Isaiah 48:17 - This is what the Lord says--your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”
Life can feel like a merry-go-round.
You think you’re moving forward when in fact you’re just going around in circles. It especially is difficult for people living with a mental illness.
Sometimes our view of the world is tainted. We feel like the world is against us. We can work hard on a particular habit to erase its influence on us, but when you let your guard down for one minute, you find yourself failing even if you use all the strength you have.
Also, a person suffering with mental illness can’t seem to get off the merry-go-round of life, because someone close to them uses their weakness against them. Maybe we worry a lot, because our “friend” tries to tell us all of the negative aspects of a situation and how we better be careful or we’re going to fail again.
I don’t understand why people have to be so judgmental. This, too, causes much grief. All we want to do is complete the tasks we have to do each day. When someone expects us to not just do our day’s work, but to also complete a whole new project, it can become overwhelming. It’s then that our co-worker may make fun of us, or worse, may turn us in to management as being a hindrance to completing their divisions expected output.
No matter what you do, it can feel like you’re life will always be going around in circles and sometimes you even get stuck. How do we remedy this problem? Planetofsuccess.com has some answers in their article, “Feeling Stuck in Life? 10 Powerful Ways to Free Yourself.” One of their examples includes overcoming the perception of impossibilities. Feeling stuck can paralyze us. It’s time to explore some new options. Also, be honest with yourself realizing that there are many solutions we just have to come up with the courage to choose one.
Now, back to the merry-go-round. In addition to the suggestions of how to get unstuck and get off the ride in the article above, here’s an idea: Stay focused in the moment. There, you can pause and find the off switch. Take some time off and rest. Jesus will heal the dizziness you feel from circling your life and give you his Word and prayer to find direction and strength to become unstuck. This way, if you happen to end up back on the merry-go-round, at least you’ll be better equipped and it won’t take as much effort to find the off switch.
1 Samuel 16:7 - But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
You wake up in the morning, get dressed and ready for work, then you take one more look in the mirror. Yes, you even look like a success story. The world is in the palm of your hands. You just have to reach out and grab it. Then it happens.
You’ve made a plan. It looks good on paper, so you believe everything will head in the right direction and you’ll achieve your goal. But things go sideways. The people who said that they would invest in your idea drop off the face of the earth. You try to do it on your own, but only end up in debt with your family angry at you because you placed all of their futures banking on your idea but the plan failed.
Those plans you made have indeed caused a domino effect on your finances. One domino hits upon another and there’s a great crash. What’s more, you’ve lost your confidence in making wise decisions to try to regain the finances you had, to live the lifestyle your family is used to. But no amount of bargaining with your creditors has succeeded, and you find yourself headed for bankruptcy.
Those plans failed, your finances followed close behind and now you’re having trouble making decisions even at work. You try to hold your head up high, but you begin to slip behind in each of the tasks that are your regular responsibility. And your boss notices. He starts by showing you where your mistakes are happening. Then he moves on to threats that if you don’t turn things around he will fire you. And you guessed it, you get fired.
Your plans went down the tube, your finances ended up in a dumpster, you lost your job and now because of all of the stress you’ve been under – your heath begins to fail. You have high blood pressure. From time-to-time you suffer from chest pain, but tell no one. You gain a few pounds. Then your left arm hurts and you feel a crushing feeling in your chest. It’s a heart attack. Your wife tried to warn you to take better care of yourself, but you didn’t listen.
All of the steps above don’t just affect you. They affect your wife as well. But you stopped listening to her advice; even her concerns about where your life is headed. It doesn’t matter. She’s had enough, and you’re served with divorce papers.
Not only your wife, but other people around you fail you. They jump ship. They turn away. They now think that you’ve failed in every way imaginable, and instead of being there for you, they walk away. Now you experience a pain in your chest that has nothing to do with a heart attack. It has everything to do with a broken heart.
You walk into your bedroom later that night. You take a look at yourself in the mirror. You no longer look like a success or like you hold the world in your hands. You wonder if your life is even worth living any more.
Forbes.com, in their article, “Five Ways to Make Peace With Failure,” provides some ideas that can make it possible to turn your life around. One of their ideas is to not make it personal. Separate the failure from your identity. Another idea is to release the need for approval of others. The article gives the example of how Walt Disney was fired from his newspaper job because “he lacked imagination.” Think about that one. What if he had given up on life and decided he wasn’t going to try something else?
Plans may fail. Your finances might fail. You may lose your job. Your health may fail. Your marriage may fail. People may fail you, but God is the God of compassion and His love for us never fails. So the next time you look at yourself in the mirror don’t think about how much of a failure you are, but remember how God sees you – you are more than a conqueror because of what Christ Jesus did for you.
Job 12:13 - “To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.”
You’re in the middle of a conversation when your friend pauses. You wait for them to continue when the empty space becomes longer and longer. The space in the conversation remains unanswered which leads you to fill in the blanks whether they’re true or not.
Then your friend picks up your conversation, except, they now change to a totally different subject. It’s like there was something they were about to say, but decided not to.
But their change in direction leaves you with more unanswered questions, and you wonder if your friend has something to hide or the conversation was nearing a place where they were hurt in the past.
There are several important things to understand about the empty spaces:
Phoenixaustralia.org, in their article, “Helping Others,” lists ways you can help your family member or friend such as showing them that you are there to support them and when they are ready to talk you’ll be there for them understanding that they may get upset and you’ll need to choose a time to talk when they won’t be interrupted, or feel rushed or tired.
Also realize that you won’t be making that difficult conversation alone. God is the God of wisdom, power, counsel and understanding. He will gently guide you, because he knows that you want to help the person you care about. In addition, know that God will also guide the other person know just how deeply to reveal the hurt they are experiencing. Together, you both may be ready to fill in the empty spaces in your conversation, and move on.
Colossians 4:6 - Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
It’s common when having a conversation to start a new thought, and part way in forget what the thought was. Perhaps you and your friend chuckle a little about it, but there’s no chuckling going on when your mind goes blank due to emotional pain.
It’s easy to find your mind drifting away into a safe, hiding place when a conversation begins to head toward the direction of the pain that lies just below the surface.
You want to run away.
You want to be anywhere but with your friend.
You want to talk about anything, but what has just been drug up to the surface.
What do you do? Do you take the risk and explain to your friend that you aren’t able to talk about your pain? Maybe you do. Yet, your mind draws a blank on how to begin.
What if your listener really doesn’t care about your struggle? They just want to enjoy a fun conversation and not get too deeply into a discussion. Is that okay?
It’s really up to you. You might think about testing the waters by talking about a milder memory. Then you can see if your listener is receptive to talking on a more personal level.
Plus, do you really want to constantly talk about serious matters? Maybe not. But the pain is still beneath the surface. If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t have drawn a blank.
Lifehacker.com has some ideas on broaching difficult conversations in their article, “Four Ways to Make Difficult, Serious Conversations more Productive.” One of their suggestions is to “level and edit your thoughts” by sharing from your perspective and using “I’m feeling,” statements; along with realizing that not everything that comes to mind should be shared. Another is when in doubt, slow down the conversation by turning slightly away from your friend while still continuing to talk.
Drawing a blank when a conversation is headed toward emotional pain that lies just beneath the surface can be difficult to get past. But with the help of the suggestions in the article above, you may find that you can test the waters before plunging in, and find a way to share your feelings without making the conversation only about serious matters.
When making a special dish, it’s important to not forget to add seasonings to the food. Without a little salt, your meal will taste plain. The same is true of conversations. You must show grace to your listener and be patient with yourself if you happen to draw a blank when the discussion hits emotional waters. God can help tell you the right words (seasonings), to add at the right time so that both parties end the conversation with a better understanding of where you each stand.
Isaiah 48:18 - If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea.
It’s just over there.
You reach out your hand, and you can almost reach it. You stretch your arm as far as it will let you, but fall short. You sit there waiting, hoping, and thinking that maybe it will move closer to you, so you can finally hold it in your hands.
But it just sits there staring you down. It knows you can’t have it. And it also knows that finally catching it will make all the difference in your life. Yes, your life would be different if only you could be at peace.
So what’s stopping you from finally reaching this goal, this peace? You believe that peace exists or you wouldn’t be always trying to hold it in your hands. Yet, you don’t believe that peace will ever wash over your life.
It’s worry. That’s what’s standing in your way, but try as you might you can’t seem to break free from the curse of always thinking that somehow you’ll blow things out of proportion again and worry will hold its cold grasp on your throat.
Sometimes, though, the riverbank is only a few steps away. You can almost most feel the cool water as you wiggle your toes sitting at the edge of the water. You’ve dreamed of that moment pretty much your whole life.
But things have to change. Your worry is affecting your health. You already have a chronic illness to fight, and being anxious is not helping.
Then, armed with a determination to push worry out of your life, you take a step in the right direction. What does it take to get rid of worry and welcome peace into your life? Daringtolivefully.com posts the article, “25 Ways to Bring More Peace Into Your Life.” The article suggests ways to bring more peace into your life such as replace the belief, “more is better”, with the belief, “I have everything that I need.” They also do an interesting switch by listing the symptoms of inner peace like a tendency to think and act deliberately, rather than from fears based on past experiences.
My way to finding peace when I’m filled with worry is to turn to God. By talking to God about my problems and worries, he helps me see that worrying isn’t going to change anything for the good. Oh, it will change things, but peace won’t be able to show up. So I choose Bible verses, like the one above, and read it several times during the day to keep my focus on trusting God who alone can truly bring me peace.
Nehemiah 2:2-3 - So the king asked me, "Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart." I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, "May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?"
The alarm goes off in the morning. You sit up. You need to get moving. However, you just sit on the edge of your bed. It’s like as if you’ve just heard the worst news and a feeling of deep sadness washes over you.
You mentally check in with yourself trying to figure out where this feeling is coming from:
Home life: You live alone with your dog, but that’s not new. You’ve been living this way for over five years. You’re happy with your environment, and in fact are thankful that you not only live in a functional home, but one that is surrounded by rose gardens and fruitful, green trees.
Work life: You decide to push your feelings aside and start to get ready for work. You stop midway to the kitchen and try to think if there’s anything going on at work to be sad about. You like your job, and the people you work with. Oh, there are those stressful days when you’re almost reaching a deadline, and a few times you’ve gotten into a disagreement with a co-worker, but nothing that important.
Social life: So far you haven’t figured out what could be causing the sadness that has been following you all day. You think about your friends and smile. Yes, a couple of them are a bit quirky, but it makes for interesting conversations and there’s really no concern there. You also have arguments sometimes with friends, but that’s normal, isn’t it?
Family: You just saw your family for Christmas. It didn’t appear that any of them had a problem with you. There weren’t any big, blow out arguments either. You went home and found a bit of sadness, because you already miss your family, but that’s not unusual.
Health: You do have health issues that affect you every day. You live with a chronic pain condition that sometimes makes it so that you have to leave work early. But you’ve had the condition for almost twenty years, so that’s not something new. I guess you could be sad about having to live this way, but you have a support network and your boss understands when you have to take a day off once in a while.
Spiritual life: You attend a great church. You have lots of friends, and even attend several events a year. You take part in a Sunday School class where there are lively discussions and taking apart what the Bible verses you’re studying mean. You love listening to your pastor as he shares a message. You also have your own study at home where you dig into the Bible and find things that apply to your life. You don’t feel a separation from God, so this probably isn’t your source of depression.
Now that you’ve examined the main areas of your life, you aren’t anywhere closer to figuring out why you’re depressed. Truthfully, there might not be a reason that you can point to. Depression can come upon you even if there is no real reason for it. So what can we do to help us lift off the feeling of sadness? Psychologytoday.com posts the article, “Eight Ways to Actively Fight Depression.” In it they discuss strategies to fight depression. One of which is to recognize and conquer your critical self attacks. These disruptive thoughts can interfere with our lives. Another is to do things you once like to do even if you don’t feel like it.
Sometimes we can identify the reason for a deep sadness, but even if we can’t there are ways to combat that depression and allow light to enter our lives once again. Take a look at the Bible verses above. Nehemiah had the job of being the king’s cup bearer. He tasted everything first before the cup was handed to the king. One day, he entered the palace to do his job and he looked sad. He was sad because the city of Jerusalem lay in ruins. The king noticed Nehemiah’s sadness and allowed him to go Jerusalem and rebuild the gates and walls of the city. He was able to remedy the reason for his sadness. Many times we will be able to do so, also. But when we can’t, realize that God will still have compassion on us, and help us find ways to be freed from our depression.
Psalm 41:9 - Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me.
When other people find out we suffer from a mental illness sometimes they want to pretend it doesn’t exist so they pull away.
It’s easier that way, or so it seems. Or is it? But you don’t know what’s going on in their life.
Mental illness takes its hands and wraps them around the throat of the one suffering. It reaches inside and grabs a hold of our hearts. And when we see our friend pulling away, it can feel like the last straw. The last bit of hope is gone. The last chance to turn the corner and feel human again has slipped away.
You see, mental illness can also make you feel like a monster. Sometimes it causes you to act in ways that you wouldn’t normally. And when we feel this way, it isn’t our friend who pulls away from us; it’s us pulling away from all of the people who care about us.
How do we stop relationships pulling apart when we have a mental illness? Nami.org posts the article, “How to Love Someone With A Mental Illness,” in which they suggest to resist the urge to say, “Try harder.” If someone is having an asthma attack you don’t tell them to try harder to breathe. Also, let go of your time table as to how long it could take to find wholeness.
In addition to the suggestions in the article above, realize that the one suffering from mental illness could share much insight into what life is like for them, and provide help to others who are coping with the hard things in life that may turn into mental illness. By allowing them the opportunity to share their life, you can toss out your fears and let in the light of understanding. Then you’ll be giving them the chance to once again become your close friend. Someone they can trust with the difficulties of living with mental illness.
Psalm 102:6-7 - I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof.
Whether it be due to chronic pain, illness, emotional pain or loss our pasts will often cast a shadow on our future. Plans. Habits. Time. All affected by our actions and those of others around us.
We’ve been used to doing things the same way and then the train of life crashes and that life will never be the same. Now that accident consumes our days and nights.
“If only,” seems to fly onto the screen of our minds.
But just because our pasts remind us of the train crash, it doesn’t mean that our futures can’t be fulfilling. It’s all about choice. Do you want to see yourself as a victim of your circumstances? A victim is someone who allows another person or life event to rob us of today. It pulls us away from what could’ve been, and forces us to live amongst the rubble scattered around our lives.
Now that we’ve established that I think the train crash has made my future seem impossible, how do I clear away the rubble and move on with my life? Lifehack.org in their article, “11 Things to Remember With Sudden Life Changes,” gives us some ideas. For one thing, feeling confused and upset is normal. Some people may make you feel bad because you feel that way. Don’t listen to them. Also, the haze you are in now will eventually lift.
So what am I going to do? I’m going to ask God to clear away the rubble I’ve been living amongst, and get on a new train. And this time it’s on its way to the land of hope. I will no longer feel like the owl, alone and ruined mentioned in the Bible verse above. So come join me and see how your future can be brighter even if you’ve gone through a train wreck.
How Far Do You Go to Help Someone?
You see a friend heading in the wrong direction. If they continue on this course of action they’ll get hurt. But will you risk hurting your relationship with them if you try to stop them?
Each day we all make choices:
Some are good.
Some are bad.
Some make a difference.
Some don’t make much of a difference.
Some make people happy.
Some make them angry.
You get the gist. But what if while we’re walking down our path of life we run into someone who is headed for a cliff? You start walking toward them. They increase their pace. You increase yours. They’re almost to the edge. You shout out, “Stop! You’re going to fall!”
But they ignore you.
And as you run towards them, they jump.
This may be a drastic example, but it can happen. It may be that they’ve been altering figures in the accounting department a friend works in, but no one’s noticed, so they keep doing it. But truthfully, someone has noticed. You. You sit down with them and explain that they may not only lose their job, but they could end up in jail.
But they don’t listen.
Do you risk your friendship, by threatening to tell the boss what you’re friend’s doing? After all, you could be in trouble too because you know what they’ve been doing and haven’t reported it yet.
Your friend may have told you recently that their doctor told them to stop eating fried foods and sugar because their arteries are clogged. They’re heading fast toward a heart attack. You sit down with them after their appointment, and try to help them by showing them some diet and exercise changes that they can make. You tell them you’re with them all the way, and they can count on your help.
But they don’t listen.
Once again, do you risk your friendship by telling their wife how bad it is? Your friend doesn’t want you to, because he knows she’ll be furious with him and make him go on a diet. But isn’t saving their life more important than losing your friendship?
In both of these examples, it’s a matter of how far you are willing to go to help a friend. Cnn.com posts the article, “Self-destructive Friends – What to do?” The article discusses roots of self-destructive behavior, setting boundaries and helping someone for the wrong reasons. They also discuss one way to finding a balance in helping someone is to set expectations, but don’t make demands.
When wanting to stop a friend before they jump off a cliff, it’s important to think about how far you are willing to go to help someone. If they are in mortal danger, by all means help them or get them the help they need. Remember, if you think someone is in such a bad place that they’re talking about killing themselves dial 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.
It’s important to be the kind of friend who will help another when they fall down, but be careful. Your friendship may be at stake, and your life may be affected in a negative way if you go too far when helping a friend. Find some balance, and ask God to give you the wisdom to know what to do.
Luke 12:29 - And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.
We’ve just passed through the holiday season and are now heading into the New Year. Many people make New Year’s resolutions centering on an area of their life that they are seeking to change.
But for some, their New Year’s resolutions aren’t just to improve their financial or career goals, but to gain back some of the control that they lost during the past year.
What I’m talking about is loss of control due to an addiction. Addictions can wrap chains around our ankles making it almost impossible to break free from its control over their lives.
The most common addictions are tobacco, alcohol and drugs, but the kind of addiction I’m thinking of is an addiction to food. Yes, many peoples’ New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. That’s a good goal. And with the new diets, like the Mediterranean or Keto diet, they provide a pretty good chance of success.
I’m not here to judge the benefits of one diet over the other. But I’m talking about something that has a stronger pull on us – a food addiction. I want my readers to believe they can break free from habits that control them. Loss of control can cause you to feel that you can’t live without a certain food such as sugar or chocolate.
To many this problem can seem trivial. But to those of us who are constantly thinking about food, it can affect all areas of our lives. The problem with a food addiction is that it can point to a much deeper problem. Here are some examples:
Whatever the reason that you feel you’ve lost control over your addiction to food there is hope. Myfitnesspal.com in their article, “5 Steps to Take Control of Food Addiction,” provides a plan of action. Some examples are following a structured meal plan because it can help you set safe boundaries with food; and, learn healthy coping strategies which can include finding out your reasons for overeating.
Thoughts of food have visited your mind almost all of the time, and you didn’t develop your food addiction over night. Breaking your addiction will also not happen without time and working at it. As you begin to use some of the suggestions in the article above and with God’s help, you will begin to stop worrying about what you eat and how much of it. I know this all may seem impossible, but it is possible to overcome your addiction to food.
Karen Dalske is a freelance writer, public speaker, is active in her church and writes her blogs out of her own experiences of pain, illness and loss.