Anxiously Chasing After Well-Being

It has happened. My mental health has caught up with my physical health.

It started a few weeks ago. If you read this blog, maybe you remember my crazy, frantic posts. That was precisely my state of mind. There was no peace, no rest in my mind. My heart was racing constantly, my brain was grinding its gears like a poorly oiled machine.

My appetite has been on the decline lately, which is weird for me. You see, I have always loved food. I was never a finicky eater. As a kid, I devoured the world. Five slices of pizza, three hotdogs, a half pound steak followed by an ice cream, nothing could faze me. A few episodes of acid relfux, however, served as a good wake-up call. When my growth spurt ended, this calmed down a little, but I was still capable of great fetes of feasting, and even took pride in this. No traumatizing event could keep me from eating for long. In fact, sometimes I would eat more in hard times to try to fill the void. 

For a while, I have had a concept of healthy eating, but didn’t follow through most of the time. I didn’t turn down the sweets, and I made no valiant effort to really change my lifestyle. 

I always thought that if I just ate real food, vegetables, and fruits (and some of the other stuff), then everything would be okay. 

So, anyway, now I’m eating about 1000 calories a day because I can’t eat any more, and even that seems like too much. Nothing seems to get along that well with my stomach. And this in it of itself may not be a problem. If I can get by on less, then why not? Many would probably love to have less appetite. Isn’t it just American culture that shuns any kind of minimalism?  

I am also experiencing diziness, lack of balance, fatigue, and some other symptoms as well that I would rather not go into.

What does it all mean? Are my efforts futile? Should I go on a cupcake diet and see if that does the trick? I do not deny that I am a little discouraged, but I wouldn’t say that it was all for nought. The reality is that I have been healthier relative to myself, but obviously I am not doing enough. I know I can do more. I know I can fight harder. Yesterday I went to Inn-n-Out (in my defense, I only had about 500 calories), and today I had a slice of homemade pizza even though I told myself I was only going to eat fruits and vegetables. So clearly I am not a total hippy-dippy, even though my body probably needs me to be. 

What I’ve learned from this is that sometimes being healthy isn’t as easy as it sounds. Sometimes you need to go to extremes, swallow your pride, and start eating tofu. I’ve learned that I need to stop being a crybaby- health problems are nothing new. I will accept this challenge from God. I will try to survive, I will try to stop worrying because anxiety is what triggered some of these problems in the first place. And I will see the doctor as soon as possible so I can stop wondering at least.

The Mystery of God… Still Very Much a Mystery (But That’s Okay)

Is God’s will simply what is before us? Or must we carve it out with His guidance?

This question is central to the turmoil that I have been experiencing all day. Turmoil because I felt that I made a decision contrary to God’s pleasure, and that I will surely be punished for it.

The decision was to continue summer school. Doesn’t that seem like the most trivial thing in the world? Isn’t worrying the real sin? And yet I couldn’t feel good about my decision, even though economy and reason were on its side. I figured that this decision could surely benefit God. I can glorify Him in all circumstances, and these seem favorable circumstances, I thought. And yet peace did not descend. The alternative to my decision is what I perceive as God’s will because it is the less attractive one. Does that make sense at all?

Nonetheless, I seem somewhat trapped in this situation. If I do drop, my family will be upset, and why upset them needlessly? Where is this all leading? Surely, God, you could bring good out of that because you can bring good out of anything… But is it the better decision?

And so, I have been entirely unable to find peace. On top of this absurdity. Satan has been at attacking with a vengeance in different ways. He’s really quite relentless. He makes me question everything- including the reason that I choose to follow God. He asks me if I’m really good enough for God, if I’m really good at all. He asked me to join him.

I found myself going along with this way too much. I found myself only distantly admiring God, if at all. Like the tragic old cynic with a face weathered by brushes with demons, who can only exhort her descendants to turn out differently.

But what’s the use in that hopelessness? Why not seek out God and make things right? I knew that I needed Him, more than ever, so I opened His word. I knew that without Him I would be worse than nothing, so I accepted His help. Once again, He was there with open arms.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (‭Philippians‬ ‭4‬:‭4-7‬ NKJV)

Philippians 4 is awesome, please read the whole thing if you get the chance. I believe this. Yes, Lord, I believe You and I know You are good! It doesn’t matter what I’ve done, You are still the same, You are always the same wonderful God! You are peace, You are joy, You are the antidote to this toxic existence! Oh, please give me the strength to love You! Give me the strength to care! Give me the strength that I don’t have to keep on going! Lord, for some reason I still don’t feel right about my decision; but let me at least stop focusing so much on my own salvation and start focusing on the salvation of others who deserve it so much more than I do. You, in Your gentle way, Lord, win their hearts!

To All Who Suffer From Social Anxiety

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There was a time when people didn’t get drugs for what we now know as SAD. Their families and peers likely brushed it off as shyness, introversion, or plain weirdness. There was also a time when drunk driving wasn’t illegal and you could buy a candy bar for a nickel.

What I’m saying is that times have changed, and so have attitudes about many things, including mental illness, for better and for worse. It is good that nowadays we tend not to trivialize things so much. Like, “Oh, that’s just a flesh wound… Oh that’s just mercury… Oh, he’s just a little shy and quirky.” People tend to have a little more knowledge, sensitivity, and symapthy… Right?

But are we overreacting? Are we overmedicating? Are we overthinking?

The problem is that when we turn SAD into a disease, well, we turn it into something that is important and real… But we also turn it into a DISEASE!

I’m not saying that you necessarily need to stop taking drugs. If Prozac keeps you from spending 5 hours a day crying and if you need a little something something to keep from passing out every time you enter a crowded room, who am I to judge you? Maybe I should be on drugs myself.

I’m just saying that it is time for a new kind of victory. No more defeat, no more shame, no more stigma, no more self-loathing. It is time that we say, “No more, we are free from SAD (figuratively…)!”

Society may shun us with its well-meaning smile. Maybe our friends will leave us and our families will continue to misunderstand.

But you may know what I’m about to say. You’ve known it all along- that there is someone who cares, there is someone who gets it, and there is someone who loves us for who we really are (not that everything we do is perfection, that is actually something society tells us, and doesn’t really mean).

We don’t need to view anxiety as a tragedy. We don’t need to view it as a manifestation of all of our failures. It doesn’t need to be fully integrated into our innermost being. It can just be another struggle. It can just be another cross to bear.

Something I’m beginning to understand is Paul. People criticize him all the time for all his “boasting.” But is he really “boasting” in the way we think of the word? Look at me, I’m such a good Christian…

Well, maybe he did sometimes, he was human after all. But there is another way to look at it. Paul often “boasts” in response to his trials. He would go city to city preaching and church-building along the Mediterranean and Jews would persecute him. They would tie him up and put him on trial and it would happen over and over again. That can get a little tiring, disheartening, frustrating… But through it all, he expresses joy. He “boasts.”

We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. (II Corinthians 6:3-10 NKJV)

Maybe we can do the same thing. Not that we shouldn’t be humble or that we should think that we are better than our non-anxious counterparts. There are more than enough examples of Jesus’ humility, most do not put that into question so much. Paul was also far from taking all the credit (see 1 Corinthians 3).

Nonetheless, we can have victory. Maybe you’re not so much used to the idea of victory, like me. You know, I certainly wasn’t the star of my JV tennis team in high school. I think I won 1 match in 2 seasons. And that whole teenage triumph invincibility thing… You know what I mean… Driving around town with your friends, feeling like you’re on top of the world, believe me those moments were all too fleeting and far between for me. But there is victory outside of sports, dollar signs, and conventionality. If we believe in the Lord, if we believe that all things are possible through him, if we complete his work in spite of setbacks… Then there’s no reason to not have joy.

“But tell that to my depression,” you may say, and I would understand.

But victory is still possible. Victory is always possible. Depression is a disease of the mind. It doesn’t need to be a disease of the soul and the Spirit (although keeping it from spreading is way easier said than done). I’m not saying the road will be easy. God forbid… but is victory ever easy? And would an easy victory be as sweet?

Photo-
Socialanxietytestonline.com

What Is There To Fear?

I wouldn’t say that my baptism today was like my fairytale wedding to Jesus, but it was special. I did get cold feet in the bathroom of the Cheesecake factory, where I asked myself, is there really a God? But I sorted that out in the car and was happy to get dunked into the holy waters of a jacuzzi.

A lot of people came, which made me happy even though I didn’t talk to all of them. Honestly, I was nervous, because I am usually nervous around people, especially when I am the center of attention.

Now I must once again ask myself this question: why am I afraid of people? I ask myself this every day. I have come up with answers, but not really solutions.

I wish the reason was wholly innocent, but I don’t think it is. I must be afraid of people because I secretly mistrust them. I must subconsciously worry that they will hurt me. But I don’t want them to hurt me. So I naively seek out love and acceptance.

Sometimes I feel like no one really loves me in the same way that they love other people. My family- they love me because they have to. My brothers and sisters- they try love me because God compels them to. My acquaintances- well, they don’t hate me but they’ll soon drift out of my life. God? Well, I guess he loves me.

Clearly, this is the wrong attitude, I am sure you are thinking that, and it’s true, I am ashamed to admit this. Who do I think I am that people need to love me for special reasons? My goodness, no one said that life was going to be a Hallmark movie or a fairytale. And do I always love people for special reasons? No! Do I completely accept people and gloss over their faults? Of course not! There’s a lot more wrong with this way of thinking, I don’t even think I can cover it all. It’s self indulgent and misguided for one thing. There is only so much love and sympathy circulating in the world right now. I don’t really see why I should have it all. Not everyone has a loving family and a million friends, so I don’t know why I seem to think that.

And why isn’t God’s love for me enough? Why, why, why, I find myself crying out. Why don’t I believe that He loves me? Why do I believe that I am so vastly different from everyone else? Why do I believe that I will be a reject for eternity?

And even if I will be a reject for all eternity, even if I will be the one washing God’s feet while everyone else is wearing white robes and singing hymns, my question is “Who cares?”

When did I become the center of the universe? Why does everybody need to love me? No!!! Love God. Love God. Love God. He is enough. It is enough that He is. It is more than enough that I was created to glorify Him.

So I don’t know what will happen to me. I don’t know how psychological and how physiological my problem is. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop being nervous and socially awkward. But maybe I can stop being so afraid. I think there is enough fear and doubt in this world already. Maybe I should also stop it with the introspection, my worst enemy is probably my own mind.

How Do You Get Divine Love?

1 Corinthians 13
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Gift of Love

13 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,[a] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Okay, so I have quoted the first part of 1 Corinthians 13, but you may know what comes next, the love is patient, love is kind verse. I would recommend reading the whole chapter (if not the whole book or the whole New Testament). It is so empowering and rich!

I also find this unsettling. Why is it unsettling? Well, it seems to imply that you can have faith without love, that you can prophesy, give to the the needy, and speak in tongues without love. What?

Isn’t faith a gift from God? Isn’t love also a gift from God? Aren’t all those things gifts from God? Why would God bestow you one without giving you the whole package? It seems almost cruel to give “Christian virtues” while withholding love. Why would God withhold love? Why do we withhold love?

I constantly struggle with loving people that I don’t know or have anything in common with. I find very it hard to love people that think that they’re better than me. Sometimes I find it hard to love anyone, even the people closest to me, even God. Sometimes I want to hurt them rather than help them, judge them rather than have compassion on them, ignore them rather than value them. I ask God for help, it’s not like I don’t. I look at faces and I tell myself, “Hey, you should love them.” But the fact that I am telling myself to love must mean that I do not truly love. Love is natural, it flows from within like a river. It should not be a game or a ritual, it should be an unstoppable force of nature. Why doesn’t it feel that way at all?

Is it really so simple that one must simply open up their heart to divine love, and then simply let that love gush forth freely? Yet how is this accomplished? Where are the floodgates and how do they open? How can you ensure that they won’t simply close back up once they have opened? Where are the keys to the kingdom of heaven? Someone tell me!

Does it just take a lot of time? But I don’t have time, I am on a tight schedule, the natural life is so short, Jesus will be coming down on clouds at any minute. But now it’s been a while. Somebody tell me, where is the love? I am parched and weary. Apparently I have moved mountains for nothing.

I would like to provide a neat answer to this, I really would. I am sure that if one perseveres in humbling themself, they will eventually find it. But what can be done in the mean time? Maybe the first thing to do is calm down. Maybe peace can be found even in imperfection and struggle. No matter where we are, God is. Maybe when anxiety fades, it will be easier for love to find its way in. It is hard to love when your heart is under stress from beating so fast. There is no sin that can’t be forgiven. There is nothing God won’t do to help you. Breathe if you can (it’s actually hard, I know because i suffer from anxiety/depression/mental issues).

Love has already been discovered. The collective human population searches and searches through various mediums: art, sex, philantropy, culture, etc. But it is already found, it is already here, right under our noses, and at the same time, infinitely out of our reach.

Rising from the Underground

If you read my blog, you would know that I am not exactly known for my common sense / street smarts. Does it surprise you that I got lost looking for a restaurant today, for a very stupid reason? And yet, sometimes getting lost is the precursor to getting found.

I certainly complained about it in an effort to garner validation and sympathy (this will make sense to you if you have done it before). But God found me today. He found me when I was lost. He was there, probably laughing, as He watched me attempting to parallel park. He found me at the restaurant, talking to my friend. He found me a bunch of other times too, maybe liking what I was doing, but probably not. Do you know what’s weird? There were several times today that I didn’t even feel socially awkward. I just felt like a… person. Not an alien. 

I was so close, so close to something that I’ve been looking for for a long time. Freedom, literal and spiritual. Friendship- it seems like if I just reached out my hand a little bit I could grasp it. 

Yet something tells me that it’s all a phantom. A passing illusion. Tomorrow I’m sure it’ll all be gone. And you know what- I guess that’s okay. It’s always better to experience something, even if it gets snatched away later on. 

The world is but a blink of the eye. We can try to make sense of it. We can try to survive in it, but if that is our main goal, we have missed the point of it all, we have overlooked the very reason for survival.

So we take what we can get while we’re here. We try to work with what we have. But in the end, it doesn’t matter. If we have spiritual bonds with fellow believers, if we at the very least have God on our side, then who cares about the rest? 

Lilies of the Field

I was inspired this morning to blog about something, which, at the time, seemed very stimulating and theologically involved. But, unfortunately, life has gotten in the way. I don’t even feel that I am worthy of the noble thoughts that I planned on posting for today. So instead, I will talk about something that’s been on my mind, plaguing me and robbing me of my joy. Hopefully if I splash it out onto virtual paper it will help, or not, I suppose.

I try not to bore anyone who reads this blog with the annoying details of my life, but it may be inevitable as I am explaining myself. I apologize in advance.

I feel that my career has already gotten off to a rocky start, even though it has not even started. If I were to phrase it a little more melodramatically, I would say, “My life is ruined!” That’s kind of how I feel right now.

Let me go back in time so you can understand. This will be brief. The first midterm for my financial accounting class (which “assumes no prior knowledge of accounting”), I… Well, I’ll say what I didn’t do instead. I didn’t write all the answers on my hand or my water bottle. It was an open-book partnered test after all. Sounds easy right? It actually wasn’t. I have never been a believer in cheating, but let’s put it this way, I didn’t follow the directions of the test to the tee. It just sort of happened, but I felt really bad about it afterward. The funny thing is, I would consider myself an honest person. By nature, not by choice necessarily. I couldn’t lie straight to save my life.

But apparently, during accounting tests, I lose my mind a little. Especially the final, which was so hard and stressful that I wanted to cry. And I usually don’t get test anxiety.You’ll have to take my word for it.

It was in this frenzy that I may have bent the test rules again. Let the judgment begin.

This accounting class has been the weirdest academic experience of my life. Here’s another interesting thing. The TA’s didn’t even give me a score for one of my midterms. The other midterm, not the questionable one. So I emailed the professor. Long story short, this has become a real headache. An annoying misunderstanding, but I wonder if it was meant to be. Is this my just desserts for technically cheating? I am afraid so. WIth the D on my transcript and some weirdness between me and this professor, who I highly doubt is ever going to help me get internships now, some questions come up. Do I deserve the D? Should I insist upon the D? Should I try to explain myself to the professor and fess up to my seemingly inconsequential missteps? Should I be an accountant at all? Surely this is a sign from God that it was not meant to be. Though I may have thought my intentions were pure going into those tests, well, maybe they weren’t. Perhaps I was doing it for the financial security in uncertain times, or the legendary accounting party/conferences where scotch and Coca Cola flow like water.
I’m in kind of a rough spot. If they raise my grade, I’ll feel like I don’t deserve it. If they don’t raise my grade, I imagine that I can pretty much say goodbye to any internship possibilities that may have existed. And do I really deserve a D?

I prayed that the fair thing would happen. But I still have an uneasy feeling inside. I’m kind of hoping at this point that they won’t raise my grade.

I thought I knew myself. I thought that I was smart. I thought that I was honest. I thought I had a bright future ahead. And now, thinking ahead makes me cringe. It’s all so muddled out there. Maybe it’s better that way.

I don’t know what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. But I think I’ll take it one step at a time. Maybe I will try to explain myself to my professor. What’s the worst that can happen? He already thinks I’m incompetent, and I already have a D. Though I suppose I could get an F, or an expulsion. But isn’t it better to burn earthly bridges than spiritual ones? In fact, I just emailed the professor. Thank you blogging for leading me to a decision. Lord, please bring peace to my heart.

To close, here is a very relevant Bible verse:
Matthew 6:28-30
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?