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!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Counting Stars

Do you know what I really don’t like? I absolutely hate it when I’m in the middle of an argument and the other person makes a really good point that I don’t have a comeback to. I detest it even more when it cuts to my core and makes me realize how wrong I was.

Words can’t even describe how much this bugs me.         
This happened a little while ago when I was in an argument with my parents and I was going off about how they never tell me that I’m doing good and making improvements. How they never compliment me. How it’s always “Jyllenna, you do this wrong; Jyllenna, you do this wrong…blah blah blah.”

Then my dad interrupted me and asked me how often I complimented him. How often do I tell him that he’s doing a good job? How often do I tell him how much he’s improved?

And that successfully shut me up. I don’t think that was his intention, but I literally couldn’t say anything to rebuttal. So I walked out.

As much as I don’t like being out-argued, I do know how to listen and maybe try to change some of the things that were brought up in an argument.

Complimenting people really takes no work at all, but I don’t really dish out compliments that often. I really don’t know why. I show my appreciation in different ways, but I know that everyone loves to actually hear about how much they are appreciated.

I also know that getting my eyes off of me and focusing on someone else is an awesome way to get myself out of a depressive slump. It’s something I’m trying to do more often. I’m finding ways to do it in my everyday life, but I figured that here on a blog is a pretty good place to do it. This is also a great reminder that no matter how alone I may feel, there’s always going to be someone there for me.

So here we go, and hopefully you’ll think of some of the amazing people in your life as you read about the people in mine.

First I want to say a big thank you to the people who brought me into this world. Mom and Dad, I know I’m not always the easiest person to live with. I know you’re learning right along with me. You guys are doing an awesome job, and you’re an inspiration to me.

Mom, we've had our clashes, but I know that’s because you and I are so similar! I learned from the best. I know I can always count on you to be there to hear me out, to support me when PMS hits really bad, and to be a way of escape when Dad and Bronson decide it’s “bug Jyllenna” time. You’re an awesome mom, and I hope you know that.

Dad, you are the stable force in my life. I love the deep, intellectual conversations we can have. Every time we talk, I learn something. And hey, you inspired this post, so clearly you’re doing pretty awesome. Thank you so much for trying to understand the way my female teenage brain works. I see the effort that you’re putting in, and it means so much to me.

Bronson, my little brother, you might be eight inches taller than me, but you will always be my baby brother. You provide so much light in my life, and honestly, I want to be like you. I love how you can just roll with things and how you choose to see the good in everyone. You’re growing up so fast, and I’m proud of how mature you’re becoming. Don’t let the scary world of teen-hood dim your light, buddy!

To my pastor and his wife, you guys have helped out our family as we sorted out a crazy move into brand new territory. I know you guys will always be there for me. Your sermons always speak to me, but even more, I see how you follow God and how you love God with all your heart. Your counsel has enabled me to grow and continue in my path God has for my life.

To all my youth and young adult friends at church, you guys are amazing! I love hanging out with you guys, and I always know you guys are going to welcome me. You are an incredible lifeline for me, and I always have a genuine smile on my face when I’m with you. That smile usually lasts for a while afterward too. Thanks so much for taking time to come out to our house to just hang out, and even try to teach me to play video games. Or applaud me when I get fifth place in Mario Kart, because we all know that that’s an accomplishment for me. Thanks for the times you’re willing to rearrange your schedule in order to go have coffee or come out to cheer competitions and volleyball games. Thanks for including me in your plans, even though I’m the newbie there. When I’m in a spiritual dry spell, I know I can count on all of you to help me get through it. I've learned something awesome from every one of you.

To my friends and former leaders and teachers in the city I moved from—I miss you so much, and I thank God daily for Skype, Snapchat, texting, and Facebook messaging. I feel that the distance hasn't been poison for our friendship. Rather, it’s helped it grow. I've honestly never felt closer to you guys. You were a source of encouragement before I moved, and even more so now. I've known some of you for literally my whole life, and I've seen the ways you've grown and matured. You guys are such an inspiration to me, and I treasure every minute we do get to spend together.

To all my friends and teacher in my new high school, thank you so much for making my transition into a new school easier! You guys are awesome and make waking up early to go to school totally worth it. Every one of you brings something unique to my life, and I hope that we still stay in touch after high school!

Finally, to all the people who read my blog, thank you! Your supportive comments and emails really make my day. I’m learning as I go, and I’m so glad to have such awesome readers to take the journey with me!

So that was me counting the stars in my life (seriously, I love that song and I had to use it in a title). Do you have any stars in your life that maybe need a compliment today?  

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Pain that Feels Good

There was a time in my life when I made a big mistake. I’d had a really rough day, and pretty much everything that could go wrong did. That morning, I woke up and I could tell that it was going to be a day when I was going to have challenges in my emotions. I got on it, and I started doing saying some positive things and doing everything I was supposed to be doing.

Yeah, it didn’t help this time.

Before I even got out the door for school, I had already cried once, and in my first class, I was really struggling to keep from all out bawling in the middle of class. I texted my mom and I told her that I needed to do something, because I was just all out frustrated.

The end of the day came, and I was feeling a little bit better. Usually being with my friends is so helpful—I’m generally the happiest when I’m with my friends. Unfortunately, after I got out of school, things got bad.

I’m not going to chronicle everything that happened, but let’s just say that 11:45 rolled around and I was tired, beyond sad, and absolutely livid about everything going on. I was so frustrated with myself. Why couldn’t I get over this? Why couldn’t I just snap out of this and be happy? Honestly, it’s been a long time since I cried so hard. I called one of my friends, and she prayed for me and gave me some encouragement. I hung up, thinking I was going to be okay. I thought I could probably cry myself to sleep and then wake up and just try to start over.

So I laid in my bed for about ten minutes, doing nothing but crying and letting angry energy boil in me. Finally, I flipped the covers off and did something I thought I would never ever do.

 I grabbed a pair of scissors and dragged the blade across my arm and leg.

I didn’t draw blood, but I did make red marks that took a couple days to fade away. After a few marks, I dropped the scissors and collapsed back onto my hardwood floor and just cried. I don’t really remember what happened after that. I think I must have crawled back into bed and eventually fallen asleep.

This is such a scary post to write. Reality is scary, and I feel like it’s something we try to avoid talking about. Self-harm is a scary and misunderstood topic, and it’s something that so many people battle alone. I’ve been blessed to have protection that’s kept me from having a serious and addicting problem, but many, many people are not that fortunate.

That night, in that moment, I just didn’t know what to do with my feelings and all the negative energy. I had dwelled on self-harm too long in the past, and at my weakest, I caved. I had anger and pain surging through me, and crying wasn’t enough to let them all out. Hurting myself did have some satisfaction. It was a physical release of the frustration inside me.

Obviously, this is not a healthy way of releasing feelings. I talked with my therapist the next day, and she asked me what I could do next time I felt like this. All of my usual coping methods would not have worked in this situation, and I honestly had no idea what a good alternative would be. She gave me some ideas, and that’s why I’m writing this post. To give some better alternatives for when you absolutely don’t see a way out. Hopefully, in the moment, you’ll have some better ideas in your mind.

I needed to get out some negative energy, and I made a lot of mistakes. If I could do that night all over again, here’s what I would do. I would go and run on our treadmill at the top speed or do fifty jumping jacks or fifty push-ups. I’d do something to get out the energy, and give me a chance to think before I did anything irrational. Then I’d find someone to talk to. That night, my parents were dealing with some things outside of home, and honestly I was so scared to tell them what I was thinking of doing. I didn’t want to hurt them. If I didn’t feel comfortable talking to my parents, I would call the friend I called earlier. In the moment, I didn’t think of calling her. If I couldn’t talk to a friend or parents, I’d call the kid’s help line (1-800-668-6868). It’s confidential, and these people are here to help you. The help line might even be my first thing I call.

I’ve already said it, but it bears repeating. Self-harm is a scary subject, and I’m in no means an expert in it. I’m speaking to an expert. I’d also encourage you to find someone who has some experience in this area. There are always people there to help you.

And you are never beyond help.

I feel like this post would not be complete without talking about another Source of help. That night, my friend prayed with me over the phone, and I also know I had some other friends who were praying for me. I was crying out to God, but honestly, I felt like He was so far away.

But looking back, I know He was there. I was pushing hard enough with the scissors that I should have drawn blood. I was getting frustrated because there was no blood. He has been with me before, and I know He has stopped me from cutting.

I’d like to take a different angle on this though, beyond the common “God is always there for us.” The big part of Christianity and my salvation is Jesus coming to die for the sin of all of mankind. He died a horrific death. He was beaten by soldiers, and then whipped thirty-nine times. The reason that they did thirty-nine lashes was because a fortieth one would physically rip the person apart. Then he was nailed naked to a cross.

This is the Son of God. He willingly submitted to this. He knows that it is like to be broken to pay for screw ups. He knows what it is like to experience pain in order to heal pain. He understands physical, mental, and spiritual pain, because He lived through it to a greater degree than any of us ever will.

He didn’t die on that cross for the perfect people. He died for the people who were in a mess that they couldn’t get out of. Before Jesus, there was no such thing as “perfect Christians,” and there still isn’t. He took the pain so that we wouldn’t have to. He took the pain so that we wouldn’t have to hurt ourselves in an attempt to make ourselves feel better.

He longs that we run to Him and release our struggles. He wants to carry our pain and give up our feeble efforts to deal with it on our own. Nothing we do could ever scare Him. Nothing is ever too horrible for Him to handle.

When we do mess up, He doesn’t leave. He still waits for us to come to him so He can hold us and make us new again.

 He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls.                                                                                         1 Peter 2:24-25 (The Message)

If you are struggling in this area, please do not think that you need to suffer alone. Please find someone to talk to. And most importantly, know that your struggle does not define you. You are so much more than that.

Friday, 4 April 2014

When You Want Everything to Just STOP

“I just want everything to stop. I just want to be done.”

Those sentences are pretty much what’s been running through my mind for the past couple months. You know when everything just gets so overwhelming. It feels like everyone wants a piece of you and everyone wants you to completely devote yourself to them. It doesn’t help that I’m a perfectionist, and I probably expect ten times more out of myself than what anyone else does.

I love stories. In all the craziness of my life, I can always find a story that totally mirrors what I’m going through. I believe that stories have the power to change people’s lives. Stories can resonate in you like nothing else. Recently, my friend and I watched Barbie in The Princess and the Pauper. That movie first came out when I was seven, and I absolutely loved it.  So, when my friend and I watched it again, all those happy feelings came back. I hadn’t seen this movie in years, but all those powerful emotions from the story were still there.(Just a little side note, Princess and the Pauper is an awesome story. Way better romance than Twilight!) I promise there was a reason for me going off on a tangent (I never understood that phrase…) about stories. You’ll probably hear me talk a lot about stories. I am a writer after all. But I believe that stories have really shaped who we are as a society. People love stories. There’s a reason why Hollywood makes so much money. We love stories because they’re a reflection of things we go through or feelings that we can never find a good way to express.

Your life is a powerful story. You might think it’s a boring story. Or a hopeless one. Or a pointless story. I guarantee you’re wrong. In every story, there is the hopeless moment. Usually, there’s more than one hopeless moment. But the main character hangs on, because they see something worth it. If you’re reading this, then that means that you’re alive. If you put your hand over your heart, you would feel it beating. That beating is called purpose. Guess what, you have a 100% success rate of getting through bad days. There’s a reason you've hung on. There’s a reason you've kept going.

When you want to stop, when you want to quit, when you want to just give up and let go, remember the reason why you've kept at it for so long. Is it because you have a friend who’s looking up to you? Maybe you have a sibling who needs you. Maybe you just need to prove to yourself that you can keep going. In the darkness, it’s so easy to lose sight of the thing that kept you going. It’s in the darkness that you need to cling most to what you knew in the light.

The Princess and the Pauper isn't my favorite story. My favorite story is actually about a man who saw you and me in our hopelessness and decided that we were worth dying for. He put hope in the end of our story. I don’t know how much you know about Jesus. Maybe you don’t really believe in God. If you don’t, I’m not here to cram religion down your throat. I just want to let you know my reason for keeping on. This is the reason I keep going when I've just spent half the night crying myself to sleep— the reason I choose not to let the darkness envelop me. My Jesus saw me and decided that I was worth it. He decided that He would be broken. He would die a heinous death for me.

He believed that I was worth it. He believed that I had a purpose that could far exceed my brokenness. That is my reason for continuing.

Honestly, the last few months have been crazy. There have been really good things, like making a lot of awesome new friends and making some other friendships stronger. Then there have been some really not good things. Like having my mouth wired shut—and puking through that. Yeah, if you stick with me for the next couple weeks, you’ll probably get to hear about that (or I just lost half of you guys who would rather not hear about that…). A lot of the things that have happened have made me want to just stop, but life keeps going. I have to choose to keep going along with it.

When you want everything to just stop, what's your reason to keep going? 

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

A Video for Discussion

I found this video a few weeks ago, and I knew I wanted to share it on here. Honestly, this is a very powerful eleven minute video. It summarizes many of the things I am passionate about, and at the very least it spurs discussion. I hope you can gain a new perspective, and maybe find new courage to talk about things.

This video really only touches the surface of what mental illness is. It is such a complicated issue, and it affects so many people physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But, like he said  at the end:
"The only way we're going to beat a problem that people are battling alone is by standing strong together."

Thanks for watching! I really would like to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or disagree.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Monday Pick- Me- Up

I absolutely love this song. It's a message that I think everyone who's been or being bullied needs to hear, as well as just a reminder to all of us that pain does not last forever. Enjoy!

Also, if you have any songs that help you out when you're down, please fire suggestions my way.

Make sure to check back here Wednesday, because I have an exciting post planned!

Happy Monday!! (is that an oxymoron?)

Friday, 28 March 2014

Let's Try This Again

The title of this post has pretty much been my mantra over the last couple months. If you’re at all familiar with my blog, you know that I started it to help people who have faced struggles similar to the ones that I've faced. Things like depression, anxiety, bullying, and unhealthy self-image.

I started this blog after I thought I was pretty much over some of those issues. Oh, I knew that I would never be perfect. I knew that there would still be battles. Life is a series of ups and downs, right? But starting about the end of last summer, I got caught in a major down. I got up again. Then I fell. And the cycle kept repeating. Every time I fell again, it was worse than the previous time. Just imagine being punched in the stomach. Over and over and over.

Honestly, I’m still recovering. I had avoided posting, because I had no idea what to say. How was I supposed to bring encouragement and write something uplifting when I had barely found motivation to even get out of bed that morning? My family was walking on egg shells around me, because at any moment I could snap and pretty much become a monster. We had so many family blow ups, and I was the dynamite.
I tried to keep praying and reading my Bible and do all the things I knew to do, but I felt so guilty. How could I pray to God when just a few minutes before I had considered ending it all? Every time I looked in the mirror, I detested what I saw. Staring back at me was failure. Hopelessness.

I realized that suicide wasn’t the right answer, though the option entered my mind all too frequently. So I tried to change. I had gotten out of depression once before; I could do it again. I hit burn out so many times as I tried to do everything I thought I was supposed to do. I used the coping methods I had learned from therapy before. I would try my best to say positive things to myself. I tried to constantly be pleasant to my family. I tried to hang out with friends every chance I got, because I felt that I was only worth something when I had friends around me. I worked to develop the good Christian things that should be growing in my life. I worked out for an hour twice a day to change my body to something I would be happy with. I didn’t eat until my mom made me, because I felt that any food I ate would make me fatter than I already was.

And then the inevitable would happen, and I would mess up. I would scream at my mom. I’d eat an Oreo cookie. I would miss a workout. I’d have a breakdown. Then after a day or so, I’d pick myself up and go at it again.

I don’t know how many of you have struggled with depression, and everyone’s struggles are different anyway. But just let me tell you that it’s a scary place to be. You feel so alone. And then you start isolating yourself from others. Putting on a fake front, so no one knows what you’re really like. No one could possibly be dealing with the same things you’re dealing with. No one could possibly be so messed up.

And that isolation fertilizes your problems. It takes your lion-sized struggle and turns it into an elephant-sized battle.  Among the many bad decisions I've made in the last couple months, I have made one good one. Last month, I started opening up. I talked to my mom. I also opened up to my pastor’s wife, and to some other mentors I have. My problems haven’t vanished—far from it. But I know I’m not alone anymore. I know I’m not the only one struggling with this, and that brings a little bit of hope.

I was reminded of the reason I started this blog in the first place. To put an end to the isolation. I wanted to start a place where people can come and know that they’re not the only ones who are struggling.

So I invite you to join me on this journey. I can’t promise you that all your problems are going to go away. In fact, I guarantee that your problems aren’t all going to disappear. But if you’re open to it, I think you’re going to discover that you’re not alone. I’m not going to sugar coat things. I’m going to be raw and vulnerable, and I want my readers to feel like they can be the same way. Because I believe until you truly reach that point where you can’t go on anymore, you’ll never make any progress in the right direction.

I think my first few posts were kind of practice. Now that I’ve gotten my feet wet in the blogging pool, I’m ready to dive right in. So here’s what I’m gonna try. I might not be able to totally stick with it, but I won’t know until I try.

On Mondays, I’m not going to post a long post, just an inspirational or funny quote or song to start off your week. I’m not a big fan of Mondays. In fact, Garfield probably likes Mondays more than I do. So I feel like a good laugh would be a good way for me at least to start off the week.

On Wednesdays, I’m going to talk about mental illness, and some practical coping methods. Mental illness is an issue that has affected many areas of my family, and it’s an issue that is very close to my heart. I also do a lot of reading and research, so I’d like to share some of that. I’d also like to share some coping methods that I've learned and that others have used. I would love to hear some of your feedback as well on some things that you do when life gets tough.

Fridays are going to be the day for inspirational posts. For the next few Fridays, I’ll be talking about my journey over the last couple months. I’d also love to hear from some of you guys about your journeys.

Saturdays are going to be story days. I have yet to meet someone who doesn't love a good story. I love writing stories, and I also have several friends who are crazy talented authors. Once again, I’d also love to have stories from my readers. Having Saturday stories might take a little bit of time to get up and running, but I’m hoping to have it going soon.

I really visualize this blog as being a community. I know it might take some time for people to feel comfortable commenting and writing blog posts. But I’m willing to be patient. And if only one person gets helped, I’ll be ecstatic. So, I encourage comments. I want to hear your stories. You can be anonymous as well. I get it that these are some scary topics.  

But no idiots. I have no tolerance for bullies. Okay?

I’m excited about sharing this journey with you!

P.S. You may have noticed that there wasn't a photo with this post. I’m more of a writer than a photographer, and I’m never sure of what pictures to put with a post. If you are a photographer or if you just love taking pictures, please send me some, and I’ll put them up with posts. I can mention your name or you can remain anonymous. Thanks so much!