Have you ever been genuinely asked by someone who cares: tell me how you really feel? This is what I’m going to do today because I care about you (otherwise, why would I invest thousands of hours of my life into this Christian blog and my Christian podcast to encourage and empower you?)
The cover image of this blog post highlights the season that forced me to deal with all my feelings. It was the worst season of my life, which started with my wedding on May 14th, 2016. If you’re ready to embark on a journey of exploration and breakthroughs, read this blog post to discover what happened in my life, which will encourage and empower you in your life.
The podcast above is 3.5 hours long! It’s the longest podcast episode I’ve ever produced for The Anna Szabo Show. It was uncomfortable but I did it anyway, because God called me to share what I’ve learned on my spiritual journey. So…
Let’s get started!
I’ll be completely honest with you: feelings were never my strength or skillset. There were two feelings allowed and exhibited in my family growing up: defensiveness and anger. Actually, I’d call the kind of daily anger that was expressed by the members of my family toward each other rage. Most of the time, people were enraged, and I had to be defensive in order to defend myself.
That was all I knew.
I didn’t know how to be fully human.
Actually, I avoided feelings and checked out of my humanness focusing on being like a tank, aka a military vehicle that goes through adversity and withstands anything on its way. Then, I couldn’t do it anymore, so I almost killed myself. I talk a lot about all those life experiences on my podcast.
RELATED: Christian Podcast for Women
Though I wasn’t a feelings-expert, I did invest a few years, since 2014, into studying feelings, how they affected my life, how they led to my sex addiction and alcoholism, and how they even came about. I’ve unpacked why I struggle with anxiety, depression, self-doubt, Complex PTSD, OCD, and why I need so much time to be completely alone in total silence.
RELATED: My Sex Addiction Story
Today, I want to talk about feelings with you.
Often in life, we either don’t know what we feel or are hesitant to admit what we feel because we think that certain feelings are either bad, too painful, or even unbiblical. That’s when we deny our feelings, fight them, resent them, and avoid them. Have you ever felt that way? I certainly have.
I was anxious about my anxiety because I thought it was unbiblical. I was irritated about being irritated because I thought it was unbiblical. I was depressed about my depression because I thought it was unbiblical.
Today, I will not only share the examples and stories from my personal life, but I also got permission to share some stories from the life of my good friend. We will call her Elena (it’s not her real name). She is a beautiful young woman who lives in NY. She is now at the age I was 10 years ago when I started making a lot of mistakes.
She was raised in the environment completely opposite of my abusive family: she was loved and cared for, unlike me (I was neglected, hated, and rejected). Yet, everything she feels today I personally either feel now or felt in the past, and how she processes life is my exact experience.
I thought you would benefit if I included some of her stories. This content is aimed to help you understand yourself and accept your humanness.
Let’s take a look at the feelings Jesus felt.
The Feelings Jesus Felt
To lay the foundation for what we will be discussing here, I wanted to first share with you some Biblical stories showcasing the emotions and feelings of Jesus. Why? Because, often, we don’t want to acknowledge our own emotions as we see them ungodly, sinful, and unbiblical.
RELATED: Who Is Jesus?
What I’m about to share with you will help validate any and all of the emotions you experience on a daily basis. God created you and your emotions, so whatever you feel, it is not unbiblical.
The Bible mentions clearly the feelings Jesus felt.
What Jesus Felt
Of course, the Bible has many more of the emotions of Jesus revealed and discussed but this content is about you, that’s why we will take a look at just those few emotions to lay the foundation for the content I’ll share with you in this guide to feelings.
Let’s explore the emotions of Jesus.
Jesus Felt Anger
Mark 3:5 portrays Jesus “looking around with anger” at religious leaders: “He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.”
Why was Jesus angry? Because the religious leaders were concerned only to see if Jesus would break their rules by healing a man on the Sabbath which is when you’re not supposed to “work.”
When Jesus did heal the man, they immediately plotted to kill him. But though Jesus was angry with these religious rulers, he was also “grieved by their hardness of hearts.”
While the cruelty of their actions deserved his anger, the condition of their stony hearts caused him grief. Remember this please, because we will be referring to this story again.
Anger is normal for you to feel.
Jesus Felt Grief
So, Jesus felt grief for the hearts of stones the religious leaders had. Jesus also wept at the tomb of Lazarus. John 11:33 describes it: “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” And John 11:35 reports: “Jesus wept.” let me give you some background.
Jesus knew that His friend Lazarus was dying and He let his die. He was begged to help Lazarus but Jesus said that the death of Lazarus will be used for the glory of God. So, now Lazarus was dead for several days, and here comes Jesus. Everyone is weeping because of their loss. Jesus knows what’s going to happen: He came there to resurrect Lazarus to life. Jesus knows that in a few moments, Lazarus will be resurrected, aka alive walking again.
Yet, Jesus wept. Why? Because He was fully human and He was moved by the human emotions. So, please keep in mind that grief and sorrow are not sinful or unbiblical nor do they indicate your lack of faith and hope.
Jesus had 100% of hope and faith that Lazarus was about to be resurrected and walk around alive again. Though He had all the faith and all the hope, because He was fully human, He still wept from grief and sorrow.
I now weep all I want and never resent my sorrows. I grief whenever I feel hurt and experience emotional pain. That’s how I create a joyful life – by embracing God’s word. This allows me to have peace and joy instead of living half-dead from all thee resentment toward my normal human feelings.
The most powerful example of grief for me personally is described in Matthew 26:38: “Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.””
Can you relate? Have you ever felt like this? Has your soul ever been overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of not even wanting to live? I know I have felt this way when my husband of four months filed for divorce telling me he didn’t want to be married anymore and wanted to be an IronMan instead.
Jesus was deeply grieved by His fate – to be crucified – and He was asking God to even not have to go through that experience. He felt so much grief that He was sweating with blood.
Grief is normal for you to feel.
Jesus Felt Excitement
Jesus loved with strong desire. Luke 22:15 explains how He told his friends: “I have desired with great desire to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” The combination of the verb “desire” and the noun “desire” doubles the intensity in Jesus’ expression of his deep excitement to be with friends.
Have you ever experienced genuine excitement about something or someone? Have you ever felt such excitement in anticipation of spending quality time with someone special? Or excitement about a gift? Excitement about a new stage of life? A new project? A book or piece of art? A trip? A party? I felt the most excitement in my entire life on the day of my wedding, May 14th, 2016 without having any idea that the season I was entering would lead to the worst suffering in my three-plus decades of living.
If you are excited with great excitement, just like Jesus when He described what He was feeling, know that you don’t have to be stoic. You’re a human. You don’t have to pretend to be above it all. You can just be yourself.
Excitement is normal for you to feel.
Jesus Felt Compassion
The Bible has several stories in which we see that Jesus felt deep compassion. Compassion for people in need: a leper (Mark 1:40-41), a widow by the coffin of her only son (Luke 7:13-15), and two blind men (Matthew 20:34). He also felt compassion when he saw crowds starving while following Him (Mark 8:2). There are many more examples.
What I want to show you is that when you feel compassion for a homeless person, a stranger begging for food, a coworker who’s overwhelmed, or any struggling person, it’s good for you to show compassion. It’s normal for you to be disturbed by the suffering of others. It’s normal for you to care deeply. You are a human, not a robot.
Compassion is normal for you to feel.
Jesus Felt Anxiety
Jesus was “troubled in spirit” when He told His disciples that one of them would betray Him. John 13:21 describes His anxiety in the following way: “After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.””
Also, Jesus felt anxiety about His upcoming crucifixion and He begged His disciples to stay awake and keep Him company, but they “slept.” His emotions were too heavy for them to bear, so they escaped into sleep, leaving Jesus alone.
Have you ever experienced anxiety and felt lonely?
Mark 14:33 explains: “He took Peter, James, and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.” Jesus agonized over the awful choice to endure or to escape the cross. As He wrestled in prayer, He was drenched in his own sweat “which ran like blood to the ground” (Luke 22:44).
Mark 14:36 shows us the severe anxiety Jesus went through: “Abba, Father,” He said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not my will but your will be done.” This last statement Jesus made to God is a demonstration of complete surrender.
Anxiety is normal for you to feel.
Jesus Felt Surrender
Surrender means no matter what, you deny yourself and you give up control to let God’s good works happen. Just like the Gospel of Mark, Luke 22:42 describes Jesus praying to God: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
When you feel like giving up on life, give up on control of life instead and surrender to God’s plan. He has your back. Today, people want you to know the future and be all sophisticated, in control, and powerful. That’s the worldly way of living. You’re in the world but not of the world.
When you surrender to God and let Him lead your path, people make fun of you thinking you’re careless and crazy. But the crazy thing is to see all those who advocated for self-power and the pursuit of control, today talk about their surrender to God.
Surrender is normal for you to feel.
Jesus Felt Empathy
Jesus’ empathy flowed out from His intimacy with His Father God. It was after a time of withdrawal to a lonely place by Himself for prayer that Jesus saw the leper and felt empathy, the ability to feel what people felt.
Mark 1: 35-42 and Matthew 14:13-14 describe just some examples of how Jesus felt empathy. Jesus risked His reputation when healing the leper on a sabbath because it made religious leaders furious that Jesus disregarded rules and law. Jesus also healed people despite His own need for rest and solitude. It’s because Jesus felt empathy.
Whenever you feel empathy and put yourself in the shoes of another person as if you were going through their trials, you will be floated with so many emotions. You won’t be stoic or maniacally happy all the time.
Empathy is normal for you to feel.
Jesus Felt Irritation
Jesus felt indignant, which means annoyed and irritated. Mark 10:14 says when His disciples did not allow mothers to bring their children to him for his blessing He got irritated with such unfair treatment.
“Indignant” is a feeling characterized by expression of strong displeasure at something considered unjust, offensive, or insulting.
What happened was the disciples’ self-importance irritated Jesus. Jesus slapped them with rebukes: “Let the children come to me; stop preventing them.” Jesus then hugged the children and blessed them.
So, are you weird or sinful if you’re irritated, annoyed, or aggravated by injustice or unfair treatment? No, you’re not. Jesus was fully God yet He felt the same way.
Irritation is normal for you to feel.
Jesus Felt Love
Jesus pointed to His sacrificial death as the ultimate measure of His love. John 15:13 tells us this: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jesus asked His friends to live up to that standard of love. “This is my commandment: love one another, just as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
To live by that standard of love requires much more than emotions. It calls for total commitment to give up your life for someone else and to trust in the power of God to keep that commitment. But loving as Jesus loves also includes emotions – intense, diverse, deep emotions. His kind of love will arouse emotions of compassion, anger, grief, and joy.
Have you ever felt that strong feeling of love and care for someone? I know I have. This kind of sacrificial love is what I experienced for the first time in my life toward the man I married on May 14th, 2016. This kind of love is what I described in detail in my article called What Is Love?
RELATED: What Is Love?
I’d like you to pause now and answer one question: how do you feel this very moment? Can you recognize and label your feeling? At this moment, are you feeling… Excitement? Judgment? Cynicism? Joy? Acceptance? Sarcasm? Fear? Anger? Surprise? Anxiety? Resentment? Anticipation? Compassion?
What is it that you’re feeling as you’re reading through? Let’s pause and answer this by listening to what is happening within you. If you figured out how you feel, share with me in the comments below.
Want to know how I feel right now?
- I feel blessed to have this opportunity to discuss the topic of feelings, which has been the most critical in my adult life, helping me heal.
- I also feel anxious about sharing my heart with you through the content I prepared. What I plan to reveal in this blog post today is by far my most open, honest, and vulnerable disclosure.
- I feel excited knowing that when you read this content, it will really help you, it will comfort you, and it will facilitate your healing.
Online Discipleship For Women is a ministry I founded in 2017 as I was recovering from a divorce, depression, and suicidal ideation. I committed my life to this ministry with the purpose to help alleviate suicide among women globally by sharing hope in Christ. If you’d like to support my mission, you can make a donation now.
“Whoever Brings Blessing Will be Enriched” Proverbs 11:25
Bless Online Discipleship For Women
How To Understand Feelings
I’d like to share with you how to understand feelings. Later in this article, I’m answering many questions, most commonly asked about feeling feelings. It’s really hard to understand them and figure out what’s happening on the inside and why
I wrote a poem called “Feelings” which reveals my genuine thoughts regarding the hard journey of trying to figure out these complicated things called feelings. For me, it’s been years of practicing and it’s still hard sometimes, though I do admit it’s getting better every day.
Feelings are interesting and intriguing.
It's not easy to differentiate what you feel.
Sometimes, you think you're angry but it's just your ego.
Other times, you think you're indifferent but everyone sees your true zeal.
So, how do you understand and embrace your feelings?
It takes practice and it takes willingness to feel.
To differentiate between mere sadness or true depression dealings,
You need to study emotions, so you can process them and heal.
10/17/17 © Anna Szabo, JD, MBA
This topic is my passion.
You see, I’m a vacillator, and I’ll explain in a few minutes what this means when I discuss the Five Emotional Profiles. In short, vacillators are people who mostly don’t have a clue how they feel, and their primary emotion is mostly anger.
It was true for me for many years.
Growing up, there wasn’t a lot of space or opportunity for me to feel anything but anger and rage, as well as defensiveness. I had to survive. Every day. I had to fight for my life, defend myself, and protect myself.
If you don’t know my story, here it is below.
- My Suicide Story
- My Depression Story
- My Narcissist Mother Story
- My Sex Addiction Story
- My Story of Coming to Christ
- My Domestic Violence Story
- My Narcissist Marriage Abuse Story
- My Identity Transformation Story
- My Spiritual Warfare Story
- My Story of Becoming a TEDx Speaker
- My Story of Faith and Fortitude
Our childhood experiences significantly influence our emotional profiles as adults. I never believed it until late 2013. I believed that I was in control of my emotions and life, totally, that past had no impact on me. I was ignorant and naive.
In 2013, I left my second husband (Philip) and two step-sons (Philip and Alan). I was in my car driving from Savannah to Atlanta and I called my girlfriend Fran to tell her that my marriage was over, that I left Philip and the boys, that I was filing for divorce.
It was Christmas.
I told her in a manner you’d report the weather for the day. Fran was silent for a minute and then she said: “Are you going to cry? How are you feeling?”
I responded: “No, I’m not going to cry. I’m not feeling anything.” And it was true. Right after that, I had the most severe spike in my sexual addiction symptoms. Sex and alcohol were my coping tools to avoid my feelings. That’s when my journey to becoming fully human had begun.
RELATED: How To Be Fully Human
The most major changes in my life began then and there. I sought help for my issue of being a sex addict. That’s actually how I came to Christ, took my celibacy journey, and everything changed for me as I started spending time with myself, alone, in silence, getting to know myself, my heart, my story, my feelings, and finally experiencing them for the first time without fear or resentment.
I’ve come a long way.
In 2019, I took this to the next level by becoming willing to write about my story here. Now, this Christian blog for women has over 1 million words of helpful content to encourage and empower you.
Everything changed when I opened myself to exploring my emotions, feelings, my painful past, my actual pain at the moment (by grieving), and with that, I can tell you my human experience on earth has been so much more fulfilling, rich, and satisfying.
Yet, the hard work of 2014 was kindergarten compared to my marriage and two divorced in the first few months after the wedding with the narcissist.
RELATED: Narcissistic Relationship Abuse
I can tell you looking back: 2014 was my feelings-savvy kindergarten experience, 2017 was like elementary school, and in 2019, I took it to the next educational grade.
Of course, I’m learning every day, but I have a long way to go still. And I want to share my discoveries with you to help you on your own journey. My passion for God is endless. He taught me that feelings are a part of who He created me to be, and they must be dealt with. After God comforted me in my suffering and taught me how to process feelings, He put on my heart to help comfort you.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Now, let’s go back to my sex addiction recovery in 2014.
I stopped escaping my life into sexual addiction. At the time, I had a great mentor at Buckhead Church, where I attended between 2011 and 2016. My mentor gave me a great book called “Discovering Intimacy: Relating to God and Others as a Single Adult” It was by far the most influential book in my life, and I ended up hosting a Christian book club at home helping other women benefit from it as well.
That book was not just a read – it was a journey of studying myself, my life experiences, the influence of childhood relationships on how I relate to the world around me, and so much more.
I studied the book and initially, I had a “journey mate” as the book suggests. It was after that, much later, that I led a book club at home for a group of Christian women with whom I studied it together and met weekly in my apartments to discuss the journey.
I was seeing a sex-addiction therapist at the time. I remember the meeting with her when she asked me about my childhood and how I felt about my experiences. I said I was just fine. I truly believed that I was fine.
I never thought anything was wrong with me. I was a high achiever. I was making things happen. I was accomplishing big goals. I was fine.
Because I was clueless. I just had no idea.
I remember the life-changing moment when the therapist asked me “Anna, have you ever grieved?” And I was like: what? She clarified what grief meant: “Have you ever pulled out your childhood pictures, looked at them, cried, imagined what life would have been like if you had a father, had a loving mother, was accepted and not abused, and never experienced rape or suicide? Have you grieved?”
I thought she was out of her mind.
I remember thinking to myself: “Surely, this woman is crazy.” I told her: “No, I have never done this and why would I? This sounds like emotional suicide, why would I ever want to do this to myself?” She replied: “That’s called grief. It’s the only way to healing.”
I left that therapy session so frustrated with her.
I was confident that she was either incompetent or joking. I had never heard of anybody do the crazy thing she suggested. I had never seen anyone grieve. All the people around me were happy and achieving their goals.
What she asked me to do sounded like nonsense.
I called my friend who was a big, tall guy, always smiling, the kind of guy whom you’d never imagine do the things the therapist asked me to do. I wanted to complain to him about her crazy suggestion but I first asked him about the support group he was attending after losing his 5-year-old son to a 33-month long cancer battle. I didn’t know what a support group even was but he had mentioned it a few times so I wanted to see how he was doing.
He told me he found a grief support group and was excited. He told me how helpful the grief support group was to him. I asked him how it was helpful and what exactly he was doing there. He responded: “Do you really want to know about grief?”
I said yes.
He went on to explain how grief is something that comes upon you and you have to process it for as long as it lasts. You have to give into it. You have to make time and space for grief.
He explained that he had pictures of his dead son on his iPhone and, when grief would come upon him, he would pull up the pictures, close the door, sit in his chair, look at the pictures, and weep.
I was speechless…
Even now as I’m telling you this I have chills.
It was unimaginable for someone like me.
I had a paradigm shift.
I realized that the therapist was not crazy.
I did pull out my childhood pictures and I did, little by little, start imagining what life would have been like if I had a supportive and kind family, a safe and peaceful home, and was loved and accepted growing up.
I wept. Again and again and again. I wept.
In the process, I was learning to feel. I was relaxing into whatever feelings were coming upon me. I was not resisting them.
I was becoming fully human.
RELATED: How To Be Fully Human
As my anger got acknowledged, understood, and healed, the room was created for joy, compassion, and a variety of other human feelings. It all took time, energy, effort, and hard work. It’s been a process: a painful one, but I love the benefits of it.
So, how do you figure out your feelings?
By digging deep inside your story, your history, your childhood, your trauma, your relationships, your habits, your lessons learned, and your entire past, which influences your present. Yes, it does.
All those discoveries will help you understand why you are the way you are, which, in turn, will allow you to process everything that impacted you and decide what you want to do with it: stay the same or change.
Change what? Your emotional profile. You belong to one or two of the following categories of emotional profiles: vacillator, avoider, pleaser, controller, or victim.
Let’s dive into it!
Five Emotional Profiles
Remember, in the beginning, I mentioned that I am a vacillator? Let me share with you more information about this categorization of people. From the same mentor at Buckhead Church, the one I mentioned earlier, I got the gift of another book called “How We Love.”
That book taught me that our childhood experiences and attachments cause us to develop emotional profiles classified into 5 categories.
Five Emotional Profiles
Let me tell you about each profile – courtesy of HowWeLove.com where I’ve been studying for hours to understand more about myself and people who raised me. I’d like to express deep gratitude to Kay Yerkovich and Milan Yerkovich who created this life-changing content. It helped me heal.
Growing up with an unpredictable parent, Vacillators’ needs aren’t a top priority. Without consistent parental attention, they develop feelings of abandonment, and by the time the parent feels like giving affection again, their child is tired of waiting and too angry to receive.
As adults, Vacillators are on a quest to find the consistent love they never received as children. They idealize new relationships, but then get tired of it once life (and the relationship) gets less than perfect.
This profile has always been me.
My mother was never an adult, she was very childlike and she always needed me to take care of her emotional needs. The relationship we had was enmeshed, it’s when the roles of a mother and daughter become entangled.
In an enmeshed relationship, a mother provides her daughter love and attention but tends to exploit the relationship, fortifying her own needs by living through her daughter.
My mother has always lived and lives now with her mother. My mother is 60+ years old, and my grandmother is 90. My mother’s sister also lives there, along with her multiple lovers. That’s how I grew up.
My mother would tell me: “I didn’t get to sleep with many men, so you go and do it for me and for you!” And I would. Then, she’d ask me to share the details. I would. It was the only time she’d spend time listening to me and looking at me, acknowledging my existence and validating me, so we bonded, and that’s how my sex addiction had begun.
RELATED: Sex Addiction Signs
I was very young and had no idea what was happening, but talking about my experiences with men with my mom was the only way to bond with her. My mom was typically screaming at me: “I hate you and I just want you dead!” I longed for my mom’s company.
I was starving for my mom’s attention, affection, and approval.
Growing up in an enmeshed relationship with my mother, I developed high empathy since I always had to scan her emotions to predict if I’d be beaten up or hugged at any moment.
That is what you need to know about me as we talk about Narcissistic Abuse later here. Narcissists look for empaths to use them as their Narcissistic Supply. The Narcissist himself has an emotional profile of a self-centered Avoider.
So, let’s discuss the Avoider.
Coming from a home that is often low in affection, but which places a high value on independence and self-reliance, the Avoider grows up learning only to take care of himself.
To deal with the anxiety of having so little comfort and nurturing from his caregivers or parents, he has learned to restrict his feelings and suppress his needs. As an adult, the Avoider can seem emotionally distant or unengaged.
Not all avoiders are narcissists. But the Narcissist in your life is likely an Avoider. I was married to a Narcissist. The Narc gives you Narcissistic Discard Cruelty and Silent Treatment if he is unhappy or upset.
He doesn’t verbalize his thoughts, he stonewalls you instead, setting you up for a failure every time. Why? Because he never matured enough to an adult who’s able to have a productive conversation.
The Narcissist doesn’t know how his cruelty makes you feel because he himself has no feelings. How come? Remember that the Avoider had to suppress his feelings and emotions in his childhood? Well, he grew up into the Narcissist who doesn’t have any feelings or emotions at all, except the ones he mirrors from others since he doesn’t have Real Self.
The Narcissist has only his Ego that needs to be puffed up with praise, compliments, medals, and admiration of others at all times. That’s why he uses you as his Narcissistic Supply.
However, the Narcissist hides this fragile Ego by pretending to be a Pleaser. Why? To get praise, admiration, and compliments.
So, talk next about the Pleaser.
Pleasers usually grow up in a home with a parent who is overly protective, angry, and critical. Pleaser-children do everything they can to “be good” and avoid troubling their highly-reactive parent.
They learn to spend their energy comforting or appeasing their parent, instead of receiving comfort themselves.
As adults, Pleasers tend to continually monitor the moods of those around them in an attempt to keep everyone happy. However, this can lead to resentment, an emotion that can break down a relationship or drive a Pleaser to leave.
I was married to a Pleaser. He always lived with his mother and is now married for the fourth time, has 3 children, and still lives with his mother. He calls himself a peace-keeper. He is incapable of saying anything against his mother’s demands. One of his sons has nothing to do with him because the Pleaser never stood up for him. The other two sons see the Pleaser as a peer rather than a father due to the complete lack of discipline.
The Pleaser’s resentment and passive-aggressiveness did break the relationship and I had to leave our marriage.
The Pleaser rarely can be a husband or a productive, involved partner to anyone because he is already married to his mother, and she is certainly not letting her powers go.
All he wants is to be “good,” so he complies with his controlling mother’s demands of him. He has no direction, except what his mother sets for him. The Pleaser is pleasing out of fear, not out of genuine love or compassion. He’s scared to rock the boat and to cause conflict. He can’t tolerate conflict. He needs people to adore him, and he will do anything to please everyone, which of course, leads him to constantly lie.
Yes, the Pleaser is always a liar. Why?
Because telling the truth may lead to conflict.
Be careful not to confuse the Avoider Narcissist with the Pleaser Liar. The Narcissist only pretends to be a Pleaser to be liked by people who give him praise, admiration, and compliments, which are food for his fragile Ego. The Pleaser pleases out of fear.
The Pleaser Liar always needs a bossy mother to push him around. The Narcissist Avoider always needs a victim who suffers his abuse.
We will talk about the Victim after the Controller.
Controllers need control to ensure that the vulnerable, negative feelings they experienced in childhood remain suppressed from their adult lives.
Having control means having protection from such unwanted feelings as fear, humiliation, and helplessness. However, anger is the one emotion that is not vulnerable, and so anger and intimidation are often used as a means to maintain control. That was my grandma. That was my mom.
Guess what? I married a Controller. That was my first husband. We always try to escape what we hate only to get more of the same… The Controller beat the life out of me. After four beatings, the Dunwoody Police Department conducted a rescue operation and took me away for good.
The Controller told me what he wanted me to do and when. He changed my cell phone number any time anyone but him called me. He followed me anywhere I went, even when he was supposed to be at work. And, of course, I was beaten up regularly until my rescue by the police.
I was his fourth wife going through it with him.
He was raised by an alcoholic mother and he hated women because of his childhood trauma. He hated women at work, he hated me, he hated all his wives and abused them.
He wanted to control all of us to feel good. Yet, we all left him. I became homeless in a foreign country without speaking any English. Eventually, I was awarded the VAWA – Violence Against Women Act immigration protection for victims of abuse.
Now, let’s talk about the Victim.
The Victim profile is an adult who was a kid surviving a chaotic home environment by trying to “stay under the radar,” making herself as invisible as possible. She would hide, learning how to escape into her own head to lessen the pain from her angry, violent, chaotic caregivers.
That’s my story. I was like this when little.
Until my grandma tried to chock me and I learned to fight for my life physically. Later, my mom tried to kill me, and I had to be violent in response to her violence. Then, I stopped hiding and became aggressive.
Before that time when I was bigger and stronger, I would be found inside furniture, underneath tables, or running away from home. I ran away a lot and that led me into some really bad situations.
Victims lack a sense of self-worth and are often anxious and depressed. Rather than engage, they’ll resort to just “going through the motions” in order to get by. Victims may emulate their childhood home environment by pursuing a relationship with a Controller. Yep, I did that.
I told you I am a Vacillator in many ways. We typically have an emotional profile that’s a mix of two. For me, it’s primarily the Vacillator with a mix of the Victim.
RELATED: My Domestic Violence Story
This mix is my emotional profile because I grew up experiencing violence every day at home while having to figure out how my mom felt all the time and take care of her needs and at the same time while taking care of her and money and bills and even my grandpa’s funeral. I wanted to hide from everything but I had to live there with all the crazy people in that small condo, so I had to scream and yell and fight to protect myself…
I was beaten, insulted, chased, humiliated, verbally abused, molested… I was threatened with suicides, shamed for being born and being a girl…
In 10 years, from 24 to 34, I was married to and divorced from a Controller, a Pleaser, and an Avoider. I am a Vacillator-Victim.
No emotional profile is either good or bad.
We all need to work on ourselves and learn how to feel, how to not be afraid of our emotions, how to relax into them and allow feelings instead of resisting them. Resisting our own emotions causes us to deny a part of ourselves and resort to addictions or abuse to try to make ourselves feel better.
Today, I’m ready to share with you some of the feelings and emotions I’ve learned to allow. This is going to be tough for me. It’s been an uneasy journey learning to recognize and name feelings, and of course to feel them mindfully has been truly life-changing for me as a Vacillator who was used to feeling primarily anger and rage.
I’ll go down the list of my feelings in no particular order, mixing positive feelings with painful ones so that it’s less overwhelming for you. Why am I doing this? I want to share with you how to feel, how to understand what you feel, and how to verbalize it.
Here are real-life examples of how to feel emotions.
How We Feel Emotions
I will start us off with admiration. The reason why is because, before Michel and I got married in 2016, we had a beautiful season of dating. He was so attentive, thoughtful, and cherishing toward me that I wrote him a thank-you note every time we saw each other.
RELATED: Narcissistic Idealization Phase
That collection of gratitude notes became the Thanksgiving Journal I gave him as a wedding gift on May 14th, 2016. After our wedding, that gift was on the floor, in the dust, under the bed, and he never even read it.
But I wrote it consistently out of the sense of deep admiration for the kind of great man he presented himself to be when he was courting me for marriage.
Admiration is described as pleasurable contemplation. In the podcast episode of The Anna Szabo Show included in this blog post, I read to you some excerpts for the Thanksgiving Journal.
As I said earlier, this chapter is where I share how I allowed myself to experience different feelings. I allowed myself to admire Michel and feel fully my appreciation for the man he presented himself to appear to be.
When Michel filed for a divorce four months after we got married, I was severely depressed and drew very close to God. It was God who carried me through every day of that miserable life in our marital residence and all kinds of abuse and mental cruelty I endured there.
As a result of my gratitude for my deliverance, I wrote God, I Admire You, a poem admiring God. I allowed myself to feel fully my admiration and appreciation for our good God who is constant in His kindness and love.
"God, I Admire You" #PoemsFromGod
God, I admire you for who you are:
A good-good father and a sovereign king.
From your perfection I'm in genuine awe -
Beauty out of ashes you always bring.
I admire your wisdom and infinite intelligence.
I admire your kindness and amazing grace.
My everyday life is of your mercy evidence:
From every suffering you propel me to a better place.
8/6/17 © Anna Szabo, JD, MBA
Doubt is the opposite of confidence. It’s a feeling of uncertainty. I experienced it every single day in my marriage with Michel. My paycheck was spent on his athletic endeavors, and I had no money to buy food three times in our four months of marriage. Why? While Michel kept secret cash from me in his wallet, I genuinely deposited my full paycheck into our joint checking account as he had asked me to.
So, when he overspent, he was ok. I wasn’t.
That caused doubt.
Three months into our marriage, I discovered he didn’t even bother to pay the mortgage, the electric bill, and the life insurance he was responsible for paying.
After I confronted him about that, he filed for divorce, dismissed it, asked to reconcile, then filed for divorce again five weeks later after he realized that I won’t be sponsoring his lifestyle.
The doubt I experienced from all the uncertainty I faced in that marriage with Michel was paralyzing. I was at the time diagnosed with Complex PTSD. I began having panic attacks from all the mental haze he was inflicting on me. I was filled with doubt because of the multiple realities he pulled me in to and pushed me out of.
What does doubt feel like? In the podcast episode of The Anna Szabo Show included in this blog post, I read to you some excerpts for the Be Truthful journal p.98.
Doubt prevents you from taking action.
It leaves you on the side of the road of life to be a mere observer of how others live to the fullest while you are wondering what you should do. You can’t seem to decide on anything or take action.
Doubt leaves you wondering what if and later thinking what could have been. Don’t be a prisoner of doubt. Take action. Even if you are going to fail.
RELATED: “I Am Decisive” Affirmation
For me, such action was the Case For Marriage journal. I started that amazing journal because I was so paralyzed by doubt in the midst of the second divorce Michel filed for in our first few months of marriage.
That journal was so healing. It helped me grow.
The Case For Marriage journal helped me get closure.
If you don’t know about the Case For Marriage journal, just listen to the How To Talk To God episode on my Christian podcast.
Actually, my entire podcast show is the result of me overcoming my doubt. Can you imagine the doubt I had thinking about putting myself out there so openly and vulnerably? But I did it anyway because I wanted to give God all the glory for my story. I wanted to encourage and empower you in adversity.
It’s easy for people to praise God when life is rainbow-unicorny and perfect. I have been sharing my praise to God while going through depression, suicidal thoughts, divorces… I’ve been sharing and sharing that God is good and He is at work and there is hope.
Recognize and overcome your doubt.
What are you doubting?
Let me know in the comments below.
Worry is defined as a process of one’s mind dwelling on difficulty or troubles. Worry and anxiety are both caused by doubt.
What does worry look like? In the podcast episode of The Anna Szabo Show included in this blog post, I read to you some excerpts for the Serenity journal p.106.
To confront my worry with wisdom, I prayed on my knees, in my car, at work, before bed, when I woke up, in the shower… I prayed.
And I wrote You’re Always Good, a poem about giving all my worries to God and surrendering to His perfect plan completely and fully.
"You're Always Good" #PoemsFromGod
I've chased many dreams turned into goals,
I've pursued many things that were labeled as "secular."
Those paths led away from you into worldly roles,
Where anxiety and fears were familiar and regular.
You've consistently blessed me with your special grace.
And this time I've received your special lesson:
There's nothing on earth I ever need to chase,
There's no place I need to ever be to progressing.
Right where I'm at, here in your presence,
I can tap into peace that can't be understood
And enjoy your affection, protection, and pleasance,
And declare with confidence that you're always good.
8/6/17 © Anna Szabo, JD, MBA
Love is described in1 Corinthians 13: it is patient, kind, understanding, patient, and enduring. We discussed in the beginning how Jesus loved and how He commanded us to love the same way: sacrificially and selflessly. This type of love is called agape love, and I described it in a blog post called “What Is Love?”
Agape love refers to the unconditional type of love that helps people forgive one another, respect one another, and serve one another.
I wrote several poems on this topic as I was on my journey of learning to love Michel the agape way, unconditionally and sacrificially. I did Love Dare on him twice and pursued him as my husband wholeheartedly. That entire season is documented through a series of podcasts, which I turned into a blog post called “What Is Love?”
RELATED: What Is Love?
Let me share my Unconditional Love poem with you. The poem I will share is about agape love, unconditional love. I remember realizing what a privilege it was for me to have an opportunity to learn to love Michel sacrificially.
I myself grew from that experience as a human, and my relationship with God became so much more intimate. Here are a few things I’ve learned about agape love.
"Unconditional Love" #PoemsFromGod
Unconditional love is not easy.
Unconditional love is hard work.
Unconditional love is soul-cleansing.
Unconditional love is responsibility, not a perk.
Unconditional love is the opposite of ego,
Unconditional love is a selfless gift,
Unconditional love is exciting and intriguing,
I'm always curious to see what else God enables me to give.
To love unconditionally, we must practice,
We must remember Christ and His sacrifice,
We must choose kindness when ego attacks us,
We must give without expectations - ego is love’s price.
And when we fail at it often or seldom,
We must reach out for God's grace,
And start all over, being intentional and not random,
And just remember why we decided to love in the first place.
4/2/17 © Anna Szabo, JD, MBA
Loving Michel required of me that I forgive him daily and stay committed to him, which we will discuss in a minute, but most importantly that I pray for him non-stop. And I did, every day in the midst of all his nonsense, cruelty, divorces, I just keep praying for him as an act of my agape love.
Here’s a poem-prayer that was born in my prayers.
It’s called Praying for My Husband.
I wrote it based on my study of what God called a husband to be in a marriage, which is what I asked of God for Michel regularly.
"Praying for My Husband" #PoemsFromGod God, I'm praying for my husband, Thanking you for him at first And confessing him I love, and Asking you to fill his thirst... To be Christ-like and a leader, Sober-minded and steadfast, Sacrificial and truth-seeker, Dignified, with sound faith... Self-controlling be and loving, Peaceful and understanding, To be honoring, churchgoing, And provider outstanding. Thank you, God, again for him, Thank you for his precious life, Bless him, Father, and redeem, In Jesus' name - his loving wife. 8/23/17 © Anna Szabo, JD, MBA
I expressed my love for Michel also through sacrificial actions. With my two back injuries, I was the only person cleaning our 1800 sq ft two-story marital residence from May 2017 through April 2017. And the biggest sacrifice for me was mowing the lawn. It was so physically painful, but I did it anyway to show my agape love for Michel since he didn’t like doing it.
Are you feeling love? I mean are you loving someone?
The thing I realized on the journey of loving Michel as my husband but at the same time being unloved, rejected, betrayed, and cheated on was that what matters to our relationship with God and our eternity is always our own actions.
I was under the care of a trauma counselor who works with victims of Narcissistic Abuse in 2016 and also I saw a Biblical counselor every week on Wednesdays at 5 pm.
The Biblical counselor always told me that Michel’s actions toward me are irrelevant to my eternity but my actions toward Michel are everything.
Are you focusing on loving the way Jesus called us to love? Are you doing the right thing out of gratitude to God, no matter the actions of your partner?
I have so much peace knowing that I loved Michel wholeheartedly with all my might, not being perfect at all, and not even being skilled at loving him, yet, learning with dedication and applying what I was learning every day.
I have grief about the fact that Michel did not love me, but it’s fading. But if I didn’t know with confidence that I gave my all to love him, I’d be devastated forever.
So, focus on how you love. Allow yourself to love.
Give yourself permission to love that special someone as Jesus loves you. I allowed myself to love fully. My marriage with Michel was awful, abusive, and absurd. It was the worst time of my life. Yet, I’m grateful that I allowed myself to love fearlessly and fully.
Judgment is easy. It’s easy to judge others, yes, but we are also experts at judging ourselves and taking personally the judgment of others toward us. Remember I mentioned my beautiful friend Elena from NY?
She has anxiety sometimes. I do, too. I know you do as well.
She shares with her brother who’s her pastor, and he tells her it’s ungodly and something is wrong with her. Do you think he is right?
Remember we started this blog post by reviewing the feelings that Jesus Himself felt? Remember how much anxiety He experienced? He was fully God and Elena is not.
The Bible instructs us to cast our anxieties on God, which means God told us we surely will have anxiety. Right? So, is anxiety ungodly? Of course not, especially knowing that Jesus felt it.
Do you think Elena feels comforted by her pastor-brother or does he just escalate her anxiety? Of course, he escalates it. How? Hearing his judgment toward her, Elena starts judging herself!. She feels anxiety about her anxiety, which is unhelpful and unnecessary.
It’s a vicious cycle.
The only way out is to relax into whatever the experience is and observe it, accept God’s grace, and move on renewed with Biblical truth of the Gospel: Jesus died to set us free from judgement, including self-judgment and the judgment of other people.
God sees us as holy, righteous, and redeemed.
And we can see others as such.
In the podcast episode of The Anna Szabo Show included in this blog post, I read to you some excerpts for the Be Truthful journal, p.57.
Compassion is a sympathetic concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. It motivates people to go out of their way to help the physical, spiritual, or emotional pains of another human being.
I felt so much compassion for Michel in our marriage, knowing his childhood story and recognizing his trauma. That’s why I decided to love him with agape love through the thick and thin he chose for us with his actions.
The experience that I’m grateful for every day is when on February 13th, 2017 Michel became very sick, after he raced for just another IronMan race to get just another medal in Alabama.
It was a time when I took a few days off work to prepare for our upcoming divorce trial and I needed to submit a ton of documents, which were requested by Michel’s attorney.
At the time, I lived in the master bedroom f our marital residence at Adair Park in Cumming, GA and Michel lived in the guest bedroom across the hallway.
He didn’t acknowledge me in any way for many weeks, except in January he came behind me and spooked me and said: “Hey, what is it gonna take for me to get rid of you?“
On February 13th, 2017 Michel was coughing with green mucus and was very sick. Since I was the only person cleaning our entire marital residence during our entire marriage, I saw his condition from the mess he left in the bathrooms, and I heard his cough as well.
I was in pain because Michel was in pain.
He was in bed. I prepared food for him, cut some healthy fruit, made him a vitamin drink, and put everything on a tray on a little table, which I placed outside the guest bedroom. His bedroom door was always locked. I knocked. Of course, there was no answer.
RELATED: Narcissistic Silent Treatment
In a few hours, I saw that some of what I had prepared was gone, while other food I made Michel denied. I swallowed my pride, since I had pre-decided to love Michel with sacrificial agape love, and I cleaned up after ate.
Later, I repeated the service.
Again, some of what I prepared was received with silence, some denied with silence. The relationship we had was very painful. He was abusive and cruel. But I married Michel for better or worse, so I tried my best to practice the kind of love toward him that Jesus showed toward me.
On Valentine’s Day, February 14th, 2017, I was invited to teach a leadership class at Georgia State University Downtown Atlanta. As I was preparing the content for my speech, Michel went to the doctor.
It was the first time he left the guest bedroom.
I sat on our orange couch downstairs in the living room saying: “Jesus, what do you want me to do?” And Jesus said to me: “Michel is your brother in Christ, go love him as I have loved you.”
I went upstairs to the guest bedroom, which was dirty, dusty, and dark. White bed sheets literally were brown on Michel’s bed. I was nauseated but followed what Jesus put on my heart. I changed Michel’s bedsheets, did seven loads of his laundry, vacuumed, mopped, dusted, and made him food.
With compassion, I continued every day, until he was back on his feet. And a few days later, we had our divorce mediation. During the mediation, Michel paid me $5,000 to move out of our marital residence. The next time I saw him was during our divorce jury trial in August that year.
I’m glad I showed him compassion when he was sick.
During my leadership talk on Valentine’s Day at Georgia State University, I had shared with the students about the Gospel, how God was working in me through these two divorces Michel filed for in our first few months of marriage, how life-changing it was for me to take care of him while he was sick, and how this compassion experience was for me to honor and glorify God and show my love for Michel.
The students didn’t want to go home that night. They had so many questions! The class lasted 1.5 hours longer than their normal class. They asked me where was that good God I was praising, not saving my marriage and not rescuing me from Michel’s abuse.
Taking care of sick Michel revealed to me how much compassion I felt for him and how much I myself needed Jesus.
I was demanding and disrespectful toward Michel at the beginning of our marriage. I did not approve of his spending habits, leaving me without money to buy food, abandoning our marriage, and being abusive. I confronted Michel with anger instead of compassion. And I used strong language to show my disapproval of his abuse and cruelty.
So, I wrote a poem about that, which I shared on Facebook. Many people took this poem as a confession that Michel was all good and I was all bad. In reality, my poem is a result of me experiencing agape love and compassion toward Michel, regardless of his cruelty toward me. It was a poem of my realization that only my actions matter to my eternity.
If you watched our wedding video above, you saw that Michel said his goal was to lead me closer to Christ. He didn’t lead me but his abuse did push me closer to Christ.
The depression and suicidal ideation, which I experienced as the result of Michel’s abuse, did draw me close to Jesus, and I even started this Christian ministry for women, as well as my Christian podcast.
In my poem, I shared my journey of compassion.
Here is the poem. It’s called To Michel Szabo.
"To Michel Szabo" #PoemsFromGod I lived my good life until I met you, I loved everything about it. But when from first sight I fell in love with you, I felt that the love multiplied in my heart would that initial love even exceed. God gave me time, and His mercy and grace, And I was for long a Jesus' bride. But when He gave me you to love and embrace, I felt unequipped and unprepared to love you right. You said we were two imperfect people And that God would guide our walk. You asked for my hand in marriage and said if we cripple, You'll lead us closer to Christ and commit to the hard work. I said "Yes" and "I do" and I entered the covenant, And I wanted to love you, respect you, and honor you. But when I saw that the world and not God in your life became dominant, Confused, devastated, angry, and resentful toward you I grew. Being still unequipped to love you perfectly, Unable to practice unconditional love, Without that promised leadership from you, I hurtfully Blamed you, condemned you, raged at you - all of the above. Falling in love with you was easy. You were the only man to always have my heart. But when your bicycle and obsessions with medals got you busy, That's where our marriage covenant was tested hard. We abandoned each other and our vows, We betrayed, deceived, and abused each another every day. But through that pain I've learned what kind of growth God allows When browsing inside myself seeking how to God obey. And on my journey I've learned that you're imperfect and broken, Your faults are many but so are mine. And the love I feel for you in my heart, even though unspoken, Grew to now be unconditional, compassionate, and divine. I've learned that my expectations were too many, Though came from your own PDF called "The Right Man," They were unrealistic, burdening, and excluded any Idea that a husband is just another fallen fellow human. You waited 11 months to even meet me, And only four months to file for a divorce. You chose an IronMan medal over your covenant commitment. But I forgive you because I understand my own imperfections of course. I pray every day about your journey, For God to draw you closer to Him, To guide you to seek the truth from Jesus and not your attorney, To heal your heart and to put in there a Godly, not worldly hymn. And though I've been away from you for a month now, I confess that my love for you only grew. And surely it's been an exhausting emotional rodeo. Yet, I have been remembering only the good in you. As God is healing my heart now, He's reveling my own imperfections to me, The impatience with the IronMan addiction - our initial emotional rodeo. The fear, the anger, and the lack of compassion toward your bicycle obsession in me. While I couldn't see those things in the mirror, Your faults at the time were obvious to me, But the more I praise Jesus as my hero, The less I focus on your sin and so He heals the sin in me. So, after all, I can confidently say I'm so grateful: For you, for your love, for our marriage, and even the pain. For God's gift of breaking my heart and making me even more faithful, For ridding me of myself, my expectations, and making my heart pure again. You said your goal was to lead me closer to Jesus. I'm not sure about leading, but pushing - yes. So as our divorce trial is approaching in June to free us, You surely succeeded in that one goal, I confess. My relationship with you did not work out, But my relationship with Christ only grew. And as I've learned to forgive and accept you, without a doubt, He drew me closer to Him, as if you just always knew. So, thank you for this devastating experience. Thank you for pushing me into God's loving arms. Thank you for the feelings of love and loss that are both serious, Thank you for revealing to me your painful bullshit, so I don't just love you for your awesome charms. Through that I learned what unconditional love is, And I how I did not give it to you, And how now I'm able to feel the love for you beyond and above this, And, through all of that, my appreciation for God's endless grace also grew. 4/30/17 © Anna Szabo, JD, MBA
Acceptance is the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable. As you know, I practically raised myself, so I had to have high expectations of myself. That led to having high expectations of others, as well as life, and even God. Acceptance is the opposite of judgment.
I was very sad because of it. I deeply regretted my offensive words. So, I signed up to see a Biblical Counselor weekly and learn how to glorify God in the midst of my devastating marriage, two divorces Michel filed for in just a few months following our wedding, and cruelty imposed on me by him.
I also started Love Dare on Michel to learn how to love him. And I took a test on LoveDareTest.com where you are evaluated on a scale from 0 to 1000 on such aspects of love as Acceptance, Allowing, Attention, Affirmation, Affection, Apology, and Abiding. I scored a total of 308 out of 1000 points and zero points on Acceptance.
Acceptance as a feeling was hard for me to learn and allow. I worked on this one until the end of our marriage in 2017, and I am working on it even now as I’m sharing my painful story: accepting Michel’s free will to end our marriage.
God gave Michel free will.
I would love for you to go to LoveDareTest.com and take the test to see how you are doing on acceptance. It’s the next level of human experience for me to say this: I accept Michel and his pain-inflicting decisions.
If you want to know what acceptance looked like for me in July of 2017, as we were getting ready to go to our four-day long divorce jury trial, listen to this content on my podcast (episode shared above). You’ll hear me read from my Be Truthful journal page 101 from July 13th, 2017.
Sadness is grief. I had to learn it. I moved out of our marital residence on April 1st, 2017. I now live on the river, at a beautiful lodge in the middle of the busy city, yet hidden away in the Chattahoochee National Recreational Area.
I spent a lot of time sitting here on the floating dock on the river right outside my front door, journaling and not wanting to talk to anyone or do anything, just crying.
I was allowing sadness and not avoiding or resenting it. It was hard but, ultimately, having experienced genuine sadness, I was able to process it and heal.
My neighbors had paddleboards and kayaks. They wanted to take me on the water to have fun, but I was not willing to avoid my sadness, run away from it, or pretend like I wasn’t feeling it.
I committed fully to allowing my sadness.
People were trying to persuade me that I needed to smile and move on and be positive. That’s the happiness illusion crap, and it doesn’t work. Getting trapped in the make-believe fake emotional world of daily pretense leads to mental illnesses and suicide. I am fully human, and I refuse to conform to the world’s pattern of trapping people in the happiness illusion.
RELATED: The Happiness Illusion
Never allow people to tell you how to feel. Your feelings can’t be escaped. They need to be allowed. Your feelings require your attention. They need to be worked through. The best way to process sadness is to cry, journal, and talk it through with God, pastor, therapist, or someone you trust.
Processing sadness doesn’t mean that it will go away forever. I’ve processed all my sadness as I went through the pain of my journey with Michel. I was at peace. Until later, when my friend who was also my bridesmaid sent me a Facebook message. I read it to you from my journal if you listen to this content on my podcast, The Anna Szabo Show. I share also wrote two days later. You will hear me reading from my Grey Journal from October 18th, 2017.
Knowing that even Jesus felt sad, do you allow yourself to feel sadness, face it, be in it, process it, and heal from emotional pain? Let me know in the comments below.
Depression is new to me. It is a topic I wrote about extensively in my article called “Depression,” which I hope you will read. I also wrote another detailed article explaining what depression feels like.
Disclosure: I am not talking here about a clinical depression, which I know nothing about. I have experienced situational depression that was caused by mental cruelty, divorces, loss of self-worth when Michel traded me in for a bicycle, and all the abuse I had endured.
I’m discussing here my own depression experience.
Note: I have never taken any depression medication nor have I been prescribed any. I worked through my depression facing it with prayer, on my knees, crying out to God and casting my anxieties on Him, meditating daily, and journaling to recognize and process my feelings.
I am not a mental health professional.
This is my personal experience, not my recommendations to you or anyone you know. This isn’t my advice but my story that explains what I did to help me survive my suicidal depression.
My depression was caused by hopelessness after Michel called his bicycle “My other wife I cheat on you with,” rejected me sexually screaming “I don’t want none of that! Do you not understand? I need to save my body for IronMan!” and spent all the money in our checking account, leaving me with a negative balance three times unable to buy food.
I was exhausted and hopeless.
Depression felt like a big black dog following me everywhere and pulling me into complete darkness, devastation, despair, and dullness. Depression felt like a black heavy cloud over my head preventing me from seeing any light. Depression felt like a circle-shaped dark room with no exit door. No windows. No hope to escape. Depression felt like a trap, and I wanted to die. I was exhausted and hopeless.
I felt tired of being trapped in the darkness and hopelessness. I had no energy. I felt indifferent about my future. I didn’t want to be in my future. I became negligent: I didn’t eat, didn’t take a shower, couldn’t take care of my Cocker Spaniel Bruno, so I had to give him to friends in another state for a few weeks.
Depression caused me to live in the fog.
I was so disoriented by Michel’s cruel behaviors and confusing actions. I couldn’t handle even the most basic things like washing dishes. I experienced suicidal thoughts. I suffered from psychomotor retardation.
Things are about to get very sensitive right now.
Let’s talk about a serious issue. Which one?
The issue of condemning people who experience depression.
Are depression and suicidal thoughts unbiblical and sinful?
Are these challenges new to God?
In the Bible, Elijah was discouraged, weary, and afraid.
After great spiritual victories, this mighty man of God feared and ran for his life. And there in the desert, he sat down and prayed, defeated and worn: “I have had enough Lord. Take my life.” (1 Kings 19:4).
He slept under the tree for 40 days, and God provided food and everything else for Elijah because he was depressed and weary. So, neither depression nor suicidal thoughts are new under the sun.
I knew I was depressed when I’d lie in bed, staring at the ceiling for hours, and pretty much check out mentally for days. I just felt indifferent. Nothing mattered because I felt no hope.
I found a path out of my depression: I justified my feelings by relating to the story of Elijah. “As he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him and said to him: “Arise and eat.” So he ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back the second time and touched him and said: “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.”” (1 Kings 19:5-7).
I knew I was so depressed because the journey was so hard!
All the abuse and drama of that marriage with Michel imposed unbearable trauma on me. It was too much for me. God’s plan was simple: rest. That’s why meditation, mindfulness, and sleep were so essential to my depression recovery. That’s why I so eagerly advocate for self-care today.
RELATED: Self-Care Tips
When battling depression, self-care is the key to survival. I was so exhausted, weak, and weary. Here’s a poem I wrote as the result of that journey. It’s called I Need Your Love.
"I Need Your Love" #PoemsFromGod
I'm hurt and overwhelmed, God.
I feel weak and I need your strength.
I need your help with the very basics of life.
I can't do anything on my own anymore.
I love you more than I love anyone else.
I want to honor you more than I want anything.
I ask for peace that passes all understanding.
I need your love to comfort me with affection.
8/2/17 © Anna Szabo, JD, MBA
Joy is a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. I’ve been learning to feel joy again. I will say that we all can find reasons to feel joy, even in the middle of real hell, like that marriage was for me.
I know it from experience. I know what joy feels like.
I’ve experienced joy in good times and in adversity.
I felt profound joy walking down the aisle on May 14th, 2016. I saw Michel waiting for me there at the end f the aisle and crying as he looked me in the eye when I made it close to him.
I also felt profound joy taking care of Michel when he got very sick, in the midst of his second divorce filing in our first eight months of marriage. Joy is available to all of us at all times, as long as we stay connected to God and remember our salvation.
I want to share with you this poem I wrote while feeling overwhelming joy from just a simple trip to a sunflower farm on a weekend with my neighbors. It’s called The Sunflower Day.
"The Sunflower Day" #PoemsFromGod God, thanks to you for life of beauty. Thanks to you for blue, clear sky. Thanks for gifting us with duty To honor you, follow, obey, and glorify. Thanks for healthy air we're breathing, Thanks for all the gorgeous trees, Thanks for the flowers we can be admiring or seizing. Thanks for the hard-working and all-important bees. Thanks for kayaks, thanks for rivers, Thanks for trails and mountain hikes, Thanks for all the joy sun gives us, Thanks for running and for bikes. Thanks for healthy ears and vision Thanks for moving arms and legs, Thanks for your abundant provision, Thanks for promoting us beyond just plebs. Thanks for making us your special children, Thanks for giving us your gorgeous world, Thanks for gifting us blessings a million, Thanks for every sunflower that today danced and whirled. Thanks for happiness and pleasure, Thanks for purpose and for cheer, Thanks for love that I so treasure, And every smile it brings and every tear. Thanks for people, friendships, mentors, Thanks for guiding us with Word, For every person who into my life enters, Brings wisdom and with kindness enriches my world. 7/15/17 © Anna Szabo, JD, MBA
What I have learned was this: my joy comes from my faith and is fueled by my relationship with God. What fuels your joy? let me know in the comments below, I’m really curious to hear about your experience.
Grief is deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death. When you go through a divorce, you must grieve the death of your marriage, your dreams, your plans, and your relationship.
Do you remember we talked here about grief, how it works, and how I learned to respect it and give it its time, space, and attention? I want to bring to your attention this important detail: grief doesn’t ask for permissions.
Many times, my friends held me in their arms as I wept with the last time being in my new home with Tara. We were spending time together, and grief came upon me, it overwhelmed m, and I just wept unstoppably.
And after that experience, I went to a wedding in VA…
My two good friends, Sheila and Joe, were getting married. I was so happy and excited for them! It never ever crossed my mind to decline the wedding invitation. I traveled to their wedding confident that it was a good idea for me to attend. I love them, and I wanted to be there for them.
I arrived in time for the rehearsal dinner. It was a very pleasant experience. I felt joy and excitement for both of them. After dinner, I was asked to help with venue decoration the next morning, which I, of course, agreed to do without a second thought. I couldn’t wait to be there and decorate the venue for my friends’ wedding! Until I arrived and walked in…
Here’s the thing: Michel and I planned and prepared our own wedding. We decorated the venue on Friday before our wedding. I was there, decorating my venue for my wedding with my friends on May 13th, 2016. From flowers and chairs to the arch and centerpieces, I did our wedding decorations.
I personally, with the help of my two good friends, cut the roses for my wedding decorations, put together centerpieces, candles, setup the beautiful arch designed right there from scratch…
Everything in my venue was planned, designed, and personally touched by me. So, when I walked into the venue where my friends were going to have their wedding, just a few weeks before my divorce jury trial and just a few months after my own wedding, when I saw their buckets of roses and vases and candles… Grief came upon me without knocking.
I had a full-blown panic attack, became unable to breathe, started weeping, lost any control over my legs, crushed on the floor, and wept while shaking.
I definitely had some explaining to do, as you can imagine.
There were other women there helping decorate the venue for Sheila and Joe. Later on, one of them was eager to set me up with a man which I will mention later. Really??? That’s where I’m rolling my eyes and sigh.
The bride and groom didn’t witness my panic attack from overwhelming grief. However, they knew about it and told me it was totally normal and expected. They said that they were happy that I even came, considering my devastating marriage circumstances.
Grief is a feeling I’ve learned to allow.
Later, I wrote three goodbye letters. I shared them with you on my podcast in the episode embedded above. Processing my grief allowed me to have closure. I hope you get to listen to the Tell Me How You Really Feel episode of The Anna Szabo Show where I read the goodbye letters from my Be Truthful journal.
Self-condemnation is blaming oneself for failures and mistakes or character deficiencies. I have a good recent example from my beautiful friend we call Elena. She gave me permission to share this with you.
She is very young. She had never been pulled over before.
But recently, she accidentally was speeding without noticing it and a police officer was following her to stop her. She didn’t realize it at first and kept driving, which didn’t look good from the officer’s perspective, of course.
He basically had to chase her.
You can imagine that she surely got a ticket.
And then, she went for hours and hours blaming herself for “being stupid” to speed up unknowingly, to not realize the officer was chasing her, and on and on. These were her words, not mine.
It’s an example of self-condemnation.
I felt this way, too.
The best course of action to escape the vicious cycle of never-ending self-condemnation is to reach out for God’s grace. I told Elena – it’s ok to feel stupid or be stupid. We all make mistakes.
Easier said than done of course!
For months, I was dwelling on my own self-condemnation for saying mean things to Michel when he hurt me and was cruel toward me. Then, I realized: I’m imperfect, that’s why God sent Jesus to die on the cross for me,!
There, all my faults were washed white as snow.
I can accept God’s grace and move on.
I forgave myself because God forgave me. I asked God for forgiveness. Also, I asked Michel for forgiveness. While he never gave it to me, confessing sins to one another and repenting is what God asks us to do, so I did that.
In the Bible, David shares Psalm 38:4 “My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.” Can you relate? I can. That guilt is the result of self-condemnation.
Have you forgiven yourself for your mistakes?
Have you reached out for God’s amazing grace?
Have you released your guilt?
Have you accepted the gift of righteousness from Jesus who gave up His precious life to free us from our sins?
This was a big breakthrough for me also because, as Anna Stevens (my name before I took Michel’s last name), I was a high achiever who would have never stayed in that marital residence, enduring all the abuse Michel imposed on me. Anna Stevens would have never been caring for her sick abusive husband. I felt that, after all, Anna Stevens betrayed Anna Szabo.
It took a lot of work on my knees praying, searching the Bible for answers, and experiencing compassion for Anna Szabo who deeply loved her husband Michel, whom she was very committed to, and didn’t want to give up on him, so she was persevering in faith.
Doing so, allowed for self-understanding and self-acceptance.
And I wrote a letter to myself. It was a letter of acceptance. Of whom and by whom? A letter of acceptance of Anna Szabo by Anna Stevens. In the podcast episode I shared above, you can hear me reading the “Dear Anna Szabo” letter from my Be Truthful journal.
As the symbol of my self-compassion, self-acceptance, and self-forgiveness, I printed out a canvas of my last picture of Anna Stevens and my first picture of Anna Szabo. Seeing it daily is very healing.
Here’s that picture.
Commitment is the state of being dedicated. I can tell you right now, that facing all the nonsense from Michel, I wanted to run for my life. I wanted to hide somewhere on the other planet from him and forget what happened to me.
So, a couple of times, my sorrow and sadness, anxiety and stress, forced me to stay with my former mentor from Buckhead Church. I stayed with her and her husband and two young children.
However, when I began doing the Love Dare mentioned earlier and learning from Christian books how to love sacrificially with agape love, I was able to develop such a commitment to my marriage that even when in August of 2016, a few weeks after our wedding, Michel started asking me to move out, I told him only if we get divorced, I was not willing to quit on my marriage and abandon my commitment just because Michel’s priorities switched from marriage to IronMan.
I lived out my commitment to Michel and God.
The three of us entered into that marriage in 2016.
I wore my rings until my attorney informed me that Michel and I were divorced. She actually forgot to tell me and only informed me on September 18th, 2017 but the papers said we were divorced on August 30th, 2017.
Many men tried to make their moves on me. I never even thought about the possibility of going out while committed to Michel. Remember at the wedding in VA in July a woman was chasing me with her boyfriend offer?
That was one persistent woman, I tell you!
My answer was a “No, I Love My Husband” every time.
She was puzzled because she had just witnessed my panic attack from grief and sorrow that overcame me earlier that day. She knew I was getting ready to go to a divorce jury trial with Michel in just a few weeks.
Yes, but I was still married to Michel.
I had never had such a sense of dedication ever before in my life. I actually cheated on both of my two previous ex-husbands. It was before I gave my life to Christ. As you know, I was a sex addict for decades.
RELATED: What Is a Sex Addict?
The experience of not just feeling but practicing and living out my commitment to Michel was transformational for me as a human being.
I am so grateful for it.
I grew closer to God because of my commitment to Michel as my husband, no matter his actions. It’s been healing for me to know that I am choosing and allowing myself to experience such commitment.
Remember: your actions are important as you prepare for your eternity. Others’ actions don’t matter to your eternity.
Everything I learned, practiced, applied in my life, and felt in my heart as it relates to commitment was expressed in a poem I wrote called Marriage.
Marriage is a covenant and a forever-union,
Made by God to last for eternity.
It's a creation of an ongoing communion,
Where each is led by God to achieve maturity.
Marriage is a daily hard-work commitment
That requires selflessness and intentional sacrifice,
Challenges us to give each other Biblical treatment,
Encourage one another at our own ego price.
Marriage calls us to love unconditionally,
To give continuously and not to expect anything,
To be close friends it calls us, additionally,
And in the process - to God cling.
Marriage is a journey toward Godly holiness,
It's a pursuit of one another along with Christ.
And because marriage daily exposes our brokenness,
We can't do it without remembering Jesus' sacrifice.
8/30/17 © Anna Szabo, JD, MBA
Rejection is the feeling f being left out, to not be included, to be excluded. In the marriage with Michel, from the moment we said “I Do,” he excluded be from his life.
I noticed it gradually but even when I did, I tried to persuade myself that this was just the difficult first year of marriage, which everyone goes through, and it all would eventually be ok.
One afternoon I came home from work, literally, I walk into my home kitchen, Michel is talking to his family via a video call at a kitchen table. He did not even turned his had, did not acknowledge my presence or existence in any way, did not say hello to me, and did not invite me to speak with his family.
Michel is Venezuelan, so after our wedding in Atlanta, his family went back to Venezuela. And here we were: excluding me from his life was real and tangible at that moment. I realized it and saw the entire journey of being rejected by Michel, one small, almost unnoticeable act of rejecion at a time.
Everything became so clear at that moment!
Of course, Michel’s family members all speak Spanish.
I only speak English and Russian.
As I walked into my home kitchen, after a day at work, my husband not only did not acknowledge me or invite me to say hi to the family, but also he did not even bother to speak English in my presence.
I was in the kitchen settling after work.
He was saying something, at which they all started laughing… And he acted as if I were non-existent. As if I weren’t even there! That rejection and exclusion experience was very painful.
Many feelings surfaced: the feelings of not mattering, being excluded, not even being invited to say hi to my new family, no being accepted into the family, not being appreciated, not being a part of Michel’s life.
This was right after we got married.
It was really hard for me to acknowledge how much I was affected. However, things only got worse from there, and Michel began disappearing, using the silent treatment on me for weeks at a time, and eventually, with constant rejection and life in multiple, unmatching realities, he manipulated me into a suicidal depression.
RELATED: The Narcissist Lacks Conscience
I guess, on the journey of feeling rejected and allowing myself to explore it, I’ve been learning to just acknowledge: I was left out. I am in pain.
For a while, I was trying to forget it and to avoid my pain. How? Alcohol and lots of work to perform, perform, perform… It never worked.
Do you have a heavy heart from pain remembering being completely left out by your family or a loved one?
Have you ever acknowledged your pain of being rejected?
Have you allowed yourself to feel rejection instead of running away from it through alcohol, compulsive shopping, sex addiction, and other vices?
Have you faced your feelings of being rejected?
Have you processed them?
Once you face the pain of rejection, give grace to your offender.
Grace is the next feeling on our list.
Grace is a courteous goodwill. Sometime after Michel and I got married, when I had already begun my therapy to just survive in that marriage, my girlfriend and I went on a hike with our two dogs. We also had a picnic and studied the Grace Walk book by Steve McVey.
At the time, I was in Care Ministry women’s leadership training at Browns Bridge Church in Cumming, GA where Michel and I lived after our wedding. I was learning to give Michel the same grace I received from Jesus.
I wrote a poem about the kind of grace that God called us to receive and to give. We receive it from Him. We are called to give it to those who offend us. Here’s that poem. It’s called Jesus’ Calling and Presence.
"Jesus' Calling and Presence" #PoemsFromGod
You called us to confess, repent, and seek forgiveness.
You called us to rejoice and go the second mile.
Of your amazing grace I've now been a witness
And want to follow you with genuine desire.
You called us not to lust and Father's law to honor,
Our enemies to love and practice self-control.
With your amazing life established you this manner,
You bled and died for me, to free from sin my soul.
You asked us to be servants, to pray in faith and sureness
That you will hear our crying and answer every time.
You asked us not to doubt and demonstrate matureness,
So others come to you observing us in prime.
For gift of my salvation to you I'm very grateful,
I want to honor you and patiently obey.
In trials and tribulations, I am remaining faithful,
Remembering you're near and never far away.
8/21/17 © Anna Szabo, JD, MBA
I want to share a story with you.
Moving into our marital residence after the wedding and being left alone there in the middle of unfinished construction, with boxes and mess everywhere, I felt homeless.
I was completely overwhelmed by the stuff everywhere.
It was hard to clean, so it was messy for a while, and I judged Michel for that because he never took the time to welcome me into our home and help me settle, help move the boxes, and get organized.
When I moved out and was settling in my new home, I was so severely depressed, that I had stuff everywhere, it was hard to clean, and it was a mess. I looked around one day and asked myself: “Why do you continue feeling homeless in my new home? Why can’t you get it together?”
The answer was that for the season of life I was in that what I was giving myself was the best I had. Realizing that, knowing that this was truly my best thought even I myself didn’t like what it was, I said to myself: “What if the mess you got from Michel was his bestestest best for the season he was in in his life?” That perspective allowed me to experience empathy and compassion for Michel and give him grace…
Just what God gives me every day.
Have you received God’s grace?
Do you feel loved, accepted, and forgiven?
Do you give grace to the people in your life?
Clarity is the state of being clear-minded. The opposite of clarity is being foggy-minded. There another word to describe foggy-mindedness. I saw that word in the text message Michel’s friend sent to him regarding me. His friend texted him “Your wife is brain-scattered.”
To that, Michel replied nothing to defend his wife.
Yet, brain-scattered I was from all mental cruelty I endured.
Before I married Michel, I was clear and focused.
I had clarity regarding my identity, my life, my future, and my purpose. However, the more I was mentally manipulated by Michel, the less clarity I had left in me, the more confusion, brain-scatteredness, and foggy-mindedness there was. In fact, all of these are symptoms of abuse.
I allowed confusion to take over my mind.
Confusion is not of God. Clarity is of God.
Clarity is such a blessing! Clarity prevents doubt.
Clarity entices us to take action.
The more I healed on my journey of narcissistic abuse recovery, the more clarity I regained, one day at a time. The more you heal from hurts, the more you’ll experience clarity revival. Where do you lack clarity today and what steps can you take to get back into a clear, confusion-free state of mind?
To disallow confusion and to allow clarity, start with gratitude.
Praise God for where you are right now.
He will guide you from your point A to where He wants you to be – your point B. I wrote a poem as I was gaining my clarity back while recovering from the mental cruelty endured in my marriage with Michel.
The gratitude and clarity poem is called God, I Praise You.
"God, I Praise You" #PoemsFromGod
God, I praise you with my words and thoughts.
Glory to you for all your goodness!
I'm in awe to see blessings lots!
I reach out to you for life's fullness.
Satisfaction comes from finding grace.
You reveal the path in the Bible.
For your truth and wisdom I shout praise!
I worship you, experiencing clarity revival.
God, I praise you for the good and the bad.
For all my trials and tribulations.
I praise you when happy and when I'm sad,
For both my accomplishments and frustrations.
I praise you at night and when I'm eating,
When driving or walking or going to bed,
When cleaning, cooking, and when I'm reading,
And in the morning - for the day ahead.
I praise you, God, it's my act of worship.
I feel your love and I'm soaking in it.
Getting to know you is like courtship:
The closer you draw me, the more I commit.
7/29/17 © Anna Szabo, JD, MBA
Gratitude is a mental state of giving thanks. It’s a state of appreciating what you have and experiencing contentment. Such a state of mind is hard to achieve when your life is falling apart right before your eyes.
Gratitude requires two things: first, you must decide to find things to be grateful for every day (even if only one or two things); second, you must make gratitude your daily habit.
Going through depression and enduring mental cruelty at home, I realized that gratitude was an essential tool to help me stay alive.
My depression was severe. Finding things to be grateful for was difficult initially. But they don’t have to be big things. started small.
Start wherever you are and go from there.
I want to share real-life examples from my gratitude journal.
RELATED: My Annual Gratitude Journal
On my podcast, in the episode “Tell Me How You Really Feel,” you’ll hear me reading from my Grey journal from July 17th, 2017, the journal entry is called “I am grateful for.”
Also, I wrote a gratitude poem. Let me share it with you.
The poem is called My Life Is Such a Gift.
"My Life Is Such a Gift" #PoemsFromGod My life is such a gift. My life is such a blessing. I'm grateful for each day, Which I'm with joy professing. I'm grateful for the peace, I'm grateful that I'm healthy, For joy that may not cease, And being friendships-wealthy. I'm grateful for abundance Of food and drinking water, And clothing choices hundreds, And being God's own daughter. I'm grateful for each mentor Who time invests and wisdom To ground me and center In Gospel and God's kingdom. I'm grateful for awareness Of who I am in Jesus And for my journey's rareness. To love it I have reasons. My life is very special, And I am special also - I have a high potential, With Scriptures armed, I know so. 9/14/17 © Anna Szabo, JD, MBA
Obsession is an idea or a thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind. This issue is a huge one for me. Obsession is a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling. I struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), so obsession is a daily battle in my world. But I’m not alone in this.
Let me demonstrate what obsession feels like.
Remember my friend Elena?
Here’s the example she gave me permission to share with you.
She went to a public bathroom, and there was a nasty mess there. She tried to clean it. What happened to her afterward was a very good example of obsession. Elena went about her day, thinking about the bacteria that were now on her clothes, shoes, purse, things inside her purse, and on her body.
We ended up having a long conversation about the situation, which was when I asked her if I could use it as an example of an obsession.
I have my own memorable example of obsession.
When I saw that Michel stained the white leather chair I bought for our dining room, I got so upset, I couldn’t let it go. It was very unreasonable. I allowed obsession to take over. It was very sad.
I keep the stained chair now as a reminder of how I don’t want to show up in the world. When I allow obsession to consume me, I get lost in things that don’t really matter, the worldly things that have no impact on my eternity.
At the time when I was producing my podcast called “Tell Me How You Really Feel,” I was in a women’s discipleship group at Perimeter Church. The group met in a beautiful house that one of the women in the D-group owned. Let’s call her Natalie.
The first time we had a meeting at Natalie’s house, I sat on a Chaise Lounge Chair and spilled my ginger tea on it. Natalie’s reaction was… grace! She made me feel so comfortable and said: “Don’t worry, you’re in the right house!” She was encouraging me. It made me think: has my house been the right house to make guests feel comfortable and give people grace?
I don’t think so.
I often get consumed by my obsessions.
I obsess about cleanness and objects’ alignment in my home, the smell, the lights, everything is a reason to obsess for me due to my OCD.
I remember a friend came over with a puppy. The dog threw up on my brand-new expensive wool rug. It was a huge mess. While I cleaned it, the stain didn’t go away. I kept the rug to remind myself how far I have come since last year in my character development and growth as a follower of Jesus Christ liberating myself from my obsessive thinking.
One important thing here to keep in mind.
My goal is not to fight my obsession.
My goal is to recognize it, acknowledge it, and calm it with mindfulness, remembering who I am in Christ and why I’m here.
I have to remind myself that keeping things stains-free is the least priority in my life. People are more important than things.
What about you?
Have you ever experienced a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling?
How do you go about it?
What do you do when you feel obsessed?
Obsession can also be a result of anxiety.
Anxiety is an overwhelming sense of apprehension (something bad or unpleasant is about to happen). It’s often marked by physical signs, such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate.
Anxiety feels like restlessness and tension to me.
I can’t sleep. I can’t focus on anything.
I feel severe worry.
There seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.
Anxiety is easy to imagine as freaking out quietly on the inside. Anxiety can cause headaches, diarrhea, insomnia, rectal bleeding, red eyes, and many other issues. Anxiety can make you really sick.
Anxiety made me sick.
I felt anxiety non-stop when living with Michel. There were times I couldn’t even breathe from anxiety. Prayer and meditation on scriptures are my best tips. They helped me cope, persevere, and heal.
Philippians 4:6-7 teaches us this: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
In the Bible, David was often troubled. He battled deep despair and anxiety. In many of the Psalms, David writes about his mental suffering, loneliness, fear of the enemy, his heart-cry over sin, and the guilt he struggled with because of it.
So, anxiety is not new to God. It’s not unbiblical.
I struggled with the most anxiety in my life when preparing for the four-day-long divorce jury trial, which Michel and I had a few weeks before I recorded the “Tell Me How You Really Feel” episode for The Anna Szabo Show podcast.
The jury trial felt to me like crucifixion.
It was truly the most profoundly humiliating experience in my 34 years on earth. That being said, Jesus also had anxiety before He was crucified. He asked God: “Father, take this cup away…. But not my will, your will be done.” That was what I also said to God.
I kept a daily journal where I asked God for the reconciliation of our marriage. I wanted Michel to choose his commitment. I wanted him to be redeemed from his IronMan addiction to medals, praise, and admiration. I wanted him to put his childish ways behind and become a man. I was waiting for God to save our marriage because I loved Michel with all my heart. I believed that we were in a covenant, and with God, we could overcome all our struggles and be together. I believed that what God oned, no one could un-one. I prayed every day for God to save our marriage.
But… I also prayed that God’s will and not my will would be done. I surrendered to whatever God planned, and I was ready to be crucified if that was His path for me.
I was crucified.
Then, God resurrected me.
He gave me a brand-new life.
God did not save my marriage but He did give me a ministry. God gave me His divine purpose and sent me into the world to share His gospel with all creation. He had equipped and prepared me perfectly.
My journey from anxiety to crucifixion and peace taught me complete surrender and divine contentment. I now abide in Christ instead of living life in my own power.
What about you?
What does anxiety feel like in your body?
How do you address your anxiety?
Share with me in the comments below.
A panic attack is an abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes and includes a pounding heart, sweating, shaking, or sensations of shortness of breath or suffocation.
A panic attack feels like a lot of anxiety rushing through your body at 10,000 mph, causing tension in your neck, forehead, shoulders, and stomach. For me, it’s always that suffocation I mentioned earlier.
On my YouTube channel, I published a video showcasing a panic attack in real-time. It’s uncomfortable to watch, and there are tears involved.
When I had to testify in my own divorce court for days, seeing Michel, whom I married just a few months earlier, lie over and over and over again, change his testimony, and play just another mental manipulation game, I had a panic attack multiple times a day. Publicly!
It was the hardest experience of my life.
Panic attacks are paralyzing and debilitating.
I couldn’t speak.
Sitting on a witness stand in front of 14 jurors, the judge, attorneys, court reporter, and all the visitors we had every day, I was being publicly suffocated in front of everyone.
That’s what happened to me.
That was my experience with panic attacks.
The way I dealt with them, since I couldn’t escape or prevent panic attacks, I simply relaxed into each panic attack. I recognized, acknowledged, and breathed through my every panic attack.
I still have them. And I still deal with them by not fighting, not resenting a panic attack, instead, I let it go through me, and I move on after fully experiencing it.
There’s much more damage that comes from having a panic attack about your panic attack. If you just deal with the panic attack itself, it’s not a big deal.
Don’t fight panic attacks.
Allow yourself to be in their presence and breathe through.
A panic attack won’t last unless you fight back. If you do resist it, it can really escalate. You are capable of either shortening or prolonging your panic attacks.
Have you ever experienced a panic attack before?
Where were you? Were you embarrassed?
Try relaxing into a panic attack next time instead of fighting it. Be ok to experience public humiliation like I did: it can happen to anyone and, in fact, it does happen often. It won’t kill you.
What kills people is the panic about their panic attacks.
They stress too much about it.
Stress is the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses. When I resisted my panic attacks, I was so tense and paralyzed, I couldn’t move. I’d sit there and stare, unable to breathe, hearing my heart racing, feeling like I was about to die.
There’s good and bad stress.
Good stress makes us get up and go change the world. It propels us toward our dreams. It entices us to take action. Bad stress kills us.
For decades, I was unwilling to face my stress. I was a high achiever who never recognized her limits. How did I avoid dealing with stress? I drank a lot of alcohol and had a lot of sex. Alcohol and sex helped me avoid my humanness and remain happily-trapped in the happiness illusion. Until I came to the end of myself and met Jesus. He taught me how to be fully human.
It was unhealthy in every way.
Dealing with stress productively starts with you first recognizing what stress feels like to you. Then, you can manage it.
So what is stress?
Stress a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. For example, narcissistic abuse, mental cruelty, domestic violence, or being overworked in some aspects of life, such as work or household responsibilities.
To me, stress causes muscle tension, stomach aches, inability to poop, rectal bleeding, insomnia, lack of self-awareness, and loss of an eternal perspective.
What about you?
What does stress feel like in your body?
Producing content for this very blog and podcast episode caused me a lot of stress. Why? Because sharing my feelings is the last thing I ever would want to do. This content has been so painful to share, I have been stressed out by preparing it, then writing and editing it… But God called me to do it, so I did.
I hope this blog post is of value to you.
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Knowing the stress symptoms, I recognize easily: I am stressed out. I either pray to God, or do squats, journal, meditate, or go for a walk.
How do you manage stress?
Contentment is a state of either satisfaction or acceptance. Contentment is much more desirable to me than mere happiness. Happiness is random, temporary, and depends on others. Contentment is an intentional mental choice, it’s more permanent, and comes from your own thoughts, so it’s fully controlled by you.
I shared with you that initially in my marriage with Michel, I deposited my entire paycheck into our joint bank account. It was all gone: $300 on a $6K bicycle repair, $300 a new iPhone for Michel, $74 of fast food, $500 to ship a bicycle to the IronMan competition, plus, IronMan club dues, and additional fitness club fees, in addition to expensive IronMan jackets, towels, and other meaningless crap. I had never wasted my hard-earned money that way ever.
Michel didn’t even care to pay the mortgage.
We got married in May of 2016. In September, once I discovered all the unpaid bills, after three times I was left with no money for food, I rerouted my paycheck back to my own bank account.
I was stressed and worried at first, I tried talking to him, but he either made himself unavailable, gave me the silent treatment, fall asleep during a money conversation, or raged and threw a temper tantrum at me.
Also, Michel blamed me for his careless spending.
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So, I chose to allow myself to feel contentment about his behavior instead of poisonous stress. And I simply took my paycheck away from Michel.
I stopped worrying and demanding for things to change. Michel’s behavior was outside of my circle of influence, so I placed it outside of my circle of concern as well. I stopped giving careless Michel any money and instead, I focused on paying off the debt we took to remodel our marital residence.
While Michel continued his reckless lifestyle and his new shoes and close were delivered to the house weekly, while he was taking trips and buying whatever he wanted, I was completely content sacrificing because what I wanted and needed to focus on was honoring God by paying off our joint debt.
That contentment, which I practiced with commitment and dedication, allowed me to continue to live frugally, develop habits of good stewardship, and pay off tens of thousands of dollars of debt after our divorce.
In Philippians 4:12-13 Paul says “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Contentment is a choice.
Paul believed that he would be taken care of while in prison. At the time, prisoners were only getting support from their family and friends. Imagine how hard it was, still, Paul chose contentment because he trusted God.
I was content believing that God would take care of my every need. I trusted that God’s plan is bigger and better than my own plan. That allowed me to be clear, focused, and disciplined, which enabled me to remain content every day in the midst of misery, haze, and a total disaster while married to Michel.
Discontent leads to the loss of clarity.
It causes dissatisfaction, bitterness, and resentment.
In which area of your life do you recognize discontent?
How can you make the decision to choose contentment?
Do you trust God’s plan?
Humiliation is a perceived public failure of one’s status. Being humiliated is unavoidable in life. There will be unpredictable humiliation experiences like public panic attacks, for example. There will be predictable humiliation experiences.
When my husband of four months filed for divorce twice in our first few months of marriage and I had to go tell the world what happened during your wedding night, that was definitely an experience of predictable humiliation. Testifying about my wedding night was the most humiliating experience of my life.
Preparing to testify about our wedding night in front of jurors and the judge, I had many panic attacks in advance. It was not anything I could have avoided. I had to do it. I had to go through public humiliation. So, I focused on Jesus.
Jesus was rejected by his own people in favor of Barabbas, a criminal. He was then spat upon, beaten and mocked by the Roman soldiers. Enduring the ultimate form of humiliation, Jesus was crucified while being mocked.
RELATED: Who is Jesus?
Thinking about that, I was able to accept the humiliation I had already endured in the marriage with Michel and all the humiliation I would go through during the jury trial in August of 2017.
Knowing that Jesus understands my humiliation, can relate to it, and He himself experienced it to set me free and give me a life of peace, I was comforted.
What happened during our wedding night was terrible.
Michel and I had our first intercourse, and he just went for it without taking any time for any preparation. I was bleeding, I had to go to the doctor, was put on antibiotics, and for ten days, I had to wear an adult diaper to work.
But even worse than the physical pain imposed on me was the emotional pain. As soon as we entered our honeymoon suite at the Buckhead Intercontinental Hotel, Michel sat in a chair, ignored me, and texted with friends about shoes. He treated me as a commodity. He made me literally wait for him for a long time while he was giving me the silent treatment and chatted with friends.
And waiting I was: I stood there in our honeymoon suite, waiting for my husband to pay attention to me, to want to be with me, to get excited about me, to want to have champagne and chocolate-strawberries with me, to go into that jacuzzi we chose for us, to enjoy each other’s company…
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Well… guess what? None of it happened.
He remained busy texting, sitting alone, in a chair in the corner of that honeymoon suite… and I was so confused, so hurt, so shocked, actually…
I had to go away and be alone in the quick shower instead of that fancy jacuzzi. Why? Because Michel was paying no attention to me. He was still sitting there texting friends about shoes. He made me feel as if I were a worthless piece of nothingness.
RELATED: How Narcissist Makes You Feel
That was what I had to share publicly in our divorce jury trial. It was painful and humiliating. Thanks to Jesus, I lived through it. I’m still here. God healed me and comforted me throughout that journey of humiliation.
What about your humiliation?
Have you ever acknowledged it?
Have you accepted it?
Have you received comfort from Jesus Christ?
Passion and Enthusiasm
Passion and enthusiasm are very good feelings. Remember how much enthusiasm Jesus felt and showed when eating with His disciples? We talked about it earlier in this blog post.
I am a very passionate person.
But I do recognize that before I married Michel, I did not actually know how to love. I thought I did but I didn’t. Remember my LoveDareTest results? I didn’t know how to love sacrificially. But I wanted to learn, and I practiced everything I had learned.
Anyway, learning how to love Michel, I felt so much genuine passion for him as a human in my life whom God gave me to love unconditionally. Even though I suffered extensively for my passion, I would do it all over again. Learning to love Michel was so worth it to me. The passion I felt for him was genuine and deep.
It was a divine experience, for which I’m so grateful. I have no regrets about not only feeling but showing my true passion for Michel. I’m glad that as a human on earth, in this lifetime, I experienced such passion.
Remember how Jesus verbalized His passion and enthusiasm during that meal with His disciples? I did that too during our divorce jury trial. I shared how much I loved Michel with all my heart. I shared it from a witness stand, in front of 14 jurors, the judge, attorneys, our friends who had just attended our wedding a few months before, and the general public present in the courtroom. It was humiliating and liberating all at the same time.
When we keep an eternal perspective on life, when we focus on our walk with God, humiliation is almost irrelevant because people’s judgments don’t matter to our eternity. However, our liberation from our own ego, anger, self-judgment, and fear does matter to our eternity. When we get free from our ego and fear of humiliation, we are able to experience and demonstrate genuine passion.
For me, to say publicly, looking at Michel during our divorce jury trial, that I genuinely love him… it was truly the next level of human experience. It was the kind of divine passion and enthusiasm that I had never felt for anyone or anything in my life.
Of course, I was supposed to feel passion and enthusiasm for the man I married for the rest of my life. What God oned, no one can un-one, so his decision to un-one us didn’t overpower God’s onenning us (by the way, I made up this word).
What about you?
Do you verbalize and express your passion and enthusiasm for people you love?
Preventing our liberation is fear, which is next of our list.
Fear is an emotional response induced by a perceived threat, which causes a change in the human brain and organ functions, as well as in behavior. Fear can lead to fight, flight, or freeze responses.
Fear often drives anxiety or even depression.
Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous and will likely cause us pain and suffering.
Often, we also obsess about our irrational fears. It doesn’t mean all our fears are irrational, but some of them are, for sure. I was devastated with fear while living with Michel who was acting crazy and unpredictable at all times.
After Michel told several people at Highlands Church in Cumming, as well as the pastor who officiated our wedding, that his plan was to divorce me so he could date me again, I had some serious fears. Of course, I knew that if Michel did go through with his divorces, I’d be done with him forever. And I did express it verbally: we can be married and work through our issues or we can be divorced and be done.
There were no dating promises from me. His idea of divorcing me to date me again was the stupidest crap I had ever heard. Ever. I thought it was a joke but when I heard it from dozens of people, I was like: oh wow, this dude is serious. He dated me, married me, divorced me, and all that so that he could date me? Um… No.
I went to the local police department right after I moved into my new home. I told the officer about Michel’s threats and his erratic behavior. I told the police officer about Michel’s gun, which he openly carried everywhere. I told him about Michel’s various threats when he told me something really bad would happen to me if I didn’t leave our marital home… The officer and I made a plan. I installed video cameras to watch over my every window.
Once I took appropriate actions to mitigate the risks from Michel’s threats, the only antidote to my fear was courage and empowerment.
2 Timothy 1:7 says “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power.” We have the courage in us to conquer our fears with faith. I have to do it every day. Though when fear attacks me, I don’t fight it back. I allow it. However, I confront the fear I feel with God’s 3,573 promises.
I trust God.
Trusting God fuels my courage.
Courage is next on our list of feelings.
Courage is you ability to do something that frightens you. I had fear of flying and so I went skydiving. Here’s the link to the full skydiving video of the entire experience. I also had the fear of fire, so I swallowed fire. What? Yes, no kidding! Here’s the video of me swallowing fire. I had the fear of Michel, so I stayed to love him and to be committed to him, despite my fear.
It was pure courage.
I showed vulnerability by pursuing Michel when he had already filed for divorce. I let him know how I felt about him. I told Michel how much I believed in our covenant marriage and that God would heal our pain. All that took a lot of courage.
To pursue Michel and show vulnerability when he rejected me every day and had filed for divorce twice already, I had to die in my flesh and choose to walk in the Spirit. Because in my flesh I felt like “f…k this as..ole, I’m out!” But the Spirit of God gave me the courage to stay with my husband until the end.
This is a very honest Christian blog.
Interestingly, Michel’s attorney presented to the divorce jury and the judge my posts on social media where I expressed my love for Michel after he abused and threatened me on December 5th, 2016 and I had to move out for two weeks to stay with my girlfriend to even just put my head back together. His attorney’s thesis was that if I were ever afraid of Michel, I wouldn’t say a nice thing about him… I’m gonna let you decide for yourself what to think about that thesis. I didn’t know what to say in response to such BS.
I loved Michel and I also spoke the truth about his abuse, rage, and anger toward me. Speaking openly about Michel’s anger and threats was not the opposite of my love for him. Loving someone doesn’t prevent their rage and anger toward you.
Anger is next on our list of feelings.
Anger experts describe the emotion of anger as a primary, natural emotion that has evolved as a way of surviving and protecting yourself from what is considered a wrong-doing. That’s the kind of anger Jesus expressed against injustice: Jesus Felt Anger.
The kind of anger I endured from Michel was not just.
I know when I’m getting angry: when I raise my voice, become defensive, want to scream, and feel self-righteous.
What about you?
What does anger feel like to you?
What does your anger look like on the outside?
As a Vacillator, I had anger as my primary emotion for years. After sending middle-finger texts to Michel in response to his abuse, I started seriously thinking where my anger was coming from and was it really how I wanted to show up in the world as God’s child.
No. It was not. Not at all.
So, in preparation for our divorce jury trial, I was asking God to rid me of any anger I felt, to fill my heart with compassion and grace toward Michel, enable me to be humble and kind every day on the witness stand, and even when I would be humiliated and lied against, to remain anger-free, humble, and kind. That was my daily prayer.
God gave me what I asked. I’m so grateful.
Remember: the actions of others don’t impact your relationship with God or your eternity. Your actions do. You have a choice every time someone angers you to either walk in the Spirit or walk in the flesh. Human anger doesn’t produce the righteousness that God desires.
James 1:19-20 teaches us this: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
How do you manage your anger?
If your desire is to honor and glorify God, reflect on how you express your anger and ask yourself: is my behavior giving God the glory He deserves?
My habits of anger came from always having to defend myself growing up. I lived in a very abusive environment and was physically and mentally in danger every day. There was no one to protect me, so I had to defend myself.
I know first-hand everything about defensiveness.
Defensiveness is the behavior intended to defend or protect. It’s the best way to get yourself into deep anger. I had to defend myself since I was five years old, even from my very own family members.
When as a teen I was raped, my mom said “Good for you, you are now more sexually experienced than your peers” so I had to go and find a way to defend myself from those guys, which I did. My mom was never willing to stand up for me: not at home, not in school, not even in our neighborhood where we had a ton of kids, and I was bullied regularly.
Growing up having to always defend myself, I became a defensive adult. That’s what I am working on now. Whoever thinks whatever about me, they are free to think that. I don’t need to defend myself. I’m learning to live in accordance with this breakthrough. And it’s hard because of the kinds of things that were said to me growing up to specifically offend me.
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If someone offends me, like Michel for example when I was watching him lie on the witness stand for three days in our divorce jury trial, I was able to say to myself: “There’s no need to continue defending your rights because he says lies and changes his testimony every hour and you try to combat that with what’s true. Just let it go. Let go and let God!”
I did that. It gave me peace.
Do you often feel defensive?
Do you desire to establish justice on your own?
Psalm 43 says this:
Establish justice for me, God!
Argue my case against ungodly people!
Rescue me from the dishonest and unjust!
Because you are my God, my protective fortress!
And this became my prayer.
How about you?
Do you believe that God will establish justice in all your cases? Or do you believe defensiveness will do that for you?
I do not want to show up in the world as angry and defensive. The opposite of anger and defensiveness are humbleness and kindness.
Let’s discuss what it means to be humble and kind.
Humbleness and Kindness
Humbleness is the quality of being modest or unpretentious. Kindness is a behavior marked by concern and consideration for others. “Humble and Kind” is my favorite country song.
RELATED: How To Be Kind
The song goes like this:
Hold the door, say please, say thank you
Don’t steal, don’t cheat, don’t lie
I know you got mountains to climb but
Always stay humble and kind.
This has been my alarm clock ringtone since I married Michel. I had to pray that through all this pain, God would allow me to remain humble and kind and not become bitter, resentful, cynical, or angry.
Here’s the prayer poem I wrote to God to reflect my desire for more humbleness and kindness during tough and challenging times of cruelty, abuse, and aggression. It’s called Lord, I Need You.
"Lord, I Need You" #PoemsFromGod
Lord, I need you every hour, every moment of every day.
I need your guidance, your mercy, hold on to me tight.
I need you to never let go of me as I pray.
I need you to lead me, to renew me, to help me stay humble and kind.
Every morning I start with my list of gratitude, God.
Every day I realize my weakness and your strength in it.
Every moment I reach out to you because I never forgot,
That I need you... Without you I've already reached my limit.
7/23/17 © Anna Szabo, JD, MBA
Peace is freedom from disturbance. It is not natural for me to feel peaceful because I grew up in the midst of a daily war at home and for years I didn’t have a chance to feel peace. I am learning to abide in Christ instead of living in my own power, and abiding is what brings me peace.
RELATED: I Have peace In Every Way
Learning and practicing the skill of peace requires faith, wisdom, and surrender. I had to learn to trust God and His good plan.
Colossians 3:15 says “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”
I had very little peace going through all the moving in, being abandoned, two divorces, and moving out – all in a matter of just a few months of life. I was disturbed by Michel’s abandonment, his abuse, and all the trauma I had to deal with, daily.
I told you how in our marital residence I felt homeless in the midst of unfinished construction. Well, I moved to my new home here at the Lodge, where I live now, and my toilet had leakage, so my floors had to be pulled and replaced.
I had a ceiling falling on my head, and master bathroom bathtub paint popped so my dog Bruno and I were moved to a hotel.
I was given a budget but could choose any hotel I wanted.
I read hotel reviews, chose a place, my dog Bruno and I walked in….. You would not believe it: there was a major construction – walls, floors, everything was being replaced, dust everywhere…
And you know what?
It made me realize: “God might not be changing my unfinished construction circumstances that follow me wherever I go accompanied with the feeling of homelessness because God might want me to change in the same unchanged circumstances.
I made the decision to reach out for God and tap into His peace, no matter the circumstances outside of me.
If you listen to this content on my podcast, The Anna Szabo Show, you’ll hear me share with you what I wrote on May 26th, 2017 as I was settling in my new home and going through the second divorce with Michel, preparing for our divorce jury trial.
Peace comes from within.
Even when the world around us is falling apart, we can still have peace. God called us to live a life of peace while He said we will have troubles in this world. That’s not a maybe. That’s a definite yes, there will be troubles. Still, God called us to have peace.
On this journey of seeking peace, I’ve been learning that peace is like a Christmas gift under the tree with my name on it: I can reach and grab it and have it, it will be mine because it already is waiting to be mine, or I can never reach for it, never take the gift, and it won’t be mine.
It’s up to me.
Peace is available to me, any time, anywhere, my name is written on the gift. All I need is to recognize it and reach out for the gift. I need to take it if I want to have it. And so is your peace, which is available to you any moment. Just reach for it and enjoy it. As a result of this learning experience, I wrote a poem to God called God’s Peace.
"God's Peace" #PoemsFromGod
Your peace rules now in my heart,
With love and joy and full devotion.
I don't pursue or seek it hard -
From abiding in you comes this sacred emotion.
I make every effort to live at peace
With everyone, but I fail often.
From condemnation with mercy me you release.
Through the humbling journey my heart you soften.
I cast my anxieties on you in prayer,
Because you care and your son for me you sacrificed.
I don't do wrong for wrong and evade every naysayer,
Your peace guards my mind and heart in Jesus Christ.
8/10/17 © Anna Szabo, JD, MBA
Vulnerability is the state of being exposed to the possibility of being harmed emotionally. According to author Brené Brown, Ph.D, LMSW, in her latest book “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead,” vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center, of meaningful human experiences.
For me, to agree to be with Michel took a lot of vulnerability because I was married in the past and it didn’t work out. Michel was also divorced, and I had real concerns. But I was deceived.
I let all my guards down to love Michel.
It was such an act of courage.
Love took courage.
Brene Brown defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.”
Think about the vulnerability it takes to love someone, to be honest, to say yes to their marriage proposal, to quit your life and move away from everything you know in order to be with that person, to deposit your paycheck into a joint account for that person to use, stand there in your honeymoon suite waiting to be acknowledged as that person intentionally manipulates you into feeling unwanted, rejected, and worthless.
I intentionally chose to be vulnerable with Michel.
I followed him with my eyes closed.
I leaned into our love.
I agreed to trust Michel as he was begging me to do.
I let him lead, as he was demanding.
And he did lead.
He led us into the hell on earth.
He led me into a total crisis: mental, emotional, spiritual, relational, financial, physical, and existential.
Think about all the vulnerability it takes for me to open up to you here about all the issues in my life with the hope that you will hear the Gospel applied to my troubles and be comforted in your own troubles.
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For me, vulnerability is scary.
I’m scared right now, being so vulnerable with you.
Putting myself out there and sharing my heart is scary.
But I know this: when others are vulnerable with me, their message of God’s goodness and sovereignty helps me feel comforted and facilitates my healing.
That’s why I’m giving my vulnerability to you.
I’m here to show you how God never failed me and never abandoned me on my tough journey. I want to help you heal. I want my vulnerability to help your faith grow.
So, yes, I’m scared.
But I give you my vulnerability anyway.
I am here to encourage and empower you.
Mine is a story of God’s amazing glory. Yours, too!
Are you vulnerable with people in your life?
Who needs your vulnerability?
Who can be encouraged by your story of God’s glory?
Purpose is a reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists or is happening. I’ve been learning to live on purpose. I truly believe that God created each of us for His divine purpose.
Romans 8:28 says “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.”
So, when it comes to life in general or to me as a person, yes, I know there’s purpose. But in my marriage and divorce, I saw nothing good for sure. I questioned the purpose of that marriage, divorces, suffering, and even the purpose of my life. Why was I there? Why did I marry that man?
Once Michel started manipulating me into suicidal depression, just surviving became a daily fight. So, I was seeing a Biblical counselor on Wednesdays and a trauma counselor on Fridays to help me continue living. It was hard.
My Biblical counselor gave me homework: to study scriptures on how to glorify God. I did, and it was so helpful. I knew that “all things” played out in relation to my life’s purpose, only I couldn’t imagine how Michl’s two divorces in our first few months of marriage, his abuse, and all the cruelty could have possibly been good or a part of God’s purpose for my life.
I did all my homework by hand. I studied the scriptures, wrote the answers, and pondered how everything applied to my marriage situation, to my suicidal depression, and to our divorce.
My friend Tiffany at some point sent me a text message asking me to read the book of Esther. She said it was about me. I didn’t read the book. Then, independently from Tiffany, my Biblical counselor gave me that whole book as homework. Finally, I studied it. That’s when I discovered such a sense of purpose. I was equipped and qualified to be that man’s wife, to suffer in that marriage, for some good reason. What was the reason? Only God knew.
That was when I stepped into my purpose.
I knew everything was happening as God had planned it.
God ordained my adversity and suffering.
Here’s a poem I wrote about my breakthrough.
It’s called My Husband for a Reason.
"My Husband for a Reason" #PoemsFromGod God, I'm praying for my husband: Can you please renew his mind? Give him heart that's made of flesh and Make him faithful, wise, and kind. God, I pray that you draw close him - To disciple be of Jesus, Trusting that you truly chose him To my husband be for reasons. For salvation his I'm praying And for healing of his wounds. At your feet my love I'm laying - His uprising me eludes. Bless him, Father, give him peace. He's been suffering too long. From his past please him release And fill his heart with joyful song. 9/16/17 © Anna Szabo, JD, MBA
Years passed, and I see why things happened. God wasn’t on vacation nor was He napping while I was abused and treated with cruelty. God let me be crucified, and He resurrected me. He gave me a ministry and sent me to you. God asked me to share with you the same comfort I received from Him. He asked me to encourage and empower you.
And I’ve been walking in my purpose ever since.
Writing this blog post is a good example.
There’s absolutely nothing about this blog post that excited me for even a second. Writing this article has felt so painful, I’ve resented every moment of it, and I’ve cried my eyes out, and also I’ve tried to avoid it but guess what? Here it is, you’re reading it. I wrote it because God asked me to, so that you can see all the painful circumstances He delivered me from, and so that you know whatever trials and tribulations you’re facing, God won’t fail you, He won’t forsake you, He will carry you through, and He will use all things for good. That’s the reason why I cried my eyes out but did write this blog post and published a podcast for you.
I’m living out my purpose, not my comfort.
What about you? Do you feel driven by a strong sense of purpose? Do you believe that adversity in your life has been ordained by God? Do you trust God?
Trust is what we will discuss next.
Trust is a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. I had to practice trust to entice myself to let my guard down and allow Michel to see my vulnerability, and it turned out really bad. trusted God with my marriage, and all that led to was unbearable suffering in every aspect of my being. I trusted Anna Stevens to show good discernment, and she switched to Anna Szabo and practically betrayed me. Keep reading, you haven’t lost me here: Anna Stevens is I and Anna Szabo is also I, so you’re good, you’re following. It’s complicated. I know.
Trust is difficult for me.
I doubt myself. I doubt people. I doubt God.
God and I wrestle in times of struggle but, deep in my heart, I know that I trust God, I believe that the Bible is God-breathed word, and I take every little bit of the Gospel literally. It took a while for me to figure this out but God always wins. Always. And the proof is this blog post: the most painful content ever, I’m so exhausted by writing it, but as I said, God asked me to, we wrestled, He won. Period.
You know my life has been really tough. You know that I am anxious and scared of more adversity. But I relax into those feelings knowing that God is good and His plan is always perfect. I trust Him.
I trust God with every bad thing that ever happened. I trust God with my heart, my journey with Michel, our marriage, divorce, and all our struggles. I trust God with all the love I experienced and all the suffering I endured in my marriage with Michel. I trust God that for His divine reason I had to marry that man and go through all the pain and cruelty imposed on me.
I wrote a poem about trusting God and His perfect plan.
It’s called Your Plan Is Always Perfect.
"Your Plan Is Always Perfect" #PoemsFromGod
You said your plan is perfect.
Can I believe it, God?
Sometimes I feel in conflict,
With scope of trials so broad.
But then I look around,
I pay attention close,
And see your grace abound
In sorrow and in loss.
I trust your every vow,
Your Holy Word I trust.
Sometimes I wonder how
Your beauty comes from dust.
Your plan for me to prosper,
Have future and the hope
Wholeheartedly I trust in
And never will I stop.
8/16/17 © Anna Szabo, JD, MBA
Empowerment is a set of measures designed to increase the degree of autonomy and self-determination in people. I was empowered by many women while on my journey of adversity. Also, many women have been empowered by me on their own journeys.
Empowerment is something I have been focusing on as I embarked on my new journey of narcissistic abuse recovery. I dedicated my ministry to encouraging and empowering women became I believe that empowered women empower women.
RELATED: Empowering Women
The events of my life shared in this blog post brought me to my knees many times. The pain and suffering inflicted on me in my last marriage almost broke me, though, on the outside, it appeared as a typical happiness illusion. Who was capable of recognizing my suffering covered up with big smiles? Other women who had lived through the same kind of traumatic experiences. Those women knew what was going on in my marriage.
Empowered women empowered me, and I now empower you. I believe that God gave me the power to change the world, and that’s why I am going to share my story from the global stage of TEDx.
I want to empower women all over the world.
That’s what stepping into my own empowerment did to me – it set me on fire. I feel that with my message of faith and hope I can impact people’s lives and the future of humanity. I believe that I can help women facing abuse find that inner strength they need to stand up and speak their truth.
Everything I feel is captured in my poem called Empowering Women, which reflects on my experiences with domestic violence and narcissistic abuse, including being deceived and lied against in the courtroom where everyone present was manipulated in the same exact way I was manipulated, too.
"Empowering Women" #PoemsFromGod Empowerment is a concept of persevering, No matter what life offers to you at times. It's a decision to refuse fearing Narcissists, abusers, and executors of other crimes. Empowerment is the antidote to violence. It's a way of saying: "No more from now on!" It's the path to get you beyond survivance To where you can thrive and finally move on. I myself need empowerment daily. And I support other women to share empowerment. Sometimes, from abuse we can even think barely... And no one can help us, not even the government. Police, courts, judges, jurors, and attorneys Get deceived by our abusers often times. When there's no help on our survival journeys, Empowerment is the only way to confront crimes. Get empowered from knowing who you are in Christ! He loves and accepts you. He made you a masterpiece. To liberate you, His life was sacrificed. He set you free so you can be from abuse released. Raise up! Speak up! Stand up for yourself! Get empowered and empower others! You are worthy of the love of Jesus Himself! So, take no more of this abuse nonsense! 10/14/17 © Anna Szabo, JD, MBA
Surrender is the act of giving up the possession of power and yielding into the power of God. I had a plan for my marriage: it was going to be life-long and God-glorifying. Michel wanted me to yield and let him lead, which I did, but that ended up very bad, so soon, I went back to my original plan.
I was committed to Michel and our covenant marriage but I was also committed to God and wanted us to serve Him together. That was what we had discussed before our wedding.
The wedding was the beginning of the end.
Once we started living together, I was hell on earth.
Michel did three IronMan competitions in our first four months of marriage, and he filed for divorce saying he wasn’t interested in me but wanted to be an IronMan instead and compete in Kona.
Then, in November, he wanted t reconcile.
We spent Thanksgiving in Alabama with our mentors.
While there and on the way back, he was asking me for money and flipping out, raging, so I slept in a separate bedroom. When we returned home, things were rocky but I still had hope.
Soon, I saw that Michel had no interest in our marriage but he wanted me to agree to sell the house we remodeled together – our marital residence. His manipulation and cruelty were escalating. His agenda was obvious. He was absent and disengaged. I lived with one human but two men: Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. I was pulled into multiple realities, so I never knew what was going on, and I was so confused.
- What Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Do to Your Psyche
- Narcissistic Gaslighting
- Narcissistic Projection
- Narcissistic Verbal Trickery
- Narcissistic Delusions of Multiple Realities
- Narcissistic Discard Cruelty and Silent Treatment
We took our Christmas pictures, and on December 5th, 2016 when our divorce was dismissed, as I came home after work and a networking event for Women In Technology at Cox in Dunwoody, we had a blowup.
Michel flipped out, cussed me out, yelled at me, and I was sitting there at the kitchen table paralyzed from fear and anxiety. I texted my friend. She drove from Midtown to Cumming, GA to get me, and as she arrived, Michel was sleeping and snoring. Yes, he was peacefully resting after his flipping out, and that’s how it was every time.
I stayed with her for a few days to deal with my fears.
But I decided to go back because I loved Michel, was committed to him, and my determination to make our marriage work was stronger than my fears of all Michel’s threats and rage outbursts combined. It was a tough time.
Abuse was all I faced. I was becoming more depressed and suicidal. I was drinking. Michel was intimidating. I was scared of him but also didn’t want to give up on him. I was so torn and so confused. I remembered the man who asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. I remember how much we cared for each other. I remembered how much I loved Michel.
But that Michel wasn’t at my house. Michel in my home was different. I felt trapped in the marriage with the crazy freak I didn’t even know, and I was torn, I was hurt, I was devastated, and I wanted to just not even be alive anymore. I was in pain emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally.
Five weeks after that reconciliation, Michel filed for divorce for the second time. I argued with God about those divorces. They were painful and unnecessary, from my earthly perspective. They felt surreal to me. My whole life felt surreal.
I was on my knees praying, and I surrendered. I gave up control, yielding into the power of God. I let go and let God. It was very hard. I actually wrote a poem, which is a declaration of surrender to God.
It’s called I’m Surrendered To Thee.
"I'm Surrendered To Thee" #PoemsFromGod
I am fearfully and wonderfully made
By God Almighty, the Great I Am.
Old things all past away at once,
And I am a new creation in Christ.
I die in my flesh and walk in the Spirit,
I choose kindness and humbleness.
The harder the journey, the more I grow from it.
You offer to me no condemnation
And you provide an escape
From every temptation.
I choose to lose so I can win,
I'm prudent, not simple, following your written will.
I go through trials and learn my lessons daily but often stumble.
I know you prune me to be more fruitful, but my life I often shamble.
Please lift this heavy burden off of me,
You say your yoke is easy. I'm surrendered to Thee.
3/10/17 © Anna Szabo, JD, MBA
And that’s my story of feeling my feelings, allowing them instead of resenting and resisting the experience, and ultimately learning how to be fully human, how to explore, understand, and embrace my humanness.
Michel and I got divorced. I dedicated my life to ministry.
I know nothing about Michel’s life. But he did invite me to meet with him after our divorce and I did tell him that if he ever contacts me again, I will obtain a restraining order against him. I don’t play narcissistic games.
- Loving The Narcissist
- The Narcissist’s Ego Is Fragile
- The Narcissist Is Jealous
- The Narcissist Is a Chief Deceiver and Liar
- The Narcissist Manipulates You Intentionally
- The Narcissist Is Confused About His Identity
- The Narcissist Is Eager for Approval
- The Narcissist Gaslights You
- The Narcissist Projects His Faults On You
- The Narcissist’s Silent Treatment
- The Narcissist’s Reptilian Stare
- The Antidote To Narcissistic Abuse
Ok. Wow! That was a lot to share with you!
It’s been the most humbling experience and the most vulnerable content I have ever put out there into the web universe. My hope is that you found this relevant, helpful, empowering, and healing.
Now, I want you to tell me how you really feel.
Tell Me How You Really Feel
It was hard for me to share so much personal information with you but I did because God called me to. What I’ve learned about feelings changed my life. My life is better because I am able to feel my feelings and be fully human. I spend time alone without distractions and pray on my knees daily.
I journal about my feelings and even blog to share my breakthroughs with you. Deep in my heart, I hope that this information really helped you.
I hope that you will start spending time with yourself without distractions to learn what feelings there are within your own heart. I hope you will journal and share – with friends, your pastor, therapist, or me.
And if you’re ready, tell me how you really feel. I want to hear your story. Share with me! I’m here to encourage and empower you. You are the reason why my Christian ministry exists. So, if you want, tell me how you really feel.
And if you don’t still know, I’ll help you.
Let me share with you a guide to feelings.
How To Feel Your Feelings
- Spend time alone without distractions
- Be still in your own presence and notice your emotions
- Take a look at the photographs from different life seasons
- Journal how those memories make you feel and why
- Describe the events and people which influenced you
- Document what’s going on within as you do this
- Leverage a list of feelings to label what you’re experiencing
- Explore why you feel the way you do and journal about it
- Face each feeling with courage and be in its presence
- Notice how painful feelings go through you, you’re still ok
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I find my feelings?
To discover your feelings, spend time alone without any distractions, pray, journal, and review your childhood pictures. Your feelings are in your childhood. You need to go back and look for your feelings there.
You were created a human with various human emotions. You were designed to feel emotions. If you’re unable to feel, it’s an indication of trauma that needs to be explored. Try therapy or Biblical counseling.
We feel feelings because we are humans. Feelings are the language of conscience. We related to the people around us, God, ourselves, and the world around us through feelings.
There’s an incident. You have thoughts about it. You make a choice of what to feel. You experience emotions. They drive your behaviors. Your behaviors cause your life outcomes.
You can’t say how you feel because you may not know what feelings there are to be felt. Use this list of feelings to help you out.
Figure out your own feelings, journal about them try to talk about them and make sure you understand your own emotional profile and that of the person you’re communicating with.
Explore Five Emotional Profiles.
Use a list of feelings to help label what you feel.
Read How We Feel Emotions.
Feelings don’t kill us but what we do to avoid feeling feelings does kill us. Alcoholism, sex addiction, drug addiction, excessive exercise, compulsive shopping, and binge eating – all these vises do kill people or force them into suicide, which is one of the leading causes of death in America today.
That’s why I created “Tell Me How You Really Feel: a Guide to Feelings.” I want to help you stop avoiding your humanness and running away from yourself. I want to help liberate you from the deadly trap of The Happiness Illusion.
I want to help you explore, understand, and accept your humanity. I want you to not be afraid of feelings but to welcome them and let them pass through you without resenting them.
How to feel your feelings is the most important skill you’ll ever learn. If you master this skill, you will not need to separate yourself from your psyche using drugs, binge-eating, alcohol, or overspending.
You’ll be at peace with yourself. You’ll be able to have a joyful life. You won’t need to be rescued from yourself anymore. You will be able to friends with yourself and enjoy your own company.
I’ve learned the hard way. I fell in love and was deceived.
I was taken advantage of, abused, manipulated into depression, and eventually forced into suicidal ideation through very eloquent narcissistic abuse tactics, such as gaslighting, projection, discarding, and multiple realities.
I suffered a lot and I learned a lot.
In this blog post, I shared with you a few major things I’ve learned. Let’s recap what we’ve talked about.
A Guide To Feelings
- The Feelings Jesus Felt
- How To Understand Feelings
- Five Emotional Profiles
- How We Feel Emotions
- How To Feel Your Feelings
You can bookmark this page to come back to it regularly as you’re making progress on your own journey of learning how to feel your feelings and how to be fully human.
The most important discovery of my personal journey of exploring, understanding, and embracing my humanity was my identity revelation.
I had always struggled with who I thought I was, and that caused me a lot of suffering. Then, God revealed to me my true identity and taught me to see myself the way He sees me.
Today, I help women see themselves the way God sees them. In the last few years, I’ve personally been on a quest to figuring out and conquering the negative voices in my head that distort my understanding of who I am. I call those voices the Shitty Committee, and each of us has that special committee in our headspace.
I’ve specifically been focusing on my identity in Christ. From the Bible, I discovered 52 incredibly-positive things God says about us as His children. Those 52 precious discoveries turned into 52 Biblical affirmations I created to encourage and empower Christian women.
To help share this life-changing information with you, I created an ebook called #52Devotionals. Download it now for free.
My free ebook helps you understand who God says you are. Don’t be vulnerable to identity attacks from the mainstream media, relatives, coworkers, your boss, society, culture, and the voices in your head.
Stand firm and know what God says about you.
Anna Szabo is the founder of Online Discipleship For Women, a Christian ministry committed to alleviating suicide among women globally by sharing hope in Christ. Anna teaches how to create a joyful life by embracing God’s word based on her own journey of faith and fortitude.
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