Saturday, December 28, 2013

Creating the World of My Dreams

As I come to the end of the year, I start thinking about what the next year will be.  What do I want to do in the next year?  How will I define it?  How will I change and grow?  This alone makes it a proactive activity. 

Approaching the new year understanding that I can define it is empowering. 

Many years in the past I have been carried along like a twig in a current.  Go with the flow.  Wherever life takes me is where I'll be.  No thought or effort to change my own direction, just reacting to things as they happen.

But a couple of years ago, when I decided to choose a word to define the year, a word for my focus, things began to change.  My word was KINDNESS the first year and SEE the next.  Both of those years were powerful and changed me in amazing ways.  The one word for a year thing totally works for me.

I am so excited about my word for this year.  I pondered all the things I want to change, all the things I want to do, all the ways I still need to grow.  I pondered who I am and who I want to be.  I pondered my world and what defines it.  Many words came to mind as options.  But eventually one floated to the top that encapsulates everything I want.

CREATE.  My word for 2014 is create.

This is the moment in my life when I am ready to truly make my world what I want it to be, in so many facets.  It fits where I am now.  And where I want to go.

My vision is that I will examine my life and decide what I want it to be.  I am usually so whatever in my life.  I am a very content person, happy with whatever life hands me.  And I think there is value in that.  But there is also value in choosing.  In making it what I want it to be.

It will be less about what I don't want and more about what I do.  Not focusing on the things I want to change or get rid of but focusing on what I want my life to be.  Less about getting rid of things and more about creating space.  Less about not feeling bad and more about feeling good.  Less about avoiding people who cause me stress and more about filling my life with people who bring me joy.  Less about overcoming negative behaviors and more about establishing habits of good behaviors.

A big part of this will be examining my life (which I love and am good at) and figuring out what I want (which I'm not as good at).

I have already started, because I just couldn't wait.  I've taken up a new art form (Zentangle).  I've begun creating space in my home.  But there's so much more room to create.  I can't wait to see what this year will bring.

Maybe it will be the year I finally do the small remodel on the bathroom I've wanted to do for years.  Maybe it will be the year I tackle the backyard and make it the oasis I want it to be.  Maybe it will be the year my bedroom becomes the haven I want it to be.  Maybe it will be the year I find a schedule that works for me and brings me peace of mind.  Maybe it will be the year I create a system for our finances that eases my worries.

It's about understanding what my heart needs and making it happen, inviting it into my life.

My life is not quite a blank canvas, but it's got lots of open space and I can easily paint over so many parts I don't like.  I'm excited to see what the final creation looks like.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Year of Seeing

It's time to look back, just for a few moments, and evaluate how this year has gone.  Have I used it well?  Have I accomplished what I intended?  Have I grown and become more me?

I chose one word to guide me in 2013.  I chose the word SEE.  I knew what I meant but wasn't sure how to put it into words.  It turns out, words didn't matter all that much.  It wasn't about words.  It was about opening my heart.  My heart communicates very well, but it doesn't use words.

So let me tell you some of what I've learned.

I've learned that when I get caught up in the running around and getting stuff done mode, I don't see much.  But I've also learned that I can step out of that moment and into another one.  I can quit doing and start seeing.  And when I do I am more me.  My heart is more at peace.  I don't do it nearly enough, but it can be breathtaking when I do.

I've also learned that sometimes life does it for me.  Sometimes things come to a crashing halt and I freak out because things aren't going the way I planned.  But then I find that it's because I wasn't being true to me, or life wasn't, and the universe decided to put me back on the right road.  I mope and cry and kick against the pricks.  And then I sit for a bit.  And I look around.  And I ask, "What now then?"  And I find a way that is me.  And it's a happier path.

And sometimes, because I've expressed a willingness to open my heart even when it's scary, God pauses everything.  And He shines a spotlight on just one thing or one person.  And He shows me a little of what He sees.  Without my asking, He shows me things that are glorious, things that are divine, because knowing this and seeing this makes me more me.

It's still tough to put into words.  I hope I've come close so you can feel it a bit.  The next time you and I have a private moment together, I will try to communicate it to you if you'd like.  From my heart to yours.  I will take your hands in mine.  I will look into your eyes.  And I will open my heart.  If you're willing to hear it, I believe my heart can talk to yours.  (It could possibly result in tears and a hug.)

If you are someone I will never meet, please try to hear it.  I am sending it.  My heart is bursting with it.  And it's for you now.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Conversations with God About My Health

I have been hesitant to share this story, but I feel now is the right time.  Please know that it's a very tender story for me.

In the late spring/early summer of 2001 I went to bed for a year and a half.  So tired.  Barely able to care for my children.  Very difficult time for me and our family.  Over time I slowly pulled out of that darkness.  But I have been very low energy and fatigued ever since.  It's like I'm constantly running on batteries with very little juice.

Then, in July 2005, I got a severe headache that wouldn't go away.  MRIs and all kind of tests and treatments found/did nothing.  I still have the headache.  It varies in intensity, but it's always there.

So I am always exhausted and always in pain.

Most days I just roll with it.  It's my life and I've grown accustomed. Other days I get very sad and frustrated about all the things I want to do but can't.  This story starts with one of those days.

I had a friend who had gone through some similar health issues.  He'd tried many treatments and made many changes in his life.  And he felt better.  He found his way back to good health and energy.

Shortly after hearing him speak of how he changed his life/health, I sent the following email to a friend documenting my experience/feelings:

Last week I went in for my physical.  As I talked with my doctor he decided he wanted to add some extra tests to my blood work.  Basically, there were something like 5-10 additional tests he wanted to run.  Looking for the cause of my ever-dwindling energy.  This has been my primary concern.  I would gladly keep the headache if I could just feel better, more energy, like I could function.

So today my test results came back.  And there was nothing unusual in them.  They didn't show any problems.  No new direction to try a new treatment.

To say the least, I was frustrated and disappointed.  I began to get depressed.

I found myself in my room crying.  I asked why I can't seem to feel better.  Not really in prayer, just a thought.  I was answered.  "You can't do the work I need you to do if you feel better."

I'll admit I responded with, "That's stupid."

I got past that.  I was told that I can choose not to help with this work and I would be healed.  I would get better very quickly if I decided that I didn't want to do what He needed me to do.

Of course, there was no way I could do that.  I will not put my own comfort before the work He has for me.  I just couldn't do that.

I can, and should, continue working on improving my basic health.  Try to improve my habits.  I will not be healed before my role in this work is complete -- maybe never.  He has a plan for my life and I need to trust that.

There is a great deal of peace in knowing this.  I have felt an outpouring of love from Him.  I know that my doctors and I are not missing something.  We could look forever and try everything and I would not be healed.  My struggle is not about biology. 

I have also been in a state of mourning most of the day.  While I accept this and it helps to know, it is difficult to let go of what I want.

I do not see it this as a punishment or God hurting me for His purposes; I see it as a blessing, an opportunity.  It will take some time to adjust my mindset, but it will happen.
 
I am sad right now.  But I am at peace.

That was two and a half years ago.  I still get frustrated, but that conversation continues to bring me strength.

Some time after that initial conversation I found myself in a terrible depression.  I'd been working hard to take care of myself physically and emotionally.  I'd worked so hard in therapy.  I'd been depression free for a long time.  Then I was slammed back into the darkness.

And as I sobbed on my bedroom floor, curled up in emotional pain, I found my heart asking the question again, "I thought I had this beat.  Why am I here again, in this dark place?"

And I heard, quietly and lovingly, "You said yes."

I was overwhelmed with God's love and support and gratitude.  He knew it was hard.  He knew I could do the work He needed.  He also knew it was worth it.

And that was enough.  It's still enough.  I still get frustrated and sad.  But I have never regretted saying yes.  So if you hear my story and ask how I can smile and be content with my life, now you know.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Surrounded by Rattlesnakes

When I was fourteen, our family spent a week on a houseboat on Lake Powell, a beautiful man-made reservoir in the desert of southern Utah.  My mom, not to be deterred from her traditional schedule, got up each morning and went walking/hiking through the rocks and sand and sagebrush.  She had to go early because it got very hot very quickly.

As she was walking one day, she heard a sound that stopped her in her tracks.  She heard the distinctive warning of a rattlesnake.  She knew the sound.  She knew what it meant.  She immediately froze to assess her situation.

One step in front of her was a rattlesnake, sunning itself on the warm rocks.  She pivoted to find a better direction to go and found another snake.  And another.  She was surrounded.  She has no idea how she got into that spot without being bitten.  But she knew she had to get out of it.

Very cautiously, she made her way back and out.  And straight back to the houseboat to share her story.  And the next day she changed her walking practice: telling others which way she was going, carrying a stick, walking a little more slowly and alertly.

I thought of this story as I was pondering the things that keep me frozen.  I have something I need to do or a decision to make.  I don't know how to handle it or if I am even capable of handling it.  But I feel like I have to do it before I can get on to other things because it's so important.  But I don't know what to do, so I freeze.  I do nothing.  Sometimes for a long time.

I freeze as surely as my mom did when she was surrounded by rattlesnakes.  My fear of making a decision can be just as powerful as her fear was in that moment.  She had a very real fear for her life; programmed by nature for her safety.  What am I afraid of?  Where did that programming come from?  Does it protect me?

Wouldn't it be great if I could answer all those questions right now?  Well, I can't.  I'm still working on it.  But I think that by asking the questions, I can make progress.

One thing I've found that helps when I am stuck like that is to make a different decision or tackle a different problem, one I feel capable of confronting.  That allows for movement.  It keeps me from being frozen.  And the tiny high I get from having done something -- anything -- can be enough to keep me moving sometimes.

But first I have to realize I am stuck.  And I have to force myself to trust that the thing I don't know how to do isn't a rattlesnake and I'm not surrounded.  I have to look for another path out instead of staring at the scary thing hoping it doesn't kill me.

I workin' on it.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Rerun: Taking Pleasure in Another's Pain

This is actually a rerun from one of my other blogs, The Difficult Things.  I don't write there anymore.  As I've healed, I've gotten to the point that I feel I can share all the parts of me here.

That blog was for the dark things in my life.  There are still dark things, but I don't hide them from others anymore.

The Difficult Things was very important as I worked to shine light into those shadowy parts.  As I did so, I gained wisdom.  It still helps me to go back and read what I learned then.

I offer this to you, hoping it might shine a light into a shadowy area you or a loved one are avoiding due to fear or misunderstanding.

Taking Pleasure in Another's Pain

I was recently accused of gaining pleasure from hurting another person.  Initially it stung.  I got defensive. 

Then I realized that this person was striking out from a place of pain.  I was sad that she either didn't know me very well or couldn't see things as they really are because of her pain.

Other people's pain.  I've spent a great deal of my life concerned about other people's pain, especially pain I caused.  I have given up so much of what I wanted and sacrificed who I am to make sure I don't hurt others.  This is not healthy.

When I first started therapy I was asked what my boundaries were.  I was very confused.  I had no idea what he meant.  I had no idea that I had a right to set boundaries.  The more I learned the more I understood that I had very few boundaries.  I had some legal and religious boundaries, but that was about it.  Other people could push me, manipulate me, into doing what they wanted time and time again.  And the tool they used to do this was their pain. 

By making me feel responsible for their pain they could make me change my behavior.  Even if I knew my behavior was wholesome and healthy, they made me question that and sacrifice that because I didn't want to hurt them.  One of the main motivations in my life is to not cause others harm.  This has been used against me.

I remember sitting in a therapy session sobbing.  I was learning so much.  I was making healthy changes in my life, changes that were so good for me, but they were hurting others.  I remember asking my therapist how these could be good things if they were hurting others.  He told me something that has changed my life.

I felt like I was personally hurting other people.  I was not.  They were hurting themselves.

I had finally set boundaries.  He told me to imagine these boundaries as a brick wall.  They are there to protect me.  I can set these boundaries but others choose what to do about it.  The people who were hurt by my new boundaries were choosing to continually push against that brick wall.  They were choosing to run head-first into that brick wall and then blaming me for hurting them because I built the wall.

I've seen it happen over and over.  Pain is a difficult thing to endure.  We want to blame someone else.  It's easy to see how another person's behavior makes us unhappy.  It's tough to admit that our response to that person's behavior is what determines our happiness.  It's difficult to admit that our own behavior may be causing us pain.

On the other side of it, I've been hurt by others.  By the boundaries that they've set.  Not because these boundaries were unhealthy but because I was unhappy with them and kept banging my head against them.

Seeing another person hurt because of something I did is horrible.  I hate it.  But I must stay true to the boundaries that I need in order to feel safe.  It is my job to take care of myself; this includes setting and maintaining boundaries.  I am not responsible for the pain another person feels when he or she disapproves of my boundaries and keeps running into them head first.  And it's not my job to fix their pain.  Even if they think it is.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Today There is Sunshine!

Actually, right this very minute there is sunshine.  It's 12:30am and completely dark outside, but there is sunshine in my heart.  There are colors in my soul.  I look around and see so much that makes me happy.

Yesterday, on Halloween of all days, my depression finally broke.  I made my bed for the first time in over a month.  And I was happy.

Oh, it's been a long spell.  While it hasn't been my most gut-wrenching or life threatening depression, it sure was an ugly one.  Month after month of darkness.  It had me pinned by the throat; I felt like it would never let go.

Nothing I tried helped.  Nothing anyone tried helped.  My friends and family worried.  I even worried a bit, as much as a person can when depressed.

Nothing brought me happiness.  Everything was heavy.  Everything was a chore.  I barely existed.

And just like that it went away.  It was like I woke up from a bad dream.  A bad, black-and-white dream.  And there are colors again.  Kind of like landing in OZ.

There is so much going on.  I have lots more to write.  But that will have to wait.

I just want to focus on this moment and this feeling.  I am happy.  And it's magical!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Going to War

There is a memory.  A memory that holds more power over me than anything else ever has.  A memory that has been there for as long as I can remember.  And beyond.  A memory that taunts me.  A memory that hides.  A memory that I sense but don't see.

It is strong.  It is elusive.  It is haunting.

And I am going to battle against it.

Most of the time, it lies hidden.  Tightly protected in its cage.  Just out of my reach.

But right now it is exposed.  And right now I am strong.  And right now I have an army behind me.

I am frightened.  But I am going to war.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Rerun: Energy Vampires and Soul Suckers

It's time for a new post, but I'm just not up to it.  Still hurting a lot.  Still finding my way.

So here's another rerun.  It's from January 2010.  I hope you like it.

**********

Energy Vampires and Soul Suckers

Have you ever noticed that there are some people in life who are just draining?  Any interaction with them will leave you feeling depleted.  With some people it takes a long conversation full of their needs and ignoring yours before it hits.  With others, it's as soon as they enter the room.  As soon as you see them -- whoosh!  Energy drain.  It's almost like you can feel the life leaving your body.

Sometimes a person is truly in crisis.  They need to talk and if you can listen and give of yourself, they will get better.  It's a momentary crisis.  And they give back when it's you who are struggling.  They listen.  They give.  This doesn't seem to be so draining.  Partly because they refill you when you need it and partly because you are giving willingly.

But other people just take.  They corner you and utilize you.  They barrage you and then leave you in a crumpled heap.  You are glad it's over, but you know they'll be back.

Giving of yourself is charitable.  It's the Christlike thing to do.  I can hear the arguments.  And you're right; it is.  But what about the cost to you?

I think of Little Shop of Horrors.  Seymour tries to appease Audrey II with his own blood.  He soon discovers that he can't satisfy Audrey II's appetite.  And think of the Skeksis from The Dark Crystal.  They drain the Gelflings to fill themselves.  In both cases, it is all about meeting their needs and they are indifferent to their food source.

Some people are like this.  They have a hunger that cannot be satiated.  You can give and give, and when you are lying dead on the floor they will move on to someone else because they are still hungry.

I don't know about you, but I am still trying to figure out how to protect myself from energy vampires and soul suckers.  I believe that it is an important skill to learn.  As sovereign beings, we are responsible to set our boundaries to protect ourselves.

And luckily, not everyone we interact with is a soul sucker.

There are others, people who give.  Sometimes it's a two-hour conversation with both of you crying.  Other times it's a smile from across the room when you really need it.  These people are soul healers.  These people are well fillers.

I want to be like them.  But I'm a beginner.  I still vacillate between the two.  Sometimes I drain.  Sometimes I give.

But someday I want to be like those rare gems who are true healers.  These people can fill you up even when they are in crisis.  They receive more by giving.  Somehow, they have learned to protect themselves and still give away as much as is needed.

These people are the angels who walk among us.  And most of them don't even realize it.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Keep a Happy Thought for Me?

I am still hurting.  A lot.  The depression and anxiety are still bad.  My patience is almost non-existent.

I am going to the doctor on Monday and the therapist on Thursday.  I'm really hoping for some relief and/or direction by the end of the week.  I'm kind of at the edge of what I can take.

Keep a happy thought for me?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

An Interesting Blessing

I have been fiercely independent for as long as I can remember.  To the point of shunning chivalry and sometimes hurting myself because I was too stubborn to let anyone lighten my load, figuratively or literally.

Over the years I've learned to accept help a little more and even sometimes request it.  I've learned that I'm not enough to take on the world all by myself.  This used to scare me.  Now that I've grown a bit and found some people I can trust, it is a bit of a relief.  Because now I understand that I'm not meant to take the world on alone.

But one area I didn't seem to learn this was in my marriage.  Oh, I did become interdependent with my husband.  Especially financially when my health no longer allowed me to work outside the home.  But there was still this I-could-get-by-without-you-I-don't-really-need-you thing left over from all those years of my independence and our struggles.

For so many years I have been his strength, his buffer.  We both knew that if our marriage ended, as it looked like it would more than once, I would struggle financially but be okay otherwise; he would be a basket case and be lost without me.

But recently that's changed.  We tend to pull together in crisis (thank heavens).  So his job loss, while incredibly stressful in other ways, has been good for our relationship.  We've become closer.

That's not the part that surprised me.  The thing that surprised me is what happened during my last PTSD episode (which still isn't completely over, by the way, but is improving).

This last PTSD episode has included so much fear (it always does).  It's tough for me to leave the house.  It's hard to be around people.  I'm claustrophobic.  I don't want anyone to touch me or talk to me too much.  I try not to visibly cringe when others come near me, but I definitely cringe inside.  The nerves in my skin feel like they are all hyper-stimulated at once.  My skin hurts.  And the thought of someone touching me scares me like when someone comes up to slap your back when you have a bad sunburn.

None of that is new.  I get that way every time my PTSD is triggered.

The interesting part is this.  My husband has become my buffer.  He gets between me and what scares me.  Quite often.  He'll take the conversation for me.  He'll sit between me and others.  He'll field phone calls and visits at the door when I just can't face them.  I feel safer when he's with me.  He's become my protector in a very real way.

For many of you, this may sound like a condition you've always had with your spouse.  Why am I making a big deal of it?  Because it's not something I've ever had with my husband.  It's not something I've ever allowed.  It's not something he's ever seen me need.  Being protective isn't his natural response when I'm in trouble.  He's seen me fight my own demons too many times to think I need him.

But this time I've needed him.  And he's come through for me.  As horrible as this episode has been, and continues to be, it's been worth it.  Because it's allowed a new type of intimacy between me and my husband.  I am so grateful for that.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Little Lighter

My world is a little lighter today.

I finally got to a place that I was able to practice some self-care.  It was like trying to walk while dragging heavy weights with each leg, but I did it.  And I feel a little better.

I scheduled some appointments with my therapist.  I spoke with him on the phone.  We are okay.  The relief I felt after scheduling and speaking with him for just a couple of minutes was amazing.  It matters that I have him in my corner.

I've been able to avoid most of my unhealthy coping mechanisms throughout the PTSD event and the depression.  I'm proud of myself for that.

I'm finding peace within myself.  A little at a time.

The storm isn't over, but the winds have died down for now.  I'll take it.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Still Not Good, But a Different Kind of Bad

Funny thing about PTSD.  It tends to make everything else in my life seem unimportant.  That's a good thing when the problems I was having with my therapist no longer matter and I'm ready to get back to work.  It's not such a good thing when I forget about the house payment.

The PTSD is not quite as bad.  I am still cramping a lot.  I am still touch-averse.  The nerves in my system are still on hyper-alert.  But I am able to think a little more clearly.  And, as of now, it doesn't look like he will become a bigger part of my life after all.  There is less fear.

But when the PTSD lets up, all those other things start to be problems again.

The depression is still in full force.  I'm having to force myself to eat and sleep.  It takes a monumental effort to leave the house.  But I was able to perform a couple acts of service this last week.  I've been able to play my flute a bit.  And I even went to book club.  Small victories.

My body seems to be in rebellion as well.  Whatever virus it is that causes my fatigue has flared.  I could easily sleep twenty hours a day (it's a different tired than the depression tired).  Accomplishing any one thing, even just writing a blog post, saps me of all energy and sends me back to bed.  I do a load of dishes; I have to lie down.  I straighten the living room; I have to lie down.  I practice my flute; I have to lie down.  Not being able to do anything doesn't particularly help with the depression.

My headache has been awful, too.  Severe pain.  Blurry vision.  Dizziness.  Nausea.  And an inability to process thoughts or find the words (simple words) to communicate.

I haven't gone back to therapy yet.  I'm still figuring out our insurance options.  But I will soon.

I'm worried about everything:  money, each individual aspect of each of my children's futures, all the ways I've failed to prepare them, everything that needs to be done today, everything that needs to be done tomorrow, everything that should have been done yesterday, everything that should have been done last week, everything that should have been done years ago, my daughter's health, my husband's health, my health, the safety of each family member every second that they aren't with me, my friends' difficulties, my parents' difficulties, all the ways I'm failing my parents, all the ways I'm failing my friends, what I should be doing right now, how much to stay on top of my kids' school work and how much to let life teach them, and any other little thing that crosses my path.

I'm still avoiding people.  I don't want to do anything.  It's even tough for me to make myself go to my son's football games (which are my favorite things in the whole world).  Octoboween doesn't even have the same appeal as usual.

I'm trying to do things anyway.  I do enjoy the football games once I get there.  I am doing an Octoboween count down on facebook to try to psych myself up for it because I believe it can bring me joy -- eventually.  I'm trying to fake it 'til I make it.  I'm trying to convince my body and mind to get back to work.

But I just want to crawl into bed and cry and let the world go on without me.  Is that really too much to ask?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Trying to Find the Words

** If you are an abuse survivor, this post could contain possible triggers.  Please make sure you are safe before reading it.  Also, this is a very heavy and adult post.  Listen to your heart and do not continue if you know this won't be okay for you. **


Words are important to me.  I sometimes take a little longer to speak because I am trying to find just the right word.  Not one that's close, but one that conveys a multitude of meanings all at once, one that conveys truth and feeling and exactitude.  Just the right word.

But sometimes I don't have the word.  If I could communicate telepathically, I could make you understand.  But there just isn't a word for it and nothing else really does the job.

This is what happened when I tried to explain to someone what triggered a PTSD event for me this week.  I didn't have the words.

A little history, somewhat vague, to help set the stage.

There are dark things in my past.  There was abuse and assault.  Over many years I was hunted.  And too often I was caught.  I wasn't killed physically, but pieces of me were destroyed.  I was changed.

I was changed in a way I believe many others who were abused are also changed.  But I can't speak for them.  I speak only for what is true in my life.

I was prey.  In many situations.  And, yes, there were times I feared for my life.  Other times I just feared for the inner me, the part that was being attacked.  What happened to my body didn't matter.  What happened to my core did.

Because I was prey, I was on constant alert (an alert that is never silent, even now).  I learned to read the emotions of everyone in the room.  To sense even the tiniest shift if something changed.  Long before anyone else knew.  Because I had to in order to protect myself.  It was necessary to stay alive.

But it goes beyond just reading emotions.  And this is where I lose words.

Some people have a . . . something to them.  A color/flavor/spirit.  Each of those is somewhat close, but none of them are accurate.  I would say aura, but it isn't visible.  A presence?  A feeling?  An emotional radiation?  None of these are right either.

As a child I often swam in a lake.  I would be swimming along, in the warmth, and hit a cold spot.  Out of the blue all the warmth was gone.  It's kind of like that.

And this last week a person crossed my path whose . . . whatever it is . . . triggered my PTSD.  This person's color/flavor/whatever is darkness.  This person carries evil with him.  Willingly.  The cold spot that he wears is that of a predator.  Even with all the abusive situations I've been in over the years and all the people I've known and all the horror I've experienced and witnessed, I've never felt like I was in the presence of evil.  Until him.  And he knows it and uses it to control.

He is not a close part of my life, but there is potential that our paths will continue to cross.  I am trying to strengthen myself and gather support so he can't wound me again.

I hate that it only took the mention of him to make me feel weak and powerless.  And scared.

He triggered one of my most difficult memories.  One that I haven't fully processed and healed in therapy.  One of a very early sexual assault.  One that causes me severe physical symptoms.  So since he crossed my path, I have been having very painful uterine cramps.  Nonstop.  Whether I am thinking about it or not.  Sometimes so bad that I have trouble standing up.  My anxiety is high.  I am snapping more at my family.  My nerves feel like they are on fire and I cringe if anyone tries to touch me.  Even when I am completely safe, there is fear.  Like the rabbit whose ears prick up when he senses danger.  I will not relax until the danger is gone.

I was not ready to go back to therapy.  My therapist and I have some things to work out.  I wanted to do more processing on my own on that stuff before I went back.  But I may have to put all that aside and go back to therapy anyway.  I may not have a choice.  I'm having trouble functioning.  I'm having trouble getting every day things done.  I need help.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Triggered

All it takes is a PTSD trigger to make everything else in life that was bugging me seem like nothing.

Rally the support troops.  Deep breaths.  You can do this.

Monday, September 16, 2013

He's Got Me Unsettled

A couple of months ago I decided I was ready for a break from therapy.  These have been a couple of really tough months.  And even though I've had moments when I wished I had my therapist to draw strength from, for the most part I was happy with my decision.

I have faced incredibly difficult things without him these last two months.  Ugly times between my husband and myself.  My parents pushing boundaries I've established to keep myself emotionally safe.  My husband's unemployment.  My depression.  The loss of a friendship.  A personal struggle with self-definition.

And I've done well.  I held my boundaries.  I practiced forgiveness and humility.  I communicated openly and honestly.

I've been doing just fine without therapy.

But something happened Friday that's got me unsettled.

My dad was going to be out of town and asked if I could take my mom to her therapy appointment.  I thought about this and decided I was okay with it; it didn't cross my boundaries.  I agreed.  But as I thought about it I realized something.  There was a possibility I would run into my therapist because he works in the same office as my mom's therapist.

I wasn't sure how I felt about this.  Did I want to see him or avoid him?  Did it matter either way?  Would he even say anything if he saw me?  Would it be uncomfortable?  I just didn't know.

Well, I took her.  She went in and I waited in the lobby.  Therapist after therapist came out and claimed their clients.  It was almost half past the hour by this point.  Maybe he wasn't there that day after all and all my worrying would have been for naught.

And then he opened the door to the lobby.

I was listening to an audio book and playing a game on the ipad.  I was just going to let it be.  I knew he was there but didn't look up.

I heard a slight sound.  Then another.  With my audio book playing in my ears it wasn't clear.  But soon I realized he was calling my name.  I turned off my book and looked up at him.  He smiled and waved and said hello.  I returned his wave and hello and looked back down at my game.

His client was waiting, had been waiting for an extra long time, so I expected that was the end of it.  Then I sensed him approaching.

I took out my headphones and looked up to see him extending a hand to me.  As he shook my hand he said, "I just wanted you to know I'm still here if you need me."  All I could muster was, "Okay.  Thanks."

And then he was gone.

And I've been unsettled ever since.

Our last session was not a good one.  I don't know if he understands this the way I understand it.  I don't know if he thinks I quit coming because he challenged me to do something difficult and I am hiding from it.  He could very easily think that because of what happened in our session, but it's not the truth.  Not even close.  If he knows me at all, he should know that I don't run from difficult things.  There was so much more in the reason I quit seeing him.

I've been asking myself why I'm unsettled.  Why am I suddenly questioning my decision to quit therapy?  Do I want to go back once Bill gets established in his new job and we have good insurance again?  What's got me so stuck in my head about this?

Is it because there was no closure, because I didn't go back and tell him what the problem was and why I didn't want to see him anymore?  Is it because I am struggling right now and really could use a trained professional to talk to?  Is it because therapy had become an addiction for me and seeing him was like getting a tiny taste of my old, familiar drug?  Is it because no matter how much I tried to say he was just my therapist, I really see him as a friend and I miss him?  Or is it just because I'm lost and floundering for direction?

I don't know.  But I've got some time to chew on it for a while as I try to figure things out.  My husband starts work next Monday and won't get paid for a while after that.  It will take us some time to figure out what our insurance situation is.  I've got at least that long to postpone the decision.

Oh, so much to think about.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

He Got a Job -- Why Am I Not Happy?

My husband lost his job two and a half months ago.  It's been a tough time.  Financially and emotionally.  I've been dealing with my emotions, my kids' emotions (they are 15-22, so very aware this time around), and my husband's emotions.  Along with all the emotions and expectations and concerns of friends and family.  And I've spent every day wondering how I was going to pay this bill or feed my family and praying no one got hurt or seriously sick because we have no insurance.

Yesterday, all my husband's hard work (and lots of prayers from friends and family) paid off.  After two and a half months of interviews and tests, someone finally offered him a job.  It's significantly less money but has some good trade offs.  And better yet, my husband feels valuable again.  Someone wants him.

I'm very grateful for that.  It eases my heart some to know that he feels better about himself.  That he feels useful.  And it eases my stress a bit to know that money will soon be coming into our house on a regular basis.

But my world is still dark.

My world has been dark for about the last week or two.  I had hoped the good news would make it better, would part the clouds and let the light back in.  But it didn't.

Because sometimes the darkness is situational -- because things around me are not going right.  And sometimes it's biochemical -- because things within my body aren't going right.

I believe this darkness is biochemical, with situational aggravators.  There are lots of things in my life that have been hard lately.  I have no doubt they've taken their toll.  But they could all go away tomorrow and my world would still be dark.

It takes time.

I will do what I can.  I will try to take care of myself.  I will eat and sleep and try to move.  I will draw nearer to God and serve others.  And over time, it will get better.

Right now I feel like a shadow walking through my own life.  Others see me and think I am whole, but I am hollow inside.

I am not okay.  But I will be.  Eventually.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Writing

Writing because I need to.
Writing because my heart feels like it's going to explode.
Writing because I'm lost.
Writing because it's healing.
Writing because it's often how God and I communicate.
Writing because my world is dark.
Writing because I feel like I'm missing something obvious.
Writing because I'm sad.
Writing because I hurt.
Writing because . . . I just don't know what else to do.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Rerun: A Pebble or a Pea?

I was recently going through old posts, from very early on in my blogging days, trying to clean up all the spam comments.  I found myself reading some of them and remembering how much I liked them.

My readership has grown a lot since the early days, so I have decided to share a few of my favorites from times gone past.  And if you've been following my blog from the beginning, just consider them reruns.

**********

A Pebble or a Pea?

Let me take you back to your childhood, the days of fairy tales. 

Remember the story of The Princess and the Pea?  Maybe like me, you remember it as told by "Kermit the Frog" reporting.  While the details change in the retelling, the basic story goes like this.  In an effort to determine if a young girl is a real princess, so that she is suitable for the young prince to marry, a bed is prepared for her as a test.  The bed has many mattresses.  And a secret.  Underneath the mattresses is a single pea.  If the girl is a true princess, she will be sensitive enough to notice the pea despite all the padding.  Morning comes.  The girl hasn't slept because there was something hard in her bed.  She IS a real princess.  Happy ending.  All is well.

Only, let's think about it.  Now that we have lived a little life and had our share of troubles.  How do you see the princess now?  I'm afraid she is now a joke.  Someone who has had such a blissful and pampered life that the smallest difficulty is so troubling that she cannot sleep.

And let us consider another difficulty of similar size.  A pebble.  On the path in front of you it is nothing; inside of your shoe it is everything.  It's about the same size as a pea, but few would argue that you were wrong to be troubled by it.  It would bother most anyone.  Of course it is a problem.

So how often do we confuse the two?  I think that sometimes I'm the princess.  Things have been going well and the smallest thing ruins my perfect picture so it becomes a big deal.  Other times I am so involved with everything else that I try to ignore the pebble in my shoe.  It just doesn't seem like that big of a deal.  But it does take it's toll.

Sometimes the pebble is an easy problem.  I take off my shoe, dump it out, put my shoe back on, and am back on my way.

Other times the pebble is disaster.  It was the thing that pushed me over the edge.  I sit down, take off my shoe, throw it, curse it, and cry.

I would like to be better at discerning between pebbles and peas in my life.  And since I have difficulty with my own problems it would stand to reason that I would have even more trouble judging someone else's.

I will try to remember this the next time I see someone I think is a princess wallowing over a pea.  Maybe it was really a pebble in her shoe and she has been walking with it a very long time.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Questioning in the Church

I am Mormon.  This is the only religion I am intimately familiar with, so my thoughts center around this religion.  I would be interested to know how this topic is addressed in other religions, as well as what my Mormon friends think.  Feel free to share your feelings in the comments.

**********

What do you do if you are asked to do something by a spiritual leader but don't feel good about it?  What do you do if you hear something taught at church that doesn't feel quite right?  Or what if it all sounds okay, but you want to know for sure?

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), we believe in continuing revelation.  We believe God will communicate to each of us individually if we seek it and listen.

And yet, there is often a judgment that occurs if someone questions something.  This is not doctrine.  This is not taught in our church.  But is it practiced by many in the society of our church.  And it hasn't been uncommon in my life to find people so sure about what is right and what is wrong simply based on what is socially acceptable within the church but with no doctrinal basis -- and judging others based on those standards.

Questioning is often associated with apostasy.  If someone doesn't believe everything that is taught, if someone seeks for themselves, they are often seen as falling away.  And I can speak from my life's experience and say that questioning is sometimes a part of personal apostasy (probably most of the time, but my experience is limited and I don't want to make a broad judgment).

But questioning also leads to further light and knowledge.  It leads to a stronger testimony.  Questioning is what led to Joseph Smith's first vision which started the whole restoration of the gospel.

Where is the line?

And beyond questioning doctrine, what about questioning leaders?  We have often been counseled in our church to avoid evil speaking of the Lord's anointed.  I have heard this to be interpreted many times as "never say anything negative about anyone in a calling of leadership."

Well, I looked up evil speaking on the church website.  It is defined as "saying things that are wrong, hurtful, and wicked."

The commonly accepted definition, never say anything negative, would allow evil to thrive.  Abuse of all kinds would be allowed to continue for fear of evil speaking of the Lord's anointed.  In fact, it has in the past.  In our church as well as others.  Certainly we should be able to see that keeping our mouths shut when something doesn't feel right is not a wise choice.  And speaking up is not a sin.

So where is the line between disagreeing with a leader's decisions and saying so and challenging their stewardship and authority?

Many people in my life have expressed attitudes that support blind obedience.  I absolutely do not support it and don't believe God does either.  God wants people who will study it out with their minds and hearts and choose to follow Him.  He wants enlightened obedience.

He wants people to have the freedom to think for themselves and not be judged or excluded because of it.  He wants people to hunger and thirst after righteousness and further knowledge.  He wants people who draw near to Him, seeking answers and/or confirmation.

We each make mistakes or hurt people in our various callings at one time or another, even our leaders.  We are not expected to be perfect.  But hopefully we grow and become better.  Sometimes this requires the honest feedback of someone who doesn't think what we are doing is right.

Talking behind someone's back about all the things we think they are doing wrong isn't kind and won't solve anything (we shouldn't do it about anyone).  But I believe sometimes we need to talk things out with a friend to see things clearly.  Not all talk about what we don't like that someone else does is gossip or back-biting.  Sometimes it's problem solving.  An honest seeking for truth.

But I do believe all questioning in the church needs to involve God.  I believe we need to pour our hearts out to Him and seek His guidance and answers, with or without consulting friends or the handbook or scriptures.

And we need to quit judging others and allow the honest questions and struggles of a true heart.

Friday, August 23, 2013

I Don't Know How I'm Supposed to Feel

My friend's sixteen-year old daughter is missing.  She left a note.  She ran away.  But they suspect she was lured away by predator she met on the internet.  It's been a week.

It's such a horrific thing.  My heart is aching for my friend and her family.  I pray for her safe return multiple times a day.

And I feel guilty that I still worry about my own problems.

Big problems like my husband being out of work for a couple of months, with no real prospects on the horizon.  Little problems like my sadness that my son will probably get very little playing time this season of football.  And in between problems like the messy house and my lack of energy or motivation to do anything about it; the medical bills that just keep coming; trying to help manage my husband's depression.

Whenever I get stressed about money and trying to meet all our obligations, I remind myself that my children are safe.  When I notice the signs of depression in myself, I track each of my children in my mind and know where each of them is.  I am so grateful for this.  My children are my life.  I can't imagine the heartache my friend is feeling or how unimportant those other things would be to me if I didn't know where my child was.  What right do I have to worry about the stupid things in my life when she is going through something like this?

I know I need to do things to help myself, to care for my family.  But I find myself checking on her status several times a day to see if there's news.  Sometimes every half hour.  Sometimes I feel guilty that I am so worried about her and her family and not spending enough time worrying about my own family.  What right do I have to neglect my family and our problems by spending so much mental and emotional energy on my friend's family?

I spent years being numb.  Not feeling much of anything.  Most of that comes from a childhood where feelings were not acceptable.

I still have difficulty identifying my feelings.

And sometimes I think I'm feeling everything, like in Harry Potter when Hermione is explaining to Ron and Harry how Cho Chang is feeling.  Ron thinks no one could possibly be feeling all those things at once.  But we can.

I'm feeling sad and scared for my friend.  I'm feeling sad and scared for myself.  I'm feeling blessed.  I'm feeling irritated and disappointed.  I'm even feeling content sometimes.

But I'm judging those feelings.  I'm judging myself for feeling all of these things.  Like I am bad because I'm not feeling what I should be feeling -- whatever that is.

I know I shouldn't.  I know I should experience the feelings and try to see what they are teaching me or just acknowledge them or just let them pass by unnoticed.  I wish I could stop judging them and just feel.

I tell myself that I am not a bad person because I am worried about my own life, even simple things that won't matter in a month.  It's okay to be happy.  It's okay to cry.  It's even okay to be numb for a while.

Now that I've said it, I'm going to work on believing it.  My feelings are mine.  And they aren't right or wrong.  They just are.

Right?

**********
Update:  My friend's daughter has been found and is safe and back with her family.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Trusting in God's Timing

Here's the thing.  I do.  I really do.  I trust that He knows what He's doing and everything is going to work out okay.  Eventually.

It's the eventually thing that sucks.

Why can't it be now?  Why do I have to watch week after week as my husband goes through interview after interview and disappointment after disappointment? 

When my husband was laid off I wasn't worried.  Really.  Not worried at all.  In our twenty-three years of marriage he's been laid off eleven times.  He's good at finding a job.  He's highly employable.  He's a hard worker and a loyal employee. 

But it's been nearly two months now and my relaxed attitude is pretty much gone.

I love him and it's so hard on him to be rejected over and over.  He wonders what he's doing wrong.  He struggles with depression and feelings of low self-worth.  He tries to stay positive and keep his hopes up, but then those same hopes crash every time he's passed over for a position.

It breaks my heart.

I try to help him fight the depression.  I believe in him and tell him so.  I value him whether he's employed or not.  But that only helps so much.  He still questions his worth when he can't support his family.

And I've been really struggling with depression, too.

I feel so powerless.  I wish I could get a job and help out, but my health just won't allow it.  I really can't do anything to help him interview better or find better job opportunities.  All I can do is support him and try to manage our home.

And the stress of trying to keep our home afloat makes me feel like throwing up a great deal of the time.

We are receiving unemployment, which is less than half of what we were earning before.  We have cut every expense we can.  We have thousands of dollars in medical bills, some of which have gone to collections.  We have had to ask our daughter to help with some costs.  We've had to ask my dad for money.  And we've had to go to our church for food and help with the bills.

I am grateful that these things are available, but don't let anyone kid you.  It sucks to have to ask for help.  A lot.  Being an adult and not being able to pay your own way is a pretty major kick in the emotional teeth.

If I could just see down the road a bit, see when it's going to get better.  Then maybe I could focus on other things instead of obsessing about how I'm going to keep the lights on and the medical debtors at bay.

God's smart.  He knows what He's doing.  But I want what I want and I want it now!  I want my husband to get a job.  Now!  I want him to feel valued and productive again.  Now!  I want him to be proud of himself again.  Now!  And I want us to be able to pay our own way again.  Now!

And yet, when I pray tonight, when I converse with God and express my gratitude and ask for what I want, I will still include, "If it be thy will."

Because I do trust Him.  Even if I feel like throwing up while waiting.

Monday, August 5, 2013

I Just Can't Do This Anymore

I've been trying to help my mom (read more here).  But I can't anymore.

She wanted anti-anxiety meds.
Her psychiatrist didn't want her to have them and wouldn't prescribe them (I agree with his reasons).
She went to another doctor and asked him.
He saw the psychiatrist's note in her file and said he couldn't give them to her.
She went to a nurse practitioner.
The nurse practitioner gave them to her.

After my mom got them, she offered me one.

And she thinks the system is out to get her and no one wants to help her.

And I just can't do this anymore.  So today I sent her the following text, because via text is the only way she hears what I say:

I am sorry, mom.  I love you.  But I can't help with this stuff anymore.  I think the way you are doctor shopping and not following your doctors' and therapists' instructions is dangerous to you.  I can't keep helping it happen.  I know you disagree with me.  I am sorry if this hurts you.  I will let dad know that I am taking myself out of the picture.  I hope you find a way to feel better.

I also sent emails to her therapist and psychiatrist letting them know my decision and why.

Right choice or wrong choice, I know I hurt her.

I had a dream the other night.  I was back in time about twenty years.  My mom was there.  She was happy and healthy.  I am grateful for that dream.  It reminded me who she used to be.  That helped me act with love.

But I still feel like a horrible daughter.

It's just so sad.

Friday, August 2, 2013

When I Don't Get What I Want

Sometimes I don't get what I want. 

I'd like to be all mature and say that I see these moments as growth opportunities and I'm happy for the person who did get what I wanted.  I'd like to say that I roll with it and get all zen and peaceful and wish the universe well in its grand plan.  I'd like to say all those things, but then I would be lying.

Oh, I've learned to be a good sport when I lose at a game.  Or when we don't go to the restaurant I want.  Or even when someone wakes me up when I wanted to sleep.  (Not all the time, but usually.)

But sometimes I stare the universe in the eye and say, "I want my life to be like THIS.  Exactly like THIS.  Pay attention to what I'm telling you -- make it like THIS!"  I feel like the universe and I understand each other.  I see the universe nodding in agreement.  And then the universe goes and does whatever the heck it wants.

Seriously, it sucks.

I thought the universe and I were friends.  I thought the universe had my best interests at heart.  I thought we were in this together.

But I didn't get what I wanted.  I feel ripped off and picked on.  By the entire universe.

And you know what's worse?  Do you know what the real slap in the face is?  That stupid universe is right.  Like, every single time. 

It never fails.  I am sure I've got it figured out.  I am sure I know what is best for me.  I'm sure I've got the upper hand in my battle with the universe this time.

And before too long I am looking at the universe with its slight, Mona Lisa smile.  And the universe knows it has won again.  It does not brag.  It doesn't need to.  Its power is evident for all to see.

And I am forced to not only humble myself and say, "You were right."  I find myself bowing my head time and again saying, "Thank you."  (But I still mumble under my breath, "Stupid universe.")

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Turning to God

My life is better today.

None of my major stresses went away.  Nothing big changed.  It was a small change.  The same one that's gotten me through a thousand other tough times.

I remembered to turn to God.

My life is always heaviest when I try to carry it alone.

Then something happens, like a reminder from a good friend, and I turn to God.  And he smiles and says, "No wonder it's so heavy; you're carrying it all wrong.  Plus, you're trying to carry all this other stuff that isn't even yours.  Let me help you figure out what you really need to carry and how it fits just right on your shoulders."

I'm grateful for a good friend that reminded me to turn to God.
I'm grateful for the power of the priesthood that allows me to receive the blessings I need in difficult times.
I'm grateful for prayer, which enables the conversations I need to have.

And I'm especially grateful for an understanding that I am doing a good job, that He is there, and that we are in this together.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Feeling the Stress

I'm not gonna lie.  I'm feeling the stress.  Quite a bit.  And once I started spelling it all out in my head, it made sense.

I've been helping my mom for almost a year now.  She's really struggling with her mental health.  It's been quite a battle of ups and downs.  And I'm trying to balance helping her with taking care of myself while navigating the dangerous waters of my parents' dysfunctional marriage.  And trying to keep my brothers informed.  They've asked what they can do to help.  Boy, I wish there was something.  My dad feels helpless and doesn't know what to do.  And when he does come up with an idea, she doesn't want to have anything to do with him. 

In the last month or so I've picked her up or dropped her off at multiple locations around the county (she doesn't have her license anymore).  I've taken her to get her prescriptions filled, to shop, and out for lunch.  I've accompanied her to the neurologist, the therapist, and the psychiatrist.  I've taken her for blood tests, an EEG, and an MRI. 

And now the therapist wants me to help my mom become compliant on her meds, which she isn't and never has been.  My mom has PTSD from multiple traumatic episodes in her past.  She has spent years fighting to have control of her life.  Me taking over her meds would be her losing control again and she's just not willing to go there.  I can understand that.  But I also understand that not taking her meds according to schedule is making it so much harder for her to feel better or for anyone to help her feel better.

She says she's willing to try.  When it's time to fill her prescription again she'll let me help her set up a system.  That's the best she could do.  Until then she's promised to try to take them the way she's supposed to.  And she's trying to track it all on paper like the therapist wants.  If she doesn't become compliant she will not be able to get her driver's license again.  And her psychiatrist might drop her.  But she still isn't convinced that taking her meds according to schedule is the right way for her.  She's sure that she's right about using them as needed and we're wrong and she'd be fine if the psychiatrist would just give her more meds.  She's only trying to get on schedule to keep us happy, not because she believes in it.  It's control she's clinging to with both hands, tight fists.

I'll keep taking her to appointments.  And doing what I can to help while trying to keep myself emotionally stable.

On top of this, three weeks ago my husband lost his job.  We've been married twenty-three years and he's been laid off eleven times.  Because of my health I am not able to work.  That was our only income.  He's interviewing and applying and trying.  And I'm doing all I can to be supportive and helpful.  I'm trying to manage what little money we have left.  I'm looking for alternate sources of income.  I'm trying to stay on top of all the medical bills from my daughter's brain surgery and hospitalization and my emergency room visit and stress test and my husband's MRI and my daughter's MRI and all my therapy and all the other miscellaneous medical bills we have outstanding.  I'm trying to keep food in the house. 

But my biggest job has been to keep my husband from slipping into a depression.  His self-definition has taken a major hit.  He's questioning his value.  Every job rejection slams him down again.  So I try to spend time with him.  I try to help him see healthy choices.  I try to keep him involved and active with something other than computer games and movies and sleep.  We've had a few deep, dark days, but are mostly keeping his head above water.  It requires constantly treading water.

And no one leaves my house.

School is out.  My oldest daughter quit her job for the summer (before my husband lost his job).  My second daughter lost her job when my husband did (company went out of business).  My third daughter is out of state for the summer (so I guess she left the house, but that's a little too far gone for too long).  My son doesn't have a job and my other daughter doesn't have a job (they are sixteen and fourteen).  Rarely does anyone go anywhere or do anything other than watch tv and play video games.  It feels like my whole household is sinking into a depression.  I love my kids.  And I want them to be happy.  I want them to have a break.

But I am a homebody.  Partly because it's exhausting for me when I leave (I have chronic fatigue) and partly just because I love to be home.  And I used to get six hours a day to myself in my home.  But now I don't seem to get any time with the house to myself.  And my mental health is taking a hit because of it.  It's wearing me down.  I am really feeling what it means to be in the "sandwich generation."  Taking care of my parents and my kids.  Lots and lots of others needing me.  Not enough time to just be me without worrying that someone is about to knock on my door and need something.

And I recently stopped going to therapy because my therapist and I were no longer connecting well.
And I have become heat-intolerant the last year or so and we are in the middle of a heat wave.
And next week is my daughter's birthday and I have no money for it.
And I have no energy to complete any of the thousands of things that need to be done around the house.
And I have no energy to make anyone else do them either.
And the car didn't pass inspection.
And the faucet in the bathroom is leaking.
And the toilet keeps running.
And I am just not enough.

Things will get better.  But right now I'm feeling the stress.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Standing in Holy Places in Difficult Times

This will be a long post.  Please feel free to skip it without fear of offending me.  Also, it's a religious post.  It's taken from a talk I gave in church a couple of weeks ago.  It contains scriptures from The Book of Mormon in addition to scriptures from The Holy Bible.  It's based on a scripture from The Doctrine and Covenants (another book of scripture in the Mormon church):  D&C 87:8 "Stand ye in holy places, and be not moved."

**********

As we’ve discussed standing in holy places this year, we’ve talked about many important places.  We’ve discussed the temple and church.  We’ve talked about dedicated sites and memorials.  We’ve also talked about how we can make any place a holy place if we are striving to keep ourselves holy. 
I’d like to expand on that a little bit.  Sometimes a holy place is an actual place.  Sometimes it’s a state of mind.  And sometimes it’s a lot of work to find a holy place within myself during a difficult time.
To me, a holy place is anywhere I am physically or emotionally that allows me to connect with God.  A place that I can understand His will and strive to do it.
2 Nephi 2:25 says, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.”
This life, this experience, is supposed to bring us joy.  God’s will is that we have joy.
Many people read this and see it as an excuse to play more.  Others read this and see it as a reason to not worry so much.  Still others read it and want to get into the ever-ongoing debate between happiness and joy to prove that “wickedness never was happiness.”
Sometimes when I read it, I take it as an assignment.  One that I have a tough time with.
I struggle with clinical depression and PTSD.  I have for most of my life.  And sometimes when I read that scripture – “men are that they might have joy” – I feel like a failure.
I believe this is because I’ve bought into four powerful lies Satan uses:
1.      It’s my fault.
2.      It’s beyond my control.
3.      I have to do it alone.
4.      I should be happy all the time.

The first one, it’s my fault.  I spent many years thinking I wasn’t trying hard enough.  If I were more righteous I would be happier.  I should be able to choose happiness (because everyone says happiness is a choice).  If I were only stronger or more positive, I could force myself to choose happiness.  I could have peace in my heart all the time.  I would no longer find myself trapped in the darkness.  I believed it was my fault when I went into a depression because I wasn’t a better, stronger person.

Please let me say, I do believe happiness is a choice.  Most of the time.  But I also know that our bodies are complicated things.  Chemistry is powerful.  And genetics matter.  Clinical depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder aren’t my fault any more than multiple sclerosis is someone’s fault.  It’s not a sign that I’m not righteous enough.  It’s not because I’m a bad person.  It’s not because I don’t have enough willpower to snap out of it.  Those are thoughts and beliefs from fifty years ago that just aren’t true.  It’s biochemical.  It’s physical.  It’s environmental.  Much of it is beyond my control.
But not all of it.  And that brings me to the second lie, it’s beyond my control.
I often don’t see it coming.  I am good one day and the next I am so completely not.  My heart is overtaken by a darkness so deep it seems to swallow me whole.  Or I am fine one minute and the next I am filled with fear and have no idea why.  I want to hide, even from the people I love.  Even from the people in my life I know are safe.   It is so intense, so powerful when it overcomes me.  No matter what I’ve tried, it keeps happening.  I believed the only choice I had was to surrender and wait for it to pass.  I spent years thinking it was beyond my control because I didn’t know how to stop it.
But the fact that I didn’t have any answers didn’t mean there were no answers to be had.  I still can’t stop it entirely, but sometimes I can make it less powerful.  I can do things to protect myself.  Let me tell you what I’ve learned.
·       The most important thing I need to do is plan.  I need to write out a plan when I am well.  Because when I am not, it’s too late.  I can’t think clearly enough in those moments to choose well.  But if I have a written plan of healthy coping strategies, I have something to direct me, to help me make better choices.  Choices that will help me heal, not make me feel better for a moment but ultimately drive me deeper within the darkness.
·       I also need to take care of my soul.  D&C 88:15 says, “And the spirit and the body are the soul of man.”  I need to take care of my body.  I need to eat healthy foods.  I need to get enough sleep – for real.  I need to stay hydrated.  And I need to exercise.  It’s easy to think that these things are less important than working on what’s in my mind, but depression and PTSD affect the whole soul.  I can’t neglect half of it and expect to be well.  I also need to take care of my spirit.  This means reading scriptures, praying, attending church, fulfilling my calling.  The basics.  It’s easy to think that working on therapeutic things are all I need to do to feel better.  But my spirit is part of my soul.  If I am not taking proper care of it, I will not be strong enough to continue the fight.  And I will not be close enough to my Heavenly Father to receive the help I need.
And that leads me to the third lie I bought into, I have to do it alone.
We live in a society that glorifies independence.  And I’m not just talking about the world.  We in the church sometimes get this wrong.  We teach self-reliance and think that means we shouldn’t have to ask for help.  If we’re doing everything right, we shouldn’t ever have to ask for help.  We help others.  We give.  We serve.  But so often we are ashamed if we ever have to receive.
We are meant to be with others.  We need each other.  We are supposed to.  How selfish it is to only serve and give but to never open our hearts and lives to others and let them serve us.  How prideful to only show the wonderful things in our lives to the world and to never let on that we have weaknesses, too.  What a loving thing it is to occasionally show the dysfunction in our lives so others know they are not alone.
Thinking we have to do it alone is one of the most dangerous lies we can believe.  It is a lie Satan uses to keep us from leaning on our Savior and partaking of the atonement.  John 14:6 reads, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
Without the atonement we are lost.  We would all remain in a fallen state.  Always separated from our Heavenly Father.  Satan pushes the idea of independence on us so that we will not turn to God or to one another.  How dangerous it is to think we can do it alone.  How grateful I am for the struggles that have shown me this is a lie.
We are not meant to be independent.  We are meant to be interdependent.  To do all we can for ourselves and then turn to God and to each other.  We are told to "gather together oft" (Alma 6:6).  We are constantly asked to strengthen each other, to lift each other up. 
·       Mosiah 2:18 “Behold, ye have called me your king; and if I, whom ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another?”
·       D&C 88:118 “And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another”
Would we be told to serve and lift each other if God wanted everyone to “pull themselves up by their own boot straps?”
We are frequently prompted to turn to God, to ask for help.
·       Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”
·       JST, Matthew 7:12 “Ask of God; ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
Would God tell us these things if He wanted us to become fully independent of Him?
We are meant to turn to each other and to God.  In my case, turning to God brought me further wisdom and more resources.  I was directed to therapy.  And to my bishop.  And to trusted friends.  Sometimes we don’t know the answer, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.  Asking God doesn’t always mean He will give us the answer.  Sometimes He will direct us to the person who knows the answer.
And sometimes, even after all of this, I am still not happy.  Sometimes all of this still isn’t enough to fend off the darkness.
That brings me to lie number four, I should be happy all the time.
This is a world of sorrow.  Sad things happen.  Grief is important.  And sometimes biochemistry takes over.  Being sad in a moment, or for a few days, doesn’t mean I am doing something wrong.  It doesn’t mean I’m choosing poorly.  It might just mean this is my time to be sad.
The beautiful chapter of Ecclesiastes 3 (vs. 1) says there is a “time to every purpose under the heaven.”  Even, “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”  There are times to be sad.
And sadness has led me to some of the most holy times of my life.  Sadness drew me to my Heavenly Father when my heart was breaking and I didn’t know how to go on.  Sadness drew me to the Savior and to partake of the Atonement as I learned to forgive others and myself.  And those times when I am able to visit with someone whose heart is breaking, who thinks their life is over, who sees no light through their dark world – those are some of the most holy times of all.  Sitting with a friend on my healing porch as her soul aches is a very sad time.  But it is also a very holy time.
Because sometimes it’s time to be sad.
I am not trying to discourage anyone from seeking happiness.  I am encouraging you to forgive yourself for being sad sometimes.
This is a tough world.  But it is also a holy place.  This world has a divine purpose and we have a divine purpose in it.
I am a happy person.  I have a wonderful life.  And even in those moments of darkness, there is peace because I know God is there.  I know He has a plan for me.  I know He loves me.  I know He knows me well enough to send exactly the right trials to strengthen me, to make me who I am meant to be.  I am grateful for depression and PTSD in my life.  They have taught me important lessons I wouldn’t have learned otherwise.  They have kept me connected to God.  And that is a holy place.
Your trials might not be the same as mine.  But you will have trials.  And I hope that no matter what they are, you will find a holy place within yourself to help you through them.  I hope they will bring you to God.  I hope you will allow them to change you and strengthen you.
And please remember verse five of the thirteenth psalm, “Joy cometh in the morning.”  The joy will come.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Taking a Break From Therapy

It's time.  I've felt like it was time for a while now.  The initial issue that brought me back to therapy this time is not an issue now.  But I worried that I would have a crisis and not have any way to get in to see my therapist.  I worried that one crisis would be enough to make my life spiral out of my control.  Again.

So week after week, appointment after appointment, I kept scheduling.  My therapist is scheduled a month or two out and I didn't dare let a gap happen. 

It's not like I don't have plenty of issues to work on.  It's not like we haven't gotten good work done.  But the things I have to work on aren't emergencies.  Right now, they aren't even urgent.  I'm feeling strong.  I've got a good support system in place.  I'm getting better at communicating when I'm not okay. 

And over the last few months, when I've had a crisis, it's usually been between sessions and I dealt with it before I got back in anyway.  We ended up reviewing it in therapy, but not really facing it -- because I'd already done that before I got there.

Honestly, I've been feeling like I was using therapy as a crutch.  A crutch is good when you're really wounded, but when it keeps you from making progress in healing, from standing on both feet when you're capable, it's no longer a good thing.

So it was fear of being alone during a crisis, a feeling that I needed backup, someone to protect me, that kept me scheduling.

But my therapist isn't my big brother.  He isn't my dad.  He isn't even my friend.  He is the person I pay to help me see thinking errors and choose more wisely.  It's easy to get confused about that relationship -- especially when I go frequently without interruption. 

It's easy for therapy to just become a part of my schedule.  Just what I do Mondays at 9:00am.  And to get swept up in continuing it because scheduling becomes part of the process.

Even though I've been feeling like it was time for a break for a while, I didn't act on it.  Partly due to that fear, but also because I didn't feel like I had a good reason.  I couldn't explain why. 

Well, that's dumb.  I don't have to explain why.  It's my life and my money and my time; I get to choose how I spend it.  And I don't have to have a good reason.

It took a few episodes of not seeing eye to eye with my therapist, being offended and/or angered by what he said, and another bad session to hit me in the head and wake me up.

When I need therapy again, really need it, I will probably go back to him.  He is a good man who knows my story.  He's good at what he does.  And I think we will work better together after a break.

But it's time.  It's time to get some distance from my therapist so I can get the relationship clear in my head again (and he can, too).  It's time to figure out what I want to do instead of being swept along by the process.  It's time to get back to protecting myself, because that's MY job.