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Being Different, Being Me

I am not like many, or even, most people. At my church, most people are older than me, have children and even grandchildren, are married, and have been there for a long time.  In contrast, I am single, have exactly zero children, and have only attended this current church for a little over two years. I’m not only different at church, but also at work.  While many people at my job have either hated or just tolerated their job, most of the time, I find great joy and passion in my job, which is why I strive to give it my all every day. In general society, I am different from what most would consider “the norm” because I am neurodivergent, have the rarest Myers-Briggs personality type there is (in case you are wondering, I’m an INFJ, and have only found one person with this exact type as me!), and love organizing things more than most people.

And I like it that way.

Being different has forced me to not be able to hide myself behind a veneer of familiarity, leading me to be able to be more genuine. For instance, when I try to hide behind a veneer, such as having no passion for my work and not trying my best, people will immediately notice something is wrong and that I am not really being “myself.” In fact, one time when I was just trying to get things “done” and not really striving for excellence, a manager admonished me for that, but understood I was just really stressed out.  Standing out in my differences has allowed me to be more genuine because I know I have an interesting life story to tell others.

Being different has also enabled me to bring a fresh perspective and new ideas into the world around me. Because I am realizing that many people do not think like I do, when I say something from my heart and offer my unique perspective on things, people will be more apt to listen to me since I stand apart, than to someone whose ideas are more common.  Being different has also helped me to learn about other perspectives with a fresh and more invigorating view. For instance, I observe that many people use small talk to get to know a person better. I do too, however, I also strive to see into the soul and observe what their dreams and goals are in life by what they talk about.

Being different has helped me move away from the status quo when necessary. For instance, when I see or hear of something that I feel is not right, I won’t be as afraid to say so, because I am not pressured to maintain the status quo as other people may.  Even when most people are doing “A”, I won’t be afraid to do “B’ if I feel that would be the right thing to do. Sometimes, because I am different than most, I stand out more anyway.  So, I am less afraid of backlash in standing up for what is right.

Being different has motivated me to stand up for and support people who have been unfairly discriminated against due to their differences, including, but not limited to, certain minority ethnic groups, people who struggle with mental illness, those who are disabled,  and other societal identifiers that may be outside “the norm”.  Because I have also experienced teasing and bullying throughout my life due to my differences, I am able to better understand what it is like to be ridiculed, ignored, and bullied because of them.  These painful experiences have enabled me to have more compassion for and better able to relate to others who have been through similar abuse and bullying.

Yes, I am often considered an anomaly to the norms of society. Yes, I may be sometimes treated unjustly because of them. However, not being like most of society has allowed me to have a greater impact on it then I otherwise would if I were a carbon copy of the “normal person” in society.

We may be more or less “normal” than the standards and characteristics that society may deem “normal,” but everyone has uniqueness that makes them stand out in some way. Embrace yours, and accept others!  Upset the applecart to do what is right sometimes, and use your differences to be a catalyst for positive change in this world!

 

This article first appeared on Patricia’s blog, God’s Whisperings: https://placeinthisworld224.wordpress.com/2019/03/24/being-different-being-me/

About Patricia Go:

My name is Patricia A. Go, and my love of writing started when I was just eight years old, when I remember writing little stories on cut-up pieces of construction paper stapled together.  I have been actively involved with various church ministries for about fifteen years. I have volunteered at a church’s food pantry and health clinic.  I started my blog on December 23, 2015. God’s  Whisperings is a blog that started out as wanting to share with others lessons that I learned about what God had been teaching me through various situations in my life, and quickly became, for me, a catalyst to bring people God’s love, hope, and joy through what I have learned in life.  I work full-time at a job that has nothing to do with writing, but I love it and consider it a ministry.  Also, God uses the situations I find myself in at my day job to teach me lessons, many of which I share in my blog, at http://placeinthisworld224.wordpress.com.

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Understanding the Infertility Struggle

I spent some time focusing on my fertility issues and the loss of identity of ever being a biological mom in “He’s Not on the Cross” and was, today, thinking about those very topics again. At my age, it makes sense that my Facebook newsfeed sees a myriad of creative pregnancy and birth announcements, and it causes me think back to when I saw all the engagement and wedding announcements while I remained single. But this is somehow…worse.

 

As most of you know, the majority of people, even extremely good friends, will call you (or text you) with a pregnancy announcement and expect excitement. I mean, why shouldn’t they? They are excited, rightly so, and, as their friend, you ought to be, as well. Plus, a baby on the way is an exciting thing, in general! And you are excited, but…

 

“I know you’re happy for me, but I want to be sensitive to your feelings. I can’t even imagine what you’re going through, especially every time you hear about someone’s new pregnancy. So while I’m happy you’re excited for me, I don’t ever want you to think that I don’t care about you or what you’re going through. Are you ok?”

 

Those words—you long to hear them.

 

What’s amazing to me is that I have heard them. I have one friend who, with all three of her pregnancies, has been amazing regarding my feelings, which makes it much easier to be genuinely happy for her.

 

It’s not that I wouldn’t be happy anyway: this is my best friend we’re talking about! But the fact that she recognizes that I’m not always going to be super cheery about someone’s pregnancy because it hurts to think about it is amazing to me. That she takes the time to think about how I’m feeling, even though she’s obviously extremely excited, will never cease to amaze me.

 

 

Alyssa is an author trying to break into the field, but willing to go where God wants her to with her writing. She writes Young Adult Christian novels in an effort to bring the truth back into the lives of young people in which it is often so severely lacking.

She has overcome 13 brain surgeries, 4 spinal cord surgeries, and countless others since 2009 alone, and battles two organic brain issues, a traumatic brain injury (TBI), Bipolar II, two different anxiety disorders, and more mental illnesses. Her goal is to reach others with the Gospel and what God’s taught her through her ailments.

Alyssa lives in Central Florida with her husband, part-time daughter (a blessing that came with marriage!), and three fur babies.

Check out Alyssa’s blog: http://teacupsandpaperroses.wordpress.com/

And check out her author Facebook page: http://facebook.com/teacupsandpaperroses

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Lessons Learned in the Dark of Depression

For over 25 years, I have gone in and out of the throes of depression. During my worst episodes, I seriously considered ending my life. Thankfully, every time I wanted to give up, God rescued me out of the pit of despair and helped me see His love and light. Even though I would have preferred to not go through the darkness for so long, and though I had wanted to give up so many times, I am thankful that God taught me so many valuable life lessons that I now strive to apply to my life.

 

One lesson I learned from going through depressive episodes is to be more open and genuine with others in expressing my true self. In the past, I was so afraid of what people would think of me that I never told anyone for a long time about my struggles, past and present. Unfortunately, I got so used to hiding that when I finally decided I needed help with my issues, some people thought I really didn’t have those issues! However, the longer I struggled, the more apparent it became to me that I needed to talk to someone about my issues, and more than likely, several people.

 

Then, I started to talk. I began opening up the layers of my pain in my past. What I realized is that many of the people I opened up to struggled with similar issues! Also, I didn’t get most of the judgment or condemnation I had feared, and those that judged me were often the same ones that God would later remove from my life anyway. When I started opening up and being vulnerable with others, not only did I forge stronger bonds with those around me, but I found that the pain I went through in my depression lessened as I started to heal.

 

Another lesson I learned from going through depression is to value my time more–especially the good, depression-free times. When I am depressed, I can only see the wounds and ugliness of myself and life. I feel like I am in a long, dark tunnel with no end to it. However, when I am content with life and glance back at (but not dwell) on my depressive episodes, I realize how blessed I am! Reflecting back causes me to value and appreciate the good times more, because I see how far God has brought me from the darkness of the worst of my depressive episodes.

 

The most pertinent lesson that God has taught me from going through depression, in my mind, is that He had a purpose and a plan for allowing me to walk in the dark for so long. I have learned that God has been using my struggle with depression, and the past hurts that had exacerbated my depression, to help me minister to others with similar or even more complex issues than I ever had!  He has also used my struggle with depression to help me be more compassionate and caring towards others in pain, and in order to strengthen my character by tearing down the layers of selfishness and self-righteousness in my heart.

 

If anyone is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts right now, know that God has a good purpose for all you have been through. We may never know what it is this side of the world, but God never wastes our pain.  Let this be our hope to never give up no matter what life brings us.

 

This article was originally published on Patricia’s website: https://placeinthisworld224.wordpress.com/2019/09/24/lessons-learned-in-the-dark-of-depression/

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You’re Not a Loser

Life doesn’t always go our way. Sometimes it rarely goes our way. We make plans but they don’t work out, we make goals but they change, we set expectations of ourselves and we don’t meet them, we want to be somewhere in life (career, financially, spiritually, family life, etc.) and we don’t see how we’re ever going to get there. It’s tough.

Compound that with depression and we can easily feel like we’re losers. Depression lies like that: you’re unworthy, you’ll never succeed, you can’t handle life, etc. But that’s simply not true.

You’re God’s child; therefore, you’re not a loser and you never will be. And these difficult experiences and life circumstances? A therapist once told me that if we learn from all of our perceived failures, they will never be empty experiences. Those experiences make us more like Christ and better at ministering to others.

If you’re faithful to Christ in the present moment, you are doing what He asks of you. Remember: Christ followers possess the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead. If you simply trust Christ and His process of making you new, you will do powerful things in His name. And that’s the farthest thing from being a loser.

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Give Yourself Some Grace

I recently went paddle boarding at one of our beautiful state parks here in Colorado. It was a hot day, but the breeze felt amazing as I slowly paddled through the water. Just to the west, I had an awesome view of the mountains. Even when the lake is crowded, I always find paddle boarding relaxing.

I don’t know about you, but it’s hard for me to get out of the house. My depression often leaves me zapped of energy, and if that’s not hard enough, my OCD goes into overdrive when I’m about to leave my house (is the oven off, are all the doors locked, are all the faucets off, etc.). The result? It’s easier for me not to leave the house.

I love being outdoors, and it usually helps my depression. But getting outdoors is hard.

For those of us with this kind of issue and those who know someone with this issue, we need to give ourselves (and those we know with mental illness) grace sometimes. Yeah, perhaps we don’t get outdoors as much as we should, but we do get out sometimes. Not much is easy for us, so the fact that we’re doing some activities means we’re trying, working hard, being strong. We may never get outdoors or do whatever activity that helps quite as much as we “should,” and that’s okay. The thing that matters is we’re trying.

So next time you feel shameful for not doing whatever as much as you “should,” give yourself some grace. You’re working hard to do what you do.

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An Open Letter to the Un-churched Husband

Dear Husband,

 

I honestly don’t know where to begin with this. I certainly don’t want to make you angry, but there is something I need you to know: I need you to be in church.

 

And not just you—I need to be in church with you, and our little one with us.

 

I know that fishing is an alluring activity (no pun intended, honestly), but on a Sunday morning? If we’re up that early anyway, why can we not be in the Lord’s house?

 

You see, dear husband, I grieve over the fact that you’re not in church, making it harder to get myself and our sweet, newly born-again child in church.

 

I pray you become the leader I know you can be. The man of God, after His own heart, that I know you can be. The born-again, living-the-life and not just talking-the-talk believer I know you can be.

 

But none of this is possible without our Lord and Savior.

 

My dearest husband, I don’t and won’t pretend to know whether you truly know Christ as your personal Savior or not. I simply pray that, either way, God will grab a hold of your heart—that fishing for men will become more important to you than fishing for mere literal fish, that God’s game plan for your life will become more important to you than the game plan your favorite football team has laid out, that you’ll get back in the Lord’s house and graft your branch into His Vine. Because He’s waiting. He’s there.

 

And so am I.

 

With all the love in my heart,

Your Wife

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Finding God in the Hospital

It was not long ago that I was hospitalized for a week for ongoing neurological issues that I deal with. The week started out bleak and anxiety-ridden, as I lay in a bed with my mom in the chair next to me, waiting for an MRI, waiting for answers we never even got.

 

I soon noticed my mom had her devotional with her and that she was reading it frequently. I desperately wanted her to read to me, but I was too…something…to ask. Proud, perhaps? Fearful? Annoyed at the imaging staff who weren’t getting me in for my MRI soon enough?

 

But finally, after a couple days, I brought myself to ask. And read, she did. Those devotionals pierced straight to my heart. I’d been praying for revival for years, but those devotionals made me realize that, no matter what I felt (apathetic; fearful; annoyed; even grieved over my current state, though not enough to do anything), I had to do what God was moving me to do—spend time in prayer and in the Word. They made me realize that my feelings are so very deceitful. Just look at some of what God says:

 

“Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.”

–Proverbs 28:26 (ESV)

 

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief.”

–Proverbs 14:12-13 (ESV)

 

And hearing those things, having God reveal those thoughts through the devotionals and Scriptures I had memorized, moved my heart to repentance and renewed devotion to our Lord. I’m now in a full-blown personal revival, and the grief that accompanies being outside the Lord, outside His will, outside His Vine, trying to produce my own spiritual fruit without Him, is melting away. The fruit I produce will be His—for this my soul cries. I will remain in the Vine—with His help. And I will remain in Him—with His grace and mercy. Hallelujah to the Lord that loves us enough to pull us from our miry pits of grief and self-loathing into a new life with Him.

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Do You Ever Feel That Your Depression Keeps You from Serving God and That He’s Mad at You for It?

Have you ever felt like your depression keeps you from serving God?

Whether it’s because of the exhaustion, difficulty concentrating, or another symptom, do you feel as though you should be doing more to serve God? Do you feel He is mad at you for being lazy? Or do you feel He is constantly disappointed in you?

If so, I think you may be surprised to find that that god you’re thinking of isn’t the God of the Bible. That god you’re thinking of is a god of your imagination.

First of all, in some sense I don’t think it takes all that much to please God. He’s not looking for you to accomplish all these lofty church or “God” projects. He’s not looking for anything flashy. He’s not necessarily looking for things other people will notice. He may not even be looking for you to do anything outside of your house (this is especially true and helpful, I think, for people whose mental illness keeps them home-bound or mostly home-bound).

Jesus says, “The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:11-12). Perhaps your depression significantly limits you. That’s okay. God knows how hard the struggle is and how much you’re limited. He is merely calling you to be faithful in your context. That means different things for different people. Perhaps for you that means supporting your spouse when he or she is having a hard time at work. Perhaps that means being kind and friendly to your caregiver. Perhaps that means praying for your kids. It means focusing on someone else, if only for a few seconds. For those with depression, focusing on someone else takes a lot of effort—not because we want it to, but because that’s just the nature of the condition. Because it takes that much more effort, I think it glorifies God that much more.

God doesn’t ask us to be successful. He asks us to be faithful. If we’re simply obedient in the context we’re in, God is pleased. I love the following quote because it illustrates this principle: “A British journalist once asked Mother Teresa how she kept going, knowing that she could never meet the needs of all the dying in the streets of Calcutta. She replied, ‘I am not called to be successful; I’m called to be faithful.’”[i]

Second of all—and most importantly—God loves us, period. He doesn’t love us because of what or how much we do. He loves us because we are His. We don’t earn His favor more by doing things for Him.

This means that He’s not mad at us for not living up to some standard. He’s not disappointed because we don’t serve Him enough. He is constantly loving us and He constantly delights in us because we are His children.

I pray we would rest in these truths.

 

References

 

[i] Bailey, Kenneth. “The Parable of the Pounds.” Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, Kindle Edition, InterVarsity Press, 2008.

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Reframe Your Goals

One of the biggest demotivators when we suffer from mental illness, particularly in depression and schizophrenia, is the loss of enjoyment and pleasure, also known as anhedonia. This leads to not wanting to engage in previously enjoyed activities.

This in turn leads to many other emotions such as boredom, loneliness, guilt and grief. Of course, these emotions also negatively impact your thoughts and physical symptoms.

When you don’t enjoy an activity, you stop doing it. When you stop doing things, you aren’t engaging in anything that will bring enjoyment. Bit of a catch-22, isn’t it?

It is really difficult to engage in an activity if you don’t receive any enjoyment from it. Unfortunately, though, when you suffer from mental illness, it can mean you don’t enjoy very many things at all! And when you don’t enjoy life, you feel there is no point to living.

Think about this short list of things that you may have enjoyed previously, but when depressed, find little or no enjoyment:

 

Activity: Eating

When you are well: Good appetite, enjoy your food, eating with others

When you are unwell: No appetite, everything tastes like cardboard, isolative

 

Activity: Church

When you are well: Enjoy worship, want to fellowship with other believers

When you are unwell: Perhaps feeling rejected by God, lack of emotion toward God, angry at God, isolative

 

Activity: Sport

When you are well: Energy to play and meet with others

When you are unwell: Lack of energy and motivation, isolative

 

Activity: General socialising

When you are well: Want connection with others, enjoy activities together

When you are unwell: Lack of energy and motivation, isolative

 

You know that you should be engaging in activities, but you feel that there is no point because you won’t enjoy it anyway. What can you do about it?

One suggestion that may work is to ‘reframe your goals’.

When you have anhedonia (loss of pleasure/enjoyment), having enjoyment as the end goal of an activity isn’t a good idea. You are setting yourself up for failure because it is likely you won’t enjoy it, or at least not very much.  This will just demotivate you to attempt other activities.

But when you ‘reframe’ or change the goal from enjoyment to something else, you have a much higher chance of engagement. Let’s explore this a little:

 

Activity: Eating

Usual goal: Satisfy hunger and enjoy food

Unsuccessful outcome: Not eating as not hungry and lacking taste

Reframed goal: To give your brain nutrition

Successful outcome: Eating small amounts of nutritious food to feed your brain

 

Activity: Church

Usual goal: To enjoy worship and connect with others

Unsuccessful outcome: Won’t go to church because won’t enjoy worship or connecting with others

Reframed goal: Worship God because He is worthy, irrespective of how I feel; I need connection (in spite of not wanting it)

Successful outcome: You attend church

 

Activity: Sport

Usual goal: To enjoy the sport and connection

Unsuccessful outcome: Won’t play sport because won’t enjoy it

Reframed goal: To increase my endorphins and have connection

Successful outcome: Play sport and have connection

 

Activity: Socialising

Usual goal: To enjoy it

Unsuccessful outcome: Won’t go because loss of pleasure

Reframed goal: Because I need connection

Successful outcome: Meet with friends/family

 

 

It is really important to understand that when you can engage in activities, as much as it is a huge effort to do so, a vast majority of the time you feel brighter afterwards (even if thoroughly exhausted).

The result of ‘doing’ has such a positive impact on your thoughts, emotions and physical reactions too. Let’s use the example of going out for coffee with a friend:

 

Thoughts – you have positive thoughts from the conversation; something else to think about; and it lessens your thoughts about loneliness

 

Emotions – you feel less lonely and more contented; you feel more motivated to do it again; you feel less guilt because you have been meaning to catch up with that friend for ages

 

Physical reactions – you have neurotransmitter boosts; you may sleep better due to feeling more contented; often your appetite increases a little too.

 

As you can see from the above example, there are so many positive outcomes to be gained from doing an activity – it’s not just about enjoyment.  Give ‘reframing your goals’ a try.  It may surprise you how it helps to motivate you to engage in some much needed activities.

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Holding on to the Hope of Eternal Bliss

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” – 2 Corinthians 4:17

For people suffering from anxiety and/or depression, sometimes it feels like God is literally the only reason you have for living. It’s hard to “live” for much else when you can’t find joy anymore in activities you used to love. It’s a terrible thing not to find joy in fun hobbies and activities, and God doesn’t want things to be that way. But as I mentioned earlier, He can use it for good. When your life feels emptied of all else, God can be your everything. You can experience an intimacy with Him you never thought possible.

That’s not to say it’s not hard. This kind of suffering is hard, no matter how close you are to God and especially with a disorder that constantly drags you down and depletes you of energy. In these times I think it’s helpful to remember our great hope of eternal joy with God.

The Bible, from the Old Testament to the New Testament, constantly points us to a better world where everything will be made right. That’s why Jesus came—to usher in the Kingdom of God. To all those who trust in Him, He promises eternity in this New Kingdom. He promises to reward those same people for their good works in His name and for persevering.

“God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done.’ To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life” (Romans 2:6-7).

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24).

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Matthew 25:21).

“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done” (Revelation 22:12).

So hold on. God sees you fighting, and He will reward you richly for it. It will be more than worth it. “Our…troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (my emphasis).

 

This is an excerpt from my book Anxiety and Depression Are (Not) Always Sins.