Tag Archives: Recovery

God Does Not Waste Pain On Us

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness or Abuse  (c)2019 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

woman raising her right hand
Photo by Murilo Folgosi on Pexels.com

God does not waste pain on us. For me, it took despair and suicide attempts to discover value in living. Those ruins of loss and struggle have become building blocks for the restructuring of joy and the real me.

A man named Paul wrote half of the Bible’s New Testament. He also strained against something he figuratively called “a thorn in the flesh.” Three times he prayed for it to go away. God’s answer was that it was through Paul’s weakness that God would prove himself to be enough to keep Paul going.  (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

Do you think anyone in Paul’s time, or even Paul would have imagined that the persistence of his “thorn” would become a powerful lesson reaching countless numbers of people for two thousand years?

We do not always know why we suffer. For most of five re-building years following my dive into major depression, I tried to make sense of personal value and purpose. Remembering Paul, my broken spirit almost daily asked God, “Can my thorn also be a blessing? Will you ever allow me to help other people again?”

One afternoon at a 12-step meeting, a young woman shared that she was trying to escape the trauma of being raped multiple times by her youth pastor.

An inward nudge from Jesus’ Holy Spirit pushed me to go talk to her. We were strangers, yet she searched my eyes in desperation.

“Why did God send him?” she said. “Why did he send a man of God to rape me?”

She could not be free from the chain of addiction and self-medication until she was free of her deepest anguish.  It was not the horrific memories nor lack of safety that had her bound. It was fear that she had lost the God she had always known to be good. 

Referencing the Bible book of Matthew (chapter 7, verses 15,16), I said, “Have you heard about wolves in sheep’s clothing?”

“Yes!” She rose in her chair. “Is that what happened?”

“He was not a man of God.” I said. “He was a liar and a wicked man who used the church to cover evil. God loves you. He did not send that man to rape you.”

“Really? He was not a man of God?” Her eyes were wide.

“No. He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

If I could ever find words to describe the scene playing out in her eyes- it was as clear as a movie. From desperate fear and searching to flickers of hope,  then wide-eyed wonder and finally, freedom.

The timing that day was perfect, and the God who knows all hearts used my unsteady one to speak life to her dying one. In one moment, the Restorer of souls fashioned ruins into life-giving shelter.

Stone hearts become flesh again, human weakness is covered by divine strength, spiritual poverty becomes wealth in faith. Chains turn into testimonies, lost is found, damned is saved, and pieces of shattered minds are Tenderly gathered by the Savior.

This is what Jesus does for people. This is his amazing grace.

Your ruins have purpose in the Master Builder’s hands. If you are willing to be free,  God will incorporate all that is broken into formation of the you he always intended.

Today’s Helpful Word  

2 Corinthians 12:7-9 

Three times I pleaded with the LORD to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” -Paul

 

**** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME

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

If you are 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. or go to your nearest emergency room. (for international emergency numbers, go here ). Hope and help are yours!

A Visit to Rehab: The Greatest of These is Love

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

This past Sunday, I drove to Chicago.  The director of alumni events at a rehabilitation center had invited me to speak with residents on Monday. 

Morning came early. While much of the U.S.A. was arising and heading to work or school, these women  continued the fight  to gain recovery from addiction, eating disorders, mental health challenges, or all three. Excited and a little nervous, I left the hotel to join them.

Women in the rehab program advance in liberties as they progress. This time, my audience consisted of women in the process of learning to make healthier choices without constant supervision.  They are well on their way to going home, clean and sober. In fact, a few of them  graduated that day!

Most people in recovery have been told numerous times they are worthless, many since childhood. As part of my story,  I shared the reality of God’s love and message. I added, “I am a Christian, born-again, a follower of Jesus. But those are only words. Hopefully, my life reflects who he is.” Everyone nodded. 

America today hears much rhetoric about Christians, evangelicals in particular, and the mix of religion with politics as if faith in Jesus and a certain political party are one and the same.  It is difficult for those who do not know, to grasp who Jesus actually is. 

In some ways, the standard for Christians is raised. Show me you mean it. Show me you do not hate or despise me. Match your choices to your words. Prove your faith by your love. In extending love and compassion, and sincere non-critical acceptance to people in all stages of their journey, we represent God as the Bible reveals him.*

Mental health treatment in this country is greatly lacking. It is not available everywhere,  and is expensive for most.  Parity in the insurance realm is inconsistent. There are few standards by which to measure how long a patient should stay in a hospital.

In my opinion, stigma and lack of knowledge are the primary reasons we do not take care of mentally ill and emotionally unstable people. There is judgment – “I do not believe in mental health disability, I just don’t.”  “Depression is not an illness,  with enough faith (or strength) anyone can snap out of it.” “You are adopting the principles of the world if you give psychology any merit.” 

All these have been said to me, about me, plus many more accusations of failure. If I could describe  the beauty of joy and hope in the faces of the women I met on Monday,  perhaps more could see the value of mental (some call it behavioral) healthcare.  Maybe  God could get some credit for knowing what he is doing in each person’s life! 

Meanwhile, it is tremendous joy being vulnerable and open with people in the middle of the struggle. They, as do we all, respond to love.

Today’s Helpful Word

Mark 10:46-52

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging.  When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

***** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME

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

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

-woman pic by LUSI on rgbstock.com; Jesus pic from freebibleimages.org

*This does not imply avoidance of the topic of sin. As seen in my work s a whole, my emphasis is how we approach people. Are we interested in gaining insight into another person’s struggle? Jesus showed sincere non-critical acceptance to hurting people, and in the context of meeting their needs, taught them to know him.   

My Response to “The Sins of Psychotherapism” by Bruce Davidson, PsychoHeresy Ministries.

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

The Sins of Psychotherapism by Bruce Davidson of PsychoHeresy Ministries, is an opinion piece (link is below) outlining serious charges against the world of psychological study and therapists who work within it.  I respect Davidson for his thoughtful work,  and his efforts and desire to help people. We just disagree. This blog is my answer to his claims.

Terminology matters

About 2 years ago, a LinkedIn self-described BIble teacher, began to call me names and undermine my character simply because of my terminology. Yes, he was rude, but was he right?

He made an assumption about me, whom he had never met, based on my ministry title of “advocate.” That is,  because I advocate for recovery, he thought I was steering people away from the message of repentance.

My point at the time was that “recovery” is a process. Repentance may stop a behavior, but even if your problem is not addiction, recovery is involved. God gives us insight into who he is so we can turn to him and repent of sin. After that, changing how we think takes time. Isaiah 1:16,17 supports this concept of the recovery process. “…Stop doing wrong. Learn to do right.”

Terminology matters, however readers and writers alike must know what words mean. In the world of stigma, some words are defined in black and white instead of in the open concept they deserve.

Motives are not worn on our sleeves

Today, I stumbled across the Davidson article. He is strong on a few points as he takes flawed psychological notions to task. I noticed however, that he claims psychotherapy promotes false assumptions. He writes, “Furthermore, psychotherapism has encouraged the trend of judging people’s motives and speculating on their secret thoughts rather than looking at their explicit views and outward behavior.”

I believe his article does just that – judges people’s motives and speculates. Anytime a ministry is formed around shouldn’ts, there will be problems. For example, he builds his arguments against the historic roots of modern psychotherapy “instituted by Freud, Jung, and others.” He seems to completely disregard current fields of study that oppose those original theories and styles.

The traditional idea of psychotherapy is the patient lying on a couch and talking on and on while the therapist says little to nothing. I am in full agreement this is likely not going to get the job done. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and other forms of psychotherapy do not look like that old model.

Personally, my life changed when CBT taught me it was possible to think differently.  It helped to renew my mind by challenging old thought patterns. Eventually, my eyes opened to God’s love and to many false beliefs about the world and how to fit in it.  I learned how to take thoughts captive as taught in 2 Corinthians 10:5.*

No one preached at me, or forced a greater faith. Instead, because my goal was already to honor God, and I was Biblically literate, talk therapy served as a catalyst for applying Biblical truth.  With a broad sweep, Davidson and others who agree with his assertions,  shove talk therapy into the trash. They do not know me (or you) or how God wants to work in our  lives.  Hence, miscalculation of their assumptions.

Not everything fits in one box

Davidson used this quote as partial evidence for his point. “In One Nation Under Therapy, Satel and Hoff-Sommers define [psychotherapy] as ‘pathologizing normal human emotion, promoting the illusion that we are very fragile beings, and urging grand emotional displays as the prescription for coping.’ To that they add the belief that ‘psychology can and should take the place of ethics and religion.'”

Let’s be clear. Not all psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists have pulled their own heads out of the ground. Some have twisted beliefs, others have twisted personalities. Unfortunately, not all professionals are “professional.”

In my years of seeking mental healthcare, with some success and some not-so-great experiences, not once has any provider encouraged fragility or “grand emotional displays.”  On the contrary, they taught strength and mood control.

I learned that hiding emotion kills people, not that every emotion needs expression. It makes little sense to refuse an entire field of study because of the wrong or misguided ideas of some. Plenty of both secular and Christian therapists help clients uncover root issues, that if left unfaced, would continue to steer their lives toward self-destruction.

We make choices

It is the responsibility of both client and provider in any realm of interaction, to submit to or ignore God’s wisdom. The world-at-large will choose to ignore. If you are a Christian, and struggling with your thoughts and emotions, wise counsel is part of what the Great Physician prescribes.  Proverbs 12: 6, 15, 18  tell us the value of such advice.  “… the speech of the upright rescues… the wise listen to advice… the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Davidson’s statement that focusing on childhood wounds “naturally” breeds resentment of one’s parents, is flat-out wrong. Like people who choose to abuse, we choose to resent or not.  Awareness of childhood wounds and the roles of all concerned brings closure. I could begin to forgive others and myself, directly due to taking the time to understand.

Davidson claims pastors have turned from preaching salvation to extolling self-realization. If the definition is as Webster’s says, “fulfillment by oneself of the possibilities of one’s character or personality” (italics mine), then yes, it can be a prideful endeavor. None of us is capable as fallible beings to wholly fulfill anything without God or even human support.

What I suggest Davidson does not seem to appreciate is that lack of self-awareness is the cornerstone of denial. When our identity is lost in the temporal, we cannot live the life God has planned for us. Introspection unveils poisonous roots, God’s Word casts light where understanding is dark.  By teaching our possibilities under God’s authority, pastors can help us realize lives of purpose that bring God honor.

The 10-letter four-letter word

As for “self-esteem,” that word so demeaned in some Christian circles, I believe lack of it undermines appreciation of God’s glory. If I feel less-than, what does my testimony say about God’s creative power? No, my view of self-worth does not change the Great I AM.  By learning to fully appreciate God’s design choices, I have confidence to credit him without drawing attention to myself.

I do not want to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water.  Common terms familiar to the study of human behavior, such as recovery and self, among others, are useful and meaningful when applied with truth and understanding of how they can work in real-life application. To refuse to accept them at all, we spread the stigma that treatment is bad. Sick people stay sick, and despairing people die.

Terms, motives, choices… Let me know what you think.  Read Davidson’s entire article at http://www.americanthinker.com/2014/07/the_sins_of_psychotherapism.html

 

Female Student Talking To High School CounselorToday’s Helpful Word

Proverbs 1:5 

“…let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance…”

 

***** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME

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

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

* 2 Corinthians 10:5  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Parable Worthy of a King: Your Suffering Can Be Good for You

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

David was a king of ancient times. He lived through great suffering, was subject to murderous threats, and loved the God of the Hebrews, the great I AM as recorded by Moses.

He wrote many of the Biblical Psalms, and may have authored the following from Psalm 119. “Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope. This is my comfort in my distress,  that your promise gives me life.” (verses 49, 50)

***A Parable***

At first, she was so small that many believed her insignificant.  Any moment she might be stomped, eaten, or drowned in torrential rain. She survived her earliest days, yet the challenges continued. 

Driven by a natural wish for independence, she ventured out from what little security she knew.  Reactions varied.  “Ugly!”  “Cute!”  “Avoid that! ” “Soft and fuzzy!”

She was wary as people ran screaming at the sight of her or dangerously studied her with curiosity. She tried to blend in to her surroundings, hoping to hide in plain sight.

No one seemed to care who she would one day become.

***David***

The beginning of this parable runs a close parallel to David’s early life.  He was a mere  shepherd boy when first chosen as future king. The current ruler pursued him relentlessly to kill him. David ran for his life and hid in caves.

 ***Parable continued***

No longer willing to live among such danger and rejection, our heroine decided to look up. Maybe higher she would find a place to rest!  Climbing day after day,  she searched for peace and a safe place to belong. 

The endless trek nearly depleted her strength. She wondered if the promise from her Maker would come true. At last overwhelmed,  she stopped trying. Wrapping herself in seclusion, she waited for the end.

***David***

David too, experienced moments of fatigue and discouragement.  He wrote, “My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long?” (Psalm 6:3).  Not only was he forced to flee a murderous king, David’s son also tried to kill him. People lied, spread rumors and gloated over his pain. David had his followers, however at times he felt very alone.

His consistent prayers in periods of grief and despondency were variations of the same theme: Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love.” (Psalm 6:4) In all his struggles, David put his trust in Almighty God, the difference-maker.  

***Parable continued***

From the outside, no one saw anything but a dry, presumably dead leftover.  Nonetheless, buried inside her despair, our champion-in-waiting put up the ultimate fight.  Placing hope in God’s promise,  she surrendered what little energy she had left.  God taught her to use it wisely.  Her woefully slow task of change was wrenching and tedious. She cried in agony. 

Beyond the scope of disparaging eyes, metamorphosis took place. After a long time, she cracked the dead outer shell and peered through the sliver of light. Uncertain yet brave, she completely broke it open and saw sky.  God whispered,  “Trust me. Take a leap of faith.”

People rejoiced at the sight of such vibrant color showcased against the brown, withered past. A few joined her in  praise to God as she stretched out new wings, and flew into freedom. 

***David***

David realized suffering had brought him into profound realization of his true purpose. It had all been worth it – betrayals, living as a fugitive, and even the sorrow of losing people he loved.  Nothing compared to the lessons learned as he and the Great I AM wretsled with his human pain.  

David went on to fulfill his destiny as a great king, and a man after God’s own heart.  Intimacy with the promise-giver, forged in struggle, had set him free. 

 Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 119:71  

My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.  -David
    

******COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

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

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, 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.

Pics: Butterfly by WEIRDVIS , caterpillar by MICHAELAW, both of rgbstock.com

Alcoholic? Recognize the One Thing that Sets Alcoholics Apart from Other Drinkers

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

Alcoholism is complex yet simple.  Its complexities are in the mindset, the fallout,  and the lies. They are how the alcoholic treats people, the money spent, and where he or she sleeps at night. The addiction itself is more basic;  it is the inability to stop drinking.

Lying to one’s self that all the other lies protect people, save face, or avoid arguments, only supports denial.  Believing one’s self a victim of alcohol, keeps an alcoholic stuck in defeat. 

We all know the stories about a guy in the ditch who loses his home, job, and family.  Some of us have jeered at a drunk friend falling down and slurring his or her words. We make assumptions that alcoholism looks only like that…

Or drinking during the day.  Or the fifth DUI.  Or anything that is not what we do. 

Two accounts: who is an alcoholic? 

A man’s story:  I started drinking with my friends as a teenager.  By college it was difficult to concentrate on schoolwork because all I could think about was Friday night. Saturdays were hangover day, and Sundays I did my laundry.

One Sunday, Friday seemed too far away.  So while my laundry turned, I finished off a bottle of beer. No big deal, right? Except now, my thoughts began to focus on Friday night and Sundays. That beer didn’t mess me up on Monday, so why not? 

It took a while to realize I had no control. I didn’t lose control,  I’d never had it.  Alcoholism was part of me, and had been since the beginning.  I’d made fun of anticipating weekends along with everyone else. The difference seemed that while they could drink recklessly, alcohol was never off my mind. 

I drank and quit off and on for years. No one at work suspected.  My wife and children knew not to count on me on weekends,  but I did not see the problem. I worked hard. No one was ever hungry.  Why wasn’t that good enough?  

It’s not that I didn’t love my family. It’s that the next drink was on my mind when my daughter showed off her dance moves, and during my son’s ballgames.  My wife would describe her day, and afterward I had no idea what she said.  I wasn’t  present.  

Eventually, the drinking showed up on weekdays, then every afternoon on my way home from work, and then in early mornings.  My big wake-up call was my daughter’s graduation. I missed it.

I’ve been in recovery for fourteen years.  I will never stop needing AA.  In a flash, for no reason other than compulsion, I could lose everything for good. 

A woman:   My problem with alcohol is what most people would call nonexistent.  In college I noticed that I never forgot any drink I had, and that it would still be on my mind months later.  Cravings continued even though rarely satisfied due to religious misgivings.

It became evident very quickly that my choice of alcoholic drinks was never intended to quench my thirst or satisfy my palette.  I drank for one reason, and one reason only. Escape.  One was never enough.

Alcohol did not take over my life, for which I am grateful. I’ve been an almost perfect teetotaler for 40 years, having decided to not drink anymore at age 19.  I doubt very many people would call me an alcoholic or problem drinker.

Yet on the four occasions since college that I have had a drink , one was not enough.  Those four occasions equal more than a dozen drinks and a couple of bottles. They remain on my mind years later.  I’ve lied about them, too.  Still, some would say that’s not enough evidence.   

What anyone dubs me is of no concern at all.  Alcoholism, like any addiction, affects how one thinks.  Alcoholic is not a term I use to describe myself. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t fit. 

I’ve attended AA for years. Fact is,  if I pick up another drink, it won’t be the only one. There is no guarantee I would ever stop again. That’s all the evidence I need to know I have a problem. 

Find help and information

 Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 119: 31,32

I hold fast to your statutes, Lord;
    do not let me be put to shame.
I run in the path of your commands,
    for you have broadened my understanding.

 

******COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

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

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, 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.

Pics: Bottles by MATCHSTICK, runner by ARINAS74 on rgbstock.com

When the Facts Do Not Line Up: 6 Challenges for Victims

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness, Addiction, and Abuse   (c)2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

You have a PhD in your story. You know the level of anguish you suffer(ed). You are aware, or becoming so, of the confusion, roles people play, and how trauma affects your thinking. Perhaps you do not know what to do about it- that’s ok for now- however, you can validate yourself. Your experiences matter. You matter. 

 

This post is not about blaming you for your pain. Instead, my hope is to give you a springboard to challenge falsehoods you may have always believed.  Freedom comes with the truth, remember?  So let’s explore some of it.

Truth about…

(1) Victim identity. You were once a victim and are no longer. Or perhaps you remain in a situation that causes you harm. Either way, you do not have to limit the definition of who you are to “victim.”  

You are so much more!  You are a human being with the ability to think and reason. Even where confusion or mental illness interfere, you have the power to make at least this one quality decision:  will you pursue change?

(2) Feeling stuck. We are each responsible for our happiness. I know, I know, people get in the way of that.  We cannot control what other people do. We can only control how we react.

A therapist once said, “Pain happens. Suffering is optional.” I take that to mean that you and I can extend our suffering by accepting it verbatim. We can say, ‘Oh well, this is my lot in life,” or we can choose to reach out for help, to learn how to recover and become separate from our tragedy. 

(3) Worth.  We become our worse enemy when we repeat  lies and deceptions  to ourselves. Someone taught me I am worthless unless a man says otherwise. When I think of all the times I allowed that to dictate my response to life, it is striking. Ultimately, that false belief nearly killed me. 

It’s a vital distinction between BEING worthless and making worthless choices. We all screw up. There is plenty to regret.  Today however, I fight to make healthier choices, the kind that help other people and me. 

You too are inherently worthwhile. Liars try to teach you otherwise. Instead of reinforcing the negative in your mind, how about looking in the mirror and smiling? Say, “I am valuable” until you believe it.  No one has the power to decide you are worthless- not even you.

(4) Reality.  Is the impossible actually possible? Other people have made it through and talk about how life changed for them. AH, so change IS possible. A more revealing question  you may ask is, “what about me?”

There was a time I did not believe change was possible for me. Hope was 100% gone. Yet change occurred anyway.  Quite simply, I was wrong in my assessment. Major depression skewed my thinking while truth remained the same:  I had, and always did have, the ability to know freedom and joy.  

Blindness to options made it impossible without help.  That brings us to our fifth challenge.

(5) Messengers .  People fail. A male therapist joked, “Men suck.” He knew how many of  his female clients had been hurt in some way by a male figure.  Nonetheless, we all hurt each other whether through ignorance, insensitivity, or outright selfishness.  

Since the folks who taught you in some way that you deserve to be victimized or that you brought it on yourself, are indeed people, we can assume they failed.  What if they were liars, or narcissists, or psychologically impaired? What if they were evil, or didn’t know better? 

What if they were WRONG? That changes everything, doesn’t it?

(6) Being alone. The world is full of hurting people who think they are the only ones who experience the thoughts, habits, quirks, pain, confusion, and emotional distress that they feel. Oddly enough, we are all much alike. 

I’ve heard repeatedly in support groups and in conversations other people express ideas I once believed were mine alone. Uncertainty, fear, and distrust of ourselves and others are common. Each of us struggles with damning thoughts and difficult-to-function days.  Many deal with PTSD. 

No, you are not alone with uncomfortable and guilt-ridden thoughts and behaviors.  One of the best ways to discover this truth is to share your experience with others in a safer environment like a support group. 

Finally, as a follower of Christ, I would be remiss not to mention how close I know Jesus is when I hurt. Even when all I wanted was to die,  my Savior did not let me go of my heart.

Loneliness comes and goes, suffering lingers and passes, memories of victimization wax and wane. Some days cloud nine is far below, other days the silver lining is tarnished and dull. 

Yet I am no longer a victim! And will never, ever  walk alone.

Today’s Helpful Word 

 

Why ‘Mental Health and Recovery Advocacy’ is Important for Christians. Part 2

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

“Recovery” is a bad word to a few staunch leaders in the Christian faith. So is “addiction.”  Apparently to some, we are not to recover, but repent. We are not addicts, but habitual sinners. As a Christian of the born-again variety with an Evangelical bent, and as a mental health and recovery advocate, I do not see the above terms as mutually exclusive.

Reality is, being conquered by a behavior we no longer control makes us ill.  Our spiritual, physical, and mental health need help. If one wants to insist ‘repentance’ is the better word choice, let him keep in mind that all sin has painful consequences. Turning from sinful behavior most certainly involves some measure of recovery, does it not?

I am not arguing for a victim mentality, excuses, or a lifestyle of self-destruction.

The prophet Isaiah* wrote, “Stop doing wrong!” We must humbly stand before God. As is true with any behavior (whether in thought, word, or deed) that does not reflect God’s holy nature, change must begin with sorrow for grieving him, and a sincere decision to turn our lives and will over to him.

The 12 Steps and the BIble

That is only the beginning, however.  Isaiah added, “Learn to do right.” Immediately upon choosing to stop doing wrong, of necessity we must completely depend on God for staying clean, sober, or abstinent.  This is the recovery process.

Popular, statistically successful, and might I add Biblical steps to recovery as promoted by 12-step anonymous groups, are rich with what we Christians call repentance, confession, and “sanctification” (the process of overcoming our tendency toward sin).  See the comparisons below.

  • Step one:  Admit we are powerless over [our addiction] –  that our lives have become unmanageable. “I have discovered this principle of life–that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.” – St Paul in Romans 7:21
  • Step two: Come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.  “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” – St Paul in Romans 7:24, 25
  • Step three: Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God. “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.” – St Paul in Romans 6:16
  • Step four:  Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.”  – John, disciple of Jesus in 1 John 1:9,10
  • Step five:  Admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. “Finally, I confessed all my sins to You and stopped trying to hide my guilt.” – King David in Psalm 32:5;   “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” – James 5:16
  • Step six:  Be entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.  “Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.”  – James, brother of Jesus in James 4:8-10
  • Step seven: Humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings. “How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults.  Keep your servant from deliberate sins!  Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt  and innocent of great sin. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”  – King David in Psalm 19:12-14
  • Step eight: Make a list of all persons we have harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all.  The Lord is good and does what is right; he shows the proper path to those who go astray. He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them his way.”  – King David’s song in Psalm 25: 8,9
  • Step nine: Make direct amends to such people wherever possible,  except when to do so would injure them or others.  “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” – Jesus preaching in Matthew 5: 23, 24
  • Step ten:  Continue to take personal inventory and when we are wrong promptly admit it.  So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then.” – Peter, disciple of Jesus in 1 Peter 1:12-14
  • Step eleven: Seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.  “… let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” – Hebrews 12:2
  • Step twelve: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to [people with addictions], and to practice these principles in all our affairs.   “And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.  For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”  – St Paul in Corinthians 5: 18-20

Recovery includes building healthy support systems, reconsidering one’s worldview, and gaining a maturing mindet.  A budding relationship with God adds new dimensions and disciplines we need time to implement.

If all we ever say is “I’m sorry,” and “just say no,” we miss out on the rich healing God offers for our deepest wounds. 

For a testimony on how recovery led one woman to Christ, click here.

Today’s Helpful Word

Mark 2: 15-17

Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”

When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

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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.

*Isaiah 1:16-17

pics from Kozzi.com

C’mon, No One Can Actually Be Addicted to Food… Right?

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

ottugq0I liked food, that’s all. It wasn’t as though other people did not enjoy food, they just did not like it as much as I did.

I liked it so much I would eat it when it was stale, dirty, frozen, or still sizzling from the pan. It was so enjoyable I stole, sneaked, and hid it. When nothing “good” was in the refrigerator I settled for condiments and sugar from the bowl.

Local delivery was my best friend, especially when no one else knew about it. Binges of pizza, wings, and chinese were not unusual. I used money intended for my family on extra groceries and trips in the middle of the night for fast food.

This was not addiction or even gluttony. I just liked food.

If a person stood between me and eating (the clerk at the store who was slow, the church member who took the last goody at the potluck, my children who wanted my attention), I grew angry. Most of them didn’t know I resented their interference. Anger unexpressed can lead to depression, and I needed food to feel better.

Questions raged. Why is my husband asleep so I have to deal with the children during “me” time? How come this church member won’t stop talking so I can get over to the casseroles? How dare anyone ask anything of me when it’s time to eat? Anger at friends, at acquaintances, at strangers, at family –  it all made sense to me. After all, I liked food more than they did. They couldn’t understand.

Everyone who did not overeat, or at least did not become fat, were that way because they had easier lives. Their upbringing had been happy- or at least not as bad as mine.  Their current families were near perfect. Maybe they were in denial! Yes, that was it. Normal eaters did not need support because they thought everything was fine.

Not me. I knew I was a victim of circumstance.  Maybe some normal eaters had other vices. If they were good Christians they would not indulge in unhealthy habits. I thanked God I was not like them.

Interventions of any kind were viewed as personal attacks and prejudice. Oh, I knew I was overweight. However, well over 300 pounds wasn’t that heavy. Food was not my problem, it was my solution.  All I needed was exercise and a good diet.

So I tried. On numerous occasions food was set aside and I lost weight. See?  I could stop anytime I wanted to. Yet each victory was followed by regaining what had been lost plus more. Eventually it was clear that reaching 400 pounds only required one more diet.

I did not address the mental obsession.

Each morning, my first thought was, “What can I eat today?” All day long my thoughts centered on plotting the next snack, the next meal. Finishing a dish was a letdown, so comforting ideas around how soon to eat again took over. If no one was watching, it was seconds and thirds immediately. Otherwise I would wait. And resent.

Nevertheless, there is no such thing as food addiction… right?

Huge blocks of time and memory are missing. While some of that may be due to trauma or depression, I suspect a few stories are lost under a fog of food obsession. How can an addict notice the present when all he or she cares about is the next fix?

When loneliness hit,  resentment covered the fact I was not reaching out. People didn’t love me well enough. Their failure was  reason to eat. In response to feeling alone, I stayed home to eat. People were kept at a distance because I trusted no one, so  I ate. Food was a faithful companion.

If you know anything about drug, alcohol, or other “understood” addictions, you recognize the description. Life was about the fix, the escape. Health was a low priority.

Finally, a therapist insisted I go to treatment. Rehab. For liking food.

My first days there I ate what ever was in sight. Then a thought changed my focus. Very few people can afford this opportunity. God has provided this once in a lifetime chance. Will I take advantage of his gift or throw it away in defiance?

In the treatment center I learned life does not demand overeating. Denial fell away. For the first time I admitted to addiction.

Dieticians introduced a food plan I could live with. Life changing decisions were made to end negative cycles. Once home, for the next year emotions challenged my ability to cope because my “drug” was gone. The food plan, basically a plan of eating developed by a nutritionist, saved the day.

Oh the payoff! Abstinence (not indulging in compulsive eating) means I do not have to think about food. My mornings can be filled with praise to God and plans for the day. No cravings demand my attention because meals and appropriate snacks are already decided.

I focus on conversations and am getting to know my friends better. Instead of eyeing the food at a potluck, it is people I think about and how to bless them in some way.  I accept every interference to compulsive eating as a gift.

Abstinence, sobriety, staying clean – all depend on support from a Higher Power and others in recovery. This is why I turn to Jesus and attend 12-step meetings. History proves I am powerless to handle recovery on my own.

As surely as an alcoholic cannot have one more drink or the drug addict one more high, mental obsession will eventually return me to a hopeless state if I take one bite of a “trigger” food. No flavor is worth that. I like peace best.

Today’s Helpful Word

John 14:27   NIV

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  (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.

– pic by bretz on rgbstock.com

 

 

 

Jim’s Story. 6 Ways to Avoid Helping Too Much When Your Loved One Struggles

CompassionateLove Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2013 Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministries

406Laying eyes on him for the first time, my judgmental self saw a man who didn’t care, who had given up trying. Then I began to see beyond his dirty, frayed jeans, and loose flannel shirt that served only to emphasize the discouragement expressed by his demeanor. Slumped shoulders, eyes downcast, and  little interest in observing those around him – these proved to me what our surroundings already assumed.

We were in an intensive therapy group for people who had just been dismissed from a psychiatric hospital, or who were trying to gain emotional stability to avoid being admitted. Clearly, this room was not filled with optimists.

Jim’s story still surprised me because of its extremes. He told us he lived with his parents, controlling types who refused to allow him the adulthood he felt he deserved. In his forties, he still had a small bedroom that would not lock, and nosey intruders checked on him often. Immediately, a question rose in my mind. Why would any grown-up allow this?

Jim had started abusing drugs in his teens, and addiction soon mastered him. His life became a go-around of detox, relapse, stays in rehabilitation centers, hope, and “why bother?” Somehow, he managed to graduate from college, obtain his Masters, and begin his professional career.

It was job loss due to relapse that landed him back with his parents. They would go through his things, make him report his every move, and micro-manage his food, time, entertainment, money, and space. This would make anyone stress-out. Suicidal thinking grew in his mind, and when Jim was found sitting on his parents’ front porch with a loaded gun to his head, he was taken to the hospital.

When we met, his life consisted of therapy, unemployment, another round of rehab, a negative outlook, and chain-smoking. Still, it was fascinating to see sparks of life as he shared hard-learned and even harder-lived wisdom. He made a positive difference in our group and did not seem to know it.

We shared time there for approximately six weeks. I heard him swear he would never give up smoking because he was giving up too much (drugs, alcohol, personal freedoms) already.  In my last few days there, he announced he had throat cancer and was giving up smoking. Several years later, I ran into him at a counselor’s office. He did not remember me. When I said I recognized him, he said “too bad for you.”  I was glad he was still alive.

The fact that his parents’ over protective behaviors added to Jim’s stress does not mean they carry responsibility for their grown son’s poor choices. However, from what I could see (admittedly having only one side of the story), the kind of support they offered to him was not as beneficial as I’m sure they hoped. I wonder how messed-up they felt their lives had become now that they were hypervigilant about his safety.

It was nice of them to open their home; their concern for Jim was clearly profound. Nevertheless, depressed, drug-addicted, alcoholic, suicidal, and otherwise troubled people have to learn how to manage distress, and respond to it in healthy ways. As adults, we are responsible for saving our own lives.

So, how is a support person to know where to stop? Here are 6 ideas I believe are helpful.

  1. Be knowledgable about what your loved one is suffering. Learn, seek answers from reliable sources. Al-Anon is an excellent resource for those who care for addicts and alcoholics. Talk to your loved one. Listen.
  2. Do not allow your relationship to change. For example, a parent does not become a jailer, and a friend does not become a therapist. A next door neighbor does not become gopher, and pastors do not become saviors.
  3. Bring in the experts. Your loved one probably needs some professional support. You may want to reach out for some wise counsel too. What is the point of suffering when an educated specialist is available to relieve some of that burden?
  4. Know your priorities. Avoid costly trade-offs that hurt other people or destroy your life.
  5. Draw boundaries for yourself. Boundaries are deciding what is and is not acceptable to you. You decide what you will allow in your home, schedule, head, or budget. No one has the power to keep up chaos in your life; you choose what you will and will not do.
  6. Give up delusions of fixing your loved one. As helpful as we wish to be, there is no possibility of changing anyone. Micro-managing does not work (and it’s not your job!).  Support is not rescuing, it is just being there to the degree that is reasonable for you.

Stay healthy emotionally, physically, financially, and time-wise. Hope for the best always, but encouraging versus enabling someone to remain dependent is a fine line sometimes. Support them in their growth, however you may have to let go and let God.

After all, they are in the best hands when they are in His.

Today’s Helpful Word

Hebrews 13:21

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with every good thing to do His will. And may He accomplish in us what is pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

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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.

A Bible Teacher Goes Off On Me On LinkedIn; Charges “Psycho-babble”

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

Girl shouting with fingers in ears

Have you ever had a conversation descend into a shouting match? I appreciate strong opinions and enjoy calm (albeit intense) discussions as long as I am learning and the other person is open as well. The art of mature discussion is lost behind easily inflamed and “touched you last” word wars. Does this happen to you?

I have a friend Nick Katsouros, whose radio show recently came to a grinding halt over this very issue. He has strong views on which we do not always agree, yet I have been an invited guest on his show three times. He professes agnosticism yet has never tried to shut me up when I talk about the gospel. Nonetheless, people are attacking him because they read personal threat into his opinions. Nick’s aim is, and always has been, to help close this awful divide in our country through honest, civil communication. So few seem to want that.

A special moment happened this week when a dear friend willingly discussed the election although we have differing thoughts. What we do agree on is that God looks at the heart; how we vote is secondary to our clean conscience. What a relief to have this conversation and to agree to disagree without either of us coming away feeling attacked!

On Monday I ran across an article* on LinkedIn with “Do Not Care About Your Self-Esteem” in its title. Intrigued, and with an open yet cautious mind, I looked to understand this point of view. It was a good article which made some meaningful points. The author’s motive seems pure and kind. However, his interpretation of self-esteem seems too black and white. He uses the phrases, “Self-esteem is esteeming you more than others”, “Do not fall into the self-esteem trap”, and compared self-esteem to self-serving and self-focus.

I commented, which is rare for me, because I thought of all those wide-eyed scared women who have tried to leave abusive relationships. So often they feel worthless, helpless, and hopeless. Cognitively, in the moment it is difficult for some of them to hear new terminology and concepts. Truth has to be spoon-fed in some ways.

I also thought about all the women and teens who are presently trapped in abusive situations, especially abused Christian wives told to stick by their man no matter what. I think it is dangerous to use the term self-esteem in an “ooh, that’s baaaad” kind of way because so many people do not have a concept of worth. Coming down hard on terminology appears judgmental and condemning, in my opinion.

To me self-esteem is not exaggeration of one’s value, and is not conceit or self-focus. In fact, I suggest self-esteem is one foundation for humility because without it we are self-conscious and mindful of what others think. By understanding our spiritual place (sinful, in need of repentance and a Savior, yet deeply loved by God) we can grow a healthy and “sober” (reasonable) sense of self-esteem.

For example, I am a daughter of God. I stand with the only One who loves me unconditionally. He protects and rescues me because we love each other. I obey and surrender to him because he is God and I am not. Without this sense of relationship in God’s love, I was fearful, distrusting, and vulnerable to maltreatment. Now I acknowledge that God did not make a mistake in this creation. In fact, I am genuinely grateful for how he made me.

Yep. I tried to put this into calm, tactful words in my reply to this article. The author did not blast me – in fact he did not address me at all. A third-party, a Bible teacher, went off on me.

At first I thought it was going to be one of those learning experiences for both of us. He made solid points about the use of confusing language and how it disrupts the gospel message. I agree. He said psychological terms such as self-esteem, recovery, and addiction are confusing terms and should be abolished in Christian circles. I do not agree. He said part of repentance is thinking differently. I agree and appreciate his use of the original Greek to point that out. I believe changing how we think is a process that takes place over time whereas he seemed to imply thinking differently takes place in an instant do-or-die moment.

I expressed three concerns: (1) Using terms like “psycho-babble” promotes stigma (hence shame) that may keep some people from seeking help at all.  (2) Some vulnerable people will remain trapped in self-loathing because they think it’s the holy way (3) Abuse victims serve and serve. Mothers serve and serve. Women suffer breakdowns because they do not know it is ok to say no. Telling them self-esteem is a no-no may actually deter them from godly boundaries.

At this point he started using capital letters and lots of exclamation points. An undeniable tone of sarcasm underlined his statement, “Again, I suppose you have wonderfully proven our point.” Clearly my meanings were disregarded as he reacted only to the words I chose. I was lumped in with the apostate church and not-so-subtly accused of being a false teacher in the worst sense of the phrase. 

Our battle is not against words, but against falsehood. Against losing souls. Against not loving our neighbors because we won’t meet them where they are or speak their language (a social and spiritual issue). Vitriol and back-handed condemnation are why we look like blubbering fools when we try to present Christ as the Truth, Way, and Life.

When I fully realized he was shouting angrily at me, I addressed some of my meanings he had misinterpreted or twisted, and then backed out. I wrote, “I am not here to cause division in the Body.”**

His response? The ultimate character assassination: “I understand the cognitive dissonance of renouncing the unbiblical “recovery” teachings, due to the fact that it would affect one of your titles, ‘Recovery Advocate.'”  

So, I guess I am too proud and filled with selfish ambition to care about Christ’s way. That’s reminiscent of an ex-pastor who claimed I would not try to protect my son from suicide because I “profit” from depression!

Good thing I know God loves me!

photo-24719064-architects-at-work-site. Today’s Helpful Word

1 Peter 3:15
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”    –
St. Paul

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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.

*Rick Thomas, Christian Coach, Speaker, Author & Podcaster. Article:  Teen Tip 3 – Do not care about your self-esteem. Published on LinkedIn October 17, 2016