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An open letter to: those struggling with shame.

Dear you,

If you’re reading this, I can only assume that you are familiar with the feeling of shame. Although I may not be aware of what your particular poison is or what has led to this constant slow-burning feeling that shadows every decision and thought you make, I assure you that I am familiar with the feeling of regret, remorse and general wretchedness, that dirtiness that clings to your being no matter how many times you wash.

Shame is a horrible thing, yet something the majority of us live with (if not you, fair play). When you reflect upon your past, more often than not there is something that you hide from the rest of the world. Something that will instil a sense of horror within you when you think of it. Something you cannot believe you did or partook in. Something that causes you to close your eyes tight and wish it didn’t occur. Something you daren’t even whisper to your nearest and dearest. This ever-present thing that holds you back.

You’re shackled by shame. Shrouded by your sins. Unable to let go. And I want to tell you that’s human.

We compare and contrast our sins with those around us. Thoughts such as ‘what I have done is so much worse than anything they’d ever be capable of’ spirals into ‘they are such a good person, such a good Christian whereas I am terrible and disgusting, I’ll never be enough’. The thought that ‘I am so much worse’. Comparison is extremely dangerous in this sense because on a surface level, of course a person is going to paint themselves in the best possible light because that is what everyone else is doing.

We fear vulnerability and sharing our brokenness because it’s a sign of weakness, and we’re meant to be strong, meant to have it together 25/8, y’know. We try our best to maintain the illusion of indestructibility, whilst simultaneously internally crumbling to pieces, our insides corroding at a steady pace due to guilt and remorse. Our feeble human solution is to patch over the problem, ignore it and  pretend it’s not there, yet anyone who has ever experienced a blocked drain will know that you can ignore the problem for a certain period of time yet pretty soon it’ll stink up the whole house and you’ll have to deal with it.

So we stumble, crawl and drag ourselves through our days, weighed down by the heaviness of that that has already happened, that which can’t be undone, unsure of how to offload or move forward.

The idea of running at this point may seem incredulous, but when it gets to this point run. Run to the arms of your Father. The idea of grace may seem extremely alien to us, yet it is freely offered to us. Love is offered to us. Forgiveness is offered to us. Things we cannot earn. So run. Run so fast that you fall flat on your face in front of Him. Allow Him to destroy the shackles of shame that hold you back in every area of your life. Pass your burden to Him, for He has paid the debt you could not. He has borne the weight that you would have crippled under, due to His love for you.

As a body of people, there is one thing we are not good at and that’s receiving grace. The cynical nature of our generation approaches the thought of something being given no strings attached with dubious suspicion, only to reject it or attempt to earn it. The ideation that there must be something I have to do to receive this. Yet that is not how God works, you are freely loved. Freely forgiven if only you wholly bring it to Him.

Your sin and shame may lead you to believe you are unworthy, that you are a lost cause, unredeemable. Yet, dear friend, that is most certainly not the case. You deserve to feel loved. You deserve to belong. You deserve to feel worthy. For we are all sinners,  we all have baggage, we all have made mistakes and continue to do so every day, yet you are unbelievably loved and cherished.

So do not cower in fear. Do not stay drowning in the darkness. Do not let your shame shape and define you. Rather, when it feels you are most broken, most weary, run to Him. Run through your shame and straight to Him, for He will forgive and lighten your load with no judgement. When you can barely pick yourself up off the floor, run full force into His arms, for He will hold you upright when you no longer can. When things are bleak and the darkness is all-consuming and unending, let Him shine a little light.

So run, not from your problems, but into them and through them.

Stumbling, falling, running-through-life-with-you,

Sophie.

 

 

 

 

 

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Your brokenness is welcome here

*Firstly, s/o to Jordan Lee Dooley as this phrase has been stuck in my head for months.

SO, if you’re up for an upfront, honest, hit-you-in-the-gut jumble of words then hop on board folks *tips metaphorical conductor’s hat*.

The last few months have been exhausting, confusing and an all-round emotional rollercoaster. But that’s me in general, isn’t it? I am very open about the fact that I don’t have it altogether. Every time I write on this blog I feel it’s some sort of lesson I’ve picked up along the way of my super windy path (or more honestly been hit in the face with).

I don’t have a problem saying that I do not know what I am doing most of the time. That sometimes I fall down, and I stay down for a while. Sometimes folk come lay beside me. Sometimes I just have a cry (well, I put on really really sad music and wallow). Sometimes it’s just a brief moment and it passes straight away. It really depends. But, eventually, I can get up and keep going.

Do I fall again? Of course. Do I make bad choices? Why yes. Do I sometimes feel weak and useless? 100%.

So I’m not afraid to say I’m broken if I am, because if I don’t? And it overwhelms me? I find it so hard to get back up again. And I end up a bit like Humpty Dumpty. Lots of little pieces no matter what anyone does or tries to do to help.

Somewhere along the way, we were told that strength is showing no fear, no weakness. And boy did we believe it. We try to deal with everything alone. When we’re asked if we’re okay we say yes. Of course. I’m fine. Fine, fine, finety fine. And so the other person responds the same way and we carry on with our days all playing our role in the Grand Show. We’ve become wonderful actors. Really giving Brad Pitt a run for his money (not literally though because I’ve just graduated and am in a bit of debt).

I suppose I’m writing to beg you not to do so. Do not pretend to be okay if you are not. Cry out. Reach out. Even whisper if that’s all you can manage.

Do not pretend to be okay if you are not. Cry out. Reach out. Even whisper if that’s all you can manage.

The past few months I have had too many conversations with people coming close to the edge, people whose burdens are so heavy, they don’t know what to do anymore. And each conversation starts generally the same, ‘I’ve tried to deal with this myself for so long… I’ve tried to be strong.’ Here and now, in my opinion, true strength comes from weakness. True strength is reaching out. It is realising that you can’t do it alone, nor do you have to. True strength is carrying on even when it feels like there is no reason to. It is dragging yourself across the floor holding on to that tiny bit of hope.

It is okay to be broken. In some ways I imagine all of us are, each in a different way due to different experiences, because life can be difficult. We lose people, things don’t go how we thought, there are crises that shake our beings to the core. So don’t be ashamed. Don’t dig yourself further and further into a hole, because it’ll only get darker and darker, deeper and deeper, until you no longer know the way out and remember, no one knows you’re even down there in the first place.

So you don’t have to do it alone. It is 100% okay to be sad. To be a big ol’ mess. We’re all a little broken, some are just better at hiding it.

Cry, wallow, let it rainnnnn (I’m trying so hard to subtly sneak in a storm metaphor, mostly because there is a literal storm right now in Spain).

So your brokenness is most certainly welcome here.

When you feel tired, exhausted, weighed down, like everything is impossible, like it’s too much. You may feel as though you don’t have the strength, that you are not strong, that you are not enough.

But, my friend, you most definitely are.

Perhaps you are stronger than most.

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Shout out to 

This post is a shoutout. 

A shoutout to the folk who helped me make it through university when at many times I really didn’t think I could. 

Depression is a horrible little thing. My time at university was shrouded by unconfidence, doubt, paralysing anxiety, panic, fear and a lack of focus that made the smallest of readings a huge task. 

To the folk at Trinity – thank you for accepting me when I didn’t have the confidence to even say hello to other humans. For giving me a reason to get on the train every morning and trek all the way across the border because at least I got to see you weirdos when I got there. 

Queens was a different ball game altogether. Definitely the hardest two years but also the best. Thank you to the people who picked me up when I fell down and to those who just lay down there with me for a while until I was ready to get up again. To the people who cheered me on and told me I could do it when I was overwhelmed. To the folk who danced with me in the kitchen. To the folk who didn’t need to speak but instead offered coexistence for a few hours. To the people who were paddling alongside me in the mental health sucks boat (we did it wow). To the people who told me you can when I said I couldn’t. 

To my Mum, who when I was scared of failing or doing badly she reminded me my expectations were self-imposed and that I’d always be enough for her regardless of what any degree said. 

Thank you to my nearest and dearest. To the people who see the  good in me when I only see bad, you’re pretty okay. Because of you I’ve made it through and somehow I’m graduating with a 2:1 which I didn’t think was remotely possible. 

Pause

Finally, things have eased up in my neck of the woods. Exams are done, hooray! Yet, that is simultaneously terrifying as that’s me done with education. I’ve moved back home and am currently taking a break from attempting to squeeze everything I own into my cubby-hole sized room that even Harry Potter would be like ‘jeeze how do you fit in there’ (but I love it because it’s filled with duvets and blankets so it’s okay).

This past year has been crazy, tumultuous, turbulent (93%) and just absolutely mad.

Has it been dark? Yes. Has it been scary? Yes. Has it been filled with overwhelming uncertainty? Yes. All the above are true.

Yet, without a doubt it has been the best year so far in my twenty-one. As I sit here taking a breather from lugging around heavy boxes, it’s nice to be able to pause. To stop. Breathe. And think.

Sometimes things get horrible and difficult to handle BUT I’ve composed a brief list of things that ground me, help me get up again and 100% make me smile when I think of them.

‘The feeling of sand between your toes,
cold, gentle waves reaching out to kiss your ankles.
The smell of freshly ground coffee,
accompanied with the reassurance that it’ll be flowing through your veins soon enough.
The warmth of the sun delicately dancing on your skin.
The sound of rain beating against the glass of a window,
watching the drops race each other to the bottom.
Wrapping yourself in a bundle of blankets
a cosy escape.
Cracking the spine of a new book.
The kind of laughter that you can’t stop,
even when you’re doubled up uncontrollably on the floor.
Catching eye contact with a random stranger and sharing a smile.
The gentle crackling of a campfire,
flames hypnotising.
Driving with loud music and no particular destination.
The amber glow of old streetlights,
guiding you home on a dark night.
A cup of tea on a gloomy day,
a welcome hug in a mug whenever you need it.’

To list just a few.

Obviously, your things will differ. I can hear people recoiling at the thought of cracking the spine of a new book. But they work for me.

So – it’s important to note that things will be broken, messy, scary… and that’s okay. As long as you still have the little things that bring you back and remind you of something good. Whether that be the sun (hard luck if you live in Northern Ireland) or the rain (the reverse) or it be the people you are surrounded by (which, despite my list, are definitely my number one).

This week I had the best time sharing my favourite places (White Park Bay beach and Bothy) with some of my favourite people – you can bet I had ‘Favourite things’ from Sound of Music on repeat in my head the whole day. We had an easy day, just driving away – eating, drinking, walking on the beach. And I am thankful. Thankful for people that make me want to move forward. For people that make me laugh. For people that are ridiculous and as weird as me.

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I am thankful for days that I can pause.

Dear Me,

Breathe little one. You are much too hard on yourself. I know it’s scary and you can feel like you are drowning, that it all gets a little too much, that you are a failure – but that is not the case.

I know you feel alone – but take a closer look around. You are surrounded. Sometime soon someone will come along who sees your light and how much you are worth even when you don’t. People who make you laugh when you want to cry. So don’t chase after or pursue people who don’t recognise your value. Don’t accept less than you are worth. Don’t panic – you’ve got a big heart and you’re extremely sensitive, odds are you’re going to get hurt more than once, but when you get knocked down, please try to get back up again and keep going.

Be gentle with yourself. Treat yourself how you would treat others, with kindness and care. Be patient – sometimes life sucks and that is just how it is, but dance away your sorrow and keep going.

I know you feel useless – there’s expectation weighing you down – but just keep going. If you don’t know your purpose yet, it’ll come to you soon. Don’t settle or be unhappy. You deserve to smile, to be happy, to be filled with joy. To be a success is to love and be loved, you’ve always thought that so don’t let what society tells you you need to be blur your priorities. Love wholeheartedly. Be there for the broken.

You are not alone dear friend. Reach out. Do not feel like a burden. You have wonderful family and friends. They love you despite the dark bits. Remember that. Keep going even when it feels like you want to stop and hide under your duvet for a year.

You’ll make it. It’s okay to be scared.

Much love,

Me.

 

Just a little letter not only as a reminder to me, but a reminder to all. It’s Mental Health awareness week so please take the time to check in with yourself. Be gentle with yourself. You got this!

Anyway, I’m away to twirl in my have-a-good-day skirt to the sounds of Shakira.

Dear Depression

I think it is about time we sat down and had a little chat. It’s been a long time coming.

I’m not a fan of yours, not at all. We’ve known each other for quite some time now but the deeper we get into our relationship the more I want you to go away. You have to laugh at the irony otherwise you’d cry. I remember the first time I noticed you’d rocked up on the scene, I couldn’t get my sentences to string together, I couldn’t keep thoughts in my head and you began to strip me of my greatest love – learning.

See at the time I was meant to thrive, to be doing my best intellectually and absorbing as much as possible, I grew disinterested in everything I once loved. My motivation dropped to zero and school became a chore, so I didn’t go. You clouded up my brain and consumed my thoughts with emptiness, until I gave up.

I’m so angry at you for making even the tiniest things like waking up in the morning seem impossible. As I try to will myself out of bed you lure me back to the faux warmth and cosiness by overwhelming me with the fear of outside.

You shroud over every aspect of my life, infiltrating everything, I think I’ve managed to lose you for a while but then I turn around and there you are. I kind of want out of this game of hide-and-seek if that is okay.

When university was meant to be a time of adventure, self-discovery and trying new things, it was instead a time quite often of overwhelming loneliness. It is hard to meet new people and make new friends when your esteem is so low it is virtually non-existent, you don’t even want to hang out with yourself so why would anyone else.

You’re selfish Depression, you want me for yourself, you crave so much attention, that you ruin all the other relationships I have. Pushing the people who love me far far away so we don’t hurt them because somewhere along the way I lost where you began and I ended; we became one.

You make me tired, exhausted, grumpy, anxious, sad-then-happy-then-sad-again, weary, angry, frustrated, impatient, scared, worried (about every little thing; from the future to ‘did I turn that plug off?’), cynical, kinda rude, scary, closed-off and so so weighed down.

But, old friend, I really do not want to be one anymore. So even though you drag me back by the feet everytime I try to escape and kick me down every time I stand up, I think I need to try.

I don’t think there is much point in me being angry with you really, that just drags me further down the rabbit hole, and that’s what you want. So I choose to be thankful. Thankful that you have provided me with the skill set to be there for people, to be empathetic and caring, to be honest and open with others because your presence only grows when I keep quiet. Thank you for allowing me to understand what it is like to pretend that everything is fine because it allows me to recognise when others are doing exactly the same. Thank you for teaching me to be vulnerable, that it is okay not to have everything altogether and to rely on other people. Thank you for allowing me to recognise how you affect the people around me.

I’m thankful for all I have learned from you, and all I will continue to learn, but you’re no longer welcome at the party so I’d like to show you (gradually) to the door. I’m aware you’re more like that pesky person that doesn’t get the hint that it’s time to go, that this will take a lot of time, but I have hope, even if small.

Not-so-kind regards,

Sophie

Spring Clean

How March got here so quickly, I am not so sure, BUT HERE WE ARE. In my head that means soon there’ll be baby lambs and sunshine (although with Northern Irish weather this is often not the case, exhibit A = today).

March is scary as flip because it means it’s approximately three months until the end of university (que internal screaming right about here). I’ll be honest and say that this is SUPER overwhelming. So many thoughts bounce about my brain ‘where will I live’, ‘what will I do’, ‘how will I afford anything’, ‘I’m going cry every day’… which only make me want to run and hide in a ball with approximately twenty blankets and avoid dealing with anything.

Obviously, I cannot do this. I must adult soon. Nothing prepares you for this feeling of what-the-flip-happens-now, and I must admit the last few weeks have been a rollercoaster of emotions that have made me want to hide away from everything and everyone.

Thankfully, I have people who speak sense when I do not and I got reminded today that it’s okay to feel a bit overwhelmed. The odds are others are too. It’s okay to want to hide for a wee while.

So today I decided to have a me-day.

First on the list was to tidy my pig sty. I’m not sure how but my room can go from immaculate to dump in two minutes, I really don’t know how I manage to cause so much destruction for such a small person. I rearranged my whole room, sorted out all my clothes (i.e. removed them all from the chair that they sit on rather than in the wardrobe) and threw out a whole lot of useless crap, because I am a horder and keep everything.

AND IT FEELS GOOD. THERE’S SO MUCH ROOM FOR ACTIVITIES (i.e. spontaneous dance parties).

Next up was to find a nice dress that makes me feel good. So here I am writing this dressed to the nines in my room.

And last on my list was to spend some time decluttering my brain. Because it was getting a little crowded up there.

I guess what I’m saying is don’t worry if you feel a bit like ‘AGHHHHGGHHHH’, that’s okay. Take little baby steps to make yourself feel like you’ve got a bit more control. Spend some time just doing something you want to do because uni is busy and stressful.

So I’m off to twirl about my room in my dress, I recommend a little spring clean both of your environment and on the inside too. You’ll feel better for it.

 

2017

I’ve decided I’m okay with the erratic pattern of posting on this blog. I’m extremely busy…procrastinating. Let’s see, what’s new? Semester one is finished and I’m now preparing for the final hurdle of my degree (laughs through the tears).

I’m not usually one to jump on the New Year’s resolutions bandwagon but 2017 is set to be the scariest year yet so I thought some order would be good. This blog post is therefore dedicated to me sharing my ‘goals’ (how terribly cliché) with you.

  1. Don’t panic: this seems rather silly to put down as of course I’m going to panic. I panic every day – whether I’m sitting having a cup of tea or driving down the M1, the overwhelming panic of WHAT HAPPENS NEXT hits at random times and cannot be controlled. Yet, I set this as a reminder that it is 300% okay to be worried and panicking is fine, just not all the time. (s/o to my fellow final year friends who know exactly this feeling)
  2. Work REALLY hard: It’s my last semester at uni and I’m not going to lie, I feel like I’ve completely fumbled my way through, still with absolutely no idea what I’m supposed to be doing. Every semester the familiar ‘yeah I’m going to be so organised and start prepping for assignments 16 weeks in advance’ offers security but then it’s suddenly week 11 and there are only 12 weeks in a semester and you are back to the ‘night-before’ dread and stress. CAN’T DO THAT THIS SEMESTER.
  3. Be patient: I’m quite possibly the least patient human I know, whether it’s waiting in traffic, waiting on a reply to a message… I have no time for it. Which is not good! So I need to work on being accountable, being there for people and not throwing my phone out the window every time someone doesn’t reply in two seconds (don’t worry I don’t actually do that). I guess being a lot more chilled goes hand in hand with this one, in that the control freak in me needs to sit the flip down.
  4. Travel: To be very honest this one scares me a little, it’s rather scary to think about going away off somewhere alone – BUT also quite exciting and there’s so much to see and do.
  5. Learn something new: My first year at uni was spent travelling up and down to Dublin so I didn’t overly get the chance to try things like you’re supposed to, so I hope this semester to try something ridiculous. Like salsa dancing, I mean I love Shakira, but if you know me you know I have the rhythm of a wooden spoon.
  6. Be confident: This is a big one. Possibly the hardest one. I guess confidence comes with time and patience with yourself. Having the courage to put yourself out there even when you feel like an idiot and literally just want to curl in a ball.
  7. Talk to new people: I suppose this ties in well with the confidence thing. Talking to new people is quite frightening though, isn’t it. I’m aware that I might give off the best first impression, I’ve unfortunately inherited that Northern Irish trait of being ridiculously sarcastic to the point were even I’m not sure what I mean, and that sometimes comes across like I’m mean. I’m not, promise. Just trying to overcompensate with being ‘funny’ because I’m terrified you’ll find me boring otherwise. So tone the sarcasm down. Be kind, friendly, nice.
  8. Wake up early: I’m not a morning person. I slightly resemble a mixture of an angry troll and grouchy dinosaur first thing in the morning. My friend (who is one of those people who loves waking up first thing in the morning, jumping out of bed practically singing with the birds) assures me that it only takes a few early starts to get used to it. I hope so.
  9. Get fit: Please don’t hit me for this one, I know it’s a v traditional ‘new year, new me’ one.  I do pay for gym membership, and I do go, but I suppose REALLY try hard to exercise and eat well.
  10. Smile frequently: I think I have one of those resting faces that slightly looks like you’re ready to commit murder at any point. I guess to avoid scaring people away I must try to smile much more frequently. Do things that make me smile, spend time with folk who make me laugh. YET remembering that it is really okay not to be okay.

So there we go. I’m being extremely optimistic with ten goals as in reality I’ll probably stick to about one and a half, but aim high and all that.

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The Last Few Months

It’s deadline season, which is always the time my brain goes into full on blog-writing-ideas mode, my brain is a procrastinating entity if not anything else.

It’s been a whirlwind few months, hence why I have not written a single thing (sorry). There’s been lots of change, lots of loss, lots of new things and lots of stress. Final year  has hit me like a brick to the face (I’m not great at similes, but you get the jist) and so the not-so-welcome fear and dread associated with the impending doom of adulthood looming ahead has become a daily part of my routine.

I struggled with it a lot at the start. I think when there’s so much going on you don’t overly think or deal with anything until one day, when you least expect it, BANG! Three hundred and fifty emotions, thoughts and feelings hit you and you’re so overwhelmed that all you can do is panic (not helped at all by the fact you are already a hormonal girl). You muddle on through, people probably thinking you are the most miserable human there is, complaining quite regularly, crying quite regularly – until eventually it gets a little easier to manage.

The ‘easier to manage’ part is what I want to write about today. Note I say ‘easier to manage’, not ‘yay, life is so awesome, I have everything together, woo hoo’, because for me that is extremely unrealistic. I think the easier to manage phase comes when you realise that no you do not have control over absolutely everything. That it is okay not to have it altogether. That other people are in your boat, rowing alongside you, even if they look like everything is grand.

The truth is everyone has struggles, on the outside it may look A-okay, but on the inside there’s generally always something to worry about because we are human and that is what we do. Whether it be self-esteem, loss, grief, money, looks, confidence, the future, careers, relationships… there’s always going to be something.

Yet, here is were I think the true beauty lies. It’s not in acting like I have it altogether, waking up and jumping out of bed to smile at the sun (firstly, I am not a morning person the only thing I do is growl first thing in the morning and secondly, I live in Northern Ireland, what is the sun). I think it’s in accepting that things do not work out how you think they will, that plans get messed up, that it is okay to be sad for a while and still managing to get up and face the day.

It’s in admitting that ‘hey, I’m a little bit of a mess right now’ that you realise who is there to support you. That you don’t have to be okay 100% of the time.

I will hands down admit that the most beautiful people I’ve encountered are those that are the strongest. Those that have had a genuinely crap time but pushed on through, AND then still have the time and patience to listen to my little fears and encourage me. Shout out to you.

So here we are. Admitting that it’s cool not to be cool (coming from the least cool human who is trying to be ‘hip’ by the use of the word cool). That it’s okay to be stressed and not have everything figured out. The secret is to share that stress, to talk to others and listen to others, to go easy on yourself. To treat yourself, the house I’m living in at the moment LOVES facemasks (I think the boys more so than the girls, no judgement here) so have a spa night every so often, read a book you’ve wanted to, watch a cheesy movie that you know will make you feel good… whatever your preferred niche, go for it. Take a break, you deserve it.

So – final year – I think I can handle you now.

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