Can’t stop won’t stop

Isaiah 61:3 she said… we had just been discussing things that made me feel the crippling anxiety that has burdened me these many months. And I cried in her office on that couch that is older than me for the thousandth time this year. It’s been six months. I emptied the Kleenex box. Six months since this journey to healing began.

I’ve asked all the “why” questions… especially “why me?” And “why am I still feeling this way?” The answer I’ve come to? There is no why. Sometimes life just happens and because I’m a feeler first and foremost and forever. And when someone feels things in life so deeply it’s easy to get caught up in it and sometimes the wires in your brain disconnect. And then this thing we call anxiety can take over.

But this week feels different. It’s not the same old fog anymore. Probably because I’ve learned to reach out in the fog and find His arms again. Find His PEACE. I don’t mean that there isn’t fog anymore, there is. I just mean that I know he’s there in the fog. And so He makes everything bearable.

But back to what happened this week to make the difference. It started out with me in corporate worship at my beloved churchy.

(I clarify the corporate because there’s something about Sunday morning church that I just can’t manufacture at home. Oh I can worship and fall deep into his presence at home for sure! But when I’m at my local church where God has planted me, it’s a thousand times different. I can not only find His undeniable presence but I can also open my eyes and see my best friend and her husband lifting their hands in worship even though they’ve been through the wilderness this year. I can see my other dear friend leading worship with everything in her and dancing wildly before her Lord, even though her body has been through surgery only 6 months ago and her body still feels the pain… but she DANCES! Because she knows He is greater and He heals and her spirit is stronger in the waiting than her body is.)

So as I stood in this place of corporate worship… all of us chasing the One who passionately chased us down in the first place… I closed my eyes tight and I saw my secret place and Jesus there. I said, “show me the pieces of my heart again… my emotional heart, functional heart, and guardian heart.” And he did and Emotional was sitting down (she has always up until this point been lying on the ground wounded) as though she was still lame from the battle she’s been through this year. Functional was sitting beside her caring for her. Guardian was standing further off protecting my heart as she does. Jesus was standing right there and he stretched out a loving arm and said very clearly to my Emotional heart (the place I’ve lived out of until last year when she broke and Functional and Guardian didn’t know what to do so they went into defence mode)… Jesus said, “RISE UP AND WALK!”

I’d been praying for healing… was this possibly the time? Could I be free from anxiety?

I went into the week trying to feel better. I really believed this was it. But Tuesdays come in all shapes and depths of emotion. And I couldn’t even get out of bed. What resulted was another one of the worst weeks I’ve had in this mental health journey. It was discouraging of course. But in the midst of the brain fog, the stomach cramps, the crying for no reason, the doubting everything I’ve ever done with my life… in the midst of the cloud was the light of Jesus. And he said: it’s ok to be you. It’s ok to not do things the way everyone else does things. It’s ok to still have anxiety. It’s ok to still be going to counselling. It’s ok to feel every pain and peace and triumph of this journey. It’s how he’s wired me. But I can’t give up on the journey.

Do I believe Jesus heals? Absolutely. Do I believe he could have taken away my anxiety that Sunday morning? Undoubtedly. But I also know he’s after intimacy with my HEART in this season. He’s in it not to make me unbroken, because we’re all broken somehow, but to make me broken and strong.

“It’s ok to be broken and strong.” She said. This counsellor who has walked me through this long journey (and likely will be walking alongside me for some time yet). “Not all of you is broken. But God has plans for this and even though you may see this season as a waste… He wastes NOTHING! So go ahead and cry. Empty the Kleenex box. Let it out. You’re gonna be ok.”

And then she prayed and she saw Isaiah 61:3… she didn’t remember it all so we looked it up.


A crown of beauty for ashes… and all that this says. She saw all of this that Jesus was putting on me.

It didn’t end in that office on that old couch… I went home and saw and heard beautiful things from Jesus for myself. Because it’s ultimately not about the people he’s placed in my life, though they are the ones that are his hands and feet when I can’t see him, but it’s about me and him. After the lights go out and I’m alone… but not alone. He is there.

And I am his ruins he’s rebuilding. And he’s giving me a crown for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise for despair. And I am who he says I am – his daughter. I am not my anxiety. But if I have anxiety days, I’d rather have the day with Jesus in it than not have the anxiety day and not have Jesus.

So this journey through the fog… I can’t stop. I won’t stop. Why? Because: He. Is. Worth. It.

February is backwards because Jesus loves me

Tonight I messaged one of my close friends and said these words… “Kayla, Theres a THUNDERSTORM!!” (followed by many emojis that indicated my ardent love for thunderstorms) She responds with, “IN FEBRUARY! God loves you. haha”
She gets it. She understands my love for storms.
It seems fitting this year that there’s a thunderstorm in February… on the darkest week for me.

Not many people know the reason I LOVE thunderstorms.
I was an average kid – scared of the dark, scared of snakes and mice, scared of loud noises like thunder – so what changed?

I was probably around 11 or 12 years old when my family reconnected with a man I consider to be my adopted uncle. A man who became so close with our family that every family road trip we would ask “Are we taking Randy’s van or ours?” It was never a matter of if he was coming, just whose vehicle we would take.

I remember vividly one such road trip. I was 12, that age where I was trying SO desperately to become a grownup aaaaand  right around the age when older brothers taunted that I would always be their baby sister. It was rough.
But Randy always treated me like a young adult. We talked of dreams and giftings and callings. I consider him to be the first person who believed in me.
This particular road trip there was a HUGE thunderstorm. We were driving through the hills of Tennessee and the hot June weather made the storm seem so much more than it actually was. I was terrified. Randy was not. I remember him looking at me and saying, “Michelle, you don’t need to be afraid.” I half expected him to make some joke about God and the angels going bowling – as he always liked to joke around – but he didn’t this time. He was a very intelligent man. A scholar of language and fine art.
Randy looked me straight in the eye and said, “You don’t need to be afraid of the storm because you know the One who made the storm – God. And the One who calms storms – Jesus. And besides that, we are in this van and the rubber tires grounds us so there’s no way lightning can strike.”
Of course shortly after that we made it to our hotel and I didn’t want to get out of the van.
But I never forgot that conversation about the storm and I’ve loved storms ever since.

I guess the wild wind and dark clouds remind me of Randy and all the times we had when I was a young adult.
Randy’s life was stolen from us the winter I was 15. He was trying to help a young man find Jesus, and instead the young man caused Randy to meet Jesus much sooner than any of us expected.

Randy was killed that night in February 13 years ago.
I can’t even explain how much it hurt – and still hurts – to lose him so soon.
Part of the emotional and mental health journey I have been on in the past months has been a journey to healing from losing Randy. I never truly grieved when he died, I went straight from his funeral to having fun with friends. Anything I could do to forget the pain. Pain is a process. Healing can only be brought after you’ve been through grief.
I’m still learning to grieve. I’m still learning to let go of the pain and leave it in Jesus’ hands.I’m still crying cuz it hurts. I’m still learning to forgive the man who stole Randy from us.

But tonight. A night only a few days after the 13th anniversary of Randy’s going to heaven. I sit and watch a very unusual February thunderstorm and I remember that night in Tennessee. I sit and know the One who created the storm – God. Because I know he is bringing me through and I am rising above this storm in my life. This dealing with soul pain and anxiety. I sit and know the One who calms storms – Jesus. Knowing that only HE can bring me peace. I know that God never intended me harm. The enemy of my soul causes death and destruction. And what the enemy uses for evil, God will use for good.

I pray this encourages some of you who are dealing with pain. There is no scale for pain, there is no way we can measure whose pain is greater. There is only grace and peace in the midst of each individual storm.
I pray this story reaches your heart and validates your pain. And I pray that you know that God is turning it into good.
The storm will pass. The sun will shine again.
Life will never be perfect, just as I will never watch a storm with Randy on this earth again. But I know one day I will see him again. And I know that where he is, it is far FAR greater than where I am. A place with no pain or tears. A place of pure peace and joy.
I imagine the lightning is the crack into that heavenly home. An opening for God’s light to shine through the darkness.

So tonight I am thankful for a backwards Canadian winter.
I am thankful for memories and for pain.
I am thankful God sent me a thunderstorm in February.

 

Baby Steps… DR MARVIIIIIINNN!!

If you’ve read my heart journey here and here, then you’re probably wondering what’s next? Truth is I don`t know how to walk this out. Some days are less foggy than others… side note: Did you know Omega 3 oils are actually really good for your brain? I find my days less foggy when I’m eating healthy and taking vitamins and supplements like Vitamin D (since my Canadian town doesn’t get much sun these days… and I used to joke about this, but it really DOES work!!) and Omega3 oils and such.

So what happens on days when I feel like I’m not winning at this battle? And it is a battle. The enemy of our souls is trying desperately to keep us broken.

Disclaimer: Again, I want to reiterate. I am not a mental health expert. I can only write from my own personal experiences. The following may not work for everyone.
The only way I know how to move forward right now is ONE STEP AT A TIME.

Step one… I realized I needed help to walk this out. I rallied my people around me to pray (parents, close circle friends, pastors.)

Step two… I called a Christian counselling ministry and they set me up with a wonderful woman of God who is filled with Holy Spirit AND she’s a registered counselor and music therapist (yup. she’s beyond amazing.) who I meet with every other week.

Step three… pray, fast media (can’t afford any distractions these days), eat healthy things – I can’t believe how much processed foods and sugars ACTUALLY affect my brain! (it’s not fair really… but I’ll do anything to get out of this fog.)

Oh and all this is just scratching the surface. Right when I feel that I’m making some progress and starting to feel “normal” (whatever that is) I have a day full of anxiety and panic attacks that, more often than not, leave me sitting on my couch feeling like my chest is about to explode and reminding myself how to breathe deeply.
Exhaustion… pure exhaustion. And yet I still don’t sleep well.
I’m still learning to know my limits right now. It’s not like when someone has a broken leg or is recovering from surgery – you can’t visibly see my wounds. And to be honest most days I don’t feel like talking about it. My soul is broken. So all I can really do is walk this out one step at a time and bring it all to the great healer… the one who was broken so I could be made whole… Jesus.

You know the movie, “What about Bob?” starring Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss?
Some days I feel like that. (If you’ve never seen this movie, I’m sorry but you won’t be able to understand this next part)
I’M BABY STEPPING! I’M BABY STEPPING! I`M DOING THE BEST I CAN! I’M NOT A SLACKER!
And still I end up at the end of the day wishing I could have someone on call for me 24-7 regardless of vacations in Lake Winnipesaukee. 

Here`s the BEST truth though! I do have someone I can talk to who is never on vacation and always responds… Jesus.

Here… let me give you an example of what this looks like.
So here I am baby stepping… doing the best I can… And one day I had a little breakthrough. My counselor led me through a “heart sync therapy”. We asked Holy Spirit to show me what my heart looks like in 3 different parts – the Emotional heart, Guardian heart, and Functional heart. I saw them. My beautiful heart open wide so I could see what was going on in there – was a very “Inside Out” (disney reference) moment.
Emotional heart was wounded and bleeding – the aftermath of all I’ve been through the past while. Functional and Guardian were side by side in a defense position trying to protect Emotional. It was really beautiful… but sad. I decided to open up my heart and let Jesus in so he could start healing Emotional. This was a good moment in counselling… and I cried SO hard! It was so healing. And so good.
Baby steps forward.
Then as I was driving home (expecting to be out for the evening) I got the BIGGEST nosebleed of life!! Like literally a blood bath. I had cried so hard it made my nose dry, which resulted in the nosebleed, which made me tilt my head back while driving, which caused dizziness and nausea… etc. etc. etc… And there I was on the couch again. A heap of nausea and panic attacks.
Baby steps backwards.

You see here’s the thing. Life is hard. Walking through this sucks. It hurts like hell. But Jesus has never given up on me. I know this even more because the very next day I was in worship at a church prayer meeting and I heard His soft voice… he showed me my heart again. Emotional is still working on healing, but something was different. I saw that Functional and Guardian were on either side of Emotional – no longer defending but instead they were helping her and holding her up! And Jesus was behind them supporting all three parts of my little wounded, bleeding, beautiful heart.

So here I am taking one baby step at a time… Sometimes we need a “Dr. Marvin” therapist or counselor or doctor to help us out – it is healthy to reach out to others. (we have these professionals for this very reason).
BUT always ALWAYS keeping in mind that you have 24-7 instant access to someone who knows your heart better than any other. He made your heart and mind. Designed them perfectly. He knows how to get you through this.
One. Baby. Step. At. A. Time.

not-a-slacker

The day of the Brain Fog…

When I say the words “Brain fog” I feel like I will get one of two reactions – one of which people will laugh nervously and not get it AT all, and the other in which people who have been there will understand 110%.
Where your brain just plain shuts off and it feels like nothing on earth can ever get it back again.

Disclaimer…
I’ve decided to use this blog – a safe place – to open my heart and explain a few things on my mental health journey to you. For those who have no idea what mental health is like – to learn and understand and empathize. And for those who are there as well – to know that you’re not alone and it’s actually very healthy to talk about it.
And for myself as writing is extremely therapeutic for me, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to understand myself better.

Now back to that brain fog thing. I don’t remember the first day it happened, but I know it was probably sometime the end of February or March last year. I had just been to a funeral for a young girl I once reached out to through my church`s youth ministry. My heart was broken. And in the breaking this triggered suppressed feelings and memories of something that happened when I was fifteen. (I’ll explain that one another day)

I don’t know how to explain all of this because I honestly don’t remember what happened in those months – I mean nothing. I will vaguely remember something as if I had dreamt it, but details are totally gone. I remember joking about this to one of my closest friends – Hello, I’m Dory. I have short term memory loss. – and I remember she got very serious very fast. “Ok Michelle. Tell me what happens when your brain goes foggy?”
Well my chest gets really tight, I can’t breathe properly, and I can’t think – it’s just complete fog. Eventually I come out of it, but sometimes it’s really bad and it’s hard to even go about my normal day.
She said it sounded like I was having a panic attack and when I said I didn’t feel panicky, she said mental health isn’t always the same and it could be you’re experiencing some anxiety or PTSD or some sort of trauma. The not remembering this probably had something to do with psychological blocking. She suggested I consider seeking out counselling and I kind of shrugged her off that day.

But that day started my journey to healing – my heart still had a long way to go. It took 8 more months before I realized she was right – 8 agonizing months of fog, shallow breathing, and not knowing how to function. 8 months of which I don’t remember much of anything.
Then one day in December I hit my rock bottom moment after attending another two funerals. I sat at my kitchen table shaking and crying, desperate to feel something – some sort of release for the pain deep in my heart – clutching a knife but not wanting to cut myself… and instead I picked up my phone and texted my friend, “Hey… I need counselling. What was the name of that place you said?”

Dear friends reading this… if you’re in the fog I want you to know – there’s HOPE! I’m saying all of this to level with you. I know what it’s like. We all go through this differently but it’s always the same underlying issue, something has wounded our hearts. And it doesn’t feel like anything can ever make the sun shine again. And you know, the world itself is going to hurt you. But I am here saying there’s hope. From that day when I reached out to my friend I knew it was time, I was ready for this journey. I had to get there though. I had to reach out and not care about what someone would think of me.

I’m still on this journey. I have a long way to go.

But I’ve seen Jesus and he’s leading me there – one day at a time. One baby step at a time. Like I said yesterday, I stayed in bed all morning. Tonight, I’m eating Mac&Cheese way too late at night and probably won’t sleep much.

But you know what? Tomorrow is a new day. God has good plans for me and for you.

I used to think I could do it on my own. Or even just me and Jesus. But tonight, I’m sitting here so very thankful for the people God has placed in my life. For my friends who understand where my broken heart is at and why my mind can’t function. I’m thankful for the ones who don’t understand but have grace for me anyways. I’m thankful for the counsellor God led me to – a wonderful Christian woman with wisdom and insight – and that from day one talking to her was like finding another big sister. I’m thankful for my parents who pray me through the pain and understand that some days I just don’t want to talk about it.

At the end of the day, I’m just thankful for each breath I take – even when it’s hard to breathe in this fog.

This is all I can say for tonight.  But I wanted you, my internet friends, to know that you’re not alone. You are loved by Jesus. He has great plans for you. It’s ok to not have it all together, but it’s not ok to have to do this alone… and hey even King David (yeah, the crazy shepherd boy who killed the giant and became king later) had his foggy days. Check it out…

Psalm 31:9-16
9 Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am in distress.
Tears blur my eyes.
My body and soul are withering away.
10 I am dying from grief;
my years are shortened by sadness.
Sin has drained my strength;
I am wasting away from within.
11 I am scorned by all my enemies
and despised by my neighbors—
even my friends are afraid to come near me.
When they see me on the street,
they run the other way.
12 I am ignored as if I were dead,
as if I were a broken pot.
13 I have heard the many rumors about me,
and I am surrounded by terror.
My enemies conspire against me,
plotting to take my life.
14 But I am trusting you, O Lord,
saying, “You are my God!”
15 My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.
16 Let your favor shine on your servant.
In your unfailing love, rescue me.

Keep on. ❤

 

It’s 10:30 a.m. on a Tuesday and I don’t want to get out of bed…

Good morning world… you may not have seen much of me lately. I have agonized over how to tell you why – don’t want to let you down. I don’t want you to see the deepest parts of me quite yet. Furthermore, I believe this is a season of going even deeper.

God has called us to so much, but the way up in His kingdom is actually down… The upside-down kingdom some call it. A Kingdom where the last shall be first, the lost are found, the blind will see, and slaves are set free.
I once wrote on here about a Breaking Season… what I didn’t realize then was that my breaking has been going on for many more years than just 2016. And some days I just plain don’t want to get out of bed and keep on breaking.

It’s a new day though, as I realized last week that my breaking now is breaking open old wounds that did not heal properly – much like when a broken leg is not set straight and after years of limping on old wounds, Jesus – Master Healer – has decided to break open the old and set things straight so I can heal properly and walk again.

It’s a new season of breaking open and healing and holding open hands up to the heavens and out to you, dear world. I don’t know what all will come of this yet, but even in all the hardest moments I know it will be so so good even in all this deep soul pain.

That’s it. That is what I’ve been trying to tell you. My soul is broken. The soul is made up of your Mind, will, and emotions. From what I can tell so far, when you experience great trauma or great grief and it is too much for your body to handle, your soul breaks and your mind goes into a survival mode of sorts. God made our minds to only handle a little at a time while he sifts through to heal it. And with all the trauma in the world that anyone can experience at any given moment, its no wonder sometimes it takes a long time to sift and set back in place and heal what has been broken for years – even decades.

We all have soul pain to some degree. Maybe some of us don’t realize it. I didn’t for about 13 years until my heart broke all over again last winter. Now my mind is in, what I call, aftermath mode. A space where some days are good and things feel almost normal, but others you just simply can’t bring yourself to face the world. The mind goes into protective mode and suppresses memory (a lot of mine is short term – so if I forget to show up on time to something or cancel last minute I am SO so sorry.) and sometimes it takes a while to get that back. There are things from 2016 I don’t want to remember (but may have to at some point in order to heal properly) and there are things I may want to remember, but simply can’t (like someone’s birthday or a fun day we had). It goes back further than that of course, but bear with me as I can’t dig that deep today for you.

BUT this is not the end. Nor is it the final word. I’m on a journey of healing this time. I won’t let my heart be overwhelmed because I serve a God who overcomes. I won’t shut my heart and mind down to pain anymore because I know a healer who brings peace in the pain. I won’t run from this process of sifting the past because I have a Heavenly Papa who brings beauty from ashes.

And even though today I’m still in bed at 10:30 a.m. and don’t feel like moving, I know He has not given up on me. And if you’re on a mental health heart journey as well, know that he hasn’t given up on you either.

Until next time, dear friends. Keep on.

Exodus 14:14 (NLT) “The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

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