“I am not my extremes”

The words “all or nothing” have never scared me more in my life.

When I was 17 I told someone we were getting married, three weeks into meeting him. Now, I don’t trust myself with relationships at all.

I drove myself to the edge of mental health after three years of human rights work. I thought I could save an entire nation. I still don’t trust myself. I still battle anxiety and paranoia and post-traumatic stress.

When it comes to food, I’m either on the most restrictive cleanse diet in the world or filling my body with trash 24/7. I’m Paleo for health reasons, but I don’t trust my non-Paleo self to be healthy.

I have a mind palace. Not the kind of Ioci, but the kind in which I draw myself in, shut every door, and wallow in bitterness and unhealthy levels of introspection. It’s the place I take all the brokenness of the world. I used to have a hard time getting back out. I don’t trust myself in that palace.

I allowed my ‘extremes’ to shackle me. I told myself, it’s just the way you were made and nothing will change. I internalized every external fear, took on every stranger’s burden, thought my health wasn’t worth the fight, chased fantasies of renown and recognition. An interesting thing happened along the way, when I recognized my tendency to ride the pendulum only to the opposite ends: I started doubting myself so fiercely, I became a paralytic of sorts. I shied away from friendships that seemed too intense. I rarely left my physical house. I avoided romance as if it would kill me. I feared connections with people, having navel-gazed for long enough to know my capacity to hurt them with my poisonous cynicism. If there was a minute amount of risk involved, I shut down. I sometimes fear going to sleep. I repeated, no one will understand me, no matter how much I try to articulate the innermost me. I live in a glass box. Nothing will change.

Thankfully, things are changing slowly. It’s not an ‘alls-well-that-ends-well’ ending, at least for now, but I realize that my fears of extremes and my propensity for damage are not my defining personhood. I’ve declared war on that lie. I have, since my early days, found the transcendent, inexplicable comfort in knowing Jesus and the riches of His fellowship. It’s not a backdoor escape to my fears — He has given me new life. Today, there’s a fullness of joy that even my cynicism and pain can’t comprehend.