it’s not that bad

“But it’s not that bad; why are you letting it bother you so much?”

I have heard this way too many times. I start telling someone about my anxiety and I mention the challenges of an irrational fear or something. Sometimes, people give me a confused look or comment on how “it’s not that bad.” Yes, having to steady my breathing after using running water (Yes, I have an irrational fear of running water. It’s a long story.) doesn’t seem that bad. And I could manage that. But think about how often you wash your hands, fill up your water bottle, brush your teeth, flush the toilet, wash laundry, clean your living space, take a shower, etc. That’s a lot of times. And that’s just one irrational fear out of many. There are other hard things, too: getting up in the morning, fighting the thoughts in my head, convincing myself to eat some days, etc., etc., etc.

My irrational fear of running water isn’t what makes me question on some days if life is worth living anymore. The constant fight – while waking up, eating, taking notes in classes, taking a shower, etc. – is what makes me think about death and dark things.

I understand that when I first open up to someone, you don’t know about all the other things. And if you haven’t experienced something like this, you wouldn’t understand what it’s like to be told that “it’s not that bad.” But now you know a little bit. If someone starts opening up to you and tells you about something small, be patient and don’t make assumptions on what it feels like. Opening up about this stuff is hard, and it’s unfair to them to make judgments without knowing the whole picture. Maybe it is the only thing going on, and maybe they tell you that it really isn’t that bad for them. Just don’t be the one to make that judgment.

So, yes, my irrational fear of running water is not that bad – alone. When I have to face it in combination with a bunch of other struggles (most of which are also not that bad alone), it’s enough to become suffocating.

the thoughts in my head tell me not to trust you

To all my brothers and sisters in Christ,

The thoughts in my head keep distorting the good things you said, and I can’t make it stop. They tell me that you don’t really understand me. They tell me that you didn’t believe me when I said things were hard. They tell me that you think I made it all up. They tell me that you want me to just get over myself and stop making it all up. And they tell me to cut you off, because you’re not a real friend and I don’t need that in my life.

I’m struggling. It’s hard to tell you how I feel, because the thoughts in my head tell me not to talk to you anymore, let alone trust you with the hard things.

This isn’t new. It has been going on for a while. The thoughts tell me that you don’t really care, that I should protect you from my sadness, or that I am a waste of your time. And it’s not you, so don’t take it personally. The thoughts just don’t want me to get better. You’re helping me get better, so the thoughts are trying to convince me to cut you off.

So, on those days when I seem a little distant, it’s not you, it’s me. It just means that I’m struggling to fight the thoughts a little more than usual. Please don’t take it personally, and please understand that I am fighting really hard to not push you away. Please understand that I don’t want to do it, and it’s not intentional, and it’s not your fault. But, if you want to help me fight them so I’m not quite so distant, give a little reminder that you care and that I am not a nuisance. It doesn’t have to be anything big – give me a hug or ask what’s going on or something like that.

Thanks guys for everything you do. The prayers and hugs and encouraging texts and everything… it means a lot. Love you all!

i just wanted to protect you

Something I really strive to do is protect other people from sadness and anxiety and other related things. When you think about it, it makes sense. I know what it’s like to be sad nearly all the time. I know what it’s like to be afraid of things I encounter on a daily basis. So it makes sense that I would want to protect others from these emotions. But this desire to protect others is draining me. It causes a lot of problems in friendships and dealing with that drains me. A lot.

Last night, I was in my friend’s dorm for about 7 hours. We ordered food and watched music videos and dance videos and other stuff on YouTube. I cried for the majority of that time. She asked what was wrong and I said I was fine. She asked again and I repeated my answer. I eventually told her a little bit, but I didn’t say everything. It got late, and it was time for me to go back to my own dorm.

I realized at the end of those 7 hours that I spent the entire time not telling her what was really going on. I realized that in general I had told her so many lies so she knew only about 3/4 of my anxiety symptoms and stuff. And while 3/4 is most of it, she is practically my older sister and should know pretty much all of it at this point.

I have this inclination to protect others. I think that it would be better for me to not tell others because then there are two sad people instead of just one. So I keep a lot of it inside. I lie about how bad things are so others don’t worry so much about me. My mind tells me that I shouldn’t make them sad too, so then I end up avoiding doing what will help me get better. She asked several times. She was prepared to listen to what was going on. She let me stay for 7 hours, thinking I would eventually tell her, but I didn’t. It hurt her, because it makes it seem like I don’t trust her. And it hurts me, because I avoiding talking about what’s been going on lately. And now I might not have another long period of time to talk about everything until next weekend or maybe later.

All this is to say, when someone asks what’s going on, and it’s someone you trust, you should talk to them. If you’re like me and want to protect people, be careful that you don’t protect them so much that you hurt end up hurting them. It’s counterproductive.

i am already awake.

Here is something fictional I wrote about panic attacks a while ago based on true things. Trigger warning: includes racing thoughts. Also, hope y’all like the new design! Decided to switch things up a bit.

My friend told me of her nightmare last night. She said it was so awful, she couldn’t wait to wake up. She was terrified, just talking of it. I asked if talking would help and this is what she told me…

She was drowning. She was falling through the depths of water. Deeper, she kept falling. Her arms were straining. She knew how to swim but the water was stronger. The water kept pulling her deeper until she couldn’t see the light. She felt things brush past her skin. She couldn’t see them. Sharks or fish? Whales or dolphins? She didn’t know. Then there were more. Then pain. Pain all over. The source? She didn’t know. Real? She didn’t know. Maybe it was the sharks. Maybe it was the cold water. Maybe it was just the fear taking over. Oxygen. She needed oxygen. Her lungs burned. Fire. Her chest felt like it was going to explode. Heartbeat. Rapid pulse. She tried to calm herself to slow it down. It raced faster. Her thoughts kept racing as she fell deeper. Deeper still. But never reaching a bottom. She picked up speed, falling faster and faster and faster. More things brushing on her skin. More pain. More fire. Faster pulse. Falling deeper. Falling faster. More animals pushed past her. More pain. Fire. Pulse. Fall. Deep. Fast. Animals! Pain! Fire! PULSE! FALL! DEEP! FAST! ANIMALS!! PAIN!! FIRE!! PULSE!! FIRE!! FALL!!!!! DEEP!!!!! FAST!!!!! Her thoughts screamed…

Then she woke up.

She felt better having shared it. I didn’t tell her then because I didn’t want to make her feel worse, but I was really jealous that day. She woke up. I can’t.

This is what all my panic attacks feel like. Each time, I wish I could wake up. Unfortunately… I am already awake.

an encounter with light

Written in my journal in mid-February….

Today was beautiful. God is awesome, and I was reminded of that today. I am at InterVarsity’s winter conference.

The past week before coming here involved breaking down several times. I am seeing a counselor, and we discussed some deep things recently. Together, we reached the conclusion that panic attacks were no longer my biggest struggle. At one point, they were. But, at some point in time, another issue reached the forefront: repressed emotions. I have been repressing emotions for years. Some emotions come through the cracks but not always to their full extent, and sometimes they do not surface at all.

So, back to this particular week. I’ve been having a lots of little moments this week where bits and pieces would surface, and I would just start crying. I was not totally sure at the time what it was that needed released, but I knew that something needed to come out. I have been praying all weekend that whatever needed to be released could be released so that I wouldn’t go back to my college with the same buried issue. Tonight, though, I did not pray one of my normal, everyday kind of prayers. It was a cry out to the Living God. It was a plea for freedom from the very depths of my soul. It was a cry for the One who defeated death to break the chains that had me so trapped for so many years.

After a few minutes of that, this feeling of darkness washed over me, but it didn’t consume me. It was all the bad emotions I’ve suppressed over the years. It felt dark and cold and … broken. I felt the brokenness, the disconnect between what I felt and what life was originally designed to be before the entry of sin in the Garden of Eden. These feelings were accompanied by images of scenes where people hurt me and of other bad experiences that impacted my life greatly. It was terrifying. It was far worse than my worst panic attack. It was worse than hallucinations of monsters I’ve had in the past. It was real, raw emotions. It was like 10 years worth of pain and emotions, all at once. I was sobbing, and making that like wail-like sort of sound. Tears were pouring in rivers down my face, to my shirt, my lap, the floor… I was a mess. But, somehow, I was okay with that. I was at peace with all of it. I knew that God was there, and I knew my prayers were being answered. I knew that it would pass, and I had to let it happen. I knew that if I tried to stop it, then it would not accomplish fully its purpose.

But then, when the darkness was draining out, this light came flooding in, along with joy and hope and more peace than I ever thought was possible to exist. I am pretty sure I started laughing at some point, just because I couldn’t contain the joy that filled my entire being. I was shaking, to, because the amount of hope and joy and light and life…. my body couldn’t contain all of it.

May I never forget what happened tonight. May I always remember that He is the peace amidst the most scary thing I’ve ever known. Let me never forget that His light shatters the darkness, and the darkness cannot even attempt to fight back, because the light is too powerful. Fear and peace don’t have to be antonyms, and aren’t antonyms for those who place their hope and trust in Christ. I was terrified, but still at perfect rest.


What God did that night was a miracle. He worked through my hurt and my pain to do something beautiful. This, too, is a part of my story. And I cannot keep it hidden. What is written above was recorded in my journal (with some minor edits) on February 18, 2017. I have avoided telling my family and some people about it, but I shouldn’t do that. It is a story of how God works in broken places and it is now a part of my history.

to all my friends

To all my friends….

You guys are amazing. Thanks for the late night phone calls, the video calls to make sure I am eating, the hugs, the prayers, and the words of encouragement. Thanks for letting me cry on your shoulder and for holding my hand when I felt alone. Thanks for encouraging me to see a counselor who has helped me in many ways. I especially want to thank those who never cease to point me back to God. Thank you for always making sure I pray when faced with difficult situations. Thank you for forcing me to attend church and Bible study on those days that I didn’t want to go.

You’ve given me the strength to keep fighting when I couldn’t find that strength in myself and when I didn’t want to look to God for that strength. You’ve helped me analyze my situations in different ways, and you’ve helped me grow in faith. Thank you for being there, for never giving up on me, for listening without judgement, for understanding that my stupid thoughts and actions have reasons behind them that seem logical to me.

While I still have a long road ahead, you have saved my life. Even to those of you who don’t realize how bad some days have been, finding creative ways to make me laugh and giving me hugs when I seemed a little down have helped more than you know. I love you all and will be forever grateful for the sacrifices you have made to keep me alive.

getting that initial diagnosis: some days it will be hard and that is ok

A little about me… I am a college student with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, hypocholesterolemia, and some other medical stuff. Getting that first diagnosis is hard.

Getting that diagnosis is confusing. It made me wonder what the rest of my life would be like. I wondered how much it would affect me every day until the day I would die. I wondered how long I would live, and I caught myself googling the name of each diagnosis followed by life expectancy. I started reading other people’s stories and life hacks for managing these diagnoses. I read about all the diagnoses and the vitamins and supplements I was given.

Adjusting is also really hard, but I think the hardest part is managing all the emotions that come up. Confusion. Anger. Frustration. Fear. And then all the questions too: How do I deal with this? Why does my doctor seem to be so confused by these lab results? Which doctor do I go to next? Why did all those other doctors not understand this? Why did no one pick up on this when I was 11 and was tested for this then? Why me? Why now? Why can’t I do this the way I used to be able to?

Getting that initial diagnosis is hard, and it can be really confusing, especially when you know there is a missing piece that doctors do not understand. It is frustrating when you have to wake up at 6 to get up by 8. It is frustrating when you cannot play the piano on some days because your hands are too shaky. It is frustrating when you have to take breaks in sports practice and eat a ton of food – just to prevent passing out. And it might get better, but it might not. It might get better, but it might be hard every day, for the rest of your life. If you were looking for false hope, I am not giving it here. It’s pointless. It might not get better. But that’s ok. You might not be able to do things the same way, and maybe there will be missed opportunities. But that is ok.

We who have chronic illnesses have something that others do not. We can relate to each other. I have really strong bonds with others that have chronic illnesses, because we understand what it’s like to have to miss a class because of having a rough day and not being able to get out of bed until later. We also have beautiful stories. I could tell you about 400 different times that God spoke to me through the autoimmune disease and the other things. God works through us in unique and different ways. Our pain can be beautiful. Our testimony can lead others to Christ. Our weakness can show the strength of Christ within us.

So, to anyone who just got a scary diagnosis, it is going to be hard. You have a long journey ahead. But Christ gives strength! Trust Him, for He is painting a beautiful story that includes your pain and your weakness.

self-harm

TRIGGER WARNING: This post discusses self-hate and self-harm.

I first heard about cutting when I was 12 or 13. My initial reaction was “Wow, you must be really hurting to choose to hurt yourself.” But I had no idea. Even a week before I first hurt myself, I still could not understand why someone would choose that.

I did it because I wanted to try it. I wanted to do it once. So I did. I told myself I would do it once that I would just scrape the surface. Just once. Not bad. No more. I did not even totally realize why I wanted to do it. I thought about it some for a couple days before doing it, but it was more just deciding when and where to do it than anything else. If I had thought about it, if I knew why I wanted to do it, I think things might have been different. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

The following is what I wrote in my journal the day I almost did it.

I want to hurt myself, but I just don’t have the courage to do it… I’m also scared that someone will figure it out… But tonight, I’m going to do some minor stuff, with a safety pin or scissors or something sharp. Just some scratches, and maybe a few drops of blood. So just a little but not too bad…

But I didn’t do it that night. The next day, I convinced myself that I wouldn’t do it that badly and that it would be ok. So then I did it.

I couldn’t help it.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t do much,….  Only had a few drops of blood and some scrapes. …  I’m sorry.  But it felt like I didn’t have any other choice.

The thing is, I did have a choice. I didn’t have to do it. I didn’t think through it. I didn’t talk to anyone about it. And I started a living nightmare. Right away, I caught a glimpse of what I started. The next day, I wrote this.

6:15 am. Last night… I did something crazy.  Something I never thought I’d actually do.  And then I tried justifying it, saying it wasn’t that bad.  And it wasn’t that bad, but that doesn’t change the fact that I hurt myself on purpose.  I took a safety pin and scraped my skin until it bled a little.  At first, I enjoyed it.  It felt good. But then, as I realized what I had just started, I just felt the pain of all the years built up,… and I was just shaking and wanting to cry but not able to really cry it out… I don’t want to do this again.

1:50 pm. What did I get myself into? … Was this worth it?  I’m afraid I started a chain reaction of events that will be rather difficult to stop… I want to do it again tonight.  It felt good last night, until it was over…

Each time for the first week or so, almost every single time was worse than the past times. In a sense, I was gaining confidence in self-harm. Each time, I told myself that it was not bad last time and that this time it would be ok to do a little worse. Over time, minor scrapes became shallow cuts. It was an addiction. I got started, and then it became harder to stop. The more I did it, the more I wanted to do it.

A couple weeks later, I wrote this…

People can look at my smile and think I’m ok.  And I am.  But maybe there’s something behind it – intense fear maybe – that most people don’t see.  And maybe, deep down, I’ve wanted them to see it all along.  And maybe, in those few moments that I revealed what I’m hiding, I discovered who I really am.  Yeah, I’m that “monster” that allowed herself to be controlled by the panic attacks…  But maybe, deep down, maybe I’m also the girl that just was waiting to be told she was beautiful.  Maybe I was waiting to be told that those words weren’t supposed to mean what they did.  Maybe I was waiting for someone to believe that I really was hurting.  Maybe the girl that everyone thought was crazy just wanted to be loved and understood.  Does that make sense?  Or am I that “monster”?

And then a few days later I wrote this…

To everyone that’s ever hated me, you were right.  I’m an idiot.  To everyone that’s ever told me I’d be better off dead, you were right.  I wish I hadn’t been born right now.  To everyone who has ever told me that I wasn’t worth it, you were right.  If I died then, I had like no friends so it would’ve been easier to say goodbye and I would hurt way less people…  To everyone that ever hurt me, I’ve been angry at you, but it’s ok now because I understand you.  I’m that obnoxious, annoying, stupid, worthless idiot that you always thought I was.  Thanks for being honest even though it hurt a lot.  It ruined my life in a way but it showed me how awful I really am.

These were my thoughts. I hated myself. But I just wanted to be heard, to be understood. I wanted to understand why someone called me a monster when I had a panic attack that I didn’t know how to deal with. I learned quickly to keep everything inside. And then when I hurt myself I initially only told one person and even doing that much was hard.

The next day, I wrote this, which was part of what made me really want to stop.

Right now, I just feel so empty inside.  I don’t know but I hardly know who I am right now…  I’ve been told to be myself, but sometimes I don’t even know who that is.

Self-harm caused me to question the very foundation of who I was. I was doing things I never thought I would ever do. I was on a roller coaster that alternated between doing ok and hurting myself.

Now, I haven’t hurt myself for a while. But I still struggle with it every day. I pray every day for the strength to get through the day without doing it. Some days are worse than others. A lot of the time, I see gory images of myself covered in blood with stab and cut wounds all over. In my head, that image is portrayed as good. I fight with all my might and pray just to convince myself that the image really is not good. I fight and pray every day to not hurt myself. A lot more friends know now, so I have a lot of people to turn to for help. Finding healing has not been an easy process, but it is going. With self-harm, seemingly minor victories are major accomplishments, because each victory takes so much courage. Each day that I stay strong is another victory. And I am learning that this too can be a part of the beautiful story of my life that God is writing. It is broken, but He is making into something beautiful.

 

all glory be to christ

Should nothing of our efforts stand
No legacy survive
Unless the Lord does raise the house
In vain its builders strive

To you who boast tomorrow’s gain
Tell me, what is your life?
A mist that vanishes at dawn
All glory be to Christ!

This is an excerpt from “All Glory be to Christ.” I prefer the version by Sovereign Grace Music, but King’s Kaleidoscope does it well too.

Anyways, I just really like thinking about these words. They are kind of depressing, in a sense. Like what if nothing lasts? What if we die and everything we build doesn’t last? But did you catch the problem with that… the focus is on us. What if WE die and everything WE build doesn’t last. It should focus on Christ, hence the “unless” in the third line. It doesn’t have to all fade away. If God raises what we are striving at, if God is present in our efforts, then we won’t be working in vain.

We are like a mist, and one day we will be gone. Whatever we did for Christ with eternity in mind will last. Nothing else will last.

I lead a Bible study, and we did a 4-week session on busyness. One thing we talked about is that 50 years from now whether we had an B or a B+ in a class won’t matter as much as taking some time to pray for people and care for people. But what about 2000 years from now? We all will be long dead. No one will even care if we graduated with honors or not. No one will care what our GPA was. But if we listened to God and planted a seed that led one person to Christ, that won’t be just important in 2000 years – that will be important for eternity! So to those college students who are obsessed with grades – study hard! but if someone needs you to listen at 2 am, then listen. Who knows, maybe that conversation will save a life.

Just something to think about. What are you doing this week? Where is your focus? Is your focus on something that matters?

you can’t do this alone

Learning that I can’t do this alone has been hard, but it has been a lesson that I have needed to learn. I have a minor eating disorder and am probably on the borderline of being anorexic, but that’s not official diagnosed. I sometimes binge eat, feel guilty about over eating, and then not eat enough for a few days. Not eating enough consists of eating too little at a meal or skipping a few meals. For a while, it was mostly subconscious. But a friend picked up on the pattern pretty quickly, because we often eat together. When she talked to me, it felt like a stab to my chest. It felt like an accusation. I wanted to defend myself. I tried to prove her wrong. But in the end, I realized that what she said made sense, and she was right. I felt like this because while I knew little about eating disorders – and still do not know a whole lot – I knew enough to know that I found myself at the base of yet another mountain that needed to be climbed. And this mountain has turned out to be higher and steeper than I thought.

The next steps were really difficult. I would some days have to force myself to eat more when I did not feel like eating much or even anything at all – but that was not the hard part. The hard part was knowing that I was not eating enough with in the first place. Once I determined that, forcing food down my throat wasn’t terrible. I first had to realize that I didn’t want to eat. (If you have never had an eating disorder, this probably doesn’t make sense. Like, just look at how much is on your plate, right? It’s a disorder. It’s not that simple. If it was that simple, it would not have been quite as hard to overcome. Things always seem simple until you struggle with it, because then you realize how hard it really is.)

And then, over time, things seemingly got a lot better. One day I went back to my dorm, in which there is a full-length mirror, and it seemed as if I lost like 20 pounds, because I saw the real image of myself in that mirror. And after that, I thought I was okay. And maybe I was. But it didn’t last for long.

Someone commented that I lost a lot of weight recently. And then someone else mentioned that I haven’t been eating much lately. And then another person noted that I binge ate a few times and then didn’t eat well for almost a week after that. I thought I was gaining weight for the last two months, but someone that had not seen me in a while said I had lost weight. This is the struggle of eating disorders. You don’t know. You don’t even know at all that you’re not okay until someone else tells you. It makes it harder, because I can’t manage it all myself. It’s literally impossible, because I can’t even tell when I eat well and when I don’t.

I don’t know what you’re dealing with, but you can’t do it alone. God made humans social organisms for a reason. There are other people who want you to get better. They can help you see the bigger picture and help you get better, whether that be checking how much you eat when you eat with them, or keeping sharp objects or extra pills hidden, or whatever it is. There are people out there who really care. It takes a lot of trust to admit that you need help, and that’s really, really hard, but you can’t face this alone. Ask for help. And if you don’t know who to ask, pray for God to send you someone or help you discern who to talk to. But please, ask for help.