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 🙂

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.

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.

 

Stay Awake & Become

This has been my lifelong struggle – simply getting out of bed in the morning. It should be simple, right? I’m not talking about difficulty with waking, but more so staying awake and physically moving my limbs towards activity.

I was almost successful this morning! I woke up and got out of bed when my alarm went off, stayed out of bed… grabbed a pillow and blanket and laid down on the floor. This is progress, people! Haha. You’ve got to laugh at yourself every once in a while.

There is this “5 Second Rule” authored by the brilliant Mel Robbins, that I have been attempting.

So here’s the one-liner definition of the 5 second rule:

If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill the idea.

She recommends, when your alarm goes off, count down – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 – and act! Which is a great idea, and I am going to try it again. Clearly, I haven’t perfected the method, given the example from this morning. If only my self-sabotaging instincts weren’t so strong! My brain tries to talk me out of action while I am counting. I think the trick is to only think about counting and move – not to give space to the voice in your head talking you out of a good thing.

Becoming 

On a tangent (which is essentially related, but you’ll have to read on to find out how), I rented “Becoming Jane” from the library, and it’s a heartbreaking story of the life of Jane Austen – who, though she wrote extensively of love and marriage, never married. I knew there wasn’t going to be a happy ending – but it rattled me a bit anyway. As realistic as I tend to be, I do like a happy ending. (Though, of course, not marrying is not the worst thing that could happen, by a long shot.)

But it reminded me of a simple fact – no matter whether or not I ever marry, there is one person I will have to spend the rest of my life with… myself.

I share this to say that there is value in becoming someone you would like to be around. And I would like to become someone who can get out of bed in the morning… And someone who gets outside and talks to people. Someone who loves without fear.

So I’ll try the 5 Second Rule Again.

For the love of the God Man who first loved me; for the praise of Him in His glory.

1 John 49-10 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

 

Sunrise

It was a beautiful morning drive,
And I saw the sunrise with cynical eyes.
The seven wonders of the world could not amaze,
These eyes fixed with a judgmental gaze.
In this fog, I could see nothing of God.
Not the colors in the clouds in their complexity,
Nor the souls that inhabited bodies next to me.

And next to me there sat infinite mysteries,
the glory of God in finite earthly bodies.
Brilliant yellow light touched the tops of trees.
Pictures of beauty that could not unclog me.

This critical and angry temper,
cannot be touched by words spoken,
though true. I’ll only get better
if my heart is turned toward You.