Two years ago, I would never have told anyone how I really felt. My professors would ask how they could pray for me and how I was feeling, yet I told them, “Oh, I’m fine. I’m just busy with homework lately.” That wasn’t the case, however. When I first developed gastritis and GERD, none of my professors actually knew what was really going on underneath my facade. I seemed alright and joyful, yet in reality, I was counting down every last minute of the day until I could sleep and escape from the pain.
Last year, I made a huge change in my thinking. Instead of covering everything up, I decided to become a bit vulnerable. I didn’t have to tell everyone the whole truth, but I could at least tell them a partial truth. For instance, I didn’t have to lie if I felt abdominal pains and became anxious. Instead, I’d tell people I didn’t feel well and couldn’t hang out that day, or I asked a fellow classmate to get some notes for me.
Now, in stark contrast, I tell people everything. Even when I meet complete strangers, I at least tell them the bare bones of my story. Depending on how much I feel like I can trust that person, I’ll tell them right off the bat about my struggles with Panic Disorder, depression, and the physical health struggles I endured. I’m not afraid of people thinking I’m crazy or too honest. I’d rather tell the truth than live a lie.
I really do wear my heart on my sleeve, but why? Why would I intentionally allow people to know all my flaws––all the gritty details of my personal life––and give them a chance to betray me with that information? Why would I allow someone to know me in such a personal way, even if they don’t do the same in return? Why would I share all my secrets instead of keeping them to myself?
I want people to know I’m real––what you see is what you get, and people can take or leave me, but I won’t change for them. If I have to, I’ll break off relationships with people if I sense they’re trying to change me or they have an issue with a part of my personality. God created me a specific way, and I won’t allow people to change me just because of their subjective opinion. Humans always look for imperfections because they’re insecure, and that’s something I’ve kept in mind.
I was bullied in high school, and now that I’m a few years older, I understand it’s because this girl was very insecure. I started surpassing her abilities, so she became defensive and jealous. She wanted to remain in control of everything and wanted the attention others gave me. Well, her wish came true. After she started a gossip hate war against me, all my friends wanted nothing to do with me. Now that I’m a few years out of high school, I know some people attack others for dumb reasons and spread lies about them. Even if lies still spread about me, I know I can do my part by staying the same person and remaining honest about everything.
Dear readers, I encourage you to do the same. How much you want to share is up to you, but I at least hope you can share some information with others in an honest way. Instead of lying about your feelings, tell someone you feel anxious, and maybe they can provide some comfort. Be honest about what’s going on with your family or your other personal struggles. Many people have faced the same struggles, so it’s possible someone you know has actually gone through something similar. By sharing your feelings and experiences, you can allow someone to know you in a deeper way, and you can possibly grow closer to a fellow friend.
Secondly, everyone has a story to share, whether or not they think it’s interesting. For the longest time, I didn’t think my health struggles could become a book. However (cue the drum roll), my book, God’s Grace Through Gastritis, GERD and Grit, will publish sometime at the end of August or the beginning of September. My publishing company is Westbow Press (a division of Zondervan and Thomas Nelson), and they’re already doing a fantastic job. I’m waiting for my volunteer editors to send me back their final edits, and then I’ll send the manuscript off to my publisher. I can’t wait for all of you to read it!
Anyways, maybe you can start a blog, just like this one. You never know how even the smallest things can encourage someone. It may seem boring to you, but someone else could benefit. Be vulnerable––the worst that could happen is you find out someone else has been judging you and they’re not really your friend. True friends will stick with you through the mess.
During panic attacks, a couple of my best friends have watched me pull my fingers through my disheveled hair, my nose drip snot, and tears stain my jeans. Despite my messiness, they don’t treat me differently than before. Instead, I’ve noticed they have become increasingly compassionate and supportive. This is probably because my friends know I’m independent, so they wanted to give me space. However, now that I welcome my friends’ support and questions, they’re not afraid to ask me if I need help.
Yes, I’m going against the all-too-powerful rip current of stigma in society. However, I feel much better because of it. I don’t have to hide anything, and I’ve strengthened relationships with others’ because of my vulnerability. Plus, my honesty reassures others that they can trust me. As a counselor, I want people to know they can confide in me. I won’t share anything they don’t want me to, and I won’t judge them based on the information they shared. We’re all imperfect human beings, and we can all learn something from each other.