In a recent Guideposts article, I compared the year of 2018 to the worst English paper I ever turned in, on the life of Mary Todd Lincoln. Totally uninspired, I began each sentence with “Mary Todd Lincoln” and earned a D. The great thing about a new year, though, is that you begin fresh with a blank page. None of your ugly prose follows you to your next assignment.
The last year was a painful process of “falling upward” as explained by Franciscan priest Richard Rohr in his book Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. The containers that I had built to define and protect myself during the first half of my life no longer fit or were torn apart. A series of humiliations and losses brought me face to face with my demons. In the last 12 months, I wrote two letters of resignation, grieved the ending of two significant relationships, experienced the most difficult season of my marriage, and spent several weeks on a hospital waiting list for severe depression and weight loss.
Someone once said, “Sometimes you have to get knocked down lower than you have ever been, to stand up taller than you ever were.”
The result of my hellish year is that I know myself better now than I ever have. Although I haven’t yet reached a place of peace, I have identified the path there and am making strides every day. I have more hope than ever before – the most important thing you need in life. The despair of 2018 was what was needed for me to uncover the significant hole in my soul and to begin to investigate with loving kindness the tapes of self-hatred that have driven so much of my insecurity, depression, and anxiety. With curiosity, I began to identify their source and to gently replace their message with one of self-compassion.
As I mentioned in another post, self-compassion isn’t a lofty ideal for me. It is a matter of life or death. My self-criticism and self-bashing, my perfectionism and overachieving, my insatiable need for approval and acceptance, drove my behavior and decisions this year in a way that generated a kind of suffocating suffering. It resulted in addiction, heartbreak, and paralyzing fear.
At times through the year, I was more frightened than I have ever been. My sense of self was shattered and I didn’t know if I could go on. In the quiet space of my bedroom closet and the woods, I began to hear, ever so faintly, the message of love and acceptance that I would need to heal the fractured parts of my life and begin to move with confidence toward the woman I wanted to become. The seeds of self-compassion and unconditional love from God began to transform me, nurturing my relationships and producing surprising gifts. My pain was the refiner’s fire, creating something beautiful from the mess.
I go into 2019 as a mental health writer and advocate, returning to my life’s calling and higher mission. My husband and I now enjoy a more honest, intimate relationship. I have reconciled with an estranged sister, and have become much closer to my twin sister. I have also formed some new meaningful friendships.
I know that 2019 will not be without struggle. However, I begin this year stronger than I have been, thanks to the lessons I learned in 2018. I start with a blank page of paper – a completely new self. And I’m excited for what the year will bring.
So many wise choices to push past comforting but limiting behavior. Soldier on dear friend, finding comfort in the struggles you once avoided, as they surely will lead you out of “that place”! <3
Thanks for sharing Therese! 2018 has been a nightmare, especially the last 2 months. I made yet another abrupt change. I believe it’s the right one…. but, it’s has nearly pushed me over the edge. Never been this anxious. It ventures over into paranoia. I can barely drive…. and it’s so, so scary! My son and sister are fed up with me. And, this makes me so sad. They want me to just be well again. And, I wish they knew….. I’d literally give my left arm for that. Oh God, how I would.I’m bargaining with God now, “ please just take this anxiety and I promise I’ll deal with the depression”. See how desperate I am. Trying to hold on to a shred of hope Therese! God Bless you, Debbie
Bless you for your sharing. Means so much.
This quote today jumped out at me …
“As I mentioned in another post, self-compassion isn’t a lofty ideal for me. It is a matter of life or death.”
… Sometimes in my days/weeks/months of struggle I pray … for myself. I’ll have moments of feeling guilty for not sacrificing more prayer time for my family. Usually, however, God intervenes and reminds me that if I don’t spend this time in prayer/mediation for my own fracturing needs, then all is lost anyways. When I come out of “it,” it always strikes me at how well the heavens took care of my loved ones while I was “out.”
I wish you well Therese. Such courage and honesty. My love to you and I hope 2019 is a year of healing and gathering strength.
You are a true blessing from God to all of us suffering from the darkness and fighting for the light. Please never, ever give up.
I am so happy for you Therese. You have been through so much. God bless you and your family.
Love your posts. Thank you!
Thank for sharing Therese. I wish you well and hope 2019 is a brighter year for you. Pain does teach us so much, but it is pain just the same, destroying quality of life and affecting every aspect of your life. Please keep writing and sharing.
Your honesty about your struggles have helped me in so many ways. I too wrestle daily with depression, anxiety and insomnia. I have to face each day knowing it is going to be hard. I trust in God to keep me safe and help me find my way.
I’m so glad to hear that even after a terribly hard year you have found hope. And that will give you what you need to keep moving forward. My depression really took a toll on my marriage too, but we plowed through and it got so much better. I’m very grateful for my kind husband. I also found an app that really helps me sleep called “Abide”. It’s a Christian meditation app that reads you bedtime stories from Scripture. And the reader prayers for you too which I have found tremendously soothing and helpful at night. There are meditations on every emotion you can think of. I love it and it’s a reassuring friend throughout the anxiety of the day. God bless you Therese. Keep giving the world the gift of yourself. You are priceless. Thank you.
Thank you so much for this suggestion, Kate. I will check it out. My sleep is still interrupted. Thanks for you encouragement.
Thank you for sharing your day to day experiences with us. It is so important to hear truth, and walk alongside you as you- and we- struggle. We do this together. inch by inch. I applaud your sincerity.
Oh man I’ve just read this. REALLY read this. No wonder you have been so low and here I am giving you bullshit cricket scores trying to cheer you up. What a fool I am. Please forgive me. I know you will because you’re a mate, but I really do apologise. I worried for you when I saw the cracked bell. You look very thin. I told myself, ‘it’s none of your business to comment about T being so thin’. What a life!
No need to apologize, Sam. I appreciate your support.
I am going to write this comment here as it sort of fits. I need a new year and to let this past one go.
I have just started a fitness routine and hope by next year I will be running as enjoy it.
But my body says no.
I have got shingles on my face. It’s like every time I start something new my body’s says don’t do this.
I joined a gym but I can’t go until this heals.
Swimming is definitely out.
I have found that when I am poorly for any reason rest is what needed. When I try to fight it my body lets me down. WhenI want to be out there doing. My sone has come down for Christmas. A rare treat him being here alone for a week and then I am poorly.
Have I tried too hard ? Have a been such a bad person? That when It comes to pleasure
I am always ill?
A New Year, A new start. Somehow I must find peace between my physical body and my mind. I pray for healing for you me and anyone else who suffers in this way.
That should have read son.
Long time follower of your writings who battles severe GAD and recurrent MDD presently in deep despair having not envisioning myself seeing 2019. Yet here I am. I must persevere.
You write about the importance of self compassion yet it’s such an amazingly difficult concept for me to embrace and apply to my life up to now. I understand it’s a meaningful tools for recovery and it frustrates me beyond description on top of the regular feelings of inadequacy in my failures to overcome my battle with these dreadful disorders.
Is it possible to engage you in email to solicit your input, I fully realize you are not a therapist but as a sister is Christ, I seek your fellowship to help me gain greater perspective on recovery options I may have not attempted up to now. I ask the Lord to help me find a renewed life, tired of exiting in despair. I must do and stop wishing for change.
I’m so sorry for your despair. I encourage you to check out the Facebook depression group Group Beyond Blue. It has been a great comfort to me. A great book is self compassion by Kristin Neff. Please keep trying. Keep on going. You are enough!
Hi T.I accidently stumbled on your book.beyond blue.I was smitten with the page description and felt like you were my story.I work with others like us and all have.or are getting this book.I have never read a more compelling read and I too suffer from your maladies.AA saved my life,hence my daughters as she never saw me with a drink.But I believe addiction just changes gears.exercise.starving.ciggs or what ever is up next.I have to choose the least harmful and that changes too!
Please keep writing.You are gifted and I am not religious but have higher power.You just joined the list…Be well.Thank you so deeply. Lynne
I recently discovered your blog and I’m SO thankful. I feel “no truer words ever spoken” so many times and it is so good to know that there are those that understand and struggle. I mean, I’m sorry ppl struggle, but we are not ALONE and your words truly help. Please, please keep writing this blog. Happy New Year! Allison
Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. The last 5 months have been a
journey of just barely holding on one step at a time. Never have felt such depression
and anxiety. I am sorry that others go through such things, but it helps me to know that
I can still be a loving human being and yet fight the angst and anxiousness of depression.
It is a fight that requires all my energy. Thank you for standing in the light to offer
hope and the truth of your personal story…it helps me so much.
Thank you for your honesty and insight, Therese. We need to know we aren’t alone in our struggle and each of us can support each other.
Blessings to each of you in 2019.