Monday, March 25, 2013

Unspoken : Open Heart

Hi.
It's been a while. In fact, for several reasons I feel like I need to reintroduce myself to you all. Many of you know me. Some of you know me well. A few of you know me very well. And those few know I've never really had trouble expressing my feelings.  I like to talk. Like... a lot. I used leave the hair dresser feeling like the biggest self-absorbed ninny because I would talk her ear off and forget to ask her anything about her life.  Sometimes that still happens. But I'm trying to talk less, and listen more.
I like to share my experiences. I open up pretty well. Just ask my husband who from day one has met my wordy-0verly-analytical way of communicating non-stop with his unequivocal deer-in-the-headlight eyes and almost instant headache. Apparently there's only so much a 15 year old guy can absorb at one time. (And apparently it's a slow growth progress cause at 28 there's not much more wiggle room. ;) 
I, on the other hand, haven't slowed down talking. Thinking. Wondering. Planning.


 I have opinions that's for sure. And ways I think things should be done. And I share them. More cautiously and conscientiously  than I did at 12 or 15 or 18 years old. But it's still a growth process. I've been told I'm good with words. Expressing feelings and inner thoughts that echo that of many others who read them. I like to write. I love to help. There's nothing like feeling needed.
But by no means do I feel like I have all the answers. 
Maybe I used to think so.
But then the tests starting getting really hard. 



Living with what you might call "type A" personality - I like to be in charge.
I feel safest when I'm doing what needs to be done, myself.  If I know I'm right...I'm right. If I'm not sure I won't even risk it because to be wrong would be...well, not good. I can't be vulnerable like that. It's just that hard.
I'm naturally competitive. So much so that I avoid competition at all costs because it affects me so much to do poorly. 
I'm a worrier. 
I second-guess everything. 
I examine and re-examine a situation so much that I forget what I was originally hoping to accomplish. 
I can't multitask very well.  
I'm not naturally easy-going. I try very hard to be that way as a mom and adult. But it's not without effort. And if you have try hard to make it look like you're not trying...doesn't that defeat the purpose?

Why am I telling you all this?

Because friends. I've been through some rough times lately. And I realized that while I seemed to have no trouble writing about generic worries and fears, or the simple ups and downs of being a mom, or how much I adore my precious angel-boy and the joy he brings to our lives.



I've yet to actually write about who I am. My whole self.
And it's time you all knew.
I have faults. I have fears. I have failures.

Shocked? About 6 of you are shaking your heads laughing "not surprised in the least." And chances are you're related to me. So thanks.
But to others of you who have no doubt been drawn into the illusion that I have it all together. Don't let my graceful demeanor, adorable style and witty charm fool you. ;) (ok. now even I'm laughing.)
But the truth is, my life is nothing like the incredibly cute pin boards I've designed on Pinterest. Nor is it made up only of the pretty pictures I take and funny lines I quote from my son.

You see. I've put a filter up.
In many ways, I've photoshopped my life.
What you see is what I'm comfortable with you seeing. It's my life...but enhanced. Minus any unsightly blemishes. Leaving only a charming piece of chalk laying around the driveway to give the illusion that even our messes are artsy and cute.

(yeah...it's cute. You should see my laundry room.)

Are you still breathing? 
Stay with me.

 I know, I know. I'm sorry to deceive you. I know you though I woke up every morning completely refreshed, my hair perfectly coiffed and open my window to join the birds in song...but that's simply not true. I usually brush my teeth first. KIDDING! I never brush my teeth. (again - kidding. Humor is obviously an avoidance tactic of mine.)

But although it's not all a sham (I do have a crazy obsession with holidays and decorate my house for each occasion. I do love to plan great parties. And I do have an adorable son whom I love to take pictures of. ;)) A lot of what you see is just what I want you to see.

(Why of course have fresh roses at my kitchen sink at all times. Doesn't everybody?)


And the thing is... I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one doing it. We live in a pinterest-etsy-DIY-world.
(if you have no idea what any of those things are...we need to talk.) We see everyone else's lives, jobs, families, houses, gardens, crafts, clothes, passions,  hobbies, causes as greater than our own. There's always someone succeeding where we've failed. Someone enjoying what we fear. Someone doing things better than us.



(Why yes these are homemade donuts. Really? No people...Not really.)

I recently read something on facebook (which by the way is the king of destruction where self esteem and reality are concerned. But it's the way we keep up with so many we know and love so we keep going back.)

"Stop comparing your life's outtakes to someone else's highlight reel."
Ouch and Amen.
Comparison is an ugly business.
And often times we're completely wrong about our assessments of others anyway.

But on the flip-side there's good old perspective.
Someone is always hurting in ways we haven't been through. Someone is always struggling with things we've yet to experience. Some is always feeling more pain, more fear, more grief and more worry than we have ever known.

And that perspective isn't mean to diminish our own struggles or make light of what pain or fear we do have. But it's mean to keep us grounded. Keep us going. Keep us looking to serve and help others rather than over-focusing on ourselves.



Perspective gives us permission to connect to others who have it better, the same, or worse than us in different areas. Perspective gives us balance.


I've said it before. But it still rings true.
We need to stop believing in the illusion that we are in control.
And that despite how scary that may seem...our lives are actually in better Hands than ours.

I've recently endured a pretty tough battle with Anxiety.
If  you have fought Anxiety before you understand why it needs a capital letter. Anxiety is serious stuff. It's sneaky, strong, deceptive and violent.
It comes when you least expect it and shakes you until you begin to doubt things will every be okay again. There are many forms of Anxiety. And it will attack different people in different ways. For me, it grabbed me with such force and such speed that it was like being hit by a bus. (Ok...not that I've actually ever been hit by a bus...but I'm pretty sure this was close.) And while I've seen Anxiety's face in my family, friends and even in my self off and on since my youth - this time Anxiety was different. It knocked the breath out of me. It threw me down and took away the strength, hope, faith, and  happiness I was trying to cling to. It made me physically ill. Unable to do anything. Eating. Sleeping. Breathing. Nothing was easy. I had not felt this broken in a long time. And certainly not so spontaneously or for so long. I am stubborn. I'm a fighter. I have always able to pick myself up and keep going. Until 3 months ago.

I don't think I can ever fully put into words the heartache, helplessness, anger and desperation I experienced during those months. I had help. My family and friends were there for me. I did everything anyone told me to do. I saw doctors. Set up appointments with a counselor. Took medications. Even found a psychiatrist. And each and every one of them is amazing. Each are capable and caring and considerate. And I did everything they said. I tried so hard. And still weeks would go by and I was still suffering. It was so frustrating and heartbreaking to me. I felt angry that I was doing everything I was told! Everything in my power! Praying with all of my being! And I still wasn't well.
"It's a process." "Not all meds work the same for everyone." "Just give it time." "Let's try a new medication." "Read this book. "Ok now let's increase your dosage." "I want to see you again in 2 weeks." "Let's try something different."
And on, and on, and on it seemed to go.

Sure I started having better days. I was able to drive again. Able to eat again. Able to smile at my son and be his mommy the way I hadn't been able to for weeks.

But operating at 70% of yourself - even if it's an improvement - is maddening.

Every week has gotten better. There's been setbacks. I talk about it a little to family and close friends to keep sane. But it's not something you just put up on facebook "Hey folks! I've finally lost my mind and 3 medications in I'm still not well! So if you see me with no makeup and sweats at the grocery store - that's a good thing. It means I left the house."

I've wanted to write about this. And so many other things. And I hope that I will. Because not only is it therapeutic for me to write about my son, our journey with SB, my life as a mommy, my fears and my hopes - it's a way to open up my heart to yours. And maybe - just maybe - one of you will breathe a deep sigh of relieve and say "I am not alone."


There's this nice southern mom who seemed to have it all together and then went crazy over Christmas. Yep. I'm right here.


With all I've been through, with all God has shown me, with all the good advice I've been given and all the lessons I've learned - I wish I could say I never worry. That I'm content at all times. That I've finally reached a place where I have the faith and trust to let it all go and just be!
That I know what I'm doing, where I'm going ], and what I will find when I get there.


But I can't.

As a guest at "Life's Birthday Party" I've enjoyed myself immensely. I've been given amazing gifts and been blessed with family and friends to celebrate them with. But I'll be the first to say,  I've been blindfolded and spun around enough times to admit I have no earthly idea where that stupid donkey is, in fact I'm quite nauseous, and I would most likely hurt someone if I tried to blindly venture forth with that sharp pin for the sake of pride or competition's sake.

So here I am. Happily laying my needle down until someone let's me take this blindfold off. Until then, I'll keep trying to do the only thing we can do when surrounded by dark. Move slowly, ask for help, wait for guidance,, and keep looking for the light.


So thank you.
For allowing me to open my heart to you.
For letting me say what has gone unsaid for too long.
And for believing as long as you did that my life is as adorable as a room full of baby animals.
Because the reality is - a room full of baby animals gets messy really fast.
And that's ok.
Because who doesn't love baby animals?



(The answer to that question is no one. Everyone loves baby animals.)

Author's Note:
*no new photos were taken in the making of this blog post. And I'm ok with that.* :)

11 comments:

Helen Rhoads said...

Shocked? Nope, not in the least. LOL... and I'm not even related to you! :) I've just had my share of feeling utterly hopeless and a failure, so I get it. I felt like a failure because I wasn't where I felt/ knew I should be in life... personally or financially. And I felt hopeless because I didn't see any real option for making it any better. All I know is to keep plugging along and doing whatever you possibly can... DEFINITELY praying and getting prayers! I don't guess there's an easy answer to "mental anguish", is there? :/

truly blessed said...

i love you, i love you, i love you.

Kayleigh said...

Hit the nail on the head again, sis. I loved the part about Life's Birthday party. I'm always sad when your blogposts are over :( You are totally wicked awesome and I am proud to call you sister. Love you.

Johnson A GoGo! said...

Jo, you are so brave putting your heart out there for everyone. I am so proud of you!! I know these last few months have been such a challenge. I know there are days it seems they will never end. I have been where you are and while I can't say I'm completely out of the woods, I can say that I am off my meds (after 3 years) and doing ok. Life is good and getting better. You know I'm always here for you and I've got your back!

Love you!

Cassie said...

Sometimes we just have to admit and be okay with the fact that we don't have it all together. Who does? I don't know your private struggles, fears, anxieties but your words resonate and I can completely relate.

http://themclellands.blogspot.com/2010/09/i-am-monet.html

Jamie said...

Thank you for sharing!

k orr said...

love you so much sweet friend! so very very much! please know you're not alone... it helps me to know I'm not alone. Thankfully the Lord does know and can direct us to joy. Never can we handle it alone... I think he gives us these trials to remind us how much we need Him and we can't do it alone (we would if we could... we're control freaks) I know I'm trying so hard to daily and sometimes minute by minute hand Him over by stress, and worry, and anxiety. And sometimes I feel His immediate presence and other times it's like He says wait... let me do this in my time. It's hard, and real... oh so real..love you! can't wait to see you and hug you soon!

liz kulp said...

hugs and squeezes to auntie jo... from the whole kulp gang... prayers from mamma liz that God helps you to find comfort, that he gives your doctors wisdom, and that you can wrap yourself up in his arms and let Him carry you through a very rough patch.. luv from NY ....

Jill said...

Oh, Joanna. My heart goes out to you. Anxiety and I had a long fight years back and it sucked all joy out of me for a long time. He still pops up every now and again and it takes a lot of effort to smack him back down. It's a battle, but you will win. Lots of hugs and prayers for your recovery. xo

Amanda Ridding said...

Joanna I totally missed this last month. You are so brave to come out and talk about, share that part of yourself with us. Because online it (sometimes) looks like everyone is perfect, and we all know we aren't.
Thanks

Chelsea said...

Hi my name is Chelsea. I came across your blog today and have been reading it all day long... I can relate to you a lot and the things you go through with your son. I was born with spinabifida and hydrocephalus. Your posts are very encouraging, I am looking forward to reading.

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