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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Existence Is A Wonderful Thing

Flower PaintingI came across an article in the newspaper a few days ago as I carefully sipped my steaming mug of brewed coffee in a quiet spot overlooking the freshly rained-on pine trees. I needed very much to be reminded of the heart of the article – “existence is a wonderful thing”.

I wish I took note of the name of the author. She expressed in writing what I felt in my heart but could not make myself articulate out loud. Let me quote a paragraph she wrote:

“Existence is a wonderful thing, To exist, to be there, But more often than not, you get so caught up in the idea of getting to a specific destination that you entirely forget where you are right now. That, my dear, is where you start.”

Anxiety disorder causes one to worry so much about the future that one fails to simply breathe and focus on the NOW.

It is very difficult for my mind not to race. One thought (usually plans or goals) leads to another, and then another, until I get too anxious because the thoughts, more often than not, turn into fears. Fear that I will not be able to do what I had planned in my mind. Fear that the obstacles I imagined will be too great for me to hurdle without hurting myself in the process.

All my fears are self-imposed. They have not happened yet. They are not even reality. Yet I feel anxious about them almost everyday, and these anxieties stop me from existing — from living day-to-day. From even falling asleep or breathing normally.

It is an everyday struggle – to not get caught up in the idea of getting to a specific destination that I entirely forget where I am right now.

I have recently gone back to painting. It was a huge step in my recovery process because I was somehow able to overcome my fear and anxiety about just starting. And deliberately selecting the smallest paintbrush, I very slowly applied paint to canvas. The whole process was meant for me to slow down, to live in the now and stop the constant worrying about the future. It certainly helped.

To exist in the now is truly a wonderful thing.

The attached photo is my recently finished oil painting of my flower photograph. Yes, I do photography as well.

Trauma in Paradise

Lonely Beach

Paradise is a subjective word.

I learned this only recently – very recently.

Paradise for me is no longer just a place. It is being with the people I love – wherever we are.

Though living by the beach for a little less than two weeks would be like living in paradise, or so I thought, it was hell-on-earth for me. I did not know it would be. I would not have ventured out when I did otherwise.

I was lonely. My husband couldn’t be with me for many days as work required him to be in the city. I couldn’t do it. I could not last being with people who claimed to treat me as “family” but made me feel isolated. I could not last being away from my husband anymore.

I basically courted depression and anxiety – the very same conditions I thought would somehow be “eased” once I am surrounded by water and working in what seemed to be “ideal” work conditions. At 48 years old, I still don’t know myself that well.

It’s not the place. It never was. I was too anxious about the future and was blinded by the promise of a better career – and an attractive salary – that I did not stop longer to really think and consider. What do people always say? If it’s too good to be true, it usually is.

And I finally saw through it. All this time, I had been listening — hardly talking — and I finally discerned. It helps to just listen. Usually, the more people talk, the more mistakes they make by revealing more of their real motives.

The promises made were as loose as as the fine grains of sand falling between my fingers. True characters were revealed, shattering whatever “good impressions” I may have had. I was lonely. I felt very out of place.

I was very lonely. And I left. I picked up whatever I could carry and headed out to the bus station. I had to leave – for good.

And so now I am home again – with my husband and our 3 dogs. I am still recovering from the trauma.

I will get better. We will get better.

Pummeled By Pain & Letting Go

Depression

It feels like that — like being pummeled with one upper cut after another. Body punches, severe blows, many below the belt, are leaving me with scars and bruises that will take a very long time to heal.

Depression feels like that to me lately, especially when the triggers keep coming – relentlessly.

External factors – toxic people, the stress and the negativity they cause every single day — eat away at the very fragile inner peace I have tried so hard to cultivate for many months – nay, for many years.

Gone – just like that. Even fear of change or the unknown has nothing on the effect of soured relationships and external negativity.

Just yesterday, while browsing through business and marketing books in a mall, I quietly recited a mantra – “I will NOT be beaten. I will NOT be beaten!” The joy of walking was cut short by a very brief e-mail. I had to survive those few minutes alone inside the bookstore.

I am down, so down – but not beaten. I REFUSE to be beaten. For someone suffering from depression and anxiety, it is quite a feat to even say this. I recite the mantra — then stressful news come again. It is an everyday cycle for so many months. It is a wonder I am still alive.

I am letting go – every minute, every hour, every day – of the effect of people on me; people who are not going to be in my life for long, who do not even think of me and who I don’t need to think of either.

I will cry. I have cried – no, I bawled my eyes out too many times to count. And I will cry some more. I need to.

I am discouraged and down on my knees with head bowed – but I do not pray. I can’t. It’s just too hard.

After taking a small step forward, bad news comes through text or e-mail that set me back five steps. I cry. I cry some more. I fall to my knees again because of the tremor that suddenly overcomes my body. I could not breathe.

It would seem that depression and anxiety will stay with me, despite years of medication and occasional therapy. There is no cure for it – I can only manage it under relatively stress-free conditions.

Let go – let go.