Christine Duncan

Precepts & Life Preservers

Tag: mental health (page 1 of 4)

Your Struggle, His Instrument

 

Do you wonder what good is ever going to come of the trials you're in? He may choose to use it...

God’s been speaking to me a lot lately about how He can use my struggles with depression as an instrument of His voice.

Immediately, two things happened.

My brain did a complete inventory of all the things I could bring to the table that were way shinier and better than my ongoing battle with chronic D.

You know, in case He didn’t already know.

And second, I quickly and lamely replied, “Lord? My struggle hasn’t concluded yet. No healing to show for. No mind-bending progress. In fact, I’m still pretty broken some days.”

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Eating My Way To A Better Life – A Guest Post with Lauren Gaskill

I’m so thrilled and grateful to have a special guest with us today!
I’ve become a recent fan of this talented and God-filled woman, and her writing and her story are pretty inspiring for someone like me, and I know as you get to know her, you’ll be inspired too. Writing and blogging about the whole spectrum of health and life, the physical and the spiritual, Lauren Gaskill is joining us today from MakingLifeSweet.com and sharing just how powerful one change can be when living with a chronic disorder.
Pull up a chair with me?

“When I think about the most influential, memorable moments of my life, most of them revolve around food. From Sunday dinners at Gramma’s and Friday night pizza parties, to baking cookies with my mother and making ice cream runs with my best friend Devon, my adolescent years were full of countless connections between food, family and friendship.

Eating Your Way To A Better Life

 I believe food has the power to transform lives.

Not in the same respect that I believe Jesus can transform a life of course, but I think it can still inspire change. That’s why half of my blog is devoted to recipes, while the other half is devoted to faith.

I should mention that while I have many fond memories surrounding food, I haven’t always had a healthy relationship with it. When I was a competitive swimmer in high school I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I didn’t care if food was processed, loaded with sugar, high in trans fat or sodium, or nutritionally void. I would eat Cheez-Its and Skittles for a snack and wash it down with a glass of orange soda without batting an eyelid. But I would also fall asleep in class or collapse on the couch after school from having no energy.

Now granted, as a competitive swimmer I often had two practices a day. So I needed all the fuel I could get my hands on. And yet, while I was never overweight I wasn’t eating healthy. To make things worse, I often lacked the appropriate amounts of energy and struggled to sleep at night.

Fast forward to my sophomore year of college when one fall morning I woke up with lockjaw, a migraine and full body pain. Nothing was ever the same after that day. Headaches became a daily occurrence, my body felt like it had been hit with 2x4s, and my neck, jaw and back were in a constant state of semi-debilitating to unbearable pain.

In addition to several visits to the doctor, I began to research the effects of food on the body and discovered the link between eating well and feeling good. Over the course of a couple of months I ditched processed foods, started eating more whole foods, specifically fruits and vegetables, and decreased the amount of sugar and sodium I was consuming. It was a slow process, but eventually the full-body pain became less intense and I had more energy to get through the day.

Fast forward once again to 2014. From the outside looking in, it was a very happy year in my life: I landed two jobs fresh out of college; I became engaged and married my high school sweetheart; And we bought our first home in Minnesota. But on the inside my chronic pain was worse than ever.

After more doctor’s office visits and tests, I received an official diagnosis of fibromyalgia and hypermobility in March 2015. “You should take Gabapentin”, my team of doctors told me. But after much research my 23-year-old self was not ready to resign to drugs. Don’t get me wrong — I think medicine is great and drugs definitely have their place. But I don’t think drugs should be the first defense if we have the option to try something else.

So I went back to my doctor and told him about my lifestyle habits: how I exercised, slept and ate healthy most days. “Well there is one thing you could try,” he told me.

“Anything!” I replied.

“You could try eliminating gluten and dairy, which, like processed foods can also cause inflammation and other problems in the body.”

 At first I was skeptical. As a food blogger, baker, and chef, my spirit did not want to believe this. But then I talked to other fibromyalgia sufferers and listened to their stories. And you want to know something? Every single one of them had benefited from cutting gluten and dairy out.

That’s when I recalled the first time I started to eat healthier back in college! I remembered how it made me feel, and that encouraged me to give this elimination thing a try. Friends, I cannot even begin to express what a difference this change has made in my life.

I can honestly say that making changes in my diet has drastically reduced my overall pain levels and increased my overall energy levels.

Eating My Way To A Better Life

It hasn’t cured my fibromyalgia, but it has made living with it more manageable. I also no longer suffer from nightly acid reflux like I used to. I thought I would be popping Tums for the rest of my life, but with diet changes I have been able to get rid of that almost completely.

All of this is not to say that you should cut gluten and dairy out of your diet. Every person is unique and no two people react to all foods in the same way.

 We are fearfully and wonderfully made by an awesome Creator, and our bodies respond to things differently. What is fine for some is not fine for others and vice versa.

 The key is to understand that food impacts the way we think and feel. What we put into our bodies has a tremendous effect on what we get out of life, and eating healthier can truly lead to an enhanced quality of life.”

Have you experienced life transformation or overcome an illness by making a few diet changes? I would love to hear from you! Comment below or visit MakingLifeSweet.com to contact me.
– Lauren Gaskill

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It’s a great day to be linking up with Holley Gerth’s #CoffeeForYourHeart!
Click on the hashtag and join us?

Anywhere But Here

It’s an anywhere but here in my head kind of day.

It’s the part of dysthymia that really drives me crazy.

Almost literally.

Almost.

I sit here knowing without a doubt where I would like to be, or what I’d like to be doing or finishing in that moment, but my agitated brain threatens to ruin it.

And there’s no override.

I had a day to do whatever I wanted. For eight hours the world was my oyster. I had been looking forward to it for the last week.

I had several things I could choose to enjoy or accomplish. But now the day was here.

And that darned mental agitation had come rolling in.

And although a small part of me wanted to recall what I’d enjoy doing most with the free time I had, my brain was loudly opposing the thoughts, making me regret even waking up.

Already I could sense it. Isolated noises extra loud to my brain, the dog drinking out of the water bowl nearly making me bolt and whisk her bowl into oblivion. Asking my husband to repeat what he’d just said three different times, my brain tuning out without warning.

And like a heavy shroud trying to suffocate you, agitation and anxiety simmer underneath your moods, flaring up only long enough to make you second guess everything you’ve ever thought.

What I wanted to do was go down to my favorite coffee-house, plug in my laptop, plug into a lovely pastry and chocolate chai tea, and write and muse and people watch.

Sounds lovely, I know.

That was the first plan.

But I knew the minute I attempted it, it would fall apart. I know the signs well, and know it’s irreversible once it’s set in. I would fidget, I would lose focus, my brain would rage and wander, I’d feel like everyone could tell. I would want to be gone already, I’d feel anger and frustration, and I’d be worse than if I never got there and just gave up… so you can see why so many with any kind of mood disorder or depression just give up, that’s the agitated and chaotic and screaming state of your moods.

You can be exactly where you want to be, it can be the best set up in the world, but if your brain is wreaking havoc with your moods, it’s exactly the last place you want to be.

For example, I know now, looking back decades before my diagnosis, that it was my early onset dysthymia that nearly sabotaged our honeymoon. We were so young. We were trying so hard to not be afraid of the future. Clinging to God hard. We were ecstatic even just to have a honeymoon at all.

And on day two of what should have been a really beautiful day in Niagara, I couldn’t figure out what the heaviness across my chest was, why everything my sweet husband said grated like chalk on a chalkboard, and why just being asked, “well then, what would YOU like to do?” sent me into scary meltdown mode.

My heart said, “what’s wrong with you? He wants to stop in old shops, restaurants, wants to hold your hand… why does this sound impossible?

And my head said it was too many choices to process, too many decisions it couldn’t filter, too many things to keep track of.

And I nearly made us go home. I broke up inside.

Poor Richard never knew what hit him. I cringe when I think of it.

And I especially didn’t know. I was miserable. Panicked. Confused.

The next day was an upswing, things returned to semi-normal, and I spent all day asking myself what had gotten into me. The trip was fine, but inside my heart I was appalled at behavior I seemed to have zero control over and had no reason for!

I’m just so thankful it didn’t last the whole week or longer, like it often can. But many a day trip or date night wound up like that.
Until I got my diagnosis.

These days, I know better how to adjust. So does my husband.

When that anywhere-but-here feeling hits, changing locations won’t help, I’ll still want to be anywhere but there. Giving myself time before I try what I initially wanted won’t help, I just give myself more time to be agitated.

What is a dysthymic gal to do?

I sink.

Oh, don’t take this the wrong way though.

I sink into Him.

When these difficult and non-negotiable symptoms rear their heads, instead of struggling, I remain still and sink into His presence.

Like when you find yourself in quicksand, the last thing you want to do is keep fighting and wriggling, you have to remain still. And if you’re going to sink, you sink into His side, you hide there, and He carries you. Fully immersed. Sunk into His goodness and mercy.

When my brain and moods and emotions are all in this impossible tangle, it’s kind of like how Paul writes in Romans 7, “I don’t understand what I do! For what I want to do, I don’t do, and what I hate, I keep doing…” and on and on.

This is not the state of the heart He desires for us. This is not how He wants us to live, exhausted and conflicted and restless, without hope. He wants something better.

In those moments, all I know is that I want that ‘something better’.

So I allow myself to sink into Him.

And every time we do, He says over us, ” Cease striving and know that I am your God.”

“My presence goes with you, child, and I give rest to you.”

“Fix your mind on Me, and I’ll keep you in perfect peace.”

“Come to Me for rest for your souls. Take My yoke that’s easy and light. I’ll carry your burdens.”

“I am your Shepherd, in Me you’ll lack nothing. I’ll give you green pastures to lay in, restoring streams to rest beside, refreshing you. I’ll guide you, protect you, keep you safe, comfort you. My goodness and mercy will follow you all you days.”

Yes, if it’s anywhere but here, I want my anywhere to be Him.

It’s not hard, it’s not complicated, it requires no ripples of new choices to overwhelm. There is nothing about Him that frustrates, that agitates, that is lacking in any way.

He is Perfect Peace.

I love the verse in Isaiah 26:3 that boldly says to all;
“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!”

I just have to acknowledge that I need Him.

I keep my rattled mind there, fixed there, anchored says one version, (which I love) and perfect peace is made available.

I don’t know about you but that’s exactly where I want to be.

He’s where I want my anywhere to be. Everytime.

I don’t know if you have a condition of chronic depression lurking about. I don’t know if you have difficult life choices. I don’t know if you battle anxiety, shattered dreams maybe, a broken heart, or regrets that haunt, an illness that’s scary.

But better than holing up in the dark under the blankets somewhere, better than drowning it out with bad habits or addictions, better than calling it quits, He waits for us to sink down into His presence of love and peace and mercy and strength.

And I don’t know about you,
but I want my ‘anywhere but here’
to be Him.

The Laughter Injection

I got off the phone with tears in my eyes…

From laughter.

There’s nothing quite like a laughter injection into your day.

There is something about a friend that just gets you, or knows they can make fun of you in a silly way, or can get you laughing hard over something so normal, and yet you both know where the punch line is going.

Can get you laughing about yourself, about life, and about the stupid crazy things. One friend can look at me and say “oatmeal” and that’s it, I’m done for. One friend has the uncanny ability to end my sentences with me and we crack up in the middle of the street, or in the car, at the spookiness. One friend can act out the craziest dances and I nearly laugh so hard I could pass out.

The only time it feels great to have a sore stomach and be out of breath. And you feel lighter.

If anything gives me an extra jolt to my day, if anything boosts my mood that has staying power, it’s a chance to laugh. It can curb an episode of depression, it can correct a wrong attitude. It can heal the oldest of wounds.

I grew up in a house where there was a great deal of laughter. Even in the middle of trials. So laughter became for me a signal of strength. And I gravitate to it like nothing else.

I guess it’s a required skill. To find the layer of humour in any situation. To let go of the serious for a second and release the opportunity to look past it for something lighter.

I know I’ve found a kindred spirit in a new acquaintance when they can reveal the jolly in the middle of the less than ideal.

But I’ve learned that humour and laughing out freely doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Some can seemed shocked when I reach for the humour in a conversation for the first time. Or unsure when something weighty has a lighter side to it.

And I’m left wondering when the last time was they had a laughter injection?

Obviously, some things are very serious, obviously there are times where humour would be utterly disrespectful. But when you’re feeling overwhelmed, under-equipped, and bordering on defeated, the warmth and joy of a good laugh can change all that.

I’ve often heard people saying, “I’d call her up, but I don’t know what to say!” or “He’s had it so rough lately, what do I say so I don’t make it all worse?”

I say laugh. Out loud. At something unrelated. At a classic movie. At a pinterest meme. At your own misguided discoveries that week. Share it with them. Give them the chance to laugh.

Just talk about general everyday things, and inject some humour. They need it. They may not even know it, but they crave it. A good story, a good predicament, a hilarious lesson recently learned all lend themselves to lifting the other person up.

Sometimes a laugh becomes a gift.

Sometimes it becomes a lifeline.

There were days in the past where the depression was wearing on me heavily, and I could barely laugh at anything. So I would listen to others laughing.

Sometimes I’d be at the mall and pick a table at the food court near a group of seniors having coffee. Animated, from various cultures and countries, loud and boisterous and hooting and hollering. I hadn’t a clue what they were saying in their native greek or italian, but they were loving life. And I’d drink in the laughter. I’d hold it there.

And I’d breathe just a bit better.

Sometimes it’d be a sitcom or comedy routine with the audience laughing uproariously. Sometimes I’d overhear my kids tackling the dog and each other and laughing at the antics. And I’d hold the sound there.

A laugh injection for the weary soul.

Hey soul? Did you know God created laughter?

After all, it is the physical reaction to the injection of joy. And joy is a choice and a tool. For almost anything. For everyone. If we laughed more and fought less, the world would be a different place.

In the greek, the word joy is closely related to the word ‘rejoicing’.  If the evidence of joy is gladness, laughter, smiles, and favor, then no wonder laughter does so much in our hardest times. For the Bible says:

“The joy of the Lord shall be your strength!”

“Rejoice in the Lord always! And again, I say, rejoice!”

“Shout joyfully to God all the earth!”

“The afflicted will increase their gladness in the Lord, and the needy will rejoice in the Holy One!”

“For our hearts rejoice in Him, trusting in His Holy name!”

I could go on and on. But it’s very clear who the Author of joy and laughter is. And it is clear why we need it to survive.

Joy becomes the channel for His strength, our way out, our victory, our hope, our signal that we’re not finished yet, and that He isn’t either.

Find someone to laugh with. Be that someone to laugh with.

Be that laughter injection and see what the Father will do with your joy in that moment. Trust that He’ll use it to gift someone with gladness, health, and hope.

The laughter injection. We all need it.

 

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