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When You've Reached Your Limit

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...

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

What Is It About Your Care Team That Makes A BIG Difference?

You are in a position to choose what makes the difference in your mental health care starting with your care team. Some of it is a little harder to find, but if you're willing to be flexible with your time and distance then there's a really good chance you can find the people you need for your care. And the power of prayer makes a big difference, as well. What am I talking about specifically? YOU NEED CHRISTIANS ON YOUR MENTAL HEALTH CARE TEAM. Starting with a counselor/psychologist-do your research. There is nothing wrong with coming right out and asking the person who answers the phone, "Is this a Christian counseling (or psychology) service?" If not, move on. You can start your research on the internet or ask friends who may know someone in your community. FINDING A CHRISTIAN COUNSELOR/PSYCHOLOGIST IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON ON YOUR CARE TEAM. Why? This is the person you are going to share everything about your depression with, your triggers, discussing anything you want to aid in your care. In turn, your counselor should provide you insight about your yourself, your depression, tools you can use in situations when you need help getting through something that triggered your depression, for example. You should always be talking more than your counselor/psychiatrist in your sessions. Your first session may require he/she talk more, but typically you should be talking about yourself. Then they interject what they notice or ask questions about something you said. I went to a Christian counselor I was referred to out of my first hospital stay, but it didn't work out. I met with her twice. She talked about herself both times a lot. So, I moved on to another one who happened to be my social worker from the hospital I stayed at. She worked at the private practice my Christian psychiatrist--who I also met and was my doctor at that same hospital--had outside of working at the hospital. I've had quite a few counselors or psychologists through my life before I got saved and after so I learned what made a good one and what didn't. And sometimes the Christian counselor you find just isn't a good match and that's okay. Go looking for another one. You will be so happy you did.

What about a psychiatrist? If you have spent time with your Christian counselor/psychologist and he/she recommends at some point you seeing a psychiatrist then this would be your next care team member. (A psychiatrist can write prescriptions for medications, but a counselor/psychologist cannot.) It would be fantastic if your Christian counselor/psychologist knew a Christian psychiatrist for your referral, but it may not be the case. He/she may know a very good one, but they may not be a Christian. In my opinion, when it comes down to medicine, I would rather just have a good doctor, Christian or not. Remember, nothing is impossible with God and He's in control. This person (psychiatrist) of your care team may be someone you may have to travel outside of your home boundary to go see if you live in a small town. And you may have to do the same to find a Christian counselor/psychologist.

So, the only obvious question that may be lurking in your mind might be, "Why do they have to be Christian?" You might be surprised how this is not so obvious to Christians as you would think. There are certainly more Christian counseling services now probably than when I was seeing one. When I was my lowest at the hospital and then naturally found out that several people working there were Christians was such a comfort to me--that I just knew I wanted to keep going to the Christian psychiatrist when I got out and the counselor who worked out of his office. That was like a given to me. I wouldn't have had it any other way. The big difference about your care team being Christian is that for one--they will pray for their patients. To me, that's huge. They will relate to you and your problems from a Christian perspective, not introducing non-biblical ways in handling your emotions, behavior and attitudes. He/she will be positive and optimistic in always approaching things knowing God's in control and focus on what you can do in the here and now and keeping God in the equation. A non-believer won't do that. You can talk freely about being a Christian knowing your counselor can relate and understand you from a spiritual standpoint. 

If you find there is a huge difference in your beliefs with a supposed Christian counselor/psychologist--meaning they are believing in something that is not biblical then I would switch to a new counselor/psychologist. My husband and I did that with a counselor he had known for a long time. This counselor had seen my husband on his own for a while and then we together saw him. One day we got into a discussion about homosexuality. And then this counselor made the statement that shouldn't everyone be allowed to marry if they love each other. That broke the deal with me. We walked away. As you see, not every Christian or supposed Christian counselor, in this case, to Christian patient situation will be perfect, but you move on until you find the right match--just as you would in the secular world with secular counselors.

I hope this has helped in understanding how important it is who you choose for your mental health care team. God has put Christian health care providers in this field to help people, just as in any other field. But they have a unique understanding of mental health patients and mental illness that, simply non-believers won't have. And they will have it and see it from God's perspective and His love that secular counselors will have no depth in understanding.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

When Life Changes Your To-Do List

As you know, I did not publish several days this week of blog entries as I intended. I had a family health emergency that needed my attention. Things are back to normal so I am able to take a breath and write again. But this almost-whole-week's experience definitely left an impression on me.

It started on Monday afternoon when I got a call from a family member saying she was at the ER and asked if I would meet her there. It was for a possible heart attack and so I took off, trying to contact other family members at the same time to let them know what was going on. When I got there it was around 3:15ish. The ER was busy and several other people sitting in the ER were hooked up to IVs. When I reached my family member, she was sitting in a lounge chair with an IV in, but no fluids connected to it. We sat in this little curtained off area in a hallway for 5 hours before being taken back to the actual ER space. My family member had tests run such as blood taken, EKG and those came back normal. So we thought the seriousness of the situation has subsided even though we still had not seen an ER doctor. But they kept us. They did a chest xray which came back normal, as well. My relative thought it was just indigestion for sure because the pain had mostly gone away. She was treated with a GI cocktail which was to calm any indigestion and it did help.

So when we were taken back to the actual ER part of the hospital I would go out to the nurses's station after an hour or so asking when my family member would be seen--she still had not seen the ER doctor. I was told she was up next. An hour later I went out again and asked the same question and said why if everything has come back normal can my relative not be discharged. I was told she can't leave until the ER doctor has seen her--and she was still up next in line.

Finally, a Physician's Assistant (PA) came in to see my relative, basically to talk about what brought her into the ER. The PA said she wanted to get another round of blood taken since enough time had gone by since my family member had come to the ER. So another sample of blood was taken and another xray. The PA came back in and said that everything looked normal, but the pancreas levels are highly elevated and that my relative would be taken up to ICU for a couple of days. My family member looked and me and I at her and I mouthed the word, 'Wow'. That was a shock and my relative was scared in an instant. Her whole face became flush. She was thinking it was pancreatic cancer--a death sentence in her mind.

It was amazing to me how in one moment when we were getting ready to pack up and leave and then she was told something totally unexpected and that she was going to the ICU for a couple of days. We were both shocked. Something like that or worse can change your life. It reminds me of my dad 9 years ago in that same ER. We had finally gotten him to go to the ER because he was going back and forth between constipation and diarrhea and we knew something was wrong. The ER doctor he had came in and told us he either had leukemia or some kind of cancer. Well, either way it was cancer and we were in shock and the room got quiet. 

I was concerned about my relative and what she had just heard. She was clearly upset. And I then knew I had to spread the news that plans had changed. That was hard too because some of the people I going to have to tell knew what an elevated pancreas could mean and others would probably freak out cause they didn't understand--was that bad or really really bad?

Plans changed. Then my sister and I started on a schedule of sitting with our family member or taking turns, being there with her. We went through what seemed like a lot of unknowns. Whatever it was kinda took care of itself through an endoscopy, elevated liver enzymes and then everything--all enzymes going down. No one could definitively tell us this or that happened by the time we left. My relative is doing much better and is back at home. She is a little tired and not able to do too much, but she is feeling a lot better.

I thank God that my mother is alive and well and still with us. I praise Him for taking care of whatever was wrong within her body. I thank God for Jesus and his resurrection that we get to remember tomorrow--the sacrifice given for all of us to have the shackles of chains fall off for those who know Him and to look forward to the day when we will see Him face to face. What a beautiful face to see, to look upon. Happy Easter!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Week of April 10-14: New Morning Monday-The Triumphal Entry

I apologize for not putting out a blog entry on Friday, but the server for blogspot was having difficulties. I was not able to access the website at all for the times I checked.

This week's blog entries will be about preparation for the coming day of Easter. Each day will have something related to the leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. A day that gave us the forgiveness of our sins from the perfect sacrifice that God provided through His son Jesus. Today's account comes from the celebration of Palm Sunday which not all Christians may understand where the celebration comes from. It comes from the people laying down palm branches before Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Not all denominations celebrate or acknowledge Palm Sunday--so not everyone would understand what it means. This first account quoted below from John will mention palm branches:

"The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. they took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, 'Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel.' Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, 'Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt.' At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him." (John 12:12-15, NIV)

This is another account written by Luke:

"After Jesus has said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethpage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 'Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' tell him, 'The Lord needs it.' Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, 'Why are you untying the colt?' They replied, 'The Lord needs it.' They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: 'Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!'" (Luke 19:28-38, NIV)

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Week of April 3-7: Throwback Thursday-The Danger of Cliques

Most people know what a clique is, but maybe not by that name. Dictionary.com defines it as an "exclusive group of people." I have always thought 'clique' was a dirty word--a negative connotation. Why? Because cliques shut out people that are different than what the clique represents--be that a certain 'look' someone has, the way they think or believe in something. It's easy to look back on high school and remember different cliques. They are rampant in that kind of setting. Stereotypes and cliques kind of run together in the high school setting.

I have seen cliques in church settings too. It's disappointing to see because you don't expect to see it at church. Everyone is supposed to be all-welcoming and all-accepting, but in some places it's just not that way. Most of the time, cliques are formed among females. I think women struggle more with social etiquette, such as gossip in the church than perhaps men do. I've seen where small groups of ladies stick to each other and don't allow anyone else to penetrate the friendships that are in place in a group. And I think that probably sometimes this is done without even realizing a clique is being formed or has formed. You get a group of people with same or similar interests that are always around each other, do things only with each other, only talk to each other, hang out together and don't mingle with anyone else. And then voila, you might have a clique going on. From the outside it is noticeable to other people and looks unwelcoming to an outsider coming to visit a church. It's a turn-off. The Body of Christ needs to be free of this type of secular-centered likeness.

The church needs to be welcoming of all types of people, even ones that people might consider hard to love. But love has to be the foundation of the church. That's what it was built on--love. Pray for people in your church who are caught up in a clique type group, maybe speak to one of them in love after praying about it. It's very easy for people to become very myopic and not see what others see. As believers, let us help each other to see better where the path lays and when we get off-course. God Bless!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Week of April 3-7: Warrior Wednesday-Setting Boundaries

I went looking back through the topics of discussion I have written about on this blog thinking surely I had talked about boundaries as a topic. I know I have mentioned them before, but I guess I never made it a titled topic. When I was initially diagnosed back in April of 1999 with Clinical Depression and OCD, I also learned through counseling that I needed to set boundaries so that my triggers would not be set off so much. But first, I needed to identify my triggers.

I don't talk a whole lot about the OCD part of my diagnosis, but it had a huge factor in my depression as it exploded in 1999 separate from the episodes of depression I had before that in my life. I don't think a lot of people realize there are many symptoms of OCD. Mine is the least talked about and, in my opinion, one of the scariest. Below is a short list of common and less common symptoms of OCD, an anxiety disorder, you may know about. There may be specific names for some of these that I don't know, but I know the symptoms.

-fear of germs: this is one of the most common symptoms that people associate with OCD.

-an obsession with numbers--how many times to wash your hands, for example, before the person thinks they are 'clean enough', switching light switches on and off a number of times until the person feels okay

-checking--this may tie in with obsession of numbers, such as in taking long showers (3-4 hours long) in order to be clean which in turn makes it difficult for the person to keep a steady job--checking to make sure the stove is turned off a number of times before leaving the house, going back to your house to check that the door was locked because the anxiety is too much for the person to handle if they don't go back and check. 

-scrupulosity-one of the lesser known symptoms of OCD. A person who is scrupulous is someone who is "conscientious, cautious, careful, circumspect, exacting, rigorous, carefulness in attending to details" (dictionary.com). Now, add God into the equation and you see someone who sees God and tries to appease God into someone who He is not--a rigorous task master, but yet the person is constantly trying to please God in an unhealthy way through works or whatever means, but internally beats himself up. He/she has a warped view of God and his love, but he can't help it. This person is trying so hard to follow rules that he sees in his mind and thinks this is what God is about. A lot of unbelievers see God this way. But we know this is not true. Jesus came to set us free.
-the last symptom, I believe, is still even lesser known, which is what I fall into. If you read my bio then you read where 6 months after my daughter was born, all of these unsolicited thoughts came into my mind to harm my daughter with a knife. It was all very specific about it being a knife. I never understood it then and still don't, but literature I was shown at the time showed me that this is a verifiable symptom of OCD. I was scared to death of these thoughts, didn't understand what was going on, was terrified of hurting my daughter uncontrollably--like something was going to possess me and I would hurt her. Here we had this beautiful baby girl we had prayed for and others had prayed for us and suddenly out of the blue these horrible thoughts plagued my mind literally day and night. I prayed and prayed, cried until I thought I couldn't cry anymore. I was afraid my husband would leave me because I had suddenly turned into some crazy woman who may hurt his/our baby. Everything went through my mind. I was so so scared.

I am re-telling you this with the purpose of showing where I had to learn what my triggers were first. After my initial hospital visits, getting on medication, and going through counseling--I quickly learned what my first triggers were just through experience. I didn't want to look at or be around knives when I was at home. I didn't like seeing knives in movies or TV shows. Anything I saw on TV where a child, especially a baby or very young child could get hurt would bring me to tears and to a high anxiety level. Then that could trigger the depression and cause me to crash if the medication level I was at was not working properly.

And so my obvious boundaries followed suit--not watching TV or movies that were violent or were about kidnapped children, missing children or harm to children in any way. And added to that were not watching movies that were depressing in any way like movies you knew were going to end in a sad way. I tried to make sure that I didn't stay in the house too long by myself when my daughter was at daycare and my husband was working. I would go to a movie at the theater or go out to lunch by myself. I had my counseling appointments about once a week and outpatient counseling when I was recently released from a hospital stay. We were not attending a church at the time which was not good. The one we had gone to was no longer an option and eventually closed. It was not a good time to not have a church home and be without close Christian friends. That could have helped a bit. I had one friend from our former church who was bi-polar who I had asked to come visit me during my second hospital stay. I felt she would understand some of my feelings.

Then as I got better I had to learn new boundaries when I would overdo it with housework and wear myself down. I think I would try to overcompensate for my absences at hospitals in the past by trying to do more at times than I should have. Then when I got plugged into a church eventually, I had to be careful how much I volunteered to help--not to overdo things or it would become overwhelming. Those were trial-and-error boundaries. And with that, I had to not worry what other people thought of me--whether I was volunteering enough, or not. I had to learn what was best for me regardless of other people or what agendas were going on with the church.

As you see, your boundaries can and likely will evolve over time from when you feel less able to handle things mentally to a time when you feel stronger. Those boundaries are extremely important for you to follow once you identify your triggers. Going outside those boundaries will only cause you to feel anxiety and stay stagnate, even possibly go backward in your mental health care, rather than going forward, moving ahead and getting better. Your boundaries are also important for those around you and for them to know so they are not crossed. If someone doesn't respect them then you don't need to be around them.

Your mental health care matters tremendously and boundaries are a huge part of understanding yourself, your limits and how far you can safely go within your own mental parameters. Take the time, write them down and follow them, and maybe you'll need to adjust them over time. Don't minimize them to yourself or to others because then you are minimizing yourself. You matter.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Week of April 3-7: Truth Tuesday-A Living Hope

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls." (1 Peter 1:3-9)

Monday, April 3, 2017

Week of April 3-7: New Morning Monday-Trials

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 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. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does." (James 1:2-8)

"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him."

"When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death."

"Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created." (James 1:12-18)