Freedom and Grace

freedom

I’m reading Galatians right now and am being reminded that there are those who still try to preach slavery despite the fact that Jesus came to bring freedom and grace.

Just like when Paul lived, I see this slavery everywhere today.  No wonder there is so much anxiety and depression in this world.  Satan comes in and even through “good things,” brings about this slavery that Paul spoke of in Galatians.

The shoulds- you should do this or that to be a good fill-in-the-blank.  The needs- you need to do this or that to be a good fill-in-the-blank.

So many of us live by this daily.

This is slavery, guys.  This is not what we have been called to.  We have been called to freedom by faith in Jesus Christ.

I then asked myself the questions- am I one of those people?  Do I, by my “rules,” preach this false gospel?

Is this the slavery that I live in and share on a daily basis that brings about so much strife?

Is my sharing of what I think is “best practice” as a mom, in my natural living, as a childbirth educator bringing freedom or slavery for myself and others?  If it is bringing slavery, then I think it is time re-think things.

If I am so focused on trying to do things a certain way that when I can’t live up to it (daily) I feel enslaved, then maybe it’s time to stop living this certain way.

I desire, desperately, to live in this freedom and grace that is all over God’s word.

I have lived in slavery for so long that I’m not even exactly sure what it feels like to live in freedom and grace, yet the tiny glimpses of it make me want more.  They make me long for this daily freedom and grace.

I’m in the process of thinking through all of the things that I feel are best and process whether or not they need to stay in my life.  Do these things bring slavery or peace?  Do they bring strife or growth?  Are they beneficial or do they just bring condemnation and anxiety?

“For freedom You’ve set me free.  And yes I am free indeed.  You rewrote my name, unshackled my shame.  You opened my eyes to see I am free!”  -Shane and Shane

Today I will choose to live in freedom and grace.

Beginning to Understand

beginningtounderstand

This morning, I stumbled out of bed around 5:45, helped get the kids ready to go to school, then sat down to work on my Bible study and Celebrate Recovery homework.  I’ve had a few days in which I struggled to get going in the mornings, so I decided that I had to “act my way into thinking” instead of “thinking my way into acting” this morning.  You see, this is what I have to do much of the time because otherwise, I would just stay in bed all day some days.

I have been working through this week’s lesson in CR about insanity (doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result each time) and sanity (wholeness of mind; making decisions based on truth).

After I finished up my lesson, I went out for my morning run (which was another thing that I had to “act my way into thinking” because I didn’t want to), and through my run God began to make some things very clear to me.

I have spent my life not understanding myself… I desired balance and a life without anxiety and depression, yet it felt so far out of reach.

On my “high” days, I would clean the whole house, organize, get caught up on laundry, bake 15 things, prep meals for the week, play with the kids, do crafts, etc… all in one day.  On these days, I felt like I was “better” and that I could handle anything.  This meant that on my “low” days when I couldn’t keep up, I self-condemned, which made my low even lower.

This was my pattern of insanity- I would do things the same way over, and over, and over again, expecting a different outcome.

Through my recent diagnosis, I’m beginning to understand myself better.  I’m beginning to understand that there was a chemical imbalance making this imbalance so difficult.  And now that I am understanding myself better, I’m beginning to learn that the only way to sanity (wholeness of mind; making decisions based on truth) will be to break this cycle of imbalance.

What does sanity look like in my life?  Well, it means having the same expectations on my high days that I do on my low days.  It means being more realistic in life and understanding what I can and can’t do/achieve/accomplish.  It means giving myself grace when I fail instead of self-condemnation.  It means remembering that there are seasons in life, and to take one day at a time.  Sanity for me means being balanced.

It means that whatever I plan on my high days needs to be something that I can follow through with on any other day.

It means taking my expectation and searching God’s word for truth, and living out His truth each day.

It’s going to take some conscious effort on my part, but I think I may be able to break this cycle.  One day at a time :-).

This also means that each thing I post will come from the eyes of balance/real life vs. the ideal.  Ideal is pretty, but it isn’t realistic.

I wrote a blog post the other day about my grocery budget.  That day, I believed in every word that I wrote.  I was having a really good day and felt that I had been/could continue to follow what I wrote about.  A few days later, I had a very low day and this whole week I have not done a very good job with sticking with my ideal (the grocery budget nor my desire to not eat out).  This was just one more thing to be self-condemning about.  I felt like I was being a hypocrite and I was just frustrated with myself for not following my ideal.  You know what I’m learning?  I need to stop assuming the ideal will ever happen.  Because it rarely does.  Then I walk around with the weight of the world on my shoulders because I can’t make the ideal happen on my good days or my bad.

My desire with my new blog will be to post things that are real- not ideal, but realistic.  I don’t ever want someone to read my blog and think “how does she possibly do that?” but to think “this is realistic and I can do this.”  I don’t want to be like other blogs that mamas can’t relate to or live up to… I want to be able to live up to my own words, and if I can’t, then it’s not real.  It’s easy to write about the ideal on good days, but if I can’t live up to it on a normal day, then it’s not real.

This is just one step towards sanity, and I hope you’ll join me on this journey.  God has big plans, and I believe that He can and will restore me.  

Spring represents new life and I believe that God has a new life for me after all of this struggle.  That doesn’t mean that every day will be perfect; that just means every day will be real.  I won’t live in the insanity of doing things the same way expecting a different result, but I will live in wholeness of mind, making decisions based on truth.

Feeling Defective

Image

I’ll be completely honest.  I want to be hopeful because of my change in diagnosis, but I am feeling more hopeless now.  I don’t know what it is.  I feel… hmmm… what’s the word.  Defective.  Like something is wrong that will never be “healed.”  I could deal with anxiety and depression because they felt more curable.  Now I have this thing.  This definite chemical imbalance that can only be treated… not healed.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel as though all of the craziness that I have felt for the majority of my life makes more sense.  My complete inability to balance has made me feel like I have never been able to be stable.  I can look back on the past 15+ years and see it.  I have been up and down my whole life.  So many people in my life can see it.  Even before the “official” diagnosis, when it was just a possibility, so many of my friends told me that it was so clear to them.

But the actual diagnosis.  I feel as though this means that I will have to be on a lot of medication my whole life… that I will never be able to “overcome” this.  Anxiety, yes.  Depression, yes.  But Bipolar… I don’t think so.

This… this thing… this thing that is wrong with me… it’s part of who I am.  I can’t exactly shake it off, just like someone with another debilitating illness can’t shake it off.  I can’t pretend it doesn’t exist.  It’s an illness that will need real treatment for the long-term.

As I type this, I hear the birds chirping outside my window, and I know that hope exists.  I just have more work to do to find it for the long-term.  God DOES have a plan for this, just like when other people struggle with things.  Everyone has something.  Mine just happens to be a mental illness that can be managed but not cured.

Official Change in Diagnosis

Image

Well, it’s official.  My doctor has changed my diagnosis from major depressive disorder and severe anxiety to Bipolar II with anxiety.  My inability to have any balance for so many years, and especially since she has been seeing me has led to a change in diagnosis.  She was slow to change things, but it is clear to her now.

On one hand, I’m a little sad by this diagnosis.  I’m worried about my long-term prognosis with something like this.  I have no idea what to expect long-term.  Will this lead to more long-term struggle?

On the other hand, I am relieved.  So many years of not knowing how to just live life… of either being extremely happy or irritable to extremely depressed.  I am hopeful that with the current diagnosis, I can be treated correctly and move forward with life.

I have struggled to function and be stable for so long (years and years).  Now it makes so much sense.

Hopefully with the right treatment, I am on my way to a stable life.  Only time will tell.  I’m now praying that God will help me to make the right decisions for my treatment.

Here is what the Bipolar II diagnosis looks like (typically I’m not a fan of Wikipedia, but I feel that this has been the most accurate explanation of myself):

Summary of what Bipolar II is: Extreme ups and downs… the inability to live in between.  Like that of Bipolar I, but the manic episodes are called hypomanic (not as extreme).  They have shorter intervals between the depressive and hypomanic episodes.

HYPOMANIC EPISODES (just listing the ones that apply to me):

Hypomania is characterized by euphoria and/or an irritable mood. In order for an episode to qualify as hypomanic, the individual must also present three or more of the following symptoms:[1][2]

  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Increased talkativeness
  • Racing thoughts
  • Distractibility
  • Overactivity, especially in goal-directed areas

It is important to distinguish between hypomania and mania. Mania is generally greater in severity and impairs function, sometimes leading to hospitalization. In contrast, hypomania usually increases functioning. For this reason, it is not uncommon for hypomania to go unnoticed. Often it is not until individuals are in a depressive episode that they seek treatment, and even then their history of hypomania may go undiagnosed. Even though hypomania may increase functioning, episodes need to be treated because they may precipitate a depressive episode.

Depressive episodes:

It is during depressive episodes that BP-II patients often seek help. Symptoms may be syndromal. Depressive symptoms may include:

  • Low energy levels
  • Cessation of usual activities
  • Black and white thinking
  • Unrealistic pessimism
  • Over-generalization
  • Automatic thoughts
  • Maladaptive assumptions
  • Dysfunctional personal schemas
  • Isolation from people

 

Now that I have a diagnosis that makes total sense, I am working on a treatment plan that will lead me on the road to recovery.  I desire balance so much, and maybe, just maybe, it’s possible now.

Gratitude

gratitude

As part of my Celebrate Recovery homework, we have started a running gratitude list.  The goal is to focus on the positive while doing some hard work.  I truly enjoyed this and thought I would share some of the things that I’m thankful for.  I believe we need to all do this as a regular practice :-).  I feel like all the things that I’m thankful for make up a huge part of who I am.

  • My husband, Robert- who knows me better than I know myself and always takes care of me and our family
  • Karis- such a bright, creative, and loving young girl
  • Ethan- very passionate little guy who always has something to say
  • Levi- always our comic relief
  • My small home- it is cozy and comfortable… I love the beautiful things on the walls and furniture that has been given to us
  • Coffee with a little bit of raw sugar and half and half
  • Baking
  • Music- especially JJ Heller and Shane and Shane
  • My blog- the ability to write my thoughts so that I understand them better
  • My Bible- the ability to read God’s words and put them into practice in my life
  • My counselor- she has made a huge impact in my recovery
  • My parents and Robert’s parents- they are always there when we need them and they love unconditionally
  • My friends- I’m beyond blessed by amazing friends that have stood by my side through the good and the bad
  • My church- such a solid, biblical place to serve with amazing people
  • The ability to run and exercise- this helps my mental health more than most things
  • The outdoors/God’s creation- the birds chirping, the beautiful trees, the colorful flowers, the amazing mountains, the streams
  • The ability to be in God’s creation- running, backpacking, and rafting
  • Books and the authors that write them
  • Nutritious food and the knowledge of what is nutritious
  • Coloring books and the time spent coloring with my kids
  • My chickens
  • Plants/my garden
  • Computers
  • Cell phones
  • My kindle- the ability to take a lot of books with me everywhere
  • Essential oils- a natural way to heal
  • Medication- I wouldn’t be where I am today without it!
  • Long conversations
  • Encouragement from others- sometimes this keeps me going
  • Games and the moments of playing them with my family and Robert
  • Pretty paintings
  • Adventure- the memory of backpacking 23 miles in one day in the sleet, snow, and freezing rain with Robert
  • Natural living- the ability to buy things made naturally
  • Trader Joe’s and local co-ops
  • Photos- a visual of the beauty in my life
  • Cameras
  • My ability and desire to teach
  • My Childbirth Education training
  • Memories- especially those with my brother
  • God’s constant provision
  • TOMS shoes
  • Willow Tree figurines- beauty in simplicity
  • Organization- gives our home order in the chaos
  • Cute purses
  • All of the beautiful, little things in my life

As I write this list, I am listening to the birds chirping outside my window in the beautiful sun.

Thank you Jesus for all of these things.  I am beyond blessed.

My Identity

Image

Yes, I realize I am blogging a lot right now, but God is doing a work in me this morning that I want to share.

It’s so, so easy to allow my identity to be in my struggle, and not in who He has created me to be.  

So what if I have anxiety that leads to depression?  That’s not truth, and that’s not who I am.  

I am a daughter of the Creator of the universe.  I am a child of the One who is slow to anger, rich in love, gracious, compassionate, mighty, glorious, majestic, everlasting, faithful to His promises, good, sustaining, counselor, comforter, deliverer, healer, provider, sustainer, rescuer, merciful… I could go on and on.

My identity is not in my anxiety, or in my depression, or in my perfectionism… those are just things that I struggle with.  We all have struggles.  It would be easy for us to all be so focused on our struggles that we forget who we really are and who God is.  

Who has He created me to be?  Victorious through the struggle.  To give glory to Him in the good days and bad.  To love others the way He loves us.  He created me to love His creation- to have the need to be outdoors.  That’s where I find peace much of the time. His creation is beautiful and a reflection of Himself.  Who wouldn’t find peace in that?  He has created me to love my family and serve them to the best of my ability.  Some days this is easier than others, but ultimately, I have joy in serving them.  He has created me to teach… though right now is just not the right time.  He has given me a passion and a calling, but I have to trust His plan.  He knew this hard time would come in my life, and He is giving me what I need in the midst of it… even on those days when I feel like I can’t continue this way, He gives me what I need.  

He has a plan for all of this for His glory, not mine.  It’s all about Him anyway.  My identity is in Him, not things of this world.  

Today, I will enjoy His creation by going for a run and getting exercise.  Then I will serve Him by serving my family.  I will choose to not focus on the struggles, but on what He has called me to right now, today.  

After all, all I can do is take it one day at a time anyway.  

Stuck: Trying to Believe Truth over Lies

Image

“Hope enters the picture when we come to believe that a power greater than ourselves, our Higher Power, Jesus Christ, can and will restore us.”  Celebrate Recovery Bible Devotional, Day 4

The lie:

One of my biggest struggles is that I daily believe the lie that He won’t restore me… that instead He will allow me to continue in my anxiety.  I’m working to get past that lie, but it’s hard after seeing what happened to Joey (my brother).

You see, Joey desired to be restored most of his life.  From about the age of 14-15 until he died at the age of almost 29, he struggled with deep depression.  He did everything he knew to do… from going to different doctors and counselors, trying almost every medication available, being in and out of hospitals, and seeking God through this (until he felt that God wouldn’t heal him).  He gave up after working so hard because he just couldn’t do it anymore.  He came to a point in which his only hope for restoration was to take his own life.

So my struggle is that if God wouldn’t restore Joey here on earth, why would he choose to restore me?

It’s still hard to understand this whole thing… I just want to not struggle with anxiety (for more than a few days).  That’s all.  Is that too much to ask?  If He is planning on restoring me, why hasn’t He restored me yet?  Why do I still struggle?  If He was going to restore Joey, why didn’t He?

Through all of the work that I’ve done, this is where I’m stuck.  This is what I don’t understand and is what I’m having a hard time getting past.

 

Today, I will do my best to believe these truths:

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

“It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” Philippians 2:13

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

It’s not about what I do to be restored, but about what God can and will do in and through me.  The problem is, I try so hard in my own power much of the time.  I’m doing all of this “work,” but I’m not believing the truths that are in His word, and I’m not trusting Him to restore me. I have to believe that God has a plan for all of this for His glory, and that He will restore me… it will be His will, His way, and His timing.

The Celebrate Recovery workbook’s lesson this week is about sanity… The definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result each time.”  Sanity is “wholeness of mind; making decisions based on truth.”

Today, I am choosing to make decisions based on the truth that God can and will restore me… it just may not be in the way that I expect.  The insanity of doing things the same way (trying to cope on my own, doing things in my own control) has to be changed to sanity (relying on His power and letting go of control).

Believing lies leads to insanity and destruction.  Believing truth leads to sanity and restoration.  

I don’t have to be stuck.  I can choose to move forward.  Some days are harder than others… though with His power, it is possible.

Choosing Truth Today

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you have been keeping up, last Thursday, in the midst of a really rough day, I wrote about all the work that I have ahead of me. Then, the next day, after a day full of really hard work, I wrote about knocking down the wall of condemnation and expectation.  I have had quite a few really good days since Thursday.

On one hand, I feel so hopeful… Maybe I’m finally learning and growing through this.  Maybe all of the counseling that I’ve gone through is helping me change and grow.  Maybe my medication is finally right.  Maybe I can move forward and not look back.  Maybe… just maybe this is the end of a major struggle.

But on the other hand… things aren’t so pretty and hopeful.  You see, I have these cycles.  I have cycles of really low lows and high highs.  It’s hard to know at the moment if this “feeling good” is just part of my cycles or if it’s my new normal.

My doctor doesn’t think I have Bipolar II (like the hospital doc thought) because she says that there are a lot of major symptoms that I don’t have, but why do I have these cycles?  These low lows and high highs?  My doc says that it’s severe anxiety, and it leads to the depression… Today, I just don’t know.

All I know is that I can’t worry about what might come… I am trying to just enjoy having this “high moment” and see if it continues. Maybe this IS it.  Maybe I have learned and grown so much in the past few months and I am finally putting what I’m learning into practice.  I guess only time will tell.

Today, I feel good.  Tomorrow, I may not.  And that’s okay.  Just like I have said in so many of my posts, I am truly learning that I have to take one day at a time.  Anything that tells me to worry about tomorrow is just lies… so I have to listen to the truth of God’s word.

I am choosing truth today.  Life is hopeful because Jesus has been victorious.  Because of that, I can choose to see the light at the end of the tunnel, even if it continues for a while.

Starting Fresh

freshstart

I have had a few different personal blogs over the years, and I have recently been blogging through blogspot.  I decided that I needed to start fresh… I have moved a few posts over from my old blog (that I feel are relevant), but mostly I’m starting new.  One of the reasons is that life has changed so much over the years, but another reason is that I like the way wordpress works better… the templates, being user friendly, etc.

So, here I am… starting fresh… again :-).  Hope you’ll stick around while I get adjusted to the new blog!

Knocking the Wall Down

It started out rough, it got worse, and it ended with exhaustion.  Despite the fact that it was so difficult, a lot of good, hard work happened.  And despite the fact that I was exhausted last night, I was more at peace than I have been for a while.

Yesterday was my counseling day.  I had counseling with Robert, then by myself.  Then, yesterday evening I had Celebrate Recovery.  That’s 4 hours of hard work, on top of the work that I did on my own at home.

I cried a LOT.  It’s been a long time since I did that.  There’s healing in tears.  There’s healing in honesty. There’s healing in hard work.

I have been building this wall of condemnation and expectation for years and years.  The words I use about myself have just been the cement that holds the wall together.

One of the things that my counselor has been working with me on is the words I use.  She reminds me that words matter.

The words that are red flags are: should, never, and always.  If I hear myself saying these words, I need to re-word the sentence.  They bring condemnation and are not helpful.  Finding scripture to combat the lies is helpful.

I constantly say that I am always anxious, I will never get better, and I should do this, this, and this.  Those words just put cement, sheet rock, and stucco on the walls that I have built up.

It’s time to knock the wall down.

Something important that I’ve realized through the hard work is that it has taken years to build the wall, so it will take a while to knock the wall down.  I need to have a lot of self-compassion through this process and realize that I will have rough days.  That’s normal.

We talked about contentment.  That life has seasons.  This is just the season of life that I’m in right now; that doesn’t mean it will always be this way.  While I can’t work right now, that doesn’t mean I won’t be able to again.  I need to think of things in life as front burner and back burner.  Right now, working needs to be on the back burner because I can only fit a few things on the front burner.  To operate more on the short-term (this week), but plan enough in the future to stay motivated.

So the things that I’m working on to knock that wall down are: pay attention to my red flag words and re-word them to be more helpful, remember to have self-compassion when I have a rough day and that it takes time to knock the wall down, be content in this season of life.

Another really important thing is working to stop ruminating on my anxiety.  The more I think about it and think about how I can make it better, the more anxious I get.  We talked about things that I can do in order to not just be home alone, thinking all the time.  That I need to compartmentalize things… work on my anxiety when it’s the right time, but other than that, work on something else.  I do have homework (for counseling and Celebrate Recovery), but when it’s not time to work on things, be more mindful of what I am in the middle of.  Engage with my husband and kids (be careful to not be in my mind, thinking too much), spend time with friends, maybe go to a woman’s Bible study, and when I am home alone and working on something, put on music and sing along… maybe listen to fiction books on CD.  Ruminating on my anxiety makes it worse, working on my anxiety helps me heal.  They are two different things.  So, I am working on compartmentalizing it.

One piece of cement at a time.  One brick at a time.  One step at a time.  One minute at a time.

The wall will eventually be knocked down.