It’s been a weird week. Some combination of pregnancy hormones, stress about Dave’s job search and our uncertain future, anxiety over going back to work myself with a baby on the way, and the regular ready-to-be-done with summer emotions I get this time every year, all struck this week and I’ve been a bit of a wreck.
In the past, I’ve given into the emotions. In fact, that was my standard MO for years. Only recently…really, since marrying Dave seven years ago and getting his feedback on what I assumed were unchangeable patterns in myself…(marriage is sanctifying y’all…) have I begun to learn how to stand up to the feelings which overtake me from time to time.
The part I’m still grappling with: I might have tools, but none of them is a quick fix.
I don’t effectively utilize my entire arsenal.
My attempts are imperfect at best.
Also, fighting isn’t fun. (Well, maybe for some people. Not for me.) It doesn’t come naturally.
It isn’t easy. It isn’t neat or nice or structured.
It’s messy, and there are ebbs and flows. Moments when I battle with strength and confidence, followed by stretches of time when I’m knocked back on my heels, barely on my feet.
The key, as I’m reminding myself with this post, is to Keep. Fighting.
Today I’m just going to quickly jot down some of the ways I’m fighting back against the emotions that threaten to overwhelm me. Maybe one of these tools has been waiting patiently for you to pick it up too.
Say It Out Loud
This is an area where I feel I’ve made some progress this week. It’s easy to sit in my thoughts and let them speak (or yell, as the case may be) in my ear without me every fully articulating what I’m thinking.
This week, I’ve chosen to voice out loud to Dave what the wild thoughts in my brain are telling me.
I haven’t been particularly articulate or polished.
It didn’t come out in a well-organized dissertation, or even all at one time.
But over the course of several days and multiple conversations, I’ve gotten the thoughts out of my head and into the light of day. (Some of it took gentle prodding from him, when I was ready to try and move on without fully exploring what was going on. I’m thankful he knows me well enough to push when I need it.)
We’ve talked about my thoughts and examined them for where the truth is hiding amidst the lies.
Simply taking a negative or scary thought and holding it up to someone else, asking them, “is this right?” takes some of the power of that thought away.
Sometimes we realize it’s ridiculous as it’s coming out of our mouth. Other times we need someone to deconstruct the idea we’re entertaining for us, to show us the perspective we’re missing.
Either way, when we voice our troubled thoughts aloud to a trusted confidante, we employ another set of hands in the fight.
Get Up, Get Dressed, and Keep Moving
This has been one of the most impactful pieces of advice I’ve implemented in these first four years of motherhood. (Along with this post by Lisa Hensley, which has such good motherhood tips, I recommend it to every mom.)
So what if I don’t have anywhere to be?
I need to get dressed for the day. I need to put in contacts and do something with my hair, even if it’s just a messy bun and a wide headband to cover the frizz. I need to put in my contacts so I feel awake, even if my eyes are scratchy from crying.
I need to feel like myself, and then I need to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Empty the dishwasher. Make the bed. Run a load of laundry.
Nothing monumental, but even mindless steps forward add up, until I find myself walking out of the fog.
Do Something for Someone Else
Before I was a mom I had an experience which drove home the idea that helping someone else could pull me out of my own funk.
I became a regular customer of an eyebrow threading booth in the PX in Hawaii, and over time I got to know the young woman who worked there. She was single, living far from her family, and a fairly new Christian.
One day I showed up to get my eyebrows done and she was swamped. As I waited my turn, I watched her politely serve a few challenging customers ahead of me. She looked tired and overwhelmed.
When I got to the chair, I gently asked how she was doing and let her tell me a bit about her hard day. I tried to encourage her a friendly smile and offered to pray for her.
The next day I went back, with a Starbucks gift card and a note of encouragement. It brightened her day, but it also changed mine. The buoyant, happy feeling I enjoyed because I had made someone else happy stayed with me for days.
These days, doing something for someone else happens closer to home. But the sacrifice it requires is no less real.
This week I spent a lot of time reading books to Abby. I also pushed myself a little by suggesting we make muffins together. Baking is something I find relaxing on my own…not so much with a little person underfoot and over my shoulder “helping.”
But I did it, because it made her happy. And it also served as a signal to myself, “You are fighting back. This isn’t easy, but it’s a choice you’re making. It doesn’t feel like it right now, but it will make an impact.”
Get Out of the House
I’m a homebody by nature. I am almost always happiest in my spot on the couch.
Also, it’s August. And heat and humidity are my least favorite of all weather phenomenon. My conveniently climate-controlled abode is my haven.
But sometimes shaking myself out of a funk means a change of scenery is in order.
Getting out, going somewhere, interacting with other people…it all takes my mind out of the negative rut it’s been running through over and over.
It might not solve the whole problem, but I usually return home in a better frame of mind than when I left.
Prayer is a topic I’m wrestling with lately and will probably have a whole post about sometime soon.
In these low moments, I find myself dissatisfied with the types of prayers I’m praying. I feel like I should be more spiritual, rather than offering up a running litany of every tumultuous thought in my brain.
But I know God wants me to talk to Him. He can take all the confused words and jumbled sentences, gather them up and make them into something beautiful.
He understands. He sees the issues in me which are causing this whole mess in the first place.
Where else can I go, if not to Him?
So even if I say the same things over and over. Even if it doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Pouring out my heart to God, mess and all, is always a good idea.
I’ve written about some of the songs of praise which have impacted me in the past few months and years. Another one I’ve been listening to a lot lately is Raise a Hallelujah.
One Sunday morning recently it was playing as I was getting ready for church, and a particular lyric struck me and hasn’t left: I raise a hallelujah / louder than my unbelief
I was reminded that I don’t have to feel like praising. I can choose to praise.
This is hard!
It feels completely unnatural and fake and sometimes even hypocritical.
But those feelings are lies.
My weapon is a melody
It’s a tool I’d be foolish to ignore.
Eat &/or Sleep
In a recent Bible Study our pastor referenced the story of Elijah from 1 Kings 19, when he’s running scared from Jezebel, and the angel shows up to give him food.
It made me giggle a little, because it reminded me of one of my favorite recent internet memes (which google tells me is attributable to a tweet by Joy Clarkson).
I mean, that’s profound. What more could I possibly add?
Fight the Good Fight
These aren’t magic bullets. They aren’t miracle pills. But they’re weapons I have access to, if I choose to get up and fight.
The key is in the choice.
Will I lay down and let depression, anxiety, stress, and confusion win?
Or will I push through the fog, keep wiping the tears as they run down my face, and fight back?
The decision to battle isn’t easy, and it isn’t fun. But I know I have backup.
Because the end of this story is already written.
Jesus already won the war for me.
As long as I don’t surrender in defeat, I will be victorious.
Whether I feel like it right now or not.