Blessed In The Dark Valley

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Photo by Oscar Keys on Unsplash

The last quarter of 2019 was incredibly full of battles. It tested me physically, mentally and spiritually. I got lost in different places, kept on re-evaluating if the path I am going to was the right path and got heavily tested with my own faith, patience, and mindset. There were a lot of days where hope is missing. No bright light is going through, it was only dark. No one was fighting with you here on Earth. It was you and all the monsters in an ancient colosseum go hand in hand.

All of the battles were never taken for granted. Each battle makes me stronger and stronger as it finishes. It was hard. Not all battles were won and I lost a lot. I failed a lot. I suffered a lot of pain, wounds, turmoil, and discouragement. I was fighting with my knees down but never surrendering and giving my all. I was broken but never destroyed.

This is my testimony on how I fought my everyday battles while in the dark valley.

The Most Awaited Stretch Turns Out Different

It all started slowly during the start of the last quarter of 2019. I didn’t expect it will stretch for a very long time.

I am a running athlete and the last quarter was really special to me because it holds two of the best races I will ever join at the time of writing this. It was the Spartan race which is an obstacle course race and a 50 km marathon run which I wrote here. I did a lot of training to make sure I will be ready for the race. While training religiously there’s this one time where I injured my right shoulder and almost dislocated. The pain was tolerable during non-training days but when it is training days, it was painful. It was hard to train and hard to force it because it might get worse and might not be able to participate. It was 2 weeks before the race and it was discomforting. I had no choice but to stop weight training and focus on the long term. It was challenging because I had to endure the pain while waiting for the upcoming race. I tried some home remedies, it worked but didn’t remove the discomfort permanently.

On race day, Spartan race, I prayed and believed in myself that I will finish it without any injuries. And, I did it! No injuries and I’ve finished the race happily and fulfilled. You can see my post-race photo here.

After the race event, I told myself that I will get my injured shoulder a proper medication treatment. And so, I did some therapies and some shoulder mobility exercises to strengthen it and avoid further injuries.

The time after my therapy sessions, I was now healed and got my shoulder back already. This was 2 weeks after the Spartan race. Around 2–3 days after my last shoulder therapy session, my 50 km marathon run is now around the corner.

On race day, I prayed and believed in my self that I will finish it with the hopes of resetting my body and being the best version of myself. And, I did it! I’ve finished the race in which I had a lot of realizations that I shared through this article.

At this point, my physical body was exhausted because of the physical activities I’ve done through the prior weeks. I just got healed from my shoulder injury and now I am enduring the pain I got from the race. My legs were sore and I can’t even walk properly.

Unimagined Turnaround

Most of the marathon races are done during Sundays. I was able to come back to the office the following week but as I said, I can’t walk properly because my legs were really sore. I tried a lot of stretching to my body to reduce the soreness.

During my comeback week to the office, we have a basketball event to attend the following Friday. I thought it will be good timing because I can loosen up my body and will probably help me stretch out some soreness on my body. Also, that was the last day of my good friend with us because he will be transferred to another one. That’s the reason also why I opted-in to play.

The game started with a good stretch, buckets here and over here. It was the moment where the emotions from both sides are hyped on the game. Everyone was eager to win and get a bucket. It was intense! It was the possession of our opponent. They took a shot and missed it. The ball is about to fall on me and so I prepared myself to catch it. Then suddenly when I’m about to catch it, I accidentally overextend my right shoulder! It got twisted and it was painful! I got down on the floor and hold my shoulder. This was the shoulder that just got cured of another injury. My shoulder got almost broken from different injuries. It was really painful and discomforting for the first few seconds. Luckily, it got twisted back to its normal position. It was a rotator cuff injury.

After my shoulder went back to normal, I continued playing and ignored my shoulder injury. Talk about competitiveness. It didn’t bother me much when I continued playing but it was a little uncomfortable. I was able to finish the game with a smile. But I know after I rest, the pain will come out and hit me hard.

Later that night, we head out for dinner. While I am on the table waiting for the food. I am on my phone with my head down. Then suddenly I felt unusual when I look up. The feeling of almost getting fainted. The feeling of your surroundings will go dark. It was scary. That’s the first time I’ve encountered it. My heart started beating fast because I got anxious. Who wouldn’t be? My thinking at that moment was maybe I’m just tired and dehydrated that’s why I felt that way. I drank a lot of water and try my best to calm. I rushed home and rest myself up immediately. Hoping it will be gone sooner.

The morning after that night, I was in the supermarket doing the same head position. While in the line and using my phone with my head down. After getting my head up, I felt that unusual feeling again. I grabbed the nearest bar immediately. The feeling of almost getting fainted.

After I bought everything I need from the supermarket, I went out immediately to the nearest hospital to get checked. The doctor initially diagnosed me with vertigo and had me go for an Electrocardiogram (ECG) lab test for the heart. It was a test to check for heart problems.

The result of the ECG was normal. Thank God. It was just vertigo that causes me dizziness.

Peace In The Midst Of The Storm

The ECG result gave me relief over my health condition. However, I still feel not normal afterward. I got back to my office routine and attended it every day but then there’s always a moment where I will feel anxious out of nowhere. My mind will play the negative thoughts and it’s hard to stop playing it over your head. When this happens, my heartbeat will go fast, I will feel weak and go crumble. It was the worst feeling.

There was this afternoon with a cold temperature at the office. I was shivering uncontrollably. I did some breathing techniques to warm my body. It helps but it didn’t last for long. Along with the cold temperature was the feeling of being anxious about your health. I don’t know why I was anxious specifically. I just felt not normal. Sometimes, I would be dizzy. Sometimes, I would feel some chest pains. It was scary. Was it a heart attack?

Whenever I feel those moments it felt like I was in the middle of the storm on my boat alone. It was dark. The waves were going hard. It was raining hard. I cannot see some light. My boat looks like it’s about to be crashed by the strong winds and waves. I am lost. I am scared. Will I be drowned by my own self? What should I do?

I looked on the internet on what to do when you feel anxious. When your heart beats so fast because of anxiety. I tried to be my own scientist. Along with seeking an answer on the internet. I remembered the technique that I’ve read from Iceman’s book, What Doesn’t Kill Us, which has the 4–7–8 breathing technique. I did that during these moments to calm myself and to remove the anxiety. The 4–7–8 breathing technique helps me to get started. It lightens up my chest and feeling for a moment but it was insufficient. Maybe I didn’t practice it properly and was looking for quick relief. And so I moved forward and didn’t dwell much on the technique.

There were times where I would go out of the office to be alone in order to find peace. Whenever I am alone I fill my mind with positive thoughts. Anything that fills my mind with positive thoughts, I do it. This technique helps me far more than the breathing technique because my mind would stop playing those negative thoughts. But this is a little hard to get started. It’s easy to think positive when everything is going well but it is hard to think positive when everything is not going well. It was hard to fight those negative thoughts because it was like you were in an ancient colosseum with hundreds of enemies going at you. Whenever you finish fighting the first one, the second one will come already without hesitation or delay. It was working but it was hard. I continued doing it but I didn’t stop looking for more techniques I could use.

As I move forward on this journey, I’ve seen how my positive thinking technique still lacking. I’ve encountered more battles and lost to some of them. My ship was moving but it looked like it cannot hold for long. I did experienced almost drowning on my thoughts, received scars from the battles and suffered injuries from the turmoils. I am scared. The difficulty level of the negative thoughts rose from easy to advanced level. The same with game battles, the enemy will be getting harder to defeat. They received an upgrade. Oh no. What should I do next? What will happen to me? Am I going to die? Is this how my story will end?

There was this night where I don’t know what to do. Every move I made, the enemy got a counterattack. I got my back against the wall. I got nowhere to be found. I don’t have any moves to make that can move them away. I stopped. I closed my eyes and just prayed. I prayed like I’m never praying every day. After praying, I will watch spiritual motivations to blend with my positive thinking. Praying really works. Praying removes the enemies. Praying calms me the most during my battles. No other doing can make me calm the way prayer calms me. This is the best weapon I’ve found along on this journey. Not only the enemy got an upgrade, but I also got an upgrade to myself! It removes the anxieties, worries, and fears on me. Whenever I feel like I’m floating and getting lost along on these strong winds and waves, praying to God gives me an immediate anchor to hold and center my ship. I don’t know what is happening specifically but it calms me and it keeps me from drowning. It is beyond sufficient for my survival.

Wings Are Coming

There was this day where I was eating a lot of cold food. Strawberry yogurts, mango bottled yogurt, avocado shake, and a few more shake drinks. It was the first time that I’ve eaten a lot of cold food. It was awesome.

That night, my family and I were watching some late-night movies and eating some popcorns. It was the first time we had a bonding like that. While I was eating my popcorn, something happened to me.

I can’t even swallow properly! I thought I was about to get choke for a moment! I thought the popcorn got stuck in there. I got scared because this is the first time I’ve experienced this. I tried calming down and drank some warm tea and water with the thought of it will pass down some blockages on my throat. It was actually funny but it was also disturbing. When I was in my bed already, I kept on swallowing my saliva with difficulty. It felt unusual and scary because I might get choke in the middle of the night. Ugh. I told myself to calm down, nothing’s going to happen. You are safe. God is in control. Activating my spiritual muscles for the night.

The following day, I can’t even eat properly. I can’t even finish my meals properly because every time I try to swallow, it felt like I’m about to get choked. It felt like your throat got some rock stuck in there. I lost my appetite and energy. It was tonsillitis.

Did you ever have that experience where it seems like problems are accumulating vastly? Where you haven’t recovered fully from the previous battle, yet another one is coming already in front of you? It was tiring, discouraging, lonely and heartbreaking. Why can’t I have a break for a moment? I looked into the mirror and see myself exhausted, hopeless and powerless. It was the first time seeing myself look like that in front of the mirror. I cried seeing myself broken. I don’t know what to do anymore. It’s really tiring. I wonder if I still have the power to go through. I feel like I can’t do it anymore.

I am a follower of Pastor Joel Osteen, I listen to his videos on Youtube almost every day. Instead of playing some videos on Youtube, I would play his videos instead and it makes me lift up. Along with my brokenness, I came across one of his videos, titled Your Wings Are Coming. It was full of hope and wisdom.

He talked about the process of the caterpillar. He talked about how we were like a caterpillar at some point. Where we would look into other people who look like a butterfly, flying around and being happy. We got insecure and jealous. I actually felt insecure and jealous because I wasn’t able to do the things I want to do while others can do what they want to do. I find it hard to be happy because I see myself broken into pieces.

The next after the caterpillar phase, we would undergo the cocoon or the pupa phase. The cocoon or pupa phase is where the caterpillar will undergo the uncomfortable season. You thought being a caterpillar is all you have to be? Well, that’s not the case. Along with your insecurities and jealousies, you will now be stuck in a dark place. This place will be more uncomfortable. The dark valley for the caterpillar is now happening. The caterpillar cannot move freely, cannot see light, and will feel like it is a permanent situation. The caterpillar will deal with a lot of negative thoughts and complain a lot because it is uncomfortable. The caterpillar doesn’t have any idea that wings are coming because it is surrounded by dark. The caterpillar doesn’t know that it needed that phase to grow and go higher.

My previous incidents were like I am in a cocoon or pupa phase in life. It’s hard to see light because mostly each day I am surrounded by dark. It’s uncomfortable, exhausting and discouraging. There were times I don’t know what will happen next. If the dark will continue to get darker and I won’t be able to see light anymore. I don’t know how long it will take or how many pains I will endure getting through the day. I just don’t know and have no idea.

But as I learned from Joel, the cocoon or pupa phase is a season of growth. I just didn’t realize it when I was in that phase because it was hard to get peace and understanding. It was hard to look at the bigger picture. But I did try my best to keep a good attitude despite everything. Every day I will remind myself that this phase is temporary and God is preparing me for great things that I can’t imagine. I told myself that my wings are coming. I will be able to fly even higher as I’ve never imagined. When I learned that mindset. I believed it and kept on doing the right thing even if things are not going well. I kept believing in God that he can trust me even though things are not going well, I will still believe in him. And I will do my best to do the right thing no matter what. I trusted God that my wings are developing and I will rise gracefully in his name.

That mindset is one of the keys I needed to complete this journey. It gave me light during my dark moments inside the cocoon. It gave me comfort when I was feeling uncomfortable inside the cocoon. It gave me hope when I felt hopeless inside the cocoon. It saved me when I felt like I was dying inside the cocoon. It was God who pulled me out of the dark. It was God who gave me wings to fly. It was God who made me a butterfly. It was God who saved me.

Faith In The Middle

When I experienced these illnesses, the chest pains, dizziness, swallowing difficulties, and anxieties, it’s easy to believe that this will past sooner or later. I remembered I kept a good attitude handling it at first. It’s easy to keep a good attitude in the beginning.

But as soon as these things got stronger and stronger especially the anxieties. Things took longer than expected. The good attitude I had was starting to fade. Why is this pain still happening? I’ve seen myself getting broken each day. Losing sleep because of worrying. Worried and scared because of something that’s uncontrollable. My medical reports were all good. Why should I be worried still? Why should I be bothered?

Whenever I felt something that was uncomfortable I got nervous already. It seemed like my response and interpretation of these pains were altered. It felt like the wirings on my mind were reversed to make me think negatively. Every day I would relive yesterday’s pain and add it to today’s pain. Reliving the pains every day added extra load on my shoulder. Added extra heaviness on my chest. I got drowned on my own thoughts. What happened to my good attitude? What happened to my optimistic mind?

Everything seems falling into the wrong places. I felt like things were getting longer and longer and thought at some point that these things were permanent. I cried alone for feeling hopeless, helpless and powerless. I lost my faith that this will be over. The number of anxieties, worries, and frustrations were uncountable and unbelievable.

Then I learned that having faith in the middle is one of the hardest things to do so. When things aren’t that severe, it’s easy to have faith. When we experience a little rain, it’s easy to have faith that it will pass. When things are going well, it’s easy to have faith. But when things turn out unexpected. When the winds go on the other direction and it felt uncomfortable. That is the time where your faith will be tested. The brokenness I’ve experienced was a test of faith in the middle. But I continued trusting throughout the process. That mindset helps me overcome another part of this journey.

Bringing It All Together

There was this one night where I was just lying in bed and looking through the window. Something from inside me is telling me “it’s over” and my mind visually interpreted that as me reaching the end of the gate, the end of the dark valley. It’s crazy to see that vision on my mind but I knew God delivered me that message.

If you remember from the beginning I told you about my medical conditions. I am very well right now. Those were anxiety attacks, stress, and some muscle tightness. It was weird to think back and remember those scenarios. Actually, something happened along the way that I know healed me back. It was God’s healing. His healing healed my mental health that causes most of my illness to come from. I’ve experienced God’s healing and favor when the moment I surrender all to Him. It was surreal. It was amazing. I’m so grateful and blessed.

Along with my daily prayers, I developed doing daily gratitude where I will be thinking all the blessings I’ve received today no matter what happens throughout the day. It helps me get closer to God because of the blessings I’ve received. It helps me see the good in everything and that’s what we need. I needed to alter my mind on how I see the world. That’s the perspective we need.

I practiced doing meditation every morning to help me clear my mind and set the tone for the day. It was also helpful most especially if your mind is cluttered from negative thoughts. I can go down through my body and mind. Meditation was really helpful on my journey. Never thought meditation would be really now part of my life.

There are many times I can quit on the journey. It’s uncomfortable, frustrating and sad to be there. The number of times my mind thought about quitting was uncountable. It was hard. If you would ask me if I can still make it tomorrow I can say to you I don’t know. Tomorrows were uncertain when I was in the dark valley. I can’t do anything about it. It’s uncontrollable.

Even though my mind thought about quitting like a hundred times. I’ve gotten so deep on myself that even though my mind is telling me to quit, my inner self is a warrior — who doesn’t quit and will keep on fighting through the battles and wars. I believe that God created me as a warrior and not something that can easily be defeated.

The difficulties that I’ve experienced. The discouragements that happened to me. The phase of being inside the cocoon or pupa were all part of the plan to push me to my purpose. Everything that happened was a test to my ultimate self. It’s hard to do the right thing when everything is falling. It’s hard to trust when everything is not going well. It’s hard to keep trusting God when nothing seems to change. But what I’ve learned from the dark valley is to keep passing the tests to obtain the best days of my life. Still keep on trusting God even though it is hard.

Passing the tests on ordinary days is what leads to extra ordinary days. — Joel Osteen (Faithful In Routine)

God put us into trials not to let us be hurt and feel uncomfortable. He did that to prepare us for the best days of our life. He will keep on giving us the tests over and over again for us to pass it because we will need the lesson for that in our life. God is developing us to reach our purpose. It also makes us understand that life isn’t all about the happy paths. There will be more exceptional paths and that’s the hard truth.

Nothing will come to us if we are not capable of overcoming it. It may sound easy but it’s hard to understand that saying when we are in the trial. And that’s OK but keeping that in mind is one of the keys to overcoming obstacles. Allow God to trust you that you will be good when no one is watching. You will keep on doing the right thing even though everything is falling. Keep on believing that God is fighting your battles. Keep on believing that God is working behind the scenes. The moment we are alone is the moment where our character is being developed.

I may not like what I’ve been through but I stood still and kept doing the right thing. But without this mental war, the dark valley, I will not be who I am today. I am now someone who is dependent on God. I learned how to enjoy and be grateful every day. I continue having a good attitude every day. The circumstances are there to change us. Stay in faith. Trust the process. Keep being faithful to God.

More than changing our circumstances, God wants to change us.

May you reach your dreams.

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Improvise, Adapt, Overcome

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