Wear your warts, wisdom, and all.

Such small, mundane things to the average person, but these are things I haven’t been able to do in almost three years. I couldn’t be more proud of myself when I consider how imprisoned I’d been by my fear and anxiety. PTSD does change a person. There’s no going back, but finally, I think that’s okay.

Today I put air in my tires all by myself. Last week, Seth left for work before me while it was still dark outside, and I stayed to finish getting ready. I’ve come home and entered an empty house by myself multiple times after the sun has gone down. I’ve been parking in the garage lately even if that means there’s no car in the driveway to show that someone is home.

Such small, mundane things to the average person, but these are things I haven’t been able to do in almost three years. I couldn’t be more proud of myself when I consider how imprisoned I’d been by my fear and anxiety. PTSD does change a person. There’s no going back, but finally, I think that’s okay.

A couple of weeks ago, I actually thanked the Lord multiple times for the brain that He’s given me. I had two really successful conference presentations that went better than I ever could have expected. I’ve always recognized that teaching comes from God. That’s why it’s so fun; I know I couldn’t do it by myself. Anyway, this is the same brain that was altered while running for my life. The same brain that went to hours of psychotherapy to retrain my thoughts. The same brain that I regularly hated and asked if there were any way I could get a new one because my thoughts were so out of control.

Through therapy, Krav Maga, and time, I’ve become more proactive in fighting my brain. I can logically consider my reality and prepare situationally for the what if’s that used to paralyze me.

When I put air in my tires today, I was strategic about which gas station I pulled into. There was plenty of open space so I could see who was around me.

When Seth leaves the house in the morning, I lock up the house like Fort Knox and put my purse and keys near the door in case I need to make a quick exit.

When I’m the first one home, I check the outside of the house from my car. I do a quick walk through when I get inside, and I turn on several lights.

When I park in the garage while I’m at home, I open all the blinds so I can see out the front and the back. When I’m in each room, I consider what can be used as a barrier to throw between me and an intruder as well as what can be used as a weapon if I need to fight.

A couple of months ago, I decided to remove the pepper spray from my key chain. It’s still in my car, but if I’m ever attacked, I think I have a better shot at fighting back (after running or hiding of course) than trying to use my pepper spray.

I feel the strongest I have in a long time. I think that some of it is that I’m growing into my maternal instinct with my little sweet pea on the way. But I’ve also pushed myself to not remain stagnant in fear. Even on days where I’m still triggered or people think I’m a little over the top with precautions, I’m comfortable in my healing and “to wear my new life- warts, wisdom, and all- with courage.”

Blessed Grief

Grief is the pits; grief manifests in so many ways, and there is no timeline.
However, there are still many blessings and they definitely help keep me going.

Grief is running late everywhere you go because it’s too hard to get up and get ready like you used to.

Grief/anxiety got so out of control that it physically manifested itself as itching, and then weeks later as eczema.

Grief is having a short fuse and snapping about something small… ALL THE TIME.

Grief is being sick for 3 work days but still wanting to take another whole week off.

Grief/anxiety is regaining 12 of the 24 lbs you lost earlier this year because fast food is easy and sugar is delicious.

Grief is crying through at least 1 song at church every Sunday.

Grief/anxiety is falling asleep before 9:30pm most nights because you’re too exhausted from emotionally keeping it together all day.

Grief is not keeping your Krav training routine because it hurts to be to be physically beaten when you’re already mentally beaten.

Grief is hibernating on the weekends because you’re tired of human interaction when everything just hurts.

Grief is sobbing through your annual gynecologist appointment because it’s your 6th time being there this year but this time it’s not for a baby.

Grief is keeping your head down in the waiting room because of all the pregnant bellies and celebrated ultrasound pictures that you didn’t get to have.

Grief is asking God to take care of your baby up there and to please give us another down here that we can keep.

Grief is prolonged when medical bills continue to come in the mail.

Grief is playing with puppies and wondering how much better it will be playing with your own babies one day.

Grief is not cooking dinner on Sunday nights because you just can’t.

Grief is throwing away a 2-gallon bag of food because you haven’t felt like cleaning out the fridge.

Grief is ruining a recipe and throwing away all of the contents instead of making a plan to salvage the ingredients because everything is the end of the world.

Grief is sticking your hands into cold, soapy dishwater for the 4th time in one weekend because you haven’t been able to actually wash the dishes.

Grief is the pits. There is no timeline. Most people give you a pass for all of these things but then it just feels like a crutch. Part of tonight, like many nights, was full of grief.

However…

Blessed is having a husband

-who verbally lists every restaurant in a 2 mile radius until something sounds good to eat when you don’t feel like cooking.

-who holds me and comforts me while I cry even when he’s hurting too.

-who will burst into homemade songs just to lighten the mood.

-who speaks truth into my lies.

-who prays aloud when I can’t.

-who shows me unconditional love every single day.

Blessed is having the greatest parents and sister in the world who regularly encourage and advise me.

Blessed is having friends who check on me every day and remind me to give myself grace.

Blessed is still having financial stability despite the thousands of dollars we’ve paid on medical bills.

There are still many blessings. I’m not always the most optimistic to point them out, but I know they’re there. And they definitely help keep me going.

Truth Tattoo

Last weekend I got a tattoo.  I always said that I didn’t have the pain tolerance for it, so it would have to be something truly important to me if I chose to get one. 

Last weekend I got a tattoo.  I always said that I didn’t have the pain tolerance for it, so it would have to be something truly important to me if I chose to get one.  I’m not one to hide what I feel or what I’m going through so if you pay attention you know that I regularly battle and often lose to my own mind- fear, anxiety, stress, intense sadness- and it just spirals.  The last two and a half years in particular have almost been too much.

A couple of weeks ago on the way home from church, I asked my husband, “Do you ever get annoyed watching everyone have joy when you just don’t have any left?” His response was, “I’m a little more annoyed at us.  We’ve been attacked regularly for the last couple of years and we haven’t used the weapons we’ve been given. We need to start reading the Bible and praying together regularly.  Let’s think of some lies we continue to believe and then fight it through the Word and prayer.”  It has made a world of difference.  Inviting Jesus in and being candid and honest with how we feel about the ups and downs of life has been freeing and encouraging.

But it’s so easy to forget and start spiraling again.  I decided I needed a constant reminder that God has never failed me and has always provided.  For as long as I can remember, my favorite Bible verse has been 2 Timothy 1:7- “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

FAITH OVER FEAR.  I decided to get this on the inside of my left wrist/forearm so I literally see it every minute.  I decided that even though it would hurt, it would in no way compare to the pain and heartache I’ve felt over the last couple of years.  I could endure a half hour of needles (which actually only ended up being 8 minutes) for a permanent reminder that God is still good, and He is ultimately the only one who will guide me out of my sorrows.

The most beautiful thing about this tattoo is that it regularly reminds me of all the moments in life when God has been faithful to that verse.  My first 2 years of college, my anxiety and self-confidence were sometimes debilitating, and I would come home and cry many weekends; I couldn’t pinpoint why though.  Slowly but surely through learning and opportunities outside of my comfort zone, God gave me love for myself and power through a newfound self-confidence that knocked out that fear of being seen or known.

Serving others and making a difference in this world is insanely important to me.  I’m thankful that I’ve been given hundreds of opportunities to do just that.  But sometimes I suck.  Sometimes I fail.  Sometimes I get in my own way.  And in my worry and doubt that I’m doing any good, God has reminded me not to fear because the love He’s given me for others is still enough.  It may be as simple as spending time with one person or as huge as solving the English class crisis in Louisville.  The love He’s given me drives me to press on.

Power. Those stupid burglaries stripped me of all power, safety, and security.  For literally 2 years, I refused to be alone in my own home. There was a long period of time that I was afraid to leave our locked bedroom to wake up in the mornings.  My night owl, saint of a husband woke up with me and moved to the couch every day to appease my anxiety.  I would hear every small noise inside and outside and think it was a threat.  I’d never felt so weak and vulnerable.  Thankfully psychotherapy and Krav Maga took the edge off, and through time, God restored my spirit of power.

And now here I am, still grieving the loss of my first baby just 7 weeks ago.  I’m also in a new role at work that has had more challenges than expected.  And there’s all the other little things.  My own mind is my worst enemy.  I’ve had zero self-control over it for awhile now and as life continues to get harder, I keep losing.  When I chose to follow Jesus as a little girl, He gave me a new spirit that does not include fear.  And I’ve been rejecting that.  I have no reason to fear that “this is never going to get better.”  I have weapons to battle my own negativity.  But I am human, and I need to be reminded regularly.

Faith over Fear reminds me that the enemy can suck it because the battle has already been won.  Faith over Fear reminds me that none of this is over; God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  Faith over Fear reminds me of His goodness throughout my entire life so far.  Life is certainly still hard, but at least I have truth tattooed on my arm.

The Roller Coaster of Mental Health

Next month will be one year since I “graduated” from psychotherapy. Our deal was that I would learn to fight– both physically and spiritually.

Next month will be one year since I “graduated” from psychotherapy.  I received Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy to treat PTSD for six months.  The simple summary of EMDR is to focus on isolated moments of trauma while laterally exercising both sides of your brain to desensitize and reprocess that memory so that you essentially don’t relive it again and again with the same physical, mental and emotional reactions as when the event occurred.  I would come home from sessions absolutely drained and couldn’t handle much more mental stimulation for the rest of the evening.  We were essentially retraining my brain to stop being in fight or flight mode 24/7.  At that time, I could hardly function.  If the house creaked while watching television in the evening, I turned everything off and asked Seth to check the entire house.  I couldn’t sit in an empty room alone at home or at work.  If someone knocked on our door, I would panic and hide.  My heart physically ached and my lung capacity seemed to shrink from the anxiety settling in my chest.  Everything felt like a threat, and I never felt prepared enough.  Slowly but surely, EMDR was taking the edge off of my anxiety.  I could remember both burglaries without reliving every detail; I even got to the point where I felt like I was watching them on television rather than experiencing them firsthand.  My anxious reactions became less and less severe.  Independently, my therapist and I agreed on my last session that I was ready to progress to other forms of self-help.

Our deal was that I would learn to fight and only call for another therapy appointment if I had any setbacks.  I had done some research about Krav Maga at Core Combat Sports and had finally settled on a free trial class.  It was intimidating walking into a martial arts gym solo and fresh out of PTSD therapy.  My first experience happened to be a ground class, so we learned defense if someone mounts you on the ground.  The final minutes of class are timed spars where you fight for top position with your partner.  I lost every single round, and I signed up anyway.  For the first time in 9 months, I felt a fight awaken; I didn’t have the skill, technique, or fundamentals to go with it, but I knew I could learn.  Plus it was such an adrenaline rush that I physically shook for about 45 minutes after I left.

The owner of Core regularly says, “Action is stronger than reaction.”  I chose Krav Maga because I don’t care about sport.  I need to feel safe and prepared to take action.  I want to learn how to fight dirty, with technique, and how to defend myself.  I love this gym because they train us in a combination of combatives from boxing, wrestling, Jiu jitsu, Muay Thai and more in addition to defense on the ground, against weapons, etc.  My entire body ached for at least the first three months because it’s physically demanding unlike other physical activity.  I regularly come home with bruises, scratches, scars, broken blood vessels, and sore ribs that are likely out of alignment.  But hey, no pain no gain right? I’m physically stronger and my mental health has improved tremendously.  I feel more prepared to take care of myself.  I realize that if I’m ever attacked, it will definitely be an uphill battle but I also know I will put up a hell of a fight.  I am thankful for the creepy drills in class of closing my eyes and waiting to be attacked so I can fight them off.  I am happy to take the punches of larger men in class (with pads) to feel the impact of their natural strength.  I am particularly thankful to have been pushed up against a wall in a choke by a man who vaguely resembled the man who chased my out of my home… and that I did not panic.  I just fought back.  I cannot express my gratitude for all I have learned and will continue to learn from my trainers at Core Combat Sports.

I try to go to Krav at least three times a week, but I have to fight against my own brain every day.  My most recent victory is that I’ve woken up by myself nearly every morning for the last week and a half.  Since March 2017, Seth has moved to the couch most mornings while I shower and prepare for the day. (Yes, I know I have the best husband on the planet.) I have a difficult time being the first to leave our bedroom in the early morning hours, particularly in the dark.  I’m terrified to find the house ransacked, the windows opened, and the doors unlocked; that is an image I will never forget.  Lately, I’ve been trying to let him rest better, so my strategy is to wake up and lay in bed for 10-15 minutes and listen.  Once I’m convinced that the quietness of the house is safe, I walk into the hallway and clear every bedroom.  I turn on every light in the house.  And depending on my anxiety, I sometimes walk around in my fight stance when I turn corners.  I lock myself in the bathroom to shower, and listen for 2-3 minutes before I leave the bathroom to make sure there’s still not anyone in the house.  It sounds absurd as I write it out, but it’s a really big victory for me.  I’m fighting against every detailed memory of the first burglary in my head and though I start each morning with anxiety, it’s getting better.

I still have a ways to go in other areas of getting my life back.  One day I’ll be able to sleep with our bedroom door open.  It’s difficult to do when the only reason we were safe in the first burglary is because we were locked in our room sleeping.  One day I’ll be able to recognize loud sounds for what they clearly are- a car door slamming, the trash can blowing over, fireworks; not every sound is someone forcing their way in.  One day I’ll be able to stay home alone.  I occasionally will enter the house alone if Seth is 5-10 minutes away, but it is rare.  We live in a fort, but if someone wants to get in, they are going to force their way in.  One day I’ll stop being so angry.  I’m thankful to no longer be in constant fear, but anger is a difficult stage to move out of.  I’m mad as hell that my safety was compromised and I can’t get over it.  I’m angry that I don’t believe in the good of people anymore.  I hate that I’m scared of a particular people group; I know not everyone who looks the same makes the same choices.  For heavens sake I work with immigrants and refugees every day; I know that generalizations are crap.  Overall, I’m mostly mad that it happened at all and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.

I am doing some things about it now to rebuild though.  Krav helps me fight back physically and mentally.  I am pushing myself mentally to fight back against the parts of my brain that are still holding on to trauma.  But I realized while listening to the radio one morning, that I need to put most of efforts into fighting back spiritually.  Two songs absolutely wrecked me on the way to work one morning.

Give me strength to raise my voice, let me testify
Oh, hear my prayer tonight, ’cause this is do or die
The time has come to make a choice

And I choose joy.                                                                                   (joy. by for King & Country)

If we’re gonna fly, we fly like eagles
Arms out wide
If we’re gonna fear, we fear no evil
We will rise
By your power, we will go
By your spirit, we are bold
If we’re gonna stand, we stand as giants
If we’re gonna walk, we walk as lions                                                                 (Lions by Skillet)

My joy and confidence have always come from the Lord for my entire life.  I’ve never gone through such difficult times as I have in the last year and a half and it’s challenged me.  In my soul, I have never forgotten the truth.  But on a daily basis, it is very hard to remember.  If you want to help a sister out, please leave a verse or song lyric that declares the truth about God’s goodness, sovereignty, healing, purpose, and forgiveness.  My goal is to make a set of 365 note cards to have one each day to pray and meditate on.  We are so complex as human beings, and I learn more and more every day about the importance of taking care of my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health because it is a roller coaster.

The Woman I’ve Become

For the first time in my life at the age of 29, I’m not sure who I am anymore. But this woman that I see, I’m not very fond of her.  There have been more changes, obstacles, and general life happenings in the last year and a half than I feel strong enough to handle.

For the first time in my life at the age of 29, I’m not sure who I am anymore. But this woman that I see, I’m not very fond of her.  There have been more changes, obstacles, and general life happenings in the last year and a half than I feel strong enough to handle.

*October 2016- After 4 years of teaching part-time, I was hired as a full-time Adult Education ESL Instructor.

  *October 2016- After some encouragement from my coworkers, I decided to write an ESL curriculum book about how and what to teach to First Time Adult Literacy Students.  It is a very niche market, and my proposal was rejected by 4 publishers.

  *October 2016- I finally started dating one of my best guy friends from college, Seth.

  *December 2016- My lifelong church home was vandalized and burglarized two nights in a row. It ended in the death of a young life of one of the intruders.

  *January 2017- A few weeks later, the same church home was knocked down as part of the first phase for a new, larger facility.

  *February 2017- Seth and I secretly got married, and I moved into his man cave home.

  *March 2017- Four nights after getting married, we woke up to a burglarized home.  And despite EVERYONE telling me that it wouldn’t happen, the men came back 2 weeks later and chased me and my mom out of the house.

  *March 2017- We moved in with my parents for roughly three months.

  *March-April 2017- In the meantime, we had 2 wedding receptions including a mock American wedding for my ESL students, and 4 wedding showers.

  *April 2017- We bought a house and moved again.

  *May 2017- At work I was tasked with executing a hefty grant for our Family Education program for the upcoming school year.

  *June 2017- My parents moved out of my childhood home.

  *June-December 2017- I attended psychotherapy for PTSD because of the burglaries.

  *September 2017- I was hired as a Program Specialist in my workplace.

  *December 2017- I started Krav Maga (Israeli Combat) classes.

  *March 2018- I found out that due to budget cuts, my job will be cut after June 30.

  *May 2018- I completed my first full year teaching ESL, coordinating the ESL program at our largest site, while successfully executing the grant. 

Now here I am.  Some days my head is still spinning because I haven’t had time to process much of this.  Everything has changed- my identity, my roles, my physical location, the chemicals in my brain, my work, my outlook on life.  I struggle to like the woman I’ve become because I don’t want to be who I see every day. I am tired. I feel broken. I am negative. I don’t trust people.  Some days I don’t even like people.  I am afraid… a lot.  I am not adaptable. I am a ball of anxiety.  I cry way too much.

I don’t say all this asking for affirmations; I simply need an outlet. I need to be real. For those interested enough to read, I want to be understood.  Seth is always telling me that I have to cling to truth before I start in one of my downward emotional spirals.  I’m thankful that even on the hardest day, I still know in my soul that I was created by the God who faithfully loves me and can redeem the difficult things that have happened.  I’ve been given the best husband and life partner anyone could ask for, who never gives up on me and constantly encourages me.  My parents and my sister are crazy amazing and have never left me alone.  And I still have a deep desire to change the world.

Someday soon, I hope to see a different person.  A woman who is strong, confident, and joyful. A woman who loves others again with full compassion and understanding. A woman at peace and who has self-control over her thoughts.  A woman who can be a sounding board to others who are going through something similar.  Here’s to the journey of processing the former dull seconds and embracing the new ones that come along the way.