Sunday, March 29, 2009

Stronger Than I Think?

All too often I feel very inadequate to handle the stuff that life throws at me because of my disorder. It's not that I want to feel like a victim, I just have a hard time thinking of myself as "strong" when my heart starts racing the moment I get into something normal like an elevator. Conflict and debates are some things I typically read or listen to, but I try my best not to get involved because I don't know always how to handle it. It is easy to get into routine and even a rut for me because I fear change, not because change could be bad, but because change is different from what I am comfortable with. So, this weekend, when I was talking to my mom, and she said that she believed I was stronger than I thought, I wasn't exactly sure what to say about it.

Sure, I have done some things in my life that I never thought I could. I drove a U-Haul once- that's sometimes my mantra when I am trying to convince myself that I can do anything! But to say that I am strong because I can do some things that I consider brave that others see as mundane just seems odd to me. However, as I was thinking about it, I realized that my mom may be on to something.

The first step I took that many haven't is that I recognize and am working on my disorder. I am not so afraid of being branded as a "mental case" that I am unwilling to get help. I don't think of myself so highly that I think I am above needing help either. I went and saw the doctor and started the work to get better.

The second step that I did was to learn about my disorder and what it says about me. Learning about it helped me define who I am. I learned about what my disorder does to me and why it causes the things that it does. In turn, I was able to either learn to use these to my advantage or use the strategies worked on between my doctor and I to correct the unhealthy behavior. Sometimes it is hard not to be hypercritical of myself because of this self-reflection, however, that's also something that I am working on.

The third thing I did was recognize that this, too, can point to God's goodness and mercy. Through my anxiety disorder, God has taught me so many things, the biggest one, I think, is how much I need Him and how much I cannot do for myself. In the middle of an anxiety attack, I usually have to take something outside of myself into myself to solve the problem- adavan or temazepam. In the middle of my sin, Christ comes to me through my baptism, absolution, and the Holy Supper to give me salvation that I could not attain on my own. The similarities are uncanny!

Is my mom right? Am I stronger than I think? I am not sure, however, I have found that mommies are hardly ever wrong...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Gospel Focused Bible Studies

What is the purpose of having a devotion at the beginning of a meeting in a church or a church run organization or business? Why do we do it as Christians? There has to be some sort of motivation for the action, however, I am not sure if anyone has a clear cut reason for why they do it. Perhaps it is expected or required because it is a Christian organization, and so meetings that have to do with the secular and not the sacred have a need for some sort of devotion to make the point that this is a Christian organization. But what type of devotion should be had, then? What should we study when the Bible study is not the main point of the meeting?

I have observed many different customs when it comes to answering this question. One such custom is do read the readings of the day or reread the readings appointed for the week. Others use a devotional book that is dated and simply read the devotion of the day. Still others use it to highlight an issue or problem that needs to be addressed.

All of these are good and noble reasons for a short Bible study before the start of a meeting. However, I have also seen this abused. I have seen Bible studies as a way to rebuke behavior without the Gospel. I have seen it used in the way of the Law where the Bible is used as a weapon to hurl at those who offend us. There is nothing wrong with using the Law to crush unrepentant sinners. There is nothing wrong with using the Law to show others their sins. This is one of the purposes of the Law that we learn in Catechism. However, the Law is never delivered without the Gospel. The Law shows us our sins and points us to the need for a Savior- The Savior, that is, Jesus Christ. In a Bible study setting, the study with a Law focus has the wrong focus and is much better left undone unless the Law is followed immediately by the Gospel.

However, that is not how we like to rebuke others, is it? We want them to feel horrible about what they have done and how they have sinned against us and God. We want to make sure that using the authority of both God and ourselves, the improper behavior is corrected out of fear, guilt, and the realization that something wrong has transpired. Allowing that word of Law to hang in the air gives it a finality to it. This is not the way it should be, it says, and it will be corrected instantly. That is perfectly fine in a secular employee- employer situation. There are times when we should be told that a certain behavior is unacceptable and will be stopped, but that is usually in a one on one situation and does not happen in a large group. However, in that one on one situation, there is usually an opportunity for repentance. The offending individual can apologize for the behavior and assure the boss or supervisor that the behavior will indeed stop and that they are truly sorry for it. As Christians, the response to those words is forgiveness. This does not absolve the person of any future offenses, but it does absolve the ones that the individual has apologized for.

Unless there is an open forum where the offending parties can offer an apology between the Law and the Gospel portion of Bible study (a practice that is very uncomfortable and is better left in a private setting), repentance should be assumed and the Gospel should be proclaimed. No one should leave that meeting feeling as if they are condemned because they didn't live up to the standards set forth by God and proclaimed in the Bible study. It is very difficult for someone to hear that they didn't measure up and they sinned, but it is even worse to do so without pointing them to the Savior. Reminding us that we do not live up to the example given to us by Christ is a good thing to remember, but it is worthless unless it is taken one step further. Christ lived the perfect example for us so that we, who cannot by nature, don't have to. Christ, the perfect sacrifice, paid our ransom for our sins and bought us back so that we may be his own and live under Him in His kingdom forever. When we sin and repent of those sins, God, who is faithful and just, forgives our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. That, and not our sins is what the focus of Christianity is, and therefore should be the focus that Christians keep in all our vocations given to us by God. Sanctification comes after justification with God, and it should with us as well.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hating Conflict and Learning to Pick Your Battles

I hate conflict. There is no doubt about it. I hate the physical, emotional, and sometimes spiritual problems that result from conflict. Perhaps I have it tougher because the physical sides of conflict mimic and sometimes create anxiety symptoms. Anxiety attacks are something I try to avoid as much as possible. Not only are they not fun to go through at the moment, they also tend to ruin my day because I don't process the chemicals out of my body the way that most people do. Once the adrenaline and other byproducts of anxiety pour into my system, they take quite a while to get out, which results in headaches, more anxiety (sometimes), and a general feeling of tenseness. It's not fun.

Sometimes that means that I don't pursue things that need to be dealt with. I might avoid a dealing with a situation so that I don't have to worry about the problems that might arise from it. Sometimes this keeps me from picking an unnecessary battle and sometimes it means that things that should be taken care of are not. For me, it takes quite a bit of "guts" for me to actually bring up something that bothers me. I am always a little proud of myself, regardless of the outcome of the conflict, when I do speak up because I prove to myself then that I don't always run away from conflict.

I also react differently to different conflicted situations. Sometimes I fold in on myself, ready to make compromises wherever I feel they need to be made to resolve the situation. Other times I stand my ground unwavering (and then afterward wonder if I was correct for doing so). Sometimes I allow the conflict to be talked out and compromises are made that benefit all in the situation.

There are times when each tactic is needed. Sometimes petty things need to be dealt with by simply deciding that there is no need to be upset over them at all because they are not that important. When it comes to faith in Christ and the Truth of the Scriptures, there is no compromises, only fact. When an issue is important enough to warrant a discussion needing resolution, it is important to talk everything through calmly and rationally to bring the conflict to a close.

My biggest issue is deciding which tactic is needed for which situation. As I said, I try to avoid conflict as much as possible, which means sometimes I take the path of least resistance instead of the path that is right for the situation. How much of it is my personality and how much of it is my disorder? It is hard to say. Regardless, I have been working on speaking up when it needs to happen, working with those I am in conflict with when there needs to be a resolution, and walking away, either literally or mentally, from the problems that are really not that big of an issue.

So, I wonder, does anyone else suffering from GAD, depression, or other mental or behavioral disorders have this issue?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Restful Weekend

When I work too hard, my body always has a thing about making me slow down. This was one of those weeks. At the beginning of the week, I had mild cold symptoms, by the end of the week, I had a fever, some nasty congestion, and a cough that would make a seal think I was calling for him. The result is that I slept more this weekend than I have in a long time. I guess I had really exhausted myself, because no matter how much I sleep, I still feel like I could go for more. As much as I know that I need to rest, it always seems to take something a little more drastic before I take that to heart. I try to push myself as hard as I will go every day until I fall into a heap on the bed and sleep too little to get up and do it again the next day.

Unfortunately, this is also a bad habit I have picked up from my anxiety. My anxiety usually hits me worse at night, when I have time to think about what is going on. It is usually when my brain is active but my body is craving rest that my worst fears start moving around in my head. What is even harder is usually my body is so tired that I don't have the energy to fight that. The thoughts roll around, unhampered, in my brain causing my anxiety level to rise. In the end, I am either an insomniac or I have horribly scary dreams all night because I went to bed anxious. Either way, the options are limited and I feel like there is no way out, which also increases my anxiety level. The result became that I would push myself as hard as I could possibly go so that when it came time to go to sleep, I could practically pass out without much time laying in bed waiting for sleep to come. This created a wonderful cycle of exhaustion, which causes more anxiety because rational thought is not a friend of exhaustion, working too hard to ensure that I sleep with the minimal amount of anxiety, getting too little sleep, and going back into exhaustion. Usually, the eventual result of this cycle is some sort of an illness. Be it a cold, the flu, strep throat, or some other ailment that will cause me to finally get the rest that my body has been craving.

The good news is that I broke that cycle long ago with the aid of my doctors, help from my husband, and a few memorized hymns that I can ponder on if I have trouble sleeping or find my anxiety trying to badger me into insomnia. However, the cycle that I created for myself still creeps in on me, just as much as the other bad habits I created for myself before I got help for my disorder. If I am not alert, making sure that I continue in the good habits that I am relearning, and not allowing myself to fall back on bad habits, I will find myself right back where I started. It has been a rough couple of weeks for me, (Though this week has been better than I have had in months!) and the result is that I fell back on bad habits. Doc gave me sleep medication if I need it to keep me from going back to the lack of sleep cycle, but instead of using that, I got stubborn, decided I was better than the medication, and wound up sick. I definitely need to keep better tabs on what is going on with me and make sure that I don't fall back on bad habits. This cold is no fun!