Breathing

It was a low point. I was not proud of myself. My sister-in-law looked me in the eyes and very clear breathed deeply to elicit a deep breath from me as well. “Please don’t,” was my honest, though tactless response.

At that point, all my senses were on high alert. She was right. I needed to breathe, but it felt patronizing to be told so.

Jesus knows I needed to breathe. My inability to receive help, though understandable, has hurt a number of well intentioned people.

When I am in an irrational state of mind, appealing to the logical course of action doesn’t always work. So, to help lessen the pain I cause, I try to plan before the panic. I’ve given my friends a keyword to tell me when they see me start to spiral. And if I fight it, they can remind me that I gave them permission to tell me that.

Also, it’s helpful to practice breathing deeply when I am feeling just fine. This develops helps me 1) lessen the intensity and frequency of panic and 2) aid me in the middle of it.

Instead of practicing breathing for mental health, it’s been easier for me to do breathing exercising for other reasons – like singing or playing harmonica. It feels more productive, enjoyable, and even healing.

Right now, I am going through vocal lesson videos online through WorshipU, which has a mobile app as well. It’s been a long time since I have played the harmonica, but maybe I’ll get back into that sometime in the future. One thing at a time. 🙂

As much as I pursue prevention, when I am in the middle of it and not thinking clearly, I usually just need to leave. I need to exit the situation and pray. He never condemns me when I do. The Prince of Peace revives my lungs and floods my soul with secure hope and love. Jesus, help me remember to breathe deep.

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 🙂

Enneagram 4 Wing 5

Each type has two wings, with one usually being stronger than the other. Those wings will be the numbers immediately adjacent to the dominant type. For example, as a Four, my wing will either be a 3 or 5. I cannot be a Four wing Nine, as much as I want to be and as strong as my Nine tendencies are. (I definitely told a few people I was  a Four wing Nine until I understood wings. *facepalm* ) 

That being said, I am most definitely a Four wing Five (sometimes called “The Bohemian”), if you haven’t guessed from the title of this post. I lean towards the intellectual and withdrawn.

I have borrowed the following information on 4w5s from the EnneaApp. Check it out. I’ll italicize that which resonates

  • Drive for expression of unique self leads to a quest of mental analysis
  • Is pleased to be different from the “ordinary;” self-interest is dominant
  • Get lost in fantasy that appears real; comfortable with life’s dark side
  • Elitist and eccentric; defiant of convention; can push the edge of sanity
  • More introverted; not quite as interested in image/acceptance as 4w3

Of course, we are responsible for our actions, so I cannot be elitist, self-absorbed, lost in fantasy land on the edge of sanity and dismiss it with saying, “That’s just the way I am.” No. Nope. I don’t even want to. The great gift of the Enneagram is to show us ourselves in the mirror, so we can move towards health. A wise man once said that our personalities are what show up when we don’t

On the bright side, being a Four wing Five means I get to enjoy not being so concerned with image. I prefer to dress for comfort and genuine self-expression (not trying to be or please someone else).

While I am happy to be different from “ordinary,” I have learned to embrace some sameness. There is a time and place to express my little quirks, and there are perfectly acceptable times and places to adapt to my surroundings. I’ll save my map of Middle Earth sweatshirt for the former.  😉 

I could talk more, but I am also learning to limit the analysis. I’d be happy to talk more in the comments. I’ll also talk a little more about my 5 wing when I review Sleeping At Last’s podcast later. 🙂

If you are a 4w5, I’d love to know if you relate to any of this, and what your experience is! Feel free to ask questions related to the post as well. Comment below!

Tumult & Ease

Tell me about the sunrise.
Heart pounding, not breathing.
Describe the colors of the skies.
Peach, pale green, indigo, steel blue.
Be amazed and let wonder soothe.
Tell me about that one time,
that story I never knew.
Where you lived,
How you loved,
and you ran.
How I’d love to see you run,
and when the day is done,
Tell me again about the colors by the sun.


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. 

Four, Part 2

Every type has arrows of integration and disintegration -integration being how you grow, disintegration being how you shrink into dysfunction. And we borrow these patterns from other types. So I’m continuing my Four series with some figurative archery. 

Arrows

  • Integration: When I am growing, I become more like a healthy One – viewing my emotions more objectively and acting more on principle.
  •  Disintegration: When unhealthy, I take on negative tendencies of the Two – clinging to people for affirmation of significance.

Read more about the arrows of integration and disintegration here.

Whichever type you integrate towards disintegrates towards you.
Example: My oldest sister is a One. So, in knowing that, I can see positive traits in her that I can naturally attain in health – objectivity, morality. When healthy, I can look at my emotions as a valuable source of information rather than a source of objective truth. And now I can understand her frustration with me over the years a bit better now. When she saw my issues, she saw herself in disintegration – moody, melancholic. Few things can be as frustrating to a One as seeing things that they don’t like in themselves. So, without going too deep into the details, I’ve been able to be more gracious with her frustration towards me, even as she has grown a ton in being patient with me.

Concerning disintegration – An interesting and disingenuous trait of an unhealthy Two (my path of disintegration) is the tendency to serve & love others in order to receive love in return. I used to do this as a child. I would bring my siblings and their friends hot cocoa, or ice cream. They were always happy to see me when I was bringing them food or drinks, so that’s why I did it. I thought they would like me and want me around if I served them. 
I’ve been cognizant to pursue a life of service that doesn’t expect anything in return; that does not manipulate with love. Even as a child, I didn’t expect anything in return, but that doesn’t mean my motives were pure. I wasn’t looking out for the best interests of others – I merely wanted them to like me. That, my friend, is a dangerous arrow. 

More to come on the fixation and passion of the Four…

Four What? Part 1

A few of you who know me might know I’ve been studying the Enneagram. <Click that link to learn more.

And for those who know what that is and are interested, I’d like to dive more into what my personal experience as a Four (my number) looks like. If you can relate, feel free to comment!

The Ouch

They say that you can tell which type you are by reading the descriptions and the one that hurts the most is probably you. The following are excerpts from The Enneagram Institute on type Four that especially resonate painfully with me. Oh joy.

“Fours feel that they are unlike other human beings, and consequently, that no one can understand them or love them adequately.”

Fours often report that they feel they are missing something in themselves, although they may have difficulty identifying exactly what that ‘something’ is. Is it will power? Social ease? Self-confidence? Emotional tranquility?—all of which they see in others, seemingly in abundance… They feel that they lack a clear and stable identity, particularly a social persona that they feel comfortable with.”

“They may feel socially awkward or self-conscious, but they deeply wish to connect with people who understand them and their feelings.”

Fours typically have problems with a negative self-image and chronically low self-esteem.

Indeed, Fours can become so attached to longing and disappointment that they are unable to recognize the many treasures in their lives.

As long as they believe that there is something fundamentally wrong with them, they cannot allow themselves to experience or enjoy their many good qualities. To acknowledge their good qualities would be to lose their sense of identity (as a suffering victim) and to be without a relatively consistent personal identity (their Basic Fear). Fours grow by learning to see that much of their story is not true—or at least it is not true any more.”

Ooooo… reading that hurts, and I want to add my personal take (which I will get to). Yet, I think I would do a disservice to those reading by adding more explanation here. So, let’s continue down this rabbit hole a little further first, shall we? Stay tuned. I’ll do more than just quote another site.

In the meantime, take a test or read the descriptions on The Enneagram Institute (link above). If you need more of a positive spin, I’ve written a bit about tips for growth for my type (4) here.

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.

Tree of Life

landscape photography of tree and sea
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

In the Garden, there were many trees, but two were mentioned specifically. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Tree of Life. Because Adam and Eve ate of the former, they could not eat of the latter and life forever. (Genesis 2&3)

That is the tree of life, only referenced again in Revelation. And it’s amazing. From Genesis, we learn that this tree grants those that eat of it to live forever, but Revelation tells us more. It is the paradise of God (Rev 2:7).

And then this next part is too marvelous for me to paraphrase.

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Rev 22:1-2)

Did you catch that? The “river of the water of life, bright as crystal flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb” feeds this tree that bears TWELVE kinds of fruit. And its leaves were for the healing of the nations. I told you I couldn’t paraphrase it. I basically just quoted it again. How good is our God?! He gives fruit for each month and leaves for healing. This tree is never not producing goodness and health for all who are granted to eat of it.

light nature sky water
Photo by Mabel Amber on Pexels.com

Did you catch the description of the river? Flowing with the water of life, bright as crystal coming from the throne of God! I love rivers. Who could hear of this not be amazed? But it feels like a special kiss from Heaven, because He knows how I love rivers, so He delights my heart with particularly joyful expectation.

And can you imagine a different fruit each month of the year from the same tree? And healing leaves! Sweet Jesus, is there going to be tea in Heaven?! Can I have tea made from the leaves of the tree of life? Okay, forgive me. I got a little excited. Tea makes me happy. 🙂 Now I am imaging a cup of healing tea under the tree of life by the bright crystal river flowing from the throne…

food healthy nature water
Photo by Ryan Baker on Pexels.com

And I am sure now beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is something else I am missing. The glory of God in Heaven on His throne will certainly be more awe-inspiring than any created thing – even this delightful river and tree. Will I ever tire of bowing before His throne? Or want to take my gaze away from my King long enough to look at any other living thing? I will be surrounded by so much beauty, but He alone will forever be the most beautiful thing.

Goodness! I was planning on writing about lesser “trees”, but God knows this is the meditation I need.

If you want to look up what I was going to write about, here are the passages: Proverbs 3:18Proverbs 11:30Proverbs 13:12Proverbs 15:4.