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A Little Higher

A Little Higher

A year and a few months ago I wrote about my major depressive disorder and my attempts to begin to run again after a two-year hiatus. I also wrote, a few weeks later, about major knee pain, a visit to an orthopedic and the diagnosis that running wasn’t in my future. I tried again earlier this year and knee pain came back.

For those with depressions and anxiety, the BIG 3 in treating them are medicine therapy, talk therapy, and exercise. There are a lot of other things as well but these three are the foundation to successfully living with the disease. Without running I’ve spent the last few months trying to find another effective and somewhat enjoyable way to work out. I’ve found a few cross training videos that seem to hit the intersection.

One of the instructors on a video says the following; “Watch your posture. Imagine two balloons tied to your ears lifting you high, keeping your body straight as you do this workout.” I’ve watched the video and heard this instructor say it so often I know when it’s coming and I’m already checking my body’s alignment.

I’ve also thought about the advice in other parts of my life. Too many times I’m looking down, hunched over, not seeing the light and feeling the heat of the sun because my face is looking at the ground. Depression has this type of impact on a person. However, if I would, even on my darkest days, put those balloons on I might be surprised how looking up can help when I’m feeling down.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Thinking

Thinking

One of the easiest lessons of wisdom to learn is you are what you repeatedly think or do. One of the hardest wisdom disciplines to practice is thinking and doing good things.

Aristotle said, paraphrased by Will Durant; “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.” So what we keep thinking and keep doing reveals who we truly are, on the inside. We can say we are kind, loving, grace-giving, but if our thoughts and deeds betray us we must come to the reality of who we are if we desire to change or be at peace through acceptance.

For those like myself who live with depression, one of the cycles we can get into are negative thoughts about ourselves. We relive painful moments, negative events, over and over again. We get stuck with thoughts of how we could be better, how terrible we are, and how little we can offer the world and those closest to us.

Being caught in a cycle of negative thoughts, reliving mistakes and mishaps is called ruminating. For those battling depression the thoughts can literally go on for days, weeks, months. When we are doing well, on a plateau, we can catch ourselves and refuse to hop on these train of thoughts. When we are struggling our thoughts can take us down tracks from which we may never recover.

I like the Zen saying; “You can’t stop negative thoughts from coming but you don’t have to sit and serve them tea.”

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Fly Away

Fly Away

This morning I watched numerous birds flying around, landing on anything solid only to fly away again, seemingly without a care in the world. Birds are masters at looking as if there is nothing which tethers them to the ground, nothing that so burdens their minds they forget how to fly.

A depressive disorder has many symptoms but one of the most annoying and energy-consuming is; “ruminating.” Ruminating is thinking about something over and over. Turning it over in your mind. Looking at it from each and every possible angle and then doing the same thing again incessantly. It’s not being able to let a thought go whether it be a person, a situation (past, present, future) a fear or a source of anger. It is being tethered to and unable to allow the thought to fly away.

The quote (pictured) is a great reminder that we may be unable to stop a thought from landing in our minds but we can develop the discipline to let it go.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Safe

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It has begun!

Several weeks ago my wife and I hired someone to remodel our bathroom. Today, they started. I work at home and it wasn’t easy to focus on anything with the bathroom being demolished a few feet away.

A safe space is important for someone like me who’s battling a major depressive disorder and a severe anxiety disorder or another who deals with any mental health issues. We need a quiet, mostly uninterrupted space where we can collect our thoughts, process the day that was and prepare for the next day.  This week I don’t have that and it has me concerned.

In times and seasons when our rhythm is disrupted, our safe space invaded, what we use to cope is taken away, we need to remember that all outward places we look for protection are not always available. The safest space is in the arms of grace, a deep abiding peace which travels with you wherever you go.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Old and New

Old and New

Yesterday, on my Facebook memories page, was a picture I took of a wonderful couple Beth and I know in Pennsylvania. It was taken in March of 2014 just after beginning my sabbatical. The smile on both their faces portrayed the genuineness and kindness they had shown Beth and me for many years. They were only in town for a Sunday and after church, we went out to eat. As usual, they picked up the tab and the photo was snapped before we said our goodbyes.

I was in all kinds of pain at that time but didn’t have a real grasp of the mental and emotional toll the previous years had taken on me. I’m still coming to grips with a lot of it.

We had moved from a people, place we loved and had no idea what was ahead. Everything seemed to swirl around us and we could not seem to find a place to plant our feet and get our bearings. Then, along came this couple back into our lives. It was a reminder that love, grace, kindness were still present even though the winds of upheaval seemed to strip away all we held dear.

Most of 2014 seemed like the end of life as we’d known it. It would stay that way for next year. However, slowly we found our feet on firm ground and began building something new.

This evening I am thankful for old friends and new beginnings.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Broke and Broken 

Broke or Broken

Someone asked me today what’s the difference between being broke and broken? It was a great question that I am still pondering.

I think being, believing, you are broke is resignation. To be broke spiritually or emotionally is to lose hope of being fixed, reset, used again. I have felt this way in the throes of an episode of major depression. When all is dark and being of any use our used again is lost to the shroud that settles, stifles and suffocates your soul.

To be broken, for me, is to still believe there is life and light to be found in the dark night of the soul. It’s not easy to find hope, purpose, any emotional or spiritual depth but somehow, someway, there’s a place in your inner most being that believes it’ll get better. These are my good days and, though they may seem disheartening to one who has not suffered from depression and anxiety, are worth celebrating.

Broke and broken. Two sides of the same coin where one is a sense of worthlessness and the other a chance for a life which is valued.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

The End

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The End

Today is the end of 2016. Fittingly it is a rainy, messy, lazy, stay inside type of day. 2016 has seemed to be filled with more bad than good, negative than positive, a seismic movement towards evil leaving good behind. Even as I write the last sentence images of natural disaster, murders, political theater in the absurd, and the death of people everyone knew and those who impacted lives on a less grand scale but no less important to the ones who still mourn their loss.

Also, as I blog this post it is my understanding that not everyone sees 2016 the same way. Some people had a worse year than what I’m describing and others a wonderful year full of blessings, answers to prayer and enjoyment.

My feeling of the year which has passed is a general feeling of woe for our country and world. Myopically 2016 wasn’t a bad year. Personally, I am still blessed with the most wonderful wife a man could be married to, a job that has seen a lot of changes but an enormous amount of good done for others, a house far from perfect but feels more like home each day, and cast of good people I consider my family and friends.

I continue to pray, hope and seek help for my Major Depressive Disorder and Anxiety Disorder. For the first time, I feel my meds, therapy, and personal recovery are headed in the right direction. The diseases I fight are not and will never be easy but having people who care enough to keep fighting with you makes the battles less scary and victory more likely.

So, here’s to 2016, may it rest in peace.  2017? Here’s hoping you’re better than I’m expecting.

blessings,
BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Cleaning

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Cleaning

Today was a wasted day or a restful day depending on how you look at it. It was cloudy, cool, started raining a few hours ago and hasn’t stopped. As someone who struggles with Major Depressive Disorder, a day when not much gets done is also a day filled with battling thoughts of worthlessness and not living life to the fullest. There is the worry that a depressive episode is around the next corner which is why you didn’t get anything done which causes my anxiety disorder to kick in which is exhausting and overwhelming. These days are when I’m at the greatest risk of spiraling into the black hole of depression.

All that to say I felt something had to be accomplished today so I vacuumed, folded clothes, washed dishes, got rid of the trash while Beth was grocery shopping. It’ll help her out but it was for me more than her.

One of the most difficult things to do, when you suffer from a mental illness, is keeping your thoughts free of the dark and dirty ones which lead to no place good. It’s not easy to always stay busy or struggle with your self-worth when things don’t get accomplished. There is a middle ground, a place of balance and order but some days it’s harder to find than others.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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How Much Does a Spirit Weigh?

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“The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.  All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.” The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 16

How Much Does a Spirit Weigh?

This morning was my regularly scheduled session with my therapist. I wanted to leave early because traffic approaching Nashville can be hazardous and slow. I arose with the alarm and went into the living room to do my morning prayers. Following, the above verse from the book of Proverbs was stuck in my head.

I pulled out of the driveway and began the trip. Everything was going fine until my cell phone rang and it was Beth, who was on her way to work, and while listening to the radio heard there was not one but two vehicle accidents on the interstate which I was traveling. “Sigh!” Brake lights soon lit up the road in front of me and I couldn’t help but be amused at how quickly my plans fell apart. “Oh, how little control we have over anything.” I finally made it to the doctor’s office and the waiting room was already full.

I found my seat and occupied myself with my phone and the TV which was on. Minute after minute passed by and it wasn’t too long before my appointment time came, went, and still I sat in the waiting room. My plans for the morning were vanishing before my eyes and I wondered what the Lord’s answer to me would be? Perhaps, “Brian, just breathe and let go of your irritation. I know where you are and I am there with you.

Planning and scheduling my days are part of how I deal with my Severe Anxiety Disorder. It helps me break my schedule into smaller, more manageable parts. It seems innocent, “pure” as the verse from Proverbs would say, but I also recognize that the control I seek isn’t really possible and handing control over my daily existence to the One who is eternal is the only way to true peace of mind.

When my anxiety and/or depression begin to permeate my spirit it seems to get heavier and heavier until it’s an effort to do any and everything. However, when God, who knows my spirit is being weighed down by mental illness, plans, worries and a host of other things, sees me burdened he picks me up and breathes his lightness into my spirit so I can rise up and keep going.

blessings,
@BrianLoging
thewannabesaint.com

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Keep Walking

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Keep Walking

This morning, part of my devotions had this passage from Laurence Freeman, OSB;

“A brother came to his Abbott and said, ’Many distracting thoughts come into my mind and I am in danger because of them. I’m so distracted, my mind is all over the place.’  The elder took the monk out of the cell into the open air and said, ‘Open up the garments that you’re wearing and catch the wind.’  The monk replied, ’I cannot do this!’ and the Abba said to him, ‘If you cannot catch the wind, neither can you prevent distracting thoughts from coming into your head. Your job is to say not stop them from blowing in but letting your mind be open enough for the distracting thoughts to blow out as well.'”

One of the most difficult traits of having a Severe Anxiety Disorder is all of the thoughts that swirl in my mind almost every moment of every day. I believe this is one of the main reasons for my attraction to the contemplative, monastic lifestyle. I’ve read countless words of wisdom on how to still my thoughts, to try to corral them, and some work, sometimes but some days nothing does.

A picture in my Facebook feed this morning reminded me of the battle between what I desire; a calm interior with what is often anything but:

Tomorrow I go to a specialist who I’ve been seeing for almost a year. She is a nice woman, smart and understanding. She asks me how I’m feeling, how my meds are working, how I’m sleeping, how I’m doing socially, what my work schedule is like, and other, much harder, probing, deep, questions.

One of the hardest parts of seeing her is that I’m not significantly better, or better yet; cured. She knows this already, she knew this when I started seeing her. People with Chronic, Major Depressive Disorder, and Severe Anxiety Disorder don’t suddenly recover. It’s a long process and she is part of my journey, along with words of wisdom, my spirituality, meds and a host of other things.

So, I keep walking this path and enjoy the good days, endure the harder days and trust the folks who surround and support me.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Safe Place

Safe Place

claus·tro·pho·bi·a ˌklôstrəˈfōbēə/noun, an extreme or irrational fear of confined places

When most people think of claustrophobia, they think of a person trapped in a tiny space, with no way of escape and mentally, emotionally and physically being unable to handle it. While this is part of being claustrophobic it is not all of it.
As a person diagnosed with claustrophobia, small rooms make me uncomfortable, elevators are avoided, along with any place where I do not have immediate access to an exit.

Another lesser known cause of a claustrophobic attack is being in a crowd of people and feeling like the crowd has surrounded you and is keeping you from leaving a room. I also struggle with sitting in the middle of a row of people. Again, not being able to exit immediately, if needed, is a trigger. This is why I sit at the end of a row of chairs, at the corners of tables, and remain standing if these aren’t available.

This morning we were late for church and when we arrived the place was packed! Good for the church, not so much for me. We looked for a place where I’d be comfortable but no place was found. Finally, we decided to sit near the end of a row but a few seats in. As soon as I sat down my claustrophobia and panic kicked in. I thought about getting up but Beth, seeing I was struggling, immediately put her arm around me, rubbed my shoulders and back, pulled herself close to me. The struggle was still hard but someone was there for me, helping me, bringing comfort and a sense of safety.

All of us face different struggles, some seen and others unseen. However, what we battle in our lives will never be as important as having people who stand and fight our demons with us. Folks who tell us; “I will always be with you. No matter where you go, where the path leads, you’ll always have me as a safe place.”

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com
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Holding On

Holding On

The grass crunched underneath my feet as I opened the workshop doors to back the riding mower out. The weeds, bent over and wilted in the yard, were sparse but tall enough to need mowing. I turned on the blades and dust arose. This has been a long, hot, dry summer. What began in April and early May with plenty or rain and fast growing grass, beautiful blooms quickly retreated as the rain quit falling and the temperatures steadily climbed. The leaves are already dropping to the ground as trees can’t get enough of water to keep them healthy. There likely won’t be a colorful fall because the leaves will be dying or dead before the changing of the seasons.

I listened to someone talk today about depression. They described it as; “The want of nothing, the will to do nothing.” An apt description of my own struggle with chronic, severe depression. The speaker has dealt with this disease most of his life and accepts it may be a part of the journey until his death. 

Depression’s impact is like the drought’s upon the trees. The life giving sources of joy, purpose and the will to live, is lacking. What was once beautiful and growing is now dull and lifeless. Like the trees which cannot draw enough water to it’s leaves, to give them the strength to hang on, helplessly watches them let go and blow away.

The speaker commented; “the key to holding on is to possess a sliver of hope.” It can be hope in a myriad of things but hope reminds us that it gets better. Friends, family members, work, treatment, medication, therapy, community, relationships, hobbies, prayer, all can give us hope that who we are, what we do, matters. “As long as we see hope, we see a reason to keep going.”

blessings,
BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Come Out and Play

Come Out & Play

Ever feel life is similar to this poor Giant Panda Bear (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant_panda) staff member? You’re doing everything you can to keep your life neat and orderly, to do what you need to do, and forces beyond your control are conspiring against you to keep it from happening.

Watching this video I couldn’t help but feel sorry and empathize with the zoo keeper. I’ve been there. On good days, when my Clinical Depression and Severe Anxiety are kept at bay, I’m able to accomplish what I set my mind to do. However, on those days when my D&A decide to run wild it takes everything I’ve got to get the simplest project done or task completed.

Those days when Depression and Anxiety; “come out to play” and wreak havoc I do my best to remember tomorrow, or some day soon, they’ll stay away long enough for life to regain a semblance of order and serenity.

#DontBeAshamedofYourStory
#EndtheStigma of #MentalHealth
#StoptheStigma #MentalHealthAwareness

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Need Help

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Need Help

When Beth and I made an offer on our little farm-house one of the provisos we placed in the contract was that an old, red, riding lawn mower be included in the purchase. Since the previous owner was going to be living in a camper in Florida he had no problem with this stipulation. I used it all last summer but during the fall problems began to plague the mower and late last year it died. It was going to cost almost as much to fix it as buying a new one. I had a relatively new push mower and when spring arrived I decided to use it to mow the grass. It wasn’t easy. We have almost 2 acres and the back yard has a good slope to it.

I would split the chore into two days. The front part of the yard took over 2 hours and the back, with the incline, was closer to 3. For almost two months I used the push mower but as temps began to climb and the humidity level rose I noticed by the end of the second day I was so tired I couldn’t do anything else. I was whooped, spent, done. It took almost everything I had to do this one thing. I could do it but nothing else. Finally, the Mrs. and I decided to buy a new lawn tractor. A couple of weeks ago I used it for the first time and it was a relief to have help, to not rely solely on my strength to do a relatively simple chore. I could now mow everything in one afternoon, do the weed eating with strength left over to work on other projects.

Last weekend, while using the new lawn mower, I reflected on my journey with severe depression and anxiety (https://thewannabesaint.com/2016/04/27/my-depression-and-anxiety-story/). I thought about the struggle to make it on my own, not ask for help. Trying to carry the burden of depression and anxiety took everything I had just to get through each day and the truth is that I was losing the battle. As hard as it was to admit I needed help. Finally going to see a specialist, talking about what these diseases were doing to me, agreeing to take meds, wasn’t easy, still isn’t, but it’s what needed to be done.

Understanding we can’t do it alone, asking for help, depending upon and trusting others to walk beside us, maybe carry us until we can walk again doesn’t make us weak but instead allows us to be strong again.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Crawl. Walk. Run.

Crawl. Walk. Run.

A couple of weeks ago I shared; “My Depression and Anxiety Story” (https://thewannabesaint.com/2016/04/27/my-depression-and-anxiety-story/) after I had gone on my first run in over two years.

My goal was simple. I would run/walk as often as my physical and mental health would let me. Knowing it would take time to build strength and endurance I took days off and did my best to pace myself. It was important that I didn’t push too hard so I tried to be careful not to strain or sprain anything. However, after two weeks, I noticed both knees were beginning to hurt and by Wednesday of this week I couldn’t walk without severe pain and there were times I thought about crawling from my office to the truck or from the couch to the kitchen. On Friday I went to the doctor and she noticed there was swelling on both knees and we made the decision for me to receive one steroid injection in each leg. Following the shots the physical therapist told me; “Stay off your legs as much as possible until Sunday afternoon. The less you are on your feet the more potent the steroid will be to the injured areas.” So, on a beautiful weekend, I am stuck on the couch. “Ugh!

Long journeys never seem to abide with our plans. Doing my best to follow the doctor’s advice the last couple of days I’ve had time to reflect on this long journey with Depression and Anxiety. Much like dealing with knee difficulties there have been days with depression and anxiety when all I could do was sit despondently and watch the world go by. Other days I’ve crawled along the path. Most days I walk, albeit slowly, and one day I hope to be able to mentally run on my journey toward recovery.

Wisdom teaches us to crawl, walk then run. Whatever we do, wherever we go, there is a pace, a rhythm. One must be in sync to find and navigate the path towards wholeness and healing.

On my journey with these diseases I cannot dictate the speed. Instead I must accept that each day will be unique and sometimes stillness is the only way forward.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Darkness of the Mind

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Today has been a gloomy day. The gray clouds have hung low, the sun hidden from view and I’ve been tired since I got out of bed this morning. Days like this are long and it’s difficult to be in a positive frame of mind.

For some folks even when there’s not a cloud in the sky and the sun, like a Phoenix, rises high above the earth casting light on all it surveys their view is still obscured by the darkness of their mind. Depression, anxiety and other mental health issues keep them in a perpetual state of unease and uncertainty. It’s hard for them to become motivated to do anything for the darkness drains them, keeps them from seeing the use, the purpose, the reason for simply living.

Oftentimes these folks are the ones you’d least suspect are battling demons of darkness. They seem okay, well adjusted, walk amongst us without a sign that reads; “help“, or a dark cloud hanging over their heads but make no mistake they are present, trying to hang on one more day, searching for the courage to hope, looking for a light in the darkness.

Blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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Needed

I haven’t seen the sun all day. I know it’s there but either its hiding behind the clouds or they are hiding it. I’m not sure if this is the reason but its been a hard day to accomplish anything. Overcast days have always drained me. They’re just so … “blah.”

I was talking with someone on Wednesday about how I was doing, the way life was treating me and I told her it was; “going okay.” We conversed about those times I didn’t have the energy to do much and how these days seemed to engender within me a sense of loss and shame for wasting my life. She told me; “some days you must give yourself permission to just be, not accomplishing, or getting through a task list, just being and letting that be enough.” “Easier said than done,’ I said, ‘for someone who struggles with severe anxiety.” “Maybe,’ she replied, ‘but that doesn’t mean you don’t try.Good words.

It almost seems like an oxymoron to try at not trying, be at simply being, allowing a moment to exist without making it into something more. Perhaps a cloudy, rainy day wasn’t what I wanted but exactly what I needed.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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What the New Year Holds

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If 2014 was the longest year of my life, and it seemed to be, then 2015 was one of the shortest. Trying to wrap my brain around it being the last day of the year is proving to be a difficult task.

I spent most of the year out of my comfort zone trying to forge new relationships, learning a new job, accepting the reality of the diagnosis of an illness and adjusting my life accordingly.

It was not a year of stillness and balance but rather of uncertainty and finding my footing. It wasn’t a bad year by any means but for someone who likes stability and predictability it was a challenge! Now, here I am, only a few hours of this quick moving year left and no sense of what the new one will bring.

Today has been a day of rest and reflection. A respite to catch my breath. Whatever 2016 holds it will be experienced, accepted and not too much to bear.

Blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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Identifying with Others

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This morning I read about a Dad who had a tattoo of his daughter’s cochlear implant imprinted upon his head. Now whether you’re a tat person or not that’s pretty cool.

I was talking with my neighbor last night about a schizophrenic man in Nashville who was killed this week by police after he tried to shoot with a gun and maim with a hatchet a group of people in a movie theater. Fortunately no one else was seriously injured.

It’s hard to understand why a person would do such a thing!” He said to me. I knew this wasn’t the time to go into mental illness and it’s effect on individuals and families but I did tell him that often it’s the people who inflict the greatest amount of pain on others who are suffering the most themselves.

We may not comprehend the hurt and actions of others. We aren’t able to climb inside their minds and spirits to sort out motivations and intentions. However, what we can do is not judge, not dismiss, not shake our heads with condemnation and contempt.

Too often the struggles and difficulties of another separate us, especially when we can’t identify with the particular hell they’re going through. However, using our ignorance as an excuse eliminates our ability to hear their cry, help with their need, bring healing to their wounds.

blessings,
@BrianLoging
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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A Sudden Stop 

My grass mowing yesterday came to a sudden and painful stop!
A few weeks ago I had tried to remove some unsightly bushes and was able to dig up almost all of them but a stubborn, rather large stump, refused to go. I sawed off as much as I could and hoped to get back to it at another time. I made a mental note to mow around it but had managed to erase it from my mind.

Lost in thought…”WHAM!” the deck of the lawn tractor hit the stump and I lurched forward, banging my knee, stomach and wrenching my neck. At first I had no idea what happened but then I realized that concealed under the grass was that unseen roadblock. OW! After making sure there were no broken bones I put the mower in reverse, navigated around it and began mowing again.

While shaking off the sudden stop I reflected upon those whose lives are affected by depression, anxiety, panic attacks, bipolar, other mental health illnesses, and how quickly their personal journeys can be brought to a stop. They are moving along when an unforseen obstacle in their path brings their lives to a painful and confusing impasse. Most times, for those with hidden struggles, there is no warning and the downward spiral is debilitating and disheartening.

People who live with these illnesses, and the ones who love them, it’s important they remember that the way forward may be impeded, the world may come to a sudden stop but support, understanding and acceptance will never cease from those who care and love them most.

blessings,
@BrianLoging
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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