Archive | January 2016

Sadness, Depression, and Other Emotions

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Some good news came from the medical community recently. New recommendations have been made regarding screening adults for depression. Why is this good news for moms raising kids with mental illness (MI)? Because the news is elevating awareness about the prevalence of depression. Those whose lives are impacted by a loved one with depression need not feel so alone. Several reporters highlighted the need to remove the stigma surrounding MI.

The time has come to raise awareness:

USA TODAY published an article January 26th about the new guidelines for depression screening in adults. Liz Szabo shared those guidelines in her article, “Task Force: Doctors should screen all adults for depression.”

In that article, Szabo included this quote from one of the task force members.

“‘We’re hoping that our screening guidelines are an impetus to increase awareness that depression is common, it’s painful, it’s costly and it’s treatable,’ said Karina Davidson, a member of the task force and a psychologist in the department of psychiatry at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.”

The new guidelines also addressed depression in pregnant mothers. That has prompted discussions about the difference between baby blues and clinical depression that can follow the birth of a child. So, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about emotions.

Regulating Emotions:

When I taught second graders, I planned several class reinforcement activities. Often the entire class deserved to be rewarded. Instead of handing out stickers, I preferred to involve my students in fun mini-lessons. One of those was an art/music activity.

“Use your crayons to draw on your paper a design that matches the music being played,” I’d instruct.

I’d start by playing a slow, classical song. The students would move their hands slowly across their papers. Even their bodies would sway gently to the music.

Then, I’d switch to a fast, lively tune. That would trigger an instant shift in mood. Suddenly, I’d have 25 bouncing beans for students—all with heads like bobble heads. They’d make short, jerking strokes on their papers.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to shift our child’s mood so easily?

A Biblical Example of Emotional Relief:

There’s one person in the Bible who could ease a king’s torment.

1 Samuel 16:14-16 sets the stage:

“Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him. Saul’s attendants said to him, ‘See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the lyre. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes on you, and you will feel better.’

God used David to sooth Saul’s torment.

“Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him” (1 Samuel 16:23).

The Power of Music:

Can music be that powerful? It absolutely can be used to minister to a depressed child. I’m not advocating that it be the only strategy used to help a child who is depressed. A multi-disciplinary approach to treatment is necessary, where a team of specialists treat the mind and body. Skilled therapists or counselors can provide encouragement and teach coping strategies. In addition, a psychiatrist can prescribe medication to treat the neurophysiological cause for the depression.

We know it’s also important to address the spiritual well-being of our children. God is in the business of meeting those needs. He answers our prayers and faithfully fulfills His promises. In addition, the Bible gives us another tool to comfort our emotionally fragile children.

His Word is full of references to music. Click here for a list of some of those verses: Music Verses

You look at your child’s despondent face, void of expression, and wonder if playing worship songs will help restore joy. You hope it can provide relief like David’s music did for Saul. I believe it can calm turbulent emotions.

Let me share another anecdote that illustrates the power of music. Years ago, I was the Bible instructor and Assistant Director for an overnight Christian camp for handicapped children. Each summer children with a variety of special needs attended our camp for one week. Campers were assigned to groups according to their age and disabilities. One group consisted of young elementary age boys who had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). To say they were a handful to manage would be an understatement! Their schedule included a mid-day nap or resting period. Not only did those active kids need it, but so did their counselors.

Their senior counselor came to me one day seeking help. His bleary eyes reminded me of how mine looked when I’d pull an all-nighter studying at college.

“The boys won’t sleep or even rest during nap period. PLEASE, you gotta help,” he begged.

“I’ll stop by their cottage during nap period,” I promised.

Later that day, I headed toward their cottage. Before I could see the cottage, I could hear music playing loudly. The closer I got to the cottage, the more I realized the sound was coming from their room. The blasting music had a fast drumbeat. It was the kind of music you’d play at a wedding to get the guests up on their feet to dance. Surely not the kind of music you’d play to help hyperactive children drift off to sleep!

I entered the cottage and unplugged the boom box. I left with the boom box under my arm, calmly assuring the counselor, “You shouldn’t have any more problems.” And he didn’t.

That story shows how music can drastically improve the behavior of children with special needs. If it can be such a powerful behavior-management tool, surely it can calm emotions. Especially worship songs that tell of God’s love and faithfulness. Like Matt Reddman’s song ‘Your Grace Finds Me.’  Allow his lyrics minister to you:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmFJkGEv3Lw

 

 

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Finding Peace during Cold, Dark Times

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When does the season match emotions? When the sun isn’t shining and the temperature hits below freezing. That’s when some people get seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Cold and grey winter days can lead to depression.

What does SAD have to do with moms raising kids with mental illness (MI)? We can relate to the strong urge to hibernate during the winter seasons of life. Times when it seems like the journey will never end. When our discouragement meter plummets lower than subfreezing temperatures. Wouldn’t it be nice to escape by crawling into bed for days? Wouldn’t it be refreshing to curl up in a warm blanket and dream of the carefree days before MI hit?

The reality is that moms raising kids with MI can’t take a week off. Thankfully, the reality is also that God can surprise us with His peace during the darkest days.

Recently I wrote a devotional for Rest Ministries—an online Christian ministry for people with chronic illness or pain. The message, ‘Winter Surprises’ may encourage you during the long winter months on the calendar or in your life. I created a YouTube video (using photos I took) to accompany the devotional. It’s my prayer that you’ll find refreshment while watching that video (about six minutes long). Here’s the link:   https://youtu.be/bownpnIV7hE

 

In Knots

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Williamsburg, Virginia

“Grandpa has a sore belly,” our daughter-in-law explained. Our granddaughter wouldn’t have understood pain from a gallbladder attack. But she surely could sympathize with belly pain.  So could lots of us.

The booming gluten-free industry is proof my husband’s not alone in digestive misery. People suffer from Celiac Disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Then there’s the ‘itis conditions’: colitis, diverticulitis, gastritis, pancreatitis, and more. A simple google search of ‘digestive illnesses’ yields a long list of miserable conditions. All of which can make your stomach feel like it’s been through a meat grinder.

Mom’s raising kids with mental illness (MI) know another type of stomach pain. The kind that results from worry and stress. Concern can cripple our digestive systems. Rendering us sick with belly pain. Leaving our stomach in knots.

What can ease that kind of twisted torment? Think about what parents to do ease the belly pain of a toddler. We softly stroke their tummy. Our heavenly Father can unknot our stomach when worry twists it like a strand of Christmas lights. Not only will His loving hand soothe our pain, but He’ll replace it with His perfect peace.

If MI has left you in knots, join me in using Psalm 90:15-16 as your prayer:

“Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good. Let us, your servants, see you work again; let our children see your glory” (NLT)

Stop and reflect on the phrase, “gladness in proportion to our former misery.” We serve a God who promised to, “turn their mourning into gladness,” and to, “give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow” (Jeremiah 31:13).

He will restore your joy. Because He loves you that much.

 

Better than a Resolution

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Things shift our focus.

The death of a loved one causes us to look back and reflect.

January 1st signals the time to look ahead.

An airplane window beckons us to look down.

My husband always lets me have the window seat when we fly. On one flight, I stared out the window of the plane and spotted something symbolic. An entire housing development surrounded a baseball diamond.  As if to say that the lives of all the residents centered abound baseball. That got me to thinking.

I’ll bet some people’s lives DO revolve around baseball. What does my life revolve around? What’s at the heart of my life?

Like most Christians, I immediately thought of the Lord. My family came in second.

My mind continued to wander.

What do I think about most? What occupies my thoughts? What uses up most of my mental energy? What do I pray most about? What has impacted me the most? What has broken my heart more than anything?

Funny how a mind can wander. Especially when there’s lots of time to think.

It didn’t take me long to answer those questions. My son who has mental illness (MI) has captured much of my energy: mental, emotional, and spiritual. I’m sure that’s the same with you, if you also have a child with MI.

As I think of the year ahead, selecting a New Year’s resolution hasn’t crossed my mind. The date on a calendar won’t change my life-long resolve to be the best mother I can be for Chris (and my other son, his family, and my husband).

People make resolutions, then break them. Moms raising kids with MI can’t afford to break their resolve.

We resolve to continue supporting our vulnerable children. Take them to therapists. Help them adjust to treatments.  Advocate for them. Comfort them. Protect them. And pray for them.

What lasts longer than any resolution? A mom’s love. Especially a mom’s devotion to her child who has MI. The more our kids hurt, the more determined we are to help them.

Shakable VS Unbreakable

The mind is involved in listing resolutions. Good intentions drive resolutions. Thoughtful decisions formulate resolutions. Cracks in commitment occur when temptations arise. New priorities cause us to abandon resolutions.

Something much more powerful shapes a mother’s response to her child with MI. Love drives her actions. Motherly instincts solidify her determination to protect and comfort her child. Her love is unbreakable.

So, rather than begin a new year with resolutions, we start each day with our unshakable determination to:

  • Worry less, and trust God more
  • Succumb to anxiety less, and rest in His peace more
  • Watch TV and check out social media less, and seek His Word more
  • Strive to design our own plans (for our child’s life) less, and yield to God’s plans more
  • Talk less and listen more (to our child and to God)
  • Lecture less, and encourage more

Will we succeed every day? Absolutely not! But God’s faithfulness will never fail. At the end of 2016, we will be sure of one thing:  God kept all His promises.