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.