What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Memorial Day Thoughts

This past weekend was Memorial Day weekend, as you all know. I hope you spent some time remembering the real reasons for the holiday. I know it’s a great way to start the summer season, plant the garden, enjoy a barbecue, spend time with friends and family, and spend time in the outdoors. However, Memorial Day is more than all of those things. I’m also sure you are getting tired of hearing about it on social media. I’ve also seen the Facebook posts honoring the men and women who have sacrificed for our country and its values. I’ve also noticed the flags flying from businesses, homes, churches, and other governmental and non-governmental buildings. But, when things really get down to what Memorial Day is about, I’m at a loss.
That’s because Memorial Day is for remembering and honoring those who gave their ultimate sacrifice in the name of their country. It’s for remembering those who died in the line of service to the United States of America. I can do this on an intellectual level. However, I have never known anyone personally who has gone to war for our country and died in their efforts to serve to the best of their ability. I know of people who have given their lives in the line of service . . . wait, I know of one person who gave his life in the line of service. I know there are many others. I actually feel guilty that I did not know such heroes.
As I was thinking about this, some “stories” I’ve read or have seen in the movies come to mind. For instance, my dad was a World War II veteran. I’m sure he knew several soldiers who died in the line of service. He probably lost quite a few “friends” on D-Day as they tried to make their way to safety on the beaches. He made it. Many, many others did not. Dad never talked about those comrades in arms. He did not want to be reminded. Yet he remembered every Memorial Day I could remember in my childhood, without failure, by going to ceremonies at cemeteries and gathering with family. But I do not know the names of any of those lost during World War II and so I cannot remember them specifically.
There have been many other lives lost in wars since the one my dad was a part of. My father-in-law was a marine in the Korean War conflict. My husband was told a story about how his dad’s life was spared in one specific situation. My father-in-law’s first wife was divorcing him. He had to go to Seoul to sign some papers. While he was in Seoul, his entire group was wiped out and there were no survivors. He would have had the names of many of those men to remember each Memorial Day.
However, as I said in the beginning, there is one who gave his life that I do remember. He was a young man from Fowlerville, Michigan who served in the Iraq war. He had gone to school in Fowlerville and I vaguely remember him. However, during the battle for Fallujah, he lost his life in service to his country. There is a memorial to him in the cemetery in Fowlerville, and a scholarship given to a graduating Senior from the local high school every year in his name. Not having anyone else to remember by name on Memorial Day, I remember him.
Who do you remember on Memorial Day?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Past and the Present, Another Look

I’m still looking through my journals and email from Jean from 2006. April 4th of that year found me in the mental hospital (again). During my time there, I learned several things about myself. However, what is standing out to me today is a lesson on why I end up in the hospital.
I was asked to work with the founder of the Trauma Program at the hospital (who was visiting from Texas). I did so and the summary of the session with him is below:
I have been sabotaging my recovery but my plan is to sabotage my recovery.

I’m very successful at this plan

Good news – I’m in control/successful at carrying out plan. I’m tenacious, committed, successful carrying out plan – [per my old rules] I’m a great success at making sure I fail.
Shift plan to a life plan. Modify plan and apply same energy to that plan and be successful at life.
Instead I ramp up my emotions à think how I’m a failure à think kids better without me à depression increases à ramp up emotions à husband doesn’t need me à suicide à closed negative loop
I engineer my own depression. Time to engineer a new plan.
 Much to my surprise, it’s a very similar lesson to the one I learned in March of this year when I, again, had the opportunity to work with the founder of the program (while I was once again in inpatient). One key concept that the doctor tried to get across to me was that I was choosing to be depressed. In my journal on March 12th, 2015 I wrote what he thought. “I’m throwing a temper tantrum (digging in my heels that everything is hopeless).” I was offended because I thought (and still do) that the depression was at least partially due to a chemical imbalance in my brain. It had been three years since any med changes and things had been good for those three years.
However, there’s possibly a truth to the “digging in my heels” part. Did I again “engineer my own depression?” Did I carry out a plan that lead me back to the hospital? I still don’t know the answer to those questions; however, it is interesting to me that that possibility was brought up in therapy sessions nine years removed from each other. Whether I think that is the only reason the deep depression returned or not, there’s still a lot of work to be done based on the lessons I learned in April 2006.
I still need to work on engineering a plan for recovery and not for self-sabotage. I can see elements of self-sabotage in my behavior leading up to the hospitalization in March. Was I digging in my heels on complying with some of my therapist’s instructions (things that would make me be safe on the outside)? Was I digging in my heels on being willing to try a new med combination according to my psychiatrist’s suggestions? Was I unwilling to listen to positive messages God was giving me through His Word and other people?
I think that the answer to those questions is “to some degree” even if not entirely. It’s amazing to me to find myself in the same spot I was in nine years ago. This is a bit depressing, but it also tells me that God has not given up on teaching me the same lesson over and over again, as I may need it. He still thinks there’s a chance I can learn the lesson and grow in the areas He’s pointing out to me. So it’s something to be thankful for. And I need to consider whether I create my own depressions, at least in part, as I try to engineer new positive plans in my life.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Past and the Present

I’ve been reading old journal entries and emails to Jean from 2006 as I write my next book (working title: The Journey Continues). I’m noticing some things that are the same and some things that are different.
First, one thing that is the same. I didn’t like taking my psychotropic medications for my bipolar disorder. I would agonize over it or just plain refuse to take them. I would conveniently “forget” them. I would not tell my therapist or my psychiatrist until they asked. If they didn’t ask the right question, they didn’t get the whole truth. I wouldn’t volunteer any information that might make it seem like I was being non-compliant. I would struggle with this for weeks, until it became obvious to everybody that something was wrong. I usually ended up in the mental hospital.
Some of those things are still true, however, there’s one big difference. I still don’t like taking my psychotropic medications for my bipolar disorder. I constantly question whether they are working or not. I question the psychiatrist and my therapist all the time as to whether or not they think the meds are really helping and how do they know. That’s something that hasn’t changed in the last nine years. I doubted their effectiveness then and I doubt their effectiveness now. What has changed: I actually take them now, whether I want to or not. The psychiatrist is aware that I don’t want to be on any more meds than is absolutely necessary and she works toward that goal. My therapist also knows I don’t like taking my meds and asks me on a regular basis what I’m taking and whether that’s the doses and drugs recommended by the psychiatrist.
Another thing that is the same. I struggled over the relationship I had with my mom. In 2006, my mom was still alive and we regularly had contact with one another. There were many things from my childhood that were amiss because of my mom’s actions and attitudes toward me. While she was still alive, it didn’t matter that I was an adult, she still had the means to offend me or raise my ire.
However, that has changed in some ways. I still struggle at times with the way I was raised and the things my mom said and did. But I’ve learned in the intervening years that my mom was the way she was because of her childhood upbringing and because of her experiences. She did a lousy job of being a mom to me, but she did the best she could. I’ve learned that I don’t have to follow in her footsteps and treat my children the same way she treated me (as children or as the young adults they now are). I no longer hold a grudge against my mom. I’ve come to a place of forgiveness and acceptance. That is easier now that she has passed away (however, I forgave her before she died and told her so). She no longer has the opportunity or the means to insult me or my husband, my children or my decisions regarding my children. So it is easier to live with the memories and have a peace I didn’t have before.
Another thing that is the same. Trusting others has been hard for me all my life. I see now it stems from the childhood I had where I couldn’t trust my parents to meet my emotional needs. I still struggle with that. I just have a really hard time trusting those people God has put into my life as caregivers (including my husband, my therapist, my psychiatrist, my internist, etc.)
However, what is different is the way I deal with those thoughts and feelings of distrust. I remind myself that those people are not my parents who failed to meet my emotional needs or to demonstrate the appropriate emotion regulation coping mechanisms that allow for a maturity in adulthood. I now tell myself these are good, caring, loving, and accepting people in whom I can place my trust.
So there are some things that are the same, but with those come some different ways of dealing with those thoughts and feelings that could lead to the self-destructive behaviors of the past. I’ve learned some things in the last nine years. That is good to discover and gives me encouragement for change in the future.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Inmost Being

In my Quiet Times I’ve been reading a promise a day off some download from the Internet I got. I’ve found them refreshing and encouraging for the most part. And this week I read one that had me asking some questions and doing some research.
The promise for May 4th said, “I gently formed you in your mother’s womb.”
It was based on a verse very familiar to me, and probably to you. Psalm 139:13 in the NIV says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” The Amplified version of the Bible says it in a very similar way: “For You did form my inward parts; You did knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
What does my inmost being or inward parts consist of? That is the question I asked myself as I meditated on this verse. First I looked up the definition of “inmost.” The definition that spoke to me the most said inmost meant “deepest within; farthest from the outside.” The example sentence they gave lent itself to further clarification for me: “She revealed her inmost thoughts and feelings.”
I think that’s what are inmost being is – our thoughts and feelings. The very things which cannot be seen from the outside. The hidden parts of our personalities and beliefs. The things that only those closest to us can see; and not all of those people can see the inmost being, either. And Psalm 139:13 tells us that God formed those parts of all that we are.
So, God created my inmost thoughts and feelings. The thoughts and feelings that are the farthest from the outside, from the surface. Often times, these inmost parts of me can only be revealed by me, should I choose to reveal them to someone. They are not seen by others unless I want them to be seen.
There are a few people in my life that can look at me and see that there’s something wrong with my inmost being. Those people are very few. They know what signs to look for in my behaviors. But they’ve had to learn that over time and because I have let them in to my inmost thoughts and feelings. Even these people usually do not know specifically what the unrest in my inmost being is; they just know there’s something going on and are not privy to that information unless I choose to tell them.
However, where other people cannot see and know my inmost being, there is One who can – the One who created that part of me. God created the inmost thoughts, feelings, beliefs and dispositions of me. So, He understands and sees and knows what signs there are that mean my inmost being is in a state of unrest. He created me this way. That could make me angry (He gave me, by His design, my illnesses: bipolar, diabetes, and alcoholism, etc.) However if I remember that He's the most loving and caring being in the world, then He didn't do those things in me to make me miserable, but to give me some kind of purpose and hope (Jeremiah 29:11). So, today I can accept and praise God for His creation of me, just as I am. There's a purpose in it even if I can't see what it might be.