New Poem

River

Here I am on the shore
Feeling pain deep in my core
The questions bounce around
As I sit here on the ground
My innards feel like thunder
I cannot help but wonder
The mysteries abound
Answers? I hear no sound
It makes no sense at all
Will it be like this come fall?
Seeing shades of green
I’m really not that keen
Though nature I do love
There’s a weight from above
It’s pressing down on me
So very heavily
I want to let it go
It sticks like messy dough
Will it really get better?
Or will I turn bitter?
The pain is rooted deep
Out of my shell it peeps
It rears its ugly head
Makes me crave my dark bed
I throw a little fit
People say they get it
They say they understand
This ain’t the life I planned
Do you see this pain?
No. But you’re not to blame
Everyone stares at me
What’s wrong they cannot see
I’m on the shore alone
Next to a dried out pine cone
Feeling just as lost
To the side I’ve been tossed
Both listless and confused
This is life? I mused
But forward I pressed on
Waiting for light at dawn
I haven’t seen it yet
But still I look, so don’t fret

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Working Out

Depression tells me that I don’t want to.

Social anxiety tells me that everyone will think I am a horrible human.

Generalized anxiety tells me something awful is going to happen if I do.

Good thing I’m more than MDD, SAD, and GAD.

If you get rid of all of those things, I like working out. (Yeah, I know, I’m weird.) However, sometimes, I just don’t have the energy to overcome all those things and then exercise too. It also doesn’t help that I am always tired. Tired as in completely exhausted all the time. And, not just super tired, usually sleepy too. Unless it’s a good day, I can only drive for about 20-25 minutes before I start to feel unsafe and have to chug coffee, or munch, or pull over, etc. to keep going. So, working out isn’t as easy as I would like it to be…

Workout 1Nonetheless, a couple years ago, with the accountability of a friend in another state and her online group, I started working out. We all did video workouts from our homes/dorm rooms, and each day we had to post a sweaty selfie (I hated that) as part of checking in and following through on our commitment. For about two years I worked out consistently. I think my average was about 5x/week, but there were times it was only 3 and others that it was 7. Unfortunately, last August when I had mono, working out went from difficult to impossible. I started the semester not working out, and about 10ish weeks later when I felt enough better that I could have worked out, I wasn’t about to try and change my routine. Spring semester was the roughest semester of my life, and I was barely getting by. Maybe working out would have helped, maybe it wouldn’t have. Either way, I didn’t have it in me physically or emotionally. In May, the school year ended, and just like that, my two year habit of working out was nine months gone. I wanted to start again, but it took me a while…

Workout 2Back in high school, I talked my parents into getting a treadmill, and pretty much every time I visit them, I go out to the barn and use it. After my most recent trip to their place (this past week), I decided it was time to carry the workouts back to my college town with me.

Workout 4In May, I had coffee with a friend who told me that there’s a pool plus fitness center in town that our university has a connection with. Our student ID gets us access for no additional cost. Yesterday, I texted this friend and asked if she would be willing to show me the place some time, and she was available less than an hour later. We met there and looked around, and then this morning, we went and worked out together. There’s lots that I can’t do because of my wrist, but there’s lots that I can do too. The next seven weeks before Fall semester starts gives me time to get back into the habit of exercising, and I can do so without the same time crunch as during the school year.

This morning I was for sure anxious, but not paralyzingly so. Being with a friend definitely helped, and remembering that I like working out helped too. I know that this is and will continue to be an uphill battle, but it’s one that I think is worth fighting.

Depression told me that I didn’t want to. I told it that it was wrong and that I did want to.

Social anxiety told me that everyone would think I am a horrible human. I told it that some of the other people probably wouldn’t even notice me and the ones who did were very unlikely to actually think that.

Generalized anxiety told me something awful was going to happen. I told it that was what’s known as catastrophizing and confusing possible with likely and that I was going anyway.

Letting Go

“I don’t know how much longer I can hold on.”

“Maybe you need to let go.”

I try so hard. I cling tightly thinking my life depends on it. I fight relentlessly to hold on.

monkey-bars.jpg

As I was thinking about letting go, monkey bars came to mind. I was thinking about how, especially as a little kid, you just want to cling to that first bar, and it’s scary to take your feet off the ladder. Eventually you do, but then you’re hanging there, and the fear isn’t gone. If you’re like me, you probably put your feet back on the ladder about ten million times. However, if you want to make it to the other end, you’re going to have to let go of that first rung. First with one hand, and then with the other. Doing monkey bars is a series of letting go. Holding on tighter won’t get you anywhere. If you let go, you can make progress.

I can’t say as I really know how to let go, but I think I’m finally starting to see the importance of it. As I’m journeying through life, instead of trying so hard to hold on, I need to let go.

What comes to mind when you hear “let go?” How do you let go in your life?

I think that sometimes the reason I’m afraid to let go is that I think I’ll go plummetting to the ground if I do. But, like a little kid just learning to do the monkey bars, I’m not alone. As a kid’s legs are held tightly by a parent, big sibling, or babysitter who holds them up and supports their weight so that they can let go and safely move their hand to the next rung, so too am I being held. God is holding me. He enables me to go from one rung to the next, even though I don’t have the muscle strength to do it on my own. I can let go because He won’t.

 

The Silliest Little Things

These things aren’t actually silly to me—they’re scary, terrifying, ridiculously anxiety inducing—but to some people, they probably are silly, which makes them worse for me. I don’t want to be afraid.

I’ve been described by others as tough, courageous, strong, tenacious, brave, resilient, gritty, etc., but mostly what I see is fear. Fear is the word I use. Fear is the word I feel. Fear is the cloak that I can’t seem to take off. I was always afraid to use the word “anxious,” and though I’ve gotten better at it (one of my therapists sorta made me say it), I still lean more toward saying something along the lines of “I’m scared,” “I’m nervous,” I’m unsure.”

A few normal people activities that I struggle with due to fairly intense anxiety…

Going through drive-thrus:

You’re aware that this is a typical human activity in western nations that many people do regularly without a second thought. But for you, for you it skyrockets your heart rate to more than double and puts you on edge. When you were little, your family went through them occasionally, but even as a young child, you got anxious before and during.

Shortly before you turned 17, you had two friends you wanted to spend the afternoon riding horses with. So, you went and picked them up because they couldn’t drive yet. They hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast and really wanted to get food before riding. So, you took them to DQ. You survived, and nothing bad happened, but it was about 6 years before you drove through one again.

You won a Dutch Bros gift card, and there’s a Dutch Bros not far from campus. You’re a big fan of coffee, and there’s no way the gift card is going to waste, so you face your fear. You force yourself to go, and to go again, and again. But, you only ever order the exact same, one-word thing. It took close to a year (and multiple months of therapy) before you braved ordering something different.

Getting gas for your car:

Yep, that’s scary. When I first learned to drive it wasn’t that bad, and I was okay with it until my first year at my college. Why? Because in my home state, we pump our own gas, but the state that my school is in doesn’t let you. You have to talk to a person, and tell them what you want, and wait for them to do stuff, and are you even allowed to get out of your car to wash your windows? What will they think of you? Will you drop the squeegee? What if you say the wrong thing, walk the wrong place at the wrong time, finish at an awkward time? Dear state that my university’s in, why can’t I pump my own gas???

Anyway, your first semester there, you lived on campus and went to a grocery store about 3 or 4 times for extra produce (you were required to have a meal plan). Those trips didn’t use too much fuel, and at Christmas break, you had enough left in the tank to get across the state border before having to fill up. Second semester you promised yourself that no matter what, you were going to go to church. You did a bunch of research during break and chose one to try the first week back and have been going there ever since. You had to fill your tank twice that semester (I guess the good thing about being in a city is things are close by?), and before the first time, you called your dad shaking and asked him what you’re supposed to say to the person when you pull up to the pump.

Now, after two years of living off campus, you’ve gotten fuel in this terrifying way plenty of times, and while you still don’t like it, it isn’t as bad as it was. (However, I bought a squeegee before I moved here, and there is absolutely no way I clean my windows at the gas station.)

Washing laundry:

About four weeks ago I moved, and I now live in an apartment above a family’s garage. My washer and dryer are in the garage, so when I have clothes to wash, I take them down the stairs to the machines. I was/am so terrified of doing laundry. Not actually of doing it, but of being in the garage. What if one of them gets home from work, or comes out of the house to go somewhere, or just steps into the garage to get something?

If you don’t live with social anxiety, this probably seems ridiculous. (It seems ridiculous to me too, but it’s currently my reality.) So what if they are coming or going as you start the machine?! Say hello and move on. But, for me, I was so anxious and fearful that I waited two entire weeks from the time I had a full load of dirty clothes to when I washed them.

And so much more…

Going to a building I’ve never been to. Parking in a parking lot I haven’t parked in. Walking somewhere I’ve never walked. Mowing my lawn when the neighbors are home. Making phone calls. Checking out at the grocery store. Eating at a restaurant—especially one where you have to sit down at a table and order your food and then eat it with strangers around and then pay at the end instead of the beginning, and do they come to your table or do you go to the front, and agggghh! The list goes on and on. Why am I like this?

Malaysia Food Court

If you’re thinking that this doesn’t look like a typical restaurant in the United States, you’d be correct. It’s a food court in a country where I spent five weeks a couple years ago. Nonetheless, I think it’s a reasonable depiction of what eating at pretty much any restaurant seems like to me.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s true that life can be different than this. It’s sorta strange to me that there are people who aren’t constantly on edge and frequently scared of doing “normal” things. It’d be totally beyond okay with me if one day I’m one of those people…

Counseling, Homework, Faith

Going to counseling/therapy/whatever-you-want-to-call-it is daunting. It’s anxiety inducing, and it leads to a lot of shame for many of us. It brings up a good number of should statements that we know we’re not supposed to think, but they’re there anyway. For those who don’t know, let me just tell you, it’s a whole lot of work. So much work. Therapy is hard. But, if you find a counselor that’s a good fit, it’s worthwhile too.

I’ve seen a couple different counselors on my college campus, but that’s not an option during the summers. In March, the brilliant and intimidating professor who I’ve mentioned a couple times before told me, “You need to do some serious therapy this summer.” Um, thanks. That’s not at all hard to hear… Also in March, my therapist at the time told me, “I really think it would be a good idea for you to go to counseling over the summer,” and she brought it up again in April. Alright guys, I get the idea. But, it’s a lot easier said than done…

Although it doesn’t seem like we’re already six weeks into summer, it feels like much longer than that since I last saw my on-campus therapist during finals week. We had discussed some possibilities for the summer, and she gave me a list of places with phone numbers. There seems to be a lot of waiting in my life lately, but finally, this past Friday, I started counseling again.

At the end of our session, my therapist asked, “Can I give you homework?” to which I replied “yeah.” She said, “You have this core belief that ‘I’m not good enough.’ I want you to ponder what that’s about. Where it’s coming from. How it shows up in your life. And include evidence for and against it.”

It’s some hefty homework! I’m only just getting started with it, but one of my first thoughts was that it’s not specifically “I’m not good enough.” It might be more accurate to say “I’m not enough.”

  • I’m not smart enough
  • I’m not tall enough
  • I’m not thin enough
  • I’m not pretty enough
  • I’m not fast enough
  • I’m not confident enough
  • I’m not loud enough
  • I’m not quiet enough
  • I’m not excited enough
  • I’m not calm enough
  • I’m not stylish enough
  • I’m not flexible enough

This is a hard life to live, and changing it is no small feat.

From a human perspective, I’m constantly failing to meet expectations. I just can’t measure up. I’m always falling short. I’m making mistakes and trying harder. And I’m scared, and empty, and wanting to hide and disappear through floors. I’m not enough, and I don’t want to be seen. If I’m not perfect, then I have no value. If I don’t prove it, I have no worth.

Add Jesus to the picture. I still can’t measure up. I still fall short. I still make mistakes. But, the solution is no longer trying harder (which doesn’t seem to work anyway). I don’t have to prove my worth—because God proved that I have worth. I will never be perfect on this earth—but Jesus was perfect in my place. I know this intellectually. I believe it. And yet, I find myself struggling to live in His love.

It baffles me that He would take delight in me and rejoice over me with singing, and yet, the Bible says that He does.

Zeph 3-17

It’s okay that I’m not (fill in the blank) enough. God’s love and grace make me enough. And yet still I wrestle. Still, I can’t seem to figure out how to live loved. How to be okay with who I am. How to like myself. Still, I try to prove that I have value—perhaps not only to others but to myself as well.

I’m a long way from having an answer for my therapist, but she sure got my wheels turning.

A Day with Social Anxiety

What if ____?

Why even ____?

Is ____ worth it?

I’m not going super in depth with some of the thoughts and emotions from this day—partially because they’re hard to effectively describe, and partially because I don’t want to think about them right now, but here’s a little sneak peak into what a day sometimes is like.

It’s often better to only have one major event at a time because that means recovery time is shorter. But, sometimes multiple big things land on the same day. And it’s not that they’re bad things—sometimes they’re really good things—but they’d sure be better without anxiety tagging along…

For me, Sunday was quite a day. I try to keep my bedtime fairly consistent, but sometimes I stay up a little late because if I’m extra tired, there’s an increased chance of sleeping okay-ishly. So, Saturday night I went to bed at 11pm. Close to midnight, I finally fell asleep, only to awaken too many times to count. At 5, I was awake for quite a while but then drifted off. At 6, I just couldn’t get back to sleep, but I knew I wouldn’t make it through the day on that little, so I tried moving to my couch and got another 45 minutes before the day began.

There comes a point where you’re so anxious, so much that you literally can’t worry about everything; I didn’t think I was that anxious about Sunday when I was trying to sleep, but maybe that’s why I slept so poorly. However, sleep and I aren’t tight the way I wish we were… I’ve tried and tried to improve our relationship, but sleep just doesn’t seem interested in being friends, so maybe it was unrelated.

I left for church at 8am, and 28 miles later, I arrived. I don’t usually go to a church that far away, but this Sunday I did. On the 45 minute drive, I mostly was able to focus on the roads and the music I had playing, but of course, there were some anxious thoughts that I had to shoo away like a fly—and like a fly, they kept coming back.

I had been there once before, so it wasn’t a completely new place, but much of the new place anxiety was still present. Pretty much the instant I sat down in the pew, I could feel how tense my muscles were. It’s been a couple days, and I can still feel the soreness that resulted from it.

Social AnxietyI smiled and chatted with a few people before service started and also during the greeting time, and as far as I know, I didn’t leak much. Afterwards, there was a potluck, and I wasn’t sure what to do during the getting-things-ready time. I would have liked to be doing something, setting up tables, placing chairs, getting food out, etc., but 1) I didn’t really know what was going on and 2) I figured I would get scolded because my wrist brace provides visual evidence that something ain’t right. So, I anxiously stood by a wall. And then a pleasant older gentleman came and started talking to me. We chatted about this, that, and the other, and he told me I have a beautiful personality, which was surprising but helpful to hear.

When I got home, I got to talk to sibling number four on the phone for half an hour. Then, I played my guitar and sang worship songs for a while. After that, I cooked up some chicken two ways and worked on meal prep for the week. As I was doing that, my mind was running seven hundred miles an hour. There was some over-analyzing of the morning, but I was mostly thinking about the evening.

I have a friend who helps take care of her grandparents. She’s away for the summer, and the family needs a little extra help. Last week, the grandma called me and asked what my schedule looked like Sunday and if I might be able to take them to dinner. I said yes.

Brand new place? Check

Multiple new people? Check

Things I’ve never done? Check

Why did I think this was a good idea? What if they don’t want me? What if they don’t like me? What if I am supposed to call beforehand? What if there’s something I was supposed to do in preparation but didn’t? What if I totally mess up?

Self pep talk: Tina, this isn’t about you. They sound like great people, and it probably won’t be that much. Your friend wouldn’t have recommended you if she didn’t think you could do it, and besides, it’s just a couple hours. Do it for your friend.

The couple is in their 90’s and has been married 71 years. Grandpa has dementia, and grandma is blind, but they’re doing pretty well. They are an amazing couple and lovely people. They had a conversation and decided they would like to go somewhere to eat dinner rather than having me go pick something up and bring it back to them, so I got to drive to another place I’ve never been in another city I’ve never been to. Despite being blind, grandma told me step by step how to get there, and we arrived with no missed turns or scenic routes. It’s impossible to explain, but there’s something incredibly humbling about being given directions by someone who can’t see. I could see what was around us, but she knew where we were and where to go.

Two hours later, dinner was finished, and we returned to their home. The weather was pleasant, and some evening exercise was in order, so with my left arm as her support and her husband trailing behind with his walker, we made five trips up and down the driveway. Just as we were finishing, the daughter who lives next door and is the primary caregiver got home and came over to meet me. The four of us did crosswords for a bit and then it was time to help them get ready for bed.

FearAll throughout, I was anxious. Driving new roads. Ordering food. Fetching little things many times. Making our way back to the car. Walking the driveway. I was illogically scared, but I enjoyed the time too. They’re super sweet and easy-going. We laughed lots, and helping people is something I love. It was simultaneously terrible and wonderful.

I finally got home about ten, but I was so on edge and tense that despite being wiped out, I wasn’t sure I could sleep. I spent about an hour and a half winding down, and then I crashed into bed. I fell asleep in less than 15 minutes and only woke up a couple times in the next 9 hours. Then, another day was upon me, and I needed my tuckered out brain for an online class. But, I went at it a little more gently and took plenty of breaks throughout the day—because sometimes, “it’s not about leaning in harder, it’s about trying softer” (Aundi Kolber).

but God

Do you ever have times where the same topic or same Bible verse comes up from multiple places within a short span of time? I’ve had a couple of those verses lately. One of them is this verse:

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26

My flesh, my physical body, is failing in many ways. I’m pretty certain that no one, as a little kid, thinks, ya know, when I’m in my 20’s, I want to have a multitude of health issues and see four different doctors and a physician’s assistant in less than a month and still not know what’s going on or how to get better. I know it certainly wasn’t ever part of my hopes, dreams, or aspirations.

Pulse-ox

SpO2: 99% HR: 122

Also, my physical heart has concerned me slightly the last couple months (thanks to medication side effects). My resting heart rate is usually around 60 bpm, maybe up to 70. Since trying a tricyclic antidepressant, it’s rarely dropped below 80 the last 2 1/2 months—often being 90-100 when I’m laying down, around 110-130 when I’m sitting at my desk, and 150-160 when standing. I definitely can feel the difference, and it’s not pleasant. I’ve also had palpitations here and there, which is just great. *Quick note for those who don’t know me personally: I never use sarcasm 😉

So, yeah, flesh = not happy and heart = not happy.

But, those things made me pay a little more attention to this verse.

I have definitely had moments of feeling angry, and like it’s not fair, and that it’s not supposed to be like this. Yet, I’ve also had moments of seeing this as an opportunity to grow as a person and to be a better student nurse and better future registered nurse because of it. I still have two years of nursing school left, but I can confidently say, there are things you don’t learn in class. There’s stuff the textbooks don’t cover. There are things patients experience, questions they ask, others they’re too afraid to ask, feelings they feel, etc. that I can relate to—not because a professor lectured on it or I read about it in a textbook—but because I’ve been in their shoes, or their chair anyway…

It may be hard to be a healthcare provider, but it’s a lot harder to receive care. Being a patient is difficult. Especially when you’re young and think that you’re supposed to be healthy, and when the most common words you get told by the people who are supposed to have answers is “I don’t know.”

So, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” There’s all sorts of failing in my life. However, God is the strength of my heart—and not just the physical one. He’s my portion—not just for the summer, not just for nursing school, not just for five years—forever. My circumstances change and get messed up, and people let me down. But God.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with my health. It might get better, it might get worse, it might not change. Life is scary, but no matter what happens, I know that God is still God, and I know that He’s not going to change. In addition to Psalm 73:26, Job 19:25 has come up three or four different places recently.

May 17

This verse is comforting to me.

Around a year and a half ago, one of my professors told me about these videos on YouTube called Facing the Canon. I’ve only made time to listen to a dozen or so of them, but I find them to be challenging (in a good way) and uplifting. Every one that I’ve listened to has fed my faith.