I’m Stepping Away from Writing…

Sometimes the responsible choice is the hardest…

I’ve been avoiding writing this article for a while now.  In all honesty, I’ve been unmotivated to do so, and I’ve been battling as to whether or not it’s the right thing to do.

Continue reading “I’m Stepping Away from Writing…”

“Finding Who We Are” Entry #18: Drowning in an Unknown Anxiety Disorder

I believe that this is the longest period of time that I have gone without posting in almost a year. My friends, I am not doing well, if I can be honest with you. I’m definitely needing your prayers in these moments. I plan to address this issue tomorrow evening.

Today, though, even if it is a day late, I’m blessed to have an opportunity to share a great friend’s story. Logan and I have put up with each other for three years now, and have grown into the men that we are together. Every ounce of his story bleeds honesty and transparency.

You may have never heard of his anxiety disorder, but it is incredibly enlightening in its presentation. We hope that you are encouraged by his story!

I had everything going for me as a child. I had good friends, quality education, great parents, a loving church family, and a passion for living life. I was a naturally upbeat and vivacious kid. I was the one who wanted to stay out later than my other friends, keep swimming in the pool, venture ever deeper into the forest behind our neighborhood, and generally enjoy life.

By age eleven, I had dreams of doing something significant in life. Even at an early age, I had an unusually strong sense of my faith in God and a desire to act upon it. My dream was to lead a group of my peers in doing ministry in my community, and I actively tried to make this dream a reality. I had a bit of trouble finding this group of peers, as I was both homeschooled and an only child! Nevertheless, my dream persisted, as did my passionate desire to be involved in something of significance. I vividly remember walking out into the woods one day and praying for hours (as an elven year old) that God would use me. I didn’t know the path forward, but I was confident that God was about to do something in my life to propel me towards my aspirations.

Then it happened.

Not long after this time of ardent prayer in the woods, I began to feel heavy guilt for certain things that I had been doing in life. As you could guess, there’s only so much trouble a home schooled eleven year old can get into—we’re not talking about grand theft auto or homicide here. Nonetheless, the guilt was unbearable, and I confessed everything wrong I had ever done to my mom one morning in the living room.

I was embarrassed and ashamed about the things I had confessed, and I remember that I couldn’t stop crying. This anxiety driven confession persisted until Dad got home, and then throughout the evening. By that night, my parents were already telling me that I shouldn’t worry about telling them everything and that my sin was ultimately between me and God. They were right, and I knew it, but I couldn’t stop. My chronic anxiety over my sin persisted all through the next day, and the next week, and the next month.

It lasted for ten years.

As an eleven year old, I used to look forward to time with the Bible and in prayer; now I absolutely dreaded it. Reading the Bible and attempting to pray felt like opening myself up to a tidal wave of guilt and anxiety. Even when I wasn’t engaged in spiritual exercises, I found that I could not escape the anxiety. I was horrified by the perceived need to confess every single infraction to God, my parents, or some other authority. My spiritual life, once my greatest source of satisfaction, had become a living hell literally overnight.

It began to ruin my life. I was always thinking about this new “spiritual problem” that I had. I could not have been more ill at ease if I was living in the middle of a minefield. Every conversation, every school assignment, every friendly interaction, every thought, was a terrifying opportunity to sin.

I was miserable. It was not unusual for me to ask God to forgive me for meaningless, often involuntary actions and thoughts up to one hundred times a day. I began losing sleep. I started falling behind in school. I remember weeping when I turned twelve because all I could think about was my fear. My quiet times lasted for hours and felt like sheer torture the entire time I was completing them. One misstep in the process, and I would have to ask God to forgive me.

Let me give you an example of how these thought patterns would develop within my mind. Let’s say that I prayed and gave thanks for my dinner before I ate it. Immediately after the prayer, I realized that I had been a little distracted, and had said the prayer somewhat habitually. So I might pray again and again until I felt like I had really prayed. After this, I felt guilty because I knew it was ridiculous to pray that many times, and therefore I had sinned by showing a lack of faith. So I prayed that God will forgive me of that. I would try to do all of this and look normal at the dinner table, not letting on to my inner struggle.

But was this lying? That question would haunt me until after the whole meal was over. I might seem distracted and so my parents would ask where my head was at. I would say I was just having some anxieties, but then issue them an apology for not being more present at the table. By now I felt sick and didn’t finish my meal. I would throw half of my food away, and then immediately realized that perhaps I had committed a sin of wastefulness. I would ask God to forgive me for the entire incident and try to start over, but then I couldn’t decide whether or not it was even o.k. to make such a request to God.

The cycle never ended. There were almost never any breaks. All I looked forward to was sleep, but I knew that when I awoke I would be picking up where I left off.

My parents tried to help. They had no clue what was happening to me and it scared them to death. My mom would spend hours, almost daily trying to talk me through my despair. Mom and Dad showed me innumerable Bible passages, prayed and fasted for me, and arranged meetings between me and different pastors. These pastors, in turn, tried to do what they could.

I was reminded more times than I could count about my identity in Christ, that I was forgiven, that God loved me and that my worry was not necessary. It didn’t help.  I was beginning to come to the hopeless and draining realization that no matter what I knew was right or wrong, it wasn’t going to help. I suspected that there might be a mental health situation occurring with me, but I was assured repeatedly by people that I trusted that I was not sick, and that I simply had a faith problem.  

I saw my mom losing hope, and for the first time in my life I saw my dad without answers. I was breaking their hearts. The thought of suicide had passed through my mind more than once, and I knew that death would be more bearable than what I was currently experiencing. Ultimately, however, I had neither the desire nor the courage to take my life, and I thank God that this was the case.

I knew I couldn’t continue. One morning, about 9 months after the beginning of this nightmare, I sat down in my room to begin my dreaded quiet time. I unfolded my worn out prayer list and surveyed all of the items it contained. I knew that, finally, I didn’t have the strength to make it through today. It was over. With tears streaming down my face I told God I was sorry, but I just couldn’t do this anymore. I put the prayer list down, dried my eyes, and began my life without God.

This phase lasted me until the end of eight grade. I then mounted my attempt to live the Christian life again. The previous hell ensued, and I made it almost to tenth grade. I felt I had to give up again, and lived without a personal Christian walk until almost my senior year.

Throughout each of these long periods in which I no longer felt as if I was able to live a life of faith, I dug myself further and further into trouble. It then became increasingly difficult to overcome these issues when I did inevitably attempt to rejoin my Christian walk.

I lost friends, opportunities, and had my heart broken by dead end relationships more than once. I sought to fill the void in my spirit with anything I could find—accomplishments, friends, girls, and generally constant activity.

During my senior year, I tried earnestly to walk in faith without my anxieties. In my spirit, I still felt like the same scared, bewildered eleven year old kid; except now it was time to apply for college.

I ended up at Piedmont International University mostly because I was afraid to go anywhere else at the time. I was afraid that I could not properly hear God, and would miss His will. It was at Piedmont, however, where I finally received answers. My relationship with my new girlfriend Heather Thompson (now my fiancé) had gotten off to a rocky start due to issues largely stemming from my spiritual anxiety.

In a phone conversation with my mom, I communicated that I was at my end, and that simply didn’t feel like I could carry on. At this pivotal moment, we had a breakthrough. For the first time, my mom began to research my anxieties from a mental health perspective, and within hours she believed she had identified my anxiety disorder.

She was right. And it was an anxiety disorder, not a lack of faith.

When I began reading on what I soon identified as my disorder, I felt as if I had been hit by a train. I have an uncommon form of OCD that acutely affects religious and moral functioning called Scrupulosity. If you have heard of someone with OCD who obsessively washes their hands and is terrified of germs I essentially have the religious form of that.

The realization that I was not crazy, was not overly sinful or faithless, and in fact had a condition in a common family of mental health issues, was incredibly empowering. It hasn’t always been easy, but I am glad to say that today I am hardly effected by this condition on a day to day basis.

The most powerful tool I was even given in my struggle against anxiety was knowledge. The sheer realization that what I was fighting was not actually a spiritual issue transformed my life. I have been able to identify some other ways in which OCD uniquely effects my life, some negative, but some good; in a real sense, I am thankful for them all.

I have never shared this story publicly before, but I am doing so for the following reasons:

  1. Because my fabulous friend Matt asked me to
  2. Because if it is true that mental health is stigmatized outside the church, it certainly is within the church. Well-meaning pastors and Christian leaders often disseminate views about mental health that they truly know nothing about. I know what it is like to come from a church background in which the things that you are feeling are stigmatized and oversimplified, and the consequences are tragic.  
  3. Because not everything that would be categorized as a mental health issue has to be labeled as an out and out disability. Now that I know how my brain works and what on earth is going on, there are certain aspects of my OCD that I consider strengths, and honestly would not want to do without.
  4. Lastly, because such challenges may be gifts from God. I have been blessed to lead my peers here at Piedmont for two years now in ministry in the community—the very opportunity that I asked God for in the woods all those years ago. Nothing is an accident. We may never know how the events of the last ten years prepared me for where I am today. I never thought I was getting what I prayed for; but maybe I was.

I would love to meet you and hear your story. Feel free to comment down below! Subscribe at the top of the page if you loved what you read.

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You are loved.

You are valued.

“Finding Who We Are” Entry #17: Do I Have A Purpose?

We’re all hardwired with an innate craving for purpose. It’s a question that we all face at one time or another: What is my purpose?

Today’s guest author, John Caleb Ahern, attends the University that I work at, and he is a great friend of mine. We have been able to connect with our mutual struggles with depression. He’s a great writer, a compassionate friend, and someone who’s struggled to find their meaning in life.

We hope you’re encouraged by his story!

I never knew what was wrong, and I don’t know if I’m alright. Most people have a death, a betrayal, a trauma, or some other trigger that they can use to attribute to the symptoms of a condition we call depression. I don’t know what happened. It seemed that the older I got, the more tired and fatigued I became. The thing is, though, I’m only 19.

I can go as far back as my freshman year in High School when I noticed something was off. The sadness and fatigue were too persistent to be a normal human function.

I went to a small Christian school from seventh to twelfth grade. I never really fit in with the club. I wasn’t a “bad kid” I just wanted to be left alone. I didn’t have many friends. They were the kind that were nice, but they were also the kind that couldn’t understand what was going on. They would ask, “How are you doing?” and I would reply “Good” not realizing that it was a lie. I couldn’t really connect with anyone. Needless to say, I was ready to graduate and move on.

I couldn’t seem to feel much of anything at all. I didn’t know what to do; I was just tired, so I went to bed. I could sleep for 13 hours and still be dead exhausted. I was sad all the time and never really knew why. All that I knew was that I hated my existence, and I wanted it to end. There were countless times that I wanted to kill myself, but that pesky survival instinct kept me up in my bed late at night pondering my misery. I was all alone.

I didn’t know what to say or how to describe my symptoms. I didn’t want to be judged. I was a man. I’m supposed to be strong, and emotions aren’t supposed to affect me too much. Most of the time my Christian friends would tell me to cheer up or that they were praying for me. I had one close friend tell me over and over again to “rely on Christ” or to “realize your identity in Christ”.

Yes, I knew those things, I believe(d) those truths. I never really wavered in my faith to Christ. I appreciated my friend’s effort, but that was the last thing I needed. They were empty words coming from people who would talk a lot without doing anything.  

I became mentally ill and erratic. I went for an entire summer eating just enough to survive, and dropping down to 125 lb. (extremely underweight in my case). I still thought I was ugly and gross. I slept for hours each night, and always was tired when I woke up. It’s as if I was floating in a stream with no purpose and no meaning.

I tried medicating myself in all sorts of ways from food and more sleep to exotic porn and extreme habitual masturbation. In the end, I felt ashamed, useless, worthless, mindless, and about every other “less” you can think of. Even then, I always managed to pull out a smile or a laugh. Maybe answer the emptiest question in our modern history, “How are you doing?” while nodding “Good!”

After a while, it got pretty hard to keep the act up. I got tired of acting, and I was sick of living. My mom started hearing me saying things about killing myself, and ask me what I meant by them. That was when she signed me up for a doctor’s appointment, and I was able to get medicine for my depression.

 When I was taking the medicine, my whole world opened up. I saw the same things and felt things like they were completely new, but most of all I realized that I had gone an entire day without thinking about killing myself! Mom told me that I was a completely different person. I wasn’t “cured”, so to speak, but I could get on with my life and not have my depression weighing me down. I was able to get up and go, something I never thought that I would be able to do.

It hasn’t been an easy road for me, but my God is strong and I am stronger now. Jesus has been with me the entire time, and His intent is always to train his servants for holiness. This trial has taught me how to endure and get my focus off of myself and put it on others. Life means so much more to me now. I’m in a race running towards the prize, the high calling of my Lord Jesus Christ. I may not know what I’m doing, but I know where I’m going! I may not know what to do with my life, but I know who I can live for! 

I live in a new city now, working at an outstanding University. I have the best friends that I have ever had. I love my new squad. They don’t let me get away with anything! I truly don’t deserve them or their loyalty. 

I still struggle with depression, but it doesn’t control me anymore. The struggle is real and life may seem perplexing at times, but everything always comes down to this: Love God, love people, and keep His commandments.

Every week of this series continues to amaze me. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to share your stories. Thank you, John, for stepping out and being used to spread hope.

Would you want to contribute to “Finding Who We Are?” Shoot me an email at confessionsmalin@gmail.com!

I would love to meet you and hear your story. Feel free to comment down below! Subscribe at the top of the page if you loved what you read.

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You are loved.

You are valued.

This Post Is Raw: BeautyBeyondBones

I woke up this morning to see that this week is dedicated solely to raising awareness for eating disorders. I know of individuals who have struggled with these and I know of many who are at a constant war with their own body image.

Ladies and gentleman, after doing a little bit of research I have found that this disorder incredibly serious. I never downplayed its legitimacy by any means, but I had no idea just how damaging it could be.

I was scrolling through social media with plans, albeit small, to contribute to the conversation, but after reading the post I’m sharing today, I decided that I needed to do something more.

This gem of a lady has encouraged my heart on many occasion. She’s open, she’s honest, she loves the Lord, and she’s not afraid of sharing her story to help others. Take a few moments to read her newest post and keep your eyes on our site this week as I try to do my best in raising awareness for eating disorders.

You are loved.

You are valued.



I had been putting off writing this post for about a month and a half. National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Feb 26-March 4 I had been dreading writing this post because, obviously BBB is an eating disorder recovery blog, so I feel kinda…obligated…to address the topic, but honestly, I’m kinda luke warm on the whole […]

via This Post is Raw — BeautyBeyondBones

I would love to meet you and hear your story. Feel free to comment down below! Subscribe at the top of the page if you loved what you read.

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I Wish I Could Go Back: Top Ten Lessons from My Childhood

I find myself in awe over how quickly time passes. I can remember running around the house as a 5-year-old tike and now I sit here writing this to you as a 24-year-old man. I know that 24 is young, but I feel much older.

I’m even in awe at how quickly the time has passed since I began blogging consistently. It’s been over two years now. Two years. What’s 365 multiplied by two? Hold on…

730 Days. Honest to goodness, that took a lot longer than it should have.

I’m always a sucker for nostalgia, so I began digging through my archives and stumbled upon this beauty. Posted in November of 2015, this was a writing prompt that asked what was the biggest lesson you learned as a child. Being me, I couldn’t settle for only one.

I don’t resurrect old blogs too often, but I’ve hit a serious wall of writer’s block and need some brain juice. I hope you enjoy the list!

10.) Playing outside was just as boring as inside

I mean, I always found a way to peek through a window and watch Scooby Doo. We also lived in Florida, so playing outside meant riding a bike through a lake of fire.

I.e. it was hot.

9.) If you hit someone (purposefully) in the face with a tetherball, you get punched back.

Do I need to explain? I was an angry fourth grader.

8.) If you didn’t skateboard or have long hair you were an outcast.

Skateboarding and long hair were all the rage back then. Seriously, a Wednesday night at youth group looked like a bunch of mops spent too much time in Tony Hawk’s closet. I tried to be like the cool kids but only ended up with scraped knees and no friends.

*Insert pathetic ‘Awh’ here*

7.) Teachers and Parents have a telepathic bond

I thought I was a smooth little brat. Had a bad day at school and end up with a bad star? “Oh, sorry teach, I left my agenda at home. Oh, sure I’ll give the note to my mom.”

Somehow, someway, the parents always found out. I blame mother’s intuition.

6.) The only “race” that stood between my friends and me was the one around the block.

Seriously. There were no distinctions in our minds. Yeah, we knew we were different, but who cared? We were friends, buddies, best pals. Nowadays you don’t go an hour without hearing about racial tension.

5.) Having three sisters meant learning to lose arguments gracefully.

I haven’t mastered this quite yet, but I believe that God gave me three sisters to prepare me for the future. As in, He gave me three sisters so I could learn that I’m incapable of winning an argument.

4.) Girls are cool, but they’re not the end-all-be-all of life

I’ve been chasin’ the ladies since I was in second grade. I almost failed the third grade because I was awestruck. I chased girls around the parking lot of church every Wednesday night. I even had a little mafia of friends who would go interrogate the girls I liked to see if they liked me back.

Needless to say, I’ve grown up a little. Rejection as a youngster prepared me to see that life is more than relationships. Don’t get caught up in finding love. Enjoy life!

3.) Imagination is everything

Without it, a kid will suffocate. If imagination is removed from the picture then what makes a kid a kid? If he/she can’t dream, then where in life do they have to go? Let the child dream. Let them imagine. Their ideas may be crazy now, but at least they have some kind of goal for their life.

Even as an adult, though, we need to be able to dream. It keeps the heart alive. It keeps the soul young. Be a dreamer!

2.) I could have been a better brother

I was in between the ages of 5-10 and didn’t really see the value in it. Now that I’ve grown up, dealt with depression, and have experienced life on my own, I wish I could have done better. I tell this to everyone, if it weren’t for my family, I would be dead. The grace of God kept me alive in the darkest days of my life through my dad, mom, and three sisters. I wish I would have realized that sooner.

1.) I want to go back and do it all again

I look at pictures of us as kids and wish I could go back. It wasn’t always easy, but it was a lot easier than life right now. No bills, no responsibility. The only choice you had to make in the day was whether that worm was going in your mouth or not (It never did).

What about you? What were some of your favorite memories/lessons of your childhood? Let me know down in the comments below!

I would love to meet you and hear your story. Feel free to comment down below! Subscribe at the top of the page if you loved what you read.

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You are loved.

You are valued.