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.


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.


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.


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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10 thoughts on “Karitos Retreat 2015”

    1. Thanks Mags! (Can I call you Mags? It’s like the cute lil lady in Hunger Games! *tear*) reconstructing things a bit here….new look, new post style, new format, still kinda figuring it all out, and yes it is scary 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement!

    1. Thank you Trish! You being in the comm biz, I am especially honored to hear that.

      It’s been way too long, get back to the Peoria office 🙂

  1. I have had anxiety -related issues as far back as I can remember. It does not manifest as panic attacks, but severe shyness. God has blessed me over the years with gradual pieces of healing, but it has been a process, and often a painful one. Ask Him to show you the points at which this anxiety came into your life – often it is in response to real hurts inflicted by others so far back in our lives that we were too young to recognize them as hurts, but just internalized the self-hatred. My priest just this very week facilitated a very deep healing in me simply by gently giving me space to sort out my tears and find words for the hurt as best I could. I had asked to speak to him simply to follow-up, since I had asked him to pray for me before I left for Karitos. I’ve been discerning about some new directions God seems to be leading me, and I have a marvelous tendency to get in my own way due to – you guessed it – anxiety. Well, I only meant to mention the anxiety, but ended up dropping my guard WAY more than I intended. He sat there (knowing him, probably silently praying for me!) and gently allowed me the space to sort things out until I could find the words. He suggested some resources that might be helpful to me in helping work through things, but not as if I were a problem to be fixed. The funny thing is, that brief 30 -min conversation brought a tremendous amount of healing and release from anxiety. Because I dropped my guard and didn’t get hurt or shamed for being broken. My prayer for you is also that God will send people into your life who will know how to hear and receive you without making you feel like a problem to be fixed. I have been blessed with several along the way, and each has facilitated a healing that has set the stage for the next deeper one. May our good and loving God show you the same kindness.

    1. Wow, Ellen, thank you so much for sharing! Yes, my anxiety had been similar to yours – not panic attacks – until recently. Keep going and keep those friends close! 🙂

      1. I intend to. Father is transferring to a parish in another town this week to take over for a priest who is retiring, but I have already talked to him about wanting to keep in touch, and he said he’d like to. I got my busker’s permit today (gives me license to play guitar and sing in the public places and ask for donations) and I snapped a pic and texted to him, along with a humorous reference to the conversation I’d had with him. Even before I posted it to FB. Of course, now I HAVE to go follow up on it, lol.
        Sometimes things intensify actually just before they get better. Like things are trying to surface. Don’t be discouraged. Find time to be alone and sit quietly with God, like a little kid curled up in Momma or Daddy’s arms, and just let Him love on you. Ask Him to show you where the anxiety comes from, and to go there with you and heal it.

        1. Oh my, I am sooo glad you are stepping out in your art! We can’t let anxiety hinder us 🙂 definitely keep in touch with that pastor and keep moving forward. It’s so beautiful. and waiting with God, resting with God, it is definitely what keeps me going right now. In this together girl! <3

  2. You ARE a strong woman, amazingly strong, who knows where her strength comes from and looks to her Papa for truth. Keep up the good fight of faith and know how much you are loved. Thought of the “You make me brave” song after reading this and it being a declaration in your life.

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