The Story that is My Life

My life as it has been and as it continues to unfold is a story. One story made up of many stories. One complex, yet simple story. One sometimes messy, but so beautiful story. One story that I wonder if it might be interesting to be told.

This blog is my attempt to put part, or parts, of that story into words, pictures, or whatever form my mind can wrap itself around or create from within myself to express what it is like to be the one inside Cindy's Story. This is an exploration on my part and on yours in reading, and seeing, and maybe even hearing. It is not necessarily chronological. It might not always make sense, but it is my expression. It is me.

You are invited to see how my story unfolds.....

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Struggle in a Sentence - Survey #2



Survey:  Struggle in a Sentence
We would like to help people who don't have a mental illness, get a little understanding of what it might feeling like.  If you struggle with any of the following areas, in a few words or a sentence, describe what your struggle feels like. (It can be a struggle now or in the past).

Cindy:

I do not have all the following diagnosis', but I do have some of them, and the other one's I commented on, I have felt a bit what they are like.
  • Depression:  Stuck in the deepest pit, dark clouds above my head, with a force field closely surrounding me so you can't come in.
  • Bipolar:  Some days I make long lists and keep checking them off, others everything just drops to the floor and nothing moves, including me.
  • Anxiety:  Something is going to happen...it's going to be bad.  Someone is going to notice...it is going to be worse.  I won't be able to deal with it...I will implode and explode all at the same time.
  • Panic Attacks:  Like a pressure of fear is building up inside me, but I am frozen in one place.  My heart speeds up, and it is hard to catch a breath.  I feel the tears and hyperventilation coming.  The elephant that is sitting on my chest is going to crush me.
  • Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD):  The world is too much to take in.  I promised you I would call if I wanted to hurt myself, so here I am, "hi."  Now I can do it.  Wait, I will learn a way to survive.
  • Bulimia:  I tried it, one single, solitary time, but I was a failure.  Too difficult.  Too gross.
  • Anorexia:  "I am not anorexic.  I just haven't eaten for four or five months," I said to myself.  I was fat, then not so much.  Once.  Twice.  It is too all consuming to consume nothing.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD):  0, 2, 4 ,6, 8..9, 11  No!!!  Fix it!  Fix it!  It's not ok!
  • Cutting and Self Harm:  I cut so I can know I will be able to kill myself if I need to.  I focus on the pain so I won't.
  • Co-Dependency:  "Thank you for saving me.  Don't leave me or I will die."
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):  Flash!  It's back again!  Panic!  I must stay far away.
  • Trichotillomania (hair pulling):  How did that happen? Half my eyebrows are gone.  I guess I pulled them out without even realizing it.
  • Dermatillomania (skin picking):  I must get the imperfection off my skin.  It feels like there is poison under my skin.  I need to let it out.

Survey:
Comfort in a sentence.
Thank you for your answers.  Is there anything that you have learned about God through the above feelings and experiences that you can share with others in similar situations?

Cindy:
Yes, though some of these things took me a long time to learn.
  • Depression:  God comes down into the pit with me.  He becomes my refuge.  He is gentle, humble, and gives me rest for my soul.
  • Bipolar:  Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  He can handle my ups and downs.
  • Anxiety:  Something is going to happen...it's going to be bad, but God is with me.  Someone is going to notice...it is going to be worse, but God is with me.  I may feel that I am going to implode and explode all at the same time, but God is with me.
  • Panic Attacks:  The panic goes down as I imagine Jesus sitting next to me ready to rescue me and give me strength.  I take a deep breath and let it out in trust as the panic slowly subsides.
  • Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD):  It took a lot of struggle, and asking for help, and learning to live life all over again.  One thing at a time.  But on the good side, my relationship with my God feels like I am starting anew as well.  A new love from him and for him, and new excitement as he shows me simple joys he can give me, one at a time.  He is patient.
  • Anorexia:  "It is ok to be flawed and fabulous," (quote from a Dove candy wrapper).  The true food I need is the very Word of God.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD):  0, 2, 4 ,6, 8..9, 11........Its ok.  I can fix it, or I can leave it.  God holds the world in his hands.
  • Cutting and Self Harm:  Jesus loves me just as I am.  I do not need to hate myself.  When God looks at me, he does not see all my sin and turn away, he sees the perfection of his Son who saved me.  Jesus took the punishment for my sin.  I believed.  Now I do not need to hurt myself.  Mine life is not mine to take.
  • Co-Dependency:  Jesus is the one who truly saved me.  He is with me so I can be ok even at the times I am on my own.
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):  Every time it comes back, God comforts me anew and  carries me through.
  • Trichotillomania (hair pulling):  God knows the number of hairs on my head and all that is within my heart.
  • Dermatillomania (skin picking):  It is amazing that no matter what I do, God keeps healing me.

Survey:
Sum up in a sentence (or a few).

Cindy:
I become depressed and struggled and wanted to die.  God came down, he is continually with me, he's always the same, he comforts me anew, and he carries me as I need him to do.
No matter the bad that I feel or that I do, as I give me heart to God, he keeps healing me through and through.
One day he will take me home, when it is a joy for him to do.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Brief Description of My Experience With Mental Illness and Recovery

Here's a little silliness, then a brief description of my mental illness and recovery.




     I was first diagnosed with a mental illness in 2001. I had just returned from living overseas. I became majorly depressed with anxiety, agoraphobia, and psychotic symptoms. A friend of my family got me to go to a counselor, who got me to go to a doctor. I began antidepressants that then triggered mania. More medications were prescribed to help my Bipolar symptoms. Over the next years I became suicidal. I started cutting myself and hurting myself in other ways to cope. Finally, I made a suicide attempt, and I ended up in the psych ward. I have been it the psych wards in three different hospitals for a total of six or seven times of attempting suicide or self-harming behavior. After the 2nd time in the hospital, I could not leave until I was set up with outpatient therapy doing DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) for my Borderline Personality Disorder. I continued in that program for two or three years. This taught me how to survive and helped me learn how to reenter life. During those years, because of my depression, messed up sleep, and trying to get my medications right, I fell asleep while driving and totaled my car. No one was hurt. After I learned all I could from DBT, I still had many questions about God in the midst of all that I was dealing with in my life. I switched to a Christian counselor. He had taught the Bible for years, and could understand and help me through my questions. I also found that I was not the only Christian with a mental illness. I joined a support type group at my church. Another thing that I have had to deal with was PTSD related to my car accident and driving (which I quit for 7 1⁄2 years). I finally went to a Psychologist who used EMDR to help me to get over not being able to drive. I can now drive my car without the intense panic attacks that stopped me. Also, I no longer have the need to cut as I have learned other ways of dealing with negative emotions. I have realized that there is a reason for me to be alive, and I no longer have suicide as an option. I have accepted myself and my mental illness as God accepts me. I no longer hate myself. I now have a great compassion for other people who struggle like I do. I want to help bring awareness of mental illness and what it really is to people so that there will be understanding, so people can learn better ways to help us, and so that those who find they have a mental illness will not feel like they are the only ones who feel “crazy” and “bad” as I had thought. Hopefully, bringing awareness can also help reduce the stigma and fear we face as people with mental illnesses. 

~ Cindy



Thursday, February 12, 2015

Kenya Prayer Update, May 4, 2001

[The following is an email prayer letter I sent home to the US while I was living for a year in Africa.  I am sure that many of the prayer needs are still needed to be prayed for today.]

Greetings in Christ's Name,

"Jambo" (Hello) from Kenya, East Africa.  I know it has been a long time since most of you have heard from me, and so I just want to share a few things with you.

I was joined at my village in Kenya by Kirsty this past January.  She has been a blessing from God.  This last school term I have been able to share the leaching work load with Kirsty as well as have a friend to talk to and laugh with.  I have also been encouraged by the way God is using me to work in Kirsty's life. I have been able challenge her to seek God more and to strive to have her life more conformed to God's image.  Please pray that she will gain the strength to continue in the things that God is teaching her, even when she returns home to England and is again with her non-Christian friends.  Pray that God will make her a shining light for Him wherever she is.

Last term I was able to visit many homes/huts in the village each Thursday afternoon.  While doing this, I met many people, especially women who are Christians but do not go to church.  Some of the women want to come, but their husbands are not Christians and do not allow it, while other women say they will come, but they don't make the effort when Sunday morning comes.

I have been sadly surprised by the number of non-Christian "wazee" (older men) that I have met while visiting people's huts that are caught up in drunkenness or in traditional animistic and ancestral worship.  We need to pray that God will brake the binds that hold them, and that He will open their eyes to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  A man has an incredible influence on many others around him here in Kenya, as the leader of his family and in the community.  The question is whether that influence will be a good one for the Kingdom of God, or one that distracts from it and makes others stumble.

In the local church in my village, I am currently teaching on the book of Ephesians in the Bible twice a month.  I pray that God is using that in people's lives.

Through the generous gift sent to me from one of you, I was able to buy and give a Bible in the local language (Kikamba) to each family group in the church!  Now it is my prayer that they will begin reading the Bible for themselves.  I think this is a challenge even in our daily lives, but how will God speak to us if we are not reading His Word?  As the Kamba people and we read our Bibles, I pray that the Holy Spirit will teach and counsel us and show us God's will that we may walk in it.

Currently, I have just had a holiday from school, and I am returning to Muthyoi by "matatu" (mini-bus) tomorrow for the start of a new school term.  This will be my final term before coming back to the States in August.  I am a bit weary about going back to the village, as it seems like such a big job in front of me.  I feel so inadequate to do it.  I need God's strength so that I may finish well and leave behind something that will bring Him glory, not of myself.

Thank you again for your prayers.  They are what keep me going.  I have sent photos to some of you, and I hope you are enjoying them and showing them to others as well.  I look forward to seeing you in person in August.

May God bless you as you grow to love Jesus more and more each day.

~Cindy

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Crushed in Fields of Green

[I believe I wrote this in 2002.  Formerly included in my depression story.]


How am I doing after returning from serving God in Africa?  Let me tell you a story to try to help you understand.........

….......Imagine a big and long hill, and on one side of this hill was born a young girl.  As the sun shone on this young girl she learned to run, skip, and laugh through the never ending fields of flowers and crisp fresh air, and rarely a wisp of a cloud was seen.
But then one day her life was changed.  Someone brought her to the top of the hill and pointed to what was on the other wide.  Far below she could see some dark rocks under a gray and cloudy sky, and her heart was touched with sadness.  She went back down to her fields of light and air and committed her life to learning how to be a rock lifter.  She gave everything that she had to learning how to free those souls trapped beneath the rocks, every day longing to begin her task.  She even met a companion along the way who had escaped from the rubble and was himself training to return to it to help.  And, for a while they continued hand in hand.  And then, at long last, her day came to go.  She gathered together enough people from her field to help push her up and over the hill, carrying one end of a rope with her so that they could pull her back after her year there was over.  They smiled back and waved good luck.

When she reached the other side she came to the rocks that she had been shown and studied from a distance for so long.  With all the resolve she could muster she lifted a rock above her head and letting it rest upon her shoulders she began her task. She felt the weight begin to press upon her shoulders, but she knew what she had to do.  She began to walk forward with enthusiasm and resolve, one foot slowly and shakily in front of the other.  But, as she continued on under her chosen stone, the weight seemed to grow from a mere rock into a boulder, and the path forward was not always clear through the cloudy skies.  The girl stumbled along among the many crushed and struggling souls beneath, and at times found that she was herself almost crushed beneath the weight upon her.  But at those times God sent His angels to lift the boulder enough so that she could catch a breath, straighten, and stand up beneath its weight again to take more steps with her eyes forward, ever longing for the light and air she had known.

She continued on until her year had passed when she was pulled back to the other side of the hill to the flowers and sunny days.  The people came with cheers for the heroic rock lifter and wanted to hear stories of the glories of freeing the souls on the other side, then they continued on running, skipping, and laughing through the fields of light and air.  The girl gathered her remaining strength, smiled through weary eyes, and collapsed into the fragrant fields of green as the others continued on.

The girl had returned to her side of the hill at last.  The great pressure that she had lived under every waking moment for the last year had lifted, and now she was free to breath the fresh air again, to be in the fields of flowers and light, and to run and skip and laugh.....but she was no longer able to find the same bounce in her step or the lightness in her breath.  She lies on the carpet of green and feels herself sinking into the earth below while all she wants to do is fall asleep in the field never to wake up again.

But she does wake up, the weight of the boulder forever imprinted on her mind and in her heart... (And deep in her soul she is deathly afraid)...How can she regain the strength to ever return?  And yet, how can she live if she does not?  She releases the hand of the companion that she thought she would hold for life that would have bound her forever to that land, and she lets her tears water the grass at her face.  Her eyes stare into the heavens above imploring, asking for an end somehow to this madness.

The boulders that nearly crushed her still remain on the souls on the other side, and though we can only experience the pebbles in our own fields, under boulders countless souls are still struggling to get free...some not even aware that the sun could shine.  

~Cindy