Knowing Who's Knocking
“I feel Despair…”
As the words came out of my mouth I was thankful to have a name for the all too familiar feeling. I’ve only had a name for what had felt like a life long companion for about a year. I learned its name when I was listening to a Brené Brown podcast and she explained that with Despair comes a loss of appetite.
At that time I was somewhere along the four month journey of my mother being in ICU, isolated from us because of COVID-19 protocols. It was four months of pure hell feeling helpless, knowing no matter what I did, my mom was alone and having no clue how hard we were fighting for even a simple FaceTime with her.
As a woman who has struggled with eating disorders and an unhealthy relationship with food as long as I can remember, loss of appetite had once felt like the silver lining during dark times. I figured I may be sad but at least I was not thinking about food, obsessing over if I am eating too much or not enough of the right foods.
But as I hiked that day last year and heard Brené Brown so plainly talk about Despair, my mind started to reel as I thought back on seasons of life when the thought of food made me nauseous. Those were hard seasons where hope was no where to be found.
I acknowledged that I had liked not wanting to eat and asked God to take me even deeper into a healthy relationship with food. I acknowledged that there had been times were I unhealthily had hoped for the loss of appetite, naming the sick comfort I found in that old companion Despair.
That day on those trails that have become sacred ground for my conversations with The One Who Put The Stars Into place, I know I stepped even deeper into my healing journey.
Now when I find myself sickened by the thought of food I can do a mental inventory and find out why Despair has come to knock. I can discover which door of my heart is vulnerable, sit with it, talk to my husband and trusted friends about it, and make sure that I do not let that door open even a crack.
There is such power in learning to name “dark” emotions. For too long I avoided them though various coping mechanisms: busyness, food, alcohol, or Netflix to name a few. I was so scared to feel what I was feeling that I gave fear so much power over my life. Until I learned a deeply valuable lesson.
The fear of the feeling is worse than the actual feeling.
I realized I had been bullied by a boogieman that found its power in my refusal to face it head on. Yes, it sux to feel the pain. With the loss of my mother it’s the kind of pain that wakes me in the middle of the night or causes me to not be able to breath when a memory hits while I’m driving.
This boogieman not only comes at me with grief, but also the unknown of my job and physical circumstances. It is also the pandemic and the hate and fear that is perpetuated. It is in not having many safe spaces. It is learning to live in a world where the systems of power are no longer on the side of my family since my family looks different than it did a couple years ago. It is in the natural process of aging trying to figure out how to exercise with forty-four year old back as opposed to a thirty-eight year old one…
…just listing all that that caused me to have to take a pause and breathe. Take inventory. Address what is knocking at the door of my heart.
I am not sure what is knocking at the door of your heart. It could be Despair or Overwhelmed. It could be Anger or Self-righteousness. I also know those all too well, as well as many other feelings I wish didn’t come along with living in this world.
I am thankful for the power that comes with learning to name my emotions instead of trying to stuff them. I’m thankful that over time it’s gotten easier and easier to identify the physical responses that come with each emotion, making it easier to name and take away the power it tries to hold over me.
The last year and a half has been the hardest of my life, which I know is true of many people. It has also been the most joy filled time as I met, fell in love with, and married the man who I’d always hoped existed, but wasn’t sure I’d find: my perfect partner. I have found myself in a dichotomy; a pendulum of joy and grief.
It was to Chris that I uttered the statement “I feel despair…” and it was with him that I stripped despair of its power to hold me hostage. Today there is no crawling back in bed, there is no feeling so overwhelmed breathing is hard, and there is no diving into a box of cookies.
Because when I named Despair, when I told Chris the specific doors of my heart Despair was knocking at, I took back the power. My feelings may not fall in line right away, and that it OK. But it freed me to enjoy the crispness of the Fall morning and the feeling of the sun on my face as I waited to have breakfast with my dad.
It freed me to sit at my computer and write, praying that God will use this to encourage anyone else choosing hope in the midst of not feeling it.
Naming Despair free me up to enjoy the work that the day has brought. Naming Despair has robbed it of much of its power.
I am praying that today you also will easily name any boogieman knocking at a door of your heart and you will walk even more fully in healing. I am praying that with each day comes even more freedom.