teedbits; disclaimer: a lot of lamenting, “why”-ing (or perhaps more accurately, complaining), and processing
[anxiety] It’s fascinating how anxiety affects the body. I have a sense of what triggers me (emotional turmoil and upset) but I don’t understand why it sets off these psychosomatic symptoms in me. Why does it make me anxious? Why can’t I just feel upset and leave it at that?
I get an anxiety attack during P Travis’s sermon. I notice it becoming harder to breathe as my chest starts to ache. It’s a strange response to what P Travis is preaching because I’m quite challenged and blessed by what’s being taught in the sermon. I wonder if I’m making up these symptoms (is it actually hard for me to breathe or am I just being dramatic?) but then I check my heart rate on my fitbit and notice it’s skyrocketed. I’m distracted the rest of the sermon, focused on not losing control over my breathing and not giving into the building panic in the pit of my stomach. It wouldn’t do to end up in a crying fit on the floor in the middle of the sermon.
What happened during service that made me so anxious? I don’t know for sure. I have a small hunch, though. I do think these attacks are the means through which the devil spiritually attacks me. Sometimes I will hear something especially hopeful and truth-filled that I know I want to lock it in my heart. Then, almost immediately, my body will resist. “No!” like it’s screaming in response: “you’re wrong”! Then panic and fear fills me as I wonder why my body is falling apart and I don’t have quite the mental strength to hold on to faith. My feeble attempt at understanding this phenomenon is that my subconscious bases what its hearing to what it knows of my past experiences and revolts in rebellion when my consciousness wants to believe in something that seems counterintuitive or illogical. “Don’t hope in that! It’s all lies. You will be disappointed. You will get hurt.” I wonder if it’s a defense mechanism, one borne out of the flesh rather than the spirit.
[allergies] Thanksgiving finds me coughing and choking on my couch, struggling to breathe as I feel an invisible disc descend lower and lower down my throat. I mistakenly assume it’s an anxiety attack until I make my way to the bathroom and catch a glimpse of my face in the mirror. My eyes are bloodshot and swollen and a few strange bumps have appeared underneath the surface of my skin. I send a photo to Sophia and she confirms that they are hives. It’s an allergic reaction.
At one point, the stabs of pain in my chest are so sharp and painful that I consider the possibility that I might die from this reaction. Despite the realization, I continue to idly stare at my screen which is playing Netflix. I wonder if I’m going to die sprawled on my couch watching Supergirl and fleetingly think that it’s a very sad way to go. I worry about the dirty dishes I left in the sink, the tissues scattered on the living room table, the mail that I flung on the floor in my disorderly manner after returning home two nights ago and think if people found me dead in such a messy apartment, they might judge me. My last moments: bumming in my PJs, watching Netflix, and wondering what people will think of me after I die. For a brief moment, I considered cleaning the apartment before breath left me but decided that was stupid. So I continued to watch Netflix and rubbed my chest, hoping I could relax my muscles and prevent my airways from closing.
Thankfully, my breathing resumes with the help of an albuterol inhaler, courtesy of my housemate who rushes home after hearing about my reaction. My swollen eyes and bumpy face remain as is until the next day but my Thanksgiving is spared as I spend the day fighting to stay awake despite the drowsy side effects of the Benadryl my other housemate acquired for me. I laugh as I think about how nonchalantly I reacted to what was happening and wonder why I didn’t panic in that moment. There was certainly due cause; I was alone in my building with no epipen and losing the ability to breathe. But, I didn’t panic. Why?
It may be fair to call me crazy, but the moment after I considered the possibility that I could die, I knew in my spirit that I would not. Such a strange thing that makes me think that, too, but it’s the fact that I was watching Netflix. I hadn’t done quiet time yet. I hadn’t done anything productive that day. I had not even brushed my teeth. But, I knew in my heart – this is not how I’m going to meet Jesus. No, I refuse to meet Jesus this way.
My hope is that in my dying breaths, in my fading thoughts, when it’s time for me to leave this world, I will leave worshipping the Lord. I will not be thinking of cleaning the apartment. I will not think about what people may be thinking about me; I’ll be thinking of what I want people to know of Jesus. I will not hope that I can live; I will hope that God may be glorified in my life. I will not be watching Netflix – I will be grown enough by that time that I’d shut the darn laptop, drop to my knees, and pray with whatever remaining breaths I’d have.
I feel like the Lord was saying: “It’s not time for you to go yet. There’s still much more for you to learn and grow and do before I take you.” Basically alluding to the fact that I’m not nearly as spiritually mature as I thought and I have much more to experience of the Lord here on earth before He’s ready to take me to heaven. It was a subtle comfort and a pressing reminder that my life is His, and I am meant to live it for Him.
[ambassador] I feel like I’m in the middle of a long drawn out war fought by my parents. I’ve been dragged into it by default of being their daughter and while I cannot imagine the pain the two of my parents must be going through, I’m having a hard time handling my own. It is difficult enough processing through my own breakup yet, having to bear the bitterness and hurt of my mom and dad towards each other has felt like the weight of the world. I no longer can discern what the boundaries are. I feel far too invested in each side to sit idly by while they fight. And I cannot adequately play diplomat for the two of them without being burned by their anger and frustration for expressing understanding and compassion for the other side. How can I be victorious? I’m fighting a war they both want to lose.
My parents have always talked about divorce growing up but the recent cancer diagnosis seems to have planted the final dagger in the back. Both are ready to give up and sign the papers. “Why is it worth it to stay?” they ask me. My dad asks whether I’m pushing for them to make it work because of my religious beliefs or because I’ve actually thought it through and I don’t know how to explain to him that the two coincide with one another. My parents are not believers so I understand that they do not hold the same values and beliefs as I do regarding marriage and divorce. But, there’s truth and logic in God’s law that applies to marriage even apart from the religiosity of it. I tell him that I firmly believe that there’s so much joy and growth that the two of them are missing out on because they never learned to work on their problems and my dad agrees with me. “But, that’s just a possibility. Of course that’s a possibility. But, I don’t think it will happen.”
[anger] I haven’t been angry at God in a while but I wonder if I am angry now. I’m definitely confused. Why, when my mom gets cancer, our family falls apart? Isn’t cancer – as pointed out by many of my friends – a cause for my family to come together and become all the much stronger as we support one another through this? Why give my mom cancer so that the exact opposite can happen? Why put me in the middle of my parents’ fighting when I can barely make sense of my own heartbreak? Why give me a severe allergic reaction on Thanksgiving day, why have me so anxious and stretched thin that I’ve done next to nothing at work all month, why have me break down every Sunday at church so that I cannot concentrate on what’s being taught? Why, God, why? Tell me how this is all good. Tell me because I’m so. flipping. confused.
[answers] There are moments where I do feel like screaming and tearing something apart. They’re not as frequent as I’d expect and I know it is by God’s grace that I’m still able to function at a somewhat acceptable level of capacity. That and community. I feel brief moments of reprieve, relief, and refreshment when someone texts me reminding me that they’re praying for me and my family. I’m not alone in this and that is something I constantly forget and am reminded of daily by the ever so faithful church.
I am trying to cry out to the Lord more instead of trying to just be okay with it. I’m starting to accept that I’m dealing with some pretty heavy stuff and it’s nothing to be ashamed of and it’s perfectly reasonable to be asking for help and wanting for answers. Life has been battering me but there’s no reason to go down without a fight.
Despite the fact that I’m not usually at God’s door pounding on it and demanding answers, I do feel like the Lord gifts me with some moments of clarity. In little snippets of revelation, in mundane every day things, I feel like I can hear Him more. Explaining things to me, pointing things out to me, calling me to rest at His feet as He shows me something.
My mother and I talked for three hours on the phone last Saturday after Thanksgiving. My mother is not a talkative woman – especially when she’s depressed. Neither is she someone who listens very well or is able to empathize and talk about emotions. Yet, all we did for three hours was pour out our hearts, cry, reflect, and remind ourselves that we love each other. So many things came out of that conversation that effectively put a balm over the wounds in my heart that I had accumulated growing up. She apologized for things I never thought she would acknowledge. She expressed regret over the way she treated me. She promised me she’d never try to hurt herself again. And the kicker – she was the one who initiated that call. Because I told her about my Thanksgiving allergic reaction and she broke out of her self-inflicted isolation to check up on me.
After my dad and I talk about how we’ll handle the pending, probable divorce, I pray for strength and work up the courage to go up to him and hug him. My dad’s arms are hesitant to come around me (we’re not very physical or emotional towards each other at all). I tell him I’m sorry for what’s happening and thank him for being patient with my mom. I cry because I’m sad. I never cry in front of my dad because it’s strange and embarrassing and an extremely vulnerable feeling. I have never seen my dad cry and I have always known him to be extremely lacking in emotion and empathy. But, I cry because I don’t have the strength to say these things to him and hold back tears at the same time. My dad hears me crying and goes: “I want to cry, too.” He tells me he’s already cried but we just don’t see it. He goes on to tell me that he’s thankful to have my brother and I and that no matter how we turn out (job-wise, character-wise, anything-wise), it wouldn’t matter to him. I joke (being a career-transitioner who left a stable, respectable, accounting job to enter into a more artsy, design career, with a brother following my footsteps to leave his job as an actuary to become a civil engineer) and ask even if we become poor starving artists, would he still feel that way, and I can feel my dad crying. “It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.”
Family has always been extremely hard. It is the scariest to be vulnerable with my family – especially my parents as they have never really displayed vulnerability and rarely shown genuine affection to my brother and I. I’m sure most Asian/Asian American families can relate. It’s terrifying. Yet, I know that without that vulnerability, the relationships formed within my family are shallow and hollow. Not genuine. Not strong. Not worth it.
Although my parents’ relationship seems to be thinning out and near the point of snapping clean in two, my relationships with the both of them has been deepening. With my brother as well as he reaches out more frequently (previously, him also always being in his own world and removed from family) to support my family from Seattle. I’ve addressed things with them that I never thought I would bring up for fear of starting an embarrassing cry fest only to have them knock me down by invalidating every one of my feelings. By the grace of God, that hasn’t happened. By the grace of God, I am being challenged to lay myself bare before them and love them fearlessly, as Christ did for me.
All of this is a painful process. Sometimes, I do wonder if it’s worth it. It’s that painful. And I don’t know how everything is going to turn out. I don’t know if my parents’ marriage is salvageable – don’t know if that’s God’s plan. But, I know for now, all I can do is hope in the goodness of God. To cry and lament but continue moving forward in faith, to hold on to God’s Word and promises, to look my anxiety in the face and tell it to back the eff off because though my flesh and heart may fail – my God is my strength and portion forever. To hell with my stupid subconscious.
In the moments where my clarity is razor sharp and my will is iron-clad by the Spirit, I feel an excitement and anticipation building. What will become of my family as we walk through this fiery trial? My faith tells me: greater things than I could imagine.