truth

The Half Truth Trap

I used to play "two truths and a lie" a lot. It was one of the most popular youth group icebreakers when I was a teenager. The goal was to tell the group two truths and one lie, but in such a way others couldn't guess which was the truth and which was the lie. It didn't take long to discover the fastest way to trick others was to slip a hint of truth into the lie (I know, this church youth group game taught me how to deceive people more effectively. Ironic.). Yet I think most of us know this principle about deception from other realms aside from the game: the most believable lies have a thread of truth in them. That's what makes them so believable. We learn this from experience, from weaving lies or from falling prey to them a few too many times. Slide some truth in with deception, and the lie just became much more convincing. And another game of "two truths" is won.

However, there's a much weightier issue with half truths than winning an icebreaker game.

A while back I came up against a mental block I just couldn't seem to get past. Logically, I knew this belief I held about myself was false, but for some reason I couldn't move past it. My heart wouldn't accept truth. In moments of quiet, accusations would start piling up in my head about why I wouldn't ever be able to embrace truth and move past this false belief. And unlike other instances where I could easily shoot down lies with logical facts, I had no defenses against these accusations.

When I was a child, I remember going to Target with my family. My mom would point to the big, red concrete balls outside the store and joke with us, "If you can pick up one of those balls, I'll give you $100!" (Or maybe it was $20, which is basically $100 when you're 9.) My siblings and I would always try, straining with every ounce of our tiny bodies to lift that concrete ball. I never could pick it up, no matter how hard I tried. And boy did I try!

That struggle to pick up a concrete ball is exactly what it felt like when I was trying to let go of my false belief and embrace truth. It felt like I was putting everything I had - all my mental energy and strength and effort - into the task, but it just wouldn't budge. No matter how hard I tried, it didn't lift or move or roll or shift. Not even a millimeter.

To get past this false belief - this felt like an impossible task.

I was worn out. Discouraged and frustrated, I alternated between feverishly scheming some new plan to convince my heart to believe the truth and feeling utterly defeated, sitting down with my back against the concrete ball and hanging my head low.

Shout out to my sister Christina & her friend Liz for the picture!

Shout out to my sister Christina & her friend Liz for the picture!

Eventually, someone had to help me break the belief down into two parts. Someone had to help me recognize the thread of truth mixed into the false belief I couldn't seem to let go of. The result was resounding freedom.

The little thread of truth - the half truth in a bag of lies - is the big, red concrete ball we cannot move. It's what makes the accusations in our heads impossible to deny. Yet when we dissect our false beliefs and identify the thread of truth in them, we gain freedom. We are able to treat the thread of truth as truth (as the big concrete sphere we can't possibly move) and the rest of the bag of lies as lies (which are much easier to stop believing when we can separate them from the half truths tripping our brains up). 

Half truths come in many forms, such as:

I am not lovable because I am...

  • imperfect
  • not an outgoing person
  • not a quiet person

Or, I am inadequate because I...

  • am not good at public speaking
  • have to ask for help frequently
  • learn/read/talk/etc at a slower pace than the person next to me

Or, my circumstances are difficult because...

  • everyone in my life hates me
  • I have no natural gifts/talents
  • God doesn't love me

The list goes on and on. But when we can separate truth from deception in these false beliefs, the lies lose their persuasive power. The truth may be that we are not outgoing people or are quiet, and it's certainly true we are imperfect. We may not be good at public speaking, and our circumstances may indeed be overwhelming. We cannot change those things, and that's okay. These truths do not mean the rest of the sentence is true; we are not unlovable or inadequate or defined by our circumstances.

When we recognize the slivers of truth as the big, red concrete balls we cannot move, we are free to stop trying to do the impossible and change the facts. We are free to step around the immovable, keeping the truth and letting go of the lies. We are free to move past the concrete balls of truth into the rest of life which, just like a great big retail store, has so many wonderful things to offer us.


Are there mental blocks you've faced that seemed impossible to move past?
How did you end up moving past them?
Are there half truths are you believing? About yourself, your circumstances?

Thanks for reading. I'd love to hear from you in the comments or an email!

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The Truth About Depression: 5 Observations from Someone Who’s Been There

I have a confession.

I’ve struggled with depression for years. I’ve struggled with anxiety, too. For a long time, I tried not to let the world see my struggle. I let shame seal my mouth shut. But today, I want to begin sharing this part of my story—a part that I’ve desperately wanted to erase from my past but remains there nonetheless. I want to write about mental health because it matters, and I don’t think people talk about it enough.

So here is some truth about depression. I’m not a clinical expert or mental health nurse or any kind of therapist. I simply have observations from experience, from a raw wrestling with this intangible mood-killer and productivity-killer and sometimes people-killer. It’s my hope to begin writing more about my personal journey toward mental health, but for now, here are some foundational observations.

Observation #1: Lots of people are fighting the dragon of depression.

In high school, my English teacher used to say that “everyone has their dragons,” meaning everyone has things in life they are fighting against. The dragon of depression is a lot more common than we believe.

When I was a freshman in college, we had a chapel speaker give a lecture on depression. Opening with a statistic, he stated, “One in seven people suffer from depression.” One of the guys in my group started counting how many people were sitting in our row and said, “Hey, that means at least one of us would be depressed!”

I tried to shrink in my seat. That one person would be me.

I don’t know if that statistic is true or not, but I do know that a lot of people experience depression. It isn’t always physically debilitating, and we can’t see it with our eyes, but it still exists, and it’s a lot more rampant than we would like to believe.

Photo credit: Kateland Pricer

Photo credit: Kateland Pricer

Observation #2: Lots of people treat depression like a literal dragon—like a terrifying, mysterious myth.

Unless you’re a conspiracy theorist, you probably don’t spend much time talking about myths. You probably spend a lot more time on what you believe is true and relevant and affecting everyday life.

That makes complete sense—when it comes to actual myths. The problem is, depression isn’t a myth. In that way, it isn’t like a dragon at all.

However, just like a dragon, depression can seem terrifying and mysterious. As humans, we tend to shy away from the unknown, and our solution for the mysterious is to pretend like those things simply don’t exist. I don’t think anyone quite gets depression unless they’ve been there—and even those of us who've experienced it don’t completely understand it. We don't understand why it affects some people more than others, how it creeps up or vanishes or lingers, or why certain treatments or medications do or don’t work. 

Even though we can't explain it, we must acknowledge depression. We have massive educational efforts for diabetes and heart disease—we even have billboards talking about stroke symptoms—but for some reason we refuse to address depression on a wide scale publicly. Yet ignoring depression can be dangerous—perhaps just as dangerous and lethal as ignoring a dragon’s existence.

Observation #3: Stigma is a Silent Killer.

In nursing school we once had a slide dramatically titled, “Hypertension: the Silent Killer.” I chuckled at how dramatic the slide was, but I never forgot it. Later, I decided that in the mental health world, stigma deserves that title. “Stigma: the Silent Killer” is not an overstatement.

Over the past few years, many courageous people have been speaking up about mental illness and opening the floor for a nationwide conversation around it. I have been so encouraged by this! However, these speakers are still a rarity. We have a long way to go.

Stigma is why the people experiencing depression are the ones you would least suspect. Because of stigma, we hide it and try to compensate and sometimes overcompensate. We pretend we're okay, but inside we hate the mask we put on. Stigma leads to isolation and contributes to shame, which leads to self-hatred, which leads to increased depression, which leads to more shame. Ultimately, stigma leads to a startlingly high suicide rate in America

If depression is a dragon, stigma is its right-hand dragon buddy. With stigma around, people believe experiencing depression is weak and shameful. The greater the stigma and shame, the less likely people are to seek help. (Trust me, I waited four long years due to stigma and pride before going to therapy and finding help.)

Observation #4: It can always be better.

One of the flaws of depressive thinking is the belief that “it can never be better.” It all seems pretty hopeless.

Sometimes, it takes a friend to hope for you—to believe that things can get better. I was blessed to know a great group of girls in college who also struggled with depression and were brave enough to talk about it in everyday conversations. We hoped for each other when we couldn’t hope for ourselves.

Several of those girls are some of my best friends today. What happened for us was an anomaly, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be better. For individuals, for myself, my friends, and for society. Sometimes "better" is a simple step of courage away, found in working on a project we enjoy or joining a Bible study. Sometimes it's scheduling a coffee date with a friend and holding onto the knowledge that in exactly two days we'll have a friend to sit across from—encouragement and hope in tangible form.  Sometimes "better" is found in a text saying someone's praying for us.

Whatever form it takes, I believe it can always be better. I believe we can create a culture where it isn’t shameful to talk about depression, a culture where we hope for each other, a culture where we know we were made to need each other.

Observation #5: A change in culture starts with individual conversations.

Practically, how do we effect change? I believe it starts with awareness and conversations.

When we talk about depression, stigma is dismantled, and the truth comes out: depression affects nearly everyone at some point in their lives, and it doesn’t mean we’re weak. In fact, those who experience depression are some of the strongest, most courageous people I know.

When we can talk about depression and hopelessness and pain, we gain opportunities to sit with others through the darkness, which perhaps is the greatest help of all. When we can talk about depression, we open the door wide for those who are struggling to find the courage, hope, and community that really is out there for them. For me. For us.

I believe it can be better. I believe it starts with you and me, carrying on this conversation about the uncomfortable topics of depression and mental illness, through blog posts and social media and real-life conversations in coffee shops and work cubicles and homes. It starts with stark transparency and healthy vulnerability and bold humility.

The truth about depression is…it can get better. And it starts with us.

 

Thank you to my friend Kateland Pricer for graciously letting me use her photo! Katie created a set of photos that captures feelings I could never explain with words. Her email is K.pricer@yahoo.com. She is incredibly talented in the creative realm and just an all-around awesome person!

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