I’m not feeling so great today. I’ve allowed the stress and exhaustion to mount up and haven’t been dealing with it in a healthy way. I could be exercising, journaling, meditating, but instead I’m giving in to being irritable, snapping at a loved one who didn’t deserve it, venting out frustrations through lust, etc. And so I don’t feel as close to God today, not right now at least and that’s my own doing for sin distances us and I know this. I’m aware of it, but I still do it. I watch myself consciously do what I know I shouldn’t. Why? Why is this self-destructive pattern in me? Please God, help me to curb this so I can behave in a way that pleases you and not the other way around. I need your guidance, for I am often lost and frustrated. Impatient and therefore do not properly think decisions through. Lord, I ask that you guide me through your will today and the next days. Thanks be to you, O Lord. Amen.
How does it happen this way? When you hear someone say, and even though you try to convince yourself…it just doesn’t feel like it would ever be so. When you’re told it’ll pass, that it’s temporary. At the time, I just couldn’t believe it. No matter how many people told me. No matter how many times I tried to convince myself. Deep down, I didn’t believe it. But now here mere months later, the wounds in my body, mind, and soul have begun to heal. I don’t feel…glitchy anymore. Is this real? Have I really overcome it? I don’t look back. I have to leave it behind me, I tell myself. Take what I learnt from it and never forget. Finish off with the medication and continue on therapy but focus on forward. I’m here. And I’m no longer just clinging on. I’m on a solid platform, and before me I can now see what I thought I’d never again…infinite possibilities.
I’m home. Back in this familiar place. The last few weeks flew by. They were as fleeting as a dream. It was a mesmerizing venture out of the 852 that I desperately needed. I have returned feeling rejuvenated and blessed. To update, I spent the last few weeks in the paradise that is Indonesia, in Yogyakarta and in Bali. Two very different trips of their own; they might as well have been in two separate countries. It sure felt so. And I mean that in the best way possible. Indonesia just has so much to offer. Bali, by far, was my favorite. I did much in Yogya, from visiting the stunning temples of Borobudur and Prambanan, to eating on floating restaurants where you could go fishing, jeeping around Asia’s most active volcano – Merapi, to getting to live the rural life in a Muslim village in Klaten. It has been wonderfully enriching and eye-opening. But Bali…the energy there was just so soothing. Although I still had many moments where I struggled with my mind and its fears…to be surrounded in an area of yogis (we stayed in Cenggu), do yoga each day, eat ridiculously delicious nutritious food, lounge by the beauty of the beaches, and befriend many of its locals had its own way of enlivening me. It has lightened the load that is my past and has made me feel less heavy. It is definitely a place I would like to return to. Hmmm…I’m smiling to myself as I remember the bliss. But I must cut this abruptly as I’m due to attend mass at church. Back here at home, I need to continue to ensure I nourish the soul. Till next time x
So it’s been a good while since my last post, and much has picked up since then. I have been recovering steadily and although I still have weak moments that leave me feeling vulnerable for a few more days after an attack, I am able to cope. I just have to remain focused, and ensure I incorporate structure in my life. While a fair bit of surprises and unpredictability can be fun, the comfort of a routine is next to none when I feel like I’m on shaky ground. Okay, well, that and being around those I love. No better medicine than that, really. So to say it’s been quite the year would be an understatement. I was on an ethereal high at the start of the year, only to come crashing down just a couple months later to what I can only describe as the depths of mental hell. It could have been worse, of course. But when life is throwing you off the deep end, you can’t imagine that anyone could have it worse than you. I don’t know whether this is terrible to say but it definitely isn’t with malicious intent…but it is kind of reassuring the hear that others have been through worse. Not that I’m glad it happened to them, but it gives me hope to know that overcoming the terror of my struggles is a possibility. The fact that I’m still here proves that. I’m still slightly unhinged, for sure. Trauma will do that to you. But for the most part, I remain in tact…just with a few kinks here and there. If I was a robot, I suppose I’d use the word “glitchy” to describe the feeling. But I’m getting there. Recovery in itself is a challenge that is painful, but as with most things that cost you, it’s worth it in the long run. I suppose I’ll leave it here for the meantime. I hope to get back into a habit of free writing…but first, to return to my love of reading. Till next time x
So I’m back here in my usual retreat – the Starbucks on Riverwalk and as always, I’ve got a decent 30 minutes on the clock of free wifi so here my fingers are tipping and tapping away in their dance across the keys. It’s been a while since I’ve been back on here. I assure you I’m alright. That things haven’t taken a turn for the worse and I’ve completely withdrawn into a cave never to return. Quite the contrary actually. Things have dramatically improved. Now to be clear, my symptoms haven’t completely disappeared. I still struggle. I still have spikes. But I do manage it better. I have more courage. I was watching another of Steven Furtick’s inspiring sermons on YT again. He really has a great power to communicate the spirit and message of Christ. Very admirable. Anyway, this particular video was titled A Haunted Heart. I won’t spoil the entire sermon for you (though advance apologies if that happens anyway – it’s unintentional) since I do recommend that you check it out. I just wanted to share a bit of it which I resonated with. See, Steven emphasized some of the things that might lurk in the shadows within us and haunted our hearts – be it guilt, sorrow, helplessness, offences, or a threat (our perceived fear of what MIGHT occur),..and put it in such a simple yet profound way when he explained just why it was we were so weighed down by these things. Because we avoid it. Or we try to chase it. We resist it. And as I have continuously reiterated if not on here, then in my head – that whatever we resist, persists. Instead of acknowledging or sitting with these uncomfortable feelings, we do everything in our power to lock it up somewhere, maybe in a cupboard or sweep it under the rug…we do whatever we can to get rid of it, to not deal with it. And here’s where we lose. Because as Steven demonstrated by surprising his family behind a door in an attempt to scare them, the only reason we have this reaction is because we’re not prepared…so what if we were? “Be prepared to be scared” Steven quoted one of the haunted houses that he passed by. If we were to apply this same principle…to be aware of our fears, look them in the eye, understand them, and prepare for them…what power can they have over us? I can truly relate this with my own encounters with the demons I face in my pure O. Initially, I resisted. Tried to push away the thoughts. Tried to overflow myself with the thoughts, hoping they would eventually wither away. I did all in my power to run, to hide, and I screamed in pain. I screamed in agony. I screamed in despair. And I screamed in fear. I wanted to die. Fear paralyzed me. Until CBT came in, the king of therapies (IMO – subjective reasoning of course), which taught me to see the thoughts for just that. Not to hide but to hey, just look at them…see that’s all they are. A thought. An urge. But not you. It’s there. And it’s within you so you can’t run from it. All you can do is see it for what it is and prepare. Prepare yourself to deal with it. And so with my spikes, which still put me in a spot of discomfort in which I have to fight within myself to not loosen my grip on reality and keep myself held together, I at least know what it is I’m up against. I know that I have to label it for what it is. To see it. To know that it’s my OCD, not me, To breathe. Be mindful. And eventually refocus and do as I can not to devote too much attention to it so as not to fuel the fear and have it overpower me. I’m still learning. But I am getting better. I have much to say about the last few weeks I’ve been AWOL. But seeing as I intend to stick to a strict schedule of getting out of here within 10 minutes, then off to the pool for an hour’s swim session and then to study for my upcoming exam on Tuesday…that will have to wait. Here’s my bit of free writing for the day.
So I’m feeling elated at the moment! That’s a big word and one I didn’t think I’d be using, much less feeling any time soon given all that’s passed, but that’s life for you. One moment you’re down, and the next you’re back up again – though maintaining that is a challenge on its own and one that must be tended to if I’m to sustain this stability. The majority of the intrusive and disturbing thoughts my OCD has previously taunted me with have almost completely subsided. They’re still there, but their presence is faint and they don’t distract me from the tasks at hand for any extended period of time as they used to. I shiver when I think of all the days that used to pass where I’d be just waiting for them to exhaust me completely so I could sleep and seek temporary refuge from the horrors that played in my head throughout. I heave a sigh of relief. Fuck, I’m out on the other side of the tunnel. Finally. Jeez. Didn’t think I’d make it. But I did! Whoop, whoop! Hooray! I’ve just taken my first step out into the light and I am overjoyed! Am I 100% cured? No. But I’m out of that hell-hole, and I’m getting back on track with my life. With my goals, and my dreams. Especially in regards to restoring my personal integrity and respect for myself. I’d previously screwed myself over by committing acts and behaving in a way that violated values core to my identity, and I’ve been paying for them ever since. I’ve learned my lesson and so I fully intend on reestablishing my principles to ensure that never happens again. Right – now my dreams, and my goals. I am so relieved my initial focus, drive, and sense of direction have returned to my studies and work. I envision myself completing this degree, completing a TEFL (ideally abroad – thinking Thailand), and eventually finding employment in SEA countries. That’s what I want by the end game, though I’m not pressuring myself to follow that path immediately or directly. Alternatively, I may just complete the diploma first, as I’ll have to assess my financial situation to see whether or not I’ll be able to continue on with my studies. If not, I’ll try to find employment ideally with a school that places importance upon Christian values before resuming my degree and seeking employment abroad. In the in-between time, I’d like to volunteer abroad teaching as well. That way I can combine both my love of teaching and travel together. At the moment, school is packed so I’m planning to rack up the dough this summer (gonna grind!) so I can volunteer or teach abroad in the time I’ll have in the second semester next year. I’m gonna map this all out as soon as I get a whiteboard to stick on the wall in my room. I am determined to remain disciplined and focus on achieving these goals and will not be deterred. Messy entry. Rushing free writing because I feel the need to get it out now. Just a bit distracted given that I’m in class. But boy, does it feel great to have this certainty of what I want again. Fuck yes.
A few wise words from Pastor Steven Furtick’s 3 Habits of a Healthy Heart:
Real lasting change has to happen in your heart. It can’t just be in your behavior, you really just have to change your beliefs.
Your habits create the condition of your heart.
Healthy habit #1: Know what to hate
Healthy habit #2: Know where to hide
Healthy habit #3: Know how to hope
Healthy habit #1: Know what to hate
Sometimes before you can make a change, you have to be motivated by…I know it’s a strong word. It’s not very pastoral. You have to hate it!
So as I continue to embark on my journey of recovery and self-discovery, I’ve decided to have a good think about what it is I hate in order to ensure I keep from doing just that…so now, for a little brainstorm:
I hate procrastination.
I hate to lie.
I hate to cause pain.
I hate apathy.
I hate to sell myself short.
I hate giving up.
I hate injustice.
I hate mistreatment.
I hate selfishness.
I hate broken promises.
So that came out rather smoothly. Looks like I know what it is to build on.
Healthy habit #2: Know where to hide
The expectation of no attack is a setup for disappointment, but the psalmist said, “I set myself up for success because I designated in advance where I would hide when the attack came.”
Where do you hide when it gets hard? You’d better set it up in advance. I’m running to the places where there’s real protection, not the illusion of protection because some of us hide in places that seem safe…Elijah went and hid in a cave because it seemed safe. It was far away from Jezebel, and she was threatening his very life. This is an Old Testament story that’s worth reading if you haven’t read it because the whisper of God came into the cave as Elijah ran from his calling. Are you running from the conflict or are you running into the conflict? Because the place of conflict is the place of calling, but you have to be comfortable hiding in the midst of hardships to know that God is your refuge, your strong tower in the battle, not from it. And Elijah ran south as far as he could go. He went into a cave and spent the night, and the voice of the Lord went in the cave and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah? Why are you hiding here? Why would you choose to hide in the place that would keep you confined when your calling is out there? Did I not protect you on Mount Carmel? Did I not send down fire from heaven? You can hide in plain sight when you trust in the goodness of God. I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, but I won’t experience life in dead places so I got to know where to hide.
Blame was her hiding place. What’s yours? Elijah had a cave. She had blame. I wonder, do you hide behind low expectations? This one is really common because if you don’t expect much, you can’t be disappointed. And so you learn how to hide behind this fake smile. You don’t really have a whole heart. You have a fake smile to cover up your half-hearted interior life. And we hide ourselves from even those closest to us. And we hide ourselves, because if I hide behind an image I present, I don’t have to deal with who I am. And the call of God is coming forth like the voice of the Lord went into the cave. The voice of the Lord is coming into your heart today, saying, “Come out. Come out of hiding. Come out of fear. Come out of low expectations. Come out of hypocrisy. Come out from this fake spirituality. Come out, come out wherever you are. You know when you hide in the shadow of the Most High, you can abide under the shadow of the Almighty! I have a shelter! I don’t have to hide behind anything but God!
So I get that with this habit, we’re supposed to embrace the conflict that we’re in instead of running away or avoiding it and to trust in God as we do so…though I’m not exactly sure what that entails. If I’m attacked again, do I recite scripture? Pray? Simply trust in God? If God is my shelter but how do I hide behind him? With…hope? With faith? That’s what I grasped from it. Then comes knowing where it is I currently hide when the going gets tough so that I can know not to retreat there. Where do I hide…I hide behind fear. I think that’s my main hiding place. I hide behind low expectations. I hide behind a lack of belief in myself and so I don’t push myself out of my comfort zone. A sucky realization I now note, but hey it’s a realization nonetheless! It can kinda sting to be so honest with oneself, but if anything it helps me to become more self-aware and as a result, contributes to a boost in my confidence.
Healthy habit #3: Know how to hope
The psalmist doesn’t say in this particular instance, “I have hope”. He says, “I hope.”…It’s not just something I have; it’s something I do. It’s an active hope…It is a way of living…What does hope do? Hope puts its hand to work! Hope, not just in my heart. Have you put your hand to what you’re hoping for?”
Hope. It’s not just something I have; it’s something I do is how Furtick has summed this up…so what do I currently hope for? Well, I think it goes without saying that I hope to recover from my mental illness and prevent a relapse. That’s the first priority.
So how do I put up a hand to work for this? As I have been doing I suspect, with therapy, medication, books on my condition that help me better understand and learn strategies to manage it, through socializing, going to church, and to keep pushing on with the day despite the adversities I face. This is a difficult one, for sure. Because it’s something that needs to be activated, and not left to stagnate.
Well, this talk has given me some food for thought that I’m grateful to be able to mull over. So I guess it’s a good thing to ask and check in with yourself. If you’re set on change, what is it that you hate? If you feel attacked, where is it you hide? Is it where you truly find refuge? And your hope…do you act on it?