Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day was quite different, for most, this year, wasn’t it?!? What with every one being isolated from their friends and loved ones. No “homemade” gifts brought home from school by the younger kids; school had been out for weeks. No big family gatherings, lunches, brunches, or the like. Most of us hadn’t even hugged those we love most in what seems like months, because they were/are at higher risk, and we just couldn’t take the chance. Any resaurant that happened to be open only offered pick up and delivery; no dine in options existed. Stores that were/are open had “one way” isles and “6ft apart” signs every where. Several required that you wear a mask to enter. This Mother’s Day was like no other I have ever experienced.

The one solace that we seemed to be able to find is knowing that we were not the only person who experienced this odd Mother’s Day. It seems cliche’, I know, but, at least to me, there is some level of comfort in knowing that other people can understand what I am going through. The bible does say that there is nothing new under the sun, right? So we can always know that there is someone, somewhere, who has experienced what we are experiencing. With all of that said…

My grandfather had been in a nursing home, here locally, for several months. Our family was the type that went to see him often. We took him lunch on Sunday afternoons, and stopped by throughout the week to visit and to check on him. Then, COVID-19 came along. All of the nursing homes went to “no visitors,” so our routine came to a screeching hault. We went a week without seeing him. Two weeks. A month. This was starting to feel ridiculous. He was starting to think we had “left him.”

Shortly before the two month mark, his health took a turn and the nursing home sent him to the local hospital to be checked out and tested for COVID-19. While he was there…no visitors. After the first week in the hospital, they did a bronchoscopy and put him on a ventilator to help him breathe and rest. April 26, it was decided that he was to be taken off the ventilator and kept comfortable. The first time we saw him in two months was just before they removed it. They let us visit now, in groups of two, because he was now considered “End of life/Comfort Care.” He never woke up again, but he held on for three more days. I will be forever grateful for those days, hours, and minutes we were able to be with him. My sister and I were in the room with him. I will be forever grateful for that, too. He passed on April 29 at 11:20pm. His funeral was held May 2nd; a week before Mother’s Day. I will write more about this amazing man in another post, soon. I love you, Pepaw! I’ll see you when I get There.

As Mother’s Day approached this year, I became keenly aware of the pain that can come with this holiday. Perhaps because we had just laid Pepaw to rest the weekend before. Or perhaps it’s because I am a painfully introverted, abundantly empathic person and I feel so deeply. Either way; my heart was broken, heavy, and aching for the friends of mine whose Mother’s Day this year included the fact that it was the first since losing their own mother, or their child. I recognize the fact that Mother’s Day is not a wonderful, happy day for many people. If words could help, I would write all of the words in attempt to ease your pain, Dear Ones.

You’re thinking “Geez! This is all kinda ‘heavy’ for a Mother’s Day post! Bear with me! It’s coming!

My husband and kids have always gotten up before me on that Sunday morning in May, and made me a wonderful breakfast in bed. They’ve done it since the kids were teeny tiny and it is most definitely one of my most favorite traditions. As they have gotten older, become teenagers, and become much more independent people, this tradition is starting to mean even more to me. They are able to contribute so much more to the decisions and the process. In fact, this year they took over completely in the kitchen and made homemade, gluten free waffles, scrammbled eggs and bacon. It was DELICIOUS!! (I should have taken a picture, but I was too busy eating!)

Priss has a job, her own money, and an uncanny ability to pick PERFECT, specailized gifts for people. Gift giving is definitely in her Love Language! She personally picked out my gift this year and…let’s just say “It’s true” and “She’s freaking awesome!”

At least I don’t have ugly children!

It just so happens that Mother’s Day and my birthday fall in the same month. This year, I had been saving for months, and was able to buy myself an Apple Watch. Hubby and the kids also bought me a new (refurbished) laptop AND…..a HAIR APPOINTMENT!!!! (I haven’t seen my high school friend/hairstylist in many moons…just like most everyone else, and I am SO excited!) I’ll post a picture after. Mostly because she is AMAZBALLS and you’ll want her contact info, but also because I will be IN LOVE with my hair when I leave her new salon!

I was able to talk to my Mother-in-love on the phone and see my mom in person for a few minutes. I spent the day being lazy around the house with the people that make me a mother. I suppose, all in all, it wasn’t really all that different.

In His Grip,

LB

“Try Again Tomorrow…”

Hello, All!

I pray that this post finds you all doing well! It has been a busy week for us and some changes are coming soon in our world, so I’ll be writing about all of that soon! This is one of those posts where I was really “hashing out” some things, personally. I wrote for about three hours and then realized that it had gotten ENTIRELY too long! The result is that I ended up with two posts in one, as I simply divided it into two separate posts.

There are things about writing, especially writing a blog where the things that I share are forever on the internet, that I find very difficult. It is hard for me to go through the process of writing; the getting your thoughts down on paper (or a screen in this case), making the thoughts coherent and making them flow in a way that makes sense, etc. I’ve heard it said that a lot of writers don’t like the writing process, but they love having written. The end result, the ability to express one’s self through the written word, the written word coming alive and creating a picture story in your mind, the remote possibility that it will help someone else; that is why I hash through the process of writing. It is extremely difficult for me to hit the “publish” button and put all of this out on the world wide web; especially in a world where it is common place for people to verbally assault other people for sharing their thoughts or beliefs. However, I know that there is power in sharing one’s struggles and I believe this statement to be true:

This statement gives me hope. For one, it reminds me that I am not the only one that struggles. It lets me know that I am not alone. It gives me comfort in knowing that I am not going through these things “just because” or worse, for no reason at all. That can be a paralyzing thought; there is no real reason or purpose for the struggle; that we just have to struggle, then we die and it’s only after our death that we don’t struggle any longer?! Who wants to live life like that?

It is the fact that MY struggle just might help someone else, either to not struggle like I have, or at least to give others hope, that they too can make it in this life, even with struggles like anxiety and depression and PTSD, that causes me to write, and to click “publish,” and let you all in on my world.

One of the other difficult parts of writing is that while I DO want to share MY thoughts, MY experiences, MY struggles with my mental health, etc. However, my story is not always JUST my story. There are other people in my life, that are a part of my story and my experiences. So, while I do want to share my “stuff,” I try very hard to make sure that I don’t tell too much of someone else’s “stuff.” Their story is not my story to tell, so I do try to tread lightly in that area.

I am currently dealing with some symptoms of my anxiety; racing thoughts, fast heart rate, the feeling that my skin is “crawling” or that I am crawling out of my skin. The main symptom, right this second, is that I feel almost like I am watching myself from outside my body, my body and my brain feel like they are working in slow-motion and they do not seem to be working together. I’m hoping that I can get some of the thoughts out of my head and written here, so as to find some peace, and quiet them.

Sometimes, when I start experiencing symptoms of anxiety, I can pinpoint what triggered it. Maybe I was in a crowded space, like church or a grocery store. Maybe I was asleep and had a crazy dream that triggered it. Maybe I was in a position where I was about to have to “put myself out there” like a job interview or speaking to a group. The point being that sometimes, I KNOW why I’m feeling those symptoms of intense anxiety. In those situations, I sometimes have the opportunity to simply change my environment or do something else that I know helps calm me (I crochet A LOT! In fact, I found a blog/website called “crochet away the crazy” and it spoke to me on a deeply personal level; not necessarily the blog, but the name of it! Lol!) If I’m at Wal-Mart and start feeling overly anxious, I can leave. If I’m driving, I can pull over. If I’m at home, I can make my room dark and quiet and be away from everyone.

Sometimes, I start experiencing symptoms of anxiety for what appears to me, and those around me, to be “no good reason.” It appears to be random and come out of nowhere. These are the times that I get the most frustrated with anxiety because in my head, I’m thinking completely logically and I’m fine, but my body is still freaking out and exhibiting those symptoms of extreme anxiety. I can tell myself all day “You are fine! Nothing/no one is going to hurt you!” etc. Anxiety does not care. It is not logical. You cannot reason with it.

Today is one of the days where anxiety seems to have come out of nowhere and for no reason. I woke up, made coffee, had an amazingly wonderful time with Brian, reading our bibles and praying together before we started our day. It was beautiful, and much needed for both of us. I drove him to work, came home…nothing “happened” that should cause a physical level of anxiety. It’s 10:30 am here, and I am SO exhausted already. I know that there is no reason I should be this exhausted; I’ve slept great the last couple of nights, I took a nap yesterday, I went to bed at a decent time… I think maybe I’m the kind of tired that sleep doesn’t help. Do you know that kind of tired? Your body isn’t necessarily tired, but everything in you is tired… Like your soul is exhausted?!

Here are just a couple of things that I have found that work for me, in a lot of my battles with anxiety. What works for me, might not work for you, but it is certainly worth a try, right?!

I often use instrumental music with no lyrics to help rest my mind. A dark room works best for me, so after I make my room dark and cozy, I lie in bed and turn the instrumental music on and lay still with my eyes closed. I try to focus on one instrument; I played the flute in middle and high school, so I usually try to pick out the flute and just focus on it. There is something about trying to focus on that one instrument that causes it’s music to stand out more than any other instrument playing. I’m not 100% sure on the science of it, but it actually does help ease the anxiousness. If I’m not careful, it will calm me SO much that I go right to sleep!

My doctor told me for years that exercise is the best anti-depressant, and yet the most under-used. I have recently found this to be true. When I stay in my pjs, don’t shower, don’t eat, don’t leave the house, don’t DO anything productive…those are the HARD days. Those are the days where the dark & twisty voices get loud. The days where I get up and exercise, and eat, and take care of my body, are typically the days that I experience the least anxiety and I feel the best overall. Believe it or not, I have MORE energy throughout my day, when I start it will exercise! I do my workouts with Camp Gladiator! They are an amazing group of people who genuinely want to see people get/be healthy and live a healthy lifestyle. They are popping up all over the place, so check it out!

One other thing that I do to help fight anxiety is to keep my hands and my mind busy. I crochet a lot; because many of the patterns are very repetitive. Once I get the pattern down, all I have to do is count stitches. Instead of letting my mind dwell on the anxious thoughts, I simply count in my head as I crochet. “1,2,3…1,2,3…1,2,3…”

If I can muster the energy, I will start in one spot, of one room, and try to declutter/clean/organize it. Sometimes I kind of get “on a roll” and will be able to keep cleaning for a while. Sometimes, all I can do is five minutes on that one spot.

As I’ve been writing this, I’ve noticed a trend…Dealing with anxiety is SO much about just listening to your own body, taking cues from it, and taking care of yourself in the best ways you know how. There is no “cure all,” no “magic pill,” no “secret formula.” We all just do what we have to do. We do what works for us; not anyone else. Be kind to yourself. Show yourself some grace. If you’ve had a “bad day,” whisper to yourself “I shall try again tomorrow,” and keep going! 😘

In His Grip,

LB

Hello! Welcome to my thoughts! 🙂

Brian and I went on a date on Saturday! One of his co-workers got married and my love asked me to be his date to the wedding! It was a beautiful outdoor ceremony on a stunning ranch near Paris, Texas. I love weddings! I can’t help but think of our wedding day, how in love we were, how high we were up on cloud nine. Truth be told, 16 years in and I am more in love with my husband than I have ever been; including the wedding day!

Marriage is not always all sunshine and roses, though, and along with somewhere around 50% of our country, I came from a “broken home.” Brian did too. It was something that we worked/are working hard to avoid in our lives. We take our vows very seriously and we know that we need Jesus in our marriage more than anything else in the world. When I was just about two years old, my biological parents divorced. Even though I don’t remember any of this particular event, I do know, with absolute 100% certainty, that the divorce was absolutely one of the best things that my mom ever did for us. There are times when “breaking up the family” truly is the BEST thing for every one involved. I have literally thanked my mom several times over the years for making that decision and doing what was best for us.

There were a few years in between the divorce and the next time I had contact with B.D. (bio-dad). I feel like maybe it was one of those “out of sight, out of mind” kind of situations with him. I believe that I was coming up on six years old when I saw him again. I had no clue who he was. I was looking at this very large man, who was sitting in a chair, at the local bowling alley telling me that he was my dad and I wouldn’t go near him. I believe he eventually bribed me with $5 to stand near him and talk to him. After that five minute encounter, it was a couple of years before I saw him again. We just kept having this round about game of “He’s around,” “Nope, he’s gone again,” for my entire childhood.

I was three months beyond turning six years old when my mom met the true love of her life; the man that came into our lives and never stepped back out. I came across this the other day when I was looking to see what was saved on various jump drives. It was written by my dad. It’s partially a “timeline” of their relationship/life together, and partially a letter directed to my mom. I could write this story, or I could let you read it…straight from the heart of the man who wrote it. To say that my dad was SMITTEN with my mom would be an understatement of epic proportions!

“I remember that smoked filled bowling alley, in Decatur, TX, that Saturday night. There was to be a colored pin tournament; bowling for money, I was good at it and I was ready to win. I bought my tickets, found my lane and placed my bowling balls on the auto-return tray. As I took my seat behind the ball return, I happened to glance over and recognize one of the top bowlers from Bowie, Doug Brickey. We got along really well and liked to win money bowling together. There happened to be this gorgeous, 10+ woman sitting with Doug and his wife, Darlene. I didn’t know this woman, but I wanted to; so I paid the guy on the lane in between us to switch places with me. I glanced over at you and you smiled at me…Oh, crap! I thought. What is wrong with me?! I didn’t even know you, but you had all of my bells going off! I was all flustered and didn’t really know what to do next. Luckily, the lights went low in the bowling alley and the tournament began.”

He continues, “Part of the way into the tournament, I finally just walked over and introduced myself to this 10+! I found out that your name was Rhonda, you had a whole mess of kids (4 to be exact) and we chatted the evening away. I devised a plan to try to get you to go out with me. I set up my best line: “If I hit this next shot, will you go on a date with me?!” You said yes, I hit the shot, and we went to dinner after the tournament. Your parents were there, too and they were so easy to talk to; I enjoyed spending time with them. It was you, though, that had my attention stuck to you like you were a magnet. After we finished our late night dinner, I drove you home to your parents’ house, where we sat and drank coffee and talked well into the morning. On the porch, I kissed you and asked if I could have another date.”

This was not a matter of “scoring” on a 10+ ~ this was pure love at first sight. Can I tell you how that works? No, but I can tell you what it looks like, what it feels like, and the dream state that comes with every minute.

“From this point on, the though of NOT marrying you, was not an option. It was a done deal long before I could even acknowledge it.

Rhonda, do you remember? You personally could not have cared less about bowling…until I gave you your first personalized ball; then you got serious! What guy wouldn’t LOVE to have his wife “in to” their sport? You got so good, so fast. It was a thrill to support and watch you. Frankly, it boosted my ego big time to have my wife becoming such a strong bowler.”

First Christmas together…a bowling shirt!

As things became more serious between them, he said “I remember asking you, early on in our relationship, “What do you want for yourself and your kids? I also remember the answer; “Not money or a big house, I need love and support and help raising these kids.”

Very early on in their marriage

I did my absolute best to support you in everything. You went college to get your degree in Cosmetology. I had the privilege of watching you grow and gain a lot of self respect, confidence and belief in yourself. You wanted it, you went for it, and you completed it. I hope you know I was your biggest cheerleader. I was so proud of you when you finished.”

I’ve always loved the fact that my parents were happily married for 73 years before dad passed away. I wanted a marriage like that…LONG like that. I never backed away from what I though would allow you understand how much I loved you.

“2007 found us moving from the farm in Bells, to the house in Denison. My health started to decline and just kept getting worse. 2012, 2013, and part of 2014 was living from hospital to hospital and fighting disease, infection, heart problems, lung problems, etc. Looking at it now, it seems as though life robbed us of what should have been those ‘golden years.'”

“So life has shifted for both of us, my sweet bride. I’ve spent years look for my healing this side of heaven; it doesn’t look like it coming.

“Mostly, my dear wife, what hurts the most is knowing that my declining health has robbed you. I robbed years away from your happiness and that hurts. It’s left a mark on you and for that I’m sorry. You have been the perfect wife. You never backed up and surly I would have died by now had it not been for your positive thinking, constant vigilance, compassion, care, and action.”

“I believe God has work for us in our garden. I’m not sure what that is, but I guess we’ll see it together. The vows still work today: I, Jay, take you, Rhonda, as my lawful wedded wife to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better/for worse, for richer/for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, til death do us part. Amen”

“So today, on our Anniversary, I need you to know that I love you beyond what you understand. I thank you for being you and I’ll always think you are the sexiest choice for me. Love forever; Jay”

Beginning in my teenage years, when I was old enough to really understand, I decided that I was going to have a marriage like theirs. Their devotion to one another, their commitment to their vows, their belief that divorce was not an option, their relentlessness in working to support and encourage one another through all of their ups and downs. That’s what Brian and I continue to strive for every day.

In His Grip,

LB

It’s All Him

Good Morning, All!

Ya’ll! I am plum worn out! I can’t seem to get through my day without a nap and going to bed super early in the evening…like 8 o’clock pm kind of early. We have been adjusting to a new schedule recently and it’s kicking my booty. Kermit and I are on the same page; I thought this meme pretty much sums it up…

Brian was on a 12 hour compressed shift at work; which just means he alternated between working 4- 12 hour shifts a week and 3- 12 hour shifts a week. It was great because that meant that he had either 3 or 4 days off a week (with the exception of overtime days). We were able to plan more things to do together and with the kids because he had those days off. Now he is working 8 hour shifts, Monday- Friday, with very little opportunity for overtime. It has been good for us in other ways, though. I really like having him home earlier in the day. We have the opportunity to do things in the evenings, we are able to have dinner at a normal time. (We were eating dinner as late as 8 or 9 pm. Now we can eat at 5:30-6:00, like normal people!) He’s always off on Sunday, which allows us to start having our big family dinners on Sunday afternoon after church. Change is really, really hard for me, so I just try to focus on the positive things about the change.

One of the things that helps me manage my anxiety is routine. I struggle with change, especially last minute change that I wasn’t expecting/prepared for. I do really well when I have a predictable daily routine. However, I also have to work hard to not become SO dependent on my routine, that I panic if something doesn’t go according to my “plan” for the day. So, I am working on finding a new routine, that works for me, that I can “go with the flow” of the day and get through the day.

In one of my previous posts, I wrote about my routine for the very first part of my day; which is waking up early enough to have coffee, prayer, and bible time with Brian before he goes to work. The next part of my day is my favorite…

After I get back from taking him to work, while the house is still dark and quiet, I make a comfortable spot on my favorite couch, brew a fresh cup of coffee, and write. My goal is to write and have “me time” before I wake my kids up for breakfast and school. It seems to help me set the tone for the day and it makes me feel productive. Definitely more productive that coming home and going back to bed until noon and wasting half of my day.

Sometimes I write in my personal journal. Sometimes I write here, on this blog. Sometimes I write love notes to Brian to stick in his lunch bag the next day. Sometimes I write out prayers that I am praying for different people or situations in my life. Writing is so very therapeutic for me and I thank you for taking the time to read the things that I write.

I have been sharing my life and experiences with anxiety and other mental health disorders here on this blog for a couple of months now. I’ve told you about the worst panic attack of my life and about how my journey led me to therapy. I’ve told you about my husband, Brian, and the amazing support and love that he shows me on a daily basis. I even did a whole post about what the phrase “Like a Boss” means to me and why I gave my blog that name.

Now is the time, perhaps, that I share with you the truth about HOW I deal with my mental health disorders and physical ailments on a day to day basis. I feel that if I am going to share the struggle, I need to also share the answer.

In November of 2018 my anxiety was at an all time high and the depression had me at an all time low. I struggled to breathe, all day every day. I barely got out of bed. Nothing brought me joy. I couldn’t crochet or write or get through a day without a panic attack of some level. Even being close to my kids caused symptoms of anxiety- irritability, nausea, etc. Brian and I had the biggest fight/struggle/conflict that we had ever had and…I left.

I told him that I was done. I was ready to “check out.” Out of our relationship and out of life. I. was. done. I left our house and started driving in the direction of the hospital. The broken feeling that flooded my mind, heart, and body intensified and as I approached a large bridge I said aloud “God, if you are there and You are real, I’m going to need You to show up, RIGHT NOW!” I had every intention of slamming my car into the side of the bridge and falling over it, hopefully to my death. I knew that I could not continue to live with the weight of all of this “stuff,” in fact, I didn’t want to live anymore at all. I couldn’t see anything but the hard, the heavy, the struggle.

The truth is that I have only found ONE way to get through the hard, the heavy, and the struggle. He showed up that day. He spoke to the deepest part of my heart and gave me a hope that the hard and the struggle would end. So instead of running my car off of the bridge, I drove home, to my husband. We sat together and prayed and cried and held on to each other for dear life.

Jesus met us there, in our bedroom, that day. He flooded my heart with a peace that just didn’t make any sense. Does that ever happen to you?! You are in a situation and you should be all kinds of worked up, angry, etc. but you just have this calmness, this peace, this assurance that it really will all be okay?

After that day, all I could do was read His word, listen to worship music, pray, and write in my journal. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I wrote down everything that I felt that He was saying to me. I wrote down prayers; for me, for my family, for people who had hurt me. I wrote down goals and visions for our future that He spoke to my heart. In “christian terms” I was “ON FIRE” for God. There was this huge high, where I couldn’t get enough of Jesus, and I wasn’t feeling anxious, and I was getting out of bed and being productive and I just FELT GREAT.

That particular “high” season ended somewhere around May of this year. It didn’t slowly fade…it just stopped. I stopped writing again, I stopped worshiping, I stopped reading my bible, I stopped praying. Everything just stopped. Guess what happened next?? The anxiety crept back up, the depression spiked up, the exhaustion came back and it was all I could do to stay out of bed for a few hours a day. June is when the panic attack that put me in the hospital happened. (You can read about that here) I started feeling, again, that this was never going to end; that I’m going to have this struggle for my entire life and I just have to “manage.” Ya’ll, that’s a pretty depressing place to be; to feel like there is NO hope that it will EVER get better. That you are just stuck there and there is nothing you can do about it.

I just felt stuck there, and so I stayed there for a few weeks… again. Why?! I don’t really know, these things are not logical, but I stayed with the anxiety and the depression. I stayed in bed for days on end. Brian has said that I went weeks without ever smiling at all. It was a deep, dark place to be. That’s when my doctor sent me to a psychiatrist, who sent me to therapy. The full story about that can be found here.

Now it is October and Brian and I strive to wake up at 5am each morning so that we have time to spend together, with Jesus. I make our coffee and he plays worship music and gets ready for work. We sit on our bed and pray together. Then we open God’s word and read it, discuss it, and seek to understand its truth and how it applies to, and affects us today. We ask Him for His peace, calmness, love, and mercies to be with us that day; and for His guidance, direction, and protection.

Long story short…Jesus is my answer. He is my answer for anxiety, depression, and PTSD. He is my answer for the triggers that still exist and try to keep me trapped. He is my answer for how I homeschool and raise my kids. He is my answer for having a healthy marriage and healthy friendships. It is Jesus, ya’ll. Jesus is the only reason I am still alive. He keeps my head above the water, so I can keep my eyes on Him through the storms. He meets me right where I am and hears me when I call out to Him.

You’ll find, as this blog continues, that a lot of (but not all of) my writings will have content that relates to Jesus and the bible, and how it all shapes and steers my life.

I pray that all of this comes across how I actually intend it; to be encouraging, uplifting, and possibly even helpful to those that read it. The things that I write about have been my personal experiences in my life. Not all of it has been sunshine and roses. There has been much darkness and trial and struggle. However, this is what I believe helps me deal with my mental health issues, as well as my physical health. It is Jesus. I believe that as I read His word and draw closer to Him, He gives me a peace and a calmness that beats out the anxiety and chaos. The bible tells us that we will have struggles, trials, failures, hurt and heartbreak in this life. Ahhhhh…but Jesus! He doesn’t always take it all away; but He does ALWAYS help me through it. And that is why “It’s all Him.”

What struggles do you face right now? What have you found that helps work for you in managing/dealing with your struggles? How can I pray for you? Feel free to leave a comment below and let’s open the dialog about these things.

Forever In His Grip,

LB

P.S. As a “BONUS” on this post, please take a listen to this song by Avril Lavigne. I pray that the lyrics speak to your heart and that God keeps your head above the water, so you can see Him. Note: I do not own the rights to this song.

Full Circle

I graduated high school just a few months before the bombing/attacks on 9/11. After graduation, I began looking into joining the Navy. I wanted to join for many of the same reasons that most people do…to serve, to travel, to learn, to have a steady paycheck after having become an “adult.” 🙂 I was just trying to figure out where in this world my “place” was. The typical things that most, if not all, graduates deal with; “What do I want to BE when I grow up? Where am I going with my life? What kind of “life” is it that I desire to create for myself?”

Just a couple of weeks after graduation, I joined; and my “ship date” was set for mid-July. For what remained of my time at home that summer, you could find me working my part time job or preparing for the Navy. Great Lakes, IL was to be my destination for the next several months for Basic Training and training school.

Fun fact about me: I am a “Daddy’s Girl” through and through. From the time he came into my life, it has been my goal, all my life, to make him proud of me. We had a special bond that not many people understand. We had so many similarities that people often questioned me when they found out that he was not my biological father. The number of people that have told me that I had his smile or eyes is just ridiculous. And, of course, I would just smile, knowing that we didn’t share the DNA that would make that scientifically possible.

Let me say here that we did not always have a great relationship. There were many mistakes made over the years, damage done, healing that had to take place. Dad and I came along way over the years. At this point in my life (18 years old and fresh out of high school) our relationship was still strained, but my goal was still to make him proud. In hind sight, I really do think that I joined the Navy more because HE did. You see, my dad was a “Navy Man” and served our country during the Vietnam War. I thought that by joining the Navy, it would make me even more like him and he would be proud of me. Right?!

Dad’s “official” Navy picture from when he was in boot-camp.

I don’t have any pictures of the day I left for the Navy, but this is one of my favorite pictures of us together.

The day I left for basic was probably one of the more emotional days I have had in my life. We got up early, loaded my things from our home into the care and drove the 15 miles from where we lived, to the recruiting office in a near by town. We unloaded everything from our car, to the recruiter’s car and started the “goodbyes.” I was really proud of myself! I made it through the goodbyes with my mom, my sister, and my boyfriend without crying. I had pushed the time too far and my recruiter was hurrying us along, so my goodbye with my dad was the shortest (are most with dad’s?). He hugged me tighter than I think he has ever hugged me and quickly whispered something in my ear. It wasn’t what I was expecting; it caught me off guard and the tears immediately started to flow. I cried and cried and cried. I ugly cried all the way to Dallas. My poor recruiter! Lol! He was probably thinking “IS this girl going to stop crying?! Like, EVER?!?” It was only he and I in the car for the drive, so it was a little awkward, to say the least.

The thing that he said to me that day, shifted everything for me, although I didn’t realize it at the time. It has resurfaced over the years; like now. It has been close to 20 years now, and I can’t tell this story or say the phrase aloud without crying. He said “I love you, Sis. Do yourself proud.”

“Do yourself proud.” At 18 years old, though, I barely knew what that meant, much less how to execute it. It shifted, however, from wanting to make him proud, to knowing that he was already proud of me. Now it was time to step into MY life that I wanted to create and do something that I could be proud of myself for doing. It wasn’t anything that someone else could do for me; if I was going to succeed in the Navy, or in life, I was going to have to live my life in a way that I would be proud of. Those three words have stopped me in my tracks, they have made me cry at least 100 times, and they have made me pause…think…contemplate, even. Am I living my life in a way that lives up to those words?… Do. Yourself. Proud

In March of 2011 our family decided it was time to transition from our home town to Lubbock, TX to serve with a ministry there called Malta Farms. (You can visit their website, maltafarms.net, to learn more about the amazing work that they do in Lubbock County.)

The annual pumpkin patch for Malta Farm’s fall fundraiser. This was such an amazing thing to be a part of and WHO KNEW that there were so many different types and colors of pumpkins?!?!

I was SO excited to be going to serve the ministry that changed Brian’s life and we knew that we knew that it was supposed to be our next step. Once again, however, anxiety showed its ugly face and made the move extremely difficult for me. It took me months to pack our house because every time I started to pack, I started to have an anxiety attack. Even though I KNEW God’s hand was in it and even though I was genuinely excited, I literally could not do it.

July came, we celebrated Baby Girl’s 8th birthday and the 4th of July with family and friends, and then on July 10th, we loaded the U-Haul and left our hometown for Lubbock. Once again Dad’s “goodbye” was short and sweet; he hugged me tight, told me he loved me and handed me a card. I read it and immediately started crying. Ugly crying, ya’ll. Sobbing. I’m sure that he intended it to mean that I could do the move to Lubbock and be okay (which I did, mostly), but there have been many times since then that I’ve read those words and felt peace wash over me.

I’ve come to realize that it was exactly 10 years (July of 2001 to July of 2011) from the time he first said “Do yourself proud” to when he gave me the card. I have it hung on the wall in my bedroom. It seems to catch my eye at EXACTLY the perfect point in time every now and then. I often find myself saying “I know, Dad. I know I can face this.”

I still need these reminders every so often. “Do yourself proud” and “Keep going! You can do it! I know that you have what it takes to do this!” While I have come a long way, and I do want to live my life in a way that I can be proud of; and even though he has since passed away, I hope I am making him proud, too.

I pray that any one reading this finds hope and truth in these words. “Keep going!” “You CAN do this!” “I KNOW that you have what it takes to do this!!”

Forever In His Grip

LB

Anxiety is…

If you’ve read any of my other posts, you know that I think that anxiety is the single most stupid thing I have ever had to deal with in my life. If you haven’t read any of my other posts, then let me tell you… I think that anxiety is the single most stupid thing I have ever had to deal with in my life!!!!

However, anxiety is not defined as “stupid”; it’s actually defined as:

anx·i·e·ty / aNGˈzīəde noun

  1. a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Similar: worry, concern, apprehension, apprehensiveness, consternation

This is your typical “I’m a little anxious to get the test results.” “I’m worried about how I’m going to be able to pay this bill.” “I have a huge presentation at work and I’m nervous!” type of anxiety. Almost every human, ever, has experienced this type of anxiety at some point in their life. This what most people tend to think when I say that I have anxiety. Perhaps, that fault lies with me and I need to be more specific. I say that, to say this:

There are also various Anxiety Disorders. There are a total of about six different ones; I have three of them. According to the Mayo Clinic anxiety disorders are (especially note the parts in italics):

“Experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. However, people with anxiety disorders frequently have intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Often, anxiety disorders involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks).

These feelings of anxiety and panic interfere with daily activities, are difficult to control, are out of proportion to the actual danger and can last a long time. You may avoid places or situations to prevent these feelings. Symptoms may start during childhood or the teen years and continue into adulthood.

Examples of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder (social phobia), specific phobias and separation anxiety disorder. You can have more than one anxiety disorder. Sometimes anxiety results from a medical condition that needs treatment.

I was first diagnosed with an anxiety disorder when I was four years old. Anxiety?! At FOUR years old?!? Yep. I bet you’re wondering “What the heck is a FOUR. YEAR. OLD. anxious about?” Well, generally speaking, a four year old would have nothing to be anxious about. Some four year olds, though, have had a rough go of it from the start; traumatic births, health problems, surgeries, etc. Some four year olds have already had more than one divorce in their parents’ lives, and some times, both of those marriages were abusive anyway. By the time I was four and WELL before I had a clue what the word “anxiety” means, it had started affecting me by manifesting itself in the form of physical symptoms. I had severe digestive/tummy issues and my hair had started to fall out by the handful.

The time that I reached middle school (and started puberty) is when a couple of the men in my life chose to do what they did to me. (I am choosing to leave out the names and some of the details…for now, as I am truly still finding my healing.) The two people were both sexually abusing me, on a regular basis, with neither of them knowing about the other. One was a little heavier on the mind games/mental aspect of abuse than the other; in fact as I grew older, learned more, and looked back on those events, I was being “groomed” for much worse by one and the “worst” was already happening with the other. The thing that did the most damage, though, was being told that I was not acceptable how I was and that I needed to be “stripped down to nothing and built back the way that he wanted me.” What he meant by that was, “I want to control you so you will do whatever I say and I want to scare you, so you will never tell anyone.” Ya’ll this is just my life up until middle school, and this is just the MOST MAJOR stuff that happened, (not everything) and suddenly the question of “Why do I have anxiety?” has an answer.

I have struggled my entire life with feeling like the real, true me, was not good enough. I often feel as though my whole life, thus far, has been me acting; trying to act in a way/ways that would make me “acceptable” and truly loved. Now that I am in my mid-30’s, I feel as though I am starting to grow into what, and who, God created me to be. I am discovering who I really am and not just what someone else wanted to create, what I really love, what I really can’t stand, the types of friends I want to have in my life and the kind of friend I want to be in return. Having reached the point where “just managing” the symptoms of anxiety, but mostly pretending that everything is “fine” is just not working any more; other strategies have had to be put in place. Brian and I decided that I would try the medication route again and I’ve decided that I’m not going to let anyone else’s opinion about how I care for my own well-being, contribute to my anxiety. I just am one of those people that needs medication to keep me on a level playing field. Therapy has been absolutely invaluable; as it is teaching me strategies to fight the anxiety and not just lay down and let it take my life. I have to “do the work” and find my healing or its going to kill me.

It has been thirty two years since I first showed symptoms of anxiety. It has been twenty four years since the abuse I endured stopped and the people involved faced their consequences. Still, even now, as an adult, I still frequently deal with my body exhibiting physical symptoms, whether or not I am experiencing any mental or emotional symptoms at that time. Almost daily I experience nausea, rapid heart rate, difficulty catching my breath, upset stomach, sweating, muscle cramps/spasms, tingling, difficulty sleeping/staying asleep. Now, most days I don’t experience ALL of those things, but I do experience most of them to some degree or another.

I hope that this has given you a little bit of insight into anxiety, and especially the difference between the anxiety/anxiousness that most people feel and the severe anxiety disorders that so many suffer from. Thanks to the support system that has rallied around me, from my husband and kids to my doctors, my therapist and my Camp Gladiator workout family, I am doing better now than I have in many, many years. It is possible. Hang in there.

I would now like to leave you with one of my favorite pictures from the social interwebs…

What have your experiences been with anxiety? Do you struggle with it or do you know someone who does? Let’s talk in the comments. Be sure to “like” and “subscribe” to get my posts sent right to your inbox!

I have many days in my life that I wonder “How in the world does he handle all of the things that MY anxiety causes him to have to deal with? Like, I don’t even think I would be able to handle being married to me!” I mean, come on ya’ll, I’ve only got about three different anxiety disorders! It shouldn’t be THAT hard to handle, right?!

You guys, there are so many ways that my anxiety affects Brian, as my husband. He is AMAZING at dealing with both of us, me and the anxiety. I know he thinks he doesn’t know what he’s doing or that he just plain stinks at it, but I tell him almost daily that I literally do not think I could do this without him. I think that if I was married to anyone else this would have killed me already. That’s the truth.

Brian is a fairly out-going guy. He loves meeting new people. He can talk to any one. So, he is, of course the complete and total opposite of this “I have social anxiety, can I please not meet any one that I have to actually converse with today” girl right here! For him that means few social gatherings; especially if it’s people I haven’t met before. It means having to leave a gathering early. It means me ONLY wanting to be near HIM. This part of the anxiety also keeps him from being able to surprise me. (In my favor, it also means that he can’t play practical jokes on me or startle me). It means that he can’t put me in a situation where I can’t get in touch with him if I need him. (I do TRULY mean IF I NEED him. Emphasis on IF and NEED; think “emergency.”)

Brian has never been the “finance” guy in our marriage. Now, he has always worked and made the money, but he didn’t care about the numbers part and the details, so it became my job to do. My severe anxiety means that he has to double check me when I pay bills or balance the checkbook. It means that He has had to deal with me straight up forgetting to pay bills and things being shut off. It means that he has dealt with me running up close to $15,000 in credit card debt…twice.

Way back when I was a child, my “hobby” was to clean my room, or organize my toys, or yell at my sister because “her side” of the room was a disaster area. When I married Brian, when I was twenty years old, I was what some people would call a “neat freak.” Our first little apartment stayed CLEAN, and organized, and well taken care of. I’m not really sure why my anxiety manifested itself as “neat freak” in my younger years and as “it’s clean ‘enough'” in my older years, but that is exactly what has happened. I say all of that, to say this; Brian deals with me going from one extreme to the other on household chores. I am either cleaning the baseboards with a toothbrush and organizing closets by color, or the trash hasn’t been taken out in days, the sink is full, and I can’t remember the last time I changed clothes. The “in between” on these two extremes is when I do at least manage to remind the kids to do their chores.

One of the hardest, most frustrating, most annoying, irritating things that we have had to deal with is the issues of anxiety that I have in the area of intimacy/sex. I had multiple sexual traumas in my childhood. It has come to my attention over the past several years, as the anxiety has reached an all time high, that that trauma is still affecting me today, in a very real way. Brian has not ever, and I do mean EVER, done anything to me, said anything to me, or treated me in a way that even remotely resembled the things the other men did when I was young. He has always been very gentle and tender with me, has never done anything that was not consensual, has always taken care of me before himself. If you know him, you know how much this man adores me. He still, after 16 years of marriage and over twenty years since the trauma, deals with things like me not being able to turn off the lights, me not being able to be touched in certain areas or certain ways, something small and insignificant causing my body to SHUT DOWN. Or, me having a panic attack in the middle of… and having to stop completely. Brian is so good to me. He is so careful and does his best to not hurt me or cause me any unnecessary anxiety…that it causes HIM anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle. We take frequent “spins.” My therapist has us going on weekly dates; just us. Just to reconnect. Just to hang out and be friends. We don’t spend much money; we go walk at the park or go to one of our workouts and grab a bite to eat. It’s helping. I’m optimistic.

When this anxiety crap is getting the best of me, Brian frequently tells me “I’m sorry, Baby. I’m sorry you’re going through this. I wish I could fix it or take it away.” While we know that our spouse can’t really fix it or take it away, Brian and I have learned some ways that a spouse can help/ease anxiety. One of the biggest, I can tell you from personal experience, is SUPPORT! If your spouse truly has anxiety…IT. IS. NOT. ALL. IN. THEIR. HEAD. They need encouragement to take care of themselves (in all areas). Brian has stood by my side as I went to the doctor and asked her for help. He was with me with I picked up and started taking the meds. He encouraged me to call the therapist and make an appointment. He cheered me on as I started working out and taking care of my physical body. He found the money to make sure that I could do all of those things. Of course, the most important thing (to me; anyways) is that he has carried me in prayer.

If patience could earn you a ticket to heaven, this man would have had his LONG ago! I mean patience like JOB, ya’ll! I’ve already talked about a lot of the ways he is patient with me. I, honestly, don’t even know how he does it. It shows in every area of our lives; our home/home management, our finances, our own ‘personal stuff.’ Anxiety affects so much of my life that he has learned to be patient with me in more ways and in more areas than I think most people ever realize.

Another way that Brian has come to help me when I am anxious is that HE learns my triggers and warning signs. The triggers that we have identified so far are sex, social situations, too many people (crowded Wal-Mart sent me to the hospital), being startled, any of my kids saying that they don’t feel well/have an ache/have a headache/etc. (especially if it is too often) There really isn’t enough room in the “cloud” or enough time in a day to list them all. Sometimes, there are no triggers. It just happens. Those times usually come with some warnings; shortness of breath/tightness in chest, fast heartbeat, sweating, sudden upset stomach, tingling, muscle spasms/tightness.

Friends, this stuff is not easy, it is not for the faint of heart. It is worth it, but it’s not easy. Brian doesn’t experience anxiety like I do, so it’s not something that he truly understands on a personal level. Ask him about what an addict experiences; he KNOWS addiction. Ask him about what a dad, whose kid’s mother is NOT wanting to let him be in his kid’s life, experiences; he KNOWS losing a relationship with a child. Ask him about that same dad’s experiences when he DOES earn having his child back; he KNOWS about restored relationships. There are many things that he has experienced, that he does understand, anxiety just isn’t one of them.

If I haven’t mentioned it already, it is my firm belief that anxiety is the stupidest thing I have ever had to deal with. It is not logical and, in my case, it is NOT just thoughts in my head. It would be exponentially easier to deal with if it was! I can control my thoughts; I could kick anxiety’s ass if it was all in my head.

The panic attack/depressive episode that happened in June was the first time that Brian got a glimpse of what this anxiety can really do to me. The detailed story about that was previously posted and you can find it here. He saw me fighting it. He saw me trying to “push through.” He heard me telling myself “You are fine. There is nothing to panic about. Brian is here. You are FINE.” Then he saw what it did to my body any way. I don’t want it to sound like he has not always been supportive, or encouraged me to do WHATEVER. IT. TAKES. to be healthy and okay–he has. That day, though. That day he saw what I’m really up against and it changed him and how he handles/helps me fight this crap. Anxiety certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. It is a day by day, week by week, month by month, battle that is fought hard for, and won.

Brian, when I can’t breathe, you are the reminder in my head to slow down and breathe deeply to catch my breath. When my heart is racing 95+ beats a minute and won’t slow down, you ground me and bring me back to resting. When I can’t stop the nervous ticks/shaking, you are my solid place. When I can’t sleep, because the anxiety has followed me into my dreams, you hold me and comfort me until the sleepiness and peaceful dreams return. When I want to quit, you are the reason I don’t. Thank you for being my husband. Thank you for helping me fight this fight. Thank you for loving me so completely and so unconditionally. YOU, Sir, are my heart!

Forever In His Grip,

LB