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.....

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.