Tag Archives: Boundaries

Help Hurting People Without Hurting Yourself: Summary of a Plan that Works

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who fight mental illness, addiction, and abuse  (c)2016  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

Your family member, co-worker, spouse, romantic partner, friend, employee, or student is depressed. Majorly depressed.  You wonder how you can help, if you should become involved, and when life will return to normal.

What can you do with all the mixed emotions you are experiencing? You fear too much stress, and perhaps even a case of your own depression. The key is insight.

Insight guides your compassion 

Before we can operate in a meaningful way, we have to start with knowledge. Depression is one word with two definitions. You may hear, “I am so depressed, this weather makes me want to stay home in bed.” That is an example of the first definition: a state of being sad, low mood, feeling down.

Depression under the second definition is a potentially disabling or fatal condition. Several serious, combined symptoms, causing observable struggles with daily functioning, will occur most of the day most days for at least two weeks before a clinician will diagnose major depression.

Every one of us has nights we wish we did not have to wake up in the morning. Grief, burnout, and bad days are part of life.  Yet most people will never experience anything more than these blues. This is why  understanding the difference is beneficial as you care for your loved one who is majorly depressed.  

Insight into personal boundaries helps you and your loved one cope

Thoughtfully established boundaries protect you from losing peace of mind. Contrary to a familiar definition of “lines in the sand,” boundaries are not about stopping someone else’s negativity or demands. Think about it – you have no control over other people’s choices or over external events. None.   

Your power begins when you draw a circle around yourself. Ask, “What will I allow in here with me? What will I accept from others? What will I carry, and how will I respond?” 

Healthy boundaries are not selfish! They are doable and successful. Compassionate Boundaries, a nine-part series of posts, shows the way.  As you develop your yeses and nos, freedom will surprise you.

Meanwhile, boundaries based on realistic limitations protect you from burnout. You remain present and able to help your depressed loved one without resentment.  

Insight into what to do or say heals your fear

We want to do what is right. Stigma and myths cause us to hesitate out of fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. The gold standard of support is letting  one who struggles know you care. 

No, talking about depression does not make it worse. No, your loved one cannot snap out of it.  Yes, professional treatment works for most people. Yes, you can confidently know what to do if a person speaks of suicide. Yes, you have many options. 

Non-critical acceptance is important. Scolding does not help. Invitations, gifts, acts of service and more, provide some water in the wilderness of depression. Anything you have to offer matters, even if you think it is little.


BookThis Practical Seminar: How to Help Hurting People without Hurting Yourself

This seminar is designed to shed insight into depression and anxiety,  show practical ways supports do help, and provide necessary tools for healthy boundaries which protect everyone concerned.   
  • Analogies and stories
  • Interactive 
  • Practical answers to common questions 
  • Factual responses to stigmas and myths 

Please email Nancy at NancyVirden.hope@gmail.com, or use this convenient form.   For more information follow these links:   Testimonials      Bio       



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.

4 Possible Motives for Taking On Too Much (and how to restore balance)

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

Last night, a friend said he feels like a heel because sometimes the injustice of this world is too much to process and he makes himself not care. He blames his lack of feeling on an apathy he is convinced must reside at his core.

My friend is not apathetic; he is overwhelmed. He feels powerless. He beats himself up for not experiencing what he has judged to be the correct reaction.

We are going to feel powerless when we are powerless. A key component to developing healthy, compassionate boundaries is to recognize what we can and cannot control. Hint:  we cannot control other people or external events. We can only hope to manage our reactions.

Motives are choices

If we find we are frustrated, burned-out, or emotionally or physically dysfunctional because we have said yes to solving an overwhelming number of dilemmas, we need change.

Today you can learn to recognize some unhelpful motives that keep us stuck in patterns of saying yes. Also you will read practical tools for adjusting your life’s balance.  Let’s use the following scenario to guide us.

You have left your job one afternoon  extra tired because you have much to accomplish in the few days left before you leave on vacation.

There are errands. Pick-up gifts for the nieces and nephews; drive Bobby to his play practice, and then go home – to wrap presents, grab a snack to share, and head out the door to the neighborhood holiday party. Don’t forget to pick up Bobby!

Then Tina calls. She wants to talk some more about her divorce, the unfairness of her husband’s lawyer, and maybe she will ask you for gasoline money. It’s always “gasoline” money, although you never really know. 

4 possible motives for taking on too much (and how to restore balance)

1. Taking on responsibility for someone else’s difficulty can lead to false guilt. Empathy is important. However, there’s a difference between feeling with and feeling as if.  If you carry someone’s pain as if it were yours, you will likely feel more trapped into trying to relieve or solve it. Healthy compassion feels with, but does not own.

It helps to name the owner of the problem and say it aloud. “That’s Liam’s job loss”, “It’s Sally’s depression.” In this case, “It’s Tina’s divorce, not mine.”

2. Have you ever said or heard someone say, “no one else is doing it so I have to?”  As a director of children’s ministries years ago, I used to carefully upkeep church bulletin boards. Later, after that position ended, the bulletin boards stayed stagnant.   Children’s ministries continued fine without anyone spending hours on bulletin boards.

Not everything we think must be done is our responsibility or even necessary. Consider before committing, “What is the worst possible result if I do not do this?” In Tina’s case, she may have to find someone new to lean on. She will when you are gone on vacation anyway. Let guilt go.

3. The term ‘people-pleasing’ is a misnomer. Fear of displeasing people is the actual motive behind this self-protective behavior. It is only by saying yes to everything that we feel safe.

For example, We fear displeasing Tina, so we give her $20 for the third time. We fear the neighbor’s unhappiness so we  offer to host the next party. We fear our nephews and nieces disappointment in us so we buy more gifts than is necessary. 

Seeking validation and a sense of worth by helping others is not wrong, just backwards. We all need appreciation and acceptance. Nevertheless, as a motive, it pushes us to too many yesses when that validation doesn’t come fast or often enough.

Look at and test the evidence. Are there people who say no and remain appreciated and loved? Yes. Name them. You see it is possible, so why not you? Say no to something small. Did you survive? Keep practicing until what you are saying yes to matches with your highest priorities.

4. Sadly, past trauma may have taught us  that we have no innate boundary rights. An unresolved history may leave us with internal condemnation.  Talking deeper issues out with a therapist is a reasonable investment for a lifetime of freedom.

Truth is, compassion leads us to want to help. It can seem odd that sometimes the most compassionate choices involve saying no, drawing boundaries, practicing self-care, or not trying to fix anything.

Not much in this world is going to change dramatically because we took the time to pray, think, and discuss before saying yes and committing. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Self-Care in Healthcare: How Boundaries Prevent Compassion Fatigue

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2016  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries (As originally published  on CIA Medical at : https://www.ciamedical.com/insights/self-care-in-healthcare/  )

Self-care. When I first heard the term used in a mental health context it came across as selfish. After all, are not  the good guys supposed to focus on rescuing, saving, helping, and serving other people? To me, self-sacrifice was the holier route to achieving ‘good guy’ status.

Due to a variety of health events over the years,  there are many remembered kind faces of medical doctors, first responders, nurses, mental health professionals, aides, and volunteers  that fill me with gratitude. Never are we more vulnerable than when we cannot control scary things happening in our bodies and minds. The service these people provide is irreplaceable for our overall well-being as much as physical health.

What then, of healthcare staff who commonly face trauma and tragedy and want to be  difference-makers? How vulnerable are they to our pain, horror stories, and deep wells of need?

Compassion Fatigue is real

Compassion Fatigue is one term describing the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder experienced by some professionals who are in the thick of helping traumatized patients. Other terms are vicarious traumatization or secondary traumatic stress. Psychology Today reports a survey conducted by PBS Adult Learning Satellite, which reads, “86.9% of emergency response personnel reported symptoms after exposure to highly distressing events with traumatized people”*

Physical and psychological symptoms of Compassion Fatigue may emerge over time, including a growing apathy toward the work, patients, and other relationships. While it may be a struggle to admit, if left unchecked and unaddressed, a caretaker’s ability to help suffers, perhaps leading to an end of career. Talking to a mental health expert is the best recourse for prevention and healing.

F. Oshberg, MD,, author of “When Helping Hurts,” emphasizes the need for understanding Compassion Fatigue and its process. “Compassion Fatigue develops over time … Basically it is a low-level, chronic clouding of caring and concern for others in your life … Over time, your ability to feel and care for others becomes eroded through overuse of your skills of compassion.”**

Three lists to help sustain a long-lasting career in healthcare

I believe the key to maintaining effectiveness includes self-awareness and honesty.  My seminar, How to Help Hurting People Without Hurting Yourself, expands on this idea.  Gaining knowledge about Compassion Fatigue or any other such vulnerability is important, and awareness of one’s need for self-care is a grand beginning to sustaining a long-lasting career. It is honest exploration of exactly what are one’s priorities, strengths, and limitations that is crucial.

If you are in healthcare and work with traumatized clientele, consider creating three lists. In one column thoughtfully write out your commitments and prioritize them. Make sure your basic needs are at the top, and include those people closest to you.  In a second column write out your strengths –  work-related, psychologically, and otherwise. Then honestly and with careful self-awareness, list your limitations. These can include time constraints, temperament, and where your skills are weakest.

These insights will direct your boundaries. For example, such a list teaches me that while empathetic (strength), my work and relationships (priorities) are deeply affected by stress over what I cannot control. It is important to limit hearing detailed stories of abuse or else I may kick-off my major depression (limitation).  Clearly, I am not well-suited for a career working closely with traumatized people! Still, this provides a general idea of the type of analysis I’m suggesting you complete.

Drawing boundaries based on your lists is perhaps the kindest gift you can offer to yourself and to those patients who rely on you. Knowing and not crossing them prevent pitfalls of various kinds including Compassion Fatigue. Ultimately, boundaries preserve best care options because professionals are operating in healthy mindsets and not heading out the door.

Interestingly, your patients will learn from your choices as well. By watching healthcare providers practice personal and professional boundaries, I learned self-care is not selfish. These people retained the capacity to heal because they did not allow my troubles to overcome their sense of role and responsibility.  My self-care muscles grew because I was not unnecessarily rescued at every turn.

Are you taking care of yourself? A quiz

By answering a few foundational questions, you may gain some clarity on your need for self-care.

  • Do I have the facts about possible dangers to my mental health because of my work?
  • Do I understand my role in the lives of my patients?
  • Am I confused, even a little, about appropriate boundaries?
  • Do I know my priorities? Is self-care on that list?
  • Am I growing angry, apathetic, or emotionally exhausted?
  • Am I who I thought I’d be when I entered this profession?
  • Will I look into talking with a therapist about possible compassion fatigue?
  • Do I believe that I matter too?

Self-care is up to each person who deals with trauma’s aftermath in other people’s lives. Gaining knowledge about Compassion Fatigue, understanding one’s needs, and applying  healthy boundaries will make a difference between overcoming or being overcome.

Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 23:1,2 

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.  He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.  He renews my strength.  



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 can be yours.

*Babbel, Ph. D., Susanne. (2012, July) Compassion Fatigue: Bodily symptoms of empathy. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/somatic-psychology/201207/compassion-fatigue

**”Compassion Fatigue. The American Institute of Stress.” The American Institute of Stress. N.p.,n.d. Web. 18 March. 2016. http://www.stress.org/military/for-practitionersleaders/compassion-fatigue/

How to Survive Your Unwanted and Painful Negative Self-talk

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2014, 2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries  


Our inner bully is one of the cruelest voices we hear. There are unkind people who will reinforce what it is saying. It is our choice not to listen to negativity. 

“If you are going to talk to me that way, I’m not speaking to you anymore!” I said.

My foe had recently started the conversation. “You are so annoying. No wonder people do not want you around. You don’t fit in anywhere because you are so weird.”

This time I stood my ground. “There have been friends throughout my life who enjoyed spending time with me. I like being unique and there are those who appreciate who I am.”

“I doubt if that is true,” said the verbal abuser. “I could name names right now of those who reject you. Including me.”

“I can name those who have not,” I said.

That is when I shut down the dialogue with myself.

Sound familiar? Negative self-talk is a primary fuel for false self-defeating beliefs, and depression.

How your negative self-talk started

Beliefs form when we receive a message from a significant source. This could be from parents, teachers, or even the media sending a broader message to society.  Any source we consider valuable and do not dismiss offhand can plant a seed of belief in our minds.

For it to become a solid truth to us, experience has to support the message. For example, if the seed was that you deserve bad things to happen to you, and something bad does happen, that event can be interpreted as evidence backing the initial message.

However, the necessary third component in formulating a belief is that we have to repeat the same message to ourselves. So you see, our self-talk is powerfully influential.

How to survive (and change) negative self-talk. 

  1. Question past messengers’ credibility. If the person sending negative ideas was a narcissist, a liar, had ulterior motives, was emotionally unable to meet your needs, or was well-meaning but ignorant, what effect does that have on their message or on our memories? What if they were wrong? That changes everything, doesn’t it?
  2. Look for evidence to the contrary and do not dismiss it. You believe you are incapable? Count all your accomplishments, big or small. No matter if you judge these as unworthy, they do prove you are capable. Take that in.
  3. Let go of the past.  While it is unfortunate any one of us has been hurt, you do have a say in how long you allow that pain to define you. Forgiveness starts with burying self-blame and allowing yourself to be human.  Then forgiveness of others will be possible. 


Negative self-talk used to be my constant. Despite my faith in a loving God, friendships, two great sons, and more, the inner voice doggedly told me I was worthless and unlovable. Because of strategies and hard work, eventually those automatic negative thoughts gave way to automatic denial of their truth. They still come around, however do not hold the power they once had. 

You can survive the inner bully and overcome. You can!

Check out How to Gain and Maintain a Mindset of Hope for practical strategies that worked (still do!) for me.

Today’s Helpful Word

Romans 3:22-24

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.  For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.  Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight.  He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.”


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



As an Entrepreneur, Use Expressed Boundaries to Preserve Business Relationships

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

Let’s be upfront with each other. If your entrepreneurial business goal is to make money at all costs with little regard for the people you work with or for, this article is not for you.

If you are trying to build or maintain a sustainable business that nurtures relationships within and without the company, you will find the following information encouraging.

Craig* works closely with clients in one-on-one meetings. As a psychologist who owns a thriving business with a growing number of offices and employees, he also interacts with entities and those who represent them.

Craig is kind and savvy. Early in his career he learned the value of professional boundaries, particularly as a therapist. It’s personal boundaries he sometimes struggles to articulate.

What’s the difference?

First, let us understand what boundaries are and are not. Boundaries of any kind are not about preventing others from making decisions that can potentially hurt  you or your business. You have no control over external events or people. Healthy boundaries place you in the powerful position of deciding what kind of person you want to be, what you will allow in, and what you will refuse.

Craig’s professional boundaries help prevent a most costly confusion between client and therapist. He limits his availability, clients are responsible for building other support systems, and generally these rules are explained well. In building a business however, the stakes are different. Money is on the line. He takes on heavy responsibilities as all entrepreneurs do.

Because of this business focus, he “forgot” a twice-given promise he made to Justin, a less obviously successful entrepreneur, who was counting on him.

Craig never wants to cause harm. Yet by speaking in generalities, he allowed personal boundaries to go unexplained. He found himself in a bothersome relational situation with Justin he preferred not to confront. The rush of business pressures gave him the excuse he needed in the moment to avoid Justin and disregard his word.

The broken promise led to a series of events of which Craig was unaware. His fellow entrepreneur’s feeble success was damaged because Justin too had made promises expecting Craig’s to be fulfilled.  Ultimately, Justin’s reputation and confidence took a hit, and part of his business closed. 

This is not an indictment against Craig or anyone’s business decisions that seem appropriate to them. Choosing to remain uninvolved is absolutely fine unless we start making impulsive promises we are not committed to keeping.

Go ahead and draw personal boundaries. These are vitally important for your emotional, physical, mental, and even spiritual protection! I encourage you to spell them out, or at least do not blame another person for misunderstanding if you do not.

Well articulated personal boundaries preserve the health of current and potential business relationships by preventing situations that make you feel trapped and ready to run.

Today’s Helpful Word

1 Corinthians 10:23

“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive.



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.

*name has been changed


3 Holiday Boundaries You’ll Want to Draw This Year

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

oosr7euCaroline: Boundaries? With my family? I have no say in anything. 

Tom: No one else is taking care of  all the flight plans, so I guess I have to.

Jackie: Personally, I could do without ever seeing Uncle Bill again. 

Darin: I cannot afford these gifts – but my wife expects them. 

Ah, December American holidays.  I’m not certain how some of these statements apply to faiths other than Christian, but it would come as no shock to learn most families have expectations centered around tradition. It is when we forget we have choices, that resentment, dishonesty, and compromise of our values take place. We flail about reacting to tugs from others until we are dizzy.

Or depressed.

Boundaries prevent this. We can choose to be an individual, not a victim, not co-dependent, and not a doormat. Boundaries keep us from being dishonest about what we want and how we feel. Genuine obligations suffer when we say yes to too much outside pressure. Anger over our supposed lack of choice threatens relationships.

Boundaries are not about stopping another person. We will never have control over other people’s choices. Boundaries are about what we decide to say yes or no to. What will we allow into our lives?

Here are 3 boundaries you will want to draw this year.

1) Time.  Look at your calendar. What are your bottom-line obligations? Of course, your job and immediate family will be on this list of top priorities. Closest friends are there too. Mark these on your calendar.

List all the other December duties you think you have.  These are time-consuming activities such as shopping, choir practice, taking your children to events, the annual Christmas party at work, etc. Now rate them 1-3 with 3 being the most significant and meaningful to you.

Place the 3s on your calendar if they fit. Then add the 2s and 1s in what time slots you believe you can spare. Say no to the least valuable so you can focus on the important. If two important dates clash, choose one based on your highest values.

2) Budget  Debt adds pressure and great cost to what could be a freer life. Think about refusing to create or add to it this month. On your calculator put in the December amount of your bills including life’s necessities like food, gas for the car, savings, etcetera. Subtract this from your real income (not potential income).

Reasonably estimate your extra December expenses such as food, extra gas spent on driving every day to choir practice, holiday clothes, decorating, and gifts. How much money do you have left?

Are there ways to save money like sharing a ride to choir practice or going without that red twinkling sweater? Is it necessary to add another strand of lights on your tree? Consider meaningful homemade gifts, or offering your time and service instead of merchandise.

After streamlining your December budget, divide what is available by how many people you are buying gifts for. This is the estimate of how much you can afford to spend on each person. Of course, the gift exchange at work is not as important as your gift to your spouse, and may cost less. However, now you have a reasonable figure from which to make your decisions.

3) Physical or emotional energy  We cannot fix or change other people. Sometimes the struggles of people we love takes a toll on our wellbeing. There are family members, places, and events that typically wear us down.

Thoughtfully think about your true limitations. It’s okay to be human, and understanding our limits is bright, healthy, and wise. Do you tire easily? Are you in pain after sitting two hours at a concert? Will seeing Uncle Bill trigger depression? Does too much social activity push you into isolation? Be real, and gladly own up to where you are presently physically and emotionally.

Look again at your calendar. Is it reasonable to believe you can do all those things and maintain good mental and physical health? If not, please allow that you are your top priority. This does not mean selfishness, this is self-preservation so that you will be fully present in your most important relationships.

Cut out or abbreviate those activities you would be wise to avoid to be healthy. You are free to limit your suffering by turning your energies to the most valued events and relationships this month.

Boundaries. We struggle to say “I can’t” or “I won’t”. But saying yes to the lesser equals saying no to the best. It’s okay to use your voice! Take a deep breath and enjoy the freedom of being in control of your choices.

Today’s Helpful Word

1 Corinthians 10:31
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”



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.

Jim’s Story. 6 Ways to Avoid Helping Too Much When Your Loved One Struggles

CompassionateLove Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2013 Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministries

406Laying eyes on him for the first time, my judgmental self saw a man who didn’t care, who had given up trying. Then I began to see beyond his dirty, frayed jeans, and loose flannel shirt that served only to emphasize the discouragement expressed by his demeanor. Slumped shoulders, eyes downcast, and  little interest in observing those around him – these proved to me what our surroundings already assumed.

We were in an intensive therapy group for people who had just been dismissed from a psychiatric hospital, or who were trying to gain emotional stability to avoid being admitted. Clearly, this room was not filled with optimists.

Jim’s story still surprised me because of its extremes. He told us he lived with his parents, controlling types who refused to allow him the adulthood he felt he deserved. In his forties, he still had a small bedroom that would not lock, and nosey intruders checked on him often. Immediately, a question rose in my mind. Why would any grown-up allow this?

Jim had started abusing drugs in his teens, and addiction soon mastered him. His life became a go-around of detox, relapse, stays in rehabilitation centers, hope, and “why bother?” Somehow, he managed to graduate from college, obtain his Masters, and begin his professional career.

It was job loss due to relapse that landed him back with his parents. They would go through his things, make him report his every move, and micro-manage his food, time, entertainment, money, and space. This would make anyone stress-out. Suicidal thinking grew in his mind, and when Jim was found sitting on his parents’ front porch with a loaded gun to his head, he was taken to the hospital.

When we met, his life consisted of therapy, unemployment, another round of rehab, a negative outlook, and chain-smoking. Still, it was fascinating to see sparks of life as he shared hard-learned and even harder-lived wisdom. He made a positive difference in our group and did not seem to know it.

We shared time there for approximately six weeks. I heard him swear he would never give up smoking because he was giving up too much (drugs, alcohol, personal freedoms) already.  In my last few days there, he announced he had throat cancer and was giving up smoking. Several years later, I ran into him at a counselor’s office. He did not remember me. When I said I recognized him, he said “too bad for you.”  I was glad he was still alive.

The fact that his parents’ over protective behaviors added to Jim’s stress does not mean they carry responsibility for their grown son’s poor choices. However, from what I could see (admittedly having only one side of the story), the kind of support they offered to him was not as beneficial as I’m sure they hoped. I wonder how messed-up they felt their lives had become now that they were hypervigilant about his safety.

It was nice of them to open their home; their concern for Jim was clearly profound. Nevertheless, depressed, drug-addicted, alcoholic, suicidal, and otherwise troubled people have to learn how to manage distress, and respond to it in healthy ways. As adults, we are responsible for saving our own lives.

So, how is a support person to know where to stop? Here are 6 ideas I believe are helpful.

  1. Be knowledgable about what your loved one is suffering. Learn, seek answers from reliable sources. Al-Anon is an excellent resource for those who care for addicts and alcoholics. Talk to your loved one. Listen.
  2. Do not allow your relationship to change. For example, a parent does not become a jailer, and a friend does not become a therapist. A next door neighbor does not become gopher, and pastors do not become saviors.
  3. Bring in the experts. Your loved one probably needs some professional support. You may want to reach out for some wise counsel too. What is the point of suffering when an educated specialist is available to relieve some of that burden?
  4. Know your priorities. Avoid costly trade-offs that hurt other people or destroy your life.
  5. Draw boundaries for yourself. Boundaries are deciding what is and is not acceptable to you. You decide what you will allow in your home, schedule, head, or budget. No one has the power to keep up chaos in your life; you choose what you will and will not do.
  6. Give up delusions of fixing your loved one. As helpful as we wish to be, there is no possibility of changing anyone. Micro-managing does not work (and it’s not your job!).  Support is not rescuing, it is just being there to the degree that is reasonable for you.

Stay healthy emotionally, physically, financially, and time-wise. Hope for the best always, but encouraging versus enabling someone to remain dependent is a fine line sometimes. Support them in their growth, however you may have to let go and let God.

After all, they are in the best hands when they are in His.

Today’s Helpful Word

Hebrews 13:21

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with every good thing to do His will. And may He accomplish in us what is pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”



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.

A Bible Teacher Goes Off On Me On LinkedIn; Charges “Psycho-babble”

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

Girl shouting with fingers in ears

Have you ever had a conversation descend into a shouting match? I appreciate strong opinions and enjoy calm (albeit intense) discussions as long as I am learning and the other person is open as well. The art of mature discussion is lost behind easily inflamed and “touched you last” word wars. Does this happen to you?

I have a friend Nick Katsouros, whose radio show recently came to a grinding halt over this very issue. He has strong views on which we do not always agree, yet I have been an invited guest on his show three times. He professes agnosticism yet has never tried to shut me up when I talk about the gospel. Nonetheless, people are attacking him because they read personal threat into his opinions. Nick’s aim is, and always has been, to help close this awful divide in our country through honest, civil communication. So few seem to want that.

A special moment happened this week when a dear friend willingly discussed the election although we have differing thoughts. What we do agree on is that God looks at the heart; how we vote is secondary to our clean conscience. What a relief to have this conversation and to agree to disagree without either of us coming away feeling attacked!

On Monday I ran across an article* on LinkedIn with “Do Not Care About Your Self-Esteem” in its title. Intrigued, and with an open yet cautious mind, I looked to understand this point of view. It was a good article which made some meaningful points. The author’s motive seems pure and kind. However, his interpretation of self-esteem seems too black and white. He uses the phrases, “Self-esteem is esteeming you more than others”, “Do not fall into the self-esteem trap”, and compared self-esteem to self-serving and self-focus.

I commented, which is rare for me, because I thought of all those wide-eyed scared women who have tried to leave abusive relationships. So often they feel worthless, helpless, and hopeless. Cognitively, in the moment it is difficult for some of them to hear new terminology and concepts. Truth has to be spoon-fed in some ways.

I also thought about all the women and teens who are presently trapped in abusive situations, especially abused Christian wives told to stick by their man no matter what. I think it is dangerous to use the term self-esteem in an “ooh, that’s baaaad” kind of way because so many people do not have a concept of worth. Coming down hard on terminology appears judgmental and condemning, in my opinion.

To me self-esteem is not exaggeration of one’s value, and is not conceit or self-focus. In fact, I suggest self-esteem is one foundation for humility because without it we are self-conscious and mindful of what others think. By understanding our spiritual place (sinful, in need of repentance and a Savior, yet deeply loved by God) we can grow a healthy and “sober” (reasonable) sense of self-esteem.

For example, I am a daughter of God. I stand with the only One who loves me unconditionally. He protects and rescues me because we love each other. I obey and surrender to him because he is God and I am not. Without this sense of relationship in God’s love, I was fearful, distrusting, and vulnerable to maltreatment. Now I acknowledge that God did not make a mistake in this creation. In fact, I am genuinely grateful for how he made me.

Yep. I tried to put this into calm, tactful words in my reply to this article. The author did not blast me – in fact he did not address me at all. A third-party, a Bible teacher, went off on me.

At first I thought it was going to be one of those learning experiences for both of us. He made solid points about the use of confusing language and how it disrupts the gospel message. I agree. He said psychological terms such as self-esteem, recovery, and addiction are confusing terms and should be abolished in Christian circles. I do not agree. He said part of repentance is thinking differently. I agree and appreciate his use of the original Greek to point that out. I believe changing how we think is a process that takes place over time whereas he seemed to imply thinking differently takes place in an instant do-or-die moment.

I expressed three concerns: (1) Using terms like “psycho-babble” promotes stigma (hence shame) that may keep some people from seeking help at all.  (2) Some vulnerable people will remain trapped in self-loathing because they think it’s the holy way (3) Abuse victims serve and serve. Mothers serve and serve. Women suffer breakdowns because they do not know it is ok to say no. Telling them self-esteem is a no-no may actually deter them from godly boundaries.

At this point he started using capital letters and lots of exclamation points. An undeniable tone of sarcasm underlined his statement, “Again, I suppose you have wonderfully proven our point.” Clearly my meanings were disregarded as he reacted only to the words I chose. I was lumped in with the apostate church and not-so-subtly accused of being a false teacher in the worst sense of the phrase. 

Our battle is not against words, but against falsehood. Against losing souls. Against not loving our neighbors because we won’t meet them where they are or speak their language (a social and spiritual issue). Vitriol and back-handed condemnation are why we look like blubbering fools when we try to present Christ as the Truth, Way, and Life.

When I fully realized he was shouting angrily at me, I addressed some of my meanings he had misinterpreted or twisted, and then backed out. I wrote, “I am not here to cause division in the Body.”**

His response? The ultimate character assassination: “I understand the cognitive dissonance of renouncing the unbiblical “recovery” teachings, due to the fact that it would affect one of your titles, ‘Recovery Advocate.'”  

So, I guess I am too proud and filled with selfish ambition to care about Christ’s way. That’s reminiscent of an ex-pastor who claimed I would not try to protect my son from suicide because I “profit” from depression!

Good thing I know God loves me!

photo-24719064-architects-at-work-site. Today’s Helpful Word

1 Peter 3:15
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”    –
St. Paul



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.

*Rick Thomas, Christian Coach, Speaker, Author & Podcaster. Article:  Teen Tip 3 – Do not care about your self-esteem. Published on LinkedIn October 17, 2016

I Care About Someone With a Troubled Past. What Can I Do to Help?

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

Closeup portrait of two attractive middle-aged female friends chatting in the park in a healthy lifestyle concept




Common sense

These terms no doubt mean something to you. Perhaps they draw up comfortable and happy memories. Maybe they remind you of what you never had. These are motivating words representing goals most of us like the idea of reaching. They are also concepts beyond reality for some people .

The Challenge: When we speak of love, our intentions fall within a range from the trite (“I love tacos”) to near impossible-to-describe profoundness (“I love my child”).

What if you had never seen displayed, or received family love? Emotionally or otherwise neglected children need help learning how to relate and trust. Without that help, and no framework to identify healthy relationships, it is quite possible a good-hearted adult will miss out.

How to Support this Person: Be an example of unconditional love. This does not mean allowing unsettling behaviors to go unaddressed. In fact, love this person enough to have boundaries. Through gentle communication, show the beauty of love – that it does not abuse, take advantage, play the doormat, or endorse bad behavior. Instead, it builds up, hopes for the best, and has the other person’s best interests at heart.

The Challenge: Just how is one who has been dealt dishonesty throughout childhood or beyond supposed to recognize trustworthiness? Kind people may try to invest in victims who have been lied to or betrayed most of their life, but positive messages fall short. This is because the languages of truth and trust are not understood.

How to Support this Person: Be faithful. Have boundaries. Never lie. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Carefully avoid making foolish promises. Give it time, even years.

The Challenge: We often hear during send-offs or even in therapeutic situations the concerned sentiment, “Be safe.” It means different things in varying contexts. If a formally abused individual does not know safety exists, how is she or he supposed to self-protect in practical ways?

How to Support this Person: Teach them in word and by example that safety is our right and often our responsibility. While we cannot predict every scenario, we can be basically prepared.  Teach this person to take his or her time in choosing emotionally safe friends. Provide information on how to draw healthy, not fear-producing, physical and emotional protections in relationships and situations. If you need help with this, ask for it.

The Challenge: Common sense may be elusive when a person has not been taught healthy ways of thinking, is emotionally incapable of moving beyond chaos, or whose circumstances have typically been manipulated on the vicarious whims of others.

How to Support this Person: Instead of pointing fingers and judging, try something constructive. You may help to change a life. First, set an example. Then gently encourage critical thinking. For instance, “What will be the result if you do such ‘n such?” “What do you want? Will this decision take you closer to your goal?” “What kind of person do you want to be, and what decisions today will help you be that kind of person?”  “Has this [behavior] worked in the past to help you or hurt you?”

None of us knows what we do not know. Everything we know has been at some point, taught to us. Investing in the future of another person looks different from self-righteousness, criticism, or superior assumptions of our knowledge.

Instead, change comes when we humbly accept the fact we are all learning. With this attitude we will change within, and become the kind of people able to lift others.



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 Kozzi.com

5 Simple (Not Easy) Ways to Successfully Manage Stress

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

photo-24714732-stressed-businessmanJamal feels as if everything is coming at him at once. Major decisions overwhelm him at times. College, romance, difficulty in the home – all seem to have conspired to pile pressure on pressure until he cannot sleep.  Jamal will benefit from learning to manage stress.

Change is hard. Even if it is for the positive, change is hard. These six steps will lead you to more peace if you follow them diligently. Allow yourself time for this to progress. You will see and feel evidence of relief as you learn.

1.  Name what you want.  All too often we pass through a day without real focus. We check off our to-do list and then go to bed.  For some, whole lifetimes go by this way.  What if you focus on your values and set goals by them?

To manage stress, it helps to have a positive view of yourself and your purpose.  What kind of person do you want to be?  Consider each area of life that is important to you. Name your values and write them down.

Write down goals that support your values. Both short-term and long-term goals can guide your decisions. Naming your values and goals based on those values, lowers stress as purpose daily replaces aimlessness.

2.  List what is and is not within your control.  External events are not under our control. Neither are other people.  By carrying the impossible burden of trying to manage circumstances and persons, we add loads of unnecessary stress to our shoulders.  What if you let go?

Over time, people will adjust to the new you.  They will pick up their rightful responsibility to decide for themselves what they want and who they want to be. By letting go we loose our minds and bodies from the chains of control. We are healthier when we accept life on life’s terms. 

Each of us controls how we react to situations and people.  Allow yourself and others to be human.  Jesus said, “Forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”  Forgive yourself for not knowing what to do. Begin fresh today and each day.

3.  Exercise boundaries. We decide what we will allow into our lives, so learn to say no to what is not producing life or strength. Boundaries are not about stopping another person. They are about drawing lines around ourself and refusing entrance to harmful negativity.

Think, what do I want in my life? If you want negative or abusive relationships, then by all means let someone mistreat you. I do not believe that is what you want.

4.  Practice physical and emotional self-care. Our bodies need sleep, appropriate food, healthy fluids, movement, and hygiene. By ignoring any of these we set up defeat.  Do what your doctor tells you to do. Without a functioning body you will experience more stress.

Learn to care for your emotional needs by refusing to use damaging words against yourself.  Be your best cheerleader.  What if instead of worrying, you turned your thoughts to solutions?  If your workload is heavy and deadlines are pressing, think,  I can do one task at a time, one day at a time.

5. Ask for help. Not one of us can do this alone. Guidance, encouragement, and support from people you trust will relieve stress. Accountability, mentoring, and medical or mental help are three possible ways you can grow from the help of others. Support groups offer extra strength. Friendships with emotionally and physically safe people are how we know we are not alone.

“Today can be the ‘someday’ I’ve always wanted. There isn’t enough time in these twenty-four hours to do everything I’d hoped to do, but there is time to start making my dreams come true.” -Al Anon.



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 Kozzi.com