Tag Archives: Family

3 Ideas to Turn Around Your Post-Thanksgiving Crash

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

q8p4W06An emotional crash following Thanksgiving is probably as common as turkey dinners. These crashes come in different strengths.

For one, the crash may last a few minutes and have little more than an extra piece of pie to blame. As blood sugar levels bounce around, we can feel a little moody. 

Another person may sense strongly the disappointments of yet another family gathering. Having entered the holiday hoping for a new and improved experience, one may leave believing nothing will ever change. This crash ranges anywhere between sadness to major depression to despair. 

Then there is the host, who after weeks of preparation is left with great memories and the question, “What am I supposed to do next?” This let-down is about tiredness, a decline in adrenaline, and perhaps the return to a less-than exciting routine.   

Whatever the source of our emotional crash, we have the power to turn it around!

  1. Take care of your body. TLC (tender loving care) never hurt anyone. Rest, eat right, and stretch and exercise. Pace yourself. Allow some of the so-called urgent matters to wait for a few days. 
  2. Take care of your supportive relationships. If you are peopled-out, perhaps send a simple text to a friend expressing your love and intention to hibernate for a day or two.  Reach out to those who are most valuable to your sense of well-being. Offer them the light of joy too. 
  3. Take care of your mind. Fill your thoughts with good memories, doable plans for the future, and positive distractions. Ideas about next year’s Thanksgiving do not have to be decided today! Instead, hope may rise as you consider meeting a goal at work, or seeing a friend for lunch. What produces life and strength in your thoughts? Embrace that.

Our emotional crash after Thanksgiving does not have to own the coming days and weeks. Stay in the moment, taking one day at a time, and enjoy today. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” -Jesus

***** 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.

 

Pumpkin by JULISCALZI on rgbstock.com

 

Embrace Your Today Family

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

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Charlie Brown and the Peanuts Gang are some of my favorite people. This Thanksgiving, my table is adorned with all of them. A picture of the infamous Charlie Brown Thanksgiving meal hangs on the wall.  My intention is to serve little snack cups with samples of Snoopy’s cuisine: popcorn, pretzels, jelly beans, and toast.

Though members of the Peanuts gang had relatives and homes, they chose to spend holiday time together. To the main characters,  Lucy, Linus, Sally, Marcie, Peppermint Patty, Pigpen, Franklin, Violet, Charlie, Snoopy, and Woodstock, this group was family.

Some of us have little to no family with whom to spend Thanksgiving or any holiday. Perhaps family memories and members have faded to the past. Strife or tragedy may have prevented a sense of family at all. Most likely, the culprit of broken ties is a mix of distance and time.

We have, or can build, a Today family.  Temporary families dot my past. My family of origin briefly existed. Visits with extended family were short and far-between. My friends became my family followed by my (now ex) husband and children.

Everywhere I’ve lived or built a social circle, “family” has included persons both related and unrelated to me. One option is to look back and bemoan the loss of many of these relationships. Embracing a Today family sounds like a happier choice.

This year, I have invited relatives not seen in about 10 years. Jon and Tim, my sons, will also be joining us. Last year, two women had dinner here, while for a couple years prior I sat around feeling sorry for myself.

See the progression? Learning to look after my needs is an arduous task. In doing so, others are also blessed. It is worth the anxiety (where will everyone sit?), the money (lots of food!), and stepping out of my comfort zone.

I encourage anyone without a technically-correct family to celebrate the family you have today. Friends, neighbors, shut-ins, people at the homeless shelter  – all can be members of your family if you reach out in courage.

And you will be their family too.

three smiling women beside man holding smartphone

Today’s Helpful Word

1 John 4:19

“We love because he first loved us.” 

 

 

***** 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.

*photo of friends: rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Embrace Love from the Heart. Teach it to Your Children

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

I’ll never forget Mr. Hammer.

As a tyke of merely four years, Mr. Hammer’s white hair, cane, and wicker porch rocking chair spelled out his age. Old. Very old.

On one of many escapes from my house across the street, I went to his door and knocked. He invited me in.  We had a nice chat over lemonade. I asked if anyone else lived there and he showed me a picture of his wife and son- both killed in a car accident years earlier.  I knew he was lonely and wanted to be his friend.

Then from outside we heard my name called, loudly and repeatedly.  Mr. Hammer peered through his screen door, turned to me and said, “You had better go home, child.  Please come back and visit.”

“I will!” Reluctantly I stepped onto his porch and returned to mom who was walking up and down the sidewalk looking for me.

That was the last time I ever saw Mr. Hammer.

After a good yelling,  I was told never to talk to him again. Why? “Because we do not know him,” came the final answer.

Born to Care

For three years I felt guilty until someone told me he had died. It’s disappointing to think my family couldn’t have met him rather than destroy his and my hopes due to fear.

When JFK was assassinated, I only understood a man had been hurt.  Our city hospital was nearby. Running toward it, intending to help the man feel better, I screamed in anger and disappointment when dad snatched me up and wouldn’t allow me to go. I was only two.

Perhaps caring about others is a trait with which one is born.  Maybe this tendency can be scourged by hardship and fear. Then again, it was relatability that drew me to Mr. Hammer. He needed  a friend and so did I.

Go for it

Whatever the nature or nurture debate about this may be, let me encourage you to embrace your desire to help, or to support someone else who does – especially children.

Yes, we must take care to have our needs met. Living to serve at the continued expense of our physical or mental health is unwise. Nevertheless,  what a pity it is to shut down any part of the love this world so desperately needs.

 **********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, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

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

 

Want to Share Your Mental Health Story? Be Wise

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

For any of us who have struggled with mental illness and gone public about it, sometimes there is a price to pay.

Unfortunate stigma has people believing that 1) suicide attempt survivors are violent; 2) anyone with a mental illness is unreliable; and 3) living with a mental illness means one could “go off” at any time. 

If I were hiring and believed all the above, it would be natural to hesitate. It is tough to explain the truth to potential employers when no one will offer an interview. 

Trust is difficult to regain. I have friends and family who still believe that people with mental illness are likely violent. It is disappointing because i thought by now they will have heard me and smashed such stigmas.  

The founder of a ministry, a therapist,  agreed to a meeting to discuss if  I could play a role in his work.  Immediately he asked about my diagnosis and before I could tell what marketable skills I offer, His facial expressions and body language moved from potential employer to fixer.  I knew I was wasting my time. It was condescending under the circumstances.

Would I go back and keep my mental health history a secret? My story came out  in 2013. Some people treat me differently. It’s been tough finding work.  If you Google me you get mental health issues and my story.  There’s no hiding now. 

Good has come of it too! How could I weigh personal losses against the value of a life? Some faces are unforgettable, like the ones who tell me I’ve given them hope.  In my best estimation (because who can really know) I think at least one person is alive because of my openness. I’ve seen family members improve in their support of struggling loved ones. So many have read my blog and heard my radio interviews, there is simply no way of knowing the result. 

If you have or plan to go public with your mental illness,  good for you! We need more voices. However, think carefully before you do. Due to a few generously honest celebrities,  the national conversation has begun.

Be wise.

 **********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, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

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

 

 

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

Forgetting “Ghosts” of Christmas Yet to Come – Are You Expecting Nothing to Change?

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

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

A critical and anonymous letter hurt  me  twenty years  ago. There was no name, leaving possibilities wide open. Suspicion of my neighbors, fellow church members, and acquaintances flooded my mind. There had to be some way to combat what the unkind message was doing to my peace of mind.

Perhaps responding with the opposite attitude would lessen the blow. Within an evening,  I wrote five anonymous letters of my own. They were specific to each recipient, and thanked them for what they offered to the world. I told them not to worry about my name because God asked me to show them his love.

Knowing five people were growing gladly suspicious, wondering who among their circle of friends appreciated them so, made my hurt disappear. It still makes me smile to remember that day when kindness overcame hate. The nasty anonymous letter’s words are forgotten.

Perhaps negative messages have hurt you as well. Family history and other relationships helped shape your outlook. Memories of personal failure and regrettable behavior also mark your ideas about the future. True enough, pain and trauma may seriously influence how you go about making decisions. That does not mean you are trapped.

We give power to the past over our choices. It does not own us. 

One sentence,  so recognizable and yet seemingly ignored by those outside of twelve-step groups, sums up our powerful hope in a prayer. The first sentence reads, “God, please 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.”*

Another version of that prayer goes something like this. “God,  please grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know that one is me.” 

By the time greedy Scrooge of Charles Dickens’ The Christmas Carol had been visited by ghosts of Christmas past, present, and yet to come, he was ready to change his future.  The first action he took was just the opposite of greed. He bought a turkey for one of the families his selfishness had harmed.

Nothing changes if nothing changes, so confront the ugly past with the opposite. Forget the expected, and overcome evil with good. 

Today’s Helpful Word

*The Serenity Prayer

“Ghosts” of Christmas Present – Are You Pretending Everything Is OK?

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

Sometimes our enemies join us at the Christmas dinner table. 

Even Scrooge, the miserly uncle in Charles Dickens’ The Christmas Carol, eventually sat down with his abused employee and family. Before the Cratchets understood he was there on a kind mission, they were distrustful and afraid.

The same is true of us around those who are against us. We feel uncomfortable while denial, rationalizations, pretending, and fears circulate through our bodies and minds. Once in a while we find comfort, however most often we are tense.

Someone suggests forgiving the past, and we are immediately lost in the confusion. What is forgiveness? Am I to trust this person again?  Maybe secrets are best left buried. 

Forgiveness is not endorsement of terrible behavior. It does not mean giving up healthy protective barriers, either. Forgiveness is a process that frees us to see the complete picture and set ourselves free of the pain that anger and resentment cause.

Forgiving ourselves.   

Forgiving  who  has  harmed us.

Forgiving who will not acknowledge wrongdoing.

Forgiving who has passed away.

Forgiving who continues to cause harm.

It can take time. Some people seem to pass through it in an afternoon. Others, like me, take longer. I had to put behavior behind my words and deliberately pursue change. 

The key was to name the loss, lay responsibility only where it belonged,  give up looking for an explanation, and acknowledge the whole story.  I could begin to see myself as once victimized and no longer a victim. 

Denial and pretending keep us stuck. So do anger and resentment. One therapist said,“Bitterness is the poison we drink while hoping someone else will die.”

Jesus said in his famous Sermon on the Mount,  “… love your enemies.” Holding someone accountable for their choices is one way of loving them. It gives them opportunity to repent and change.

Forgiveness is not all roses and tulips; sometimes it takes painful acknowledgment that grave sin has taken place. Once we rid ourselves of denial, and dig up those bitter roots,  planting the seeds of Christmas peace can begin.

Today’s Helpful Word

 

Remembering “Ghosts” of Christmas Past – Are You Trying to Forgive the Wrong Person?

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

How does one’s heart become hard? By neglecting to keep it soft.

Charles Dickens’ character Ebeneezer Scrooge, from  Dickens’ novel The Christmas Carol, is a perfect representation of that truth. From growing up a neglected child, to embracing greed as an adult, Scrooge paid a terrible price for  his hard heart. He lost his family and all human connection.  

One day, a word floated through my mind as others escaped my mouth. “Bitter.” I was remembering disappointments in life that took place long ago as if they had happened today.

During the course of this conversation, I realized I was hanging on to my anger. It was mine.

My speech was torrential blame. Clearly, there was  little effort applied toward understanding my responsibility in the fallout. While a guilty feeling  had  planted its ugly root in my heart, I had grown desperately deaf and turned off any willingness to hear complete truth. It was time to change.

“How can I get over what’s been done to me?” “How can I move on when I have been so wronged?” These questions and more have bounced around in my head for as long as I can remember.

For decades I took to the Lord my bitterness over destruction of my childhood family. I would pray to forgive, work up a good acceptance, and never fully be able to let it go. I wondered why, when it was my heart’s desire, God did not take resentment away.

Then an epiphany came. My efforts were directed at the wrong person! As long as self-blame was secreted away deep inside, all my effort at putting pain in the past would not work.

In childhood there was no way to win. Either of any two options would lead to someone’s anger at me. I grew up disappointed in myself and emotionally lost. Much of the false guilt collected as a child was never challenged. Some of it as an adult was born out of insecurity, self-loathing, and an unwillingness to lay responsibility where it belonged.

Nonetheless, there was real guilt, too. Extending forgiveness toward myself for parts played in ignorance or selfishness made it possible to move on and forgive others for their wrongs.

Thank God I was able to bless my parents before they died. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Everyone is Two-Faced… For That We Can Be Grateful

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

The sun shines three out of thirty times on Thanksgiving Day in Cleveland, Ohio.  At least it rains at some point during those other twenty-seven holidays, so the sun must stay fairly hidden behind gray clouds.

We treasure sunny days here because they are rare. On average, we see about 65 bright days per year.  When Jesus asked his disciples,  “Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or under a bed?”* he may have heard Northeastern Ohioans shouting from the future – No!  We relish light.

Have you noticed that when two people first meet, everything in the relationship seems like sunshine and ponies? That is because we generally show our most acceptable side in the beginning.  A forgiving atmosphere seems prevalent as well.  It is as if both parties are willing to give a stranger the benefit of the doubt. 

Sure, we see and enjoy the best of each other’s personalities. Here’s the rub. Every person has two faces. It is okay, we can be grateful for that.

Some examples at your Thanksgiving table

Your excitable sister-in-law will bring lively chatter and enthusiastic responses to anyone’s good news.  That same excitable personality may express excessive worry when you mention a small problem. 

Your aunt is a dream when it comes to planning and executing family gatherings. You appreciate her attention to detail.  Perhaps her inflexibility when your uncle suggests a spontaneous trip, will bug you. 

A strong, silent cousin is everyone’s hero. There is no doubt who will be there to save the day in a crisis.  As the day goes on, you may be annoyed at his lack of communication. 

Everyone has two faces. They are not actually opposite, but extensions of the same core personality. So you see, if people at your Thanksgiving table are driving you batty, you can be grateful for their strengths.

Have fun with Gratitude! 

Today’s Helpful Word

Is Laughter the Best Medicine for America’s National Mood Disorder? Part 2

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

A national leader, buffeted by war and assassination attempts against his life, once wrote poetry and songs as a means of dealing with his emotions.  He was a war hero who struggled with depression. Responsibility for his country weighed heavy on his mind while he prayed. 

He was a king who did not come from royal blood. His family broke apart in explosive and tragic ways.  First, his father-in-law, king before him, hunted him down for years out of jealous rage. HIs first wife mocked him and left. He lost three sons, one to stillbirth and the others murdered.

Two of his sons tried to overthrow their father’s kingdom. Another son raped his own sister. It is no exaggeration calling this preeminent family majorly dysfunctional.

Here is a clue to the trouble. About the second son who tried to overthrow the king, it is written, “Now his father, King David, had never disciplined him at any time, even by asking, ‘Why are you doing that?’ “

Yes, it was David, King of Israel in roughly 970 to 930 BC, who reigned well in public and terribly at home.  

King David’s grief and plea for mercy

Some of his songs are filled with grief over his crime and failures. For example, one follows his adultery and murder of his lover’s innocent husband.* 

Have mercy on me, O God,
    because of your unfailing love…
For I recognize my rebellion;
    it haunts me day and night…
  Create in me a clean heart, O God.
    Renew a loyal spirit within me…
 Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves…

Sometimes it is easy to sit back in our armchairs or at our computer screens judging leaders who seem to have two faces. King David was flawed, yet he never stopped seeking God. I know religious people who have miserably failed at parenting, marriage, or leadership. I am divorced, and certainly imperfect, yet my heart is after God. 

 How God views our personal failings

God does not look at us like we see each other. I see positive and negative behaviors in myself, family members, friends, strangers, and national leaders. He sees our hearts. When our desire is for God, he knows it.

That is why we can laugh. No, what happened to David’s family is not funny. Harm brought to any of us through family dysfunction is not amusing. National and global crises are no joke. Tragedy is not fodder for entertainment. 

Laughter can come from a place of peace when we know the ultimate judge (Jesus) sees us as forgivable. He does not enable or endorse our sins, however will respond to sincere hearts who break over them. We have a chance (not a loophole making sin ok), for the repurchase of our soul that we sold to the highest bidder.  

Laughter follows mourning

King David’s song continues:

then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness…
 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
    You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God…

Our country needs to laugh. Here’s the thing – we need to mourn first. Charlottesville, human trafficking, racism, sexism, stigmas, hate toward anyone who is different or who does not agree with our pet ideas, national infighting, infidelity in marriage, abuse in the home, and so much more, are national and personal sins for which we need to repent. 

It is clear we fail each other and God. Fallout from our poor and unkind decisions can be great. Painful consequences will occur. Even at our best we fall short of perfect love, absolute unselfishness, and wisdom. 

Let us allow difficulty to bring us to our knees in prayer. God will answer us. King David was not always a great man, and his family and nation suffered. In the end, he consistently pursued God. HIs life is an example of divine mercy and answered prayer. His honest and revealing songs and poems became part of one of the most read and quoted books in history, the Book of Psalms. 

Each of us can choose, regardless of pain and worry, to surrender to Jesus Christ, and laugh with joy in his love. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 16:11

“You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.”

 

**********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.

*Psalm 51

*earth pic by NAZRETH on rgbstock.com; crowd from kozzi.com