Uncategorized

Weakness Equals Strength

When I was first diagnosed, I always asked “why me?”  “Why did I have Bipolar Disorder?” I had trouble getting past those questions. I didn’t understand what I had done to deserve such a life altering illness.  I would go to counseling and ask my therapist, but she had no answers.  She would tell me that no one truly knows why people get Bipolar, it’s just one of those things. Those answers did nothing to quiet the “why me” questions filling my mind. I spent many days trying to find sense out of something that seemed so senseless.  I also spent many hours talking to God to try to understand.

I would search Scripture and pray for healing, but I could not find the answers I sought.  Then one day, I was reading 2 Corinthians 12 about Paul having a “thorn in his flesh”.  He asked God to take it away, but God said no.  God told Paul…

            “My grace us sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”.

It was then that I realized that by asking all those “why me” questions, I was forgetting that God had a plan for me which included my illness. I was looking in when I should have been looking up! I had become so self-centered that I actually blamed God for my illness. Paul reminded me that everything we go through has a purpose.  Paul said he would “boast” of his weakness because it would give God glory. I needed to do the same.

I wanted God to get all the glory for my weaknesses, but how do I boast about a mental illness without alienating people and losing friends? Well, I didn’t.  I told people about my illness and all the while I would remind myself that God will find glory in my weakness.  I lost friends and was judged by some family members, but I did not allow that to keep me form speaking out.  I knew God had allowed this illness into my life for a reason and if I kept quiet about it, I may never find out what that reason was.  I had to be brave.

Do you find yourself hiding your illness? Are you afraid of what others may think?  We must remember that God is our strength and He will get glory from you sharing your illness and your experiences with others. You may be helping someone God puts in your path. They may need to hear your story. We never know what God has planned, but we can be 100% sure that it will work out for our good.  When you are pelted by the “why me?” questions, look up. God has a plan! When you feel weak, remember, God is your strength. Think of Paul and determine to give God glory in everything. Seek God and find your purpose.  Be

Encouragement, Mental Health

God will always Breakthrough

I must be honest. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. Covid 19 has completely changed the way we do life.  Here in the States, specifically Ohio where I live, we are encouraged to wear masks everywhere we go. Stores are opening but only allowing a few people in at a time. Restaurants are only open for take out and patio dining. Life is definitely different and I’m not sure if it will ever get back to the point we once were. It’s easy to get depressed and feel hopeless during these times.

There have been many suicides attributed to the Covid 19 Virus. People afraid they have it, people getting depressed because they have been cut off from the outside world. Those of us with mental illness are feeling the effects of isolation and fear a bit deeper than others. Darkness seems to be everywhere. Depression is deep and anxiety overwhelming.

But as I write this, I am looking outside my picture window, and do you know what I see?  Sunshine! Bright beautiful sunshine.  It reminds me that no matter how dark I get God’s light always breaks through.  John 1:5 says…

            “And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it”.

We need to remember that we are not going to be left in darkness. Jesus came to bring light and love into the world. That light and love is still here. We may lose sight of it in our current situation, but we are still surrounded by His light.  There is no darkness deep enough that God cannot shine through. And what happens when light meets darkness? The darkness flees.

Your enemy would like nothing more than for you to be immobilized by the fear and the darkness you are living in.  It makes him so happy to render believers helpless. But Jesus defeated Satan and we live in that victory. We live in the light! It may seem harder to see amid these circumstances, but if you look hard enough, you’ll see it. It may be dim at first, but as you go towards it, it will get brighter and brighter. So how do we go towards it?  We pray, we read our Bibles, we soak in His presence and we trust Him to help us through this time.

Sometimes, we do all these things and we don’t get relief right away. That’s OK. Keep pressing in. God is faithful and He will restore you. Yes, the way we do life has changed. Things may never get back to what we consider normal and we will all have to live with that. But the way we seek God, interact with Him, love Him, does not have to change.  He is still on the throne, still in control and He still loves us.

God is our light in the darkness and that light will always breakthrough.

Encouragement, Mental Health

Don’t Ever Quit Trying

There have been so many times in my life I have tried things, like working a regular job, that just didn’t work out.  The stress that working outside my home was too much to take and left me struggling to breathe. Have you experienced this? Have you attempted something that your illness put a stop too? It’s easy to give up.

But we shouldn’t ever give up. There are things worth doing. I’m not just talking about working. Things like starting a ministry, singing in a band, writing that book that is swimming around in your mind.  Anything you desire to do; you should give a try. 

Our illnesses can and do put limits on what we are able to do, but they should not stop us from trying. Sure, things may not work out. You may fail but fail forward.  Allow yourself some leeway to try.  If one thing does not pan out, move on to something else. Don’t allow yourself to stagnate.

It is so easy for us to say we “can’t”. Our illnesses create the perfect “out”. Who expects someone with a mental illness to succeed anyway? Many don’t. But we should have enough faith in ourselves and enough faith in God to pursue our dreams.  God has a plan for each person and who are we to say we cannot do what He has created us to do? Whatever that looks like in your life, know that God will give you the ability and the perseverance to accomplish your goals.

In my Coaching practice, I discuss goal setting all the time.  We need to make a plan to achieve the goals we set. We need to pray and ask God what our purpose is. We need to be aware of the Holy Spirit’s guidance. But most of all, we need to step out in faith and make the attempt. Sometimes we need to make that attempt over and over, but eventually we’ll get it right.

God will never call us to do something he has not equipped us to do. But I am not only talking about what God’s calling is on our lives, I’m also talking about little things we want to do. Maybe, you want to do something just for the fun of it. Something that you have been putting off because your illness gets in the way. Do it anyway. Do it afraid. Don’t allow your illness to be the deciding factor in what you are able to accomplish. If you want to go back to school and get that degree, do it! If you want to be a photographer, or a ministry leader…do it! The worst thing that can happen is that it doesn’t work out.  So what! Move on to the next thing on your goal list.

There is nothing we can do that will make God love us any less. Once we honestly believe that, we are free to set out and try new things. Please don’t let your illness stand in your way. Yes, it may limit you in some areas, but it may free you in others.  Find your purpose. Find your fun. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead and do it afraid! You have nothing to lose!

Christian Living

5 Ways to Stir your Faith

I write a lot about mental illness and faith.  However, there are many more aspects to a believer’s life that do not center around illness.  I am going to begin sprinkling in different posts on subjects such as “Christian Living, Spiritual Wellness, and Encouragement” in addition to my posts on mental health.

I’d like to touch on a subject today that I tussle with quite a bit.  It is how to stir up your faith. When we are newly saved, it’s like a honeymoon period.  We are so in love with Jesus that having faith is quite easy and it feels great. But, at some point, life enters that relationship and faith can begin to wane.  What do we do?

I have found that when my faith is running a bit thin, I have difficulty praying and doubts bombard my mind.  I start asking questions that I know the answer to but have trouble believing. God seems far away.  I know the problem is not with God, but with me. So, I determine to spend more time with God, to pray more but those efforts seem to fall flat. But I did find a few ways to stir up my faith.

  • Spend time “soaking” in the presence of God:

 Find a place where you can get away from distractions, turn on some instrumental praise music, and just center your spirit with the Holy Spirit and allow yourself to connect. It is not hard; it just takes some patience.

  • Get in the Word:

If you want to know God and grow closer to Him, you need to find time to get into His Word. Take time every day to read and study. Before you can grow your faith, you need to know the God of faith. Do not feel overwhelmed. Just take some time and let His Word permeate your soul.

  • Worship:

Praising God’s greatness, goodness, and beauty in words, music or silence is a wonderful way to stir your faith. Reading the Psalms aloud is one of the easiest ways to worship God.

  • Prayer:

Conversing with God about what is on your mind, no matter what the subject or what we are experiencing is a powerful way to build your faith. Not only can you pray for yourself, but praying for others can, and often does, fuel your faith because you are not making it all about you. This may be difficult when your faith is low, but just a little talk with Jesus can make a big difference.

Encouragement

Hello Beautiful

Did you know you’re beautiful?  You are.  It doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside, inside you are beautiful!  I know you probably don’t see yourself this way. I don’t often see myself as beautiful either, but God says we are beautiful.  We need to believe that.

Among other lies we believe about ourselves; our illnesses whisper to us that we are ugly inside.  Our illnesses embarrass us, and they help relegate us to the unlovable category.  Our behaviors are sometimes odd and sometimes, even a bit scary and people treat us differently once they find out that we have a mental illness.  This can make us feel less than beautiful. This can make us feel rejection, fear, and pain.  All negative.

So how do we turn this negative into a positive? We listen to what Jesus says about us. He is the only plumb line we need to follow.  He has the last word.  It is so easy to identify with our illnesses and give them way too much power over our lives. We quickly become the victim and forget that we are more than the lies that we begin believing about ourselves.

 Don’t think that the enemy of our souls, Satan, isn’t behind those lies. He is! If he can get us to the point of belief, then we are rendered helpless and we are going to suffer needlessly. These lies cripple us with doubt and pain.  We need to stand up against Satan and call him out.  Yes, our illness creates problems for us, but God loves us.  Despite what we think or what Satan tells us, God says we are loved.  We are special and we have our illnesses for a reason.

We may not know what that reason is, but we do not suffer in vain. God has a plan and we are part of that plan. Do not believe the lies. You are not ugly.  It’s time to throw off the blanket of doubt and fear you’ve been carrying! Stand up! Lift up your head! And tell yourself you are beautiful.  “Goodbye regret, emptiness, fear, shame, hopelessness and hello beautiful”. (Quoted from Mercy me – Lifer).

     You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you. (Song of Songs 4:7).

Uncategorized

Flawed

Flawed. Have you ever spoken that word over yourself? I know I have. Even before my diagnosis in 2003, I knew there was a part of me that wasn’t quite like everyone else. I was different both in my thoughts and actions. Most people thought that I was super organized and had so much energy to get things accomplished and could function with little sleep. “Wow! I wish I had that much energy” they would say.  Little did I know, this was mania. Or, on the flip side, feeling so low that I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning let alone face getting four kids up and out the door for school each day.  Times were tough, but I never thought that I had a mental illness. I just thought I was a Mom with too much to do.

But then, in 2003, it all came crashing down and I was forced to seek medical help.  The diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder completely rocked my world.  In that moment, I became less than, I became flawed. This descriptor became my mantel.  I told myself several times each day that I would never be ok.  That having a mental illness put me into a different category than all my friends and family. They were ok, but I was flawed.

I identified as flawed for years.  I would always tell myself that I cannot do anything because my illness dictates what is possible and what is not.  To a degree this is true, but not to the levels I took it.  When people would ask me how I was doing, I would respond by saying I was flawed but getting through it. Or I would make a remark about how my Bipolar brain was calling all the shots now. That was until I started searching scripture about being flawed and loving myself. 

I learned that we are all flawed in some way. No one is perfect except Jesus. But Psalm 139: 13-14 spoke volumes to me…

For you formed my inward parts: You knitted me together in my Mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

We are not flawed.  We are fearfully and wonderfully made. That is how God sees us.  Our lens which we look through to identify and label ourselves is not clear. It has been muddied with all our negative self-talk and opinions of others.  We need to re-evaluate how we see ourselves according to the Word of God. We all have things that we live with that we wish we didn’t, but God never gives us something that He doesn’t also gives us grace to live out.

We see ourselves as flawed because of our illnesses but God sees us as beautiful.  We need to start changing our perceptions of ourselves in light of God’s Word.  He has the last say about who we are.  We are to believe Him for He has all wisdom. And through the blood of Jesus, we are made righteous.

Take time today to rewrite your opinion of yourself into an affirmation that is both loving and true. God does not see you as flawed and neither should you.

Encouragement

Moving Forward

Sometimes I get stuck. I get stuck in my pain. Stuck in my depression. Even stuck in my joy. I just get stuck.  My illness can stop me in my tracks.  It sneaks up on me at the worst possible moment and blindsides me.  Granted, there are times when I can feel a mania or a depression coming on, but not often.  My moods usually start with a great deal of unexplained anxiety which I quickly blame on this situation or that commitment. But, no, it’s usually a mood episode. My illness makes it difficult, at times, to keep moving forward with my life.  It debilitates me.

But God wants me to move forward. He wants you to move forward. But how? What do we do when all we can see is our illnesses stepping over our boundaries and we are stuck?  I always turn to God. I search Scripture, pray and meditate, but what if I am seeking the wrong thing?

I go to God with my moods and my darkness or with my over abundant happiness that indicates a mania and I always expect Him to make it better. I wait for Him to move in my life and give me relief, so that I can move forward. And He does.

21 Empowering Quotes on Faith To Help You Keep Moving Forward

But what if the catalyst that moves us forward has less to do with what he does and more to do with who he is? What if we sought God for the sheer pleasure of who he is and not what he can do?  I think we would find a God we never knew.  Yes, He is our loving Father, our truest friend and our rock, but can He be so much more. Yes, He can.  In Him we have a treasure we have not fully discovered.  I don’t think anyone will truly know Him this side of Heaven, but we can search. 

Deuteronomy 4:29 says “But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul”.

We need to take the time to seek God for who he is.  He will still give us the ability to persevere when our world becomes chaos but seeking him for who he is will give us a depth of relationship that we may not have. Our main goal is to know him and to love him with a reciprocal love.  We yearn for that even if we don’t realize it.

Don’t allow yourself to get stuck. And if you are stuck, don’t stay there. By seeking him, you will find the catalyst to move into the life God has chosen for you.  Keep moving forward!

Mental Health

In Desperate Need

I tend not to make the best decisions when I am afraid.  I strive to find the easiest way out of my fear, even if that decision will lead to more unrest for my spirit. It’s more of a reaction than a decision. I grab at anything, whether good or bad, to alleviate my discomfort.  Have you ever done the same thing?  Maybe you haven’t.  Maybe you’re that person who doesn’t allow fear to cloud your judgment. Kudos to you! But for me, and I’m sure many others, reacting out of our fears is the norm.  What I really need to do is pray. Pray first. Instead of reacting and making a bad decision, prayer needs to be the first action.

Crafting A Prayer — Graham Cooke.

When we are fearful, our decision-making ability gets skewed.  We forget that God is watching and waiting for us to turn to Him.  But why do we pray as a last resort? Maybe we don’t think God can handle our fears.  Maybe we think our fears are to great to be relieved. Maybe we’ve married our fears and don’t want to let them go.  That may sound odd, but it happens.  We can get so accustomed to being afraid that we think it is part of our emotional makeup.  But God did not create us to be afraid.  Did you know that the words “fear not” appear 365 times in the Bible? Clearly God has set the mandate to not be afraid. 

Fear has gained momentum since we have begun to navigate through the waters of the Corona Virus.  People are right to be concerned and we need to be vigilant to do the social distancing and protocols put down by our respective Governments.  We need to be safe and smart, but we need not fear. We need to pray.  It is only through prayer that we will be able to find rest.  Many are reacting out of fear which is leading to bad decisions.  People putting themselves and others at risk because they do not think through their decisions. They react.

As believers, we know God is in control and we know that this will end eventually. We can be assured of that.  Please do not make a decision based on your fear.  Seek God and find out His plan.  Read His promises. Cast your cares.  I know it’s difficult.  I am having the same issues. But I know the one who is in control. So do you.  Trust in Him and pray and allow God to comfort and reassure you. Don’t’ make a decision out of a reaction. It will usually be the wrong path.  Keep strong in the Lord and make prayer as important as breathing. We’ll get through this. Together.

Encouragement, Mental Health

Quiet Acceptance

Have you ever met that one person who, no matter what is happening in their lives, they accept it with quietness and resolve? They never ask, “why me”? They don’t throw a fit or become angry. I have met such people throughout my life, and I stand in amazement at their ability to accept and move on.

When I was first diagnosed, I spent a great deal of time in denial, anger, non-compliance. My diagnosis seemed like a death sentence. Will I ever be the same as I once was, and other such questions ran through my mind. How is this diagnosis going to change my life? I was not very accepting of my newfound friend.

But as the years passed, I quietly accepted my illness and I viewed this as a great victory! I could look at myself in the mirror and see me, but with a different lens. I was now a person with a chronic illness that would never go away, and I could work with that.

My Bipolar has changed my life in so many ways. Some bad. Some good. I can no longer work a “normal” job, but God has opened opportunities to write and I am grateful. I can no longer stay up past 10:00 because I know it will make me ill. Getting enough sleep is paramount to a well psyche. I know that at any time I can go way up or way down and I must be prepared to handle the chaos those moods bring. Do you have a similar challenge?

I have yet to meet someone with a mental illness who can say they have it all together. I don’t think that person exists. If he or she does, I want to meet them and pick their brain! But I have met people who have accepted their illness quietly, no fanfare, no pity party, just accepted. They amaze me. I am, now, that person. I have accepted and moved on and I try to help others to accept their illness quietly and with grace. We can all get to acceptance. We must stop fighting who we are in our illnesses and move into who God has created us to be. That person involves all the aspects that make up the new us.

It is so easy to be angry and upset. Confusion and bitterness can creep in and take us captive. We must be diligent in our fight for acceptance. If we can’t accept our illness and learn to love ourselves, how can we expect anyone else to do the same? We must make the change in order to help change the attitudes of others.

Quietly accept your illness. Live your life from a place of victory. Make the changes you need to make. Become who God has called you to become. It is a journey that starts with acceptance.

Mental Health

Just Snap out of it!

Just Snap out of it!

When I was first diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2003, most people in my circle did not understand what that meant, both for me and for them. I had some family say it was just female problems. Some said that I was faking it. Some said it was just a bunch of mumbo jumbo, I even had one person say I was demon possessed. Woe! That was a shock. But the thing that bothered me the most was when people would tell me to “just snap out of it”. Those five words were so hurtful.

Did they actually think my behavior was on purpose? That I was in control of what was going on inside me, that was manifesting in these odd behaviors? Well, in a word…yes. You see, my family and friends had never encountered someone with a mental illness. They didn’t understand all the nuances such a diagnosis would bring. I didn’t understand any better, I just knew that if I could just “snap out of it” I would! But I couldn’t. I wasn’t in control. Has that ever happened to you?

Telling someone with depression to "just snap out of it" is like ...

I’m sure that you were hurt by words spoken over you in ignorance by people you loved. I know that understanding and acceptance for you and your family was a long, hard road. Maybe it still is. I would like to tell you that it gets better, it does, but it never gets to the point of comfortable. My closest family members, my husband, and my children, understand and accept my illness as a part of who I am. But I still have people close to me who would rather not discuss it and if I show symptoms of mania or depression, it shuts them down. They just don’t want to deal with it. I don’t want to deal with it, but it is a part of me that is not going to just fade away. It’s hard. It’s scary. It’s tiring. But, through it all, I have never been abandoned or judged by Jesus!

When I don’t understand or have been hurt by words spoken out of ignorance, I know I can turn to God for comfort and healing. I can lose myself in his love and grace and know that I am His child and am truly loved. I am not trying to imply that my family and friends do not love me, they do, a great deal. They just don’t always understand my illness. That’s ok. I’ve learned that being on the outside is difficult and no matter how much they try to empathize, they will never totally understand. I may never totally understand. But God does.

If you find yourself buried in negativity and misunderstanding by your friends and family, turn to God. He will always help you to feel better. To feel whole even in your brokenness. It is in those moments that God shines. He will bring light into your darkness. He will bring his healing salve into your hurt. Trust Him. The next time someone says, “just snap out of it”, maybe you can smile through your pain and know that God does not expect you to “just snap out of it”. He’s in there with you. And if you are reading this as a loved one, please know that we cannot “just snap out of it”. Our illnesses are part of who we are now, so please try to understand and support us. We love you.

Shalom.