Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Vicious Circles in Anxiety and Depression

I think one of the most insidiously cruel aspects of depression is the way it uses feedback loops to defend itself against my recovery. A very simple example is panic attacks, like what often happens when having blood drawn or other medical procedures:
1. Feel anxious.
2. Hold breath.
3. Lack of oxygen causes dizziness
4. Dizziness causes anxiety
5. Hold breath more
6. Etc until I feel so dizzy I'm sure I'm going to die.

Here's how it attacks my social life:
1. Someone's annoyed with me.
2. Refuse to interact so I don't say anything to make it worse.
3. They get frustrated that I'm not responding.
4. I get more anxious from their frustration and hide more.
5. Etc until we're both angry for no reason.

1. Forget to call friend.
2. Too embarrassed to call and apologize.
3. Friend must be really angry now.
4. Ignore friend until they get over me and we're no longer friends

Home life:
1. Leave the dishes undone a couple of days, even though it doesn't take long and I know I feel better when the house is clean.
2. Jerkbrain says, "Why bother cleaning the dishes, they'll just get dirty again and you'll still live in a crappy house and there will still be spiders in the windowsill."
3. Feel hopeless, leave the dishes undone longer.
4. Jerkbrain says, "What kind of miserable pathetic failure are you that you can't even spend ten minutes to keep the kitchen clean? Clearly you should stop trying at everything."

Right now I'm having problems at work because I'm anxious about how to respond to situations, so nothing. Then I'm embarrassed, then depressed, then anxious again, and still doing nothing, and then I get anxious about my job status...

And it's just so heavy, and seems to take so much energy to just Get Up and Do A Thing that the idea of actually accomplishing significant things seems impossible. And it's easier to give up and do nothing, but that makes it worse, making me feel worse.

I need a way to short-circuit these cycles. I've figured out how to handle conflicts with Spouse by saying "I'm not ignoring you, I'm just having trouble talking" and that helps us both be patient. The thing is if I can get past the panic, I can address whatever needs addressing. But I really need a better way to handle it at work.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Moral Authority

In the second or third century, the anonymous writer of the Epistle to Diognetus said that Christians are the soul and conscience of the world. If that was true, it doesn't seem to be true in America now. In general, the opinions of Christians are not given automatic weight and consideration. Whether this is a good thing or not, we can't change it. We can't force people to respect our morals, nor can we convince them to adopt them by virtue of the fact that we are Christians instead of convincing based on the reasoning behind the morals themselves.

We have lost whatever moral authority and credibility we had. We have failed to be a good steward of that authority. Instead of treating people with gentleness, kindness, and understanding, we have considered our authority "something to be grasped and used to our own advantage." We have put great burdens on people's backs and have not helped them to bear it.

Nowhere is this more true than in the area of sex.
-We have restricted access to important health information to the detriment of people's emotional and physical health.
-We have allowed child molesters to have authority in our churches and have not done enough to protect and make amends to victims.
-We have shamed women who are raped or pressured into sex, convincing them they are broken and don't deserve justice or a healthy relationship.
-We have treated gay, lesbian, trans, and bisexual people, as well as others with marginalized sexualities, shamefully and cruelly or have stood by while others did so.

Is it any wonder that people don't care what we think anymore? The fact that some anti-gay Christians try to express their views lovingly doesn't change the fact that people view those beliefs as at best irrelevant and at worst immoral.

So when something asks me how I can tolerate my friends being gay, or how I can let them think that it's okay with God, I'm more than anything confused. My friends make their own decisions. Their own values and moral reasoning dictate their actions. They have no reason to defer to what I think just because I have a bible.

If I told my friends I could no longer support their "lifestyle", it would not change what they think about God or their relationships. It would change what they think about me. They would think that I believe I have moral authority over them and that I know their lives better than they do. I am convinced this would do no good, and a great deal of harm.

Until the church, in true humility and repentance, acknowledges the wrongs we have done and makes an effort to correct them, we will never regain that moral authority. Truly, I don't think this is a bad thing. Just as we who did not act have done harm by being too trusting of our leaders who committed spiritual and sexual abuse, so will harm be done if the church is given full authority and trust in American society. None of us can be trusted with that power. We must have the humility to acknowledge the truth and righteousness of those who correct us, and they must have the freedom to do so.

Monday, January 18, 2016


Here are some things readers may want to know about me.

Religious beliefs: Christian. Raised church of Christ. Doctrinally, the Nicene Creed pretty much covers my beliefs. Practically, I think God created humans in order to see us thrive as humans. I believe that the best thing we can do is laugh, love, create, enjoy the universe, and live in community with each other.

Ethical beliefs: The guidelines by which I try to live are as follows:
1. Do no harm.
2. Protect yourself and those weaker than you from coming to harm.
3. Use the resources available to you to correct the harm that has been done to others.

Moral beliefs: I believe that my Christian faith requires me to see the good in everyone, to welcome and seek to understand those different from me, and to be honest and giving. At times this may conflict with protecting others; in these cases I believe protection of the vulnerable takes precedence to welcoming those who would hurt them.

Values: humility, hospitality, service, philanthropy, family, friendship, community, honesty, faith, hope.

Personality: introvert with an active inner life. Lover of books. Fighter of depression and anxiety. Connoisseur of puns. Gifted with the ability to see the absurd humor in life and cursed with the tendency to focus on the darkness.

Interests: Cats. Baking. Books. Star Wars. Sci-fi/fantasy, especially with time travel or dragons or time-traveling dragons. Star Wars books. Science jokes. Books. History jokes. Bookstores. Philosophy jokes. Libraries. Bible jokes. Used bookstores. Ideas.

Fears: Spiders. Needles. Blood. The vastness of time and space. People talking to me when I'm not expecting it.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

My new philosophy

I have struggled for a long time to figure out what my online persona should look like and how to integrate that image into the rest of my life. After my political awakening in 2008, I argued on social media a lot and thought that I just needed to express my opinions right and then everyone would agree with me, unless they were intellectually dishonest. Then I got weary of the arguing and realized Facebook is not actually a good medium for discussions like that. I started an anonymous blog and spent a lot of time snarking at trolls in the comments to other liberal blogs. But I don't think that's right for me either.

I want my online presence to be in harmony with who I am in my family and community. I want to use my privilege to speak bravely without hiding what I think, but I also want to be effective at making change. I want to see if I can write without worrying about what anyone will think. I want to see if I can start conversations that feel like a discussion with close friends over coffee.

Anyway, I've reverted all my previous posts to drafts. I might rewrite and republish some; I might leave others alone. I'm not going to be anonymous anymore. This is me.