Tattoo anxiety…

Just when I think I’ve done all the therapy I need to “fix” the anxiety that ails me – I’ll have another bout that makes me feel oh so delightfully hopeless.

This time, there were life factors that contributed – my husband has recently taken a job that has him traveling Monday through Thursday of every week – and since he used to be the stay at home parent to our two boys – it has been a difficult adjustment.

Of course, work is stressful at times, and that can contribute to any symptoms I feel – but what set me over the edge was a new tattoo.

I had wanted it for years – a tattoo on my forearm that said “Saint” when looked at one way, and “Sinner” when looked at the other way.

It looked good, I was happy with the art – but the tattoo shop had a “demonic” bathroom and played that special inward-singing heavy metal that scares me – and I was on edge the entire time it was being done.


It wasn’t my first tattoo – not even my second – but it was my first visible tattoo – and it was BIG.

And as soon as it was done, I had what those in the business call “tattoo regret”.

All I could do was fixate on it – how clearly I’m not a person who is able to be trusted with decisions, and I should be locked up for fear of harming myself and others.

I cried hysterically for several days off and on – much to the perplexity of my husband – who was confused by my reaction.  He loved the tattoo, and I had wanted it for years.

I continued to be a wreck about it for at least a week.  It felt like people started to look at me like a side show – “tell me about your tattoo” – which was genuine interest – and most people loved it, but when I was feeling like such a wreck, it was hard to be excited and talk all about it.

I heard it was normal to have a big reaction to a highly visible tattoo – but I felt like anything but normal when I was so stressed I wanted to rip it off my arm…

It’s been a few weeks now – and my anxiety has once again become it’s normal, manageable level – but it was a harsh reminder that I’ll never be done with these panic attacks.  No matter how much therapy and breakthroughs, there will always be life happening, and as long as life happens, there will be times of anxiety.

I’m taking solace in the fact that I know what to do to help myself – and I know how to climb out of that black hole that my mind digs for itself.  For me, it’s talk therapy, a steady dose of anti-anxiety meds, and a support system of family and loved ones who are willing to be with me when all I can do is cry.

I’m hopeful if you suffer from anxiety that you are able to find a way to cope -because in those moments it’s at its worst, it’s hard to remember that there is life beyond this time, but there will be.  No matter what, it can and will get better.

For me – the tattoo may get removed, but I no longer freak out when I look at it.  If I do remove it, I promise to keep you posted!


Anxiety – what if?

What if someone doesn’t like what I’ve done?

What if I’m not perfect?

What if I try this and fail?


It’s thoughts like these that can keep me up at night.  What if I could just let go of my anxiety, wouldn’t life be grand?

But I am afraid these thoughts have plagued a good part of my youth…

Thanks to therapy, I’ve mostly gone through these thoughts fairly quickly – I’ve grown to accept the idea that nothing will change the past, and the choices made, even if they weren’t the best, have shaped who I am – and who I am is actually pretty cool.

This has taken a lot of therapy.

And the what ifs of the future – they still get me.

What if my sons aren’t able to care for themselves when they get older?

What if they find life mates I don’t get along with?

What if they don’t want to spend as much time with me as I do with them?

What if I lose one of them or my spouse?

And to all these thoughts, all I can say is they are an argument to live fully presently.

Live with my family as they are now – enjoy them, even when they drive me crazy – and appreciate all the times we have.

And, as my daily life is to teal with my clinical anxiety and depression – those what if’s will always be around.  But, so long as I continue to work through them and maintain therapy, I’m hopeful they will not cripple me as they once did!

Up all night…with anxiety

Anxiety posting continues…

Last night, I had such a hard time falling asleep.

I couldn’t quiet down my brain.

I was so tired I could hardly move or talk…

And yet, my brain refused to quiet.

I was running all the comments on Facebook – had I offended someone?  If I had, did I need to worry about it – or was it their problem?

That conversation I had with a coworker today – did they know I was kidding?

The class of 9th graders I lead – did I do a good job, or did I really miss the mark?


The answer I would give to any other is – “It’s totally their problem, yes they knew you were kidding, and of course you did a good job.  Try not to stress!”


And yet, for myself, I could not offer these kind words.  At least not in the moment.

After getting some rest, I am able to find peace.  Some exercise has helped – and reaching out to friends has offered more comfort than I can ever be able to thank them for sufficiently.

Anxiety will not have the last word.  Stefanie will.  Even if she continues to struggle with Anxiety until she’s old and feeble – Stefanie will have the last word.  (With the help of God, of course!)

Thoughts on Anxiety…

anxiety-talk-bigstI’ve decided to blog my struggle with anxiety and depression.

Because too often, I feel alone…and if I do, I’m sure others do.

We are NOT alone.

And it CAN get better – connecting with others is one way to do it!

My anxious thought for today:

Why is it that I can think any hateful thing said about another person is something that should not define them – but when I hear hurtful things, I feel very much defined by them?  If the same thing was said in the same circumstances to someone else, my reaction would be reassurance, messages of peace and love.  For myself, I go immediately to anxiety – what I have done to deserve whatever words have hurt me.

I not only wish I could be stronger for myself, I happen to judge myself for my inability to let things roll off me.  A thing I will need to work on.  With prayer, with journaling, with a professional therapist.  I will always be insecure and sensitive, my work will be to love myself through it.

Does this resonate?  What is your anxious thought for today?  How are you helping yourself cope?

Healing Process

Last year, I went from having chronic neck pain, to having neck pain and a numb hand – being told all different manner of things were wrong, then I went to those things PLUS shoulder pain, ending with removal of a herniated disc between C5 and C6, and all the things that go along with that healing.

Doctor's Office Illustrations...

Doctor’s Office Illustrations…

Looking back, almost a year later, I have a “top ten” of what I WISH I had known about chronic pain and healing from surgery.

10.  Pain is not always located in the source (i.e. numb hand caused by neck issue)

Try not to resist when the doctors look in other places for causes.

9.  MRI’s are terrifying.  Your fat may jiggle, it’s freaking noisy, claustrophobia-inducing

– it’s all good, and over quickly enough to let you relax…

8.  It’s important to get rest.

But don’t rest too much – get up and move, even if you’re achy – you’ll kick yourself for not moving enough later.

7.  You will have ALL the emotions.  Do your best to communicate to others that you’re healing, and it heightens  everything – good people won’t care, and people who care will at least leave you alone.10420098_10100396581635186_7304592368400618984_n

6.  Ask for further clarification.


I heard things that were so often corrected later that would have saved me a lot of trouble…

5.  Pain meds are delightful – but doctors are not careful about how much they give you.

You may have an addictive chemistry.

Quitting these drugs may make you nuts.  (Shaky, sweaty, paranoid.)

Doctors may or may not understand/be able to support.

Try not to take any more than you need – ask for help if this is a concern.

DO NOT feel too embarrassed to get help.

4.  You will take longer to heal than you’d like.

I’m sorry – I can’t think of anyone that doesn’t wish they could be done healing just a little bit sooner.

Even once you are “healed” there will be latent pain – achey-ness that is normal – it will get better, keep moving!

3.  If your procedure requires you to wear some sort of equipment to support the injured area, i.e. a neck brace, you will have to worry about explaining it.  To everyone.  Strangers in the McDonald’s drive thru, people in the store, everyone where you work – you will be completely unable to escape your surgery if you are out in public.

Hard to be inconspicuous in that thing...

Hard to be inconspicuous in that thing…

I think they mean well, but I must say it was infuriating at points…

2.  Find a doctor you can trust.  This person will be responsible for how your healing goes!

(I happened to have one fall into my lap and found out after surgery he was THE BEST I could have possibly had…should probably have done research before, I lucked out!)

1.  Some people will fall out of the woodwork to help.

Others might need to be asked – they don’t want to bother you.

Remember that no matter how people act, they care.

Some people worry about being in your hair, some can’t seem to leave you alone – nobody’s perfect.

It’s hard to find forgiveness when YOU are the patient, but do your best.

All this to say, you will heal.  There may always be a hint of your surgery – a scar, other treatment, other equipment – but in the end, this is a step towards fixing something that wasn’t working in your body – and I’m grateful there was that help!

And in my case, I’ll treasure the scar, and the awesome hardware in my neck – I feel tough, and will set off old fashioned metal detectors EVERYWHERE I go, like a really tough person…because without them, I’d not be able to use my dominant hand, and be in pain on a regular basis – not a great way to feel.

Check out that hardware!

Check out that hardware!


When we moved to Colorado, my contacts quit working for me.

I mean, my eyes were so dry they hurt, thanks to a new dryer climate, it became evident soon after moving, I couldn’t do contacts anymore – unless I wanted to look like I was crying all the time…

So, all this year, I’ve been FORCED to wear my glasses – and I have a few cute pairs, but they just aren’t convenient – you can’t see as much as you can with contacts, and your ears and nose get sore from wearing them, if a young child wants to head butt you (yes, it happens at our house) it hurts much worse with glasses on, you can’t run or play sports the same – they just aren’t fun.  11146583_10100496490701616_4971471899792477095_o

But, to be honest, the real reason I’m frustrated with having to wear glasses is that I don’t like how they make me look.  I feel like they hide my eyes – the one thing on my face that hasn’t changed or gained weight…

Everyone compliments my glasses and how cute they are – but the second they are off, without realizing the ONLY difference is I am not wearing glasses, people compliment me on my appearance.

It’s pure vanity.

Today, a new eye doctor is having me try some new contacts – and they feel a lot better and more “cooperative with dry, Colorado air,” than my last pair…but a whole new vanity issue has arisen.

I can’t see things close up.

This isn’t a problem without my contacts.  It’s not a problem in glasses.  With contacts, however, I cannot see close up very well at all.  The reason?  My eyes are getting old.  Most people don’t have this problem until they are in their forties, but lucky me, I am starting early.

A conundrum in my extremely privileged life, I know.

But this wasn’t a problem when I was younger.

I must continue to remind myself that with the gift of age comes special circumstances.  Circumstances that some will never be able to experience.  Even bad eyes are a gift – that they open and can see at all is a miracle I too often take for granted.

I am resolved to stop worrying about how I look with or without glasses – and do what I can to see the best in order to work and play and be with my family – even if it means putting contacts in while I play, and glasses on to work – and I’ll do my best to remember that God has blessed me with the ability to do so.

Single Dad

Recently, while binge watching a favorite show on Hulu, I’ve seen a Mass Mutual commercial run at least twice each show – which in a day adds up to me having seen this thing a bazillion times.  A bad thing, since I HATE what this commercial is saying about gender roles.

  Click here to see commercial
The dad talks about how knows so much about “girl” things because he’s raising two girls on his own.  Now, let me say, that when you’ve lost a spouse for whatever reason, and are raising your kids alone, it is sad.  It is difficult to watch your kids grow without your partner – I am not trying to say it isn’t.   What frustrates me about this commercial isn’t how sad he is – but what he’s sad about.

He seems to be sad about being an expert in softball, tea parties, and princesses.  He knows so much about this because the “appropriate” parent, their mother, is not present.  Because if she WAS present, he’d be off doing his solitary “man” activities like he should be – or taking these girls hunting, or to a more man-friendly sport, like football.  Or, because if he had boys, it wouldn’t be sad at all that the mother was gone.  COME ON!

There are many dads with living partners who know about tea parties.  There are many daughters who like to play in the dirt, and care more about superheros than princesses.  This commercial affirms so many gender stereotypes I’m trying so hard to push against – a task I had NO idea I’d be working on at this point in time.  Not only does it purport some old-school gender roles, it completely ignores the many same-gendered parents – is it sad that two moms must figure out how to “properly” raise a boy?

Can’t we find a way to get our media to represent a more progressive world?  A world where men and women   can behave in whatever manner feels right, rather than what the dominant culture dictates?  A world where persons of color star in commercials more than caucasians?  

I truly had no clue when I was growing up that issues of equality would still need fighting or still be so real and in the forefront of our lives – or that a COMMERCIAL would set me on a rant about such things…

Therapeutic Complaining…

It’s always been hard for me to have any sort of negative feelings.  I mean, they are there, but it’s been hard to own them. I have always lived in the Midwest, the land of making sure nobody rocks the boat or ever questions anything.  As a rather full-of-fire, go-against-the-norm kind of person, it’s hard to be located here.

Here’s the thing: I need to process my negative feelings.  I get frustrated, and I feel hurt, and I get scared.  I’d grown up thinking that there was something seriously wrong with me because of this – so many people seemed so calm, so with it, and just plain ok all the time – how did they do that?

If I brought up something that bugged me, I’d be chastised – other people have it so much worse, “what gives YOU the right to complain?”  So I’d be left alone in a shame bubble – I’m clearly the WORST person ever because I feel the need to bring up when something upset me.  

It was not the only cause, but I know it’s a source of my problems with anxiety and depression.  Rather than be able to vent out my negative thoughts, I’d feel compelled to hold them in, as I’ve seen so many do, and I spiraled into a ball of emotional anguish and self-loathing. “Why can’t you just be ok with what’s going on?  Why can’t you stop feeling angry/sad/anxious?  What the **** is wrong with you?”  I could be pretty horrible to myself at times…

As I’ve been in therapy, and exploring my psyche along with my theology, I’ve learned a lot about myself.  One big thing about me?  I need to process – good and bad – externally.  This means I have to talk things out to process them.  Talking about negative things is not the end of the world as I had been led to believe, just a means of working through them in my own head.  The big problem with this is that others are not always comfortable with my desire to discuss things, no matter how negative – they think it sounds selfish, or annoying – which might be true, especially if they don’t allow themselves this venting!

I have always wanted to please the entire world, and have everyone think well of me.  It’s perhaps the biggest sin that I’ve got – it puts a big wedge between what I should be doing in light of my call, for God’s plan for me, and even my self-care.  If I believe that EVERYONE is a beautiful creation of God, made in the image of God, I must trust that I am, too.  I am not a demure, quiet, always happy person.  I’m not a private person, either.  I need to talk about what bugs me.  This has to be ok for me to function properly…This does not mean I need to be a jerk – I must process feelings in a way that honors not only me but others.  There will be times when it’s appropriate to share publicly, and times that I can only talk privately with trusted family and friends.  I will try not to be a burden to you with this, but I do hope that others can understand that I do need to process…

What, may you ask, does this matter to you?  It matters that you know that no matter what, I’m an ear to listen when you have to talk about something that bugs you.  I’ll ask you to take care of feelings and such while you do it -but I’m a hard core believer in the fact that you need to talk through (or think through to those of you internal processors!) what bugs you.  Let yourself be mad, let yourself hurt, and know that it WILL get better.


Home for the 4th

No need to beat around the bush, this summer has been tough.  We have taken residence at my parents in rural South Dakota, while working and traveling in the Twin Cities.  My mother and father have graciously offered to take care of the boys while we are away, couch surfing and working in the city, and traveling on mission trips.  Royce & Arthur are LOVING time with grandma and grandpa, and for the most part, I think grandma and grandpa are enjoying them!

I spend most of my time away worrying, and the remaining percentage trying to scramble to finish the work I have laid out for myself this summer, which includes two classes, a summer internship, a sister who is getting married and a baby shower for a dear friend.  But most of the time is spent worrying.  Worrying that I’ve asked too much of my parents – especially my mother who is staying home all day with them, worrying about what travel will do to my terrible back and neck pain, worrying I’m doing too much, worrying that they will miss me so much they won’t forgive me, worried that they will be so confused by all this switching houses and mom and dad back and forth, worrying what the world thinks of me, worrying that my husband thinks I’m selfish for working instead of staying home with my boys, worrying that I’m not a good mom, worrying that my church thinks I’m not doing enough because I’m spending too much time at home – it’s exhausting.


Boys watching Mom and Dad play!

Boys watching Mom and Dad play!

What I know is that when I’m home, I have so much fun with my boys – and I love watching how deeply they’ve bonded with my parents.  I remember to cherish every snuggle and silly giggle, and even the frustrating, screaming moments – they are precious, and this time is fleeting!  When I’m working with the youth at my church, I feel like I’m doing what I should be doing – I’ve had several years to get to know these wonderful people, and I cherish these last few weeks to get to spend with them – ministry seems to be about brief periods of complete joy, and all too many reminders of time’s speedy cruelty.

I know there are many who don’t approve of my traveling and spending time away from my boys this summer, and these choices I’ve made are affecting my family.  I know that my boys will remember little more about this summer than mom and dad were gone a lot, but that grandma and grandpa are so important to them because of the care and love they show.  I know my ministry has had an extra summer of blossoming, doing God’s work to help better me for future ministry.  I know Marty’s job will continue to allow him flexibility and provide us benefits that help us out immensely.  I know God will continue to walk with us as we figure things out, and I feel fairly certain we will not see these kinds of summers often – and I know I need to cherish the time with my parents as well as all these others.  Thank you, God for this time, and help me remember that all stations of life have their own ups and downs, and help me to remember to enjoy the ups rather than lamenting the downs!

Christmas Rush…

I’m certain no one would be surprised to learn that I dislike the “gimme gimme” attitude during the holidays.  It sets us up for disappointment – I remember when I still looked more forward to “getting” than “giving” at Christmas – and after I opened all my presents, I was depressed.  It wasn’t like the spread wasn’t fantastic – my mom does a great job of giving – it was that this stuff was not going to fill the hole that consumerism told me I needed to fill.  

Since that Christmas, I’ve focused on what is most important – giving, appreciating the gifts I’ve been given, my family – and yes, the birth of Christ.  It’s hard to do that without feeling pressure from the many ads out there.  Part of me feels for these companies – they are trying to have a successful season, and I don’t begrudge anyone their success.  But this constant barrage of “spend more, spend more here, PLEASE?” type of ads seems to suggest that Americans are only happy with more stuff.  I’m certainly guilty of wanting more stuff – but this stuff never does what it’s promised to do.  My life hasn’t been made complete by any phone, computer, clothing item or household goodie, no matter how fancy or expensive.

One ad that is particularly annoying is the J.C. Penney version of “Feliz Navidad”.  It ends with “I wanna get my family more this Christmas from the bottom of me grande heart.”  Other than the vaguely racist tones, I can’t help but be enraged by the message – my family deserves more stuff.  Not more of my time, more of my love, more of my prayers and good thoughts, but more stuff.  Also, some boots in mom’s size.

Please forgive me if I let loose a large growl when I hear that ad, or any others.  I’m not anti-fun or anti-presents, but I do wish that our society focused less on money and more on the gifts God gave us of one another and the time we have together on this earth.

Merry Christmas, God’s peace to you and your family, and may all your Christmases be white.