Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Key to Getting Better

So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key ~ The Eagles, Already Gone

If you had told me that I had the key to getting better when everything first crashed down around me I would have been really angry at you.
I spent all my time and all my energy trying to feel better/figure out what was wrong with me before I basically collapsed.  I was sure that if I had the key, I would have KNOWN and I would have USED it.
Want to know what the key is?
It is this: Never, never give up.  Keep fighting.  And don't fight alone.
No man is an island.
One of the mistakes I made at the beginning of my journey is this:  I didn't tell my husband about my struggles until I was almost swallowed by them.  I talked to one of my friends a lot.  I threw out theories as to why I was feeling so badly.  I was desperately trying to figure out why I was falling apart.  None of the reasons I examined was the real reason. 
It never occurred to me that I could be dealing with mental illness.  I really believed that mental illness was for other people:  people who had been abused or had done drugs or had an obviously mental ill relative.  I fit into none of those categories.  It wasn't until I was in treatment that I found out that in my family tree were people who had struggled with mental illness, too.  It's not something people like to talk about.  Most people will hide it if they can.
 In retrospect,  pouring out my heart to this friend was not the best route to go because I overwhelmed her with my angst.  What I really needed was somebody to recognize that what was going on was bigger than me and it was bigger than my friend.
My husband was the one who recognized that what was happening to me was bigger than me and it was bigger than him.  This wasn't just a problem we could talk about and resolve.
So let's take a moment and talk about assembling a team to help you.
1. Tell the people who love you the most.  
2.  Go to the doctor.  Even if you don't want to;  especially if you don't want to go.
3.  Understand that a good therapist is worth their weight in gold
4. Find a support group;  there are online support groups.  Google your diagnosis or what you think it is.
5. There are also "in real life" support groups.  Contact NAMI or look into Celebrate Recovery.
6. Think about the people in your life that you can call.  When I first started reaching out to people we very seldom discussed my breakdown.  I didn't know how to talk about my problems and they didn't know how to talk about them so we'd talk about whatever:  the weather, community events, mutual friends, our kids, etc.  This was extremely helpful because it just got my brain off of the negative stuff.  SO HELPFUL.  Don't underestimate the power of distraction.  If you do have friends who have gone through depression or some other mental illness they'll understand why you're calling and be willing to talk about meds and such without getting "freaked out" about the topic.  Also helpful.  :)
7.  God.  I saved "the best" for last because there is so much to say about seeking God when you are in a "bad" place . . .I want you to understand that if you can't "feel" God, you are not alone.  Please don't give up on trying to reach Him.  Keep going to church, keep reading His Word, pray the best you can.
Many, many people have been in a place where they wonder about God and why He has allowed them to be in such a dark place.  But it doesn't mean that He isn't there.  I think that the author of Footprints in the Sand captured what we all tend to feel perfectly.
Foot Prints in the Sand
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there were one set of footprints.
This bothered me because I noticed
that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from
anguish, sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.
So I said to the Lord,
‘You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
there have only been one set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me?’
The Lord replied,
‘The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand,
is when I carried you.’
-Mary Stevenson

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Things I Have to Remember

I have Bipolar II.

As much as I want it to go away and never come back, that is not the nature of the beast.

Bipolar II is like a pesky raccoon that you trapped and got rid of and then he comes back and roots around in your garbage AGAIN and create more messes for you to clean up.

You can do stuff about the raccoon.  You can strap your garbage cans shut.  You can try to keep him out of the attic and the crawl space.  You can make sure there is not a nice place for the coon to bed down and have babies.  But that doesn't change the fact that you do have a raccoon problem.

So it is if you have a chronic mental illness.

I think it is important to understand this so that you don't get so overwhelmed and discouraged when it comes back that you don't fight it.

Not too long ago I was "on top of the world" again.  Not "too" on top of the world.  I wasn't manic and running out and doing unreasonable things.

No, I just was feeling good enough to keep the house clean, walk the dog daily, get up before the kids and read my Bible and pray and write about mental illness.

I felt like a winner, an overcomer.

And then these things started happening.  I got some stressful news.  It threw me.  I felt like "but I am unshakeable right now so I am fine."  Not so much.

Then my routine was disrupted.  It was for a good cause.  I got to spend some extra time with the people I love most, but it was still a change and my sleep patterns got kind of messed with.  Then my daughter started throwing up at night.  That REALLY threw a wrench into the sleeping.

I got a little unreasonable and that lead to a fight because I didn't MEAN to be unreasonable and I thought I was speaking from a place of objectivity about an article I had just read.  But the person I was speaking to took it personally.

The fight led to me thinking some very black thoughts that I know are in the "danger" zone.  I then had to figure out how to not think obsessively about these scenarios that had started playing out in my mind.   I am aware that if you think a thought 40 times it burns a loop in your brain and it is easy for the brain to go back to that thought, almost without your permission.

And all this time I was trying to behave as though everything was "normal" and do my "normal" wife/mom things.  Guess what?

My house is a mess;  my three year old still isn't 100 percent and even though I don't "believe" in screen times except in limited doses, she's watching something educational.  Plus,  my devotions didn't get done "properly" today and I'm still in my pajamas even though I should be dressed by now.  I have, however, eaten breakfast and am drinking healthy stuff instead of loading up on caffeine and sugar . . .my default pattern when I am stressed.

So what are the things I have to remember?

1.   We All Fall Down Sometimes
2.  We Won't Stay Down
3.  The Reason We Don't Stay Down is Because There are Tools to Help Us Back Up

More on the tools later!

~ Be well,


Monday, March 2, 2015

I'm a WIP

I'm a WIP.  A Work In Progress.

It occurred to me this morning that if my life is a journey up the mountain of healing then I'm just a little further along than some of the other people who are also going up the mountain.

I don't know it all;  that's for sure.  And I am still trying to figure out some of my own stuff.  I don't even know how much STUFF I have to figure out.

But for what it's worth, I do know a thing or two.

And I'd be happy to share a thing or two with you, if you're interested in listening.

What do I wish somebody had told me when I first realized I had to climb the mountain of healing?

I wish they would have said:

1.  All you have to do right now is not end things.  That's it.

2.  It gets better.   It really, really does.

3.  You aren't imaging this; it is a real thing.

3.  You don't have to understand why this happened before you can heal.

4.  You do need to understand that this is not your fault.   See point number 3

5.  God is for you;  He is not against you.

6.  Even if you can't feel Him, He is there all the same.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Don't Be a Chicken

When somebody reveals a struggle to you, don't be a chicken.

When my parents used to raise baby chicks we always had to be very careful not to leave a little chick with an open sore around the other little chickens because once that sore was discovered they'd peck and peck at it until the wounded chicken died.

Don't be a chicken.  Bind that wound up.  Help them fly, not flounder.

This is why God created you with hands, not feathers.  :)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Finding the Motivation to Do Your Devotions, Part 3

So these are the points I hope you've gotten from parts one and two:

1.  Seeking God is a choice we make and it does matter.
2.  We need to seek God's face to know His will.  

Maybe you think I'm being a little overly dramatic here . . .but please understand,  I'm not one of these people who was saved out of a godless background.  God has been a part of my life since before I could speak.  I was born on Wednesday and in church on Sunday!  And then again on Wednesday and so on and so forth all my life.   Anybody that goes to church that much starts to think they've heard it all after awhile.  The natural thing to do is to start thinking that you've got this God thing down and then God doesn't get your best because you feel you don't have to think about God that much because you've already been there and done that.  The problem is, God likes that attitude just about as much as a wife likes this statement "I told you on our wedding day that I love you.  If anything ever changes, I'll let you know."

Nope, not okay.  A woman wants the love of her life to be in love with her forever!  She wants to share private jokes with him . . .she wants that little touch when nobody is looking and she knows it doesn't mean he wants something from her right then. . .it just means he loves her.  A woman wants all that.   Why?  Because it means that her husband STILL only has eyes for her.  That's the kind of woman who doesn't freak out when she's out with her husband and some young thing that looks amazing in yoga pants walks by because she knows that her hubby only has eyes for her.  Oh, she knows he saw the young thing, but she also knows he's trained himself not to look at that girl and think about the girl.   She knows this because every single day they talk and he shows her with his words and his actions that she is still his one and only.

That is what God is looking for in a relationship, too.  He wants your heart.  He wants my heart.  And He wants to His way to be our first choice.  And the beautiful thing is this . . .when we give Him first place, it makes OUR lives so much better.

Which leads me to my third point.

Sin is toxic and sin is powerful.  We've already discussed how it is so easy to believe that not communing with God is just . . .well, not that big a deal.  But now we're going to go a step further and label ignoring God a sin.

The thing is, if you aren't thinking about God, you will be thinking about something.  If you aren't thinking God's thoughts, you will be thinking other thoughts.

Now I know that there are a lot of what we will call "nuetral" thoughts out there and those aren't bad at all.  Those are thoughts like "I wonder if switching laundry detergents would make that rash on Johnny go away?"  Or thoughts like "If I get Susie a leapfrog will she finally want to think about her letters and spend some time learning how to read?"

It might be thoughts like "Grandma sure looks good for being 99 years old!  Wow, I hope I look like that when I turn 99!"

We should have those kinds of thoughts.  But the kinds of thoughts that we need to know exist are the kinds of thoughts that sneak up on us and try to destroy us.  Those thoughts have the potential to become sin.  I have a hard time even typing that concept.  I have a hard time with it because I have dealt with thoughts that wanted to destroy me and I thought that they were formed by me and therefore an extension of myself and I would never purposely try to destroy myself.  I resent the implication, for example, that depression is a spiritual problem.  I don't think that.  But what I do think is that depression puts us in a vulnerable place where these thoughts can become sin, ie,  toxic and powerful.

Let me try to explain what I mean.  Let's use the example of a boy and a truck.  Let's call the boy Sam.  Everyday Sam goes to work after school.  One day on his way to work he sees a really cool truck.   He admires it.  Nothing wrong with that.  What would be wrong is if Sam found out that it is a one of a kind truck and not for sale and then if Sam began to obsess about that truck and how to obtain it and if Sam started to maybe sneak out of the house at night and go over and touch the truck and dream about driving around in it and that kind of thing.

See, we ALL have thoughts that come knocking on our door and if we are wise enough to recognize them as just thoughts that we should "let go" then that's great.  But if we aren't reading the Bible and praying, chances are we're going to get a thought that we should let go, but for some reason, we're going to pick it up and handle it.  And obsess on it.  And if we aren't careful, that thing is going to stick to us like a flea to a dog.  We aren't going to be able to get rid of it on our own.

So the third thing that should motivate you to do your devotions is this:  you need God because without Him you aren't going to recognize those thoughts that want to destroy you AND even if you do recognize them as toxic and powerful,  you are going to need help getting rid of them.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Finding the Motivation to Do Your Devotions, part 2

We have do our devotions if we want to know God's way.

Otherwise it's so easy to think . . .oh wow!  This is a GOOD THING.  It's obvious to me that I am to do XYZ thing.  But . . .not so fast.  God might have another idea about things.

My youngest is three.  She's got big brown eyes and blond curls and she is super adorable.

I forget sometimes that she's just three because she really is quite precocious.  But then she'll remind me.  A couple days after Valentines Day I was reminded once again that Little Miss hasn't quite grasped the Ten Commandments yet.

Candy is a big deal at our house.  We only do candy on special occasions . . .so, like I said, it is a BIG DEAL.  Now that Firstborn has a job she can buy her own candy . . .and she does!  We do have a rule "No eating something in front of other people unless you are willing to share."  Firstborn is quite aware of this rule and she abides by it.

We have another rule, too.  "Thou Shalt Not Go Into Big Sister's Room Unless You Are Invited In."

And of course, we try to live by the Ten Commandments.  You knew I was going to get back to that!

So anyway, Little Miss burst into the kitchen with dark chocolate in her hands a couple of days after Valentines Day.  Not just a little bit, either, but at least ten squares and a rather impressive dark chocolate turtle.  She was pretty excited because, wow! Candy!  How could this not be a good thing?

At first I figured that somebody had shared with her, but I quickly discarded that theory!  One doesn't NOT give that much candy to a three year old!  And then I knew . . .

Little Miss had violated the Sister Room Law!  But worse than that, she had STOLEN.

I'm not sure she even knew the word or the concept, but I took her little chin in my hand and I explained to her that she could not take Sis's candy.  Daddy took her downstairs and she returned the chocolate and learned how to apologize.

Little Miss is going to have a better life now than she would have if she had learned ( by not getting taught ) to take other people's stuff.

And you know?  I spent quite a few years pretty much convinced that I didn't need to pray.  Not really, because I was sure I knew God's will.  Bible college?  Of course.  How could that not be God's will?  Full time ministry?  Of course!  Of course!  How could that not be God's will?

And yet . . .my life still had problems.  Was it because Bible college was a bad thing?  No.

Was it because full time ministry was a bad thing?  Well, full time ministry is NOT a bad thing, but I'm pretty convinced now that it was not MY thing.

And the problems?  I don't think God chose it for me.  I think it happened because we hit some major stressors . . .like everybody else on planet earth.

God promises to make all things beautiful in His time.  And He has made my life beautiful since these things happened . . .I've taken chances I probably never would have taken before  and I'm super glad that my family and I have grown and changed the way we have.

But without us being willing to listen to God and accept that maybe we DIDN'T know God's will . . .none of the beautiful changes would have happened.

If Little Miss hadn't stolen, she wouldn't have learned that it was WRONG and she wouldn't have learned how to apologize . . .but she had to LISTEN to me to learn that lesson.  Had she gone somewhere else and eaten the chocolate instead of coming to me . . .no lesson learned.

I'm somebody's child, too, and I have to share my life with Him to know His thoughts on things, too.

And I have to listen to God to learn His lessons and that listening can't happen unless I read my Bible and pray . . .unless I am in the same room as Him, interacting with Him. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Finding the Motivation to Do Your Devotions

The Bible clearly tells us to seek God.  I mean, it's so important that Matthew 6:33 says But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness:  and all these things shall be added unto you.

In Matthew 16:24 Jesus says If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Verse 25 and 26 continue on . . .

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it;  and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.  For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?  or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul.

I'm not going to go into a big discussion about salvation and whether or not you can or can't lose your salvation.  I happen to believe that once you are saved, God's got you and He isn't going to let go, no way, no how.

But I also believe this:  yeah, you might have a one way ticket to heaven, but you also have this thing called Free Will.  And what that means is this:  you can still choose whether to have God's best for you or not.

The Bible is full of verses about sin and how it leads to death.  For a long time I thought that meant that if you didn't get saved, ie, repent of your sin and trust Jesus to take your sins away then you would go to hell.  I still believe that.

But now I believe something else, too.   And let me just make this as clear as I possibly can . . .

Sin can ruin ANYBODY'S life, whether they are guaranteed heaven or not.

Every person gets to choose whether their life will be wrecked by sin or not.

Often the sin that derails us is so subtle that we do not even recognize it as sin.  

And now for a story.  Let's pretend for a moment that you are a gorgeous young thing.  You're on vacation in Key West.  You're staying in a quaint little house and when you open the closet to put your things away, you see something pushed way back in the corner.  When you pull it out you see that it is a box of d-con, rat and mouse poison.  Gross!  Do you take the poison?  Um, no.  You probably shriek and push it back with a hanger or something so you never have to see it again.

Then you put on something that makes you look even better than usual and you go out.  Now Key West is such a fun little town . . .and one of the things that makes it fun is the live music.  Somebody's always playing somewhere and you find yourself at The Hogfish Bar and Grill.  You're there with a friend and after you eat the two of you realize that Hogfish sits at the end of a row of buildings that is basically jutting out into the ocean.  And you see that this is a cool place filled with artists and people living on boats . . .it feels very safe and there are even cats coming up to say "hi."

So you walk around and explore and breath in the smell of flowers and herbs and of course, the smell of grilled meat and fish from Hogfish.  It's all very relaxing, especially when the live music starts and the little lights come on all over the masts on the boats and the twinkly lights that have been strung start twinkling and even though you've heard of people slipping drugs into the drinks of young girls, you have a hard time believing that could ever happen to you and you are very tempted to drink whatever it is that the cute guys from the table next to you offer you . . .but for all you know it's just as bad as the d-con that you discovered back in your room.

You might think that making the right choice is a no-brainer, but I tell you what . . .I lived in Key West for awhile . . .I lived on a Caribbean island for awhile and I was shocked and horrified by the chances that some of my young friends took.  One girl started drinking with strangers at ten in the morning and woke up the next day in her bed completely missing a few hours worth of memories.  And we're talking a SMART GIRL with a four year degree and a job that many people would envy.

Anybody who reads about doing their devotions is a person who is interested in spiritual things.  So that right there tells me that you, dear reader, care about God and about your relationship to Him. 

But guess who else cares about your relationship to God?  That guy with the horns and the pointy tail.  Okay, so he actually doesn't come to you wearing that outfit.  He dresses much cooler.  In fact, he's got this suit that makes him appear invisible and that is what he likes to wear and how he likes to present his poison . . .

The Devil wants you to believe that He is not interested in you.  And the sins that He wants you to have in your life are not going to be labeled SIN with skull and crossbones symbols on them.

They are going to be little thoughts like this one right here "It doesn't matter if I read my Bible right now or not.  I can always read it later.  It doesn't matter that much if I don't pray . . .I suck at praying and God knows my heart so He'll forgive me and I can do this later."

It will be things like this thought "Oh my gosh, I am such a loser!  I'm not good at anything. I'm not even going to try to develop XYZ talent that I have because it's hard and what's the point?  Nobody needs my contribution anyway."

So, brief recap.

One, we're supposed to seek God.

Two, it's easy to believe that it isn't important.

And my last point is this.  YOU are the one who has to decide that it is going to happen because it is important.  Otherwise it won't happen and that is super sad because God has an AMAZING plan for you and ignoring Him will keep it from ever materializing.  Ignoring God might not feel like taking a chance or even like a choice, but it is.  Think about it.