Canada · COVID-19

A World Turned Upside Down

It’s been almost a month since I wrote about my negative COVID test and about the struggles of grief I was going through. A lot has happened since then, and I have started writing about it many times, only to stop and delete it all. Then I try again and after a few paragraphs I hit delete once more.

Is it writers block?

Is it overwhelm?

Or maybe, I’m just done trying to make sense of the chaos around me.

A few weeks back, I was sick with an unknown burning skin issue (which resolved itself without a diagnosis) but not before I went to get help because I began experiencing chest pains. So after isolating for over a week, I went to our local hospital (which at the time was completely overwhelmed with COVID patients) where I believe I caught COVID-19 on top of everything as a result.

Yes I wore a mask.

Yes I stayed 6 ft apart from others in the room.

But, nevertheless, I caught COVID-19.

I began showing symptoms of the dreaded coronavirus just two days after my negative test results came in, so I went in for a second test (although I already knew it’d be positive.) And it was.

My whole family got sick. All of us showed various symptoms, from fatigue, to fevers and body aches, to rashes, to sore eyes, to headaches, vomiting and coughs. It was bizarre in that sense. Most flus that go through our family, carry the same symptoms. With COVID-19, we reacted quite differently. We are now all recovered and done our isolation period.

But that’s not why I’m struggling to write.

My post titled “When COVID-19 Becomes Real” got a lot of views. A lot – meaning almost 5,000 views. My usual posts get about 45-75 views. The rare post gets 100-500. I even had our local news station do an interview with me.

Everyone seemed to want to hear my ER experience as “proof” of the seriousness of COVID and the need for restrictions.

However, my reason for writing that post wasn’t to “convince” anyone of anything. It was a personal account of my experience in an overwhelmed hospital and my sudden snap back to reality that COVID-19 wasn’t just a faraway problem in some other place as it has felt like for so long.

It is here and it is real.

I saw overwhelmed staff. I saw patients getting transferred. I saw a full waiting room of many people who had been waiting for hours without anyone to help them.

So what do I think about all this?

COVID-19 is complicated.

Yet we all talk as if we know the answers. I hear strong opinions from just about everyone and I’m tired of the division. Seriously, can we not just work together to beat this thing??

Are extreme restrictions harmful? Absolutely.

Are some restrictions necessary to keep our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed? Yes, I believe they are.

But here we have the great divide.

Some say: “Let the virus rip through… People will die, just rip off the bandaid and get it over with.”

Others: “Lockdown everything for as long as it takes.”

Is there really no middle ground here?

Listen, NO ONE wants people to die from COVID-19. And NO ONE is happy about losing our freedoms.

Restrictions in Manitoba, Canada have gotten really bad. Life is not great; it’s actually very hard. The rules are stifling. They take much of the joy out of our days. I absolutely hate them.

– No gatherings are allowed, not even one person allowed to visit us. This includes even outdoor meetings at a person’s residence. Christmas is no exception.

– Churches are closed.

– Our school division is back to distance learning. Which means 6+ hours of screens for my kids A DAY.

– Parks, restaurants, libraries, and non essential businesses are closed.

– Masks are mandatory inside every building.

– Even buying non essential items in store is forbidden.

These rules were discussed and made by people who regularly interact with others, because they have “essential” jobs (side note…Can you imagine being told that your livelihood is unnecessary to the world??) and do not really understand the immense pain that these restrictions are causing so many. For those who aren’t working, whether they’ve lost their jobs because they are deemed “unessential” or whether they are seniors, or stay-at-home moms, such as myself, this isolation is unbearable.

We were made to be with people.

What the working leaders and doctors don’t understand is “unnecessary socializing” – seen by them as “selfish” and “short-sighted” is actually EXTREMELY NECESSARY for those who don’t work outside of the home.

In fact, solitary confinement exceeding 15 days is considered by the United Nations to be a form of torture.

Numerous studies have been done on this very subject. According to Wikipedia: “Research indicates that the psychological effects of solitary confinement may encompass “anxiety, depression, anger, cognitive disturbances, perceptual distortions, obsessive thoughts, paranoia, and psychosis.” A main issue with isolating prisoners who are known to have mental illnesses is that it prevents the inmates from ever possibly recovering. Instead, many “mentally ill prisoners decompensate in isolation, requiring crisis care or psychiatric hospitalization.”

For many, work is a social interaction.

My husband was at home for two weeks while we had Covid. During those long days, he said time had stopped for him. He grew more withdrawn. I could see he was withering. After two weeks of this he seemed almost like a different person.

Last week he was clear to go back to work and he was grinning ear to ear. He could leave and interact with co-workers again. He said that little interactions with others kept him going. Life seemed to move at a faster pace again.

What’s my point? He was only home for two weeks.

I’ve been home for five.

How do you think I feel?

Yet, you may say, “How can you feel this way? Didn’t your last post say that you are now taking this seriously? Didn’t you say that you now understand the restrictions? Didn’t you say there was a good reason for them?”

Yes, I did.

But understanding the heart behind these rules and regulations, doesn’t make me like them or even agree with them all. It doesn’t magically make all the answers and solutions clear. It doesn’t make me feel any less lonely or frustrated.

It doesn’t stop the feelings that this isn’t a world I want to live in anymore.

I don’t want to write this post, because admitting the truth scares me: I just don’t know what’s right anymore.

Why are so many people pretending that they know the way?

We got mildly sick with Covid-19. Most people I know who’ve gotten it have been mildly sick.

Is it worth all this pain to shut everything down?

BUT… I also know a few who have died that were previously healthy and could’ve lived many more years… and it breaks my heart. They could still be alive.

I’ve heard of the stress of nurses, doctors, and healthcare workers – some who I know personally – who are working tirelessly to take care of the sick. Their frustration and tears are real.

So, if I don’t have the answers, why am I writing?

What am I trying to say?

Right now, really extreme decisions are being made with ONLY one thing being considered: How to keep COVID-19 numbers down.

How did we get to this point? Are there not so many things to consider other than just the numbers in a pandemic?

– What about the alarming rate of declining mental health in our most vulnerable people?

-How about the millions of deaths caused not by COVID-19, but directly as a result of restrictionsThe World Food Programme has warned that an extra 265 million people could be at risk of starvation because of the restrictions.

That’s 263.5 MILLON MORE people STARVING right now than those who’ve died of COVID.

Why are we not talking about those staggering numbers? And since when have we cared about these types of numbers? Since they’ve been shoved in our faces headline after headline? If we really cared about the lives of the vulnerable, why didn’t we stop the world before to help the EIGHT AND A HALF MILLION people who’ve starved to death this year alone?

Is it because this new problem hits a little too close to home??

– What about suicide deaths or drug overdoses?

– What about many, many small businesses that will not recover?

– How about the billions of dollars that the Canadian government has spent on the pandemic… but won’t disclose where it has gone?

– Or what about the complete disregard for children that live in abusive home environments where they are forced to now quarantine – possibility alone and abused without being seen or heard?

– Or what about completely irresponsible distance learning program which sets up students as young as grade 7 to be online and unsupervised at home, while the amount of children involved in online trafficking has nearly doubled since the beginning of the pandemic. Not to mention the devastating porn addictions in young children who are being left alone for hours on these devices.

These are valid questions, but they are all being drowned out in the world’s chant of insanity: “COVID-19! COVID-19! COVID-19”

Tell me why.

Why don’t these other things matter?

Why are these hundreds of millions or even billions of other voices silenced?

Please, tell me. Why is COVID now the only thing that matters now?? Does anyone know?

All this pain is not adding up.

I’ll wait for my answers. You’ll know where to find me.

Locked up in my fancy, lonely, prison… called home.

COVID-19

A Serious Wound

The pain hurt.

By not as much as the bystanders. Those who looked on and saw, but did not act. They saw the tears, they witnessed what was happening. But turned away.

And. Did. Nothing.

The wounds, I’m told, could’ve been worse

“…you’ll just make things worse by continually bringing this up. Suck it up and move on for the greater good. That was the “helpful” counsel received. With those words, I was forced to go on my way. I slipped on my mask, too heavy to bear.

The pain hurt.

But to not be taken seriously, that was what killed me.

There are three things that prompted my short story above:

  • Current world events surrounding COVID-19 restrictions and blindspots.
  • A scripture passage I read in Jeremiah.
  • About a dozen people I’ve talked to who’ve suffered quietly for way too long, unheard and silenced.

A few years ago, I spoke to a woman who had been a victim of sexual abuse throughout her childhood. As we talked it became clear that she had amazingly moved past the tragedy and even forgiven her perpetrator. However, there was still so much anger she felt towards her past church and certain family members that I was surprised to see, considering her ability to forgive this other man.

When I asked her about why she thought that she had been able to forgive this man who did unspeakable things to her, but couldn’t forgive the people who had done nothing, this was her response:

In the world we come to expect bad things from bad people. It’s just broken like that. But when good people, people you love and trust, stand by and let evil happen – that can completely ruin you forever.”

When good people are indifferent to evil, the world loses hope.

We seem to understand mental health today better than ever before. And yet never before has our world been so indifferent and unsympathetic to this REAL pain of loneliness many are facing. These stories are going unheard in the media’s push to focus on COVID-19.

Never before have we tried so valiantly to brush it aside. The mental health crisis and current loneliness people are feeling right now are real issues. IMPORTANT ISSUES. Issues, that if not addressed, may become fatal without us even noticing it.

Yet, I sometimes wonder if our world has forgotten this. In our struggle to “stay alive” and keep as many vulnerable people safe from Covid-19 as possible, we’ve denied ourselves of a human NEED: social interaction.

The anger and frustration many people are feeling isn’t just from being “entitled, selfish humans” but a direct result of denying themselves of a basic human need when they could not see any difference being made.

We shut down everything for months. We were told it was to be temporary, to “flatten the curve”.

And we did.

The curve not only flattened, it plummeted. In fact for a whole month in my area there were “zero” cases. That was after four months of shut down.

But life can’t stay shut down forever. We know this, don’t we??

Do we?

Fast forward eight months later, I rarely see anyone out and about without a mask anymore. Church isn’t even church, we stick to our own family and seem miles away from anyone else. Yet cases continue to rise and one begins to wonder: Are all our efforts even doing anything?

Those who’ve lived in isolation, continually glued to their screens are still blaming it all on “careless” people, becoming hard and judgemental. Reporting neighbours with visitors. Harshly judging others without hearing the story behind these gatherings.

Can we consider this for a second… That not since World War II have people been so willing to call in their neighbours for having company over?

Who are we becoming? What are we doing?

I was all on board with closing down businesses and restaurants back in spring, willingly going along with the plan to “flatten the curve.” Orders to shut down gatherings and religious ceremonies were obeyed wholeheartedly. Closing schools for “three weeks” which turned into “three months” which morphed into summer vacation, we all agreed and followed – without question.

Even with wearing masks inside buildings, most people obeyed, though some did question the usefulness of them. We listened because we could see the heart behind this and knew it was the government doing their best to take steps to not overwhelm our healthcare system.

These were important things.

But calling on citizens to tell on their neighbours for having people down? That is a line I am unwilling to cross.

This is a call from the government that is absolutely alarming to me, one that we should all take a serious look at. If we are indeed, so “concerned”, Why not ask our neighbors about the reason for their gathering? Why not send a text?

Because those telling on others are cowards.

They’re cowards! It’s easy to anonymously “call-in” and tell. But to have an awkward conversation to get the full story, that’s hard! It takes effort.

We have equated normal social interaction, with willingly bringing harm on those around us and it cannot be treated the same.

If a person meets with a friend to encourage them and unknowingly passes on Covid… and say, this friend dies as a result, are we seriously equating that with murder?

Most would say absolutely not!

Yet the government of Manitoba is coming out with a commercial that is saying just that. They have taken a man’s real life story and exploited him to spread a message of fear. He lived a normal life and as a result had a loved one die of COVID-19 and they are making an advertisement out of it.

This young man was NOT responsible for the death of his grandmother.

COVID-19 was.

Viruses are out of our control. We have never been able to control a virus before and this is the first our world has literally believed we could outsmart a virus.

This illusion of control is killing us! It’s ruining us. It’s tearing apart families and neighbors.

“They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” Jeremiah 6:14

We have some very lonely people and some very serious wounds we are facing. It’s time we address them instead of shaming people and ignoring their needs. I believe it’s only a matter of time with all the pent up anger and division before we may face riots and civil war that will look much worse than any virus.

Living behind plexiglass barriers, masks and meeting on FaceTime chats for a year isn’t normal.

Let’s not try to pretend as if it is.

Authenticity · Faith

Jekyll or Hyde?

“Jekyll and Hyde,” he called me.

That I’m like two different people living in one me. The funny thing is that I agree wholeheartedly. I know what he’s talking about.

One side: sweet, caring, and nice.

The other: filled with anger, rejection, and fear.

One side: accepted & loved.

The other: rejected & condemned.

Aren’t we all, really? Jekyll one day. Hyde the next. Trying to stay Jekyll.

Failing miserably.

But the good news? Jesus loves me as Mr. Hyde.

He loves my rejected side. Though people love me when I’m good and hate me when I’m not – Jesus takes me at all times.

He loves both “me’s”.

He has shown me that from day one. Through anger, shame, fear and deepest pain. Through embarrassing panic attacks to awkward moments. Even in full out rebellion.

Though we often turn our faces away from the “Hyde’s” of this world, God doesn’t shrink back. He reaches out his hand and calls them home. Though people reject “Hyde” (he’s horrible and socially awkward and often inappropriate) – God does not.

He tells us this through stories:

Remember the prostitutes? Rahab and Mary Magdeline to name a few…

Remember the government tax thieves? Zacchaeus and Matthew… probably more.

Remember the murderer(s)? Moses (and others)!

Or the adulterous murderer? David.

Or the liars? Isaac, Jacob.

Remember them. And then remember those who slammed stakes through his feet and hands?

“Father, forgive them.” He says.

To top it off, Jesus shares the ultimate story of his love through the parable of the prodigal son. A story of a son who squandered his inheritance, rejecting everything his father had raised him to be.

But the Father.

He waited with open arms for “Hyde” to return.

God loves us. ALL of us.

And he is ever working until I’m all better. Until I’m whole.

Until I’m just one person:

His child.

Faith

Symbols of a Dying Faith

Sit with me a bit and mourn, will you? Dying doesn’t come easy.

I’m not, by default, a religious person. In fact, I would go so far to say that I hate meaningless rituals and religious services. They nauseate me. Yet much of my life, this is what I have perceived in the church and many of its followers.

Forgive me for being blunt. It’s one of my best and worst traits.

But just as I was ready to give up on it all – on religion – in my youth… there was Jesus. Out of the box, come as you are, a very real and uncontainable, Jesus.

Then there was church. Church felt shallow. Never quite fed the soul. Never quite understood what everyone was meeting for. To worship? Hmmm. If one hour a week does that. To fellowship? I guess. But why then, does everyone take off in such a hurry once the sermon is over? To feel righteous? Does a meeting take away sin?

But then, there was Jesus. Magnificent, wonderful Jesus. I met him, you know. Really met him. Not a voice in my head. Not words on a page. Real Jesus. I met him.

He was there that night, under the stars. He saw what those men did to me, though the alcohol made me forget.

He was there when I whispered the three words that would change my life: Jesus help me.

He was there as my son lay dying. Swollen. Glazed over eyes. Mouth as dry as the desert. He simply touched him and the doctors could not explain how the sick baby boy was restored. But I knew. Because I had already met the Healer.

He was there as the very people who brought me to him slandered me and rejected me, over and over without reason. He sat with me, not above me watching, but with me. Emmanuel, God with us, sat in the dust with me.

He’s been there as I’ve become invisible to everyone around me. Forgotten in the busyness of life. Every morning he was there. Speaking to me: “You are not alone.”

He was there when I lost my mind, over and over. When the panic took over and all reason was lost. Sheer panic and terror overtook me. Unexplainable. Yet, He was there all along, a constant peace: “Its okay. I’ve got this.”

But Jesus, where are you now?

The verse of the day doesn’t cut it. A short prayer before bed. Rhymes chanted before each meal. These aren’t you. These are symbols. Symbols of a dying faith.

Where are your people? They seem to have gone into hiding. I miss being with them.

Where are you? I’m searching everywhere, but you’re nowhere to be found.

Yet, because I’ve met you, I will not doubt. I will not be shaken. Those who haven’t, well, I can see why they leave the faith.

But as for me, I will remember you and wait.

Depression · Faith · Freedom · Health · Running

I Met Depression… and I Won

A few years ago I was diagnosed with depression.

There are many reasons for falling into depression: Trama. Rejection. Bullying. Death or loss. Harmful world views. Stress. A life-altering event. Hormones. Lack of nutrition or sleep… and the list goes on.

Healing for each soul is a very individual path. So as I share my story of hope, that is all I want you to take from it.

There is hope.

Today I am alive. Joyful. Healed. Whole. And maybe what healed me can help you. But maybe you need to take a different path. That’s OK too.

I’m sharing to bring hope, not to say I have the answers.

In February 2014, I had my fifth child… a son. It was very, very difficult for me to face this addition to my family. Though I loved him more than words can describe, I was exhausted with the other children. I felt that caring for another baby was beyond my abilities and I was burning out quickly.

I remember a comedian once explaining how having a large family felt. He said: “Imagine you are drowning and then, someone hands you a baby.”

We laugh because it’s so true. It’s too true.

I was drowning. Everything I had ever found joy and meaning in, felt distant and out of reach. I didn’t find any pleasure in doing the very things I once loved. Life was dark, and though I saw splashes of color, it didn’t bring peace to my heart.

Fast forward a very painful four years: Spring 2018. I had gone through church hardships, loss of friendships, moving, and building a house. I had let go of my old friendships at the church that had rejected me and my family because of my depression. I was in the process of allowing myself to move on from the deep hurt that comes from being completely misjudged and misunderstood, forgiving them as best I could.

Our family had joined a new church (an act in itself which was hard), made new friends and our “baby” wasn’t so difficult to care for anymore. But I was STILL burdened under this load that was crushing me. I had pushed the pain so far down, that it was coming out in my health. My bones ached constantly! The smallest chore would leave me absolutely immobile for the rest of the day. I needed daily naps.

And deep down, I still blamed myself because I had been unable to make things right. I went over the details in my mind again and again, the burden of my rejected attempts of reconciliation lay heavy on my shoulders. Could I have done more? Should I have done anything differently?

Finally, after one incident where I went outside to clean up some garbage and I found myself sleeping for four hours that afternoon from exhaustion, I decided to see a doctor. After many questions and blood tests, he told me that I was depressed.

However, then he told me something I never expected to hear from a doctor: “There are many ways to go about this, but I recommend that you try gentle exercise before taking any antidepressants.” Immediately, I protested that I had tried to exercise but that it was just too painful. I was too weak.

“I said gentle exercise,” He chuckled, “I’m not telling you to train for a marathon. Just get out of the house, in the fresh air, and walk for 20-30 minutes at whatever pace you desire! And don’t do errands or make it into a chore. Make sure it’s time just for you.”

So in May 2018 I started to walk.

One of the hardest things I’ve done is put on those running shoes. I was so afraid that I would fail at walking. But the words echoed in my head: Gentle walk. Gentle Exercise. Over and over again those simple words challenged my way of thinking and gave me courage to at least try. For me, exercise wasn’t something that could be gentle. It was a way of pushing my body to the extreme. To be the best. To compete with myself and others.

I had never thought of it as something that I could actually enjoy.

I still remember that first walk. The warm air, the slow pace, the music on my phone. The sun shone down on my face. I heard birds chirping around me. I stopped to notice the buds on the trees that were forming. As I walked, suddenly I felt a peace inside that I hadn’t noticed for a very long time. That was it… I was hooked! Not that going out was easy, but I now believed that it could help me. Each day my pace was just a little bit faster and I was able to go just a little bit farther because I finally felt no pressure and my body was getting stronger!

At the same time our pastor started teaching a series on bible memory and the importance it has when we are faced with trials or temptations. During the message, I felt God speaking gently to me: “This is it Heather! This is what you need to get you through.”

I went straight home and downloaded a verse memory app called “Verses.”

I started with memorizing Psalm 34. While I walked, I quoted my verses. When my tears wouldn’t stop, I quoted them over and over. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous person may have many troubles but the Lord delivers him from them all.” When I remembered the rejection of my friends, I spoke these words out loud. Little by little, I added to them. Psalm 139, Oh God… they may think I’m a horrible person, but “Lord, you have searched me and you know me… you are familiar with all my ways!” Then I added Psalm 103. “Praise the Lord my soul. All my inmost being praise his holy name. Praise the Lord my soul, and forget not ALL his benefits. Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases. Who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion. Who satisfies your desires with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle. The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed…”

As my body and spirit grew stronger, I began to run for short distances. I would run for a bit, then walk in between, all the while praying and reciting my verses. By Fall 2018 I could run 5K (I had never in my life ran a full mile before this) and God had given me the ability to memorize over 15 full Psalms. I knew 10% of the book of Psalms and could bring it with me everywhere! It was in my heart as well as my head.

My greatest fear was losing my ability to run over the winter. I was terrified that I would sink back into my depression. My husband knew this and bought me a treadmill. Not only did I keep up running and memorizing all winter, but by Spring 2019 I had a follow up appointment with my doctor and he told me that I was in full recovery!

I realize that this story may sound too good to be true to many people.

A few years of depression? And now you think you have all the answers??

No. No I don’t.

Remember: This was what worked for me… and let me tell you, if you think my answer is to mental health is: Just go quote some scripture or just go exercise, you have horribly misunderstood this testimony!!

Getting out every day to walk and run, had just as big of an effect on me as the scriptures I was memorizing. Exercise was just as spiritual as God’s word. Because you know what? I believe “Gentle Exercise” WAS God’s personal word to me. And obeying God’s treatment plan for me was hard work! Some days I wanted to stay in my room and mope, eating chocolates and watching Netflix. Or take a long nap. But I forced myself every single day to go out. Some days in the rain. Some days in the heatwaves. Sometimes I hated it. The next day was even harder to go out. Sometimes I was far too busy! It was near impossible at times! The truth is, the road to healing is never easy.

Don’t kid yourself: Healing doesn’t ever come without a cost.

Whether the cost of time, the cost of perseverance, the cost of faith, the cost of money, the cost of disappointments and trying again, the cost of failure and rebuilding hope… there’s always a cost. The question is, are you willing to try?

Or have we become a generation that wants all the answers and victories handed to us on a silver platter?

It’s hard for me to wrap posts like this up in a simple paragraph, because there’s so much to leave you with. Yet one thought keeps running itself over and over in my mind again: Are we willing pay the price?

Fast forward to this fall. If I miss two weeks of exercise, I find myself slipping. Anxiety and depression grow. This path, for me, may just be a lifelong treatment. But isn’t it worth it? For my health? For my joy? For my family? For those around me who can relate to the everyday struggle?

The answer I have to choose daily is: Yes. Yes… it’s worth it. 

Depression · Faith

Mental Health: Are We Choosing our Own Chaos?

I don’t do random.

If I start something new, it almost always has a purpose. Sometimes the roads I travel start with a purpose but only lead to a dead end, or they get so rocky and dangerous that I turn around.

But I never just carelessly walk down random paths. I’m far too predictable, to safe, to orderly for risky adventures. However, I have to admit that I always seem to find myself on these precarious streets…

Like the time I chose to keep my baby at the age of seventeen. Or when I chose to get married before I graduated. A few months later, I chose to pack up a bag and live at the hospital while my baby boy suffered for almost a year, before witnessing God’s amazing healing hand.

I chose to finish my high school diploma with 3 kids under 3, even though my body begged for extra rest and I had no desire to do homework when they were finally sleeping at night.

Later, I chose the lonely road of homeschooling, though I’m not a great teacher and I feel unqualified.

I chose to leave a church full of friends and family that I had attended since my childhood to help start a church that ended up being the most painful and wounding experience of my life so far. I also chose to walk in forgiveness and healing, believing the best of people.

We left a job my husband loved, to buy into a company and build it into something, which has been painfully difficult.

And my newest path is the choice to send my five beloved children to public school next year.

I wish I could see the future but I can’t, so I try to walk as close as I can beside the only one I know who does: my Heavenly Father. He’s known by so many to be a rock. A shelter in the storm. The hiding place. He’s a foundation. He is a strong tower. Our refuge in times of trouble.

That is my God.

The choices above may seem difficult, but no matter how those around me viewed them, they all brought a sense of peace and although there has been hardships and inner turmoil around me almost constantly, I rarely have felt that sense of chaos within me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have felt inner turmoil. In the past I felt a lot of it while dealing with depression and anxiety. In fact this month I’ve been feeling a lot of it.

I can tell almost immediately when I’m in “overwhelm” because I become unable to slow down and just be. My downtime moments are filled with distractions.

This is why I feel like having a daily time of devotions and reflection is so important. Other than connecting with God, if I wasn’t used to quieting myself nothing would seem wrong! I would feel anxious and upset, but I wouldn’t realize it until panic attacks and anxiety would start kicking in.

However now I can tell things are wrong just by assessing my quiet times. I just want to distract myself! Turn on the Netflix. Get out the iPhone. Scroll through the news articles!

There’s no desire to reflect or think about my own personal life and the “whys” or the reasons for my behaviours.

This is overwhelm: Avoiding reality. Avoiding the hard questions. Avoiding true connections. This leads to small talk, which leads to shallow and unfulfilling relationships.

It’s a constant disconnected feeling and general discontentment in life.

Sound familiar? This constant state of busyness and distraction are common place in our world, but should not be common place in the Christian life. It feels weird when I get like this because I’m not used to it. It’s like running in a random direction just for the sake of running.

Busyness is often like that, isn’t it?

We sign up for this and commit to that, not having a reason for it but simply because that’s the way the rest of the crowd is headed. It feels wrong to turn off onto a more lonely (albeit simpler) road. But in my experience that’s the path that usually brings the most meaning and peace.

Not that important lessons aren’t learned on the main roads…but with high traffic comes stress, chaos and accidents.

This is where quieting ourselves and learning to ask the hard questions becomes so important. Without reflection, life becomes too difficult to navigate so we instead turn to distracting ourselves from the busyness which leaves us disconnected with our own emotional state. Cue the sleeping drugs, anti anxiety and depression meds that studies say about 1 in 6 Americans are now dependent on.

1 in 6!! Let that sink in for a moment!

No I’m not saying that there’s never a reason to take medicine for mental health issues. Not at all! There are many legitimate imbalances in the human brain that require medical intervention. But do we really believe that 1 in 6 people need to be on meds? Or is there something else going on that we’re not willing to face?

These are uncomfortable questions and thoughts, I know. Necessary ones though.

Are we willing to face them?

Am I?

 

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What’s Happening to Me?

 About two months ago, I went to the doctor thinking that there was something seriously wrong with me. Most days it was a struggle just to get out of bed. Exercise was out of the question. I could not last the day without taking a nap. And the pain…EVERYTHING hurt. These were just a few of my symptoms. In short, I was functioning way below my normal capacity level and I knew it. The things I used to enjoy became things that caused me stress. I dreaded them. Social outings felt meaningless. I wished I could just go to sleep one day and never wake up again. No matter how hard I tried to be joyful, the sadness was so deep in my soul I could feel it in my chest.

I thought that I must be dying.

After tons of tests and blood work, I was shocked to hear the results: “You’re as healthy as they come! Everything looks good and normal!”

And then the doctor began asking me lots of questions, with deep compassion in his eyes, “How have you been doing emotionally? What do you do for a living? Do you often have feelings of despair/hopelessness? Have you recently gone through something traumatic? How’s your support system? Do you ever have suicidal thoughts? Have you recently stopped enjoying the things you used to love?” Etc…

And suddenly the light went on.

I wasn’t able to just “cheer up” or “snap out of it” because my mind was telling me there was something very, very wrong. Basically, I was in constant fight or flight mode, our bodies way of responding as if we are being attacked. The stress I had been under for so long, was literally causing my brain to begin to act as if I were in constant emergency.

I then realized that although for many years I had told people I understood depression, I really hadn’t.

As a Christain, I have always believed that God is enough. For everything.

But I finally realized why telling someone dealing with mental health issues to just “lean more on God” or that they had to “change something” actually made things worse! You see, those living under depression or other mental health issues already realize quite clearly that something is wrong with them. And most likely they already are loaded down with feelings of inadequacy or shame or guilt because they know that they should be doing more, they should be trying harder…but they just CAN’T. Their brain isn’t functioning at full capacity…neither is their body.

According to the CAMH, 1 in 5 adults are currently struggling with mental health issues. And 1 in 25 adults live with a SERIOUS mental health illness. I bet you can guess which of my blog posts get the most hits: the ones where I share about my struggles with depression, anxiety or pain.

So why am I sharing all this?

Because this issue effects not only the MILLIONS living with it, but their friends and families as well. It affects relationships, the ability to work, parenting, employers, communities.

Just think: if 1 in 5 people are functioning at 25% or less capacity, how much the communities, the businesses, and families are missing out on!

Summer Prayer Challenge Week 1 – Wednesday: For the Church to Understand and Respond Appropriately to Mental Health

So here’s the prayer points for today:

As always start your focus on Jesus. Today thank him for his attributes: Holiness, Love, Kindness, Gentleness, his perfect Justice, etc. This is SO important, don’t rush this!!

Pray for each family member next, starting with your spouse.

And then for Mental health and the churches response:

-For Christians to have godly wisdom as they seek to help those living with mental illness.

-For us as believers to give less well meaning advice and just BE there to support these hurting people, not trying to “fix” them but  listening and praying.

– For the church to have compassion on those living with mental illness and not to lay further burdens/guilt/condemnation on those suffering.

-For us to find ways to practically help those in need, not by just offering a quick fix solution, but realizing that these issues go deep and most likely take months, years or in some severe cases, even decades to work through.

-For miraculous healings for people suffering with mental illness. You bet I believe that God still heals 🙂

-For grace, grace and even MORE grace…and patience – dealing with someone who is unstable is very difficult indeed.

-For eyes to see each soul, each person as GOD sees them and to speak to them with His tender heart.

-Lastly, I have realized that many going through depression or other mental health issues have been extremely accused or hurt by the church. I’ve heard testimonies over and over again that those who have gone to the church for help got turned away, brushed aside, not taken seriously or even rejected altogether. Many of these people have since left the church and gone elsewhere for help.

This makes me so SO sad. Pray for healing from hurts that Christians have caused. Pray that God would find these lost sheep and gently bring them back to himself. Pray that they would learn to trust the church again and be able to connect once more to the body.

Once again, if anymore thoughts pop into your mind, pray these as well. Thank you for partnering with me in this.

-Heather