The title of this post is pretty bold. I’m slightly uncomfortable with it. But I couldn’t think of a shorter way to say what I want to say, viz., “How to not be overwhelmed when your thoughts are holding you hostage and you want to run away but you can’t since you’re paralyzed by fear.” So “fight[ing] the good fight” it is. I’m thinking of other “how to” posts, BTW, but the others will likely be more along the lines of…how to eat lots of ice cream with no health consequences. Except that I haven’t figured out how to do that – but if you have, PLEASE let me know. Do you sense the urgency in my voice?
This is a fight, you know. We aren’t just floating to heaven on beds of ease. One Sunday soon after we flew home to MD my HS Sunday School Teacher told me to “fight with everything you’ve got.” It turns out that I don’t have a whole lot – I do have a measure of personal stubbornness that has sometimes worked in my favor during my recovery, but I’ve noticed that elements of my character can change with how I’m feeling, so it’s better not to just try to pull myself up by my bootstraps and soldier on. I need help.
On one of my last days at ChezJ in Africa I had a nice morning chat with JCJ and JJ. This was by special arrangement – C (another houseguest) took little non-school-age M for a walk so I had some quiet moments to talk with our hosts. We had basically come to an understanding that I was going to return to the States and ask my church to send me back to be a financial analyst/missionary in response to the very kind invitation I had received a few days before. Now was our chance to say anything important before I left.
“In the spirit of full disclosure,” I began, “I should tell you that I’m crazy.”
“Well, we’re all crazy,” JJ said kindly.
“No, no,” I clarified, “I’m call the ambulance crazy.”
What I meant was that I am cree-hazy. Or, more colorfully, straight up cray cray. (I got this phrase from an episode of “Say Yes to the Dress:Bridesmaids” in which the sister of the bride insisted that she wanted to wear a tiara (preferably with a veil) and the consultant’s commentary was This girl is straight-up cray cray.)
But don’t worry, I assured them, I’m just telling you this so if you notice that I’m unraveling you can remind me what to do.
So this is what you do if you start to unravel: You get the Sword of the Spirit out and start hacking things up indiscriminately. I learned this method of proactive mental health training when I was in my young 20s, and stressing myself out at work to the point where my hair was falling out, I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t get anything done because I was literally paralyzed by my own fear (of failure etc.).
Side Note: This method will only work if you know who Jesus Christ is, and you believe He is who He says He is. If you are unsure what I’m talking about, read this and this and/or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org (or just use the contact form on my site). Don’t worry – ask whatever you want – I promise I’ll be nice and if I don’t know the answer I’ll find someone else who does (and who will be nice, too).
Now is not the time for splitting doctrinal hairs. Of course you will want to keep the verses you read in context, but if you have an issue, or lots of issues, write them down point by point, then use your mind/a search engine/concordance to write out a scriptural answer to each point.
It’s a good thing I learned how to do this several years ago. I also used to practice rewiring my brain in my old life in OR. I had a clear shower curtain so I pasted big-print copies of the passage I was trying to memorize to it so I could concentrate on it while washing my hair. I also kept a little notebook that Je gave me in my drawer at work and scribbled verses in it when I was stressed out. There was always an uptick in verse activity at the end of the month since that’s when my job got busier and we had to “close the books.” I only had a small portion of the Word I wanted to store in my heart at the time I got sick, but I am so thankful I had what I had, even though it wasn’t a lot – because I needed it, and I’m sure it’s what preserved me from becoming angry, bitter, and truly unravelled when my brain bled.
Last week I asked M (37) to watch me walk so she could recommend a poundage level for a new pair of ankle weights. She recruited B to help scrutinize my gait and as I walked alongside a pair of parallel bars I told B, See all this good walking over here? Oh yeah, he assured me, You could put that up on Youtube. That’s right, I thought. This is textbook, man, textbook. (Side note: My gait is not textbook, but I like to think optimistically.)
On a serious note, Lt. Cmmdr. R’s former roommate (from the Naval Academy, I think) was piloting a medical helicopter when it was shot down in the Middle East several years ago. If I recall correctly, the chopper’s descent was caught on film, and when I watched the CNN special on it another officer observed the footage and told the audience that the pilot’s reaction had been textbook. What he meant was that the pilot had done exactly what she had been trained to do if your helicopter sustains enemy fire and is in distress.
During those few seconds, Jennifer (a beautiful blonde captain on her 3rd tour in Iraq) reacted in a way that everyone else can look at and say, that’s what you’re supposed to do. (P.S. I ❤ vets)
How someone reacts under pressure is extremely telling. That’s why I think it’s safer to try and react scripturally instead of relying on your inner strength – because, frankly, your mettle may be inadequate. Mine is. Have I mentioned that? And this weekend I found a textbook example of using the Word to answer the cries of an anguished heart. Amy Dane is a single mom of 4 teens in Texas. She is a single mom because her husband took his own life a few years ago. (About 2.5 years later, AD wrote about her heartbreaking and harrowing situation with great candor here.) When I think I’m having a bad day, or a bad few years, I go read this. Seriously – there are so many complicated emotions in the questions she asks, but there is hope in the answers.
Psst! You might get a kick out of this: