Wednesday, December 19, 2018

What Do We Do When The Lights Go Out?

What do we do when it's been a really hard week? I mean so emotionally taxing that just the basic tasks are too much? When the load we have to carry seems so heavy that we are sure we can't go one more step? I know I'm not the only one who has felt this way. I may be the only one here with a brain injury, but unfortunately, there is a multitude of trials out there, and we all have our crosses to bear. And they do get SO heavy! What do we do? How do we keep going when it seems the light has gone out?

I hope you know me well enough by now to know that I'm usually a ray of sunshine. I joke that I walk around like a swallowed a light bulb :-) For those of you who know the enneagram, I'm an enneagram type 7 from my head to my toes. I'm almost always able to see the positives in any situation and have an easy smile for anyone, at any moment. It's just how God made me - I sparkle. But this past week, my spark went out. It's as if someone reached inside me, grabbed the pull-chain on my internal light bulb, and pulled. And the light went out.

I don't know how much you know about life with a chronic condition, but it's really hard sometimes. On top of the normal parenting, marriage, and life stuff that all have to be navigated, pile physical pain and exhaustion, never-ending medical decisions to be made, doctor visits, and the daily attacks on self-esteem that come with physical limitations. I'm not sharing all of this to whine or to ask for pity. But none of the rest of what I have to say will make any sense if I'm not honest with you about the difficulties.

Brain mapping in action - before it got
crazy painful and I started crying
I hit my emotional limit during a "brain mapping" test that I was doing last week. It's not designed to be painful, but the flashing images and random beeping caused a severe headache and had tears streaming down my face while I finished the test. We had tried something new to find answers, and it was backfiring. We spent time, money and energy on something new. Again. And just like all the things we had tried before, this one seemed like a bust.

Drew took this one during a treatment
we tried in June. Not only didn't it 
work, it left me sick for days.
As I sat there crying during that test, I felt absolutely depleted - empty of all energy - just done. I was so tired of trying things and seeing doctors that didn't work. I was over getting my hopes up just to be disappointed again. That emotional roller coaster has really taken its toll on me over the years, and I don't want to ride it any more. I just wanted to go home, crawl in bed, pull up the covers, and stay for a week.

The light inside just went out. I had hit my emotional limit. The bottom.

Have you ever been there? Maybe it's not a chronic medical condition that has pushed you to your limit, but unfortunately, life is full of trials and suffering that give us more than we can handle. Have you ever felt like someone just reached inside, grabbed the pull-chain on your internal light bulb and pulled? The light is off. That's it. I'm done.

What do we do in those moments? Where do we turn?

I certainly don't claim to have all the answers. All I can tell you is that here I am a few days removed, and the light is starting to shine again. So I'll share what choices I made in the hope that it will help you when your light goes out.
The first thing I have to do when I'm struggling emotionally is to acknowledge the messages my emotions are sending. Ignoring our emotions isn't healthy long term. God gave them to us for a reason. They are telling us something, and we need to listen. I tend to speak my emotions out loud in prayer. David did that too in the book of Psalms. When he felt defeated or alone, he told God all about it. You can check that out in Psalm 22 especially. I tell God exactly what I'm feeling. No fancy words or scripted prayers - just cries of my heart.

Step two is searching for what I know to be true. My emotions are real and valid. But they are not always going to lead me to truth. There is only one source of truth, and if I'm going to be healthy and find my way back from the bottom, I have to find that truth and cling to it!!! Where do I go for that truth? Straight to the Bible. Whatever my emotions are telling me, I go find the truth of God's Word that deals with those pain points. For me this week, my emotions told me that I was carrying more than I could handle and I would never be able to carry this heavy load. I intentionally went searching for what the Bible has to say about it. When I found verses that spoke to my heart with God's truth, I printed them out and taped them up so I could see them every day!

It comes down to making a choice to believe the things I know to be true and holding on to those truths with all my might until my emotions recover. It’s an act of discipline that I’ve worked really hard at over the last few years of this journey.

Here’s a for-instance - when I’m feeling all alone and forgotten, I print out the verse that says “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) I hang it up where I will see it. I focus on it. I find worship songs on Spotify that fit that theme. I drill the facts of the Bible into my head until my heart finally catches up. Just because I feel alone doesn’t mean I am. I acknowledge those feelings, tell God about them, ask Him to let me feel His presence, and then remind myself of the truth that I know as many times as it takes. Emotions are wonderful messengers that we need to pay attention to, but they don’t tell the whole story. Just because I feel alone doesn’t mean that I am alone.

Here are some other truths we can hang on to when the lights go out:

  • He is working all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28)
  • Greater is He that is in us than He who is in the world (1 John 4:4)
  • Our God is for us! (Romans 8:31)
  • God is our very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1)
  • He who promised will be faithful (Hebrews 10:23)
(This list is adapted from Unexpected: Leave Fear Behind, Move Forward in Faith, Embrace the Adventure by Christine Caine - A book I highly recommend!)

As I cling to the truths of God's Word, my internal dimmer switch is slowly sliding up. I'm gradually starting to feel like myself again, emotionally. God is giving me His strength to face each new day and the challenges that come. When you see me sparkle (in real life or online), you will know where the light comes from :-)


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