Sharing is Caring: Lessons from Luke

“Isn’t it difficult to write about yourself so vulnerably?” 

“What is the point about being so vocal about your mental issues?”  

  To answer to the first of those questions, yes, it’s very difficult. It is scary to open up your heart to others. But I will continue to do it because I see the good it can do. I want to share this little story with you. I want to show you the power of opening up and showing people how you deal with your imperfections.

  My kids started attending a new school this week. It has been something we’ve been mulling over for a while, but this was the right thing for our family to do. Last week before school started, we met with the social worker at the new school to go over Luke’s accommodation plan. She had his file open and ready and already knew a little bit about his difficulty with anxiety. She was very familiar with the struggles of anxiety disorder and told Luke about a sensory room that they have available for students who need a minute to gather themselves or remove themselves from excessive stimulation. Luke was actually holding back a smile hearing that. I could tell he was pleasantly surprised that other kids at the school deal with this.

  “What other coping techniques did Luke’s therapist give to him to help him with his anxiety?” She asked me.

  Luke piped up out of nowhere. “I can kill the worry bully,” he said softly.

  “The worry bully?” She asked smiling at him. “I’ve never heard of that. Can you tell me about it?”

  “Yeah. He’s the voice in my head that tells me lies and makes me worry. He is the one telling me I’m not good at stuff and he makes me think people are looking at me and he just makes me scared sometimes. So I can yell at him in my head and take him out and I can destroy him however I need to.”

  “I love this!” She said.

  “Luke, tell her how you’ve killed him before. That’s funny,” I said loving him to bite-sized pieces in this moment.

  A slow smile spread across his face. “I have thrown him into the fire or into ceiling fans. At school, I flushed him down toilets before. My mom even lets me say swear words to him if I’m alone.”

  She laughed. “This is so great! I am going to use this for my other students! Would that be ok with you Luke?” She asked. He looked at the floor bashfully and nodded.

  She left the room to go make a few copies of his paperwork. I looked over at him and smirked. 

  “Only swear words if you’re totally alone, right?”

  “Yeah,” he said, dimples popping. “Mom?”

  “Yeah, buddy.”

  “Do you think that maybe because I told her about the worry bully it might help other kids with their anxiety.”

  “Absolutely! That’s why I’m so proud of you! Do you see? When you open up about it and don’t lock it all inside, you can help other people overcome the same things you struggle with but are getting stronger at.”

 “I like knowing that,” Luke said shyly.

This is why I write about how I deal with anxiety in my children and in myself. Someone needs to be reminded that they are not a victim of their thoughts and fears. Someone needs to hear that they have power in life, maybe not in the circumstances, but in the ways they react to them. Please take a lesson from my sweet boy. Sharing your heart with someone may help in ways you’d never suspect. It’s like a bottle of wine. It doesn’t do much good bottled up, the best way to enjoy it is to share it with friends.

“Sharing how you feel and what’s real for you may be scary…But every time you hold back your truth, you make fear more important than love. This is why the depth of your availability to love will be mirrored in your ability to be honest. It’s really as simple as that.” —Mark Groves  

IMG-0946
Noah 5th grade, Grace 1st grade, Luke 4th grade

 

  

Meditation: My New Keurig

Meditation. The word alone used to make me think of paint drying or watching golf on t.v. But, wow, how wrong I was. I recommend it because even ten minutes of deep focus in meditation can bring you hours of peace.

  I’m reeeeally new to it, but I’m already noticing the soothing stillness that can come from it when I am able to dive in. Like anything worth doing and becoming good at, it requires patience and practice. I can see why so many people use meditation as a way of centering themselves every day and cannot function properly without that time. 

  In the past, when I’d attempt meditating, I’d start to doze off. I would get so relaxed, I would want to lie down and nap. That’s too relaxed. But you also don’t want to be so consciously aware that you are buzzing from one thought to the next. That’s just thinking. Solid meditation happens when you’re in this state between active thinking and sliding into sleep. We Americans don’t exist in that mental plane very often. Our culture is very task-oriented. Thoughts, words and actions are a means to an end and there is no time to waste! Even our constitution tells us we should be in “pursuit of happiness.” But happiness is right here and right now. We just need to learn how to tap into it.

  It is very counterintuitive for us to allow ourselves to live in a few minutes of simply existing. That’s really all basic meditation aims to do. Your focus in the beginning is your breathing, that air flowing in and out of your body that keeps you alive. So I want to share with you a quick tutorial on what works for me getting into that state of calm.

  The best meditation I’ve done is in a comfortable seated position. I like cross-legged on the floor or ground outside. I sit up straight so I am rooted to the ground and imagine my spine is taking root in it like a plug in an electrical outlet. I am pulling energy from the earth around me, solid and constant. 

  Next I close my eyes and begin to deepen my breathing. Deep, purposeful breaths that flow completely in and out. I attach my thoughts to that air. I won’t think of anything else while I’m in this state. I focus on how grateful I am for my breath. Then I begin to send it to each area of my body.

I aim my breath at my base of my spine, thankful for my existence. 

Then I move up a little and aim my breath at my low belly, sending thoughts of gratitude for emotions and feelings.

Next, I send breath to my mid-belly and set intentions of thankfulness of purpose and wisdom I’ve learned and have yet to acquire.

From there, I push my breath toward my heart-center, gratitude for my ability to heal, show kindness, and to love.

These next few breaths are from my chest toward my throat, I even let these ones escape from my lips. I am expelling any negativity from my throat and inviting good energy in. I ask God to give me words to be used for good, to strengthen my voice to empower.

The next breaths are aimed at the space between my eyes, my intuition, my imagination. I am grateful for creativity and the ability to be alive and aware.

Last, I send breath to the top of my head, my brain and here I become grateful for understanding and enlightenment, for my ability to recognize divinity in my life, that God is present with me and I exist as a spiritual being. 

You might think this next thing sounds crazy, but sometimes I hum or chant  as I breathe. If I hold one steady note for each breath, it helps me to focus on the breathing and keeps me just awake enough to continue and not slide into too relaxed of a state. It drowns out the thoughts I have and I can focus better. It’s actually really cool because soon you don’t even hear your own voice. It’s just a disembodied sound from somewhere far away in your consciousness. You don’t even recognize it after a minute or two. My best meditations have actually included chants. And now is a great time to try it since the kids are heading back to school soon. They won’t be around to poke their head into your room and give you weird judgy looks. Or better yet, you could even try it with them!

  And it’s better than coffee in the morning! I promise, once you learn to lean into it, you will open your eyes afterward and feel refreshed and peaceful. You will head into your day with a positive mindset and it will take great effort to rattle you.

  So there you go, a crash course in meditation. It’s so powerful if you can make time for it for even ten minutes a day. I’d love to hear what you think if you are able to try it or if you’ve been doing it for a while, how it has helped you. IMG_0098

From the Other Side of Hell

When I was in the depths of my depression a few months ago, I had thought of three ways I could end my life without my kids finding me. I reasoned that it would be better for them than being raised by a mentally broken mother. I had convinced myself that it would be less selfish to take my life than to subject my children to my flaws and potentially raise them to be the bad person I was. This was my rock bottom. This is a very heart-breaking but real look at mental illness. I know people who have lost loved ones because they took their own lives. I have seen the devastation that it brings. I know the darkness that that hole leaves behind. 

   If you saw me during that time, you probably observed me as being relatively healthy. I was more withdrawn, I didn’t talk to people when I was out and about. I made it a point to keep to myself. I went through the motions of survival only, caring for my kids’ physical needs but any emotional support they needed, was beyond me. When they’d bicker or refuse to eat what I made for dinner, I would run to my room and scream into a pillow. I’d battle a panic attack until Scott came home to pick up the pieces. I showered each day, although some people going through this stop doing that too. But I made sure people didn’t know how bad it was. I couldn’t handle much beyond that. When friends would call me, I’d tell them I was good but busy; “Just focusing on my family.” I pushed people away because I didn’t even think I deserved friends anymore. No one knew how bad it was and I didn’t want to dump my toxicity into their lives.

  I am opening up about this today because I want you to know you are not alone. Ever. No matter what you are going through, no matter how isolated you feel, you are loved (maybe not by everyone, but you need to get over that) and you’re needed in this world. It doesn’t matter how bad things get. If you are still drawing breath and have a heartbeat, there is purpose for you. God isn’t done with you. And if you’re not spiritual, this world isn’t done with you either. 

 I wasn’t especially spiritual at that time. I have gone through phases of my life when I really haven’t had much faith in God or his purpose for me. But it’s funny, He keeps finding His way back into my heart. 

  One morning, I remember it well… just before the kids’ Christmas break, I got them out the door for school, I was sobbing and yelling at God, “Why did you make me this weak person? Why did you give me so much brokenness? No one can handle this heaviness! Why give me these flaws when you know I’m not strong enough to handle them?”

  I heard this voice right next to me: “You’re right. No one can handle this alone. That’s why I am here with you. And I didn’t give you these flaws. I only gave you freedom of choice. You decide how far you want to run away from me. But I’m always here, waiting for you and I’ll lead you home.”

  I know it sounds crazy, I do. I would have read that a while back and thought, “Ok. This lady is off her rocker!” But it wasn’t where I was yet. This voice spoke to me. And I say “He” only because this is how we usually reference God. It wasn’t really a man’s voice. And when I say it was a “voice,” it was actually more of a crystal clear thought I’d never had before and likely wouldn’t have come to on my own, especially not at that time. But it stopped my crying instantly, like a toddler being told, “I have chocolate for you!” in the middle of a temper tantrum, and made me still for the first time in ages. I felt a sense of peace from nowhere come over me. 

  Now it didn’t stay. Probably within minutes, I was back to questioning everything, but I kept coming back to that message throughout the week…     

  And it was weird. I had a friend at that time who told me in a text, “It’s time to do the work.” And the message of “Do the work,” kept popping up everywhere I’d go; on signs, magazine ads, instagram posts, even graffiti. And let me tell you, it was work. I had to face some ugly demons within myself. I had to open up to a therapist, a total stranger, and I was filled with skepticism but I decided I was out of options. I had to “do the work.” What I had been doing before wasn’t working. I went back to church. Scott and I went to a new church and the message humbled us. I have no doubt that God led us there. 

  I still struggle with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, but I’m getting faster at tuning into the divine energy that I felt that morning, the one with the chocolate promise of hope and love. I want you to feel inspired to be open to that voice in your own life. Please, don’t give up. 

  When I tell you these stories, it’s not to seek attention. It’s to encourage you to keep working on yourself and not to settle for mere survival in your life. We are created for more than that. Our mission here is to touch the hearts of others in whatever way we can. I know God is using my brokenness to help heal others. I am so humbled by those of you who send me messages and tell me that you are going through something similar and thank you for giving it a voice.dr. kristin neff

  I am not here to tell you I am healed. I am healing. Maybe I will always be. I am turning my self-pity into compassion for others. Our experience in this world is shared by many. The stories all look a little different, but the emotions are the same. 

  Do your work. Don’t shy away from it just because it’s hard. Do it because a beautiful, vibrant existence is waiting for you on the other side of whatever hell you’re going through.