Soul Food

Soul Food {July 2018}

This month was hard. I can’t and won’t pretend it wasn’t. But I also can’t and won’t pretend that I haven’t been learning, loving, receiving love, and growing into greater measures of mental and emotional health, to the best of my ability. Loss is hard. Change is hard. Processing so many things at once is hard. But we don’t have to do it by ourselves. We can’t, and we don’t have to.

Here are a few of the little things that managed to ride along with me.

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  • Vance Joy. Everything by him. The man can write a poignant, innocent, intimate love song. His album “Dream Your Life Away” is such a great work; “Straight Into Your Arms” was particularly special to me this month.
  • “Jumpsuit” by Twenty One Pilots. A highly anticipated comeback I didn’t know I’d care about as much as I do. These guys create such unique and meaningful things that make me want to be passionate with them.
  • “Bad” by Lennon Stella. The lyrics capture a feeling that’s hard to put into words– still loving someone who hurt you, because before they hurt you they actually loved you well. I’m obsessed with the way the music is modern and has a strong backbeat, making it feel less victimized and more observational. And her voice is so cool. Basically she just nails everything in this. “I wish that you woulda treated me bad; truth is you couldn’t have loved me better. Now I’m left feeling twice as sad…”
  • “Just For The Record” by Lucie Silvas. Insightful lyrics I needed sung over me.
  • “Little Things” by One Direction. Sweet and cozy. And I know it’s a little old now, but I didn’t have a 1D phase so I didn’t know it before; sue me
  • “On and On” by Christ Church Manchester Music ft. Jake Woodward. Warm, dreamy, comforting.
  • “Out of the Blue” by Fleurie. This song was special to me from the moment she released it; it honestly shocked me just how much I loved it and felt connected to it. She creates such consistently lovely things, but this might be my new favorite. Gorgeous and heart-meeting in every aspect.
  • “Storehouse” by The Gray Havens. I love everything these guys do. Even when it has a more somber vibe it is still always uplifting. Their work just feels very safe for my heart and I appreciate it so much. I’m into this new single.
  • Andrew Belle’s version of “Fade Into You.” It’s like something that would be playing during a slow dance in a gritty teen movie, and for some reason I cannot get enough of that vibe.
  • “no place like hope” by Zachary Knowles. A chill jam I had on repeat for days, complete with buttery voices and a melancholy sweetness. “You’ve been trying to figure out true love; you’ve had it all from the start.”

If you want all of this music in one place, I’ve made a playlist! It’s on Spotify and on YouTube. I use it all year, so scroll to the bottom for the newest additions. [Some of this month’s music was only available on one platform or the other, so unfortunately neither of the platforms have the complete list.]

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  • Ant-Man and The Wasp. Y’all know I love Marvel and see every movie they release as soon as I can. This movie was no exception, but I admit I wasn’t as excited for it as others (especially now that Infinity War just has me waiting in agony for part two); however– it was so good! I laughed a lot, I gasped a few times, and I screeched at the end. Super enjoyable and a good contribution to the Marvel universe.
  • Ocean’s 8. A fun film with a stellar cast. Also, blonde Sandra Bullock slayed me, I wasn’t ready.
  • “Hilary Duff Plays With Puppies While Answering Fan Questions.” A lot of love for our forever big sister.
  • “Natalie Portman Tries to Keep Up With a Professional Chef.” Gold. Also I want to cook with Natalie Portman now.
  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor? I don’t watch documentaries that often, but the theater I work at was showing this one and I had a free afternoon so I was able see it. I grew up watching Mr. Rogers, like many of us did, and learning more about his life experiences and the mindset and heart he brought to his work was inspiring and uplifting. I legitimately pulled a notepad from my purse and wrote down a few lines during the film because they struck such a chord. If you get a chance to see it, I say do it!

Books/Blogs/Articles

A bit like last month: I didn’t have the time or the brain power to read very much. I’m hoping that soon I’ll be in a place where I’m able to catch up on some of the books I’ve stuck bookmarks in. Until then, I’m on Goodreads if you want to see my reading updates in real time.


What fed you this month?

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Soul Food

Soul Food {June 2018}

Such a wild month for me, filled with open doors and curiosity and good gifts. I’m really focusing on not combing through God’s blessings, turning them every angle they can be turned to test if they’re truly good. God gives good gifts. Now is the time to be thankful and to walk in them and to let my heart leap. He’s declared that over me, and I believe you can take that promise as your own, too. He’s so good to us.

Here are a few things that went with me on this trip of a month:

Music

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If you want all of this music in one place, I have a playlist! It’s on Spotify and on YouTube; I use it for the whole year, so scroll to the bottom for the newest additions.

Movies/YouTube/TV

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  • Solo: A Star Wars Story. I wasn’t sure if I kind of glazed over the movie because of the story or because I saw it on a date, but friends have since confirmed that the movie has that effect, haha! It’s fun, it just doesn’t ask you to invest that much in it.
  • Chuck. My mom and I finished the series this month, with giggles and misty eyes. Such a fun show. The characters snatch your heart. [Admittedly: there were some slightly inappropriate moments we didn’t think were necessary. I personally enjoy the show enough otherwise to have grace for it in that area, but I know I could also be in a place in my life where I would decide to avoid it.]
  • Pollyanna. The scenery and costumes are lovely, and the display of the power of where we place our focus is surprisingly powerful.
  • The Princess Bride. I’m at the point with this movie where I think everything in it is funny and brilliant, and I’m okay with that.
  • Incredibles 2. Super fun, with a some hilarious moments and some sweet ones, too.
  • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. The Jurassic Park franchise isn’t my favorite, but the trailers for this installment made it seem different and interesting enough for me to give it a chance, and overall I enjoyed it! Of course they had to linger on a few gruesome moments of people being eaten by dinosaurs, but there was still a (basic) storyline. And shout out to the sixty seconds we got of Jeff Goldblum.

Books/Blogs/Articles

I thought I was going to crush it with the summer reading, but I haven’t finished anything yet. I’m reading a few books right now, though, and I’m on Goodreads if you want to keep up with my progress and see full reviews from me once they exist!


What fed you this month?

Embraces for Your Spirit · Recovery

Realizations from 2 Years Porn-Free

from pokemon go walkI haven’t intentionally looked at pornography in two years now. I don’t talk about it as often as I did in the beginning of the recovery process, which is kind of a comfort to me because it shows the impact of it in my life has become smaller and smaller. But even though it feels kind of vulnerable to bring up now, I don’t want to grow silent. I want you, whatever your struggle is, to know you aren’t the only one who faces temptations that feel dark and overwhelming, or who struggles to walk in their integrity. We are all with you. And I think the more we bring those things into the light, the less power we feel they have in our lives. That has been part of my experience, at least.

I’ve talked before about how, even though I’ve been porn-free for a decent length of time, I don’t quite know how to respond when people ask me for advice, because I genuinely don’t know how or why I’ve reached this place. That’s still completely true. So today, on my two years free mark, I’m not writing a “how you, too, can do this!” post. I just have a few things I’ve come to realize along the way that I’d like to share, if you’d like to hear.

1) I am fully loved and welcomed by God no matter the state I’m in.

This is the one thing that I know has been the key to my recovery. The first time I looked at pornography, I sobbed and asked God to forgive me, over and over– and He did not say one single thing about what I’d done. He wrapped me up close, and reminded me of His promise to teach me to renew my mind, and that was all. He loved me, all of me, unwaveringly. If I didn’t have that, I know I would not have been able to enter into recovery, let alone make any progress in it.

If you take one thing from reading my words today, take this: God is not ashamed of you. He isn’t angry with you. He doesn’t bring up your mistakes. He loves you. He is on your side. He is faithful to you and will never, ever withhold one bit of Himself from you. And your healing is His desire and joy to bring to fruition. Nestle in, without fear.

2) There isn’t an answer or a formula, there’s only grace and a process.

I’ve touched on this before so I won’t repeat myself too much, but I’d just like to clarify that while this can be scary, it can also be an encouragement.

There are a lot of tools and resources offered to aid people in their recovery, and I am not at all against trying to utilize them. But in my own experience, as well as the experiences of many of my friends in their own struggles? Those things often don’t work, at least not for long. It can be so discouraging and shame-bringing, especially when we’re trying so hard to grow. But we have to remember: our efforts are important, but they are not our saviors.

I still can’t pinpoint what got me here. Maybe the timing has simply been right for me, or maybe I’ll discover later down the road what the specific tools were, but right now? I can only attribute it to God’s love for me and the process of learning to live out of that place of belovedness. And He has that same kind of love for everyone else.

So, please, don’t be ashamed of whatever hasn’t worked for you. You’ll find the things that do. And you might not even know what they are when you finally do find them, and that’s okay, too. I can’t stress this enough: lean into how loved you are, before you start anything else that could help you, because that is what will carry you through whatever your process looks like.

And if you’re reading this and you don’t have experience with addiction or struggles of this nature, please: still remember these things. The people around you who are struggling don’t deserve to be shamed for the tools that didn’t work for them. See them for who they are– someone deeply, unwaveringly loved by God– and let that lead your behavior and your speech.

3) Temptation is NOT sin or failure. And it doesn’t go away– but it does lessen.

I’ve spent two years without looking at pornography, but that does not mean I’ve spent two years without being tempted to do so. It makes me uncomfortable to say that, and I know it might make some uncomfortable to hear it, but I’m not about to pretend or lie about this. This is one of the biggest things I’ve learned as I’ve emerged from a church background that preached guilt and fear, and I don’t want to stop telling anyone who will listen:

Being tempted is not the same as giving in to temptation.

Jesus was tempted, and was without sin— and now the same can be true of us. This is part of the gospel, the world-shaking truth He wanted us to know so badly that He died to prove it to us. How graciously we view ourselves is hugely important to Him.

I used to think facing temptation meant I was already sinning, and having that belief in my core was so crippling to any forward movement in my life. I am so grateful for His truth, and that, even when it hasn’t fully sunk in, I can make the choice to bank on it anyway and He will be faithful to show me the reality of it.

I still have graphic dreams sometimes. I still have to occasionally unfollow certain accounts on social media, not because they’re posting anything wrong but because my mindset isn’t always right toward what they do post. I still catch ugly thoughts suddenly popping up in my head. But none of this means I’m failing. In fact, it is all a normal and natural part of recovery. It’s okay to make progress and still have more to make; not being at the finish line (which, again, I’m honestly not sure exists this side of eternity) doesn’t mean you’re not walking on the right path.

[Side note on the graphic dreams: scientifically, one function of dreams is your brain processing things so it can store them in less prominent places and bring more finality to them. If/when you have those dreams, it’s okay to be unsettled, but don’t let it lead you to believe that you’ll never be rid of those things. Pornography affects the brain in a lot of different ways, but your brain is also such a powerful organ and can heal itself with the right care; sometimes, dreams are a part of that healing. It’s difficult, but as much as it feels like a bad sign, it’s actually a good one. Take heart.]

You’re going to face temptation in your recovery. Guaranteed. Sometimes, it’s going to feel nearly unbearable. But don’t let the fear take over. Don’t let yourself give into the feelings of shame and guilt and condemnation, because God never hands out those feelings. And don’t let yourself believe that because you’re drawn to something again it means you’ve already taken steps backwards. I promise: you’re doing a better job than you think.

Things will get better for you. Those thoughts won’t always be in the forefront of your mind; they’re going to shrink and shrivel and fade, and you’re going to feel the reality of your freedom stronger and stronger in you. Believe in who you already are: a person deeply loved by God. Everything else will flow from that, with time and a lot of grace.


Thank you to everyone in my life who has supported me, cheered me on, walked with me, and shared their own struggles with me in these two years. I know I wouldn’t be the same without you, and I know I still need you.

And thank you, Jesus, for being my rock, my biggest fan, my comfort, my true north. I wouldn’t be doing any of this without you. I love you with my whole heart.

Soul Food

Soul Food {May 2018}

This was a month of good changes. It’s taken years, but I’m learning to believe in how well God loves me and how widely He opens the world to me, and it’s changing how I make choices and how I carry myself. I’m very grateful for my life and the good things He’s placed in it; I’m praying for the wisdom to steward well.

Here are a few things that walked with me into the new.

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  • “Everywhere All At Once” by Post Animal. Their first full-length album came out last month and the instrumental intro is the stuff of dreams.
  • “River” by Leon Bridges. Gently powerful, led by an incredible voice.
  • “New Light” by John Mayer. He did that. At first you cheerfully groove along to it, and suddenly he comes in with the guitar and your jaw drops. Or maybe that’s just me? Either way, thanks for the first tunes of the summer, John.
  • Cimorelli’s mashup of “No Scrubs” “Nice for What” and “Friends.” They killed this, especially in the second half. But I’ve come to expect it from these six gifted sisters.
  • “Guillotine” by Jon Bellion. Infectious and so well done. “The secrets you tell me, I’ll take to my grave. There’s bones in my closet, but you hang stuff anyway…”
  • Phil Collins’ “Face Value” album. My car plays cassettes, so I get to belt along to some of my favorite classics on my commute. I play Phil way too much; the song I currently belt the most passionately is “You Know What I Mean.”
  • “Video Sunshine” by Knox Hamilton. I’m so happy to be getting new music from these guys! This is a dancey yet relaxed summertime jam.
  • Pretty much everything by Joseph Tilley; I love his vibe and his youthful voice. Lately his song “Feelings” has been on repeat.

If you want all of this music in a playlist, I already made one! It’s on Spotify and on YouTube; scroll to the bottom for the newest additions.

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  • The Fugitive. A engaging action movie with a well-paced, well-told story and great performances by Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones.
  • Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” music video. So much to unpack; every element means something. Brilliant.
  • The movie-length pilot episode of Father Dowling Mysteries. Cheesy yet engrossing.
  • This video from Emily Wilson about standing up for yourself and sharing your honest thoughts as a woman. So important to keep this truth close.
  • Continued watching Chuck (currently on season four) and Designated Survivor.

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  • The Amazing Spider-Man #1 by Nick Spencer, Ryan Ottley, Cliff Rathburn, and Laura Martin. Free Comic Book Day was this month and my mom found the Spider-Man comic they were giving away while I was at work. Comic books are short, especially when they’re still coming out, but I have a lot of fun reading them, especially Spider-Man.
  • Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Such a helpful book with a lot of solid insight. I read it over a couple of months so I had time to let the principles take shape and to practice them. I did think a couple of times that it speaks a lot about how important it is to have boundaries and the effects of them in our lives, yet lacks a bit of instruction on how to actually go about creating them. Maybe it’s a very situational thing, though, so it would be hard to sum up? Regardless, I gained a lot of insight and assurance from reading it. [I would like to note: in some instances scripture is used a bit out of context, which bothered me.]
  • The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang. A collection of short, sometimes lovely, sometimes crazy fairy tales I slowly made my way through.

If you want bookish updates and full reviews from me, I’m on Goodreads.


What has been feeding you lately?

Soul Food

Soul Food {April 2018}

This month was a whirlwind. I feel like it just began, yet a lot has happened. I’m thankful that Jesus has been with me for every bit of it, keeping me close to Him and assuring me I’m doing just fine. I honestly didn’t consume a lot of varied art/media this month, maybe because I already felt like things were all over the place, but what I did consume? Pretty solid.

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  • “Never Enough” from The Greatest Showman. The hands-down best song from the film; emotionally stirring, with absolutely stunning vocals. It’s my current piano practice piece so I hear it all the time, and I’m obsessed still.
  • “Stop It (Stripped)” by Sleeping Lion. Somber, yet passionate, too. I think it’s so lovely.
  • “I Don’t Want U Back” by BØRNS. What a jam. It makes me dance and also feel kind of empowered about moving on from things that don’t serve me anymore.
  • “Love You Like That” by Dagny. Infectious sound and sweet lyrics.
  • “Open Arms” by PRETTYMUCH. So much talent! And the song takes such unexpected turns musically and it works so well. I’ve been listening to a lot of their work lately. “Healthy” is an absolute jam, too.

If you want all of this music in one place, I have a playlist! It’s on both Spotify and YouTube; just scroll to the bottom for the newest additions.

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  • Avengers: Infinity War. It is so, so good. I expected to like it, but I did not expect it to be this high quality. I saw it twice opening weekend, which might have been too much too soon because it made me pretty emotional, but wow it’s good. The various characters in various settings could have felt choppy and all over the place, but it’s so well-written that it’s beautifully cohesive, clearly telling one big story. And we all know I love Tom Holland, but truly: if I had never heard of him or seen him in anything before, I would be an instant fan after his performance in this movie. He absolutely nailed it. Not to discredit anyone else, because I can’t really think of an actor that phoned it in; everyone shined. And Thanos is an incredibly layered villain, it’s wild to witness. I’m rambling now, please just go see it.
  • “The Cast of Black Panther Plays Would You Rather.” I want to be friends with everyone in this, please. “W’Kabi has a blanket…”
  • Jenna Fischer talking about the space we take up. Love this advice; it’s not just for artists, I think it’s for anyone who feels like they have to be small.
  • Honestly, so many interviews with the Infinity War cast. An embarrassing amount. It’s how I’ve been coping. I made a playlist of some of the ones I enjoyed if you want to cope with me.
  • The Sound of Music. Because sometimes I listen to the soundtrack when I clean and I wanted to see the lovely visuals, too. Let’s go visit Austria someday, please.
  • This video about getting triggered and how to manage it. So simple, so gentle, so comforting. “If you have strong feelings, it could mean you’re a compassionate person, rather than someone whose wound hasn’t healed… Go in the direction of comfort.” I needed this.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger. I hadn’t seen it in a while and wanted a refresher. Update: it’s still great.
  • Continued watching Chuck (currently on season three, with mixed feelings), Spring Baking Championship, and Designated Survivor.

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  • The Forgotten Way Meditations by Ted Dekker. I was afraid to read this at first because I was emerging from a season that had been really difficult, in part due to a book that had influenced my thinking and personal theology in negative, destructive ways. But when I reached a point where I felt safe and firmly planted enough to read a bit of non-fiction again, I was very grateful for what I found in this book. It’s split into three parts, and the first two parts are remarkably gospel-centered and share things in a way that is unique and clicks. I will admit, the third part did not have those same qualities to me and brought me back to a bit of a cautious place. But it is definitely still a worthwhile read.

I am reading a couple more books right now, but I haven’t finished them yet. If you want to keep up with my progress and read full reviews when they exist, I’m on Goodreads.


What fed you this month?

Soul Food

Soul Food {March 2018}

It’s been a month of unexpected and hard things, but also of growth through those things. I’m finally learning God redeems every hard thing and uses it for a good purpose, but that He also doesn’t give the hard things to me; He gives good, undisguised gifts and He loves me well. He’s my rock. I’m so grateful to Him. In this hard month, one way He loved me was through music and art. Here are a few of those vessels.

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  • The Rodgers and Hammerstein Songbook. My friend Karli gave this album to me a few years ago, and lately it has been my go-to housecleaning soundtrack. Some of my consistent favorites from it have been “The Surrey With The Fringe on Top” and “Younger Than Springtime” (William Tabbert’s voice… swoon). [I dislike both Oklahoma! and South Pacific but it doesn’t ruin the songs for me.]
  • Kirsten Collins and Box of Beats’ cover of “Supernova.” Their vocals are insane. I actually like the original song by Ansel Elgort, it’s such a jam, but it does have a little profanity so I usually opt for this solid cover.
  • Vance Joy’s “Nation of Two” album. He’s a wonderful songwriter who brings a gentle, authentic air to everything he makes, and his new album is a delight. My favorites from it are “Saturday Sun” “Take Your Time” and “I’m With You.”
  • “June” by Briston Maroney. “Ain’t it funny how I wanted this all my life? Ain’t it funny how I got it here and it don’t seem right?” That line hit me deep. And the song is so interesting and unexpected instrumentally, too.
  • “gone.” by Day Bit. Something fun yet emotional to put on repeat and somehow feel motivated by.
  • NÄM’s “Umlaut” ep. I heard one song from it and was wowed by how it encompassed my musical taste from at least three different stages of my life; it was simply too special and made me look up the rest of their catalogue. This whole ep is absolutely lovely, mixing modern electronic sounds with homey singer-songwriter vibes.
  • “Favorite Mistake” by Regal. Nostalgic in an edgy way, if that makes sense? Like it reminds me of what I listened to in the early 2000s also lets me feel some 2018 angst?
  • “Please Don’t Leave Me Like This” by Edward & Jane. Feels warm and haunting at the same time. The title alone made me want to like the song, and I wasn’t disappointed.
  • “High Altitude” by Davis John Patton. So lovely and gentle. “Just keep your eyes locked ahead; I know the fear you feel. Every time you look down, know I’ve fallen farther than we could…”
  • Walk Off The Earth’s cover of “Hey Ya!” This song is already a jam and makes me dance every time, but these guys brought their own fun to it– along with killer vocals– and I’m into it. I’ve been listening to it every day. For sure check out the video, too!
  • “Part of It” by Relient K. Oldie but goodie. “It’s not the end of the world, just you and me.”
  • “I Think I See You Now” by Tina Boonstra. Calming and beautiful.
  • “Creatures” by Glass House Point. Such good vibes; cozy yet energizing.
  • “Better With You” by Jesse McCartney. Yes, that Jesse McCartney! His new song is so sweet.

If you want all of this music in a playlist, I’ve made it! It’s on Spotify and YouTube. I use it all year, so scroll to the bottom for the newest additions.

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  • Chris Evans’ Advice for People with Anxiety and Depression. I’ve adopted “shh” over the past few months, and it truly is weirdly profound. It quiets the brain noise, and allows me to hear Jesus whispering, “Peace, be still.”
  • Way too many videos about polishing a resumé. This one was the most practical and helpful for me so I’m sharing in case you’re in the same stress-boat. We’ve got this!
  • The Intern. Such an adorable film! Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway are wonderfully matched co-stars telling a delightful story. The characters face some hardships, but the tone manages to stay lighthearted and uplifting. By the way, can De Niro’s character be my adoptive grandpa? Because I love him to bits.
  • Thor: Ragnarok. Because it came out on dvd this month and it still makes me scream with how funny and good it is.
  • Chuck. My mom and I needed a new series to watch, and this one is fun, goofy, and heartfelt, with a bit of spy action for good measure. It also reminds me why I had that big crush on Zachary Levi in college. We’re on season two right now. [My only complaint is that the women in the show exist almost exclusively for the eyes of men; Sarah and Ellie are the two that have more substance.]
  • Spring Baking Championship. Because I’m a nerd and I can watch the baking and decorating process for hours.
  • The new Infinity War trailer. Giggles and tears simultaneously. I’m so ready to see this film next month!
  • Matthew Hussey’s advice videos. He’s a life coach who focuses on helping women navigate dating, and while a lot of his materials have cheesy/click-bait titles that don’t reflect the scope of the content, he really does have a lot of practical wisdom to share. He’s direct and tells the hard truth sometimes, yet it’s still somehow encouraging and leaves me feeling empowered to make good choices. Some videos I’ve gleaned from include this one on over-investing, this one on seeking closure, this one on pacing, this one on being ghosted, and this one on getting over a breakup. [Don’t worry, by the way, I’m doing well!]
  • Black Panther. Fantastic cast, relevant and tactfully approached themes, and one of the better Marvel movie villains.
  • Continued watching The Good Doctor, Designated Survivor, and Worst Cooks in America.

Books/Blogs/Articles

  • “For Two Months, I Got My News From Print Newspapers. Here’s What I Learned.” by Farhad Manjoo for The New York Times. An interesting look at how the culture of online news can cultivate anxiety and a sense of false insight in us. I think there’s pros as well as cons, but it’s important to understand the cons and make choices with them in consideration.
  • “When Your Soul Has a Bad Idea” by Emily P. Freeman. Such an important and valuable insight. “The answer to dealing with the shocking thoughts that come into my mind isn’t to try to stop having bad thoughts. The answer for me is to refuse to be shocked in the first place and instead, be loved. Be small. Belong to Christ.”

I’m still reading those five books I said I was reading last month and I’ve honestly made no progress in any of them; I simply haven’t been in a place where I want to put extra thoughts into my mind. If you want to keep up with my reading progress when I eventually start making some again, I’m on Goodreads.


What fed you this month?

 

Embraces for Your Spirit · Testimonies

On Anxiety, Shame, & Unexpected Self-Care

tea on 5-19I thought I was going to start this month out fresh, with February’s confusion and stress behind me and fresh optimism and motivation in front of me. But when I woke up on March first, I was immediately overwhelmed by panic.

I got out of bed to assess what might be wrong, and started becoming faint. My face and my hands felt numbed. With blurry tunnel vision, I slowly crawled downstairs before my parents left to go to work; I told them what I was experiencing, while struggling to take full breaths. My mom called in late to work and drove me to urgent care.

When we got to the clinic, filling out paperwork was hard with how weak and distant I felt, but I managed to do it. They soon called me back to the exam room. I answered questions about my symptoms the best I could as the doctor checked my breathing and heartbeat. She asked me how long I’d had anxiety.

At the end of the exam, she told me she wanted to have my blood tested just to rule out anything else, but that I was probably having an anxiety attack. I went out to the waiting room, told my mom, and sobbed.

My mom went back with me because I asked her to. When the nurse entered the room, he said in a pleasant voice, “Do you do okay with needles and blood?” I was still crying a little and whispered a teary, “No.” I don’t like needles at any time, but every hesitancy I had about them felt almost intolerable then. The nurse was kind and spoke gently with me, even as I started sobbing again when I had to lie down and let him push up my sleeve. Both he and my mom led me in calming breathing and in trying to shift my focus. I still panicked the whole time, but my blood was successfully taken. At first, the nurse said cheerfully, “That wasn’t too bad, was it?” But he quickly added, “Actually, it was probably hard for you. But you did a good job.” I tried to laugh, but I don’t think I did.

The doctor sent me home a few minutes later. And a few hours later, she called with results of my blood test: everything was fine. It really had been anxiety.

I struggled to accept the fact that any of this happened. I didn’t believe it was okay– didn’t believe going to urgent care for anxiety was a good enough reason. I thought it made me weak, unstable, and immature. Did I think that about anyone else who’d done so? No; just me.

The tears in urgent care had been about how scared I was of needles, that was true. But, mostly… they had been about how ashamed I was to even be there.

I knew my anxiety was a disorder. But I thought that because I worked so consistently hard to walk in truth and courage, anxiety wouldn’t be too much of a factor in my life. Sure, I still had it, but I could live as if it was a small thing.

It is true that I am more powerful than anxiety, and that it doesn’t have to rule me. And after my visit to urgent care, I’m realizing maybe another thing is true: maybe acknowledging and accepting the anxiety isn’t the same as giving it power over me.

In my desire to be completely better and completely rid of it, maybe I’ve ignored caring for myself. Not that I don’t take good care of myself, because I do: exercising daily, drinking lots of water and teas, taking important vitamins, avoiding caffeine, using breathing techniques, making gratitude lists, having creative outlets, talking to my safe people, studying scripture and telling myself the truth, praying without ceasing… the list goes on. I know what to do to manage my anxiety, and I do it diligently.

But when I’ve been consistent in all these things and I still end up having an anxious day, week, or even couple of weeks? That’s where I’ve been getting stuck. Because I’ve blamed myself for it. I blame it on not doing enough, not taking good enough care of myself, not giving my worry to the Lord often enough… even when those things aren’t true.

Last year was hard for me. One night I called a friend, crying and asking if I could just talk. She was a gracious listener, and after I let out what I could, she began speaking into me. There’s one thing she said that has since stowed away in my mind, because it was unique and hadn’t sunk in before: “There is delicate and complicated chemistry in your brain, and it doesn’t always do what it’s supposed to do, but you are not less than anyone else for it.”

It wasn’t my fault.

When it comes to anyone else’s struggles with their mental health, I know it isn’t their fault. But with myself, my low points have felt like failure, like falling short physically, mentally, and spiritually… like defeat. But I’m learning, slowly, that not only is that perspective skewed and untrue, but it helps nothing.

I apologized to everyone I interacted with at the urgent care office that day. I felt like an inconvenience, like I was taking time away from real issues with my inability to handle my own. But when I apologized to the nurse taking my blood after he informed me he’d have to try another vein since I was dehydrated, he looked me in the tear-covered face and immediately told me:

“No, don’t apologize! You came here because you needed help.”

I needed help.

It wasn’t a silly outburst, wasn’t a pointless inconvenience, wasn’t all the things I felt like it was– it was a real anxiety attack. Part of my real disorder. I needed help. And it was okay that I’d asked for it. Actually– it was good and brave that I’d asked for it. I was already crying, but his words made me cry a bit more.

I have generalized anxiety disorder. Sometimes my brain reacts to things in ways I know are unreasonable; sometimes my body takes on every little stress to full capacity and makes me feel ill; sometimes I feel completely paralyzed and stuck in one terrible thought pattern or circumstance, and don’t know how I’m going to get out. I still feel shame about these things, and going into any detail about them makes me feel like I’m just being too negative and sensitive, like I’m making excuses. But that’s not true.

Anxiety is not an excuse— it’s a reason.

The things my symptoms tell me are not real, and that is so important and empowering to remember. But my symptoms themselves? They’re real. I truly do experience them. They show up, and not because of any lack of effort— physically, morally, or spiritually– on my part.

Having anxiety symptoms isn’t losing the battle.

Victory isn’t found in not having them at all— it’s found in how I respond to them and live through them.

I won’t let myself think otherwise anymore. I’ve taken care of myself, yes. But it’s time I care for myself, too.

I’m not completely sure what that looks like yet; it’s only been a few weeks since I went to urgent care (and proceeded to experience some painful and confusing life stuff that same day), so I’ve been taking things slow. But maybe that’s part of it. Maybe recognizing that I’m not at full capacity and refusing to beat myself up for not doing more than I have the mental energy to do is okay; maybe it’s even good and brave.

I might not be able to stop anxiety from showing up in my life. But caring for my spirit and not allowing shame to stick around makes those appearances a little less devastating, because I’ve removed an extra enemy– my own critical voice– from the equation.

I kind of feel like I don’t really have a strong conclusion to share right now, but I wanted to talk about this a bit, because it’s hard to do, so not a lot of us do it. And we need to remind each other:

The symptoms of our mental illnesses are not our fault, are not signs of failure, are not pretend little things we should feel guilty about facing or needing help with. And we’re probably doing a much better job than it feels like we’re doing.

Let’s start caring for ourselves, okay?