Although it’s been nearly two and a half years since I moved out of my house and into my apartment, the walls of my latest residence continue to remain quite bare. It’s almost as if I never truly found myself settled here. And to a certain degree, I believe that to be very accurate. This wasn’t meant to be a long term stay, but due to the unsettling nature of my life, it’s become more than just a stop along the way…it’s become my home. Those bare walls may appear lifeless, but if they had a means to speak, wow, could they tell stories. They’ve served witness to addiction, depression, anxiety, heartache, despair, torment, and regret. Those walls have seen a man of nearly thirty years shatter before them, and they’ve witnessed the Lord’s helping hand ease him back to life. They never ran nor turned their back on the story unfolding; they stood firm. Ignored by the selfish act inhabiting them, they remained bare and neglected but all the while patient. Stable and strong, they provided comfort to an otherwise frail and depleted existence.
I’ve always been a person who has searched for meaning in nearly everything. So I wasn’t the type to run to Pier 1 or Target and buy a bunch of generic artwork for the sake of filling the space. If I was going to surround myself with photographs or paintings, they would need to speak to me. They’d need to move me, inspire me, make me think, make me feel…they’d need to connect with my innermost desires; with my soul. And those bare walls appear today as being very symbolic to me. While living in this apartment, I spent the majority of my two years feeling somewhat empty inside and disconnected from my true self. The earthly desires of my own self destructive personality were not inspiring wall-worthy material. I would have been embarrassed or ashamed to reveal what motivated me during those times, so I left the canvas blank. There was however, a soul inside that was full of life and imagination…one that appreciated all of the simple beauties and blessings of life. But I hadn’t yet truly connected with it. I never really made the effort. And therefore, I remained feeling very empty inside…lifeless, or so it appeared.
During this past fall, I began engaging in a lot of positive thinking exercises. There was a lot of value in this, because several of the methods helped me to begin to retrain my mind. I worked on ways to express gratitude for even the simplest things and that helped me to overcome the obsessive negativity that had been waging war on my psyche. I also used a variety of techniques to encourage the formation and stability of my own personal goals within my mind. From the movie The Secret, I discovered the concept of a vision board. A vision board is a unique, self-developed visual representation of your desires, dreams, goals, etc. Flipping through magazine after magazine, I spent several evenings cutting out photos and phrases, creating two of my very own boards. For weeks I kept the boards with me in my office, and then one evening I decided that I wanted to be able to see them at the start and finish of my day, so I moved them to the bedroom.
I nailed the boards to the wall directly to the right of my bed, so that when I would wake in the morning or retire in the evening, they would be the first thing that I would see. The images on those boards were meant to inspire. I studied them until they became permanently etched into my mind. I had created the boards at a time when even a walk to the mailbox often appeared nearly unbearable due to anxiety. I was in desperate need of hope. And they truly served as an escape for me…a reminder that someday I would indeed persevere and see the light at the end of the tunnel. Someday the darkness would vanish, and those visions would become my reality. In time, I would live my dreams.
But it was going to take something more than those boards to lead me to the attainment of all that I had envisioned. I needed to continue to call on a higher power. I wasn’t going to be able to do this alone. I needed a miracle in order to find my direction, to heal, and to move forward. And as I engaged in a deeper and more meaningful relationship with God, it’s amazing what was revealed to me. I bought in wholeheartedly, and trusted that where there was faith and a will, there was a way. Looking back on the experience now, I am left speechless by the memories of what took place in the following months…
As a result of this blog and the social network, a lot of people will share their own unique stories with me and often will ask what it takes to overcome similar battles of personal struggle and hardship. This is always a difficult question for me to answer. I’m certainly not qualified to be proposing a wholesale solution. I understand that what works for me may not work for everyone, and so I only hope to share my story to provide comfort and perhaps inspire others to continue to fight and believe in their ability to stand tall in the face of adversity. I’m always happy to listen, share some encouraging words and really just be an outlet and a friend. And more than anything, I’m happy to share my prayers and faith with them, because there is NOTHING more powerful. So while I may not have all the answers, one thing I do know is this…if you are going to get to the heart of your own personal crisis you’re going to need to begin by solidifying your faith. That’s where it all starts.
As many of you already know, by the summer of 2011 my anxiety was truly beginning to destroy what remained of my well-being. Although I had done a pretty good job over the years of accepting my disorder, I was still far too often painting myself as a victim. It was easier to justify an advanced bout with anxiety by examining the contributing external factors and placing the blame elsewhere. “I didn’t want to be this way…it was just job stress, a failed relationship, financial worries, etc. Just imagine if those circumstances hadn’t developed…I’d be so much better off…right??” Wrong. Maybe momentarily, but not long term. In order to heal beyond “today” you need to get the bottom of the issue that lies inside…not outside. Because those outside factors, they are just a trigger that YOU choose to react to, and if you make one false step, you can ignite that existing fire almost instantaneously…unless, that is, you heal what’s within.
If you’ve been following the blog, you’ll recall that I felt directly called to action by God to start the wheels of change in motion in my life (“the awakening, 8/15/11). I knew that it was time for me to listen, and I was divinely inspired to take responsibility for my life and my own personal well-being. I began to understand that my reality was a by-product of the decisions that I had made over the years. I chose that bad relationship, I invited financial trouble with my addiction, I created the stress that I encountered in my job, I pushed people away…I was the one constant, everywhere, at any point of my life. How can you deny what’s always there? Clearly, I was the problem. I became tremendously repentant. But I felt great inside…it was like discovering the key to happiness. I couldn’t wait to get moving.
And so the following day, I began writing this blog. And I did it with a clear purpose in mind by which the Lord had inspired me. I decided on 100 percent honest disclosure. That was just how it would have to be. I felt that in order to heal and seek my own forgiveness, there was no other way…it was definitely a calling of sorts. And while it wasn’t always easy, I believed wholeheartedly in that moment when God took hold of me and encouraged me to take action. I trusted that if I did right by Him, everything else would fall into place in time. The Lord would not punish honesty; he would find it to be a noble venture. And I owed that to him. So I tackled my past head on, taking responsibility for my part in broken relationships, in heartache, in despair, and in ups and downs all along the travels of the winding road of my life. I opened up about an anxiety and panic disorder, OCD, depression, and a serious gambling addiction. I made my writing public and encouraged others to share my story. I wanted friends, family, and figures of my past to understand that I was sorry, and that while I had not yet been made perfect, I was working on it, every day.
As I continued to write, I found a lot of clarity in those past experiences. I discovered my weaknesses and a growing list of items within that needed to be addressed. And I got to work on them. By cleaning my past, I was allowing my future to heal. I was beginning to understand the type of person that I wanted to become. I began seeking ways to be a more positive individual so that in turn I could draw better outcomes to my life. I constructed vision boards. I started to dream. I made new friends…good friends…no, GREAT friends. Kind-hearted and inspiring friends of old and new began to come into my life every day as a result of my blog. And the acquaintances of my past that were not on track with my new found priorities, well, they faded away, and I was fine with that. God was pulling weeds and planting healthy relationships in my life. I trusted in His plan.
While exploring deep within my soul, my faith was absolutely critical to keeping me honest, and I turned back to my relationship with God time and time again for support. If I began to place blame elsewhere or feel resentment for my past or even my existing circumstances, the Lord would set me back on track. I utilized prayer repeatedly throughout the day, and when I spoke with God, I felt an obligation to be honest. So doubts and questions about how to proceed began to disappear. He taught me how to forgive even those who hurt me without good reason. I just listened to Him and continued moving forward, keeping in mind all that I felt inside when we spoke alone. I knew that nothing negative could come out of acting according to the desires of His plan for me. And I kept doing my best to trudge ahead, praying that in time I’d find my answers through the experience.
And that’s pretty much exactly what soon took place. At the end of November, I was tested tremendously. I hit a bottom, and it was more devastating than anything I could have ever dreamed of experiencing. But this pain had a purpose. God was providing me with a sincere opportunity… He was begging me to persevere and use nothing more than my faith and trust in Him to overcome the most tragic experience of my life. If I was able to handle this, imagine the tremendous strength that I would embody forever as a result? I’d know that no matter where I was in my life, that I could call on a relationship that would never turn its back on me to carry me through my darkest moments. He knew how far I had come, even if I wasn’t able to recognize it in that moment. It was time to prove the strength of faith.
So I let go. I gave up control altogether. I worked my way completely off of my natural anxiety supplements. I turned to prayer when I felt panic knocking at the door. I put it all in His hands and prayed for the best. And I’m pleased to say that it’s working. Every day I am gaining strength. And I trust that it’s only a matter of time now until I shine. Because a weak moment can no longer drown me…I’ve got a life-jacket that will never allow me back under, and I carry it with me all the time.
My experiences along this journey to self-discovery have been nothing short of amazing. In addition to the clarity, forgiveness, and blessings that I’ve received as a result of my new found relationship with God, I’ve also been granted a purpose, and my life has new meaning. I never had much of an idea about what I wanted to do with my life, and now as a result of all that’s taken place, it’s become crystal clear to me. I’ve discovered a passion for writing which I hope to someday develop into a career, and I want to continue to help people and encourage them to overcome their own setbacks in life. I want to return the favor…I want to pay it forward. Those things are what drive me and make me truly happy.
Tonight as I head to bed, I’ll glance to my right and take note of the various images and phrases on my vision boards. And I’ll smile, recognizing that I’ve already begun to achieve several of the goals which seemed like far-fetched pursuits only months ago. And then, I’ll look to my left at a new addition to another previously bare wall…a portrait of Jesus receiving comfort from one of God’s angels in the Garden of Gethsemane, and I’ll say thank you. Because I remember the emptiness that I felt inside during those nights on my knees in the darkness of this very same room. This was the starting point. It was in this room that I sought God’s wisdom and strength…to take responsibility, to be honest, to act on His inspiration, to forgive, to let go, and to move forward with trust and confidence in His plan. So it’s fitting to me that these walls are no longer empty – this is where I found my meaning, my purpose, and my will to change. This is where I found my soul. Wow, if only these walls could speak…what a beautiful story they would tell today.