• Health

    Let’s Talk About… Depression

    This isn’t an easy post to write. I’m about to get super-real with you, peeps. But I feel that this is a really important conversation to have. So, let’s talk about… Depression.

    Let's Talk About...Depression | SheWillRise.ca

    I have suffered from depression since I was a young girl. But it wasn’t until April 2013 that I finally started taking medication for it. The reasons for my delay were these:

    1. I had been misinformed / ignorant about the different types of depression that exist, and therefore didn’t feel that I was a candidate for medical help. I didn’t fit the description of someone with major depression — though, I did have some of the symptoms — so I didn’t think anyone would take me seriously.
    2. I had long been under the impression that antidepressants are habit-forming, so I didn’t want to take them for fear that I would suffer awful consequences when I tried to go off of them.

    What changed for me is that, in 2013, I read an eBook called, “Pros of Prozac” by Beca Mark*. In it, Beca outlines her own struggle with anxiety and depression, and how much taking antidepressants had helped her. Reading Beca’s story, I could relate to so much of what she described of her life before taking medication. As such, I started to –once again– really research depression and antidepressants.

    Side note: I’ve also struggled with anxiety and panic attacks since 2001, so I have done a lot of research on these topics over the years.

    Thanks to my new research, though, I learned two things that I’d missed before, that made all the difference for me:

    First, antidepressants are not habit-forming. If you follow your doctor’s instructions for how to take them, and for how to be weaned off of them, there shouldn’t be any major issues.

    Second, I have what is called, Dysthymia, also known as chronic low-level depression. That’s why, although I have some of the symptoms listed for major depression, I don’t have all of them. Yet, my form of depression is no less serious, and can still benefit from the use of antidepressants. Here is the description {source}:

    Persistent depressive disorder, also called Dysthymia (dis-THIE-me-uh), is a continuous long-term (chronic) form of depression. You may lose interest in normal daily activities, feel hopeless, lack productivity, and have low self-esteem and an overall feeling of inadequacy. These feelings last for years and may significantly interfere with your relationships, school, work and daily activities.

    If you have persistent depressive disorder, you may find it hard to be upbeat even on happy occasions — you may be described as having a gloomy personality, constantly complaining or incapable of having fun. Though persistent depressive disorder is not as severe as major depression, your current depressed mood may be mild, moderate or severe.

    Because of the chronic nature of persistent depressive disorder, coping with depression symptoms can be challenging, but a combination of talk therapy (psychotherapy) and medication can be effective in treating this condition.

    Armed with this new information, I went to see my doctor to talk with her about trying antidepressants, and she wrote me a prescription.

    It took a while to figure out the proper dosage, and which brand of antidepressant worked the best for me (turns out, it’s Zoloft). But I just have to tell you: choosing to go on antidepressants was the best thing I ever did for myself. It has made a world of difference in my life. Some of the benefits include:

    • I can have important conversations with my husband, or family, without falling into tears, and then being unable to continue the conversation
    • I’m no longer irritable, grouchy, and snippy with everyone all the time
    • I can respond, rather than react, to stressful situations
    • I don’t cry over the stupidest little things
    • I have battled my anxiety and panic attacks… and (still, by the grace of God), I won! {see below}

    This isn’t an exhaustive list, but these things are the major highlights, for me.

    When I first started taking the medication, I didn’t tell my husband about it. Reason being, he is one of those people who doesn’t agree that depression is a mental illness. He thinks it’s just “all in one’s head” and can be overcome through “mind over matter”, diet and exercise {side note: yes, a healthy diet and regular exercise have been shown to lessen the effects of Depression, so they’re still highly recommended}. In order to “show” my man that I actuallywas helped by the medication, I waited a few months of being on it before I let him in on this choice of mine. And, when I finally did tell him, I asked if he’d noticed a change in my personality over the previous few months — he had. So, he agreed that maybe this was an important choice for me to have made.

    Unfortunately, there is still a lot of stigma attached to depression and antidepressants. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and also a lot of misunderstanding. People who have never suffered from anxiety, or never had a panic attack, don’t fully know the horror of it… the feeling of being so very out of control, and the feeling of utter terror. Anxiety and panic attacks are notjust “all in your head”… they are physical manifestations of a chemical imbalance in your physical body. You can know all of the statistics and information, but your body is going to react (usually there are “triggers”), regardless of your level of knowledge.

    For example, in 2001 I had my first panic attack. My family and I were eating dinner, when all-of-a-sudden, I heard a helicopter flying over our house. And much as I knew it made absolutely nosense (mentally), I was utterly convinced that that helicopter was going to come and crash into our house. I ended up excusing myself from the table to go to the washroom, where I collapsed into a shaking puddle on the floor, sobbing uncontrollably. I was scared-to-death, because this had never happened to me before, and I had never heard of panic attacks. I thought I’d completely lost it, and that I was going to have to be locked away in some mental institution. I’d gone off the deep end. (Thankfully, this wasn’t the case!)

    From that point on, I couldn’t hear any aircraft going by overhead without seizing up in a fit of anxiety. My heart would race, my fists would clench, and I couldn’t think of anything else.

    Thankfully, my faith has helped a lot with this… I’ve learned to pray through the attacks, asking God to protect both my family, and those on the aircraft.

     

    Mind you, the 9-11 attacks certainly didn’t help. Especially since I’d had some eerily “prophetic” (for lack of a better term) dreams about them before they even happened! Put it this way: I sawwhat the people in the World Trade Center must have seen, seconds before the plane went crashing through those windows.  This still shakes me to my core.

    Anyway. Like I said, my faith has really helped me in overcoming my anxiety and panic attacks. But I also believe that the antidepressants have, as well. As proof, I can proudly say that — thanks be to God! — I was able to get on a plane and fly out to visit my sister, last summer … and I didn’t even have to take anything (tranquilizers) for the trip, either! Was I still scared? Absolutely! I was very, very nervous. But, would I do it again? Yep — in a heartbeat!

    To wrap this up, let me just encourage you in a couple of things:

    1. If you, yourself, suffer from anxiety, panic attacks, and/or depression (in any of its forms),please don’t hesitate to get help. Research it, if you need to. Talk to friends or family, or go see a counselor. Talk to your doctor. It’s not worth it to continue to suffer alone. You don’t need to… Heck! Send me an email if you need to talk, and feel you have no one else! I’m here, okay?
    2. If you have, or are considering suicide, PLEASE call this number, right now:  1-800-273-TALK (8255). Reach out — you are NOT alone!
    3. Ignore the haters and those who tell you that it’s “all in your head”. Do what you feel is the right thing… for you. That’s all that matters. You are the only one who truly knows your body, and what you need. You are the only one who needs to make this decision {with the help of your doctor, of course}.
    4. If you aren’t opposed to it, seek God in the matter. Tell Him what you’re struggling with (He already knows, but He wants you to come to Him with this). Ask for His help in overcoming this. It IS possible… Did you know that the Bible encourages us by saying, “Do not fear”, 365 times?  You could also go talk to a local pastor or priest. They are trained counselors.
    5. Help spread the word! The more people who talk openly about mental health issues like Depression, the more we can get rid of the “stigma” that surrounds it, and the more we can help those who truly need help.

    ETA: Have a look at this article, on the Health Ambition website, all about the top 10 anti-anxiety foods that help reduce stress… it may be of some help to you, as well.

    HAVE YOU GOTTEN HELP FOR DEPRESSION? DO YOU TAKE MEDICATION FOR IT? SHARE WITH US A BRIEF SNIPPET ABOUT YOUR STORY IN THE COMMENTS! LET’S SHOW THE LOVE!

  • Faith

    Leaving Organized Religion (Part 2)

    This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series LeavingOrganizedReligion

    In my last post, I talked about how I feel God has shown me that I don’t need to go to church… it’s not a Biblical mandate. The Bible only says that we aren’t to neglect meeting together with other believers (Heb.10:25).

    Leaving Organized Religion: Part One | She Will Rise

    Well, I don’t want to give you the wrong impression… I might leave the church — meaning the Sunday morning services, or a specific congregation — but I won’t be leaving the faith. I am just tired of trying to live up to the man-made rules of religion.

    Wayne Jacobsen (author of “So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Any More“), in this article, puts it this way:

    Many people giving up on local institutions are not doing so because they’ve rejected Jesus, but finding that the culture of Christianity is actually diminishing their faith not enhancing it.

    I’ve always felt really guilty for not keeping up with the “spiritual disciplines”: prayer, fasting, Scripture reading, etc. I do read my Bible from time-to-time (though, not as consistently as I should), and my prayer life is fairly active… I pray off and on throughout every day, little prayers sent up about this or that. But I don’t sit down do have “quiet time” with God, normally, and that makes me feel like a “bad Christian”.

    While I realize that the spiritual disciplines are important, I also now realize that I was trying to make them into a “law”, more than a loving, grace-based action. If it doesn’t flow naturally from my love for God, then it’s law, IMHO. We should be so in love with our Lord that we naturally want to spend time with Him, and learn from Him, and grow towards being more like Him. Or, at least, that’s how I see it.

    For me, I feel pressured by other Christians to always be striving in my faith. But, faith isn’t supposed to be about striving. It’s supposed to be about relationship; about letting Christ live out His purposes through us. Unfortunately, I never feel “good enough” when I’m around other Christians. I always feel like they are looking down on me because I don’t make it to church every Sunday, or don’t participate in church events, or don’t serve in some way at the church. I don’t DO enough. But, again, it’s not supposed to be about trying to please others.

    As I said above, if you’re in a relationship with God, and He’s given the freedom to live out His purposes through you, then you’re going to be serving, or acting out the other disciplines of the Christian faith… they’ll just flow naturally from that relationship. It won’t be forced.

    In the same article mentioned above, Wayne Jacobsen says this:

    We were promised a relationship with God but were handed a religion of doctrines we had to believe, rituals we had to observe, obligations we had to meet and a standard of morality to adopt. While most of those were true enough, many found that their attempts to follow them did not produce either the life of Jesus it promised, nor the reality of true, caring communities of faith.

    And, again, this is where I relate. I don’t feel like I’m growing in my faith — only being stunted by the “rules of the game”, and by the condemnation received from those around me. To quote Rob Bell, in his “Sunday” NOOMA video, “God doesn’t want the meaningless rituals… God wants our hearts“.

    “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen
    those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” ~ 2 Chronicles 16:9a

    So, I’m not going to let those things condemn me any more… I am going to live in the freedom Christ is showing me, knowing I don’t have to follow man-made traditions. I can continue to meet with other believers, both at Bible study, and in one-on-one visits with Christian friends. And, I can continue to pursue a loving relationship with my Lord… just apart from “organized religion”.

    It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
    Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves
    be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
    ~ Galatians 5:1, NIV

    Note: This post was originally written in 2009.

  • Faith

    Leaving Organized Religion (Part 1)

    This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series LeavingOrganizedReligion

    I’ve had issues with “church” (or, as some prefer to call it, ‘organized religion’) for many, many years. I have encountered way too much hypocrisy & legalism, and have never felt comfortable going to church every Sunday morning. I was practically forced to go to youth group as a teen, and then had issues at 2 of the 3 different churches I’ve attended in the last 20 years… issues that couldn’t just be overlooked, and so I left. My current church is definitely better than the other two were, but it still makes me uncomfortable, to an extent.

    Leaving Organized Religion: Part One | She Will Rise

    Back in 2009, while browsing in a bookstore, I came across a book called “Pagan Christianity” by George Barna & Frank Viola. I didn’t buy it, but just picked it up and skimmed through it. And, it piqued my curiosity. Here’s the description (from Amazon):

    Have you ever wondered why we Christians do what we do for church every Sunday morning? Why do we “dress up” for church? Why does the pastor preach a sermon each week? Why do we have pews, steeples, choirs, and seminaries? This volume reveals the startling truth: most of what Christians do in present-day churches is not rooted in the New Testament, but in pagan culture and rituals developed long after the death of the apostles. Coauthors Frank Viola and George Barna support their thesis with compelling historical evidence in the first-ever book to document the full story of modern Christian church practices.

    The book had me intrigued.

    Then I picked up a book from the local library that I originally had no intention of reading: “The Year of Living Biblically” by A. J. Jacobs. An online friend reviewed it, and that review prompted me to give the book a try, and see what I thought. Well, I thought it was a fantastic book, and it got me thinking even more! What really got me, though, was the revelation I took away from that: Nowhere in the Bible does it say we have to attend church (in a building) every week!

    People have always loved to quote me Hebrews 10:25, saying this was the mandate that we are to never stop going to church. Well, guess what? This verse does NOT say you have to “go to church”… it just says you aren’t to neglect meeting with other believers…

    Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” ~ Hebrews 10:25, NIV

    Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” ~ Hebrews 10:25, KJV

    And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” ~ Hebrews 10:25, NLT

    See? Even in the King James Version (which is thought to be one of the most reliable — closest to what was originally written), it says not to neglect meeting together with other believers. But it does NOT say you have to meet in a church building.

    Then, while online shortly thereafter, I came across yet another book: “So You Don’t Want to Go To Church Any More?” by Wayne Jacobsen. And, by Googling the author, I came across his website, LifeStream.org, where you can read a multitude of articles on why he no longer is a fan of “organized religion”, and about how he believes “church” means something different than what we have always believed it to be…

    Mr. Jacobsen says “Church is not somewhere you go; it’s something that you are“. We, the followers of Christ, are His ‘church’, His bride. Wherever we are to be found, that’s where “church” exists.

    And I really like this concept! 😉

    I read some of the articles on this LifeStream website, and apparently this is a growing trend… people are leaving the church building — the Sunday morning gatherings — and they are seeking out other believers that they can learn from and grow with, believers who share their same belief that you can’t limit God to man-made traditions.

    Personally, when I realized that the Bible doesn’t even say you have to “go to church”, but only that you have to continue meeting with other believers, I was so relieved! No longer do I have to give in to the guilt that’s heaped upon me when people ask me if I’m going to church regularly, and I have to say ‘no’. No longer do I have to accept the shame they try to instill in me for not going. Instead, I can relax, knowing that I make my weekly Bible study meetings a priority, and am thereby obeying the Biblical command to continue meeting together with other believers.

    {…to be continued…}

    Note: This post was originally written in 2009.

  • Faith

    What Is a “Christian”?

    What Does It Mean to Be a Christian? | She Will Rise*** This article was written back in 2009, for a local newspaper, by the pastor of my church. 

    Are you a Christian? That may seem like a strange question for a regular reader of this column and I suspect that most would answer with an indignant ‘yes’ except for those who are disappointed that they couldn’t find their horoscope.

    This ‘yes or no question’ may elicit a common response, but if I change it slightly to “How did you become a Christian?” then I believe we could uncover a diversity of answers such as:

    • “I was born in a Christian country.”
    • “I was baptized as a child.”
    • “I was baptized as an adult.”
    • “I went through a confirmation process.”
    • “I believe all the right things.”
    • “I once prayed a prayer asking Jesus into my heart.”
    • “I go to church every week (pretty much).”
    • “I believe in God.”
    • “I am a good person (pretty much).”

    The problem with all of those answers is that none of them are right. None of them are Biblically complete. None of them reflect the radical faith that Jesus came to call us to.

    They may be steps in the right direction, but they fall far short of being the destination.

    When Jesus came to earth 2000 years ago, He didn’t come to establish new religious practices and rituals like the ones listed above. In fact, He came to make it very clear that doing these things were not what God wanted from us at all. The mentality of religion as keeping the right rules was so prevalent in Jesus’ time that He got in trouble one day for healing a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath ~ a specific and serious offense to religious law. To paraphrase Jesus, his response was “That is ridiculous!”

    Jesus didn’t come so that we could be more religious, or to initiate an adjustment in the rules. Jesus came to call us to be His followers. The great commission was not to celebrate the faith of those who would assent to a set of beliefs and agree to keep the rules. The great commission of Matthew 28 is to make disciples. What is a disciple? It is a ‘little Jesus’. It is someone who seeks to be like their master.

    And so, are you in the process of becoming a ‘little Jesus’? Have you given up on pleasing God by keeping the rules and are you ready to join with Him as He changes the world while He changes you? Are you tired of focusing on an outward spirituality that is disconnected from the rest of your life? Are you a follower — a disciple — of Jesus Christ?

    If your answer is ‘yes’, then you are a Christian. It’s that simple.

    ~ Jim B.

  • Faith

    Making It Personal

    Making It Personal | SheWillRise.caSometimes I get so very frustrated with the way Christianity is portrayed to the world. More often than not, I see a Christianity that isn’t anywhere close to the one Jesus modeled and taught us to live out. And this hurts the overall message.

    Hypocrisy, legalism, shame, and condemnation are rampant. But is this how Jesus behaved? Did He worship in His Father’s house with His hands raised and eyes closed, and then go out to lunch with the Disciples and laugh about the Pharisees behind their backs? Did He condemn the sinners He met, like the woman at the well who was on her 5th man, or the tax collectors, or the woman who’d been caught in adultery? Did Jesus stand on the street-corners holding a sign that read, “Repent, or you’re all going to hell”?

    The answer to all of the above is: NO.

    Jesus was (and still is) gentle, kind, loving, patient. He convicts us of sin, but He never condemns us. He does say that the consequences of sin is death (eternal punishment), but also that all who believe in Him can be saved! He doesn’t preach this message with a sense of shame or condemnation, but with a soft plea spoken out of the depths of His love for all of us… not JUST Christians, but every single person on the planet.

    I know so many people who have walked away from, or just flat-out rejected, Christianity, because they think…

    • “If that’s what Christianity is all about, I want no part of it.”
    • “If being a Christian means I have to be like so-and-so, no thanks.”
    • “Being a Christian will mean I can’t have fun any more — so, forget it.”

    But, they have seen this “false” pseudo-Christianity, not the real thing. They have no idea how good it can really be. It’s not all about giving up the good times, or walking around all uptight, or about acting all better-than-thou, or converting everyone you see.

    It’s about a friendship with Jesus… a man who was so compelling that people couldn’t help but be drawn to Him… the only One who will never, ever hurt or betray you… the only “friend” who can offer the deepest satisfaction and sense of peace.

    I loved this article, written by Abby Johnson. She’s talking about the latest news regarding abortion doctor, Kermit Gosnell, but she gives a very good picture of the difference between the false, “pious” Christianity, and the REAL, grace-full Christianity that I’m talking about.

    A blog post from Abby’s blog {read the full post here} had this little paragraph tucked inside it, and it, too, says what I’m trying to say — shows the difference:

    {…“Well, one of our [church] members took her to the Target Café to share the Gospel with her.” So, no material assistance was offered for her or her baby? No resources offered for where she could receive assistance? No phone calls made to maternity homes or pro-life groups in the area? “No,” the woman responded. “Just the meeting at Target to talk about the Lord.”

    Well, isn’t that fantastic. I’m sure the Gospel will find her a hospital to deliver her baby in. I’m sure the Gospel will help her with food to nourish her body during the last few weeks of her pregnancy. I’m sure the Gospel will help keep her safe from harm as she sleeps outside night after night. Their answer made me disgusted. How can we expect to nourish someone spiritually when their physical needs aren’t met? How can we expect someone to be receptive to the Gospel when they go physically hungry during the day? How can we expect someone to believe in the mighty power of Christ when they don’t know if they will be forced to deliver their baby in an alley somewhere? This is Christianity? This is how we treat those in need of help? Certainly not. That is not what faith is about. James clearly states that “faith without works is dead.” What is faith if we are not willing to step out of our comfort zone and get our hands dirty in service to Christ? We are called to be the “hands and feet of Christ,” right? That means service to those who need him…not just words…actions.}

    Precisely. The REAL Christianity is one of compassion and love. It is actions and service. It is modeling Jesus’ actions and love to a hurting world around us. NOT condemnation. NOT shame. NOT ignoring needs because it makes you uncomfortable.

    Ugh.

    ………………………………………………………………………..

    For further reading, check out Acts 2. This is the story of the first community of Christian believers.