Saturday, January 3, 2015

Leaving a Friend

I can only tell you so many times,
Can only write you so many rhymes.
If my words don't convince you of my heart,
I see no solution, albeit to part.
Over and over, my soul reveals,
The thoughts I think, the feelings I feel.
I can't keep trying to proclaim the facts,
It should be evident by the manner I act.
My feelings are done - I must depart.
First you stole... now you broke my heart.

Benefits of Recurring Depression

This blog will soon split off into a devotional blog and a counseling blog. I've been torn on how to incorporate the two into one blog without chasing away non-believers. Hang in there as I make further transitions!

So let’s discuss mental illness, shall we? As mentioned before, I’ve been everywhere from being a Licensed therapist to a suicidal patient in a mental ward. Speaking of transitions!! The contrasts are vast, from the people I hung around to whether or not I had a roof over my head. I’m good now, thank God. Yet depression is a lifelong condition, which can poke its head up at any time. Once you have suffered the depths of depression, it can get easier.

·       You’ll discover the hopelessness and lethargy are temporary; you CAN feel better again.
·       You find out who your true friends are… and are NOT.
·       You better understand the mental health system, including knowing which statements cause alarm.
·       You learn some things are better left unsaid.
·       You have better empathy for others suffering from depression.
·       On a similar note, you have no patience for people who carelessly use the word ‘depression’ to describe a bad mood or upsetting circumstance.
·       You learn after trial and error which medications/techniques/therapies help you best.
·       You know what to expect.

While three depressive episodes indicate the need for lifelong treatment, experience can be beneficial when struggling through the hard times. Knowing you have made it before proves you can make it again.

When all else fails, take life 5 minutes at a time…

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Past Lessons from Jireh

My dog, Jireh, is a 10 month old PUPPY. She weighs 64 pounds and has grown so much that I forget she is still a PUPPY. I’ve been allowing her more leeway by not putting her in her crate and walking her without the gentle lead leash. The past week, she has chewed my leather Bible cover, two shoes, and Addy’s cat mat. She also has a tendency to want to run toward dogs, BIG pit bull dogs, just to say ‘hello’ while pulling me behind. Jireh doesn’t understand angry, BIG dogs have no interest in greeting a 64 pound golden retriever with a staggering lady running behind.

So I’ve been putting Jireh in the crate and making her wear the gentle lead. You would think she is being tortured the way she pouts! She looks like those sad dogs on the Humane Society commercials when I put the gentle lead on her. I can imagine her thinking I don’t love her anymore…

Truth is, it is because I love her that I restrain her from chasing mean dogs (trucks, trains, etc.) and will not allow her free access to electrical wires, medications, etc. When God puts restrictions on us, it is because He loves us and wants to protect us. We can pout, resist, and disobey, but we’re going to get hurt in the end. We need to remember God’s ‘no’ isn’t because He doesn’t love us… rather, it is BECAUSE HE LOVES US.

Respecting Other's Anxieties

Posting some of my favorite past blog entries.

I don't get all of this hype??? Down here in Florida all we do for a cat2 hurrican is break out an umbrella and thats no joke!

This guy’s tweet conveys my thoughts as I watch TV. People in New England are panicking over a category 2 hurricane. Category 2! Because I grew in Florida, the only time I panic over a hurricane is when referencing college football (albeit Hurricane Charlie WAS terrifying…). I am reminded how experiences shape us. We compare events to what is familiar or unknown. I have a friend who plans his whole day around the weather. I teased him when he said he had to hurry home at noon before the wind and rain came. “You better hunker down!” I jokingly said.

I feel bad for minimizing other’s anxieties – we need to respect people’s ability to persevere through events that have no impact on us. Last winter, I had no heat and was incredibly frustrated at friends who complained about the cold yet had a warm house to sleep in. And when I had no food, I’d cringe at those who said they were starving when I hadn’t eaten in 2 days- and they had a buffet lunch 3 hours ago.

Now that I am in a much better place, I remind myself not to minimize other’s ‘problems’. Circumstances and events shape us. A lady told me today how baffled she was by her boyfriend’s negative reactions when she gives him gifts. He was living on the streets with no help from his family. I could relate. I told her “his own family won’t help him, so when you do something nice for him, he probably wonders why are you helping him? What is your ulterior motive?” She said he had asked her those very questions. Yep, I’ve been there.

Our Part in God's Plan

Phil. 1:6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Isa. 55:11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
   It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
   and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Isn't it relieving to know God uses us to accomplish his purposes? We may think we are in control of our actions, and we may go through the day without consulting with God regarding decisions, but God is in charge. God has the ultimate plan, which involves those of us who have accepted Him as Savior. Philippians 1:6 states we can be confident that God will finish the good work He has started in you. Confident... not "if we complete our to-do list" nor "if we live until we are 95"... We are to be confident God will complete the work in which He created us.

On top of this, Isaiah 55:11 reminds us God will accomplish what He desires and achieve the purpose for which he sent it. His desire and purpose is for all to follow Him, accept Him as Savior, and glorify Him. No matter what we chose to do or not to do, God's purposes will prevail. Be confident of this. 

Important Article about Suicide

**fyi - found this on my old blog...

Read this article on the truth about depression and suicide. 

Suicide and Depression

Q&A Why do people kill themselves?

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. People die by suicide for a number of reasons. However, the majority of the people who take their lives (estimated at 90%) were suffering with an underlying mental illness and substance abuse problem at the time of their death. They weren't sick, but their brains were. Too often we think that a person is their brain, that’s where their personality or character resides. This is not true. The brain is an organ just like the liver, the kidneys, the gall bladder, etc. When it gets sick too often the appearance of the problem is in the form of a mental illness, as in the case of depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, or schizophrenia. If the brain is sick too long, it can lead a person to taking their lives. This isn't always the case, as millions of people live with depression and never attempt or die by suicide, but with awareness, education, and treatment, people can be helped so that suicide does not become an option.

Do people attempt suicide to prove something or to get sympathy?

No. A suicide attempt is a cry for help that should never be ignored. It is a warning that something is terribly wrong. Chronic depression can lead to feelings of despair and hopelessness, and a suicide attempt is one way some people choose to express these feelings. Most people who attempt or commit suicide don't really want to die - they just want their pain and suffering to end. A suicide attempt is also not done to gain someone's sympathy, as those that attempt to take their life do it for internal reasons-they simply can't stand the pain they feel emotionally and/or physically. It isn’t to try and get someone to feel bad for them, that's the last thing they would want.

A suicide attempt must always be taken seriously. Without intervention and proper treatment, a person who has attempted suicide is at greater risk of another attempt and possible suicide.

What is depression and what are depressive illnesses?

Depression and depressive illnesses are classified as mood disorders in the medical field, including everything from Major Depression to Dysthymia. They have a number of symptoms that affect people socially, occupationally, educationally, interpersonally, etc. How does one become depressed? Basically, here's how it works: the nerves in our brain don't touch each other, but rather pass messages from one to the next through chemicals called neurotransmitters. We need just the right amount of this chemical between the nerves to pass the exact same message to the next nerve. If there isn’t enough of that chemical, the message doesn't get passed along correctly and in this case, depression or a depressive illness can result. When it comes to depressive disorders the chemicals most frequently out of balance are serotonin and norepinephrine.

A person living with depression does not always have the same thoughts as a healthy person. This chemical imbalance can lead to the person not understanding the options available to help them relieve their suffering. Many people who suffer from depression report feeling as though they've lost the ability to imagine a happy future, or remember a happy past. Often they don't realize they're suffering from a treatable illness, and seeking help may not even enter their mind. Emotions and even physical pain can become unbearable. They don't want to die, but it's the only way they feel their pain will end. It is a truly irrational choice. Suffering from depression is involuntary, just like cancer or diabetes, but it is a treatable illness that can be managed.

How do alcohol and drugs affect depression?

Alcohol is a depressant, so it can and often does make depression worse. Drug use alone or in combination with alcohol use for someone suffering with depression can be lethal. Too often people attempt to alleviate the symptoms of depression by drinking or using drugs which can increase the risk of suicide by impairing judgment and increasing impulsivity.

Can a suicidal person mask their depression?

Sure, they can and sometimes do. But we can all be more aware of the signs and symptoms of depression to help those we care about get the necessary treatment to relieve them of their pain. Plus, because many people who are depressed can not see their symptoms, we have to be their eyes and ears for them to help SAVE their life. Many people suffering from depression and even contemplating suicide hide their feelings and appear to be happy just prior to their suicide attempt. This often confuses the people around them since for so long they had been suffering and appearing depressed, then all of a sudden seem better. However, most of the time a person who is suicidal will give clues as to how desperate they feel. It is critical that you familiarize yourself with the symptoms of depression and the warning signs of suicide, and not be afraid to ask direct questions about feelings of the person you're concerned about-it could be what save's their life!

Is a person at increased risk to attempt suicide if they’ve been exposed to it in their family or has had a close friend who died by suicide?

Yes, suicide does tend to run in families, but this is generally attributed to the genetic component of depression and related depressive illnesses. A healthy person talking about a suicide or being aware of a suicide among family or friends does not put them at greater risk for attempting suicide. And mere exposure to suicide does not alone put someone at greater risk for suicide. However, when combined with a number of other risk factors, it could increase someone’s likelihood of an attempt. Failing to treat or mistreating depressive illness puts a person at increased risk of suicide. It is very important to remember that the vast majority of people living with depression do not have suicidal thoughts or die by suicide.

Why don't people talk about mental illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder and suicide?

Stigma and lack of understanding are the main reasons depression remains a topic we avoid. People suffering from depression fear others will think they’re crazy or weak, or somehow a lesser person. Cultural norms are slowly changing, and people are becoming more aware of the nature of depressive illnesses and their impact on a person’s well being. Education will help reduce stigma and save lives.

Alcoholism, drug addiction, HIV and AIDS are examples of medical conditions previously attributed to a weakness or character problems. Today, they are widely recognized as medical diseases and people feel comfortable openly discussing the impact of the disease and seeking help through a variety of treatments. The dangers of alcohol and substance abuse have been the subject of major national public health campaigns in the United States, leading to a general public more aware of the value of prevention. Breast cancer is another medical illness that for many years went unspoken, but today receives millions of dollars in research funding, supportive programming and awareness. Issues of medical illnesses in the brain which we call mental illnesses still face huge obstacles to funding, support and awareness, but progress is being made.

Will "talking things out" help treat depression?

Talking does help treat depression. However, research continues to show that a combination of psychotherapy (talk therapy) and antidepressant medication is the most effective way to treat depression. In some cases, well-supported psychotherapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or interpersonal therapy can considerably alleviate the symptoms of depression. However, a medical doctor should supervise any course of treatment.

Why do people attempt suicide when they appear to feel better?

Sometimes a severely depressed person contemplating suicide doesn't have enough energy to attempt it. As the disease lifts they may regain some energy but feelings of hopelessness remain, and the increased energy levels contribute to acting on suicidal feelings. Another theory proposes that a person may "give in" to the disease because they can't fight it anymore. This relieves some anxiety, which makes them appear calmer in the period preceding a suicide attempt.

If a person's mind is made up can they still be stopped?

Absolutely! Never give up on someone contemplating suicide. For a person determined to attempt suicide the desire to live is overshadowed by the seeming hopelessness of the disease. The decision to attempt suicide is really a desire to stop suffering. Never give up on someone just because they say they’ve made up their mind. Depression is a crisis and intervening to help the person regain perspective and aggressively fight the disease can help reverse the downward trend toward suicidal thoughts or attempts.

Is depression the same as the blues?

No. Depression is a medical illness in the brain that can be clinically diagnosed and treated. While it's normal and even expected to feel badly about losing someone you love or experiencing a disappointing or traumatic event, to consistently experience the symptoms of depression for longer than two weeks under normal circumstances may indicate the presence of a diagnosable illness.

Why do depressive illnesses sometimes lead to suicidal thoughts?

As depression deepens and takes over the body and mind, the pain of depression often becomes overwhelming. The chemical imbalance and deep despair can lead the brain to try and find ways to end the pain. This is when suicidal thinking begins. Depressive illnesses can distort thinking such that a person can’t think clearly or rationally. The illness can cause thoughts of hopelessness and helplessness, which may lead to suicidal thoughts. Education about the symptoms of depression and the warning signs of suicide help people understand that depression and related depressive illnesses are both preventable and treatable.

What causes a depressive illness?

Depressive illnesses are biological illnesses related to imbalance or disrupted brain chemistry. The brain is an organ of the body and can get sick just like the heart, liver, or kidneys.

A combination of genetic, psychological and environmental factors play a role in how and when a depressive illness manifests, and the same is true for suicide. Because these are illnesses, stress doesn't necessarily have to be present, but can trigger or exacerbate a depression. Although rare, depression can appear out of nowhere when there would be no reason for a person to feel depressed. More commonly depression comes on over a period of time with many factors going on at once in a person’s life.

People of all ages, including children, youth and adolescents, can suffer from depressive illnesses. Since they may be genetically pre-disposed to depression, a person may be at higher risk than someone whose family doesn't have a history of depression. This doesn't however necessarily mean everyone will inherit a depressive illness. They just might have a predisposition or tendancy toward it.

What are the different types of depressive illnesses?

Types of depression include:

Seasonal Affective Disorder
Major Depression
Atypical Depression
Premenstrual Syndrome
Can depressive illnesses be treated?

Yes. There are various ways to treat depressive illnesses depending on the type of illness, the severity, and the age of the person being treated. A person suffering with depression should not try to manage the illness on their own. Knowing and recognizing the signs of depressive illness helps avoid needless suffering available through treatment. Depression is a condition like diabetes or high blood pressure that can be effectively managed with the help of mental health professionals including medical doctors, registered nurses, psychologists and therapists, social workers, clergy, family members, and community support.

Research shows a combination of antidepressant medication and psychotherapy to be the quickest, most effective treatment. Often, antidepressant medication is needed to help a person to think more clearly in psychotherapy. There are several types of psychotherapy, but two have proven beneficial in treating depressive illnesses:

Cognitive therapy focuses on trying to change a person's negative thinking and the inaccurate perceptions they have of themselves and their environment. People are taught to think logically, and to avoid negative self-talk.
Interpersonal therapy teaches a person how to successfully interact with others. Depressive illnesses interfere with how a person treats their family, friends, and co-workers, which affects how they treat them in return. Interpersonal therapy focuses on social skills.
What is an anxiety disorder?

Anxiety is a normal feeling we experience everyday. However, anxiety disorders are characterized by feeling excessive fear, nervousness or worry that something bad might happen even though there is no logical or specific reason to be afraid. Many times depressive illnesses and anxiety go hand in hand.

Story from the Past

I met the cutest kid with cerebral palsy... My heart saw so much potential sitting in her pink wheelchair.

I went with Jennifer and family to her nephew’s basketball game. Before I even sat down, I saw the cutest girl with long blonde hair and a bright smile sitting in a pink wheelchair. She must’ve been 7 or 8. I introduced myself, and told her how pretty she was. Beside her was a not-so-warm lady, who I naturally assumed was her mother. She abruptly informed me the little girl didn’t talk… and she couldn’t hear either.  I was thinking how sad – not sad about the little girl, rather sad at how pessimistic the lady was! If she thought she was going to deter me from talking to the girl, she was mistaken. I asked if she had Cerebral Palsy, and the mother simply said ‘yes’. I had the feeling I was annoying her but I didn’t care. Yes, I WAS keeping her from watching the game, but I felt the need to tell her how much potential the girl had, how the doctors had said I would be a vegetable needing institutional living my entire life, how doctors’ make mistakes… She listened to part of my spiel and interrupted with, “She has a LOT of problems!”. Okay… I asked if she was in a regular classroom and the lady appeared to become frustrated. “I don’t send her to school with her immune system… she may catch something.” I finally took her unspoken cues, said goodbye to the girl, and sat down.

I hope the girl will be given the chance to shine…given the chance to branch out and become the unique individual God created her to be.

Later, I thought, I should’ve told the lady, “Hey, I have a lot of problems too! Crohn’s, Major Clinical Depression, Asthma, Attention Deficit, Endometriosis, etc.” but it wasn’t about me, it was about that precious little girl.

Jennifer later told me the part that IS about me:
“Before I met you, I would’ve looked at that girl with pity and sadness that she had CP. Since I got to know you, I just see her as a cute girl who happens to be in a wheelchair. Other than the chair, I see her having a normal life like everyone else!”


I woke up with Revelation 19:9 on my mind. I didn’t know what the verse said, I just kept thinking ‘Revelation 19:9. After taking Jireh out, feeding Addy, making coffee, and reviewing my memory verse for the week, I looked up the passage.  This is what I read: Then the angel said to me, ‘Write’… I read it multiple times as the verse did not seem familiar. Yes, it does say, ‘Write’.

I searched for the verse so I could copy and paste it in my blog without writing the entire verse. Another surprise. had the word ‘this’ so the verse says, “Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”
Both are NIV Bibles, yet my Key Word Study Bible clearly says, Then the angel said to me, Write…”

I think I’ll stop analyzing and rechecking my Bible and Write!

Studying God’s Word lets us get to know God and His ways. The new year is the perfect time to start/continue daily devotional time in His Word. As it is written in Hebrews 4:12, For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.