#DearSpiderKid: My Dilemma as A Neurotic Christian

Dear Spider Kid,

I am writing to you almost as a last resort because I have a problem that seems unsolvable, and I’ve all but given up on it. The problem pertains to my personality. In summary, here is my dilemma: I have come to believe that neuroticism is a fundamental and permanent part of me, which I will have to live with for the rest of my life. The prospect makes me feel absolutely, tragically awful.

In my third year of high school, I took a class that gave me my first major exposure to psychology, and with it, a cursory lesson in personality types. It was then that I learned about the “Big 5” OCEAN categories: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. In the classroom, our teacher showed us sample questions with which to quiz ourselves. At the end of the test, I was the only person in the classroom whose results determined predominantly neurotic, besides which, my Neuroticism score was much higher than everybody else’s.

I still consider that moment one of the most profound among all my teenage years. I was terrified at that result. I knew I was suffering from some form of depression. But it was one thing to call myself momentarily depressed, and quite another to discover that I had a personality that practically guaranteed emotional instability for life and that made me more prone than everyone else to sadness, anger and anxiety. I left the classroom that day thinking, “Oh my God. Oh my God. There’s something wrong with me!”

That sense of feeling like a creature of bad design and an oddball lasted far longer than my dwelling on the subject of OCEAN personality types. Without ever forgetting that I was different in a bad way from others, I forgot about OCEAN almost entirely… until this year. This year, various events have revealed to me the necessity of recognizing how deeply influential people’s personalities are in determining their ideal lifestyles.

As far as I know, every other Big 5 category in OCEAN has advantages. I feel I need not explain how the following qualities can serve excellent purposes: daringness, organization, sociability, friendliness. Now, Neuroticism—increased tendencies to get anxious, angered or depressed—where are the strengths in that?

I tried looking it up online, trying to figure out if there were at all any advantages of scoring high on the Neuroticism scale. I found exactly one, and it is so far of a reach that I can’t even take it seriously: a couple of sites told me that people who score high in Neuroticism tend to live longer because their anxiety prohibits them from taking many risks, and thus increases their chances of long life purely through the conscious avoidance of dangerous circumstances. They are telling me that the only thing useful about my predominant personality trait is that I’m afraid of everything, and that my reward for being afraid of everything is long life. Especially ironic, considering how much time I have spent in my life wanting to not be alive.

The night of the Google search that led me here, I got so discouraged and felt so useless that I could only cry myself to sleep. Every attempt to ask the internet for tips on how to live one’s best life as a Neurotic person met me with a result regarding how to live one’s best life while facing the unfortunate problem of living or working with a Neurotic. (Translation: Being Neurotic itself is an unsolvable problem. The best you can do is hope that everybody else can figure out how to tolerate you.)

Given that I identify as a Christian, my theology is usually involved in the way I think about identity. Because of my faith, I believe in intentional design. From a Christian perspective, it is normal for me to believe that God forms human beings with specific personalities for His glory—that people are given different strengths to fulfill their individual purposes. It’s also not a foreign idea that people are given weaknesses—thorns in their flesh—for God-serving purposes. But what happens when your “weaknesses” constitute the very bedrock of your personality? In what way could this possibly be designed to serve one’s Creator?

I will willingly admit that outside of my personality, I am blessed with many good qualities, including but not limited to boldness, intelligence, and creativity. Yet it is near impossible to put such things to good use when I am almost always preoccupied with anger, depression or anxiety, even outside of clinical diagnosis.

At the end of all my restless thinking, these are the ultimately discouraging points I am left with:

  • The secular world cannot find advantages to being predominantly Neurotic.
  • I am a burden to those who love me enough to tolerate me and a blemish to those who would rather not have to deal with a personality like mine.

My concluding question to you, Spider Kid, is as follows: As a Neurotic Christian, what in heaven’s name am I supposed to do with myself?

Yours Exhaustedly,




Dear Akotz,

I was immensely pleased to receive your letter the other day, regarding personality and Christianity because it is a topic I have been burning to address for a while. Since you have given me the privilege of having outlined your practical and theological worries on this matter, I hope to return the favor by addressing both in my reply.

Let me begin, as you have done, with the practical—which, though not explicitly so, is far from mutually exclusive from the theological.

In your message, you assert that, according to OCEAN analysis, there is nothing advantageous about having a Neurotic personality. However, I want to make it clear from the very beginning, that even if that claim were true—even if there wasn’t anything particularly useful about highly Neurotic personalities, it does not mean in the least that there is nothing particularly useful about highly Neurotic people. And this is the first point I want you to grasp: Your personality is not the entirety of your personhood. While a personality may influence the way one responds to stimuli, and/or our unconscious patterns, nobody ought to be enslaved by it. I suspect you may be feeling enslaved by yours.

Recently, I too have been doing some research into personalities, in order to better understand myself. I’ve found that a personality categorization system that at last seems sufficiently complex and comprehensive to gain my trust is the Enneagram. I would recommend you doing some research into it. You may find it enlightening, and much less rigid or damning than OCEAN. While learning about how the Enneagram system works, I came across the concept of Levels of Development. Within any single personality type, there are levels of healthiness and unhealthiness. It turns out that it is when we are unhealthy that our personalities tend to govern us; but when we are healthy, we can govern them. Check out this quote from the Enneagram Institute’s page:

One of the most profound ways of understanding the Levels is as a measure of our capacity to be present. The more we move down the Levels, the more identified we are with our ego and its increasingly negative and restrictive patterns. Our personality becomes more defensive, reactive, and automatic— and we consequently have less and less real freedom and less real consciousness. As we move down the Levels, we become caught in more compulsive, destructive actions which are ultimately self-defeating.

By contrast, the movement toward health, up the Levels, is simultaneous with being more present and awake in our minds, hearts, and bodies. As we become more present, we become less fixated in the defensive structures of our personality and are more attuned and open to ourselves and our environment. We see our personality objectively in action rather than “falling asleep” to our automatic personality patterns. There is therefore the possibility of “not doing” our personality and of gaining some real distance from the negative consequences of getting caught in it.

This, for me, is even more proof than I needed that our personalities do not encompass the entirety of our personhood. We are, as humans designed by an Intelligent Creator, far more complex than that.

I haven’t heard this topic spoken of much from a Christian perspective, but I happen to have the privilege of seeing a therapist who shares my Christian faith, and there is something she has made clear to me which I would like to make clear to you, in my own words. Given that we live in a fallen world—a word plagued by sin due to man’s fallen nature—there is more than enough cause to be anxious, depressed and angry. High neuroticism consists of an above-average tendency to respond to stimuli in those very ways. What I’m trying to say is this: Neuroticism is not completely baseless. On the contrary, in fact, I would say that in a fallen world, it is the most appropriate personality type one could have.

Or at least it would be—if not for Jesus. Even before his human birth, the fallen world already had hope, in the promises of God. Take, for instance, the prophet’s words in Habakkuk 3:17-19.

Though the fig tree does not bud

and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails

and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen

and no cattle in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the LORD,

I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign LORD is my strength;

he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

he enables me to tread on the heights.

From everything the prophet is describing, it doesn’t seem like he has any occasion to be joyful. From his circumstances, I think anxiety, depression and anger would be far more appropriate. Yet, he reacts in an entirely inappropriate way because neither his joy, strength, nor assurance is dependent on the circumstances of the fallen world. Admittedly, we can’t be sure if Habakkuk was born Neurotic or not, but I daresay it doesn’t matter. Whether he was excessively predisposed to negative emotions or only normally predisposed to them doesn’t change the relative irrationality of his reaction to stimuli around him.

And if a man could think like that in the Old Testament, how much more now, when the work of Jesus in conquering the world is actually finished? How much more for a person who may call herself saved? In the words of Jesus Christ, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).” Bear in mind that Jesus said this to his disciples right after informing them that they were all about to be separated and isolated from each other—and prior to that, that the world was about to hate and brutally persecute them. Cheerful guy, this Jesus.

The point is that, while there are several factors that would make anxiety, depression and anger appropriate, the salvation of Jesus allows us to maintain contrary stances such as those rooted in love, hope and faith, no matter how inappropriate the context.

Furthermore, allow me to posit that, as a Christian person, the greatest advantage of presumably having few to no inherent personality advantages is precisely this lack of advantages. Neuroticism may be one of the greatest opportunities for God and his Spirit to work through and within a person. When you’re Neurotic, your moods threaten to govern your life. The fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22), love, joy, peace, kindness, patience, goodness, faithfulness and self-control are rather difficult to feel or exhibit when we’re being erratic or being pulled down anyhow by our blasted natural inclinations. and if the fruits of the Spirit are at work in a naturally neurotic person, think how striking it would be. The glory of the Lord is so much more evident when the glory can’t be attributed to the vessel through which it is displayed. This may be a rather unfavorable analogy but humor me and kindly consider it anyway: If a detergent company wants to show off the power of its stain-removal abilities, the detergent’s power is going to be most evident if they test it out not on an already clean piece of fabric, but on one with a particularly difficult-looking stain. If said stain disappears, well—glory to the manufacturers. The detergent is no less powerful if it is applied on clean fabric; the difference is in the evidence of its power to onlookers. Contrast just so happens to have a large impact on the human mind. It is no wonder, then, that our Creator is fond of using miracles to catch people’s attention. And what is more miraculous or contradictory than an astonishingly stable Neurotic?

Now, to combine the practical and theological in order to answer your brilliantly blunt question on what in heaven’s name you are to do with yourself: You might be surprised how often—especially in non-clinical cases—depression, anger and anxiety have to do with the mere thoughts inside your head. While it may be extremely difficult or near impossible to spontaneously change how you feel, I believe it is not nearly as hard to play around with the primary thoughts taking up space in your head at any given moment. As much as personality might be much too permanent to shed, habits can be almost as stubbornly difficult to break—and it is a very learnable habit to reorganize one’s thoughts. I speak from experience, since I have been frequently using a new trick I developed with my therapist’s help. The trick is based on Philippians 4:8:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

When I am threatened by my own feelings, I counteract them with my thoughts. I create lists of everything that happens to be both contextually relevant and true, or noble, or right, or pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy, and I dwell on them until my emotions realize they can’t win. I’m not saying it works like magic and my emotions instantly switch. I’m saying that however valiantly my emotions may fight, it is my thoughts that are on the winning side, and that’s often sufficient to keep me moving. I have used this trick often enough for it to become my default. Reorganizing my thoughts is a new habit I never before thought I could form.

This is what I’m trying to tell you: that you can govern over your personality once you develop a strategy that works for you and make it a habit. As a habit, it ought to become so automatic that you begin to stop noticing when it’s happening; when it might start to feel like the way you have trained yourself to live is the way you have lived all along.

Like any other kind of habit, a psychological habit may turn out to be just as hard to form as it is eventually difficult to break. And if you’re a similar kind of Christian to me, you might want to base your new habits upon scripture and faith.

Regarding the points to which your restless thinking led you: I’d suggest you scrap them and put these in their place:

  • A person predisposed to neuroticism need not define themselves by their neuroticism, and that includes you.
  • Whether or not the secular world can find advantages to neurotic personalities has nothing to do with you and the value of your personhood.
  • Our theology has many useful responses to the things that aggravate you, not least of which are that:
  • Your salvation permits you to respond irrationally.
  • The Holy Spirit works within you to produce fruit that stand in stark contrast to the fruits produced by neurotic predisposition.

The healthier you get, the more you can triumph over your personality—especially if you choose to adopt psychological, spiritual habits that antagonize your predisposition.

To conclude, I would like to sincerely thank you for your letter once again, and hope that mine will be of use to you, even in the smallest way possible. I’ll remember to keep you in my prayers.

Yours faithfully,

The Spider Kid.

Purpose + Being Forced to Focus

I assume, if you’re a believer—and perhaps, even if you aren’t—that you believe in purpose. I do. And although I can’t front like I know exactly what my purpose is in this bleak life, an educated guess tells me that if it exists, whatever it is, it’s deeply related to writing/storytelling/lexivism.

For anyone who believes in purpose, I think it would be natural to consider that this too has a purpose: that there’s a reason I’m only permitted to have a faint idea of my own purpose; like signs consistently pointing me in the right direction without ever telling me explicitly where I’m headed—and that maybe this is for my own good.

“Mystery is such a strange gift. The unknown is such a wonderful vegetable. It’s a good thing we can’t see the future. Because we’d ruin it every chance we get.”—Propaganda [Was It All Worth It?]


I think natural talents and abilities are, by definition, God-given gifts. I also think that too many of them in one vessel is dangerous—particularly for the vessels themselves. It may be as easy to be inspired by endless possibilities as to become crippled by them. But more importantly, too many gifts just might result in potentially endless confusion about one’s purpose because of one’s apparently endless potential; or, endless possibilities of ending up on a path which might not necessarily be in line with one’s purpose. For instance: If my purpose is to be Something, and yet I have the potential to be anything, the chances are that, without proper direction, I might easily end up being Another Thing instead of Something. And it might not even be my fault.

I’m starting to believe I have been, for a good part of my life, in exactly this kind of danger. I also believe I have been—am being—saved from it, albeit in ways that displease me greatly.


My childhood was saturated with activity and high achievement, inside and outside the classroom. I wrote briefly, in “Terror + Taking A Semester Off,” about my early academic success. Suffice it to say, there was not a single field of study that I could not excel in—and I was no less prolific with my extracurriculars. Ten years of dance classes and a couple awards from my Dance Academy; three or four years of roller-skating ­and roller-blading until I could do tricks backwards and forwards like nobody’s business; playing the piano from age three and composing my own music by age ten; picking up Mandarin Chinese to my level of Twi fluency within two years of biweekly lessons… You get the picture.

To put it another way: there really wasn’t a semblance of singular focus in my life.


Once, I found myself in a hall of many unlocked doors. I ran in and out of doors and rooms haphazardly, because I could, and I seemed to be full of boundless energy. I never got far enough beyond any door to explore the mansion-sized possibilities that could have lain within either. Consciously or unconsciously, I asked for direction—but instead of simply being told where to go, doors simply began to slam in my face, automatically limiting my possibilities. It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but I can’t conclude that it wasn’t exactly what I needed.


The moment I began boarding school, at barely-fourteen, I was forced to let go of almost all of my beloved extracurricular activities. Tearing me away from ballet and hip-hop classes and the possibility of progressing from intermediate to advanced levels in my dance academy is something I have never forgiven boarding school for. Doors upon doors, slamming in my face.

I decided I wanted to be a writer at age ten. I liked books and stories; therefore, I wanted to make some of my own. This aspiration was non-exclusive—the way people preferred it. Just because I wanted to be a writer didn’t mean I refused to be anything else. After all, I was still good at everything else—especially the things people wanted me to be good at. i.e. STEM stuff… Until, high school, when my STEM talents began inexplicably deteriorating. Doors upon doors, slamming in my face.

Halfway through high school, I was honestly still entertaining thoughts of being an engineer or lawyer—although I’d thrown the doctor dream away years earlier, once I’d realized the toy stethoscope I’d been given for my one birthday was no match for my dislike for being exposed to the icky insides of human bodies. I mean, halfway through high school, I still had it; mathematics gave me my overall highest IGCSE grade, and my science and English grades pretty much levelled with each other.

When it came to time to choose my IB courses, I had already expressed my complete lack of interest in law. So, of the African’s Approved Careers™, only “engineer” was left on the table. My father and I selected my courses accordingly, but not long into the very first semester, during which I began encountering astonishing, successive failures, I entered a two-year-long season of “WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING?!” The answer? Doors upon doors, slamming in my face.


I am no longer the multitalented kid. Now, more than ever, it’s extremely obvious that writing is my thing. I have spent a lot of time resenting the “loss” of my multiple talents, but as my path gets narrower, it also seems to get clearer. I no longer resent my transformation (…as much), because I recognize that everything that I have gone through in this regard may be directing me towards fulfilling my intended purpose.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the transformation is still ongoing. I am now being forced to focus in a way that’s at least as uncomfortable and annoying as the limitation of my talents. Now, it’s the limitation of my physical capacity that’s doing the door-slamming.

If you’ll remember, I wrote about some of my physical struggles in these blog posts: My Faith + My Body and Self-Care: The Thing I Wish Was A Myth (But It Really, Really Isn’t). Although combinations of rest and medication are gradually and non-linearly making me more of a functional human being, the overall effect of my physical malfunctions is that I can usually only achieve a small fraction of what most people around me might be able to, in twenty-four hours. I have often thought of my physical malfunctions as purposeless suffering, but now I’m being led to believe that there is at least one specific purpose to them: focus.

I’ve observed the effect my limited functionality is having on my daily life. When your body severly limits your activity, you start becoming a lot more mindful of how you use your energy. If I only have 2.5 hours of productive potential each day, I naturally become a lot more conservative with each day’s quota. When it’s not discouraging the hell out of me, it makes me a lot more purposeful. Not to mention, my choices on how to use my energy quotas each day speak volumes about which work is most important to me.

Recently, a Bible story hit me like a pestle on a ball of fufu. Remember when Jesus visited Martha and Mary? And Mary was just based at Jesus’ feet, while Martha was at her wits’ end trying to do everything? My NIV translation calls her distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. The word “distracted” caught my attention because I ordinarily wouldn’t call work that seems necessary a “distraction.” But here’s how Jesus responded to Martha’s complaints about the situation:

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.” –Luke 10: 41-42

Are you serious? All this work to do, and you’re telling my sister that only one thing is needed? It’s hilarious, lowkey. See, Martha had to get pissed enough to come to the realization that she wasn’t focused enough on some one important thing. And I had to get tired enough to realize it. In the middle of murky, muddled thoughts and madness, I often have one clear thought ringing out in the background: “You need to focus on writing [this thing].” (Where [this thing] is often some specific project at any given time.) I am worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed, only one.

I am being forced to focus. And while I am enjoying neither the pain nor the process, I am finally seeing some sort of purpose in both. While this all sounds like I might be rationalizing, I do feel like I’m too pessimistic of a person to go looking for the bright sides in things. So, the fact that I’ve considered any positive purposes behind my suffering alone is more powerful to me than others may realize.

Also, I have little doubt that if I one day regain my full energy and start getting distracted again, some new or old weapon to get me to focus once more is going to attack me mercilessly.


How Do You Want to Be Loved?

On Friday, the 21st of December 2018, I had one of the most violent nights I had experienced in what felt like several months. No, no armed robbers attacked my household. Neither did I get beaten or stabbed or even get into a verbal fight with anyone. All the violence occurred within my own mind; between me and myself. Between me and my God.

With conflicting efforts, I was trying to sleep and trying to pray. It was 3 a.m. and I wasn’t having much luck with either because my heart was troubled, and my mind was stressed. I don’t truthfully know what exactly brought on the attack I experienced. That day, I had hosted several friends in my house, including my best friend. But, lying alone in my bed at the end of the night, although I should have been filled with the pleasure that came from having spent the day with some of my favorite people in the world, I was plagued instead with a large, empty hole right at the core of my being. And then there was a yearning, which I struggled to interpret. It took a while of intense discomfort, tossing, turning and tears, but then I arrived at the root of the yearning: a desire to be loved.

Emptiness and a yearning for love: rather odd things to be feeling, especially after I’d spent several hours with friends whom I loved and who loved me. Where could it possibly be coming from—and why didn’t the love I already had feel like enough?

One easy answer was that there is a specific kind of way I want to be loved and I am not yet being loved in that way. I get bits and pieces of my Ideal Love from various friends, but none of them is my Ideal Lover. If my Ideal Lover exists among the people already in my life, they have not yet shown their real face.

The trouble with all this is, although I know well that there is a way I desire to be loved, I have never really taken the time out to examine and outline what that way is; what my personal, ideal loving relationship would look like. (The word “ideal” is used here more loosely than literally.)

I have reason to believe that as fantastical as my yearning for ideal love sounds, it is likely within reach. A few years ago, I was hoping and praying for a person who fit the description of my invented title of “Someone Who Gets It.” This person would be someone who actually understood me when I spoke—not just someone who merely assumed they understood me but didn’t or couldn’t, even when they had the best intentions. I wanted a person who wouldn’t try to lecture me with counterpoints to what I’ve said; someone who’d have recognized the fallacies I’d have seen in those counterpoints, before the words left their tongue. I wanted someone who would interpret my expressed thoughts and statements within the crucial context of my outlook on the world—hopefully by virtue of sharing that outlook themselves. I wanted someone to whom I wouldn’t have to explain, for an hour, what I felt should have taken three minutes. I felt like such a misunderstood oddity that the idea of finding Someone Who Gets It was almost purely fantastical, even for me.

But I found that person, in my current best friend. Miracles do happen, and I serve a God who answers prayers. If Someone Who Gets It exists, though, even for a self-perceived rare creature like me, why shouldn’t there be an Ideal Lover out there as well? Unable to find a legitimate answer to such a question, I concluded that there was none. Therefore, if I really wanted Ideal Love/an Ideal Lover, all I had to do was pray for one and believe I’d get one and wait for one to arrive. It seemed a simple enough path to me—but only in theory.

I started praying that night. In the hour of 3 am., as I said. I probably hadn’t even reached even thirty seconds into the prayer when my mind, body and spirit, suddenly and in tandem, cut the prayer off. I think I sat up in bed. I know I started sobbing.

Akotowaa, what the hell do you think you are doing, praying for love?

How dare I be so audacious?

The enemy within began its barrage: I did not deserve love. I was not worthy of it. Not only was it effrontery to think I could come to God with such a topic on my heart but it also made no sense! I was not the kind of person who should be loved, much less in her own, ideal way. All the love I was living on already was borrowed, undeserved benevolence from the people I called friends—probably wasn’t even love anyway, just some kindness borne from pity.


Truth lives within us, I believe—and it lets us know when we are lying to ourselves. Lies, in reaction, try their best to be louder than the voice of Truth. Alas, far too often, the lies succeed, as mine did that night.

I felt like a dirty, damaged, pathetic thing, and only later, in trying to process it, would I realize what a relatively new phenomenon this was, within me. I hadn’t, until recently, felt so dreadfully undeserving of love. In the moment, however—which lasted quite a while and was interluded by another, separate but somewhat related, even more violent breakdown—I thought it sufficed to conclude my prayer with asking God/Jesus to please, please make His love be and feel sufficient for me and make me thus in no need of human love to complement it.

I don’t know if there’s any such thing as a “wrong” prayer, but I do know that mine was a cop-out. And that it was founded on very, very toxic grounds.

As I said before, this development was recent. It’s something the experiences of 2018 did to me: the various relationship struggles I had that year in particular have made me often feel unloved, insignificant to the people I love, unworthy of love, a terrible friend, and unworthy even of friendship. All of this went essentially unprocessed and likely had as much of a hand in the deepening of my yearning for Ideal Love as my inability to pray, the effects culminating at the end of the year, in the third week of December.

My relationships with others have taken several lethal shots in 2018—and sometimes, I have been the shooter. These are a few.

Very early in the year, my sense of ostracism from the only community I felt comfortable with on my American college’s campus heightened. I once expressed this sentiment to a friend who also belonged to this community, and I can’t remember her knowing what to offer me in response. The feeling hadn’t simply emerged from nowhere, but from concrete incidents where I found myself being left out of the loop, excluded from invitation, or something of the sort. It’s been a recurring phenomenon in my life, for the past six or so years; a group of people and I all start out on the same level of being near-strangers, and then the others’ relationships between themselves deepen, whereas my relationships with them stay superficial or dissipate altogether. It made college life a bit uncomfortable, to say the least. But like I say sometimes: My loneliness isn’t anyone’s fault; they can’t help not being the right people. Still, the fact that so few people are the “right people” for me often makes me feel as though there is something inherently wrong with me. Because, although I’m not entirely incapable of making friends, I can’t ever seem to make and keep friends the same way or as easily as others do.

At the end of the year’s first quarter, a fracture appeared between myself and a friend so close that I’d thought of her, for years, as a sister. For the rest of the year, from April to December, I was broken and traumatized by it. No heartbreak aches like that of a lifelong friendship you thought would last forever abruptly coming to what looks like an unavoidable end. I shed so many tears for the girl that was one of my oldest friends and acquaintances from infancy. It hurt to the point where, otherwise unprovoked but for the memory, I would just be minding my own business and burst into tears. Always wondering if she knew what I was going through, whether she was going through similar, whether she cared at all. When all my attempts at reaching out wouldn’t persuade her to break her silence, when all my texts remained despondently unanswered. Seventeen years of acquaintance/friendship/best-friendship/sisterhood doesn’t cut without leaving deadly scars. Everything was made worse by my belief that the thing I suspected drove us apart was so trivial to me—and worse than that, I had caused it by bringing the matter up.

Then there was this season that I have already written about, in two blog posts (Underground: A Memoir from May 2018, and Prayers God Chooses Not to Hear), when I fell into stupid deep depressions and was callously abandoned by the man who was my anchor and almost sole comfort. How is one supposed to feel when the person she loves most in the world and whose companionship sustains her when all else fails is shown that she couldn’t be less important to him? Like the threat of each losing their place in the other’s lives is not nearly enough to move him to reveal his presence or act as a friend? This, more than anything else that happened the entire year, was probably where the deepest relationship trauma came from. If I, in my deepest darkness, favored no-one, I favored him. He, in darkness or even dim light, favored no-one—not even me. It was impossible to digest. If my best friend didn’t love me, how could I ever be anything other than unworthy of receiving love?

And then there was the shot I fired. It’s so morbidly interesting, how life works. As I was mourning the death of a friendship between myself and someone I thought I would be friends with forever, I summoned death upon the relationship between myself and a person who’d always thought he and I would be friends forever. I had been nurturing unaddressed anger towards him for the longest time. I’d felt abandoned, under-prioritized, constantly placed in the backseat of the life of this person who’d sworn he was dedicated to helping me and my career. Of course, he’d been going through terrible issues of his own, but when he pulled the trigger of a gun I had always refused to accept would one day fire, my anger only blossomed. I knew the power of words, and yet I used them as a weapon against him—weaving truth with the poisonous lies of my unaddressed wrath and damaging his reputation even further than it had already been damaged. The wrong words, said to even one person, can be all it takes to make a person want to kill himself. I realized what I had done, and I could not forgive myself. I have not forgiven myself.

I won’t pretend these were the only factors that contributed to my breakdown in the midst of prayer, but they were some of the most potent factors in this matter. I hadn’t worked properly through any of these heartaches and traumas and, furthermore, I had no idea how to. It seemed that the effects had all culminated in that night, to convince me that I was a terrible person, incapable and unworthy of basic friendship, much less love. With this belief of myself in my heart, there was no way I could pray for what I wanted.

With God, it was “different.” In theory, I understood and appreciated the concept of His grace. He loved humans who were undeserving. There was nothing I had done or could do to deserve the love He had given or could give. So, I was “allowed” to pray that His love would satisfy me. But humans are not God. I didn’t deserve and ought not to ask for Ideal Love, because it would be coming from a human being—and that was what halted me in my prayer.

The devil is a liar.

While we are on earth, God knows how to give gifts to our physically embodied, living selves—and sometimes, He does that through other human beings. The people He brings into our lives and people He removes from them. I am convinced that no matter how horrible and treacherous I think I am, the God that not only invented love but is Love, the God who saw one human being and declared its isolation was not a good thing, would probably have dissented with me halting and altering my prayer.

I believe human beings, too, are agents of grace. It’s why we also have powers to forgive, reward and favor each other. I won’t lie and say I believe I deserve the kind of love I want. But by all means, I have a right to request for, receive and enjoy it—through grace. If humans are agents of grace, refusing to be loved is as ridiculous to me as refusing to be saved. When a gift with my name on it already lies at my doorstep, what do I really gain from refusing to pick it up?

It’s funny how the process of praying—to a God that already knows our desires better than we do—is often more for our own benefit than anyone else’s. He already knows the conditions of our hearts; but until we open our own mouths to pray, do we?

I know the way I see myself is and has been very toxic. So, I’m going to try, with divine assistance, to rid myself of the poison. And one way I’m going to do that is to intentionally sit down and put on paper, with ink, the nature of my desire for Ideal Love, to be shared between myself and my God—no matter how terrified or wretched I feel while writing it.

How do you want to be loved?

A question I have been running away from. A question I am about to answer intentionally.


My Faith + My Body.

Note: The faith being referred to in this essay is specifically Christianity, to which the author subscribes.

The devil has been in a war for my soul. In a deliberately insidious way, to keep me from immediately realizing what he was doing so I could end its influence early. He chose the route of my body.

If the devil’s greatest desire is to wrest away the worship mankind is meant to give to God and redirect it towards himself, it should be known that he tailors each of our temptations personally. It wouldn’t have been easy to shake my faith from its theological foundations, hence the back-route.

Let me tell you why personalized temptations are extremely dangerous: it’s very, very easy to hold macro beliefs about big things, like the nature of the world and the origins of creation, even as these beliefs contrast with your micro beliefs; beliefs about yourself as an individual, yourself in a moment, you as a specific soul encased in flesh, going about your mundane tasks. When your temptations are personalized, you can be attacked in ways that wouldn’t affect the person sitting right next to you, even if you both hold the same macro beliefs. You are both still very different people on a micro level.

I know how common physical insecurities are. For example, I think my nose is too wide, my buttocks protrude too much, I can’t believe I still don’t have a flat stomach, and my forehead takes up approximately half my face. But these are things I can rationally explain based on the evidence around me. I see my relatives all the time. I know from which genealogical line I inherited which physical characteristics. I know my health habits. My dissatisfaction with these parts of my body is typical and isn’t quite where the devil’s attacks are concentrated. They’re concentrated in the characteristics of my body that aren’t visible.

It seems to me that, at any moment of my life, I am experiencing some bodily malfunction—whether the issue is that I’m on the fourth day of a relentless migraine, or the fourth day after a slightly strenuous activity when I can still barely leave my bed but to go to the bathroom. I can work on a project for six hours in one day and then be entirely nonfunctional for the next two days because I maxed out. I can watch two movies in a day and not be able to tolerate either natural or artificial light for the next two days because my very photosensitive eyes over-stretched their limits of safe photon consumption. My apartment mates can go out every night of the week, but after one time, my limbs will turn to lead and my mind will balk at the thought of seeing another human being for the next week. Back pains, chest pains, wrist pains, eye pains, neck pains—it’s as if a part of me is always in pain, from performing the most normal activities of the 21st century. Not to mention that I suffer from anxiety, which almost always manifests physically; my heart rate misbehaving, or a sweat breakout, or my muscles tensing up to harmful degrees.

I have been aware for a long time now that my physical capacity, for nearly anything, is significantly lower than that of the average human being around me. And this frustrates me endlessly. It makes me feel like I am a product of bad design. I often don’t know what else I’m supposed to think. My body literally cannot seem to function like everyone else’s, and I don’t have any medical condition that I’m aware of and which can explain it. In fact, I used to be a hyper-active child with few to no complications. This lack of capacity that makes my young adult body feel half a century old doesn’t seem genetic. On the contrary, my family has a penchant for living remarkably long and mostly-healthy lives. In the absence of explanation, especially throughout 2018, when the effects have seemed the most dramatic, I have only been able to conclude that I am a product of bad design. As a matter of fact, between my physical problems and my many psychological ones, I started thinking God made me like this because he hated me. I can’t count the number of times I have wailed to my best friend, “Why does God hate me? What did I do?”


For a faith-ascribing person, it’s obvious why this is a dangerous thing to believe. I mean, who do I think designed me, based on my own theological beliefs? The devil’s strategy was to get me to damn myself.

I remember, a few months ago, having a conversation with my best friend about my insistence that I was badly designed. He asked me a question kind of like this: “So, when the Psalmist says, ‘I am fearfully and wonderfully made,’ you don’t think this applies to you?” And I told him that was exactly right, I didn’t think that applied to me at all. I think he asked me, as a follow-up question, if I believed the Psalmist’s statement applied to everyone else, and I said yes, I believed it did. Just not to me.

In terms of faith, what did that make me? I didn’t want to think about the answer to that question. But even unbidden, thoughts and questions invaded my mind. Did I really believe my perfect God made a mistake in creating me? Yeah. Did that make sense? Shh! Did I really believe the Master Crafter, the Intelligent Designer, designed me badly? Yeah. Did that make sense? Be quiet! By calling myself a bad design, wasn’t I calling God a bad designer?

My overwhelming cognitive dissonance came from a peculiar type of idolatry. I believed myself to be a piece of evidence powerful enough to single-handedly, exceptionally, negate everything else true about my Creator and his creations. I didn’t bother to examine the poisonous roots of why I thought I should get to be the exception.

Fun fact: There is literally no reason why I should get to be the exception. Related: I’m not an exception.

“For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you

when I was made in the secret place,

when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed body;

all the days ordained for me were written in your book

before one of them came to be.”

–Psalm 139:13-16

There is nothing about this that indicates carelessness, hatred or unintentionality. But I did not share the premise of the Psalmist’s praise. And why? Simply because my body didn’t seem to have been built like everybody else’s around me, whether “healthy” (like me—theoretically) or “sick” (as in diagnosed with identifiable, physical, medical conditions)? Is the fact that I do not understand my design enough to call it bad design—for me to withhold the worship I should have been giving God for how I am made, like the Psalmist does? Not in the least.

Redirecting praise of my design to God—and in so doing, attacking my unbelief—is a difficult battle I have only just committed to start fighting. In fact, I started writing this essay while under unofficial house-arrest and being nearly bedridden thanks to my body’s final, incredibly dramatic, week-long malfunction of 2018. (More on this in a subsequent essay.)

Praising God for my design doesn’t involve the problematic route of thinking that says, “Thank you God that at least I’m not like so-and-so person on their deathbed with cancer” or “Thank you God that at least I’m not like that person with the disability in a wheelchair.” No. We don’t praise God because of “at least.” We don’t praise God by comparison to those we consider less fortunate than us. We praise God because we are fearfully, wonderfully and intentionally made, no matter in what configurations. That is all.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence or things not seen—and not understood, for that matter. Now, I can’t see what the purpose of me being designed the way I’m designed could possibly be—but I have to hope that there is one and believe that it is good. I don’t understand why my physical self behaves the way it does, but I have to trust that the Maker who decreed that it should work this way does understand it. All in faith. I am an intentionally created being, designed like I was meant to function. And in refusing to understand that, I would be refusing to worship God in a very important regard, as someone who was made in His image. As Jesus’ sister, best believe that’s not on my agenda. In other words, “Not today, Satan.”

I’m at the foot of the stairway of re-orientation. There’s a very, very long climb ahead. Thankfully, I don’t have to try completing it on my own.