Tag Archive | anxiety

MI: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

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Can Mental illness (MI) ever be good? One account in the Bible shows how “MI” came in handy.

King David faked insanity to escape the enemy. David, out of fear of King Achish of Gath and his servants, “pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard. (1 Samuel 21:13)”

Insanity led to David’s deliverance. “Achish said to his servants, ‘Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?’ David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam… (1 Samuel 21:14-15 & 1 Samuel 22:1)”

Other than that story, I can’t think of anything good about MI. Can you?

So that’s the good of MI. What’s the bad of MI? The bad is when it seeps into a healthy person’s psyche. Contaminating thoughts. Selling lies.

A former second grade student of mine, Alex, had exceptional language skills. Rarely had I witnessed such amazing articulation. His verbal expression even impressed his peers.

The time came for students to give an oral book report. As expected, most were nervous. Surprisingly, so was Alex. He faced his classmates frozen. Unable to speak. Why would HE be afraid to do a presentation?

It became obvious the enemy was feeding him a lie. Telling him, “You can’t do this.”

I took him out in the hall to give a pep talk. Thankfully, as a Christian educator, I could use scripture to melt his fears.

I assured him by saying, “2 Timothy 1:7 tells us God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear. What He calls us to do, He’ll enable us to accomplish. Philippians 4:13 promises, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ The truth is that God has blessed you with wonderful speaking skills. He’ll help you give your oral book report.”

Still afraid, he asked, “Can I do it tomorrow?”

I granted him permission to wait, knowing his parents would echo my words from scripture and pray with him. He did okay the next day. And remembered God’s faithfulness. In third grade he sang a solo during a Christmas concert—in front of hundreds of people.

Alex suffered a common fear: public speaking. Never before that day had he demonstrated anxiety. His behaviors weren’t a result of MI.

Some of our children suffer anxiety disorders. They face overwhelming fears which can be crippling. Or battle worries which are constant. Their symptoms aren’t temporary like those experienced by Alex.

Other forms of MI can be equally debilitating. Our children need help to overcome challenges related to their illness. Sadly, instead of support, we receive judgment from others.

The ugly truth about MI is that some people think our kids are pretending to have anxiety or depression. Assuming their behaviors can easily be controlled. Outsiders jump to wrong conclusions and pass negative judgments. “It’s a character flaw, a ploy to gain power, or manipulation to get out of doing work.” All beliefs are wrong. Anyone who has ever experienced MI would tell you they’d do anything to feel better. Sadly, our children who have MI aren’t faking it like King David did.

Another ugly truth about MI is that some people think the child should “just snap out of it.” The assumption driving such incorrect thinking is that the symptoms are temporary. Outsiders advise, “Just talk to your child and he’ll stop acting that way.” The false belief is that reasoning would be all that’s necessary to improve behavior (like it did with Alex).

God healed Alex from his irrational fear. Can our heavenly Father do the same for our children who suffer from MI? Certainly He’s able. I witnessed an extraordinary miracle in the life of an adolescent. You can read about her transformed life in the message I posted August 21, 2013 entitled ‘Anxiety.’

The wonderful Truth is that God is able to help us through our own challenges, heartaches, and loneliness of MI.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)”

Another wonderful Truth is that Christ overcame death. May you be encouraged by that reminder of His limitless power. Be blessed by this song as you reflect on His second coming.

‘Glorious Day’ by Casting Crowns

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Anxiety

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Picture a girl clinging to her stuffed bunny on her first day of school. Now picture her as a sixth grader.

That’s how I first met Leah. It didn’t surprise me. Her application clearly stated Leah suffered from separation anxiety.

As the director of instruction of our Christian school, it was my job to process student applications. The headmaster and I felt led to accept Leah. We believed God could do a mighty work. Leah was transferring from public school to our Christian school. The exposure to God’s peace in our school could help Leah overcome her separation anxiety.

Leah’s parents were very supportive. They said they’d put us in touch with her psychiatrist.

I spoke with Leah’s mother before the new school year began. Mrs. Jones prepared me well, providing information beyond the usual school records.

“How did Leah’s last school year go, Mrs. Jones?

“Leah needed home-bound instruction for most of fifth grade,” Mrs. Jones explained.

“How many days did she attend school?” I asked.

“During the last quarter we gradually weaned her from home-bound instruction. Each week she attended more hours.”

“Did she eventually make it for an entire school day?” I inquired.

“No. She couldn’t make it. Often the school had to call me because she experienced a panic attack,” her mother answered.

“What were her panic attacks like?”

“She’d complain of stomach aches and headaches. She’d ask to go to the nurse.”

“Did the nurse find any evidence of a physical illness on those occasions?”

“Never. The psychiatrist recommended that I pick her up from school when her anxiety reached that level. I had to bring her home every day.”

Leah’s mother gave me the name and number of the psychiatrist and encouraged me to speak with him.

When I called the psychiatrist, he laid out a plan.

“If Leah complains of any physical ailments and asks to go to the nurse, send her. If the nurse determines that Leah’s physically well, she’ll bring Leah to you. Casually ask Leah about school and things in her life. Your calm demeanor should help her relax. If she complains of any physical discomfort, tell her that the nurse said she’s fine. Then quickly change the subject.”

As the school administrator, I’d be the person to determine if we needed to call home and ask Mrs. Jones to pick her up.

We put that plan into action. The first week of school I needed to call her mother twice. Mrs. Jones picked her up. Even during that first week, however, Leah was able to remain in school for several entire days. Maybe not in class, but in school. Sometimes all she needed was to talk to her mother on the phone. That calmed her. I’d then take Leah for a walk outside and she’d relax enough to go back into the classroom.

By the end of the year Leah was attending entire days. She still carried her bunny, but rarely needed to go home. Her visits to the nurse diminished. She and I met only occasionally.

On the last day of school I asked to speak to her in my office.

“Leah, you’ve made it to the end of the year. God has helped you overcome your anxiety. I’m so grateful to Him and proud of you. Let’s thank the Lord.”

After a time of prayer, I presented her with a gift. I gave her a miniature graduation cap for her bunny.

“It’s time for both of you to graduate. You’ll be graduating sixth grade. Your bunny will graduate from school. He’ll no longer need to accompany you next year. You’ll be fine on your own with God’s help.”

Leah attended seventh grade without her bunny and without needing to go home. She never again needed to call her mother from school. Later in the year, Leah even slept over a friend’s house. Quite a remarkable accomplishment and testimony to God’s faithfulness in her life!

Leah went on to attend college and get married.

We’re not very different than Leah.

Don’t we also worry? Forgetting God is in control.

Aren’t we vulnerable to fears? Allowing our thoughts to be consumed by the what if’s.

Aren’t we prone to the contaminated thinking of the culture which tells us we can solve all our problems? Believing we don’t need God.

Like Leah, our minds are easily led astray. Forgetting how much God loves us and our kids. Paul knew that danger when he warned, “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3).”

What a comfort we have in the reminder Peter gives us to, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).”

Let your mental anguish melt away as you listen to “You Are My Hiding Place.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElVC6rfX3Z8

 

Photo Shop

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Wouldn’t it be nice to photo shop your life? Tweak imperfections in relationships the way photographers tweak photographs?

Just for fun, imagine the possibilities.
Let’s delete shadows of painful memories. Click! Regrets of parenting mistakes gone.

Now, blur specific painful scenes. Click! Stories your child told of being bullied or ignored can no longer be seen in your mind’s eye.

Next, air brush ugliness away and smooth out edges. Click! Tension in the family dissolves.

Don’t forget to crop out unwanted emotions. Click! Anxiety and worry are gone from you and your child who has mental illness (MI).

Let’s try reducing the noise that clutters up a marriage. Click! Resentment is replaced with clear communication.

Finally, use the red eye tool to remove the tear-stained, sleep-deprived inflammation. Click! A false façade hides deep sorrow.

Sadly, it seems impossible to remove painful memories, erase regrets, smooth away tension, restore a marriage, sleep peacefully, and stop the tears.

We walk from peaceful days into the darkness. Why?

I discovered a wonderful symbolism of God’s ways when I tinkered with tools in Photo Shop.

My newest pastime is altering photographs. I’ve recently learned how to change the background of pictures.

I captured a nice picture of a macaw. The context of the cage pulled my attention away from the bird’s pretty colors. I wondered if I could improve the picture.

When I switched to a black background, the glorious colors exploded like fireworks in the night. I gasped in awe at the result. Once distractions were removed, the exquisite rainbow of colors became strikingly vibrant.

Has MI plunged you into darkness? The Designer of the universe knows how to focus your attention on Him. The darker the trial, the brighter His presence. Suddenly all that’s seen is His vibrant love.

The complicated context of our lives masks God’s presence. When our lives are uneventful, we rarely notice Him. So, God switches the background.

Walking in darkness conjures up images of someone stumbling. It stirs up ugly emotions: fright, uncertainty, loneliness…But, God ways aren’t like our ways. He knows when we walk in darkness, we look harder for Him.

In our darkest of times, God’s presence captivates our attention. His love comes alive. His comfort reaches out to us. His peace calms our heart.

Words in the Bible, once a multitude of verses, become God’s personal message to us. The Bible, previously our Daily Bread, becomes a true feast for the heart. Our lifeline. We witness His faithfulness and learn to depend on His promises.

My camera has a switch for automatic. But, I prefer using the manual switch. I like to be in control.

Have you got your life on manual? How’s it working for you? Try switching to automatic. Let God capture your heart. He’s perfecting His masterpiece. Your family portrait is framed in His perfect plans. Wait for them to be fully developed. What He’s begun, He’ll complete.

For now, we see only in part. Like this small glimpse of a snapshot.
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God sees the big picture.
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Ask God to give you His heavenly perspective.

Reflect on God’s Hand in your life as you listen to Chris Tomlin sing ‘Take My Life’