I’m not really sure what to tell you this conversation was about because we talked about so much! I really enjoyed talking with Justin about divorce, being a single parent, faith, and running, just to name a few of the topics we covered! Make sure you follow him on socials @kellerthinks. He’s one of my new favorite people!
I’ve been getting a lot of desperate messages and texts over the past few days about how to process the re-emergence of the pandemic, the crisis overseas…it’s just been too much for us.
Most of us had experienced some form of trauma before 2020. However, we had the emotional margin to ignore and/or self-medicate those emotional wounds. As we walked through 2020, our emotional margin was spent on processing the news, protecting our families, understanding our surroundings, and accepting our circumstances. That coupled with the political and racial turmoil our country walked through over the past year and the fact that we thought we were nearing the end of this Pandemic, and it’s no wonder we are experiencing an universal mental health crisis and suicide epidemic.
Not only that, but we are a few weeks away from the twenty year anniversary of 9/11 and now it feels as though the work and sacrifice so many of made overseas is all undone. The promises, the hope – all erased in a few short days.
So what on earth do we even do now? How do we continue to live and cope in a world that seems to be disintegrating right in front of us? Sure, the world was never perfect. But we were always the observers – safe and untouched. Now it seems like the blows just keep coming and won’t ever stop.
I don’t have all the answers – but I can tell you what we’ve been doing as a family and hope that it brings you some encouragement and relief.
We need to accept what is and not bemoan what could be. We have to accept that this reality is all we have – we only have these moments – we can’t get any of them back. If we keep fighting our present circumstances, we will miss our lives and loved ones. I realize our world and all of these terrible circumstances suck. We need to process and mourn what was so we can accept what is: This moment. This moment is all that matters. This moment is all you have control over. This moment offers you a choice: Will you live to thrive or will you live to just survive?
We need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. We live in an unsafe world…and the ironic thing is, we always have! We just got comfortable feeling comfortable. But change, growth, and transformation happens when we are uncomfortable. We are forced to confront ourselves and ask the tough questions: Why am I so miserable? What trauma have I been ignoring/self-medicating? What can I do to change my perspective? Why do I feel the need to buck authority? Why am I struggling to love? How do I care for myself and others during this season? How can I process my anger, frustration, and disappointment healthily?
Jesus set us up for this. He told us that “in this world, you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world!” Our world is broken. We are broken. It’s no wonder we are all feeling the enormous weight of the past few years. But us feeling weighed down is a sign that we are not surrendering our fears, anger, bitterness, frustration, hurt, and pain to Jesus. He said that even in this hard world, his “yoke is easy and his burden is light”. What is his yoke? His burden? They are his teachings, the greatest of which he said is to love God, love others, and love ourselves.
Honestly, I think my mental health is at its best not when things are going well for me and there’s peace on earth. My mental health is at its best when I am loving God, loving others, and loving myself. A simple way to figure out if you are doing this is to ask yourself, “What does love demand of me?” This question originated with Andy Stanley.
What does love demand of me…in the pandemic? With the crisis in Afghanistan? With my friend who is suicidal? With my kids who are scared? With my spouse who is discouraged? With my family who is disunified? With my neighbors who are on the other side? With my government? With the authorities God has allowed to rule? With my friends who are angry? With my co-workers who are frustrated? With my boss who is unreasonable? What does love demand of me?
In order to give love, I have to receive love. I have to remember to preach the Gospel (that Jesus died and rose again for me) to myself everyday. I have to recall those verses from Scripture that “perfect love casts out all fear”, that “God has not given us a spirit of fear”, that “we are more than conquerors”, and that “nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus.”
I am not belittling the enormity of what is happening in our world and/or how you are feeling. I am just giving you a starting place for how to process. I also know so many counselors and therapists are unable to accept new clients right now…but get on a waiting list and then reach out to a few friends and talk about how you can accept what is, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and choose to love even when it’s hard.
Here for you.
The world is experiencing a mental health crisis.
We all had trauma pre-2020, but we got really good at ignoring and coping with that trauma. Then the Pandemic, politics, racial tension, and global panic piled on top of that trauma and we attempted to carry all of it without breaking…cause we really didn’t have a choice.
Our minds and bodies can only take so much before they give out. And I believe 2021 is the year of “Giving Out”. I’ve had so many people reach out to ask about counselling and medication because the way they are feeling is scaring them and their loved ones. They’ve always known something wasn’t right, but now, things are VERY dark and they aren’t sure what to do.
So, if you find yourself there, you are in VERY good company.
And…you are going to be okay.
When should I get into counselling?
Yesterday. But seriously. Getting into therapy/counselling is not a question of if, but of when. EVERYONE SHOULD BE IN COUNSELLING, whether you’ve experienced trauma or not. We are all human. We are all broken. And too often, we are responding to triggers in ways we just don’t need to. We are being hurtful or distant or are unable to be vulnerable when we could be kind, close, and authentic. We can learn to be comfortable in our own skin, in the quiet, and have healthy, full relationships with others. We can do these things! But we have to learn them. “Oh, it’s just my anxiety,” can’t be the excuse anymore.
Anxiety has become the catch-all for our bad habits and responses. Because we are minimizing the stigma, it’s now an acceptable excuse for just about everything…and I’m kinda over it. Why do we insist on living and acting this way? We don’t need to!
Others are so sad because their closest friends aren’t aware that they are hurting so badly. We have to ask the question: Why aren’t we letting people in? We are we not living in community, which is essentially what counselling is? Are we afraid of appearing weak? Are we afraid of what we may discover? Are we afraid of the emotional task?
I really want to encourage you to do the hard thing and get into therapy/counselling. Here’s how:
- Ask a friend for a referral. You don’t need to find a counselor on your own. Ask someone you trust for a recommendation. Counselors are booking up like crazy right now, so you may need to ask a counselor for a referral as well. But just because you don’t know where to start doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
- You can research good counselors. Hop on Google and research “Licensed Mental Health Counselors”. Then, read the reviews. Most counselors will offer a free 15-20 minute phone call for you to get a sense of who they are. I recommend you attend at least 2-3 sessions before you decide how you feel about the therapist. And if you don’t like him/her, find another one! Don’t quit because you haven’t found the right fit. Finding a counselor is like dating: It may take a few bad experiences to find “The One”. But you will be so happy you put in the time and effort once you do.
- Don’t be afraid of Tele-Health. A lot of therapists are offering services via Zoom, Facetime, and other apps. I actually am a HUGE fan! All of my appointments with my counselor are now done via my phone or computer. It keeps me from having to drive an hour and find a babysitter (in other words: I cancel less frequently because I have no excuses as to why I can’t make my appointment!). It is so convenient! I realize face-to-face is more ideal, but I also know that right now, we’ve got to appreciate and use the technology that we have. Tele-Health also opens the door for you to find a therapist that you trust from just about anywhere. So don’t let this intimidate you or limit you.
- Put in the work. Let the counselor know why you are there – even if you can’t explain your dark feelings, let him/her know you have them. Let the counselor know what your goals are: I don’t want to be angry, I don’t want to be addicted, I want a strong marriage, I want to learn to open up, I don’t want to be sad anymore, etc. And then lean into what the counselor says and asks. Counselors aren’t there to coddle you…they are there to break the chains of generational baggage and it can be painful. So, put on your big boy or girl panties and get to work. The next generation will thank you.
- You may need medication. I ALWAYS couple medication with counseling. I am also in communication with my general physician and my counselor when I am on medication. If you are juggling multiple medications, a psychiatrist is a great idea. They are familiar with all medications and side-effects and they can help you monitor your meds. You therapist can help you find one.
Btw…I use “counselor” and “therapist” interchangeably. They are basically the same thing.
I have been in counseling for over tens years and have been on medication for seven years. Yes, at first it was hard to admit that I needed BOTH therapy and meds. But now I realize this makes me courageous: I am strong enough to admit I need help and I am brave enough to seek it…not just for myself, but for my husband, kids, and friends.
Not only that, but I work to put into practice what my counselor says. It took me twenty-five plus years to get to where I was. It was going to take awhile to unlearn coping mechanisms and to apply healthy outlooks. But gosh, the hard work has been so worth it and paid off in dividends.
So please…do what you need to do to get healthy.
For more information on counseling, check out my Scar Stories Podcasts with Megan Richardson and Mike Brannen. You can also leave some questions in the comments and I will answer them!
I met Jenna through a friend and gosh, I’m so glad I did! She shares her story of addiction recovery on her socials (@jennadillulio) and she was kind enough to join me on the podcast. We had quite a bit in common and I cannot wait for you to hear her honesty, vulnerability, and strength.
Scar Stories: Emily Vasquez (Church Trauma Remix)
* This remix of my conversation with Emily includes my podcast’s intro and outro. *
I can’t wait for you to meet my girl Emily Vasquez. We met two years ago and connected instantly.
Emily shares her wild story of trauma and redemption. She tells how she had a mental/emotional breakdown and her husband contemplated suicide, while they were leading a church in Boston. We talk about how the church (as a whole) has done a huge disservice to those of us in leadership and what we need to do better as Jesus Followers when dealing with brokenness, mental health, and trauma. I’m telling you, this was a good one!
Scar Stories: Emy Vasquez
I met Emy and his wife Emily a few years ago when I heard him share his story for the first time at a conference. I listened in tears. He talked about his trauma so vulnerably and hilariously (wild, right?)…I was blown away. This was a few months after losing my brother to suicide. I felt like listening to him was my first step in healing over the loss of my brother.
Emy is the Lead Pastor at Excel Church in Boston. He is such a dynamic preacher…I can’t wait for you to hear his heart…because that’s exactly what he shares in this interview. Follow him on Instagram @therealemy.