Posts Tagged: mental health

depression aired out

Poetry Hope for Depression

Poetry Hope for Depression

Aired Out

Sucking in the stale air
of depression, regurgitating
regret day after day.

Throw open windows!

You break the seal of
our tomb of circumstances.
Resurrect the fresh fragrance
of hope planted in the sunshine of our dreams.
Filter life through the curtains of our mourning soul.

Invite us to open our eyes to Spring.

Turning My Page

One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”

John 5:6 ESV

We couldn’t open our windows and I might have squealed when the installer replaced the old useless windows. Today the temperature finally dropped and we spent the day with the windows open. Throughout the day I found myself smiling and breathing in more deeply.

Depression also shuts down all avenues for fresh thought and truth to enter our souls. When I am in a pattern of fear, anger, doubt, and worry, I stop what I am doing and get outside. The sights, sounds, and illustrations of the outside remind me that nothing is impossible for God.

For example, my daughter’s plant she grew from seed, is now a flourishing loaded with plump almost ripe tomatoes. I thought it wasn’t going to make it. It was such a scrawny little plant at the start. We neglected it, but my neighbor spent time caring for it while we left for vacation. Ten days later, we came home to a plant loaded with buds. Now we water it every day. The plant didn’t change, its DNA told it what to do. My neighbor’s attitude changed ours. it was worth saving.

These illustrations in nature, remind me that I too must feed, water, and care for myself. When I feel fears, doubts, and worries closing in on me, a short walk outside, sitting on the porch, and photography at my favorite park all help expand my world. Despair is no match for a fresh perspective of hope.

Turning Your Page

Depression breeds in stale air. Therefore, in what ways can you begin keeping a fresh supply of new thoughts, memories, and experiences flowing in your life? Do you have a person who makes you laugh, or encourages you to step out of what currently feels safe? Reach out to them and see if they’ll send you a daily text, or go out for coffee. You may not feel better after opening your life to something new immediately, just as our eyes have to adjust after being in a dark cave, our soul has to find security in a new positive pattern.

  • Write down some things you’d like to do if you felt better.
  • Ask someone to take a short walk with you.
  • Do a word search on depression (despair), downcast in the bible. What does it say about the cause of these things and the remedy for them?

My struggle isn’t the end of the story. Open my eyes, Lord, to your love, provision, and answers through nature. Amen

When the Betrayer Approaches Will I Accept God’s Will?

“‘Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers’” (Luke 22:31=32).

All of us have a betrayer. A person who knows our inner workings and wounds us deeply. Jesus understands our wound of betrayal intimately.

He was surrounded by betrayers.

Pharisees held the prophecies of His coming in their hands but denied Jesus was the Son of God. Crowds of followers who witnessed miracle after miracle, raised their fists in hatred when it appeared Jesus lost favor. And his friends? There wasn’t a single disciple left in the garden to stand with Jesus as he was arrested.

I too am a betrayer of Jesus.

I knew as a little girl that he was real, walked the earth, was God in flesh, but I rejected Him because He did not meet my expectations. How could a good God allow me to be abused? How could a good God withhold solid friendships? How could a God who cared allow so much evil in the world?

Yet, knowing every last one of those who followed Jesus would betray him, Jesus chose them. Knowing his mother and brothers would laugh at him and reject the gospel he still chose to be born into a family. Jesus knew I would reject him, and yet he still called me, loved me, and never stopped being present in my life.

When I am lax in dying to self, which I have been over the past few months, I am tempted to turn away from God. Two weeks ago God placed a question squarely in my soul. My insomnia and pain were unbearable and I was tempted to throw in the towel on God. He asked, Will you betray me?

I confessed my bitterness, stopped playing the victim of humanity, and submitted to His will. In one desperate cry, my oppressive insomnia was shattered, my attitude was lighter, my whole household noted the transformation. Joy and peace entered our home.

Any person who supports us in ministry is susceptible to the same sinful nature that Peter, James, John and the rest of the disciples displayed. We are human, we are tempted to go our own way, fall asleep when others need us to keep watch and hurt each other with false beliefs. Are you prepared for your betrayer?

PREPARED, not paranoid. Looking for people to hurt us requires distance, fear, and overthinking every action of another person. Preparing for letdowns in relationships requires love, sacrifice, keeping no record of wrongs fasting, praying, surrendering to God’s will, and discernment. This dying to self is nothing short of physical death. Jesus almost died before the cross. He really needed the support of his friends.

There was no one willing to walk into the garden, stay awake, and die on a cross with him. In my 44 years of living, I have observed pastors, deacons, lay leaders and children all fall away from following Christ. There is not a single one of us that is not vulnerable to this temptation given the right environment. Cheat or lose your job. Commit adultery or stay in a loveless marriage. Harden my heart after losing my son, or stand firm, knowing Christ will use my sorrow to save others. We all have betrayal moments.

God made a way for us to turn like Simon, confess our betrayal and love each other as he loved us first. Stronger, more resilient because we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the forgiveness, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Thank you, Lord!

Spark of Hope in Crisis

Spark of Hope in Crisis

A spark of hope in crisis starts with a willingness to engage others. That is how my testimony of my grieving with hope started in 2014. I didn’t one of his friends going through life not knowing that they were loved, seen, and valued by me. It was all I had to offer them, but that is powerful, and enough.

 

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:12-13

Turning My Page

A chance encounter with Ginny Shepherd sparked hope in me. This petite dynamic woman has been a part of the fight against despair for a long time. The opportunity to interview her was a delight. May she inspire you to not feel helpless on either side of a crisis. We aid others in crisis through our sharing what gives us hope, as well as find the courage to press forward in our own journey through community.

Good-Bye was an opportunity to offer hope, for Ginny Shepherd, a five-year veteran of the crisis hotline in her region.

She has a long history of standing in the gap for those in crisis. Both her own family and anyone who crosses her path. Becoming a volunteer for a crisis-hotline and later a director of training, was a natural progression in her pattern of helping others.

Ginny and her siblings wrestled with many physical and emotional challenges after losing their father at an early age. This experience and its aftermath introduced her to both good and bad ways of handling trauma and depression. She was acutely aware of what worked in mental health care and what was utterly useless in helping those on the edge of suicide.

As an adult, working for many years in the education world, Ginny observed young men and women with various levels of complicated problems. She took the opportunity to listen, encourage, and find great resources of hope for her students. She often referred students to counseling, and or campus chaplains. A friendship developed with the on-campus chaplains and his wife, who were involved with the local crisis hotline.

When thinking about becoming a crisis hotline volunteer, Ginny says, “I resisted at first because I didn’t see that I had any kind of qualifications.”

Drawing on her own experience with tragedy, and help she offered her students, she thought the crisis training was at least worth exploring. “Serving as a crisis intervention worker is a great opportunity to learn about one’s ego. We become more aware of the voices inherited from our parents, family, ministers, and teachers that may not be the most helpful in being a pathway for a person in crisis to walk on. You want to serve as a bridge and conduit.  Help the caller in crisis hear what they are saying and know they are being listened to. They are seen as a valuable person.”

Working a crisis hotline is not for everyone. Becoming aware of strengths and weaknesses is essential. “We learned the difference between empathy,” what we strive to practice, “and sympathy, defined as a negative emotion for a crisis worker. With empathy, one is, shoulder to shoulder with the caller, sort of at their side. With sympathy the tendency is sort of looking down on the caller. Training gave volunteers the opportunity to work out the bugs in their vocabulary.

We were not supposed to use the pronoun “you”, but it was easy to slip into giving the caller a to-do list.

 For the fixer, it takes reprogramming responses to someone in crisis. 

“Boy, we had excellent training,” Ginny declared. Professional psychologist, hospital workers, police and men, and women working the crisis phones for many years, equipped the trainees with confidence to stand in the gap for those in crisis. Much of the training involved role-playing. The trainer would take on the role of a caller, and the volunteer would respond. “We were taught to respect the place the caller is in. “And for heaven’s sakes, no judgments, and no guilt, no coercive language, no manipulation language, just trying to help the caller clarify in his or her mind what was going on. Clear away the static. When you are in a crisis, your blood pressure goes up, and your head feels like it’s pounding. It’s hard to think. 

So much of the beginning of a crisis call is calming a person down by reassuring and listening.

Anyone in crisis, particularly the young, have so many thoughts and feelings jumbling around in their mind. They are not used to someone listening to them.” Once she began answering the crisis lines, regular in-service training increased her understanding of clients. The collaboration refreshed Ginny in the everchanging nature of the calls received.

Callers were not always someone you would sit across from and enjoy a coffee chat, Ginny explained. Learning to treat all callers as valuable took a lot of training. The crisis organization brought in a local director of a battered women’s shelter to help the volunteers understand and address the unique dynamics of domestic violence calls. Ginny learned that in domestic violence situations often the batterers are in as much internal pain as they inflict on their spouse. “That was a revelation to me.” She went on to say, one of the miracles of life is that God does love all, and that capacity of of offering the spark of hope in crisis is very difficult to achieve.

To spark life in desperate situations takes practice, accountability, and flexibility.

Ginny feels she received all of these gifts through the speakers and experts in the field.

Traumatic calls ranging from suicide threats, domestic violence to pedophiles and everything in-between are bound to take a toll on the strongest of volunteers, but Ginny credits her five-years service to the training received. The initial training always emphasized, you’re not here to tell people what to do, you are not here to solve their problem, you’re here to listen and to hold up that person so he or she can believe that they have the chance to solve their problem. Effectively, Ginny’s job was to give control over their problems, back to the caller. We practiced active listening. Reflecting to the caller what we hear them saying.

And if you get it wrong?

“Don’t worry they’ll tell you.”

The goal was to help the caller to experience that moment of thinking, maybe I could or maybe I can.  As she helped the caller see they could work through their trauma, she says, “and then you cautiously lead them into a referral.

Connect them with the experts, the best possible resources.

Ginny adds, “There was always a professional on call, that if we got into a really difficult phone conversation, we could explain to the caller. I have another phone here to call someone to help me. Or, you could call someone after the phone call for help.”

She found herself in such a situation after a three-hour suicide call. “A tightrope-walking situation,” she says. The call started with just wanting someone to tell good-bye to but ended with a “well maybe I don’t need to say good-bye.” But Ginny still felt unsure, questioning if she had done all she could. She contacted the expert on-call, and he went through the call, reflecting her responses, and reassured Ginny she had done all she could to respect and offer hope to the caller.

Her recommendations to those who want to offer the spark of hope in crisis to others:

“We may fear that we don’t have the right words, but we can communicate to the person in crisis, contemplating suicide, that we see you, you are present in my life, and I care about your life.

I think all people crave to be understood and a common cry from a person is you don’t understand me. My best estimate of what to do is to say, Help me know you, help me to understand. That puts the power back into the hands of he or her who feels they have no power. Helps them to reach out on their behalf,” Ginny says.

Often call in because they feel no one in their sphere of influence understood. “You don’t know if a family member has just trodden into quicksand.” Our response should be, “Give me a chance, I’ll try.” In a call, there is always that moment where there is a spark of insight. There’s that first glimmer from them of ‘oh maybe.’ There’s a little spark of hope, and it is a very tender and tenuous moment. You wait to hear that in their voice and then tread very lightly. Ginny spent years listening for that spark, and you and I can hone the same skills.

Turning Your Page: Developing the Spark of Hope In Crisis

You may feel ill equipped to offer the spark of hope to those in crisis around you. But as Ginny shares, it does take training and practice to develop a consistent method of intervention, but there are lots of opportunities for training. Start where you are. The bottom line is that you have experiences and things in life that have torn you down and built you up. What are those, how did others help or hinder you? Utilze where you are and step into the lives of others. Sometimes the gift of your presence are all that is needed.

  • Write down the names of people in your life that have encouraged you and offered hope. Send them a note of encouragement or thanks.
  • Read 1 Corinthians 13 which is a guide for speaking life into others. What are some of the ways we can do harm to others? How can you show faith, hope, and love?
  • Write down a three minute and five minute testimony sharing what you have learned or are currently learning about hope

Lord, I need your spark of hope in my crisis. Use others to speak life when I am overwhelmed. Equip me to offer hope when I cannot see your faithfulness, promises fulfilled, or unconditional love. Amen

Thursday Trails: Stepping Outside of Depression

I love hiking the trails out our local nature parks. I don’t think, I don’t worry, and I don’t plot and plan. I am a child, with a camera and my God becomes bigger than my depression, insomnia and grief. Time stands still as I breath more deeply and gain new perspective.

Comment about some of your favorite parks or trails. How does nature expand your faith and shrink your depression?

“I Just Want to Die”: Words of Deepest Pain

For many suffering from depression and their caretakers, ” I just want to die!” are the most painful words to hear and say.

Do we freeze with fear when we hear those words? Do we dismiss them as manipulative? Are we on our knees petitioning day and night for relief, as I was for Jonathan? How do we escape this painful pit of depression that often accompanies living difficult and painful existence? Who do we turn to for help? How can we combat an unseen enemy that so successfully tears our lives apart? Where is God in this pain?

Scripture is clueing me in to God’s response to our spiritual health questions:

1 Kings 19:4But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.”

  • From Elijah’s struggle with depression I know that God allowed him to run away
  • God interacted with Elijah “What are you doing here?”
  • He fed, provided water and allowed Elijah to rest
  • God acknowledged that the journey was to great for Elijah
  • He commanded Elijah to go back the way he had come (stop running away)
  • Provided a companion to take over
  • Did not take his life

Mark 9:28 After Jesus had gone into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” 29Jesus answered, “This [demon] cannot come out, except by prayer.” 

  • Prayer
  • Sometimes the only way of breaking through depression, mental illness and suicide is to cry out to the one who knocked down the walls of Jericho, made a child defeat a giant, and came to us in the form of a tiny baby to set us free from sin!
  • We aren’t talking the now I lay me down to sleep prayers, but the prayers that sweat blood, and wrestle with God expecting blessing–expecting Him to answer.

 

Ruth 1:…16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. 17“Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” 18When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.…

  • Stand with the depressed
  • Go with them wherever they journey
  • Love God
  • Risk leaving the known to venture into the unknown
  • Make it clear that you are with them all the way

Nehemiah 2:2 Now I had not been sad in his presence. 2So the king said to me, “Why is your face sad though you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart.” Then I was very much afraid. 3I said to the king, “Let the king live forever. Why should my face not be sad when the city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies desolate and its gates have been consumed by fire?”…

  • Sharing
  • Speak up about what depresses us.
  • Acknowledge what we see in our friends.

Psalm 143:…6I stretch out my hands to You; My soul longs for You, as a parched land. Selah. 7Answer me quickly, O LORD, my spirit fails; Do not hide Your face from me, Or I will become like those who go down to the pit. 8Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; For I trust in You; Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul.…

  • Petition
  • Cry out to God
  • Be real with him
  • Listen for his love
  • Allow him to teach you the path through depression

Psalm 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 42:11 Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.

  • Remember
  • God does not change and therefore we can count on his faithfulness no matter our failures
  • Praise is not dependent upon feeling

 

1 Samuel 16:23So it came about whenever the evil spirit from God came to Saul, David would take the harp and play it with his hand; and Saul would be refreshed and be well, and the evil spirit would depart from him.

  • Hope/Praise
  • Music can soothe the soul

 

Questions I plan on asking myself:

  • What am I doing in my depression?
  • Am I allowing God to provide food, water, and rest?
  • Am I confessing my fears?
  • Am I isolated?
  • Am I remembering?
  • What am I listening to?

 

 

I Need to Tell My Story Without Reliving It

Today I give my first speech. You’d think as much as I write out encouragement to you that this step would be easy, but it’s not. My passion for you moves me forward, but my emotions make me want to hide in my turtle shell. No matter my personality, I am realizing that I must learn to speak to people with more ease. Face to face is a necessity when addressing all the levels at which I may be called to speak.

Standing in the G.A.P. (Gather, Assess, Provide) covers so many entities. I will need to speak effectively to schools, churches, medical providers, mental health professionals, judges, lawyers, parents, and teens. So I joined Toastmasters International. Look for one in your area if you want to learn how to give effective presentations.

Afterward:

Made it through the speech with excellent feedback.

Things to work on:

Reduce my need for notes, slow down and make more eye contact.

Questions for those who Grieve

Been a bit occupied with a certain mouse these past few days so I haven’t had a chance to write until today. Extravagant fun is hard for me. I know its early, but I’d kind of like to stop searching for Jonathan in the crowd. I know where he is, but it is like my whole system of being needs a reboot. For eighteen years my son was a part of my everyday living in someway, and though I know no one is wanting me to erase him as if he never existed, there is an expectation for me to enjoy what I do have in front of me today.

As I grieve, evenings are the hardest. I’m weary, my defenses are lower, and I seem to get more gut punches after 6. I tend to go inward, rather than connect with my surroundings. So I’m trying to figure out how to move through those hard moments. Any suggestions from my fellow grievers? How do I manage the darker moments without disconnecting from my family or the good memories that could be developed.

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Suicide Hotline

National Suicide Hotline

If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call the National Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or go to the website at  SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.