Letting go of the ruin

 

When I was fifteen years old, my dad and I bought an old beat up 1976 Camaro from the high school auto shop.  I was going to be driving soon, and if things worked out I’d have my own wheels and freedom!  I was so excited.  

If memory serves me right, we paid about $300 for it.  It was in fair condition.  It could be driven.  But there were several things wrong with it, including it was in bad need of a paint job.  Of course I only noticed what it looked like on the outside and I wasn’t so sure that the $300 was well spent.   But it had good “bones”.  And the interior was still pretty nice, although stained a bit.  But my dad could see something in her that I couldn’t.

My dad and I spent the better part of a summer working on that Camaro, and bringing her back to life.  He on the mechanics of it, and me helping with the stains on the interior and the frame.  I remember spending hours sanding the metal down by dipping the sandpaper in water and then removing every bit of remaining paint left.  We rubbed putty (or something of the sort) in every dent and then sanded that down.  It was a grueling process that required attention to every detail.  But that was the process that was required to make her new again.  To repair the damage that had been done and make it whole once again.

Then finally… one day she was ready to paint and get the finishing touches put on.  I had saved all summer long to be able to pay for the parts and the paint job that went into her (candy apple red!).  And I couldn’t have been more proud of the work that we had done.

The day that we put “Old Red” on the road was one of the most exciting days of my life!  All of our hard work had finally garnered the result that  I craved.  She wasn’t perfect, but she was mine, and that’s all that really mattered to me.

As I reflected on that restoration process these past few months, I have been reminded of all the processes of restoration that we all have to go through during our lives on this earth.  We are all broken down, with a few stains here and there, in bad need of repair or “restoration”.  And although we may feel like we are barely getting by, the Lord sees our “good bones”.  He sees what the outcome can be with a little sanding here and a little putty there, and maybe a shiny new coat of paint.

I have spent a lot of time pondering and asking the Lord why?  Why do I have to live with a bipolar diagnosis?  Why is it that my body is broken down, stained and dented?  What good is meant to come out of this?  What’s the purpose?

And then I remembered the story of the Old Camaro and it came to me with perfect clarity.  We come to Him (our Lord Jesus Christ), broken, beaten down, full of sorrow and He “restores” us.

When I was diagnosed bipolar, my life as I knew it ended.  Everything changed.  I went from feeling like nothing could stop me.  To feeling like a broken shell of a person.  I was struggling with finding the right medications, the right Dr., the right plan for recovery.

It was only when I laid all my fears at the feet of my Savior that true restoration began.  Where I saw a broken shell, He saw the good bones. It has not been easy.  It’s a long grueling process.  From waiting for 6 weeks just to get into see the right Dr. and then ending up in the hospital again right before that appointment.  Then waiting another 6 weeks to finally get in again. Then trying different medications, behaviors and habits that work for me and my body chemistry.  A little sanding here and a little putty there.  He truly has been my source of restoration.

Elder Holland, an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, once said, “I think of that night when Christ rushed to the aid of His frightened disciples, walking as He did on the water to get to them, calling out, “It is I; be not afraid.” Peter exclaimed, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” Christ’s answer to him was as it always is every time: “Come,” He said. Instantly, as was his nature, Peter sprang over the vessel’s side and into the troubled waters. While his eyes were fixed upon the Lord, the wind could toss his hair and the spray could drench his robes, but all was well—he was coming to Christ. It was only when his faith wavered and fear took control, only when he removed his glance from the Master to look at the furious waves and the ominous black gulf beneath, only then did he begin to sink into the sea. In newer terror he cried out, “Lord, save me.”

Undoubtedly with some sadness, the Master over every problem and fear, He who is the solution to every discouragement and disappointment, stretched out His hand and grasped the drowning disciple with the gentle rebuke, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” Matthew 14:27–31

If you are lonely, please know you can find comfort. If you are discouraged, please know you can find hope. If you are poor in spirit, please know you can be strengthened. If you feel you are broken, please know you can be mended.” (May 2006 General Conference address).

We just need to reach out to Him and then keep our eyes fixed upon Him.  He can restore us.  He can bring us hope and peace and comfort.  If we will let him.  Because He loves us.  Because He broke the bands of death.  Because we are His!

We need not be fearful of the changes and trials that come into our lives.  We need only to believe.  Believe that He will come to us in His infinite power to restore us to our former state.  Believe that He will bring us back to a state of health, soundness and vigor.  It may not happen now, it may not happen in this lifetime.  But it will happen.  One day we will be restored in all our glory.  Just like my dad and I restored Old Red.  Our Savior will restore us, and He will take us out for a spin on the road and we will be His because that’s all that really matters to Him.

XO Wendy

 

 

 

 

 

An Ordinary Box? Or Something More?

Imagine for a moment, a medium sized moving box, (maybe one that you could put a couple loads of old clothes in).  Dingy, old and worn, smelling musty from being stored for a long period of time.  Maybe even a little water damage can be seen in the ripples of the beat up box.  Dust has begun to collect from the years of being untouched.  An ordinary storage box by outward appearances.

Ok.  Do you have that mental picture in mind?

Now let’s take this imaginary box to a new level.  Though ordinary, there is something different about it.  This box can not be seen by the naked eye.  Beat down, worn out, and barely noticed anymore.  But….YOU CAN see it clearly now.  And It is time to open this box and discover what is inside. For some reason, you are a little afraid of what you might find, but you decide to open it anyway.

To your astonishment, as you open the box, familiar things begin to suddenly appear in your minds eye.  There are loads and loads of memories inside.  Good ones, bad ones, happy and sad, success and failure, adventure, and despair.  But wait.  Some of these memories you recognize, and some you have never felt or seen before.  How can that be?  It is YOUR box, right?

Then you realize deep in your soul that these are ALL of your memories!   A Lifetime’s worth!  All of your emotions, your hopes and dreams, your adventures, your experiences!  Even those you haven’t had or seen before. All of them trapped deep inside this box never to be found.  And then it hits you!

It comes to you with great force, like a huge punch in the gut. You feel sick to your stomach as you realize that this  box was created FOR YOU!  Not only that, it was built BY YOU!

You suddenly realize that there is one emotion that is not trapped or missing.  It is the very same one that kept you from opening it to start with.  The very one that you are feeling right now.  It’s Fear!  Fear of what might have been inside.  Fear of what might have happened if you opened it.  Fear of the unknown.  Plain and simple, the emotion is  Fear.  And you realize that you have been filled with fear for a very long time.

Ok, snap out of it.  Back to real life?  How do you feel?

No worries.  The great thing about imagination is that it is just that, imagination!  And that means that you can change the way this story ends!

And you know what?  It is time!  It is past time for you to take control of your fear.  Kick it to curb.  Release all of those past experiences and failures that have made you afraid to experience your life. Afraid to try new things, to take risks, to become more than you are and learn something new.

Because no one wants to look back at their life as they take their last and final breath and see that there was so much more that could have been.  If only they would have opened the box!

Break free!  Your life is waiting for you!

XO, Wendy

What prompted this post:  I realized that since I was diagnosed with Bipolar 5 years ago, I have been so afraid of what might happen.  It took several years to get meds right and get my physical, mental, and spiritual balance back.

But since then I have been somewhat paralyzed by the worry that it will happen again (meaning I would end up in the psychiatric ward again).  So what if it does?  It wouldn’t be the end of the world.  I mean, I do NOT want that to happen for sure!  However I  have survived.  I’ve been surviving it most of my life (with the help of my Savior and redeemer carrying me every step of the way).

But the difference now, is that I am so much stronger.  Because I know.  I know what I am dealing with.  I know what triggers me.  I know what precautions I need to take.  There is absolutely no reason to remain stuck in this place.  It is way past time to see what is on the other side of fear!

And if you have similar feelings of being stuck and unable to progress or move forward.  Maybe it is time to take a good look at what is holding YOU back.  I’d be willing to place a bet that it is the box of fear that you have been hiding in.

I know it’s not easy to break free from.  Believe me I have been trying for nearly 40 years.  Do not let this be your story.  There is ALWAYS hope!

P.S.  If you have not yet heard of it, check out the book Limitless by Jim Kwik.  I haven’t finished it yet but it has made me realize that  my brain is not broken.  Just untrained, underused and misunderstood.  A work in progress, but truly limitless!

 

Where do we go from here?

Breathe

As I walked back to my house one early morning this week, through the brisk cool air and heard these words it was like magic to my soul.  I was listening to a podcast that had a guest that was sharing a harrowing experience about her life (All in: Brooke Snow).  And when she said these words “Christ is the breath of life”, it stopped me in my tracks.  You might say it took my breath away for a minute.  I let it sink in and wash over me.  As I listened to her experience, thoughts of my struggle with mental illness raced through my mind.  Time after time when Christ had become the breath in whom I trusted to help me make it through another day.

This pandemic has been a hard punch in the gut for a lot of people.  It has literally taken the breath away from most of us in all different ways.  It has caused us to reflect and remember the things that should take priority in our lives.  And it has been HARD.  In so many ways it has been hard.  So where do we go from here?  How do we move forward when at times it feels so paralyzing?

All of the plans that we had for this year have been irrevocably changed and we can never go back and change what we’ve missed.  Weddings, funerals, graduations, trips, and events.   Some people said that 2020 was the year of perfect vision.  The year when all our dreams could come true.  And then boom…. in an instant our world was turned upside down.  

But one thing I have learned through all of my struggles with depressions, anxiety and bipolar is that Christ is truly where it all has to start.   We are all capable of change.  After all, even though it’s been rough, we are making it through this change, somehow. Even though the path may not be clear at this moment.

Miracles can happen when we are willing to put our trust in Christ.  Let Him breathe life into our weary souls. Because He sees the big picture.  He sees what we can not.  And like a baby being born and taking that first breath of air, we must look to the Lord to learn how to breathe when breathing seems impossible or almost like we are suffocating.

About partway through this quarantine, I realized that I needed to increase my yoga (meditation process) to stay grounded.  Otherwise I think I would lose my mind and end up moving backward instead of forward with my illness.  Normally, I do it once a week. It’s a good way to stretch and let go. Release the worries of the previous week and look ahead to the new week.  But now I have been practicing it daily and it has made such a difference in my life and my days.  I am a beginner and have a long way to go. I’m learning to understand how yoga/meditation work. 

Important note: I am not saying that you should pick up yoga. But finding time to quiet my mind helps me to take things that are bothering me or frustrating me, and just let them melt away for a little while.  It has helped me gain a new perspective on me as a person.  I have found that I  am a lot stronger than I give myself credit for.  

So what I am proposing as you move forward as the quarantine is lifted, and slowly move back into a daily routine, work, school, sports, etc., remember the ways that you have changed through this experience.  Remember the experiences that have shaped you into a “new” person.  Because certainly none of  us can come out of this experience saying that we have not been changed in some way.

Find time as often as possible to sit for 5 minutes a day and just breathe.  Let Christ be the breath of life for you.  Just breathe in and out, deep breaths and let the worries of the world melt away.  Clear your mind and take just 5-10 minutes to remember this experience and how strong you have become as a person.

You are resilient, you are strong, you are in charge of your own mind and your own life.  Of course, there have been many negative things that have happened  because of this experience.  We may tend to look at it as one big negative.  But I strongly encourage you to take the time to recognize the good that can come out it.  

One thing that we can always be certain of, is that there will always be change.  

President Russell M. Nelson taught:  “We can change our behavior.  Our very desires can change.  … but true change–permanent–change can come only through the healing, cleansing, and enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”   Let Christ Change you.  Let him help you breathe.  Let Him help you move forward and embrace what is going to be a new normal for all of us.  Christ is the breath of life.  

In Ezekiel 36 verse 26-27 we read: A new heart also will I give you, and  a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stoney heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.  

27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

My hope is that as you move into this next phase of your life that your heart will stay soft and if  it has been hardened through this trial, allow Christ to breathe new life into you.   Allow him to heal your weary soul.  You are His.  He loves you and wants the best for you.  Breathe in and breathe out and let Christ be the sail on your boat slowly pushing you forward. 

Where do we go from here?  In my mind the only answer is fearlessly forward!

XO Wendy

 

 

Be grateful for today.

Be thankful for how far you’ve come and what you’ve learned along the way.  We only have one life!  

Don’t waste it away worrying about what you haven’t yet been able to do.  Make today great and full of gratitude and everything else will take care of itself.

5 Things not to say to a person with bipolar disorder

Some of you have requested that I post more about my experiences with living with bipolar disorder.  So I figured this year I would try to write about it at least once a week (maybe more depending on the week).

I will say that it is much easier to write and talk about these things when I feel healthy and that the disorder is in control.  The sad part is that just because I’m healthy now, doesn’t mean that I don’t have it or that it will magically go away.  I like to think of it as it’s “in remission”.  Hopefully it stays way but just like cancer, I need regular checkups with my Dr. And for me personally, making sure I take my medication and always strive to keep up the 10 habits.

There can also be many side effects that never go away.   And it doesn’t mean that things that people say (well-meaning) don’t affect me in a negative way.

So today I thought I’d give you an idea of what NOT to say to someone who has bipolar disorder.

1. You seem so normal. This is probably the one that I hear the most and it’s frustrating because just because I look or seem normal doesn’t mean that I’m not struggling.  Plus, you never know if someone is between cycles of mania or depression.  And some people are just really good at hiding it or wearing a mask.  Think about how this would feel if you said it to someone with cancer!  It is a lack of empathy in my honest opinion.  A better way to approach this would be to say.  “You seem like you’re feeling good at the moment, what can I do to support you?”  Just showing you care and recognize it as a disorder, will go a long way.

2. I saw so and so the other day and she was acting so crazy, I think she’s bipolar! First of all, we are NOT the disorder, we HAVE the disorder. Second, making assumptions that someone has a disorder just because of their actions is rude and disrespectful.

Remember how I talked about your manner of language yesterday?  When you say it like that, it makes us feel like if you think that about them then you must think we are totally bonkers!  It’s a generalization that doesn’t help the situation.  And most often just makes us feel worse.  A better way would be to say, “I saw so and so the other day, she looked like she was really struggling, it’s possible she could be suffering with a mental illness.  Is there anything that you would suggest that might help?” Be genuine.

3.  Come on let’s go shopping, you just need to get out. It’s not that easy to just snap out of it.  This is a real honest struggle for those who suffer, and just getting out doesn’t make it go away automatically.  Most often it feels physically impossible to do the easiest of tasks. However, I will say that continued support is extremely helpful.  Check in often ask sincerely how they are feeling that day and if they might like to get out?  And then be supportive and understanding if they decline.  Again a little bit of empathy can go a long way.  Genuinely care about the person and do not make it seem like what we are going through is fake or brought on by something we are doing or not doing.  Don’t give up on us.

4. You are acting crazy, phsycho, deranged, out of control, bonkers, or any other negative terms used to describe someone who is probably really struggling to stay in control.  Again, just be careful of generalizations and assumptions.  Be kind. Be kind. Be kind.

A better way to handle this situation would be to gently say, “I feel like you are not quite your usual self today.  Is there anything I can do to help?”  Be prepared for a person to become defensive.  And if that happens, it’s best to just give them time to process your observation.  The last thing they want to have happen is to have the disorder sneak up on them.  Pointing out an observation and then giving them time to adjust and process would be a good way to handle it.  And again, lots and lots of support.  Don’t just walk away and never come back to it. Give it time and then try to sort it out when they are ready.

* A note to the person who has bipolar: Personally, when this has happened to me, I find it therapeutic to document how that made me feel in a journal, just let it all come spilling out on paper.  It saves me from saying something that I will probably regret.

5.  And finally… You’re just making all of this up to get attention. While it may seem illogical to you, it usually makes perfect sense to the person with bipolar.  Bipolar is a disorder of the brain, so it makes sense that sometimes certain behaviors or statements may seem irrational.  When observing behavior that doesn’t seem normal, brushing it off with blanket statements like this is NOT helping. Give the person validation by saying something like,  “I understand that what you are seeing/saying/doing is very important to you, what can I do to help you with this?”  Again you may encounter some defensiveness, but be gentle.  Yelling and trying to make your point is actually just a way of escalating the symptoms they may be experiencing.

I hope that helped a little and made you think about your words and the way that you support someone who is struggling with bipolar.  It’s very difficult for a loved one to see someone they love struggling and not acting like themselves.  Give each other grace and be gentle.  And encourage them in the kindest way, to get the help they need.  They need your support more than ever when times are tough.  Checking in regularly and genuinely is a great way to help someone who has bipolar disorder.  And above all, never, never give up on them!

XO Wendy