If Your Dreams Don’t Scare You, They’re Not Big Enough

Dear Friends,

I keep writing and re-writing this post, looking for a clever way to say what I want to say this week. But the truth is, my mind and heart are on a different set of documents on my computer.
IMG_1566They are on the large sheets of paper taped up on my walls filled with ideas, connections, quotes, outlines and chapters.

Friends, I’m writing a book. My head has felt like a pressure cooker of thoughts and feelings growing and flowing around for a very long time. After watching Frozen on November 30th, 2013, I knew I needed to find a way to release everything cooking in my head. It took a year for me to let out my Frozen Top Ten” (Click here to read). Then after I did, my good friend Debbie sat me down and challenged me to write a book about it. I’ve been dreaming and setting my course in that direction since then.

Each week on this blog I open the top and release a tiny bit from that pressure cooker of a head of mine. I am relishing the opportunity to Let It Go through writing a book.

This book compares the epic journey depicted in Disney’s Frozen with my own dramatic experience searching for a way to authentically express myself while building connections rather than destroying them. I hope to inspire and challenge others to find, refine and release their own voice.  (Read this short post called Your Voice Matters…it really does.)

Your voice – what you say and how you say it – really does matter. If you are interested in helping me get this project off the ground and into the hands and hearts of others, here’s how you can use your voice to help make that happen.

1. Subscribe to my website. Thank YOU to those who already do! If you subscribed prior to July, 2015 you are not subscribed now because I changed my website – I apologize for the inconvenience! If you did not receive an email with this blog post, you are not subscribed.

I will be sending periodic updates and special information and materials to subscribers. Building a robust email list is one of the most important and difficult jobs for authors. Before you read anything else, go to the subscription form on the side or bottom of this post and type in your email address. Your voice matters when you support by subscribing.

2. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. And if you think to yourself, “This post could help someone else,” please consider retweeting or reposting. It sounds minor, but I see the stats. When people interact with posts and share them, they reach thousands more people than I could reach on my own. Your voice matters on social media.

3. Pray. Writing is an exciting creative and introspective adventure. It’s thrilling and frightening and consuming. I have a rigorous, ambitious timeline. If you pray, would you consider praying for me in this process when you see my posts? I long to dig in, share with wisdom and connect deeply with others. Your voice matters to God.

Thank you for all of your support and encouragement. This is just the beginning. There are more exciting things on the horizon that I look forward to sharing with you in the near future!

Deeply,

Andrea Joy

I Don’t Want To Read This Post

Some Days.

Some days I don’t want to read.
Some days I don’t want to write.
Some days I want to go to the movies and eat popcorn and let someone else inspire.

Some days I don’t want to care.
Some days I don’t want to hope.
Some days I want to leave my sunglasses on and let someone else see the depths of others.

But other days I do read and write and care and hope.
And on those days I tend to the weeds growing through the foundation of my soul.
On those days as I soak in the sun, I plant and water and nourish and share the harvest of kindness, hope and love.

Because I don’t want to forget the other days on some days.
I care too much to let the some-day weeds overtake my other-days garden.
So on some days I walk slowly through the other-days beauty and try to remember the passion and power and joy of the other days.

And then I go to sleep praying that I’ll not forget to rest in the grace of the well-tended garden of the other days.

Rest in the garden

When I Should Feel Joy #5: Deeper Joy

We were sitting on the only furniture left in her late-grandma’s dimly lit nursing home room. She was back for the funeral and my friend invited me over so we could talk one-on-one with no kids around. Life-lived poignancy struck me. I suppose it was the perfect place to have a life-living conversation. This is how I remember it:

“Are you depressed?”

Well, I might be. I thought I would do better after having realized how I had been looking to others to make me feel valuable. We have really been doing well the past few months because of it…but I still feel rage when I feel overwhelmed.

“Do you enjoy your kids?”

Well…I love them. And there are moments I enjoy them but most of the time I feel frustrated by all their needs I am expected to meet. But I’m their mom. Isn’t that my job?

“Do you want to be angry at your kids or will you look back on this time of your life and wish you would have been able to enjoy it?”

Boom.

There’s nothing like end-of-life reminders to evoke right-now-life movement. Her question made me realize I didn’t want to live to survive, I wanted to live a life of deep joy alongside whatever pain would come. But I could not do it on my own. Something significant happened in my heart while at the spiritual direction class, as I described in my last post. I am so glad I didn’t miss the opportunity for inner growth in the middle of my pain. But nine months later, at the time my friend confronted me, I was still struggling.

That’s the thing about depression. There very well may be spiritual transformation in the middle of it, but if it’s been around long enough, our brains may need help to finally overcome it. Soon after our conversation, I began taking anti-depressants. Choosing to take or not take anti-depressants is a very personal decision. My goal was to utilize them to help me regain chemical balance while I continued to work on integrating more healthy practices into my life. Several months later I went off of the medication and through another transition into a new beginning: a life aware of how the choices I make daily impact my spiritual/mental health.

I had expectations about what it would be like to welcome our children into the world and raise them. Some of my expectations became sweet reality. But if I have learned anything through this season, I have learned that joy is not found in fulfilling the “should’s” of life. It is not something you feel just because it is your middle name. Joy is much deeper than that. It is the others-centered freedom and love released when I lean deep into pain and find that I am safe and Loved, just as I am.

Joy Is Deeper

Here are some final observations from my heart-experience with depression:

  1. Depression may be emotional and spiritual, but it is definitely practical and physical. Meds brought their own set of side effects that helped me get back on track but also made me ready to be done with them several months later. Every person is different – if your doctor recommends anti-depressants and you are willing, give them a chance and follow the doctor’s lead to try something else if the first option doesn’t work. I offer other friend-to-friend practical advise in my post 11 Steps to Prevent and Fight Depression.
  1. We needed our friends and family. I’m so glad my friend moved into my chaotic heart to help me realize I was still depressed. But I’m not sure how we would have made it to that point without the unwavering support and practical care from our extended family – especially my mom who stayed and helped care for us a lot those first few months. If you think someone might be struggling with depression, reach out and invite them to share themselves with you. And just as importantly, reach out to their spouse or care-giver who may need and appreciate support, as well. Perhaps you want to utilize the discussion points in the 11 Steps to Prevent and Fight Depression as a place to begin.

Has this series been meaningful or helpful to you in any particular way? Are you left with questions unanswered or things with which you disagree or would like to add to the discussion? Leave a comment below, message me on Facebook or email me at awenburg@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you.

Deeply,

Andrea Joy

When I Should Feel Joy #1: Unprepared

When I Should Feel Joy #2: Postpartum Depression

When I Should Feel Joy #3: Shame

When I Should Feel Joy #4: True Love

When I Should Feel Joy #5: Deeper Joy

11 Steps to Prevent and Fight Depression

When I Should Feel Joy #1: Unprepared

After my initial post Frozen Top Ten”, a few beautiful people asked me to share more about my experience with depression – specifically, post partum depression. My reflections on this story are too long for one blog post. This is not just for women. It is not just for parents. I offer this series in honor of anyone who suffers and feels alone. And I offer it to those who might have experienced or have loved ones experiencing difficulties as young parents.

Our experience having our first child was joyful. Yes, we went to the hospital and were sent home and then induced the next day. Yes, I had back labor and eventually had an epidural. Yes, the epidural helped half of my back more than the other half. But, YES! We were rested and ready! We were very excited to welcome Amelia into the world to the tune of “Testify to Love.” Happy. For a long time, there was happy.

Then around December in our second pregnancy, I was incredibly uncomfortable. The demands of my body and a 1 ½ year old were wearing on me. Looking back, I believe this is where depression set in. Five months later, it was time to have our second baby. We went in for a check up one morning and were told to come back to the hospital around 5:00 p.m. so they could induce and deliver that night. We didn’t think much of the request at the time. Our doctor would conveniently be on call and my body was indicating that it was a good time. We started the process around 6. I settled into the whirlpool and Aaron settled into the Lakers game. What came next was fast and furious. I realized very quickly that I wanted the pain meds I had previously hoped to do without. And I wanted them BAD. They never came. I will spare you the details.

Here’s what I felt I lost in the next few hours:

  • My voice. I had plans for how this birthing process would work, but when things got rolling, nurses were (what felt like) dragging me to the bed and telling me what to do. I felt like they were making decisions for me. They acted like the epidural would come, even though they knew it was too late. I felt like a child.
  • My emotional stability. It took me a few months to realize this, but I discussed it with a friend-psychologist and we determined that I likely had a panic attack during labor. I literally thought I would AND thought it would be better if I would just die in labor. I feel bad even saying that. But it’s true. I’m going to say it because maybe I’m not the only one.
  • My dignity. I felt incredibly exposed and ashamed of my volume, tone and word choice as I cried out and writhed in pain.
  • My self-respect. When all was said and done, I felt I had failed this natural birth thing. I didn’t overcome anything or feel empowered like some women do. I felt dragged and beaten and terrified and discarded. That is also really hard to say.              *Big Breath*
  • My ability to move. For a long time (maybe an hour, I don’t really know) after birth, I couldn’t relax my awkwardly positioned body. I continued to experience pain after pain and I didn’t have the wherewithal to ask for pain medication for quite some time.
  • My husband’s respect. This is a tough one, but it is real. I felt my loss of control had embarrassed him. I couldn’t look him in the eye for fear of the disappointment I was sure I would see.
  • Sleep. Grant was born at 11:45 p.m. They took us to our room around 1:00 a.m. and I did not sleep. I lay there tense and in shock, all night long. No one knew. I didn’t sleep well for months.

The next couple of days in the hospital were a struggle as I attempted to feel and act like I felt as joyful as I did when Amelia was born. One nurse caught me in a weak, tearful moment and gruffly asked, “Are you depressed?!” I pulled it together enough to sternly pronounce, “No. I am a counselor. I would know if I were depressed.”

She backed off.

And I backed into my shell.

I pray you will tuck these insights into your heart:

  1. I rejected help. I think I was so embarrassed from the experience that I refused to accept or seek help. I closed up like a clam – hard and tight. But I was a wreck on the inside. If you feel as I did, please open yourself to help. Reach out to someone you trust in your head – even if your heart feels it can’t trust at all. 
  1. I was unable to be my own advocate. Sometimes people break down and are unable to speak for themselves – even “strong” people. We were not prepared for this to happen. If you know someone who is closed like a clam, be curious! They may act like they don’t want your help, but if you offer it tenderly, confidently, respectfully and consistently; they just might let you in.
  2. Joy is what I felt I should feel after giving birth, so I hid my pain. But honestly, most women struggle. My expectations for what “I should feel” made it harder to accept the pain and sadness I experienced.

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Our beautiful, worth-every-bit-of-it kids (a few years back).


Friends,

Working on this piece reminds me how troubling this season of our parenting experience was. It has been a while since I shared this intensely personal and vulnerable story with anyone. I believe that is why most parents do not share their emotionally traumatic birthing stories or the pain they experience afterward.

I believe that is why I must.

I do not claim to be an expert in the area of depression. I share my reflections of our experience but if you are concerned that you or a loved one is depressed, please inform your doctor (or encourage them to inform theirs) – especially if you are pregnant.

Love,

Andrea Joy

When I Should Feel Joy #1: Unprepared

When I Should Feel Joy #2: Postpartum Depression

When I Should Feel Joy #3: Shame

When I Should Feel Joy #4: True Love

When I Should Feel Joy #5: Deeper Joy

11 Tips to Prevent and Fight Depression