Remember: God Has a Plan + My Focus Now

These past few days have been rough.  Really hard.  I have had severe anxiety and felt myself getting depressed yesterday. I decided to put a stop to it and today I’m so much better. Let me back up… Monday I woke … Continue reading

My Story: How God Brought Me From the Pit to Complete Joy and Peace

These past many years have been a very wild ride.  A definite roller coaster.  And I have seen God working through every part of it.  Even when I fought and fought.  Even when I wanted to give up.  Even when I was incredibly impatient.  Even when I just flat out didn’t understand.  God had a plan the whole time.  Looking back, I can see his plan unfold over the past several years (and I mean several… like 10 or more).

Life is hard, y’all.  If I’ve learned anything, I’ve learned that.  It takes a lot of leaning on Jesus and allowing Him to carry you through it, or we wouldn’t make it.  I have had a lot of things happen in my life and I could wallow in it and say “why me?”  But instead, I chalk it up to the fact that God has a plan to use everything for His glory and name.  He also wants what’s best for us at all times, and sometimes we have to go through the yucky times to get there.  We end up stronger in the end.  Scratch that.  We end up realizing we have strength in Christ.

Just over six years ago, my brother committed suicide in a very gruesome manner.  At the time I was 7 months pregnant with Levi (my third child in a little under 4 years).  I had Levi then went through terrible, terrible postpartum depression.  I wanted to run away.  I just couldn’t do it anymore.  I was put on some medication and it helped me get through it, but I wouldn’t say life was any easier.  I was grieving.  I had three kids 4 and under.  Robert worked every single day.

We moved to Dallas 6 months later and lived with my in-laws.  I knew if I didn’t start working, we would never be able to leave my in-laws.  So, I got a job.  The next year and a half were brutal and I was still struggling with depression and severe anxiety (and panic attacks).  I was still processing my brother’s horrible death.  I quit working because I couldn’t manage anymore.  My dream was to homeschool, so I tried to do that with Karis and it was pretty much a flat fail.  We moved to Frisco a little later and life was pretty good for a few years (the only working I did was part time at a preschool, which was pretty awesome!).  Then, I tried working full time again.  Bad idea.

Just over two years ago I went into the hospital because I was “passively suicidal.”  Truth is, I just couldn’t live this life anymore.  I had nothing left in me to give.  I would go to work, do an okay job (all while feeling incredibly anxious and on the verge of a panic attack), come home, and go to bed.  Robert took care of everything.  He did an amazing job.  Not only did he do the basics, he went above and beyond like keeping up with laundry, keeping the house clean, etc.

Going into the hospital was the best thing I could have done for myself. I was able to process the feelings of grief about my brother’s death that I was pushing back because I couldn’t handle it.  I met other people like me.  I felt for the first time like I wasn’t alone.  I made friends that I still talk to today.  I was able to just rest.  Do crafts.  Exercise.  Do yoga.  Eat really well.  I almost didn’t want to leave.  It was a breath of fresh air.

Going to the hospital led my doctor to a new diagnosis for me: Bipolar 2.

The next two years have been pretty wild.  I worked off and on, always having to quit because of my illness.  I couldn’t handle a job.  It was too much for my mental health.  It led me back to the hospital in November of 2014.  I realized then that working is just not possible for me.

Last year around this time, Robert received an email from the Operations Director (now Site Director) of Camp Eagle.  We were excited but obviously didn’t get our hopes up because it had taken months (from the time he applied) to even receive an email.  Soon after, Robert had a phone interview, then soon after that, we found ourselves at Camp Eagle for an in person interview, tour of the camp, and a chance to hang out with and meet the staff.  It was amazing.  But, we still didn’t get our hopes up because even though we had this visit.  I’m not sure how many weeks went by (it was excruciating while we waited), but Robert eventually received the offer for the Maintenance Director position.  It was official.  We were moving back to camp.

This past year has been so amazing in so many ways!  I would not want to be anywhere else.  But I can’t say the whole year has been perfect.  This summer I made the realization that my medication wasn’t really working all that well.  I had a major hypomanic period, followed by a major depressive period.  Back to not being able to get out of bed.  Back to sleeping all the time.  Back to passive suicidal thoughts.  My life is so perfect, why am I so depressed?

We decided to put the kids in school again instead of homeschooling because I didn’t think I could handle it because of my depression.

It wasn’t until I saw a new doctor in October (November? Somewhere in there) that I felt like I could do this.  He took so much time to get to know me.  He went back to the beginning.  Through my conversation with him, he came to the conclusion that I do in fact have Bipolar 2 and we need to get it under control.  He made it clear that it is possible to get it under control.  His confidence gave me a huge relief.  He weaned me off of two meds and started me on a new one in which I had to slowly increase the dose.

Around this same time, Karis was really struggling in school.  Long story short, we ended up deciding to pull her out of school and homeschool her.

This school year (since I pulled her out) has been amazing.  Homeschooling her has given me a reason to get up every morning.  We have grown together in our relationship.  It has been fun for me to use some of my teaching skills that I haven’t been able to use in a while.  It hasn’t been easy (lots of trial and error with curriculum, etc), but it has been just what we both needed.

I was still having some hypomania episodes followed by depression (though not NEAR as severe), so my doctor increased my medication one last time and this is it.  This is the right medication and the right dose.  I feel completely and 100% normal.  I have good days, and I have bad days… just like everyone else.  But I’m not hypomanic and I’m not depressed.  I’m also not near as anxious as I used to be.

Between feeling really well, the fact that the boys’ school is 35 minutes away, and the fact that at camp homeschooling just makes more sense, we decided that next year we will homeschool all of our children.  I am so excited that I already ordered all of their curriculum (after hours and hours of research… and thanks to our tax refund).

I share all of this because I have realized a few things.  God had a plan from the time I was in college (well, obviously even before that, but this is where I see things start).  I got my teaching degree, and I love to teach.  It just happens to be in a different way than I envisioned.  I have wanted to homeschool since we were at our last camp, and I’m finally able to do this.  He led me to an amazing doctor who has not given up until he found the right medication and the right dose to help me not have symptoms of hypomania and depression.  My anxiety is the lowest it has ever been.  I have the desire and will to keep up with my house (which has always been a point of anxiety for me), keep up with laundry (which I’ve never been able to do before), homeschool, cook dinner (which sometimes means mac n cheese, dining hall, or something really nice and I’m okay with all of that), bake once in a while (but not obsessively), be content with my body (still getting there, but much more content than ever before), exercise for enjoyment, spend time in the word (not out of guilt, but pure desire), enjoy time with our wonderful community (which, being an introvert, this is huge), reach out and serve others, and just enjoy life.  The ups and downs.  The good and bad days.  This life that He has allowed me to have.

We went to San Antonio Saturday and while it was somewhat stressful (San Antonio River Walk on a Saturday was a bad idea), I feel like these pictures show the pure joy that I feel.  I feel like I can breathe.  Laugh.  Enjoy life.

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I can’t express how thankful I am.  I tell God every day.  I wonder if he’ll ever get tired of hearing it?  Probably not.  He delights in praises and gratefulness.

Where are you in your journey?  If you’re in the middle of the fire right now, know that God will use this for His glory and your good.  He loves you.  He knows what’s best.  Just hold onto Him.

Inability to Balance Related to Bipolar II

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Like I wrote in my last post, my doctor told me he wouldn’t give up until I no longer have symptoms of Bipolar II.  I am so thankful for a doctor that has faith that this is attainable.  Until he said that last Monday, I thought I would always live with the symptoms to some degree.

As the new dose and new med are getting into my system, I’m beginning to feel more stable and balanced than ever before.  This new stability is helping me see something that I’ve never seen/understood before.

I have struggled with balance in every area of my life for as long as I can remember.  Food, exercise, alcohol, weight obsession, and even cleaning and laundry.  I’ve had an all or nothing attitude about everything.

I ate perfect (obsessing), or I ate terrible.  I exercised 2-3 hours a day (doing exercise that I hated) or not at all.  I have been obsessed with my weight since I was a kid.  I focused on it completely or gave up. I had too much alcohol too often, or I didn’t have any.  I had a spotless house, or I had a house that was trashed.

As I’m becoming more stable I’m realizing that it is possible to have balance in these areas, and I’m finally coming to that balance that I’ve always desired.

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Recently, I’ve started exercising 4-5 days a week.  Karis and I hike for an hour each afternoon.  I love hiking most of all, and even though it’s not strength training, I’m okay with that.  I eat healthy much of the time, but I don’t fret over a piece of cake or sugar in my coffee.  I eat when I’m hungry.  I try not to eat out of emotion.  I eat more intuitively than ever before.  I eat and exercise for health rather than weight loss.  I learned that some of my issue with weight is out of my control because of medication, and I’m learning to accept that.  It’s really cool that my Fitbit shows my resting heart rate over time, and it has slowly been decreasing, which is huge!  I have beer (or wine) a few times a week, and when I do, it’s just a few.  I don’t drink to cope anymore, which was a huge issue when I was in the thick of things.  My doctor told me it’s really common for people with high anxiety to drink to cope because it takes it away for a time.  But the downfall of that is that it can lead to addiction, and it’s really bad for you.  It also doesn’t help with weight issues :-).  There are so many more healthy ways to cope and take care of yourself, and I’m learning to practice those things.  So, I don’t feel like I need it anymore like I used to.  Instead of drinking alcohol, I drink my favorite hot tea or coffee (decaf at night).  I play a game with my kids or Robert.  I journal.  I sit on the porch and enjoy the evening.  I chat with friends.  I go for a hike.  I clean.  I spend time planning for homeschooling or researching homeschooling curriculum (the nerd in me enjoys these things).  I cook or bake.  I write.  There are so many more things that I can do for self care and to cope with feeling bad.  If none of these things work, I take medication designed to help with anxiety instead of drinking.  It’s made a world of difference for me!

My prayer now is that this balance in my moods and every area of my life stays this way.  I have heard of many people finding the right combination of medications and things stay great.  I’ve also heard of people finding the right combination and it ends up not working as well down the road.  So, I’m just taking it one day at a time.  If nothing else, I’m learning more about myself every day.  I am able to control things better with the wisdom and knowledge that I have gained, and I have also learned a lot about practicing self care… the most important part of my day as far as I’m concerned.

The most important part of all of this is that God has led me to the right doctor, a great counselor, and great friends and family to support me and help me through all of this.  I feel that God has a purpose and a plan for all that I have gone through and continue to go through.  I have seen Him work in my life and the lives of my friends because of my illness.

Being this open and vulnerable is really hard sometimes.  I have the fear of what people will think of me.  But I have found over time that vulnerability is courage, and that courage is what helps others.  It’s worth it if I help one person to feel encouraged through my vulnerability.

Hypomania, Depression, Anxiety, and Self Care

IMG_2706 On our hike yesterday on a trail at camp.

This past week was great in a lot of ways, but discouraging in some ways.  I was hoping that by quitting my job my anxiety and depression would just disappear.  That I would feel as I did before I started working.  I was so “on top” of things.  I followed a schedule and specific routine every day.  I got up at 6:15 with no trouble.  I was showered and ready (make up and dried hair) by the time we started school.  While Karis was doing her independent work, I was cleaning and doing laundry.  The house was always spotless and the laundry was always caught up.  I made dinner every night and even baked bread a few times a week.  I also made more breakfasts from scratch.  I was just on top of everything.

This week was not that way.  I found myself taking naps every morning while Karis was doing her independent work.  I was just so tired.  I could barely keep my eyes open.  I did laundry, but I didn’t stay on top of it like I did before.  I cleaned up the house, but it wasn’t spotless all the time.  And luckily we ate all meals in the dining hall or we would have been having easy meals like mac n cheese or a frozen dinner.

I talked to my counselor about it last week and she thinks maybe I was having some hypomania the few weeks before I started working.  And a week into working I went down hill (which is normal after hypomania).  It’s discouraging, but it’s also encouraging in some ways. I’m beginning to learn what “normal” is.  Normal is doing some laundry and cleaning up the house some, but it’s not perfection.  I was feeling like I was doing everything perfectly the weeks before I started working, and that can only last so long.  It’s not normal to do everything perfectly.  And it’s okay that I’m not perfect.  I was trying to catch up on sleep this past week, and I’m feeling better now.  I didn’t sleep much for over a month, so it just caught up to me.  It’s okay.  It’s normal to not have a spotless house all the time.

I want to get back into routine this week (meaning no nap every morning), but I don’t plan on sticking to my schedule completely.  I can chill out a little and still follow a routine.

On another note.  I thought I would share something that I’ve been holding back for a while because I thought it made me less of a person.  I have decided to start working towards getting disability (knowing I will probably have to get a lawyer to do this).  I’m actually already on the second step.  I have an appointment with their psychiatrist on the 19th.  I have tried and tried and tried to work, and every single time I do, I end up having to quit because of depression, severe anxiety, and panic attacks.  These things affect my ability to do my job and live my life.  I am coming to terms with the fact that I just can’t work.  Through this process, I’m coming to terms with the fact that I have a debilitating illness that affects my life in every way.  It can be frustrating to say the least because I want to work.  I want to contribute.  I want to be successful at something.  But I’m learning that it’s not something I can do.  I think I’m learning to be okay with it.  I’m submitting to the fact that I have done my best, and now I can move forward.

My goal for the new year is to learn to live this life to the fullest, and part of that is coming to terms with my illness and learning how to take better care of myself.

Self care for me is routine but not a rigid schedule.  It’s hiking sometimes but not obsessively.  It’s showering and getting ready but sometimes just getting dressed and going about my day.  It’s allowing my house to be messy sometimes but keeping it mostly clean (because when it’s too messy I feel anxious).  It’s learning balance.  Eating for enjoyment and for nourishment.  It’s homeschooling my daughter.  It’s baking things from scratch sometimes and buying baked foods sometimes.  It’s drinking hot tea at the end of the day.  It’s playing a game with my family.  It’s being with my camp family even when I don’t feel like leaving my house.  It’s reaching out and loving others.  It’s spending time in the word but not feeling guilty when I miss out that day.  It’s worshipping my Savior out of love and adoration for Him.  It’s realizing that He has a plan and a purpose for every thing.

If I stick to self care every single day (in some shape or form), I am at my best.  I believe that self care is one of the most important things when it comes to mental illness.  If I’m not taking care of myself, I struggle and become anxious and depressed.  It takes a LOT of work to take care of myself some days.  My desire is to reach out to others and love them where they are.  But I must first love and take care of myself.  I used to think this sounded so selfish.  We’re always taught to love others more than we love ourselves.  I’m learning that I can’t pour from an empty cup.  If I’m not taking care of myself then I can’t take care of my family or be there for friends.

I am so convinced that self care is of utmost importance that every single day I ask friends in a small group that I started what they are doing for self care.  It makes every one stop and think about actually taking care of themselves versus just going about the day feeling empty.

How will you take care of yourself today?

Self care for me looks completely different than I thought it would look

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I have been wanting to write for a while, but I just haven’t felt inspiration.  I tend to find more inspiration when I’m in the depths of depression or the throes of anxiety.  I don’t know what it is, but I imagine it’s the same way for people who are artists or song writers.

I decided yesterday that maybe I would write about how much I’m thankful for medication that makes me feel more like myself.  I get up each day (6:30) and have the motivation help get the kids ready for school, get them to do their chores (before the boys leave for school and Karis starts school), shower and get ready (all the way to makeup), have time with Jesus (while Karis does), do chores to keep the house clean and laundry caught up, do school with Karis, and even have time to do what I want to online all before it’s time to pick the boys up.  Then, I pick them up and do homework with them.  Every evening I make their lunches for the next day, make dinner, and sometimes (once or twice a week), I bake bread from scratch.  I also often bake muffins or breakfast cookies for breakfast at this time.  All of these things that I do daily are typed out on a chart and hanging on my bulletin board (along with Karis’ daily schedule).

Then, today happened.  I woke up at 9:00 (Robert wasn’t here… he camped last night).  I walked into chaos in my boys’ room.  The kids were hanging from the bunk bed; they had made a chain of hangers starting from the top bunk down to the bottom.  There were Legos, cars, books, pillows, blankets, everywhere.  It was a disaster.  All I could do was turn and walk away before I lost it.  Then, I waited and waited for Robert to get home while the kids made a disaster on my dining room table with play-dough and all that goes with it.

At that point, I still hadn’t done anything on my routine check-list.  I was just sitting on my computer working on a post on my homeschooling blog while the chaos was going on around me.  Instead of doing what I know to be helpful, I couldn’t get myself up and moving.  I just sat there.  The kids decided that they wanted to have a “camping out and watching movies day,” so once Robert got home, we did just that (it was, after all, their advent activity for the day, and since we have an early and full day tomorrow, we decided it would be okay to do during the day).  We got the sleeping bags out and let them “camp out” in their pajamas and watch movies.  This was really hard for me for multiple reasons; the main reasons being that it meant the living room would be a mess, they were staying in their pajamas (which meant I would probably stay in mine), and it was completely out of my routine.

I began feeling the anxiety build up.  I was becoming irritable.  I didn’t want anyone touching me or talking to me.  I didn’t feel as good as I have the past few months.  I started feeling the way I do when I’m super anxious and on the verge of depression.  I thought “here we go again.”

I decided at that point it was time to get back into my routine to an extent (as much as I could at 3:00 on a Saturday afternoon with all my kids home).  I showered.  I dried my hair.  I cleaned up the living room (the kids decided they wanted to play outside!).

I started to feel so much better just by doing those things.

I realized many things about myself today.

For me, self care looks like a solid routine and schedule.  It means that I take a shower and get ready every day.  It means that I keep my house clean.  It means that I am intentional with my time.

It’s okay that when I’m out of my routine I feel like I’m spinning out of control.  That just means I need to stick to my routine as much as I possibly can.

It’s okay that I can’t just have a “lazy day at home” and feel good about it.

I used to think that I wanted to be “normal.”  To be able to have a day like everyone else and not have anxiety or emotional struggle.  But what is normal anyway?  Self care means something different for everyone, and it looks different for everyone.  I just need to be okay with the self care that works for me and stick with it.

Self care for some is staying up late and reading a good book.  Crocheting.  Sleeping in late.  Drinking lots of water and eating healthy.  Drinking a good cup of coffee.  Taking a walk.  Spending time with friends or family.  Running.  Lifting weights.  Sewing.  Writing.  Organizing.  Cleaning.  The types of self care could go on and on as many times as there are people in the world.

We are all made different for a reason and a purpose.  My self care just happens to look different than what I envisioned as “normal” for the rest of the world, and I’m okay with that.

What does self care look like for you?

Food, Exercise, and Balance

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I can’t even count the number of times I’ve written about this since I started blogging.  Mostly on my old blog Home of the Croslands over at Blogspot.

Many times in my life, actually, for years, it has been an obsession.

First it was eating all real foods and as naturally as possible.  All of the meat that I bought was natural, and even better, grass fed/organic.  I bought all organic veggies and fruits.  All organic eggs, butter, sour cream, etc.  I bought wheat berries, ground my own wheat, and even soaked it.  I even tried making sprouted flour once.  That was really difficult.  This was all very expensive and we couldn’t afford it, but that didn’t stop me.

Then, I tried the Trim Healthy Mama diet.  I obsessed about what I ate for 6 weeks.  If you know anything about this diet, it is very specific, and it is a lot of work.  You have to eat every 3 hours, or you’re messing it all up.  You can’t eat fats and carbs together.  You can have zero sugar, which means using sugar substitutes such as sugar alcohols and stevia.  All which cause me tummy upset.  I had to cut out a lot of things.

The most recent on was the 21 day fix.  The big thing here is portion control and “eating clean.”  I ate the same thing every day, for every meal.  I didn’t eat enough calories and I worked out like 2 hours a day (the 30 minute workout video, then a hike for about 1 1/2 hours every morning).  It was hard for me to eat enough eating so clean (and with very little fat).

My goal with all of these was weight loss.  Did I lose any weight? Not really.  I lost a few pounds, but nothing significant.

I struggle greatly with balance, and I am a very black and white person.

The last time I tried to lose weight (this summer), I went into a hypomanic episode (thanks, bipolar II).  I began to realize that actually, it happened every single time.  I just didn’t recognize it as such until recently because I’ve only recently been diagnosed.  And anyone that knows anything about bipolar or bipolar II, after the hypomanic episode comes the low… the depression.  I was depressed for several months.  It was miserable.  I couldn’t function.  I felt like I was a drain on everyone around me.  I went the other direction and didn’t take care of my body at all.  No exercise.  Eating terribly.

Since then, I am on all new medications and doses.  I feel like a completely new person.  I feel as though I have energy and desire to spend true, quality time with my family.  I color with them, play games with them, take them on hikes.  I’m homeschooling Karis and it’s going beautifully.  I have a daily routine in which I keep the house clean every day and keep up with laundry.  I feel amazing.

So the question comes back in my mind, can I handle trying to lose weight again?  I mean, I am almost 30 pounds heavier than I was a few years ago.

After lots of soul searching, talking it out, and praying, I have decided that I am done with the days of dieting and exercising to lose weight.

I am learning to be happy and content with who I am, right here, right now.

One of the things that I realized is that I care way too much what other people think about me.  Will I be judged for gaining weight?  What will people think?  People obviously think I am a lazy glutton because of the weight gain, right?

It just doesn’t matter.

I no longer have a scale, and I don’t care about that number anymore.

Does that mean it’s okay to be unhealthy?  No.  Healthy=self care.

So what does all this mean for me?

This means that I will exercise for health.  To feel good.  To set a good example for my kids.  And because I enjoy it.  I will take hikes, ride my bike, do some weight lifting.  Will I do this every day?  Nope.  I will be balanced and do this 3-4 days a week at maximum.  And if I miss a day, I will be okay with that.  Gone are the days of obsessively working out to be a certain size.  It’s not about that anymore.

Now food.  This is a hard one.  Robert (my wonderful husband) has told me that if I need something to follow so that I don’t eat terribly all the time (I feel awful when I do and as I’ve said, I’m very black and white), then I need to create my own way of eating.  What makes ME feel good?  What nutrients does MY body need?  What are some goals that I can have that are perfect for ME?

I’ve come up with a  few small steps that I will add to over time.

  1. Reduce sugar.  Have sugar in my coffee (because this brings me JOY), but try not to have sweets often (on occasion… gotta have a Little Debbie snack once in a while).
  2. Reduce Coke Zero.  This is a big one for me, and I have tried many, many times.  I will be gentle with myself.  My goal is to switch over to La Croix waters, which I love as well.  But I will always get a Coke Zero from Sonic when I’m in town (once or twice a week).
  3. Add in nutrients.  When I am eating a meal, focus on what nutrients are present.  If there’s not enough protein, add some.  If there aren’t enough veggies or fruits, add some.
  4. Eat breakfast.  Every day.  Eggs, Greek yogurt, oatmeal.  Smoothie.  Something.
  5. Eat a snack in the afternoon.  Every day.  Preferably a fruit, veggie, whole grain, or Greek yogurt.
  6. Don’t stress about fats.  Eat butter, peanut butter, full fat dairy, hummus.  Even ranch.  Most of those things are actually nutrient dense (minus the ranch, of course).
  7. Cook most meals at home.  But be okay with eating free food in the dining hall here at camp.

This is a new journey for me.  Self care.  No more scale.  No more weight focus.  Just a focus on health and loving my body just the way it is.  Will you join me?

He Set My Feet on a Rock

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Psalm 34
“I will praise the Lord at all times;
His praise will always be on my lips.
I will boast in the Lord;
the humble will hear and be glad.
Proclaim Yahweh’s greatness with me;
let us exalt His name together.

I sought the Lord, and He answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.

Those who look to Him are radiant with joy;
their faces will never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him from all his troubles.

The Angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear Him, and rescues them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good.
How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!
You who are His holy ones, fear Yahweh,
for those who fear Him lack nothing.
Young lions lack food and go hungry,
but those who seek the Lord
will not lack any good thing.

Come, children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Who is the man who delights in life,
loving a long life to enjoy what is good?
Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from deceitful speech.
Turn away from evil and do what is good;
seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and His ears are open to their cry for help.

The face of the Lord is set
against those who do what is evil,
to erase all memory of them from the earth.
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears,
and delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is near the brokenhearted;
He saves those crushed in spirit.

Many adversities come to the one who is righteous,
but the Lord delivers him from them all.

He protects all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
Evil brings death to the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be punished.
The Lord redeems the life of His servants,
and all who take refuge in Him will not be punished.”

Psalm 40:1-3
“I waited patiently for the Lord,
and He turned to me and heard my cry for help.
He brought me up from a desolate pit,
out of the muddy clay,
and set my feet on a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the Lord.”

For years I was crying out for help, in a desolate pit, in muddy clay.  With-in the past few weeks, I feel as though God has set my feet upon a rock and made my steps secure.  I cried out, He heard my cry for help, and He delivered me from my troubles.

Did He do it immediately?  No, not at all.  Like I said, this has been a struggle for years.

Did He do it the way I envisioned?  Nope.  I was envisioning waking up one day just feeling more like myself!  I was hoping He would just heal and cure me.

As someone with a mental illness, I am beginning to learn some really important things.

  1. God can cure illness, but He doesn’t always choose to (from what I’ve seen).
  2. Sometimes He chooses to use doctors and counselors to bring healing and restoration.  I have seen a huge shift in my bipolar and anxiety due to an amazing doctor who gave me the right medications, and a counselor who has taught me how to cope and thrive in my day to day life.  Even with amazing medication, it takes a LOT of work and fight.  I would not be where I am if I had just relied on medication alone.
  3. There is a reason and a purpose for that illness.  God has used my illness in my life to reach out to others.  I have been sharing about it through blogs, and now I have a small group in which I reach out every single day to those with mental illness or just plain old struggle.
  4. The other purpose is He has taught me that without Him, I am nothing.  He is the one who led me to the doctors and counselors.  He gives me power every single day to get up and get going.  He teaches me through His word every day.  The Holy Spirit teaches me every day.
  5. He heals so that He is glorified.  I pray that everyone will see Him in all of this.  Without Him, I would not be where I am today.  Glory be to God!

If you are in a desolate pit today, and even have been for a long time, do not be dismayed.  Do not give up.  He has a plan and a purpose for your struggle.  He knows your heart; He loves you.  He wants what’s best for you.  Sometimes what’s best for you doesn’t look the way we would envision it.  I promise He will make the reason known one day.  It may not be while you’re here on earth but He will.

You were created on purpose, for a purpose.  God doesn’t make mistakes.  I pray that He sets your feet on a rock soon and makes your steps secure.  Trust Him.

Hardened Heart

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I was going to write out an elaborate blog post about how I have realized that my heart has been hardened and it has caused a strain relationship with my Savior; I decided, though, that my prayer to Him this morning was sufficient.  I know I’m not the only one that has been in this place.  He loves you.  He wants an intimate relationship with you.

Jesus,

As I listened to some amazing women tell their story last night, I came to some conclusions about myself.  I have a very strained relationship with You.  My heart is hardened right now and I don’t want it to be anymore.  As you know, I just don’t understand why you allow some things, so I have had a very distant relationship with you.  I am so tired of being sick.  I don’t understand why you have made me the way you have.  I don’t understand why I have to struggle with anxiety and depression.  Some days are really hard.

I don’t spend time with you like I used to.  I don’t pray often.  I don’t read your word like I have in the past.  I feel so disconnected. I hate this feeling, and I want it to change.  How can it change?  I know spending time with you is #1.  But what else can I do?

Jesus, I ask with all that is with-in me, please let my new medication work.  I pray that it puts me in remission for good.  I pray that it will do what the doctors think it will do and that I’ll feel good and have normal days without depression and anxiety.  I desire so much to be able to serve my family and those around me.  I want to stop focusing on myself and the illness that I struggle with minute by minute.  I desire for life to be more than just pushing myself to get through depression and anxiety every day.  I want to thrive and not just survive.

Please soften my heart.  Please come close and have an intimate relationship with me again.  I know you’re there.  I know you want to be close to me again.  I know that it is possible.  I know that part of it is that I have to lay down my questions and concerns and trust that you have a plan.  I pray that you are glorified through me, my mess and all.

In Jesus’ name I pray,
Amen

If you’re in a dark season, watch this video.  There’s hope for a new season full of beautiful blooms.

Loving myself, Bipolar II and all

 

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Right after I was diagnosed with Bipolar II, I wrote a post about Feeling Defective.  I saw the diagnosis as a curse.  It meant that I would not be healed.  I would have to live with it for the rest of my life.  It could be managed, but it would never be cured.  I saw this as a terrible thing.  It almost felt like a life sentence.  I would never be able to live a normal life.

This way of thinking has continued to follow me.  Because these past few months have been really hard (still adjusting to a new home, depression, new doctor, med changes, new counselor, etc), I’ve been feeling defective more than ever.

Earlier this week, the post that Robert wrote and I featured on my blog was featured on To Save a Life.  It was posted on their Facebook page, and there were a few really helpful comments.  One comment really stuck out to me (ignore the grammar mistakes…).

“Love your bipolar … I love mine cuz that who im supposed to be, all part of Gods plan. It can b horrific at times but i have to keep saying “it could be worse” … Im alive, yes im soooo off the scale at times but im alive to see my gorgeous hubby and kids!! Finding God as soon as i was diagnoised is what saved me … My hubby and kids are my rock and staying as positive as i can considering lol helps alot!! Bipolar is special … Ur all special …. Best of luck to u all.”

This comment opened my eyes.  Instead of wishing I didn’t have Bipolar II, instead of feeling defective, instead of feeling like a burden to everyone around me, I need to love my Bipolar II.  You see, without it, I wouldn’t be who I am today.  It has taught me so much about life.  So much about loving others where they are, for who they are.  It has given me a voice to the voiceless in the world of mental illness.  It has helped others to see that it’s truly okay to be who they are, mental illness and all.  It has helped me understand my brother’s life and death.  It has helped me in the grieving process because I can identify with what he lived with his whole life.

God has a plan for everything, even and especially, the hard stuff.  Without the hard parts of life, we wouldn’t be able to truly enjoy the good.  Without my lows/depression, the “normal” times wouldn’t be so sweet.

Love yourself.  Not who you wish you could be but exactly who you are.  Right now.

Guilt and Mental Illness

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I had my second appointment with my new counselor today, and so far, she is probably the best counselor I have had so far.  I’m very thankful that I spoke up about my last one and told the center that she wasn’t a good fit.  They paired me with Marissa, and bam!  Perfect fit.

Today was a very helpful appointment.  First, she gave me a more specific diagnosis based on my symptoms over the past several years.  She says I’m Bipolar II with moderate seasonal patterns.  She’s saying moderate until she gets to know me better.  She told me that she doesn’t want to “over diagnose” me.  The big thing with this is that it means there are times of the year that I’m in “remission” (March through July), and there are times of the year that I struggle more (August through February). It varies to some degree every year, but it’s around the same. I also may have good days with-in that, but overall, I have more struggle during certain times.  I also tend to struggle on rainy and overcast days, which goes along with this.

She has given me a “Beam” mood chart, and she wants to see how I do over the course of two months.  She’s trying to determine if I have rapid cycles.  We both think I do (during my rough months), but we’ll see what the chart shows.

Another thing that was helpful is that we discussed the guilt that I feel because of having this mental illness.  Right now, I’m up and down, but even on my good days right now I have struggled desperately with motivation.  I have forced myself to shower every day, continue taking care of my kids (mostly basic needs), get up in the morning and not go back to sleep (though yesterday I took a very intentional nap… that’s different than sleeping the day away), and yesterday I even baked (with my little helper, Levi).  But this is mostly basic stuff.  Getting laundry done, dishes, cleaning up the house, etc, are all very difficult for me right now.  I also don’t do the things with the kids that I would love to do, such as reading to them lots, doing devotionals, praying with them every day (other than dinner time), doing lots of seasonal activities (I have done some over the past few weeks, but not as much as I’d like), etc.  I just feel as though I’m failing as a wife and mom all around.  I also feel like I’m bothering my friends and family by talking about my illness and feeling as though it seems like I’m just trying to get attention for it (which I’m not, but I assume people think that of me).  I understand that it’s normal to have days in which there is no motivation to do things like laundry and dishes, but I’m home all day every day by myself, and I go weeks and months without doing it without Robert’s help.

She asked me a simple question, and it has completely transformed the way I think about all of this.  She asked me if maybe all of this guilt is a result of me not truly accepting that I have an illness.  I talk about mental illness all the time.  I address it as a true illness when I talk about it.  I understand that other people can’t help how they feel because it’s an illness.  But I am not sure that I have truly accepted it for myself.  I always feel like I should be able to “will myself” to feel better.  That’s just not true most days.

The extreme lack of motivation is part of depression.  I’m doing good right now to get out of bed (and stay out of bed), take a shower every day, and take care of the kids when they get home.  I need to be proud that I’m fighting hard to overcome this, and it may not look like dishes and laundry being done.  For now.  It’ll come.  That’s the beauty of this new diagnosis.  I have March to look forward to :-).

In the meantime, I allow my husband to help me (because he truly understands and wants to be there for me), I am open with my friends who are there to support me, and I fight to do what I can to take care of my kids because they need me.   I will also continue to share here because this is therapeutic for me.

Thanks for reading.

…until next time…