STRESSED OUT: The Gift of What Just Might Kill Us

clara-bow

Clara Bow — Silent Film and Talkies Star –1920s — She was the inspiration for Betty Boop.  She also suffered with mental health issues due to stress.

 

Stress. We all carry it. Like interest on a credit card, it compounds. Quickly.

We are living in extreme days.  Our country is polarized, and some of us, perhaps many of us feel like we are hanging on by a thread.

Our daily responsibilities exceed the available time to accomplish them. I’m talking only about the things on our “MUST DO” list. Forget totally about our “HOPE TO DO” and “WANT TO DO” list.

Then, predictably so, like a promise that arrives early, a CRISIS OF EPIC PROPORTIONS lands in your lap exactly as your energy levels drop below zero. Couple this with your due date for everything urgent was expected yesterday and before, and your list of what you have to post pone due to emergency, is stretched to indefinite, if not infinity and beyond.   Generally, this will happen when you don’t have the following to cope:

  • money to pay for it
  • time to absorb it
  • energy/resources to fix it

Everything from demanding jobs, to family crisis, to health crisis, to a death in the family, or news that feels like a “sentence” feel like they are going to pull us under the waves.  Up to now we were at least managing our overwhelm, however precariously, as we bobbed between the waves of life’s stormy seas.

Here’s the hardest truth of our lives: Sometimes it sucks. I mean that literally. The challenge of just getting to the next day seems near impossible, because TODAY feels like it is vacuuming every last ounce of our energy, time, and resources to simply deal.

We can’t take ONE. MORE. THING. And then…..

BOOM!

The unthinkable. The unimaginable. The unbearable.

Like it or not. It’s here. How now will you get through it?

I’m not a doctor or scientist or even theologian who claims to know. I’m just a girl who’s been around the block a few times. And each successive lap does get harder, but……

it’s true—that which does NOT kill us, really does make us stronger.

My Christian faith has comforted my heart, and my mind knows many of God’s promises. But that never negates the reality of what is, and the pain/frustration/fear one goes through when one is on overload. The feelings are real, even if our analysis of what’s happening doesn’t agree with others’ perspectives. The truth is: We feel what we feel.

So, how to deal?

Something I learned a long time ago at church. Our wise pastor told us:

You are going to suffer in life. That you don’t get to choose.

The only thing you get to choose is HOW YOU SUFFER.

Will you waste your suffering?

Or will it be redemptive?

I have never forgotten that lesson. I mean I have in terms of application sometimes:

  • I get negative ( I whine to others.)
  • I forget to pray. I forget to be still.  (I’m SO busy!)
  • I complain. (As if stating the problem a dozen different ways will somehow change it.)
  • I avoid reality, or at least dream of it. (I think I will hide under my blankets and pet the cats and just listen to music all day. Yeah right.  )

And then: I remember another profound truth:

IT IS WHAT IT IS

 Seriously, reality always wins.

 I pause.

 I remember.

I get to choose my suffering.   I. Me. No one else.   Other people or life situations—they may overwhelm, even slay me. But I CHOOSE how I deal. Or die. Or live. That is my power. And no one and nothing can take THAT away from me! No one can take the power that I believe God has already put in me, unless I give it to them.

There’s a lot of anger out there these days. The election comes to mind. I get the disappointment and anger. I really do. But seriously, how much power are YOU going to allow someone else to have over your lives?   What changes can you make?  More importantly, WHO will you CHOOSE to be?

We don’t get to change our circumstances much of the time. The only thing available for us to change is: OUR PERSPECTIVE

Stress can BE our friend.   We can “reframe” our situation.

These things I’ve learned for sure, especially in crisis mode:

We can only solve one problem at a time. Tackle your tasks and finish them one by one. It may mean going off-line, off-grid, turning your phone off. That’s okay.   People will live without you for a few days. But you won’t live without you.

If other people can’t understand your limitations sometimes, that is their problem, not yours. Is it good to care what other’s think of us?  Sure.  But our health, our life comes first.

“No” is a complete sentence. This is a biggie, especially for women. We want to give and help so much, we can give ourselves away sometimes. But say no sometimes. Even if it’s just to practice for a real emergency. It’s so freeing. The relief that comes from knowing you don’t have to be responsible for everything just because someone thought you were the most capable to do it.

Get enough rest. No matter what. No good decision is ever decided when running on fumes.   Which brings me to: Delay big decisions until you have had at least one good night’s sleep.

Ask for help. And then don’t be ashamed. Be it tasks or an understanding ear, reach out to others. Please. Other friends don’t always know when we struggle. They are stressed too.

Daily Quiet Time. (DQT) Prayer. Meditation.   Simple solitude where you simply empty your mind of all thoughts, if only for ten minutes. This is absolutely essential if you are on overload. Practice this now. Make this your habit, so you won’t forget in emergencies.

Breathe. Just breathe. Slowly. Take it all in, understanding you don’t have all the answers. Remember? You can’t control it all.

Consciously choose to accept with grace, to the extent that you are able, what is happening now. I recently read a wonderful quote by Corrie Ten Boom:

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow
It only empties today of it’s strength.

For those of you suffering severe stress right now, I encourage you to watch this amazing TED talk by Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend. I found just taking the time, all precious 15 minutes or so, recharged me. It reminded me why we are gifted with our present. We have this beautiful opportunity to be brave as we rise to the occasion of our challenges.

You WILL suffer.

You WILL have to make a choice (even not choosing is still a choice).

Be brave.  And may you choose well.

 

 

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Close your eyes. Just listen to some pop pscyhology. There. Did your demons float away if only for a few minutes?
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The Crave and The Fix

One of my dearest friends in the world sent me King and Country’s  CD recently called “The Crave.”  If every other song wasn’t spectacularly amazing, this one brought it home—

It broke me

        If you’ve ever struggled with addiction or loved someone who has, then listen to this I beg you.  You’ll get it.

See I’m a strong girl.   These are the things I used to CRAVE:

  • Control
  • Stability
  • A Plan (see Control)
  • Having “it” together (family, work, my house, appearance, finances….the list goes on)

And then The Beast came to our home.  To my heart—an uninvited stranger who moved in without warning or permission—and foreclosed on my heart, and mercilessly tried to wreck my life, and that of my family.

We’re still processing and mending.  But above all I’m still believing and I’m still loving.  I’m living through something that nearly took away someone I love so much more than my own life and who all I wanted to do was :

FIX

      Surely, if I craved fixing my addict just a bit more than this person craved a fix, I’d be able to:

  • Convince them
  • Change them
  • Fix them
  • Make it all better

But I failed.  Or at least I thought I did.  Because sometimes human love isn’t enough I was so busy taking on the roles of detective, nurse, lawyer, and defensive lineman often simultaneously,   that it took me a while for me to learn it isn’t all my fault.  And it isn’t all theirs.

Addiction is two things:  A genetic predisposition and a choice.  The choice is the first time.  The addiction is all the times that come after.

I know now it won’t be me that can fix this.  Because THE FIX may be my goal, but it’s not my role.  This is something only God can do as my loved one decides to get extremely intellectually honest or in street lingo: Keepin’ it real y’all! 

“The others”–the ones what have walked this journey of one day at a time for some time now,  through shared experience, accountability, and unconditional love, will have to help my loved one pick up the pieces that I could not.

      This is what it’s like for the addict and the family:  Excruciatingly painful.  Isolating.  Really scary.  Exhausting.  Sometimes you feel judged or are misunderstood by those who haven’t ever been exposed to this.

But the suffering is also something more.  It’s redemptive.  Beauty shines brighter thru wet tears.  Appreciation for now comes when you lose so much and almost lose—well, everything.   Every other problem becomes so small.

And now I know people, too many, that have lost this battle.  People that suffer silently.  And I won’t be doing that any more.  My battlefield is becoming my mission field.

For I am not ashamed of the one I love who is getting the help they need.  I will forever be their:

  • Advocate, but not their enabler.  I will speak the truth, but in love.
  • Cheerleader, because encouragement is the seed that can blossom into confidence.
  • Prayer warrior, because the biggest battles are won on our knees, and the biggest war is fought for our hearts and mind.  If you think you don’t have an enemy bent to destroy both or either, you deceive yourself.

So devil take warning:

  • I am unmoved by you.
  • I am undeterred.
  • Above all I am not defeated—not now, not ever.

Because I have the King of kings on my side.  You have already lost.  For I have tasted The Cure .  His name is Jesus.  He is not just our Saviour, He is also our Saver and Redeemer.  He really does save the lost.  He really does comfort those who mourn and are crushed in spirit.   He does this not only because we first believed, but more importantly because He first loved us. 

Without faith, it’s not only impossible to understand this; I think it’s impossible to see the everyday miracles that God decides to bless us with.  Life is a mystery. It’s full of both joy and suffering, sometimes simultaneously.  Deserving neither, we experience both as a gift of opportunity to question everything until finally we reach the end of our limited human understanding.  That’s where we end, and God can finally begin.

       And to the families touched by addiction?  You are not alone.  You do not have to walk this journey alone.   May you find the courage to find a support group and attend meetings, find a supportive and empathetic church, and/or a close circle of true friends who get it, and may you come to believe and trust in a loving God who already has the power to heal all that ails you.    After all, we could all stand to take a hit of a drop of grace. 

Hope.  Love.   Believe.  And you shall live.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:13

Support possibilities for you or a loved one who suffers from addiction:

http://www.celebraterecovery.com/

http://al-anon.alateen.org/?gclid=CImZo7jw5LsCFa9lOgod2kcAkw

http://www.aa.org/

http://www.narconon.org/

http://www.helpguide.org/harvard/addiction_hijacks_brain.htm

 

       

Sir Thriver

Behance.net Tooth Pain

Painting By Takahiro Kimura – Tokyo, Japan

 

#$&^@(!!!  Rats!  That’s what my brain keeps thinking every five minutes.   For I am a teensy bit bummed right now.    I’ve been up most of the night with throbbing nerve pain on my upper right molars.  I know what it is:  I need an emergency root canal.  Again!  Sixth time, in fact!  God has blessed me with many great things, but sadly amazing teeth isn’t one of them.  And in case you were wondering, I do brush and floss and don’t drink soda.

This unforeseen and unfortunate medical emergency has coincided “perfectly” in its timing with our family vacation trip to Disney World in just a mere three days.  We are so looking forward to our first vacation as a family of five since our youngest son was born seven years ago.

Merry Christmas from Adversity!   Happy Blue Year!  You’ve just been given a citation for exceeding the speed limit under Murphy’s Law.

So as I lay in bed all night in a futile attempt to snatch moments of sleep between these nerve-shattering contractions of the mouth, I’ve had some time to have a few choice words with God.  Primarily this one:  Why?  Or these two:  Why now? 

I winced at what I think may be His reply:    Why not?

Why should I be exempt from suffering any more than the rest of the world? I realize that in some other part of the world, perhaps Cambodia, at this very moment there may be a nearly toothless fisherman who would laugh at the simplicity of my situation.  I can after all go to a dentist.  I do have access to dental care, even credit to ultimately arrive at a remedy.  That alone is worth so much.

Gahhhh!  Even now, the throbbing is fairly insane!  No matter.  I will still write.  I will use my suffering.  I will not let it defeat me.  I am however humbled by it; it reminds me, yet again, I am not completely in control of my own life.

Perhaps one of the most import things we can ever do in life is to learn how to not just survive inconvenience, pain, trauma, illness, and other drama in life, but how to thrive in doing so.  Striving towards excellence in all situations should be our modus operandi.

But it’s hard.  It’s hard when you hurt, be it physical or emotional.  It’s hard when there seemingly is not a person around.  It’s hard when others just don’t get it or are too busy.  You’re going to have to go deep and deal with this with God.    Or you can try and handle it all on your own, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll reach the end of that resource fairly quickly!

      So how do you survive adversity?  How do you go from survivor to Sir Thriver?  (Or Ms. Thriver, as the case may be.) 

      Stop counting your sorrows and start magnifying your blessings.  It’s all about perspective.  You can see your life as a glass half empty or just about full.   Which thoughts you feed will determine the words you say and thus the feelings you carry.  Focus on what is good, pure, true, lovely, excellent, and praiseworthy—you know that already!

       Stop looking to other people for understanding.  I’m not saying stop relating to humans.  I’m just saying there isn’t always a strong enough person available to carry all your burdens.  Remember, they have some too!  This is where faith steps in: when people walk out.  You will not always get what you need from other people.  But you will from God, if you allow your own doubts to be extinguished by a love that knows no limits.

     Stop focusing on FEAR.  Start STEPPING OUT in faith.  Christian writer and speaker Joyce Meyer said the acronym of F.E.A.R. stands for false evidence appearing real.  How true this is!    We let what we are afraid of paralyze us from doing what we know we need to do.  I can’t let fear of pain, finances, or outcome keep me from going to the dentist today.  So in 81 minutes, I’ll have the opportunity to pick up the phone and make the call that can change all this.  What call or faith step do you need to make or take today to make that change?

     All things can be used for good.   Romans 8:28 doesn’t say that all things ARE good, but that they can be used for good, for those that love Him and are called according to His purposes.  It’s easier to see situations and people as “lessons for life” that God uses to grow us, when we look beyond our line of sight, beyond the person or circumstance staring us in the face, and beyond our human understanding.  If you can trust God who gave you life, you have already taken the first faith step to thriving!  Congratulations!  You have accepted that you can’t control everything!

Pain, suffering, death—it’s all part of life.  It’s the part where we want to hit the fast forward button that doesn’t exist.  We don’t get to walk around it.  Through it all, this is the only way.  Just remember, you are not alone.

Pain Wisdom:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.   Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  Philippians 4:8

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
   in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  Isaiah 43:2

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28

Pain removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul.  ~ C.S. Lewis

One Day this pain will make sense to you