Whenever I do a blog post specifically titled "An Honest Post," it's probably really personal to me. I mean, ALL of my blog posts are personal and honest; I make sure to keep them that way, but there are some topics that even I feel more hesitant to talk about, or I just need a disclaimer to be completely real and raw because some things aren't the easiest to talk about, even if I want to. I've done one other post with this title, about my honest thoughts over what I'm like in school. Read it here. That was in SIXTH GRADE, people!!! It's just crazy to think that after this week freshman year is already done. And get ready for an honest post over that, too. ;)
But I do remember coming up with that title for that first post because I knew that really going deeply into my personal issues, such as feeling alone at school, may not be the easiest thing to write about on the internet. I had a lot of doubts because I didn't want people to worry about me or think I needed help, and I didn't want them to think that this had turned into my diary where all I do is whine about my problems. Because that is never my intent with this blog. Rather, the reason I ultimately decided to post those thoughts is because I thought that maybe they could resonate with someone, and I wanted to share how God had worked through that for me.
So nothing has really changed in that sense, this post will be along the same lines. Except this time instead of talking about feeling lonely at school, I'm going to go even deeper and tell you about my thought life! Haha as if you want to know :) No but really, I have learned a lot, even though it feels like I haven't. Dealing with the mind is complicated, which is why I want to pursue psychology, but it's necessary because almost everything is dictated by it.
I mentioned in my post about taking a break from social media here how I didn't like my thought life. That was the summer after eighth grade, and that whole year, really, had been a struggle for me. Don't get me wrong, I had some really special memories also, and in terms of how school goes it was actually one of my favorite years, but just mentally, it was like I couldn't get a grip on my thoughts. I began to keep a journal so that I could document my craziness of one day being completely depressed and the next day as I try to regroup and reflect on everything. My thoughts were just a mess. I had experienced deep sadness before, but what I was even thinking about the other day, was that it seemed like my rebound rate was higher. Like I could sort of just come out of it faster. But then as I got older, these started turning into patterns. And what I've learned about the mind is that once you form a certain way of thinking, it's really difficult to simply break that pattern. Because against my best interests, that's what started happening to me. It just became a pattern. Even when every part of me knew intellectually the truth, it was hard for my heart to accept it because I was so stuck in the ways of thinking.
**Just a note before I go into this: even though I've felt depressed before and it's felt pretty crippling at times, I still wouldn't say I have literal depression. Some people have it way worse than me, where they literally have chemical imbalances, and of course I would advocate for them to get help just like I did here in my post on anxiety. And as always, this isn't professional advice, this is just my thoughts and observations on my personal journey of battling with depressing thoughts. I don't need help or to talk to anyone; I have people that I can talk to and go to if I need it. I've gotten to the point where I think I'm doing much better, and I feel confident about writing this.
Anyway, so I've mentioned that I'm seriously getting into psychology. So the more I got to be thinking about this, I sort of tried to self-diagnose myself. It wasn't like my intellectual ability was skewed when it came to these thoughts. I knew perfectly well what was the truth, and even though I had these thoughts, they never interfered with my life in the sense that I couldn't function properly. I mean, I was crying, like every other night, but even that I had some control over, because it wasn't like I would be sitting in class and just start crying. I always did it in privacy somewhere, and then I would talk to somebody. And don't freak out if this sounds new to you, because at first I did too, thinking that I was literally depressed. But then I would hear other stories about girls, and the more I thought about it I was like, okay, maybe this is just a teenage girl phenomenon. :) And again, I'm not trying to undermine the severity of sadness, but I feel like I can do that to myself because I know I don't literally have severe depression. If I took a quiz about it or something, maybe I would have mild depression. But I also believe that some of it is inevitable, and it doesn't mean you can't function and need to freak out about it. But I'll talk more about that in the future.
Anyway, so I started tracing back to the past. I started looking for where this curve was, where it switched from being some deep sadness that could be resolved the next day to always feeling this sort of longing and emptiness that was followed by a pretty jaded attitude. And then I realized that the curve honestly came around when I turned 13. :)
Honestly, though, I do think hormones play a huge factor in this. That was when I began getting my wonderful monthly gifts, so that's always fun to deal with. And I've read stories from Christians I respect who look back on their childhood and are like, oh, that year I think I cried every single day, because you're an adolescent and that's just how it goes. :) But it was still difficult for me to cope with after awhile, which is why, ultimately, I'm writing this, is to share how, FINALLY, I'm learning to control my thoughts once again. This is going to be a long post, I apologize in advance... ;) And also, sometimes I like to blog these types of posts even for myself, for two reasons: 1) writing is SO therapeutic, but don't worry, I'll save the deep rants for my diaries, and 2) it really is assuring to look back in time at how I thought. Some of that is actually what has helped me with this. I can look back and see, oh yeah I was crazy then, too, so this isn't anything new. ;) Haha but seriously, it really does help. God can teach me things that you subconsciously begin to forget over the years, so going back and looking is a great way to refresh and remember that you can get through hard times.
So, I turned 13. My birthday is in February, so that would be maybe about halfway through the school year, or maybe a little more than halfway, I'm not entirely sure. At that time, I was in seventh grade, and if you read my post here on my middle school years, I went into my thoughts on seventh grade... Essentially, seventh grade was my worst year in middle school. Once again, academically it was fine, I even remember some of the projects I had that I enjoyed, and really, I did have some good memories made with some friends over the course of the year. But towards the end of the year, things really got bad, because I lost a lot of friends, and suddenly I wasn't just feeling lonely, I was lonely. I'd always felt lonely, clear back to the beginning of sixth grade, and I had some really good friends. But I just craved this deeper connection, especially with my faith, that I didn't get with anyone. But suddenly when I lost my friends altogether, I felt lonely, and then I was lonely. I hardly had anyone, and that was a struggle.
There was also a ton of guilt that went with it. I started wondering about myself and having doubts, thinking things like, what did I do to cause that, and maybe I should've been more this and less that, etc. You start to wonder what it is that you're doing wrong. That hurt me, too. I began to think that maybe I was just unlikable and insatiable, where nobody would be "good enough" for me. And I tried my absolute hardest to be loyal, to be the friend that I wanted. I know I didn't do it perfectly; I could still get sucked into drama, things that I look back on now and ask myself what the heck I was thinking. But then, that's life, and that's middle school.
I wrote about this struggle here towards the end of that year. But I think that's where it all started. Life is hard when you don't have any good friends. Thankfully, I had my family, which definitely made up for a lot of it, but there's still that gap there, and then it made me really anxious because I kept thinking, maybe I'll never have friends, and it won't get better, and I'll be alone my whole life. But I know that's not true. I've made some really special connections with teachers, and I met this wonderful girl who's a couple years older than me, who really took me under her wing and was there for me through all of eighth grade and even into freshman year. I seriously don't know where I would've been without her and the teachers that God put into my life; it would've been an even longer year. And plus, it also made me feel a little bit better to know that I was capable of having human connections, haha. :) I wasn't turning anti-social just yet. ;)
That happened near the end of fall during my eighth grade year. But during the summertime of 2016, I think that's really where it all began. I was able to trace back my anxiety, also, when I was dealing with that, and sort of self-diagnose that, too, and I think that's really important. I remember looking back at years where I felt pretty stable emotionally, and I would go and make lists of the things I did during that year that could've contributed to that. It was just a way for me to kind of help think about what I could be doing differently, and it did help me.
Anyway, summer 2016. The beginning of it was pretty great; we went to Canada for the first time, which was a blast. (Oh, but this year they're going for the THIRD time in a row, and I refused to. The second time kind of killed me; I figured out pretty quickly that fishing all day wasn't really going to cut it for me, so I'm going to MY happy place instead.) After that, though, it seemed like it just went downhill. Circumstantially, nothing had really happened. But my thought life? Yeah... I blogged really in depth about it here as well as what I learned from it. I just started feeling down about everything. The country, people, morals, school, everything. And it was like I couldn't pull myself out of it; I just became obsessed with it. Which I learned is a big mistake. I become obsessed with things pretty easily. I don't like to admit that, because some of those things I am actually passionate about, and hearing that it's an obsession doesn't make you feel very good. But then again, when you're getting to the point where you're depressed about it, you probably should put some boundaries on it.
And, finally, I'm learning and reflecting on ways to do just that, which I'll go over.
But I'll tell you what happened first. I became interested in a lot of different things. One of those that I talked about in this post here was prison ministry and how it was something I wanted to go into. I won't say it was a phase because it wasn't; I still have that desire and feel passionate about that. But going more deeper, I think it was just this overarching goal to help people and make a difference. That wasn't a phase either; I still definitely have that. But I think it was a lot more intense then, where I would get so impatient and frustrated that I couldn't do anything. Then that just sort of morphed into an obsession, and whenever I heard of anyone doing anything I would get jealous and cynical that I would never do anything. That lasted all the way through eighth grade; I wanted to do things and just couldn't because of age or because the timing was off, my absolute favorite. Not. I was impatient then, and I'm still impatient, so I wouldn't be expecting any posts on how to deal with that anytime soon! You guys should be writing those for ME, haha. All mine would have is cry and throw a fit, maybe you'll get your way, maybe you won't. Sometimes I did, but lots of times I didn't. ;)
So that, I think, is a summary of how I got to where I was. Again, I blogged more in depth about things I learned during eighth grade in this post. Looking back on my journals, those were the things that kept coming back, as well as a couple other personal things, too. The thing that I noticed is that these weren't any new feelings I had. I was feeling lonely in eighth grade, but I can also remember the night before school started in sixth grade, I basically threw a huge pity party and cried to my mom about the popular girls and how much I couldn't stand them and how great their lives seemed to be, blah blah blah. But yet, I didn't turn depressed or get cynical then. So I began to wonder, what changed? ALL of the things that I said had worried me or made me sad, none of them were new. In fact, there were times where they were actually worse, and I coped way better. So what changed?
I started investigating that, and I started taking note of the things you should do to be mentally healthy. Things that tap into each level of who we are as people, like the physical sides of us, and the intellectual, spiritual, etc. There are a lot of great Christian resources out there that my mom shares with me and that I find, too. Ha, if there was one thing I remember doing in eighth grade practically every night was stay up until eleven, twelve, one just reading on my phone, on these Christian blogs where I would go to their topics, find what I was interested in, and there you go, read about it until my eyes are dead. No seriously, my eyes are a mess now and that's probably why. It was the first year I didn't have to follow any time-to-go-to-bed-now rules; I could when I wanted to. Clearly I handled that responsibly, haha.
But really, when I thought about it, there wasn't anything I had done differently or that I had stopped doing. Physically, they say exercise is great for you. I still walked my dog, though not as much, but I also ran a lot during the summer because of cross country. I did cross country during my eighth grade year again, and you can read about how fun that was here. Spiritually, I was actually doing more than I ever had to be close to God: we had found a new church with inspiring classes, I bought a study Bible that was helping me understand the Bible more deeply, and obviously I was READING tons of articles at night haha. So I started realizing that there wasn't a lot that had changed, but I had changed.
I had let the temporary times of being down turn into patterns. I let them fester and let myself grow bitter and cynical, something I wanted to remain committed not to do, as I talked about a long time ago in this post over basketball. Patterns of thinking, really, are what make or break you. I was telling my mom, you know, some sadness and feeling down, that's just normal and inevitable. There are going to be times where I cry and vent about popular girls, or feeling lonely, or because I'm sick of waiting, haha, and that's normal and bound to happen. The problem began when I started making these patterns, when I stopped chasing the light, stopped chasing God for my joy, and instead was bound and determined to seal off the pain by hardening my heart, essentially. Then it became a pattern, and that's what killed it. It's hard to break patterns of thinking. That's why so many people are messed up and why you can't just sweep in and save their life. That takes TIME. It takes God time to break down those walls that people build, to abolish those patterns.
But I'm tired of living with mine. I realize now more than ever that it seriously is a choice. I got so weary of going back and forth, of one day we're high, but tomorrow we'll be low. And I'm realizing that if I don't want to think that way anymore, I have to surrender to God. I can't keep shutting Him out, thinking that these petty things I'll keep for myself. Yeah, I might feel awkward telling God some of the REALLY petty things that bother me, but that's what got me into this mess. Because I don't tell Him, and so then I keep them to myself, and I obsess over them, and they keep festering, and then before you know it, that's a pattern of thinking that gets exhausting and out of control.
But guess what? If you get yourself IN to one of those patterns, you can get yourself out. Maybe not on your own. Probably, definitely not on your own. You'll need God's help, for He's the only one who can fix a mind that's broken. I never understood why the Bible said to take each thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). I mean, I tried to obey it, but sometimes I really didn't know why it mattered, why each thought I had was such a big deal.
Ha. I completely get it now. Our thoughts are literally everything; how you think is for sure going to determine how you act. You know that quote that everyone probably thinks is cheesy, over watching your thoughts because they determine your character? Yeah, well, it is so true.
When I was getting into prison ministry, that was actually kind of a beginning for my interest in psychology, but I didn't know that until later. Because I always wondered why some people behave so badly, or what motivates them to choose to commit a crime. That all leads back to the mind. It starts there, ends there. It's just like when the Bible warns about not hating someone because that's the same as murder (1 John 3:15). You might say, oh get a grip, how can hating someone be the same as actually committing murder?
Well, how do you think murderers make their decision to carry out their crime? Do you think they just wake up one day and say hey I think I'll go kill that person? Usually not. Now I know a lot of them do have some legit mental illnesses, but not all of them do.
For a lot of them, that's how it starts. It starts off by hating someone. And that hatred and anger, when left unchecked, continues to grow and fester—it becomes a pattern of thinking. And ultimately it consumes you, and then you act on it. It's the same with lust, too—the Bible says lusting after someone is the same as adultery. It's true. Adultery doesn't just happen—it starts with a thought. And what you do with that thought is up to you, but let it become a pattern and consume you...it might not be good.
And this doesn't ever mean you don't have bad thoughts. Of course we will; we're human, emotions are a part of our life. But this is why it's dangerous to let them go unchecked. It really IS a big deal, because big screw ups don't just happen. They start off with the little things. That's why I'm so passionate about having good morals, because if we can't have good morals in the little things, what makes us think we can have good morals in the big things? How you handle the little things ultimately is what defines your character.
But about getting out of these patterns, and about what I've learned through all of this. First of all, renewing your mind is absolutely essential. And making sure you're being renewed on all levels—not ONLY spiritual—is something that I think sometimes Christians can forget. Being spiritually renewed is critical, but we're also physical, intellectual, emotional beings, so you can't let those things go, or else you might feel down, and it may have nothing to do with you being distanced from God. I've also learned that going to Him is essential—don't hide things. Even the bad things that fill you with shame. Seriously, God knows it anyway, whether or not you tell Him. And He wants to hear it from you, that's how you have a relationship. That's how you get your mind renewed. It's incredibly hard to hate someone when you're praying, especially when you're praying FOR THEM. Why? Because God is not going to let you hate them. Not when your mind is on Him, and you're filled with His love.
This morning, I was feeling cynical again, just bashing people and not really caring. Yeah, what happened to my lovey-dovey blog posts about unconditional love? They became nonexistent in my mind when I let these thoughts go.
I think that's what really killed my mental health, is the cynicalness. Because I've been sad before and deeply down because of the reality of life, but the thing was, I always had hope, so it wasn't crippling (to see more on what I mean: read this post). It was more of a pure sadness for our world and longing for Jesus, whereas this sadness, without hope, turned ugly and selfish easily. Then it was about me being a victim, which is something I never try to be. I have more of a realist personality; I always have. I don't spout cliche lines just for the sake of being positive, so if I'm feeling sad, I will not try to fake it. But I also had a legitimate, authentic knowledge of the hope through Jesus, so I was fine. But take that hope away, and you're headed on a downward spiral.
Now, as I'm completing this on June 6 and actually am a sophomore now and have published my reflections on freshman year, this is the biggest thing I learned, or maybe relearned. And I praise God I did because I don't want to fall into that gloomy way of thinking again. I remember praying, on the morning I began this blog post, for God just to work a miracle in my mind. I didn't know what to say other than that; I just knew that my down, grumpy thoughts were out of control. I didn't know how to fix it, so finally I just asked Him to. And then, as I'm going through the day, the bones of this post just came to me, and it poured out. I'm so thankful for His patience with me and what He's taught me about this.
It's like I said from what He showed me clear back in fifth and sixth grade: pain doesn't last forever. And there's always hope through it, so never, ever lose sight of that.