For many years I have stuffed my closets to overflowing with gifts from others, numerous house decorations, and odds and ends that I think I may need one day. I haven’t cleaned out my closets in years, and I keep putting off cleaning out my closets because I know it’s going to be a great task.
Like cleaning out our physical closets is important to get rid of the items we no longer need or want, cleaning out the hurt and wounds we have endured so we can live the abundant life we were created for, is imperative to your physical, mental, and spiritual health. When we don’t clean out our closets, we tend to stuff more things on top of what we already have. We can do that with situations and circumstances we don’t want to deal with-stuff and stuff until there is an explosion. I admit I don’t like going through the process of cleaning out my closets, and I don’t like the difficulty of having to process the heartaches in my life. I would rather just shut the closet door, and move on, but you can’t just move on. Believe me, I have tried, for years to just try and move on from my only child being a prodigal for 15 years, from the miscarriages I have had, from the addiction that runs in my family, from my uncle dying drug-addicted and homeless, from my parent’s divorce and their remarriages, and the cancer diagnosis my father received during COVID. I have tried to “shut the door” and keep moving from the mental instability that has ravaged most of my family. I so desperately want to know that I am the “normal” one in my family, but I avoid at all costs having to face the remote possibility I have similar traits to those in my family.
I don’t take the time to be still with God and have Him take out the infections in my soul, because what if I find out that I am the common factor in all the losses that I have endured, what if I find out I have done something wrong to deserve my afflictions, or what if I am like my family who has not been able to escape the clutches of mental health problems. I don’t allow God to expose those areas because what if it’s too painful, and I can’t bear the feeling that God too has let me down like others in my life. The direct result of not allowing God to purge and “clean out my closet” is that for many years I just numbed myself with alcohol like so many in my family have.
I was taught something from early on in my childhood, and that is “we don’t have problems.” I observed those in my family who drank away their problems, and so I began a journey that lasted over 3 decades of using alcohol to ignore pain. I didn’t deal with anything head-on but stuffed until I could have a drink. Unfortunately, because I stuffed so much way down for many years, now I have the task of purging and cleaning out what I have been running from for so long.
If I have learned anything about the closets, that I have stuffed in my home, is that the task of cleaning out my closet would be minimal if I would purge and tidy up my closet as needed. However, if I wait years to clean out my closet, I can feel overwhelmed by what to give away, what to keep, and what to store. So much like our lives, when we don’t take the time as needed to sit quietly before the Lord and allow Him to get out of what has devastated us, we can end up depressed, addicted, and angry. Our joy and peace will be replaced with a heaviness that we don’t even understand why it is there.
Let me challenge you as I am myself, to begin to “clean out your closet.” Little by little, not all at once when we allow God to remove the wounds, we can start to feel lighter. If you need to, write out what is deep inside, talk to God, cry as needed, or tell a trusted person or support group. Whatever you do, don’t keep it bottled up inside. The worst thing we can do for our mental health is to deny and stuff the realities of our painful situations. Just because you process through the pain, does not mean you are to stay there. Designate 20 minutes a day if needed to work through painful events and memories. Make sure to encourage yourself as you do this. Working through trauma, pain, and loss is no easy task. Make sure to take time to practice self-care as you are working through the emotions. As I am getting there, you will get there too. Take your time, and be gentle with yourself as you are exposing possibly years of repressed pain.
Stephanie R. Reck, LMSW, LBT, BCCC is the Author of “Disciplining Your Mind: 30 Days to a Better You!” and the Founder of Hope Ministry – www.stephaniereck.com. She can be reached at: Hopeandencouragement4women@gmail.com.