Anxiety Diaries 001

Last night we went out for dinner.

It was one of those perfect evenings, the kind every romance novel talks about and you see so rarely in real life – unless you live in Colorado, and then you see them every summer evening. (We live in Colorado, by the way.)

The neighborhood we live in is beautiful. “Resort-style living,” they call it, surrounded by rolling green golf courses, shimmering lakes, and friendly neighbors. Tiny sandpipers run along the beaches, and the sunsets are breathtaking. Nearly everyone owns a golf cart, and the clubhouse is just a half-mile away from our house. We took our cart there last night, on a Wednesday evening, nothing special. There was a soft breeze gently brushing our skin, and an exquisite view of the Colorado mountain range from our upstairs patio seats.

We both ordered the salmon, and our hands touched throughout the meal. We smiled into each other’s eyes like the idiots in love we are, and talked about how far we’ve come, and how truly, truly incredibly blessed we are. My heart was full and I was blissfully happy. I don’t think there was a single thing that could have improved the evening.

We ran into several people we knew and enjoy, and chatted briefly with them all. Then we drove home, and my husband left to check emails on his computer. I sat on the couch.

I was smiling to myself. It had been such a good evening, and I was truly happy.

Then I started running over the evening in my mind. And it slowly starting going faster, and faster, on endless loop. I thought about everything I’d said. I thought about everything I hadn’t said. I thought about everything I should have said, or definitely shouldn’t have said. My heart picked up its pace. My breath quickened. My hands started shaking. I shouldn’t have said that. I should have done that instead. Why did I do that? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I be normal? What is happening to me?

By the time my husband came back from the office, I was curled on the couch crying. My mind was so off-track at this point that I couldn’t even tell him what was wrong. I told him I thought he got a broken wife and he held me and said he got a perfect wife. Bless the man and his patience. He stayed up with me, late into the night, and talked to me until the fears were put to rest and I could finally sleep.

That’s how it happens. It comes out of nowhere. Anxiety doesn’t always mean pointless worry about what could happen. It doesn’t mean not trusting God with your future. It is something that comes out of the middle of a happy evening and overwhelms you and tells you not that horrible things might happen, but that you are wrong simply for being. It is your mind turning against you, un-asked for and unwanted. It isn’t because you forgot to be grateful. It isn’t because you haven’t prayed enough (do those with anxiety ever stop praying?) and it isn’t because there’s something wrong with you. It’s just something that happens, sometimes.  

And if this is you, I’m here to tell you that it gets better. There will be dark days, but there will also be days of sunlight and joy. You are in the valley now, but you won’t always be. Give yourself a little grace, and don’t let anxiety tell you that you’re alone. You are not alone. This is something you carry, and you may always carry it, but it doesn’t get to tell you who you are. You’re still here, and you are so worth loving.

Transition

Winter is here, can you feel it? I love the transition season of autumn, but its beauty is the flare of a match, blazing up in glorious color and then fading quickly, blowing out in a sudden gust of wind and leaving the cold and dark in its wake.

Windsor had its first snow yesterday; the earliest I can recall since I’ve lived here (going on 9 years this January!) And just like that, it’s as if the aspens never turned yellow, as if the October sun didn’t blaze golden and warm across fields of sunflowers. A family I was once incredibly close with took their annual family vacation in Vail last week – a vacation I was once invited to, a family I was once considered part of. My life has since taken a different path, and I do not regret the change, though the loss still hurts and the emptiness still echoes within me.

I cleaned my office this evening- my beautiful, built-with-love office. Whenever I enter it I am overwhelmed with that elusive feeling of home, of belonging. DJ made it for me. He worked tirelessly to paint the walls the perfect shade of greige; his hands assembled the desk and the bookshelves; he considered my love of light and of the ocean when he chose the mural, and he thought of my smile when he picked out the bookends, and he anticipated my astonishment and delight when he put the photographs I had thought were lost into their frames.

There’s a corner in the office where two large boxes sit, and have sat since the beginning. Inside them are remnants of a life I used to live – relics of the girl I used to be. I’ve lugged these boxes with me through a minimum of three different moves, and each time they’ve sat in the corner or in the closet or on a shelf, unopened and un-thought of, at least until the next move when I come across it and feel that tangible connection to the contents, that overwhelming reluctance and inability to get rid of them. I’m a hoarder, in a very gentle sense of the word. It’s hard for me to throw away things that I feel connected to; things that remind me of special moments and memories.

Today I threw out both boxes. It hurt, a bit, but it felt good, and it also felt somewhat symbolic. Holding on to the past holds us back. We should not ever forget the lessons we’ve learned and the paths we’ve walked, but holding onto baggage (emotional, spiritual, and physical!) only ever weighs us down and makes it harder to move forward.

It’s okay to throw things out. It’s okay to leave parts of yourself in the past. It really is.

There are times when I don’t know who I am anymore. But I know who holds me (as cheesy as that sounds!) and I know the kind of person I want to be, and somehow those things are enough to keep me grounded as I move forward. The love of people may change, lessen, and leave, but God’s love never does – and it is enough.

 

on broken things, Part I

What do you do when people fail you? Not a little tiny failure, but a massive, all-consuming failure. A failure that feels like a knife in your stomach, twisting, causing you to collapse to your knees. A failure that leaves a gaping hole in the heart of you and feels like loss. A loss that separates them from you and feels all too much like grief.

Grief takes many forms. It may not always be loud, but it is far from silent. Grief makes its presence known. Grief affects every area of your life, sneaking up on you when you least expect it. It holds you hostage. Learning to live without is an enormous process, and it takes time. So much time.

You look around, and your entire life has been altered. Nothing is the same. You miss the way things were, but you can’t go back, and nothing will be the same again. You miss your friends, but they simply aren’t there anymore. They haven’t died, but they don’t think of you the same anymore, and the easy confidence, the security that you thought would last forever has been stripped away.

You see pictures of them on Facebook, on Instagram, laughing and happy, the same old group of them together, never an empty space to mark where once you would have been. If a friendship can end so simply, so easily, how strong was it really?

They were the ones who – you thought – would circle the wagons for you. The ones you thought of as second parents – perhaps more so than your own. Yet this shows you they aren’t. They aren’t forever. They are human, achingly, tragically, fragile humans.

And then you remember, anyway, how you would always end up in the back of the photograph. The one they crowded in front of, forgetting to make room for. The tag-along, the third wheel. How firmly that had become your role over the last year or two. You were leftover, the one they could always make fun of and then laugh to make it seem a joke. The insecure one, whose contributions were never valued.

You think you will never love again. You think you will never trust again. You think you’ve forgotten how to be a friend because it’s been so long since friendship – true friendship, the kind that doesn’t ask anything of you – has been shown to you, and in the dark nights you fear you’re losing your mind. You feel broken. Anxiety builds its home right next to grief within your gut, stealing your appetite until you look like a skin and bone version of the girl you once were. Your eyes are sad and your face is drawn and you wear far too much makeup, to try and hide the tell-tale dark marks under your eyes.

It is hard. It’s unspeakably hard. Any words I have on the subject are entirely insufficient. So I guess this is just to say: I’ve been there. I know what it’s like. You are not alone.