first the pain, then the waiting, then the rising
i wrote most of this a few months ago, deep in the throes of depression. i am doing much better now, but still wanted to share these words, because they're important. shout out to jen hatmaker, whose candid post about pain helped me be honest with mine.
“this sort of change — the change that occurs when you sit inside your own pain — it’s revolutionary. when you let yourself die, there is suddenly one day: new life. you are different. new. and no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot fit into your old life anymore. i know this...first the pain, then the waiting, then the rising.” -- glennon doyle
first the pain.
i have written this and re-written this more times than i can count. i wish i could tell it safely from the other side of what i'm going through, but i'm still in it, and i don't have all the answers yet. life just feels really unstable right now.
since graduating from college a stretch of tumultuous, unfruitful job searches ended up being a 7-year-long existential crisis. nothing wounds like trying to build a life for yourself and failing, over and over and over. i have prayed so many prayers, and constantly asked "why?" and cried myself to sleep saying, "i trust you, God"--which is the hardest phrase to utter--with no obvious change. i couldn't accept it. i didn't understand why my life had to look so different from everyone else's. i'd gone to a 4 year university! that was my ticket to a good job, right? (lol remember when that was a thing?) the harder it was for me to get settled, the harder i tried to settle. with each job application, i prayed a normal life would begin, and i could move out of my parents' house. i just wanted a job, an apartment and a salary...but not much else. also a boyfriend, at some point.
i've had a lot of jobs: youth intern (favorite, hands down), marketing assistant, barnes & noble cashier, social media coordinator/barista/event coordinator/photographer, anthropologie sales associate, gap jeans folder, and lotsss of admin jobs...none of them lasted long, though. when retail started sucking my soul like a demeantor--as it tends to do to me, after a month or so--i would quit to find something better...which was usually a temp job for around 3 months at a time. this has been my life: back and forth, hoping something would stick. the job i most recently left was the first 40-hour job i'd had landed, in all that time. (see why i was so willing to stay?)
a few weeks ago i cry-yelled at my parents after they paid a giant emergency room bill for me. i was so grateful but so sad and ashamed that i couldn’t pay my own giant emergency room bill, and that i couldn’t seem to get a call back from any of the dozens of jobs i’d been applying for, and that nothing i was doing to turn my life right-side up was working.
there are lots of these days. frustration sets in and bitterness says, "just admit that your life sucks, ok? not just today...your whole life. effing. sucks." there are days when anxiety grips me so hard and flings me into a tailspin. some days depression sweeps in and drags me away from any hope of feeling like a human being again. you barely have a grip on reality because your mind is in a downward spiral of incomprehensible thoughts. some days i'd be fine, and some days i'd open my eyes and just know...that day i would be smothered by depression.
that giant medical bill my parents paid was from a couple years ago when i'd experienced terrible chest pains. i'd been unfairly fired from a full time job i thought would stick, i was in a horrifically bad rental situation, and my dad had been really sick. was i having a heart attack? i thought, "no. heart attacks don't feel like this." (yeah. because i totally know) it felt like my sternum was being pierced by a thousand needles, repeatedly. finally, after a late night visit to the emergency room, and chest x-rays, and drinking some nasty stuff that's supposed to help with heartburn (for the millionth time, nurse. it's not heartburn) we discovered i'd suffered esophogeal spasms (remember cameron diaz in the holiday? same thing, except so so painful and not even remotely funny) i received medicine to help stop the spasms and a perscription for anxiety, as well. (which i need to get filled)
a few weeks ago, me and a close friend were sharing our struggles with anxiety, and i realized i've been anxious since i was very small. (PSA: find a friend you can openly share your struggles with! also, therapy helps) i remember being about 5, riding in the car and asking my mom, several times, if she was CERTAIN the car wouldn't flip over the edge of the highway, where there weren't guardrails. how did i even come up with that? welcome to my anxious brain.
i didn't foresee cancelling dinner with friends, en route to the restaurant. i had no idea i could feel so bad i didn't want to do anything--even things that made me happy. i never thought it would get this bad. if you've battled anxiety and/or depression, you've probably experienced something similar. you're in good company, friend.
as i repeat these patterns, i realize how anxiety and depression are continually introduced--from resisting surrender. breaking out in hives, a trip to the emergency room, working for a boss who constantly made me feel like garbage, even though i was over-performing, weren't enough for me to stop striving. i resisted every good thing that told me, "maybe you don't need to live in oklahoma. marketing doesn't make you happy--you don't have to do it just because you studied it in college. what if you started a blog or moved somewhere you felt more like yourself?" i ignored it all, because i didn't think i was worthy. i thought i had to earn feeling whole and at peace with myself. i wasn't sure how much it would cost, i just thought i had to keep grinding myself down until someone or some job told me i was enough.
brene brown said, "the ego says, 'you have no inherent worth...you gotta hustle for it, baby. how fast you gonna run, how high you gonna jump?....the ego is a hustler.' " preach it, sister. it is an ongoing struggle.
then the waiting.
i'm beginning to understand now. after years of a damaging amount of introspection, i’m realizing that i'm not supposed to wonder why my life looks different than i thought it would. (it's just too exhausting, guys. please don't do this to yourselves.) instead, i'm focusing on the thing i've avoided the most--relinquishing control. and i hope i haven't been so self-centered that i've forgotten to help someone along the way. that makes up so much of what we're called to do in this world.
so i’m continually un-clenching my fists, (like minute to minute, people) and welcoming God's grace in. i've seen what my life looks like when i'm in "control", and spoiler alert: it's a dumpster fire. i've also seen what my life could look like if i surrender it to God, and it is so much more than i ever thought i could have. there's a helluva beautiful life he's been trying to show me all this time, and i think i'll lift my head to see it.
(then the rising)