On Not Being Okay

There have been multiple times I have written this post out over the years and deleted it. Or it’s been left as a draft. I have walked away thinking “What would people say if I posted that?” I worried over reactions and conversations that would have to be had if I wrote this post. Earlier this week it again came to the forefront of my mind when I was sitting with a coworker waiting for our to-go order as the news broke about Kate Spade’s suicide. Then this morning as news of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide broke.

For a large chunk of my 20s I struggled with recognizing I was unwell. I allowed my mental wellness to become so toxic and unhealthy because I thought it was natural. I thought it would just be present with me and frankly, it sunk me into a depression I hid very well. 99.5% of the people who know me do not know that I gave serious thought to suicide. That I lived in a very dark place for a very long time. When you are struggling mentally, you find ways to hide it from those closest to you. Even now, my family wasn’t aware until they read this. I have confided in two or three people about this outside of a counselor up until now. I sought out help because I knew there was a path I was on that would lead me eventually to my death if I didn’t.

In our culture, and especially in the Christian culture, mental illness and suicide aren’t spoken about regularly or even comfortably. It has a shame shield wrapped around it, furthering the illness and deepening the depths of darkness one can find themselves in. Even telling someone you are seeing a therapist or counselor is met with  embarrassment for many. Over the years I have walked the line of shame in seeking help rather than live in the depression that would kill me. It took me voicing my fears of shame and embarrassment to my counselor about even sitting there to hear the truth we all need.

It is okay to seek help when you aren’t okay. It is not okay to stay in the realm of fear.

We go to annual checkups with our doctors, we don’t dare skip our annual exam at the gyno (even though we dread it ladies), and we ensure if we need new glasses or contacts we are beating down the door to our optometrist. When we have an unknown rash or a blood test comes wonky, we go in for more testing, for follow ups, for consultations. We will seek out everything that can help us, except when it comes to our brains. We won’t ask for prayer on it, we won’t share about our struggles with our closest confidantes because fear has told us that it’s not okay to be not okay.

If you are struggling in the depths, know you are not alone. No matter what fear is telling you, it’s a lie. A downright ugly lie meant to steal and destroy you. I beg you to not let it. Reach out, confide in one person. It’s scary and unknown, but it sure beats the alternative. There is no shame in calling the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or looking for a counselor. If you are a believer, ask a pastor for a reference or who they have on staff as a counselor. I went online-as it can be both good and bad-and sought out a counselor in my area that was also thankfully on my insurance at the time. But there are low-cost options I promise you that are good and beneficial.

Some days I still wrestle with mental wellness, and those are days I find myself pulling out the notes from my sessions, quieting the chaos that wants to drag me under, and confiding in someone. Speaking directly at the lie of fear and saying “Not today.” But it is difficult to know this battle will wage on continuously. That I won’t find a cure for the struggles I have mentally on this side of life. But there’s a hope I can rest in, to know that the lies and the shame and the fears aren’t mine to battle and win. They were long ago put to death by the hope of my salvation, Christ Himself. Some days I forget that, when the struggle seems suffocating and burdensome, when it is within an inch or a minute of swallowing me whole. Some days it takes speaking my fear out to another person, to a counselor, to hear myself voice what is locked within me to see there’s someone to listen, to not judge but to be present and realize I am not alone in it. That it is a lie. And to ultimately be the truth of my life, to speak His Truth that I am valued, loved and never, ever alone.

If you haven’t struggled with mental illness, I am sure you are a friend or family member, coworker or pastor to someone who is currently living in mental unwellness. Be the one to ask “are you okay?” Be the one to simply offer to sit and listen. Be the one to not let them be alone in it. Just be with them.


Recently I have heard this song played more and more on the radio and it’s meant so much to me even this week as the fears and lies creep in when you see people defined as successful and “having it all” are committing suicide. Maybe you need to hear it, sing it, believe it for yourself today.

Anxious in Everything

Be anxious for nothing,
but in everything
with prayer and supplication,
with thanksgiving,
let your requests be known to God.

If you’ve been around Christianity for any length of time, you’ve heard this verse handed out when you say you are worried about something. It’s often given as a platitude by a well-meaning pastor or friend to easily point you to peace of mind. But I have to be honest with you that I haven’t really taken to that verse.

You see I’m quite the anxious person. I worry inwardly alot and have for years. About some of the most ridiculous things, about people, situations, words, you name it. I have worried about it. Let me be even more real with you all, that kind of worry all the time will eat you up. Mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically.

Recently I grabbed a copy of Max Lucado’s new book Anxious for Nothing on a whim. I have only read one other book from Lucado, and it’s a small Christmas book I received for free once. As I tiptoed into the book with a skeptic’s eye on the very verse I have grown to really be irritated with, I was surprised to find that I had been looking at it with the wrong heart and the wrong perspective.

In my anxiousness I had chosen to identify with the chaos of the world instead of the sovereignty of God. I was running to tension, control and calamity instead of peace, security, and surety in Him.

As much as I didn’t this to be a book review, I have to contend that Max Lucado’s book on the verse against anxiety is one that caused me to re-examine the whole Scripture and context of Paul’s words to the Philippians. Lucado walks through the various areas Paul points out in the key verse but also lays the ground work around it, and our hearts that are so easily prone to anxiety-whether by our own doing or undoing. He also provides practical avenues of applying the words of Paul to our lives day in and day out.

Overall it caused me solely to realize that the chaos of anxiety is born out of a fallen world, and born within a fallen person…me. But I get to choose whether I abide in that chaos or the calm of the sovereign Lord each and every day. Not to be Pollyanna-ish about it, but the acknowledgement of choosing it daily is often the first step towards being anxious for nothing.

A Can’t Do Attitude

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This week y’all, it’s been a doozy. While it may not compare to others’ weeks and what some are currently working through, it’s been a week of coming to bear out some things I have been wrestling with for a good long stint.

One of those being the mindset I have clung to that I can do it all myself. For a while I was claiming Philippians 4:13 in the midst of my doing, and fretting, and frustrations. Oh yes, I CAN do all things was what I would tell myself. My word did I misuse that verse to do things in vain and in my own way.

This week I went in to a couple of coworkers and said “I have to admit defeat and ask for help on some of these responsibilities.” To which one of them lovingly looked at me and said “It’s not defeat to ask for help, and we’ve been waiting for you to ask.” So y’all, I was wearing my weariness, anxiety, stress and CAN DO-ness out there for all to see. And it was not pretty…believe me I see it.

But from then on, I felt lightness as if a burden had been lifted from my back that I didn’t have to trudge along with. Over the last 24 hours I have thought about that and my attitude of “I can do this, and this and this and this.” I realized that I had made it a “had to” attitude instead of a “can but will ask for help” attitude. I made it the mandate to do it all, no one else did.

You see when I go back into Philippians 4 and point to verse 13 that I can do all of this through Him who strengthens me, I found that I hadn’t really looked for strength in Him first of all. Secondly, when I read the verses surrounding it in context I see that others were sharing in Paul’s distress, they were seeking to care for him in the state he was currently in and they had not had the opportunity to do so.

In my striving of can do-ness on my own, I wasn’t allowing others the opportunity to live out their God-given care for me. I was pursuing my own definition of success through a “have to” attitude that I had put upon myself instead of stepping into His strength, putting on humility and leaning into the beautiful community of care from those around me. Pursuing the right things with the wrong attitude will get us to the same spot as pursuing the wrong things.

I had to realize that I cannot do it all and I have to relinquish that sinful mindset. I can ask for help, I can be weak and seek strength that can only come from Him, and I can understand that it’s an opportunity for others to come along in my journey as well. It’s in fact not about me at all, and the more I realize that the more I’ll see it’s all about Him.

He can do and He does.

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God will do whatever it takes to frustrate my desires for lesser things, lesser loves, and thwart my attempts to run and hide.

These words, paraphrased from Amanda Bible Williams, are what I’m dwelling on presently. Often we desire to pour out our hearts and at others we pull back to quiet, to alone. Maybe you’re in a space of alone too and needed to see these words today, just as I needed them over the last few weeks.

 

That Year in Birmingham

In a couple of weeks I’ll be headed to Birmingham for an event. At one time, just after college, I called Birmingham home for a year. I have been back once, for a little over 24 hours, in those 13 years since I packed up a that Uhaul trailer with my dad and grandfather and booked it back to Tennessee.

In planning my trip back down, I couldn’t help but recall the first time I went to B’ham as a freshly-educated college grad knowing I had a job in baseball. One week in I was crumpled on the floor of my kitchen telling my sister it was a mistake to be there. That I had somehow made a terrible decision, living five hours from anyone I knew, and I wasn’t possibly going to be able to make it in this city that didn’t offer me much.

Part of me cringes at that memory because of the emotion of it all, remembering how bleak my outlook was and how incredibly alone I felt in that city. The other part of me rejoices though, because I am 13 years wiser from it. God drew me there, whether I wanted to recognize it or not, for a purpose and a reason. He led me there, to get me right here. He did some significant work in me over that year that I can only see in hindsight, and allowed me to work out who I was in some difficult moments.

Throughout my time in B’ham I made some poor decisions, I will own that entirely. My way, my will and my attitude won out on several occasions but I am also able to see how I needed to work out that in an environment where it was me dealing with Him without distraction or other voices bringing solace. Being there allowed me to see where He was not leading me and I was taking my own path and my own way. It brought me back to Him in a way which if I had remained in Knoxville I would not have seen nor chosen.

In so much hurt and grief we cannot possibly see how it’s for our good while we are in it. We cannot see how being alone in place, a place we don’t like and the circumstances aren’t how we would craft them could bring anything remotely resembling His good for us out of it all.

But it does.

It did for me. I am pretty sure it will for you too, if we let go of our expectation of the situation, our will and our way and accept the work God is doing without knowing what it is. The end result isn’t the point, it is what you are going through that’s refining you and making you who God intends you to be in His image, as His reflection and not your own.

The whole process, in the circumstance, in the location, in the job, in the relationship…all of that is the point. Sometimes it takes a whole lot of distance of years or miles to see it. To see how one of the worst and hardest times of your life was also one of the best parts of your relationship in Christ, with God through the Holy Spirit.

But we have to allow it. We have to accept it. We have to be willing to go through it, even in the ugly, even in the lonely, even in the longevity of it all. It’s never about us. It’s about the work He’s doing, we just have to receive it.

 

What if my perceived silence from God is actually an opportunity for my stillness and trust in Him?

I know He’s good. I know He’s trustworthy. There comes a time though when it just doesn’t feel good. That I feel He’s silent.

And that is exactly where I land. On my feelings. Not on the Truth of His Word, of Him and Who He Is, Was and Will Forever Be. My perceptions and feelings aren’t in full understanding of Him, and they won’t be on this side of life.

However I must trust, even when I flat out don’t want to, that it’s not silence. It’s not His forgetfulness (because He cannot have that characteristic). No, I must be still and reflect His stillness. I must seize the opportunity to trust beyond words, beyond feelings and beyond comprehension.

What A Hip Hop Dance Class Taught Me

Lately I have been taking a hip hop class at the gym I go to. I was getting bored quickly with the elliptical and treadmill, even though it had a tv and I had podcasts.

When I run outside, it’s just different. The monotony of a machine makes me want to put a pencil through my eye, but I digress.

Nervously I entered the incredibly full class the first week, inching my way to the back so I could blend in. (SN: a woman from my Tuesday step class had misinformed me that this was also a step class, it is most definitely not.) That just wasn’t possible because this class builds on itself each week. Regardless of my trepidation, I told my 34 year old self that this wasn’t middle school and that I was going to do this. So I have for the last few weeks.

Last night I looked around at the smaller group, since it’s the holidays, and saw a pregnant woman, a 70+ year old woman, and a couple on the back row with me that were just having fun, moving. Yes we were out of step, but we were having a good time and getting some exercise in.

It takes us all a while to loosen up in these situations-where we are out of our comfort zones or are pushed to be beyond our boundaries of security. I felt a little whisper last night as I was completely off on one whole routine that said, “Be confident in yourself.”

Fear’s a good liar. It reminds us of the long-forgotten mistakes, errors and embarrassments. It points to the awkward and the negative, the judgements and the critics. And we can buy into fear, and it’ll keep us on the back row in alot of life, or even outside the doors. It’ll tell us that we don’t have the body, the rhythm, or the drive to do that. It’ll whisper we aren’t as good as the former dancer in front of us and cause us to misstep. Then it will point at that misstep any time we falter or question whether we should go back, try again, or take another leap.

Yes, this is about a group fitness class, but it’s so much more than that. That’s where we often find the lessons in life-in the unexpected. That’s also where we take one more step against fear and self-doubt, banishing them with a confidence in ourselves to be bold, be brave and to fear not.

As we start to look at a new year, may we live in the confidence of the gifts and abilities we have been given by a God who designed us to live fully into them. Using them as blessings and goodness, and understanding that fear is based upon the lie of worth and value. Take that step into the room, move up from the back row and get off the sidelines this year. Show fear it has no place in your head, your heart and your life.

Because if I can take a hip hop dance class, trust me, you can do the thing you have been fearing too.