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For the Weak Pretender

For the Weak Pretender

I’m a wreck.

Deep within me, there’s this desire to be perfect, and perfectly independent. I don’t want to have to rely on anyone.

Because deep down, there’s very few people I actually trust….

So… just let me take care of myself.

I mean, be my friend, yes! And hang out with me. Because I need to know that I’m loved.

Buuut… just don’t make me have to rely on you…. I know the day will inevitably come when you let me down, and that’s painful, so it’s just easier if we keep our emotional distance and I can maintain some sense of control….

But the problem is, so very often, I let my own self down.

I want to be strong, but find that I am weak.

I want to be smart, but realize I missed something when I was planning.

I want to be responsible, but then can’t find the energy to take care of myself or my home.

I want to be loved, but then isolate myself, because I’m too afraid to take the risk of finding that I’m not loved.

2 Corinthians 4:7-10 reads:

“Our bodies are made of clay, yet we have the treasure of the Good News in them. This shows that the superior power of this treasure belongs to God and doesn’t come from us. In every way we’re troubled, but we aren’t crushed by our troubles. We’re frustrated, but we don’t give up. We’re persecuted, but we’re not abandoned. We’re captured, but we’re not killed. We always carry around the death of Jesus in our bodies so that the life of Jesus is also shown in our bodies. “

This does a few things for me:

  • I am not alone in feeling weak. The apostle Paul felt it too. He felt troubled and frustrated. He was persecuted and captured. He experienced weakness and challenges on various levels.
  • My weakness is actually a reminder of God’s presence, and His surpassing power. The power of the Gospel lies within me, but my weakness reminds me that this power doesn’t come from me. It comes from God. And if the power that comes from God lives inside me, that means God lives inside me. He is helping me overcome!
  • It’s when we’re in the hardest situations, that we can see the greatest miracles! When I am at my whit’s end, I have a promise that I will see the life of Jesus Christ revealed in me. It’s challenging feeling weak, troubled, and frustrated. I hate feeling that way. But, when things get the hardest, I often feel Christ the closest. And that is a sweet, gentle blessing!

Child, don’t give up. Keep pressing onward, by the power of Christ! Remember that, in your weakness, you are strong. His power is made perfect in our weakness.

If you feel weak, it’s ok. You don’t have to pretend you’re something you are not.

When you feel weak, just talk to Jesus, and know that He doesn’t judge you. He sees you where you’re at, and He loves you all the same.

Pray something like this:

Jesus, if I were to be honest, I’d say that I’m feeling pretty weak right now. I’m not sure what to do or where to go.

But I believe that Your strength is more vast than the depths of my weakness, and You have everything I need to make it through this season.

I trust Your love for me and I choose to have faith — to believe that, even when I can’t see myself making it through this season, Your love and power are still enough to carry me through.

Thank You that, with You, I can be honest, and I don’t have to pretend I’m someone I’m not. Thank You for loving and accepting me just the way I am! For providing grace on a basis of faith, not works.

Help me love You better and trust You more completely! Help me, and carry me through this season. I trust in You!

 


 

Thanks for reading! May you find grace and encouragement for your journey!

If you liked this devotional, here are some others you might enjoy:

Grace, peace, hope,

–Michelle Louise

http://hopemire.com

What Road Rage Taught Me About Life

What Road Rage Taught Me About Life

Honestly, I have never struggled with road rage. Ever. I follow all the rules and I’m a complete saint on the road. In fact, people adore me, and Matthew West even once wrote a love song dedicated to my gorgeous driving skills!

… …. yeeeah… If you’ve ever ridden in the car with me, you know that’s not true!

I can’t count the number of times someone has cut me off in traffic and then slowed down, forcing me to hit the brakes like a mad woman! And what comes out of my mouth?

Feeling Overwhelmed“Oh, you poor thing! You must not know where you’re going!”

Of course not! Obviously, I’m gonna shout:

“IDIOT!!! What are you DOING?!?!”

Side note to reader: I’m not very godly in my car….

Have You Heard of the Fundamental Attribution Error (F.A.E.)?

It works in two parts:

1.) When someone else does something I don’t like, I tend to attribute it to his or her character and personality. She must be stupid. He clearly must be a jerk. I mean, c’mon, they are both so idiotic that I’d nominate them for admission into the Idiots’ Hall of Fame!

2.) But when I do something that others don’t like, I rationalize it. Cuz… clearly it’s not my fault! I was running late and missed my coffee, so obviously I can’t be expected to act like a normal coffee-enriched human being, right? 

Here’s another example:

Fundamental Attribution Error
A chart taken from this social psychology blog.

 

How Depression Hijacks the Fundamental Attribution Error

Depression affects us in many ways. Read more at http://hopemire.comIsn’t it ironic that, in cases of depression, the fundamental attribution error is often reversed? I may rationalize what others do, but when I make a mistake, gosh, I’m such an idiot! What was I thinking?!

My Gen. Psych. professor talked about this phenomenon in class last semester.

I found it fascinating! I had never questioned those thought processes before.

…Geez, I’m such a goober!

(F.A.E. alert there!) 

Now I have an option to identify my unhealthy thinking patterns when I’m in a low episode and try shifting them in a more positive direction.

Personal Failure and the Keys to Responding Well

First, you should check out my follow-up post on this topic, where I discuss healthy thinking patterns with respect to the attribution error. That post includes a free printable worksheet to help you process through different situations.

Now, there are many factors that affect behavior, including personality and value systems, but our external environment (what’s going on around us) also plays a significant role.

When we experience failure, we have two options:

1.) We could choose to look only at internal factors (“I messed up, so I must be a failure”) and therefore believe there is something inherently wrong with us.

2.) Or, we could look at the full context of the situation, including internal as well as external factors (“I messed up, but that’s because I didn’t have all the information I needed, or I got distracted by something”) and decide what we choose to learn from it!

I also love asking these three questions when I have experienced a failure:

  1. What did I do well?
  2. What can I improve?
  3. What will I do differently next time?

Notice that “what did I do wrong?” is not on the list!! Asking that question can reinforce unhealthy, self-deprecating thought patterns.

Learn healthy thinking patterns at www.hopemire.comFriends, let’s stop our negative thinking before it gets to the point of assuming we are worthless.

Let’s not go the route of believing there is something inherently wrong with us.

If we get on that trail, we’re driving an ice cream truck straight into a minefield, and that’s bound to  get messy!

Instead, let’s see what we can learn from that failure and how we’d approach the same situation differently in the future.  

Aaaand… when others do something that drives us batty, let’s practice some rational empathy and continue loving them, even if we’d rather give them a high-five… in the face!


Sharing is Caring!

Did you enjoy or benefit from this post?  Please share it on your social media!  That helps get the word out about my blog, and it provides encouragement for your friends too!  

Thanks in advance!

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.

 

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!

What is Depression, Really?

What is Depression, Really?

Lots of people talk about depression, but not everyone knows what clinical depression really is. Phrases like, “I’m so depressed!” are creeping into every day language. The term “depression” is replacing more common words, like “sad” and “tired” or “unmotivated.”

So what is clinical depression? How do I know if I have it?

That’s what we’re going to explore today.

Disclaimer: This website is for information and support only. I am not a mental healthcare professional. I only have personal experience with the topic. This website should not be used as a substitute for professional treatment or advice.

DSM-IV - a little light reading!What is clinical depression?

In diagnosing their patients, mental healthcare professionals use a book called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

According to the DSM-IV (please note that the DSM-V has now been released; I just don’t have a copy of it yet), a major depressive episode has the following characteristics:

DSM-IV Criteria for Major Depressive Episode

What is generally not considered depression?

  • Going through the normal grieving process when a loved one dies
  • Feeling tired because you are on medication that causes fatigue
  • Feeling disinterested because you’ve gotten bored
  • Feeling down on one isolated day, perhaps because of something that happened

What does depression feel like?

David Snyder, blogger at www.snyderspace.comOne of my friends, David Snyder, has been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. He has his own blog at www.snyderspace.com, where he shares some of his experiences as well as his hope in Jesus . In his post Down so Long, he did a good job describing what depression feels like, so I’ll quote him here:

“The waves of depression hit me like a tital wave. The smallest tasks are like trying to climb a mountain. The act of breathing becomes a bothersome chore. It becomes work rather than an automatic process. Sometimes my standard for a ‘successful day’ is minimized to being able to prepare a bowl of cereal. I sometimes go days without eating because I am so ‘paralyzed.’ The subjective experience is very difficult to describe. It is sort of like being blindfolded by all the joys of life. Everything that makes me laugh fails to do so. I have no motivation to even do things that benefit me. There is the lack of ablity to propel myself through the day.”

For further reading:


This website is for information and support only. I am not a mental healthcare professional. I only have personal experience with the topic. This website should not be used as a substitute for professional treatment or advice.

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!

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!!!

brain-954816_960_720

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!

513px-Mad_scientist_transparent_background.svg

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

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!

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!

The Whisper of Hope

The Whisper of Hope

Mire… a stretch of swampy, boggy land.

To be mired down… to be stuck in the mud.

It’s been one year now. One full year in the mire. One year trapped in this mud. My friends tell me to just pray some more. Just keep reading the Bible. But the mire tells me: that’s not an option. And I feel consumed by it.

There is hope. The sun glimmers behind the clouds. Slowly. Surely. Steady.

I am surrounded by this mud, sinking in it, but by chance my eyes lift up and I see the sun glimmering behind the clouds. The sun is still there. Everything around me is gray and black, but there… there is light… just behind the clouds….

It’s just a glimmer. A faint promise of better days. And it’s enough to keep me going. Just a little longer. 

 


Thanks for reading my post! This was the first post I ever published on this blog, and it shares the vision behind our name, Hope Mire.

Here are some other beautiful posts that share more Hope Mire’s blog identity, as well as some of my personal story. Thanks for visiting!