Tag Archives: Higher Power

Why ‘Mental Health and Recovery Advocacy’ is Important for Christians. Part 1

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


For one year now I have introduced myself as a Mental Health and Recovery Advocate. According to a few extreme responses, “advocate” means I must stand for every psychology-based feel-good whimsy, willing to sacrifice my Christian faith in the process.

The background and perceptions of those who think that way are unclear. Let’s face it.  Old ideas and stigmas die hard. I too am influenced by both informed and uninformed messengers of qualified truth. There have been serious inner struggles over whether I am doing the right thing and advocating for the complete truth.

Each time though, I land on one important point. People need hope, and judgment never meets that need.

Psychology is the study of human behavior. It is neither perfect or innately wrong. As one who thanks God for the therapists and psychiatrists whose knowledge and medicine helped turn my life around,  I will be an advocate (not an anything-goes pusher), of professional mental health care. 

How could God possibly be against the study of human behavior when the Bible is in part exactly that? He provides the answers that I, for one, needed the help of therapists to understand.

As a believer in Jesus’ divinity, I know him as the only birth-son of God. He is not merely one of many options, but is in fact, the way to God the Father*. The “universe,” and creation are not equal to the Almighty Creator. As it says in Romans 9:20,  “But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?'”

I will always credit God as the Highest Power for taking me to the right people at the right time. Because he is an artiste who knows us all intimately, he alone truly understands a human heart and the inner workings of each mind. He knew exactly what would heal me and deepen my experience with him. 

Mental health and recovery advocacy is not the same as embracing a victim mentality or denying one’s need for turning from sin.  I do not defend addiction, spiritual rebellion, or excuses for poor choices. Instead, my advocacy tears down pious and ignorant stigmas that prevent people from finding lasting hope. 

For me, mental health and recovery advocacy is offering patience and support for the suffering no matter what causes their pain.  By teaching churches, families, and friends how to effectively love those who are broken-in-spirit, and to avoid becoming overwhelmed in the process, I multiply how many hurting people receive the non-judgmental care they deserve.  

My wish is to increase the number of hands offered to despairing people who lay fallen on the floor.  I am not going to kick a person who is already down. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Job 6:14  (Amplified)

To him who is about to faint and despair, kindness is due from his friend, lest he forsake the fear of the Almighty.

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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.

*John 3:16; John 14:6

 

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

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

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

Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 32:22

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

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

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

pic from kozzi.com

1-2-3 and Pow! Your Addiction is Gone

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

photo-24707230-goal-highlightThe most popular blogs have a number in the title – or so I am told.

3 Ways to Boost Your Confidence

6 Steps to Becoming the Real You

We love numbers because we can measure them. It comforts us to know that our problems and their solutions have a beginning and an end. If we want our bad habits and relationships fixed, it is easier to read “3 Simple Solutions” than to do the time-costly and difficult introspection that precedes permanent change.

Obsession is in the mind and manifested in behavior.

Addictions are first and foremost obsessions. Addicts think about the next fix all day long. The where, when, and if of the fix greets the addict at first light of day. It is the last thought before going to sleep. Addicts might be your friends and family members, but are not able to deeply respond to you in healthy ways. Why? Because their thoughts are on the fix, not you.

Addicts hurt their loved ones because everyone else’s rights and needs falls second in priority to the obsession. Think about it – if you are not an addict and on your way to pick up your child from school, will you allow anyone stop you? Now imagine replacing your child with the fix as your number one thought and priority. If opportunity to achieve that fix arrives, will you let something so trite as picking your child up from school, stop you?

Obsession is obsession, even it is dotted with sugar or covered in gravy.

Food addiction is no different from other substance use except it seems more culturally acceptable than laying in a ditch or hiding in a filthy room waiting for a stranger to shoot God-knows-what into your veins. Food addiction has all the same symptoms, types of behaviors, deceit, and obsession as alcoholism and drug addiction.

Sober alcoholics, clean drug addicts, and recovering food addicts (of which I am one) share the same story. We used to plan days, weeks, and months ahead of time for future fixes. We hid our substance where no one would find it. We stole money. We repeatedly did things we swore we would never do again. We did insane things for the fix – an alcoholic may have ingested rubbing alcohol, the drug addict may have stolen pain medication from an ill family member, food addicts may have eaten trashed, or rotten food. All have put their health in peril. Secrecy, shame, and compulsive acting out are our commonalities.

Active food addicts fear not having access to their stash. They will manipulate situations and people to achieve their foremost goal – the fix. Food addicts will be unreasonably angry when the fix is withheld. Likely, food addicts will not eat much in public because the image of self-control is more important than self-control. A food addict will (at least inwardly) resent anyone who interferes with a fix.  They will hurt people in their never-quite-ending pursuit of food, but will deny up and down this is true.

Food addicts have many of the same excuses. I had them all.  “I just love food.” (Clearly. By the way, so does everyone else.) “I deserve this – no one else appreciates me.” (How would you know who appreciates you? You are busy hiding with your food.) “This is ‘me’ time” (Just you and your resentment, boredom, self-medication, loneliness, and fear) I am not mocking. This was my life, and food addicts can relate.

Some people are hard drinkers or hard-eaters and are not addicts.

Food addiction is not the extra pie at Thanksgiving. It is not the midnight snacks. It is not your preference for unhealthy foods. Addiction is obsession of the mind and an addict cannot, I repeat, cannot stop. Hard eaters can determine one day to change their ways, go on a diet, and maintain weight loss. Because of this, stigma about food addiction remains. Addicts cannot stop unless the psychological issue of obsession is addressed, and denial stops.

Due diligence is far more fruitful than instant solutions

In recovery, addicts need each other. A number is involved, but there is nothing quick or easy about it. 12-step meetings are meant to keep us from being alone in our personal fight. The support of these groups and sponsors are key to success. The process of becoming a better (more sane) person is lifelong. It occurs with our continuous practice of the 12 steps.

More than anything, 12 step meetings and recovery depend on admitting our powerlessness over the fix. We recognize our own power failed us and always will. It is only a Higher Power that can save us from ourselves.

So we implore for this help. My Highest Power is God, whom I call Jesus. By asking him to help me when the fix grips my mind, I am able to be in recovery. Complete honesty with God, ourselves, and another human being kicks secrecy and shame out the door. Participating in human support from those in recovery is vital.

There’s no 1-2-3 Pow! Freedom from addiction is about due diligence. Turning our will over to God is a daily and lifelong challenge. Recovery is difficult, but doable.

1464118588635Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 32: 2,3 NLT

“Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long.”

-King David

 

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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.

The Courage to Change the Things I Can

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

photo-26229816-1119202014-holiday-cats-11Cinnamon the cat was a few weeks old when he was given to my youngest son. As he grew, his favorite game was hide-n-seek (Ok, that could be my son or the cat).

Cinnamon’s form of the game was to squeeze under chairs and bat at passing feet. For fourteen years, we didn’t know when those paws would catch us.

Cinnamon could be a fighter. One day, the neighbor’s German Shepherd saw Cinnamon crossing under the fence and into the dog’s territory. Within seconds, the scene was a little yellow cat, back arched, hissing at a crazily barking and threatening opponent ten times his size. I called to Cinnamon, but of course he could not leave his spot at the moment, so I called out to the dog’s owner.

It wasn’t necessary. The dog hovered just a little too close above Cinnamon’s head and out flew those kitty paws. “Yelp!” One swipe of his claws across the big beast’s nose and the cat was home free.

It had seemed from the outside that the little guy was sure to lose that battle. However, Cinnamon had the courage to change odds to his favor. If he had not acted, only God knows what would have been the end to this story.

Far from that day both in time and distance, a small circle of faces take turns glancing about the room then staring at the floor. Feet shuffle; one can hear the occasional cough or cleared throat. Sincere hellos break the silence with each new entrance. Metal folding chairs are squeezed more closely together to make room- there is always space for one more. Strangers and regular attenders alike are welcome.

Precisely on the hour, someone greets everyone with a smile. “This is a meeting of _______Anonymous. I am_______and I will be your leader tonight. Are there any other [addicts] here besides me?”

The title of this post is the second line of the famous Serenity Prayer, read and quoted and lifted to God in desperate hope during anonymous meetings around the globe. Quality decisions are made to deal with life on life’s terms as people in the process of change practice courage.

Elsewhere, in a small office, several volunteers stuff donation requests into envelopes with hope of raising enough cash to make a significant difference for their cause. A church basement across town is a scene of organized chaos as bags of clothes, toys, and food are sorted and prepared for giving to the poor. Across the oceans, courage rallies to bring clean water to whole villages.

Cinnamon might have thought himself a lion. People trying to build new lives are probably less sure of themselves. Having courage to change what we can for the human race may mean giving up something we want. There will always be the ferocious and scary looming over our heads, we are only in charge of our response.

We have the claws to fight back. Discovering how to use them is brave.

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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

 

Looking for Unconditional Love?

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

close up of a beautiful young woman looking upwardsWe are talented. We can pinpoint a god in any situation. We think a few drinks will calm our nerves, or bingeing and purging will prevent rejection, or a significant person will confirm our value.

Unconditional love is our deepest desire and we will either find it or something else that will shield us from the pain of not finding it. 

Substitutes for unconditional love can only mask our emotions; we are not truly bypassing our need. Relief from anything short of unconditional love is temporary.

Our search deepens as we discover our choices have caused more pain.  Addictions, bad habits, and self-neglect have ruined our physical health. Poor communication, nasty attitudes, and isolation have kept us alone and lonely. Excuses hold us back.

We have wandered the earth, so to speak, and managed only to get lost. We no longer remember a resting place.

What often is left unexpressed is universal disappointment in the search for unconditional love. Platitudes, and leads to more false hope are perhaps coming from those who are trying to convince themselves. For some, manipulating and controlling us is their distraction and escape.

At risk of losing followers of this blog, I’m going to propose a radical option:

Ask the real God.

Twelve Step recovery groups often call him “higher power.” I call him Jesus. In him I find no religion, lies, or broken promises. He is my shepherd and I have all the unconditional love I’ve dreamed about at my fingertips. By learning to grasp what he offers, I am dropping all my other gods and finding peace.

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

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

*picture from kozzi.com