Mental Health

Playing Tag with Change

I used to chase change.
Did we all?
But life teaches us. Life teaches us wrong. To run from change.

I’m trying to chase change again. Like a great game of tag, this back and forth. “Tag, you’re it.” I catch change and then I run, til it catches me and I decide to chase it again.

I want to grab change and hold tight and shake it and tell it what’s what, mainly that we’re meant to be together and it’s supposed to be beautiful and, like any lover, we may hurt each other, but it’d be okay because we’re destined for each other like any love story.

“I’m still figuring this out.”

“What, playing the field?”

“No.” What love is. Throwing out the rules. Clinging to the values.

I’m figuring it out. Leaving a pile of mistakes in my wake. Isn’t life about figuring it out, not just brainwashing yourself? Transforming instead of conforming.

It’s around this time of year that one line from The Great Gatsby rings in my head over and over.

“I almost forgot. Today’s my birthday.”

Only I haven’t forgotten, but I wonder if everyone else has.

That inner child wants to run around and tell everyone and be celebrated on this particular day. But then you grow up. And it doesn’t work that way. You celebrate, but it’s a ritual and it’s rarely as special as your inner child hoped.

“I haven’t had a happy birthday for years.” That’s what a friend said. And I thought it was tragic. But with each passing year, the celebration rests more on my own shoulders and less on others’.

This year, I tell myself again and again, “You can’t give in. You are special every day of every year. You are loved every day of every year.” That inner child is screaming to be noticed on my birthday, and not just by 600 facebook notifications.

This isn’t about the celebration or the adoration though….it’s about the inner child screaming. It’s about not letting it shut up.

It’s about hope, that thing that the inner child clings to and adults try to deny.

We’re so scared of being hurt. I’m so scared of being hurt. We’re born addicted to hope and change until life lies to us. And that’s why I’m trying to chase change again.

“Tag, you’re it.”

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Mental Health

The Sanctity of Carpet Stains

My tears have stained the carpet.

I first noticed them right after, as I stepped on the dampness while on my way to a kleenex.

Now I step gingerly around them as I skirt through the hall, I scoop the popcorn kernels that shoot from the stove to be seasoned by the salty carpet, I kneel to that location and collect my tears there instead of a bottle. I can’t trample them; it’s too vulgar, it dishonors the sanctity of that moment, of what happened.

No one else can see the tears, but they haunt my hall in glaring reminder of the day I lost myself. Or found myself and lost my god. I’m still unsure.

It’s funny how when someone questions their entire belief system, the safest place to go with the questions isn’t the church or the christians or the religious. It’s the skeptics, the open-minded, the sinners. They can take the uncertainty and confusion, the very things that scare the church into answers, so many answers; of ignoring the big bad emotions, and acting from faith and trust, or being a false convert or backslidden or at best spiritually immature.

And I’m still bleeding where you cut me, but I’ve already forgiven you.

Did everyone see this coming?

The “I told you so”s scream so loud, and I just want to scream over them, “No, this is me, I’ve always been here, why couldn’t you see, please see…”

Why does authenticity sometimes mean being wrong? How does character sometimes mean lying?

I wonder how many times God will listen to the prayer “Don’t give up on me!” before He thinks this is ridiculous and that prayer can’t be my continuous failsafe for a life of doubt.

I like to think, to hope, that God draws closer in these moments than the moments of blind faith. I’m sure that’s the politically correct answer, but it’s all I can hold on to right now. That somehow those tears absorbed into the carpet can still be scooped into His bottle to one day have Him pull them out and reminisce about all the doubts and fears and how He was there through it all, orchestrating everything surrounding my fumbling faith.

And I’ve stopped bleeding, but I just can’t forgive you.

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Mental Health, My Creative Projects, Showcasing other Creatives

What Doesn’t Kill You, Makes You

The past few weeks, my friend Maggie and I have collected responses through social media of what hurtful words made you who you are today. We loved the feedback, and hope to get even more on our next collaborative project. See all of the responses here, and check out Maggie’s blog for some DNA word art she created from this project. Like my Facebook page or Follow me on Twitter to get in on submissions next time around 🙂

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“You’ll never amount to anything.”

“I’ll never be against you.”

“There’s no cure.”

“Live on your own to make sure you can do it. Just in case.”

“You won’t regret it, I promise.”

“I doubt anything will change my mind at this point. Only someone better before you.”

“We have nothing.”

Someone told me once to stop just thinking of myself and think about others and how they feel for a change. It hurt but made me realize that I need to spend more time doing things that will help and serve other people.

“I’m done trying to convince you that I care.”

“You gotta try more from the salad bar. Get more experience. How do you know what you like until you try it?”

PUSH Pray Until Something Happens

“You are worth waiting forever for. I’m saying I won’t wait forever.”

“Get your foot in the door.”

“Your intent wasn’t to build up, it was to cut down.”

“I don’t do what you’re doing, because it’s of the devil.”

“You need to not be so sensitive.”

“There’s no thing that can be taken as a reason why we’d be together.”

“Be an active listener. It matters when you make eye contact and pay attention.”

“You’re always crying – do you need to see a doctor?”

 

 

 

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Faith, Mental Health, Musings

Karitos Retreat 2015

 

“Hey! How do you get out of here?”

 

“We don’t. We’re trapped,” I wanted to say.

 
 
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I never intended to write this blogpost. The title, yes; the content, no. Karitos 2015 was supposed to be a lovely artistic post about all the techniques and spiritual life applications from a gathering of creatives. It wasn’t supposed to be this mess.

But Karitos 2015 wasn’t a conference, it was a retreat. The classes were designed to delve into the creative’s mind and heart, not their skills and art. So unplanned by me, I was faced head-on with my anxiety, that thing that I shouldn’t blog about again so soon because I’d just finished telling everyone about it.

 
 

I sat outside the writing room, curled up, begging no one to notice. Hoping that the class had fallen for it when I picked up my phone and ran out, as if I had a call though there was no ringing. And I breathed and cried and hoped to God this wasn’t who I am. Then the girl came up – limping along in an uncertain scurry as if something was chasing her. I’m a mess, but she doesn’t seem too great either. Desperate. I saw it in her eyes. She asked how to exit the building – “How do you get out of here?” – and I told her to turn left and then right. What I wanted to say is “There’s no escape.” That’s what it feels like, and I wonder if she felt it too.

 
 

“You cannot manage a life of lies.” — Matt Tommey, #Karitos2015

 
 

It struck me. I know. I know that all this pent-up anxiety and fear and panic, it’s lies I somehow believed at the core, that somehow own me at the most inopportune times. And I knew that managing, what I’d been doing for years, wasn’t enough. I would fight this.

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But a fight doesn’t look pretty. A fight doesn’t mean as soon as I know the answer it’s all over. And I think that’s what the Christian world pretends, that enlisting in the fight means it’s all perfectly won that instant. Physical illnesses the church can understand if someone believes in healing but isn’t healed. But mental illness and the like, somehow the problem is that the person hasn’t been preached to enough.

 
 
 

In the few short weeks I’ve had a problem large enough to be on medication, to speak out about it, consult others, I’ve been told so many things I never need to hear.

 
 

“It’s just fear and lies. Let go of the lie and embrace the truth.”

I hear:

“You’re wrong, you’re believing so many wrong things, and if you just believed right like me, you’d be okay.”

 
 

“Be glad you can deal with this now before you’re married with kids. That adds so much more difficulty to bring that into marriage.”

I hear:

“You’re not whole enough for marriage yet, you’re not enough for someone else to take your problems.”

 
 
 

“Take your focus off yourself and praise Jesus. The devil can’t stand praise and will leave.”

I hear:

“You’re so self-centered with your anxiety, unlike us who are able to focus on God just fine.”

 
 
 

Those with anxiety don’t need a sermon, an answer. We have that bottled up within us, terrified to face it yet seeing it every. single. day. When my emotions are in a panic, my thoughts are overrun with dread, and my body experiences chest pain or twitching, the anxiety has taken my mind, emotion, and body, and in that state what more to a person is there? The anxiety is me, it’s all me, is what I believe. And all the while as I scream at myself “BE REASONABLE, AMY” nothing changes. Though it seems controllable, I have no control. Though it seems like it’s all my own doing, I can’t do anything but let it pass. I’m a prisoner to it. I’m fighting, but it’s not me. It’s not me. And that’s what I remind myself every. single. day.
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And if anyone feels this way, I just want to take a moment to say what I most need to hear: You’re strong! I see that. That the victory is slow does not mean it’s any less. I hope healing and freedom is instantaneous for you, but if it is not, know this: That you get back up every time to fight, you. are. strong. Keep going. And I’m with you in it.

 
 
 
 

You Are Strong

 
 

I won the battle at Karitos 2015. My unexpected panic attack where things should have been safe, it made me stronger. I’d like to say I won everything, but I’m still getting there. I opened up. I pressed forward. And I will keep on going.

 
 
 

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Mental Health

Re-Learning to Breathe

You’d think it’d be easy. I mean, everyone does it, needs it to live. It comes naturally from birth. How could I forget?

*Breathe In the Gold*

*Blow Out the Black*

  “The problem is, Amy, we think it’s normal because we grew up with it all around us. But it’s not.” That’s what my sister said when I called her up a couple weeks ago. That’s what I’ve reminded myself over and over since then. It’s not normal. But I can be.

  *Breathe In the Gold*

*Blow Out the Black*

  Managing was no longer enough. Going to the same gas station or Dunkin Donuts or Family Video. Having my anchors, my people I cling to in social situations if I branch out. Having “do nothing” days and saying “no” more than was socially acceptable. It wasn’t working anymore.

*Breathe In the Gold*

*Blow Out the Black*

  I was forgetting how to breathe. How to be what should just come so naturally to me. How to live. I was a zombie walking through life looking for something to sustain me ’til the next fix, but it never came.

*Breathe In the Gold*

*Blow Out the Black*

  What do you think bravery is? Keeping on doing the same thing, hoping circumstances will change or you will change or life will change? Stubbornly refusing to admit your need for something more drastic? I hope who I am is brave. What I’ve done is brave. Every step forward makes me wonder if I’m running, but I only hope it’s the right direction.

*Breathe In the Gold*

*Blow Out the Black*

  I’m trying to reconcile this all now. That God is my healer, but I’m not well. That God is my peace, but prayer and tears and crying out did not help me breathe. That God is compassionate, and I as a Christ-follower must be like Him, but I just can’t take one more person’s problems when I can’t control my own. But I’m still His. And He is still my healer. And He is still my peace. Somehow. Like this.

*Breathe In the Gold*

*Blow Out the Black*

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for the Writers, Mental Health, Musings

My Characters Respond to Your Problems

My goal of writing 1000 words this weekend flopped. Due to a minor personal crisis. Sure, I could write through crises, I mean that’s what we’re supposed to do. But I was a slacker.

Lucky for me, I was venting my problems to my friend and unofficial business manager, Yasmeen. Out of the blue she said, “What would Analiese say to you right now?”

“Suck it up!” was my response.

And despite my not writing practically anything this weekend, there was one thing I wrote:

What My Characters Would Say About My [& Your] Problems

In case you wondered what characters think, in case you wondered what it’s like to pour your problems out at a Freaks Anonymous meeting, in case you wanted some group therapy, here ya go:

    • Mrs. Trencher – “Hush hush, someone may hear. We’ll get you to a Doctor, get this fixed right up.”
    • Mr. Trencher – *buries head in book*
    • Dr. Wise – “Is that all? Not fascinating at all. Dr. Evil can fix you right up.”
    • Dr. Evil – “Is that all? I don’t give a wit about you, all I care about is ol’ Gep, but of course I can get you a right fascinating problem for that coot Wise if I really wanted.”
    • Geppetto – “There, there. I’m sure we can work this out for all of us. You just need family. We’ll be your family” *hands over lifelong contract for me to sign*
    • Sylas – “What’d you expect, a couple freaks like us?”
    • Analiese – “Suck it up, you spoiled rich brat. Suck. It. Up. Poooor you, you have it soooo hard. Deal with it.”
    • Phoebe – “Well I suppose I can’t say I understand where you’re at. Never will, never can at least. That must be rough, I’m so sorry.”
    • Nick – “It’ll be a’ight. Give it time. You’ll get used to us.”
    • Sullivan – *nods head empathetically, saunters off ‘cause no one’s looking*
    • RaeChae – “Get over yourself, we need to do something. There’s a bigger problem. Get rid of big problem, maybe little you problem goes away. Now, what’s the plan?”
    • Jasper – *hands The Forgettable some paper and pen*
    • The Forgettable – *scribbles note* “Read this once I’m gone.” *Leaves* Note says: “For Freedom: get out now!”
    • Narrator – “Maybe it’s good I can’t remember. Maybe I’d have more problems. But maybe having a reason for problems is worth it…?”
    •  

    • Julia – “Wow, you just throw it all out there, yeah? Dump it on anyone who will listen? Hmmm. Well, let’s get you out of this mess.” *leaps right into the ‘mess’ before making a plan*

What About YOU?

What do you think your favorite character (not just from my unpublished book) would say about life’s problems?
 
And which of my characters do you think you’re most like when responding to someone’s life problems?