The Blog: On Second Thought

Old Roman Catholic Church of St. Michael the Archangel at Sunset in Drazovce, Slovakia. (Source: Dollar Photo Club)

Old Roman Catholic Church of St. Michael the Archangel at Sunset in Drazovce, Slovakia. (Source: Dollar Photo Club)

Have you ever heard someone explain religion as simply a “crutch”? Guess what, they’re right. Let me explain.

“Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers,” Jesse Ventura famously said. He’s not the only one.

People of faith reading this (and who don’t read the entire post) are probably already formulating their comment. But the truth is, religion is definitely for the weak. Especially Christianity.

I’ll let Matt Chandler explain:

I just heartily agree if I’m with a skeptic and he says, ‘I think religion is for the weak.’ I’m like, ‘You’re absolutely right. I just totally agree with you. I think where we probably disagree is that you don’t see yourself as weak. But I would totally agree that the weak-hearted, weak-minded, that they use religion as a crutch. But what I’m trying to say lovingly, brother, is that your legs are broke. I got a crutch for you. Come on in.’

That’s profound. Simple, but profound.

Practically, we see it’s true. Take a look at any of our films and you’ll see over 100 broken people who have needed a crutch. The only crutch that could help them walk again was their faith in Jesus Christ.

So I’m not ashamed that I need a crutch. I’m thankful that I have one.

(Photo source: Dollar photo club)

(Photo source: Dollar photo club)

When I first saw a picture of the water people were drinking in Flint, Michigan, my heart sank. How could this happen in 21st century America? I got angry. I got mad at politicians. I wanted to post something on Facebook. Then something happened inside me that changed my outlook.

If you haven’t totally familiarized yourself with the Flint water crisis, here’s a quick summary: A little over two years ago, Flint was purchasing most of its municipal water from Detroit. For a city undergoing a financial crisis, that was deemed to be too pricey, so the city resorted to its backup supply: the Flint River.

The Flint River’s water ended up being highly corrosive. So corrosive, in fact, that it ate through the pipes that were transporting it, leading to spikes in the water’s lead levels. E. Coli was found in the water in August 2015, and in October 2015 the state of Michigan admitted that the lead levels in the water were highly elevated. Currently, the tap water in many people’s homes is unsafe to drink.

That’s especially hard to stomach for a city that is, in very simple terms, poor. The median household income in Flint is about $25,000. Forty-two percent of its population lives below the poverty line. But as is common in America and the world, the various plights of poor cities often go neglected.

That clearly happened in Flint, where officials routinely brushed off the complaints of the city’s residents and even ignored some of the evidence that the water was corrupted.

If you can feel yourself getting angry and ready to direct some of that furor at the partisan politician of your choosing — the Democrats who control the city of Flint or the Republican governor who runs the state — that’s exactly what welled up inside me.

But then I started thinking more. I moved beyond my political reflexes and started thinking about the people. That’s when I realized how wrong I was. I was making the water crisis about me, politics, and my “righteous anger,” and not the people it was affecting.

See, the people of the nation’s poorest cities deserve more than a Facebook complaint about conservative or liberal policies. The problem in Flint is a lot bigger than our need to chew out an elected official. It’s about embracing justice — but not the kind that probably just popped into your head.

Today, our society basically thinks that “justice” means equal treatment for all people under the law. While this is true (and Jon touched on why justice and injustice matter not too long ago), the purest concept of justice is intrinsically linked to the plight of the poor.


Practicing true justice isn’t trying to figure out which official to blame or simply opening another tab on your browser: It is real prayer and support for the people of Flint.


Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, explains it in his book, “Generous Justice.”

The actual action of “doing justice,” he says, is an unmistakable concern for the poor and needy: “God loves and defends those with the least economic and social power, and so should we. That is what it means to ‘do justice.’” Note that defending the poor, in this instance, doesn’t include using a public crisis to make an argument against a political party you disagree with.

Maybe I’m only speaking for myself, but it felt all too easy to immediately focus on the politics of the water crisis in Flint, instead of first thinking about this inescapable fact: The people of the city — left with no other option — are being forced to drink dirty and contaminated water that is making them sick.

Practicing true justice isn’t trying to figure out which official to blame or simply opening another tab on your browser: It is real prayer and support for the people of Flint.

(United Way and Catholic Charities of Genesee County both have charities that are accepting donations for the people of Flint.)

David Podhaskie is a legal writer who lives in New York City with his wife, Elisabeth.

Let’s say you’re an NBA basketball player. Dream with me for a little bit.

You’ve been practicing every day for hours, getting ready for the next big, promising season. You’ve set high goals for yourself, and you’re confident you’re going to crush all of them. It’s your time to prove that all the blood, sweat, and tears you left on the court were worth it.

The first game of preseason is against Orlando Magic. Just as you catch a pass, you turn to drive the lane. Your shoulder hits another player, your feet come out from beneath you and your other shoulder slams against the ground. Injured. Season over.

How would you feel?

***

That’s the story of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, forward for the Charlotte Hornets. He had worked so hard just to have all of it taken away from him in the first game of preseason. He was upset, but he quickly gained some perspective.

“I am second to God. When I was going through things, I felt he would lead the way for me. I always follow his lead,” said Kidd-Gilchrist. “‘I am second’ can mean a lot of things. To God, first and then I was second pick in the [2012] NBA Draft. I’m always chasing. I want to be the best I can be. I’m never going to be number one in my case,” he added.

As a reminder he wears a small, black bracelet with white lettering on his wrist: “I AM SECOND.”

Initially, he was supposed to be out most of the regular season with the injury that requires shoulder surgery. But he’s battled back and has already been cleared for contact.

***

Some of our most inspiring stories of athletes choosing to live second come to us simply by reading stories like this in the news.

We don’t ask them to wear the bracelet. Most of them we’ve never even talked to. However, because the message of I Am Second resonates with so many, stretching across culture, age, and interests, the signature bracelet has popped up everywhere in the last seven years. And it’s a reminder to moms, students, and even pro athletes, like Michael, to live second.

Read the full story and watch the interview:

Photo source: NBA.com

(Photo source: NBA.com)

Side profile portrait of young angry man screaming with alphabet letters flying out of wide open mouth isolated on gray wall background

(Source: Dollar Photo Club)

“I can’t believe I just said that.”

Have you ever said something and immediately wished you could’ve “unsaid” it? We’ve all been there. Sometimes our “self-editor” takes a day off when we need it the most. But when you think about it, it’s actually surprising it doesn’t happen more. Why? Well, the odds.

What I mean is, we say a lot of words every day. As a matter of fact, on average, just in the last 24 hours you will have spoken about 16,000 words. With numbers like that, the chances of you saying something that would’ve been better left unsaid are high.

And here’s why that’s important to realize: Solomon, the world’s wisest man, explains, “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.”

No pressure.

But we all know it’s true. Think back to those who spoke to your potential, praised you for a job well done, or spoke words of comfort or good advice during a tough time. Those words shaped you. In the same way, think back to the words directed towards you that communicated that you were a “mistake, failure, or worthless.” Those words shaped you as well, but in a much different way. Our words have the power and capacity to bring life to dreams, potential, and relationships. Or they can kill them.

If you look at the definition of what a word is, it’s “a unit of language that functions as a principal carrier of meaning.” In other words: words matter.

“I once read that a word is like a living organism, capable of growing, changing, spreading, and influencing the world in many ways, directly and indirectly through others,” Dr. Susan Smalley says.

“As I ponder the power of the word to incite and divide, to calm and connect, or to create and effect change, I am ever more cautious in what I say and how I listen to the words around me,” she adds.

So as we consider the power our words hold, let’s look at some easy ways to make better use of the 16,000 words we speak each day.

SPEAK THE TRUTH, BUT DO IT LOVINGLY
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.” Truth always wins especially when it is spoken lovingly. Sometimes we can mishandle truth and use it as a vehicle for criticism. What we have to remember is that we can force people to listen to our words, but the right to be heard is earned. The truth, when spoken lovingly, plants seeds of life.

BE AN EXTRAVAGANT ENCOURAGER
Everyone needs encouragement. There are enough voices telling us what we’re not and others pointing out our mistakes. Be the one who sets aside some of the 16,000 words to encourage someone daily. No one will ever resent that you encouraged them too much. “…so speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind… just keep on doing it.” (1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:9-11‬)

IF YOU DON’T HAVE ANYTHING NICE TO SAY…
The fact is, the closer we are to someone, the more we see imperfections in them. But if there’s anything that transcends culture, education, or income level, it’s our brokenness. We’re all broken. Let’s find ways to repurpose some of our 16,000 words to speak words of life into humanity’s brokenness instead of simply criticizing it.

Ponder those as you read this final quote.

“Criticism and pessimism destroy families, undermine institutions of all kinds, defeat nearly everyone, and spread a shroud of gloom over entire nations.” – G. Hinckley

How are you going to use your 16,000 words today?

David Martin is the Youth and Culture Strategist for I Am Second. (Connect with David on social media: @realDavidMartin)


How have words shaped you and how can you use your words to speak life to those around you today? Share in comments below.

Watch how Lecrae made the decision to use his words to speak life instead of death.

(Source: Dollar Photo Club)

(Source: Dollar Photo Club)

I am not ashamed of my scars. I refuse to be. Most are discreet, but sometimes they get noticed. In the early years, when there were fresh ones in various states of healing, I would scoff when someone asked, “What happened?” My responses varied from the barely believable “I was attacked by a cat” to “It’s a long story.” It frustrated me how many people seemed oblivious to the epidemic of self-harm. Are that many people truly ignorant or is it just more comfortable to accept what is an obvious lie and move on?


Each one represents a journey, an emotion, a torment attached. Each one is a piece of my life, a piece of me.


There’s a lyric that goes: “My scars remind me/ that the past is real.” My scars tell a story. Each one represents a journey, an emotion, a torment attached. Each one is a piece of my life, a piece of me. Some people think of scars as memories they want erased, events they wish hadn’t occurred. Seeing them brings back memories too painful to live with. But seeing mine doesn’t cause me distress. I don’t stare in agony, berating myself for how I have permanently marred my skin. My scars don’t renew the pain I struggled with back then. They exist purely as fact, written on my skin. They are what they are and nothing more. I remain unapologetic.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I am proud of them. At times I see the scars and I feel angry. Angry at the past, angry at the help I needed, angry that things went so far. Yet there is an element of pride knowing I am conquering the battle of self-injury. But that doesn’t equate to being proud of the permanence of these scars. Sometimes I feel afraid of them. I feel afraid that I’ll want to go back. I feel afraid of the capacity I have for self-destruction.

Please don’t be afraid of the marks that you see. It is OK to ask for my story. It’s OK to acknowledge you see what is going on. I don’t mind. Please don’t look away with embarrassment or discomfort. Only through honesty and openness can we beat the stigma of this disease. This is an illness of great shame and secrecy. Please don’t continue to let it exist in silence. It is OK that this has happened to me. Don’t fret that you wish you could “take this away” from me.


I will not live in the past, but I will never forget where I have been.


I am never ashamed of the scars that remain; they are part of my identity. This journey I have been on has shaped every bit of who I am. That journey included the pain and suffering that led to each one of the scars. I will not live in the past, but I will never forget where I have been. I am fiercely proud to be alive today. Don’t look at my scars with pity. Be proud I am standing in front of you today.

 

This blog originally appeared on To Write Love On Her Arms and was republished with permission. 

Jonathon M. Seidl (Credit: Stanley Tongai)

Jonathon M. Seidl (Credit: Stanley Tongai)

Wow.

That word came out of my mouth several times the last three days. When I decided to tell the world about my anxiety and OCD diagnosis I figured it would get a few “likes.” Maybe a few, “Hang in theres.” But I didn’t expect what happened.

What happened is remarkable.


Read the original post here.


I’ve talked to strangers, close friends, coworkers, and acquaintances I haven’t seen in years. Women have reached out to my wife for guidance. And people I never thought struggled in the way that I do have sent me messages saying, “Me too!”

One guy even said I saved his life. I’m still having a hard time processing that one. Like, the fact that my words could have kept a heart beating is both humbling and weighty. Especially considering I almost didn’t share them.

But I did. It still makes me nervous that I did. I had someone tell me already that they now understand why XYZ was bothering me. That was hard, because I don’t think the reason XYZ was bothering me has anything to do with the OCD. But I guess it’s something I’ll have to confront.

The point of this post is to share with you some of the things that were shared with me. I want you to see just how prevalent this issue is. I want you to read what some people are going through. I want to normalize it even more. I want to give people a voice and a platform who may not otherwise have one. The stuff that was shared publicly on Facebook or in the comments section has names. The stuff that was just sent to me doesn’t.

Let these hit you.


life

(Source: Facebook/I Am Second)


 

Subject: Thank you.

Jon,

Thank you so much for sharing your story.  There are many, many of us who struggle through depression/anxiety and other issues and take meds, and sharing your story helps us feel we are not alone in secrets.

You are such a gifted writer and great guy and I thank you for sharing your story and examples that I am sure were difficult to share and I am sure have helped an infinite number of people.

We are all broken.  Some are more comfortable sharing than others. I am convinced that is how we can help others who are broken by understanding our own brokenness.  Thank God he gives us the grace to deal with everyone, everything and ourselves.  Ha.


Susan

(Source: Facebook/I Am Second)


Hey jon, thanks for writing that article. I was so afraid to call my anxiety what it was for so long. My dad is a neurologist, so I was always afraid of becoming one of his “crazy patients.” I thought that medicine was a crutch and i should have control over my own mind enough to overcome those feelings. I kept it hidden from everyone and spent a good amount of time in emotional agony in search of the root of my problem. I believed in Freud and wanted to discover some repressed memory that would magically solve all my anger and pain. Finally, after I came face to face with the hopelessness of depression I turned to my father who explained to me in the most calm way possible that chemicals can be imbalanced and if I was feeling at my wits end, I should try medication. I was beyond my ego at this point and agreed to spend the next year on Lexapro. It was the best and most exciting year of my life. Having that knowledge that it would pass and being given the opportunity to retrain myself… To walk away from that train of thought, was the most empowering and beautiful feeling. When I look back at how I used to spend my days and nights, I wish I could go back and shake myself and get back that wasted time. Unfortunately, nobody can gift you wisdom, not even yourself. Thank you for taking the time to share and own your feelings, its really important to talk about that stuff and I just want you to know how much i appreciated it!

Please keep up the good work!


Brick

(Source: Facebook/I Am Second)


Jon, truly inspirational article.  That takes a lot of guts to sacrifice your privacy for the sake of very likely helping many other people.  I could say I have different (but eerily similar) obsessions and compulsions.  I am a recovering alcoholic and drug addict.  Two years ago all I could think about (very literally) was taking more pills.  Over and over and over for as long as it took to get some.  My compulsion was not being able to stop.  I could never take enough.  Every 5 minutes, the obsession would creep back in and the compulsion would drive me to take more.  And on and on the cycle went.  Nearly dying on several occasions didn’t change a thing.  I eventually did build up the courage to sincerely ask for help and I got it through a fantastic treatment facility in MN and ongoing involvement in Alcoholics Anonymous.  Two years after admitting to God and to myself that I was entirely powerless over my obsession to use and my compulsion to never have or use enough, I am leading a fulfilling life that I never dreamed was possible again when in the deep throes of addiction.  I share this for two reasons: first is that your announcement was inspiring to read, and second that I wish I had the courage to share my struggles with the world.  Of course my family and close friends are keenly aware of my struggles, but opening yourself up to anyone and everyone like you did takes a special kind of person.  Take care my friend and hopefully we run into each other sometime in the not so distant future.


inspired

(Source: Facebook/I Am Second)


Wow! Everything you mentioned in the I am second article is me to a T. Checking to see if the doors are locked, thinking I’ve run over someone and driving around and around to make sure I didn’t. I can’t believe this. I literally said out loud while reading this, “that’s me. That’s exactly me.” I’ve never talked about these things to anyone. I really thought it was just me. My dad is a pastor so a lot of this stuff I feel like I can’t share. Thanks for showing me I’m not alone.


knew

(Source: Facebook/I Am Second)


crying

(Source: Facebook/I Am Second)


insufferable

(Source: Facebook/I Am Second)


Splenda

(Source: Facebook/I Am Second)


Donna

(Source: Facebook/I Am Second)


Finally

(Source: Facebook/I Am Second)


I’ve read a lot of emotions these past three days. Some anger. Some hurt. A few hurtful. But the overwhelming sense I got was relief. So many people out there are suffering from something similar and they’ve never been able to put it in words, or have been too confused or ashamed to vocalize it. And let me tell you, there is nothing better than relief for people who battle anxiety and OCD. Unfortunately, it’s why there’s a high rate of addiction among those who do.

So let me end with this. I want to address two sets of people.

  1. To those who suffer mental health issues like these or those who think they might: You are not crazy. You are not a hopeless cause. You are not unfixable or unloveable. One of the most freeing things my doctor ever did was validate my feelings. Not that they made sense, but that they existed. And they do exist in many people.You are somebody. You owe it to yourself to seek help. And there is help. To those of you that profess a faith, your ailment is not the result of a lack of belief, not enough prayer, or God’s punishment. Stop it. That’s nonsense.
  2. To those of you who know someone who suffers from this: You are not alone either. Also, we know it’s hard. I can’t say enough how difficult it was for my wife before I got help, and that was something I’d obsess over. But I also can’t say enough how gracious she has been since we’ve named it. Please, hang in there and stick with us. I know it’s a very fine line between encouraging us to get help and getting angry for how we are. I wish I could give you a step-by-step guide on how to navigate that. But I can’t. Each situation is different. But please, please try.

I have a feeling this isn’t going to be the last time I write on this topic. And I’m sitting here wondering how to end the post: I don’t want to give too much finality, but I know you have things to do. So here’s what I’m going to do — I’m going to use the same ending as the first post. Some of you have said it was helpful. I hope so.

I’m Jon and I have anxiety and OCD. It’s not the other way around.

 

window-full

(Photo source: Storyline Blog)

My parents got divorced a few years ago, and that event sent fractures through the foundation of my life. When my parents’ marriage failed, I doubted my own capacity to be a father and a husband.

I went on a journey through the Bible to look for answers that ended in atheism.

After a while, I came back to God, but I was different.

The faith of my childhood fit about as well as my beloved “Members Only” jacket from 1987. My new views on faith and morality caused all kinds of controversy at my church. I tried to hang on, but I was hurting a lot of people by sticking around, and some of them were hurting me too.

A lifelong Baptist doesn’t expect to find himself spiritually homeless.

But I was, and it lead me to some dark places. I’m a sanguine guy, but leaving my church left me depressed and hopeless. It was worse than my folks splitting up.

I went to a therapist.

I’m the kind of person who treats therapists like handy people treat mechanics: I only show up when there are terrible sounds coming from deep within the engine.

My engine sounded like it was about to blow apart every time I got out of bed.

My therapist asked me about the facts of the situation, which I could explain with clinical detail, along with observations about what I was feeling. Then she changed tactics, and asked me about my childhood.

I told her I had a great childhood, aside from all the bullying.

My neighborhood was full of kids my age, and three of them were closer than brothers. Mom and Dad were affectionate, attentive parents, and my sister was my advocate. I spent my time swinging across ravines on vines, building tree forts, and exploring the world.

But then I’d go to school.

School was different.

I was at the absolute bottom of the social pecking order.

My presence was treated in the same way as an unexpected piece of gum on the bottom of a shoe–I was scraped relentlessly until I let go.

But I was lonely, so I could hold on a long time.

Then she asked me how all that made me feel, and I had something like a panic attack. It surprised me, and scared me. To be honest, I am the kind of person who can control emotions well. My close friends tell me I’m like a robot.

I get freaked out when my feelings don’t respond to the leash.

Every week, my therapist went to the same place–how I felt about being bullied so much as a kid. And every week, I’d skirt around a panic attack and calm myself down. I was pretty proud of my control.

One week, she asked why I never cried.

I told her I cried all the time–at movies, or commercials about how much parents love their kids. I cry all the time when people tell me sad stories about their lives.
But then she asked me when I cry about my own grief, and I realized that I don’t.

I don’t cry when loved ones die, or at least not more than a few seconds. And I don’t cry about events in my past.

She encouraged me to stop fighting the panic attack in her office, but I couldn’t do it. It seemed wasteful and silly, to sit in an office and just cry. My therapist insisted it was helpful, but she couldn’t cite any research telling me why it worked.

I did what I always do.

I searched through scientific research myself.

And I found something fascinating: our brains hold onto the past as if it’s happening right now.

When someone asks you about your most perfect day, your brain goes into a state that reflects that day–it shows up in a brain scan. The parts of your brain that activate when you’re happy also activate when you recall that day.

Even the part of your brain that processes what you see will light up with an afterimage of the beautiful sunset you saw on that day.

Your brain makes the past real, and this is even more true for traumatic events.

When you recall something that hurt you, your brain goes into high alert. Your limbic system responds to that memory the way it responds to a real threat in the here and now. I’m talking about full-on flight-or-fight here; elevated pulse, rapid breathing, the works.

The more that trauma was reinforced, the stronger the response from your limbic system. This is why people who had a close brush with death on a battlefield or roadway can be triggered so easily, or why people with abusive parents spend so much energy building a life that avoids brushing up to those memories.

Our brains want to protect us from those circumstances. There’s hope. You see, our brains have pretty terrible memory.

We change our memories every time we recall them.

That’s bad for our ability to recall facts over time, but good for trauma. It’s good because when you recall painful memories in a safe place, the neurological roots of that pain in your brain weaken a little bit.

This is why we’re compelled to tell our stories over and over.

Each telling of a story, when received with compassion, offers relief.


Each time, that shadow of the past gets a little lighter, until we actually heal.


Have you ever known a person who wants to talk about that same painful story in their life over and over? Have you ever been that person? Our culture pushes back on lament like that, but brain science shows it’s healthy.

For our darkest moments, we may have to tell that story dozens of times. Or even dozens of dozens. Each time, that shadow of the past gets a little lighter, until we actually heal. There will still be a scar, of course, but you’ll stop bleeding every time the wound is pricked.

It turns out, one of the greatest gifts we can offer others is receiving their pain with grace.

Every person must have real, intimate friendships that include mutual sharing of our dark stories to be healthy.

Of course, even good friends have limits.

A good therapist is an incredible asset because they can hear your story as many times as you need to tell it to heal.

 

This blog originally appeared on Storyline and was republished with permission. 

(Photo source: Dollar Photo Club)

(Photo source: Dollar Photo Club)

I have this thing that has haunted me since I was a little girl. It has kept me up at night, made me cry, and silenced me. It’s been there when I’ve been alone, and strangely enough showed up in crowded rooms. I think we’ve all experienced it at some point, but for me it’s different. It’s bigger. It’s more oppressive. It’s loneliness.

This loneliness I’m talking about isn’t the kind that comes after a break-up, the death of a loved one, a divorce, loss of a friendship or lack there-of. Loneliness from those makes sense.

This is the type that hits when I’m surrounded with a lot of people and have no reason to feel alone. However, the fear of not being liked, received or understood is so controlling that I might as well be totally and completely by myself.  This type of loneliness can be so unbelievably frustrating because it’s hard to pinpoint the origin of my aching heart.

Why am I feeling this way? Shake it off Caitlin, you’re fine. Be social, you have friends.

I used to think that it was just the introvert in me. I like to tell people I’m half extrovert, half introvert. But as I tried to pin it on that, something still felt off. Something wasn’t right.

Instead of doing some good ol’ quality soul searching, I searched for a few bandaids to fix me. Just have another drink. Lie. Smile and nod, don’t speak up. Fake your laughter. Lie some more. 

It didn’t work.

I tried to validate myself by getting others to like me. It worked for a little while in high school, and even a a couple of years in college. But it eventually faded. The more I sacrificed to be liked by others, the deeper I buried myself behind lies and facades, the lonelier I became.

I tried surrounding myself with loving, caring people, thinking that was the problem. But still there was this gaping feeling, this hurting hole inside of me that said, “No, this ain’t it. This does not fix my loneliness.” I struggled to connect. My thoughts were infested with insecurity, and every word that came out of my mouth was then put right back on the over-analytical conveyor belt of my mind. Exhausting.


The more I sacrificed to be liked by others, the deeper I buried myself behind lies and facades, the lonelier I became.


I sank lower and lower and lower. But it’s there where I found the answer. 

In moments of utter desolation, we begin searching for quick fixes. And unfortunately, we typically find them in things that are fleeting. Empty. Deceiving. Whatever those things are — whatever devices or relationships we hope will erase our loneliness — they lie to us.

In fact, the hole almost feels bigger, and not to mention we completely forget who we used to be. So, at the end of our lonely search for unloneliness, we have walked so far away from who we truly are that we still ache.

Can I tell you why this is so ironic? That lonely feeling pulled me away from God. But in the end, it’s that feeling that drove me back to Him.  Once I had exhausted all of my quick fixes, I finally sat down in my room, closed my eyes, and began talking to Him. Unfiltered and broken.

What’s wrong with me? Can you get me out of this funk? Why do I feel alone? I don’t like who I am. 

I opened the Bible and began to read.

God created me in His image.

He will satisfy my needs in a sun-scorched land.

The world and its desires will waste away, though He will remain.

The anxious beating of my heart slowed down. My breaths became deeper. My insecurities melted away. It had been so long since I had actually taken the time to be honest with God and to read His truths. My thoughts began to change.

I cannot find my worth in other people. I am not here to get approval from them. I have been given life to serve God. 

My loneliness, I realized, was a product of my lack of time with God. That understanding changed my entire life. All the other things I had tried to “fix” it with weren’t the answer. I had made all of these friends, I did all of the cool things that cool kids do, and yet “…when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”

I began understanding my role in relationships. I didn’t over-analyze every word in conversation. I started telling the truth. I embraced the things that made me weird, and I didn’t try to hide who I was in front of people that might disagree. When I finally stopped obsessing over what people thought about me (which is an inherently selfish practice), I was able to love them. I was able to love me.

***

Now, let me add one thing here. I understand some have battled loneliness their whole lives, and they need the kind of help that medicine and clinicians can provide. That is something that should never be stigmatized or belittled. Even when I’m consistent in prayer, I still fight against lies in my head. It is a day-by-day journey. A journey that will make you and I stronger. A journey that is meant to be shared with others to make them stronger, too. And a journey that sometimes requires a medical companion.


He hears my deepest thoughts, my weird ideas, my hurts, my joys, my sin. And He loves me just the same.


As I continue on, God is always finding ways to remind me that He knows me better than anyone in my life ever will. He hears my deepest thoughts, my weird ideas, my hurts, my joys, my laughter, my sin. And He loves me just the same.

This struggle of mine is still a work-in-progress. But there is one truth I hold onto to help me climb out out of the valleys: I will never be truly alone.

 

Seidl in the middle of the market in Jerusalem. (Source: Jonathon M. Seidl)

Seidl in the middle of the market in Jerusalem. (Source: Jonathon M. Seidl)

We talk a lot about being real, raw, and relatable around the I Am Second office. I’m about to be more real and raw than I planned on being when I first started working here.

As I sit here writing this, I’m a little tired. Not because It’s 3:15 in the afternoon, but because I took my medication at lunch. My medication makes me tired. That’s why I usually try to take it at night. And that’s part of the reason there are days I go to bed at 7:30 p.m. (I say “part” of the reason because the truth is I also have an 8-month-old daughter that likes to get up anywhere from 4:30—5:30 a.m.)

See, I have a secret that I’ve kept from a lot of people. I’ve told close friends and family. But I still have a fear about coworkers, bosses, and others knowing. I think the big reason is I don’t want anyone to ever use the excuse, “Oh, that’s just the ____ talking,” or, “Oh, you’re acting that way/feel that way because of the ______ .”

But something has been happening lately. Karis Rogerson has been taking space on this blog to be vulnerable about her struggles. She’s incredible. She’s inspiring. She’s challenged us to talk about our problems so that they can’t control us. And I thought it time to follow her lead. Likewise, the newest member of the I Am Second team, Caitlin McCoy, vowed to get really vulnerable with you. I respect that. A lot. And what better way to hold her to that than to put myself out there, too?

So want to know what medication I take? It’s called Fluoxetine. You probably know it as its name-brand equivalent: Prozac. It’s a popular anti-depressant. I don’t struggle with depression. (In fact, a lot of people say I’m one of the most joyful person they’ve met.) But Fluoxetine can also be used to treat some other things. Those “other things” include anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

I have been diagnosed with anxiety and OCD.

You have no idea what’s going on inside me right now admitting that to the world. To my bosses. To everyone I work with, have worked with, and will work with.


You have no idea what’s going on inside me right now admitting that to the world. To my bosses. To everyone I work with, have worked with, and will work with.


This isn’t the ho-hum OCD that we all joke about (which, by the way, doesn’t offend me). But it isn’t the type that forces me to wash my hands an excessive amount of times. Mine is a mild form (that’s what my doctor says, at least), but even that has been life-altering. The stories I’m about to tell you aren’t exaggerations. They are my reality.

  • Before getting help, I would regularly re-read emails (especially ones I sent) upwards of 50 times, convinced there was an error I was missing, or a tone I was communicating that I didn’t pick up on the first 49 times.
  • There were times I would lay in bed at night, convinced I didn’t lock my truck. I recently forgot to take my medication for a few days. I woke up at 3 a.m. with the locked-not-locked scenario in my head. I got up, stumbled through the house, opened my garage door, and was greeted (no lie) by a black cat with a still-wiggling mouse in its mouth. My truck was, of course, locked.
  • Sometimes, when cleaning the house with my wife, I would get really annoyed if she wasn’t doing it in a certain order. “The floor before the dishes? Why?!” Seriously. She would ask, “What’s wrong? Why do you seem so upset?” It caused strife in our marriage.
  • I couldn’t let things go. My wife once scrapped her car bumper and I obsessed over it for a week. I mean, like, couldn’t stop thinking about it. “How much is this going to cost? Why does this happen whenever we get nice things? Why couldn’t she see the other car? What’s this going to do to the trade-in value?” The questions haunted me. That may be hard to understand if you don’t have OCD, but people who share the struggle know exactly what I’m talking about.
  • Last month (again, after being off medication for a few days), I was driving to the store. At the intersection, I heard something underneath my truck. The non-OCD person would think, “Oh, I just ran over a piece of trash.” Me? I drove to the store and couldn’t get the thought out of my head that I had ran over a pedestrian. Not only did I retrace my route, but I went back around the block and checked again (literally three minutes later) to make sure. I was looking for blood, for sirens, for people taking pictures. I still thought I had missed something when I got home.

There’s one story that finally made me get help. About two years ago, my wife and I were living in a loft in downtown Dallas. The bottom floor included a hipster coffee shop that we frequented. I like Sweet & Low in my coffee, not real sugar. The coffee shop had some, but not on a regular basis. It was more of a Splenda place. Gross.

On this day, my wife took care of getting the coffee while I ran to the bathroom. I told her I wanted Sweet & Low in it. When I returned, I took a sip of the coffee. It was Splenda.

I can’t describe what happened in my brain. I didn’t get enraged and lose it. But a rush of anger, disappointment, and “Why couldn’t you do this one simple thing?” flooded over me. I didn’t want to feel that way. I remember even telling myself, “This is not a big deal!” But it was.

My wife told me to get over myself. That just made it worse, and started a bad cycle. Our day was ruined. Seriously. For the rest of the day I couldn’t get over her putting the wrong sweetener in my coffee and then telling me to get over it.

It was awful.

The next morning, I finally told her I needed to get help. I knew this wasn’t normal. I called my sister who I knew had struggled with OCD and had seen a psychiatrist. I explained what was going on. She chuckled.

“Oh, Jonny, you definitely have it. Don’t you know it runs in the family?” No, I didn’t. She proceeded to rattle off all the names. It was an epiphany moment — so much made sense now! I hung up and scheduled a doctor’s appointment.


In philosophy, it’s understood that naming something gives you power over it. This is me naming my struggle. This is me proclaiming, to all of you, that I’ve named it.


***

My doctor tells me a little OCD is a good thing. It really can motivate you. It can make you detail-oriented. That’s true. I tend to be thorough. I go above-and-beyond. I don’t like leaving tasks unfinished. I really push for clarity and don’t like leaving things unsaid. Those kinds of things.

But there’s an ugly side. If I’m wronged, it haunts me. If I fail, it haunts me. If I think too much about something haunting me, that haunts me.

Those are the days it “wins.”

But guess what: Since I’ve started being more open about it, since I’ve forgiven the church denomination I grew up in for classifying it as a “lack of faith” problem, and since I’ve been letting people into my battle who constantly remind of what is really true and what really matters, the disease is losing its power. There are more days where win.

In philosophy, it’s understood that naming something gives you power over it. We see it as far back as Genesis. I think that’s part of what this whole post is about. This is me naming my struggle. This is me proclaiming, to all of you, that I’ve named it.

I’m Jon and I have anxiety and OCD. It’s not the other way around.

____

The response to this initial post has been incredible. Read the follow-up post here.

(Source: Dollar Photo Club)

(Source: Dollar Photo Club)

Yesterday was the first day in the past two weeks that I did not cry on the way home from work. I wish I could say I was exaggerating for dramatic affect, but that would be a lie.

Just like the lies I’ve told in the past few weeks to everyone (minus a few close friends) who has asked the casual, “How are you?”

I feel like the baby elephants that I love watching on YouTube are just sitting on my heart crushing it beyond repair, and I might be dehydrated because I don’t think I’ve ever had a time in my life when I’ve cried this much. I’m actually holding back the tears now, so I don’t make this conversation any more awkward. It would be great if you could just move along…you didn’t want the real answer to that question anyways…and I need a minute to plaster my smile back on and put up my brave front. I hope my voice doesn’t crack during the next conversation I have to have with people.

“I’m fine.”

Just like the lies I’ve carefully crafted and displayed all over my Instagram account to make myself and everyone else believe I’m doing great.

But I’m not doing great. These past six months have been one struggle after the other culminating in the past few weeks of daily coming to God with tears streaming down my face. Tears brought on not necessarily by the difficult circumstances I’m facing, but because these circumstances have led me to a place where I know I must finally stop arguing with God and surrender my most precious dreams to Him.

The constant refrain of my prayers have been, “But Daddy, my heart hurts. It hurts so badly. Do you see my pain? Do you know how hard it will be for me to let go of this dream? It means so much to me.”

“I don’t want to give it to You, Father, because what if You don’t give it back? It’s a beautiful dream and not sinful…except for the fact that lately it has captivated my heart in a way that only You should. But I know you’re good.”


Slowly I begin to loosen the death grip I’ve had on my dream—almost as if it was a lovely bouquet of roses.


God patiently listened to all my prayers, and began to soften my stubborn heart.

He sees me. He sees my hurt, and He does know how hard it will be for me to let go.

Slowly I begin to loosen the death grip I’ve had on my dream—almost as if it was a lovely bouquet of roses.

As I let go of the roses and let them fall to Jesus’ feet, I realize that I had been holding onto them so tightly that the thorns had dug into my hands.

While I only saw the beauty of the roses, God saw the destruction that even beautiful things can have on a heart that is more enamored with the gift than with the Giver.

Finally God brought me to the place where I was able to let go, and in that moment, He lifted the weight of what felt like a baby elephant that had been sitting on my chest for the past six months.

And life is all blue skies and happy days again…haha. Nope.

The crushing weight is gone, but my heart still hurts from being under that weight for so long.

Surrender is not a one time, big spiritual moment thing even though sometimes those moments can be the catalyst for it. Surrender is a daily, moment by moment thing. And God is faithful to give us the grace and strength we need to do all He asks of us.


Surrender is a daily, moment by moment thing.


I’ve heard stories about surrender that go like this: Person gives up precious dream. God eventually gives it back only it’s bigger and better than they could have possible imagined.

While those stories are beautiful and remind me that I serve a good God, I cannot put my hope in them because it leaves me right back where I started—focusing on the gifts and not the Giver.

I don’t know if God will ever give me back that dream, and that’s ok. I do know He is good, and He will give me more of Himself which is what my heart really needs.

What is God asking you to surrender? I dare you to let go. I know it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it because God is faithful and worth more than anything we try to hold onto.

This originally appeared on Sarah Stinson’s blog, with my whole heart. Republished with permission.