Permissible vs. Beneficial

This idea has been rolling around in my head for a few days now and I’ve really been pulled to evaluate both myself and my “things”. As a person with choice, I am permitted to do whatever I want, but that can certainly have harmful consequences. Even the unintended ones. As a follower of Christ, I need to look at what I’m doing and see what the benefit of it is.

The biggest thing in my life right now that comes to mind is my facebook account. This site feeds my narcissistic side. I keep telling myself, and others, that I have facebook to keep up with other people and this is partly true. There are people who I would not know anything about if it weren’t for this site. However, I have to seek the truth. Am I on facebook to keep up with other people or so that other people can keep up with me? What kinds of things am I posting? How often am I posting? Are others engaging with me? I have found that MOST things I post are intended for a specific audience – running posts intended for running friends, etc. I also have to ask, is this information NECESSARY for others to know? Does it benefit 90-some people in any way to know that I’m thinking about training for a marathon? Or that I’m baking a pumpkin pie? I know that I can group people and have posts only show to certain people, but thinking that way, I feel like I’m investing even more time in something that DOESN’T REALLY MATTER.

I’ve never been one to jump on bandwagons and get the newest, greatest thing. That’s not because I’m some super saint with super self-control, either. I’m anti-hype. If it’s cool, I don’t want it. iPhone? No thanks. Kindle? Rather not. LinkedIn or Google+ or whatever the newest sites are? Pass. Rebecca Black? Still haven’t heard Friday. Probably won’t. Heck, it’s only been in the past month or two that I’ve seen Inception and even then, I wasn’t too keen on watching it (though it turned out to be a really cool movie). I also have a tendency to make RASH decisions. I’m trying to think things through more these days. Hence, why I still have a facebook account and it hasn’t been deactivated yet. I really want to think this stuff through before I decide to act. I’ve been told that’s what wise people do.

I want to be wise. I want to be considered a wise person. However, I don’t think that is what is driving me to evaluate these junk things I have in my life and decide whether they are important enough to keep around. I really feel like I need to simplify and limit where I waste my time. Facebook? Total waste, though it produces an occasional smile. Blogging? Not a waste of time. Gaming? Not, especially when James and I are playing together. When I look at these things, the ones that feed that narcissism are the ones that are the biggest waste of my time and energy. I can log off facebook for DAYS and nothing happens and I feel disappointed. WHY DO I KEEP DOING THIS TO MYSELF?! I feel the same way about these other sites that people constantly want me to join, like LinkedIn. I don’t know what it is  and I certainly don’t need another website to have to check and be disappointed by. I think it’s something like business networking, which again, I don’t feel the need to do. Call me dumb or short-sighted, but I just don’t want to do it.

I’m trying to kill that little narcissistic beast that lives inside of me. I know that the best will never be dead, but I want it at least starving and dying from lack of attention. Narcissism breeds selfishness, which in turn breeds precisely the kind of person I do not want to be. I want to be helpful and selfless (in a healthy way, don’t worry). I want to be dependable and trustworthy. I want people to trust me and my word, to have faith in my actions, to see that I am different because I serve someone other than myself. I want them to see my faith and my God. What things do I have in my life that achieve this end and what things are a waste of time? I think that only time will tell.

You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

–1 Corinthians 10:21-24

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Where I’ve been lately…

I have been very, very absent over the past 2 and a half months, but I think I’m ready to come back, at least a little.

I guess the big question is not actually where I’ve been, but how I’ve been. The honest answer is not overly well. I’ve had my good days, but mostly over these past 10 weeks, I’ve been pretty darn depressed. Looking back, I see that it had been a long time coming – I wasn’t keeping up on blogs, mine or others, I was doing much less of the things I enjoy, feeling more empty inside. In effect, I was losing interest in my interests, one of the primary symptoms of this illness.

I toyed, a LOT, with the idea of getting treatment, but ironically I had no idea where to start. I say ironically because I WORK in the mental health field. If anyone should know where to start, it should be me. Unfortunately, the thought that continued to plague me and stop me from stepping out was the memory of the last time I sought treatment. It was miserably unsuccessful. No matter where I went, I couldn’t find anyone to help me. Everyone I saw was trying to heal a disease about which I had no understanding! They were trying to solve the problem and I didn’t even know what the problem was!

What can I say? I’m tainted. I am tainted by experience and it continues by choice. I don’t necessarily want to try. I don’t know where to start looking or the questions to ask to determine whether I have found the right therapist for me. I don’t know what agency to look for. I don’t know how we’d pay for it. Lots of unknowns. Lots of questions. Most of which I keep to myself.

Through all of this, however, I have learned a lot about myself. I am learning that above all else, I am a learner and a thinker. I am a questioner. I am a changer of ‘the way things have always been’. Knowing this has also significantly slowed my search for someone to help me. I know that I will need someone who can explain things to me, recommend things for me to read, someone who is willing to think outside the box. Someone who will help me to learn how to live with this, how to determine my limits and set them and live by them. I am also by nature a limit pusher. I constantly fill my schedule to the limit of what I think I can handle and it always ends up being more. What I don’t know and am not sure I can figure out is whether it’s simply human nature that I can’t handle it or if it’s part of my illness, a limitation that I must learn to accept and live by.

I would also be remiss to not admit that the temptation of some very old and very bad habits almost constantly plagues me. Thoughts of trying my old ‘remedies’. They are very strong and it often takes a lot for me to not give in. I’ve been trying to not even entertain them, at least to the best of my ability, but man, it’s hard. I know that it’s the shame that keeps these thoughts inside. I know that no one can force me into treatment, no one can hospitalize me on any level. I’m not that sick. What I do know, is that if these thoughts were let out and made known, I would cause people to be sick with worry. Mostly, though, I would feel like a failure. Like I failed to take control of this and not let it control me. I would feel unnecessary, ridiculous feelings of failure and that is something I cannot do. I already blame myself far too much for other things that are in no way my fault.

In a way, my own battle with this illness gives me insight into the population with which I work. I can understand the intrusive thoughts they get more than someone without this struggle can. I can understand how they come and how one can have no control over how far the thoughts go or how strong they are. Sometimes I understand their struggle more than they do. I understand but I do not share with them. I don’t know how much sharing is appropriate or whether it would even be beneficial to them. I would like very much to get some advice about that, but I don’t know who to ask.

I’ve often questioned whether I am actually capable of working 40 hours a week. I really don’t know. Right now, it seems like far too much. I’m always stressed, I am always tired, and I feel like I’ve been sick too much. The thing is, I’m not sure whether it’s physical sickness that keeps me home on days like this or if it’s mental sickness keeping me home. Of course, it’s a little of both, but which is it more? I know which I would like to be, but I fear that it is mental sickness that keeps me home more than physical sickness. However, if that is the case, what am I supposed to do about that? How in the world am I supposed to keep this job and yet not work the hours required of me? How can I possibly expect promotion or advancement if I can’t handle the workload? Am I thus destined to leave my field and waste my gifts and talents in a job that will let me not work 40 hours? Or do I have to give up all of my out of work activities to make sure that I have enough mental capacity to work my 40 hours? I feel like I know what my calling is, unfortunately I have to put in the hours at the bottom so that I can eventually fill that spot and do what I want to do.

Too often, things feel hopeless, like I know what I need to do, but I just don’t have the energy to do it. I don’t have the capacity or the willpower or something. I don’t want to be trudging through every day, waiting for the day to be over so that I can be home, away from stress. I don’t think that’s what we are meant to do. We are meant to enjoy life, not dread it. We are meant to thrive, not just survive. I’ve spent 10 weeks trying to figure out what that looks like for me. Unfortunately, I’m basically right where I was when I started, but a little less depressed than I’ve been since then.

Now begins the process of catching back up. I know it will be slow, but hopefully it will give me some hope again. Hopefully things will start to look better and I will feel healthier and better. For now, though, I paint on my smile and go about my day, waiting, hoping and trusting in God to bring me through all of this. It’s the only thing I can do.