Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mental Health vs. Spiritual Health

The mental health issue has plagued America for years. I have been caught up in this war for almost 10 years now. I’ve been told that I was depressed, bipolar, had psychosis issues, anxiety disorders, and have been “treated” for all of these. Around the age when I was first seen for these issues, the first treatment option was “…you need medication”. Now, years later, I am still battling the medication war. Should I be on them, or not? Have I done damage to my own system that is irreparable because this was the first line of “treatment” given, instead of addressing the WHY?
I read an interesting article today about Britney Spears. She has been all over the news and there has been wide spread word about her drug use, and what seems to be “a mental health problem”. Here is an excerpt from the article, “Spears once blamed some of her behaviors on being “country,” but according to mental health professionals, former employees and friends, Spears’ problems at best stem from deep issues with fame, or at worst, indicate a serious drug or mental health problem. (Britney) is a drug addict. It is an indisputable point,” addiction specialist and “Loveline” host Dr. Drew Pinsky recently told Us Weekly. Pinsky, who does not treat Spears, backed up his claim, which has not been directly addressed by the singer or her camp, adding, “We know that she is a drug addict because she's been admitted to a treatment center. You can't be admitted unless you’ve met criteria for addiction.”
When I read this, I ran through the gamut of emotions, from sadness, to anger, to plain disgust. There are so many things wrong with this statement in my opinion. To claim that someone is a drug addict because they have been admitted into a drug rehab program is completely absurd. Hollywood has made a mockery of the drug rehab program, and just because someone has been admitted into a rehab program does not make them an addict. People are drug addicts because they are trying to fill a void, an emptiness with a temporary fix, and once this temporary fix has been discovered, they want it again and again because it is TEMPORARY. Is Britney a drug addict? Possibly, I am not her, but to label someone with that label because they have gone into treatment is insensitive and obtuse. The article also stated, “it doesn't take a professional to see that her mood shifts from being overly happy and energetic to irritable and angry,” Brams said. “All of us get moody, but problems happen when our moods and behaviors change quickly and perhaps for no reason. She seems to be predictably unpredictable.” Predictably unpredictable…I believe that at a time in my life I was also stamped with this label. I will agree that it may not take a professional to notice mood shift, however, it does take a professional to label someone mentally ill; the problem lies in whether or not they truly are. Mental illness and drug addicts have a huge stigma in America, and often people with these labels are tossed aside and prescribed medication to “help” their supposed disorder or ignored completely. Drug addicts use drugs to dull the pain of underlying issues, to fill the big black hole that has been created by the lack of God in their lives. I believe that so many of these issues can be solved if “spiritual health” rather than “mental health” is evaluated first. I am NOT saying that there are not people out there who have true mental health issues, and do truly have the need for medication. However, I have realized through my own experience with the mental health label, and medication, and also drug abuse, that if our spiritual health is evaluated and treated first, that many of the problems that we have can be addressed and laid at the cross. It took me many years to get to the point where I was even willing to accept this idea, much less, put it into action. Even today, in weaker moments, I struggle with the idea that I might need medication. Satan speaks to our minds, and is very cunning in his attempts to do so. All of the feelings that went along with my journey were planted by Satan: guilt, worthlessness, anger, hatred, shame, the list goes on and on. If we allow Christ to enter our lives and turn all of these feelings over to Him, He will fill the void. Nothing else will ever do this and trying to do so alone is Satan’s desire for us, not God’s. It is easier for many people to believe that they must be mentally ill because a doctor told them they were, rather than spiritually ill. This was the case for me because I could rationalize why I might have mental issues, but I could not see or touch or rationalize my spiritual health. It wasn’t until I witnessed for myself the healing power of Christ that I knew my problem was that I was spiritually ill. Once I turned over my past and gave up the idea that I could not change my past, hope for the future set in. Christ is always with us, even in our darkest moments. It is up to us to recognize and accept His power. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or drug addiction, realize that God is with you and He has the answers. Turn to Him to fill the void, not the world, because the world is fleeting and could be taken tomorrow, His love is eternal. And if you are not struggling with these issues, and you are spiritually healthy, help those who cannot see the truth. Pray for people like Britney Spears, and those like her. And remember that “your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8-9) But God understands, "for since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted."(Hebrews 2:18)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Rumors and Misunderstandings

As a child, several of friends of mine and me would often play “Pass It Down” or what is sometimes called “Grapevine” or “The Whisper Game". For those of you who have never played it, here is a basic description of what it is. Basically, one person whispers some phrase in another person’s ear, and then that person whispers it to the next person what they heard. This continues down the line until the final person repeats what they have heard to see if it is the same as the original phrase. I can’t think of a time when the final phrase was the same as the original phrase when we would play. This game was always fun as kids but it really did show what commonly happens in life through human communication. The game shows how information can become corrupted through indirect communication and how a rumor can blow up into a huge ordeal. I experienced a real life form of this game today. I was told by a co-worker that they heard that my boss called a previous employee to offer her my job. This rumor or misunderstanding all started as a joke. Unfortunately it caused stress among the people who knew about this phone call as to whether or not to tell me because they didn’t want to betray the trust of the person who received the call, but they knew they needed to let me know. So, I went straight to the source, and without naming names, I asked my boss if this was true. It was not, and it all started with a question posed to this person as to whether or not they would ever want to be in the same position as me, but not my job specifically. Once word got passed down the “grapevine” to me, it was a different story. As is always the case, God used this experience to teach me something about myself and my surroundings. I had a peace that no matter what the outcome turned out to be, it would be ok. Back in April, my husband was laid off due to the sub-prime mortgage crash, so I knew that even if I were about to be fired, God would provide and things would be ok. I was able to quickly overcome my anger because I am aware of how miscommunication can change reality. These are feelings that can only be given by the Holy Spirit and it is still amazing to me the avenues that He chooses to teach us lessons. Throughout my experiences, I have also learned that it is almost always easier to believe a rumor, or lie rather than the rational truth. This is another deception tactic that Satan uses. Had I immediately reacted, not only could I have blown up at my boss, but I could have caused my own self unnecessary anxiety. I am thankful for yet another lesson taught by Him that I hope can bless others as well. If you are confronted with a “whisper”, tell it to Him first and pray for discernment and wisdom, and try not to react on your first emotions. One of the sayings I have learned from Narcotics Anonymous, and usually hold true for me even today is “first thought wrong”. We as humans react on emotion, but with His guidance, we can react on faith.

"He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent." Proverbs 17:27

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Serenity Prayer

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change Courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference

Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardships as the pathway to peace. Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen.

This is a prayer that I have recited and have known for many years. It is most often associated with 12 step recovery groups, but on for the first few lines. It was originally written by Reinhold Niebuhr, who has no association with any 12 step group. He used this prayer as part of a sermon that he delivered in 1943. As I went through and re-read the whole prayer, I realized that it is one that we all can recite and if we would simply put to practice the words in this prayer it has a great potential to bring us an astounding peace. In this life, we are so consumed with changing things that we do not like, including ourselves, and others around us, that we forget where the ultimate source of change comes from...God Himself. If we would each take everyday, and every moment and live those to glorifiy God, and stop trying to control out own environments, then we would all face true surrender. God did not promise us happiness, but He did promise that their are better days to come. As a Christian, (and still in the "baby food stage") I have to tell myself almost daily, that there are always better days to come. If not in this life, then with Him, where we will all be "supremely happy with Him forever". Each day, each moment is not promised, which means that the hatred, the anger, the bitterness, and the past WE CANNOT CHANGE, can and will be made right if we trust in Him, and completely surrender. For me, it has taken years, and many mistakes for me to realize that the only thing I can change is my relationship with Him, and my view of myself. Today, I still work on the forgiveness part of my past, but I know that I have truly been forgiven by Him. This perhaps is the hardest thing to accept...when we realize that we cannot change others to fit our needs, or the environment around us for our comfort, or our past, we must realize that through this frustration that we must look up and go to our knees and bow our heads in humility and not wait for the day when we are bowing our heads in sorrow. Don't wait for that day, because that day may never come. Live today as though it is your last, and appreciate the things that God has blessed you with, even your afflictions.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding."Proverbs 3:5

Friday, November 23, 2007

Godly Strength, Human Weakness

2 Corinthians 12:9-10
"…My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
This is officially my first posting in the blogging world, and I pondered for a while over what topic I really wanted to start out with. I chose this topic because for so many years, (even very recently) I had such a misconception on what true strength was, and I believe this idea is sadly misconstrued in the world as well. Now don’t get me wrong, I certainly have not mastered the idea, or come to fully embrace it yet, but I can finally admit that through my own weaknesses, I have become stronger in my own faith with Christ. I certainly have a greater appreciation for the hardships that I have endured, because of the valuable lessons that I have learned. To admit that I am weak, in any form, has always made me feel “less than”, and that I am some sort of failure. I had to be able to control my own world and hide any sort of weakness that I was feeling, whether it was emotional, physical, or spiritual. The first hard lesson that I have learned is that, my life is not my own to control, and I am horrible at taking care of myself; that is a job than God never intended for any of us to have. It is my failure in this that lead me down a path into darkness, away from God, and into a world void of all love, grace and mercy. God allowed me to fall away from Him, and ultimately on my face before I realized He was the only place I had to turn. He showed me His power and extended His grace, and welcomed me home. God used my own suffering, and my own mistakes to humble me and in my humility, I became broken, and through my brokenness, my heart became contrite, and it was during this weakest point in my life, that I became strong. We will all continue to have difficulties, hurts, pain, and struggles, but God has promised that His grace is sufficient. He promised this because it will help us to all endure; it certainly helps me to this day. And although I still struggle, I am learning that “when I am weak, then I am strong”, because through my own weaknesses, God’s power shines through.