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thin ice

I think I’ve mentioned recently the fact that my heart has softened a lot over the last year. Although I’ve had friends praying for this exact thing to happen, I’m not liking it so much.

I started hardening my heart in high school, to avoid the pain of certain things that were going on. I was quickly good at it. Circumstances over the last ten or so years made me harden it more and more to the point where I didn’t let myself feel pain anymore. It was great (ish). I was a pro and not letting myself get hurt. I didn’t let anyone get close, and by doing that, I prevented myself from feeling the pain when things didn’t work out. I didn’t let myself become vulnerable. It was a hellish existence, but it’s how I survived certain circumstances that may otherwise have killed me.

Now, my heart is jelly. Everything hurts. Pregnancy dreams are cruel, and they like to bring up past events in very vivid detail, both things that have happened recently and things that happened years ago. It’s torture. I wake up shakey and weepy.

A couple times I’ve logged on to Facebook in the morning after having one of those nightmares and somehow I run into the profile photo of one of the people involved in my dreams – even though I’m not “friends” with them on FB – on a comment on a mutual friend’s status or when I click to write on a mutual friend’s wall and that person shows up on the top of the list of their “friends” on the sidebar. Sometimes it’s in the “people you may know” part of the main FB window (have I mentioned how much I HATE the “people you may know” app?) Sometimes I haven’t seen that person’s profile photo ever, sometimes not in a while, but somehow on THAT morning, it magically appears, when I least want to see it. It’s not that I’m angry at that certain person, it’s that seeing them reminds me of a certain event and then my heart starts to race and I start to shake and I can’t breathe and my head starts to pound and I feel light-headed/dizzy and I get hot flashes and I swear I’m going to pass out.

And then I take a little break from Facebook. Facebook is the debbil.

I feel like there was a thick layer of ice around my heart, protecting it. Over the years, daggers have tried to pierce it, and each of them got stuck as an additional layer of ice formed. Now, as each layer of ice melts, the daggers are getting through and I have no way to stop them.

I had one of those nightmares two nights ago. I was a mess in the morning. If I didn’t have to be at work that morning, I probably would have hidden in my bed for a couple more hours. Work is a great distraction. This morning, I was scrolling through my Facebook homepage and saw a character from the nightmare in a profile photo in a comment on a friend’s status. I hadn’t seen a photo of that person in longer than I can remember, and right away I started panicking, with all the above-mentioned super-fun panicky symptoms. One new symptom that’s popped up in the last couple months that was never there before is Braxton Hicks contractions. I didn’t have them with the girls, and they do NOT help, especially with the whole needing-to-breathe thing.

Noah’s changed a lot in his attitude and approach to my depression and anxiety, especially in the last couple weeks. Whereas talking to him used to make me feel worse and push me closer to the edge, I’m now finding myself comforted. If I told this fact to the psychologist I was seeing last spring, he’d probably fall over from shock. This morning when I was having my little panicky episode that I would usually keep to myself, I texted him about it. He was able to calm me down. Believe it or not, I think he’s actually exhibiting symptoms of something that I never thought I’d see in him – empathy. Miracles happen, people.

I’m not really sure what my point was in telling you all of this. I guess I want to write about the good stuff in the midst of the sucky stuff. I have high hopes of 2011 being my most-favorite year, but I’m not expecting it to be pain-free. That would just be completely unrealistic of me. I have high hopes because I know I have someone to walk this dark valley with me; someone to pick me up when I’ve fallen hard; someone to stay up late watching super-girly chick flicks with me. (No? We’re not there yet?)

Categories: anxiety/depression

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  • Elizabeth Monday, January 3, 2011, 11:11 pm

    Well said, Jen.
    I sometimes think that I don’t actually want things “this way” – I’d rather go back to my delusion that nobody ever screws up and hurts anybody else…

  • Janna Tuesday, January 4, 2011, 1:57 am

    When Mike and I clashed (which was pretty constant in our first decade or so of marriage), I always thought of that verse “like iron sharpens iron”. God put us together, both strong individuals, to break havoc on each other, to pound out our personalities and refine us into being more whole and well rounded human beings. Not always great for the “love and romance” department, but, definitely good for depth of character! I’m sorry it sucks and is a very hard path to travel, but, its great to see God working on you both!

  • Aunt Heather Tuesday, January 4, 2011, 8:49 am

    Years ago, I found myself in the dark valley for quite some time. Psalm 23 talks about walking in the valley of darkness so I didn’t think it was something unusual to be there. However, God finally pointed out to me that we don’t *stay* in the valley, we are to cross through it. Think of it like the grand canyon, we don’t want to walk the entire length of the valley, we want to go down one side and start back up the other. Once I got that revelation it made a lot more sense. This is not to say I haven’t visited the valley again from time to time, but at least I know God helps me climb out the other side. The enemy tempts me with the valley quite often, but our Lord is stronger. Bless you.

  • Jo Tuesday, January 4, 2011, 11:02 am

    Jen – I firmly believe that one needs to walk through darkness to see the light. I found that true healing of pain in my heart came from acknowledging that I ‘allowed’ something to happen to me or ‘allowed’ someone to do something to me. I had to acknowledge that I needed to forgive myself (and that is a big one) for allowing something to happen or allowing someone to do something. Hard to explain, but acknowledging and forgiving yourself lessens bitterness (which is like cancer, as it can kill you). Strategies to get through the first sentence above, take the form of shock, denial, acceptance and forgiveness. When one forgives, one can focus on good not bad energy. Perhaps it is the emotions dealing with it. I found it helped to journal about my hurts, etc., as you do. It slows the thinking process to how fast you can write or type.

    Another strategy I use is what is taught to cancer survivors (and I used this one when Bob had his heart attack) It is to spend a few minutes a day, focusing on what hurts you or has hurt you. How sad, scared, angry, etc., it made you. So again, you acknowledge your ‘bad’ feelings and then tell your mind – “Okay, lets get on with the day”. I found when I did this several times a day, I never buried my feelings and I healed faster.

    I also spent time looking in the mirror and seeing my soul through my eyes. Telling myself I was a good person, I was a worthy person and I was lovable. It’s interesting how at first it made me cry my eyes out (ant that is healing), but after some time, it gave me confidence and softened my heart. I felt alive again.

    All of the above work in letting things go and moving forward with joy and love. Like and love for yourself (#1 important) and like and love for family and friends, etc. It is only when your heart softens that you can truly and deeply love again. Your past may shape who you are today, but only your thought process can shape your future. So, you make choices as to what you want your future to look like.

    You are deeply loved by many people, because of who you are. What a rich blessing.

    Sorry to write a book here and I know that you will find your own method of dealing with what you need to deal with. Just wanted to share what works for me, as sometimes it will work for others.

    Hugs to all , Joanne

  • Heather Tuesday, January 4, 2011, 1:36 pm

    Nothing profound, just <3 and I'm here if you ever need to talk.

  • bethany actually Tuesday, January 4, 2011, 5:54 pm

    I’m so glad to hear that Noah was able to help you through it! And I sympathize with those Braxton Hicks contractions. I had them occasionally with Annalie, but they were no big deal. With Elliora, I had uncomfortable ones every day for the last, oh, 4 months of my pregnancy. Towards the end I sometimes had them off and on for hours at a time! Fun stuff.