A Tighter Grip.

I don’t even know where to begin

All I know is that I want to get a grip on myself.

My anxiety has been so bad.

My emotions have been everywhere.

And sometimes I feel like my chest is going to implode.

I find myself crying when I am alone.

I find myself utterly sensitive to the energies around me.

One moment I am happy and the next, anger, sadness, frustration rage.

I hate this…. I hate this.

My soul is desperate for change.

I want to know what it’s like to feel stable.

I hate feeling like such a wreck.

Perhaps its only a season or moment in time.

All I want is to break free. And not be dominated by this internal, unstable and insecure war inside me.

I want to get to the bottom of this, one breath at a time, one step at a time.

 

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It’s Back…

I can feel the depression setting in again, it has been for the past few weeks. It’s like an unwanted guest trying to take of space in your home when they’re not wanted. There have been moments where I have lost interest in things that made me happy, in those moments I’d rather eat ice cream, drink beer and sleep.

I’m not trying to glorify the depression, I’m only trying to express what a bitch it is. Depression is never  simple or easy to bring resolution to, in my experience, it needs to be  met with heavy love and hope.

Normally when I am faced with depression, the only thing that I want is for a friend to put their arm around me, to tell me they care, that they love me and that I’m worth it. Quite honestly, I haven’t had a love like that for many years. Ever since my friend Garret moved away, got married etc. Things changed drastically. Garret used to hang out with me all the time,  take me places and remind me of who I was.

I miss that, so very much. These days my days are spent attempting to seek the type of community and connection my heart desires, after all, the golden rule of all life and religion, is to treat others how you would want to be treated. In the words of Bono and U2 “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”.

Maybe the honest to God truth is that I’ll never find a friend like Garret again, and I just have to be okay with it. But he will always be the example of how to treat and care for others. Sometimes I just feel like selling all I have and going somewhere where people who are in need of a friend, a touch, a huge and warm words for the soul.

I would rather give my heart to people who wanted than to live wondering if I mattered.  The one factor that I have found that truly fights this evil monster of depression, is a purpose. Give a person the smallest hint of light and watch what they can do it. I know that this isn’t always the case, but it almost seems as though that something changes in the soul and even brain chemistry. When a person knows that they might be able to little less dark than when they found it, is truly powerful.

I just am tired of feeling like I am but a memory in this world, I miss being able to smile and meaning it, I miss feeling like there was a dragon to be slain. I miss feeling like a warrior..

 

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Letting Go of The Heavy Load.

Do you ever feel like you have to have it all together?

Do you ever feel like if you don’t have your act together 24/7, then you’re not measuring up?

I relate to both those questions, both in a physical and spiritual sense and for me they both intertwine with one another. In a physical sense if I’m not winning then I do not amount to much.  It doesn’t matter if it’s in Brazilian Jiujitsu or Crossfit. If I’m not submitting people and bringing home the gold medals, then I further down the mountain while losing the respect of my team and sponsors.

If it’s Crossfit, and I’m not hitting the huge PR’s in the gym, if I’m not making the fastest time in competition and make it to the podium. Then others are beating me out and taking that spot that I desired in my heart.   As an athlete, I believe that wanting to win is a right and healthy mindset, but when we put too much unhealthy pressure on ourselves, I think that we willingly put ourselves into a mindset of slavery that we were never meant to be in any way.

You see, performance should never determine our worth. Sure, we should have dreams and be motivated to complete those goals. The bedrock of our lives should be centered around the understanding that we are loved. Loved by God, our family, and friends. When our lives are based on our performance and what we can produce with our lives, then it isn’t loving. It’s a tireless effort to meet a standard we could never meet on our own.

When the love of friends, family, and even coaches is based on the way we perform. Then one might strongly consider that the problem has little to do with you and more to do with them.  If it’s a coach treating you this way, I highly suggest not giving them anymore of your time.

Secondly, this can esaily translate over to the spiritual mind set, in that if we constanly feel that we have to earn Gods love, approval and favor then we have a foggy perspective of who God is. As sch our view of God most be quickly cleared up. So often we feel that if there is a God, then we first have to clean ourselves up in order to even approach him.

That couldn’t be more of a lie, the truth is that we can come to him despite how many flaws we have or how dirty we think we are. God longs for you to come to him, you don’t have to carry around the heavy load that is in your soul. Freedom and hope are possible.

There is a vast difference between God desiring for you to better off then you were, out of a new desire to be less of the person you were yesterday and wanting perfection. God wants you to be a brand new creation, but he understands that you will fall down time and time again. He won’t stop loving you just because you fall or have a bad day. He will love you to the sky and back. You just have to let him.

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Confronting The Double Standard

 

I can’t pin point the exact time anxiety came into my life; all I can tell you is that it has been in my life for quite some time. From little to severe. Little, as in the nagging feeling inside you that every one is upset with you and it would be better for you not to be apart of human existence. Or on the extreme side of things when your chest becomes tight, your breath becomes short and have a hard time controlling the speed your mind races at. Living with anxiety has seemed like an impossible puzzle in my life. Things seem hopeless when nothing seems to work, right? Even sitting in front of a professional counselor can see like a waste of time. Worse yet, when living with anxiety we can throw depression into the mix. And the both seem to work off each other in strange ways.

At this rate, it seems easier to start digging your grave and laying in it, right? I’m not so sure, you see as much as I am flooded with suicidal thoughts, I don’t actually want to die. I’m actually just scared and don’t feel like there are any solutions to the problems at hand. I think others are like that too, were all scared and afraid to admit that life is spinning out of control. I’ll admit that here and now, I’ll admit that the future scares me and that I want nothing more then to hide from society. But maybe it’s those of us that want to hide that the world needs most. After all the most amazing lessons in life can come from those who we least expect.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think what we need are more suicides, or people living in silence because they live with anxiety, depression or any other form of mental illness. What we first need is the courage to confess that these forms of suffering have had their ways with us for long enough. What we need is for people to actually listen, what we need is for people to jump to conclusions but to seek understanding. I believe were all looking for answers as to why mental illness in any capacity exists and how we can eradicate it from our lives. Some on the endless pages of the internet claimed that they have, whether that is true or not is beyond my knowledge. There’re even those in Christian communities that claim that God healed them of whatever mental illness they were faced with in their lives, whether that is true or not is not for me to know. As a Christian, devoted to following Christ. I do believe that Jesus healed on the pages of the new testament. I even believe that he still heals today, it might just not look the same as it does in various media outlets or conferences. Being a Christian and living with anxiety can sometimes seem counter productive, aren’t Christian’s meant to be the most joyful people alive? Well, that really depends one how one looks at joy. If you presume, that joy is always someone smiling and jumping for joy, I don’t believe that is the fullest reality.

Joy does not always have to have outward expressions; joy can sometimes be a quiet radiance. A knowing that a king knows your pain, that you are loved, forgiven and that the greatest reality is yet to come. As a Christian living with anxiety, I have come to realize that it doesn’t matter how I feel about myself on any given day, it doesn’t change the fact that I am loved and that nothing can separate me from the father’s love (verse here). It’s also tempting as a Christian living with anxiety, to try harder and do more. In order for God to love me. It’s interesting to me how the most well meaning pastors say “if you just made Jesus the center of your life, then you wouldn’t be anxious.” That sounds well and good, but we don’t say that to people who are diagnosed with cancer. In fact that would be a slap in the face, because there are many devout believers that have faced the grim reality of cancer, only to be swallowed up by it. Yet they did not seize in living a life of prayer and various spiritual disciplines.

See the double standard here? We cannot allow it to exist any longer without calling it for what it is. Bullshit.

Word Vomiting on Anxiety and The Christian Life.

Breath… Breath… I tell myself as the sense of panic sets in.

My chest tightens, along with the shortness of breath.

This doesn’t make any sense, shouldn’t I have the most peace and Joy in all the world?

Instead, I feel like everything is going into a spontaneous flat spin. And you call yourself a Christian!?  

This tends to be the inner conversation that I have with myself most days, when anxiety seems to be getting the better of me. Anxiety and depression are things that any and all people may experience in a life time. But it can be a little tricky (a lot tricky actually) if you are a professing Christian.

I’m willing to bet that there are many bible believing Christians that live with either or both anxiety or depression. But their timid about speaking up about it. I know that when I visit a new church, I tend to put my smile on and be prepared to tell everyone that greets me how great I’m doing.

Why?

Because talking about anxiety or depression in some christian communities is like a drill sergeant who goes into a room full of marines who are sleeping and decide to let loose a flash bang. It can be painfully deafening and stunning to ones vision, but that’s what it’s like when a fellow believer talks about mental illness in the church. It hurts peoples ears and blinds the perception of life. Or the Christian life rather.

I personally have reached a point in my life, where I am tired of stuffing how I’m doing just to better sooth others. Yet I am still tremble at the thought of hearing another cliche response to pain.

Are you praying enough?

In the word? (The Bible)

Are you memorizing scripture?

(even better) are you in fellowship with other believers?

Or… Or.. “oh, I’m sorry to hear that, I’ll pray for you”… As the pat you on the shoulder, as if to say “there there little one, its going to be alright”

Verses will then be quoted about how were not meant to worry, and how God knows every hair on our heads. I very much understand that. And I actually believe that deep down, though the anxiety in my heart wants me to believe other wise.

Believers that struggle with anxiety are not people that simply need fixing, we don’t need quick fixes for things that we might have until the day were led home by Aslan (Chronicles of Narnia reference to Jesus). For some, having mental illness could be the Lords way of using something seen as evil, for our good.

God knows that if I didn’t have CP, I probably rely or need him as much. I few my own anxiety and depression in the same. Not in the sense that I enjoy living with anxiety or depression, but that I know that God uses these things as a way of making me a more loving and compassionate person.

The classic passage in scripture where the apostle Paul, pleas that God would remove the thorn from his side, only to have the king of the cosmos say “my grace is sufficient for you”. The key word here is grace, for a Christian, grace is meant to be our driving force. Not our mustering of effort, Not our lists of accomplishments or failures.

Something inside believes, that this is how Christians are meant to live in community and relationship to one another. Yes, there is always room to encourage and push each other to grow. But more then anything grace is meant to abound all the more.

For so long pastors, and the church as a whole has seemed to only want to “fix” those who are learning to live and cope with various shades of mental illness. And that should never be the answer, nor the motivation for the church.First and foremost, I believe that the Church should learn to sit quietly with those who are in the midst of the storm.

This is best scene through out the story of Job, job in the opening chapters loses everything he ever held dear to him. He finds himself in a place of distress in every area of his life. His friends would soon arrive on the scene of his life. There they sat quietly as their friend mourned the loss of his children and vitality, but they seemed to be silent with him for a moment.

Then they started accusing him of doing something to royally piss God off. And as a result, God was then punishing job for something that he had done. The sad truth is that we Christians do the same thing today. Rather then sitting with someone in their pain, we tend to spew at the mouth with cliche statements and things that really say nothing in the end.

Could this be because were scared of not having the answer for something or someone in life? I think so, some of the most meaningful moments in my life have been when a friend has sat beside me and just let me cry. Not giving me a sermon, although we sometimes need that too. But they let me cry and scream until there wasn’t anything left to empty of myself.

We all could be better at this couldn’t we? As I have more then likely said before. If you have anxiety or any other form of mental illness. your not a freak, your not something that needs simple repair or fixing. you are not your diagnoses. your loved, created in the image of the king and thus have more worth and value then you could ever know.  Your pain runs deeper that mere pat answers. Healing and recovery are possible with time and diligence. You don’t have to go through life alone, nor were you ever meant to.

You were created to loved and be loved. Seek help, don’t be afraid to need it. Ignore what others think, your life matters to much to lay quietly in the darkness.

 

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A Letter To My Panic Ridden Self

The other day, I began the journey of seeing a new mental health professional. There was a period of time where I felt as though my life was manageable without counseling. And maybe to an extent it was, but sooner or later the depression would slowly start moving back in. Much like a person who, over time starts leaving all their stuff at your house.

The anxiety became worse then I have previously experienced. I’ve been having two or three attacks a week. Mixed in with horrible nightmares. So enough was enough. I decided to tell my family doctor exactly what I was experiencing.

Tight chest

Shortness of breath

Sweaty Palms

frantic and irrational thoughts thoughts.

During my fist session with this psychologist, he gathered some standard information. But what shocked me is that it didn’t take him long to profess that there were all the signs of a severe panic disorder. While there is much more treatment ahead, its good to put a name, some words a face even to what has been holding onto me so tightly. That being said, the following paragraphs will be a letter to my panic ridden self, perhaps as you read this you can find some hope and healing as well. Maybe even consider doing this exercise as well.

Dear  panic ridden self,

I don’t know when you first became as you are, but if I could trace time back to its root. I would tell you that’s it’s okay. Life was meant to be a joy and not a burden. There is a much greater king in charge of the universe then ourselves. I know you have had to endure such hardship at a young age, but you weren’t the only one that had to endure it.

There were people beside you, a family that endured it a long side you. Who hurt with you. I know that you felt like an outcast in such colorful world. I know you just wanted to be like everyone else, that you would occasionally gaze up to the sky and wonder why the way things were as they are.

I know that you only wanted to experience life the way everyone else did, but instead felt like you were guarded from the world around you. It’s okay, life is actually being molded into something beautiful and there is more to come.

I know you wanted to feel loved, and so you sought out people and anything to make you feel alive and whole. The truth is, we all do this. There is a king and father of the universe that can make you more alive then any earthly manifestation this world can produce.

You must learn to trust this heavenly king, for when life seems to fall apart in ways we would not desire, he is putting things back together in ways that will only be of greater benefit to us.

You can learn to breath, and enjoy. You don’t have to hold on so tightly. I know life will knock you down, and people will hurt you. But don’t let that darken your understanding of life and who you are.

You will be tempted to bring your defenses up, but sometimes you have to let the most unlikely people love you (whoever they may be).  Your going to make mistakes, say things you don’t mean, do things you never thought you would do.

But above all else, accept forgiveness, from the Lord, others, please try to be kind to yourself. You’ll have a habit of wanting to kick your own ass a lot. Just know that that won’t help anything. Keep chasing your dreams and pushing your limits.

Everything will be just fine.

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From Me to You.

For everyone that has read my various posts, I thought I’d share a few more opportunities to read some of my work. Here are links to a few books that I have written of the past few years.

The first is The Emotional Struggle, which is a detailed memoir about my life with cerebral palsy, depression and faith.

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http://www.amazon.com/Emotional-Struggle-Brandon-Ryan/dp/1434348113/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1449964214&sr=8-7&keywords=The+emotional+struggle

The second is A Hunger for Touch, which speaks about how technology is causing a chasm between people and how it can also lead to addiction.

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http://www.amazon.com/Hunger-Touch-Brandon-L-Ryan/dp/1938480031/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1449964592&sr=8-1&keywords=hunger+for+touch

The Two Big C Words

For the past several months, there have been a host of horribly dreams that invade my sleep. Most recently, there has been a dream where I am diagnosed with cancer. I don’t know much about dream interpretation, but many claim that it is a manifestation of the sub conscious.

Be that as it may, the dreams (nightmares even) seem all the more real to me. When I first told this dream to a friend, they pointed out the fact that it might stem from the fact that I have a friend who has cerebral palsy and was recently diagnosed with cancer.

The thought never really crossed my mind, until they brought it to my attention. To be fair, anyone can be diagnosed with cancer on any given day. It doesn’t matter how well a person takes care of their bodies, sometimes things just happen.

My interpretation on the dream, perhaps, is that maybe I am the cancer. I mean this in the most non-dramatic way possible. In terms of a lot the relationships, there is the nagging sense that I’m always fucking things up some how. As such the logic that follows is that I am supposed to hide myself from society. Much like a diseased person would in the old testament.

Again, I am not aiming to be dramatic or cause others to feel sorry for me. The point is, is that this has been a great battle and difficulty for me. One that has been on and off again, for as long as I’ve lived.

The Second C: Control

With so many areas of life changing, or seeming to be that way. I have learned to not hold on so tight. Because people are not ultimately ours. Though I will add, that in regards to my personal convictions regarding the life and way of Christ. I do believe that we belong to each other and that we are created to share in life and give our lives to others.

But at the same time, we as humans have the choice to come and go as we please. Other times other elements to life take the front seat. But what happens when you feel like your on the outside looking in? Even with our own personal tasks, be it school, job, family etc. Relationships that we perceived to e long lasting and strong seem to be slipping away.

Wether that is true or not, remains to be discovered. What I am speaking of though, is the mere feeling or belief that people are slipping away. Perhaps if your like me, a sense of great panic sets in. And much like when a parent has to be separated from a child they do everything in their power to hold onto the grasp.

I’m the learning the painfully obvious truth, that friendships change. And sometimes you have to let people go, not because you want them to, but because it is their choice. That does mean that we don’t long for close, intimate relationships. This is why my faith and spirituality is so very important to me. Because I am told that there is a friend that sticks closer then a brother (Proverbs 18:24).

If you struggle with anxiety and panic, I want you to know that its not the end of your life. Your panic and fear do not define you or the sum total of your life. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to let people in. Never give up in the darkness.

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You Matter: From Above and Below

I’ve been trying to find the words, words to describe what this depression feels like. For the fact that I can’t describe to anyone else. But the image that came to mind tonight was a dark tunnel with light at the end of. The catch is though, is that there is someone stuck underneath all the rubble. Most of the person’s body is covered, except a portion of the arm and hand.

It would be easy to think, “oh, just focus on crawling out from under and towards the light”. While that is some what of obvious answer, the reality still stands that the persons pinned down and they might not have the strength to escape. They might have the air in the lungs to yell for help.

This is what it feels like for me, in this moment.

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I just got home from jiujitsu practice, and every thing went well. My mood after was great and all was well in my world. But as soon as I sit down to eat some lunch, the feelings of sadness, shame, guilt, regret, loneliness and so many other elements return. Being a psychology major, I tend to see a lot of my life through that perspective. We tend to want to find the root of certain difficulties in our lives and the lives others.

But I don’t actually know the root to this pain, apart from some relational brokenness that I feel is in place. I feel that this pain is here because it can be. Sometimes you simply have to let seasons pass, it doesn’t matter how clean you eat, how much exercise or human interaction you have. Sometimes you have to let things run their course.

Despite these difficult circumstances, there is solace in my life. The other day I was having a weekly coffee meeting with a buddy of mine. I sat across from you, slowly and softly telling him all that was going on inside of me. Before I knew it tears were flying down my face, my friend reached into his coat pocket and gave me something to dry my eyes with.

He looked at me and compassionately informed me that I was a priority in his life. It honestly the most healing things I’ve heard from another human being in a long time. The other way I am receiving solace in my life, is allowing Abba (God-Daddy in Hebrew) love me and speak to me in the quiet hours of the night. As I lay there on my bed, he whispers “I love you my son, I’m not leaving you.”

It’s affirming to the soul, to know that you and I are loved from above and below. By God and by friends. Hold onto these truths. The sun will shine again.

 

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While This Fucking Sucks (Further Thoughts on Depression)

Depression fucking sucks, there’s not many other ways that I can accurately describe hoe much I hate living with it. To anyone that is offended to my choice of use of the words, I’m sorry, but right now the word fuck is a great release for me. I honestly don’t wish depression on anyone regardless of the severity.

For me, the depression starts rolling around this time of year, normally I am in awe of falls beauty. Yet for some reason, I just simply shrug my shoulders and think “eh, its just leaves falling off trees”. Normally the autumn is when I feel most in tune with Gods spirit, but that even seems dry to me.

I try and smile, but I can’t. I try and find joy in things, but I can’t. The only thing that I want to do is curl up in bed with my dog and sleep this season away. One of my favorite singer/song writers has a lyric that says:

“Wake me when it’s spring time in Heaven, when I’m strong enough to walk in your ways”

(Song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zqf55ogCfuk)

I feel like I have no strength in this season, (so God if your listening I could really use some help). Even with all the good that is happening in my life, joy is far from my heart. Scary huh?

So then, what do I (or what do you do?) Well, sleeping things off for a bit is perfectly fine, but then get up, let your feet hit the floor and remember why you do things. Why your chasing certain dreams and goals. We are nothing without hope and purpose.

Keep inching toward the warmth at the end of tunnel, don’t be afraid to scream for help. There are people that care for you and love, I promise, and while this fucking sucks. Things will get better. Don’t miss the value that can come from these current struggles.images