VERSE OF THE MONTH: AUGUST 2017

1cor10_31

This month’s verse is 1 Corinthians 10:31. I chose this verse because this month I feel like the Lord is calling me to make some lifestyle changes to enhance my journey toward healing. While there are many things that I need to adjust, the one I am starting with is exercise.

I know that exercise can help with depression, and it did to a degree for me in the past when I was an athlete. However, since having my second child, I’ve allowed myself to become physically unfit; and it has taken its toll on my mind, body, and spirit.

Since this is the first change I feel like the Lord is wanting me to address, I have challenged myself to workout for at least 20 minutes every day this month. It’s going to be difficult for me, but it needs to be done. God has given me a healthy body, and I need to tend to and cultivate it so that I can better serve Him.

I hope you have a happy, healthy August!

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VERSE OF THE MONTH: JUNE 2017

Isaiah 601

At the first of every month, I’m going to begin posting a verse of the month. For June, I’ve chosen Isaiah 60:1.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”

June ushers in the second half of the year. The first half of my year has been shadowed with a dark cloud brought on by  a new mental health diagnosis, and the rocky path that comes with changing medications. I’ve found myself in places that were pitch black with hopelessness and despair.

In the previous chapter, Isaiah 59, there is a thick darkness that is described. Darkness is for slumber, worry, and fear. The light is for awakening, and when it comes upon us, we must respond by rising up.

The illuminating glory that comes from the Lord is what washes over you because He has caused His face to shine upon you for both your redemption and for others to see the salvation He has brought to you.

June is my month for rising up, and I believe it is for many of you as well. When the darkness creeps up on you, remind yourself that “your light has come,” and that light will always overcome the darkness.

Happy June, friends!

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To Those Who’ve Supported Me and Shared Their Journey With Me: This is For You.

Thank You​​​​
I’m not a big fan of vlogs (sorry, vloggers), and this is because I communicate best through my keyboard.

However, some things cannot be conveyed through written words. Therefore, I wanted to say a big thank you (be sure to click on the link) to those of you who’ve read my journey, more importantly, shared pieces of your journey with me.

I’ve been incredibly humbled and honored more than I can ever express.

Love you all! 

The Wreckage: Picking Up the Pieces Left By PTSD

I literally feel like my brain was totaled along with my car that day.

PTSD.

Turning onto the interstate for the 1,000th time since I started driving, a blaring noise came from behind.

Slowly, I watched as my friend’s body was thrown up against the side of her door similar to a doll being thrown against a wall as my car was spun to the other side of the road.

Looking behind me, I saw the trunk of my car almost completely in my backseat.

My door was jarred, so I had to climb out of my friend’s door. Neither of us was bleeding. No bones were broken.

However, as soon as my feet hit the ground, rage rose through my ankles to the top of my head. I’m told that I yelled all sorts of nasty things at the girl who hit us.

Her fender barely had a dent.

She got out for a second to retrieve her baby from the backseat.

That same rage rose through my body, erupting with a hateful fury because I couldn’t believe she had driven so poorly with her child in the backseat.

My mom was only a few minutes away, so she came down the hill to meet us.

Quivering, I could neither control my body nor my mouth.

I don’t remember talking to the police, but I do remember refusing a transit to the hospital because I could walk even with trembling legs.

Later that afternoon, my friend and I began to feel the pain from the accident. We couldn’t turn our necks. We had difficulty holding our arms out and gripping things. My entire spine felt like it had been snapped like a whip.

A neck X-ray and some Oxycodone later, we were sent home with nothing more than pain medication.

We were lucky.

Some people don’t survive having their car totaled.

I got a great settlement, and received several thousands of dollars worth of chiropractic care since my spine was slightly curved in more places than one.

Although I had a lot of pain in my neck and back, I got stronger each week.

I moved away for school, taking a summer job before the semester began. I had trouble standing on my feet all day, and noticed that I was becoming obviously irritable with people. I was convinced it was because of my great hatred of retail.

Night time would come, and sleep evaded me.

My mom gave me some St. John’s Wort and melatonin. These things helped a little, but my depression and insomnia became worse. These things, however, weren’t as bad as my anxiety.

I couldn’t ride in a car with someone without coming close to a panic attack. No one stopped fast enough, drove slow enough, turned carefully enough – no one was as good of a driver as I was.

When I drove by myself, I was a constant ball of nerves. Sweat would bead up on my forehead as well as my palms. I was jumpy and hyper-aware of my surroundings.

Worst of all was the rage.

Most people experience road rage from time to time, but I wanted to hunt down any person that drove in a way that was unsatisfactory to my judgement. I wanted to rip them out of their car and wring their necks.

My heart rate was constantly elevated while in traffic, and I broke down, shivering and in tears more than one time upon arriving at home.

I started at the state university that fall. I’ve mentioned that my depression plummeted that first semester along with my grades. I now know that my PTSD was mostly to blame.

PTSD.

Anytime I’ve talked to a counselor or any mental health professional, I’ve told them about my wreck and would say: “Something in my brain literally shifted, and it’s never gotten better.”

I literally feel like my brain was totaled along with my car that day.

PTSD.

I’m still not the same. That wreck was the straw that broke my already fragmented mind unleashing years of pain, years of unprocessed grief, years of denial.

It broke my brain.

PTSD.

Refusing to acknowledge it as such for years, I didn’t want to seem disrespectful to my friends in the military, my friends who were rape survivors, those who were in a wreck that seriously injured them.

It wasn’t until I was talking to a girl who told me about a similar situation that was nearly identical to mine. Her doctor prescribed her anti-depressants and a counselor because he said that she had PTSD. A light clicked for me, and I told my counselor about it, and she agreed.

Something in my brain snapped that day, and it’s been 9 years. I can ride in a car with people. I don’t tell my husband how to drive every time we go somewhere. I don’t yell and scream at crappy drivers, at least while my kids are in the car. I don’t get really nervous driving in heavy traffic.

I still want to throat punch really bad drivers, but I don’t wish death upon them.

The thing that worked the best for me was time.

I still have a staunch fear that I’m going to get a phone call saying that someone I love has been killed in a car crash. I also worry from time to time if I’m going to get in a really bad wreck again.

Any time someone comes to a quick rolling stop at a stop sign, I jump.

 

When I started counseling, I would always say: “I had this problem, but I know other people have had it worse than me.”

That’s a mentality most of us have been taught, and I’m not saying we shouldn’t be grateful for things; but it’s actually not a good way to view your problems.

What you are having trouble processing is real to you, just like what someone else is having to process. Do not feel bad for feeling the way you do and wanting to seek out healing. You are not alone, and your issues matter.

One good thing that has come out of this is that I am acutely aware of my periphery, cars in the distance – things like that. My senses have been sharpened by it. This has helped me more than once. Once when there was a pretty doe who ran out in front of me, I didn’t hit her because I saw her seconds before she leapt .

Had I not had this experience, I would have easily plowed through that animal.

Constantly, scenarios flash through my head, and I consider what I would do. I like to think that I am prepared.

Facing my fears helped to tame my anxiety and traumatic thoughts to subside.

PTSD is a big deal, and I believe that many of you probably have it or have had it but do not know. Think about it. Process it. ASK FOR HELP.

Your experience matters because it is your unique situation to deal with. Consider it, and take action. It is something that you can grow from.

Until next time friend,

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The Problem with Unprocessed Grief part 3

It became a wound that never healed, and would often fester and overflow with infection causing me to have outbursts of deep depression and panic attacks. It caused me to lose all sense of direction in my life.

I strive to conclude my thoughts on unprocessed grief tonight.

I’ve taken you through the morning and following days of my father’s death through my eyes.

I broke down after recalling my last words to my father.

I’ve recounted my vicious battle with anorexia and bulimia and my darkest depression through most of high school.

Tonight I wish to conclude this chapter on my thoughts about unprocessed grief.

Leaving you in my junior year of high school, starving for perfection; starving to fill the hole in my heart. Starving to feel the hole in my heart. I started my senior year with a new boyfriend.

He was nice, and to be honest, I fell in love with his family more than I did him. I had known them for several years already, but I got to get the inside scoop on how they interacted.

I hadn’t been a part of a nuclear family since I was five years old, so naturally, I didn’t know how they worked. I found them fascinating like a strange life form. It was something that I liked to step back and poke with a stick.

Having a mom and dad who loved each other and were on the same team baffled me. The dynamics between siblings was a whole new world to me. (Truthfully, I still don’t get this one).

It was a nice change and learning experience for me. I was able to talk to this boyfriend unlike I could my last one. I began to process all that I had dealt with, and began to consider my grief.

Like most high school sweethearts, we moved on, and I began college. This was a new start for me with new people who didn’t know my past.

They say that college is where you truly find your tribe, and I wouldn’t say that was my experience at first, but I certainly found many friends and experiences in which brought me great joy.

I chose community college because I wasn’t ready to leave home, and the price was much more satisfactory. I stayed there far longer than most do, much longer than it is intended for.

I had no plan for my life.

When I was a child, my dad had bought me this human body anatomy set. It was similar to a puzzle, but it was small model of a human body with all of the plastic organs to assemble together.

See, I wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember.

My dad often found his copy of Grey’s Anatomy in my bedroom, because I loved to read about the human body. I even considered the Cambridge Student’s Programme for teenage students for early an early medical introduction.

When my father had his surgery at Duke, I enjoyed talking with the doctors and nurses, trying to glean as much information as I could.

However, when I started college, I decided I wanted to study law.

By the end of my first semester, I did not.

The next few semesters were met with confusion and low grades.

I took classes ranging for anatomy and physiology to dialects and voice for the stage. I didn’t have a guiding voice to give me advice or direction. No one to remind me what was always my true interest.

I started dating my now husband during our third year of college. His drive and ambition was inspiring, and I started to get myself together.

I once again resumed my headway toward a career in medicine, and committed to a pre-med major. I finally moved on from community college to a state university, and excelled in my bio and chem classes. Physics was the worst class I took out of nearly 200 credit hours that I took over the course of my college career.

About half way through my semester, my depression plummeted as well as my grades.

I started skipping classes and sleeping in late. I hadn’t found a sleep aid that kept me from my near nightly panic attacks.

Most nights, i muffled my sobs in my pillows so not to attract attention from my roommates.  Several times I would end up calling my now husband who would more often than not come over in the middle of the night and hold me until  my crying gave way to slumber. He would then sneak out before the sun to get ready for his job that started at sunrise.

The semester ended, and I was on academic probation with the potential of losing all financial aid.

Throughout all of this time, one thing remained the same; I led worship on a regular basis and thoroughly enjoyed music and singing. I met with an academic advisor at a local christian college to see if their worship arts program would be something I would be interested in.

Too expensive and adding too many semesters to my college career, I chose to take some music and theatre classes at the university that I was already at.

Reluctantly giving up on my medical dreams, I fell deeper in love with music and the theatre in general.

I found my tribe.

I decided to tailor my degree so that I would have music, dramatic performance and production, dance, stage design, and Christian religious studies. I even landed a paid worship internship at a large local church I had been attending.

With a few years of experience, and this type of education, I was setting myself up for a career in worship ministry.

While I was happy with all of that, and finished each semester on the Chancellor’s and Dean’s lists for receiving a 4.0, my depression and anxiety were off the rails.

I was completely miserable, and felt adrift.

Struggling greatly with suicidality, my future husband convinced me to finally reach out to a counselor.

I saw one at the university, and I cried like a baby when I told her that I just didn’t want to live anymore. She gave me the option to get into a facility, to which I naturally declined.

Having the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” mentality, I decided that I could get my junk together on my own.

Fortunately, the church where I was interning at had a counseling center with a sliding scale on their prices.

There, the realization of my unprocessed grief surfaced.

I was angry with my dad. I was angry with my mom. Most of all, I was angry with myself.

Part of my depression was caused by my anger being turned inward. The other part was PTSD, but I’ll talk about that later.

The pain of losing of parent so young is something I could not process. For one, I had no help to do so. I couldn’t make sense of the pain because I never left a state of shock.

It became a wound that never healed, and would often fester and overflow with infection causing me to have outbursts of deep depression and panic attacks. It caused me to lose all sense of direction in my life.

It caused me to be afraid of commitment. I was sure that as soon as I gave myself fully to anything that I would have the rug pulled out from underneath  me, and I simply could not handle that. To this day, I still have issues with trying something new because I just know that something is going to go wrong. (It never does)

I regret giving up on medicine, and hope to God I one day get a chance to redeem myself. However, every time I learned more about the human body, every time I looked a slide of different cancer cells, saw their complexity, saw the intricate, surprising beauty; I saw my daddy.

I would think about seeing patients and inevitably see my father’s weak face, and I would run from it.

There are still levels of grief that I have yet to process.

Not having him there for my college graduation, my wedding, the birth of my children; these events, as joyous as they were, felt slightly incomplete.

Last year was the 14th anniversary of my father’s death. My grief overwhelmed me.

As I walked down the stairs at home and into the living area, I was hit with the realization that I had lived more of my life without him in it than I had with him in it.

That wound opened wide, and I mourned unlike anytime before. The rawness of his absence was greater than it was immediately following his death. My husband was at work, as was my mother, but I could not be alone. My dear mother-in-law came to keep me company because I couldn’t be left alone with that kind of pain that day.

I’m still processing my grief, and probably will until I meet him again in heaven. But I am processing it.

I am healing.

The problem with unprocessed grief is that it slowly infects your body, heart, and mind. It affects your decisions. It affects your relationships. I affects your world view, and perspective of God (if you believe in God).

Since losing my dad, I’ve lost a beloved aunt, and my dear grandparents who I cannot talk about without crying. But because of my experience with the grief from my father’s death, I’ve been able to work through the grief of losing those other great loves of my life.

Until tomorrow my friends,

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The Fragrance After the Rain:When Panic Pours and Evaporates

The fragrance after the rain and the cool mist in the air is a nice reprieve from the storm.

I had a panic attack today.

It was the first one I’ve had in a while. Sometimes I can feel them thundering beneath the surface, other times they are a sudden deluge.

Today I saw it coming on the horizon comparable to the black clouds that hang low over my beautiful blue mountains on a spring day.

Mondays always make me a bit blue as I mourn the ease of the weekend passing. However, my day was normal as usual. There was nothing out of the ordinary at work. My children were gems. Yet my anxiety decided to misbehave.

Being extra fidgety and having hot flashes, my nerves were electric.

Once I got home, I laid my kids down for a nap, and I did some writing. I felt flush, and was extra hot, My chest started growing tighter and tighter. The shortness of breath began. Sometimes I cry during these attacks, other times I don’t. I couldn’t mumble an audible sound as my throat contracted.

Breathless and in the fetal position with my fan on high, petting my kitty cat, Gus, I surrendered to the attack on my bed. I tried to check in with my body from head to toe, but I didn’t make it past my chest before the intrusive thoughts flooded in.

So I sang. Not aloud, but in my mind,        

“So I called,                                                    and you answered.                                                                                                   and you came to my                               rescue, and I  want                                                                                                   to be where you are.”

I repeated these lyrics over and over and over and over.

I repeated them over and over until my chest began to release and my breathing steadied.

I repeated them until I was lulled onto the surface of slumber. I rested for probably 30 minutes in a partial stupor which was just enough for me to come out on the other end of the attack, and begin to recover.

Panic attacks always leave me worn out, and in a bit of a fog.

However, I’ve recovered from this one better than the others.

I’m still exhausted, but I’m not tearful, I was able to eat dinner, and I haven’t been irritable with anyone. I’m not shaky, sweaty, or in any pain. My anxiety is still sprinkling down, but I can feel the Lord sheltering me from the storm.

I’m grateful that when I called, He answered.        

 “On the day I called,                                     you answered me;                                                                                          my strength of soul                                      you increased.”                                                                                                                                Psalm 138:3 (ESV) 

The fragrance after the rain and the cool mist in the air is a nice reprieve from the storm.

I know that these things are all a part of my journey to wellness, and I hope that I don’t come across as a pitiful victim as I share them. I hope to reveal my heart in hopes of finding freedom and helping others so we can struggle and grow together on this road to recovery.

Monday is almost over! Here’s to a happier Tuesday!

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The Anxiety of Christ

Even through the pain on the cross, He saw joy.

the anxiety of christ

Maundy Thursday is celebrated as the day in which Jesus had his last supper with his disciples. After dinner, he went into the garden with 11 of his disciples in tow. (Judas had slipped away.)

We read in Luke 22:39-46 about Jesus’ experience in the garden.

39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed,42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”  

To consider what Jesus went through, we must first think about where he was at, physically. He went to a garden. Where does the history of Christianity begin?

In a garden.

Jesus went into a garden to pray because not only was it a place to He could steal away and have a quiet moment, but it was also a place that could remind Himself of why He was about to endure what He was going to endure — restoring the pathway to the garden where eternity had been lost for mankind.  

He literally had the “weight of the world” on His shoulders, agonizing not only over what would happen to His human body, but with bearing every person’s sinful nature that was alive at that time and in the times to come.

He asked the Father to allow His calling to be taken away from Him, and in the next breath obediently says “Your will be done.”

It in this moment, we truly get to see the humanity of Jesus. He was 100% God and 100% human. Throughout His life, He lived by the Spirit. In this moment, He prayed.

He prayed because the temptation to walk away from a human race filled with so much darkness was far greater than anything He had ever be tempted with.

He prayed to receive strength. In His humanity, an angel had to come to Him and give Him strength.

Jesus even exhorted His disciples to pray so they wouldn’t fall into temptation. He gave them and inadvertently gave us the answer on how to avoid temptation.

Pray.

The agony. The suffering. The anxiety. The stress His human body endured caused Him to sweat blood. The medical term for it hematidrosis.   The cause for this incredibly rare condition?

Extremely high levels of stress.

Jesus’ suffering didn’t just happen on the cross. We get to see it the night before.

How often do we have anxiety over something before it actually occurs?

I have anxiety about picking my kids up every day because of traffic. Because of unpredictable tantrums. Because of all the touching, talking, nose wiping, diaper changing, boo-boo kissing, and just keeping them alive in general. This happens everyday. Some days, when I get home with them, I have to take half an Ativan or half of a Klonopin to keep my heart rate down so that I avoid a panic attack.

Most days?

I have a blast with them. I get them home, and we run around the lawn, chasing butterflies, playing fetch with our cat (yes, cat), and blowing bubbles. 99% of the time it’s way better than envisioned it.

There are also times that we know won’t be great that we have to face. I remember getting in trouble for something stupid that I didn’t even do when I was in school. I was so sick because no one believed me, and I had to go and face my consequences, While the consequences were difficult for a little while, I got through it.

While being brutally beaten, mocked, humiliated, and crucified had to be the most horrific way to die, it didn’t even compare to the joy that Jesus was looking forward to over the fact that He can now spend eternity with us.

He saw joy on the cross.

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

Anxiety is painful and a thief, but we have a Savior who pushed through the most atrocious anxiety and found joy.

He can help us through our anxiety because He’s been there. He can help us to see joy.

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