Remember the Prize

Life has been full recently. Sometimes it catches me off guard. Almost 4 years ago I was fighting for the will to live, now my life seems to be blowing up (in good ways) all over the place. It’s hard to believe. If I’m honest, it’s easy to forget about the hard times. In ways I think that’s good, I’ve moved on and I’m no longer holding on to the past. In other ways, I think it’s important to remember where you’ve been. I never want to relive that part of my life, but I don’t want to forget that it happened. It shaped me, transformed, made me who I am today.

I remember the times I didn’t want to get out of bed. And I’m not talking about, I’m sleepy, can I just stay in bed? I’m talking like I don’t ever want to face the light of day. If I could just sleep and time would pass.

Today, I woke up, went to work: which is my own private fitness business, with a physical location, came home to a bag of goodies from my new sponsor, and am writing a blog before I go to practice with my cross country team. WHAT? It’s hard to believe I’m that girl. I couldn’t have been in a place that bad.

Rusty was talking to me about a friend the other day. A friend going through some of the same struggles I’ve been through, in a season where they feel they are losing the battle. When we talked, my heart just hurt. Not this pain of “poor person, I can’t believe you feel this way.” But a pain of pure empathy. One where the pain is deep in your stomach, you almost feel like you’re going to burst. Because I remember those feelings. I remember being in that place. It wasn’t rational and I knew it wasn’t where I was supposed to be, but I couldn’t get out of it. I was stuck. This pit of despair. A time when all hope seems lost. I remember thinking life would never get better. I remember the pain it took to actually get better. In that moment, all I wanted to do was reach out and say, “It will get better, it will always be hard, but it will get better. But you have to FIGHT with EVERYTHING you have. You have to lay down your life, your thoughts, expectations, pride, lay it all down to win the battle. You have to ask for help.”

I remember the hardest part for me was just telling people about my thoughts and feelings. They felt so wrong and bad, I was so ashamed to even admit them.

Those thoughts and feelings don’t just go away. It’s a battle every single day. I shared with Rusty the truth of the thoughts going on in my head even right now, when everything seems to be going my way. And man, dark thoughts go through my brain at times. It will be when I’m tired or stressed. I hear a phrase or encounter a problem and all of a sudden my thoughts go to the worst scenario. Rusty and I are working through some life right now. We are so blessed, but have been handed some news recently that has shook us. And one night before bed, I just got anxious. I couldn’t fall asleep. And guess what the stress took over. My thoughts started drifting. And the worst thing popped in my head, “What if I just didn’t have to do this thing called life?” Yeah, that’s probably more of a PG version. And in that moment, right away, I knew that thought was wrong. I knew that that thought was from Satan trying to discourage me from all the good in my life right now. But still shame swept over me. I shouldn’t be thinking this thought. And yeah, the hope is that would never cross my mind. But it did. But what I realized in that moment, I have a choice. I can fight this thought with truth or I can cave to it and believe the lie. I chose not to believe it. I chose to fight back. I am loved. I am blessed. I am worthy. I have meaning and purpose. God has a plan for my life.

It’s hard to confess this. I mean come on, who ever wants to admit thoughts like that?

But I know I find freedom in confession. When I open up chains come down. Walls are broken. Restoration begins. What’s worse is hiding it deep in my heart. That’s when things get scary. Why? Because there is no way to release that pain, there is no one to help you fight it, it becomes a battle between your thoughts and that is a dangerous place to be.

Yup. I run my own business. I am a sponsored athlete. I’m living my dream. But life is still hard. I don’t write this for pity, but for reality. Maybe you’re struggling with these thoughts. Maybe you’re hiding in the dark ashamed of what you’ve done or thought. But freedom only comes when we release it all. Healing comes from sharing. That’s where it begins. It doesn’t mean life will be solved or things will be perfect, but restoration will begin.

It’s like a race. No one else can run it for you. No one else can put in the work you do, the time, the sleep, the habits, the nutrition. That’s all on you. But with out your support system when you fall in the race, you won’t get back up. It will take those who see you fail and tell you “you’ve got this, you can beat this pain, just get back up.” Your community will be the ones who lift you up, who keep you going. Because here’s the deal: we can’t do life on our own. It never works out that way. I will never forget the day I crossed that finish line with an OTQ and was embraced in my husband’s arm and I whispered “we did it, WE did it.” You maybe the only one who can run your race, but you better believe it takes an army to get you to the goal.

At times I feel I’ve taken a step back from speaking out about this, but mental health is real.

I would say it’s even more important than physical health. I promise without a strong mental status, your physical status is going to worsen. I want to be an advocate. I want to remind you, you are not alone. This is a battle we must be more open about. This is a time to speak up and share, to work together to create change. There is not always a perfect solution, but there is ALWAYS HOPE.

Jo ButlerComment