My Journey Towards Healing

Random fact about me. I am a bit of a health nut. Not in the sense that I am any good at following healthy eating patterns, but dang it, I am decent about knowing the stuff I should do.

I watched an entire docu-series a few years ago on the connection between the food we eat and mental health (The Depression Sessions) with all sorts of experts (Dr. Isabella Wentz, Dr. Ben Lynch, Dr. Jill Carnahan, etc…). I even took notes! Haven’t really followed them, but…

But then I finally went to a doctor. She prescribed anti-depressants and a list of about seven other lifestyle changes. Diet and exercise being towards the top of the list. One of the main elements of the diet changes was eliminating refined sugar and refined flour. Here’s an article (with legitimate sources linked) to explain more.

The antidepressants weren’t working for me, so I stopped taking them. (I was on the lowest dosage already, so tapering off wasn’t an issue.) Between the time I stopped taking them and the holidays, I was feeling great! My mood was 200% better, and the withdrawal symptoms were not bad at all. And cutting out sugar was helping. I could tell people it was the doctor’s orders, and get by without explaining much more. I was doing well…

Until Thanksgiving. Goodness gracious, Thanksgiving was a nightmare. I nearly cried. All of the holiday meal was everything I was supposed to avoid. I tried telling my grandparents the whole “doctors orders” thing, but they pushed. “Why?” “What would happen if you ate some sugar?” And you need to understand – my grandparents are not sympathetic in the least towards mental health issues, so telling them was not an option.

Even then, I managed to get through Thanksgiving without giving in too much. But then my little brother’s wedding, and Christmas… My will-power broke. My grandparents didn’t stop pushing and “jokingly” insulting my eating habits. God knows I love them, and they are wonderful in their own way, but this broke me. That and wedding cake. Need I say more?

It was around this same time that I watch a docu-series on the microbiome, which also referred to the connection between mental and gut health. I had been having other gut issues as well, so I figured it was worth looking into. I ordered a test to measure the health of my microbiome.

(I also went through a charity that offers donation-based Biblical counseling. I found the same or better counseling through my own church leadership, so I discontinued using the charity’s services.)

Since I’ve been indulging in sugar again, the sluggishness, brain fog, and depression have been returning.

All this to say, for those interested, I will be posting updates on my journey. The results of my microbiome test (including more of what foods I need to avoid, etc.). Tracking my attempts to follow doctor’s orders. And, per usual, what helps and doesn’t help my mental health.

Comments and questions are welcome 🙂

4 Holiday Self-Care/ Reality

“Dear Fours, during the past holidays, what are some things you’ve found yourself longing for? There are probably some things that aren’t meant to be, and that’s ok – can you hold them gently and loosely in one of your hands? Now, in your other hand, what are the things you’ve longed for that you might be able to create, initiate, participate in, or actively move toward this holiday season?” @xoenneagram

I don’t have Instagram anymore, but my sister screenshot this and sent it to me. So, you Insta-people should check out @xoenneagram. (Another Enneagram post in reference to Fours.)

Back to the questions…. 
…during the past holidays, what are some things you’ve found yourself longing for? …

Hmm… peace? Is that too cliche? Mostly, I just want peace, whether it’s a  holiday or not. Sometimes, peace and quiet – though I love all the little children and big people making noise. I need my quiet times. Peace. The serenity of the outdoors. But mostly peace within my own heart and head. My misophonia generally acts up a lot during the holidays. I can get away and do the dishes, but sometimes Grandpa insists that I sit and wait for everyone else to finish eating -_-.

Practically speaking… umm… for everyone to get along; not freak out over small things (myself included). So I guess that’s also peace. Haha. Now, if we’re gonna dream big, I may say deep pure connection over the beauty and glory of Jesus. 

Joy. Thankfully, I don’t have to look far for that. And when I struggle to see beyond my nose, quiet times with Jesus help me to find joy. So, peace, again 😀

Okay, I can’t control all of that. I can set aside time intentionally for quiet, but I can’t make people respect that. So I’ll ideally hold that loosely. I can start gushing about my Savior, and hope that it catches. —That’s the plan anyway—

How That Went – A Misophonia Story

…Okay, so I wrote most of this before Thanksgiving, and wanted to be frank with how it went. I had a low-grade panic attack for most of “Black” Friday. After spending the day using all my energy to keep from running to hide, my body couldn’t hold in the tension any longer. As is common in these circumstances, my misophonia was on high alert (sensitivity to sounds often is connected to stress levels). I try to distract myself as much as possible to ease the fight or flight response, but my resources had bled dry. 

I’m not proud of myself. I wanted to apply this “holiday self-care” advice more effectively. It’s not easily understood, Misophonia. I am thankful for everyone who loved me through it. Still, I acted out of fear. I didn’t take the time alone that I needed for fear that my loved ones would think I did not want to be around them. 

… I’ll tell you more tomorrow.

Four! pt3

Passion: Envy / Fixation: Melancholy

Part 3 of a series of posts I am doing on my Enneagram type. Read the intro here.

That really threw me off. When I started reading type descriptions, I resonated with so much of the Four, but… Envy? I don’t consider myself to bean envious person. So to understand this passion, I had to take a step back.

Before I continue, let’s define passion and fixation briefly. The “passion” is often described as the deadly sin of the type, and the fixation is the method by which one justifies or feeds the passion. Some will contest to that terminology, but that is the general understanding. Either way, it’s cyclical. For example, envy feeds melancholy which in turn produces more envy. 

I don’t envy what people have materially so much as their confidence and ease of social interaction. Their will-power and appearance of comfort within their own skin. But even more than all that, most of my experience of “envy” is intangible. It is better encapsulated by the word “longing.” And when I focus so much on what I don’t have, that’s where the tendency towards melancholy comes in (gloomy or depressive state of mind). 

What do you do with that? Generally, I try to remember that I am not alone in my feeling of lack. A good friend of mine once told me after witnessing my desperation, “You don’t need more of Jesus than anyone else.” And that was supremely comforting. Whether my need is more or less visible, it is in the same measure that all humanity needs Jesus. 

On that note, here is a song 🙂 – All We Need is Need – Jimmy Needham. 

So instead of fighting this need, I can see it as an invitation to go deeper.

To quote The Classic Crime, “My heart’s a hole that needs to constantly be filled with love.” And that can feel debilitating, because we know that people can’t provide that constant flow of love. We are limited, finite creatures who cannot fill an infinite need. 

We were made to be filled with infinite love from an infinite Savior. This overwhelming longing and need are not signs that there is something wrong. Rather, it is supposed to be this way. God has blessed me repeatedly with the weight of my need so I turn to Him to satisfy me continually.

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

C.S. Lewis – Mere Christianity

And when I see that my human companions don’t satisfy my longing for love, I can thank God. My friends are wonderful people, but they make very poor gods. And placing them on that pedestal, asking them to fill me, will only destroy us both. They would either become crushed by the demand, or their egos would become inflated with self-importance. And I would be as desperate as ever, prone to despair; still unsatisfied, scrambling for love and acceptance when it’s already mine if I would only look into the hands of my Savior. 

Let’s go back to the passion, which I will call longing rather than envy. I can keep it from flowing into melancholy if I find it’s fulfillment/purpose in Jesus. 

I can take the weight off my friends and family, and let the Only One who can carry it do that for me. I can free those relationships to be places of peace and mutual care. And I can take the weight off of me. I don’t have to feel ashamed because of my need. I have a Savior who took that shame for me, and He doesn’t hold back His love for me when I ask. 

Beginning to Heal

As I was slipping, my internal dialogue consoled me, “You’re alright. It’s okay. It’s not that bad.” I got up, palm bruised and backside covered in mud. Standing in the chilly rain, I said, “Ouch,” to the zero people who were there. I continued around the house to locate the noise that was keeping me awake, but to no avail. It sounded like a drip drop in an empty pail. I thought I could muffle it, or move the gutter… something.

Oh well. I was already awake. Might as well at least change out of these muddy pajamas and clean myself up. Sleep would not come easily anyway, not without prescription help tonight.

Prescriptions. I needed to call the pharmacy to refill one of them. Regardless of my hesitation, I did promise the doctor to try it for six months. Five more months to go, and I couldn’t tell if it was helping at all yet. I never before had to refill a prescription in my life. I didn’t even know how.

I wish my internal dialogue was as automatically comforting when the slipping isn’t so tangible. When the fall isn’t rational. When feelings overwhelm logic, and I squirm to flee though no one attacks. “You’re alright. It’s okay. It’s not that bad. It’s chilly and raining and you’re muddy, but you’re just bruised and you have a warm shower and clean clothes inside.”

This pain is not forever, and whether I feel it or not, I have a change of clothes and a fresh perspective inside. This is the beginning of healing, even as slow as it comes.

Malachi 4:2

But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.

The Art of Asking

I resisted the impulse to turn on the car radio. I sat in the car going to work, and I submitted to this beckoning to silence and listening.

My devotion time prior to this was very unfocused. Really, peace eludes me often when I am praying for myself. Then, when I listen to the ache in my spirit for specific people and I press into to prayer for them, my own burden lifts. And it did some this morning.
Still, I wanted to hear what God had to say to me concerning my life circumstances; what I should/shouldn’t do; how I ought to think about all the above. Sometimes, praying for myself (filling space with words) doesn’t help me hear.
 
QUIET YOUR HEART & ASK
I tend to want God to give answers to questions I didn’t ask. In my hurried mind, I don’t have time to ask the question. Give me the answer first, like some sort of Divine Jeopardy game. Now, I know it can work like this sometimes (He gives an answer to a question before we ask). When I haven’t known what to ask (or my questions don’t get to the heart of the issue), God has opened my eyes to truths I didn’t know I needed.
But when, if I took the time to quiet my heart, I would know what to ask, and I don’t, I hinder my own ability to receive. The folly in my impatience is that I refrain from quieting my heart before God to present my concerns in humility, and stubbornly expect to receive with clenched fists.
LISTEN 
Technically, it is still praying, but it’s not speaking so much that helps. Surely, He could speak above the noise of my own excessive pleas and grab my attention, but He knows what I need. I don’t need Him to be louder. I need to be quieter. I need to quiet my mind, intentionally; ask the question and listen for the answer. It seems obvious that in order to hear, I need to listen. But I neglect that essential element, as obvious as it may be.
NO, REALLY, LISTEN
Ask the question. Be silent. Listen for the answer. Sometimes the Holy Spirit speaks plainly, and I make it more confusing than it ought to be. I hear an answer I don’t like, and say, “I don’t think I heard You right.” I ask others to pray, I beg God for wisdom, and I refuse to listen. I have refused to listen.
Sitting in the car this morning, I asked a question, and in His kindness, He gave me an answer I didn’t like. He loves me too much to spare me the momentary pain of “No.”
His “No” is like a big hug to me. It stirs up a lament that only He can soothe, and He loves to care for me in this way. He is kind enough to speak exactly what I need to hear without fear of my response. His love is strong enough to lean on. I can put all my weight on His all-knowing goodness.
I can believe and trust Him completely. Even when it hurts. This resting & trusting  in Him began today with a silent car, a quiet heart & asking.

Timely Reminder

When I got home last night, I knew I couldn’t go straight to bed. My mind was running, going nowhere but going in a frenzy. “Well, if I cannot make another’s heart my home, might as well make this room more like a home,” I said out loud to no one, as awfully melodramatic as it sounds. But I proceeded to turn on a couple lamps and sit in my arm chair with my journal.

It was a dark place. And I gave my thoughts room to roam. This is how I journal. I write down my feelings and ask for God to lead my thoughts. Though I didn’t get full relief, I did settle on knowing that God made me for Himself.

I slept restlessly and fought the morning until I had no choice but to get up. But then I got outside. It was cloudy, with a slight breeze. The greens seemed greener, and I wanted nothing more than to roll down the windows and drive with nothing on my mind. Just me and the wind, traffic roaring and birds singing.

Though I longed to keep driving, responsibility stopped my wheels. I sat down at my desk inside. When I opened my e-mail, cup of tea in hand, I found the link to this article – Will I Be Single Forever?

And the words hit home.

The reason we grow discontent in our singleness (or our job, or marriage, or car, or children, or anything else) is because that person or thing (whatever it is) looks so big and eternity looks so small. If you hold a coin close enough to your face, it will obscure an entire city skyline.

That’s what I was doing. And it happened so seamlessly. I lost focus on eternity with as much ease as a toddler losing focus on his green beans.

When our present circumstances look bigger than eternity, we have lost perspective. When we lose perspective, we tend to load too much of our contentment onto something never designed to bear the weight. We look to a spouse, a friend, a vacation, or an accomplishment to give us the happiness they never can.

I’ve known this. I could have written this article. How quickly I forget! Even in my despair, I knew I could not rest my hopes on a man. I literally said those words last night, but my heart wasn’t hearing it.

The more restless we are for the new creation — the more our thoughts and emotions are captivated by it — the less we’ll be shaken by disappointment in this life and the more we’ll see every present blessing not as a final destination but as a signpost pointing toward eternity. The more restless we become, the more contented we are.

God is so faithful to remind me of truth I am so prone to forget. This world and all it’s pain does not get the final word. And every blessing is only a taste of an unshakable reality to come.

Eden was lovely fragility. The new creation will be gorgeous stability. Eden was like an exquisite china bowl — beautiful but breakable. The new creation will be like the Alps — breathtaking and immovable.

A Cloudy Day

I had to leave. I felt so alone in that crowded home. No one knew the ache in my heart. No one even asked.

“I have to go,” I told them, not mentioning where. That wasn’t necessary information. If they knew I was going for a walk, someone might offer to come with, and I wanted to be alone to talk to Jesus.

It was a cloudy day. Raining just barely. A fresh mist falling from the sky. Everything looked so beautifully green. I walked, embracing the rain, giving no thought to my lack of umbrella and, therefore, damp appearance.

And I cried. How could there be so much beauty in the world, when there is so much pain? And my thoughts drew to the ground, beneath the dirt. The seeds had to die for life to give birth. It’s the way things work. People too. I know this is an old truth, but I have to re-learn it every season. These work together – beauty and pain. One does not diminish the other.

“It makes me sad that you are sad,” were the tender words of my emotionally intelligent 7 year old nephew. And in that hurting together, there is the strength of bittersweet beauty that sends our roots deeper.

I walked back to the house to use the bathroom, and say my final goodbyes. I was going to leave, anyway, but then my friend started to play his guitar, and I stayed. We sang our praises to Jesus our King, and my spirit soared above the trees I wished I could climb. ‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus. ❤

Silence, Gravity, and Serenity

Lately, I’ve not had much to say. On the phone with a friend last night, I mostly let him talk. There came that oft’ dreaded silence… “Well… I should let you go…”

I had thoughts, but none seemed important. Or they may have seemed valuable, but my voice did not have the strength to carry them. They resided in a place more honored by my silence.

Lately, I feel the same when talking to God. I don’t have much to say. He knows my troubles, and even the thought of mentioning them exhausts me. Not that they are much more than anyone else’s woes. The more I talk with people, the more I see that they are common. And maybe that’s what makes them feel heavier. A very deep and wide weight that affects us all, like gravity.

Waking up is hard. But this morning, I had somewhere to be, though I felt like I had nothing to bring. And that’s enough. It is enough to simply bring myself. As much as I want to be worthy of eternal love on my own, Christ gives this gift to me freely. He sees my weakness and loves me completely. It’s enough to be me. And this world I try to carry was carried for me.

It’s not about what I could bring,
But all about Jesus Christ my King.

And in that place, I felt the sweetness of His friendship. Not detached from sorrow, but more like my feet could be planted in it while my arms reached all the higher in love and hope. My Savior loves my friendship. And this is not some irreverent thing. It is entirely holy. Built on my weakness and His strength, and He carries me happily. He carries me – this happy, hurting, and growing tree. I drink freely of His love as He waters me.

 

Like Those Who Built Cathedrals

We went around answering the question, “How would you like to be remembered after you die?” As someone who loved well, someone who risked all, someone who lived unafraid… And my answer surprised them.

I want to live a fearless life filled with love and risk-taking, yes. But I do not long for the memory of me to be glorified or praised. In my death, I do not desire to have your view of me elevated.

I love the story of the people who built those massive gorgeous cathedrals. The ones who never saw the completion of their work in their lifetime, who never received accolades or their names in history books. I want to devote my life to something bigger than me; that I care about more than my reputation.

Unless I am mistakenly assumed to be dead, I won’t be reading my eulogy. And the praise of man won’t mean a thing to me while I am kneeling before the throne of God in Heaven, basking in His beauty.

At my funeral, people can say whatever they want, wear what color they want, and grieve however best serves them. My eulogy can be as simple or complex as the person writing it wants it to be. In the end, what matters is not what people remember about me, but that God gets the glory in my life and death.

The world may never mention my name again, but if people are changed by the love of God through me, that is enough. I need no credit. All I have done or will do that is good, is not of my strength but His.

I want to lay some bricks in the cathedral of His glory, where people may walk in and be in awe, but not in awe of me.

I remember a small part in The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis in which he describes a woman given honor, unbearable beauty, and a grand procession in Heaven…

“Is it? … is it?” I whispered to my guide.
“Not at all,” said he. “It’s someone ye’ll never have heard of…

“She seems to be … well, a person of particular importance?”
“Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things.”

I want to be like this woman. You might think I am contradicting myself now. Do I want the glory or not? Yes and No. Yes, eternally, in Heaven with Jesus. Not here.

Phil 3:12-14

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Other related links to check out:

As a footnote, I just found out the this quote “Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History” wasn’t intended to be used as it is these days. Read more from DesiringGod.org

Also, this poem by C.T. Studd with the ever-applicable lines “Only one life, twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.” Read the rest of the poem here.

 

October 31st, 2017

I sit at my desk, this chilly morning. It’s 18 degrees (-7 C) outside. A space heater sits at my feet, as I read The Hiding Place. A fitting book for a day like today. Full of faith, and full of fear. I was baptized on this day 18 years ago (it is also the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation). And, as you probably know, it is Halloween.

“‘Oh, my dears, I am sorry for all the Dutchmen now who do not know the power of God. For we will be beaten. But He will not.'” The delightful Mr. ten Boom, spoken soon before his country came under the occupation of Germany in the second World War.

I am past that part, now. Reading about their work with the “underground” to hide Jews. As of yet, they have not succumbed to despair.

“That it could have been happy, at such a time and in such circumstances, was largely a tribute to Betsie… Sometimes we had concerts, with Leendert on the violin, and Thea, a truly accomplished musician, on the piano. Or Betsie would announce ‘an evening of Vondel’ (the Dutch Shakespeare), with each of us reading a part…”

Oh, to know the wisdom in maintaining a jovial spirit in the midst of trouble. ❤

And I hope there is not much trouble tonight. I’ll be staying inside, maybe watching a movie – not scary, mind you. Or maybe I’ll continue to read of the terrors of history. If I want a real nail-biter, I might even listen to the news. Stay safe, ‘Merica, and my fellow earth dwellers. Jesus loves you.