I’m an English scholar, so of course words matter to me. Teachers have joked that my name is appropriate because I excel at analyzing texts (Anelise as Analyze, do ho ho). While this is great for acing an English course, it is less useful, however, for relationships.
I don’t just analyze; I overanalyze.
Everything. From the tone. To the choice of verb. To the body language. It’s exhausting for me, but it’s also really unfair to the person that’s communicating to me.
I communicate best by text or email. Tone is usually the same: monotonous, to the point, brief, and I’m able to process it and respond to it in my own time. And, as embarrassed as I am to admit this, when nerves do get the best of me, sometimes I just close my eyes and delete messages before I even read them.
And, if you call me, I will most certainly let it go to voicemail. Then I will delete the voicemail without listening to it. Then I will text you and ask what’s up. I never have my phone volume on because the sound of someone calling, or even just the announcement that someone texted me, jumpstarts that internal panic. And this is for everyone—even my husband.
And on days where my anxiety is super hyperactive, this is all a hundred times worse. Everything becomes targeted at me. My body feels extremely unstable. As if at any moment the ground beneath me will literally come out from under me.
Gemma Correll’s #2 and #3 comics (though all of them are brilliant) really depict what has been a struggle of mine for a long time.
But it’s only now, as I’ve really began to understand my mental illnesses, that I’ve been able to reflect on how this has affected my ability to relate to others in a rational way.
In high school, when my mom and I would get into typical mother-daughter fights (clothes, boys, etc.), I distinctly remember telling her, over and over, that I wish I could record our arguments so she could see what she was saying. Yes, this sounds awful and manipulative, but looking back I realize that I just wanted her to understand how I was processing what she was saying.
I receive information differently than the average person. And that makes relationships, and especially in-person conversations, really hard.
Just last week there were several days where I would ask my husband things like, “Why did you say it like that?” or “What’s wrong? Your tone is off.” Early on in our marriage, I would not have been so bold as to ask these questions. Instead, I would simply internalize his words, replay them over and over, and analyze them from different angles. It was exhausting, and it would put us both on edge.
It wasn’t fair or conducive to our relationship in the least.
Now, I’ve learned that just talking about it with him helps. He has begun to understand that I am going to process things differently. He knows now—as ridiculous as it might seem—that when I ask him a question, I do not want to hear “okay.” I need to hear yes or no. “Okay” leaves too much open to interpretation, and my mind begins to spin. There are other things too, like when he begins a conversation by just simply saying my name: my mind immediately goes dark. I read it as something serious has happened. And internally I enter panic-attack mode.
Exhausting for people close to me? Yes.
And, outside of family this creates even bigger problems. And it’s something that I’ve really wrestled with as a Christian. I know that relationships are important. I know that the church is my family. I know that I should see everyone as Jesus does: without judgment and with love. But it’s really hard when my mind immediately goes into personal-attack mode. And it’s a struggle that I’ve been earnestly praying about lately, as I know that I need a supernatural presence to help me move past these immediate feelings of panic and distrust.
So, here’s what God’s been teaching me:
- I don’t know your story if I don’t ask.
- You won’t know my story unless I tell you.
- Life is too hard for false fronts and isolation.
- Vague, superficial conversations invite misinterpretation.
- Be brave enough to be open, vulnerable, and uncomfortably honest.
And that’s where this blog really came from, the need for a space to say here I am: a messy, flawed, human being, that is surrounded by the most beautiful blanket of grace.
God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He just cares that we’re growing.
If you have a story about mental illness—whether personal or concerning a loved one—please consider sharing your experience. Even if you aren’t at a place yet where you feel comfortable disclosing your name, the church body needs your voice. Let’s shine a light on the darkness, together.