How I’m battling the dragon of anxiety

If you’ve spent more than a minute with me, you know I’m the kind of person who feels things deeply. I also tend to absorb the emotions and energy of others. On my best day, I can stem the tide of rushing, even conflicting emotions, process what is and isn’t helpful, and move forward in strength.

But.

There are days this feels impossible. Days I feel everything that everyone around me feels so acutely that I can’t even figure out how *I* feel. Days that what I *do* feel seems impossible to carry.

Sometimes it manifests as anxiety. Some days as depression. Some days as just pure old stress and anger.

There have been times where medicine was called for, and I’ve heeded the call. But even during those times, and *especially* during seasons where medication hasn’t been the right answer for me personally, I’ve built my own toolbox to manage my emotions, instead of allowing them to control me. Sometimes my tools work better than others, but thankfully there are many of them, and usually one of them will at least temper, if not slay, the dragon.

This week, however, I admit I let the dragon roar loudly, so loudly, before I pulled out the ol’ toolbox. As I watched the world around me go batshit crazy, it felt impossible to hold back the fear and panic that I had been pushing down so long. But once again, I’ve opened my trusty box of tools and I’m doing the work to bring the Truth into focus.

None of my “tools” are that original, and none of them may fit your need, but seeing as how many people who don’t normally battle anxiety may feel it creeping in, I wanted to share what I’ve found most helpful.

1.) Community.

This one is currently going to be extremely hard for most of us, seeing as how our schools, churches, neighborhoods and groups are all shuttering for safety. We’re going to have to get creative. If you have a supportive spouse or roommate, let them know you may need some extra hugs or kind words. Missing coffee with your bestie? Consider “sharing” a cup over FaceTime.

2.) Outside time.

The winter months are the hardest for most of us. Or the rainy ones. For me, I know much of that has to do with not getting outside. This winter, I’ve tried to be better about that and force myself outside for walks instead of doing all indoor exercise. It’s been really good for me. While my family will be avoiding parks for a few weeks, bike rides and walks outside will still be a good option, and something we’re going to be intentional about.

3.) Gratitude.

I’ve recently resumed the practice of a gratitude journal, and it’s been extremely good for my heart and head. There are a lot of ways to do this, but I recently began following this suggested daily practice: writing down three things you’re grateful for, and expound on  at least one of them (dig deeper into why you’re grateful). This one in particular I believe will be very helpful for all of us who may feel overwhelmed at the prospect of navigating work and kids’ schooling at home, not to mention, not being able to get out and about. Reminding ourselves that there are a million things to be grateful for, even on our hardest day, has been scientifically proven to change not just our perspective, but our health!

4.) Generosity.

Getting outside of my head is much easier when I’m getting outside of mySELF. Looking for others who need encouragement, need reassures, need anything, reminds me that I’m not alone in needing others, and gives me an amazing sense of purpose when I might feel pretty useless. You don’t have to have a lot of money to practice this one either—simply sending texts or emails (or snail mail!) to people who might need a little lift can make you both feel better. I personally believe a well-chosen GIF is about the most generous gift you can give a friend.

5.) Self-care.

This is a buzzword, I know, but I don’t mean go on a shopping spree (and certainly not at the moment!). This is another case where creativity is the name of the game while we’re all homebound. I personally am obsessed with baths. I can literally feel stress melt away during a long epsom salt bath. Also important for me is listening to music. I am working on compiling a dragon-slaying playlist on Spotify, so if you have any suggestions, please share. I start all my mornings with 32 ounces of water, but then it’s coffee and a candle while I read my Bible and pray. And yes, even a little Netflix and Disney+ (dig up some of your childhood favorites!) can take your mind off of things you can’t control.

6.) Movement.

Call it exercise, call it moving your body, call it whatever you want, just do it! Several years ago, I began a practice of exercising 5-6 days a week, and I’ve never looked back. It started out for my physical health, and yes, that’s still part of why I do it. But it’s certainly not the only reason, and lately, it’s not even the biggest reason. Getting my heart rate up because of a vigorous walk or lifting heavy weights feels GOOD, unlike when my heart rate is up because of stress. It doesn’t have to be intense to be effective. In fact, low-impact exercise like yoga can be incredibly beneficial to both your body and your mind. Just move, somehow, some way.

7.) Faith.

This will not be true for everyone, but for me, this is the most crucial of all. Remembering that I am deeply loved by God, unconditionally, and beautifully made in His image brings me back to center. During this season of Lent, I’ve been doing a devotional that has me start each morning by writing out one attribute of God and worshipping Him for it. Beginning each day remembering His strength, His love, His peace. . . it is precisely what I need to put things in perspective.

 

This is in no way an exhaustive list, and of course, it is highly personal to me, but if you’re feeling anxious and uncertain of what to do about it, I hope my toolbox might inspire you to make your own. No matter how you slay your own dragon, I hope you know, you’re worth fighting for. Your peace. . .  your power. . . your soul. . . YOU, are worth fighting for.

I hope you know you're worth fighting for

On measuring sticks and what I learned from missing every mark

When I set out to make the last year in my thirties count (see the original post here), for me, that meant goals. As a self-driven, highly motivated person, setting goals equals progress.  I like a good measuring stick.

Until I don’t measure up.

And, if I’m being super honest here, I don’t feel I measured up these last 10 months. Aside from the first month, “dry May,” I didn’t hit one single goal 100 percent. Sure, I did MORE of the good things I set goals for, like reading books, doing random act of kindness and purging our house. But there were also many, many days I missed the mark.

So, I failed, right? Or so I’ve felt. Especially since the ongoing goal underlying all this self-improvement was to help me make healthier choices overall to help me hit that magic number: goal weight. Forty (pounds off) by forty (years old)? Not. Even. Close.

Yet one more way I didn’t measure up.

But.

Sunday I completed a goal I’ve had for a year. It was something I never wanted to do. I like to be healthy – I exercise daily, hike, lift weights, etc.  I run… when chased. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but in general, I don’t love to run. So why would I chose to participate in a half marathon?

For starters, I knew there was NO way I’d be doing a whole marathon. Ha! But a half? That felt… almost doable? It felt like one of the biggest physical challenges I’ve undertaken (a couple of backpacking trips might rival it), combined with the hardest mental challenge I’ve undertaken (did I mention I don’t love running?).

I’d heard about the Disney Princess Half Marathon for a long time, and upon doing some research, it seemed like the one to do. I’m all about distractions to take my mind off the pain of running. My Disney-loving husband wanted to do it with me, so we signed up and printed off our training plan.

Then, not even halfway through our training, injury struck. My left foot, which had been bothering me for a couple of weeks, finally gave out on a 5-mile run. My arch was in extreme pain, and after some self-diagnosis, I called on the professionals.  I spent the next two months trying to minimize pain (even walking was limited) and get back on the pavement. Finally, a little over a week before race day, I was able to run around 6.5 miles.

Six point five. The longest run of my life, yet still only half of what I would have to run on race day.

* * * * * *

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One fun thing about the runDisney races is people really get into it and dress up. Meet Ariel and Prince Eric.

When I stepped on the grass to line up with over 20,000 other people on Sunday morning, hours before the sun came up, I carried a lot with me.

I carried the failures I had felt over the last year.
The goals I failed to meet.
The forty pounds I failed to lose.
The demons I failed to conquer.
The training plan I failed to finish.

I carried pain.
My foot: a combination of posterior tibial tendonitis and plantar fasciitis.
My head: A killer cold that had come on a few days earlier. (This, combined with unusually high heat and humidity for this time of year in Florida would nearly do me in a few times.)
My heart: the feelings of failure I’ve felt this past year as a mom, a wife, a person… combined with the fears that I would not be up for yet another challenge, all came together to speed up my heart rate before I ever took a step toward 13.1.

* * * * * *

Sure enough, doubling your mileage on a hot and humid morning with a head cold and an injured foot… not recommended. While it was cool to see everyone decked out in costumes, to see the Disney characters out for meet and greets (clearly for people running MUCH faster than us, as there was a 16 mile/min pace required for the race, and stopping for pictures would greatly impact your pacing), and to run through the Magic Kingdom, I was still, well, generally miserable.

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Running toward the castle. If you’re gonna run 13.1 miles, this is the place to do it.

Only once did I fantasize about quitting; mostly, I was afraid I was going to embarrass myself by throwing up. I was a bit surprised by just how physically demanding it was, and the heat really got to me. There were more walking steps than I had hoped for, and the running ones were hardly fast.

But each step got me closer to finally finishing one goal.

And then… we could see the finish line.

* * * * * *

But let’s back up a minute. Just a couple of minutes earlier, a text came through on my watch. I could only read one line from my friend before I had to blink tears away and put my wrist down to avoid reading more. I knew I had to save the ugly cry.

“Whatever is happening in this moment, you are enough.”

My friend is an amazing encourager, but she couldn’t know Just. How. Much. I needed those words.

“I didn’t read my Bible every day.”
You are enough.

“That makes three days in a row that I forgot to do an act of kindness.”
You are enough.

 “I could only run one mile before the pain became too much.”
You are enough.

“Not only did I not lose weight this week, I gained it.”
You are enough.

“I didn’t run a half marathon; I probably walked more than half of it.”
You are enough.

The problem with measuring sticks of our own creation is that the goal is always moving. A half marathon? Why not a full? Lost 60 lbs? Why not 40 more? Raised a healthy child? Why not a happy one, and a grateful one?

All those goals… great ones.

All the striving… exhausting.

* * * * * *

Yes, we crossed that finish line. And while the heat exhaustion and the two miles we had to walk back to the car and then to meet family (we logged over 19 miles that day in total!) kept me from ever allowing the full-on ugly cry that was one sympathetic look away from gushing over, I knew in that moment that my friend was indeed right.

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* * * * * *

As I approach the last month of my thirties, I have a new goal. And it’s not to quit setting goals. Haha! But it is this: to view every goal, every dream, every desire, every challenge through a very specific lens: my teary eyes reading these words.

You are enough.

Words

IMG_4590“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install a lovely bookshelf on the wall.” – Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

It’s not always the TV,  but it is often a screen of sorts, whether my laptop or phone, that keeps me from reading like I want to, and like, as a writer — and heck, a person — I know I should. So I really loved my October 40×40 challenge of reading twice a day. Each morning I read from a few different devotional books and Scripture. And each evening, I read from one of several books I’m reading. I finished a few, and got a lot further in a few more, and I have high hopes of finishing the massive stack by my bed before the end of the year… If I do, it will be the most books I’ve read as an adult in such a short amount of time, and I can’t think of a better way to begin the wrap-up of my last decade in my thirties.

A few things I’ve learned about myself: I enjoy reading more than one book at a time, but only one per genre, and no more than two or three at one time. So I enjoy having a non-fiction book on life or parenting, a captivating fictional book, and a devotional or theological book all going at the same time. I also discovered, thanks to my girls and their reading bowl assignments, a love for middle grade books!

Picking up a book instead of my phone at bedtime did wonders for my mental health as well, so I’m really trying to continue this habit… It’s amazing the allure that social media or even catching up on the news can have for me, but it’s also amazing how much my brain, heart and soul come alive when I allow carefully chosen and edited words to enter my psyche instead of the often hastily chosen or painfully rendered words and stories du jour.

As I continue to pour words into my world with books, my November challenge flips that with a goal to also daily pour out words — words of gratitude. I’ve started a gratitude journal with the goal of not repeating, or resorting to the obvious. October was hard for me, emotionally and spiritually, as I reflected back on the events of October 2017 that sent me spiraling, so I’m once again doing the hard work of digging in to find the beauty among the ashes.

While part of me is terrified that this challenge may end without me hitting my ultimate goal of 40 lbs gone, I am beyond thankful for the work that God has done in my heart and mind as I have embraced challenges that I pray are making me a better reflection of Him and a truer version of who He made me to be. Now excuse me while I go write that last sentence down in my gratitude journal…

What I learned about myself while surrounded by 20,000 people

June. That was a month.

I have several reasons for my 40×40 challenge, but one of the main purposes is to finally get to my goal weight after years of improving my health through nutrition and fitness. After seeing lots of progress in late April and May, sadly in June, I took a few steps back. All the travel and a good deal of stress took its toll—I didn’t always make the best choices, but also I saw the effect that stress has on my weight loss. I definitely hold on to the weight when I’m holding on to anxiety. Duly noted.

So I’ve spent the last few days getting back to some good mental health practices as well as tightening up my nutrition again, and I’m back to my lowest since starting the 2B Mindset in February. There is more travel to come this month, and #becauselife, I know there’s more stress to come, but I’m hoping to take what I learned in June and apply it to July so I can make some progress toward that big number!

My monthly challenge in June was to attend Summit, the annual conference Beachbody hosts for all the coaches, where you can learn more about how to help others with fitness and nutrition, grow your business and build your team, and also have fun working out with the super trainers.

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Getting ready for our workout with Joel Freeman — a new program coming out soon that combines lifting and HIIT training. LOVED. IT.

I had a great time connecting with my coach and fellow teammates and exploring a new city (well, at least several blocks of the city), and I did learn a lot about coaching and business building.  I didn’t have any crazy major breakthroughs business-wise, but I did learn a few things about myself.

  • I am actually currently happy with where my business is. I would love to bring some more friends into the business with me over time because I do believe in what we’re doing, and I want to help more people help more people, but I don’t have any aspirations to become a career coach. For a while, I felt bad about that for some reason, but after Summit, I’m more readily able to admit that I like my status as a part-time coach, because I really do love my “day job.” But I love the great things that part-time coaching has brought to my life: new friends, reconnecting with old friends, extra health accountability, and of course, extra income.
  • I enjoyed the group workouts way more than I thought I would. I still prefer working out in the comfort of my living room by myself, but I definitely could see how working out with others pushed me to be even better, to go one rep further, to not stop.
  • I actually enjoy traveling alone. Sure, I still most prefer having #TeamTiemann along for the ride, but there was something cool about the independence of traveling alone. I had to pay much closer attention to my surroundings, and I engaged with my surroundings since I didn’t have the cushion of “my people.” I met more people and noticed more of what was happening around me. Of course, it helped that I had friends meeting me on one end of the trip, and family on the other, but it was still a rare experience to just be responsible for me. I may have to explore that side of me in the future.
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Up at dark:thirty to work out with 20,000 other people and 7 super trainers. It was the hardest leg workout I’ve ever done, and it was about an hour and a half long! 

And bonus: I got to meet Ilana Muhlstein—the creator of the nutrition program I’ve been following since February. If I’m being honest, meeting her was probably my number one goal of going to Summit. Her program has changed my life, and I respect her so much. She was very kind and positive in real life—just as she came across on all our calls. And she remembered me from the test group! Or she was just kind enough to pretend she did, which is good enough for me. Ha!

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Love sweet and tough-love Ilana!

Overall, I’m really glad I went! I pushed past some fears and learned some new things along the way – which is really what I hope for each month of this personal challenge!

Now we are five days into July (say what?!), and there’s a new challenge on the horizon. I don’t want to share what it is quite yet, but I’m excited to share it when the time comes—it’s something I’ve dreamed about since I was a child! So be sure and follow me on Instagram, because I’ll be posting lots of pictures and stories when the time comes!

Dry May is over (yay!), so what’s next?

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Oregon and me.

When I turned 39 in April, I wanted things to be different this year. Knowing it was my last year in my 30s, I wanted to make things count by taking on a new adventure or challenge every month for the next year. I also want to finally get to a healthy weight again, something I’ve been working toward since, well, the girls were born, and that means losing at least 40 more pounds. To that end, I came up with the idea of 40 by 40. Forty pounds gone by the time I’m 40, but more importantly, I’m working to enter the next decade of life as a more adventurous, confident, loving and patient person.

You can read about my April and May goals, and I’m stoked to report that I hit May 100 percent. It was a good month, even though — I won’t lie — it’s hard to not drink in social situations when everyone else is. It certainly gave me a new perspective, and I’m glad I took the break. I’m also glad the break is over. Haha! The good news is that I’m also down 7.6 lbs since starting my 40×40 challenge (64 lbs since my highest), so I’m making some great progress toward those 40 lbs.

But now it’s a new month (well, technically it has been for 11 days now, but I was on vacation in Oregon), and it’s time for a new goal. This month’s challenge may be a little “inside,” but it is something that I’ve wanted to do since I became a Beachbody coach to help other women on their fitness and health journeys too, and that’s to attend Beachbody Summit. Every summer, tens of thousands of coaches descend upon a city and come together for group workouts, motivational speakers, and helpful breakouts. It’s always seemed intimidating to me – especially since I’m not a typical business builder. But I know I can learn a lot that will help me help others more, and I also know that every time I do something out of my comfort zone, I’m glad I did it — either because I can add it to my “tried it, but don’t feel the need to do it again” list, or because I discover a new favorite thing!

I’m sure I’ll be posting some from Summit, so be sure and follow me on Instagram. There’s even a group workout, where ALL the coaches take over the city streets, so I can only imagine all the Insta stories that will be flowing. . . stay tuned!

40 x 40 update: April, and what’s next for May

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That’ll preach, right?! I shared this quote on social media today, from the creator of the 2B Mindset, the brand new nutrition program I was super blessed to get a jumpstart with a few months ago when I was invited to be a part of the coach test group. That fresh start with my nutrition combined with reading Rachel Hollis’ Girl, Wash Your Face inspired my 40X40 challenge. By my 40thbirthday, I want to have shed the last 40 lbs I have to lose, but it’s more than that. Each month (I started on my 39th birthday on April 15) until I turn 40 next year, I’m taking on a challenge for myself. Some of them are health-related, a few are just fun bucket-list items, but all are ultimately about making me a better and more joyful person, wife, mother and friend.

Since I only had a couple of weeks in April to take on the challenge, I chose something that wouldn’t require a lot of time – I decided to try three new things that I’ve always been intimidated by:

  • Cupping therapy (an alternative therapy for pain management/muscle soreness – you’ve probably seen the weird circles on athletes during the summer Olympics
  • Insanity Max 30 – a workout program that always scared me. Haha!
  • Instagram adventures – I opened a public account (I’ve always kept my social media pretty locked down) based on my 40×40 goals, AND I’ve been figuring out Instagram stories, which for some reason always scared me. Another haha!

So where did I stand on my goals for the month?

IMG_8153Cupping therapy – HUGE win. The first week I thought I could tell a difference. But then my back went out (something I struggle with). Thankfully it was the same day I had my next cupping therapy scheduled. You guys, I walked in barely able to stand upright and came out nearly pain free! It was CRAZY. Within a couple of days, I was pretty much back to normal. I resumed my workouts yesterday, and so far, so good. I’m a believer.

It wasn’t painful, per se, but definitely not as fun as a massage. Bu man, if you’re in a lot of muscle pain, it’s worth investigating – it really did speed up my recovery big time.

IMG_8155Insanity Max 30… Well, I guess I’ll give myself a pass on this, because I did do it for two weeks. But I found out quickly it wasn’t the program for me. I mean, I could push through and make myself do it, but the truth is, I’m just NOT a cardio girl. I do love Shaun T and his personality as a coach, but his style of workout just isn’t my thing (except for CIZE, because that shiz is fun!). So I ultimately decided to switch to a hybrid of two programs that I love: I’m doing ChaLEAN Extreme (my soulmate program) for strength training, and Core de Force for cardio. Back to enjoying exercise again!

Lastly, I discovered Instagram stories is quite fun! So follow me over there to get more of the day to day as I reach for my 40×40 goals!

So what’s up for May? Well, this one isn’t so much fun. Haha! But I know it’s something I need to do. Up next is…

Sober May.

Yep, giving up the wine and margaritas this month. Thankfully, with 2B Mindset, NOTHING is off limits, so you totally can enjoy a glass of wine or whatever your beverage of choice is. But I had gotten in a bad habit late last year of nightly wine, plus margaritas on the weekends, etc.. When you’re trying to lose weight, you have to make SOME sacrifices, and I just wasn’t really wanting to make that one for a while. But I know it’s holding me back. I also know I need to break the habit. Last year when things got hard, I didn’t turn to food or drink for comfort necessarily, but I did develop a “who gives a crap” kind of attitude about it all – if I wanted something, I didn’t deprive myself. That led to some major weight regain.

I got the food back under control a few months ago, but the truth is, I know I can do even better. So for May, no adult beverages. I can’t wait to see what this will do for my metabolism and weight loss, and I’m excited to start fresh with better habits after this month-long fast is over.

Bring it, May! Just, hold my beer til June.

40 x 40

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“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

Today I turned, gulp, 39. If there’s one thing the last almost four decades of life have shown me, it’s that without direction, I flounder. No plan equals no progress. And I have some big goals for the last year of my thirties, so it’s time for a big plan.

The biggest goal is health-related. I’ve been working on my health all of my adult life, and while that will always be the case, it’s time to hit my goal this year and get to a healthy, sustainable weight. That means 40 more pounds need to vacate my body. I can absolutely do that in one year, so 40 lbs gone by the time I’m 40 is Goal #1.

Now the scarier part. For each month of the next year, I’ve chosen something that either 1) challenges me, 2) scares me, or 3) is on my “bucket list.” Many of them will support my overarching goal of 40 X 40, but all of them will support my quest to become a truer, kinder, braver and stronger human being. Some will hopefully help me become a better wife, mother and friend. And some will just be fun, because I think life SHOULD be fun.

I’m going to blog the next year, but I’ve also started a new Instagram account where I’ll be sharing as the year progresses (fortybyfortygoals). Some of these things may only be scary or challenging to me, and some are quite personal and will require some major vulnerability to share, but I’m going to do my best to be open with the good and the bad for anyone who wants to follow along. Because if there’s one OTHER thing the last almost four decades of life has shown me, it’s that the journey is infinitely more enjoyable and rewarding when I share it with friends.

On being the one in the middle

one in the middle

If there’s one thing I’ve observed these last few months over and over again, it’s that some people are really not comfortable with others’ pain. And, I get that. I honestly do. I confess that I sometimes am impatient with friends or family members who don’t move on as quickly as I think they should. Isn’t that awful?! I think a perfect metaphor for this is how unsympathetic I can be when my children get physically hurt. I’m not talking broken limbs, but you know, that “tiny little cut that really doesn’t need a band-aid, but your kid won’t rest until a princess or superhero on a piece of plastic is securely attached to the ‘wound’” situation? No, wallowing over small insults isn’t a good habit, but there is a deep pain that can’t be ignored, and rushing someone through the healing process just because YOU’RE over it? Not helpful. Not Christ-like. And certainly ineffective.

Last night I sat on a pew in a beautiful Methodist church in my city, surrounded by some of my close friends along with some women I am just getting to know. I soaked up some amazing truth from Jen Hatmaker’s message on the Good Samaritan, and the power of community to carry us through dark seasons. I cried with every other “mommy” in the room hearing, once again (it gets me EVERY time!), Nichole Nordeman’s poignant song on the fleetingness of childhood. And I laughed until I cried at the two women’s “funny because it’s true” stories of being a mom.

But what I didn’t expect was how painful the night would be for me too. Jen Hatmker experienced some deep hurt last year, and her reflections on that season were so real and true for me in the season I am in. It was hard to hear, but so important. I wanted to document some of the words that resonated intensely with me.

*Denying our pain is only going to short-circuit our transformation.
*Christians love a quick pain arc. We like tidy bows. But some suffering is slow.
*You are not bad PR for Christianity if you are still hurting long past the point of impact. (Cue the ugly cry in the church pew for party of one here!)
*You have a Jesus who will sit with you long past the point that others will. (Cue ugly cry 2.0.)
*[Unaddressed] Acute pain will turn into chronic pain that will turn into a damaged person. And damaged people damage others. People who don’t transform their pain, transmit it.
*We have a great capacity to persevere. Nothing in your life is too dead for resurrection.

And finally, the truth that confirmed that what I am doing (i.e., everything in the list below!) is exactly what is going to get me to the other side of this:

*Treating yourself kindly looks like doing the work. Counseling, relational work, setting boundaries, therapy, medication, community, prayer and meditation. No matter how brokenhearted we are, we have what we need. God has given us the tools to become healthy and whole.

Jen also shared a beautiful truth I’ve heard before about female elephants, how they protect each other during childbirth, surrounding the vulnerable one and giving her what she needs in her moment of pain and suffering that will ultimately bring forth new life. We all take turns in the middle, and no one stays there forever.

When you’re the one in the middle, man, it sucks. But when you look up and see that beautiful community of women surrounding you, protecting you and loving you, it gives you what you need to do the hard work. And one day, you won’t be in the middle anymore.

To the women who have been my herd these last few months:
Thank you simply isn’t enough. But know that I am indeed doing the work, so I hope you won’t have to keep protecting me too much longer. But thank you for not rushing me. Thank you for never making me feel that I should be “over it” (even though I have felt that way towards myself so often). Thank you for standing side by side to be one of my “herd,” even though so many of you don’t even know each other. God is using you in my life in a big way, and one day, I’ll be honored to do the same for you.