Monday, January 11, 2016

A few things I don't normally tell you

Photo by Nelo Hotsuma

I get irrationally anxious in the passenger seat. Maybe it's new in the last couple years, or maybe it’s that now we live in a more congested area. It’s dark and we’re in the car somewhere between Washington and Richmond when I find myself yelling every few seconds, “watch out!” begging my husband to slow down or put two hands on the wheel or change lanes to get away from the Jersey wall or a truck. My chest is too tight to relax, even though the reason my husband is driving is because I was getting sleepy. I recognize that I’m a little crazy but I can’t seem to stop wincing with every curve in the road. "You need help," my husband says. "I don't want you to have a heart attack."

I get angry for minuscule reasons, often related to wasted time, money, or energy. Late to meet my family for lunch, I am driving around the block for thirty minutes looking for a parking spot and I begin to seethe. I finally park, and as I walk the block to the restaurant, I try to reason with myself. It's not my husband or parents' fault, so I should forget about it and just enjoy the rest of the time we have. When I enter the restaurant and find out what they ordered for me, it is one more unpleasant change I can't handle. I yell and berate and make myself a complete fool, hating myself as it happens. I recognize that I’m a little crazy but it’s too late for me to back down. A couple days later, my dad calls to talk to me about my behavior. I'm 29 and my dad is concerned about my behavior; I know I need help.

As an early step in the process of becoming a Presbyterian pastor, I have to go to Charlotte for a 2-day psychological evaluation: the first day for testing, the second day for interview and results with a psychologist. The first day consists of hundreds of questions about voices in my head, how much I yell, if I ever want to break things, how's my sex life, how often I feel depressed, whether spiders make me anxious, do I obsess about details, am I mostly happy or mostly sad or mostly crazy. After it is over, I am panicking. I am sure I am going to be found out, I am going to fail, they are going to tell me I belong in therapy, not ministry. But the interview the next morning makes me feel like a normal person again, and two weeks later I get the results: Ms. Ross presented as a pleasant, engaged young person who is very interested in the evaluation process. She took notes and asked questions, appearing open to feedback and suggestions for growth. 

I think maybe we are all a little crazy, all a little wounded or anxious or neurotic or just sad (which is not to undermine clinical mental health problems that are very serious for some people, but simply to say no one is perfectly normal). I think maybe the best thing I can give to my future ministry is to stop pretending to be put together, stop pretending I can handle my anxiety and anger since I'm a well-balanced person who usually knows how to keep a lid on it, stop getting by with being a pleasant and engaged young person and learn instead how to be a whole and honest one.

So this is what I am going to try. This is my version of New Year’s resolution—or maybe just the hope of someone who has become tired of getting by. And since I’ve learned that abstract aspirations never get me too far, I’m taking three concrete steps.

1)  This semester, I'm joining a small group of women who meet weekly to share their spiritual lives, and unlike the first time I tried to join this group, I'm going to prioritize it over school and work. Because these women just might become the kind of friends who can help me be real and whole.

2) I've signed up for a writing group at school which will help me to write down the truth, to face the feelings I need to process, at least once a week. Because I need help and accountability in confronting the truest things about myself.

3)  I am lucky to have access to counseling through school, included in my tuition, so I am going to try meeting with a counselor this spring. Because you don’t have to be in acute crisis to benefit from therapy, because I never want to be too proud to seek help, because it just might help me learn to be more centered and whole.

I tell you all this, I suppose, because I have a penchant for oversharing my flaws (though some of you, surely, are not surprised at these anecdotes). Or I tell you all this because I suspect most people think they're awful, at some point, and it might do some folks good to hear they're not the only ones. Or perhaps I tell you all this because if I write it on the internet, I have to follow through. 

And also: maybe you too have been getting by and maybe you want to take a concrete step towards being whole and maybe we can walk that journey together.

No comments:

Post a Comment