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.

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.