Friday, October 3, 2014

Adventures in Anxiety

I’ve battled anxiety problems since an early age. In 5th grade, I would freak out and hyperventilate over “mad minutes” (one-minute timed math tables). I don’t know if it was because I had convinced myself I wasn’t good at math or if the time limit really freaked me out. I think it’s safe to say it was both. My mom will tell me she remembers these times. She would set the timer on the microwave and leave the room (if anyone was in the room, I would freak out more), and as she waited in the other room, she would hear me freaking out and saying, “I can’t do this!” and also probably wondering if I was going to die or something.

I mean, it probably wasn’t extreme to the point of questioning death, but hopefully you understand what I’m trying to say. Fast forward to 2014: my senior year of college and the beginning of post-graduate life. Battling anxiety has been very interesting for me because the anxiety I’ve faced has manifested itself in many different ways.

Throughout my entire life, I’ve worried about potential health problems. During the summer between sophomore and junior year, when I was in Colorado, I was really afraid of the world ending and also dying young. At the beginning of my junior year, I was really anxious around the guy I had a crush on before we started dating. In the spring of my junior year, I started having stomachaches and chest pains, so I went to the doctor. That turned into a prescription for Zoloft.

Today, my anxiety is triggered by job searching (which sucks by the way). For a while now, that anxiety has manifested itself in me having trouble falling asleep. And after I fall asleep, I have trouble getting any good sleep because my dreams are full of anxiety. Then, I will always wake up with a locked and tight jaw (TMJ, for those of you who don’t know), and sometimes with a headache if I clench my teeth enough. Here’s an example of how that process goes:

* lays down *

* checks facebook, and probably snapchat and instagram to avoid trying to go to sleep. Note: these things make it harder to go to sleep *

This interview tomorrow is freaking me out. I love animals and I want to show these people that I’m passionate about animals, but what if they don’t like my presentation? What if they’re super professional and judgmental? I still have to do that trifold tomorrow, but should I do it? Would it be too much, or would they like it? And I have to print off pictures for it too. That means I have to go to the library. I really don’t want to go to the library. What if the color printing is super frustrating? What if I see people I know? Then they’ll ask questions about what I’m doing because they’ll know I graduated. I don’t want to answer questions! I just want to print things! Or maybe I can just act like I’m still in school. Or I’ll just look like that naturally. But I’m not in school. I don’t want to inadvertently lie to people. I wonder how far away Johnson City, Tennessee is from Cincinnati. We could stay there with Martha when we go down to Pompano Beach. I mean hopefully we’ll go so we can all see Marco. And I wonder how far Jacksonville is too. Maybe I could convince my mom to stop there so I could see Tim and Elissa! Maybe I could sneak Millie into the car and into the hotel so Marco could see her. He misses her so much! But mom would totally know. And she wouldn’t agree to it. And Millie would be such a pain in the ass. Millie! I love her so much! I want to see her soon! And I love our cats. They are so great.

* turns over *

Except why is Steve giving himself a bath on my bed right now? That’s really annoying. I really hope my interview doesn’t go so long so I can be on time to work. Maybe I should text my boss just in case. But an interview shouldn’t be longer than 30 minutes, right? I don’t know. I just really need another job. Maybe I should sleep with this pillow between my legs so my back isn’t all messed up in the morning. But I don’t really want to. Stupid pillow pet.

This is just an example of what I could be thinking about before I go to sleep on any given night. Usually, I will have super anxious dreams when I sleep. The night interview worries were going through my head, I had a dream that I went to the wrong place for the interview, didn’t end up doing my trifold, and was around a bunch of other people who looked super qualified. I woke up terrified and with little sleep.

I can’t tell you how difficult it is to get my mind to shut up before I go to sleep. I don’t know if it’s ever been this bad before. I remember even during this past school year not having a difficult time falling asleep. Then, my anxiety manifested itself in terms of doing homework. But, this is what I’m dealing with right now. And it freaking sucks. Because I toss and turn so much in my sleep, much of my body is sore right now, along with my jaw pain and a slight headache.

I wanted to share this with people who might read this blog post to communicate a few very important points. One, there are so many people out there that struggle with anxiety. Maybe you’re one of them. If so, half of the point of this post is to let you know you’re not alone, so I’m extremely glad you read this. Two, people struggle with anxiety in a myriad of different ways. For me, it’s changed over the span of my life. For you, it may be different. I know people who have fear and anxiety around animals and people who have multiple anxiety attacks within a week depending on what they’re going through. No matter how your anxiety manifests itself, I want you to walk away from reading this today having learned one thing:

Just because someone’s problems are more severe than yours doesn’t mean that yours are less significant.

The point is, there are issues that are difficult for you to deal with. It’s like the “don’t throw away that food, there’s a child in Africa who is hungry” argument. Although that may be true, that food will not get to that child unless you intentionally send it to him in a box. Everyone’s problems are going to be different, not more or less important.

This will always remain true: God will still love you the same. You will still be just as important to Him as the next person, and He will still meet you where you’re at, regardless of where that is.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”- 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Just For Today

For those of you who don’t know, my brother is a recovering Heroin addict. Back in February, right before my brother was supposed to go into long-term treatment for the first time, I came home to visit and went to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting with him. The one thing I distinctly remember from that meeting was the phrase “just for today.” It was used at the end of the daily meditation and said at the end of the group meeting in unison.

The first time I heard this phrase, I was kind of upset because I didn’t want my brother to just be clean for that day, I wanted him to be clean for life. When my mom and I went down to Florida to visit him in long-term treatment, I was able to gain a better understanding of what exactly the phrase meant. When we were there, we were able to actually experience large parts of the program that my brother had gone through. We went to a group meeting, a gender group meeting, and my brother’s primary group, where we specifically did family work. We were also able to meet with just my brother and his counselor, in which some things were explained in more detail to us.

Something very important to know about the life of an addict is that it is so difficult to stay clean. There are specific drugs that are much harder to break out of an addiction to because of how powerful they are, and there is also something different about the brain of an addict; certain people are actually more prone to becoming addicts because their brain is wired differently. Because of this, addiction can be classified as a mental illness.

And I believe this is why it’s so important to take it one step at a time, to declare that you will be clean “just for today.” Imagine that you were in a car accident and had to have half of your right leg amputated above the knee because of the injuries endured. During your recovery, you would have to take it day by day to relearn how to walk with that leg. In this situation, you would literally have to take your progress step by step. Think about how you would feel if you thought about your recovery process as a whole.

Would you feel overwhelmed? Defeated? Hopeless?

I think I would feel some of those things if I were in that person’s shoes. I have to relearn how to use my right leg? But I did that so long ago! What if I’m not able to ever use it again? How long did it take for me to first learn how to walk? I don’t think I could ever do that again.

I am imagining something similar happens in the mind of an addict. Although I am not an addict, I do have addictive tendencies, and have learned that I am addicted to self-hate. It is really difficult for me to break out of this habit because I have mentally lived in such a way for so long. I will often convince myself that I can’t do it, or that I’m no good. Because of experiences I have had in the past, I tend to lack confidence and a belief in myself. For me, the first step to recovery is taking things day by day and making goals for myself. Here is an example of an excerpt from a Narcotics Anonymous daily meditation:

“Just for Today: The guidance I need to become a new person is ready at hand. Today, I will draw further away from my old and closer to my Higher Power.”

For me, this phrase would look different because my situation is different. Something I might say to myself would be, “just for today, I am going to meditate on this bible verse about how worthy I am and believe it to be true about myself.” I even need to do this with daily tasks I have trouble maintaining the discipline to complete.

My brother has relapsed three times since he began his recovery process. He has failed, and it has been really difficult for our family. Of course we don’t want him to be clean “just for today,” but that is how his recovery process works. He is going to fail, which is scary given the power that heroin can have over people, but this is part of his process. The only thing we can do now is pray that the Lord has got him through everything, and pray really hard at that.

My question for you is, what is your addiction? None of us are immune to this. It takes a humble person to accept this reality, of which I am not exempt from. Try taking things step by step, “just for today.”

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time."- 1 Peter 5:6

For the full version of today's Narcotics Anonymous meditation, follow this link here
To learn more about Alcoholics Anonymous, follow this link, and to learn more about Narcotics Anonymous, follow this link

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Because I'm At Home Sick

Since I had to call off work today because I’m sick, I now have time to write about whatever I want, so that’s what I’m going to do.

First, let me say that staying hydrated while you’re sick is the worst thing ever. Sure, it makes me feel better, but I have to pee every 30 minutes. It’s a bit frustrating since all I want to do is lay down and not move because I kind of feel like death. The struggle is real.

Second, I’m faced with the predicament of sitting down and doing nothing when I definitely have things to do. Since I’m doing nothing, you’d think I could get everything in the world I want to done, but my head hurts too much to think and I’m too drowsy to be completely awake to focus on anything. So that’s great.

And you’re probably thinking, what’s so terrible about laying down, watching television, and drinking large polar pops full of Gatorade all day? Well, you kind of feel stuck. I feel stuck here because I can’t do much of anything. I don’t want to watch any more television because I watched the entire first disc of the second season of Spongebob Squarepants last night, and I can’t play candy crush saga because I have no lives left.

What an annoying way to spend my day. This is really frustrating to me. However, I am convicted at the same time because I just started reading this book called The Resolution for Women by Priscilla Shirer. In the first chapter of the book, Shirer talks about resolving to be content in whatever situation we are in. This was initially convicting to me because I have recently spent a lot of time wishing I was in a different place. Right now, the Lord has clearly called me to step back from leadership positions in the church and focus on healing from things that have hurt me in the past. Right now, I’m working on not hating myself, which is pretty difficult.

So far, this book has challenged me to be content in all situations, but I have never thought about being content in sickness. Now that I am sick and weaker than normal, I am challenged to be content in a place where I am limited in my daily activities, where I sometimes have to sit and be content in my boredom.

I think the scariest part about this for me is being alone with my thoughts, and also being alone with God. I’m afraid of my thoughts because I know they will lead me to thinking that I have no purpose in this time of weakness, and I’m afraid of being alone with God because I’m afraid of him. I believe he will yell at me if I let him in. However hard I try to believe the opposite, I still believe this lie.

I suppose I’m in a place where I have to face these lies and be honest with myself in what I believe. I really don’t have any conclusions, but I guess what I’m saying is that it’s really hard to be content in any situation, especially in one where you are really bored.

One last thought. In the state I’m in, I often begin to think that I don’t have a purpose since I can’t do anything, but nowhere in the bible does it say that we have no purpose. I challenge you to think about that. Wherever you are, and whatever stage of life you are in, God has a purpose for you. You will always have some type of purpose, whether it be speaking to a large crowd about your research or cleaning up your dog’s vomit.

That’s all I got.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wishing For Perfection in a Broken World

I currently stand in the face of having only 3 ½ weeks left of my entire college career. Even though I have absolutely loved my time at Bowling Green and am going to miss being a student here, something I won’t miss is all of the homework I have to do. I am SO READY to be done researching for papers, writing papers, and taking exams and quizzes. So much so that I am experience an intense anxiety and restlessness build up inside of me. I just want to be done with school! If my mind were a 3 year old, she would be jumping up and down with excitement on Christmas morning, waiting for mom and dad to let her go downstairs to open presents.

I’m really not kidding. Anticipating my college graduation is just that. Try to imagine how you felt on Christmas morning when you were a child. Up at 5 in the morning, waking up your siblings, trying to get your parents up to go downstairs. Being so excited that you can’t even handle it! Some of you who have already graduated know this feeling, and some of you anticipating graduation are experiencing this exact feeling right now.

But this isn’t really the best place to be in. It has created a ridiculous amount of anxiety and ADD for me. Since I don’t want to do anything, I just check facebook, and when I’m done with that, I try to do homework but fail because I can’t concentrate. Do you know why I can’t concentrate? Because I’m thinking about graduation! All I can think about is how much better life will be after I graduate. Hopefully, I will be working a summer job in Bowling Green, applying for real-people jobs, and all without the demands of school! I am also so excited to be done with work. I’ve been working as a desk clerk for three years, and I am so ready for a change. No more late night shifts; I will have a normal sleeping schedule!

In my mind, I am expecting everything to be so much better after graduation. I’m expecting everything to finally be okay and imagining that not having schoolwork to do will fix it. But is this really true?

I find myself doing this near the end of almost every season in my life, especially the seasons before summer break starts. I expect that a new period in my life will bring perfection and make me happy. I am expecting that a change in my circumstances will finally make everything perfect. But the truth is, this has never happened. At the end of Colorado Leadership Training in 2012, I was so ready to come back to BG and start RA training. Along with this, I would finally get to see the person I had a major crush on; maybe something was going to happen with this, which was so exciting! But coming back didn’t fix everything. It just presented a new set of challenges. At the time, these were readjusting to school, the altitude change, balancing my schoolwork with being an RA, all while making a poor attempt to grieve LT.

And when this boy and I began dating at the beginning of November that year, my change in circumstances didn’t make everything better either. It was an exciting time, but it posed new challenges as well; entering a new role as a girlfriend and trying to balance this new relationship with school, work, and other extracurricular commitments. This is just one example of where a change in circumstances has failed to satisfy me. Have you ever experienced this before? I am sure that many of you have.

After thinking about all the times in which this has failed me (which has been every time), I realized that I clearly needed to stop trusting in my circumstances to satisfy me. Maybe it’s not my circumstances I needed to be trusting in, which will change like the waves of the ocean, but my God, who will stay constant in every situation. It always surprises me. No matter how many times I trust in the changing of my circumstances to have them fail again, I continue to repeat the same process; I trust in the changes of this World, and then come out disappointed.

But I am finally realizing who I need to trust in. God is truly one who will never fail me. He is an island in an ocean of ever-changing waves- He never changes or moves, and he is consistently the same. No matter how many times I am reminded of this, it never seems to stick. I know many of the verses that communicate this truth, yet they have departed my mind like a bird flying south for the winter. I sit here, disappointed in myself again because I have exhibited one of the truest statements of history- that it repeats itself. You’d think with me being a history major I would be able to realize this flaw, but my field of study will never change my human condition.

In one of my favorite songs, “Your Love Never Fails,” there is a line that exhibits this true character of God: “You stay the same through the ages/ Your love never changes.” This is exactly who God is. I am going to challenge myself to start trusting that the Lord’s perfect love will sustain me and satisfy me instead of trusting that a change in my circumstances will bring perfection. I challenge you to do the same.

“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” –Lamentations 3:22-24