On her always-thoughtful blog, Emily had a great post about her ambivalent feelings toward getting involved with kids in a local orphanage. (She's in the Ukraine, for folks who don't know.) She seemed afraid that she would use these kids, take their love and affection, and use them to heal her own emotional wounds.
Her post reminded me of feelings that I've fought with most of my life. (By the way, the rest of this post isn't about Emily's post. It's about my reaction to her post. She speaks very well for herself.) I've spent way too much time and energy keeping people at arm's length. My defense against people getting too close? Humor (or the attempting of humor, at least). And avoidance. Especially in my twenties, when I found it really hard to be around people, except for a close circle of friends. During that time in my life, I would have full-blown panic attacks whenever I was in social situations.
It took me forever to get my bachelor's degree. The panic attacks were one reason why it took so long. I would register for classes, then not be able to walk into class. I mean, I wouldn't be physically able to move my body into the classroom. It's bizarre. I understand that. But it's how I lived for a long time.
I know now that the panic attacks were part of my twisted brain's desire to protect me from getting hurt. And so were all the other ways that I kept people from getting too close. But the results were not at all what I wanted--missed opportunities for jobs and relationships, wrong beliefs about myself and the people around me. And I think I did use some people for my advantage.
The good news? Those awful panic attacks are mostly gone. And I don't fear letting people see me for who I am. God has brought me a long way. (I still have a long way to go!) And my life is better than ever. Even more important, I see how great life is, and I can appreciate it. Soon, I'll post a little about what and who God used to put me in a different place...