There is Peace in the Pasture

There is Peace in the Pasture

Sheep

Good morning!

If there is one thing that has been burned into my mind throughout my crazy OCD journey it is this…

There is peace in the pasture.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.[a]
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness[b]
for his name’s sake.
Psalm 23:1-3

Us humans, we love to try to be the shepherd right? Who doesn’t want to be in charge and not have to answer to anyone? Let me tell you who. You.

Think of a shepherd with his sheep in the pasture. The sheep have everything they need. They have food and water, there is a fence to keep them safe. They have everything they need because of their shepherd who watches over them.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  John 10:11

Jesus is our good Shepherd. We are His sheep. If you are having a hard time accepting that, I’m telling you, there is NO peace in trying to be your own shepherd. You will find peace as a sheep. And it really is a peace that surpasses all understanding.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:7

What is keeping you from submitting? Is it pride? You just want things your way? Friend, here’s your sign, you’re doing yourself in. Is it fear? Are you afraid that if you submit you will not enjoy God’s will? I thought that too! But you can’t let that hold you back. Seriously. No matter what it is. Remember Abraham.

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied.  Genesis 22:1

Just do it. Just call to God and say “Here I am!”

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’  Jeremiah 33:3 

Today, just surrender it all. Be a sheep. There is peace in the pasture.

The Blessing of Medication

The Blessing of Medication

consider it pure joy

Good morning!

To medicate or to not medicate, that is the question.

Today I want to discuss the topic of medication for anxiety/depression/OCD to hopefully help those of you struggling with this hard decision.

*I am not a doctor. I am just someone who God brought through debilitating OCD with the blessing of counseling and medication. I am sharing my experience for those of you who are either afraid of medication or have fallen victim to the stigma of it.

First, let’s talk about why the decision to take antidepressants is such a hard one to make. One big reason is the stigma given by the ignorant. People have a really hard time identifying with things they haven’t experienced and often times dangerously discredit them. Another reason is that OCD is so darn deceiving making us who suffer from it think we don’t need medication. I refused to take medicine for far too long because I figured “I thought myself into this. I can think myself out.” I believed this because my disorder did not make itself known until I experienced hormonal changes and then trauma in my life. Unaware that hormones played a role (or that I even had OCD for that matter) I believed it was the trauma that caused the intrusive thoughts and feelings so I could definitely just get counseling, talk it through, and eventually they would go away. When they didn’t, it was really helpful to learn that the disorder is genetic. The OCD was there my whole life and the traumas and hormonal changes only caused “flare-ups”. These genetic predispositions are the same ones that keep the alcoholic coming back to the bottle when someone else can have one drink, or why the person who eats right and exercises every day dies at forty of cancer while the smoker lives to ninety.

I am a Christian and I have OCD. I want you to know that you can be a Christian, love the Lord your God, and still suffer from mental illness. This doesn’t mean that your heart is in the wrong place, but it does mean that it is time to draw more near to the Lord than ever.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16

This is a fallen world. God has so graciously saved us from death by sending His son in our place. But here, we are being sanctified. Christ has not only saved us from the grave but also refines us to be more like Him! Refinement is not a pleasant experience, guys.

And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’”  Zechariah 13:9

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
1 Peter 5:10

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  James 1:2-4

Most of us consider diseases, birth defects, and disabilities trials but for some reason have a hard time even crediting mental illness as an actual problem though suicide is the leading cause of death in the U.S. And in case you read the previous sentence and think this it is just a western issue, it’s not. We are just the most open about it. Look it up.

When we have a loved one who has cancer, we thank God for chemotherapy and we pray that He heals them through it. When a loved one has a heart condition, we thank the Lord for doctors and surgery and stints. Sure, God can certainly heal miraculously and sometimes does but usually, He draws it out for a purpose.

No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields a peaceful harvest of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  Hebrews 12:11

If you read this blog, you know I can attest to this. No, I did not enjoy going through the torture of mental illness but I can without a doubt say that if I hadn’t suffered for the duration that I did, I would not be as thankful for Christ as I am, I would not feel as loved by God as I do, and I would not have nearly as much knowledge about OCD to help others who are suffering. The LORD is my God.

Bottom line, if you are being torturously attacked by your mind, I am here to tell you that medication, my friends, is a blessing from the Lord and do not let anyone tell you otherwise.

Now onto what medication will and won’t do for you.

Medication WILL…Dramatically Reduce The Fear

You can read in this post and this post about the nature of OCD. In short, all people, OCD or not, have weird thoughts that sporadically pop into our brains. The difference for the OCD sufferer is that there is an intense fear response that arises afterward “warning” us that we need to pay attention to them when we really don’t. For me, medication dramatically lessened these feelings of fear so that I could finally take my thoughts captive and examine them.

Medication WILL NOT…Heal You

If you have OCD and only take medication without receiving any therapy, you will likely not get better. For me and many others, it is the mix of medication and therapy that led to success. My counselor says you can’t run a race without your shoes. Medication is your shoes.  It brings you to a point where you can actually do the work toward lasting success.

Medication WILL… Help Other Things Too

It wasn’t until my chemical imbalance was balanced that I realized how many things were affected by OCD.

Medication WILL NOT…Make the Thoughts Go Away

Not a bad thing! And please don’t stop reading. The next one will be even better news.  I know this sounds really terrible for those of you who are currently being tortured by your thoughts but I promise it’s not. Remember, it’s your response to the thoughts that is the issue here. Everyone has strange thoughts but not everyone has loud warnings in their minds begging them to pay attention. If the thoughts weren’t scary, they wouldn’t be scary, would they? But read on!

Medication WILL…Quiet the Noise

Medication will drastically quiet the noise. The incessant intrusive thoughts that beat their way through your brain day in and day out will be much less intense. Thank God for antidepressants.

Medication WILL…Likely Have Side Effects

Just as with most medications, antidepressants are no different. For me, the good FAR outweighed the bad. It is just important to keep in mind that it takes these drugs a few good weeks for the therapeutic benefits to kick in so try your best to be patient.

I hope you are well but if you aren’t please do not be afraid to take the help that is available to us. If you are currently suffering, please know that peace is so very possible. Do not let a stigma keep you from it.

Blessings,
Angela

Question:
Any brave souls want to share their medication before and after stories? 🙂

 

 

 

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How to Make Sure Getting Help…Helps

How to Make Sure Getting Help…Helps

homework

Good morning!

It’s Friday! In case you are just tuning in, Friday’s around here are all about anxiety relief. Today’s post is for EVERYONE. Those struggling with extreme anxiety, depression, OCD, eating disorders, everyone mentally ill (not as bad as it sounds.) In today’s post, I am discussing YOUR PART in the journey to peace.

If you have been reading this blog any length of time you know that my war cry is to GET HELP. You can click on the Anxious? tab above and probably any post you choose will be urging you to get medical help for your mental illness.

But it is crucial that you know that you have A LOT of work to do on your end. You can’t just go in for an hour appointment once a week or so and expect to get better. A therapist is crucial but their job is to educate and guide you in your journey. Do not underestimate the importance of this. Knowledge really is power and we are not meant to go it alone. I thank the Lord so much for doctors, therapists, and medication. They are truly blessings to all of us.

But here are three things that you must do to make sure that getting help actually helps.

How to Make Sure Getting Help…Helps

Want to Get Better

I struggled with anorexia, bulimia, anxiety, depression, and OCD for close twenty years. Geez, when I type it all out like that I was quite the mess. Haha! In those twenty years, I saw five different therapists. One when I was fifteen. One when I was eighteen. One when I was twenty-two. Then two in my thirties. I tried one but then switched to another that was a better fit for me.

So why did most of those bouts of therapy end up unsuccessful? Not because of the therapist. Because of me! It wasn’t until my thirties that I finally wanted to get better. I know that is hurtful to some of you because it was hurtful to me when I heard it back then. But it was true nonetheless. I had so many fears of what would happen when I let go of my disorders. I had no idea what was on the other side. Until you get to the point that you are so sick and tired of living the way that you have been and decide that you will take whatever is next no matter what it is, you don’t want to get better.

Mother’s sending your daughter’s to therapy because you are terrified you will lose them, know that it isn’t a waste of time and money. Many of the things they hear will stick and be applied later on. But do not be discouraged if the therapy is not effective at this time. Because right now, you are the one that wants her better. Don’t give up. Just keep praying that you will both have the same desires soon.

Tell EVERYTHING

This is crucial. You must tell the therapist what is going in order for them to be able to help you. I think of the times that I went in for a session when I was younger. The therapist would ask “How are you?”, I would say “fine” even though obviously I wasn’t or else I wouldn’t be there. I guess I just expected her to draw my problem out of my head. That’s pretty ridiculous, right? We can’t expect them to help us with things that they don’t even know we are struggling with!

Many times the reason it is so difficult to tell them everything that is going on is because we are embarrassed. When it comes to mental illnesses, things get WEIRD. Most of us experience a lot of shame and are embarrassed to share. Please, let me put your mind at ease. You are not alone my friend. Even if your therapist hasn’t heard your particular weirdism (my friend Sarah’s term), they either have heard something similar or will in the not so distant future. But most likely that have heard your issues before. Really. I need to make a post of a bunch of the weird things that my brain sent my way throughout those twenty years. I’m sure you would at least find it highly entertaining if it didn’t make you feel better about opening up in your sessions. Actually, I just shared one of my weirdisms the other day in this post! Check it out! I was obsessed with the apocalypse. 🙂

Do What They Say

Every therapist I saw gave me action steps to do until the next time I came to see them. Until my thirties, I did not give priority to them and therefore it wasn’t until my thirties that the therapy helped. DO THESE. We are all busy. We have many commitments. In my last post, I made a point to stress what we should actually be committing to. This is your wellbeing. DO THE ACTION STEPS.

I hope you all are well but if you aren’t, you are definitely not alone. There is help to be found and hope to be had. Please do not hesitate to ask me to pray for your journey. I would love to and promise I will!

Blessings and peace to you all,
Angela

 

 

 

PPD/PPA/PPOCD: New Baby? Terrified?

PPD/PPA/PPOCD: New Baby? Terrified?

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Good morning Peaches!

Today I want to bring more attention to postpartum depression, anxiety, and OCD. When I was newly pregnant, I read about postpartum depression and my doctor even talked to me about it but I didn’t give it much thought after that. I thought surely it wouldn’t happen to me and if it did, I would just be a little more weepy than usual in the weeks after my baby arrived. Little did I know, I would be struck with PPD and it would be WAY worse than just being tearful. It wouldn’t occur in the weeks following the birth of my baby but much later and it would happen TWICE in two totally different ways! PPD/PPA/PPODC is difficult as it is but not knowing what is actually going on makes it a thousand times worse. This is why I blog. 🙂

Here are some facts about postpartum depression, anxiety, and OCD that would have helped me to know before I knew. Hopefully, this finds you at just the right time.

You Are More Likely To Experience PPD/PPA/PPOCD If You Have Struggled With Anxiety or Depression in the Past

When I was pregnant with Ryan, I didn’t think that I had gone through bouts of anxiety or depression before. This was silly because I struggled with eating disorders for years. Of course, there was depression and anxiety at the base of all that! Have you experienced bouts of depression and anxiety in the past? Have you struggled with eating disorders? Does alcoholism run in your family? If you answer yes to any of these, be on the lookout for symptoms post pregnancy.

PPD/PPA/PPOCD Does Not Always Strike Right After Having Your Baby

THIS would have been great for me to know beforehand. Because I seemed more than fine weeks even months after giving birth, I had no idea that I was experiencing postpartum anxiety when it struck! It can hit anytime in the first YEAR after giving birth. I had postpartum anxiety after both of my pregnancies. Both times I was fine until my babies were around seven months.

It’s NOT Just Being Extra Weepy.

I didn’t know what was happening because I wasn’t just sad… I was utterly terrified! I was overcome with feelings of sadness (depression), feelings of terror (anxiety), and for me, the thoughts and feelings centered around very specific thoughts (OCD). These feelings were intense and overwhelming and didn’t go away.

The Thoughts and Feelings Do Not Have To Center Around Your Baby

You would think that if you have gone through PPD once, you would be better prepared for it the second time around right? Wrong! Not when it comes at you in a totally new way! After Ryan was born, I was convinced that I was dying. I was having all of these crazy symptoms but when I went to the doctor nothing was wrong. Now I know that the symptoms were all from anxiety even though they were very real at the time. Anxiety causes real headaches, real knots in your neck and back, real stomach issues, real exhaustion. Anxiety attacks often times mimic heart attacks symptoms so of course, I thought something was wrong with me. But the only thing wrong with me was that I was experiencing postpartum anxiety.

After I had my daughter, my thoughts were not about myself, they were about my son who was four years old at the time. I was obsessed with terrible thoughts that something awful was going to happen to him. I kept thinking if this was postpartum anxiety, why was I not worried about me dying again or at least worried about the actual baby I just had! The answer is that you don’t get to pick. Obviously if you did you would pick not to suffer at all.

Oh! I almost forgot. It doesn’t always happen after the first baby either. It could strike in the second, third, or fourth even though the other pregnancies were perfectly fine!

It Is Very Important NOT To Isolate

Ugh. Isolating has always been my downfall. 😦 When you’re feeling crazy, the last thing you want to do is be crazy in front of others. It never failed, conversations always ended up in tears even if the discussion wasn’t anything deep. Then of course, when people see your tears they want to help… but, bless em, they can’t. The season of postpartum anxiety is a jumbled mess of tears, terror, and embarrassment. But take heart! It is just a season. This too shall pass. It will. But isolating will only make it worse and prolong it. When we are left alone with our thoughts, they gain more and more significance. Even though it may be embarrassing, I have found that the best thing to do is just be honest about what is going on. But even though it’s difficult to get out or even just be honest with your spouse, you must. The more you isolate, the more you lose touch with reality.

Your thoughts and feelings are not reality.

Seek Help

I know I tell you all to seek help a lot in this blog. It’s because it’s so important! If God wanted us to do things alone why would He give us doctors, medicine, therapists, hospitals, technology, and ALL the things that He has so graciously gifted us with! Don’t white knuckle it. I did not know what I was experiencing after my first pregnancy. Although the thoughts and feelings did ease up a bit in the years between my son and my daughter, they never went away completely because I never got help. I had given so much significance to the thoughts that I couldn’t let them go. Then when I had my daughter, the anxiety was way worse! I am so glad that I finally did seek therapy and you need to as well if you are going through this. You need to learn to sort your thoughts. and question the significance. If need be, you need medication to quiet your mind and bring you back into reality. There is nothing wrong with this. When our loved one is sick, we are thankful for doctors and medicine. When you are sick, be thankful for doctors and medicine.

I hope this helps some of you moms out there! If you are dealing with this, remember you are a great mom, you are not alone in your struggle, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Blessings!
Angela

 

 

Anxious? You Must Let Go To Find Peace

Anxious? You Must Let Go To Find Peace

The Lord is my Shepherd

Good morning Friends!

If you are in a season of depression and anxiety, don’t forget to read this post to be encouraged that there is a purpose for your pain.

But today I want to talk about something difficult but crucial that we must do in order to find peace.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 
Hebrews 12:11

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,  Hebrews 12:5 

First, remember that the Lord only disciplines those He LOVES. So if you are a Christian and have found yourself in a difficult season, take heart! You are loved!

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
     He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
 Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
Psalm 23: 1-4

Psalm 23 is a beautiful picture of the pasture that God’s sheep dwell in. The Lord is our Shepherd and we are His sheep. When we are in His pasture, we have everything we need. He lays us down in green pastures (peace), He leads us beside still waters (nourishment). We are refreshed and guided down the right paths. We don’t have to be afraid of anything! His rod and staff are keeping us where we need to be.

The pasture is your home and once you are there you will never want to leave!

But the thing is, God has to get us to a place where we want to be there. I know for me, I was so busy thinking that I wanted the things of this earth that I didn’t even know there was a pasture to be peaceful in.

When we go through hard times, we are brought to our knees and close to God. In this time, we gain perspective. We come to understand what is important in this life and what isn’t. This is a very painful experience. Many times we end up wanting to cling to worldly things no matter how much insanity and anxiety clinging to them brings us.

Surrendering whatever it is that you are clinging to is really terrifying and painful. Think of Abraham!

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

Genesis 22: 1-2

Think of how Abraham was feeling. The God of the universe asked him to kill his only son as a sacrifice!

Those of you who do not know how this story ends are freaking out right now. Here is the rest of the story…

 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

Genesis 22: 9-12

God was testing Abraham to see if he truly feared Him.

What is it that God is asking you to let go of? I’m telling you, if you want to have peace, you have to let it go. This is utterly terrifying because you do not know what God will do. Remember Abraham. He did not know that he was being tested when He chose to do what God asked of him. He denied himself and chose to obey the Lord.

Friend, this is what you have to do.

You have to surrender whatever it is. This is part of refinement. You have to be emptied of everything before you will even appreciate the pasture.

I know this is hard but there is peace on the other side. But as long as you are clinging to the thing that God is asking you to sacrifice you will be in the never ending cycle of worry and anxiety.

Look what God told the Isrealites about serving other gods. Sound familiar?

Then the Lord will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods—gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your ancestors have known.  Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the Lord will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life. In the morning you will say, “If only it were evening!” and in the evening, “If only it were morning!”—because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights that your eyes will see. 

Deuteronomy 28: 64-67

 

Today, get alone with the Lord and surrender whatever it is. Cry out to God and tell Him all of your feelings but deny yourself and surrender. Do not expect to feel peace in the moment but this is the way to everlasting peace and joy, my friends. I promise.

If you would like me to pray for you, I will! Let me know in a comment or message and I promise I will pray.

Blessings,
Angela

 

 

 

 

Anxiety: When The Valley Is Dark

Anxiety: When The Valley Is Dark

Travel Inspiration

Good morning!

Happy Friday! I hope it is a happy Friday for you. But if it’s not, welcome to my Friday anxiety post.

When The Valley Is Dark

When my anxiety was at its peak, I felt so discouraged. I was doing all the right things. I was praying. I was reading the Bible. I was gratitude journaling and exercising and eating right and breathing and EVERYTHING that you are supposed to do to banish anxiety. But every morning I woke up with a pit in my stomach. The days were hazily filled with fighting the thoughts. My nights were spent lying awake, exhausted, but unable to sleep.

During this time,  I hated talking to anyone. My anxiety had gotten to the point where I was having anxiety attacks every day and when I was in conversation with someone it was almost inevitable that tears would come. Of course, when people see these things they want to help and what better way to help than with a Bible verse? But where these were meant for encouragement, they only made me more discouraged.

The reason I am writing this to you today is that I know a lot of you are in this spot. You are crying out to God. You are on your knees begging Him to help you. You are wondering what you are doing wrong. You are at a loss as to why you can’t seem to get any peace from the Bible verses that should be bringing you peace. Verses like these:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  Philippians 4:6

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  1 Peter 5:7

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.  Psalm 94:19

And there is many more.

Don’t get me wrong, these are wonderful verses! And now, I completely understand them and am so thankful for what God has done in my heart when I read them! But at the time, they were discouraging. I felt like a failure in everything. The verses made no sense as much as I wanted them to and no one I spoke to had any helpful advice. I was told that I was anxious because my heart was not right and even that it was a sin to be anxious! Now I know that my heart wasn’t right. Even though I deeply loved the Lord at the time, my heart still needed to be purified. But it isn’t a sin to be anxious. Anxiety is an emotion. One that will drive you to your knees, crying out to God and in turn understanding His awe-inspiring sovereignty.

I remember laying in my living room, feeling lifeless, wondering where God was. Was it a waste of time to call out to Him? Crying, I just said to God, “I feel so alone.”

And I did. But I was not alone in the least little bit. He was with me and was doing great works inside of me. You have to understand what God is doing when suffering comes.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:6-7

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.  Hebrews 12:11

Friend, there is a purpose for your pain. You are being refined and I promise you, though it doesn’t seem like it now, there will be peace in the end.

This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.'”  Zechariah 13:9 

Look at this. Do you know the story of the Israelites being brought out of Egypt? If you don’t, it is so good and will encourage you greatly! The Israelites were in slavery in Egypt and God rescued them in such a miraculous way! But being brought out of bondage was scary for them even though they were being rescued. Look what God tells them through Moses…

Do not eat it with bread made with yeast, but for seven days eat unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, because you left Egypt in haste–so that all the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Egypt.  Deuteronomy 16:3

Ok, I am aware this verse may make no sense now. But God was bringing them out of slavery. He was rescuing them! But they left in haste. They were nervous and afraid. Why? SO THAT THEY WOULD NEVER FORGET.

Friend, you are going through affliction and there is a reason. So that you are brought close to the Lord and understand His salvation, love, goodness, and glory. It has to be this way so that you never forget what He has done for you.

Keep praying, keep reading His word, don’t look to the right or the left. Look straight at God and keep walking toward Him. You are in the right direction.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28

Blessings,
Angela