Tag Archives: Christmas

Whispered Guarantee: Shelter and Rest in 2019

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2018 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

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This week I spent three days at my son’s beautiful apartment over Christmas. He cooked all the meals, cleaned everything, and served me like a special guest. It was fabulous and restful, a perfect shelter.

Christmas night I had to leave for the two-hour drive home. In transit, I longed for another shelter – my house, and my bed. 

Shelters come in various forms. Houses, finances, portfolios, and reputations give us a sense of security.  We rest in family and friends. Often, hope centers on the immediate, the latest sure thing, or escape.

Problem is, each of the above is temporary and comes with no guarantee. 

A friend once had a dream. In it, there was a terrific storm. She entered a shelter, finding Jesus and many people inside. It was safe there. All was calm while the storm outside whirled about. 

Noticing the storm had quieted, my friend thought, “It is alright to go out now.” She left, only to be caught up again in massive winds. A hand grasped her, pulling her back inside.

It was Jesus. He said, “Did I tell you it was safe to leave my shelter? Stay here.”

The next morning, my friend confessed the dream had led her to a spiritual decision. She said, “I will never leave his shelter again. Never.”

Anxiety, a seemingly ever-present enemy of rest, shouts its threats. Booming rages and disasters in the world demand our attention. Depression and other disorders try to claim our minds. Yet there is a whispered guarantee. The shelter of the Most High is our place of safety. 

This shelter is not built by human hands. It is the Lord Jesus Christ, himself. In the quiet of trusting, yielding, and worshiping prayer, he whispers his love. Reading, comprehending, and living by God’s Word (the Holy Bible), raises our faith. Fear, guilt, shame, doubt, a sense of worthlessness or hopelessness – all dissolve and heal over time in the presence of Jesus, our refuge.

God’s promise to anyone who chooses to set up home in his shelter, is rest.  Under the shadow of the Almighty, we can know peace. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 91:1-2

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'”

 

***** 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.

 

Christmas and Your Mood Disorder: How to Redeem the Day

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

A few minutes ago, in the local drug store’s parking lot, a woman smiled at me warmly as she stepped out of her car.  We are strangers, yet around here people tend to smile more at each other during the late autumn months.

About two hours ago, I left church where songs of praise to God and our Lord Jesus were joyful, and the sermon, inspirational.  A larger crowd than usual greeted each other with welcoming attitudes.  I am new there, and only three of today’s hellos were by name. However, that is not what mattered.

What is special about Christmas time  is that briefly, society takes on a sense of obligatory friendliness. This is not to say it is insincere. In fact, I think the holiday season gives us permission to reach beyond ourselves in ways that may seem out-of-place the rest of the year.

A similar phenomenon may occur when a mood disorder such as major depression or bipolar disorder are part of our reality. There may be predictable times of the day, week, month, or year that our symptoms tend to flare up. One of those may be holidays.

In the middle of episodes, our emotions are heightened and we see only how we feel. The truth of people’s best intentions can bypass our notice. That warm smile from a stranger may seem like mockery. Greetings at church (if we venture out at all) can feel hypocritical. After all, why don’t these people hear us screaming desperately for help? Why does no one care?

Truth is, as much as family, friends, church leaders, therapists, and even strangers may want to be there for us, they cannot see beyond our masks and walls. Meanwhile, Jesus is already aware. He sees us, knows our every thought and pain, and loves us still.  He does not reserve his welcoming stance for his birthday. Year ’round, every minute of the day, he is available to anyone who is ready to turn to him for salvation, wisdom, and change of heart.

I speak as one who lives it. In those times we sense emptiness, hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, or feel out-of-control, the answer comes from that baby in the manger. He is no longer a child, but is the King of kings.  Heaven is his home, yet he lives in human hearts. He is not an illusionist,  a philosophy,  only a good teacher, a liar, or religious fantasy.

He is the Redeemer.

Jesus is the redeemer of my major depression. In the pit of despair,  I sought death while he offered life. My eyes focused on pain, while he extended his hand full of promise. He did not reject this daughter who lost her way emotionally. Instead, as I barely hung on yet believed in my Savior, he guided me to the right helpers.  Over time, through these people and his Word, he met needs I did not know were unmet. He allowed me to go to the bottom so the whole of my spirit could be healed.

It took time and is not done yet. That is okay.  Mood disorders are tough. Their roots run deep. Learning to manage them may take years.

As for now, this Christmas Eve and Day tomorrow, you and I can turn to the Savior whose birthday we celebrate.

Allow the King to redeem your Christmas.

Today’s Helpful Word

Eight Years of Christmas Changes

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

Eight Christmases ago was my family’s last traditional one. We didn’t know it then, but nothing would ever be the same.

It’s a big deal when Christmas rolls around and looks different from the year before.  This year I purged an old stockpile of holiday decorations, however that is not the kind of different I mean.  Eight Decembers with varying levels of drama, emotions, and hope remind me that on the day Jesus came to earth, the world forever changed.  

Christmas of 2009 – Major Move: My then-husband and I were saying goodbye to our city, church, friends, home, and adult sons who wished to remain in Cleveland. We moved to the Philadelphia area on New Year’s Day.  My prayer was, “God, I hurt.”

Christmas of 2010 – Major Depression: A major depressive episode caused obsessive thoughts and misinterpretation of reality. This led to a suicide attempt 20 days after Christmas. To say despair owned that holiday would be an understatement. My prayer was, “God, please take me now.”neqg3zy

Christmas of 2011 – An Unfolding Future:  Not fully recovered, my spirit could best be described as shaky and wary, which is more hopeful than despair. A publisher had accepted my first book and I was busy finishing the manuscript.  Our sons learned of the suicide attempt and both were proud of me for turning tragedy into something positive.  My prayer was, “God, can you still use me?”

Christmas 2012 – Family Drama: We drove a 24-hour round trip to Cleveland on Thanksgiving Day to intercede in a family dispute. Our sons came to Philadelphia to spend Christmas, a family first. My prayer was, “God, please protect my sons.”

Christmas 2013 – The Family is Broken: My husband and I were separated although still sharing an apartment.  I had also been to a treatment center to begin recovery from a 40-year eating disorder and food addiction. This Christmas was the first as a broken family, and I was trying to deal with all the stress without my old coping mechanisms. My prayer was, “God, help!”

Christmas 2014 – By Myself on Christmas Day: My oldest son planned to come to Philadelphia for Christmas. My youngest son had been out of touch for four months. I was living alone for the first time in my life.  The visit was cancelled at the last-minute and it was just me and God on Jesus’ birthday.  I finished upholstering a chair. My prayer was, “God, please remind me you are all I need.”

Christmas 2015 – My Family of Origin Dies: On December 20, my father died. His funeral was Christmas Eve. That is the day I said goodbye to my brother, knowing we will never see each other again. In 2003, soon after our mother passed away,  he inexplicably erased me from his life, and until our dad’s funeral I had never heard from him. He refused to speak with me that day too, and so I had two family members to grieve. My prayer was, “God, help me turn my eyes on you.”

Christmas 2016 – New Traditions: I’ve been back in Cleveland for over a year now. This time it will be just me and my sons. We will have a nice dinner with all the fixin’s, and then watch Christmas movies. I’ve been looking forward to this for a week, ever since I learned both would be in town.  My prayer is, “God, I thank you for turning sorrow into blessing, for loving me with such passion, and for never letting me go. My hope is in you.”ngmtxu6-copy

Perhaps this year brought to you horrendous loss, or frightening discovery. Maybe trust was damaged, or disappointment knocked you to your knees. There may be an empty chair that last year held a loved one, or one less present to wrap. Are you in a different place in your spirit than you were last year? Is there more distress or peace, depression or joy, hopelessness or purpose?

For me there is more joy, more hope, more peace this year than in a long time. The lessons of the last eight Christmases have taught me that God is sovereign, and his love never, ever, fails. 

One certainty is that next year will different yet, maybe much better. Jesus will stay the same, always prepared to steady our walk on shaky ground.

q5grfjgToday’s Helpful Word

Isaiah 9:6 NIV

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace

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 rgbstock.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

I’ll Be Home For Christmas, If Only In My Dreams

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness since 2012       repost from (c)2014  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministries

photo-24791672-christmas-poster-with-winter-houses-vector

We played pretend, my daddy and I. He said he imagined he could come through the wall behind the clock. A secret staircase took him back there, and then, crash! With a powerful kick, the clock and a picture fell into a dusty haze of broken dry wall. Out he jumped, landing on both feet.

He laughed. “I don’t know why I imagined that,” he said.

I added an old train to our game. It chugged from nowhere to the room where we played and waited. “Anytime you want you can ride away,” I said.

“What should I do with the rails? he said.

“Keep them in one of the train cars so if you need them they will be handily available.”

“You don’t think like other people,” he said with a grin.

He asked me how my day had gone, and insisted details be piled on to complicate a simple story. His gaze never wavered as he asked follow-up questions, truly interested in my life.

Neither of us were young in this scenario. The atmosphere I grew up in had been hostile; the adults were distracted. Little Nancy had not experienced playing make-believe with her daddy. No, this happened only two weeks ago* in the nursing facility where my father resides due to dementia. During this visit, his mind was clear and able to maintain a stream of thought for an entire hour without forgetting anything. Surprised, I was doubly intrigued to find him playful and so excited to see me.

Our relationship has not included much joy. I always wanted one of those imaginary Christmas card daddies whose focused adoration is on their little girls while everyone smiles for the picture. Instead, I learned a sense of home and family could exist only in the dreamy make-believe world of denial.

So why was my dad relaxed, funny, and laughing at my jokes? Uncertain when the golden coach would return to pumpkin-state, I hesitated to join the jovial spirit.  However, something puzzling had caught my attention and I wanted it to continue.

His eyes were sparkling for sheer joy of having me around. When a nurse first woke him and guided him to look my way, he had lit up like -you know it – a Christmas tree.

So far into our conversation there had been no distractions, no digressions into how is so-n-so and what-not. He asked about my work, and in typical cryptic fashion I told him of my coming weekend trip to Chicago. He wanted to know what I would be doing in the Windy City.

Now I had a quandary. These kinds of questions were highly unusual. One option was to remain hidden behind my normal self-protective barricade. At any given moment this pleasantry could end, spoiled by his disappointment in me. Was it safe to expose the whole truth to my father?

Yet those eyes. They were eager, inquisitive, and soft.  I looked at this man who had been so unreachable, who had failed to know or appreciate his daughter, and who had made such harsh parenting mistakes in the past. “I’m fine, Dad” had been a standard response if ever he did ask; vulnerability was dangerous.

Nonetheless, shiny eyes were new. I searched them for clues; maybe this was not a moment to carelessly throw away. After deliberating long enough for silence to be awkward, with a deep breath I tossed hesitation aside and risked my heart.

He learned I speak about depression and suicide.

Why?

Because I’m in recovery from those, Dad. 

He learned my marriage ended this year.

Oh! What happened?

It’s been unhappy…

He learned of my estranged son.

How are you?

I miss him, Dad.

He heard of friends, a new church, and asked how I spend my time. We moved on to my newest book soon to be released. I described it while in a shadow of doubt as to the wisdom of laying my joy at his feet.

Sounds like a good book. You keep writing, that’s what you do so well.

Thanks, Dad.

Gathering my coat, I looked in wonder at his baby-blues once more. After saying goodbyes and see you soon, his eyes still sparkled with affection and delight. I gave mine permission to twinkle back. Maybe it took fifty-three years, but my daddy saw me and liked what he saw.

This was not a dream; I felt at home.

Today’s Helpful Word

2 Corinthians 1:3

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.”

 

*This was first posted two years ago. My father has since passed away.)

COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME 

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.

How to Fix Your Bah Humbug When Life is Not Easy

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

oqd61peGrieving, lonely, angry, anxious, and otherwise dreading that family get-together? Here is the good news. We are not victims; we have control because we have options.

Yes, we do! We have opportunity to choose what we value and who we want to be.

Think about it, and possibly write your values. What is important to you? Then write what kind of person you want to be.

Example:

I value honesty. I want to be an open and transparent person.

I value calm. I want to be an even-tempered person.

The list can be as long as you like. What do you want?

We can struggle, sometimes very hard, against pain brought into our lives at the will of others. Maybe you lost yourself long time ago. Remembering your values might take some time. That’s ok, go for it anyway.

Waves of grief can strike us during the holidays when we least expect it. A conversation yesterday changed my demeanor from smiles to sobs. It’s not a character flaw to feel sad over loss! Denial is not the answer. What do you value? What kind of person do you want to be?

Maybe this season you question if you have enough stamina to go on. Pain, physical or emotional, may be due to terrible relationships, stressful jobs, or that all-time king of suffering – loneliness. It is always your choice how to respond. What kind of person do you want to be?

We may find we lack the know-how, or the strength to finish a list like this alone. Perhaps the concept of being the kind of person you want is a bit mind-boggling. That’s ok, too. I’ve been there. Support groups and therapists tend to be safe; church groups, good friends, and teachers may have insights into who you are that you have missed.

It is always our choice to seek support or not. We can decide to pursue antidotes to the status quo and Bah Humbug thinking. It is in our power, regardless of our feelings, to live on purpose and believe for hope.

I decided yesterday to fight what I’ve experienced as an annual holiday emotional torture. I did this for the first time two years ago, and it changed everything for me. Spontaneous invitations went out to a few friends, new and old, for a game night between Christmas and New Years Day. I do not know yet who can come, but the point is I am pursuing my values. I love treating people! The kind of person I want to be focuses on honoring God  by loving other people. It sure beats feeling depressed.

To all, I wish and pray for a happy holiday season. May you live by your values, and experience peace in striving to be who you want. Maybe your greatest blessing will be admitting you cannot do this by yourself.

A red poinsettia in the Christmas seasonToday’s Helpful Word

Luke 6:45

“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

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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.

‘Twas The Night Before Church (an adaptation of The Night Before Christmas*)

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

‘Twas the night before Church, when all through the house,
 

One heard the (dainty!) snoring of a woman knocked-out.

Sunday’s outfit slung over her chair

In hopes that she wouldn’t forget what to wear.pdkrbsm

 

Chicken and rice was ready, and sitting in a dish,

Waiting to take to church in answer to her wish.

Her soft electric blanket held her in a tight wrap,

As she had just settled in for a long winter’s nap.

 

When out of the darkness there arose such a clatter,

She sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Her eyes to the alarm clock flew like a flash,

It was too early, so under her covers she dashed.

 

The clouded sun brightened a new-fallen snow

When she awoke realizing it was too late to go.

She glanced at the window when what should appear,

But four flying white-tails belonging to deer.deer-running

 

They ran in a row, simultaneouly quick,

She knew in a moment they must be God’s gift.

More rapid than eagles more creatures came,

And she smiled and shouted “praise to his name!”

 

” ‘Now, believer, now, Christian! now, worshipper, fall!

Come to the Father right where you are!

The deer may fly, but your spirit, too,

Come to me, child, for I love you.’

 

His voice was unmistakeable as snow flakes fly,

So she met with God there while looking to the sky.

The pastor is smart and no doubt did espouse,

But this morning at home, her heart God did rouse.

 

The deer long gone, their beauty elsewhere,

She walked to her office, paused, and sat there.

When she heard Him again, “daughter do as I might”,

So she set her fingers on the keyboard and began to write:

 

“God is dressed all in light, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes are all shining, so we read in the Book,

A bundle of gifts he has flung our direction,

Each of them chosen and given with affection.

 

“His eyes-they see each person! His heart is merry

When He looks on His children whose sins He has buried!

We bow and admit, Him we need to know,

And He makes our darkness as white as the snow.

 

“Hope is now possible, and we grin with our teeth,

Aware that for us He wore thorns like a wreath.

He died and lives again – to fill more than Christmas bellies!

Our spirits’ deep needs He meets… like a chef’s at a deli!

 

“In painful moments, we may put living on a shelf,

Yet may laugh because of Him, in spite of ourselves!

A look at His Word, acknowledging He is Head,

Soon remind us He knows we have nothing to dread.

 

“Remember friend, Jesus held seven stars in His hand,

Yet He reached out to John, and touched the man.

This is the God who loves you and me –

Able to hold the universe and close by us be.

 

“He will return in the clouds, (the angels might whistle!)

What joy when we fly up to Him like down of a thistle!

Whether once dead or alive, we will rise out of sight,

Shouting, ‘Happy praise to God!’, and ‘what a great night!’ “

npdauagToday’s Helpful Word

John 10:10

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

-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.

 
*Clement Clarke Moore (1779 – 1863).  Twas the night before Christmas.

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.”

*********

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.

Treating the Treater. How (and Why) to Pay It Forward This Christmas

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2015 Nancy Virden

kids Image 10Tim, my youngest son, was born at home. This was not on purpose mind you, it was a shocking, adrenaline-packed, and scary surprise. At 1:00 AM I had a contraction.  At 1:30 AM I had a quiet, unmoving, lifeless baby boy.

The paramedics who arrived on the scene saved both me and my son, but it was baby Timothy in need of urgent care. For ten minutes he received CPR as the ambulance flew at life or death speed to the Emergency Room.

After these many minutes showing no life signs, Timothy suddenly gasped and began to breathe on his own. By the time I arrived at the hospital in a second ambulance, he was pink and responsive. The end story is that he has had no negative effects from the experience. He is now 24 years old.

The paramedic who directly worked on us asked me to keep in touch. He wanted to know how Tim’s health would evolve. He didn’t know how I would answer that request, however for the next 18 years Glenn Burks received an update in the mail on Tim’s birthday. Most years, he also received a portrait of the growing boy.

Over two decades later, I told this story to another EMT far away from where the original story took place. He was grateful to hear it, he said, because First Responders aren’t often privileged to see how they helped someone. He was just glad to know there was a happy ending somewhere!

Last weekend, an ex-EMT shared his experience with picking up a girl who was about to be committed for violent behavior. He discovered she had been badly physically abused and had simply defended herself, so he reported that. For a long time he continued to wonder what happened to her after he dropped her off at the hospital.

Some time later, I don’t recall if he said it was months or even years, a letter arrived. It was from that girl, thanking him and letting him know he had saved her life. She was doing well, had recovered, and attributed much of that to his protection. He cried as he told the story even though since that time he has finished years of schooling and has practiced as a licensed therapist for well over ten years.

It has come to mind recently that often we owe a debt of gratitude to people who are “just” doing their jobs. People who invest in us in some understated way are there even when others are not, and likely chose their field because they care.photo-24743417-two-people-shaking-hands

It is because of that caring that they are also susceptible to burn-out and fatigue. Self-doubt may plague them, and their question, did I do enough? may go unanswered. Your challenge today is to thank a person from your present or past who has helped you.

Just imagine the mental health of everyone if only our world filled-up with gratitude for each other! Compassionate love takes action and gives back to the givers. This Christmas is your chance to do just that.

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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 can be yours.

*picture from left: EMT who drove the ambulance, me, Glenn Burks, baby Timothy. Taken one year after the emergency

 

 

I’ll Be Home for Christmas If Only in My Dreams

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

photo-24791672-christmas-poster-with-winter-houses-vector

We played pretend, my daddy and I.

He said he imagined he could come through the wall behind the clock. A secret staircase took him back there, and then, crash! With a powerful kick, the clock and a picture fell into a dusty haze of broken dry wall. Out he jumped, landing on both feet.

He laughed. “I don’t know why I imagined that,” he said.

I added an old train to our game. It chugged from nowhere to the room where we played and waited. “Anytime you want you can ride away,” I said.

“What should I do with the rails? he said.

“Keep them in one of the train cars so if you need them they will be available.”

“You don’t think like other people,” he said with a grin.

He asked me how my day had gone, and insisted details be piled on to complicate a simple story. His gaze never wavered as he asked follow-up questions, truly interested in my life.

Neither of us were young in this scenario. The atmosphere I grew up in had been hostile; the adults were distracted. Little Nancy had not experienced playing make-believe with her daddy. No, this happened only two weeks ago in the nursing facility where my father resides due to dementia.

During this visit, his mind was clear and able to maintain a stream of thought for an entire hour without forgetting anything. Surprised, I was doubly intrigued to find him playful and so excited to see me.

Our relationship has not included much joy. I always wanted one of those imaginary Christmas card daddies whose focused adoration is on their little girls while everyone smiles for the picture. Instead, I learned a sense of home and family could exist only in the dreamy make-believe world of denial.

So why was my dad relaxed, funny, and laughing at my jokes? Uncertain when the golden coach would return to pumpkin-state, I hesitated to join the jovial spirit.  However, something puzzling had caught my attention and I wanted it to continue.

His eyes were sparkling for sheer joy of having me around. When a nurse first woke him and guided him to look my way, he had lit up like – you know it – a Christmas tree.

So far into our conversation there had been no distractions, no digressions into how is so-n-so and what-not. He asked about my work, and in typical cryptic fashion I told him of my coming weekend trip to Chicago. He wanted to know what I would be doing in the Windy City.

Now I had a quandary. These kinds of questions were highly unusual. One option was to remain hidden behind my normal self-protective barricade. At any given moment this pleasantry could end, spoiled by his disappointment in me. Was it safe to expose the whole truth to my father?

Yet those eyes. They were eager, inquisitive, and soft.  I looked at this man who had been so unreachable, who had failed to know or appreciate his daughter, and who had made such harsh parenting mistakes in the past. “I’m fine, Dad” had been a standard response if ever he did ask because vulnerability was dangerous.

Nonetheless, shiny eyes were new. I searched them for clues. Maybe this was not a moment to carelessly throw away. After deliberating long enough for silence to become awkward, with a deep breath I tossed hesitation aside and risked my heart.

He learned I speak about depression and suicide.

Why?

Because I’m in recovery from those, Dad. 

He learned my marriage ended this year.

Oh! What happened?

It’s been unhappy…

He learned of my estranged son.

How are you?

I miss him, Dad.

He heard of friends, a new church, and asked how I spend my time. We moved on to my newest book soon to be released. I described it while in a shadow of doubt as to the wisdom of laying my joy at his feet.

Sounds like a good book. You keep writing, that’s what you do so well.

Thanks, Dad.

Gathering my coat, I looked in wonder at his baby-blues once more. After saying goodbye and see you soon, his eyes still sparkled with affection and delight. I gave mine permission to twinkle back. Maybe it took fifty-three years, but my daddy saw me and liked what he saw.

This was not a dream; I felt at home.

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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.

*picture from qualitystockphotos.com