Friday, November 7, 2014

Do you love yourself enough to change?

Good Morning Friends!
I have been in some pretty ‘icky’ places emotionally in my old life, but I think the worst place to be was the one that told me, “This is what you deserve.” Somewhere, somehow, when times were difficult, I developed the irrational, completely untrue, but incredibly damaging notion that somehow I deserved the sadness, pain, and loss that I was experiencing and that “I must be a very bad girl” because of the reality of my life.  Don’t ask me HOW I got to that place; don’t ask me WHY I thought those thoughts; don’t ask me WHO ever told me those things…..because I don’t know.

 I was raised in a loving environment with parents, grandparents, and aunts/uncles that adored me and were very good to me­, but somehow I convinced myself as a young child that I didn’t deserve to be happy.  Very likely it came from my father’s death when I was a little girl because for most of my life, I thought that God had punished me because I fought with my brother; I sassed my mother; my room was a mess; I didn’t kiss him goodnight the night he died and the unknowing comments that my mother uttered… “if you kids don’t settle down, you’re going to give your father a heart attack.”  It all seems foolish now, but to a child who is unable to process things rationally, thoughts like that can do serious damage to one’s well-being.

I remember being afraid….a lot….that my mother would die too if I wasn’t a good girl or that more bad things would happen to me, so I tried really hard to be the best I could be. I worked really hard in school to earn good grades; I volunteered for everything I could do to help others; I became the model employee at my Kmart job, often working overtime or during my lunch hour…off the clock; I became a ‘church mouse” and spent most of my high school and young adult years involved in church stuff and prayer groups…..all in an attempt to be a ‘good girl’ and avoid future heartache.

I worked through most of that “stuff” in my mid-twenties and life was very good for a while. I had a great job at the church; I had friends and relationships; I spent the summers up north; and was very happy. But, when my mother died very suddenly (literally a few hours after I spoke to her on the phone) when I was in my 20’s, I once again slipped back to that place and began to wonder what I had done “this time.”  Yes, I know, it is irrational….but those thoughts were ‘very real” and subconsciously controlled my actions. They led me to distrust others; to keep people at a distance; to call off a wedding engagement and turn down dates; and became a reason to live in fear.  Fortunately, I had developed a close relationship with God as a small child, and although I was somewhat fearful of displeasing Him, He never left me and continued to reveal Himself as a loving, forgiving God and  I was able to get through those tough days. Deep down, however, I still carried that “you get what you deserve in life” mentality and it would rear its ugly head once again in my 40’s.  Even now I often struggle with it, especially when I receive kind words, accolades for my weight loss, or requests for interviews and such. I’m so incredibly grateful for the gift of my miracle, but I still often wonder, “WHY ME, GOD?”  Why have been so abundantly blessed? 

Two job losses; several deaths of very significant people in my life; an arson; unemployment; the RA diagnosis (Blah,blah, blah….you’ve heard it; read it; etc.)later….and  there I was….physically and emotionally at rock bottom.  And you’ve likely guessed it: Somehow I thought that “I deserved it….this was my ‘hand” in the card game of life; this was God’s will for me life; this was ‘how it was supposed to be’…..and other silly, completely false, irrational thoughts that ALMOST….cost me my life.  I don’t know how I got there. I don’t’ know WHY I thought those things. I don’t know WHAT made me think that I deserved any of it, and even though I couldn’t/didn’t verbalize those thoughts, they were at the root of my addiction.   I should have sought counseling; I should have talked to someone; I should have reached out for help….but I didn’t.  Should have/could have/would have......but I didn’t. Instead I ate chips; I avoided friends; I went to bed and wallowed in my pain….by myself.  I can’t go back….but if this is your reality….you can do something different:  reach out for help….before it’s too late!

But……GOD….in His incredible mercy set me free from that life. He helped me see that “I am not a bad girl” and I was not being punished….but really….the mess I was in was partially the result of my own CHOICES….not a punishment for anything I did wrong.  YIKES!!!!!!!    What???? You mean I….ME…..THERESA……was creating her own misery?????  WHAT???? You mean….. I….ME….THERESA….could do something about it?   WHAT?????? You mean…. I….ME….THERESA….could CHANGE my reality…..and was WORTH the effort it was going to take?????    

This reality…..the process of realizing that I am lovable (wrinkles, flaws, and faults); that I am worth the effort, time, money (do you know that fruit costs more per pound than meat?); that while I am a work-in-progress and make many mistakes, I am not inherently bad; and that I can….with the grace and help of God…..change my life….has been the key to my journey.  No diet; no exercise plan; no pill or procedure…..nothing….. would work (been there and it did for a while, but I gained every pound back) UNTIL….I began to  love myself enough to change my reality.  I continue to struggle with this….every day….but day-by-day I am learning to think differently….which in turn….causes me to act differently and pray differently:  Change my thoughts, oh God; make them ever true; Change my thoughts, oh God; May I THINK like You!

So many times, our lack of self-worth causes us to remain in situations that cause us pain. If you are in an abusive relationship because you think that ‘nobody else will love you” I pray that God will help you believe that you are lovable and NO ONE….deserves to be emotionally, physically, or financially abused….and it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you are using food/drugs/alcohol or anything else to cover up your pain or keep others away….because you don’t think you deserve to be happy…. I pray that you begin to realize and believe that YOU ARE A GOOD PERSON…..You deserve to be happy….and YOU CAN change your life.

 If you are grieving a loss, sad, despondent, or lonely….i pray that you become to understand that sometimes “things in life happen beyond our control”…..people die; accidents happen; other people do stuff that disappoint us and so forth…..but these things don’t happen because we are bad or we deserve them. They are often beyond our control and we can do nothing to stop them. We can, however, control how we react to them, and we can begin to accept responsibility and acknowledge that oftentimes, we control our own destiny by the choices we make.

Sometimes, but not always,  we are in situations because we choose to be. We may have health issues because of the food we eat or the way we treat our body. We may have financial issues because we choose to spend our money on frivolous things and make poor choices. We may have relationship issues because our actions alienate those we love or cause them to react negatively to us. Sometimes….but not always….our reality is the result of our choices….but is not because we are NOT LOVABLE or WORTHY of a better life.  I pray that you begin to recognize what things you can change…and you find the strength to make those changes.

No one deserves to be sick; no one deserves to be sad; no one deserves to be obese….addicted….immobile….unloved; no one deserves bad things to happen…..but sometimes they do. They have nothing to do, however, on whether we we are good or bad.  Believing that we are lovable; believing that we are worth-while; believing that change is possible; and learning to love ourselves…..can set us free and empower us to make the choices we need to change our reality. It won’t take away those things beyond our control; it won’t bring people back from the dead; it won’t make someone else love us or treat us better; and it won’t make us rich….but it will make us WANT TO make changes….to be better people; to be healthier; and ultimately,  HAPPIER….in spite of the reality around us.