Friday, June 24, 2011

Gone fishin'

Just want to let you know I won't be around till July 4th. We've gone fishing. Well, at least my husband has. While he's out in the boat, I will have my head in books. I find it so much easier and better to read when we're away with the motorhome. Wonderful times I have then.

I also plan to work on completing a second book of devotionals to post on the Living Room website. Maybe I'll even get a third book started? Wouldn't that be nice?

Today we have a Living Room meeting, covering the second part of the devotional, "What is Your Dream? What is Jesus' Dream?" I hope everyone will get the message that God will take us further than we could dream of going. All we need to do is trust Him and follow where he leads.

And tomorrow...down the road we'll go. Yay!!

I'm including another picture from our Greek trip here. This is one I received a gold for at camera club last week.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sanctuary mental health ministries

I had a meeting today with Dr. Sharon Smith and Caroline Penhale who started Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries. They are giving workshops, giving church congregations the tools they need to deal with those amongst them who live with mental illness. Living Room is partnering with this new organization.

An exciting thing this partnership is. These two professionals are able to broach the problem of stigma in a way I'm not able. However, I'm able to fight stigma in a different way that they're not able to do. We come at the problem from two different perspectives and balance each other out. It's a great arrangement. We're gradually learning how we can best work together.

On September 17th Sharon and Caroline will come and speak at a workshop we're having to introduce churches to the Living Room concept. We hope this will lead to new groups for the Vancouver area.

Just for fun - something not having anything to do with mental health - I include another picture from my trip to Greece. I find it kind of mysterious: a wall that's not attached to anything and stairs, seemingly not leading anywhere. I think it should mean something, but I don't know what. What does the picture say to you?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Photographic interlude

Last night I had such a wonderful time looking at my pictures from Greece and printing a few of them. I'll include my favourite one here. I wasn't able to print it very big, because it's only a small part of the original image.

Hope you enjoy.

Being creative is such a pleasure and such a good coping strategy for depression! Trouble is, the housework starts piling up. I need to do some work for an hour, and then reward myself with an hour of creative work.

Good plan?

Monday, June 13, 2011


At Living Room last Friday, someone brought up how self-consumed she always felt - both when she was depressed and when she was high. And it's so true. We do tend to be that way, don't we, though we don't want to be? It just seems to be part of bipolar disorder. One of the symptoms. All we can think of is our pain. Or, in the case of mania, our grandiose plans. So drawn within we become! Can we learn to control this tendency?

My husband and friends often tell me that they think I'm too consumed with Living Room work. Sometimes that's all I know to talk about. A case of hypomania perhaps? Other times I'm withdrawn, only able to think of how I have failed, of how I'm unworthy. Wrapped up in my emotional pain. All I want to do is sit and putter at little things, endlessly doing sudoku puzzles. Can't reach outside myself to even clean up a messy kitchen. So hard to reach outside myself!

Is this tendency something we can avoid and then not become depressed? From my experience this seems hard to believe. I'm always reaching outside myself, trying to think of others. But is it enough? Maybe I'm spending too much quiet time - too much thinking time - too much analyzing time, as my friend often tells me.

Rudyard Kipling, in his poem "IF" said, "Think, but don't make thoughts your aim." How I've had to remind myself of that over the years! And - being the writer and philosophying person I am - I do spend a lot of time thinking. But that's not all bad, is it? Yet I need to balance the thinking time with doing time.

Today - and once in a while in previous days - I've felt on the verge of depression. Can I ward it off by reaching outside myself? Is it possible?

Friday, June 03, 2011

Mental illness and Christians

I recently received an email from someone who had some questions for me - questions that are not easy to answer. However, I would like to try, and I will do it here on my blog, hoping that others might want to join in the discussion.

This person wrote the following:
"...lately I've turned to Christ in a more serious way (in the past I was so disintegrated that I simply couldn't grasp what faith in Christ meant on a heart level). I know I'm saved now, especially because the Holy Spirit has turned my thinking upside down to a more Christlike view. My soul is literally changing, reflecting the fruits of the Spirit. The problem is, the physical/emotional systems remain unabated. I'm somewhat catatonic, with most of my life spent in front of the TV in a fetal position when things get really bad. Suffice it to say I'm not literally experiencing the peace, love and joy promised by the Scriptures.

Question: How do you handle your pain and issues when things really get bad? How has it affected your Christian walk? And if I remember correctly from the excerpt from your book, you suffer from off again - on again bouts of bipolar disorder. Are there times when you simply shut down? Do things get so bad that you feel that you can't handle it anymore? I've been doing lots of online searches to find people's viewpoints on these issues, but so far they have been elusive."

John (not his real name) talks about how "the Holy Spirit has turned [his] thinking upside down to a more Christlike view. [His] soul is literally changing..."

This is such a good thing, John. You are going through a transformation - the kind of transformation that happens when you start to follow Christ in a real way. But transformations happen slowly and there will be setbacks when you suffer symptoms of your illness. But what I've found is that every time I go through a hard time, even to the point of considering ending my life, I come out - at the end - being a stronger person - especially when, as I go through the bad stuff - I try to hang on to God's hand. I keep trying to trust, though it can be hard. (sorry for this long sentence)And, each time I recover, I've changed a bit - I've become a bit more transformed.

Jesus suffered in a great way too. Consider what He went through at Gethsemane. God fully understands what we go through and we can gather comfort from that knowledge. We're not alone in our suffering. He will help us carry it. Try to hang onto that promise.

Over the past few years, I have prayed much for an other-centeredness. A not-thinking-so-much of myself alone. These self-consumed thoughts and feelings are natural to have when you're suffering and you shouldn't feel bad about yourself having that tendency. However, if you can, it's great if you can try to think of others - of their needs - of how you can be of help to them.

I fail at this when I'm having a really hard time. And yet, during my last big depression, I read in a book about how we don't live for ourselves alone. And how that comforted me! It's not all about me! And for a short while I was encouraged. Likewise, when I was suicidal, I asked my pastor to please remind me of why I should live. He responded, "The reason you live is so that you can give others a reason to live." That encouraged me greatly and I tried to hang onto that thought.

2 Corinthians 1:4 has come to mean a lot to me.
"Praise be to God...the Father of compassion...who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."

As you become more and more transformed, John, you will find an ability to be more and more compassionate to others who suffer as you do - more and more Christlike. You will have the ability to help others bear their suffering, because you'll understand them better than anyone else could. You'll be greatly blessed as you share of yourself with them. You will experience the peace, love, and joy promised in the Bible.

But the road will be rocky. Transformation does not mean you'll never suffer again. You will have many setbacks where you will have to hang on for dear life to your faith in a loving God. But each setback should eventually lead to making you a bit stronger.

Surround yourself with people who will be able to support you as you go though those rough times. I pray that you will be able to find friends in your life who will be God's hands for you, when God Himself seems far away.