life

catching anxiety in its own lies


WHEN THE VOICES IN YOUR HEAD ARE PATHOLOGICAL LIARS


I have anxiety.

And actually, a lot of people have it. Anxiety related disorders are actually the most common type of mental illness, and for me, it usually takes the form of the voice of a pathological liar skulking around in my head. It doesn't always have to be huge things either. That's the thing about having the voice of a pathological liar living in your head; it lies about everything. Sometimes it lies about littler things whether you proofread that assessment for work enough or whether you were too awkward at that get together, when everything was really fine. But sometimes it lies about bigger things too, like whether your life is worth living or whether or not you're good enough of a person.


Anxiety lies about the little things and the big things. it's just what pathological liars do.


Something anxiety's lies often do to me is that they temporarily trick me into thinking I don't matter to anyone. It whispers into my ear saying that because this friend canceled those plans or because this person didn't text me back that they're just completely done with me. They're throwing me away and don't want to have anything to do with me anymore. It can sound a little overly dramatic, but it's one of the looming threats that anxiety holds over me, that all these people I care about are just going to one day pick up and decide that they're tired of me, and it's a terrifying cycle of thoughts. And it doesn't help that anxiety also often likes to borrow from the misguided words of the church when it hisses at me and says that people like me don't get to love or be loved because of who we are. It spits as it says that God doesn't love us and that we're damned to a life of loneliness while everyone around us gets exactly what we've been dreaming of. And it's those tiny snippets of lived experiential truth and the littlest fragments of maybe-they're-right questions that form the hooks that sink into me.

And I'll admit, it's hard and exhausting to be in a constant battle with the voices that populate your head, but the cheap trick they use over and over again is turning legitimate truths or fears into blanket statements, saying that because you don't have that relationship right now that you never will, or because you don't have it that you don't matter to anyone. It takes the truth that we're recipients of undeserved and unearned grace and tells us that we're the scum of the earth and that God could never love us. It takes all the honest truths that keep us humble and human and twists them just enough to make us feel like nothing.


their cheap trick is twisting legitimate fears or truths into blanket statements just enough to make us feel like nothing.


But the thing is: blanket statements are still lies, even if they've been inflated with partial truths that only apply part of the time. Knowing this, I think I'm slowly learning to see through the thin fabric of all those lies, and something I'm blown away by is that even as hard and arduous and emotionally turbulent as things like them can be, I'm finding myself so honored and often surprised that people in my life want me to be a part of things like meeting their significant others, witnessing their weddings, and savoring the final moments of their going away parties.

Though I'm often fixated on the things I wish I had, I'm finding myself newly reminded that despite what my anxiety says, I matter enough and people care enough to want me to be a part of those sweet moments. Sometimes I think to myself that perhaps this is a small and obvious realization, but it's also a powerful one that gives me another weapon to fight the voices and the lies that are often hard to distinguish from the truth, especially when they're so emotionally charged and play off the fears that already live in the recesses of your mind. This weapon of perspective and recognizing the lies for what they are is something that will need to be continually refined, but it's one that's already slowly proving to be effective.


And if any of them happen to be reading this, I just want to give a quick shout out to the following people who have, perhaps unwittingly, been helping me learn more about how the Lord sees us and the different forms love can come in. Maybe that doesn't make quite as much sense in writing as it does in my head, but I just want to say I love them and am thankful for them. So thank you & love you: Hannah Penz, Jasmine Bashore, Elise Krohn, Caitlin Gallagher, Ruth Schaefer.


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Thanks for stopping by!

fame & fortune

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Want to hear a confession of mine? There are so many days when I feel like so many of the things I do aren’t worth it anymore, that so much of it doesn’t have a point because it’s not “making an impact,” or maybe just not in the way I might expect it to. There are days when I wonder why I still keep up this blog, why I still write my famously long (and sometimes dramatically pensive) captions on my Instagram account, or why I have my separate Facebook page for my blogging and writing. There are days why I wonder why I still write at all, why I did NaNoWriMo when the chances of actually being a published novelist aren’t always the highest. And these are thoughts that most creatives probably have once in a while.

Because you know what the real, selfish reason is for all that? It’s that we wonder why we’re not wildly successful yet. We wonder why with all the hard work we’re putting into whatever we’re passionate about, why we aren’t famous yet. We wonder why we’re not the next big musician or New York Times Bestselling novelist. And we wonder all those things because that’s how we’ve been so conditioned to view success and to view influence.

 

We wonder why we aren't famous yet.

 

This is what society tells us.

It’s not good enough unless you’re photographing Fashion Week. It’s not good enough unless your novel gets a movie deal. It’s not good enough unless you’re designing for an international company. It’s not good enough unless you have tens of thousands of followers on Instagram. It’s not good enough unless it gets enough likes. It’s not good enough unless it goes viral on Twitter. It’s not good enough unless…fill in the criteria here. And by extension, it tell us that it’s not worth it or that it doesn’t matter, because it won’t be good enough unless it fits into one of those boxes.

 

Society tells us it's not good enough unless you have tens of thousands of followers on Instagram.

 

And it’s hard to keep creating when the world’s standards of evaluating the worth of your art are so different from God’s standards of evaluating it. He didn’t necessarily give us our creativity or the gifts we have to become famous or to go viral on social media. That might happen, and if so, we then have to bear the responsibility of that platform, but that’s never been the goal of why we create.

We create because we’ve been made in His image as the Creator. That’s why we have the ability to craft stories, make images, and string together melodies. It’s all because it reflects on Him and the little pieces of His essence that He’s placed into each and every one of us. In reality, maybe it’s better than more of us aren’t famous, because that can be so distracting and take our eyes off the One who truly deserves all the fame this entire little planet hurtling through space can muster. It should all really be for Him, but some of the creative climate has robbed so much of that from Him, telling us that it should be us getting all that glory.

 

But that's never been the goal. We create because we've been made in His image as the Creator.

 

But the truth of that matter is that whatever we create should remind us, subtly or overtly, of where that desire and magic of creation comes from. And the underlying message then is that it is good enough, whatever you’ve created.

 

You're good enough.

 

Your art is good enough. Your writing is good enough. Your music is good enough. Your images are good enough. Your design is good enough. Your copy is good enough. It’s all good enough, because the point of it all isn’t to make us famous, but to remind us that all of our creating flows out of the one Creator who gives us the ability to do it all.

So keep creating. It's good enough. You're good enough.

hazy light & thankfulness

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Something about foggy mornings filled with gray light always seems to pull me out of myself, in the best way possible. Still not sure exactly why. Maybe it’s the way everything seems to stand still and you’re more cognizant of all the little sights, smells, and sounds around you that might normally get lost in the chaos of a typical American day. Or maybe it’s the atmosphere around you that seems to whisper that it’s finally okay to let all your muscles relax and just breathe and be for once, taking a moment to slow down in our world that’s normally always running at a million miles an hour. Whatever it is, these slow, tranquil mornings always seem to return a little more of the perspective I’ve been missing throughout the rest of the week. And maybe we all need a little more of that. Regardless of what season of life we might find ourselves in, there always seems to be this nagging sensation that you should be doing more, accomplishing more, or otherwise never stopping. We might allow ourselves to take a single day, or maybe even just a single part of a day to take a breather and reflect, but more often than not we still feel guilty about that rest we so desperately need. It’s the curse of productivity baked into the fabric of American culture, or so it seems. We feel like we need to be constantly on the go otherwise everything else that’s going by at breakneck speeds will pass us by. But that might be where our ever looming sense of dissatisfaction comes from, or at least that’s what I’m starting to discover about myself.

Every time we ramp up the speed on the treadmill of life, it’s so easy for us to think we’re still not getting enough done or that we’re still just barely keeping up with everyone around us, when we’re already running ourselves ragged. We set all these goals and milestones for ourselves (that may or may not be realistic), and we start to feel all sorts of angst when things don’t play out exactly the way we want them to, whether that’s not graduating from school when we thought we would, not having the job you want right after graduation, not paying off your student loans as fast as you thought, or whatever else it might be. With a myriad of expectations we set for ourselves (or that are sometimes set for us), it’s easy to lock ourselves in a mindset that only welcomes disappointment and pushes us to move faster and faster to get to where we want to be.

But these slow mornings have been reminding me that with slowing down comes more perspective, letting us look backwards instead of just forwards. And when we start to take the time to look back a little more, we’re able to see all the things we have to be thankful for and all the things we’ve already accomplished and already done instead of just the things that we’re striving for in the future, which is a powerful reminder that not all is grim just because we’re not right where we want to be in the present. And if those moments of stillness are hard to come by, start creating them for yourself. They don’t have to exist only on the weekends or during long periods of rest. There are spaces to create that stillness for yourself even during the storm of the week. We just have to look out for them and be more intentional.

the suicide letter i never wrote

I've debated for a few days now about whether or not I was going to write this post, even before I wrote my last one. Is this reaching too far? Are people going to think that this is just to get attention? Is this even the right thing to do? After thinking for a long time, I decided that this post was indeed necessary for several reasons. It's not pretty, but it's reality. And people need to hear these kinds of things. But most of all, I think that this post needs to exist, because depression and suicidal thoughts are still so invisible. As I wrote in my last post, most people are pretty good at hiding their emotions if they want to, and in a lot of cases, you would never know that someone is contemplating ending their own life. Most people would never have pegged me as someone to have been suicidal, but I was.

That's why this post needed to be written. It might be uncomfortable for some. In fact, I know that it's going to be uncomfortable for some. So, this is your disclaimer. These are not easy things to read; these are dark things, but they are things that need to be said. 

And finally, this post is necessary, because I want to tell anyone who might be reading that if you are in a place like I'm about to describe or if you ever find yourself in a place like the one I'm about to describe, I'm here for you. I understand. You're not alone. Don't forget that. This world is better with you in it. Don't buy the lie that you're better off gone. You are loved. And remember that if things aren't okay yet, then it's not over, so if you're even thinking about questioning that, please talk to me. Your life is worth living to the very end. It's worth it. I promise you it's worth it.

So, this is the suicide letter I never wrote:

Dear Someone,

It’s been a long time. We haven’t talked in quite a while, and I sincerely hope you’re well. It’s been, what, six years after all, and a lot of things have changed since then. I’m graduating college next semester, I’ve adventured around the world, I’ve learned another language, I’ve had boyfriends break up with me, and I’ve even had friends die, so I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t even know what this is about.

This letter is something that I’ve been meaning to write for a long time, and I think I’ve finally decided exactly how I want to say everything that I’ve been holding in for so long. And as a result of how long it’s been, it doesn’t really matter to me if you respond to this at all, as long as you read the whole thing because this is something I need to do to finally lay this chapter to rest. This is your copy of the suicide letter I never wrote. I’m going to be blunt. You played a large role in that.

Did you know that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US? Did you know someone dies by suicide in the US every 13 minutes? That’s a lot of people. And most of the time, it doesn’t look like it does in the movies.

Sometimes it’s a million little things that build up. It’s the teasing. It’s the joking. It’s when you know they’re laughing about you. And it’s when your friends don’t do anything about it. It’s when they tell you to man up or not to take everything so seriously. It’s when you start to feel like a joke, so then you wonder if anyone would miss you if you just disappeared. And then you start thinking about just how you’d do it.

You think about the knives in the kitchen drawer. You look up with veins you’d have to cut and how long it would take. But that might be too messy. So you wonder, what about pills? But you want it to be fast and you definitely don’t want to get sick in the process and risk it not working. What about car exhaust with the garage door closed? You’ve seen that in crime shows before. What about just a plastic bag? Those are the kinds of things that start running through your mind when it all starts to reach its boiling point.

But obviously I’m still here.

Still, that doesn’t mean that everything just goes away because you couldn’t do it. The depression stays. And then the anxiety attacks start. After all, if he was like that, why not everyone else? You start waiting for people to betray you, to drop you just like he did, to just all of a sudden be done with you. And then there goes your ability to trust people, especially other guys, because you’d never want to relive that all over again. You even start to wonder if your complaints and concerns are “valid enough” to be entertained. That’s how most people who’ve reached that point feel, you know. You feel like you should’ve just toughened up a little more. You wonder why it hurts so much, why it matters so much. And then you start to wonder why it was even such a big deal in the first place.

But those are lies. It was a big deal, because the places you’ve been are darker than any you could have ever imagined, and the demons continue to haunt you even after you’ve stepped into the light. They return to torment you in every moment of darkness, every moment of fear. And every time they come, you fight like bloody hell to cast them out again, because you know that if you beat them once, you can do it again this time and the next time and the time after that.

That’s what it looks like, or rather, what it doesn’t look like. Because all of it is unseen. The battles, the wounds, the scars, they’re all invisible, just like the would-be blood on your hands and the hands of others. That’s what it looks like.

That’s what the last six years have looked like.

Actions have consequences and these are the results of yours. So, I don’t care if you say you didn’t know or you didn’t mean to. You don’t get that privilege. You never get to tell the bruised and battered, the survivors, that you didn’t hurt them. Because it’s not about you or your pride or your feelings. It’s about theirs, their struggles, their tears, their pain, not yours. It’s about their life.

And that’s why letters like these are necessary even if they might seem to be the epitome of selfishness. Because letters like these are the result of lives made into hell. Because the survivors don’t get to just graduate high school and move on with their lives. The survivors don’t get to forget about everything that happened in blissful ignorance. No, it continues to follow them everywhere and some remnant of it may continue to follow them for the rest of their lives.

So, yes, perhaps letters like these are a little selfish, but that’s irrelevant and anyone who’s gone through the same things will without hesitation say that they don’t give a damn. Because sometimes letters like these are what it takes to fully heal, to close a chapter of life so riddled with darkness and pain, to finally be able to tell those responsible what kind of part they had in all of it. So, if letters like these are what’s necessary, if letters like these are what survivors, what I need to purge the rest of the darkness, then so be it. Because all I want to do is get rid of the last of the shards of this that are still lodged deep inside me, so I can finally leave that behind.

So at the end of the day and at the end of this difficult letter, I want you to know that I’ve forgiven you, that I’ve forgiven you for all of it. It was absolute agony what happened. I reached a point of feeling like life was no longer worth living, but I’m better from having been goaded to that place. I’m stronger. I’m kinder. I’m wiser. And I’m a survivor.

So, I’m not thanking you for what happened, because I descended into hell and back, but it didn’t destroy me. It didn’t break me. It made me strong. Because sometimes you need the darkness to be able to see the light.

Regards.

a case against self-defense

As many people know, Love Does is one my absolute favorite books. Aside from the incredible stories of the things that God can do when we open ourselves up to all of the very real possibilities, I think that part of the reason I like this book is that the stories also exemplify a sort of selflessness that we may or may not have thought much about before, selflessness in the form of complete unconditional and unabashed love. And I think that’s pretty cool. If you watch any TV at all or happen to read any sort of article/magazine/what have you on relationships, it seems to me that they all try to get you to play this game where you sort of hint at your own feelings while making sure that there’s still enough space to play it off in case the other person isn’t feeling the same thing, and I don’t really like that making relationships has deteriorated to that in our culture. I think I resonate a lot more with some of these lyrics.

“I want to live like there’s no tomorrow, love like I’m on borrowed time.”

  • Good to Be Alive (Jason Gray)

 

“If I found out the world was going to end on Tuesday morning, I’d call everyone I loved and say what I was scared to say ‘til then. And now that I think about it, maybe I should always live like the world is going to end.”

  • Like the World is Going to End (Ben Rector)

 

You shouldn’t need to be embarrassed of the way you love. You shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not this person “finds out” that you’re interested. Because, in my opinion anyway, life is too short to play those kinds of games. Since when did love become about trying to outwit another person anyway? Yeah, you might be making yourself vulnerable and you might get hurt in the process, but that’s going to happen even if you go around in circles. It just might not be as obvious, because everything was so lowkey to begin with.

Besides, I think that’s also the way that Jesus loves us. He doesn’t worry if we’re going to “find out” that He loves us. He wants us to know, even if some of us still turn our backs on it anyway. And I think that maybe that can be one of the biggest countercultural things that we can do. I mean, the worlds thinks that’s crazy, just putting yourself out there and seeing what happens, making yourself vulnerable like that, but that’s how He loves us, so shouldn’t we do the same?

Anyway, lol at the fact that this post is so short and probably not written very well (because I’m finding that my ability to English is deteriorating), but I’ve just had a lot of time for writing and reflection recently (unfortunately, I’m finding that I’m unable to make it any more literary that what you’ve got in front of you, which means it gets turned into a blog post). Plus, I haven’t written a post in quite some time.

As for some parting words (since my posting is SO sporadic), I’ve been finding that studying abroad is about so much more than just doing school in a different country. I mean, I knew that it would be more than that to begin with, but it’s so interesting to actually experience. It forces you to deal with a lot of things from the past and present, it forces you to get to know yourself a lot better than you thought you did, and most of all, I think it definitely forces you to rely more on God and seek Him on your own time that you would normally at home. And while all of those things are so good, a lot of them are also hard to live through in the moment, especially while reminding yourself to be present in the place that you are, because it will fly by before you know it.

Well, that’s my scattered blog post of the day/week/month/who knows.

Until the next time you find yourself reading something that I happen to have written (which will hopefully also be written better).