I recently took a road trip around the northern Midwest and one of my many stops was in Chicago, Illinois. I spent one night in the city, but man, did it take me by surprise. Chicago was full of incredible architecture, fun sights, and unique personality. The streets were clean, the people were friendly, and I never felt uncomfortable or unsafe. (Granted, my visit was confined to a small area of The Loop and therefore my experience is somewhat skewed, and I’m sure that there are parts of Chicago, just like any other city, that may not match my description.)
So let me walk you through my stay, where I visited, and what I ate- just in case you’re thinking of visiting the Windy City sometime soon.
Giordano’s – After the Willis Tower adventures, we were starving and didn’t want to search for food. Luckily, Giordano’s was right across the street and the sign in the window promised Chicago’s #1 stuffed pizza. Now, you cannot visit Chicago and not have stuffed/deep dish pizza for at least one meal during your stay. Just know that it takes about 45 minutes for your pizza perfection to reach your table, but it’s so worth the wait. And it’s safe to say that any type of diet or clean eating goes out the window in Chicago.
Cloud Gate / Buckingham Fountain – Two incredible sights to see in the parks and only about a 20 minute walk between each other. Cloud Gate, also known as The Bean, is the giant metal sculpture that Chicago is known for and is located in Millennium Park. It’s pretty neat considering it reflects the skyline in an artistic manner, however, every tourist will be visiting the sight and therefore any picture you attempt will be a bit crowded. Once you make it to Buckingham Fountain, which is next door in Grant Park, the crowd calms a bit and the fountain is so intricate and beautiful, you’ll just want to stare at it. One of the largest fountains in the world, it puts on a fantastic water show by day, and a light show at night. Plus, there are plenty of benches surrounding the fountain where you can sit and enjoy the view of the skyline behind the dancing water jets.
Buck’s Four Star Grill – This little food joint is right next to the fountain and can easily be missed, however it’s the perfect place to grab a Chicago style vienna hot dog while taking in the view. Order from the window and sit on their patio and try an all-beef dog with chopped onions, tomatoes, a pickle slice, and scout peppers, all on a poppy-seed bun. Add whichever condiments you like, except for ketchup! Apparently, it’s an unspoken rule that you just don’t eat ketchup on hotdogs in Chicago.
Chicago Riverwalk – One cool aspect about the city is that the Chicago River winds right through the skyscrapers and buildings. So as you’re strolling around, take the stairs down to the river and walk alongside the water, watching the boats and kayaks float by. Don’t forget to glance upwards for a magnificent view of the architecture!
Navy Pier – This is also a must-see during your stay. Extending into Lake Michigan, this pier offers view of a lighthouse, the lake’s surprisingly clean water, and another skyline view of the city. There are multiple shops and restaurants, as well as a Ferris wheel, and a variety of boat tours and cruises to choose from. Navy Pier is a premier host for many events, however it also suffices for a nice stroll on a warm day or a fun adventure as a tourist.
Rough morning, public spaces, uncomfortable situations.
Finally home, you know, you can feel it.
Negative mood, body aching, heart wrenching.
The impending shift at work amplifying all thoughts.
Ponder not going, suck it up, walk out the door.
Driving, vision blurry, chest beating, numbness taking over.
Arrival, can’t get out, tears start flowing. No, not again.
Wipe your eyes, take deep breaths, stand up tall.
Walk a few steps, now you're weak, now you’re shaking.
Brain goes blank, memory gone, skin is burning.
Sit down, close eyes, wonder why.
You should have known, you thought today was different.
You thought you could beat it.
Panic wins- again.
Pounding head, exhausted muscles, heavy eyes.
Leave early, crawl in bed, wonder if it’ll ever end.
Beat yourself up, why couldn’t you stop it, why can’t you control your own mind.
Fall asleep, wake up tomorrow, new day – will panic destroy it?
It’s been eight months since my last severe panic attack. Today, anxiety snuck up on me in full force, causing such physical reactions that, if I didn’t know I was having a panic attack, could have been mistaken for a seizure. I knew before I even left the house that I was not 100%, but I for sure wasn’t expecting what resulted. And after it was all over, all that kept running through my exhausted mind was how I had failed. I failed to prevent the attack, I failed to calm myself down like I had been taught, I failed to become well enough again to work my shift, I failed at making it to a 9th month without an attack. My brain, already flawed and already wreaking havoc on my day, was convincing me that I wasn’t good enough to beat anxiety, that I was mistaken when I thought I was panic free, that I was always going to be the girl who cries and shakes and hyperventilates in the break room.
Then God told me the truth.
Through the radio played Matt Redman’s song, Never Once, and He reminded me that I was never alone, even when I was feeling hopeless and beaten. The lyrics, “never once did we ever walk alone, never once did you leave us on our own” resonated in my mind as I remembered that the victories I’ve experienced with mental health were because of His power. When I look back at the battles, I can also be assured that there will be more and it’s not over, but I’ll never be alone, and the same God who celebrates with me is also there in the hurt and the hopelessness, because He is faithful. My Father doesn’t see me as a failure, as I sometimes see myself, but instead He sees me as strong, brave, and loved. And this God, the one who believes in me and encourages me, is the one who is there in the midst of my anxiety and panic.
How can I believe the lies that I have failed when the one whose image from which I was created is standing right beside me?
Bad days suck, but bad days don’t mean a bad life. And bad days become better when you’re reminded that you’re not on your own.
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