Psalm 34:18-19 Msg
'If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath. Disciples so often get into trouble; still, God is there every time.'
Pain is a hard thing to ignore. Physically it can stop you in your tracks and you have to address it. Emotional pain can do the same thing.
One day the emotional pain just got too much…getting dressed that day, I was feeling so anxious, insecure, and like I shouldn’t be included. Have you ever felt that way? You may ask yourself how could someone who believes in God and has a strong faith feel these things?
2020 undid me. Kicked me right in the gut. I lost my breath. My heart was broken. I felt alone. It brought me to my knees and made me take a good hard look at who I am, really. I wasn’t ready, I carried so much shame. 2020 didn’t care and for that I am grateful. I am thankful for the undoing and the peeling back of layers of face paint that had built up over years of me trying to fit in because I never felt I belonged. God, was right there, even though I didn’t feel him. I was unavailable.
On this day, I had been invited to attend a “Love Yourself” brunch hosted by Sweet Jolie. With women of influence here in the city. Now you would think I would have been excited at such an invite that it goes so well with what I believe. Yes, it was an honour and yes it did go with what I believed for everyone else not me. I was not worthy of this. I didn’t belong. As I was getting ready, I cried; changed 4 or 5 times and tried to get out of going. I felt heavy both physically and emotionally. I felt old, insecure, irrelevant, full of shame and hopeless.
Why today? Why now? Why was I falling apart??? “PLEASE GOD” I cried out silently in my head not today. But it would be today. God, was right there, even though I didn’t feel him. I felt undeserving.
On the way to the brunch, Sarah and I were driving together and we got in a silly argument because I was voicing all the insecurity I was feeling. I started to cry. I wanted to go home or at least stay in the car and not go in. No one would notice.
I can only imagine what was going through her mind. Sarah had to be there; she is apart the amazing Sweet Jolie team. This was an amazing part of her job.
Awesome, her mother and business partner was falling apart in the vehicle just before we were to go in. I wanted to disappear. I felt ashamed that I the mother in this relationship was falling apart. She told me frankly that maybe I had imposter syndrome. I didn’t even know what it was but it hurt. How could she say that? I knew who I was and it wasn’t good enough.
Sarah was worried for me and I think frustrated because she looked up to me and was one of my biggest supporters. She was realizing she thought more of who I was than I did. Needless to say, she had to put our disagreement and my emotional breakdown on hold and go to work. God bless her.
What is imposter syndrome? I quickly googled it and this is what I found…
It is an internal fear of being a fraud, no matter how successful or accomplished you appear on the outside. Imposter syndrome is the not a diagnosable psychiatric disorder, yet it is a cluster of symptoms that up a life not truly lived at its fullest.
There is a tendency towards perfectionism, overworking, struggling with criticism, always comparing, praise feels uncomfortable, and you feel a fraud.
Okay, maybe she had a point, but I was not ready to recognize that in the middle of this mess.
I got up the nerve to walk in to the venue.
Have you ever stood in a room and felt invisible? I felt that way, even though people smiled at me and engage in some small talk. It was almost like I was having an out of body experience. I felt so fragile. I had always been able to wear the mask (this was before COVID) and put my game face on and suck it up. We had a saying back at work “Leave your crap at the door and fake it till you make it”. Today I couldn’t. It all came in with me. I felt helpless. I was so afraid people would see me for what I was, unworthy, weak and a mess of a person not good enough to be there.
I didn’t know how bad I was feeling, because I wasn’t used to feeling my emotion. You can be an emotional person and not feel your feelings. That was me. Today was the start of things changing and the start of my emotional breakdown to breakthrough. The years of pretending to have it all together and be what I thought everyone wanted came to an end that day. I was raw, exposed, fragile and very afraid.
Over brunch we talked about real life. Each woman was so honest, it was refreshing. We talked about hard things, overcoming and about selflove. I listened, even participated but I felt numb, I was trying to hold it together. Yes, I cried a little, felt embarrassed and ashamed not because of anyone else, they were all so supportive and kind. It was all my perception of what I thought they were thinking of me. As each woman shared the others listened without judgement and didn’t respond with a prepared fix. They honoured where each one of us was, asked questions, and offered encouragement.
Gosh, I would love to go back and hug each one of those women and thank them for their kindness, encouragement and vulnerability. I hope to get that chance someday soon.
After leaving the event, Sarah and I went home and I had ideas of doing something…be something…be better…be what everyone needed. I had hope. Except, I didn’t.
In the weeks that followed I buried my feelings and proceeded to become so busy (a coping mechanism) so I couldn’t feel. I also spent a lot time eating my feelings and gaining weight and feeling so much shame. A cycle I lived over and over in my life. My battle with food, body image and my value as a person were all messed up. Something I would never wish on anyone. I don’t believe your value has anything to do with your size, weight or shape. This unhealthy standard was only for myself.
My bulimia returned at 58 years of age after many decades of being dormant. It all goes hand in hand. If you don’t address the underlying issues they keep coming back. During this time, I fell back into a reoccurring pattern of running away from things. I quite something I loved because of pasts hurts that I carried with me and couldn’t get past. Blaming it on the situation and others and not looking deep into myself. That would have been too hard. I did what I new how too. I overate, I kept busy, I suppressed my feelings and ran from hard things. It left me empty, broken and falling apart.
Then COVID hit and I had nowhere to run to be busy, no coffee dates to help a friend, no family time, no busy work, nothing except food. Dear Lord, I was alone, with myself. My husband and I are were coping very differently. I had pushed him away and we started isolating ourselves from each other. I felt like maybe my marriage was over. I was too tired to fix it, I had nothing to give.
Then Sarah said to me with such kindness and concern “Mom, maybe you need to talk to someone”. My middle daughter Rayna had been also encouraging that. God is so good giving me such compassionate, wise and loving daughters.
I reached out to ask for help…only to be too afraid to follow through so I went for a few more months in denial. Then my loving, kind and faithful husband made an observation in one of our conversations…I’m pretty sure I was saying the marriage was over. How did I get so lucky to have him fight for us when I wouldn’t? He has never given up on us. Thank God! He said to me after I was saying all my things about how everyone had hurt me (they were to blame – no all true) He said, “Kath, of course you feel this way. You don’t trust anyone especially yourself. Look at your history.” Boom!
He was right. I didn’t even see it. I didn’t trust anyone especially myself. You see when you try to fit in, you lose yourself and you don’t trust your voice. You don’t believe your own thoughts, opinion or choices. I would drive John crazy at restaurants waiting to hear his order before I could order mine. He always had to go first. I wouldn’t order the same thing but I had to hear his order, just in case. I was afraid to make a decision. That’s just one example.
I did make decisions but I spent my life making them for the good of others, ignoring the little voice in my head and my conscience. I would do what I thought they wanted or needed no matter how I felt. I did not trust myself.
Holy man, that is a lot to take in during an emotional breakdown. I had some responsibility in this.
One faithful day in June after a conversation with a dear friend Ashley, I made an appointment for Grief Recovery, with The Grief and Trauma Healing Centre. This time I followed through because I was ready for breakthrough, healing and recovery. I am so grateful I did. It has given me my life. I can’t say it’s given me my life back, because I never had my life before now. I was always deferring to someone else.
I learned that grief isn’t only for the death of a loved one, there are many forms of grief and trauma. I had been suppressing all my grief, losses and trauma since my childhood. So, together with the caring support of my “heart with ears” I walked through my grief journey towards healing and recovery. I’m still on this journey and will continue it throughout my life. I can feel my feelings, deal with them but not live in them. I can feel them and move forward. I don’t have to rely on my old ways of coping. I have the tools now. I am a work in progress.
Now I can say I order my food without asking John what he is having, it doesn’t make a difference anymore. It may be a small thing but it’s a pretty big deal to me. I feel more comfortable in my own skin and trust myself. My eating disorder although not cured has subsided and my focus is not trying to control that part of my life. I think in part because I can acknowledge my feelings and not have to cover them up or numb them with food or by getting too busy or, or, or, all the or’s. I am learning to feel the emotion, name it and move on from it. I am still evolving in all of this and can stumble into old habits now and then. The difference now is I can see the pattern, admit what I am doing and ask for help. If you are struggling in any of these areas please seek help. You are worth it.
John and I are doing well. Giving each other the love, support and grace we each need during this strange time in history. We have grown closer despite everything.
God was right there in the middle of my emotional breakdown. He helped me catch my breath. He is always with me and I can feel His presence now more than ever.
I have just completed my Grief Recovery Method Specialist training so I can help walk grieving people through their loss into recovery. I am so appreciative of what 2020 has given to me. It gave room to discover me, trust God, myself and others. It has given me room to grow more into who God has made me to be.
Praying the goodness of God fill your life to overflow as you pour into others. And remember you can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of you because you matter and we need you, your voice and your point of view. You are made worthy of love, respect, grace and kindness.
If you are struggling and need help, “The Grief and Trauma Healing Centre” here in Edmonton is amazing. Phone # (780)288-8011 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if they can’t help you, they can direct you who can.