I’m messed up. When I say this, I don’t mean it in a funny way…I’m seriously messed up. There are things about me that I have known were wrong with me for years and even decades but I wasn’t joining the pieces together to figure out what was going on: When I was in middle school, I found that I started getting really nervous before tests…you could just say the word test and I would have to go to the bathroom and throw up. I started getting referred to the school counselor every year because someone would witness it and, being super-skinny, the assumption was that I was bulimic. I would explain to the counselor and she/he would always tell me to settle myself down and not get so worked up about things. That’s a bit easier said than done…I mean, if I could manage to not throw up, don’t you think I would? It’s not like it’s a fun party idea. This trend in me went on all the way through grad school. Still vomitting my emotions which were just so overwhelmingly big! Anytime I had a confrontation or some sort of performance, off to the ladies’ room I would run. I was fast to have confrontations with people which made me think of myself as unkind and impatient…the truth was, I would just rather get the confrontation over with than drag on anxiety over the potential future moment because the anxiety was so much worse. Even in Tae Kwon Do, I became known as the girl who would bring her “fun flask” to testing and tournaments because I would get so wound up at the idea of people judging me…for the record, they are called judges and I was paying them to judge my abilities…but no matter, I would freak out and have to run to the ladies’ room again. I know, I know…you wish you could be me…we can’t all be that lucky though. 😉
What in the world is my point? Well, several things honestly: For one thing, I think that we grossly underestimate the power of our body chemistry. I received a life-changing diagnosis last week from two separate doctors…I have an anxiety disorder. At first, I blew them off because “I’m a very happy person.” Turns out, it is not the same as depression…it also turns out that the chronic pain I’ve been living with for the past 8-9 years is from constant muscle spasms due to my body’s inability to release tension properly. Oy! I minored in chemistry and have a master’s degree in physiology! I should know this! But when the chemical imbalance is in you, it is much more difficult to see it objectively.
Secondly, I think we have some misconceptions about what weakness looks like and what strength looks like. For example, I think that we should recognize the less obvious forms of strength…things like choosing your battles so that you are able to value relationships over winning a debate, serving in an area where you are unlikely to be noticed, or taking the time to study those around you and discover what ways make them feel the most loved…the most seen…and love them in that way…in their own way.
Finally, and please please hear me on this, do NOT assume that because someone’s health struggle is mental/psychological that they can/should just pray their way through it. A simple chemical imbalance can make basic, every-day functions nearly impossible to handle. When a person with the imbalance hears you say something trite like “Oh, well, you should just hand that over to God.” it not only alienates that person from you and warns them that you are NOT safe for them…but it also can damage their relationship with God and their view of themselves. If you have not struggled with something, don’t give advice as though you have. (Now, before you get all up-in-arms, I am not speaking against the power of prayer…not by a long-stretch…I think prayer is huge…I am just saying that maybe you should learn from your friends about their struggles and walk with them as opposed to judging their struggles from your protected position where you don’t experience it.) If you want to love your friend well, get into their mess with them and walk out with them instead of standing on the side and giving directions.
So, how are you doing with this? Is there something that is “off” about you that you have chalked up to quirkiness for too long? Is there something you are avoiding talking to a doctor about because you don’t want to hear the answer? Are you afraid of what people will think of you? Do you have someone you love who is struggling to keep their head above water? How can you extend love, grace, and hope toward them? Are you afraid of getting dirty in their mess? Jesus wasn’t afraid of getting messy with people: He spent time alone with a disreputable woman, allowed an “un-clean” woman to touch his garments, spent time in the company of a tax collector, and took the attention and scorn of a woman caught in the act of adultery onto himself in order to provide her with a little bit of dignity. He got messy with people instead of standing safely off to the side and saying “What you ought to do is…”
My prayer today is that we would take an objective look at ourselves and those we love. That we would make steps toward health and be willing to get messy with and for each other. I am praying that we would be willing to be utilized for good by God. Much love friends,