Mental Health: Do The Basics First

If you’re drowning, please get help.

It is my hope that in communicating with you on this blog, that I’m not giving the impression that I’ve ‘arrived’ and I’m completely healthy now. I struggle every day, one way or another, and probably will for a while. It’s been years since my mental breakdown, but with God’s help, I am getting better every day.

But first, the music: You’re Still God by Godfrey Birtill, off the album Very God (Amazon, iTunes, artist store)–just a hopeful song I heard this morning that might help you out.

When it comes to mental health, here is what you need:

  1. Get a good doctor. Good doctors will listen to you and patiently help you through the medication and counseling process. If you don’t have a good psychiatrist and you live in the Atlanta area, email me (stephentshores at gmail dot com) and I can give you a referral.

  2. Take your medicine, and keep taking it. You’re probably going to go through a few different medications to stabilize your moods. During that time, it’s important to keep your doctor apprised of how you’re doing.

  3. Take your medicine, no matter what the ‘faith preacher’ says. God isn’t displeased with you because you’re having to rely on medication. You might have to be on some sort of medication the rest of your life. God is still happy with you and loves you no matter what. Faith is not going off your medication–that’s stupidity and lack of wisdom.

Sometimes faith is just simple trust in God, asking him to work through the doctors to get your medication right. And think positively–maybe you will be completely healed! I had severe, debilitating depression that went away after a revival at my church. It eventually came back, but it was much, much less and basically went away with a small adjustment in medication.

  1. Take care of your physical health. A good walk or run might be just what you need to help kick depression, or at least take the edge off. Take a look at Sad Runner for some good stories of how one man is kicking his depression through exercise.

Keep track of how you feel when you eat certain foods or drink certain drinks. If they make you feel depressed or anxious, stop eating/drinking them or moderate yourself. If I drink too much caffeine, I get anxious, too much chocolate and I get depressed. If I moderate those, I’m fine. Food that makes you sleepy should be avoided if you get depressed when you’re sleepy, as I sometimes do.

  1. Remember that you’re not alone. Ask around and you’ll find that probably dozens of people you know are on some sort of medication for anxiety or depression. These are difficult times, and there are many, many people who need help, but there is still a stigma associated with mental health that makes people hesitate to tell anyone that they need help, or are currently getting help.

  2. Take your medication. If it makes you feel bad, talk to your doctor until he or she gets it right. If your doctor won’t listen, find another doctor. But keep taking your medication.

I pray for you according to Paul in Ephesians 1, emphasis mine:

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe…

I pray that God renews your hope, and also that you’ll ask for and receive wisdom, according to James 1:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

(‘Without reproach’ means that God’s not going to make fun of you for asking for wisdom–that’s what the Holy Spirit is there for, to be your Counselor and Guide.)

Have hope, use wisdom, and be blessed, friends.

Coming Home, Part 2: Practically Practicing His Presence

(This is part 2 of a series I’m doing on The Practice of The Presence of God. See part 1 here.)

It’s only been a few days since I picked up The Practice of The Presence of God once more and started implementing it. I can already report some practical results.

But first, the music: Everywhere I Go by Tim Timmons, off the album Awake Our Souls. I discovered Tim’s positive worship music this week and have been enjoying that as well.

Continue reading “Coming Home, Part 2: Practically Practicing His Presence”

Coming Home, Part 1: ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’

Last week I was feeling rather dry and depressed inside. I couldn’t find anything to listen to on my evening commute–none of the many audiobooks I have seemed to fit the bill, and none of the music I have on my phone seemed to satisfy.

(By the way, today’s song is Who is Jesus? by the BRILLIANCE, off their newest (and quite amazing) album All Is Not Lost.)

Then I remembered a friend of mine had a new podcast which I had loaded on my phone and forgotten about, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt. It definitely didn’t hurt, and in fact, it helped quite a bit. Continue reading “Coming Home, Part 1: ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’”

I Wanted To Be Jewish (Overcoming Obsessions, Part 1)

This morning a couple of songs from ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ were in my head. I reflected on Twitter that I hadn’t watched the movie since my ‘I wanted to be Jewish’ kick about a decade ago.

One of the worst flaws of my personality is the tendency towards obsession. Through the years I’ve been, by the grace of God, able to tame that tendency somewhat. I’ll walk you through some of the faulty logic here, and perhaps this will help you if you recognize this tendency in yourself. Or perhaps you’re a Christian who is obsessed with ‘Jewish roots’ and need a kick in the pants.

More after the break. Continue reading “I Wanted To Be Jewish (Overcoming Obsessions, Part 1)”

The Pain of Becoming

Today’s music is actually a whole album, Anjunabeats Volume 12. by Above & Beyond. Because it’s a trance album where all the songs flow into each other, it doesn’t make sense to just link to one track. Here’s an Amazon purchase link.

51JQHobFsaLI’ve been reading several books lately of a self-help, philosophical nature, and while they have been both informative and entertaining, I won’t link to them because they’re also painful to read, at least for me.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with Christian meditation, working on focusing my mind and thoughts, rather than living life with my brain wandering everywhere. It’s helped lift me out of the funk I’ve been in lately, which is good, and a lot of times I will get insights from the Holy Spirit as to why things are the way they are in my very complicated head, or a better sense about life.

One of the things I realized today is why reading some of these self-help books is so painful is that perhaps they’re not intended for me. Maybe they’re painful to read because they don’t fit a certain pattern that God established for my life. He says he is making us like Christ, but ‘Christ in me’ looks different than ‘Christ in you’, as expressed through our unique personalities and emotional makeup.

One problem is that I’m unsettled in my identity and I don’t feel successful in life, so I latch on to someone who seems self-assured and is successful, then I wonder why their approach to life doesn’t seem to work for me. There’s probably a reason for that: I’m not that person, and I suspect that for me, self-assurance and success is going to look very different.

I don’t know what I’m becoming; I’m still in that ugly stage where it feels like, at times, I don’t know which way is up. Maybe, just maybe, that confusion is OK. As I learn to focus through meditation, that extra step that helps me keep centered in the Spirit, I believe things are getting better, slowly. But I have to let go of the idea that I am going to look like other people, that my success is going to be the same as theirs. Sure, I can grab some helpful pointers here and there, but God isn’t making me into that person. He’s recreating me according to my original intended design, reducing the complicated to the simple, turning pain into peace.

 

Pressure

Today’s song is Pressure by Billy Joel, off of his album The Nylon Curtain.

Over the past week I’ve been struggling with various pressures that I haven’t found a solution for yet. My career, politics, world events, being able to afford college for my kids, just a lot of stuff piling up and overwhelming me at times.

yyyyyAs always, the solution remains: withdraw and recharge. Spend time in God’s presence. And take care of my health.

Modifying my diet hasn’t really happened yet, but I am getting more exercise, and that helps. I’ll definitely be healthier after I finish allergy treatments–I’m having to take shots because I have been sick most of the year due to allergies, and that kind of pressure never helps you think clearly. Getting adequate sleep also helps, and I haven’t done a very good job of that as of late.

I don’t have much to offer in this post, and I apologize for that. Stress has been getting the best of me lately, and it’s more important than ever that I take my concerns and fears to God. I hope you’ll do the same. He’s the only one who knows how to fix whatever problems you have, or get you through the problems to the other side.

Productivity vs. ‘Productivity’

Today’s song has absolutely nothing to do with the title, it’s just a song I like. In case you can’t see the player, the song is Swoon by Imogen Heap, off her album Ellipse.

Let me tell you about spiritual disciplines: I suck at them. Very badly.

‘Quiet times’? My mind wanders or I fall asleep.

Bible reading? Only when I’m looking up a verse when I’m writing, or reading along with the lessons in church.

Prayer? I don’t have a set time for prayer. I pray all day long. (Usually the prayer is, ‘help!’)

Every weekday, I get in my car and the question is, what will I do that morning? Listen to a book or listen to music? Usually the answer is pretty obvious, it’s whatever is less painful. I don’t know if this will make sense, but it’s like the explanation one of the main characters gets in the book and miniseries 11.22.63: when you’re about to change the past, you just know it. It’s like you’re pressing against an invisible wall.

Every morning and afternoon I face that anxiety. I need to learn. I need to grow up. I need to study. Every day I am powerfully reminded of how ignorant I really am, how much I don’t know, and it’s very frustrating, disappointing, and even causes anxiety. Medicine helps with the anxiety, but the feeling is still there. I always feel like I have to be learning something.

613+MSjGDRL._SL1500_A lot of times, I’m some what dismayed to learn that the answer is: listen to music and just spend time in the presence of God, praying in tongues or to myself or out loud or whatever. When I say ‘dismayed’, I mean that my rational mind is disappointed because it thinks, ‘I’m not going to learn anything new.’ Deeper inside, I know, yes, I might not gain intellectual knowledge, but I might just glean something from the Spirit. It’s a tension I experience daily.

Spending time in the presence of God is never a waste of time. I know that from experience. A lot of times I’ll gain a lot from simple questions or impressions that come to mind while I’m spending that time sort of doing nothing, just letting my mind wander and spirit fly free. It’s weird how it works. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” ‘In him we live and move and have our being.’ ‘We can do nothing without him.’

I can’t say when I learned to ‘abide in the presence of God’, to borrow some Charismatic church-speak. When I was living through my tormented years, an unhelpful church leader said, ‘Well, just crawl up into Daddy’s lap and spend time there.’ This made no sense to me. I was constantly torn apart on the inside because of my schizophrenic belief system: I was bad and good at the same time, and I just. could. not. get. free. from. sin. No matter what, I was constantly tormented inside. Have a bad thought, cast it down. A few minutes later, have another bad thought, case it down. I was constantly having to do that, and it was making me mentally exhausted all the time.

A few years later, I learned that that stuff wasn’t my fault. I got free from the schizophrenic belief system: by grace I have been saved, I have been made clean by Jesus’ words. ‘Therefore, there is now no condemnation for me, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.’ Set me free, past tense.

I also got treatment for an anxiety disorder, which also helped tremendously, along with about six months of counselling to get my head clear, and I’m doing much better now.

Another thing that removed a lot of the tension was giving up on a ‘ministry mentality’. Since I had a ‘prophetic word’ back in 1997ish, I always believes I was going to be a pastor or preacher or something. I don’t remember what the minister said word-for-word, but the basic gist was that I would be preaching and speaking the Word. Maybe that’s coming true in a sense right now, in that I’m finally able to write things almost daily that hopefully help one or two people. The problem was all of the churches I filtered through after that, especially one we went to for over ten years, which were really high-powered and focused on activity. Find your calling, do your calling, now now now. The problem with that is, even going through ‘The Purpose-Driven Life’ and books about vision and purpose, nothing seemed to some to pass. I was still in dead-end jobs and all my attempts to minister to anyone fell flat. This is probably a good thing, because I was really, really screwed up by then, but this remained a pressure in my mind and caused me to do a lot of dumb things, including prioritizing ‘ministry goals’ above family, for almost 20 years.

Concerned about spiritual disciplines? Don’t be. Learn to spend time in the presence of God first. If you don’t know how, ask God to show you. He’s remarkably good at making himself heard. You most likely won’t hear a voice from the sky. It’ll be a simple idea. Or maybe you’ll get an inkling to start asking for things because you suddenly believe. Maybe you’ll feel more peaceful than before. Embrace that.