Building 429

Being a Christian in Recovery: Reflections on the Robin Williams Loss

Since last Friday I've been reflecting on the fruits of the spirit:

But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
— Galatians 5:22-23 NIV

WHY I DON'T "GOT THIS"

On Sunday morning I went to a service at Granger Community Church. The new series is called "Help" and Pastor Beeson talked about people that talk like they "got this." That's danger zone for me.

I thank GOD I DO need God.

I DON'T got this. God's GOT this and he's got me.

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Flash forward to Monday night. We all find out that Robin Williams has died of apparent suicide.

What I DO know today is that God didn't put me on this earth to willpower my way through my mental illness. He gave me my mental illness so that I could see HIS will is more powerful than mine could EVER be. Not only that - he did it so I could be a light for HIM in the darkness.

I AM a woman walking with Christ who is in recovery. I only came to the relationship I have with Jesus today BECAUSE I got into recovery. The journey of recovery is what has led me to finding Christ in Me, not "up there, not down here" like I thought he was as a kid. I had to come to the end of me to begin a journey with him.

Why is it important for me to share this? Because I believe there is a disconnect between the faith side and the mental health side. 

I am more than my mind or my thoughts or my feelings. I am who God created to be in soul and in spirit. My thoughts or brain chemistry do not define me, my worth is defined in Christ. My weight does not define me. My worth is in Christ. When I look at my health I don't pretend that I've "got this." Oh my mental health is "fixed" and everything is just "fixed" because I got into recovery and I went to treatment, and I have found God. No, my life has almost gotten harder because I'm facing stuff. But overall,  it has gotten SO much better, because I GET to face that stuff. I GET to be real about that stuff because I've had to deal with it.

I also GET to walk through it primarily because I know that God's got my back because if I ever got to the place where I thought I had my mental health figured out? I'd be in big trouble. My health is a journey and it's physical, mental, emotional, AND most of all spiritual. I consider it an HONOR to be able to be present to things, to walk through the tough days and experiences today. Why? Because I know that God's doing something I couldn't do on my own free wilI.

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Earlier today I was taking notes for this blog. The passing of Robin Williams speaks to me because I "get it" in different ways.  I've lost a best friend to suicide. I've struggled with depression, addictions, anxiety and everything that goes with that stuff beneath the surface. I've walked the road of recovery. I know how much my mind wants to get me. I get it. My mind IS a battlefield.

Do I know exactly what he went through in his final moment internally? No. Do I know exactly what wanting to take my life feels like? No. But I DO know all too well people that I love and care about struggle with it and it's serious #@$%.

I won't take the time I write this blog to debate about all the religious and political debates that surround it. What I will talk about is the stuff of the heart and why treating mental illness and getting REAL about it as an issue is of supreme importance within ourselves, in our society and for the next generation.

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A PERSPECTIVE

I don't know if you've had a chance to read the letter Robin's daughter penned to him (Here it is), but it touched me in a deep way. In her last line of the letter she expresses sadness about losing her father and the hole he left. My Dad was no Robin Williams but many would say, "Your Dad lit up a room and he'll be missed," or "He made you feel like you were the only person in the room." Others came up to me at his wake or sent me messages as soon as they heard about how much my Dad had impacted their life and the choices they made in a good way. Each one made me feel even more lucky to have him as a Dad. Each one made me feel like, "I'm so glad I wasn't alone in feeling the light of his spirit." Their words and stories about him filled up my soul. And with his 3 year anniversary of being gone fast approaching next week all I could think when I read her letter was, "Wow, I get that." Different death circumstances, but still loss of our Dads. Loss period.

I only can connect to that because I learned how to feel when I got into recovery from NOT feeling for so many years. I wouldn't be able to feel the emotions that come from missing my Dad or be able to write or talk about him the way I do, if I didn't get through recovery and learn how to navigate intense feelings like this.

TWO THINGS MAKE MY LIFE:

1) My Recovery

2) My Relationship with God.

I heard that Robin Williams was in recovery in some shape or form. That means he got to a place just like I (and many other people did) where he couldn't take it anymore. His mind was making him turn to alcohol and other addictions and there was no amount of money, movies or Academy Awards that could make that go away. The mental stuff is NOT an outside job. The disease of the mind does NOT discriminate. 

It's an INSIDE job.

DESPERATE TO CHANGE

You can look like you've got it all together and be absolutely falling apart on the inside, and no one ever has to know...unless you are desperate.

You don't give up until you are desperate and I (just like millions of others in recovery) was desperate. What I was thinking, feeling on the inside was absolutely killing me. I had to deal with it because I hadn't EVER dealt with it and all the addictions I'd gone to just were not working anymore at all. So I DID go to treatment and get into 12 step recovery and every drop of knowledge and tool that I got on that journey was only by the grace of God...and STILL is only by the grace of God.

But there's that underlying thought in society that somehow whatever you did to get better "fixed you." Yeah, you know - you go to meetings for a while to "get it" and then your good. You go to therapy and your "good." You go to treatment and you get out and your "good." Oh man is that a lie. You are given the tools to LIVE. That is ONLY when the journey just begins.

So when I had my spiritual awakening and found God in the depths of my soul struggle, I didn't just go "Oh yeah, I'm good. Here we go!" Far from it.

He gave me the courage to take the first, second, hundredth, and continued steps. He still gives me the courage to take every single step. If I stumble and fall HE is there to help me up and so are the tools I've been given to do this:

To LIVE LIFE knowing that one of my greatest weaknesses is my mind and if I just give it to God and keep going to meetings, and getting in the Word, He will keep showing me the way.

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
— 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

WHY IT TOOK RECOVERY

That 12-step program I found when I got into recovery is EXACTLY the door that walked me through to a deeper relationship with God.  Finding a god of my understanding is the route I had to take to find that God is my God. But It TOOK not having rules drilled into me of how to live that opened my heart to HIM. I didn't just "get" this faith I have. I found my faith because I surrendered my life. On the road of recovery, I literally had to relearn and get to know the god of my understanding, the one who saved me. I needed to learn who he was and why he died FOR me and continue to learn from the Word just how much he is FOR me. 

My program complements my walk with Christ. He meets me but I've got to meet him and part of meeting him is that program. It's part of who I am today and my relationship with God ain't nothing that anyone can take away. Once I accepted him into my heart, there was no going back.

I truly feel like my recovery has given me a new faith that is between me and God on a deeply spiritual and relational level. So while the world debates the political or religious ramifications of contemplating suicide, I'm just going to keep walking in the light. That light is recovery and that light is Christ. Period.

I actively face and walk through whatever I have to in treating my mental health or whatever health because no matter what - getting better is an inside job that I GET to do because of who HE is.

WHY YOU GOTTA GET REAL

You've got to be willing to face mental health struggles and not worry about all the crappy stigmas around it or what other people might think. Who CARES what other people might think. This is your livelihood you are messing with and just because you can't see what's going on with your mind does not mean it's something you can just "fix" with a little willpower or positive thinking (or a workout or a diet.) It takes a LOT more than that. It takes facing your crap, dealing with your past and getting present to who you are today.

Who I AM today is a recovering woman in Christ and I know for sure that he isn't scolding me or judging me or punishing me, because he's been with me every step of the journey. He meets me right where I'm at with a whole lot of love and grace. All I've got to do is keep walking, keep facing my stuff, keep growing and keep learning because God KNOWS I'm never going to stop until He decides to take me one day.

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ACTION

I know that mental health issues and suicide are huge issues that I could write even more than I already have on this. I know that it's happening in every generation across the board because my stepdaughter had a classmate take his life last year. I lost a friend. My Dad lost a friend. Everybody often knows someone in some way. That's not what matters. Yes, the lives lost DO matter. But what also matters is how we address it, talk about it and deal with it. Pretending it doesn't exist (in every age and class) is just stupid. Gossiping about it? Doesn't help at all. Being present because you never know if someone is fighting a battle on the inside cause EVERYBODY'S got their stuff on the inside.

You never know who you can help by smiling, listening or just sharing your story. All I know is that not talking about it has to stop. Getting beyond the talk also has to begin. Because if we just talk about the outcome, we'll never get to the root. We have to get to the root and part of that is breaking the stigma so people can find the strength in safe circles to start facing it. I am willing to be part of that change, to provide a safe space to talk about it, but I can't do it alone. So if you've got a testimony, and you see someone struggling - share it. Most of all, don't do nothing cause that's exactly what your mind wants you to do.

If you right now, struggle with how you feel, what you think about yourself, suicidal thoughts, eating issues, addictions or just feeling uncomfortable in your skin in a way that you feel like you can't talk about it? Find someone safe to talk about it with. If you don't have someone, call a suicide help line. Call someone. Get out of your head.

If you can't find anyone you can turn to God. If you are angry at God or feel like he's playing a part in this that's making it worse, I want you to put down absolutely anything you are "thinking" about him - like he's punishing you in some way (been there done that) and realize this:

He loves you more than you will EVER be able to imagine and ALL that he wants for you is to ask for help so you can truly know that he is FOR you, not AGAINST you. I know it may seem crazy. But I'm someone who had God in a box and never let him into my pain because I thought I had to be good enough. But where he wanted to be was in my pain. All I had to do was say, "Help!"

Ask for help. You are not alone. I know when I get stuck in that place, I have to force myself to get out of myself. Whatever it takes, I've GOT to get out of my head. For me it's a walk in the sun, a journal entry, a call, a meeting, a passage, a quote, a music video - ANYTHING to get me out of my head. Maybe some of what you see below could help you at this very moment.

I hope this blog has helped you or will help someone else. Even if one person reads it, I will know in some way I passed on my experience to help another and that in itself does a little bit to erase the stigma.

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GENERAL RESOURCES

If you are struggling or know someone who is here are some resources that helped me on different parts of my journey, and maybe they can help you with yours if you are open to a faith-based perspective:

Here is a list of every verse that speaks to how our mind is a battlefield: http://www.openbible.info/topics/battlefield_of_the_mind. Getting right to the Word will give you some guidance if you seek it. Joyce Meyer wrote a fabulous book called "Battlefield of the Mind" that you can get and hear her talk also very real about how our minds truly are a battlefield. https://www.joycemeyer.org/ (This is a link to her website where you can find not just the book but devotionals, videos and radio broadcasts that speak messages of truth for you to listen to anytime, anywhere.)

Rick Warren, author of "Purpose Driven Life" is serious about breaking the stigma around mental health you can read an article here about that. I am inspired by someone who knows the Lord that is willing to be honest that mental health isn't something to be ignored or kept inside.

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ARTICLES AND BLOGS TO HELP

I won't begin to approach everything that's out there from a mental health side because it's extensive. What I will do instead is recommend that you seek out stories and maybe read some of these articles stemming from Robin Williams' death to give you a better perspective of the importance of dealing with it. Maybe then, it will open up your heart and mind to realize what matters is you getting healthier mentally, not what everyone else is thinking about you. These articles also speak to the most present statistics from all respects and offer some resources. Best advice? Don't try to figure it out for yourself. You will need the help. IF you pray, pray for willingness to ask for it. You and you alone (whoever you are that's dealing with it) has to be willing to face it yourself FOR yourself. So learn what you've got to learn. Keep doing what you are doing until you realize, "Okay this way/my way isn't working anymore. I need help."

So here are some of those articles:

From RELEVANT Magazine: "Suicidal Tendencies: What we Aren't Talking about is killing us." (one of my favorite magazines with a thorough perspective, especially for the next generation.)

Here's a WebMD Article/Newsletter that came out in response to it today: "When Depression Becomes Deadly."

A personal article from someone who has "been there, done that." It's on Huffington Post and it's called, "There's Nothing Selfish About Suicide."

"What the Church and Christians Need to Know About Suicide and Mental Health," from a website called "A Holy Experience."

Lastly, a fascinating article from Yahoo.com about Carrie Fischer's experience with him as a friend called, "Carrie Fisher on Robin Williams: He was the Opposite of Selfish."

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MOVIE CLIPS TO HELP

Here are two actual scenes from Good Will Hunting that speak so truly to the issues behind the surface, to our insecurities, our idiosyncrasies, and our pain and I think it's an important teaching tool.

MUSIC TO HELP

Finally, here are two songs that I think could help you if you are in that space because they've helped me - the lyrics, the artists testimonies, the actual music. They have helped me and I go back to them regularly so I want to share them with you in case music is one of the languages of your heart.

The first two songs are a group called Building 429. I saw the lead singer share his testimony live in concert recently about his brush with suicide and how getting back to God was what got him out of that ugly place...it makes these songs, videos and his voice so much more powerful.

 

This singer below, Dara Maclean is a Christian artist who talks about how our baggage ties us down - another one I saw sing live and heard the hope in her lyrics of letting go.

This is a Christian Worship song that speaks right to depression and addiction and God as the anchor in all our storms. Many days it's the song on my alarm to wake up. It's called, "Shores" and it's by Bryan and Katie Torwalt.

Here is another one, Demi Lovato, recovering music artist and her song, "Warrior" about her story and struggle with addictions and an eating disorder. It gives me chills and she's another one I went to see in concert with my stepdaughter just so I could feel the presence of her as a voice for recovery.




How Life Gets REAL in Loss and 8 Tips to Get Through the Grieving Process, HV For Real Post #6

Riveroflifeandgrief.jpg

The original title of this blog from the series, "HV for REAL" was "How This Child of Divorce is Thanking God for Every Healing Experience in Life Today." But by the end of this it's gonna change. So here goes...

Death. Grief. Loss. It's a process.

Mourning the loss of someone we love is an experience that every single one of us will encounter in life. It doesn't even have to be a someone. It can be an animal, a marriage, a relationship. It can be anything. It's all loss.

But, every single one of us will lose someone we love in our life. So I want you to know what I've learned so far through this process. Sometimes it's literally physical. I mean like, you can't move. Sometimes it's mental and emotional. We're sad and the sadness affects the way we think and feel about life without that person. That sadness can in-fact be downright crippling. Sometimes you just got to call it out for what it is and say, "Duh, it's grief!" cause it can feel like it's affecting everything in your life (which it does) and all you can do is go through whatever the grief brings, feel it, learn to accept that person is gone, and discover a new reality with that person not present physically.

But I'm here to tell you ONE HUGE THING. You can change the way you look at it. I'm not talking about a thinking shift. I'm talking about a heart shift. I'm talking about turning it over to God and asking him (even if it feels like he isn't there), "Hey God, what is it that you are teaching me with this? How is that YOU can use this tragic loss for good?" FYI - he won't give you a play by play right then and there. But he'll give you little revelations, if you just SEEK him in your grief.

I like to look to the light of heaven in my grief to remind me that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is a heaven. Tomorrow is a new day, and each day the light gets brighter for me.

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I don't know if you've ever been through that kind of loss. But for me it was my Dad. Somehow in that moment of knowing he was gone I realized that we've only got one life and it's not up to us when we go. It was an immediate awareness of how it's time to make the most of this life.

Not only that, it was time to realize there is a God and if he's carrying me through this (even thought it sucks) then he's got my Dad, and He's got me. I just have to trust, and realize that this is an opportunity for me to see that God the Father has always been there. It's just that my Dad was the one who gave me a little inkling of how great His love really is for me.

FYI - that didn't mean, happy happy joy joy. That meant, I got nothing to be afraid of. All I have to do is trust God's plan and walk through this pain knowing he's got my back. Let me tell you, if I did not know that my God was a loving God, there is no way I would have gotten through it. I would have thought he was punishing me like I did when I was a kid. And if there is anything I wish for ANYONE who loses someone they love dearly, it's that they see the love of the father through the example of that person they loved on this earth. Because when we think of that person, God actually loves us a gazillion times more than even they did. We can't imagine it. We just have to believe it.

We have to LOOK for the signs that he wants the best for us. We have to look for the signs, if we believe in the soul and the spirit that that person we loved never left us. They just changed their form in relationship to us.

When Dad died, I think my biggest surprise was simply that I was more surrendered to God than EVER, because I knew i could NOT get through this alone. No way, NO how. And that was ONLY because I took him out of a text book before Dad died, and invited him into my heart through a slow process of surrender. That process prepared me for that call on that day and every day going forward without my Dad on this earth but in a deeper relationship with the Lord.

You feel like he's not there? Repeat this to yourself a few times and let it soak in:

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
— Psalm 34:18 NIV

Your heart is BROKEN. Your spirit is absolutely crushed. But he is close to YOU. Yes, you.

Let me explain it to you through the simple lyrics of a few song lyrics and video.

"WE CAN TRUST OUR GOD. HE KNOWS WHAT HE'S DOING, THOUGH IT MIGHT HURT NOW, WE WON'T BE RUINED. HE IS WITH US." - "He Is With Us," Love and the outcome.

That means, he's not in a textbook or a fluffy cloud saying, "You'll be okay sweetie." No, he's right there with you. I mean, RIGHT THERE. He is showering you with love and hugging you so tight that you can't help but be overwhelmed with that love. If you loved that person you lost, imagine it's them hugging you or sitting with you when you are hurting the most. Then imagine that this love he feels for you is even greater than that. Hard to believe, huh? Well - it's true. If you believe it? It's true. Because I can tell you there is NO person on this earth, not even your spouse or a surviving parent that could EVER heal your hurt heart from this loss. That pain is reserved for HIM. When you are in your deepest pain, you go to Him and he will heal your heart. If you don't believe it, you've got to drop the old image of you have that he doesn't have time for you and realize He wants something more for you.

He wants you to know this: If you let Him into that pain, he will show you in this deepest, darkest moment that he wants a relationship with you. He wants you to know that you are HIS and HE is the one that can fill that deepest hole within you.


So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,
— Galatians 3:26, NIV

#1. The Word

I didn't grow up in the Bible except to listen to it on Sundays at church in sermons and I can't tell you how powerful it has become in my life. It is THE source of strength for me in trouble and I learn something from it every single day. Pick it up without judgement of what you might think it says, and think about what HE might be saying TO you through the Word for your journey of grief. If you have to, download the Bible app and just type in their search bar, "Grief." Read the passages. Not only that, read the chapters around the passages. It's amazing what you can learn from the Word.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
— Hebrews 4:12 ESV

#2. Listen to the Sound

He will use music to minister to you in your pain. Yes, more music. If you choose to open your heart, you will hear lyrics that speak right to you and the pain in the very place and moment you need it. Music is a gift for us to express our feelings and hear the voice of God. Take advantage of it.

Listen to the Sound isn't just the title for this section but it's the name of a band I was blessed to see live this weekend at World Pulse Festival in South Bend, IN. It is the song that came right to my mind and the lyrics are appropriate with each one of these songs I've chosen to share with you. They are close to my heart and my own grief journey, even though they don't know it!!! I'm going to share a few songs with you from them that I hope one or ALL of them will speak to you like the speak to me....

That sound? Is him...

This last song of theirs is actually at the end of my book, when I talk about losing Dad and feeling connected to heaven when I hear this song. You might wonder why...if you are a believer, you probably don't. But if you aren't quite there, let it soak in a few times. Get to know the lyrics. Let it remind you that this pain we feel, this loss is a temporary thing. Let it give you an idea of what heaven might just be like for those we've lost and how we will get to be there someday. It will help you I hope, like it helped me realize, this pain I feel is temporary and I will get to see my Dad again someday.

#3. Look Around You

When my Dad died, I literally felt like life was in slow motion. I noticed everything about everything. That 'noticing' is something I took as an opportunity - not to focus on what I was lacking without him to call, but how lucky I was to be able to feel connected to him spiritually by noticing that God was literally all around me. Every bird. Every sunset. Every sunrise. Every intimate conversation with someone who'd also been through what I'd gone through were all little winks and moments from God showing me not only that he's RIGHT there if I just look for him. But also, that if I look for him, Dad's always right here in my heart. And that's why I feel closest to my Dad in nature, because I know God is there. Don't hesitate to take in all those little signs because that's God taking care of you through the pain and giving you a little window into heaven.

#4. Look Within You

I know, it's hell what you are going through, whatever your loss may be, death or not. Process the feelings in any way you can. Best way for me was to write them out. So do what you can and need to do to process the pain so it doesn't get stuck in your heart. It's going to feel physically exhausting, mentally and emotionally tough. Let yourself experience this pain so that you can allow it to bring you more present to this life. It's okay, God's got you. All you've got to do is show up. Talk to him, pray, listen to him - he's within you, and certainly not in a drug or temporary fix for your feelings. Move THROUGH the pain, not against it.

#5. Look Beside You

He didn't put you here to walk alone. He put people beside you who are going through it too.  When those people show up, be open to it. Get some coffee, share your walk. You will be amazed at what God does with people who are just walking with us.

#6. Look Ahead of You

He will put people in your life who've been there, done that which is half the time - all we need. The people who got me through this were not the ones who were "supposed" to be there, but the ones who'd been there. Each person I'd known who'd been there was at the top of my call list in the early days of grief, because they were the ones who could be with me in my pain because they'd felt it themselves. They were the ones who could help me realize when I felt a little crazy that thing we often say, "Oh, Duh. It's grief."

#7. Look Outside of You

Once you go through this, there will be people who need to hear YOUR story of how you got through it. These are the opportunities in life God gives us to get outside of ourselves. By sharing our story, we give someone else some hope. No need to force it, you'll know it when he brings these people into your life. But take each opportunity as a chance to share your story because there is nothing better in grief then knowing you aren't alone. Don't keep it inside you. Get outside of you.

#8. Look Beneath You

Right now you are standing on this earth. You are breathing in the air. You are living your life. You are running to your next meeting or picking up your kid at camp. You are living. Take THIS opportunity as a chance to REALLY live your life. I mean, REALLY live it. Let their passing teach you all the reasons you've got a lot of life left in you - simply because you are still here

And these, my Healthy Voice partners on the journey are just a few things that can help you get through ANY process of grief. We all go through it. Sometimes we just need a reminder or a good kick to realize it's not about us and not something we can control.

So - mourn the ones you love and ENJOY the life you've got.

Godspeed.

xo,

Mere, Your Healthy Voice Guide

Here's the Playlist on You Tube. I'll add more as they come to me....https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLdkvYuvuMabb-IuwlgH2dy3TUk9qpVKDP. The One on Spotify is called, "When Grieving," but I'm a computer gimp sometimes and can't get it on this post! So, go check it out! It's got a couple different songs on it.