Category: Life Updates

Our Minds & Medication (Personal Stories)

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on March 10, 2017. 

Luke 10:27: “love the Lord your God. . .with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Today I’m focussing on the idea of serving God and others with our whole mind. I wonder: How can we do this if we aren’t having positive thoughts? If we are depressed, anxious, and struggling to find peace, joy, or confidence?

Mental illness, clinical depression, anxiety, and other disorders and mental struggles are so common and running rampant among us. Because of this, for a lot of people, it can be very hard to think in a way that is pure and beneficial all the time.

This has been especially true for me in the past few weeks. After having gone an entire year without an anxiety attack, I was reminded (shortly after that one year mark) that my anxiety disorder is still very much a part of me. Sitting in church a few weeks ago, my mind was a mess. I was stressed with school, relationships, and worrying about literally like 6 other things, all at once. My mind spiraled so far out of control that I became restless. I got up from my seat, went out into the lobby, and broke into tears and short breathes. This panic attack reminded me of who I am, though. I am anxiety prone.

Following that experience, I started to realize that my anxiety and depression are becoming worse. For a while now, I haven’t been able to focus well, sleep good, or feel joy as easily. I feel like a little grey cloud is hovering over me, taking enjoyment and energy out of my life. It’s making me an irritable girl who snaps at her parents and can’t love her friends well. It’s making me feel tired and like I can’t even open my Bible. But that isn’t normal for me! After some prayer and advice, I decided to ask for an increased prescription of my medication. Some might argue that medication isn’t the way to solve the problem; but I think that there’s only so much self-care we can do for our minds until it’s okay to seek medicine.

How can I serve God with my mind if I don’t take care of my mind?

I’m not saying, “Hey everyone, go get some meds to solve your problems!” I’m reminding us all that it’s okay to think of them as a helpful option. More importantly, though, we should be aware of our mental state! We should try to realize when we aren’t thinking good thoughts; notice when we’re slipping into a darker place; and evaluate how our attitude might be impacting relationships.

Another instance that got me thinking about this is that my brother recently decided to get onto medication. (And he gave me permission to talk about it). He’s in a crazy season of life and has a lot of responsibilities: he’s a senior in college, an intern at a production studio, he has a girlfriend, he’s trying to figure out his future, and he’s currently directing a film at his school! He’s got a lot on his mind; and lately he’s been feeling the way I was describing my own self. I’m so glad that he decided to try medication to improve his mood and calm his anxious mind. He realized that in order to best serve all of the people around him and focus on God and his responsibilities, he needs to be in a better mental state. He evaluated where his mind was; and there is no shame in that.

So, I hope this encourages you to pay attention to your thoughts in each season of life. We are called to serve God and others with our whole minds, so it is important to be aware of them! For some of us, medication might be helpful. For others, simply being aware of the fact that we’re not thinking positive, healthy, or true thoughts can allow us to  fix them. Maybe for some, reading scripture more often will be enough to moderate our thinking patterns! Whatever you need to do, it’s always good to take care of your mind.

More Than I Imagined

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on January 7, 2017. 

“Lord, I am so tired of being afraid of the future. I know that I’m not walking in the truth, and my anxiety is holding me back from experiencing full joy and pursuit of my dreams. . .Please, I just need you to bring me security and then some joy and a little excitement in my life. . .I don’t know…I just want to feel more at peace and secure. Please help me, God. Amen.”

A prayer written by me,  January 2016

I found the above prayer in my prayer journal. Evidently, I was having a hard time and feeling devoid of security, joy, and peace. The month previous was when I was so terrified for my health that I got onto anxiety medication.

The beginning of 2016 was simply the middle of a difficult transition, and I was feeling a lack of direction for my life. I pictured another 12 months just as hard as 2015.

But, little did I know, I was about to have the most transformational and rewarding year ever! 2016 ended up being the year that I learned the most about myself and became determined to fight harder than ever!

Now, let me be clear that without my faith in him, I would have only sunk deeper into the pits of fear, disordered eating, insecurity, selfishness, apathy, and isolation. I know this because my belief in God was my main motivator in any and all efforts to get better.

My motivation is the fact that I believe He created me for a purpose and has greater plans for my future. And those plans do not include bondage to self-destructive behaviors and thoughts.

Through my consistent asking of God for help and a perfectly orchestrated set of events, God did more than I could have ever imagined.

He nudged me; He made me feel strong moments of conviction that broke me down when I needed to make a change; And He used specific people to say the exact words I needed to hear. And I believe that he even lead me to the scriptures that I needed to read, when I asked him to. There are some events that I give God all the credit for, because the timing was just too perfect. There is no way I could have planned each little (or big) moment of impact so divinely. It was purely the Lord’s doing.

Because of this, I’ve really been loving this scripture in Ephesians that says:

“How long and wide and deep and high is the love of Christ. . .Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be all the glory. . .for ever and ever! Amen.” – 3:20-21

Seriously, I’m blown away at his work in my life!

I compiled a list of positive events and significant changes that all happened within 2016:

  • I started this blog!
  • I went 10 whole moths without any major panic attacks. (WOO!)
  • I visited Biola University, and realized that I actually DO want to go to college!
  • I got accepted to Biola!
  • I shared my testimony with my entire highschool youth group (scary, but worth it!)
  • My anxiety gradually decreased, and I learned how to handle it better.
  • I reached two major clinical health goals!
  • I turned 18, graduated high school, and started my summer job all in the same month!
  • I worked as a middle school leader and went to summer camp with the youth group.
  • I shared the gospel with 3 people and helped lead 2 to Christ. (YAY)
  • My relationship with exercise turned healthy.
  • I started college.
  • I went on real dates with real boys 😉  (I don’t think I could have healthily done this last year.)
  • I found direction for life, felt new passions, and felt joyful.
  • I got asked to be a bridesmaid! AND
  • I made a scary but life-changing decision for my overall health that has been TOTALLY worth it! (I’ll share more about this one later).

It doesn’t hurt that I also made it to Disneyland twice, saw a couple celebrities, and made some friends 🙂

These blessings came at a price though. I had to fight hard. I had to wait patiently, keep going to church, seek the Lord for strength, cry, endure a lot of discomfort, ask people for help, and always ask God for direction. But now I can see that it was all worth it. I can see now that he did hear my prayer in January; and he had good things in store.

Yes, fighting was worth it; and God ended up doing “immeasurably more than I asked or imagined.” And this is my hope for 2017! I’m expecting Him to continually show up and to be on my team. He has never left my side, and He’s not going to now.

God can move mountains in your life as well! He will bless you in incredible ways if you  have an active relationship with Him, ask Him for help, and have a willing heart. Then wait expectantly with faith.

Calm after the “Storm” (or the Meltdown in My Car).

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on November 18,  2016. 

I feel like an update is LONG overdue…But I got caught in the whirlwind of my first term of college. So, I’m forcing myself to rest and write this post today.

I just finished week 8 out of 11 in school! It’s such an eye-opening and stretching transition from homeschool to college. But truthfully, I’ve handled it better than I had expected. By the grace of God, my anxiety was relatively low for the first 4 weeks. And I still have not had a full blown panic attack. However, at the end of week 4, I found myself sobbing in my car because I was so worn out. Though I was getting by okay and getting good grades, I had no real joy, no extra energy, no time for enjoyable activities, and no margin! My quiet times with the Lord were also suffering. After thinking for a while, I realized I was stretching myself too thin and trying to fill too many roles: I was trying to be sister, daughter, perfect student, friend, small group leader, Christ-follower, and blogger; All the while, I’ve been intentionally focussing on taking care of my physical and emotional well being and recovery. Though some people are totally able to handle this many roles in life, I am not one of those high-fuctioning people. Something had to change immediately.

Unfortunately, the only realistic option I could see to alleviate my stress was to step down from ministry. So, currently I’m taking a break from leading a small group of middle schoolers. It was a really hard choice to feel at peace about, but It’s not forever. And it’s made an incredible difference!

I’m really valuing the idea of having margin in my life. Before this, when my schedule was wall to wall with homework, family time, and ministry, I didn’t really have time to say yes to anything spontaneous. I was using any free time I had to rest at home. But now that I’m freed up a bit, I’ve been enjoying the ability to say yes to some random opportunities!

Some examples are having time to be with Jesus, talk to a friend on the phone, or write a blog. Another is just going to my grandparents’ house after school to sip coffee, do homework, and have quality family time that’s been absent.  Also,  just going out to spend time with friends has been so nice. I can not tell you how nice it feels to laugh again…I feel so much more like myself than I have in a long time! Now, I can even go on an occasional run and get some endorphins released.

I think that balancing a schedule is probably one of the hardest things to do. I’ve heard lots of other people say the same. It’s a fine dance! I mean, we’re never REALLY done working, but we also HAVE to limit ourselves and allow for rest and fun. Otherwise we’re going to get tightly wound, sick, and lose our sense of self. So, that’s why I think it’s so valuable to have some margin.

I still struggle with perfectionism and over-working myself a lot, as well. But I am learning the value of rest and flexibility.

This is just the season of life I’m in, and I’m trying to do what I know is best for me. But I hope that my choice to take care of myself will encourage you to also think about whether or not you’re making the best of your own time.

The Voyager Left On Her Own

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on November 4,  2016. My first post as a college student!

Tuesday:

It was a normal day in my college writing class until my teacher (she calls herself our “captain”) threw an unexpected group project on us 40 minutes before class ended. The assignment was to collaborate and come up with a problem and offer a solution.

Unfortunately, I was partnered with three students who all displayed obvious discomfort and lack of confidence with this assignment. I could sense their lack of motivation right away, so I pulled out my laptop and started researching ideas. Figuring out an issue took half the time, and the last half was spent trying to come up with possible solutions. Now, I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but truly my colleagues offered little to no solutions, and I came up with all the ideas. Two of them sat there staring into space and one was just laughing about it.

Recognizing that this assignment was important because of extra credit for the winning group, I had to take charge. I offered to give the presentation on the day it was due if they would research and come up with some more details on how to solve the problem (homelessness in Salem) and email them to me. I would put all of the info into a constructed presentation.

Sounds reasonable, right? They looked relieved when I offered to do the technical work.

With everyone’s part of the project delegated, I gave them my email address, so that they could send me their findings by the next afternoon. (The presentation was due Thursday).

I got nervous and started doing my own work. Eventually, this happened:

Wednesday:

I had already made a bit of progress when partner #1 emailed me. He gave some random paragraphs which had no links to where he found the data; and he offered zero solutions. So I replied, saying thank you and asking for clarification and more help…

No response.

Then Partner #2 emailed me about 3 sentences saying, “couldn’t really think of anything     else.”

And partner #3 sent me nothing…

I became frustrated as I realized nobody was taking it seriously and that I was going to be doing all of the work. But I pushed through and completed the assignment in a few hours that night. I emailed my colleagues again to see if they’d like to suggest any changes to the proposal, and they didn’t.

 Thursday:

Before class, two of my classmates asked me how the assignment went. I explained to them how stressed I felt and how I was dreading the presenation. “It’s gonna suck. It’s really subpar,” I explained. Because that was truly how I felt.

I approached my teacher, telling her exactly what had happened, because there was extra credit on the line for this assignment. I felt it would be wrong to let any of my parteners take credit for what I had done. She thanked me and said, “Wow, in all my years of teaching this class, I’ve never had this happen. They won’t be receiving the same amount of credit as you.”

My teacher had a chat with my partners, and we decided that I would present the proposal on my own. I was going to be my “own group.”

So while every other team walked to the podium as a group of 3-5 kids, I gave mine by myself…And that was a very unsettling feeling for me…I felt that I was being looked at differently and the I was at a disadvantage. At the same time, though, I was glad that I was presenting my work as my own.

So, after I read my proposal with the most passion that I could, I looked up, everyone started clapping, and my captain looked proudly at me. She pounded her fist on her desk, saying, “Politician, Jessica! You’re going to change politics!”  Now, I don’t know exactly what she meant. BUT, to get that woman to smile and react was a great feeling. (She’s a tough cookie).

Here’s where it got interesting. It came time to offer constructive feedback and criticism to each group one by one, and I was NERVOUS to be criticized…I’m awfully hard on myself when it comes to the quality of my work (and really everything else I do).

“What did you all think of Jessica’s proposal on how to solve homelessness?” Ms. Tobey asked the class.

Much to my surprise, nothing but positive feedback was given! My captain even said, “You constructed it perfectly! That could almost be handed in as an essay.” These words from her are a big deal. Again, she’s not an easy judge.

“But why were you the only one alone?”one boy asked. An awkward silence fell across the room, my partners hung their heads, and before I could say anything, my captain said, “Well, she was a voyager left on her own…”

After everything was over, I was finally feeling better about my work. I had received so much validation. And then it was time to vote for which proposal was best. And that group would all receive extra credit.

I handed in my vote, went outside during our 10 minute break, and walked back in to see this: fullsizeoutput_72a

See that? “Group Jessica” won. And after all the criticism I put on my self; after all the frustration I felt; after all the nerves of standing up there on my own; this voyager took the victory. And this lone voyager received extra credit, validation from her captain and her peers. Most of all, this voyager learned not to be so hard on herself in the future. And that hard work and late nights pay off. Sometimes we just have to try our best given our circumstances.

“Today had a lot of firsts for me. In all my years of teaching this class, I’ve never had someone get left to do all the work on their own. And I’ve also never had anyone WIN by THAT many points. Give yourself a pat on the back and treat yourself to a milkshake ”  – Captain Chris Tobey

What I’ve been up to: June, 2016

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on July 21, 2016. My first post as a high school graduate!

It’s been a little while since I’ve blogged, and so much life has happened since then! I’m now graduated and already thinking about the college chapter of my life. BUT, I try not to live in the future too much; So let me catch you up on just the highlights of the first month of my summer. I’ve been doing and learning a lot.

Graduation Day

I vividly remember an important moment from that day. It happened in my thoughts, but it was pivotal.  As I was sitting in the pew, waiting for my turn to go on stage, I completely zoned out and suddenly everything going on became quiet to me.

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I started thinking about the independence I was going to gain from then on. My future looked unknown, big, intimidating, exciting, and everything else. The gravity of the fact that I was going to start making a lot of big decisions for myself became very heavy. I also realized that without a youth group to go to, It’s really going to be my own choice whether or not to live for Jesus and go to church in my adult years…I thought about how I’m living for something (someone) much bigger than myself. I processed these thoughts for a few minutes and then snapped out of my daze. Ever since then, I’ve thought about the future in a new, more serious way.

I’ve had a lot of joy since then, though! I felt immensely blessed by the love and support i received that day. Thankfulness and a full heart is how I would sum up June 4th. It started my summer on a wonderfully high note!

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Work

A lot of my days have been spent working back at the old Forest…In case you don’t know, I work at Enchanted Forest Theme Park. It has been rough at times, and here’s why:

It can be an incredibly, physically demanding job some days. Other days, I just sit in a gift shop for 8 hours and have way too much time to contemplate life. I sit there, bored, and try to see Jesus in my day. He usually seems hidden when I’m there, and I don’t like it. My co-workers often make me sad, and I struggle to find joy in a place surrounded by fake smiles. I’ve had to figure out what to do when I witness someone lacking integrity…It’s just a very different atmosphere than anything I’ve experienced, and it has tested me in several ways. But the bright side is that it causes me to cling to the word of God.

Senior Retreat

I got to go to Sunriver Resort for a few days with 17 other just-graduated seniors from my church. I feel like this was a turning point in my life. Before the trip I sensed God was about to do something in my life, and I was waiting with expectation. In our devotional one morning, we were focussing on Proverbs 3:5-6.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

I will spare all the details of how exactly God spoke to me, but this passage had a huge and lasting impact on me. I have read Proverbs 3 almost every day since then, and I just love those two verses the most. I really trust the Lord and his timing now, and I know he is wanting to remind me every day to acknowledge HIM over my own understanding. He says He will make my paths (my future) straight, and I want to accept that blessing from Him!

Also, I got to spend irreplaceable time with my peers, my wonderful mentor, and her adorable baby for those few days. I soaked in the love, advice, encouragement, and laughter and was reminded how filling it is to be with my church family.

John’s Homecoming

Straight up – I’m just real happy my brother
is back from college

 

I get a feeling of normalcy in my life when he’s here. He is my best friend, and I have been so much happier since he got home. Not only that, but we’re focussing on being each other’s best friend and spending intentional time together as much as possible. We have talks about life, we have been catching up, and he has lifted me up with affirmation.

Middle School Camp (Adventure Camp)

Yesterday I returned from 5 long days of serving as a leader of middle school girls. It being my first time as a camp leader, the experience was all new. I would describe it as hot, fun, tiring, annoying, challenging, hilarious, and rewarding. Being in ministry is like nothing else, I tell ya. Being away from cell service for that long allowed me to really be present and listen for God’s directing. Each day I grew closer with 7 young girls. They asked me questions constantly. They cried. They splashed me. They nagged me. They surprised me. They drove me crazy. And most of all, they blessed me.

Initially, I was afraid to go with the flow of the schedule and live in the present (due to my anxiety and desire to plan and be in control). But somehow, I ended up being okay. I surprised myself with how well I adapted. I actually found enough rest in the crazy scheduled week and 6 hour night sleeps. I was refreshed enough by the support of the people I was around and the reward of being there to help my students. I also remembered the passage in Proverbs 3 to “acknowledge him” in ALL my ways. I think what I really needed, whether I knew it or not, was time to be selfless and usable by God. I feel so healthy and free after several days of serving like that, and it’s going to challenge my normal way of living.

Anyways, there’s a whole lot more I could say about camp, but I’ll leave it at that. If you actually read all the way to the end, I’m very impressed. 😉 Thanks for reading! I hope you can be encouraged to acknowledge the Lord and let him lead you on straight paths as I have been.

365 Days of Transformation

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on May 27, 2016. It was my last day of high school, and I reflected on the changes over the past year.

I’m all about dates. My mind works like a calendar. I like to know exactly what happened to me one year ago and how I’ve changed. Charting progress is really enjoyable to me. I especially love looking at old photos and remembering the accompanying memories. When I look at pictures I often also think about what I was like at the time – mentally, spiritually, physically, and relationally. Because I’m at the very end of my senior year of high school and I’ve just become an adult, right now I’m especially reflecting on change. I’m astounded at how much God has brought me through and at the utter transformation of my heart and mind.

A few days ago I was driving to my job in the morning. I was sleepy and getting ready for a full day of my least favorite position to work. But at the same time, I felt okay about it. I was determined to get through the day, and I was able to smile at my co-workers when I got there.

Why does this matter? Well, the next day I remembered something crazy: Last summer, I worked at the same place, but my anxiety was worsening. And something I haven’t told many people is that I would often have panic attacks on my way to work. Yes, while I was driving on the freeway. Sometimes several days in a row…I was anticipating the worst every morning. I lived with an unsettled feeling of danger, and I didn’t think I could handle the day’s challenges. But now, I have confidence in my self.

An even bigger milestone though, is what happened to me one year ago from tomorrow. With fear, pride, and hesitation, I walked into the office of a nutritionist who changed my life. We identified that day that I was on the brink of an eating disorder and that I needed to gain weight.

I remember leaving her office with a huge poster of different food groups and the number of each that I was required to eat every day. It felt like an impossible task to me…But at the same time, I knew I had a deeper issue in my heart that needed to be fixed, and that being healthy was what I wanted deep down. I looked at myself  in the mirror for a long long time. I looked at my thigh gap and said goodbye.

One year later, and I have finally reached the physical health requirements we set that day.  (: I’ve found my worth elsewhere, and I am okay with the changes I see in the mirror because they reflect the change in my heart. (And  I laugh at the unrealistic thigh gap expectation.)

One of my life verses is, “Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2

It’s been a journey, and throughout my senior year and the last 365 days, I have experienced a slow transformation in my mind. I truly feel like the truth of God’s word has  changed me and healed me in some monumental ways. (And I have so much evidence to prove it!) God’s will for my life has proven to be so life-giving, while the things I was experiencing were, by nature, self-destructive.

God is able to transform us all. It doesn’t have to take a whole year either! This gives me so so much hope for everyone around me.

So today while I celebrate my last day of high school, I’ll also be celebrating everything else God has done in my life in the past year.

Passionfruit Doughnut

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on February 27, 2016. I had just decided that I actually wanted to go to college. After this post was originally published, I dreamed about Biola for 2 years while doing my time at community college. By the time you’re reading this, I’m either weeks away from getting there, or I’m finally there!

If you want to understand the obscure title I chose for this post, you’ll have to bear with me till the end!

SO. I’m going to give you something a little more lighthearted this time.

A few months ago my mom asked me if I’d be interested in going on a visit to Biola University, my brother’s school. I didn’t really care much for the idea at first because:

  1. I’ve never seen myself as someone to move out of state or even go to college. (Mostly because I haven’t had a clear vision of what I want to do in the future, career-wise.) And
  2.  The idea of considering colleges has been daunting and anxiety inducing in the past. So, I didn’t particularly want to go to Biola, but I thought, “Hey, I can hang out in the sunshine with my brother and go to Disneyland for a day.” So I let my mom sign me up.

Tiny back story: For a long time I have been resolved to the idea of going to community college and figuring the rest out somewhere along the way. It seems like the easiest plan. I wish I had a more passionate spirit like some people. My brother, for instance, is one of my biggest role models because of how passionate he is, how he works hard, and chases his dreams. But I haven’t felt very passionate about what I can accomplish in life.

So, as I prepared for Biola Bound, I was feeling unsettled about a lot. I prayed over the trip for weeks in advance. Specifically that I would not have panic attacks, that God would provide me with energy, that I would be joyful and confident in meeting new people, and that God would just reveal something to me while I was there.

The trip started off tricky because I had severe panic on the airplane. But I prayed myself through it. The rest of the night was a blast! The next day I met high school seniors and Biola students from all over the U.S. Though everyone’s cultural backgrounds were diverse, it seemed like the one thing everyone had in common was a love for God. (Biola is one of the biggest Bible Institutes in the country). I don’t even really know how to explain it, but I could FEEL the presence of the Holy Spirit over that campus. And the joy of the Lord was inside so many people I met. My joy increased quickly. I loved being immersed in that positive environment, and I felt comfortable. My normal insecurities seemed to vanish!

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As hours and days ticked away, I noticed all my prayers about panic and having energy and joy being answered. I was having such a good time (and Disneyland was only a sliver of the fun). My mind was clear, and my focus began to shift: I found my apathy towards college disappearing, and I realized I really loved everything about this school. – The weather, the campus, the people, the feeling of Christ-centered community, and mostly how God is elevated above everything that happens there. On day three I was feeling stronger about it.

I had a nice long hour to talk with a communications professor over lunch on Monday. During my chat with her was when It finally sunk in that it could actually be a possibility for me to attend the school some day. And that I now had a dream school. After going to a business class, Bible class, and a communications class; I was sold.

I could hardly contain myself when I ran across campus to John’s dorm that evening. I sat there with my hands on my head because I couldn’t even believe I was telling him, “I want to go here some day…” Could this be the answer to my last prayer? Was this what God was wanting to reveal to me?

I’m confident that If he wants me at Biola, I will get there. Regardless of what happens, I’m thankful for the experience and that he changed my heart toward college. I have honestly never felt so strongly about something in this way…I did not want to go home.

The experience as a whole reflects this AMAZING doughnut I sampled during my trip. When I bit into it, I didn’t know what flavor it was. It tasted like…lemon? But then I kept chewing, and my taste buds danced! There was a curd filling on the inside accompanied by something crunchy AND a whipped cream on top. It was perfect. John read a sign and said, “No, it’s not lemon. It’s passionfruit flavored!” For some reason this excited us both immensely. It wasn’t what we were expecting. That intricate doughnut was just like my trip: I went into it with narrow thinking. “This will be a typical doughnut. Whatever.” Or, “It’s a scary college. I don’t want to go to college.” But the more I experienced and learned about the different aspects, my eyes were opened, I got excited, and I left wanting more! And how appropriate that the flavor was PASSIONfruit, and I gained a new passion and vision for my future. 😉

Thanks for reading!