Tag Archives: mental illness

Hopeful Expectancy – It’s Time To Start Dreaming Again

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It is no secret that I have struggled with the idea that hope, often times, seems elusive. Pain from trauma, brokenness, grief, mental illness, etc – that pain can be so intense it’s blinding. It removes hope as a word in our vocabulary. It insists that hope for anything beyond the pain isn’t a thing – that it never really was. It ensures we cannot remember what hope even feels like. It says hope isn’t real, at least not for me. I’ve also come to realize that this is dangerous, and false thinking – simply put: hope never goes anywhere. Yes, our life’s experiences that allow for that temporary blindness that makes hope appear to play a mean game of hide and seek – with us consistently losing. I urge you, however, to remember that hope is still real, and it always will be. Yes, I’m speaking to myself as much as the next person reading.

Today, however, something pretty interesting happened. I will explain more specific details in a future post, but I will say this. I was at a very low point today, and – if I’m being honest – the same can be said for plenty of the time recently. I have been questioning the meaning of life, in combination with the actual desire to keep on walking. To keep breathing. It’s been a struggle, trying to simply be, and live with the intensity of the pain. Instead of getting easier to navigate and deal with over the course of time, it’s been getting intensely more difficult. I have questioned my ability to keep fighting. Life shouldn’t be a fight.

Today, I was feeling really very overwhelmed, like giving up – and just, hurting. Instead of forcing myself to deal with it on my own, I reached out to a trusted friend. I will write more about this friend in time, but it became a moment, inspired by God Himself. That is not something I say lightly. But, it is something I say absolutely, with no doubt, was orchestrated by the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth.  Grace took on the form of human connection, and reminded me of hope. And smiles. And laughter. Even tears. But, more than that, reminded me of the life saving grace and love that God offers.

This day especially, I needed this reminder. Had I forgotten who God was, or all He’s done in countless lives, mine included? Absolutely not. Had I been blinded by the pain, so I was unable to see or focus on Him at all? Yes, more than I care to admit.

But, the beauty of it all? Hope arrived. Though it never actually left, it did become real again. I would be lying if I said all was now a bed of roses, and all my thoughts and feelings are suddenly all totally better. I would be telling a tall tale if I told you that I now have it all figured out, due to this magical conversation with a friend. Though, I will say that the conversation was absolutely a tool God used to penetrate some dark places – to shine light on hope again; to allow for hope to arrive. What did happen, was beautiful indeed. I dared to allow myself to hope again.

Then, like a healing balm applied to a painful wound, a word was beginning to take form, and be etched in my heart. Expectancy. More than that, to live with hopeful expectancy. That is a change from where I am right now. It became a moment of deciding to choose not to live life comfortably – a moment where I chose (and will continue to choose) to dismiss the status quo. I realized, I really do want more than just the pain that life has offered. I know there has to be more out there. I will not give up on it.

You see, just last night, I was listening to this same  previously mentioned friend talk about dreaming. That our dreams are possible. While he was speaking, something broke inside me though. It was at that moment that I realized that I do not really have a lot of dreams – big or small. I haven’t been dreaming anymore. This really bothered me. But, I didn’t have the answer – the “how to” on dealing with it.

During my conversation today, though, That word, expectancy – it became real again. It is taking up residence in my heart, and is helping me grow my thinking.  It is helping me believe that not only is hope real, but also that dreaming is possible again. I haven’t really dissected this all that much yet. I haven’t sat down and really put much more thought into it, but I am going to.  I need to be in a different place than I am right now, and I can already tell it will require re-framing of my own thoughts. Re-framing reality even.

So, even though I don’t have it all figured out – I say that’s okay. I have something much greater: hopeful expectancy. That, in combination with my faith in a God who loves – that, is where I believe life change will begin to happen. That is where I see hope growing and thriving. That is where redemptive grace takes hold, and doesn’t let go. For this, I am grateful.

With this, I say, let’s get to dreaming. Never let your dream(s) die. If you aren’t dreaming, it’s time to rekindle the fire that says to not give up, and to never stop dreaming. You’ve got this. I’ve got this. Together, we can change the world. Maybe not the entire world (maybe so though) but we can change our individual world. That is worth hopeful expectation.

Dream big.

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When Depression Partners With Grief

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If you’ve read this blog for any length of time at all, you’ll recognize that I’m generally encouraging, or at least positive and pretty upbeat. I apologize in advance, because this is not going to be that. The words that follow will be fairly unfiltered and mostly unedited.

I’m tired, y’all. (Yes, I said y’all! I was born and raised in the south, so it’s allowed!) So jokes aside, I’m just exhausted in pretty much every sense of the word.

Before I go any further, I should warn you that what you’re going to read isn’t comfortable, and may frighten you as you question how I’m doing. That isn’t my intent. And, know this – I am safe, just need a space to process all this. I normally wouldn’t so openly, but ours is a world in pain. If just one person feels less alone, then there is purpose in the sharing.

I’ll get right down to it. I’m feeling overwhelmed and like I said, exhausted. I feel like I am just barely managing to keep the tears at bay some moments. No, I’m not a walking waterfall of tears, but I’m finding that they have a mind of their own. They want out more than I try to prevent them.

This whole grief thing – it sucks. Yes, the sun does still shine from behind the darkest clouds, and there is tremendous beauty all around us – even when depression makes everything bleak and dreary. Even though I know depression lies, it’s hard to hold onto that when is talons claw deeper.

My parents watched as we said goodbye this side of Heaven to my 7 year old daughter. I watched my parents bury my brother a year later. Days before my daughters death (she knew she was dying) she remarked how this just isn’t natural. And she was right. It isn’t. Parents shouldn’t watch their kids die. It sucks.

Depression, especially when partnered with grief, is a dangerous thing. It robs you of the ability to see or feel the beauty everywhere. It encourages statements like, “I just can’t do this anymore,” or simply, “I’m done.” I feel that way often.

But, here’s the thing. So far, I’ve managed to hold onto the idea that depression lies, and grief won’t always be painfully intense. The problem I struggle with is this. It’s hope. For me, hope seems about as easy to hold onto as wet soap in the shower.

I don’t like living like this. I genuinely wonder how it’ll be possible to keep going another day, let alone decades. Yes, I have sporadic suicidal thoughts. More than I care to admit. They’re painful and annoying, but no – I don’t entertain them either. They come, and I let them go. I try my best not to dwell in those moments. I choose not to act on them.

Let me reiterate – I really am okay. Well, a better description would be safe. I’m not particularly okay right now, but I am safe. Like I said, I won’t take unsafe action when those bad thoughts invade.

I guess I just need to hear the same words I share with hurting people all over the globe. It truly is okay to not be okay. It won’t always be this intensely painful always. Hope is real, and it always will be. I am a living, breathing story – one with chapters still being written. My story matters. I matter. I need to hold onto these things, rather than the lies depression partnered with grief tell me.

If you need to hear these things, or you know sometime who does, please tell them. You may be the lifeline they need in whatever crisis moments they’re walking through. If you hear nothing else I’ve said, please hear this. You are not now, and not ever, alone. I know the storms will still rage, and can be damaging – but one thing is for sure. You aren’t on your own, and neither am I. Take my hand if you need a friend…and please also offer yours. As I wrote last week, there is power in an outstretched hand; healing happens in friendship.

Mental Illness Is Screaming – Church, Do You Hear Her? 

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Dear Church, 

I need you to listen. Right now. Please put on your listening ears and hear what I have to say. 

Mental health is important. 

Mental illness is real. It is no joke. You cannot simply pray it away. While prayer is powerful, and works tremendously – it is not always the kind of healing that’s needed. 

My best friend almost died today. She may not pull through. Her suicidal thoughts won the battle raging between her heart and head. You see, she has been diagnosed with mental illness, and lives this roller coaster every day. She felt she could no longer handle all the ups, downs, twists and turns. 

She is a person of deep rooted faith. 

But, even still, she is unwell. 

She often wonders if life will ever be okay again, let alone good. The pain cuts so deeply, into the very fabric of her being. Today, emotional lies convinced her that it was time to give up. She could hold on no longer. She was ashamed, angry, and wanted to die. 

How does this have anything to do with you? 

She is a faithful member of your church. You know her. You are placated by her feeble smile. 

She has come to you for help. 

You were all she knew she could trust. You did what you knew to do. You told her you would pray – and even offered to pray with her then and there. You even told her that God never gives people more than they can handle. This is the place, the exact instant, that she started distancing herself from a God who would “give” her all this. 

She takes medication to help fix a chemical imbalance. She feels like less than a person, and like she’s broken. 

She questions her faith,  and asks you for help. 

With compassion, you tell her how much Jesus loves her – that He died for her, and wants her to be healed of this sickness. You share that you believe medication isn’t always needed, that Jesus blood, and God’s healing power will meet her needs. 

But you weren’t 100% correct. 

God does love her, but He hasn’t healed her. She feels like a disappointment to this God you speak of. She knows she must be unworthy of His love because, after all, her faith isn’t good enough to get healed. She took your words to heart. And they broke her. She looked in the mirror and saw someone that even God couldn’t love. 

She called to tell you a final goodbye. Secretly, she hoped you’d talk her out of it. She wanted to be talked down, but felt this was impossible. You heard the pain in her voice, and her shaky voice as tears streamed down her face like a monsoon. You asked her to breathe, and to calm down. You told her that everything would be okay – that she can survive this moment. She took a few deep breaths, and calmed down temporarily. You were appeased. You prayed for her. She thanked you and, after a bit of small talk, ended the phone call. That may have been the last time you would hear her voice. 

You did great things. Truly. But, they were not enough. This may not be your fault, but things need to change. 

Instead of trying to placate her in matters you may not understand, please familiarize yourself with all mental health – including mental illness. Know warning signs. Take them seriously. 

You don’t have to have all the answers. 

If you don’t know how to handle her situation, take time to explain that to her. Tell her how much Jesus loves her, and tell her you do too. You can explain that you are unfamiliar with medications in her situation, but see to it that she isn’t led to feel ashamed for needing and taking them. Assure her that God loves her, exactly where she is. She is worthy of His love, and His grace is a free gift. Remind her that God can and does heal people, but it isn’t a strike on her character – or a lack of faith – if He doesn’t take her illness from her completely. Keep showing her love, and let her know you’re with her, care about her, and will sit with her in her pain. Offer to be there during the painfully brokenness. Mean it. 

But, there’s more. 

Tell her about resources outside of your church. Ask her if she’s willing to talk with a counselor or therapist. Remind her that there is no shame on needing help – that it’s okay to not always be okay. 

Loving her well includes pointing her towards help – even if that help is not inside the four walls of your church. Explain that mental health professionals are there, and can also be trusted. Remind her that you’re not turning your back on her, but rather adding layers of helping hands able to assist her. 

It’s okay that she needs help that you can’t adequately provide. 

You can still be a safe place, and talk to her when she needs. Give her heart a voice. But, in so doing, make sure psychological help or mental health resources are available. Point her on that direction while doing life alongside her.

Have you heard me? Did you listen? Please pray for her, and the multitude of others like her. Help her not walk through the journey of life alone. Learn how to see her through eyes of grace – while also pointing her to help. 

Church, you can change the world. 

When Missing My Baby Turns Into A Conversation On Faith, And Includes God Being Called An Asshole

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This piece appeared just moments ago on my daughters prayer and support (Facebook) page.

This post is going to be one of my birthday gifts to myself. I give myself the strength that surrounds not walking alone – the strength of community. So, I can guess this will probably be a bit long. (What’s new, right!?)  But, today is my birthday (the 24th of August) and this will be an attempt to be real, but also infuse joy. 
Wow. So, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve been able to post. For a chunk of the time, I was sick. But, the rest is the time I was a combination of brokenhearted and simply trying to survive. I know each of you understand, to a degree, that this is the most crazy difficult thing I’ve ever walked through. Excruciating may begin to describe it. 
This last month or so, I’ve been hurting, but also finding myself again. I’m not going to lie – it’s been tough. Watching her take her final breath here on earth was so hard, but it’s the living without her physically here that’s killing me. 😢 
Yes, the good thing is that she had an incrediblly beautiful and special seven years of a life, well lived. She truly leaves a legacy of love – surrounded by incredible joy – hugs and smiles. #RememberTheLove 
I shared so many photo collages because they are beautiful. She is beautiful. These are a small fraction of the memories I fondly remember. In time, I will share more. Many more. 
She may not be here in the flesh, but she is EVERYWHERE. I see her at every turn. As we do things as a family, or I do things she and I used to do – I pause, remembering fondly, those things — but also with a shattered heart, because no parent should have to utter the words “she would have liked this… we had so much fun, etc.” Past tense. That just sucks. No real better way to explain it. 
Oh, I have to say something while it’s on my heart and mind. Let me put a theory to rest. Some people feel like they shouldn’t talk about Janet, reminisce about her life, even talk about her death, or share the thoughts, curiosities, etc with me.  THIS COULDN’T POSSIBLY BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH!  PLEASE don’t EVER stop. I may be sad, bit you talking about my baby didn’t make me that way. Her dying wins that trophy. So, please – if you’re sad and miss her, tell me. I’d you are curious how tall she’d be, or how she’d be doing in school, share that with me. If you want too smile and laugh, remembering beautiful moments, do that with me too. I guess all I’m saying is that anything related to my daughter – don’t EVER hesitate to bring up. 
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been on a “me finding” journey. This also includes my faith. If you’ve followed me, or this page for any length of time, then you know that my faith has been my rock – a source of strength when it seems The World is falling apart. Well, that hasn’t changed. It’s more like its evolved. 
About me faith, I found I had the need to own my faith – for it to be able to stand on its own two feet. I knew my faith, and what I believed – but if asked why on certain topics, I realized I had no idea. Why did I believe the way I did? Your guess was as good as mine. When I realized this, I decided this needed to change. So, I’ve been digging deeper, and seeking answers. No longer am I able to follow faith blindly. 
While this is all going on, I’ve been evaluating my feelings and thoughts on faith in general, but also specifically on God. I’m not going to lie here either. There are days I’d kinda rather punch Him in the face. I’ve seen Him as an asshole at times too. Don’t get me wrong. He’s still good. He’s still in control. He’s truly a good, good Father – even when it doesn’t feel like it. See, the “I don’t like God thing” is a personal thing. It happens when I feel like His inaction spoke more volumes than His action did. NO, I do NOT think God GAVE her cancer, or couldn’t be bothered to lift a finger as she fought and then died – but He didn’t. 
What I want you to hear is that I still had the faith I always did, but parts have evolved. Other parts I’m human enough to say I feel were flawed theology. I’m also transparent enough to say I don’t always like God, I do question Him, BUT THAT’S OKAY.  I’ve learned that it’s vital that I FEEL these things. I have to feel them before I can move past them, or whatever the situation dictates. See, I often feel like I disappoint God. However, this is false. This happens when we try to attach human emotions to a God that isn’t human. 
Thankfully, His love for each and every one of us is never ending, and unfailing. 
So, as you can see, I’ve been talking since combination of baby steps mixed with leaps and jumps towards finding myself again, and establishing who I am as a wife, mom, friend, and Christ follower. It’s kinda like a roller coaster. So many ups, downs, twists, turns, hands up in the air screaming – but with hint of joy etched on most faces – or perhaps hidden a little deeper. 
Right now, I hurt but I love. I cry but I smile. My heart is shattered, but the fractured and broken places are where healing is happening, and more light can shine through. I fall, but I pick myself back up – often with the help of friends. I miss my baby girl, but I had 7 incredible years with her here by my side. I often don’t know who I am, or where to turn – but my God doesn’t need a roadmap to find me. Janet us physically gone, but she is everywhere. 
Dear goodness, apologies on the length this has become! I just miss you guys so much. I won’t guarantee that I’ll post every day or any of that, but I will tell you that I’m happy that I feel strong enough to BE back. Thank you for loving Janet, me  and our whole family. For better or worse, we’re figuring out how to do life in the midst of great pain. 
So, for those of you still reading, thank you. Sincerely, my heart has so much gratitude. Please and thank you in advance for continued love, support and prayer. I’m beyond grateful. 

When Perpetually Suicidal Thoughts Become More

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Take a good look at that picture. You can’t see everything there – but what I want you to see is what a potentially lethal dose of medication looks like. Let that sink in. The meds are legal, and for in the palm of your hand. They are common meds – when used properly, save lives. When not – well the opposite is true. This one small handful of meds could take your life.

You might wonder how I have stumbled upon such information!? Simple. I looked it up. I asked the knowledge whale known as google for a little guidance. I was curious what completed suicides were as a result of specific medications. Medications I have easily within my disposal. I honestly wondered what that looked like. Why the picture/meme then!?  Again, a picture tells a story, and this one tells so many people’s story. As I looked at the picture, I realized two things – 1) it scared me and 2) the thought of “how easy it would be” made entirely too much sense. The next morning, I created that meme. I recognized the need to seek help was very real.

I may circle back around to that whole “seeking help” thought process in a moment. However, I’m going to just tell it like it is. Open up the window called transparency and let you see a glimpse inside.

Let’s talk about suicide and suicidal thoughts. You do know there’s a difference, right!? See, a person can have suicidal thoughts and not actually be suicidal. A person walks over the line between the two when a plan starts being concocted. People think about suicide all the time. People think about the meaning of life every day and wish it weren’t so painful. Neither thought makes them suicidal.

On the flip side, people also create plans to carry out suicides – to find a way to escape whatever painful reality they desperately seek relief from – every day as well. This, though, is a game changer. This is that moment where reaching out is vital. The suicidal person cannot see beyond the here and now. They cannot grasp the concept or even possibility of hope being real. People sometimes experience whatever makes up their own personal hell, and simply feel as if they cannot take the pain any longer.

At this point – or perhaps immediately upon reading the title – you might be wondering where this is coming from, or why now. My next question is why NOT now. Suicide is not a pretty word. It conjures up some (quite likely) painful thoughts. The stigma that surrounds mental health topics (suicide being only one in a vast ocean of others) cannot diminish if we cannot talk about it. It may be hard, but the conversation will be worth it.

Ask me how I know.

I want you to know something. First and foremost, I want you to know that I am not suicidal. Note my language again. I’m not suicidal. I do, however, have suicidal thoughts. I think much of the population would – if they’re being honest – admit having had suicidal thoughts at one point or another. I want to circle back to stigma again. What’s sad is that someone currently having, or having had suicidal thoughts IS NOT a secret needing to be hidden. It’s not something people should have to ADMIT TO, as if it’s a dirty little sin.

Okay, so back to my breaking the silence about my own suicidal thoughts. Yes, they happen. Yes, they’re real. No, they’re not happy. No, they’re not fun. They’re scary at times. However, I am able to separate myself from the thoughts. I can look at the thoughts, and I can know they exist. There have been moments where it’s been difficult to grasp onto the reality that things will ever be okay again – let alone good. In those moments, it is vital to remember that, though currently elusive, hope is most definitely real. Though the clouds in a dark and gloomy sky may hide that hope, all hope is not lost. I have to remember that the sun will break through the clouds, and it will shine again. Maybe not today, but tomorrow brings with it the potential of sunshine – of hope.

There are times where I feel like my heart is shattered. Times where I feel broken, almost beyond repair. I’m not though.

And neither are you.

Now, let me take a moment and address you. Yes, you. That person who knows nothing other than how to hide behind a mask. That person who believes that hope is a good theoretical topic, but isn’t for them. That person who looks I’m the mirror and doesn’t know or like the person starting back.

That person. I want to talk to them. And so should you. Take a moment and look for signs. I know you’re busy, but someone’s life is worth it.

If you ARE that person, welcome. Welcome to the conversation you never saw yourself having, but are going to be grateful that someone cared enough to have. Buckle up, and hold on. I will tell you things that you need to hear, but may not be inclined to believe. Your eyes may be clouded by the depression that catches your gaze instead. In that case, I simply want you to hear my words. You’re listening – really listening, yes?

Okay, these things I need you to hear. You are a living, breathing story. The Storm you are walking through will not last forever. It may be painful, even seemingly unbearable, as you walk the path. Though, soon, the eye of the storm will pass by. It’ll be scary, and it’ll teach you the meaning of living through pain. However, you’ll soon just look around and realize that you made it. You’re still alive. As time and distance come between you and the storm, you’ll be fascinated by the fact that you’re actually GRATEFUL that you made it – that you’re alive. You’ll look down at your scars, and you’ll immediately think of that scary storm – but, much to your surprise – you’ll see the scars for what they are. Your scars tell a story. They tell your story. They show the very real pain associated with your storm. They’ll also remind you that where there is a scar, there is some form of healing also present. You’ll look at those scars and see that they represent healing and strength. You’ll be able to see them for what they are – a reminder of that storm, but also a reminder of the strength and healing.

You know, you might have just laughed as you kept reading. I know that you may chuckle when someone is amusing enough to actually write out such words. You believe that those words might be great for other people, but can’t hold onto them as truth for yourself. You see, I understand how you think. I AM you.

However, I am also hopeful. I am hopeful that you can take a break from your thoughts, and be gentle with yourself. Know that your story matters. Know that YOU matter. It may hurt right now, but it won’t hurt forever. You may not be able to see beyond the pain, but please allow me to be a voice that speaks hope. Let that hope be fueled by love and wrap itself around you like a hug.

You and I. Maybe we are broken, but no one is telling us we can’t be broken together. Take my hand. Look me in the eye and see the hope in mine. When you can’t find yours, please borrow some of mine. I guarantee there will be times I will return the favor. Please know how much you mean to me. Please don’t go anywhere. Please stay. I need you to be my voice of hope during the moments I feel like I can’t hold on.

Hear my words. I need you and you need me. We need each other, you and I. As we walk along this path called life, take my hand. Help me walk – one for in front of the other – when I’m not even sure I can breathe. Let me do the same for you.

Together.

Let’s be broken together.

Beyond A Diagnosis

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****I want to share this part of me with the world. This is something I have not ever shared openly – online or in person. However, the more and more I figure out how to accept myself as a child of the Most High God, I realize that this is something attached to a stigma, but not who I am. I am more. To those of you who know me in real life, and will find these things out for the first time, please understand I have had many reasons for keeping this to myself. Not many people – until today – know what I am about to share. It’s not a secret, nor is it anything I am ashamed of. My story is something I pray God can and will use to share His love and hope with the world. If you have ANY questions, please do not hesitate to ask. It is my desire that my transparency show you His love is real, and hope truly is real. I’m honored to walk through life with each of you. Please feel free to post below or to send me a message via my “contact me” page.****

The idea that I am worthy of grace simply because I’m alive seems sometimes foreign to me. Yet it’s what I’m coming to understand more and more each day. Inside me is a kid who was hurting, a teen who questioned too much, a young adult who explored and got lost, and ultimately a human being in need of grace and forgiveness.

My life has had good times, and bad times, and really bad times. The value of my life, to others and to God, never made sense to me. I wasn’t suicidal, but I also didn’t care if I lived or died.

One day, I realized the need for tangible help. I visited a psychiatrist and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I did not like – nor want – this diagnosis. And yet, there it was. I learned to cling to it. It explained why things were how they were. It became who I was. I was told I would need medications forever. My life would never again be med-free. It quickly consumed me, and became what I saw when I looked at myself.

But, it wasn’t me. It was a diagnosis. A shoe size. A hair color. A condition. But not me.

I finally came to realize that no diagnosis would define me. It may be a part of who I am, but it is not all I am. God’s grace and love defines me more than a disorder ever will.

With the help of people who let me know I mattered, I was able to see hope – one day (or hour) at a time. And today, when it sometimes feels like my heart is breaking into a thousand little pieces, I listen to the message and words of hope and I truly know that my life matters. God’s grace is sufficient to reach even me.

To anyone else who is hurting – please know that there IS hope. Don’t ever give up. Don’t ever accept a lie and be labeled something you are not. You are important, and you matter. You are not a past. You are not a reputation. You are not a diagnosis.

You ARE a child of God.