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.....

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Sometimes I Have To Be Sad

Sometimes I have to be sad
In the dark
In a ball on my bed crying

Sometimes my breath is all I am sensing
In my chest
In the moments between nothing

Sometimes the quiet becomes haunting
Yet whispers
To tell of my soul's wanting

Sometimes I think how sad follows loving
And I sigh
To know the deep down feeling

Sometimes when the reminders keep me hurting
I stop
I feel the loss and stop thinking

Sometimes a softness envelops my being
I relax
And for a moment I am dreaming

Sometimes a light breaks in shining
For a second
And reminds me that it is ok to keep living

Sometimes I find courage and start moving
I hesitate
Then take a step forward again toward hoping


Sometimes I have to be sad
In light of my love
To honor that which I will always be missing

Sometimes I have to be sad

Saturday, October 7, 2017

What I Unknowingly Wanted in the Midst of My Suicide Attempt

There was a time that I decided I was going to kill myself.  In my mind there were some things that I wanted as I decided to commit suicide.  There were some things that I knowingly wanted, but as I am thinking about it years later, I realize that there were some things that I didn't know that I wanted as well.  

First, here is what I knew I wanted.

I knowingly wanted the world and it's problems to go away:
  • I saw disasters and devastation.
  • I saw anger and hate, murders and abuses of all kinds.
  • Evil seemed to be pressing in all around me.
I knowingly wanted my pain to end:
  • I knew I was a failure at life, a disappointment, and no good to the world.
  • The losses which seemed to pull out part of my heart were too great.
  • The emotional pain hurt so bad I could hardly breath.
I knowingly wanted out of the darkness:
  • It felt like a dark cloud was pressing down over my head.
  • I had fallen into a deep pit of depression and despair.
  • I could not see any way out except to die.
In my mind at the time, that is all I thought that I wanted.  I wanted to die.  Looking back on that time many years later I see there were some things that I unknowingly wanted as well.   There were things that I did and didn't do during that time of trying to kill myself that showed I had more things that I wanted.

Here are some examples of things that I didn't know that I wanted during my suicide attempt.

I unknowingly wanted love:
  • When I first cut my wrist and let it bleed, after a long while I stopped it and called a friend who might care.
  • When I was invited to spend the night so that I would be safe, I went because I wanted to be cared for.
  • When my friend found me on the bathroom floor after I had cut again, I wept as arms were wrapped around me out of love.
  • When I was left alone in the hospital with a stuffed cat from my friend, I held on to it tightly because I needed to remember that someone knew my pain and still loved me.
I unknowingly wanted to show care to others:
  • I didn't want to share my thoughts of suicide with my family because I didn't want them to hurt and not know what to do.
  • I wrote a note of love and explanation to my family so they would not think it was their fault.
  • I decided I didn't want my friend to be traumatized to have to find me dead on the bathroom floor in the morning so I stopped my death when I had a chance to finish what I had started.
  • I allowed my family to know that I was in the hospital and to know what I had done even though I was afraid because I knew they would desire to love and help.
I unknowingly wanted help to live:
  • I actually went to my friend's house when asked because I knew I could not protect myself.
  • I didn't leave and sneak away to die when my friend was sleeping or at other times when I had the chance because I felt a bit of safety.
  • I went to the doctor with my friend the next day which showed that I must have thought the doctor might be able to do something for me.
  • I went to the hospital even though I was desperately afraid.
It is hard to know all your desires when tunnel vision on death sets in.  I thought I just wanted the world and it's problems to go away, for my pain to end, and to be out of the darkness.  In other words, I thought I just wanted life to end.  I am now finding that underneath that overwhelming thought was a desire to be shown love by someone who knew all my pain, to show love to others myself, and to get help for what I thought could not get better.

Maybe you are in the situation that I was in, or maybe you are someone who is looking from the outside at a person who wants to die by suicide.  Before you give up, try thinking, even though it may seem impossible, what unknown desires are behind this desire of death.  Can you see it?  A desire to be loved.  A desire to show love.  A desire to get help for life.  Maybe there is a little hope still.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Sometimes I Look in the Mirror and I Don't Know Who I Am

I look in the mirror 
And I don't know who I am
At that time when death called my name
I ended
This life had not been my plan

I looked down 
The red flowed from my wrist
As my mind shut it's door
With that decision I died that day
But somehow you saw me
As I sank to the bathroom floor

Tick, tick, tick
What is this that I am moving through?
Its was not supposed to be.
God, you've done it now!
Who am I?
What do You want me to see?

My hands move
The blood is not my own
Someone else had died instead
He brings me back
Touches my scars with His
He saved me just as He said

I look in the mirror
And I don't know who I am
But He knows me
He is my life
This life is a part of His plan

I look in the mirror 
And I see His face
I stare straight in to His eyes
He looks right back
With love and grace
And I no longer need a disguise

I turn from the mirror
I bow my head
To the One who goes before me
His arms wrap around this war torn body
As He says
I am with you 'till glory!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

My Experience Going To a New Psychiatric Medication Provider

I went to a new psychiatric nurse practitioner today.  I am on medication for depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and other mental health issues.  I have been on medications now for over 15 years and I am doing very well.  The problem is that the nurse practitioner that has been prescribing my medications just retired last month, giving me only one month's notice.  I had to scramble to find someone new to prescribe my medications so that I could continue to be mentally healthy.  The first psych nurse that I called and left three messages for never got back to me.  Then I was given the name of another psych nurse.  She actually called me back, and we set up an appointment.

Today at noon was my first appointment with this new psychiatric nurse practitioner.  Now I am starting over again with a new person.  Even though I have been going to someone for years for my medications and even in this same office, some things happened to me when I got into the office that I didn't expect.

I suddenly felt the nerves in my body go on high alert.  I wished that the person at the checkin desk would smile at me as I gave her my insurance card all over again and paid my coinsurance.  I sat with my back to the wall so I could see the whole room and nothing could surprise me.  I could not read a magazine because my mind needed to be aware and alert to the whole room.  I waited for the unknown.

I worried a bit when she was five minutes late in calling me back to her office.  Questions filled my mind.  Will she be a nice person?  What if she is not nice and I am stuck with her for who knows how long?  Will she make this a formal process or relaxed?  Will she respect me as a person and not just see me as my mental illness?

When she finally came to get me and led me into her office (actually the same office my last psych nurse had been in), I had to choose which chair to sit in, the one closer to her chair, or the one further away.  I chose the closer chair because that is the one I had used with my last psych nurse.  I reasoned that I would sit in it to show myself that I was okay.  I wish I would have sat in the chair further away to show that it would take some time before I could trust her.  Maybe next time.

Once she sat down, it was time for the intake.  Time to start over again.  This is what happened and how I felt.
  • She had me sign papers of privacy and conditions of treatment.  I felt like I was a business acquisition or a child being told how I could get in trouble.
  • She took my pulse and blood pressure.  It was high.  It is usually low.  That proved that my nerves were on high alert.
  • She asked me about my doses of medications, including when I had started each one, what other medications I had taken in the past, and why I had changed them.  I felt stupid because I couldn't remember.  After all, back when I was going through the dark times I didn't care what was happening to me or when things changed.  I have never been one to write these things down or remember dates.
  • We went through questions about why I was on the medications, what had happened in my depression, why I was told I had bipolar disorder, when I had been in the hospital, what I had used to try to kill myself, and many other personal questions about my mental health.  I felt like she thought I was still in that state or that she was on edge in case I might be a danger to myself or others now.  It felt like back when I went into the hospital those times and everyone was suspicious of me, looking out for the worst in me.  I don't like it when only the bad and hard times of my life are known without a person seeing me as me, without seeing how far I have come.  I don't like being known as my illness.
  • She asked me if I felt like harming myself or others today.  No, of course not.  She didn't know that when those questions are asked of me that all sorts of past memories flood my mind and worry comes across my face.  I wanted to get defensive, but she didn't know any better.  She doesn't yet know me or trust me.
I know that all these things were a part of what needed to be done upon seeing a new psychiatric nurse practitioner, but I wish these things would have happened also or instead.
  • I wish she would have had me fill out the info about myself before I came in to see her in person.
  • I wish the intake process didn't have to be just about negative stuff on the first visit.  It is hard telling a person that I don't even know yet about the deepest negative things in my life.
  • I wish that she would have asked me how I have overcome my mental illnesses.
  • I wish she would have asked me about the skills I have learned to help me cope with and live my life.
  • I wish she would have asked me to describe my current good mental state.
  • I wish she would have said a couple encouraging words or a positive complement about me.
  • I wish I didn't have to always be a patient in the mental health system.  It would have been nice if she would have acknowledged that.
In general, I wish I didn't have to go back to the beginning again.  But it is necessary.  I am a person with a mental health diagnosis of which medication helps me to live at a healthy level.  So I do what needs to be done.  I retell my story of the hard times knowing that it will keep the good times going.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

"Funny" Feelings That Happen When I Miss My Bipolar Meds

I take medications for my bipolar disorder.   These medications keep me emotionally and mentally regulated and grounded in my life.  Every day with breakfast, I take my pills for the day.  I get up quite early for work, and I give myself just enough time to get ready and get out the door for the 45 minute drive.  I grab my yogurt and fruit, throw my daily pill box in my purse, and I am off to work.

Once I get to work and I am more awake for the day, I eat my breakfast and take my pills.  Then it is just a regular day of living.  Sometimes I am happy, sometimes I am sad, and sometimes I am just even keeled as anyone would be on any given day.  I do not have the super extremes of depression or mania which happens with bipolar disorder.  This is how the pills help me.

Every now and then something happens and I miss my morning pills.  This happened today.  When I was at work, I got my fruit and yogurt out to eat and grabbed my pill box.  I looked and the pill box was empty!  "Oh no, this must be the one from yesterday."  I thought.  Right then I knew that later in the day I would be feeling "funny."

Let me explain that.  "Funny" to me means anything odd, different, or strange that I feel.  "Funny" feelings are mostly the physical things and sensations that change within me.  These sensations usually come on between 3-5 hours after I have missed my daily dose of medication.

"Funny" feelings:
  • sight gets fuzzy
  • taking long exaggerated blinks with my eyes (trying to make things clear again).
  • a sensation of dizziness at times
  • odd skin sensations 
  • tightness or clenched jaw 
  • clenched fists or other muscle tightness
  • digestive issues
  • tightness in chest
  • sounds become far away or like waves in my ears
  • brain zaps, like the feeling of being buzzed
  • being "not with it"
  • sensation of separateness from what is happening in the present
These "funny" feelings are not so funny, so I make sure to get back on my normal medication routine as soon as I can get to my pills.  Usually then within an hour or two I am back to normal me.  Today I was able to leave work early and go home.  I have taken my pills, and am now back to feeling even keeled this evening.  Just another reminder to always stay alert to doing what I need to do to keep mentally healthy.

Staying mentally healthy for a person with bipolar disorder is an everyday things including many different aspects.  One aspect of that for me is taking medications.  I must think about this everyday.  I must remember.

What I go through with bipolar disorder is not what everyone goes through.  Each person is unique.  I write this just to help you understand a side to taking these types of medications that you may not know about.  And, if I am having an off day or feeling "funny", this might be why.  Please be gentle with me.  I will come back around.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

10 Statements That Didn't Help Me In My Suicidal Depression

When you see a person who is deeply depressed, often you do not know what to do.  Sometimes you try to give a word of encouragement.  You hope that it will help the person or at least make you feel better about things.

When I was suicidal in my depression, there were things that were said that were supposed to help me feel better, but they didn't.  They didn't help because they were bad, but because they were too simple.  Life with depression and suicidal thoughts was not to be fixed simply.

I do not write this to make you feel bad about trying to encourage someone, but to show that sometimes a suicidal person needs more than a quick or simplistic statement.

Here are 10 simple statements that didn't help me in the middle of my suicidal depression:
  1. "Read this helpful book."
    • In my depression, my mind was not even able to read.  I would try to read something, and at the end of the page I had no idea what I just read.  A book given by another was a nice gesture, but the gesture implied to me that the book was going to make me better.  Reading a book would not help a chemical imbalance in my brain.
    • Instead: Tell me a story from your life of how the book helped you.  Help me go to the doctor, get medications, see a counselor.  Be real with me.
  2. "Pray about it."
    • Prayer is a good thing, but the way that I needed prayers answered was by me getting practical help through medications, counseling, etc... not by God just zapping me into being happy again.  Saying that praying would make everything better was telling me that I was not a spiritual enough person.  It made me think that if I prayed and didn't get better, then God must hate me too, as much as I hated myself.
    • Instead: Pray for me yourself, whether on your own or a short prayer when you are with me.
  3. "You are looking so good (skinny)."
    • This comment reinforced my resolve at the time to eat as little as possible.  Also, commenting on my outside said to me that there was no understanding of what was on the inside.  And on the inside was a deep hatred for myself and life.
    • Instead:  See me as beautiful no matter what I look like on the outside.  Tell me something beautiful that you see in my character.
  4. "Look at all the good in the world."
    • There was some good in the world, but I was overwhelmed by the incredible amount of bad that was not going away.  I had tunnel vision focused on the bad.  Why would I want to live in such a world?
    • Instead: Create a little good in the world yourself.  Be a friend to me.  Put yourself in my tunnel vision with little kindnesses and love.
  5. "You have a hope to look forward to."
    • Yes, I am a believer in Jesus and knew that I was going to go to heaven when I died, but why would a future hope make me want to stay alive when I was depressed?  It actually made me want to die so that I could be home with God.
    • Instead: Tell me stories of your hope for living each day.  Let me learn new skills to cope with the hard things in life so that I will have hope that I am able to get through.
  6. "Things will get better."
    • There was no guarantee that things would get better.  When this was said to me, I just thought that the person was naive and couldn't see the real world around them.  I could see plenty of situations that never got better.  My pain was so great that I knew I could not take it long enough for things to get better.
    • Instead: Be honest about life, and understand how hard life is for me.  Sympathize.
  7. "Other people have made it through the same thing."
    • I thought that other people must have been stronger than I was.  Just because a certain person did something didn't mean that I could do it too.  Hearing that others had made it through made me feel worse about myself because I didn't believe I could do it.
    • Instead: Have someone who has come out the other side of depression actually talk to me so that I can see in-person that it is possible to make it through.
  8. "You are not alone in your struggle."
    • If I was not alone in my suicidal thoughts and struggle, then there was even less hope.  If other people were going through the same horrible things that I was and feeling the same hopelessness, then that proved to me that things were even worse in the world than I thought.  Maybe we should just all die.
    • Instead: Let me know that I am not a bad person for feeling what I am feeling.  Help me find a support group or something similar where there is an emphasis on healing.
  9. "You have a lot to live for."
    • To me, nothing seemed worth living for.  I had tried all the things that I believed were worth living for, and they didn't work out.  I thought that nothing worth living for would work out or was worth the pain of continuing on.
    • Instead: Help me learn the tools that can help me make a life worth living so that I can get past the struggle to see what is worth living for.
  10. "You are loved."
    • This actually made me mad when I wanted to die.  I was mad at the people that loved me because they were holding me back from what I wanted, and that was to die.  I believed them to be selfish because they wanted me to continue to live with the unbearable depression.  They should understand that I needed relief and let me go.
    • Instead: Show me, don't just tell me, that I am loved no matter what I am going through by your actions, a hug, a personal note, a kind look.  Keep loving me even if I don't want it.
Suicidal depression is not a simple mental illness, so it needs more that simple fixes.  Instead of simple statements, in my depression and suicidal state I needed actions.  I needed proof of what you were saying and of your caring and love.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Seven Little Ways to Help a Person with Depression

Me and a couple friends celebrating me surviving depression and suicide

These seven little ways to help a person with depression come directly from my life.  This is not an extensive list.  It is just some things that stand out to me.  Things that mean a lot to me now that I am in a good place mentally and can look back on the dark times.  Maybe some of these ideas can help you help someone you know who is struggling and cannot do it on their own.

Seven little ways to help a person with depression:

1. Validate feelings.

After graduating from college in Chicago,  I went as a missionary to Africa.  I lived and worked in a village for a year.  I did not have electricity or running water.  Many of the people in the village did not understand English and I did not know their tribal language, making it hard to communicate.  There were many things during that year that were very good, but also things that were difficult for me.

I returned home to the US, and everyone wanted to hear stories about my African adventure.  They wanted to hear stories of how God had worked.  I felt that I had to be upbeat and tell stories of how wonderful it was for me to be a missionary.  Inside though, I started to become depressed.  That year in Africa had put me in positions that were more than I could handle.  I felt I had failed.  I felt that no one could understand why being a missionary would make me go into depression.

It wasn't until my pastor said to me at church one day, "Wow, that must have been hard.  You shouldn't have been sent out there alone," rather than, "Wow, what you did was amazing," that I finally felt a little understood.  I finally felt that someone saw me.

Sometimes, just saying, "Wow, that must be hard," to a depressed person can bring a little relief for a moment.

2. Help them get help.

I did not have the strength or know how to get help for my depression.  It took a friend saying, "Can I make an appointment with a counselor for you?" for the first steps to get help to be taken.

Then it took my counselor saying, "Can I make an appointment with a doctor for you?" for me to know that I may need medical help.

When it came time to go to the doctor's appointment, it took a secretary at the church going with me to even get me to go there.  My anxiety and depression were so bad.  I got a prescription for antidepressants, but even that I could not get on my own.  The secretary took me to the pharmacy, then took me to her house and let me rest on her bed while we waited for it to be ready.

The steps it takes to get help may seem easy to a person who is not depressed, but for a depressed person it can be more than they can handle on there own.  Sometimes a friend, a counselor, or even a church secretary needs to say, "Can I do this for you to get you help?"

3. Follow up.

One of my friends knew I had gone to the doctor.  He also knew that I was prescribed antidepressants.  I don't know what made him think that I might not take them once I got home, but his hunch was right.  I was scared to take them, and probably would not have, except that he came over and encouraged me to do so.  When my friend did this, it was almost like he was saying, "Can I give the courage and desire to you?"  I could not find it on my own at that point.

Maybe you have seen someone you know who is depressed be given help.  That is not the time to just relax and walk away.  A friend is still needed to give encouragement to take that next step in the healing process.

4. Just be together.

I remember when my sister lived with me for a while.  In my depression, I would lay on the couch in a dark house watching TV or just staring sadly ahead.  I know it made her sad and that she wanted to help, but she did not know how.  I remember one day when she got home from work, and I was covered in a blanket laying on the couch.  I don't remember if she even said anything, but I do remember that she came over, lay down on the blanket on top of me, and just hugged me.  I don't know how long that hug lasted, but it made me feel loved.  My sister doesn't even remember that she did this, but it is one of the encouraging moments that I remember still.

You don't need to always say something to someone who is in a state of depression.  Sometimes making a point to just be in the same room silently with them can be as good or better than giving advice.  A hug or a soft touch can often communicate a feeling of being cared for that words cannot describe.

5. Be encouraging without expectations.

There was a time when something very hurtful had happened to me, which was magnified by that fact of my depression.  I found myself crying deeply, shut in my room.  One of my roommates must have heard me crying.  Without saying anything to me, she slipped a 3x5 card with a verse she had written on it under my bedroom door.  The verse from the Bible came from the Psalms.  It was a verse about the love of God.  She didn't expect me to thank her or explain my hurts to her.  She did an encouraging act and then let it speak for itself.  I stuck that 3x5 card on my wall by my bedroom door and often looked at it as I left the room.

An encouraging quote or caring note, an invitation to do something together, or a word of love or appreciation can go a long way when a person is depressed.  The person may not have the energy or ability always to respond back to you, but be encouraged, your encouragement has meaning.

6. Offer to go the extra mile.

One day I was having a very hard time.  All I could think about was wanting to hurt myself or to kill myself.  I knew I needed to go to the hospital.  I went there and was sitting outside of the emergency room.  I decided to call my dad first.  I had not been very open with them in the past about my struggles, but now I wanted their support and love.  That is what I got.  My parents were very concerned.  My dad even offered to get in the car right then and drive the three hours from where they lived to come stay with me.  Though I did not take him up on his offer, I treasured the fact that he loved me.

There was another time that I had a breakdown and could not handle going to work.  A family I trusted offered for me to come stay with them so that I would be safe from myself.  This I did, then my mom made that three hour drive to come stay with me and to just be with me while I recovered.

Are you willing to do the big things that need to be done in time of crisis for your friend or loved one?  Will you go the extra mile?  It may be inconvenient and take away from other things, but it may even save a life.  I know it kept me safe at those dark times.

7. Help others understand.

Depression and other mental illnesses are not always understood in our society, and there is often stigma against them.  When these things show up in someone's life, the people around often do not understand what is happening.  The person who it is happening to is often in no state to explain.  Fear can build up in friends and family.  Sometimes it would be helpful for the people who do have an insight to explain it to those who do not.

I remember a time that I was in the psychiatric ward in the hospital.  I had not been open with my roommates about my mental state.  My parents explained to my roommates for me what I was going through and about the depression and mental illness that I was dealing with.  This took some of the pressure off me to try to figure out what to say to them.  After that, I knew that my roommates cared for me, that they still accepted me, and that it was ok to talk about it.

Do you understand much about depression and other mental illnesses?  If so, great.  If not, would you be willing to learn about it?  All of us need to have good mental health.  People with depression and others with mental illnesses are just that, people.  Let us all be open to start talking, and listening, and learning.  We can learn how to help.  We can learn how to love.  We can break the stigma against depression and mental illnesses.

And, to all of you who I have mentioned in my examples, thank you so much for caring enough to do something to help me.  Whether it was big or small,  I love you all.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Who is Cindy? Who are you?

Cindy.  That is me.

Who am I in this world?

There was a time in my life that if I were to be asked who I was, I would have said, "I am Cindy," but in my head I would have thought, "and I am nothing."

At that time, I thought that I was nothing.  I was deeply depressed, I hated myself, and the only things that I could think about myself were negative things.  I isolated myself and thought that I had no influence on the world around me, or if I did have an influence it was negative.  I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at that time.

Time has moved on, and I have been out of my depression for a long time now.  I now know that I am definitely something.  Definitely someone.  God has shown me that.  But who is that someone?  Am I just someone with a mental illness, or is there more to me than that?

I decided to sit down and write out a list of as many aspects of myself as I could think of.  They are not feelings I have, nor are they descriptive words about me or my personality, nor are they view others have about me.  They are just statements of fact, "I am a/an _______."  So here it goes.

Who is Cindy?

I am:
  • a believer in Jesus
  • a follower of Jesus
  • a woman
  • a wife
  • a daughter 
  • a sister
  • an aunt
  • a granddaughter 
  • a niece 
  • a friend
  • a neighbor
  • a church member
  • a greeter
  • an American
  • a person with Dutch heritage 
  • a reader
  • a researcher
  • a writer
  • a blogger
  • a story teller
  • a music lover
  • a pianist 
  • an artist
  • a Bible college graduate
  • a world traveler
  • a Jerusalem pilgrim
  • a cat owner
  • an animal lover
  • a former missionary
  • a volunteer
  • a vice president 
  • a mentor
  • a listener
  • a speaker
  • a group facilitator
  • a teacher 
  • a bird watcher
  • a fisher woman 
  • a driver
  • a hockey fan
  • a swimmer
  • a cyclist
  • a hiker
  • a phlebotomist 
  • a medical lab tech assistant 
  • a person with bipolar disorder
  • a person who has overcome
  • a mental health advocate
  • a trained Certified Peer Counselor
  • a person who prays
  • a reader of God's Word
  • an ambassador 
  • a distributor of God's Word
  • a witness for Jesus Christ
  • a person who loves
  • a person who lives
I am me.
I am Cindy


Who are you?  

You are not nothing.  You are something.

You can try this exercise too.  Write a list of as many aspects of yourself that you can think of.  These aspects are not feelings you have, nor are they descriptive words about you or your personality, nor are they view others have about you.  Remember just statements of fact, "I am a/an _______."


I am:
  • a (your spiritual self)
  • a (your sex)
  • a (relation to people in your family)
  • a (your culture)
  • a (your actives)
  • a (your hobbies)
  • a (your job)
  • a (member of ____ )
  • etc...
Stop and do this now if you have the time.  Then read on...

Did you finish your list?

Who are you?

How do you relate to the world?

What is your unique combination of who you are?

How can you use this list to find ways to be involved with the world around you?

What is the most important thing on your list?

Seeing my own list shows me that I am not "just" my job or "just" my mental illness.  I am so much more.  I have so many things I can tell people when I am introduced to them for the first time.  I don't have to say "what I do" or how the world may want to define me.  I could say, "I am a story teller".  Then we could share stories.  How much fun that could be!  Or, I could say, "I am a listener," and ask them questions about who they are.  There are so many options, fun and serious.

One way that I will use my list is to think about the people that care about me and those that I care about.  People in my family that care about me as well as friends and people in my church for example.  My life is important to them.  When I get down, I can use this as an encouragement to keep on going in life.

Another way to use this list it to think of ways that I can get involved and connect with other people.  Is there a book group I could join, a writing class that I could take, a neighbor that I could invite to go on a bike ride with me?  Rather than isolate myself in the house, I can think of ways to get involved.

The top thing on my list is that I am a believer in Jesus Christ.  This is the single most important aspect of who I am.  I want each of the people that I connect with to see this and to want to know Jesus also.  I want them to be able to put that on the top of their list too.

One aspect of me on my list is that I am a writer and blogger.  I am a reader of God's Word,  I am a person who prays.  I am connecting with you now.  I am praying that you will find a Bible and read.  I am praying for you to come to know Jesus and be saved.  I am praying that being a believer in Jesus will be the first thing you want on your list as well.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. - John 3:16
Who are you?  You are many things.  You are someone loved by God.  You are offered eternal life because of God's Son.  Do you believe?

Would you like to add "believer in Christ" to your list?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Why I Didn't Die By Suicide That Night

I know this story may be hard for many of you to read, but I want to write it to show that you can have an impact on whether someone you know dies or lives.  Also, I want to show you who may have attempted suicide that the things that stopped your life from ending may very well have been arranged by God ahead of time.

My purpose is to show that God did indeed love me even in the midst of a horrible time as he does love you in the midst of your horrible time too.

I struggled with depression for many years of my life.  The mental and emotional pain from it became so bad that I started wanting to die and was thinking about suicide.  Every day I would have to decide if I would live another day or end my life.  Finally, I decided that I could not be in the world any longer.  I decided that I would kill myself.

There were some reasons that had kept me from completely going through with killing myself up until then.

The biggest was that I was afraid that suicide meant that I was rejecting God forever and that I'd go to hell if I followed through with it.  I was pretty sure that He would understand my pain, and love me, and accept me into heaven, but there was still a tiny doubt.  On that night though, I decided that my pain was too great and that God may be sad that I went to heaven that way, but that I would still be accepted.

Another reason that I had not gone through with killing myself yet was because there was uncertainty in my mind if the process of killing myself would be painful.  I had plenty of pills that I could swallow.  I had cut my wrist numerous times, and I knew I could do it, but I had not yet lost enough blood to actually die.  That night though, I wanted death to come, and decided that I would let it happen.

I made an attempt at suicide that night, but to my dismay at the time, I did not die.

These are some of the reasons why my suicide was not completed that night.

  • A couple that I trusted had me stay at their house after I had cut my wrist really bad the day before and because I was saying how I wanted to die.
  • I was writing a suicide note while at their house, and I think it was seen when I was called outside for a moment to talk to one of them.
  • When it was time to get ready for bed, I went into the bathroom at my friend's house, shut and locked the door, and cut my wrist.  I was not going to stop until I died, but somehow the door opened!  They  came into the bathroom and stopped me.  I have never figured out how that bathroom door could have been opened, but that is what really came in the way of my suicide.
  • A towel was wrapped around my bleeding wrist, and I was held in love while I tried to shut out the world in my mind.  I was held as I cried from the deepest place in me in anguish until I could cry no longer.
  • They finally left me to sleep on the couch and went to bed.  I lay awake in the same state of wanting to kill myself as they fell asleep.  Finally, I got up and went into the bathroom again.  I was ready finish the process of killing myself, but I felt too guilty about the fact that my friends would have to find me dead in the morning.  I couldn't do that after they had already stopped me once, so I went back to the couch to wait until the morning.
  • It just so happened that I had an appointment the following morning with my doctor who prescribed my depression medications.  And not only that, but it just so happened that my friend had an appointment at about the same time at the same clinic that morning.  He talked to my doctor about what was happening, and they set it up for me to get checked into the psychiatric ward at the hospital.
  • While in the hospital, the psychiatrist, my counselor, and my parents worked together to set up a plan for me to get more long term intensive help.  My parents had received some money for their kids education, and even though I had already completed my college degree, they were able to use that money they were given for me to go to an outpatient program that would teach me how to survive and live again.  I had gone down so far that I didn't even know how to live.
All the above things stopped me from dieing that night.  I didn't know why or how all those things happened to align to keep me living.  I can only say that someone higher than I, knew what was going to happen and arranged ahead of time that I would live.  It could only be God.  He was loving me and saving me even in the midst of my darkness.

Today, many years later, and with many years of recovery and finding out how to live, I can say that I am glad that God did not allow me to die that day.  God has given me a new future and a hope in Him like I never knew before.  I know that God wants me to live and rest in Him.  He wants me to know that I can trust Him to know the perfect time to take me home.  He knows my life and my steps so intimately even before they happen that He prepares a way for life.

God knew that I would give up on that particular day.  God gave me friends that listened to my cries for help, friends that stepped out of their comfort zones and took me into their lives.  God planned that my friend might see the suicide note I was writing and take things seriously.  God planned that the door of the bathroom would open somehow.  God gave me someone to hold me safely in the depths of the pain.  God gave me the thought that I didn't want to scar my friends by having them find me dead.  God planned ahead of time that I would have a doctor's appointment the next morning.  God planned that my friend would also have an appointment at the same clinic at the same time.  God provided a bed in the hospital and a counselor, psychiatrist, and parents who wanted to work together to help me.  God provided the money needed for me to get help just at the right time.

Why did I not die by suicide that night?  God planned for me to live.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Cindy's Mental Illness Reveal

My reveal.  

I am a person who lives with a mental illness.  

I write this today to show some of the real stories in the midst of my mental illness.  It is not vague.  They are short glimpses in the midst of pain and "craziness".  Maybe by me sharing some of my hidden moments, you may be able to have a little understanding of the places a person's mind can go.  Maybe also, you may be able to think of some ways that a person like me could be helped.  Depression and other mental illnesses are not something to be ignored or pushed out of the way.  They are real and need to be talked about.

There was a time that I didn’t know what depression was.

During high school, I got to a point where I was sad most of the time.  I didn’t share my feelings with my family.  I made mixed tapes of songs about Jesus holding me.  I hated sleep, and tried to stay up as late as I could.  I figured what was the point?  I felt like I was a fraud, that what was inside of me was different than the smart, good Christian girl that everyone thought I was on the outside.  I felt that I didn’t really know how to live in the world, and even one time imagined a heavy light fixture in the church falling on me and crushing me.  I didn’t know that these were signs of depression and that I could have used help.  Later in college I was told that someone in my family had depression and they were taking medication for it.  I thought to myself, “That is what was wrong with me.  I had it first.”

Even a “strong” Christian with a great background can get depressed and have a mental illness.

I became a Christian when I was four.  I went to church, Sunday school, and a Christian school when I was growing up.  My family were all Christians.  I was shown the love of Jesus.  I became a leader in my high school youth group at church.  During my college years I volunteered playing the piano for church services in nursing homes.  I helped lead in a few Christian youth programs, and also played the piano in a college worship band and sang in the choir.  The most spiritual thing that I felt I did was to go to a Bible College and study International Ministries for my degree.  I went on mission trips in Canada, the US, and England, then I went to Kenya as a missionary for a year to tell people about Jesus.  After returning to the US, I, who had served God all my life, became clinically depressed and was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.  I didn't know that it was not my fault.

How do you know what feeling bad means?

The first time I went to see a counselor, he asked me how I felt.  I said, “Bad.”  He wanted to know what that meant.  I said, “Bad.”  I did not know how to express the complexity of what bad could be.  He actually had to write on a white board all the different feelings that bad could be.  Here are some examples: angry, anxious, ashamed, cautious, confused, depressed, disappointed, disgusted, embarrassed, enraged, exasperated, exhausted, frightened, frustrated, grieved, guilty, hurt, lonely, miserable, overwhelmed, pained, puzzled, regretful, sad, stupid, suspicious, withdrawn, and more.  If only I could have learned these ways of expressing my feelings along with what I learned in school, I may have been better able to understand and get through what I was going through.

I was going to be a best selling author and a famous artist.

Mania can make a person have grandiose thinking.  This is what happened to me and one of the reasons why I have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.  One example of this grandiose thinking is when I came up with an idea that I was going to start making art.  I don’t remember what kind of art it was going to be, but whatever it was it was instantly going to be world famous.  The truth was I had not done any art for maybe ten years, but I truly believed that it would happen, until the next day when my mind was back in reality.  Another time something similar happened, this time I had a great idea for writing a book about missionaries and their experiences.  I planned it all out in my head for hours as I lay in bed.  I was convinced that it would immediately be a best seller and reach number one on the charts.  At that point I had done no writing.  Again, the next morning I was embarrassed by my grandiose thoughts.  Mania will do that.

At one point, all I had in the refrigerator was ketchup and a loaf of bread that didn’t rise.

True.  I was afraid.  My anxiety was so strong that the only time I left the house was to go to counseling.  I slowly ate everything that I had for food in the house.  My anxiety would not let me go to the store.  In fact the only human interaction that I had besides counseling was a friend that came over to check on me.  He saw that I was extremely depressed and shut up in my house.  He asked if I needed any food and said that his wife could take me grocery shopping.  I was so ashamed that I said I was ok even though truly I was not.  I do not even remember how I got food to keep me going.  I think sometimes people don't need to just ask what they can do, but to think of something and just do it.

It is hard to search the internet for how to kill yourself.

When I was had suicidal ideation, I wanted to find out all the ways a person could kill themselves and what the process would be like.  I found out that this is very hard to do.  The first things that come up when you try to search ways to kill yourself are ways to get help.  This angered me at the time, but I am thankful for that now and know it saves lives.

I didn't cut myself to try to get attention.

Some people think that a person cuts themselves to try to get attention.  Not so for me.  You may not think that anyone needs to be able to cut themselves, but for a person who is in debilitation mental anguish like I was, knowing there was a way out available (suicide) brought the comfort that was needed.  I felt hopeless so often that death was always on my mind.  When the pain would become too great, I would cut myself as a reminder that there could be a way out.  Also, the act of cutting caused an intense physical pain that took my mind off the even more intense mental pain, at least for a moment.  I didn’t know how else to find relief.  I had not yet learned other skills to cope with the depths of despair.  That came later.

Is a partial truth the truth?

Depression, bipolar, self-injury, and my need to be secretive about it caused me to do things that I normally would not have done.  One thing was that I told partial truths.  I thought that because what I said was truth that I was still being honorable.  As I Christian, I did't want to lie so I found a way around it and rationalized what I was doing.  When asked how I was doing, I would just ask the person right back how they were without answering.  When asked if I had eaten anything, I would say that I had eaten even if it was only one bite of something.  When my doctor asked if I had cut myself, I would just say that I had not cut my wrist, when in fact I had cut myself in another spot.  Who would have thought that I would get to that level of shame and destructive behavior that I would do what I could to keep it going.

Poison control sent a police officer to my door.

I wanted to die and thought that taking pills would be an easy way to do it, hopefully without pain.  I did not want to do it partway though.  What if I didn’t take enough pills?  What would happen?  So I called Poison Control and made up that my friend took pills, and I wanted to know if she would need help.  The gal on the phone knew what I was asking for though, then I acted like everything was ok and hung up.  Not too much longer, there was a knock at my door.  It was a police officer checking to see if I was planning on killing myself.  I was scared that he would take me to the hospital so I said everything was ok.  He went on his way, and I was left in my misery.  Obviously, I was not ok.

The edge of the train platform seemed the safest.

During my time of depression, I found comfort in the thought of the closeness of death.  For a while I was afraid to take the step to kill myself so I just put myself in positions where something could cause my death accidentally.  One of those things was to stand in the yellow zone right on the edge of the light rail train platform when if was coming by.  I was inches from it as it went past and could feel the breeze on my face.  I thought that God might decide then to cause me to fall, and then I would have a quick ending.  It was not to be so.

Once I decided to kill myself and made an attempt, a shift happened in my mind, and I have never seen life the same way again.

I can try to explain this, but really only someone who has made this decision and acted on it can understand.  I am not afraid to die.  I may be afraid of the possible pain in the process, but death and leaving this earth will be a welcome thing for me.   This would not be a thought if I didn’t know that I will be going to be with Jesus when I die.  This world does have beauty from God, but it is also a place full of sin and evil.  For a long time I wanted out.  I brought myself to death, and by his help Jesus brought me back into living.  The literal reason that I am alive is because Jesus is my life.  I am alive so that Jesus will work through me to do as he pleases.  That is what my life is about.  I wait and walk forward to see how Jesus will do this.

The silence about mental health and the stigma against it caused me to be ashamed to talk about my depression and made my depression last a lot longer.

This is why I talk openly about my depression and mental illness today.  I don’t just tell the easy things to hear, but also the painful ugly parts.  Mental illness is real.  Real people deal with it.  We need to be able to talk about it and create understanding around it.  There was help for me in all my pain and confusion.  Medical, mental, emotional, relational and spiritual help.  Maybe more people will be able to get help sooner if others know not to be afraid, but to point those people that are struggling to places to get help.  I would have had a lot less fear and shame and maybe even never gotten to the place that I wanted to kill myself if I knew that people understood my pain and tried to help me.  We all need love.  Especially the love from the Lord God.

Monday, March 13, 2017

What Does It Feel Like to Be Depressed

When you know someone is depressed, you may think, "Hey, just pull yourself out of it.  I've felt sad before, and I made it through."  
But depression is not like that.  If you want to know what it feels like for that person that you know who is depressed, this might give you an idea.  These words are not said lightly.  In fact these are some of the thought that went through my mind for the years of my depression.

Who am I?  
the worst
don't succeed
not awake
in my veins
stuck in reverse
a waste
to the bone
down below
give up
no worth
tears stream
more than a bad day
lost moments
gray skies
fake smile
in pieces
don't know
coming down
wasting away
not easy
not holding on
not ok
stolen soul
no escape
not enough
aching heart
turn to dust
fade away
break down
silent screaming
ghost of a person
the lonely
no escape
shell of who I was
broken pieces
bairly breathing
let me go
rain never ending
sick forever
breathing no longer
going under
depths of sorrow
locked inside
nothing left
What's wrong with me?

There are so many words and statements that could be added to this list.  So you see, a person who is depressed is not just sad or having a bad day.  They are going through one of the deepest things that can grab a person's very soul.   I hope that by realizing the reality of the struggle, we will all show a little more understanding and concern and love.

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Change I'd Like to Make in 2017

I love him, but I don't spend much time with him. I forget that he is waiting and longing for me to come spend time with him. I love him, but I don't talk to him much at all. Sometimes days go by before I say anything to him. Sometimes I reminisce of the days when we were close, when we spent time together every day pursuing our shared desires in life.

It was so good, those times.  We would share life.  We would talk.  I would listen as he spoke to me, and he would listen as I spoke to him.  Not only did we speak together, but I loved him so much I would speak to my family and friends about how wonderful he was, and even speak to people that I didn't know about him.  My love for him spilled out and brought me joy!

The thing is, I still love him just as much.  I love him more than anyone or anything.  I would die without him.  So why do I ignore him and forget about him?  I know he loves me and is faithful.  He loves me so much he would die for me.

So, "Why?" you may ask, "do you not communicate?  Why do you not share every moment of your life with him?  Has he gone away?  Is he unreachable?"

"No," I say, "he, the one that I love, he is here."

He is always right beside me ready to listen, ready to speak into my life, ready to share joy, and ready to comfort me when I need it.  He wants to love me and provide for my deepest needs.  He waits for me and calls me to come to him.

So, this year, 2017, I would like to combine my feelings of love with my actions of love.  I want us to spend times talking, listening, and sharing.  I want us to be on the same page when it comes to the desires of our hearts.  I want to spend so much time with him that I begin to take on his wonderful likeness.  I want you to see such love and excitement from me that you ask me, "Who is this amazing one that you love?  How can I know him too?"

I want to love him with my life.

So I say, "Jesus Christ I love you."