Take Off The Mask

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So many times, as single moms we are afraid to show how we are feeling or to tell others what is really going on in our lives because we are afraid of others judging us or talking negatively about us. We feel tired, overwhelmed, depressed, have anxiety, and some days, we just feel like giving up. However, most of us just put a smile on our face and keep going, mainly for our children. I always felt that if I fell apart, then my kids would fall apart, so I put on the mask that everything is fine. It is time for us to stop putting on the mask and ask for help from a trusted source because it is causing us to become unhealthy, mentally, and physically. Did you know the reason you keep getting colds or the reason you keep feeling sluggish and not sleeping; well is because of all the stress from not admitting that you are not okay.

For years I kept everything bottled up inside, just because I did not want anyone to know how I really felt. If I talked about what I was feeling, I knew I would lose it. Yes, I was upset about the divorce and the cheating, but I just put a smile on my face and said its fine let him go on, I'm good. I really wasn't good, but I couldn't let him get the best of me. What I should have done was to cry on someone's shoulder and release all that hurt out of my system so that I would not have to deal with a breakdown years later. I didn't let the kids know dad was not paying child support and that he was being a real butt. I put his name on Christmas gifts and made them think he was doing his part; that mess is stressful on a mom.  You are running kids to activities, working a full-time job, paying bills alone, helping with school work, trying to have a little life, and cooking meals every day; and we keep going, smiling and acting like we are okay. Take off the mask and ask for help.

 

I know all single moms have a lot of things going on in their life, and we all want to keep a smile on our children's face, but sometimes to do that we neglect ourselves. All of us need to do self-care daily. If you take time to take care of yourself, you will not have as much stress or anxiety. When you do self-care, you think clearly, and then you will take off the mask. Being a single mom makes you a strong individual, and you will find that you can balance six tasks at one time and get it done; however, sometimes it stresses you out. That is why you need to make sure that you care for your mind, body, and soul; so that you can take care of your children. I used to tell people, "I'm good," knowing that I was feeling horrible inside, but I put on my mask and kept smiling. Now, I have found a way not to have to put on that mask. 

 

When I am feeling sad, depressed, overwhelmed, or just tired, I pray, listen to soothing music, take a walk, or play speed with the girls. See we are mom's doing it alone, but we must put self-care first. We cannot take care of others if we are physically or mentally out of whack. Just think why stress over not having enough money to pay the utility bill when you can go to an agency for help, ask a friend or relative who may have it, or even work out a payment plan. It's time to slow down, take a breath and think of a plan so that you don't stress out, and the next time someone asks, "how is everything going?"; you can say things are good and really mean it. See how you look with the mask off? You look amazing, just like the awesome single mom you are, and you really mean what you say. I cheer for you, take off the mask today and be honest about what is going on in your life, say how you really feel and get a release. Remember, SELF-CARE is not a joke.

Carmelita M

Prayers and Pills

2018 was not my favorite year. It did contain some great moments and lessons that I believe will set the stage for not just better years, but a better, stronger version of myself.

For starters, I spent (and am still spending) a lot of time recovering from my second ankle reconstruction surgery. Then, I became this person: http://www.singlemomzrock.com/blog/again/1/2019. Right, when I was at my most empty, October and the start of November introduced me to the reality of total sleeplessness, the stress of hair loss, and the constant feeling of tightness in my chest. My moods were unpredictable, and my spirit was weak. The spans of time when I felt like myself when I felt whole, became shorter and less frequent. I felt like a failure at everything I did, including parenting. I could not find joy. I could only fake joy to avoid more questions.

Then, November 10th hit. My campus community was rocked by a mass shooting and the loss of a student. My students, who had lost their friend(s) in the most devastating way, needed support. I wanted to be there for them, so badly. I wanted to dig up the real me from the pits of my soul and give it to them, to wrap them in love and receive their burdens as my own.

But, I was drained. There was none of me, of the real me, to give. I prayed to be filled up so that I could pour out to them. I was scraping the bottom of a drained pool with my fingernails, hoping for water to appear. How could I be so empty when people I loved needed me so badly?

Two days later, the local and campus community caught on fire, for days. The world for most everyone I know was turned upside down. Classes were canceled, lives were upended, homes were lost. Everything seemed to be falling apart. How could so much be happening at once?

In late November, I sought refuge, as I often do, in my Bible. I went to church. I volunteered. I studied the Bible. I prayed. I mean I prayed and prayed and prayed for God to re-fill the empty vessel of my soul. When I sought guidance from Christian friends, they affirmed that I needed to pray.

I prayed some more.

I gave to those in need.

I prayed some more.

I prayed more in a few weeks than I probably have in my entire life up to that point. Nothing changed. No, that’s not true. I did start to feel a new hole gnawing at the crater in my chest. I started to feel like a failure in Christ like I was somehow letting God down by not feeling healed by all of this prayer. I hated myself more, which I did not think was possible.

It wasn’t until someone suggested that I go see a therapist that I started to feel some hope. She suggested that I start taking an anti-anxiety medication so that I could start sleeping again. This was not something of which I was quickly convinced. In my adult life, I have tried to stick to natural wellness remedies, including physical activity, and always through prayer.

As a Christian, I have listened to countless testimonies about prayer rescuing people from depression, from learning difficulties, and from physical pain. Honestly, a large part of me was afraid that taking medication would mean that prayer was insufficient or, worse, that I was insufficient at prayer.

After about 2 weeks of this discussion, the therapist said something to me that finally took root: “Stop seeing prayer as a solution and think of it as illuminating the path towards a solution. It’s a conversation, not a directive.” We talked about my relationship with God. Did I trust Him? Yes. Did I try to have a relationship with Him? Yes. So, then did I trust what He was telling me/pushing me towards? I needed to. Anxiety was stopping me from sleeping and feeling, so she suggested medication as a way to return to healthy sleep and, hopefully, emotional recovery (including my faith in prayer). At my breaking point, I gave in and started the medication.

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It has been several weeks now and, for the past week and a half, I have been sleeping better. Some nights are more difficult but, increasingly, I am having restful nights. I am catching more frequent glimpses of myself. The tightness in my chest is subsiding. The dread that propelled me through the fake days and sleepless nights has almost entirely dissipated. It feels, finally, like everything may be okay.

I don’t know how I made it through the second half of last year. So much of it feels like a blur. Every step felt like an irrecoverable stumble leading me closer to existing as a void. I am amazed that I kept my job. I am thankful that I did not wreck my kids. And, in the most unexpected way, I grew closer to God.

I am in awe of God. I know that He answers prayers. I am confident now that His answer is not, “Thanks for praying, I’ll handle that.” But His answer was there, all along, in the people He surrounded me with. In the persistence of the therapist, in the unwavering support of my best friend, in the little bit of me, that refused to give up while the post-traumatic stress ate away at my soul.

This is not just my story. So many people are wounded and reeling in a world that preaches (and commercializes) self-care but doesn’t slow down for us to truly practice it. I think this tension is acute for single parents because there is never the opportunity to transfer our parenting burden to another adult. I think that this tension is often acute for Christians because we think that prayer is the answer in itself, instead of the way to find the answer that best works for our lives.

For me, the answer is still prayer. But, at least for now, it is also pills.


A. Smith

Halfway There

Starting another year. Resolutions not meet or even made this year. Already wishing the year was further along and yet time slowly passes. I bring myself back to the present as I find myself wishing away time, stopping my mind from drifting further along into future dreams or dilemmas. There in the future, is where my anxieties are heightened. Where fear sets in and takes my present, latching a hold of my joy and faith slowly diminishing in the confidence I once knew. All reminding me that it’s the middle, the “halfway there” point where I find myself, forcing myself rather to keep going. It’s at this point I feel the options; do I persevere or succumb. 

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I know the exhilaration well that comes with new endeavors and drives me forward. I remember times such as starting my career, buying my house, having a baby. All beautiful things, but can I just say none of those things fill like much fun right now. I feel like I am in the middle of life looking down both directions thinking I remember how I got here, but when do I get to be “there.” That place where I don’t feel so stuck in my present or dreaming about the future. I love every day, and I am beyond grateful for every single thing the Lord has brought me through. But man, this girl is tired. And it’s now, more than ever I feel the Lord reminding me, “You are half way there, just push a little further.” So I keep pushing, pulling myself back into the present. Casting fear aside because his hand is reaching for me if I just keep pushing towards what He set before me. Time might be moving slowly, but praise the Lord it is moving, and movement means I am closer to Him than I was yesterday. So I persevere. And it’s there in the middle I find that halfway is my “There.” It’s not about what’s to come, it’s what is right before me. 

Writing this entry, the image that is engrained in my mind is of Peter in Matthew 14:29, when Jesus calls Peter to walk on water to him. Peter got out of the boat with no fear and began walking towards Jesus, but in the middle fear set in and he began to sink as he called out “Lord, save me!” and “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.” Jesus was right before Peter if he could have seen Jesus for who He was. 

I feel like Peter, having the Son of God before me as a life preserver and I am crying out “Lord, save me!” Jesus knew before he ever called Peter onto the water that Peter would doubt, yet he called him anyway. The Lord is not surprised by my calls for help, He delights as a father would when He is needed. He knows my place, my halfway point and he delights when I embrace that if He is here, I have already arrived. He is reaching for me at every point. Past, present and future. My halfway is my  “There.” 

Daisy