31 March 2009

A thought...

This morning a thought occurred to me... [Disclaimer] I don't know if this is truth or fiction, but here's the thought:

Mental Illness: Could it be, in part, due to our coping mechanisms that we have formed from our early years in life?

My coping skills weren't so great - ignorance & stuffing can't make for a mentally healthy life later down the road! Assuming I believe the above thought, I would say, from first hand experience, that I played a part in my own depression- it didn't just "happen".  Had I learned how to cope in healthy ways, not in ways that served me as a child, I might have learned to deal with events in my life and not stuff or ignore my pain inside, thus not letting my emotions get bottled up for so long before I snapped and didn't want to feel anymore!  

I know I'm a better person for having "snapped" and have learned how to communicate and expose my feelings in a healthy manner.  I joke now that the bottle I once had, where my emotions were stuffed, has been reduced to a saucer- not meant to hold very much!

I am aware of people being genetically pre-disposed to mental illness (as I was one of them), but you can't change your genes.  You can however learn to cope no matter what stage you're at in life.  New skills can be introduced at any time in your life (healthy & unhealthy).  How we internalize our thoughts and feelings can change the chemicals in our brains right?  If we can let something bother us, eat away at us (like worrying can) and it affects our physical bodies, i.e., tight muscles, ulcers, headaches why not the chemicals in our brains?

I like to hear your thoughts too... please post a comment.

26 March 2009

God's providential care

GOD IS AMAZING!  Need I say more?  Probably, huh?

I've been praying for someone and wondering how I was going to tell them, "God has put you on my heart!"  In prayer, I kept asking God what to do.  Do I call this person?  Do I drop them an email?  What?  I already knew I wasn't exactly sure what I was going to say when I saw this person... but God had to bring me to this person before I could even talk to them.

Leave it to God to set the date and time, an appointment if you will, without my knowledge!  After noticing a coffee joint (that I've never been to) that had free Wi-Fi up near the restaurant I had lunch with Jo Ann this past Tuesday, I thought I should give it a try sometime.  That sometime was today!  I finished my swim at the 24 Hr Fitness in Vista earlier today and had time to kill before my next appointment at 4 pm, so I made sure I packed up my laptop and decided to give this coffee place a chance.  The ambiance: nice and quiet, low traffic noise, and virtually empty.  I lugged my laptop, a book I've been reading, and my notebook and ordered a coffee (and cookie).  I rounded the corner and set all my goodies down on the table.  I looked up and outside sat this certain someone that's been on my mind and heart!

Amazing, I thought!  I tapped on the window to say, "Hi" and a few moments later they came inside.  Talk about God's providence!  I couldn't have planned it if I tried.  We began talking and I realized it was God's doing that brought us together!  My "not-so-coincidentally" being there was just what they needed.  That's always nice to hear...

Our talk was good (I won't go into topics or anything) and I'm glad they appreciated it as well.  God has a way of letting us know we're not forgotten about.  He brings us into contact with one another like no one else can.   His care is everlasting  and I appreciate (not always, but I should) His work in the bigger picture of my life.

Thank you God, for answering my concerns and making it happen!

17 March 2009

Where's God when you're hurting?

Suffering can be defined as "the bearing of pain, distress, and affliction".  I believe loneliness and loss fall into their own category under suffering.  Loss tends to make us feel like we are out of control; the circumstances and choices we make and endure are not what we would normally choose for ourselves.  Loss can not only cover people, but pets, relationships, jobs (or finances), and passions.  No one blatantly chooses these things!  Yet these losses affect our reasoning and future choices.  They affect our relationships.  They cut to the core of our very being.  They remind us of pain and times that we don't want to experience.  But God uses these losses for His greater purposes... to draw us closer to Him, to help others in times of need, and more importantly to reveal His love for us (if our eyes are open and willing to see Him).  

Why is there suffering and pain in our lives?
  • God does some of His greatest work in the dark 
Creation (Gen. 1:1-2)
  • Deliverance
    Exodus (Ex. 12:31)
  • Guidance (gives us His law)
   10 Commandments (Ex. 20:21)
  • Christ's death
   Crucifixion (Matt. 27:45)
  • Christ returns
 "...like a thief in the night" (1 Thes. 5:2)  

We are to be thanking God for our pain!  Doesn't that sound absurd?  God is shaping our hearts in this pain... it's His way of protecting us!  And as much as we might wish we were dead, this pain, very much tells us we are indeed alive!

If we look at David (1 Sam. 30), we see that a young David has just been anointed king and Saul (the former king) is trying to kill him (jealous?).  We learn these things listed below that David faced:

  1. David had just lost his previous job.
  2. He came back home to find out that his wife and children were kidnapped.
  3. He lost his home.
  4. His men (an army - 600) abandoned him.
  5. He was being hunted and about to lose his own life.
  6. He was greatly distressed.
But David persevered, he didn't give up.  He strengthened himself in the LORD.  We are called to do the same, to follow his lead.  How do we do this?  We do this through prayer, wait on His direction, recall the accomplishments of God's handiwork in our lives, we must seek counsel, and believe His promises to us! 

It's so easy to isolate ourselves; try to work through the pain on our own!  But this is the time we need Him the most!  We aren't called to be alone!  We are made to be relational!  We need Him and His people in our lives to pray for us, to encourage us, to get us to the "next" thing.  Sometimes we wait and the answers don't come.  What then?

"Be still and know that I am God." - Psalm 46:10

I know it's in my very nature to want to control things, but do I really have any control?  I need to drop the mentality that I have to control things.  I also need to realize that I'm not asked to carry my own burdens but to give them over to God.  Easier said than done, I realize!  Something that I need to ask God to help me do...

I take joy in knowing Jeremiah 29:11 is relevant in my life and the lives of everyone, everywhere! 

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future".
My pain is not meant to hurt me, not that it doesn't hurt me (because it definitely does), but it's meant for a greater purpose in my life (the same is true for you)!

12 March 2009

The Family System

The way the family interacts is called The Family System... It can be a Nuclear or Extended Family of Origin (the family you were born or adopted into).
  • Nuclear includes the caretaker (parents) and children.
  • Extended includes grandparents, grandchildren, uncles/aunts, and cousins  
Within the Family System the child/children instinctively have roles.  There are six distinctive roles within the family.  You can be multiple roles as well.  The larger your family (number of siblings you have) the more unique and defined your role is.  For instance,
  • Crowned Prince - often the first born male, can do no wrong, often spoiled/pampered, gets own way, and runs the family.
  • Enchanted Princess - female version of the Crowned Prince.
  • Mascot - the compliant child, usually middle child, seeks approval/acceptance by "getting along" in the family system.  Parents are often "proud" of this child.
  • Lost Child - is the least invested in the family system.  Often a middle child and easily "lost" between older and younger siblings.
  • Clown - is the child who jokes and makes everyone laugh in the family, to protect themselves from feeling real pain and dysfunction within the family.  They try to "cover up" the true identity of the family (which is often painfully dysfunctional).
  • Identified Patient - may cause the most problems in the family, but are the most "loyal" member.  They act out in order to draw attention to the family system's dysfunction in order to get help.
I find myself taking on the Mascot & Lost Child roles within my own family.  I was always easy going - didn't like to rock the boat.  I did well in school and sports and I remember my mom telling me she was proud of me.  Because my older sister is the Identified Patient - screaming out for help in various ways she sought the attention of my parents through her antics.  (I would also agree that she is the most loyal member of the family!)  It was easy for me to be solitary/independent and left alone, basically lost.

As the Lost Child, what the outside world doesn't see (and I can't either)-
  • Unimportant
  • Not allowed to have feelings
  • Loneliness
  • Hurt and abandoned
  • Defeated
As the Mascot - 
  • Low self-esteem
  • Terror
  • Lonely
  • Inadequate
  • Unimportant
I realize now as I'm digging up my past, just how true the above statements are/were in my life.

What I represented in the family system was relief; at least one kid that no one worries about.  I pretty much could be left alone/trusted without any problems.

As an adult, if I don't seek help this is what could happen-
  • Indecisive
  • No zest
  • Little fun
  • Stays the same
  • Alone
  • Dies early
  • Can't say NO
  • Can't handle stress
  • Marry a "hero"
Some of these things are present in my life and I don't want them for my future!  Change is possible, with help.  Instead my life can show traits of-
  • Independence
  • Talent
  • Creativity
  • Imagination
  • Assertiveness
  • Resourcefulness
  • Helpfulness
  • Good company  
Only 3% of family systems are considered healthy, the rest unhealthy = dysfunctional!  It's amazing how high of a number that is.  I grew up in that 97th percentile!  Parents divorced when I was 6 and I lived with my mom the whole year through, occasionally visiting my dad in the summer.

Characteristics of a dysfunctional family system-
  • Unable to identify feelings
  • Difficulty in expressing positive feelings
  • Difficulty in forming lasting relationships
  • Struggle with perfectionism
  • Demonstrate rigidity
  • Trouble adjusting to change
  • Feel overly responsible for one another
  • Constant need of approval
  • Members feel powerless to change
  • Marked by low self-esteem
  • Members don't know how to have fun!
I can recall struggling with many of the above characteristics and to this day some still affect me.  The last bullet is one of the many things I currently struggle with.  For example, there are things that are fun to do, but I either turn competitive or I can't seem to let go (lose my inhibition).  I maintain a sense of self-control and have a difficulty being wacky or silly.  I also think my inability to get "excited" about things stems from this same topic.

I write all this out because I want to recognize my past and heal, move forward and grow closer to God.  If I can gain some understanding and know there's help, then I can heal; I can not repeat the past; I can let go and let God!

Any comments would greatly be appreciated!  Thanks.