mental illness and the not so put together Christian.

This week:

I cried in several different women’s restrooms.

I cried in the middle of Lower Beamer.

I cried in Stupe.

I had a full on panic attack outside of SAGA.

I called a professor while sobbing.

I cried in my car.

I cried in the Disability Services office.

I cried at numerous restaurants and scared some waitresses.

And I’ve just generally gotten used to the looks you get when you cry on the way to class.

hands-1044882_1920

Admittedly, me crying is a fairly normal thing. I cry over everything–happy, sad, embarrassing, exciting–but I don’t cry in public.

There are plenty of friends who’ve seen me cry, but strangers? Look weak in front of acquaintances and people who don’t know anything else about me? I don’t think so.

But not recently.

I feel like most people here have watched me fall apart in the past few days. This past week has been one of the shittiest I can remember and the tears came too frequently to hide.

I’ve been raised in a pretty Christian-ese world, so I don’t know a strong enough string of curse words to describe what having an anxiety disorder feels like. (I’m open to suggestions.)

There are few things quite so humiliating as mental illness. Being someone who’s perfectly confident and in control one hour but then curled up in a ball and shaking in fear the next was never a dream of mine.

There is nothing quite like when the anxiety hits and you can hardly think through the fog. Waves of terror pound through your entire being, leaving you shaking and sobbing and so, so fragile. All you want is to be somewhere that feels safe, but there’s no where to go because the thing terrorizing you is your own mind.

In many of those moments this week, my boyfriend has had to wrap me up in a hug so I can cling to him like my life depends upon it. Later, when the anxiety has passed, I feel humiliated that I was so “emotional” and “needy.” I can’t help but wonder at what point he’ll start to get tired of me and this illness he can’t see.

But in the moment it’s a matter of survival, and his arms are one of the few places that feel somewhat safe.

The shame and self-hatred that comes along with a mental illness is very real.

I hate needing help. I despise the moments when my boyfriend or friends have to hold me while I shake and cry and fight my own mind. Even well intentioned words of encouragement often feel like a slap in the face. Anything more than “I love you” feels like sympathy.

This week has been humiliating. I’ve cried with and been comforted by more friends than my pride would ever want to admit. I’ve been given legitimate excuses from Disability Services, allowing me to postpone exams and homework assignments when my brain won’t cooperate.

This week has been terrifying. There’s the fear from the anxiety itself, but even more, there’s a deep fear that the anxiety won’t go away. What if I’m like this forever? What kind of a woman will I make? What kind of wife? What kind of mother? What kind of employee?

This week God has forced me to be absolutely still and simply work through the here and now.

Supplements, medication, therapy, doctors, rest, self-care… that’s all I can focus on right now. And in the moments without anxiety, (which have been more frequent the past two days, praise God), I’ll focus on the people I love.

All of this to say, while I’ve dealt with an anxiety disorder for most of my life, my anxiety this semester and this week has been almost unbearable.

~ ~ ~

Please don’t read this and think I’m in the depths of despair.

This week I have also seen with new eyes the incredible hearts of those I call my friends. They have held me and supported me and made every accommodation necessary to help me walk through this. My family sacrificed time and money to stay with me at my lowest points and help me find solutions. Despite the embarrassment that comes along with this illness, as I walk through it I feel more and more secure in my relationship with my boyfriend.

I have a newfound appreciation for this college. Wheaton pushes you and pushes you, often leaving you feeling like you’re not good enough. But when you’re struggling? These professors and staff are there for you. You are supported and loved.

I’m not writing because I need sympathy. Lord knows I don’t want that.

I’m writing because there are many, many people who struggle with mental illness.

Those illnesses are invisible, they’re humiliating, and they are real.

You are not alone. Reach out and be willing to cry in public. Be willing to be raw and vulnerable with those you trust.

I’m also writing to explain why I’ve dropped off the face of the earth recently. I haven’t posted on the blog in months.

Something about Wheaton has made me want to change the way I write. Something about this environment has made me think I need to write more polished, accomplished stories. You know, the “put together” Christian thing.

And if there’s one great thing that’s come of this illness, it’s that I’ve been reminded again that I am not a “put together” Christian.

I’m a falling-apart-at-the-seams, sometimes-use-the-word-fuck-when-I-pray, so-glad-it’s-all-about-grace kind of Christian.

Through the anxiety attacks and the “failures” that surround them, I’ve been continually brought back to a point of broken humility. The kind of humility that lets you sit alongside other broken people and through a mix of laughter and tears finally just say, “Well, I guess God’s got this. Even if I don’t.”

 

your friendly neighborhood scatter-brained artist, sweet tea enthusiast, and dedicated Publix shopper.

7 Comments

  1. Hey darlin’, I assure you that your grandpa can definitely help you with the “string of curse words”. Let me know if I can help you with that.

    Seriously, Barb and I are always thinking of you. There will be a way to work thru this and I know you will find it. Just keep trying and working on it. All will be well soon I’m sure.

    You have our love, Grandpa Earl.

  2. James,

    I just read this and wondered how you knew so specifically how I have lived for more years than I can remember. Medicines, therapists, self help books that collected dust…

    Only a few of my closest know that I am suffering inside. Your mom knows. I left her in WalMart once because I couldn’t breathe thanks to my anxiety.

    You will be ok. You will be a great wife and mother and are a great daughter and friend. Anxiety is not YOU! You are a sweet, smart, Godly girl that has an imperfection. Never define yourself based on this imperfection.

    You will learn over time to tame it, to skirt a full blown attack, to manage it. You will realize that it’s ok to breathe into a paper bag while curled up on the sidewalk in front of a 7-11, is just a moment in time that will pass. (That was me a few years ago by the way)

    Anxiety is a small fraction of your make up but it’s not you. You can be imperfect and still have a pretty perfect life. Im always here if you should ever need me. Im proud of your willingness to acknowledge this part of yourself, and seeing you curse was funny as hell.

    Love you,

    Staci

  3. Jaime, remember when you held it together for me? When I broke down like a scared child? I remember. There is no shame in showing weakness. We all have it. You are wonderful women and we are so proud to be related to you. Love, Barbara

  4. Jaime,

    I don’t know you well, but you described my anxiety exactly. I use the F word every freaking day. God is big enough to take your anxiety, anger, fear and frustration (another 2 F words) and know what lies behind them. Say it out loud, really loud. Jesus hung out with hated tax collectors, prostitues, and the broken because He knew who needed Him the most. I’m sure He heard more colorful language than either of us could dream of. He loves us anyway.

    Big hugs from Casselberry,

    Traci Tracy

  5. Jaime, WOW! I’m so proud of how brave and beautiful you are. ❤️️ You are touching hearts, and encouraging more than you know with your open soul. You were there and were a part of the family that loved me through a hell I never believed I could ever come out of. I still believe it was a miracle. A miracle that I’m healed and don’t come face to face with anxiety several times a day and so down I wish I could just lay in my bed and not have to look anyone in the eyes, where I risk them seeing a darkness from my soul and judging me kind of miracle, no. My miracle is that I have the strength to keep “showing up”(thank you for my go to phrase, Glenon). Jaime, I’m not going to sugar coat it, it sucks. The blessing I find in my daily triumphs is that I get to see Him in so many things others don’t. More days than not I’m trembling before I walk in the door at work. Forget the first people I encounter there, I won’t remember a thing we talked about until I’ve had about ten minutes to calm down. After about fifteen minutes I find myself saying, yay Jesus, we got through it again! Followed by, oh shit, what did he/she say?! I’m getting better at not letting that in itself send me into another major tailspin. I picture Him just a step ahead turned looking at me with a warm smile (probably laughing at how hard I made it on myself), but knowing no matter how hard I insist on making it He’s right there loving me and my crazy mind’s way of processing everything. He created it and only He understands it. Trust me, I’d bailed on it a very long time ago, it’s high maintenance and exhausting!
    I want to start with I love you and I want respect your bravery! I wish I could say, daily bravery isn’t required, like my brain, I find bravery exhausting too. Honey, brave people fall down rocky sloaps and I think, we the brave tend to be some of the most sensitive people, but don’t show it until we’ve had time to process the whirlwind of emotions we’ve been blindsided with. I know if you just show up one step at a time (stop in between, breathe, say Jaime you’ve got this and God you’ve got me) (as weird as it sounds if I cheer myself on in the third person it’s more calming) you will slowly get stronger. Don’t beat your brain up if you chicken out, just pick up where you left off and take the next step, I don’t care if it’s nine days later. Don’t forget to stop and say out loud to yourself at times, Jaime you are ******* awesome and you won’t be able to contain your praises to God.
    I’m so sorry this is the battle you’re in, but as you know when you get those breaks from battle you see those you love more like God wants you to see and experience them. Your bad days will become fewer and good days more beautiful. You’re awesome, Jaime!! I avoid sharing anything publicly, but I had to reply to your beautiful soul.

    1. Thank you Sami. Your strength to battle through all the things that you have (and still battle through) is a huge inspiration to me. I love you and I am so grateful for your encouragement. <3 <3

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Keep Up With the Conversation!
Get updates and freebies only for subscribers!
We respect your privacy & will not share any of your personal information