The Gospel for Mental Illness

Today is my 49th birthday.

Yesterday was a terrible day, from the morning discouragements leading up to midnight’s breakdown.

Mental illness sucks the life out of me even though I am surrounded by people who love me. It makes me feel ungrateful, sometimes, and I beat myself up for feeling this way. But mental illness is like that – it eats you up. Sometimes I am neither here nor there. The unseen boundaries within my brain can cause me to be highly functional and productive one day, and utterly helpless and hopeless the next.

A very good friend and pastor posted this on his wall this morning and it was the first post I read. Maybe this is God’s special gift to me today.

“If your gospel isn’t good news for people who suffer from mental illness, it isn’t the Gospel of Jesus.

One of the most gracious, generous and selfless people I have ever known was tormented by an illness that limited mental function. And yet, God’s love was more evident in her than most able-minded people I know.”

The replies and affirmations to his post also gave me strength somehow. There is strength in numbers, truly.

May all of us who suffer from mental illness find strength within ourselves, as God gives us His strength to pull us through. It is a lifetime of extreme highs and lows. It is an illness that most will never even come to terms with. It is a black dog that is always close by.

I pray for all of us. There may not be a total cure for mental illness but there is still hope, whenever we are “well enough” to lift up our heads to see the light. There IS a light that penetrates all this darkness.

I long for that day when I will be freed from the agony of this illness, here or in the next life. When my brain will finally stop spinning from endless screams of anxiety. When I will experience some measure of peace.

Philippians 4:6-7 is my most-read Biblical passage. I firmly believe that this was written for all of us who suffer from anxiety.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

What Philippians 4:6-7 Can Teach Us About Managing Anxiety

 

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Some people are worth letting go of…

Letting Go Quote

I came across this quote and realized how much this applies to me.

I care about people — my family, relatives, friends, co-workers — especially when much time is spent together, whether at work or at leisurely activities — and especially when life is shared. Sometimes I think I care too much.

Being a very imperfect person, it is not too difficult for me to forgive others their flaws. On the other hand, breach of trust is an issue that is very challenging for me to forgive.

So when relationships have to end (this is excluding my husband and immediate family) — when the time comes where I need to let go of people, no matter the closeness developed — I am deeply hurt. It takes a while for me to recover, often times spiraling down into depression — until I finally realize that I don’t need to keep this person who has deeply offended me in my life.

I am sure they hardly spare a thought for me — so it’s best that I also stop thinking of them and move on. However, our memories don’t simply forget. It is inevitable for us to remember the people, the circumstances, and the feelings associated with them. The point is to let go every time — EVERY TIME.

Like anything that involves our growth and development as a person, it is a process. And I want to celebrate each success — each time I am able to let go of a person I don’t need in my life — every person who just pulls me down. They are not worth it. They are not worth the pain I suffered — so it won’t happen again.

Letting go of people will also open up more space in my heart to let other people in. Love doesn’t stop. Caring doesn’t stop. I just need to learn to discern better.

 

Friendships Always Matter

Friendships

Whether one is suffering from depression or not, friendships — true friendships —  always matter and are a source of support, whether they know about one’s mental illness or not.

I find myself actually “forgetting” or leaving behind my feelings of depression for a while  whenever I am able to “force” myself to get out of the house to accept some meal or get-together invitations. After such events, I find myself feeling somewhat elated and am thankful for being able to accomplish it — it does feel like an accomplishment — a small step forward.

My introversion does make me feel drained after being surrounded for hours by people other than my friends, but that’s par for the course.

It makes me smile reviewing all my photos on Facebook, and this particular photo, taken by my husband two Christmases ago made me want to blog about it. This was a “staged” photo, guided by our friend on the rightmost side, who was into advertising a few years ago. He asked us if we noticed how most print ads show people with “open-mouthed” smiles. We then realized it was true.

So while having that Christmas meal 2 years ago, we tried to make our own “print ad”. We tried so hard not to laugh while the camera was on a 10-second timer. Being a print ad model was harder than we thought!

The people in this photo (save for my husband and me) have been our friends for many years. They all always be friends we will treasure.

Hope you find yourselves with true friendships that will stand the tests of time, like we did.

 

 

At The Edge Of The Precipice

They say that fear of the unknown is not reality — because the unknown hasn’t happened yet.

Woman standing on precipice edge at Horseshoe Bend, Arizona, USA

Have you ever felt like you were standing on the edge of a very high cliff, with a leopard about to launch itself at you, while you decide if it is worth jumping to your “unknown” demise instead of being eaten alive — which you don’t even know yet, right?

The precipice, known also to me as my “critical juncture” in life, is where I find myself standing on the past year, and every decade. There is fear either way — fear of “staying” where I am, just on the edge,  afraid  that I will grow old not ever knowing what is on the other side.

And then there is intense fear of what lies beneath the precipice — will I fall too deep and too hard? Or is there a soft green meadow underneath the sea of dark menacing clouds? Or is there an actual safety net waiting for me? Or will it be just the same as it was before.

A pivotal scene in the movie Divergent was when the newly inducted Dauntless members  had to prove themselves worthy of belonging to such a “fearless” bunch, by leaping into a dark abyss as their first real test. No one wanted to go first. No one wanted to be the first to “die”. The deep, dark abyss represented death for them.

Beatrice Prior (the protagonist played by Shailene Woodley) was the only one with enough courage to literally dive into the unknown. She was afraid, but she also realized her fear was just that – fear. The fear of possibly dying has not happened, so dive she did.

Her triumphant smile upon landing on a huge safety net became the catalyst for change in her fellow Dauntless’ hearts. You know what happened next — everyone jumped — and survived!

I am afraid of something that hasn’t happened yet – a life change that could actually be healing for me and my family. Anxiety and depression make the thoughts and decisions even harder. Anxiety and depression keep my feet tightly glued to the edge, cause me to vacillate, think and re-think every decision and outcome, and stoke the embers of fear in my heart until they become a raging fire that consume me and whatever little courage I have tried to muster.

I am afraid to jump – yet I am more afraid to stay because then, I will never know what awaits me. There is so much fear at the edge of the precipice. I cannot stay there much longer.

Lord, give me the courage to jump, for when I do, I will land on the safest place — your loving hands.

 

The feeling of being homeless…

 

Homeless

My husband and I have been renting apartments since we got married. Where we live, it is not easy to own a home. The insecurity of being driven out of a place and being homeless has been with me ever since.

Just two weeks ago, we were informed that the apartment we are renting has already been sold and that we need to move out within 2 to 3 weeks. We were stunned and felt very betrayed. Looking for a relatively decent place to move into on a very small budget that allows pets is very difficult. We had to adjust our schedules so we could look at several places to rent at such short notice.

Without the money to advance to landlords (at least 3 months’ worth), we could just look at places but not reserve. We have been to most cities that are not too far from where my husband works and have seen really depressing places. We have been on a rollercoaster of emotions the past two weeks.

The reality that we will be homeless within a few weeks hit us really hard. Without the financial means to rent a place in such a short time drove us deep into depression. I have always been irate at the government for driving illegal settlers away without any relocation plans for them. It is cruel and inhumane. Every human being has the right to a decent place to live. Our society has blatantly ignored this basic right for decades. We are all answerable for this intolerable cruelty.

I know people who also almost lost their homes – and those who actually did. It is downright wrong.

I applaud people who establish shelters for the homeless. There should be more of them and more facilities for the homeless. No one should ever be deprived of this basic human right.

Now I personally know how it feels. I pray to God that we will be given the means to help others in this plight.

Worship no matter what…

It’s another new year. I am very grateful for the physical, emotional and mental rest I am enjoying with my family for a few weeks. The past year has been pain-filled; losing many loved ones, grappling with God and his promises, struggling to keep my head above raging waters, and simply striving to survive.

God’s many promises seemed irrelevant to me and my situation. They were outdated and were definitely objective reality as far as I was concerned. I witnessed injustice, suffering, severe pain and loss among my family, friends and countrymen. God’s mercy and deliverance seemed very far away.

After more than a year of leaving my Bible on a shelf to gather dust, I fearfully picked it up and leafed through the still crisp pages. It was an emotional experience. I know in my heart that Jesus never left me, but I stopped believing in his word — at least those that promise deliverance, provision and help to the widows, orphans and fatherless.

I did not go to my “favorite”‘ books. I simply skimmed through and decided to read Habakkuk. This was not a book I often read so I was stunned to read “myself” and my situation so accurately described by the author. I cried his cry for many months: “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you , “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong?” – Habakkuk 1: 2-3 (NIV throughout)

Did I receive the answers I wanted to hear? I guess not. I was utterly despondent and wondered if God would ever forgive me for dwelling in negativity and misery for so long. In his unfailing love and mercy, he whispered these words to me.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” – Habakkuk 3: 17-19

He is healing me enough to begin praising him – “….to choose to trust God and declare that his character is perfect – even when we don’t understand and our hearts are breaking.” – Insight on Worship, CGSB, NIV

My heart is still breaking. My husband and I just lost another beloved pet only one week ago. By God’s strength, I choose to be hopeful and to continue to live my life with all my heart and might because life is just too short to remain in pain, anguish and grief. We have a mighty and loving God who continues to save and heal us. And he continues to save and heal me, one small step at a time.

My Experience at an Adoption Home

CRIBS

My husband and I just came from volunteering at a local shelter for abandoned and abused children. Appropriately called CRIBS (Creating Responsive Infants By Sharing), it opens its gates to people who wish to give an hour or two of their time, in the morning and in the afternoon, caring for and interacting with babies and toddlers.

Since it was our first time to volunteer, we didn’t quite know what to expect. After changing into our clean and white “work clothes”, we entered the babies’ and toddlers’ sections and were immediately and eagerly greeted by the tots. I hardly had time to see where my husband went because the child that greeted me at the door of the nursery held up his hands to be carried.

I was overwhelmed. So there I was, wondering how I could help when I didn’t have children of my own and nervous as to what was expected of me. It didn’t take me too long to figure it out. I just needed to give them love.

There were many volunteers but there were also more babies than everyone can handle. I was in the room that housed eight babies ranging in age from four months to perhaps one year. Each one wanted to be carried, comforted and put to sleep. After playing with two of them, I carried a crying little boy with almond eyes and a cute round head. He was crying  and rolling from side to side in one corner of the play mat that I had to attend to him immediately. All volunteer hands and arms were full so I rushed to him after putting down the little boy that first greeted me.

It took me just two seconds to lift him up and he immediately stopped crying. The distress was lifted from his tiny face and he seemed content to just be held. My heart just melted. I needed no special mothering skills or years of child-rearing experience to calm a crying baby. I was humbled and I offered prayers to God for those babies whose parents didn’t want them anymore.

I put no blame on their parents. I don’t know their stories and I’m not their judge. I can only pray for more people whose hearts will be touched to volunteer their time and love to these children. This is not the only shelter in our country. There are many more that need not only volunteers but donors so that these homes and shelters will continue to be in existence and will be able to take care of more children. You can look them up on the internet, check out their wish lists, and give them a call.

There is also a need for more caring people to adopt these children and give them a more permanent home. Each child needs special and constant attention, which adoption shelters cannot provide 24/7. There are costs to be counted, the most crucial of which, I believe, is commitment.

My husband and I are seriously considering adoption and we are doing our research, on our knees. If we could give a home to just one child, then that’s one child less at a shelter. That’s one more child assured of love and a better future. We don’t have all the resources just yet, but by God’s grace, we can work those out.

We pray for that baby He has already matched and prepared for us. And as we wait, I am always reminded of our own precious adoption by God the Father, through Jesus Christ.   “5He (A)predestined us to (B)adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, (C)according to the kind intention of His will” – Ephesians 1:5 (NASB).

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