Saturday, January 7, 2017

When Anxiety Tells You Lies

When anxiety tells you lies, you don’t have to listen.  When you’ve lived with mental illness for a while, you realize you can’t trust your thoughts.  You can’t look inside for answers when they’re so self-destructive.
Usually when things are going crazy around you, you can retreat inside yourself for a bit and think things through.  When you’ve got anxiety and depression, that changes.
On bad days, my inner dialogue is something like this:
“Don’t do it like that!”
“Why not, it’s working.”
“No, it’s stupid.”
“Because you’re doing it wrong. You’re stupid.”
“Shut up!”
“You’re stupid so of course you’re doing it wrong.  You’ll never get enough done. You’ll never be…”
“SHUT UP!!! Can’t you see I’m trying?? Shut up and leave me alone! Michael thinks I’m good enough, and my family likes me, and other people like me.  You’re wrong!”
“No, you’re stupid.  You shouldn’t even exist because you ONLY did dishes and laundry today.  You should have made muffins too.  And crocheting doesn’t count as being productive because you enjoy doing it.”
“SHUT UP!!!”
What I’m learning is that I don’t have to listen to that voice in my head.  I can say, “I’m ok.  God loves me enough to save me from my sins and adopt me to be His.  Nothing I do can make Him hate me now.”  And then I read a book or watch TV to drown out the conversation in my head.  It’s pretty well impossible to stop that conversation – it will keep going all day.  It usually can be drowned out by a distraction, at least for a while. 

If your mind is telling you things like this, you don’t have to listen.  You are worthy.   You deserve to get help.  And if sometimes you spend the day in front of the TV because you just can’t take it anymore, that’s ok too.  I know it’s tough, not being able to trust your own self, but hang in there.  You’re not alone.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy New Year 2017

2016 was for me a year of healing from mental breakdown, learning my limitations, being creative, and trying new things.  For us as a couple it was also a year of finding new direction career wise, moving to a new community, discussing and planning for the future.  2016 for the world was difficult, surprising, confusing.   There have been terrorist attacks in cities which a few years ago seemed to be safe bulwarks of Western culture.  One of the most powerful and supposedly progressive nations has elected as their leader a man who openly makes sexist and racist remarks.  We’re facing a world-wide refugee crisis.  Closer to home, indigenous peoples in our country are living without basic necessities like clean drinking water. 
For many, the start of a new year is a time for optimism.  It is a time to make a change; a time for new promises and goals; a time to change the world.   I used to think like that.  I would have a long list of New Year’s resolutions.  I would start right at midnight on my project to be sinless, perfect in every particular.  One year during a New Year’s Eve party, I stopped eating the party food and drinking pop as soon as midnight came.  For the rest of the party, I ate vegetables and drank water. 
I’ve lost that starry eyed optimism.  Hopefully it has been replaced with realism and not pessimism, although I can’t say for sure.  Here is what I know: 2017 is going to be hard.  We’re going to hear about terrorist attacks, airplane crashes, homicides, child abuse, and economic crisis.  We’re going to hear a lot of talk back and forth about policy issues, parental rights, religious rights, and globalization.  A lot of it will seem to get no where, because a new year doesn’t change anything. 
If you’re like me, you want to change the world and fix everything.  You want to feed every single refugee child and sponge away the trauma.  You want to shout from the roof tops that it’s not ok that there are so many missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada.  You want to whisper into the heart of every woman, “You matter.  You don’t deserve to be mistreated because of your race and gender.  I care about you.” 
It’s discouraging because we can’t fix the world.  Every problem is so big and so complex.  Even if there was a perfect solution to everything, we couldn’t carry it out because we are flawed sinners.   We think “If I were in power, I would make so much positive change!”  But power corrupts, and we aren’t invincible to that temptation even as Christians.
Should we give up?  Shall we turn off the radio, stay in our “safe” social circle, and concern ourselves only with hypothetical rights and wrongs?  Can’t we build up a wall between “us” and “them” and give a host of reasons why their problems are their fault and there’s nothing we can do?
 It’s tempting isn’t it? 
Can I make a proposal?  What if we do the little things?  Each of us can seize every opportunity to make a difference.  You can’t change the world, but you can change one person’s world.  You can’t rescue every abused child, but maybe you can become a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters or Children’s Aid Society.  You can’t eradicate rape culture on college campuses, but you can keep your eyes open and intervene if you see something that’s off.  You can’t fix dysfunctional relationships, but you can be a listening ear for someone that needs it.  You can’t stop all abortions everywhere, but you can write letters to your M.P. voicing your disagreement; and you can provide financial or emotional support to a woman who is considering abortion. 
Will you join me in making 2017 a year of hope for someone?  Jesus said, “Whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”  (Matthew 10:42) Will you pray with me that God will use our little actions for the greater good? 

Happy New Year!