Mental Health Perceptions- Part 3

I often feel very grateful to God that I have undergone fearful depression. I know the borders of despair and the horrible brink of that gulf of darkness into which my feet have almost gone. But hundreds of times I have been able to give a helpful grip to brethren and sisters who have come into that same condition, which grip I could never have given if I had not known their deep despondency.

~Charles Spurgeon

A tendency to melancholy let it be observed, is a misfortune, not a fault.

~Abraham Lincoln

Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.

~C.S. Lewis

My last point, but definitely not least, from my thoughts on mental health is the idea that if a person deals with a mental illness it is:

3. An indication that the individual has a spiritual problem or not enough faith.

I have actually heard sermons and been in church services which indicated that those who were depressed or suffered from anxiety had a “spirit” of depression or anxiety. To me this type of statement seems to indicate that the illness was somehow due to a weakened spiritual state of the person. That the person had a choice in allowing some type of mental illness in occurring. The implication being that the mental illness would not have happened if the person would have been praying enough, reading the Bible enough, attending church enough, thinking of others first, etc.

Of course this line of thinking is incredibly flawed! It’s like saying a person has a “spirit of cancer or a spirit of a broken leg.” This sounds absolutely ludicrous….because it is!

Now is it possible for a person with a mental illness to not know God or need to grow spiritually? Certainly, we are all made up of a body, soul, spirit and all three are interconnected and impact the others. However, there may also be room for spiritual growth in someone who is overweight, has high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc., too! Just saying. So automatically putting those who have mental illnesses in a category of “not having enough faith,” not having a relationship with God, etc. is a false notion. Other types of illnesses are not usually labeled/categorized the way mental illnesses can be by some in the church. 

Those within the church or religious groups are most certainly not called to make this type of judgment about others. At most, Christians are called to examine spiritual fruit in others. Do they show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? They honestly might! And maybe, just maybe, if the spiritual fruit isn’t there, it could be because the tree (or the person) needs to be nurtured and restored to health! Also, no one is perfect! We all have weaknesses God has to help us with. Just some thoughts here…

Some of the greatest Christian leaders of all time suffered from depression. Mother Teresa, C.S. Lewis, Charles Spurgeon, and Abraham Lincoln are a few that come to mind. Were those individuals less than others because they carried the burden of a mental illness? I believe they were even more amazing because of it. The determination, strength, perseverance, depth of character, profound ability to love and empathize with others are just a tip of the iceberg in what made these individuals incredible. They were awesome not just in spite of, but because of their illness. Their weakness became their strength.  To be sick and still shine, to lead, to love like they did, makes them seem like superheroes to me.

And to question whether or not they were close to God or had enough faith seems ridiculous. The fruit of the spirit in their life shows that. The fact that they persevered through life’s ups and downs despite the difficulties, is nothing short of amazing! God was definitely at work in the life of each of these individuals.

I guess this wraps up the thoughts I wanted to share on mental health perceptions. This topic is definitely something I feel pretty passionately about. One reason is due to the number of suicides I have personally known about. It breaks my heart that those who were struggling did not for whatever reason have the emotional/psychological support that they needed. It makes me sad to think it may have been because of a stigma that they didn’t reach out for help or others didn’t reach out to the person struggling. It is surprising and awful to me to hear it said “we didn’t know they were going through anything” or “if only someone knew.” 

The stigma of mental illness needs to change. Mental illness is most definitely not an implication of an individual’s lack of faith. If anything, illness of any kind should cause those of faith to reach out, to be of service, and to offer compassion and love. We are called to love others as Christ did.

The people with very hard problems are understood by God. He knows what wretched machines they are trying to drive. Some day he will fling them away and give those people new ones; then they may astonish everyone, for they learned their driving in a hard school. Some of the last will be first and some of the first will be last.

~C.S. Lewis


Blessings.

Your friend,

Tiffany

A Heart That Truly Cares

A friend shared the following quote recently. I know people who are much more preoccupied with appearances and material things than what really matters-having a heart that truly cares about others and loving God. I read a quote the other day that said to teach your children two things and you’d taught them well: to love God with all of their heart and to have a heart of compassion for others. The things that actually matter are loving God, loving others, and sharing hope with all. The following quote by Jenn Kish (along the same lines) resonated with me too.

On the day your life is required of you, it won’t matter if you kept a clean house.

No one will ask what shade of grey your walls were painted.

There will be no chatter about the type of car you drove or how many bedrooms were in your home.

What will matter to people, is how you made them feel.

Did you make them feel loved? Less alone? Important?

Did you point them to Jesus?

On the day your life is required of you it won’t matter if you have five dollars or five million dollars.

What will matter to you, is what you did with Jesus.

~Jenn Kish

My prayer has always been that others feel loved and and significant when they are around me. Never “preached” to, judged by, or ignored. While no one is perfect, I hope others feel Jesus’ love from me. All the other stuff has never been or will ever be important.

Blessings, friends.

Your friend,

Tiffany

Groundhog Day and Autism

(Originally shared last year on 2/1/21.)

I know I share a lot about autism and yes it is probably because we deal with it on a daily basis. I wanted to share the following, not because I feel sorry for myself or because we’re having a harder time than usual dealing with Landon’s disability. I wanted to share it because I think it’s a pretty profound and very good example of how it feels to live with a child with autism. I’ve honestly never heard such a good analogy. The analogy is “having a child with autism is like living in the movie Groundhog Day.”

Awhile back I began reading a book which was recommended to Murry and I called Wrestling With An Angel (Greg Lucas). It is an excellent book written by a police officer who has a severely disabled son. If you are interested in seeing what it really is like living with a child with a disability, this is a great book to read. (Note: This is not a feel good book and kinda heavy, but very authentic and you might need some Kleenex if you do read it.) I guess the Groundhog Day analogy is a bit more light-hearted but super good and true!

A family member sent us the Welcome to Holland Poem awhile back and Murry wrote the following after reading the poem. I thought it was so good!!! Raising a child with autism is almost identical to living in Groundhog Day each and every day. We are so thankful for the encouragement, prayers, help and support we have received along this journey of having a child with a disability.

The following is what Murry wrote:

If you haven’t read WELCOME TO HOLLAND by Emily Perl Kingsley, I encourage you to read the long unabridged version. It is really good. 

However, I would liken our autism experience allegorically (not exactly of course) to Punxsutawney PA… specifically in the movie Groundhog Day. It is never a vacation… Holland or Italy doesn’t exist.  You are there to work. Like in the movie you realize that you were meant to learn that it isn’t about you and your dreams… you were meant to help others.   

Yet, in this world you learn that you will always be stuck in the same day even if you learn your lesson… whatever it is. Lol..  Knowing you will never see Holland or Italy… you are always in Punxsutawney. 

There are a lot of good things. You learn to play piano (or musical chairs), take CPR (literally for your child’s sake), save other people falling from trees (or autism panic and in other dark places)… hoping that you will do your part leading people to Heaven than you otherwise would. 

Also there are great people in Punxsutawney that are loving and helpful. But most of those people don’t know they are in Groundhog Day. Only those who are also living with a child with autism. 

If you know of someone who needs encouragement or someone to talk to please call a Christian who has a child with autism. We have had those people in our lives. They are always encouraging, always finding God in everything, and NOT always having the all answers… but knowing that He does. 

Your friend,

Tiffany

Setbacks

Life is moving so fast it’s hard to keep up lately. I’m so thankful that we are over all the sickness at our house, but ready or not life is at full throttle now. With co-op/homeschool classes for the oldest child, homeschool for the middle one, and the youngest in public school, (not to mention 2 dogs, the husband’s busy work schedule, and basic day to day stuff) it can be a wild ride! 

Unfortunately, lately Landon (our child with autism), has had some setbacks. His aggression at school is ramping up despite taking a combination of five different medications. It has taken us literally years and suffering through multiple trial and error attempts to get the right combination of meds that help him the most. Unfortunately, his symptoms and behaviors are curbed only for a short time before he grows, his body becomes accustomed to the meds, and things have to be tweaked or changed completely. 

I really can’t adequately describe the helpless feeling I have when I get a note home about him hitting other students and teachers, having multiple crying spells, not staying dressed due to his sensory issues, etc. I don’t know what to do other than reach out to his doctor, make her aware of the situation and pray. At home he is not necessarily aggressive, but extremely hyperactive. To me, it seems the hyperactivity and sensory issues are what cause him to hit, etc., it isn’t necessarily anger. Those factors combined with the fact that he is primarily non-verbal contribute to his difficult behaviors….and boy are they seriously difficult!

I don’t remember what it feels like not to be bone tired. I wake up tired, push through the day tired, and go to bed exhausted. Despite all of this, I like to find the good in each day and consciously remind myself that God sees it all and is in control.

Friend, if you are struggling with an extremely hard situation, please know that you are not alone in your circumstances whatever they may be. Let this be your reminder that God sees you and is with you. He is reaching down to you and is aware of everything going on in your life. He has the hairs on your head numbered and promises to work all things for your good. The setbacks aren’t forever even if it feels that way. I truly believe God has a plan and purpose for everything in life. However, I know how hard it can be to find the positive parts of life when it feels like wave after wave of negatives come crashing in. So today, I chose to think about some positives instead of worrying about the not so good aspects. Here are a few pics of “good” from the last few days.  What are the positive snapshots from your life lately?

Blessings.

Your friend,

Tiffany


Mental Health Perceptions- Part 2

Yesterday, I posted part 1 of Mental Health Perceptions. (Today I am writing this as I am caring for my son with autism, so I hope you are able to overlook any spelling/grammatical errors I may make. 😊)

To quickly recap I listed the following three thoughts I had regarding the way mental health issues are treated by many (not all, of course.) Those three points are:

  1. not real, all in someone’s head
  2. not an illness or not having a physical/physiological cause
  3. indication of having a spiritual problem

I discussed point one yesterday, and today will explain my thoughts on the next which is that mental health issues are:

2.Not an “illness” having a physical/physiological cause.

I am not a doctor or by any means saying all mental illnesses have a physiological cause, but I believe many if not most do. Whether a psychological event caused the physical component of the mental illness or the mental illness caused a physiological issue within a person’s body, it is a real illness often with a physical component. Perhaps the correct tests, documentation have not been given. Even, if it can’t be seen or hasn’t been measured, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. A person’s words and behaviors prove otherwise. I was studying this topic several months ago and found the following regarding mood disorders such as clinical depression, bipolar disorder, indicating neural dysfunction within these illnesses. (Sorry, if the following is overboard on the medical jargon, just felt it really explains the physical/physiological nature of mental illnesses.)

“Several studies suggested the neural networks modulating aspects of emotional behaviour to be implicated in the pathophysiology of mood disorders. These networks involve the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) and closely related areas in the medial and caudolateral orbital cortex (medial prefrontal network), amygdala, hippocampus, and ventromedial parts of the basal ganglia, where alterations in grey matter volume and neurophysiological activity are found in cases with recurrent depressive episodes. Such findings hold major implications for models of the neurocircuits that underlie depression. In particular, evidence from lesion analysis studies suggests that MPFC and related limbic and striato-pallido-thalamic structures organize emotional expression. The aim of this paper is to review the contribution of the most relevant studies with single photon emission tomography (SPECT), positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to the understanding of pathophysiology of major depressive disorder (MDD), with particular focus on the reversibility of functional correlates with treatment.” (Anatomical and functional correlates in major depressive disorder: the contribution of neuroimaging studies Silvia Rigucci et al. World J Biol Psychiatry. 2010 Mar.)

“Although mood disorders constitute leading causes of disability, until recently little was known about their pathogenesis. The delineation of anatomical networks that support emotional behavior (mainly derived from animal studies) and the development of neuroimaging technologies that allow in vivo characterization of anatomy, physiology, and neurochemistry in human subjects with mood disorders have enabled significant advances towards elucidating the pathophysiology of major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder (BD). In this review, we integrate insights from human and animal studies, which collectively suggest that MDD and BD involve dysfunction within an extended network including the medial prefrontal cortex and anatomically-related limbic, striatal, thalamic and basal forebrain structures.

(Abstract from Neural circuits underlying the pathophysiology of mood disorders Joseph L Price et al. Trends Cogn Sci. 2012 Jan.)

Again, medical jargon aside, the basic gist of the above sources indicate an actual, measurable dysfunction within different parts of the brain in certain mental/mood disorders….you know like an illness affecting any other organ of the body. 

I’m sure this is widely understood and known among doctors and those within the medical community and has been for some time. Unfortunately, there still seems to be a huge chasm in this understanding among the general public…at least from my point of view.  This understanding is so important for those who have a mental illness to get proper and effective treatment and for it to be classified by all as an illness like any other. 

I know that was a lot of info. 🙂 Next time I’ll wrap this whole discussion up with thoughts about spirituality/religion and mental illness.  

Blessings.

Your friend,

Tiffany

Mental Health Perceptions- Part 1

I was totally going to post something more light-hearted today about my “many forms of therapy.” I’ll definitely post about that later, however, the seriousness of mental health problems and the way these issues are so often dealt with often weigh heavy on my heart and mind. 

From my own experiences in life, it seems as though mental health disorders are treated by many (not by all) as one or more of the following:

  1. not real, all in someone’s head
  2. not an illness or not having a physical/physiological cause
  3. indication of having a spiritual problem


Not real/all in someone’s head

I’m sure I’m leaving out some points, but the thoughts listed above came to mind first. Why would the average person say that they had a mental illness? They know stating this could possibly cause others to label them with all sort of hurtful words. They know it could cause some ostracism. Yet, they admit they have a mental health problem. (This is not referring to someone who might claim a mental health illness to receive financial compensation or to “get off the hook” for a crime, but just the average person.) Why would they admit to a mental health illness? Probably because they have one.

On the other end of the spectrum, some individuals with a mental illness may never admit to or discuss it for the very same reasons-ostracism, labels, avoiding negative reactions from others.

I’d rather take someone seriously about this issue than not, and have a tragedy occur. I would rather believe them and offer support or point them in the right direction for help, than to disregard a mental health issue. I would hope those I know would feel comfortable knowing they could come to me to discuss mental health without negative reactions.

If a mental illness was a different form of illness, how would it be treated? If, for example, someone stated that they had an ongoing heart condition and weren’t feeling well, that person would be taken seriously by most. They would be offered medical assistance/support. Prescribed medicine, sympathized with, helped, comforted. They would not be given labels. They would be taken seriously. So why the difference? 

To me, Christians, should be the first on the list at offering support and love regardless of the illness. This isn’t always the case. (Again, not saying this goes for all.) We aren’t called to judge or determine what is “real,” we are called to love, regardless. To be like Christ, we should care and extend love and grace.

Some groups of people are excellent at providing this type of support and others, not so much. I pray I’m always one to offer support, love and help, judgement free to those I know who are struggling in this way. This world can be harsh, hard, and cold. To me, those who have an illness of any sort need extra compassion and kindness shown to them on the regular. I hope to sow the qualities St. Francis so beautifully described: love, pardon, faith, hope, light, and joy. You just never know if the kindness you extend is exactly what someone needs at a certain moment in time.

I plan to most more on this soon! Hope your day is blessed. 💕

Your friend,

Tiffany

Walking With A Limp

The following is hard for me to completely understand at times, however, it is very heartening. I hope the following encourages you, also.

Your friend,

Tiffany

Your weaknesses and vulnerabilities do not stop God using you. In fact, God often uses our weaknesses more than our strengths. God did not remove Paul’s thorn in the flesh. Rather he said, ‘my power is made perfect in weakness’ (v.8).

Perhaps you feel you have a ‘thorn in the flesh’ or you seem to be ‘walking with a limp’: you have some vulnerability or apparent handicap. Jackie Pullinger says she never trusts anyone who doesn’t walk with a limp!

~Excerpt from Devotion Day 16, Bible In One Year 2020 with Nicky Gumble

My January Tree (Part 2)

My goldendoodle and youngest son must have wanted me to redo my January tree. Both kept pulling off ornaments and the faux pearls nonstop. I finally removed the pearls and replaced with some mesh ribbon. It turned out okay, but I do wonder how long the decorations will last this time. 😂

I have totally enjoyed having the tree up despite my boys keeping me on my toes with the decorations. It rains so much where we live and the bright warmth from the tree is very uplifting. I love writing there, near the tree and just thinking while I stare at it. It’s almost like watching a fire- the way it’s mesmerizing and relaxing. I often find myself replaying memories and great conversations in my mind while I’m looking at it.

As strange as a year round tree might seem to some, I’m very glad that I left it up! I’ve already started gathering ideas for the Valentine Tree next month.

Hope your day is full of light and warmth! Blessings.

Your friend,

Tiffany

Personality, Purpose, and “More”

I love studying personality types. I know there are a variety of personality typing systems- MBTI, DISC, Enneagram- but my favorite is probably MBTI. I know this topic is soooo boring to some, but I find it truly fascinating especially because I have legitimately seen my personality type shift over the years. I was always an ISFJ (Introverted, Sensing, Feeling, Judge)…like every time I took the test. (I know, I know some of you may be thinking why in the world would you take tests like that, but I enjoy understanding humans- myself and others- what can I say?) So autism enters my life and my “J” quickly became a “P.” My “S” became more “N.” I will always be an Introvert (think 90%) and a Feeler (about 85%)…but my personality type is INFP now. My point in saying all this is to say life circumstances really can change you. I don’t stress now if plans change! 😂 I almost expect them to.

I totally planned to post recently but with things being a little chaotic at home lately, I haven’t had the chance. Unfortunately I succumbed to the stomach virus which lasted several days. 🥴🥴🥴 If I have learned anything in this life, especially since my son with autism has been in our lives it is the following

~Go with the flow

When things change, I just adapt and go with it. I don’t stress about the change. I just ride the waves of life now. Enter “perceiver” component of my personality and goodbye “judger/planner/organizer.”

~Take one day at a time. 

Now I rarely plan beyond a day or two. I mean I might tentatively plan things, but I am fully aware of the very real possibility of a long term plan changing so I’m ready for it! I’m totally ready for plans to change in a moment! 😂

~Have faith in the future and what I can’t see. 

I guess before autism entered my world I relied more on myself and life was honestly pretty perfect or I guess I should say pretty perfect in the “normal” sense. But when something enters your life that you have no power to change, to control, sometimes to even understand, you have to rely on what you can’t see. You have to trust that an unseen God is truly omniscient (all knowing) omnipotent (all powerful) omnipresent (present everywhere) and has a plan and purpose for the difficult circumstances that enter our life. I have to believe and dream and just know there is purpose in everything I face. I totally believe in this universe and beyond in the future in all that isn’t seen in the here in now, there is a much larger plan at work! So enter “Intuitive” or N into my personality type. 😊

I read the following today, and I wanted to share it with you. It’s an excerpt from Brian Houston’s “There is More.”

Today’s Scripture (Ephesians 3:14-21) is the same as on Day 1 because the promise that is embedded within this passage is so important in daily causing us to lift our eyes higher and dream bigger and go deeper into the unending capacity of the one who saved us and set us free.

No matter what you have experienced or are experiencing, I want to declare to you…

On the other side of this triumph, there is more.

On the other side of that failure, there is more.

On the other side of this sickness, there is more.

On the other side of your mountain, there is more.

On the other side of this heartache, there is more.

On the other side of this earth, there is so much more. 

Nothing gets lost. If you feel unsure or unsteady, lost or overlooked, or you simply need to be reminded again, let me be the one to do that. He sees you. He knows you—better than you could know yourself—and He waits with open arms, available with anything you need. Today, let me assure you that you are adopted into the family of God and an heir to an unending throne and an inheritance that will outlast space and time. Your portion is exceedingly, abundantly above anything you can think, ask, or imagine. 

So here’s the challenge. Live with expectancy. Steep yourself in His promises and travel the road of obedience to Christ with your eyes wide open to every facet of His faithfulness. Make more room for others, make more space for God, and watch Him make more of your dreams—the ones you dared to pray and the ones you never have—come to life.

Thank you for the privilege of speaking into your life these past five days. I pray that as you go on from here you will feel encouraged and victorious. That you will be more aware of God’s deep love for you and the adventure that is life with Christ. There is immeasurable potential within—plans and purposes beyond your wildest dreams. There is more.

Today, how are you going to make room for God’s more in your life?

Obviously one personality type is not better than the other. We all have strengths, weaknesses, and always grow and change. Hopefully we grow and change for the better. Be gentle with yourself as you grow. Remember God totally understands that we are human and imperfect and that we live in a very imperfect world full of viruses and even disabilities. However never lose sight of the fact that there is a much bigger plan at work. We are just a tiny part of the gigantic puzzle that will all make sense one day. If we go missing even as a seemingly tiny insignificant piece, the puzzle won’t be complete. 

In this sometimes crazy world you are needed and seen…whatever your personality type, no matter your life’s circumstance. There is more. Blessings today and every day.

Your friend,

Tiffany