How Do I Praise God When I’m Depressed?

Today is Palm Sunday, the day when Jesus rode into town on a donkey while people waved palm leaves shouting “HOSANNA,” which is an expression of praise similar to saying “hallelujah!.” It got me to thinking about how I was a worship leader for nearly a decade at a few different churches across the western portion of North Carolina. Because of this, I know what it is like to have to get up in front of people and praise God even when the night before, I was balled up like a fist on the floor, beyond tears, moaning from a place of complete despair, repeating these words to God: “Help me!”

I know what it is like to get up in front of people, encourage them to draw close to God, even though I felt like He was more than a million miles away

I know what it is like to have to run to my car after a set because the anxiety of it all came crashing down on me like a heavy cymbal, and I didn’t want anyone to see me have a panic attack.

More times than I can count, did I “lead worship,” when truly all I was doing was playing an instrument, singing songs, and putting on a half-hearted performance.

However, through all of that, I have learned a lot about how to get myself to a place where I can worship God, even when I’m at my lowest.

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24, ESV)

Every good worship leader has quoted this during their time of worship at some point, but what does it mean?

“Spirit” in Greek (pneuma) and Hebrew(ruach) both mean breath, wind.

Our spirit is the life within our bodies. The Holy Spirit is the breath of God that dwells within us to lead us, comfort us, teach us, and love us. The Holy Spirit is alive in us.

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:21, ESV)

So if the Spirit is the life within us, we are to worship the Lord with our life by allowing the Holy Spirit to manifest and grow within us which is made evident by the fruits of the Spirit.

But what if our mental state has left feeling like we can’t worship?

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26, ESV)

THE SPIRIT INTERCEDES ON OUR BEHALF. What an incredible thought. When we can’t pray for ourselves, when we can’t put into words our thought processes, when we are balled up like a fist on the floor, gasping for air, barely able to say words between the gut-wrenching moans that only come from the deepest parts of our being, the Spirit of God mediates on our behalf. He steps in and takes over.

Wow.

We’re supposed to worship God in truth as well.

Part of this is being honest with God. He knows everything about how we’re feeling, but He wants us to own up to it. I’ve learned from counseling that there is profound healing when you hear yourself say something that you believe. Admit your weakness. Ask for His help. Wait patiently.

Another part of this is remembering the truths about God.

  • God is holy
  • God is sovereign
  • God does not change
  • God is love
  • God is good
  • God is merciful
  • God is faithful
  • God is gracious
  • God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all over the place

Worship has nothing to do with the songs you sing at church on a Sunday morning. That is a great way to offer up praise since songs can say what the mouth has a hard time articulating. Worshiping with other people is encouraging and vibrant.

However, if we’re not worship God with our life by allowing His life to be present within us; if we’re not honest with where we are and vulnerable with God; if we forget who He is, what He has done, and what He said He will do, it’s just noise.

Admit to Him that you need help worshiping Him. Remember who He is. Allow his light to shine into your darkness.

These things are a great reminder to me, especially during this week where we can’t help but remember what the Lord has done for us through Jesus.

I hope you had a good palm Sunday, and that you have a good Monday.

A Sunday well spent brings a week of content – or something like that.

Until tomorrow, img_1191

 

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House Divided : Growing Up in a Broken Home

My kids can spot things that I easily miss. As soon as we get into a store, my son can point out a renegade balloon that is tucked up in some rafter that I would have never noticed.

My daughter can find Elsa or Anna on anything, even if they are only an inch tall.

Growing with my kids has reminded me of how keen a kid’s senses are. I firmly believe that kids have a sharp intuition to discern a person’s character embedded in them as a defense mechanism.

At least that is how I was as a kid.

I didn’t like J.C. (this definitely does NOT stand for Jesus Christ). Looking back, he was like a snake in the grass, seductively slithering his way into our house.

He began spending more and more time with my dad, which I thought was odd. My dad had few friends, and they were usually guys that he worked with.

J.C. constricted our family time by showing up in the evenings, and not leaving until after I had gone to bed.

We had a teal leather sectional couch that I took many naps on. My parents sat across from while I was sitting on it one evening.

“We’re getting separated. Daddy will be moving out.”

The leather stuck to my legs as I slid out of my seat, crying hysterically.

I was almost six.

My dad had decided to leave my mom for J.C. or something like that. He had lived in torment his entire life, knowing that he was different and battling things that I will never understand. His decision to liberate himself destroyed my family.

He took about a year to go out and discover his new found life before steadily coming back into mine. Fortunately, J.C. was thrown out of the picture.

There is a lot that I don’t remember about that time, but I do remember being overwhelmed with sadness, writing in my school journal everyday “My parent’s are getting divorced,”and having excruciating stomach pains everyday.

I was asked who I wanted to live with, and my reply was with my Granny. How could a six year old be asked to choose between her mother or father.

From what I was told, I blamed my mom for my dad leaving. I don’t remember that part. I just remember my mom always being there. Even in her immense sadness, she was still there.

I grew up spending a week with my mom then a week with my dad. This was always the arrangement, and it worked for us. I always joke about how good I am at packing a bag because I lived out of a suitcase for the majority of my childhood.

My dad finally settled into a relationship with a good man who was kind to me, and he lived with us for many years.

Growing up with a gay dad in the 90’s wasn’t easy. Dad told me that I had to keep it a secret, and I did, even to the point of causing me great duress.

So there we were. A single mom who worked all the time to make ends meet, and a gay dad. We loved each other, and eventually fell into a routine that was comfortable.

Half of you reading this probably came from a broken home, but do you know the statistics that are attached to us?

  • Children in repeat divorces are generally less pleasant to be around.
  • Teenage children of divorce are three times more likely to need psychological help within a given year.
  • Children from divorced homes have more psychological problems, than children from which one of the parents has died. (I’ve dealt with both)
  • Between children of divorced parents there are relatively more cases of injury, asthma, headaches and speech defects than among children whose parents have remained married.
  • Children of divorced parents are fifty percent more likely to develop health problems than children in two parent families.
  • Children that are living with both biological parents are 20 to 35 percent physically healthier than children from broken homes.
  • In 1991 a study was done of children from which the parents were divorced six years earlier. The study found that even after all that time, these children tended to be lonely, unhappy, anxious and insecure.

  • Children divorce statistics indicate that children of divorced parents are four times more likely to report relational problems with peers and friends than children whose parents have kept their marriages intact.
  • (Adult) children of divorce are almost twice as likely to attempt suicide than children from normal homes.

These stats are a bit dated, but it is hard finding new stats on the Google.

I never thought that my parent’s divorce had anything to do with my depression and anxiety. It never occurred to me until I heard a pastor spitting out a bunch of stats like the ones I listed above. It was like a light bulb went off in my head.

Honestly, I don’t think that my parents’ divorce is the sole reason that I’ve dealt with a lifetime of mental illness, but it is a part of my story, my truth, and a puzzle piece in my story of healing and recovery.

Divorce isn’t going to destroy your kids, but it is important to learn how to help your kids navigate through it as well as getting help for yourself. You can go through it on your own, but it’s so much better to go through it with some help.

I’ve got my fuzzy socks pulled up, and I’m settling down under my soft comforter for the night. I hope you are able to rest easy and have sweet dreams!

Until tomorrow,

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Grace Upon Grace

The depression has been big today and the guilt even bigger.

I cannot form meaningful sentences. I cannot write anything that is border line profound. I cannot push my mind to stretch in that way today.

So, I leave you with this. In the mess that is whirling around in my mind, I hear this being whispered.

GraceuponGrace

Owning Your Traumatic Beginnings

Due to a serious placental abruption, I was moments from death; my mother felt the cut, heard me cry, and then surrendered to the anesthesia.

An emergency C-section isn’t anyone’s ideal way of giving birth, but you do what you must for survival.

I didn’t have cesarean births, but from what I’ve been told, the recovery can be brutal. My poor mom had to endure the vertical cut rather than the low, horizontal cut most women receive during a C-section.

After I was born, my mom suffered from a terrible bout with postpartum depression. Her overwhelming sadness, fear, and panic was swept aside by my dad and grandma(his mom). She was told it was just the “baby blues.”

It lasted for a couple of years, and she had no voice to put to it. The narrative of postpartum depression was just emerging into the mainstream culture. 

My mom’s diagnosis came from an episode of Oprah that highlighted the subject. 

I imagine when an inmate who’s been locked in solitary confinement finally is let out and catches that first glimmer of sunlight would be a similar experience to what my mom felt.

Raw. Emotional. Liberated.

It’s freeing to give voice to the inner battle that is waging within the darkest compartments of our hearts and minds. 

I read every book my small suburban library had on pregnancy and childbirth when I was pregnant with my first, and in some book, I can’t for the life of me remember the name of, I came across the term Limbic Imprint.

The Limbic System is the part of your brain that is associated with emotion. The psychology behind limbic imprinting is that your limbic system is affected by things during pregnancy, at birth, and in the 4th trimester.

For instance, my mom had a traumatic delivery with me and a difficult postpartum time, and that stressful experience may have wired my limbic system to have emotional issues. 

Of course this wasn’t my mom’s fault, but to me, this makes sense. I’ve always felt like my birth story was a major part of my identity and a part of my overall life story.

Knowing where my story began, owning it, and sharing it helps drive me to strive toward life of mental wellness.

Thanks for hanging out with me tonight. Im recovering from a crazy day. Take minute to read up on limbic imprinting. It seems a little out there, but it resonates with me.

Sleep tight!

Pandemonium

Holy Wednesday, Batman!

Today been nothing short of pandemonium. It started off like s sweet and normal day, then BAM.

I don’t cope well when things get thrown out of my expectations. By that I mean, I don’t necessarily have to have a particular routine, but if I have an expectation that I have to meet on a certain day, and that expectation becomes compromised, I become a little more than uncomfortable.

The last couple of weeks have thrown several curve balls from cray injuries co-workers have experienced, to the death of a friend and husband’s co-worker, to my kids’ daycare being shutdown because of the stomach bug from hell.

All of that will make a mentally well person fairly stressed out, but if I were unmedicated and not currently practicing mental wellness exercises, I would be a mangled train wreck. Ya know, the kind that people see on the news, cringe, and say a quick prayer for…and then keep watching to see if the disaster can possibly get worse.

So, today started out fine. I was a little busier at work, but I don’t mind that cause I actually really like my job. Then between work and picking up my kids, I decided to stop by a craft store which always leaves me with a dichotomy of feelings because I like making things but thinking about making all the things makes me want to unspool some fuzzy fabric and swaddle myself until all the feelings go away.

I leave said store with heart palpitations, dizziness, the sweats, and a candy bar.

I had to sit in my car for 10 minutes (I lied, 20) and do some deep breathing exercises while I chewed my emergency Ativan that I always carry in my purse for times like these.

I save the Klonopin for when I literally cannot control myself, and I am swaddled on the floor, usually with my daughter’s blankie because she gave it to me because that’s how she knows how to make mommy feel better.

I will happily digress from that lovely image to continue my narrative about tonight. I get my sweet children home, we play in the rain, which is  surprisingly incredible for stress. We came inside, put on some dry clothes, ran around, and sang Disney songs extra loudly until it was time for me to make dinner.

On cue, my kids hated the main entree for dinner and loaded up on cornbread. In an attempt to throw something healthy in there, I let them eat a carton of strawberries.

Then it was Disney dance party time which was interrupted by a phone call from my dear and loving husband. He had blown a tire, again. This happened to him last month with our other car.

He spends 2 hours trying to free the spare tire, get the bad one off, and put the spare on while realizing that it needs air. He gets to the gas station only to find out the tire won’t fill with air. He’s at least 20 minutes from our house, and there is no way he can drive on that thing. OH-and he did all of this during a thunderstorm.

So what does he have to do? Call for help, and help came running.

Meanwhile, I call the jury summons number. Oh, did I mention that I was summoned for jury duty tomorrow? I’ve been summoned probably 10 times in my life and have never EVER had to serve. ____Until tomorrow morning.

Normally, I’d be all “Cool! I get to do my civic duty. I hope it’s a crazy murder case.”

But NO. Not today, and I feel my reasoning is more than fair.

My brother-in-law is have brain surgery. That’s right. FREAKING b r a i n surgery. Yeah. I kind of don’t want to miss that one.

While he’s having surgery, my husband and I had planned to duck out long enough to pay respects to our friend and his co-worker who unexpectedly passed away over the weekend. So there’s that important thing too.

While all this is certainly putting a strain on my mentally compromised self, I’m actually feeling pretty OK.

Here are the 5 things I do when get tense for me:

  1. BREATHE. You’re brain can’t fully function without oxygen. I breathe deeply into my belly, hold a couple of seconds, and then release it.
  2. STRETCH. I carry so much tension in my face, shoulders, arms, and hands. While I’m breathing, I roll my neck and shoulders and stretch out my arms, wrists, and fingers. I massage my face and the top of my head about an inch back from my hair line. This little spot carries a ridiculous amount of tension.
  3. PRAY. Because some things I can’t do, but God can.
  4. GET AWAY. I have to separate myself from the noise, and go to a lesser stimulating place. This is usually my car when I’m alone.
  5. MEDICATE. I’m talking about my emergency meds here. I try to reserve them for when my nerves are running a bit too hot, and I need to get things done.

So there you have it. It’s been pandemonium between my ears this afternoon, but rain is falling steadily and drowning out all other sounds.

May your night been uneventful and cozy. I’ve got to throw out the empty ice cream carton before my husband realizes I ate it all.

P.S. This will be me tomorrow trying to get OUT.

jess day jury

Nighty, night! Don’t let the bed bugs bite.

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My Way, the Right Way

I’m an incredibly judgmental person.

Not in the sense that I dislike someone for what they are wearing, their socioeconomic status, the color of their hair, or their job.

I judge a person’s character on how they drive. If you are a bad driver, I secretly want retribution to find you. Put down the cell phone. Stay in your lane. PAY ATTENTION. Are these too hard to ask?!

I judge a person by the way they treat wait staff at a restaurant. If you do not acknowledge the person that is bringing you your food, and you do not use your manners when they refill your glass and bring you more tortilla chips for your third run to the salsa bar, I will secretly think that’s you’re not quite Satan but maybe some other loser demon that  does all of the lackey work around the office.

Here’s a hot one that’ll push some buttons. I will judge you for smoking cigarettes. I think they are disgusting and proven to kill you. I’ve seen how addicted people can become to them and will choose buying a pack of cigarettes over buying food and drink or their kid. Both of my parents smoked, and I have an overwhelming disdain for it.

Let’s take a step back for a second.

It’s easy for me cast out these judgments and proceed to be offended by the fact that others aren’t going to do things the way I would do them. However, what does it accomplish? Who does it benefit?

Nobody.

I work hard on re-framing my thinking. If someone is driving super fast and switching in and out of lanes, I try to think “Well, maybe his wife has just gone into labor, and he’s trying to get to her.”

The person who hasn’t looked up at their waiter may be severely depressed and finding the words to say require too much energy. He may be sitting in a complete daze not even able to concentrate on what is going on around him, let alone say thank you every time someone refills his cup.

People who smoke all have different reasons for why they do it despite the known health risks. Someone may be smoking because they needed to trade an addiction to a more dangerous substance to cigarettes. Someone may be very lonely, and that cigarette provides them with enough comfort to keep moving.

My judginess began to shift the more familiar I became with mental illness. I found myself to be more empathetic in seeing why people do things the way that they do instead of getting worked up over why they just don’t see it my way which is more efficient, well thought-out, and just all around better for the world at large (I have a chronic case of Imalwaysrightus that likes to flair up from time to time.

Tomorrow I’m going to share with you some specific examples from my life where I deliberately chose to shift my perspective about someone(s), and how it liberated me from one link in this chain of mental illness.

Thanks for stopping by my comfy corner. Come back again tomorrow night as I share a bit about childhood trauma and its affect on me as an adult.

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How Was Today.

I struggle with what to share with you tonight. I had an idea of what I wanted to present, but honestly, it would take more mental energy than I have to spend this evening.

Today was OK.

It was fairly typical. I begrudgingly got out of bed and slowing put myself together. Morning has always been my nemesis, but it is more of a bother since I’ve started taking new sleeping pills.

Insomnia has been a frequent companion of mine for a while. Mostly since about 2009. I used to take those OTC sleep aid pills which are nothing more than Benadryl, and they worked for a little while.

Over the last couple of years, my sleep patterns have been fairly normal. I would sleep most of the night. That was until my last major depressive episode began after this past New Year. I would sleep 2-3 hours then wake up wide awake and be up for the rest of the night fully energized and ready to get my day over with.

A few weeks of only getting a couple of hours of sleep a night had some unfortunate effects which I will elaborate on in a different post.

I now have medication that helps me sleep all night, but I haven’t found the exact dose and time in which to take it so that I do not feel like a complete slug in the morning.

This morning, I was particularly sluggish and a total grump. Fortunately for me, I live in a house with 3 morning people (insert sarcastic eye roll). Before I even got to the bathroom, I was asked 6 different questions, about completely unrelated things, by my almost 4 year old.

She’s the literal worst in the morning. She doesn’t stop chirping until I get her to school. I’m not a nice person until at least my second cup of coffee, and sometimes that’s pushing it.

I almost fell asleep at the wheel twice this morning which only scared me a lot. Thank Jesus, I made it to work in one piece. I poured my second piping hot cup of nectar of the gods and got situated at my desk.

I started a new job 3 weeks ago, and I’ve settled unusually well into it. Because of my propensity to be enveloped in anxiety with a little surprise bundle of depression on the side, change usually does not suit me very well.

Change, whether good or bad, has a way of sending me into a tail spin. It’s quite annoying.

This time it hasn’t been so bad. I really like the work I’m doing, and the people are incredible. I had a longer work day than I normally do, but I didn’t really mind.

My anxiety spiked when I thought about having to get my kids, take them grocery shopping, and getting them home and settled in.

For the 1 millionth time in my life, my mother swept in and saved the afternoon. She picked up my kids from school and brought them home which gave me enough time to wrap some work and go buy some (read : way too much) food.

I’ve learned to ask for help when a circumstance elevates my anxiety. It is not an easy thing for me to do, and I always feel guilty asking for help, but in the long run, it saves me so much hassle.

Everything was seemingly perfect today.

However, the deep, lonely sadness knows where to find me, and she folds herself around  me in a way I cannot escape.

Luckily, as quickly as she comes, she goes. Compared to this time last year, this is progress.

Thanks for joining me on this journey. I truly do appreciate it.

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