Three Things That Got Me Through Hell

No matter what you believe about hell in the afterlife, if it’s literal or figurative, some of you, like me, have have been through hell on earth, and can testify that it’s no fun. Some of you have a loved one or friend who is hurting inside and you don’t know how to help. Hopefully this post will help you or them a little.

First, though, the music: This Feeling by Ryan Ellis, off the album Kingdom Glory–just because it’s catchy and fun. It helps to listen to good music when you’re talking about serious things.

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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.

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A (Potential) Way To Stabilize Yourself During The Bad Days

photo-1427694012323-fb5e8b0c165bOver the past few weeks I’ve been working on my self-talk, trying to be more positive about work in particular: that forty-plus-hour block of time that I somehow have to deal with, one way or another.

Every day I have a few choices, and I’ve always been told that this is a binary thing: I can expect the good, or expect the bad.

I may have found a third choice that works. We shall see. It’s still in the experimental phase, and I might drop it if it doesn’t work. This choice goes like this:

It’s going to be a good day, whether it is or not.

I tell myself this strange little phrase several times in the morning and often throughout the day, depending on how hard the day actually is. I don’t know why this helps, but it seems to help keep me neutral during the day: bad stuff will come, good stuff will come, whatever, but it’s still a good day.

This approach takes the good and the bad into account. I’m going to get easy calls, I’m going to get terrible ones, but I don’t have to let outside circumstances destabilize me–at least not at work.

I wouldn’t say I’m a happier person because of this, but happiness is not the goal. Stability, evenness, and a sense of well-being, that’s more important than happiness to me.

Try it out and see what you think. If you’re having problems keeping stable, this might trick your mind into being able to deal with things a little easier. Let me know in the comments or on Twitter if it worked for you. Thanks.

Voices

something’s wrong

[looks around] Why do I feel bad? What’s wrong with me?

something’s wrong – something’s wrong – something’s wrong

Ugh, what is this?

all your failures – all your failures – all your failures in sequential order

[cries]

failures – failures – failures

Wait. [checks pockets]

doom – doom – it’s over – this is the end

Crap, I forgot to take my meds.

failure – doom – something’s wrong – something’s wr… [silence]

That’s a little better.

Life In The Midlife

It was a dark and stormy life.
It was a dark and stormy life.

As stated in the previous post, I’ve been working through a midlife crisis. I’m approaching 40 and longing for work that’s significant instead of just money-making.

It’s a really challenging time because I’m seeking advice from books and from a life coach. I have to do something different with my life–but I feel a little powerless at times. In order to do anything different in my career, I would either need to go back to college or trade school, and both ideas are something I am having a hard time dealing with.

I need to learn something else. I need different skills to not only pay the bills, but a different life situation where I am using the talents God has given me in a role that feels significant.

The reason I haven’t written much on this is that this season is also one of an identity crisis. When a book asks me to ask myself, ‘Who am I?’ and I don’t have a ready answer, that’s when things get painful. I’ve come up with a million Twitter bios over the years, listing whatever I’m into right now: learning Japanese, lover of progressive rock, World of Warcraft player, a lot of things. I can easily tell you what I do, and what I like, but I can’t tell you who I am.

Here are a few other questions that the book I’m reading, Consider Your Calling: Six Questions for Discerning Your Vocation, asks:

  • What on earth is God doing?
  • Who are you?
  • What is your stage of life?
  • What are your circumstances?
  • What is the cross you will have to bear?
  • What are you afraid of?

Some of these I don’t have very positive answers for, or don’t have any answer. I have a life coach also asking me a lot of questions, and it’s easy to get discouraged during this process of internal probing and intense prayer asking God to make things clear.

I’m sure that good will come out of this time soon, but it’s been painful.

Reaching The Other Side of Pain With Music

Today’s song is the ever-so-smooth Gospel track, I Want My Destiny by Fred Hammond, off of one of his greatest albums, Purpose By Design.

The other day someone I follow on Twitter mentioned that music is like a drug. He dismissed it as it was like any other psychiatric medication. I disagree that it’s ‘just a drug’–but maybe that’s because I’m a ‘user’.

For many years, silence was painful for me. Without something in my ears, I was terrified that ‘demons’ would overtake my mind, and the pressure cooker would explode. Music was often a comfort, especially when I was in private and could cry as much as I needed to. There are so many comforting albums that I relied on during the hard times that it’d be hard to list them all here. The aforementioned Fred Hammond album is one–most of the songs speak directly to things I faced, and sometimes still face, in my life: the desire to see my destiny fulfilled, to have a clean, unencumbered heart–all of it.

For a while I couldn’t come back to the music that helped me get through the pain. Some music I was listening to during profound times of deception, such as during my ‘Messianic Jewish/Torah Movement’ or ‘Drunken Glory’ kicks, I would never return to–but the albums that helped me through the generally hopeless and heartbroken times, when I come back to them, sometimes they don’t hurt any more. That’s how I know I’ve grown up a bit–that God has worked in my life to heal the hurts. I’m still a work in progress–it’s an everyday thing, believe me!–but I am thankful to God that he hasn’t given up on me–and indeed, has promised never to, Phil. 1:4-6:

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

unsplash-kitsune-4If you’re someone for whom music plays a fundamental part, and you’ve gone through a long time of healing, you might occasionally test your progress by trying some of the older music that you listened to while you were healing. If it brings back old hurts, then there’s no shame! You’re still a work in progress and it’s totally OK. If the hurt has dissipated, mark that down–God has healed you, and you’ve made progress.

Think of this as if you’ve broken your leg and someone prayed for it to be healed. Most folks praying for you will ask you to test it out. With mental and emotional healing, it’s invisible and there’s nothing to test. Results may occur right away, but you won’t know for weeks or months exactly what the impact was. Music is a quick test for that. Does it still hurt? That’s OK, just rejoice that God’s helped you make progress elsewhere and then come back to it later. You’re on your way.