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Archive for the ‘Nothing special’ Category

20 Years

Twenty years ago I told my therapist that there was something wrong with me.  I told her that it was like I was in a long hallway and was watching as everyone around me easily opened one of the many doors.  I, on the other hand, was standing in that hallway trying to open every single door only to be seemingly locked out and trapped in this hallway.  During that same time period, I attached to relationships with friends in toxic ways, was chastised by an unsympathetic professor for showing up to class looking like I just rolled out of bed, and began engaging  in risky behaviors centered around money, alcohol, and sex.  I was trapped in a vicious cycle of unhealthiness and didn’t know how to break free.  I was eventually referred to a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with Bipolar Disorder. That diagnosis meant that the only way things were going to get better would be by taking medication.  I didn’t want anything to do with it.

A few years later, as I was working in Bosnia, these behaviors intensified as did wild swings between the some of the darkest thoughts I had ever experienced and a sense of hyper-religiousity.  As a result, I continued to bring toxicity to the relationships I had with others.  I also used alcohol to try to numb away the feelings I was having.  In the end, my unhealthiness contributed to the downfall of the ministry I was involved in, and I left a trail of brokenness and pain for others who did not deserve it.

When I moved back to the States, it became more and more clear that something inside of me was truly not right.  My wild mood swings continued to intensify, and my world was dark.  I again was referred to a psychiatrist and again was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.  This time around, I desperately wanted to be healthy so accepted the diagnosis the best I could and began taking psychotropic medications.

The next stop for me was seminary.  I had a dream of being a mental health provider for missionaries and other Americans working overseas.  However, I was so unhealthy, I knew that dream would likely never come to fruition.  I worked hard during seminary to begin the process of becoming healthy.  I worked with an amazing therapist to process the childhood sexual abuse of which I had been a victim and to gain coping skills to help manage my mood swings.  

It was a long road that I began to venture down, and that journey continued into my marriage.  While I had a great therapist when I got married, I still was not on the most effective cocktail of medications, so my mood swings were still intense, and I continued to bring toxicity into other relationships and use alcohol to numb myself.  I still had my dream of becoming a mental health provider, yet knew that in my current state, that dream too was out of reach.  This left me feeling lost.  It fractured my sense of self and sense of purpose.  My marriage was strong, but I didn’t know who I was or what I was supposed to be.  I had children and while that was fulfilling, my pregnancies and births of my children were accompanied by yet another round of terrible darkness – the kind of darkness that I couldn’t begin to see myself getting out of.

Now…20 years after this journey began, I am amazed to be more healthy and whole than I’ve ever been.  I have a great therapist and great psychiatrist.   I am on the best combination of medication that I’ve ever been on.  I’m getting the right amount of sleep, my moods are in check, and I no longer find myself trapped in the debilitating and out of control cycle of depression and mania.

The most amazing part of it all is that I am healthy enough to be a therapist myself.  It was a dream I had given up on, but here I am.  Part of me has been afraid that the people I hurt so much while unhealthy would be shocked to hear that I work as a therapist now and even think it was dangerous for me to be trying to help others in this capacity.  Yet there is another part of me that knows that my unhealthiest self has prepared me for this.  I feel good about what I do.  I see my clients doing amazingly difficult work, and it is an honor to be sort of a compass guiding them along the way.

Twenty years.  That is what it has taken.  I suppose the point of this reflection may be that dreams should not be given up on.  However, I’ve also developed the realization  that if I wanted to live into my dreams, I had to be willing to do the difficult work of digging deep and becoming healthy and whole.  I discovered that a dream that does not elicit a strong desire to become healthy and whole and does not inspire one to do the difficult internal work to arrive at a healthy and whole place, it is likely that the wrong dream is being pursued.  For me, that dream at one point involved being in ministry, but when I was chasing that dream, I was more motivated to hide my unhealthiness than I was to  heal it.  My work in the mental health field is what inspired me to more vulnerably seek health and wholeness in my own life so that I could help others pursue the same.  I continue to battle with the shame and embarrassment of the damage I have done while not well, but that shame and embarrassment no longer bind me.  The work to move past these emotions will take more time, and I am willing to do the work to get me to a place where I am no longer shackled by them.  

Twenty years.  Twenty hard years.  Yet here I am.  I am healthy.  I am whole.  I am living a dream that I once thought was out of reach.  

Here’s to twenty  more years and twenty more years after that.

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I have had some people, especially family, ask why what’s going on with the current presidency matters so much to me. They say their 401k is doing great and that’s what matters. Besides, they say, what’s going on with the border, what’s happening with race relations, what’s happening with trade – none of anything that’s going on for people that are different than me makes a difference in my life, so why does it matter?

Here’s why:

I am a follower of Christ. I believe that what Christ says about how we are to treat the poor, the refugee the stranger and otherwise disenfranchised is gospel truth. Christ commands us to do this. Therefore, it matters to me. I believe it should matter to all those who profess to be a Christian. It deeply troubles and confuses me when fellow Christians view the status of their 401k to be more important than how others are being treated.

The things the current president says also deeply trouble me. The things he says are vile, racist, sexist and bigoted. Some may say that he’s just calling it like it is and they like it. But it is so wrong. It is not something a Christ follower should say or condone. Again, it deeply troubles and confuses me when fellow Christians view the status of their 401k to be more important than what our president says.

Another thing that deeply troubles me is that our president is in denial about what is happening to our climate. There are more floods, fires and other extreme weather events than ever before. The Amazon rain forest is burning down. The icebergs are melting. Coastlines are being swallowed up by rising ocean levels. This is real. Call it climate change or whatever you want but it is happening. Protections for wildlife are also being stripped away. God called Christians to care for creation. It deeply troubles and confuses me when fellow Christians view the status of their 401k to be more important than fulfilling a duty that God gave us in the first few chapters of the Bible.

The only Christians who support our president right now with whom I can find common ground are those who are anti-abortion. They believe lives are truly at stake. I have come to find some respect for that position because I too believe lives are at stake. People are actually dying because of our president’s words and actions. The dignity and respect we should have for all people as Christians has apparently become optional for so many followers of Christ and I just can’t wrap my head around how this happened.

All of this matters to me. It does affect me personally because the marginalized are so close to my heart. They are who I serve everyday as a social worker. These people matter more to me than my 401k. As a social worker, I am ethically, and in some ways legally, bound to have my priorities aligned in this manner. As a Christ follower, I am biblically commanded to have my priorities aligned this way.

And it truly scares me when I see the opposite as true to other Christians.

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My Week in Haiku

If the morning sucks
I wear my t-shirt that says
NOT TODAY SATAN.

Usually it helps
But on Wednesday it didn’t
Was a cluster f***

Beds bugs are awful
And creepy too when they are
On my client’s shirt

Said hard things to Dad
We used to fight all the time
Now it’s truth in love

The psych ward can help
But when you have to go back
To real life it’s hard

She was so anxious
I hope I helped her calm down
Will find out Monday

Smoking is quite bad
So I put a patch on my
Left arm hope it helps

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So as I’ve mentioned, I’ve been listening to a lot more music lately. I am hooked on Macklemore. Today I heard “The Magic” and it just caught me off guard and gave me something to reflect on for the rest of the day.

And then I remembered the magic
Forgot that you can’t plan it
It’s always there in front of us
Just trust and it happens
And the star dust from the universe of this planet
I just get stressed when I try to understand it
And then I remembered the magic
Forgot that you can’t plan it

Dan is gone. For the fifth time in the last 7 weeks. I am a hot mess when Dan is gone. I just barely qualify as a “good enough” mom. The kids eat. Nobody dies. I pay a babysitter to give my kids bath once or twice while he’s gone so I can go out and get a beer.

Not today, people! I made pancakes for dinner. I did laundry. I snuggled. I watched Dinosaur train for over an hour. I didn’t scream at my kids. There was magic there today. Definitely didn’t plan it. I can’t say I was trusting, but it totally just happened.

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