I’m sitting at a window seat and the sun is streaming in and it almost feels like I’m at the beach – almost because I wouldn’t normally wear a men’s flannel and socks out by the water. I’ve felt pretty ambivalent about going to college in my hometown, but this year I’ve grown more attached to this state and this city more than I thought I ever could. This place never fails to surprise me. Today I stepped into this sweet store that I’ve driven past several times and it was the coolest place. It’s called Just Goods and it specializes in environmentally friendly and fair trade products. You can find things like beautiful handcrafted mugs, Nepalese prayer flags, female empowerment mugs and dozens of other goodies there. I know I’ll be going back soon to get some of my Christmas shopping done. It wouldn’t be a Susan blog post if I didn’t endorse a local shop or restaurant, would it? Speaking of restaurants, I got to share my favorite spot, Jeannie’s House Diner, by Adams High School, with my best friend and confirmation sponsor, B, for brunch this morning. We both got a late start but the conversation and delicious food (and homemade jam!!) was a fantastic way to start the day. I can always count on B to put a smile on my face.
Okay, you’re probably getting curious about the title of this post and thinking, “Sus, get on with it!” I saw this banner in Just Goods which was made of small cards that said thank you to different things and people – teachers, nature, food, etc. I thought it was so simple but said a great deal. I wanted to take today’s post to talk about giving thanks and gratitude.
At the beginning of last week I was finding it very hard not to lose my mind, let alone be grateful for anything. I’m not sure if you ever feel like *just one thing* away from a complete nervous breakdown, but that was where I was at. My Google search history those few days were pretty odd, going from ‘the best calligraphy pens’ and ‘cats explaining physics’ to ‘symptoms of a nervous breakdown.’
I felt it was important to include this piece because I know I’m not the only one who feels this way at times, and I wanted to make you aware of the symptoms so that you know when to seek help. If you are feeling any of these, please try to utilize the walk-in services at the University Counseling Center. Although it cannot address any issues long-term, it can bring you (hopefully) to a relatively comfortable but more importantly safe place.
Symptoms of a Nervous Breakdown:
- Depressive symptoms, such as loss of hope and thoughts of suicide or self-harm
- Extreme mood swings or unexplained outbursts
- Panic attacks, which include chest pain, detachment from reality and difficulty breathing (these can feel like you are having a heart attack)
- Anxiety with high blood pressure, tense muscles, clammy hands, dizziness and trembling or shaking
- Flashbacks of a traumatic event
- Avoiding social functions or engagements
- Eating poorly
- Isolating yourself
I am doing much better now, but I am also blessed (cursed?) with being very emotionally aware and experienced with my typical levels of anxiety and depression. Please seek help if you feel like you need it, and especially do not burden yourself with the feeling that it is ‘just stress,’ because even stress can be, well, stressful and debilitating.
I always feel really grateful when I come out of a week like that. I lean on my incredible support system a good deal, and I am especially thankful for their unwavering patience, love and kindness during times when I don’t feel like I deserve it. I feel it more even today as we move into the holiday season and the season of gratitude.
I’m basing this blog post off the banner I saw in Just Goods, and I hope to develop it into an exercise that is a part of my daily prayer practice (another blog post on this to come later!). It is something I am trying and I encourage you to try it is as well. You can write out your thank you’s, as I do here, or actually say ‘Thank you’ to someone special, or include them silently in the comfort of your heart. It’s really up to you.
I’ll include the first ‘thank you’ before we get to the tough stuff.
Thank you to my friends, for meeting me with grace, for making me smile and laugh until my face hurts and I can’t stand it anymore, for letting me collapse, for raising me up when I do, for reminding me that I am beautiful, for being thoughtful, for doing things in the hopes that they could make my lives easier, for this selflessness honestly unprecedented in today’s society, for getting excited about Jesus and faith with me and for being silly even though we are expected to be adults.
The second thank-you should be one to yourself. Sounds odd, doesn’t it? I thought it was odd too, until my counselor walked me through it during a recent session. We get so caught up in being grateful for others, or for experiences and this life, that we can forget about being grateful for our own selves. It’s way easier to think of the ways we fail than of the ways we add value to this world – and trust me, you add incredible value! It was an uncomfortable exercise, having to list the things about myself that I enjoyed, was grateful for and that benefitted others, but in the end I had a physical reminder that I carry with me (every day!) in the moments I feel most insecure and a little lost.
I promise that while it will be really freaking weird to do it, I want you to write that thank you letter to yourself. It isn’t meant to be comfortable, otherwise why would we do it? I put the thank to you to friends first because it’s an easier exercise and it is also a way to illustrate things you like about yourself, because we typically spend the most time with people we admire, are similar to and try to emulate.
That’s my challenge for you this week and over Thanksgiving. I want you to write the easy ‘thank-you’s’, the ones that come naturally, and to also write the tough ones. Write the thank you to yourself. It will be unnatural and strange, but when you finish and read it over, you’ll feel something you may never have felt before. I can remind you every day that you are valuable piece to this gigantic universe and that your voice, personality and smile make it a little more beautiful, but it’s quite another thing when you realize that that’s how you’ve always felt about yourself.
“When I ask you about your first love I am always secretly hoping that you will say your own name. Now wouldn’t that be beautiful – to above else have a heart that was proud of itself.”
The light in me honors the light in you,