February 12, 2018

always learning

i was pleasantly surprised by the number of views my 2-part post (pt 1 here and pt 2 here) received.
image found here
thank you!

hopefully we can all continue these important conversations going on within the Mormon church, and without.

because these are not "Mormon problems."
they are human problems.

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as a social worker and an insatiably curious soul, "human problems" are my jam.
i am continually seeking to understand all humans and find ways to unify humanity as a whole.
and that starts with accepting my ignorance.

sure, sometimes "ignorance is bliss" does ring true.
i can't subscribe to this belief, though, because i always prefer to know - even when it hurts - rather than obliviously enjoying life because i don't know.

since we're all ignorant before learning better, i feel like there's a special sort of solidarity in the learning process. i believe education can change the world; learning new information seems to constantly change the way i view myself and brings clarity to the way the world works.

image found here

in my last post, i included a link to josh weed's viral post announcing the end of his mixed-orientation marriage. the following is a quote from that post:
my dear friend... turned to me one day and said “Josh, you realize your sexual orientation is beautiful, right? Not just tolerable. It’s beautiful . . .”
*cue my tears*

josh's experience echoed one of my own from early december:

in the midst of a medium-sized breakdown, feeling more hopeless than i had in a very long while, i reached out to a {straight, Mormon} friend over text. i shared with this friend how intensely i felt the normally-muted cognitive dissonance. i struggled to find words that adequately expressed the soul-wrenching desperation i felt in those moments.

feeling just about ready to crawl out of my skin, i received a text message that instantly comforted my soul --

"...you aren't a mistake...
you aren't a problem to be ignored.
you're a daughter of God."

image found here

a message so simple, yet so profound.

it reminded me of a book i was sent out-of-the-blue by as loved one when i most needed it. i know i've referred to it before {because it's the best book ever}.

the hero's journey, by carol lynn pearson

carol lynn pearson throws out the idea that maybe, instead of seeing "gay" as a sin or something awful, it actually brings with it its own collection of blessings, gifts, and characteristics for the benefiting of others.

in order to fully utilize these talents for helping others, we must get to the very core of who we are. we have to stop running from the truth.

over the last 3 and 1/2 years, after a lot of heartache, by searching through the research, records, and opinions of others, my faith and beliefs have grown and been refined.
they are still being refined!

there are countless articles, blogposts, opinion editorials, podcasts, and books that help offer insight into lgbt+ issues.

i am painfully aware of my ignorance and hope to always be learning.

February 1, 2018

pt 2. grappling for lives

it's been more than 2 weeks since i published my "pt 1" post.
my intention was to publish pt 2 within days of pt 1.
however, it kept feeling like i was forcing things to come together.

so i kept waiting, as i prefer to let things flow naturally.
today, things finally pieced together.

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pt 1 included my descriptions of some mentally, emotionally, and spiritually low points i experienced in recent years.
...and continue to experience on a rather frequent basis.

cognitive dissonance and i are becoming best friends.

image found here
i also described how quickly and easily i turned to thoughts of suicide after acknowledging my sexuality.
unfortunately, i am not an exception.
rather, i'm part of a trend within the lgbt+ population.
particularly in my Mormon religion.

recently, my home state of utah announced the creation of a task force to increase efforts in addressing the state's suicide crisis. this was a direct response to the cdc's report from the end of 2017.
image found here

though many believe it's about dang time(!) for everyone to quit denying that there's a serious problem...
there is also an overall feeling of relief to finally see efforts mobilizing.

it is also a particular *win* to see that my church is getting involved in these efforts; they even announced an expansion of its suicide prevention efforts.

while i am happy to see such efforts being made, i must admit that i feel skeptical.

this past september, the church released a statement addressing the cdc's report on utah's alarming teen suicide rate. in it, they quoted elder dallin h. oaks (now president oaks) saying:
"making a child or youth feel worthless, unloved, or unwanted can inflict serious and long-lasting injury on his or her emotional well-being and development. young people struggling with any exceptional condition, including same-gender attraction, are particularly vulnerable and need loving understanding—not bullying or ostracism. with the help of the Lord, we can repent and change and be more loving and helpful to children—our own and those around us.”
i have sincere gratitude for the fact that these sentiments were stated.

and yet.
i sincerely wish that oaks would read his own words and apply them to himself; that he would acknowledge his own bullying and ostracism in regards to lgbt+ Mormons.

pres. oaks, it is you and your fellow brethren who have created the teachings, beliefs, and policies that make each lgbt+ Mormon "feel worthless, unloved, or unwanted."
it is you who could desperately use a large helping of "loving understanding" for this population.

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"flunking sainthood" blogpost in 2016 {which links to several helpful sources} discussed research showing a strong link between teen suicide and the Mormon faith.
based on my own experiences, i fully believe the Mormon stance in regards to lgbt+ individuals is a largely contributing factory.

at the crux of the crisis is this one perpetual question that must be asked and answered by and for each and every child of God:

how do i fit into the plan of salvation???
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everything in my Mormon paradigm was built on my understanding of "the plan" {also called "the great plan of happiness"}.
for 26 years of my life it did offer me great happiness, peace, and an organized sense of structure.
...but then i suddenly didn't fit into the box anymore.

not fitting into the box i used to fit terrified/s me.
especially in relation to the document at the core of everything: the infamous "the family: a proclamation to the world."

this 2011 post outlines several reasons why
some see the proclamation as controversial.

this 2017 post adequately
describes my feelings on the matter.

if i take church teachings and the leadership's counsel at face-value...
basically, i'm screwed.

returning to oaks, the following quote was made at the semi-annual general conference in october 2017:
“the actions of those who try to follow God’s plan of salvation can cause misunderstanding or even conflict with family members or friends who do not believe its principles.”
“Such conflict is always so… but whatever the cause of conflict with those who do not understand or believe God’s plan, those who do are always commanded to choose the Lord’s way instead of the world’s way.”
i do believe in God's plan.
i desire to choose the Lord's way.
maybe i'm hoping there's some revelation still yet to be received?

dear new Mormon 1st presidency:
have you sincerely asked God, with open hearts, for guidance with the lgbt+ population? would you please specifically ask about us? we need help. too many lives have already been lost.

alright, well, let's go ahead and sum things up!
the 2 belief options regarding l/g/b sexuality is as follows.


1) homosexuality is a mistake, trial, or flaw. any "abnormal" sexuality will be removed from one's eternal identity in the next life.

i am told that if i'm *righteous* in this life,
i will be *rewarded* with a husband in the next.
or i can marry one in this life and try to make that work.
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2) homosexuality is a built-in part of *eternal nature and identity.*

maybe a loving Mother and Father in Heaven
designed my sexuality as part of the plannot just a side note...
not as a square needing to squish into a circle.

image found here

belief #1 is most often used as support for a mixed-orientation marriage {m.o.m.}, which not a whole lot of people outside staunchly religious communities know as a real phenomenon.

in Mormondom, the name josh weed was the first exposure most people had to m.o.m.s when he published his coming-out post in 2013.
fast-forward 5 years, to last week, where josh and lolly weed announced the end of their m.o.m.
i do hope you'll read their latest post, "turning a unicorn into a bat,"
as it outlines several important points about the l/g/b population
and the unique experience of being an gay Mormon individual.

josh weed, in his post, listed several of the inconsistent messages from church leaders - sometimes implicitly, sometimes explicitly - he received throughout his life:
image found here
1. my sexual orientation wasn’t real
2. my sexual orientation was evil
3. my sexual orientation was an abomination
4. my sexual orientation was tantamount to bestiality and just shy of murder
5. my sexual orientation was a crime against nature
6. my sexual orientation was just a feeling
7. my sexual orientation was very small–merely a temptation and a tendency
8. my sexual orientation was something so huge and dangerous that it led to sodom and gomorrah’s destruction and could lead to the downfall of civilization
9. my sexual orientation could change in this life if i had enough faith
10. my sexual orientation was a “trial” to bear
11. my sexual orientation maybe couldn’t change in this life after all
12. my sexual orientation could be managed with faith
13. my sexual orientation could be endured
14. my sexual orientation was my own fault (for, as stated in the miracle of forgiveness written by the Mormon prophet, spencer w. kimball: “many have been misinformed that they are powerless in the matter, not responsible for the tendency, and that ‘God made them that way.’ this is as untrue as any of the diabolical lies satan has concocted. it is blasphemy. man is born in the image of God. does the pervert think God to be ‘that way?’”—which was the quote that finally made me, as a 14-year-old reading those words alone in my room, throw the book across the room in horror. it was the word “pervert” that really shook me—i knew i hadn’t brought gayness upon myself and that i was not a pervert, even at that age)
15. my sexual orientation was not okay to have and needed to be rooted out (the miracle of forgiveness even recommends a type of counseling that will help, claiming many had changed)
16. my homosexual feelings were okay to have because they can never change, but were never okay to act on
17. it was not okay to be referred to as “gay” but instead only as “same sex attracted”
18. homosexual feelings should never lead to a person identifying himself/herself with the word “gay” as a noun
19. it is okay to be referred to as “gay” but only in certain circumstances…
                                              . . . and on and on and on.
contradiction? confusion?
though not complete, i can attest from my own experience that this list is completely accurate.

with the surprise of josh and lolly weed's announcement of divorce came a lot of mixed reactions.

a dear friend of mine, who is also in a m.o.m., wrote a lovely response to the weed's post entitled "walking through the weeds of josh weed’s latest revelation."

do i think everyone can make a m.o.m. work?
no, not at all. i do believe it's rare.
however, i'm not going to knock it!

i personally have several wonderful loved ones in m.o.m.s and i
sincerely believe they will succeed in their life-long marital unions.

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josh weed references "romantic attachment" in his post, and my friend also touches on it in her response post.
she points out that there is a difference between "romantic attachment" and sex, though it can be difficult for some people to differentiate the two.

can a mixed-orientation include romantic attachment?
i'm not going to pretend i can answer that.

i believe that anything is possible when you listen to your heart.
and no one can dictate what your heart tells you.

i also want to clarify something about sexuality:
it's not just about sex!

our human sexual identity has everything to do with how we perceive ourselves.

on my own journey, the more authentic and true to myself i become i notice that the only moments of spiritual peace i feel occur when i stop fighting this part of my identity.

even as i initiated my path to figuring out my sexuality, my heart felt divinely led to learn about, acknowledge, and accept it. when i did, everything seemed to "click" and i found answers to questions i'd never even thought to ask!

all this evidence leads me to believe sexuality really is an integral part of my eternal identity.

great, right?
problem solved.

...except, not.
because growing into this belief didn't actually resolve the bulk of my problems.
it simply helps me stop hating myself so much.
...ok, maybe not so simply.
that's actually a really big deal.

but accepting all the pieces of my identity as God-given didn't change what has and is explicitly stated in the family proclamation, the tenets taught of the plan of salvation, or what is preached at the pulpit.

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the thing is, i would actually agree with most of the things said by church leaders regarding the plan if they offered even the tiniest smidgen of hope for l/g/b Mormons.
unfortunately, i am very aware how my belief that sexuality is part of my God-given eternal identity changes the way i view things.

in my last post, i described my experience as a 26-year-old clinging to belief #1 left me hating myself. loathing and despising myself. feeling so.much.shame.

josh weed expressed similar sentiments.
so, too, did my friend in her post.

and i will admit to regularly commiserating with loved ones in similar situations over the irony of suicidal thoughts providing the closest thing to comfort or peace we can find when the cognitive dissonance gets too loud and painful.
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i doubt anyone needs to be a trained mental health professional to realize that hating and despising yourself is a very unhealthy place to be.

yes, well...
cognitive dissonance, my friends.

and even after my more than two decades {on and off} of individual therapy and the countless therapeutic resources i've gained learned as a social worker...

the never-ending cognitive dissonance of being a gay, believing Mormon still has the power to immediately provoke the familiar, intense desire to die.
it can just rush in like a tidal wave!

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if i - with all my resources, experiences, and countless "protective factors" against suicide - still find myself wishing for death when confronted by this cognitive dissonance, how much more despair must our lgbt Mormon youth feel?

how do we protect against suicide when so many of an lgbt Mormon youth's protective factors become the very reasons for their contemplating suicide?

what are they supposed to do when the only options they can see involve living without love {and/or a celibate life} or ruining their eternal family unit by finding love and following their heart?

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... it should not be hard to see why Mormon lgbt youth often see death as the best option. it can still feel like the best option for educated, emotionally intelligent, spiritual adults!

and to be a Mormon youth in Utah without all the experience and therapeutic skills i have at my disposal?????
i cannot even imagine how much worse that must be.

there's no doubt in my mind that, had i become cognizant of my sexuality as a Mormon teen in the heart of utah county, i would not be alive today.

according to the cdc, utah has seen "a 141.3% increase in the youth suicide rate." that means crisishow does anyone doubt the correlation between the ghastly spike in youth suicides and the Mormon church policy regarding the excommunication of members in same sex marriages?

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i have faith that somewhere in revelation not yet received by church leadership is a pathway specifically for me as a gay Mormon.

faith, as i was reminded by a wise loved one, is not defined by automatically taking what i'm told to believe as absolute truth.

"i don't have to have faith that what the brethren say is ultimate truth. that isn't the definition of faith! ...i'm choosing to put my faith in Christ and believe He's the one helping me be brave in this new journey." -loved one
the opposite of faith is certainty.
claiming certainty negates a claim of faith, right?

i believe my faith is no less valid than other church members just because it's different.

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at this point, i'm trying to do everything i can to find hope.

people are dying.
valuable human lives are being lost.

and with the lack of space provided within the Mormon church for lgbt+ individuals, suicide begins to feel like the only peaceful solution.

while suicide awareness and prevention is a great step and very important,
it's hard to imagine that anything short of
a) leaving the Mormon church, or
b) new revelation for lgbt+ inclusion
will have a substantial impact on the suicide rate in the lgbt+ Mormon population.
particularly that of our lgbt+ youth.

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i pray that we find a solution.

January 16, 2018

pt 1. cognitive dissonance

ready or not, we're already 2 weeks into 2018.
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am i the only one who thinks this brand new year came way too fast?
i have no idea where 2017 went.
i mean, it never even felt like Christmas before i had to pack it all up again!

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without feeling Christmas, it's been hard to accept that it's over and move on to the present.

this year, Christmas felt like getting salt rubbed in an open wound.

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of course, this wasn't the first year Christmas felt like that...

i mentioned in a previous posts that i wasn't able to return home for the holidays my first Christmas in grad school, but then conveniently omitted the reason.

in full disclosure, staying in jersey that Christmas was a matter of life and death.
my life and death.

it had everything to do with the identity crisis i outlined in my post "one year later" regarding my coming to terms with being Mormon and gay.

with my true-blue utah Mormon world completely shattered by the acknowledgement of this revelation, the 2014-2015 school year was my "year of drowning."

image found here

thankfully, i reached out for professional help before it was too late.
i desperately needed the intensive therapeutic program i attended, which was based on "dialectical behavior therapy" {or dbt}.

i consider it miraculous that i was able to attend an effective and financially-sustainable {let's be real, i had just moved across the country and started grad school -- i had no money} therapy program that would take a grad student half-way through the semester.

in order to receive treatment, though, i was required to maintain consistent attendance.

before i'd started the therapy program, i felt so hopeless that i organized my belongings and made preparations so that when i killed myself, my parents wouldn't have to clean up a mess when they came to collect my body.

my soul had already drowned and my body
was simply waiting for its turn to go.

image found here

in seeking help, i stopped waiting for someone or something to save me.
i was declaring my decision to save myself.

this program and the work i was doing there literally saved my life.
so of course, i agreed to stay in jersey through Christmas break.

let me be entirely clear, though:
when i eventually "graduated" from my therapeutic treatment program, absolutely nothing had changed about my situation or circumstances --

  • i was still in culture shock from moving by myself to new jersey.
  • i was still in my emotionally intense graduate classes that left me feeling singed to extra crispy after each session.
  • i still felt undeserving of my Mormon community.
  • i still felt emotionally cut off from family and friends.
  • and i could still feel my soul tearing apart into tiny pieces.

there were no answers to my predicament.
the only change resulting from my time in treatment was my ability to better cope with the feelings of fear, anxiety, shame, desperation, and hopelessness.

the feelings were still very real and very present.

even with all the words in the english language, i struggle to adequately convey the intensity of the emotions i experienced at that time of crisis.
...as well as intermittently in my present-day life.

this quote by frantz fanon helps explain, though.

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in application:

original core belief -
as a daughter of God and a member of the LDS church, my life will consist of marrying a man, having children, then working towards eternity together.

evidence against -
the weird, fluttery feeling i always defined as something else is actually a romantic attraction. towards women. the way i'm supposed to feel towards men.

well, no worries!
i'm a pro at denial.
a real champ, i tell you.

it's my go-to coping skill.

image found here

...is there really any wonder that i didn't figure my sexuality out sooner?

by age 26, i simply could no longer "rationalize, ignore, [or] deny" the evidence.
my internal battle commenced into consciousness.

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cognitive dissonance is defined as:
"a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors. this produces a feeling of discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance, etc."
cognitive = knowing, perceiving
dissonance = clashing from combining two disharmonious elements

ummm.... "discomfort" ...?
"anguish" would be more appropriate.

the ache of this anguish was tearing. me. apart.
my mind and body felt like a battlefield;
one half of myself brutally waring against the other half.

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i loathed myself.
i felt evil.
i believed i was evil.

my religion had taught that gays who chose to act on these feelings were demonstrating a "perversion" of God's ways.
--> gay = sinful, damnation, no eternal joy

no matter how many tears i shed or prayers i pleaded...
both my faith and identity were determined to stay.
i felt insane.

image found here

that first year of grad school, i spent endless hours prostrate on my bed.
no movies or tv. no books. only my thoughts.
searching for some kind of solution.
imagining every possible outcome.

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back and forth, back and forth, back and forth --

"there must be something to hope for"
"there is nothing to hope for."

for a person who lives at the corner of idealism and realism,
i searched and pondered and prayed for a sliver of hope.
some semblance of peace.

it was no use, though.

everything in my belief system
told me the devil was using
a perverse counterfeit of real, pure love
to win over my soul.

as a person with a heart that thrives on loving others, i could not bear the thought of being single and celibate for the rest of my life.
i also could not accept the idea that i was destined to hand my soul over to the devil.

image found here

now that i've gone more than 3 years into this journey of self-discovery, it is interesting to observe that whether an outcome is tied to God or to the devil depends on perception. interpretation.

however, another interesting observation:

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as i've started my career as a social worker, i have learned a lot about the importance of self-love and self-compassion.

what does a gay Mormon do when they want to fully love themselves, yet come to find they don't know how to love the part of themselves they've been taught to hate and revile?

i am not a number or statistic.
i am a human being with feelings and thoughts and hopes.

i grew up in an orthodox Mormon home, so i knew of Jesus even before i could speak.

Mormon dogma has always colored the way i see the world.
it's how i made sense of all existence and questions and struggle.

even this blog, from its inception in 2008 when i was a 19-year-old seminary student-teacher, has been a way for me to express my faith in God and share insights on life-lessons learned through my personal trials.

i have always believed in God.

it is not uncommon to hear me wish i didn't have the testimony i do.
i don't just avoid doing things to make it grow, i have actively tried to destroy it.
for some reason, nothing has succeeded in diminishing my beliefs.

i strongly believe i would have an easier time reconciling my sexuality had i not fully accepted the Mormon faith as my own.

...but who wants easier?
certainly not a gay Mormon!

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Christmas of 2014 was the first one that forced me to question all the things i'd imagined for my future.
i thought back on the "hope chest" i received as a preteen.
each subsequent Christmas had brought special items to secure in that box of hopes.
it's been gathering dust for a good, long while, now.

and each Christmas since that lonely 2014 holiday has been filled with a heavy feeling of loss, renewing the grief of what i assumed my life would look like by now.
image found here
i am a gay, single, 30-year-old Mormon woman.
by nature and nurture, i was made to be a spouse.
i was sure that by 30 i would be married with a growing family of my own.

i think that's why this Christmas hurt a little more than usual.
these benchmarks are important and beautiful and ...sometimes painful.

they remind us of the past and steer us toward the future.
i'm mostly grateful that i have a future, as there were many moments of uncertainty about that.

now, please know:
i do not sharing these things on a public blog in order to garner sympathy.
it is my hope that, in telling my real and raw story, there might be someone who gains strength, comfort, and/or understanding for themselves or their relationships with others.

no one's story is like another's.
the similarity is that we are all human.
our common humanity dictates that we each suffer and we each make mistakes.

cognitive dissonance is something that everyone experiences at some point in their lives.
some experience it more than others.
it's not about ridding ourselves of it, it's about finding solace in the discomfort.

i am still searching for answers and continue to, at times, find myself thrown into utter despair from the cognitive dissonance of my sexuality and my eternal prospects.

in my next post, i will share more about that and a topic that is very dear to my heart.

for now, here's a song by one of my very favorite artists.
the lyrics put words to the wrestlings in my soul.
i often listen to it on repeat.

"God help me" lyrics

there's a wrestling in my heart and my mind
a disturbance and a tension i cannot seem to drive
and if i'm honest, there's quite a bit of fear
to sit here in this silence and really hear You
what will You ask of me?
will i listen to your voice when you speak?

help me to move
help me to see
help me to do whatever You would ask of me
help me to go (or) God help me to stay
i'm feeling so alone here
and i know that You're faithful
but i can barely breathe
God help me

sometimes things, they are black and white
but sometimes they are not and that leaves us torn inside
and in the middle we are left to wonder
who we are, what You want, and where we're going
oh such a mystery
i don't always understand
but i believe


i don't know the future
it's one day at a time
but i know i'll be okay with Your hand holding mine
so take all my resistance oh God i need Your grace
one step and then the other, show me the way
show me the way


i am grateful that my cognitive dissonance no longer
sends my mind spinning all the way to insanity.

December 13, 2017

zone of proximal spiritual development

i've been on a hiatus from social media.
well, i've been on several hiatuses over the last few years.
it's a reminder to me of the irony that right when humans need the support of others the most, many of us instinctively cut off all contact with the source of that support.

that's what i usually do. that's what i did. and it feels quite lonely.

as i transitioned into the month of december, i wasn't really feeling any holiday cheer. not even my annual 25 days of red and green could combat the level of depression and anxiety regularly crashing like waves.

i didn't understand, though, why i felt so depressed and anxious...
until i started thinking about all the major life changes that had recently occurred.
maybe you've heard of the holmes-rahe stress inventory?
there are several versions... here's one. here's another:

well, my score tallied to imply that i had an 80% chance of having a major health breakdown in the next 2 years.

ha. ha.

well, my mental state was definitely in agreement.

in grad school, they taught us that to prevent "burnout" (mental exhaustion, breakdown, etc) we needed to participate in regular self-care.
turns out, most of us are really bad at actually implementing self-care into our daily lives.
myself included.

to the dismay of many, self-care is not always luxurious or beautiful (this article is fabulous).
"true self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from" -brianna wiest

huh... a life i don't regularly escape from?
that was a novel idea.

the ratio for time i was escaping from my life and time i was living my life felt like 9:1, so obviously something needed to change. but i was still confused why i felt so depressed, since the majority of my recent major life changes were positive!
  • i was inducted into phi alpha honor society {the national honors society for social work}. ...the one and only time i've ever qualified for an honors society.
  • i graduated from rutgers university with a master's of social work degree.
  • the morning after graduation, my parents helped me drive a moving van full of my furniture and clothes across the country. jersey to denver took less than 3 days. before i knew it, i'd officially left the home that took blood, sweat, and a lot of tears to build for myself.
  • i traveled between utah and colorado a couple of times for weddings and family events. i even made it to the oregon coast for a family reunion.
  • i moved into an apartment where i found myself living alone for the very first time in my life.
    • pro: i live less than 10 mins away from my sister and her family
      ("become favorite aunt" mission initiated)
    • pro and con: i made all my own design choices.
    • con: i regularly state that "nothing cares if I come home at night."
      i know, i need a pet... but i work crazy hours that aren't conducive to keeping a living animal alive.

  • i got my very first full-time, real-life, adulting, career-path job: a therapist for adults in crisis.
  • i passed the colorado state licensure test and officially became a licensed social worker.
  • i helped out when the newest member of the family arrived.

  • and most recently, i turned 30 years old.
    ...i'm still single, though, and that's not the cultural norm.

all that and more happened in the last 7 months.

i always believed i was a lover of change!

i guess when too many things are changing, it starts feeling like the ground beneath my feet decided to disappear.

my familiar symptoms of depression became too obvious to deny.
and i had very few local supports in place.

that, in itself, felt too familiar for comfort.

in retrospect, it's not surprising that i seemed to slowly fall to pieces.
per usual, a "perfect storm" of circumstances triggered a simultaneous explosion of all the emotions i had not allowed myself to fully experience for months with all the dramatic changes i'd undergone.

oh, you know... i had the normal excuses.
there had not been enough time.
i needed to be adulting.
i was also scared to know exactly how i felt.
and i was determined to be strong!

i assumed a person of my age could do all of this with grace on their own.
so i was going to figure things out on my own.

but i'd forgotten a very important lesson i learned long ago---
this saying:
"God doesn't give you more than you can handle"
...is a boldfaced lie!

driving in my car recently, a Christian song i know quite well came up randomly on the local radio station - matthew west's "strong enough"

you must, you must think i'm strong
to give me what i'm going through.
well, forgive me, forgive me if i'm wrong
but this looks like more than I can do...
on my own.
i know i'm not strong enough to be
everything that i'm supposed to be
i give up, i'm not strong enough
hands of mercy won't you cover me
Lord right now i'm asking you to be
strong enough, strong enough
for the both of us
yeah well, maybe... maybe that's the point
to reach the point of giving up
'cause when i'm finally, finally at rock bottom
well, that's when i start looking up
and reaching out
'cause i'm broken down to nothing
but i'm still holding on to the one thing
You are God and You are strong when i am weak
i can do all things through Christ who gives me strength
and i don't have to be... strong enough

God doesn't give us more than we can handle?
like hell He doesn't!
the whole point is that He does!!!!
God gives us more than we can handle, but only to the point that we make it through if we rely more heavily on Him.

how else would we learn
and spiritually grow?

as i listened to the lyrics of that song, i nodded my head, eyes to the sky.
i let my Heavenly Parents know i had received their message loud and clear.

this reminded me of being in my undergrad education classes and learning about a concept called "zone of proximal development."

zone of proximal development (or zpd) refers to "an area of learning that occurs when a person is assisted by a teacher or peer with a skill set higher than that of the subject."

as a teacher-in-training, the zpd was described as the "sweet spot" at which lesson content was to be aimed.

as a student, the stubbornly independent among us {*raising my hand} resist this prime growth opportunity, preferring instead to figure things out with trial and error. or just finding something else to do by themselves, thereby getting stuck.

as a therapist, i am an objective observer for clients in crisis, providing guidance but making it clear that i don't have their answers. i'm on the sidelines helping them notice negative patterns.

the ironic thing is that the same guidance i give my clients is often exactly the guidance i need to be following in my personal life.

and more often than not, this ironic tug-of-war {"i should! ...but i'm not"} plays out in a spiritual sense.
i know i'm not strong enough to handle so many big changes on my own!
but i also feel a strong urge to resist help or guidance in any form {"i can manage this by myself!"}.

i am that stubborn child insisting that i don't need help
while creating a huge, unnecessary mess
as i attempt to prove i can do it all on my own.

or... maybe behind my stubborn resistance is a fear of anyone seeing the less-than-perfect pieces of myself shattered on the ground.

{that would be called "vulnerability"}

i even find myself projecting these fears of judgment onto a perfect, omnipotent being i cannot comprehend.

why would i pull away from heavenly guidance?

well, my current reasons are simply continuations of those expressed in

the bottom line:

i stopped wanting guidance.
i began to fear it.
i tried shutting out all the opinions, expectations, and messages around me,
including - or especially - the spiritual ones.

when spiritual self-care had always kept me grounded in the chaos,
and i was on shaky ground with my spiritual foundation,
what would prevent everything from falling to pieces?

right. nothing.
so, what's a girl to do?

well, i was inspired by the #lighttheworld campaign my church continued this year.

this week, i've committed to myself to begin the slow process of rebuilding my spiritual self-care.
this can only happen with guidance.
They never led me astray...
i turned away from Them out of fear and a stubborn, prideful belief that i knew better.
i am again learning to trust in Their unfailing love, because the only thing that really matters is nurturing my relationship with Them.

my belief in a higher power's help and guidance changes nothing about the facts of my circumstances. i am constantly given more than i can handle.

what it does change is my perspective; shifting from victim, who "always" fails to succeed, into a person who thrives with help from those around and above.

softening and opening up my heart to that heavenly help allows for
the weight of my load to be lightened,
strength and courage to help me stretch further than i ever thought i could,
and the security of knowing that i don't need to have all the answers. ever.
i only need to "know the knower"

the knower has inspired me to start writing again.
writing has always been an important way i process the life lessons gained from difficult experiences.
i'm going to blog more about the lessons i learn (or relearn) in this beautiful mess i call my life.

in my zone of proximal spiritual development, when i trust my higher power, i am capable of mastering skills much too difficult for me to learn on my own.

it is a continual state of mercies.