Self-Harm Awareness Day – March 1st

Today is self-harm awareness day. Obviously it is something I take seriously, especially after celebrating four years of being self-harm free back in December

On awareness days usually it is appropriate to wear a certain color (orange, in this case), or do something that shows support. I think that is all good and well and I love the people who do it. However, my one encouragement is this: Don’t let self-harm awareness be limited to one single day. Use the day to boost the signal but continue to be aware of it throughout the year. 

Specifically, be aware of it in your relationships. Sometimes you may know right off the bat that someone is hurting themselves and other times you may never know until they decide to share it with you. The most important thing is to love those around you unconditionally. If they mention something about self-harm, don’t just brush it off. Don’t make fun of it. Don’t joke about cutting or suicide. Take it seriously, because it is a serious issue. 

Above all else, be there for people. Be there for your friends. Call them, text them, e-mail them, take them out to coffee. Even if they aren’t a self-harmer, these things never hurt. Be active in how you love people. I think it is the first step to really tackling this self-harm issue. 

Self-harm is usually an isolated act committed by people who are upset, lonely, depressed, anxious, or experiencing any series of unpleasant emotions or circumstances. It therefore makes the most sense to combat these conditions with lovecompanionship, and real conversations

Go and do and let blessings rain down.

If you’re looking for an organization to support today (or any day) please check out To Write Love on Her Arms.

Anxiety

I have struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember. I didn’t always have a name for it, but looking back there is no mistaking all of the signs that were there. See, anxiety is a word that gets thrown around a lot and everyone always has advice on how to handle it. The thing is, sometimes anxiety isn’t just simply something to handle.

Anxiety creeps in. I’ve never just out of the blue begun to feel anxious. It builds. This is where anxiety is different from stress. For me, I’m stressed when I need to do something and haven’t. I’m stressed when I am trying to figure out how to balance all of the tasks I need to complete. I was stressed a lot in college but the nice thing about stress is that is goes away. When the tasks are all complete, when the week is over, when I get to sleep in and wake up naturally, the stress dissipates and takes with it all of its nasty symptoms.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is often irrational. It is gradual. Anxiety preys on fears and deeper insecurities. Stress gets me to get my butt in gear and apply for a job that closes tomorrow but anxiety lies right underneath and whispers lies. Anxiety tells me that I am not good enough, that if I don’t get an interview there is something wrong with me. It tells me that I will never get a job, that I am worthless in the working field, and that everyone is disappointed in me because I don’t have a job. Anxiety keeps me up at night by just ever so slightly raising my heart rate and making my thoughts run wild. My body starts pumping out adrenaline and it becomes harder to breathe and everything starts to feel uncomfortably heavy and nothing feels right anymore.

It becomes an itch you just can’t scratch, a knot in your shoulder you just can’t loosen, and a weight that drags you into a tailspin.

Anxiety is every bit physiological as it is psychological. It is a weight in my stomach that makes it hard to eat. I get headaches when I’m anxious and it hurts to keep my eyes open. Anxiety keeps me in bed in the morning. It cripples me and holds me down telling me that I’m not going to be able to get anything done, I’m not going to get a call for an interview, I’m not going to read a book, and in the end I’m going to be a failure.

See, in my rational mind I can look at all of those things and say “oh, that’s just silly,” but anxiety thrives in what is irrational. It is a beast that stalks its victim all through their life. It looks for any chance to break through. It discourages breathing techniques, tells me that self care is overrated and useless, insists that I am ultimately alone and if I share what I’m going through I’ll be labeled a drama queen and a cry baby. It tries to convince me that everything I know about psychology, about God, and about life is completely wrong.

In a lot of ways the Devil is in anxiety.

So I fight it. I cope with it. I wrestle with it. I sit and breathe and count my breaths and check my pulse to see if I’m making any headway in soothing the physiological aspect. I tense and relax various parts of my body to try and trick myself into being calm. I have a beer, watch a funny TV show, and try to convince myself that it will all be okay. I let my rational brain take the reins.

But that’s anxiety, at least for me. Not a cop out, not anything terribly dramatic, just anxiety. 

UNICEF Tap Project

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How often do you pick up your cell phone?

Every couple of minutes? Only when it rings? Maybe just when you need to check Facebook.

Could you put it down for a minute? Not move it, touch it, or stick it in your pocket for an entire minute? How about seven? Fourteen? Two hours, or more?

I ask because a friend posted about UNICEF’s Tap Project on Facebook yesterday and it is all about putting your cell phone down. The idea behind it is that if children in third world countries can go without clean water for days at a time, why don’t we try going without our cell phones for a minute? Turns out they make ignoring texts, calls, and the latest Facebook update more enticing because a sponsor will donate one day of clean water to a child in need for every one minute you leave your phone alone.

I tried this particular experiment last night and realized just how often I pick up my phone. As it was sitting on my desk I kept reaching for it and had to stop myself. I wanted to check the time (even though I have a watch), I wanted to check the weather (even though I could just open my window and listen), and I wanted to tweet even though I had a laptop sitting a couple feet away from me. In other words, leaving my cell phone alone for almost two hours was a lot more difficult than I had anticipated.

In the end I ended up sponsoring 121 days of clean water for a child. I felt good about it, but it also made me realize just how blessed I am that I can walk into my kitchen, fill up my water bottle, and be able to trust that I wasn’t going to get sick from it. I know this whole scenario is so stereotypical of the Western world and I don’t want to pat myself on the back because I didn’t pick up a cell phone for just over two hours.

The point of this blog is to bring attention to an amazing project and a good cause. UNICEF does a lot of good work and they don’t just provide clean water.

If you’d like to learn more, you can check out the project here: http://tap.unicefusa.org/

I’d also like to encourage you, every time you pick up your cell phone, to think about a way you can help people in need.

Go and do. 

Valentine’s Day

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Even as a single female I really like Valentine’s day. 

I don’t deny that it is commercialized and that is feeds America’s need for romance. It is definitely a holiday that tells men they need to do x, y, and z because they’ve left a huge, gigantic, gaping love-shaped hole in their partner and they need to scramble to fill it. It is a holiday of obligation, cards, and cliches. 

Yet I find Valentine’s day to be useful and awakening. It is a day that allows me to reflect on how I’ve been loving people all year round. Have I been doing a good job? Have I told people I love them, shown them that I care all throughout the year? Have I been a loving sister, daughter, aunt, and friend? Valentine’s day reminds me that love is an action, a reminder that I appreciate. 

Valentine’s day also gives me the chance to see hurting people come out of the woodwork. It is a day that provokes a lot of emotion and draws out people who have been hurt all year and finally have an appropriate day to voice their hurt. Maybe this reason isn’t great because it means people are feeling lonely because of a holiday, but it gives me a chance to see who needs more love. Who needs someone to get them coffee? Who needs to hear some encouraging words? 

Ideally I would be doing that sort of thing all year and I really do try to, but Valentine’s day reminds me to be on the lookout for people who need someone.

I also enjoy the fact that friends and family often love on me on Valentine’s day. I don’t need a romantic partner, I just need relationships. For a long while my best friend and I, when we were in the same state, would go out to a nice dinner and buy each other gifts because we chose to not let our singleness get us down. 

Tonight, I’ll spend my Valentine’s day with my niece (who turns two tomorrow – oh man) so that her parents can go and enjoy a night out unhindered by a baby and I am going to enjoy it. I get to show my niece love and in the process give my sister and her husband a break. 

Valentine’s day, as with any holiday, is all about what you make it out to be and I make it out to be about a love that serves. 

Happy Valentine’s day my dears! ❤

Go and do

There are days when I’m very critical. I get mad at the world, angry at political commentators, frustrated with the general state of our country and other countries. I sit around and fuss about the government and about people and I come up with a list a mile long of all the things everyone is doing incorrectly.

The government shouldn’t have to be the one we turn to in order to help the poor, people should.

Controversial words slapped on pictures hold way too much sway on the current generation.

No one fact checks.

Everyone hyperbolizes.

The rich don’t give enough.

The poor don’t do enough.

See? I could go at this all day, pointing out everything that other people are doing poorly. I could probably create an entire game plan on how to fix everything and submit it to the President if I wanted to. There’s a problem though: sitting on my rear end being critical doesn’t do a single thing. Nothing is going to change because I sit around complaining all day.

It comes down to a phrase that the Christian writer, activist, and hugger Bob Goff uses and I always come back to:

Love does.

The love I have for this world isn’t going to be expressed through a detailed critique of everything other people are doing incorrectly. The love I have for people isn’t going to come through the more I sit around yelling at the government or yelling at the wealthy to help people. My love isn’t even truly expressed through writing these words and posting them on a blog. The love I have for this world and all of the people in it can only be expressed in doing.

Maybe I write well, maybe I’m good at pushing through logical fallacies and calling people out on their bull, maybe I’m really clever and smart and can humiliate those who disagree with me. Ultimately none of these things matter because I’m not actually doing what I’m called to do. See, I’m not doing and that is the key.

So instead of lobbying for a certain political position or piece of legislation, maybe I should put that money and time toward helping families. Instead of complaining about the failing education system in this country, I could jump into it and reach into the lives of kids who are struggling. Maybe instead of condemning young women who have had sex and are pregnant and looking for an escape, I can come alongside them and walk them through the process and whatever process they choose let them know that they are loved through it all.

Why do all of this? Because Jesus has walked with me through my hardest times, through my darkest patches, and continues to pick me up when I fall.  He does. His love manifests itself through the people that step into my life with encouraging words, who come alongside me and tell me that it is okay to not have a job and that God has a plan, who tell me I will kill it in graduate school, and who insist that I can be a powerful force in the world if I just let myself be.  

I don’t think my life has ever been genuinely impacted by anything less than the people around me doing something. Actions speak louder than words and I believe actions carry the message a lot further. 

You’re Beloved

It is amazing to me how one minute I am going about my day and the next I’m struck by a simple, kind phrase.

On Twitter today I was bantering with an actor whose work I enjoy. Me and a few other fans were chatting with him as usual, bouncing back and forth, posting pictures of our pets, and being goofballs. It is fun to brush elbows with the people who entertain us week after week on television.

He had posted a bit of a trivia question, wondering if any of his followers knew the answer. No one seemed to know as his fans refused to Google it (at his behest) and honestly replied. Jokingly I tweeted him saying that we as his fans had failed him, and his tweet back stopped me in my tracks.

No, no, you’re beloved. No failure possible.

I actually looked up the definition of the world ‘beloved’ and got these:

1. Dearly loved

2. Greatly loved; dear to the heart.

In other words, it is a fancy way to tell someone they are worth something. That they are loved. It made me stop, not because of who the tweet came from, or the context of anything on Twitter, but because I realized how little time I take to stop and fully comprehend just how loved I am.

I’m far more likely to spend the day thinking of all of the ways I have failed, or all of the things I should have done but didn’t, and don’t take any time to sit and feel loved. To stop and be loved. To love myself and to be thankful for all of the people in my life who love me.

It also made me realize how often I neglect to let the people in my life know that I love them. That they are beloved, no matter what they’ve done. When my niece, who is a toddler, does something she is not supposed to do we scold her…but then tell her that we love her. Her mess up, her mistake, her disobedience does not negate the love we have for her. It is not the “failure” we want her to focus on. We want her to know that she is loved even when she’s at her worse.

We take this approach with kids but lose it as adults. More often than not, at least in my circle of influence, when an adult messes up we tease them. I tease them. Sometimes I even bring it up later in the week and we all laugh about it again. Sometimes I’m the butt of the joke. I had a fact or belief that was proven to be incorrect and it is brought up again and again, laughed at every time, until it becomes something I cringe about.

I don’t like when that happens, so why on earth do I do it to other people?

Pointing out mistakes is not inherently bad, but when people are only told how badly they are screwing up without the understanding that through it all they are loved, it begins to take its toll. Guilt or embarrassment suddenly becomes shame.

I imagine when we’re at our worst and beat ourselves up over one failure or another, God just shakes his head and says something similar to what I was told today:

No, no, you’re beloved. No failure possible.

It is funny how those seven words can have such an impact.

So this week (and for the rest of my life) I hope I can be a person that makes her love clear, even when people screw up. I also hope I will be someone who can accept love from others even when I screw up.

Let grace and love abound.