Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The least wonderful time of the year

The holidays painfully remind the mentally ill and their loved ones just how different they are, how big their challenges are, and how far from “the most wonderful time” they actually are.

This is their song…

It’s the least wonderful time of the year
With my kids sad or yelling
And everyone wishing we’d just once stay clear
It’s the least wonderful time of the year

It’s the en-enviest season of all
With those holiday meetings we’re so early leaving
And friends still don’t call
It’s the en-enviest season of all

We’ll miss parties they’re hosting
Marshmallows they’re toasting
And caroling out in the snow
‘Least we won’t be the stories
And reasons the glories of
Christmases were a “no show”

It’s the least wonderful time of the year
Our feelings we’re stowing
Our hearts will be groaning
‘Cuz loved ones aren’t near
It’s the least wonderful time of the year

Feel for them.  Reach out to them.

Help change “least” to “most” this year.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Lies We Believe

{This is a guest blog by a very dear friend who has bipolar disorder.  AG}

I eventually stopped believing the lies others told me and the ones I told myself, but it wasn’t easy.

These lies ruled my life for years, damaging my health, my spirit, and my self-worth.  At first they went down easy, like a hot cup of tea and honey.  Their sweet promise of a better life, along with the short-term gains I saw, convinced me this was all good!  But like most things we consume that seem helpful but aren’t, they grew into a bitterness I simply had to purge.

My journey from this diet of deception wasn’t easy.  It took many years of staring into the mirror, contemplating truth shared in love, and practicing personal disciplines.  All this continues today.

Lie #1… “You need to get off your meds and change your diet (or your exercise or your sleep).”

Vitamins and herbs!  Exercise and more sleep!  The latest diet—and lots of water!!  I heard this lie from people who clearly benefited from these things.  Problem was, my struggle wasn’t just physical.  Now, I’m not saying improving your physical health won’t improve your mental health, but this lie got me believing my medication was only covering up lifestyle behaviors I stubbornly refused to change.

The truth is, while the mind and body and spirt are independent yet interrelated, they’re also subject to illness and in need of appropriate care.  Use of medication is sometimes necessary for the mentally ill.  I know this firsthand: I went off my meds, relapsed horribly, and wound up in a psych ward.  Had I not believed this lie, I wouldn’t still be haunted by the memory of that experience.

Listen to professionals.  See a therapist periodically, even if it’s only to “check in”.  Work to improve all aspects of your health—mind, body, and spirit.

Lie #2… “If you only have more faith, you’ll be cured.”

The arguments used to support this lie were very convincing, mostly because I desperately wanted to be cured.
“The Bible tells about Jesus freeing people who were disturbed because of demons.  If mental illness was real, the Bible would’ve recorded Jesus healing someone with mental problems, and it doesn’t.”
“James said the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well.  If you’ve prayed and not been cured, your faith is obviously weak.”
“When the disciples asked Jesus why they couldn’t heal someone’s son, he told them it was because their faith was weak.  If you only had strong faith, you’d be healed!”

While we all know that reading Scripture and praying to God are essential for living the life Jesus promised, his promises don’t guarantee we won’t have problems.  In fact, it’s the opposite!  Jesus himself said: “In this world, you will have trouble.”

Pray, of course.  Read and study, too.  Learn God’s tools for godly living: right thinking, thanksgiving, holiness, perseverance, self-control, and, yes, faith.

Lie #3… “You’re broken and weak.”

Unlike other lies, this one first went down like a big, chalky pill.  After awhile, though, I didn’t mind, because it explained why I was sick and it justified why I should stop trying.

But most people weren’t so direct.  They usually coated this lie in a sugary paste and wrapped it in a question.
“Why do you sleep so much?”  Implication: You’re lazy.
“Why don’t you do that yourself?”  Implication: You’re irresponsible.
“Here’s a book on positive thinking.”  Implication: You’re a pessimist.
“You should work full-time like your friends.”  Implication: You’re a freeloader.

Unlike other lies, this one sprang from judgment of who I was as a person, so it hurt even more.  Responding from the heart was key here.

Know your true self.  Rest on God’s opinion of you.  Spend time with encouraging people.  Seek God’s approval.

Many other lies came from deep within me, especially when I focused on my circumstances rather than my blessings.
“God’s punishing me!”
“God abandoned me!”
“God doesn’t answer prayers.”
“I have to figure this out for myself.”
“I have no hope of living a better life!”

Believe God’s words in John 9:3, Matthew 28:20, 1 Peter 3:12, James 1:5, and Jeremiah 29:11.

The lies continue to come, and it takes effort to not believe them.  But I’m proof that tending to your health, trusting in God, and advocating for yourself can create a very good life.

Today, I’m healthy though not cured, faith-filled though still growing, content though not always happy.

And I’m okay with that.  You can be, too.