When It Feels Like You’ve Lost Yourself

woman lost in a field

I found myself lost during my freshmen year at Auburn University, in my dorm room, sitting at my computer, listening to “You Are So Good to Me” on repeat. The part I loved most about that song were the words, “You heal my broken heart.” I was diving into the waters of shutting down, unaware of how much more I would shut down later. How much deeper into the dark I would go.

I felt lost on the inside, which is my way of saying that I felt “off”. Off from who I knew myself to be. There was this major divide between what I actually felt inside and what I wanted to feel inside. I certainly did not want to feel off.

I was able to painfully identify the disconnect between who I wanted to be and who I actually was. That disconnect was the off-ness. It felt as though something unidentifiable was carrying me deeper into the darkness, and I didn’t like who I had become. This off-ness made me feel lost, as if I lost who I once was. As if I lost myself and I was never coming back.

What was really going on was my pain. My pain showed up, like an unforgiving wool coat that was a size too small. It held my shoulders back and muffled every move, as thick winter coats do. I could not go skipping around in the sunshine with that coat — it was too restrictive.

When I found myself lost, I was clueless to the level of pain that I carried. All I could identify was that I lost my way, and I wanted to get back, somehow.

I was fresh out of high school with a significant amount of trauma and loss in my life’s backpack. I had processed with no one what had happened — not with my mom, my pappy, my sisters, no other family members, no friends, no church people, and no counselor. Processing is different than telling what happened. I did tell a few people some things, which was helpful. But in terms of unpacking what happened? That happened years later in therapy. I’m still unpacking it.

In high school, I lost my step-dad, my mom, my best friend, my favorite grandpa, my great-grandmother, and a neighbor who was like a grandma to me — all within about a span of a year. My mom never died; I lost her to the Coors Light Drinker. All those people that disappeared, they were the ingredients of what made up my life. It was a “now you see it, now you don’t” situation, as if a magician hid a white rabbit, but instead of the rabbit disappearing, it was my life.

I felt lost for a very, very, very long time.

“I want to get lost. I want to lose who I am. I want to be a stranger to myself.” No one writes these hopes on their heart. No one wants this for themselves. No one signs up for this or puts it on their life’s to-do list. It’s not a part of the plan. This is why the feeling lost business is incredibly painful. No one wants to feel that way.

Sometimes when we get lost, we don’t even know it. That is truly LOST. But when we can say, confess, and acknowledge the truth that we are lost, we are not lost. We are found. It is this confession, this acknowledgement of our inner geography, that makes us found. You are not lost because you are honest with yourself. You are present to the truth that you are lost. You can’t be lost when you are present.

It’s the discomfort of this internal misplacement, where we feel unnaturally like someone else, that stirs in us this drive to find our way again.

When I found myself lost in my dorm room at Auburn University, that is when I stopped being lost.

It’s a journey, a life work, a virtue — this finding your way after getting lost. Finding your way means finding your healing. The feeling lost business is a sign that you have inner work to do.

To me, not being lost means that you are living out who God made you to be and you’re making the hard decisions to align your life with who you believe yourself to be. You’re connected to all of yourself as best you can and you aren’t shut down. You’re fully found. You’re uninhibited from being you. You’re fully present and alive to your life.

Feeling lost is not the same as being lost. Just because you feel lost doesn’t mean that you are.

It’s ok to not feel like yourself right now. It’s ok that you feel funny. It’s ok that you feel lost. It’s ok to feel off. That feeling of being lost is there because you are being invited into your life’s work. Welcome it. You’re not really lost. You are finding yourself. You are finding your way. You are finding your healing.

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