Tag Archives: anxiety

Me versus Mental Illness

10 Oct

Today is World Mental Health Day-a day to raise awareness for the monsters of mental illness we who suffer battle every single day.

It doesn’t make me less than.

Or crazy. (Most of the time.)

It makes me cleave to God all the more because I desperately need Him to function with the appearance of a somewhat normal person.

But I also think living with anxiety and depression makes me more compassionate, more thoughtful, and maybe a little more interesting than I would be without it.

Oh, I’ve railed at God for creating me like this, begged Him for healing, and groaned prayers that only the Spirit could understand.

I’ve been ashamed to talk about it because I don’t want to face scorn. I don’t want people to see me as incapable, yet I desperately want to be understood in spite of it.

I am me, not in spite of my mental illness, but because of it. It’s a gift that keeps me in the folds of God’s love. I don’t understand it; I accept it.

Like the aspostle Paul wrote, I choose to see it as a gift to cause me to constantly and wholly rely on God. It’s not a gift I would’ve picked, but it has and is shaping me, molding me, changing me.

Maybe there will be a day without daily medications, therapists, panic attacks, and days I just can’t make it out my front door. Maybe not.

I just trust God to shine through all the broken places so people can see His love in my eyes.

I choose to live because of it, not in spite of it.

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In the Waiting

23 Jul

It’s in the waiting that I find Him.  He’s on the edge of every moment of my life, but it’s easier to miss God in the laughter, though He’s the very sound of pure laughter.  In the tender moments, I am touched and bless so I offer Him thanks, grateful to be alive.

But I find Him best, strongest when I’m waiting—vulnerable, wailing, holding on to hope, reading my favorite Scriptures, over analyzing, wringing my hands with worry.  Somehow these moments are sacred and precious.  I have no choice but to cling desperately to God.

I suppose I have a choice, but to cling desperately to fear seems fruitless.  I’d rather cling to the One I can praise in the storm.

Right now, I’m in the waiting.  I’ve sat by the phone this week waiting—willing it to ring so I could find relief.  When it did ring, I didn’t find the results for which I had hoped and prayed.  Another test, more waiting.

Quivering with fear, I cling to the familiar psalms.  I go over the verses that remind me I’m never alone, that I am tucked under His wings, that He sings over me.  It doesn’t always quiet my trembling, but it puts a peace that surpasses all understanding in my heart and spirit.

It is hard to explain how my anxiety can physically manifest itself—the trembling, the crying, the irrational fears—and yet my soul can be at rest.  Yet I know in this dichotomy, He is near.  I wish I could hold His hand, touch His skin, and rest on my Father’s shoulder, but such is a thing for which the heart yearns, where it will one day find its home.

For now, I know Abba draws close to me, quieting me with His Love.

If it wasn’t for the waiting, though I dread these moments to my core, I would never know the tenderness of God.  I wouldn’t need to learn to trust Him or understand how He works despite my anxiety disorder.  My faith would be made stronger.

I will celebrate the waiting, for in it I find God.

(As a random aside, God only made me wait a few hours for the test results when I thought I wouldn’t receive them until Friday or Monday.  They were normal.  I see this as an extra measure of grace because God is so good.  Thank You, Father, for being with me in the waiting and in the finding!)

A Deafening Silence

13 Aug

Silence can be deafening.

It can fill a whole room, a whole body, a whole heart.

It’s a lonely, depressing ache that goes on and on.  How I wish for the breath to say something, to find words, to hear my voice.

The silence is emptiness and emptiness is deadly, dark and meaningless.

Silence, for me, was a way of coping.  As long as I remained quiet, as long as I pretended I had it all together, then maybe I would be OK.  Or at least people would think I was OK.

But I wasn’t OK.  I was falling apart.

My secrets ripped me apart, caused me to hide in the shadows, and question my existence.  Did I deserve to take up space, resources, air?  The thoughts were loud and angry.  The train whistle cut through the silence several times a day.  There was life somewhere outside of my apartment.

It’s hard to imagine someone like Robin Williams, who has the resources to access the best doctors, best medicines, and best therapy could fall into the deafening silence.  There’s a cruel irony in entertaining the masses, yet dying inside.  Tears of a clown or something like that.

Those of us who have been there or are there or live with constant battle against the darkness know what it’s like.  The silence only makes the illness more pronounced because the angry thoughts swirl around, the clichés become tormenting (“Why don’t you…?” “Someone has it worse.” “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” “Trust in the Lord”), and it’s a sad, lonely place.

If someone like Robin Williams couldn’t make it through the pestilence of mental illness, specifically depression, what hope is there for the rest of us?  We swallow our pills, see our therapists, practice using our coping skills, and hope against hope we’ll make it.

We hope and pray that we won’t end up like Robin Williams all the while wondering if we will.

There’s a choice in suicide.  There’s always a choice.  It’s just hard to make sense of what’s up and what’s down in mental illness, which doesn’t make sense at all.  Yet everyone seems to have an opinion on depression, anxiety, PTSD, and so forth.  Just like week someone told me I couldn’t possibly have PTSD because I’ve never been in combat.  Oh, yes, I’ve seen combat, just not in the military.  The world is its own battlefield.

The reason why I’m alive, the reason why I didn’t tighten the noose around my neck or jump in front of that train was this—hope.  No matter how small, God placed that hope in my heart when I was a little girl.  Though I had run away, battered and bruised from the Church, His hope kept me alive.

It may sound overly simplistic, but maybe it is that simple.  Maybe hope really is an anchor to my soul—an anchor firmly rooted in Christ Himself.  Christ died every possible death so that I could live.  Through the brokenness of my life, He shines forth.  Into the deafening silence, His voice speaks.

Into the deafening silence, His voice speaks the words of hope I desperately need to hear.  His soft whisper drowns out the angry thoughts.  His truth slices through well-intentioned, but ill-timed clichés.

In a world that judges, God accepts me just as I am and uses me despite my weakness.  Because of God, I have meaning and I don’t have to be silent anymore.  I can speak out of my weakness because He has made me a display of splendor.

In the deafening silence, His sure whisper can be heard.  Perhaps it’s in silence, God can be best heard.

Broken and Not So Broken

6 Jun

This is my walking boot. I decorate it, of course.

“God, I’m in the place again/I’m trying so hard not to fall/But everything keeps coming down with the rain.”–Everyday Sunday

I’ve always appreciated melancholy songs.  There’s something about the toned down, raw nature of a rock band that grips my heart and makes me pay attention, like KISS’s “Beth” or Five Iron Frenzy’s “Every New Day.”  (Yes, I just mentioned KISS and Five Iron Frenzy in the same sentence.  Incidentally, “Beth” is the only KISS song I know.)

Since lyrics and song melodies move me, it’s understandable why I’ve danced my way into the genre of singer/songwriter in my old(er) age (though I still enjoy Southern rock, like Credence Clearwater Revival and more recently, NeedToBreathe.)  Lately, it seems, I find comfort in the likes of Bebo Norman (surprise, surpise!), JJ Heller, Audrey Assad, Josh Wilson, and Andrew Peterson.

See, I haven’t had an easy go of things lately.  In mid-May, I broke my left foot. Yes, friends, another broken foot.  As you may recall, I broke my right foot about 15 months ago…and the healing process for the right foot has been excruciatingly slow.  After a couple tests, my foot doctor discovered my Vitamin D level to be pitifully low and started me on a regimen 50,000 units of Vitamin D weekly.  That’s the boring medical part.

This happened a week after I made some changes in my life, after all night prayer sessions, talks with my pastor, and weeping before the Lord, I felt Him saying to me, as He said to Elijah as he ran for his life from evil Queen Jezebel, “The journey has been too much for you.  Rest now, My child, I will take care of the details.”  Two weeks after resigning as lead of a ministry and falling into a more manageable role on the leadership team, I broke my foot simply by getting up from (or rather down) from one of our counter height dining room chairs.

This started a longer-than-I-anticipated journey of rest–no driving, walking around with a rollator (rolling walker), going down the stairs with a cane, needing assistance with normal tasks like showering, shopping, and getting here and there.  Oh, and of course, resting with my legs elevated to improve healing time.  Alone all day in my apartment.  It sounds perfectly lovely to harried people who could use a day off, but it’s house arrest for a social, relational woman like me.

So I’ve been spending a lot of time talking to God and listening to music.  At first, I was struck with severe anxiety, which I believe was my anxiety disorder as well as a spiritual attack from the enemy.  I cried–wailed actually–and copied psalm after psalm from the Bible into my journal.  My fervency for God was strong and trust was a moment by moment walk.  While I don’t miss the panic attacks and tears, I wish I could maintain the level of urgency for God and His Holy Word when I’m not in the throes of fear.

I don’t always listen to music.  I like silence, too.  I can hear the birds singing merrily, the engine of the mail truck, laughter and screams from neighborhood children, the clink of my dog’s tags as she roams about the apartment, and my cockatiel’s own chirps.  So many ordinary sounds that make up the backdrop of this orchestra called life…and most of the time, I barely notice.

And I’m reading.  As much as I love to read, I don’t always make time for it.  Besides my Bible study reading (The Story and Crazy Love) and my daily devotional, Jesus Calling, I’m juggling three books right now–One Thousand Gifts, The Parable of Joy, and The Covenant Child.  My attention span seems to have increased as a result of my sitting in this stillness.

My writing life has been rich, though much of it has come alive in my journal–private conversations between God and me.  While this isn’t a measurable source of earthly wealth, it is the most important writing that I can do.  I call it “holy writing.”  If my purpose here on earth is to bring glory and honor to God, then my writing–for Him and Him alone–can have no higher calling.  Face down before the Throne of God, I write and write, like some ancient, inspired scribe.  Perhaps I will pick out thoughts to blog about here.  Or maybe write that book I’m always thinking about.

Don’t get me wrong.  I would never have chosen this path, but I am learning to be thankful for it.  I am grateful for the friends God has given to support me in this time.  It’s funny how my One Word for 2013 is LOVED and He is showing me how LOVED I really am! (Even when I start to believe the lie that no one cares, including God.)  Who would have thought the path to knowing I am LOVED would come with so much pain and brokenness–the actual physical breaking of another bone?  It seems all paths are littered with sorrow and suffering.  Is it any wonder that these are little Much Afraid’s guides to the high places in Hind’s Feet on High Places? (I plan to re-read the book as soon as I finish The Covenant Child.)

I am loved.  It rings loudly and clearly throughout my days, and it is revealed through so many ways and so many people.

If I hadn’t broken my left foot, my small group leader wouldn’t have moved our Bible study into her living room so I could attend showing me that I am LOVED.  (Thanks, Amanda!)

Nor would I have received a ride to the Bible study I lead from one of the attendees.  (Thanks, Patty!)

I would never have trusted God to help me make it up to the choir loft for praise team or give me strength to sing when my jaw ached with TMJD pain.  (Thanks to the Praise Team for their encouragement!)

I have moments of despair, when I feel God’s touch or receive a phone call or text or Facebook message.  These are precious things I gather into my heart.  Someone is praying or God is teaching me to trust Him more and more.  I hate the aloneness, and I love the intimacy with God.

If this hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post.  Perhaps I’d write something else, or maybe nothing at all.  I know not the path I would’ve taken and it hardly matters because this is where I am.  Everything around me is speaking to me–the book One Thousands Gifts, reading the book of Ruth this morning (I was struck that Naomi was so very bitter and yet so very blessed through Ruth in the end.  In the middle, it seemed she would never have joy again), and in watching The Fellowship of the Ring last week. (Frodo never CHOSE for the ring to come into his possession, yet it did.  Yet he carried the burden anyway.  He chose to do the right thing in the midst of his circumstances.)

It’s a conscious choice, this choosing to be thankful and grateful in the midst of this disappointment.  Perhaps it’s a divine appointment to receive greater joy.  That’s an encouraging thought, isn’t it?

Tell me, how has God taught you to be faithful or thankful in the midst of something hard or disappointing?  What have you been reading lately?  Do you miss the fervency of intimacy with God when you aren’t going through trials?

The gift of anxiety

28 Feb

Today was a victory, just like yesterday and the day before and the day before.  Today’s accomplishment?  I went to Wal-Mart by myself—got myself out the door, drove to the store, and shopped for needed household items (and a couple of extras).  I purchased my items, walked to my car (almost got run over in the crosswalk by some lady in a van who had the nerve to beep at a pedestrian was in the middle of the road when she sped around the corner), and drove home with a triumphant smile on my face.  Victory!

Some of my mom friends are probably thinking, “Going to Wal-Mart alone?!  That would be a dream come true!” 

Others might think, “Seriously?!  What’s your deal?”

A few of you get it because you know me and a few of you understand because you live or have lived with this reality.  Sometimes getting out of bed is a win and making it out the door is a victory.  Such is life for a person who lives very real battles with anxiety and depression and related issues. 

Now that I live a more open life, my absence has been noted, both here on this blog and in my personal and church life.  It started as a sinus infection, then a huge stress attack, and then a second, much worse sinus infection that affected by TMJ.  The stress set my usual anxiety spiraling out of control.  Being home recovering from the second sinus infection has turned anxiety into a major emotional/psychological l battle.  Like all things, it impacts my whole being and becomes a spiritual battle as well.  The enemy always preys on our weakest spots.

Since I was unable to attend church this week, I decided to watch a series of talks by Andy Stanley called, “The Comparison Trap.”  In the first talk, Andy said something I immediately wrote down, “When we speak out of our weakness, we never run out of things to say.”   So, when I write about my weakness, I always have good material to which God gets all the glory, for His strength and light radiate from my cracked, weak spots.

However, talking about my current struggles can be hard because well-intentioned people like to throw misinterpretations of Bible verses at me and tell me that my anxiety is a sin.  Worse are those who think I can just snap out of it.  While I can ask God to remove mental illness from life, I cannot make it go away.  Simply put, my brain is sick.  Neurons are misfiring.  Neurotransmitters have run amuck.  But I’m learning how to deal with it and through it all, my faith is growing because I must cling to God in my struggles.  He never lets go of me.

I used to think the true measure of faith was the absence of fear, but I was set straight during an interview with musician whose music is a breath of life to my weary soul.  He told me clinging to God, reading Scripture, writing in my journal—those are the very acts of faith that seeks God first.  If that’s all I can do, I am doing well.  Everything else is an act of grace for us and grace, in and of itself, is a gift of God’s good pleasure.  My pastor often prays, “Even if Jesus was all You gave us that is still more than we deserve.” (paraphrased)

Sometimes we sing, “Your grace is enough, Your grace is enough, Your grace is enough for me.”  It’s a great song, but do we, do I really believe that?  I mean, if Jesus was truly all God gave me, would that be enough for me?

I don’t know, but if it was all I had left I hope it would be enough.  As it is, today I was given an extra measure of grace—a chance to go to Wal-Mart, shop for a few items, and go home.  This, too, is an act of God’s grace and it is not small thing; it is God-reliance.  If I didn’t have the gift of anxiety/depression, I would be able to rely on myself, but I am forced to rely on God and He has given me a wonderful support system that provides me tangible help.   Mental illness isn’t the kind of gift I would wrap up and give a friend as a birthday present, but I am thankful for the chance to know God more and more through it. 

Tomorrow I will get up and fight this monster again.  Will I be victorious?  I sure hope so.  I do know that God will be with me either way.

Poetic Breathing

18 Nov

Trying to explain my anxiety (or depression) to others is a tall order.  Generally, my list of responses include: “Oh, we all get anxious!” (Uh-huh.) “I get nervous about going to the doctor, too.” (Is it a week-long obsession for you?) “Trust in the Lord!” (Who says I’m not?) “I totally understand!  One time in [insert year], I went through terrible anxiety.  Thankfully, the Lord delivered me from it [and He will deliver you, too.]” (Sometimes we all just carry around our own “thorns in the flesh.)

I know that most people want to relate to me and are only trying to encourage me.  I used to feel exactly the opposite—misunderstood and discouraged.  Then I met others who shared my struggle, who knew what it was truly like to lie in bed with a Bible as a way to chase away the demons, who understood that getting dressed and brushing my teeth is a major accomplishment some days, and who truly walked this path hand-in-hand with God.

Due to my recent health concerns, I’ve been feeling anxious.  While I am doing a much better job of seeking God in my trials, adrenalin still courses through my veins and my mind screams, “You’re not safe,” while my heart pounds in my ears.  So, the other day I wrote a poem about anxiety.  Sometimes a girl’s just gotta say it with poetry.

“The Panic Attack” by me

Right brain, left lobe

Bouncing to and fro

Never ceasing, never ending, never letting go

Nausea, adrenalin coursing through the veins

Breathe in, two-three

Out, three-four

Hold on, hold still, as the world spins

Heart pounding, hands shaking, sweat dripping

Breathe in, four-five

Out, five-six

Fighting, ripping, raging, screaming

Left brain, right lobe

Breathe in, breathe out

Fifteen minutes go by

Just keep counting

Just keep breathing

Just keep living

It will be over soon

In a reading of “The Panic Attack,” I will quicken my pace as I read to mimic how a panic attack grows and rages and then eventually ends (usually in fifteen minutes).  Unless I make a vlog, most of you will never see this reading, so you’ll just have to use your imagination.

“Breathe In, Breathe Out” one of the tracks on Jason Gray’s latest album, A Way to See in the Dark, says that we breathe the name of God.  And I even found a video of Jason explaining the song and playing it (by the way, this is almost exactly what Jason said at his concert.  He would probably also want me to tell you that he sounds perfect on his albums, so you should buy one.  If you can’t afford it, you will have a chance win an autographed copy here in the next couple of weeks!)

Let me tell you how, “Yah (1, 2, 3) Weh (1, 2, 3)” can really help during a panic attack; it’s gasping a prayer to the One who can truly provide peace. 

Do you suffering from anxiety or panic attacks?  If so, what silly things have well-meaning people said to you?  What does a panic attack feel like to you?  Do you like Jason Gray’s song?  How can breathing the name of God help you when you are anxiety-ridden?

Friday Faves: Dealing with Bummed-Outness Edition

9 Sep

Since I’m going to a Women of Faith conference (full story) this weekend, you’d think I’d be in a great mood.  I mean, what a great opportunity to commune with the people of God, right?  Absolutely!  And I feel the need for it now more than ever.  Looking for a church in the area is taking its toll on me.  So is the pressure of leading a weekly small group.  I’m giving out, but not filling up.   The rainy weather doesn’t help.  Even the local schools are closed due to flooding.  (Is it even safe to go out there?  Should I invest in a house boat?)  Really, I’m just plain ol’ bummed out.

I don’t know what to do for this depression (and anxiety) except to walk through it and know it, too, will pass.  I spend more time praying, thinking, talking to God and less time social networking, hanging out, and uh, showering.  Hopefully, the Women of Faith weekend will kick start my spirit.  Until then, here are some “faves” that help me get through the murky times.

*Bebo Norman is my go-to guy for hard times.  Whether I’m about to have a panic attack or cry my eyes out, I pop in a Bebo album and I feel immediate relief.  It reminds me of when David played his harp for King Saul when Saul was overcome with bouts of madness.  Bebo’s music is a gentle reminder that someone’s been in the depths, made it out, and that God is still very much present.  Lately, I’ve also listened to Jason Gray and Andrew Peterson, and of course, my old stand-bys–Rich Mullins and Fernando Ortega.  I used have specific playlists on my iPod for “sad times” and “mad times” and “happy times,” but they somehow got deleted.  Another song that resonates with me is “Hold My Heart” by Tenth Avenue North.  While I enjoy artists like Tenth Avenue North and Josh Wilson, when I’m down and out, their upbeat songs feel like salt rubbed into an raging wound.

*The Book of Psalms is an inspiration for many, and when nothing else makes sense, the psalms usually do.  I particularly love Psalms 42 and 46.  I also turn to the book of Hosea, which may sound like a strange choice, until you consider this passage from Hosea 3: 19-20,

“I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.
I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will acknowledge the LORD.”

As cliche as it sounds, the Bible is an amazing source of comfort in its prose, stories (Elijah, for one), and guidance.

*One day someone who is very dear to me gave me a copy of Henri Nouwen’s The Inner Voice of Love as a present.  She told me to read it, but not all at once, just bit by bit.  So I did, and still do.  In Nouwen’s most personal work, he shares his journal entries from a time when he underwent extreme hardship (some may call it a “nervous breakdown”).  At the urging of his friends, Nouwen published this book.  I rarely read an entry without bursting into tears. I also read Jesus Calling by Sarah Young (read review), which is great for use in small groups or for personal devotions.

*It may sound silly, but online games like Gnome Town and Words With Friends (both on Facebook) provide needed distraction.  I cannot always live in the pain, focus on the hurt, feel the depression, deal with the anxiety.  So, instead, I build a world of friendly forest creatures and get my butt kicked by high school kids who know more words than me.

*Since I’m a writer, it should come as no surprise that words at a healing balm to my soul.  In his song “The Cure for Pain,” Jon Foreman sings, “So blood is fire pulsing through our veins.  We’re either writers or fools behind the reigns.  I’ve spent ten years trying to sing it all away.  But the water keeps on falling from my tries.”  Like Foreman, I keep trying to write, not sing, it all away.  Still, I keep my journal close by and consider my notebooks full of scribbles among my most treasured possessions.  One of these days, I’m going to get a nice leather or mole skin journal (usually, I get them for 50% off at Barnes & Noble or as gifts from friends).

*Dogs, not diamonds, are a girl’s best friend.  Lonely days seem a little less lonely because of my two dogs–Cassie the Peekapoo (left) and Maddy the Shih Tzu (right).  They sense my mood and cuddle with me more often when I am down.  My bird, Kylie the Cockatiel, chirps praises to God when my spirit feels faint.  Animals are truly a gift from God.  And so are friends and family, who are willing to listen, even they don’t understand or don’t know what to do.

I’m not going to apologize for my less-than-chipper mood because it is my goal to be real, rather than entertaining.  Ideally, I like to be both, but real trumps entertaining.  Pray for me and I will pray for you!

How can I be praying for you right now?  What do you do when you feel bummed out?  Do you suffer from clinical depression and/or anxiety?  What kind of pets do you have?  Do you journal and/or blog to relieve your stress?

Imagine… A Women of Faith Weekend

8 Sep

On Friday morning, BFF Sarah and I will be heading to Philadelphia to attend the two-day Women of Faith weekend (WoF).  Thanks to BookSneeze, I received two free passes in exchange for telling y’all about my experience.  Sounds good to me!  Ah, the perks of being a blogger.

I’ve never been to a Women of Faith weekend, so I don’t really know what to expect.  According to the WoF website, outside food and drinks will be confiscated—does that mean I can’t shove a pack of Mentos into my purse?  Will I be forced to pay $4 for a small soda?  I know that Jesus is the living water, but will He be handing out Deer Park at the event?  Keeping us dehydrated could cut down on those infamously long lines at the women’s restroom I suppose.

Anyway, the theme of the weekend is “Imagine,” and I will, “be refreshed, encouraged and inspired. Because the God who loves you can do far more than you can ever Imagine.”  (Refreshed = free water, I’m sure of it.) Lately, I’ve been feeling parched, discouraged, and vacant.

I’m so thirsty for something more.  (More of God?  Definitely more than just slogging through the day.)

I don’t feel like I can make it through another minute.  My strength is failing me.  Not only do I need courage, but I need to be encouraged.

I have so many thoughts running through my head.  I want to do this and that, but I get so tired—I’m too tired to start, too depressed to even try. I ache for inspiration (and motivation).

And I think, I can’t go to Women of Faith this weekend.  I’m too weak, too depressed, too me.  My anxiety is kicking up at the thought of being closed into a stadium with thousands of women.  The thought of being touched or hugged by a stranger gives me knots in my stomach.  O, God, please don’t make me go.

His response? “I love you far more than you can ever imagine.”

I won’t let my fear control me.  I will bask in refreshment, encouragement, and inspiration.  I will let it fill me up and surround me like a warm bubble bath, and seep into my dry soul like aloe vera. 

Just let go of the fear and imagine…

(The video makes the Women of Faith weekend look pretty fun!)

Have you been to a Women of Faith weekend?  What was it like?  Think my Mentos are contraband?  Are you going to Philly this weekend for WoF or another stop on the Imagine tour?

Fat Dogs and Fat Women

31 Aug

My mom's "fat" dog, Katie.

Whenever people encounter my mom’s one dog, Katie, it seems they cannot help but comment on her weight.

“Wow, she’s a little butterball, isn’t she?”

“What a beautiful dog!  She’d be gorgeous if she lost a few pounds.”

“Your dog is fat!  Why is she so fat?” (That’s my favorite tactless statement.)

Sure, Katie is a bit tubby, but why do close friends and even perfect strangers mention it when they encounter her (and of course, my mom, since Katie doesn’t wander the streets alone)?  It just doesn’t seem to be good etiquette to comment on a new acquaintance’s fat dog.

My mom's "fat" daughter (me) . Yes, my family loves dogs.

Not only that, but for people like my mom and me, it drives our suspicions about our own struggles with weight deeper—that when people look at us all they see is a big ball of fat.  They don’t see a person with a name and a history and a personality and a love of books and the outdoors, just fat.  Each of the statements people make about Katie can easily be said to me.  In fact, they have been said to me.

“You have such a pretty face.  If you lose some weight, you would be beautiful.”  (Because apparently I can only date the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man right now.  I mean, he doesn’t seem to be much for conversation, but I guess he’ll do.)

“Do you really need two cookies?”  (No, I don’t.  But I had a bad day and I’m cramming the extra cookie down my throat to make myself feel better.)

“Lose weight and you’ll find a husband. (Uhhh…who says I want a husband?  Maybe that’s just not part of God’s plan for me.  I am painfully aware of how many guys view fat chicks, especially those who sport “No Fat Chicks” t-shirts.  I am told that confidence is sexy to guys, but haven’t actually found that to be the case.)

And I know people are just dying to say, “You’re fat!  Why are you so fat?”  I don’t know!  Because I ate two cookies?  Because I don’t exercise enough?  Because I’ve only been able to effectively lose weight by eating grass (it was salad, but it tasted like grass) and chicken noodle soup?

I know I need to lose weight, not so I can nab a husband, but so I can feel better and be healthier person.  But I do not need to be reminded of the fact I need to lose weight by well-meaning friends and family members.  It’s not like I woke up one morning and “forgot” I’m fat.  I am aware of it all the time—when I don’t sit on flimsy lawn furniture for fear my girth will break it, when a store doesn’t have clothes in my size, when I look in the mirror (or avoid looking in the mirror), when I don’t pretend it bothers me.  Believe me, I know better than anyone that I’m fat.

Then why don’t you do something about it?  (Another fun question.)

It takes time, lots of time.  It took a lifetime to get like this, but it won’t take a lifetime to undo it.  There are physiological, psychological, physical, mental, and personal issues at play.  Sadly, eating salad and exercising isn’t as easy as it sounds due to financial limitations (healthy foods cost more), emotional issues (food is comforting), mental health issues (depression and anxiety suck the energy right out of you.  Plus, my fear of open spaces and crowds doesn’t help at all), and medical issues (my medications make it hard to lose weight.)

But I know this woman/man/horse/what who (fill in the blank with weight loss tip) and lost 80-100 pounds!

Everyone knows someone who lost a massive amount of weight and that’s great for that person.  I am not getting weight loss surgery (as it could *kill* me), trying a fad diet, joining Weight Watchers (can’t afford it), signing up for Jenny Craig (can’t afford it and their commercials are incredibly annoying.  Their commercials alone make me want to stay fat.  Sometimes people who have successfully lose weight are most annoying) or Curves (can’t afford that either). 

I am going to do this thing my own way—slowly as I learn to enjoy food, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle.   I am not going to trade one problem for another.  I am going to trust my therapist and my doctor to treat my eating disorder, those close to me (who someone don’t even see my fat), and my God to make it through.

So, instead of focusing on whether or not I take one or two cookies, how my fat has ruined my chances at love, and why I’m fat, maybe you should take a look at that plank of condemnation in your own eye.  Hear that rattle?  The skeletons in your closet are calling.  You just don’t wear them on your physique for all to see and judge.

And while you’re at it, stop calling my mom’s dog “fat”!  Animals don’t like it either.

(Note:  All thoughtless remarks, insulting comments, and diet tips will be deleted.  Remember, I am Backseat Writer’s benevolent dictator.)

What is something you wish you could hide? (It doesn’t have to be physical.)  What thoughtless remarks are repeated to you by people “just trying to help”? (And how are you dying to respond?)  Do you think my mom’s dog is *that* fat? (I think she’s cute. By the way, I groomed her myself.)  Do you have a fat pet?  Do people comment on your fat pet?

Listening to Bebo Norman

10 Aug

Photo by Beckham Photography (pulled from BeboNorman.com)


I’ve been listening to a lot of Bebo Norman lately.   Even though I have piles of new (and wonderful) music to digest, review, and prep for interviews, I continue to listen to my old stand-by Bebo Norman.  When I don’t know what else to do and everything seems all mixed-up in my heart and mind, Bebo’s music is like salve for my wounded spirit.  Something about his music—the chords, the melody, the lyrics—bring peace in madness.  Lately, Between the Dreaming and the Coming True has been a companion in the melancholy.

The first track, “Into the Day” has been particularly inspiring—sometimes bringing tears and other times giving me the strength to make it through the day (or at least brush my teeth.)  This lyric is particularly striking: “The ache of life is more than you are able.  Hold on, love, don’t give up.  Don’t close your eyes.  The light is breaking through the night.”

If you’ve been reading Backseat Writer for a while, you know that Bebo Norman is my favorite musician in the whole wide world!  That’s a pretty important title when you consider the sheer amount of music I enjoy!  The first time I interviewed Bebo Norman by phone I was trembling and sweaty.  The phone rang and I could barely answer it.  It was Bebo.  I was terrified.

Normally, I handle interviews with a little more flair than that.  But this was Bebo Norman—someone whose music has been vastly important in my life.  Knowing that Bebo also suffers from anxiety disorder, I knew I could confide in him.  The result was a beautiful, encouraging conversation.  No longer were we journalist and musician, but two people talking about our experiences living with the horrors of anxiety.  That interview not only produced a wonderful article (read “Bebo Norman: From the Ruins”), but has helped me tremendously in my own walk as a woman living with mental illness.

The next time I interviewed Bebo I told him what that first interview meant to me.  We talked about his latest album (which happens to be his latest album, OceanYou can read that interview, too.) and again, Bebo encouraged me.  He was present in the interview (some artists zone out, go off on tangents, or give pat answers) and it felt like a real conversation.  I appreciate that about Bebo.

We’re not friends—Bebo and me.  Sometimes I say things to him or about him on Twitter, and every once in a while he responds.  I doubt he would know me or my name without a bit of coaching, not because he’s a jerk; it’s just the nature of being a well-known musician who is interviewed by a lot of people.  However, when I do jog his memory, he knows exactly who I am.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if Bebo Norman knows my name or remembers my story.  What matters is that his music leads me to God, when I can’t find my way in the darkness of life.  It matters that during our interactions, he is been kind, gracious, and humble (I think he’s an introvert by nature).  It matters that Bebo Norman has shown himself to be a man of God, through his actions and through his music.  It matters that Bebo’s songs are personal, transparent, and lovely.

Most of all, it matters that when I am struggling with the ache of life, when it seems more than I am able, I can listen to Bebo Norman’s music over and over again.  And somehow in the mix of words and melody, I find God and I find peace.

Is there a musician or band that helps you find God when you feel alone?  Have you had the chance to meet or personally thank the artist?  What did you say? (Or what would you say if you had the chance?)

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