I’ve arrived at a season in life that has spurred a bit of an identity crisis in me! I’ve felt ‘off’, in a funk, so lonely & confused. One thing I've learned, and the thing I hold onto on the tough days, is that a breakdown is just the other side of a breakthrough.
I’ve been allowing myself grace & respect to sit in and feel my feelings. After I understand what is going on, the logistics, without emotion, I get in touch with my soul to redirect my thoughts & feelings—boy can my heads get carried away sometimes! Most importantly I found the lifeline is having a strong conviction that God has a plan, then (and only then) I was able to trudge forward in FAITH- no matter what thought or feeling rushed over me.
The trenches are dark, deep, lonely & oftentimes frightening.
This is where I get to be very vulnerable and that's scary for me! But what is more scary is feeling ashamed for getting to this place... because there isn't anything shameful about being depressed, it's a human reaction that has the potential to pivot life in the right direction! That's if you can recognize what is happening and let yourself FEEL. No-one needs to be perfect, in fact I would encourage everyone to be a little more vulnerable and get comfortable being imperfect. We could influence each other in the most profound way. One reason why depression plagues so many is we feel alone in all of the thoughts.
So many months of silence… Here goes nothing!
I've been in a season of feeling lost. Specifically, in who I am as an individual. I've questioned my faith. I've had the question lingering in my mind... Does God even care about me? This really was my tipping point. I have never questioned the fact that I am a Daughter of a loving Heavenly Father. This is where I broke down. A flood of feelings engulfed my very being, right to my inner core. I felt like my soul had been ripped out from inside of me. Everything I have always relied on seemed to be gone. I pleaded in prayer to FEEL him, but I couldn't. All the while marriage & motherhood were pretty great, I mean I had the typical frustrations from time to time, but all in all I remained to feel very blessed to have an amazing husband and three great kids. Which seemed to add to the intense shame that I was feeling this way.
One thing I noticed is life was so full of joy and happiness on Saturday's and Sundays, basically whenever I was busy doing life with my family around me. But come Sunday night right as I was trying to go to bed, the dark clouds rolled in. There was a familiarity I felt from when I worked a full-time job at a bank when my oldest was a baby until he was 9 months old. The same feeling... the Monday dread. I ached. I mourned. I suffered. I smiled on the outside but felt like I wanted to disappear on the inside. I wished I could pin point it to missing my kids & husband, but knew it wasn't even that. I actually enjoy 'me' time - having time to read, write, clean, bake - I should exercise... but haven't quite learned to enjoy that yet, haha.
The point is, the worst realization emerged... I couldn't stand to be with MYSELF. The real me. Alone with my emotions, my thoughts- a never ending battle with comparison and fear that I was just waisting aways all these hours when I should be doing something good- something that mattered.
I realized the root of this was planted a couple of years ago. I slowly started sloughing off the parts of me that lit me up. I was longing to be ME. It was within me that I felt lost and empty.
Who am I? What is my purpose? Why do I not see potential in me? And why, for the first time, do I not have any hobbies I am currently working on that give me joy? I've never lacked motivation and creativity.
I sat longer and contemplated life...
For the last 10 years I have been a wife, homemaker & mom to 3 young children and a successful photographer & business owner. The combination of these gave me a sense of fulfillment & joy. On top of that I started up an online clothing company & loved working in the fashion & style industry from marketing to inventory to photographing products to shipping out orders, I loved it all! Our business was housed in my home studio and was doing well... until... we sold our home. The decision to sell the business was made and just like that the business was gone, photography was put on the back burner, we moved into a rental home & anticipated building our forever home on some property we owned. It was an exciting time but one that brought many changes.
It all happened so fast. The thought of moving wasn't in 'our' plans in that season. But when you get an offer on your home out of the blue you kinda take that as a sign. At least we did.
I firmly believe it was Heavenly Fathers way of giving us a gentle shove to move on in life so that we can get to where we needed to be, physically, emotionally & spiritually. Stace and I both love our comfort zones and take few chances for big change!
That was in November of 2014. All winter we worked on budgeting & designing plans to build our home. During this time I didn't shoot much photography but replaced my work hours working part time at home developing websites, doing graphic design work, planning events, etc... and other personal assistant type work for successful female entrepreneurs. It helped pay the bills and feed my creativity and I found so much fulfillment in it.
When the snow melted in spring of 2015 we broke ground and the building process began. Work and the everyday life & demands of building combined with carpooling kids across town to school, summer vacation, moving in with in-laws for a couple months, kids going back to school & to a new school... all seemed to fill my days.
Many say if your marriage can survive building a home then it can survive anything. I didn't find that to be the hardest, I guess you could say we are good at give and take. Building just takes a lot of give and take. Things he really wanted to do I respected and he respected what I really wanted. Of course the most heated emotions we had were stress over budget- but really to no fault of each other and we knew that we were on the same side- we really didn't argue, just unleashed stress from time to time! It's just the way building goes! I think we both went into building knowing times like that would surely happen- we are human after all- and to not take it personally. That's the best advice I could give to spouses building a home. DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY! Emotions run HIGH when you build. It's a lot of stress when you are working on a budget.
The hardest part was what developed within me. I became very insecure of who I am. While I can't explain why because there was never one thing specifically that happened, I slowly built walls up around me. I felt like everyone was judging me and no-one really cared. I took opinions as insults to my very being and little by little I chiseled away at my self esteem with my emotions. I just stuffed the feelings away, chalked it up as the emotional rollercoaster of building a house and knew it would all be over soon.
Then the time came, October 2015, we moved in and enjoyed settling into our new home & in a loving & welcoming neighborhood. The holidays came and went, winter passed and spring of 2016 arrived. We busted into landscaping mode and hustled and worked the spring & summer away. A new school year began just as we planted our grass and life was suddenly still... and that's when it hit me...
I'M ALL ALONE WITH NOTHING but time to fill and I have nothing i'm EXCITED OR PASSIONATE ABOUT DOING! ... isn't it ironic!
My sweet baby boy started kindergarten- which left me to a couple of hours alone every day. I had just imagined this time to look so different. I thought I'd be advancing in my job or pursuing my big business dream that has been heavy on my heart for years now. It IS the perfect timing! But I sat paralyzed. Doubtful, fearful, comparing myself to others on social media and full of fear about living, about being the person God created me to be.
The feelings of sadness and loneliness blindsided me like nothing ever has. I have always looked forward to this season of life! But now that it was here I realize in all my foreseeing and predicting the future I have neglected to think about one important question... Where will I be emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically?
Looking back on the past couple of years there has been a pattern to my days. I didn't want to go anywhere, see anyone... do anything. I made up excuses for why I couldn't do things with friends. All I wanted to do with my days was either be sad or dream- dream of the companies I wanted to create, projects I wanted to do & the person I wanted to be. I would created workout plans, meal plans, business plans. But the minute the kids would get home I would leave it at the desk just to pick it back up the next day and plan it all out again... I was STUCK! Just treading water for months... actually a couple of years.
Its aways been easy for me to think with my head. What I mean by that is I see things in black and white, yes or no, right or wrong. I'm also a very emotional person- I wear my feeling on my sleeve. But I couldn't make sense of my feelings. What I realized for the first time is that I literally couldn't predict myself because I had emotions playing agains my every thought. When life happens, it's not our head that controls things- it's our emotions! It's our soul- physical, mental, emotional, spiritual.
I had been ignorant to this tiny yet very impacting detail!
Furthermore, what I realized is that while someone can relate (and my hope in writing this that there are other women who CAN relate) not one persons experience is identical to another. Oftentimes not even a spouse can really understand. I placed so much fear and guilt around this part. I felt like if I voiced what was going on inside of me then Stace would fear I was unhappy in our marriage. When in fact life as a wife & mother was the only thing I was holding onto.
I've never once not been building a business or doing something creative in the past 10 years. I've always looked forward to this day when I had a little guilt-free "me time". But I've always looked forward to it when I've been in the height of creativity, work & hobbies. When it all had to fit in the cracks of life as a mom & wife - maybe in a way it was exciting because it felt like I was stealing me time. It's amazing how much more we enjoy things when we are limited to how much time we have to do them. I never once contemplated what it would be like to enter into this season of life at the idlest time in my personal passions & wellbeing. Over the last year and a half I had really started to embraced this season to be still and simplify life... and now, all I wanted to do was embrace motherhood yet my babies were gone and I was left to feel this huge gaping hole in my soul.
I imagine this is what men go through when they retire. So many years go by where Monday thru Friday they just go through the every day grind. There seems to be a bit more balance when kids are young but as they grow up nights and weekends are filled with dance practice, ball practice, church activities, games and more ball games and squeezing in family time. Seems like Saturdays are full of kids & family activities which means personal hobbies get put away for a while. When men can retire is when the kids are grown and as soon as the newness wears off I suspect time starts to get lonely. They go through a season of depression until they reconnect with themselves again.
I was coming off of an emotional year. I 'lost' all of my accolades, or so I was telling myself. I was no longer a mom of 3 little children running around at home, my youngest was 5 years old and in Kindergarten & my oldest 11 and in middle school! I no longer had a thriving photography business rather just taking session here and there- shooting nights and weekends just didn't fit into life as a mom with older kids anymore.. And, my love for creativity was jaded by this new-found insecurity in myself! For the first time in my life I had no real direction, no real hobbies, no real goals I was excited to pursue...
When I hit rock bottom, when I doubted my very being, is when I started comparing trials for trials. It made me feel awful. So selfish and so worthless. I don't think that all of a sudden Heaven needed more young children, husbands & dads, wives & moms, but I believe I was more sensitive to the "harder" trials that seemed to be happening in other peoples lives. I start comparing my trials to theirs. I was awakened to see the many beautiful gifts that I have and how greatly blessed life is... But that didn't seem to take away the pain of my own emotional trial, and for me it made me feel so sick inside. I felt if I dwelt on my own trials, that seem minimal in comparison, I was being selfish, greedy & ungrateful. It was the ultimate low. I couldn't even stand myself.
My breakdown wasn't because my baby was now in Kindergarten! The fact that my baby is now in kindergarten has triggered an avalanche of emotions to surface. FEAR that without my kids at home I was a nobody and then guilt that I was feeling these feelings when so many people are going through much harder things in life. Feelings I have felt guilty to feel, emotions left unattended to. Feeling insecure and now even bullied by my own thoughts. Aching to find myself but hating myself for feeling this grief - like it made me an awful person.
I felt myself pleading with God to give me direction, asking, what do I do with all of this? What is the reason, what do I need to learn and how can I turn it around? I literally felt alone and I couldn't feel Heavenly Father in my life. It was scary & dark. I kept feeling like I needed to read the scriptures, specifically the Book of Mormon... and not just read but study them like my life depended on it! Cuz it really kinda was. Like I was seeking to know the truth and reclaim a relationship with God. I felt an overwhelming curiosity to know about how the atonement related to me, personally. It might seem so silly to some, but the burden was real. I didn't know if I even had a testimony anymore. When you began to be annoyed by your very being- you know you need to get to work repairing your testimony STAT. I had a 90 day plan to read the Book of Mormon. That would have me starting off this new year at least with that under my belt. There were days that all I did was read. I would listed to the audio through the app on my phone while I cleaned house, folded laundry, got ready etc. A few days I literally did nothing but lay on the couch and read or listen. Every moment I was alone and studying the scriptures, I didn't feel alone! One thing that is interesting about me is that I can't watch scary or suspenseful movies... or else I imagine them for months afterwards. They get engraved in my head. Stace doesn't understand it but they totally effect me! So as I read the scriptures this time I literally put myself in the stories. I traveled in to the wilderness with Lehi & his family... I watched as a spectator through all the contention & wars and joyfully celebrated and found relief in the peaceful years. What happened was I unintentionally took my 90-day plan to read the Book of Mormon and accomplished it in 40 days!
I was determined to reconnect with Heavenly Father, AND I DID! Line upon line, precept upon precept.
Days went by, some where good and of course some were still hard. (There will always be hard days, it's how I deal with them that I want to perfect!) One day I was driving home after taking my daughter to dance and my mind was contemplating life as I most often do. Out of nowhere these words kept coming to me over and over and over again...
"STAY IN YOUR OWN LANE!"
I believe in the Holy Ghost. I believe I was being sent a message from my loving Heavenly Father. It stopped me in my tracks and I pondered on what it meant to me. In coming days I wrote out my feelings of what this means to me. It may sound confusing to other people but to me it made all sorts of sense! There was so many areas that I needed to heed this council. It means loving people unconditionally and without judgement. It means getting out of my head and having more faith that I am exactly where I should be right now. It means to stop worrying what other people think of me. It means thinking less and acting more on instincts to serve. It means to see myself the way my Heavenly Father sees me, not the way that I see me in comparison to others. It gives me the courage to go after what is laden on my heart to do without fear of failure. It reminds me that trials will not be the same for everyone because he doesn't want or need us all to be doing the same things in life! That regardless of trials, we will all go through hard times. Each one of us is unique, each one of us has a different purpose and we all WILL think, act and behave differently.
We all have our own lane to drive down. A lane specifically built for us so that we can get back to our Father in Heaven.
I've learned that part of moving forward is taking a big dose of courage and truth to be real with myself. Give the uncomfortableness a place to just be, let it sit with me for a while. Trials are meant to strengthen us, not break us. Guide us, not blind us. Teach us, not distract us.
I decided I will not go through trials big or small in vain. I will recognize them, learn from them & share them to help others going through similar feelings.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
Each day I feel a little more courage to be unapologetically me. Emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally... creatively... ME. As long as it would please my Father in Heaven that's all that really matters.
My hope is that we can give ourselves grace to sit with our feelings. To understand where they are coming from. To be mindful of longterm decisions being made during short term seasons. I'll admit, through all of this, I did get so low that I could feel both sides- I had feelings like I'd be doing the world a favor if I wasn't around anymore, yet I strongly knew these thoughts were from Satan, for which I was so grateful for - which is the biggest reason I knew I needed to seek God in a big way. I know now that depression CAN be scary and frightening BUT it doesn't have to be! It can be very humbling and empowering.
I'll end by saying this... Doubt your doubt before you doubt your faith! And if you find you are doubting your faith... dive deep into it!! There is always a lesson to be learned, and a gift to be given when we endure and make our way out of the darkness from time to time. And most of all, may we have the courage to be vulnerable.