When Breakdowns Become Breakthroughs

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that addiction blinds people to the truth of consequences. Addiction causes people to misinterpret these negative impacts across a wide spectrum, including emotional consequences, intellectual consequences, physical consequences, and spiritual consequences. Because we treat the whole person at The Center, we see and work with these multiple impacts daily.

Brandon came to us professing to feel nothing. When Brandon was asked in group sessions how he felt about a story or concept, his stock response was to shrug and say, “I don’t know.” If asked to describe how he felt about a memory he shared, he would seem puzzled by the question. As we worked with Brandon, we soon suspected that when he said, “I don’t know,” he desperately was trying to achieve “I don’t care.” Brandon did care; he cared deeply. But caring, he’d learned, made you vulnerable and susceptible to pain.

I’ve found, for some people, addictions can act as emotional dams, holding back pain. The addictive behaviors create a structure behind which disturbing emotions are kept contained. The illusion is these emotions are being kept under control, but that is not the case. The floodwaters of pain continue to build and apply tremendous pressure to the structure of the addiction, requiring continual fortification.

Because of the perceived danger of any sort of release, these emotional dams hold back pleasure as well as pain. Happiness, gratitude, interest, empathy, desire, and delight are walled off too. In my line of work, a person who is emotionally damming is said to have a flat affect. The blank face of their emotional dam is, quite literally, their own face, which displays little or no emotion. That was certainly true in Brandon’s case.

Emotional content being held back will continue its destructive pressure unless that pressure is released. In an odd way, one of our jobs at The Center is to burst emotional dams. We act as professional spillways, allowing that pent-up emotional pressure to be expressed within a supportive environment.

Tears, therefore, in my business, can be incredibly cleansing. When Brandon finally broke, he did so with a torrent of tears. He kept apologizing, choking out that he couldn’t stop crying, as if that was somehow unacceptable. He seemed genuinely shocked at the intensity of what he called his “breakdown.” I suggested he jettison the word breakdown and consider his experience a breakthrough. Weathering that flood of emotion was difficult, but it allowed him to begin the slow process of learning how to “feel” again—apart from the emotional suffocation of his addiction.

Some people come to us suppressing all emotions, and they are a challenge to open. Others are just the opposite. They are a challenge to contain because they scatter their emotional states, which are almost always negative, indiscriminately in every conceivable direction.

Are you struggling with addictive behaviors and feeling depressed?  Do you feel that your life is not in your control? The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. Contact us today at 1-888-771-5166 and speak with a confidential specialist.  Begin the healing process and have confidence that there is hope, and that joy is attainable.

Allowing Food to Nourish You

Sally was overweight, unhappy, and on the brink of emotional exhaustion.  After numerous counseling sessions, this is what she decided to do:

One, I started eating a simple, healthy breakfast each morning.  This was my only guideline; that it had to be healthy.  No list of special foods, no restrictive diet, no calories to count, lie about or eat.  Nothing.  What surprised me was that I was being asked to make my own decisions, and not rely on someone else’s idea of what I should consume.  I was given complete freedom to eat when I wanted, and how much I wanted.  It just had to be healthy.  Actually, this frightened me, because I wanted to be told what to do.” [1]

Sally was really frightened when I asked her to make her own decisions about food and about making food the right kind of friend.  Here’s the rest of Sally’s story:

So I chose to eat a large breakfast of whole grain cereal and lowfat milk and some fruit each morning.  It was bulky so it made me feel full.  It wasn’t sugary, so my insulin level did not increase.  I knew all about this theoretically, but it wasn’t easy to put into practice.  A big part of me (which was most of me) hated it.  I missed my usual two jelly donuts and three cups of coffee with lots of cream, followed in a few minutes by grazing in the fridge for a few leftovers from the night before.  But I’d made an agreement with Dr. Jantz to do this, and besides I was desperate.

The second thing was even more amazing to me.  I was asked not to weigh myself at all in between sessions.  I’d already sent my scale “on vacation,” so there was no way to weigh myself at home.  But I was not to weigh myself anywhere.  This was difficult.  How would I know if I was making any progress if I couldn’t weigh myself two or three times a day as I’d done most of my life?  I didn’t understand it, but I said I’d stick with the program and obey the rules. [2]

I’m happy to report that Sally is doing quite well, self-correcting along the way as she’s still tempted to return to her old way of thinking about food.  She’s rediscovering what food is all about — it’s there to nourish her body and is not a substance for abuse.

When recovering from emotional exhaustion, you quickly learn the benefits of decreasing the amount of fat and refined carbohydrates in your diet.  Additionally, when you start to take seriously the reports of increased risk of heart disease and cancer associated with these high levels of fat, I hope you will quickly choose to self-correct.

You will read food labels more carefully and seek to interpret the wealth of information they contain.  This is a far cry from the ineffective calorie counting and roller-coaster dieting you may have engaged in before.  You will also stop frying your foods and breading your meats.  You will learn that broiling and baking are better alternatives to cooking foods in fats and oil.  You will also begin to investigate food supplements that are specifically designed to help rebalance the body chemistry of those who are emotionally and physically exhausted.

Sally had to learn that dieting and bingeing were terrible obstacles to her stressed physical health and mental stability.  Each round of dieting caused increased hypertension and a rise in her blood pressure.  When she finally understood that dieting and bingeing were making her more prone to stress-related illnesses, heart and kidney disease, and stroke, she knew she had to make a change.  To do this, Sally had to start listening to her body.  She had actually forgotten what it was like to eat normally.

This all began with a commitment to a proven, effective program of permanent weight loss and a deep desire to join the 2 percent who succeed in losing weight permanently.

Can you relate to Sally?  Perhaps now is the time that you, too, need to learn to see food as healing you, making you strong, and filling you with vitality.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 37 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.

[1] Jantz, Losing Weight, 110.

[2] Ibid.

 

What Hobbies Make You Happy?

What are the loves of your life?  I’m not talking about people here but rather about the things you truly love to do – your hobbies and interests.  It may be your personality, your ability to keep them laughing for hours with your gift of humor, your skill at conversation.  Perhaps it’s your compassion for those in need.  It may be how your relate to children, to the elderly, to the homeless.  These are all part of your emotional DNA – the unique twists and turns that make you the special person you are.

Perhaps you’ve been emotionally exhausted for so long that you’ve put your loves on a shelf.  Depression may have kept you isolated and afraid.  You may have actually forgotten what once got you excited about life.  Perhaps the model train you used to have on display for the neighborhood kids to enjoy is gathering dust in your attic.  At one time you loved photography but now you don’t even know where your camera is located.

You may once had a smile as broad as all outdoors, but your life’s circumstances have taken your smile away.  It’s not that you don’t want to smile, but rather you feel you no longer have much about which to smile.

My grandfather, a miner who owned silver and gold mines in Idaho, loved to pan for gold and to use the nuggets he found to make necklaces for the women in our family.  These were handmade, pure gold nugget-laden necklaces – beautiful, personal works of art.  But more than that, they were labors of love and gifts straight from my grandfather’s heart.  From the day he gave one to my wife as a present, I have never seen her without it.  The day he died of Lou Gehrig’s disease, my mother sat singing to him at his bedside, the gold nugget necklace around her neck reflecting the light from an open window.  Today that heartfelt gift keeps on giving, bringing joy to the water and to all who see and appreciate this love-made piece of jewelry.

I tell you this story to encourage you to look deep within and beneath the mountain of hurt that may have buried some of your great loves.  You certainly don’t have to be a wood carver or a gold miner.  That’s not the point.  It’s not the cleverness of the gift but the attitude of the heart that gives the gift that matters.  I’m confident there is something you may have put aside – a real love of your life – that you may not be ready to revisit, bring to the surface, and share with others.

Expressing the loves of your life again will help steady your course, because it will take your eyes away from yourself and focus them on others.  This is something you must decide to do because it’s the right thing for you to do – not as an ego trip or to impress someone else.  When you give the gift of yourself freely, without thought of the cost – anything from your great smile, to baking a cake for someone, to making a gold nugget necklace — you will be edging closer to finding the inner healing.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 37 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.

 

Ten Questions to Ask About Your Virtual Relationships

Ironically, the very thing we turn to for increased connectivity with others is proving to be the biggest disconnection point in our lives.  Not only are we distracting ourselves from face-to-face interactions, but the virtual relationships we’re prioritizing are often lacking in the most important connection point of all–the intimacy of in-person warmth and sincerity.

To detect the presence or extent of your virtual void, ask yourself the following ten questions:

  1. How am I connecting with others online?
  2. What is the content of that connection?
  3. Would I be willing for my spouse or members of my family to view all of my online activities and content?
  4. What emotional needs are being met through these online relationships?
  5. How would I feel if I were unable to connect online for a day, a week, or even a month?
  6. How many non-family relationships do I maintain?
  7. Of those relationships, how many do I keep strictly online, meaning I don’t talk or visit but only connect online?
  8. Are there any online relationships or activities that pose a threat or provide competition to my in-person relationships?
  9. Am I willing, within the next week, to modify, limit, or sever any online relationship or activity that poses such a threat?
  10. If I’m not willing, what is holding me back?  Be specific.

As difficult as it may be to face your answers to these questions, do not underestimate the power of these truths to naturally lend themselves to your transformation.  Simply observing and accepting your behavior as it exists now will naturally inspire you to make more informed, and healthier, decisions in the future.

Do not be afraid to examine your virtual relationships and reevaluate the role they’re playing in your life.  Through an honest assessment, you can come to better understand why you are seeking online connection.  And if there are barriers you need help overcoming, do not hesitate to seek professional help.

If someone you know is suffering from technology addiction, depression, or anxiety, remember that there is HOPE.  There are professionals ready to help.  For more information about treatment call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today. The Center • A Place of HOPE.  The Center was recently ranked as a Top 10 facility in the country for the treatment of depression, and our team is standing by to help you and your loved ones.

 

 

 

Containing Your Runaway Thoughts that Cause Anxiety

Jill suffered a devastating anxiety attack. She had been depressed for months over her upcoming fiftieth birthday. Instead of being a celebration of a half-century of life, Jill dreaded the date. She forbade her family from making a fuss.

Jill refused to go out with friends as the date approached. She was emotionally distant and began to complain of a variety of physical ailments. Instead of engaging in social events and her normal routine of volunteering, Jill spent months going from doctor to doctor, unable to find out why she was feeling so bad. The weekend after she would up in the emergency room, Jill called to see a counselor.

Together they worked on the reasons for her depression and subsequent anxiety attack. During their time together, the counselor noticed that Jill talked a great deal, almost nonstop. Once she got started on a topic, Jill would keep right on going. One thought led to another, and another, and another. Often, the thought three or four steps down the line had only a marginal connection to the first. The runaway thought pattern helped contribute to Jill’s depression and anxiety attack.

Jill was concerned about turning fifty. She thought about all of the conditions and health problems she had heard about in those over fifty, from cancer, osteoporosis, and menopause to Alzheimer’s. As she dreaded her approaching birthday, she convinced herself that being fifty automatically meant a loss of health and vitality. On the night of her panic attack, the spiral of her thoughts led her to believe that common indigestion was actually a heart attack. The more she worried, the more adrenaline surged through her system and the faster her heart raced.

The faster her heart beat, the more she was aware of it. It seemed abnormally fast and beating erratically. Jill remembered hearing a radio commercial about the signs of a heart attack, and sure enough, she suddenly found herself experiencing each one—rapid, erratic heart rate; shortness of breath; lightheadedness; tingling in her extremities. These symptoms, of course, are also present during anxiety or panic attacks.

The humiliation of creating such a crisis in her family caused her to worry she was losing control over her mental process. This fear of losing mental control prompted her to come in for counseling, something she had never considered in the past. Her counselor coached Jill to “slow down” and practice thought containment.

Many times, emotional depression and its companion, anxiety, can be brought under control when the depressed person learns to contain his or her thoughts without letting them escalate into predetermined catastrophes. Jill had convinced herself that her fiftieth birthday would bring nothing but problems, so it did.

It is part of the human condition that negative thoughts seem to flow easier than logical and more positive ones. An overactive brain can take a small incident and inflate it into a major crisis. If this pattern is repeated often enough, the person becomes swept away in the mental torrent, unable to find the footholds needed to return to the solid ground of common sense and reality. When the flow of thoughts slows down, the person is able to better realize the truth and maintain a grip on the probabilities.

If a person is naturally pessimistic, inclined toward runaway thoughts, depression is often the result. The person who feels powerless to control his thoughts assumes that the worst can happen soon will. This focus on disaster does not allow the person to keep optimistic, hope, or joy in his sights for very long. Negative self-talk and the grim atmosphere of a foul mood fuel this fatalistic mental spirit.

If you are struggling with depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call us at 1-888-771-5166 to speak confidentially with a specialist.

 

Examining Your Anxiety

It may seem that our current, crazy, stressful lives produce a bumper crop of anxieties, concerns, and worries.  Because we think our present circumstances are unique, we use them as an explanation and, frankly, as an excuse.  We use them as an excuse to justify hopelessness, for staying stuck.  Life today is just so hard.  This is just who I am.  I’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work.  No one can really help.  What I go through is just too weird; no one can really understand. 

Anxieties speak a language of absolutes.  A possibility is a certainty.  What could, will.  What might, will.  But if anxieties speak a language of absolutes, it is not a universal language.  Some words are not translatable.  Anxiety does not have a word for peace.  It does not have a word for relief.  It does not have a word for rest.  It is a language of negativity, of hopelessness, of despair.  It is a language of defeat.  Anxieties force us to surrender before the true battle is even engaged.

There is an axiom: know your enemy.  I’d like you to anthropomorphize your anxiety, your phobia, your panic attack and think about it as something other than yourself.  This is a way for you to examine your anxieties and their consequences through an imaginary buffer.  Put them outside of yourself and give yourself permission to examine them without triggering them.

Anxiety disorders have an anatomy.  They have shared traits and unique features.  What I’d like you to do now is get to know yours.  As much as you’re able, think of it in the third person.  Use “it” instead of “I.”

  • What are the physical characteristics of anxiety?  What does it do to you?
  • How often does it happen?
  • What do you do to help yourself feel better?  Does anything help?
  • Does anything make it worse?
  • How long does it usually last?
  • Have you ever talked with someone about it?  If so, who and why?  If not, why not?
  • How long have you been hoping it would just go away?
  • Do you really believe you’ll ever be able to get over it?

Hebrews 11:1 says that “faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see” (NLT). Anxiety is a perversion of faith.  Anxiety is the confidence that what we hope against will actually happen; it gives us assurance that what we can’t yet see will be bad.  Hebrews 11 is a chapter replete with the victories of faith.  Anxiety doesn’t produce any victories; it only accomplishes defeat.  This is not the life God has planned for you.  The life you’re living now is not the one he wants you to live.

The faith life God intends for you is not the perverse life of anxiety.  He does not want you to take your capacity for faith and distort it into a belief in the least possible or the worst imaginable.  He does not want you to sacrifice your life on the altar of anxiety, giving up more and more year after year, hoping to appease anxiety’s appetite.

Instead of trusting in the catastrophe of today and the terror of tomorrow, God asks you to trust in him.  As you continue to to examine your anxiety and what effect it’s had on your life, I ask you to transfer as much trust as you can from anxiety to God.  You’ve trusted in your anxiety’s capacity to cause you grief, fear, and stress.  Take a part of that trust and turn it over to God.  Trust him to be with you through this journey, to know the face of your fear, to be strong enough to help you overcome it and loving enough to deeply desire to help you.

If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, or fear in your life, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help.  For more information, call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

 

The Road to Happiness

In this world of difficulty and doubt, of struggles and hardships, of compromises and second choices, of injustice and affliction, each person comes to a crossroads in life.  There are two roads with signposts on each that say, “Way to Happiness.”

On the one hand is the road championed by the world, which promises much and delivers little.  This road is taken by the vast array of people who are tricked into believing the billboards along the way.  Those inducements, even in your own internal dialogue, for taking this road can be compelling because of all their glitzy promises.  Instead of happiness, though, this road can lead to depression, anxiety, and addition.

There is another choice, another road.  However, this road can appear less attractive when compared with the first.  Because of this, it is a road less traveled.  This is the road of faith, which uses a cross for a talisman.  It does not say, “Take this road to avoid your pain.”  It says, “Take this road because of your pain.”  The one road promises you’ll be in control.  The other says you must give it up.  The one appears all about pleasure.  The other appears all about sacrifice.  In the heat of the moment, it can be hard to make the right choice.

In other words, you’ve come to a fork in the road — two paths promising to lead you to your desired destination.  However, the one you choose may not be the most popular, but it may lead you to true happiness.

Taking the road less traveled will make all the difference.  The world’s road eventually leads to a literal end.  God’s road leads to eternity.  Because it can be so difficult to choose the road less traveled, here are just a few things to remember as you stand at the crossroads each day:

  • Happiness is not a response to life that comes from the inside of a person, not from outside circumstances.
  • Happiness is a gift from God, based upon His goodness and mercy apart from circumstances.
  • Depression isn’t something you live with; it’s something you get help for.
  • Worry and anxiety are a learned response to life that can be acknowledged, understood, and overcome.
  • Addictions both mask and amplify the pain; they never heal it.
  • What you tell yourself becomes who you are, so be careful what you say.
  • Relationships are meant to support you, not drag you down.
  • Taking care of your body helps you take care of your heart, soul, and mind.
  • Stop trying to control your own life, and start trusting in God to get you where you need to go.
  • An attitude of optimism is a choice.
  • Each day presents you with a new opportunity to be happy.
  • Sometimes the clearest lesson you receive today is confirmation of where you don’t want to go tomorrow.
  • Don’t wait on others to hand you happiness; take hold of it yourself.
  • Don’t let anything get in the way of what you need.  Ask, expect, and act.

As you embrace a new way of thinking, living, and responding, may you recognize that there is hope.  Optimism can lead you down the path to happiness and joy, and it can overpower the strongholds of depression and anxiety.

If you or a loved one is struggling with depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help.  The Center was voted in the top 10 facilities for the treatment of the depression in the United States.  For more information, call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

Establishing Emotional Balance

Pessimism, negativity, sarcasm, hostility, and even apathy flow more easily when you are depressed. To overcome depression, you must turn the flow of this negative tide and strive, even if it seems like you’re straining against a strong current, to promote optimism, hope, and joy.

Emotional equilibrium comes when you learn to counterbalance anger, fear, and guilt with optimism, hope, and joy. Emotional balance is a skill you can learn and nurture in whole-person ways. Focus on your emotional self; but remember, you have an intellectual self, a relational self, a physical self and a spiritual self, all of which can be marshaled to assist your emotional self:

  • Choose a positive, uplifting book and intentionally set aside time in your day to fill yourself up with constructive, encouraging messages. (This is your intellectual self supporting your emotional self.)
  • Engage in some mild exercise this week. Physical activity is a wonderful way of promoting emotional health. Take a walk around the neighborhood. Stroll through a city park. Intentionally move your body and open up your focus to include the broader world around you. (This is your physical self supporting your emotional self.)
  • Think of a person you really enjoy talking to— someone who makes you feel good about yourself or someone who’s just fun to be around—and intentionally plan to spend time with that person, even if it’s just for a quick chat. Make the effort to verbalize your appreciation for his or her positive presence in your life. (This is your relational self supporting your emotional self.)
  • Take some time to nourish your spirit. If you are a member of a religious organization, make sure to attend services this week. If you are not, consider joining such an organization. Listen to some religious or meditative music. Spend time in quiet reflection, meditation, or prayer. Intentionally engage in an activity that replenishes and reconnects your spirit. (This is your spiritual self supporting your emotional self.)

These actions may seem like small steps. They may even seem unachievable, given the way you feel. Please, try to do them anyway. If you are emotionally out of sync, you can’t rely on how you’re feeling to determine what you do. These actions, done intentionally, will help you in two ways: (1) they will assist you in focusing on optimism, hope, and joy; and (2) they will reinforce the truth that you can intentionally respond to life and its circumstances. You can choose to respond positively. Today, choose optimism, hope, and joy.

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety, and others.

Unclothing the Lie that Words Can Never Hurt

“My God! You are so clumsy! What is wrong with you?” Once again, Angie had spilled her milk. Her siblings popped up out of their seats, as much to get away from their mother as away from the milk, which was now spreading across the table and threatening to drip on the floor.

“Get out of my way!” their mother yelled as she grabbed a kitchen towel and headed for the spill. “Don’t just stand there! Pick up those plates so I can make sure it doesn’t get on the carpet! Angie was afraid to move, afraid to do anything else wrong. No one looked at her—not her mother, not her brother, not her sister— until the spill was mopped up and the table put back together.

“Oh, no you don’t,” her mother said as Angie started to sit down at the table. “You cannot be trusted.” After picking up Angie’s plate, her mother went into the kitchen and placed it on the floor, next to the dog bowl. “You can just eat with the dog until you can eat like a person.” With that, her mother marched back into the other room, leaving Angie thinking about a meal she no longer had any interest in.

Emotional abuse happens when an adult humiliates a child for actions consistent with being a child.

Children require correction from adults to learn the right thing to do. Emotional abuse happens when correction meant to help the child is turned into humiliation meant to punish the child. The definition of humiliation is to cause a painful loss of dignity, pride, or self-respect. Children have not yet gained the maturity to withstand the damage of humiliation, which can be difficult even for adults to endure. Humiliating a child is taking advantage of someone younger and more vulnerable out of a distorted desire for control and power.

More than twenty years ago, I wrote a book on emotional abuse because I wasn’t finding much acknowledgment regarding the damage I was seeing in my clients from emotional or psychological abuse. One question I asked in that book was why emotional abuse was so common. I concluded that emotional abuse was so prevalent because some people categorized emotional abuse as normal. How could something normal be considered abusive? So what if you were yelled at growing up, wasn’t everyone? Who cared if you were regularly dismissed as worthless? You just needed to try harder. If you didn’t grow up feeling loved, that was just a generational thing you were supposed to get over. If you weren’t beaten within an inch of your life, you had nothing to complain about. So people didn’t complain; they moved on with their lives. Yet some of those people kept having difficulties, difficulties that eventually led them to my office.

People are slow to admit the obvious in cases of emotional abuse for various reasons. When I was growing up, years of groupthink said that adults, especially parents, had the right to deal with children however they saw fit. You weren’t supposed to involve yourself in another family’s “business.” If adults spoke harshly to children, well, they must have had a reason. It wasn’t your “place” to object—and certainly not in public.

My generation also grew up learning that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” I remember repeating that rhyme to myself when other kids were mean to me. I learned the lesson well and determined I wasn’t going to let other kids get to me. That rhyme wasn’t as successful when it came to hurtful words from adults, and certainly not my parents.

When I started my practice over thirty years ago, I committed to unclothe the lie that “words can never hurt.” They can and they do, in stunning and devastating ways. When society collectively comes to that conclusion, the emotional abuse of children will become less common.

If you or a loved one is struggling with past abuse, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help.  Our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues, and bringing healing to the whole family. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

Are You Experiencing Burnout and Exhaustion?

Perhaps you are a single mother who’s working full time.  Your kids are with a babysitter or in day care all day.  You feel angry, bitter, guilty.  Or maybe you’re a pastor or youth worker in a church.  You spend every single hour serving God, loving people, and making a difference in the lives of others.  Yet your own marriage is a disaster.  You’ve lost the art of communication with your spouse.  Passion is only a word in the dictionary.  You’re ready to call it quits.

Perhaps you’ve gained thirty pounds over the last year, and you’ve finally admitted that food is your only true friend.  You may have a problem with drinking, or are afflicted with a sexual addiction, or find yourself emotionally or physically abusing others.  Whatever your challenge may be, it has you in a nice grip from which you can see no escape. One thing for sure: You are exhausted.  Each day is another twenty-four hours of pain and struggle.  You scream inside but no one can hear you.

When our lives start to sputter and we forget to follow our dreams, we tend to become stagnant.  We stop thinking, caring, observing, and reaching out to others.  This is usually subtle, but it’s the first critical stage of coming distractions.  Because of this stagnation and cessation of emotional growth, we stop giving our bodies and minds the proper stimuli they need.

Fear, feelings of guilt, animosity, an unforgiving spirit, loneliness, frustration, or a Lone Ranger mentality can siphon off our energy, potential, and zest for life.  Left unresolved, these attitudes develop a life of their own, creating stress that over time can lead to emotional exhaustion.  Thoreau once said that most people “live lives of quiet desperation.”  They look good on the outside but internally they are a seething mass of pain and fear, walking a tightrope of emotional instability, hoping against hope that no one removes the safety net, because they know they are heading for a fall.  Until this quiet desperation is dealt with, the exhaustion will remain, and there will be little hope for inner healing.

What do we do when life seems hopeless or out of control?  We move into areas we think will help: more work, more alcohol, more obsessive/compulsive activity, more entertainment, more frantic escape from reality.  But it’s always more and more of the wrong thing.  Instead of helping us regain control of our lives, it produces an internal environment that evolves into burnout.  We feel an uncontrollable sense of disease, but because we’re on a vicious cycle of unproductive activity, we keep doing the same unproductive activity over and over.  When our burnout and stress builds to a level at which we cannot endure pain any longer, we cross the line to physical and mental exhaustion.

Before long we forget who we are and what we’re about.  We start to decompose.  We no longer feel special.  We wonder if God has even taken away our giftedness.  We look into the mirror, and we don’t like what is looking back at us.  We no longer see a beautiful creature, designed in the image of a loving God.  Instead, we look through bewildered eyes and see only what is wrong.

We forget that joy comes from within, never from external sources.  We fail to remember that spiritual emptiness produces impotence.  And because we have selective amnesia of what is truly good, loving, and kind, we become displaced persons, every bit as confused and alone as hapless refugees who stumble onto a foreign shore.

If you are struggling to find joy in your life, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. Our team is skilled at navigating issues surrounding addiction, depression, stress and anxiety.  For more information, call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.