One in Four

One in four people will have a mental disorder at some point in their lives. Does this number surprise you? It doesn’t surprise me. As a psychology major, the prevalence of mental disorders is well known to me – I just never thought I would end up being the one in four.

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In the fall of 2015 I started noticing that my PMS was becoming abnormal. As the months went on, I almost physically couldn’t stand being around people – especially the people I was closest to – because I would get so irritated or angry. It wouldn’t have bothered me if I could go an entire day or more without talking to someone. I would lay in bed for hours watching TV. It would take everything in me to convince myself to get up. To interact. I didn’t really care to eat. I was so ashamed of the way I felt that even when I wasn’t PMSing I still didn’t want to be around people. I still wanted isolation. Finally, in May of 2016 I went to see my doctor. I told her what was going on, and she said that my symptoms sounded like Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (or PMDD).

I started on an antidepressant. This didn’t bother me. Because of my study of psychology I knew how beneficial medication could be when needed. By the time the next month rolled around, my symptoms were much less extreme. As time went on, I was able to better manage my emotions and my reactions. I could be around my loved ones without wishing for a way out. I was starting to feel normal again.

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Not many people knew I was taking medication. There is a belief that is common in the church that if you are a Christian, then you shouldn’t need things like antidepressants. In all honesty, I digress.
We live in a world full of sin, death, and disease and depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, conversion disorder, and panic disorder still exist whether you are a believer or not.

Because of this stigma around medication, I chose to stop taking my antidepressants too soon, in all honesty. I felt that if people knew they would look down on me because I should have had it together. I should have been able to overcome my problem without a pill. I study mental health and behavior, I know what happens in the brain and how therapy/medication can help, and yet I still felt this way. Something is wrong here. Because I chose to medicate and my symptoms calmed down to a manageable point, I was able to think more clearly. I was able to calm myself down enough to pray and to seek Him. I believe that God has equipped many men and women in the field of counseling. Therapy is a wonderful thing. Medication can be, too, when necessary. Seeking help doesn’t make you any less of a believer. 

As an believer, as an individual, you have the right to make the choice of how you choose to seek help if you need it. My decision was one that I thought about, one that I prayed about, one that I had peace about. If you found yourself in the same situation as I found myself in, your choice could have been different. You could have chose to seek counseling. Or to not to seek outside help. Or to seek help some other way. And that is perfectly okay. But don’t let someone make you think that because you are a Christian, you aren’t allowed to have mental health issues –  that would be like saying you aren’t allowed to have diabetes. I fully believe that through the power of Christ in us we can overcome the obstacles in our life – but just like we go to a doctor when we are sick, we are allowed to reach out when we are struggling mentally.

I am a Christian and I was on antidepressants. I’m okay with that. I’m grateful for it. When I struggle now, when symptoms start to creep back in, I can handle it because the time that I spent on medication allowed me to learn how to control what was happening, which I couldn’t do beforehand. Think. Research. Pray. Make the decision that you need to.

Photo Credit: Misael Nevarez

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Toxic 

Lately I’ve been revisiting the past few years of my life, seeing how I got from point A to point B, from the girl I was to the woman I am. I’ve thought of the periods of grief, of joy, of growing. I’ve looked back and I’ve seen purpose. I’ve seen God’s hand in every season of my life. I see how He worked out every horrible thing into something good – even if the only good that came out if it was to relate to someone else.

If I were to tell you everything that God’s hand has been in, every bad situation that He turned for the good, it would take writing a book. Instead, I’m going to tell you today about just one area.

Since I was a Freshman in high school I had a tendency to get myself into toxic relationships – not all of them were, but some. It started when I got my first boyfriend. I was fourteen, naive, and honestly just didn’t know that the way I was being treated was awful.

I didn’t know it wasn’t normal to be forced to do things I didn’t want to do.

I didn’t know it wasn’t normal to be talked to like I wasn’t a person.

I didn’t know that I was being manipulated.

I just didn’t know, but when I figured out – with the help of my best friend – that the way I was being treated was not okay, I ended the relationship. And the three months that I was in that relationship impacted me for years.

I then dated someone else and he broke up with me because I stood my ground. Though I was heart broken, I moved on with a sense of dignity.

My Sophomore year of high school I got into a relationship that I was in for nearly two years. It wasn’t a bad relationship, it just wasn’t meant to be. But when it ended, I was heart broken so badly I didn’t know how I would go on; however, though I had been following Jesus for a few years at this point, He truly became my anchor at this time.

Despite that I began to trust Jesus and rely on Him so much more during this season of my life, I still wasn’t truly content in Him. Almost a year after that relationship ended, I dated someone else, someone I really shouldn’t have.

Things were okay at first and then red flags started popping up. I should have left, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to be alone. But because I didn’t want to be alone, I allowed myself to be treated horribly.

I set standards and boundaries.

He said he agreed.

Then he pushed them.

I pretended everything was fine.

The stress of dealing with – and hiding – the mental, emotional, and sexual abuse that occurred in the relationship left me physically ill.

It got to the point where I wasn’t staying because I didn’t want to be alone, I stayed because I was scared to leave.

Finally, after breaking down and telling my best friend what had really been going on, I ended the relationship.

The aftermath of that first relationship was nothing compared to this one. It left me so broken, so scared, so untrusting, that when I began dating my husband, I was terrified – even though I knew from being friends with him and knowing his character that he wouldn’t treat me like the others that came before him.

If I had to change plans, I prepared myself for the backlash – it never came.

If things were moving too fast emotionally and I told him we needed to slow down, I waited for him to get upset and tell me how stupid I was being – he never did.

He took everything at my pace. He was so patient, kind, and loving. It was amazing – and strange.

He accepted my past and took me as I was.

It was a beautiful display of selfless love.

But it still wasn’t enough.

I was still hurting. I was still scared. I still hadn’t truly given it over to Christ. So for much of the time that we were dating and engaged, I started giving Christ the pieces of my past, and for every piece I gave Him, He returned it with a peace of His own.

I truly forgave.

I truly moved on.

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I have been married to my sweet husband for four months now. I am at peace with my past. If it starts to try to work its way to the surface, I remind myself that it served a purpose.

Because of that last, awful relationship I learned what it meant to be content in Christ.

I learned to trust God with my relationships.

And, in a roundabout way, my best friend ended up dating her husband because of it!

One of the most important purposes I have found looking back on this time is the empathy I’ve gained because of it.

When I see someone in a toxic relationship, I no longer wonder critically why they don’t leave.

I look and I know that there are so many reasons why they might not, and it breaks my heart.

I look and I know what it feels like to be treated like you are less than human.

I look and know what it feels like to not know how to get out.

I look and I know that there is hope found in Jesus to heal their brokenness.

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This post wasn’t easy to write, but it’s been on my heart for some time. Though I have forgiven, moved on, and healed, it is still not easy to relive; however, it’s still part of my testimony. It’s a part of my life that screams about God’s faithfulness. So I sat down and wrote to share hope. Hope that God works in even some of the worst times in our lives. Hope that we are not alone in these dark times that we’ve gone through. Hope that someone out there understands. And, most importantly, hope that Christ is Lord even in the dark times, and He is the Healer of all broken things – including hearts.

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And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

 

Photo credit: unsplash-logoKristof Rasschaert

We Have Now

Last week I posted about my husband and I battling the laziness in our lives, and this post is a follow up because I felt the need to clarify something.

Battling laziness in our lives is crucial, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of our relationships. Or, really, I guess we should just include “relationships with other people” as an area of life that laziness infects.

A few months a go, a fellow blogger wrote a post about the book Only Love Today by Rachel Macy Stafford. The book is set up in short snippets talking about the importance of being in the moment and taking every chance to love the people in our lives. It is well worth purchasing. It has reminded me of little truths that I had forgotten: The dishes can wait. The vacuuming can wait. Facebook can wait.

I am so bad about trying to multitask (News flash: multitasking doesn’t work. Our brains can only focus on one thing at a time. Instead of doing multiple things at once, our brains are actually having to switch back and forth between tasks repeatedly, using more mental energy). If I’m on my phone, I’m not really paying attention to the person in front of me. If all I can think about are the chores I need to do, I’m not giving someone my full attention. I am bad about it and I know it, yet I still have trouble stopping.

We live in a world that is constantly telling us to go, go, go and we don’t know how to slow down. We’re so concerned with being productive that we don’t know how to be intentional.

I don’t know about you, but I would like to put my focus and energy on things that matter: my relationship with God and with other people. Keeping up with my home is important, but not at the expense of these. Keeping up with my health should not interfere with my relationships.

I’m trying to choose – and it is a choice – to be in the moment with the people around me. I’m trying to make the most of the numerous opportunities to love that I am presented with each day. I’m trying to realize that all we have is right now.
*Note: New posts coming every Friday*

Battling Laziness

When my husband and I first got married, we had a pretty good routine going. We were eating healthy, meal planning, going to the gym, and we had a cleaning schedule for our apartment. A few months later, though, a series of unfortunate events happened that threw us off track and we never really recovered. What started out as actual reasons to neglect housework and whatnot, eventually just turned to laziness. After awhile, we decided something needed to change; this laziness wasn’t good for us in more than one way. Physically, we did not feel very well because we were not eating well and we were no longer exercising. Our apartment was also taking a toll as was our spiritual lives. I was no longer carving out time to spend with God, I was giving Him whatever time I had left over – if any.

Scripture is dense when it comes to the topic of laziness (seriously, if you don’t believe me, Google it); it’s even one of the 7 Deadly Sins! As I said, we decided that we needed to battle the laziness that was taking over our lives, and we decided to do it as a team. We knew that individually we didn’t stand a chance, but sometimes being a team is hard. It can be hard to encourage one another about something like this without it coming across as nagging. It’s hard to motivate someone else when you don’t want to motivate yourself to do the same thing.

Despite these things, we decided to give it a shot. Making lifestyle changes doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a process that requires steps – and you have to remember that even baby steps are steps. So that is what we started doing – and are still doing – implementing baby steps to get our lives back on track to where we’d like them to be. We’re trying to avoid eating out when we can and to start meal planning again. We’ve started tag-teaming the housework.

A huge part of combatting laziness is effective time management. I’ve started using the planning app Cozi (it is AMAZING, check it out!) again. I have also created a quiet time basket full of everything I could possibly need during quiet time (Bible, highliter, pens,  Bible commentary, journals, lotion in case my hand get dry, etc). We are trying to work on getting up earlier so we can eat a good breakfast and have quiet time, but this has been our most difficult obstacle so far. I also use my 45 minute commute to sometimes listen to podcasts (my current favorites are the Read Scripture Podcast Series by Francis Chan and the Uniquely Woman podcast) – I can make the choice to wake up late and not have time for things, but I can’t make the choice to not drive all the way to work. Other times I listen to worship music, and, of course, other times I just have jam sessions.

Our current goal is to start going to the gym again. As I said, life change is made through baby steps and each baby step, no matter how small, is a victory that should be celebrated. Whether it’s laziness or some other obstacle that you are pushing to overcome, just remember that each day is a new day and a new chance – heck, each hour is a new chance – and to celebrate the victories along the way.