Christianity, life

Living Loved

This has been an incredibly busy summer! My husband and I moved into a house (!!!) in July while it was over 100 degrees most days. The house is wonderful / moving in such intense heat was not. But all in all, it was a great summer and I feel very blessed to now be living in a bigger space while paying half as much as we previously were.

I feel like I’ve also learned a lot this summer. Not necessarily book knowledge – more like life experience. Know what I mean? For example, I learned that you don’t always get the apology you need from the person you need it from. Sometimes you just have to heal yourself without the satisfaction that they’re sorry for how they hurt you. I once heard forgiveness explained as something you do for yourself, not the other person, so that you don’t grow angry and bitter with resentment. And…I get that now. It’s true. You have to let things go and forgive people even when they don’t care if they hurt you – because you have to move on.

The other thing I’m in the process of learning is how to “live loved.” Ok, so let me back up a bit: I quit my job at the library halfway through the summer because I was just really struggling with a lot of things, one of them being the fact that I had such sparse hair from pulling so much that I was mortified by having to show up to work every day. (Run-on sentence! Sorry!) So I quit. I just…really needed the time and space to be able to breathe and put myself back together. One thing I knew I was missing down in my soul was being able to attend church (my schedule at the library conflicted with nearly every church service!) It’s not that I just love going to church, it’s just that the world is so evil and full of hate and suffering that I can only handle so much of it before I’m so weary and depressed, and going to church and remembering Who is in control and that I’m not alone – well, it really helps. Being reminded that I serve an Almighty Savior who loves me so much He died for me…it gives me the strength to go back out and face this crappy world again. So when I quit my job I was able to start going back to church regularly, and at that same time, the young women’s class I attend started a new study on a book by Lysa TerKeurst called Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely.

Wow. Did this woman speak directly to my heart or what?!?!?! It was as if she had read the pages of my journal and then written this book specifically for me. When she talked about her struggles with the feelings of rejection and how she’d blame herself for being less than good enough, I’d think, “Yeah, that’s my initial reaction, too,” and “Yup, I berate myself like that too, girl.”

There are so many powerful sections in that book – sections that just jumped out at me like, “Hey! Pay attention to this – it applies 100% to you!”

Basically, our value is not dependent on what other people think of us. We are not slaves to our past and the mistakes we’ve made, and we don’t have to keep reliving the rejection we’ve felt by people who have hurt us. We were each fearfully and wonderfully made by God and He loves us so fiercely, He died for us so we could be with Him – so we could have a relationship with Him! If that doesn’t mean we are valuable to Him, I don’t know what does. I mean, how amazing is it that the God of the universe looked at us with such love and compassion that He sacrificed Himself to be able to be with us? That’s insanely amazing!

Anyway, the major phrase TerKeurst repeats throughout her book is to “live loved.” She talks about how we should live our lives every day knowing God loves us and delights in us. We shouldn’t ever question our value because to God, we are priceless. We should never get hung up on feelings of failure, self-doubt, and rejection because the King of the universe adores us!

(My words don’t do the book and Lysa’s insights justice. Buy the book and read it for yourself – I promise you won’t be disappointed.)

I need to live loved. You need to live knowing how loved you are. The love God has for us is not based upon us, instead it is placed upon us. (I definitely stole that line from the book! And I’d give you the page number but my copy of the book is in the other room and I just don’t want to go get it…! I know – super lazy.) Meaning, it doesn’t matter how good we are or how much stuff we do for God, He loves us immeasurably either way. He loves us. He loves me. He loves you. We are cherished by the almighty God – so why should we ever give someone the power to make us feel rejected?

Goodness knows I struggle with this. Probably more than almost anything else. I think back on all the rejection I’ve faced in my life constantly, and with much sadness and regret. (And bitterness and resentment sometimes…) Guys who didn’t want to date me, friends who constantly left me out of the group, jobs I was passed over for, etc. Those rejections hurt deeply and I believed the lie that I wasn’t good enough or pretty enough or smart enough. I believed it. But not anymore. It’s time to start believing the truth – that I am loved and cherished by God.

I feel like I’ve just said the same things over and over again in an attempt to drive the point home. But seriously, don’t believe the lies society feeds you – that you’re somehow lacking. You’re not. You’re exactly the way God made you, which is perfect.

It’s going to be a lot of work for me to change my way of thinking and my initial reaction to rejection, but I’m going to keep laying this down at Jesus’ feet over and over until the new perspective sticks. I don’t want to be a slave to the people who hurt me and rejected me in my past any longer! Do you? And maybe if we live like we are loved, we’ll start treating other people with more love as well…and that couldn’t hurt things, could it?

Live loved!

Depression, life, Trichotillomania

Afraid to Fail

I haven’t written in a while for several reasons. One – we’re moving into a house! Not a duplex, a house. A whole house. It’s so exciting! I’ve been painting walls and dreaming of decorations and Pinteresting like crazy. (“Pinteresting” is a word, right?) So that’s taken up 110% of my time this last month.

But on top of the excitement, there is fear. I have a legitimate fear of moving into this house. It’s a good change for us: way more room, cheaper rent than what we’re paying now (no joke!), and a huge back yard for the dogs. But for some reason I’m afraid to move. I like our duplex because it’s our home and it’s my comfort zone. And even though there are zero reasons to stay put instead of moving, I’m still resistant to the change. Isn’t that weird, though? Even though this is a good change, I’m still worried and stressed.

I think the problem is deeper than just us moving from a duplex into a house, though. I think – and this is going to sound really silly – I’m afraid for things in my life to get better. Because if my circumstances improve and I have an amazing house to live in and nothing is really lacking, then when I fail I have nothing to blame but myself. All this time, when I’ve struggled with depression and pulling my hair, I’ve had reasons: I’m homesick because I’m 3,000 miles away from my family, I live in a small apartment with one tiny window, the winters are really harsh and I miss the sunshine, etc. I’ve always had something, besides myself, to blame for my failure. But now that everything is working out, I’m running out of “problems.” Now, I live in the same town as my family. The winters are mild and our town gets more sun than almost anywhere else in the United States. And we’re moving into a big house that I’ve been able to decorate and we’re going to have a big back yard where I can meditate, read, and just be in nature. Those are basically all the things I’ve always said I “needed” in order to be happy and thrive and get back on my feet!

So when we move in a week and I still keep pulling my hair and being stressed and having days where I’m depressed for no reason, I will have nothing to blame except myself.

I quit my job two weeks ago. It was kind of at a pivotal point for me; I was really struggling with my Trich, I was panicking about going into work every day and trying to look “normal” with no hair, and there was a lot of family drama going on. (No juicy story, just difficulty getting my grandparents into a care facility and a lot of nasty words and hurt feelings.) Anyway, I just couldn’t handle everything so I quit my job. I’m relieved to have a break and a chance to grow my hair back, but now that’s one less thing to blame for my stress as well! I have no job. Why am I still stressed? Why am I still pulling my hair out almost every day?

I’m terrified of moving into that house and having a comfy, “perfect” life because what if I still, after everything, can’t succeed? What if I still can’t stop pulling hair and being depressed? What if I still can’t hold down a job? What if I still struggle to find my purpose? I’m so, so deathly afraid of that happening. And when it does happen, I’m so scared of everyone giving up on me. I can just hear it now: “You are so blessed! Why can’t you be happy and enjoy it?” and “If you can’t get a grip on things now, you never will.” I know none of my friends and family would ever actually say those things to me but I wouldn’t blame them for thinking them.

Humans are so weird. We have the most bizarre fears and hang-ups. I’m afraid of having such a great life because then if I don’t turn into an amazing, successful person, it will be my own fault. It’s not that I’m determined to be miserable or that I like complaining – that’s not it at all. And I’ve actually been pretty happy lately! But deep down, I know myself and I know, at the end of the day, I will still be struggling with my depression and my hair pulling even when there are no circumstances in my life to blame for it.

Trichotillomania

Trich Update

It’s been about a month now since I shaved my head and I have to admit I haven’t made a ton of progress. I wish I could say I had tiny little baby hairs growing where I’d pulled out chunks – actually, that’s true. I do have new hairs. But I also have new spots where I’ve pulled out more hair. I just haven’t been able to keep my fingers away.
I keep blaming these last few months as the reason why I can’t stop pulling hair; I keep saying, “Things have been really stressful” and, “I’ve just been busy” and, “I’ll do better once things calm down,” but…life is busy and stressful. I can’t continue to cope with life by pulling out my hair. And yet here I am! That is how I’m coping with everything.

When I shaved my head, I did it with the hopes that not being able to pull my hair out as easily would help the temptation die down and I’d be able to feel more “normal,” and then start the process of growing my hair out again. But instead of the temptation going away, I’ve just tried that much harder to pull the hairs out. I pinched those tiny little hairs between my short fingernails until I cracked my nails and caused them to split open. And then I cut my nails shorter so hopefully I wouldn’t be able to grasp the little hairs between them, which has just caused my nails to become shorter and shorter until I’ve finally had to start cutting them up into the quick.

I have pulled until the ends of my fingers are raw from my sharp, bristly little hairs and my nails are chewed up and broken and I have bloody, bald spots on my head. I am a mess. I look in the mirror and shudder.

And my sister-in-law’s wedding is this weekend. This coming weekend. As in six days from now. Weddings are supposed to be pretty and everyone attending is supposed to look nice and well-groomed. How am I going to go looking like I just got into a fight with a woodchipper and lost???

I won’t lie – I am freaking out. I broke down into hysterical sobs about it tonight. I just don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to show up to this wedding and pretend like I’m happy and doing well and everything is great. I’m going to see people I haven’t seen for over a year and I’m going to look like the same freaky, bald weirdo as I did when I moved away.

I think that’s what is stressing me out the most – seeing friends and family I haven’t seen in a long time. I was supposed to be getting better and getting a grip on things out here in California, and now I have to go back to Virginia and admit defeat. I haven’t gotten better.

And I didn’t just cry tonight; I pulled out a ton of hair. Yeah, I did. I got the tweezers and just yanked and yanked until the sink was full of tiny little black hairs and there were little pin-pricks of blood all over my head. I pulled them out because I was angry and stressed and I felt like, maybe, if I pulled enough of them out my anger would melt away. Or maybe that I’d release all the pressure bottled up inside my head. Or maybe that I’d look so horrible I’d just have to tell Shawn I couldn’t go to the wedding at all.

I know this is absolute nonsense but the irrational (and incredibly convincing) voice inside me keeps telling me if I go on this trip for my sister-in-law’s wedding, I’m going to die. That’s how worried and stressed out I am! I have this horrible, overwhelming sense of dread like I’m not going to survive the trip. I know it’s ridiculous but I’m still in complete panic-mode.

And let me just add this while I’m at it: I know my problems are trivial. I know there are people with painful diseases, people who are starving to death, people being persecuted for their beliefs, etc., and that my problems are laughable compared to theirs. And that just makes me feel even worse inside because I know I’m such a wimp compared to most people in the world. There are so many people truly suffering right now and I’m complaining about not looking quite normal and having to go to a wedding?

What is wrong with me? Why can’t I just be normal? (Or even do a better job of acting normal?) Why do I have to blow everything out of proportion and freak out and cause everyone around me to be stressed and upset? A normal person could go on this trip and smile and be happy and enjoy seeing old friends. But me? Not a chance. I have to stress out and pull hair and cry and imagine myself dying in countless scenarios.

I’m sorry this update wasn’t more positive. I know things will get better and I won’t actually die on this trip, but man – right now it’s difficult for me to remember that! I feel like I’m unraveling.

Depression, life

Celebration and Sorrow

The library where I work has a large number of transient kids that hang out there during the day.  They use the computers, read magazines, chat with us, and sometimes even help us ‘manage’ the more volatile patrons.  Many of them openly admit to getting in trouble for minor crimes and have no problem talking about the mistakes they’ve made in their past.  And many of these kids (or at least some of them!) are trying to do something better with their lives.

A lot of these kids are only around for a few days or weeks before moving on to the next town, but others have been there long enough that I’ve struck up small friendships with them and even look forward to seeing them every day.

About a week ago, one of these young guys told me he had a job interview at a shoe store in the mall.  I wished him good luck and said for him to let me know how it went.  Then the next day he came back and, suppressing a huge grin, told me he’d gotten the job.  I was so excited for him!  What an incredible step in the right direction!  It absolutely made my day.  I thought to myself, “Here’s a kid who’s been beaten down by life’s circumstances, he’s made bad choices in the past and gotten himself into trouble, but he’s trying to fix things and make life better for himself.”  It may seem like such a simple, trivial thing but to me it was huge.  I was immensely proud and, honestly, inspired.

Today I found out a different young guy from the library had committed suicide.  I don’t know how or why, aside from the gossip that has started spreading around, but it would  still be heartbreaking regardless of the hows and whys.

I honestly didn’t even know him that well.  I knew his name and I saw him nearly every day, but that was about it.  I don’t know where he lived, how old he was, or if he even had any family in the area.  Nothing.  So why is his death disturbing me so badly?  It’s not because I feel a personal loss – like I said, I barely knew him – but more because it’s such a horrible, mindless tragedy.  To think about what he must’ve been going through in the weeks leading up to that night – the loneliness and stress and desperation he must’ve felt – it just makes me so unbearably sad.

It really puts my own problems into perspective, too.  I know that no matter how bad things get, I will always have a support network to turn to for strength and security.  I have a God who loves me, friends and family – even my dogs offer me incredible comfort.  Did this young man truly have none of those things?  Was he really so alone in the world?  I can’t stand the thought of that.  I can’t stand the thought of anyone feeling that alone and helpless.

I think I’ve learned two very important things this week.  (As if such a tragedy could possibly be summed up into a life lesson.)  First of all, we always have options.  When life gets really hard, we can let the darkness win and just give in to it.  Or we can keep fighting back.  I can’t possibly know what that young man had going on in his life and I’m not judging him at all for committing suicide, but I’m saying we can always choose to keep fighting.  Like the guy who got a job this week and is trying to turn his life around.  We have to be strong and keep finding hope and keep working towards a bright future.

Second, your death would affect people around you that you may not even realize care about you.  (Does that sentence make sense?  Do you know what I’m trying to say?)  I can assure you the guy who committed suicide wouldn’t have known me from a random lady in a grocery store, and he never could’ve imagined how much his death would affect me. When it feels like there’s no one in the world who cares about you or would notice if you were gone, that’s simply not true.  There are people who care about you and think of you that you’re probably not even aware of.  So next time you’re feeling alone and helpless, think about that.  There are always people to turn to who want to help.  Reach out to a loved one, a church, or even the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) if you truly feel like there’s no one else.

Life gets really hard and I understand feeling overwhelmed and hopeless.  I feel like that most of the time, actually.  But suicide can’t be the answer.  God created us for a much bigger and better purpose than that.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the dichotomy presented to me this week between the guy who got a job and the guy who committed suicide.  Maybe there are no lessons to take from this and I just have to chalk it up to “That’s life and it sucks,” but maybe not.  Maybe it’s the most brutal life lesson I’ve ever learned from the sidelines.

When life gets tough, get tougher.  Don’t let the darkness win.  There’s always somewhere to turn.  Suicide is not the answer, ok?

(Check out HeartSupport.  They’re an online community focused on encouraging and empowering today’s youth who are struggling with mental health and other major problems.  They focus on the music scene kids but it’s really for anyone.  They are an incredible resource.)

Travel

Enjoy The Journey

Every year, spring makes me itch for adventure.  I don’t quite know what it is but something about the sunny days, blossoming flowers and chatty birds just makes me want to go.  Somewhere.  Anywhere.  I feel energized and also incredibly bored with my current surroundings and I just want to hop on a plane and travel far away.  Anybody feel me?

I want to see all the places.  And I don’t just want to – I feel like I need to.  There’s just so much out there and I want to experience all of it!  I crave new places, new sights, new smells, new foods, and new cultures.  I don’t know where my wanderlust comes from but I definitely have it in full force.  I can’t even live in one place too long without getting antsy.  Right now I’ve lived in northern California for just over a year and I am ready for a change!  Something new and exciting!  Like India maybe?  Or Guatemala.  Scotland, perhaps?

It seems like my generation (millennials) is very passionate about traveling…which is awesome except when you yourself can’t travel.  And then you look on social media and see one friend’s pictures from Cuba and someone else’s from Italy and you’re just like…”Why am I still at my house???  I need to be out there!”

I’ll admit it: I get extremely, ridiculously jealous of others my age who are out there seeing the world and Instagramming all about it.  I honestly feel like a failure at life because I’m stuck in one town with a stationery job and no extra money to fly around the world on the weekends.  (I know, I know – the vast majority of people don’t have the opportunity to do that either…but still!)

And then I always think about something my high school principal said once that has stuck with me since then:  “Enjoy the journey.”

He was talking about life’s journey – you know, the paths we take to get us to our goals.  Don’t be so focused on your goals that you don’t enjoy the time you spend achieving them!  And that’s something I majorly struggle with.  It’s hard for me to be content with where I am in life (physically and mentally) because I’ve convinced myself the next place, the next job, the next whatever, is what will make me truly happy.  But that’s just not the case!  We have to learn to be happy where we are in life.  (I’m speaking to myself, here!)

I focus on the things I haven’t accomplished yet.  The degrees I haven’t gotten, the jobs I don’t have, the places I haven’t visited or lived yet, and on and on!  But what I need to be focused on is the journey to those things.  That’s where life truly happens and that’s where I need to learn to be happy.

It’s spring and I am so ready to go somewhere.  I’m ready to hit the road!  I want new places and new adventures so badly.  But that’s just not possible right now for many reasons, and I need to be ok with that.  I need to enjoy where I am in life and find happiness in my current surroundings.  I mean it’s great to have goals, but I can’t be so focused on them I can’t be happy in the meantime, right?  I need to enjoy life the way it is right now.

Whenever I catch myself feeling wistful and itchy for new adventures, I have to remind myself to stop wishing for different circumstances and just enjoy the journey.  I need to learn to be happy where I am in life instead of yearning and hoping the next place, the next adventure, the next change, will be what makes me happy.

Life is the journey, so we should enjoy it!

A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.  -Lao Tzu

I cannot be still for long. There is a riot in me all the time. A needy, restless voice in my heart endlessly urging me onward. I ache for new experiences and my hunger for adventure is boundless. My entire life is a perpetual loop of longing for something else.  -Beau Taplin