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Month: December 2015

Help Me Sleep Better, Please!

Help Me Sleep Better, Please!

“Why can’t I sleep?!?!”

That’s a question I often ask myself. I have historically had terrible sleeping patterns!

Common reasons I can’t sleep:

  • I’m too busy thinking about work.
  • My mind can’t stop replaying some negative event that happened today.
  • I took a nap earlier and now I’m not tired.
  • I stayed up too late trying to escape life by delving into the latest episode of Supernatural on Netflix.
  • I stayed up too late working on my newest, most exciting blog post!
  • Or perhaps I simply can’t sleep…. That happens too….

But sleep is sooo important!!!

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Getting enough sleep has the following benefits:

  • My memory improves.
  • I’m in a better mood the next day.
  • I can think more clearly.
  • I have a better handle on my depression and anxiety symptoms.
  • It’s easier to get up each morning and spend time with Jesus.

Sooo… I’ve done some research into interesting ways to improve my sleep, and I’m gonna do an experiment!

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I’m going to take one sleep improvement technique each week and keep a log on how well it does or does not work.

Then, at the end of each week, I’ll post about that week’s sleeping technique, sharing my results with all of you, my fabulous readers!

I hope this experiment will help each of you find a sleeping technique that works for you!

Here are the techniques I’m going to explore:

Make sure you subscribe to this blog for regular updates on the experiment.

You can subscribe by entering your email into the subscribe box on our home page, or by scrolling down to the footer (in black) below.

And please leave a comment below if

you have any other sleeping

techniques

you want me to try out.

Anyway, week one starts today! Er, last night. We’re starting out with the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Learn more about that technique here, and feel free to join me on the journey! I’m already excited about what I’ve seen with this one! I’ll post the results on or around January 6, so make sure you check back at that time. Or subscribe!

Thank you, my friends, and happy sleeping!

— Michelle Louise

6 Things to Keep in Mind for 2016

6 Things to Keep in Mind for 2016

Big announcement:

Tomorrow is the last day of 2015! 

I can’t believe it went by so fast….

Sooo… I figured I should write a post on New Year’s Resolutions…. Maybe something like: “What Should My New Year’s Resolutions Be?” Or perhaps: “The Best New Year’s Resolutions.” However those ideas seemed too cliché.

Or I could try writing something super helpful like: “Secrets to Following Through With Your Resolutions this Year!” But honestly, apart from suggesting that you write S.M.A.R.T. goals, I have no idea! Self discipline is definitely not my strong suit….

Or… I could write something controversial, such as why you shouldn’t have resolutions. Except I’m too much of a goal setter, and that would just make my heart hurt. So… I think I’ll settle with this:

6 Things to Keep in Mind for 2016.

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This appeals to me, because it’s not really a to-do list and yet it’s still practical.

It’s not about all these things I want to accomplish. That often leads to more anxiety.

Rather it focuses on my identity, who God is, and what the Bible tells me about life and truth.

Somehow that just seems more sustainable and refreshing….

Ok. Here we go!

1. Keep in mind that God made you who you are on purpose.

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We’ve probably all read Jeremiah 29:11, that God has good plans for us. There’s also Ephesians 2:10, that we are His handiwork. If God made me who I am on purpose, that releases me to think well of myself and appreciate the different aspects of my personality. That doesn’t justify all of my bad habits, and if I do have mental illness, it doesn’t mean He did that to me on purpose. But it does honor those unique godly characteristics that describe me. And I can rest in who I am without trying to become someone else.

2. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t have double standards.

I am so much harder on myself than I am on other people. Sometimes that might be ok, but when it comes to making mistakes, I’ll easily forgive someone else for a HUGE mistake, but then feel boatloads of shame and guilt for one small mistake that I make. When negative thoughts are racing through my head, how would I comfort my best friend or even a child? Why do I find it so hard to offer myself those same words of comfort? Double standards….

3. Keep in mind that you won’t last forever.

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As I get older, I realize more and more that I’m not invincible. I need to take care of myself. Suddenly staying up all night wrecks my ability to function the next day. Getting sick affects me more. Eating greasy foods will upset my stomach. If I want to last the long haul, I need to keep in mind that I won’t last forever.

4. Keep in mind that you will last forever.

When our life on earth comes to a close, it’s followed by an eternal life in heaven (if you believe in Jesus as your Savior). I want to keep eternity in mind as I live my life in 2016. Let my decisions be rooted in God and His purposes on earth. Also, eternal life means that the struggles I’m experiencing right now will not always define me. I hope I will find victory soon, but I know at the very least that one day, when I see Jesus, I will become like He is!

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5. Keep in mind that God is good, no matter what.

I don’t know everything that’s going to happen in 2016. It could end up being the best year of my life, or it might be the worst. Who knows? Only God. One thing I do know for sure is that God is good. Scripture says He is light, and there is no darkness in Him. I 20140128_180721don’t understand everything that happens, but I know He’ll take what happens and somehow use it for my good. And I know He’ll love me and be with me no matter what. I can always trust Him.

6. Keep in mind that other people are hurting too.

If someone is mean or says something rude to me, chances are it’s not really about me. They’re just hurting. I hope I can keep my eyes open to recognize how I could encourage that person instead of lashing out. If they’re already in pain, I don’t want to add more pain to the mix.

 

Anyway, in case you are into setting New Year’s Resolutions, check these out:

 

And if by chance you don’t like setting resolutions, take a look at these instead:

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What do you want to keep in mind for 2016?

Thank you so much for reading my post! I hope you enjoyed it. I’d love to hear from you, my avid readers! Post a comment below about the mindset you want to have in 2016. And Happy New Year’s!!!

The War Between Fulfilling Expectations and Choosing Rest

The War Between Fulfilling Expectations and Choosing Rest

Expectations rule my life. My subconscious mind constantly seeks out the expectations of others, and then drives me toward fulfilling the “needs” of the entire world. Making them happy is equivalent to keeping myself safe.

Rest… letting go of expectations….

I remember when God first began teaching me about rest. I was sitting down to spend time with Jesus. I started by just quieting my heart and asking God how I should spend time with Him that day. I was sitting on a couch in the living room and I felt like He said, Just stare out the window.

“But God,” I replied, “I should read the Bible or something.”

Still, I felt like He was telling me to just stare out the window.

“But God, then I should spend some time praying or something.”

No, just stare out the window.

“But then, I should put on some worship music….”

Should, should, should. As if I knew better than God…. Have you ever argued with the Creator of the universe? Clear as day, I felt like God said to my heart, Michelle, on the seventh day of creation, I chose to rest. If you refuse to rest, then there is a part of My character that you will never understand.

So I spent an hour staring out the window.

Rest. What a concept! One night, I was in bed trying to fall asleep, but couldn’t calm all my racing thoughts. I kept stressing about events at work. I imagined whole scenarios about my boss, what she’d say and do, what others would say and do, how I’d respond, what I wanted to say but knew I never could, and overall how angry and upset I felt.

Rest. Could I imagine a life where the expectations of others did not rule me? What if I could make my own choices without fearing their reactions? What if I actually believed I was safe even when disagreeing with people? But what if I could just lie there in that bed and not have other people’s real or imagined expectations hijacking my brain?

Rest… taking a moment to just be. To simply exist. Not worrying about everything I have to accomplish. Choosing to ignore the expectations that are clamoring for my attention.

Rest… a moment to enjoy… silence. To focus simply on the air entering and leaving my lungs. To lie there and simply… lie there. To just… rest.

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Thanks for reading! If you have time, please leave a comment. I would love to hear what you are learning in your life about rest. This is still something that is so hard for me, and I’d love to continue growing in this area. I hope you have a blessed day!

Not for the Faint of Heart

Not for the Faint of Heart

Working through the mental health recovery process is not for the faint hearted.

Most of my life, I have chosen negative coping methods: binge-watching TV, comfort-food eating, poor sleeping habits, self harm, anything to distract myself from the pain of dealing with old wounds and a negative self-image. As a result, my perspective of the world (and especially of myself) is neither healthy nor accurate. Now as I work toward recovery, I have to address these deep places of pain. And… I’d rather not… because it just hurts so much!

So how do I find courage to process the emotional pain? How do I find resilience enough to explore those places I’m afraid to go? Here are five tips I’ve used.

Tip #1: You need Jesus.

There might be several different reactions to that statement. Regardless of what you believe, whether you love or hate the church, whatever experiences you’ve had in the past, God is good. People are messy and may have hurt us, but God is good. And Jesus is the only reason I’ve made it this far. He has been my constant friend, source of purpose, and bringer of hope. Jesus is bigger than any obstacle we face and He helps us carry our burdens. That doesn’t necessarily mean our burdens go away, but it means we have a Helper. Jesus is my Shepherd and He will guide me through the recovery process. I trust myself with Him more than with anyone else, including myself.

Tip #2: You need community.

On a bad day, I really don’t want to see or talk to anyone. They’ll ask me how I’m doing. On the inside, I scream, I’m dying! I’m doing terribly! I need help! Please help me! But on the outside, I smile and happily reply, “Oh, I’m doing great! How ’bout you?” Because if I share the truth, who knows how they’ll respond or if they’ll even get it. I’d rather isolate myself than deal with the risk… but isolation isn’t what we were made for.

When God made light, He called it good. When He made water, He also called it good. Plants? Good. Man? Good. But then He said, “It is not good that man should be alone.”

People bring with them various perspectives, strengths, and weaknesses. We were meant to work together, helping one another and growing as a community. Inviting trustworthy people into my process invites fresh perspective and new resources to help me get through the hard days. 

Tip #3: In seeking community, it’s ok to start small.

When I changed lifegroups about a year ago, I didn’t tell anyone about my struggles with depression, anxiety, and OCD. There’s normally this underlying fear of how people will respond. Once I finally worked up the courage to share, I still didn’t tell the whole lifegroup. I started by sharing with just two people that I trusted. I invited them over to my home, treated them to coffee, and then shared with both of them at the same time. Super efficient!

At first, I was deeply anxious about the prospect of sharing my struggles. But as I shared with these two friends of mine, something interesting happened. One of them confessed that she was dealing with the exact same thing. I wasn’t alone! It’s interesting that when we share our struggles, it somehow releases other people to share their struggles.

They say about 18.5% of the population struggles from some kind of mental illness. That means theoretically you’d only need to share with about five people before you found someone else who was also experiencing a mental illness. You are not alone, and building community, even if it’s small, can help immensely.

You don’t have to share with everyone, but do share with at least someone, because there are times we all need somebody outside of ourselves to help us process life’s difficulties. 

Tip #4: Know when it’s ok to distract yourself and when it’s necessary to address the pain.

I will say it again: working through the mental health recovery process is not for the faint hearted. There are so many days I’d rather just avoid the challenges of working through my emotional pain. I’d rather zone out on Netflix or stay in bed until 2pm or really do anything else except struggle toward healthier thinking patterns and sort through all of the memories, cycles, and triggers. That work sucks! Pardon my language, but I hate it! Especially on a bad day.

So… when do I veg out, and when do I wear my big-girl shoes and address things? When my symptoms rear their ugly head, it’s not always helpful to try dealing with the pain right away. Depending on the situation, that might just aggravate my symptoms even more. But that doesn’t mean I should just turn on Netflix and eat junk food. Here are some things I’ve chosen to do instead:

  • Go outside and take a walk. Get some fresh air, vitamin D, and exercise. Many times, once I’m done with the walk, my racing thoughts have calmed down enough that I can now address the triggers with a fresh perspective.
  • Clean, clean, clean! Well, sometimes cleaning feels like a chore and just drives me crazy, but other times, it’s exactly what I need to distract myself. And if I’m going to distract myself with something, why not choose a productive distraction? I’m also a huge believer in “clean house, clean mind.” Some minimalists believe that having a clean home helps calm your mind down. Each object in your home comes with thoughts attached to it. When there’s stuff everywhere, then everywhere you look, thoughts are crowding into your mind. For some people, myself included, that can be quite overwhelming. So when my home is clean, I feel much calmer and on top of things.
  • Snuggle with my dog. For all of you animal lovers, you know there is something incredibly calming about snuggling with your favorite pooch! Dogs love us unconditionally, and there’s just something reassuring about their consistent affection.
  • Play Sudoku. Yep, I too have given into the cultural phenomenon of Sudoku! But really any puzzle is great for helping my mind relax. I can fully engulf myself into the mental pursuit of arranging the numbers 1-9 into a bunch of tiny, little boxes. It moves my brain activity from the amygdala into the frontal lobe, which helps get me out of the fear center and back into the reasoning center.

But once I’m done calming down, it’s time to explore those areas of pain. Some people say we shouldn’t get too caught up in introspection, but I think there are also many benefits to self awareness. As I explore the places of wounding, I find myself growing as an individual, discovering healthier thinking habits, and growing more resilient.

Here are a few resources to help with processing the emotional pain:

Tip #5: Don’t give up.

Y’all, I’m so tired…. tired of feeling like crap, tired of the pain and discomfort. I’d rather just ignore it all, but to do so would be giving up. I’d be condemning myself to long nights of endless Netflix or Final Fantasy, little to no interaction with Jesus, and a zombie existence at work as I battle fatigue through five cups of coffee and then stay up even later the next night, distracting myself with other peoples’ stories until I fall asleep from shear exhaustion and thereby successfully avoid addressing the tumult of my own story.

It’s the endless black hole into oblivion, and to do so would wreck my life. I wouldn’t notice it at first, but the realization would slowly set in. Once I start to notice, I’d stuff it, trying to ignore the growing discontent, until it would bubble up and explode, leaving me lying on the floor in a crumpled mess of snot and tears. I can’t live that way.

But the other option is to open up to community, spend time with Jesus, and seek healing from those places of deep-seated pain…. It’s hard work and the prospect scares the crap out of me! Is it worth it?

That’s a question I need to answer for myself now, if I am to keep moving forward. Is it worth it?

I think that’s a question many of us need to ask ourselves. In John 16:33, Jesus said, “In this world, you will have troubles….” So there it is: life’s not easy. But then Jesus also said, “…take heart, for I have overcome the world.” That verse always brings me great comfort!

So yeah, it takes courage to process those places of emotional pain. But I’ve noticed that the more I want to ignore the pain, chances are the more I need to bring that pain to Jesus. So I take a moment to calm my spirit (tip #4 above) and then I ask Jesus, “What is Your truth in the midst of this situation? And how do You want to release hope into my life right now?”

What helps you?

I’m still a work in progress. I’d love to learn from you as well. If you’ve found a particularly good coping method, please comment below! And let me know the ways you’ve learned to find courage in your recovery process.

All the best!

-Michelle Louise

Christmas Lights

Christmas Lights

Tonight is Christmas Eve. This time of year, I always feel the need to say something profound. My pride longs to end each year with a heavy dose of introspection and ageless wisdom with which to start the next year. Buuut… tonight? I don’t have much. And that’s ok too. Tonight, I’m just glad to be home with my family. I’m thankful for the old friends I saw at my hometown church during the candlelight service. And I can’t wait to snuggle with my favorite pooch when I head to bed!

As I left the church this evening, I snapped the above photo of a certain lamp on the side of the building. It has a beautiful old fashioned design with white light spilling out over the side of the brick column. Stunning!

One of the things I have always loved most about Christmas is all of the white lights. There is something captivating about how that light pierces through the darkness. During Christmas, those lights aren’t itty-bitty, struggling against being engulfed by darkness. No, they are bright, brilliant, and shining forth with confidence!

And the lights remind me of Jesus. He is the light in our darkness. He is the beacon of hope that pulls us from the mire. He is our morning star, our guidepost. The Word made flesh, the same Word that is a lamp unto our feet. Jesus is my lamp and please God help me keep Him always before my eyes!

Lord Jesus, we love You so much! We place our hope and trust in You, no matter what this season feels like for us. Whether joyful or sorrowful, whether peaceful or stressful, whether surrounded or lonely, we love You and honor You this year! You were born into the winter… even the winter of our lives… and with Your birth came the promise of spring. We love You Lord and invite You into our hearts again  this Christmas. Thank You for everything that Your birth means and for the new season of hope that You give us as our Christmas gift! We love You! Amen!

On Feeling Alone…

On Feeling Alone…

There is a place in my head where I feel alone. It’s like a cold, dark cave in which I find myself trapped, and no one is there with me. I can see everyone else. Not through a hole, but more as just a general awareness that everyone else is happy, living the good life, except here I am, apart… alone….

I don’t know how to get out of this dark cave. As I look up, I see the mouth of the cave is wide open, and light floods in through it, whispering of the joy that can be found outside the cave. I truly want to get there, to leave this place behind, but… how do I take that first step?

I feel paralyzed. Like that moment when you wake up in the middle of the night and think about getting up, but don’t feel like you have the ability to do so, because your brain is still telling you that you’re asleep. Sleep paralysis…. I can’t move…. I’m just stuck.

Only a few friends notice when I’m trapped in the cave. They may ask me what’s wrong, but I shrug it off. In part because I don’t have the words to express how I feel. In part because I don’t have the energy to handle their follow-up questions. Or perhaps I’m simply too afraid to share the truth. I don’t want people to worry about me or to delve too deep into the places where I myself am afraid to go. So I tell them I’m fine, just a little tired.

I feel so alone in this place. Not because people don’t love me, but because I can’t open myself up to them. And because I’m too nervous with my own feelings to even explore them. It feels like there’s a chasm waiting right in front of me, and if I explore my thoughts too closely, I’ll fall off the side of that cliff into that chasm. So… it’s easier to stuff my thoughts away. It’s easier to sleep them off. It’s easier to ignore them as I spend all night watching Netflix. I’m afraid of my thoughts and emotions, so I turn around and walk away.

But I can’t keep this up…. Deep down, I know that I must confront my fears, confront the emotions and insecurities. I can’t choose isolation forever. I must bring my friends into the process. But how? How do I choose courage? How do I let myself get so close to that cliff? How do I make these useless feet work so that I can walk out of the cave and into the light?

Sometimes it really does feel hopeless…. Those questions are too hard to answer, too scary to approach. Still, I can’t hide forever. I can’t live my life in a vegetative state. If I truly want to live, I know I must approach these topics, no matter how hard that seems. So… where do I start? How do I move forward?

Secrets to Getting Along During the Holidays

Secrets to Getting Along During the Holidays

I hate conflict.

But seriously, I hate it!

Conflict scares the crap out of me.

Unfortunately, none of us will ever be able to fully avoid conflict. So… how do we handle conflict during the holidays, when emotions, expectations, and stress are already at an all-time high? I think the main answer lies in viewing conflict as “community building” rather than a sparring match. Here are a few thoughts on that.

  1. Don’t head into a conflict with the goal of “winning.” That only results in escalation. You accuse your opponent, who grows defensive and then accuses you. Likewise you grow defensive and raise your voice. And so on and so forth. Once both parties are angry and on the defensive, no productive communication will happen.
  2. Conflict is often a signal that something deeper is going on at the heart level. I remember having coffee at a local cafe once with a new friend. She was emphatically telling me about some abstract concept that I already had a pretty good grasp on. To me, it felt condescending (like she thought I didn’t already know these things), so I snapped, “I already know this,” in order to get her to stop. This deeply hurt her feelings and she immediately told me so. She shared how she was just externally processing through these thoughts and had wanted my validation to make sure she was on the right track. When I had shut her down with that comment, she’d felt deeply rejected. Then she asked me why I’d responded that way. I shared how, growing up, my brother had consistently forced different thoughts and ideas upon me, or explained things to me as if I were stupid. I always felt manipulated and demeaned when he used that tone of voice with me. My friend’s tone had reminded me of that, even though her heart had been in a completely different place.
  3. When handled properly, conflict leads to deeper levels of friendship and intimacy. Looking back on the incident at the coffee shop, as much as I hate conflict, I am soooo thankful that my friend confronted me! Through learning about her places of insecurity, and her learning about my places of pain, we have grown even closer as friends, and we have been able to relate to one another better. We identified ways we could love and support each other. It’s been wonderful!
  4. Clearly communicate your expectations. I believe that one of the top causes of conflict is uncommunicated expectations. Seriously, people are not mind readers! If you want your spouse or relative or friend to do something, then tell them (in a loving way, of course). Don’t just expect certain treatment and then passive-aggressively play the martyr when it doesn’t happen. Share what’s on your heart. If they can’t meet your expectations, that’s ok. At least you know that in advance and it gives them the opportunity to brainstorm alternatives or perhaps meet you half way.
  5. Above all, choose love and believe the best. Love is patient and kind. It does not envy or boast. It keeps no record of wrongs. Remember how messed up you are and how much you need a Savior. Then choose to extend some grace to those around you.
Making It Through Work On A Bad Day

Making It Through Work On A Bad Day

Well… I’ve clocked into work, my computer has been turned on, a huge to-do list is calling my name, and yet all I want to do is stare blankly at the wall….

That’s how it feels when I’m in a cycle of depression. The problem is, I’m not paid to sit around and stare blankly at the wall. Somehow I need to muster up my energy and will-power in order to make it through the day.

How am I supposed to remain productive when feeling depressed? That’s a question I recently found on a Life Hacker post. Man, what a great question! Sometimes I really have no idea. And when I’m in the midst of that cycle, the last thing I want to do is force myself through another day at work. I’d rather curl up in bed. Well, here’s my best shot at answering that question:

  1. Don’t be too hard on yourself. When someone has a broken leg, you don’t expect him to run a marathon. If you’re having a bad day in your mental health recovery process, it’s ok to take it a little bit slower than normal. Be realistic. (If things are especially poor, please skip to number 5 below.)
  2. Break larger goals into smaller steps. Large projects and complicated tasks can be overwhelming on any day, but especially on a bad day. If you absolutely can’t avoid that larger task, try breaking it into smaller, more manageable steps. These smaller steps feel more realistic and, as you begin checking a few of them off your list, there is a sense of achievement that may help you regain some momentum.
  3. Take a walk during your lunch break. I know that taking a walk may be the last thing you want to do, but sometimes getting a change of scenery can help your mind press the re-set button. The day light and physical stimulation often help lift your mood. Research also suggests that getting outside during the day may help you sleep better at night, because it adjusts your body’s circadian rhythms.
  4. If allowed, use YouTube. This may apply more to anxiety than depression, but when I’m really struggling, I turn on 10 Hours of Thunderstorm and Rain Sounds. Something about the sound of thunder and rain relaxes me on a deep, deep level. I’ve recognized that about myself, so I take advantage of it, especially at the office. For you, it may be river sounds, crickets, the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack, or another genre, but somehow music and sound have the ability to reach deep within and touch our very souls. The main point is: discover what helps you relax (or feel energized, if that’s what you need) and then use it to your advantage.
  5. Know when to step away, re-evaluate, or even seek help. We all need that paycheck, but if you’re just really crashing, it might be time to re-evaluate. Sometimes we just need a day off in order to rest and recover. If taking one day off would help you be more productive on your next day back at work, then it may be worth it to take a mental health day. There is no shame in that. Additionally, depending on how severe your symptoms are, you may need to seek professional help. If you fear you are at risk of harming yourself or another person, that’s when you should call 9-1-1. If you don’t think you’re at that level, but you’re still concerned about your symptoms, you may want to contact your mental healthcare professional. Again, there’s no shame in that. They are there to help.

Anyway, those are some thoughts I wanted to share. Please keep in mind that the above is not meant to be medical advice. Depression is a medical condition, so if you are experiencing any symptoms of depression, I’d encourage you to visit a licensed professional counselor or psychiatrist. I have no professional training in the mental health industry. I’m just a co-struggler with depression and anxiety. The above steps have helped me in the past, so I hope that they will help you as well. If you have any additional ideas for making it through work when experiencing a low day, please share in the comment section below!

Seeking a New Homeland

Seeking a New Homeland

She was looking for it: the Promised Land. A new beginning. A new homeland. A place where she could dwell in peace, with a new future.

She still remembered where she came from. She remembered that place of abuse, constant fear, and apparent powerlessness. It took her so long to realize that she could leave that place and go in search of a new homeland. She knew the journey would harbor great challenges and a multitude of obstacles. But she wouldn’t give up.

Looking at her, you could tell she wanted to keep moving forward. Yes, there were some days she thought of turning back, some days when she hesitated, but instead she chose to cling to the promises of Him who is faithful. She assured herself that her hopes would come true. She had faith.

If she had been thinking about the land that she had left behind, she would have had the opportunity to return. But as it was, she desired a better country. She knew her Maker had prepared a city for her. And so she set out, though she knew not exactly where it was. But she knew He would lead her.

Hebrews 11

Do You Have a Friend to Help Get You Through The Holiday Season?

Do You Have a Friend to Help Get You Through The Holiday Season?

Have you ever felt lonely or anxious during the holidays? Many people do, especially those who struggle with mental illness. Stress runs high as we shop, cook, plan, and travel. Expectations go unmet and we may have to deal with personalities we haven’t seen all year. Without healthy coping methods, sometimes all of that stress and stimulation can be quite overwhelming! But we do have a friend who can help us through that season, or any season for that matter.

I remember as a little girl riding in our family car through the dark nights of New England. My older brother up in the front seat rattled on about the video games he wanted, the new Magic cards he wanted, the wooden practice sword he wanted…. He’d ask mom to give him money for this and that. In the backseat, I rested my head against the frozen window, staring out into the darkness. Here and there, we’d pass a house, lit up with pristine white Christmas lights.

drivingBut suddenly I’m startled back to reality as my brother begins shouting and arguing with mom. He’s angry about something…. I don’t know what. I just keep staring out the window, pressing my face against it, hoping and pretending that I can be somewhere else. I try and lose myself in wonder as I gaze upon the beautiful lights that adorn the houses and trees. I want to be out there, alone in the peaceful winter wonderland!

As surely as the sun rises, He will appear…

Light is such an interesting thing. There is a deep science behind it, wrapped up in frequencies, wave lengths, and electromagnetic particles. Despite its very scientific nature, there is also something dramatically beautiful about light that has caused it to dance across literature, hearts, and minds for millennia. It has come to represent truth and clarity, as well as safety and comfort. Even as a child, I was enraptured by that light and tried to escape into it. Somehow the beauty of the light distracted me from everything else that seemed so broken.

Back then, I didn’t know Jesus like I do now. He is my light and my hope! I love Hosea 6:3 that says “…as surely as the sun rises, He will appear…” That is a promise. We all know there are 24 hours in a day. Half of that time is spent in darkness, but our planet continues rotating and suddenly the sun appears. The exact hour changes gradually throughout the year, but it always comes in predictable fashion. The rising of the sun in our emotional lives, however, does not always seem so predictable….

Struggling with depression often feels like I’m stuck in that endless night, where things will always be hard and my mind will never make sense. There is often a lack of hope and clarity. Everything feels dull and pointless. But dawn is coming….

dawnIn my mind, I sometimes wonder if daylight will ever come again, but we have a promise from Scripture that it will. In the middle of a challenging season, that promise might not make things feel better, but somehow it gives me the strength to keep holding on just a little while longer.

So I try and start each day by choosing to focus on Jesus, whether that’s reading a devotional or even just saying a simple quick prayer. And at the end of the day, as I sit in bed, I redirect my attention to Him before turning the lights out. Sometimes, that’s all I can do: redirect my attention. I often lack the energy or motivation to do a full “quiet time.” Even though I believe that’s important and beneficial, nevertheless if I can’t fully engage in that discipline on a given day, then I still try and just whisper these words: “He loves me. He’s with me. He’ll never leave me.” And as I lay my head down on my pillow, still feeling that uneasiness in my gut, I just say, “He is good and He is enough.” Then I close my eyes and wait for morning to come.

How do you make it through the holidays?

I hope this blog will help start conversations, enabling us to support one another and be an online community for those struggling with mental health difficulties, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and others. One of the most important pieces of mental health recovery is finding a source of hope as well as choosing healthy coping methods. Above, I shared that my biggest source of hope is Jesus. What is yours? And how do you cope during the holidays? Even if it seems small, please share with us by leaving a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!