Tag Archives: acceptance

For One of the Least of These: Helping The Emotionally Naked and Vulnerable

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

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Have you ever felt emotionally naked? Perhaps a secret is exposed, or you fear you shared too much of your inner struggle. Maybe a friendship or relationship ends and you regret trusting so deeply.

These situations and others make us emotionally vulnerable.

I have met people who in the spirit of self-protection have all but eliminated social connections from their lives. It is easy to shake my head and wonder how someone could make such a decision. However, in all honesty, there are times  emotional vulnerability felt too scary, and I have backed off too.

Maybe we all have.

There is one particular type of vulnerability we will do well to attend. That is, the painful, terrifying, likely years-in-the-making, admissions of victimization by abuse.

Abused children and adults generally have great difficulty asking for help. Perhaps they believe the lies of the abuser – you deserve this, you made me do it, or  if you tell I will make your family suffer,  and other emotional beat-downs and threats.

Some victims have tried to tell before, and received poor responses from family, friends, church, or even professionals. They fear trying again. Unfortunately, many who come forward find it challenging to make people believe their story. This is especially true when the abuser is narcissistic and will lie, cry , or blame the victim in an attempt to keep up appearances.

The kindest way to help these vulnerable folks is to believe them.  To anyone to whom an abuse victim shares their experience – do not judge. Even if you think you grasp the situation, do not judge. Listen, and do what you must to keep this person safe.

To anyone currently in an abusive situation – tell your story until someone believes you. Your best options for that are probably shelters and abuse centers.

We can each provide “clothes” for the emotionally naked. Acceptance is the garment that will help a person recover and not retreat again into the shadows.

Today’s Helpful Word

Matthew 25: 37

“Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you … naked and clothe you?…’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers (and sisters), you did it to me.’”

***** 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.

 

Love, Circumstances, Regret, Eternity: 4 Contexts Where Accepting Life on Life’s Terms Changes Everything

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

What’s sadly amusing is that people (let’s be honest, it is each of us) who need to learn life lessons often do not believe they have a problem.

I heard a notorious complainer and backbiter announce that she had once attended a conference on negativity.  One man struggled with coping and  refused therapy. He had never entered a professional mental healthcare office, yet claimed it would not help.

Accepting life on life’s terms is tricky. Instead, we often try to control circumstances or other people, and strive for comfort.   

Personal Power

Reputations, health, and safety are subject to events outside our control. No matter the wisdom or lack of sense behind our choices, good  and not-so-good will result. Jesus said God sends rain on the just and on the unjust*.  Life’s terms are reality.

Nonetheless, we have control over our behavior and responses. That is powerful!

I switched from railing against difficulties and fighting to improve the past, to focusing on changing me. Now a matured worldview, attitude, and belief system provide a deep sense of hope and purpose that eluded me before.

Do you see how far you’ve come since one to ten years ago? Change happens in truth. Honest introspection is not difficult. Simply by asking, “Why do I feel/believe/behave this way? Am I the person I want to be?”,  your escape from endless cycles begins. 

Life’s terms 

Relationships:   No human loves unconditionally and no one stays forever. These are not true because people are uncaring, rather it is that we are fallible, and incapable of perfectly meeting another’s needs. These are life’s terms.

Accepting these terms allows for rejoicing at how many people care sincerely and imperfectly.  Shared happiness and pain create a sense of community and personal fulfillment. This replaces the anguish of manipulating or insisting relationships match our design. Grace and freedom reign.

Circumstances:  Events outside ourselves are often confusing and seem to have trajectories of their own. It is impossible to slam on the brakes and stop all the nonsense. These are life’s terms. 

Accepting life’s terms means no set of circumstances has to complete our story. Looking for  options and focusing on what is next, spares us from paralyzing fear and hopelessness. We can create, share ideas, pray, and involve ourselves in a message of hope.   

Personal history:  The past is full of regrets and “can’t believe I did that”.  Consequences of poorer choices are not always avoidable. These are life’s terms. 

Accepting those terms allows us to make needed amends, and jumpstart the present.  How many of us would spend days hiding if we constantly stared at all our mistakes? Knowing the past cannot be fixed, we transfer energy toward influencing today for the good of humankind. 

Salvation:  No past choices determine our eternal future. Zero.  Starting now, putting faith in Jesus means we can believe our gifts, strengths, and weaknesses have purpose in the hands of a sovereign God. He sees his beloved (if somewhat confused) children through eyes of forgiveness and delight.

These are His terms, for which we can feel relief and gladness. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Proverbs 19:21 

Many are the plans in a person’s heart,  but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. 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, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

*https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+5&version=ESV

To Anyone Who Thinks About Suicide

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

Your feelings are real and deserve to be accepted as such. Your experience with despair is yours and not anyone else’s. You have the right to feel great pain without a bunch of people telling you your emotions are wrong.

Yes, your thoughts and feelings are actually happening. Let’s use caution, though. Not everything we feel so intensely makes all of our thoughts rational or true.  For example, you may actually be lonely. It may be difficult to find someone to care. Your thought that this situation can never change is not based in truth.

Support does not always come from where we wish it would. Significant people such as family and friends can often manage to make us feel worse even while they try to fix us or our pain. This is sad and frustrating, however the thought that we can never find the love and acceptance we need is not based in truth.

Loss hurts. Loss hurts so very much! We lose family through abandonment, divorce, rejection, and death.  Abuse and other traumas change our brain and we struggle to have a “normal” feeling or thought. Addiction chains us to guilt and self-loathing.  Although we move forward it does not seem fast or good enough.  Listen to me anyway!

Your life is not over even though your mind and heart are telling you it is. That worthlessness you feel is temporary. Hopelessness is a lie. Yes, some situations are not meant to continue and changes are necessary. Nonetheless, it is not your entire existence that must be wiped away.

At one point I felt strongly I was supposed to die. Since it did not happen, God had time to slowly teach me that it was actually my old and unhealthy ways of perceiving the world that needed to be put to death. That path out of darkness was the most profound challenge of my life, yet it was doable despite how I felt.

When Jesus died at his crucifixion and then came back to life to live in heaven with God, he made a permanent way for us to know Light and to not live in darkness anymore. Yes, we will suffer loss, depression, anger, loneliness, and fear. People will not always understand and may expect us to stop hurting. Yet once we have yielded to Jesus as our Savior from sin and eternal condemnation, we always have him to turn to with our doubts and strong emotions.

Perhaps the bravest thing you will ever do is stay alive when everything within you is pointing to suicide. You can be that brave, though. Find people who get it. We are out here, listening, and glad to help see you through. We are in hospitals, intensive outpatient programs, and support groups. We are on the internet, and sitting next to you at work. You will find us, we are here.

If you haven’t already, ask Jesus to forgive your sins, whatever they may be. Then stay tuned to this website, find professional help, and wait for what you think is impossible but is not – a more satisfying, purpose-filled life.

Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 33: 20 – 22 

“We put our hope in the LORD . He is our help and our shield.  In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.  Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone.”

********
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.

 

 

When Life is Puzzling, Simple Answers Fail. Here are 4 Substantive Ones

 Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry
25493412 Overwhelming DepressionYou already know life is full of struggles. Life is also full of happy experiences like nice weather, finding a bargain, and being greeted with a smile. If distrust and pain focus our energy at times on the negative, positive moments may surprise us or go by unnoticed.
 
The opposite is also true. When life is going well, we can be shocked at pain as if it is a stranger forcing its way into our home uninvited.
 
Confusion is rampant. Why do I feel so empty now? How can I laugh minutes after my mom’s funeral? Why do bad things happen to me or my family? How can I feel good when others hurt?
 
Simple “answers” are easy to come by. We can blame anyone or anything for our discomfort. Parents, spouses, doctors, religious leaders, government officials, even God or ourselves. It is comforting to believe confusion can be resolved so readily.
 
I talk about psychology, hopefully only in the sense that it can provide insight into why we feel as we do. Behaviors, false beliefs, and feeling trapped in an inexplicable cycle can be addressed with options once an issue is recognized. However, psychology cannot answer all our confusion. Science and the study of human behavior leaves us with more questions sometimes.
 
If I am a victim, am I responsible for my behavior? If someone hurt me because they were hurt, do I have the right to feel angry? My emotional needs are great. Why can’t I find the support I need? WHY DO I STILL HURT???
 
There are answers. Some would say, “Just read the Bible.” I agree the answers are in there, but confusion cannot always make them out. We need four, somewhat more complicated answers. They definitely require us to take action.
 
1) Reach for the Higher Power.  Know God is benevolent and firm simultaneously. He loves us with passion and pours out mercy constantly. He has created us with purpose regardless how life (or death) treats us. He sent His only born-to-God Son, Jesus, to sacrifice his life for our eternal one. When we believe that, trust him as the way to God, and obey God’s instructions, we can know we have a connection to the Almighty. Our Higher Power is the Highest Power. We are never alone.
 
2) It’s important to receive wise counsel. For spiritual guidance, the source needs to understand God’s love, grace, and commands. They have to be people who believe the Bible is God’s Word. For mental health, a therapist ought not ridicule or belittle your faith in Jesus Christ. They must be knowledgable about your psychological condition and experienced with positive results. Support groups, Anonymous 12-step groups, some friends and family (if they get it) are places to discover you are not alone and can make positive changes.
 
3)Accept that life is a bouncy ball and cannot always be explained. Embrace confusion as part of the experience. If we can say, “I don’t know” and be okay with that, we will have more peace. By letting go, we cease trying to control everything and everybody. What a relief that is!
 
4) Buy into hope. At times we feel 100% certain there is no hope. The first three of this list of answers may seem a mockery of reality. However, hope is only hiding behind a curtain of pain and confusion. Eventually this blockade lifts and hope is ours to grasp again. Meanwhile, buy into the idea of hope. I have hope, many others have hope, your supports have hope, doctors and therapists have hope – why not choose to believe it exists? It’s a torturous wait sometimes hanging on to that thread. Yet desperately holding the hope of other people can get us through to the other side. 
 

Simple answers are so empty they rarely offer permanent solutions. I highly recommend substance. Believing and obeying a benevolent God, seeking wise support, accepting life on life’s terms, and reaching for hope will provide a solid floor to stand on. All four together surprise us with joy.

Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 32:22

Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone.”

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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 is yours.

pic from kozzi.com

Difficult People this Christmas: “And the Wisdom to Know the Difference”*

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

photo-26167281-10-23-14-christmas-icons-5-faces-09Renee* has lived eighty-nine years. She and her husband came to America in the 1950s, young and full of dreams. She was a statuesque blonde fiercely in love and hoping to raise a family with her strong dark-haired carpenter. He loved her too, and together they built a life.

After their daughter had grown-up, the carpenter lived to meet two grandchildren. He passed away seven years ago. Renee speaks of him fondly, and shows off pictures from his younger days. For a few brief seconds she seems lighter, then as she finishes telling her tales her eyes return to listlessness.

She lives in a nursing home, unable to walk well enough to be alone. Her remaining family is far away except for a sister who visits once per week and brings her candy. Renee is diligent with physical therapy because she does not want to fall, but other than that and meals in the dining hall, she watches television in her room.

I want to fix things for Renee, do something to make her happy. Only I cannot. Wisdom tells me my role is not savior, but friend. There are other responsibilities that would be neglected if I spent most of my time trying to make Renee feel good. I visit her, and she is glad when I come by. For maybe an hour per week she is happier; that is all I can do.

At Christmastime we may be confronted with issues in the world or people in our families we would like to change. Grumpy (or drunk) Uncles John. Silent (or abusive) Aunts Jane. Moms who never seems to understand. Dads who cannot say I love you. If we could, we would will celebrations at our houses to look and sound like those lovely holiday movies.

Or maybe we had a wonderful family that is no longer the same due to death or distance. Perhaps misunderstanding has drawn a line between people we care about. With all our heart we want to fix it, and restore things to as they were, as they should be.

The first three phrases of the Serenity Prayer are best known. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” My gifts, money, and time are devoted to spreading the message every life is valuable, no one needs to die by suicide, and hope is available. I cannot make anyone believe me. It is not in my power to demolish emotional pain for other people.

Two people repeated the same message to me for years. After attempting suicide in 2011,  it was nearly impossible to comprehend any hope or that my life held value. Therapists invested time and energy to help me see truth while I argued, demanded more of them than was fair, and distrusted their intentions. They used their arsenal of skills, but neither could make me accept what they offered. They could not change me. “That’s your job,” I was told. “Do you want to stay depressed?”

And so it is with the world, our holiday get-togethers, and Renee. Life can be hard and lonely. We are surrounded by people experiencing similar pain. In the end, it is up to each person to decide how to react. We have the power to change only ourselves. While I do what I can for Renee, wisdom tells me the rest of her burden is not mine to bear.

And then it’s acceptance and serenity all over again.

*****

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.

* not her real name

**picture from qualitystockphotos.com

*This is a post from 2014

And the Wisdom to Know the Difference

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

photo-26167281-10-23-14-christmas-icons-5-faces-09Renee* has lived eighty-nine years. She and her husband came to America in the 1950s, young and full of dreams. She was a statuesque blonde fiercely in love and hoping to raise a family with her strong, dark-haired carpenter. He loved her too, and together they built a life.

The carpenter lived to meet two grandchildren. He passed away seven years ago. Renee speaks of him fondly, and shows off pictures from his younger days. For a few brief seconds she seems lighter, then as she finishes telling her tales her eyes return to listlessness.

She lives in a nursing home, unable to walk well enough to be alone. Her remaining family is far away except for a sister who visits once per week and brings her candy. Renee is diligent with physical therapy because she does not want to fall, but other than that and meals in the dining hall, she watches television in her room.

I want to fix things for Renee, do something to make her happy. Only I cannot. Wisdom tells me my role is not savior, but friend.  I visit her, and she is glad when I come by. For maybe an hour per week she is happier, and that is all I can do.

At Christmas time we may be confronted with issues in the world or people in our families we would like to change. Grumpy (or drunk) Uncle John. Silent (or abusive) Aunt Jane. Mom who never seems to understand, or Dad who cannot say I love you. If we could will it, celebrations at our house would look and sound like those lovely holiday movies.

Or maybe we had a wonderful family that is no longer the same due to death or distance. Perhaps misunderstanding has drawn a line between people we care about. With all our heart we want to fix it, and restore things as they were, as they should be.

The first three phrases of the Serenity Prayer are best known. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

My gifts, money, and time are devoted to spreading the message that every life is valuable, and hope is available. I cannot make anyone believe me. It is not in my power to demolish emotional pain for other people.

After attempting suicide in 2011,  it was nearly impossible to comprehend that my life held value. Therapists invested time and energy to help me see truth while I argued, demanded more of them than was fair, and distrusted their intentions. They used their arsenal of skills, but neither could make me accept what they offered. They could not change me. “That’s your job,” I was told. “Do you want to stay depressed?”

And so it is with the world, our holiday get-togethers, and Renee. Life can be hard and lonely. We are surrounded by people experiencing similar pain. In the end it is up to each person to decide how to react.

We have the power to change only ourselves. 

And then it’s acceptance and serenity all over again.

*****

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.

* not her real name

**picture from qualitystockphotos.com

 

 

The Serenity to Accept the Things I Cannot Change

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

photo-24768993-attractive-woman-blowing-at-her-hot-coffeeA family I know has a seven year-old boy with Down’s Syndrome. Tommy* is the youngest of three. His teenage brother and sister are normal in every respect except for sharing life with Tommy.

He is in need of constant care, is not potty-trained, and unlike most teenagers his siblings take turns keeping their little brother clean. This is not what most of us would choose in adolescence.

Acceptance. That’s challenging sometimes.

This same family has experienced divorce. The father sees his children every weekend and some holidays.

He had to fill his new apartment with furniture and plan things for his young visitors to do. They were uncomfortable with the change, and quiet. Only Tommy seemed relaxed. About a year later, they chatter and tease each other. All four have found their place.

Are they glad for the divorce? Not likely. Acceptance is sometimes the only option.

The Serenity Prayer, a longer poem trimmed back famously to three lines, begins with a request for peace of mind. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…”

During this season of holidays, perhaps there is much we cannot control. (1) Other people’s behaviors (2) Who is in our families (3) How holidays are celebrated in our neighborhoods (4) Weather (5) Traffic (6) Shopping lines (7) Power outages. (8) World events. Maybe some of us cannot change our work schedules, vacation time, health, or ability to travel.

Acceptance interrupts aggravation, putting an end to that ugly stress churning in our stomachs and giving us headaches. Acceptance recognizes hurt, sadness, and disappointment as realities and then moves on. Acceptance is not an “I don’t care,” it is “I care but will not spend effort worrying about what I cannot change.”

Acceptance relaxes our muscles, quiets our fears, allows for joy, and celebrates hope. The battle in our minds is where we win or lose serenity.

*****

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 qualitystockphotos.com

*not his real name

 

 

 

 

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.

***********

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