Karen on April 17, 2014

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I love the “On This Day” feature on Facebook. I check it every day – I mean, it’s one of the first things I do in the morning. Yes, embarrassing, but true. I love seeing photos I had forgotten about, seeing faces I haven’t seen in a while, and cringing at high school Karen trying to sound cool (y’all – 2007 Karen wasn’t afraid to drop the f-bomb on her Facebook status… pray for her).

This particular post, though.

“For a few months I felt like I had completely lost myself, I didn’t feel like Karen. I was trying to find my identity in someone that I wasn’t and could never be.”

The Karen on April 17, 2014 was a very broken, exhausted, hurting, sick, and lost girl. I was only three months out of a terrible relationship. I was still brand new to Austin and living on my own for the very first time. I only had a few friends, and only one or two I could be completely honest with. I was trying to fit in so hard in a community where I just didn’t belong. I was still photographing weddings, but seeing other couples happy while recovering from a manipulative relationship caused me so much sorrow. I was questioning every decision I had ever made and doubting myself daily.

Plus, my health was an absolute mess. I didn’t know I had bipolar – I knew I was depressed, knew I had anxiety, and I had just been diagnosed with ADHD, not realizing that the ADHD was actually mania. I was scared into being a vegetarian and was too fearful to eat. (Note: Nothing wrong with being a vegetarian! I still wish I could be! But my choice came from a place of manipulation and to this day triggers PTSD for me.) See the cheese pizza in that photo? I lived off of cheese pizza and cheese quesadillas for months. I had lost 40lbs because I was so fearful of food. I was getting migraines almost daily due of my horrible diet and went to the ER at least 10 times that year due to migraines. The doctors and nurses actually knew me and thankfully they never questioned me once.

I was broken. Utterly broken.

But I wasn’t hopeless, I wasn’t completely lost. It’s evident in this same photograph – I knew I needed help, I knew I needed healing, I knew I needed my Savior. I began shifting my focus of my identity in myself to my identity in Him… that’s an even longer post for another time. I was trying. Oh, I was using any energy I had to reach for Him.

Can I be honest about something?

I never got back to the Karen that I used to be.

And can I be even more honest?

I will never be the Karen I used to be… and that’s okay.

After experiencing and surviving a trauma, I don’t think you can ever be the same person you were before. It does change you – you can go to all the therapy and counseling you want (I still go every month), you can get all the healing and mend broken bridges, you can surrender pains and sorrow to the Lord over and over… but once  you begin to stand tall again there’s the realization that you’re still you, just a you with a few scars to remind you of where you’ve been.

Yes, I’ve gained those 40lbs back (plus some additional “happy marriage” weight), I have a healthy relationship with food and enjoy exercising again… but “challenges” and food fasts like Whole30 trigger me almost instantly.

Yes, I now have the proper medical diagnosis… but I still forget to take my pills, I still experience occasional mania, and I am still learning what it means to have bipolar II.

Yes, I know my identity is found solely in Christ, that I am His creation, that I am His image bearer, that I am fearfully and wonderfully made… but you don’t have to have gone through trauma or have a mental illness to struggle with this.

I am not the same Karen that moved to Austin all bright-eyed, optimistic, and fear free… I’m a bit more cynical, I take more medication, and I have a hard time opening up.

I am the healthiest I’ve ever been. I feel more loved than I ever have before. I am in a loving, joy filled, sarcastic, healthy, amazing marriage with a man who truly loves me like Christ loves the church. I know who I am and who God made me to be; even if I don’t always love my diagnosis, I know He loves me unconditionally and that my diagnosis does not make Him flinch. I also love and care for others more than I could before, because I know what it’s like to be alone and utterly broken. Plus, I probably have the best dog in the world.

So sweet, hopeful, exhausted Karen on April 17, 2014, I’m so sorry that you won’t be the Karen you were before… but if you could see the Karen you’re going to be, I think it would make you smile for the first time in a very long time.

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