Though I Walk Through the Valley
This has been a long and dark Autumn - and I am not talking about the weather. By nature, I am a rescuer and helper of others. I have spent my entire life taking care of those around me, or at least attempting to. I have been drawn to the rejected and hurting, and have looked for their potential and abilities, and the many positive characteristics others are apt to overlook. I have often been questioned for befriending those who rub society the wrong way. And yet, my rescuing heart has not been swayed, and I am blessed to have a huge variety of friends. After so many years of pouring myself into those around me, I was stunned this past September when I realized I had spent so much of my life caring for everyone else, I never learned to take care of me.
Suddenly, the rescuer needed rescuing.
Ordinarily, nothing much rocks my boat. I am optimistic and have faith in God that is deep and steadfast. My faith has gotten me through many storms, and over enormous mountains. When I unexpectedly found myself wrestling with depression, overwhelming frustration, and even rage - I wanted to deny it all. It made no sense to me. I loathed myself, and yet, I was living my dream. It was a confusing time, and I felt so ashamed for having such conflicting feelings. Everything was going great for the Torch! And I could hardly contain my excitement over the rapid progress we were suddenly making with 180! I thanked God every single day for all the wonderful things He was doing in my life. How could I possibly feel so down and dark inside? I tried very hard to talk myself out of it. I blamed my ingratitude. I blamed my job. I blamed my friends. I blamed my divorce.
As I sunk lower and lower into pain and despair, I finally acknowledged that I didn’t totally understand what was happening to me, and that I needed to make some changes and to seek out help. I hated doubting my mental and emotional health. I hated the thought of going into therapy. How could I possibly need that? I was the one who gave help!
But I knew without a doubt, if I didn’t get some counseling I was going to find myself walking away from everything I worked so hard to accomplish. I truly did not want that to happen. And so, I began one of the most challenging journeys of my life. I was compelled to step back from my lifetime role of always-the-helper-never-the-helped, and realize it was time I took care of me. Somehow, that had gotten lost as I shouldered the responsibilities of helping others. I came face to face with the knowledge if I wanted to continue to try to be a beacon of hope and encouragement to people, I had to take time to make my life my priority. It was time to stop waiting for some magical person to come along and do it for me.
The process was slow. It was painful. I found it necessary to comb and dig through events of my past - many things I preferred to bury and forget - but I had to dig them up and to face them, acknowledge them, and allow myself to experience the emotions I was often able to ignore while in my quest to care for others. I worked through anger, rage, sadness, hurt, disappointment, rejection, and deep, deep sorrow. I felt them; I allowed myself to experience the full range of my emotions, and then, finally, was able to truly put behind me the demons of my past. I hated every minute of it as much as I knew it was necessary and right. I wrestled desperately with the knowledge of how much I have lost in my life.
And yet, as I walked through that valley of loss and despair, I found much as well. I found some very true friends who are willing to listen, and to hold my hands when I cry. I found friends who housed me and comforted me. I found friends who allow me to call whenever I need to. I found friends who pray for me and with me.
Additionally, most importantly, I found me, and I found that I am not so bad after all. My relationship with God grew deeper - something I hadn’t realized was possible. He showed me again and again, as He always does, that He was there. One night, He made Himself very present in a clear and tangible way. I was sitting on my couch, and suddenly had the overwhelming sense that I was completely alone in life. As I began to pray away that feeling, I received a text from an individual I had only recently met. The text said, “I was thinking about you and hope all is well.” They went on to tell me they had been praying for a long time for God to send them a friend, and they were thankful they had met me. I was overcome with gratitude for God, and for that person who was sensitive enough to know I needed to hear from someone at that moment.
And now, I am back. I am back, but I am not the person I was before. Oh, I still plan to go after the broken people I meet. I still plan to diligently seek all the good I can find in them. I have to do that, it’s my passion. But I will also take care of me. My life will be a priority in my life. I will stay healthy. I will keep close to people I should be close to. I will move forward. I will cut myself some slack and allow myself to be human. I've never been able to do that.
And from this point forward, when I need help, I will ask, because sometimes we all need help and support. There is absolutely no shame in that.
I am me, and me is not such a bad person to be.