Mental Health

In Desperate Need

Crafting A Prayer — Graham Cooke.

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.

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

Fear Less

Well, we have made it through another week of social distancing.  I know this is pressing us to our personal ends, but we pray that it will soon be over.  As I have talked about before, fear and anxiety are common companions these days and we are crying out to God, in unison, to please bring an end to this pandemic.  But, while we are crying out together, have you felt like taking more than your fear and anxiety to God.  Have you felt like crying or screaming, or just throwing something to vent the feelings you have inside?  Well, I have. But I smile and pretend that I am holding up just fine. I’m sure you do as well.

We do not really know how to navigate these new waters.  Our days are spent wondering and at times worrying about whether we, or a loved one will contract this virus. And if one of us does, will we survive it? Should we be doing more, or less, in order to stay safe?  We don’t want to show our true feelings to those around us.  We want to spare them the concern we feel, especially if we are a Mom or Dad.  We are supposed to be strong…have all the answers, but we don’t. But I know someone who does.  Our Father in Heaven.

As we are being strong for our loved ones, we can go to God with our fears and anxieties.  We do not have to pretend we’ve got it all together.  We can be true and honest with our Father.  We don’t have to pretend. We can cry, scream, break a few things if we need to. God is not afraid of our feelings; He is also not surprised by them either.

I know, at times, we feel out of control.  We have never lived through something as serious and as unknown as this pandemic. I cannot sit here and tell you that all is well, because it’s not. But I can tell you God is still in control.  He is not sitting up in Heaven, unaware. No, He’s very much in tune with our lives.  He knows our fears, and our doubts, and we do have doubts, but these emotions do not have to cripple us.  We can get through this, even if we must do it afraid.

I often say, “press into God” and I mean that with every fiber of my being.  If you want peace during these times.  If you want to quiet the fear and doubt, get into the Word.  Find out what God says about the emotions you are feeling. Find out His way to deal.  Do not be afraid to vent to God.  He is big enough. Actually, He is enough. We need not worry or fear. Our Father is on the throne. The World is still His. We are still His. Take comfort in the fact that He loves you.  You are sacred. You are His and He will never leave us or forsake us. That is His promise. Stand on it, believe it, live it. Shalom!

Encouragement, Mental Health

Weather the Storm

Someone said that we are always close to a storm; either we’re walking into a storm, enduring a storm, or coming out of a storm. I find this to be true in my life and I’m sure most of you can say it is true for you. So, I guess the question is not “what do we do if we go through a storm”, but “how do we get through the storm we’re in?”

My first inclination when things start getting rough and darkness begins to creep it’s way in is not to run headlong into the arms of my Savior, but to turn inward and isolate from the pain or the fear or whatever emotion is clamoring at me. It isn’t until I become desperate that I run to God.  Why? Why do I let my storm get me so off course that God is the last person I run to instead of the first?  I believe that it is because I have a lack of faith.  A lack of faith that God can take away the pain and the darkness and pull me up out of my storm.

It’s easy to have faith when things are going well. But what about now?  Right now, the World is in a place of chaos.  Our normal has been replaced with uncertainty and fear.  I know that this Virus is on everyone’s lips and no matter what you do, you cannot get away from hearing about it.  But what would happen if we put great faith in front of our fear? What would it look like, globally if everyone turned to Jesus during these trying times? Well, I can say there would be a great deal more peace. A great deal more healings. A great deal more comfort.  Actually, there would be a turn for the better in all areas.

So why are we turning to the media, and the Government, and the Scientist for answers when we should be turning to God…lack of faith.  Now I cannot speak for everyone and I am not trying to generalize the actions and reactions of people during this time, but I can say that for myself, it has been a lack of faith.  I’m sure some of you can say the same thing.  Kudos to those saints who dove right to their knees when all of this broke loose! I am glad you were praying. But to all of the rest, including myself, who has allowed a lack of faith because of fear, to keep you from your knees, it’s OK.  God is all knowing, and our lack of faith does not surprise Him.

But we do not have to stay sidelined because of our insecurity.  We can start right where we are, and Jesus will meet us there.  Right in the place of our fear, anxiety, and in the storm.  This virus may be the biggest storm we go though.  It is certainly one of the scariest for me and my family, but if we do not strengthen our faith in prayer and drop to our knees to pray for an end to this pandemic, then we are not doing the one thing that can stop it.  Only through God will we find the answers.  Only though God can we find the cure.  We need to be praying, with faith, that God will end this and destroy this virus! He is the only one who can.

This storm is great.  The fear is real. But our God is bigger than the storm.  Take your faith, even if it as a bit anemic right now and pray.  God will strengthen us for this battle, but we must allow Him to work and to do that, we must pray! Seek Him and He will make Himself known, and He will bring Himself glory through this.  This is our collective storm. Let’s enter the battle with faith…great faith!

Encouragement, Mental Health

God is in Control

As the whole world is practicing social distancing with many being in quarantine the corona virus is on everyone’s lips and minds. There is no way to lessen the fear and anxiety that comes along with this pandemic.  But how do we, who suffer from mental illnesses in which anxiety is already a factor deal with this added stress?

We all need to follow our country’s protocol to stay safe and, hopefully, put an end to this pandemic.  We need to wash our hands, social distance, and use common sense when it comes to going out for groceries and such.  That being said, these guidelines do a little to quell our anxious minds, but not enough.

Prayer, leaning into God, reading Scripture, and knowing God is in control will ease our anxiety better than any hygiene practice.  We need to remind ourselves that God has this. He knows what’s going on. He knows the fear and anxiety we are suffering through. He knows. By leaning on Him, we will know peace.  God’s peace.

When our anxiety is so big and overpowering, we need to pray. Psalm 91 is a prayer of protection. Pray it over yourself, over your family, over your loved ones and friends.  Trust that through that prayer, God hears. God answers. We are not to fear anything but in our weakness, we find strength. We can do nothing apart from God.  That includes facing our fears and anxieties concerning this pandemic.  We are more than conquerors is Christ Jesus! Nothing this world throws at us can ever change who we are.  We are mighty through the shed blood of Christ! We are more powerful than this virus because we draw our strength through Jesus. He is in control!

We must not let this crisis over shine the resurrection of our Lord. He conquered the grave and gave us a precious gift. The gift of eternal life. When you are tempted to worry. When fear grips you and your anxiety is out of control…remember, God is in control and He’s got this!

Encouragement, Mental Health

The Greater Plan

Having a mental illness can cause one to question “why me?”.  We may go through a litany of questions that we fire at God because we are trying to understand the path we are on. We can get so wrapped up in the here and now just trying to get through one more day that we forget to look up and understand that God has a plan! Our illnesses are not in vain. God is going to use the pain and the confusion for His glory.  We only need to allow His plan to unfold. That is easier said than done.

So many times, I’ve surrendered my illness and my life’s plan to God, only to get absorbed back into the “why me”.  I’ve pondered that question to the point that I became angry at God.  I wanted to know what good having Bipolar Disorder could ever bring anyone I crossed paths with.  So, for a long time, I kept it a secret.  If no one knew then I could avoid the judgments and the loss of relationships by those close to me who just wouldn’t understand.  I could live with this as my secret and no one would be the wiser.  Until that one day…

I was at Church and I was praying for God to take this illness away. I didn’t sign up for this and I certainly did not want to live the rest of my life suffering with it on a daily basis. I cried and I begged but to no avail.  Finally, when I had calmed down, I asked God the “why me” question and I felt Him say in my spirit that I have this because He is going to use it to bring Him glory.  He was going to help people through my illness, and I was not to keep it a secret any longer.  I had to begin telling people that I do, indeed, suffer from a mental illness.  That was a big step. I began to allow people into my private world of suffering.  Some judged, some left, some stayed, but I was being obedient.  I was going to look up and live by God’s plan. I quit asking “why me?” and began to see that there were people around me who needed to hear my story.  Who needed that hope that I have that God is in control no matter how out of control we feel.

I’d like to say that the minute I surrendered my illness and my “why” to God that things got miraculously better. They did not.  I suffer from symptoms of my illness in some form every day. I know you do as well. But what did change is how I perceived myself.  I was no longer someone who had a terrible illness, I was part of a greater plan to bring hope and healing to others. This is God’s plan for me.  It may be God’s plan for you as well.  I encourage you to ask God ‘why me?” but I also encourage you to take His answer and apply it to your life right now.  Don’t hide yourself away in shame and fear.  God has a plan for each of us and he will use our suffering to help others.  Be brave and try to be transparent with others.  You will never know who you can help or whose life you may touch with being open and honest about your illness.  Always remember to look up each day and to know that you are part of a greater plan.

Christian Living, Encouragement, Mental Health

Anxiety and Worship

Have you ever heard that worry and worship cannot live in the same heart?  It’s a phrase I heard years ago when I was first diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.  To say I worried is an understatement.  I worried so much that it turned into a full-blown anxiety attack.  That anxiety got so bad that it paralyzed me. I came across a little book that had an intriguing title. It was a book about ridding oneself of anxiety and worry.  Since I was dealing with that exact issue, I bought the book.  Want to know what it said?  It said that the best way to get rid of anxiety and worry was to worship.  Worship? Really?  Could it be that simple?  Yes, that simple, but not easy.

When we are experiencing anxiety so great that it affects our ability to live life, worshiping can seem like a monumental task but I learned that just repeating the phrase “Jesus, I love you” was an act of worship. So that’s what I did.  I told Jesus over and over how much I loved Him and how much He had changed my life and how grateful I was.  I did this for days and days.  And, you know what? It worked.  The decrease in my anxiety was almost immediate! The more I set my heart to worship, the more my mind calmed.  Pretty soon, I was waking up with a sense of peace, not turmoil.

Now, I guard my peace.  I will not do anything to lose it.  It is so important to me and the best way to keep my peace is to keep my eyes upon Jesus.  To never lose sight of the fact that God did not give me a heart of fear.  Isaiah 35:4 says…

Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with diving retribution he will come to save you”.

Wow! What a promise.  Do not fear. Do not be torn down by anxiety.  Lift your eyes for your God is coming and he is coming to save you.  You and me. That’s a promise you can depend on.

So, when anxiety strikes, all you need to do is Worship and stay still. God is coming and He will deliver you.  That’s a promise!

Encouragement, Mental Health

Never Give Up

Hey Everyone!! I am sorry that I have been away for so long.  I have been going through some medical issues, as well as some website issues.  I have fixed the website problems (thanks to my wonderful husband) and my medical issues are being resolved.  I have missed talking with you.

In the last few months, as my medical issues have been at the forefront of my mind, I stopped monitoring my Bipolar.  Bad move!  I have been manic for a few months and didn’t even realize it. (the massive spending should have been a tip off).  My husband actually brought it to my attention, and I have discussed it with my Doctor which necessitated a medication tweak.  I am still manic but getting better.  My point in telling you this…never assume that your illness will take a back seat to other priorities in your life!  Your illness ALWAYS needs to be closely monitored.

I know we would all like to think that we do not have to be diligent in monitoring our illnesses all the time.  But, as I have learned, it is when we stop paying close attention to our moods, our day to day living, our depression, is when things can go south very quickly. It’s tiring, I know.  How many times do we want to give up and just let the illness run our lives? It’s easier. But, when we let our guard down, terrible things can happen. I just read of a Pastor in California who suffered from depression who took his own life. He couldn’t get in front of his depression.  He got tired and he gave in.  This has affected me profoundly.  I hate to hear of someone suffering from a mental illness give in.

Having a mental illness is not easy.  Having any illness is not easy.  But we need to fight for every ounce of normalcy we can get.  We need to take our moods, our hurts, our confusion, our fears, our pain to God.  We need to press into Him with all we have in order to overcome what is going on at that moment.  It’s hard and sometimes things don’t change right away. But we can never give up. We owe it to ourselves and to our loved ones to do all we can to get better. If we do not turn everything over to God, we are neglecting the one person who has the power to change us. To heal us. We need to rest in the promises of God, not only for healing, but for the strength to live day to day.

It will always be a struggle; it may never get easier. But we are here for a purpose. God has chosen to allow whatever is going on in our lives and we need to make a determined decision to live out whatever our purpose is.  We cannot give up. Stay strong.  Stay connected to God. Stay in the fight.

Mental Health

Judging Harshly

I was having my prayer time with God the other day and I was talking to Him as I always do, and I brought up the fact that I am a bit judgmental.  I asked for forgiveness for that flaw and the Lord clearly impressed upon me this thought…

“the persons we judge most harshly are the people we need to pray for most fiercely and that person may be ourselves”.

Wow.  I had to sit and think about that for a few minutes. I do judge myself harshly and I do not pray for myself all that much.  I am in intercessor and I pray for those whom God places on my heart. I pray all the time.  I pray in the grocery store, in the car, in my kitchen, in my prayer room, basically everywhere. But the subject of my prayer is rarely myself.

This thought niggled at me all day.  Why do I judge myself so harshly?  One reason… I feel like a bit of a failure because I am unable to do simple things that others take for granted because of my illness.  I cannot work, I cannot handle a lot of stress, whether good or bad, I do not react well to time changes so that means I cannot travel.  There are many things that I just cannot do, and I judge myself based on these things, on the “cannot’s”.  Do you do the same thing?  I am sure you do. We all do.  And I found that people who do not have a mental illness judge themselves on the cannot’s of life as well.  So, what does God ask us to do? Pray.

We need to be praying for ourselves. We need to be praying for self-acceptance.  For the ability to stop looking at the “cannot’s” in our lives and focus on the “cans”.  We are able to do more than we give ourselves credit for.  We are special in the eyes of the Lord.  We are not “less than” to Jesus.  So why do we beat ourselves up?   I think part of it is the stigma associated with mental illness.  In society, we are already judged, regardless of who we are, but because of our illness.  Society says that we are not acceptable as we are. That somehow, we should change.

We listen to these false truths, which are nothing more than lies of the enemy, and we judge.  I think it is high time we start praying.  We need to call down the authority of God into our lives to dispatch the enemy from our minds. Prayer is powerful!  Prayer changes things! We need to be praying for ourselves and to stop judging ourselves so harshly. We are perfect in eyes.

We need to see ourselves as he sees us…beautiful, treasured, sacred, His.

Encouragement, Mental Health

Set Apart

So many times, during the up’s and downs of my illness, I would say “I wish I was normal”.  Being normal (without symptoms, without stigma) was a goal I sought after.  I didn’t like feeling different from everyone else and I was ashamed that I had an illness that I could not control.  I didn’t want to tell anyone about my diagnosis because I didn’t want them to think about me differently.  But it was obvious to all around me that I was different.

Early on in my diagnosis, I would search Scripture on healing.  Being healed was my number one priority.  But, while searching the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit kept drawing me to verses that told of Jesus’s story and how he was different.  Jesus didn’t fall into the norm of His day.  He stuck out.  He did not try to conform to the world, He stayed separate.  He was in the world but not of the world.  So, if Jesus wasn’t “normal” why should I strive to be “normal” as defined by the world?

Well the answer is “I should not”.  I began to realize that Bipolar Disorder was my cross to bear.  I didn’t ask for it, but we all have something.  My illness set me apart from the world and yours does too.

We tend to view ourselves as “less than” but really, we’re special.  God allowed our illnesses to set us apart and to make a change in this world concerning mental illness.  We as Christians who suffer have a platform to bring about change as to how we are treated.  We can tell all that God is our strength and hope and that, like Jesus, we are not the norm because we are not supposed to be. Christians without mental illnesses are also set apart from this world, to be a light in the darkness.

So, on one hand, we are special because we are different, and on the other, we are special because we are like Jesus, made in His image! Set apart for a purpose.  I suppose you could say that we are fortunate because our illnesses send us to the feet of Jesus for strength to overcome. Maybe, having a mental illness is what brings us closer to God and for that we can be thankful.  I am not sure I would be as close to Jesus as I am without carrying this burden.  Being healed would be terrific but, as long as I have Bipolar, I will stop striving for normal and stay in the realm of special, just like Jesus!


Worry and Worship

For most of my life, I’ve been a worrier.  I would worry about finances, my children’s health, my husband being far away in the military, and just about every other thing under the sun. I don’t know if my worry is a product of my illness or if I am just a worrier by nature.  Either way, it has caused me a great deal of anxiety and needless sleepless nights.

My worry really kicked into gear when the 911 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center occurred.  My husband was in the military at that time and he called and told me he was going to war and didn’t know anything else.  Oh my, what a day.  I had to pull myself together enough to tell our four children who were 12, 10, 7, and 4 at the time that we were at war and Daddy was going to fight. Try explaining to a four-year-old about war.  Not an easy nor enviable task.  This time frame ushered in a slew of symptoms I was not equipped to handle. My life became out of control.  My worry became a beast that colored my days.  Fear became a constant companion.

I was not serving the Lord at this time, which I can say only made the situation worse.  I didn’t know where to turn for help.  I was treated for depression which made the worry all the worse because it caused me to go manic. Now I was worried and manic.  It is a wonder I survived.

Fast forward to 2003.  My husband is home, my children are back to a normal life and my illness is raging!  My husband, poor guy, didn’t know what to think. He only knew I was not the same woman he left.  My worry was out of control.  I worried when he would go to the recruiting office for fear it would be bombed.  I worried when my children went out fearing they were somehow targets for enemy attack.  I worried about myself that I was going to implode at any time. This was the time I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.  That same time, the Lord met me in my deepest, darkest place.  He gently brought me out of my place of despair and filled me with a hope I had not had in decades.  He also spoke this to my heart… “worry and worship cannot exist in one heart. One has to go”.  I understood immediately that my worry habit was causing my heart to be divided. I needed to make a change.

I chose to worship.  And, you know what? My worry lessened. I was no longer controlled by my out of control emotions.  God was setting me upon a rock and my life was beginning to take shape in Him. It took years of prayer, medication, and therapy to get myself to a place where I no longer worried about things.  I realized I have no control over what happens, but God is in control, at all times, of all things.  Whew! What a relief to finally know and know for certain that my worry will not change things. It will only cause me anxiety and stress which fuels my illness.  The Lord has faithfully and methodically delivered me from worry.  It took some time, but I can honestly say, I no longer worry.  If I am concerned with a situation, I take it to God, leave it with Him and go about my business.  I have never been more at ease.

My husband and my family are ever so grateful to God for giving them back the wife and mother they once had. And I am so grateful that He has brought me through, stronger and He will do the same for you.  You need but ask.