Today's post is a wrap up in my series on getting fit mentally. I began the series with the intent of sharing the main elements, or pieces if you will, that have been fitted together to give me lasting wholeness and peace. The first in the Series, The Pieces of the Puzzle, was about my relationship with God and how that really was the frame that was assembled early on. The second entry, The Pieces Part II, addressed the role medication played in my mental health stability. The Pieces Part III, was last week's entry on how counseling and therapy have played a role in my recovery. Today's entry is exploring the role that a new tool, called Tapping Meditations, has played in the complete picture of finding mental health stability and wholeness.
As explained in last week's post, the most recent therapist I've visited with was the person who introduced me to this tool. She led me to an app, The Tapping Solution, which utilizes this technique. During our second session together, we went through one of the meditations - a meditation on anxiety since that was what I was struggling with at the time. What I appreciated most when we began the meditation was that the opening few minutes allowed me to acknowledge the anxiety I was feeling and to rate how anxious I was feeling on a scale of one to ten. There was no judgement in it. I didn't feel like I had to control the anxiety, it was simply a chance to explore the idea of why I was so anxious.
See, part of the power of the anxiety for me, was the fact that I was constantly condemning myself for always feeling so anxious. After all, as a good Christian girl, I had been taught early on to cast all my anxiety onto God. To feel anxious was, in my mind almost a betrayal of the faith I claimed to have. But in the introduction to this meditation, I experienced a sense of freedom in acknowledging that I couldn't control the anxiety. While I won't go into all the components of the meditation, I will share that the simple process for me was very powerful and effective. I also won't go into the specifics of tapping and the philosophy behind it. I simply want to put it out there in the hopes that it might be a tool that would be helpful for you.
Thankfully, I didn't have to subscribe to The Tapping Solution as a few of the free ones offered were particularly helpful. The one I want to focus on the most was a meditation called, You Are Enough. It is a meditation that I have come back to time and time again over the last several weeks. It has truly been that powerful for me. Again, at the onset of the meditation, there is a scale in which you rate yourself as feeling that you are not enough. Typically I have been rating myself in the 5's or 6's. The first time I did it, I'm pretty sure I rated myself at a 7 or 8.
Here's the deal with coming to grips with the understanding that I am enough. (No one in my life ever told me that. In general, I don't think we encourage one another to see ourselves as being enough. We only acknowledge one another's successes and triumphs. We don't affirm the person we are in this moment of time.) I grew up in a household where I was told I should be ashamed of myself every time I made a mistake.
Mistakes were something to be avoided at all costs. There was no learning from them, there was only the condemnation of knowing you were a bad person if you made one. I carried that baggage around with me for all of my life, because I internalized this belief that if I performed in any way that was subpar or substandard, I was simply a bad person.
When I discovered this tapping meditation, You Are Enough, it was like a lightbulb went off in my brain. I am enough, not because I'm perfect, or get it right in every moment, or always have the right answer, but simply by being who I am in this moment. For those of you who are struggling to see how a Christian can call themselves enough, let me put it this way. In the past, I thought because I was a poor, miserable sinner I constantly had to keep myself in this place of self-loathing. Lately, as I've reflected about the heart of God and why he sent Jesus, I've questioned, does he truly want me in this unhealthy state of constantly comparing myself to others and constantly feeling like I'm missing the mark? Does that sound like freedom to you? If Christ came to set us free, it seems to me He would want us to run in that freedom - to be unshackled from sin and fear and shame.
So there you have it, the pieces of the puzzle, my mental health puzzle. Faith, medication, counseling, and tapping meditations. To be sure, there are other pieces that have played a role in my finding a more healthy way forward, but these are the big ones to be sure. Here's my takeaway for you. As stated last week, if you find yourself living a half-life because you're not in a good place mentally, I encourage you to try one or more of these pieces to get yourself to a better place. It is worth the effort it takes to get there. As I stated in my first post in this series, my hope and prayer is that you won't let stubbornness and willfulness stop you from living the life you were always meant to live. 'Til next time.
My last two posts have been the beginning of a series titled, The Pieces of the Puzzle. This series addresses, among other things, the key elements that have played a role in helping me find a balanced life while living with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Today's post marks the halfway point of discussing my mental heath stability. In the first post in this series, The Pieces of the Puzzle, I explored the role my relationship with God played in my mental health stability. In the 2nd post The Pieces; Part II, I discussed the role medication played. In this post, I will examine how counseling and therapy have also been an integral part in my mental health recovery.
As far as therapy and/or counseling goes, the quality and type of person I met with wasn't nearly as important as simply taking a chance to meet with a professional. To be sure, some therapists that I've met with have been better than others. While I do feel it's important to like your therapist and to have some sort of connection with them, I think it's equally important to look for the nuggets of wisdom and guidance that person can bring to your life.
The first time I went searching for a therapist, I was a poor college student who couldn't afford insurance or the hefty price of a session. However, I was also a young adult whose parents were in the process of separating and who was awakening to the realization that my favorite person in the world, my dad, was abandoning his marriage vows in favor of a younger woman and his drink of choice, Jack Daniels. So, despite the fact that I didn't have a lot of cash on hand, I sought help. Thankfully, there were affordable options. Namely, Lutheran Family Services through which I could do a sliding scale fee. Basically, you paid what you could.
It was in this office, with a therapist whose name I don't recall, that I was first introduced to the term, hypervigilance. The medical terminology for it is as follows: Hypervigilance — the elevated state of constantly assessing potential threats around you. What it was, wasn't nearly as important as recognizing what it did to me. I was a hypervigliant person to a T, always assessing my situation and how I was doing in that situation. Was I keeping up with my responsibilities? Was I doing enough, being enough, performing enough? I was introduced to the term through a book about adult children of alcoholics. See, I don't blame my dad for all of the things going haywire inside my brain, but he did play a role in my desire to be a fixer. I wanted to fix what was wrong with him, so I was always trying to do better and be better - at everything. It was exhausting. While I didn't recover from being hypervigilant overnight, this new terminology did set me on a path to the awareness that something was holding me back from a life of freedom.
The next time I found myself in a therapist's office, I had been newly diagnosed bipolar. This time was more of a "forced to" issue. (When you're a newly diagnosed crazy person, they figure you need all the help you can get.) Once again, I found myself face to face with a person who would assist me in understanding the complexity of what it meant to get mentally fit. This therapist, knowing I was a Christian, recommended a book called, The Search for Significance by Robert McGee. While I don't remember the book in detail, I do recall the light bulb or "aha" moment when I realized that much of what I based my self worth on had to do with how well I performed in life - as a person, a wife, a teacher, a friend. Once again, I experienced an awareness of how exhausting it all had been, this life of always trying to "perform" well.
Most recently, I visited a faith-based therapist this past spring when I found that the remnant of hypervigilance and performance based thinking still had a firmer grip on me than I wanted them to. She introduced me to the final piece of the puzzle that has snapped into place and the topic for next week's post, tapping meditations. Next week, I will explore this final piece of the puzzle of finding lasting peace and freedom.
A few final words. If you find yourself in a place where you are living a sort of half life, I encourage you to step out in faith and find a professional to counsel you. Keep in mind, this person won't be perfect. But if there's even the slightest chance that they can throw you a life line isn't that a chance worth taking? (A drowning person doesn't care who throws the life preserver to them. They cling to the thing that saved them, not the person who threw it.) Getting fit mentally isn't for the faint of heart. It takes work and perseverance, but trust me when I tell you, it is worth the effort. And then some. 'Til next time.
Last week, I introduced the idea of my mental health recovery as a puzzle that has been intricately designed and assembled to bring me lasting healing and peace. The Pieces of the Puzzle was about how my relationship with God has been the most important, foundational part of the whole puzzle. As promised, this week's topic is about the role medication has played in my state of well being.
To be clear, I am not going to be advocating for one medication over the other. In that spirit, I don't plan to share the names of the medications I've been on. Rather I will share the types I've been on and how they've assisted me in living a more whole and balanced life.
I was diagnosed bipolar in 2004. Previously unmedicated for any of the depression, mania and anxiety I struggled with on a daily basis, adjusting to being on psych meds was a trip in and of itself. In fact, had I not been hospitalized in a state of psychosis, truth be told I may not have received the correct diagnosis, nor been put on the right medications. So you might say, that state of psychosis, as traumatic as it was, was the absolute best place for me to be when it came to getting the right assistance.
The medications I was put on to start with were a mood stabilizer, an anti-psychotic, and a medication for anxiety. Having never been on any of these medications before, I felt like I was swimming underwater for a while. It's then that I learned an important role I needed to play in the dance of finding the right medication. I had to learn to advocate for myself by tracking my side effects, the state of my mood and other aspects that come with being on a prescription.
Every time I visited my doctor, if there was some side effect I was dealing with, or if I felt a medication wasn't working the way it should, I spoke up about it with the hopes that I would be heard. Thankfully, I had a good caretaker who did listen to me and worked with me. Eventually, because psychosis had been a one-time event, I was taken off the anti-psychotic and began to feel a bit more normal.
As the years progressed and different events and circumstances developed, a few more medications were added. In addition to the original mood stabilizer I was prescribed, a 2nd was added. Since depression tended to be my state more than mania, an anti-depressant was added a few years later. Across time, dosages were adjusted. I especially struggled with depression after my son was born. At that point, my provider increased the dosage of one of my mood stabilizers as well as my anti-depressant. For many years after, that was my "sweet spot" - the time I experienced the most stability in my mood with fewer of the extreme highs and lows.
If you've followed my story, you are probably aware that I am now down to a low dose of only one of the medications I have taken across the years. I explain more in my post, Mental Health Awareness. I want to make one thing very clear. These days I am not celebrating the fact that I don't take all the medications I used to. Rather, I am enjoying the freedom that comes from not needing to take them. There is a huge difference - a difference I hope you see clearly.
I am a strong proponent of being on medications that are prescribed to give you relief from your symptoms, especially if you struggle with a mood disorder of any kind. I count myself lucky that across the years, I had providers who listened to me and helped me find the right medications for me. Believe me, if I still struggled with the monsters of depression, anxiety, and mania like I used to, I would continue to be on those medications today. Stay on your meds. If they help you live a more full and complete life, they are worth it.
For now, two pieces to my mental health puzzle, have been laid out; my relationship with God, which I consider to be the frame that was assembled early on. Next, the medications that got me to a state of stability and a place where I could enjoy life rather than just trying to survive. These medications worked because I was willing to take a chance on them. In addition, I learned to advocate for myself when I needed to. Next week, I will explore the role that counseling/therapy played in my finding a more complete and joyful life. 'Til next time.
I don't know about you, but I hate putting puzzles together. I don't have the patience for sorting through all the pieces, matching like colors and designs and then assembling them. I'm sure it's satisfying to snap the last piece into place, but the perseverance and patience it takes through the process is just more than I am willing to commit to.
It's interesting then, that, lately, I've been comparing my mental health to a puzzle. To me, looking at mental health as the pieces of a puzzle being fitted together makes perfect sense. Here's why: I truly can't say that there is only one thing that has gotten me to the place of being mentally "well". Rather, it is a number of little "pieces" that have been carefully ordered and combined to create a complete and lasting picture.
To be sure, some pieces are more prominent than others. Medication has played an important role, as has counseling/therapy, and lately something new I've discovered, tapping meditations. For the next few weeks, I'm going to be sharing about the pieces of my mental health puzzle and how they have been intricately designed to give me a much better state of well being. My hope in sharing these pieces is that you will take a look at your own mental state of being and begin to see what gaps you might be missing. Once you identify what pieces might be missing, I hope you make a concerted effort to fill in some of those gaps for the sake of finding your own path to freedom.
The first and most vital piece to my mental well being? My relationship with God. By that I don't mean that I have all the answers religiously speaking. Nor do I think that I have something with God that no other being on the planet can have. Simply stated, it's a living, breathing, active relationship - with a God who loves me with an everlasting love. It's one that's been built over time. It's a relationship that, on occasion, I have wanted to give up on. He never has. I truly believe that it is a relationship God wants to have with each one of us, a personal connection that he is always in pursuit of.
Truly in all the chaos and crisis I've run across in my life, God has been my constant guide and companion, a silent partner in some ways. He has always been willing to teach me and to lead me, to comfort and to care for me. As with any relationship, there have been plenty of times when I've been angry with him. Truthfully, He probably has been with me as well. But, in general the relationship has been real and vital.
How has this relationship helped me with my mental health? Because I'm in fellowship with the One who made my brain and knows all its intricacies. He knows all the things that have been haywire about it, as well as all the reasons why it doesn't always work the way it should. I truly believe, I was given this condition so that God could shape and mold me into who He wants me to be. On a more personal level, I think He gave me this challenge so that I would reach for His hand and ask for His guidance. Like I stated before, God is the One who has pursued me all along, even when I wasn't pursuing Him.
So how can God fit into your own mental health recovery? Quite frankly, if you don't want Him to, He won't. I think God is a gentleman and He won't show up where He's not wanted. However, if you find yourself in a place where you feel at the end of your rope, listen to The One who is calling out to you. Reach out your hand and take hold. You won't be disappointed. He is the only true source of all comfort, hope and healing.
My prayer for you, readers, is that stubbornness and willfulness won't stop you from getting the help you need. May God grant it for Jesus' sake. Next week's topic: Medication and the role it's played in my mental well being. 'Til next time.
If you have followed my writing long enough, you know that I rarely get into politics. In fact, I like to avoid politics at all costs. So, I hope you will hear me when I say, this post is first and foremost, not a political statement. Rather, it is a plea to my fellow citizens to stop thinking only about your rights as an individual and begin to think about the greater good. With that said, let's dive in.
A couple of Mondays ago, I sprained my ankle while walking out of school after dismissal. It wasn't a terrible sprain. I did what I could for it. Iced it, elevated it, let it rest. I followed that regimen for about a week and a half. Problem was, it wasn't healing as quickly as I was used to my sprained ankles healing, so I made an online appointment to have it checked out at an urgent care this past Friday after school. When I got to the urgent care, I was mildly surprised after I got checked in, to be called back almost immediately. Surprised and pleased. After all, I had spent an entire week at school and was looking forward to getting home, grabbing dinner out with my hubby and kicking back on the couch for the remainder of the evening. Imagine how my surprise and pleasure slowly faded as minute by minute ticked by and no one came in to assess my ankle. I tried not to get impatient - a feat which doesn't always come easily for me. After I had sat for some time and no one came in, I began to get a little antsy. So, I poked my head out the door and saw the receptionist who had checked me in earlier. In my nicest tone, I asked whether my turn to be seen was coming close, she shook her head apologetically and responded that she was unsure but that there was only one provider that day and so it might be awhile til I could be seen. Long story short, I waited around a total of ninety minutes and when I still wasn't up next, decided to exit. When the provider caught me on my way out, I simply stated that I couldn't wait any longer and that I would come back another time. Honestly, I don't blame the provider, I don't even blame the clinic. No, in truth, the only finger I'm pointing in this situation is at the population at large.
See, I don't think we're doing a very good job of taking care of our healthcare providers right now. Healthcare workers are service providers and you know what comes naturally to service providers? They're givers. They give and give and give because it's in their nature to do so and because that's why they pursued that career in the first place. To many, it's a calling not a job. I too am a service provider, I'm a teacher and I can say without hesitation, my paycheck is not the reason I show up every weekday ready to give my best to my job. I would say that most people in my profession regard their jobs in much the same way as I do.
So why don't I think we're doing a good job of looking out for those who usually look out for us? Simply put, we're in a pandemic and instead of doing everything to stop that pandemic in its tracks we keep talking about our rights as individuals and arguing about how we value those rights above all else. Honestly, I value my rights as a citizen of this country too. But you know what I value more right now? My fellow humans. So, I wear a mask at school because I teach children who aren't eligible to get the vaccine. I'm not protecting myself. To be honest I'm not afraid of getting the virus. But, I am afraid of spreading it, and if there's even a small chance that I could spread it to a vulnerable child, I don't want to take that chance.
I'm also vaccinated. Most of the people who are being hospitalized and dying of COVID aren't. These unvaccinated citizens are straining the system and wreaking havoc on our healthcare workers' lives, If by being vaccinated I can protect this fragile system, I'm willing to do my part. Why aren't you? If you're afraid of a vaccine that's been put through countless clinical trials, but are currently drinking soft drinks with who knows what in them and junk food with all kinds of artificial ingredients isn't that a little silly? I think it is.
You might not care what I think, but I will tell you this. When the day comes where you get your own sprained ankle or, insert other healthcare crisis here, and no bed is available to you or some poor overworked healthcare provider is too busy to get to you, I guarantee at that point you will care. So, take my advice, do your part. Get the vaccine. Wear a mask. If not for the love of healthcare workers, or the common good, at least do it to save a healthcare system that is being strained to the max right now and is on the verge of breaking. You will need that system to be there for you someday, so be your best self for it today.
Before I jump into a post about our experiences at Okoboji Lutheran Bible Camp, I wanted to share some insight as to how writing is going for me lately. I commented in an earlier post about how writing is not as much fun for me these days as it used to be. The other day, when I was on a walk, a realization struck. While bipolar has lost its grip on me, and life is so much less of a burden, writing has become more difficult. Thoughts and words don't flow as easily and freely as they once did. I have to work at it more now. It's a trade off, I suppose. When life was hard for me, words spilled out of my brokenness. Now that healing and wholeness have come, words don't flow as freely. That's okay. I would rather life be easy and writing be something I have to work at than the other way around. So, I will work at my writing, it's worth it to hone that craft. My apologies if my efforts fall short of the mark, but I will pray that they still make an impact. More importantly, I will pray that God can use them for the building of his Kingdom. May God grant it for Jesus' sake.
Now, on to better things. How was Bible camp? Well, for as much worrying and fretting as I did beforehand, it far exceeded my expectations. There are really two main reasons why it exceeded expectations. Number one, I experienced the love of God in countless refreshing and rejuvenating ways. Two, I experienced the fellowship of community in a way that deeply impacted me and my family.
Why was I worried about camp? After all, Bible camp isn't a new thing for my family. My husband and I met at a Bible Camp for foster kids. In addition, we were camp counselors as young adults and have attended several during our 18 years of marriage. But this time was different. In full disclosure, church has not been a priority in my family as of late. It would be easy to blame that on covid, but the truth of the matter is, we have not felt much like attending church this past year. Even when online was available, we didn't fully access the opportunities it afforded.
There were other reasons for why I was worried about this week at a Christian camp. My son is a homebody and hates even leaving his bedroom these days, let alone our house. In addition, my daughter is deeply questioning her faith these days. In short, they are both teenagers who bring their bad attitudes with them everywhere they go. How were we going to make it through a whole week of being in close quarters? We were a very imperfect family attending a Bible Camp. Would lightning strike the minute we drove on the grounds? Sounds ridiculous, but in all honestly, I felt a little unworthy of being there.
The thing about God's love that I was reminded of this past week? He meets you where you are. No expectations, no requirements, no sin or failure can keep him from recklessly pursuing you. He loves with a never ending, never failing love. I was reminded of that again and again over the week we were at camp. From silly skits, to worship at the campfires, to the teaching for the week, I was reminded that God's plan for humanity has always been one of restoration and redemption. In other words, he doesn't condemn my many shortcomings and failures. He doesn't reject me because of them. Rather, he invites me closer into a living, breathing, active relationship. He met me there at camp, just as I was, and provided me with greater insight into how very deeply and dearly I am loved by Him.
The other awesome element at camp this week was the aspect of community. I don't know about you but living in community with others is something I've been sorely missing in my life. Oh I've tried to tap into it a bit, mostly through the dry mirage that is social media, but this past week, I was reminded that being in community with God's people is like being part of an oasis. In fact, our speaker for the week set the tone by calling our week long experience together an oasis in time. And truly, it was an oasis. I experienced fun and fellowship in new and refreshing ways through things like games, activities, adult bible study and meals.
It was so refreshing that, in fact, by the end of the week, I was dreading returning to the "real world" and leaving this oasis behind. But that Friday morning, we were encouraged by the speaker to remember that this oasis is God's first and foremost. In that reminder, I came away with a new vision for myself and my family - to find a way into an oasis community both in church and amongst my neighbors. See, I don't want to just wait until the next time my family and I get to go to a week long Bible camp to find community, I want to be intentional now about finding a church to plug into. I want to experience the fullness of God's grace in a community that shares his love with each other and always leaves room at the table for more. God willing we will find that community in our little corner of the world.
What about you? Are you trying to fill your bucket with the empty promises the mirages of this world have to offer? Do you feel separated from God and his Oasis here on earth? Are you craving community? I can't think of a better way for you to experience God' grace in community than to attend a week long Bible camp. It might be too late this summer, but it's never too early to start planning for next summer. Below, I've listed links to three Lutheran Bible Camps that I've been able to attend, Outlaw Ranch in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Sky Ranch in Colorado, and Ingham Okoboji Lutheran Bible Camp in Iowa. Really, though, the options out there are limitless. Think of a destination you've always wanted to visit and I bet you'll find a Bible Camp there. Feel free to reach out if you have your own favorites to add to the list. Til next time, keep growing in God's grace.
Ingham Okoboji Lutheran Bible Camp - https://www.okoboji.org/
Outlaw Ranch (Black Hills) - https://www.losd.org/outlaw
Sky Ranch (Colorado) - https://www.skyranchcolorado.org/
Lately, I have been thinking about my parenting, what I am doing right and what I am doing wrong. One of the ways I am parenting wisely, is that I am not overly corrective when it comes to handling their misbehavior. In other words, if they act in a manner I am not fond of, I do not overreact. Obviously, the goal is to not under react too, but I feel good about the measured approach I take when it comes to dealing with some of their issues.
What don’t I think I am doing a good job of? Letting them deal with life’s difficulties without trying to solve their problems for them or spare them pain. Sometimes, I try to take on their struggles for them rather than teaching them how to handle adversity. Lately, I have pondered that maybe it is not my job to make my children’s paths easier and more pain free.
As a parent, I hate watching my kiddos struggle or suffer. My natural inclination is to take that pain away at all costs. Honestly, though, I do not think I am doing them any favors by parenting in that style. Parenting them in a way that tries to take away their struggles is not going to help them in the long run. If I try to take away their burdens, I am denying them the opportunity to learn how to handle adversity. In fact, in some ways, I’m teaching them to avoid it by any means possible.
Lately, my prayers for myself as their mom have been that I would guide them through their trials and struggles in a way that teaches them resiliency and perseverance. This is a much healthier approach to parenting, in my opinion, because I am teaching them to face their struggles head on.
After all, life is going to throw lots of awful things their way. Hard times fall on all of us. Trials happen. Bad days are just part of the deal. If I try to lighten their burdens or unnecessarily take away their pain, I am not teaching them how to manage all that comes with a difficult day. No, I truly feel, my children will be better off, if I come alongside them and teach them how to manage difficulties with grace, perseverance, and patience.
It is hard to watch my kiddos struggle. However, if I take the long view, the one that recognizes I cannot shield them from every encounter that brings pain or discomfort, I will truly want to teach them how to persist in the face of adversity. I will want to teach them how to handle their struggles with grace and dignity. After all, if I cannot take all of the pain and struggles of this life away, I want to equip my children to pass through every trial and come out stronger on the other side of it. As a parent, my goal should not be to spare my children painful life lessons, but, rather, to instill in them the way to face their difficulties and triumph in spite of them.
My mom would have turned 80 years old today, June 28th, 2021. In honor of that I decided to write a post. While my mom was still living on planet earth, she had a mantra that she lived by, The Good Lord is taking care of me. In all honesty, when she used to spout it, I would inwardly cringe. The Good Lord, Mom, really? It is not that I did not believe in God, nor that I did not believe that he was good. It was mostly because it sounded so folksy, so unsophisticated. She did after all, watch the Hallmark Channel and all kinds of cheesy entertainment such as that.
It is funny how easy it is to judge someone as being simple minded and unsophisticated if you have never lived the life they have. The truth is mom lived by the mantra that the Good Lord was taking care of her because she had a lot she needed taken care of. Growing up, she struggled with all kinds of health problems. Often as a child she was bedridden due to serious kidney infections. As an adult, she was put on dialysis and later received a kidney transplant. In addition, she suffered multiple strokes, was diagnosed with parathyroid cancer and my father divorced her after 30 plus years of marriage. I am not sure after going through all that if I would have maintained my belief that the Good Lord was watching out for me, but Mom did. She maintained it and lived it day in and day out. It was as natural to trust that God is indeed good and Lord at the same time as it is for some people to breathe. To trust that God is both good and Lord were two simple truths that mom clung to until the very day she died in 2011.
As a parent, these days, I often wonder what wisdom I can impart to my own children, especially as I watch them struggle and deal with their own burdens. Truth is, I don’t think I have to look too far to pass on some really solid advice. The Good Lord is watching out for us will be the legacy I strive to instill in my kiddos. Not because my mom was so great, though she was, but because that bedrock of faith is the very foundation to build a life upon. A life of simple, straightforward faith. A life of clinging to the God who will never leave us nor forsake us. The Good Lord is taking care of us. Yes, I like it. I think I might just make that my life’s mantra as well.
I have not felt much like writing lately. Those of you who follow my blog may have noticed I am not posting nearly as much as I used to. That is okay. I suppose in life there are all kinds of things that ebb and flow, including writing. The thing is, I do not really feel like writing lately. Writing has always been a source of pleasure, but lately it feels more like drudgery. It is no fun when something you have enjoyed so much over the years becomes more of a chore than anything, so I guess I have avoided writing lately.
But it is mental health awareness month, and I do have a mental illness, namely bipolar. Most importantly, I did start this blog with the intention of helping others who struggle with a mental illness. So, I guess it is time to dust off the old computer and type some sort of update.
So, how am I doing? Well, I am happy to report that the best word I can use to describe my mood these days is amazing. Simply put, amazing. About a year ago now, things shifted in my life. I had heard that bipolar becomes less of a burden the older you get, and that may be true, but I think that what I have experienced is more of a release than anything. Something, that for 47 years of my life had such a firm hold on me, finally let go. And I cannot explain why.
Without going too deep into the details, last spring, I had a premonition that the end of my life was near. In fact, I was convinced that God had sent me a sign that my life was coming to a close. I cannot begin to describe how that made me feel. I was sad to be leaving my family behind, but not this world. This world wears me out and, sometimes, I just long for my home. Long story short, I did not, in fact, die. I am still here. But while I did not get to go home, I do feel like bipolar let me go. There is no other way to describe it. It is like that monster that I dealt with on a daily basis, simply let go.My husband and I talked about it later. He said, maybe some part of me did die last spring. He might just be on to something.
I am so grateful to report that after years of struggling with deep depression and crippling anxiety, I have found a freedom that eluded me for most of my life. I am so deeply grateful to be free of a burden that made me feel like I was endlessly pulling a ball and chain around with me wherever I went. I have described what bipolar is like in a post called The Colors of My World. Because it is extremely difficult to describe what it is like to live with a mental illness that poem was the best I could manage.
But my life is not that way these days. In fact, I have been able to go down on all my psych meds. This summer I am going to attempt to go off my anti-depressant, something that makes me tear up just to think about.
So how am I? Grateful. No other words can describe it. Truly grateful. Really, there is nothing more to write. Except this . . . I hope that those of you who are not doing so great will reach out and get help. There is always hope. Hope is a good thing – a thing that does not disappoint. Hope is what got me through. Hope saved me.
And for the rest of you? Those who have never struggled in the grip of anxiety, depression, mania or any other mental illness, I hope you realize how fortunate you are. More than that, I hope you practice tenderness towards those who suffer silently. (Basically, that means practice tenderness towards all people because you never know what people are struggling with internally.)
So, for now, that is all. I may write again soon, I may not. I am just going to enjoy this season of my life and stop worrying about when I will feel like writing again. There is a season for everything. I think my season is to rest and rejuvenate. Till next time . . . whenever that might be.
The Rainy Day
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.
A few weeks ago, I sent out an SOS via FB. I asked for prayers because I was struggling at work. When I say struggling, I mean struggling. It was a very stressful time and lots going on that I could not control. Feeling out of control is never my favorite emotion and, as always, when things began to go south, I despaired. Where was God and why was he not acting on my behalf? He made all these promises in His word about fighting our battles for us. Why did it feel like he had abandoned me? As always, when going through a trying time, I tried to make sense of it. The truth is, though, no matter how much I try to decipher times of suffering, I cannot see the big picture, not like God can. Hence, I am left in the dark searching for a hand to grasp.
As it so happens, though I do not understand all the how’s and why’s of suffering, I do think that through His Word, God showed me something about suffering from a guy with a strange name: King Hezekiah. King Hezekiah was a King of Judah that I came across as I was reading through the Bible. I am reading through the Bible through a one-year plan. It has been fascinating to read the Old Testament and begin to piece together the history of God’s people, and how God is at work in the grand scheme of things.
Currently, I am in 2nd Kings and 2nd Chronicles along with some of the prophets like Isaiah. Most of the Kings do not get much of a mention. Generally, they are a blip and described in one of two ways, either they followed in the way of King David, a king described as a man after God’s own heart, or they do not. Several kings in, I came across King Hezekiah. His father, Ahaz was completely faithless to the Lord and pursued evil. Then, when evil pursued him, rather than turning to the only One who could rescue him, he became even more faithless to God. But Hezekiah, his son, he was the opposite. He cleansed the Temple, his people’s place of worship, restored temple worship, and even got the Israelites back together for the celebration of Passover. Every work that he undertook in the service of God he did with all his heart and the Bible says he prospered. In addition, when the King of Assyria came to attack along with a vast army, he told the people this in 2 Chronicles 32:8:
7 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. 8 With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.”
Pretty impressive resume so far.
But then things change. In fact, times begin to get better. When the Lord delivers Jerusalem from the King of Assyria, many people bring precious things to Hezekiah in celebration of his great victory. In fact, the Bible says, [Hezekiah] was exalted in the sight of all nations from then on. Fast forward to the latter years of his life and Hezekiah becomes sick. He is on the verge of death. During his affliction, he prays to the Lord. God answers him almost immediately, granting him 15 more years of life. He even does a miraculous sign to prove that he is going to heal Hezekiah.
Amazing story, right? Sounds like a guy who has it all together.
Unfortunately, that is not the end of the story. The very next verse after Hezekiah receives his sign, the Bible goes on to say this:
25 But Hezekiah’s heart was proud, and he did not respond to the kindness shown him; therefore, the Lord’s wrath was on him and on Judah and Jerusalem.
Hezekiah had many riches and much honor at the end of his life, but you know what he did not have? He did not have what he needed most, a heart that followed God. He was proud and rich and probably very happy. But what do all those things matter if you do not have the One who gives you all the goods in the first place?
So, as I look at my own time in the valley these last several weeks, I wonder what lessons I can learn from Hezekiah. As I reflected on his story, I recognized something of myself in him. Namely, that I tend to seek God when things are bad, but when they are good I kind of forget about Him. Hezekiah prayed fervently to God when things were at their worst and it occurred to me that I do the same. The challenge is remembering God when things are good. The Israelites are a prime example. Once they were settled in the Land that God had promised them, the Land he gave to them, they forgot about Him. They felt like they were responsible for all the good in their lives. They started to worship other gods and they forgot about the One who had given them all their blessings in the first place.
It is easier for me to seek God when I am at the end of my rope. When life is good and things are cruising in the direction, I want them to be, well, it is then that I might be in more trouble. So, my prayer for myself lately has been that no matter how good life gets, I would not grow apart from God. I would not become prideful and leave behind the One who has never left me behind. May God grant it for Jesus’ sake.