This post reflects a vulnerable story in my life. My hope is that someone who reads this will find healing in their life.
I am a recovering “stuffer.” You know the type. Stuffs their emotions down as far as they can and hopefully never deal with them. It’s like when you try submerge a beach ball under the water. It never stays there, it will eventually “pop” out of the water. This is what happens when we stuff our emotions. Then eventually, you explode. This is what happened to me, until I received help and healing in my life.
All my life I stuffed everything down. When I first got married, I said I was “mulling it over.” It all came to head when I couldn’t stuff anything more down. We just wrapped up our church plant in Pittsburgh and made another move. I was told by our sending organization that I was 100% for the failure in this ministry. I took these wounds to our next ministry. It wasn’t long until I realized something was amiss with me. I recognized it as a spiritual struggle. I couldn’t find the passion to dive into God’s Word. I will never forget what I was told when I shared this struggle, “keep this to yourself, pastors are to give the impression of never struggling in their life.” I was floored. Then I started to spiral. I was not fun to be around and was always anxious. People who didn’t know me well just thought I was wound tight. The spiral continued all the way down into a deep depression. I remember my wife following behind me asking me a list of questions of how I was feeling. I answered yes to all of them. This was a depression test and my depression was deeper than I thought. I had to seek help. But where? I couldn’t go to the church I was serving. So, I secretly sought out counseling. My counselor was amazing and I still use the tools he gave me during this dark season. Before I share those lessons, I want to share with you the signs that I was ready to “pop”
- The slightest disagreement was always blown out of control. I was the one who blew it up.
- I blamed everyone for everything. It was always how other people “made me feel.”
- I threw myself into ministry. I used the very thing God call me into as a hiding place. Long work days with little breaks. No weekly Sabbath whatsoever, and very little vacation time.
- Clogged ears. Everything was filtered through my emotional brokenness. Whatever was said, was always taken personally (good and bad – mostly bad), out of context, then internalized. Often the things told to me were not what people were saying at all. I choose to only hear what I wanted to hear. Then blamed everyone for they made me feel.
- I couldn’t get a full night’s sleep if I tried. My mind would not turn off. Usually dwelling on the people who “were doing me wrong” or “making me feel…”
- My stomach was in a constant state of “butterflies”
- This is a BIG one. I harbored resentment and bitterness toward people who made me feel certain ways, or did my wrong. I determined the wrong they did only through my broken emotional condition. I also harbored resentment toward anyone who did not see the things exactly the way I saw them. Which is really twisted because I wasn’t seeing anything straight anyway.
With this stuff, I was a ticking time bomb. No wonder that people didn’t want to be around me that much. If they said anything, I would twist it and spin it in perverted way.
So, I sought healing. If I didn’t, I would implode every relationship I had. I went to my counselor once a week and never skipped. He stated right up front that we are going to seek and pray for healing in my life and heart. That these counseling sessions are not going to be perpetual weekly meetings. We would re-evaluate my progress after 6 months, then make adjustments. He told me that it took a lifetime for this hurt to happen and healing would not come immediately, but would come only if I was willing to be honest with myself and walk through the healing.
It has only been recently in my life when I discovered how all this affects me physical life as well. The above signs can contribute to:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- Unhealthy weight gain and loss
- Diabetes (because of emotional eating or unhealthy diet – due to everything. Something that I experienced and will share on a upcoming post).
These are just a few. I will share my story about physical health in upcoming posts.
Here are some tools I learned (and continue to learn) through the journey of this dark valley:
- Do not let bitterness and resentment take hold in my heart. Offer forgiveness freely and frequently. Unforgiveness only places me in a prison of bitterness, not the person I choose not to forgive. Forgiveness is different than respect. You can forgive someone and not respect them so you give them over onto the hands of the Lord.
- I own my feelings. No one can make me feel anything. I only have myself to blame for the feelings I have. If I am mad, then I made myself mad. I also learned that feelings lien to us. They are subject to us and we are not subjects to our feelings.
- Proper rest. Sabbath. Vacation. Family time vs. career. Exercise. Life is a balancing act that I am still learning.
- It takes two. I need to own my portion of life. I do not need to own someone else’s. When someone say’s something is completely my fault, chances are that that is totally not true.
Here is the warning I learned during this. If I do not take care of this and seek the Lord for healing, then I am going to suffer a lot of physical pain, I will blow up the relationships around me, and I will blow up my career. I counsel quite a few people. Those that I recognize these signs, I encourage to get help and healing. Those who don’t usually end up alienating themselves from the people they love. To let you know, I almost imploded my marriage during this time. It was the amazing love of my wife that helped me recognize all these signs and encouraged me to get the help I deserve.
My hope in writing this, is that someone, somewhere will read this and realize that they are a “stuffer” and get then help they deserve. And you do deserve it because Christ does not want you to suffer the way you have been suffering. You deserve healing.
Lastly, I want to share a resource with you that will put you on the path of healing right now. This was instrumental in my healing and continues to take a significant role in me life. That is Freedom in Christ Ministries (https://ficm.org/) Neil Anderson book’s “Victory over the Darkness” and “The Bondage Breaker” are resources I use all the time. Everything listed above can be boiled down to a spiritual attack and warfare. Anderson steps you through the freedom you deserve.
I am a recovering “stuffer.” God has healed me of a lot pain. He continues to work in and through me, healing me, and strengthening me. All thanks and praise go to Him how has done this good work.