My Year

Life has just been insane. I remember last year, thinking about how everything was gonna go, and thinking it would all just be the same. I thought I’d continue to stay depressed, and nauseous, and lonely, and anxious. I thought the insanity would never end. I thought I’d never be my “normal” self again. And now, here I am, sitting on my couch, looking forward to all of the awesome things I get to do this summer. I’m actually excited about something for once. I’m not nervous, or anxious. Just, excited.

My next stage of life is nothing like I planned, but I’m really excited about it. I’ve made some knew-ish friendships, and I’m so glad I have the opportunity to stay here and cultivate them. I get to focus on my art, and music, and the people in my life.

Now that I have all my emotions back in check, I’m pretty much as normal as I used to be (not that I was ever normal in the first place). Something I realized, though, is that that “normal” part of me that I thought was gone, was my love for life. For the past six years people have mentioned to me here and there that I have a “love for life”, and I never really thought much of it until I lost it. It keeps me going, it helps me encourage people, and, it reminds me that life isn’t all bad.

There’s always this point, after going through a long, hard stretch of life, where I can look back at it all and be thankful for all the crap I had to go through (that usually doesn’t come for a good while, however). Right now, right this second, I’m there. And it feels amazing. I’m looking back at everything and realizing how much I’ve grown, and how much I’ve learned about my self. In the course of just a few months I learned how to really take care of myself, both mentally and physically. I’ve learned how to forgive people, and how to let people go, and that you don’t always have to let people go. I’ve learned how to keep friendships across miles. And, I’ve learned how to be a big girl.

Around the time I started feeling nauseous, and things started to feel wonky (about two years ago), I started getting to be really good friends with one of the girls who had just graduated from my youth group. She is now my best friend, and my sister. One of my biggest fears with growing up, and moving into the college class at church, and being a college student, was that I wouldn’t have any friends. That all my friends would leave me, and I’d be alone. But, having that friend who’s a bit older than me really helped me branch out. She helped me realize that college students aren’t terrifying. And, because she’d hang out with the college students, I got to know a lot of them, too.

Life’s looking up, and I’m happy about it. I no longer wake up depressed everyday. I no longer walk through life terrified that it’ll get bad again. And, I’ve got some amazing friends to help me keep walking along, and keep knowing that it won’t get bad again.

Everything we go through has a good reason. I’ve known that with my whole heart for the last six years. But, sometimes, when you’re in the midst of everything, it’s hard to remember. Look at Job, from the Bible. He spent years upon years in agony. He knew that God had a reason for everything that was going on, but he still cried out because everything in his life hurt so bad, for so long, and it never seemed like it’d get better. Well, it did. And it turned out even better than before.

I spent just over two years (two and a half?) with this nausea, and anxiety, and I prayed so hard that God would just take it away. Throughout everything, and after it being so long, I thought he never would. But he did. And now I’m sitting here, totally fine, ready to go see my friend give a presentation at school later tonight. God does look out for us, and he watches over us. Even if it seems like he never will. Even if it seems like it’s hopeless. He does.

Break It Down

Every situation has it’s good and bad aspects, but it can be really easy to only focus on the bad situations. I mean, it makes total sense. When bad things happen, your brain latches on to them and tries to learn from them, and keep you from hurting yourself again. However, it can make or break a situation the next time you try and do it.

I came up with this idea the other day to “break down” a situation. Say, you just had an insanely busy day, and you feel super stressed out, and you feel like you accomplished nothing. While your heart may be telling you you “did nothing”, your head knows you accomplished way more, it’s just harder to hear your head over your heart. So, to make it easier to see all the truths, I came up with this system to break down your situations.

It’s kind of similar to math, actually. When you’re solving inequalities you take one equation, and you split it into two. You have a positive, and a negative version of that equation. (|a – 3| < 2 Becomes a – 3 = 2 and a – 3 = 2.) This system is similar to the one I use for finding truths (check out The Truth to read more). You just split apart the positive and negative sides to your equations (situations), and then you’ll be able to see all the good things from that day. Even if there’s only one or two, they’re still there.

These systems that I’ve created are an escape. When I’m upset, or things just feel awful, I tend to snowball (meaning I keep rolling in all of these “bad” things until I’m just ready to give up and cry). By taking a few minutes, and breaking everything down, I’m calm and ready to get back up and keep going. They aren’t going to work for everyone, and I don’t always use them very well, but I have used them, and know that they work. Sometimes you need someone to help you break them down, but they do work. I hope they can help give you an out when it comes to “snowballing” like it does me.

“I’m Sick”

Let’s talk about health for a minute.

Health has two different sides to it, which most people know. There’s emotional health, and physical health. What most people don’t seem to know, is how much your emotional health can impact you.

I’ve been learning recently that I’m a wreck when I don’t get enough sleep (like, eight to eight-and-a-half hours still isn’t enough on a daily basis). When I’m low on sleep it’s like I start to lose control over my emotions. I’m sad, and depressed, and anxious a whole lot more easily, and it makes it really hard to live life, and even want to live life.

I generally love to help people in any way I can, so I’m pretty invested in my church (I’m on the worship team on Wednesday nights, in the 2’s and 3’s class room every couple weeks, and I’ve started doing more offertories). I love doing all those things, but it’s a lot. For a while there were only one or two Sundays a month that I was actually in service. Now, I loved doing all those things. I liked staying busy, and helping people. But, when I started to get more tired because I wasn’t taking care of myself, I realized that I couldn’t keep pushing so hard. Here’s some examples:

Example #1: Say I’ve got an offertory lined up, and I’ve been practicing for a month or so, and a week or two before I’m scheduled to play, I start getting a cold. I’m on week two of my cold, my offertory’s tomorrow, and I’m still not well enough to play. So, I text my pastor and let him know that I won’t be able to play because I’m “sick”.

Example #2: It’s the same situation as before. I’ve got an offertory lined up, and I’m totally ready for it. Well, this time, I’ve been helping a lot at church, and we’ve been going through some rough family stuff, so I’m completely exhausted. Mentally, physically, and emotionally. It’s the week I’m supposed to play, and I’m so tired that every day I wake up and just want to cry. I call my youth pastor and tell him I can’t play because I’m “sick”.

So often, when I’m physically or emotionally tired, I think I’m fine. “Just tired,” I tell myself. Well, the reality is, that when you’re tired, you can become physically sick. When I’m tired, my appetite drops, so I don’t each as much as I should, and it can make me feel worse. When I’m tired, and I don’t have as much control over my emotions, it can make some of the simplest things become the scariest things. I think, “Oh, I won’t let my fears win, I’ll just keep pushing, and be brave, and I’ll be fine.” But, the truth is, I won’t be fine until I listen to what my body’s trying to tell me and take care of myself.

I never thought “being tired” was a good enough reason not to do something. But, especially as a kid, being tired can make a huge difference. Last year around Christmas, when I was really depressed, I just kept pushing on like life was normal and tried not to let my depression win. In some cases, that’s good, and important. But in others, it’s just ignoring the problem. It wasn’t until I listened to myself, and realized that I need a change, that I really started to feel better. Both physically, and emotionally.

Telling people no can be one of the hardest things you can do. When I have to tell someone no because I’m tired, or sick, I’m afraid they’re going to judge me. I know a lot of people who would jokingly say something like, “What? You’re just tired? Come on. I know you can do it. Don’t be lazy.” And, even as a joke, that stuff hurts. Especially when you’re already exhausted. It often makes people do things they know they shouldn’t because they feel like they’ll be judged. I know I have. But, we can’t give in to that. Who cares if they judge us? Who cares what they say? What’s important is that you are okay, and that you are trying to make the best decisions you can. If something isn’t the right thing for you, you should never let anyone pressure you into doing it. Maybe consider what they have to say, but you’re the one making the choice. And if they don’t like it, then they can just deal with it.

The Truth

When someone comes to me (clearly upset) and they ask for help, I’ve started to try to be really honest with them. Here’s an example question:

“I’m so nervouse/upset about this situation that’s coming up. I’m afraid I’ll fail. What if I screw up or totally fail?”

Some people would answer with, “Oh, no. You’ll do great.” Like, there’s no chance anything could go wrong. Well, news flash, there’s a ton of things that could go wrong.

In some situations, everything actually is fine, the person really doesn’t have anything to worry about, and they’re just freaking out over nothing. However, in others, they’re not actually prepared and they know it. Lying to someone by just saying, “You’ll do great,” is giving them this false sense of confidence. I’m not saying it’s bad to encourage them that way, but, when there are legitimate things to be nervous about, just ignoring them and hoping for the best doesn’t always work. In either situation, whether there are things to be nervous about or not, I try to help them (and myself) think about the realities of the situation.

I’m nervous pretty much every time I have an offertory to do at church. Not super nervous, I just know there are so many things that could go wrong no matter the amount of practice I have. Now, I can’t control what happens. The amount of worrying I do can only make my performance worse. So, something I try to do when I’m nervous and about to perform, is think about the lies and the truths. Observe:

Lie:

If I screw up, then I’ll never hear the end of it

Truth:

If I screw up, probably no one will remember, or really care

In every situation involving fear, it’s really just a battle of truths vs lies. That’s why, instead of just trying to make someone “feel better”, I try to help them see that they don’t have to believe the lies their fears tell them. I’m definitely gonna encourage them when the time seems right, but the time isn’t always right. Just making them “feel better” is like putting a band-aid on a wound that really needs a couple stitches. If you show them how to ignore the lies their fear tells them, then, eventually, they’ll have a much easier time dealing with fears in general. They’ll be better at fighting fear.

Relish the Moment

You may be wondering why, in my last post, I decided to take 1,152 words and tell you all about my weekend. Part of the reason was because there were so many things I was thankful for. But, I also wanted to remind myself of all the good things that happened.

Because my anxiety tends to run on the social side, it can be really hard to want to go out and do things that I used to love doing. I’m a social person, and the only thing keeping me from doing some of the things that I really love it to do, is fear. So, by talking about all the good things, and all the things that went well, I’m reminded of all the fun that could happen.

There are a lot of ways you could remember the good things. Most often I’ll text my bestie with something like, “I ate breakfast today!” Or I’ll journal about the good things from my day. Even just talking to myself about it and acknowledging that I’m okay really helps.

When life just feels awful all the time it can be really hard to get out of your own head. And, by, “out of your own head”, I mean escaping the fear that things will never get better. It’s so easy to get in the pattern of things being hard that you develop this mind-set that things will never be easy again. That everything will be scary, and everything will go wrong. And when you get stuck in that mind-set (at least, I did), I started to get more depressed, and more anxious, and I was in this vortex of never-ending pain. It just got worse and worse until I stood up, pulled on my big girl panties, and decided to get my butt off the couch and do something. Don’t get me wrong, it was really hard. It’s not like I stood up and was perfectly fine. It took a lot of hard work, and it still does.

I did some Googling and found out that part of the reason I could be feeling so bad is my schedule, and my diet. I hadn’t really had a good sleep schedule, with being anxious all the time eating was kind of a struggle (although I did still eat), and I’m notorious for not doing a good job of drinking water throughout the day. So, for me, “pulling up my big girl panties” meant making myself eat, making myself go to bed and get up at the same times, and making myself drink water. It was kinda hard to get a good schedule down, but it’s only been a week and a half of the schedule and it’s helped a lot. I’ve had little to no anxiety since last Friday, and it feels amazing. I’m not depressed, I’m not anxious, and *pause for dramatic effect* I’m happy about things. I’m actually excited to go see my friends, instead of curled up in a ball of tears and panic.

When I realized all this crap I’ve had to deal with over the last three years or so could’ve been fixed just like that, I was not excited. I mean, I was, because now it’s a pretty easy fix, but I was so shocked that it took me this long to even consider that my schedule could be at fault. It made me think about how easy it really is to sit in your own little rut, feeling bad for yourself, instead of trying to find answers. (I definitely did try to find answers as to why I felt bad, but there were also plenty of times I just wanted to lie in bed all day because I felt so defeated.)

Anxiety and depression are finicky little creatures. There are lots of different reasons you could be depressed, or anxious, and they all vary depending on the person. They don’t always have an easy fix. For me, it did (although I’m probably gonna have to fight it every now and then). For others, not so much; and I really feel you. I know what it’s like to feel your world spinning by and you have no idea how to make it stop. It sucks, and I’m sorry. But, you’re not alone. I really hope my journey through anxiety has helped at least one or two of you (if not more). My “journey” isn’t over, and it probably never will be. But, now I know some great ways to help myself, and others.

(Apparently I did another post similar to this one called Count the Wins.)

I Is a Thankful Duck

I spent this last weekend home alone (not completely, but my sister was at work most of the days, so I was pretty much by myself), and so much happened that I’m really thankful for. So, for this post, I’m basically gonna tell you about my weekend, and some of the things I’m really thankful for.

In prep for my parents to leave, we were considering what to do if the power went out. We had a super bad snow storm two weeks ago, so we were trying to figure out what to do if we lost power (who we’d call, where we could go with our two dogs, etc.). My mom mentioned it to one of her friends, and almost immediately she said “Oh, they can come to my house.”

Thankful thing #1: how giving, and willing to go out of their way, so many people have been while my parents are gone; I’ve had multiple people make sure we had rides if we needed them, and be willing to go out of their way to help us

My parents left on Thursday. Thursday was a good day. I basically did whatever I wanted (and some school). There wasn’t much that happened, but I really enjoyed the peace and quiet. I was nervous about being left completely home alone because I didn’t know how I’d do if I was anxious or depressed and alone. But, it went great. I did pretty well not being anxious about things I had planned for later in the weekend, too.

On Friday, I didn’t do so hot. I did my best, but I was still pretty nervous about my best friend coming over later that night (my anxiety tends to pop up in social situations), so I spent a lot of the day battling anxiety and trying to calm myself down. Eventually, I called one of my youth leaders, and she really helped. She calmed me down, and she talked with me on the phone as long as she could/ as long as I needed to so I’d be distracted. Of course, when she had to hang up, my best friend hadn’t shown up at my house yet. I started getting nervous, but then I calmed myself down and when my bestie showed up I ran out and gave her a super big hug. We had a super fun night, and it was exactly what we both needed.

Thankful thing #2: people who take time out of their day to help me, and be there for me; even if it’s hard, even if it’s ugly, or scary; they’re still there

Next comes Saturday. Saturday morning we had puppet practice at church, and I was ecstatic. The lady who’s in charge of puppets said she’d pick us up and drop us off (even though she doesn’t live anywhere near my house). What made me so excited/ happy about puppet practice was that I felt completely normal. I was awake, I was ready, had no anxiety, and no nausea. Usually, when someone comes to pick me up, I’m a wreck. But, I felt just as normal as I did long before any of this even started. Saturday night I had a small group party, and the same thing happened with that. I felt happy, and excited, and not the least bit nervous.

Thankful thing #3: I have a friend who lives nearby who was able to give me rides Saturday night through Sunday afternoon; so, if I felt bad (anxious, nervous, nauseous), I had someone there who knew what to do, could help me, and wouldn’t ask many questions or worry about me because she’s pretty in the loop

Sunday morning was one of the primary things I was thankful for. If I’m anxious, Sunday mornings are always the hardest, so I had no idea how I’d feel that week. I woke up super early on Sunday (not on purpose), so I had plenty of time to wake up, and get a good state of mind going. As far as anxiety goes, I had a little. (That’s primarily because I had some sort of bug this week, so my stomach was upset, anxiety or not.) I think I did really well with managing what little anxiety I had. I went to church, felt great, and felt normal. I was able to do all the things I used to, and I really enjoyed them.

A friend of mine really started getting me into talking to people about my anxiety, and not being afraid to talk about what’s going on in my life. So, while I was helping in the 2’s and 3’s room that morning, I didn’t shy away from talking about it when some friends of mine asked how I was doing. These friends of mine are adults, one of which being my friend’s mom, and they’re the dopest (that’s a technical term).

I don’t normally hug this friend’s mom (nor do I normally hug random people, as hard as that is to believe), but I did that morning because it just seemed to fit, and she’s dope, and I figured she’d like hugs. So, I gave her a quick hug, but then she held onto that hug way longer than I did. So I stayed there, and while we were hugging she told me a verse that has to do with anxiety. I don’t know if she was trying to be encouraging, but she totally did, and it really helped. Not only is scripture helpful, but knowing that I have people in my life who love me, and are willing to help me, makes going to church, and doing anything, a lot easier. (And, hugs in general are great.)

Thankful thing #4: I’m thankful for all the people at my church who love me, and tell me that; there are so many people I could go to if I needed anything, even if that’s just a hug

Thankful thing #5: all the BEAUTIFUL kids at my church who bring joy to my life; they probably don’t know it, and I doubt they ever will, but they’ve really made this time I’ve been anxious a lot easier (anytime I’d feel anxious, or like I really didn’t want to “people”, I knew I could go and get a hug from one of my kiddos; it really made me feel a lot better)

And, Thankful thing #6: I am thankful for all the super cool moms I’ve gotten to know through working with kids at my church; all these moms show so much love, and they treat me like a person, not just a kid; they encourage me, and treat me like a friend; I don’t know why that’s always stood out to me, but I do know that there’s this crazy band of strong, godly women in my life, and I’m incredibly thankful to be able to call them my friends

Disappointment

This was my senior year of High school. At the beginning of the year I was determined to do as many things as I could. I was gonna hang out with friends, go to as many Youth Group activities as I could, be on the Youth Group worship team (and maybe join the worship team on Sundays). I was gonna be someone the middle schoolers could look up to, and I was gonna be there when my friends needed me. I had a plan, and I was gonna do it all. Guess what? Plans changed.

It hasn’t been a lot (although it feels like it), but I’ve had to miss a some things because I either haven’t felt well, or because of my anxiety. And, to be honest, there are times when I’m really upset about it. I’m not really upset that I’ve had to miss things, but I’m upset because I let myself miss things. I let myself get so anxious that I had panic attacks. Let myself hide from the hard things. Let myself tell people I couldn’t help them. It “feels like” (we’ll come back to that “feels like” in a minute) I’ve been a bad friend because I couldn’t be there for people. And a bad youth grouper because I wasn’t there being an example for the other kids.

Everything I wrote above is a “feels like”. It “feels like” I was a bad friend. Doesn’t mean I was. “Feels like” I’ve been a bad youth grouper. Doesn’t mean I was. Most often these “feels like”s have a truth to them that show you how wrong you really are. It’s pretty nice.

Now, back to the main point. I could spend all year long disappointed in myself because of all the things I couldn’t do. But, even with everything that I’ve been battling this year, I did some pretty cool things. Observe:

  • I stayed on my church’s puppet team
  • Went to as many youth groups as I could
  • Made some new friends
  • Stayed on the youth group worship team
  • Made my preexisting friendships stronger
  • Did every single offertory I signed up for; despite anxiety, and despite fear
  • I got to know some really cool little kids at my church
  • I’ve made it through some really busy mornings at church

To be honest with you, I could keep making that list longer, and longer. For every one thing I may have done to disappoint myself, I kept thinking about one thing I did to encourage myself. Basically, I had this conversation with myself: “Remember that one time you skipped out? Sure. But do you also remember that one time you kept pushing even though it hurt, and then you won?”

We aren’t going to be perfect. We can’t do everything. It was kinda stupid of me to try to do all the things. Because, anxiety or not, I’m not perfect. The cool thing is, that even though I had anxiety and was pretty much terrified every time I went to church, I still went. I still did a lot of things. Sure, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. None of this year has really been what I wanted. But, it’s what I got. And, I’m making the choice to learn from it, and use it. That’s what I’ve had to do my whole life, and that’s what I’m gonna keep doing.

So, to sum up (you better get used to my rabbit trails; they’re not gonna stop): Everybody has something they’re fighting, or working towards. If you’re giving your all, don’t hate on yourself because you think you’re not “doing enough”. Be thankful for what you have been able to do, and remember that you did your best. That’s all any of us can do.

Sorry, Not Sorry

My whole family has spent the last month or so being sick. At first, I didn’t feel too bad, but the more I went on, and tried to do all the things (hanging out with friends, youth group, church), the worse I felt. Not just physically, but emotionally. At this point, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I need more time (especially when I just don’t feel well). I just have to let go, and take some sick time. Even if I don’t want to.

I’ve learned that, when life is busy, there are going to be times when I just need to take a break. At the moment, I can’t do as much as I may want to. Which is okay. But sometimes I feel bad. I feel bad when I can’t go to church and give my best friend a hug because I don’t feel well. I feel bad when I have to cancel (sometimes multiple times) because I just don’t feel well. HOWEVER, I can’t do everything. Maybe the lesson here is that I need to cool it a little with my scheduling. But, what I was originally getting at was, I’m not sorry. When I feel awful, and I have to cancel, I’m not going to say I’m sorry anymore. It’s not like I’m sick on purpose, or like I’m emotionally exhausted on purpose. I just am.

The moral of the story is to stop apologizing so much. I’m not going to be sorry that I feel bad, because that doesn’t fix anything. If anything, it makes it feel worse by making this whole thing seem like my fault. And, sure, some parts of it are, but focusing on the fault isn’t gonna fix anything. What’ll fix things is focusing on what can happen next, and how I can move forward. Sometimes that’s by taking sick time, and sometimes it’s not.

For me, it’s really hard not to apologize. I hate it when people comment on how I’m not at church (especially because sometimes it’s not my choice to go or not). If someone makes a comment on it, my first inclination is to never miss another day of church again. However, that’s a BAD REASON (and, yes, I am using caps as emphasis; DEAL WITH IT). What’s the point in going to church if you’re just trying to avoid people’s potentially stupid comments?

I get accountability. Accountability is good, and important, and sometimes we do need a kick in the butt to get back to church. But, if you’re thinking about making a “comment”, even if you’re trying to be funny, maybe consider why you’re making that comment. Even if you’re trying to be funny, sometimes it can really hurt someone.

On the flip side, those “comments”, are just people saying stuff. If they wanna choose to be rude to you, then that’s they’re problem. It’s not your responsibility to do ANYTHING (there I go again with the caps) to make them happy. Make sure, though, that you don’t hear them say, “Hey, I’ve been missing you at church lately. You okay?” And then think they’re saying, “Yo, what the heck? How come you’ve been lazy and skipping out?” It’s really easy to hear one thing, have it go through your emotional lens, and think someone’s saying something completely different just because you’re hurting (see here for more information on hurting people).

What To Do? Pt. 2

On Tuesday I wrote about the importance of not fixing things for other people (again, see why in, I’m Such A Mom), and not pressuring them into things. And, that’s true. We can’t make anyone do anything, and we can’t force anything down their throats. BUT, sometimes we need to confront people about things. Pointing something out to them, or talking to them about something once or twice, is completely different than fixing things, or pressuring them.

As Christians we’re called to look out for each other, and confront each other, and help each other out. The difference being when you try to control someone, or parent them. That’s not good. It may come from a good place, but it’s not a good thing. One of the side effects of pressuring people to do something (even if it may be good for them) is that they may get tired of you. They’ll get sick of you trying to tell them what to do, and it’ll usually keep them from wanting to do whatever it is you think would be good for them.

So, there are two perspectives. The first is from someone trying to help, and the second from the someone who may need help. We’ve touched on pretty much everything I can think of from the first perspective, and now it’s time to discuss the second one.

No one likes to be told what to do (for the most part). But, sometimes we need it. With my anxiety I’ve really struggled to go into social situations, so I talked to my mom and she’s agreed to make me do what’s scary. I need that push to be brave and do things so I remember that there’s nothing to be afraid of. Sometimes we need someone to come into our lives and give us that hard push.

There comes a time when we all need to put on our big girl panties and fight whatever’s bothering us. And we can’t do it alone.

I think I’m going to give all my blog posts relating to anxiety their own category. This being my current stage of life, I have a lot of thoughts on it, and I’m learning a lot about it every day. Check back next week for a post relating to when it’s time to stand up and fight (it’s a working title).