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" 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.