Once Upon a Couch
When Blake and I were engaged, we did what a lot of couples do—pre-marital counseling. Such a sunny time. We had a solid relationship with the guy who lead the counseling sessions (who also married us), and there was always coffee because this was the kind of counseling that could take place at Starbucks. We talked about ourselves and each other and our families. Yes, there were some hard moments about character weakness and conflict resolution (an issue that still trips us up to this day), but there was also future house sketching and talk about being each other’s biggest fans.
I never much considered counseling outside of that timeframe. There was nothing wrong with it—I just knew nothing about it and couldn’t see myself lying on a couch talking it up with a professional wisdom-giver Betty Draper styler.
Until last September.
Panic attacks and anxiety started showing up, resulting in my first trip to the ER while Blake & I were on vacation in Oregon. Some hard, dark things were happening in my circle, which is what kick started such an obvious reaction. But this was something more—something internal that started long ago, and I would need to show up and work on this whether all these other circumstances found resolve or not.
I went to counseling two or three times. Really, I enjoyed it a lot. Counseling meant a break in the middle of my day to sit (not lie down) on a couch with a cup of coffee and talk about myself. Granted, we were talking hard things, but they were things already consuming much of my brain space. Now, I got to process it aloud with someone completely unrelated to my life but who still seemed to understand me. It’s like a big ball of tangled yarn. At first when you hold it and try to figure out how to make sense of it all, it’s a mess, and you’d just assume throw it away and start over. But wait, your hand has become part of the tangle, and you’ve got to figure it out. So you go to a professional yarn unraveler, and while it’s still up to you to handle the yarn because it’s your yarn, after all, this professional yarn unraveler talks you through it and gives you tools so you can not only untangle your yarn but can now go out and use your yarn for good things. Like to make blankets to keep people warm or a cute beanie hat. Those kinds of things.
Life got busy. Holidays approached. And I decided I had enough tools to get myself through the end of the year. Then January came and went, and I felt like I was doing okay. And then I thought it might be good to go back for a little maintenance check, but seriously, when it comes to arranging childcare, I’d rather just stay home and not. So I didn’t and I stayed.
Days started getting hard, though. It wasn’t predictable as to what days would be hard—it’s not like I knew Tuesday might be tough because I had a lot going on. There were just random days I would cry or feel a drastic overwhelming sensation because I felt incapable to accomplish anything good or because I was mad at myself for not being laid back enough or because I was sabotaging any opportunity to just be happy. There will always be a longing for more– that’s heaven pulling for us. That’s healthy. But this was more. It was always trying to take care of right now so that later could find peace, but the peace never came because there was always more, even though the more wasn’t urgent. It was just there. These were not obvious things to anyone except Blake because he can read minds. I could shake these thoughts when with friends or playing with Collins. It was only when my brain could find time to itself—which was surprisingly often. So I called and made an appointment for later that week.
I told my counselor when we met that my anxiety is further fueled because here I am, dealing with this anxious self of mine when I am not dealing with hard things. Yes, there are hard things happening near me and more hard things happening in this world that I’m only becoming more aware of, and these things indeed affect me, as they should. But as far as my person goes, I live a pretty wonderful life. So the fact that I just can’t seem to get it together further irritates me, which energizes my anxiety, which makes me want to scream. When I’m like this, my thoughts take over. I could unload the dishwasher and be exhausted because my brain has a constant, negative output, telling me everything I should be doing or haven’t done. The day is only as good as its completed checklist, and if the checklist shows completion, that’s awesome, but I’ll be too tired to factor in anything else—like making anything of the time I get with my husband. And then I’m angry and sad about losing time with him, so I half-jokingly beg him not to go to work the next day so we can try again. The cycle continues.
My counselor is so good at not giving me answers but instead listening and then listening some more. Sometimes, I appreciate this. Sometimes.
But do you know what she did tell me? She said I need to learn how to rest.
I nodded and gave a positive hmmm, but my initial thoughts were:
If anything, I rest too much!
I can be found at 11AM on any given day watching cartoons on the couch with my daughter—in our pajamas!
Nearly every night is devoted to time to unwind with Blake. Even if that means zoning out to The Voice.
I make time to read.
I feel strong about where I am with Jesus right now.
Seriously….rest? I think that might be part of my problem.
And then she continued, and said, When you spend time with God, how much do you actually listen? I know you journal, but how much do you just sit and listen?
Never. I don’t budget time for listening. Journaling only gets a 20 minute time slot.
I need to learn to truly rest, she said. For fifteen minutes every day. Not sleeping. Not going over my checklist. Resting.
“Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” -Maya Angelou
So here I am today. Practicing rest. I’m pretty bad at it so far. As much as I dislike everything laundry, I would prefer to match socks and watch Netflix than close my eyes and just be by myself. I’m thinking this may be another sign of how much rest is needed. Could this serve you, too?
I think rest is something we would all encourage in each other because we know of its importance. We are not robots, after all. When people talk of loving our neighbor as ourselves, it’s important to see that yes, we are supposed to love our neighbor, but who are we to deem ourselves unworthy of that kindness, too? Do we think we’re too good for rest? Too strong? Not in need? Listening to a podcast featuring Annie Downs a couple of days ago, she brought up the importance of the Sabbath to her. She said we look at the Ten Commandments and are super careful not to murder anyone, but the Sabbath is right there next to it, and we blow it off.
We need to get off the busy train where we don’t feel worthy unless we can spout off 50 things we’ve accomplished today and how we’re just so busy we can’t think straight. What kind of life is that? If a person is dumbfounded because I’ve found a way around the life of a workhorse in exchange for days that are simple, yet no less meaningful, I’m on the right track. (This is me preaching to myself.)
Loving ourselves can be a journey, but it’s a worthy one. You and I matter.
PS. Therapy helps.