Can Caregivers Find Comfort in Psalm 91?

comfortIt’s been a few weeks since I last wrote about Psalm 91 and the caregiver. In the intervening time, I’ve run a marathon, taken a marathon car trip (from Holbrook, to San Diego, to Holbrook, and then Tulsa, and finally to Palmer, Alaska). I have also taken on a different kind of caregiver role—this time as granny to my sweet grandson and helper to my daughter and son-in-law.

In the first two installments, I shared what I’ve learned about God’s protection from the evil one’s lies and attempts to draw us into the pit of despair. I’ve come to understand that Psalm 91 doesn’t promise to keep us from bad things—it promises to protect us from our human reaction to bad things.

Psalm 91 promises to protect us from our human, knee-jerk reaction to bad things. Click To Tweet

What About Those Thousands?

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.

You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.

The ‘it’ in the third line refers to the plague in verse 6. God has me covered in mind-protection—even if I get sick, or the ones I love go through disasters. All around me, those who reject God will stumble and fall (and I will join them if I keep my eyes focused on myself and not on God).

The world has plenty of examples of what happens when an individual rejects God’s sovereignty—people suffer from the consequences of their sinful actions all the time. But because I chose to accept God’s protection and right to rule my life, I’d like to think that I make better choices in the here and now and therefore don’t have to suffer so many consequences.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t stand above anyone gloating and puffing myself up (God never asks us to do that). Practicing God’s sovereignty in my life takes a constant turning of my self over to God and a humble spirit (I tend to think I know it all).

But Do We Get to Skip the Bad Stuff?

God doesn't promise us a charmed life, he promises us comfort FOR life. http://wp.me/p2UZoK-1GdI have seen Christians go through difficult times and react one of two ways. They might believe that God wants to punish them for something that they did. When Pedro received his cancer diagnosis, a local pastor insinuated that if Pedro just confessed, the cancer would go away. God doesn’t work that way (and the pastor’s words brought no comfort).

The other reaction involves anger at God for not keeping his word because in Psalm 91 it appears that God promises a ‘Get out of Trials Free Card.’ I don’t think that God promises that we get to skip the trials of life.

After all, Jesus said in John 16:33

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

I Still Get Comfort from Psalm 91

I believe that when we study the Bible, we should not just read the words, but that we should look for the context and the application as well. In the Amplified version, a footnote for Psalm 91 refers the reader to Exodus 15:26, and states that the “wonderful promises of this chapter are dependent upon one’s meeting the conditions stated in these first two verses.”

Exodus and Psalm 91, both written by Old Testament authors, were written for specific people during specific circumstances. The words of Exodus record God’s instructions for the Children of Israel (and it’s no coincidence that they are called ‘children’). The NIV translation implies in a footnote that the ‘he’ refers to the king. Therefore, we have some idea as to the specific audience.

The application comes when we realize two things as well. First, we need to dwell with God and give control to him. Second, we serve a powerful God who has proved faithful in the past and will continue to provide for us in the future. Once again, we don’t get to choose what that looks like.

I find comfort in the fact that my powerful and mighty God can prevent me from harm—if the situation calls for that. If harm befalls me, well, I know that God loves me and will help me through.

Applications for Caregivers

  1. Find comfort in reading about the power of God.
  2. Don’t blame God when disaster befalls you—we live in a sinful world.
  3. God doesn’t make people sick in order to punish them (punishment comes at the final judgment—things that happen now just happen because of sin).

Are there any promises in the Bible that make YOU mad?

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

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Read This Before You Sign Up to Race for a Cause

Is it worth it to run a marathon for a cause?

causeRun (or Bike, or Hike, or Walk) for a Cause

Back in January I decided that if I wanted to actually run a marathon in my fiftieth year, I would need accountability. For this reason, I joined the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team in Training (TNT) program. The LLS marries endurance sports with charity using the concept from elementary school participants finding sponsors in order to raise money for a cause.

In the case of the LLS, the cause involves research for blood cancers. You can find out more information on their website about the strides in blood cancer treatment and how they use the monies.

Fourteen years ago, Pedro benefitted from that research and development when he had non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which went into remission and then quickly relapsed in a worse form (the lymphoma cells entered his central nervous system—we joke about his cancer going to his head).

The LLS assists the TNT members by providing local volunteer coaches and support in fundraising. ‘Local’ is a relative term, though. I live in a very small community and my local coach and the rest of my team members lived in Phoenix—a three-hour drive from home.

The Nitty Gritty of What Happens Next

When participants register, they can make different commitments—the larger commitments include a shared hotel room (with another TNT participant). Since Pedro wanted to go with me, I decided to pay for my own hotel room.

I spent perhaps ten hours working on fundraising, and through the generosity of friends and family I raised my commitment amount ($1,200) before the deadline (typically a week before the event takes place). TNT made it easy by providing a fundraising page online and mailing out letters for me (they provided the stamped envelopes, I wrote the letter and addressed the envelopes).

Training for the marathon took about five months—when I started, the longest distance I had run in the previous six months was about five miles. I used the Nike Run Club app on my phone as my primary trainer, and did most of my running on a treadmill until the weather warmed up.A perk of running a marathon--the plethora of quirky signs along the route. http://wp.me/p2UZoK-1G7

I ran a half marathon in February as part of my training program (those long runs get a little boring). But by May, I felt the need for company during the long runs, so I drove down to Phoenix for two of the team trainings. I enjoyed meeting some of my other teammates and the coach—and the change of scenery made the run interesting.

When the really long training runs came along, I often questioned my sanity in choosing to run a marathon. After all, I don’t consider myself particularly athletic. I have enthusiasm about some activities, but I don’t have any athletic talent or coordination—I can’t walk upstairs and drink water at the same time.

When the training blues hit, I knew that I needed to power through because people had already donated money and I couldn’t back out.

TNT Race Weekend

When the weekend finally arrived, Pedro and I drove to San Diego (with a stop along the way for him to ride his favorite mountain bike trail in California).

After checking in to our hotel, I picked up my race packet and then we spent several hours visiting friends in the area. The LLS holds a gala the night before the race at the sponsoring hotel. Team Arizona sat together, and we enjoyed chatting about our training and race-day strategies during the meal. The event emcee introduced the top fundraisers for the race (one of them, a 94-year-old woman, had raised an incredible amount of money).

Several fundraisers and survivors shared their stories of why they raise money and run for the cause. Their inspirational stories dispelled any doubts I had about my sanity. Joining together with other people to raise money for a cause forms a community that allows each member to do more than they could do on their own.

The organizers invited the guests to show up at mile 8 for a free t-shirt and a chance to join the TNT cheering section. I thought it was a great way to include family members. They also provided cheer signs, cow bells and clappers.

Sunday morning the team met in the hotel lobby at an absurdly early hour (4:45), so that we could walk to the shuttle bus together and ride to the race start. The coaches warned us about the port-a-potty lines (get in line as soon as you get off the shuttle), and told us where to leave our race bags.

Racing for the Cause

In order to provide a safe and organized start, the San Diego Rock-n-Roll Marathon has staging areas for participants based on the participant’s expected finish time. DJs played music to keep everyone entertained during the wait, and a new wave of runners started about every two minutes.

It took me about 35 minutes from the official start of the race to actually cross the starting line. During that time, other TNT participants came by to say hello and encourage me—not that I knew any of them. But, since we all wore the same purple shirts with our local team names emblazoned on the back, we could easily spot TNT members.Should you run for a cause? http://wp.me/p2UZoK-1G7

Once we started running, TNT coaches could easily identify us as well, and at least three times along the course a coach joined me to chat and encourage me through a difficult stretch. As other TNT members passed me, they would shout an encouraging, “Go, Team!” Bystanders who knew about TNT would do the same.

When I finished the race, I checked in at the TNT booth to let them know I’d finished. Unfortunately, Pedro and I had to hurry back home. Otherwise, it would have been fun to hang out with my new friends.

Would I Do it again?

Yes! Ok, maybe I won’t go the full marathon distance again. But I could sign up for a TNT bike ride, half-marathon, or other endurance event—anyone want to do a triathlon? Just kidding (maybe). The combination of team support, accountability from donors, and camaraderie made my marathon experience worth the effort.

If I lived in a bigger city, I could have joined in some group fundraising projects as well. Team Arizona members hosted a luau and a silent auction, but I lived too far away to participate. The weekly coaching emails from the coach and the offers of fundraising assistance from the TNT office helped me a lot.

So, if you have thought about signing up to support a cause on your next (or first) endurance event, I would highly recommend that you give it a try.

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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Shadowing in Alzheimer’s: Two Sides of a Coin

National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month

Alzheimer's
The Problem With Alzheimer’s

When a beloved family member receives an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, long-term care is a big issue in the United States. This is especially true when the recipients and their family members have to contend with a condition as devastating as Alzheimer’s disease. Although caregivers have unlimited access to resources, such as long-term care consumer guides and various studies, no one can truly be prepared for the toll that Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia can take.

Currently, more than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. And while this number may be already considered too many, research shows that the number could rise to 16 million by 2050. It is the sixth leading cause of death with 1 out of 3 seniors reported to die from the disease. In fact, it kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.

Alzheimer’s disease gets worse over time, and it affects the family caregivers and the diagnosed alike. Relationships may change, and roles may be reversed. It can take a lot from both sides, and truthfully, it often does. After all, the symptoms and impacts vary that it is easy for anyone to be overwhelmed by the whole situation. One such part of Alzheimer’s is Shadowing.

Shadowing in Alzheimer’s is when the people with the disease constantly trail their caregivers. This is when they mimic their caregivers, go wherever the caregivers go, or become very anxious when their caregivers are not in sight.

From the Perspective of the Person with Alzheimer’s Disease

Often the root of shadowing is confusion and fear. Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia are going through drastic changes. What used to be familiar to them becomes completely alien. And when they cannot make sense out of their surroundings, it can be quite terrifying. They may easily become fearful and anxious about their environment. And to feel safe and calm themselves, they tend to follow their primary caregivers around.

They become their caregiver’s perpetual shadow. Many relate this to the relationship of a small child and a parent. The child is completely dependent on the parent, and the latter’s presence enforces a sense of security.

Through the Eyes of the CaregiverCaring for someone with Alzheimer's can be discouraging and frustrating--especially when you need a break. Try these two simple solutions to help your loved one through transition times.

Caregiving can take its toll on an individual in various ways. It can affect a person physically, emotionally, financially, and mentally, which is why taking breaks are often a must. However, for caregivers to individuals with Alzheimer’s, taking time off may be difficult to achieve. When their care recipients are shadowing them constantly, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and frustrated. And when this happens, their feelings of guilt can multiply.

It is important to note that when these feelings arise, caregivers must remember that their feelings are valid. They can feel frustrated or overwhelmed by the whole scenario. They must acknowledge their limitations and take active measures to address the situation.

#Shadowing in Alzheimer's is a manifestation of fear and anxiety. #caregivers #alzheimers Click To TweetBear in mind that shadowing is a manifestation of fear and anxiety. The root of these two emotions must be the one that caregivers ought to address and not the behavior itself. Caregivers can encourage feelings of safety and security through activities that work best for the specific individual.

They could record their own voice conveying reassuring messages for playback to the patient during the caregiver’s absence. In addition, caregivers can identify therapeutic music that their loved one with Alzheimer’s enjoys listening to. No two cases are the same, so the caregivers must be creative in finding a way to ease the stress of their loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease.

Guest Bio

Samantha Stein is an online content manager for ALTCP.org. Her works focus on key information on long-term care insurance, financial planning, elder care, and retirement. In line with the organization’s goal, Samantha’s work highlights the importance of having a good long-term care plan, which includes requesting a long-term care insurance quote to securing comprehensive coverage.

 

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

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Are You Willing to Let God be Sovereign in the Situation?

A Caregiver Looks at Psalm 91: Part II

sovereign

A Caregiver Looks at Psalm 91: Part II

In part one of this series we looked at the first four verses of Psalm 91—a well-loved Psalm that I have a problem with. Join me as I work through the next two verses and try to figure out what they mean for the caregiver.

We left off at verse four, with the understanding that if we stay close to God, he will shield us from the lies of the devil. During my caregiving journeys, I often found myself worn down, worn out, and unable to cope in private. I thought I needed to take on the care of my very ill husband and shoulder all the other daily burdens as well. I forgot that God is sovereign.

Coping in public seems like a given. Caregivers don’t want to draw attention to themselves and their needs because they seem petty (even if they aren’t) in light of the bigger needs of the one they care for.

#Caregivers don't want to draw attention to themselves and their needs because they seem petty… Click To Tweet

What Does Fear Really Mean?

5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,

In verse five, God doesn’t promise that terrors won’t lurk. He promises that we won’t FEAR them. The dictionary tells us that ‘fear’ as a noun is “an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.” As a verb, ‘fear’ is “to be afraid of: expect with alarm.”

In other words, when we trust in God and stay close to him, we don’t let the devil’s suggestions of the worst-case scenario take over our imaginations and cause us extra agony.

During my first caregiver journey, I often let worries about the future drag me down. In those quiet moments late at night, the lies of the evil one nibbled and scampered inside my head like rodents in the walls. I had to make a conscious effort to allow God’s light into my mind to chase away the mice of despair.

Gradually, I learned that I didn’t fear the terrors of night, nor the arrows of circumstance and progression of disease that assaulted me by day. This knowledge armed me for my second caregiver journey.

The devil loves to point out our shortcomings and failures through the behaviors and actions of… Click To Tweet

What’s With Pestilence and Plagues?

6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.

My second caregiver journey provided the perfect opportunity for falling for the devil’s lines: “If only you would have been a better parent.” and “She’s acting like this because you failed.”Life is short. Pray hard. A caregiver looks at Psalm 91 http://wp.me/p2UZoK-1FY

After all, when one’s offspring implodes on a public forum (Facebook and YouTube), pretty much the entire known world knows. Our children’s actions highlight all that we did (or didn’t) do as parents. All too often we measure ourselves by our children’s actions—even if our children have reached adulthood.

I like to think that the ‘pestilence’ and ‘plague’ that the psalmist uses here have more to do with those lies of the evil one. It would have been easy (and natural) for me to roll up into a ball of dejected depression as I watched Sarah make a series of horrible choices.

I could have rejected God’s sovereignty because he didn’t provide protection for Sarah on my terms. He COULD have saved her from her bad choices and helped us figure out her diagnosis much earlier. But he didn’t.

I had a choice—either accept God as the sovereign in the situation and daily affirm his right to allow things that I didn’t like to happen, or reject God.

We have a choice: accept God as sovereign & affirm his right to allow things that we don't… Click To Tweet

Choosing God’s sovereignty kept me sane. Sure, I spent a lot of time in tears and on my knees. My relationship with God got stronger as I relied on him to help me avoid the pestilence and plague of the devil’s recriminations.

The devil keeps plugging away, trying to undermine our relationship with God. We have a choice—call out to God in the darkest night or in the light of day, or let the devil sink us with his lies.

Caregiver Applications

1. With God as our sovereign, we don’t have to fear the terrors.
2. We don’t need to work out the worst-case scenarios and stew about them.
3. The devil likes to jab at our weak spots and make us blame ourselves for other people’s actions. Just say, “No!”

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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A Caregiver Looks at Psalm 91

Part I

Psalm 91

A Caregiver Looks at Psalm 91

I confess. I have a problem with Psalm 91. Have you read it lately? For the last seven months, I’ve studied the Psalms.

Last week I came to Psalm 91 and it got my dander up. Why? Because as a caregiver, I KNOW that God doesn’t offer supernatural protection from disease and death to Christians. I’ve known many good Christians who have had catastrophic illnesses, and many good Christians who have died.

How then, do I reconcile the verses about ‘no harm overtaking me’ and ‘no disaster coming near me’ with the reality of the bad things that happen to the ones I love?

Psalm 91 makes it sounds as if genuine Christians will have nothing bad happen to them. In fact, the Pilgrims believed that disaster meant that a person lived outside of God’s grace. The ‘elect’ had successful lives; everyone else had problems.

I don’t claim theologian status—but I do claim a personal relationship with God and a desire to understand his word with the help of the Holy Spirit. So, I set out to figure out how a caregiver can live with Psalm 91.

For the next several days, I’ll share what I’ve learned from giving Psalm 91 a closer look.

Verses 1-2

1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

First of all, we must dwell in God. The word dwell means ‘to remain for a time’ as well as ‘to keep attention directed.’ It can also mean abide, stay, remain, and tarry. If I spend time with God and trust him with the most intimate parts of my life, than I can say I dwell in him.

In that act of dwelling, I can find rest—something every caregiver needs! I must give up my desires to fix everything and make the path smooth for those I care for. I must discipline myself to consciously turn over all of my problems to God.

Verse two talks about God in war-terms: refuge and fortress.
Our motto needs to be, “I trust in God.” Period.

Verses 3-4Some people think Psalm 91 promises us a life on easy street. I disagree. http://wp.me/p2UZoK-1FW

3 Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

The next two verses use a birdy simile—something I can relate to! In the olden days, fowlers had the responsibility for setting snares for wild birds for the cooking pots. They acted as specialized bird hunters. Likewise, the devil acts as a specialized hunter of human souls.

The word ‘pestilence’ means ‘disaster’ or ‘destructive and pernicious.’ The devil sets snares for us, and uses pernicious lies to lure us into his hopeless way of thinking.

God doesn’t promise us a life without disease, he promises protection from the pernicious lies of the evil one.

God doesn't promise a disease-free life; he promises protection from the lies of the evil one. Click To Tweet

The simile continues in verse four where the psalmist says that God will offer us shelter under his wings. A mother bird will shelter her young under her wings—which act as protection against the elements as well as other birds and animals of prey.

I believe one facet of that protection for caregivers includes what I call a ‘happy-face-state-of-grace.’ During Pedro’s illness, I often thought it odd that I didn’t break down on a regular basis.

Bad news and discouraging setbacks seemed to roll right off me—I had taken emotional shelter under the wings of a loving Savior. Just like feathers repel the rain, so God’s grace provided protection for my emotions during very trying times.

God’s faithfulness arranged flights that seemed impossible, kept airfare low, provided inexpensive hotels, and in times of great need, a way for our daughters to see Pedro for what we thought was the last time.

Caregiver Applications

1. God wants us to take up residence in the safest place possible—close to him. As caregivers, we do this by staying in daily connection with him.
2. The devil’s snares consist of pernicious lies—thing such as, “It’s my fault.” “If only I had ____.”
3. God’s ‘wings’ of grace protect us and allow us to function when we choose to hide close to him.
4. God will provide. His faithfulness will manifest itself in unexpected ways.

How has God provided for you in your caregiver journey? Share in the comments section! I’d love to celebrate God’s goodness with you.

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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YOU Can Help Stop the Stigma

Mental Health Awareness Month Resource Page

stigmaMental Health Awareness Month-What’s the Big Deal?

May marks Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. Many of you may wonder why a website dedicated to caregivers and caregiving would take the time to mention mental health isues. Meantal Health problems are the unseen cancer of our times.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), suicide is the second leading cause of death in people ages 10-24. Take a moment to let that statistic sink in.

The School of Social Work at Washington State University has this sobering statistic to share:

The great majority of people who experience a mental illness do not die by suicide.  However, of those who die from suicide, more than 90 percent have a diagnosable mental disorder.

Our daughter Sarah almost became one of those statistics. She had an undiagnosed mental illness that caused severe depression and suicidal ideation. We became her caregivers, even though she didn’t suffer from cancer.

The Stimga of Cancer (and Mental Illness)

Like cancer, mental illness knows no socioeconomic boundaries. It doesn’t skip age groups, ethnicities, or religions, either. Mental illness can occur in any person, at any time, for no apparent reason. Thus the need for a Mental Health Awareness Month.

A century ago, no one wanted to speak about cancer, either. In fact, doctors didn’t tell their patients that they HAD cancer for fear of demoralizing them. That stigma remained in place for centuries. Thank goodness the American Cancer Society got the conversation started in 1913 and published a list of warning signs.

Conversation leads to questions, which lead to research, which leads to ways to manage and cure. We can do the same thing with mental illness. We can not only stop the stigma, we can help change treatment and understanding.

Like #cancer, #mentalillness knows no socioeconomic boundaries. Inform yourself. #stopthestigma… Click To Tweet

The more we know, the more likely we will notice changes in behavior that could signal a deeper problem. If we know the signs, we will know when to get help. pray

Resources for Mental Health Awareness

NAMI has a great website that offers not only information about mental illnesses, but support group information for both those who suffer and their family members. They offer a free helpline 24/7. If you suspect that someone you love has a mental illness, CONTACT NAMI today! You could save a life (Text NAMI to 741741 to get help).

The School of Social Work at Washington State University hosts the Mental Health Reporting. The information helps reporters and writers (as well as patients and caregivers) talk about mental illness in a way that avoids perpetrating the stigma against those who suffer.

Do you know of another website that offers quality information? Email me at anita at blessedbutstressed dot com and I’ll add it to this page if the information fits.

Stories From the Trenches

Sometiems, just knowing that we are not alone is all it takes to help us get help for ourselves or seek help for a loved one. We hope that these stories will resonate with you and inspire you to stop the stigma:

31 Glimpses into an Unquiet Mind–Our family’s journey with mental illness.

What I Wish Christians Understood About Mental Illness

Why Should You Care About Mental Illness?

What I Wish Christians Knew About Harm OCD

What I Wish Christians Knew About Prayer and Mental Health Issues

The Challenges of the Topsy Turvy World of Mental Illness

If Insurance Companies Treated Cancer Like a Mental Illness

How I Wish the Church Would Treat Those With Mental Illnesses

Caring for a Parent with a Mental Illness

What I Wish Christians Knew about Anxiety

What I Wish Christians Knew about Caregiver PTSD

Dear Church: People With Mental Illness Love Jesus, Too!

Join the Conversation!

If you’re a blogger and have written a story about mental health issues and would like it included in this list, please email me at anita at blessedbutstressed dot com. I would love to grow this resource page into something beautiful for those who suffer from or have a family member that suffers from a mental illness. Together we can stop the stigma, bring hope, and love like Jesus loves!

If you do nothing else, please share this article on Facebook so that the one in five people who suffer from a mental health issue can find hope and healing!

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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Pray and Persist: The Keys to Advocating for Adolescents

Advocating

Flashbacks by Proxy

The hiss of the bus stopping at the United terminal at the Newark, NJ airport stabbed me. We grabbed our suitcases, in preparation from finishing our transfer from one terminal to another on the airport bus. Two years had passed since that fateful night when we almost lost Sarah, and I hadn’t expected my eyes to tear up as we traveled through an airport we had never been to before.

Questions bounced around inside my head as I gripped the my suitcase handle. Had Sarah stumbled off this very bus the night she almost died? Had she listened to the swoosh of the automatic doors and smelled the jet fuel before collapsing on the tarmac? My momma heart wanted to know the details of that night, even if they hurt. Even though two years had passed, I wanted to make sense of all that had happened during that dark period of her life.

Every momma wants to soothe, protect, and bring light into our children’s nightmares—whether our child is five, 15, or 25. I will probably never know exactly what happened that night, but I believe that praying for my daughter made a difference in the outcome of her story.

The very night that sirens wailed and flashing lights converged on the scene while paramedics knelt at Sarah’s side, I knelt beside my bed, 2000 miles away, clueless to her plight. I knew she was in danger, but I didn’t know how much. The urge to pray was so great that I did something I had never done before—I sent out requests to some of Sarah’s mentors and friends and asked them to pray with me.

More Questions Than Answers

We didn’t find out until over a week later that paramedics rushed Sarah to a hospital near the airport and eventually released her after 12 hours. It took months for the full story to emerge.

Our well-brought-up-Christian daughter, the one we strove to instill with the proper balance of caution and freedom, had accepted some drug-laced ‘candies’ from strangers. Without even stopping to think of all the lessons we’d taught her, she had popped the candies into her mouth and ended up passed out at the airport on the tarmac between terminals. While it wasn’t exactly an overdose, it did require hospital observation.

At almost 21, she seemed too old to accept and ingest candy of questionable origin from people she had never met before. After all, we taught her all about stranger danger from an early age.

Had we failed as parents? For the past two years, Sarah’s behavior had bewildered us. She started binge eating and gained weight. When she went away to college she struggled to get good grades—despite her 4.0 high-school GPA. She lost confidence in her ability to reason and think and write.

When she couldn’t decide on a major, she went to Argentina for a year, where she seemed to suffer from the throes of first love as well as deep depression. When she returned, the first love was a thing of the past, but the depression remained.

We took Sarah to counseling. She continued to gain weight. We took her to psychologists. She spoke of going for a walk at night and stepping in front of a car. She came home to stay with us until we could figure things out. I spent hours on the phone trying to find a treatment center that our insurance would pay for.

You can find the rest of the story over at Kindred Mom.

pray

 

 

For the Caregiver Who Doesn’t Feel Like Celebrating Easter

EasterEaster Sunday or Easter Some Day?

Some celebrate with new outfits, decorating eggs, and a sunrise service at church. Others hide goodies for the little ones to hunt and then spend the rest of the day in the kitchen preparing a feast. Caregivers often just feel overwhelmed.

I didn’t grow up in a church that made a big deal about Easter Sunday (nor Lent, nor Palm Sunday). Other kids got new outfits, chocolate bunnies, and Easter egg hunts. I didn’t get why Christmas fell on the same day every year, but Easter hopped all over.

My dad explained that since no one had modern calendars back when Jesus was born, no one really knew whether he was born on December 25th or not. I never did get an explanation about why Easter falls on a different day each year. But I didn’t want to push the issue, because it took a fair amount of finagling to have a Christmas tree and celebrate Jesus’ birth. I didn’t want to push my luck by advocating for a holiday I couldn’t keep track of.

So I understand what it feels like when the whole world seems buzzing with excitement over a holiday you just can’t get in to. Don’t get me wrong. I know the significance of Jesus’ resurrection. I know he died on the cross on a Friday, got put in the tomb before sundown, and came back to life on Sunday morning.

The Caregiver’s Easter Moments

You don't need to stage a celebration to experience resurrection power! http://wp.me/p2UZoK-1De via @blestbutstrestAs a caregiver, I’ve experienced a small measure of the despair Jesus’ disciples felt as they saw him take his last breath on the cross. I have waited through the night, wondering if Pedro’s next breath would be his last. Because of a miracle, Pedro kept on breathing. But I understand the agony. I also understand the unbounded joy when a loved one pulls through—a resurrection of sorts.

I have despaired whether or not we would ever see our youngest daughter again. Friends wept and prayed with me through a torturous night of doubt. I understand the deep well of gratitude when a prodigal comes home—defying death and destruction and proving once again the miracle of rebirth.

So if you’re feeling wiped out and unable to celebrate anything today, dear caregiver, it’s ok. You don’t have to stage a celebration to experience the unbounded joy of knowing that Jesus lives. Hiding eggs and chocolate bunnies or slaving in a hot kitchen all day will not make the resurrection more real in the lives of the ones you love.

#Caregiver, you don't have to stage a celebration to know the joy of the #resurrection. Click To Tweet

Living each day with the knowledge that you follow the one who conquered the grave—now THAT has an impact. My Jesus conquered death; I know he can conquer my bad attitude. My Jesus has the keys to the grave; I know he can conquer my doubts and fears.

When we let Jesus conquer things for us, we have room in our lives for joy. And we don’t need to wait around for Easter Sunday (whenever it might fall) to celebrate.

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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The Unrecognized Toll of Caregiving on the Caregiver

Family Caregivers Put Their Own Health at Risk

tollWhat Don’t Know CAN Hurt You (or Someone You Love)

When Pedro received a cancer diagnosis, I automatically jumped in and took over the role of primary caregiver.  I had no idea that people called what I did ‘caregiving.’ Before his diagnosis, I blythly assumed that when someone gets seriously ill, the doctors and nurses take care of everything. Wrong.

I soon learned that Pedro not only needed the kind of care that doctors and nurses and hospitals provided, he needed companionship in the hospital, help organizing his meds, and eventually, help walking, sitting, and standing. But of course, I kept right on helping, wihout any thought of what might happen to ME (who thinks of that in the middle of a crisis, anyway?).

Weight gain (mine) during his illness and depression (mine) during his recovery helped me realize that caregiving takes a toll. Since we hadn’t yet reached 40 when he received his diagnosis, we hadn’t had any of those important conversations that involve the unthinkable questions that start with ‘What if?’

The Toll of Caregiving on the Caregiver

Guest contributor Samantha Stein cautions caregivers to think ahead of time about things like long-term care insurance:

Society has dubbed family caregivers as the unsung heroes of long-term care. And if we think about it, the given moniker is rightfully so. After all, they have done enough and beyond to earn it. These individuals dedicate themselves to provide the support and care that their loved ones and family members need. When the dust settles, they are often left to face their own health issues and financial challenges with limited resources.”

According to Stein, “Caregivers are among those who should get long-term care insurance. The costs of care in the United States can deliver a devastating blow, and these individuals need all the help and protection they can get.” She graciously provided this infographic for you to read, think about, and share. We need to educate others about the true costs of caregiving.

We need to educate others about the true toll of #caregiving. Click To Tweet

The toll of #caregiving is higher than you think.

Guest Contributor

Samantha Stein, an online content manager for ALTCP.org. Her works focus on key information on long term care insurance, financial planning, elder care, and retirement. In line with the organization’s goal, Samantha’s work highlights the importance of having a good long term care plan, which includes requesting a long term care insurance quote to securing comprehensive coverage.

 

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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What You don’t Know About Breathing Can Really Hurt You

breathingLosing My Ability to Breathe

Somewhere, between diagnosis and deliverance, I forgot how to breathe. I find myself, at odd moments, holding my breath, not in anticipation or fright, but simply because I have forgotten the rhythm of breathing.

I didn’t even know about my loss until I started experiencing horrible, unexplainable pain in the middle of my chest that isn’t a heart problem (checked that), isn’t a nerve problem (checked that too), or even a lung problem (checked the bellows out and they’re fine).

“You’re as healthy as a person half your age,” the cardiologist told me. If that’s true, why does it hurt to breathe or have my heart beat strong and deep?  Why does my left side swell up?  It hurts to lie down, or stand up?  Why does it happen over and over again?

“Your breathing function is normal,” the internist told me. “In fact, your lung capacity is superior.”  Than why does it hurt to breathe?  Why can’t I take a deep breath without agony?  Walking up stairs is a cruel form of torture.

“Have you ever considered acupuncture?” my family practitioner asked me. Really?  Alternative therapy?  I couldn’t believe a physician was suggestion alternative therapy.

“Well, I do go to a chiropractor and a massage therapist,” I admitted.

“Does it help?” she asked.

“I’m not sure.”  I shrugged. “Sometimes it helps the pain go away if I go in early, sometimes it doesn’t. My massage therapist claims that I have incredibly tight muscles on my left side. It takes her an hour to work through the knots.”

A Different Kind of Specialist

“Do you know how to breathe?” my neighbor and friend asked me. She’s a life coach, and helps people with chronic pain—she’s also a person in chronic pain. “I can teach you how to breathe.”  I reluctantly agreed to go over to her house after work one evening (after my second job–I much rather would have been in bed).

“It’s called diaphragmatic breathing,” she told me. “Put your hand right below your rib cage and try to push your hand out when you breathe.”  I felt silly, but I tried it. “When you breathe shallowly, you decrease your body’s ability handle pain.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”  She launched into the technical reasons why shallow breathing keeps a person from processing pain and releasing endorphins that help the body take care of pain. I thanked her and wandered out of her house, hand on stomach, practicing my breathing while thinking of breathing in general.

Over the next few weeks, while I waited for my pain to go away, I caught myself not breathing. The computer didn’t load fast enough—I clenched my teeth and my breathing ceased its regular, steady rhythm. Three family members with perfectly good hands and arms and backs failed to put their own dishes in the dishwasher—how hard can it be to bend slightly and put a dish in the dishwasher?  I got cut off on the highway—have they stopped giving driving tests?!  Ooops!  My teeth were clenched and I had been holding my breath for who-knows-how-long.

Caregiver, Beware Your Breathing

Somewhere, between diagnosis and deliverance, I had started holding my breath—in fright, in anticipation of the next piece of bad news, in mental pain and agony, in emotional stress. No one ever warned me that a side effect of all that stress would be a loss of breathing. In fact, no one warned me about any of the side effects of a cancer diagnosis. Slowly, every so slowly, I’m putting a name on them and dealing with them. For now, I’ll start with breathing lessons.

 

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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