Tag Archives: Philippians 4:13

Walking On Egg Whites

Who here enjoys tapping the “back” button with their pinkie finger to delete part of a sentence? Delete-delete-delete-delete … Why, it’s almost like exercise. And I do have a delightfully slender pinkie, don’t you think?

Speaking of exercise, that’s what I’m talkin’ about! Because tomorrow marks yet another attempt at the dreaded “E” word, as my friend Peggy calls it.

Yes, Working out, another bad word for it. And at a gym, no less!

But this is no small feat. My history of exercise is illustrious. To summarize:

  1. Hating gym class in grade and high school. Y’all been there and you know the list. I don’t have to tell you. Ok, I’ll tell you: Nakedness in the shower. Poorly fitting gym clothes. Unsleekness, self-consciousness, and immobility of body, compared to the rest of the world. A strong desire to throw up. Shall we stop there?
  2. Exercising at home: Mother outpacing you as you attempt to run. Brother following on bicycle laughing.
  3. Aerobics with a friend at local disco. I mean, gym. Fun, private, and on the short term very effective. Body at that time 105 pounds and unconcerned, just realllly want a boyfriend.
  4. Repeat ad infinitum as prices go up and momentum goes down until current weight and form achieved.

However, now that I’m old, gym is free, and I have no excuse. Besides which, my doctor has  “requested” that I start seriously exercising and dieting. Relax; I will not go into my history of dieting. It’s just slightly more embarrassing than my exercise history.

There’s a reason he’s recommending this so strongly. It’s not just because I’ve hired him as a doctor, and he wants to hear himself talk. No, the problem is I have a number of risk factors for heart attack, also known as “M.I.,” or Myocardial Infarction. These risk factors may also lead to stroke and other illnesses. And keep in mind, heart attack is not the only heart disease there is.

The list is is impressive, to say the least:

  1. My obesity  (don’t I just adore that word): I am at least 50 pounds overweight. And my BMI (body mass index) does fit into the “obese” category, so you don’t have to be nice, punch my arm, and say “ohh, come on… have a brownie …” I might say yes! Go here if you want to see how you measure up.
  2. My high blood pressure (also known as hypertension): Your blood pressure does not even have to be super high to put you in this category. Please go here for more information.
  3. My high cholesterol: This is a little more complicated, because some kinds are good, and some kinds are bad. Let’s just say that mine is bad, and call it good. Bad. Oh, you know what I mean. For more information, go here.
  4. My high blood sugar. This is the primary sign of diabetes. And diabetes is one of the more common risk factors for heart attack and other illnesses. For more information, see here, and here.
  5. My age: Although 56 is not ancient, women age 55 or older, and men age 45 or older, are more likely to have a heart attack than their younger counterparts. Of course, the risk grows every year.
  6. My family history of heart attack: I am fortunate that my family history doesn’t include stroke and diabetes, but I am sad to say that one family member has added this particular risk factor to my chance of heart attack. I am more sad for them than for myself, but yes, it does add color to this already fabulous (?) list.
  7. My sex (Man, does this list ever end??): Men are more likely to suffer heart attack, but after a woman reaches menopause, her risk is greater than it was.
  8. My tobacco history: I no longer smoke, but 30+ years did not do my body any favors. Unfortunately, long term second-hand exposure also adds to that risk.
  9. My lack of physical activity: We have already pretty much covered that.
  10. My stress level (Rolls on floor laughing): Have you read this blog?? And I have held back, trust me!

There are three other risk factors listed at the mayoclinic.org site that I should mention, ones that I do not have (and thank you to the site for helping me to flesh out this information):

10. Illegal drug use
11. History of pre-eclampsia (a condition which may occur during pregnancy)
12. History of an autoimmune condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus

Anyone here think that I should dismiss the advice my doctor is giving me? (Searches among the audience). Oh, I see that hand! Wait. That hand belongs to me.

Speaking of God, have I forgotten Him in all of this? Of course not. I have always been conscious of the fact that God requires me to be a good steward of all He has given me, including my body. We could all improve our stewardship of what God has given us, I’m sure. But this area has always been particularly difficult for me. Obviously, I can serve Him better with more stamina, more years, and even with the happiness that comes from doing what is right. Not to mention the happiness that comes from exercise, which produces endorphins!

And I have always believed that better fitness is a better witness. Wouldn’t it say a lot about what God is capable of doing? I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me (Philippians 4:13). Which is exactly my point. He is the One Who can enable me to do this. He is the One Who will sustain me. If I forget all of this, I will surely be lost in this endeavor.

SO, tomorrow’s the day, the gym is the place. Attractive clothing will be donned, and self-esteem will be firmly (somewhat firmly) tucked into my waistband…

Someone remind me. What is a waistband again?

ANYhow – won’t you come with? Because I really would like to have someone with whom I can commiserate. (You see the word “misery” buried in there?)

And maybe it will be like it was so many years ago. Right, Beth?

♫ ♪ Call me a relic, call me what you will
Say I’m old-fashioned, say I’m over the hill
Today’s music ain’t got the same soul
I like that old time rock ‘n’ roll ♫ ♪
[Read more: Bob Seger – Old Time Rock Roll Lyrics | MetroLyrics]

 

Social Anxiety Sunday

First off, let me explain: I love Jesus. I love my church. I love the people. But here it is Sunday, and I am having my usual anxiety about going to services this morning.

One of the reasons for this is that I have social anxiety. This is in addition to regular anxiety. And in addition to my generalized anxiety disorder.

What’s the difference?

Well, anxiety in and of itself is not pathology. Maybe I’m running late. Maybe I don’t know what to wear. Maybe I don’t know who I am picking up. Even extreme anxiety is not abnormal. It can occur when you haven’t started your Christmas shopping and it’s December 21st. And the in-laws are coming, and you haven’t even planned the menu. A “normal” person who celebrates Christmas would feel that way. It is not a disorder and in fact can motivate the person to get the work done.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is another story altogether. Per The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, it is “characterized by persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things.” It’s when you are feeling as if you haven’t started your Christmas shopping and as if it’s December 21st, and as if there is a Mac truck bearing down on you at 100 miles an hour. Then again, this feeling would more likely invoke a panic attack. Symptoms can be “shortness of breath, palpitations, chest pain, dizziness, vertigo, feelings of unreality, numbness of hands and feet, sweating, fainting, and trembling. Some people describe this experience as feeling as if they’re losing control or going to die.” (AADA)

Anxiety disorder can be of any varying degree in between; not necessarily extreme. But the point is that your body is acting as if there is a real danger. That feeling can exist whether you are merely showering, or working at a routine job, and there is no actual threat. You feel nervous x 1000, but there is no particular reason to feel that way. Anxiety provoking situations can exacerbate or trigger your anxiety disorder symptoms, but sometimes your body just doesn’t care if there is anything there.

Social anxiety is one aspect of generalized anxiety disorder, although I imagine sometimes it could be the only aspect. The ADAA says that social anxiety is “the extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations:” It’s when it is nearly impossible for you to bear one more second at the Christmas party, or you can’t finish your shift at work. It’s not necessarily that Mrs. Snowflake is talking your ear off, or that the boss is giving you a hard time. It could just be a normal, everyday interaction, and suddenly you feel like the ground is going to swallow you up.

Some of us can’t even bear to leave the house to perform the activity. Or we sit in the car outside, talking ourselves down. I have even driven by my workplace, though I was dressed and ready to go in. I just could not do it, no matter how many times I had prayed or how well I had prepared. Social anxiety is one of the main reasons I am unable to work, although I have other mental health issues as well.

How does this translate in light of my faith? As I’ve said before, there is a verse that says “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). And doesn’t that apply to things that are within God’s will? After all, He’s not going to give me the strength to sin, obviously. So how could it be that I could be hampered from even attending church? That’s within His will, isn’t it?

Well, there are days! I get up for church, even get ready, and still I can’t get in the car. Or, I get in the car and I can’t drive off. I have even picked up people, dropped them off at church, and gone home. I just can’t do it, no matter how nonsensical it is that I can’t. And talk about being “scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations:” Who is in more of a position to judge and scrutinize than God? It makes me feel so ashamed.

Oh I suppose that I could take a chill pill and still be able to do it. Or call a friend and say “this is the situation, please walk me through it.” But I have addiction issues, so the chill pill is not an option. Call a friend? Supposedly that whole church is full of friends! And I still can’t sometimes.

I do have ways that I can adjust my situation. I am in the choir, so sometimes that is a major source of anxiety. But I can opt out if I must. I can just listen from my seat in the sanctuary. Sometimes that is a real treat! And stepping back from it is enough to help me bear the symptoms I’m experiencing, and still attend church.

If I’m unable to go to services at all, I can watch them on my computer. Or maybe I can only attend the evening service, which is not so populated and more than likely just my church family. I feel like I am copping out, but at least it’s something.

And sometimes prayer and preparation is enough.

But I tell you what, come Monday, I have what I call “my Saturday.” It’s a time to recover and recuperate, take deep breaths, and thank the Lord that once again I was able to do as He asks, and something that I actually do enjoy. It is just hard, sometimes.

Should I feel ashamed? or less than? I hate to say it, but I do. And I know I shouldn’t. It is just another thorn in my flesh, I guess. Unfortunately, too, this pricks my pride. After all, I “should” be better than this. I “should” be just like everyone else.

Oh, really? Boy I could write a few more blog posts based on that paragraph alone. One thing I have learned since becoming a Christian is that there is no place for shame when I belong to God. I am His child! How about pride? That would be worth two blog posts. What does pride mean in everyday terms? How can pride be a true sin against God? But as to having my mental health issues? It is the bane of my whole recovery that I don’t accept that I have them, and that I feel ashamed of them. If I could jump that hurdle and be at peace with it, I’d be golden.

And there are good things about having this disorder. For example, having it does make me more dependent on the Lord. And, there are ways to minister to others who have my condition. I do, when I’m able. And that’s a huge blessing!

Currently, I can get to church and stay through the services without major symptoms. Often it is a source of peace and comfort, and provides a place to worship Jesus, and be with His children. When it is difficult, I have DBT skills I can use, along with exercising my faith.

And isn’t that what Sundays are all about?

But it’s not just about Sundays. I can exercise my faith throughout the rest of the week, as well: To be where He wants me to be, to do as He wants me to do. And when it seems that it’s not working, I can remember that God says to “Be still, and know that I am God …” (Psalm 46:10). He is with me, He cares for me, even when it feels like that Mac truck is bearing down upon me. He is always with me, whether I feel Him or not. Whether I “succeed,” in my own eyes, or not.

Mental Health: Promoting Good Stuart-Ship

Feel like giving up? Nothing’s working? Believe it or not, we’re still accomplishing something, even if the results are not what we want. Thomas A. Edison said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

He also said that “many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

How about Babe Ruth? “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”

Even the Bible says, “But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.” (2 Thessalonians 3:13). And in Galatians 6:9, “… let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

I don’t know about you, but bipolar makes me weary. Trying to take good care of myself, and trying to do what God says. Meanwhile, ignoring the self-destructive part of myself. Those messages I collected growing up, and the ones I’ve created myself.

There’s this song that we sing at church:

Every work for Jesus will be blest,
But He asks from everyone his best.
Our talents may be few, these may be small,
But unto Him is due our best, our all.

My best? Oh Lord. I’d look around that church, with all those perfect people, and think, I don’t know that my best is worth all that much. But later, I realized, that’s not what the song is saying! The song says our talents may be small. Our best may not be what we think it “should” be. But God knows when we’re doing our best, regardless of what those stupid voices tell me! Besides – were those people really perfect? Most likely not.

Part of doing our best is taking care of what God has given us, what He calls “being a good steward.” Hm, even in regard to my health. Remember the slogan? “I eat right, I exercise and I take Geritol every day.” Ok, I’m dating myself. Well, I do go on a health kick now and then, but it only lasts so long. Exercise? Even the Chariots of Fire song drives me crazy. And Rocky, you can run up those steps all by yourself. I ain’t goin’.

Ok, how about hygiene? You know, shower, brush teeth, etc.

Not so easy sometimes, is it?

Contrary to popular belief, that’s not laziness. Where would somebody get that idea? If anything, that’s self-loathing at its worst. But at that point, we don’t even have the energy to hate ourselves.

How about taking care of our immediate environment? Making sure my place is not condemned? Generally, I do dishes before they get moldy, and I take out the trash before Stuart Little makes it his home. Ahh, you say. That’s where the Stuart Little reference comes in. Well, forgive the groaner, but even emptying the trash is good Stuart-ship.

Ok, I hear crickets chirping. I’ll just pretend you didn’t get the joke, and carry on.

Let’s move on to money. The Bible says that “… the love of money is the root of all evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10). Not that money itself is evil. In either case, I’m not a very good Stuart of it. Right now I have about $20. until the end of the month. True, those of us on disability are not living in the lap of luxury, but I get enough. I just don’t handle it well. So that $20. pretty much removes all possibility of overeating, overspending, and even over-helping. Besides, I’ve pretty much ruined my credit, so there goes that.

So what else? The Bible says that “if any would not work, neither should he eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). But I can’t seem to to hold a job for very long. Well what is up with that! Doesn’t the Bible also say “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”? (Philippians 4:13) I must be a total failure! I mean, I won’t brush my teeth, I won’t go to work, what good am I?

Well, that’s what the voice in my head says. And that’s what you might say, if you don’t have experience with this thing.

Ok, you can’t brush your teeth? You can’t work? You can’t clean your toilet? What about breathing, then? Let’s start with the breathing. I know, I’ve already talked about breathing in another blogBut let’s say, theoretically, that you still have to breathe after all this time. So breathe already. Ok, now did you eat today? And, can you call someone today? Maybe it’s to be encouraged. But what about to encourage them? Maybe you can volunteer at church while you’re not able to work. Or you can take someone shopping. Sometimes it’s as simple as that. That, and don’t kill yourself today. That is sometimes necessary to add!

Speaking of “today,” I learned early on in my mental health recovery that alcohol and “recreational” drugs are not my friend. Especially where mood stabilization is concerned. So, one day at a time, I stay sober. So far, I have stayed sober for 10,623 days, but who’s counting? That, my friends, has to be the grace of God. On my own I wouldn’t put two days together!

Now, let’s flip it. How is my Stuart-ship when I’m in manic mode? No, not mood. Mode. Everyone pretty much has an idea of what depression is, but what of mania? Psych Central, a website with information about mental illness, defines it thusly: “A Manic Episode is defined by a distinct period during which there is an abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood…” (See: http://psychcentral.com/lib/what-is-a-manic-episode/000629.)

Some of us even experience a side of psychosis with our heaping helping of mania: “Psychosis is a loss of contact with reality, typically including delusions (false ideas about what is taking place or who one is) and hallucinations (seeing or hearing things which aren’t there).”(See: http://psychcentral.com/lib/bipolar-disorder-with-psychotic-features/0001292.)

So what happens to my Stuart-ship when I’m revved up like I’ve mainlined caffeine, or even cocaine? What about when I’m seeing things? How can I possibly take care of what is mine?

Well, early on, during a phase of hypomania, my motives are good. When I start feeling that surge of happiness and energy, I think, “Yay! Time to make up for all I haven’t done for the past eight months!” Suddenly I’m cleaning, writing, doing, helping, coming up with brilliant ideas, why, it feels just marvelous! And it’s pretty well organized, in my head, anyway, and in most of my actions. It’s not particularly bizarre, except …

… then things start becoming confusing. My friends, and even some of the people outside of my circle, begin to see some disorganization in my activity. I begin to get reckless and impulsive, fresh, and maybe a bit aggressive. And no, I don’t have any clever jokes about that one. Because at this stage it is no longer funny – or fun. I don’t have time to shower. I don’t have a need for sleep, or eating. Yeah! You know I’m off when I don’t eat! I don’t have time to clean up after myself.

And then there’s that elevated sense of myself. Thinking I can do things that really, I have no business doing. After a certain point those things include driving, or taking care of patients. I’m telling people off. Walking into traffic expecting cars to understand that I’m on my way to something important. I begin acting out in ways that will make me cringe later on. Yeah. Those little things. Those things God has given me? Including modesty and humility? Self-control? Pretty much gone. As to stewardship? We are at a very basic level at this point. We are at survival mode and not much more. Since God has gotten hold of my life, or since I’ve gotten better hold of Him, I don’t get as bad as I used to. I might have to say, “yet.”

Where was I again?

Oh yes. Failure. Weariness. Lack of Stuart-ship. And the cycle repeats itself.

So how do I maintain that stability, that “meet me in the middle”-ness?

Well, let’s just throw our hat in the ring and say it: What about medication?

Oo (flinch), don’t say medication and Christian in the same sentence. Yipe!

I have to say it, though. It’s the rare bird who has bipolar and can manage without medications. If you can, God bless you, and that’s wonderful! I mean that.

Personally? I did the two year experiment without meds. I did pretty well for about a year and a half. But toward the end of that period, I was manic, and I didn’t even know how bad off I was. How dangerous.

So, medication. Contrary to popular belief, we aren’t using it to get high. We are using it just to function. It’s not fun, by any means. But it is hard to find the right mix. It’s especially frustrating if you have found what works for you, and then it stops working. Again, and again. But that is part of the illness, I think.

And so, regardless of medication, we still struggle. Don’t we?

So how do we not grow weary? This thing called bipolar is not just a sometime thing. It takes continuous daily vigilance, and sometimes, despite that, we still experience the highs and lows.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I sure cannot manage it under my own power! Now here is something profound. I need Jesus! And I dare say you need Him, too! Isn’t it worth considering, when nothing else is working? I’m not saying life is a bowl of cupcakes. But it is better. I have strength, and I have faith, that I didn’t have before. It could be coincidence, but I have not been in the psych hospital since I started taking Him seriously, back in ’06. So what is the deal? Check out the link above, which will take you to another blog page.

God’s intention? That I become more like Jesus. No no no, not like that (manic). More like Jesus as He was when He walked here on Earth, and then to continue to grow: in my spirit, and in my life. Jesus did not want to be “all that” when He was here on Earth,”Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:  But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant.” (Philippians 2:5-6). 

Jesus was humble. During His time on Earth, Jesus served. He was not “up there,” like the God He really was. He was not “down there,” sitting on the floor feeling sorry for Himself. And please, don’t think I am judging anyone here because trust me, I have spent my time on the floor. And the ceiling. And I imagine I will again.

So can I just aim for that? Not too high, not too low?

Humble, by the way, does not mean groveling. Humble means, not thinking too much of myself. And, not thinking of myself too much. There is a difference.

So how do I aim there?

One way is by reading God’s word. It’s there that I learn how to be like Jesus, which includes being in prayer, and thinking on God’s word. That’s right, Jesus did that! Even He! In fact, He fought temptation by quoting scripture to combat the devil. Even He! Shouldn’t we?

And serving. Didn’t Jesus serve when He was here on Earth? “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

It is of note that Jesus did allow others to minister to Him, as well. There’s the woman with the alabaster box who anointed Jesus with precious oils. There’s John, who baptized Jesus in the Jordan river. Even in death, people served Him, like the rich man who donated his own tomb, and then those who prepared His body for burial. Why do you suppose He allowed that?

I think it was because He knew it was a blessing to be the giver. Doesn’t it bless you when you can give yourself to others, or when you serve the Lord? So let people help you and show that they care. This will bless them, as well as you. I mean, really, can we do all this by ourselves? God will not leave us nor forsake us. Isn’t part of His provision the people He’s given to us? People who help us to see ourselves? (YIPE!) What about our doctors and pastors and other providers? Yet, as people with bipolar, our number one problem is an inability to ask for help! We wait until our pants are on fire, and even then, we wait.

And what about Jesus Himself? Why do I wait to ask Him for help and direction? The one who answers me when I call, from wherever I happen to be? I think a big part of my problem is that little word, “I.” All by myself, I’m a mess! I freely admit it! But I am proud, very proud. I’m like the two year old who says, “Me do it. Me do myself.” And what can you do as a parent but let them do it.

And then they have the meltdown, and finally, you can help them! But why do we wait til then!

Jesus said that “… with God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27). Now what “things” is He talking about? Sometimes, it is doing those stupid dishes. But I know that He has better things in mind. Given my history with Him, much better things!

So. ♫ ♪ Take, good, care of your-self ♪♫ … (I care about you).

And don’t forget the breathing part.