31 Days

Day 31: I kept it.

My New Year’s resolution was to write every day of January, and stay off Facebook for the whole month.

As soon as I click the publish button on this I will have done it. Everyone says they don’t keep their resolutions past January, and mine only needs to be kept through January. That’s lame and probably sort of cheating, but I still feel accomplished.

The point of it was to remember how much I love writing and need it, and I did that. I’ll probably still write a little bit every day even if I don’t publish it. I’m actually really looking forward to not having to finish something every day. I’m bad at finishing things and I hate deadlines.

This isn’t a super satisfying post to end my challenge with because it isn’t about anything. But it’s not the last thing I’ll ever write.

Bye January. You’ve been horrible. May February be warmer and not marked by another lengthy depressive episode.

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31 Days

Day 30: What I wonder about you.

I found this unfinished draft from March 2013, and I loved it because it had a lot to do with what I was already wanting to write about today.

[I wonder about people.
I wonder what they’re like when they aren’t around me.
I wonder what kind of family they grew up in and whether their personality is because of them, or in spite of them.
I wonder what makes them sad.
I wonder what makes them feel alive.
I wonder what ways life has hurt them.
I wonder what they like about themselves.

And there was a time when I used to ask about those things, a time so long ago that I can’t remember how I was ever that brave.
Now I just wonder about them.

I’m too scared to do anything more.]

I have an impressive list of questions I like to use to get to know people. I’ve been asked countless times, “How do you think of that?” and my answer is always that these are the things I genuinely wonder about people.
These are my favorites and what they tell me about you.

1A. What did you want to be when you grew up at age 5?
This tells me what kind of imagination you have, because when you’re five, you have no limits. You don’t care what’s realistic or difficult or what anyone will think of your dreams. You just want what you want. If someone asked what you wanted to be when you grew up, you answer totally honestly.
1B. And when you were 14?
This one will be more realistic than your five-year-old dreams, but still probably more what you truly wanted and less what you think is practical and acceptable.

And if your answer is the same for both and is what you do now, that’s just awesome. I have a friend who never wanted to be anything but a teacher, and now she’s been one for three years and she absolutely loves it. But she seems to be an exception.

2. What’s one book you tell everyone they should read? Do you have one you love so much that you want to keep it to yourself?
I got the idea for this one from the Fault In Our Stars.
Sometimes you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.
That book for me is Daring Greatly. The books people love reveal so much about who they are(so does a response of “I don’t really read much”), plus if they say a book I haven’t read, now I have something new.
And then there are books like An Imperial Affliction, which you can’t tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.
And that book for me…I won’t say. That’s why the second half of my question is phrased the way it is; if you look back at it, you’ll see it doesn’t require them to tell me what it is if they don’t want to. It also makes it fair for me to choose not to share mine. But, if they tell me theirs, I usually tell them mine. I will never share it with the internet. I probably won’t even reveal it in my own book when I write it someday.

3. What’s something you’re afraid of that you wish you weren’t?
For example, I really don’t mind being afraid of spiders, but I wish I wasn’t afraid of people. And one other fear that I won’t say on the internet. Everybody’s afraid of something that’s not a big deal, but I think everyone has at least one fear that they could really stand to live without. I asked my favorite professor this once and I was so surprised and honored when he actually answered it.

4. Would you rather be blind or deaf?
I read a really beautiful essay by a 20-something girl who’d gone blind when she was 17, about how thankful she was that she’d lost her sight rather than her hearing. Which inspired me to 1)thank God that I still had both and beg him to let me keep them, and 2)write about why I’d hypothetically choose to be deaf. But since both me and the blind girl had such deep and valid reasons for our preferences, I think your choice probably shows a lot about what you value.

5. Tell me something I don’t know about you.
I ask this often, never only once with each person. It’s such a nonthreatening question and your answer can be as deep or as simple as you want it to be. If you want to just say “my favorite color is purple,” or tell me the story behind your deepest fear, anything goes. Occasionally I’ll ask my best friend this, because she’d have to really think for an answer.

31 Days

Day 29: I was supposed to move to Georgia today.

I’ll write about this much more extensively someday.

Last June I thought I had God’s plan figured out. That plan would have had me on the road to Gainesville this morning.
And he kept trying to tell me over and over again that he had something better, but I kept shushing him, because this was what all my squadmates were doing and it was making them happy, so therefore it must be what I was supposed to be doing.
Except I had nothing but a deep sense of dread about the whole thing. I wasn’t looking forward to it and had no desire to tell anyone about it.
All of this is what led me to the Great Depression of 2015. From the end of August to the end of October.
But I don’t like admitting I’m wrong and I don’t like changing plans, and to get out of this emotional hell and back onto God’s track, I’d have to do both.
I finally gave in and did both of those things in November. And suddenly, peace. Peace like I hadn’t felt since the beginning of May.

I thought everything would get easier right away.
It didn’t.

But even in the midst of all the not happy stuff I’m sitting in right now…it’s where I’m supposed to be. God wants me at Midtown; I wanted community in Georgia, he gave me one in Lexington. God wants me working at Moe’s; I need to be humbled and reminded that everything is ministry and everything is important and everyone needs to be loved. God wants me living at home; my family is the ministry I neglect the most.

I use my hometown as a way to compartmentalize my life. I don’t think of it as a place where God can use me; it’s where I go back to tell people what he’s doing everywhere else, be it camp, or CIU, or another country. But he’s doing things here too, and as much as I sort of wish he was calling me someplace that sounds more impressive…I have a feeling he’ll be keeping me here until I see it as just as much a mission field as Ecuador.
And when I love Lexington in the same way as I love Ecuador(because I LOVE home, just for different reasons), that’s probably when he’ll send me somewhere brand new.

Until November I felt misery on top of misery. Now I feel misery on top of peace.

And that ends the most vague post I’ve ever written. I considered forgetting the whole thing, but it’s the only thing I’ve been thinking about today so I didn’t have anything else to write about. It’s just not a story I want to fully tell online yet, because I didn’t tell anybody about it in real life. Not that there are crowds of people reading this anyways. By which I mean more than two people.

31 Days

Day 28 bonus post: Things I’ve never been too depressed to do

I know I said “no more doing things” at the end of my last post, but I decided that it doesn’t count as doing if it’s something I want to do and feels effortless.
I was thinking and then realized my thoughts would feel better on a screen than in my head. This is me continuing to think.

These are the very few things that depression doesn’t touch.

1. My incontrovertible sense of humor
I’m still very funny when I’m depressed. More cynically funny than usual, but hilarious nonetheless.

2. My extroversion
While I may be too depressed to seek people out, I won’t tell you to go away if you find me. I still need company even though I can’t go to it.
I’ll appreciate your presence as long as you’re someone who previously knows about my depression(because it’s hard enough to explain when I’m healthy, much less when I’m sick) and you aren’t too demanding. Like, trying to get me to cheer up, or convincing me to go someplace with you or see other people. Once in my last semester of college, I was dreadfully depressed and lying in my bed watching TV and didn’t want to go anywhere, and Scott came down to my apartment and sat in my comfy red chair and watched with me. He didn’t even make me change the channel, although he did comment “If Selena Gomez’s E! True Hollywood Story is the best thing on TV, it’s probably better just to not watch TV.”

3. Brushing my teeth the second I wake up
I may not do anything else that whole day, but no matter how emotionally dead to the world I am, I will brush my teeth. I may not care if I eat or or shower or see any people, but I will care that my mouth is gross.

4. Watching baseball
I may not read every article and keep up with every detail of my team(even when I’m healthy I’ll occasionally get lazy on all that, because it does get exhausting) but I’ll never be too depressed to watch a game on TV. Any game. It doesn’t have to be the Red Sox; I’ll watch the Padres play the Diamondbacks if that’s all I can get. I don’t say no to baseball.

31 Days

Day 28: Warm weather will be back someday and so will my personality.

It’s so cold.
It got so cold so fast and it’s been so cold for so long and I can’t remember what it’s like to feel warm.
And the RAIN. Or worse, the clouds for days with no rain. There’s no point to clouds if they aren’t making it rain. If it’s raining, you know the clouds will eventually stop being clouds, because they’re made of rain. So how can the clouds stay for so long without raining? LET IT GO, CLOUDS.

It sort of sounds like I’m talking about depression, but for now I’m actually speaking in literal terms about this horrible joke of a South Carolina winter.
It was 80 degrees on Christmas. Then all of a sudden, around New Years Eve, it dropped to the 50s and then it was freezing every night. Three times I’ve been late for work because I was scraping ice off my car. If I wanted to need an ice scraper, I’d move to Michigan. We southerners are not used to this kind of winter. It doesn’t stay cold for this long. It’ll be cold for a week or so, then we’ll have a few days of slightly warmer, then it gets cold again.
But no, this winter, it’s been consistently cold for four weeks now. There was no transitional period to get used to it(I never get used to it…but the normal people around me have all complained about not having time to acclimate this year), the cold just happened.

It feels like it’ll never go away.
But it will, because that’s how science works. Even if it stays much colder for much longer than ever, the Earth will keep turning, and therefore it will, someday, be warm again.

I like to pretend depression works that way too, even though I don’t have any guarantee like I do with the weather. That’s why I said pretend.
I can’t remember what it was like to feel things, but I did once and I will again. It may be a really, really excruciatingly long time, but I will. If the weather can get warm again, I can feel alive again. I’ll turn it into a competition and try to beat the weather to it. Maybe the weather will respond to the challenge and try to warm up as soon as possible. That’s a game I wouldn’t mind losing.
I won’t get to find out unless I stay alive, so I’ll keep doing that. Living, I mean. I don’t want any of the two people(I don’t know them) possibly reading this to think it’s a 600 word suicidal cue.

This 31 day challenge would have been SO much more fun had I done it in a month when I couldn’t just write about being sick. It’s a good thing only four people have read any(and not all, or even a quarter) of these posts because they’re super dull if you don’t live inside my head.
It also would have been easier. When staying up late enough to watch Jimmy Fallon feels like a chore, how do you think I feel about writing? There are too many things I need to do in a day without adding writing to the list.

Okay, done. No more doing things today. I might not even hold out for Jimmy. But it’s Thursday, which means hashtags, which might make me laugh, and laughing makes me feel a little more human and less like the cute little white puff of existence on the Zoloft commercials.

PS, don’t look up the original Zoloft commercial on Youtube and read the comments section. People are mean.

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Day 27: My dreams are as weird as I am.

First, I have this atrocious lamp that’s taller than me that I’m getting rid of, so it’s outside my room, and I just walked upstairs in the dark and lost my mind for a second because I stopped right in front of it and thought it was a person. My heart’s still racing a bit.

Anyways.

Last night I dreamed that I was standing in the parking lot near Moe’s with the cast of Empire and half the Red Sox. My Inception moment(when I realize I’m dreaming) came when I noticed that this really random guy I went to CIU with for a year was there, and I start yelling “YOU AREN’T NUMBER SIXTEEN, DEVEN MARRERO IS NUMBER SIXTEEN WHICH IS WEIRD BECAUSE HIS TWITTER NAME IS @DMARRERO17 BUT THE POINT IS YOU DON’T PLAY FOR THE RED SOX AND THIS ISN’T REAL.” So David Price and Taraji P Henson grab my hands and start dragging me home.

I still think of David Price as a Blue Jay. It’s weird that he’s with us now.

I think the fact that I can remember all their jersey numbers correctly in my sleep(because Blake Swihart and Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts all had the right ones; Brock Holt even had his new #12) is proof that I think about baseball way too much.
But I don’t watch Empire…so I don’t know where my brain comes up with this stuff.

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Day 26: Self-help books that actually help

Books that market themselves as self-help books are not helpful.

I don’t want a how to. I want a me too.

These books are just that. They’re stories of real people who really fought the same monsters I do. And most of them aren’t talking out of a place of “I’m over this FOREVER, here’s how you can get where I am,” more of a “I’ve gotten so much better at dealing with this but I’m still in the arena like you, here’s what my fight looks like and if yours is different and my coping methods are useless to you I’m not offended.”

1. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
This book is hilarious. Even the chapters about depression are hilarious, partly because they’re so relatable* that it’s funny but mostly because she’s just impossibly funny herself.

2. Boy Meets Depression by Kevin Breel
Allie Brosh somewhat makes light of her struggle, despite being totally open and honest and accurate. This one I cried through the whole thing. The difference is probably that I was deeply, dangerously depressed when I read it, while I read Hyperbole during a high point where I could laugh about it because I wasn’t currently drowning in it. But it’s still wonderful even though it was very very sad.

3. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
Again, I laughed hysterically through every page. My mom got so used to hearing me from across the house that she’d call “Are you still reading that book or is something else funny now?” The answer was always that I was still reading that book. This one is more about anxiety even though it addresses depression too. It’s also just loaded with funny stories about totally random things. It’s my favorite of all on this list.
By the way this list is in no particular order. Hence why my favorite is in the middle.

4. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
I read this quote in an article on Thought Catalog once:
“You will read a book that will change your life. I’m talking about the book that became the lens from which you chose to see the world. You were just waiting for something to come along and explain to you how the world works, to make it all easier for you, and it came.”
And that’s how Daring Greatly happened to me. I wasn’t even looking for it for those reasons. I didn’t even know what it was about. When I read the introduction and found it was about vulnerability, I almost stopped reading because that was the last thing I wanted to think about at the time, but it was exactly what I needed.
I got this book from the library so many times I finally bought it because I wanted to write all over it and highlight it. It’s an easy read but also heavy. Well, heavy makes it sound like a hard read. Rich is better. You can read it fast if you want, but you’ll miss things. You need to read it slowly or read it many times. This is a treasure chest of feel-good wisdom and the kind of truth that’s so true it hurts you.

There are probably more, but I actually prefer short lists when I’m the one looking for new things to read because otherwise I get overwhelmed and can’t choose where to start. If I think of any others I like, I’ll come back and update this.

*Wordpress, you suck. Relatable is a word. Your red line made me doubt myself but Google agrees with me too.

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Day 25 bonus post: I can only write like me.

As much as I love Tyler Knott and Allie Brosh and Jenny Lawson and Brene Brown and Ann Voskamp…I’ll never write like them.

I’ve tried. And I can make myself sound like them, but I want to sound like me.

I use the word “y’all”. I write in long, run-on sentences with very few commas. I interrupt myself with questions and I answer myself four thoughts later.
Because that is how I talk.
When you read what I write, you’re supposed to feel like I’m sitting across from you, eating my cereal and talking to you. You shouldn’t feel like I’m forcing my thoughts to sound like a better writer is reading my ideas to you in their own words.

I never like anything I write when I write it with the mindset of “What will people like reading?” Most of the papers I wrote in college, I’d tear up if I reread them. They’re all in a box under the desk that I never sit at because my room is too far away from all the people in the house, and I wanna be where the people are. I’m Ariel with legs. And no singing voice. And blondish brown hair instead of read. Ok I’m not Ariel, I’m just an extrovert.
ANYWAYS.

Writing because I love to write and want to write and so I just WRITE something…that kind of writing always results in a piece that I’ll reread in three years and hug myself for. And if anyone read it, I think they’d like it too.
I’m looking forward to a week from now when I won’t be writing because I have to.
I’m glad I set myself to this little challenge, because as much as I’ve hated feeling obligated to write and half my posts have been no good at all, it’s reminded me of the huge part of me that I forgot over the past eight months: I love to write. I’m not me when I’m not writing. And God talks to me through my own words when I see them on a page or a screen. Maybe that’s why he’s felt so silent for so long, because I’ve been refusing to open up this vein that he so often uses to get to me.

This wasn’t supposed to be this long, but I still like it. It’s me on a page. It happened without me trying and it’ll probably be one of my favorites in a few years.

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Day 25: Untold stories.

There are some stories from the World Race that I haven’t told.
Some are because no one has asked about them, and they’re too close to my heart for me to share unless you really want to know.
Two I’ll never tell because I don’t like them and they didn’t have an impact on my Race to the point where they need to be told.
And a few, I’m keeping for myself and the people I lived them with, because they’re beautiful and I think that they’d lose some of that beauty every time I shared it with someone new.

But these are a few that I’ve told to few people or none. I always meant to write about them, and this is me getting around to it. It’s about time, as I got home eight months ago yesterday.
Most are happy. Some are sad. They’re listed in no particular order of importance.

1. One night in Thailand, we had just finished super feedback. Casey and Whitney were in the living room and Courtney and Tina were in our bedroom, all having serious conversations, and Lizzy and Jess were out on the porch setting something on fire. I can’t remember what it was or why they were burning it, but that’s what they were doing. So I went in the kitchen by myself to put peanut butter on my Oreos and eat them with Jesus. And I sat there and ate them and was so happy with everything that we’d all shared in the past two hours and everything that was happening right now, and laughing to Jesus at how the most extroverted person on the team was the only one in the house who was alone, and I was thanking him for Jif peanut butter because this was the first country in which I’d eaten it.
Then Lizzy came in and said I looked happy, and I probably bounced a little in my chair as I said “Because I AM!!” Then I told her everything I’d just been thinking about(because whenever I’m alone for a little while, I recap my thoughts to the first person I see. This is my E at its finest) and then I offered her an Oreo and she said no at first because she was trying to be good but that she’d sit with me while I ate. After a minute she said she had to have one because it’s impossible to not be happy about things I’m that happy about, so we ate them together and it made me happier.
Then Jess joined us and eventually the other two pairs made their way in, and I looked at them all and loudly proclaimed “I just LOVE yall” and probably got up and hugged all of them.

2. When we first got to Swaziland, my team was living with one other team in a little house on a hill. It overlooked this big valley and there was a long road that we could run on every morning, and our next door neighbor had a 50-year-old pig(it was really that old)that was six feet long and huge, and we had the most beautiful sunrises in our backyard and if we walked a ways we could see the most beautiful sunsets over another big valley. We ate dinner on the living room floor every night after cooking it in our tiny kitchen which we’d have to chase chickens out of every few minutes, and we played card games all the time, and one morning I woke up and there was a cow on our front porch and I felt like I was living in a Chick-fil-A commercial.
Then they suddenly told us that our team would be moving an hour drive away to live in a hut and work at a whole different ministry. It was awful.
The morning we were leaving was a Sunday. I woke up before everybody and slipped out on our back porch by myself to watch one more sunrise. I cried and cried and the chickens came and pecked at my feet and that made me laugh but not feel better.
God didn’t tell me to cheer up, or say anything about why he was making things change or what good things might happen in our new place. He just sat there with me and let me cry, and it felt so right to be so sad. I knew everything would be fine, but I also knew that this was my favorite place I’d lived, and we were living with a lot of people I hadn’t spent much time with and I’d loved getting to have fun with them and now that was over, and I just wanted to be sad about it. And God knew that because he knows me, and he just let me be sad, but not alone.
That sounds like a sad story, but it’s one of my favorites because it was a sweet moment with just God(well, him and the chickens). I usually want company when I’m upset, but I was so glad no one found me that day. The sun finished rising and I finished crying and the chickens ran off to do chicken things, and I went inside to hug everyone good morning and walk the two miles to church together for the last time, and no one needed to know how I was feeling, because I’d felt it with God and that was enough.

3. I just looked through my drafts on my World Race blog to find more stories…and decided the one about the lanterns needs to be a full post. It deserves so much more than a paragraph at the end of a post that’s already over 900 words.
So, lanterns. Hold that thought. It’s coming soon. It’s so good I’d almost forgotten it.

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Day 24: I’m socially anxious BECAUSE I’m an extrovert.

If you understand that I’m an extrovert, you probably have a hard time grasping that I have severe social anxiety.
And if you understand that I have severe social anxiety, you probably can’t believe that I’m an extrovert.
Most people know one before they hear about the other.

First, let’s remember that “extrovert” is not synonymous with “outgoing.” The two have nothing to do with each other. But even people who understand the scientific difference between introversion and extroversion scratch their heads over my situation.

I need to be around people to mentally recharge. Solitude is crippling. Just reading a list of things introverts find comforting makes me lonely. I LOVE people and would prefer to be around them all the time.
But what if those people don’t want me to be around them?
This is the root thought from which the little gremlin that lives in my brain grew. I call him that so maybe he’ll seem cuddly and less life threatening. He doesn’t have a name; just know that if I ever mention “the gremlin” that’s who I’m referring to. Sidebar, “the other gremlin” means depression. She’s the other because she isn’t as big or as frequent of a problem. You can ask me later why depression is a girl and anxiety is a boy.

ANYWAYS.
Because I need people, I’m terrified of never having that need met. Or of people only meeting that need because they know I need it.

Last Tuesday I had a horrible day at work and did NOT want to talk to ANYONE. I was out of spoons but not yet out of things I needed to do and people I needed to see.
if i don't have to talk
But I still wanted and especially needed company. I spent twenty minutes drafting a text to my friends saying “If I’m going to refuse to talk, would it be better if I just didn’t come tonight? I just want hugs and then I want to listen to everyone else.” I elected not to send it, I went, I sat in my car for seven whole minutes before going in the house, and my heart was slamming out of my chest all night as I tried to act normal and chipper even though I just really desperately wanted to cry.

Other common contradictory behaviors people observe in me, things that make people say “BUT YOU SAID YOU WERE AN EXTROVERT” or “How can you ___ so easily if your anxiety is really a thing?”:
1)I love being around people, even big groups of them, but the more there are, the more anxious I’ll get when it’s time to leave. I prefer to ghost. I try to escape without saying goodbye to as few people as possible. Then I obsess over it once I get in my car because I’m afraid the people I didn’t say bye to are mad about it.

2)I mean it when I say “the more the merrier,” even though I sort of hate crowds.
See, there are a small number of people who are safe. I call them my lifeboats. As long as they’re there and I can come back to them anytime I want, I can swim through any ocean of social interactions and be totally fine. They don’t even have to be right beside me the whole time. The safer the person, the more distance they can give me; when I go to CIU to visit Scott, he can be on the other side of campus while I’m making new friends and I’m still thriving.
I do LOVE new people. So if I see a risk-free opportunity to meet some, in other words if I’ve already determined that one or more of my lifeboats will be involved in whatever activity I’m referring to, I want to take advantage of it and will therefore invite as many of them as possible.

3)Strangers don’t bother me. As in, pure strangers. People who will remain strangers for likely ever. I talk and joke around with my customers all day at work, even the regulars who I no longer consider strangers, because all of those people are compartmentalized. I’ll never interact with them outside of the context of ringing up their burritos.
Strangers who are potential friends though…that’s like asking me to calmly walk into a cave full of hungry wolves.

Basically:
I love people more than anything.
People scare me more than anything.
I love it when people make it clear that they want me around, because it makes them much less scary.
If I like you I’ll work really hard to get to a point where you no longer scare me.
I can’t do the hard work alone.