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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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”

a day i will never forget

Okay, it’s time for me to be honest, like really honest. I have been struggling. I’ve mentioned that a little before. I’m a college student on a medium size campus. So it’s good for walking and running. But running can have its drawbacks, especially on a mostly empty stomach – it wasn’t that I didn’t have food available; I just chose not to eat it. I do this thing where some days I switch into stress eating (so overeating) sometimes and barely eating anything other times; other days I am fine and eat normally.

A while ago, I did just that. I ran. On an almost empty stomach. So my stomach is churning and I haven’t eaten and I’m sprinting. Bad choice. But not my worst decision that day. I ran for a while, maybe 10-15 minutes. I took a few breaks in that time period, even telling someone where I was… but I didn’t tell her how bad things were. She was going through some stuff, but I have a pretty large support group. There are several people I couldn’t asked for help. But I didn’t. Another bad decision. Anyways, after running, I walked around for a little bit and then sat on this retaining wall that’s like 3 feet high. I sat and stood up, paced and sat down, and repeated this once or twice. I spent this time praying, internally screaming at God, thinking, crying, pleading for God to do something or give me strength or send someone to help me. I was too afraid to ask for help. After at least 15 minutes of this, I decided I was going to walk to a place less than a quarter mile away. Once I got to that designated location, I would choose my fate. I would choose to keep fighting, plan a date to um end everything, or end it all that night. I told God that if He didn’t come through, I was giving up my fight either that night or on a later date.

A friend was walking and saw me and invited me to her dorm and I’m still alive, obviously. I found out later that she wasn’t even planning on coming back at that time but she somehow did. Neither of us really understand what happened. But what I do know is that less than a minute after crying out to God, a friend found me. I don’t know for sure what I would’ve done that night, but I probably would’ve picked a date or that very night.

God came through. God heard my cry. As bad as that night was, I think that night was the night I decided I wanted to get better. But I was scared that God wasn’t big enough to give me the strength to keep fighting. And so I cried out to God. And He heard me. He heard me because He is there. He is always there. And He is big enough to give me the strength to fight.

That night, I wanted to give up the pain and the brokenness. But I also would be giving up the joy and love and shelter and peace and everything beautiful I had found in God. I wanted to give up the good things that had happened, are happening, and will happen. So I will keep fighting, because I made a promise that I would continue my fight if He came through that day. I will keep fighting for those I would leave behind, for the beautiful memories yet to come, and for the God who created me with a beautiful purpose that I might understand better some day.