An Empty Pillow

Fostering animals can be a heavy lift, and it can certainly be a challenge in unexpected ways. However, I want to highlight the joy and importance of fostering! I am currently fostering three female guinea pigs, and as I navigate their fear and uncertainty, I am reminded of the first dog I ever fostered a few years ago. Below is a post I wrote during my first night after she left. Spoiler alert: she ended up getting adopted by a very sweet couple who love her dearly!

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Tonight I have an Tonight I have an empty pillow. I bought this big pink pillow one day and it has been a comfort to me for many years. In college, I propped it on my bed for late night study sessions. In grad school, I rested it across my lap as I typed up papers. Years later, this pillow was now used as a comfort for a dog I was fostering.

This dog has really bad separation anxiety. Her family unfortunately had to bring her to the shelter and this senior dog was so confused and overwhelmed. She cried for hours and desperately searched for people who would give her attention.

There is something about this dog that I immediately connected to. It is terrifying being in a new environment and not knowing why the ground has been pulled out beneath you. As someone who had separation anxiety as a kid, I felt a bond to this dog in a way I can’t describe. This is the dog I knew in my heart that I had to help. I brought her home for several nights in hopes of easing her mind and offering her some peaceful quiet.

She bonded to me and quickly fell in love with my pink pillow. As she began to feel more safe over a few days, this pillow offered her comfort for her anxious body. To wake up in the morning with a fluffy face laying across this bright pink pillow is something too special for words.

This sweet soul was so gentle and loving. She would take walks but turn around to make sure I was still on the other end of the leash. She waited outside my tub when I showered just to confirm that I wasn’t disappearing behind the curtain. It was exhausting and draining to be followed around and in a constant state of worry, but it was so gratifying to know that this dog was really shining in a home environment.

Tonight I have an empty pillow. This little sweetie is going to a foster home that will care for her long term until she is ready to be adopted. I shed some tears knowing that she must be scared tonight, but I take comfort in knowing she has a great life ahead of her.

If you ever have the chance to foster, I urge you to do so. It’s an eye opening experience and we are always in need of foster homes that will help our animals become ready for adoption. There are so many animals that thrive once they are in a home environment. Even just fostering for a few days provides us with more information about what kind of home would be a good fit for this animal.

Tonight I have an empty pillow, but my heart is so full of gratitude and love. If you are interested in fostering, please don’t hesitate to reach out. If you have room in your heart and home for a temporary furry family member, consider helping an animal in their temporary home. You will be comforting and nurturing an animal before you allow them to find their forever home. You may be left with an empty pillow, but I promise you will be forever changed.

Beyond the Sunrise

People say they find God in unexpected places, experiencing his presence in ways they haven’t in their day to day life. It may be a new church they weren’t planning to attend and it really connects to their heart, or meeting a person who embodies the kindness and compassion you can model your own life after. It’s that feeling of knowing God is with us and we are not alone in this big world.

I’ve had some trouble with this concept, as I am a creature of habit and I am a fan of my routines. I like my calendars and schedules, and I like following them even more. Finding God in unexpected places would mean I would have to actually go to unexpected places. If I didn’t plan for it, I’m probably not too keen on it or excited for it. Other people can jump at new opportunities with enthusiasm and eagerness. I prefer to keep my anxiety at bay with structure and predictability.

This is one of the reasons I haven’t been a huge fan of traveling. Trying to pack for the unexpected while also bringing your necessities would always throw me for a loop. You don’t know how much traffic there will be on the way to the airport, how long the lines will be once you get there, and if the flight will even be on time. For someone who has spent years trying to manage their anxiety, there are too many variables that could throw off my plans and send my heart for the races.

I’ve made a conscious effort to ground myself in my faith this past year. I challenged myself to know God personally and made a thoughtful decision to prioritize my faith. I was deeply committed to experiencing God’s presence in a way I hadn’t felt before, I just wasn’t sure what that looked like. I wanted to write more and share my faith through my words, but I couldn’t get a grasp on what I wanted to say.

I felt God so many times during my travels this past weekend. I saw Him in the kind Uber driver who was chatting about how he likes mornings because people are nicer and not in such a hurry. As I reflected on his words while walking to my gate, trying to consciously be both nice to people and not in such a hurry, I saw this gorgeous sunrise. I felt His peacefulness seep into my soul and ooze out into the fibers of my being.

There’s something about airports that I’ve grown to love. Maybe I’ve seen “Love Actually” too many times, or maybe I’m a sucker for a good make-believe story. People are eager for their much needed breaks, ready to go somewhere that has happiness stamped on the map. There are couples who are patiently awaiting trips to see family and kids who are thrilled for their vacations. I can’t help but feel their excitement bubbling over in anticipation of getting on a plane and taking off to somewhere new.

For some reason, I get a lot of inspiration at airports. More recently, I’ve felt God there too. When I am in the air and all I see out the window of the plane are clouds, I feel closer to God. It’s like being removed from the world below and looking at the life I think I’m living down there. Am I being kind like the Uber driver mentioned about morning people? Am I pursuing happiness or waiting until I am on vacation to do so? What will it take for me to trust God with my life the way I trust this airplane suspended across the sky?

My purpose in sharing this story is to have you to consider where you feel God’s presence. It could be in the comfort by your cozy fireplace at home or in the sweet serenity of a quiet table at Starbucks. I’ve found that when I am doing what I love, writing and connecting to others through my words, I feel God the most. It makes me wonder how many of us would see His light beam a little brighter when our souls are aligned with what we love.

Whether your feet are on the ground or miles high in the sky, I hope you find inspiration in the the places you go and the people you meet. I hope you give yourself the opportunity to do what makes you happy and to feel God’s love in all that you do. And lastly, I hope you have the courage to dream as big as the sky and to follow those dreams just beyond the sunrise.

My Holy Garden

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I recently visited this beautiful garden that was filled with labels of all sorts of plants and herbs that hadn’t yet sprouted. There were little signs in the ground for the promise of what was to come, but was not yet able to be seen. I was struck by how everything in the garden was neatly laid out in anticipation of the beauty that was patiently waiting for warmer weather.

I came across these two benches facing each other, and I imagined all the conversations that might have taken place there. Maybe a couple enjoying each other’s company by the trickling fountain. Maybe children laughing at the splashing water coming from the mouth of the lion. I pictured people pondering life’s biggest questions, face to face with the person on the opposite bench.

I found myself reflecting in the serenity of this quiet garden. How often do I put signs in the ground, confident that the plan I have will bloom into something magnificent? I can be so sure that my actions will yield results if only I have the perfect seeds. Sometimes I forget that God’s plan for me doesn’t include my own agenda. He has beauty for my life, just waiting to burst through the soil. I can’t always see what he is planting in my life, but I have to be patient that there are so many wonderful things stirring below the surface.

Because I wait for a season that I can feel God, I think that he is not working on me in the meantime. Just like the flowers don’t grow until the spring, I felt like I was staring at that plot of land with labels but no idea as to when anything might actually come to fruition. But I think back to the garden filled with signs delicately placed in the exact spot the plants were going to pop up and I have to remember that God is confident in the amazing things he has in store for me. It is not up to me to figure out what all the signs are and when the flowers will bloom, it is up to me to tend to the soil by doing good work in his name.

Looking at the benches facing each other, I like to think of myself on one bench and God on the other. Here is what I imagine myself saying.

Thank you for planting the deepest roots in your spirit and calling me to grow into something that brings beauty to others. Thank you for putting signs in my life and having the confidence that my life is designed to proclaim your unconditional love and to practice a bold faith. I ask for patience as I anxiously await the seasons where what you have planted in me grows to new heights and what you have asked of me becomes clear. Guide me as I navigate life through the times when I can’t see the signs in the ground because my eyes aren’t lifted to you. Thank you for filling my life with the beauty of your kingdom. May your love be planted in the depths of my soul so that I have the courage to pursue the path you have created for me.

Gifts from the Heart

It was a week filled with more toys than I had ever seen in my life. Working at a children’s hospital, I was in awe of generosity from the community. So many people came through our doors and I wanted to be a gracious host to them all, but the sheer magnitude of people bringing toys was overwhelming. There were former patients’ families, school clubs, church groups, and other community members that rallied together to bring cheer to the kids who would be spending the holidays in a hospital. It was heartwarming to know that people continued to come year after year to give back.

In the midst of a chaotic day, I found myself going through the motions. My shoulders were sore from lifting boxes and my legs were tired from carrying donations. I hadn’t had a chance to have lunch yet so I was desperately waiting for a good time to break. Then an older gentleman walked into our office and wanted to make a donation. He pulled out a box and, trying to make conversation, I asked what was in the box. He beamed with pride and said it was a stamp collection. I instantly stopped in my tracks.

We’ve had incredible donations of the latest trending toy, the “it” doll, and some of the coolest gadgets a kid could have. But, it was the stamp collection that blew me away. This man was humble and kind, giving us something he treasured and hoped would bring joy to the kids. It reminded me of the stamps my dad had collected, and when I was a kid, we would spread out the stamps on the maroon carpet of my grandparents’ living room and sort the stamps by dates and themes.

The donor had no idea how moved I was by his gesture, but I carried his message with me. The holidays can bring out the frustration of trying to please everyone and the stress of spending too much money on gifts. This man centered my spirit and reminded me that this season is about giving what you have, whether it’s special time spent together, a meaningful gift, or a piece of your heart. It doesn’t have to be the top toy of the year to reach the smile of a child. It doesn’t have to be the best new technology to touch the heart of a friend. It’s about sharing your joy with others.

I was recently listening to a podcast by Caroline Hobby as she interviewed Hannah Mooney, former Miss Arkansas and the wife of country music star Shay, of the duo Dan and Shay. Hannah was talking about how she was in beauty pageants and she was required to perform a talent for the judges in 90 seconds. She then said something that I loved; she said that some people have talents that can’t be performed. Hannah went on to explain that you might be a sweetheart, and that’s a wonderful thing that you can’t show on stage. I appreciated this message because giving of our gifts does not mean it has to be wrapped in a bow.

As December wraps up and I start reflecting on the past year, I think about how we are called to give of ourselves, not always tangible things, but really give our heart and soul to this beautiful life we have been given. For one man, it was giving of something that brought him joy, a feeling he hoped to pass on to others. Knowing that other people would smile because of what he offered was a gift itself. For Hannah, it was giving the message that talent doesn’t need to be confined to a box you don’t fit in. You can be a kind person, and that alone is a gift to this world.

You have gifts that only you can offer. You are unique and special, and your talents are needed in this world, whatever they may be. May you shine your light bright today, and always.

Joy in the Moment

I have always had an appreciation for watching fireworks. There’s just something special about a dark summer sky lit up with bursts of glowing confetti. I love the booming sound that beats against your chest and makes you stop and watch. As a kid, I was in awe of the magnificent displays at Disney, showering the castle with magical bits of sparkling fire. It would remind me that there is beauty in the midst of those hot and humid days. No school, no worries, just glistening lights shooting across a midnight canvas.

I wanted to experience that same sense of wonder that I did as a kid. Recently, I was feeling a little unsteady from all the changes in my life. I was struggling with the turmoil of new transitions and leaning on my faith to settle the worry I wrestled with. I was in need of some stability, yet at the same time, I was craving to be wowed. I wanted something to jump out of the sky and shake me, something to rattle me back into a place where I could plant my feet wherever my heart was wandering.

This past 4th of July, I went to the local high school to watch the fireworks display with a friend. The heat was heavy and thick, but we parked down the street and made our way to the football field, eager to relax and be entertained. The smell of sticky sunscreen mixed with fresh fried dough drifted across the air as we walked laps around the track to pass time. We enjoyed each other’s company, reminiscing and talking about life’s ups and downs.

I had just seen a picture of an older woman looking out into a crowd, possibly watching a show, with her arms folded in front of her and a pleasant smile on her face. She was surrounded by many other people with their cell phones out, snapping pictures and trying to capture that moment through creative lenses and vintage filters. I was struck by this picture because I love keeping memories tucked away in photo albums and getting great shots of a time I want to remember. But this woman inspired me to sit back and actually enjoy a moment in its purity. No new status or clever hashtag, just being present and taking it all in.

I decided that I would put my phone away and only take a few firework photos at the very end. The emails could wait, the texts could be read later. I love watching firework displays, and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to practice this mindful habit. I wanted to experience something like this fully and whole heartedly. Yes, I wanted to see it, but more than anything, I wanted to feel it.

As I watched the fireworks dancing through the sky, I saw the view through my own eyes and not through the lense of a camera. I took a deep breath and soaked it all in. I think the most amazing thing for me was just being present and actually seeing my surroundings. I saw parents and kids resting on blankets, huddled together to watch the show, maybe taking time as a family that they normally don’t have the opportunity to do. I saw couples holding hands and walking the track, maybe reflecting in this moment on a summer love they’ll never forget. And I saw people of all ages stop what they were doing to look at the sky.

For those few minutes, it didn’t matter that we had to go back to work tomorrow or study for that test in school. It didn’t matter that the daily grind would still tire us out and the unknown future would still make us weary. There were no deadlines to reach or papers to grade. We were there, we were present, and we were feeling everything that moment was giving us.

I wanted so desperately to find something that would give me hope and assure me that everything would be okay. I was seeking something, anything, that would fill this void of uncertainty. But I think I forgot one thing in this picture, and that is the power of faith. Whether you have faith in God or faith in life in general, I think we can all relate that sometimes we need to give up the reigns and let life take its course. If I spent that night worrying about everything that was weighing me down, I wouldn’t have lifted my eyes to the sky to be present in the moment. I literally wanted the fireworks to shoot out a sign saying, “You’ve got this, Kristie!” And even then, I would probably have said the sign wasn’t specifically for me.

Ironically, I was looking up at the sky and waiting for these massive fireworks to shake me, but it was the stillness of my heart and the gentle peacefulness of the night that moved me. As I watched the fireworks pounding against the dark slate of the sky, I received the message I needed to hear. I closed my eyes and opened my heart to find joy in the moment. I didn’t need to go somewhere I couldn’t find or be someone I couldn’t be. I just needed to be present, and that was a gift that would light the fire within me.

Guide Me to Him

I was always told that God works through us in many ways, but for me, I needed to take a walk in the wrong pair of shoes to really understand it for myself.

I was angry about the shoes I chose to wear today. It may seem small and insignificant, but I didn’t realize how hard it was raining out and how much it would bother me. I was walking to the metro in my flats that I normally walk in and I had put a nice clean pair of shoes in my bag to wear once I got to church. It seemed like a smart plan, but with every step into the puddles pooling on the sidewalk, I grew more and more upset. The water was seeping through the worn leather of my shoes, and every crack in the weathered soles was an opening crevice for the water to slip in.

I was so annoyed that it was raining because I had no control it. I was frustrated with myself for not wearing my rain boots and preparing better for my commute. This led to being angry with myself because I needed to place the blame somewhere. Why didn’t I think of this? How could I be so dumb? Why did I think this city life wouldn’t be so hard?

I walked into church with my cold, wet shoes, dripping umbrella, and soaked pant bottoms. Well, here I am God, I thought. I’m a mess, I feel horrible, and I am not amused. It felt too ironic. I wanted an easy path to church with sunbeams and light shining, not a trek through the city with sloppy shoes and my drenched leopard print umbrella.

To be honest, I wanted convenience, not just to my destination, but to my faith. I wanted my faith to be so easily accessible, a little rain wouldn’t bother me. But instead, my faith was immediately shaken and I questioned if I should even bother making the trip.

I think it’s the moments where we are in a tough spot and questioning our commitment to God that we see, though sometimes surprising to us, the strength in our faith. It made me think about the way Jesus walked through his life, weathering whatever storms came his way. He washed the feet of the disciples who followed him, and even blessed those who walked in different shoes than he did.

Someone mentioned in church today that we should seek to find Jesus in other people. The holes forming in my shoes were a physical reminder that I need to let God in when it rains in my life. I was so focused on my own problems and my own comfort that I neglected to feel the joy of being able to go church on Sunday morning, and the peace I feel in worshiping Him. I was caught up in things I have no control over and it sucked my energy into a negative place when I could have focused on walking the walk in Jesus’s path.

There was a book that we read in middle school called, “Walk Two Moons” and it was one of my favorites. It’s a great story, but the piece that stuck with me the most was the message that we cannot judge people without walking two moons in their shoes. This message was powerful to me because it’s easy to think we know what someone is going through just because we have felt something similar, but until we truly and genuinely spend time in that person’s shoes, we can’t honestly say that we know exactly how they feel.

This brings me back to how I think about my walk this morning. It would be a long haul for me if I continue to wear my worn out shoes in the dreary weather. But I know that Jesus has walked more than two moons in my shoes, and I know that He is ready to walk with me on my life path. I may not always know the way and I will definitely not always be prepared, but I have faith that the shoes on my feet will guide me to Him.

Faith Over Fear

This past May, I boarded a plane to Disney World with the attempt to leave behind the stress and turmoil of reality and escape into a magical fantasy land. I checked my bag and waited for the plane to take off to my happy place. I was delighted to have the opportunity to dive into a book I am reading called, “Brave Enough,” a story about the author’s faith journey and advice with helping women get over their fears and flaws to live bold and free. While I picked this book off the shelf from my favorite used bookstore expecting another typical self help book, I was pleasantly surprised how the author discusses faith so intently weaved throughout each chapter.

That being said, I don’t know if it was the high altitude or the waking up at the crack of dawn that drew me into a foggy haze, but I sat on the plane and needed a minute to gather my thoughts as I read deeper into this book. The author mentioned that God’s love is the source of our bravery and strength, not our own abilities or goodness. She called it “Jesus courage” when we could tackle our challenges with our faith spearheading our actions.

As the author mentioned how God’s love was so full and abundant, I was a bit skeptical. What does it mean to love God in a way that I can accept and embrace the love he has for me? As someone who used to constantly question my own worthiness, I instantly took a step back with this concept. The author argued that the love God has for us overpowers what we think of ourselves. What a freeing notion that we are worthy and loved, exactly as we are!

I closed the book. My head was spinning and I couldn’t put the words together to describe how it felt to have my faith once again rattled into realizing that God’s love is something bigger than I could wrap my head around. I shut my eyes and listened to the family in the row behind me. The young girl was asking her mom where they were going and was trying to guess the answer. Now I will admit, I thought it was strange at first. Did the mother not tell her child where they were headed? Did the child not think to ask why the suitcases were packed? How could she get on a plane and not know the destination?

And then it crashed over me as if the plane had all of a sudden dropped down from the sky and landed on my heart. That is how you love God. You don’t need to know where He is taking you. It’s not a requirement for Him to tell you every life plan He has for you. Sometimes you need to let Him pack the bags and put you on a plane, knowing that He is the pilot and you will land where you need to be.

I picked up the book again, still in disbelief that God was communicating to me in a way that He know I would understand. The author continues to talk about reading the Bible and the practice of prayer. She mentioned how it takes courage to approach the Bible with the belief that God has something to say to you, and that we first must admit our prayer with confession. If we cannot confess what is standing in the way of becoming closer to Him, we will not be able to achieve that intimate relationship.

I was long overdue for some prayer time. After the encouragement from this book, I put my prayer together and I prayed for two things. One, that I would have a sign for God that loving Him and following His word was a path I needed to pursue. I confessed that I started this faith journey as something to explore and to prove a point to myself that I could hand over the reigns. I prayed that God would see my honest attempt to connect with Him in a meaningful way.

And the second prayer was that I made the right decision in looking for other jobs. I was scared to move beyond where I was comfortable, and I confessed that comfort was something I was definitely okay with. I took pride in my job and didn’t want to lose that by going somewhere else. I prayed that God would offer me a light in this tunnel and comfort me in this difficult decision making time.

So I got off the plane and headed towards the bus that would bring us to our hotel. I peered out the window as the bus took off, and I gasped when I looked at the sky. A plane had written “Love God” in the sky. I was in complete awe that I had prayed God would see my feeble attempt to follow His word, and my prayer for a sign I was on the right path was answered. Clear as day, God revealed to me that I am His child and I am doing exactly what He has guided me to do.

A few weeks after my trip, my sister sent me a job posting in D.C. that looked like something I might be interested in. I was hesitant to apply for anything out of my comfort zone, and I was afraid to apply for something in a different location than where I was currently living. But this job was working with volunteers, something I really enjoyed doing, and I was encouraged by my family to apply. After several various types of interviews, the manager said to me that I seemed very calm about the whole application and interview process. While of course I wanted to make a good impression and present my best self, I was surprised at how calm I actually felt. It was a peaceful feeling that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

I was putting groceries away in my fridge one day and I saw my star word from my church. A word printed on a cut out star is given to each person in the congregation on Epiphany Sunday to celebrate the wise men who followed the North Star to Jesus. The word is supposed to be a guiding light for the year ahead. My word was “childlike” and I will fully admit I was disappointed. I had absolutely no idea what it meant and I liked to think I was a mature person, so this word didn’t identify with me. But I stuck it on my fridge and figured I would make meaning of it one day.

After I was offered the position and accepted, I made the connection that the job was located at a children’s hospital, and my star word was childlike. A word that was given to me at the beginning of the year finally made sense. God’s plan for me was already made back in January, and I just hadn’t known it yet. This was the answer to my second prayer, the light in the tunnel that I needed. The calm I was feeling was actually God’s presence, I just didn’t know how to identify it.

God is here, and I am a believer. I am His child, and His love knows no bounds. What a blessing it is to receive His unconditional love! May you feel the joy of being loved and the grace of his presence.

Worthy of a Dream

I love writing because it’s an opportunity for me to connect to people through my words. As I began writing on this blog and continued to write posts, I enjoyed hearing that people felt moved by my stories and felt touched by my writing. I became eager to write and wanted to work on my craft. My goal became to write on this blog so I could express myself while reaching the hearts of others.

And so, the research began. I started participating in writing webinars and reading up on the art of writing. I compiled lists of my favorite authors and writers so I could study their process. I took out books at the library and signed up for online courses so I could learn as much as I could about the industry. While these tasks were meant to inspire me, it actually did the opposite. I started comparing myself to other writers and how well spoken they were, how quickly they got published, how many followers they attracted, how often they wrote a compelling piece, and the list goes on.

I started doubting myself as a writer. I didn’t think I was a good enough writer to even be called a writer. I felt like I shouldn’t even think of myself as a writer because that was a title for people who were real writers. The doubt spiraled and I decided to cut back on writing. I told myself that I would pick up writing once I felt more comfortable. Days, weeks, months passed. I jotted notes down here and there, but told myself I wasn’t ready to write again.

As I look back on this, I realize that I was the one who decided that I was unworthy of being a writer. I didn’t do something I enjoyed for months because I told myself I wasn’t good enough. And I robbed myself of the joy writing brings me because I compared myself to others instead of focusing on myself. I wanted to be a writer and I took that away from myself, simply by believing that I wasn’t worthy of that title.

I think sometimes we get so caught up in knowing what we want but fear traps us into thinking that it won’t happen for us. I had convinced myself that I was unworthy, when in reality, our worth is defined well beyond the things we are good at. I told myself not to write, that my voice wasn’t loud enough or my tone wasn’t clear enough. But those things don’t matter if I don’t even put the words out there at all. What matters is that I enjoy what I am doing, and people feel connected to the stories that I share.

It’s so easy to believe that we aren’t worthy of all the amazing things this life has to offer. Sometimes it makes more sense to think that we are destined to only do what our to do list tells us to, but I promise you that there is a much bigger world out there when we allow ourselves to unapologetically go after what we want. Life becomes that much more grand and colorful when we know that we are worth all the joy and happiness that comes our way!

So whatever goals you have, whatever journey you want to take, know that you are worthy of making all those dreams come true. If you have a dream you want to revisit, write it down and say it out loud. Share it with those close to you so you may be reminded to continue to pursue it. And above all else, remember that you are worth all those dreams coming true.

Real Life and Raw Words

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As I have learned over the past few years of writing and sharing my stories, I have come to find that my style is to write with emotion, connect it to a bigger picture, and tie it together with a bow of hope and inspiration. I began writing for myself but saw that other people resonated with my words, and that was one of the motivating factors in continuing to write these posts.

So, what happens when life gets messy and words get jumbled? What do I do when I want to share positive thoughts and meaningful insights, but feel at a loss for keeping that bow neatly tied, holding my words together in my heart? As my sister suggested, I should write about this too. The experiences I’ve had recently should also be highlighted, because it’s real life too. And if someone else out there can connect to these words, then it is well worth the fear to write it.  

I pause here, as it is hard to put words to pain sometimes, especially when the pain is numbing. While this may seem contradictory, I think it accurately describes these past few weeks. It starts slow, with extra sleeping and a dose of heavy crying, and then it morphs into panic attacks and fast heartbeats. Loading the laundry machine one day, I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. Starting my car one morning, I felt sick to my stomach. The “resting anxiety” was seeping into my skin and choking the air I breathed. It calculated my every move and kept me filled with panic and fear of the unknown.

I became really depressed, not knowing when or where my anxiety would strike. Some people go on high alert, whereas for myself, I shut down. I cancelled plans with people I enjoy spending time with. I skipped meetings I knew I would like to attend. I was paralyzed with fear that my anxiety was a weight too heavy to bear in public, and my depression fed me lies that I couldn’t be helped. I couldn’t taste food or see sunshine or hear laughter. I felt like a walking zombie with no destination.

I wish I could say that something happened and I could point fingers at what triggered these episodes, but I am learning that it doesn’t make these moments any less real. It’s as if I had a reason for the chaos, then it would make sense that it was happening, therefore being acceptable. Unfortunately, the formula isn’t that simple.

I kept telling my family that I was scared. It felt like my medications were failing me and I didn’t recognize myself. I kept trying to grasp onto a thread of trust that I would get through this, but the line kept getting thinner and the boundaries were blurred. I got frustrated with people who didn’t understand my pain and I was furious with myself because I couldn’t explain it. I took the anger out on myself, beating myself up for losing the words that carried my voice. Here I was, writing about being your own mental health advocate, and I couldn’t even identify the body I was living in.

Tears are falling down my face as I write this, feeling the burden of trying to keep up the act that I’ve got it together. I felt selfish for wanting more out of my life than being dictated by the bullies of anxiety and depression. I thought I was crazy for suddenly plummeting to a dark place that was cold and unfamiliar. It seemed like everything I had worked so hard to overcome has come crashing down to the harsh reality of the life I was living.

I don’t want to believe that this is all we are meant to be. I don’t want to accept that the way things are is the way they will always be. I have faith that life changes and we continue to grow, despite all the challenges and setbacks. Just as the sun sets and rises on a new day, there will be another opportunity to revive our heartbeat and begin again. So I sit at my computer, with just my words and my heart, praying we can see that our soul’s journey isn’t finished here, and the light we shine beams on this precious and fragile world.  

 

 

Graduating from Fear

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I never wanted to be this way. As a lonely student wandering the halls of a large high school, I had bigger dreams than this. I wanted to fit in and feel like I belonged, but my eagerness to please people and the cruelty of harsh realities anchored me to a place that was suffocating my every breath. I always thought that the best memories would lay somewhere in between the rusty metal lockers and the old brick walls, but I was very mistaken.

I think high school is a challenging time for a lot of people, and the amount of stress young people face during this time of their lives can be downright unbearable. I worried about everything until anxiety seeped from my pores. I didn’t just want to pass the class, I wanted to prove to my teachers and fellow students that I was supposed to be there. I felt if I didn’t prove that, I was convinced people would catch on to the worthlessness I felt all the time.

I can remember being so jealous that other students my age seemed to live decently normal lives. They had their cliques, their brand name clothes, their boyfriends or girlfriends, and other things that were so incredibly important to a teenager. They looked like they just had it all together. I was mad at myself that I couldn’t keep my emotions in check long enough to feel like I was even somewhat normal. My anxiety had me doubting everything I had ever known.

Groups of students would sit together at the lunch tables, gossiping and laughing at anything they could grasp on to. I would have given anything to be a part of those conversations, but it seemed so far out of reach to me. I wanted desperately to have a place at the table, but I felt more comfortable hiding behind my studies and making sure I flew under the radar.

It starts to take a toll on you when you feel you aren’t seen. The anxiety slipped into depression as I drew out the conclusion that my life would never be what I had intended it to be. It was sad that at the age of 16, I thought my life added no value to this world.

I started seeing a therapist. A psychiatrist adjusted my medications. I was referred to a social worker. I began intensive outpatient therapy. I convinced myself that not only did I not contribute anything to society, I was actually a drain on resources that I felt would never actually help me. It was a lot for a young lady to carry, and I was mentally exhausted from trying not to fall further into darkness.

I cried, a lot. I was terrified that people would eventually see me for the person I thought I was. And I fought against everything. I didn’t want to accept that my views of myself were inaccurate, and I certainly didn’t want to admit that my perspective was very skewed.

I wish I could say I marched off to my freshman year of college and everything changed, but it didn’t. I carried a lot of my challenges over to the next chapter of my life, as many people do. I will tell you what did change though, and that was my decision to accept help. I was in way over my head and thrown in a battle I didn’t know how to fight. One of the best things I ever was able to do for myself was to give up the control and let other people in to my recovery.

Slowly but surely, I started listening to what the therapists were saying and actively participating in the sessions. I communicated with my doctor what medications made me feel better or worse. I learned that these people are professionals with much more skills and knowledge than I have, but they are also not mind readers. They can’t help you if you lie or stretch the reality of what you’re going through.

High school is over and my mindset has changed, but I will always remember the importance of letting people help ease some of your burdens. There are professionals who can give you the opportunity to see things in a different light and can work with you to be the best version of yourself possible. I encourage anyone struggling to reach out to those who can truly make a positive impact on your wellbeing.

You are worthy of receiving whatever help you may need to feel lighter and more whole. It is never too late to ask, and you should not have to feel ashamed for admitting you need some extra support. I hope by sharing this piece of my story, you find comfort in knowing it is completely normal and acceptable to seek professional help. Do what’s right for you, and know that there are a variety of resources to meet your needs.

Sending my hope to you, that you will find the courage within you to seek whatever help you need in this journey.