This Dumb Brain of Mine

I was sitting in the passengers seat of a 12 passenger van. My boss was driving. We had been talking but had both fallen silent as we prepared our minds for the 13 hour day ahead of us.

Suddenly he speaks up with more transparency than I had expected from a man, a boss, my senior.

“I don’t know how to say this other than to just come out and say it,” he began. “But sometimes I get car anxiety? And I’ve got that right now so pardon if I just… talk to you about it a bit.”

I felt like rejoicing in that moment. Not because of his discomfort, for sure, but because I know how to handle this situation. I get it. I totally get it. I have anxiety too! I understand panic attacks and I know how to work through it! I’m on medicine that severs my overactive brain connections and steadies my breathing. I! Get! It!

Because I get it, I didn’t say any of these things until the moment was passed. He needed to talk. He needed me to listen. I asked leading questions and kept him talking for the last two miles of the drive. And after his feet were firmly on the ground, and after he had thanked me for listening, was when I shared my experiences in turn.

It’s okay, I tried to convey. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. I get it. 

I have two very dear friends with whom I can be fully open about mental health. They get it too; different struggles within our same biology. They taught me how freeing it was to be open about mental health; how essential it was for improvement and healing.

Unfortunately, they’re not around as much. And double unfortunately, people don’t want to hear about my brain.

My dumb brain.

Talking about mental health makes most people deeply uncomfortable. They do not know how to respond, or they have been raised to not discuss such things, or they just flat out don’t believe that a person’s brain could really behave that way.

Just get over it. Just calm down. Exercise. Eat right. Sleep.

The only thing that’s really helped me at all with anxiety or depression has been being honest with people. Truly, brutally honest, down to how many pills I take, what they’re for, how I got the scars on my thighs, how many times I’ve thought about dying.

But today, I’m sitting at work and struggling. Today, nobody wants to hear about my issues. I know, because I’ve tried to explain and it has fallen on unresponsive ears.

So let me tell you about my dumb brain.

Because of depression, I don’t really care about my body the way I should. I didn’t care that my insurance card was out of date on Thursday when I went to pick up my medication refill. I didn’t care that I ran out of said medicine on Wednesday. I didn’t even care when my anxiety swelled on Saturday and my chest constricted; it made me better at my part time job–more effective and more sharp.

Because I didn’t care for my body, it’s now Monday and I am in FULL withdrawal mode. I’ve been taking this medicine for 1.5 years. it’s in my system. It’s in my brain. Today my brain has been misfiring; zapping electric currents in the form of nightmares and waves of nausea in between hours of fuzziness. Brain static.

Today my body is crying for help; and as I sit at my desk, accomplishing nothing of value, I’m kicking myself for my lack of caring. I can barely stand without falling over. Can barely turn my head without a wave of nausea striking my every nerve.

Fuck, man. My brain is dumb. And all I really need is for someone to say, “I get it. I understand. Tell me how I can help you. My brain is dumb too.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Dumb Brain of Mine

worship language

Not everyone is called to be a pastor. Not everyone is called to be an evangelical street preacher. Some people worship differently.

It took me quite some time to realize that, but there’s not a one-size fits all approach to worship. Jesus gives an outline of prayer, but there’s not a concrete set of tenants we have to follow when worshiping God. We aren’t required to raise our hands. We aren’t required to sing hymns from 1608. We aren’t even required to be in church.

This is why there are so many different types of worship services. Whether it’s a large formal gathering with recitals and a booming organ, or a contemporary service at a small church populated by young people, people are worshiping God. I do think it’s important to find your personal worship language–in what way do you present your best self to God in worship?

Mine is music. I feel a deep spiritual connection to music as it is, and while I have my (minor) issues with both modern worship songs and old hymns, I still can’t explain the sense of peace and emotion that hits me during the music parts of the sermon.

I’m so incredibly blessed that I am able to take part in my new church’s worship band. I am in no way a professional musician, but playing taps into a part of myself that is more genuine than words can say; more fervent than any silent prayer. It’s not perfect, but my best doesn’t have to be technically perfect. Laying my best self before God, for me, means turning the focus off me; turning my brain off its racing thoughts, setting anxiety aside and being totally and completely present.

It is the art of losing myself in giving Him praise.

Here’s the song I’ve been vibe-ing to the past few weeks:

 

A thousand times I’ve failed, Still Your mercy remains
And should I stumble again, I’m caught in Your grace
Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame
Your will above all else, My purpose remains
The art of losing myself, In bringing You praise
Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame
In my heart and my soul, Lord I give You control
Consume me from the inside out,
Lord, let justice and praise, Become my embrace
To love you from the inside out
Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame
And the cry of my heart, Is to bring You praise
From the inside out, Lord my soul cries out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

worship language

Dissenting views are not productive

Everything is political. Life, by very nature, is political. Every choice you make is political.

But here, for a minute, please understand I am not talking about American political parties, or socialism, or communism, or any other mainline political system. I’m not talking about propaganda from the top government.

Lets talk about religion–American Evangelicalism to be specific.

Dissenting views are not helpful to our cause.

The church I grew up in was the strict conservative type of Evangelical, rather than charismatic. The congregation was full of academics and theologians–very smart people.

When I was in high school, I was encouraged to think critically about theology and what I believed. Discussion was actually lively in our high school Bible studies and groups. However upon graduating into the ‘adult’ world, I found that studies suddenly became much more like lectures; one side presenting a view point and leaving it at that. No one argued. No one questioned. A few times I wanted to say something in response to what had been presented, but I felt that, being a young person, my views would not be valued, especially if I happened to disagree.

Unfortunately, it only seemed to get worse as I got older. The teachers of these adult classes seemed to always want to “invite discussion” but couldn’t figure out why no one was discussing.

For instance; I had come come from college once to class where an elder had just presented a rousing lesson on the tenants on marriage, ending of course, with the condemnation of homosexuals and harping on the slippery slope that this country was going down.

“Questions?”

“Opinions?”

I had sat there, quite full of opinions. All of them dissenting. But as I looked around at the older, politically conservative crowd, I realized that my voice would be a whisper at a Baptist revival; swallowed by the noise and quite powerless to reach anyone.

I couldn’t fight all of these people. I could’t argue my opinions–my feelings– against church elders, seminary graduates, and teachers.

Whether or not others felt a similar way, I would never know. The environment that had unfortunately been created was a spiral of silence.

 The spiral of silence theory is a political science and mass communication theory proposed by the German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, which stipulates that individuals have a fear of isolation, which results from the idea that a social group or the society in general might isolate, neglect, or exclude members due to the members’ opinions. This fear of isolation consequently leads to remaining silent instead of voicing opinions.  [Wikipedia]

 

This theory is not only proven in Evangelical circles time and time again, but this spiral of silence is detrimental to any semblance of diversity in a group. It forces conversations on the hard-hitting issues out of the church’s doors.

If church is supposed to be a family, or at very least, a community, then I find it very sad that these conversations cannot be held within the community.

I had to go elsewhere to talk about depression, anxiety, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights… hell, even education in any type of depth.

The fact is, God influences the way I think about all of these issues. The love of my Heavenly Father and the grace I have been shown affects the conclusions I’ve come to and the questions I still have about all of these things.

Christ impacts my worldview. So why can I not discuss my worldview with my brothers and sisters in Christ?

Perhaps if I were braver, I would have stood up and said that same sex marriage isn’t what’s dragging the country downhill. Perhaps if I had more confidence, I would have stood up, as a young woman, and stood before the gray-haired elder, asking if he would still say these things with a gay person in the room.

But I’m not brave. Fortunately, the responsibility doesn’t lie solely on my shoulders. We can all do our part (conservative and liberal alike) in embracing differences. We can have grace for one another. Have grace for one another’s viewpoints.

We’re all human and we all arrive at different conclusions because we all walk different paths in life. But these paths have led us to each other; to a community of fellow believers who have come together to fellowship and worship our creator.

If Evangelicals are truly Calvanists and truly believe in predestination, then they are predestined to having this diversity in the room in which they’ve found themselves. And if my Evangelical brothers and sisters pride themselves on their theological education, I pray that they can be confident enough to listen to another’s viewpoint. After all, John Calvin, in his day, was just a man with an opinion.

Dissenting views are not productive