Tag Archives: supports

Staying Alive is So Much More Than Breathing

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

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For a long time after my suicide attempt in 2011, life seemed to hold little worthwhile substance. Never mind I wrote a book, learned how to collage, began a writing and speaking career, and created newsletters for two classes at my church. Some days felt like fresh air and possibility. Most seemed stale and defeated.

My feet kept moving. On days with little to do, I gazed at walls or the computer screen, attempting life with little focus. Therapy homework added helpful busyness; going to therapy did as well.

However, I am a decision-maker. Once I make a commitment, 98% of the time I will stick to it no matter the cost. I’d made the decision to die by suicide. As strange as it may sound, it was difficult for me to change my mind.

Pivoting in indecision kept me stuck.  My moral center- that of wanting to please and honor Jesus – kept me from acting on the pursuit of death again no matter how I felt. It also gave me patches of solid ground on which to painstakingly climb out of the quicksand that is major depression.

Still, it was living for living’s sake. Breathing for breathing’s sake. Someone said, “You are doing phenomenally” (referring to all the projects I had taken on despite depression).  That encouraged me until the moment was over and the sense of lifelessness returned.

For a few years, occasional kudos were like sunshine and a bit of cheer leading pushed me to function. I doubted I could continue the fight without them. That theory was tested when I moved back home, eight hours away, leaving those supports behind.

Not once since I made the decision to move have I for even a nano-second regretted that choice. This is where I belong. It is where I fit. People here speak my language.

Life on my own was hard for two years. It didn’t seem I had the stamina to make healthy and wise decisions without input or an “atta girl”. Yet here is where it gets interesting.

At the end of those two years I took what I had learned from therapy and made some major decisions to remove what wasn’t helping and to grasp what would. I joined a church where my giftings are wanted. Relationships with next door neighbors are deliberate and improved. Weekly dinners with my grown sons added to a sense of belonging. Good friendships formed. Old friendships reignited. Now I know I am needed, wanted, and loved by many people.

It seems almost overnight life felt meaningful. Sure, nearly seven years is hardly overnight. Hard work after the suicide attempt, moving despite deep pain,  getting up the next day after a lousy one – those decisions paid off.  Staying alive was so much more than breathing.

I am committed to pursuing what is in my heart to do. It is still vital to honor and please Jesus. In a healthier mindset, I know he loves me too.

Today’s Helpful Word  

John 10: 10b-11a

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd.”       -Jesus

**** 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.

 

 

Your Great BIG List of Great Small Ideas for Supporting People Who Hurt

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

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picture from MELOD12 on rgbstock.com

When someone speaks of a friend or loved one who is currently struggling with depression, what follows most often is, “I’ll leave them alone. They need their space.”

To me, that may be the saddest myth about emotional stress. Depression is the number one common denominator across all human suffering. Very few people want to be left alone in the midst of that kind of pain.

The question left for supports is, how do I let this person know I care without getting in over my head? Here are three categories from which to choose.

Include the person with depression whenever possible, but do not expect him or her to keep up right away. 

Your Great BIG List of Great Small Ideas

You have more time and energy to spare:

  • offer to find a doctor or therapist; take them to first visit
  • laundry/ housework help 
  • mow the lawn, shovel the snow, plant flowers
  • offer or arrange childcare 
  • give kids/youth rides to school/events
  • help with a move
  • help with a holiday – decorating, cooking…
  • meet regularly for Bible study
  • start a neighborhood Bible Study
  • organize a meal train
  • rides to doctor/therapist appointments 
  • read aloud and finish a book
  • help with taxes, budgeting
  • show the ropes in legal affairs
  • go to the bank for or with, and other errands
  • take time to study and learn about someone’s specific issue

You have less time and room for change in your routine:

  • phone calls, snail mail
  • food. material, or financial donations
  • visit in the hospital
  • gather and offer resources
  • invite this person to join you in your day’s plans
  • take a lonely person with you grocery shopping, out to a sale, or an exhibition
  • wash a car or take it to the car wash
  • ask good questions, actively listen
  • offer an invitation to join your family for dinner
  • change a flat tire
  • play a video game together online
  • watch a pet
  • drop off a meal/dish
  • invite to your favorite sporting event or your son’s little league game
  • watch tv together
  • grab a coffee together

You have little time and energy to spare:

  • encourage mutual friends to participate
  • send flowers or a fruit basket with a nice note
  • give a small yet thoughtful gift
  • pick up packages off the porch for safe-keeping
  • leave an encouraging note  
  • collect the mail
  • messenger, texts, social media, emails
  • cell phone calls on the run
  • pray, let this person know you are praying.
  • make those small connections if your paths cross. “I’m glad to see you.”
  • touch (with their permission- a hug, pat on the back, squeeze an arm)
  • make eye contact, smile, shake a hand warmly
  • inquire about his or her feelings and day. Tell about your day.

Today’s Helpful Word  

1 Thessalonians 5:14

“…encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

 

***** 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.

 

 

Dear Supports, The Line Between Concern and Control is Not So Fine. Here are 10 Differences

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

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A mother in her late sixties consistently criticized her forty-something son’s job hunt, marriage, and child-rearing. In turn, her daughter-in-law sent her accusatory letters telling her to back-off. 

Over many years, a variety of people had tried to tell the elder woman that her controlling attitude was damaging to her family relationships and ability to work well with others. For as many years, her stubbornness told a different tale; she knew she was right. 

Finally, after losing two careers and a lifetime of closeness to her children, she asked, “What am I doing wrong?”

She asked me. Her question stirred a thoughtful process that led to the following ten-point general comparison between concern and control. 

As supports of anyone who struggles with mental illness, abuse, or addiction, our role is often uncomfortable. We have to make a decision, deep in our character, as to whether we will respect each person’s freedom to choose. After offering what help is reasonable, will we let go?

Two supports in my own struggle with major depression showed opposing attitudes. One said,  “God brought us together so I can fix you.” The other said, “You are powerful, Nancy. You can get through this.” 

Which one do you suppose is still my friend?

Control versus Concern- what is the difference?

1. Concern wants to extend love above all else. Control desires results above all else.

2. Concern is humble and eager to learn. Control knows the answer.

3. Concern actively listens and validates with genuine interest.  Control does not listen.

4. Concern offers hope based on knowledge, insight, and wisdom.  Control offers pat answers, quick-fix solutions, or false hope based on incomplete understanding of a person and his or her needs.

5. Concern accepts responsibility for one’s own life, and patiently leaves others to take responsibility for theirs. Control criticizes, manipulates, and tries to force its will. 

6. Concern offers help when asked, or asks before helping. Control assumes ways to “fix” a situation or person with or without consent.

7. Concern respects the privacy of others.  Control shares what is told in confidence, and  wants in on gossip and rumor.

8. Concern feels some worry, yet also experiences peace by letting go. Control repeatedly expresses frustration and disappointment at slow or unwanted results.

9. Concern feels empathy, pain, or grief, but does not have to own what is not one’s problem. Control takes personally another person’s troubles. 

10. Concern of a Christian believer points people to Jesus. Control is self-worship that can blind others to God’s miraculous power. 

This is not about perfection, it is about growth in love. We all can pass between concern and control at moments. However, making the mistake of living as a controlling person harms relationships and damages those for whom you care so much.

Today’s Helpful Word  

James 3:13-18

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth…  

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”

 

***** 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.

 

 

 

Help Hurting People Without Hurting Yourself: Summary of a Plan that Works

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who fight mental illness, addiction, and abuse  (c)2016  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

Your family member, co-worker, spouse, romantic partner, friend, employee, or student is depressed. Majorly depressed.  You wonder how you can help, if you should become involved, and when life will return to normal.

What can you do with all the mixed emotions you are experiencing? You fear too much stress, and perhaps even a case of your own depression. The key is insight.

Insight guides your compassion 

Before we can operate in a meaningful way, we have to start with knowledge. Depression is one word with two definitions. You may hear, “I am so depressed, this weather makes me want to stay home in bed.” That is an example of the first definition: a state of being sad, low mood, feeling down.

Depression under the second definition is a potentially disabling or fatal condition. Several serious, combined symptoms, causing observable struggles with daily functioning, will occur most of the day most days for at least two weeks before a clinician will diagnose major depression.

Every one of us has nights we wish we did not have to wake up in the morning. Grief, burnout, and bad days are part of life.  Yet most people will never experience anything more than these blues. This is why  understanding the difference is beneficial as you care for your loved one who is majorly depressed.  

Insight into personal boundaries helps you and your loved one cope

Thoughtfully established boundaries protect you from losing peace of mind. Contrary to a familiar definition of “lines in the sand,” boundaries are not about stopping someone else’s negativity or demands. Think about it – you have no control over other people’s choices or over external events. None.   

Your power begins when you draw a circle around yourself. Ask, “What will I allow in here with me? What will I accept from others? What will I carry, and how will I respond?” 

Healthy boundaries are not selfish! They are doable and successful. Compassionate Boundaries, a nine-part series of posts, shows the way.  As you develop your yeses and nos, freedom will surprise you.

Meanwhile, boundaries based on realistic limitations protect you from burnout. You remain present and able to help your depressed loved one without resentment.  

Insight into what to do or say heals your fear

We want to do what is right. Stigma and myths cause us to hesitate out of fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. The gold standard of support is letting  one who struggles know you care. 

No, talking about depression does not make it worse. No, your loved one cannot snap out of it.  Yes, professional treatment works for most people. Yes, you can confidently know what to do if a person speaks of suicide. Yes, you have many options. 

Non-critical acceptance is important. Scolding does not help. Invitations, gifts, acts of service and more, provide some water in the wilderness of depression. Anything you have to offer matters, even if you think it is little.

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BookThis Practical Seminar: How to Help Hurting People without Hurting Yourself

This seminar is designed to shed insight into depression and anxiety,  show practical ways supports do help, and provide necessary tools for healthy boundaries which protect everyone concerned.   
  • Analogies and stories
  • Interactive 
  • Practical answers to common questions 
  • Factual responses to stigmas and myths 

Please email Nancy at NancyVirden.hope@gmail.com, or use this convenient form.   For more information follow these links:   Testimonials      Bio       

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***** 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.

How the Best Supports Can Help You With Depression and Anxiety

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

One week after exiting the hospital for a major  depressive episode,  anxiety grew to irrational caution.  It was 2005, and I waited outside a familiar door in my church,  afraid of familiar people.  Finally, loneliness trumped fear.

As one woman walked by to enter the foreboding room,  I whispered.  At  first, she  did  not hear.

“Marge.” I said her name a second time.

“Nancy? What did you say?” She came closer.

 “If I come in there, may I sit in the back? I don’t think I can face everyone…”  A mouse-like voice returned. 

The tone of her voice grew my confidence. “Nancy, just come and be with us. You can sit wherever  you like.” 

Such acceptance and love.

My behavior was abnormal in general, and maybe especially for me, as typically friendliness and smiles portray my greetings. Marge may have thought it best to leave me alone. By speaking out my needs, her graciousness could calm some of  my fears.

The other option was to sit in the hall. 

Telling people our precise needs is the most effective way of reaching out.  It is difficult to answer when family and friends ask,  “What can I do for you?” We might feel it is selfish to ask for much, or too risky.  Would-be-supports are sometimes afraid. They often do not know how to help or are concerned they might worsen a situation.. 

Keeping a list nearby with ideas such as , “I need non-critical acceptance” and “I need someone to sit with me.” gives them solid  information. Both you and they will feel relief.

Demanding is different from informing others of our needs. Demand shows up in our tone of voice,  expectations, and negative reactions when disappointed.  

About therapists involved in my care, I added to my journal:  “Truth  is, it is God who will get me through  life victoriously, not happily all the time.. People he has brought to help in the happiness department will sometimes let me down. This does not mean I should write them off.”

What then do the best supports look like? They exercise boundaries, and believe for us through better and not-so great circumstances.  (This does not mean they approve of  all we do!) They trust God’s process, and do not try to control the situation.

They are safe, do not abuse or take advantage in any way, and try to meet us where we are. They listen to what we say instead of assuming, proactively trying to grasp our meanings by asking good questions. They know if understanding and the ability to relate is elusive, they can continue to be  supportive. 

The best supports are human, and never perfect at any of the above. 

We can choose to help them help us. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Proverbs 16:24 

Kind words are like honey— sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.

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, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.