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I was listening to the radio station KLOVE today as I was driving and heard a Christian singer talk about a time in his life when he was de...

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Big Picture

Where are your thoughts?  Where are they going?  Do they go outside your home, down the block, or maybe to the inside walls of your church?  Do they venture out, take risks, think of the possible or impossible or seemingly impossible?  That could be where our hearts lay on a day-to-day basis.  Never taking risks for the big picture.  What is the big picture?  It's the great commission!  We have been commissioned by God for a task where the reaping and sowing is so much more important than anything we can imagine.

I have thoughts that wither around, stay stagnate.  They become comfortable.  They are used on a daily routine basis.  Oh and change---that dreadful word to some.  Well, I need a change.  We all need a change--something to shake us up, wake us up to other people's needs in and out of the church.  

It is missions month in our church where my family attends.  That's where missionaries who are supported by the church come back to the 'states' and give a talk about what they doing, have done, their struggles--a lot of stuff we take for granted.  So, one of those missionaries spoke today and I was moved.  I was completely glued to everything he was saying.  Has that ever happened to you--hanging on every word of a speaker talking about what God has done and is doing in their world?  That's a big picture to imagine.  Well, it got my thoughts moving and shaking.  In my early years as a Christian when I would hear about people going off to do missions work in other countries--I was so scared God would call me to go to Africa or some other place where the living is difficult.  I knew I couldn't handle it.  Well, since that time, over 20 years ago, I have a much different attitude toward mission work.  The thought of seeing God's word in action more than here in the U.S., looking into the eyes of the truly needy, feeling a deep love and affection for people who need Jesus.  Or perhaps they do know Jesus and you can share that moment loving one another in joy.  

My daughter was really touched by the missionary speaking today, as well.  She really wants to go to another country for mission work.  Right now, she's at a camp being like a missionary to youth who don't know Jesus.  She did this once before and loved it.  I think that set a fire inside her to open her realm of desire to go further out there in this big world to make a difference.  My husband and I prayed for her before she was born that she would bring many people to Christ through her.  Who am I to get in the way of that!  I want my daughter to be what God wants her to be.  Yes, I worry about what could go wrong, horribly wrong.  But she's not really mine.  My husband and I were commissioned to care for this precious child and grow her up in the way of the Lord.  God may lead her to go half way around the world for His work.  Who am I to say no to God and hang onto her, and crush her calling?  That's who I would be saying "no" to---God.  I want that for her.  If she feels called and led by God, I have no problem with saying, "Go."

The big picture needs to be revisited in our hearts and minds more frequently.  I know it does in mine.  We need not lose sight of what really matters in life---it's not stuff and things we accumulate.  We need to ask God to grow our sticks of thoughts on our body to become beautiful branches in how we see others and in many places, a hopeless world.  I want to do what God wants me to do, but I've got to make sure my "open" sign stays on.  That my oil doesn't burn out or my candle grow dim.  Look at yourself and your thoughts--see where they travel.  Maybe they need to meet an "under construction" sign so they can be rerouted to a better, fruitful path.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Best Recipe

That is how I refer to the compilation of medications I take at any given time, now or in the past--recipes.  I look at it in that way because the doctor who prescribes them has to figure out what medications (meds) work with other meds and also help the issues that I deal with on a regular basis.  That is not an easy task, in my book.  And doctors have new medications that come out on the market on a regular basis.  They have to figure out those side affects and how they work with other meds' side affects, including other types of meds like antibiotics and heart medications.  Whoo!  I would not want that job.  
We are all chemically made up differently.  Certain meds that work on one person with the same issues may not work on you.  I would never tell someone they should take the meds I take because it works for me.  It is not my place anyway, but like I said, we all react differently chemically and what can change that chemical make-up.

What I will tell you is my recommended recipe.  It includes (NOTE:  ONLY IF YOUR DOCTOR PRESCRIBES THEM) medications with regular counseling/therapy.  My psychiatrist would ask me regularly when I was struggling the most if I was meeting with my counselor.  Just relying on medications (especially when you are new at taking psychotropic meds) is not helpful.  In counseling on a regular basis--you can learn tools to COPE with your depression, anxiety, OCD or whatever issues you have.  You have someone to bounce those disturbing thoughts off of to see if they are rational, or not. Over time, you will have a helpful toolbox you would not have otherwise if you only took meds.  So when your thinking starts to hit a wall of hopelessness (AND IT'S NOT YOUR MEDS) then you have the right tools to combat those thoughts.  Now, if you are new at taking psychotropic meds or starting a new one with your other regular 'recipe' of meds--AND you are feeling 'off' mentally--then your meds may need adjusting.  Contact your psychiatrist or prescribing doctor as soon as you can so he/she can make those adjustments.  Sometimes, a med just didn't work for me, made me more depressed when it was supposed to 'boost' my anti-depressant affect.  Then my doctor took me off whatever med was causing it.  LET YOUR DOCTOR TELL YOU IF YOU NEED TO STOP TAKING A MED OR MAKE AN ADJUSTMENT--INCREASE OR DECREASE THE DOSAGE; DO NOT DO IT YOURSELF.  That can be dangerous.  We are talking about your brain here.  That is nothing to play around with or experiment on.  But, unfortunately, this is common with people who take psychotropic meds.  They play 'doctor' on themselves by stopping their meds without a doctor's consent, take them NOT as prescribed--either increase or decreasing or skipping dosages.  This is irresponsibility folks.  It will play havoc with your brain and those around you will be affected, as well.  Then your prescribing doctor has to try to get you mentally stabilized after you may have 'doctored' yourself.  It is not fair to him or her either.  Remember, you are not the only one in on your mental disorder and treating it.

If you are a Christian then you need to seek out Christian counseling; not a secular counselor.  Would you take your pet to a regular doctor or to a vet?  I am talking specifics here.  It will make ALL the difference in the world if you can find a Christian counselor in your area.  Do an internet search.  If he/she is an hour away, but it is doable, then do it.  Talking about your issues and from a Christian standpoint will not make any sense to an unbeliever.  They will not be able to give you wise counsel from that Christian perspective.  A Christian counselor will pray for you.  The ones I have known always pray for their patients.  They have that God-given interest in you as a fellow believer--to hear your struggles and possibly be able to empathize with you if they have struggled, as well with something.  And all Christians have struggled with something in their lives.  Right?

Now, there are good doctors and bad ones.  There are good (name of category of people here) and bad ones.  So, just as there are good Christian counselors--there are some that are not that helpful.  OR, their beliefs do not mesh with the Bible, as they should.  I ran into that one.  I had known this counselor for a while at other times in my life.  Then we had a discussion about homosexuality.  His response was (summarized here), "Shouldn't all people who love each other be allowed to marry?"  Ummmm.....NO.  So, needless to say, I ended that counselor relationship.  I can and do love people without agreeing with their lifestyle.  We are called to love all people.  Check out the Bible if you need reassurance.  It's there.

Ask God for wisdom and discernment regarding your search for a psychiatrist/doctor and Christian counselor.  "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." (James 1:5 NIV).  I believe God will direct you to the right path.  You might be surprised where that path will lead and the blessings you gain from it.  Be ready to receive those tools for your mental toolbox and use them when needed.  The Holy Spirit within you is your biggest 'tool' that can guide you where you ought to go.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Levels of Denial and Acceptance

Imagine sitting in a therapist's office (albeit, an  office used by graduate students, in my case) and being told that, "You have a mental illness called depression."  That's the first time any mental health professional (well, she wasn't a professional, yet) told me that I had a mental illness.  And its name was depression.

I had been rather happy that day because I had recently found Jesus and my life was changing.  I thought all things are possible with God because...well, they are.  I thought my days of depression were in my past.  That I didn't need help anymore since I had accepted Jesus as my Savior.  My goal that day was to tell the psychology grad student that I was ending my sessions because I didn't need them and the Prozac I had been prescribed through her (and I'm sure written by her supervisor).  The Prozac had helped, but in my mind, I was cured.  She was not a believer and didn't get it.  She was telling me, "No, no...", as I was pretty much walking out the door for the last time.  That was 1994.
I was in denial.  Even though I had experienced major depression episodes every 4-6 years throughout my life starting at age 13--I thought that was all over.  I was trusting God that I would never go through that again.  Call it denial or call it faith.  I would have called it faith at the time.  This was long before I knew that someone could be a believer AND have a mental disorder at the same time.  If you have read the page on this blog called My Depression Journey, then you have read some of this in that story.

Starting in April 1999, this depression reared its ugly head again in a most vicious destructive way.  Some thought it was postpartum depression because I had given birth to our daughter in October of the previous year.  I knew it wasn't that.  I was having unsolicited thoughts to harm my daughter with a knife.  These thoughts were very specific in that way which I didn't understand.  I didn't understand any of it.  I can tell you that I knew that the enemy, Satan, was having a field day with me and my mind.  Never in my life had I experienced something so horrible with my mind.  I thought I was going crazy.  I was afraid my husband would think I was a baby killer even though I had never attempted to hurt our daughter.  The thoughts plagued me day and night.  I became dysfunctional when I was besieged with these thoughts and it escalated.
After my diagnosis and during my in-and-out stays in a hospital psychiatric environment--I was really wanting to share with someone (only info. up to a point--I knew I couldn't share what my thoughts were about)--a believer--who would hopefully understand what I went through, at least the depression part of it.  But I kept coming up against walls where I knew I couldn't penetrate them.  I had already been hurt by comments at my daughter's first preschool she attended.  Someone called me on the phone and asked me a question I couldn't believe I was hearing.  I had shared something with my daughter's teacher and it got back to the board members (this was a preschool in a church).  It was a board member who called me and she had gotten twisted information.  I was shocked, angry, and felt horribly exposed.  When I went to remove my daughter from this preschool, I told the teacher that she just taught me to keep my mouth shut.  Shortly after that, I found a preschool that was newly starting--also at a church.  I did keep my mouth shut and didn't share anything with the teachers.  Our daughter had a wonderful experience there and had a favorite teacher she really loved. 

God has slowly worked in me over the years to trust Him more with who I am.  To not be defined by my mental illness, but be defined by who I am in Christ.  It makes such a big difference in how you view yourself.  I came to accept who I was--flaws and all.  I didn't share my depression experiences with anyone much other than my family.  I always knew, even when I was in the hospital that whatever I was going through--God would use it for good someday to help other people.  You have to remember that when I had my horrible experiences starting in 1999, hardly anyone talked about mental illness and disorders.  I had never heard of OCD.  It just wasn't discussed.  But that has changed tremendously over time.  That stigma is still there, but people are being educated.  I have had people, some I didn't know well, share with me their struggles with depression.  I see their fear of sharing that information.  I went through all of those levels of denial and self acceptance knowing God was with me every step of the way.  I now, through God's grace, have no fear of sharing my whole experience to an audience.  If this blog and me talking to others can help a believer not feel alone in their struggle then it's done what it needed to do.  That is why it exists.  And I hope it is helping you.  God Bless!