Coping With COVID, Murder Hornets, and Closed Wineries

Coronavirus, murder hornets, economic instability — oh my! What an odd time in which we are living. 2020 has not been the start to a new decade that anyone expected. In the United States, the majority of the country has entered into some sort of “quarantine mode” with many businesses closing their doors/offices and forcing employees to work remotely. Restaurants have shut down, stores have limited access, and (gulp) all the wineries have closed in an effort to force the population to stay home and stay safe.

In my state of Michigan, quarantine has been implemented since March 16th. There is unrest among Michiganders as the weeks move forward with no change in circumstances; restaurants are struggling as delivery and curb-side are their only options to continue service, lay-offs and furloughs are being carried out by numerous corporations, and unemployment numbers nearing those of the Great Depression. Many of G’s and my favorite local stops may not be reopening as the economic stability of our home state teeters on the edge.

Though I fully understand the government’s urge to keep residents safe, my heart hurts for those who will be effected by this pandemic for years to come. Everyone’s safety is important — health-wise, financially, emotionally, and mentally. As every week passes, it is amazing to me how divided my state grows… and how desperate people seem to be becoming. You could not pay me enough to be in our governor’s shoes right now.

Continue reading “Coping With COVID, Murder Hornets, and Closed Wineries”

My “Why” For Walking Up To The Starting Line

Everyone has a starting point. They are different for everyone, but we all have one.

My current “starting point” began in December 2019 and took several months to inch my way to that actual starting line.

After attending several get-togethers where my sole focus should have been the festivities of the holiday, I was having a difficult time being unselfish. Unselfish in the sense that my mind was always recirculating to myself. My body. My weight.

Continue reading “My “Why” For Walking Up To The Starting Line”

Yes, I Know How I Got To This Point.

This past winter I heard an acquaintance whisper, “Wow, she really let herself go,” as she walked away from me after a friendly exchange near the plus-size clothing section at Kohl’s. Our quick exchange was filled with hugs, smiles, and an introduction to her boyfriend. It was a turning point for me. Only moments before I had a little breakdown in the fitting room as a pair of sized 16 jeans lay on the floor, unable to get over my bum. It took several minutes to stop my tears and pull myself away from the corner where I sat, cringing away from my reflection.

Continue reading “Yes, I Know How I Got To This Point.”

Gray Spaces & A Message Worth Hearing

“I don’t want to be alive, but I don’t want to end my life.”

A dear friend of mine published a post on her blog last night that I feel needs to be read by many people. She bravely opened up about her personal struggles and took the leap to share her innermost feelings with the world because she knows there is a poor stigma surrounding the topic of suicidal ideation. Her words are raw and courageous and so, so needed in today’s climate. There really isn’t much more I need to say… I could add no more substance to her beautiful words.

Also, please be aware this is a very sensitive topic and this is your trigger warning; please proceed when you’re ready.


With recent events this week, both nationally and personally, this has been on my mind a lot. Trigger warnings ahead as this is a very sensitive topic, but I am sick of the repercussions of it not being discussed. 

My experience with suicide is, unfortunately, like many others my age. For every year I was in high school, there was at least one student within the local school systems who committed suicide or attempted. There was a moment of silence over the PA system in the morning, and counseling offered to students who needed it. Chatter during lunches from those closest to the person about what happened and then, eventually, silence.

Diving deeper, one of these was a student I had been in touch with on and off throughout the years. As I’ve said, for years I have stuffed down my feelings and I am just now acknowledging the repercussions of doing so. At one point before this student committed suicide, we were having a casual conversation in which they acknowledged they were having a hard time. I said I understood that, and when they asked me the best way to handle it, I told them that I numbed myself to the pain until I could ignore it. It was not the right answer at all, and I know that now. At the time, I didn’t have any other solution to offer because it was the only solution I was functioning off of, though I was not functioning well. A little less than a year later, I logged on to Facebook to learn they had committed suicide. I’ve only ever told two people this.

Throughout middle school and high school, one of my closest friends suffered from depression and anxiety. As a result, they had more than one suicide attempt. Because we didn’t attend the same school district, I would often hear about the attempts and institutionalization from their mom or friends over text out of the blue. I sometimes had to relay information about the latest happenings in their life to their mom late at night because they felt so left out of their child’s life due to the mental trauma they were dealing with. I always struggled with sharing information like that. At 14 years old, it is very difficult to understand mental health, and at the time it was not something that I had much knowledge on. I wanted to serve as a confidant to my friend, but I also wanted to help their mom to understand the situation as best as possible. Apart from this, all I was doing was praying for my friend and her family. I believe prayer is a powerful thing, but that more can be done.

My sophomore year of high school, I was at my grandpa’s visitation when I checked my phone for the first time that afternoon. It was a text from my friend’s mom saying that my friend had swallowed multiple pills and was in the hospital due to another attempt. I remember sitting on a bench in the hall way. There were no tears this time. I was merely an etch-a-sketch shaken up with all thought collapsed. When my dad asked me what was wrong, I told him. He responded back by saying, “I know this is hard. Keep praying for her, but also know that one day they might be successful with it.” The thought tore me apart. I knew that my dad was not wishing for that to happen by any means, but more so speaking in terms of reality. I know I nodded, because it was a thought I had reminded myself every time they were unsuccessful, but what I wanted in that moment was to have a conversation that neither of us knew the script for.

My most recent experience happened later that year during world history. Instead of learning about Martin Luther and his 95 theses, I kept glancing at the words on my screen from my friend. They told me they had plans to attempt suicide that night. I felt my pulse in my thumbs as they hovered over the phone. My stomach now housed my beating heart, and it echoed the thumping rhythm of anxiety as I tried to maneuver a solution. In that moment, I contemplated so many outcomes: They’re just worked up, they don’t mean it. They’ll get home and change their mind. What if  their mom comes home, and finds them — again. What if it really works this time. My teacher broke my thought process, and divided us into groups to do our homework. With that I asked him to come into the hall, and rambled off what was happening through tears and a stuttering voice. As a result, I spent the afternoon in the guidance office talking to a counselor and calling my friend’s school to pull her out of class and send her home.

The days following resulted in a lot of emotions. Teachers and guidance counselors told me if I needed anything to let them know. I was overwhelmed by the thought of talking about it more than I had already. When I did talk to my friend next, I kept apologizing to them for telling someone because I felt guilty for it. I felt like I was making the decision for them to stay alive, when what I wanted was for them to want that for themselves.

Because these events and exposures to suicide all happened in a very short time frame, I never fully talked about them and as such they ended up stuffed down with my other feelings. For every time I hear about a suicide on the news, I thank God my one friend made it out alive after multiple attempts. But for all of those thoughts, there are equally as many moments I feel incredible guilt for the classmate I didn’t help, the one that reached out for help and in return heard the advice to ignore pain that I now understand couldn’t be ignored.

While I don’t believe it would change the overall situations, I do believe that had there been strides to discuss and normalize mental health conversations, I could have acted sooner in a more productive way in those situations. The point of this outlet is to discuss mental health, and more specifically mine. I have felt a tremendous weight lifted when I’ve heard others’ stories because they echo that I am not alone. For what it’s worth, here is my, “you are not alone” in the suicide conversation.

I have never checked yes on a suicide survey. This does not represent my truth. I am the type of person who doesn’t believe they could go through with harming themselves. However, I have let myself sit for days, sometimes even week long periods, in very unhealthy states of not wanting to be alive. I have sobbed and hyperventilated into blankets and pillows from morning to night. I have done it over the years and recently. However, recently, the thought transitioned.

I started to think to myself that if I were to die by a natural cause, I wouldn’t be disappointed because of the quality of my life at the moment. For some reason, this thought manifested into the idea of a car crash, which is usually caused more by fate and coincidences of circumstances than intention. For at least a week, I had the thought that if I got into a car accident and lived, I would know I am meant to be here still. It sat in the back of my mind as something that would give a clear answer, but something that likely wouldn’t happen.

For those of you that follow me on Facebook, you know I did get into a car accident. A week ago, my friend and I went out and as the night went on our plans changed. We originally weren’t going to go out for St. Paddy’s but because we’ve both been to very few parties in college, we decided to just for the entitlement to say we went. Originally only one of us was going to drink, but we both had a drink, so we Ubered home. Our first Uber cancelled on us, and we had a longer than usual wait for the second one. I got into the Uber and for the first time according to my memory, didn’t think to buckle because I was busy talking to the driver. Two minutes later I looked down at my seat belt and realized that. I reached over to put it on, and before I could, we were rear ended while stationary in traffic by a car that came in fast. I bounced forward and my head knocked back into the seat.

This was my first car crash, and my response was to get my friend and I back home and deal with my feelings about it later. It wasn’t until the next day that I started to question the timing of it. I believe that there are no coincidences in the way things happen. All of the plans that changed that night that led us to that specific Uber at that specific moment were not all just a coincidence. Regardless of your beliefs in God, good vibes, the Universe, what have you, something was proving to me I am meant to be alive right now.

In the days following the accident, I didn’t reference this to anyone. I didn’t want people to assume I was suicidal, I didn’t want to concern others. The reason for this is that suicide has always been such a black and white issue when it’s talked about. If you check yes to having suicidal thoughts, in my experience at least, you are treated as though you’ve attempted suicide already. There has never in my experience been a grey area where I would feel okay saying, “I don’t want to be alive, but I don’t want to end my life.” In my case, these thoughts exist every so often. I know for others, they are more frequent than that. In my case, I cry for a while and drag my feet into the next day. For others, they call a hotline.

This week, I decided to open up to my counselor and a few friends about this experience and these thoughts about the grey area. When they asked why I didn’t say something sooner, I explained that what I was saying felt like it should be kept hushed. They all reassured me that at one point or another, they’ve found themselves in the grey area too. My counselor even told me she used to take crying breaks during school for an hour, wash her face and continue on, because she wasn’t suicidal, but she wasn’t okay either.

It’s my belief that the grey area should still be identified as just as important, but separate from needing to be institutionalized for suicidal actions. Since this car accident, and since opening up in the last months whether it be in posts, or in conversations, I really do believe my mental health is improving, however, I am still in the grey area. There are days where I really do wish that I wasn’t here, because it is an exhausting thing to feel so vulnerable and open with others. It’s even more exhausting, because there are still plenty of people, myself included more times than not, who don’t know how to talk about these things. Everyone is stuck trying to say the right thing that they forget to say something. As someone who can see how many people are viewing their WordPress, the number of people who never say anything back is discouraging when you’re opening up this much.

I know this has been very long, and for those of you who stuck through, thank you. This is me doing my best to say something with what I know. Nationally, suicides are currently being linked to mass shootings. I understand that every case is different, and each is individually just as important in the conversation about mental health. I understand that there is unfortunately no way to prevent them from happening. But, I do strongly believing that it is okay to not be okay. And I know I want to live in a world where it doesn’t feel so wrong to admit that. I certainly don’t want to continue forward stuffing things down and encouraging it, which is why I shared all of this. For some of you, this may be a lot. Please understand the weight you feel reading this has been on my shoulders for a very long time, and I am sharing because in my moments where I feel alone, I would want to see something like this.

If you feel comfortable reaching out, and just want to say that you’ve felt in the grey area before, or do now, then please reach out. If this helped you, I’d be relieved to know because it took a lot to share it. Lastly, I still genuinely believe that there isn’t anything wrong with simply needing to hear that people care about you and are happy you are alive. It’s not so much a compliment as it is reassurance that your presence is acknowledged, and it works wonders in a difficult moment. So if you’ve read this far, and you’re happy I’m alive and pulling through, or you’re rooting for me, please let me know so I can thank you and see how much I have going for myself. You have no idea how much it means.

Written by Mikhayla Dunaj on March 27, 2019. Find the original post here.


I know from talks with the author that this topic truly has been weighing on her. So if you found a source of solace in her words, please reach out to her. I have been in a position similar to Mikhayla — I have never wanted to hurt myself, but have considered what it would mean to no longer be alive — and knowing others were or had been in the same thought-space as me made a world of difference. You do not have to go through anything alone.

Life is a complicated, trying mess, but we are in it together, friends.

(I love you, Mikhayla. Thank you for sharing this message and being vulnerable. You may never know how you have changed someone’s world with your words.)

Much love, friends,

 

 

 

On average, there are more than 128 suicides per day in the United States, attempted by people with and without known mental health conditions. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to find support during your time of crisis or be provided useful resources. Your call is ALWAYS free and confidential. 

Saying Yes & Following The Path Of Fulfillment

I have been struggling lately. I have been struggling with the question, “Who am I?” There are so many possible labels: a wife, a friend, a Christian, an advocate, a member of my community, a woman, a dreamer, a runner, an organizer, a finance assistant, a blogger. Yet when I consider those labels, I don’t feel I embody any of them completely. I have this unrelenting  want to add the word “BETTER” before each title. I want to be a better wife, a better friend, a better Christian, etc. All at once. All together. All to perfection. And as I wonder about who I am, I begin to feel overwhelmed with disappointment at my elusive potential.

That is where my biggest struggle lies: in the want to be “better” than how I perceive myself. Focusing on that want which seems so unfathomable, unapproachable, and unreachable, I recognize I am viewing my life from the base of a gigantic mountain. I can see multiple trails I could claim as my path, each with a directional sign reading who I yearn to be. Yet I feel if I choose one path, then the others will go unaltered. Never being explored, never being grown, never being conquered.

Smarter hikers than I would venture down a path to see where it leads and then retrace their footsteps to explore another trail. Stronger hikers than I would choose one path, complete it, and return to the beginning to begin anew. Not me though. I want to take all the paths at once without giving any specific label up. All or nothing is what I felt was necessary to give my life meaning and purpose.

I found myself praying at this multi-directional trail head for weeks. How could I be a better wife while simultaneously attempting to be a better friend and a better runner and a better active member of my community? There did not seem to be enough minutes in the day or energy in my body to keep up with everything necessary to make me into the person I felt I needed to be.

Then Sunday happened.

It amazes me in the ways God can speak to me. He either gives subtle nods that have me constantly second guessing if I’m reading the signs correctly or He drops something so obvious into my lap that I’m left dazed at my own ignorance.

Sunday’s sermon was that mountain being dropped onto my head, dazing and enlightening me into shame of my own stupidity.

A guest pastor gave the sermon. He was a director at Life Action Ministries, an organization that believes in calling people to authentic Christianity in order for the gospel to shine brightly out of lives transformed by God’s presence and power. He spoke about the brokenness of our world and the effects of sin on society. He talked about renewing our spirits to revive not only ourselves, but the world as a whole. And his method of doing this was by saying “YES!” to God every single day.

The sermon as a whole was specifically aimed towards saying “Yes” to God when it came to our faith and spiritual well-being. This pastor spoke on topics of selling ourselves short when it came to being followers of Jesus and how our actions today effect a number of outcomes tomorrow. Spiritually, I needed to hear this message because I am constantly worrying if I am a good enough Daughter of Christ.

However, the message hit me in all aspects of my life.

I began to see my life as a series of Yes’s and No’s. Sometimes I chose to say Yes to a path of my own and rely on myself to not trip on the obstacles along the way. Yet looking back, I know that when I chose to say Yes to the paths God directed me towards is when my life truly flourished. My best Yes’s were those where God led me!

One prime example of these differences in Yes’s were when I was led out of my pre-House lifestyle. House, as some of you may remember, is my young adults Bible study group. Prior to House, I had focused mainly on drowning my unhappiness with late nights and a careless attitude, dating the wrong people because I lacked knowledge in what I deserved, and caring more for earthly matters than my eternal soul. I sought pity. I sought relevance. I sought anything than what I had been taught through my Christian upbringing truly mattered. I was choosing to say Yes to an overgrown, boulder-strewn trail. I didn’t like who I was becoming, but the thought of turning off-course to a path of revival was scary. I felt I would be heading into that unknown alone, and I knew there were a lot of burning bridges to be mended before I could make it to the summit.

When the time came that I finally realized I no longer had the strength and endurance to cut my way through the briers of my own path, I turned to God. I knew I needed to go down the path of revival, but I also knew I couldn’t lead myself. Life Action puts the Path of Revival in good terms: my first step was to find humility. Then honesty, repentance, forgiveness, and obedience. None of these were easy obstacles on my own, but by saying Yes to God and His leadership, I began my journey.

And following God brought me to a beautiful clearing of my life.

I earned friendships with the most honest and supportive people imaginable. I went through many trials that ultimately grew me into a stronger and wiser individual. I faltered many times, turning back and looking at the path I once walked, but I never turned to salt. Instead, I might trip and scrape my knee, but I picked myself up and endured the pain until finally the summit of that stage in my life was reached.

Nonetheless, the mountain continued ahead, and life went on. I hadn’t reached the end. Instead I was given the option of continuing to say Yes to hiking up my current course or choosing another path. Free will is a gift from God, after all, and the choice was mine to make.

In the same way, sometimes I said No to paths I knew were the Godly direction and chose to go my own selfish way. And though those No’s brought a lot of growth and wisdom through life lessons, they also brought a lot of hurt and sorrow.

One such No was when I wanted to keep walking my current course, but there was clearly a blockade in the trail. God kept subtly giving me signs, but I shook my head No at Him and continued up anyways. I was in a floundering relationship where I provided support with hardly any in return. The trail I was attempting to climb was turning to sand and washing away under my feet, but I fought to move forward still. There were no tree branches to help pull me upward, there was no covering to protect me from the headwinds. I kept saying No to the signs God was handing me and instead tried to force love and adoration and respect into a relationship that never was bound to have those emotions reciprocated. I gave more and more of my heart until I had no more to give, and I came tumbling down the mountainside when the rainstorms finally gathered and let loose.

It’s amazing how when you allow people to make more withdrawals than deposits into your life, how out of balance you will find yourself. You get to a negative space and you’re not sure how to “close the account.”

For me, when that unhealthy relationship ended, I found myself knocked out of breath from the avalanche. My heart was hardened from the fall. My happiness and willingness to listen to God ceased. My negativity was at an all-time high when I was at an all-time low. I felt isolated in my situation, feeling heavy emotions of depression and hatred for everyone involved. I chose to be a victim of the mountain, and I blamed everyone involved including God.

But He wasn’t who led me on that path, was He? No, I had chosen not to abide by His clear signs stating “Trail Closed Ahead” and wandered forward on my own. Looking back, it is so clear the paths He meant for me to follow instead. I stuck to my own crummy intuition though. I made excuses. I tried to convince myself the path was not as bad as it really was.

After the tumble down, I tried to shake myself off. I tried to be strong on my own. I defiantly began climbing a path of Self-Yes. I clung to other unhealthy relationships like a lifeline, I relied on pills and drinks to numb the pain, and I made decisions unfamiliar with my character for the sole purpose to hurt those who hurt me. I wanted to do what I wanted to do, and my situation became worse due to my own leadership. My life became a dark, sunless void as I went further and further into the forested hills that I was creating for myself.

It wasn’t until I turned back to God that my life made a drastic change. (Surprising, right? If only I had remembered my lessons from previous “No Times” as well.) As I said No to my selfish path and Yes to God’s directions, I began to find rays of sunshine again. A light through the treetops showed roots to step over so I wouldn’t trip. A clearing brought warmness and happiness and laughter. The forest was dying away and I could see the next summit for which I was aiming. It was obvious that following God meant a life full of love and contentment.

And so I continued to say Yes to Him.

Life was great, and I believed the reason wholeheartedly was relying on God to direct me. I centered my life on Philippians 4:8:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.

By taking the examples of what a God-pleasing life entailed, I attempted to live by this passage in my thoughts, words, and actions. And I found peace.

I know that if I had chosen to say No to reconciling with God, I would not be where I am today. God not only led me to a healthy and complete relationship with G, but he led me to stronger relationships with my family and friends. I was able to see those who were meant to be a part of my life and why I needed to close the accounts with others. My career flourished, my other responsibilities and hobbies blossomed, and I found contentment in the person I was. I loved myself and I was eager for the future God had awaiting me.

Transitional periods are tough though. I reached the summit of that beautiful hike on my wedding day. Since then I have found myself again struggling with my image.

Who am I?

I’m now a wife, but I find struggle in claiming that as my only label. As someone who once was overwhelmed with all her hats being juggled, that addiction is a hard thing to break. I sometimes find myself feeling guilty that I have “down time.” I knock myself for not jumping to return text messages to friends. I put myself down for not writing a blog post every day or allowing my workouts to go by the wayside. I want to be a great wife, but I also want to be a great blogger and runner and friend and, and, and…

It took the sermon on Sunday to remind me that maybe that’s the problem though — struggling with perfection rather than stopping to listen my Lord. Maybe I am confusing fulfillment in my life’s goals with contentment of the here and now.

I think it is time to readjust how I view myself and glorify God in all He has provided me.

Let me be honest with you, I had a breakdown a few weeks ago where I questioned what my purpose was outside of being a wife. I had put so much focus on preparing for marriage before the wedding that all other hobbies and past times were thrown to the curb. Now that life has gotten back into a routine, though, I realized I missed having things to do aside from making dinners and cleaning the house. Not that I feel any of my wifely roles are beneath me or not valuable, but because I feel I need to juggle more responsibilities to be valued in other areas of my community other than just my home.

I want to be relevant to more than just my family and friends. I want to be relevant to the world.

This is not something I believe is uncommon for a newlywed. After the excitement of the wedding, there are the slow times when you are attempting to distinguish your new self. While focusing on being the best spouse possible, you also want to remain an individual. I don’t think that want is a terrible thing, but I do realize it is not always inline with Godly ventures.

Sometimes a person falters as a newlywed by shifting too far to one side or the other. You may focus solely on being a spouse and lose yourself and the plan God has for you. Or you may focus too much on remaining an individual and not put in the effort necessary for a functional and lasting, God-pleasing marriage.

The key is to find a balance.

After Sunday’s sermon I realized that I am not reaching that balance and that I am selling myself short.

Who says I am not a good wife? Who says I am not a good friend? Who says I am not good in any of my roles except for my own sinful mind?

God led me to where I am today. He led me into my role as a wife, and He also led me into the role of being a finance assistant and a lifestyle blogger and a cancer awareness advocate.

In the same way, there were roles He told me to step down from because He knew I was becoming overwhelmed, tired, and distracted. Being the person I am, quitting anything, even for the sake of my health, is giving up. I disappoint myself by backing away. But God told me No for some responsibilities I felt compelled to complete. And it was when I listened to Him that my life was revived.

The roles I have in my life have continuously been rejuvenated. I excel, I receive praise, and I get promoted. Sometimes it is like a light is switched on in those areas, and I could trek full-steam ahead into unknown territories without any fear. And it seemed that even when I was hiking down one path, the others I simultaneously needed to focus on interwove with my current track. As I hiked the “wife path” those of friend, Christian, advocate, and others joined the route of my next big expedition.

So why should I not listen now to all the Yes’s He has before me? Why am I struggling with my current roles and wishing for even more to cascade down onto me? Why should I not strive to find fulfillment where I am so that I am prepared for what He has coming around the bend?

Today I say I will.

I say Yes to what is before me and I say Yes to being content with who I am right here, right now.

I choose to say Yes to God in performing my current duties to impact myself and others in a positive way. I choose to say Yes to God in finding fulfillment with who I am right here, right now. I choose to say Yes to God for the plans he has ahead of me and to lead me to the best outcomes possible in an unknown future.

I choose to say Yes in loving where I am and who I am right now, and trusting in God to mold me into a better version of myself each and every day. His purpose comes first, and everything will fall perfectly into place as I move forward in His peace.

Climb the mountain, not to plant your flag but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air, and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.

For those interested, here is the sermon as a whole for those who would like to witness this powerful message also:

Happy hiking, my friends,