The Best Life is the Good Life For Me

There are times I feel like my life has been hard. I have had hard times- we all have. But, today, while riding my horse, I passed my husband who was riding his lawn mower, mowing the pasture. A wry smile came across my face as I realized, not for the first time, how wonderful my life really is. My husband mowing the lawn on his day off while I rode my horse. Amazing!

Some might wonder why I think this is such a big deal. Well, the reason is because we were, at one time, both city kids, both terribly spoiled, woefully oblivious to other folks plights, but struggling to stay afloat with our little family of a daughter and two young boys.  Oh, we knew there were other people worse off than us. We were sure of that. We had no idea who they might be, but  we knew they existed.

My youngest son, Micah, was born with Cystic Fibrosis, a lung and endocrine disease- so far without a cure. We found out when he was about 9 weeks old. My older son, David was about 22 months when Micah was born. My daughter Amanda, was almost 13 . We were in and out of Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas seemingly all the time. It had become like a revolving door. Micah’s CF was pretty well under control after he was about 5, I suppose. At 9, he was back in the hospital and then again not for 11 years. We have been blessed. Very blessed. It didn’t seem so at the time. Funny how time changes your mind regarding your circumstances.

I say all this to say to you- If you are in difficult circumstances right now- try to view it as a learning experience. We had many a heartache, heartbreak and despair. We had times we were on food stamps, CHIPS (before that CIDC), our doctor vistis for the kids were often write offs for the docs. It was quite embarrassing  to us. Both Stephen and I had been well off within our families, so we had no idea how to cope at this point in our lives. We flew by the seat of our pants and God’s grace. You can too. Prayer changes everything and sometimes situations occur in which God is the only  one who can help, who can understand, who can hear you. Stay the course, it works out- maybe not the way we want it

A ride on a hot afternoon. me and Licorice
A ride on a hot afternoon. me and Licorice

to – maybe it works out fine- but it works out how it is supposed to according to what God wants you to know. 

I feel as if I am writing to someone who needs to hear this right now. If so, I hope my message helps, because God will make your life the Best Life. 

 

 

Preconceived Ideas? Better Think Again!

All of us have preconceived ideas about lots of things. Sometimes, our preconceived ideas have us refusing certain foods because of the color, the smell, but not usually the taste. What do you think when I say “Brussell Sprouts”? Does your lip curl at the smell of them? Do you shriek with terror? Or, do you lick your lips? What about when I say “Cops”? Does it conjure up a good connotation or a bad one? Fear? Anger? Compassion or perhaps, the phrase,

“They give their lives for our safety?”

So, then, what comes to mind when you think of homeless people? “Lazy?” “Crazy?” “Weird?” Do the words “Nice”, “Sweet,” “Funny?” ever come to mind? Have you ever taken the time to speak to a homeless person? Have you even looked them in the eye? Have you escorted someone to a restaurant and bought them lunch? Or does the mere mention of the word incite fear, anger and lack of understanding, fill you? 

I am asking because it seems we all have preconceived ideas regarding some topic or another- some words bring instant visuals to our minds’ eye. I am also asking because I used to have the same visual. I thought homeless folks were lazy, crazy, weird, scary and God forbid I ever look a homeless person in the eye. 

But, I had a change of heart when I began going to “The Gathering.” The Gathering, you may remember (because I write often about it), is a church for the “housed and unhoused” people of Dallas. Some of the most sincere, loving, funny, friendly, wonderful people worship at The Gathering with us.Some are ill, bipolar, mentally  ill, unable to get medications that might stabilize them, unable to get proper help for their illness. Most are so different than we think they are. Some made me feel ashamed I did not worship God with the fervor they did. But I learned and so can you.

“They” are us. “They” are what we might be someday, what the hidden part of ourselves could be. There is no “They” and “Us. There is,however, “We.” Because we could all be walking in their shoes. 

My challenge for this week is to start with a first step- make eye contact and say hi. How hard could that be, right? Well, it can be very difficult for some. Some folks have been taught negative things about homeless people all their lives.  It’s time to stop all of our preconceived ideas about the homeless and come to think of it, anyone else. So, practice… if you dare. Say hi, make eye contact. Maybe next week, you might have a smile. Choose one person. Make them your challenge. Step out of your comfort zone and walk in Jesus’ shoes for a day. Be kind. Love. Help someone else. I’d love to hear about your experiment.

When we help others, we forget our own troubles. Isn’t that worth it?

There But for the Grace of God….

would you help this man?
would you help this man?

Homelessness should be a crime. Not for the homeless, of course, but for those who let it continue. Those who vote against help for the homeless – those who disallow communities to be built for them or those who choose to disallow help for folks because they don’t want their property “devalued.” Wow. Really? Before you label me a bleeding heart liberal, follow through reading . 

I have epilepsy and bipolar disorder . In the last few weeks,my mood had crashed. In other words, I was so depressed, I could only sit and cry. That is what bipolar disorder does to you. Although I have been stable with it for a good long while, meds suddenly quit doing their job- in need of tweaking. I spent the last month in great despair because the meds quit working. I don’t choose that. It is a chemical imbalance in my brain that sometimes has a mind of it’s own. One might wonder why I was in such despair for such a long time. Well, the answer to that is because it usually takes about that long to find out if it is, in fact, a medication problem. Sometimes, depression comes about because of situations arising that we are not sure how to deal with. It does take time to sort out why one has crashed.  During that period of time, it is not easy to continue functioning. It is so easy to just stay in bed and sleep through it all. If one is asleep, no pain is felt, no tears, no hallucinations, no voices . It’s just easier. 

I called my doctor and she added a medication. She had samples for me, so I went to pick them up. It worked and for a change, it was a medication which worked quickly. I called to let her know it worked and could she call the prescription in. She did. When I went to pick it up, imagine my surprise when the clerk told me it would $262.00! And that was with my insurance paying part of it!  This is where it stops being about me .

Homeless people don’t choose to be homeless. Sometimes, it is because they  are mentally ill, sometimes because they are on drugs- addicted to some drug – maybe not for the high they get, but for the feeling of “normalcy” they get from it. Most people who are on drugs are on them because they are self -medicating. They want to feel like a “normal ” person. They don’t want to hear the voices that tell them to do bizarre things, or feel scared because there is something real there . 

Stay with me, please. I told my story to say homelessness is a vicious cycle. Let’s say someone has a good job, but has mental issues and  don’t really know or understand what is going on. Let’s say, then, our person tries a drug.. let’s say meth. From what i understand the meth high is a very short time period. But, meth is fairly cheap and may make someone feel “normal.” Therefore, he continues to take it over and over again to feel okay. Well, this person  may not know that meth causes massive paranoia, mini-strokes, tics and brain damage. He does, however, know it makes him feel right. All of this exacerbates his problem with his mental illness. Jobs are lost, relatives don’t want them because they are addicts. Where else can they go but the streets. Let’s say with their job, they had insurance. Even though they go to the doctor and get prescriptions for meds, the meds, like mine are so expensive our guy can’t afford to get them. Yes, there are generics- but not on all meds. The medications that do work well are third generation drugs- new drugs-expensive drugs. 

Yes, there may be addicts among the homeless. In most cases, the person has been through rehab many times and it can’t help because being sober means not feeling “normal.” How then, can we make mental help possible for people like this? There are low cost mental health clinics, but many times, one still has to pay something. How can one pay something if they can’t work? 

The cycle continues, cities are not willing to step up to help make the situation better, homelessness runs rampant and nothing is done.

People are afraid and shun the homeless folks. Why? People are afraid of what they don’t understand. That is why I write this missive. I want people to know there is nothing to be afraid of- say hi to a homeless person. If they ask for money and you don’t want to give it directly to them, why not take them to a sandwich shop and buy them a meal, a drink, a cookie? Treat them like they are human beings. Because that is what they are. They love and are loved. They get hungry,tired, sad, happy. Just do something out of your comfort zone. They will truly be grateful.

And there but for the grace of God go I. 

Uncomfortable? Think of Other Guy

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An old Scottish pastor, upon hearing I have Bipolar disorder, asked me what it felt like. I’d never really had anyone ask me what it “felt like.” I’m not sure there are words for it. But, pictured here is what it  looks like.  I have been stable with medication for a while. But, I painted these two examples of what bipolar is and what it feels like only yesterday. “But,” you may be thinking, “You just said you were stable.” Well, see that’s the whole thing about bipolar.

Bipolar means manic depression. Some folks may be more depressed – some more manic. And still more may be mixed-yep, depressed AND manic at the same time.  And that’s where it gets complicated. That’s when there are no words to describe it because iit all becomes too much. Too many feelings racing through my head, too many things that irritate and agitate me- too much noise, too much frustration- just too much. Overwhelming sadness, overwhelming hyperactive behaviour- all at once. Organizing, cleaning, music, laughter, crying- all symptoms of mania.

Overwhelming, crippling sadness, the inability to get out of bed, the inability to care, the inability to move.The tears, the screaming, both in my head and out of my mouth.

A call to my doctor decreases a med here and maybe add a med there. An atypical anti psychotic, she says. “I don’t want to if i can get away from it,” I say.” It makes me feel flat, takes away my imagination, my ability to write, communicate and paint. My creativity gone- in one fell swoop. That is why folks diagnosed with bipolar don’t stay on the meds they are prescribed. Ridiculously expensive and highly effective as far as curbing the feelings, non-feelings, voices, weird behaviour and activity, they come with a bevy of side effects not the least of which is flat affect or no real feelings at all. More of a numbness. So, the plight of the mentally ill  is basically too many feelings, thoughts and more or none.

I have a wonderful psychiatrist who has worked with me for long about 20 years or more now and my therapist is so in tune to the cycles in my mind. She can usually help me ward them off before they actually come to the surface. I waited too long to go see her this time. I’ll know better next time.

Mental illness is debilitating at best. I have tried to use words to describe what happens- what goes on- but it is difficult helping a non-mentally ill person sort it out. The triggers that set a mentally ill person off may be nothing to someone else. That is why it is so difficult to understand and so difficult to relate to. It is like folks say, ” Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not a disease.”

People are sometimes not nice to people like me. I don’t really have that problem since i’ve been stable. But, just let me cycle- let me go manic or depressed and then some people think “pulling myself up by my bootstraps ” should do the job. Righty-o. Please try to have patience, empathy and if nothing more than a modicum of understanding if you see someone on the streets talking to themselves, making gestures to no one in particular. If you think it is uncomfortable for you- imagine what it is for us.