Learn to accept the new normal...what does that even mean?
During my time of transition away from abuse and into the new life God had for me, I had no idea what was happening or even what I was supposed to do with the old stuff. The old thoughts, habits, way of life. I went from seeing all 4 of my children much of the time, to barely seeing them at all. I went from being married, to being single. I went from living in a 3 story house with money in the bank, to living in poverty. I went from a stable job, to having no job. I couldn't keep track of my thoughts. I couldn't keep track of my life. I couldn't beg the kids enough to come see me. I had nothing left to give anyone. I had a broken heart, a broken life and many broken relationships.
I kept hearing the still small voice of God leading me to accept the 'new normal' in my life. What new normal? Things seemed far from normal at that time. So confusing, so chaotic, so crazy. Life was upside down and inside out. I was about 40 years old and had just lost everything I new to be normal. What does it mean to accept the 'new normal'?
After getting through some of the turmoil of change and after leaving Indiana to head for Houston, TX, I started realizing what God had been saying. It is similar to a pregnancy. Nothing seems normal when you are pregnant. Your body changes rapidly, your hormones go haywire, you hurt, but yet know something great is about to happen. After you deliver, you spend your time focused on the new normal. Babies make it almost impossible to not focus on the new normal. They consume much of your time. People don't generally spend all their time looking back at what they had before the baby. They welcome the baby and spend their time focused on the their new normal. I couldn't get my mind or heart off of my children. I missed them so much that I wanted to die some days. Life was so hard without them. My identity was gone and I had to start over. I was 'pregnant' with new life and I didn't even know it. It seemed miserable and lonely but God knew there was life on the other side. I had to let go of all the old to start the new. Mark 2:22 "And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins." God needed me to be new.
I didn't know what 'a new life' looked like and had no one but God to help me through. I want to encourage someone today. There is life without kids. There is life without a home. There is life after abuse, no matter what is lost. There is life in Jesus Christ, and that may sound like a cop out, but it's anything but that. I had no life without any of these things, until I allowed Jesus to fill those areas of loss. I can now say that Jesus is here to fill any gaps that someone has from loss. Jesus showed me myself and I learned to really like myself and appreciate me during this time alone with Him. Instead of running out to the bars or trying to find someone to keep me company, I learned to run after Him. I wanted to feel that love of His that I knew was there. Jerimiah 29:13 'If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.' 1 John 4:8 '...God is love.' I was desperate to know what real love was and God has now shown me. It's because of Him and His love for me that I now live.
Accepting the new normal meant I had to learn to let go of all those things in the past that I kept holding on to, even when I didn't or couldn't understand. It really was about giving up my desires in life and allowing God to take the lead. Once that happened, the new automatically started to come and I eventually realized that the 'new normal' was actually a great place to be. I still miss my children, but I know they are in God's hands. It's not me that will save them, but Him.
This year is quickly coming to an end and many are left with feelings of uneasiness and fear for what yet another year will bring. I remember the days when my life was in turmoil from not only the abuse I suffered, but from all the places of insecurity I had inside of myself at that time. I ultimately lost everything including access to see my children, my job, my car and I think I even almost lost my mind. I wanted to die, but there was something inside of me that just wouldn't quit. I am so thankful I decided to live.
Life was quite devastating for me then, but I quickly learned that although many dark places existed, there were also places where hope just wouldn't go away. In looking back, I can now say I wish I would have realized sooner it was a new starting place. A new normal. Once I was able to begin accepting my new normal, I was able to move forward with healing myself. I had to take my eyes off of my losses and off of everyone else I was trying to fix and really begin to see myself. I also had to see the positive and not just focus on the negative anymore. That is when life really began for me.
I now like me and I believe it's because of the healing I allowed myself to receive. I stopped pushing everyone away and allowed myself to be broken in the presence of counselors, group members and friends that were helpful to me, even when I felt stupid and crazy. I got online and began researching abuse. I learned what I was doing and allowed myself to change. I removed myself from the people and places that kept me in locked in pain and unforgiveness. I prayed a lot to a God I knew existed and got closer to Christ than I had ever been.
During these times, I learned that not everyone is for our good, so you do have to be careful, but not everyone is bad either. It was all a learning lesson and the advice I have is to keep getting up and moving forward with your life, even in your own mistakes or places of despair. Today, I am truly able to look past those old, dark moments of pain and enjoy my life as I am. I am proud of who I am and what I have been able to accomplish in the last few years. I firmly stand in my belief that the best is yet to come.
Below are a few quick tips on how to change your focus and potentially begin to heal.
1. Think of some goals you have for your life and write them down. Look at them everyday and begin to dream again. Let your dreams be filled with hope.
2. Find encouraging friends to hang around. Don't do the same old thing and expect a different result. Find people that encourage you and uplift you, instead of maybe the ones that drag you down and make you feel used or alone.
3. Rediscover what you like to do. One of the great things that I started doing in my alone time was thinking back to when I was a child and what I liked to do in that place of innocence. For some of us, looking back is hard, but use those moments to encourage yourself and look at how far you've come. I healed a lot as I looked back and began accepting things that I had been running from for years. As that happened, I saw that I loved acting in high school. I now act as a hobby and have rediscovered what I liked about it and how great it makes me feel.
4. Use your gifts and talents to help others. Use your story to encourage others. Use your gifts to have fun again. Helping others oftentimes makes us feel better about ourselves. Many are singing, acting, writing, doing ceramics, painting and even dancing to help themselves heal. Find what works for you. Everyone has something. Don't compare yourself to what others have, but find what makes your heart smile and do it.
5. Let yourself grieve. Don't pretend things are okay, because they probably aren't. Give yourself a break from maybe trying to be perfect and holding it all together. Life is a journey. Allow yourself to cry about things. Learning to let go of those old feelings really does help.
6. Lastly, find others that will listen. Some survivors have great supportive families that will listen and really have compassion. Others can't find that in people around them because their friends or family don't understand and can't figure out why you aren't 'over it.' Don't hold it in. Find a support group. Go online if you don't have one in your area. Letting your emotions out to people that understand and won't judge you really does help.
Healing takes time, love and patience with yourself, but I truly believe each of you reading this can accomplish all these things and more. Remember:
-the only person you can change is yourself and today is the first day of the rest of your life. Make it a good one.
There is no better time than now to begin.
Rachel Everhart RN