Hello, lovely readers.
It’s been a bumpy week over here. This would be the perfect time to hole up under my bed and never blog another word, especially about anxiety and depression.
Amid the swirl of my own emotions, however, I’ve come to settle into a comforting thought. I’m not writing this blog for people who can easily pull it all together. I’m writing to you, my fellow under-the-bed comrades.
I’m not sure I’d claim to be an expert at crawling out, but I have certainly done it a lot. This week, we are going to look at some steps you can take when you find yourself in a similar predicament.
Step 1: Acknowledge you are here.
You are under the bed. Maybe not literally, although gosh, if my bed were higher and it wasn’t so dusty under there it might have been literal this week. But I digress.
Things have ground to a halt. You are withdrawing from everyone you have ever met and you have holed up in your cocoon for safety.
It’s okay that you are here. It really is. We’re not going to stay here forever. (You have people. And they need you to come out.) But I think the first step is to let go of the guilt you might attach to being here in the first place.
Hiding under the bed is a temporary coping strategy, not an indication of failure. You are here and there’s a reason for it. So let’s lean in and see what’s going on.
Step 2: Uncover Why You Are Here.
Knowing why you are here is important. Some of my most common reasons include:
When my senses are overloaded, it’s like I am listening to my surroundings through a loud speaker. The lights are too bright. I feel irritated and itchy. Certain things start driving me crazy, like static cling or the length of my nails. Maybe I’m odd in this, I don’t know. But it’s a real thing.
The logistics of our home environment can also contribute to our sense crisis. Crying babies, fussy toddlers, whining children, or argumentative teens can fry us like nothing else.
We might need time to recharge from too much peopling. Or to retreat from the complexity of our surroundings. Either way, sensory overload can send us under the bed.
As human beings, we need time to process what is going on in our lives. To slow down and figure out what we think and feel. If we don’t take that time, that time tends to take us. Maybe that is why you are here.
Big emotions, like grief and heartbreak, can be powerful and need their own space. If we deny them, sooner or later the waves will catch up with us and wipe us out.
Spending time by yourself is so important, but sometimes we need help. If you find that you are frequently in this place, overwhelmed by these big emotions, it might be a good move to see about therapy or counseling. They can help you keep your bearings as you navigate these times of processing.
Sometimes I want to hide under the bed to avoid deciding one more thing. When small questions like “Mom, where does this go?” make my head explode, I know it is time to retreat. Whether there are 8 billion tiny decisions or one or two mammoth ones, sometimes I am hiding to find some answers. Or at least to get them to stop swirling so I can look them over.
I have to say it. Sometimes, I am hiding under my bed because I’d rather do that than do what God is telling me to do.
Maybe I’m afraid. Maybe I think the job is too much for me and that God should ask someone else to do it. Whatever the reason, I hide.
Under the bed, it’s easy to sink into my dysfunction without the pesky interruption of truth. Here, I can rehearse the reasons for my fear. I can justify an unforgiving heart. I can wallow in envy and self-pity. I can be impatient with God’s timing and angry with His plan.
Maybe I’ve just blown it with some people that I love. And so, I hold a vigil for my wounded pride. Under the bed.
And then there are those times when I’m sure that I have some sort of deep horrible problem, when really, I just need sleep. There’s nothing overtly spiritual going on. I am not suppressing my emotions. The world is not too much. I am just exhausted and need to rest.
Step 3: Do What You Need to Do.
After you have acknowledged that yes, once again, you are under the bed, and you have determined the reason(s) for it, it’s time to do what you need to do.
Here are some suggestions I find helpful. Take what fits.
For Sensory Overload: If at all possible, separate yourself from your phone. If silence and solitude are options for you, turn off lights, sit in the quiet, and listen to the sound of your own breathing. Take a bath or a long walk. In a pinch, I find that putting ear buds in and escaping to do the dishes can feel very therapeutic. Just do something that gives your overloaded senses a break.
If sudden overwhelm is your struggle, I wrote a post last March that might be helpful, On Chaos and Complexity.
For Unprocessed Emotions: Use this time to let your feelings say their piece, even the painful, ugly ones you’d rather not give the mic. I find that writing or typing out what I am feeling brings clarity and helps me be honest with myself. Sit with the anger or the sadness you may not have realized you had. Know that the Lord is sitting with you as your comforter and guide.
Maybe it’s time to make that phone call to set up a counseling appointment. Or reach out to a friend who can be a listening ear. Do what you need to do.
For Decision Fatigue: Whether you are faced with a big decision or many small ones, this is the time to get to the bottom of your own desire. Often, we can ignore our own opinions because it is easier just to go along with what everyone else wants. But it’s time to get in touch with what we actually think. This will help us make better, more authentic decisions.
If we don’t take the time to do this, the parade marches on, we feel unheard, and we can become secretly resentful. Figuring out what you think and owning it is really important.
I have benefited greatly from listening to The Next Right Thing podcast by Emily P. Freeman. She’s also written several books I’ve found very helpful. If decision fatigue is your thing, check out her website at emilypfreeman.com or search for The Next Right Thing in your podcast app. Her mission is to help people create space for their souls to breathe so that they can do their next right thing. Isn’t that a lovely tagline?
For Spiritual Reasons: Maybe you are hiding from the Lord. I’ve done it. Maybe we all have. There are times when I am actively clinging to my own disobedience and I don’t want to change. Did you not realize Christians could feel that way? Well, we can. But it makes us very miserable.
It’s time to get honest with the Lord about the condition of our hearts. Back it up. If the only thing you can pray is “God, I don’t want to change” then pray it. Own where you are. He already knows, but admitting where you are postures you toward the Lord, rather than away from Him. Lay it all out and ask for His help.
I heard a Paul Tripp sermon recently called Grace in Failure. At the very end he said something that really struck my heart: Jesus didn’t merely bear our sin, he bore our shame. He bore our rejection. So that even in our most self-driven, delusional moments, we will never see the back of God’s head.
Isn’t that good? Jesus bore our rejection. That means that God sees us, the sinful messes that we are, and He will never turn his face away. Let that idea settle down deep in your soul and give you the courage to bring your mess to the Lord. God sees you, loves you, and will help you. Be where you are in the presence of God.
For Physical Exhaustion: Maybe you’ve been going non-stop in a very busy season. Crashing is your body’s way of telling you to slow down. Sometimes the most strategic move you can make is to rest. Take a nap or plan an early bedtime. Don’t be overwhelmed at your tired and crazy feelings, thinking it will take you forever to sort them out. Let yourself rest and recover. Even if there are other reasons to sort through, it will be much easier to do so when you aren’t on the brink of collapse. Rest in the Lord and let Him refresh you, body and soul.
Whatever has brought you here to hide from it all, let’s embrace where it directs us to turn. This beautiful quote speaks it well:
Step 4: Prepare for Re-entry.
It has to happen sometime.
We can’t live under the bed, as much as we would like to. Remember, withdrawal is only a temporary solution. We have people who need us, whether we realize it or not. Hiding under the bed might feel safe, but that’s not the legacy I want to be remembered for. “She hid under the bed her whole life long” doesn’t sit well when I put it that way. Sooner or later, we are going to have to brave the world again.
If it’s been a while since you’ve been out, start small. Maybe just sit outside and feel the brisk November air. Watch the squirrels chattering about their winter acorns or your children playing in the yard. Maybe meet a friend for coffee. Take a walk and say hello to anybody who looks your way. Take deep breaths and notice small bits of beauty.
If your home is bustling, enter it with a subtle round of hugs to each of person, just because. Remember that your full home is not a permanent situation. Take a moment to notice the things you know you will someday miss. Let gratitude settle you back into the rhythm of your life.
Move forward with the next thing you know you need to do. And then do the next thing after that.
Be brave and come out. Know that God is with you.
I’m not saying you won’t wind up under the bed again another day. But for now, there are some things you need to do, some people you need to love, and some life you need to live.
You can do it.