BRAVE November – Andy

I am so excited to finally let you all in on the INCREDIBLE people who Andycontributed to this “BRAVE” series! The next is Andy. Andy is a great friend, and has so many great adventures in being brave. We share an affinity for superhero movies and midnight showings (when we don’t have to work the next day) and I’m so thankful to share his words about bravery here with all of you.

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I have never felt brave.  I can’t think of an actual time where I actually ever felt truly brave.  Maybe I did at some point in life but it never stood out as something incredibly significant and powerful.  I think the moments when I did feel some resemblance of bravery I may have tried to work up a mixture of emotions during a worship service in youth group to go out onto my school campus and live for Christ!  Whatever that meant exactly…  But hey, it’s what I was supposed to do and it felt good.  But when the emotions went away and the fiery ambition faded to some glowing embers I was still introverted me that did not want to stand out in any way.  So if the feeling of bravery went away with the wind, was I ever brave to begin with?
Many people I know would tell me how I am a brave and courageous individual.  If anyone were to ask me for a straight yes or no answer to “Are you brave?” my initial gut reaction would be no.  So when Sarah asked me if I would be interested to write a guest blog post about “Being Brave” I felt both honored and skeptical on why she thought I was one of these “brave and courageous” people.  Surely I haven’t done anything worthy enough to deserve a title such as that.  Already I can imagine anyone’s counter arguments to my own skepticism and confusion.  If anyone were to call me brave and courageous or any sort of compliment and encouragement, you would receive a very awkward thanks filled with a lot of internal confusion and doubt to the statement you gave me.  This isn’t me fishing for compliments or hoping someone will come and save me from my own low self-esteem.  This is my honest response.  So again, I would say no and I don’t know if I have ever felt it.
I did not feel brave when I went to live in Peru for six months, leaving home for the first time in my life.
I did not feel brave when I had to come back home to the States.  I did not know where I belonged as both California and Peru felt like home, yet I was disconnected to both.
I did not feel brave feeling that disconnection and watching the strong community I had go off in different directions.
I did not feel brave when I was able to go back to Peru a second time and was feeling high amounts of anxiety almost everyday as I essentially mourned and let go of the fact I had to leave Peru in the first place.
I did not feel brave going to Romania and stepping out of my comfort zone in several ways to expose my talents of guitar and singing and writing songs.
I did not feel brave when I had a panic attack because I connected with someone that could understand some of the different struggles I was going through.
I did not feel brave when a panic attack came back several months later and then they didn’t go away.
I did not feel brave when I started therapy and week after week come back to process things I did not want to process and let come into the light.
I did not feel brave when I stepped out of denial I had thought was working so well in my life.
I did not feel brave.
But maybe that’s the point.  Whenever I think about the feeling of bravery, it seems tainted by the glamour of Hollywood movies that inspires you to stand up and be the hero.  They look so bold as the music swells and the antagonist that stands in the way of the hero crumbles at their feet.  I aspire to have that kind of strength and stand on my own two feet, so when I come face to face with adversity there will be no shaky hands or trembling knees.  All that will be left is a confidence and assurance that can withstand any storm and attack.  The thing movies don’t tell you is how all the heroes feel fear.  Oh they try to convey how the hero moves forward in spite of fear, but for me that all becomes lost in the camera pans and zooms and inspirational music that follows.  I start to believe that only when I feel like I do when I watch these heroes portrayed on the big screen is when I am actually brave.
Never mind the fact I traveled halfway across the world, leaving home for the first time in my life, where absolutely nothing was familiar to me.
Never mind the fact how I was willing, over and over again, to put myself in uncomfortable places, to have new experiences, and share different parts of me I felt better hiding from others.
Never mind the fact I started to let go of the thoughts and habits that I thought protected me to become more honest and step out of shame that seemed to permeate my life.
Never mind the fact I started to admit how I couldn’t do it myself anymore.
Never mind the fact I continued to try connecting with other people no matter how my cynicism kept telling me how futile it was.
I didn’t feel brave so therefore I wasn’t.
I’m learning how this kind of thinking is wrong.  I’m learning to give myself credit.  I’m learning the point of bravery is not based on my emotions but on my actions in spite of what I’m feeling.  I’m starting to believe others when they say I am a person who is brave and inspires them to be brave as well; not feel brave, but be brave.
Earlier this year I started to take anti-depressants to help against the anxiety and depression that was heavily affecting my life.  It was a very rough transition as my body adjusted to the new medication.  And I hated the process.  I didn’t want to deal with any of the adjustments.  I wanted the depression and anxiety and shame to be gone.  It would have been so much easier to continue to ignore my issues that bothered me, but I had I to go from point A to point Z while proceeding through step B, C, D, E, F, and G.  I had to wait.  I had to be still in moments I wanted to be pissy at anything or everything.  Who cares if “the miracle is about to happen”?  I wanted the storm to be done now!  I didn’t want to be afraid I was going to lose it and have a panic attack.  I didn’t want to figure out habits and behaviors that needed to change.  I didn’t want to feel stuck in the everyday, mundane routine of my life.  I wanted it to be over and I wanted it over now!  However the change I wanted could not happen instantaneously.  There was a song I listened to often during that time called Brave by Josh Groban, sung by Peter Hollens.  It never made me feel brave, even if I tried, but it was a reminder to move forward constantly.  It was a reminder there was going to be an end to all the pain and it was worth it to keep going, day by day, moment by moment, even when I didn’t want to.  There is still a lot of stuff I’m trying to process and figure out in my life, but the initial intensity has subsided.  My panic attacks have greatly decreased and I am relieved and encouraged to see that.  Yet maybe the storms and waves have their roles to play and the point isn’t the fact I feel brave or calm or bold or fearless in the midst of them.  The point is I’m willing to face them in spite of the fear that threatens to overwhelm me.  I don’t think bravery is only ever going to be a feeling someone can feel.  Instead it will be something you can be no matter what you may feel.  And that is something way more attainable and worthwhile to achieve.
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