Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Another New Year - More Struggles mixed with Hope

It's been a year since my last post.  My wife is still struggling with the memories from her childhood but continuing to make progress.  She's taking some college courses now with hope for getting back into the work force in an area that interests her - using Sign Language with her counseling and other skills to aid the deaf community.

This year has been one of increased physical hardships for her - with adjustments to medications causing increased ringing in the ears (tinitis).  Visual migraines and fibromyalgia pains increased as well, but a massaging chair for Christmas has helped with the muscle pain.

How many people deal with chronic illness along with mental health struggles?  Probably more than anyone would want to think about.  We believe that she has an important story to tell and can help others going through the same types of combined struggles, but it's hard for her to get healthy enough to step out and start touching other lives.

It's now been about 17 years since I stepped out of full time ministry back into computers, and then directed my spare time focus to being there for the kids and family and not going out from home much.  I started moving out leading evangelistic outreaches for my church, but then we had to move when my job came to an end.  Been a couple of years now trying to start getting out once more to touch lives outside of my own family.  We'll see what this year holds as I move along in my second 1/2 century after turning 50 a year ago.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

A New Year - Hope for New Freedoms

It's time for the start of another calendar year. The past year has seen a move from New Jersey back to southeast Virginia in February, loss of my job in July, a new job in September. Nothing very unusual compared to at least 20% of U.S. population I believe, except for finding another job in the same field within a little more than a month. I thank God for His provision.

We are believing that my wife will be able to make significant progress in working through the memories and affects of the childhood abuse that caused the PTSD that is plaguing her now. Trying to get through this without starting on more psych meds, since they can tend to numb the emotions and cause the memories to hide themselves and delay the healing process.

Right now she struggles on the two days each week when she has counseling sessions, as these days generally include processing of more memories from the past abuse. Hoping that this process will enable her to put the past behind her and move on.

Do churches understand that these problems really exist for Christians? Not so sure. She is wanting to do some research in this area to see how today's churches can be taught about the realities of mental health issues and how to relate to people who are dealing with them. So many church attendees are currently taking psychiatric meds, but afraid to admit it, or that they are struggling emotionally.

There needs to be an awareness of the on-going empathy that is needed by people struggling with long-term mental illness. We are hoping to be able to start researching mental illness in the church and how churches can be better equipped to respond to it in those who attend churches. This year is a year to start giving out from what we have received.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Year Later - PTSD and Hope

Coming off of all the psych meds was not a final solution for my wife, but it gave her a new chance to find the true source of her struggles for so many years. Once she was off of all of the meds, she could finally feel the true feelings and intense confusion resulting from childhood sexual abuse. She is now still working through the process of coming to terms with what happened and the "normal" cycle of recovery from PTSD. It's been over a year since all the meds were gone. Still got a way to go in therapy, but she has hope and knows the main source of her struggles now, giving her a path to follow for freedom.

If you are a Christian and are suffering emotionally/mentally, take heart. Although most people in the church have no clue what to do or how to relate to someone with severe mental illness or problems, God has more than a clue, and He can direct you to the right path. Just want everyone to be careful about what and how many medications you are put on. Please read earlier posts on this topic. We are not against meds, just for full knowledge of what they are intended for and how long someone should stay on them.

God bless all of you who are suffering with mental health issues as a Christian. You are far from alone. You are in the company of a very large number of people, probably even in your own church. My wife and I are hoping to be able to provide resources to churches in coming years to help them to understand and better assist those who struggle with mental health and with psych meds in the church. See earlier posts for some places online to go for support.

Monday, November 24, 2008

On to the Next Journey

So my wife is now completely off of all psychiatric medications after 4 years of weaning and tapering. Starting with 8 different meds, now she is free to face the monsters from her past without wondering whether the various moods and physical symptoms she experiences are induced by drugs or by the traumas of her past.

We are now going through the crisis stage of memories flooding back into her conscious mind from a childhood of hidden abuse from men outside the family that could never be spoken of until now. It's a terrible thing to experience, and could require returning to some kind of medication or additional supplements, but for now we are trying to work through it without the meds.

Please read earlier posts to get an idea how much we've been through just handling drug side effects and withdrawals from these prescribed medications, without touching the underlying causes for her to seek help in the first place. And all this is happening to someone who is a strong Christian.

Are you a Christian wondering whether you should admit that you are struggling emotionally? The amazing fact we've found is that there is a huge number of people in church who are on psychiatric medications, but just don't talk about it, and many people with severe mental health problems, again with noone knowing what to do.

The Church needs training in mental health, not just biblical counseling, so understand how to help someone through sometimes long and very difficult periods of recovery from past traumas or chemical imbalances that make life incredibly difficult. Giving some like this Bible quote or a Joel Osteen book is not going to get them through the week. They need true caring people around them who can cry with them at times and encourage them to see the light only when they are ready.

For a good resource in this area, check out http://www.committedtofreedom.org/. I have a Yahoo group for those supporting people with mental illness. We are incredibly neglected in this whole process. See the link and feel free to join. Also, please check out my other blog regarding the supporter's side of the picture of mental health

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Monday, June 05, 2006

Where is the Support?

I'm still looking for a way to get with others going through what I am - supporting someone in my family who has been dealing with mental illness. I've tried starting a Yahoo support group, with no takers. I've tried 2 blogs, but have found there are so many blogs out there now that not many people see any one blog.

I wish I could start something outside the home, but the nature of the problem is that I'm always needed at home when I'm not working. I have very rarely been able to leave the home on my own without the kids apart from going to work, knowing that the nanny is there to help with the kids.

The support side of this illness can be incredibly draining. I'm just blessed that I have been able to rely on the grace of God and the gift of patience that He gave me. I don't know how others do it. My wife tells me many husbands (described in her support groups) just tell their wives to get over it and go on with their lives while the wife suffers. For me, I know that God has a special purpose for both her and me together, and that my life will not be fulfilled until we are both doing all that God intended for us to do.

It's been hard for me to encourage her sometimes, when I'm not doing any of the things I would like to be doing myself, but I just hold on to the belief that with decades still ahead of us, a good portion of time is still left in the future that we can truly enjoy.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Is My Life Worthwhile?

Do you ever ask yourself if what you've been doing for the past 5 years has really been worth anything? I have made a number of choices to postpone what I felt were important "callings" on my life over the past 8 to 10 years in order to be there for my wife when she has been going through depression, anxiety, etc. She is now coming out of it all (hopefully she'll be mostly recovered this year), but what if that were not the case? A psychiatrist said years ago that she might need to be on some pretty heavy-duty psychiatric meds for the rest of her life! I didn't buy that at the time, but had to consider the possibility.

I love my wife and have committed my life to her and the kids above anything else. When I met her and there were none of these problems present, I was looking to become a pastor, and I told her that I believed that a pastor's first duty is to God, then his family and then to the congregation. Of course I need to provide for the family, but have always managed to come up with a work situation that may be very demanding, but also has some flexibility so that family needs can be addressed.

The main thing I'm getting at here is that God requires only that we be obedient to Him, not that we each find a way to save the world and go off to accomplish it ourselves. He makes the "save the world" plans and our part is just to do what He tells us. In my case He has told me to take care of my wife until she can get well, and then see what He wants to do next. On that basis I have believed that she would get well some time before I die, giving me sufficient additional time to do whatever else He really thinks is important after that.

Some would just divorce her and move on, or just go on with his "vision"and tell her to get her act together, leaving her to find other family or friends to lean on. I can't see that, especially for those called to be church leaders, because Jesus described the church as his bride, and told us that husbands should love their brides as Christ loved the Church.

If I were to divorce my wife (never been a consideration for me) in order to move on with my ministry, I'm demonstrating through my marriage that Christ doesn't really think the Church is all that hot, and He can move on and find someone else if he doesn't like what He finds here. Why should I attend a Church where the main example of how Christ loves his bride is a pastor who chose ministry over his bride. It's always easier in my experience for a man to get wrapped up in work than to find ways to meet needs at home and let work take a back seat, even when the work is not that essential.

I know that God has very special plans for me, my wife, and my family. I could describe plenty of reasons for that, but the bottom line is that His plans are His plans, and I can't improve on them if He has told me to take care of my wife and family foremost for now and worry about greater ministry opportunities later. I've had about 10 years in the wilderness so far. If I can get away with that instead of the 80 years that Moses had (40 after fleeing Egypt and 40 in the Exodus), I'm better off than he was.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Almost Off This Medication! No - Wait...

My wife is almost off of the Geodon medication that she's been taking for years. Now she's down from 160 mg per day a year ago to 16 mg a day. Unfortunately, the withdrawal symptoms just kicked in overtime and she has had to increase back to 24 mg just to get through the day for a while before starting to reduce again.

Geodon is known to reduce agitation. The problem is that where there was no agitation before, when trying to go off Geodon, the symptoms it is designed to treat, even if they were not there before, exhibit themselves big time! We've been finding that this is often true of psychiatric drugs. If a psych drug is taken for a while, symptoms that it treats, but that were not actually there when starting the drug, start to show up if you later try to get off the drug. The drug takes the place of the body's natural ability to function in those areas, and it can take a long time for the brain to reset to do what it's supposed to by itself again.

We're still pressing on to get her off of Geodon altogether. The final drug will then be the Klonopin (anti-anxiety). All-in-all it will have been about a 2 year process to gradually work off of all psychiatric meds after she began to feel better and wanted to replace them with natural alternatives. Wish us well.

Any spouses or supporters of someone who is struggling with mental illness or extreme emotional turmoil, please see the link for the "Supporters of Mentally Ill" yahoo group.