Have you ever looked at pictures people share and thought that because they looked happy, they were? I have. The pictures that we take and share are often just part of the story.
This month I crossed something off my bucket list. I got to walk the Portuguese coastal route of the Camino de Santiago. Each day, I shared pictures on Facebook. Friends commented on how happy I looked. But, there was another story going on underneath the surface.
The scenery was gorgeous and the pictures were filled with smiles. Underneath it all, I was consumed by an intense inner struggle. I was struggling both mentally and emotionally in between the moments of magic and wonder.
I spent most of my time comparing myself to others and beating myself up. I was criticizing myself for EVERYTHING. I was filled with judgments of not being as good, as friendly, as social, as loving, or as happy as everybody else seemed to be. I just couldn’t seem to enjoy what was going on as much as everybody else seemed to be enjoying it. I started thinking that something was wrong with me. Then I began to wonder how people could love me. When others shared pictures of animals, children, and things waiting for them when they returned home, I was smiling on the outside and inside I was envious and scared. A few nights before the end of the trip I broke down and cried because I felt as though there was nothing to return home to. No animals, no special person, no one waiting for me... It was intense. I was internalizing so much self-hatred that I developed a migraine and nausea. And to make matters worse, as everyone around me continued to be having the time of their lives, I felt like a bigger and bigger failure. It got pretty dark. And honestly, I had moments of not wanting to be alive.
Luckily, I made a decision when I was a child that suicide would never be an option for me. I grew up with a mom who, when life became overwhelming, had the habit of trying to end her life. As a child I watched this play out and lived through multiple botched suicide attempts on her end. Looking back, I understand that she did her best. She didn't feel supported in this world. She kept looking for something or someone outside of her to make her happy. At the age of 10, I decided that I would not allow myself to follow in her footsteps. My life became a search for that "missing something." That thing she couldn't seem to find. Little did I know at the time that I was on a search for God.
Throughout the years I've experienced the difference in the way that I think and feel when I'm diligent with my spiritual practices and using my spiritual tools. When I feel connected to that source of love or to God, I feel lighter and I’m able to enjoy life. When I do not use my spiritual tools, I feel lost and those voices of not being good enough, loved, or lovable amp up their volume.
After I returned home and got back into my routine it became so obvious. My internal emotional struggle happened because I had forgotten my daily spiritual practices. As a result I felt all alone. While I was walking on the Camino, I slid into a routine of waking up, getting dressed, eating, walking, eating, packing, and sleeping. I forgot to actively use my spiritual tools and as a result did not feel connected to LOVE. I started looking for others to comfort me and forgot about my inner connection to the Divine. As a result, the voices of doubt and self-hatred got really loud.
The experience I had on the Camino showed me how essential consistency and spiritual practice is. As my spiritual routine started back up, my nausea and headache disappeared.
During the Camino, I had forgotten to make my practice portable. The funny part is, I write about that ALL. THE. TIME. Having the experience of what my life was like without my spiritual practices was such a wake up call!. I was shown through this experience how dark my life would be without the light of LOVE's presence. No thank you!
As I'm writing this, I'm feeling a new level of compassion for my mother.
While I may not be picture perfect, I would like to be in sync with those pictures that I shared. Or any pictures moving forward. I do desire to be what those pictures seemed to portray. Without my spiritual practice, I can see now that any seemingly "happy" pictures are only window dressing.
What’s being shown in a picture is not always the whole story. It’s what’s going on beneath the surface that really matters. What’s going on underneath is what is going to guide your life.
In life, we walk through each moment that we experience. As we experience the sights, smells, sounds, and thoughts, a consistent Spiritual practice supports us in enjoying the walk. It puts a bounce in our step or helps us continue when we go through darkness.
I enjoy being a Spiritual Counselor because I truly understand what it’s like to live in fear, doubt, and unworthiness. And I am willing to persevere. Encouraging others holds me accountable. If you are struggling mentally and emotionally about your own sense of worth, I would be honored to support you on your walk through life. Thank you for reading this and choosing to explore beneath the surface.