From the Archives: Feelings are not Facts

Week 2 of my Journey out of the Pit

Last week I shared insights from my Christian counselor. When I was in the pit of depression, the truths that I learned were the rungs that helped me climb my way out of the pit.

I first had to recognize that what I believed about myself was not the truth about me.

In one session, my counselor was trying to print something and had to change the default printer to a different one. She said that it was similar to what takes place in my thought process.

My “default” feelings:

Blaming myself when something goes wrong

Thinking that everything bad that happens is my fault.

Feeling that I am not worth anything or a bother to someone else.

Believing that I am less ____ than anyone else

Harboring resentment

Feeling guilty for past sins or mistakes

To find healing from the depression, I needed to let go of these thoughts. I needed to learn to Stop, to Catch my Thought, and to Change the Default.

Replace the negative thoughts with the truths about who I am. (see previous posts).

Phillipians 4:8 gives us an illustration about the things we as Christians are to think about:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Remember, our feelings affect our thoughts, and our thoughts influence our actions.

Often times I feel like people don’t like me, or I did something dumb and they now think poorly of me. My thoughts turn against me, telling me that I’m a bad person or I’m unlovable.

When I think like that, I turn inward and pull away from people who care about me or stop going to the places where the events happened.

I am my own worst enemy. But my feelings are not facts.

A few of the facts about me are:

  • I’m not dumb.
  • I am who I am because that’s how God made me
  • I’m okay the way I am.
  • I’m not like everyone else.
  • I might have made a bad choice but that does not make me a bad person.

When we catch ourselves in a negative thought, we can turn it around and replace it with a positive truth, or affirmation. We can learn to change the default thought.

No one can do this for us. We can only do this for ourselves, and by the grace of God.

I’m not suggesting that this is easy. In fact, it’s very hard to change the way we’ve thought about ourselves for so long.

We need to take this healing process one step at a time. One day at a time.

Don’t look at a week, a month, or a year.

“THIS is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)
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From the Archives: Rungs of Truth

Week 1 of my Journey out of the Pit

I’ve mentioned the Christian counselor in other posts that I have been going to since 2013.

I’m certain God led me to this counselor, as she and her husband were missionaries in Saltillo, Mexico, around the same years that I studied there. Not only that, but she studied Spanish at the same language institute that I did there in Saltillo, just not at the same exact time. It was enough of a connection to believe that God brought her into my life to help me heal.

One of the first things my counselor talked about was Psalm 40:1-2.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.

The verses describe what it feels like to live in depression and grief.

My counselor gave me the word picture that there is a pit of depression, but there are rungs to help us climb out of it.

The rungs are truths that we know. For a Christian, those truths are founded in the Word of God.

My late husband had made notes in the margins of his Bible. I had come across these words he’d written in the book of Ephesians:God loves me.

God loves me.

God accepts me.

God forgives me.

These were three truths that I could count on. They were rungs that I could use to help myself climb out of the pit.

I added a truth on my own:

I am a child of God.

My counselor agreed with these truths. She also added some.

I am who I am by God’s design.
God gave life to dirt. He made us in His image. My value comes from being made in the image of God.
God sees us as His children.
He delights in us.
He loves us for who we are.
Whether we believe it or not, it’s still the truth.
As a person thinks in their heart, so they are.

These are the rungs of truth that I could use to climb out of the pit of depression.

Before I could grasp hold of a rung, however, I first needed to catch myself thinking negative thoughts. I learned to picture a stop sign.

Once I caught myself thinking a negative thought about myself, I could stop the thought from taking root.

The the next step was to replace the negative thought with a positive truth. After a while, these truths became a part of who I was.

The process of climbing out of the pit did not happen overnight. Sometimes it was two steps forward and one step back. But I continued to go to counseling and built on that foundation.

Over time and through much prayer and determination, I can say that I am safely on the topside. Occasionally I slip towards that pit, but God has helped me to remember what I’ve learned and keep from falling back in.

For the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing more of my experiences and the truths that have helped me build a good life today.

The Creator of Light

My reading this morning was from Psalm 69.

Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold.

I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me.
I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched.

Psalm 69:1-3

My study Bible says that if David is the author of this Psalm, the occasion is unknown. New Testament authors viewed this cry of a godly sufferer as foreshadowing of the sufferings of Christ.

I’m not a scholar, so I can’t tell you what this means.

What I know is how I feel when I read those 3 verses.

  1. I feel the Psalmist David understood how our emotions can range from the highest mountaintops to the deepest valleys.
  2. Since the words could also be about Christ, I feel that Jesus, too, understands what it is like to have conflicting emotions.

The emotional struggle is real. For a person with bipolar disorder, the ups can be very high and the downs can be very low, much like the Psalmist. Fortunately for me, the pendulum swing is not that extreme. I struggle mostly with depression interspersed with a few moments here and there of manic thoughts and actions.

In the past fifteen months, I’ve often shared how God brought me out of the pit of depression and brought me into the light. A couple of weeks ago, I likened my journey to that of a caterpillar in a cocoon that transforms into a butterfly.

I still feel that to be true, but unlike a butterfly, I wanted to retreat into my cocoon and ride out the mild depression I felt the past few days.

The depression might have been brought on by grief, as I lost an uncle last week. We were not close, but he was a part of my mom’s family. I pictured him as he walked through heaven’s gates, with my grandma, his mom, there to greet him with open arms. Even so, the loss of yet another family member hovered in my mind as the weekend progressed.

Throughout the weekend, I studied what the Bible has to say about creation: how God created light by the Word of His mouth.

Jesus was with God in the beginning. The same God, yet a separate identity.

In the beginning was the Word (Jesus) and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

In Him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of man. The light shines in the darkness…

John 1:1-2; 4, 5a

Jesus confirmed this when he called Himself the Light of the World in John 8:12.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12

Sometimes Christians can experience emotionally dark times, but God is present with us even then. Just because we can’t see the sun on a cloudy day, its presence is still there. So God has promised to never leave us or forsake us.

God also promises one day there will be no more darkness. When we reach our heavenly home and are in the presence of God, Revelation 22:5 says,

There will be no more night. They will not need the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light.

Revelation 22:5

I am so thankful that God is the Giver of Light. He is also the God of forgiveness. And the Great Healer. May anyone who is going through a time of darkness lift their eyes toward heaven and cry out as the Psalmist did. And if you need a counselor, or a doctor-prescribed medication, to get you through the lows, don’t be afraid to reach out to a trusted source for help.

God hears our every prayer, even the words we cannot speak. He will be with us and give us light. And someday, there will be no more darkness, and no more night.

Praise the Lord.

It is Well with My Soul

(I’m almost embarrassed to post this today after my recent Facebook post stating that in my own part of the world, there was peace in my mind and in my heart.)

Today didn’t start off very well. I stopped for gas on the way to work and pulled up to the pump on the driver’s side. I’d forgotten that my gas tank is on the passenger side. I turned the car around. Then as I started pumping gas, I also started to cry.

Another aunt passed away recently. And we lost another classmate. In one part of the world farmilies are being separated by war. So much loss of life.

I’d felt a heaviness all weekend and now that feeling was coming out in tears.

Since I was starting to let my emotions get the best of me, after pumping gas I pulled into an empty parking space. I took out my phone and called my counselor. I told her I was sorry for bothering her but told her that I felt overwhelmed with my emotions starting to spin out of control.

“Did you use your tools?” she asked.

Uh, no.

I knew what she meant. Not tools like a hammer and screwdriver, but actions I can take to helm me manage my emotions. Tools that I talked about in previous posts last summer when I was doing well.

You’d think by now these actions would be engrained in me so that when emotional moments come up, I can put them to right away.

Instead, I try to do everything on my own. To push my feelings inside and handle life’s struggles. Then when it becomes overwhelming, I fall apart.

After a mini breakdown a few months ago in my car on the way to work (which seems to be the time when I fall apart), I wrote down these actions on index cards and put them in my car.

Some of these tools are standard for anyone who is dealing with the anxiety and depression, but these are the order in which I have them in my vehicle. Some I came up with or personalized.

Card #1:

Take a few deep breaths to slow down my thoughts.

Card #2:

Listen to or sing, “It is Well with my Soul.” (My favorite rendition of the song is in the video link below.)

Card #3:

Tighten all muscles, then relax.

Card #4:

Remember: “Feelings are not Facts”.

F-A-T:

Feelings affect our thoughts which affect our actions.

Card #5:

Remember this Bible verse:

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

James 4:8

Card #6:

Picture myself in a serene place.

For me it was the lavendar field where we went in July, overlooking the lake. I remember how relaxed I felt that day, how utterly at peace my thoughts were.

How fleeting peace can be!

I know I have a lot of ups and downs, and sometimes all in the same day or in this case, the same weekend. Living with the challenges I face is not easy. Sometimes I say half-jokingly that “It’s so hard to be me.”

For some reason, unlike “normal” people, I don’t handle my emotions well under stress or during grief. Or maybe I’m one of the few who seek outside help with managing my emotions during those times.

I’m not too embarrassed to be real and honest here. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way. We all have our ups and downs. None of us go through life untouched by grief.

After I reviewed my index cards and listened to the song, “It is well with my Soul,” I was able to grab hold of that peace and go on with my day. I didn’t cancel any clients. I made it through the day, and actually enjoyed socializing with the people I was working for.

So the tools that my counselor taught me and that I expressed in posts last summer do really work. Progress is being made. In January, I had a mini breakdown and took three days off from work. Today, I had a mini breakdown and didn’t miss any jobs. I don’t know what is possible, but as another card:

Card #7:

Live one day at a time. Un dia a la vez.

Sadly, none of us is promised tomorrow. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Life is frail, and it can be gone in the blink of an eye.

A heart can stop beating at any time, and for so many, death came unexpectedly.

This hymn is one of my favorites and its message is so powerful. “Whatever my lot, God has taught me to say it is well, it is well with my soul.”

Good Monday Morning 8-30-21

Jesus My Belayer

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m not an outdoorsy type person. I’m also very afraid of heights, so you would not ever catch me rock climbing. However, the idea of rock climbing became very significant to me this week.

I was under a lot of stress and felt like I was falling into a pit of anxiety and depression. I’ve been in that pit before. I’ve worked very hard in the past 7 years to get out of the pit and stay out. There have been times when I’ve slipped and almost fallen. Thanks to God’s grace, and the support of family and friends, I’ve managed to find the footholds to climb out before I hit the bottom.

Earlier this week, however, as I struggled with the idea of trying to claw my way out of the pit that stress had caused, God gave me an amazing word picture.

Psalm 94:18-19 reads:

“When I said, my foot is slipping, your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great with me, Your consolation brought joy to my soul.” (NIV)

The image of a rock climber came to mind. Not knowing anything about it, I took a look at some photos and watched videos of rock climbers. I was impressed by the use of a belayer to assist in a safe climb.

Wikipedia describes the belaying process as follows:

“As the climber moves on the climb, the belayer must make sure that the climber has the right amount of rope by paying out or pulling in excess rope. If the climber falls, they free-fall the distance of the slack or unprotected rope before the friction applied by the belayer starts to slow their descent. Too much slack on the rope increases the distance of a possible fall, but too little slack on the rope may cause the climber to “whip” or swing into the rock at a high velocity, possibly injuring themselves. It is important for the belayer to closely monitor the climber’s situation, as the belayer’s role is crucial to the climber’s safety.”

Wikipedia.com

I have the sense that Jesus is my belayer as I climb the wall of life. He holds the rope, and He is attached to me through my relationship with Him. Though my foot may slip, He’s not going to let me crash to the ground.

Of course, I have some personal responsibility when it comes to my safety. I have to choose my path wisely. I can’t expect Jesus to save me when I am climbing outside the safety of His will. And the Bible makes clear what His will is in almost every situation that I face.

To stay out of the pit and climb successfully through life, I need the firm foundation of the Word of God. That foundation is the truth of who I am in Christ.

What is that truth?

God loves me.

God forgives me.

God accepts me.

I am a child of God.

As you climb the rock wall of life’s stresses, harness yourself to the One who created you, who knows you better than you know yourself, and who wants you to be fulfilled and blessed.

Make Jesus your belayer. He will make sure you have the right amount of rope to safely climb successfully out of the pit. He will not let you fall.