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Raising Mental Health Awareness – Why and How to Do it

Raising Mental Health Awareness – Why and How to Do it

This is a guest post by Sam, with Depression for Teens.

1 in 4 people suffer from a mental health illness, yet 9 out of 10 face stigma and discrimination because of it. In this post I will go over why you should help raise mental health awareness.

Why Don’t People Talk About Mental Health?

Mainly because they are scared of being judged by other people. Society degrades mental illness as something to be embarrassed about.

Depression affects us in many ways. Read more at http://hopemire.comHere are some facts on mental health:

  • One in four people will experience a mental health problem in any given year.
  • Depression: 
    • Up to 10% of England’s population will suffer from depression at some point in their life.
    • 6.7% of the US population lives with depression.
    • 50 million people are affected by depression
  • Suicide:
    • Over 800,000 people die from suicide every year
    • In the UK, suicide is the 2nd largest cause of death among 15-29 year olds, and it is the most common cause of death for men between 20-49 years in England and Wales.
    • In America, suicide is the third leading cause of death in both genders, ages 15 to 24 years old. According to NAMI, each day, at least 22 US veterans die from suicide.
    • Over 90% of people who die from suicide have a mental health illness at the time of their death

Mental health illnesses are by no means uncommon, yet it’s hardly ever talked about.

By talking about mental health, you will be raising awareness. And by raising awareness, you will be helping give confidence to those suffering and helping talk about how they feel. And trust me, they will appreciate that.

I’m going to tell you a short story about a friend of mine.

I always had this one friend who I would openly talk to about how I feel. I felt she understood and cared. Little did I know that the person who helped me the most was fighting her own battle with depression.

Eventually I put together some pieces and figured it out. Nobody, except me, actually knew about the battle she was facing. So I proceeded to ask her why she never told anyone and why she’s fighting it all alone. Her answer was “People would judge and look down on me”.

www.hopemire.comThat just proves my point, and it hurt me when I heard her answer. We help each other now, and I hope nobody else has to suffer alone. It’s really important.

How You Can Raise Mental Health Awareness

So I’m going to assume you want to help out now.

Here are 5 ways you can do so.

These 5 are actually from an E-Book I wrote for my website. You can download this E-Book for free by entering your email address. The E-Book goes into all the details of these 5 points and gives you examples for raising mental health awareness so if you are interested then be sure to check it out.

  1. Talk About Mental Health
    This has to be the easiest and most effective way to raise mental health awareness. There are so many ways you can talk about mental health. From bringing up the conversation casually, using an excuse to bring it up and tagging it onto a conversation.
  2. Through Social Media
    Facebook Like
    Using social media is effective because, let’s face it, some people are just more open on social media! The odds are your Facebook post or Twitter tweet will grab the attention of friends and family, who are likely to share it if they are or know someone who is affected by mental health.
  3. Donate to a Mental Health Charity
    This is something you can do without anyone ever knowing! You don’t need to make a huge donation. You don’t even have to do a monthly one! But a donation of any type and any value is a huge benefit to many charities and mental health supporters. Below (after the 5th point) I have listed some mental health charities; sorry if I couldn’t list all of them!
  4. Challenging Mental Health Stigma
    It’s very possible that, in your day to day life, you may hear some comments about mental health. If those comments are discriminating against or putting those with mental health illnesses down, then you can stand up against it! By challenging the stigma that surrounds mental health, you are potentially changing someone’s point of view on the subject. One change leads to another.
  5. Share Your Story
    Show the world just how common mental health is by sharing your story. Don’t feel forced into this, of course, but by sharing your story, you will be inspiring others, giving them hope, and showing people just how common mental health illnesses are. I’ve also put some links below for where you can share your story.

Mental Health Charities

Here are some mental health charities that you can donate to if you wish. They are also a great resource for reading up more on mental health.

Sharing Your Story

Below are three popular places where people have shared their mental health stories. If you want, then you can also share your story with me on my blog.

There’s nothing to be ashamed of when sharing your story. And remember, you don’t have to share anything you’re not willing to share. After sharing your story, you can even go a step further and share it on your social media! #2in1.

Together we can end mental health stigma. Thank you for reading this post, and thank you again if you go ahead and help raise mental health awareness.

Monday Montage – My Favorite Posts from This Week’s Problogger Challenge

Monday Montage – My Favorite Posts from This Week’s Problogger Challenge

Hi friends!

This past week, I have been participating in a 7-day blogging challenge with ProBlogger. It’s a super awesome blogging tutorial website, and creator Darren Rowse is the best!! Anyway, that’s why my blog appears to have come back to life after several months of near silence!

I’ve enjoyed this blogging challenge so much. We’ve been part of a Facebook group, and the camaraderie has been simply amazing! I’ve met so many new friends, explored many new blogging styles, and I’ve read a lot of amazing blog posts!

Today’s the last day of our challenge (sad face), and our goal today is to write a “link post,” where we link to at least one other blog. As I said above, I’ve really enjoyed the people and blogs I’ve met this past week, soooo… I thought I’d share some love, and list my top five favorite posts from this challenge that were relevant to our niche.

I hope you enjoy!

 

How to Have a Sunday Morning Retreat for People Who Think They’re Too Busy

This is a fun, short little post on Instagram. I didn’t know people could do blogging on Instagram, so that was cool to see! With a focus on self care, this post lists a few steps you can take to pamper yourself. I can’t wait for Sunday to roll around, so I can have my Sunday morning retreat! Or maybe I’ll just do it now!

 

How to Manage Stress When Your Work is an All-of-Life Thing

This article shares lots of great ideas on how to manage stress, when work and life are highly integrated. It was an interesting read for me, because I used to work in community development. There’s a trend in neighborhood revitalization where you go live in the neighborhood where you’re working. One of the consequences of that trend is, you think about work all the time, because you live where you work. That is also a problem for missionaries, pastors, and members of other similar ministries. When your job overlaps with what you view as your life calling, it can be hard to set healthy boundaries. This post has some good tips on managing that stress.

 

How to Be a Friend to An Autism Parent During a Child’s Meltdown

This is an excellent post with tips on how to respond when you see an autism mom (or dad) working with her (or his) child through a meltdown.

If you are an autism parent, this is a great one to share with your friends, should they ever ask how they can better support you. Jenny is also working on a survival guide for autism parents, so make sure you subscribe to her blog, so you can access that guide once it comes out.

If you are not an autism parent, please read this! It’s easy to respond in a hurtful way.

Ripples in Mirror Lake – a short story

This is a nicely written, fictitious story about a hiking trip, with a beautiful life metaphor. Well worth the read! It explores themes of life perspective and blame, as well as looking beyond just the surface. It’s a quick read, and quite enjoyable!

 

Empathy and Communication: The Dynamic Duo

This is an interesting article that explores how empathy and communication are related. When dealing with conflict, empathy is an important step in the process, allowing you to understand what the other person is experiencing and connect it to some of your own experiences, so that true communication can take place.

 

The Day I Wanted to Die

The Day I Wanted to Die

I remember the first time I truly considered ending my life.

I was sitting in my bedroom, remembering a confrontation that had taken place at work a day or two previously. And I couldn’t get the racing thoughts out of my head.

Confrontations scare me. So many memories and challenging emotions from my childhood always race back into my head when conflict happens.

There is an underlying sense of “not safe” that hides at the edge of my consciousness. Most days, I’m able to ignore it, but when confrontation happens, that “unsafe” mindset rears its ugly head and abducts my brain. All I want to do is run and hide.

The Conflict that Sent Me Over the Edge

I was training a co-worker on how to complete a month-end financial report. It was a very complicated, manual Excel spreadsheet. I had shown her how to do it the previous month, but wanted to check her work this month, because it was her first time completing the report on her own. I wanted to make sure she had everything she needed to succeed and confirm that I had done all I needed to do in training her.

Apparently she didn’t like that. After I asked to review her work, she scheduled a meeting with me and spent several minutes practically shouting at me. “I know how to do my job! I don’t need you hovering over me and watching my every step. Stop treating me like one of our office assistants!”

My mind began reeling. She was basically yelling at me. Her eyes were angry and bulging. My heart beat increased and I felt that tension rising in my gut… I wanted to run. I needed to get out of there! But I also knew that, as an adult and a professional, I needed to somehow try and work through this conflict in a constructive way.

So, after listening to her for a few minutes, I began explaining my perspective. This was her first time doing the report on her own. I only wanted to make sure I had done a good job training her and that she would be prepared for success. I emphasized that I was not going to do that every month, but just wanted to give her some further details this month on the portions she hadn’t completed properly, so that she would have all the tools she needed to perform well in the future.

No matter what I said or how lovingly I tried to phrase it, she kept shouting the same thing, over and over. “I know how to do my job! You don’t need to be reviewing my work! Don’t treat me like a child!”

Finally, I got up and left the room. We were getting no where. If she didn’t want my help, then I would just let her fail. I wasn’t going to try working through it with her any longer.

What My Brain Told Me

How do you forgive when you have been so deeply hurt?I couldn’t stop thinking about that confrontation for the rest of the day. I think I even left work early, because I was so upset and couldn’t get anything done.

The thing is, I had spent the whole previous year working on my ability to keep my head in the midst of conflict. I’d thought I was making progress, but apparently I wasn’t. Once again, that fear response had risen in my body, and once again, my mind had shut down. I’d gotten up and left.

At home, I continued thinking about the event. Perhaps I would never be able to handle conflict. Except, isn’t that a pivotal part of being a leader? My whole life, I’d wanted to do something great… make some great contribution. But… if I couldn’t handle conflict, what would I ever be able to contribute to society?

There must be something inherently broken about me… out-of-order. Some part of my spirit that just doesn’t work properly, and can’t be fixed. I’ll never be able to live out my calling. I’ll never be able to truly live!

So… why try?

What My Friend Told Me

Those thoughts crippled my mind for the next several days and, for the first time, I was actually considering whether or not I wanted to end it all.

Then my friend Millie came over. She asked how I was doing and I told her I was just crashing. I shared the above story with her and how disappointed I’d been in my reaction.

She was like, “What? Why? You handled the conflict just fine. Your co-worker was the one who didn’t handle the conflict well.”

That took me off guard, so I asked her what she meant.

“You handled the conflict. You listened to your co-worker’s side of the story and then shared your side. You were looking to communicate and understand one another, so that you could both move forward in a positive way. She is the one who wouldn’t listen. She repeated the same thing over and over again, and never even heard what you were trying to say. She is the one who didn’t handle the conflict well. You did fine.”

I was shocked. I hadn’t even considered that perspective, but it made perfect sense.

What I Learned Through This Experience

I don’t share this story to bash my co-worker. Nor am I trying to say I’m such a saint, because I’m not. I wasn’t blameless in that event and there were things I could have done better, especially leading up to the conflict.

However, I do share this story with the goal of demonstrating that we need other people (like my friend Millie) to help speak hope into our lives.

Sometimes our minds play tricks on us. When we struggle with unhealthy thinking, it’s easy to filter out all of the positive evidence and hone in on the negative evidence, contributing to a low self-esteem and an unhealthy view of the world. That’s what makes some of us want to give up.

I’m thankful for my friend Millie and the conversation we had that day. It changed my perspective on a few things.

  1. Handling conflict well doesn’t mean being the smartest, most commanding person in the room. It means aiming to love and serve well. It’s about the heart, not being in control.

  2.  Conflict and confrontation are hard for me. That probably won’t ever change. I may never be able to handle conflict without some level of fear. But I can learn, and am learning, positive coping methods to manage those stress levels. I will continue getting better, as long as I don’t give up.

  3. We can’t always trust our own interpretation of an event, especially if it’s causing us to plummet into hopelessness. It’s always worth it to open up to a trusted friend and get an outside opinion.

  4. Suicide is never the option. Don’t give up. There is always a way to find hope!


Thanks for reading!

May you be blessed and find fresh hope in your journey!

–Michelle Louise

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Thrive: the Little Book that Changed My Life!

Thrive: the Little Book that Changed My Life!

This little book changed my life. Literally…. I’m not joking!

Background:

The Thrive book holds several lessons on holistic health, with a focus on improving quality of life for those who struggle with depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. The curriculum was developed by the Mental Health Grace Alliance, in Waco, TX.

How I Learned About Thrive:

I first got involved with the Grace Alliance after my church counselor failed to address the main concerns with which I’d come to her: my fear of conflict and increasing anxiety levels. I wasn’t ready to see a professional counselor yet, but knew I needed help.

At that time, my friend Jenna was on staff with the Grace Alliance, so I reached out to her for more information. We scheduled a meeting, and she told me all about the Thrive curriculum. I was intrigued!

The Difference it Made:

For the next few months, I met weekly with a Thrive coach, who helped me walk through the material and held me accountable in applying those truths to my life. The first topic was about sleep, and it was life altering!

At that time, I was working way too many hours at my job. I’d often stay in the office well past midnight. Yikes!! Not surprisingly, it was negatively affecting my memory, quality of work, stress levels, and overall sense of wellbeing.

The thing was, I didn’t care about myself enough to even consider making a change. The possible negative repercussions (not getting everything done perfectly, feeling like a failure, not being prepared, etc.) were too risky.

Sleep Log - Thrive WorkbookThe Thrive lesson on sleep discusses how important sleep is for quality of life as well as proper brain functioning. Our application step for that week was to try and sleep at least 7.5
hours each night, and to keep a sleep log, recording hours and quality of sleep, as well as how I felt during the next day.

I noticed these immediate benefits within just one week of proper sleeping habits:

  • A huge decrease in stress levels
  • An almost complete reversal of my anxiety
  • Improved memory functioning
  • More efficient, productive work days

But the BIG revelation was this:

I had been working myself into the ground, partly because I’m a perfectionist, but also because I truly wanted to serve people well and give back to the community. I thought that working a lot of hours was helping me get more done and provide better services, but it was slowly killing me.

Because of Thrive, I learned this vital lesson:

If I want to continue giving back to the community for the long haul (i.e. the next 30-40 years), I have to learn how to take care of myself now, so that I’ll be alive for the long haul.

And once I realized that…

For the first time ever, I was able to put my #selfcare first, without feeling guilty about it! Click To Tweet

Amazing! I truly don’t think I would have learned that lesson without having completed the Thrive curriculum. And that revelation was a springboard toward many other positive changes that have overall helped transform my life!

I’m so glad I got connected with the Grace Alliance and would highly recommend this resource to anyone!

So Here Are the Deets:

The Table of Contents is posted on the Grace Alliance website, but roughly, the book covers the following topics:

  • Physical Needs:
    • Sleep
    • Medicine
    • Relaxation
    • Diet
    • Exercise
  • Mental Needs
    • Finding Balance
    • Renewing Your Mind
    • Stress Management
    • Cycles and Triggers
    • Brain Resilience
  • Spiritual Needs
    • Hope
    • Identity
    • Relationship with God
    • Finding Purpose
    • Community
  • Relationship Needs
    • Healthy Relationships
    • Conflict Management
    • Forgiveness
    • Overcoming Stigma
    • Serving Others

Each topic includes:

  • 1-2 Scripture verses related to that topic
  • Questions for discussion / reflection
  • A bulleted list of relevant facts for better understanding of the topic
  • “Making a Change” section that gives tips and ideas for how to improve your habits and quality of life with respect to that topic
  • Homework (i.e. mood charts, sleeping logs, meal plan worksheets)

Mental Health Coaching

The Thrive book can be completed alone, but (depending on location) the Grace Alliance might also be able to provide a mental health coach who can help walk you through the curriculum. Having a coach gives you someone with whom you can discuss the material, as well as someone who will pray for you and help hold you accountable to applying the material. And accountability does wonders!!

The coach is not normally a licensed professional, but rather a peer, and should not replace professional therapy.

There is a small cost associated with utilizing a mental health coach through the Grace Alliance. It’s $35.00 per session and was designed to be not much more than a typical insurance co-pay.

Accessing a mental health coach through the Grace Alliance requires having someone in your area who has gone through their training process, but it’s my understanding that the training process is readily available. If you, or someone you know, is interested in becoming a coach, I would encourage you to contact the Mental Health Grace Alliance for more information.

Target Group:

The Thrive curriculum is designed for those who struggle with mental illness, but honestly, I believe it’s a great reference for just about anyone, providing practical skills and knowledge on holistic health.

Benefits:

  • The steps are easy to understand and apply
  • The curriculum emphasizes small, manageable changes that are sustainable, rather than large, unrealistic changes all at once
  • Each application section includes a variety of suggestions, so the book appeals to any experience level, and the reader can choose which portion he or she wants to focus on
  • Working with a coach provides accountability, which is huge!

Challenges:

  • Depending on where you live, it may be hard to find a coach
  • $35 a week for a coach comes out to $140 a month. It’s definitely worth the price, but for some, that might be too expensive. I ended up moving our meetings to every other week, to better fit my budget. The good thing is, they can be flexible with you.

Where and How to Get it:

You can purchase the Thrive book through the Mental Health Grace Alliance’ website. The booklet is $25.00 for a paper copy and $22.00 for digital only. They do have some bulk order discounts available.


Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this review and hearing about my personal experiences! I loved working through the Thrive booklet as well as attending a Grace Group with this organization.

To all the wonderful staff and volunteers of the Mental Health Grace Alliance, thank you for all you do!

Helping Siblings

Helping Siblings

Moving DayHello and welcome back! Sorry I haven’t written in a while. A lot has changed…. this past month has felt like a whirlwind…. I quit my job of five years, moved to a new town, started a network marketing business (in a new town, gosh!!!), and began taking Psychology classes at the local community college. What’s more, I was doing some research three days ago and… I think I know what I want to do with my life now!

How I Hope to Change the World

One of my clearest memories from childhood was the sound of my brother crying… sobbing hysterically. Shouting things like, “That’s not fair!” or “You never let me do what I want!” Those sobs and accusations shaped how I viewed the world…. I only realized that three days ago. I listened to my brother’s description of the world (unfair and disappointing), and I believed him.

Tiger SiblingsSiblings… we grow up together. We learn from one another. Because we are family, we stay in touch throughout the years, even after we’ve lost touch with other friends. And we’re the same age, so we grow old together.

Yet there is very little research into how mental illness impacts the sibling relationship. I Googled this phrase: “developmental impact of having sibling with mental illness.” Each search result I reviewed said there was almost no research into this matter. Most research so far has focused either on the illness itself or on the parent-child dynamic. And there are very few resources for the siblings of those suffering from a mental illness.

And yet… there must be an impact….How does a “well sibling,” the one without the significant mental illness, learn to trust others when life is a dangerous, chaotic mess? How does the child learn autonomy and initiative when the sick sibling consistently lashes out against him or her? How does the well sibling discover his or her place in the world when he or she constantly feels overshadowed by the presence of the mental illness?

Please understand: I’m not blaming the child suffering from a mental illness…. That child did not ask to suffer from schizophrenia or a similar disorder, and should never be blamed. I’m just wondering about the dynamics….

My Plan of Attack

Collin_CollegeOver this next year, I will take four basic psychology courses and one class in elementary statistics at the local community college. In September, I hope to take the GRE and finish researching placement options, so that I can apply for grad school before the end of the year. …Whew… I still don’t know where I want to study….

If everything goes according to plans, I’ll start graduate school in August 2017 and eventually earn a Ph.D. in Psychology. Then I’ll apply for positions on staff at a university where I can conduct research into the sibling relationship, exploring how the presence of one sibling with a significant mental illness (such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia) affects the early childhood development of the other sibling.

After that, I hope to develop resources for both siblings and parents. Small workbooks that could help siblings learn how to understand and cope with the situation. Other pamphlets or books that could teach parents how to better balance the responsibilities of raising a special needs child without neglecting the emotional needs of the other healthy child.

Workbooks

That’s the goal anyway. I have to say I’m nervous…. The idea of getting a Ph.D. sounds like a long, scary journey…. But at least right now, I believe this is what God has for me. It’s surreal and exciting! Jesus take the wheel!

Subscribe Now to Follow My Journey

The Girl With the Semicolon Tattoo

The Girl With the Semicolon Tattoo

Today, April 16th, is Project Semicolon Day, a day when people all around the world join together by wearing a semicolon to declare that their stories aren’t over yet.

“A semicolon is used when an author could’ve ended a sentence but chose not to.

You are the author and the sentence is your life.”

Project Semicolon was founded by Amy Bleuel, and it’s all about suicide awareness and prevention. My mom told me about this wonderful group and the idea resonated deeply with me! For along time, I’d been thinking about getting a tattoo, but this was the first time something resonated so deeply with me that I’d be willing to permanently engrave it into my skin.

Almost exactly one year ago, I thought about suicide for the first time in my life. Not many people know that. I’ve pretty much always struggled with depression, anxiety, and self-harm, but this was a new low for me. Thankfully God is faithful and I didn’t give up!

Placing a semicolon on my arm is a daily reminder that my story is not over yet. Click To Tweet

That was worth permanently engraving into my skin.

The Meaning Behind My Entire Tattoo

Semicolon Tattoo

  • The anchor, which holds within it a cross and a heart:
    • The cross stands for faith in Christ.
    • The anchor stands for hope, because “hope is the anchor of the soul” (Heb. 6:19).
    • And the heart stands for love.
    • Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love!
  • The flowers: These stand for me… part of God’s beautiful creation, but delicate. Frail. So I need Jesus!
  • The vine: If you look closely, you’ll see that the vine wraps around the cross. Because of the frail nature of the flowers, the vine represents clinging to Jesus! He is my support and the only One who gets me through the hard seasons!
  • The color purple represents royalty. We have been adopted by God and now we’re His children!
  • The semicolon is the whole reason I got the tattoo. It stands for not giving up.

My Battle with Depression and Suicide (For Those Who Care to Read This Long Story…)

Depression and anxiety began early for me. Because of some challenging life circumstances, I grew up with these underlying beliefs:

  • I was never safe
  • Very few people truly loved me.
  • My safety depended on my ability to keep everyone happy.
  • Conflict was never ok and it should be avoided at all costs!

When I made it into my current position at work, I quickly learned that conflict is a common part of managing people. But the problem was, any time there was a conflict, my mind would just shut down. 

My learned response was: conflict isn’t safe. Tell them what they want to hear, then get out!

Well, that’s not a very successful management philosophy…. So I began researching and gaining tools that would help me navigate conflict in a healthier manner.

Conflict is ok and can

actually be quite useful

when handled in a healthy manner.

Slowly I gained tools for resolving conflict and maintaining friendships in the process. My courage grew and I began addressing conflicts here and there, even though every part of my brain would tremble in fear and want to shut down!

Something interesting happened…. When I voiced a disagreement, no one began yelling at me. No one struck me or threw a chair across the room. …Perhaps conflict was safe. My confidence grew and I thought, yes, I’m getting better at this whole “conflict” thing!

But then one day, a co-worker disagreed with how I was training her and she started yelling at me. Once again, I froze. I felt that old fear rise up. I didn’t know what to do or how to respond. My mind just… shut down.

How do you forgive when you have been so deeply hurt?After that meeting, my depression came back with a vengeance! And my brain was not helping at all.

This was the progression of lies:

I thought I was getting better at dealing with conflict, but once again my mind shut down and I couldn’t handle it.

I’ll NEVER be able to handle it. There’s something actually broken with me.

I can’t function in life. I’ll never get better. I’ll never be able to contribute to society. I’ll never make a difference.

Why am I alive at all? Why am I even trying?

I shouldn’t be alive. I have no purpose.

Why bother?

I’m just tired….

Wow! That was a hard, challenging place! The enemy attacked me with all sorts of lies. My unhealthy thinking was at a max. At the same time, I was not taking care of myself:

  • I was overworking myself at my job
  • I wasn’t getting enough sleep
  • I wasn’t taking time to rest and be with friends
  • My exercise routine was non-existent
  • My diet consisted of donuts, hamburgers, french fries, and ice cream (yikes!!!)
We're holistic beings, and I was running myself into the ground. Click To Tweet

My Sister Saved My Life

Thankfully, this wasn’t the end! As my thoughts turned to what life might look like if this progression of thoughts were to continue, I remembered my sister.

I have a twin sister and she is so important to me! I knew that, if I were to die (no matter the method), it would devastate her. And I just couldn’t do that to her. I’ve never told her this, but she quite possibly saved my life!

Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Help

Around that time, my sister also said something that really changed my perception on going to counseling:

“No one questions us when we go get our annual physical. Well, the brain is a physical organ in our body. Why should we question getting a brain check-up once in a while?”

She was right! And I’m so thankful I listened to her.

I took three steps that made all the difference:

  • I started seeing a counselor who helped me process through my painful memories and unhealthy thought life.
  • My PCP got me on some medicine to help manage my anxiety levels.
  • I got connected with the Mental Health Grace Alliance in Waco, which is a wonderful nonprofit that has helped me learn the value of self-care and taught me the tools to live that out, through their Thrive curriculum, which I highly recommend!

These three pieces together have helped me immensely in the recovery process! I already feel like a different person….

Long story short, I got my tattoo as a daily reminder that:

  1. My story isn’t over yet.

  2. I must cling to Jesus, because He is the one who will help me get through life’s challenges.

  3. I am royalty. I’m loved and I’m worth taking care of myself.


Thanks for reading! I hope this story was encouraging for you! I want people to know they don’t have to feel ashamed for encountering challenges in life and that it IS ok to seek help!

Subscribe to this blog below and receive more encouraging messages like this one!

Why I Don’t Hate My Brother

Why I Don’t Hate My Brother

One day, when I was about ten years old, I sat watching TV in the living room. It was kind of a big deal, because we had cable now for the first time!

Suddenly, my older brother came stomping down the stairs and into the living room. Without saying a word, he grabbed the remote control and changed the channel.

“Hey!” I shouted. “I was watching that!”

“Well, I don’t want to watch that,” he shouted back.

We were suddenly thrown into this deep argument. He felt he had the right to do whatever he wanted, even if it inconvenienced everyone else.


Ok, I know… first world problem, right? But this is just one example of a common day occurrence while I was growing up.

Here’s a glimpse at childhood with an older brother who has Asperger’s Syndrome, ODD, and Bipolar Disorder:

  • He threw chairs across the room when he got angry.
  • He punched holes in the wall at least three times growing up. He even got so angry once that he pulled the sliding car door right off of our mom’s minivan!
  • We’d be on our way to a museum or amusement park, when mom would have to turn us around because my brother was having a temper tantrum. I’d have done nothing wrong, but still felt like I was being punished….
  • I was constantly on edge, because I never knew what would set my brother off on a tirade.
  • I couldn’t have friends over because my brother was having a bad day.
  • My brother wouldn’t stop talking about everything I didn’t want to hear.
  • People looked at my entire family as if there were something inherently wrong with all of us.
  • My brother was hospitalized in a psychiatric facility nine times within six years.

Things I remember hearing my brother say to or about me:

  • “You’re wrong!”
  • “I hate you!”
  • “I want to kill her!”
  • “This is all her fault!”
  • “I don’t care what you want!”
  • “That’s not fair!”
  • “You were supposed to be a boy! I wanted a brother, not a sister!”
  • “Life was better before she was born!”

How do you forgive when you have been so deeply hurt?I expect that all siblings have some level of conflict while growing up. But for us… it was constant…. Every single day, since as long as I can remember. And it really tore down my sense of identity.

But today,

I want people to understand

one thing:

I love my brother! And I forgive him!

Whether it’s you or a loved one, navegating mental illness can be challenging and scary, but there is hope!

THE FORGIVENESS JOURNEY

Growing up, my mom constantly told me that I needed to forgive my brother for his hurtful behavior, because it was “just his disability.”

But…

How do you forgive someone who has hurt you so deeply?

No direction was provided…. So, my childhood answer?

Stuff the pain. Ignore it.

Pretend it never happened.

But that didn’t solve anything. It just bred bitterness.

“Bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

That is so true! I was dying on the inside.

  • I decided to be perfect, and then fell into deep depression because I wasn’t perfect.
  • But then I kept trying to be perfect, which only created deep seated anxiety.
  • I isolated myself from my family, not sharing my emotions, problems, or
  • I was already self-harming by the time I reached kindergarten!
  • I used food, tv, and sleep to escape my problems, which means I never learned healthy coping methods.

It's hard to forgive.... Forgive anyway.

Getting Away For a Time

In 2006, I moved to Waco, TX and began my freshman year at Baylor University. Within a couple of months, I got involved with a local church called Antioch and joined a lifegroup. For the first time, I was held accountable in spending time with Jesus every day. That changed my life!

I quickly learned that God’s love for me is not dependent upon my ability to be perfect. This revolutionized everything! But what does that have to do with forgiving my brother?

For the longest time, I pretended nothing was wrong, I was happy, and things were great, because that was “the Christian thing to do.” When I realized that God loved me no matter what, it released me to admit that I wasn’t ok.

And admitting that I wasn’t ok meant that I no longer needed to bottle up my emotions. Suddenly I could explore my pain, fear, and low self-esteem, because I knew that Daddy in heaven would love me the whole way through it!

How to choose forgiveness when all you feel is pain.

I didn’t just wake up one day and forgive my brother. It was more of a combination of many things:

  1. The distance really did help. Things had been fairly toxic growing up. Being able to set some boundaries helped us each gain perspective and decompress. When I would go home to visit, it was normally for short periods of time, maybe just a weekend, and tension wouldn’t have time to build. That meant we were able to develop newer, happier memories. That didn’t mean the bad memories went away, but it helped us begin to create a newer, happier history to help balance out the places of pain.
  2. I realized that he wasn’t the only one who was messed up. I had my own junk and my own problems to work through. I had never been perfect and often made my own mistakes. I’m sure I have hurt him too. Many times. I lashed out. I was mean. By no means was I innocent. We were both just two messed up, struggling people in need of a Savior. Did that excuse the ways he had hurt me? No. But he no longer seemed such a villain when I discovered my own villainy apart from Jesus.
  3. So much of it wasn’t his fault. That might sound strange to some people. I do believe there’s something important about taking responsibility for our actions. And I’m sure some of my brother’s behaviors were simply the result of immaturity, just like many of mine were. Yet at the same time, he struggled with a very real mental illness that impacted his thought processes and behaviors. And suffering from a mental illness was not his fault. It was not the result of some sin that he committed or anything like that. He didn’t ask for it. It just was. Thankfully he’s on a good mix of medication now, has learned some coping methods, and has also matured a lot. Just as I needed to do.
  4. I began praying for him. While I was in college, my brother was not a believer. I prayed almost every day for him to encounter God, because I knew God was the only one who could help my brother find purpose and healing. My prayers weren’t about forgiving him, but that’s still what happened, because the more I prayed for him, the more I received God’s heart and love for him.
  5. I was able to replace the lies in my head with God’s truth. One of the challenges of verbal abuse during childhood is that you grow up internalizing all of the negative things spoken over you. Those lies and negative perceptions become a part of your world view, to such an extent that it’s hard to separate the lies from the truth. As I began exploring my childhood pain with God, the Holy Spirit helped me identify various lies I was believing and replace those lies with truth from Scripture. For example:
    1. Lie: No one loves me. Truth: For God so loved the (entire) world (including me!), that He gave His only Son to save it. – John 3:16
    2. Lie: I’m never going to be good enough. Truth: I’m forgiven and I have been made into the righteousness of Christ! – 2 Corinthians 5:21
    3. Lie: Things will never change. Truth: Things have already changed, for eternity, because Christ took a fallen and broken world, and He saved it! And now we go from glory to greater glory! – 2 Corinthians 3:18
    4. Lie: I am helpless.Truth: I have the strength of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit living inside of me! – Philippians 4:13 and 1 Corinthians 3:16
  6. God’s truth healed my places of pain. As my thought life improved and my perspectives grew healthier, I noticed that I didn’t experience as much pain when I’d think back on my childhood. Those childhood memories no longer carried the same amount of power. And that released me to forgive my brother as well, because I was no longer living in a place of fear and victimization.
  7. I was able to release myself and my brother into the hands of God. One of the hardest things about forgiveness is choosing to let go. We feel that, if we hold onto the resentment, we can play the martyr, which somehow makes us seem “more righteous or just.” And if we hold onto the resentment, the whole world will somehow know all the terrible traits of the person we hate. But that’s just not the case. If we hold onto our anger, we’ll live a life weighed down by bitterness. We’ll never grow or feel freedom, because we walk in chains, bound to the very person we hate. But if we release our anger, we can fall into the arms of Jesus. And there is no place I’d rather be!

WHY I LOVE MY BROTHER

me-and-my-brother

Let me end by sharing all the things I love about my brother! I want people to know how amazing and wonderful he is!

  • He is a teddy bear! I know that sounds counter everything I described above, but my brother really does have a tender heart, once you get past the surface. And he’s great with little kids! They love him!
  • He is so smart and loves to learn! I’ve had so many fun, interesting conversations with him, and it never gets boring!
  • We enjoy taking walks and just catching up.
  • He wants to know more about God and often asks questions.
  • He looks up to me. That might seem like a prideful thing to say, but it speaks to the change in his heart as well. God has restored our relationship and I’m so thankful! And in awe!
  • We can have awesome, nerdy conversations about things like Stargate, Doctor Who, and Final Fantasy.
  • He’s family. We’ve been through so much, and I honestly think we’re stronger because of it!
  • He loves to dream big. He doesn’t get stuck in the doubts, but pursues the passions of his heart.
  • He really does love us. It may be hard to show it sometimes, and it may come out in … interesting ways … but he loves us, and after everything is said and done, I am thankful!

HOW ABOUT YOU?

HOW DO YOU FORGIVE SOMEONE WHO HAS HURT YOU SO DEEPLY?

One word: JESUS!

Sometimes the places of pain are just too deep. We can’t handle them alone. For those who have been abused, there’s often a level of fear that’s so deep. We just don’t want to open the wound long enough to get out the infection.

You need Jesus! He’s the only One who can heal us. He’s the only One who can help us truly move past our places of fear, anxiety, and prejudice long enough to even consider that a different reality might be possible.

Jesus! We need You!

-Michelle Louise