Friday, 16 May 2014

Pain Doesn't Go Away

Things happen in life that really hurt. I’m talking beyond the little things that, yes, make us cry, but we pick ourselves back up again pretty quick. I’m talking about the kind of pain that it takes weeks, months, and years to “get over.”

Do we ever truly get over this pain though? And if we do get over this pain, what’s stopping more pain from coming?

Emotional pain is so much different from physical pain, like a cut. After a nasty cut heals, it will probably leave a scar. The scar doesn’t hurt. You can look at it, and maybe remember what you did to get that cut, but it probably doesn’t physically hurt every time you look at that scar. Emotional pain doesn’t just leave scars. It leaves wounds that we try to cover up and “move on” from, often not really even allowing the wound to heal. Even the emotional wounds that people truly have healed from can still hurt. This is what makes healing from an emotional wound is so much different than healing from a physical wound.

Think back to something in your life that left a major emotional injury. For me, it was holding my grandpa’s hand as he died. That was almost two years ago, but honestly, I still cry about it. Probably over time, I won’t cry about it so often, but right now, it’s still a pretty tender wound. When something devastating happens in your life, a lot of well-meaning people will tell you that the pain will “go away.” We’ve been raised in a society where we move on with life, waiting for that day when the pain finally goes away. In attempts to erase the pain, we bury our feelings. We go on with life, doing things that make us “forget” about that pain. When nothing takes away the hurt, we fall into a depression, believing that we will never get over this, and then people around us get frustrated because we just can’t move on.

That pain never truly goes away though. Our incredible brains process and store this pain in different ways, but it’s always there. So, in my opinion, simply waiting until the day when the pain finally just leaves is a waste of time and energy.

A speaker named Robb Nash came to my school a couple weeks ago, and said this: “Pain doesn’t go away. But neither does the strength.”

The reality is that no matter the pain, there is always strength to help you. The strength is not there to get you over the pain or to help you forget the hurt. Rather, I believe it’s there to help you use the pain as a building block for your life. The strength is there to help you reach out and help someone else who is experiencing the same pain you are. The strength is there to keep you from burying this pain, but rather to truly embrace the pain and allow something beautiful to come from it as you move on with your life. That is how an emotional wound heals.

You’ve probably heard that “everything happens for a reason.” To an extent, I believe that’s true. Sometimes though, that reason can be you were being stupid and now you’re enduring the consequences. Or another hurtful person might have dealt a nasty blow. I like Robb Nash’s perspective on why things happen better. He says, “Things don’t happen for a reason. They happen with potential.” With every painful thing that happens in your life, you can choose to become miserable about it, you can pretend that it didn’t happen, or you can use it to do something good. That strength is always going to be there to help you embrace that potential.

Strength comes in many forms. It comes through people in your life who hold you up. It comes from inside of you. It comes from inspirational speeches. It comes from God.

No matter where you are or the pain you are experiencing, I guarantee you that there is a source of strength there that is greater than the pain. Pain blinds us to the resources around us. Often the strength comes in an unexpected form. If you feel like you truly are all out of strength, maybe you need to look for strength in a different form.

I said before that the strength is there to help us embrace the pain. What could you possibly want to embrace in pain? Think for a moment what your life would be like if you had never felt any pain at all. Life would be great right? Except that if you had never felt pain, how would you know what “great” is. Pain allows us to see the good in life. It shows us that we are truly living.

Would you like to read the story of a person who never experienced pain a day in his life? Probably not. Truly great stories come out of the deepest pains in life and the victories that resulted. The painful times in your life are going to make your victories so much sweeter. They’re going to make your story so much more meaningful.

Pain can only be helpful if we choose not to wallow in self-pity and bitterness. If we don’t choose to do something positive with our pain, then it is wasted. And everyone has to go through pain, so why not make something beautiful come from it.

Pain shows us how truly strong we are. For me, it’s also shown how strong my God is. He has been my source of strength. And making beauty come from pain is kind of his specialty.
 I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency].                                                                                     Philippians 4:13 (Amplified Bible)

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

7 Lies You Believe About Yourself

What's the biggest lie you believe about yourself? Maybe you don't even think it's a lie. It's like we are so bombarded with conflicting messages everyday, that we don't even know what's really true anymore. Recently, I've been confronting some of the lies that I've believed. Replacing those lies with truth is super challenging for me, but at the end of a day, do I really want my life to be built on a lie?

I'm getting a post ready for next Wednesday that talks about some of the lies I struggle to identify and overcome.

These 2 short videos tie in to what I'm talking about next week. It's a really good video with some key points and lots of laughs. So whether you're looking for a video that will make you think or just make you smile, I'd love for you to check them out!

And check back here Friday for a new post!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Seeing a Shrink

We’ve all seen the TV shows where someone goes to see a “shrink” right? They sit on a couch and proceed to tell the therapist how when they were five, their balloon floated up to the sky and now they’re forever scarred. Yeah, let me be the first to tell you that seeing these professionals is nothing like that. And I can almost guarantee that you won’t lie down on a couch.

Has anyone ever told you that you “need help,” you know, that kind of help. As a joke, this can be funny. But when you honestly have some things that you’re struggling with, someone telling you to go get help probably makes your blood boil. Even the thought of talking with some “professional” might make you bristle.

I’ve been tremendously helped by a therapist. Every time I see her, she puts things in a new light and helps me identify what I’m feeling, why I’m feeling it, and what positive actions I can take. I have gotten to the point where I can tell when I need to have a meeting with my therapist, and I will often be the one to initiate it. Because of all the work she’s done to  help me make good progress, I don’t need to see this therapist very often. To be honest, though, I still don’t like that I have to get this extra help.

I know I’m not the only one who feels like this. The idea of going to a therapist and even the therapists themselves are often seen in a negative light. There are several reasons for this.  There have been psychologists and psychiatrists that have said and done some questionable or downright wrong things. But at the same time, there are other medical doctors, besides psychiatrists, that have also done some wrong things. Still, I’ll bet that if you broke your arm, you wouldn’t hesitate to go and see a doctor. I think people also hate the idea of admitting that they need that kind of help. When you’re physically broken, you go to the doctor, but being mentally and emotionally broken is a much scarier thing to acknowledge.  There’s also no denying that people around us have a certain stigma about seeing a “shrink.”

That stigma infuriates me. It takes a lot to get me really, really mad, but when I hear people mocking or belittling mental therapy, I get steamed. I’m a Christian, and among Christian circles, I have heard a lot of bashing of psychologists and psychiatrists—even mocking the Christians in these professions. As Christians, this needs to stop. We need to be supporting people in their struggles—not undermining their problems or discouraging them from getting something that could potentially save their life. It’s embarrassing to admit, but there was a time when I viewed mental illness as something that was just in your head—something that you could just “get over” if you tried hard enough. Now, having battled through it, I can tell you that there is so much more to this than what we often hear.

Your brain is where your soul and physical body connect, and that results in some very unique characteristics. You can take drugs that affect you physically and mentally. You can feed on thoughts that affect you again physically and mentally. Your world contributes to the way your brain processes things. Genetics are also a key contributor to our emotional dispositions. We’re only just discovering new things about the way the brain works, and it is truly amazing. There are so many different factors that go into how your brain processes information and your personality, and trying to put everyone in a little box is ignorant and hurtful.

The wiring in your brain can present extra challenges, and you might have to work extra hard to respond properly in certain situations. Things that might be easy for other people may be a challenge for you. For me, I have to watch how my mood is. It’s really easy for me to slip into a low emotional state. Through therapy, I have been able to learn my triggers and warning signs and how to respond to these in order to stay positive.  Because your brain is where the physical and mental come together, there is even more potential for things to go wrong and present you with new challenges. Your brain functions not only on a complex series of chemical reactions that you have no control over, but also on what you tell it. Your thought patterns and environmental factors around you cause chemical reactions which help to shape your emotions, your personality, and how you respond to various situations. By the time you realize that something is not right, the wiring is already in place in your brain, and you can’t just “snap out of it.” I want to stress that there is nothing wrong with you. Your brain is responding to perceived stressors in the only way it knows to.

A mental health professional can help you sort through the scary world your mind. These struggles are not your fault, and you will not be judged or condemned. When darkness and confusion seem to be enveloping you, these professionals can help you to see why some of these patterns developed and then help you employ positive strategies to help you begin working through it. In many cases, these professionals could even prevent a suicide.

If you find yourself in a terrifying place, please don’t let your pride stand in the way of getting help. I know how hard and embarrassing it can be to have to see someone to get this help. But really, this life is too short to live in pain simply because you don’t want to admit that you need help. Do you really want to look back at the end of your life and regret not doing something about it?

If you know someone who might benefit from the help of a professional, do not tell them that they need to go and get professional help. Just don’t. Be there for this person. Remind them that there are professionals who can help them gain some clarity and enjoy life again. Tell them how much you care about them and how much you hate to see them hurting. Most importantly, remind them that they are never beyond help.
Earlier, I talked about the response of Christians to mental illness and the professionals in this area. Many, many Christians I know are realizing that this truly is a real problem and they are finding new ways to support the people who are in this struggle. This is awesome, because I believe that we as Christians should be the first people that people turn to when they are hurting. They shouldn’t run from us because we’ll judge them. The reality, though, is that we Christians are imperfect humans, and we don’t have all the answers.

I know that God does though. I believe that we are physical, mental, and spiritual beings, and God knows us better than anyone. He knows the number of hairs on our head, so He certainly knows the way our brain works. The way He provides those answers might not be in the way that we expect. He may provide them through a mental health professional, through medication, through a miraculous healing, or in an infinite number of other ways. No matter what you feel right now, know that God is the ultimate mental health professional, and He will always listen to your problems. He is only one cry away. Once you let Him, He will join you on your awesome journey. He’s not mad at you. He’s just waiting for you to let him in.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Don't Let Anyone Take Away Your Happiness

My apologies that there haven't been any posts this week! Even this one is just a quickie. I thought I would have two posts ready to go this week, but they're just not quite coming together the way I want them to. They are both very personal to my life and maybe a little bit controversial, so I want to make sure that they come across exactly the way I want them to.

So, instead, I'll leave you with a short thought that I found on Pinterest. I would love to use the picture that went along with it, but I'm still figuring out all the copyright law stuff...and I'm also slowly learning how to make my own super cool images. Anyway, this was the quote:

Nobody can take away your pain, so don't let anyone take away your happiness.

I am such a people-pleaser. It's not a good thing either. I have a tendency to say and do things--or not say and do things--just to make sure I don't make tick anyone off. If I feel that people are annoyed by me or just don't want to hang out with me, I get really sad and frustrated. Most of the time, my fears that people don't like me are completely untrue. It's just my own insecurities speaking.

I am slowly learning to accept my worth, and not let my happiness and self-esteem be based on others. I do have amazing friends and many of them would drop everything to help me if I needed it. But the reality is, no one can truly take away my problems. Even if everyone in the world liked me, I would still feel pain at some point. So why am I letting people take away my happiness?

The reality is, the only one who can truly heal my pain is God, and He already thinks I'm extremely valuable and worth loving. Frankly, if I--and everyone else--have already been accepted by the God of the universe, why are we so worried about the approval of the girl we sit next to in class? Maybe I just need to accept my acceptance. 

Have an awesome weekend!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Supporting Someone Who's Struggling

Let’s be honest. We all go through struggles, and we all know someone who’s struggling. It’s a fact of life no matter who you are or where you are. Being around someone who’s in the middle of a battle can be just as emotionally draining for you. You want to help them, but you have absolutely no idea what to do, or maybe you fear you would just make it worse. It can also be so, so frustrating because you might see what the other person is doing wrong, and if they would just adjust one little thing, their situation would probably drasticallyimprove. Trust me, I’ve been there, and it is so hard. More than once, I’ve just wanted to smack the personin an attempt to straighten them out. And people have probably wanted to do the same thing to me.

Generally, hitting someone isn’t the best way to solve a problem (except with brothers—often, hitting is the only solution…). So, here are some of the things that I would try instead. These are things that I have done, and also things that I wish had been done for me when I was in a pit.

First, hugs work wonders. Sometimes you really have no idea what to say, and other times, the other person isn’t ready to hear what you have to say. Just being there for them to hold them while they cry it out is probably one of the best things you can do. Once, when one of my friends was going through a nasty breakup, I really had absolutely no idea what to do. I had never really been in the type of situation she was in. So, I didn’t say anything. I just hugged her, and later she told me that it was absolutely the best thing I could have done. Never underestimate the power of a hug.

Be there for them to hear them out. Honestly, a lot of the time, just talking out a problem can be the best way to find a solution. When you’re listening to them, DO NOT—UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES—try to fix their problems right away. Yes, they probably need a solution, and they might have even come to you for advice. But jumping right in with what you would do to solve a problem while they’re in the middle of pouring their hearts out to you is not the best thing to do. When you do propose some things to try, do it in a gentle and non-condescending way. Yes, they might be messing a lot of things up, and they probably don’t see that. Or, if they’re like me, they see a lot of the things they’re doing wrong, and it frustrates them that they aren’t changing or that they keep making the same mistake over and over. In any circumstance, telling them everything that they’re doing wrong is going to look more like an attack. They’re going to put up their defenses and then you’re going to get nowhere.

When someone is in the middle of a full-blown breakdown or blow-up, especially one that’s brought on by depression, do not try to reason with them. Just don’t. You’re likely going to get mad and say things that you regret. If you sense yourself getting out of control, remove yourself from the situation. Let it drop. Or shut your mouth. Period. Once the other person has calmed down, you can reason things out. But do not ever, ever try to talk with someone who’s right in the thick of things.

 Do not feel like you need to fix everything for a hurting person. Yes, be there for them, but don’t get frustrated if your hands feel tied and you feel like nothing you do is going to make things better. Guess what, it’s not up to you to solve anyone’s problems.

And don’t personalize anyone else’s problems. I have a really, really tough time with this. If someone is taking their issues out on you, recognize that it’s not your fault. Don’t feel like you are the cause of anyone’s problems. Most importantly, don’t let anyone else drag you down. There does come a point when you need to step back, so we don’t have two messes to clean up.

When the time comes that you do need to step back, there is still one thing you can do. You can pray. Prayer is so powerful. Actually, prayer should be a first and last resort. Because, even when you and the person who’s struggling are at a loss, God never is.

If your friend is in a very dangerous situation and could potentially hurt themselves or others, you need to get them help immediately. Again, a hug and a smile can help so much. Remind them of everything that’s awesome about them and how much they are worth to you. If you feel comfortable, pray for them and with them. Finally, if the situation is almost out of control, take them to the emergency room. There are doctors there that can help, and that truly is a safe place for them to recuperate and avoid doing something they will regret.

Just out of curiosity, what kinds of things have people done for you when you were hurting that really helped you out?

Friday, 18 April 2014

What Makes You Worth Dying For?

Today is Good Friday. Most people here in North America know what that this day is about. This time of year, churches advertise their Easter service. People do musicals, plays, and eat a lot of mini eggs. All of that is awesome. I've been in a few musicals over the years, and I've already eaten way too many mini eggs this month.

However, I feel like, in the midst of all this, we've kind of lost the true message behind Easter. Sure, many Christians, like myself, know that today we remember the brutal death that our Savior endured. A lot of us recognize the incredible pain and torment and sacrifice.

But have we truly embraced what this sacrifice means for us?

Honestly, it's only in the last couple years that I've really begun to understand the depth of what happened on Good Friday.

Someone decided that I was worth dying for.

Sure, it sounds pretty. Maybe it gives you warm fuzzies when you hear it. But shouldn't someone dying for you do more than just make you "feel good" for the moment? I would think that it would propel us to action.

Not change the world action. Not even change yourself action. Rather, I think we should go beyond the good feelings brought on by the notion of someone dying for us. Maybe we should truly accept that we--and everyone around us--is worth dying for.

I have such a hard time with this. Not so much with valuing the people around me, but instead with accepting that I am worth dying for. I wonder how much my outlook on life would change if instead of focusing on all my short falls and constantly degrading myself, I just accepted that all of my faults are what made me worth dying for. Because no one would have had to die if I were perfect.

Here's the bigger thing though. Yes, we all have many, many imperfections. When Jesus died on that cross, I believe His desire was that we would join him on a journey to replacing those imperfections with his love. Because there is no way we are going to change ourselves. We'll just hit burnout. Over and over and over.

And when we try to change ourselves, what are we saying about the sacrifice that was made on that Friday? Are we truly accepting it or belittling it?

So, this Easter, I'm going to lay some things at the cross, and I'm going to learn more about acceptance of that magnificent sacrifice. I won't be perfect, but that's all part of this awesome journey.

In remembrance of that  sacrifice, here is an amazing song and video depicting what my Savior went through. I encourage you to watch it. You might see some things in a different light. Just a heads up, though, it's very graphic.


Have a very blessed Good Friday!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Quote for the heart

I love quotes! They resonate in your heart, often better than the most eloquent piece of writing. If you have some that you'd love to share with others, send them to me!

Here's one of my favorite Pinterest finds:

"God didn't add another day in your life because you needed it. He added it because someone out there needs you."

Enjoy the rest of your Monday!