What am I supposed to do?

Being cooped up is brutal. Many of you are right there with me in that our mental health symptoms are magnified by the stress of being stuck, and many of the things I would normally do for stress are either gone or more difficult. I don’t want to spend the majority of this post talking about what is wrong though. I imagine that most of us already know something is wrong, so for this post, I want to talk about what can be done to make our world feel a little more right by offering a few solutions. Not all of these will apply to everyone but I think it is time to get creative, so take what you can, and leave what you can’t.

Here’s some of what I’ve done for me and I would love to hear what you are doing that helps you. At the end of this post you will find contact info, we would love to hear what you are doing as well!

If you are physically able, exercise. The impact of physical activity on our minds is incredible. If you live in an area that allows for walks or jogging, do it. If you can’t get outside go up and down a flight of stairs. Don’t have stairs? Don’t have workout equipment? Go back to the gym classes you had as a kid: sit-ups, push-ups, and jumping jacks all work for raising your heart rate. The goal is not to get ripped, it’s to get heart rates up for 20-30 minutes a couple of times a week.

Try some creative expression. Painting, drawing, coloring, singing, dancing, and sculpting are all useful ways to get out what is going on in your head. Even if you think you are not good at it, try it anyway. Art is a gift from God to share the things we don’t have words for. Good art is not about what others see or hear; it is about how it makes you feel.

Use the internet, and then don’t. There seems to be a never-ending list of reasons for why we should stay away from services like Facebook and Instagram, but I think it is important to remember that there are also a ton of good things that social media and other online tools can offer. I can’t go to a coffee shop and sit with my accountability people but I can use tools like Skype, Zoom, Facebook Portal, Marco Polo and any number of other apps that allow me to connect. It’s not the same as being able to hug someone hello but it helps. And when you are done, grab a good book. The downside of the internet is the negativity pushed toward us. Internet trolls don’t build us up, they drag us down to their level. Avoid scrolling for extended periods and if you post, share something uplifting.

Use tech to connect to a counselor or another caring person. Services like Talkspace allow us to bring the counselor to us. This service isn’t free so it may not work for everyone but it is one option. The other thing to consider is the lost art of having a telephone conversation. Texting is great, emails work but there is something about hearing the voice of the person on the other end of the line that changes the connection. It’s just different.

Get curious. Curiosity is gas for the engine that is our brain. It is my personal opinion that the information we hold in our hands has been a double-edged sword. If I don’t know something I can look it up on my phone and voilà, knowledge. The problem with that is a loss of our opportunity to just think and wonder about our world. Take some time to think about something you don’t know then wait an hour to look it up. Take some time to think about the topic and come up with ideas. Here is one of my favorites as a for instance: If God can do anything…can He create a rock so big that He can’t lift it? (Insert sound of minds all around the world exploding here.)

Say Hi! to your neighbors. The weather is starting to warm up in the north and the heat in the south isn’t yet miserably hot. Keeping the six-foot rule in place, go outside and say hi to your neighbors over the fence. Sit at the end of your driveway and wave or talk to people walking past. Get to know the people around you a little better.

Do something for someone else. I hate that I can’t do what I want to help people. I am a hands-on tangible help kind of person. My mind tells me that I am not helpful – like ever. Having something to look back on helps me quiet those thoughts. I can look back and see a list of things, ”I helped build this, I helped clean that,” and so on. Thankfully there are ways to do something even while social distancing that do matter.  Call and let someone know you were thinking of them. Pray with someone over the phone. Something I am seeing picking up steam online is “Bear Hunting” Sticking a teddy bear in a window of your home for parents and children to look for when they are walking or driving around the neighborhood. This shows a community that is banding together to share some hope and it’s just fun.

This situation that we are all in is tough. People are suffering and uncertainty is palpable. There is no silver bullet but there are things we can do to make all of this less tough. If you try something and it doesn’t help, that’s ok, try something else. Together we will get through this.

Nate Stewart

Founder ~ Mental Health Pulpit

At Mental Health Pulpit we are going to be doing more to share content we think matters to you individually and to all of us as a community. We want to hear from you. Please, let us know the questions, comments, concerns, and ideas as we do what we can to serve you. Email us at nate@mentalhealthpulpit.com or message us through Facebook @mentalhealthpulpit

Your support is critical to our success!

Mental Health Pulpit, is an independent mental health ministry that relies primarily on gifts to operate and offset speaking fees and cost of overhead. As of right now we do not have 501(c)3 status. (We are still in process) For this reason all gifts are desperately needed and appreciated, but, GIFTS ARE NOT YET TAX DEDUCTIBLE

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Yes, I have Jesus, but I can still get the virus.

I need to begin this post with a disclaimer. I fully believe in the power of prayer, I believe that God still performs miracles, and I believe that God is sovereign. That being said, I feel the need to address something I have been seeing pop up on my social media feeds as of late.

Being a Christian does not mean I will not get infected by COVID-19 and I think we need to stop telling people that it does.  Posting memes about being covered by the blood of Jesus or sharing verses about how God heals all of our wounds run the risk of alienating the very people we wish to encourage. Christians will get sick from this virus, and Christians will die from this virus.

It is important to remember that God is a loving and caring God all the time. His love does not change because He does not change, and God is love. God being love does not mean that bad things are not going to happen to good people. In Jesus’ sermon on the mount, in the section about loving our enemies, Jesus says, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:44-45 emphasis mine) It is my opinion that in being the chosen/adoptive sons of God, we have assumed that we are also exempt from suffering. Jesus’ words directly contradict that assumption. Bad things happen to non-Christians and Christians. Good things happen to non-Christians and Christians. We are all in this together and by insinuating that this is not the case, we offer condemnation to the suffering person for not being a “good enough” Christian.  As in, “if you just had more faith you wouldn’t be sick.” (To those of us that struggle with our mental health…sound familiar?)

I fully believe that God offers supernatural protection for us to do His will in this world. Reading through scripture we see instance after instance of people being protected, Daniel in the lion’s den, Noah and the Ark, and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea are all examples of God’s protection. Remember in this, God is doing His will; God was not doing our will, as if we can dictate what God is going to do. Having faith is not the same thing as being reckless. If someone feels called by God to do something that seems reckless that is fine with me. I’ve truly been inspired by the people who have followed the prompting of God to step into a situation in which they literally were risking their lives, or flat out laying them down, knowing they would not survive. Using faith as a reason to avoid taking the necessary steps to protect life as suggested by the CDC is not walking in faith; it is disrespecting the lives of people who are created in the image of God.  God’s word tells us not to be afraid, but it also tells us to be wise.

Keep in mind that just because something is written in the Bible doesn’t mean that we have a license to do whatever we want as long as we are quoting a verse while we do it.

For instance: Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Because I have Christ in my heart and my security is in Him does not mean I can sprout wings and fly over traffic during rush hour. If God wanted me to do that, cool, let’s do it. When I place that verse in context I instead see that I can: Learn to be content. Learn to live with a lot. Learn to live with little. I can be hungry and be ok. I can be full and be ok. No matter what I am going through I know that God is with me and He will be glorified even if I don’t see it at the time. And it is because God is in control that I can learn to be at peace. Yet even then, notice the word “learn”, as in, it’s a process; it’s something we work through.

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane right before he was arrested and crucified, he was so stressed by what was going on, he sweats blood, a condition called hematohidrosis brought on by extreme stress. If someone who was fully man yet fully GOD could experience this kind of stress, why would we expect that our lives are not going to experience struggle, suffering, and death?

I don’t want to live in fear but please don’t tell me I am somehow a poor Christian because I have fear. Instead, tell me that God is with me when I am watching the news. Tell me that God is with me when my finances fall apart. Tell me that God is with me when I or a loved one are laying in an ICU. Remind me that Jesus wept too. And while in this life we will have struggles, we can take heart because Jesus beat death (John 16:33) and will one day make all things new. (Revelation 21)

Nate Stewart

Founder ~ Mental Health Pulpit

Your support is critical to our success!

Mental Health Pulpit, is an independent mental health ministry that relies primarily on gifts to operate and offset speaking fees and cost of overhead. As of right now we do not have 501(c)3 status. (We are still in process) For this reason all gifts are desperately needed and appreciated, but, GIFTS ARE NOT YET TAX DEDUCTIBLE

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Getting ready

Many of us are in the process of getting ourselves ready for the onset of coronavirus (covid-19); myself included. From what I saw while shopping today, both in the mass of people filling the stores and from the look of the empty store shelves, it seems most of us are expecting to be quarantined. I saw many people walking around with heaping carts of canned goods, big bags of rice, and if they were lucky enough to find it – toilet paper. (I had to try several stores today for that item.)

I picked up bits of conversations while traversing the isles. Some people were talking about how there wasn’t any toilet paper. Some people were talking about so-n-so who they were worried about. Some people were talking about the event that has been canceled or the trip they are not sure they’ll get to take. Overall there is a palpable sense of uneasiness that permeated the aisles.

I find it fascinating to watch (from a sociological perspective) how people are reacting to our current circumstance. On social media, there are streams of viewpoints that might make a person wonder if they are even talking about the same issue. Some people reacting as if the virus is a precursor to the apocalypse and just as many saying the coronavirus is a hyped-up issue created by the press. Personally I don’t think this is the beginning of the apocalypse, but I also grieve for the families who are planning funerals for their loved ones. Tragically for many, coronavirus will be the end of this world and I find no humor in the dismissive jokes I am hearing and seeing online.

Ultimately, I don’t think I or anyone can say definitively what will happen because there is still so much we don’t know. What I do know, is that there are things I can control and some I cannot. I need to address the things I can control, if not for myself, then for the sake of the people with whom I may come into contact. Even if I get the virus and make it through just fine, the person I come into contact with may not. I need to be my brothers/sisters keeper in a sense.

There is also something  I want to suggest, while we are in the mode of becoming prepared for what may happen next, that we also plan for another potential emergency. A mental health emergency.

Do you know what you would do if you found yourself or someone you love in a mental health crisis? Who would you call? Where would you go? What is your safety plan? So often we plan for emergencies that are thrust upon us by what is happening in our environment such as, “How do I get out of the house if it was on fire?”, “Where would I go if there was a tornado? Or hurricane? Or the coronavirus?”, regularly though people will place mental health on the back burner during times like this pandemic. I don’t say that as a critique or a jab at the people who are talking about the virus in the media and the medical community;  that somehow they are not doing a good enough job. I believe they are doing a good job and I am grateful for the effort being made to address this issue! I am just saying that mental health support is something we need to prepare for as well.

For instance:

  • If you are quarantined would you have someone to talk to over the phone?
  • Do you have the Suicide Prevention Lifeline number on your phone? 800-273-TALK(8255)
  • Have you searched for an option for support in the event of closure of your mental health practitioner’s office? Are you familiar with the option of teletherapy or internet services?
  • Is there anyone you can connect with if you don’t feel safe attending a group event that may have a lot of people such as support groups, recovery meetings, or church services?
  • Have your prescriptions been filled?
  • Is the food you’re buying as healthy as you can afford so that your physical needs are also supporting your mental health needs?
  • Do you have things to keep you occupied if you need to spend two weeks at home?

There are many different things that can be done to support mental health during this time so I don’t suggest trying to tackle them all at once, at the same time – don’t forget them either. I know that this may seem like one more thing you need to do, but you are important and worth the effort needed to take care of yourself.

It is ok to make yourself and your mental health a priority, the world needs you.

Nate Stewart

Founder ~ Mental Health Pulpit

Your support is critical to our success!

Mental Health Pulpit, is an independent mental health ministry that relies primarily on gifts to operate and offset speaking fees and cost of overhead. As of right now we do not have 501(c)3 status. (We are still in process) For this reason all gifts are desperately needed and appreciated, but, GIFTS ARE NOT YET TAX DEDUCTIBLE

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Worth more than a sparrow.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

I have not been very good about this as of late. My mind has been spinning about some things going on in my life that I wish were different. I follow a belief that we are all created by God in His image, and just like Him we are made up of three main components. For God, it’s Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. For people its mind, body, and spirit. For God, the triune or “Trinity” is comprised of three perfect parts. For me, I am made up of three sections that culminate into a hot mess.

My “hot-messness” (I can make up words if I want.) is not meant to be a dig on who I am, it is just a statement about the reality of living. Nobody is perfect; we all have something going on. Recently my flaws have just been easier for me to find. The warranty on my body ran out years ago. My mind is a jerk to me most days. And my spirit, well, disconnected is a good description.

I have plenty of reason to feel connected to God but when my mind and my body are so far out-of-whack they tend to get in between myself and my maker. It’s hard to be positive when I am in pain, feeling weak, and very tired. It’s hard to focus on God when I can’t hear above the noise of the thoughts in my head. Imagine a boxer in the 10th round of a fight he is losing and the opponent is himself; bleeding and staggering around after beating himself up.

As a Christian, I think it is vital for me to admit when I am losing the battle against myself. I can’t put on the happy Sunday morning church smile and be true to who God is and how I relate to Him. I am a hot mess through so many of my days and I need God to carry me through and to help me fight back against the lies that permeate into so much of my existence.

I won’t pretend that everything is perfect. It’s not. God is perfect though and He knows my needs. So when I am looking at myself and I see the cracks, I also see the one who is holding my broken pieces together. His timing is not mine though so when I am being tossed by an ocean of pain and confusion I find it hard to see the shore.

I am saying all of this because I want to make something very clear, FEELING THIS WAY DOES NOT MAKE ME A BAD CHRISTIAN!

It makes me human.

When I see verses like the one that started this post, I usually see it first as a condemnation. “I worried, therefore I am a horrible sinner.” I don’t think that is how it’s meant to be taken though. If I go back and think of the character of Jesus, I see a compassionate savior who is telling me, “I get it. This is hard. It’s scary. I know why you are worried. But I love you. We will get through this together. One day at a time.”

Our lives are hard. Be it a mental health struggle, physical pain, financial stress, or plans that just won’t come together, no matter what we are going through God will carry us through. All the while he understands that we are not always going to be feeling it. So when I worry, He understands.

So it is ok when our spiritual walk looks more like Matthew 9:24

“Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

God doesn’t need us to be perfect.

Nate Stewart

Founder ~ Mental Health Pulpit

Your support is critical to our success!

Mental Health Pulpit, is an independent mental health ministry that relies primarily on gifts to operate and offset speaking fees and cost of overhead. As of right now we do not have 501(c)3 status. (We are still in process) For this reason all gifts are desperately needed and appreciated, but, GIFTS ARE NOT YET TAX DEDUCTIBLE

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12 years today

Today, I am 12 years into sobriety. No alcohol. No drugs. I am 12 years into learning how to face life in a way that is healthy. Making 4383 choices to take one day at a time, one moment at a time.

Thinking about choices today made my mind wander to a very random place. I’ve been thinking about the question I used to ask my friends when I was a kid, “If you could have lunch with any three people alive today, who would you choose?”

I’ve gone back and forth on the list over the course of my life. After all, if I have an imaginary opportunity to meet and learn from someone I look up to, and I only have three people to choose from, I want to choose wisely. Over the years names have changed as my maturity level has changed. Some names have come off the list as revelations of their private life have become public; revealing character traits I wouldn’t want to emulate.  Other names have popped onto the list briefly because, at the moment, I was completely fascinated by how they navigated a life experience in a way I had not seen before.

The most consistent part of this made-up scenario has been the question I want to use in opening the conversation. I want to ask them, “Was it worth it?”.

The people on my list have all risen to a professional level that can only come from years of personal sacrifice, long hours, difficult choices, trying to balance personal and professional lives, and all the proverbial blood sweat and tears needed so they could get to where they are. My perspective is from the outside looking in of course, so I can’t know exactly what they went through to get to where they are or if they even see themselves as having reached the level they wish to reach. Their response may very well be, “I’ll let you know when I get there.”  

I got to where I am in my recovery by making many of the choices I would expect the people on my list to make. I have had to choose to attend recovery meetings and events across the country that pulled me away from my family. I have spent long hours working that I would have probably rather have spent fishing with friends. I have made major life changes that affect more than just myself, which for me, included repairing wounded relationships developed during the process of discovering what it meant to live with the mental health struggles I was no longer self-medicating. I have had to face my own fears, such as riding the roller-coaster of medication changes. While on a much smaller scale, I have chosen to place my life on display through my book and in ministry which means hate mail and criticism.

A major part of living life is making the best choices we can in response to our circumstance. Sometimes the choices are made for us before we have the chance, so we just have to respond to the new circumstance. Either way, we all have a path to walk and choices to make. Today, my walk includes 12 years of sobriety. And for all of the broken and heart-wrenching moments I have been through, all the hard choices I have had to make, I know how I would answer my own question.

Yes. It has been absolutely worth it.

Nate Stewart

Founder ~ Mental Health Pulpit

P.S. If anyone has @alroker ‘s phone number, let him know I wanna grab lunch.

Your support is critical to our success!

Mental Health Pulpit, is an independent mental health ministry that relies primarily on gifts to operate and offset speaking fees and cost of overhead. As of right now we do not have 501(c)3 status. (We are still in process) For this reason all gifts are desperately needed and appreciated, but, GIFTS ARE NOT YET TAX DEDUCTIBLE

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My victories.

Today I took a shower. What’s your superpower?

This may sound strange, but if you understand how much energy is sucked out of a person who struggles with their mental health, then you would know that doing the “mundane” tasks in life really is an amazing feat.

I don’t know all of the science behind it and what exactly it is that takes such a toll on my body when my mental health is going off. I do know that something does. Getting out of bed, taking a shower, brushing my teeth – this is my version of a triathlon. When I am done with all of these, I usually feel a little better about myself. Sometimes I just like being able to say I did it.  I did something I knew was difficult, when my mind was telling me to just stay in bed. Sometimes I do it as a way to compare myself to the rest of the world. “See! I can be put together too!” I know the rest of the world has troubles too, I am not the only one with issues, it is just hard to relate with the rest of the world when I haven’t taken a shower in two days.

Whatever the reason for getting myself ready, I do know one thing for sure, I rarely like doing it. SO! MUCH! WORK! Each step can be brutal.

“I don’t want to get in the shower.” I will think to myself.

Once I am in the shower, “I don’t want to get out of the shower.”

And then, “I don’t want to put on pants.”

(Full disclosure, I don’t wanna wear pants no matter what is going on inside my head so I don’t know if that counts.)

Just because something is simplistic doesn’t mean it is easy. As someone who struggles with my mental health, I need to acknowledge my victories. I need to remind myself that I am here, I am alive, and while I may be battling with my mind I have not lost the war.

I also need other people in my life who can help me remember that as well. I need someone that I can tell these things to and they will tell me I am doing a good job, and that can be hard to find. Most of the people I talk to about this kind of thing just stare back at me blankly while crickets chirp in the background. And if a person has never experienced this kind of thing I don’t actually expect them to get it. I am glad that they don’t because that means they have never been through it and that’s a good thing. Having someone who does support me is pure gold. I am fortunate that my wife will do this for me and she does appreciate the effort I put into taking care of myself, even if I still have a long list of things that I haven’t accomplished yet. I am blessed.

A lot of the people I talk to ask what they can do to support their loved one who struggles with their mental health. One of the first things I say is to “celebrate the victories.” Life is hard for everyone. Life with a mental health struggle is even harder, but harder doesn’t mean a life without victories though. Find the victories in the little things. Rejoice in them. Tell someone you are proud of them.

It may seem trite, but when you understand how hard we had to fight to be here, alive, showered…you would know just how strong we are.

Nate Stewart

Founder ~ Mental Health Pulpit

Your support is critical to our success!

Mental Health Pulpit, is an independent mental health ministry that relies primarily on gifts to operate and offset speaking fees and cost of overhead. As of right now we do not have 501(c)3 status. (We are still in process) For this reason all gifts are desperately needed and appreciated, but, GIFTS ARE NOT YET TAX DEDUCTIBLE

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Always something

During warmer weather in a Minnesota winter (warmer being anything over 20 degrees) the skies are often cloudy. My understanding of this phenomenon has to do with smartsy science stuff about clouds acting as a blanket holding in warmer weather. If we have a bright blue sky day then chances are it is cold. Like today for instance. The sky is beautiful! We are getting plenty of sun and the temperature is producing wind chills down to -45 degrees. Yes, that is an accurate number MINUS 45 degrees. I saw a penguin standing next to I-35 a little while ago with a suitcase and a sign that said Texas. (As much as I respect his desire to flee, he will never get anywhere hitchhiking, on account of penguins not having any thumbs.)

As I was saying, it’s cold today, and that makes it hard to enjoy the sun. Sure looks pretty from my window but that is not the same. Such is life. The days when things all line up can be rare. Usually, we get a bit of what we want here, and a little more there. My mental health can be like that as well. My depression may be good but my anxiety is bad. My anxiety is good but my suicidal ideation is bad.

Who knows, I may get that perfect day when everything is how I want it to be but I am not going to hold my breath. Some people might say I am a pessimist for thinking that. “You will never have a perfect day with that attitude.” I don’t see that as being pessimistic as much as I see myself as someone who is being realistic. My mental health doesn’t take a day off. I wish it would.

I have heard from people, on several different occasions, saying, “I wish I was just better already. Why can’t I catch a break.” And I have said those words myself on several occasions. I get tired. I get tired of fighting my brain. I need a break…but there is always something.

It is because there is always something that I want to stress the importance of not trying to do life on our own. There is nothing wrong with you if you feel tired. There is nothing wrong with you if you want to give up. There is nothing wrong with you if you want to scream and break stuff. There is nothing wrong with you if you just want to crawl into a hole and sleep for the rest of your life. You have every right to feel these things. That is why God made us to live in community; community with God, a community within a family structure, a community at church, and community in our neighborhoods.

Alone – life is daunting. When we are together life can be daunting, but it can also be extraordinary.

I don’t want anyone coming away from this post with the understanding that if you are not in a community then you are a failure, and feeling this is “another example of how much I suck at life”. Building a community can be a hard and lengthy intentional process. If you don’t think you have a community that is ok. Most of us have never been taught how to build a community; it is just expected of us. Building a community is a skill (meaning it can be learned) and a process (meaning it is not something we do overnight).

If I want to build a home there are many different stages I have to go through for that to happen, I have to figure out what I want, I have to prepare the land, get utilities hooked up, lay a foundation, put up walls and a roof, etc. I wouldn’t look down on the roofing guy for not building if the foundation hasn’t been poured.

Building community starts at the first stage. Figuring out what you want.

Who are the people you want to hang around with? What draws you to them? Are there groups that you want to be a part of? Are there hobbies you might share? What kind of church do you want to attend?

There are many different ways to get involved in a community, so don’t get too discouraged if the first time you try something it doesn’t work. It’s not a reflection of your worthiness to be connected; it is just time to try a different approach. Maybe going to a group or a church feels hard because you are like me and don’t like small talk or beginning new conversations with someone you don’t know. Try just going. You don’t have to talk to anyone just sit in the back and watch. That is ok too.

And remember that it is ok to struggle with getting connected if your mental health tells you to run away. Really, it is, because there are tools available to help walk you through getting connected. Talking to a counselor, therapist, or pastor who is familiar with mental health struggles about developing tools may be your first step.

We can’t always get what we want when we want it; just like I can’t get sunny skies and warm weather at the same time. Some things are just out of our control, and we need to acknowledge that. We can develop the tools we need to still have a wonderful life even though there “always seems to be something”. The trick is just not giving up on the days we want to give up.

There is a place for you at the table – I want you there!

Nate Stewart

Founder ~ Mental Health Pulpit

Your support is critical to our success!

Mental Health Pulpit, is an independent mental health ministry that relies primarily on gifts to operate and offset speaking fees and cost of overhead. As of right now we do not have 501(c)3 status. (We are still in process) For this reason all gifts are desperately needed and appreciated, but, GIFTS ARE NOT YET TAX DEDUCTIBLE

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Breaking regret

I drive my daughter to school every morning. It is a short ride but it’s a time I am very grateful to have. Now that she is 16 and talking about what she may want to do when she is out of high school I am reminded of how quickly the next couple years will go so I cherish these mornings even though I am the exact opposite of a morning person.

Every morning, as we drive, we pray; giving the day to God. A couple of years back, I was in the middle of praying when she stuck her foot on the dashboard of our truck to tie her shoe. This usually leaves a dusty print on the glovebox so I give her grief each time she does it; it’s been kind of a running joke for us.

So as I was ending my prayer I said, “God, I thank you for a kid who doesn’t put her feet on the dash.”

My daughter responded with, “God, I thank you for passive-aggressive parents.”

This was one of my proudest moments as a parent.

Besides her ability to drop a one-liner troll with the comedic timing of a pro, just the fact that she knew what passive-aggressive meant at her age was incredible. She is so far ahead of where I was at her age. Having a parent who advocates for mental health and healthy relationships for a living has its perks I guess. There is another reason this meant so much to me though; it’s because there was a time when she couldn’t have learned this from me.

When my daughter was young I was a good dad by most standards but I can’t say I was a good leader in our home. I couldn’t lead myself, much less my family. My depression was so bad that my ability to pour into anyone else was non-existent, but because I was a high-functioning person with depression I thought that I was doing ok. I didn’t realize just how disconnected I had become from my emotional and mental health. I was there physically but that was it. It took a long time before I was able to see what was going on in my own mind.

Thankfully, in my situation, I was able to find my way towards getting healthy before she got older so she doesn’t remember me as the un-medicated alcoholic. I still feel as though I robbed myself of some big opportunities to experience closeness in my relationship with my family.

I understand I was struggling with my mental health. I understand I was being impacted by a substance abuse disorder that began as a teen. I get all of the reasons I can offer for why this all happened…but it still hurts.

Forgiving myself for the behavior I exhibited during that time is one of the hardest things I have had to do, but it is a very necessary step I have to take. IS – as in, still doing it. Forgiveness is a process. One of the things that help me move forward is remembering I am already forgiven by God. This is so important because I can look at the day when I will eventually stand in front of Him as a good day. This gives me hope.

I spent years thinking that judgment day was a day that I was going to feel the wrath of God. That all of my mistakes were going to condemn me. This isn’t the truth though. When I hear God’s verdict I will hear the word, forgiven.

This doesn’t mean the bad stuff I did didn’t happen. It just means they no longer define my life. The negative things I have done, either directly or indirectly as a result of my mental health, don’t define me.

My daughter is doing better than I have done. She isn’t perfect and I certainly wouldn’t expect her to be. That’s ok! What I have learned through my experience is I have a choice. I can stay in the past or I can strive to do better the next time. I have a diagnosis, not condemnation. Yes, forgiveness is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Some days I really suck at it.

I try to be patient with myself though…because I’m trying.

I have traveled all over the country, spoken to thousands of people, and heard story after story from people filled with shame and regret. I get it. I’ve been there. Some days I am still there. But I want you to know something, I want you to feel it deep in your soul…

You are more than your regrets.

I can’t go back and change my mental health and all the negative impacts it has had on my life and the lives of the people around me. I so wish I could. I don’t get people who say, “I wouldn’t change a thing because it has made me who I am.” I would absolutely go back and change the ways I have hurt people. Since I can’t, I have to start my day with an understanding…God forgives me. Because He does, I can look in the mirror each morning and say, “I forgive you.” to the reflection staring back at me.

Because I am forgiven, I can move forward. I can hope. I can grow. I can help my daughter to grow too. And this “passive-aggressive parent” can help my daughter to have a better future.

The beginning of forgiveness comes by just asking Jesus for it. The greatest thing, is there is never a time when He will say no. He is ready for you today. It may be too late to change our past, but it is not too late to change our future. If we are still breathing, it’s not too late.

Nate Stewart

Founder ~ Mental Health Pulpit

Your support is critical to our success!

Mental Health Pulpit, is an independent mental health ministry that relies primarily on gifts to operate and offset speaking fees and cost of overhead. As of right now we do not have 501(c)3 status. (We are still in process) For this reason all gifts are desperately needed and appreciated, but, GIFTS ARE NOT YET TAX DEDUCTIBLE

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2020 can be more than hindsight. Part 5

We have reached the end. Well, sort of. It’s actually more like the beginning but it is the end of the series on life change. Now we get to take our plans and put them into action. There is just one more step in preparing for actually sustainable life change. That step is Accountability.

Accountability is having someone who is willing to hold us to account, to both encourage and correct us as we live out the plans we have put in motion. An accountability partner is someone invited into our plan as a way to help us reach our goals. They are not there to force us to do something, we still have to do the hard work, but they are an important part of keeping us on the right track and reminding us of why we wanted to do something in the first place.

For example: If my plan is to take a more proactive approach to manage my mental health, I would let my accountability partner know I want to be more active in preventing and managing symptoms as opposed to just letting my symptoms come and then reacting to them. I will let them know what being proactive looks like for me. Such as setting up appointments with a therapist before a crisis comes and let them know when the appointment is set. An accountability partner is going to ask me, “How did the appointment you set up with your therapist go?” My response will be one of two things…

1. I went to the appointment and I let the accountability person know how it went. My accountability person will say something along the lines of “I am glad you went. Good job. What is the next step from here?”

2. I didn’t go and my accountability partner isn’t going to just tell me “Oh that’s ok.” instead they ask the questions I need to be asked such as, “Why not?” Then they give me the push I need to get me back on track.

An accountability person is not meant to be a personal police force set to write me tickets for violating the plans. They are also not meant to coddle me when I mess up. I need to be pushed sometimes. We all need to be pushed at times. Uncomfortable is a good thing! Pushing ourselves is rarely a way for lasting change to happen. We are meant to be in relationship. Relationships help us grow.

Finding accountability partners can be challenging at times. I have had many people tell me they understand the importance of having someone holding us accountable but they don’t have anyone to ask, and I get that. It can be hard. So how do we find accountability partners? Here are some tips.

Pray. Ask God to bring someone to mind. God knows who and what you need so ask for His help. Even if the response you hear seems weird, that’s ok. Weird, is not the same as bad.

Start slowly. For many of us, finding someone we trust enough to come into our lives can feel impossible. Maybe we have been burned in the past. Or we have found someone we trusted, they agree to be an accountability partner, then for some reason, they just fall off the map; they seem to forget they were supposed to be there. Starting slowly and easing into the process is ok. Start with the smaller things you want help with and work your way up. Trust is earned.

Be intentional but imperfect. If we sit around waiting for the perfect person to fall into our laps we will never get going. There are no perfect people. There are people who are great fits though. Look for the people who seem to have achieved the things you want to achieve. Spend time with them, learn from them, and watch the example they set.

Ask a lot of questions. Has the person struggled with the same things you struggle with? How did they overcome those struggles?

Be clear with your intent. Make sure the person knows you want them to hold you accountable. People can’t give what you need unless you tell them what you need.

Build a team. Being someone’s only accountability person can be a lot for a person to manage. Help them hold you accountable by having a small group of people to lean on.

Have grace. Being an accountability person for someone is not something taught in school. If they are not helping you the way you thought they would that doesn’t mean they are a bad person. Work with them, don’t complain about them.

Friendship isn’t an absolute. Sure, friendship is ideal, but sometimes a friend can be too nice. Find someone who will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. There is a big difference.

Remember it’s a process. This all takes time so keep moving forward. Lasting change is not a quick fix process. I have heard too many times that if a person just “comes to Jesus” then they will be fixed, but that is not how Jesus works. If I come to Jesus and look the same on day one, as I look on day 1000, then chances are Jesus is just a get out of hell free card. Jesus is about relationship, not ritualistic technicalities. Growth is a process, not a destination. Keep moving forward.

Whatever, it is you want to see change in your life – you can do it.  There is no circumstance that is too big for God. There is no diagnosis that is beyond His capabilities. There is no pain or sorrow that God can’t carry you through. I will never disrespect you by saying all of your troubles or pain will go away because you decided to follow God; they won’t. I won’t guarantee you will find the physical healing you want; you might not. I can tell you without any doubt, that as a whole, your life can and will be extraordinary, beyond anything you could imagine, if you spend your years letting God work in and through you. That begins with acknowledging that you do have value, you do have a purpose, you are worth investing the time and the effort into because God did not put you here in this place at this time by accident or as some sort of cruel joke. YOU MATTER! I believe in you and your calling. Keep moving forward. You can do this.

Nate Stewart

Founder ~ Mental Health Pulpit

Your support is critical to our success!

Mental Health Pulpit, is an independent mental health ministry that relies primarily on gifts to operate and offset speaking fees and cost of overhead. As of right now we do not have 501(c)3 status. (We are still in process) For this reason all gifts are desperately needed and appreciated, but, GIFTS ARE NOT YET TAX DEDUCTIBLE

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2020 can be more than hindsight. Part 4

We are almost done with our series on navigating life change. We have covered prayer, clarity, steps to achieving a goal, and now we are going to look at what I feel is the most important part of making lasting life change; understanding our “why”.

I ended last week with a thought on breaking down our goals into manageable pieces. In my scenario, I was using fitness as a goal for this year since I want to improve my cardiovascular health. The way for me to break that down into manageable pieces is not to jump into exercise full force because that will just leave me feeling frustrated with my current level of ability in comparison to my desired level of ability. My mental health swarms me with self-defeating talk already so I don’t need to offer my brain fuel for that mental fire. When I think of my health from a logical approach I am able to say to myself, “Of course I can’t do those things! That is why I want to work on them. If I could do them, I wouldn’t need to work on them.” Depression likes to stick its nose into everything I process though leaving me thinking, “This is just one more thing I suck at.”

Having our goals broken down into manageable pieces is important but at the same time, for someone who struggles with a mental health issue, bite-size pieces can still leave us choking. That is why understanding our “Why” behind our desire is important.

Here is my example:

In the first week of my exercise plan, I have a goal of 20 minutes a day, every day, where I incorporate some sort of movement that makes my heart rate rise. A good way for me to do this is by climbing stairs. I have a second story on my house so I don’t have to worry about a gym membership, I am not impacted by weather, and I can do this at pretty much any time during my day. Solid plan. Except…I cannot always do the stairs. I have a physical disability that can impact my legs which, at times, makes stairs a dangerous place to be; especially when I am tired. If I am having a good day, great, no problem. If I’m not having a good day it would be easy for me to say nevermind, I can just skip today. Knowing who I am, this can easily become, I can just skip every day.

I have to have a good reason for doing what I am doing and I have to remind myself of that reason daily!

My reason for wanting to be in better shape is all about wanting to be a more physically active member of my family. We are outdoorsy. Hiking, kayaking, and working around the ranch shoveling ranch stuff with the horses that make the ranch stuff are all things we really like to do! (Shoveling ranch stuff is surprisingly very therapeutic for me.) If I don’t take care of myself physically, I won’t be able to do those things long term. I want to be able to continue to enjoy those things with my family for as long as I can. If I tell myself my “why” then I am far more likely to push through the obstacles in my way.

Notice that I didn’t say guarantee. There are days when my depression is at a level when just getting out of bed is like completing an Ironman. Sometimes we will have to just survive. That doesn’t make us weak, it makes us strong. For many of us “I got out of bed” is a very valid reason to celebrate! Don’t let anyone take that from you!

Also remember, motivation can come from anywhere and is 100% subjective. Whatever moves you, moves you. God made us unique so if something motivates you don’t fight it, roll with it. Even if that reason is outside of yourself. I know, especially in recovery circles, we hear the phrase, “You’ve got to want it! You have to do this for yourself, not anyone else.” I don’t always agree with that. When I got sober, I hated myself. I didn’t want to get better for me because I didn’t think I deserved to get better. When I got sober I did it for my wife and my daughter. I felt they deserved better from me. I didn’t want my daughter to have to bury her dad after an overdose. She deserved better. I didn’t want my wife to have to deal with the emotionless, beer-swigging, bump on the couch. She deserved better. Love and respect for my family is what it took for me to move forward. It isn’t ok for me to use recovery as a way to manipulate my family such as “See, I’m going through these steps so you can’t leave me.” That’s inappropriate and dangerous. But in my situation, going outside of myself for a reason to get, and continue to be, sober – I don’t see anything wrong with that. Eventually, I expanded my reasons for staying sober beyond my family but that came over time through personal growth.

Why do you want to make a change? What is the point? When you understand that, you are well on your way to success. Spend some time praying about it. You have a purpose in life and you do have the ability to achieve that purpose when God is in the process. One day at a time, one moment at a time, you will find a life that is extraordinary.

I truly believe that.

Nate Stewart

Founder ~ Mental Health Pulpit

Your support is critical to our success!

Mental Health Pulpit, is an independent mental health ministry that relies primarily on gifts to operate and offset speaking fees and cost of overhead. As of right now we do not have 501(c)3 status. (We are still in process) For this reason all gifts are desperately needed and appreciated, but, GIFTS ARE NOT YET TAX DEDUCTIBLE

$1.00