Tag Archives: holidays

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

This New Year Resolution Promises Joy

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

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It’s not a sight one would see often. Surrounded on a speeding freeway by cars that appear to be dodging and dancing the Do Si Do, I concentrated on driving around a curve without starting a potential 100 car pile-up. My passengers, distracted in conversation, also missed the scene on the side of the road until we passed by too quickly to stop.

A broken-down car was squeezed into an almost non-existent shoulder at the end of the treacherous curve. How the driver managed to pull over, I’ll never know. Within a few inches of hundreds of speeding vehicles, were an elderly man and woman. Both appeared to be in their mid eighties. 

Wearing a buttoned suit and tie, the man stood tall, looking straight ahead, undistracted and dignified as if in a receiving line ready to shake the hands of heads of state. Next to him, his slightly stooped companion sported poise in a fancy dress. She waited casually as if confidently expecting everything to turn out alright.

Clearly, neither of these people were physically able to change a tire or crawl under the car for roadside repairs. They were not safe. 

I turned to my passengers, “I’m going to stop.” By the time those words were spoken, we had sailed another 100 feet.

“You can’t,” someone said from the backseat.

“Does anyone have a phone?”

“I do,” and one was passed to me already connected to 911.

The voice on the other end said, “Emergency. What is your situation?”

“Hello, I’m at mile marker 39 on route 70 South.”

“Yes?”

“About a quarter mile back there is an elderly couple standing beside a broken down car. They aren’t safe there, but traffic is so fast no one can stop. I wanted you to know.”

“Where on Route 70 did you say they are?”

“Approximately mile 38.”

“We have received numerous calls about them. We know they are there and help is on the way.”

mjybb2eAn incalculable number of moments are lost in this country listening to dire and fearsome news reports, and reading ratings-motivated headlines. Lest we become cynical beyond repair, let’s remember that although I saw no one reaching out to a couple in need, many people were doing just that. This didn’t make the news.

o7mevl4We have some control over how much stress and fear we experience. We can resolve to turn off the news and proactively focus on finding the many quiet random kindnesses around us and around the world.  Better yet, join in the fun and do one anonymous kind deed each day of the new year. You will be surprised by your joy!   

Happy New Year! 

mgylws4Today’s Helpful Wordn7tkj5k 

John 15:11

If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love. I have told you these things so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I loved you.nowukzq.-Jesus

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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.

*pictures from  kozzi.com and rgb stock.com

How to Fix Your Bah Humbug When Life is Not Easy

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

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

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

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

Example:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A red poinsettia in the Christmas seasonToday’s Helpful Word

Luke 6:45

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

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COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME (see tab below)

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

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

3 Holiday Boundaries You’ll Want to Draw This Year

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

oosr7euCaroline: Boundaries? With my family? I have no say in anything. 

Tom: No one else is taking care of  all the flight plans, so I guess I have to.

Jackie: Personally, I could do without ever seeing Uncle Bill again. 

Darin: I cannot afford these gifts – but my wife expects them. 

Ah, December American holidays.  I’m not certain how some of these statements apply to faiths other than Christian, but it would come as no shock to learn most families have expectations centered around tradition. It is when we forget we have choices, that resentment, dishonesty, and compromise of our values take place. We flail about reacting to tugs from others until we are dizzy.

Or depressed.

Boundaries prevent this. We can choose to be an individual, not a victim, not co-dependent, and not a doormat. Boundaries keep us from being dishonest about what we want and how we feel. Genuine obligations suffer when we say yes to too much outside pressure. Anger over our supposed lack of choice threatens relationships.

Boundaries are not about stopping another person. We will never have control over other people’s choices. Boundaries are about what we decide to say yes or no to. What will we allow into our lives?

Here are 3 boundaries you will want to draw this year.

1) Time.  Look at your calendar. What are your bottom-line obligations? Of course, your job and immediate family will be on this list of top priorities. Closest friends are there too. Mark these on your calendar.

List all the other December duties you think you have.  These are time-consuming activities such as shopping, choir practice, taking your children to events, the annual Christmas party at work, etc. Now rate them 1-3 with 3 being the most significant and meaningful to you.

Place the 3s on your calendar if they fit. Then add the 2s and 1s in what time slots you believe you can spare. Say no to the least valuable so you can focus on the important. If two important dates clash, choose one based on your highest values.

2) Budget  Debt adds pressure and great cost to what could be a freer life. Think about refusing to create or add to it this month. On your calculator put in the December amount of your bills including life’s necessities like food, gas for the car, savings, etcetera. Subtract this from your real income (not potential income).

Reasonably estimate your extra December expenses such as food, extra gas spent on driving every day to choir practice, holiday clothes, decorating, and gifts. How much money do you have left?

Are there ways to save money like sharing a ride to choir practice or going without that red twinkling sweater? Is it necessary to add another strand of lights on your tree? Consider meaningful homemade gifts, or offering your time and service instead of merchandise.

After streamlining your December budget, divide what is available by how many people you are buying gifts for. This is the estimate of how much you can afford to spend on each person. Of course, the gift exchange at work is not as important as your gift to your spouse, and may cost less. However, now you have a reasonable figure from which to make your decisions.

3) Physical or emotional energy  We cannot fix or change other people. Sometimes the struggles of people we love takes a toll on our wellbeing. There are family members, places, and events that typically wear us down.

Thoughtfully think about your true limitations. It’s okay to be human, and understanding our limits is bright, healthy, and wise. Do you tire easily? Are you in pain after sitting two hours at a concert? Will seeing Uncle Bill trigger depression? Does too much social activity push you into isolation? Be real, and gladly own up to where you are presently physically and emotionally.

Look again at your calendar. Is it reasonable to believe you can do all those things and maintain good mental and physical health? If not, please allow that you are your top priority. This does not mean selfishness, this is self-preservation so that you will be fully present in your most important relationships.

Cut out or abbreviate those activities you would be wise to avoid to be healthy. You are free to limit your suffering by turning your energies to the most valued events and relationships this month.

Boundaries. We struggle to say “I can’t” or “I won’t”. But saying yes to the lesser equals saying no to the best. It’s okay to use your voice! Take a deep breath and enjoy the freedom of being in control of your choices.

Today’s Helpful Word

1 Corinthians 10:31
 
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

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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.

Flip Side to 2014

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

We each have a 2014 story to tell.

Me? My year started with such anxiety I was nearly agoraphobic for a month. If memory serves me right there were three highly reactionary melt-downs with regard to a relationship. I left my church, struggled again with anxiety to the point of near paralysis in a search for work,  my marriage ended, a son estranged himself from the family for six months now, the mental and physical health of loved ones has gone downhill, and I just want it all to stop.

That’s a lot of pain for one year. However, there’s always  a flip side – the rest of the story, if you will.

My career is taking off -even if not financially yet- with multiple radio spots, speaking engagements, and a new book released this month. There’s been healing in one relationship. 

Following a major purge of material goods, my new church family filled my home with furniture, dishes, and the like. God is teaching me to trust for a “ram in the thicket” (see Genesis 22:13) and to creatively use what I have on hand instead of buying more.  The result is profound.  Everywhere I look in my home, everywhere, there is physical evidence of God’s love for me, proof people care, and that I matter.  

A deliberate, daily focus on God is shaking off all that does not produce life in me. Confidence, faith, changes in thinking patterns, and hope are filling once-empty spaces.

That’s a lot of joy for one year.

2015 will have pain in it. I’m expecting joy too. That is a 180 degree turn from how life has seemed in times past. This year, it is my goal to recognize the flip side before I flip out,  to surrender my will to the One who has my best interests at heart, and to rest in his peace. God’s love never fails.

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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.

 

Jingle Bells. Embracing the Real Season

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

She stared aimlessly into snowflakes falling all around. Her children were laughing and chasing each other among potential Christmas trees. A snowball hit her side.

“Hey!” she said in mock anger.

“Mom, how about this one?”  Inwardly sighing, she turned to see what tree her family had chosen to adorn the season. She felt empty. Christmas would never be the same. The year had brought with it multiple deaths of persons she loved. Her grief was overwhelming the celebration.

She smiled. “Yeah, that one looks great!”

Dashing through the snow, on a one horse open sleigh…

***

This would be his first Christmas without family. Earlier in the year his wife had left him, and his children lived far away, unable to make the trip. He regretted his decisions of the past and somehow hoped for a Christmas miracle –  restoration of his marriage.  Still, he knew he would most likely be alone on Christ’s birthday, and as the church choir led the congregation in singing carols, he tried not to weep.

After the service, an acquaintance approaches. “Hi brother! How are you doin’?”

“Good, good. How about you?”

O’er the fields we go, laughing all the way…

***

Her business had been her life. She’d built it with her own hands, and for a while it had brought her a sense of pride. Lately though, she’d been losing money. Her choice to close had seemed rather sudden to those on the outside, however she’d lost her spirit for the work much earlier. This Christmas several people would be unemployed including her, due to her final decision.

She paints a happy face over her clouded one and heads out the door to meet a potential buyer.

Bells on bobtail ring, making spirits bright…

***

“My son’s an addict. It’s been rough for a few years now.”  False bravado.

“Will you see him at Christmas?”  Sympathy.

“I doubt it. We do have some conversations, though.”   Hesitant Openness.

“I’m sorry for your pain.”   Empathy.

“It’s hard. It’s been difficult to watch my son throw his life away. Breaks my heart, really.”   Vulnerability

“No doubt.”  Validation.

“Ok, gotta go. I’ll see you later. Merry Christmas!”   Running Scared.

Oh what fun it is to sing the sleighing song tonight…

***

Dark stories are a reality of Christmas.  It’s here to stay… sadness, that is. Recovering alcoholics have to face the parties or stay home alone. Gay sons and daughters have to risk  or accept rejection. Patients in hospitals or those mending at home will have a more solitary holiday than usual.  Someone somewhere is learning they may not see 2014.

Enough drudgery! Let’s get on with the Christmas spirit!

The original purpose behind Christmas was to extend compassionate love on the entire world at great personal cost. Let’s support rather than avoid the hurting ones this year.

 ******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.

pic by LUSI on rgbstock.com

*Words in green are the lyrics to “Jingle Bells” written by James Lord Pierpont (1822–1893) and published under the title “One Horse Open Sleigh” in the autumn of 1857.