Hold on to Hope

Hope can at times elude me. It seems just as I get a good grasp on it, as I seem to really have my mind wrapped well around it, it slips out a back door.

Hope is a joyful experience. It is comforting like an old quilt or fluffy down comforter to be wrapped or immersed in hope. When my body is aching, again, or I am without energy to do my daily tasks, it is having hope that keeps me going.

I find my hope in the Lord. I find my hope in the belief that He works all things out for good for me, even if I don’t understand it now. That is where I am grounded, that is where the foundation of my hope lies.

I believe I am also given the gift of hope through people and their stories, their faith, their courage. When I am hurting so badly that I feel taking a shower would be too much work, I am given hope when I reflect on what others I know have contended with. When someone shares an inspirational quote, a message of freedom, or a even a small success in their lives, it inspires me to hold on tighter to hope.

It can be tricky though, a person struggling with illness or depression can find their mind squeezing the hope out of a good situation. It is easy for a person struggling with depression or pain, to see another person’s victories and say to themselves, “I will never be able to do that.” or “Lucky them.” But what I encourage you to do, along with me, is when a thought like that comes into your mind immediately replace it! Be bold. Don’t hold back. Tell yourself that although you may not feel it, you are capable of good and wonderful things! You are valuable. You are worthwhile. You are important. Never mind if you don’t actually feel that way at the moment, tell yourself again! Don’t let your hope escape.

There is an element of choice here, you must choose to do it. It is not a simple task for many, including myself. But when you feel hope inside your heart, you will also feel real joy and peace.

It is worth all the effort.

I have battled with depression, among other things, since my teen years. I have not won the war entirely, but I continue to fight. We must not give up when we feel weak, we must be courageous and strong.

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.” Psalm 28:7 (NIV)

Seeking Some Light

Today I spent a great deal of time writing a “hardship” letter for our mortgage company. We are trying to sell our home via “short sale” in an effort to avoid foreclosure. Like so many Americans, my husband was laid-off in 2008 and we are still struggling to recover.

Writing a hardship letter is a bit humbling and can easily plummet you into a place of feeling a little down. I am struggling with that lately, I must admit. I reflect and look at what has happened to bring us to this financial point in our life, this point where we are grappling with acceptance of giving up our home. Acceptance in and of itself is something I could write a whole post about, but what I need to do right now, is find the beauty in my day, today.

There are moments today where I am fighting hard to save myself from gloomy thoughts (at least I’m fighting, right?). I have to purposefully choose to think on positive things. And it is only truthful to tell you that in the middle of this hard time, I am finding it difficult to find the positive things.

So, as I was in the shower and thinking to myself about how I must think on these good things, I decided right then and there that I was going to take some time to write and find them, to think on them, and to have them with me today as I fight the urge to sink down. I also had a feeling that others out there have to do this from time to time, so I choose to share . . .

For starters, I must be grateful for the love of God, who cares for me even though I am sinful and make mistakes. I thank Him for his grace and mercy. I thank Him for His son who died on the cross for all of us, so that we may live an eternal life in Heaven.

I am grateful and blessed by my children who are healthy and loving, even with their misbehaving attitudes from time to time, they are a complete joy in my life!

I am happy for the time I will be spending with family this afternoon and evening. It is comforting to know I will be surrounded by loving and supportive people who know me well.

I must think on the blessings in my life like shelter, food, and clothing. For these are such things we all take for granted.

I am thankful for new friendships, on-line via twitter, Living Whole with Chronic Pain Network, and anywhere else I might be lucky enough to meet one.

I am so grateful for the “old” friendships. They are dependable, honest, loving and gifts from God.

I am thankful for the opportunity to share with others who understand the strain depression puts on our minds, hearts and souls. I am so thankful that I can share my struggle today and not feel ashamed for admitting and facing my battle, for I am not alone. Please know that you are not alone if you are struggling with thoughts of self-doubt or negativism. We must be diligent and strong enough to turn to others for support and encouragement. It takes strength to be vulnerable.

May my efforts to see the light during a dark day somehow lighten up your load.

Offering Hope

What do you get when you combine an Australian journalist/advocate/educator with an American stay-at-home mom with Fibromyalgia learning to live a beautiful life in the midst of Chronic Pain and Illness?

Two people who care deeply for mental health issues, the stigma surrounding these issues and the desire to provide hope for those who suffer.

You also get our first candid and heartfelt “interview” together discussing topics such as the above mentioned, along with suicide prevention, depression, chronic pain (fibromyalgia) and post-traumatic stress disorder to name a few. It’s a short talk (about 20 minutes), where you will learn about our own personal struggles with these issues and our passion for shedding light on these topics.

Please take the time to listen and share with anyone you think might be helped by this information, just click on the highlighted link above (the words “our first candid and heartfelt interview”). It is a gift to be able to share our stories, our ambition to help others, and to offer hope and light to anyone who might be suffering with any of these issues.

Please note:

Tony Serve (conducting the interview) is a brilliant professional journalist, advocate and educator. You can find him at http://tonyserve.wordpress.com, as well as by the name “perthtones” on twitter.

The chronic pain support group that I mention during the interview is : Living Whole with Chronic Pain Network and can be found at http://wholelifeliving.ning.com.

The walk that I will be participating in this summer in Chicago, Illinois is called the Out of the Darkness Overnight, for more information on the walk please go to http://www.theovernight.org.

Also mentioned is the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, http://www.afsp.org. There you will find an abundance of information, including resources for prevention, for survivors who have lost loved ones to suicide, statistics, and information about the studies they are conducting.

You’ve Got My Attention

How often do you hear people discussing their last visit to the therapist or psychiatrist? Would your friends feel comfortable telling you if they were taking an anti-depressant? If a friend of yours spent last night in the ER because they were feeling suicidal and a loved one caught on, would they tell you? What if your parent was diagnosed with a mental illness and was struggling greatly, would you feel comfortable enough to ask friends and family members for help and support?

For most people, the answers to these questions involves a feeling of awkwardness, a desire to avoid the topic, a part of them might feel shameful or embarrassed when confronted with these issues. Is that you?

Are you afraid to tell your friends or coworkers that you have sought help in the past for a mental health issue? Are you be embarrassed among your colleagues to state that you work in a psychiatric hospital, for fear that they will make jokes or not take your work seriously? If so, why?

All of this is because there is a stigma around the mental health community and mental health issues, no surprise there, right? You’ve certainly heard the jokes before.

So often we do not become sensitive to issues until we have experienced them first hand. So often an issue doesn’t matter until it “hits home”. There are so many causes that deserve attention and I believe this is one of them. The stigma around the mental health community and those who suffer from mental illness should be tolerated no longer. It is too risky. What is at stake? Life.

I listened to a fabulous interview today done by Tony Serve, journalist, broadcaster, and educator based in Perth, Western Australia, that eloquently exposes this topic and the shame surrounding this stigma. Please take the time to listen to this interview as Tony interviews Dr. Alun Jones  (Wales), as he explains recent studies and the need to address this issue. Mr. Serve and Dr. Jones conduct this interview in  both a professional and sensitive manner that deserves recognition and commendation.

As the forementioned point out, mental health is not just about something “mental”, it affects our whole health, and our whole community, local and global.

You can access the interview and more of Tony Serve’s work at http://www.tonyserve.wordpress.com.

Are You Relaxed?

I can tell you this . . . I am not relaxed.

What is your world filled with right now? I hope it is peaceful, painless, and maybe even a prince or princess is involved, but in my world there are stressors galore. No spa days here. (I might seem like I am whining here for a moment, reality bites, okay?) My life is not glamourous, but I can still say that it is good.

Psalm 4:8 (NIV)

I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, O LORD,
make me dwell in safety.

It is in His promises that I find rest and comfort, but I have to truthfully admit that sometimes it is difficult for me to get there. It can be hard to recall His promises in times of stress. Sometimes, before I go looking into the Word of God, or before I pray, I must admit, the stress has already taken a toll.

As a person challenged with chronic pain (fibromyalgia), and depression among other things, I need to make full use of the gifts God has given us to aid in stress relief. If you are like me, you have read or heard the recommendations time and time again for exercise,  diet changes, adequate sleep, and the like. These things are of the utmost of importance in order to combat stress and be healthy, but I was reminded tonight as I explored a new friend’s blog, of a relaxation technique called Guided Imagery.

Tony, the fore-mentioned friend, has a blog post and a page that gives great description of what Guided Imagery is, as well as a 20 minute guided meditation you can listen to. I am really looking forward to listening to this and practicing this technique. Being still is not easy for me. My mind seems to be in over-drive most of the time, and often, unfortunately lacking in focus. It can even feel scary to be quiet for too long, for fear that my thoughts might turn to something that will trigger unwanted anxiety or “flashbacks” of memories I rather not recall. But in order to learn to truly relax, I believe I must first learn to be quiet and still.

I invite you to take this journey with me, as I will attempt to find some time away from the toddler and tween that are most frequently by my side. I hope to practice this, as it has been recommended to me many times before, and I hope to chronicle my experience to share with you.

In the meantime, as I am resting in the unknown, coping with pain, and doing my best to turn my cares over to the One who can really handle them, I pray you will find peace and relaxation in your life.