Book Review: Walking with the Women of the New Testament

December 14, 2014 at 11:53 pm

In October I received a free review copy (from Cedar Fort Publishing) of the book Walking with the Women of the New Testament, by Heather Farrell ( beautiful art by Mandy Jane Williams). I knew right off the bat that my review would be biased. Heather Farrell and I, along with Felice Austin, Robyn Allgood, and Sheridan Ripley, co-wrote The Gift of Giving Life from 2009 until it was published in 2012.

Meeting in-person for the first time in summer of 2010

Meeting in-person for the first time in summer of 2010

I found Heather’s blog Women in the Scriptures back in 2009 doing an internet search about Eve. After clicking around on her blog and devouring a bunch of her posts, I told Felice, “We need her!” Not long after that, we invited her to join with us in writing The Gift of Giving Life. Over the course of the project, we eventually all met in person. I adore Heather Farrell.

Just Keep Swimming

December 5, 2014 at 5:20 pm

On October 29, I sent out the same text to a bunch of friends and family. It said:

Kind of suicidal please pray

I had spent a chunk of the morning on the phone with my neuropsychologist stepmom, who had called me after we exchanged a few crisis-riddled text messages, despite her being in the middle of a (no joke) suicide prevention tele-seminar.

I have great friends. They mobilized on many sides to keep me safe that day. For a good part of the late morning, I sat at the park with a circle of earthly angels (and probably spiritual too) around me. I couldn’t really participate in the conversation. Mostly I sat staring into a void of darkness, but I was so grateful that I wasn’t alone.

At lunchtime, one of my angel friends came home with me. While we sat at my table, we talked and cried. Our kids played upstairs. After a while, my daughter came downstairs saying something like, “Mom, we have this movie!” I glanced up to see what she was talking about and noticed that she was holding a plastic Dory bath toy. My friend smiled and said to my daughter [to me], “Yeah! What does Dory say? Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming!” What my friend didn’t know was just how loaded with meaning those words were for me.

Surrounded by Angels

November 24, 2014 at 2:35 am

A couple of weeks ago I was driving home after dropping off my kids at school, and I saw a short older woman walking on the sidewalk coming toward us. She looked kind of like this. As we came closer to her, she and I made eye contact through my windshield, and something happened. It was like our souls connected somehow. But I had to make a turn onto our street, so it didn’t last long. I don’t usually have experiences like that when passing strangers in the street, so I was intrigued and wondered about it, but I also sort of forgot about it.

Until the next day. As I was walking my kindergartner into his classroom in the morning, we turned a corner and there was the same woman right in front of me again. We made eye contact (again). She smiled like she recognized me and said, “Hello.” I smiled back and said, “Hello,” and then rushed my son into his classroom. But, again, it felt like our souls had connected somehow.

A few days later I was telling a friend about these unusual encounters. In response, she said, “I bet she was an angel.” The thought hadn’t occurred to me, but I kind of wondered if she might be right. This woman definitely looked mortal to me, but (angel or not) I had a feeling we would cross paths again. I told my husband about these incidents and said, “What if we run into each other at the park or something? What do you say to someone who might be an angel?” I spent a lot of time pondering what the right words would be and feeling kind of nervous and excited about it.

Buried Treasure

October 10, 2014 at 7:42 pm

I wanted to be healed. I wanted to be calm and happy without medication. I wanted to meet the baby who had been visiting me in dreams and visions. I was on a trajectory of hope, aiming for a future I believed was right for me. When it all came crashing down, there was no sense in reaching for that hoped-for life any longer. All I could reach for was getting through another day, and another, and another.

Fortunately, I’m no longer in survival mode. I’m not fighting tooth and nail to get through the day. When I do still have anxiety, it is mild and manageable. I am finally beyond the insomnia that plagued me for months. I’m sleeping without sleep-aids! Most of the time I can genuinely smile. I can take care of my family. I’ve regained my appetite. All of these things are huge victories.

But now that I have the energy to do more than just survive, I also have the energy to look to the future. Assuming that my medication continues to work for me, I will continue to take it… probably forever. I come from a family riddled with mental illness. Most of the members of my immediate family are taking (and always will be taking) meds for those illnesses. I am certainly in good company. But I wish it weren’t so. I wanted a future without medication, and it’s been painful to accept the future I’m looking at instead.

Be What You Are

September 21, 2014 at 10:27 pm

I haven’t spent much time online in the past five months. Except for checking email, blogging, and getting on facebook to share my posts and occasionally beg for prayers, I have mostly avoided the Internet. Pretty much everything online exacerbated my anxiety, so it was a necessity to insulate myself.

Now that the benzos are out of my system, it’s amazing how much better I feel. Yay! Note to self: your body and benzos are a bad (bad, bad, bad, bad) mix. Shudder. Anyway… now that I’m feeling better, I’ve been spending (i.e. wasting) more time online. And I started noticing something: I have a bone to pick with the world.

Pinterest world, you’re one of the worst offenders. I kind of want to scream every time I see pins like this:

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Suicide Prevention Week

September 11, 2014 at 5:23 pm

This morning a friend posted this on my facebook profile: “This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. Your life makes all the difference. Sending love and hugs.” I didn’t know that this week was National Suicide Prevention Week  until she told me.

Do you know the warning signs of Suicide? The American Association of Suicidology shares this mnemonic:

IS PATH WARM?

I Ideation
S Substance Abuse

P Purposelessness
A Anxiety
T Trapped
H Hopelessness

W Withdrawal
A Anger
R Recklessness
M Mood Changes

I Am a Desert Poppy

September 3, 2014 at 6:14 pm

Back at the end of May, as we were franticly packing up for our sudden early departure to my parents’ house, my mind was scattered with horrific thoughts and images. In those moments, nearly two days without sleep, my body pulsing with panic, I prepared myself to kiss my children good-bye, perhaps for good. I don’t exaggerate when I say that I was sure I was either going to spend the rest of my life in a psychiatric hospital or soon be dead by my own hands.

Then the doorbell rang. A little while later, my husband returned from answering the door, carrying a cheerful-looking basket full of yellow things. Last year, I had brought a friend a “basket of sunshine” when she was stressed-out and struggling, and she said now it was my turn. One of the gifts in her basket was a picture she had painted.

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Endurance

August 26, 2014 at 1:22 am

Tonight I will be cutting my dose again.

As much as I’m eager to leave benzodiazepines behind, it always feels a little bit like voluntarily submitting to torture when I reduce my dose. Generally the next two days are alright. The third… not so much. If the pattern continues, this Thursday should be interesting.

In other news, my sleep is definitely taking a hit. Sunday morning I woke up at 3:45 and couldn’t go back to sleep. This morning I woke up at 3:30, but I was fortunately able to fall back to sleep until 5:00-ish.  When I start catastrophizing, I imagine that I’m going to have some sleepless nights coming up. So far my worst fears haven’t materialized, so I’m hoping the trend continues.

I think it’s safe to say that the past four months have been the most difficult I’ve ever endured. I really hope September will bring mercy. I really hope I don’t have another month+ of withdrawals to look forward to. I really hope the next couple of weeks don’t kill me. <—Did you hear that? That’s called a will to live. It’s nice to have one again. I hope it sticks around. Never take yours for granted, friends.

A Photo Tour

August 20, 2014 at 3:08 am

So far tapering off my night-time dose has gone much smoother than I feared. I’m still getting sleep (thus far). Having my stepmom here over the weekend was a great support. Yesterday was really rough, lots of withdrawals, but today has been much better.

Here’s what my life looks like these days…

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I try to get outside for some sunshine with my feet in the grass at least once a day.

Now More Than Ever

August 16, 2014 at 2:00 am

I know. This is dragging on and on. You’re probably tired of hearing about it. I’m tired of enduring it. But tonight is a big night. Tonight I start tapering off my night-time dose of the benzodiazepine.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I want this drug out of my life and out of my body. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I wish I had never allowed this drug into my body. The next few weeks could be really intense. Getting sleep could become a rarity. Things could also go much smoother than I fear. I have no idea what’s going to happen. I have no control over what’s going to happen. But I’m terrified. I’ve already endured some pretty horrific withdrawals for the past couple of weeks, and I do not want to experience any more.

I know I’ve already asked for so many prayers, but I need your love and support now more than ever. Things you can do to help me get through this:

  • Send daily emails with encouraging words.
  • Make a meal for my family (if you’re local).
  • Call me (if you have my number).
  • Send me a card in the mail (if you have my address).
  • Post an encouraging comment on this post.
  • Pray for me.
  • Do whatever other nice thing you feel inspired to do.

My psychologist stepmom is flying in tonight to help give me extra support until Monday. Then my mom will be flying in Tuesday through Thursday. I have lots of local friends who are doing a remarkable job of supporting me as well. I feel like it’s taking a pretty big village to keep me going.

The other night my almost-11-year-old daughter told me she wants a tree necklace for her birthday (a little over a month away). I really hope I’m smiling and anxiety-free when I give it to her.

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Your Help Matters

August 2, 2014 at 11:05 pm

Yesterday I received some feedback from a reader. She said, in part, “I’ve got to unfollow you. Wishing you the best but three years of downers is making me depressed.” After seven years as a blogger, I’ve come to accept that you can’t please everyone. I’ve also learned a lot about how to minimize negative feedback. But I’m in a really vulnerable place. So this one really hurt.

I tried to keep reminding myself that the overwhelming majority of the people who are following my blog care about me and appreciate my honesty about my struggles. But just minutes after wincing from this “unfollowing” incident, I received an email from a friend. She has been in these agonizing trenches before. She gets it. Her words were just what I needed to lift me in that moment. I hope she won’t mind me quoting her here:

Weary but Winning

July 26, 2014 at 6:32 pm

A couple of days ago we took the long drive home. Back to life. Back to the AZ heat. Back to being 600 miles away from most of my family. I was so nervous to leave my safe haven at my dad’s house. I cried a lot the day before we left. But I hoped that coming home would feel like progress, that it would feel good to be in my own space again.

There is a comfort in being home, but at the same time I feel like I’ve taken several steps backward. Perhaps it’s just all the stress of traveling and having a broken a/c unit and a 99-degree house upon arrival. Perhaps it’s my husband going back to work on Monday and sending my 3rd child to kindergarten the week afterward. Perhaps it’s the heat. Perhaps it’s sleep deprivation. Perhaps it’s my kids being extra grumpy from all of this upheaval and vacation food. Perhaps it’s that I’m supposed to start planning/hosting twice-a-month activities for 10/11-year-old girls from my church at my home soon.

I feel so overwhelmed. I am so tired. I am so weary. I feel discouraged, run down, and stressed. My husband, parents, sister, psychiatrist… they tell me I’m making great progress, they tell me I’m “almost there,” but today it doesn’t feel like it. Today I feel so defeated.

I’ve certainly felt this way before. And somehow I kept going. Somehow I eventually reached a point where I felt like myself again. And I shared this photo to encourage others who needed a boost…

Tug of War

July 18, 2014 at 4:51 pm

This morning I woke up before my husband and kids. I usually do. In that hour or two until they wake I usually try to go back to sleep. Sometimes I beg God to let me fall back to sleep. Sometimes I do. But usually I just lie there and pray… for my husband, for my kids, for all the people who are praying for me. I pray for strength, for endurance, for shields of light, for miracles. Some days I get up, and I feel almost normal. Those are gifts.

This morning I awoke with a heavy heart, with fear, with despair, with bitterness (PMS probably has something to do with it). And I cried and cried until it got really snotty and messy. I am so weary. I am so tired of fighting for my life. This tug of war, pulling me apart, stretching my soul to its breaking pointI don’t know how much more I can take.

The darkness whispers, “Life’s just too hard. What’s the point? It’s just going to get harder. It’s not worth this agony. Why prolong the misery any more?”

My husband, my parents, my sister, my friendsthey hold my hand, they hug me, they tell me, “You’re going to get through this. It won’t always be like this. You will feel happy again.” I make them promise me.  A few nights ago, as we were all getting situated in our beds to sleep, my three-year-old said, out of the blue, in the most serious and tender voice, “You’re going to be alright, Mom.” 

A Soft Place to Land

July 15, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Every day for the past few weeks I’ve had vomit on my mind. And, strangely enough, this has brought comfort to me. I’ll explain.

A few weeks ago, my friend Emily showed up at my dad’s house (where I’m currently staying) with her furry companion, Howie. We sat on my dad’s front porch and talked for a long time. Emily has known darkness and despair. She has survived heart-wrenching losses and trials. She gets it. So she listened with an empathy and compassion few possess. Her sincere love and physical companionship were a bright spot in my darkness.

While we talked, she told me a story from her recent trip to Oxford, England. The night before she was to return to the states, the nice couple who had been hosting her wanted to take her to a nice dinner. They had Indian food. Later that night, just before collapsing into sleep, Emily said a quick prayer, asking God that everything for her return trip the next day would go smoothly. (She had been worried about making a few of her connecting flights.) Then she fell asleep.

But there is beauty in it

July 10, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Yesterday my mom, sister, and husband helped me with a project. It is a binder full of all of the cards, emails, and messages of encouragement I have received from my people in the past few months, some of whom I’ve known for years and some of whom I haven’t yet met in this life. It also has uplifting quotes, scriptures, and pictures from Pinterest. I plan to add more and more to it as I receive them.

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