The Voice

You are the voice in my head that says,
“Why didn’t you do better?”
and no reason is sufficient.

You are the voice in my head that says,
“This is your fault!”
all my actions have malicious intent.

You are the voice in my head that says,
“You are a burden.”
When did my basic needs become selfishness? Continue reading

Beat

I was at the youth group I was interning at talking to someone when a junior high guy suddenly jumped on my back.

“Get off me, please!”

His weight started pulling me down.  I thought about defending myself, but I’m one of the adults responsible.  I can’t hurt him to protct myself.

“You’re hurting me.  Get off!”

My knees hit the floor, and the boy’s older brother called his name: “Get off her.”

Continue reading

10 Things About Being an Extravert That You Might Be Surprised To Hear

  1. I do have a personal bubble.  Just because I want to be around people all the time and I like talking to you all doesn’t mean that you can invade my personal space.  Back off.
  2. I am okay with silence.  Hey, often I’m happy just being around people without the pressure of keeping up a conversation.  In fact, one of my favourite things to do is to find a busy place and just people-watch.
  3. I am more inclined to listen than to speak.  No, seriously.  I like talking, too, but I also like being involved in other people’s lives.  I love other people, and part of what makes up each person is their experiences, thoughts, and feelings, and I enjoy hearing about that.  And – BONUS – even as I listen I’m still around and interacting with people.  Yay! Continue reading

The Gap

The gap between my thighs.

I can’t look at it.  I cringe when I see it in the mirror: empty space framed by twig legs.  The gap that makes girls envy me, the gap that they starve and hurt and die for is the gap that I dream of being rid of.

Sometimes I like to imagine what it would feel like for my thighs to brush against each other as I walk.  I imagine that I would feel powerful, and that I would own the space I am in.  I would be more than a branch sticking into the air.  I would be a full person, with fat and muscle and bones and skin and intelligence and I would feel human.

I hold this image in my head as I scoop another serving on my plate even though I am full.  Family or friends that sit with me say, “Have some more!”  They look me up and down.  “You could use it.”  They are right.  I want to fill the space between my legs, so I force my stomach to take more, praying that it will all stay down. Continue reading

Shut Down

When I was younger, my father used to lecture me.  It did not matter what I had to do, what homework was due at school the next day, when he had a grievance against me.  He had us sit at the kitchen table, and he would talk for 2 hours straight, on average.  He was a preacher, so he had no problem talking for that long.

The grievances were usually petty.  I didn’t hold a family member’s hand well enough during the blessing for the food.  I couldn’t think of a prayer request.  I corrected a fact that he had gotten wrong.  It didn’t matter what it was.  I couldn’t predict it.  Sometimes I could get away with a snarky comment to one of my sisters.  Often, I couldn’t pass the salt to his satisfaction.  Supper nearly regularly ended with a long lecture from him.

During these lectures, I was not permitted to speak unless he asked me to.  When he did, he expected a specific answer.
Do you understand what you did wrong?
Yes.
Good.
I still haven’t figured out what answers he wanted to some of his questions, though.  When he asked those ones, I knew that it was going to be a long night. Continue reading

Growing Up

Since moving out of my parents’ place, I have changed a lot.

At first, I would have made any parent proud.  I didn’t buy junk food, and I always ate my vegetables before my dessert.  I went running every morning, and handed all of my homework in on time, if not early.  I read all of my textbooks cover to cover.  I kept my room spotless, and washed the dishes every day.  I never bought anything that I didn’t absolutely need, I never ate out, and I checked with my roommates before leaving the house.  I passed up on fun events in order to do ministry or schoolwork or chores.

Today I finished off another bag of chips, and the only exercise I got was walking to and from the bus stop and the restaurant for lunch.  I’m taking dance lessons.  I have handed in assignments late in order to get more sleep.  Sometimes I skim my textbooks.  My room is a complete disaster, and the dishes are piling up in the sink.  I bought myself some movies and a sewing machine.  I eat out at least every couple of weeks.  I go in and out of the house whenever I want without worrying about checking in with my roommate.

Maybe I have become irresponsible.

What I do know, though, is that over the past three years, I have been growing up.

Everything that I never learned when I was younger, I am learning now.  I might have learned how to run a ministry and keep a tight budget and a packed schedule when I was twelve.  I knew what it was like to lose sleep, to worry, and to work hard until I reach a goal, but I never learned how to live.

My life often looks to me like a disaster, but it is so much more than that.  It is a beautiful mishmash of failures and successes and joys and pain and learning.  I am starting to learn how to take care of my mind and my body, but to not take it too seriously.  I am learning how to have friends and how to have spontaneous fun with people.  I am learning that it’s okay to be vulnerable, but I don’t have to be, if I don’t want to.  I am learning that I don’t always need to be careful.  I am learning that I am capable of protecting myself, but I don’t always need to.

I am learning to find peace in the middle of chaos,

joy in the middle of disappointment,

vibrant life in the middle of dry monotony.

Beauty can be found in the middle of pain.

Hope can be found even in loss.

Grief will come, but it will not take me over.

Life will happen, and I will make the most of it.

Here’s to growing up too early, and here’s to never growing up too late.

Here’s to being an adult, surviving, thriving.

It Changes Me

There is a message that has been proclaimed explicitly and implicitly for years by red-faced preachers and well-meaning friends alike: that the amount of daily Bible reading I do directly affects how many things go wrong in my life.

It shows up as a response to tragedy and to mental illness and to relationship troubles: “Oh, well, have you been leading your Bible lately?”

But the Bible is not a magic charm, and God is not a slave to our wants.

I can be depressed and still be following God with everything I have.  I can also be totally in love with God and blessed and provided for by him, yet not study the Bible every single day.  I need to remind myself that God’s blessings are not controlled by my works: I do not have the power to control God.  He is so much more powerful than the number of Bible verses I can read in one day.

Besides, should I not be reading His word because I want to hear Him speak and I desire to learn more about Him?  I am starting to believe that it is wrong to read the Bible with the only motivation being a fear of bad things happening if I do not.  That is superstition, and an insult to the might of God, the King of kings and the Creator of time and space and everything within them.  It is an insult to say that the creation can control the Creator by merely reading a certain amount of His words a certain amount of times.  I am struck, tonight, by the foolishness the whole idea, for the Bible does not change God.  It changes me.

Validity

I wish that someone would have told me when I was younger that my feelings are valid.  I was always told the opposite, though: your feelings are wrong, because they are not what I am feeling.

I started to  believe that there are emotions that I should not feel, or that it is wrong to have certain emotions at certain times.  I thought that I was not allowed to feel like I was being treated unfairly.  I thought that I was wrong if I felt hurt by someone’s thoughtless and misguided words.  I doubted myself.  I determined that, since what I felt wasn’t what others thought I should feel, my emotions should be dismissed and ignored – not just by others – but also by myself.

Your feelings are valid.  Your feelings are real.

Feelings may not accurately represent objective reality.  That’s okay.  Emotion is allowed to be subjective.  That does not decrease the validity of those feelings, and it does not make what you feel any less real.

For in the end, really, it does not matter what you feel.  What truly matters is what you do with those feelings – what you do because of your feelings, and what you choose to do in spite of your feelings.

Your feelings are valid.  Your feelings are real.

Actual Comments About My Weight

  • “Why are you so skinny?”
  • “Are you anorexic?”
  • “Go eat a Big Mac.”
  • (During my only run that month) “You don’t need to run.  You’re so skinny!”
  • “Do you ever eat?”
  • “You need to gain weight.”
  • “You need to eat more.”
  • “You don’t belong in this conversation, Hannah.  You’re skinny.”
  • “Look at your bony arms!”
  • “Ew, I can see your ribs.”
  • “Oh, gaining weight is easy.  Stop complaining.”
  • “It couldn’t have been that hard to find clothes that fit; you’re skinny.”
  • Me: “I finally gained five pounds!”  “Her: Oh.  I don’t see it.”
  • “You can’t lift that.  You’re too skinny.”
  • (During a class presentation) “Being 5’10” and a 110 pounds is unrealistic and gross.”  (Me:”Um, hi.”)
  • “Yeah, but you’re too skinny.”

Oh, and my friends nicknamed me Holland for my flat chest.

Point: Comments like these to slim girls are just as hurtful as comments to anyone else about their weight.  Insecurity is not limited to a certain weight.  Putting down anyone is not okay, no matter how much or little they weigh.

I Defeated the Monsters All By Myself

Beating depression shouldn’t be like this.  But it is.  The battle happens in private, and is all too often fought alone.

And by the time the fight is over and the monsters are defeated, all the people who were pushed away by the battle are long gone.

What’s left after the monsters are defeated?

Me, but not the me anyone knew before.  ”When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in” (Haruki Murakami).  It’s a different me, a stronger me, a smarter me, a wiser me, a happier me.  But it’s still a different me, and they people who knew the me before have an entirely different person in front of them that no one knows anymore.

You don’t really have friends anymore after such a battle.  They can become your friends again, but they don’t really know you anymore.  Some become discouraged by that and leave.

I defeated the monsters all by myself and now I’m alone in space.

Who is here now to rejoice in the victory with me?  Who is here who know the struggle and understands the price that was paid to obtain this victory?  Who knows that there was a fight at all?

Defeating the monsters is worth it, but it’s lonely.

I defeated the monsters all by myself.

Now the battle is over and I’m alone in space.

I’ll keep moving, don’t worry.

Don’t worry about me.

I’ll keep moving and find a friend along the way.

I’ll be okay.

No.

I’ll be better than okay.