I have been waiting for another topic to write about but words will only come about the one thing I don't really want to record on paper (or blog). I sat down to jot down an outline and even just jotting stuff down about it makes me cry. I also feel like if I start writing about it I may not stop. That sign above is hanging on the wall behind my desk. All the little kids in my life call me Auntie Crazy, on purpose. I mean, I totally want them to. I want them to remember I am the fun one, willing to do fun and crazy things. My friend, Justine, got me this sign last year. I love it!! It becomes more true of me everyday! Do you remember the girl in Mean Girls who didn't even go to that school but had a lot of feelings?
That is what I feel like I am about to unload on this blog. I don't really want a cake made of rainbows, but alas I do have a lot of feelings. That is warning before you proceed! If I am going to record what Jesus is doing in my life I have to start here.
I am coming out of season of battling functional depression, anxiety and unreasonable obsession. I say functional depression because unlike years past I was still able to get out of bed and do my day-to-day stuff. I say unreasonable obsession because I had cast a vision for what my life with God should look like and I could not let go of it. I have been a believer in Jesus walking around beating myself up on the inside because I was not a joyful follower. I mean, I know where I am going when I die, I know God loves me and I have a relationship with the Lord; I should be the most joyful person on earth. I crucified myself for feeling low and pushed myself to work harder, serve more and get over it. The only balm was reading God's word. He promised to transform me by the renewing of my mind and I thought this struggle and striving was just part of it. How wrong I was.
So I am going to tell you the end of the story first. Right now I feel better than I have felt in YEARS. The last few months were the breaking point. In September I was diagnosed with an ovarian cyst. No big deal I have had them before. They have to be removed and we move on. This one was a little different because they came on the heals of me being on steroids to get over Poison Ivy (there will be a blog post in the future about my hatred of Poison Ivy). My GYN wanted to wait and see if everything would work itself out. So I waited. I was in a lot of pain and had to take Norco on regular basis to get through the day. So after a month of waiting they had not gone away so my GYN said it was time for them to go. When she got in there she realized my ovary had flipped over twice on my fallopian tube and she had to take my ovary out. When I woke up she told me I would need to think about hormone therapy and she took some blood to do a baseline. She emailed me and asked if I had been feeling depressed because my hormones were way out of whack. She said I had way high Estrogen and undetectable Testosterone. Now, I have to insert the funniest quote here. I told my friend Ashley that I had high Estrogen and undetectable Testosterone and her response was as follows:
"Well that makes sense since you were a feminist, your estrogen ate all your testosterone" ~~~~Ashley Potts
It's my favorite quote of 2017, for sure. Love that girl. So all that to say, my hormones were crazy nuts and I started hormone therapy and it feels like I am coming out of a fog. It's really remarkable.
The balanced hormones have allowed me to look back at the last few years and realize how bad I felt. So is it the chicken or the egg? Did my distrust of Jesus and pride over the last few years lead me to depression and anxiety. I am sure you have read that prolonged indulgence in those two things can throw your hormones out of whack? OR did a hormone imbalance lead me to depression and anxiety? I say indulgence because I have to take ownership of the situation. I could have gotten help sooner but I was too prideful. Either way I have to acknowledge that God is sovereign over me and allowed me to travel this road so He could bring me here. This is the transforming of my mind that I was praying for. We are fallen creatures who have things in us that keep us from turning to God. God is constantly in pursuit of our hearts. He is always close to those who are grieving. God knows we won't always turn to Him first. God actually uses suffering to bring us closer to Him. I write that so that if my 50 year old self comes back to re-read this I will be reminded that this is the point of suffering--to know Him in a deeper and new way. I have also been HUMBLED in the last few months. Humbled because I tried to do things my way and that just about killed me. Humbled because somewhere along the way I thought I would not have to deal with depression again since being a believer. Wrong!
So as I look back I realize I have been depressed since we left for bible school. I feel like I was a bit of a ticking time bomb. I suffered from a misconception that everything would be easy once we got to bible school. Oh man I was wrong. Everything just got magnified by 100%. I see it now as a blessing because I was really able to face my flesh and start to learn about who I was as a follower of Jesus. It was the most painful thing I had ever done. I can remember the depression starting then because I didn't want to do anything social. Neighbors there would invite us to do stuff and I would say "Oh, no, Jesse won't be into that kind of thing." That's a wife's privilege to throw her husband under the bus. I was really held back by anxiety. Worry over if we were pleasing God, worry about Jesse quitting and running back to TX, worry about the other people at bible school and worry about what was going on back at home without us. I distinctly remember the first time I was dealing with obsession. It presented itself at lunch with my dean one day. I actually voiced to her, "I don't think anyone here really likes me, I'm pretty sure everyone thinks I am a joke." Her response was so good but fell on deaf ears (until now, because I get it now). She said, "Well if that were true, which it's not, it doesn't matter because God loves you and knows you are not a joke."
I won't bore you with all the details of the 2 years in between then and now because I don't want to find out if Word Press has a word limit. Just picture someone limping along who is having to talk really nasty to herself all day to get stuff done, who is worried about everything (most of all if her husband is doing the things he should do), and is concluding from almost every conversation that she has that people think she is a joke. I think the best picture rendering would be as follows:
So where was the Lord during all this? Right by my side. Walking me through it. Teaching me how to confess and be restored. Using me to further His kingdom despite my aching insides. Protecting my husband from my incessant harassment--and not the sexual kind. Growing my husband into a leader capable of directing me back to the Lord. In the past two years I have witnessed God move in miraculous ways. I have learned about the gifts He has given me and the good deeds he has prepared for me and me alone. The breaking point came in the last few months. It is important to remind myself that by breaking point I mean that my pride was finally broken and I was desperate to be closer to the Lord.
I like to call last summer (2017) the summer of heartburn. This was my first inclination that I might be off the rails. Remember I told you that in college my heartburn started because of my anxiety attacks? Well that triggered a thought in me. I thought, "I physically cannot control this worry and it is getting to the point where it is causing a physiological response--that's probably not going to end well." My friend Laura always says this awesome phrase. She says, "Well, hang 10 years on that and it won't be pretty." That saying kept going through my head, and I thought, this really won't be pretty in 10 years time. Heading into August I got really angry. I mean like:
Yes, Dr. Banner I was always angry. Mad at everything and everyone. I also couldn't seem to stop hurting the people I loved most. I started feeling like Dr. Banner--one minute ok, next minute green and smashing things. I had become so self focused and obsessed about being a good follower of Jesus I had totally forgotten my first love--just loving Jesus. I was desperate to show everyone around me that I was sold out for serving Jesus. I don't know why I got that in my head. I hit bottom when I realized I couldn't hear criticism from anyone about anything. However when you are turning green and smashing things, someone is going to say something to you, ya know? I was so busy condemning myself I didn't want anyone to agree with me. The pain and the hurt did what it was meant to do, it forced me to my knees and made me call out to my heavenly Father for help. And that's when the restoration began.
The first step on the path to restoration was counseling. I have this amazing counselor named Dana, that I started seeing in college when I realized I was having anxiety attacks. I did not know it at the time but she is a believer in Jesus. She would always encourage me to pray and to recognize that I was not alone--I was like, "Whatever lady, how do I get these things to stop." Anyway, years later after I became a believer I called her and asked her if she believed in Jesus. She said yes. I told her I was a believer too. She told me she had been praying for me for years and knew I would find Him eventually. Since then she has been so instrumental in helping me heal from the damage I do to myself. When I talked to her in August 2017 she said something I will never forget. She said, "Sarah, there is nothing wrong with you, these are habits you have learned that have allowed you to cope and now God wants you to learn new, healthy, godly ones." I was literally set free from shame at that point. I was set free from the pressure to get it together. I was set free from looking like a hypocrite Jesus follower who couldn't hide her crazy. Dana and I sorted through all the lies and all the hurt I had caused. Then the hard work started of capturing thoughts that were lies I was believing and confessing them to the Lord. This took most of my energy and stamina. I guess I am lucky that at the same time that ol' ovarian cyst showed up and I got my schedule cleared for 2 months. (Luck or a blessing?)
Then was the really fun part of admitting to God that I was obsessing over what I was going to do for Him and what I need to do for Him. I had to admit that He was God and I was not. I had to create space in my soul for Him to show me what He had planned for me. By create space in my soul I mean that I had to stop telling God, (and everyone else) what I should be doing and let God tell me what I should be doing. In this space also I had some relationship restoration to do. I had really hurt some people who I really love and I had to humble myself and ask for forgiveness. It is truly my favorite pass time to admit I was wrong, said me never, ever, ever. The other part of this is starting to talk to myself the way God talks to me instead of the way Satan talks to me. In the bible satan is called the "accuser." He points out all the things that we do wrong, or against God. In the bible God calls believers His "beloved" and His "children." As I come out of the fog I am able to really take stock of what my internal dialog sounds like. It's not good. There has to be a lane in between self verbal abuse and self hype man. I am trying to find that lane. A godly self talk that leads me to repentance when I am convicted of sin, and leads me to live in the freedom God intended for me.
And to wrap this all up, because the National Championship game is on, Go! Bulldogs! Once I submitted to God and stopped fighting Him in all of this I was able to start to see what he has for me. This blog is one of them. I have things I want to write down, I don't know why. I can only assume its so my kids will have something to show their therapist when they have to go one day. I can say that I get through the day so much more joyfully now. This joyful contentment leaves space in my brain to seek the Lord and allow Him to lead me. I fully believe, as I am transformed by the Lord, He puts new desires in my heart. I'm interested in finding out how to honor those desires. As I process the possibility of everyone thinking I am a joke, I think this blog goes a long way to tell you where I am with those thoughts--trying not to care, because I started a blog for goodness sake! Trying not to second guess every word I write because I think someone somewhere might think I'm dumb. I am ok with people thinking I am a joke, I am not ok being disobedient to the Lord. Pastor Doug reminded us this weekend that the bible says "You cannot serve two masters. You will end up loving one and hating the other." I can't worry about what people think AND follow Jesus, there is not enough bandwidth in my brain. This is hard to reconcile in my mind because my flesh really wants to be liked and respected, but my flesh can't win this one. If my flesh wins I am left in bondage. Because of my faith in Jesus I have the power to say no to my flesh and say yes to Jesus. He is waiting to lead me deeper into freedom, always pursuing my heart. He never leaves me, but will not hesitate to lead me into suffer if it will draw me into a greater dependence. So, don't think for one second I would not go through all of this again. I would do it again because of the freedom I am experiencing now. And because this post has been long(2712 words--in your face Instagram) and emotional, please enjoy the following corgi in the dishwasher (the dishes are dirty so calm down).