3 Ways I’m Learning to Manage My Mania

manic |ˈmanik|
adjective
• showing wild and apparently deranged excitement and energy
• frenetically busy; frantic
• Psychiatry relating to or affected by mania
colorBeing manic is one color of my crazy. The onset is sudden and usually follows a series of events (bad or good) that require emotional processing. As I’ve mentioned before, food followed by purging has been my way of coping with seemingly overwhelming circumstances. I’m grateful to say that, though the struggle is persistent, I am learning other ways to deal. If bulimia and restricting calories is your vice of choice, I’m here to tell you, there are strategies that work better and longer than the momentary euphoria accompanying an eating disorder (or any self destructive behavior, for that matter).

Acknowledge It ~ It sounds simple, but it isn’t…always. In order to rectify anything we must first confront it. It’s best we do this before the one closest to us points it out. When I feel this wild energy bubbling up, I look at myself in the mirror and call it out. It usually sounds something like this, “Hey, crazy. Slow down. Take a step back. Wait to make any decisions until this chaos has calmed.” If Chris is the one pointing it out to me, for some reason, it is not well received.

Seek Wise Counsel ~ I have 3 advisers in my life. This week, I sought the direction of my spiritual adviser and counselor. I literally walked into her office blurting out the craziness swarming around in my brain. She listened and responded in a constructive and applicable way. The willingness to reach out and express my thoughts and compulsive behavior with someone who knows me and loves me anyway, is crucial to my wellness. Without it, keeping a clear and healthy approach to life is impossible.

Find a Quiet Space ~ I’ve said this before…when I need to “retreat” I sit on the floor of my closet with the door closed. It seems to be the only place I find stillness. There are times when I am in desperate need of divine direction and I can’t hear that direction if I don’t physically remove myself from all of the noise bombarding me every moment of every day. I close my eyes and breathe in a deep cleansing breath. As I slowly let it out, I envision myself physically exhaling the frantic and again, inhaling calm. This is surprisingly helpful. Just the mental image of the action, puts me at ease.
RetreatFor those of you reading and nodding your head, “Yep. That’s me. Uh huh. Me too! How’d she know that?!” I hope this is a source of encouragement and hope for you. We all have our experience. What good is it if we’re not sharing it to help others face challenges and overcome adversity? There is so much power in being able to relate to another human being. In doing so we’re saying, “You’re not alone. I get it.”

Does this resonate somewhere with you? Maybe you thought of someone you know? Talk to me. Tell me what you’re thinking.

How to Know She’s Your Person

It’s the person you’ve known as long as you can remember having memories.
The one who holds your hair while you barf and tells you when those jeans make your butt look big.
She’s the same one who will say (in a non-embarrassing way) “You gotta little somethin’…” as she slides her forefinger across her face pretending to wipe her nose.
She’s the one waiting when you come out of a public restroom to ensure that you didn’t tuck your skirt into your spanx.
She’s the one who stays by you when you’re not worth staying by.
She’s the first one you call when something tragic or fantastic happens.
She encourages you to pray when you’d rather rant and take a deep breath when you wanna scream.
She believes in you when no one else does and tells you all the reasons why, even when you won’t listen.
She laughs when you act ridiculous and patiently answers every neurotic question you have about germs.
No matter how old you get and how much time passes, you always pick up right where you left off.
She’s your person.

Vi, thanks for being my person all these years. I’m so grateful.
photo 3Who’s your person?

What Does It Mean To Be Truly Free?

I avoid writing this post.
I tell myself that you will think I’m ridiculous.
I convince myself that you will make assumptions and judge me.
Every time this insecurity surfaces I shove it back down in attempts to choke out its message.

Why do I invalidate those things that make me feel small.
Why do I continually dismiss my feelings?
What if someone else feels the exact same way and by my admission knows they are not alone?
Social Media sites
So, here it is…
There are times when I allow social media to determine, not only my mood, but my self worth.

As I scrolled through my “feed” this morning, I found myself becoming more and more hurt by the fact that someone I was once closer to than I am now, had not invited me to attend one of the most important days in her life.

The more pictures I saw from the event, the more upset I became.
What is wrong with me?! I thought.
I wouldn’t have been able to attend anyway.
Why is this such a big deal?

It goes back to the fact that I’m a people pleaser. I want you to like me even if I don’t like you.
I want everyone to want me to be at everything, even if I can’t be there.
I want the opportunity to decline.

I realize how this sounds, believe me.
I would understand if you stopped reading now.

However, it’s very important that I bring this hideous character defect into the light.
It’s crucial (for my own development) that I’m brutally honest with myself. Not mean. Honest. They are two different things though at times people confuse one for the other.

Here is what I’m discovering…
This all points back to my need for approval.
I’m an affirmation junkie.
The more I get, the more I want.
I become absolutely drunk on the approval of others.

And then, when I’m alone, I’m terrified that I cannot live up to my own expectations. Fear will make decisions for me if I allow it to. I will be spiritually paralyzed if I don’t act quickly and thoroughly.

The problem with this is that I want my life to glorify God. I want my spirit to reflect that of the Creator. I want to make Him known to everyone who comes in contact with me. And I’ve been in recovery long enough to know that, as long as I’m keeping a secret, I can’t do that effectively. As long as I’m hiding from a reality that affects my life and the way I interact with others, I can’t be useful. Not the way I want to be anyway. Not the way that’s relatable to others in different seasons.

So, here I am. Standing before you. Admitting weakness. Acknowledging feelings that I know will change. Emotions that I will probably not even have tomorrow. I’m feeling exposed and “found out.” because I am willingly admitting that most of the time I feel completely inadequate all while exhibiting confidence.

I may be mortified tomorrow at having posted this. But for today, I say to the woman reading this, feeling like I’m telling your story, “I understand. You’re not alone. You don’t have to be afraid. You just have to be willing to recognize the affliction (whatever it may be) and take positive actions steps forward.

You were made to Shine

As I sat in my car this morning listening to Natalie Grant’s song, “Burn Bright” my eyes started stinging as the tears came. I’m not sad. I love Wednesdays!

I’ve had this song playing in the background many times, but for some reason this time, the words grabbed my attention enough to keep me sitting in my car in the driveway. Images of my beautiful friends who have walked through the darkness and come out on the other side, came flooding to mind.

People like Emily Wierenga who survived a vicious eating disorder that almost took her life. She now spends her life telling others her story through art, words and actions in hopes of shining light in the darkness.

Jennifer Riley who is by far the most creative person I know. She spends everyday creating beauty for other people. She doesn’t even know how incredible she really is.

Mollymorgan who chose life and has been recovering from anorexia for 3 years. Does she have any idea how proud I am of her?

Julie Taylor who has overcome a drug addiction thought only to be defeated in death.

This post is for you.
It’s for those still in the dark.
For the children who don’t have a choice.
It’s for the ones who are at the jumping off place. Numb and afraid that you will never feel anything again.
This is for all of you who want to scream, but don’t have a voice.

I want you to know that whether your monster is addiction, an eating disorder, discrimination because of your sexual preference or the color of your skin, depression, anxiety, abuse…
I love you
. Your Creator, God, loves you. He knows your name.
And you were made to shine.
Baby Burn Brighthurricane_deluxe_edition_Press play to listen to “Burn Bright”

Feel free to download a pdf version of the picture and quote in this post.
Baby Burn Bright pdf

If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, please, please, get help. It is serious and it wants to take your life. You can start by visiting the National Eating Disorders Association.

If you are, like I was, broken & without hope, I beg you to reach out to someone at one of the resources listed below. Click on the name and it will take you directly to the website. As long as you are breathing, there is still hope.
People of the Second Chance
Central Christian Church: Las Vegas
To Write Love on Her Arms

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3 Mistakes Moms in Recovery Make

Big HeartPeople have asked me, especially now that my daughter is 15, “How do you explain your past to your children?” My answer is, “I don’t.”

Bella has always been a curious child and I am very open and honest with her. There is no other way to be if I want her to live a life that is happy, joyous and free. The questions started when she was around age 4. Questions that most teenagers are asking their friends. At first, I was surprised. “Why is she even thinking about these things? Where would she have heard that word?” When I realized that none of that mattered, I was left with a decision. How do I respond and do I integrate lessons from my past with my answer? Nothing gets your prayer life started like unlocking a closet full of skeletons.

After 11 years of conversations with my daughter, here is what I know not to be helpful when treading through unknown territory.

1.) Too much, too soon.
Guilt is an interesting thing. It almost always goes hand in hand with fear. You can bet where there is guilt, there will be fear. I have several mama friends in recovery and we have all struggled with this. Just because your child asks, doesn’t mean they want a play by play. Only say as much as needed and speak from a place of wisdom. Reverting back to a time of rebellion will only end badly.

It’s okay to tell your child that you’re not sure how to answer their question and will have to give it a few moments of thought. Do not let them leave the conversation as you may never have the opportunity again. In that moment, ask God for clear direction.

Also, you don’t have to spill your guts in one sitting. Only address the things that pertain to the question/circumstances. If my child is talking about an eating disorder, I’m not going to focus on drug use.

2.) Not enough.
Just because you were a hellion, doesn’t mean your child will be. Don’t avoid the truth for fear of passing on the curse. You are not cursed. We all acted out to some degree. For some of us it was bringing home a B on our report card. For others…well…it was in a whole different realm of behaviors.

At some point your child is probably going to ask you, “Did you ever smoke pot? Drink before you were legal? Break curfew? Have sex? Get a tattoo? …You fill in the blank. Some many people will disagree with me, but here goes…

When my children look me in the eyes and ask me a question, I answer them truthfully. To some, lying is “protecting.” No, lying is lying and once it starts it’s difficult to stop. Honesty saved me from a miserable life. It was difficult. I once lied about everything. Even when there was no cause to lie, I lied. It made getting honest foreign and all the more difficult, but so incredibly freeing on the other side.

If there is one thing I never want to be to my children, it’s hypocritical.

3.) The shame game
Shame is contagious. Make sure it ends with you.
I get it. It sucks having to come clean to a kid, but what’s even worse is hiding. Darkness leads to relapse (no matter what your vice). It’s not possible to hide in the light so take up residency there.

You may be afraid of what people will think. “I’ll never be invited to serve on the PTA or be in a moms club or lead a girl scout troop or make cookies for bible study…” Remember, if you are still looking to someone else to prove your worth, you will never “feel” good enough. Besides, most things are highly overrated in our minds.

Worried about your image? Ask yourself whose image you are shadowing. I know that I am created in the image of a God who loves me and has a great plan and purpose for my life. When I think about His image, my confidence is restored and I no longer fear the actions of man.

I can’t tell you how much is too much or how little is not enough. Even if I knew your story, I couldn’t decide that for you. I would encourage you to pray. Ask God to guide your thinking. He gives us what we need when we need it and it works out as it should. It sounds simple, because it is, but it is far from easy. Examine your motives, asking yourself, “Why do I feel the need to share this? Is it helpful? Will it only make me feel better for the few moments I am sharing it, but lead down a path I never intended?”

Most importantly, for me at least, speak from a place of love, gratitude and hope. Be a living, breathing example that no one is beyond redemption. Do not overlook consequences or give permission. Do be authentic.

In the end, love always wins.

 

Easter Hangover

It was the mid 90’s. I was driving someone else’s car down a main road in the city where I was living at the time. Dawn was just about to break the horizon when it occurred to me. It’s Easter morning. I had been up for several days with the help of stimulants in the form of pill and powder and was now starting the brutal decent down from my high. I usually didn’t know what day it was so I’m not sure how I remembered it was Easter.

This picture etched so vividly in my memory… As the sun peeked over the horizon and poured it’s light into my eyes, tears ran down my sunken cheeks. “Easter…I wonder what my family is doing? My mom has already called half a dozen people by now exclaiming, ‘HE IS RISEN!’ while waiting for their reply, ‘He has risen indeed’ and will be preparing for Sunday service and dinner afterwards.”

I was 18 years old. I would spend 8 more years in mental anguish and self-inflicted torment before I surrendered control of my life in the rooms of AA.

Last night I attended the Easter service at my church. It was the best service I have ever been a part of on this important Sunday in the history of our heritage. I was sitting on the back row of the balcony and could see everything going on. Different kinds of people from all walks of life flooded the auditorium. I had a stressful time getting myself and 3 children ready to attend and quite honestly, I just wanted to check off attendance, hear the same old “Easter message” and get home to my pajama pants.

God had other plans.

I sat behind a row of several children. During the music I glanced over to see an adult holding two of the little girls up. They were fully in the moment with hands lifted in praise to the giver of life. “They get it.” I thought to myself. “I want to get it like they do.”
Our hands are lifted highGod wasn’t stressed out about what I would wear to gather in this place. He didn’t care if I stuffed myself into my spanx. It didn’t matter if I had make-up on or my hair fixed. He just wanted me. He wanted me to recognize His goodness. He wanted me to bask in His grace. He wanted me to see, first hand, faith like a child.

For those of you reading who have given up trying to change someone you love who is lost in addiction. Good. You can’t. Only God can save us from ourselves. You never know what God will use to trigger the desire for Him.

To the parents who have a prodigal son or daughter…They have not forgotten the teachings of their childhood. God’s got thisLet Him have it.

To those of you going through hell…please hear me when I say that the “Christians” who are telling you that it’s impossible to be saved while acting the way you are, just haven’t experienced the kind of lost that has seemingly swallowed you. We do the best we can with what we have and that is what they are doing.

When it comes down to the core of the matter…it is between you and God, my friend. You. And. God. He has the final say and only He knows your heart. You may be acting a fool. I did for many years. You may think God has abandoned you like so many others have. May I encourage you with this truth. God is exactly where he has always been. Awaiting your return. He wants nothing more than to bless you and shape you into His purpose. He wants to love you, provide for you and protect you from the demons that haunt you.

I know this first hand. I have sat where you sit. Maybe not in the same circumstances, but desperatelongingsearchingbegging…for some shred of hope. There is hope. Today we celebrate this hope called Jesus. There is life. Today we celebrate this life in Jesus. There is salvation. Today we celebrate the Savior named Jesus. There is abounding love. Today we celebrate the purest form of love in Jesus. There is peace that passes all understanding. Today we celebrate that peace through Jesus.

Now you know. I am rather sold out to this carpenter who walked the earth for just over 30 years. He never wrote a book. He wasn’t overly attractive. He wasn’t wealthy and His crown was made of thorns, but you see, He redeemed me. What was lost is now found. What was broken is now whole. Blind eyes can now see. He took my armor of shame and replaced it with a cloak of grace. But I had to hand it to him. He was not going to strip it off of me. I had to remove it, piece by piece. It was heavy and restricting. Now…now I am free. It was more than worth the exchange. I couldn’t always see it in the moment, but looking back I wonder how I ever missed it.

My friend, journeying alone or as a companion through the desert. My prayer for you is that, in His perfect timing, God will reveal himself to you in a way so obvious and powerful that there is no denying His presence. My prayer for you is that you will come back home.

If you want/need somewhere to turn that is “come as you are” here are a few great resources.
Central Online (Their motto is, “It’s okay to not be okay.”)
Buckhead Church a division of North Point Community Church (This is my 2nd home)
People of the Second Chance (These are my people…scarred…broken and beautiful)

 

Seasonal Addiction

There’s a reason why multiple case studies show that addiction is the highest during the holiday season. It’s the most difficult time to stay sober. I think in part because we’re surrounded by family that trigger all kinds of emotions. It’s also a time when everything around us says we should be feeling a certain way. For those of us who have always bucked up against conformity, we don’t like for people or things to tell us we should feel a certain way. Our natural response is rebellion.

This past October, by the grace of God, I celebrated 10 years of sobriety. I am now a productive member of society. The road was long and filled with twists, turns and dead ends. There were a lot of tears and pleading with my Higher Power. There was uncertainty among the rubble of my indiscretion. There were times when I felt hopeless. And then something changed.

I made a conscious decision to fill my mind with truth and courage. I stopped entertaining deception and falsehood. When I didn’t believe the truth of who I am and that I’m made in the image of God, I would repeat it over and over throughout the day, “God, I belong to you. Thank you that I belong to you. Thank you that darkness has no power over my mind, heart, body and soul. Protect me from evil and all who promote it.”

So if you are new to recovery or are exploring the possibility that you may have a problem with alcohol, food, drugs, pornography, sex, money… anything that is hindering you from living out your purpose, this post was written for you. If nothing else, please know that you’re not alone in your struggle. There are literally thousands of us within one city.

My prayer, in this moment, is that God will intervene and direct your thinking. I pray that you will find purpose in this season of busyness and overspending. When you are looking around for the most convenient numbing aid, I pray that you will see someone who needs your help. My hope is that you will become so caught up in helping others that you don’t have time to entertain the lies that blind. For me, helping others is key to avoid falling back into the snare of darkness.

If you’re an “old-timer” in recovery, a “newcomer” or something in-between and you’re feeling irritable and discontent (as I have been), may I encourage you take a moment and ask yourself why you’re so frustrated. Ask yourself why you cannot or will not find contentment in the current circumstances, and go from there. You don’t have to have any definitive answers, you just need to take the first step.

Are you planning your escape? What vice will you use to “check out?” Please talk to someone you can trust and remove all the power behind the lies. The first sign that I’m headed in a bad direction is when I’m conjuring things up in my mind and do not want to tell anyone. Can you relate? If so, please comment below. So many of us out there need to know we’re not alone.

Two excellent resources involving one of my favorite communicators on the planet, Jud Wilhite, are People of the Second Chance (@POTSC on Twitter) and Central Online. Check it out. You have nothing to lose.

Love and Light,
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