Psych Central

Our Love-Hate Relationship with Social Media

By Julie Fidler

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Ah, social media. I kind of hate you, but I can’t quit you.

Facebook is great for many things. I love keeping in touch with my family in California on a daily basis. I like seeing pictures of my friends and their kids (and their cats, and their dogs), and even their food, sometimes. It’s a good place to have deep, meaningful discussions and heated debates. It’s where I keep up with Amy Grant and find out what’s going on with the production of “24.”

But have you ever been un-friended by a family member, or sent someone a friend request who rejected it? Have you ever had a friend block you because of your political views? Not very pretty. Those Candy Crush invites make smoke pour out of my ears, too.

According to a recent study, social media is changing us, and not entirely for the better. For one thing, social media makes us braver. That can be a good thing, if it means raising money for a cause, standing up for the oppressed, or educating the public about an issue (mental illness, for example.)

Not everyone can handle the anonymity, however. It allows people a forum to be as obnoxious as they want to be with few repercussions, and most of the time, nobody will ever even know their name. I’ve experienced it on Twitter, and even on this blog. People do and say things online that they’d never be caught dead saying or doing in real life.

Social media has created the perfect environment for bullies. Bullies don’t just dump your milk on you in the middle school lunchroom anymore; they can follow you virtually anywhere. Take, for example, the case of Melody Hensley, a feminist atheist who claims she has been so harassed on Twitter that she has developed PTSD. Whether you like Melody Hensley and what she stands for is not important. It’s not even important whether or not you believe that Twitter bullying actually gave her PTSD. What’s scary about her tale is that so many people feel justified in treating another person like dirt because they don’t like that individual or their beliefs.

We have the option NOT to read someone’s posts. That doesn’t matter to some. It’s much more satisfying for them to attack someone than to simply ignore them. Unfortunately, online bullying is often more severe than “traditional” bullying, as well, because of the lack of repercussions and the lack of tattlers.

You’ve probably seen funny pictures of teenagers staring at their cell phones with a pithy caption that says something like “the zombie apocalypse has arrived.” Kids may not have devolved into mindless undead creatures just yet, but according to Lemoyne College professor of psychology Krystine Batcho, social media can stunt teenagers’ social skills if parents aren’t careful.

“The greater fear of what’s perhaps taking place is that kids are not learning how to behave in a face-to-face conversation,” Batcho explained. “What could be happening in cyberspace may not translate to real life. What you do you in cyberspace is quite different than what you do face-to-face and kids may be losing those important social skills.”

Social media has become a comfort zone for people who don’t do so well in the real world, and that goes for kids and adults alike. I have to watch myself in this area. Sometimes I have to sign out of all of my many social media accounts and go meet a living, breathing friend in a physical coffee shop with actual tables and chairs, for a cup of literal, hot, liquid coffee for my own mental health.

“The greater the social media use over time, the life satisfaction decreases,” Batcho asserted. “I think why we have conflicting evidence at the moment is because we have to analyze the dynamics taking place. So for one person, social media could be very beneficial, but for another it could have a very negative impact on them. You have to think about what is motivating the internet experiences people are having in the first place to predict whether they will benefit or not on the relationship.

The online world can help or hurt one’s spiritual life, too.
A few years ago, I led a Beth Moore study at my church and one of the things Moore spoke about in the accompanying video was how things like Twitter can blow our self-perspective, perspectives of others, and perspective of God into disarray. We follow other people on Twitter, and ask them to follow us. It’s not hard to see how easy it could be to get a big head as your list of followers increases. Celebrities have boosted and destroyed their careers on Twitter in 140 characters.

If the interwebs are dragging you down, take a vacation. The people you’re close to will still know how to reach you. If you own a pen, write someone a note instead. If you don’t own a pen, my husband has at least 300 of them. Pick up the phone. Or, you know…press the green “call” button. Ask someone to meet you for lunch.

If someone un-friends you on Facebook or stops following you on Twitter, keep your perspective. They either weren’t as valuable to you as you thought or hoped, or they’d simply prefer to communicate with you outside of social media for some reason.

If you can’t pull yourself away without panicking, get help. And if you’re being bullied, take some time off from the computer. It can be extremely difficult to stop online bullying. If you’re being threatened, tell the authorities. No one has the right to make you fear for your safety.

And no matter how much time you spend online, don’t forget to dig into God’s Word. It’s His love letter to you. It never changes, and it’s good to be reminded that if God is for you, no one can be against you.

Have a Happy Easter, and check out more of my ramblings at my brand spankin’ new personal blog!



Know Your Medications, Options, and Risks

By Julie Fidler

Interest's ConflictsCreative Commons License David Goehring via CompfightNo drug is risk-free. Know your stuff before you pop that pill.

On May 5, 2006, I realized that I was happy. I remember the date because May 5 is my birthday, and there is no greater birthday present than the feeling of true joy. Maybe cash? I digress…

Up until that point, I’d struggled to find a combination of medication that helped my bipolar disorder AND helped me sleep. Insomnia has been my worst enemy for as far back as I can remember, and a lack of sleep just makes mental illness worse. But as I stood in the sunshine under a cloudless sky on that unseasonably warm morning, watching my nephew’s Little League team struggle to get a hit (they were only 5), I realized that my medication was actually working. I also realized that I had never felt that good before, which is sort of sad, considering I was 27. That’s a lot of years of unhappiness.

My “wonder drug” is Seroquel. Though it took a while to pair it up with Lithium and eventually Effexor, I knew the Seroquel was helping almost immediately. Of course, it made me gain about 50 pounds.

Oh, and I went from being pre-diabetic to full-blown diabetic. And it wasn’t always easy staying awake…which is part of the reason I’m not self-employed.

I write for a large national law firm based in New York City. I’ve become somewhat of an expert on the FDA and drug manufacturers. Drugs are a Godsend, but there is a downside to everything. For example, many people don’t realize that a new drug doesn’t have to go through any studies or clinical trials to be approved by health officials. Using an expedited approval process known as 510(k), the FDA can approve a new drug as long as the manufacturer can prove that it is significantly similar to another product already on the market.

In other words, if the new drug has some awful flaw that could make your heart explode or your brain pop out of your eyes when you sneeze, you won’t know that until people start dying or filing lawsuits.

Basically, I write horror stories about drug makers who doctored data or withheld it from the public to make money, and about patients who died or suffered horrible health consequences because they took a defective drug. I’m not writing this to scare you. I simply want you to understand how important it is to be informed.

We go to our family doctors believing that our best interests are at the forefront of their minds. Usually, it is…but they want to make money as much as the drug companies do. I’ll give you an example. The insulin I take would cost upwards of $300 without insurance. With insurance (and yes I know I am blessed to have it), it costs $50. I found out this week that there is another kind of insulin on the market that works exactly the same way but is dirt cheap by comparison. It is actually CHEAPER to buy it without insurance, because it’s only $27.

Instead of being prescribed the cheaper product, I will have to ask for it by name the next time I go to the doctor, because they have too much to lose by just prescribing it to me on their own. I never would have known about it were it not for my job.

And there’s this: all legal & journalistic stuff aside, I was very sick before I starting taking these meds, but if I miss just one for any reason, I’m 10 times sicker. I am extremely diligent about taking my medication, but once in a great while I wind up missing one because I simply forgot to add it to my fistful of nightly drugs, or because I ran out and forgot that I was out of refills. One time I dropped half a bottle of Seroquel in the toilet by accident. Baby, once they hit the toilet, they’re gone. I don’t go fishing for them.

When I do miss a med, I feel like going to the ER and begging to be placed in a medically induced coma. The stomach cramps, the nausea, the brain zaps, the emotional train wreck, the aches and pains… I have asked myself on more than one occasion whether or not the pills are worth it. Some people worry about losing their jobs or not being able to put food on the table for their families, but my main worry is that someday I will not be able to get my meds for longer than one day.

Have you ever experienced a brain zap? I’m betting a lot of you have. Better yet, have you ever tried to describe it to someone else? It feels to me like someone put a plugged-in toaster in a bathtub full of water and every few seconds, he takes out my brain and dips it in the tub.

I try to picture my life without treatment. I’d either be a drug addict, living penniless in my parents’ basement, or suicide would have claimed me a long time ago. Still, sanity has a price tag. If not taking a pill for less than 24 hours can give you brain zaps, you have to wonder what these drugs are doing to your brain in the long term. Seroquel hasn’t been around long enough for us to know, and neither has Effexor.

If you need help, you need help. You go get it because you want to have a fulfilling and meaningful life. You want to contribute to the world and have your time here count for something. But take my advice, as one who writes about the very worst of mankind, do your homework. If it’s at all possible, research that drug your doctor just prescribed you before you pop it in your mouth. Will it interact with something else you’re taking? Can it worsen an underlying condition? Have thousands of people filed lawsuits over the harm this drug can do? Can I find another drug that works just as well but costs much less?

There is no shame in taking medication, but make sure you know what you’re taking, because these drugs carve new pathways in your brain, and it’s serious business. Your doctor might be a nice guy who goes to your church, but you’re not the only patient biding for his time, so go online and become a sleuth.

Stick up for yourself and ask questions. There is no shame in taking medication, and there is no shame in investigating beyond the papers that come stapled to your prescriptions. The doctor may be the one with all the fancy degrees, but it’s YOUR body he’s treating. A good doctor won’t mind you asking, and if doesn’t have the time to answer everything, he’ll point you in the right direction.

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I Didn’t Choose To Have A Mental Illness

By Julie Fidler

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I’ve dealt with depression from the time I was a child. It goes so far back that I can’t point to an age or a moment when I realized something was different about me; it has always been there.

As a child, I spent many nights sitting on the floor beside my bed, a cassette tape crackling on the stereo in the background, thinking about the vastness of the universe and how tiny and isolated the earth is (this was when Pluto was still a planet), and it depressed me so deeply that I didn’t want to live. I’m sure a lot of people have these disturbing thoughts sometime in their lives, but 10-year-olds should not be dwelling so much on the dark mysteries of the universe that they want to kill themselves.

It struck me. My brain got sick. I never asked it to.

When you have a mental illness, you eventually learn that there are certain things you can’t really do without making yourself feel worse. Watching sad movies depresses me. Skipping sleep sometimes makes me manic. My friends and family know this about me, and if I’m not doing well, they will usually ask me if I have “done anything differently lately.”

I think they’re good questions to ask, and I know that some mental health advocates believe that all of that is beside the point and that no one has a right to inquire about such things. I disagree. I think it’s important, especially if you’ve asked others to come alongside you and help keep you healthy.

But there’s a catch. These questions are only useful if the person asking them has at least a general understanding of mental illness.

Like most of you, I don’t NEED to watch a sad movie to become depressed, just like I don’t need to mess up my sleep schedule to become manic. Mental illness and addiction often go together, but they are not the same. We don’t get sick because we fall off the wagon. I don’t sit alone at night, fighting my temptation to be depressed. I don’t think to myself “OK I’ll just be depressed today. Just one more time. I don’t really NEED it, I just want one more taste of that sweet misery. Tomorrow I’ll be happy.”

I think this is how a lot of people view mental illness. We just need to pull it together, determine to be happy, and remember how important it is to be stable. Don’t give into the temptation to be unstable! Like there are two buttons on the alarm clock each morning, and if we hit the one on the right, we’ll be OK. If we hit the one on the left, we’ll be sick, and if we get sick, well…that was our choice.

One of our bodily organs is sick. It doesn’t ask us if today would be a convenient day to freak out. There is no falling off the wagon and then deciding to jump back in. So questions are a good thing in the right hands. They’re dangerous when they’re asked by someone who believes, no matter what you say, that you must have done something wrong to cause the predicament you’re in now, because nothing triggers depression like being second-guessed and doubted by people you love.

We need people to celebrate the good days with us, not quietly wait for the other shoe to drop, and we need people to believe the best about us, too. Would you ask someone to cough on you so you could catch the flu? Me, either. Why would we WANT to be mentally sick?

It seems so illogical to me, but… it’s frustrating how many people are simply clueless.

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Is Your Cat Making You Depressed?

By Julie Fidler

As I write this, my cat is bumping her head up against my leg and purring. That doesn’t make it any easier to write what I’m about to write.

Mommy loves you, baby. Forgive me.

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For those of you who think cats are the devil incarnate…let me add to your arsenal.
A new study has found an unusual link between cat bites and depression.
According to the study, published online at the journal PLOS ONE, Over the course of 10 years, 41 percent of people who presented at hospitals with cat bites were also treated for depression at some point. Women who have been bitten by a cat have a 50 percent greater chance of being diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives.

So I guess it’s just as you thought – cats’ eyes glow with pure evil.

The study notes that pet ownership has numerous benefits. It lowers blood pressure better than hypertension medication, for example. It also provides much-needed companionship. In my opinion, it also gives depressed people a reason to get up and do something when they’d rather retreat to the bedroom all day. The cat won’t feed itself, unless you have a rodent problem or leave the door to your parakeet’s cage open. He won’t clean his own litter box. Trust me on this, you do not want to neglect a litter box.

Researchers found that depressed people were more likely to own cats to begin with. I’d give you my personal opinion on why this is the case, but I never set out to be a cat person. I was always a dog person who didn’t understand how anyone could think a cat was cute, or why they’d want a pet that ignores them all the time. But then Molly showed up on my doorstep 5-1/2 years ago, just a fluffy little kitten, and she stole my heart. I can’t imagine life without her, yet I never would have adopted her if I’d seen her at Pet Smart.

The real link here, though, is between cat bites and depression. Supposedly cats have some of the dirtiest mouths in the animal kingdom, and it’s no surprise why. Outdoor cats spend their days killing and eating other animals, and unlike dogs, who are happy to spend a week covered in grass clippings and bird droppings, cats are constantly cleaning themselves. My cat is an indoor cat, but she walks around in her litter box and licks the crud off her feet.

Delicious.

Cats carry a parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii. It makes sense that a good bite from Kitty could wind up making you sick.

“Infections from the parasite have been associated with self-inflicted violence as well as increased suicide rates in women. It has also been suggested that the inflammatory cytokines released during a T. gondii infection in the brain may be the cause of depression in some patients,” according to researchers.

I must admit, it’s hard for me to grasp all of this, because my cat has never bitten me hard enough to draw blood – not even when she was a playful kitten with razor sharp teeth. Molly is basically a marshmallow with eyes and teeth. I do get the occasional scratch when I’m dumb enough to use my hand to play with her instead of her laser pointer (known around here as “playing ‘Dot’”) and maybe those scratches can cause or worsen depression, too. There is such a thing as Cat Scratch Disease, not to be confused with “Cat Scratch Fever,” the raunchy song made popular by Ted Nugent.

So here are a few tips from a cat owner with depression. I apologize if this sounds like plain old common sense, but we do live in a world where the instructions on the hairdryer box warns not to use it while sitting in a bathtub full of water:
-Don’t let your cat lick you on the mouth.
-Don’t play rough with your cat using your hands.
-Change out the litter in the litter box often.
-If your cat bites you a lot and you can’t get him to stop, Jackson Galaxy may be able to help you. Seriously. That’s not normal.
-Don’t ever break up a cat fight with your hands. Get a squirt bottle and fill it with water. I may get flack from animal lovers on this one, but it’s better than going to the ER.

In light of all this terrible information regarding vicious domesticated little lions, believe it or not I also have this piece of advice for you: adopt a pet. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cat, a dog, a hamster, whatever. Having a buddy around the house means never being alone, and it gives you a sense of meaning and responsibility that, let’s face it, houseplants just don’t come with. Love on something else and it will be easier to love yourself.

Just keep antibacterial soap in the bathroom at all times.

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Depressed? Be Compassionate Toward Yourself

By Julie Fidler

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There’s a fine line between prioritizing personal space and becoming a hermit. I seem to toe the line all the time. I can say with great certainty that I think life would be easier if I could just hole up in my apartment and ignore the rest of the world.

Ah, but that’s just depression talking. ‘Tis the season. I don’t know where you live, but here in Pennsylvania, we haven’t seen green grass…shoot, no grass at all…since just after Christmas. So even if I felt emotionally up to going out, icy roads, bitter winds, and snow up to my chin would have kept me from wandering far.

Sometimes the weather makes life more stressful than it needs to be, so we curl up under a blanket and shut out the world for a while. Sometimes other people make life more stressful than it needs to be, too. I don’t know how you deal with it, but I I’m learning to react much the same way as I do to blizzards, and downpours, and the razor sharp wind chills: avoidance.

I know we usually think of avoidance as a bad thing, but not in this case. When the local government says to stay off the roads, you avoid the roads. (Unless you’re one of those people who will risk life and limb for a Snickers bar.)

Depression messes with my judgment – much more so than mania. If I had a million dollars, I could probably do a lot more damage in my manic states, but the opportunity just isn’t there. With depression, though, I take minor things far too seriously, hurtful words cut deeper, it’s easier to hold onto anger, and it seems impossible to hand over bitterness to God. I guess that’s what depression is – a hyper-inflation of all the bad stuff.

Well, I decided to take a little time off from what was eating at me. I decided to back away from the things that were making me sicker. Man, I felt some serious guilt about that, too, but here’s how I look at it: if I had the flu, I’d take a couple of days off work to get better. That’s what I did, for the sake of my own heart and sanity.

I don’t mean you should shut out everybody and everything in your life. Please don’t take my comments about being a hermit too literally. But if something is making you sicker, kiss it good-bye, and if that’s not possible, at least shelf it for a while.

I can’t escape the fact that as a freelance writer, I’m always having to look for work. I can’t pretend that my parents aren’t elderly and need more help, but some things aren’t my problem and they’re not worth getting sicker over. Bitter, spiteful in-laws arguing over money, for example. I shelved it. Possibly forever, but definitely for now. My life is 100 times less stressful because of it, and less stress means less depression.

Of course, this is just one example, but let me tell you… if you can’t do anything about a situation, and all it’s doing is making you miserable, then you don’t need it. Protect yourself. I felt guilty about dismissing the issues with my in-laws because, geez, it’s family! Until I realized… no one is acting like family. It’s a broken bunch. And you can’t even think about putting a puzzle together if everyone is hoarding the pieces and arguing over where they go.

SHELVED. IT.

Just because you get space from a person or a situation, that doesn’t mean you have to stop caring, and don’t let anyone guilt you into thinking otherwise. You can love the relative you need a break from. You can still be friends with the pal who drags you into her drama too much. If depression is keeping you from setting a clear boundary, then take a break until you can set one.

Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

If it’s bad for you and it’s avoidable, friends, avoid it. You wouldn’t run a marathon with a bad case of pneumonia, right? Don’t tackle the non-necessities of life until you’re brain is in a state where it can do so.

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Sinead O’Connor and How NOT to Prove You’re Emotionally Stable

By Julie Fidler

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It was a twerking working weekend for me, but I did get to catch up on a Miley Cyrus’ Saturday Night Live appearance, and Sinead O’Connor’s not-so-motherly advice to the former Disney star.

The two have been haggling back and forth like middle school girls in love with the same boy. Here is a link, but proceed with caution because Sinead’s favorite word starts with an “F.” To summarize, Sinead wrote an open letter to Miley warning her of the pitfalls of the music industry. She advised her not to let the industry use her body for profit. Had it not contained multiple F-bombs, it might have been a decent letter. Certainly her advice was spot-on, and no one would know better than someone who has been there and done that.

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Triggers

By Julie Fidler

As I write this, I’ve got a lot on my plate.
A husband facing a health crisis.
Financial struggles.
A book project I can’t seem to dream into existence.

I don’t know how it is for you, but around here life is a delicate balancing act between trusting God and throwing something really big and heavy through the TV. That’s about as encouraging as I can be today.

What worries me, even more than the problems I face, is the sense that I am always this close to going through a bipolar cycle. It won’t be the health crisis, the financial struggles, or the professional frustration that gets me. It will be the combination of all of them combined. I’m sure you’ve felt like life was piling up and you’re one more memo from your boss or one more car problem away from breaking. Everyone, whether healthy or mentally ill, knows what that’s like. It’s just that it’s more catastrophic for some of us than others.

Any type of life change, no matter how big or how small, can trigger an episode of bipolar disorder, depression, and other mental health issues. For some people, all it takes is an argument or the change in seasons.

All my life, my mother told me that God would never give me more than I could handle. Now I know that’s not true. Relevant Magazine just published an article on this very topic. In the piece, author Michael Hidalgo points out that not only did God notpromise to give us more than we can bear, there are plenty of examples of overwhelmed souls in the Bible – Jesus included.

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38). Jesus told His father, “This is too much for me!” We see this kind of thing in the Psalms, too. The Psalmists ball their fists in rage, and shout at God, “Why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22) In their sadness they say, “darkness is my closest friend” (Psalm 88).

So I go into this period of my life not expecting God to lift me up and over the pain. Even the best psychiatric medication in the world can’t do that. I can only expect that God will be present as I wade through the poop of life, and that I won’t fall any further than He can catch me. I used to believe this meant that people like you and I were just destined to suffer mercilessly, and that maybe God just had it out for some of us. I’m not so sure about this anymore. Who appreciates health more than the sick? Who appreciates rest more than the worn and weary? Gold isn’t gold until it goes through the fire.

Isn’t it interesting how shocked and broken we are when we get a swift kick in the pants from reality? Trouble just blows our minds even though we know we can’t avoid it forever. Death shakes us to the core even though we know nobody gets out of life alive.

We just have to reset our expectations. Don’t expect the worst – life isn’t worth living without hope! We have to start expecting that the inevitable will come, but that God will point the way and be there, and we will somehow come out refined, even if it’s subtle and not immediately physically visible. We have to take measures to prevent a crash, while remembering that we are sick.

We can’t always turn away the storm, but He’ll ride out the storm with us. The Great Healer, the Creator of these brains of ours… sees the rain even before the first drop lands on our hearts.

 

 

 



Which Matters More: Brain or Body?

By Julie Fidler

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By day, I write for a large law firm that deals primarily with personal injury litigation. These aren’t the small, ridiculous cases you hear Stephen Colbert making fun of on The Colbert Report, these are huge cases that often involve injuries, illnesses, and deaths caused by medications. I never cease to be amazed at the way pharmaceutical companies will put millions of lives at risk to earn a profit. I’ve come to the conclusion that none of them are immune.

It burns a little to have to write so much about anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medication. Thank you, Lord, that I wasn’t one of the teenagers who became increasingly suicidal when I was prescribed Paxil and then Zoloft nearly 20 years ago. It’s heart-wrenching to think about the countless families who lost an demented elderly relative to a death hastened by anti-psychotic medications used to keep their behaviors under control. I think about the many people who became diabetic after taking Seroquel to hush a mind full of racing thoughts that refused to calm itself naturally. People like me.

Even though these drugs come with harsh side effects, and, yes, drug manufacturers sometimes lie about the (lack of) safety and efficacy of their products, there is no denying that some of these drugs are lifelines for many people. After all, it was Seroquel that seemed to put the kibosh on my rage-a-holic tendencies.

It’s just sad that so many of us face a terrible choice: Do I want good physicalhealth, or good mental health?

If I could go back to 2006, I’m not convinced I’d trade in Seroquel for a working pancreas. A lot of people don’t understand why I say that, but that’s because they’ve never been stuck in the hamster wheel of Bipolar Disorder. It’s harder to appreciate peace if you haven’t lived most of your life in an emotional war zone that comes complete with the torture of sleep deprivation.

After spending a good bit of the summer hiking, however, I’ve started to wonder about these drugs that I take…I wonder if there really is a natural route, and whether I should try it.
Have you ever spent an hour or two in the woods? It’s the best anti-depressant drug I know. The beach works, too.
Could I combine the beauty and serenity of a creek in the woods with some sort of herb or supplement and be just fine?

I’m dying to find out, but I’m scared to try. I don’t have the time to crash and burn if it doesn’t work.
But I’d like to be able to dump these chemicals down the toilet, stop spending the money on them, and stop lining the pockets of the evil companies that will do anything for a buck.

 



Back to Reality

By Julie Fidler

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I’ve been away for a long time, some of you might have noticed. Gone and somewhat in hiding.

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Talking Faith and Mental Illness: Suicide

By Julie Fidler

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Blogger and former psychiatrist Adrian Warnock is hosting a “broad conversation about faith and mental illness” and last week I responded to his question about the way my own faith community has historically viewed mental illness, and how my own faith shapes my views of it. This week Warnock touches on the very sensitive subject of suicide.

Research suggests that religious faith protects against suicide. Why do you think that is in light of how your community responds to suicide? How can we tread the fine line of discouraging suicide while not making the grief of family members worse?

In my 20+ years as a believer, I have found it very difficult to nail down what Christians truly believe about salvation, let alone suicide. There are Christians who believe in “once saved always saved” theology – there is nothing you can do to lose your salvation, short of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, and even fewer Christians seem to know what that means. There is another set of Christians who believe that if you renounce your faith and walk away from God, you absolutely can lose your faith. I can only assume that ending your life – which, if you believe in Christ, is no longer yours but His – would fit into the category of renouncing your faith and walking away from God to this particular group of Christians.

I don’t believe religious faith protects against suicide in every case. Certainly, for many it does. But mental illness isn’t really about faith, and that’s why this conversation is happening and why this blog exists in the first place. Wow, don’t you wish you could just believe yourself out of faulty brain? Lots of people seem to think you can – ha, if only!

My official stance on this issue is simple: I’d rather not find out. But God knows the difference between someone who just decides to abandon Truth and someone who is truly afflicted with mental illness and can’t choose.

Here in Christian America, we love telling people that God has a “wonderful purpose” for their lives.
We gloss over the parts of the Bible where it says, “Things on earth are going to be really crappy. Hang in there.” It’s easier to witness to people that way. People want to hear how wonderful things are going to be. It’s harder to win souls by saying, “You will be miserable sometimes, and God doesn’t always seem to answer prayer, but He loves you so much.” So we highlight the balloons and rainbows and pretend everything is great, until reality happens. Then we struggle with a good answer because we insisted on giving a bogus one at the beginning.

On my deepest, darkest days I have never wanted a slap on the back and a promise that God has great things for me.
I want acknowledgement that things suck. I want someone to admit they don’t have the answers to my questions. It doesn’t make life seem hopeless to me, it makes it seem tangible. It lets me know that I am not alone and that I am not the only person who is not pooping Skittles right now. I want to hear “I love you” and I want someone to sit with me in the quiet. Paint a picture for me of how lives would change for the worse if I took my own. Make me laugh. Read the Word to me. God never promised an easy life, but there are so many beautiful promises in that book. Remind me of them.

That’s how you discourage suicide AND comfort a grieving family.
And you tell those people that God knows… God knows a broken mind and a troubled heart, and His grace is big enough to cover and forgive both.

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