I remember exactly what it feels like. I felt like such a freak. I just couldn’t seem to pull myself together. I fought asking for help for much longer than I should have. I tend to let stress build up until I get really sick. Over the years I’ve gotten shingles, passed out, thrown up, had panic attacks, and had mysterious illnesses that lasted for weeks at a time. In the past I haven’t really done well with creating a balance in my life. I tend to lean towards a more all-or-nothing mentality. (bipolar much?) I will also refer to this mentality as “suck it up, you pansy” mentality. (also known as “try harder, stupid”) Not the most healthy frame of mind. But if you knew my family it might make more sense.
I grew up in an awesome family with great parents and great brothers. My parents have since adopted two more after I went off to college, but more on that later.
Anyway, growing up we seemed to have an intense infatuation with being “hardcore.” My dad has this dream of family “barbarian night” which consists of covering the kitchen table with a tarp and dumping a mound of spaghetti in the middle. The family then proceeds to eat the entire meal from said mound using only their hands.
When we were kids my dad built us this awesome playhouse with a huge tracker-sized tire swing. My brother and I affectionately called the hole in the center of the tire the “cry pot.” We used to stand on the tire and swing as high and as fast as we could, spinning in torrential circles until one of us fell in, usually my brother. At which point said individual’s head would be ricocheted around the inside of the tire like a human pinball causing the poor individual to run inside crying. We did this over and over growing up. Don’t worry my poor brother, Tucker, turned out okay. He’s currently working on his Master’s from Dallas Theological Seminary and is one of the most amazing people I have ever known.
Sorry ladies, he’s taken; by a pretty great girl I must say. PS both photos were taken by a great photographer: http://paigestumbophotography.com (check her out!)
Anyway, back to my “hardcore” upbringing. I broke a lot of bones growing up; we’re talking double digits here. No, I wasn’t calcium deficient. I’m just incredibly accident-prone. It worked out okay because my dad is an orthopedic surgeon, so I had the hook up. One of the times I broke my arm racing my brother. We were running/jumping rope towards our two-car garage. His door was open and mine was closed. Being the older sister I wasn’t about to let him beat me so I just ran full force into the closed garage door. (no judgment)
Needless to say with the brilliant way I broke the bone, my parents didn’t actually believe it was broken. Now is a good time to repeat, I’m the daughter of an incredibly brilliant and talented orthopedic surgeon. Finally after almost 2 weeks of complaining, our family had taken a camping and rafting trip, which we did a lot growing up. From the back of the boat steering my dad kept saying, “Paddle harder! You’re paddling like a girl. I know I’ve taught you better than that.” (We like to pick on each other; it’s a love language of sorts.) I kept complaining but my arm hurts. To which he responded, “Suck it up, you pansy. Fine, if it will get you to stop complaining, we’ll get x-rays when we get home.”…Drum roll…It was broken! And he felt SO bad. (side note: I have the best Dad ever and am a totally daddy’s girl. In spite of my many broken bones there was no abuse in my up brining. I have tripped over a dog, run into a garage door, was kicked in the hand my a cousin while trying to swim under her, fell in a hole during the construction at Calhoun Courts in Clemson, slipped while running down a mountain, and slammed my hand in a garage door. There are more I just can’t remember them.)
All that just to say, I think God has to use big things to really break me down. The key is to learn from the big things, and change.
With most mental illnesses there is usually a trigger and for me that trigger is typically stress related. I’ve heard a lot of counselors refer to it as “circling the drain.” It’s that point when you know things are starting to slip into a downward spiral. My downfall in past drain spiraling has been thinking I just need to “suck it up” or “try harder.” Let me tell you from years of experience, THIS DOES NOT WORK. But that’s the beauty of grace. God’s grace is given freely. There is nothing we can do or not do that will fix our broken state. Trying harder only leaves you feeling more broken or with a misplaced sense of peace and pride in yourself. Peace and pride in yourself is volatile, especially if you’re dealing with mental illness. But that’s okay. Learn to let it go and find your peace in something that is constant.
For me this was the biggest most impacting step. I cannot control my circumstances. Some days I cannot control my own emotions. But that’s okay. It’s not about me. There is peace in knowing God is bigger than my circumstances and emotions. Let to be still and rest in Him.
“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him” (Psalms 37:7)
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalms 46:10)
“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet waters.” (Psalms 23:1-2)
And my favorite:
“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14)