“Lay it down, lay it down
Why you holding on so tight
Oh, the freedom you will find
When you let go, God will take over the fight
Oh, just surrender
And feel what it’s like to be free again”
Those are the words coming through my speakers, and the words that resonated in my head that night. I was driving home from work feeling depressed, anxious, and hopeless. I pulled my hair back, rolled the windows down, and took the long way home. The roads were dark and nothing on the radio was fitting my mood, so I turned on the Christian station and prayed that I could release myself from the funk I was in. Lay It Down by Sanctus Real was the song that played next.
I love driving. I find it therapeutic, relaxing, and peaceful. I can sing, I can think, I don’t have to stay in one place. I’ve realized recently that I am able to hear the Lord through music in crazy ways. The words of certain songs have the power to change my mood, inspire me, and give me hope. I am currently in the season of life that feels like a weird limbo. I’ve graduated college, but don’t have a job that uses my degree. I still live at home, my friends are all doing stuff with their lives, and I spend most of my days in bed.
I’m also really good at finding all the faults in my life, and that stems from my perfectionism. Growing up, people told me I was a “perfectionist” because I wouldn’t stop until whatever I was doing was perfect. I adopted that character trait and embraced it as a good thing. Now, at 22-years-old, I am beginning to realize that most of my worries actually come from that perfectionism. Every day I strive to be the perfect daughter, friend, employee, student, citizen, and self. I set ridiculously high expectations and if I cannot reach them, then I’ve failed. If someone doesn’t recognize my effort or my accomplishment, then it wasn’t good enough. If I get in trouble, or I upset some body, or I let someone down, then I am not worthy. I am never who I want to be. My anxious thoughts are always reminding me of what I’ve said or done wrong, and that anxiety also makes me believe that others find me as damaged as I see myself.
Today is July 6th, and I realized this morning that I forgot to flip my calendar to the next month. It’s an inspirational calendar that I think my mother got me for Christmas and I usually read the quote and think to myself how great it is and then don’t give it a second look the rest of the month. But today, as I turned the page, the page simply read, “You Are Enough”.
Yeah, calendar, I know that, it’s basically the epitome of scripture and I obviously know that God loves me despite my sin. But then I really took a step back, a step back from myself. I know that I am enough, but do it believe it?
Another song that has been resonating in my brain this week is Drops in the Ocean by Hawk Nelson. It plays almost every time I’m in the car and the lyrics are written as if God is speaking to you.
“I want you as you are, not as you ought to be
Won’t you lay down your guard and come to me
The shame that grips you now is crippling
It breaks my heart to see you suffering
Cause I am for you, I’m not against you”
God sent his one and only son to come and die for my sins, to wash me clean, to make me new. I’ve heard this a thousand and one times. If Jesus was willing to be crucified for a sinner’s sake, if he was willing to be beaten, tortured, and hung just for me to be able to have a relationship with the Father, then how can I ever believe that I am not good enough? So what I could never impress my dad with anything I did? So what I didn’t get into graduate school on my first try? So what someone doesn’t like me, and so what I don’t have my life completely together? Because the real truth is that my God loves me more than I can ever comprehend and he sees past my faults and he says that I am enough. On the days that I am down, with the weight of my thoughts crushing me, I need only remember that the one who has created the earth and the sky and all of the beauty in between, has also created me, and created me in His image at that! So I should also believe that I am enough the way I am, and that perfectionism is a lie and irrelevant compared to the immense joy that fills my heart knowing I am loved by my God.
The chorus of the song really encompasses that love in a beautiful way
“If you wanna know how far my love can go
Just how deep, just how wide.
If you wanna see how much you mean to me
Looks at my hands, look at my side
If you could count the times I’d say you are forgiven
It’s more than the drops in the ocean.”
So next time I’m feeling sad, lonely, and worthless, I pray that God always finds a way to remind me of how He sees me. I pray that I constantly remember that He is working all things for my good, that He has a plan, and that He will never fail me.
“Lay it down, lay it down
Why you holding on so tight
Oh, the freedom you will find
When you let go, God will take over the fight
Oh, just surrender
And feel what it’s like to be free again.”
Rough morning, public spaces, uncomfortable situations.
Finally home, you know, you can feel it.
Negative mood, body aching, heart wrenching.
The impending shift at work amplifying all thoughts.
Ponder not going, suck it up, walk out the door.
Driving, vision blurry, chest beating, numbness taking over.
Arrival, can’t get out, tears start flowing. No, not again.
Wipe your eyes, take deep breaths, stand up tall.
Walk a few steps, now you're weak, now you’re shaking.
Brain goes blank, memory gone, skin is burning.
Sit down, close eyes, wonder why.
You should have known, you thought today was different.
You thought you could beat it.
Panic wins- again.
Pounding head, exhausted muscles, heavy eyes.
Leave early, crawl in bed, wonder if it’ll ever end.
Beat yourself up, why couldn’t you stop it, why can’t you control your own mind.
Fall asleep, wake up tomorrow, new day – will panic destroy it?
It’s been eight months since my last severe panic attack. Today, anxiety snuck up on me in full force, causing such physical reactions that, if I didn’t know I was having a panic attack, could have been mistaken for a seizure. I knew before I even left the house that I was not 100%, but I for sure wasn’t expecting what resulted. And after it was all over, all that kept running through my exhausted mind was how I had failed. I failed to prevent the attack, I failed to calm myself down like I had been taught, I failed to become well enough again to work my shift, I failed at making it to a 9th month without an attack. My brain, already flawed and already wreaking havoc on my day, was convincing me that I wasn’t good enough to beat anxiety, that I was mistaken when I thought I was panic free, that I was always going to be the girl who cries and shakes and hyperventilates in the break room.
Then God told me the truth.
Through the radio played Matt Redman’s song, Never Once, and He reminded me that I was never alone, even when I was feeling hopeless and beaten. The lyrics, “never once did we ever walk alone, never once did you leave us on our own” resonated in my mind as I remembered that the victories I’ve experienced with mental health were because of His power. When I look back at the battles, I can also be assured that there will be more and it’s not over, but I’ll never be alone, and the same God who celebrates with me is also there in the hurt and the hopelessness, because He is faithful. My Father doesn’t see me as a failure, as I sometimes see myself, but instead He sees me as strong, brave, and loved. And this God, the one who believes in me and encourages me, is the one who is there in the midst of my anxiety and panic.
How can I believe the lies that I have failed when the one whose image from which I was created is standing right beside me?
Bad days suck, but bad days don’t mean a bad life. And bad days become better when you’re reminded that you’re not on your own.
Dear College Freshman Self,
Oh how I wish you could read this now. It’s two months away from graduation and you are not where you think you’ll be in any way. You think that you’re having problems now, but just wait, it’ll get worse. I don’t want to scare you, because there won’t be anything thrown at you that you cannot handle. You manage somehow. But here is my advice to you as I prepare for the next step in this journey of life.
Don’t get too comfortable where you are. Life is dandy for you right now. You’re at University of Delaware, your top school, and you’ve made incredible friends, you’ve moved away from home, and you’re feeling pretty confident about this whole college thing. Well, adult decisions suck and you’re going to transfer from UD and end up at Towson, the very place you swore you’d never go. You’re going to commute and you’re going to feel out of place. Oh, and you’re going to develop an anxiety disorder and experience one too many panic attacks. Good luck with that, I won’t lie, you’re going to hit rock bottom soon. Just don’t take for granted the year you have at Delaware. Embrace it and do everything you can. Unfortunately, the best four years of your life are going to turn into just one.
Involve yourself in something you love. Seriously man, explore this massive world, try new things, adventure, and please, please, please do not let your anxiety keep you from that. Do things alone, test your limits, it’s actually not that bad. You may be surprised but your future self got her scuba certification, went sky diving, drove across the country, flew a plane, shot a gun, and lived in London. Pretty impressive, huh? When you are forced to transfer schools, wake up and get yourself involved in something. Go to YoungLife, read your Bible, walk around campus, and go to a freaking football game for crying out loud. You really are going to suck at being a Tiger and if you keep it up, you’re going to graduate without making a single new friend. Yep, not one. Now is your chance to change that.
Experience, experience, experience. I CANNOT EXPRESS THIS ENOUGH. Go get yourself an internship, even if it’s unpaid! Get out into the field no matter how you do it. You’re going to continue as a psychology major and you won’t realize until halfway through your junior year that you want to pursue social work and you’ll add a minor in family studies and human services. I don’t care if you absolutely hate your internship, I promise it won’t be worse than Sports Authority (you still work there, by the way, happy 3 year workiversary…). Your resume is going to look infinitely better with relevant experience than your crappy, thankless retail job. You can blame Towson all you want for not requiring an internship in the psych major, but you should have known this would come back to bite you. Grad schools like experience, trust me, your A grades aren’t enough.
Your plan won’t work out the way you’d hoped. Seriously girl, don’t get your hopes up, because plans change and life happens and sometimes you aren’t meant to go in the direction you want to. Don’t get me wrong, set goals and focus on them. Work hard and stay persistent through all of the struggles you’re going to face, but don’t get disappointed when it doesn’t pay off. You’re going to bust ass, fight your mental illness, defy odds, and put all you have into your school work, but sometimes that won’t be enough. Dear 18-year-old Bianca, I know that your biggest dream right now is to graduate with your bachelor’s degree and attend graduate school immediately afterward. You have a plan and you know you need a master’s degree and you want to get it as soon as you can and jump into your field and be the successful and independent woman you are. Here’s a spoiler, you’re not going to get into grad school. It's going to crush you and you'll feel hopeless and lost and disappointed and not good enough. You’re going to cry and you’re going to get angry and you’re going to be comforted by those you’d least expect, but you’re going to get over it. I know that you have your eyes, and your heart, set on grad school, but consider a plan B, and maybe a plan C. You may think you’re trapped but you aren’t, there is going to be a way out. Heck, I don’t even know what it is yet, but it’s going to be great. [Although, if you can read this, get that internship I mentioned above… because if I have a second chance at living out my plan, I wanna take it. I’m going to regret, every single day, not doing enough to look appealing to that admissions board, but if you get the chance to avoid that feeling, take it.]
The main purpose of this letter to you is just to offer this: just because you have a plan for yourself, doesn’t mean that it’s the best plan. Truth be told, you can’t see into the future. You couldn’t then and you can’t now and you won’t be able to next year. But God can. He knows what’s best. He works all things for good and He knows the ultimate way for you to use your talents and gifts. Please realize early on, that your trust in the Lord is going to be your greatest asset in life. You can’t get angry at Him for wanting the very best for you, and sometimes what you think is best, is actually far from it. Hold on, you’re going to be okay. He doesn’t fail us. And your life is worth something.
It’s been 5 months since my last panic attack.
Firstly, let me explain that there is a difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack. A panic attack is the mind telling the body that it is in danger, resulting in the feeling that the walls are closing in, your throat is constricting, and that you are ultimately doomed. An anxiety attack is when the mind races, conjuring up every possible bad scenario, resulting in stress and fear, even if you don’t know why.
For me, anxiety is a daily battle. Sometimes I know the root of my anxious mind; a social obligation, a hectic workload, or simply the thought of leaving the house. Sometimes, I have no idea why my heart is pounding, my hands are shaking, and my vision is blurry. I could assume everything is fine and dandy until my brain kicks on for no apparent reason and causes chaos.
But, I haven’t had a panic attack in 5 months. I haven’t been overcome with the notion that I need to run, escape, or hide. I haven’t hyperventilated or cried uncontrollably. I haven’t called out of work or skipped class or stayed under the covers all day long. I haven’t lost control of my mind and my body and been convinced that it would never end.
It’s been 5 months since my last full-blown panic attack and I cannot tell you how much of a relief that is.
Yes, anxiety clouds my head every single day, but the fact that panic hasn’t been present for this long gives me hope that I’ll one day feel normal again. Hope that I won’t suffer for the rest of my life. Hope that I can regain control over my brain.
I have done nothing out of the ordinary or different to stop the panic attacks. For the most part, everything is the same. Now all that’s left to do is continue to have hope that this remission continues to last.
It’s been 5 months since my last panic attack.
Back in October, I wrote a post comparing my anxiety and depression to Twenty One Pilot's song, Migrane. Read it here. The other day, while driving down the road, and listening to my car radio, I realized that another one of their songs, Car Radio, also relates.
I ponder of something great
Only you know how you work. How your brain works and how your body works. Only you know when you’ve hit your limit or when you can push yourself farther. I think that one of the best things that my anxiety disorder has taught me is how to listen to what I am telling myself.
Sometimes, you know exactly what makes you anxious, and sometimes, you have to power to get rid of it, but sometimes, you have to be brave and let it stay.
Mental illness is hard to explain when someone doesn’t understand how you feel. If they’ve never experienced it themselves, they will never comprehend the extent to which mental illness hurts. Depression and anxiety are two disorders that seem impossible to put into words. Descriptions that include the words sadness, worrying, or fear just don’t seem to cut it. It might be silly, but this is how I explain it.
I came across this post saved on my computer.
I wrote this before I ever started a blog, so I figured I'd share it now.
Without warning or notice a baby elephant shows up at your front door one day. At first you’re confused. Where did it come from? What’s the reason? Why me? Without knowing what else to do, you acknowledge that he’s there because he’s new and exotic. He’s a living creature so of course you tend to him with food and water, sometimes not even realizing that you’re slipping left overs to him under the table. After a few days, you get used to him being around but you’re still completely uncertain as to what he’s doing here. After a few weeks, he isn’t new and exotic anymore. He’s taking up room, preventing you from going out, and is quite frankly, a bit messy.
One day you wake up in the morning and he’s already at your bed side, staring at you and begging to be given attention. Notice me! Don’t leave me! That’s enough. You can’t stand it anymore so you take him outside and beg him to leave. You push him away but he won’t move, after all, he’s bigger and stronger than you. You’ve let him live in your house for enough time that he now calls it home and wanting him to leave only makes him want to stay more.
Months go by and he’s gotten bigger. He’s almost full grown and follows you around everywhere. He’s attached himself to you and won’t leave your side. Obviously you can’t go to the store or to a restaurant with an elephant. And how are you supposed to explain him to your friends? So you stay home where you’re comfortable and safe. The elephant has gotten so large that he can almost fill a room, making it difficult to move, so instead you lay in bed most of the time, and like a loyal pet, he lays with you.
The longer he sticks around, the bigger and stronger he becomes, and the weaker you start to feel. Taking care of an elephant is hard, so you’re exhausted and helpless. You miss being able to have fun, but the elephant is a part of your life now and you’re used to him being around. You’re chained down by this massive animal who has no intent of leaving. He’s suffocating you. You wish that he never showed up at your door and you’re angry that you’re the one this has happened to. Why me, elephant? Why did you show up to ruin my life? It’ll be easier to ignore him, you think. Maybe if I pretend he isn’t there, he’ll give up and leave. But how do you ignore an elephant? He is omni-present. Elephants have great memories and they never forget, so he’ll always remind you of your past, and they live for a long time, so you can also expect that he’ll be there for your future.
So you adopt him. He’s a part of you know. "Hi, I’m so-and-so and this is my elephant. We’re a package deal so if you can’t deal with him, you can’t deal with me. He takes some getting used to but I promise he’s friendly. Sometimes he won’t want me to see you and sometimes I’ll convince him to stay home but he’ll show up and ruin our plans anyway. If you want to get to know me, you’ll have to get to know my elephant. I’ll try to hide him from you, but he’ll inevitably be seen. I know he’ll probably scare you and you’ll get tired of him being around. I'm sorry."
This is life with an elephant.
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