Is Mental Illness Weakness?

To many, those who wrestle with mental illness seem weak. They see some people unable to work, going to countless doctor visits and counseling appointments, taking medication, or needing to take a “mental health day”. While many people wrestling with mental illness do utilize some of these things, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are weak.

Weakness…Its a feeling that I myself have felt throughout my entire journey wrestling with mental illness. You would think by now with all of the information and personal accounts at our fingertips, that the stigma and ignorance surrounding mental illness would be eradicated. After all, it is 2021.

Sadly, this notion could not be farther from the truth. While we have made great strides in battling the stigma surrounding mental health, there is still so much work to be done. Those of us struggling with mental health issues should not be hearing things like, “Why are you depressed? You have nothing to be depressed about”, when sharing a vulnerable struggle with someone. These are words I heard just a couple of weeks ago.

I used to think that I was weak for having panic attacks every day in high school and needing to go to a different type of schooling. I used to think that I was weak for having to return home after a bad depressive episode in college. I used to think that I was weak for battling with suicidal thoughts. I thought that I was weak for having to cancel plans or obligations so that my mind and body could rest. I’ve thought I was weak for needing countless therapy appointments and doctor visits. I also thought that I was weak when needing to take time off of work to go through IOP (intense outpatient program).

It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I finally had a change of perspective. As I was pushing through work, shaking, while enduring a four hour long panic attack, I realized that I am not weak for struggling with mental illness, it’s actually quite the opposite. I am so incredibly strong because God has strengthened me to fight day in and day out.

What those who don’t battle with mental illness fail to understand is that it is quite literally a battle of war waging within your mind and body. Depression is much more than when neurotypical people experience sadness or fatigue. Anxiety disorders are much more complex and overwhelming than the average anxiety most humans need to survive.

Mental illness is often desperately wanting to accomplish your goals, chores, and obligations but being so beyond exhausted that any little thing becomes overwhelming. It’s wanting to be vulnerable with those we love but not wanting to be the heavy weight in the air. It’s wanting to continue to be invited to events but having to constantly cancel because we just can’t fake being happy for one more hour. It’s wanting to go to bed early but also fearing another restless night of sleep. It’s the constant built up tension in our bodies creating pain. It’s the constant dread every morning when our alarm goes off that we have to face yet another day. It’s the vegging out and losing ourselves in technology to try and silence the negativity in our minds for just a moment. The war that goes on within is this and so much more.

Mental illness looks different for everyone. Contrary to what this person said to me, there doesn’t have to be any tangible experience that makes one fall into depression or most mental illnesses. Someone can have the happiest life on this earth, yet their brain can fall ill.

After all, that is what mental illness really is. It’s an ailment of a major organ…The brain. You wouldn’t tell someone who has a heart ailment to “just exercise”. You wouldn’t tell someone with diabetes to “just eat healthy” if their body needs insulin. You also wouldn’t tell someone with a broken bone to “just be grateful and happy for the blessings in their life” when their bone clearly needs mending. Those responses shouldn’t be given when a person expresses vulnerability in their struggle with mental illness either.

Mental illness is real and needs to be taken seriously.

Now that we have an idea of what mental illness really looks like… is mental illness weakness? Does enduring mental illness mean that a person is weak?

Had you asked me this question a few weeks ago I would have shouted from the rooftops that mental illness is NOT weakness; however, I’ve had a slight change in my perception after a sermon that was preached at my church recently.

I still firmly believe that those of us who wrestle with mental illness are some of the strongest people you will ever meet. I just think that where we get our strength from is important and says a lot about who we are.

In the case of my personal journey with mental illness, I would not be alive today had I not had the strength of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ.

When I am in some of my darkest seasons of life, battling my mind day in and day out, dreading each morning, I pray to God to give me the strength to face whatever comes that day. On the days that I don’t say this prayer, I feel fragile and dare I say, weak.

I’m not going to sugar coat by saying that this prayer automatically makes me feel strong enough to face my mental anguish. There are certainly days when I say this prayer and still feel overwhelmed; however, the days that I do make a point to say it, I feel peace knowing that I am not fighting all alone in my own strength.

The reality is, I could sit here and boast about how strong I am to endure a panic attack lasting hours and continuing to work, but I would be lying to say that it was in my own strength.

Those of us wrestling with mental illness are NOT weak people. We are people struggling to find the strength to face each and every day but we don’t have to find the strength on our own.

My strength to face each mental battle must come from the Lord or I will not win each daily fight. It is in my weakness that God shines through and gives me the strength I need.

Where is your strength coming from? Is it coming from your own self or from something far greater than yourself? Are you just barely surviving or are you resting in knowing your strength doesn’t have to come from your own accord? These are important check in questions we should all be asking ourselves in the midst of each and every battle no matter the cause.

I’m not perfect. I don’t have all of this together. I still have days in which I can barely muster a word to God. I take heart, however, knowing He knows exactly what I need without me saying a word. That alone gives me strength.

Thank you for reading my rambles.

Hope

Hope.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

At the end of 2020, I was completely out of hope. I felt hopeless in so many areas of my life, my relationships, my future, and my health.

We all know 2020 was a crappy year for everyone. The end of 2020 was exceptionally hard for me. I made excruciatingly painful decisions to put firm boundaries in place, to the point that I needed to cut one of my parents completely out of my life.

This decision left me feeling utterly hopeless. I would get asked, “what do you hope your relationship with so and so could look like?” and I would be left stunned because I had no hope left in me for something better. I couldn’t even fathom the thought of something different.

I’m not one to make new years resolutions or even pick a word of the year, but As 2020 came to a close and 2021 rolled in, I kept hearing the word hope, without the “less” attached to the end. It came to mind repeatedly. I knew in my heart that I needed to focus on the word hope for the coming year. For I knew that if I didn’t, living without hope would create a hardened, depressed heart and soul in me.

So, I unofficially, chose the word hope to represent my 2021. I’ve kept it pretty much to myself until now. I honestly had kind of forgotten that I had chosen this word to represent my year. That is until I found this (pictured below) as I was trimming a tree inside one of my accounts at work the other day.

I was instantly taken aback, and couldn’t help but smile. You see, I have been feeling rather distant from God as of late. Depression will do that to you. Earlier in the day as I was driving on my route, I began praying. Praying that the Holy Spirit would open my heart and eyes to see His love for me (I have a really hard time accepting and believing He loves me unconditionally). I prayed that He would speak to me and that I would see Him all around.

While I didn’t visually see Him or angels, I saw this. A reminder of the word that he placed on my heart just a few weeks prior as we all looked to the future. I honestly could not believe my eyes. I probably looked like a dweeb standing there reaching up into the tree to take pictures of something so small, yet so big.

It is so hard for me to have hope when our world is crashing in all around us. It is so incredibly hard for me to have hope when my relationships with the people I love the most and desperately long to be loved in, crumble. It is so hard for me to have hope when my health fluctuates and leaves me lethargic in my bed.

But I believe in a God who created the entire universe, all the way down to me and the very plants I love to care for. I believe in a savior who came as a tiny helpless human, lived a rough life, and willingly died so that I could be saved from an eternity away from my creator. These are the things I find my hope in.

I still struggle to find hope in said relationships and in the world around me, but it’s something I desperately want to work towards this year. It won’t be easy, but with little reminders like these, I know it will happen. ❤

What are you hoping for this year? Do you have a word of the year that you are working towards? I’d love to hear about it below.

Thank you for reading my rambles.

My 2020 Journey

2020, am I right? It’s safe to say that 2020 was a hard year for everyone globally. It’s crazy to think back to a year ago. We had absolutely no idea what we were in for in the coming year. While I could sit here and list off all of the things that made 2020 hard for me personally, I’d much rather focus on how I’ve grown this year. Because I was not on social media to share my life updates with everyone, I decided I will share several of them here.

  • I began 2020 in January with purchasing a new to me car! My jeep broke down in November of 2019, and while I desperately wanted to purchase a new to me vehicle, I was waiting for the best fit. Thanks to the help of my dad, we found an amazing deal on facebook, and I have loved my little car since! I had to jump through several hoops to get it in my possession, but I’m so grateful that I did and that God blessed me with it.
  • January also brought my new challenge of staying off of social media. This was very hard for me, but I knew in the long run it would be worth it. I definitely had some times where I did give in and get on social media, but they weren’t for long. I’m really proud of myself for how well I did with that challenge, and given the year we had it ended up being a huge blessing. More to come on this later.
  • I bought myself a membership to the local Botanical Gardens, which has been one of my favorite purchases by far! This purchase also helped me develop my interest in plant photography (with my phone of course). I just can’t seem to take enough photos of plants.
  • March decided to throw a curveball in everyone’s lives, mine included. When schools shut down, I got laid off from my job. I took the opportunity to work on several projects around my Dad’s house, as I’m sure many of you did as well. I eventually was able to work from home creating program plans before returning to work in June.
  • I had a VERY successful and full garden with some new additions to my garden space. After being too burnt out and depressed in 2019 to even care for my garden at all, I came back in 2020 with SO much passion to make it thrive again. It was a lot of hard work, but I had so much fun and we are still using it’s harvests into winter.
  • Summer was busy with working full time at the club and working in my garden. Come August, however, things got pretty crazy. I ended up leaving my job after 3 years. It was hard, but a much needed change in my life.
  • The day after leaving my job, I moved to an adorable studio apartment in a new city! This was such a leap of faith, and honestly crazy how it all happened so quickly. I barely had time to think or process it all. God works in crazy ways.
  • The day after moving, I went on a small vacation to Michigan to go rock hunting. It was such a relaxing and peaceful time away that truly helped me to transition into my new life changes.
  • That next week, I began my full-time position with a small business. I get to travel all over the local area taking care of houseplants inside of businesses, restaurants, hospitals, homes… you name it! I LOVE my new job. I love the people I work with and work for, and that has made such a huge difference in my life and mental health.
  • With my job change, came an astronomical increase in my houseplant collection! I have not only bought a ton more plants for myself, but I get to take home rescue plants! My friends and family joke that soon enough they won’t be able to find me in my apartment! I love it as plants bring me so much joy.
  • I was pretty sad about leaving behind working with kids, and I was afraid I would lose out on using those passions and gifts. I was so excited, honored, and grateful to be asked to step in and lead children’s ministry on Wednesday nights for my church. While it has brought new challenges, I have loved being able to use my gifts in this way and serve my church family. I truly feel like God worked all of it perfectly and aligned everything to make this happen.
  • Around the same time as all of these life changes, I also began a new journey towards healing. I joined my Church’s Celebrate Recovery Step Study. This was extremely hard for me as it required me to be vulnerable rather quickly with people I barely knew. I’m so grateful I listened to that call from the Holy Spirit, however, because I have created lasting friendships. I still have a long way to go in this study, but I am so eager to truly get healing and to grow in all areas of my life.
  • It wouldn’t be 2020 without it ending rather challenging. I made the really hard decision to set firm boundaries with people I love dearly. It’s been painful and heart wrenching, but I know it was the right decision. To me, it shows another area in which I have grown tremendously in the past year and for that I am grateful.
  • While I did end up spending Christmas alone, I have been so grateful for relaxation and rest. 2020 was a painful year for everyone. I’ve truly been going through grief as I begin to process the hard things we endured. Knowing that I’m not alone, has kept me going. It’s really hard to acknowledge the many good things that happened over the past year, when you’re in a hard spot emotionally, but listing out all of the incredible ways God has moved in my life this year is such an encouragement.

It is my hope that as we begin this new year, you are able to recognize the many ways in which God has blessed you. I don’t know what the new year will bring, but I trust that whatever comes our way, Jesus will be with us through it all, just as He was this year.

Thank you so much for being patient with my lack of posting this year. I hope to post more in the new year with more of my passions, joys and challenges. Thank you for reading my rambles.







Social Media Fast: 6 Month Update

Wow. We are already through the month of June and the time has honestly flown by. What a whirlwind the first six months of 2020 have been for our world.

It’s crazy to believe that I have gone six months trying to stay off of social media. When I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me towards the end of 2019 to fast from all social media for the entire year of 2020, I felt frustrated and pretty scared. As the World is going crazy, however, I have found myself feeling extremely grateful for that prompting from the Holy Spirit. God knew exactly what this year would look like, and to think that He knows me so deeply that He knew I would need this fast in order to stay steady on track with my healing and growth, is humbling.

As I’ve mentioned in previous updates, social media was my escape from my thoughts, feelings and life going on around me. It was the way that I would numb out from the world. It doesn’t really make much logical sense because social media is pretty much all about the things going on in the world, but it was still my escape.

When the quarantine began, I felt isolated, as many have. I wanted to know what was going on in peoples lives, and so I slipped back into social media for a couple of weeks. I immediately noticed the effects on my mental health. My anxiety was through the roof because I kept reading article after article that people posted on Facebook. I was not only consuming too much information, but the information I was receiving was consuming me.

God Prepares Us

As we are now onto our fourth week in quarantine or “social distancing”, there is one thing that continues to be laid on my heart and mind: the truth that God prepares us for situations in life, even when we have no idea what He is doing.

I know that for many, this time being stuck at home has been a shock, adjustment and oftentimes challenging. I completely understand that. I want you to take a moment to pause and take a deep breath with me. Just take a deep breath in, hold it for four seconds, and let it out slowly.

Now, think about some of your more difficult seasons in life that you felt were impossible to overcome. Bear with me. Don’t focus on the bad but think about how you overcame them. Think about who, what and how you were strengthened to face those difficult seasons. Think about the lessons you learned from them.

Personally I’ve been thinking about this global situation and this topic a lot. I can’t help but look back on 2019 and imagine how I would have handled a global pandemic thrown into the mix of everything I was already dealing with. Let’s just say, I would have been even more of a mess than I already was. Thinking about this, often leaves me feeling humbled, proud and so very grateful for the progress I have made and the way God prepared me for such a time as this. I cherish His love for me in this way.

I figured I would give you some background information to let you know why this topic has been on my heart and mind throughout this. God spent the whole year of 2019 preparing me for what was to come in 2020. I truly and honestly believe that. If you haven’t read my previous blog posts, 2019 was a very challenging year for my mental and physical health. Because of how rough my health became over the year, I ended up taking two months off of work to focus on myself and gain healing. You can probably understand what I mean when I say that God prepared me for this time at home. Those two months taught me how to have self-discipline, reach out when I need connection and community, stay in a routine, exercise and grow my mind. All of which have been so very helpful for this past month of social distancing. He truly prepared me for this time and situation.

Maybe you aren’t in a similar place as me right now. Maybe you feel very unprepared and ill-equipped to be stuck in one place for such an extended period of time. Maybe your mental or physical health isn’t in a good spot, and you feel like you are drowning in fear. Believe me, I get it. But even if this time has been challenging, I still want to remind you that God has not left your side, He is strengthening you, and He is establishing your steps even now.

Isaiah 58:11 states, “And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” This verse is so encouraging and beautiful to me. The phrase”Make your bones strong” is so powerful! God not only sustains us and never leaves us during hardships, but He strengthens our bones both physically and mentally. God used my circumstances in 2019 and throughout my entire life to strengthen me.

Many of us around the world are questioning and wondering why God would allow this awful disease to spread and take so many lives. We often believe that if WE were God, we would never allow this to happen. We read in Proverbs 16:9, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” The reality is we are NOT God and for good reason. We can plan our lives out down to the second, but it doesn’t mean that’s how life will happen. Most of the time, we plan our lives and it goes a completely different way than we imagined. Yet, somehow we look back and can’t imagine our life going any other way.

That’s because God knows what is best for us. I couldn’t possibly see how anything good could come out of my trials last year, but I am having manageable anxiety in the midst of a global pandemic. To even say those words is a miracle and testament to God’s process of strengthening His children. I had no idea why God would allow those things to happen in my life, and I even got frustrated with Him. I am now grateful for those experiences.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the fear, doubt, and anger during this pandemic. Media is constantly trying to bombard us with the latest numbers, stories, and heartbreak. But instead of focusing on the media and the fear, focus on how strong you really are. Focus on how much you have overcome in your life. Focus on the ways God has established your steps when you thought you couldn’t take one more. When we focus on those things, we gain confidence in ourselves and in God’s ability to turn this horrible situation into something beautiful. We begin to see the possible good that could be happening in the midst of such heartache.

I sincerely hope that you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. I hope this post gives you something positive to reflect on and focus your mind and heart on during this crazy time. I know this topic has helped me to change my mindset and attitude and has kept my focus on our Heavenly Father. It’s truly helped keep me sane, hopeful and healthy. I hope it helps you too.

I know that for many, this pandemic has brought unimaginable pain and heartache. My heart, thoughts, and prayers are going out to everyone affected.

I hope all who read this know that you are loved so deeply by our creator and our savior. He can handle our pain, sadness, and anger towards Him. He desires for us to come to Him in your pain. I believe that’s when He moves in us the most. It is my hope and prayer that this painful time makes us stronger as individuals, as Christ-followers, and as a community. Most importantly, I hope we learn how to love a little more like Jesus.

Hang in there. God’s got this. You are stronger than you know. Thank you for reading my rambles.

Hypervigilant

Merriam Webster Dictionary defines hyper-vigilance as, “the state of being highly or abnormally alert to potential danger or threat”. This is not to be confused with paranoia, “mental illness characterized by systematized delusions of persecution or grandeur usually without hallucinations”.

Normally hyper-vigilance is a term used when discussing PTSD or someone in a dangerous field of work; however, this term can also be used to describe those of us who experience anxiety disorders. On any typical day I am hyperaware of my surroundings and potential dangers that could be at play. My mind automatically thinks of the worst possible things that “could” happen, however highly unlikely. On a “good” day, I can allow those thoughts to flutter on by and shake them off as if they are just like any other thought. On my hard days, however, it’s not quite as easy.

My hard days often include: racing thoughts, constant “what ifs”, tense muscles, exhaustion, feeling “on edge”, irritability, and headaches. Most days are fairly “good” now, thanks to social support, medications, and therapy. Throw in a global pandemic, however, and my hard days have become my new normal again.

No matter how much I try to relax, turn off the news, or unwind, I constantly feel on edge these days. My shoulders creep up towards my ears, tensed. My stomach is always in knots, and I often sigh deeply just to get enough air, as I realize that I have been holding my breath. It feels as though I’m just waiting. Waiting for symptoms of the virus to HIT me out of nowhere, never knowing when it will strike. I am hypervigilant. Are you?

Hypervigilance isn’t always like you see on the movies. Sure, it can appear as constantly flinching at loud noises and acting out in irritability; however, I want you to know that a lot of the time, the battle of hypervigilance is within, unnoticeable to those around us and maybe even unrecognized by the person themselves.

My battle with hyper-vigilance is within. It’s a constant battle between fearing the worst, and feeling guilt and shame for not having enough faith. It’s not typically an outward struggle (unless illness is involved and then suddenly I’m washing my hands to the point of sores, wiping everything down with alcohol, and having a panic attack nearly every time I leave my house). It’s something that most people don’t notice. This is why it is so important that we check in on our friends during this unprecedented time. Even if our friends may not have a diagnosed mental illness like anxiety or depression, ALL of us are feeling the uncertainty and sometimes even the hyper-vigilance going on in the world right now.

Clinical Psychologist Karen Cassiday stated in an article by the Chicago Tribune, “The thing that makes the coronavirus difficult for people with anxiety is the level of uncertainty,” she said. “We know that when there’s uncertainty, then people with anxiety disorders try and narrow down the field of uncertainty to assume the worst-case scenario.” I would add to that and say that we are not merely trying to “narrow down the field of uncertainty” but we want answers. We want reassurance. We want to know the facts to know that we will be okay.

Moukaddam and Shah state, “Although the effects of the coronavirus on mental health have not been systematically studied, it is anticipated that COVID-19 will have rippling effects, especially based on current public reactions.” We are already seeing the effects of social distancing on those we love. Staying home, sometimes alone, is bound to lead to loneliness in most people. What we fail to recognize is the effects that this pandemic is having and will continue to have on individuals for years to come in regards to anxiety.

If you think about it, most of the world is experiencing hyper-vigilance right now. Please be intentional about reaching out to those you love. Be intentional about sharing how you are feeling about this pandemic. Be intentional about caring for yourself. Be intentional about putting your faith in God. Be intentional about having fun. If you do those things, the hyper-vigilance may not completely disappear, but it will help to know that you are not alone in this.

As a person of faith, I know that anything can happen any second of any day. I know that life could end instantly. I know that no human has any control over anything in this world, yet, my mind constantly fights for any sense of control. And that’s exactly what it is… a fight. A fight between faith in a God who loves me and is trustworthy, and my selfish, fearful, perfectionistic human nature.

I’ve had several people tell me throughout my life, but especially recently to “trust God and give it over to Him because He’s in control.” I know they mean well, but they aren’t telling me something that I don’t already know. I know that God is the only one in control. I know that I can trust him. I know that He is good. It’s not a matter of lack of faith or belief in those things, at least I don’t think it is. I appreciate the reminder, and sometimes it is helpful to be reminded of those truths, but it’s not a cure-all for my struggle, no matter how much I want it to be. God can and does bring me peace in the sense that: I know that He is with me, He will never leave my side, I am loved by Him, and no matter what happens, He’s got this. But that doesn’t always calm my racing thoughts, tense body, and emotions. Sometimes those truths do calm my mind and body, but most times they don’t.

Please know that if someone you love is really struggling with the way things are going right now in the world, just be a listening ear. Acknowledge their fears, talk through them, and if they are believers, pray WITH them, remind them of God’s love and goodness without dismissing their inner turmoil. Chances are if they are a devout follower of Jesus Christ, like myself, and struggle with their mental health, they KNOW God is in control, but they need love, gentleness and to know they are not alone or going “crazy”. Let’s stay home, wash our hands and be there for each other in ways we never knew we needed to be.

Thank you for reading my rambles.

If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out. The resources below would be glad to help you through this.

NAMI HelpLine, please call 800-950-NAMI (6264), Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., ET, or send an email to info@nami.org.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – For youth and adults
(800) 273-TALK (8255)

http://www.remedlylive.com

Resources Used
https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/psychiatrists-beware-impact-coronavirus-pandemics-mental-health

https://www.chicagotribune.com/coronavirus/ct-coronavirus-ocd-anxiety-20200309-sxwxvepaevh73ec4w3cdtzgopa-story.html



Pandemic and Mental Illness

Pandemic.

Just the word ignites panic, fear, and doubts. For someone who struggles with mental illness or even chronic illness, that word also brings havoc to mental health.

As someone who struggles with anxiety disorders and even diagnosed subclinical OCD, I ask that you PLEASE be patient with us. Whether you are concerned about the virus or you are one who thinks it’s all a hoax, the threat can be very real in our minds. Not only that but whether we want to or not, our minds may constantly be racing with thoughts pertaining to the pandemic. Sure, limiting exposure to media is helpful to a degree but there is still evidence of the pandemic everywhere you go.

I have noticed myself developing obsessive behaviors and thought patterns surrounding the pandemic. I read article after article, watch video after video, and can’t help but do mental checklists constantly to ensure that I am healthy and safe. I struggle with medical/health anxiety as it is, and THIS has made it flare up even worse. I constantly want to check my temperature to make sure that I’m in a safe range, and I’m becoming scared to leave my house. These are things we SHOULD be concerned about given the current state of things, but when it becomes obsessive and the only thing your mind can think about, it’s damaging.

I’ve already been over cautious and scared of the coronavirus, but when you see that every single store is completely out of essentials, it only makes the anxiety worse. So please stop hoarding things if you don’t actually need them. I’m one of those people that likes to be prepared for any situation, I’m what some may call an over-packer. To see all of these items completely wiped out can be terrifying. My mind then races with all of the “what if” scenarios, and it can become debilitating if I let it.

So to all of my fellow people out there struggling with their mental health in this crisis, here are the ways I’m trying to get through it that might be of help for you too.

  1. Pray.
    1. Whether you are a follower of Christ or not, praying to your higher power can bring so much peace. To know that I don’t have control over anything is scary, but to know that God is in control eases my mind and body. My spiritual walk is a rollercoaster, some days are better than others, but knowing that I am still loved by God brings comfort and ease of mind.
  2. Rest.
    1. Rest has been exceptionally challenging for me in the past 2 months as I have not been sleeping well. Rest is CRUCIAL for not only your physical health but your mental health too. When I don’t get enough good rest, my anxiety and depression are two-fold. Do your best to get enough sleep.
  3. Get outside.
    1. I’ve discovered in the past 6 months that getting outside and taking a walk, helps me tremendously. It helps me to clear my head, focus in prayer, and get the excess adrenaline out of my system. Not to mention the fresh air and sunshine (when the sun is out), is super uplifting.
  4. Keep a Normal Routine.
    1. If there is anything I learned in my 2 months off of work for IOP, it’s that keeping a normal daily routine is very important. If you’re off work or school for an extended period, like I am now, keeping a normal routine will be vital to keeping your sanity. Get up at a decent time, shower, get dressed, get ready for the day even if you’ll be at home with nowhere to go. Just doing those simple tasks, can make the world of difference to how you feel physically and mentally. Of course, it’s important to take some days here and there to stay in your pajamas and watch movies, but if you can keep some structure to your days, it will help tremendously with your mental health.
  5. Reach Out.
    1. I hate that the media is throwing around the term “isolation”. We are so fortunate to live in a time where the people we love are just a text message or video chat away, no matter the distance. Social distancing is important and crucial to keep the virus from spreading, yes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still have valuable connections with those we care about. Text, call, dm, or video chat the people you care about and talk about something unrelated to the pandemic at hand. Yes, expressing our concerns and fears with others is important for our mental health, but don’t let the conversations be solely about that topic.
  6. Have Some Fun.
    1. If I’m going to be distanced socially from others, and I’m having to stay home out of work for four weeks, I’m going to have to get creative and make things fun. Don’t let boredom overcome you, as I often allow it to overcome me. I plan to take some time to read, watch movies and tv shows, write, and play way more hours of The Sims 4 than I care to admit. Allow yourself space to have some fun. Watch a funny show or movie, play a video game or board game, read that book that’s been on your shelf for years, learn a new talent. There are so many possibilities and I’m excited about all of them.

Those are just some of the things I plan to implement in my time off of work during this crazy pandemic, and I hope it can be helpful for others out there who are struggling with their mental health during this time too.

If you are someone who is blessed to be in a good place mentally right now, then please make sure to reach out to those you know who may be struggling. Sometimes when our mental health is suffering, we do isolate. Reach out to us. Offer encouragement, support, and a listening ear. But most importantly, have patience. Our fears, thoughts and even behaviors may seem irrational and over the top, to you, but to us they are very real. Have compassion and patience. But also know how and when to give us a good dose of reality too. It’s a scary world we live in, especially now. We all need each other.

If you have any other ideas for making this time off of work even better, or you just want to share how you are dealing with this pandemic, feel free to share them with me! Stay safe and healthy! Thank you for reading my rambles.

iocdf.org/covid19

Stuck.

I’ve had a few people ask me as to why I haven’t made any recent blog posts. In three words, I’ve felt stuck.

I have been dealing with some personal and health/sleep struggles. In all honesty, I’ve felt stuck in almost every area of my life, feeling as though I have no idea where to go next. To say that it’s been frustrating would be an understatement. So with that being said, I have been taking a break from writing/publishing blog posts.

In all honesty, I’ve been so exhausted that I can barely make it through the day, let alone use my brain to think about what to write. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing. Writing is my main creative outlet. Writing is the way in which I am able to make sense of everything bustling around in my head. So… I won’t be gone for long. For the time being, I need to press pause and take a break. I am working hard to be able to find adequate rest. I now have some sense of direction in how I will go about that (praise God!), some answers that most certainly will help, and I have hope that I will return to writing in the very near future. So for now… I say, I will see you soon!

Thank you for reading my rambles.

Walking On Water

I’m not going to lie, life has been challenging for me recently. Especially in the past few weeks I have noticed a major shift in myself. December of 2019, I was feeling confident. I was confident in my faith and where it was heading. I was confident in my jobs. I was confident in my health and caring for myself. Overall I felt confident in life. I was keeping my focus on Jesus and the work He was doing.

As January rolled around, however, life began to pick up pace. I ended up getting caught up in my schedule and specific struggles that God was bringing to my attention. I got hyper-focused on the struggles and lost my focus on Jesus. Satan began attacking me and doubts, fears, depression and anxieties crept in… well, flooded in. I lost all confidence in myself, my health, my work, and my faith. I began to neglect my health. I stopped reading God’s word and praying for other people as much as I had been. In reality, I stopped caring. I just wanted to escape.

It’s no surprise that when my chronic illness hit me full force, my body got wiped out. Not only that, I put myself through so much anxiety and stress from focusing on those specific struggles, that my body began to fall apart…again. My muscles were aching, weak and sore, my digestion was all out of sorts, and my energy was nonexistent. While some of those symptoms are from my chronic illness, I know they were intensified by the stress I put myself under.

While I was in the upswing of my energy returning, after taking several days off of work, the story of Jesus walking on the water came to my mind through a song I had been playing on repeat. Let’s take a look at it below in Matthew 14:

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way[b] from the land,[c] beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night[d] he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind,[e] he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

I resonate with Peter on so many levels. I too have felt the confidence of trusting in Jesus and stepping out in faith, as I was doing at the end of 2019 and early 2020. Like Peter, I focused on the storms around me and became fearful and anxious. I too lost sight of Jesus face, His glory, His power, and His love. I began to sink. And like Peter, when everything became too much for me to handle, when I was sinking in my health conditions, anxiety and depression, I cried out to Jesus. And He reached His hand out to me and blessed me with this story of Him and Peter.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that this Bible story came to mind during this time in my life. I know the Holy Spirit was trying to tell me something here.

I see very clearly now what happens when I take my eyes off of Jesus. The second we take our eyes off of Jesus and our identity as a son or daughter of God, we begin to doubt. Fear and depression rolls in, we lose hope, and we sink. For me, personally, sinking comes in the form of uncontrollable anxiety, depression and physical pain. My mind and body literally fall apart when I lose sight of my savior for even a brief moment. For others it could be a bad attitude, snarky comments to those they love, falling back into addiction or making quick decisions. These things don’t creep in over time, they can flood in the second satan is able to get our eyes off of Jesus. It can happen just that quick.

The story of Peter above gives so much hope. I think it shows a wonderful picture of the love Jesus has for us. He didn’t yell at peter for doubting. He didn’t scold him, or punish him for losing sight of Him and sinking. It says, “Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.” Jesus immediately reaches his hand out to peter and holds him. Yeah, He says “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” But He doesn’t yell at Peter, He simply poses a question to get Peter thinking. What a beautiful picture of how He rescues us when we are sinking.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to beat myself up when I lose sight of Jesus and end up going through these painful, difficult periods. I often feel as though I should be punished or am being punished for losing sight of Him. But that’s not what Jesus wants for us. He wants to grab us, hold us, and calm the storm going on around or in us. What an amazing God I serve, that when I mess up, when I leave Him, or stop pursuing Him, He doesn’t give up on me, rather He reaches out to me. I take so much comfort in that mental picture of Jesus reaching out His hand to me and holding me as I am sinking in the struggles of this broken world.

I won’t lie, I’m still struggling and working on getting better physically and mentally after this rough patch. It will take time to fully bounce back so I still appreciate your prayers. I know the consequences of losing sight of Jesus, and I don’t want that to happen again. Will I mess up again? yes. I’m human. But what a comfort to know that God loves me enough to reach out to me and He wants to calm the storms even when I rebel or allow satan to take over my mind.

I hope this gives you some sort of peace and comfort, as it has to me. When I feel my anxiety boiling up, or my body is drained and exhausted down to the bone, I can imagine Jesus reaching His hand out to me and holding me through it all. I hope that you can too when you go through a rough patch or difficult season. Jesus isn’t leaving you to drown, He’s right there reaching out His hand to hold you.

The song that spurred the Spirit to remind me of this story is called “Safe” by neon Feather.

Thank you for reading my rambles.

One Month Off of Social Media

Well, we are officially one month into 2020 and it is already shaping up to be a wild ride. If you read my post at the beginning of January, you may remember that one of my biggest challenges I have given myself for this year, is to stay off of all social media, including: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I’ve had several people ask me how this is going and if I really intend to stick it out the entire year. Before I get into my update with how I am doing with this challenge, I want to give a little context as to how and why this goal came to be.

Ever since I first got my facebook account back in 2009 at the age of 14, facebook has been an escape for me. When I was feeling sad, I’d scroll on facebook. When I was bored, I’d scroll on facebook. When I was tired, facebook. You get the picture. As I got older and more social media platforms came to be, that sense of escape only grew. I now had even more places online that could take up my time and help me to escape what was happening in my own world and within my mind.

I’ve been aware of how dangerous these apps can be for me since high school when I bought myself my very own laptop. Before this purchase, the only way I was able to waste my time on these sites was via the family desktop computer (what a time to be alive). Now that I had my own device, I could get on them basically as much as I desired. And so I did…

As I was growing in my faith in high school, I began to become aware of how toxic social media can be and how much time I was wasting on it. But, my world was also crashing in around me, repeatedly during that season. So even though I knew it was not a great place to turn, I continued to turn to it as my escape. Social media didn’t become my only form of escape that would grip hold of me, but it definitely has made rank as one of the strongest.

As people my age began to have smart phones, in which these social media sites could now be easily viewed anywhere, I knew in my heart that I shouldn’t have one. So I refrained and stuck with my old slide out keyboard cell phone all the way until I was a freshman in college. My reasoning for giving in was that I needed the navigation feature as I was going to school away from home.

Social media already had a hold on me, but once I introduced the smart phone into the mix, it only held on tighter. Life didn’t seem to slow down or ever get any easier and so I continued to use social media to escape. I continued to feel convicted time and time again about the foothold this had in my life, but I also continued to ignore it. It was, after-all, my security blanket.

It wasn’t until I took an addictions class for my degree, that I began to realize that this grip that social media had on me was actually an addiction. I still hesitate to use that word, but when I actually analyze the vice that it had (and still has), I can’t classify it any other way. According to Webster dictionary, an addiction is “a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects and typically causing well-defined symptoms (such as anxiety, irritability, tremors, or nausea) upon withdrawal or abstinence the state of being addicted.”

In this class we were required to give something up that we use on a daily basis for a week’s time. We had to note anytime we felt the urge to engage in the thing we gave up, and then write a paper about how it went. This project was for us to get a tiny glimpse of what addiction is like for those who are addicted to substances, and it was so powerful. But as powerful as it was, I continued on with my social media use once the project was over.

As God continued to lay it on my heart over the next few years, I would make small changes to help ease that tension I felt. I’d go through periods of not allowing myself to have any of the apps on my phone, or I’d even take some time off here and there. But none of that did anything for me. Sure, I read more books and had less screen time, but I never allowed it to draw me closer to the one calling me to give it up in the first place. And in all reality, it wasn’t much of a challenge or sacrifice when I knew that I’d be able to get on in a week or month, whatever I had chosen to do.

Which leads me to my decision to take the entire year of 2020 off of all social media. This was purely by the work of God. As I mentioned, this is an issue that God has been trying to reveal to me for years now. It wasn’t until I began to fervently seek after Him towards the end of 2019, that I knew the reason He was calling me to give it up. Because the reality is that God doesn’t want just the leftover moments at the end of our day. He wants ALL of the moments of our day. He doesn’t want us to use other things as an escape from this troubling life because as is stated in Isaiah, He wants to help us in the midst of those troubles. Isaiah 41:10 states, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” God didn’t and doesn’t want me to have or use a “security blanket”. He wants to BE my “security blanket”.

So as I began to process the year of 2019 and started to look forward to what I wanted 2020 to look like, I knew I wanted this new year to be full of Jesus in my life. I knew that if I wanted my life to be full of Jesus, I’d have to make some sacrifices. The Holy Spirit kept prompting me to take the year off of social media. It typically came in the form of the thought running across my mind every now and again. The more I tried to brush it off the more it would appear. So I had some conversations with God that typically went like this: “I hear you, but do I really have to take the WHOLE year off?”

I didn’t want to. My best friends just had their first child, friends are getting married or engaged, and let’s be honest, the best way to stay up to date with people we care about is by social media. I didn’t want to risk missing out on those things, and ultimately becoming a forgotten friend whose relationships vanished because I wasn’t kept in the loop of their lives. But the more I pushed back, the more He persisted.

So here I am, one month in to this year long social media fast. I’ll be honest, it has been way more challenging than I ever anticipated. I knew that going off of social media for the entire year would be hard, but I thought “I’ve gone a month off here and there and it wasn’t that bad, so I’ll be fine.” I was so wrong. You know how I gave the definition of addiction previously? Yeah, I never truly knew just how much power social media has had over my life until this past month. I truly am addicted to social media.

You might be wondering, “So, if you’re addicted, then you’re telling me you went through withdrawals?” And to that I would say, “Yes!” The first week was relatively okay. I took it day by day and that helped tremendously. But as the second week began, I started to become more negative, irritable, on edge, anxious, and even started to feel the negative lies of depression flooding my mind. You see, I had given up social media, but had done it reluctantly and the enemy had started planting bitterness, doubt and fear into my heart.

So I knew that I had to make a conscious effort to pursue God and to let this fast be used for His glory. I let my accountability partners know that I was struggling with these thoughts and attitudes and asked for prayer. And I began to ask God to move in me again. Things “clicked” at the second week mark, and I found my joy for life outside of social media.

I’m not saying I don’t struggle. I’ve definitely caved and given in to temptation more times than I care to admit. I’ve logged into facebook, scrolled a bit on my newsfeed and then quickly felt the guilt of not trusting God to meet my needs for connection. But that goes to show that this fast is doing it’s job so far in that it is drawing me closer to God and teaching me more about myself.

Through my journey so far, I have learned that I have FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). I hate not being in the loop of peoples lives that I care about so deeply. I fear that I will be forgotten or that my relationships will fade. It’s teaching me to be even more intentional about community and investing in the people I love so deeply. It’s also teaching me that I have a deep seated desire for attention and love from others that I tried to fill via likes, comments and follows (that one was a punch to the gut).

Most importantly, I’m learning, that even if those very fears do become reality amongst this process and season of fasting, it is in God’s perfect plan for my life. It would just mean that He would use it as a way to weed through the relationships that are hindering my growth rather than encouraging it. And even though that would be very painful, it would be worth it. So far this fast is teaching me to lean more on my savior, and THAT is the reason I’m going through with this challenge for the entire year of 2020.

I will update you all again on this topic when we hit the 3 month, 6 month and 12 month marks. Thank you for reading my rambles.