Tag Archives: disability

Living With Mental Health Disability: the Power to Live With Purpose

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

Fear has threatened to take me out of the game. I thought my challenger is Major Depression, which it is, however through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy I’ve learned to manage that quite successfully. Fear is what overpowers my coping skills more than I would like to admit.

Three years ago, two psychologists, a psychiatrist, and a therapist told me I am disabled. Their professional point of view was that major depression recurrent, generalized anxiety, and PTSD would keep me from working full-time. 

Initially, I took it hard. It felt like a punch to the stomach that these people who knew me so well did not believe I could make it on my own. My husband had just moved out, and although I was writing and two years into my advocacy work, my income was not enough support. I worried about employment and entrepreneurship. Possibilities stretched before me.  After hearing  I am disabled,  instead of looking at major depression as something conquerable,  I started to believe it had conquered me.

When these professionals whom I respect and trust, originally stated their case, my mental health issues were arguably disabling.  Evidence they interfered with my ability to work was clear. It still is.

The other side to the story

What a roller coaster my last two years have been!  Challenges have included: a major move; loss of relationships;  learning to live independently;  financial issues;  a court case; loneliness; health problems, and stressful decisions concerning this ministry. In my family alone, my dad died, I saw my estranged brother for the last time, conflict with a son resulted in a change of living arrangements, and my divorce was finalized. Yikes!

Most of these make the life’s major stressors list. Depression has been naturally triggered sometimes.  In the worst of it,  major depression never took a solid foothold. Coping skills and strategies did their work.

Ironically, I felt victimized by a chronic condition, and yet it is fear that actually slows me down. Anxiety is a true disorder; I am not making light of that. To be honest however, there are moments I choose fear when it could be overcome. 

I have feared being incapable, or of trying because failure is certain. I have catastrophized worst case scenarios when evidence points toward positive outcomes. The word “disabled” rings in my ears, causing me to hesitate.

The lesson here is not that anxiety and depression are easily controlled, or that we who struggle with them need to shape up. NO, to say that would be to contradict my years-long message.  Rather, it is important to believe we are not victims. Our lives are challenged by mental illness and disorders that do not define us. 

There is more than meets the eye

We witness courage in ourselves each day we take small and glorious steps. Sat up in bed today? Took a shower? Ate? Bravo! Stepped outside? Called a friend? Went to work? You are a conqueror! Has someone labelled you disabled?  You do what you can!  Push the envelope safely, yet try.  

No one has the privilege of telling you what you do is not enough or that you cannot move forward. Learn the skills that make you functional. Use them every day. Choose hope even when life is dark, and in the face of limitations, know you have the power to live with purpose.   

girl lookingToday’s Helpful Word

Proverbs 31: 25, 26

“She is clothed in strength and dignity and she laughs without fear at the future. When she speaks her words are wise and she gives instruction with kindness.” 

 

**********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.

Wisdom from a Wheelchair

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

I am in a wheelchair temporarily due to a foot injury.  This confinement has unique challenges.  Blood circulation cuts off at the edge of the seat. It is easy to go too fast down inclines. From steps to doorsills to sinks, homes are built for people on two feet. Grabbers are essential, yet finding low storage for necessary items is too!

Because my foot will heal in a few weeks, this experience is void of the emotional trauma that must accompany learning one’s legs will never work. However, to a lesser degree I can relate to the financial, social, and physical limitations of life in a wheelchair.

Our Challenge: Be Braver than Most   

Relatability, or rather lack of it, is one reason people stay away from those who struggle with mental disorders.  Jesus is our example of love and acceptance no matter the circumstances.   

As we read in the gospels, he met with those on the outskirts – people society had deemed unnecessary and a waste of skin. He talked with the fearful, faced head-on the demon-posessed, touched the unwanted, and loved them. 

I heard a pastor express from the platform his relief when emotionally unstable people do not call him. Another minister completely ignored a suicidal church member. Someone close recently told me she does not like people with mental illness.  That hurt.

What these responses mean is that potential supports do not know what to do.  As humans, we fear the unknown. Our comfort is important to us. The bravest among us face those fears and refuse to balk. 

People are generally not proactive. In churches especially this is a problem because God’s house is where hurting souls will often look for answers. We are to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.  Yet too often we make the excuse, “They’ll call me if they need me.” Isolation adds to the suffering of those in emotional pain.

How to Be Braver than Most

Following the example of Jesus is not our idea of comfortable.  “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges… was born as a human being,” and lived and died in service to God and people.* 

If you want to live as Jesus did, your number of choices shrinks. Loving your neighbor as you love yourself is not optional.   

This blog and entire website teaches practical ways to do that without losing sight of who you are and growing overwhelmed. You can know how to relate and react when someone near you struggles with mental illness.  You do not have to be afraid. You can be an effective support while maintaining your own peace of mind.

Jesus sat in our wheelchairs so to speak, experiencing human limitations.  He reacted with love-in-action, and still does.      

Today’s Helpful Word

1 John 3:18

“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.

 

**********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.

*From Philippians 2

*wheelchair pic by BETACAM on rgbstock.com; women pic from kozzi.com

Mental Health Disability

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

25493412 Overwhelming DepressionA blues song could be the sound track for many of our lives. It’s lyrics would include, “Deadlines, worries, have to do this-n-have to do that” because these are hallmarks of so many of our days. Most people seem to be able to manage the pace, or better yet, manage to pace themselves.

With a mental illness, the normal speed of life can be too fast. Feeling overwhelmed, persons with mental health disabilities may not always be able to keep up with what others around them are doing. From the outside, perhaps these limitations look fake, because yesterday and the month before everything seemed fine. However, tough decisions have to be made when mental health is fragile.

At least four events occur when mental illness prevents a person from reaching his or her goals.

Disappointment. The one with the disability is frustrated and saddened that a desired career or accomplishment is out of reach. There may be a process of grieving.

Self-criticism. The world is quick to tell people without a job that they should be working. No one is more impatient and judgmental than the one with a mental health disability is toward himself. It’s a life of shoulds. I should be able to keep a routine. I should be able to put in a full day. I should be able to control my brain.

Defeatism. There will be days a person with a mental health disability will feel defeated. All the failed “shoulds” and dashed hopes will be too heavy a load. At this point it may seem wiser to quit trying.

Some Acceptance. Eventually or at least occasionally, the person with limitations due to mental illness will accept those challenges and even embrace them. It is a success in itself to accomplish what one can in a day. Many people do not do that much even though they put in a full day’s work.

People with invisible disabilities deserve as much respect as any one else. It is to our benefit as a society to look beyond the surface and see the heart.

mmlcaqeToday’s Helpful Word

Isaiah 43:18 NIV

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!”  -God

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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.

Full Circle: A Week of Miracles Part Two

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

Law and justice concept gavel

A week ago today I was in a courthouse watching my marriage of 35 years come to a final close.

Our separation began in September of 2013 following 2 1/2 years of marriage counseling. In the nearly three years since, my husband filed for divorce, and settlement and support discussions and hearings ensued. Last Thursday ended all that with our signatures on a decree stating the division of assets. Now we wait for the final paperwork.

Today’s blog will state nothing negative about either my husband or the Pennsylvania court system. As in any dispute, there are two sides to the story.  Instead, I want to share with you miracles of provision and peace that culminated last week.

It probably does not need mentioning that this process has been an emotional one. There were times of great fear concerning my future. You see, I have multiple doctors and a therapist stating I have a disability due to Major Depression Recurrent and Anxiety Disorder. In their opinions I cannot hold a regular job. One went so far as to say this is permanent.  A quick look  through my work history testifies to this as well depending on one’s point of view.

I do not want to believe disability prevents me from working a steady job. It is an uncomfortable prognosis. However, I have watched these professionals closely for over five years and not once seen them backtrack or deceive. Their personal as well as professional lives are ones of integrity. Each of them have thirty-plus years of experience. I have to take them seriously.

Most of all perhaps, I know they care about me. None of them would twist the truth for a court hearing because that would hurt me! Almost beside the point is the fact they stand to lose their careers if they throw out willy-nilly professional opinions. My husband’s lawyer is an ex-therapist and knows each of these people personally. He told me he would not dispute the disability factor because he knows they do not lie!

Long before anyone used the term “disability”,  I approached Always the Fight Ministries (begun in 2012, officially named last February) with caution. Over the years there have been times I could barely function. These episodes also prove my need to take it slow. The amount of promoting one needs to invest for entrepreneurial success has suffered because of these limitations. Attempts at seeking regular help have not borne much fruit although all along the way God has provided people on occasion when needed.  Usually I feel overwhelmed and unproductive.

Yet here I am. Despite all the above, speaking and writing is bringing in more earnings. A new radio show begins in August. Nervousness comes and goes because what if I cannot manage all this? What if a crash and major depression result again? What if I am disabled?  That is why moments like last Thursday are so poignant.

Entering the courthouse as a self-representative, I knew Who was my lawyer.¹   With face turned down so as not to appear mocking, low-key smiles broke out periodically at the visual of mere mortals, including myself, trying to negotiate justice. I knew Who gave each of us our mouths to speak.²  Any authority practiced in that room was from Him.³ As such, I had to smile. It was actually fun to watch Him at work, and all the more when I kept silent. (see qualification below)

Finally, I saw the fruitlessness of this particular discussion and asked for 30 seconds to prepare an answer. Bowing my head, I asked my Heavenly Father who has never once let me down, what to say. As I gave my offer, I sensed a shift in attitude in the room. If I am correct about that, it may have been because there was no gouging or attempt at revenge. I asked for what I believe God told me was right. It is not even enough to pay my bills.

Disabled. Not capable of regular work. No stable income. Not enough money to live. Sound bleak?

I know who holds my future! As I see it, God has a plan that is fun to watch unfold. Parts of it are revealed already. Instead of the negative what-ifs, I am asking new questions. Certain God led me to ask for the amount I did, I am equally positive there is a reason. What if I can? What if I have no more crashes that take me out of the game? What if I am no longer disabled? Most importantly, what if I cannot and God accomplishes everything through me anyway?

What is the miracle referred to in today’s title? Peace. Whether things seem to go poorly or splendidly, I KNOW there is a purpose.

I am not afraid.

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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.

– picture from Kozzi.com

Qualification on noted comment – This is not a theological statement intended as a right or wrong way of defending oneself in court. No offense or judgment is intended toward any readers who have been through the court system, work in the legal field, or advise others to use the court system. This was my experience alone. It was a moment of clarity for me personally as I learned once again to let go and let God. I had already stated my case. It is important for justice to take place that people have a voice.

¹ From  Jeremiah 51: 36. “…I [God] will be your lawyer…”

² From Exodus 4:11. “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak…? Is it not I, the LORD?”

³ From Romans 13:1  “…all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.”

 

 

Buried Alive and Barely Breathing

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

photo-24758742-vector-image-of-a-man-with-question-mark-thought-bubble.A man with close ties to my family was once buried alive for eleven hours.

It gets worse.

Tom was working on a sewer system when the earth above him collapsed, forcing one leg to lay flat against his back at an awkward angle. His only source of air was to breathe what escaped the hole in the sewer line he’d been trying to repair. His hands were immovable, a ton of earth bore down on his body, and there he waited, in and out of consciousness for eleven hours.

Once rescued, Tom began a new life of doctors, hospitals, pain, and a wheelchair. Medical personnel said he would never walk again. The minimum oxygen available to him while buried had been enough to keep him alive and maintain brain function, but his organs and muscles rebelled. Because of his disabilities, his marriage crumbled. He could no longer work.

Now what?

Patty felt buried alive by circumstances out of her control and deep emotional trauma. Despair choked her will to live. For a few years she clung to every lifeline, torn between what people who care were saying and her own belief system. The common analogy of a fish out of water fits, because to her every moment was a gasp for air, a longing for rescue, and an intense battle against overwhelming hopelessness.

Now what?

Feeling buried alive comes from any combination of beliefs that may or not be accurate:  I cannot get out of this situation;  nothing will change;  there is no possible win;  only more losses are coming;  I’m out of options.  

For Tom, whose experience with feeling buried alive was literal, the struggle did not end with physical removal from a desperate situation. He felt trapped in a wheelchair and in a weaker body. He fought every challenge with determination. Now he can walk and deals each day with medicines and pain. Tom says he was once a selfish, overbearing man, which is difficult to imagine as he is now generous, humble, and thoughtful.photo-24758449-illustrated-image-of-question-mark-sign.

Patty could not control outcomes stemming from other people’s choices. However in her thinking she had no options. It took “rescue” in the form of life lessons from mental health professionals who exposed to her possibilities of which she had been unaware. Her helplessness wore off as she made changes where she could. 

Tom and Patty stopped subscribing to the notion that once trapped is always trapped. Instead they eventually explored healthy ways of coping within uncomfortable circumstances. 

Trapped does not mean forever; it may be the catalyst propelling us toward  a new life of empowerment and gratitude.

Are you feeling buried alive?  Now what?

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Comments are always welcome (see tab below)

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

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

Is Your Diagnosed Mood Disorder a Life Sentence?

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

photo-24753803-steel-bar-window-in-tuscany-townYou’ve been told by a mental health professional you are not psychologically normal. Your diagnosis is Mood Disorder of one sort or another. Is this a life sentence?

It depends. We do not yet have the “penicillin” for chronic mood disorders such as bipolar and major depression, among others.  No medication has been made available that will perfectly and always maintain brain chemical balance for each person. By that definition, there is yet no cure.

Still, we are in control over how well these diseases are managed in our day-to-day lives. My experiences and those of others I’ve met indicate we have much more input than is often perceived.

To start, a person has to become aware of a problem and accept a need for help. Statistics show that only about 60% of persons with a mental disorder seek or receive treatment, while as many as 90% of treated cases move on to enjoy healthier and more satisfactory lives. If there is no medical cure, why the massive numerical difference between untreated and successfully treated patients? The answer is in a person’s ability and willingness to learn and apply healthy coping skills.

From this insiders viewpoint, depression (more than sad) and anxiety (much more than worry), are constants restrained from taking over by my use of management skills. These skills, I might add, are spiritual, physical, and mental in nature. I grow weak in the fight; some days are good, others are not, and many are a mix of extremes.

It is in the slow process of awareness, learning, and applying that I have gained more control over how depression and anxiety interferes with goals, relationships, and daily functioning. Being as we each have differing levels of need, an infinite variety of life experiences, and more or less ability to grow, my strategies are not one-size-fits-all solutions.

Ultimately, no diagnosis of a mood disorder is a life sentence. We seek treatment. We try new coping skills and deepen a relationship with God. We learn to function within the challenges, to make choices within our control and allow for limitations.

We move beyond victim and become victors.

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

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

*pictures from Kozzi.com