Down with “My Staff,” Up with My Life

This isn’t a post ON faith, but it is INSPIRED by the sermon at church yesterday. I’m actually listening to the sermon, for the second time today, as I am writing this.

The sermon spoke of Moses. I know some of you know the story, but not everyone. That is totally fine. Moses was a shepherd his whole life. He was asked by God to make a change in his life. God told Moses to speak to his people (the Hebrews), enslaved by the Pharaoh, and that he would lead them to freedom out of Egypt and into Israel. Moses fought the idea. He protested. He did lead his people. He did not remain a shepherd, but did as God guided him. This summary is shorter than even the cliff notes version, but you can find the full story in Exodus.

Moses was asked to “throw down his staff” as it was put in the sermon. To change his routine and to leave his place of comfort.

When living with a mental illness routine becomes immensely important. We rely on it, right? Our routine brings structure and that brings an easier glide through the days and weeks… even through the hours when we aren’t feeling well. Sticking with your routine helps you to stay away from triggers just that little bit more. It makes days we have control of predictable.

I don’t know about you, but I define myself by my routine (also brought up in the sermon yesterday). I live my life with Bipolar Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, OCD, and Social Anxiety Disorder. I have perfected the structured day. To the point that I have my days planned out from the time I get up until the time I go to bed. When I am able to stick to my timed out and coveted moments the anxiety is that much less. It doesn’t always work. I’m not saying that it does. Nights are miserable for me. Daytime though… routine is amazing.

Moses was asked to give up his routine. God had plans for him. When Moses started to give a reason why he couldn’t do what He was asking, God continued to give instruction.

Well, change is not easy, but it is sometimes necessary. I fight against it. My doctor said I might as well spend my days banging my head against the wall. Within the past few weeks, my life has been turned upside down. Sshhh… don’t tell anyone, but the outcome has been something I have wanted and needed.

I had been on FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) from work when the amount of time I had of it ran out. I was working at a nursing home/assisted living facility. I have been there fourteen years. I say “have” because I am staying on as a volunteer in the gift shop. The time for me to make the decision about what to do had passed well before this. Why hadn’t I made the change? The decision? I didn’t want to admit to myself, or anyone else, that it was becoming unhealthy for me there. It was no longer the safe place that I had always held it to be. It was routine. It was comfortable…

… God finally made that decision for me. I could never have handled going into work and handing in my resignation. Ever. I would never have left. The FMLA running out was divine intervention at its finest. I could leave, as an employee, quietly. I defined myself by that place. I have been there my entire adult life; and not being at work has messed with my structure and well thought out days to no end. The anxiety, on nights of days where I have accomplished nothing, is tremendous. There are nights I feel completely defeated, but…

… but I have been given a hand in “loosening the grip on my staff”…

In leaving work, I have been given a new opportunity. Mental health advocacy and education obviously hits close to home. It is something that I wholeheartedly believe in and feel a true passion for. There needs to be more of both so that there can be open discussions, better support, and hopefully new legislation. Ending stigma would hopefully lead to more people feeling comfortable in seeking treatment.

This is my third week as a volunteer for NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness). I have been helping in the office two days a week; and will be training, next Monday, to be a part of their Speakers Bureau. I will also be a speaker for their new Ending the Silence program in schools as well as eventually helping with their Faith/Spiritual Outreach. This is not something I could have easily done, if at all, while working. After leaving NAMI each day I have a renewed hope and drive for their cause… my cause. I have been given a resource in this upheaval. A place away from a screen to share my story. A way to educate and advocate without the need for a keyboard.

Learning the “life has to change sometimes” mantra has not been easy. I hate it. I don’t know that I will ever make it MY mantra. Ever. We have to remember that there is a time and place for everything… Sometimes that place changes. Sometimes the timing is out of our hands. I say this with confidence and ease, but I know that I, in real life, am far from okay with it. I love control. I want to have it in every facet of my life. We all do, don’t we? If it’s just me… Yeah, I’m somewhat okay with that.

I will end with this… I have asked God, during our nightly conversations, about what to do. What to do about work? What’s next? What am I supposed to do? What do You want me to do? Sometimes talking to Him gets me an answer in the same conversation. Other times I have to wait. I am NOT good at that.

Sometimes our need for control is so… My routine and structured life is the glue that holds my pieces together. I think I’m being slowly given a fresh coat.

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