“I’m not okay….”

I just finished watching the latest episode of “This is Us.” This is fast becoming one of my favourite shows……….and the real reason behind the rise in Kleenex stock prices!

In this episode, Randall has had a really rough week. Health issues with his mom, challenges in his job, rescuing a woman from an attacker, and an intruder in his home…..all in one week! Granted, this is TV so not necessarily an accurate depiction of what your week might have held, or mine. However, though circumstances may vary, the overwhelming feels are all too familiar some days.

Randall also battles, and has since childhood, what many face all too often, attacks of anxiety and panic. Sudden, uncontrollable, unwelcome, and to the onlooker, seemingly unreasonable reactions to circumstances that are upsetting, terrifying, and usually beyond our control.

Randall tries to cope. He keeps putting one foot in front of the other, assuring everyone he is okay. Then, during a positive interaction with staff, where he is being hailed as a hero, he walks away, locks himself in his bathroom, and falls apart. He calls his brother and admits, “I lied, I am not okay….”

I am only aware of two such attacks in my life. But I have experienced deep, debilitating depression a few times, maybe the flip side of the same anxiety coin.

I spent a year and a half where I rarely got out of bed. I felt utterly defeated in life. I felt like a failure…..a failure as a mom, a failure as a christian, a failure as a wife, and I was so exhausted, emotionally and spiritually, that on the rare times I did get up and get dressed, the kids thought I had to be going somewhere. For the first time ever, I experienced suicidal thoughts.

Fast forward a few years…. We, as a family, made a move back to the area I had grown up in, and had been away from for over 20 years, back to my dearly loved family and friends. We were enjoying a rare time of financial prosperity and the endless possibilities this afforded us, a new church where I formed new and amazing relationships, and I was happier than I had been in a very long time, maybe ever. I felt like I had come full circle and was poised for an adventure that seemed to be the culmination and reward of weathering all the tough years of struggle and disappointment.

Then came the diagnosis.

Glenn was diagnosed with a chondrosarcoma…..a cartilage tumour just under his voice box. At the very same time, the company he was working for failed and he sunk into his own year and a half depression. Our income went from six figures to zero…….overnight. We still had nine children living at home, and our future seemed desperately bleak.

I was not fine.

I kept things running at home with as much normalcy as possible. I leaned on my friends…..a lot. We had to go to the food bank for food. We resorted to social assistance, in various forms. And once again, just getting out of bed and getting dressed each day, became a monumental hurdle to clear.

I would wake up in the morning, completely overwhelmed.

Add to ALL this, the day I opened my door to find SWAT in my front yard, or the children who, trying to find their own way to cope with their worlds being rocked, were making disastrous life choices, the five+ years of prison visits, taking courses because I had to find a decent job (after being a stay-at-home mom for over 20 years), a new career, losing my beloved church experience, and the day-to-day rigours of just trying to survive… I was no where near “okay”!!!

Yet I was…

Because deeper than all the disappointment, pain, confusion, and fear…….were the underlying truths that I clung to. They brought HOPE.

Hope that there was a power greater than mine, working in and through the circumstances I faced. Hope that no matter how bleak things may have appeared, a new day would dawn and I would be equipped with the exact amount of strength I needed to not only face, but overcome, whatever may lay in wait.

Often, the hope – and help – came through the amazing friends and relationships that had been formed, both near and far, those that never judged but came alongside and supported us, respected us, prayed for us, or just sat with us in our grief and agony.. Sometimes it even came from complete strangers, with a kind word, a helping hand, or free homeopathic health care when we refused the conventional medical solutions proposed.

I don’t know what you’re facing, have faced, or will face. What I DO know, is that even if you do all the right things, follow all the formulas for success, and feel like you have it all wrapped up and tied with a pretty bow…….life happens. People will disappoint or hurt you, expectations will be unmet, and your whole world can be turned upside down…….overnight.

I also know that you can be a hot mess, and still be okay.

You need to care of you… I am no expert, but I do have some advice.

  • Eat healthy! Exercise if you have to!!! Your body is an intricate system that has requirements and it needs nutritious fuel to run on in order to have the resources to draw from, physically and emotionally.
  • Be kind to yourself, you are human and you are allowed to make mistakes as you find your way through the darkness. Yes, you may even FAIL….but don’t quit.
  • Get help! Tell someone you’re struggling. Find a group, a therapist, a trusted friend and be as honest as you possibly can. They may not have answers to your problems, but compassion and understanding, a safe place to pour it all out, and the room to be transparent, can go a very long way in helping you to heal and move forward.
  • Find a strength greater than your own to live out of. I know what that has been for me, and I would be happy to share it with you, but just know that YOU are not expected, nor were you intended, to live this life on your own.
  • Beware of the temporary fixes this life has to offer.

Like I said, I am no expert. But I can be a listening ear.

  • No judgement.
  • No pressure.
  • Some wisdom gained through life’s hard knocks.

Just so you know…

  • Glenn is still here……12 1/2 years after that devastating diagnosis.
  • My kids are great!! Lessons were learned and challenges overcome. They still experience typical life challenges, but they are strong, resilient, and each other’s best friends.
  • My church experience has not yet resolved, and may never look like it once did, but God and I are tight! His love, His goodness and faithfulness, and His grace continue to empower and compel me.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit…”

Psalm 34:18

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