For the Rough Days

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I’ve been on Lexapro for a couple of months now. And overall, I’ve felt fantastic.

My anxiety is at an all-time low. I focus better. I write, laugh, relax, and play more. I’m re-reading my Harry Potter books and catching up on my Netflix queue because I want to, not to dull an onslaught of intrusive thoughts. I even downloaded a video game in the hopes of making time to play it with my fiance.

I talk to others more, and not just about my anxiety. I genuinely ask them how their days are going in order to catch up with them, not to be cordial so we can talk about my problems ASAP. Counseling sessions are devoted to a few big incidents that happened and how to both deal with them in the future, and maintain my health as it is. My fiance and I spend less time processing and being frustrated by my fears and more time planning family visits, house parties, and our wedding.

I’m doing great. I’m really doing great.

And then rough days happen.

The rough days are the days when I am simultaneously overstimulated and exhausted and cannot handle it. They are the days when every comment contains underlying condescension and disappointment, when I want everyone to leave me alone AND to hug me so I can get all my pent-up emotions out. They are the days when I look at myself and only see a failure who doesn’t have enough time or money to visit my beloved family members, who are obviously furious with me and prepared to disown me for my atrocities. These are the days when I struggle to trust and open up to my fiance because of a stray comment or lack of caring about something that is obviously so important to me.

These are the rough days, and when I’m on medication, they hit me pretty hard.

Because, I tell myself, I’m not supposed to have these days. I’m supposed to be cured and fixed and well, and a cured, fixed, well person doesn’t act this way. So something must be wrong with me or the meds.

So I go on internal tirades against myself.

Why isn’t the medication working? Why are my counseling tricks not helping today? Why was I fine last week but not today? Why was I fine with this thing a month ago but it’s bothering me this week? Why am I panicking about the future when I was confident last night?

What am I doing wrong?

I know anxiety and medication don’t work this way. I know the bad days will happen, and they will not be as bad as the days when I was overwhelmed with thoughts day and night with little to no respite.

But…why do these days still have to happen?

Why can’t I depend on my mind to give me peace? Why must I continue to fight to maintain the calm? Why is this still difficult?

These are my thoughts on the rough days.

Today is not a rough day, and as such, I have some words for myself and others who are in the midst or on the other side of a rough day.

You are OK.

You don’t feel OK, and that’s OK.

But trust me, you will be OK.

You can be upset and still be OK.

You can be mad at people and still be OK. And they can still be OK, too.

You can be worried about money and still be OK.

Give yourself permission to feel those pesky feelings without rushing to the conclusion that something terrible is happening because you’re feeling them. The medicine is working fine. You are fine. Feelings and bad days still happen, though. This just might be how “other people” feel more often than not. You’re in good company.

You’ve gotten through the rough days before. You’ve gotten through much worse days before. You will get through this one, and the next one, too. Eventually, maybe today or another day entirely, you will encounter another good day and let the rough one slip to the back of your memory until next time. That’s fine. You need the good ones to get you through the rough ones, to remind you that those are not the end.

You have a family who loves you and won’t disown you for not being able to show up for the holidays. You have a fiance who will always love and be faithful to you, rough days and joyful days alike. You have friends who care as much about your happiness and anxieties as you do theirs. You have enough to make it through, even if you don’t have enough to buy comics and candy bars.

You’ve got this. You’re OK.

So go ahead and feel, and do what you need to do to feel it proper.

I’ll be here through it all.

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A Place at the Table

A throwback to encourage y’all to be who you are and find tables that welcome you AND those no one else wants. It’s hard work, but it’s blessed work.

*****

I’ve been thinking a lot about life lately, specifically my place in it.

I’ve been to church on-and-off throughout my life, and I’ve been drawn back to it so many times that I don’t just work with one; I’m now planning to pursue a seminary degree so I can one day lead one.

It’s exciting. And nerve-wracking. And I honestly don’t know if I’ll get the money to do it.

But the thing I’m most worried about is…where is my place?

Where is my place in the Church? And in this crazy journey called life?

Where is the place for the girl who:

Watches The Simpsons and Family Guy over Veggie Tails and CTN?

Swears, thinks, worries, doubt, and talks a little too much?

Fawned over Lion King and Peter Ban instead of Belle and Cinderella?

Obsessively read Harry Potter when told it was bad?

Gets excited over the Banned Books list?

Comes from a very non-traditional family?

Pursued a degree in Philosophy and Religion over…anything practical?

Struggled with God, mercy, justice, love, equality throughout the years of being surrounded by those who seemed so certain?

Played in the marching band instead of sports?

Wants to lead boldly instead of submit quietly?

I’ve made my places at tables before. At church the spots seemed readily available, even in leadership. In band, I made my place by performing better (or worse) than others in my section.

But when it comes to Church, to ministry, to making my place in this world and giving life back after being given so much, there seems to simultaneously be too much space available and not enough.

I have so many dreams and ideas but am not sure which ones to pursue. I have so many fears and insecurities that I feel limited. I feel pressure from myself and “society” to make a decision now, and my feet are frozen in doubt.

I know a bit of what my place is not. I know I cannot work in an office, or simply be a scholar, or only be deemed worthy as someone’s wife and mother.

I also know the craziness and chaos of life in ministry. I worry that the constant pouring into others will drain me to unforgivable exhaustion, and I fear the harsh words from those who question whether or not I’m fit for my vocation, for every reason from my sex to my story.

But if I say with so many others that Jesus makes room for everyone at His Table, and if everyone truly means everyone, from the sinners and saints, the rich and poor, the gay and straight, the USA and the world, Christians and Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists and Jews, I’ve got to accept that I’m part of that glorious Everyone, too.

But where will I sit at such an elaborate table?

An Open Letter to a Nosy Customer at Jimmy John’s

A post from 3 years ago, in which I had a less than pleasant conversation with a customer at Jimmy John’s, where I worked for a year after college graduation.

*****

Dear Nosy Customer,

Yesterday afternoon, you asked me an innocent enough question: “How long has this Jimmy John’s been open?”

After I answered your first innocent question, you asked me another seemingly innocent question: “Are all of the schools out?”

Being the polite worker that I am, I informed you that JMU and EMU had finished classes and exams, but Bridgewater hadn’t. I then told you I went to BC.

Then came your third could-be-innocent-but-moreso-nosy question: “What was your degree?”

And even though I could have guessed where this conversation was leading, and even though I guessed that it wasn’t a conversation I wanted to have, I put my best customer service skills to work and told you: “Philosophy and Religion.”

I was just doing my job. I was being polite and courteous to you, the customer, who is apparently always right. And how did you repay me?

You then asked the rudest, most despised, obnoxious, and nosy question that anyone, from absolute stranger to dearest friend, could ever ask:

“So what are you going to do with that?”

As if that weren’t intrusive enough, you went on to offend me further by saying, “Just gonna work at Jimmy John’s your entire life?”

You see, good sir, I work with lots of annoying, obnoxious customers day in and day out. I encounter people at my other job complaining that we don’t have enough items (yes, there are things you cannot find at BED BATH AND BEYOND) or need just one more coupon to save just 5 more dollars. I deal with people who didn’t get the proper amount of oregano on their sandwich or are disgusted with the fact that we don’t have salt and pepper. And I coordinate a mentoring program for kids from the rougher sides of the streets, who don’t always have the best manners and give a whole new meaning to the world “holy chaos.”

But to be entirely honest, your comment was the most obnoxious, rude, and intrusive one I’ve received in a long time. And trust me, those kiddos I work with have some choice words during those rougher weeks.

You know why your comment was so offensive to me?

Because I ask myself that question every damn day of my life.

What am I doing with my life? Why am I working two part-time jobs and coordinating a mentoring program after spending 4 expensive years at college? Why am I barely making rent and other payments when the college kids I work with have money to spare on liquor-filled weekends? What is my life going to look like 5 years down the road? Do I even dare look that far ahead? What’s the next step? Where do I go from here?

You see, I think the reason you pissed me off so much yesterday is because I see so much of my own skepticism about my life in your comment. And I hear so much of the world’s skepticism in your words. Whether or not the world’s skepticism is real or imagined, its nagging constantly in my ears.

And it sounds an awful lot like you. But even more so, it sounds an awful lot like me. 

I’m sure you didn’t mean any harm. I’m sure you’re a nice guy and have a lot of people in your life that love you dearly. And even if you’re not nice and don’t have a lot of people surrounding you, you’re a gift.

And to be entirely honest, even though I hate that question and others like it and I try so hard to not say it to people who have just graduated, I still ask it. And more often than not, I’m a little judgey about it. And to be even more honest, as I see my friends and peers getting engaged and married, going to grad school, starting families, getting cool new jobs, etc., I’m more than the teensiest bit jealous. Because I want that, and I don’t know if it’s mine to have, or when it’s mine to have.

But please, please, PLEASE…Don’t ever repeat that comment ever again. Not to me, not to any recent graduate in any stage of life, not to any person stuck in a seemingly “menial” job (or multiple ones at that), not even to anyone who seems to have it all together.

Because I have a feeling that no matter what stage of life we’re in, we don’t know exactly what we’re doing, and we don’t always know why we do what we do. In fact, I don’t think there’s ever a stage in life when we have it “all together.” I used to think that when I got to this age, I’d have it all together, and from this letter I just posted, you can already see that I’m nowhere near that stage.

I think we’re just living moment by moment, day by day, hoping that each little decision we make pushes us more to where we need to be.

So yeah. No hard feelings. But please, think before you speak.

Much love and hoping for a better conversation should we meet again,

Lindsay

My Amazing, Ridiculous Therapist

therapy

well.blogs.nytimes.com

My therapist has had a run for her money when it comes to me. Then again, most people in therapy probably think the same thing.

She has had to see me weekly, bi-monthly, and now monthly. She has seen me on and off medication, and talked to me on the phone when I couldn’t stop the onslaught of thoughts. She has heard me weep, shout, and laugh deep belly laughs.

She has told me when things are all in my head (which is most of the time) and congratulated and affirmed me when I accomplished something difficult. She has written notes of advice for me to carry to combat a recurring intrusive thought. She has given me words of wisdom that my fiance swears he told me first.

She’s even told me I need help and should see someone for it. On more than one occasion.

She’s snarky and no-nonsense, so while she’s gracious to me, she doesn’t let me get away with acting on all my bullshit. She’s sensitive and tears up when I tell her something really sweet and sentimental. She looks at me with pain in her eyes when I ask her why I’m plagued with such awful thoughts, and she genuinely tells me, “I don’t know, girl.” When she sees me in the waiting room, she greets me with a big smile and a “Hello, my dear!”

She’s been someone whose wisdom, knowledge, and words I’ve sought for over 4 years. She has helped me get through significant hurdles and taught me how to make life with intense anxiety more manageable. She’s helped me make decisions about medications and lifestyle changes and taught me how to be more gracious to my family and friends, especially Bryce. She’s helped me affirm myself, where I am and who I am. She tells me I am more than my thoughts, more than the anxiety which can stop me in my tracks, more than what I do or don’t believe about myself.

She’s not a friend. She’s not my family. But she is so important to me, and I am beyond thankful for her.

*****

Seeking therapy isn’t always easy, and it isn’t for everyone. I had a number of therapists and counselors from the time I was in middle school, and my therapist now is the only one I’ve ever had long term (more than one year).

Some people go to therapy with open minds and hearts, while others go into it with fear, trembling, and trepidation.

Some people only need to see a therapist when their needs allow it, while others (like me) go through times when the next session can’t come soon enough.

Some seek Christian or other faith-based practitioners, while others (again, like me) insist on seeing someone with no particular faith background.

Some people have great therapists, mediocre therapists, and sometimes even downright bad/harmful ones.

Therapy is, if sought, something to take seriously. Finding a good therapist can sometimes be difficult and take a while. This is a person to whom you should be able to bear your most troubling thoughts and know they will handle you well. This is someone who should put your mental health needs before their own agenda and paycheck.

To those who have been hurt by a therapist, I am deeply sorry and hope you find healing. This should not have happened to you. You deserved better.

If you are in therapy, I hope it is with someone who deeply cares for you, who values your mind, body, and soul. I hope they are someone who helps you in your times of need and can sit with you on your good days, too.

If you haven’t found a good therapist yet and are still desperately seeking, know there are good ones out there, and continue seeking them, along with other people and resources, to aid you on the journey.

And if you’re not in therapy, continue to be loved and supported by your people, whoever they are.

Whatever your situation, no one should have to go it alone. Let us seek and support each other through it all.

“What if…”

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futuretimeline.net

It’s the question I ask a hundred times a day in a hundred different scenarios.

“What if…you really stood up for something you believed in, or told someone you disagreed with them, and they hated you for it?”

“What if…you talked to that stranger, and they thought you were weird and didn’t want to be your friend?”

“What if…your boss knew about what you don’t get done and fired you?”

“What if…you spend a bit too much money this month and bounce your account and get evicted from your house and have no health insurance?”

These thoughts paralyze me. They always conclude with the worst case scenario. They’re exhausting.

And these thoughts plague me all day. They can be mild or seem cataclysmic. Sometimes, I can easily dismiss them.  Other times, I have to fight tooth and nail to convince myself these thoughts are not my reality.

My therapist taught me if something I say or think begins with “What if,” it’s to be dismissed as “just a thought.” Sometimes that works. Other times, I wonder if, just this once, it’s not just a thought but an inevitable fact. I begin to doubt myself, my therapist, my loved ones, everything and everyone I know and trust.

But sometimes, I remember the other “What ifs,” which actually pushed me forward and had postive outcomes.

“What if…I used my stories to encourage other people with anxiety?”

“What if…I use my blog as a platform for social justice, to call out those with privilege to break systems of oppression and fear, and to stand in solidarity with the marginalized?”

“What if…I try out for Twelfth Night and meet some of the most amazing people ever?”

“What if…I pursue a deeper relationship with this cute, blonde best friend of mine?”

Not all of my “What ifs” are paralyzing or pessimistic. Some of them offer hope, a chance to consider something new and wonderful. They have been the thoughts which led to some of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

“What ifs” are double-edged swords. They are full of paralysis and potential. They hinder and help. They are part of who I am and how I live.

So how do I live a life empowered by the positive ones, not enslaved by the negative ones?

How do I live a life in which my thoughts pull me forward instead of tie me down?

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makeyourbestself.com

What are you waiting for?

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I wrote this post during Holy Week 2013. I figured the theme of waiting and hope was appropriate for the Advent season, too. Enjoy this blast from the past!

Today is Palm Sunday. Today is the day I check off one of the risks I said I’d do long ago and finally made a commitment to when Donald Miller dared us all to do 5 things we were afraid to fail this week: start my own blog.

So on this day, when we remember as a church when Jesus made his “triumphant” (or anti-triumphant, if you really think about it) entry into Jerusalem, and we begin to journey through the pain and tension of Holy Week, we also ponder this question: What are we waiting for?

I pondered this between 9 and 9:30 this morning, after we had set up for worship at Court Square Theater, and as the band practiced their songs for the morning. I’m not gonna lie; my ponderings weren’t on dreams of ending hunger, achieving world peace, or anything focused outwardly.

I was thinking about my own pain, my own fears, and the deep dark depths of my soul.

Anxiety can be crippling to live with on a day to day basis. Some days are great, others are just ok, and a few reduce me to a vegetative state in which TV, music, and movies are needed to numb my mind from the white noise of worries that run through all day. Since writing is among my favorite forms of therapy and self-soothing, I grabbed a RISE bulletin and wrote what weighed down my heart and mind today. And here’s what I came up with:

I’m waiting for peace, patience, joy, confidence, identity. I’m waiting for me to come back. I’m waiting for transition to turn into character, to a sense of self. I’m waiting for calm and quiet and excitement and growth. I’m waiting to be happy to be me, whoever she is. I’m waiting to be heard and seen for who I am, all I am. I’m waiting for my fear to make way for my life, for hope, love, joy, and peace, to make way for me to burst forth. I’m waiting for the voices of guilt, shame, fear, and mistrust to quiet down, so the voices that are really me can speak up and be heard, listened to, understood, acted on. I’m waiting to be born again into hope, so I can die to my own strangling fears. 

In short, I’m waiting for…my soul to break through my fear.

As a faith community, RISE is wrestling with this question this week as part of The Ellipsis Experiment (http://storiesandvoices.com/post/45893346395/the-ellipsis-experiment). As a community, we are learning together what we are waiting for as we journey through this week of tension, pain, and eventually resurrection. We are not just skipping to Resurrection Sunday; we are walking with Jesus through service, pain, the tension of waiting, and the joy in the hope that death is not the end.

Friends, will you also join me? What are you waiting for?

Why Do I Have to Be Like This?

Question Mark Graffiti on a Brick Wall

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It’s a question I ask myself often.

Even when I’m doing well, it hangs out at the back of my mind, waiting for me to slip up, secretly wondering when the illusion of my wellness will shatter and the truth of my “brokenness” will become evident.

Finally, when everything becomes too much, whenever I have a spat or disagreement with someone, when I make a mistake at work or at home, or have an awkward social interaction, it comes to the forefront and screams at the top of its lungs.

“Why do I have to be like this?”

“Why can’t I be normal?”

“When will I stop hurting myself and others with my anxious behavior?”

I don’t know why I’m like this. I don’t know why I get plagued with anxious thoughts in situations which others navigate with ease. I don’t know why I get into spats with my fiance or my family over things that simply don’t matter to other people.

All I know is that this is who I am. I freak out at random and very inconvenient intervals, yet my freak outs do not result in the end of the world. At times, I exhaust the people who love me most, and they continue to love me. I am pissed off that this is part of my DNA, part of how I’m “wired,” yet most days, I am thankful to be me and to encounter the world the way I do, even when it’s “inconvenient,” “exhausting,” or just plain annoying.

I am a person with anxiety. I have anxiety like every other human being, but I also have the luxury of getting mine jacked up a few doses by some forces of genetics and/or environmental circumstances.

But I am still Lindsay. I am still made in a holy, divine image.

And so are you. At your darkest and at your most joyful, always remember this.