I Had Another Panic Attack

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SquareSpace

I was on my way home from church on Sunday. My body and mind carried the exhaustion of one less hour of sleep. Bills were piling up and paychecks loomed in the too-distant future. I felt the anxiety creeping a bit, but a good Sunday School class and a solid service kept it pacified.

Besides, despite some money concerns, Bryce had just deposited a work paycheck last night. I figured I at least had enough money to get a bit of gas and maybe a cheap lunch on the way home.

I left church and drove to the nearest gas station. To figure out how much I could put in my tank, I did a final check of our bank account.

And I found $1.47 remaining.

The levees in my mind began to crack under pressure, causing fissures which allowed the first streams of panic to enter.

I felt anger at Bryce for telling me the check provided us enough money to tide us over. I felt anger at the phone bill that had zapped that paycheck away. Fury threatened to bubble over as I pondered the little money we had despite the work we did, and embarrassment gurgled within me as I compared my life to those of my friends who’ve graduated and have jobs they love and actually went to school to get.

The fear simmered beneath it all. Fear and shame. Fear of the car insurance bill getting paid before they cancelled my insurance, of not having enough gas to make it home, of not being able to keep a literal roof over our heads. Shame over my lack of resources and dependency on our parents, over having a Master’s degree with nothing to show for it, over what my family and friends must think of our destitute situation.

I kept it beneath the surface, though. I had a few teary, sobbing outbursts on the ride home, but I stayed well enough to not need to pull over lest I wreck the car (and further increase my insurance premium).

When I got out of my car after pulling into the driveway, though, everything unleashed. The levees broke, and the panic flooded in.

Bryce stepped out of the house. I didn’t want to face him. I felt too much fear for our living situation and misdirected anger towards him. I knew he’d see it. I knew he’d ask what was wrong.

And I knew he’d worry.

He’d worry about the money situation, yes, but above all, he’d worry about me.

I didn’t want him to. I wanted to hold myself together on my own for once, to not need a hug or a shoulder to cry on.

But I needed his hugs and his shoulder. I needed to collapse into my bed and let my body shake with the panic threatening to overwhelm me.

I tried to walk right past him without saying anything, but he knew right away I was having an awful time, and not because he knows me so well. I’m crap at hiding my emotions, especially when they are this overpowering, so my red, swollen eyes, trembling lips, and overall air of misery I carried tipped him off immediately. I croaked out a reason for my current state, something about not having any money and freaking out about gas and the car insurance bill, as I forced my feet to move forward.

Not yet, I told myself. Don’t let go yet. Let’s get to the bed first. Then we can break.

And break I did.

I crashed onto the bed, curled into a fetal position, and wailed.

Panic attacks really are paralyzing. They are mind-numbing and body-freezing. The feeling of drowning is such an accurate metaphor, because the mind drowns itself, suffocated and engorged by its own thoughts.

My lungs could inhale and exhale, but my mind struggled to push itself out of the depths and into the clarity of calmness and perspective. Those were on a distant shore. Sometimes during an attack, they are beyond sight. At moments like this one, I wonder if I will ever again feel ground beneath my feet.

I don’t know how long I lay in bed, crying until all that was left within me was pure exhaustion. I can’t remember everything I cried about, although finances and appearing “adult enough” were among the topics over which I was so anxious.

I remember getting over my initial anger the moment I saw Bryce’s lip quiver when he realized the state I was in. I do know he came in and held me as I cried to the point of hyperventilating. He’s never seen me do that before, and we’ve known each other almost 9 years.

I remember he stayed with me as the panic racked through me, then flowed out of me. I remember him telling me he deposited another small check from work to tide us over a few days. When I calmed down further, we worked out what bills needed paying soonest and what money was coming in.

Before leaving me to fall asleep, we managed to exchange a few jokes and even some laughs. He gave me an extra grilled ham and cheese sandwich our roommate had made. And some gentle hugs and kisses.

I read a bit from The Autobiography of Malcolm X and fell asleep, peaceful once more.

We Good? Reflections from an Anxious Person on Lent

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Nate Pyle

Having anxiety can make participating in Lent difficult.

My character perfection tendencies go into hyper-drive, and I am in a constant state of wondering just how well I’m doing with this whole “faith” thing.

Have I repented? If I have, how will I know?

Is giving up Netflix to read books from a few #BlackLivesMatter movement guides going to wake me up for real?

Am I good? Am I forgiven? Am I made new?

Will Easter be enough for me, my sins, and I?

Will this journey be enough for me?

I met with my spiritual director Linda this last week. She asked me how my “faith life” is going, which is such a difficult question for me. I’m never quite sure how to answer it, because I’m so anxious and such a perfectionist, I always think it’s not going as well as it could be.

So I told her I started meditating in the mornings. I’ve been doing this for a few weeks now, so it’s not really a Lenten practice, but I’ll go out on a limb and assume it’s a part of my “faith life” as much as giving up Netflix and reading books by black writers.

But meditation is so hard for me, because my mind is so busy, and honestly, going deeper into myself, the sacred spaces God calls me to examine and dwell in, scares me.

What will I find within me?

Will there be love and acceptance? Anger and hatred? Firm kindness, or judgment?

After I shared these concerns, Linda talked to me about the concepts of “original sin” versus “original blessing.”

Original sin begins with the assumption that all humans are made sinful (which is confusing because if God is good and we are made in God’s image, so what does being inherently sinful say about God’s nature?). According to this doctrine, we tell ourselves over and over “I’m not good. I cannot to be who I am. I must strive every day to reach an unattainable perfection that is unlike me.”

I was not made in blessing. There is nothing good to which I can return. There is nothing towards which I can keep striving, because I will always have that sinful nature in me, even as I aspire to be holy. The journey becomes tedious, exhausting, and even pointless.

If we messed up in Eden, how could we possibly make anything better outside of it?

This theology asks: What good are we? What good is God if God made us this way?

When we remember we are made in God’s image, when we remind ourselves our original creation was one of blessing and joy, when we remember the unbound, unconditional love God has for us, we remember who we are meant to be.

We remember we are made to love God and our brothers, sisters, and non-binary siblings. We are made for more than our worst sins, our cruelest words and deeds, and our most embarrassing moments. We are made in a holy image, and even when this image is smudged, attacked, or hidden beneath our deepest wounds, it remains within us.

This original blessing, this uttermost essence of ours, is who we are, and we live life and seek God’s help to not only remember this, but to be this holy image in a painful, beautiful world.

This theology asks: How can we return to the good God made inherent in us? How do we continue to live out the Love within us with God’s help?

I took this theology to my meditation time the day after our meeting.

I sat on a yoga mat in the basement, facing my fiance’s guitars. His area is the tidier spot in the basement.

I breathed in and thought of my congressional representative, over whose comments about issues I became so furious. I breathed out and honored the blessing of his creation and the image of God inherent in him.

I repeated this process for the President, his cabinet members, and people who drive me crazy on a regular basis.

I repeated this process for my fiance, my parents, and my youth group.

For good measure, I repeated this process for myself.

Meditating on our God-given image changed the way I look at and even engage with people. It also reminds me while I am called to show the perfect love which casts out fear to the people who deny justice and mercy, this same, perfect love doesn’t cast out frustration, sadness, and the need for accountability.

Because I honor the image of God in myself, I honor it in others.

And because I honor this image of beauty, love, and holiness, which is inherent to every single one of us, I will continue to keep calling out the times I and others act in ways contrary to our holy nature.

So I keep praying. I keep remembering the image of God, first in myself, and in others, the ones I adore and the ones I abhor.

And my prayer for myself and for us is this:

You are made to love. How are you showing it?

Anxious and In Love: Our Story

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My fiancé Bryce and I have been together just over 6 years now and engaged for 7 months. We met 8 years ago at Bridgewater College after a group of friends and I awkwardly greeted him with an Anna-Farris-from-The-House-Bunny-inspired salutation, and he was gracious and crazy enough to want to be my friend afterwards. We bonded through long-distance runs, 7-11 trips, and long walks on campus discussing faith, relationships, and dreams. My mother loved him when she first met him, his Dad thought I was awesome after I single-handedly moved a recliner into Bryce’s dorm on Junior year move-in day, and we finally admitted we liked each other over an awkward silence in his dorm kitchen in November 2010.

He’s the best, y’all. He’s a goofball with big dreams and deep thoughts. He’s a liberal Baptist who takes the commitment he made at his baptism seriously, even through doubts and questions. He loves video games but doesn’t like watching TV all the time (unless it’s anime). He got me into running and comic books, and my mom accuses him of turning me into a liberal (even though he’s now a bit more conservative than me). He gives me big bear hugs and an obnoxious amount of kisses, and he will sleep without blankets if it means the kitty curled up on them doesn’t have to move.

He’s been my most consistent companion and true partner in crime (I even identified him as such on an Emergency Contact form).

And through it all, we’ve lived with a third wheel: my anxiety.

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Being in any kind of relationship as a person with anxiety is tough, but romantic relationships seem to have their own special struggles. We began dating almost 2 years after I ended an emotionally abusive relationship, so while I entered our relationship with strong feelings and a foundation of trust, I worried he would turn into someone I no longer recognized. My anxiety can latch onto anything that could possibly be interpreted as attacks on who I am and what I believe: jokes, opinions, faith, life stories.

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We’ve been through boughts of poor communication and snap judgments. Because my anxiety flares up in times of conflict, there are times if he expresses his opinion or asks me to stop doing something which irritates him, I fear being controlled and push him away. If we roughhouse too hard or in public, I might retreat out of fear that he is abusing me or someone will interpret our actions as such. If we disagree on a matter of theology or a social issue, or if I become convinced we don’t have enough common interests, I fear we aren’t compatible enough. I have exhausted both of us on numerous occasions with my suspicions, “what ifs,” and false assumptions over something he has said or done.

My anxiety even flares up when I realize that, out of my fear and pain, I have caused him pain. When Bryce tells me my anxiety is difficult to deal with, that he is exhausted with all the effort he puts in only to have me distance myself, when I seem to be putting in little effort and he has to pick up the slack, I want to hide away and internally beat myself up.

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I’ve realized the importance of counseling, support systems, medication, a healthier lifestyle, and good communication. I continue to learn how to tell him what makes me anxious without assigning blame to him, how to tell the thoughts in my head that they aren’t real and don’t get to call all the shots, when to talk with another friend or family member about my anxiety when he needs time to decompress, and how to look into the gentle, kind, and mischievous eyes of the man I love and know in my deepest heart that despite what my fears say, I have found an amazing man with whom I can share my life.

We’ve had to acknowledge the difficulties in dealing with each other. We go through times when he puts more effort into communication than I do. We confront our issues head on instead of pushing them away. Sometimes he struggles with why I can’t let things go or why I get upset over seemingly meaningless and illogical issues. Sometimes I get upset when he’s less than understanding and tries to make things better when there’s no way to do so.

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Being an anxious person has made us deal with some hard things, and we have loved each other through them all.

We’ve learned to talk with each other in open and honest ways, even when the vulnerability hurts. We’ve learned each other’s quirks and how we accept feedback, insight, and assistance. I’ve learned to put my own anxiety on hold to support him in difficult times. He’s learned to hold me when there’s nothing left to say.

We’ve learned to be a couple, a pair of people doing life together. We’ve learned to do tough things and journey through them with smiles on our faces and tears in our eyes.

Despite what the movies and stories may say, finding the one I love didn’t fix my anxiety. In some ways, it made anxiety more difficult, because it no longer just belonged to me; I had to share it with another person.

But this journey has given me someone I know will not run away on the bad days and will celebrate with me on the good ones. This journey has made each of us into people who can, as my counselor says, “bump up against each other” without the other one falling.

Neither of us are perfect humans (despite whatever else we may tell you), and ours is not a perfect story (despite being told on a regular basis that we are #relationshipgoals). But we do our best to be supportive, understanding, and present partners, and that’s more important and attainable than perfection anyways.

Here’s to us and our ongoing story, my love.

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Kettle Bells, Books, and Cuddles (Or, How I’m Coping in Healthy-ish Ways)

I keep seeing wonderful posts about “How to Stay Sane and Healthy in the Midst of Intense Political Trials.”

When I read them, I think, “Oh, how helpful! Thank you for reminding me not to sprint this marathon! I will do the things you say to do to stay well.”

And then I read another political post, get upset, and fret over calling my representatives (and the representatives of other states).

I still have some work to do with this whole self-care thing.

Other days, I do alright, though.

Some things I do to lighten the mental, emotional, and physical stress include the following:

Kettle bell swings. These are excellent because I get to toss a large, metal bell (with either a chimp or orangutan face, because my husband-to-be loves Onnit and monkey faces), which requires a lot of force, which means I get to hurl out a lot of pent up anger, frustration, and stress.

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Tight Lightning

Watching political-but-funny TV. My favorites are Parks and Rec and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Parks and Rec is government so light and happy it might as well be run by golden retrievers (Knope for 2020!), and Trevor Noah rehashes current events with a sarcastic and prophetic edge (Noah for VP 2020!).

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TheWrap.com

Reading. Lots and lots of empowering reading, like Maya Angelou, Glennon Doyle Melton, and J.K. Rowling. Reading and re-reading their stories has been beyond healing and inspiring.

Huffington Post, Momastery, and Wikipedia

Letting my fiance hold me. A nice rush from pheromones and the knowledge that the love of my life is by my side, even as the world is going to hell, is quite helpful.

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Yes, we often hold each other like this. And yes, it is comforting. We’re odd people like that.

Wedding planning. It’s oddly therapeutic, and especially exciting now that I have a wedding dress! Although I’m sad said dress is at my mom’s house because I can’t just sit in a closet and stare at it whenever I want.

Singing in the church choir. Focusing on a lot of ranges as a musically-inept person is in and of itself a welcome distraction, and, as my choir director says, “Those who sing pray twice.” (Pretty sure she stole that quote from someone, but that’s OK.)

Teaching youth Sunday School. My students are some of the most passionate and woke teenagers I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, so getting some Lectio Divina in together after talking about national affairs is extra inspiring!

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Writing. Whether it’s political, spiritual, nerdy, entirely personal, or a mix of all, writing is fantastic therapy, and it’s free! I get my thoughts out, see through their jumble and tangles, and feel my burdens fall to the page and leave a bit lighter than before.

And therapy itself. This kind costs money, but it’s money VERY well spent, since I can bemoan my political situation to a like-minded spirit while also receiving self-help tips to manage my anxiety in the midst of crisis.

These are ways I’m coping with political and personal stress. What are some of your methods? Please share in the comments below! We’re all in this together, so let’s help each other through!

For the Rough Days

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Huffington Post

I’ve been on Lexapro for a couple of months now. And overall, I’ve felt fantastic.

My anxiety is at an all-time low. I focus better. I write, laugh, relax, and play more. I’m re-reading my Harry Potter books and catching up on my Netflix queue because I want to, not to dull an onslaught of intrusive thoughts. I even downloaded a video game in the hopes of making time to play it with my fiance.

I talk to others more, and not just about my anxiety. I genuinely ask them how their days are going in order to catch up with them, not to be cordial so we can talk about my problems ASAP. Counseling sessions are devoted to a few big incidents that happened and how to both deal with them in the future, and maintain my health as it is. My fiance and I spend less time processing and being frustrated by my fears and more time planning family visits, house parties, and our wedding.

I’m doing great. I’m really doing great.

And then rough days happen.

The rough days are the days when I am simultaneously overstimulated and exhausted and cannot handle it. They are the days when every comment contains underlying condescension and disappointment, when I want everyone to leave me alone AND to hug me so I can get all my pent-up emotions out. They are the days when I look at myself and only see a failure who doesn’t have enough time or money to visit my beloved family members, who are obviously furious with me and prepared to disown me for my atrocities. These are the days when I struggle to trust and open up to my fiance because of a stray comment or lack of caring about something that is obviously so important to me.

These are the rough days, and when I’m on medication, they hit me pretty hard.

Because, I tell myself, I’m not supposed to have these days. I’m supposed to be cured and fixed and well, and a cured, fixed, well person doesn’t act this way. So something must be wrong with me or the meds.

So I go on internal tirades against myself.

Why isn’t the medication working? Why are my counseling tricks not helping today? Why was I fine last week but not today? Why was I fine with this thing a month ago but it’s bothering me this week? Why am I panicking about the future when I was confident last night?

What am I doing wrong?

I know anxiety and medication don’t work this way. I know the bad days will happen, and they will not be as bad as the days when I was overwhelmed with thoughts day and night with little to no respite.

But…why do these days still have to happen?

Why can’t I depend on my mind to give me peace? Why must I continue to fight to maintain the calm? Why is this still difficult?

These are my thoughts on the rough days.

Today is not a rough day, and as such, I have some words for myself and others who are in the midst or on the other side of a rough day.

You are OK.

You don’t feel OK, and that’s OK.

But trust me, you will be OK.

You can be upset and still be OK.

You can be mad at people and still be OK. And they can still be OK, too.

You can be worried about money and still be OK.

Give yourself permission to feel those pesky feelings without rushing to the conclusion that something terrible is happening because you’re feeling them. The medicine is working fine. You are fine. Feelings and bad days still happen, though. This just might be how “other people” feel more often than not. You’re in good company.

You’ve gotten through the rough days before. You’ve gotten through much worse days before. You will get through this one, and the next one, too. Eventually, maybe today or another day entirely, you will encounter another good day and let the rough one slip to the back of your memory until next time. That’s fine. You need the good ones to get you through the rough ones, to remind you that those are not the end.

You have a family who loves you and won’t disown you for not being able to show up for the holidays. You have a fiance who will always love and be faithful to you, rough days and joyful days alike. You have friends who care as much about your happiness and anxieties as you do theirs. You have enough to make it through, even if you don’t have enough to buy comics and candy bars.

You’ve got this. You’re OK.

So go ahead and feel, and do what you need to do to feel it proper.

I’ll be here through it all.

A Place at the Table

A throwback to encourage y’all to be who you are and find tables that welcome you AND those no one else wants. It’s hard work, but it’s blessed work.

*****

I’ve been thinking a lot about life lately, specifically my place in it.

I’ve been to church on-and-off throughout my life, and I’ve been drawn back to it so many times that I don’t just work with one; I’m now planning to pursue a seminary degree so I can one day lead one.

It’s exciting. And nerve-wracking. And I honestly don’t know if I’ll get the money to do it.

But the thing I’m most worried about is…where is my place?

Where is my place in the Church? And in this crazy journey called life?

Where is the place for the girl who:

Watches The Simpsons and Family Guy over Veggie Tails and CTN?

Swears, thinks, worries, doubt, and talks a little too much?

Fawned over Lion King and Peter Ban instead of Belle and Cinderella?

Obsessively read Harry Potter when told it was bad?

Gets excited over the Banned Books list?

Comes from a very non-traditional family?

Pursued a degree in Philosophy and Religion over…anything practical?

Struggled with God, mercy, justice, love, equality throughout the years of being surrounded by those who seemed so certain?

Played in the marching band instead of sports?

Wants to lead boldly instead of submit quietly?

I’ve made my places at tables before. At church the spots seemed readily available, even in leadership. In band, I made my place by performing better (or worse) than others in my section.

But when it comes to Church, to ministry, to making my place in this world and giving life back after being given so much, there seems to simultaneously be too much space available and not enough.

I have so many dreams and ideas but am not sure which ones to pursue. I have so many fears and insecurities that I feel limited. I feel pressure from myself and “society” to make a decision now, and my feet are frozen in doubt.

I know a bit of what my place is not. I know I cannot work in an office, or simply be a scholar, or only be deemed worthy as someone’s wife and mother.

I also know the craziness and chaos of life in ministry. I worry that the constant pouring into others will drain me to unforgivable exhaustion, and I fear the harsh words from those who question whether or not I’m fit for my vocation, for every reason from my sex to my story.

But if I say with so many others that Jesus makes room for everyone at His Table, and if everyone truly means everyone, from the sinners and saints, the rich and poor, the gay and straight, the USA and the world, Christians and Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists and Jews, I’ve got to accept that I’m part of that glorious Everyone, too.

But where will I sit at such an elaborate table?

An Open Letter to a Nosy Customer at Jimmy John’s

A post from 3 years ago, in which I had a less than pleasant conversation with a customer at Jimmy John’s, where I worked for a year after college graduation.

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Dear Nosy Customer,

Yesterday afternoon, you asked me an innocent enough question: “How long has this Jimmy John’s been open?”

After I answered your first innocent question, you asked me another seemingly innocent question: “Are all of the schools out?”

Being the polite worker that I am, I informed you that JMU and EMU had finished classes and exams, but Bridgewater hadn’t. I then told you I went to BC.

Then came your third could-be-innocent-but-moreso-nosy question: “What was your degree?”

And even though I could have guessed where this conversation was leading, and even though I guessed that it wasn’t a conversation I wanted to have, I put my best customer service skills to work and told you: “Philosophy and Religion.”

I was just doing my job. I was being polite and courteous to you, the customer, who is apparently always right. And how did you repay me?

You then asked the rudest, most despised, obnoxious, and nosy question that anyone, from absolute stranger to dearest friend, could ever ask:

“So what are you going to do with that?”

As if that weren’t intrusive enough, you went on to offend me further by saying, “Just gonna work at Jimmy John’s your entire life?”

You see, good sir, I work with lots of annoying, obnoxious customers day in and day out. I encounter people at my other job complaining that we don’t have enough items (yes, there are things you cannot find at BED BATH AND BEYOND) or need just one more coupon to save just 5 more dollars. I deal with people who didn’t get the proper amount of oregano on their sandwich or are disgusted with the fact that we don’t have salt and pepper. And I coordinate a mentoring program for kids from the rougher sides of the streets, who don’t always have the best manners and give a whole new meaning to the world “holy chaos.”

But to be entirely honest, your comment was the most obnoxious, rude, and intrusive one I’ve received in a long time. And trust me, those kiddos I work with have some choice words during those rougher weeks.

You know why your comment was so offensive to me?

Because I ask myself that question every damn day of my life.

What am I doing with my life? Why am I working two part-time jobs and coordinating a mentoring program after spending 4 expensive years at college? Why am I barely making rent and other payments when the college kids I work with have money to spare on liquor-filled weekends? What is my life going to look like 5 years down the road? Do I even dare look that far ahead? What’s the next step? Where do I go from here?

You see, I think the reason you pissed me off so much yesterday is because I see so much of my own skepticism about my life in your comment. And I hear so much of the world’s skepticism in your words. Whether or not the world’s skepticism is real or imagined, its nagging constantly in my ears.

And it sounds an awful lot like you. But even more so, it sounds an awful lot like me. 

I’m sure you didn’t mean any harm. I’m sure you’re a nice guy and have a lot of people in your life that love you dearly. And even if you’re not nice and don’t have a lot of people surrounding you, you’re a gift.

And to be entirely honest, even though I hate that question and others like it and I try so hard to not say it to people who have just graduated, I still ask it. And more often than not, I’m a little judgey about it. And to be even more honest, as I see my friends and peers getting engaged and married, going to grad school, starting families, getting cool new jobs, etc., I’m more than the teensiest bit jealous. Because I want that, and I don’t know if it’s mine to have, or when it’s mine to have.

But please, please, PLEASE…Don’t ever repeat that comment ever again. Not to me, not to any recent graduate in any stage of life, not to any person stuck in a seemingly “menial” job (or multiple ones at that), not even to anyone who seems to have it all together.

Because I have a feeling that no matter what stage of life we’re in, we don’t know exactly what we’re doing, and we don’t always know why we do what we do. In fact, I don’t think there’s ever a stage in life when we have it “all together.” I used to think that when I got to this age, I’d have it all together, and from this letter I just posted, you can already see that I’m nowhere near that stage.

I think we’re just living moment by moment, day by day, hoping that each little decision we make pushes us more to where we need to be.

So yeah. No hard feelings. But please, think before you speak.

Much love and hoping for a better conversation should we meet again,

Lindsay

My Amazing, Ridiculous Therapist

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well.blogs.nytimes.com

My therapist has had a run for her money when it comes to me. Then again, most people in therapy probably think the same thing.

She has had to see me weekly, bi-monthly, and now monthly. She has seen me on and off medication, and talked to me on the phone when I couldn’t stop the onslaught of thoughts. She has heard me weep, shout, and laugh deep belly laughs.

She has told me when things are all in my head (which is most of the time) and congratulated and affirmed me when I accomplished something difficult. She has written notes of advice for me to carry to combat a recurring intrusive thought. She has given me words of wisdom that my fiance swears he told me first.

She’s even told me I need help and should see someone for it. On more than one occasion.

She’s snarky and no-nonsense, so while she’s gracious to me, she doesn’t let me get away with acting on all my bullshit. She’s sensitive and tears up when I tell her something really sweet and sentimental. She looks at me with pain in her eyes when I ask her why I’m plagued with such awful thoughts, and she genuinely tells me, “I don’t know, girl.” When she sees me in the waiting room, she greets me with a big smile and a “Hello, my dear!”

She’s been someone whose wisdom, knowledge, and words I’ve sought for over 4 years. She has helped me get through significant hurdles and taught me how to make life with intense anxiety more manageable. She’s helped me make decisions about medications and lifestyle changes and taught me how to be more gracious to my family and friends, especially Bryce. She’s helped me affirm myself, where I am and who I am. She tells me I am more than my thoughts, more than the anxiety which can stop me in my tracks, more than what I do or don’t believe about myself.

She’s not a friend. She’s not my family. But she is so important to me, and I am beyond thankful for her.

*****

Seeking therapy isn’t always easy, and it isn’t for everyone. I had a number of therapists and counselors from the time I was in middle school, and my therapist now is the only one I’ve ever had long term (more than one year).

Some people go to therapy with open minds and hearts, while others go into it with fear, trembling, and trepidation.

Some people only need to see a therapist when their needs allow it, while others (like me) go through times when the next session can’t come soon enough.

Some seek Christian or other faith-based practitioners, while others (again, like me) insist on seeing someone with no particular faith background.

Some people have great therapists, mediocre therapists, and sometimes even downright bad/harmful ones.

Therapy is, if sought, something to take seriously. Finding a good therapist can sometimes be difficult and take a while. This is a person to whom you should be able to bear your most troubling thoughts and know they will handle you well. This is someone who should put your mental health needs before their own agenda and paycheck.

To those who have been hurt by a therapist, I am deeply sorry and hope you find healing. This should not have happened to you. You deserved better.

If you are in therapy, I hope it is with someone who deeply cares for you, who values your mind, body, and soul. I hope they are someone who helps you in your times of need and can sit with you on your good days, too.

If you haven’t found a good therapist yet and are still desperately seeking, know there are good ones out there, and continue seeking them, along with other people and resources, to aid you on the journey.

And if you’re not in therapy, continue to be loved and supported by your people, whoever they are.

Whatever your situation, no one should have to go it alone. Let us seek and support each other through it all.

“What if…”

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futuretimeline.net

It’s the question I ask a hundred times a day in a hundred different scenarios.

“What if…you really stood up for something you believed in, or told someone you disagreed with them, and they hated you for it?”

“What if…you talked to that stranger, and they thought you were weird and didn’t want to be your friend?”

“What if…your boss knew about what you don’t get done and fired you?”

“What if…you spend a bit too much money this month and bounce your account and get evicted from your house and have no health insurance?”

These thoughts paralyze me. They always conclude with the worst case scenario. They’re exhausting.

And these thoughts plague me all day. They can be mild or seem cataclysmic. Sometimes, I can easily dismiss them.  Other times, I have to fight tooth and nail to convince myself these thoughts are not my reality.

My therapist taught me if something I say or think begins with “What if,” it’s to be dismissed as “just a thought.” Sometimes that works. Other times, I wonder if, just this once, it’s not just a thought but an inevitable fact. I begin to doubt myself, my therapist, my loved ones, everything and everyone I know and trust.

But sometimes, I remember the other “What ifs,” which actually pushed me forward and had postive outcomes.

“What if…I used my stories to encourage other people with anxiety?”

“What if…I use my blog as a platform for social justice, to call out those with privilege to break systems of oppression and fear, and to stand in solidarity with the marginalized?”

“What if…I try out for Twelfth Night and meet some of the most amazing people ever?”

“What if…I pursue a deeper relationship with this cute, blonde best friend of mine?”

Not all of my “What ifs” are paralyzing or pessimistic. Some of them offer hope, a chance to consider something new and wonderful. They have been the thoughts which led to some of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

“What ifs” are double-edged swords. They are full of paralysis and potential. They hinder and help. They are part of who I am and how I live.

So how do I live a life empowered by the positive ones, not enslaved by the negative ones?

How do I live a life in which my thoughts pull me forward instead of tie me down?

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makeyourbestself.com

What are you waiting for?

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I wrote this post during Holy Week 2013. I figured the theme of waiting and hope was appropriate for the Advent season, too. Enjoy this blast from the past!

Today is Palm Sunday. Today is the day I check off one of the risks I said I’d do long ago and finally made a commitment to when Donald Miller dared us all to do 5 things we were afraid to fail this week: start my own blog.

So on this day, when we remember as a church when Jesus made his “triumphant” (or anti-triumphant, if you really think about it) entry into Jerusalem, and we begin to journey through the pain and tension of Holy Week, we also ponder this question: What are we waiting for?

I pondered this between 9 and 9:30 this morning, after we had set up for worship at Court Square Theater, and as the band practiced their songs for the morning. I’m not gonna lie; my ponderings weren’t on dreams of ending hunger, achieving world peace, or anything focused outwardly.

I was thinking about my own pain, my own fears, and the deep dark depths of my soul.

Anxiety can be crippling to live with on a day to day basis. Some days are great, others are just ok, and a few reduce me to a vegetative state in which TV, music, and movies are needed to numb my mind from the white noise of worries that run through all day. Since writing is among my favorite forms of therapy and self-soothing, I grabbed a RISE bulletin and wrote what weighed down my heart and mind today. And here’s what I came up with:

I’m waiting for peace, patience, joy, confidence, identity. I’m waiting for me to come back. I’m waiting for transition to turn into character, to a sense of self. I’m waiting for calm and quiet and excitement and growth. I’m waiting to be happy to be me, whoever she is. I’m waiting to be heard and seen for who I am, all I am. I’m waiting for my fear to make way for my life, for hope, love, joy, and peace, to make way for me to burst forth. I’m waiting for the voices of guilt, shame, fear, and mistrust to quiet down, so the voices that are really me can speak up and be heard, listened to, understood, acted on. I’m waiting to be born again into hope, so I can die to my own strangling fears. 

In short, I’m waiting for…my soul to break through my fear.

As a faith community, RISE is wrestling with this question this week as part of The Ellipsis Experiment (http://storiesandvoices.com/post/45893346395/the-ellipsis-experiment). As a community, we are learning together what we are waiting for as we journey through this week of tension, pain, and eventually resurrection. We are not just skipping to Resurrection Sunday; we are walking with Jesus through service, pain, the tension of waiting, and the joy in the hope that death is not the end.

Friends, will you also join me? What are you waiting for?