You are held

I promised that today I will be doing a little recap on what’s been happening with my mental health over the past several months.

Just to preface, I’ve learned so much these past few months, more than ever before, about how important it is to let go and give your burden over to the Lord. In Matthew 11:28-30 it reads

Come to Me, all ye that labour and our heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

I’ve learned now more than ever, how much I can and should rely on the Lord and trust in Him. More than anyone, He knows me.  He knows my heart.  He knows my fears.  He knows the burdens that I carry.  And He really is the only one that can shoulder that burden like no one else.  He asks us to take His yoke upon us and let Him do the heavy lifting.  How much easier it will be for us if we trust Him enough to let Him carry us when we can not carry ourselves.

This experience that I had the last few months has been nothing compared to what I’ve been through before when dealing with bipolar.  But I have found that one of the most difficult parts of living with bipolar and being on the healthy side, is the fear of falling to the unhealthy side again.  It is such a dark and frightening place to be.  And there is so much trauma that can come to the surface because of being in that dark place. But sometimes we have to fall in order for the Lord to lift us up again.

When a loved one approaches you and says that things don’t seem right with you, it can be really devastating.  And there is a real part of you that doesn’t want to believe it for fear of ending up in the dark place again.  But that is when you really need to put your trust in those that know and care about you and especially in the Lord.

Sometimes the burden of living with bipolar becomes extremely heavy to bear.  Even when I’m healthy, I worry about becoming unhealthy.  I worry that my loved ones are always worried about me and watching my every move just to make sure I’m ok.  I hate more than anything for those that I love to worry about me.  So it’s become second nature for me to try to appear fine when deep down I may be struggling. 

Struggling with just the simple fact of being tired of carrying the burden itself.  Over the last few months for whatever reason, I was just really, really tired of carrying it.  And I would pray so many nights to Jesus that I was just so tired, please just take this away so I don’t need to worry anymore. 

And apparently, this whole time He was trying to teach me the way to ease my tiredness.  To let Him take my burden upon Him, even if just for a little while.

So when my husband approached me to discuss what he had seen in me over the last few months, it was really devastating to me.  Here I thought I was physically and mentally feeling better than I ever had.  And that I was doing great.  It was only in the recesses of my own mind that I gave way to my deeper feelings of how tired I was from constantly monitoring myself.

I was very, very emotional that night as we discussed the importance of checking in with my Doctor. I had the biggest knot in my stomach and felt physically ill. I was so scared that if we discussed it and there was an issue, then I would have to go into the deep rabbit hole of going through the process of trying to find a new medication.  The thought of that was a pure nightmare for me to think about.  

My husband offered to give me a priesthood blessing which I accepted.  He went to prepare himself for it and I went into the other room to plead with the Lord.  In that moment I realized that I had no control over the journey that the Lord had in store for me.  And something just broke inside of me.  I remember saying to Him that I was so scared of having to go into the dark place again.  I heard Him whisper to me, “Do you trust me?”  And I said back, “I do.”  And I heard it again, “Do you really trust me?”  and again I heard myself say that I did.  In fact I said, “I trust you so much that if going back to that dark place is part of my journey, I will do it.  I don’t want to do it.  But for you, to show you that I trust you, I will do it.”  And I meant it.  I really, really meant it. 

I went into the living room where my husband performed the blessing.  He laid his hands upon my head and started the blessing.  The first thing he said was “the Lord knows that you are tired of carrying this burden.  He wants you to have the courage to continue in this difficulty.”  And that’s when I knew that in this journey on Earth, this illness will always be a burden that I will carry.  But I don’t have to do it alone.  That He is there.  And He knows that I am tired.  He knows!  I hadn’t said those words to anyone but Him.  And that was Him telling me that He hears me. And He will help me to shoulder this burden if I will let Him. 

I don’t know how else to describe how I felt except that I felt so “held”.  That is the only word I could think of.  Like I was enveloped in a big warm hug. And I felt that way throughout the rest of that week as I prepared for my appointment with my Doctor. As I sat in his office and discussed our next moves I felt that the Lord was there being my rock to hold onto.  As I agreed to tweak my medication a little bit, I just felt so “held”.  

And I thought of His hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt of my affliction.  Those are the hands that held me in that moment, and let me know that it was all going to work out according to His will.  And I trusted Him more than I ever have in my life that I would be able to handle whatever was in store for me.  

Just to give you a little insight about me if you’re new to the podcast, I was diagnosed five years ago with Bipolar ll, after having 2 manic epsodes within two months that landed me in the hospital.  Although, I have suffered from depression for most of my adult life.  

Fifteen years ago I had my first mental breakdown.  At the time I wouldn’t accept the diagnosis and kind of set about to prove the Doctors wrong.  I was in denial and did not want to be labeled as “crazy”.  Because let’s face it, that’s what most people think of when the word bipolar is mentioned.  That word is tossed around so lightly these days as people talk about someone else’s behavior that they don’t understand.  And to be quite honest, it is really distressing and inconsiderate to those of us who have mental illnesses of any kind. 

Anyway, here is my timeline. I had suffered with what I thought was depression from the time my first child was born.  I had Postpartum depression.  And with each child it would get a little bit worse.  With my fourth and last child, I finally realized that it was time to talk to someone about it. I knew from my previous births that the depression usually did not subside for around 9 or more months after the baby was born.  I remember the therapist telling me after we had talked, that I had two choices. I could either take medication that would help me feel better within a few weeks or I could go ahead and wait it out and be miserable for the next several months.  Well, that was kind of no brainer for me. So I went ahead and went on the medication. 

Over the few years after that I jumped from medication to medication.  They would work for several months and then all of sudden I would be feeling horrible again. During that time I started researching alternate forms of medication.  I realized that there were so many other things that I could do on my own that would affect how I felt.  Such as working out, making sure my stress levels did not get too high, making sure I was getting good sleep and good nutrition, and so on.  So I started working towards that and slowly weaned myself off the medications for what I hoped would be forever.  And I was able to maintain that for probably around 4 or so years.  

But when you have a severe chemical imbalance, the chances of it coming to the surface again is quite likely, and may warrant medication.

I have mentioned before on the podcast that I do not discuss any of the medications that I have been on over the years because everyone’s body is different and what worked for me may or may not work for you and vice versa. I think that is a dangerous road to go down.  We each have so many different chemicals and hormones that affect how we respond. It’s so important to follow what your Dr. suggests and find something that works for your body.  I highly recommend if you have the funding or if your insurance will pay for it, that you get DNA testing to find out what your body is compatible with. I will discuss that in a few minutes.

Anyway,that breakdown 15 years ago, was what started me on the road to finding out what exactly was happening with my body. As I said I was in denial and did everything I could to prove that Bipolar was not what I had.

I went back to my nurse practitioner at the time, and explained what had happened.  She knew my history and from what I explained to her about what had happened, we both came to the conclusion that I just needed to get some sleep.  I had not been on any medication for the previous 4 or so years which I mentioned earlier, and didn’t believe that I would ever need it again. She put me on an anti-anxiety med that I would take as needed.  Just when I felt stressed or a little out of sorts.  It would calm me down and then I’d be ok. 

At my next yearly appointment I was feeling some depression setting in. I had read about a certain medication in a magazine that had helped someone else.  So she agreed and prescribed it for me.  I was on that medication for 10 years.  Clear up until my second breakdown (or manic episode) that landed me in the hospital. 

And that’s where things started to get super out of control.  If you want to read more about experiences that I had while trying to find the right meds you can go back to my post Living with Bipolar and several posts after that one.   

Luckily at that time I was referred to a great psychiatrist that told me right from the get go.  You have Bipolar ll, no arguing whether or not you have it. Apparently that’s a pretty common experience.  I wonder why?  With such a stigma about it, it’s no wonder that people don’t want to be labeled.

He said, “We are just going to work to get you better. It might take some time. But we are going to find out what “recipe” works best for you.”  It was actually so comforting to have someone finally take control of something that I could not.  And I also finally accepted the fact that I did indeed have Bipolar.  

But it wasn’t a death sentence… this would actually bring me back to who I really was, underneath the mask of Bipolar. He wouldn’t  put me back on that medication that had worked for 10 years because he said it was the wrong medication for my diagnosis and it would never work for me again.  

Over the next year we were able to find my recipe.  And once I did, I felt so much better than a year before when I was completely at my lowest point ever. So I never really questioned whether or not I could feel even better than I did.  I didn’t feel completely like myself as I had on the medication that I was on for 10 years.  But for me it was so much better than where I was a year before.  It was good enough. I did not have a DNA test with that Doctor.  He never suggested it, and I had never heard of it so there was no reason to do it.

I had my DNA testing done in 2019 when I was forced to change Psychiatrists because my current one was retiring.  The Doctor that I found (after doing my homework to find a good fit for me), recommended it.  I didn’t even know that such a thing existed and gladly said that I would. I had mine done through GeneSight Psychotropic and it is called Combinatorial pharmacogenomic test.  What it does, is tell you what drugs on the market today are highly compatible, somewhat compatible, and not at all compatible  with your individual DNA.  So it is very valuable information.

We did that at my second appointment with the new Doctor.  I was floored to find out that the medication that I had been on for 10 years (the one after my very first breakdown), was only moderately compatible with my body and the wrong medication entirely for my diagnosis.  It was for depression and what I needed was a mood stabilizer since my moods were either really high and things were going great or I would sink into a deep depression. Apparently my first Dr. was right. One of the reasons I will always push for anyone going through mental health issues to find a good psychiatrist.

We also discovered that the medication that I was currently taking was only moderately compatible with my DNA.  When we went over the report, my new Doctor suggested that eventually I might want to switch to one that was highly compatible for me.  Of course I had been feeling good for 4 years at that time and was pretty gun shy when it came to switching.  Why would I fix what was not broken?  So I would go to my regularly scheduled 3 month appointments over the next year and we would discuss it again and I always said, “no, I don’t want to mess with what I’ve got going.”  And he was very understanding and accommodating and agreeable.  Until I started having some pretty severe sleep issues. Which was probably one of the biggest reasons that I ended up back in the hospital the second time.  I was under a lot of stress and hardly slept at all for about 5 days.  Not good.

I have mentioned many times that getting enough sleep is critical for someone who has a mental illness like bipolar. (Really, sleep is so important for everyone!) So that was a pretty great concern.  My doctor mentioned that the other medication had a sedative.  I would take it at night and it would help improve my sleep.  But I still wasn’t convinced.  Finally after nearly another year of not having really good sleep, I was ready to try it.  

So that brings you up to date on my timeline.   I switched medications at the end of March 2021, right after I started doing the daily podcasts (not great timing on my part). I was terrified of going back into that dark place, but my Doctor assured me that it would be better for me according to my DNA test.  The first 4 days were so scary.  I started feeling very jittery like I was on speed or something.  

Similar to the way I feel when climbing the scale toward a manic episode.  A good way to explain the kinds of things that my husband was seeing, is that they were small things that most people would not see or notice.  Such as doing simple routine things in a different order than normal.  Or becoming a little agitated about things I normally wouldn’t be affected by. 

I called my Doctor and he assured me that it was not a manic episode according to what I described and asked me to give it more time.  Within a few weeks the jittery feeling was gone and I felt better than I had since 2015 when I had the 2 back to back hospital stays.  I finally felt like myself again.  I had no idea that I could feel even better than I did.  I was sleeping again. I had drive, and motivation. I felt clear headed like a fog had been lifted.  I could focus and get things done.  I loved it!  And I still do. So what happened recently? Well, here’s the story.

Luckily, I am very good at keeping a daily journal.  Just a couple of paragraphs of how I am feeling, and what’s going on in my life.  It has been very helpful in being able to look back and discover where things started to become a little unbalanced.  I had become a little lax on some of my daily habits.  I was missing a lot of workouts, and my nutrition was really suffering.  I was eating a lot of junk food and a lot of sugar.  I was under a lot of stress, because I had to go through several medical procedures in one month.  I am 53 and have a lot of hormonal issues as well.  

And I got to the point where sleep was starting to become an issue again. So all this comes into play just as I have been working on adjusting to the new medication.  When I look at it that way, I think that it wasn’t just the medication switch, it was everything combined.  It was like heading into the perfect storm…. Again.  And that’s why it is so vitally important to have a good support system in place.  Someone who knows you well and can see when things are a little out of order (for me that’s my husband).  And also to have a Doctor that is a good fit for you, that you feel comfortable with and who knows your history well.  

I started to have what my Doctor calls “outliers”.  Which basically means that I was super steady for a period of time and then I would spike and do something that was out of character for me.  

What is interesting to me is that these things were so tiny that if you don’t know me well, you would completely miss them.  Also, as I said in episode 32, most of the time they are such small things that even I can’t see that it is out of character.  Which is quite common according to my Doctor.  

So when these things start happening there are two directions it can go.  Either someone recognizes it quickly and you see your Doctor and make adjustments.  Or no one recognizes it until it’s too late. You have already climbed the scale to a manic episode. Which could mean hospitalization.

In my situation, we caught it very quickly, I was able to make the necessary adjustments in my medication.  Remember I had just switched, so we were kind of in the process of finding the right recipe again.  We knew it was compatible with my DNA. We just needed to find the right dosage.  We made a minor change and since then I have been fine and the “outliers” have stopped.

But this whole experience taught me so much about myself and my illness and the journey that I’ve been on.  I have gained an entirely new perspective that I think is really important.  Especially when it comes to helping others be able to overcome their struggles. And also to allow me to continue on my journey toward wellness.  I know now more than ever that I have to be so vigilant with my daily habits, and be sure I don’t miss days with my medication.  That’s why I like to call those who suffer with mental illness, warriors.  Because we are in the fight for lives every single day. 

Even though this is a sickness that can not be seen by the naked eye, like cancer, or diabetes.  It is still life threatening.  People who have not been through it or witnessed a loved one going through it, don’t understand that.  That’s why we have so many suicides and so many mentally ill people who are not getting the care that they so vitally need.  They don’t have a support system in place that can help them.  It’s easy to abandon someone when you feel like they are just being negative and difficult.

We need to be better at recognizing and understanding when someone is ill and support them instead of shunning them.  There is nothing more frustrating for a person who is suffering than to have someone say that it’s all made up or they are doing things to hurt people intentionally.  

It becomes debilitating and demeaning to be made to feel like there is something wrong with you as a person.  When the truth is, you are sick.  What you have is an illness that needs to be separated from the person that God made you to be. There is nothing wrong with the  “you” God made you to be.  You are human just like everyone else.  Your illness does not define who you are.  Just like you are not the cancer or you are not the diabetes.  Yes, it is something that you have, that you live it.  But it doesn’t make you, you!  

So my invitation to all of you today is: If you struggle with mental illness of any kind, find a psychiatrist that comes highly referred and is a good fit for you.  Going to a psychiatrist does not mean you will necessarily need medication.  There are many behavioral modifications that you can make with their help. Choosing to seek help is not a sign of weakness! It takes courage and strength to admit that you need help!

And then do whatever you need to, to find someone who can be a good support system for you.  Someone that knows you and can help assess the situation when things seem out of the ordinary.

If you have no one, seek out a therapist.  I know all of this is expensive and sometimes it’s hard to get insurance companies to pay. I won’t even go into my thoughts on that disservice! But if you can find a way to do it, the investment into your health will be worth every last penny.

And if you are a loved one of someone who is struggling, do everything you possibly can to help them recognize how much you love them and support them and want the best for them.  Encourage them! Don’t demean them.  Don’t minimize their illness or their struggle.  Validate their feelings and do whatever you can to help them to know that they can trust you.  

And to all of you together, I encourage you to trust in the Lord with all your heart, might, mind, and soul . Because He’s got you in the palms of His Hands.  You are “held” always!  Until next time. Take care. 

XO Wendy

If you made it this far. Thanks for reading.  If you or someone you know has a trial that you/they’ve been able to get through with the help of our Savior, please contact me so we can get you on the podcast.  My goal is to reach as many people as we can to help them to overcome and find joy even in the midst of hard things.

Look up, lean in, walk tall

You can listen to this post by clicking the link at the bottom of post.

Last week I was on my morning walk, which I have grown to love.  It’s something that I picked up since Covid started.  You know having the time at home, not having to rush to get a workout finished before work, has allowed me a little more time to really take in my surroundings in nature and it really has been so much fun.  Breathing in the fresh air has been a balm to my soul that I didn’t know I needed and I am so glad that I have taken the time to do that.  

Anyway, back to that recent morning.  I walked out my door and it was cloudy and sprinkling a bit and I considered going back in to do a streamed workout. I was a little worried because I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a TN rainstorm or not. But I grew up in the West and we do not have the “buckets of rain” downpours that are here in the south!  I remember the first time I was in a Southern downpour.  I had to get out my phone and video it  because it was so impressive! Y’all,  if I caught in a downpour, I was going to be drenched in about 1 minute. But I heard that sweet whisper that I’ve come to know say, “keep going, I’ve got something special for you today.”  So I kept going. 

And sure enough, not far into my walk I began to notice things that I don’t normally.  Now, I don’t normally wear sunglasses on my walks because my sight since I turned about 48 has been pretty bad and I just feel like sunglasses, even though made to protect, kind of impair my vision a little more.  So I don’t wear them on my walks.  I know this is going to sound contradictive to what I just said or maybe just plain stupid but that’s just what I like, haha.  So because I don’t wear sunglasses I can’t really look up because then I have to squint because of the reflection from the sidewalk and the pavement.  So I end up looking down a lot as I walk.  So anyway as I walked I noticed that because it was cloudy, I could look up no problem.  And I heard the whisper reinforce my thought “look up”!  I walked a few more feet and heard another whisper, “Lean in”.  This is one that I’d been having repeatedly over the past several weeks but now it was all coming together.  

So here I am thinking “Look up, Lean in” and pondering upon that.  I continued walking and soon the whisper came again.  “Look up, lean in, walk tall.”  By this point I am thoroughly enjoying the light sprinkling on my face and the beautiful cloud cover that has allowed me to look up and now I feel like God is giving me this message to share with you all. “Look up, lean in, walk tall.”

Now let me just say that I know this message that I’m about to share with you was impressed upon MY heart for me but I believe there is someone out there today that needs to hear this message too (maybe a handful of you).  I’m the messenger and I pray that I can do it adequately enough to be able to touch the heart of those that need it, and that God wants to hear it.

I was reminded one of my favorite scriptures, Proverbs 3:5-7 

5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.   And verse 7 that is overlooked often.

7 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.

I started thinking about a talk that I’d heard recently by Stanley G. Ellis in October of 2017 General Conference.

He asks the question Do we trust Him?  Meaning God.  Do we trust His commandments to be for our good?  Do we trust that the Lord does know each of us and wants to help us?  Even and especially in the midst of trials, challenges and hard times, do we still trust Him?

I recalled an event that I had several years ago at a week long girls camp that I was called to be one of the leaders of.  These camps are adventures in learning both physically and spiritually out in nature without the conveniences of everyday life.  It provides a canvas so to speak from the Lord to work with in helping these girls (and ourselves) grow closer to Him.

So there was this hike that we did every year.  It was called Mount Baldy.  I’m not sure if there is a significance to the name or not.  Maybe because it was surrounded by foliage and was flat and clear on the top, lol. It was not an easy hike though.  I remember the first mile and a half was not too terrible.  Still a hike and one that was good for the younger girls who were on their first year of camp.  Not too hard but just hard enough to learn the lessons that they needed at that time.  They stopped there in a meadow and had lunch and then would trek back down to camp. 

The older girls were required  to hike to the top of Mount Baldy and it was not an easy climb.  The last leg a quarter mile or so was especially difficult.  You could choose one of two paths to get to the top.  The first wound round and round the Mountain on a steep grade eventually getting to the top.  Though hard and longer than the other, it was not as difficult as the other less chosen path.  Which was straight up the mountainside.  Well at least it felt like straight up.  All I know is that it was steep enough that you could only see the very top of the cell phone tower that was at the completion of the hike.  Some of the braver girls had already started to scurry up the side and the other leader and myself had to draw straws as to who was going to stay with which group of girls.  I drew the short straw, lol.  

I found myself hiking up the mountainside to try and catch up with the brave, courageous girls.  Within several feet I had to stop to catch my breath.  My lungs were hot and my thighs were burning.  I turned to glance down at some of the other girls behind me.  Some were slowly making their way up and others had changed their minds and chosen the other path (which I might add was still not easy).  I saw one girl really struggling but determined to keep going.  I waited for her to catch up and grabbed her hand to urge her to keep going.  

I went a few more feet and had to stop and rest again.  At this point I started to question my forethought that I was in pretty good shape, obviously, I still had some work to do in that area!  But then I heard that familiar whisper, “Do you trust me?”,  Yes I trust you Lord.  Then keep going, it will be worth it!”  So I continued to trudge my way up the mountain side.  

Now what I haven’t told you about is that particular year there was an extreme amount of rain the first day of camp and we had been in mud up to our ankles.  Our tennis shoes had been caked with mud the whole first day and our campsites were all a muddy mess.  Me not being a lover of the outdoors, I was pretty much ready to go home on this the second day and we still had 4 days to go.  But I had not yet been to the top of Mount Baldy and had volunteered to be one of the leaders to go. 

Besides that the trail down the mountain had been closed for the day anyway because of the mud and so even if I had given up, the only way out was to walk on a very muddy, very long, hike down the mountain trail.  And that would have been even more crazy than Mount Baldy, lol.  

I was second thinking that decision now.  As we got a little higher when we looked up we could barely see the top of the tower.  When we looked down, all we could see was the forest surrounding us.  So up the side we continued to go.  Of course I was highly reconsidering my ambitious volunteerism.  But I’d been told by several, including the Lord, that it would be worth it.  I heard the whisper again, “Do you trust me?” and I was thinking of course Lord of course I trust you.  But I was reminded of the many times that I hadn’t trusted him.  

I thought of how our Savior must feel as he sees us constantly struggling to overcome the challenges that we face and the struggles that beat upon us during this life.  I remember his coaxing, “Do you trust me?” 

We know that the Lord trusts us.  He gave us this life and He has faith in us.  He sees the view from above and He sees the amazing work of art that we can be.  He trusts us to make good choices and to come to Him when we inevitably make poor choices.  He trusts us with our lives, and with the lives of our children and these girls and those around us that He has asked us to watch over through His promptings.  He trusts that we will do what He can not do.  He trusts us to be His hands.

 He trusts us to continue our hike uphill through the trees the rocks, the unseen obstacles and the mud to make it back to Him.

But the question is, do we trust Him?  Do we really trust Him?  He sees us at our best and at our worst.  He sees us in our triumphs and our failures.  He sees us in sickness and in health.  He sees us today and He will see us tomorrow.  He comes to us in the messiness, the broken, the heart wrenching and He restores us.

Do we trust Him enough to look up?  To look to Him the source for our peace?

Going back to Stanley G. Ellis’ talk He says, “Hard makes us stronger, humbles us and gives us a chance to prove to ourselves….. The hard is the constant!  We all have challenges.  The variable is our reaction to the hard.”  

That brings me to the second part “Lean in”.  When I had this thought I could picture a big huge rock.  The rock, representing the Redeemer.- I remembered a scripture that I’d recently read in Heleman 5:12 from the Book of Mormon and I could picture this giant rock and just leaning into it and knowing that no matter what, that rock was solid, it wasn’t going anywhere.  The scripture comes from a story in the Book of Mormon were a father is counseling his sons and says And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”

This made me think back to the Proverbs scripture, …lean not to thine own understanding, in all thy ways acknowledge Him…  the rock the one we lean TO, hang on TO for support, pray TO when all feels lost and crazy.  It’s Him that we can trust. Look up TO!  Lean in TO!  

Lean suggests a shift of balance but maybe the shift that He’s talking about there is the shift to Him, the Savior, shift TO the rock, our redeemer.  Look up, lean in and then walk tall! Only when one’s heart is fixed on God can a person begin to think properly.  Walking according to God’s will puts the person in a position to have God lead the way and open the doors to the life that He so desires for you.

Now back to the story, I’m sure you are dying to know if we all made it to the top of Mount Baldy.  You have guessed that we did I’m sure.  But let me tell you, it was one of the hardest ⅛ of a mile I have ever been on, lol.  It really was not long but boy did it feel like it. I took a couple of girls by the hand and pulled them the last few feet up.  

It was absolutely breathtaking!  I will never forget the beautiful sight at the top of Mount Baldy.  We could see all around the valley.  We could see our campsite far below.  We could breathe the clean fresh air in and out of our tired lungs.  Our legs burned, but our hearts and souls burned brighter because of the challenge we had just overcome.  We each shared our feelings of what our thoughts were as we climbed and what it felt like to reach our destination.  It was amazing the lessons that had been learned during a half day hike, most of which had happened in that last challenging part of the hike.

As I reflect back on this event I am reminded of the many challenges we face in our lifetimes.  Our paths are all different yet no less difficult. And though we can support and love each other through the difficult and the hard, we can not take that challenge away.  That is how we grow.  Look up, Lean in, Walk tall you are a child of God!

He is the source,  He is our rock.  We can hold our heads up high and walk tall because of not in spite of our challenges.  

I think about a chrysalis.  There is a story you may have heard about a man who found a chrysalis and saw a small opening appear at the top.  He watched the butterfly struggle for hours trying to get through the tiny hole.  But what happened was that suddenly the butterfly stopped and it appeared that it had completely given up.  The man, thinking that he was doing the butterfly a service, took a pair of scissors and carefully cut the opening so that the butterfly could become free.  So then the butterfly was able to get out easily but the man noticed that it’s body was swollen and the wings shriveled.  And he didn’t really think anything of it, he just watched and figured that the butterfly would develop and the fluid from it’s body would fill the wings and it would fly away.  What he didn’t realize was that in freeing the butterfly he had hampered the development that would have happened had the butterfly continued to struggle and push through the Chrisilys which is Nature’s way of  pushing the fluid from the body and into the wings of the butterfly.  Instead it spent the rest of it’s life walking around with a swollen body and shriveled wings, unable to fly.  

So back to Proverbs verse 7 Be not wise, in thine own eyes.   Sometimes we think that we know what’s best for us, that we have it all figured out.  And I  am not going to discount that intuition is a very large part of getting through our struggles and challenges.  But the variable is our reaction to the hard.  We can choose to embrace the hard, choose to control the things that we can control. 

Also, something that I learned when I was struggling to get some relief with my mental illness, I would have people say things like, “you just need to get out and get some fresh air,  or come go shopping with me, retail therapy will make you feel so much better.  And I often thought, “you can’t wish this problem away.  It is what it is. Don’t try to solve my problem, just give me faith to endure!  Just help me build the faith to make it through this challenge.  

Sometimes in our eagerness to take away another’s burden we hamper their growth.  I think of all the things that I would not have learned.  All the ways that I wouldn’t have grown.  The empathy that I never would have built.  The places that I wouldn’t have gone had I not suffered through this challenge.

We can support others, we can validate them, yes it’s hard, yes it’s a struggle.   Yes things are tough and look unending.  But through it all we must have the faith to look up, lean in and walk tall, trusting that He will carry us through the hardest, most challenging leg of our journey.  That He will open the doors in front of us that He will place the people in our path to help us when we don’t think we can take another step forward through the mud and the muck.  Let Him help you.  His way is always better, always better than ours!

XO Wendy

The journal prompt that I have for you today is: 

What can I change in my thought process of this current challenge, that can help me to Look up, Lean in and walk tall?

 

 

Ha! Didn’t see that coming.

I was looking back on some of my posts from this year and boy oh boy, did I NOT see all of this coming in 2020.  I’m sure that we can all say that, unfortunately.

But I am an eternal optimist, and although this year started off with a bang, I am determined to make sure that the experiences that we’ve all been through this year don’t end up without a lesson learned.

So tell me what lessons have you learned this year?  Here are a few of mine (in no particular order).

  1. If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.  I believe this has been a tough one for all of us to learn.  Especially if we may not have heeded the warnings over the years from our leaders. We have been exhorted to keep several months worth of food storage.  To have a 72 hour preparedness kit on hand should the need arise.  Unfortunately the need has arisen this past year.  Not only have we needed to be physically prepared, this year has given us great cause to be spiritually prepared as places of worship have been unable to operate and social distancing has precluded us from spending time with our fellowshipping communities.  We have been counseled to be spiritually prepared in probably the most often quoted passage from President Russell M. Nelson this year.  He strongly admonished us to be ready.  He said, “In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”  I trust that we have all learned this great lesson to be prepared both physically and spiritually.
  2. Family and friendships should be first on the priority list, ALWAYS.  We have really learned this lesson the hard way!  Around the world we were/are all asked to social distance to keep Covid-19 from spreading.  So no more hugging, shaking hands, going to lunch and just plain hanging out with friends.  We have been limited to spending time in our homes with our immediate family members with limited resources for entertainment.  With schools and entertainment venues being closed, we have had to go back to a former time when riding bikes, doing puzzles, playing games and being bored sometimes, were the norm.  I think we have realized that all of those things have great value and importance in building and strengthening our relationships as we slowly return back to a new normal.
  3. Human life is fragile and can change in the blink of an eye.  So many of us (if not all) have been forever changed by tragedy this year.  From tornadoes, earthquakes, fires and floods,  to sickness, depression, loss of life, and loss of celebration of our most precious moments.  I think it’s safe to say that we have all been affected in some way or another. Not being able to be with someone in the hospital and them having to shoulder something horrible all by themselves, has been one of the most heart wrenching experiences to witness.  The importance of being with our loved ones in hard times and in times of great joy have new meaning now.  Leaving this Earth, coming into this world, and loving while here on this Earth have hopefully been deeply ingrained as the most important elements of our life here on Earth.  That lesson has been deep and hard in so many ways.  May we be forever grateful for all the life we have been given, and not take another single minute for granted.  It can all be taken away from us without a moment’s notice.
  4. Stillness is a practice to be appreciated.  For the Bertagnolli household, all of the craziness of life, work, school, running kids to and from activities and practices, all came to a screeching halt when the tornado hit us on March 2-3rd (in the middle of the night).  The boys’ school was destroyed.  So the focus became, where and how are the boys going to have school?  The first 2 weeks of March (approximately) that was our primary focus.  Thank goodness we did not sustain damage to our home but many, many of our friends did.  Not only did they have to worry about school, but how and where they were going to return to normal life?  And then, within days of decisions being made as to where the boys would be going to school and cleanup and repairs being made to homes and businesses, BOOM, shut down the world!  And suddenly life how we knew became very still.  Most of us are not used to being still, running around crazy all the time from one activity to the next.  And suddenly we are completely compelled to “be still”.  If ever there was a time that God spoke to us, “Be still and know that I am God”- psalms 46:10,  it has been in the year 2020.  We have had to turn our hearts to God to merely survive all of the craziness that has been thrown at us this year.   And if you haven’t learned that lesson yourself, I highly encourage you to make the time to be still, to meditate, to pray and then listen.  God knows you, He hears you, and trust me when I say you are never ever alone.  Be still and know!
  5. Good health is everything. Being a self proclaimed expert in the field of mental illness (joking), I have been reminded over and over again of how important it is to stay mentally, physically and spiritually healthy.  I am so grateful that 2019 was year of  improved mental health for me.  I think had it not been, I may have been one that succumbed to the pressures and stresses of living with mental illness create. I sincerely hope not, but you just don’t know do you?  I am torn apart to hear about friends and family that have not been able to cope with the sudden changes that have taken place.  I am heartbroken to hear of illness and loss of physical health due to the effects that this year has brought on.  I am distressed by the number of people that have walked away from God during this time when we should be seeking Him for deliverance.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                .                                                                                                                                                                                                 I will be forever changed (hopefully for the better) because of the events of 2020.  And I know you will too.  How can we have a year like this and not be changed for life?  Only time will tell if these lessons will be ingrained within us.  I fear that as time goes on and life returns to somewhat normal, hatred, fear, and anger will return with a vengeance (as we have already seen politically speaking).  It is Satan’s way.  But as I said in the beginning, I am and will always be an optimist and I choose to remember and retain the good lessons that I have learned.  And I will more wholey choose hope and joy every day of the week.  I hope you will too.   Let me know in the comments what lessons you have learned this year.

XO Wendy

P.S.  Pointing toward hope is now on podcast!  Just search for Pointing toward hope on most podcasting platforms. Instagram, and Facebook.  I hope you come and follow me in pointing toward hope every day.  If you or someone you know has an inspiring story to share that will lift others in meeting life’s challenges, please contact me.  I would LOVE to reach out and have them on the show for an episode.  Choose joy!

Stronger than you think.

The past couple of months have been super challenging.  I know that I am not the only one that feels this way.  It’s ironic because back in February before all the craziness started, I felt better physically, mentally and emotionally than I had in a very long time.  Stronger.  More equipped to fight off the adversary.  More confident, after struggling for so long to regain what I felt being diagnosed Bipolar, had taken away from me.  Courage to face the challenges that would come my way.  Little did I know what myself and others would be facing over the next several months.

Life has a way of throwing curve balls at you, doesn’t it?  I don’t know if there is anything that could have prepared us for what we have all been through over the past several months.   And on top of the many circumstances that each of has faced together, many have had to face the normal day to day challenges and inevitable trials that unexpectedly come our way in our so-called “normal” pre-Covid life.

So as I have been struggling, I have been searching for ways to pull myself out of the funk that I have been in.  And wouldn’t you know it, God always comes through with something that I need.  It didn’t just happen.  I have been praying for days to feel better and re-gain that strength and faith and courage that I had just a few short months ago.  As I have mentioned many, many times, we can’t just wait for it, we have to look for it and ask for it.

meme_matthew_knock

Today, I just wanted to share a little bit of what I have been thinking and pondering over and what I feel like God has been guiding me towards this past month.

You may have noticed that after my last post, I’ve been pretty scarce with social media.  I feel like I have had to shield my spirit away from so much of the negativity that has been going on, just as I would to my children.  Maybe I am different than most mothers, but looking back I don’t think that I would have allowed my children to see a lot of what is blasted over social media.

I was pretty careful about what I allowed my kids to see and be a part of when they were little.  Though the internet wasn’t as prevalent as it is today, the T. V. was a big influence.  So I instituted what we called “No T.V. week” once a month.  We used that time to read books, spend time together as a family, to go outside and enjoy nature and to find other sources of entertainment.

We also had many shows that were off limits, that the kids were not allowed to view.  I just didn’t appreciate the influence and ideas of disrespect, negativity, and irresponsibility, etc. that some of those shows portrayed.  And I think it has only gotten worse as the years have gone on (especially with all the venues that are available today for viewing).

The point that I am getting to is that maybe…. maybe we need to treat ourselves and our spirits exactly how we would our children.  We are given stewardship over our children.  They are not ours.  They are His, just as we are His.

And just as tenderly as we treat and love our children, is how we should treat and love ourselves.  We need to give ourselves the grace that God gives us and that we give our children.  Even if that means taking the internet away from ourselves for a week ;).

How awful would it be if the first time our child tried to walk, we chastised them when they fell and discouraged from trying again?  But we don’t do that.. we encourage them over and over and over again until they can do it on their own.  And then we continue to do that with everything that they come across throughout their lives, even as they grow older and have their own children.  We never stop loving and encouraging and allowing them to grow and become better than they were before.

We only have this one body…. it is a gift from the Father.  Ours to take care of, to have “stewardship” over.  And even though our bodies come to us with many different challenges, our spirits that are housed by those bodies are precious and so loved by the Father.

I remember many times, rushing to my child’s side as they fell down. Tenderly lifting them onto a counter, kissing “ouchies”  better and gently placing bandaids on the scrapes and bruises.  Giving them a hug and holding them as long as they needed until they felt strong enough to get back to what they were doing when they fell.  And most often, with that boost of love and care, they were able to try again pretty quickly without even a negative thought.

Maybe I’m not so alone in the fact that I don’t treat myself the way I would my child, my family members, or my friends.  I don’t give myself grace when I make mistakes.  I have a hard time picking myself up when I fall.  Instead of wiping away the tears as I would my child when they fall and scrape their knees, and encouraging them to get back up.  I tend to chastise and beat myself up for falling in the first place. That is not what the Lord would want for us.  There is only one place that negativity, self doubt, fear, and discouragement come from and that is from the adversary!

So as I move forward (and I hope you’ll join me) through this unchartered territory that we are all exposed to at this time, I am going to do my best to remember that this body is given to me to house my beautiful, tender, and loving spirit.  I am going to show up for myself just as I do for my children and friends and family. I am going to wrap myself in a big giant hug and tell myself that everything is going to be ok.  Because it will be.

I am going to let God cradle me in His grace when I fall.  I’m going to get back up and try again when I make mistakes or fail.  Because one thing is for sure, we can not move forward when we are always looking back.  We can not look ahead when we are always looking back.  We can not become better when we are always telling ourselves how bad we are.

Falling is not the problem.  Making the choice to get back up when we fall is where the real victory begins!

XO Wendy

 

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