Archive of ‘Psychological Disorders’ category

My 21st Birthday & Why I Don’t Drink

Chiva-ing with Friends

Chiva-ing with Friends

I am 21! Woohoo!

The past few days have been really fun. My friends threw me a Frozen-themed surprise party on Thursday, order I went out for Japanese food Friday night, viagra and then on my birthday I had cake with my host family (for breakfast) and then went out on a Chiva (an open-air party bus) that night.

Turning 21 in Ecuador is kind of anticlimactic because 21 doesn’t mean anything here (as the drinking age is 18). But, sickness let’s be real, it would be pretty anticlimactic in the States, too, since I don’t drink. Throughout the past two semesters of study abroad, I have gotten the chance to share with some people why I don’t drink, and I thought this was a good opportunity to share with all of you! I made the decision that I was not going to ever drink alcohol when I was 18, before I left for college. But I haven’t actually shared why with a lot of the people in my life. So here we go!

I’ve shared quite a bit on this blog about my long-term struggle with disordered eating and an eating disorder, as well as my journey with depression. The past several years of my life have been a difficult, beautiful, miraculous, painful, and blessed fight to live in freedom and be filled with the joy of the Lord. In many ways I am so thankful for this battle because it’s taught me who I am and shown me the strength and love of God. I am living a freedom-filled, redeemed life and it still amazes me every day.

However, because of my life experiences, my genetics, and by virtue of living in a fallen world, I know that I have a propensity towards depression and anxiety and using unhealthy coping methods to deal with these really hard disorders. Do you know what disorders are most commonly co-morbid (happen alongside of) alcohol and substance abuse? Depression, anxiety, and eating disorders (binge eating and binge drinking are really two sides of the same coin). I am so thankful for my recovery story and everything the Lord revealed to me during that time, but I am not at all interested in having to battle with and recover from another disorder. I think there’s a reasonable chance that if I drank alcohol, I would eventually struggle with alcoholism.

I love what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians:

“Everything is permissible for me”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”–but I will not be mastered by anything. 

Here’s the thing: I believe alcohol is permissible for me (and all followers of Jesus). In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to find out that Jesus is a bit of a wine aficionado, since the water he turned into wine seemed to be pretty rockin’. But that doesn’t mean that it’s beneficial for me. And I do not want to be mastered by anything.

Galatians 5:1 says:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yolk of slavery.

I don’t want to be burdened by a yolk of slavery. God and I decided together that I would not drink alcohol, even after turning 21. This is not a decision I’ve made out of fear, rather it’s a decision I’ve made out of my love for the life God has given me and out of respect for my own body.

There’s always some difficulty when we make decisions that are different from the norm. I honestly have no interest in drinking alcohol–it just does not appeal to me and I truly believe that’s a result of the Holy Spirit working in me to make life easier for me. What is hard, and I’m sure this will get harder as I move back to the States as a 21 year old, is feeling like I’m missing out when I’m with my friends who are drinking. Or encountering people who feel judged by me because they are drinking. Or people who think that I’m a really boring person because I don’t drink. However, living the freedom-filled life God calls me to is worth it, especially because I know at my core that His opinion of me is the only one the truly matters.

Often when we speak of freedom, we mean that we can do anything we want. However, I submit to you that many of the things we do in our freedom actually make us slaves. Just because you have the freedom to drink does not mean that drinking keeps you in freedom. This is true for both Christians and non Christians.

Nothing is impossible with God. I love this from Francis Chan: Something is wrong when our lives make sense to nonbelievers. I think that’s largely true. There’s a lot of things in my life, and not just with alcohol, that don’t make sense to those who don’t know Jesus. And it makes complete sense that it doesn’t make sense! God calls us to live our lives in ways that don’t necessarily seem practical or in line with the norm. And the more confident you are with your identity in Christ, the easier it will be to follow him and be obedient to what he’s called you to.

In conclusion:

~I have made the decision to not drink alcohol at all, ever. Sooo close friends and family you should probably just accept that now ;)

~I am not judging you if you drink. I do not feel uncomfortable if you drink around me. Last semester I would go out to clubs quite a bit with my friends. Yesterday I spent my birthday night on a Chiva with lots of alcohol. It doesn’t bother me, as long as you’re respectful of me!

~I believe that Christians are completely permitted to drink alcohol, although I challenge you to make sure you’re doing it in a way that honors God.

~It is completely possible to not drink alcohol if that’s what the Lord is speaking to you.

I’m really excited to see what 21 brings! I’ve received some promises from the Lord that I’m so excited about! And thank you so much for everyone who made my birthday special. It’s hard to have a birthday abroad, but it was a good one :)

What Recovery Looks Like

In my first ever post on this blog I shared that God told me that 2013 would be the year I recovered from my long-term eating disorder. And it was. This is an update on my recovery journey, ask two years after I received that promise. 2014 ushered in a year of solid, glorious recovery. I’m living a life I never thought was possible and it just keeps getting better year by year!

I’ve learned that recovery truly is a process. In 2013, I had a lot of bad days, days where I felt like my eating disorder was controlling my life. But I was able to stop all my eating disorder behaviors and then slowly my depression started fading away and my self esteem improved and I entered 2014 with so much more confidence and actually loving my body for the first time!

In 2014 I found a continual increase of good days. Days filled with glorious freedom, days where my mind was able to fully focus on the present, on my day to day life and my relationship with my friends, family, and God. I would find myself during rare, quiet moments realizing that I hadn’t even struggled remotely with my eating disorder in a long time. My eating disorder is becoming more and more removed from me, fading into my past, becoming more like the memory of a nightmare that almost doesn’t feel real to me anymore.

If you had told me that this sort of recovery were possible for me while I was in treatment or even during my first semester of college, I wouldn’t have believed you. And yet here I am.

I’ve learned a lot about recovery and have been so surprised by the faithfulness of God. And when I say the faithfulness of God, I really mean it. I think back on the life I was living, completely miserable and distanced from my friends and family, hating myself and convinced that God didn’t love me, and I’m left feeling astounded and thankful because I know none of it would have been possible without God’s never-ending pursuit of me.

My recovery means that I’m living a joyful life. It’s not all happy rainbows, it’s not perfect, but it is marked by joy, a hope and excitement for each new day.

My recovery means that I understand that food is necessary for my health and survival, but also that it can be eaten simply to be enjoyed.

My recovery means that I can go clothes shopping and not be bothered that I can’t fit into the sizes I used to wear. It means I can wear a bathing suit and feel pretty darn good about myself.

I love my tattoo for so many reasons – it reminds me of God’s promise and faithfulness to me and it also embodies all the things I’ve learned about recovery – it’s continuous, it doesn’t move on a straight line. He is making everything new. He’s doing a new thing. And if it’s possible for my life, it’s possible for yours.

What Recovery Looks Like | He is Making Everything New

Recovery is a process and I’m learning what its twists and turns looks like. I am looking forward to the day that I realize that I haven’t thought of my eating disorder for years. I know that day is ahead of me and I am ready for it!

Be Kind for Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle

Be Kind--He is Making Everything NewA year ago today one of my high school classmates took his life.

I didn’t know him incredibly well–we had classes together all throughout high school but we weren’t in the same friend group.

The thing I most remember about him is that he was always making people laugh. He was really funny–voted most humorous in our senior class.

If you had asked me what I thought about him in high school I would have said he was goofy and didn’t take anything seriously.

I think that’s why hearing that he had committed suicide was not only incredibly sad but was also shocking. I had written him off as this silly guy without realizing that he was facing a very real fight.

He wasn’t funny because he was incapable of being serious or facing the dark parts of life. He was funny despite his battle because he desired to bring joy and light into other people’s lives.

His suicide was a wake-up call for me to extend more grace and more kindness to those around me because the reality is that we never know the extent of the battle they’re facing.

So today I think about my classmate and the many lives he touched and I pray that his memory continues to bring light to people even though he is gone.

If you are struggling, visit web please know that you’re not alone, thumb even if you feel profoundly lonely. Calling the Suicide Prevention Lifeline Number can be a good first step: 1-800-273-8255

Should Christians take Antidepressants?

I’ve written quite a few posts about psychological disorders on this blog but I have yet to talk about taking psychopharmaceuticals. Taking drugs like antidepressants seems to carry a stigma in general, anemia but especially in the Christian community. I think this is partly due to a lot of confusion about mental illness in general so in this post I want to try to demystify depression and anxiety and the medications that can be used to treat these disorders.

My first semester of my freshmen year in college I was struggling. I had just ended my way-too-rushed time at an eating disorder treatment program (just ended as in the day before I left for college), skincare I had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, and was experiencing intense, almost constant anxiety. It was also the semester I took Abnormal Psychology, a class that was all about the causes, treatments, and methods to diagnose psychological disorders. At times, the class was really difficult for me, not just academically but also emotionally. The day the professor lectured about anxiety disorders was really triggering for me and I was sitting in my chair tensely thinking, “I’m not going to make it.” But you know what? I did make it through that class and all the others that semester and it’s still one of my favorite college courses I’ve taken (that’s how you know you’re in the right academic field). In Abnormal Psych I learned a lot about a ton of mental disorders but I found that learning specifically about the neurological underpinnings of depression and anxiety disorders and how medications that treat these disorders work gave me a lot of clarity when it came to my own struggles. I’m going to share my super simplistic understanding of the things I learned in my Abnormal Psych class with the hope that it will be helpful for you, too!

There are neurological, psychological, and social factors that contribute to all psychological disorders. These include things like stressful family situations or life events (social factor), a tendency to focus on negativity or a heightened vigilance to threats in the environment (psychological), or abnormal brain areas, genetic influence, and an imbalance of neurotransmitters (neurological). All three of these factors interact together to lead to these psychological disorders. I feel like the social and psychological factors are more self-explanatory and easy to understand so this post focuses on the neurological causes and treatments.

Forgive me, this is going to be so simplified but my goal is to give you a small sense of what’s happening in the brain of a depressed or anxious person, not to enable to you pass a neuroscience class!

Here is a synapse:

synapse

Source: Scienceblogs.com

Let’s pretend this is a serotonin synapse, meaning that this synapse is in charge of releasing the chemical serotonin to the receptor. Serotonin is a chemical that does a large variety of things for our bodies, including regulating mood, appetite, and sleep. Can you see why serotonin irregularities might have something to do with depression which is marked by symptoms such as depressed mood, low or increased appetite, and insomnia/sleeping all day? There are multiple neurotransmitters that are implicated in depression, including dopamine, but regulating those chemicals has not proven to be very effective in the treatment of depression. Serotonin irregularities are also found in anxiety disorders, which is why the same or very similar medication is used in the treatment of both anxiety and depressive disorders.

The most common drugs that are now used for the treatment of depression and anxiety are called SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors). How these work is that they slow down the reuptake of serotonin released from the synapse. In the diagram, do you see the little black dots labeled “neurotransmitter?” The serotonin is released from the synapse into the synaptic gap (the space between the synapse and the receptor) and then the receptor takes up that serotonin. SSRIs stop/slow the reabsorption of serotonin by the receptor meaning that the serotonin is floating around your system for a longer time, changing the balance of serotonin in your body, which helps lessen depression and anxiety. As said above, the same drugs are often prescribed for both anxiety and depression, with smaller doses prescribed for anxiety.

There are a lot of different categories of drugs used to treat anxiety and depression including SNRIs, TCAs, and MAOIs for depression and SNRIs and benzodiazepines for anxiety (there are a wide variety of anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and OCD which may require different medications). But all of these medications target different biological irregularities that influence depression and anxiety.

Why is all of this information important? Because I think many of us have this view of antidepressants as mysterious and possibly dangerous drugs that will alter who we are. And while changing our brain chemistry is no insignificant thing, I would submit to you that taking an SSRI for depression is not so different from taking Advil for a headache or Claratin for allergies or chemo drugs for cancer.

“But shouldn’t we trust that God will heal us of depression? Why should we take medications? Aren’t psychological disorders sin that should be dealt with like all other sin?”

My response would be this: Psychological disorders are NOT sin. If you are struggling with a psychological disorder, it is NOT your fault, it is NOT your choice, and it is NOT your sin. It is partly caused by very real things happening in your body. Do I believe God can heal us of depression? YES! Because I’ve seen him do it in my life. But who are we to say that God doesn’t want to use SSRIs and therapists to help us heal?

My story: Let’s go back to my first semester in college. Two of my therapists felt that I would be an excellent candidate for SSRIs and recommended that I try them. I had been struggling with depression for a long time at this point and hadn’t gone on an antidepressant because the thought of gave me such anxiety. It was learning about the neurology of depression and SSRIs that convinced me that taking antidepressants wasn’t as scary as I thought and could be hugely helpful to me. So I prayed about it and asked God if I should go on antidepressants or not and I felt like the Lord told me that he would support me either way and that it was up to me. So I decided to go on them. But the trouble was, I couldn’t find anyone to prescribe them to me! I couldn’t find a psychiatrist to meet with, the university doctors wouldn’t prescribe it, my psychologist wasn’t a psychiatrist so she couldn’t prescribe it, the university health services wouldn’t let me meet with a psychiatrist, and it just went on. It felt like everyday I was at therapy or with the nutritionist or doing weight-checks at university health services and fighting with health insurance. I was fighting so hard for my recovery that I ended up not having the time and energy to actually recover! So I finally decided that I wasn’t going to go on the antidepressants and God supported me in that decision and gave me tools to overcome my depression which I talk about in this post. The Lord was faithful to me and helped me overcome my depression, but I think that my recovery might have been easier had I been on an SSRI. There were a lot of times I wished I were on an antidepressant and if I could do it over again, I might have kept trying to get one prescribed for me.

If you are struggling with depression, an anxiety disorder, or any other psychological disorder, I pray that you would first be released from anyone or anything that says that your struggle is caused by your sin or that it’s your fault because it’s not. I also pray that you find community that will help carry you and support you through this tough season. I also recommend that you regularly meet with a therapist and then maybe consider trying psychotropic medications (with the guidance of your therapist/psychiatrist).* A whole combination of things contribute to psychological disorders and there are a whole combination of things that lead to recovery. And finally, I pray full healing over you in the name of Jesus! He is faithful and will bring you through.

*People who receive therapy and medication are more likely to have sustained recovery than people who just take medication. I always always recommend therapy.

Milk at Home Depot

Milk at Home Depot-- www.heismakingeverythingnew.com

I learned a lot during my short time in an eating disorder treatment program, about it but one of the most important (and hardest) thing I learned about was Milk at Home Depot.

(From googling it seems like the Milk at Home Depot analogy comes from The Anorexia Diaries, which I have not read).

One day I was having individual therapy and my therapist asked if she had told me about Milk at Home Depot. I said no and she told me that I should ask one of the other girls in the program about it. A little while later I saw that girl before group therapy started and told her I was supposed to ask about it. So she told me what Milk at Home Depot means.

“Imagine you’re in Home Depot and walking up and down the aisles looking for milk but you can’t find any. You keep pacing the same aisles but you still don’t see it so you ask someone who works at the store and they tell you that they don’t have milk. So you get really upset and demand to speak to a manager and you get angry and won’t leave the store until you get your milk.

Milk represents what you need to live, it feeds you and provides sustenance and support. Home Depot might represent your home or wherever else it is that you’re trying to get milk. Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try, you will not get milk at Home Depot because they just can’t provide it. Once you realize that, it frees you to leave the store and go to, say, Kroger to buy milk. And once you have milk from Kroger you can go back to Home Depot and enjoy what it does have to offer. I mean Home Depot is great, they have paint and shutters and construction supplies–they just don’t have milk.”

When I heard this, something inside me broke and I just started crying and crying. With this analogy came the realization that I had been trying to get Milk at Home Depot for a very long time and that no matter how long I stayed in those aisles, no matter how much I asked and persisted, it wasn’t going to happen. And that reality was heart-breaking.

The first thing you have to do if you realize you, too, have been trying to get milk at Home Depot is to mourn. The fact is that Home Depot very well should be providing you with the milk you need–there are competent people who work there, who probably love you very much, and the realization that you’re not going to get milk is something that deserves to be mourned.

The next step is to muster up the courage to walk out of the Home Depot doors and go find a Kroger. It’s a scary thing to do, and it can feel like giving up, but it’s really your best chance to finally get the milk you’ve so been needing.

After you get your milk from Kroger, it’s time to go back to Home Depot and fall in love with all the amazing things that Home Depot has to offer–there’s a lot of wonderful things there and you’ll be able to see them and appreciate them in a way that you couldn’t before when you kept searching for milk.

I think a lot of our relationships are often strained because we keep looking for milk in places that don’t offer it. A specific relationship might be able to give you what you need for one season or in one area of your life and then it can’t for the next season.

I believe that God is ultimately the only one who can provide sustaining and overflowing milk that never runs dry. He is the one we need, the one who will give you the desires of your heart (Ps 37:4). But he also places the lonely into families (Ps 68:6) and desires us to live life in communities, in churches, with friends, who all help give us the love and support we need.

If you are in a relationship right now where you’re not getting the milk you need, I encourage you to find refuge in your heavenly Father. He loves you and so desires to provide for you. He will also help you find a place where you can get what you need. I promise you, finding a Kroger really isn’t as scary as it seems and falling in love with Home Depot again is such a beautiful experience.

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. -Isaiah 55:1

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