anyone questions my extroversion and romanticism with the guise of not wanting me to be disappointed or hurt, especially if they’re aware of just how stuck in my shell I was during high school and college. One of my biggest regrets is over analyzing most situations, to the point where I felt like I couldn’t fully connect or be seen for who I was. Thankfully there was grace and understanding in terms of those relationships, but I wish I hadn’t carried all that weight around. It wasn’t my responsibility then, and it certainly isn’t now. 

So yes, I’m out of my head, and that’s a good thing. I have to live my life on a different level than most people, and the reality is that sometimes even’t my closest friends and family can’t understand it.

I’m still learning, but here’s what I know right now:

Rejection and disappointment hurt, but they are not the end of the world. 

Love your present more than you hate your past. 

Focus on the experience, not the outcome.

Twenty-Seven

“Most people try to forget their birthdays, but you revel in it!”

I wasn’t sure if this was sarcasm or a compliment, but I couldn’t deny that I was trying to put some effort into making my twenty-seventh birthday worth celebrating. In previous years I’d struggled with expectations and feeling loved on this particular day, and it’s taken a lot of learning how to be vocal about what I want while also being present and appreciating things for what they are. I was filled with awe and gratitude over what happens when I allow whatever it is to unfold and not get caught up with the anxiety of the prison that often is my own head.

Twenty-six was unexpected, and a lot happened to where I still reflect and wonder how I got here. There were career ups and downs, most of which I didn’t see coming. Some of my dating experiences were amazing, but some were also disrespectful and even violated my personal boundaries. When it was good I was on top of the world, but when there was pain my first instinct was to close myself off and allow bitterness to seep in. I’d like to think that I’m a resilient person, but there were a number of times where all I could think about was, “I don’t want to go through this again.” I’d even get angry when a blessing that came after a long season of waiting seemed to be taken away faster than I could blink.

Life changes, and Life happens. You can hustle and pursue and try like hell to be perfect, but there will always be circumstances out of your control. I’m still learning, but I’d say the best resistance toward unforeseen storms is to be present and not take any of what you have in this moment for granted. It’s the balm that softens the loss of a job, the change in a relationship, or being rejected for whatever reason. And you have to allow yourself to feel and process before you can even think about there being a reason for it.

It’s been a constant back and forth between connection/closeness and feeling threatened, as though I’m in some kind of danger. I don’t like the extremes, and I want a kind of balance that allows me to interact with the world while still being aware of it. I believe in being both soft and kind-hearted, while being strong and not allowing what might just be temporary to break me.

Soft and Strong.

To not let the size of an opportunity make me feel small and insignificant.

To heal and cope with what I’ve buried in the back of my mind over time.

To not let the harshness of the world turn me into a shell of who I truly am.

Amen, and here’s to another life-changing year!

In The Valley (Life Lately)

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About a month ago, I began waking up and struggling to get out of bed. I’ve been in funky throes before, but never to the point of complete exhaustion and not being able to think straight. It hit me without warning after unexpectedly losing my job and choosing to do something that I can’t say I regret, but in hindsight it had more of an emotional impact than I anticipated. Over the past several weeks, I’ve had to come to terms with some heavy stuff all at once; being formally diagnosed with depression and anxiety was a relief, having sensed it all along and now finally being able to address it. The health of my body has been a tougher pill to swallow, not because it was a surprise, but because I had been denying it for such a long time. For now I’ll say that it has a lot to do with a lack of appetite, along with the ability to keep food down when I do eat. I don’t want to hide anymore, and I’m slowly opening up to my closest friends and family regarding both situations. And whether I’m on the road to recovering or learning how to manage certain things, I want it to be for me, so that’s why I’m only sharing so much at the moment.

Yet even among those that I know, I’m not sure how to adequately describe what I’m going through. The circumstances are atypical, at least in comparison to the way that the issue is portrayed in Hollywood and the media. And because of that, I wonder if I even have the right to talk about it out loud. By merely looking at me or looking at pictures, you wouldn’t guess that there was anything going on. There have been accusations of dramatizing the circumstances or discussing the subject to get attention, and that is not something I would stoop to when it comes to something that can potentially kill me if I’m not careful. It’s unfortunate how it still comes down to looks; one has to “look” sick or be at death’s door in order for their struggle to be taken seriously.

I can’t say how I feel about it all right now, specifically identifying with having an illness or a disease. I would much rather call it a weakness; a weakness that was the result of wanting control in the midst of chaos, and the fear of losing control if I ate too much or didn’t exercise enough. And yet, I ended up losing control anyway, where it psychologically ran wild for two years. I don’t see this as another notch of shame to add to my belt, or another layer of baggage that will supposedly make me hard to love. I’m actually grateful that I’m coming to terms with it sooner rather than later, as though God gave me a lifeline rather than letting me nearly flat-line before I asked for help. It feels like a major (and hopefully a final) step in dismantling this tough as nails exterior/persona that I portrayed in order to protect myself. It’s already teaching me a lot spiritually, and I’m leaning on my faith more than I ever have in a long time.

I’ve been asked about support, and truthfully I’m not entirely sure what that looks like. I’m going to both a recovery group and individual therapy, though not as often as I would like. I don’t expect anyone to fix me, nor do I want them to try to, because I don’t need to be fixed as much as I need to be fed (literally and figuratively). I need patience as I navigate how to think differently so that my stomach can accept nourishment. I need compassion (NOT pity), as I walk and stumble as I figure out what kind of treatment is best for me, and what allows me to be healthy. I need to get out, spend quality time with people I care about and have deep conversations. I need to experience adventure in new places, taking road trips and be spontaneous. I need hugs and physical touch. More than anything, I need to be encouraged not to hide anymore. Hell, that’s how I got here in the first place, because I isolated myself and the pain eventually manifested itself on a physical level.

I’m not broken, but I am human. I want to be an example for others, to show that you can face adversity with both grit and grace. I’m not going to wait for the light to just magically show up in order to start healing, but to be a light myself. True strength is not self-reliance, but being able to admit that you cannot do it on your own.

I am strong.

I am brave.

I am resilient.

I am loved, and worth loving.

And by the Grace of God or come hell or high water, I am going to be OK.

For anyone who is out there struggling, regardless if you can relate to this or not, so will you.

We got this.

Why I Re-defined “Letting Go”

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You need to stop worrying so much.

You need to let this go.

You need to move on.

It’s something that I’m told often, but on the outside don’t seem to be very good at. I always thought it implied forgetting that it ever happened and never talking about it again, at least not in the presence of the subject of conversation, or others involved.

But what if there’s a different way? What if we’ve been actually been going about it all wrong?

Somewhere between Christmas and New Years last year, I helped mediate a difficult but necessary conversation with my immediate family. Thoughts and feelings were boiling over, people were lashing out, and hard things needed to be said. I went back to my grandparents emotionally drained, no longer lividly angry, but unsure how to feel about what had taken place both that weekend and over the last several years.

“You don’t have to decide anything now,” my grandfather said to me after I explained what had transpired. “Feelings are feelings, and they change all the time.” I’d heard this before, but it was clear and gentle coming from him. For the first time in a long while, somebody else’s advice actually made sense. Almost a year later that thought process is still taking shape:

It’s not forgetting the situation entirely, but putting it into perspective.

It’s not never talking about it with people, but changing the way we talk about it.

And instead of forcing the pieces together in order to understand, let the pieces come together on their own.

It is possible to grieve, process, and ultimately feel while still moving forward. But we do so without wrecking our brains over the “why” of everything. Why doesn’t this person want me/accept me/love me? Why did this happen, and in this way? Why won’t anyone tell me what the [blank] is going on? And on and on it goes, as the stress levels rise and sleepless nights turn into haggard mornings, until one day we don’t recognize ourselves anymore.

It’s human nature to want answers, especially when something is unexpected and painful. I once spent many years chasing (and longing for) answers, apologies, and at one point I wanted to inflict the exact same hurt that someone had inflicted on me. I wanted relief, and as much as I hate admitting it, sometimes I wanted to be the one to have the last word. None of it ever came to be, and in the long run I don’t think I would have been satisfied. I wanted those that hurt me to be the ones to heal me, and most of the time it never goes both ways.

Maybe it’s easy to say now because I’ve become comfortable with not knowing, at least at this moment. Maybe I’ve been through enough where I’m confident that no matter how gut-punching the past is, and how terrifying the future is, I will always get through it. It might be by the skin of my own teeth, but I do.

I don’t want to ever completely ignore what once was, because I would be denying how it shaped me as a person, and what I’ve learned from all of it. I don’t want to forget how to accept people for who they are, how to have compassion and show compassion. I don’t want to forget what it feels like to be mistreated, so I don’t treat others the same way. Ultimately I want to remember how far I’ve come, so that I can be a light for someone else who’s walking a similar path.

Despite what’s argued otherwise, I do believe that it’s possible to tell a story purely for the sake of providing context, rather than throwing a pity party. Acknowledging where a problem began is not the same thing as holding a grudge or calling out a person’s faults. And reflecting on an experience does not necessarily mean you’re stuck in the past. If I didn’t reflect or think about things, I wouldn’t be a writer.

Rather than “let it go,” I choose to let it be. I still feel and have my opinions, but I ultimately choose to keep going in order to keep living. Sometimes appropriate boundaries are necessary if I’m trying to move forward from toxic relationships or periods in my life. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, but it definitely helps. Counseling is a beautiful resource, and I will never stop advocating for it. Feeding does more than fixing ever will. And slowly but surely, good things start to happen: you feel lighter, stronger, and more self-aware. But it’s always one day at time, one foot in front of the other.

I came to better understand all of it when I ran into an old love at the end of this past summer. It was after a mutual friend’s funeral, and I’d actually had a dream/premonition a night or so prior that we would see each other again. He hugged me and exclaimed that it had been a long time, never mentioning that it had been three years without any sort of contact. We caught up on life and I got to meet his little girl, a mixture of sweet and awkward and feeling seventeen again. For a few brief moments I wanted him to take me aside and hold me the way that he used to, but I think that was just the grief talking. Life had just been turned on its head a week prior, and I was completely overwhelmed to the point where I couldn’t think straight.

I debated on reaching out to him on Facebook afterward to thank him for taking care of me all of those years ago. In the end I had decided against it because I didn’t see the point in disrupting the boundaries that I’d set or the progress I’d made. I’d come to terms with the ending of our relationship long beforehand, but seeing him was definitely a positive bookend and confirmation. He had served a meaningful purpose, and I was content with that.

It truly is different for situation. Additionally, it’s extremely important to note that mourning the end of a physical life is extremely different than mourning a season, phase, or relationship. You might experience triggers, dreams, and moments every so often, which may or may not mean anything. In some respect, certain events and times in your life will always have some impact, and that’s okay. What matters is how you choose to use it for good, and whether you allow it to drag you down or build you up.

There is life again. There is love again. There is beginning again and re-purposing the pain. See it, choose it, and pursue it. One day at a time.

Photo Credit

 

For The Sensitive Ones

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You’re not sure if you were born sensitive, but you know that you weren’t raised on it either. If you had to guess, it’s something you’ve cultivated through a lifetime of observing the world around you, and being keenly aware of what sits well with you and what doesn’t. The smallest things can bring out your passionate and emotional side, and both positive and negative triggers occur pretty easily. You experience joy and pain on ravine-like levels, and it’s nearly impossible to hide. People can read you like the most basic map, and you can’t decide if that’s a good thing or not.

Perhaps your sensitivity goes deeper than that; part of it is how you feel, but it also has a lot to do with how you function and interact with others. You’re not the biggest fan of small talk, and large crowds become overwhelming after a while. You believe in taking time for yourself as much as you believe in socializing and spending time with others. You try to avoid violent media, loud noises, and the constant cycle of TV and the internet. Too much exposure makes you anxious and depressed, despite wanting to be aware and educated. At the end of the day, you have a lot of thoughts, most of which you have no idea how to vocalize, let alone articulate.

Unfortunately, the world typically has only one thing to say about it: STOP. Stop taking everything so personally. Stop letting temporary situations get the best of you. Buck up and chin up. Whenever the swell rises, there have been a slew of well-meaning folks who immediately attempt to shut you down, either by command or a speech about how you won’t get anywhere in life without a layer or two of thick skin. You might nod your head or try to fight back, but after it’s over a whole separate battle continues to rage on: wondering if they’re right or if you’re just misunderstood.

It could be you (to an extent), but it could also be them. This is how they were raised, and they’re simply speaking from their own experiences and what they know. A lot of people are uncomfortable with Big Feelings and Being Vulnerable, so whenever they sense it they do their best to push it away. If they can’t do anything about it (or fix it), then it’s not worth discussing. It comes from a place of frustration, of powerlessness and having little control.

And as much as you want those people to get it, it’s a waste of time and energy to try. On the other hand, you cannot just flip a switch and act like your emotional triggers and sensitivities don’t exist. It’s really about how you choose to deal with them, and whether or not you allow other attitudes and ideas to get the best of you. You can still respond calmly and maturely in an argument without holding everything in. You have every right to remove yourself from a situation if it genuinely becomes too much or if it’s too hard to hear. Get up and get out of the room. Go for a walk. Pray. Write. Whatever calms you down so that you don’t do anything regretful out of impulse or anger. Instead of stuffing it all down, find a way to acknowledge what hurts and set it free.

It’s not about proving which side is right and which side is wrong, but accepting and loving the way God made you. There are so many blessings that come with being a sensitive person—being able to actually feel in a culture that prides itself on not caring and going numb is just the tip of the iceberg. You have the ability to know when to speak and when to listen. You have a natural ability to slow down and appreciate beauty and wonder, rather than glorifying business and productivity. Compassion and empathy are practically second nature, and that’s what’s going to make you a gem in the eyes of those who are ultimately going to build you up and allow you to love yourself. Ultimately, you love deeply and without reserve; despite the risks and possible pain that come with it, it helps you to live a life of freedom, joy, and fullness.

Yes, we should always strive to improve and be the best that we can be. But don’t forget to stop and truly ask yourself if it’s for God’s glory (and your benefit), or if you’re trying to live up to others’ expectations.

The way I see it, caring too much has become an advantage more than the other way around. It means you’ve stayed true to yourself and your convictions, and gave whatever it was everything that you had. And the world needs more of that. It needs more of you.

There’s no denying that it’s tough, especially when you feel like you’re the only one (or at least one of the few). But trust me when I say that it’s worth it.

Keep going. Keep feeling. Keep living.