Blog

lessons learned, medical issues

Let’s Talk about Anxiety

Let’s talk about anxiety. I don’t mean being a little bit nervous or worried. I mean being sick to your stomach anxious. Locomotive circling the brain nonstop anxious. Blurting out irrational thoughts anxious. Can’t breathe anxious. Can’t hold a cup of relaxing lavender tea without spilling anxious. Racing heartbeat anxious.

According to Dictionary.com, anxiety is “distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune.”

2845768299_84e4f92454_m

Anxiety is an officially diagnosed chemical imbalance in the brain. When the serotonin, norepinephrine, and gaba are out of whack, a person cannot control her anxious thoughts any more than someone with a blockage in his heart can control whether/when he has a heart attack. Anxiety can also be caused by poor adrenal and/or low thyroid functions. Panic attacks, agoraphobia, PTSD, OCD, and social anxiety are all in the same family.

Sometimes people with anxiety need medical intervention—prescription or natural herbs—in order for their minds to calm enough so that they can focus enough to pray and have faith. Taking medication does not mean people don’t have faith. Medication helps to heal people’s chemical imbalances and calm racing thoughts just as a stent in an artery prevents another heart attack.

How do you know the difference between sinful worry and medical anxiety? Talk to a professional; don’t try to diagnose yourself. Here’s my definition of the difference between being a little worried (sin that can be controlled) and being medically anxious (not a sin, can’t be controlled): sinful worry is being upset about and thinking about not having enough work as an adjunct and a freelancer to pay my bills for the rest of the year. It’s wondering now about how I’m going to adjust my schedule to add more classes to the fall semester (8 months away). Medical anxiety is being unable to stop obsessing about my finances, being so overwrought about my bills that I feel sick to my stomach and can’t focus on what my kids are saying to my face. It’s the Same. Exact. Irrational. Thoughts. Over. And over. And over. And over. And over. And being incapable of stopping or changing those thoughts. It’s trying to pray, but all that comes out is Those. Same. Anxious. Irrational. Thoughts.

As long as we’re being honest here, I suffer from a medical condition called Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Occasionally I suffer from some pretty severe panic attacks. Some days are better than others although the past few months have seen a resurgence in my anxiety levels. Yes, I pray. Yes, I try to have faith. Yes, I read my Bible. Yes, I try all sorts of self-care techniques. Yes, the anxiety is still there.

If you suffer from anxiety, know that you are not alone!

Next time: Real help for anxiety.

about me

I’m Baaaack!

IMG_20151008_201953_794I’ve missed this space! This past week, I’ve been thinking that I needed to get back into regular, personal writing for several reasons.

First of all, I need to get all this hot mess out of my head! I’ve heard fiction authors say that they have no idea how a story is going to end up until they actually write it. I think that’s true to an extent for non-fiction writing as well. I may have a vague idea of my feelings, but I often find myself surprised by their depth and/or direction when I read what I’ve written in my journal. Of course, this space is a bit less spontaneous, but when I listed out some possible blog topics yesterday, I came up with well over 30! My goal was to come up with 7, so that tells me I have quite a bit to share with you all.

Second of all, I teach writing for a living, and I discovered that I haven’t been practicing what I preach. I tell my students that writing becomes easier the more they just do it and that writing well, while an art, does take practice. I tell them that all employers—and life in general—require effective and efficient communication. Like other skills, writing can become rusty if not done on a regular basis. Here comes the oil can.

Third of all, I’ve been thinking of ways to supplement my adjunct professor’s salary, and decided that freelance writing, which I have done already, would certainly fit the bill. But if I want to write stuff that people want to read—and pay for!—then I need to get myself back into the game. While I loved writing for the homeschool market previously, I was never able to make (much) money from it, and frankly, as a single mom, I need to maximize my earning potential within my current time constraints. So, part of the public writing I hope to do in the next few weeks will be exploring new topics that fit within these parameters.

Let me know what kinds of stuff you’d like to read here in this space as well as what kinds of content you’d be willing to pay to read (in other venues).

divorce, grief

The Major Deal with a Minor Holiday

I love pizza even though the gluten in the crust and the lactose in the cheese usually make me feel sick. It’s a special treat nonetheless. But it’s not special enough to make up for the fact that it’s my Labor Day picnic-for-one meal. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a few slices of pizza.

So what’s the big deal about a not-always-so-big holiday? It highlights the fact that I’m alone. Again. Just let me wallow in the pit of loneliness for a little while without trying to get me to see the bright side of the situation. That strategy minimizes my feelings.

Everywhere I look on social media, pictures of families together on special outings crop up. My friends are with their families. Extended families are enjoying time together. The grocery store checkout lines are crowded with people buying last-minute bar-b-que items.

The real problem is that my family–the only family I have close by–is with their other family. They’re together, and I’m not. I don’t begrudge my children time with their father’s extended family. I don’t. Except maybe in a tiny way when it means knowing I’m not welcome in a place I used to be called daughter and sister.

While Labor Day might not seem as big a deal as, say, Christmas or Thanksgiving, I’m still sad at the loss of family traditions. And that’s what makes a minor holiday a major deal.

 

 

change, divorce, moving on, reinventing

Identity Crisis

Us-passportWith my recent divorce, I decided to revert my last name to my maiden name. My married name has all kinds of negative connotations, and I don’t want to be associated with that name or that person anymore. As my girls are in their late teens, they’re old enough to realize that I need my own identity and that they’ll soon be changing their own last names.

Names identify people with other people. Names identify people with certain groups, ethnicity, regions, religions, and jobs.

What I didn’t realize when I decided to change my name is what a humongous hassle the whole process would be! So many, many places needed to have it changed. And, of course, half of them couldn’t just get it right the first time–like the DMV and my bank. Oy! Then there’s the whole email address change. I’m pretty sure everyone on the planet has my old email address. And persists in using it. Furthermore, it’s associated with all of my online bills and every single site I ever signed into in the entire World Wide Web. If one more person asks whether I just got married, I will scream! This whole process was so much simpler (and happier) 22 years ago when I did it the first time.

Throughout this whole process, I feel like I’m having an identity crisis, and I don’t just mean having trouble remembering how to sign my name. I’m not married, so I don’t want my former last name. Even though my father is an honorable man, and I am proud to carry his last name, I am not under his protection anymore as I was when I was growing up. With whose name do I want to be associated? To whom do really I belong?

I belong to God, first and foremost.

The Lord says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are MINE” (Isaiah 43:1).

As long as my heavenly father knows my name, it doesn’t really matter what my earthly name is. That’s comforting.

 

divorce, lessons learned, moving on

The Scarlet Letter

S I’m branded forever now with that letter; you know, the one that screams at people from across the room. Yes, I’ve got that huge S on my chest. You know, S for Speeder. Everyone asks me about it all the time.

“I just heard the news! I can’t believe you’re a Speeder!”
“When we were in college, I voted you least likely to be a Speeder.”
“What happened? I must know all the details! Where were you? Just how fast were you going? How much was the ticket?”
“That place is a speed trap! Better drivers know how to avoid getting caught there.”
“How could you? You grew up hearing the rules every time you were in the car!”
“Didn’t you read the manual on how to avoid being a speeder?”
“Is this the first time?”
And my favorite: “You need to tell me all about it so I can pray for you that you won’t get another speeding ticket.”

They’re right. I did read the driver’s manual, and I did know how to avoid getting a speeding ticket. I knew where the speed traps were. I remember hearing during my childhood how terrible speeding is; those lectures increased in intensity and frequency when I first got my license. I thought that if I bought my car at the conservative sales lot that it wouldn’t be marked for speeding. How wrong I was.

For years, no one noticed that I was a Speeder. Then I got my first warning. From then on I was labeled. Every time a police car was behind me, I just knew the officer was pulling my record. One day I saw a police car at the speed trap. But on my second pass down that road, I forgot. I was just careless, and I got busted. Worse yet, I had to pay a huge fine! Sure, people told me I could fight it and get a lawyer, but I knew I was guilty. I paid the fine. And then I had a record. Oh, the shame! I thought people would never stop talking about it!

Sure, talk died down some, but people still noticed my scarlet S. The next time I got pulled over, I wanted to sink through the floorboards of my car. After all, I had a different car, one that definitely wasn’t supposed to go over the speed limit. Apparently my new car also has the S on it.

To make matters worse, as I pulled away, my phone dinged with a text from my daughter’s friend. She had seen me pulled over. Now my children will find out! I’ll never live this down! I wanted to keep my kids out of the whole speeding mess because I had lectured them numerous times about the pitfalls of speeding, and kids do tend to do as you do, not asD you say. I can’t give that first speeding ticket back. It will always just be there. I will always be a Speeder.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not really talking about speeding. Oh sure, I am a Speeder, but the letter that really stands out is the D. Yes, D for Divorce. The church’s unpardonable, most obvious, most gossiped about sin. Recognize any of those comments above in a different context?

Kudos to your high school English teacher if you get the references to The Scarlet Letter. If you didn’t, go check out a synopsis here.

change, moving on

The Next Half

halfI spent the first 22 years of my life waiting to get married. I spent the next 22 years of my life wishing I wasn’t. (Go ahead and figure out my age; it’s easy.) Half of my life was spent preparing to be a good, Christian wife. Half of my life was spent reeling from the shock of the emotional abuse, being cheated on, and manipulation of being that wife.

As of this coming Tuesday, I’ll be beginning the next half of my life. Don’t confuse me by saying that’s too many halves. Looked at from a different angle, one could say I’m at the midpoint of my life now if I were to have an average lifespan of 88 years. So, I’ve spent my entire life so far wishing for and being something that wasn’t what I expected and is now over. That doesn’t bode well for the next, unknown half of my life.

The past two and a half years have been focused on survival, not on preparing myself for this next phase in my life. While I’m thrilled to be out from under oppression, I almost don’t know how to handle it! For the first half of my life, my parents made decisions for me, and then guided me in making my own decisions. For the next half of my life, I was informed of decisions – when he remembered to tell me. How do I make my own decisions now without panicking?

Here’s my answer:

“And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” – 2 Corinthians 3:4-6

Sure enough, I am not adequate or sufficient. But God is. Pray for me, though, as I continue to make this transition into the next half of my life.

 

lessons learned

One a Step at a Time

I’ve always been big on planning ahead and knowing what’s coming next. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible in life. My life, specifically. Just when I think something’s settled–a job, a legal matter, a kid’s plans–it becomes unsettled. It’s not a question of whether troubles will come, it’s a question of when. Of course, the last few years of my life seem to have had an overdose of woes. L. B. E. Cowman, author of one of imagemy favorite devotionals Streams in the Desert, had this encouragement:

“‘When thou passest through the waters . . . they shall not overflow thee (Isa. 43:2).’ God does not open paths for us in advance of our coming. He does not promise help before help is needed. He does not remove obstacles out of our way before we reach them. Yet when we are on the edge of our need, God’s hand is stretched out.” (Jan. 6)

To me, this means that I need to keep moving ahead even when I can’t see where my foot will land. It’s almost like God’s grace for each moment is in his outstretched hand. I need to take a forward step so I can reach his hand and the help that he is offering. And then the next step and the next measure of grace and so on.

God has proven this principle to me numerous times over the past few years especially. Just when I think I’m about to be overwhelmed in a court case, god provides the victory. When I’m pretty sure I haven’t taught enough courses in a term to pay the rent, he not only provides enough, but gives me an unexpected overflow. When one of my girls makes me seriously doubt my worth and effectiveness as a mother, just the right word of encouragement is whispered in my ear at just the right time.

Life is lived one step at a time with its corresponding handful of grace. I was thinking about digging my toes into the cold sands of fear, but it seems I need to be stepping forward in faith instead.

What about you? Digging your toes in fear or stepping out in faith for a needed measure of grace?

 

change, moving on

A More Settled 2015

Ahope and grace pics my thoughts wandered over the pages of my very first journal entry for the year, they jumped from idea to idea. I’ve address hopped, church hopped, and job hopped. So many changes have taken place in all areas of my life this year that I’m not even sure where to start.

I’ve moved and unpacked, yet still feel like I’m in someone’s (very ugly, very small) guesthouse. But I chose the address; I signed the papers myself. I’ve replaced stuff that said “we” with stuff that says “me.” I’ve made it a haven for me and for my girls. However, it’s hard not to at least occasionally long for the dream home where we made family memories for 10 years. It’s time, though, to settle into my new home, even if it’s not my dream house.

About 2 years ago, I realized it was time to find a new church home for many reasons, but mostly because it just wasn’t not big enough for me and the ex. I spent a bunch of months either tiptoeing into back rows at 5 after or crying in my bed. Finally, a friend literally dragged me to her church, and it was good. It was a place of healing and encouragement, but it was not a place I ever felt completely settled. I needed more exegetical preaching and more emphasis on reformed theology. I think I’ve found those elements, and I’m starting to settle in. But my reserved nature (For real, I’m reserved in person!) has made it hard to feel completely at ease. It’s time to settle into a new church and to trust people again.

Contrary to popular opinion, full-time jobs teaching college-level English are nearly non-existent, at least here in North Carolina. As a result, I’ve spent the past few years applying for adjunct positions over and over and over again. Some are online and some are face to face. The problem with being an adjunct is that there’s no guarantee of classes from one term (5-16 weeks) to the next; there is zero stability. Stability = steady pay check. This providing for myself financially thing is scary! I’ve applied to a few PhD programs, and I’m hoping for a full fellowship, including a light teaching load. I guess I’m pinning my hopes for stability in my professional life on that, but I won’t know for several months yet.

All of this hopping has me longing for stability. I know my true source of stability comes from God. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” (Ps. 46:1). The real problem, for me anyway, is the waiting.

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord! (Ps. 27:13-14).

My challenge for 2015: settle my hopes on the Lord in order to gain true stability. What’s your challenge for the new year?

healing, lessons learned, reinventing

Brokenness Made Beautiful

                                                                                 “The world breaks everyone, then some become strong at the broken places.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

     I’m broken. What good is broken? A broken bowl lands in the recycling bin. A chipped glass loses its place in the cupboard.

     Broken is ugly.  I kick a broken seashell aside instead of adding it to the sandy collection in my pocket.

     I’m so glad that God doesn’t have the same attitude. Instead of casting aside broken people, he lovingly gathers up the pieces and brings them into his workshop.

     Gold, on the other hand, is valuable in all its forms. It can make even ugly things beautiful. But before gold can become useful, it has to be refined. The refining process cleans away the dross and makes the gold malleable. The refining process is painful for the gold, but it’s necessary. It’s the same way with our lives. We’re a rough nugget of gold, and in order to use and beautify us, God has to refine us. The painful trials and challenges we go through in life have the potential to make us pure, malleable, and beautiful, if we allow them to.

     God then takes our broken pieces  and refined gold and turns them into something even more beautiful, strong, and useful than before. This process is beautifully illustrated in the ancient Japanese art of kintsugi, which means golden joinery. The gold adds value and strength to the ceramic piece. The vessel then becomes more valuable and desirable.

He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the Lord An offering in righteousness. ~ Malachi 3:3, NKVJ

     Life’s trials and challenges, while seeming like a hammer swinging in a china shop, will eventually turn us into vessels of beauty for God’s glory.

     Lord, help me to remember that your purpose is to take my broken pieces and to perform kintsugi with them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

change, healing, lessons learned

I Was Worth It

This morning during church, I heard yet another story of a guy who met a girl and gave up, on the spot, his drug addiction in order to be with her. Another guy gave up a 20-year pornography addiction–overnight–when God convicted him to do so to stay with his loving and forgiving wife. Other guys give up jobs that would take them away from home, alcohol, wild parties, bad habits, and codependent parents.

I’m thrilled for those marriages; really, I am. I rejoice with my friends whose marriages have been rescued. I pray blessings and continued peace over their families.

But I cry for myself. I’ve wondered every day for the past (nearly) two years why I wasn’t enough. Why he couldn’t/wouldn’t give up his pornography addiction. Why he had to scream and yell at me in order to relieve his stress. Why I had to feel bad so he could feel good. Why I wasn’t worth standing up for against outsiders. Why he wouldn’t ever let go of any little (let alone big) offense. Why leadership twisted into control.

In the middle of my pity party this morning, the worship team sang “Jesus Paid It All,” and I realized that I really was worth dying for. This guy named Jesus gave up his home and his life for me. Jesus made me free! I don’t have to be under anyone’s control; that’s not part of God’s plan for me. I have been rescued; it just didn’t look like I thought it would.

Stand fast therefore in liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. ~ Galatians 5:1, NKJV

 

Image