To My Worst Critic

When I was at Timberline Knolls, every Thursday I went to a group focused on body image. It was right after a group I had that focused on self-image. Since I have just a FEW issues related to both of those things, I cried in almost every session. (Basically, Thursdays were a real treat.) One of the body image sessions talked about the negative messages we receive about our bodies, ones that come from both external and internal sources, and how we can counter these messages with healthy, productive thoughts. One exercise we did was to write a letter addressed to our body critics. We were given paper with pre-printed lines and text at the top that said, “Dear Body Critics.” It didn’t take me long to realize that my biggest critic isn’t someone else, so I crossed out “Body Critics” and wrote my name instead. Below is the letter I wrote in the few minutes we had. It’s not terribly profound, but somehow seeing the truth in black and white was a breakthrough for me. I hope it encourages someone else to remember to listen to the truth instead of lies.

Dear Erin,

Be kind to yourself. Your value is not determined by the amount of space you occupy in the world. Your value is not determined by the number on the scale or on your jeans. Your value is not determined by what others think or say about you. Your value is set by God, who declares you fearfully and wonderfully made, who delights in you, who dances over you with singing and joy. In Christ you have the value of a redeemed child of God–pure, blameless, beautiful, and worthy to approach the throne of God with confidence. The only words that matter are the words that God speaks over you. Listen to His voice, and may it be loud enough to silence the voice of hate always ringing in your ears. Remember that nothing can separate you from God’s love–not height nor depth, death nor life, not even your own self-hatred. Walk in the truth that you are loved, and stand tall and live fearless.

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Well-Placed Trust

Yesterday I met with a new mental health provider–a mental health nurse practitioner. I was seeing a psychiatrist in town, but for reasons I won’t get into, I decided to look for someone new. Deciding to leave my psychiatrist was something I had thought about for a while before I actually did it; there are limited mental health providers in Jackson who prescribe medications (I see a therapist I love, so all I need is someone to manage my meds), and I didn’t relish the thought of starting all over with someone else. However, my last psychiatrist appointment confirmed for me that it was time to move on, and I was relieved when I found someone else locally whom I could see. This nurse practitioner came highly recommended by more than one person, which helped me make my decision. Still, I had a lot of anxiety leading up to the appointment. I worried that I wouldn’t like her or that she wouldn’t make any changes to my current medications even though it’s pretty clear they aren’t helping me like they should. I worried that she wouldn’t take me seriously or would rush through the visit.

I am so desperate to find something that will make a noticeable difference in my quality of life, and so I put a lot of pressure on this appointment and a lot of hope and also dread that it would not go well. But when I woke up yesterday morning, some Bible verses popped into my head, and I repeated them to myself throughout the day whenever I started to feel myself getting anxious. The words were from Psalm 20: 6-7: “Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Those words reminded me that my trust is only as dependable as the one in whom I’m trusting. If I place my trust in doctors, I will be disappointed every time, for they are imperfect and make mistakes. In fact, any human in whom I place my trust will eventually disappoint me, for we are all sinful. Placing all of my trust in someone to fix me and give me the help I need–while an understandable impulse–is short-sighted. Ultimately, my trust must be in God because He alone is completely trustworthy. He never makes mistakes, never forsakes His people, never goes back on His Word. When I trust God, I know I will not be betrayed.

One of my favorite verses is Psalm 9:10, which says, “Those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” I do not know God as well as I would like to or as well as I will in eternity, but I do know He is trustworthy. Throughout the pages of Scripture we see that God alone always keeps His promises, even when His people are fickle and wayward and foolish. I can trust Him with my life because He gave up the life of His Son so that I could live forever with Him.

Moreover, when I trust Him, I am guaranteed peace, for God will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are stayed on Him because they trust Him (Isaiah 26:3). Peace has been something my mind has craved these past few months. I feel as though I am constantly restless and searching and fighting my thoughts–never calm and at peace–but I shouldn’t be surprised that this is the case since often my first impulse is to trust in myself or other people instead of trusting in God. This is not to say that some of what I feel isn’t related to the depression I’m experiencing, but I cannot excuse myself from putting trust in the Lord to help me minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.

My appointment ended up going really well. The nurse practitioner was very kind, listened well, and took her time in making recommendations for next steps. It will be a while before I know if the new regimen is helping, so I once again find myself waiting. Meanwhile, I am hopeful and prayerful. I am trusting in the One who made me to continue sustaining me.