Tag Archives: Holiday

A Toast to 2018

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

Let’s raise our glasses!

Here’s to a new dream where old ones died; fresh vigor when energy is spent; and unexpected faith at hope’s end.  For it is by finally letting go of all that has not produced life or strength, that our arms are free to embrace Christ’s promise and realize true joy.

May this next year be better than the last!

Happy New Year!   

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

Why Diets Fail. 4 Steps to Controlling What You Eat

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

Diets like the cottage cheese diet, grapefruit diet, Atkins, fasting to cleanse the body, restricting, Weight Watchers, Slim Fast, and Deal-A-Meal, require  hours to days of planning. The most popular ones allow for some excesses of favorite foods.

Slim-down-quick schemes are attractive, but rarely, if ever, produce long-lasting success. For some (many, in fact) people, the problem is not a need for weight-loss. It is about changing a mindset of compulsive behavior.  

Compulsive behaviors around food will not change if  food remains a go-to for instant relief and peace of mind. Once food’s failure to make life better is recognized,  balanced eating will appear more attractive.

Professional help with a food addictions counselor (they are rare!) and a nutritionist  for creating an individualized food plan is beneficial. The focus has to be on mental health. Watching the scale is self-defeating. By learning to cope in healthier ways, weight will take care of itself.

The solution

a)Take it very slow.  At a slow pace, simply allowing our body to adjust itself, means  brains and bodies have opportunity to change in reaction to food. This  kind of weight loss is maintainable. 

b)Become aware of “alcoholic foods” and avoid them permanently.  There are foods, specific to each person, that have to be put away for good. These foods or combinations of foods are triggers that lead to overeating. The same as a recovering alcoholic can never have a beer, certain foods will destroy best intentions. 

c)Enjoy eating from a customized and metabolically designed food plan. Eat by the clock and by measured nutritional requirements. A compulsive eater has a broken hunger alarm. It no longer accurately reports when a stomach is full or in need of food or water.  

d) Seek out available support. Food addictions counselors, eating disorders treatment centers, and 12-step groups for compulsive eaters are available in most areas. Online help is offered by some professionals. People understand and are non-judgmental. Therapy for other issues may also free us from compulsive behaviors. 

Taking care of oneself is important because everyone matters.  Like any fine artwork,  completion follows taking the time to get it right.

Today’s Helpful Word

Luke 12:23

For life is more than food…

 

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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 by AYLA87 and TACLUDA from rgbstock.com

How Do You Feel About Mother’s Day? For My Family, It’s Not Unique

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

My sons and I are usually pragmatic.  As much as I love their displays of affection and respect, I do not want them forced by a date on the calendar. We feel the same way about gift-giving on Christmas. On my birthdays I have fun giving presents or throwing parties, and since it is my day, I’ll do it my way!

This is not rebellion, it is practical and rather literal interpretations of these holidays’ meanings. Celebrations are assigned the task of increasing our joy and love for each other and God. Why bog them down with heavy obligations, financial worries, frenzied shopping, and the like?

Last month I spent my birthday in a hospital which cost my sons money and time. Jon and Tim paid for parking each time they visited. They brought me gifts and dinner. For three weeks prior, Tim especially helped me out around the house and by driving me everywhere. While I mend, he picks up the slack. As my out-of-state driver’s license lapsed during my hospital stay, he is still my unofficial chauffeur.

He has cooked for me, and Jon has bought me dinner and picked up items at the store when I had no energy. Both have spent time playing Monopoly and Rummikub with their sick momma when I know they would have enjoyed watching movies or challenging friends on online video games.

Jon gave up precious time talking to his girlfriend, while Tim lost hours at work. No one can tell me these guys don’t love me.  Mother’s Day or not, they show it in big ways.

It makes no sense for them to spend more hard-saved money on taking me out to dinner, or buying me gifts. Not now. Not with everything else that has happened. Besides, I know what Mother’s Day holds.

We will be celebrating Jon’s birthday too. I’m planning a small surprise.  In addition, they are going to help me practice for a driving exam retest, required by Ohio. Last time I did this was 40 years ago. What a relief to have their support!

So you see, I am greatly blessed by adult children who show me I matter. Who needs a commercial, scheduled celebration?

Believe it or not, the founder of Mother’s Day agreed. Emotionally, she was so wrecked by how commercialized Mother’s Day had become, that she made its abolition her life’s goal. She passed away in 1948 in a since closed sanitarium in West Chester, PA (a town I happened to frequent often while living in the Philadelphia area.) Read her interesting story here.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you who are mothers-at-heart!  

Today’s Helpful Word

Proverbs 23:25 (The Passion Translation) 

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.

cartoon pic by SILBERSCHUH on rgbstock.com

flower pic by  TACLUDA on 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

‘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

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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.

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

A Toast to 2014

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness, Addiction, and Abuse   (c)2013 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Let’s raise our glasses…

mhylgrkIn choosing to believe for hope, we rattle our steel cages; in searching for truth, we fling their doors wide; and in practicing the gift of trust, we step up to the thresholds. It is then that freedom becomes decision, and by opting to fly we discover love. May this next year be better than the last. Happy New Year! 

 

 

 

New Year toasts have been a CompassionateLove Blog tradition for four years.  2011    2012    2013

The Golden Key to a Decently Tolerable New Year

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  Nancy Virden (c)2013

Who did not struggle in 2013? If that is you, please let the rest of us know how that was accomplished. You are unique, and apparently special. 100_5213

Research shows that we cannot deeply know more than 180 people. These are the friends we trust, the close teams of which we are members, our families, and perhaps people who count on our care for their wellbeing. Beyond these we do not seem to have the capacity to move past acquaintance.

Among the less-than 180 people I know, there have been the following major, life-changing struggles this past year:

Hopelessness  *  dissolved business * discovering a daughter was raped * near death  * stroke * multiple familial deaths * divorce * job loss * serious injury * homelessness * parental emotional abuse * weakening health * losing a friend to murder * detox * robbery … and this is by far not a comprehensive list.

Among the same individuals referenced above, there were the following joys:

New babies * finding God * recovery * job promotion * free season tickets * furthering education * new career * regular home care visits from friends * freedom from addiction * travels to exotic places * 1st apartment * closer relationships within family * forgiveness * wedding * playing with children * … again, this is not a comprehensive list.

Life is full of struggles. Those of us who focus on that fact are generally called pessimists, or realists. However, there is another perspective that is equally real – life is full of joys. Looking at that are those of us who are optimistic and grateful. Does life hurt? Oh yeah, big-time. Pain can be overwhelming and unbearable in the moment. Recovery is not always swift.

Searching for good in the middle of great suffering is not easy, and perhaps not very realistic. What makes more sense to me is to recognize that “this too shall pass.” Morning always follows evening, a new year follows the last, and if we choose it, hope will follow despair.

The golden key to a decently tolerable new year is to “wait.”  Wait for the miracle, and for the new day. It is coming! Don’t give up now; light is just around the corner! These struggles are temporary though they may feel endless.  Hang on to hope, even if for awhile it is someone else’s hope.

When we choose to believe, “this too shall pass,” life can become surprising. Instead of our eyes shifting back and forth expecting more hurt, we find our quest is to hunt for the promise’s manifestation. Along the way we discover patches of radiance we would have otherwise missed.

Great things come to those who wait. 2014 will be a year full of joys.

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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from my 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.

Tolerance Gone Rogue During the Holidays

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   Nancy Virden (c)2013

“Christmas is not even celebrated by Christians the same day of the year around the world”, Alex mused as he sipped his coffee. “So why do people around here get so fanatic about it? As if they own December!”

“This is America”, came the reply. “If people don’t like when we celebrate Christmas, they can live somewhere else.” Alex’ co-worker, Mike, was adamant.

“This IS America.” Alex continued, “We’ve built a nation on freedom of religion, yet somehow Christians seem to have an agenda of their own. Maybe I don’t want a nativity on the City Hall lawn.”

“The nativity is what Christmas is all about. If we take it down, what else is there? Santa Claus?”

Alex paused. It was difficult enough to be a Muslim convert in America, he wasn’t sure he relished opening up the topic with Mike. His stand on Christmas made perfect sense to him, why couldn’t Christians understand?  He decided to try and make his point.

“November and December is a holiday season for many Americans beside Christians. There is Hanukkah for Jewish worshipers, of course.  Bahai, Shinto, Sikh, Buddhist, and even secular special days are celebrated this time of year. Kwanzaa’s focus is on African-American unity and strong families. Even we Muslims have our New Year and Ashura, a Holy Day for us”.

A long pause followed.

“You’re Muslim?” Mike asked incredulously.

“Yes, I’m Muslim. And as such, I don’t want my government exalting one religion above another. It’s been disastrous in the Middle East, and  in other countries citizens are persecuted because of it.”

“Ok, but this is Christmas time”, Mike insisted.

“December 25 is Christmas here in the West. No one is suggesting we cancel your celebration. From what I know of your Jesus”, Alex said cautiously, “he wasn’t about certain days or celebrations. He was about love. I would be more interested in a Christian’s words if he or she actually lived how Jesus said to live.”

Mike was silent as he walked away remembering his morning stop at the convenience store. “I have spent more energy pushing ‘Merry Christmas’ on store clerks than I have saying anything encouraging to them the rest of the year”, he admitted to himself. “And I almost drove a wedge between Alex and me.”

Toleration gone rogue is when it becomes ‘you must agree with me.’ Then each person can have their own measuring device by which to name what is tolerance. 

How does this relate to supporting people who are hurting? Acceptance and toleration are basically the same thing. A mentally ill person struggles, and experiences what a mentally healthy person does not.  Compassionate love says, “I don’t understand, but I see you are struggling, and your pain is more important to me than making my point.”

****************

NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. I speak only from my 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 facebook