Communication and accessibility are basic human rights.
Will you join me in the fight for equality?
Will you join me in the fight for equality?
It's very rare that I let anyone see anything from my personal journal (ok, journals. Yes, I have multiple!) But I thought this was worth sharing. As I was struggling with my own health, mental and physical, one of my friends asked me "what can you think about right now?" We talked about reading the Bible and listing things I am thankful for. We also talked about how helpful it is to get our thoughts down on paper rather than relying solely on mental lists.
I opened my Bible to Psalm 119 and started reading where I had left off. This verse stuck out to me: "My comfort in my suffering is this: your promise preserves my life" (Psalm 119:50.) Well, it was certainly no accident that I was at that particular point in that particular Psalm this evening!
I wrote that verse down in my journal, but then felt uninspired to write anything else. So, I started leafing through my journal, backwards, looking for circled verses. Ever since I read "The Circle Maker" by Mark Batterson, I've made a habit of writing down verses that contain one or more of God's promises, and drawing a circle around the promise (this was the author's suggestion, hence the title). Essentially, I was looking for promises to cling to while I was feeling needy. These are a few of the verses that stuck out to me.
"The Lord will save me, and we will sing with stringed instruments all the days of our lives in the temple of the Lord" Isaiah 40:30.
"Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron" Psalm 107:15-16.
"Therefore, He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them" Hebrews 7:25.
These verses, along with a few others inspired this list I made in my journal. I wanted to focus on different characteristics and attributes of God that I know are true because of His promises.
Now, I want to be clear--I'm not saying that everything is fine and dandy now after that worship exercise. Yes, it was helpful. Yes, I believe it glorified God. Yes, it was comforting. Yes, it got my mind off other things for awhile. However, that doesn't mean that my problems went away after one session of quiet time and worship. But, I placed my mind on things above and not on earthly things. I took my thoughts captive to make them obedient to Christ. Those are two things that God commands us to do. I can thank God for helping me to be obedient even when my emotions are not following suit; that alone is proof to me of growth in my life and that is my victory for tonight.
Here's the list I made in my journal. I've since thought of a few more things to add to it. I pray that these attributes of God bring you comfort and encouragement, as they have for me.
Description of the list for blind and low vision readers:
The title of the list is God. . .
The bulleted list reads:
is strength life
intercedes for me
takes care of me/provides for me
lives within me
shows me grace and mercy
loves me exactly as I am, unconditionally
wants me to have an abundant life
listens to me
speaks Truth to me
wants me to enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise
has a plan and a purpose for my life
In my last post, I shared about the annual women's retreat that I attend. I focused on where the event is held, why it's special to me, how the event is structured, and accessibility. And then the post was already so long that I didn't feel I could talk about what I learned at the retreat this year. So, that's what part two is for! If you haven't had a chance to read the first post yet, you can read it here.
The ladies who plan this retreat pray fervently about who they will ask to speak each year. They never give the speakers a topic; they simply tell them to share whatever the Lord has put on their heart. The speakers generally don't communicate with each other about their messages prior to the retreat. However, there never fails to be multiple recurring themes throughout the entire weekend! This is one of the many ways that I am assured that the Holy Spirit is at work and present at this event.
These were some of the recurring themes this year:
1. The Holy Spirit is underrated.
Our first speaker on Friday night set the tone for the weekend with a great message about the Holy Spirit. She spoke about how vital the Holy Spirit is to our lives as believers and how so many churches don't teach enough, or at all, on this part of the Trinity. Then, other speakers throughout the weekend continued to build upon this theme. One thing that the Friday night speaker talked about that really stood out to me was that we can (and should) pray directly to the Holy Spirit. I had honestly never fully realized that! I always thought I had to pray to the Father to guide me with the Holy Spirit. But, the Holy Spirit is 100% God, just like the Father and Jesus. So, why wouldn't we pray directly to Him? This has really changed my prayer life!
Verses referenced by the speaker:
Acts 1:1-8 (emphasis on verses 4-5)
2 Corinthians 3:6
2 Corinthians 5:5
2. We need to surrender our thoughts to Christ
On Saturday morning, one speaker's message was about "thinking about what we think about". Much like Friday night's message, this speaker's points continued to be emphasized throughout the rest of the weekend by the other speakers. This speaker's main point was that "we create mental imagine of thoughts that have no basis in Truth [and] these do not produce fruit." And, the anecdote to this is to "marinate ourselves in Truth". I love the way she phrased that! This speaker referenced Philippians 4:6-8 (with an emphasis on verse 8). This verse must have came up at least 3-4 other times over the rest of the weekend!
3. We must encourage and build one another up.
One of the speakers on Saturday evening spoke about peacemaking and encouraging, which largely tied into the Saturday morning speaker. She also referenced Philippians 4:8. She began her message with a powerful quote: "How do you know if someone needs encouragement? If they're breathing." This quote fit perfectly with the speaker that had gone just before her who stated how vital it is that we be kind to one another because, most of the time, we have no idea what people are going through! People can look like they have it all together while being a physical, spiritual, and/or emotional mess on the inside! We need to pray to be able to see people as God sees them!
There were so many other important things spoken about over this weekend, but, for the sake of brevity, I tried to pick the three themes I felt were most pervasive throughout the entire event. Have you ever been on a retreat, either a one day event or multiple days? How was your experience? Would you attend another?
Every fall, I attend a local women's retreat. It's a fantastic event where women of all ages, from different backgrounds, and from different churches all come together for a weekend of growing in our relationships with each other and our relationships with Jesus. The event starts on Friday evening and ends in the late morning on Sunday. This is my third year attending this retreat. The first year I attended, in 2015, I made the decision to surrender my life to Christ sitting on the couch in the cozy fellowship hall directly across from a beautiful fireplace. I had about five women surrounding me and praying for me. We ended up praying and talking until about 1:00 in the morning! I had gone to church and considered myself a Christian for as long as I could remember, but I knew that I was forever changed that night. This annual retreat has become very special to me and I consider it my favorite event of the year!
The venue is a beautiful Christian retreat center located right in the middle of the beautiful mountains here in upstate NY. It has an incredible view--especially in the fall!
See? Wouldn't you love to wake up to that in the morning?
The event is structured roughly like this:
Friday night, between 5:30-6:30 PM, everyone arrives. You are given your room assignment and then you have time to unpack and settle in. Then, you can go back down from the dorms to the fellowship hall for some fellowship time before our service starts at 7:00.
Our opening service is usually about 2 hours. We start off with praise and worship, and then we listen to a speaker. After our opening service, we have an ice cream social and hang out for a bit before going back to our rooms.
On Saturday we have a morning session that is similar to the Friday night session, except there are two speakers. Then, after lunch, we participate in workshops that we chose ahead of time. There are two workshop sessions and we get to pick which workshops we want to attend. After dinner, we have an evening service. Then, like Friday night, we have snacks and hang out until we go back to our rooms (there are breaks in the schedule but, for the sake of brevity, I'm just giving you the highlights).
Sunday morning, after breakfast, we have a wrap up session. Then, there is a typically a prayer session and people can choose to stay to pray for people, ask for prayer, or both.
This event does very well with accessibility, considering its size and its attendees.I feel very accommodated in terms of my personal disabilities. The event is structured in such a way that I can rest if needed. There is also a pervasive non-judgmental attitude that makes me feel that I can take a break if I need to, which may not seem like a big deal, but it really helps me a lot!
Physical disabilities can be accommodated as well. There are rooms available that are downstairs. Furniture in all areas can also be moved around to accommodate for equipment, if need be.
Accessibility for Deafness and blindness has not been largely addressed because there hasn't been a need thus far. There have been one or two times that someone was hard of hearing and they were offered a seat in the front and all the speakers made sure to use microphones (these HOH individuals did not sign). Because of the attitudes of the women on the planning team, I know that they would do everything in their power to meet any new accessibility needs that may arise.
I had originally planned to talk about some of the things I learned over the weekend, but this post is getting lengthy already. So, I think my next post will be a part two where I will share some of the topics that the speakers addressed and what I took away from it.
Part two is now published! You can check read it here.
One of my goals for this blog is to start creating more content about mental illness. I have struggled with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember. It is amazing that in our current time, there is still such a stigma surrounding mental illness; It is still a taboo topic. I want to be a part of changing that. I want people to know that discussing mental illness is no different from discussing any other kind of illness. Mental illness is a real illness; it's not a bad character trait or a personality flaw.
One of the reasons that it can be challenging to raise awareness about mental illness is that these illnesses are usually invisible. Most people with mental illness "look healthy". You can't tell I have depression and anxiety by looking at me. Most people with mental illness have been told they don't "look sick" more times than they can count. The only way we can make mental illness visible is if we speak out about it. We have to stop hiding behind the stigma that society has created and refuse to be treated as second class citizens.
So, in this post I'm going to share 10 things that happen to me when I'm in a particularly bad depressive episode. My depression never goes away completely, but there are times when it gets worse. These are some of the things that happen during the worst episodes (this list is, by no means, exhaustive)
1. I am depressed.
This seems obvious, right? The problem is that many people don't understand what depression really means. Many people think it is the same as feeling sad when the reality is that sadness is just one fragment of depression. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people say "everyone gets depressed". That is not true. Everyone gets sad, but not everyone gets depressed. There are also differences between situational depression and clinical depression, but that topic will need a post of its own.
2. I am exhausted.
I'm pretty much always tired; that comes with the territory when you have major depression. But in particularly bad times, the fatigue gets even worse. It is overwhelming and anxiety-producing. Sometimes, l fear that I am literally going to fall asleep standing up.
3. I can't concentrate.
I have a hard time concentrating on just about anything. My daily Bible devotions, my job, blogging, reading a novel, etc. My mind wanders and usually produces thoughts that fill me with anxiety. I am too busy putting out those fires to have any head space left to concentrate on anything else.
4. I can't run simple errands.
Simple things like going to the store, the pharmacy, the post office, etc. seem impossible. I can't possibly get dressed and go out in public. What if I run into someone I know and I have to talk to them? Am I awake enough to drive? The list of thoughts surrounding going out for any reason is pretty much endless.
5. I cut back on, or stop, engaging in my hobbies.
I find myself reading less, blogging less, and practicing signing less, among other things. Partially because I can't concentrate on them and partially because, even when I do get engaged in them, they don't bring me the joy and satisfaction that they typically do.
6. I cut back on socializing--a lot.
Just like getting out of the house to run errands, the list of reasons my mind can come up with for not leaving the house to socialize is daunting. What if they get mad because you can't pay attention? What if you just start crying for no reason? What if you get sucked in and they you can't leave when you feel like you need to? Do people even want to be around you?
7.I am more irritable.
Things that normally wouldn't bother me make me incredibly anxious or angry. This is not only unpleasant for me, but for all those around me.
8. I don't cook for myself.
Breakfast for dinner happens a lot. Cereal, toaster waffles, etc. Pizza on a wrap that can be put in the toaster oven for 5 minutes is also on the menu frequently. I have zero motivation to cook a full, balanced meal.
9. I clean significantly less.
Just like with cooking, I have no motivation to clean my house. The mess will start to make me anxious, but I still feel I can't possibly get up and clean. And, cleaning and leaving the house on the same day? Forget it!
10. I feel guilty.
I feel guilty because of the burden I put on the people in my life when I'm in a bad depressive episode. I need a lot of help with things that I feel I shouldn't need help with, and that is an unpleasant feeling.
Do you struggle with mental illness? Are you a caregiver of someone with a mental illness? What do you wish people understood about your struggle?
I shared this post in the linky down below. Check it out to find some other blog pages that you might enjoy!