Archive | Mental Illness RSS feed for this section

Me versus Mental Illness

10 Oct

Today is World Mental Health Day-a day to raise awareness for the monsters of mental illness we who suffer battle every single day.

It doesn’t make me less than.

Or crazy. (Most of the time.)

It makes me cleave to God all the more because I desperately need Him to function with the appearance of a somewhat normal person.

But I also think living with anxiety and depression makes me more compassionate, more thoughtful, and maybe a little more interesting than I would be without it.

Oh, I’ve railed at God for creating me like this, begged Him for healing, and groaned prayers that only the Spirit could understand.

I’ve been ashamed to talk about it because I don’t want to face scorn. I don’t want people to see me as incapable, yet I desperately want to be understood in spite of it.

I am me, not in spite of my mental illness, but because of it. It’s a gift that keeps me in the folds of God’s love. I don’t understand it; I accept it.

Like the aspostle Paul wrote, I choose to see it as a gift to cause me to constantly and wholly rely on God. It’s not a gift I would’ve picked, but it has and is shaping me, molding me, changing me.

Maybe there will be a day without daily medications, therapists, panic attacks, and days I just can’t make it out my front door. Maybe not.

I just trust God to shine through all the broken places so people can see His love in my eyes.

I choose to live because of it, not in spite of it.

Advertisements

The Day I Almost Died

23 Apr

On April 23, 14 years ago, I almost died on a gurney in the emergency room.  Doctors would later discover that I had a blood clot in the artery of my brain, which caused a series of grand mal seizures—one lasting over 10 minutes causing loss of precious oxygen to my brain.  My mother stood outside the room and she could hear my body thrashing as medical personnel raced to and fro.  She had no idea what was going on.  Neither did I.

Somewhere in that vivid memory, I hear my voice, nasally—from the blue breathing tube crammed down my throat—and whimpering repeatedly ask, “Am I going to die?”  I repeated the question over and over and I don’t remember anyone ever answering it—just one doctor marveling over the fact I was alert, functioning, and in such good mental condition after what happened in that room.

I’ve marveled very little at the pseudo tumor cerebri, which almost took my eyesight two weeks earlier.  That, I tell God, I could survive.  But after that, then this, too?  At 21 years-old, it seemed like too much.  And I’m still trying to make sense of it 14 years later.

Sometimes I go through all the pages of my life looking for the place where things went terribly wrong and what made me end up at the place where I am, which isn’t at all where I planned for my life.  I paused at this moment and wonder, “What if I never got sick my junior year of college?  How would that have altered my life?”  My mind spins thinking about what it would be like to live without hypochondria and trauma and crippling anxiety.  Sometimes I tell people if I didn’t have anxiety, I’d be really brave.  Then again, perhaps there’s something really brave about living with anxiety.

Being the anniversary of my near-death, I’ve been on edge today, daring my body to convulse and hoping I don’t end up in the emergency room.  In these silent moments, I recall falling to the floor in the E.R. waiting room, being pulled onto a gurney, my voice twisted and strange, bright lights, and a sense of urgency.  If I think about it too long, I start to panic, almost like I’m there again.

It occurred to me that perhaps April 23, 2011 isn’t the day I almost died, but rather the day I lived.  Telling the story about the day I lived is a much more positive story to tell, don’t you think?  Instead of fearing “it,” I can celebrate what God did through me.

Suddenly, the power of April 23 doesn’t seem so powerful.  Yes, God spared my life that day.  Those severe seizures should have killed me or at least left me brain damaged…but I lived.   Every day God gives us the chance to live.  Sometimes through extraordinary situations that would have killed others or broken others or caused others just to give up, yet we live.

Every day I wake up God gives me the same thing He gave me on April 23—life, precious life to be lived for Him.  In the living, I will choose to be brave in the midst of fear and go forward even when I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Fourteen years ago, on this very day, I didn’t almost die…I lived.

Choosing to Heal

17 Oct

I’m tucked away in my writing nook on this beautiful fall morning.  My sinuses are rebelling against the rest of my face causing a throbbing effect, but my heart is full.  Well, maybe half-full if I’m going to be honest.

And it has been such a long time since my heart has felt anything but empty.

Recently I said goodbye to someone who is very dear to me. For almost 9 years, she’s walked with me through the darkest of times.  She helped me work through issues and fear and I’m a stronger person today because of how God used her in my life.  We said goodbye on September 29 and I sobbed for the rest of the day.  I randomly cried in the weeks leading up to those final moments together.  And now I feel the ache of her departure from my life.  I miss her warmth, her honesty, and how she encouraged spiritual growth in my life.  Very rarely do people touch in our lives in such a way and there is a hole when they leave.

I have a hole in my heart.

But God–two powerful words–is filling that hole with Himself.  He is calling me nearer to Him and I’m reluctant to bask in His comfort.  I’m angry that He took her away.  I want to live life with open hands, trusting that God will use absolutely everything for my good and for His glory.  I believe this!  Yet it’s hard to accept it.

The hole is slowly filling in because wounds usually heal–sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly and sometimes never at all.  With this type of wound, I have a choice.   I choose to heal.  I choose to care about others knowing that they could one day disappear from my life through death or circumstances.

When I started writing this post, I thought I would tell you about my new house, my new ministry (Share Beauty Project), or offer some scriptural insight.  However, that’s not what I needed to write and I suppose that’s not what you needed to hear.

Let’s give our hurts to God.  Let’s allow Him to heal those holes in our heart.  Through Him, let’s love others, even if it hurts.

A Deafening Silence

13 Aug

Silence can be deafening.

It can fill a whole room, a whole body, a whole heart.

It’s a lonely, depressing ache that goes on and on.  How I wish for the breath to say something, to find words, to hear my voice.

The silence is emptiness and emptiness is deadly, dark and meaningless.

Silence, for me, was a way of coping.  As long as I remained quiet, as long as I pretended I had it all together, then maybe I would be OK.  Or at least people would think I was OK.

But I wasn’t OK.  I was falling apart.

My secrets ripped me apart, caused me to hide in the shadows, and question my existence.  Did I deserve to take up space, resources, air?  The thoughts were loud and angry.  The train whistle cut through the silence several times a day.  There was life somewhere outside of my apartment.

It’s hard to imagine someone like Robin Williams, who has the resources to access the best doctors, best medicines, and best therapy could fall into the deafening silence.  There’s a cruel irony in entertaining the masses, yet dying inside.  Tears of a clown or something like that.

Those of us who have been there or are there or live with constant battle against the darkness know what it’s like.  The silence only makes the illness more pronounced because the angry thoughts swirl around, the clichés become tormenting (“Why don’t you…?” “Someone has it worse.” “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” “Trust in the Lord”), and it’s a sad, lonely place.

If someone like Robin Williams couldn’t make it through the pestilence of mental illness, specifically depression, what hope is there for the rest of us?  We swallow our pills, see our therapists, practice using our coping skills, and hope against hope we’ll make it.

We hope and pray that we won’t end up like Robin Williams all the while wondering if we will.

There’s a choice in suicide.  There’s always a choice.  It’s just hard to make sense of what’s up and what’s down in mental illness, which doesn’t make sense at all.  Yet everyone seems to have an opinion on depression, anxiety, PTSD, and so forth.  Just like week someone told me I couldn’t possibly have PTSD because I’ve never been in combat.  Oh, yes, I’ve seen combat, just not in the military.  The world is its own battlefield.

The reason why I’m alive, the reason why I didn’t tighten the noose around my neck or jump in front of that train was this—hope.  No matter how small, God placed that hope in my heart when I was a little girl.  Though I had run away, battered and bruised from the Church, His hope kept me alive.

It may sound overly simplistic, but maybe it is that simple.  Maybe hope really is an anchor to my soul—an anchor firmly rooted in Christ Himself.  Christ died every possible death so that I could live.  Through the brokenness of my life, He shines forth.  Into the deafening silence, His voice speaks.

Into the deafening silence, His voice speaks the words of hope I desperately need to hear.  His soft whisper drowns out the angry thoughts.  His truth slices through well-intentioned, but ill-timed clichés.

In a world that judges, God accepts me just as I am and uses me despite my weakness.  Because of God, I have meaning and I don’t have to be silent anymore.  I can speak out of my weakness because He has made me a display of splendor.

In the deafening silence, His sure whisper can be heard.  Perhaps it’s in silence, God can be best heard.

Broken and Not So Broken

6 Jun

This is my walking boot. I decorate it, of course.

“God, I’m in the place again/I’m trying so hard not to fall/But everything keeps coming down with the rain.”–Everyday Sunday

I’ve always appreciated melancholy songs.  There’s something about the toned down, raw nature of a rock band that grips my heart and makes me pay attention, like KISS’s “Beth” or Five Iron Frenzy’s “Every New Day.”  (Yes, I just mentioned KISS and Five Iron Frenzy in the same sentence.  Incidentally, “Beth” is the only KISS song I know.)

Since lyrics and song melodies move me, it’s understandable why I’ve danced my way into the genre of singer/songwriter in my old(er) age (though I still enjoy Southern rock, like Credence Clearwater Revival and more recently, NeedToBreathe.)  Lately, it seems, I find comfort in the likes of Bebo Norman (surprise, surpise!), JJ Heller, Audrey Assad, Josh Wilson, and Andrew Peterson.

See, I haven’t had an easy go of things lately.  In mid-May, I broke my left foot. Yes, friends, another broken foot.  As you may recall, I broke my right foot about 15 months ago…and the healing process for the right foot has been excruciatingly slow.  After a couple tests, my foot doctor discovered my Vitamin D level to be pitifully low and started me on a regimen 50,000 units of Vitamin D weekly.  That’s the boring medical part.

This happened a week after I made some changes in my life, after all night prayer sessions, talks with my pastor, and weeping before the Lord, I felt Him saying to me, as He said to Elijah as he ran for his life from evil Queen Jezebel, “The journey has been too much for you.  Rest now, My child, I will take care of the details.”  Two weeks after resigning as lead of a ministry and falling into a more manageable role on the leadership team, I broke my foot simply by getting up from (or rather down) from one of our counter height dining room chairs.

This started a longer-than-I-anticipated journey of rest–no driving, walking around with a rollator (rolling walker), going down the stairs with a cane, needing assistance with normal tasks like showering, shopping, and getting here and there.  Oh, and of course, resting with my legs elevated to improve healing time.  Alone all day in my apartment.  It sounds perfectly lovely to harried people who could use a day off, but it’s house arrest for a social, relational woman like me.

So I’ve been spending a lot of time talking to God and listening to music.  At first, I was struck with severe anxiety, which I believe was my anxiety disorder as well as a spiritual attack from the enemy.  I cried–wailed actually–and copied psalm after psalm from the Bible into my journal.  My fervency for God was strong and trust was a moment by moment walk.  While I don’t miss the panic attacks and tears, I wish I could maintain the level of urgency for God and His Holy Word when I’m not in the throes of fear.

I don’t always listen to music.  I like silence, too.  I can hear the birds singing merrily, the engine of the mail truck, laughter and screams from neighborhood children, the clink of my dog’s tags as she roams about the apartment, and my cockatiel’s own chirps.  So many ordinary sounds that make up the backdrop of this orchestra called life…and most of the time, I barely notice.

And I’m reading.  As much as I love to read, I don’t always make time for it.  Besides my Bible study reading (The Story and Crazy Love) and my daily devotional, Jesus Calling, I’m juggling three books right now–One Thousand Gifts, The Parable of Joy, and The Covenant Child.  My attention span seems to have increased as a result of my sitting in this stillness.

My writing life has been rich, though much of it has come alive in my journal–private conversations between God and me.  While this isn’t a measurable source of earthly wealth, it is the most important writing that I can do.  I call it “holy writing.”  If my purpose here on earth is to bring glory and honor to God, then my writing–for Him and Him alone–can have no higher calling.  Face down before the Throne of God, I write and write, like some ancient, inspired scribe.  Perhaps I will pick out thoughts to blog about here.  Or maybe write that book I’m always thinking about.

Don’t get me wrong.  I would never have chosen this path, but I am learning to be thankful for it.  I am grateful for the friends God has given to support me in this time.  It’s funny how my One Word for 2013 is LOVED and He is showing me how LOVED I really am! (Even when I start to believe the lie that no one cares, including God.)  Who would have thought the path to knowing I am LOVED would come with so much pain and brokenness–the actual physical breaking of another bone?  It seems all paths are littered with sorrow and suffering.  Is it any wonder that these are little Much Afraid’s guides to the high places in Hind’s Feet on High Places? (I plan to re-read the book as soon as I finish The Covenant Child.)

I am loved.  It rings loudly and clearly throughout my days, and it is revealed through so many ways and so many people.

If I hadn’t broken my left foot, my small group leader wouldn’t have moved our Bible study into her living room so I could attend showing me that I am LOVED.  (Thanks, Amanda!)

Nor would I have received a ride to the Bible study I lead from one of the attendees.  (Thanks, Patty!)

I would never have trusted God to help me make it up to the choir loft for praise team or give me strength to sing when my jaw ached with TMJD pain.  (Thanks to the Praise Team for their encouragement!)

I have moments of despair, when I feel God’s touch or receive a phone call or text or Facebook message.  These are precious things I gather into my heart.  Someone is praying or God is teaching me to trust Him more and more.  I hate the aloneness, and I love the intimacy with God.

If this hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post.  Perhaps I’d write something else, or maybe nothing at all.  I know not the path I would’ve taken and it hardly matters because this is where I am.  Everything around me is speaking to me–the book One Thousands Gifts, reading the book of Ruth this morning (I was struck that Naomi was so very bitter and yet so very blessed through Ruth in the end.  In the middle, it seemed she would never have joy again), and in watching The Fellowship of the Ring last week. (Frodo never CHOSE for the ring to come into his possession, yet it did.  Yet he carried the burden anyway.  He chose to do the right thing in the midst of his circumstances.)

It’s a conscious choice, this choosing to be thankful and grateful in the midst of this disappointment.  Perhaps it’s a divine appointment to receive greater joy.  That’s an encouraging thought, isn’t it?

Tell me, how has God taught you to be faithful or thankful in the midst of something hard or disappointing?  What have you been reading lately?  Do you miss the fervency of intimacy with God when you aren’t going through trials?

The gift of anxiety

28 Feb

Today was a victory, just like yesterday and the day before and the day before.  Today’s accomplishment?  I went to Wal-Mart by myself—got myself out the door, drove to the store, and shopped for needed household items (and a couple of extras).  I purchased my items, walked to my car (almost got run over in the crosswalk by some lady in a van who had the nerve to beep at a pedestrian was in the middle of the road when she sped around the corner), and drove home with a triumphant smile on my face.  Victory!

Some of my mom friends are probably thinking, “Going to Wal-Mart alone?!  That would be a dream come true!” 

Others might think, “Seriously?!  What’s your deal?”

A few of you get it because you know me and a few of you understand because you live or have lived with this reality.  Sometimes getting out of bed is a win and making it out the door is a victory.  Such is life for a person who lives very real battles with anxiety and depression and related issues. 

Now that I live a more open life, my absence has been noted, both here on this blog and in my personal and church life.  It started as a sinus infection, then a huge stress attack, and then a second, much worse sinus infection that affected by TMJ.  The stress set my usual anxiety spiraling out of control.  Being home recovering from the second sinus infection has turned anxiety into a major emotional/psychological l battle.  Like all things, it impacts my whole being and becomes a spiritual battle as well.  The enemy always preys on our weakest spots.

Since I was unable to attend church this week, I decided to watch a series of talks by Andy Stanley called, “The Comparison Trap.”  In the first talk, Andy said something I immediately wrote down, “When we speak out of our weakness, we never run out of things to say.”   So, when I write about my weakness, I always have good material to which God gets all the glory, for His strength and light radiate from my cracked, weak spots.

However, talking about my current struggles can be hard because well-intentioned people like to throw misinterpretations of Bible verses at me and tell me that my anxiety is a sin.  Worse are those who think I can just snap out of it.  While I can ask God to remove mental illness from life, I cannot make it go away.  Simply put, my brain is sick.  Neurons are misfiring.  Neurotransmitters have run amuck.  But I’m learning how to deal with it and through it all, my faith is growing because I must cling to God in my struggles.  He never lets go of me.

I used to think the true measure of faith was the absence of fear, but I was set straight during an interview with musician whose music is a breath of life to my weary soul.  He told me clinging to God, reading Scripture, writing in my journal—those are the very acts of faith that seeks God first.  If that’s all I can do, I am doing well.  Everything else is an act of grace for us and grace, in and of itself, is a gift of God’s good pleasure.  My pastor often prays, “Even if Jesus was all You gave us that is still more than we deserve.” (paraphrased)

Sometimes we sing, “Your grace is enough, Your grace is enough, Your grace is enough for me.”  It’s a great song, but do we, do I really believe that?  I mean, if Jesus was truly all God gave me, would that be enough for me?

I don’t know, but if it was all I had left I hope it would be enough.  As it is, today I was given an extra measure of grace—a chance to go to Wal-Mart, shop for a few items, and go home.  This, too, is an act of God’s grace and it is not small thing; it is God-reliance.  If I didn’t have the gift of anxiety/depression, I would be able to rely on myself, but I am forced to rely on God and He has given me a wonderful support system that provides me tangible help.   Mental illness isn’t the kind of gift I would wrap up and give a friend as a birthday present, but I am thankful for the chance to know God more and more through it. 

Tomorrow I will get up and fight this monster again.  Will I be victorious?  I sure hope so.  I do know that God will be with me either way.

She Is Beloved

21 Jun

If I ever did get a tattoo, it would say, “Beloved.”

So I’ve been busy, and I actually mean it!  No, not languishing away on my couch the victim of depression or hiding in bed because of anxiety, not even my formerly broken/still healing foot is holding me back…all that much anyway.  I’m busy in the Lord, which is so much better than being busy for busyness’ sake.

When I started going to Bethany Church in November, I never knew how it would transform my life–not only locking me into community with God’s people, but giving my sad life more purpose than it has felt  in years, than it’s had since I left the church in fall 2004. 

Oh, I’ve tried to pursue other interests, passions, and loves away from the Church, but they’ve all fallen short.  Yet some sustained me for a while, yet nothing truly satisfied.  I was spiritually dehydrated, emotionally broken, and physically falling apart because I held onto bitterness, unforgiveness, and oh, how I raged against God!  I rejected the arms of the One who longed to provide me comfort.  It may not have changed my circumstances; it would have changed my response to those hardships.  Still, God is picking up all the broken pieces, gathering them into His heart, and using them for His glory.  I love a God who can make beauty rise from the ashes.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for years know how I longed for community, yet made excuses for why I couldn’t go to church.  Believe me, the horrible panic attacks upon entering a church building didn’t help.  I want you to know that I understand those of you who have given up on church.  I know what it’s like to sleep until noon on Sunday mornings and feel a small pang of guilt for not going to church because it seems like the “right” thing to do. (All the while Keith Green’s lyric, “Jesus rose from the dead and you can’t even get out of bed,” played in my head.) I know you’ve been hurt, scarred, and the last place you want to go on Sunday is to church.

Go anyway.

And if you’re just not ready, know that God will come find you, His little lost lamb.  He will come to you, cradle you in His loving arms, and led you back to the flock.  I am praying for you, beloved, even if I don’t know your name.  I am praying for you because God knows Your name, for it is engraved on His palms. (If you want me to personally pray for you or encourage you, please shoot me an email.)

He is calling your name, “beloved.” Not only are you precious to the heart of God, but so is His Beloved Bride, the Church.  I am beloved.  You are beloved.  And she is beloved as well. 

Hear His voice, respond to His call, and come home!  The door is always open and our light will never burn out, for We are the Church, the Beloved Bride of Christ.

We are the beloved ones!

Amy’s NoteI am writing this to myself as much as I am writing it to you because I want to remember why I need my church, fellowship, and other Christians with which to “do life.”  If you want to pray for me, please ask God to protect my little heart and strengthen my spirit, that I may be used as a conduit for His glory and honor and renown.  Thank you, faithful prayer warriors! 

Imagine there’s no heaven.

21 Feb

John Lennon once famously asked his listeners to “imagine there’s no heaven.”  The song, “Imagine” has been played millions of times and sung at every “peace” rally since its inception. 

Imagine there’s no heaven.

For years, I sang along blissfully unaware of the lyrics, or I would just skip over the “religion” part.   After all, imagining all the people living life in peace is a wonderful notion.  Then again, from my reading of the Bible, that is Heaven—a place where there is no more war, where the lion lies down with the lamb, where every tear is wiped away, where the Prince of Peace sits on His throne, and all God’s people live in harmony with one another.  No more doctrinal wars, denominational divisions, and congregates complaining about the worship music.  Heaven is truly a life lived in the peace God intended us to have with Him before the Fall.

Some who don’t believe in God have used this song as sort of an anthem.  See all the wars that religions has caused, they scream.  See what you Christians have done in history, they yell.   Religion has caused great upheaval in history and sadly, many wars have been fought in God’s name.  I don’t deny that the Church has a bloody history, which is both sorrowful and shameful.  I wish that the history of the Church was defined by kindness, by being that lighted city on a hill, and that the beauty of the Gospel was the central message we preached (and to many, this is exactly how it is characterized by the lives and works of many amazing men and women).  Sometimes the loudest, brashest, most idiotic “Christians” make headlines while the Mother Theresa’s of the church are often ignored.

Despite the Church’s past failings, over which I have no control, I can’t imagine why I would want to imagine there’s no Heaven, or even worse, that there’s no God.  The thought of it makes me sick, as if someone ripped out my beating heart and screamed in my face, “You have no hope!”  Truly without God, there is no purpose for my life, no redemption for my failures, and no hope that there’s anything beyond this existence.  The aloneness I feel—that separation from that God Elisabeth Elliot so eloquently describes in The Path of Loneliness—would never be filled if God does not exist (though I imagine I’d feel nothing if the world was truly devoid of God, something I imagine only Jesus felt when He was forsaken by God at the cross).  Not only would I be hopeless, I would be truly and awfully alone, despite having a life surrounded by loved ones.  My umbilical cord to God would be severed and I would die from lack of nutrition.  Oh. My. God.  To truly imagine it is horror indeed.

There are times where I’ve been just about hopeless.  During one of these episodes, I considered strangling myself with a belt, but I just didn’t have the heart to do it.  Another time, I wanted to slash my wrists so I would bleed to death, but I just could not do it.  I used to suffer from suicidal ideation, where I would think of creative ways to die and fixate on them, yet I would only act these out through self-injury. 

A counselor once told me that I made it out alive because I never lost my hope, though at times it was waning, maybe even eclipsing.  Even when I could not see God, He was there co-mingling my hope with my faith…and I knew He was there.  A little voice (the Holy Spirit’s voice) screamed to me that I still had a purpose, that God would still use my life for His glory. 

I know what it is to imagine there’s no God.  I tried to do it for exactly 12 hours one day, and I was so tormented, I had to admit I believed in God.  I was just so angry at Him that I wanted to Him to stay far away from me, and for years, that was the weird ebb and flow to our relationship.  He never left me and I knew that.  That’s how I know He will never leave me, that His promise to be with me always is true.  And I believe that there’s a Heaven where I will dance forever in His warmth, our relationship fully restored because of the blood of Jesus.

Imagine there is a Heaven. Imagine there is a God who created you, who loves you, who wants to have a relationship with you…now that’s something to sing about.

Poetic Breathing

18 Nov

Trying to explain my anxiety (or depression) to others is a tall order.  Generally, my list of responses include: “Oh, we all get anxious!” (Uh-huh.) “I get nervous about going to the doctor, too.” (Is it a week-long obsession for you?) “Trust in the Lord!” (Who says I’m not?) “I totally understand!  One time in [insert year], I went through terrible anxiety.  Thankfully, the Lord delivered me from it [and He will deliver you, too.]” (Sometimes we all just carry around our own “thorns in the flesh.)

I know that most people want to relate to me and are only trying to encourage me.  I used to feel exactly the opposite—misunderstood and discouraged.  Then I met others who shared my struggle, who knew what it was truly like to lie in bed with a Bible as a way to chase away the demons, who understood that getting dressed and brushing my teeth is a major accomplishment some days, and who truly walked this path hand-in-hand with God.

Due to my recent health concerns, I’ve been feeling anxious.  While I am doing a much better job of seeking God in my trials, adrenalin still courses through my veins and my mind screams, “You’re not safe,” while my heart pounds in my ears.  So, the other day I wrote a poem about anxiety.  Sometimes a girl’s just gotta say it with poetry.

“The Panic Attack” by me

Right brain, left lobe

Bouncing to and fro

Never ceasing, never ending, never letting go

Nausea, adrenalin coursing through the veins

Breathe in, two-three

Out, three-four

Hold on, hold still, as the world spins

Heart pounding, hands shaking, sweat dripping

Breathe in, four-five

Out, five-six

Fighting, ripping, raging, screaming

Left brain, right lobe

Breathe in, breathe out

Fifteen minutes go by

Just keep counting

Just keep breathing

Just keep living

It will be over soon

In a reading of “The Panic Attack,” I will quicken my pace as I read to mimic how a panic attack grows and rages and then eventually ends (usually in fifteen minutes).  Unless I make a vlog, most of you will never see this reading, so you’ll just have to use your imagination.

“Breathe In, Breathe Out” one of the tracks on Jason Gray’s latest album, A Way to See in the Dark, says that we breathe the name of God.  And I even found a video of Jason explaining the song and playing it (by the way, this is almost exactly what Jason said at his concert.  He would probably also want me to tell you that he sounds perfect on his albums, so you should buy one.  If you can’t afford it, you will have a chance win an autographed copy here in the next couple of weeks!)

Let me tell you how, “Yah (1, 2, 3) Weh (1, 2, 3)” can really help during a panic attack; it’s gasping a prayer to the One who can truly provide peace. 

Do you suffering from anxiety or panic attacks?  If so, what silly things have well-meaning people said to you?  What does a panic attack feel like to you?  Do you like Jason Gray’s song?  How can breathing the name of God help you when you are anxiety-ridden?

Let my ruins become the ground You build upon

18 Oct

“Let my ruins become the ground you build upon
Let my ruins become the start
Let my ruins become the ground you build it on
From what’s left of my broken heart”

“Ruins” by Bebo Norman from Bebo Norman

I used to think the Apostle Paul was a madman when he asked fellow believers to “rejoice” in their suffering (Romans 5:3-4, AMP).  Are you freakin’ kidding me, Paul?  Throw a party for mental illness?  Get jazzed over medical issues?  Maybe a pity party; that’s all.

That’s how I used to think.  Admittedly, I’m still working on “rejoicing”; however, I am learning to be content suffering.  My current struggles have forced me to find true dependence in God.  I am starting to believe that suffering is a “gift” and I do not fully, nor will I ever, understand its spiritual implications on my life.  Where I see only pain, God sees hope and promise…and beauty.

The brilliant red, orange, and yellow leaves beginning to dot the landscape of southeastern Pennsylvania illustrate beauty in death.  And isn’t that what Jesus calls us to do—to die to self and to find true live in Him?  And now just once or twice, but daily?  Besides the promise of Heaven, the Holy Spirit, God’s love, and much more, Jesus promised that in this life, we would all experience trials and suffering.  Yet He urges us to “take heart” for he has overcome the world.

For the past seven or so years (maybe more), I’ve bitterly resented suffering—my dad’s affair, my parents’ divorce, my life altering (and chronic) illnesses, my inability to find a job in ministry (which I now realize was a good thing), my mom’s remarriage and subsequent divorce from a horrible man who inflicted a lot of pain and abuse on our little family, and of course, debilitating mental illness.

At first, I sought after God and He is and always was present.  As I watched my life shatter around me, I screamed at Him, “How could You let this happen?  How could You do this to me?  You are supposed to love me.  You are supposed to do something with my life.  If You could do this to me, if You could let this happen, what else will You do?  What else will You ask?”  I simply ignored God and His still small voice that beckoned me home.  I prayed, read my Bible, and gave Him lip service only when it suited me.

I would not—I could not—relinquish all of me.  Yet God asked for ALL of me, so He could do immeasurably more than I could ever dream or imagine.

A few weeks ago, when I shut down emotionally, physically, and spiritually, I knew drastic changes needed to me made.  I could NOT go on like this [that] anymore, so I stepped away from Backseat Writer as well as other things so I could focus on overall wellness.  I have been learning so much about myself, God, and the Bible (among other things) through circumstances that forced me to come face-to-face with God.  No more running, no more hiding—just the naked truth of who I thought I was versus who God says that I am.

I am finding my identity in Christ, asking Him to help me overcome my unbelief, to help me believe the truth instead of the negative self-talk I readily offer myself, and most of all to learn to trust God in all things.  It sounds simple enough, yet it is a hard, long road, though it is the path worth taking.

At this time, God has called me away from many things, including Backseat Writer.  Not forever, not even completely, just for a little while.  When it is time, my sporadic and erratic posting will cease and Backseat Writer will return to a new “normal” with content that is solid, personal, and REAL—not the publicist pleasing garbage I’ve posted at times.  Although I assure you that not of it is garbage or posted to please publicist (or anyone else).  I can hardly wait to see what sort of future God has for Backseat Writer—something I believe will be far more wonderful that either you or I could imagine.

For now, dear readers, I must continue my sabbatical to focus on knowing God and knowing who I am to God.  I would like to pop in weekly with updates on what I’m learning—for there is so much to share with you!  Still, most will remain close to my heart; these things are spoken only between God and me.  But I want to let you in, at least a little, to show you what I’ve discovered.  I want you to know that God is not safe, but He is good.

I hear God calling to me, wooing me to Himself, “Come now, my love, my lovely one, my beloved.”  And it’s been such a long time since I felt lovely to anyone and loved by God.

“[God] is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 5:20, slightly paraphrased)

Currently Listening To: Selections from various Bebo Norman albums, Jason Gray’s latest album, A Way to See in the Dark (“Remind Me Who I Am” has been essential in my recovery. I hope to post more about this song/album at a later time.  Thank you, Jason Gray, for crafting such a wonderful album!) Select others including Matt Hammitt (latest album, Every Falling Tear, is excellent!), Josh Wilson, NeedToBreathe (mostly The Outsiders.  Yes, I purchased their latest album on iTunes, but haven’t really listened to much of it yet.  Shocking, I know!), and Cat Stevens.

Currently Reading: My NIV Study Bible (does that sound cliché?) as well as daily passages from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young and The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen.  I highly, highly recommend both of these books.  I am just about finished with a powerful, lesser-known book by Elisabeth Elliot called The Path of Loneliness—not for the faint of heart.  An excellent read that I heartily recommend! Next I hope to read God’s Plan B by Pete Wilson and Jenny B. Jones’ latest, There You’ll Find Me as well as a smattering of writing books and whatever else pops up.

Other Randomness: I’m enjoying the new seasons of “Modern Family,” “The Middle,” and “Glee” as well as peeking at “The X-Factor.”  I’ve discovered Facebook games like GnomeTown, Words With Friends (play with me!), and Bejeweled Blitz, as well as exploring my world and spending time with friends, my mom, and of course, my beloved fur and feather children.

Please Pray For Me: To have continued spiritual, mental, and physical healing; that my nasty tooth infection would heal and my root canal procedure could be completed; for the small group Bible study I lead; that I may find a meaningful volunteer opportunity; and for my future writing endeavors.  Thank you so much for your faithful prayers!

So, that’s me…what are you up to?  What’s going on with you and God?  Any new pets or babies or anything I missed?  What are you listening to, watching, doing?  Dish it!

%d bloggers like this: