what it’s really like being vulnerable about my anxiety

As an extrovert, it is helpful to have people around me. As someone with social anxiety, it is helpful to know at least some of the people around me well. Knowing people well involves vulnerability. And, for me, vulnerability requires talking about things that terrify me. It requires risking sounding insane (some of my symptoms seem pretty crazy) to build closer friendships.

I’ve learned that sometimes this doesn’t go well. Some people will walk out of my life forever; others will avoid me for a couple weeks to process things; others will start to be extra careful around me.

To everyone who has left or acted differently around me… I am still the same person underneath. I still love Jesus. I am still the person who loves to swim and shoot archery and solve math equations, especially Calculus II problems. I still love biology and organic chemistry and researching cockroaches. I still enjoy human A&P and want to be a naturopath after completing all the required education. I still love to read and write. I still listen to a lot of CCM and K-pop. Sure, there are things going on you didn’t know about, and it’s ok if you need some time to adjust. But I am not a totally different person than who you thought you knew. After you adjust, treat me like the person you’ve always known, except maybe with some adjustments. It is helpful to not show me horror films or joke about wanting to die (unless you’re actually struggling) or talk about how bad your “OCD” is when you just have perfectionist tendencies every now and then. But I don’t want to be treated totally differently just because someone knows I have anxiety. If you don’t know what to do, listen and pray for me. Ask me what will be most helpful to me.

This is why talking about anxiety and hurting myself and depression and chronic illness is so hard. I have no idea how people are going to respond. I have been hurt by people who have left when I told them I wasn’t ok.

This isn’t necessarily true for everyone, but I know it’s true for me and several others I know. If you know something I am struggling with, that means that I wanted you to know. If I didn’t want you to know, I would’ve hid it from you and not told you about it. You know what you know because someone wanted you to know that.

So, in conclusion, take some time to listen. Adjust as you need to, but don’t feel the need to “protect me.” If something is genuinely harmful for me and we are close, I am going to let you know that. But we will never become closer if you overprotect me or baby me. All that will do is drive me crazy – and, over time, drive us apart.

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 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.

panic attacks: what they feel like

TRIGGER WARNING: This post discusses panic attacks.

What I’m about to say is hard for me to talk about for three reasons:

  1. It’s hard to put everything into words.
  2. It feels vulnerable.
  3. It’s scary for me to think about my own thoughts afterwards.

Realize that the thoughts and experiences can be different for everyone. Also, not every panic attack is the same and not every panic attack is this bad. Click below if you want to read a detailed explanation of what panic attacks feel like for me. Continue reading “panic attacks: what they feel like”

learning to rest in the peace and promises of God

I Will Rest – City Harbor
I will rest, I will rest
In the promises that You
Have given me
I will rest, I will rest
All Your goodness
And Your mercy follow me
They follow me

I will not fear
I won’t forget
That you are always near
Even when the road I walk’s unclear
In the waiting I’ll be still
And know that You are God, You are God

You’re my Shelter, my Refuge
Fortress for my soul
I will trust You
You’re my Shepherd, my Rescue
Forever my stronghold
I will trust You, trust You

Calm. Peace. Rest. Safe. Those words should be comforting, but sometimes they feel a bit intimidating. They feel like an impossible dream sometimes. People talk about we don’t have to be anxious because we have God, but that’s easier said than done – especially for someone with generalized anxiety disorder.

Sometimes, we think that putting up walls will make us more safe. So we keep it in. We internalize it. But the best thing to do is to take it – all of it – to God. We are commanded in Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” We are to bring our requests before God with thanksgiving. Ever prayed and felt worse? You probably came to God with the wrong attitude. I tend to do that a lot. Sometimes, I don’t go to Him to prevent having that weird feeling. We want God to fix everything and forget to give thanks for what He has already given us. We focus on the anxiety and the bad memories instead of remembering His promises and the good memories.

Philippians 4:7 continues, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” I have felt the peace of God and it is a beautiful feeling that is beyond words. It only comes when most needed. This is just a theory, but I wonder if it rarely comes so that we can appreciate it more in those few moments when it is there. A few years ago, I was dealing with some medical issues and wasn’t getting answers. I was sick. I had lost a lot of weight and was constantly tired. My doctor and mom were afraid I’d only live for another year. I had a few diagnoses but something was missing. That day, I screamed at God. Tears streamed down my cheeks. This lasted for a while; I don’t even know how long. All of a sudden, I half-fell into my chair. I was crying still, but I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t happy but I had this sort of contentment and peace. It came out of nowhere. I remember vividly the way it felt, but I can’t really describe it. It’s so beautiful that there aren’t words in English to describe it. I guess things kind of happened out of order that day: I brought everything to God, then felt His peace, and then brought it to Him with thanksgiving. (I did see another doctor and am doing really well now though still have some symptoms.)

The song I quoted at the beginning is one that has been encouraging to me lately. It talks about how we often put up walls for protection but end up not being strong enough. It talks about resting in God’s promises. Resting in His promises has two parts: remembering how He has always kept His promises and believing that He will keep His promises. Resting in His promises is remembering that this isn’t your first panic attack, and that He has been there for every one. Resting in His promises is believing that He is always there and you can never escape His love. Resting in God is living, struggling, fighting with the peace of knowing that we will one day be in a place with no more pain and no more suffering. And with this rest comes a spirit of thanksgiving. You can’t reflect on how He has always been there without being at least a tiny bit thankful.

2016 was very challenging emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. To be honest, I didn’t expect to live to 2017. A lot has changed in the last few weeks. I’m growing closer to Christ, and I want to get better. I am learning to rest in the God who gives me the strength to do what my anxiety tells me I can’t. I have been drawing energy and strength to keep fighting from the God who gives rest in the middle of the storm. For me, resting in God is like feeling a sense a peace while in a kayak without a paddle on the Pacific Ocean during a typhoon. Everything around me is still hard and I have to keep fighting every day.

God brought me through 2016, and He will give me the strength to survive the storms of 2017.

16 lessons from 2016

It feels like an understatement to say that it has been a rough year. I hallucinated this creature every now and then from April to October. When I wasn’t hallucinating, I was worried that I would. My panic attacks got worse because I stopped internalizing them and decided to face them head on. My depression was worse this year. Despite everything bad that happened this year, it’s been a good year. I went on a family vacation, on a mission trip, and to a Christian conference. I made new friends and became closer with old ones. I learned a lot about myself and about trusting others. I finally started seeing a counselor. So, 2016 has been a really hard year, but it has also been a really great year.

Without further ado, and in no particular order, 16 lessons from 2016:

  1. God uses those who are willing and not just those who are the most qualified. I didn’t have to be a construction worker to go a a mission trip. I wasn’t a pro, but I got the job done.
  2. God enables those who are willing to serve Him to complete the tasks He gives. I never thought I would be leading a Bible study or writing a blog or going on a mission trip this year, but He called me to these things and gives the strength for the completion of the task.
  3. I won’t always be able to feel God, but that’s okay. Maybe we only feel God when we need to the most. If we felt Him all the time, we would probably lose the awe and wonder that comes when we can feel His presence.
  4. I don’t need to know all the answers. I don’t know always know why God allows His children to hurt. This year, I have been trying to remind myself that He has a plan and a purpose for suffering.
  5. Suffering teaches us how beautiful God’s blessings are. We need the dark to appreciate the importance of light. Maybe we need suffering to appreciate the beauty in friendship, laughter, and all of His many blessings.
  6. God works on His clock. Sometimes, a 1.5-hour worship session needs to last about 3 hours for God’s work to be accomplished. We need to be willing to adjust our schedules to work around His timing.
  7. I don’t spend enough time with God. I have started something where I pray at the end of the day without looking at the time. I need to do this more often, because it feels pretty awesome, just spending sometimes almost 2 hours with God.
  8. God never leaves. He is always there. Looking back on this year, I can see the times when God worked. He worked in times that I wasn’t even confident if He was there.
  9. The God of today is the same as the God of the Bible. If you had asked me if I believed this truth earlier this year, I would’ve said that I did. But deep down, I didn’t live like I believed it – until a few months ago.
  10. God still works miracles all the time, but it doesn’t mean He will. Sometimes, He does allow death and suffering, but sometimes He heals and works miracles. I used to have fibromyalgia but God healed that over the course of about 24 hours.
  11. It’s ok to miss someone. I still miss someone who died over a year ago, and that’s ok, as long as I move on and continue living my life.
  12. Anxiety isn’t always a bad thing. To be honest, I think my anxiety has saved me from making a lot of bad decisions that I was afraid to make at the time. I later realized that the decision was not a good one.
  13. It’s really important that close friends know about panic attacks and other psychological stuff. I don’t mean just like your one best friend, but anyone that you consider a close friend. If you actually think you can’t tell them, they might not be a good person to have as a close friend.
  14. When you don’t tell close friends about personal things, it hurts both you and them. It hurts you because they can’t help you. It hurts them because a good friend would wonder why you didn’t tell them if they found out later (and they often do) and would want to support you.
  15. “Sorry” means nothing without action. One word can’t take back what I said or did. Saying sorry and meaning it is one step, but it means nothing if the same thing happens again and again and again.
  16. I only have one shot at life, and I don’t want to waste it. I have one shot. No day will come again. I need to enjoy the day I have been given, panic attacks and all, because there is beauty in life that I’ll miss if I focus on the anxiety and heartache.

breathe

Breathe. It’s the best thing to do in a panic attack, or just to calm yourself in general. But it’s also one of the hardest things sometimes. So I’m dedicating a whole post to how I breathe through them.

  1. Acknowledge it
    • If you’re in a panic attack, it isn’t going anywhere. It’s best not internalize it unless you absolutely have to.
    • Realize that there are some things (like breathing) that can be done in public. Find things that help you and then use them after acknowledging a panic attack.
  2. Breathe in
    • Slowly
    • Through your nose
    • 5 seconds
  3. Hold
    • 8 seconds
  4. Breathe out
    • Slowly (shouldn’t be able to hear yourself breathing out)
    • Through your mouth that is forming a small O shape, as if blowing through a straw
    • Allow your muscles to relax as you breathe out
    • 10-20 seconds

The longer you can do it, the better. It should be a little hard and uncomfortable, but don’t push yourself too hard that you pass out. It’s good to practice this first when you’re not in anxious situation. This will help you gauge what you’re capable of. You should be able to do a little less than that when you’re in an anxious situation. If you can’t do 5-8-20, then do 3-6-10, or whatever you can do. Just keep the ratios approximate: most time for breathing out, least time for breathing in, and holding it is in the middle.

Breathe. Take some time to acknowledge your panic attack and breathe.

Merry Christmas!

This won’t be that extra basic Christmas post that everyone puts up on Christmas day. This is personal, about how Christmas hope has changed my life.

Up until a few weeks ago, I wasn’t into “the whole Christmas thing” and kind of just wanted this holiday to get over with. I told my family at thanksgiving that it was ok to put up the Christmas tree without me. I didn’t feel like doing it when I was home for thanksgiving so I just said I had too much work to do. When I saw my sister’s snapchat story a few weeks ago, I regretted that. Why? Because I had found hope – hope that I didn’t even realize was there to be found.

If you haven’t read my post yesterday, you might want to do that. I will probably be referencing that a lot. It references what has been so far the hardest day of my entire life. I wanted to give up my fight on a Monday a while ago. On the following Thursday night, I knew I would do anything to live. What changed? God answered my prayer on Monday. He showed up when I felt like all hope was lost. He was there to say, “Hey, I’m still here. I hear you, I see you, and I know your hurt.” By Thursday, I realized how free I was. I realized that my fight was just beginning. I promised God that if He did something to take even a little bit of the hurt away, I would keep fighting no matter what. I didn’t expect to have to keep that promise, but God showed up in a miraculous way that day. And so I have a promise to keep. I realized that day how big God is that day. And for the first time in years, I got a taste of the heart of Christmas.

Christmas is today, and it is a day of HOPE!! Christmas is God coming down to us to be among us. Christmas is the hope of a Savior who came to us as we are. Christmas is a message of hope and light for those who feel like the most unwanted. Shepherds were, in a sense, the unwanted and cast out. But the shepherds were the first ones to be told that Jesus was born. God doesn’t give preference to the rich or the popular or the intelligent or whoever you admire. On the inside, we are all the same – broken, flawed humans. He came for the ones who need a doctor, not for the ones who are “perfect” (anyone who thinks they have no problems needs to check themselves and find the plank in their own eye). That’s the heart of Christmas. A perfect God stooping down to us and becoming one of us so that we could find freedom through the cross (which came 33 years later).

This Christmas, take the time to read the Christmas story (I recommend the first few chapters of Luke) and really consider the importance of Christmas, especially in your own life. Christmas brings hope and freedom and life. Not always the kind of hope that takes away the storm (I still fight my anxiety and depression pretty much every day) but the kind of hope that gives you calm within the middle of the storm.

Wherever you are in your walk of life, there is hope. Look to a baby who was born in a manger to rescue your heart and set you free. Fall on your knees before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who gave up heaven to become a human baby and feel pain and suffering so that you could spend an eternity with Him in a place void of all pain and all suffering. This year, don’t miss the heart of Christmas.

i’ve lost control but i’m free

I’m standing knee deep but I’m out where I’ve never been
And I feel You coming and I hear Your voice on the wind
Would you come and tear down the boxes that I have tried to put You in
Let love come teach me who You are again
Would you take me back to the place where my heart was only about You
And all I wanted was just to be with You
Come and do whatever You want to
Then You crash over me and I’ve lost control but I’m free
I’m going under, I’m in over my head
Then you crash over me, and that’s where You want me to be
I’m going under, I’m in over my head
Whether I sink, whether I swim
It makes no difference when I’m beautifully in over my head

In Over My Head – Bethel

It is a beautiful thing to be in over your head in God. I am sinking, I guess. I am daily surprised by His love and His greatness. Our God is so big. He can do anything. He can do the impossible. In reflection on this year, a lot has happened. I started hurting myself. I had hallucinations; my hallucination died. I started having nightmares and terrifying daydreams so realistic I’d wonder afterwards if they were real. I’ve had to question whether or not to switch churches. God showed up in my darkest places through the Bible, friends, my Bible study group, music, and just in the most random times and ways.

I wanted to control my life. And for a while I thought I could. But I can’t. And I was a fool for thinking I could. I needed to let go. And that’s hard. With anxiety, that is hard. It is so easy to think that control is the best and only good approach. But it isn’t. Trusting God is. And so I am so slowly losing my control. And that’s ok. That’s good. It is good because even though I am not in control, I know that the one who is in control is always good and never makes mistakes. And yes, there are still days when I want to take over. But I’ve been learning to let it all go. I’ve been learning to let His will be done. Because it is only through doing His will that I find true joy and peace and the hope I need to fight for tomorrow.

Wherever you are, even if reflecting on this year is painful for you, know that God is there. He always has been, and He always will be. To those who trust in Him, He will never let you go.

understanding anxiety

Anxiety. 7 letters. The most complicated thing I know. Organic chemistry, calculus, human physiology… no problem. I did well in those classes. Anxiety is a whole new level of learning. Understanding anxiety requires vulnerability.  It is scary and it is hard. It comes through hours of thinking through things, talking through things, dealing with things, etc., etc. etc. And then the illogical starts to make sense. I have this fear because this happened. These thoughts caused that ultra-realistic daydream. Understanding anxiety requires bringing up thoughts and emotions you never wanted to touch, let alone think through with a counselor or trusted friend.

Our culture has the expectation of pretending to be perfect, but healing can only come through honesty – being honest with others (that you know you can trust) and yourself. Honesty means allowing yourself to cry in the middle of a worship service when you feel the need to let it all out. Honesty means confessing sins of hurting yourself or not trusting God completely or going to something else before turning to God or whatever to God. Honesty means being honest to yourself and to others that you are not doing just fine. Honesty is hard. But honesty is the means for understanding anxiety. And understanding anxiety is the means for managing it.

Anxiety is the most complicated thing that I’m trying to understand right now. And that’s ok, because one day it will make a little more sense. And when it does, maybe the struggle will be a little bit easier.