Quote of the Week

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in
which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to
yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing
that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do. —
Eleanor Roosevelt

Social Anxiety and Social Awkwardness

AnxietyIf you met me in person, you’d never know that I struggled with social anxiety or what I’ve deemed social awkwardness.

I’m a pretty quiet and shy person at first but the more you get to know me, the more you get to love me! (Just kidding about the latter.) In all seriousness, the more I become comfortable in certain social situations or a group of people, I can be loud, outgoing, silly (zany if you’d like!), bubbly, and full of energy.

After close to a year of being at my current place of employment, I have yet to be fully comfortable. My personality comes out in short bursts but then I get quiet, withdraw, and “shut down,” keeping to myself and avoiding interaction with my coworkers if I can help it.

I assume—I don’t know for sure—that they have judged me negatively and for whatever reason don’t like me. In a previous post, I tossed around a couple of social situations where I felt like this before. I invent all sorts of reasons in my head:

  • I’m a freak
  • I’m a weirdo
  • I don’t interact much with them
  • I don’t have an immediate warm, outgoing personality
  • I don’t dress very fashionably
  • I have nervous habits that they probably don’t like
  • I am all-around irritating, grating, and annoying in some manner that I don’t know of

Most people struggle with this kind of thing without any real basis. My fear used to be completely unfounded and after the incident at my previous job, I am plagued by thoughts of social anxiety and awkwardness tenfold. I don’t know what I did at my last job to rub my coworkers the wrong way but I wish I knew so I could try to work on it and cut it out. Vague references of “immature” and “annoying” don’t help me much.

So here I throw out the detailed descriptions of social anxiety and social awkwardness. The first one was developed by the NIMH; the second is my own invention built off of the social anxiety description.

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Christian counseling: Nouthetic vs. Biblical

Last night, I spent some time on the phone with my husband’s friend’s sister (aka my former pastor’s sister). We’ll call her Natalie.

Natalie was very sweet and kind, really encouraging and strengthening me by sharing her testimony of faith in God. She suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, which has led her to take Paxil (on and off) for the past 7 years. She says the drug has helped her tremendously and who am I to knock the drug (knowing what I know about Paxil/Seroxat) when she has seen the wonders that it has worked in her life?

I briefly explained my story of depression, history of suicide, and diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Although she couldn’t fully relate, she was very sympathetic and understanding. In fact, our conversation was so fruitful, I ended up taking notes!

Jay AdamsWe briefly touched on the issue of Nouthetic counseling (NC). She has undergone the course and simply needs to be certified. The counselor I currently see is associated with the Christian Counseling Education Foundation (CCEF), which has roots in NC and was founded by the man—Jay Adams—who developed the method. However, CCEF is now known for what is called biblical counseling. The organization has since moved away from pure Nouthetic methods and become more a bit more varied, taking bits and pieces of psychology (and perhaps psychiatry) that line up with the Bible. Adams, disagreeing with the organization’s approach, founded the Institute for Nouthetic Studies and uses the Bible as the sole counseling textbook. According to the wiki entry on Nouthetic counseling, Adams developed the word Nouthetic based on the “New Testament Greek word noutheteō (νουθετέω), which can be variously translated as ‘admonish,’ ‘warn,’ ‘correct,’ ‘exhort,’ or ‘instruct.'”

NC was developed back in the ’70s as a response to the popularity of psychology/psychiatry. Many Christians reject some of the teachings of such popular psychologists as Freud, Jung, Adler, Maslow, etc. Adams’ highly successful book, Competent to Counsel, criticizes the psychology industry and counters its teaching with a Nouthetic approach.

But NC has its Christian critics.

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Failure and Success

God has really been hammering me on the issue of fear in a slightly different way than I’d imagined. He keeps showing me stories and verses related to failure and success. Here’s a devotional that I found in my inbox this morning:

Thoughts for Today
What words come to mind when asked to describe yourself? Sometimes we might define ourselves by listing our failures and our negative traits. But God has a different perspective! If we are followers of Christ, this is how God sees us …

We say: I’m a failure. I can’t do anything right.
God says: You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. Philippians 4:13

We say: I still feel guilty about things I’ve done in the past, even though I’ve confessed it all as sin and don’t do those things anymore.
God says: I blot out your sins and remember them no more. Isaiah 43:25

We say: Sometimes I feel so unlovable. How can God possibly keep on loving me?
God says: God says nothing can separate us from his love. Romans 8:38-39

We say: I tend to be such a fearful person.
God says: The righteous are as bold as a lion. Proverbs 28:1

God sees us as righteous, wise and forgiven. He sees us as his treasures, his children.

Prayer
Lord, thank you for clothing me in the righteousness of Christ. Help me not to think too lowlyor too highlyof myself, but to see myself as you do. In Jesus’ name …

And then I read an article on Olympic diver Laura Wilkinson in Today’s Christian Woman (TCW) and she addressed the issue of failure and success. If God doesn’t get to me through this, I don’t know what will! I’ve posted excerpts of the TCW interview that spoke to me (occasionally interspersed with my commentary) under the cut.

Read the rest of this entry »

Second "be" attitude

“I am not afraid / I am not alone / For my hope is held in this / My God is in control” ~ Crystal Lewis, “Fearless”

beachBe less fearful. Or rather, should I say “be fearless”?

I suffer from an inordinate amount of fright. I had a mental health examination the other day and the evaluator asked me about all my fears. I listed a few of them as follows:

  • Heights
  • Dark, closed spaces
  • Tight spaces (a closed water slide would scare me)
  • Bodies of water (i.e. swimming, boating, capsizing)
  • Excessive crowding (more than 10 people each within a foot of my body)
  • Bugs bigger than a speck of dust
  • Pregnancies/Childbirth
  • Newborns/Infants (they’re simply too fragile for me to hold)
  • Getting fired
  • Not doing my job correctly
  • Not knowing what I’m doing – ever
  • Having too much confidence (paradoxically, I never have enough)
  • Other people (their emotions: anger, sadness, disappointment, etc.)

And that’s just a short list, I’m sure.

Worry is the same thing as fear; both cause anxiety over that which I have no control over. So how am I to conquer fear? I have no choice but to trust – have faith – in God.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” – Paul in Philippians 4:6-7

This is easier said than done. The verse essentially tells me not to worry about anything but to submit my requests to God with praise. Replacing worry with prayer and praise will give me “the peace of God” — a sense of calm in my life, knowing that things are in control. This “peace” cannot be understood logically or practically — it “surpasses all understanding” — BUT it will protect my heart (emotions) and mind (keeps me from going crazy) through the atoning work that Christ did on the cross.

Fear can also be conquered with love.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” – I John 4:18

God’s love can help me conquer fear. Trusting that He has my best interests at heart will help me to face things that I wouldn’t want to face alone.

But my faith (does it even exist?) wavers back and forth during dark times and I become the “agnostic” Christian: “Yeah, God, I know you exist but I can’t see you, hear you or feel you so you probably don’t exist.” It’s the greatest spiritual paradox. Ed Welch in Depression: A Stubborn Darkness — Light for the Path calls this phenomenon the “atheistic believer.”

It’s difficult to be fearless when you’re too afraid to trust and too scared to love. No easy solutions, but many hard questions.

Fear

"I fear / I have nothing to give / I have so much to lose / Here in this lonely place / Tangled up in our embrace / There's nothing I'd like better than to fall / But I fear / I have nothing to give." ~ Sarah McLachlan "Fear"

I've been thinking much on the concept of fear. I fear people, I fear my family, I fear my friends, I fear change, I fear airplanes, I fear those who teased me in grade school, I fear my hairdresser, I fear my boss, I fear saying no. My life is overrun with fear.

I'm trying to approach life a little differently. I've lately been asking myself "Why am I so afraid? Really, what's the worst that can happen?" And realistically, I analyze the potential worst-case scenarios. It usually follows with: "Will I get yelled at ?" (Answer: Probably not.) "Will this person be mad?" (Answer: Maybe but unlikely.) "Will I get shot?" (Answer: Highly unlikely.) "Will I disappoint?" (Answer: It's possible, but people will deal.) "Will I upset?" (Answer: That's possible too but it's not the end of the world.)

Talking through worst-case scenarios has helped me come out of my shell a bit more. I have a long way to go but I've been more assertive with what I need over the phone (I'm not afraid to sound nasty anymore – what do I care what people I never will meet think of me?) and I'm no longer as apprehensive to change an appointment or cause disappointment. Disappointment is a part of life – something that can't always be avoided so I do what I need to do and try not to think about it.

I had to let down one of the ladies that's trying to sell me Mary Kay. I agreed to a facial on Tuesday but realized I don't have the money and I don't really want a facial. She's a pretty good salesperson so I got talked into rescheduling and really – I really wanted the "try it before you buy it" facial at the time – but now that I'm at home thinking about it, I'm wondering again if I really need it and am wasting my time. And I'd feel terrible for her to drive a half-hour all the way out here to my home and me not buy anything. And I don't know what I'd do if I felt pressure to buy. I usually end up doing something because I'm afraid to say "no." Again – fear. I need to see if my new approach will work. Unless Mary Kay's products are so likable – as she says they speak for themselves – that I actually want to buy it. The challenge will be if I don't. Then I'm faced with saying no and feeling bad that this poor woman drove 35 minutes out of her and wasted gas for no sale.

I need to remind myself that people will feel bad and even though I may cause it – the way other people feel is NOT my responsibility.

Applying the fear factor with loved ones tends to be a little trickier. As such, because they're loved ones, we care more about what they think. I don't want to upset my mother in law sometimes so I agree to something that I'm not necessarily fond of, I don't want to upset my mother when she I disagree so I agree to whatever it is to avoid a fight (which usually ends up with me unhappy in some way), or I don't want to upset my husband so I either don't express my true feelings or I agree even though I feel differently. Some of it is superficial, but for the most part, it's harder because since these are the people I love – and will see again – what they think about me holds more weight in my mind.

[NOTE: Do not mistake my saying that "I am not responsible for the way he feels" as "I am not responsible for my actions toward him." I am completely responsible for any inappropriate or hurtful actions toward him. But in a situation where two people who are talking and a person takes the truth of a matter very hard, the person speaking the truth cannot be responsible for the way the other person feels. Especially if it was not said in a hurtful or injurious manner.]

"There is no fear in love: but perfect love casteth out fear,
because fear hath punishment; and he that feareth is
not made perfect in love." ~ I John 4:18 (The Bible)

If the above is true then the opposite of fear is love. O, that I may be filled with more love for those around me and my fellow man so that I may do what is right, pure and honest – both for them and for me.

Letting go of fear releases the demons of depression and opens up paths to true joy and happiness.