My Sabbatical

Dear, you.

Life will always force you to make difficult decisions, and it wasn’t until January 2018 that I decided to be fully committed to strengthening my relationship with God. The sad reality was on New Years in 2018, I spent most of the day in the hospital because I wanted to seriously hurt myself. I was on my way to work in the morning when suddenly I burst into tears and my thoughts fixated on ending my life. My stress levels reached their peak after a breakup, a lay-off at my job, and a realization that I had no control over what was happening to me. I felt helpless, and I wasn’t keen on going through a lengthy process of healing and enduring the pain of it. I was exhausted in all levels, body and mind, except my spirit yearned to seek God.

“Those who seek God will feel after him and find him because he is not far from us.” (Acts 17:27)

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People nowadays may believe there isn’t a need for spirituality, but honestly, it saved my life, and it gave me strength in moments when I wanted to end my life. However, having grown with God now, I learned that I needed to give God my life instead of holding it for myself. Placing my trust in someone I haven’t physically met allowed me to surrender memories, traumas, and mistakes that were hurting me.

Jesus [said], “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mark 2:17)

I once placed my worth in the number of mistakes I made or by the number of people who mistreated me. My thoughts were “if this number of people mistreat or say false things about me then it must be true,” or “If I wasn’t strong enough to resist temptation then I must be cheap, easy, unworthy, etc.” None of these awful labels were true, however, my mind made a big deal of it because I centred my worth on what other people said of me.

“Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.” (Acts 17:29).

If you believe God created you, you must believe also what he says about you; you are worth more than anything of value on this Earth. God wants us to follow him in his footsteps, and he made it easier for us to feel for him through Jesus, see John 3:16. Therefore, by forgiving me, God had cleansed me, see Acts 10: 11-15.

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No doubt I will be judged on the true intentions of my heart when I die, but for now, I know I mean no harm to anyone. For God says:

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Mathew 5:8)

I needed to learn to forgive myself because God already did, and when I started to believe that I started to hear God’s will for my life: he wanted me to learn to stick up for myself, to realize that I deserved better, and he wanted me to see my own worth through his eyes only. At this point, nobody else’s voice mattered and I found peace in that. As a result, I had spiritual growth.

 

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Maybe I am motivated now to have a relationship with God more because I felt like I messed up big time in 2017, but also, I could see no other way of it happening. He finally caught my attention, and I am in a happy and more stable time in my life because of it. The storm can rage on and the wind can blow at me, but I sense it in me that I can endure almost anything life. Jesus tells it best on how appreciative I feel about my situation…

“There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” 

Simon answered, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” (Luke 7: 41-43)

…Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” (Luke 7:47)

In this season of my life, I want nothing more than to be surrounded by people with positive energy and genuine hearts.  Therefore, the best part of 2019 is that I spent it with kind and caring individuals, true friends! No hospitals. Note: the quality of people you surround yourself daily does affect your spiritual energy and overall mindset, so changes in this area are essential for spiritual growth. You will need to weed out people who don’t add value to your growth. If you can’t cut people out of your life because of family relations, then be prepared to stick up for yourself by minimizing interactions with them and setting new boundaries on how they treat you.

I have yet to discover what God has in store for me now, but I sense it has to do with finding my motivation to finish some long-awaited goals and make more connections with positive-spirited people. That’s the gist of it for me, but God will always have bigger plans!

 

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‘R’ to Restart.

Dear, you.

I decided to restart my blog the right way. Honestly, my previous blogs were tainted with a hint of resentment and I didn’t want that for myself. Cheers, to a restart!

I wished life was life was like that, each time you make a mistake you can erase it all and move on. It’s different for everyone but I tend to have a slower and more painful healing process. Maybe my struggle with depression makes it worse, not sure? However, I am certain that without pain we cannot learn from mistakes and grow. So I appreciate that aspect of having consequences for the choices we make.

At the same time, do not blame yourself for anyone else’s wrongdoing and for allowing things to happen. If you did the best you could at that time and things didn’t work, know that path was not meant for you, and it had nothing to do with your worth or you as a person. For example, God (and/or the universe) declares this for you

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11).

And whatever pain you are going through now, it serves a purpose to make you stronger and be an example for others with similar experience. As social beings, we need a kind of love that is supportive, nurturing, and genuine.

“As God’s children, [put on] compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossian 3:12-14)

I get it, this kind of love may seem like a fable, but I am telling you that it is real. It’s not something that you can conjure when you want to, because it is something that only consistent practice of loving actions can bring forth. When loving actions become a lifestyle, things change for the better and I am a testimony to that.

I suffered from depression for a decade or more, and I didn’t know I had the disorder until about 3 years ago. I didn’t know how much it impacted my life until a year ago when I was convinced by doctors and loved ones that medication was necessary for my recovery. Medication helped me tremendously because I was fixated on ending my life: I couldn’t see the point in living. I couldn’t keep my ‘head above water’ like once I did, and I was emotionally drowning. I wanted to end it all, especially the pain. Depression is darker than this single and short description, but think of it like this: If you haven’t seen the sun in years, you’d likely think you’d never see it again. You’d likely think it’s gone forever, so what’s the point? Likewise. Medication doesn’t make the pain go away, it simply reduces the intensity of the pain, allowing depression sufferers to once again manage daily tasks.

The recovery process starts with working on yourself and tackling your inner turmoils, such as unrealistic thinking patterns, bad habits, and shifting relationship boundaries with people in your life. Learning to be assertive was a huge change for me because I had to unlearn what I learned from my parents, such as black-or-white thinking. I had to stand up for my beliefs and stop conforming to other people’s expectations. Once I developed the courage to fight for me and what God wanted for me, I was in a better place in my life. It wasn’t easy because it meant I needed to end a relationship and end ‘friendships’. God calls us to protect your heart from anyone that may harm it or misguide you from his plans, that includes standing up for yourself from family members.

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Their expectations and beliefs are not yours to keep, even if it seems honourable for you to keep them. Remember, what God wants for you will always override what anybody else wants for you. And to know what God wants for you, you need to put love in action to have a relationship with God, because he is love (1 John 4:8).

“7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot[a] love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:7-21)

Furthermore, it was more than just depression that affected me, I was going through a difficult time in my life and I didn’t know if I’d survive it. I even got into a speedy relationship because I was being reckless with what would happen to me. I felt deserving for everything bad that came to me. Although the boyfriend was a small blessing in disguise because he was “my happy drug” at that time, I felt heartbroken and confused when it ended. It was a mutual decision, but the reasons for it left me confused, unwanted, and used. Regardless, my reasons were to better myself so I have something to offer in a relationship when I am ready. Also, I would think a man show he’d care about me by making the effort to keep me, and realistically speaking, why do I want someone who doesn’t want me? He missed out because I am a rare find.

This time, I am leaving it to God to select the man I will have a long-time partnership with because I want that for my future. Being single now I am slowly working towards building a foundation to have family and a career of my own. I am pushing myself a little harder each day to build that endurance again to achieve those goals.

Recovery is a very slow progression, but I am grateful that 2017 was a struggle because I had a growth spurt of maturity. That year woke me up to new possibilities and it allowed me to experience love like I never had felt it. It taught me about forgiveness, real friends, boundaries, and it taught me that it’s okay to make mistakes. I’m not perfect, never was! For once, I was able to surrender to God that illusion of being perfect for others. I mess up all the time without intending to do it, but little by little I am learning to forgive myself. Forget about strictly opinionated people who think they are living a righteous life! This is your journey and whatever happens is between you and God! Only God can judge you, and he loves you unconditionally. If you know how to put on love no matter your background then you know God because he is love. Love heals all things! It’s not a fable.

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

I look upon God in Jesus for strength when I am weak because if he completed his mission as a man, I can do it too! He felt pain, I do too. He was betrayed, I was too. He was challenged my mean-spirited people, I was and will be too. Yes, he is God, but he did it in a way that was achievable for me as well. He leads by example and when I followed his way, his love soothed my pain and strengthened me. Therefore, if you make a mistake, just restart again and again until you get it right!

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

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Look upon other sources of light in your journey because the sun isn’t the only one in the sky. For me, building that relationship God allowed me to find stability in my unstable world. Jesus was my source of light, but whatever it is that works for you to overcome depression, do it! Simply acknowledge that you are worthy of life because you make a difference in someone’s world. You are enough! Let that sink in.

Anti-Depressants

Dear you,

There is nothing wrong with taking medication to control symptoms of depression. It’s no different than taking a pill for high blood pressure or cough syrup for a fever. It is meant to control symptoms! No, physicians do not have a diabolical plan to sell you anti-depressants so you can become addicted to it. Tip: Don’t over think it! You are seeking help to feel better so trust that they are trying to help you.

Depression can really take the enjoyment in a lot of things because it makes everything really bland. Imagine a world where you cannot enjoy music, good company, or anything you use to enjoy. It was once like that for me, a very bland world where no matter how I tried to enjoy myself, I couldn’t. When I pushed myself to go out with friends, I wanted to cry out there, but I waited until I was alone to do it. I felt like a burden to my friends and family. Depression made me feel like a waste of life, but once I was on the right medication it gradually helped me. The truth is this, it was very difficult for me to start taking medication because I thought like everyone else that says, “you get addicted” and “it’s bad for you.” These are false assumptions.

You are actually in a controlled environment with a physician to help you find the antidepressant that works for you. In my experience, I took about three different medications and several months to find the right one that worked for me. In chronological order, the medications I tried in the past were Ciraplex, Sertraline, and Wellbutrin. I am currently taking Venlafaxine. Simply know that different medications work for different people, and people will experience different side effects. Tip: Don’t trust a non-professional’s opinion about it and don’t freak yourself out by researching side-effects on google. Talk to your doctor!

Your doctor should explain to you how the medication works, and together you both decide the long-term plan for recovery. For me, I needed a little extra assistance from a physiatrist because I was found to be very sensitive to the medication. Ciraplex made me dizzy and it slowed my motor skills. Sertraline gave an overwhelming rush of energy and mania, and it made me horny (I made stupid decisions with that one!). Wellbutrin made me very suicidal and emotional for the one week I consumed it. Venlafaxine took time to work, and I found no major side effects with it. If anything, I started to enjoy hanging out with friends and doing things again.

In the meantime, you are expected to make productive choices while on medication. Doctors will tell you that medication won’t fix all your problems. A successful recovery involves a mixture of medication and hard work, such as attending therapy groups, going to counselling, exercising, practicing self-care strategies, and hanging out with people (even when you don’t want to). From the beginning of my treatment, I was told that “What you put in is what you get out,” and this is the most accurate saying. Tip: Medication IS NOT a fix it all solution, you will need to give attention to areas of your life that need balance, such as social, career, family, or personal. Keep an open mind and do the things that make you feel better.

Please don’t mix your medication with alcohol or other drugs. I’ve done this, and it kept me knocked out for long periods of time. Sometimes I would sleep for 12 hours straight or longer, and it made it even harder to get out of bed. In a desperate move to retain my focus and concentration in school, I consumed Adderall while struggling with the side effects of my medication, and the result was not a pretty one. It heightened the degree of emotional pain I was experiencing at the time and it was almost unbearable, I was left gasping for air because it triggered a panic attack. I’ve only done it once in my life, but the point is this, don’t do it and save yourself the additional pain! Also, when you lose focus at school or at work, just persevere with the skill and energy levels that you currently have. You can always talk to your professor about your condition and ask for extra time to finish tasks. It never hurts to ask for help where you need it (It’s not the end of the world). Tip: be patient with yourself because recovery takes time, you won’t feel better overnight or instantly. Follow your doctor’s instructions and be firm with following the recovery plan to the best of your ability.