Just Stay … please?

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but…

You are not alone.

You are seen.

You belong.

You are needed.

You are no accident.

You were made with intention, regardless of what’s happened since.

You have a purpose, despite all the pain.

So, stick around a little while longer to see what it will be.

Decide to stick around for one more day.

Just one – one day at a time.

Every day.

And I promise you will get there, love.

Because, for real, you really are loved.

If you need a virtual ear, hit me up @ creatorskind@gmail.com đź’ś

Seeing the big picture

Have you ever found yourself faced with a challenge that is so big and so overwhelming that you can’t tell whether you’re winning or losing?

Maybe you get sick or hurt and need to undergo a medical procedure. Thankfully, you have insurance, so you’re not responsible for most of the cost to address it. So, you use some savings, take out a loan or save your pennies to pay your deductible and co-pays.

You go to the doctor and work out a plan to fix the problem. You take test after test and exam after exam. You find yourself naked in the company of so many specialists that you wonder whether you should adjust your body count.

All of this takes a while, but eventually, you find yourself checking in at the hospital. And then, you wait. Before you know it, it’s over. You’re at home and recovering. Crisis over.

But now, as you make your way back to life as normal, something unexpected happens. You find new bills in your mailbox. Bills for this test, that exam, this specialist, and those medications. New bills arrive even as you pay the latest ones. You’re in a whirlwind, overloaded with bills for something that you thought was over and done with; something you thought was covered. And in confusion and frustration, you wonder, “Am I wasting my time? Will this ever stop?”

This is how the random flashbacks and intrusive thoughts of PTSD feel to me. No matter how much progress I think I’ve made, those two symptoms remind me that it’s not over. It’s a problem that refuses to go away, and certainly, not without a fight.

My way of fighting is to go to therapy, get enough sleep, stay on top of my medicine, workout, do things I enjoy, have alone time and time with people I love, eat well, journal and talk to God. These are the practices that have made a difference for me. But those moments when I am catapulted back into the original moment of pain feel like a setback. A big one. Beyond confusing and exhausting, it ticks me off.

It makes me angry at the people who caused the trauma. Angry at the person or situation that now reminds me of that trauma. Angry at the world for being so jacked up. Angry with myself for not being past this already. And, if I’m honest, a little angry at God too. Why? “Because I’m doing my part, aren’t I? Where is God?”

My anger temporarily blinds me to God’s many fingerprints that cover my story. Fingerprints that show up in the supports I have that are helping me heal, like therapy and friendships. But this blinding anger is a feeling that arises from some hidden bitter place in my heart, though I know better. My back and forth with PTSD makes me feel like I’m failing. And that makes me angry.

I have a friend that I appreciate and admire so very much. She’s a single mom and is working hard to raise her child to be a responsible and independent person with good character. Day in and day out, she invests every resource she has into this simple, but challenging goal. Yet, understandably, she sometimes gets overwhelmed and frustrated when the same mistakes and setbacks continue to happen again and again. Sometimes, she feels like she’s in this all alone. Sometimes, she feels like she’s failing.

One day, we were talking about a recent episode that brought those negative feelings back to the surface. And I saw something in her situation that I now see is true for me too. There’s a saying that describes it well. It says, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” In other words, she’s in the weeds.

When I look at her child, I see a person who is smart, funny, kind, considerate and well-rounded. In him, I see the totality of her efforts in a singularly beautiful form. I see it all blending and working together in even the simplest things. But I am on the outside, watching her strategic parenting from afar. And she’s too close to the details, too close to every decision, to see the effects they have on the big picture. She doesn’t see that she’s winning.

I realize that it’s true for me and PTSD too. Where I am now with PTSD is not where I was 4 years ago or even last year. Though the uninvited symptoms still show their ugly faces, in the big picture, they have less of a hold on me now than before.

Today, there are fewer episodes with intrusive thoughts. Fewer random flashbacks. Less insomnia. Little to no nightmares. Less anxiety. Less crying myself to sleep. Less stress. Less hopelessness. Less need to be hypervigilant. More confidence. More peace.

In the big picture, where I am now is progress, even if it doesn’t always look like it in the moment. And as difficult as this fight has been, it is exactly because it has been so hard that nothing could ever make me believe that I did any of that fighting on my own. When I take a step back and look at the big picture, I see that I’m winning too, with God’s help.

What about you? What problem has you unable to see the forest for the trees?

©2022 Creatorskind

One big little word.

I have to admit, I really struggled with my first post – the one that introduced me. Well, really, it was one word in it that I wrestled with. I went back and forth, unsure of the reaction it would garner. But in the end, I decided to call a thing what it is. So…I wrote, “mental illness” and left it there.

Illness. I struggled with that word as a characterization of the turf war that plays out in my brain day after day. I wondered whether “illness” was the best way to describe the cluster of mental health conditions that stormed into my life and send me both to prayer and therapy almost religiously.

I played with using mental health “challenges” instead, but it felt false. If it were anything else, any other condition, I wouldn’t even flinch. I wouldn’t hesitate to mention them in the same sentence. Brain cancer…illness. Asthma…illness. Dementia…illness. And it makes sense because illness is the opposite of wellness. To have a condition is to be unwell regarding that thing or even in general. Yet, the stigma that often accompanies anything about mental health makes me want a little distance. And adding that word to a sentence that also includes God, can turn my simple statement into a loaded gun…dangerous.

It’s a word choice that risks turning you off, possibly, forever. Because to some, mental illness means crazy. And to some, to have a mental illness and claim to have a relationship with God is the very definition of crazy or, at least, misguided. It is thought that a person with mental illness is always someone to be avoided because they might hurt themselves or hurt you. It’s something city dwellers are well acquainted with.  More than once, I have guided my feet to the other side of the street from someone screaming at no-one that I could see, while angrily sweeping up nothing on the sidewalk or chucking groceries out their front door. No, mental health “challenge” is easier to swallow. The only problem is that “challenge” cannot capture the full experience. At least, not mine.

A mental health challenge is feeling lonely after moving to a new city with no connections. A mental health challenge is listening to a whole SADE album on repeat following a difficult breakup and wondering why you can’t let go. A challenge isn’t chronic and debilitating. A challenge is intense yes, but ultimately, temporary. A challenge is overcome and eradicated after a battle.

An illness is the exact opposite. An illness is a war in the body. It is long-term and unrelenting. An illness brings you to your knees. An illness tries to take you out. And by that description, my own experience has been that of an illness. That’s how I have come to think of it. 

If it was a challenge, I might be tempted to tough it out on my own. But because it’s a war, I know that I have to be strategic.  I need weapons and power greater than my own. That’s why I go to God with it.  That’s why I align myself with God, because on my own, depression, anxiety and PTSD would take me all the way out.

With God, I am reminded to do my part. Move my body, eat right, drink water, go to therapy, rest, practice kindness toward myself, take this medication and use what I learn in therapy. With God, I learn to do my part while relying on God’s power to make it through, not my own. I don’t force it. I don’t strain. I glide. I flow. With God, I am able to do the work of living well with a mental illness.

Now don’t get it twisted, there are bumps along the way. It isn’t always pretty. But with God, I learn that my mental state, feelings, and history don’t define me. God does. And it’s God’s word that tells me who I am. Strong, courageous, and unafraid, because God is with me wherever I go, even when my feelings scream otherwise.  God’s grace – the unmerited favor I receive straight from the source – empowers me and makes God’s strength the perfect antidote to my weakness. It isn’t just a belief. It’s something that I know from experience.  So, because of that, I am calling a thing what it is and letting it be known.

What’s a word that you’ve had to tussle with before claiming it?

©2021 Creatorskind