Thursday, July 30, 2015

Louie


On June 7th, we received the shocking news that our friend, Louie Rudin passed away. His example of walking closely with Jesus Christ will always be with me. His was a race well run!

The first time I ever saw Louie was when I was a senior in high school. That fall, I went on a weekend retreat to Watson Homestead with Young Life. Louie was a YL leader in Seneca County and was the retreat speaker that weekend. I don't think I ever laughed so hard in my life! He had an incredible sense of humor...but best of all, he loved the Lord with all of himself.

Many years later after I graduated from college, I became a YL leader myself. I had the privilege of getting to know Louie as a fellow leader. He would often drive up to Rochester to come to our leadership meetings on Saturday nights. He always had a smile on his face and kept us all laughing.

The first few times he came to leadership he said, "I ought to bring my roommate to this. I think he'd like it." One Saturday night he finally brought him. It was Jamie! I had actually met Jamie a few months earlier when we were both counsellors at YL's Saranac Village. I married him about two years afte Louie reintroduced us. It was one of the smartest things I ever did!

Louie was in our wedding. In fact, he drove the car we rode in from the church to the reception. On the way, he drove us through the McDonald's drive through in Penfield. He thanked the workers for coming to our reception and ordered us a drink and some fries.

Although we hadn't seen Louie in many years, we always considered him to be a good friend. The testimony of so many people at the memorial service was impressive as they got up one by one telling how Louie had introduced them to Christ or encouraged them in their walk with Him.

Louie will be greatly missed here on earth, but he is in a better place! Some day we will see him again.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Almost to 46!


Jamie sent this picture yesterday from the Adirondack Mountains. He met up with our son, Allen to do a little hiking. Allen has been working as the assistant program director at a Christian camp up there.

Allen has now hiked to the top of 39 out of 46 of the high peaks. (Jamie is up to 7)

I love these two men in my life!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Ian Morgan Cron on Pain

I really wanted this with the previous post, but it kept messing up the format of all the paragraphs. I gave up and decided to post it separately.


The Truth Will Set You Free.....


"The truth will set you free, but not until it is finished with you." (Ian Morgan Cron)

 The above quote is so true!

Immediately after discovering the truth about what transpired during the year of 1986-87, I was both relieved and angry.

On Feeling Relieved:

 I felt relieved because for so long that whole period of time was this painful puzzle that was in pieces. I couldn't put it together. Nothing made sense. I knew that I had never changed my mind about my committment to the young man I was dating...but I also knew that I was definitely the one who destroyed the relationship. Undoubtedly, trouble started with me. For years I had looked back at it and said, "What happened? I don't get it. It doesn't make sense!" I also knew that it had NOT been me being involved with another boy that caused the breakup. Another pain that I endured was that my own mother refused to believe me...even years after all was said and done. It really hurt that she had decided that I was a liar and a cheat. I figured that the person I had dated for 2 years probably thought this too. However, I was able to come to terms and accept this easier. I mean...he was a boyfriend, not my own flesh and blood parent.

Because I could not make sense of it, I could not bring it to closure. I wanted to be over it so I could move on in my life, but I couldn't bring the grief to an acceptable conclusion and put it to rest. So what does a girl do in this situation? When she wants to move on with her life...but is stuck? She represses the memories, of course. It worked...for awhile. There was a period of about 10 years where I could barely remember the guy I had dated. I'm serious. The human brain is pretty incredible at adapting to emotional pain. Sometimes vague memories would pop up in odd places. For example, one night in the early years of our marriage my husband brought home a movie for us to watch. He said, "I've always wanted to see this one." I looked at the movie and said, "You did see this movie. We saw it together in the theater." He insisted that we hadn't and I insisted that we had. He finally turned the video box over and after looking at it for a moment, he said, "Priscilla, this movie came out in 1985! I didn't even know you back then!" He won the argument and my brain quickly isolated any possibility of resurrecting any memories in order to protect myself from emotional pain. During the first couple of years, these types of things were common. Sometimes I would think of something and bring it up to my husband.  I would say something like, "Do you remember when..?" And I would proceed to describe some event that I was sure he and I had experienced together. He would look at me and say, "That wasn't me. I've never even been there." This was very disturbing to me. Luckily as he and I built our own memories, this stopped happening.

So it was a great relief to finally have answers! It all made sense. I know it is true that the problem had been a bipolar illness. I remember when I came down with the hypomania. I remember that it was a Friday night. I felt this incredible rush of energy that I thought was awesome. I immediately changed into a hyper, flirtatious, giddy, super outgoing and extroverted girl. I thought I had a new and improved personality and that everyone would love me more. I also remember the crazy thinking and the things I did that were definitely out of character for me. I came home over October break during this time and that was the beginning of the end of my romantic relationship. For years I just couldn't stand remembering and refused to think about it because I was so embarrassed and ashamed. These were very painful memories for me.

I also remember when I transitioned from hypomania to major depression. I was actually on the phone with my boyfriend when it happened. He was already irritated and hurt by how I had treated him over break. While on the phone, I made an appalling suggestion to him. In my crazy state of mind, I actually believed that it was both acceptable and possible to date other people while in college just for fun and still maintain a serious relationship with him, get married some day, and live happily ever after. I'm not sure how I thought this was going to work, but that is what I believed. This was definitely not something I would have thought in my normal state of mind. But I was not in my normal mind, I was hypomanic. I said to him, "Maybe we should date other people." Immediately after saying this sentence to him, I instantly plunged into the deepest depression I have ever felt in my life. It is hard to describe the sensation of it. It was like falling off of an emotional cliff. It was the worst sensation I have ever felt! I started crying out, "No! No, I don't want to lose you! I definitely do NOT want to date other people!" I was horrified by what I had just said, because I could suddenly see the folly of it. I had no answers for my boyfriend who kept demanding to know why I had said such a thing. I was devastated! I got off the phone and said to myself, "What just happened to me?! What just happened to me!? I have just destroyed the most important relationship I've ever had!"

I was shocked at what I had done. I could not begin to wrap my head around some of the things I had said and done during hypomania...because they were things that I would never do or say. In the months that followed, the depression was just as detrimental to my relationship as hypomania had been. It was impossible to maintain the relationship even though I wanted to. I just couldn't. I couldn't give or receive any physical or verbal effection. I couldn't even make general conversation. I felt extremely guilty for things I hadn't even been guilty of doing (like cheating on my boyfriend, for instance). I felt an overwhelming sense of doom and hopelessness. Suicidal thoughts ran through my head constantly. Worst of all, I had no idea that depression was a physical illness. I thought it was a character flaw. I thought it was my fault. I didn't tell anyone that I was seriously depressed because I thought it was a reflection of my personality. I tried to hide it. I was sure that if I tried hard enough to pull myself out of it, I could. When I failed to do this, I was just convinced that I was an awful person who deserved to lose my boyfriend.

After many years of successfully repressing the memories of loving someone else and the painful events during college, I suddenly found it impossible to do so. The memories came flooding back. I actually went into a second major depression. Luckily, this time I had a good friend who urged me to get help. So I went to a Christian psychologist and all of the pieces came together at last. A huge burden was lifted off of my shoulders. Now the mystery of what happened in 1986-87 was solved. It all made sense. I finally knew and understood. This time around with depression I learned that it is actually a medical condition and I got the help I needed from a physician, which helped immensely.

On Feeling Angry About it

So it all made sense...but then I was ticked!

These are the thoughts that ran through my head as I processed the truth of what happened.

"Seriously?! Seriously, God?! Why would you do this to me?! I really loved him! To this day, he probably hates me! He thinks I cheated on him. He thinks I just suddenly betrayed him! I acted like a complete nut case! I treated him horrible! You had to have me lose my mind in order to end it? Really?! That just wasn't fair!"

"What does he think when he happens to remember me? (I know he does) Does his stomach turn because he thinks, 'Oh yeah..her. She turned out to be so shallow!'"

I felt like it wasn't fair. I was really angry! I also imagined that he and his wife had all these horrible x-girlfriend stories about me. I just couldn't imagine what they thought of me. I also kept thinking, "If only I had gotten medical intervention. If only I had known what was wrong!"

I also had to balance where I was in life during the time I was processing all of this, with grieving a past loss. I had married a terrific guy and we had three beautiful little children ages 5, 3 and 1 during this time. I really loved my husband. Because I was wrestling with grief and regret, did this mean I was being unfaithful to him? I felt guilty for the grief and regret I was going through because I was married to someone else now. Something just seemed so wrong about it. However, the counselor I was seeing at this time reassured me that it was okay as long as I kept things in proper perspective. It was awkward because I couldn't grieve openly. It had to be private so I wouldn't hurt my husband, who I loved very much. What I was going through was delayed grief and it was actually necessary to set the whole thing to rest. It may have been necessary, but it really sucked!

On Where I Am Now With All of This

I'm not angry at all about it anymore. It really is okay.

I eventually stopped asking,"Why me?" And started asking, "Why not me? I'm a member of the human race. Bad things happen to people. Shouldn't I take my turn?"

I've brought it to closure. I've accepted it as God's will. Nothing slips by him in this life. Absolutely nothing! He has shown me in some pretty astounding ways that his hand was in the whole thing. Somehow, it was a part of his plan for me. To believe otherwise is to choose not to believe that God is ultimately in control of everything that goes on here in this lifetime. To believe otherwise is to believe that God is untrustworthy and cruel.

But I know that I CAN trust God. And I know that he loves me. Nothing...nothing ever slips by his allowance. And nothing separates us from his love. It might not make sense to us, but we need to choose to put our trust and faith in the God of the universe and His son, Jesus Christ. This life isn't all there is. Life is all about learning to trust the Lord and getting to the other side of this place where we will spend eternity.

I am so grateful that I have a God who loves me enough to draw me closer in relationship and trust in Him...even though the journey is painful at times.

As for the person I lost, I know that I will never see him again on this earth. How do I know? Because the Lord told me. In February of 1987, I kissed this young man goodbye and boarded a bus to return to my campus after visiting him. When I got on the bus and sat down, I received a strong message from the Lord that I will never forget. He said, "Look out the window. Look at ______. You will never see him again on this earth." I was stunned by this. I actually had the audacity to argue against this message. I thought it was the most rediculous thing I had ever heard. I didn't believe the message, but now I do. I know it was the Lord and what He says is always truth. I know I will never see this person again on earth, but I WILL see him in heaven.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Praying the Alphabet

Sometimes I slip into doubt. The enemy does not want me to trust in my Lord and savior. Instead, he wants me to question God's love for me. He drums up every sad memory he can to attack me. He reminds me of how people hurt or betrayed me. He whispers the grievances I have felt towards others...and stirs it up again. He reminds me of my failures and tells me that I could never minister to others by telling them about my deliverance from spiritual bondage. He tells me that my story is a total joke because I am not living victoriously. He tries to make me believe that my Lord does not have my best interest in mind...that He is actually a cruel God. The pit of despair looms near...threatening to swallow me up in it. I've been down this path many times and I know that the only way to get through it with victory is to go to the foot of the cross. To fall on my knees before Him. To regain focus on God's truth and who He is.

Sometimes I "pray the alphabet." The Lord showed me this trick one night as I lay in bed. I often have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Too many racing thoughts. I have quieted my mind by lulling it to sleep with dull thoughts. One of the ways I have done this is to go through the alphabet and for each letter, say as many names that I could think of beginning with that letter. It shuts off the crazy, worrisome thinking and replaces it with the mundane. So I would start. "Ann, Amy, Abigail, Antoinette, Alice, ...Barbara, Bernice, Betty, Bernadette, Babette,...Colette, Catherine, Christine, Cassie, Cassandra, Camille,..." (I'm not sure why, but I always stick to girl names) Usually by the time I got somewhere between H and N, I had fallen asleep.

One night as I lay in bed, not only did I have racing thoughts, but they were all the attacking thoughts that I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post. I started the alphabet name trick...it wasn't working quite as well. It came to my attention that the Lord inhabits the praises of his people. If I praised Him, how could anything negative be present? Satan hates the praises we lift up to Jesus. He cannot stay around for that. I decided to try praising the Lord using the alphabet. There are no hard and fast rules for this. Sometimes I linger on a letter and come up with several praises or attributes. Other times, it is just one.

Heavenly Father, you are Almighty, you are Beautiful, the Beginning and the end. You Created the heavens and the earth. You are my Deliverer. You are Eternal. Your love goes on Forever. Great are your works, Oh Lord! You are Holy, the great "I Am." You have Justified me. You Keep me in the shadow of your wings. You are all Knowing and Loving. Father, you are the Maker of everything. You Made me and have promised to Never leave my side. Only you, oh Lord are worthy of my praises and my full admiration. You give me strength to Persevere and to never Quit the race set before me. You have promised me Rest when I come into your presence. You are my Salvation and my Truth. You bring the Ultimate Victory against the lies of the evil one. You are Wonderful. Yahweh. Thank you, that I will be one day in  Zion. In your very presence. Why do I get so hung up on things here on Earth, Lord? Why do I not trust you? Lord Jesus, thank you for loving me all the time. Every minute of every day...even when I am straying away from you. Help me to be ever faithful to you each day. Amen.

As you can see, sometimes it doesn't end at "Z." Sometimes I keep going and drop the alphabet entirely or I start over. Sometimes I fall asleep in the middle of it, but I know that my Father doesn't mind...just as I didn't mind if one of my children fell asleep while I read to them. I have never prayed the same alphabet prayer twice. Sometimes I vary it to be a prayer of gratefulness and I name blessings he has brought to me.

I hope this post encourages you and gives you a tool to use to combat the lies the enemy tells.

(If anyone can come up with something for "X" or another "Q,"  just leave your suggestion in the comments.)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Breaking the Silence

I've been feeling a bit convicted about the post I wrote on June 5th. Here's what I wrote:

My entire life was turned upside down that year and I experienced my greatest heartbreaks, losses, and pain...all because of major depression. 

I feel convicted because that statement is only partially true. It was actually more than depression, but I don't like to talk about it. I admit that I don't want the the whole truth to be associated with me. In the fall of 1986, I actually had a Bipolar type 2 episode. That was what turned my life upside down that year. That was tough to write. I have entrusted this information to only a select few in the world. (Until now) However, the Lord has been telling me for several months that I need to be honest...and in turn help others with mental health issues.

I have talked to one of the pastors at our church about this. It was suggested that our church do a mental health awareness event in the future. I told her that I would be willing to take part in it. I don't know what that will look like...whether it means sharing in front of an audience part of my experience and how the Lord freed me from spiritual bondage, or simply being available to talk to people one on one to give support. Many of these issues are just not dealt with very well within the church. The church should be the one place where people with these struggles can come to find support and healing. I will give you an example of how that isn't always the case.

It took me 14 years to finally go to a Christian psychologist to seek help for the pain I still carried within me from a traumatic experience during college. She was able to help me piece together the truth about what happened. (Figuring out that I had a bipolar episode) Before that, I had no answers for why I had behaved so horribly. I had no explanation as to why I destroyed one of the most meaningful relationships I had ever had. My mother had been convinced that I had been unfaithful to my boyfriend at the time, but I had not been. She never would believe me. I always knew it was something else that caused the destruction...but I couldn't figure it out. When the truth came to me...I was finally able to put it to rest for the most part and find healing. I was finally free from the lies of Satan who had told me over and over again that I was a terrible person who deserved to be punished with emotional pain for the rest of my life. He told me that I deserved to feel that pain because of how I treated someone I loved. Satan told me that I did not really deserve the husband I had and the love he gave me. He even told me that if Jamie knew how I had treated another person I had loved at one time, that he wouldn't want me. I spent many years believing these lies and hating myself. I am forever grateful that the Lord did not leave me in that state of bondage.

After I discovered the truth about what had happened to me all of those years ago, I felt the deep conviction that I needed to write two letters of apology to a couple of people who I had hurt very deeply because of my bipolar illness. I got my husband's permission to do this and he agreed to screen the letters. They had to pass the Jamie test. The first person was someone who I had dated seriously for 2 years. I never received any response from him...which is perfectly okay. I didn't really expect one, but I do hope that he believed my story and that he forgave me. The second person I wrote a letter to was a person I had dated on the rebound. I should actually say "attempted to date," because it really didn't turn out well. I was mentally and emotionally unstable, and ended up being absolutely horrid to him too. This person responded to my letter...in anger. He wrote me a long and scathing response saying that there was no such thing as "depression" or "bipolar." He said that Christian and psychologist were contradictory terms. He told me that this "psychojargon" (I believe that is what he called it) was one of the biggest lies that Satan had deceived the church with in this century. He said it was all sin and nothing other than an excuse for that sin. He included scriptures that "proved" that these "so called mental illnesses" didn't exist. It was a horrible letter to receive. It really shook me up quite a bit. Luckily I had the support of Christian friends at this time who helped me accept this letter as graciously as I could and let it go. I don't know what this person's point of view is today...after all, this happened about 13 years ago.

A second example is the time I made the mistake of entrusting my story to a woman about my age. After I told her, she seemed quite uncomfortable and a little agitated. She looked at me and said, "You are lucky you didn't hurt someone." I said, "I did hurt someone. I hurt someone I had cared for very much." She said that wasn't what she meant. She could barely look me in the face. I said, "Do you mean hurt someone physically?" Yes...that is exactly what she meant. I tried to tell her that I was no more likely to hurt somebody physically during my illness than I am today. She seemed in a hurry to change the subject. Evidently, she thinks people with bipolar illness are people running around like psychopaths yielding guns and knives. This kind of put a crimp in our friendship (which wasn't very deep to begin with).

The truth is that people who suffer with mental illness are all around us. They are teachers, scientists, engineers, and nurses (and librarians too). They are the people who sit in front of you in church. They live next door to you. They are your best friend's husband or wife. They are mothers who attend their kid's soccer games. They look like you. You can't tell because they are (mostly) normal people. The truth is that many of them are silent and after you read my two examples...I'm sure you can figure out why they are silent.

I'd appreciate any prayers for me as I figure out what God wants me to do with this experience.

I came back to add that I am very fortunate. Bipolar does not seem to be an ongoing problem for me. I've never experienced it again...but I remember it. It is real. Depression on the other hand continues to be a struggle for me from time to time. But, it is also the one thing that drives me back to Christ, so I suppose there is good in it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Yielding to His will for me

The Lord has shown me again and again that He knows everything that will happen to me and He is not surprised by it.

I need to absolutley trust Him. Why shouldn't I? He loves me. He has been there in my darkest times. It was then that He whispered to me to choose life. It was difficult because everything within me was screaming out for me to choose the opposite. I heard that whisper and clung to that. He brought me through it.

He has told me things that at the time, I did not want to hear. But now...years later, I find comfort in. Things that made me say, "No. Lord! I cannot bear that! Why? Please don't!" and now I look back and say, "My Heavenly Father knew. He knew. And it was all right in the end...He knew it all before it happened. It went all according to His plan."

I just want things my way sometimes. I am very arrogant to think that I know a better way.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Through a Glass Darkly

Most of the time I feel pretty strong...like I am doing well in spite of life's bumps and bruises...(and festering wounds). At those times, I can be joyful and go about life with little worry or concern about life's disappointments, both present day and in the past.

Lately I have been struggling again. I have to cling to the hope that it will all become clear one day and I can look back on this life and say, "Of course! Now it all makes sense why God allowed that to happen. In fact, it was part of his plan and it was perfect!" For now, I see through a glass darkly. I sometimes feel like I am clinging for dear life to a raft in the middle of an ocean...where the waves are buffeting me and threatening to pull me under.