How To Survive Life

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Remember the old Timex ad slogan — “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking?” You know, the commercials where they put Timex watches through the most outrageous torture tests and yet, somehow, the watches still survived? Well folks, that’s me. My whole life has been one big Timex commercial and I’m happy to say I’m still ticking too. In mental health circles, that’s called resilience.

Psychology Today explains resilience this way:

Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient, among them a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after misfortune, resilient people are blessed with such an outlook that they are able to change course and soldier on.

Until I started therapy, I never considered myself to be resilient. I didn’t even know it was a thing. I just did what I had to do to survive, and I never considered it could have gone any other way. But now after having multiple mental health professionals mention how shockingly resilient I am, I do find myself wondering…

How the heck am I still standing? After all I’ve been through, how is there any of me left inside? 

I began to make a mental list of all the things that have happened to me in my life:

  • I am a child of divorce. My father left home when I was 5
  • I was raised by a mother who did her best but could not handle life
  • I was the victim of ongoing sexual abuse by a family member from an early age
  • I was raped by the father of some kids I babysat when I was 14
  • I became pregnant from the rape and had a baby at 15
  • I had a piece of my heart ripped out when I gave that baby up for adoption
  • I became a single mother at 18
  • I married an alcoholic at 21 and had 3 more kids
  • I caught my mother having sex with my alcoholic husband when I was 8 months pregnant with our third child
  • My mother married the alcohol ex-husband and for many years treated me like the evil ex-wife
  • I married a second time at the age of 26, had two more children, and then 3 months after the birth of our second child found out that he had been molesting two of my children the entire time
  • I was held up at gunpoint at a fast food restaurant

Those are just the highlights. There’s even more than that but you get the picture. According to my therapists, any one of those things could have easily knocked someone down for good. But I’m like a Weeble — I wobble but I don’t fall down. (Yes I’m old. If you don’t know what a Weeble is, Google it! They were all the rage once upon a time). Anyway, I digress. As I’ve sat and pondered all the things I’ve endured in my life and what it is that makes me come out intact, I’ve come up with a few things that I think have made it happen:

  1. First and foremost, my faith in God
  2. I have pretty much mastered the art of forgiveness
  3. I am stubborn as mule
  4. As the Psychology Today piece proposed, I am an eternal optimist
  5. I have recently begun to consciously practice gratitude
  6. I am an analyzer. I examine the what, and when , and how, and why of everything
  7. I am (sometimes) able to use logic and reason to overcome unpleasant emotions
  8. I truly believe that life is worth living and the good things outweigh the bad

I’m sure as I continue my therapy I will begin to uncover more things that have helped me to be resilient. But for now, that’s my list. I’ve decided to turn my list into a series on resilience, tackling one list item each time. I think as I dig deeper to write about each one, it will help me learn new things about myself and grow from them. Perhaps it will help you too, to see the strategies I have employed (often instinctively and unknowingly, by the way) to be resilient.

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited about this! I have a feeling it’s going to be good 🙂 See you all next time when I start with the first item on my list– my faith in God.


But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9

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How I Showed Panic Who’s Boss

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Panic, I’m not scared of you! I may be scared of the things that make you show your ugly face, but you don’t scare me one bit. I’m strong and courageous. I am in control and I know how to kick you to the curb. I am certain of this now, because I did it just yesterday. I did something huge. I conquered one of my biggest fears. You tried to get the best of me but I didn’t let you. Here’s how I showed you who’s boss.

First, some back story

I have PTSD.  I’m not a veteran (did you know that you don’t have to be in a war to get PTSD?) but I have suffered multiple traumas that led to the condition. Because of this, some things that are just everyday things to  most people cause me to have severe panic attacks. One of those things is getting an MRI. I’ve needed one for a while now because I have back issues that are causing pain, leg weakness, mobility problems and overall decrease in quality of life. Up to this point, I have not been able to make myself get the MRI. My doctor insisted on a closed MRI, which is a test where they put your whole body into a very small coffin-life capsule and leave you there for about 30 minutes while zapping you with a very strong magnet that sounds like machine guns shooting at you.

After much coercing from my therapist, I went back to this doctor and told him a closed MRI was non-negotiable for me. I just couldn’t do it. I reluctantly agreed to try an open MRI which is, as the name implies, a bit more open. You still are surrounded on three sides by the coffin, but you have one side open so you can see out.

Yesterday was the big day. I had the MRI. I won’t tell you that it was easy.  I won’t tell you I enjoyed it. I won’t tell you I wasn’t scared. Or uncomfortable. Or really glad when it was over. But I will tell you that I kept the big, fat, ugly panic monster away. He tried to get me a time or two when I was in the machine, but I beat him into submission. Here’s how I did it.

How I Stopped Fear From Turning Into Panic

These are the tools I used to keep my fear from turning into panic.

I Used Medication

Folks, I want you to know there is absolutely nothing wrong with using prescribed medication to keep panic at bay. I anticipated that this situation was going to be a potential trigger and I took a Xanax right before I left my house.

I Practiced Grounding

To keep myself present in the moment, and not traveling back in time to my traumas, I used grounding techniques. For the entire duration of my test I made an intentional effort to continually notice the things I could see, hear, smell, taste, and feel to remind myself that I was in a safe place.

As I laid there, I turned my head and looked out the side of the machine. I looked out the window and saw all the cars in the parking lot. Modern cars. Lots of people were in this place. I was not alone in the country in a pickup truck in 1980. Or any of the other places that I suffered trauma.

When it hurt too much too keep my head turned I would look up at the big wall of the machine that was 2 inches in front of my face. I looked at the color of it. The size of it. The material it was made out of. I reminded myself that this thing was not in my face in the pickup truck in 1980. Or any of the other places I suffered trauma.

I paid attention to the sounds of the machine, which were dulled by headphones and music I was listening to. At one point the headphones fell out of one ear and the noise of the machine was very loud. I had an immediate panic reaction but I was able to reel it in by putting the headphones back in and reminding myself that those noises came from this machine, right here, right now, and they were not threatening noises.

I focused on the taste and the smell of the peppermint I had in my mouth, and the feel of the button I held in my hand. The one that I could push if I needed to stop. I didn’t have a button like that in  the pickup truck in 1980. Or any of the other places that I suffered trauma.

I Acknowledged My Power

During my traumatizing events, I had no power. They were things that were done to me against my will and I could not prevent them or stop them. My brain gets confused sometimes and thinks other things I am afraid of are the same.

To keep that from happening, I repeated this mantra over and over during the test:

I am here because I chose to be here. This is not just happening to me. I chose this. I chose it because I want to get better. I am safe. I am in control. I can make it stop anytime I want to by pushing the button in my hand.

There were a few times I wanted to push that button, but I didn’t.  Just knowing I had the power to do it was enough for me. My desire to finish the test as soon as possible was stronger than my desire to stop.

I Anchored Myself In God

When the technician asked me what kind of music I wanted in the headphones, I chose Contemporary Christian. I know where my anchor is and I had music that reminded me of it constantly piping into ears.

I cried out to God and prayed for peace and courage. I thought about my favorite Psalm– Psalm 91–  which promises us God’s protection. I claimed that promise and knew that although I was going through something hard, I would be OK.

To The Victor Go The Spoils

And that was it. After what seemed like a very long thirty minutes, the test was done. The technician pulled me out of the machine and I just laid there for a moment gaining my composure. I swallowed a few times (when I panic I have trouble swallowing), wiped the tears from my eyes, took some deep breaths, and sat up. I looked around and realized that I had made it. I was glad it was over, but I made it. It wasn’t easy. I was clearly shaken. But I didn’t have a full-blown panic attack. I didn’t feel like I was dying. I was proud of my accomplishment and confident in my ability to face a scary situation again. It brought me one step closer to healing, and in my book, that’s a victory.


He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
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.
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.

-Psalm 91

5 Life Lessons I Learned From My Cats

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I’ve been a cat owner for just under a year now, and in that time I’ve learned a lot. Not just about cats, but about life in general. It has been fascinating to observe them! I’ve learned way more than five things if I’m being honest, but I’m not here to write a book. So let’s just start small.

I Learned That Things Can Change

I spent the first 49 years of my life not liking cats. I was a dog person, through and through. I didn’t think cats were interactive enough, or playful enough, and I didn’t like the way they seemed to think they were better than me. Hmph! I wasn’t about to bow down to some four legged creature who had a royalty complex. Not me. No thanks. But, then my husband found a stray and fell in love with her. And because I loved my husband I agreed to cohabit with the furry little princess. We named her Daisy and she became part of the family. And you know what? I fell in love with her too. And now I can’t imagine having a dog. So much energy. So high maintenance. Nope. I’ll take my quiet little kitty over a yelping dog any day of the week. Imagine that. After so many years, I have become a cat lover. Yes. Things can certainly change.

I Learned That Sometimes You Just Need to Go on Walkabout

The first time Daisy took off was very unfortunate timing. We were on our way to Atlanta to spend the weekend with our son and daughter-in-law. We didn’t have time to go looking for her or wait for her return. We put some food and water out and left, hoping she would return. It was only a month after we got her so we thought maybe she just wanted to go back to her friends and live in the bushes. It made us sad but we understood. When we got home three days later, there she was, sitting on the porch waiting for us. She had her little adventure and she came home. Her adventure included getting pregnant, by the way, which is why we now have cats instead of cat.

The next time Daisy took off was just last week. She snuck out the door when my husband went outside and ran off. We looked, but couldn’t find her. I was worried. We lived in a new neighborhood now. Would she be able to find her way back home? Would somebody take her?  After all, she is awfully cute and pretty darned irresistible. Or worse – would she find her way around the wall to our gated community and get out onto the busy street and get hurt? So many bad things could happen to her, and I couldn’t stop them. The next several hours seemed like days, but by that evening Daisy was back– again sitting on the porch. She was tired and dirty (but thankfully not pregnant, we saw to that after the last litter was born!) but otherwise fine.

She laid down on our living room floor and all three of her kittens lined up and laid down in front of her, just looking at her to make sure she was alright.  They had been worried about her too, I think. She had been a little cranky before she left. I wonder if they thought it was their fault. I don’t know. I wish I could get inside an animal’s head for just a day or so and see what they are capable of thinking and feeling. That would be interesting. But, what I do know is this. I learned that sometimes you’re just feeling cranky and overwhelmed with life and you need to step away. To recharge. To go on walkabout, although I don’t recommend getting pregnant while you do it. But do it.Be like a cat and just run free, even if it’s for an hour.

I Learned That Eventually You Have to Push Your Kids Off Your Teat

Yes. I said it. I’m going there. I watched Daisy be an amazing cat-mother. She birthed her babies all by herself. She cleaned them and fed them and picked them up by the backs of their necks and carried them back to their box if they got loose. She let them climb all over her and didn’t bat an eye. When they got a little older and started to walk she would let them have freedom but she always kept a watchful eye. And when it was time to sleep or eat she would round them all up. She knew if one was missing and she would search high and low till she found it. It’s just amazing to me how strong the motherly instinct is and it leads me to believe that if human mothers would just let their instincts guide them they would have nothing to fear because if God gave cats such strong instincts, you know he gave the creatures he created in his own image even stronger ones.

But now, Daisy’s kittens aren’t exactly kittens. They are almost nine months old and that’s almost full grown for a cat. All but one of them are bigger than her. Sometimes they still try to nurse — at least two of them do. They don’t still need her for nutrition and I don’t think there’s any milk there anymore anyway. I think it’s just an old habit that they do for comfort. Occasionally she will let them do it for a few minutes, but usually she doesn’t. They are too big and she’s not having it anymore. She’ll either get up and just walk off, or she’ll hiss and scratch at them until they leave her alone.

Now, if you are a parent of teenagers or adults, you will probably see the parallels here. Sometimes our kids cling on for comfort a little longer than they should. Before I get letters from the La Leche League (is that still even a thing?) please know that I am not talking about actually pushing our kids off our nipples. Breastfeeding is good and you should do it as long as you want. I’m talking about the other nurturing we do that turns into enabling at some point. It’s hard to push our kids to be independent because a little part of us doesn’t want them to be (admit it). But it must be done at some point, for our sake as well as theirs.

I Learned That You Can Love Someone and Still Take Care of Your Own Needs

Ah, that aloofness. That holier-than-thou-ness that I never liked about cats. That I’m-just-going-t0-sit-here-on-my-perch-and- be-above-you-ness. The one character trait that I disliked the most was the one I needed to learn the most. You know what I learned? Cats aren’t aloof. They are not indifferent. They know when we come in a room. They know when we go to bed. They follow us when they want to. They have their routine. But they will not be swayed by our neediness. They take care of their own needs. They sit on their perches and watch out for prey or whatever their little cat instincts tell them to do. And when they feel like it, they will come for a cuddle but they won’t stick around for one second longer than they want to.

You know what that is, folks? It’s boundaries. Healthy boundaries.  We don’t need to please everyone. We don’t need to sacrifice our own needs or go against what our instincts are telling us to do just because someone else wants us to. We can love someone but still take care of our own needs. It’s not an all or nothing situation. I so wish I would have had a cat to teach me about this earlier in life!

I Learned That Brotherly Love is Stronger than Fighting

With all these cats living under one roof, sometimes they fight. They’ll chase each other and fly through the air and roll around wrestling and nipping at each other. Some of it is playing, some of it is not. The thing is though, it never lasts. I’ve never yet seen the cats hold a grudge. Even after their most down and dirty fight, they go right back to cuddling up and licking each other’s fur to help groom them. They forgive. They forget. They move on. And they come together again to help each other out. To live in harmony.

Boy, is this a lesson we all need right now. So much fighting going on after the election. So much anger it’s hard to get past it. I hope we can take a lesson from my cats and just start licking each other’s fur again. We need each other.


Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding. – Proverbs 3:13

Life is Beautiful

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Do you ever look around you and notice all the different things that are alive? I do. Grass, trees, insects, squirrels. birds, my cats… The list goes on and on. Sometimes, when I’m watching all these living creatures, I feel kind of sad for them. (I know, I’m weird). I wonder what it would be like to be a blade of grass. Alive but not aware. No control in my movement or purposeful interaction with my world. That’s sad, isn’t it?  True, grass is just plant life. But what about other animals?

Some of them can do some pretty amazing things. Things we can’t do like fly, and run really fast, and see the dark. They have really good instincts and some are really smart. But you know what they can’t do?

  • They can’t sit with their arms around their love and watch the sunset
  • They can’t laugh out loud at a funny joke
  • They can’t read the newest best seller. Or the Bible.
  • They can’t grab a cup of coffee with the girls.
  • They can’t watch the joy in their child’s eyes when he opens a Christmas present, or a birthday present.
  • They can’t hold their kids or grandkids n their arms

That list could be infinite, couldn’t it?  All the things that make human life beautiful and special and incomparable to others animals. It’s not just opposable thumbs.

Listen. Life is hard. Very few people know that more than me. But you know what else life is? Life is beautiful. It’s a gift. A precious gift from God. The hills, the valleys, the ups, the downs, the wins, the losses, and yes– even the struggles. I know it doesn’t always feel like it, but it is.

What I have learned from traveling the hills and valleys is that we have a choice. We won’t always have a choice in our circumstances, but we will always have a choice in how we respond to them. Life is what we make it. We can choose to wallow in the ugliness. The pain.  The anger. The fear. The whatever. Or, we can choose to focus our eyes on the good things we have and the blessings we have been given. I’ve spent my fair share of time on the wallowing path and it brought me nothing but despair. I’m much happier now that I’ve learned to look past all of that and to fully enjoy the little moments and the beauty that surrounds me.


So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them – Genesis 1:27-28a 


*If you like the t-shirt in the image above you can purchase it in my online store at www.liftedapparelandmore.com and I have many other uplifting designs available.  I donate 10% of all profits to charity (currently the National Alliance on Mental Health -NAMI) so your purchase will not only help me and my family with our financial struggles related to my disability, it will also help others who suffer from mental illness. In addition to your purchase, it would help me tremendously if you would spread the word to your friends and followers about my store! Thank you🙂

Joy in the Morning

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I don’t know about you, but I’ve done my share of weeping in my 50 years. So much weeping. Some were tears of joy. Most of them were not. Those are the tears I want to talk to you about today.

It’s a well known fact in my house that I cannot watch the Notebook. You know, the Nicholas Sparks movie about a young couple’s love story that ends in the most impossibly sad way? (Of course it does. Because Nicholas Sparks.) It’s one of my favorite movies of all time. But I simply cannot watch it. It makes me physically ill. For days. Not just tears (although there are plenty of them), but actual physical illness. I’ll spare you the details, but trust me– it’s bad. That movie triggers me all over the place and I have not yet been able to watch it and stop the train wreck that ensues. My therapist has suggested that when I am able to watch the Notebook without spiraling into the abyss, that’s when she’ll know I no longer need therapy. It’s going to be a while.

That kind of crying, ladies and gentlemen, is what I call weeping. It’s more than crying. It’s a gut-wrenching outpouring of tears spilling over from the deepest parts of your soul. It’s a kind of crying that feels like a little piece of you is attached to every tear and when they fall,  pieces of you are spilling all over the floor. It’s awful. And it feels like you’ll never get those pieces back. But you will. I promise you, you will. You can trust me on this. I’m somewhat of an expert. I’ve wept so many of these soul-piece laden tears. Tears of grief. Tears of loss. Tears of abandonment. Tears of betrayal. Tears of fear. Tears of hopelessness. So. Many. Tears. And what I’ve learned is this:

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. – 1 Peter 5:10

God doesn’t let us linger in our suffering forever. He himself restores, confirms, strengthens, and heals us. When the time is right– and only he knows when that is– he will pick up those little soul-pieces you left on the floor and put them right back inside you even stronger than they were before.  If you are in that weeping place right now, I pray that God would give you the strength to endure the pain of the moment and the trust that in a little while he will restore you. It’s the same prayer I pray for myself on a daily basis. I’m hoping he picks up the Nicholas Sparks pieces soon, because –dang it– I really love that movie.


Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. – Psalm 30:5


*If you like the t-shirt in the image above you can purchase it in my online store at www.liftedapparelandmore.com. I have many other uplifting designs available, and there is a storewide 25% sale going on through November 18 (use code GRANDOPENING25 at checkout). I donate 10% of all profits to charity (currently the National Alliance on Mental Health -NAMI) so your purchase will not only help me and my family with our financial struggles related to my disability, it will also help others who suffer from mental illness. In addition to your purchase, it would help me tremendously if you would spread the word to your friends and followers about my store! Thank you 🙂

Unleashing My Inner Roar

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If you have done any browsing at my online store, you may have noticed there are several courage-themed lion products. There’s a reason for that. Today I’m going to tell you a little story about courage, and how a nine year old child helped me find it.

About two years ago, when I was in the deepest, darkest pit of my depression, I spent pretty much every minute of my life in bed. Every morning I woke up and turned on the tv in my room. I kept the blinds closed and stayed curled up in bed in my jammies until it was time to cook supper for my family. Some days I even skipped that. I was a shell of the woman I once knew, literally wasting my life away. I felt no hope. No desire to do anything. My daughter and her two sons lived with us at the time. My oldest grandson, who was nine, remembered me as the grandma that used to play games and bake cookies and do fun grandma stuff.  But that grandma was nowhere to be found.

One day, he came into my room after returning home from vacation Bible school. “Grandma”, he said “I made something for you today”. I rolled over in bed and pulled the covers off of my head to see his smiling face and his outstretched hand with some sort of trinket in it. “It’s a bracelet. It says courage. I wanted to give it to you because you need to have courage. I put lions on it because lions are courageous and they will help you to remember”.

Tears started rolling down my face and I hugged that boy with every ounce of strength I could muster. He was right. I needed courage. I needed to stop hiding away from the world and get help. I put that bracelet on my arm and reached out to my sisters. I took the first step, and each thing I did gave me the courage to take the next step. I’ve come so far in my healing since that day, but I know I have a long way to go. Sometimes the road is hard, but I will persevere.  I keep that bracelet right on my nightstand. It reminds me of the courage it took to get where I am and the courage I’ll need to get where I want to be. But more than that, it reminds me of how much I am loved by my family and by God, who used a little child to break through my emptiness and speak to me in a way I could hear.

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Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9

It’s Official!

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Hello everyone! I’m baaaaaack! Guess what that means? Yup. Lifted Apparel and More is up and running. It’s been a real labor of love but so worth it. I’m excited about the possibilities this store will bring! In case you missed my original post, I’ll bring you up to speed. I’ve started an online store selling T-shirts, leggings, and mugs with designs I have created. Every product in my store has a word, quote, slogan, or scripture that has been helpful to me in my own struggle with depression, anxiety, and just life in general. I figure there might be a person or two out there who could use the same encouragement.  😉 They’ll find all kinds of it in my store and I’ll be adding new stuff regularly.

Of course,  being able to bring in some income will be a Godsend for my family. It’s been pretty rough since I became disabled. The thing I’m most excited about, though, is the opportunity to give back. I am  donating 10% of my profits to charity. I have always wanted to contribute to help people financially but I’ve never had the means. So this makes my heart happy. 🙂 For the remainder of 2016, I have chosen the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) as my designated charity

Thank you for your patience during the last couple of weeks as I have been MIA from this blog. As a token of my appreciation I am offering the first 10 of my blog readers a FREE MUG OF YOUR CHOICE from my store. You just pay shipping. Go to  www.liftedapparel.com , choose your mug, and enter the code LIFTEDLADY at checkout. But hurry, because if you are number eleven the code won’t work anymore. Don’t be sad, though. If you miss out on the free mug, you can still save 25% on your entire purchase thru November 18th in our grand opening sale.

 

And with that I’m off for today. See you again tomorrow. I promise.


 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4