Beautiful Imperfections

Below is a journal I wrote after participating in a schizophrenia simulation experience as part of  my mental health nursing class. We were required to listen to voices similar to those with schizophrenia would experience through earbuds as we completed various tasks. 

By the time I had made it to the community support program simulation, I had had enough. As I listened to Professor L’s condescending words*, determination welled within me. “You can choose what career you are interesting in pursuing,” she said, as she handed out our simulated job applications. “There’s nursing…but that is a demanding job,” she continued, in a doubtful tone. “You guys should consider other important jobs, like janitorial work…”

“Janitorial work? Hah! We’ll see about that,” I said to myself as I indignantly indicated that I would be pursuing the job of brain surgeon on my application sheet. Simultaneously, the voices in my head repeatedly reminded me about the supposed fact that I could do nothing but mess things up, and that I was a dumb-a**. Their deprecating words, albeit distracting, gave me all the more reason to fight them as hard as I could. I tried to perform all the assigned activities to a greater degree than I would even be able to do without the internal menaces. I would have nothing to do with bowing down to the verbal mistreatment from those who viewed my status as discriminatory. I would beat the challenge of simulated schizophrenia. Just like I learned to beat my own real-life battle of anxiety and depression.

Perhaps my past experiences occluded my perception of what I was supposed to be experiencing during this simulation. All I know is that when I shared my feelings related to the activity in class, Dr. R seemed surprised. And she reminded me that, although for me it might be a natural reaction to fight against the voices with sheer determination, most people suffering from auditory hallucinations in real life are not able to easily distinguish them from reality. People who are diagnosed with schizophrenia often do not have the mental capability or reserve to fight their symptoms, she noted. I paused for a moment, and I reflected on the gist of what Dr. Raj had just made clear to me — the inability to separate truth from a lie is powerful. Perhaps this simulation helped me to realize that how I process information is not necessarily how each one of my patients will be able to process what is happening to them.

And yet, one transferable emotion I know I experienced in this simulation was the feeling that arose within me as I faced each professor whose role seemed to be to make fun of me and my peers for our disadvantages. I felt degraded, despite the knowledge that none of them really meant what they were saying. I’ve always believed that each person on this planet is valuable and should never be looked down upon because of their abilities or lack thereof. And yet, being a high achiever, I know that I tend to innately make these judgments when I come across people who seem “mentally slow” or “delusional.” In this regard, this activity  saddened me. It forced me to think of the judgments I have made in the past and it made me realize how those people would have felt if they knew what I was thinking in my mind. I pray that, as I progress through nursing school, I would truly act out my knowledge that all people are equal in value, and that these lessons will help me truly love on every patient I interact with in clinical and in my future profession.

Nobody deserves to be or wants to be disrespected. And so, I have made the conclusion that I should approach patients who hear voices with the same respect I wished I was shown during this simulation experience. I believe that true healing and recovery is best facilitated in an environment that assures the humanity of the client. As a nurse, I can and I hope I will be aware of the struggles this population deals with. I hope I remember the confusion they must be experiencing as they attempt to separate falsehood from reality. I hope I remember my desire to fight this battle, and my realization that these patients may not be able to fight their battles on their own. But through this all, I hope that I partner with my clients by meeting them where they are at and showing them respect. Because nobody should ever be made to feel worthless, regardless of their struggles. We were all created in God’s image, even when our reflection of that image has become distorted due to the nature of our fallen world.

To recognize one’s own self-worth and yet equally recognize their imperfections is a difficult task. And yet, I believe it is a crucial one for every nurse to learn, especially those who work with those who are mentally ill. We must value ourselves enough so that we can truly “love others as we love ourselves.” But we must not buy into the illusion that just because we, as nurses, may be physically or mentally healthy at a given time, we are better than any of our patients. Because, we are all imperfect.

Perhaps that is what makes all of us truly beautiful.

*none of my nursing professors are condescending at all! They are wonderful. Their attitude I described here was only for role play.    

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“Where There is New Wine”: Thoughts about Finally Starting my Junior Year of Nursing School

When I was in Brazil, and trying to overcome my struggle of anxiety, I discovered and listened to the lyrics of Hillsong’s worship song, “New Wine.” I repeatedly recited the line “Where there is new wine, there is new power” in my anxious mind as I prayed that God would somehow bring new power and freedom into my broken mindset.

It was these three weeks of listening to and praying the lyrics of this song countless times that I believe God began to shape my heart and teach me how to trust Him much more than I previously was.

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The Beautiful Location in Brazil Where I Originally Listened to the Lyrics from New Wine Many Times

Now, despite being such an impactful song during the trip, I actually avoided it for the majority of the following months. Although I’m not quite sure of my reasoning for this new and unexpected aversion, I suppose it had something to do with the fact that the song, while simultaneously encouraging, also reminded me of the emotional pain I felt when I began to listen to it.

However, at some point over the last couple of weeks, I tried to listen to the song again with a fresh perspective. And then, for the first time, this past Sunday, we sang it in church. As I pondered its words for the 100th time, I was reminded of the hours I spent on a bench in a different hemisphere listening to its lyrics. In addition, I also thought about how it might apply to the new challenges I am about face. For those who don’t know, at my school, everyone considers the first semester of Junior year in nursing school to be the most difficult and notorious semester of nursing undergraduate studies.

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Today, as I prepare to embark on what may be a difficult journey beginning in exactly one week, I decided to do a little research on the parable of the wineskins in Luke 5:36-39, and thought about verses such as 2 Corinthians 5:17, which remind us of the new creation that we are in Christ. I came to the conclusion that through the lessons God has taught me this summer (see previous post), I have learned that my perspective on life has changed and must continue to change if I am to make it through this upcoming semester in a healthier way than I went about it in the past.

If we want to see transformational growth for the good in our life, we must let God make us into new vessels, for our old ways cannot sustain the Kingdom mindset.
I must continue to let God take my habits of seeking human perfection in academics and people pleasing, as well as my anxiety and desire to be ultimately in control and surrender to the new wine that He wants to bring out of me.

And so, for all of my friends about to start a difficult semester in school or a challenging season in life, my thoughts are as follows: with God, we have the ability to truly enter in with nothing except all that God has given us.

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Let us press into becoming more like Him, using what He has given us to better the world around us. Let our minds be transformed so that we may leave our destructive ways behind us, and truly experience the peace that only Jesus can give.

His transformational Spirit is a free gift, so let us take hold of it.

How incredible it is to wake up each morning and not know how God will choose to shape our ever growing hearts when we let Him.

Life is a process. Trust in Him, and trust the journey. Jesus, bring new wine out of us.

 

Reflections on the Unexpected

Surprises are the bane of the Type A existence. Of course, if you add anxiety to the genetic melting pot of the aforementioned perfectionist, unplanned circumstances are perhaps doubly unwelcome.

This Summer, I learned to deal with the unexpected.

This Summer, I learned to deal with pain. I suppose that severe physical pain can be described as excruciating. But the pain that comes from the emotional trauma associated with self-deprecation, depression, and anxiety is gut-wrenching. Although I know my experiences pale in comparison to the severity of countless atrocities that others have to face day in and day out, I cannot downplay the hatred that I lavished on my brain that culminated at the end of May and month of June. In my mind, I had disappointed so many people that I looked up to, I had disappointed myself, and I had ruined my potential at the college that I knew was and is a huge blessing in my life.

To make it worse for my already fed-up brain, I had to shove down and learn to discard the pride that was slashed when I was rejected by not one, but three potential jobs. I had to face being rejected from an incredible traveling and scholarship opportunity simply because I take a moderate dose of an anxiety medication. I did not even receive the small to moderate scholarship that I was all but promised to receive form a separate source.

And then, death. I suppose death is the catalyst for both grief and growth. Here, I am not referring to the death of anything metaphorical. This Summer I faced the death that I knew was coming – that of my family friend who so courageously fought the battle of cancer. And then, I faced the unexpected death. Suicide.

I lost a friend who I had known my whole life to suicide. Granted, I had drifted from her over the past 12 months or so due to unfortunate circumstances, but when a 20-year-old whom you shared clothes with, makeup with, laughs with, and hearts with at one point in your existence takes her life, you have to stop what you are doing and seriously take some time to evaluate and reflect.

But, God.

I’m not sure where things began to change for me. All I know is that these deaths mutilated my self-loathing. Something within my mind finally accepted that I have to spend each day wisely, and being wise, I decided, did not include tearing my own self apart and succumbing to anxiety and fear. And aside from this, in the midst of this all, I was finally able to join a small group of similar-minded young adults seeking the Lord who encouraged me through the process.

You see, this Summer was unexpected in a lot of horrible ways. But I was also able to reconnect with old friends (as I write this, I am sitting next to a friend from elementary school who goes to RIT in the Roberts science lounge!). I was able to strengthen current ones. I was able to increase in love for my family. I was able to meet a whole community of fellow believers that do nothing but encourage and strengthen each other. I began to let my mind be transformed.

Finally, one day in August I woke up almost crying. However, this time it was not due to the heavy burden of depression, or the fear of guilt, or the nausea of anxiety. This time I woke up in tears due to the realization of the incredible blessing that is the life God gave me.

Suddenly, and yet not so suddenly, the weight of the death and the disappointment and the unexpectedness of this Summer became absolutely beautiful. I looked back at what God had done in my life and those around me in just a few short months and I realized I was not afraid to move forward anymore.

I think I have realized that life is about moving on. It is about accepting each second, reflecting, and being thankful for each moment that we have the opportunity to inhale, exhale, count our pulse, and rest in the confidence and steadiness of the God who made us. Because when you rest in the confidence of an unchanging God, moving on and facing unexpectedness ceases to be the bane of the Type A existence. Rather, it awakens the soul of drive and excitement. Surprises are welcome and even disappointment is beautiful.

How wonderful it is that we can share with others that “Beauty there echoes a speck of our Source.” Without Him, I truly believe, life is nothing. Life is a philosophical journey best lived in the hands of an unchanging and all-knowing God.

Simple Joys

 

As made quite obvious from the content of my recent posts, this Summer has been filled with an interesting conglomeration of various life lessons. Many have been weighty, as this Summer has not been the definition of sunshine and happiness.

However, today I believe I was able to see past the perplexity that is living for a moment of time and be comforted by the appreciation of the small joys around me.

Today, among other things, I decided to play with my dog. Surprisingly, this is not something that I often consider doing. Why, I’m not quite sure. Screen Shot 2018-07-26 at 6.10.02 PMRegardless, as I stood in the warmth of my sunny backyard and tossed the deformed yet hilarious football for my lively yet old dog, I couldn’t help but smile and be consumed with happiness.

And in that moment, as I took a step back from the complex intertwining of life’s dynamics, I thought back to the many happy moments that have scattered my days over the past couple months.

I thought back to the joy that filled me when a customer was gracious and patient with me at Wegmans.

I thought back to the many texts I received from family and friends displaying their care for me.

I thought back to the moments of laughter and revelation and conversations in my small group.

I thought back to the ab-hurting moments of laughter as I goofed around with my friend in the car (we were safe, I promise!)

I thought of the car rides with family that made me thankful.

Screen Shot 2018-07-26 at 6.12.43 PM.pngMost importantly, I thought of the moments where I was keenly aware of God’s presence and peace –moments spent worshipping, reading, or just observing creation.

I have realized that there are many things we can choose to focus on. We can focus on the negative circumstances and situations that plague ourselves and the world. Or perhaps we could also focus on life’s greatest moments that come a few times a year, such as a new birth, or a large celebration.

Or, we can focus on the simple joys – the smiles, the feelings, the laughter, the moments, the time spent with our Creator. Because, if we take the time to look for them, they are always there. And it’s pretty amazing how joy-filled life can be when we take the time to be grateful.

It’s a daily choice, but I know my perspective is shifting. Life can be and is beautiful. Let’s take the time to find the simple joys in every moment.

It can be a hard perspective to adapt, but perhaps it truly is quite simple.

 

A Summer of Healing: My Ongoing Lesson on Contentment

What does it mean to be content? Surely I could list the dictionary definition or even the Biblical definition of the concept. However, I don’t believe that contentment is a state that can be defined without truly experiencing it.

As I have been learning recently, it’s hard for me to be content. You see, this Summer is a particularly interesting one for me. This Summer is a bit of a recovery for me — recovery from the grips of anxiety that I spent too long ignoring and the ensuing depression that is wholly confusing.

I have also been discovering that my mind is a weaver, endlessly weaving correlations and observations together on the time clock of what I believe to be the span of a purposeful life.

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I am used to going, and pushing. I push myself in academics, and the way I try to treat other people, and the way I desire to serve God. I have grown accustomed to the pushing, and the weaving of my mind is a constant reminder that my brain will not be easily content to stop.

This Summer, I am learning that, although the loom inside my head is a gift, I have to learn when to stop. And to be content with not doing –not pushing.

You see, I have been asking myself questions. So many questions.

How am I supposed to be by myself thinking if I am stuck? I often feel trapped within my mind, and I become angry at myself for the weaving that I can’t seem to explain to others.

How am I supposed to truly follow God?

How am I supposed to truly show love to others?

How am I supposed to show love to myself?

How do I forgive myself for the times I haven’t been patient enough with myself to listen to others’ advice?

It’s hard for me to stop and take time. God knows I can reflect. But it’s the time spent by myself thinking that seems to have the power of quickly turning from an inspiration to a thunderstorm. However, I am also slowly learning that contentment is realizing that God truly understands. He is patient when I am not patient. He loves when I feel I cannot. He is in control when I cannot be.

And thank God for, well, God. Because He knows I couldn’t live without Him. Sometimes the lessons we have to learn are painful.

But it’s ok. It’s going to be ok. So, for anyone else going through a Summer of healing, this one’s for you. It’s a process.

Perhaps I have realized that we cannot overcome future challenges if we are not patient enough to overcome this one.

 

 

Let’s be Real — The Deception of Distraction

One thing that I’ve realized about myself lately, and especially over the course of the past year, is that I can be quite an introspective person. I spend a lot of time thinking. I think about myself, and other people, and I think about the world around me. I often think, not just about one of the aforementioned topics individually, but about how the many components of the dynamics around me intertwine to become the world that we live in.

Recently, I’ve had a little extra time to do such thinking. And in this time, I have been reminded of something desperately disheartening. It is something that we, in America, should be rightfully afraid and aware of.

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That is, the deception of distraction.

Artfully deceiving, our Enemy, the devil, works in many ways. In some countries, there is terrorism. In some, there is widespread poverty. In others, there are ravaging natural disasters, and epidemiological diseases, and complete, disgusting social injustice. Perhaps America is lucky to have escaped the brunt of such tragedies. We certainly are fortunate to live in the Land of the Free, a country that many people have died to try to and to live in.

And yet, we have on hand our own catastrophe. It is, perhaps, the catastrophe of a false reality. So, let’s think about a few things that have been on my mind, in an attempt to demonstrate my point.

How much time do we spend concerned about how many followers we have?

How much of our life is spent trying to please other people and make ourselves appear perfect?

How much of our life is spent trying to climb an illusory power ladder so that we can feel significant?

How much time do we spend focused on promising-yet-unproductive diets, and strict exercise regimens, and make-up brands to make ourselves look like so many people that claim to inspire us to become “better” versions of ourselves?

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The list can go on. And I am not saying that some of these things, in moderation, are wholly bad or evil. But I am saying that, in the midst of all of this, the Enemy has distracted us from the reality of what is actually going on around us. I know, because I see it all around me, and I see it in myself.

The reality is, outside of our made-up worlds inside our phones and screen and celebrities, there are people around us hurting. Each person struggles in different ways that some of us could never imagine. The reality is, in the midst of our lives, there are approximately 123 suicides per day[1]. The reality is, nothing will change unless we decide to change first. The reality is, there is a Hope that we can cling to, whose name is Jesus, and is willing to carry our burdens. And the reality is, although our world can be disgusting, it can also be unimaginably beautiful.

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We just can’t let ourselves be deceived anymore. We have to live our lives for what and for Who is actually real. Our family. Our friends. Our Savior. And we can bring hope to those who are hurting. Instead of becoming obsessed with our followers, we can fall in love with the service of others and the beautiful relationship we can have with our Creator.

To wrap up, I will paraphrase a song lyric by Ryan O’Neal: The universe will expand with our heartbeats, exhales, and the hope of open hands.

So let’s live. Let’s share love with the hope of our open hands. And, most importantly, let us not be deceived.

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I (Jesus) have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” -John 10:10

 

[1] https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/

Life at the End of the Rope

I receive inspiration for writing this blog at weird times. This one came at 4 AM, lying in bed. But have no fear – it was written at a much more reasonable hour!

You see, there’s been a lot to process since getting back from Brazil. Yesterday I had to come to terms with deciding against participating in one of my biggest plans for the summer because of what I’m working through. And my mind doesn’t like to just accept things for what they are. Oh, no. That would be too easy.

So it came up with this analogy. I think in life we are all given ropes. Thick ropes. These ropes are special, because throughout the course of our lifetime, they can be worn down and strengthened again to become even stronger, if the owner of the rope has the right tools to fix their broken rope.

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These ropes, given that they maintain their strength, are quite reliable and flexible. They can go through a lot, and each person’s rope has the capability to withstand different types of trials. However, life with a threadbare rope – I’d just call it a string by that time – is challenging.

And I believe that my rope has been worn to a string recently.

Discovering how worn my rope is has hit me like a rock. (For more of an explanation on how it got to this point, see my previous posts). I would consider myself to be a strong person, so having my rope be in the state it’s in can be especially confusing and aggravating. I need to repair and rebuild by string, but I know it’s going to be a process. And, in the meantime, I’m dangling. Being attached to a rope at such a flimsy state is difficult, because the once stable nature of it has dissolved and has left me hanging from what used to be a strong lifeline to a tether that is easily blown in the wind.

And the wind blows a lot.

I feel the wind move when I am reduced to an anxious state for no good reason.

I feel the wind move when I am reduced to an anxious state for an explainable reason.

I feel the wind move when I lie in bed at 4 AM, trying to process everything that is going on. (Hence this blog. See, 4 AM doesn’t have to be a bad time!)

I feel the wind blow when I realize the manifestations of my anxiety have still not been eradicated.

And I really feel the wind blow when I have to make decisions, which, although I ultimately know are for the good, severely hurt my heart.

But, despite all this, life could be much worse at the end of my string. There’s one IMG_2262.jpg more vital part of this analogy that I could never neglect to include. You see, God’s in this little equation of the rope and I, too. Perhaps some people would assume that He is the one holding the top of the rope, and become angry when the wind picks up and their rope has become threadbare, and life becomes a challenge.

However, much like in the poem “Footprints on the Sand,” I see God at the bottom of the rope with me – carrying me. When the rope becomes thin and the wind becomes unbearable, He is there to carry my weight. And He is the one who will ultimately provide me the tools to fix this rope and make it strong again. These tools can be through conversations with other people, medication, or a variety of other means.

In the end, although I’m scared to be as strong as I need to be to repair my rope, I’m beyond thankful for the weight God is carrying, and the tools he has given me to make the process easier. To close, I would like to share a verse that I have repeatedly returned to in this Season. I’m looking forward to seeing how my rope is doing by the next time I write here.

“You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.” –Psalm 18:28.

P.S. If you feel like your rope might be a little threadbare as well right now, feel free to reach out! People with damaged ropes help each other. It’s one of our tools. 🙂