I am absolutely cracking up right now as I revise this again for the 3rd time. I wrote this last week, re-read it and decided it would offend too many people. I revised it, neutered it and was left with a partial story that only reflected half of what God has taught me about this subject. I didn't have time to send it to my editor (Jesse) so I just saved it and was going to send it today. Then we went to church on Sunday. Now, I'm mature enough to know that the whole church service was not just for me, but let me just tell you that the whole church service was just for me! We went over Ephesians 2:19-22. Pastor Doug made the point that our foundation is built on the truth of God, not on our feelings. Can I just say how much I love that Pastor Doug is bold enough to always tell us the truth? No matter how uncomfortable it makes him, he knows the truth is what will really change us. Now what does that all that have to do with me? Well, writing down that feelings are not what I base my life on is what I took out of the original post. And I, in that church service on Sunday gulped, because I always do that when God shows me that HE IS REALLY WATCHING ME AND GUIDING ME, and then I remembered that I am not writing these things down to make friends with anyone, I am writing them down to keep track of what God is doing in my life. So here is the real story.
Yes, I have a gaping hole in my chest. I don’t like to talk about it, in fact I like to just keep it covered up, and I try to ignore it. It is there though, and I have tried to manage it for years as it just kept getting deeper and deeper. As with anything I write about you know there will be a back story!
As a kid my anxiety lead me to try to control as much of my life as I could. What I could plan, I would, and where I couldn’t plan, I would fight for power or control of the situation. This mainly fell to my little brother. I’m so sorry bro, I know I was awful to you. Please accept my spoiling of your kids as payment for my transgressions. Also I took you to the arcade for your birthday, what else do you want from me? Plus I toughened you up so you could serve in the military and I never got a thank you note from you. It also fell on my mom. Listen, there have been conversations with her where I just say, “mom, I’m so sorry for the years I was 16-21.” I was a psycho to her. She truly is a saint for not murdering me. I don’t think the authorities would have prosecuted her, especially after they talked to my brother. I would imagine she has had some satisfaction as she watches me try to navigate the teen years with Sydney. My parents did something amazing though when I was 13. They got me into horses. I was able to really focus my energy on horses and it was a really great outlet for me. But the anxiety had to go somewhere. It could not be ignored, it could only be stuffed down the gaping hole in my chest.
In High School I turned to drinking and partying and chasing boys. I took on the, “Well, at least the drinking and partying numbs the anxiousness, and the boys make me feel good about myself” mentality. Thank the Lord in heaven that High School is only 4 years long because no one would survive that place if it was any longer. My high school years were the first time I felt and understood what I call my “gaping hole in my chest.” No, I do not have an actual gaping hole in my chest. I mean that I started to feel this emptiness, a sort of missing part of who I was. This gaping hole was the unrest or lack of peace that kept me searching for something to fill it with, to give me peace. It was the place I stuffed all the anxiety, disappointment and pain that one gather’s during that awful time called high school.
Then college. Oh, Texas Tech how I love you to my core. You were freedom and my stomping ground. You, beloved Tech, where I learned about roommates who drive you nuts, financial aid lines, admission lines, food lines, and meat judging. My time at Tech I think has been slightly romanticized in my mind, but none the less it was an amazing time for me. And the exams, God help us all, the exams. My kryptonite. Give me a project to do, a paper I can buy off the internet, but not 4 exams for a final grade. The anxiety that this caused me lead to some of the most horrific panic attacks. I would stuff all this down that gaping hole and then eventually there was a kind of volcanic explosion. It’s like my stomach said, “Oh no, you are not stuffing all that down here!” And it rejected it with some force. There are only so many volcanic reactions to stress your body can handle. My roommates knew something was wrong, or that I was crazy and told me to go to the med center at Tech. Up to that point I had always suffered with panic attacks, albeit not volcanic ones, but never knew what they were. The medical center at Tech helped me understand and treat them. They said, “plenty of sleep,” (right, the bars don’t open until 10), "eat right and drink lots of water," (sure thing, Zima is 90% water), and “make sure you set aside plenty of time to study so you won’t have to cram,” (right, let’s not get crazy now). This is when I learned how to “manage” my anxiety.
Managing anxiety came in the form of lovely new pill called Zoloft. It was a blessing, I think, because it allowed me to finish school and get my degree in Agricultural Economics. Now, I only graduated with a 2.4 gpa, but I did graduate. That is what matters. Remember that gaping hole in my chest? Well the Zoloft made me feel that hole less and less. It also allowed me to think, “You know what self, I bet when you get this degree, that hole will close up finally.” Guess what, it didn’t. The hole just became bigger when graduation did not satisfy that hole. However, the good news was this cowboy had caught my eye, we were getting married and just knew that marriage is what that hole needed.
Oh sweet Jesse. Do you think he knew at that point that he was marrying someone who had Olympic level anxiety and a gaping hole in her chest? Do you think he knew that she expected him to solve the anxiety problem and fill that hole? No, he did not. Because in that moment he was thinking, “You complete me” and I was thinking, “You complete me” (damn you Jerry McGuire, for putting that thought in our heads), and in the end neither of us completed anything and we wound up with two broken halves. I can remember when I woke up from that “honeymoon” stage and realized that the hole was still there. The disappointment I felt when I realized marriage had not filled the hole, but made the hole even bigger and deeper. So I looked for something else to ease, cover up and deal with that hole.
This is where we take a big left turn. I jumped fully-clothed into the deep end of the homeopathic, chakra-aligning, aura-sensing, crystal-carrying, herb, guided-meditation, Reiki-practicing, house-smudging pool. Remember I am someone who, when I do something, I jump in feet first, full-tilt, 100 mph. I studied, I researched, I went to classes and I practiced everything I learned that might help fill this hole. I decided I was out of alignment with the universe and I had to get myself cleansed of all the bad energy that got me off-balance in the first place. Poor Jesse, pray for him. I drug him into it too. I would mix up tinctures for him, encourage him to realign his chakras and made him carry different crystals in his pockets. I also feng shui-ed our house and barn. Then I smudged them with a special sage I bought in New Mexico. I would have loved to know what the horses thought about all that. I imagine it was something like, “Look at the crazy broad lighting that hay on fire. Does she think that will make us do what she says? Has she been smoking that hay?” I got more and more involved in these practices and just thought the better I got at them the more relief I would feel. I spent several years studying these practices. I was getting in tune with my feelings. If it didn't feel good, I didn't do it. If it felt good, I would do it. I started to let my feelings and my heart guide me. The problem is that the deeper I got into this way of living, the worse I felt. After a few very scary experiences trying to “connect” with the universe, and a few shyster's that took a lot of money from me, I was left disappointed. Guess what, that hole just got bigger and bigger.
After that disappointment, I just threw myself head-long into my horse career. I felt like this was my purpose and I needed to get this done and be the best. I went to California, bought an imported horse from Germany, and I started to go to shows all the time to build a name for myself. Libero is a dream horse. I literally won all the awards you can win in Texas on him except for one. He is a great horse, and I’m happy to say living a very nice retired life with his girlfriend at my friend's house here in Rockwall. When it was all said and done, I still had that hole. So my heart said, "buy another horse, even better than Libero!" So I did, and soon after had to put him down because of a birth defect. In the end, I was left disappointed again, and very sad. That hole was even bigger.
In the midst of the horse situation I decided I needed to have kids. Nothing fixes a situation like having kids. I mean, they make a family a family right? WRONG! But my heart said. "go for it!" I found out that kids are terrorists who work for some sort of underground group until they are a least 4 years old. It’s not until then that you can get a rational thought to come out of them. God makes them cute so you don’t realize you are actually a hostage in a hostile situation with no one to come rescue you. All of you who say, “Oh, you will miss it, it goes by so fast,” let me respond by saying it doesn’t go fast enough! And every time you said that to me I thought to myself, “I don’t know how I will miss this at all, I just want to survive it.” Of course some part of that is true, and what I miss now is the little babies who looked up at you cooed and loved you because they could do nothing for themselves. Little do you know at the time that those sweet infants drink a certain amount of milk and turn into toddlers who work for terrorists. It’s like gremlins, but way worse. They don’t just come out and kill you, they kill you slowly over time—4 years to be exact. When you finally think that you are literally going to die, they look up at you and say something rational for the first time and your hope in life is restored. But then they do the most heinous thing possible, they start to grow up. They start to have their own thoughts and things they want to do. They don’t need you anymore like they once did. And you feel your heart start to break into pieces because you realized there is nothing for it, they will leave you some day. Or worse, they might never leave because you did not do your job of raising them. After Jesse's edit of this post he feels that I come off a little "anti-kid" in this paragraph. Please know that I am not anti-kid, but I am anti-kid if you are having a kid to fix the gaping hole in your chest. Now that I know the Lord I wish I could have a million kids because I would find so much joy in parenting a toddler now as a believer. Trying to raise kids with that gaping hole was really hard, and I do miss it, and I do wish I could do it again. All I am trying to communicate here is that kids did not fix the hole.
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Somewhere in the middle of all this, I went into survival mode because there was no other ideas to fill the hole. In the midst of pre-school, PTA, Region 9 Dressage championships, counseling, money problems and marriage problems I just shut it all down. I sought anything that would numb that gaping hole. I turned to legal drugs and smoking. I say legal drugs only because my Doctor prescribed them, in the end I was doing the same thing anyone who is seeking recreational drugs is doing—numbing out. I smoked like they were going to stop making cigarettes. It didn’t help that most horse people smoked too. The anxiety was still there but I just stopped myself from feeling anything. I stopped myself from feeling good, bad or other. I was just there, going thought the motions of the American dream.
Here is the hard truth that I learned. No matter what I thought would fill it, no matter what I did would fix it, no matter what new things I tied, no matter what “next goal” I achieved, no matter what my feelings told me, that gaping hole just got bigger and bigger. The size of it alone was so scary I didn’t even want to look down into it because I was afraid of what was there. Every time I put my trust in someone or something and was disappointed, that disappointment led to the bottom of that hole getting deeper and deeper. The good news is that the hole served a purpose. It drove me to the end of myself. It drove me to throw my hands up and say I can’t fix, fill or hide this hole anymore. I had to stop trusting my feelings and find the one thing that wouldn't disappoint me. I believe we all have this hole in us. I believe that we, as God’s creation, were given this hole for the very reason that it will eventually bring us to the end of us trying to fix it. It brings us to the end of trying to understand this life without God at the center of it. We either surrender to the truth that God is the one who can fix us or we give up entirely. You see, what God taught me is that the gaping hole I was feeling in my chest was made by me trying to build my life on my feelings.
All these feelings I have, that I follow because I believe I know what will make life better, are actually lies. I would put all my hopes in them and give it the ol’ college try and eventually I was left disappointed, again. Do you feel yourself say, “If I can just get to this point, everything will be better.” Or do you look at someone else and say, “If I could be ___________ like her, I would be happy.” Do you buy in over and over to the “next big thing?" Let me say, I have been there too. I wish I could have the money back from the times I got fully on board with something that I hoped would have filled that gaping hole. If I can put this bug in your ear and tell you, I have been to the bottom of that thought process, it will disappoint. I will admit that all this disappointment has made me a little cynical about things that make promises. The only answer is Jesus. I have tried to cover that gaping hole in my chest with everything I could think of, everything I felt was right, and every time I took that covering off, there was that gaping hole, even deeper than the last time I looked at it. The thing with Jesus is he doesn’t cover that hole, he fills it.
My feelings, husband, my kids, my money, my stuff, my horses, my friends, my social status, my home and my ability to align my chakras all left that hole a little bigger when I trusted them to make it all better. And then this savior, this Jesus came in and started to pour himself into that gaping hole. I started to feel full, whole. For the fist time ever I started feeling a stability that I had never felt before. I had somewhere to put that anxiety, someone to give it to who could actually do something with it. I had someone to talk to when I was losing it. He didn’t tell me “Here is how you fix it, try this.” He said, “You can’t fix it, believe in me.” He told me, "Just because you feel this way does not mean it is true, I am truth, trust me. Is it an easy life with Jesus? No, it is not. It takes me sitting down and studying my bible even though I don't want to. Filling that gaping hole takes me denying myself, saying no to feelings that don't line up with what Jesus says, and saying no to my desire to satisfy my own needs, and following Jesus. And of course, I can't just decide to do these things. It can only happen when I have a relationship with Jesus and He empowers me to do these things. Without that relationship I would never willingly read my bible! The reward, though, oh my gosh the reward! The stability, the fullness, the wholeness I get to walk in now makes all that pain worth it. Do you feel a gaping hole? I pray you will let Jesus fill it.