Category: Life Updates

When the Process Feels Slow or Imperfect

While this post is somewhat of a personal update, I also discuss recovery, therapy, and the concept of slow change and goal-achieving. I believe you can get something out of it, even if you don’t relate to the recovery aspect of it. I hope it leaves you encouraged!

When I was a senior in high school, I was struggling with panic attacks, anxiety, and an eating disorder. But during my senior year I was also accepted to my dream university. At some point I realized that if I didn’t get professional help for the things that were ailing me, I would probably hinder myself from getting the most out of my time at the wonderful school I wanted to go to. Or maybe I wouldn’t be healthy enough to go at all!

So, with new motivation regarding my future, I began seeing a therapist. It happened to be during the first week of my freshman year of college. I had always planned on going to community college for at least two years, so this worked out just fine. Going to my dream school as a junior was still a possibility, as long as I was well enough!

My plan became to fully recover from my disorders before transferring to the university. I became motivated by the image of my future self walking onto campus, being a totally new woman – completely free, happy, and healthy.

I fully expected to “get better” in at least two years, before moving away for my junior year. In the beginning I thought, “Oh yeah, I got this! Two years is more than enough time to do this recovery thing!” I remember telling my mom, “I bet I can do it in like 6-12 months.” But as I came to find out, recovering from an eating disorder and anxiety disorder together is like a full-time job! I totally underestimated how long and hard the process was going to be…

Now, as I’m writing this post, I’m a few days away from my long-awaited Junior year. So I can report that my time in therapy actually lasted 23 months (that’s only one month less than the full two years I had available)!

Something I learned during those 23 months – 99 weeks – is that sometimes change takes a long time, especially in the case of recovery. But in a more general sense, sometimes the things we want to accomplish – the goals we have – take a long time to achieve. If you’re like me, having patience in the waiting and through the struggles is difficult. In the process of waiting for something good, there can be a lot of disappointment, pain, anxiety, and self-doubt, along with the effort we’re trying so hard to put in to our goals.

If you’re in the process or the middle of some kind of  waiting, changing, recovering, or goal-achieving, I would really like to advise you to be realistic about a possible timeline, and to give yourself grace when you feel like you are the thing hindering the process. I wish I would have done this!

You see, I wasn’t very realistic about my own timeline. I had sub-consciously created one in my head. As a result, I remember multiple instances where I felt extremely disappointed in myself for how long recovery was taking. I cried to my therapist and my parents, “I should be better by now! I shouldn’t still be struggling with X, Y, and Z!” Everything took longer than I had expected.

As motivated as I was to get better, I wanted it to happen too quickly. I was making black-and-white “should” statements. So when I evaluated where I was at in recovery, and what I had left to accomplish, I would feel overwhelmed and call myself a failure. My frustration would cause me to temporarily lose steam. The mean little perfectionistic voice in my head would shame me.

And shame is not a good motivator for change. It certainly set me back. I think a better motivating voice is one that sounds like encouragement, gentleness, and grace.

Thankfully, whenever I was hard on myself, my therapist would be that voice for me. She would graciously remind me that there’s no such thing as a perfect timeline. In my case, she wanted me to remember that recovering from a deeply rooted mental illness is pretty hard work!

By creating my own timeline and making “should” statements, I was setting myself up for anxiety and disappointment. She would tell me to give myself grace and to remember that, in the grand scheme of life, two years (or a little more) was nothing!

She assured me that every minute of effort now was going to be worth it later on. This helped me to persevere.

When I began to be a little more gentle and gracious with myself, my goals became smaller, more realistic, and less daunting. I began to recognize and celebrate the small victories and to tell myself “good job!” At some point, I was able to say, “Okay, even if I’m not 100% ‘better’ by the start of my junior year, that doesn’t mean I have failed. Realistically, recovery is still going to be an ongoing choice for me to say ‘yes’ to every day, even when I’m done with therapy.”

My anxiety about the process decreased, and I started focussing on the tangible steps that I could take in the next few months, to get to an even more secure, stable place. I decided to meet myself where I was at. It made a significant difference in my attitude and outlook!

So, here I am, about to start this next chapter of my life. But you know what? Being done with therapy doesn’t mean that I’m 100% free from some disordered, unhealthy thought patterns and urges. However, I am healthy enough and equipped with enough “tools” to be able to go to away for school and to continue on my journey. I’m not where I had expected to be when I was a freshman. But now I see that the past two years of effort were a tremendous accomplishment, I worked really hard, and I get to be proud of myself for all the things I have overcome and improved on.

I recognize that I’m still in an ongoing process, and I’ll have to keep saying yes to recovery every day for a long time. But because of the work I’ve done in the past two years, the decision to say yes is much easier and quicker now.

So, I want to encourage you to be realistic about how long something might take in your life. Embrace the process of waiting or changing, and soak up all that it has to offer you. Don’t rush yourself; be gentle; be gracious; and be your own cheer leader! Whenever you hear that shaming, self-doubting, impatient voice, remind it that there are no perfect timelines in life. 

 

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!