The Discipline of Self Care

The Discipline of Self Care

Recently, I had a health issue flare up. I won’t give you all the gruesome details, but I will tell you that it was disgusting and life changing. The worst part is that it was preventable. I neglected the issue originally and let it grow into a big problem.

This particular health issue came to be about a year and a half into my codependency recovery. I was working at a particularly stressful job and could not find the time to get it checked out. When I left that job and started a new one, I had it looked at by a doctor and was prescribed a cream (you trying to guess what the issue is? 😛 ). After I got the cream, I went back to my life and, guess what, my new job wasn’t as emotionally stressful, but it was time consuming. And! It was very hard to find coverage for my position. So, needless to say, it was not easy to leave for a follow up doctor visit.

I worked that job for a little over a year and the health issue remained but it was very tame. Sometimes I would go for long periods without really noticing it. You get used to health issues sometimes… they become your new normal. In codependency, many miseries are normal: The fog of confusion as you try to make decisions about jobs, relationships, and boundaries. The chaotic state of your environment. The poor health of your body. The lack of true intimacy with those who care about you. Your view of God.

All these elements are part of living in survival mode with your codependency. If you are throwing all your chips into one category of life, the rest are going to get neglected. That’s just the way it is. There are five basic pieces that create a balanced life: relationships, work, spirituality, physical health, and mental health.

In my case, work was overtaking the other elements of my life. It was consuming so much of my time and energy that my physical health got neglected. An issue was allowed to remain and fester. When my health was compromised, all my energies went to regaining my physical health. Then! The other elements were being neglected because all my focus was on the physical! It can become an exhausting cycle of putting out fires.

This cycle can be portrayed in other ways, as well. Work life crazy can cause neglect in all areas (not just the physical). If you are consumed with work, that means time for relationships is put to the side, your living environment might become a little messy and chaotic, your physical appearance roughens up, your soul starts feeling like a desert, and your mental capacities are just about to run out. These signs may all seem very obvious, but in codependency, that’s not necessarily the case. These issues can become so normal in our survival mode mentality that we don’t even notice them. The screams for order become muted and we trudge on in our misery. What may be very obvious to others can be invisible to the codependent in crisis mode.

Another way life unbalance has affected me in the past was when I would be obsessively focused on a romantic relationship (or desire for a romantic relationship). The drive to have my Disney fantasies come true would steer me away from investing in other friendships and engaging in my life. How could I care about my career or hobbies when I had a relationship to bring to fruition?? Where could I find the time or desire to stop and respect God’s leading? What if He didn’t want what I wanted for myself?

Putting too much emphasis on relationships will lead to neglect of other important areas: like the spiritual. What could be more important than listening to God? But! When a codependent becomes entranced in a fantasy, it’s hard to see past the highs and lows of interactions with that significant other. Obsessive thinking can set in and, when that does happen, say bye-bye to the rational. Everything in life, besides that special person, becomes an afterthought.

Codependency is a dangerous cycle that brings chaos. God has great plans for you in all areas of life… not just a career, not just a relationship, not just school, not just you fill in the blank. If you evaluate your life and decide that one area is getting more attention than the others or if you feel that your life brings a chaotic presence, seek counsel. Go to God as best as you know Him and discuss everything with Him. See a counselor or talk to someone you trust. Living a life of balance feels good! When we become too focused on one area of life, it is easy to make that our god. Giving away the place of God undercuts His power in your life. It says you believe something else can provide you what you need. However, nothing can love and provide like God.

Refocus and go to Him with your life and your calendar. After my health issue, I did some serious reevaluation. So due to that change, I’m thankful I went through what I did. It brought me closer to God and taught me a valuable lesson. Would I want to do it again? Absolutely not and I pray I never have to. But I’ll take my lessons and walk with God to the next adventure. It’s a good life He has blessed all of us with and there’s a lot to be thankful for.

New Year’s Eve

There’s a lot swimming around in my head this evening and I find myself having a difficult time finding the connecting thread through it all. Although there really is no *magic* to a new year (any of us can have a fresh start on any given day), December 31st is a nice marker every 365 days to stop, reflect, and plan.

Looking back on this year, there’s a lot I wish I would’ve done better. There’s also a lot of successes that I thoroughly enjoyed. In the early stages of codependency recovery, I am so thankful to look back on 2017 and know that I was in reality. I didn’t spend 12 months dreaming, chasing a fantasy, or working my manipulative magic. No. I was in the present.

The present isn’t great sometimes. I’d say that the reality of my job is that I don’t like it. It takes up a lot of my time and energy without many rewards. I have fear and anxiety to work through and health issues that affect my emotions… I mean, come on, that’s just messed up. Sometimes it really does feel like my body is against me… which I guess it is because I was born broken in a fallen world.

However, the beauty of reality is that God is there. The true God Who is in pursuit of a real relationship with me. I am completely safe to fail, succeed, and recover. 2015 and 2016 were years that I delved into love addiction and family coping mechanisms. 2017 started with facing and processing my debilitating fear of eternity. Of course, that fear isn’t totally gone, but I have more ways to work with it when the leg-numbing fear smacks me at its chosen time.

I’d say 2017 has been wonderful due to the clarity that comes with codependency recovery. It was also frightening because of the struggle I had with my faith. I’ve been interacting with God since I was five years old, but I didn’t realize I created false perceptions of Him while growing up. This year I’ve gone from the extreme of “Is God real?” to “God is so real that I’m completely terrified.”

Like my fear of eternity, moments of fear about God and my relationship with Him arise. However I can say, with complete certainty, that I’ve had a couple of experiences with God at the end of this year that were more tangible than I’ve ever known possible. My conviction of the reality of God is slowly welling up inside of me and I’m so excited as to what that could mean for my future.

And that’s what I would like to end this little blurb on 2017 with: patience. Recovery takes time and you are safe in God’s hands. In the moments that you feel you’re careening into old habits and extreme codependency, God has you. There’s nothing you can do to sabotage your value. God loves you and He will never abandon you. He is at work in you.

It’s okay to be in a long, weird transition. People aren’t comfortable seeing someone seemingly floating around. They want you to meet “the one” and settle down, find “that job” and start your corporate climb, or “do whatever makes you happy.” Honestly, you may never find the one, that job, or that thing that makes you happy… but thank God that’s not the point of life! The point is to live in communication with God. The point is to know you have all you need in Him.

This whole life is a weird transition, whether people realize it or not. We’re all on our way to eternity. Don’t rush yourself there. Appreciate where you are and allow yourself to be there.

Happy New Year!

 

Recovery is a Process

Recovery is a Process

Lately, I’ve been struggling more with my body image. It’s something I need to take time to surrender to God, but there are also issues I need to address.

My tendency is to be a chaotic eater. That’s where you want to be healthy, but live such a chaotic life that in the moment of ravenous hunger, you settle for whatever is closest and most readily available (fast food is a popular one). I also zone out with my food. I’ll be eating away and look down to realize it’s “suddenly” gone.

When my body image and eating issues start getting out of hand, I go to the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. Their book has helped me tremendously in working through my emotional eating.

Lately, I’ve found myself fearing the idea of not having enough food or being left hungry. I think it may be because at my job I work at the front desk and don’t have the freedom to move around the building like my coworkers. If I have a need, oftentimes I have to put it off because of my responsibilities at the front. This could lead to me feeling trapped, so when it is time to eat, I feel like I have to over eat since I don’t know when my next opportunity will be. This is just a guess because I’ve been ignoring what I’ve been doing for a while.

Like the title of this blog says, recovery is a process. There’s no magic wand to swoop in and fix your problems. It’s a walk with God where you feel your pain, bring it to Him, and work through the pieces He brings to your attention. God is good to gently guide us through recovery one step at a time. I went through the Intuitive Eating book one time and experienced a release of food guilt that I’d been carrying around for a very long time. I think this time through, I’ll develop new and healthy habits when it comes to eating and food choice.

I’m excited about the possibilities, but am aware the process is not oftentimes easy. Eating is so tied in to our emotions on a subconscious level. I understand that my eating patterns serve as coping mechanisms for dealing with stress, boredom, and twisted ideas of pleasure.

So, here we go into the recovery process with food!

Perfectly Imperfect – Time Change

Perfectly Imperfect – Time Change

Morning! Unless you’re in the greater area of Arizona, you are struggling with the rest of us to adjust to the time change. Now, don’t get me wrong when I use the word “struggle.” I am in love with this new hour. When I get home from work, IT’S STILL DAYLIGHT! I can take my dog for a walk and feel like we’re not walking at midnight when it’s only 7:30pm. I love the longer day. I wish it would stay this way forever… America? Please? Can this be it?

However, with my love for more daylight in the afternoon, I also “struggle” in the mornings to wake up. This is frustrating to me because finally, FINALLYYYYYY, I have been getting up between 6:00-6:10am. And I mean, it’s on the daily. It’s been wonderful. I exercise, feed the dogs, make my coffee, and have time to settle down to read and write before getting ready for work. It’s phenomenal. It’s what I’ve wanted for years and never ever been able to accomplish. I can’t tell you all just how long I’ve worked, strategized, and prayed to be able to get up at 6am. It’s been since my high school days, so we’re looking at about 15 years of attempts and failures. The last half of 2016 and the first part of 2017 have been life changers for me and waking up. I’ve been living it up in the mornings. The feeling of organization, productivity, and calm before I go to work is absolutely lovely.

Now that the time change came on Sunday, I’ve been lurched back to my old issue: I can’t get up at six! Technically, in my brain, it’s 5am! Who gets up that early? I wish I could, honestly. That wish aside, I’ve been tempted the past couple of days to focus on my failures in the morning and get discouraged. You may be dealing with the same disappointment in yourself this week. A rough morning seems to light the pathway for a rough day. It’s hard to calm down from a frantic drive to work after running around the house like a mad person to get out the door.

This morning, instead of bashing myself for waking up an hour later than intended, I had to remind myself of one truth: I am perfectly imperfect.

And so are you.

God knows we are not perfect. That’s why He sent Jesus to live a perfect life for us. If Jesus were physically here in our world, He would’ve felt the fatigue of daylight savings time, but He would’ve turned off the alarm at 6:00:00 am and got out of bed. Because He’s Jesus! But you and I are not.

Sunday, I woke up at 8:00am. Two hours late. Yikes. Monday, I got up at 7:20am. Not as bad as Sunday, but still a rush to get ready for work and out the door. Today, I got up at 7:02am. Hey, progress. And hopefully tomorrow it will be earlier. I’ve missed working out the past few days and that makes me sad, but I have to allow myself a transition period. And you need to give yourself the same grace.

Be patient with yourself and don’t beat yourself up. I’ll practice too. Together, we can get back to routine! (If you have one… and if you don’t, I highly recommend one.) 😛

If you have any suggestions for waking up on time, I would love to hear them! I’m always looking for a new strategy.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Recovering from codependency comes with a lot of discovery and freedom in new areas of life. Part of my recovery has involved surrendering my people pleasing and fear of failure when it comes to the talents God has given me. I love to write, sing, and illustrate but most of my life I’ve kept these to myself due to negative thinking and fear.

Slowly this has begun to change. I no longer want to keep my gifts to myself. It is through these gifts that God has granted me the joy to praise Him. My life’s goal is to honor God and glorify Him. One of my professors in seminary, described praise in this way, “In the Old Testament culture, the word used in place of thanks was praise. That is, one would tell another what God had done, rather than merely saying, ‘Thank You, Lord.'” (Allen, Ronald B., And I Will Praise Him, pg. 64.) When I keep my methods of praise to myself, it’s hard for it to actually be praise. No one gets to experience the goodness of God but me!

In honor of God, recovery, and challenging my fears, I’ll be adding a new category to my blog called, For the Positive Thinker. This category will help those who struggle with negative thinking to replace those false accusations with truth. Scripture memory is a good way to begin storing up truth in your mind and heart so that you’ll have an arsenal prepared when negativity starts creeping in. The way I memorize scripture is through song. I can never remember scriptures if I memorize them in spoken word. They never stick. If you have the same issue, I invite you to take the songs I post and use them to help you begin to treasure God’s word in your heart, and at times more crucially, in your mind when obsessive or negative thinking kicks in.

In the spirit of the holidays, I’m going to start this new category of the blog off with a Christmas Carol. Do You Hear What I Hear is one of my favorite carols and I think it holds relevancy to recovering codependents. The last verse of the song proclaims, “He will bring us goodness and light.” Jesus came to the world and became the light of men that shines in the darkness. Jesus is the Word. Every time you place God’s word in your memory, think about the light that is entering into your body and removing the darkness. Every day as you pursue God and place His word in your heart, you can see more and more how free you are in Him.

Enjoy and have a Merry Christmas!

Loss of Control

I have bad weeks.

This past weekend – bad weekend. What was so bad about it? Externally, nothing. God is in control and He has blessed me with many great things. I got to go to my last class on church history for the semester on Saturday, discovered my car has an electrical problem (need to get that fixed), I got out of class early and hung out with my roommates and my dog, I went on a walk with my neighbor, and after all that went to bed. I tried a new church on Sunday (I think I’ll stick with my current church), got home before noon, hung out for awhile, and went to a Christmas show… came home with a migraine and nausea so I went right to bed. Woke up the next morning, and wanted to crawl straight back into bed and forget my existence. I was low. I was anxious. I was guilty. About what?

What I didn’t tell you in my weekend summary, is that underneath all the activity, there was a growing feel of pressure, anxiety, stress, and guilt. A nervous feeling of being in a rush and having my time stolen. What I really wanted to do all weekend was nothing. And when I say nothing, I have this image in my mind of slowly waking up with no alarm, sitting on the couch drinking coffee and staring at my Christmas tree, no time commitments, just hours of free time waiting to be filled with relaxation, reading, and creativity. There would be a couple of nice dog walks in there. Work on some manuscripts and enjoying the warmth and safety of home.

I’ve created time slots for mini versions of my day dream into my planner. At the beginning of the day, I have 30 minutes to drink coffee, sit on the couch, and write. At the end of the day, I set aside 30 minutes to sit in a chair and read whatever I’d like. I have intentional time with my dog, Tucker, for both parts of the day and it’s in these times that God refuels me to go back to work and spend the majority of my time earning money to not be homeless.

It’s a nice system I have, however, what happens when a stick gets thrown in the spokes? I mentioned I had class this Saturday. Did I mention it’s from 8-5? Yes, an all day class. Which is basically going to work for another full day. Also, did you catch that my car has an electrical problem? The turn signal, headlights, and interior dashboard lights are all not working. Yaayyyy. That means I have to find time to get to the dealership (which does not have weekend appointments). Also, I tried a new church and had a Christmas show Sunday evening. Does any of that sound like my day dream of the perfect day? No! A thousand times no!

And guess what I did all last week? I dreaded the weekend (and that was before I knew I’d be having car troubles). Last week I was tired. The work days seemed longer and I just needed some time! But I wasn’t getting any because people and institutions were taking it from me. Every week I feel robbed and I choose to focus on the negative rather than the positive of each day. And somehow, doing that leads me to feeling out of control, anxious, resentful, trapped, and guilty.

Work and rest are both important. If I spend all my time at home, how will I be an ambassador for God and have those conversations that really matter? So, my job is not just to refrain from homelessness, it’s to be a walking light of truth to those in darkness.

I know things need to change, but it’s going to be so, so hard. I do love my resentments and I do love possessing my time and working towards that day dream. There are three forms of codependency going on with this part of my life: fear, control, and fantasizing.

To start, I’ll write a letter to God and describe in detail all the things that are bothering me. I’ll surrender them to God and ask Him to remove the feelings of anxiety, fear, resentfulness, and guilt. I’ll ask Him to replace them with His characteristics and to forgive me for idolizing my schedule, my dog, and my dreams over Him. I’ll thank Him for the good work He is going to do. I look forward to it! He’s always done me right in the past and I know for certain He won’t stop now.

Desire without Knowledge

Desire without Knowledge

“Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” -Proverbs 19:2

Have you ever made an impulsive relationship decision? I have. Many, many times and over again. Usually it is in response to my obsessive thinking.

Obsessive thinking begins with a desire. The desire could be seeking a cure for loneliness, pleasing someone, it might be to solve a problem… something to make your life better than it currently is. Desires are natural. We are wired to satiate our needs and that’s not bad. It’s how we seek to satisfy those needs that can get us into trouble.

For example, in college, there was a guy I was friends with. He was a great guy but I had never liked him in a romantic fashion. He, on the other hand, liked me a lot and was waiting for me to come around. I knew this even though he hadn’t communicated it to me. Guys can be so annoyingly obvious (when you don’t want them to be).

One night, I was in my apartment and felt this strong need to connect on an intimate level with a guy. I wanted to be associated with someone. I didn’t want to be single anymore. I wanted to have “that someone” I could talk to. I felt so warm and sure about this feeling. It was definitely time to make that happen. Well, who do you think popped in my mind to fill that longing? My friend who liked me, of course!

I lovingly texted him that night (because who talks about serious things on the phone anymore?) and confessed to him that I really did like him as more than a friend. He was very excited about this news and felt that his waiting was finally paying off. We set a time to go on a real, official date. I went to bed that night feeling satisfied. The obsessive thoughts and the feeling of being incomplete now over.

Guess how I woke up? Terrified.

The romance of a lonely night being over, the reality set in of what I’d done. I’d told a guy that really liked me that I liked him back… when on reflection, I realized I didn’t like him like that at all. I felt better in the morning. Not so alone. But now I had a serious problem. I had let a guy on that I cared about. He was thrilled thinking that we were off to a romantic journey that would end with us getting married and having a lovely family (is this true? I didn’t know because he had never said that, but it was what I assumed he was thinking – another bad trait of living in a fantasy world and not reality).

This is how it ended with this guy and how most of my relationships played out: I tried to stick with the relationship and hope that my feelings would grow for the person I had roped myself into dating. It never worked and usually within two weeks, I was breaking up with the guy, he was confused, and our friendship was over. He was hurt… and so was I.

“Desire without knowledge is not good.” In Proverbs, Solomon teaches that knowledge, wisdom, discernment all come from God. If you are not including God in your decision making, you’ve only got half the brains… maybe less. The second part of that psalm states, “Whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.”

I lost my way repeatedly because I was reacting to my desires and leaving knowledge (reality and God’s will) out of it. Losing my way caused the guys I dated to feel lost, as well. We ended up with hurt and confusion.

If you struggle with love addiction, it’s important to let the fit pass before making a decision. Wait at least a week before making big decisions, especially when it involves another person.

It’s easy to believe that only a significant other can satisfy your desires. If that were true, God would not be as awesome as He says He is. The great thing about God is that He always does the unexpected. You think you know how He is going to answer a prayer and then He does something you could have never dreamed and it’s way better than you could have imagined.

When you feel lonely, tell God and ask Him to remove the feeling of loneliness and replace it with His love, contentment, and companionship. Ask Him to heal your feeling of loneliness in the way He deems best. Let Him know that you look forward to seeing how He does it. If there is a person you have in mind that you would like to fulfill that need, let God know but be open to His way of doing things.

Through my recovery, I am now beginning to see the patterns of my emotions and thoughts. By slowing down and making myself wait to act on my desires, it’s helping me gain discernment on areas of my life that are unhealthy. I’m learning to go to God and surrender my desires and seek His will on an issue. This is so much better than falling prey to my desires which have no foundation, minus my fantasies.

Bottom line: wait on God. His will is best and He knows better than you do what you need to fulfill the desires He has given you.

Exercise: If you struggle with impulsively acting on your desires, pause. When you’re obsessively thinking, stop and write out your desire in detail. Surrender it to God. Ask Him to satisfy your desire in the way He deems best. Thank Him for what He’s going to do. Then, wait. Don’t make a decision for a week. Surrender your desire to God as many times as you need. Remember, you’re in no hurry. Allow time for prayer, reflection, and hindsight. Embrace your desires (meaning, it’s okay to feel lonely for a little bit. You’re not going to die.). Wait on God and He will answer.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!