Archive | February 2015

Longing for Spock-Suppressed Emotions?

spock_0

 

 

 

“Just snap out of it!” What psychiatrist would ever prescribe that treatment for depression? One did. Lucy charged Charlie Brown five cents for that advice. Sadly, we know that it’s not possible to just snap out of it.

So what do we do with our fears and frustrations, regret and remorse, guilt and grief, sorrow and shame? Can we silence those painful feelings which result from mental illness (MI)? Why can’t we just face illogical situations without reacting?

Spock did it in Star Trek. But he was a fictitious alien. That character was portrayed by a real man with human emotions. In the New York Times’ article “Leonard Nimoy, Spock of ‘Star Trek,’ Dies at 83” Virginia Heffernan shared one of Nimoy’s statements.

“‘To this day, I sense Vulcan speech patterns, Vulcan social attitudes and even Vulcan patterns of logic and emotional suppression in my behavior,’ Mr. Nimoy wrote years after the original series ended.”

Is it possible to suppress emotions? Would it be wise to wave a wand over our child’s head and magically remove all feeling? Would it be better to spare him any future pain of MI at the expense of feeling anymore joy?

When Chris had to endure his first stay in a psychiatric unit I don’t know who was in greater pain: him or me. My seventeen-year-old son’s body lay on my lap in a fetal position crying, “Why? Why can’t I go home?” The gentle strokes of my fingers on his head couldn’t wipe away his turmoil.

It took several months for Chris to become functional enough to return to school. My own heartache grew so excruciating that I became numb. I’d watch movies to escape the tragic reality of my life. Even tear-jerking story lines couldn’t cause me to shed a tear. I had already cried an ocean-full.

The book of Psalms became my comfort. I identified with the Psalmist who engaged in healthy self-talk.

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God (Psalm 42:5, and 11).”

The Psalmist showed me a better way to escape. In the privacy of my bedroom, I could turn to God and find refuge in Him. Psalm 57:1 became my prayer.

“Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.”

God led Chris to a psychiatrist and psychologist who were both Christians. Those men provided godly advice. Healing words for Chris and for me. I’ll forever be grateful for their expertise. But also feel, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans (Psalm 118:8).”

I’ve learned that, “The righteous will rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him; all the upright in heart will glory in him (Psalm 64:10)!”

I found relief in the promises of Psalm 51: 10 and 12. That God would restore my joy and sustain me.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me (Psalm 51:10, 12).”

So would it be better to be like Spock, void of emotions? Having experienced the joy of the Lord and knowing His perfect peace, I say no! I’m glad I’m not like Spock.

But here’s a thought. We can actually achieve Spock’s blessing: “Live long and prosper.” Christians have been given the gift of eternal life and have access to God’s unlimited riches.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).”

Just close your eyes and picture this heavenly scene:

“Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-7).”

We may not know what tomorrow holds, but we have a living hope. So we can join Peter and say, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:3-4).”

We WILL certainly live long and prosper. I don’t know about you, but I’m grateful for emotions. With the ability to love and be loved by God.

By the way, Virginia Heffernan explained why Leonard Nimoy chose his split-finger salute for Spock’s character. She wrote that, “He based it on the kohanic blessing, a manual approximation of the Hebrew letter shin, which is the first letter in Shaddai, one of the Hebrew names for God.”

What a wonderful way to greet others: by sharing God!

Advertisements

Cast

emotions.healing

Imagine having enough money to hire someone to worry for you. The designated worry wart would provide you with care-free thinking and peaceful emotions. Their job description: take on all your anxiety. Specific tasks would include: wringing hands, enduring sleepless nights, and imagining worst-case scenarios (however unrealistic). The trusted employee would promise to: never share any of their negative thoughts or painful emotions with you, never offer you any advice to improve situations, and never pass along encouraging words to you.

Sounds like an enticing proposition, huh? It would only work if you turned over your concerns completely. Holding anything back would keep you in the worry loop. Maybe having enough money for that extravagance isn’t your biggest problem. If you’re anything like me, the complete release would be the greatest challenge.

Why do I find it so hard to leave my concerns at the throne of God?

Recently football gave me insight into why I withhold my cares. A quarterback has to fully release the ball in order to be part of a successful pass completion. Once he throws the ball, he relies on the skill of the receiver to catch it. Not every ball is caught. Athletes are human.

But we have access to a perfect Receiver. If we toss our cares heavenward, God has promised to receive them. However, we must fully release them. We know He has the almighty power to handle our problems. We sometimes lack the willingness to trust Him with all the details.

Here’s a peek into my half-hearted trust:

Heavenly Father, please protect Chris as he ventures into the city. Thank You that You go with him wherever he travels. I know You love Chris with a love more perfect than mine.

As night falls and Chris hasn’t yet returned, the worries I held back begin to emerge.

Did Chris wear warm clothes. What if he missed the last train out of the city? Has he been harmed?

I’m like a quarterback who thrusts his hand forward, while keeping his fingers tightly gripped on the ball. What’s the point of worrying? Do I really think it will do any good?

My worrying leads to guilt feelings. I feel like my faith is weak and I’ve failed in my walk with the Lord.

Thankfully, God knows I’d need assurances. He leads me to these reminders:

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken (Psalm 55:22).”

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).”

The next time I’m facing a potentially worrisome event, I’ll picture my thoughts tucked inside a football. With my mind’s eye focused on God, I’ll imagine throwing the package full of care His way. And “watch” my fingers unfold from the ball and fold again in prayer.


Raising a child with mental illness (MI) can be a lonely journey. Other words which include ‘cast’ come to mind. Like castaway. Do you feel like you’ve been cast aside? Left all alone like a castaway?

Have you been so devastated that you feel downcast? On the brink of depression?

Imagine Christ putting a cast around your heart. Like a cushion to stabilize your emotions while they heal. Feel His arms embrace you. And cast your eyes upon Him.

The lyrics of “Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus” remind us of the benefits of shifting our focus towards Christ.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of His glory and grace.

Rest in His peace as you listen to ‘Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus’ by Alan Jackson

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nO4uIyz_d90

Overtaken

race.overtaken

 

 

 

It’s rare when a teenager teaches his parent something. That’s what happened when our son, Rob joined the track team in seventh grade. A completely new venture for him.

“Mom, do you wanna come watch our first home meet?” Rob asked.

“Sure. I’ll be there.”

I approached the bleachers with great anticipation. Excitement filled my heart. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach. The gun signaled the start of the race. My face beamed as I watched Rob spring into action. Hope oozed through my tightly-squeezed folded hands. I rocked in pace with his step as if I could help him soar.

Gradually, the pack of runners divided into two. A bunch of fierce competitors bolted ahead with the speed of gazelles. A smaller clump of runners drifted further and further back. I found Rob in that back bunch. Runner after runner overtook him. Every competitor passed him. All but one.

My hands went limp. My heart sunk. I began searching for wise words to give Rob. How could I console him?

Oh well. He tried. But that kind of loss will surely make him want to quit. Should I let him quit?

At the end of the meet, I waited in the car to take Rob home. I spotted him approaching the car and braced myself. Then I noticed he had a bounce in his step and a smile on his face.

“Did you see that Mom? I beat out one kid!” he proudly proclaimed. Grinning as if he’d won.

His words left me speechless. I hadn’t anticipated such an upbeat response. Suddenly my heart was full of pride.

“Yes, Rob. Good job.”

The runners who had overtaken him didn’t discourage him. Because he had a different perspective. His focus wasn’t on the mass of kids who had run faster. Rob rejoiced in the one he had passed.

The next time he ran, I witnessed him pass two runners. The following meet, he passed three. Each race filled his heart with great rejoicing. Always viewing his triumphs instead of defeats.

Rob’s focus taught me how to focus. Not on trials. But on God’s blessings. Not on the cares of this earth. But on future treasures in heaven. Not on huge burdens. But on His power.

As moms raising children with mental illness (MI) we have to deal with our own emotions. Sadness for the turmoil our child experiences. Grief over the loss of our once happy-go-lucky child. Despair due to lack of effective treatments. Frustration because of others who don’t understand: teachers, mental health care workers, siblings, or husbands.

But sorrow doesn’t have to engulf us. Worry doesn’t have to overtake our thoughts. Like Rob, we can choose what to focus on. Each day we can begin with this resolution: with God’s help, I’ll look for the blessings my heavenly Father puts in my life. I’ll keep my mind’s eyes on Him. Searching for His faithfulness and provision.

Some children with mental illness (MI) can’t easily choose their outlook. Some don’t have complete control over their thoughts. Distorted thinking creates false realities. A mind filled with paranoia convinces the person that others seek to harm him. Resulting fears are very real. Their thoughts overtake them.

Darkness may surround us and attempt to overtake us. But we need not be swept away by our circumstances. We need not flail as if drowning in an emotional tsunami. We have the words in Isaiah 35 to comfort our soul. With thoughts firmly fixed on eternity, our sadness fades. Images of life in heaven squelch our sorrow. Hope returns. Once again, we’re able to envision an end to our tears. We picture new bodies without MI. Then our sadness is overtaken by gladness and joy.

“They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads.

Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away (Isaiah 35:10).”

Perspective

One Perspective

One Perspective

Another Perspective

Another Perspective

 

 

 

 

 

Finish this sentence: when it starts snowing, I …

Maybe you find delight and:

  • Pray for a day off from school
  • Go skiing
  • Earn tons of money removing it
  • Take pictures
  • Make a snowman

Or maybe you dread it and:

  • Scream, “Not again!!!”
  • Search for a sitter for the kids
  • Hurt your back shoveling

When I taught 2nd graders, faint snowflakes would spark an avalanche of excitement. Teachers would dread it. Students would love it.

The invasion of the frozen precipitation would threaten to sabotage my lessons. It often seemed as if the winter storm had blown their attention right out the window. I’d have a choice: to maintain my dismal perspective of the situation or join them in their delight.

I found it helped to adopt my students’ perspective. Rather than fight to win back their attention, I’d embrace their exhilaration. They simply needed the opportunity to release their enjoyment.

“Boys and girls, it’s snowing outside. We’re all going to celebrate at the same time. I’ll dismiss you row, by row. Once everyone is assembled by the window, I’ll open the curtains and we’ll all explode with enthusiasm. Get it out of your system so you can concentrate on your lessons when you return to your desks.”

Recently we got hit with another snowstorm. My first reaction was disgust.

Great. Now I’ll have to clean the snow off my car so I can get to the store.

With my car finally snowless, I was ready to get on with my errands. I grabbed my purse and also my camera.

Maybe I’ll want to take some pictures.

At first, all I noticed was the filthy dirty snow that lined the street. Definitely not a Kodak moment. I had to force myself to look beyond the cinder-splattered snow to find spotless snow scenes.

I wondered. Can we force ourselves to view our circumstances differently? Is it possible to find pleasant thoughts among the unhappy experiences of raising a child with mental illness (MI)? I think so.

If I was able to deliberately ignore the dirty snow and focus on the pure white snow, I can make a conscious effort to view my trials in a new way. I can occupy my thoughts with of MI, or look for God’s pure and perfect purpose in allowing it. I can search for His hand in the situation.

If we searched for Him in the trial, what would we find?

Like the Israelites, we’d become more certain that He is the LORD our God who brings us out from under our burdens.

“ ‘I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.’”  Exodus 6:7

Like the Israelites, we’d discover others seeing God’s power in our lives.

“for the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”    Joshua 4:23-24

Like Christ’s disciples, we’d witness His works in afflictions.

“Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’

“Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.’”   John 9:1-3

Like the Mary and Martha, we’d see God glorified through the trial.

“When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.  Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was…Then Jesus said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.’”  John 11:4-6, 14-15

May God help you find Him throughout your day today.

Speechless

SPEECHLESS

Silence fell over the college dining hall. Everyone savored each bite of the roast beef. Back in the day, such a meal came only once a year—at final time. Usually we had to choose from one form of “mystery meat” or the salad bar. Entrees often tasted like hospital food. So roast beef was a real treat. We didn’t want to interrupt the taste sensation with casual chatter. We were speechless.

Other things which delight our senses can leave us speechless. A breathtaking sunset which could never be captured. An unmatched athletic fete which would appear impossible to duplicate. An orchestra performance which could only be rewarded by a standing ovation.

The temporary inability to speak is usually caused by strong emotions. Either good or bad. Horror can render one speechless. Like news of the death of a loved one.

Often there are no words to describe secret pain suffered. A mother watching her child struggle with mental illness (MI) doesn’t even attempt to explain what’s in her heart. The carefree smile on her child’s face has been replaced with a dark stare. The young head that used to tip backwards in bubbling giggles now hangs down like a heavy wet rag. Her child once used to be the life of a party. Now she’s an empty shell of a person. Lifeless.

No words can explain the sorrow.

Mothers aren’t the only ones left speechless in the wake of MI. Sometimes our children with MI don’t speak. Clinical depression robs them of any desire to communicate. How their parents long for happy conversations!

Refraining from speaking isn’t always a bad thing. The best response often is silence. Whenever Chris fires unprovoked anger my way, I shoot a quick prayer heavenward. Asking God to help me remain silent. Whenever Chris makes an odd statement, Howie listens without response. Withholding our anger or judgment delivers an unspoken blessing to Chris. Silence conveys our unconditional love.

Poets and leaders have written about the value of silence.

Thomas Hardy (1840-1926), the British novelist and poet observed, “That man’s silence is wonderful to listen to.”

Winston Churchill (1874-1965), the British politician, pointed out, “When the eagles are silent the parrots begin to jabber.”

Mark Twain (1835-1910), a man known for his words, touted the benefits of silence. He chose strong descriptors to convey his passion about a pause. “The Pause; that impressive silence, that eloquent silence, that geometrically progressive silence which often achieves a desired effect where no combination of words however so felicitous, could accomplish it.”

What about the Bible? Does it tell us anything about silence? Christ often didn’t respond. He used silence to convey a powerful message or to make a point. Sometimes His silence was coupled with a look. Peter experienced one of those.

“Peter replied, ‘Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!’ Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times (Luke 22:60-61).’”

We find biblical warnings associated with talking in Proverbs. Verse nineteen in chapter ten tells us that, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”

That’s what moms raising kids with MI need. Wisdom. Scripture emphasizes the importance of investing serious contemplation before speaking.

“The heart of the righteous studies how to answer (Proverbs 15:28  NKJV).”

Knowing how fragile our children are, we choose our words wisely.

Proverbs 17:27 instructs us to use words sparingly. It provides a formula for a calm spirit. Knowledge + understanding + few words = a calm spirit.

“He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.”

As we minister to our children with MI we seek a calm spirit. For our children and for us. We not only find serenity in carefully chosen words. We find peace in God’s glory. His creation leaves us breathless and reminds us of His power. In Him we have an all-powerful King who offers unlimited hope.

Phil Wickham, in his song ‘This is Amazing Grace’ sings about how God’s glory which leaves us breathless.

“Who shakes the whole earth with holy thunder

And leaves us breathless in awe and wonder

The King of Glory, the King above all kings”

Reflect on that breathless wonder as you listen to, ‘This Is Amazing Grace’ Phil Wickham    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgsbaBIaoVc