Life can be hard. And when it gets that way we have two choices. We can quit or we can absorb the blows and use them to better ourselves and help others. Experience the Spafford’s story…
’But I do not think of our dear ones there. They are safe, folded, the dear lambs.’
Years ago, I walked into church on Easter Sunday, shook the pastor’s hand, and asked him how he was doing.
He looked me square in the eyes and said, “It is well with my soul.” His facial expression spoke for his sincerity.
I was deeply touched by the pastor’s reply. This guy had something I wanted. So I made it my business to dig in to the origin of “It is well with my soul.”
What I found was fascinating, heartbreaking, and inspiring.
“It Is Well with My Soul”
Fact is, growing up in the United Methodist Church, I’m familiar with the pastor’s words. I’ve sung the hymn “It is Well with My Soul” dozens of times.
Here’s the first verse…
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.
The lyrics of the hymn were written by Horatio Spafford, the music composed by Philip Bliss. It was first published in 1876.
I’ll tell the tale…
A family’s remarkable story
Horatio Spafford was a successful lawyer who’d significantly invested in Chicago property.
Unfortunately, most of his properties were in the area of the city that was horribly damaged by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
The losses financially ruined him.
If that wasn’t enough, what remained of his business portfolio was decimated by the financial Panic of 1873.
Spafford knew It was time to get away, so he and his wife Anna planned a family trip to Europe on the French steamship Ville du Havre.
However, due to ongoing business challenges, a decision was made that Anna and their four daughters would make the trip, Spafford joining them later.
On November 22, 1873, as seen in our featured image, the Ville du Havre (on the right) collided with the British ship Loch Earn and sank in 12 minutes. All four of their daughters were among the 226 souls lost.
Miraculously, Anna survived; floating unconscious on a plank of wood.
A fellow survivor recalled her saying, “God gave me four daughters. Now they have been taken from me. Someday I will understand why.”
Nine days later, Anna landed in Wales and cabled her husband, “Saved alone. What shall I do…”
Horatio sets sail
Horatio made the trip to Europe to meet the grieving Anna and accompany her home.
During his passage, the ship’s captain called him to his cabin to tell him they were passing over the spot where the Ville du Havre sunk.
Horatio, a devout Presbyterian, wrote to Anna’s half-sister: “On Thursday last we passed over the spot where she went down, in mid-ocean, the waters three miles deep. But I do not think of our dear ones there. They are safe, folded, the dear lambs.”
Not long after, Horatio wrote the words for what would become “It Is Well with My Soul.” When Philip Bliss put the words to music, he named it “Ville du Havre.”
Absorbing the blow
Back in the States, the Spaffords had three more children. Sadly, one of them died at age four of scarlet fever.
The Presbyterian Church considered their tragedies divine punishment, so the Spaffords formed a Christian utopian society.
In 1881, the Spafford family, with a small number of society members, left for Jerusalem – setting up what they called the American Colony.
The Colony provided aid to the Christians, Jews, and Muslims of Jerusalem – without proselytizing motives. Their soup kitchens, hospitals, orphanages, and other charitable ventures were critical during and immediately following World War I.
The American Colony became world renowned after being featured in the novel Jerusalem, written by Nobel Prize winning author Selma Lagerlöf.
What about you?
Life’s going to get hard – count on it. And we can either throw in the towel or take the hits and turn them into positive thinking and action.
It ain’t always sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. Life can become difficult and dark. Many say there’s no “can” about it. Are you struggling right now? How ‘bout 12 pieces of hope.
Something marvelous was about to occur, until we threw in the towel.
With some 50 years of difficulty and darkness backing it, try this on for size…
If we don’t accept life’s inherent difficulty and darkness, we’ll never have a shot at peace of mind and personal growth.
Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, no diagnosis – doesn’t matter, it applies to everyone.
Of course, acceptance is one thing, taking action is another.
”If-“ by Rudyard Kipling
Let’s kick things off with the second verse of English poet Rudyard Kipling’s “If-,” written in 1895.
Couple of interesting notes going in. Kipling wrote the poem in the form of paternal advice to his son. It’s been cherished around the world since it was published. And it’s said that Muhammad Ali carried the poem in his wallet.
See how you feel about it…
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master; If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools
Gut reaction? And that’s just one of four verses.
12 pieces of hope when life becomes difficult
So we’ve established that life can become difficult and dark. Maybe that’s the way it is for you right now. From my experience, those pieces of hope…
Take comfort in constants. We may feel dark and cold, but the rest of the world hasn’t changed.
The day after the very worst of days often brings surprisingly positive developments.
The difficulty and darkness factors of life are permanent – only if we turn away acceptance and action.
Hope is like the sun on a cloudy day. We may not see it, but it’s there.
Answers exist, though they’re not always immediate and clear.
Knee-jerk running for emotional and mental cover doesn’t work.
It’s never over until we say it’s over.
We can’t underestimate the power of reason in changing how we think – feel and behave.
Living in yesterday eliminates tomorrows.
Something marvelous was about to occur, until we threw in the towel.
Rumination is ruination.
Anybody can cruise through the good times. Give me someone who’s fought for their sanity, survival, and peace of mind.
I’ll bet each of us can come up with more.
Keep our chins up
It ain’t all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. I’ve come to expect it. And when life gets difficult and dark, acceptance and action are all that matter.
Those pieces of hope? A little something to keep our chins up.
Puzzles: with an unsettled mind they just keep coming. In fact, I’ve been working on a couple of toughies for some time. The truth about puzzles when you’re living with mental illness? You can’t solve ‘em all.
’You struggle to make the change because the old behavior is still meeting a need. Instead of shaming yourself…”
I’m a mental illness lifer.
My first derealization episode hit when I was nine. And things went full throttle generalized anxiety, panic, agoraphobia, social anxiety, OCD, depression, and alcohol 11 years later.
Sharing air with mental illness for the bulk of my 68 years has been an odyssey.
Physical, emotional, and mental puzzles
If you’ve coexisted with mental illness – what I really prefer calling emotional/mental disorders – for any length of time, you’re likely not stunned when a new puzzle gets tossed your way.
And human beings that we are, we don’t much like aggravation and pain. So if a particular puzzle delivers a good portion of it, we’re going to do all we can to solve it.
But is it always possible? My version of the truth…
When it comes to anatomy, physiology, and genetics puzzles, there’s no way they’re all going to be solved.
I don’t get wound up about it because I’ve studied and written about them for years. And when you view the lay of the land you realize an unsolved puzzle isn’t going to do you in.
We also have to consider the fact that the brain and the rest of the body will always generate “unsolved psych mysteries.” And if the greatest minds in the world can’t solve the puzzles, why should we sweat nails over them?
Emotional and mental puzzles
Now, those emotional and mental puzzles – I absolutely get wound up about them. To underscore the point I’m going to share those “couple of toughies” I mentioned in the opening.
But before we jump in…
It’s hard for me to open up about deeply personal information. It would be one thing if I were telling you I’ve always wanted to be a CIA agent. But to me, what you’re about to read exceeds Top Secret.
Still, it’s good to get it off my chest. And who knows, it may hit home for someone, providing a measure of relief.
Generalized anxiety, panic, agoraphobia, social anxiety, OCD, depression: as challenging as they are, they aren’t puzzles to me anymore. They’re just part of life.
But low self-esteem and emptiness – the “toughies?” In my mind, they’re 1,000 piecers. Solving them would be an unexpected gift.
I’ll open the book…
I struggle with self-esteem. And that means self-confidence and insecurity can also become problems. I call them the “Big 3.”
The puzzle doesn’t include awareness or acceptance. Even why isn’t much of a factor anymore. But it definitely includes what to do about it.
“I guess I’m going to have to let this one go – unsolved. I tried and that’s all I can do.”
I’ve wrestled with the Big 3 since I was a kid. I mean, the derealization episode I mentioned earlier bears witness to the fact that goofy things were going on in my head.
Curiously, most things came easy to me growing up. Athletics, social life – you name it – I did well. And I enjoyed the spotlight. I’ll even go so far as to say I was a lot of people’s “pick to click” in life. That is until the puzzles appeared and devoured me at the age of 20.
I’d fooled my share of people, most of all myself. There was a ton of mind work to be done and it didn’t happen. But then again, I didn’t know.
What to do about it? I work hard on coming to grips with myself. Will the puzzle ultimately be solved? No.
Just as my self-esteem puzzle is a combo package, so it is with emptiness. Its partner is loneliness.
By the way, isn’t it interesting that we’re most often dealing with a constellation of signs and symptoms? Never seems to be just one thing, does it.
Okay, for years I’ve affectionately referred to it as “The Feeling.” It’s this overwhelming sense of emptiness – desolation. Maybe I could call it “The Black Hole.”
And that’s just what it is – a feeling of gnawing anxiety, loneliness, and “Where did everybody go?” “Everybody” includes me.
No problem tracing its roots to childhood, so the why’s are handled. What to do about it? Just like self-esteem, I do everything I can to manage, but the puzzle will never be solved.
I never grew up
As long as I’m on a revelation roll, I may as well go all the way.
Low self-esteem, low self-confidence, insecurity, emptiness, loneliness, and more. I really believe I never learned how to live. And in many ways, I never grew up.
That accounts for a whole lot of unsolvable puzzles.
New ways to meet the need
As we begin to wrap things up, take a look at this brilliant observation I found on The EQ School’s website…
You struggle to make the change because the old behavior is still meeting a need. Instead of shaming yourself, identify the deeper need and allow it to exist. Then get curious about a new way to meet it.
Regardless of your truth on the solvability of puzzles, what a remarkable take – and great advice.
You can’t solve ‘em all
Anatomy, physiology, genetics, the emotional and mental: puzzles just keep coming when you’re living with mental illness. And that’s never going to change.
The truth is, you can’t solve ‘em all.
Looking to improve your emotional intelligence? See what’s up at The EQ School.
The weeds are deep out there. Makes it tough to get around and hides the spiders and snakes. Vigilance and stress take their toll. “I’m burned out on life.” But are you willing to make a comeback?
What percentage of supposed ‘normal’ people could walk even a half-mile in your shoes?
Trudging through the overgrowth day after day is exasperating and exhausting.
And if you’re living with depression and anxiety symptoms, the weeds are all the more deep.
If you’ve come to the conclusion that you’re burned out on life, the only thing that immediately matters is having the will to make a comeback – after a well-deserved break.
Crushed by negative self-talk
As burnout sets in, one of the first challenges that presents is negative self-image. And the accompanying unfair and crushing negative self-talk makes it a two for one special.
Can you picture our friend above saying…
“How could I be this weak?”
“How could I have screwed up my life so badly.”
“All these years later, and this is where I am?”
“The great comedy: my life is absolutely meaningless and worthless.
And, of course, repetition makes it difficult to turn things around.
By the way, do any of those observations ring true to you?
Be kind to yourself
So what to do about this burnout business?
Well, there are a variety of options. But for the sake of simplicity, let’s run with just one: start being kind to yourself.
What does it look like?
“I’m not good at doing things like this, but for the sake of my comeback…”
Have you ever given yourself a hug?
If you have, how long has it been since the last one? If you haven’t, would you do it?
But maybe you aren’t into hugs. What about giving yourself an occasional round of applause? Or go with verbal expression. I frequently say aloud, “Nice job, Bill.” if I handled something well. I’ll even throw in a modest fist pump.
For all I know you’re rolling your eyes. That’s fine, but you can still give the concept a go. I’m telling you, if you do it consistently, it works.
Holding onto hope
So you’re burned out on life – and you’re still reading. That’s a good sign. Seems to me you’re willing to make a comeback when the time is right.
It feels like you’re holding onto hope.
It takes time
Look, I’ve been there. Fact is, the dilemma isn’t going to be resolved by the end of the day.
However, as long as you continue to move even inches forward – mentally, emotionally, or physically – you’re recovering, whether you realize it or not.
That may be hard to wrap your arms around, but it’s true.
Where do I start?
Let’s say you’re beyond willingness and ready to make your comeback. Where do you start?
As with any quality rebuilding project, work on the foundation. That means addressing the two for one special: your negative self-image and negative self-talk.
And I can’t think of a better way to get the wheels rolling than to include being kind to yourself in your daily routine.
Need some motivation?
What percentage of supposed “normal” people could walk even a half-mile in your shoes?
We both know the number is low. So put that fact to work. Use it to pump yourself up for your comeback.
That’s all that matters
The weeds are deep out there. And the vigilance and stress that come with trudging through them take their toll.
“I’m burned out on life.” But are you willing to make a comeback?
That’s all that matters.
Would you like to read more Chipur mood and anxiety info and inspiration articles? Hit those titles.
Our personal truth is unwavering. Running and hiding may keep it in check. But sooner or later, in one way or another, the truth comes to call. And it’s time to settle accounts.
…I didn’t think very highly of myself. And I knew there would be no peace until I settled accounts.
Many moons ago, I was on one of my personal fact-finding journeys.
I needed to know if my anxiety and depression symptoms were triggered by internal conflict caused by suspect personal truth.
I was leaving no stone unturned.
The personal truth mission
The mission consumed me – so much so that I wrote a poem during the journey. In “The Hardest Thing” I talked about “a deep and honest view,” “the running gone,” and “holding out for what is true.”
I’ve included it at the end. Maybe it’ll hit home.
I’ve thought quite a bit about the mission and poem over the years. Actually, I just started a new journey and the poem continues to guide me.
Now, I’m guessing I wrote that piece 35 years ago, at the age of 33. It was several years after I’d stopped drinking, and was still getting creamed by seemingly every anxiety and depression symptom in the book. Funny now, I was a walking DSM.
You’d better believe I was going to get chin-deep in my personal truth – what I thought it was, what it really was, and what it needed to be.
I was in pain.
”What is my personal truth?”
All those years ago, I’d ask myself throughout the day, “Who are you, Bill White?” For my money it’s the same as asking, “What’s your personal truth?” And you know what? I had no clue.
The power of personal truth
“I know you’re out there. And I’ll keep looking ‘til I find you.”
Okay, so I was identity challenged. Regardless, I became convinced that the internal conflict generated by my suspect personal truth was a big-time anxiety and depression symptom trigger.
Personal truth is that powerful.
If you’re dealing with a mood or anxiety disorder, you know internal and external chaos can wreak havoc in our lives.
As the mission continued, my personal truth began to present. It was clear that I didn’t think very highly of myself. And I knew there would be no peace until I settled accounts.
I made it a lifetime endeavor. Again, I’ve just started a new fact-finding journey.
“The Hardest Thing”
Let’s take a look at the poem. Hope it helps in some way…
The Hardest Thing
The hardest thing I had to do Was chance a deep and honest view The running gone A quiet place The me I never want to face
I want to scream And fight you I want to seize warmth and turn it cold Making you sorry you crossed my path
I’ll beg you to shun me And leave me alone I’ll run so far away So fast You’ll never find me
But I want to cry I want to share Be touched Known Warmed
The misery The contradiction Of me
The hardest thing I had to do Was holding out for what is true
To know myself The wayward man The soul I try to understand
Take the bull by the horns
Our personal truth is unwavering. Sure, we can run and hide, but why waste time? Sooner or later, in one way or another, it’ll come to settle accounts.
Take the bull by the horns and don’t let it go down that way. Your personal truth is who you are. Keep looking ‘til you find it. How could it not change your life?