Coping with an Emotional Speedbump

“How did you feel about the weekend?” was the question. 

He shouldn’t have asked. 

If he was any less amazing of a human being, if he was like normal people, he’d regret it. He says he’s not sorry he asked. I’m pretty sure that’s super-human.

He had a “perfect, magical day.” So did his daughter. I truly (really truly) am grateful for that. But, I didn’t experience it quite the same way. There was no drama, No one was mean (people were polite), but God allowed me to experience a series of small events in a way that would open the door to future healing. As you read the following words, understand that I consider this a gift from him, a blessing.

I expected my boyfriend’s daughter’s wedding to be uncomfortable. I was meeting his ex-extended family and all the friends they shared for twenty-five years. My goal was to be as helpful and pleasant as humanly possible. I was a plus one at this event who didn’t want to make any waves. I wanted to be as accommodating and appropriate as I possibly could. And I was. And it was a lovely event.

Until he asked that question in the car the following evening. Then I proceeded to fall apart. I couldn’t stop it and I had no idea why I was reacting so strongly. 

A Little Personal Background

Let me back up and explain something for a moment. I’m an Enneagram Four (for this context, understand that to mean I’m all about deep, nuanced, and volatile feelings) who, due to a long history of, let’s just say “difficult” relationships, has learned to cope by suppressing her feelings. A counselor once told me that I don’t experience feelings the way most people do. Got the picture? A feeler who doesn’t experience feelings. I understand all the nuances of feelings intellectually, but struggle with feeling, recognizing, and coping with them personally. I know, complicated, right?

After that question hung in the air between us in the car at the beginning of a dark, late, several hour drive, I proceeded to disintegrate emotionally for the 24 hours. Between rounds of crying, I began to realize that a series of events at the wedding had triggered an emotional reaction far greater than the events of the wedding itself. I kept seeing in my mind an image of a key unlocking the door to a vast, dark underground lake. One I didn’t even know existed. And its name was rejection. 

My Coping Mechanism

I started struggling in earnest on the morning of the wedding. I was working in my hotel room most of the day. It was slow going. I was fighting feelings I didn’t want to feel, struggling with focus, and I just wanted to sleep it off. But, I had work that had to get done. Each of my SoulShaper episodes has a worship time in which I read and pray through the Psalms. Here’s what I wrote and later recorded as I prepped the worship section of Psalm 61:1-4:

Security in God
For the choir director: on stringed instruments. Of David.

God, hear my cry;
pay attention to my prayer.
I call to you from the ends of the earth
when my heart is without strength.
Lead me to a rock that is high above me,
for you have been a refuge for me,
a strong tower in the face of the enemy.
I will dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge under the shelter of your wings. Selah 

Pray with me…

God, hear me. I need you to listen, I’m in a place where I can’t do things alone. Pay attention to my needs today. I do happen to be far from home as I pray this…not exactly the ends of the earth, but not in a familiar place. I can feel at the ends of the earth even when I’m home curled up on my own couch. Wherever I am, I need you. 

When my heart is without strength in any area, lead me to a rock that is higher than I. I need three things. I need a rock—that’s you, solid, stable, firm, permanent. I need something more than myself, and you are that, too. And I need you to lead me there. I can’t even get there on my own. You are my refuge. You’re my strong tower in the face of all that comes against me. I will choose you forever and take refuge under your wings next to your heart. Secure me there, protect and shelter me. I love you. Amen.

Emotional triggers can surprise you. They set off chain reactions that can lead you into unhealthy behaviors or over the edge of emotional cliffs. 

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” ~Viktor E. Frankl

I made it through the wedding and the following day of required “people-ing” before I fell apart. It wasn’t like I was holding it together by my own will. At this point, I didn’t really understand what was happening. True to his Word and my prayer, God secured me under his wing until I was in a safe place to process my reactions. 

The Importance of Scripture

We can turn to a lot of unhealthy things when we’re blindsided by emotions, from cookies and cupcakes to vodka and sex. In the last five years, I’ve made big strides in learning how to feel and handle emotions. But, this kind of reaction was a first. Luckily, because of the work I’m doing, I spent my day soaking in scripture. I think that was a key factor in my ability to keep a right mind, choose healthy responses, and recognize what was happening as the next few days unfolded.

It’s easy in our social media-driven world to understand “I need Jesus” and “I’m the daughter of the King” posts as window dressing. As the online equivalent of the mug sitting on my desk right now reminding me to, “BE HONEST.” It’s easy to understand them as a polite reminder.

Friends. Sisters. The Word of God is no polite reminder. It’s a passionate call to radical obedience. It’s a personal grace-drenched insistence of the never-ending loving-kindness of the One who formed the galaxies. In a section entitled “Struggles in the Christian Life,” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

You’ve most likely heard that verse a thousand times. But, know that experiencing the truth of it is absolutely possible and so much more important than understanding it intellectually. Maybe you aren’t going to have an adult meltdown this weekend. Maybe things are going great for you at the moment. We’re all somewhere on that spectrum at different places. No matter where you find yourself this week, know that soaking in God’s Word and letting it change you, is exactly where you belong. It’s exactly what you need. And it’s exactly what will get you through whatever circumstances you’re facing, whether easy or difficult.

As for me, I’m almost back to normal. But, I know there’s a deep, dark lake I need to drain. And I intend to do so from a scriptural foundation while taking refuge under the care and protection of the Most High God.

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