10/27/2017

Let's Talk About Anxiety

10/27/2017

I was sixteen when I had my first panic attack.

I remember exactly where I was sitting. I remember exactly what I was wearing. And I also remember thinking in the back of my brain - this is a long time coming. 

I didn't know then what anxiety was or what it meant to struggle with mental illness. What I did know was that I wasn't normal, though. I really, really hoped I wasn't normal. Because if everyone felt like this, how are they keeping it together? And if everyone doesn't feel like this, how in the world am I supposed to keep it together?

I'm not very good at being imperfect. Imperfection is threatening. So I overachieve. I overcompensate. I am meticulous. I avoid things that I can't be perfect at, I withdraw from situations that remind me that I'm flawed and very, very human.

After that panic attack at sixteen, my very wise, very loving, and very woke mother suggested therapy (I loved my therapist. She had these big, gorgeous red earrings and a knack for wearing neutral turtlenecks). At least I loved her until things started getting deep. Guys, I am the master at chit chat. I am the master at banter and relatability and charisma. Just don't ask me about my childhood. Or heartbreak. Or the really, really irrational things that keep me awake at night, and the fear that ties strings around my mouth so that I can never open it to ask for help. 

It wasn't until I was eighteen years old that I grew absolutely desperate. I was really tired of limiting myself. I was really tired of not sleeping, not being able to do things that the people I loved counted on me for, and I was really tired of feeling distant from Jesus. I wanted the joy and peace and hope that everyone talked about.

I will always look back at that year as the year I climbed mountains. Figuratively and literally. I made so many big decisions that year. I fell hard, in love with Jesus that year. I got serious about working to become the person I knew God wanted me to be that year. And by the end of it, I thought I had cured myself. I was softer. I was more vulnerable. I didn't shame others for being soft and vulnerable anymore, either. I loved, I loved, I loved my close friends and family to the fullest. I had learned to ask for help. I was so full of joy. And the anxiety? Huh? New phone who dis?

It wasn't until this past summer when I let myself burnout, it wasn't until the cries for help poorly disguised as "bad decisions", and the resulting panic attacks after years of feeling free that I realized I'm not my own healer. I can delve into the deepest pits of my soul and dig at my hurt until there's none left, I can read dozens and dozens of self-help books with doves and cups of well-staged coffee on them, and yet somehow it's never gonna make me fully new. My newness doesn't come from me. It comes from something much, much bigger.

If you've been struggling with anxiety, if you're in a relapse, you are not a failure. You are not too sick, too scared, too far gone to be reached. You are not a burden to your church or to your family. You are not too much or too little for somebody to love you. You're gonna be okay. Deep breaths. Nothing is ever too big.

Reach out to somebody. Become the kind of person that others can reach out to, be the safe haven that you would have needed. You're going to be amazed at how many people know exactly what it's like to go through what you've gone through. 

Anxiety is not a death sentence to be carried out alone. Anxiety is not going to have power over you forever. Anxiety is not bigger than the One Who Loves Most. If you don't know anybody safe in your life to talk about how you're feeling, or if you aren't ready to talk about it yet with the people closest to you, my inbox is always open. You can reach me here.


10/16/2017

So You Keep Making Mistakes.

10/16/2017

Sometimes I wish I could just pull up a chair, brew some tea, and get cozy with each of you. The older and wiser (HA!) I get, the more I realize I'm not interesed in having shallow conversations that lead to nobody changing or growing or getting their heart filled. I feel like I've been through too much and seen too many people go through the same things over and over to think that staying silent or keeping those poisons inside is going to help anybody, like, ever.

So let's pretend it's me in front of you - probably with frizzy hair and some kind of horrible "I-forgot-to-put-on-real-shoes-before-I-left-campus" socks and sandals combination. But freaky footwear aside, here's what I think you need to know. Let me encourage you for a second.

I know that life is hard. I know that living a life after God can be really hard. I wish more people would admit that - and then let that spur them on to do their very best to find the joy anyway. To bless others anyway. To encourage fellow believers anyway. I've been thinking a lot about what I would say if a younger version of myself came to me and said, "But Beth - this doesn't seem worth it. I'm not changing. In fact, some days I feel worse. I don't feel like I'm going anywhere and I don't feel like God is on my side." 

And for you right now, you might be reading this and thinking, "Well, there it is." You keep making mistakes. You don't feel like you're changing. You feel like you're doomed to be the same striving person forever, never seeing real growth - or seeing temporary growth and then falling right back the next time something gets in your way.

I think we make a big miscalculation when we measure our "holiness" or "goodness" based on how visible our sin symptoms are. I'm not saying that it's not important to be righteous and flee from all things that keep us from becoming like Jesus. Please keep doing that. But what I am saying is often we think - if I just stop doing this sinful thing, then I'm okay. Then God can love me. We think the mistakes in and of themselves are the problem. We don't look at the cause and the circumstance and the history behind them. We don't look at what's really creeping into our heart and making its bed there. 

Look at your heart. Look at what comes out of it. Pour yourself into knowing who God is. Cling to what is good. God is perfecting you slowly, but the process isn't supposed to look perfect. Practice being authentically kind before you focus on just not doing whatever thing it is you're trying to stop doing. Practice being a servant. Practice throwing away your selfish reclusiveness and reach out so somebody who needs it. Practice producing fruit of the Spirit unapologetically. These things don't have to be big, vibrant gestures. They can be small. But practice them. As they start to become markers of who you are, watch how suddenly the thing you were trying to stop doing grows smaller and smaller in your life.

So when you keep making mistakes, and you're painfully aware that who you are and who you want to be don't match up - remember this. Remember you're in process. Remember Jesus - remember who he says you are, and know you're already new. 

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:1-5
 Also, - 2 Peter 1:1-10.