Recovery · Spiritual

Recovery – The Knot at the End of Your Rope (that Becomes a Ladder)

By: JANA GREENE

I am watching “Intervention,” which is a great series, but very heavy subject matter. I watch a lot of TV when I’m having a high-pain day. I used to feel guilty about watching TV in the middle of the day, because AYYYYYY! If I can feel guilty about something, I’m going to glom on to that shit. It’s familiar to me. But I’m learning to go easier on myself.

I watch Intervention because I admire interventionists, recovery is an incredible journey, and I’m a huge fan of observing “what makes people tick.” Psychology fascinates me.
And mostly, I love the show because some folks rise from the ashes like a phoenix, and that stuff is inspiring.

Intervention hits especially hard because I’m an alcoholic. It’s been 22 years since my last drink.

When I got sober, I didn’t think it would “stick” but I just kept NOT having a drink that day. And then the next day, always eternally promising myself I would not drink today.

I now have 8,066 days alcohol-free. That’s a miracle.

I wish everyone got their miracle. I truly believe it’s possible for everyone. Not on the other side of this life, but IN this one. And I don’t know why I made it out of active alcoholism while many do not. It’s easy to feel survivor’s guilt about it. But that’s a blog post for another day.

On January 2, 2001, I took my last drink. I was turning yellow. My body was demanding alcohol by every day’s end. But when I would drink, my body would also reject the alcohol, in a most unpleasant and projectile manner.

And nobody knew how much I was drinking. I mean, NO one. So the shame factor was tremendous.

I was trying to drown Trauma that knew how to swim like Michael Phelps, without even knowing that’s what I was doing.

When I first got sober, it was on this brand new technology – the INTERNET! The support group was “Alcoholism in Women” AOL. Yep. America Online, people.

I’d like to write about that experience (maybe later this week?) Recovery puts you in a vulnerable place. One of those ladies is still a dear friend to this day. But some of them didn’t make it out.

Some of those precious, strong, beautiful souls lost their lives to alcohol. It’s heartbreaking.

As far as I can tell, the purpose for making it through something hard is to help someone else get through something hard. That’s why I’m open about why I don’t drink.

At the end of each episode of Intervention, there is a segment that shows whether or not the addict chooses to get help, and usually includes a short follow up. Some refuse help outright. Some go but don’t take advantage fully of the help.

But some of them – many – get their new start. They grab onto it with both hands, with the same passion they had for their drug (which is what it takes,) and it’s the most beautiful thing in the world. Makes my heart soar!

That’s what I wish for every addict and alcoholic. It’s possible for all of us, but we have to be willing to do anything to keep healthy.

If you are drinking more than anyone knows,
If you feel hopeless and full of shame,
If you cannot imagine your life improving vastly,
If you think you’ve really blown it this time,
If your heart is raw from a lifetime of trauma,
If you wonder if you’re worth it…

You’re in the PERFECT place to claim a new life.

If you’re at the end of your rope, grab on to the knot – help and support – and it will become a ladder that leads you into a new life.

Recovery is so flippin’ Beautiful and REAL. And it’s perfect for YOU. It’s not for other people, it’s for you. So that you can have the life you deserve.

I think of my AOL sisters from time to time; the ones who didn’t make it out. I wonder where they would be now, if they just didn’t pick up a drink that day. I suspect at the heart of it, they didn’t believe they were worthy of a better, sober life.

So I’m just writing this today to tell you that you’re worth it.

Please out resources and help. There is no shame in asking for help. And do whatever it takes to live the recovery life. Glom onto it, obsess about recovery just as you have the drink.

We already know how to be obsessed; find out what switching obsessions can do for you (and the people who love you.)

Find out what truly makes YOU tick, because I guarantee you’re fascinating in ways you don’t even know yet. I’ll bet you’ve forgotten who you truly are, while in your addiction. Life is hard, but also so good. I promise. You can do this.

God bless us, every one.

Spiritual

I Don’t Know (and it’s okay)

Photo by Leeloo Thefirst on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

I don’t watch the news. At all.

I used to think that it made me a horribly unpatriotic American if I didn’t know EVERYTHING going on nationally and globally. I now know that it only makes me a person protecting her fragile mental health. PERIOD. If it’s earth-shattering, it will crawl across my Facebook feed, and I will deal with the anxiety as it presents.

“I don’t know” is one of my favorite phrases these days.

As a former fundamentalist, I also used to think I had all the answers…. the important ones anyway. It was my security blanket; all I’ve ever known. But having shed that blanket, I can see how threadbare it was. I took it to bed with me every night because surely to know what’s going on is certainty, right?

“Fundamentalist” means that a belief it rooted in something so obviously true, it’s fundamental.

“I don’t know” was the antithesis of faith and the admission of weakness, back in the day. Thinking you know the purpose of your life and everyone else’s makes you cocky like that – demanding that no questions are asked, and no boat is rocked.

Knowing facts about people, places, things, and the state of the world has nothing to do with our primary purpose…

Which is to love.

Knowing is collecting “facts” with which to make judgments. Making judgements is central to our survival as a species but is useless when determining whether or not to invest in other humans. Above all else, we need connection; to be understood beyond “head knowledge.”

Knowing is not loving, you see.

“But what if they are all so WRONG?” I mean LOOK AT THIS MESS!

Yup. That’s a mess right there. Everywhere. Messy, messy, messy.

These days, I have no earthly idea what the hell is happening. If I peek onto a news site, I regret it almost immediately. I can’t handle what is going on in the Ukraine, although I pray for the people regularly. I can’t handle the imagery, the crushing sadness of it. I can barely handle what’s up in my own body some days.

Here’s the truth: It’s not that I don’t care. Empaths care entirely too much about what’s happening. I’ll say it: My fragile mental health simply cannot hande a constant stream of doom and despair. I absorb like a sponge and it’s really hard to wring myself back out when I “go there.”

“I don’t know” comes in handy in a myriad of ways.

I don’t know anymore where the world is going. I used to believe in prophesies of old, but they are awfully dark, and my mind is already prone to going dark places already. I have a tendency to wallow in my dark places, so I don’t need extra help gathering fuel for the fire. I’d rather be light and salt to this crazy place, and I’ve learned that if I’m a sniveling Chicken Little screaming “the sky is falling!” whilst running in circles, it behooves no one. Sniveling Chicken Little used to be my spirit animal.

I don’t know why I’m chronically sick and in pain all the time. It certainly doesn’t seem fair. I’ve read everything about my conditions. I know ALLTHETHINGS about it. It doesn’t help me put one foot in front of the other on hard days. That’s LOVE, baby. Not knowledge. Not fear.

I’ve shaken my fist at the Almighty. I’ve had cross words with God. All because “I DON’T UNDERSTAND!” But in my unknowing, I don’t blame God, bargain with God, turn my back on God anymore. Because even though I don’t know and understand the why’s of it, I don’t believe it hinders his great love for me at all.

I’ll go so far as to say, I wasn’t ready to surrender to LOVE until I was ready to say, “I don’t know.” And it’s a learning curve every day.

It doesn’t bother me that I don’t know things. But I hope Love never stops revealing itself to me, in its purest, unknowable glory.

You shall know the truth, and it shall set you free. And the truth is Love only. Pure and simple.

And if you are an extreme feeler too, this is your sign to step away from the media madness.

Blessed be friends.

Spiritual

10 Insomnia Thoughts so Deep, You’ll Forget how to Fall Back Asleep

By: JANA GREENE

Good night / day, friends. What do you think about when you can’t sleep?

It is 4:30 in the morning, and I got up to pee about 2 long hours ago.

I am still awake because THOUGHTS. Here is a short list of things my mind decides to entertain in the stone-fold middle of the night:

1. I worry about my kids, especially in the wee hours of the morn. I worry for them individually and as a whole. I worry that I worry too much. I worry that I don’t worry enough.

2. A dear friend just lost another beloved pet yesterday, and my heart breaks for her, my own heart still grieving my special Catsby. Oh the loss, loss, loss of the past three years, across the board. The loss of people, animals, ways of life.

3. Why did I ever think God moved Heaven and Earth for me to get a good parking space, while children in the world are starving. SMH.

4. The intelligence of every living thing. This subject weaves itself in my waking and sleeping life. I dream of vast galaxies and our place in them. I ponder much on the minutiae too. Life-creating mitochondria. Every cell in every tree, leaf, and flower is bursting with evidence of divinity. Every single one of us is life made of a zillion pieces of life, the whole cosmos a part of us too.

5. We have no idea what lives in the ocean, really. And that’s part of the allure. Damn, I miss swimming in the ocean.

6. I miss my mother-in-law. Really miss her. She was really something special. I miss having a “mom.”

7. How much pain will I be able to stand before I can’t stand it any more with this stupid disease? Everyone has a limit; not knowing where mine lies can be scary.

8. Estrangement is the weirdest thing ever, but boundaries are the best thing ever. And that makes for industrial-grade emotional f*ckery.

9. Religion is the opiate of the masses, they say, and I’ve officially OD’d. Just LOVE for me going forward, thanks. I’m over labels. Check please!

10. Feeling long-expired pangs of social angst anew about that one time I was unintentionally rude to someone (but I was just socially overwhelmed.) Oh, and the approximately 7 million additional times I was socially awkward. OOF.

That’s just a sampling. I wonder what it’s like to have insomnia thoughts like: “I need to get the oil changed,” or “I think we are out of detergent.” What’s that even LIKE?

And so I’m finally tired now again, feeling the heavy cream of sleepiness pour over me. My mind eases, I feel God’s comfort. I open my palms in a physical relinquishing of worries before closing my eyes…

Great. I have to pee again. 😂

Spiritual

I’m not a Proverbs 31 Woman (and I’m okay with that)

By: JANA GREENE

I once had a friend many years ago who embodied what I thought at the time was spiritual perfection.

She was, you see, a “Proverbs 31 woman” to the bone.

In my zeal to be like her (and thus, presumably like Jesus?) I kind of lost myself. Which is what many churchy folk will tell you is the whole point of being one. You’re supposed to lose your identity, or at the very least tweak it.

If you’re not familiar with the reference, it comes from the verse by the same name in the Bible and has become the litmus test of judging a woman’s “true” worth:

“….good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds. Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it. She is never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long. She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing….”

You get the gist of it.

I tried to emulate my angelic friend, which was problematic because it kept me feeling in a state of less than.

She was soft-spoken, where my nature is boisterous.

She was serene where I am neurotic.

She never cussed and I hold fast to my peppery language.

She was crafty and talented, but super meek and humble about it. She never raised her voice. She always had devotional time with the Lord every morning before all else. It would not surprise me in the least if Jesus sent actual sunbeams to fall in the pages as she read and kept her coffee miraculously piping hot until she is done. (That’s how valuable the studies and prayers are of a Proverbs 31 woman, according to lore.)

But here’s the thing: She hasn’t had my experiences in life either. To be fair, humans are complicated and wonky (I believe that’s the scientific term.) We are all unique and as such, God doesn’t expect us to be all the same.

My friend had never battled addiction, and was certainly never a slave to the bottle.

Or been rejected by her own family.

She hadn’t experienced abuse as a child.

Her kids never got into any trouble growing up, and are pillars of the community.

She represented everything the church expected of me that I was unable to be, and everything they expected me to give that I couldn’t muster.

I’m more than the sum of what’s happened to me, and so are you. But what’s happened to us inspires our outlook on life – even our outlook on God.

You see, I am not “less than” a Proverbs 31 woman.

I am much more than more than who I used to be. And that’s the only comparing we should be doing as women – contrast ourselves with our past behaviors so that we can better ourselves.

I am simply a person who has collected trauma after trauma and made the conscious effort to overcome on a daily basis. True, I am not my saintly friend, but growth trumps the illusion of perfection any day.

My Creator is not dissatisfied with me for not being her, or the legions of “hers” all through Christendom.

Authenticity over antiquated expectations.

Relationship with God over rules and regulations.

Raw-dogging life with an open mind and heart.

Because I’m not sure a good woman is hard to find, but I am sure she probably has some sass. And I’m sure that setting unrealistic expectations behooves neither male or female; husband or wife.

Spicy girls, don’t despair. God loves you exactly the way he made you – giving you the same leeway to be imperfect that he apparently has afforded men all along.

Have a beautiful day, loves.

Spiritual

Easter in the Raw

By: JANA GREENE

Happy Easter. I don’t want to be that person who bums everybody out with their posts of grief, but I have to tell you this Easter feels more like death than resurrection.

It’s raw.

I’m raw.

Death is present and lurking, but the joke’s on Death, because it’s defeated. It is finished. But Death – and about 8 billion other voices, if you give them credence – will tell you otherwise.

It is finished, even if we have to live in a broken world.

It’s is finished, meaning our suffering here is not part and parcel of who we are. We don’t take it with us. Only love travels that well.

It is finished, even when our hearts lurch with missing someone so badly it physically hurts.

It is finished, even though the sticky residue of suffering gums up the works, and the whole damn planet seems to have lost its collective mind.

I won’t ask, “Death, where is your sting?” because I call BS on that. It stings like Hell. It hurts like a mother-*. I’m not going to deny the pain of being human just to sell you on Pollyanna positivity. I’m certainly not going to sell you religion, which professes to have all the answers but I assure you, does not.

But Death, after the sting, is never the victor.
Our spirits outlive Death. Nothing can keep us from the love of God. Not even ourselves.

He is risen, friends.

And I’m telling you that with a puffy frog-face from crying, unbrushed hair, balled fists, a heart full of questioning incredulousness, and deep pain. I’m writing this because maybe you’re hurting too.

Maybe you’re pissed off, and for good reason. Maybe you’re sick and feel hopeless. I just want to remind you that you are also risen.

Risen is by far more your identity than broken, or even dead.

Sometimes resurrection doesn’t look like glorious renderings of an ancient, empty tomb – beams of light streaming from within, all CBN Network-style.

Sometimes it looks just like you- in all your holy, grieving glory. Slogging through the messy inconveniences and crippling agonies of life, interspersed with great bursts of love and laughter. All of us redeemed ragamuffin kids of God, all of us made of stardust, mud, and love.

God bless us, every one.

Spiritual

Okay, but Zoom Out

The legendary Hubble Space Telescope, operated by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), captured a dazzling snapshot of a large galaxy (NGC 169) pulling cosmic material away from a smaller galaxy (IC 1559)

!y: JANA GREENE

The legendary Hubble Space Telescope, operated by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) captured a dazzling snapshot of a large galaxy pulling cosmic material away from a smaller galaxy, and my mental health is HERE for it.

It is helping my mental health because I am fascinated with all things galactic, and every time a new image is captured by Hubble, my worries seem to shrink. It’s impossible to be in wonder and see while nursing a grudge or fussing over a human problem.

Not that our problems aren’t real. Or important. They ARE important, even to the Being who came up with the crazy idea of eternity.

Infinite ness is not a concept we default to. We cannot wrap our minds around the concept of endlessness. But in a world where our troubles seem the most infinite thing we know, Hubble reminds me to zoom out.

Yes, I am hurting. My body aches. My heart grieves. The pandemic looms. The world’s a hot mess express.

Would you look at this economy?

This sociological crap-shoot we are calling “life.”

We become Chicken Littles, running in circles exclaiming, “the sky is falling! The sky is falling!” and then we like to proclaim anyone who doesn’t join our panic is Pollyanna about reality.

Okay…but ZOOM OUT. Pan the picture wider, then wider still.

Imagine yourself and all your pain, a tiny speck on a giant blue marble – just one of billions. Imagine this as an image on your iPhone, in hi-def, as most problems seem.

Now imagine that the same Creator who spins planets in orbit cares intimately about what you do. He cares about you not only as a marble-dweller, but a miracle of cells and thoughts and feelings.

Imagine that this Being of Love is intimate with your every heartache and just as concerned about the state of you as He is the state of the Multiverse.

Just zoom out of the picture, wider and wider. See how perfect the orbits are? Check out those stars. Wow! Each and every one a sun. Each and every molecule of the cosmos is worshipping just by existing.

Existence is worship.

We cannot reach the end of it, just like we cannot reach yet end of Love itself.

Just zoom out. It’s going to be okay.

God is zooming in on us. Let your heart marinate in the magnificence of this concept – a Love so endless, Hubble will never reach it.

You’re made of stardust, baby.

humor · Spiritual

Daily Doubles, Anxiety Troubles: 2022 (so far)

By: JANA GREENE

How jacked up has your anxiety been lately?

I’m at the point where I literally DREAD any contestant getting the Daily Double on “Jeopardy,” because I can never know from whence it will come dammit and WHY IS IT SO JARRING AND LOUD?

My GOD, sensory overload. From pensive, rhythmic choosing a catagory to PEW PEW PEW PEW LOUD, ALARMING SOUNDS FLASHING LIGHTS*

I don’t DO “sudden.” Knowing it “could” happen at ANY time but usually does NOT (but HAHA you’ll never know!) makes me anxious.

So, yeah. Where is my anxiety level in this – the year of our Lord 2022, well into the trilogy that is .. whatever THIS is? *Gestures wildly*

DOUBLE JEOPARDY GIVES ME A MINI PANIC ATTACK. That’s where.

God bless us, every single one.

Gratitude · Spiritual

For Every Kindness Shown, Show a Kindness

These are my daughters. They turned out phenomenally, in spite of my struggles. ❤️

By: Jana Greene

This time of year makes me reflect on the mind-blowing kindness and generosity that me and my little family were shown back in the day.

You see, this picture brings back SO many memories…some of them heart-wrenching.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but for me, this one is worth a million. I hadn’t seen it in forever, but I remember taking it like it was yesterday!

I had just left the girls’ father and we were legally separated. The girls and I had nowhere to go, so a dear friend gave me a reduced rate to stay temporarily in Atlantic Towers (such a blessing.)

This photo was taken there. I loved that it had bright pink walls. I told the girls it was because we were so full of GIRL POWER, they painted them pink special for us.

At the time, I had a restraining order out on my ex (so you KNOW that added stress) and no money. I was receiving NO help. And I mean, NO help. Not even from my own family members. That was a brutal learning curve.

I went from one part time job to four jobs to feed my kids. I wrote freelance, worked for a realtor, became the receptionist at another company, and cleaned motel rooms on the weekends. When I was with my babies I worried how I would take care of them myself. When I was at work, I missed them terribly. Mommy guilt was only eclipsed by pure fear.

I had a new sobriety that was only three or four years old, and I was DESPERATELY trying to keep it and not start drinking again. (I did keep my date of sobriety which is Jan. 3, 2001.)

I’d left everything behind but a few sticks of furniture, the clothes on our backs, and the kids’ Barbie toys. Not much else.

I was truly starting over after 14 years in a bad marriage and struggling not to drink, after nearly killing myself with alcohol only a few short years prior.

My girls look happy in this picture, but it was a rough time for them too. My goal was to shield them from my own grown-up problems, and make it an adventure of sorts. They were the lights of my life then. (And they still are.)

At the time, I could not imagine how I would get through that difficult season. I lost 80 pounds from stress. I had been a stay at home mom all my daughters lives, and had ZERO IDEA what would happen to all of us.

But then a miracle happened…and the venue for said miracle was the Carolina and Kure Beach communities, whose members rallied around us that year in the early 2000’s.

And I mean they rallied!

It was Christmas time, which made everything harder, but the local fire station gifted my girls with toys from Santa. A dear friend bought them bicycles!. One friend kept my girls in donated clothes for a year. One amazing friend invited us over for Thanksgiving and Christmas and welcomed us as if we were all true family. Another helped us out with food for a while. One watched my girls for me when I worked. And another helped me keep the heat on one particularly cold month.) One practically adopted me and treated me like a daughter, and does still.

I did nothing to deserve any of that, but the magnitude of blessing still floors me.

I wasn’t FROM there, you see. I wasn’t a “local;” But they MADE me a local through kindness. Dozens of (then) strangers came out of the woodwork. I could do nothing for any of them, nothing. They just poured forth things we needed, acts of friendship, and so much support, and love. I’m happy to report I cherish them still today.

Meanwhile, I learned how to work my ass off and provide for my kids.
I worked on my own issues.
I put up strong, necessary boundaries.
I learned how to forgive myself.
And I managed to stay sober, all glory to God!)

So from one old snapshot for TBT came a tidal wave of gratitude today,, and with that, this very wordy, rambling post.

Now when I look at these 9 and 12 year old faces in the photo, I can rest easy knowing that these two grew up to be beautiful, funny, kind-hearted people. They grew up awesome, and the dark times only grew us closer.

They are 26 and 29 now. My world.

Boy, I wish I had truly trusted God when I was going through it! But my points are twofold:

  1. When at your absolute darkest, keep going kiddo. You CAN do hard things, I promise. You can, and you will. And if you lean into Source, you’ll FLOURISH.
  2. Community is so important. We are all made designed to need each other. Every single member of every community is precious.

And all you single mamas going through the midst of a nightmare like this, I promise it’s true for YOU and your babies, too!

These days I have new struggles, but I try to pay forward any and every kindness shown to me. I try to diversify my kindness portfolio, as it were. Love on everyone, I’m every circumstance. I fall short a LOT, but oh the joy in paying kindness forward!

But it seems important to remind you, if you’re hurting:

The kids really WILL be ok.
You ARE stronger than you think.
It’s OKAY to ask for help.
It’s EVEN OKAY to accept help!
God has not abandoned you
There are wonderful, amazing things awaiting you in the other side of the mess you’re going through.

Blessed be, friends.

Mental Health · Spiritual

When Thanksgiving Means Canceling Perfection

By: Jana Greene

It’s not a great Thanksgiving.
It’s not even a good Thanksgiving. About to launch into avent sesh. Sorry in advance.

The whole entire day was a comedy of errors.
Oh my God, the anxiety. Plus, I woke up and couldn’t eat food. I’ve had four bites of oatmeal and about a tablespoon of each token TG food all day today. That’s it.

Food is my love language. And Thanksgiving is a Foodie high holy day. And I mean absolutely no sacrilege. Just facts.

I’m having a nasty gastroperesis flare, which is setting off a pain flare, which…you get the picture. My left side of my face had been numb for hours. Auras and face numbness are my harbinger off migraines. It’s what let’s me know it’s coming.

I’m sharing my day, I hope maybe someone else who is inordinately emotional today won’t feel alone. There’s this Norman Rockwell standard, you know? We expect it to be some type of way.

So worsening pain, complex family dynamics, cranberry sauce boiled over in a sticky mess. My knee is going out. I’ve been up since 4 am. I’m tired, weepy, emotional, and could easily slip into sadness.

Thanksgiving is a loaded holiday for me, as there is no contact with my family of origin. Sometimes I get tired of my life behind “pre-“ and “post” sobriety. Before and after. SO much is old me vs. new me. I’ve reinvented myself and I’m kind of proud of that. My new life is my heart’s desire, but sometimes I miss the key players who shaped me. It’s so odd. And painful.

But I can only be but so sad, really. Then I barrel through it.

When things started going sideways today – which was right outta the gate this morning – I said to myself, “Well, I guess I have a spiritual thing to learn today that can only be illuminated by a certain set of circumstances.”

My old spiraling behavior rears up on occasion. It is born of exhaustion, making mistakes, and burning myself out.

I’m taking the “shrug” approach. Whelp. I guess this day wasn’t meant to be easy. Maybe it’s an opportunity to grow.

Who the heck even knows. Certainly not me.
This is how I’m trying to learn to cope with what passes for normal life in 2021: Own the mistakes, ask what very difficult things are teaching me, be deliberate about gratitude (and STAY deliberate about it.)

I’ve been doing a lot of work in acceptance. And truly, I admit to being outrageously blessed. Just not blessed with perfection, in ANY area.

At some point, being imperfect has to be “perfect” enough.

By the way, having your therapist tel you she’s proud of you? Yeah. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that. ❤️

Mental Illness · Spiritual

Handing over Anxiety (on Purpose)

Good morning, Dear Reader.

BY: JANA GREENE

How do you define “anxiety,” and how does your anxiety define you?

Anxiety would have me believe that life is just a series of events to kill time while I wait for certain tragedy to strike. As morose as that sounds, if I’m honest, it’s how it FEELS. It robs today of its joy and tomorrow it’s potential.

I would do well to remember that feelings are not facts. Waiting for the “other shoe to drop” is not a strategy for a happy life.

It feels like it will protect your heart to believe the worst, because anything less than horrible will be a nice surprise.

The truth is closer to this: “Life is full of nice surprises, but we will never notice them by expecting the worst.”

Feeding the doom is an old skill I honed in childhood trauma that no longer serves me.
It hasn’t served me in years.

It’s a work in progress. I hand my anxiety off to God every day, and say, “Here, take this please. It’s heavy and awkward to carry and outdated.”

I do not wish to take it to recycling anymore, which is what it’s like to expect anxiety to be repurposed.

No. Every day, I give it up and hope God takes it to the dump. He always does, but I always seem to have a fresh supply the next day.

He is unbothered by it. It’s not heavy for him, awkward in size and shape.

Today, I hand in my anxiety yet again, so that my hands are free for joy and potential. And my heart is free to reject a diagnosis of doom.

God bless us, every one.

Anxiety · Spiritual

Handing off Anxiety to Surrender (a thousand times a day)

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

By: JANA GREENE

How do you define “anxiety,” and how does your anxiety define you?

In the tradition of writing transparently, I have to tell you that I am more anxious than I have been in years. Matter of fact, my heart is racing out of my heart this moment. Enough with the “flight response” already. I’m trying to live here.

The whole world feels like it’s a flaming dumpster fire, and I’ve been sick and in pain recently, which helps NOTHING. And then you’ve got the whole mental illness angle, which is LIT fam! (Gotta make a little joke to deal with life on life’s terms.)

Anxiety would have me believe that life is just a series of events to kill time while I wait for certain tragedy to strike. As morose as that sounds, it’s how FEEL. It robs today of its joy and tomorrow of it’s potential. I would do well to remember that feelings are not facts. Waiting for the “other shoe to drop” is not a strategy for a happy life. But dayum, that other shoe is awfully loose!

Our emotions are a valid barometer to measure what your mind and soul. And as extreme feelers, we have to keep them from running the whole-ass show.

It’s a work in progress. I hand my anxiety off to God every day, and say, “Here, take this please. It’s heavy and awkward to carry and WAY outdated. Fear served me as a child; it doesn’t get handed the reins anymore because I choose to rebuke it, a thousand times a day. Plus, it seems to have visitation rights.

The Universe is unbothered by it. It’s not heavy for him, awkward in size and shape. Handing off the heft of it has to be an INTENTIONAL act on my part. The trash ain’t gonna take itself out.

Anxiety feels like it will protect your heart to believe the worst, because anything less than horrible will be a nice surprise. The truth is closer to this: “Life is full of nice surprises, but we will never notice them by expecting the worst.” And expecting the worst is my default already.

Feeding the doom is an old skill I homed in childhood trauma that no longer serves me. It hasn’t served me in years. Yet in my lizard brain (the amygdala) launches a flight-or-fight response to beat all… a profound throat-punch to the Spirit. So then I have anxiety AND a soul bruise to complete the insult. And who needs that?

To be honest, some days Anxiety is the ringmaster of the circus which is my mind, but I’m in therapy and working on it. *Cue the clowns and dancing ponies. Clowns are terrifying, by the way, just like extreme worry. As it turns out, this IS my circus, and these ARE my monkeys.

So…

Wake, surrender, make coffee, surrender, clean the house, surrender, make dinner, surrender … endless opportunities to surrender. Surrender is not a one-stop-shop. It’s a constant dance, at least for me.

God bless us, every one.

God, you are the Source of all that is good and all that is love. I can’t peek around the corners to see what’s coming next in this crazy world, in this disabled body. I trust that you have a bird’s eye view and my best interest at heart. I have to trust you are LOVE.

Poetry · Spiritual

The Wobbly Phoenix (and other thoughts on depression)

Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

BY: JANA GREENE

Not feeling brave today, on a day that seems to demand bravery.

It’s demanding a lot of things….

Like being a mature adult,

And keeping the lid on a major freak-out.

Like putting one foot after another,

Which necessitates getting out of bed,

Which itself

is an exhausting prospect.

I don’t feel like playing along anymore,

In this body that is now

More scratch-and-dent

Than wonderous and miraculous,

In a mind that sells the prospect of doom

Like it’s going out of style or something.

In a Spirit that is strong,

But exceedingly tired,

Because every damn thing is exhausting.

And oy vey!

Don’t even get me started

With the state of the world!

Still…

There’s no way out but through,

And there’s no way through

But to start by standing,

Even if I’m wobbly and scared.

“So BE wobbly,” I tell myself.

“It’s okay to be scared.

It’s just not okay to give up.”

So on this day that requires bravery,

I wobble.

I tell the fear to shut the f*ck up,

Because it’s getting noisier than

The actual anxiety,

And that’s why I can’t hear myself think.

That’s why I can’t think myself calm.

It’s not the anxiety

Which is borne of circumstances

And wonky brain chemistry,

And judging the state of things

By what appears to be true.

It’s the fear that feeds it

Like some kind of all all-you-can-eat-buffet

With only food that I hate

Or makes me sick.

My anxiety likes to think ahead,

To really have all it’s bases covered,

But for God’s sake,

I must stop

Worrying about the problems

Queued up after this problem

And remind myself

That zero amount of previous freak-outs

Has fixed a single problem

In the history of ever.

I tell myself,

“Girl, you’ve pulled a

‘Pheonix rising from the ashes’

More than once.

Have a little faith!”

So….

So it has to go.

It’s the fear that has to go.

Life feels itchy and uncomfortable

To let it go,

It’s been my companion

For such a long time,

Like a really shitty friend

Who I thought

Was saving you from hurting,

But really,

It’s just hurting me.

Staying afraid

More itchy and uncomfortable

Than existing in fear.

So I’m letting it go,

Just for today,

Because it’s all I can bite off

For now.

One single footfall,

And then the other.

Repeat process

Until steadiness readies,

And I’m able to steady

Myself.

And that will have to do

As bravery

For now.

pandemic · Spiritual

Fuzzy Brows, Bathing Suits, and the Renewal of the Mind

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

And here I thought ordinary life was daunting!

Three weeks ago, I was obsessed with getting my brows and upper lip waxed. It was driving me crazy, all the peach fuzz and renegade brow hairs. I didn’t feel better until I had my hairstylist do it when I got a haircut.

And then another thing seemed paramount: Getting a bathing suit for the summer, since I’ve put on hella pounds since I injured my hip seven months ago. I’d given away most of my “fat clothes,” since I’d lost 25 lbs prior to the injury and was SO SURE I wouldn’t gain any of it back. Gained it all back and then some. Damn it.

Then I fixated on the problems my kids are going through. I really don’t even need my own problems; just give me a few kids who are learning things in life the hard way, and I’ll think of little else than their welfare.

The things these issues have in common are: 1. They either seem laughably insignificant now. Or 2. They are out of my control entirely. All within a short span of time, I found things to worry about that fell under these two headings.

Also, the joke’s on me. All the pools and beaches are closed! Who needs a bathing suit?

What I have right now is fear and anxiety. What I want to have is the renewal of my mind. It’s happening, but it’s happening piece-meal. If you’re one of those people who trust God with nary a care in the world, my hat is off to you! I’m having to turn my will and mind over to his care every day, especially during this time of extreme weirdness.

That being said, I would very much like to avoid catching Covid-19, as my immune function is ridiculously low and I’m afraid that I won’t be able to fight it. I’m also worried that my loved ones won’t be able to fight it.

There ARE things I can do – and so can you – to alter the trajectory of the virus. That’s the thing I find supremely frustrated. There are things we can ALL do to reduce the risk for the people we cherish. Can we all please take this thing seriously enough to protect them?

One of my favorite songs by the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughn, “Things That I Used to Do,” and it’s been in my head for days. Because “things that I used to do, Lord, I won’t do no more,” as the song goes.

But I also will try to remember that some of those things were – in truth – pretty insignificant. And certainly pale in comparison to what we are all going through now. It’s funny how stuff that seemed crucial three weeks ago seem frivolous now. When this shit show wraps up, I’m going to try to make the conscious effort to NOT “sweat the small stuff” as much. But it’s easy to fall back into old ways.

Lord, let this thing make me a better person. Help me to take this day as it is, not as I would have it. Help me rise to the occasion of surrendering my will and worries to you, less inclined to obsess about the things I get worked up over.

Help us all over this bombardment of anxiety we are experiencing, so that we can live life abundantly in you. Hairy brows and lips, and all.

In the meantime, please stay home if you can. I know it’s boring. I know the people you live with are getting on your last nerve. I know that we are all on edge, and experiencing an unprecedented level of NOT knowing what the future holds. Let’s do all we DO have in our power to protect one another.

God bless us, every one.

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” – Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)

 

 

 

12 Steps · pandemic · Spiritual

Confessions of a Food Hoarder in Pandemic Pandamonium

grocery cart with item
Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

Greetings from The House of Greene, where we now eat unsalted peanut butter, because on our last visit to the grocery store, that’s all that was available.

Now that I write that, how FIRST WORLD does THAT problem seem? And it’s because they ARE first world problems. But I have a funny little quirk about food. Well, MANY quirks. But this one is especially relevant.

It started in my single mother days. I’d been a stay-at-home mom for years when my daughters were little. I was room mother in their classes. I made wholesome dinners every night. Even in the hardest times, when I’d have to get food from the church pantry, we were well-fed.

And then my divorce happened. All of the sudden, it was all on ME. Two children, no child support, no help from family, NOTHING. It was all me and I had to work four part-time jobs just to keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. The girls that I had ‘helicopter parented’ became ‘latch-key’ kids, which made me feel horribly guilty. We ate a lot of hamburger helper, minus hamburger. Instant mashed potatoes. Boxed mac and cheese shaped like Spongebob characters.

I will never forget the evening I put the girls to bed and took a bleak inventory of our week’s food supply. There was NO WAY we were going to make it. You know that feeling you get when anxiety comes on real sudden-like, and your blood turns to ice water? Your heart starts racing? This was a normal anxiety attack times 100. Something went awry in my brain that day.

Now, we all made it through and somehow, Jesus pulled a ‘loaves and fishes’ on me. He did THAT by some of my wonderful friends, who (much to the dismay of my pride) showed up with a meal or a $20 bill or something. Let the record show that we were NOT fed by the scriptures that other friends threw at me. Nor the lofty platitudes about if I only had more faith, “claimed” a scripture, or “believed” that our needs are already met.

(If you don’t meet a person’s basic fundamental rights, do me a favor, and DON’T preach at them. A Bic Mac and a couple of kids meals were a whole lot more effective than an “I’m praying for you.” But I digress.)

At some point in my single motherhood, I became a bit of a food hoarder. If I had some around, I felt great. So if I had MORE around, well…you know. I also recalled my old trick of soothing myself with food. I was only a handful of years sober back then, so it was all I could do not to pick up a drink. I picked up ice cream instead. Fast food is hella cheap and filling.

It became a way to reward and punish myself. Then I discovered that I could experience the comfort of stuffing my face, and then throw up to get rid of the calories. This is a HORRIBLE practice and I DO NOT RECOMMEND IT. But I hooked up with bulimia for a bit and thought I’d found the best of both worlds. Eat yummy food. Barf. Repeat. I lost 80 pounds during my divorce. The whole bulimia issue is a blog for another time (and I’ve touched on it before) but I’m telling you the whole story so that you can fully appreciate how f-cked up my relationship with food truly is. It’s WHACK, I tell you.

So fast forward to when I met my now (and forever) husband in 2006. He was so kind and loving. We didn’t have to worry about running out of food after we married, but old habits die hard. For years and years (and up until TODAY, ACTUALLY) it’s kind of a family joke that we always have stuff falling out of the freezer because it’s too full, and we can’t find anything thing in the pantry because I have this sick thing about having it COMPLETELY FULL to feel secure, and in order to fit anything in our fridge, I have to play “fridge Tetris” to make things fit.

It’s super annoying to my family, and honestly – to myself,  but I can’t seem to stop it because WHAT IF we run out. It’s not just about the food. It’s some primal holdover from when I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to feed my kids or something. It’s like a COMPULSION. It IS a compulsion, actually.

But today I opened the fridge and there is an empty shelf. AN. EMPTY. SHELF. I can actually see the back wall of the fridge (hey, it’s WHITE!) which never happens.

Over a week ago, I’d taken a fall due to my POTs and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome symptoms, and it was a bad one. Nearly broke both my arms and was bruised from fingertips to elbows. People thoughtfully brought meals over, since my arms were useless for a while. We had a REALLY full fridge (there are between 3-5 of us living in this house at one time, so it’s not just my belly I’m worried about) and it was glorious.

My first thought was: “I’ll run to the store.” Except I WILL NOT run to the store, because I have virtually no immune function and there is an actual PANDEMIC (another fear formerly referred to as “irrational,” but pretty damn rational now) and I am staying home to avoid germs.

It’s not that we are anywhere NEAR running out of food. It’s that if we were, there is nothing we could do about it. I’m thinking that this whole pandemic is going to be a HUGE re-boot for all of us. I can’t let an empty refrigerator shelf throw me into an emotional tailspin, although that is my habit. Habits are gonna have to be tweaked, as are knee-jerk emotional responses, which are kind of my forte.

I cannot afford to be ruled by my many, many compulsions. But I CAN come here and drone on about how different things are now, and be honest about how I’m freaking out on the regular in spite of my best effort to use my “tools.” Applying my emotional coping tools feels like using a regular screwdriver on a screw that requires a “Phillip’s head” screwdriver (I’m using this analogy because those are the only two tools I can differentiate…) It kind of works, but not really.

It’s like there is a Woody Allen (sans perversion, of course) Me, and a Brene Brown Me. Woody Allen Me’s hair is all askew, he is neurotically pacing, displaying nervous tics, and generally running in circles exclaiming “THE SKY IS FALLING!” while my inner Brene Brown interjects with Ghandi-esque, rational quotes about walking inside your story and owning it, and not standing outside your story and hustling for worthiness, and what not (which, frankly, isn’t even helpful at a time like this.) She is calm. She is at one with the Universe.

Why am I both these people at once. (I’m thinking maybe we are all a little of both right now?)

So for the foreseeable future, I’m planning on coming here to blog about empty refrigerator shelves, and one-ply toilet paper. But also about the very real crossroads of anxiety and faith in an unprecedented time. It’s an opportunity for me to dust off the ol’ 12 steps and revisit “surrender” mode, lest I revisit self-destructive behaviors (which will only make things worse.)

One of the scary things about all of this, if we are honest, is that it’s a leveler. We all feel far less “first world.” But that’s not a bad thing, spiritually. Spiritually, we are all One – all the same. We bear one another’s problems, even when they are more severe than unsalted peanut butter. Seriously, though. Not one of us is less precious than another, and sometimes we get so wrapped up in our privilege, we forget that this is the NORM for so many people across the globe – doing without. I know I forget.

I don’t know what else to do but write about it. Eating my feelings isn’t suitable, since food is more or less rationed, but my feelings are not following suit. All I know for sure is that we will all get through this together. Woody, Brene, me, and you. ❤

chronic illness · Spiritual

Sisterhood of Solidarity – Chronic Illness and that B*tch, Depression

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By: Jana Greene

Greetings to the 1,950 people STILL with me here at the BB, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate and love my dear readers. ❤ I guess I should start this post with a disclaimer:

Warning – this is not a happy, shiny, churchy article.

It does not “glorify the lord,” necessarily. (Although I’m of the mind that God will be glorified in EVERYTHING in it’s time…)

Also – and let’s just get this out of the way – I have salty language. I’d like to say I’m working on it, but I’m trying to be transparent, and it’s actually the least of my damn worries.

Please don’t tell me how I’m already healed by the stripes of Jesus.

Please don’t insist I pull myself up by the bootstraps.

Please don’t tell me I am…

(1) under demonic oppression (been there, got that T-shirt…),

(2) not trusting God (because when someone is hurting, making them question their faith is always helpful,) Or…

(3) need to try an essential oil / nutritional shake (although it tickles me that the same issue can be considered “treated” by demon expulsion OR Plexus! Whichever!)  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I believe the last time I posted, I resolved to write a post every single day for a while, which was vintage me – setting up expectations I will never fulfill. I’m wicked good at writing emotional checks that my mind can’t cash.

Today I decided to write because I find myself in more solidarity with my depression than with my fellow sisters who are also fighting the good fight. I’m not sure what anxiety and depression feel like to you, but here’s my breakdown:

A sense of DOOM. Doom. Doom, dooooooom.

It also feels like:

Nothing is going to work out.

I’ll always be in physical pain.

I’ll probably always struggle.

But sometimes, you just have to get sassy back.

Sometimes, you just need to call a bitch out, and this bitch is DEPRESSION.

It has taken literal YEARS to receive the correct diagnoses-es, fight with God about the ensuing bitterness, and come to an acceptance.

Usually, I am pretty freaking accepting and have figured out a million work-arounds to deal with life.

“Doom mind” isn’t the most most Christian-ese terminology. Even admitting that I still struggle with it still feels janky, because being vulnerable is hard. Aren’t we supposed to play OPTIMISTIC, HEALTHY, and LIGHT-HEARTED?

The thing is, I’m not sure Christians are doing the hurting world any favors by wearing these stupid masks. I don’t think Jesus judges depressed people for being depressed. It doesn’t licit his anger, but his compassion. That much I DO know.

I am a pretty happy person, generally. I LOVE life.

I absolutely LOVE to laugh. I’m creative. I love hard. I don’t want to be sad.

Usually, it’s just easier for everyone for me to fake being okay.

Dry that tear.

Minimize that limp.

Ignore the anxiety attack.

Get out of those pajamas.

Apologize for being depressed – I have so much to be grateful for!

But some days, I can’t muster putting on a happy face.

Life is different now. Not always “bad,” but always “different.”

Mobility aids are not sexy. Prescriptions are not cheap. And you can only watch so many episodes of 90 Day Fiance without losing your ever-loving mind.

I’m hurting too bad to walk, just less climb mountains. My creativity feels shriveled up like it will NEVER return. I watch a thousand funny cat videos, but can’t rally with laughter.

It comes. It goes.

I’m doing my best.

And I’m supposed to do it without picking up a drink!

I don’t know how my friends remain supportive, and I appreciate them so much. But I also lay low sometimes especially with the good friends. Because who the hell wants to be bummed out?

I certainly don’t understand how my husband stays supportive. This is not what he signed up for (although to be fair, this is not what I signed up for either.)

Even for those of us blessed enough to be surrounded by love, it’s lonely. I cannot call my husband at work and worry him when he is already supporting his family by working hard every day. I wouldn’t want to. He has enough on him already!

I cannot call my daughters and whine every time I’m anxious or hurting, even though they are wonderfully supportive grown-ups. They have lives, and I want them to live their BEST possible ones.

So today, I’m writing as a little “reach out” measure in the blogosphere. Where my “spoonie” sisters at?

We just need eachother.

Something not a lot of people know about it a phenomenon that sick people – believers or not – don’t want or intend to check out.

We need to be able to say that we’re not okay without people assuming we are suicidal. I know people would rather be safe than sorry, but despondency comes in many flavors, and not all are true red flags. Some are just white flags of surrender.

I’m ok.

I’m not a danger.

I don’t need triage care.

I just need care.

I just need to know somebody else understands this lonely struggle with chronic pain and the havoc it wreaks on us via depression. Unless you are going through it, it’s hard to grasp, I’d imagine. I used to find this kind of thing impossible to understand myself.

A lack of serotonin and constant, unrelenting physical pain is a special kind of hell. I know Jesus walks through it with me; I totally feel his presence. I know I’m not completely alone. But damn if it can’t still feel lonely.

I’m writing today NOT because I have any answers, but because I feel alone and wonder if other chronically ill people feel me.

Do you understand?

If you do, I’m so sorry.

But how do you pull yourself up?

Let’s figure out this thing together and help one another.

When I have a painful day, and I say I’m DONE, the done-ness I’m talking about is hard to explain. It’s like when your toddler is at the grocery store and suddenly, inexplicably dissolves into a screaming, snot-faced, NO monster on Aisle 11, and cannot be reasoned with. He is DONE (temporarily.)

But I will. And I will smile / laugh / create another day.
So will you. ❤

Depression · Spiritual

When Depression Makes Landfall

grayscale photo of woman covering her mouth using her hands
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

Hi, Dear Readers.

Can I keep it real today?

I was going to title this piece, “When it’s too much,” but then I asked myself to be more specific….WHAT is “too much?” What exactly is it that is TOO MUCH for me to handle right now? The answer is simply YES.

Everything.

I’m feeling so defeated and sad today. I was doing pretty well with water aerobics, which I’ve been enjoying since February – it’s the only exercise my joints can handle. A week ago in class, I tore a muscle in my right hip doing underwater side kicks.

By the way, not one single 80 + year old woman in the whole class had trouble with that maneuver. Yet such a simple movement took me down. I’m looking at yet MORE physical therapy now and I can’t do the class for the foreseeable future.

This injury is the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, er….hip.

I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, along with a half dozen other debilitating, exhausting, painful conditions. And it’s driving my depression into this hurricane-force thing that is spiraling in my spirit. The outer bands are making landfall today, and I can feel the intensity whipping up.

EDS is a progressive thing, meaning all of the cells in my body have mutated collagen, and I’m not going to get better.I do not – can not – take narcotics for my chronic pain because I’m an alcoholic in recovery 18 years and I still don’t trust myself to go that route.

I am literally wearing out. It’s getting to where I can hardly move my body some days, and when I do, each movement sounds like a bone cracking. In addition to being annoying, it’s painful. And embarrasing.

It’s TOO MUCH.

Yes, I know by the Stripes of Jesus, I am healed. I have had every deliverance ministry method prayed over me. People have told me that if I ‘just believe more’, I’d be healed.

To which I say, STOP TELLING SICK PEOPLE THESE THINGS. When they don’t get healed Binny Hinn-style, it adds insult to injury. Not only are you in sick and experiencing chronic pain, but NOW you doubt your faith and feel inferior and less-than a “good Christian.”

My genes are still mutated. God knows about it. He and I are square, after many years of me being bitter and angry. He knew my joints would held together with bubble gum instead of gorilla glue, so to speak. He isn’t angry with me. He isn’t punishing me. It just falls under the header of “shit happens,” and it happens to everyone in one capacity or another.

Better to just encourage and love on the chronically ill. That’s what we need.

Because I have anxiety and depression under normal circumstances, but there have been several times in my life when I couldn’t push through it…when I went from being sad and low-grade anxious, to I CANNOT GET OUT OF BED.

Not “I really FEEL like staying in bed” … no. I literally – as the Millennials say – I CAN NOT EVEN.

Can not even laugh.

Can not even cry.

Can not even do the things I love – like create art, and even just BLOG.

But I know if I don’t get it out in writing and share it with others who might be able to relate, it will only gather strength. So here is a blog post. The one thing I have gotten done today.

I’m tired. I am so tired. There are too many things going on in my home life and (lack of) professional life. Too much change. Too much pain. Just too much.

Most days, I try to be positive, and some days I can even find the humor in things, but when every joint in my body is hurting – and the hip is almost unbearable – it makes it difficult. This is approximately the tenth injury in the last few months. From small rib subluxations to finger dislocations, a sprained wrist, to all the crappy, debilitating POTs symptoms, and constant illness from having a horrible immune system….

I’m TOAST. Ever feel that way?

I know Jesus walks with me. I know he crouches down with me in the dark places. And yes, I know “this too will pass.” But it’s sure as hell not yet in the process of passing right now.

It’s the most frustrating thing in the world to realize all of your blessings, but still not be able to pull yourself up out of the sadness.

Hey, thanks for reading my work, ya’ll. In joviality and in sorrow. In celebration and in grieving. Knowing I have so many precious readers who take the time to read my innermost thoughts is both mind-blowing and comforting. We are never, NEVER alone in what we go through!

I hope when this blows over, I can get back to business being snarky and ultra-spiritual (that’s a joke, ha.) But I’m of the mind that when we are in low places, it doesn’t mean we are less-than spiritual. It just means our spirits need a little more help.

God bless us, every one.

Depression · Poetry · Spiritual

The Other Side of Sad

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

BY: JANA GREENE

I’m sad again, I think to myself,

With very little levity,

But you were sad just last week,

Say I to me, admittedly.

I should ask for help, I say,

But Ego takes a stand….

You’ll be seen in disarray!

Stick your head back in the sand!

Besides, say I, why bother them?

They have their own problems to face.

Don’t look weak at any cost

Just pick up the pace,

Do more.

Be more.

Add more stuff.

Throw on some glitter,

Put on some fluff.

Isolate, it says persuasively,

Cozy up to the sadness,

Commit to the grief.

Make friends with the dread,

It’s easy to do...

Easier than asking for help

Just to make it through.

But we need each other, and

This too shall pass…

(Maybe like a kidney stone,

But it will pass at last!)

I can’t hand the reins to misery,

I must pick up the gait.

I have to be willing to ask for help,

I have to be patient to wait.

Maybe you’re feeling down,

Hopeless, all-around bad,

But just keep going

And I’ll meet you

On the other side of Sad.

Prayers for any and all of my dear readers who struggle with mental health issues. You is kind. You is important. You is LOVED.

Hurricanes · Spiritual

Faith and Florence – Riding out the “Storm of a Lifetime”

florence

By: Jana Greene

Good day, dear readers. I’m going to try to blog about this experience with Hurricane Florence a little each day. Maybe someone else will be able to relate to my fear, faith, and feelings…maybe it will just prove good therapy for me to get them all OUT! Be safe out there, friends.

I was thinking about “hurricane preparedness” this morning, and what a misnomer that phrase is. We feel we are prepared. We did all the cursory prep as most of my neighbors –  bringing in every porch / yard item that could become a missile in Cat 4 winds…shutting all of the interior doors before we left…evacuating two states away. Hurricane Florence, you see, is taking dead aim at our lovely little beach town.

You know that feeling you get when – first thing in the morning – you open your eyes and realize there is something very wrong? That sinking feeling? A giant monster storm coming straight for your city and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. “Preparedness” is important, but how do you prepare yourself for coming home to utter devastation? What if we lose everything we own? It’s a very real possibility. I’ve had several mini panic attacks over the past few days, like many of you, I’m sure.

OMG, this is happening.

This is the “big one.”

I might lose the things of my heart, like my kids’ baby books. The unity candle from our wedding.

The outfits my babies came home from the hospital so many years ago.

The more I think about all the things, the more I remember we could lose, and the more I have trouble breathing.

Then I remember I have lost nearly everything before, during the course of my 2004 divorce. I just left, took the kids and left with little more than we had on our backs. It was a horribly difficult time, but we survived it, and my daughters actually thrived.

Eventually, the sad sting of losing so many pictures and yearbooks lessened. But that was high school yearbooks and pressed homecoming mums; furniture and trinkets. Not a whole house.

Today, one of my kids is here in Atlanta with us, another is in Charlotte safely with her boyfriend (who is an absolute super hero…) and one on the way to VA.

Even our kitties are stuffed into this tiny hotel room – all three. It’s cozy.

So what we are going through is unbelievably stressful. I just consumed an entire bag of “extreme” sour gummy worms. Yes, I’m’ praying to Jesus but candy helps, too.

This hurricane is not an “act of God.” God is responsible for all that is good and lovely, pure and true. He is in our laughter and in our joy. He is not punishing anyone. He is always either blessing us with all the beauty around us, or he is hunkered down with us in the storms. He hasn’t left us.

File natural disasters under “sh*t happens,” and look around you. You will find some of the kindest, most loving people manifesting right now. I’ve lost count of how many friends I’ve seen post, “I have an extra bedroom; whoever needs a place, you are welcome here!” And “What do you need?” on public FB feeds. “I can run errands. I can help you pack. I can give you a ride.”

That’s where I’m seeing God at work – not in a swirling vortex of doom. I don’t know why bad things happen and I’m not going to yank your chain with useless platitudes.

It sucks. I’m scared.

This whole shebang is super stressful.

Can faith and fear occupy the same space? I used to think not. But anymore, I’m convinced that our Creator is grace-full about the overlap. He isn’t mad at our anxiety. We’re his kids, for crying out loud.

Right now, those same girls who went through the valley of having a single mom in the early 2000’s (and my Bonus Daughter, too) are out of North Carolina. Nobody knows what this thing will do, but stuff be darned, my family is safe.

We are just one family of the literal million who has left for higher ground. There’s nothing special or particularly unique about us. We are all going through this together.

For your family – whether you are riding it out or stuck in your car right now in a long, seemingly stationary line of traffic, I pray for you. I worry for you. I’m hopeful for you.

And I’m super glad to be a part of a community of people whose hearts are so loving and giving. You guys are – in the worst of circumstances – being the hands and feet of God. Thank you.

Depression · Spiritual

Sufficient Grace in a Season of Suffering

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By: Jana Greene

Good morning, God.

I woke up in a panic today. Sick and tired, and tired of being sick. I have basically been ill since I had shoulder surgery 3 1/2 months ago, and I’m so over it. Feeling like crap for nearly 4 months straight would depress dang near anybody.

I’m really fighting the emotional funk, and I know I’m not alone – so I’m posting my prayer here. I know several of my friends are fighting (or have fought) the same funk. Depression and anxiety are real bugaboos, even for believers. I’m so tired of the stigma that gets perpetuated in churches. Jesus People should be the LEAST stigmatizing, for crying out loud. (No, really, I have cried out loud a few times this week.) Being of good cheer seems out of the question. Getting dressed today might be doable.

Every day in February, I have declared that THIS is the day I shall get it TOGETHER already! Mind over matter, right? (Wrong.)

I tell myself that TODAY, I shall work on taxes, get caught up on seminary, write another chapter for the book (AND get busy on some other projects) and lose 10 lbs and basically be a better version of me – the me in her PJs 24/7 this week, the me bingeing on Munchos. The me that feels so weak, she can hardly sit upright for more than 30 minutes.

Everything seems to be beyond my control right now, and I need Your comfort. I am asking for more faith, which comes from You. Help me with that, please.

Weakness…..Hmmmm.
There’s a scripture for that….

Your Grace is sufficient, I seem to recall. Praise Jesus for that sweet, amazing GRACE!

In your Word, you tell me that radical weakness is not a character flaw, but an opportunity for You to really bring home the razzle dazzle. You know how you do. Paul said it best:

“…Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9 (MSG)

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Mental Illness · Spiritual

High Anxiety – Affliction, not sin

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“Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith. I don’t agree at all. They are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the Passion of Christ” – C.S. Lewis

By: Jana Greene

Oh, C.S. Lewis. How I would love to go back (or forward) in time and pick you brain. Your thoughts so messy, yet austere. I just want to smoke a pipe (vanilla tobacco, please) beside a lit fireplace at a table for two – the kind of table that’s too small to eat a meal on, but too big to be a nightstand. And I want to say, “THANK YOU!” Thank you, that you did not regard anxiety as SIN (which seems to be, unfortunately, a consideration of the modern church proper.)

Dear readers, if you don’t already know, I suffer from anxiety, depression, ADD and OCD, and it’s been a life long issue.

I think I was born anxious.

When I was a five-year old frozen in fear just walking into the kindergarten class, I wasn’t sinning.

When I display compulsive behaviors, I have no evil intent. (Oh, and being diagnosed OCD was SUCH a shock – not because I knew it was true, but because I thought I hid it from the world so WELL.)

When my heart will simply not beating 125 beats per minute, it’s not a demon makin’ it tick.

When I cannot focus on one thing for 10 seconds, God is not disappointed in me.

When my brain confuses being chased by a T-Rex with emailing a resume, it’s not sin – it’s out of my control – fight or flight.

Anxiety is what led to my alcoholism. It took the edge off, eventually it took me past the edge.

I thought it was a wonderful thing because all of my mom friends drank wine – I just drank mine out of a Big Gulp cup. With a lid. And a straw. I do not suggest this method of anxiety quelling, it’s highly non-sustainable. I didn’t know when to stop, and that’s why I don’t do that anymore. Haven’t for 15 years, hallelujah!

But I still contend with depression/anxiety/ADD/OCD. I just do it sober now. And it can be very difficult. I really don’t care who knows it because it is what it is and I try to write authentically.

What does anxiety feel like to me?

It feels involuntary. SO involuntary.

It feels like asking Jesus to take the wheel, but being sure the steering fluid is low.

It feels like you are the only kid in class who forgot to get her permission slip signed, and now you can’t go to the museum.

My body reacts to a crowded aisle in Walmart as if I were a wolf willing to chew my own leg off to escape the trap. (For some reason, Walmart just does me in.)

It feels like I am too awkward to inhabit a planet with normal people who don’t have panic attacks on the regular. Plus, I forget what to do with my face a lot.

It feels like a stutter in your soul.

It feels like abandonment. Remember a time when someone walked away from you for good? That feeling. The first five minutes after it occurred to you that the person was never coming back. Now replay those 5 minutes in an endless loop.

It feels like I’m sorry for being this way!

It feels overwhelming. Worry, doubt, pray. Or is it pray, doubt, worry? See? I just can’t get it straight.

It feels like DOOM. Not just regular doom, but DOOOOOOOOOOM.

It’s being certain nobody likes you, because you are, well, weird.

I have been prayed over, prayed for, where two or more are gathered or two dozen are gathered. I have felt like a sub-par Christian because my healing didn’t ‘stick’ – and that’s a really crappy feeling, ya’ll. It is pouring gasoline on a fire.

So now, I’m anxiety-ridden AND my faith is too puny to do any good?

Nobody judges the diabetic whose insulin will not bow at the feet of the cross, but people will drown you in holy water trying to get depression to go. (By the way, I do believe depression can be a spirit, but I also believe early childhood trauma, genetics, or just plain chemistry can rile up a good baseline anxiety.)

I really fail to see how mental illness is any different.

I would rather not battle mental illness, but if I must, I will try to consider it from your point of view, Mr. Lewis (‘May I call you C.S.?”)

My Abba circuited my brain just as He pleased, and did so for a reason. There were environmental events that tightened the screws. He allowed things to shape me, just as He is shaping YOU. I believe that all of it – the janky humanity in us – I believe Jesus walks with us and in us, and that’s what His heart really longs for. It isn’t the ‘alphabet soup’ disorder that defines me, it’s that I’m His.

So sometimes I freak out, and its scary because I don’t even totally understand it, but always, always I feel God’s presence, even when I can’t calm down. My anxiety doesn’t scare Him away.

He is less concerned in having a vast army of perfect people – a master race of Christians who pray away anxiety, and never say a potty word. Followers who have gotten it ‘all together.’

I believe He loves all His misfits right where they are.

How much more passionate might we be with the mentally ill if we considered their affliction as sharing in the Passion of the Christ?

Kind of flips things up, no?

Our share of the passion.

Thanks, C.S., for the reminder.

God bless us, every one.

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