Good Grief

I don’t think Charles Shultz, the creator of the Peanuts cartoons, really knew how true the words “good grief” are when he wrote them as a coined phrase for Charlie Brown. And I guess, when you think about it, the phrase in itself seems oxymoronic. How could anything be good about grief?

Now unless you’re a masochist, most people are uncomfortable with pain. We tend to be especially uncomfortable with the mental/emotional pain of other people. The awkwardness of not knowing what to do when someone breaks down and cries in your presence…do you cry too, hug them? What? Typically, there’s an issue that you probably can’t fix. No one likes to be put in that position. A lot of times, the person not grieving may say or do some real problematic things that they’re not even aware are problematic.

It’s problematic to tell someone hurting to “be strong.” It’s problematic to not allow the griever the opportunity to grieve, even when we think the cause of grief is not warranted.

Which really brings me to something that I had never considered before this morning. I just recently began a devotional on my Bible app dealing with depression (Depression: A Devotional for the Wounded Spirit). Today’s devotion dealt with grief, but this particular paragraph really spoke to me…

“You may be in a situation, however, where what you lost wasn’t necessarily good for you, but there’s still a gnawing hurt and weightiness in your soul…Today you may find yourself torn over whether it’s healthy to grieve the loss of something that was unhealthy. Grieving is a natural process that even the savior of the world engaged in. Don’t block your feelings. Perhaps it’s time to grieve.”

I am, in fact, grieving something that was not healthy for me. For days, I’ve been battling the guilt of even doing so. Why am I so sad…I’m free. This is what I both want and need. It doesn’t matter though…it still hurts. The grieving process is a necessary one, and so many people miss out on being whole because they don’t do it. Faking it until you make it will only work for as long as the pain stays suppressed. The thing is, every time something that comes up to remind you of that situation or that person, you’re faced with the opportunity to feel the pain all over again. Deal with it. Grieve.

In case you’re not familiar with the 7 stages of grief…Image result for stages of grief

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Don’t Fill the Void

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Man, look. The loss of a relationship can be seemingly unbearable. Over the past 3 years I’ve experienced the agony accompanied with losing a relationship twice (actually in the process of grieving the loss of a friendship as I type). It sucks! Unfortunately, my current situation was triggering and caused me to fall into episodes of anxiety and bouts of depression. I had to let it go. It hurts, but I have to do what I know is best for me.

In the midst of me letting that friend go…randomly an old friend kind of popped up out of nowhere. Me and this friend’s relationship was almost identical to the one I’d just released, minus the negative emotional affects…though it did come with it’s own unique challenges. Naturally, in my mind, I’m excited to have an old friend back and probably even more excited for the distraction. Eh… So what’s the problem here? I’m, in a way, using my friend to fill the void of the other.

It was necessary that I let that friend go for emotional, mental, and spiritual reasons. Filling that spot with someone else doesn’t give me the opportunity to process, heal, and move forward like I’m supposed to. There are things that I need to focus on and work on for me, so that I can be better. I can’t do that if I’m just doing the same old thing with a different person.

For me, it’s people. For someone else, they may fill their void with substance abuse, sex, shopping, I don’t know…there are a ton of things that may or may not be healthy, but can become unhealthy if misused.

What I’ve learned for myself is that there actually is no void to fill…I made it up. Because I’ve gone on my own and tried to do things my way, it felt like I needed someone/something/a relationship that I actually did not need and was not at all ready for. That fake void has always been filled with God…waiting for me to recognize His presence, His love, His companionship, His comfort…

I was trying to fill a position that was already taken by the only qualified candidate.

I’ve made this mistake, not a ton of times, but more than once is definitely more than enough. I’m really praying that I’ve learned and will respond in wisdom moving forward. I hope and pray, those who read this will also learn what harmful patterns they are repeating and somehow find a healthy way to break the cycle.

I love Jesus…but I’m still depressed

Mental health and the [Black] church are a touchy topic. Actually…I misspoke. It’s an untouched topic most of the time.

So let’s start with what depression is…and is not. Depression is not simply deep sadness anymore than a bad headache is a migraine. Similar symptoms doesn’t qualify the label.

“Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.

Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Symptoms must last at least two weeks for a diagnosis of depression.

Also, medical conditions (e.g., thyroid problems, a brain tumor or vitamin deficiency) can mimic symptoms of depression so it is important to rule out general medical causes.”

Oftentimes, in the church, prayer is the only way to deal with depression. Let me be clear about this…prayer works. I believe in the power of prayer. I believe God can heal anything. I also believe that God gives us tools and methods to help us. Sometimes healing is instant…sometimes healing takes treatment. To tell a person who battles depression to just pray about it is insensitive and unhelpful.

Personally, it has made me feel that I shouldn’t talk about it because I didn’t want my faith questioned. How can a woman of God have depression? Don’t you believe God is a healer? I’m not the supreme authority on this topic, but here is how I deal with it…

In 2014, for the first time in my life, I sought professional help from a therapist. I was diagnosed with anxiety and situational depression. She was actually a Christian therapist, which proved very helpful. She combined prayer and the Bible with the clinical side of things to give me what I really needed. I went through counseling with her for just about a year. There, I learned my triggers (and actually continue to learn them as I interact with people), how to journal, about boundaries, and really how to process what I was thinking and feeling. For all my life, I held what I thought and felt inside…but now, I’ve learned how to express myself in healthy ways.

Other methods that have proved helpful include having a support system who understands my condition, and who I can reach out to when I’m having an episode. They provide support, and don’t make me feel guilty about how I act when I’m struggling. They pray for me and with me, but also have learned when to give me space and when to be there (physically). And then of course there is prayer and saturating my mind with scriptures. I usually pray the most during my spells, and will choose one or two scriptures of encouragement and just meditate on them.

These are things that work for ME…there is no one size fits all solution that will work. Pray and seek the help necessary to see what works best for you.

 

I Hate Writing

I know this seems to be a hypocritical title for a blog that clearly is about writing. Let me explain myself…

Writing is hard. Writing about my experiences is hard. I hate journaling. Being forced to face how you really think and feel is exhausting and quite a daunting task for me. You can’t lie. You can’t put on a facade like you normally would…it’s raw, real, honest emotions. I suppose if I did it more, I’d be used to it by now. But I don’t.

I’m forced to write, (or in my case, type) so that I can think, feel, process, and heal.

Over the past several years, my life has been a roller coaster of both triumphs and defeats. While I’ve been encouraged to journal, I’ve not been consistent in doing so. Interestingly enough, I do better expressing myself when I type it out. I know many will disagree…they feel the magic as they put pen to paper. Not me.

My hope is that this blog will do double duty; helping me journal and helping the readers in whatever shared experiences we may have. No, this will not be a tell all about my personal life (though if it were, I’m sure it’d be way more interesting). I will, however, share my truths [hopefully] in a way that will allow others to learn and grow as they experience them through my writings.