Thursday, January 14, 2016

Misconceptions of Therapy

*Disclaimer: Every person has had different experiences with therapy, some good and others bad. I am just reflecting on my own experiences with therapy and the opinions I have encountered from others. There are also different types of therapy and approaches to psychology. As well as different temperaments of therapists and specialties that they might be better equipped to handle. Sometimes it can take time to find the right fit. 

Therapy. Counseling. 

Those two words bring up a lot of emotions for people. Some have had terrible experiences with it. It brings up nightmares that they have stored away and hoped to never relive again. Others have tried it for a time, and did not experience any lasting effect. Yet others, believe in it strongly, swear by it, and point people to it. 

Before going to therapy, I had this idea of what it might be like. I pictured a dark room, with a long leather chaise, and a therapist wearing circular glasses with a pad of paper and a pen in hand. I would be lying down, staring at the ceiling, as he asked me questions about my childhood.

I was pleasantly surprised. 

So I wanted to debunk a few misconceptions that people have about therapy. 

1. Therapists

They aren't all scary. They don't all wear glasses. They don't always ask endless questions. They don't always say, "How does that make you feel?"

I can't say that my experiences are like everyone else's, but as for me I found going to see a therapist to be a much more pleasant experience than I thought it would be. The office was comfortable and welcoming and a soothing environment to be in. Unfortunately, it is always uncomfortable trying to open up to a stranger about the experiences and struggles of your life. After a while, however, it felt like I was talking to a friend or mentor. Someone that was more knowledgeable than I was about life and the things I was going through, but could also lend comfort, a helping hand, and even encouragement.

2. What Therapy Involves

I thought there would be a lot of focus on my feelings and my childhood. I imagined having to reflect on the deepest secrets I had in my life and telling them to a stranger. I had no idea what we would talk about for an entire fifty minute session.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was plenty to talk about in that time period. That actually, it would fly by. Sometimes we don’t even have to talk about my problems, just the ins and outs of every day life as it happens. We talk about my mind, how it works, my personality and how it affects my decisions, feelings, thoughts, etc. I have learned more about the actual psychological explanations for feelings and my personality and the depression I struggle with. We talk about God and how my relationship with Him affects my entire life and view on these topics. 

We start the session with what I am comfortable covering or whatever is on my mind that day. We discuss the science behind SRI's and medication and depression. My therapist gives me articles to read and videos to watch and offers new research that has been uncovered in different areas of research. It is so much more than just talking about my problems. 

You might have had a really bad experience in the past at therapy. You might be scared to talk to a stranger about your struggles.

But I have come to strongly support therapy. It can be expensive, time consuming, emotionally exhausting, etc. But it is worth it. It is worth the effort to heal and get better. It is worth feeling uncomfortable to receive professional help. Just like you would go to a doctor for medical advice and help when you are feeling sick. You go to a therapist for help with mental health issues and when you need help that others cannot offer. It is okay to not be okay and reach out for help. That is why we have trained professionals to help in these circumstances. I believe that God gives these people gifts of healing, even encouragement and even for some wisdom in times of need. I think counseling can be a ministry that God can work through.

Therapy is nothing to be ashamed of. However, it is something that society has trained us to view as a result of weakness.

But I think it is brave to go to therapy, to seek healing, and to want to get better. Having the determination to not settle for just being okay and going through life with struggle and hardship weighing on your shoulders.


Your personal health is worth it. You are worth it. Seek healing. Therapy is a great way to find it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Allowing Margin

margin [mahr-jin] - the space around the printed or written matter on a page; an amount allowed or available beyond what is actually necessary

Margin is the space required by your professor in order to receive full credit on your written assignment. It makes a paper look crisp and clean, perfectly spaced with plenty of room on the edges. Some think of is as leaving margin for error, space to mess up just in case something happens.

I have been learning the importance of margin in my life recently. Leaving room for God to present opportunities to serve Him. I am notorious for filling my schedule to the brim. I think somehow as a society we have gotten it wrong. We pride ourselves in having a busy schedule, thinking it is ideal to fill our lives to the brim with activities and hobbies and objects. Whether it is Candy Crush, scrolling through social media, finding a friend to hang out with, or driving around for no apparent reason, we attempt to fill the need to always be entertained or occupied by doing something we think is Instagram-worthy.

Normally this is my life. However, this summer I said no to a few more things, which left time for me to invest in some really meaningful experiences God brought to my attention.

The first was time to pursue meaningful relationships with people. During the school year it can be difficult to find time to grab a cup of coffee with someone while trying to balance classes, work, sleep, etc. The summer is an awesome time to catch up with friends and invest in friendships with new ones.

The second was ways to serve Him, by teaching kids. I also have had the privilege of helping with a sports camp in July in Baltimore through Grafitti Church. As well as VBS in Edgewood through Mountain Christian Church. Both of these opportunities were unexpected, but became one of the highlights of my summer. Working with children is one of the greatest passions the Lord has laid on my heart. Because my schedule wasn't filled to the brim this summer, I could fully invest my time into telling kids about Jesus. What a blessing!

But how can I apply this same mentality when the school year starts gearing back up again in just two short weeks? I have been brainstorming some ways to create more margin in my life. Things that give my soul rest and ease in the midst of a busy season in life. So instead of trying to cure stress when I feel overwhelmed, I am going to schedule in down time so I can make sure to have margin in my life during the school year. Here are a few ways I plan on doing this: walks, running, taking time to get ready in the morning, making playlists that make myself happy, spending time with God, working out, playing my guitar, journaling, etc.

Hopefully I can apply this new found lesson in to my life when things start picking up pace once again! Thank you Lord for margin and space for You to work.

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Season for Everything

King Solomon once wrote in Ecclesiastes 7:13-14, "Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future."

The past year of my life has been a very difficult growing period. One that makes me wonder why God would have it happen. However, Solomon urges the reader (me in this case) to consider that God has made both the good and bad times in life for a reason.

So what could the purpose of this bad season been in my life?

I think the past year of my life was a season of emptiness. God was healing my brokenness and sadness and frustration. Transferring was one of the toughest changes I have gone through. I had my heart set on being at Eastern University for four years, playing lacrosse, and becoming a teacher. However, God had a much different and overall better plan for me.

I found myself at Towson, hating where He had placed me. Then I was diagnosed with depression after months of suffering in darkness. How much more pain could you throw together in one year?

But it was during this time that God was planning to restore me.

He was preparing me for new friendships, a new period of service, and a newfound joy in life that I had not known before I found myself in a deep, dark pit this past year.

Depression sucks out all joy and passion in life. Even the simple things that had once given me happiness, had become tedious tasks. Most days it was a struggle to just get out of bed.

After the past few months of going through counseling and summer finally arriving, I am feeling a lot better. There is still pain, but most days have returned to sunshine instead of dark clouds looming over my head. Whether it's the "happy pills" or Vitamin D, I am just thankful to feel myself again.

More than anything I am excited for a new season in my life. Renting my first apartment with friends, starting classes directly for my major, a teaching internship in Baltimore County, serving as a high school leader at Cross Current, etc. I am finally in a season again where I feel like I can pour myself out. I don't feel the need to be poured into just to get out of bed the next day.

So right now I am thanking God for both the good and the bad seasons because of the amazing things I can learn about Him and His timing and character. He gave me the strength to get out of bed every day. He was my friend when I felt lonely. He loved me when I felt unlovable. He showed me I didn't have to strive for perfection any longer. He always provided for my every need. He was and is faithful.

If you are in a bad season just like I was a few months ago, just know that the days filled with sunshine will come again. They may seem farther and farther apart, but just know that the Lord is growing your character and relationship with Him in the midst of the storm. Do not give up hope. There is a season for everything. A time to be emptied and a time to be filled.

I hope your season of good times is coming, but do not lose sight of what He is trying to teach you in the bad times. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Why I Refuse to Apologize for Crying

Some girls don't cry.

Some girls think logically and brush things off their shoulders and don't express their emotions.

I am not one of those girls, but I have always wished that I was.

Since elementary school, I have been labeled as the "emotional girl". The one that was always stressed, always crying, or too dramatic. I have been broken up with for it and gotten into fights with friends over it.

To a certain extent, being overly emotional can be a problem, but I think there is somewhat of a misconception surrounding it. So to anyone that has been labeled this way, this goes out to you. I am that person and I refuse to think that it is a flaw in my personality.

In reality, I think society doesn't know how to handle human emotions in the right way. You're either pegged as being too emotional or emotionless. If you cry, it is a sign of weakness. Men are never allowed to cry. Women do it way too often.

But what if being emotional is just how God wired others and myself? What if I don't need to be ashamed of it or stifle it or hide it? Because lets be honest: I cry when I am happy, sad, or angry. It is my automatic reaction and I usually cannot control it. But what if this response actually comes not out of weakness, but instead from a heart that is over-flowing with passion?

So what if I am the excited one? The girl that freaks out over the simplest things? Someone who wants to eliminate some of the sadness and cruelty of the world, and instead infuse it with passion and warmth? Where would we be without people that show emotion? (And on the contrary, people that don't) Why is it viewed as a negative attribute to "wear your emotions on their sleeves"?

I have lived with the shame and displeasure of being "emotional" my entire life and it is time to shed some light on the hurt that it can bring. I feel like I have to hide my emotions and restrain from crying. It has effected my thinking so now when I experience emotion, I feel like I have to shut it down immediately or people will label me in a negative way. I have been scared to show it to friends and family and my boyfriend because everyone is annoyed by it or confused and tries to push it away. No one wants to deal with emotion.

Next time you call someone emotional in a negative manner, think about how it can effect them. Because I have heard it said my entire life as a bad thing or something I need to work on, but I know the Lord uses it and has made me this way for a reason. I know He wants me to be a light in a world of sadness and darkness. Everyone can be in their own way, and He has just wired me in this specific way.

So before you start beating yourself up about how God has made you specifically, think about how God created you uniquely and created you in a specific way for His Kingdom. For me it is by being emotional and I will not apologize for it or be ashamed of it any longer.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Monsters


Depression reminds me of monsters, as a child I feared lurked underneath my bed
All the nights lying under the covers, fears dancing around in my head.
But now that I'm older I'm afraid that instead they are locked in my mind
Crouching in every corner, stealing all of the happiness they can find
Making my heart grow fearful and distant from the ones I hold dear,
Because unlike when I was little, there's no one to turn on the light, tell them to disappear.
Instead, I am the only one to get rid of them and tell them they're not welcome to stay
I am the one to turn on the light and tell them to just go away
Some days I feel stronger, like one word could make them all flea
Yet other days I feel like a terrified child and accept that they just won't leave
So maybe tomorrow I'll fight harder and maybe feel a bit stronger too
But as for today, I wish the monsters would go away and never come visit you.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Cost of Perfectionism

There were so many days I was waking up exhausted. That I still wake up exhausted. It was more than a lack of sleep, or jam-packed schedule. I realized it was due to the fact that every detail of my life had become consumed with a need to be perfect.

See, I know that nothing is perfect. The typical phrase “only Jesus is perfect” rings true in my life. However, I have always pursued perfection with a desire to one day get close enough to it. I would describe myself as a passionate person, but sometimes even more than pure passion, it is a need for things to be perfectly orderly in my life.

It was not until I was at the point of exasperation and discontentment that I realized my brokenness. Why was I always dissatisfied with my life and my relationships with people in it? Why did I have such false expectations for myself and others?

Perfectionism is a disease. It controls one’s mind. It attacks your self-esteem. It drives everything you do. It morphs your relationships with others and your relationship with God. I was left wondering how I had even gotten myself into this mess and how I would ever be able to get out of it.

Someone asked me, at what cost are you going to pursue perfectionism? It made me think: am I willing to hurt myself and others, as I let this mindset continue to take over my life?

Sometimes we have to realize we are broken before we can even begin to rebuild our lives. I had not realized how harmful the mindset of perfectionism was in my life.

So I started by saying sorry to my loved ones. I shed quite a few tears. I talked to people. And I am still trying to find ways to heal. It’s a constant surrendering of my mindset to God. A constant cry for Him to shape my thoughts. Lord would you give me the proper view of my worth in your eyes? Will you help me to be compassionate with myself? Will you help me have patience with others? Will you help me to keep my needs and expectations in the proper perspective?

So if you are also a fellow sufferer of perfectionism, let me tell you that I am with you in this dark pit.

I read a quote that struck deep inside of me: “At its root, perfectionism isn’t really about a deep love of being meticulous. It’s about fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of failure. Fear of success.”-Michael Law

My life is filled with fear. I care too much about what others think of me. I’m scared of being considered unsuccessful or not good enough.

So no one might even ever read this blog post, but it is one way I am fighting the idol of people’s opinions. By putting my failures on display and being vulnerable I am forced to not care what others think. It is a scary place. But by being real with my struggles I can show the Lord’s grace and mercy in my life even more!

Ephesians 2:8-9 

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.

Still struggling through perfectionism, but on the road to fighting against this mental disease. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Mind the Gap: Loneliness and the Christian Life

There I was traveling London, waiting for the underground metro, when a hurried stream of people came flooding out from it's doors. I heard the phrase "Mind the Gap" echo as I took a few steps forward. It was a reminder to watch out for the small amount of space between the platform and door of the metro.

When I consider loneliness, I think of the phrase "Mind the Gap." It makes me think about the risk involved with getting into relationships. It's easier to try and go at life alone than invest time in people. It hurts less. It takes less effort. 

Over the past few months I have experienced loneliness like never before. Going from a small private high school where you see the same people every day to college where you study, eat, sleep, and hang out with your best friends all day every day--it has been quite the adjustment. 

Challenge #1: Commuting. Going to a school consisting of 75% of commuters was a struggle. People were interested in getting through class and getting off campus as fast as possible. Not only was I a transfer and hardly knew anyone, but also a commuter. I was not living on campus, I was not there on the weekends, and I was constantly bouncing between classes and work without much of a social life.

Challenge #2: Being a Christian. My value system is completely different from the people around me. I was so used to being in a Christian bubble, that the world was a slap in the face and hard to handle.

Challenge #3: Living at home. Everyone was gone. So many of my close friends were now away at college. Friends lived close by were just as busy as I was. Life continued for the people at my old college, while I felt completely isolated from everyone I had just gotten close with over the past year. 

College is supposed to be the time you feel the least lonely, right? Not for everyone.

Many people struggle with loneliness and it is almost unnoticeable. It does not matter if you are shy, outgoing, popular, or on the outskirts of society-we crave human relationships. It is how God made us. But even more than we crave human relationships, we have a deep felt need for God. Augustine, a major figure in church history wrote in his work Confessions: "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you." Just as Blaise Pascal penned the notion of the "God-shaped heart", we need to recognize that our souls are made for a relationship with the Creator. You and I cannot turn to the world for the satisfaction we desire because it only comes from God.

However, we also need relationships with each other, but they can be messy, exhausting, time consuming, and heart-breaking. Why would we want to engage in these kinds of relationships if they are so difficult anyways? Because they are worth it. Community is worth the risk. But sometimes, no matter how many relationships we might have in our lives we can still feel lonely. 

A. W. Tozer puts things into perspective when he writes: "His inability to find human companionship drives him to seek in God what he can find nowhere else." Our loneliness should urge us to seek deep relationship with God. However, it does not mean that the feelings of loneliness will go away. We will always have a sense of incompleteness because our relationships with people are broken because of sin. 

Loneliness is a tool that can be used in the hands of God. A. W. Tozer continues to write in The Saint Must Walk Alone that there are beautiful lessons to be learned through these dark times. The first he talks about is how sometimes the "spiritual climate" around us is not the same as that in other's lives. Therefore, sometimes we do not feel open enough to speak with others. If this is you today I would encourage you to seek Christian community with someone that understands what you are going through. 

However, the other way that loneliness can shape your life is how it can either make or break you. It can either harden or soften your heart. Tozer writes, "His loneliness makes him sympathetic to the approach of the broken-hearted and the fallen and the sin-bruised." Does loneliness make you spite humanity or love it all the more? Because it should make you love it more. It should make you recognize how broken we are and how much we are in need of a Savior.

To be honest loneliness has made me fearful. It makes me hold on tighter to my loved ones, which can be bad. It makes me cry, a lot. It makes me crave the comfort of familiar surroundings and does not push me to create new relationships with others. It has made me feel discouraged. When someone walks out or walks away I don't think my companionship is enough. However, I am striving to forget to "mind the gap" and forget the loneliness I feel. Instead, I am praying that God will replace a heart like His that is beating deeply for others just as it grows in love for Him. I look forward to a day when there is no more loneliness or hurt in relationships and where sin does not easily entangle my friendship with others.

How will loneliness shape you today?