Tag Archives: AA

Day 2 of Nano Camp

Day 2 of NanoCamp means I should have (according to my self-selected goal) reached about 1600 words so far toward my novel but combined with words in my blog posts. Well guess what? I am writing a few words for you tonight because I haven’t written any in my novel.

That is supposedly ok, I was told it was ok, and I thought it was ok, so it’s ok.

But tomorrow, after I finish my outpatient mental health treatment program, I will get at my novel, I promise (who am I promising? Myself, I guess).

I have been thinking more about not being able to talk about my mental health issues, especially at church. Tonight we had one of many missionaries we have had this year. This one was a missionary to the Navajo Indians. It seemed really incongruent, though I believe we all need Christ. But I am also thinking of all that has been stolen from the Indians; I’m sure they are not too keen on having their religion stolen as well. At least, that might be how they see it.

And then I started thinking about my own situation. But it’s not just mine. It’s yours. It’s your cousin’s. So many of us have mental illness, and spirituality is maybe one piece that is missing.

And so, I want to learn more. I want to learn more about how to help people with mental illness. I have been blessed with a lot of good health, though I have also suffered relapse. Why shouldn’t I share my experience, strength, and hope with those who are still suffering?

I know that sounds rather AA’esque. That’s ok. A lot of the same principles can apply. So can principles of Christianity. I believe Jesus loves each and every person who has a mental health issue. Why not offer Him to others? And so it dawned on me. I’ve always wanted to be a missionary to other countries. Why not to my own? The land of mental illness. The land of stigma. The land of alone-ness, fear, and rejection?

I guess while I am fighting for what I need, I want to help others to fight for what they need, too.

So anyway, along with the Great American Christian Novel, I want to be a help to those I love; those like me; those who need a hug, or an understanding gaze.

Anyone else on board?

Advertisements

Ok, to those of you who are holding out…

Yes, you people who think we don’t notice …

You think you have nothing to say. You have had a few bad days. You want to have the time for it to all come out nice, or brilliant maybe, or thoughtful.

Yeah, you people.

You people who collect makeup, or maybe you are angry and afraid you will offend. Or maybe you think you always talk about the saaaame thing. It’s okay. Say it anyway. Say it if it won’t come out right. Say it if you don’t know what will come out. We miss you, and we care.

Link back to me, so I know you took this to heart! ūüôā You’re important to me!

Did you forget already?

Yes, you. You are loved, no matter what. And you matter! Things that I heard over and over this week as I attended my partial hospital treatment program for mental illness.

I had determined that I was going to write you this brilliant summary of things I had learned that you might also find useful, but dang! I had too much fun today, and tomorrow will be very busy. So, I will just say that the program is helping, I’m learning a lot, and, I matter.

I did write a post on Facebook for my Christian brothers and sisters:

Many Christians who have depression, anxiety, OCD, or other mental health issues are silent about it. We may feel embarrassed or stigmatized, but these issues are real, medical problems, with emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual effects. It doesn’t mean “Boo hoo I broke a fingernail,” or “I don’t have enough chairs for Christmas dinner.” It doesn’t refer to the natural sadness we feel when we lose a loved one, or experience other life situations, although mental illness may also be involved. These diagnoses can be prolonged and even deadly when left untreated (For an example, see http://www.actlocallywaco.org/2015/03/24/hope-and-healing-regaining-life-from-major-depression/).

One thing that helps me with all of my struggles, including mental health issues, is the Word of God. In Psalm 23, the Bible speaks of the valley of the shadow of death. Those of us with mental illness walk that fine line all the time, between life and hope, and discouragement and even suicide. But God walks with us. We may not be aware, but He is there all the time, and ready to help and guide us.

There are also many people who can help us return to good health and a closer walk with God. It may be our pastor or a counselor, and sometimes a doctor is needed when we need medication and other treatment modalities. I believe that God has provided these resources, and we need not be ashamed if they are needed. This doesn’t mean we just go off on our own; we are still guided by the Word of God in our daily lives.

Psalm 23, as referred to above, is a great scripture to meditate upon:
1 The LORD is my shepherd ; I shall not want .
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies : thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

****

It seemed like what I wrote was going to promote a firestorm, and the first commenter did start out that way. It seemed she was saying that you don’t need medications, and said the whole usual blah blah … but in a later comment she started talking about oils and what not, and I’m like, wait a minute, that doesn’t jive with what you said initially. But I didn’t want to argue, so I just let it go. There were several other comments that were supportive and echoed what I had written.

So, kids, this is all you are going to get out of me this weekend, lol. Unless I can’t sleep later…

xo

There’s no place like home …

Two [are] better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him [that is] alone when he falleth; for [he hath] not another to help him up.  Ecclesiastes 2:9-12 

Many of us with mental illness are good at isolating. We tell ourselves that we are better off alone, that no one understands us anyway, that we don’t need people, and any number of things that shame us into believing we are defective

The Bible has a lot to say about friendship. There’s a reason for this. You’ve heard the expression, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” Well, I think God meant for us to handle what He gives us. but not to handle it alone!

Why am I talking about this? Well, today I am going to meet a friend for lunch. I woke up at 6:30 a.m, and at 6:35 the negative voices started:

  • Everyone else in the world is getting ready for work, and here you are going to lunch? Well aren’t we special!
  • She doesn’t get you anyways. Why don’t you stay home?
  • You know you are too tired. You could take a nap.
  • Friends have hurt you in the past.
  • It’s supposed to snow.

So how do I counteract these voices?

  • You have a mental illness. Going to lunch with a friend is therapeutic.
  • She does get you. Anything she doesn’t get, you haven’t told her. She loves you, and even on Sunday she said she wants to be a good friend to you.
  • So what if you’re tired. You’d sleep all day if I let you! Staying up will help you to sleep better at night!
  • You live in New England. It snows! Remember that blizzard you braved when you used to drink?

Etc.

Why am I writing this post?

  • To counteract the thought that I have nothing to say
  • Because I am ashamed of having a mental illness.
  • I love bullet posts

Hope you guys have a lovely day, and if there is a friend or two that you could call, why don’t you? Maybe you could blog about it. I don’t know if you’ve heard it as often as I have, but having support is one of the¬†most important¬†principles when we talk about recovery from mental illness and substance abuse.

If all else fails, you could write a comment here, and let go of the negative voices that are running through your mind even now. It helps to write it down!

Hear my prayer …

Our church participates in hosting a Baptist youth camp at Camp Wilmot, in New Hampshire, each summer. There is nothing like the mountains and greenery of this part of New England to satisfy your soul. The clouds are closer, the wind is sweeter, and the voice of God is in your ear.
One morning I took the photo above, and once I downloaded it, I realized something. The cloud almost took the shape of a heart held out by¬†someone’s hand. I have since used the photo quite often on my blog, when speaking of God’s love, of hope, and of happiness.¬†
As a person with bipolar illness, well, even as a human being, I have a special need to be in touch with God as much as possible. Whether¬†that means seeing God in the clouds, or elsewhere in nature, it doesn’t matter. Or maybe God speaks through a friend, or through something I’ve read somewhere.¬†There are other, more obvious ways, of course. There is direct prayer (speaking with God), and reading the Bible (listening to God).
These are all ways I can grow in my relationship to the Lord.¬†I have not always found this to be easy. I look at the people around me who seem to find their relationship with Jesus to be so matter-of-fact, so natural, and I have to admit that I’m jealous. I think some have this easy friendship by virtue of the length of time they have been saved, but I also think that my bipolar illness makes it difficult for me to maintain¬†that consistent prayer life and walk with God.
I have known God since I was a little girl growing up in the Catholic church. I remember back when I had my first communion, kneeling at the altar, praying earnestly to a God who seemed so real. I almost remember being bathed in a soft, heavenly light, and love. Of course, I am pretty creative, so I may not be remembering that “just so.” But what I do know¬†is that there was and is a God Who loves me.
Life after that childhood memory, of course, happened, along with its stormy seas. I was in and out of relationship with God as I grew older, perhaps more jaded, and by the time my parents divorced, it was more of a habit and duty to go to church. It did not seem to do a whole lot for me, and I was not all that interested in what I could give back. I was quite relieved when my mother stopped making us go to church. There had been no point to it anyway, in my mind.
Having balked at God being the ultimate authority, I continued to resist other rules; mainly, those of my parents. I pushed aside the values and expectations I had learned growing up. If I had ever feared God, I no longer did. I lived my life for me, myself, and I. Alcohol, boys, money Рall of that seemed the chief end and aim of life.
Unfortunately, that life started getting more and more difficult, and I soon wound up in AA, wondering what on earth had happened.
But still, even though I’d gotten sober, I had no peace. I had tried to go back to church several times after my parents split up, and again when I stopped drinking, but there was a wall there. It seemed like God was no longer there. I had a brief experience with Him, so I thought, during my first manic episode in 1985, but that did not¬†cause a lasting change. Most likely that was just the chemicals in my brain, messing with me.
And so, fifteen years¬†later, I was no further along than I had been. Sober, but miserable. It was then that I met Christ and got saved, and found out that He wasn’t a church, He wasn’t tradition. I’d been right the first time. He was Someone who cared about me.¬†I was 40 years old, and I had a lot yet to learn. I began to build this relationship, or, more accurately, God began to change my heart.
As a person with bipolar, however, I do not always find this relationship to be very smooth, or even, at times, satisfying. When I’m depressed it’s hard to read my Bible or to want to serve the Lord. When I’m hypomanic, I feel like I have a straight line to God and don’t need the Bible or preaching. I really envy those who can be consistent. I am not one of them. I do know deep down, however, that the basis of my relationship with God has got to be reading the Bible and prayer His love. No matter what I do or don’t do, by virtue of my relationship with Him, He loves me. And He wants to have a relationship with me!
One of the things that will prompt me to turn to my Bible is when a friend will post a scripture verse on Facebook, as one man did this morning. He wrote:
Psalm 143:8 Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust : cause me to know the way wherein I should walk ; for I lift up my soul unto thee.
That verse alone was very comforting to me. It was as if I could read it and have it be my prayer to God. The words of that scripture are similar to words I have used many times in speaking to God of my troubles. The rich detail spoke¬†straight¬†to my heart; God, speaking to me personally, through His word. Oh, He doesn’t literally speak, deep voice and all. But the written word and the response of my soul told me that it was¬†meant for me at that particular time.
I went further. I looked up the verse in my Bible and read the whole chapter.¬†“Wow,” I said, “is that my depression or what??” And within the text,¬†God’s answer:¬†Read me, hear me, follow me.
Here is the psalm. If you would like, you can also take a listen (Click here,¬†then hit the speaker button). Romans 10:17 says that “… faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” so listening is a good practice.
1 Hear my prayer, O LORD, give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness.
2 And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified .
3 For the enemy hath persecuted my soul; he hath smitten my life down to the ground; he hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long dead .
4Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is desolate .
5 I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands.
6 I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah.
7 Hear me speedily, O LORD: my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit.
8 Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust : cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.
9 Deliver me, O LORD, from mine enemies : I flee unto thee to hide me.
10 Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.
11 Quicken me, O LORD, for thy name’s¬†sake: for thy righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble.
12 And of thy mercy cut off mine enemies , and destroy all them that afflict my soul: for I am thy servant.

How do you measure a good day?

Does a good day mean that you had a pretty good night’s sleep the night before?

That you did some simple chores? Whoa WAY more many chores than usual … um, to be frank, there’s 2 months worth of laundry on the floor, now, in bags. I did one load … and did the dishes …

Paid a couple bills?

Spent time with a friend?

Oh – took a shower!

I guess it does mean I had a good day.

It doesn’t necessarily mean I felt happy.

Or that I didn’t have some of “those” thoughts – ok I will say it – my first thoughts this morning were, how to commit suicide and not leave a mess.

Oh I did have thoughts of God, of gratitude, I read some scripture. I prayed a little, for myself, and for some other people.

Maybe my pastor thinks we all should be all gung ho sharing about Jesus but in my current and recurring mental health status, not much of a sales woman … I’m really sorry about that. I’d do better if I could be better.

Sometimes even a good day is described as one in which I didn’t drink, or smoke. So I guess yeah, I had a good day.

Maybe my new answer, when someone asks how I am, should be:

“Could be worse.”

Cuz it is true. It could be worse. Has been.

(“What?? Who you callin’ a has been?”)

Ok, and maybe I made you laugh, just then. If so, then I really did have a good day.

My Jesus Addiction

I just read a blog post written by someone who struggles with pain management. See: Do you recognize your addictions? By: All Things Chronic.¬†After I read it, I responded in the comment box provided, and as I thought, I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote. And … well, you get the gist.

Then I realized that my thoughts would be better expressed in a blog post of my own. Never mind that my comments took up half a page! So, in that endeavor, my post blossomed into the eloquent mess below. And it growed and growed!

Now I’m just kinda thinking out loud and with no animosity, as far as I know.¬†In response to the question, “Do you recognize your addictions?” I would answer that my greatest addiction is to the computer. And editing blog posts. And food. Honestly, food feels like pain relief sometimes. But I will address that in another post.¬†Maybe.

In regard to pain management, that’s another story. I say, hopefully without pride, that I only take Tylenol¬ģ, and occasionally Ibuprofen, for relief of pain in my neck. (See my previous blog entry on Spasmodic Torticollis and Botox¬ģ treatments). This also helps with the various aches and pains of middle agedness. The decision to avoid anything stronger is due to my history of alcoholism. I was told early in my recovery that if I began to use¬†tranquilizers and narcotics, I would likely become addicted to them,¬†in the same way that I had been addicted to alcohol.¬†Whether¬†I would truly have this propensity,¬†I don’t know, but understandably I am very cautious. Recovery from alcoholism was hard enough.

There are exceptions to my rule. I do take Xanax pre-procedure when I get my Botox shots every 3 months. I do love the feeling of sedation, I admit, and I often think, ohhh, if I could only¬†feel this way all the time. Relaxed; “normal,” even. Which only tells¬†me further that I could easily rely on it too much.

I haven’t really felt the same attraction to narcotics, however, because¬†most often they will¬†trigger a hypomanic episode.¬†Weird, huh? And so, I use Tylenol¬ģ, even post-op. Even after dental work. Even after my C-section. Hypomania, which almost inevitably leads to a dangerous manic episode, ¬†is not worth any amount of pain relief I might experience.

ANNNyway. That is neither here nor there. I wanted to answer¬†the question about addictions, but I’m digressing from the primary thing that I wanted to discuss.

From a paragraph in the original blog post, written by All Things Chronic:

Since we seem to be in a never-ending political cycle, perhaps we should put more scrutiny on the addictions of our politicians.  I mean, if someone running for governor goes to church every day, ignoring the demands of the other areas of his life so he can worship his god, I think that would be an example of someone who is addicted to religion.

I bristled, because I would be considered by many to be a religious person. Perhaps I am even “addicted” to my religion. Because of my relationship with Jesus, I essentially attend church daily.¬†I have even experienced withdrawal symptoms, so to speak, when I have backed off from practicing my faith for short periods¬†of time. By that I mean that I experience more difficulty in my life, emotionally and even physically, and definitely, spiritually. My hands¬†can even¬†shake more (I have a tremor). I experience more anxiety, and I “need” my “fix.”

I rely on Jesus for many things – including my tolerance of pain. He helps me to bear it, to function, and even to bless other people when I am suffering. Whether it’s physical, spiritual, or emotional pain, He is there for me. He’s also provided a Book, the Bible, that gives me peace, and even – pain relief. “When all else fails,” there’s prayer. Of course, that should be my first defense, but I’m stubborn. .

Do I practice my “religion” to the exclusion of other areas in my life? Well, I suppose that depends upon your perspective.¬†Matthew 6:33¬†¬†says, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” All these things, to me, means “the demands of the other areas of [my] life.” Without Jesus, I will have no victory in anything else I seek to accomplish.

And, far above sustenance, there is the knowledge that there will come a day when Jesus will take me out of all this. The pain, the suffering and anxiety, the discouragement, and those days of mania. The stigma, the lost relationships, the confusion. Ooh, how often I long for and pray for that day! My hope is in eternity, where I will live forever joyous and pain free (physically and emotionally) with Jesus!

Revelation 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away .

I am reminded of the conversation that¬†used to go around AA:¬†“People say that I am brainwashed. So if that is true – that I’m brain washed – I am all for it – my brain NEEDED washing!” That’s even more true since I have come to know Jesus. My thinking process and behaviors as an alcoholic, and as the “natural man,” do not serve me any longer. And there are far more areas of my life that need work.
So I need¬†a different way of thinking. And AA helped me with some of that change. But it did not provide for my eternity, and it was a different kind of dependence. For me, it was basically a band-aid. AA did start out as a program based upon Jesus and the Cross, called The Oxford Group.¬†However,¬†Alcoholics Anonymous became more secular, more humanistic,¬†so that people would find it more palatable. A member in one of Maine’s local AA groups used to say that he would pray to a doorknob he named “George,” so that he was technically praying to “something.” Talk about idolatry! Apparently this “power greater than himself, as espoused in the AA program, kept him sober. He was unable to pray to a “god,” so this “god of his understanding” served him. How, I don’t know.
I think it’s a shame that the help so many desperately needed was dumbed down to the point of removing the hope of eternal salvation. Does AA serve any purpose? Oh yes – I was not ready for churchyness, and it kept me sober for a long time. Maybe God knew that I couldn’t stay sober and alive by conventional means. However, I shudder to think that I almost missed out on the whole point – Jesus!
I am still a whiny old brat sometimes in regard to my “hard life,” and I say that because in comparison to His suffering and dying on the cross for me, my angst and my pain are nothing.¬†Isaiah 53:5¬†¬†says: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Who can say that they have suffered like Him? I am not¬†saying that¬†I don’t¬†have pain and suffering; I’m just saying that there are times when I do need to buck up and live. When I can’t, I can’t, but I can seek Him, and eventually I can crawl out of my misery. Or He drags me. Always. Suicide is not an option!
I’m certainly not¬†saying I’m perfect, just because I am “religious.”¬† I’m not even wonderful, yet¬†(lol). But I am better than I was, thanks be to God, and not by anything I have done! Ephesians 2:8-9 says: “For by grace are ye saved through faith;and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:¬†Not of works, lest any man¬†should boast.”¬†And¬†Romans 6:23.¬†“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” It is a gift, not something I can earn.
I¬†¬†have hope, even on my darkest days, even on those days when I push away all things “religion.” Thank God He never leaves me, even when I think I’m leaving Him!
And if that’s addiction, I’m all for it!