It’s 11 p.m. and I should be asleep, but for the past few weeks I’ve had a sick stomach. It’s an indescribable feeling, yet I’m for certain we’ve all been there. We’ve felt like the weight of the world is on our shoulders. Like we can’t breathe. Like our heads are being pounded on. Like nothing that we do is good enough. Like it’s one bad day after another.
This is me and it’s where I am.
I often complain. I beat myself up. I tear myself down.
And today, I just had it. And for the first time in weeks I broke down. It was in the midst of my tears that I realized that I was grieving because I’m just as sad and I’m heartbroken over so many things happening in my life that I didn’t realize are truly affecting me emotionally.
As most of you know, I teach at the high school level, and just within the past month about four students took their lives. I absolutely don’t know what to say, or think, or feel. I personally didn’t know these kids, but upon reading and address each statement to my first class about the incidents, I felt as if I couldn’t do it anymore. I’ve run out of things to say. I felt like a broken record. I’d talk about how much I cared for them. I made sure to talk to every single student in my day, to smile more, to be compassionate, to let things slide, to pray for them, and to observe them more intently.
It wasn’t until yesterday, when someone asked me how wedding planning was going that I realized exactly what was happening. Why haven’t I posted the beautiful engagement pictures Micah and I took for everyone to see? Why are my save the dates just sitting there in a box unopened? Why have I cancelled my wedding dress shopping appointment for the past three weeks? Why am I so unmotivated to continue with my life?
I have allowed myself to be consumed with work that I hadn’t given myself time to grieve the death of my uncle, which took such a toll on my family’s lives. As soon as he was buried, I came to work and tried to busy myself as if nothing had happened.
It was a Wednesday when I returned to work. I worked until 3:01 p.m. with only five minutes I changed into my soccer clothes just in time to speed down to the middle school for soccer practice. Soccer practice ends at 5:45 p.m., but most of the girls don’t get picked up until 6:15 p.m. I get subway and eat it on the road because I teach confirmation at 7 p.m. Once I get to the church parking lot I finish eating, I change, and pray. Class ends at 8:30 p.m. Then I’m home in time to shower and pack for the next day.
As of late those are my days. Not to mention the only time I get to see Micah is during our 20-minute lunch break at least three times a week.
But that’s the thing, life goes on, or so I thought. This isn’t the case for the four that took their lives. As soon as I can see light at the end of the tunnel someone blows out my candle. And it’s hard because as of right now it’s one thing after the next.
Today one of my students approached me about having suicidal thoughts. She was shy at first, but soon after opened up to me about it. I told her about God’s great love and how it bares witness on the cross. As I was telling her how much Jesus loved her, I soon realized that that’s what I needed to hear myself.
Right now, my cross is too much to handle. I can’t carry it on my own. I can’t take it.
While all my efforts and energy where focused on everyone else I forgot about one person that I needed to take care of the most… me.
I love my life, everyone in it, everything I do, and who I am. I love myself so much because God made me and I can’t even contemplate HIS love for me sometimes—it’s too overwhelming.
It took today’s breakdown to realize that I need to take care of me and my well-being in order to be healthy enough for others. My students need me, but they need me to be healthy.
I think of Jesus and how in the face of it all, He still found time for prayer, for mediation away from the noise. He took the time to prepare himself before He’d go out to proclaim the Word. If I have any chance of imitating Jesus and transmitting His love, I too must rid myself of the noise and focus on me.
This very long and unexpected blog post is for my fellow warriors and defenders against of all things going bad. You too have the right to grieve. To be sad. To cry. To be heartbroken. To ask for time off. To seek shelter.
My hope is that you know that Jesus is your refuge.
I pray that Jesus reveals himself to my community to those struggling with a dark thought. I pray for all my teachers, counselors, coaches, youth ministers, and anyone else having to deal with the pain of others. May God give you the words and guide your path.
Don’t let yourself get so caught up that you forget about your needs both mentally and spiritually. And if you ever forget the true meaning of love, remember Jesus died so that YOU could live. That’s true love.