“What people say will make a difference to what Hana feels, and how she behaves.” From the very beginning of Hana Feels, Inglis tells us that there are three possible outcomes to this piece, though what those outcomes are remains untold. Given the context of the piece given in the author and editorial statements, I think it’s a safe assumption that at least one of these outcomes is truly tragic, to say the least.
I liked how Will’s patience is demonstrated on the first page of the actual story. I’m personally not great at handling that awkward silence between statements, but as time has gone on and I’ve had to leave this space for my Bible study groups to speak or even just sit and think for themselves, I’ve built more and more of a peace about these silences. It’s still not all that comfortable, but they are necessary. We need to give people the space to be heard at the very least.
The first three responses to choose from as the reader are all important questions. Asking someone’s name might say to a person ‘I want to know who you are. I want to be able to hear you as you want to be heard.’ It may not be the most open-ended question (as is usually the most useful to start with when helping someone through a mental crisis), but it is a question that may help an individual re-center. It is a question that helps you to meet that person wherever they’re at. The other two questions are powerful and much more open-ended in different ways. For some, it helps to immediately blow off steam and talk about what’s on his/her mind– hence the question of is there something you’re worried about? It could be a simple no sometimes, or it could be a complex no, or it could be a yes. No matter what worries a person though, to be given the safe space to express anxieties is crucial.
A slight tangent from Hana Feels:
I’m speaking this Sunday at youth in a series on doubt and learning not to demonize it. Christianity has a reputation for not wanting to address doubt, or telling people of faith who do express doubts that they just “don’t have enough faith” or “just need to pray more.” We forget that without expressing doubts, we can’t challenge them– whether that means doubts about God or about ourselves as human beings. The question of is there something you’re worried about? plays a major role in challenging doubts, especially doubts about ourselves, our abilities, and situations we may face.
Doubt is not exactly bad, we just tend to steer in a negative direction when we have doubts, or maybe we end up taking the longer route to where we’re going because there were fewer perceived risks involved.
Now back to your regularly scheduled programming:
Should I talk for a while? is an underrated question in these situations. Some people just need to be given the chance to slow down their own thoughts, and to hear about something else can really help to center someone and calm them down. I’ve done this a lot as a youth leader and as a coach where a student or a swimmer might be beating his/herself up about something and I’ll tell them about how I did the same thing when I was their age and how I can look back at that moment and laugh or smile. For some, it gives them a bit of hope about their situation. For others, it just makes them laugh or at least crack a smile. Sometimes I’ll just tell some other sort of funny story that has nothing to do with anything (as we see Will does when you select this response). Typically this elicits more of a response than we get from Hana, but that doesn’t mean how Hana is reacting is wrong at all– there is no “wrong” way to react when you’re in a state of fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. You just know you’re not in a healthy space for yourself and you’re trying to claw your way out of there… or in severe cases you dig deeper because it’s unfortunately what you’re used to. Speaking from my own experience at both ends of that, it’s hard to even know what to open up about– let alone how to open up– and we all figure it out in our own ways. Is every way healthy or good? No, but it can all be used for good.
In learning about Will, I realize how much I used to worry about saying the wrong thing, and how I’ve largely stopped worrying about saying the wrong thing over the past year since I started volunteering as a youth leader at church. This isn’t to say that I don’t think about what I say– of course I do– but I think it’s more related to the fact that I’ve started to be more attentive of who or what I allow to speak into my life. I might’ve said this before on another blog, and I know I’ve said this loads of times to my girls at youth, but you cannot pour something out from a cup unless it was first poured in. So I started guarding my mind and my heart by being mindful of the content I take in (whether TV, social media, etc…) and who I allow to speak into my life. Since I’ve started doing more of that, I’ve been able to reflect from time to time and see improvements not only within myself, but also in how I’ve treated and spoken to people.
I do still ultimately feel a bit like Will– the new guy that’s afraid to say the wrong thing– but it’s not something that I beat myself up over anymore. It’s still a struggle, but it’s one I’m able to move through, as Will shows us he was able to as well.
When Hana calls back, she has a response that’s very much like one of my friends who over explains everything. “I didn’t want you to think …” and typically that blank for him is something negative that he believes about himself. In Hana’s case, she doesn’t want to be “that guy.” She explains what she’s assuming Will is perceiving her as four times in the span of four sentences, and what she thinks she’s seen as is what she views as negative. Personally, I avoid saying anything that might be taken as verification, so I didn’t select thanks or I’m glad you called back. The open-ended questions tend to be best anyway.
Each page from here has at least one line that sticks with me. When Hana mentions how weird it is that she’s talking to someone she doesn’t know and can’t see, Will’s line stuck with me: “Some people find it easier to talk to someone they don’t know.”
When Hana says she has a small but big problem: “What is it you really want to talk about, Hana?”
When Hana says she feels like she wasted Will’s time: “You didn’t.”
The guy who answered was called Will. He didn’t call me an idiot for phoning or for not getting to the point. So that was encouraging.
This in particular might be an insight into what Hana’s life is like on a day-to-day basis. Whether that means at home, at school, or elsewhere, it’s clear that not only does she not really feel she has a voice, but she’s also being put down for not using the voice she’s not even sure she really has. And the fact that she’s calling and she did speak to Will shows that she’s in the process of discovering that voice.
Just from her bio, there’s enough to say that Christine is under a lot of pressure; Hana works for her, so naturally I thought to myself something along the lines of I hope she isn’t the type of boss to take it out on her workers. But from the options on the next page, I noticed that there were more negative statements than positive, open-ended questions to choose from. So I chose the statement that at least showed the most concern for Hana as a person rather than Hana as an employee.
And still, there does have to come a time to address what landed Hana in that office in the first place.
Everyone messes up an order from time to time. But in the space of last weekend, you served a rare steak to a vegetarian, a double whisky to a recovering alcoholic, and some Thai noodles to one unfortunate allergic lady with enough peanuts in the sauce to kill her.
And sure, her apology is warranted, but I could imagine how she said it should raise some concern. I imagined her retreating into herself, voice disappearing once again just as she had been starting to find it the night before.
Another slight tangent from Hana Feels:
I saw a clip from a Michael Todd sermon that talked about things in the beginning stages of development being the easiest things to destroy. That most likely isn’t Christine’s motive here, but I admit that there are better and more loving ways to phrase things when holding people accountable for their actions. Employees are people too, though I understand even from my own experience that it’s hard to keep that in mind when your bosses don’t keep that in mind about you.
Todd talked about how Herod had ordered every male child under the age of two be slaughtered when news of a new king reached him. Why? Because (from the assumption Herod and many of the Pharisees were going off of) why would Herod wait until this King was fully developed and capable of leading his own army to come after him?
And I see the same thing of Hana’s voice here. John 10:10 puts it best that “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” And that’s exactly what’s happening to Hana here– I know because I’ve been there too. Just as I finally felt like I could speak up, there was something just before the door to scare me off again. Often times it continues to be the case that there is opposition to a lot of what I have to say or express, even if not opposition from other people. More often that opposition comes from my own mind– from anxiety, the occasional bouts of depression, flashbacks, body image issues… you name it. And I’m seeing that process going on in this narrative through Hana.
Now back to your regularly scheduled programming:
The only response that sounds even remotely framed in a positive light is “This isn’t like you.” So that’s what I went with. And from there the response was elongated in an even more positive light where Christine made sure Hana knew her abilities are truly recognized. She still does get to the point that she needs to as Hana’s boss on the following page, but he important thing is that Christine isn’t putting Hana down or making her stress Hana’s stress. She turns Hana toward her goals… or at least what they once were. She continues to remind Hana that she’s more than she recognizes herself to be.
But then came the uniform issue that Hana seemed worried about in her journal. She didn’t explicitly say why, but there have been hints of it throughout the narrative so far that really was summed up in one line from this entry:
I feel more stressed after that telling off. Even though I think she was trying to help, in a strange way. I’ve just got to keep turning up and get through it. And practice my fake smile.
I did it again tonight, just to take the pressure off. I feel totally trapped.
I don’t even think I need to say what “it” is here… If she’s stressed about wearing a new uniform that’s “more like a cocktail dress than a tunic,” then I think we can put together that covering up something is part of the issue running through Hana’s mind.
Jen also kind of reminds me of myself in the beginning of the conversation she has with Hana. I wouldn’t be the one to dye my hair orange, but I would be the one to open up with a light and seemingly pointless conversation like she did. I’m the one that has a lot of people I consider friends, but there’s only a few that I truly value their input into my life.
I also typically find myself asking my friends the questions about the people they meet, but at least in the past few days have had some of those questions directed towards me for the first time in a couple years. And I’m more than happy to talk about it, but sometimes I worry as I’m talking that I should leave more space for my friends to talk too. So I started to wonder what Hana must be thinking or what she might want to say, if anything other than what’s being expressed. So naturally, I had Jen ask what’s going on with Hana to give her that space to talk.
She doesn’t say much, and though I know it would help her to talk about it, it could also do more harm to push her. But what else is there to do when you don’t want to talk too much more about yourself or the guy that you basically just met? So I had Jen ask about work and the reply kind of surprised me, but it also didn’t.
She wasn’t at all told that she might be fired, but because of the way she views herself and talks to and about herself, it does make sense that Hana would assume the worst. Jen’s reaction might not be the worst, but it is enabling these thoughts in Hana’s mind. Rather than “What a bitch!” I would’ve rather said something like “Was that all she said?” or “What about your future?” But that’s just me trying to leave space to acknowledge mistakes but not be negative (or even somewhat hostile) toward anyone regardless of involvement in the conversation.
Asking about her mom also seems like an important question, so I went with that one. Hana and her mom aren’t on the best terms at the moment it seems. Was this always the case? There’s not much to tell from, but Jen saying “I never understand why you two don’t get on” makes it seem like this has been a consistent issue at least since Hana and Jen became friends. Maybe this could be a reason she thinks of herself so negatively?
There’s not much to take from this entry but how Hana feels about Jen: a good friend that cares, but can also be a bit much. But something that stuck out was how Hana is placing an expectation on herself based on what the people around her want from her.
… I should be flattered because she’s got lots of friends. I’m going to try harder. But it’s not fun for me at all.
Should Hana completely isolate herself? No. But she shouldn’t force herself to do it more than she can handle. She shouldn’t feel like she has to force herself out there.
I could imagine all the alarms going off in Will’s head when Hana starts asking about the confidentiality and anonymity of the helpline. All of the potential responses would likely elicit some sort of information on why she’s asking these things, so I figured why not ask if there’s any reason she’s asking instead of cloaking the question in some other statement or something of the sort? She might have issues trusting people, so it’s probably best to just be upfront with her.
What really set the alarms off for me is the defensive “No!” when Will asked her to clarify whether her hypothetical about her being suicidal was actually a hypothetical or not. He handles it well and just answers her question , and the options below could pressure her, or the one I chose (“You said before, you think you have a problem.”) gives Hana the chance to dial back from worrying whether or not she would have the cops called on her or not for suicide risk. And when Hana asks if Will feels under pressure, he’s quick to answer and turn the question to her because, (at least from my experience with these situations,) the things a person asks are indicative of the things they want to express but have trouble doing so. Without being asked the very things we ask, we allow our thoughts about the question with regard to ourselves to sit there and do exactly what Hana expresses to Will:
It builds up and up. Sometimes it’s just stupid things like how somebody looks at me or something they say. I get obsessed with what they’re thinking about me… I know I’m tired, but everything keeps going round in my head.
Another slight tangent from Hana Feels:
I’ve heard a couple of rather “Christian-ese” quotes and ideas having to do with this that have helped me a lot to keep my attention on the One thing that matters.
The first thing is something I have written on a taped index card in front of my desk at home: “Comparison is the enemy of all progress.” God designed each of us with unique talents, abilities, strengths, weaknesses, fears, etc. But the thing with comparison isn’t in the differences between us: it’s in where our focus is. We’re all human, so if we are our main focus, we will find something to beat ourselves up about. When Jesus is the main focus, we can only find the forgiveness and grace that He made available to us through the shedding of His blood on the cross. When Jesus is the main focus, our weaknesses are the greatest thing we can boast about because His power is made perfect in weakness. When we focus on ourselves, all we realize is that all is vanity. When we focus on ourselves, there’s always a part of us that understands there is nothing we can do to earn right standing with God. But when we focus on God, this world may be vanity but there’s a greater world to come free from the brokenness of this one. When we focus on God, we don’t have to do anything but believe and live out our faith in Him to receive (not earn) right standing with God because He paid the price to get us back.
The second is that a relationship with God is like walking up a down escalator when God is at the top. If you stand still, regardless of how trapped you might feel, you still have a choice to continue taking the next step towards Him. Once you stop taking those steps, your body may be still but you are moving away from Him. Feeling anxiety or depression or struggling with any mental health struggle may not be a choice, but how you react to that struggle is your choice. God wants you to keep taking those steps. He is not stopping you. He wants to encourage you in your journey up the escalator if you want to hear His Word.
Now back to your regularly scheduled programming:
Saying everyone has times like that can help to know that you’re not alone, but part of me also finds it slightly demeaning to the thoughts that may be running through your mind. I tend to think questions lead more places and therefore can be the most powerful use of language we have available to us. I mean think about it, God didn’t come into Eden guns blazing when Adam and Eve ate the fruit, He came in asking where they were and how they knew they were naked even though He already knew. So I decided on having Will ask Hana what’s been going through her mind.
And here’s where I found myself relating the most to Hana:
Like, am I wasting my life? I’m not stupid but I screwed up my exams. I have a shit job and I can’t even do that right. I don’t have any savings — because I’m a terrible cook and I just get takeaways all the time. And the idea of a relationship with a guy terrifies me.
I’m nearly twenty. I should have a direction, right? I should be thinking about buying a house and moving in with someone. And confronting bad attitudes with proper feminist arguments. Instead I’m going to get old living in this shitty flat, buying a small carton of milk every day because I can’t get the landlord to fix the fridge. And I’m going to be lonely.
I turn 23 next month. My high school graduating class already graduated college this past spring, and here I am, “a year behind” (though I’m not really giving myself grace for taking on two majors). Even more of them have started their full time careers and seem to really be enjoying it. My jobs aren’t always what one might consider ideal, and sometimes I mess up with them too. I’m not quite where I want to be, even with all the joys I’ve found in what I am doing. But here’s the thing: my worth isn’t in any of that, nor is their worth in any of that either. It’s so so so so easy to compare ourselves. It’s too easy. That’s what we’re used to– the broken state of this world is all we know so of course living by faith in the only One that could make us whole is going to be uncomfortable! What’s hard for us to grasp (especially in a society highly driven on instant gratification) is that the valleys we’re in today prepare us for the mountaintops of tomorrow, often in some of the most outlandish ways.
And not everyone takes the same journey in life, so that’s what I had Will say.
It doesn’t sound like Hana is the one putting the pressure on herself, but she does sound like someone struggling to let go of it. Though there’s so much more to the Gospel than Shia LaBeouf says he got out of it, one of the major points it does make is this point of letting go. Who the Son sets free is free indeed (John 8:36), and the Son, in His own words, is the Way, the Truth, and the life (John 14:6). Asking Hana how she thinks she could fix it might continue to add the pressure. As much as I’d love to ask another question in response, her mind seems to be at a place where she doesn’t need encouragement for it to move any faster, so I had Will acknowledge “That’s a lot to handle at once.”
And I wish that I was given the choice of what to say to Hana before Will asked how Hana deals with pressure. Personally, I’d have taken a bit more time on that conversation to remind Hana that her struggles, her worth, her anything, is not dependent on or comparable to that of anyone else.
But when reading her journal, the point Hana made that “[Will] seems to understand what I’m saying. At least he doesn’t tell me I shouldn’t feel the way I do,” I realized that maybe continuing that point isn’t necessary in every situation. People will eventually find reminders of that regardless.
Why can’t Hana make the double date? I was curious what her reasoning is, though to be honest, dealing with one’s own mental health is enough of a load (and one that should take priority) over dating. She didn’t provide real reasoning though, she tried making an excuse. But in pressing that Hana can be honest with Jen, she finds her reasoning without mentioning too much of the deeper issues going on; she makes a good point too, I wouldn’t want to go on a date with a guy I know literally nothing about except some made up bit that he likes books. But after that, I’m not sure there really is a good response.
“If it helps, you don’t have to wear orange.” Nothing wrong with a bit of lightening the mood, I suppose. But I still don’t like how Jen is trying to drag her out for a date. If it were just her trying to take her best friend for a day out, then sure, I get that. But when you think something is wrong you should be focusing on the individual, not trying to fill some perceived gap in their life. I know Jen is well-intentioned, but I don’t like that she is helping by trying to shove a guy into the mix.
What concerns me most about how Jen is trying to pull Hana of her “rut” is pretty clearly expressed in Hana’s journal entry here:
She thinks she knows me so well. But if she really knew what was going on in my head she’d never pick up that phone. And that’s why I can never tell her…
I can’t cope with this pressure from Jen on top of everything else.
What caught me off guard is that I kind of expected “Hana’s mother” to be more than a subtitle if she came up. It’s pretty easy to understand why though once she says “Never thinks of anybody but herself” about Hana when she gets a call from the hospital.
Hear me out on this last thought, which is heavily based on that last statement from Hana’s mother:
I wouldn’t say “never” thinks of anyone else, but in a way, many of these issues take root and fester in someone’s mind when he/she thinks so much of his/herself. Comparison. Wondering what others think of oneself. Focusing on who or what you are. Trying to become someone else because you don’t like yourself.
When I say these are “self-centered” thoughts I don’t mean they are selfish, I just mean that oneself is at the center of every thought– in cases like this, clearly in a negative light.
Something that my friend has struggled with a lot is pride on both extremes– holding himself too high as well as beating himself up like this in the name of humility. (That’s not what humility is, by the way). Here’s the issue with that: when we put ourselves on our own throne of our own hearts, no matter how hard we try there will be a God-sized hole in there somewhere. That manifests itself differently in everyone’s life. But with God at the center, His power is made perfect in weakness. Does that mean these issues will magically disappear and we won’t have mental health struggles? No! My anxiety is the thorn in my side, as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12. It’s still there and very real, but I trust in a God who’s never failed. I may not be enough, but I have a God who was, is, and always will be. I may not be enough, but I have a God who still loved me enough to come down and take on the death I deserved to make me enough regardless of all I’ve done/do against Him.
So when that’s my first thought, it’s still difficult to push through, but I do. When I am my first thought… when what others think of me is my first thought… when my assumptions of what I seem like are my first thought… when I am somewhere at the center of my thoughts, that’s when I slip. I used to think the same of myself. I used to over apologize. I used to think everyone thought I was trash or some weird kid no one wanted anything to do with. But now, even if that was the case, God wanted so much to do with me that He died for me. I think that’s pretty remarkable, and even more so that He’s extended that love and grace and mercy to every single one of us if we’re open to taking His hand and trusting Him.