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Help Me to Want Healing

Depression can be addicting. We grow accustomed to our negative thinking patterns. Something in us enjoys chastising ourselves for every little mistake. We don’t know any other way to deal with pain besides feeding it. We don’t want to deal with the world, so we close ourselves off. It becomes instinct.

Some part of us wants healing. We know life is miserable and that it can be better. But depression can become what we know, and we can’t imagine life without it. So we refuse help because we don’t really want it.

This is a hard position to be in. I’ve been in it before, and it took me coming to a place where I wanted help more than I didn’t want help before I finally spoke up. If you find yourself not wanting help, pray that you would want help during those moments when you feel desperate. Pray something like, “God, so much of me doesn’t want help, but I want to want it. Please help me to want help.”

Keep praying that prayer. Never stop. A few years from now, you may be pleasantly surprised at the result.

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On Vulnerability, Depression, and God’s Sovereignty

No one knew.

Growing up, I seemed this bubbly, hyperactive little girl who got decent grades at school. I seemed to have it all–two parents who loved me, a cute little brother, and stability.

What people didn’t know was that inside I was being tormented by thoughts about never being “good enough” to the outside world. Unfortunately, many of them confirmed my fears. Most of my peers didn’t want to know me on a level deeper than “acquaintance”. I was bullied by several of them for any quirks they saw in me. There also were some racial and cultural prejudices that I had to endure.

I remember at the tender age of ten when the word “suicide” first entered the recesses of my mind. The demons in my mind deceived me into thinking this was a way out of all the pain I held inside for so long, laughing that they were going to somehow get me to ruin myself.

However, God in His sovereignty didn’t let that happen. I am still here, more than twenty-five years later.

Though God saved my life through Jesus’ shed blood on Calvary seven years after I first battled depression and that ugly word crossed my mind, it wasn’t until about seven years ago today that God revealed to me that I had indeed another weapon in my arsenal to defeat the demons in my head that had harassed me for so long.

My voice.

However, I was terrified to be vulnerable (i.e. open up) to others about my struggles. I feared rejection, ridicule and condemnation, which I believed would kill me emotionally and spiritually, if not physically as well. In fact, in high school, I was voted “Most Paranoid” because I trusted so few people.

But through the Spirit’s promptings, I obeyed Him, and began to share my story and my struggles to others–first just to close friends, then more publicly in my blog.

The rejection and ridicule I feared receiving was few and far between. Most people instead either related to me about their own similar struggles with depression or said that they would use my story to help their loved ones who were struggling similarly.

The more I opened up about my struggles, the more I saw people around me, both online and offline, and the more I realized that my story needed to be told. God, in His sovereignty, had a reason for allowing me to go through these trials. He needed to use my story to give people His hope and love that He gave me so many years ago, when He first came into my life and saved me. God saved me from more than hell–He saved me from giving up on myself and those around me that needed to hear my story, as much as I needed to hear theirs.

 

 

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

This article originally appeared on Patricia’s blog:

https://placeinthisworld224.wordpress.com/2020/01/09/on-vulnerability-depression-and-gods-sovereignty/

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You’re Not Lazy

Sarah works with special needs students in a middle school. She suffers from depression, and sometimes she gets so exhausted at work that she leaves early, drives home, and takes a nap. But every time she does this, she feels shameful. “I can’t even make it through a whole day at work… I skipped out on work to go sleep…”

 

Brittany suffers from depression. She has good days and bad days. She works a good-paying job that she excels at. But sometimes on her bad days, she can hardly get anything done. Thankfully, her boss is understanding and allows her to take breaks when she’s having a hard time.

 

These are both real stories (the names are changed). I’m sure there are countless similar stories.

 

Let’s face it: depression sucks the life out of you. Sometimes it feels like it takes every ounce of energy just to lift a finger. It’s hard to function like a “normal” person. Unfortunately, society often still expects us to.

 

We should not feel guilty for managing ourselves. In fact, we need to advocate for ourselves and others with mental illness. We can’t control how others think, but we need to help them understand what mental illness is like.

 

Managing yourself doesn’t make you lazy. It just means you’re being smart. Perhaps you can’t do everything you think you should do, or everything someone else can do. But that’s so okay. You are you. Be you and no one else. And know that you are a gift to everyone around you. Their lives wouldn’t be whole without you, just as your life wouldn’t be whole without them.

 

Be okay with resting when you need to. In no way does it make you lazy.

 

 

W.R. Harris is the founder, owner, and publisher of Persevering Hope. He mainly writes about living with OCD and depression as a Christian. He has written six books to date. You can check out his author website here: http://www.wrhwriting.com/

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God’s Purposes in My Pain

I was just ten years old when the thought of suicide first entered my mind. All I remember was that I was acting up that day, and hurtful words were exchanged. Fast forward six years, and the desire to end my life grew even stronger. I had few, if any, friends. The classes I was taking in school were extra difficult, and pressure was mounting, both from me and outside influences, to do well in these classes so I could go to a good college. I thought at the time that if I didn’t go to a good college and I didn’t land a high-paying job, my life would be worthless to the world and to God. To make matters worse, I wasn’t doing well at all in a certain class, and that teacher told me in so many words that I would not amount to much in this life.

However, this is also the time when I first started to search for a deeper meaning to my life. I wanted so much to be happy and to matter to someone on this earth. At the time, I almost lost hope, because I thought that the good that I did in my life thus far didn’t really count for anything, while the bad did was constantly being used to condemn and/or judge me.

A few months later, Jesus came into my life and saved me. Had I been successful in all my classes and been surrounded by good friends then, I am convinced that I would have never been saved because I would have never seen my greatest need–salvation from my sins!

In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, the apostle Paul faced a similar situation. There was a thorn in his flesh (whatever that is, we do not know; it could have been a physical ailment he was struggling with, or maybe an emotional one as well) that was bothering him, and three times he asked God to take it away from him. However, God says this to him:

My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12: 9-  KJV)

God’s grace slowly, but surely, entered into my life. I may not have gotten into the best college, but I did get into college. Gradually, I would meet people who were interested in getting to know me as a person, on a deeper level.

I still struggle with depression at times, but nowhere near as severe as it was when I was younger. I learned that my value as a person was not dependent on what I did, but who I was in Christ! I learned that no matter how far gone someone may seem, God still can redeem them and use them for good if they don’t give up. Because I felt so miserable for most of my teen years, I am drawn to encourage people who are going through a tough time or who are struggling with depression. God has used my experiences and mental health struggles to educate others about the real struggles that people face in depression and to encourage others to be more compassionate to those who are struggling. Finally, God has used my experiences as an example for those struggling right now with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, that there is hope for them. To anyone struggling: You may not see any glimmer of hope now, which is how I felt at 16, but if you persevere through this, I promise you that there will be joy and hope on the other side of this experience!

 

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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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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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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Asking For Help

Have you ever had family, friends or even acquaintances offer to help when you are unwell? Somehow, though, you struggle to come up with ideas, even though you know all too well that you could do with some help.

 

There can be many reasons why we don’t ask for help from others. Perhaps this list of reasons has been your experience:

 

  1. You don’t want to be a burden
  2. You just want to be left alone
  3. You feel guilty for needing help
  4. You are embarrassed
  5. You can’t think of ways others can help

 

Let’s briefly address these reasons:

 

  1. No one wants to be a burden – it can even seem a noble thought to have. However, you must remember that mental illness is doing all the ‘talking’ here.  Put the shoe on the other foot – if your family member/friend were unwell, you would be desperately wanting to help, just to be able to bring some relief to your loved one. In my experience, the family member/friend feels more burdened by not being able to do anything than by actually helping.

 

  1. Once again, mental illness takes a hold of your thoughts and makes you want to isolate. It is wise to remember that illness and isolation are inseparable –  isolation means illness, illness means isolation. We need to allow others to help us, even if only in small ways, to help break the chains of isolation.

 

  1. Guilt is an emotion that comes to the fore a lot with mental illness. You can have guilt over lots of things from not being able to earn an income to not spending time with family. But the negative cycle of guilt only makes you feel worse. There is no need to feel guilt from others helping you. Remember, they want to help, and it allows them to feel useful, even in some small way.

 

  1. When you let embarrassment rule the situation, you are denying yourself the opportunity to feel loved and supported. And once again, you also deny others the opportunity to reach out to you.

 

  1. Even if you want others to help you, the brain fog and lack of energy and motivation make it difficult to come up with ideas. Often you are just too tired to even think. Once again, these symptoms of mental illness are the very things stopping you from asking for and accepting help.

 

Whether you can relate to one or all of these reasons, it doesn’t negate your responsibility as a part of your recovery to accept or even ask for help.

 

Some of the simplest things can be so impacting. Perhaps you could write a list (or ask someone to help you write a list!) of practical things that others can do when you are unwell. Here are some suggestions:

 

  • Prepare a nutritious meal – not onerous as they are already cooking
  • Give you a lift (e.g. to appointments or church)
  • Pick up some groceries for you (remember you need to feed your brain for recovery, so suggest simple yet nutritious items like almonds, walnuts, fruit/veggies – these don’t need any preparation!)
  • Pop in for short visits – when you are unwell you probably wouldn’t want a lengthy visit, but you still need interaction from others. Educate your family and friends that just a quick visit is fine.

 

These suggestions aren’t necessarily time consuming or difficult to do, yet they can positively impact your recovery, whilst at the same time benefiting the other person. Asking someone to help you in a way that uses their strengths and interests will be energising to the other person also.

 

It is important to remember that God expects His children to help others, so don’t deny others the opportunity to be obedient to His word. I will leave you with some verses from that perspective that might release you to ask for help:

 

Philippians 2:4  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

 

Hebrews 13:16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

 

Matthew 5:16   In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

 

John 15:12       My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.