“What is saving your life right now?”
This question originated from the author Barbara Brown Taylor. I’ve been listening to Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love podcast lately, and at the end of every episode, Jen asks her guests this profound question. I started thinking about it in light of my own life, and it brought about some deep introspection!
A year ago, I was entangled in a sticky web of depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. My brain was a mess, my body was a mess, and my life felt like it was being held together by fragile threads that could break at any moment. If I had been asked what was saving my life at that time, my answer would have been immediate. Food.
I was addicted to food, mostly junk food and sugar, in a most unhealthy way. Food lent me a temporary rush of happiness and satisfaction. It was something to look forward to during otherwise dark days. It was a band-aid I slapped on a gaping wound, over and over.
Unfortunately, that “life-saver” was actually dragging me further and further down. I was starving my body of the nutrients it really needed, and filling it with substances that only caused further harm. My brain was in a perpetual fog, my body was shaky and jittery, I had alarmingly low energy. Everything felt impossible. Everything overwhelmed me. And I coped with that overwhelm by eating, which led not only to the negative physical effects, but also to a cycle of shame and self-deprecation.
That was a year ago.
This year, if you asked me the same question, my answer would be quite different. Nearly opposite, actually. I am so thankful for the miraculous way God pulled me out of that dark, terrifying time in my life. And I am so thankful that He is now educating me on practical, intentional ways to keep my head above water. I do believe that my God is a practical God, both creative and scientific, and He has provided us many tools to keep our bodies and minds healthy.
So what is saving my life right now?
Like I said–the opposite of last year. The opposite of many years, where my need for survival in the midst of a very overwhelming life (four kids in less than three years, two pregnancies and births, becoming treatment foster parents, two kids with intense medical needs, countless surgeries and hospital stays, adoptions, etc…) led to a steady diet of convenience foods.
Just recently, as in within the past few months, I finally began to make major changes in the way I feed our family, and the way I fuel myself. And I cannot believe the changes I am seeing. I suddenly have energy again, both physically and mentally. I am able to think and process information, where for years I just thought I had “mom-brain” and despaired of ever regaining my former intelligence. My skin is clear, after years of horrible acne, dryness, and premature wrinkles. The extra “baby weight” I never lost isn’t exactly melting off my body, but I am slowly losing a pound or two at a time, while simultaneously discovering that my weight no longer matters to me now that I feel healthy.
Perhaps the very best result of all, though? One of my sweet kids, who lived in a constant state of brain fog and frustration, and threw horrible, unpredictable tantrums, is suddenly mellow and clear-headed. I cannot express how relieved and thankful I am!
Am I going to tell you exactly how I did it, in a step-by-step, fool-proof method? Absolutely the heck not. I do not believe in a one-size-fits-all fix for any of our problems. I researched, learned, and went through a lot of trial and error to figure out what parts of our diet needed to be cut away, and what needed to be added. It works for us. It might not for you. This is a journey, and we are still learning by trial (and plenty of error) every day!
I believe that part of the perpetual shame cycle we go through with health lies in trying to follow one person’s miracle method, and then feeling like a failure when it doesn’t work for us.
Failure and shame for a food-addict usually means a hopeless junk food binge and a major setback–one more voice in our head telling us we’ll never pull out of this. Each of us has to pay attention to our own bodies and make decisions based on what brings us success. And I understand if even that one concept seems completely overwhelming. It did to me, too, when my entire body felt like a mess.
(I would be happy to talk more about this–just leave me a comment below, send me an email, or direct message me on Instagram!)
I process information by writing things down. I am an avid note-taker and list-maker. If I am struggling with something or need clarity on a certain area of my life, I journal in order to work it out and see the bigger picture. As my life in the last six years became more and more chaotic, and I fell further behind in keeping things organized in any way, I knew I needed a system that would work.
About eight months ago, I read an e-book called “Brainbook” by Kalyn Brooke. I had been interested in bullet journaling as a way to keep my life organized, and this book was so helpful in understanding the concepts and methods involved. I got started then, and now I don’t know what I would do without this life-saver!
Bullet journaling is a planning method that involves starting with a blank notebook or journal, and creating your own customized planner. If that sounds intimidating, let me assure you that the word “customized” means that this can be absolutely as simple, or as complex, as your brain needs it to be.
I am not artistic AT ALL. I cannot draw more than stick figures (and if you know my family, you’ll understand what an atrocity this is. I am a sibling, niece, cousin, and aunt to some ridiculously-talented artists. Thanks for stealing all the good genes, guys.). So I keep my bullet journal extremely simple–mostly just clean lines and check boxes. I use a good pen, a straight-edge steel ruler, and a journal that inspires me, and I make it function in the way my brain needs it to!
I say my bullet journal is saving my life right now, because it not only helps keep my to-dos, appointments, and other life stuff organized, but it also gives me an outlet. I cannot tell you how much spending a few minutes setting up my day in my journal each morning calms and focuses me. I have been able to use it to track my health, moods, and habits. I use it to set goals and track my progress. Each day, I check off boxes for the things I’m working on or trying to accomplish.
When I neglect my journal, I begin to neglect important areas of my life. My bullet journal is a beautiful, bright yellow, faux leather-bound lifesaver.
(Again, I would be happy to blog more in-depth about this, if anyone is interested! Let me know in the comments below. You can also check out my “Bullet Journal” story highlights on Instagram to see an example of how I set it up.)
Taking Myself Seriously
Early last year, I was on a date with my husband, Jordan. We were just driving around the countryside, talking, and I began to spill my heart to him. I will forever remember the conversation we had that night as one of the most impactful moments of my life. At one point, I sobbed out, “I need to start taking myself seriously.”.
That statement has grown into this blog. It has become a renewed desire and determination to be the writer I’ve always wanted to be. It became one of the many tools God used to pull me out of depression and spur me on to hope. It was the catalyst for adopting a new mindset about what it means to be a woman, and the value God has placed on me as His own purposeful creation.
And that statement is going to become it’s own blog post. There is so much to say, and so much I want to share with other women who are feeling as hopeless as I was. If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss what I hope will be an incredibly impactful post.
So now I want to know, what is saving your life right now? Practical or abstract, serious or silly. What is helping to stabilize you, keep your head above water, give you renewed strength and determination? What in life is giving you purpose right now?
I want to thank each of you so much for reading my blog, and for being such an encouraging, hope-filled community! We are all in this together, and I am passionate about the need for honesty, vulnerability, and finding the ability to grow in the hard places. I started this small “home” on the internet six months ago next week, and to each one who has read, shared, commented, subscribed, and especially those who have been touched by these words…thank you.
More posts you may like:
Be Stronger Than the Climb
My Top Books of 2018
A Time to Ask for Help