Search

conversations on the fringe

Category

Eating Disorders

Building Bridges (pt. 3 – LGBTQ-Related Stress)


In the third part of our series on LGBTQ themes, our research/interviews revealed to us that there are extra layers of stress for LGBTQ students compared to their non-LGBTQ peers.

Growing up as a teen in today’s fast paced culture is hard enough as it is. To compound those struggles with stressors related directly to being an individual that identifies as LGBTQ can be overwhelming. So what are “normal stressors” all you are at risk for experiencing? Let’s take a quick look:

  • puberty/physical changes/body image issues
  • peer comparison
  • performance anxiety (school, athletics, roles at home, church, etc.)
  • pressures to engage in high-risk behaviors, such as; drug use, drinking, and sexual activity
  • academic stressors/college prep/career planning
  • family life/expectations (child care of younger siblings, household chores, etc.)
  • challenges related to managing emotions
  • onslaught of negative messages (self/family, peers, media, culture) and filtering them

Now let’s take a look at specific stressors identified by LGBTQ teens related to being LGBTQ:

  • internal/external homophobia
  • bullying/assault/death
  • stigma
  • social isolation/alienation/minority stress
  • academic struggles due to not feeling safe at school
  • higher risk of depression, self harm,, substance abuse, and suicide
  • fear of or actual rejection from family and friends
  • misconceptions by public related to what it means to be LGBTQ
  • pressure (internal or external) to suppress sexual identity/gender identity
  • incongruent identity
  • intersections, such as; disability, race, gender, gender norms, religious background/beliefs

These lists are probably incomplete but it gives you a clearer picture of what the average LGBTQ student is likely to deal with on any given day. High levels of relentless stress contribute to feeling hopeless and helpless, which is a precursor to suicidal ideation. This alone sets apart LGBTQ youth from their non-LGBTQ peers. This also contributes directly to further alienation and isolation. Regardless of your faith tradition and its respective doctrine about the issue of homosexuality, this kind of collateral damage to God’s beloved children cannot be acceptable to anyone calling themselves followers in the way of Jesus.

So, what might be a better way of engagement?

Building Bridges (part 2 – acceptance/rejection and coming out)


“I was born a female but identify with the male gender. My sexual identity is gay. I am 16 years old and was kicked out of my home recently. Sometimes I think killing myself would save everyone a lot of trouble. I don’t know what else to do or where to go. There is no place that I know of that will accept me as I am. I never wanted this. It’s not like I want to be hated by everyone and all alone. I’m basically on my own now.” – Homeless transgendered teen

In an attempt to better understand the lives of young LGBTQ students I interviewed several teens looking for common themes related to the topics of rejection/acceptance, coming out, LGBTQ-related stress, other intersections of identity, trauma/bullying, mental health/substance use, suicide, community/sense of belonging, and faith and spirituality. What I discovered has changed me and I don’t think I will ever be the same and I’m hoping it will change how the church engages these precious and beloved children of God as well.

During the course of one interview, the student I was talking with used the term “straight privilege”. It stopped me in my tracks. It wasn’t something I’d ever considered, let alone heard of. Those with privilege rarely do consider it. I mean, come on. I get white privilege or male privilege, but straight privilege? How much privilege could one man have? I quickly learned that the world I lived in lent itself to being straight. I have never experienced the stress of coming out or being rejected because I liked the opposite sex. The term “Hetero” has never been used as a derogatory term. Nobody shouts, “Look at that dude, he looks so straight!” or “That shirt is so straight. He must like girls.” I have never had to wonder if me being heterosexual was pleasing to God or if I was damned to hell because I was attracted to the opposite sex. I learned through these interviews that I am biased because of straight privilege and it was preventing me from seeing the world through the eyes of an LGBTQ individual.

Rejection/Acceptance

All of the students interviewed had a sense they were different at a very early age, some reporting as early as 7 or 8 years old. Most had a definitive awareness by 10 – 13 years of age. Most report initially rejecting the notion that they had same-sex attraction and many said they were repulsed by the idea. One teenage boy, who identifies as gender fluid and gay shared that when he was 6 years old he asked his mother if he could like boys.

The most common fear of identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered was the fear of rejection and all correlated this with not coming out at an earlier age. This shouldn’t surprise anyone reading this but it was an overwhelming majority of LGBTQ students that echoed this sentiment. Mallory, a 22-year-old lesbian told a story about being the center of gossip in her small rural town when she came out. She said repeatedly that her fear was that those closest to her would begin to look at her differently, like a pedophile who intended to steal and eat all of the children in town like a monster.

Coming Out

Most of the students interviewed report coming out to the safest people possible at first. This usually consisted of closest friends and siblings. Ironically, most of them report that the individuals they first came out to already had suspicion that they were not heterosexual. The average age of coming out among those interview was 16-18 years old. They all indicate that the time period between accepting they were gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered and when they came out were the most difficult years. We’ll explore that a little later.

Several indicated that the process of coming out never ends. With each new person they tell the process starts over for them. The fear of rejection and anxiety resets and with each new person they meet for the rest of their lives will likely provoke some measure of anxiety as well.

One young woman shared that she believed there were three layers of coming out; to the first individual, family and friends, and publicly, each with their own unique factors.

Bree, a 20-year-old lesbian reminded me that these are issues I will never have to deal with because I identify as a white, heterosexual, Christian male and since I won’t have to deal with them I am likely biased to expect the rest of the world (including LGBTQ individuals) to experience the world just like I do.

If it’s possible to summarize issues so complex I would say this; the time between when a young person identifies internally that they are gay, lesbian, bi, or trans and when they actually come out to others is the time they are at the greatest risk for substance abuse, depression, self-harm, suicide and other mental health related concerns.

If that is even remotely true it beckons a response. So, then what is the best response(s) from people of faith?

The Functionality of Sin


ducttapeTraditional youth ministry training didn’t really prepare me for the acute problems my kids were showing up with at our youth ministry. I got into to youth ministry because the first time I walked into a youth ministry gathering I felt a connection, a calling to speak into their lives. I wanted desperately to impact their lives for the Kindgom. The typical fare in most youth ministry training programs is maybe a psych 110 class or an adolescent development overview but very little in the way of preparing me to minister effectively to them. Take Whitney, a 15 year old high school sophomore who had recently been hospitalized for depression, self-injury and suicidal ideation. When she was brought to our youth group by one of our “professional evangelism daters” we just weren’t sure what to do in order to walk with her and her family through the next couple of years. This started us on a journey of seeking to understand these fringe issues (which really aren’t fringe any longer), to be better equipped to love these kids that God was sending us. We believed we were called to be good stewards of the kids He sent us and that meant pulling our head out of the sand, rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty.
Sin is such a complex issue, everything from understanding what it is to what it isn’t, to what are the systemic causes of it, to how we deal with the fallout of sin, to how we put programs in place to create an environment that not only discourages sin but fosters the belief that everyone, EVERYONE, is a child of God and treated accordingly.

Dr. Brene` Brown, in her book I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Telling the Truth about Perfectionism, Inadequacy, and Power explains her research on the subject of shame as a study on the power of connection and the dangers of disconnection. When one considers the process to the product that is a sinful individual we must first understand that our primary drive is to be connected. God first existed in community and we are created in Their image, aren’t we? The longing to belong serves many purposes; survival, fulfillment, success, and procreation. Growing up as blank slates our families, environments, and culture shape how we “learn” to connect. We are taught skills and styles of connecting to others. Sometimes these means are healthy and affirming, and God honoring, placing God at the helm and others accordingly. Other times we are not taught healthy ways of connecting. We are taught that violence, aggression, manipulation and other illegitimate means are what are necessary to get what you need and want.

When we are not affirmed as worthy of being connected to others we learn to see ourselves as deficient, broken, not valuable, insignificant, etc., but our need for connection doesn’t leave us, we simply learn other ways to get what we need.

If this is done well, as God first intended, then it significantly increases the likelihood of having generations of people who choose to enter into a relationship with Him, just as He ordained from the beginning of time.
When this doesn’t go as God intended the opposite result is the outcome. Brokenness in God’s creation exists. God’s children all fighting and pining instead of cooperating to satisfy the deepest longings of their heart. Longings placed in them to direct them to God and each other, in that order. We experience sin and its collateral damage when we invert that order, placing me and others before our relationship with God the Father.

This is where sin becomes functional. Sin becomes a means to an end. For a long time we have demonized our sinful youth as just giving in to their hedonic nature. What if there was more going on than just simple pleasure seeking? What is we began to ask the question, “What purpose does sin have?”. Would this change the way we approach our youth and their sinful behaviors? What if we started having conversations about other ways, more God-honoring ways, to meet the deepest longings of their hearts? What if we spoke the language of their heart and longings? What if we told them of a God who can satisfy these longings in real ways, so that it is God’s love that draws them not the fear of Him. What if we created space in our homes and gathering places where youth felt they belonged and mattered? If we could do this, with the help of the Spirit, would they drop their cheap substitute (sin) for the real deal (God)? What do we have to lose?

The Art of Connecting with Kids on the Fringe


After a workshop I facilitated on working with kids who have been abused, an elderly woman approached me to ask me a question.  She shocked me with the simplicity and depth of the question.  Here’s what she said,

“I love the kids in my community but I don’t know how to connect with the.  I want to reach out but don’t know where to start.  How do you do it?”

I can’t really remember what I told her, probably an overly simplified answer.  I never thought about it to be honest.  I just did what felt natural when reaching out to others.  Plus, I have the added benefit of being pretty simple, if I didn’t know someone I would just introduce myself and talk to them.  It wasn’t until I talked to my wife that she opened my eyes to the idea that for some this comes easy.  For others though it is an anxiety inducing event.  Imaging, you long to reach out to this generation, a generation that is slipping through the cracks right before your very eyes, but the words escape you when needed.  You don’t know how to connect beyond a simple “Hello, how are you today?”

My wife and I talked about this for several hours over the next few days.  We explored what is involved in connecting with these kids that seemed so different from us.  Asking me how I connect with fringe kids is like asking a fish to describe water.  I spend so much time out there on the fringe that it has become normal.   I have developed, over the years, skills to navigate those waters.  But many others haven’t and don’t know where to start.  That’s what this series in aimed at doing, equipping willing adults to connect with a generation where the gap is ever increasing.  Our thoughts are not exhaustive and it is my hope that other voices will chime in with their experience, wisdom, and insight.

We will cover the following over the next several weeks:

  • Bridge Building – How to make that initial contact in a meaningful way?
  • Cultivating a spirit of learning – Curiosity is key in connecting with others.  How do we foster a spirit of curiosity?
  • Law of the Lid – We will explore our preconceived expectations of these fringe kids and how they impede our interactions with them.
  • The Culture of an Individual – Each student is a culture unto themselves.  We will discuss how to explore that culture as it relates to effectively ministering to them.
  • Doing away with my Agenda – How my agenda actually breeds a distrust that is nearly impossible to overcome.
  • What is our Purpose of our Interactions – Moving from meaningless to Meaningful interactions.
  • Checking our Personal Bias at the Door – Often our personal biases impact how well we connect with others, especially those different than us.
  • Finding Common Ground – Discovering shared experiences, dreams, fear, and failures.
  • What is being said without Words – What story are they telling with their clothes, hairstyle, and nonverbal communication.

I hope you will contribute to this discussion because at the end of the day it will close the gap between us and the adolescents that reside in the world beneath…

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week


For more information on and help for eating disorders please visit the following:

 

National Eating Disorders

National Institute of Mental Health

Something Fishy

Conversations on the Fringe

Mercy Ministries

Examining False Core Beliefs


Research has found that a number of core beliefs identified by the psychologist Albert Ellis are consistently linked to self-dislike and depression.  I see these in many young  people today and they go largely unchallenged by adults because many of the adults in their lives are handicapped by the same irrational beliefs.  Below is a list of commonly held false core beliefs.  As an exercise, print this list and have your students circle those that they hold.  You might further discuss scriptural responses that challenge these false beliefs.

 

 

  1. I must be loved or approved of by everyone I consider significant.
  2. I must be thoroughly competent and adequate in everything I do.  I should not be satisfied with myself unless I’m the best or excelling.
  3. If something is or may be dangerous or fearsome I must be terribly concerned about it or keep on guard in case it happens.
  4. It is easier to avoid than face life’s difficulties and responsibilities.
  5. It’s bad to think well of oneself.
  6. I can’t be happy unless a certain condition – like success, money, love, approval, or perfect achievement – is met.
  7. I can’t feel worthwhile unless a certain condition if met.
  8. I’m entitled to happiness (or success, health, self-respect, pleasure, love) without having to work for it.
  9. One day when I make it, I’ll have friends and be able to enjoy myself.
  10. Work should be hard and in some way unpleasant.
  11. Joy is only gained through hard work.
  12. I am inadequate.
  13. Worrying insures that I’ll be prepared to face and solve problems.  So the more I worry the better.  (Constant worrying helps prevent future mistakes and problems and gives me extra control.)
  14. Life should be easy.  I can’t enjoy it if there are problems.
  15. The past makes me unhappy.  There’s no way around it.
  16. There’s a perfect solution, and I must find it.
  17. If people disapprove of (reject, criticize, mistreat) me, it means I’m inferior, wrong, or no good.
  18. I’m only as good as the work I do.  If I’m not productive, I’m no good.
  19. If I try hard enough, all people will like me.
  20. If I try hard enough, my future will be happy and trouble free.

How Thin Is Thin Enough?


Our friends over at Fuller Youth Institute published a great post today about the messages we are sending our young girls.

They referred to an article in the Huffington Post about photos of models that have been touched up to make the model look thinner.

As a father of three young girls I’m concerned that when they see the touched up photos they compare and contrast themselves to a fictional image.  We have got to continue to pull back the curtain on these tricks of the trade or our girls will kill themselves striving for something that is impossible.

Now I know this may sound fanatical but we work first hand with young girls who suffer from image distortions and eating disorders.  It’s no wonder they struggle so much when confronted with images such as this.

Here’s a great song by Jonny Diaz called “More Beautiful You” that speaks to this same issue:

Sobering Statistics On Eating Disorders


PREVALENCE

It is estimated that 8 million Americans have an eating disorder – seven million women and one million men One in 200 American women suffers from anorexia

Two to three in 100 American women suffers from bulimia

Nearly half of all Americans personally know someone with an eating disorder (Note: One in five Americans suffers from mental illnesses.)

An estimated 10 – 15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are males

MORTALITY RATES

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness

A study by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reported that 5 – 10% of anorexics die within 10 years after contracting the disease; 18-20% of anorexics will be dead after 20 years and only 30 – 40% ever fully recover

The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15 – 24 years old. 20% of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide and heart problems

ACCESS TO TREATMENT

Only 1 in 10 people with eating disorders receive treatment

About 80% of the girls/women who have accessed care for their eating disorders do not get the intensity of treatment they need to stay in recovery – they are often sent home weeks earlier than the recommended stay

Treatment of an eating disorder in the US ranges from $500 per day to $2,000 per day. The average cost for a month of inpatient treatment is $30,000. It is estimated that individuals with eating disorders need anywhere from 3 – 6 months of inpatient care. Health insurance companies for several reasons do not typically cover the cost of treating eating disorders

The cost of outpatient treatment, including therapy and medical monitoring, can extend to $100,000 or more

ADOLESCENTS

Anorexia is the 3rd most common chronic illness among adolescents

95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25

50% of girls between the ages of 11 and 13 see themselves as overweight 80% of 13-year-olds have attempted to lose weight

RACIAL AND ETHNIC MINORITIES

Rates of minorities with eating disorders are similar to those of white women

74% of American Indian girls reported dieting and purging with diet pills

Essence magazine, in 2008, reported that 53.5% of their respondents, African-American females were at risk of an eating disorder

Eating disorders are one of the most common psychological problems facing young women in Japan.

While the previous statistics are sobering there is hope.  This hope is in direct proportion to those who are willing to get involved in the messiness that comes with loving those with an ED and an increase in awareness and education of this horrible condition.  If you have suffered from, or someone you love has suffered from an ED we invite you to join the fight.  We invite you to use your voice and influence. We invite you to share your experience, strength, and hope to those who have lost theirs.  You can do that in one of several ways:

1.)  Leave a comment here.

2.)  Refer your friends and loved ones to this and other websites as an ED resource.

3.)  Utilize your social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and provide links to ED websites.

4.)  Talk to your local school/park districts/churches/etc. and educate them on ED.

5.)  Share your stories of overcoming ED. (If you have a story you’d like to share to inspire others feel free to email us at cschaffner@fringeconversations.com.

Dangers and Diseases Associated with Eating Disorders


ALL Eating Disorders are Dangerous

It is important to understand that even though a person may be suffering specifically with Anorexia, Bulimia or Compulsive Overeating, it is not uncommon for them to exhibit behaviors from each of the three. It is also not uncommon for one Eating Disorder to be swapped for another (Example: a person who is suffering with Anorexia switches to Bulimia; a persons suffering with Compulsive Overeating switches to Anorexia). This is why it is important to be aware of THE DANGERS BELOW, all of which are risks no matter what Eating Disorder you suffer with.

DO NOT FALL INTO THE TRAP OF THINKING “I ONLY DO THIS A FEW TIMES A MONTH SO I CAN’T BE AT RISK” OR “I DON’T DO THIS ALL THE TIME, I JUST GO THROUGH HEALTHY AND NON-HEALTHY CYCLES” — THAT DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE NOT IN DANGER, NOR DOES IT MEAN YOU DO NOT SUFFER FROM AN EATING DISORDER.

For a list of eating disorder associated dangers and diseases click here.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,029 other followers

%d bloggers like this: