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My $0.02 on the Mental Health Discussion

This is not something I wanted to talk about publicly just yet. I’m still working through stuff and I’m not sure what to share or how much to share or even if it’s worth sharing. But I do try to write about things that are going on in my own life as they relate to current events, and since the news of Robin Williams’ death yesterday, the whole internet has been buzzing with talk about mental health. So maybe I need to just throw this out there. Maybe there’s someone that needs the tiny bit of encouragement I have to offer.

I saw a counselor last week.

There. I said it. And it wasn’t all that hard to say, surprisingly. Perhaps because now that the first appointment has come and gone and it went really well, the whole concept of therapy isn’t quite as overwhelming. It was HARD to make the appointment and it was EXCRUCIATING waiting for the appointment, which was only 2 days later. I was an anxious, nervous, nauseous mess.

But the appointment was good.

I recognize that my one appointment (so far) does not qualify me as an expert in all things related to mental health. Far from it! But while everyone is talking about mental health and depression and suicide, I want to throw my two cents in.

Mental health is not limited to depression. There are a whole bunch of other issues that could be plaguing you, and which could be beneficially addressed by a counselor or other mental health professional. Anxiety, guilt, fear, grief, anger – if you are dealing with any of these things on a consistent basis, to the point that you aren’t sure you’re coping well and you can’t really remember what it was like to not be dealing with it, it’s time to get some support.

Many of these feelings overlap and can easily be confused with depression, but I would suggest that the defining point is when you start to feel that you’re not worthy of getting help.  That is a lie. You are worthy of help and getting help is not as scary as you think it is.

Mental health is not limited to chemical imbalance. That is certainly a common factor, and it can often be treated somewhat easily with medication. But there are other factors to also consider: spirituality, personal history (abuse or other trauma), current crises (financial, relational, occupational…), or an overload of stress from the chaos of day-to-day life. If yours is a chemical problem and medication works for you, great! If it’s a chemical problem and you haven’t yet found the right balance of the right medication, keep trying!

If it’s not a chemical problem, keep talking it out with a therapist or counselor that hears you. Being truly heard will go a long way in helping you to sort out how you feel – which makes it easier to express how you feel and then be better heard. It’s a positive, healing cycle. But in order to find that right person who’s a good match for you, you have to be willing to ask for referrals. Ask friends. Ask a pastor or spiritual mentor. Ask your doctor.

Now let me tell you a tiny bit about my session. After explaining the situation that was (is) causing my anxiety and anger, the counselor validated my distress and walked me through some advice to address the cause. I truly expected that the focus would be on fixing my craziness, so it was a pleasant surprise to think that maybe there is hope for addressing the root cause instead of just letting that cause fester and giving me tools to cope with it better. That made me feel less crazy.

The counselor also asked me how this was affecting our marriage. I told her that my husband thinks I’m starting to lose it. “Are you?” she asked.

“Maybe,” I answered. “I don’t know. I think I’m on the verge of losing it, but I’m trying really hard to still be objective. But would I even know if I’ve already gone off the deep end? I know this isn’t me. I used to be strong and capable and optimistic… and right now I don’t know if I will ever be that person again. Does that mean I’ve lost it?”

Her answer was so freeing, it’s bringing me to tears just to reiterate it here. She said that I am still that person. I am strong. There is no strength in thinking you don’t have a breaking point. Everyone has a breaking point. Strength is recognizing that you have reached the breaking point and then getting help before you actually break.

I think that’s all I want to say about this right now. I may be able to share more eventually. But for today, I hope this has been helpful to someone.

 
8 Comments

Posted by on August 12, 2014 in Adoption, Personal Growth

 

Here I Sit

I have a confession to make. There has always been a seed of judgment in me whenever I’ve watched movies or read books about atrocities in days gone by. Nazi death camps, the Rwandan genocide, the Khmer Rouge killing fields, South African apartheid – it makes my blood boil. But as fierce as my horror is at the barbaric evil perpetrated upon innocent people, that isn’t the target of my deepest feelings of judgment. Who bears the brunt of my scorn? It’s people who weren’t directly involved in the conflict. People who knew what was going on and did nothing.

In my pride and self-righteousness, I have often imagined (and probably proclaimed) that had I been alive or of age during those horrific events, I surely would have done something. I would have been willing to risk my life to save a life.

Well, now it’s my turn. I know what’s going on in other parts of the world, and yet here I sit, doing nothing. Stewing in the hypocrisy of my judgment. Shame on me.

Here I sit in the safety of my own home in Southern Ontario. I raised my hands in worship at church yesterday with no fear of having them cut off with a machete. I pray for the safety of my daughters who are away this week, but it seems almost flippant because I know they’re not in danger of being beheaded. I am taking care of my son who is battling a bit of a stomach bug today, but I will not have to be faced with the decision to hurl him off a mountain so at least he doesn’t die an unfathomably slow death from dehydration.

Here I sit, and I read the headlines. Honestly, that is as far as I can read. I can’t read the articles and see the pictures. Just the headlines are too much. This is for real? This is happening right now? I can’t think it through. I can’t discuss it intelligently. I simply can’t imagine.

I desperately want to be able to do something. And at the same time, I desperately want to un-know that it is happening at all. The middle ground that I’ve been sitting on is to be minimally aware, knowing that I don’t need to know the details in order to pray.

But I do need to pray more. And I need to pray more fervently. And I need to gather more people to pray. I don’t know what else I, a middle-aged rural housewife, can do. But I have this wee blog and I have the ear of the King of kings and Lord of lords.

So here I sit, using this post to solicit more voices rising up in unity to Heaven. It is all I can do, but it is something. In fact, it is something big if we join together. So I invite you to pray with me in the Name of Jesus Christ to the One True God, Creator and Almighty Saviour. Where I sit doesn’t matter at all, but where He sits is on the throne of power and authority over all the good and evil in the world. He is able.

Lord, I know the day is coming when You will triumph over evil – completely and with total finality. There will be a new heaven and a new earth, and there will be no more crying or death or pain. And until that day comes, You are holding back Your hand, allowing humanity time to choose to be on Your side. You have warned us of the unspeakable atrocities that will occur because of the sinful choices we make, and the evil running rampant today is a devastating example of that.

Oh God, have mercy. Please don’t hold back your hand of justice. This evil is strong, but You are stronger. Would you hear our prayers and push back against the forces of evil. Would You, the ultimate defender of the weak, rise up in might and in power, protecting those who are in the middle of such hell. Hear their cries. Bring peace. Please.

Oh God, please.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on August 11, 2014 in God, Heaven

 

I Miss You (Yes, YOU)

We’re past the half-way point, folks. For those of you who love every single second of summertime and all the family stuff and all the togetherness – sorry. Summer is more than halfway done. Too bad for you.

For those of you like me (there are others like me, right?!?!), we can do this. The end is in sight!

I love my kids. And we do have fun times in the summer. I like playing and sleeping in and having friends over and vacationy things. But I am an introvert and we have a difficult family dynamic and summer is just hard. Finding quiet time to write and reflect on deep, inspirational things just doesn’t happen during July and August (as you may or may not have noticed).

So here I am, on the evening of Sunday, August 3. It’s a long weekend. My husband is out with 2 kids and a niece watching “Despicable Me” under the stars at church. 2 more kids and another niece are watching “The Amazing Spiderman” in our living room. I am hiding in the den with a glass of red thinking of all the things I should be doing with my time, and all I really want to do is catch up with you.

I could probably write a 10-part series on what’s been going on in my life since I last posted. I could write about our ongoing family drama. Meh. You could just read past posts. Nothing’s changed except that it’s more wearying all the time.

I could write about our cat going missing for a couple of days. There are some neat spiritual applications there. Some other time, perhaps.

I would love to just write something hilarious that would have you all in stitches. My brain is too tired to come up with anything at the moment. Check back in September.

I could tell you all about how I’m progressing superbly in my aromatherapy studies and that I’ve dedicated lots of hours so far this summer to preparing myself for sitting my exams in the fall. And that would be a load of horse manure. I have not even opened my books since the kids finished school in June. Maybe this week…

I could write about the most exciting thing that occupies a significant portion of my brain-space these days: my Cambodia Team. I’m leading a team of adults from my church to Cambodia in December. I am completely inadequate to lead this fine group, and yet I am so encouraged to just be part of this team and I love the challenge of pulling it all together. I will have to tell you all about it soon. Just not tonight.

I could write about self-esteem and self-image and women and modesty and purity and respect and all that. There’s still so much to be said and re-said. But maybe I’m not the best person to keep saying it. This is an area in which I feel so completely beat-up and trampled upon. Perhaps I should leave it to people who have won this battle to fill the internet with brilliant advice.

There’s so much I could write. And I will. In September. For tonight, I just wanted to say hi. I miss you. I miss spending the time to process my thoughts into words. I miss having you read those words and then laugh with (or at) me, or cry with me, or share your side of it, or just acknowledge that you understand. I miss my little blogging world. And I hope you miss me too, dagnabbit!

I can do this. August is jam-packed with things to keep the kids busy. That means I’ll be busy, too, but I can break it down into one-week chunks and it’ll be over before I know it. (Right? RIGHT?!?!) I can do it. And so can you.

See you in September!

Or maybe before.

But probably not.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on August 3, 2014 in Family, Writing

 

Summertime ~ And the Living Is Adequately Bearable

The whole menu planning/grocery shopping/meal preparation thing is beyond my grasp. I cannot get it together. I cannot think of new meals. I can barely remember enough regular meals to fill a week. I can write an extensive grocery list of things like flour, juice, butter, olive oil – whatever we might be running out of. But I frequently get home from the store, put everything away, and then remember that I didn’t actually shop for meal components. I can spend $100 and not have anything to serve for supper!

And now it’s summer. (You’ll know this because my posts are short and far-between and probably not well-written. There are so many people here all the time and there is always talking and noise and needs to be met and fights to break up and I tend to spend most of June, July and August hiding under my bed.)

Summer makes my whole meal-planning ineptitude a fatzillion times worse. All these people here want to eat. Like every day. Multiple times a day! I have to plan for this and provide for this and supervise this. And I suck at this!

On top of that, I’ve been having a bit of a dietary problem lately. You see, due to year-end stress and busyness, my emotional immune system appears to have been weakened. (That is a real thing that I made up and self-diagnosed.) And now, through no fault of my own, I find that whenever I see the food that I have bought and provided for all the people, I want to put all of it in my own food-hole. Every day my jeans cry out to me, “Why do you hate us? All we ever did was try to make your thighs look skinny and your ankles look also skinny. And this is how you repay us?”

Do you see my dilemma? I cannot formulate enough cohesive thoughts to write a grown-up grocery list + all the people wanting all the food all the time + my compulsion to avoid the sight of the constant food-flow = a house full of cranky people.

Solution: off-load part of this chore!

So yesterday I handed my Better Homes and Gardens comprehensive cookbook to my 13-year-old and said, “Here. Look through this and find some recipes you want to try. Figure out some things that we can eat. I will buy the ingredients and you will cook them.”

She was so excited! She looked through the book and she made a list of recipes. I picked out a few to try this week, and headed off to the grocery store. Tonight’s dish is veggie-stuffed pasta shells with spinach and ricotta and carrots and all kinds of wonderful things.

If I’d remembered to buy the pasta shells, that would’ve made this plan super impressive, right?

 
5 Comments

Posted by on July 8, 2014 in Family, Humour, parenting

 

Maya Angelou: Caged No More

My husband and I were watching TV when he turned to look at me and found me grinning. Grinning at nothing consequential, nothing notable, nothing strikingly amusing. “What?” he asked me.

“Nothing,” I answered. “Just…” and I repeated whatever line from Elementary that had tickled my fancy. I was still grinning.

“You like the way the words are put together, don’t you?” Bless him. He gets me.

Yes, I like the way words are put together. A unique voice, a startlingly fresh simile, subtle wit, raw emotion. Words woven well are magic to me.

And the world lost one of its finest magicians yesterday.

I only own one of her books, but I could flip to any random page and quickly find a sentence or paragraph that deserves to be read multiple times.

“Each nicety becomes more sterile and each withdrawal more permanent.” Page 35

“I was so engrossed in telling the story that I did not know when the music and I had parted company, or quite how we could get back together. I only knew I was in one key and the piano in another.” Page 124

“They took no notice of me, but I couldn’t do the same with them. I had never been so close to trained singers and the reverberations shook in my ears. I left the room and walked down the corridor to find my place in the wings. Sounds came out of each door I passed. One baritone roared like a wounded moose, another wailed like a freight train on a stormy night. The tenors yelped in high screeches. There were whines and growls and the siren of an engine on its way to a four-alarm fire. Grunts overlapped the high-pitched ‘ha ha ho ho’s’ and the total cacophony tickled me; I could have laughed outright. These exquisite singers who would soon stand on the stage delivering the most lovely and liquid tones had first to creak like rusty scissors and wail like banshees… The singers were not funny. They were working. Preparation is rarely easy and never beautiful. That was the first of many lessons Porgy and Bess taught me.” Page 133

“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the spaces between the notes and curl my back to the loneliness.” Page 1

Dear Maya, may the entrancing, inspiring magic of your wit and wisdom continue to echo for many generations to come. Rest assured, if your work is in my hands when I’m caught grinning, no one need ask, “What?”

 
3 Comments

Posted by on May 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

God’s Not Dead

I went with my daughters and a bunch of friends from their youth group to see “God’s Not Dead” last night. The trailer gives a really good introduction of the plot, so I’ll give you a sec to check that out first.

I confess I didn’t have very high hopes of enjoying the movie. Let’s face it: Christian movies are often a big ‘whine and cheese’ party. Cheesy plot lines, whining characters, and everyone gets saved in the end. I expected this movie to fit that pattern, but I also expected the message to be valuable, so off we went.

The movie quickly introduced us to a lot of seemingly unconnected characters, which was a bit confusing, but not in a baffling Tolstoy kind of way. I quite enjoyed how those pieces gradually fell into place. The main character, a college freshman, was believably portrayed as reticent and uncertain – which made his sudden eloquence during his arguments a bit far-fetched. But the argument itself (both sides of it) was intellectually stimulating. I also appreciated the variety of characters who were fighting in different ways to discover and/or defend their faith.

There was still some cheese, though. Some of the acting was questionable (although I was impressed that a lot of it was great). All the non-Christians were villains, which doesn’t accurately represent reality. And yeah, almost everyone gets saved in the end. (Almost. I won’t completely spoil it for you.)

Is it a worthwhile movie? Let me first say that I am mildly in favour of supporting Christian movies for the sake of demonstrating demand for wholesome programming; however, I wouldn’t personally endorse a sucky Christian movie simply to make more $11 statements to Hollywood. That said, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that “God’s Not Dead” doesn’t suck!

I do think it is worth seeing. The atheism vs. theism arguments presented therein are fascinating (although I’m the world’s worst debater, so don’t bother trying to engage me in that kind of discussion). The challenge to stand up for what you believe in is applicable beyond the scope of Christian faith. And although no one’s winning an Oscar here, I do think there was enough decent character development to generate some thought-provoking discussion.

And I was right about the message being valuable. God’s not dead!

 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 23, 2014 in God, movie reviews

 

On Parenting: The Truth Behind Everyone Else’s Warnings

This post is inspired by a young couple at our church who just birthed the most beautiful baby in the history of humankind. Apparently they heard that all babies are beautiful and they just went ahead and popped out a baby who was beautiful already. What they should have been told is that all babies become beautiful over their first few days or weeks, but they’re actually born kind of squidgy-looking. Because of that incomplete information, this lovely couple from church has already gotten it wrong. Such a shame.

There is hope, though. I’m here to enlighten them (and you) on the underlying truths of what parenting is really like.

You may have heard that parenting is exhausting. And you may assume that refers to babies waking up frequently through the night. That is the truth, but it is not the whole truth.

  • Toddlers wet the bed. (Word of advice: keep a sleeping bag in your linen closet, even if you store the rest of your camping gear in the basement. You can have that kid back in bed in two minutes if you don’t have to wrangle with fitted sheets at three in the morning.)
  • Kids pick their nose – and when they wake up with blood on their face and hands and pillow case, they may scream like something has just been amputated. (Word of advice: you don’t have to scrub the pillow case right then and there. Throw it in the corner until the sun comes up and then just pour some hydrogen peroxide on it and let it soak for a bit.)
  • Teenagers who join sports teams will have practices at unreasonable times, like 7 in the morning. And you will have to drive them there. And they get snarky if you’re still wearing your fluffy bathrobe. (Word of advice: don’t let your kids join sports teams.)
  • Those same teenagers also like to participate in social activities that keep them out until other unreasonable times, like 10 at night. And you will have to pick them up. And they get snarky if you’re wearing your fluffy bathrobe. (Word of advice: if your teenagers know that you’re going to be wearing your fluffy bathrobe when you pick them up, they will be ready and waiting at the door of said social activity when you pull up. You won’t have to go in looking for them. Rather, you won’t have to do it twice.)
  • Throughout your parenting career, you will have multiple opportunities to stay up late into the night making 28 cupcakes decorated like cornucopias for a grade one class, and Medieval-style bread for a history project, and a traditional Spanish dessert for grade nine international food day – all because your children will forget to mention these dire necessities until bedtime the night before they are due.

You may have heard that your body will never be the same after birthing a baby. And you may assume that you will have stretch marks and your hips will be wider. That is the truth, but it is not the whole truth.

  • Your hair will change. Whether you cut it all short because your baby keeps pulling it, or you grow it long so you can always have it in a ponytail, you will almost never have time to make it cute. And on those rare occasions when you have 60 extra seconds to blow dry, your work will promptly be undone by someone’s boogers, banana mush, or vomit.
  • Remember that gorgeous, red dress that you wore to all your friends’ weddings before you had kids? And you kept it after you had kids because it has a bit of a flare at the waist so it would still camouflage those widened hips? You may eventually lose all the baby weight and go put that dress on and then you will discover that your hips weren’t the only thing that widened to accommodate babies. Rib cages widen. Whatever your go-to naughty words are when you have an infuriating shock, you will use them when you see that weird extra bulge between bust and belly. Nobody wants a weird extra bulge there. Stupid red dress.

You may have heard about ‘baby brain’. And you may assume that this refers to putting the milk away in the cupboard and putting the cereal away in the fridge. That is the truth, but it is not the whole truth.

  • At some point, many years from now, you will be in the middle of writing a parenting blog and during your potty break you will have a brilliant idea for your next point but by the time you get all the way back to your computer, you will have forgotten it so completely that you will stare open-mouthed at the ceiling for several minutes wondering if aliens invaded your body and cleared your brain’s browser history. And then you will wonder if it wasn’t aliens, but actually Kathy Griffin. And then you will wonder if Kathy Griffin is an alien herself. But all of that is hypothetical. What was I talking about?

You may have heard that kids say the darnedest things. And you may assume that kids say those things in private or when they are young and cute. That is the truth, but it is not the whole truth.

  • There will come a day, I promise you, when you are at the mall or the grocery store and your sweet cherub makes a very loud and incredibly inappropriate comment about someone’s weight. If that someone is you instead of the stranger ahead of you in the check-out line, believe me: you are blessed among mothers.
  • You may one day tell your teenaged daughter that you have entered a contest to win a free smile make-over from the local orthodontist office. And for the briefest of seconds, her incredulous “Why?!?!” will make her your favourite child. And then more words will come out of her face: “But you’re almost forty!”

You may have heard that parenting is hard. You may assume that refers to getting your picky eater to eat peas that have touched mashed potatoes. That is the truth, but it is not the whole truth.

  • No matter how prepared and open and honest you are with your kids, at least one of them will ask you a sex question that makes you gasp and choke on your own spit. And they’ll probably ask you in front of your in-laws or your pastor.
  • You will find yourself wondering about the legality of things that have never before crossed your mind, such as “Will I be arrested for helping my kids film a French horror movie in a cemetery?”
  • You will use your go-to naughty words again because your kids will develop uniquely bizarre habits like not screwing the salad dressing lid on all the way.

You may have heard about how fiercely you will love your kids. You may assume that refers to wanting to watch them sleep and being hurt when they stop kissing you in front of their friends. That is the truth, but it is not the whole truth.

You’ll have to discover that whole truth for yourself. Because I can blab on and on about some topics, but how much you’ll love your kids – that’s one I just can’t put into words.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on April 14, 2014 in Family, Humour, parenting

 
 
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