The Fight Goes On

Today I felt hopeless again.  I always think I’m ‘recovered’ from depression, then I have a day like today. I’m reminded of all the subtle symptoms that are lingering in the background. The ones I’ve either had so long that I forgot they were symptoms, or I’ve learned to manage so well that I forgot they were there. But they are! (Depression doesnt want me to forget that!)

It can come on so sudden! Yesterday, I had even thought about doing something new and big that would really challenge my OCD.

Then today was filled with 50 ‘I can’t even’s. There was mood swings like you wouldn’t believe. I cried for over an hour until I finally just fell asleep. At one point I even got so angry that I threw things! I had the whole day for homework and I really only got about an hour of work done because I couldn’t concentrate. I was so overwhelmed with the few events I have on this week that I felt ‘paralyzed’.

I can relate all of that to just a bad day with depression, yet, I still feel so embarrassed by all of it for several reasons:

1) This is out of character

2) Even when I recognize that I’m feeling like this -I can’t control it

3) I did some of the things that help but they didn’t work right away

4) No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t control it

5) Not only couldn’t I control it-but I also couldn’t hide it (for some reason I still feel the need to hide my negative emotions)

Anyone who lives with mental illness knows how treacherous the path to wellness can be. It’s rarely linear. There are ups and downs, potholes and slippery surfaces, all just waiting to trip us up. Living in this precarious state of semi-recovery is exhausting. The fear of relapse casts its shadow over every single day, and when your mood dips, it can be extremely difficult to keep things in perspective.

I’ve had a pretty rough past with my mental health and I’m terrified of ending up in hospital again. So, when I wake up in the morning and realize I’m feeling less than brilliant, it’s hard not to fear the worst.

I run through a mental checklist of what might be the problem. Did I forget part of my routine? Did I sleep badly because I had a lot of seizures? Is it the time of the month? Am I stressed about school? I’m desperate to find a logical reason for my low mood. But often, I can’t put my finger on anything concrete, and I begin to panic that I’m at the beginning of a downward spiral.

I start to analyse my own thoughts. Just how bad is it? Will I feel better if I get up, have a shower, get on with some work? Or does even getting off the couch seem impossible? I’ve learnt from experience that my mental health can go downhill frighteningly quickly, so perhaps it’s no surprise that bad days in depression recovery fill me with dread. My anxiety levels escalate, and thoughts of self-harm and even suicide can become overwhelming.

Sometimes, I’m able to see a bad day for what it is: a temporary blip, to be expected in mental health recovery, and not a major setback.

I know what sort of things I can do to stop it spiraling out of control, and I actually do them: I draw, play with my dog, or make plans with a friend.

But at other times, I’m just plain scared. I convince myself that I’m relapsing, and nothing I can do can make it any better.

I know I should get a bit of exercise or tell someone how I’m feeling, but I can’t. I’m paralyzed by the fear. I don’t want to worry anyone or be a burden on them, so I keep it to myself.

‘I’m just tired,’ I say, if anyone asks what’s up. And it’s true. I’m tired of living with this hateful illness. I’m tired of being such a needy, negative person. I’m tired of never having any confidence in my mental state.

On top of that, sometimes I really am just tired. It’s hard, even for me, to know what’s really going on.

When you’ve lived through the experience of a mental breakdown – especially one that happened quickly and unexpectedly – it’s hard to escape the knowledge that your illness could come back and overwhelm you with terrifying speed.

I wish I was better at taking each day as it comes, and being able to see all bad days as just that: an isolated occurrence, not an indication that things are going horribly wrong again.

But I can’t. Will I always dread bad days in depression recovery and fear the worst, or will I eventually learn to live one day at a time, confident that setbacks are just minor blips? I don’t know. I hope that as time passes, I’ll become better at keeping a sense of perspective.

But today is a bad day, and it’s hard not to be scared.

Tomorrow, I am going to wake up, and start again praying this:

  • Isaiah 43:18-9 ESV
    “Remember not the former things,
    nor consider the things of old.
     Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
    I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.
  • Isaiah 65:17 NIV
    See, I will create
    new heavens and a new earth.
    The former things will not be remembered,
    nor will they come to mind.
  • Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV
  • The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
    23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
  • Ezekiel 11:18-19 ESV
    And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. 19 And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,
  • Ezekiel 36:26 ESV
    And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
  • Romans 6:3-4 NIV
    Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV
    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
  • Ephesians 4:22-24 ESV
    to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
  • Philippians 3:13-14 NIV
    Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
  • Colossians 3:9-10 NIV
    Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
  • 1 Peter 1:3 ESV
    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
  • Revelation 21:4-5 ESV
    He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

*EDIT: I am not suicidal. I’m completely safe. I’m just raising awareness that there are still bad days in recovery (and I am still recovering). This was just one of those days. It will pass. Thank you for your continued prayers.

Once Were Dim Prayers

In 2012 I did a bible study called “Experiencing God.” I began praying for God to reveal himself and his will to me and it changed my life. About a month into the study I began having seizures. I was then diagnosed with depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, which I had for many years prior. My depression got worse and I started contemplating suicide constantly, then I started to give in every time there was an opportunity to act on the suicidal thoughts.

Depression made me believe I was a completely unlovable, burden; and OCD made me believe I was capable of acting on my worst fear of hurting someone. I was appalled that I could even think of such horrific things which led to crippling anxiety and worsening depression.

I was on the church prayer list for over three years. I’ve had people all over the world praying for me.

->People prayed for healing-with a miracle, medication, therapy-whatever means God willed.

->People prayed that I would draw nearer to God

->People prayed that I would hold on to the truths that I believed in

->People prayed that I would feel loved and supported

-> But, most importantly, people prayed for my safety

 

God answered every one of our prayers! Gods will for my life was not for it to end during any of the times I tried to take life into my own hands.

My memories from my time in the hospital are very broken up and foggy. However, I do remember enough to have witnessed unexplainable miracles in my very own life.

There were times where I walked along train tracks for hours and hours, just waiting for a train to come end it all. In those lonely hours very few trains actually came. When a train did come, I was sitting or laying on the tracks…and the next thing I knew I was in the ditch.

Every. Single. Time.

I don’t even try to wrap my mind around that one. It was just God.

I wasn’t fully aware of what was going on around me so when the train tracks crossed streets I walked straight out into traffic. There were some busy streets, but I was never hit. God was protecting me.

Another time, I overdosed. The amount of medication I took should have damaged my liver…but the test results came back completely normal.

I was told that my depression was “treatment resistant,” and our last resort treatment was electroconvulsive therapy. That ended up being exactly what my body needed to reset and begin healing through a specific type of counselling that targets OCD. The therapy is expensive and at first I needed to go every week! But God is so good. He met that need right away with financial support from family, friends, the church, and even some anonymous donations.

Healing didn’t come the way I prayed for and the way I wanted. I wanted complete healing, right away, with no work on my part.

It’s a good thing I’m not God.

 

If he had answered prayer the way I wanted:

->There wouldn’t have been time for all the changes to take place in my heart.

->I would have missed out on time with family, discovering my love for writing, and learning how to be a true friend from my own friends.

-> And I wouldn’t have learned how to depend on God, and fully trust him.

 

Sometimes God answers prayer and fills a need I didn’t even realize I had. My family and I decided I

needed a psychiatric service dog. We looked at some local dogs, but they just didn’t “feel right.” We decided on a chocolate brown Australian labradoodle from BC. She was a huge help in just her first year and a half with me.

We started to notice an odd behavior where she would climb up onto my shoulders. It took a while for us to catch on to her cleverness…but this was her way of letting me know 10 minutes before I had a seizure.

Dogs cannot be taught to sense when a seizure is coming. They either sense it- or they don’t- and you can’t know if the dog will reliably alert until the dog is older. I have had Zoe for 3 and ½ years and she has become my seizure alert dog!

I didn’t know I needed a seizure alert dog or think one was a possibility for me, but she has given me much more independence, prevented many injuries, and even saved my life.

Raising enough money for a service dog was an answer to prayer but God went beyond that when he gave me Zoe. Its as if God was chuckling and said, “Yeah, sure I’ll do that… BUT LOOK AT WHAT ELSE I CAN DO!”

It’s a beautiful reminder of how God is in control of all things seen and unseen, and he is capable of so much more than our small minds can even imagine!

I decided I wanted to go to bible college after high school. I applied and was accepted in 2013, but I wasn’t stable enough. I thought I would never actually get to go…but It was one of my goals that kept me motivated to get better. Anytime a Dr. asked what I wanted to do when I got out of hospital, it was “Bible College,” I want to go to bible college.

This past May, four years later, I just started taking online courses through Heritage Bible College! I was probably more excited to start school than some people are to graduate.

Those are just a few of the amazing ways God has kept me safe and answered prayer. Not only am I still alive today…but I am ALIVE AND WELL!!

I have been out of the psychiatric hospital for 2 years and 2 weeks. My physical health is still a struggle and I will likely struggle with minor flares of depression here and there for the rest of my life.

But my OCD is almost manageable, most of the time my depression is nearly non-existent, and I’m easing myself back into a new normal life. I have been blessed with this life and this trial. When I look back, I see a lot of painful moments that God brought me through and used for my good.

alive and hopefull

Chapter Twenty-Three

** WARNING: This post contains a section that discusses suicide and depression. It could possibly be triggering. If you are struggling with these issues I would suggest either skipping this post and reading others or skipping to the end of this post. I promise there is a happy ending. **

 

Today I am twenty-three.

For some, birthdays are no more than a regular day, maybe some presents, or good wishes and cake. Nothing ever really changes when you turn another year older. It’s not like you wake up and suddenly have matured a year. It’s a gradual process, and your birthday is just a marker along that path.

My family has made a big deal out of birthdays for as long as I can remember. We (the whole family) would wake up and open presents before we all went our separate ways to work or school. We would pick out a special birthday dinner – whatever we wanted – and probably have a party (or two…or three) at some point.

This year I have a different outlook on my birthday than I ever have. I have never been more thankful to be alive.

I’ve never been happy to be alive.

I mean, I probably did when I was younger, but at that age you don’t understand the whole “life” thing yet.

As a child, I remember that I had this vague idea in my head that I wouldn’t live to be 18. I had a small voice in my mind that said by the time I reached 18 I would have gathered the courage to end my life.

I had a twisted sense of hope that came from knowing my life would end soon enough, ending the consuming fears and misery. I thought it was just a feeling or maybe my fragile, mental state saying that it was “Gods will,” however, I can now recognize it as depression. On some level, I must have known that it wasn’t completely normal, because otherwise I’m not sure why I never said anything.

I woke up on my 18th birthday. I felt shocked, relieved, hopeful and distraught, all at once. I pulled myself together enough for the next year and a half to make the world believe I was OK, to make me believe I was OK. That’s when things started to unravel. I began spiraling downwards, convincing myself this time I wouldn’t live to see 20.

I was 19 when I first attempted suicide. I cringe thinking to those days. Thinking the words: I am unlovable.

The years that followed my whole family was in continuous crisis mode. They never knew what the next day was going to hold. Heck, I was so far removed from reality that I didn’t even know what the previous days looked like never mind the coming hours.

Somehow [clearly through the grace of God], I made it through countless life or death situations.

I don’t know how many times I have tried to end my life, nor do I know the exact number of streets I’ve crossed, [purposely] without waiting for cars to pass first.

I can’t count the exact number of scars on my skin from each time I carelessly slid a piece of metal through, silently hoping I would bleed to death and never wake up.

I don’t know how many hours I have been lost along train tracks waiting for a train to come and end it all.

I have walked across this train track bridge [the view now terrifies me!]:

*Bridge photos from London Free Press

If a train had come while I was walking across this bridge I would have not survived. I had hoped I would slip through the holes between the pieces of wood I walked over or through the sides.

*But this excruciating, long chapter of my life is closing.*

I’m well on my way to recovery!

Twenty-three is fresh.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have been working towards bible college for as long as I can remember. I am moving into a transitional chapter of online courses and I am already halfway through my first course: Intro to Old Testament Studies. I’m loving the content!

I have said this is a transitional chapter because I’m practicing the coping skills I’ve perfected while living a very simple, low-stress life, now in a more stressful life. It’s proving tough but I’m happy to report that there have been no suicidal thoughts that have come with any intent. The thoughts are more fleeting. They come almost out of habit.

My brain doesn’t work the same as it used to, nor does the rest of my body. I have been out of school for 4 years. Those things themselves throw some consequential challenges into life.

I got a 77% on my first midterm! I’m proud of that. I worked extremely hard and did not think I could manage more than a 60.

Good & amazing things have come from this chapter!

LIST OF GOOD THINGS/ACCOMPLISHMENTS DURING “DISABLED” YEARS:

I had extra time to spend hours reading Gods word and just resting in His presence.  Not everyone gets this wonderful opportunity.

My personal relationship with God is stronger than ever. My desire to experience Him, love Him, and obey Him, is sometimes more than I can handle (In a good way)!

I was diagnosed with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder that had been going on for 11 years before diagnosis. I don’t know when/if I would have been diagnosed had I not started having seizures.

I have overcome treatment-resistant major depressive disorder, after the better part of three years was spent in a psychiatric hospital.

I’ve overcome some intense psychotic episodes.

I have a better ability to empathize with other people’s sorrows. It’s the kind of empathy that you can only gain from going through a dark and difficult time.

I have completely stopped self harming. (Nearly 2 years without cutting!) Just a day ago, an ER nurse even commented on my scars looking old.

*I also now view self harming as a completely ineffective coping mechanism, but because of the addictive nature it is still tempting.

About 4 years after the OCD diagnosis, the disorder is almost managed now!! **HUGE HUGE ACCOMPLISHMENT THAT REQUIRED AN CRAZY AMOUNT OF WORK**

I have my own website/blog that actually gets a large number of views (that is if I actually post…oops…)

I have been doing a lot of painting and drawing **even with a tremor!

I have trained a service dog! (With a lot of help from family, a friend, and a trainer). Now I have an incredible, life-saving dog! I wish I didn’t need her as “medical equipment”, but she keeps me laughing and I constantly talk to her. (I have learned that when you are alone in public, it’s much more fun to pet a dog than to awkwardly pretend you are texting someone…)

I have had time to draw, write, and spend time with my family before I prepare to move away for school.

Now I see that this life I live is actually so wonderful! So long as God continues to use my struggles for His glory (I have no doubt He will), I don’t mind them being there.

For a long time, birthdays acted as a sort of ‘countdown’ of my life, filled with nothing but doom. Now, they serve as a source of hope and strength, reminding me I have – and will continue to – overcome.

I have come a long way in the past few years. Now I’m able to look back and say I survived. Now I’m able to look forward and say I can continue surviving and thriving.

My child self never thought I would make it to 18, but here I am, almost five years after 18, with a desire to keep living as long as God allows, so I can do and accomplish all that he has planned for me.

Today I begin chapter twenty-three.

Just BE

When All You Can Do Is Be:

Some days are harder than others. There are trials and challenges. We face issues that change the course of our entire lives. We deal with seizures for which healing has yet to come, anxiety that is yet to be managed, marital problems yet to be mended, longing for relationships, or a feeling of distance from God.

imageOr maybe we feel like we aren’t doing enough in our lives as we watch others who never seem to go through the hardships that we face daily, that some of us have even experienced for years. We feel pressure to do the “normal” daily activities that most people do without a second thought. Then, we feel an overwhelming sadness when we just can’t do them no matter how hard we try.

We just feel weak and worn out.

imageGod sees you. He loves you. He says that you don’t have to measure up to any standard but His.

Even when all you can do is simply be: you are loved by God.

It doesn’t look the same for another person as it does for you. He knows the trials, the pain, the weaknesses. He only wants your heart. Love Him with your whole heart!

Maybe no one else will hear your cries, feel your loneliness, or see your pain, but God sees you and you matter to Him. He hears your every heart cry and He is a Father who loves you.image

If all you can do is simply be with Him, He’s more than okay with that. He knows you inside and out, through the good and the difficult.

You may see others running back and forth doing everything under the sun, but even though difficulties are in front of you, you are still pressing into Jesus.

You are just being with Him. This counts far more than you know. It counts to Him. In His eyes it is worth more than all the gold in world because you are His precious and dearly beloved child.image

May His love cover you and fill you today.

Stellar Kart Lyrics:

Me and Jesus

When there’s nowhere else to turn
All your bridges have been burned
Feels like you’ve hit rock bottom
Don’t give up it’s not the end
Open up your heart again
When you feel like no one
Understands where you are

Someone loves you even when you don’t think so
Don’t you know you got me and Jesus by your side
Through the fight you will never be alone on your own
You got me and Jesus

 After all that we’ve been through
By now you know I’ve doubted too
But every time my head was in my
Hands you said to me
Hold on to what we got
This is worth any cost so
Make the most of life
That’s borrowed
Love like there’s no tomorrow

 

Rejoice…Always?

 

The last week and a half have been difficult. My psychiatrist allowed me to decrease my Cymbalta (antidepressant). This is a really big deal. It’s terrifying, actually! Anyone who knew me while I was very ill, in the throws of depression, knows how life-threatening and serious my illness can be. I am not against medication use at all! For some people, medication can make a huge difference. Medication for a mental illness is no different than insulin for diabetes, chemo for cancer, or medications for epilepsy, if it works and it keeps you healthy-it is 100% necessary.

However, I never noticed a change while taking Cymbalta but I still stayed on it through ECT and exposure therapy-both of which DID help me. I have a few side effects from Cymbalta. Heat intolerance-which is horrible! I am comfortable outside in a t-shirt when it is 4 degrees outside. I also have noticed an impact on my creativity and ‘sharpness’ of my thinking.

The Cymbalta was decreased exactly 2 weeks ago, all was well until last Monday night when I noticed my mood slipped and I was very anxious. My mood has gone back up nearly to where it was but my anxiety levels have stayed quite high. As a result, I have had limited time in public places. There is no reason for this anxiety and no specific worries, which makes it so frustrating for me! I did not have this type of anxiety before taking any antidepressants, so hopefully this isn’t just another presentation of my illness.

Two days ago, I was given the choice to go back on the Cymbalta which would likely relieve the new anxiety, or I could continue to wait it out a little longer to see if it will fade over time. I decided to continue with the decreased dose. We will wait and see what will happen.

It was during this past week that my devotions featured Scriptures on joy.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again—Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)

philipians-4

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).

Since these are words from God, I figured I shouldn’t roll my eyes at these passages, but I was doing it on the inside. I do like these verses. They are feel-good words…when I’m feeling good. But when life is such a mess, they sound superficial and even seem to mock my current reality.

As I kept myself in check, the Lord clearly and ever so gently challenged my thinking.

You don’t need joy when things are going well. You need joy when life is hard, and I am always here to supply it.

I tend to be black and white in my thinking. I want things to be “either-or,” rather than “and.”

James 1:2-3 throws a wrench in my thinking.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

Sorrow and joy are not mutually exclusive. The Lord intended joy to be an ever-present part of a believer’s life. Even in the midst of trials, chaos, and in the messiness of relationships.

I am thankful that it doesn’t say, “Be happy whenever you face trials of many kinds.” There are trials and pain in life, and I’m not going to be happy about them. I am not happy that I am struggling with ANOTHER form of anxiety. I don’t have to paste on a smile and pretend that everything is beautiful. I can acknowledge the struggles, and that’s okay. My happiness is an emotion that changes with my circumstances.

joy-is-independentHowever, as a follower of Jesus, joy is independent of my circumstances. Joy is based on my trust in the Lord, my confidence in His constancy that gives me security and well-being. It focuses on the hope and future anchored, immovably in Christ.

Unfortunately, we will all encounter trouble. Jesus said we would in John 16:33. We will be moved by tragedy, but it should not define us.

Job lost everything dear to him—family, wealth, and health. He was devastated and praised the Lord from the depths of his soul.

Paul instructed us to “Rejoice in the Lord” while he was in prison.

Jesus wept at Lazarus’ tomb and then raised him from the dead.

I am filled with joy and fighting a severe Illness.

Joy comes from the Holy Spirit, not from us.

As we walk in the Spirit and allow Him to flow through our lives, we will experience joy. We will be able to rejoice in the Lord. Yes, always.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).

 If you are struggling to have joy in your circumstance and would like to talk more about it or would like me to pray for you, please do not hesitate to contact me through the contact page on this website.

 
If you do not yet have a personal relationship with Jesus but would like to know more about beginning that relationship I would LOVE to talk to you and pray for you!

 

XOXO

 

Summer & Zoe  

MM: Sidewalk Prophets-“Keep Making Me”

This Monday, please listen to Sidewalk Prophets’ “Keep Making me” by clicking HERE BEFORE reading how this song has influenced my life. I want to hear what this song means to you! I want to hear what it stirs in your heart and I want to know how I can pray for you. Visit the contact page and send me a message through there or email me at summer@lifewithschyff.com

Keep Making Me~Sidewalk Prophets Lyrics

Make me broken
So I can be healed
‘Cause I’m so calloused
And now I can’t feel
I want to run to You
With heart wide open
Make me broken

Make me empty
So I can be filled
‘Cause I’m still holding
Onto my will
And I’m completed
When you are with me
Make me empty

‘Til You are my one desire
‘Til You are my one true love
‘Til You are my breath, my everything
Lord, please keep making me

Make me lonely
So I can be Yours
‘Til I want no one
More than You, Lord
‘Cause in the darkness
I know You will hold me
Make me lonely

Have you ever prayed a “scary” prayer? One where you were not sure you really wanted to say or mean the words? I can remember a few years ago praying for God to transform me. I found it written in an old journal, “I realize that this might mean going through some hard trials, but all I want is to be fully devoted to you. Change my heart and mind, transform me, Lord.”

I already had the OCD and it was already making me depressed at the time I wrote that. I already believed I was a horrible person full of sinful thoughts (the OCD thoughts of harming people, which I now realize are not sinful).

So there I was thinking maybe God would send me something that would somehow change my thoughts; make me stop thinking horrible things. Instead, He just looked down at me compassionately. “Oh, precious daughter! Who told you these horrible lies? I know the real you and when the time is right I will send you exactly what you need to see the truth about who you are to me and the real meaning behind those thoughts that you have. Everything is planned perfectly for what you need. My timing is precise.”

I didn’t expect that I would start having seizures, my health would deteriorate. And that my mental health would become disabling to the point that I could not function. It would lead me to years in the psychiatric hospital, countless ambulance & ER visits, hundreds of tests that only left us with more questions, and even an ICU stay.

I had expectations of how I thought God should run my life…lets all pause to laugh at how small our little minds are.

A lot has happened since I prayed that prayer, it HURT, but let me tell you, it has all been for His good. I have been a total work in progress at all stages in my life, and of course right now. I feel the Lord ‘keeps making me’ change into something different, something better. He’s breaking me down and tearing away all the things I used to think were important. He is slowly chiseling away all of my brokenness.

He’s striping me of all the ‘securities’ I once thought were actually safe.

The devil wants me to feel alone in my journey of learning to manage and defeat OCD, striving to become better, and becoming who I was made to be. I refuse to feel alone in my journey. I know, without a doubt God is with me and surely someone else out there has felt these same emotions and experienced this same changing process. Lord Keep Making Me…

image

Make me broken – I’ve been broken for a long time but God gave me a different perspective
on my brokenness
So I can be healed – If I must be made broken, the reward of healing is worth the pain of breaking.
‘Cause I’m so calloused –Somewhere along the way I was wounded and broken but I didn’t realize then the secrets and hiding created callouses.
And now I can’t feel –Callouses ‘protect’ my emotions.
I want to run to You – He’s the only one I could run to. I’d take the pain and the brokenness a million times over if it were the only thing to cause the yearning in my heart to run to Him like it has these past four years.
With heart wide open – This is the hard part. With heart wide open. How do you really open your heart wide when you’ve been hurt and when the process of cleaning your heart out is incredibly painful?
Make me broken – I’ve certainly been broken now – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Make me empty – Empty. There’s no feeling quite like it. I remember feeling absolutely nothing. I wanted to die at the time. Empty is lonely.
So I can be filled – I had to be emptied so I could make room to be filled, but filled only with Him this time around. Empty me so I can be filled with nothing but God.
‘Cause I’m still holding – Holding, indeed. Sometimes even with a death grip.
Onto my will – Yup, my will. My stupid, stupid will. Why would I ever think my plans for my life would be better than the Father’s? I don’t know, but I’m still tempted to hang onto my stupid, stupid will. It’s silly, I know, but I’m learning to surrender.
And I’m completed – Finally completed!
When you are with me –Only when you are with me. Please be with me.
Make me empty – Make me empty, so I can be filled with YOU.

[Chorus:]

Til You are my one desire – Lord, I want You to be my one desire. For all the times, I’ve put other people and things before you, forgive me.
‘Til You are my one true love – True love. There will be no love like Yours, Lord. Teach me to love like You do. And teach me to accept Your love for me.
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‘Til You are my breath, my everything – To be my breath. Could you be my breath, Lord? Could you be the words I speak, my every move, the breath I take? Be my breath, Lord.
Lord, please keep making me – Whatever it takes, no matter the price, please keep making me.

Make me lonely – Been there. Lonely. The veil was lifted and the dark reality of loneliness was revealed. You made me lonely. I had to experience that loneliness to desire You fully, though. If there was no other, Lord, but I still had You, I would cease to be lonely. If making me lonely was what it took to create a desire for You that burns deep within me, then make me lonely all over again.
So I can be Yours – Yours. I AM Yours. I don’t always show it, but I am trying. I am Yours.
‘Til I want no one – No one else could fill my longing for You. I don’t want any other more than You, Lord – You are the ultimate. You are perfect. There is no one better.
‘Cause in the darkness – Darkness is inevitable. It’s not a matter of ‘if,’ but rather ‘when’ the darkness will come.
I know You will hold me – my whole life, I have spent asking You to hold me. Hold me in Your arms late at night when I felt all alone; for I know there is no place I’d rather be, but in Your arms, in Your loving embrace.
Make me lonely – Make me lonely all over again if that is what it takes.

[Chorus]

‘Til You are my one desire – The ONLY one.
‘Til You are my one true love – No love will be truer than Your love, Lord.
‘Til You are my breath, my everything – My EVERYTHING. I am nothing without You. Be my everything.
Lord, please keep making, – Never stop making me. Don’t give up on me.
I know You’ll keep making – Jesus, I trust in You. I trust You WILL keep making me.
Lord, please keep making me – Thank you for continuing to make me… YOURS.

Lord, if you need to clean my heart out, to scrap it from deep within because it’s the only way for me to truly see You, then let it be. Take the words of this song and scrape them upon my heart until I’m made into the person You want me to be.

Lord please keep making me…

Again, I want to hear what this song stirred in your heart and I want to know how I can pray for you. Visit the contact page and send me a message through there or email me at summer@lifewithschyff.com

Update: Fall 2016 Part 1

At this point in my therapy I am not where I ever expected to be. A year ago I thought I would have been further along and a few months ago I didn’t think I would ever get this far! You often think about the beginning and the end of therapy but then you kind of forget about the middle part of recovery where you have come so far but you also still have a long ways to go.

You forget that you can’t skip over steps to get to the end faster. It doesn’t work like that in mental health recovery. You have to take it slow, however, you can keep reflecting back at how far you have come and how much better you feel than when you were on the last step.

It’s been a while since I posted an update, so I figured it was about time!

I posted the last Music Monday a little over 2 months ago. The day it was posted I fell down the stairs and was unconscious for about 10 minutes. My mom called 911 and the paramedics put me in a neck brace and on a backboard then took me to the hospital. I was fortunate to (unsteadily) walk away from the hospital later with ‘only’ a concussion and a bucket load of bruises. My recovery from the concussion has been quicker than expected! The physical symptoms are mostly gone now but I am still struggling with the cognitive effects – memory, confusion, concentration, brain fog…things that were already issues but a little magnified right now, nothing too major.

Mentally, I did have a hard time switching back into “recovery mode” after the fall. I had two weeks where I didn’t do any OCD homework exposures at all. This wasn’t only because of the head injury. Part of me just got stuck in a negative “rut.” I kept telling myself that I could’t do the homework well enough so I might as well not do it at all. I wasn’t being lazy, I was just overwhelmed with fears and hopelessness.

I also had a couple really stressful events during this time. All that additional stress while recovering from a brain injury PLUS all the usual OCD stress, anxiety, and exhaustion. Then came the appointment where I was supposed to discuss the homework from the two weeks that I didn’t do it.

If you have a great therapist, they should understand how hard the work they are asking you to do actually is. They should understand and even expect that you are going to have setbacks and that normal life problems may appear a little amplified to an anxiety sufferer.

My therapist is fantastic, so she did not look at it as a bad thing or even think it was a setback. In her sweet accent, she just said, “I bet you needed that break from the work. Lets see how we can make things more manageable for this coming week.” That felt so validating to the work I was doing, but also offered a gentle hint of encouragmentand.

We did figure out how to make things go much better. The day after I saw her I picked up my homework and said to myself, “even if it doesn’t work today-you might be setting it up to make it work tomorrow. Just do it anyways Summer.”

Now, for the first time since I started this round of ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) in May, I feel like I am making progress that I can actually see. I have made progress like what is ‘typical’ for an exposure.

I have done things that I didn’t think I could do. I wasn’t even sure I would ever be able to do them!

But I did…and I can’t even explain how incredible it feels. I feel successful. I feel strong. I feel fearless(ish). And I feel proud.

It all started with picking up the homework and believing in myself. (And prayer.)

OCD: 14 (for the 2 weeks I didn’t do homework)

Summer: 31! (For the one month I have been totally beating OCD!!)

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Before I fell I had been planning on going to surprise a good friend, who moved 3 hours away, with a visit! My incredible Grandparents said they would take me (thanks again guys!). It was a much needed catch up day filled with smiles, laughs, and encouragement. I was able to surprise a friend, see her (very new) house, see her town, have lunch with her, visit by the lake, let my dog run in her backyard, and even show her how lovely it is to colour in an adult colouring book!

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My beautiful friend and I! Thank you Lord, for times like this.

If I think back to last year, there is no possible way that I could have managed a trip like this. Depression, self harm, and dissociations in addition to OCD were too frequent and I hadn’t quite figured out which coping strategies helped me the most. This means I was still having crisis situations very often and I wasn’t good at coping yet.

FLASH FORWARD to Now:

The fun and excitement from this visit outweighed the negative that the OCD thoughts and fears bring into everything.

…Wait…did I actually just say that!? Yes, it’s true!

Do you know how long it’s been since I did something that is supposed to be fun and actually could focus on anything except doing compulsions to keep everyone around me safe? TOO LONG. I don’t remember the last time, but I will remember this success.

OCD: 14
Summer: 31+6 (=37)

(1 for travel/sitting with uncertainty about what we were going to do, 2 for stopping in service stations, 2 for walking near a busy road while having thoughts, 1 for eating lunch at a busier restaurant)

Everything I do does come with challenges. Satan really knows how to use OCD against me. He knows that is how he can make me weak – so he can make me feel completely worthless, disgusting, unforgivable, and even invaluable in Gods eye’s…ALL of which is completely untrue no matter how often these horrible, awful, nasty thoughts come into my mind. So, to get back at satan, I’ve been trying to fight satan and the OCD with all I have and all the strength God is providing.

These past few weeks there has been a big change in the anxiety during exposures.

So… PRAISE THE LORD! Thank you, God, for bringing me to a therapist who is working hard to figure out which techniques will target my OCD best. Thank you for the strength and courage to do the crazy hard work that I would have labeled “too dangerous” in the past. Thank you.

I’m not noticing much change in regular everyday life yet, I’m sure that will be coming soon.

Any time that I have with low anxiety from the intrusive thoughts is precious! These past month where I have exposed myself to things that terrify me then just sat with it and slowly noticed the anxiety go down low…were just ~ WOW ~ wonderful!

Of course I still have a lot of difficult moments and days so your continued prayers are still SO appreciated!

Please pray that the OCD continues to improve. Pray that the ERP therapy gets easier. At the beginnings or before, I still am usually close to tears because I am so fearful of the thoughts. Pray for continued brain healing and answers to the other physical health symptoms that are messing up my system. Pray that I keep my eyes focused on the Lord and lean on Him for my strength.

*Part 2 to come soon*

“So OCD?”

We live in the age of different. “Hipster” is in and it’s cool to be unique, nerdy, and quirky. What better way to show your individuality than branding yourself “so OCD“?

Except for OCD IS NOT a quirk, or a set of tendencies…it’s an incapacitating, isolating disease that makes you afraid of your own mind. This is what it’s really like to have OCD:

*You believe you are a horrible person.

Imagine having a song stuck in your head. Now imagine that instead of a lovely, catchy tune it’s the thought of murdering your best friend. In horrendous graphic detail. Over and over again. You’re not mad at your best friend, and you’ve never even done anything violent, but…

It. Won’t. Stop. Playing.

You probably feel uneasy just reading that. But that’s what the “obsessive” part of OCD is like: intrusive, unwanted, disturbing thoughts that won’t go away. No one seems to know what causes them, although it might be miscommunication between parts of the brain or something faulty in its error detection circuit.

The thoughts aren’t always about you doing bad things, but they’re never pleasant. Most obsessions are based on deep fears — “What if I or someone I love gets sick?” — or basically the worst things one can think of, like blasphemy, racism, suicide, murder, rape, contamination, animal abuse, cannibalism, torture …

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People with OCD who have thoughts of doing something violent never actually act on these thoughts, and those who dread bad things happening almost never see those things happen. While most people can shake off a weird thought, when you have OCD, it sticks in your mind. Inevitably, you think, “Why do I keep thinking about these things? Is it because they’ll happen? Do I want them to happen?”

The answer’s no! No, you do not. But you will still fear you do.

*You’re Probably Not a Neat Freak

Sheldon, from Big Bang Theory, is depicted as having OCD. OCD is a debilitating condition so it is a bit strange that the show is often poking fun at his ‘compulsions’. The show plays on the OCD stigma by making sure to mention some part of his strict schedule (also can be related to aspergers syndrome which he also has) or his fear of germs. Don’t get me wrong, those are fears and compulsions that some people have but our society needs to be more aware that there are MANY other forms that OCD may come in.

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This means that despite what the media might have you think, having OCD doesn’t necessarily mean you’re neat and particular. Those of you into freak shows (sorry, reality shows): First of all, don’t even get me started on the show “Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners“…Second, have you ever seen that show “Hoarders“? Hoarding is often a symptom of OCD.

Compulsions can vary. Sometimes they correspond to fears, like washing your hands because you’re scared of contamination. Sometimes there’s no real logic behind them, like when you have to jump over a line on the floor because otherwise everybody you know will die horribly and it will be all your fault. Or you keep counting because you don’t want to lose control and start stabbing people.

Many don’t have physical compulsions at all, instead suffering from “purely obsessional” OCD, where all they have are obsessions. And some people with diagnosed OCD even obsessively doubt the fact that they have OCD.

OCD, at heart, is an anxiety disorder. Yet movie and TV characters with OCD are often shown washing their hands or straightening things, never suffering from overbearing anxiety. This is probably because it’s easier to show someone cleaning than to show someone going through extreme mental anguish.

*You Know There’s Something Wrong With You

One of the many differences between people who have OCD and people who are just “quirky” — is shame. Let’s be clear: If you regularly check your pockets to confirm that you’ve still got your car keys, or if you prefer your sandwiches with the crust cut off, or if you only eat orange Skittles, you’re not suffering from OCD.

Those are just quirks, and also the orange Skittles are obviously the best. People like quirks when they’re cute, fun, and harmless. When they involve picking at your fingernails to get blood (that isn’t even there) out or sitting on your hands so they don’t move and slap someone, people just think you’re “crazy.”

But you’ll believe it of yourself as well. You’ll be standing in your bathroom at three in the morning, scrubbing your pocket change because you’ve been awake for hours wondering if it could contaminate your clothes and make you a danger to the people around you, and you’ll be unable to stop, but you’ll know that what you’re doing is crazy.

OCD is “ego dystonic,” which means “out of sync with your ideal self” or “making you look and feel like an idiot.” People with personality disorders typically think they’re always in the right, and people with psychosis often don’t realize that their delusions are coming from their heads. But one of the defining characteristics of OCD is knowing that your thoughts are bizarre and your rituals don’t make sense.

Additionally, people who have OCD don’t even get any joy out of their compulsions. Relief? Definitely, but it’s temporary, like scratching a mosquito bite. You don’t want to count every pole and sign you pass, you have to.

There are people who are ‘perfectionist control freaks’ and love every meticulously planned minute of it. But they have a different diagnosis: obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. OCPD involves being neat and exacting (is that even a word??) to the point of disrupting one’s life and being really annoying to everyone else; it’s all of the OCD stereotypes with none of the anxiety or shame.

*It’s Rarely Just OCD

The day I was diagnosed with OCD was one of the best days of my life. Finally, I knew what was wrong with me, I wasn’t crazy, and I could get it treated. But then came the depression, dissociations, psychosis, trichotillomania and dermatillomania, anxiety, PTSD diagnosis…”oh, yeah. You have all those things too. Sorry about that.”

Panic attacks, Tourette syndrome, hypochondria, body dysmorphic disorder, trichotillomania, dermatillomania, and eating disorders are all OCD spectrum disorders. They’re diagnosed on their own but also like to hang around in the background while OCD tricks your mind. They’re like its creepy cousins.

OCD also often coexists with depression. This is partly because of chemicals and genetics, and also because constant obsessing, isolation, or exhaustion from ritualizing can be extremely depressing. Studies show that having OCD from an early age tends to make you more susceptible to depression because it wears on you so much. You’re also at higher risk of suicide.

The good news is that OCD and its tag-along disorders are treatable. There are all kinds of medications and therapies that can help alleviate symptoms. And since the spectrum disorders are linked, one treatment can sometimes cover all symptoms. OCD is not something that can be cured, but it can be controlled.

Im not going to lie…my OCD has not responded to many medications. There was one experimental medication that did work but seems to be not working for the last little while. At first this made me feel like I was back to where I started just less than a year ago.

Thankfully, a lot of stinkin’ hard work has moved me forward in my recovery! I keep hearing from my supports that they are noticing that I’m so much better than I was then. I still have a very far way to go but a few steps are behind me now.

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The face of OCD? I look calm in this picture but I was actually struggling with millions of intrusive thoughts and likely counting in an effort to “neutralize” the thoughts. OCD doesn’t have “a face.” 

*You have a demand for certainty

You think you should know for sure whether you will get violent, loose control, or are contaminated.

What if i didn’t unplug my hair dryer and it catches fire? Then the house would catch on fire, burn down to the ground, and it would all be my fault. What if there are germs on the door handle and I touched it? Then my entire family would get extremely ill and die. What if I lost control and acted on one of my horrible thoughts? Then I would stab somebody and they would die a horrendous death just because I didn’t take the proper precautions.

What if, what if, what if….?

The compulsions offer relief from the uncertainty. OCD sufferers are desperate to feel certain so of course they try to do anything and everything that offers relief even if it takes them hours upon hours to reach that “safe” or “just right” feeling. Then Nothing short of perfection is enough to ease the raging anxiety in the sufferers mind.

Dear non-sufferers,

Do you still think it’s funny, cute or quirky to have OCD?

Are you still going to label yourself “so OCD” when referring to your neat, tidy, and clean preferences or your choice to double check that you have your car keys?

May I ask that you please, please, reconsider that choice of words?

It can be hurtful by making us feel like you are disregarding an OCD sufferers debilitating and incapacitating symptoms.

For This Season

I’ve been so embarrassed to ask for prayer lately because sometimes it feels like my life is just a never-ending drama. With all the seizures, OCD, depression, PTSD, new symptoms, other health illnesses we’re still trying to diagnose, and then the most recent OCD worsening, a new stomach issue, and over a week long lingering migraine thats the result of a head injury: it just feels like it should be the end of the ‘hard stuff.’ That there shouldn’t be more and if there is, it’s somehow my fault.

I have this little voice inside of me that tells me I’ve used up my entire allotment of sympathy and prayers; that life should be easy and painless and perfectly put together now because I’ve maxed out my quota for pain and people are tired of hearing about it already.

(Never mind that I am tired of living it already!!)

Against all the blaring sirens in my heart and soul telling me I am “too much” and “out of turns to ask for help” and I just need to “be quiet, suck it up and handle it on my own”…

I’m saying:

I need prayers in this season because my heart is breaking in a new kind of way that I didn’t know was possible. Who knew there were more ways for it to break? And I cringe asking for prayers, because I wish more than anyone that it was all put together already and I didn’t need them. But I do. So can you please pray for me? Again?

As I wrote in my journal God so tenderly seemed to respond in my soul, “Who put a limit on mercy, Summer? Was it me? Did I say you were out of turns for compassion, grace and love? Who told you that you were a burden and that people were weary of walking alongside you?

Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive this brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus looks Peter in the eye and blows his mind. “I tell you not just seven, but seventy times seven.”

Jesus looked me in the eye and whispered the same thing over my heart this week.

Who am I to limit how many times I can be on the receiving end imageof mercy and grace and forgiveness and prayers? Should I receive the tenderj and fierce prayers of my community only seven times? Or seventy times seven?

God himself is reminding me: if forgiveness is not limited, neither is mercy.

Or prayers. Or grace. Or love. Or compassion.

Do I deserve it? Have I earned it? Do I need to re-pay it? Will I have to ask again? Am I a burden? This week I am practicing the art of silencing all these questions and leaning into the grace of friends who have not once shamed me and told me to “just be well already.” Friends who have stood beside me and not grown weary in their love and prayers.

And I am standing in awe of a God who keeps whispering “seventy times seven” over me.

Maybe you need to be reminded today that seventy times seven is for you too.

Maybe you need to offer more than seven shots at grace to someone in your life.

Maybe God needs to step into your shame and fear and “people are SO tired of hearing this story from me” thoughts and remind you that this whole Gospel thing? It’s about mercy…

and mercy and mercy and mercy and mercy… the unlimited, never-runs-dry, seventy times seven kind.image.jpg

Question That Makes Us Fake

How are you?

The most common greeting-so common that it just springs out of peoples mouthes without them even thinking. Although, most people feel genuinely interested in the other persons life when asking the question.

People aren’t built to expect bad things or bad days, so when asking ‘how are you’ they are usually just ready to hear all the good and wonderful things that have been happening in that persons life.

Unfortunately, not everyones lives are all sunshine and daisies. That leaves pressure for those of us who have been struggling. We feel we need to respond with positive answers-regardless of how we are actually feeling. We feel we we need to pretend everything is going how we hoped it would be.

Why do we do this? It’s so fake and routine!

At church I often I find myself frantic for the ‘right‘ answers when asked, “How are you?” For simplicity sake and so I didn’t need to break out into a big honest spiel, I reply, “Good!” or “Alright!” And to my close friends, whom I fear may see right through me, I shrug my shoulders and make ‘that distressed face.’ That’s when you know things are very bad.

Really, I’m fine…except for I am totally not. I’m completely falling apart inside. My mind is a raging hurricane! My thoughts are a disgusting junkyard full of twisted metal!

I am beyond upset and disappointed in myself for slipping so far from where I was just a few short weeks ago. It scares me that all it takes is one wee trigger to set my mind off, to shake me to my core and to completely disrupt my life.

But then, I’m also upset at myself for being upset with myself (totally makes sense, right?) because this is not my fault. Again, I remind myself that recovery comes with setbacks, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t escape them.

“This is just a setback. This is just a setback. This is just a setback.
3…6…9…12…15…18…21…24…27…30…33…”
(Repeat. Repeat. Repeat…)

Imagine being so consumed by something that you literally could not think of anything else until you felt certain of the outcome you needed…so caught up in the thoughts and worries that you could not go to work, concentrate in conversations, do simple math (like counting out money), or perhaps even stand to be around people because your brain is essentially on overdrive.

The result: a heavy, crushing, debilitating, long-lasting, wave of anxiety.

It was so much that I tried to end my life…again. It pains me to say that. I so badly want to keep it a secret because I am so ashamed of myself. Ashamed that I didn’t tell anybody. Ashamed that thoughts that appear SO trivial could drive me to such extremes.

This is the harsh reality of mental illness.image

It brings people to the place they said they would never go. That dark, scary, place. The place I thought I was so far from. It sneaks up on you when you least expect it and it changes your thinking. You think no one really cares. You think death is the only option. You think this is the safest way.

For me, the distress comes from harm OCD.

My mind races 123876562431078465 miles a minute. I’m scared of my mind. I’m scared about these intrusive thoughts. I’m (irrationally) scared for my loved ones, and even strangers’, safety. Even though I know I would never act on these thoughts. Ever. I’m so scared of acting on the thoughts though. I’m terrified that there is half an ounce of longing to the thoughts; as if that part of me wants and enjoys the thoughts. They feel so real.

My greatest fear is people around me getting physically hurt-especially the people I love the most…and what if that came from me…what if I was the one that hurt them!? I couldn’t live with that happening, so I do everything in my power to prevent it.

The media does not help. Many tv series show people killing left and right. They make it look “normal.” Often the killer doesn’t even have a motive! So then, I sit there and think “What if that’s me one day!? What if I just went crazy and attacked someone!?”

That is why this week, I thought the only way to keep other people safe (from myself) was to hurt myself. It doesn’t make sense and it’s not true but that’s what I thought. It’s what my OCD made me believe was true.

What I did not think about was ANYTHING else. Not about other people, my dog, my dreams, Gods plan/timing… I could only think about all the horrible things that I could do. I didn’t think of anything real; just what I felt was real.

It is a miracle that I escaped unharmed…I mean NO liver damage when my liver should be in liver failure. If that’s not a divine sign from God that He is not finished with you yet, I don’t know what is!

I’m fighting my brain constantly (literally constantly). I was drained from this never-ending battle.

OCD had a firm grip on me last week even though I am doing everything I possibly can to get past this. I’ve tried telling myself, “Summer, you would never do that. Thoughts are just thoughts. They don’t mean anything.” I’ve tried to ignore the thoughts; I’ve tried not to ignore the thoughts. The best thing I can do is to just ‘let the thoughts come and go as they please.’ ‘Don’t give the thoughts meaning.’ ‘Do not try to fight the thoughts.’

Simple right?

NO!! Its so ridiculously hard to let go of revolting thoughts and images that literally make me vomit at times. My coping strategies that helped me out of this mess before seem completely useless right now. Regardless, I will continue to do everything I can to manage until something changes.

So, next time you go to ask someone how they have been, try some of these alternatives:

How has your day been so far?

Have you had a nice morning so far?

Recall and ask about the little things in their life. It means the world to people when you ask about the little details of their life.

Ask about an area of life that they care about. (Writing, drawing, music, tattoos, school, work, sports, exercise, pets/animals, relationships, travel, ect.)

Just simply tell them that you have been thinking or praying for them. There is something fantastic about the feeling of someone thinking about you. You feel cared for, loved on, and not forgotten.

Or hit them with a compliment instead of a vague question! Don’t you look extra lovely today!

Or, the best thing people can do for me when they know I’ve been struggling is say, “Hey, can I pray for you right now?” BEFORE you leave me and I’m left wondering if any people care enough to go home and actually pray for me.

If you don’t know the person well enough to say anything personal, just say, “Wow! It’s so nice to see you! I pray for you often. Hope to see you again soon!”

Don’t assume that because I look well, I am doing well. There is a very real battle going on inside my head that no one else sees.

#GetLoud

The lives of people with mental health conditions are often plagued by stigma as well as discrimination. People with mental health conditions are often depicted as dangerous, violent, unpredictable, manipulative, fakers, dramatic, or exaggerated. This stigma is a reality for many people living with a mental illness, and it’s one of their greatest barriers to living a complete and satisfying life.

This week, this very stigma prevented me from getting proper medical care.

I went to see a specialist who I had been waiting a VERY long time to see. Her resident came to talk to me first then he went to talk to the Dr privately. She came in and told me that the only possible reasons my thyroid levels could fluctuating is because I’m either not taking my medication regularly or its not being absorbed properly (but she’s “pretty confident that that’s not the issue”).

I TAKE MY MEDICATION EVERYDAY-WITHOUT FAIL!!
…Sometimes an hour or so late…but I never miss it…
Then she tells me we should stop focusing on my symptoms as medical symptoms and start looking at all my other diagnosis’. (Clearly, referring to the mental health piece.) My mom asked, “So you looked at her mental health records and assume that’s all this could possibly be?” To which the Dr bluntly responded, “Yes, that’s exactly what I think.” She repeated over and over and OVER that we should get blister packs (prepackaged scheduled pill containers from the pharmacy). We told her that we put my meds in a pill organizer that is just as effective but cheaper. The Dr insisted we use blister packs because “The pharmacist puts the exact doses of medication in each day.”

Seriously!? You’re saying that you think we are COMPLETELY incapable of putting my meds in the pill container?? And WHY would I purposely take the incorrect dose!? I KNOW how sick I feel when my levels are off! And if we’re not doing it properly then why are the rest of my meds dispensed, absorbed, and working right?? If this is all a mental health problem, why am I doing so well mentally, right now, while my symptoms are so bad?

And to top it all off she told me, “There is absolutely no connection between mental health and thyroid function.” Really!? What about when my depression got really bad in December and January when both times my thyroid was extremely low? Then as soon as my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) went back to normal I was FINE mentally! How do you explain that? Coincidence? Probably not.

What doctors need to realize is that we, as patients, don’t expect them to know everything. We really don’t. However, we do expect them to listen and treat us like intelligent, rational people. Maybe some of us are square and don’t fit into the round holes most doctors see everyday; but that doesn’t mean our symptoms aren’t real.

I also believe that this Dr may not have had any other ideas as to why my thyroid levels are fluctuating and I have all these other symptoms. She may not have an answer…honestly that’s ok.

What is not ok is her treating me like dirt.

It is not ok for her to completely write me off (before she has even met and talked to me!) just because I struggle with mental illness and my symptoms and labs are not textbook.

I am not just “a mentally ill” person. I am not my illness. I have a mental illness, yes. But I am so much more than it. I will not stand to let my mental illness be all that other people, including health care professionals, see.

This stigma is NOT OK!

 

So, how are we going to change it? 

We are going to bring as much awareness to mental health as we possibly can. We are going to shout it from the rooftops! (Too much?)

You, my faithful readers, are all going to tell your neighbours, friends, brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, and especially your children, that:

Mental illness is not something to be scared of. It can be scary to go through, certainly, but it is only a chemical imbalance in a persons brain. Make sure you tell them (this is important!) that it is not a personality flaw or character trait!! It is not fake, exaggerated, or dramatic. Tell them that, any type of mental illness can be serious, debilitating, and in some cases the person may even put themselves in dangerous situations (again, remember that this is not for attention-it is a sign that a person is ill and needs some form of treatment). Tell them that mental health problems are VERY common. Try to find a story of someone who has struggled with mental health and have recovered or are recovering. It can be mine, another friends’, a family members’, or anyone’s really. Just share a story of hope.

If you have struggled with anything mental health related I strongly encourage you to share your story with people!

~If you have been open about your struggle, than I am so proud of you! I know just how difficult that can be; the uncertainty of people’s reactions can be utterly terrifying! Please keep sharing your story-make sure to keep it as hopeful as possible!!

~If you haven’t told many people about what you have/are going through, I encourage you to tell at least 2 people-anyone! Start with me if you have to. You will be surprised at how many people will be supportive, how many people will be encouraging, and how many people have their own untold stories that you would never know about otherwise.

~If you are struggling silently, please, please, please, talk to someone! It’s extremely scary to open up to someone about something so personal, especially to a stranger, but it’s so freeing. Through talking to someone you will learn ways to deal with or manage your symptoms, and that is a wonderful feeling.

 

 

It will do the world so much good if we all could talk freely about mental health, without talking in hushed tones.

It is crucial that those on the front lines, who may be working with people who have a mental illness, receive the education and support needed to help manage bias. Programs need to be developed to teach health care professionals to identify and manage their biases toward mental illness and the people who have the mental illness, so that it doesn’t interfere with clinical care.

Training more people across the medical field in mental health issues creates the possibility of incorporating mental health screening in primary care settings, promoting early treatment and emphasising the physical component to a mental illness. There also needs to be education about the physical-psychological connection of mental health conditions and physical illnesses.

People most definitely should not be discriminated against because of their mental health conditions whether past or present. And certainly not by so called “health care professionals.” It’s just not ok.

This isn’t the first time I have been discriminated against and I don’t think it will be the last time but this time, I’m not letting it just slip by.

We need change and to get there I need your help! Please do your part to help raise awareness! Time to #GetLoud!

**THIS IS MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK!! (May 2-8th)** So even more reason to #GetLoud!

 

"Conceal; Don’t Feel"

I watched Frozen again the other night and both times I watched it I couldn’t help but notice the similarities to my life with MI (mental illness). Could Disney be speaking of the dangers of stigmatizing MI and the power that love and acceptance has in recovery? Honestly, I don’t know…but the similarities were too much for me to pass up.
 
 
Elsa, one of the main characters in the film, has a “condition” that is strongly linked to her emotions. She has explosions of ice from her hands that she cannot control. With my mental illness I have emotions and actions that, at times, I cannot control.
 
When Elsa is little she accidentally hurts her sister, Anna, with her powers. I know there have been times where I have hurt other people when I’ve done things I didn’t mean to do.
 
Elsa and her parents become afraid that Elsa will become completely uncontrollable. They chose to shield everyone from her powers by keeping them a secret. They give her gloves to control her ice powers. My family and I are big believers in raising awareness for MI but there still has been times when the stigma has seeped into our minds. My family has never asked me to keep my illness a secret though, and they are completely supportive of this blog. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many children and teens. Many people go undiagnosed because they are afraid to have something “wrong” with them, or if they are diagnosed, it’s kept low key.
 
“Conceal; don’t feel” became Elsa’s motto. I could write a whole blog about trying to “control” my illness in a society that doesn’t understand it.
 
Elsa learns to shut everyone out of her life, even the people who desperately wanted to connect with her. I can’t even count how many times I’ve felt so unloveable and ashamed that i locked myself away from the people who care about me. To everyone who’s been trying to love me: you deserve a medal.
 
In the movie, Elsa has an embarrassing public outburst which causes some confusion and even some harsh criticism. One man repeatedly calls her a monster and tries to convince everyone that she is unfit to rule the kingdom.  I’m not sure if this is a negative or positive that I can’t remember most of what happens during a psychotic episode. Even though I can’t remember, I still feel so embarrassed for doing such silly things that I wouldn’t do in my right state of mind. At one point, Satan even had me convinced that I am unforgivable and that I would never make it to heaven.
 
Elsa runs away to the mountains by herself where she slowly learns to accept and even find beauty in her “condition.” The lyrics to the song Let it Go (It’s not just some little catchy song!) are so relatable to my life with MI! The song talks about holding everything inside because of shame, then “letting go” of it all, not letting the things that make you different hold you captive.
 
 
In the end, love is what restores Elsa, Anna, and their kingdom back to order. It is that love that inspires the entire kingdom to accept & embrace Elsa’s powers. I know that I wouldn’t still be here if it wasn’t for the power of unconditional love and support from my family, friends, and God.
 
Stigma keeps us silent.
Stigma keeps us away from others.
Stigma banishes us to the outskirts of society.
But love and acceptance can heal.
In order to teach the mentally ill how to love themselves; we must first learn how to love them.
It starts with the conversation. Lets talk!
 

 

(That is, if you can get Let it Go out of your head for a minute. 😉

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