Tag Archives: Mood disorder

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

My Depressed Loved One Won’t Get Out of Bed. What Am I to Say?

CompassionateLove Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2015  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministries

(Today’s blog is a repost of the most popular and shared article on my website, first published two years ago.) 

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Depression, whether triggered by circumstances we can see or not, is a place of pain. We may experience it to some level or another, but when a person won’t get out of bed you can bet she or he is hurting badly.

I know it is hard to take care of someone who is sick. It challenges our agendas and causes us to sacrifice more time and energy. Depression is especially painful to watch when we love who is suffering. Often, we feel helpless though this is not exactly true! 

Each person with depression experiences it differently.   Commonalities, such as a few predictable symptoms,  do not mean one-solution-fits-all.   If circumstances could be exactly replicated, individuals will still have unique reactions. It is tempting to think others “ought” to respond or feel as we do. 

Consider this:  Is it reasonable to assume millions of people each year would choose to have their lives interrupted in such a way? It makes more sense that your loved one prefers laughter, meaningful relationships, and accomplishment, does it not? If a person you care about seems unwilling to move, out of sheer stubbornness, laziness, or self-pity, remember no one wants to be depressed.

Your loved-one needs love and affection, non-critical acceptance, and patience. Emotions are raw. Pain may be so intense that his or her body cannot keep up. Major depression reroutes best intentions into days staring at the walls.  Every joint can move as if in slow motion. This daily fight creates a hero with each small step forward.

Despair and a sense of helplessness continued to hold my focus for over a year following a suicide attempt. I was considered treatment-resistant, a problem for some. Baby steps of self-care slowly led to more, then eventually to more. Sixteen months later,  I was able to decide to learn what enjoying life means.

“Well, of course!” you might say. “So why doesn’t my depressed loved one do that too?”

Your loved one may not know how.  Losses and disappointments can interfere with human thinking processes. Issues, both known and unknown, may hold a person hostage for a time. Stress, betrayal, shock, trauma, and abuse are only a few triggers of depression. Sometimes, we do not have an answer to ‘why?’ 

Professionals in mental healthcare are there to help. Psychiatrists are medical doctors (MD, DO).  They prescribe medication; rarely do they offer therapy. Psychologists are experts in human behavior and are often therapists (PhD, PsyD). They do not prescribe medication. Licensed therapists and counselors are trained to help clients cope in healthy ways.

It is of utmost importance you recognize your loved one’s mental health is a complex mix of factors. We are body, mind, and spirit.  Addressing all three spheres is wise. 

You would not say to a cancer patient, “Quit having cancer!” Yet many are quick to tell a person with major depression to snap out of it. Blaming, accusing, scolding, or shaming will not make it go away any faster.

What is it you can say or do to show support?

Avoid mind-reading and assuming you know what is happening.  Ask, “Are you safe? Are you thinking about killing yourself?”  In the U.S., you can  contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK for advice.  In a crisis,  call 911 or take your loved one to the nearest emergency room.  Do not leave a suicidal person alone. Remove all lethal items from the home. 

Show your depressed loved one you care. In the depths of an episode, he or she may not believe “I love you.” Say it anyway. Promising, “I’m here for you,” may seem more substantial, however you must keep your word in practical ways. Broken promises reinforce a sense of rejection and worthlessness.

Help to combat your friend’s or relative’s sense of aloneness. “I’m going to work, but I’ll check on you when I get home” offers a positive look toward the future and a reminder that your concern is not temporary. “Would you like your friend to come over? I’ll call her” is a valuable service because major depression makes even tiny decisions challenging.

Set-up or offer to go with your loved one to the first appointment with a mental health professional.  Do not assume this will be a quick-fix solution, and instead accept that you both may be in for a long haul. Just as there are less helpful, and better equipped professionals in any walk of life, mental health professionals do not connect with every client. If your loved one is not satisfied, help find someone else.   

Avoid some common reactionary mistakes. These include: “You are neglecting your family”; “Quit being so morose, it’s not good for you”; “Just go to work already”; “You’re lazy”. Comments like these are most likely attempts to change a situation to make it more comfortable. They are not helpful.

Place emphasis on the value of the person instead of on disappointments.  Say, “I am glad you are alive.” “Stay with me, we’ll get through this together,” may be met with a blank stare. Nonetheless, this type of encouragement matters. It is like water on desert soil. photo-24734018-bread-toast-with-a-fried-egg-in-a-heart-shape.

Above all else, just be there. Sit by that bed and do not say anything. Read a book, do your homework, banking, or research on your laptop. Get on Facebook or Twitter and enjoy your friends while your majorly depressed loved one lays next to you. It is ok to laugh, cry, or share a story from your day. Keep your expectations for responses low, and just be there.

Compassionate love learns to meet people where they are.

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Please read:  I’m Depressed and Can’t Get Out of Bed. What Am I To Do?

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Today’s Helpful Word

1 Corinthians 13:4,5

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…”  -Saint Paul 

To learn how a relationship with Jesus creates eternal hope, click here

***** COMMENTS 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, 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.

*pictures from qualitystockphotos.com

Is Your Diagnosed Mood Disorder a Life Sentence?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We move beyond victim and become victors.

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

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

*pictures from Kozzi.com

There is Always a Choice- No, Really!

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2015 Nancy Virden

photo-24758742-vector-image-of-a-man-with-question-mark-thought-bubble.Here in Northeast Ohio it is about 4o degrees. Wasn’t it just two weeks ago we were running around in shirtsleeves in 70 degree weather? Last week we had a little snow. The temperature will rise and fall again many times before Christmas. Oh well, we’ll roll with it. We aren’t new to this hot-warm-cold roller-coaster.

In the mental health realm,  I’ve learned it is in our power to decide how we will react to emotional roller coaster like mood swings, anxiety attacks, and those good days followed by not-so-good ones. Feelings influence us, but do not own us or decide our behavior.

For example, I haven’t found a home church since my move. It’s been ten weeks! Social anxiety tells me to stay home and not be a visitor again. However, I’ve visited several churches and each time have come away encouraged, with a different perspective, and a sense of gladness that I have spiritual brothers and sisters all over town.

Perhaps you have social anxiety too. Maybe you struggle with an eating or mood disorder. Trauma in your past or present might have you believing there is no hope. Here’s the wonderful news- you get to choose how to respond to those challenges.

Social anxiety? Today may not be the day you do a meet and greet with the neighbors. We have limits, and that’s ok. Maybe taking your step forward will mean making a phone call and saying hello to a friend. Imagine the sense of accomplishment you can enjoy if you acknowledge your courage!

Eating disorder?  Your step toward change may be reaching out for support today. It’s a good idea to remember we alone are powerless against food addiction and compulsive food behaviors. We need people and the Highest Power for strength. Think how great you could feel tomorrow if you take care of your support needs today!

Mood disorder? You have a choice to do something different from what is not working for you. For example, in deep depression movement may only mean sitting up in bed for a few minutes. If you manage that, applaud yourself!  In any mood swing we can ask, “Do I want to stay as I am today? If not, what (small) step will I take toward becoming how I want to be?”

Hopeless? This dark and hollow cave in which you dwell now is not your home. You don’t have to live there. When options seem to have run out,  a choice remains – we can hope for hope. We have to know that our perception is not complete.

Hope is hiding behind oppressive memories, chilling fear, or self-hatred. We  think we know how worthless we are, and believe our pain will never offer a break. Truth is, hope will reveal itself a little at a time as we work with knowledgeable supports to slowly remove the obstacles.  You can hope for hope today, even this moment.

For more practical ideas, see my post, Gain a Mindset of Hope.

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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 can be yours.

 *picture from qualitystockphotos.com

 

Special Friends Don’t Just Leave You to Die

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2015  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

photo-24790059-sad-woman-holding-cellphone-with-her-friendA woman grew depressed. She was unhappy because she was being violently abused at home by a husband she had thought was her friend. Over the course of their marriage she had gone from an outgoing and successful businesswoman to a frightened, unemployed, and suicidal victim. One August, she attempted suicide and nearly died.

Upon release from the medical ward, she was transferred to a nearby mental health clinic. Her spirit was crushed. She felt lonely and hopeless. Still, she longed for a visitor or two.

None came. Much later, she found out her husband had told people not to go to her, claiming she needed solitude. Truth is, he was afraid she would tell on him.

Late in her stay, one visitor her husband had failed to reach showed up to check on her. The depressed woman heard how much she is valued and loved, and her friend asked her to stay alive. She was soon discharged, armed with connections and support. Eventually, with the help of these friends, she was able to escape her terrible marriage.

Eight months later…

Another woman grew depressed. Her complicated circumstances had become overwhelming. For several months she had maintained a false sense of control over her emotions. She became increasingly quiet, withdrawn, and disinterested in work or socializing. In her mind, suicidal thoughts were starting to make sense, and she began behaving recklessly.

Having been through this before, she recognized the signs of a severe major depression relapse. Yet in her increasingly disturbed rationale, she believed she had only to hold out a little longer and everything would be alright. Or, she reasoned, death would be acceptable too.

One evening, two friends talked with her about these changes in her mood. They found her answers unsatisfactory, and proceeded to make their intentions clear. If she did not increase her level of mental health care, they would call 9.1.1 and have her hospitalized.

She heard how much others value and love her, and understood her friends were asking her to stay alive. The next day she made arrangements to begin intensive outpatient treatment.

The friend who visited at the clinic is the one who later needed help. The depressed woman in the first story is one of the friends in the second. Acceptance of each other despite great pain is an example of support that does not walk away during emotional struggles.

Because special friends don’t just leave you to die.

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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.

-pictures from qualitystockphotos.com

 

 

 

It’s Snowing in June

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

100_2376It’s snowing in her mind. A blizzard of emotions has swirled in her brain for seven long days and 168 hopeless hours. The storm is not over.

Just as weather can force us to change plans with little notice, so this woman went from strong and confident to anxiety-ridden and depressed in a few minutes. As with any storm, there were warning signs. She ignored them because she felt in control. Symptoms seemed manageable and predictable. It was going to be no big deal.

For days her sleep, meal-times, and medication intake were blown off schedule. Naturally, this worked against her. She felt powerless as self-care took a dive.  Her thoughts were reckless and defeatist. 

Today the flurry has slowed and rationale is returning. She feels as if she’s been through a boxing match, and lost.

Her brain is exhausted and her body aches. She is sick to her stomach and her head hurts. It is tempting to think she has never been so tired. Unfortunately, this is likely not the last time, either.

This woman’s mood disorder is tough to predict or understand. Physically, her symptoms may last awhile. After all, she has trudged through a snow storm for a week. She is a survivor on the mend.

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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 can be yours.

 

 

 

Riding a Runaway Mood Disorder and Hanging on for Dear Life

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

photo-24888452-friends-at-the-fence-lineHe sits atop a pony and grins. Five-year old hands grasp the red saddle horn in an excited sense of adventure. He is fearless because an adult holds his belt and walks alongside. As they circle around a small dirt track at the county fair, his eyes are wide at the wonder of his first horseback riding experience.

An eight year-old girl is staying at an overnight camp. Horses are part of the daily routine. One in particular  is avoided by most young riders, or requested by more adventurous types. His temperament was ornery and playful with a mean streak.

This girl felt she knew how to ride, after all she’d been a camper for three summers! Boldly, she placed her foot in the stirrup and swung into the saddle of the unpredictable horse. All seemed well at first as an adult volunteer turned the animal by its bridle to line up with all the rest.

The caravan was off.  Adults walked along with most of the riders.  The girl however, controlled her horse on her own – something she was certain was easy.

The lead horse took it’s time. Hills and a large lush field waited in the front, while thick woods stood to the left. Children were chatting and laughing, the sun was shining, and the horses appeared content.

Except one.

The girl’s horse kept looking at the woods. Suddenly, he took off into a trot. Veering sharply, he entered a gap between trees and headed down an obviously horse-made trail, complete with scratching brambles and overhanging branches. Its rider thought she was doomed. This was no longer fun as her amateurish riding skills completely failed.

She ducked as tree limb after limb threatened to knock her off,  then saw an especially low one quickly coming her way. The runaway horse bowed his head with malicious intent. Quick reflexes allowed the girl to catch the branch as her ride ran out from under her.

Soon, the adults came running and lowered the shaking child to the ground.

These two stories, in my opinion, express some of what those of us who struggle with mood disorders feel. One day we are sitting atop the world, feeling safe  and enjoying the ride. Life is fairly predictable and routine, we are comfortable. 

Although the ride is peaceful for a time, a mood disorder can turn one’s emotions downward (or to euphoria) fast. Suddenly we are ducking depression, anxiety, impulsivity, or despair. Management of this abnormality falls to us.

This is a simplistic analogy of a complex issue. Healing is not grabbing at a rescue and returning to stability within moments. It can be long, tedious, frighteningly unpredictable, and tiring.  

Strong emotions rob us of will. It’s a difficult trail riding on the back of a runaway mental illness. Compassionate love for oneself and for a loved one who struggles with a mood disorder, is patient. 

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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 can be yours.

*picture from qualitystockphotos.com

 

Why I Will Be Gone for a While…

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

Dear Reader,

In the complicated world of mood disorders and recovery, time can pass by without much movement it seems in the direction one wants to go.  Days, weeks, months, and even years are needed to change a mindset from one of denial and unhealthy compensation to one of awareness and healing. Yes, I said years.

It has been two and one half years since I gave up on life and my fight for inner peace. My counselors say I’ve been doing well in terms of how fast I’ve been recovering. I feel I am crawling, and am not easy on myself when I think how long it is taking for me to transform into some ideal of normal.

A counselor has asked me to go into residential treatment for trauma.  Denial of past trauma and its effects, as well as an uncomfortable acceptance of pain, have helped to keep me stuck in an irritating go-around of can and cannot, success and failure, and black and white thinking. If deep change is going to occur, past trauma and unhealthy coping have to be faced.

That is what I am going to be doing for a while.  I am entering a residential treatment center I hope will provide a safe and professional place in which to approach this battle. I’m scared. Your prayers are appreciated.

I’ll be out of touch while I’m there; there will be no blog or event updates on this website. In the meantime, please remain a follower of this blog, and check out the archives. I’d be disappointed to lose you during my absence, nonetheless, if you are a regular reader you know I believe in self-care.  This is something I have to do.

Please take care of yourself as well.

-Nancy