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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Simply Stress-Free

I believe life here on earth was meant to be simple. By simple I mean free from the stresses caused by the minute-by-minute bombardment of information to our brains by the marvels of technology. My husband and I just came from serving at a six-day youth summer camp in the suburbs. It was a most welcome break from all things that have been causing us much stress the past twelve months.

It was such a blessing – such freedom! – to be off the grid known as the social network. We may not realize this but there is so much pressure and expectation to project a certain persona, to greet and respond to all our Facebook or Twitter “friends”, to accept all “friend” requests and invitations to join other social networks, to never “un-friend” anyone, to always be online, to comment on people’s photos and status, and the list goes on.

Just a few days ago, we “lost” our internet connection again. This time, it was caused by some freakish factor. If not for the fact that we are paying for our internet subscription, I felt relieved to have an excuse not to check mail, FB, etc. Believe it or not, it’s not all good news and pleasantries in social networks. There are a lot of conflicts, bad news, personal attacks masked as famous people’s quotes, and wars being waged online for the entire world to see. No one cares anymore if personal conflicts are not for general consumption. The more people know about it, the more powerful the weapon. It’s not only very sad – it’s downright tragic!

I don’t know if someone else already came up with these, but here are my thoughts about social networking:

It is to be used to seek peace and pursue it; not to wage war. It is to be used to build bridges; not burn them. It is to be used to affirm and encourage others; not to berate or malign anyone. It is to be used for decency; not for obscenity. It is to be used for thoughtful truth; not for hurtful lies and deceit. It is to be used for good; not for evil.

It is also healthy to rest from social networking every once in a while. I still believe that more meaningful relationships are built, developed and sustained in personal, face-to-face encounters. Any misunderstandings can be cleared faster in a face-to-face conversation. Loving and forgiving touches can be given and received, and these promote healing in the most profound ways.

We are relational beings. We need to experience touch; we need to be able to smell aromas and associate memories with them. The same goes with sights and sounds. We need to be able to “speak” and “listen”. More importantly, we need to connect with other human beings; people we can grow with, laugh with, cry with, hurt with, or just BE with.

Life was meant to be simpler than it has become. It behooves us to “un-complicate” things and get back to the basics. Spend real personal time with family and friends. Lay down our mobile phones, PDAs and laptops and actually learn to communicate verbally and listen attentively. Turn off the TV. Slow down. Leave the car home and take a walk to the bakery. Stop and smell the roses, because they may soon be gone. Pray. Meditate. Heal.

May we all learn to give up what we don’t need and keep what matters most. Have a stress-free day.

I was never alone…

Southern Luzon Medical Center

It has been a week today since my first ever surgery. I had a laparoscopy cholecystectomy done last March 24 to remove my gall bladder because of the many stones that resided in it and caused me many hours of pain. Many may say it’s a very common procedure for a minor organ and that I’m making too much of a deal of it. Like I told my hubby, it’s still my bladder and it’s still my body. There is nothing common about it. I only have one of each!

I had about a week to prepare myself physically, mentally and emotionally. I thought I was doing pretty well in that I was still able to function around the house and do my baking and deliveries. Well, not really. I did break down the day after my surgeon told me that I had to go through the surgery. I was tearing apart at the seams as my fears surfaced and almost engulfed me. I was losing my bladder! It’s major!

Many friends and family members sent their support and prayers through text messages and e-mail. I read and re-read my Facebook messages and thanked God for His love expressed in tangible ways. These were the messages I reviewed in my mind when I was wheeled to the operating room. And as I was laid down on the bed with the many green and blue-masked figures hovering around me, the bright OR lights reminding me of the many ER episodes I’ve seen, I listened calmly to the soft buzz and beeps of the various machines I was hooked up to. I thought I was calm until one of the nurses read my blood pressure to me: 120/90. That’s high! I’m cool with my normal 110/70.

I realized then that the surgery may be postponed if my BP didn’t cooperate. That was when I suddenly felt Christ’s comforting presence in me. I thanked him for the treatment I was about to receive and silently prayed for my anesthesiologist, surgeon and nurses. And then I blacked out.

I woke up to the voice of my able anesthesiologist and my sweet hubby. Since I was just beginning to regain my consciousness, I could only manage a “thumbs up”, with my heavy eyes and parched mouth still shut. I also realized that I survived the surgery and that I was never alone. Jesus was with me the whole time.

I look back now and still fight back the tears whenever I remember that special moment before I lost consciousness. That was the moment when I felt so much fear yet so much peace and comfort afterwards. I am also filled with gratitude for the love and support of our church family who visited me in the hospital and stayed to care for me. That was love in action. I will never forget that. And to my hubby, a big kiss and hug for his loving care and sacrifice.

I was never alone. I know that now.