Tag: Anxiety

Fear, Breakthroughs, & Rewards (Part 2)

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on September 30, 2017. 

This is part 2 of my 2-part blog post. If you did not read the first post, you may want to go back and read it first.

A wise and wonderful friend of mine once said something so true and so powerful to me. It was right after I decided to get help for my eating disorder and right before I actually started the hard work of therapy and treatment. In this season of intense conviction and anxiety, it was a difficult yet encouraging statement to hear. She said:  “The moments before my biggest breakthroughs and blessings always involved a battle of anxiety and fear; But it was worth it every time.”

At the time, I could only imagine blurry images of these so-called “blessings” that she said would come to me; and I could not comprehend what sort of “breakthroughs” I would have. I was too focused on my fears and on the obstacles I would have to overcome first. Anxiety kept my mind on the negatives instead of the potential positives.

However, now that I have submitted to the process of recovery for over a year, I’ve discovered that she was right. The battles that I fought were indeed worth it. Now I’ve been able to believe and apply this concept in other areas, as well.

But let’s rewind a bit. . .What happened after I pushed past my fear and started therapy and recovery?

Well, life certainly did not get easier for a while. I walked around with worry and anticipation during the weeks leading up to my first appointment.  I constantly questioned whether I had made the right choice in pursuing “recovery.” I was so fearful.

In the months to come, I had to do a lot of very uncomfortable things. Recovery is an ongoing process of, “Okay Jessica, now we need to talk about this___,  and work on this ___. You’re going to have to stop doing this ___, and cope with life without this ___.” An eating disorder is, in many ways, like an addiction. It’s not easy or glamorous to give up. I’ve had to change my behavior, my coping skills, my thoughts, and go against my instincts so many times. It was miserable some days.

But something cool happened over time. For every hard day that I got through, I realized I had the power to do something I deemed impossible, before. I think this is a good example of the kind of “breakthrough” my friend was talking about. It’s a positive, uplifting, and eye-opening experience. It’s an “Aha!” moment where we learn something new about ourself, and we let it really sink into our brain.

Every time I got through a day without using one of my eating disordered “behaviors” or unhealthy coping tools, I regained some of my dignity and sense of inner-strength. Even when I had a bad day, I realized that a lot of my fears were coming from made-up scenarios in my mind, and that the pains of recovery were not as unbearable as I had expected. My anxiety and fear have significantly decreased around the things I used to have panic attacks over. By enduring hardships and functioning through them, I learned more about life and about my capabilities; and this has allowed me to fundamentally change in positive ways. The changes in my life and thoughts have been the breakthrough that my friend predicted.

The blessings I have received from this difficult process of recovery are numerous: Resilience, true joy, more peace, self-care skills, incredible energy, new passions, empathy, connections with some of the best people I’ve ever met, a more genuine heart, a deeper understanding of my self-worth, and an understanding of what it means to rely on God in times of desperation.

But remember:  before I gained the blessing and breakthroughs, I had intense anxiety and fear to push through.

Now that I’ve told you my experience, let me give you another example.  My story is just one example of what can happen when we choose to fight through the anxiety and fears we have about something.

Let’s say someone is about to start a new job. They’re intimidated by everything they have to learn, and they’re anxious about making mistakes. They feel inadequate to fill their position. But after a while, they start to get the hang of things. Over many months, they make mistakes, get embarrassed, have to prove their skills to their own self, their boss, their co-wokers, and their clients. They’re exhausted, but they haven’t given up. Eventually, they learn that they are not only capable of doing this job, but they’re also getting really good at it. Through the years of determination, they get promoted and are highly respected by everyone who knows them in this job. They now have confidence in them self, new passion for their job, new skills, and maybe even better opportunities.

If that person had not fought through the anxiety, fear, and initial hardships, they wouldn’t have gained the blessings and breakthroughs.

Here’s another example: New moms often feel terrified before their first child is born. And many often feel doubtful, anxious, and inadequate during those first few months and years of mothering. But they also often endure those hard days, become better mothers, gain the blessings of being a mom, and realize they can handle more than they thought.

I can think of more examples, but I think you get the point. Now, I want to encourage  you to dig deep, and do some reflecting. What kind of blessings and breakthroughs could possibly await you on the other side of your own fear and anxiety? My guess is that if you choose to struggle through something that isn’t easy for you right now, you will eventually be rewarded with feelings of accomplishment and strength; you’ll gain insight; you’ll become more resilient to life’s trials; and you’ll possibly even find joy from other blessings that you can’t imagine yet.

(Also, because of who I am, I can’t leave out the impact that the scriptures have had on me. My motivation to do hard things often truly comes from knowing that God promises to strengthen me, sustain me, provide a better future, and lead me on the best paths. Here are some of my favorite verses for times of anxiety.)

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” – Galatians 6:9

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,” – 2 Corinthians 4:16

“”For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” – Jeremiah 29:11

“apart from me you can do nothing. . .If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”  – John 15:5,7

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16

Fear, Breakthroughs, & Rewards (Part 1)

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on August 29, 2017.

This will be a two part post: Part 1 is mainly a personal account and background story. Part 2 will be more of a practical application, encouragement, and some insight for others.

There is a part of my story that I’ve only shared it with a handful of people. Now that I’m ready to talk about it openly, what better day to post about it than the anniversary of when it happened?

One year ago from the day I’m posting this – August 29th of 2016 – was one of the most pivotal days of my life. But I need to rewind the story a bit to explain why.

I’ve been aware of my struggle with disordered eating and body dysmorphia for a few years. At some point along the way, I heard about this process of “recovery.” Through social media, I discovered that thousands of girls (and boys)  like me were working towards freedom from disorders. At that point, I did not really want to give in to the process myself, but I was afraid for my life…So I began self-motivated recovery.

For many months before last August, I had been trying to improve my suffering health. I tried to eat more, set healthy boundaries with exercise, and focus on my spiritual growth. I was reading books about recovery and talking to the few people who knew what I was struggling with. However, since I had minimal accountability, my efforts would often fail. It was a roller coaster of small victories and major setbacks.

Last summer, I became increasingly aware that my energy levels were abnormally low; my mood was often unstable; and my mental “space” was often occupied with thoughts about my body and insecurities.

For several weeks, I had this nagging feeling that something had to change. I could not continue living this way, especially as a new college student. When I though about college, I became petrified…How could I focus on lectures and take good notes if I was tired, foggy-headed, and anxious most of the time? How could I be a good student if 80% of my thoughts were focussed on my body and my self? How could I walk around from class to class if my muscles felt weak?

I finally admitted to myself that my suffering surpassed the “benefits” I felt I was getting from my disorder. I was exhausted; I was tired; and my anxiety was intense. However, I felt stuck. I did not know how to move past the point I was at, because clearly my efforts were not enough. My disordered thought patterns were deeply ingrained and creating a prison in my mind.

Full recovery seemed impossible. When I felt like giving up, though, God would remind me of verses like Philippians 4:13, which says:

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

Or Jeremiah 29:11:

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

And especially Galatians 6:9:

“So do not get tired of doing what is good. For at just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we do not give up.”

So, I did not lose full hope; But I knew I still needed something to change.

The idea of finding a therapist popped into my mind. I wrestled with the idea silently for a while. I would waiver between, “No, I can power through on my own,” and “I definitely need professional help.”

Out of embarrassment, I really did not want to see a professional. I also wondered, “Am I skinny enough to be sick? Will the therapist turn me away?” Among other things, I thought going to therapy would mean I was admitting that I was “troubled” and weak. It would mean I would have to take time out of my schedule to sit in an office and have uncomfortable conversations. It would affect my family’s finances. It would mean surrendering control, giving up my behaviors, revealing my secrets, and probably gaining weight. There seemed to be way more cons than pros!

Yet, I still felt that nagging feeling that I needed to get help; and this feeling increased until I finally gave in.

On August 29th,  I sat on my bed, full of fear. I remember being wrapped in a blanket and shaking with anxiety. In one hand, I held a piece of paper with my doctor clinic’s mental health line phone number; and in the other hand, I held my cell phone.

IMG_3554I was scared, lonely, and filled with regret that I had allowed myself to get the point that I was at. I felt like a failure and a fraud. I thought about all of those cons that I associated with therapy. But because I have hope in the promises and forgiveness of my savior Jesus Christ, I made the best decision I have ever made: I ignored the screaming voices of my perfectionism, the stigmas of therapy, and everything in me that wanted me to remain silent and sick; and I called that phone number.

A man from the clinic gave me an “assessment” over the phone and directed me to a therapist, who I started seeing a few weeks later.

August 29th is important to me, because it was the day I overcame the overwhelming fear, anxiety, stigmas, pride, and vanity that were holding me back from living an abundant life, pursuing a better future, and trusting God. I walked into something that I knew would be painful, but I trusted that it would eventually pay off. That day was the day I said yes to recovery and yes to God’s plans for my future. It was the day that the course of my life fundamentally changed. It was pivotal

One reason I’m sharing this is because I’m proud of myself for doing what was so incredibly difficult; and I know I would be suffering so hard today if I hadn’t taken that step of faith. Just as importantly, I also believe and hope my story can encourage you to overcome hard things, too.

If you’re not sure you can really get past the fear in your life, I will hopefully persuade you in Part 2 of this post…Stay tuned.

 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” – 2 Corinthians 3:17

” So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed every day.  For this light momentary trouble is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-17

Your Questions/My Answers

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on June 15, 2017.

Below are some questions that people were curious about and asked me to answer. I hope you enjoy my answers and find some of my insights helpful!

Q: How do you manage or re-direct your anxiety? What are some of your coping strategies? 

A: I don’t always handle my anxiety well, to be honest. I’m still working on this and learning new “strategies” that work for me! I think that I am qualified to talk about this, though, because I used to have panic attacks quite often, but now I rarely do. I have come a long way. Here’s a few tools (besides medication):

  1. Taking time to simply breathe can help at times. Often, I unknowingly slip into shallow breathing when I’m anxious, and this is not helpful. It causes my body and stomach to tense up. If I can, I lay down or sit in a position where I can get comfortable; I release every tense muscle; and I pray.
  2. Self-talk is a good technique: I have to literally whisper truth to myself that can combat the lies I’m thinking. For example: In the morning, if something happens to trigger my anxiety, I might start thinking things like, “Today is gonna suck. I don’t want to go to school. I don’t want to eat. I can’t eat. This ___ is too hard for me to handle.” Lately, when I recognize that this is happening, I start combatting the anxiety by saying out loud, “I’ve gone through worse than this before. I’ve gotten through all my hardest days! I can get though the next 24 hours. I’m way healthier than I was before. God has never left me. Food is fuel that I need for this day.”
  3. When I’m alone, prayer is always my #1 tool. When my anxiety is severe, I feel like God is literally my only comfort – my lifeline. Plus, since I’m a verbal processor, It really helps me to talk to and cry out to God, telling Him what’s grieving me. I find some comfort in knowing that He’s with me, and He hears the cries of those who love Him and seek Him. Talking out loud about what’s stressing me out can also make me realize how illogical my thoughts are. Anxiety usually originates in our minds.
  4. Lately, when I can, I try to find someone trustworthy to talk to. This helps me get “out of my head.” I’ve learned over the years that too much isolation is not healthy for me, as an anxiety prone person. The reason is that anxiety usually comes when we think negative thoughts and allow them to progressively worsen and escalate. I do this a lot. So, having someone else – who knows me well or is level-headed – tell me the truth about my circumstances and rationalize with me is very effective.
  5. Crying…Yeah, it works for me. I don’t do it often, so when I do, it feels really good!
  6. Journaling about how I’m feeling is another good way to process what is going on in my life or swirling around my head.

 

Q: How’d you get through weight gain in your recovery? (In my eating disorder, I lost a significant amount of weight, over 3 years. I reached a weight that was dangerous for me. In order to be considered “safe,” I was told to follow a meal plan and gain weight. And I did.)

A: Weight gain is a difficult thing to feel 100% okay with. I was very resistant to the idea at first. However, once I followed the plan, I started realizing the benefits that the food was giving me. It was my medicine. After so long depriving myself, I felt so much better having vital nutrients! My headaches went away; I had energy; I didn’t need naps; My mood improved; And I was less anxious!…So, the benefits of food outweighed (no pun intended) the changes that my body started going through. Along with appreciating what food does for me…

  1. I also covered my mirror for 10 weeks, eventually put my scale away, and got rid of clothes that were uncomfortable. I realized that objects were having too much power over my self-confidence, related to my body/weight. And that’s pretty darn lame! (I do not feel the need to weigh myself anymore).
  2. Talking with a professional dietician and learning about a healthy, normal BMI was incredibly helpful! She explained to me how BMI is measured, why it’s different for everyone, what type of “frame” I am, why a healthy weight is important for women, and much more. She also told me recently that I’m sitting pretty comfortably in my healthy BMI range, and that there’s also wiggle room for me to gain weight and still be considered normal.
  3. I realized that my genetics are unique to me and my family. My extra weight will distribute differently that others’. A “thigh gap” is genetically unrealistic for me (and most people); and super thin arms are basically impossible for me to obtain. The list goes on. But that’s something I’m okay with now! Trying to force my body to be something it’s not supposed to be is exhausting.
  4. Also, I educated myself on how sick the media is, and how our culture worships the “thin ideal.” (I watched a few documentaries, did some reading and research, and learned about it in Sociology class). Once I learned how much women’s bodies are altered and edited in the media, my thoughts changed. Putting skinniness on a pedestal isn’t something I want to take part in.
  5. I accepted that the my body is no longer an adolescent body. It’s an adult body. I can’t keep it the same as it was when I was younger.

 

Q: How are you so vulnerable about your struggles with your friends and family?

A: I’ve always been pretty honest. I’m a talker. I don’t really like hiding secrets. So, with that being said, it’s pretty natural for me want to open up to people, in general. At least with people I know and trust, it has not been very difficult to tell my struggles.

When it comes to really heavy topics, though, or ones I know my family or friends may not understand, I think vulnerability came once I realized the value in opening up to people. Talking about my struggles can benefit me in a few ways: 1.) It creates accountability. 2.) It makes me feel way less pressure or awkwardness around people when I don’t feel like I have to hide something. It removes huge burden. 3. ) People sometimes surprise me with how helpful they can be! How can I get support, love, or advice from people if I don’t let them know what’s up? 4.) We are ALL broken, sinful people with struggles. So, I think people relate to me in some way when I talk about my problems. Nobody ever really reacts with disgust, shock, or disapproval. They usually say they’re impressed by my honesty. 5.) Conversations about difficult subjects can be mutually beneficial. Giving and receiving of advice, support, and prayer can happen. Plus, I think we can all learn things by listening to someone else talk about their personal difficulties. 6.) I like to educate people on the realities of anxiety and eating disorders, and I have seen God use that in multiple ways.

 

Q: What bible verse is your go-to encouragement when you are facing stressful/tough times?

A: During hard times, I always find some comfort in Romans 5:2-5″

“And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

And Romans 8:28:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Q: How should a family member or friend talk to someone who has an eating disorder? 

A: This is a hard one, because all people, situations, and relationships are unique. I don’t want to make big, blanket statements about all people with eating disorders. In general though, I have learned a few things that I believe should always apply.

  1. Talk to them in private first. Please…Don’t bring up someone’s eating disorder in a group of people. This has happened to me at 2 different parties, and it is SO frustrating. If someone bring up their disorder/struggle in a group setting, then that’s their choice. But most likely, if you bring it up in front of others, you’re going to damage trust with them. Even a small comment intended for good can make someone feel violated or uncomfortable. (Again, this is still just my opinion. Situations may vary.)
  2. If you aren’t sure if someone has an eating disorder, but you suspect that they do, tread carefully…If you genuinely want to offer them help, go to them with utmost sincerity in your eyes and voice, and tell them first what you observe about their behavior or lifestyle. Don’t make them feel personally attacked. You must come off as caring and sincere, or else they won’t be honest with you.
  3. If you’re close friends with someone who has an eating disorder, and this is an open topic of discussion, don’t tell them to “just eat” or “eat less.” The disorders are less about food and more about other issues preventing them from feeling like they can eat normally. Try to instead remind them why eating healthfully is important for their whole well-being (energy, mood, mind, body functionality).

 

Thanks for your questions! And as always, thanks for reading and supporting my blog 🙂 It’s what I love to do. Leave a question below, for next time!

A Letter to Those With Mental Battles

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on January 27, 2017. 

This is for all who are fighting mental battles.

As an observant, self-proclaimed “people-reader,” it’s not hard for me to spot when someone is struggling. Lately I have been noticing how many people around me seem to be going through something difficult. My heart aches with you; and I want to help.

I can read your emotions, your Twitter posts, your subtle hints, your change of mood, etc… I know that there’s something secret going on in your life. Or something that you pretend is not a big deal by keeping it quiet. I know, because I have been there – in that lonesome place – feeling like nobody could possibly “get it.”

I know that you don’t want to open up to anyone about your troubles. You don’t want to be “a burden” on anyone. You’re also afraid of what might happen when you vulnerably admit what is going on in your mind.

You’re afraid of judgement and the stigmas attached to your problem. But listen to me:

You are not a burden. You are not a disease. You are worthy of human help. You are not alone. You are worthy of healing and attention. You can fight through this; and it’s okay if you need help. 

Maybe you have a disorder: anxiety, depression, eating disorder, bipolar, multiple personality disorder, body dysmorphia, etc. Maybe you have an addiction, suicidal thoughts, severe insecurity, or doubt in your faith in God. Maybe you’re living with the pain that comes with being a part of the less accepted LGBTQ community.

I don’t know where you are on the spectrum; but I don’t want to minimize the fact that WHATEVER you are dealing with has got to be hard…I have figured out that mental disorders, and just the mental battles that accompany our insecurities and troubles, are agonizing and isolating things.

The enemy will tell you lies and try to keep you from getting proper help. He will tempt you to just get comfortable with your issue, become friends with it, and deny healing or outside comfort.

But I need you to know that life is meant to be lived abundantly (John 10:10), and that God’s plan for you is not to suffer for the rest of your life on earth. I promise you there is something you can do to escape the torment in your mind. (In some cases, even if you can’t get rid of it altogether, you can at least do something to make life more bearable with it.) You may not be able to see it now, but beyond your life today is a much brighter time. You just have to take one step at a time. And normally, that first step is admitting to someone what you’re dealing with.

We’re privileged to have so many tools to help us: counselors, doctors, like-minded people, friends, prayer, wise spiritual leaders, books, medicine, endless information, and all kinds of other things to aid us in “recovery” (or whatever your healing process might look like). USE THEM. There is no shame in getting help! I can’t stress this enough.

Maybe you won’t be able to make fast progress. Maybe freedom will take years to achieve. Maybe you will face some of the fears that come when you’re vulnerable with someone. But it is worth is, because your life is valuable and full of potential!

Don’t keep suffering in your present state. Don’t let your problems hold you back from the quality of life that you’re worthy of. Don’t let the enemy tell you that you’re stuck. Instead, grab someone who loves you; tell them what you need; get outside of your head; and start fighting for your life.

You’ve got this!

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”. – John 10:10