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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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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.