A few weeks ago, I wrote about the courage it takes to say “I’m Not Ok.” A lot of readers found themselves in my story. Because it’s hard to admit being out of control.
Sometimes, though, it’s even harder to see when it’s happening.
At times, my “I’m not Ok” is a fleeting set of moments that corrects itself fairly quickly with a new circumstance or a good night’s sleep or the right song on the radio. Sometimes, it’s a “funk” — a lingering cloud that overshadows my joy, hope, and peace. And in some seasons of my life, there’s been no other word but depression to give an honest name to the state of my spirit.
But, over time, I’m becoming more discerning of the signals that I’m sliding in a direction I don’t want. That a moment of disappointment is becoming a pattern of discouragement. And I’m learning to wave a white flag when the red flags appear, so I can get help more quickly and get back on the path of fulfilling all God has for me.
My Warning Signs include…
- I procrastinate. As a journalist, I’m a deadline kind of girl anyway. But here I’m talking about things like not putting gas in the car until it’s really, REALLY on empty. Or not doing laundry until we absolutely have NO clean underwear. Or feeding the dogs leftovers instead of stopping for dog food. Or having to pick up dinner AGAIN because I haven’t really done a good grocery shopping in a couple of weeks.
- I neglect self-care. Sometimes I skip washing off my make-up before bed. I skip brushing my hair and just run my fingers through it (or default to the ponytail). I wear my contacts too long and make my showers too short.
- I stay up too late. Add that to the self-care neglect category. I substitute sleep for bad TV. Because “you” can’t stop me.
- I stop reading anything remotely inspiring. Those blogs I usually love and the books on my nightstand. The ones I usually devour and nod my head at and repost and comment on. I just scroll right on by. The inspirational quotes and status updates — skipped. And I read instead (if anything at all) the comments that are full of complaints. After all, misery loves company.
- I forget to look for everyday blessings. I know they aren’t gone. I just don’t see them.
- I eat when I’m not hungry. And eat junk. And eat in secret. And eat stuff that doesn’t even taste good.
- I’d rather be sitting still. Anything requiring more energy then it takes to click a remote or play a computer game becomes VERY unappealing. And my couch becomes imprinted with my outline. Because I feel like a shell of a human. And shells don’t play catch. Or write blogs. Or go to the movies. Or invite people over. Because shells might break if they move off the couch.
- I let my inner monologue get mean. So I bite my tongue a lot because my default setting says other people are the problem with my mood. And sometimes my tongue-biting doesn’t work, and I don’t just think ugly things — I say them.
No one of these items means I’m in a downward spiral all on its own, and they rarely all manifest at the same time. But the common thread in many of these is “I don’t feel like it.” And that’s my depression in a nutshell — living based on how I FEEL and forgetting that God is, and always will be, more concerned with my holiness than my happiness.
Some of these things may hit home for you. Perhaps others aren’t trigger points for you at all. But we all have our own signals — warning signs that we are living less than the abundant life we have been promised.
Consider yours. Then pay attention. Heed the red flags and be brave enough to admit it when it’s true for you — I Am Not Ok.
And know you’re not alone.
I have cried them into a pillow at night. Nearly yelled them at the sky. Whispered them with my eyes to the floor. Swallowed hard and shared them with professional helpers.
I have contemplated them alone. I have dared speak them to company. And sometimes I’ve had them forced upon me by those who love me most.
Each and every time, though it feels like I’m screaming from a depth where no meaningful sound can reach the surface, the admission bubbles up hope. The kind of grace that starts as a whisper, but bounces off the canyon walls until it is an echo that reaches the heavens.
The bravest words I know are these: I Am Not Ok.
For much of my life, personal autonomy was my source of pride. I’m told “me do it” was my favorite toddler sentence. It’s a phase I never outgrew.
There are hundreds of blog posts that could be written on the topic. Because, really, learning to love myself through not being Ok is the story of my life.
And whether you know it or not, it’s the story of yours. It is the gospel. Crimson made white; blind who see; lame who walk; “not Ok” made holy; dead brought to life.
It’s the story of the ages. A story that never ends.
My verses (and yours) continue to be written. But the refrain, the chorus, the portion that never changes… Well, it goes like this:
I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene,
and wonder how he could love me, a sinner, condemned, unclean.
How marvelous! How wonderful! And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous! How wonderful is my Savior’s love for me!
An email put me in a foul mood yesterday. It wasn’t really the message per se, but something about it tipped me over to a place of “screw it” — weariness. I felt defeated. Sad. I wanted to cry.
I ate 2 donuts instead. And I still wanted to cry.
By the time I got home, I was ready to let loose. So I did. Tears. Words of frustration. “Poor me.” What the? “It’s not fair!” A fully catered pity party with all the temper tantrum trimmings.
I let the frustration and despair have its time to make its case to the rest of the committee of the minds that make up the complete me. We listened without interupting. Or judging. Or calling ourself bad names. Or trying to talk ourself out of the feelings.
For about 20 minutes.
Then I took a shower, changed clothes, brushed my teeth. I retreated to a quiet place and listened to this song from Jeff Deyo’s album Saturate, aptly named for moments like this when I really needed to soak in the words. Eyes closed. Heart refilling moment by moment.
And for good measure I skipped a couple of tracks ahead and played this one … singing along, dancing in the privacy of my room. Feeling fully alive — ready to emerge and face the important tasks of the evening. Like making dinner.
Refreshed. Renewed. Saturated in Grace.
- Don’t stuff your feelings (with donuts or otherwise) — when they can’t have a space to be, they tend to linger, fester, and get really yucky.
- Set a time limit for the feeling to be heard
- Thank it for its input
- Clear your mind, hit reset, and move on
How about you? What’s your go-to get-out-of-a-funk routine? Tell me about it in the comments below!
It started as a 1-month self-challenge. Then I got curious to see if I could make it 2. Around the end of March the idea of going a full year crossed my mind. And that became my goal.
And I did it.
One year. No chocolate. No cake. No cookies. No pie. No ice cream. No jelly beans. No candy. No sugared sodas. No cheesecake. No licking the bowl. No licking my fingers.
Here’s what I learned along the way.
- “No, Thank You” feels really, really good to say. Powerful. And not once in the whole year did anyone push me to reconsider. I didn’t have to explain my challenge or feel like I’d hurt a cook’s feelings. No, Thank you was all I needed.
- It helps to break a year into moment-by-moment choices. Think of going a WHOLE YEAR seemed pretty overwhelming, but when you say, “do you want that cookie? No, I don’t” and then repeat with each little decision, the year goes by pretty quickly. And by the summer, I knew there was no one sweet that was worth giving up more than 6 months of sugar sobriety for.
- Life is SO SWEET even without Sugar! The beach is just as beautiful without ice cream. Easter is wonderful without chocolate. Birthday strawberries are as good as any pie. A wedding is a BLAST even without cake (oh, but it smelled soooooo good!) Christmas spirit isn’t wrapped up in candy wrappers. And all those little moments – donuts in the break room, cookies at a picnic, candy on a road trip… honestly, I just didn’t miss them.
- It gets easier. And then it doesn’t. January was hard. I had to detox, retrain my brain, and build my No, Thank you muscles. But you get used to it. In fact, you start to look right past the sugar and you find other people don’t miss it that much either if you don’t serve dessert with dinner or keep ice cream in the freezer all summer long. And then you hit a wall and your body starts to taunt you, “Really? A year? And even if you did, then what? No chocolate for the rest of your life? Get real!” And for a while it’s just about marking days off the calendar until you can hit the finish line, except…
- There is no finish line. Here I am in 2012, and, frankly, I’m pretty nervous. Because in all the things I’ve learned about myself and sugar and choices and health and mental toughness over the year, I still haven’t learned to be “cured” of sugar. In fact, I’m pretty sure that if you handed me a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies right now, I wouldn’t stop until they were all gone. And if by some miracle, I ate only a bite, I would still feel like I’d cheated on myself and fallen off the wagon. It’s been a year, after all.
After a deep breath. And remembering that I have committed to FLOAT in 2012, I will go back to the beginning. One choice at a time. One opportunity at a time. For this particular thing … do I want it … will I REALLY enjoy it … is it worth it?
I would certainly guess that at some point in my life, I will eat sweets again. But my prayer is that I will never, EVER again confuse the sweetness on my tongue with the sweetness of my life.
yield. breathe. rest. slow down. be. surrender. sabbath. relax. give up control. ease. lean. light. stillness. freedom. grace. contentment. worship. peace. open. efficient. expectant waiting. quiet. let go. effortless. dance with grace. Float.
In 2011, my word was Courage. And my year was very much about that. Taking action and moving myself forward. Getting done with getting nowhere and focusing on love over fear.
It has been exciting, exhilarating, character-building and eye-opening. Responding in courage has created a momentum as I step through the doors God has opened.
Surprising doors. Scary doors. Doors requiring nothing short of faith to step through.
But I have stepped. I have been courageous.
And now I feel a fresh word from God for 2012. Float.
In courage and faith I stepped into the river during 2011. And I believe God’s call to “float” in 2012 is acknowledgement that I am on the right path. The call is to let this current carry me this year. Rest in God. Yield. Breathe. Relax.
Floating is not about laziness or apathy. It’s a movement forward knowing God is in control. So I can stop being frantic – busy for the sake of busy. Lean on God. Rest in the shadow of His wing. And float.
Note: All across the blogger world, there are many who take the path of One Little Word for the year. My mentor and friend in the practice is Ali Edwards. Read her One Little Word Story here. And then consider taking her One Little Word class at Big Picture Scrapbooking. It will help you keep focused on your word in creative and interesting ways all year long. I highly recommend it!