Category Archives: Eating disorders

It Is Worth It In the End

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness or Abuse  (c)2019 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

XYMONAUrgb4It would be ridiculous for me to say I’d be willing to repeat my life. Right? I mean who needs abuse and major depression?

Or would it be ridiculous? What if all that has happened that is sad and broken serves a purpose today that I wouldn’t want to give up for the world?

The latter is true. This weekend was another privilege to share my story, including mental illness, and  the hope I live in each day. There was a time- a long time- when I couldn’t have done that and understood the depth and reality of this true hope.

I talked and taught about Jesus and his salvation and love for over 30 years. However I was blind to the fact that I didn’t fully grasp what I was talking about.

Much of what I knew to be love, was not. Much of my self- image was built on sand castles that washed out with each major storm.  False, negative core beliefs, out of sight and hidden under denial, guided life decisions and filtered happy truth.

All that is in the past. No longer do I doubt my value. Love is something I feel and know and trust regardless my emotions. Those lies that penetrated my mind are gone and replaced with facts.

  • I am fully and deeply loved by God who delights in showing unfailing love.*
  • I am valuable because he made me for a purpose. **
  • Lies do not hold me prisoner anymore. Both messages and messengers were exposed as less than worthy of my attention. ***

If repeating this life would land me in the joy and love I now know, then yes, I would do it. It is not ridiculous to want to share this love and joy with you.

This post is short but loaded with powerful healing truth. Jesus loves you and wants you for his own. He created you with a purpose that will both fulfill and free you. The Holy Spirit will teach you as you read the Bible and it will make sense. He will also guide you to people who can help.

Please contact me if you have questions.

Today’s Helpful Word  

*Micah 7:!8b-19 You will not stay angry with your people forever, because you delight in showing unfailing love.  Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!

**Ephesians 2:8-10  God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

***John 8:44b [The devil] has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies

**** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental and behavioral health challenges.  In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. or go to your nearest emergency room. (for international emergency numbers, go here ). Hope and help are yours.

 

 

 

A Visit to Rehab: The Greatest of These is Love

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who fight mental illness, addiction, and abuse  (c)2018  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministries

This past Sunday, I drove to Chicago.  The director of alumni events at a rehabilitation center had invited me to speak with residents on Monday. 

Morning came early. While much of the U.S.A. was arising and heading to work or school, these women  continued the fight  to gain recovery from addiction, eating disorders, mental health challenges, or all three. Excited and a little nervous, I left the hotel to join them.

Women in the rehab program advance in liberties as they progress. This time, my audience consisted of women in the process of learning to make healthier choices without constant supervision.  They are well on their way to going home, clean and sober. In fact, a few of them  graduated that day!

Most people in recovery have been told numerous times they are worthless, many since childhood. As part of my story,  I shared the reality of God’s love and message. I added, “I am a Christian, born-again, a follower of Jesus. But those are only words. Hopefully, my life reflects who he is.” Everyone nodded. 

America today hears much rhetoric about Christians, evangelicals in particular, and the mix of religion with politics as if faith in Jesus and a certain political party are one and the same.  It is difficult for those who do not know, to grasp who Jesus actually is. 

In some ways, the standard for Christians is raised. Show me you mean it. Show me you do not hate or despise me. Match your choices to your words. Prove your faith by your love. In extending love and compassion, and sincere non-critical acceptance to people in all stages of their journey, we represent God as the Bible reveals him.*

Mental health treatment in this country is greatly lacking. It is not available everywhere,  and is expensive for most.  Parity in the insurance realm is inconsistent. There are few standards by which to measure how long a patient should stay in a hospital.

In my opinion, stigma and lack of knowledge are the primary reasons we do not take care of mentally ill and emotionally unstable people. There is judgment – “I do not believe in mental health disability, I just don’t.”  “Depression is not an illness,  with enough faith (or strength) anyone can snap out of it.” “You are adopting the principles of the world if you give psychology any merit.” 

All these have been said to me, about me, plus many more accusations of failure. If I could describe  the beauty of joy and hope in the faces of the women I met on Monday,  perhaps more could see the value of mental (some call it behavioral) healthcare.  Maybe  God could get some credit for knowing what he is doing in each person’s life! 

Meanwhile, it is tremendous joy being vulnerable and open with people in the middle of the struggle. They, as do we all, respond to love.

Today’s Helpful Word

Mark 10:46-52

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging.  When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

***** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental and behavioral health challenges.  In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

-woman pic by LUSI on rgbstock.com; Jesus pic from freebibleimages.org

*This does not imply avoidance of the topic of sin. As seen in my work s a whole, my emphasis is how we approach people. Are we interested in gaining insight into another person’s struggle? Jesus showed sincere non-critical acceptance to hurting people, and in the context of meeting their needs, taught them to know him.   

Why Diets Fail. 4 Steps to Controlling What You Eat

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Diets like the cottage cheese diet, grapefruit diet, Atkins, fasting to cleanse the body, restricting, Weight Watchers, Slim Fast, and Deal-A-Meal, require  hours to days of planning. The most popular ones allow for some excesses of favorite foods.

Slim-down-quick schemes are attractive, but rarely, if ever, produce long-lasting success. For some (many, in fact) people, the problem is not a need for weight-loss. It is about changing a mindset of compulsive behavior.  

Compulsive behaviors around food will not change if  food remains a go-to for instant relief and peace of mind. Once food’s failure to make life better is recognized,  balanced eating will appear more attractive.

Professional help with a food addictions counselor (they are rare!) and a nutritionist  for creating an individualized food plan is beneficial. The focus has to be on mental health. Watching the scale is self-defeating. By learning to cope in healthier ways, weight will take care of itself.

The solution

a)Take it very slow.  At a slow pace, simply allowing our body to adjust itself, means  brains and bodies have opportunity to change in reaction to food. This  kind of weight loss is maintainable. 

b)Become aware of “alcoholic foods” and avoid them permanently.  There are foods, specific to each person, that have to be put away for good. These foods or combinations of foods are triggers that lead to overeating. The same as a recovering alcoholic can never have a beer, certain foods will destroy best intentions. 

c)Enjoy eating from a customized and metabolically designed food plan. Eat by the clock and by measured nutritional requirements. A compulsive eater has a broken hunger alarm. It no longer accurately reports when a stomach is full or in need of food or water.  

d) Seek out available support. Food addictions counselors, eating disorders treatment centers, and 12-step groups for compulsive eaters are available in most areas. Online help is offered by some professionals. People understand and are non-judgmental. Therapy for other issues may also free us from compulsive behaviors. 

Taking care of oneself is important because everyone matters.  Like any fine artwork,  completion follows taking the time to get it right.

Today’s Helpful Word

Luke 12:23

For life is more than food…

 

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Comments are always welcome (see tab below) NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

 -Pictures by AYLA87 and TACLUDA from rgbstock.com

C’mon, No One Can Actually Be Addicted to Food… Right?

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

ottugq0I liked food, that’s all. It wasn’t as though other people did not enjoy food, they just did not like it as much as I did.

I liked it so much I would eat it when it was stale, dirty, frozen, or still sizzling from the pan. It was so enjoyable I stole, sneaked, and hid it. When nothing “good” was in the refrigerator I settled for condiments and sugar from the bowl.

Local delivery was my best friend, especially when no one else knew about it. Binges of pizza, wings, and chinese were not unusual. I used money intended for my family on extra groceries and trips in the middle of the night for fast food.

This was not addiction or even gluttony. I just liked food.

If a person stood between me and eating (the clerk at the store who was slow, the church member who took the last goody at the potluck, my children who wanted my attention), I grew angry. Most of them didn’t know I resented their interference. Anger unexpressed can lead to depression, and I needed food to feel better.

Questions raged. Why is my husband asleep so I have to deal with the children during “me” time? How come this church member won’t stop talking so I can get over to the casseroles? How dare anyone ask anything of me when it’s time to eat? Anger at friends, at acquaintances, at strangers, at family –  it all made sense to me. After all, I liked food more than they did. They couldn’t understand.

Everyone who did not overeat, or at least did not become fat, were that way because they had easier lives. Their upbringing had been happy- or at least not as bad as mine.  Their current families were near perfect. Maybe they were in denial! Yes, that was it. Normal eaters did not need support because they thought everything was fine.

Not me. I knew I was a victim of circumstance.  Maybe some normal eaters had other vices. If they were good Christians they would not indulge in unhealthy habits. I thanked God I was not like them.

Interventions of any kind were viewed as personal attacks and prejudice. Oh, I knew I was overweight. However, well over 300 pounds wasn’t that heavy. Food was not my problem, it was my solution.  All I needed was exercise and a good diet.

So I tried. On numerous occasions food was set aside and I lost weight. See?  I could stop anytime I wanted to. Yet each victory was followed by regaining what had been lost plus more. Eventually it was clear that reaching 400 pounds only required one more diet.

I did not address the mental obsession.

Each morning, my first thought was, “What can I eat today?” All day long my thoughts centered on plotting the next snack, the next meal. Finishing a dish was a letdown, so comforting ideas around how soon to eat again took over. If no one was watching, it was seconds and thirds immediately. Otherwise I would wait. And resent.

Nevertheless, there is no such thing as food addiction… right?

Huge blocks of time and memory are missing. While some of that may be due to trauma or depression, I suspect a few stories are lost under a fog of food obsession. How can an addict notice the present when all he or she cares about is the next fix?

When loneliness hit,  resentment covered the fact I was not reaching out. People didn’t love me well enough. Their failure was  reason to eat. In response to feeling alone, I stayed home to eat. People were kept at a distance because I trusted no one, so  I ate. Food was a faithful companion.

If you know anything about drug, alcohol, or other “understood” addictions, you recognize the description. Life was about the fix, the escape. Health was a low priority.

Finally, a therapist insisted I go to treatment. Rehab. For liking food.

My first days there I ate what ever was in sight. Then a thought changed my focus. Very few people can afford this opportunity. God has provided this once in a lifetime chance. Will I take advantage of his gift or throw it away in defiance?

In the treatment center I learned life does not demand overeating. Denial fell away. For the first time I admitted to addiction.

Dieticians introduced a food plan I could live with. Life changing decisions were made to end negative cycles. Once home, for the next year emotions challenged my ability to cope because my “drug” was gone. The food plan, basically a plan of eating developed by a nutritionist, saved the day.

Oh the payoff! Abstinence (not indulging in compulsive eating) means I do not have to think about food. My mornings can be filled with praise to God and plans for the day. No cravings demand my attention because meals and appropriate snacks are already decided.

I focus on conversations and am getting to know my friends better. Instead of eyeing the food at a potluck, it is people I think about and how to bless them in some way.  I accept every interference to compulsive eating as a gift.

Abstinence, sobriety, staying clean – all depend on support from a Higher Power and others in recovery. This is why I turn to Jesus and attend 12-step meetings. History proves I am powerless to handle recovery on my own.

As surely as an alcoholic cannot have one more drink or the drug addict one more high, mental obsession will eventually return me to a hopeless state if I take one bite of a “trigger” food. No flavor is worth that. I like peace best.

Today’s Helpful Word

John 14:27   NIV

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  (Jesus)

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COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME (see tab below)

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

– pic by bretz on rgbstock.com

 

 

 

This is Your Brain On Drugs. Any Questions?

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

oa6lkniDo you remember the televised public service announcement that showed a close-up of an egg?  The actor said, “This is your brain.” He called a frying pan “drugs.” Then as the egg broke into the pan, it bubbled and its edges curled. The actor said, “This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?”

Seeing this for the first time as a young adult, it seemed to send a quality message. The idea of destroying brain cells was a deterrent. 

My first car had been owned by a pot-head who was increasingly unable to use his limbs. The Dodge was adjusted for hand controls when he lost use of his legs. Eventually he could no longer drive. The car was reverted back to its original condition, and sold.  

That sealed it for me. No drugs. Ever. 

There is a great deal of rationalizing in homes, cars, empty warehouses, and in the arguments of those wishing to legalize drug use for recreational purposes.  “Marijuana is safe” is one myth floating about. Tell that to the kid who spent his life in a wheelchair. As with all forms of self-medication, pot can become a mental obsession and gateway to lethal experiments. 

Addiction is not only a chemically induced physical draw to the fix, it is also a mental game of repetitive cycles. “I can stop anytime I want” is followed by successful abstinence for a time, then an eventual return. It is not uncommon for someone to give up one addiction for another, either.

Rationalizations ran my life as food addiction took over my thoughts and body. While triumphantly avoiding the loss of brain cells due to drugs, my mental obsession with food nearly took me out.  Although my recovery has resulted in significant weight loss, there are continuing health consequences to pay.

Loss of brain cells or not, addiction of all types interfere with…

  • Relationships. How can we pay attention to other people’s needs when our focus is on our obsession?
  • Common sense. We will rationalize anything to have our fix. A PSA  for food addiction could probably look like a close-up of an egg, a red-hot frying pan symbolizing deteriorating health, and a hand snatching the sizzling egg and shoving it into a mouth. Food addiction is that insane.
  • Our social choices. We will hang out with people who do not challenge our behavior.
  • Intellect and critical thinking skills. We are only interested in information that supports our addiction.
  • Faith. We do not want to surrender to God and lose control over our own decisions.
  • Physical health. We live in denial.  
  • Our sense of worth. We turn to the fix to feel better – which never works for long. Shame haunts us. 

Addiction charges a high price. There is hope if we will accept drug use and self-medicating as the dangers and destroyers they are.

Help is available. Drug, alcohol, eating disorders, and other mental health issues are addressed by caring people in treatment centers, addiction counselors’ offices, and in anonymous 12-step groups all over the world. 

God is the difference-maker. I do not mean a shadowy imagination of a potentially supreme being. I am talking about God as described in the Bible. Through his Son Jesus, we have been given the source of life and love.  It is freedom to pray to the Highest Power for strength. 

This is a brain on prayer – calmer, comforted, complete. Yes, exactly what drugs promise and endlessly fail to deliver.

Today’s Helpful Word

John 15: 9  
“I have loved you the same way the Father has loved me. So live in my love.  (Jesus)

 

*****Comments are always welcome (see tab below) NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

– frying eggs pic by Teslacoils on rgbstock.com

 

Anorexia Nervosa: Starving for Unconditional Love

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2016  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

the-scale-1541514The world became more aware of Anorexia Nervosa in 1983, when 32-year old Karen Carpenter, the famous drummer and singer in the brother-sister band called “The Carpenters”,  died of heart failure due to this eating disorder.  We see pictures of celebrities suspected of anorexia. Because photos are so often touched up to help enhance models, we must suspect photos of so-called anorexia patients to also be exaggerated. None-the-less, in performance industries, thinness is held in esteem as if it is a sign of worth.

We read and hear the message constantly – “Get your beach body by summer,” “This supplement guarantees 12 pounds lost in two weeks!”, “Ask your doctor if bariatric surgery is right for you.” The message that thin is better consumes some people. Eating disorders develop as vulnerable minds absorb the idea that acceptance and true love come with losing, or not gaining, weight.

Along with that superficial message, come the ones from health industries. As a society, we are supposedly on the attack against childhood obesity. A billboard near my home reads, “Childhood obesity is going down!” I think of all the overweight kids and their bullies who read that sign.  It does not describe the benefits of health (“Run and play for your health”) or promote kindness (Invite your friends to a swim party”).  In my opinion, human nature interprets that sign as “I’m defective” and “take down the fat kids.”

These never-subtle messages infiltrate our society at the familial level. I heard of a grandfather who told his normal-sized eight year-old grandson that no one would ever like him if he ate all the french fries on his plate. He whispered out of earshot of the rest of the family, “You’re fat. No one loves a fat boy. No girls will like you and you won’t have any friends.” The boy’s reddening face gave away the problem, and his mother asked him later about it. From that point on, the child could choose whether to visit this abusive grandfather or not. He often chose to not.

Is it really any wonder then that young and old alike struggle with body-image? For some, self-loathing can lead to obesity because these people no longer believe there is anything to fight for. Who cares if you are extremely overweight if no one can love you anyway? Why worry about health when your life seems worthless?

For others, thinness becomes a perpetual goal. Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by binge-eating followed by “purging” which is ridding one’s body of the food before it can be absorbed into the body. Vomiting is the best-known means of purging. As in most disorders, Bulimia takes various forms, including not binge-eating or not vomiting.

People who develop Anorexia Nervosa basically stop eating. What they see in the mirror is not what we see when we look at them. Ironically, they are terrified of gaining weight while everyone around them wishes they would.  People with Anorexia can become gaunt, emaciated, and hollow-cheeked. They lose muscle tone, hair and nails become brittle, and women stop having their menstrual periods. What we might describe as skin and bones, they see fat.

Anorexia is not the angst of a foolish school girl. It is a terrifying life-threatening disease that affects all ages of both men and women. Why then do we not see more older people with the disease? Many die of this disorder at young ages. Astonishingly, more people with anorexia die than those with any other mental disorder. Did you read that right? “More than any other mental disorder,” is a higher mortality rate than schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar. Not only are people dying of starvation, they are dying by suicide.

Eating Disorder HOPE published an article explaining in part, why Anorexia can be so often fatal.

  • Comorbid conditions such as depression and extreme anxiety increase one’s risk of suicide.
  • Refeeding Syndrome is a potentially fatal complication of restoring nutrients and fluids via eating.
  • The Endocrine System can shut down.
  • The Gastrointestinal System can wreak havoc on a body in a starvation situation.
  • The Pulmonary System can malfunction.
  • Anorexia is further complicated by its chronic nature. Patients can progress periodically through treatment, but frequently relapse.

According to Eating Disorder HOPE,  studies covering 5,590 Anorexia Nervosa patients proved suspicions of a high mortality rate.

“Among those who survived, on average less than one-half recovered, one-third improved, and 20% remained chronically ill. Anorexia nervosa is a very complex and complicated disorder. It requires early diagnosis and access to care with close follow-up and often long-term treatment.”*

As with all disorders, people with Anorexia Nervosa need support systems and access to care. To manage their disease and thrive, they have to learn to avoid triggers and change negative influences such as people, places, and things.

*********

COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME (see tab below)

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

– picture from freeimages.com

*MSN,RN, and CRNP credential holders, Gail Hamilton, Lisa Culler, and Rebecca Elenback conributed to  Anorexia Nervosa – Highest Mortality Rate of Any Mental Disorder: Why?  Retrieved September 4, 2016 from http://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/

 

It Can Take a Long Time to Change

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2016  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

It’s funny. In going through my draft file of potential posts, I ran across this title. The memory of writing out “It Can Take a Long Time to Change” is still clear. I was convinced my metamorphosis from depressed, relationship-challenged, scared, and confused gal to joyful, surrounded by friends, fearless and wise woman was taking much too long. I believed my goals (or fancies) had to be reached soon, or else.  

Or else? Others said I was being much too hard on myself. Therapists said I was actually improving at a significant pace. This did little to lessen my negative self-view. I remember a sense of doom, a guarantee of utter failure if this process would not speed-up.

That was a full three years ago.  An addict in treatment once said, “I want the crazies to stop now. Somehow I thought that one morning I would wake up and be a different person.”  

If only. Change is hard, and it takes much effort to swap out a worldview. Self-esteem is not going to hop up and grab us; we have to build it.  Wishes do not make dreams come true – hard work does. 

“But it’s not fast enough! I want my problems resolved now! Why can I not be a normal (aka: perfect) person right away?”  This frustration is common among those suffering with the symptoms and fallout of major depression. We do not want anyone kicking us when we are down yet are so willing to do it to ourselves. It’s counter-productive. If our goal is to be up and running, self-affirmation is more helpful.

For me, healing was slow with extreme mood swings. A woman on a crisis line told me I was flirting with death, but also flirting with life. She was right, and months of ambivalence caused more heartache.  This was one massive, burly major depressive episode, and it  took me 16 months until I was able to thank my psychologist for the phone call that saved my life.

Time was necessary to practice new ways of thinking, to grasp uneasy truth, and to learn to walk within my evolving  worldview.  There were many significant forward steps, a few missteps, then a fall back to old behaviors followed by try, try again.

It was worth it.

I was in a treatment Center once with about 35 other women, many of  whom were trying to  recover from eating disorders. Some of these brave women suffered from Body Dysmorphic Disorder which is a fancy term for what you see is not what you get.  Whether gaunt, obese, or anything in-between, women with BDD saw something different from reality in the mirror.

The treatment center had funny mirrors in each room, like the ones you find in fun houses.  No image was true to form, so in this way those obsessing over their weight could take a break.  This allowed therapists an opportunity to teach truth to clearer minds.

Perhaps you too want your paycheck, children, friends, function, and anything else mental illness has taken, returned NOW! 

Purpose to ask each day, “What kind of person do I want to be? What steps will I take today toward becoming that person?” Remember, slow progress is progress. Your stride will get longer, steps more frequent, and you will accomplish the unexpected. 

And that’s good enough in any stage of recovery and healing.

*******

Comments are always welcome (see tab below) NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

  – Pictures from Kozzi.com

Tammi’s Fight for Her Life Takes a Turn

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2016  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

photo-24771923-half-female-faceOne year ago, I told you about a young addict named Tammi*, who chose to turn her life around and enter rehab. Four months later, this blog reported her progress. Since last August, Tammi’s experience has tested and grown her into the beautiful young woman she always wanted to be. I am so proud of her! To those who prayed for her, thank you.

The original expected six-month stint turned into twelve. Tammi celebrated a birthday, Christmas, and all four seasons while in the treatment center. She was challenged on relationships, standing up for herself, responsibility, consequences, and self-care. She went in believing she was worthless, and is coming out with a plan for her future.

One big issue was Tammi’s choice of friends. People who believe themselves of little value may welcome bad influences into their lives, even abusers. There are plenty of so-called friends and romance partners who are glad to fill the lonely gap in the hearts of the vulnerable. They are toxic. To Tammi, a best friend was one who was always there, regardless of negative experiences with this person.

Toxic “friends” share secrets after promising to be trustworthy, relentlessly cross healthy boundaries, disregard requests to stop, and aim to control or “fix” the one who needs them.  They are unhelpful at best and likely damaging.  They excuse their rude and overbearing postures with accusations of “you are too sensitive.” These types of people in Tammi’s life would threaten to get angry, leave, not speak to her for long periods, and verbally assault her if she tried to say no. Her life has been in danger in the past because of violent and otherwise abusive relationships.

By saying no, Tammi is learning to uphold her boundaries. She has discovered this changes relationships, and some end. Healthy people appreciate her strength, while those stuck in their own destructive patterns are not happy with her newfound confidence.

This week, she is going home.

She is facing possibly running into toxic people from her past. Old temptations will pop up into her mind in stressful moments. She no longer will have the cocoon of safety found in rehabs.

However, by anticipating all this, she has already established a support network ready to greet her in her hometown. A church knows she’s coming and that she has decided to attend services there. Tammi plans to join a group of young people her age in that church, and find a Bible Study in her area. A therapist and psychiatrist have her on their dockets, also.

You see why I am so proud of her?  Tammi is courageous to have admitted she needed help, bold to have followed through with that, and strong to have stayed in treatment when she could have left at any time. She is powerful, and it shows in the wisdom with which she approaches home.

Happy Graduation, Tammi! You inspire us all.

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Other articles about Tammi’s fight:

https://nancyvirden.com/2015/04/30/tammis-fight-for-her-life/

https://nancyvirden.com/2015/08/06/update-on-tammis-fight-for-her-life/

*not her real name

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Comments are always welcome (see tab below) NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

 -Pictures from Kozzi.com

 

There is Always a Choice- No, Really!

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2015 Nancy Virden

photo-24758742-vector-image-of-a-man-with-question-mark-thought-bubble.Here in Northeast Ohio it is about 4o degrees. Wasn’t it just two weeks ago we were running around in shirtsleeves in 70 degree weather? Last week we had a little snow. The temperature will rise and fall again many times before Christmas. Oh well, we’ll roll with it. We aren’t new to this hot-warm-cold roller-coaster.

In the mental health realm,  I’ve learned it is in our power to decide how we will react to emotional roller coaster like mood swings, anxiety attacks, and those good days followed by not-so-good ones. Feelings influence us, but do not own us or decide our behavior.

For example, I haven’t found a home church since my move. It’s been ten weeks! Social anxiety tells me to stay home and not be a visitor again. However, I’ve visited several churches and each time have come away encouraged, with a different perspective, and a sense of gladness that I have spiritual brothers and sisters all over town.

Perhaps you have social anxiety too. Maybe you struggle with an eating or mood disorder. Trauma in your past or present might have you believing there is no hope. Here’s the wonderful news- you get to choose how to respond to those challenges.

Social anxiety? Today may not be the day you do a meet and greet with the neighbors. We have limits, and that’s ok. Maybe taking your step forward will mean making a phone call and saying hello to a friend. Imagine the sense of accomplishment you can enjoy if you acknowledge your courage!

Eating disorder?  Your step toward change may be reaching out for support today. It’s a good idea to remember we alone are powerless against food addiction and compulsive food behaviors. We need people and the Highest Power for strength. Think how great you could feel tomorrow if you take care of your support needs today!

Mood disorder? You have a choice to do something different from what is not working for you. For example, in deep depression movement may only mean sitting up in bed for a few minutes. If you manage that, applaud yourself!  In any mood swing we can ask, “Do I want to stay as I am today? If not, what (small) step will I take toward becoming how I want to be?”

Hopeless? This dark and hollow cave in which you dwell now is not your home. You don’t have to live there. When options seem to have run out,  a choice remains – we can hope for hope. We have to know that our perception is not complete.

Hope is hiding behind oppressive memories, chilling fear, or self-hatred. We  think we know how worthless we are, and believe our pain will never offer a break. Truth is, hope will reveal itself a little at a time as we work with knowledgeable supports to slowly remove the obstacles.  You can hope for hope today, even this moment.

For more practical ideas, see my post, Gain a Mindset of Hope.

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 NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

 *picture from qualitystockphotos.com

 

Timberline Knolls Treatment Center: We Find Beauty

Compassionate Love:Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2014 Nancy Virden

handsEight months ago a tiny kitchen was packed with about fifteen women. I was scared as this was my first night at Timberline Knolls, a residential rehabilitation center near Chicago, Illinois.

It was not clear who was new to the program and who were veterans of the process. Each woman was sad, some crying, a few angry, and many of us confused. Later I was to learn that thirty-five traumatized and addicted women lived in this lodge. The tiny kitchen was not for regular use, but mostly for newcomers. I’d been surrounded by women as nervous as I that first night.

Within a few days we had bonded, and it only took that long because of my hesitations. In groups we talked about the concerns and stories that brought us to Timberline. In private we supported each other through hugs and shared tears. None of this looked like what I’ve seen in churches, workplaces, or families. There were no masks; it was intense, yet such a relief to know our hurts and self-destructive behaviors did not make us unacceptable in this place.

I saw women battling mental illnesses and flashbacks, reliving traumas as if they were current. There was crying, dissociating, isolating, anger, sadness, and hope. Residents shook in fear at facing their emotional nemeses recognizing there was no other option but death. Courage was palpable.

Passing the women with buried heads, rocking back and forth, was a parade of people saying , “We are here for you.” In the dining hall at a table full of desperation, there were games, laughter, and comic relief.  If one triumphed even once over an eating disorder there was a chorus of “Good for you. You’ve got this.”

I came home changed. Not only had some serious issues of my own been addressed, but I no longer desired the company I’d been pursuing.

For two years, a group of beautiful people, acquaintances with money and class, had been my X that marks the spot. It was this group in which I tried to find good friends. Yet they had not welcomed me on any deep level. I was lonely and distrustful. Attempts to reach out had most often been met with superficial niceness or indifference.

At Timberline I discovered why I didn’t seem to fit in with this group. My people, the ones I feel most comfortable around, are those who struggle with life and are honest about it.  I like recovering addicts. There is little pretension among those in recovery. The ground is level in rehab.

I like trauma survivors. They get it when a mood grows suddenly dark, and do not judge anyone else’s fears. I like people who fight phobias. They grasp whatever tool they have to use to prevent panic, regardless what the crowd about them thinks.

This past Friday it was my great privilege to return to Timberline Knolls and encourage current residents with my honest story.  They appreciated what I had to say and asked tough questions like, “Would you do anything different if you could go back?”  “Do you feel your children have been damaged by your choices?  Are you still in recovery?”

These people are real. If everything I’ve endured in my life brought me to them, I am grateful.  I did not expect this, yet these are the ones I admire. These are the beautiful people.

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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline   1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

*picture from qualitystockphotos.com