Christians and Anxiety

Posted on February 16, 2019 in Uncategorized

The Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6 vs. 25-34 (New International Version)

Jesus speaking,

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Jesus did not mince words when it comes to worrying about the things of this life. In fact, he told his listeners in verse 30, “you of little faith!”

I am a Christian and was saved early in my life. I battle anxiety! When prayerfully asking the Lord for a topic to write, he impressed upon my heart that I should talk about an area that has been an ongoing spiritual battle.

There was a time in my life when I worked a full-time job, a part-time business, enrolled in graduate school doing course work, and taking care of my infant son and daughter in the evenings while my wife worked.

My days would often run from 6 am – 1 am as my young daughter would make herself stay up until mommy got home.

I began having panic attacks due to the stress and anxiety of dealing with all these tasks. My panic attacks became so severe I could barely eat in a restaurant or around people. For a number of years I couldn’t comfortably eat out or even at the dinner table. I would hyperventilate and experience tightening in the chest and shortness of breath. I would often feel as if fluid was continually running down my throat causing me to swallow before I was ready. On more than one occasion I was taken by ambulance to the E.R.

It was during this time that I began taking prescription drugs like Zoloft to help me cope. I started out taking 50 milligrams and later increased it to 100 milligrams. During those years I was also not content. I desired to (what I thought at the time was a noble cause) make enough money so my wife could be a stay at home mommy, buy more things and have more time freedom. I wanted to increase my net worth so that I could have some of the finer things this world offered.

Through the early part of adulthood I tried multiple business ventures. Some of them made a little income but not enough to support our lifestyle. My poor decision making caused us to get into deep debt for which we are still digging ourselves out of today. My credit was trashed and bill collectors became my best friend (ha,ha) and would call me every day adding to my anxiety.

All of this created real anxiety that manifested itself in physical ways.

I cannot say enough about my godly wife and her forgiveness and faithfulness. She could have given up on me years ago, but her love for me has remained constant. As Jesus forgave her faults, she forgave mine. I love her and cherish her so much. To date, we have been married (by God’s grace) for more than 21 years.

Now, before I bring up more past wounds, let me add that God has since helped me overcome the severe panic attacks I used to have. I no longer have panic attacks. I am also off Zoloft and take no prescription drugs.

I testify to the fact that anxiety is real and it is rampant in the Church. But, through God it can be overcome. I am proof of this.

Looking back, while I was discontented and faithless, Jesus still remained faithful to me. This is because I belong to him and was purchased at a high price. (2 Timothy 2 vs. 13; 1 Corinthians 6 vs. 20)

I would read Matthew 6 over and over. I did not believe (even though Jesus said it) that I could have that type of faith. Even today, I have my down days. I am simply too human!!

I am often reminded of the following verse: Philippians 1 vs. 6, “He who began a good work in you will finish it.” Jesus is not finished with me. Amen!

How does a Christian live without anxiety? Let me say that I do not believe taking a prescription drug is bad. God inspired people to make these drugs. If you need them, take them. Just do not abuse them.

A Christian battling anxiety should continually pray for healing and trust God as the source of strength for each day. It is in our weaknesses that we experience the full power of God.

Jesus said in John 15 vs. 5, “I am the vine you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Anxiety can be hereditary. Anxiety can be a spiritual attack from the enemy. Anxiety can also come through sin in our lives or poor decision making. My first step toward overcoming anxiety was to finally accept my poor choices and decision making as the cause for much of it. I accepted responsibility for my actions and confessed this sin. Upon doing this God removed my guilt and gave me his peace.

It is so important for Christians to understand that God does not make us worry. God is not responsible for our anxiety. In fact, not only did Jesus say to not worry, but God inspired the writer of Philippians to say in chapter 4 vs. 6-7, “6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

God gives us his peace when we diligently seek him and rest in him! As we are given his peace, there is no room for anxiety.

The answer to dealing with anxiety in our lives is to ask God for his help, rest in his promises and remove all triggers in our lives that may be causing us anxiety.

For example, I do not sleep well. Often I find that a tired mind does not perform well throughout the day. When I am exhausted I tend to lash out at my children or others. I may say things I regret, causing me great guilt and the need for repentance later. I may spend money I don’t have, eat unhealthy, quit exercising, quit praying, or quit reading God’s word. Do you think that sleep is a trigger?? It is!

To combat this, I may need to turn off the TV earlier, watch the caffeine intake, and turn off all distractions so I get a better sleep.

When I am rested, I find that I am more patient with people and the quality of my work and time I spend with God is better. I also find I sin less.

As John 15 clearly says, Jesus is the answer for Christian anxiety. We must continually abide in him through prayer and God’s word.

Knowing who we are in Jesus is also critical to overcoming anxiety. The enemy comes to steal and destroy. Satan and his demons will do everything to destroy a Christians witness and joy. The following are just a few scriptural facts about the Christian. Rest in these promises from God’s word:

1 Peter 2 vs. 9: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. “

Romans 6 vs. 6: “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,”

1 Corinthians 12 vs. 27: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

1 John 3 vs. 1-2: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

Romans 8 vs. 28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

1 Peter 5 vs. 7: “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.”

Dear reader, we are loved greatly by God. He cares for us! (1 Peter 5 vs. 7). Focus on his promises, and trust him with your whole life. Even your mistakes and failures must be turned over to God who offers mercy and grace. He died for you and desires you above all else. Come to him just as you are.

My prayer is that you will overcome anxiety through the power of God. The first start is confessing your need for a savior (Jesus Christ) and placing your faith in him. If you hear the voice of God speaking to your heart today and calling you, do not harden your heart. Confess your sinfulness to him and ask him to save you. He will!

My story is not so uncommon for many Christians. Anxiety is a real problem but can be overcome through Jesus.

God bless you!

Bedside Manner

Posted on February 6, 2019 in Uncategorized

Can you remember what you thought EMS was before you had a job responding to 911 calls? I bet you were like me, you though that EMS was comprised of trained professionals that saved lives on a daily basis. Someone had better be dying or damn near close, for you to consider calling 911. I can remember breaking bones or being ill on numerous occasions, and my mother driving me to the ER in her makeshift mommy ambulance, a Dodge Caravan. We waited and waited in the triage area of the emergency room, not once did we think we should have called 911 for quicker treatment.

I remember the first time I did call 911. I was still a paramedic student, and my mother awoke one morning with a sudden onset of shortness of breath. Pulmonary embolism was the first thought in my head, and before I knew it my fingers were punching those numbers in the phone. I expected trained professionals and I got trained professionals. The paramedics had no problem being there, and if they did they didn’t show it. They moved with a purpose and treated my mother the same as if it was one of their mothers. They held her hand and they told her everything was going to be okay. I am forever grateful for that crew, thank you, wherever you are.

This post is dedicated to bedside manner. What do you consider good bedside manor? Maybe its different than what your patient considers good bedside manner, and its their opinion that matters.

I don’t imagine that you respond to true emergencies for the entire length of your shifts. If you are in a system like mine, most calls are for a matter of comfort, not a matter of life or death. How seriously do you take these calls? How do you tell these patients that they should not have utilized 911? I am going to provide a few good tips on this subject. Most may seem like common sense, but sadly we aren’t always surrounded by the commonly sensible.

Its not your emergency, its theirs.

I believe that statement says it all. These patients don’t have the training you do, and may have no idea what is happening. Indigestion may feel like a heart attack. A little nausea may make them think they have the Swine Flu. These patients may be scared and will probably need a little reassurance from you.

Now you may have just picked up your juicy burger and had it an inch away from your mouth when a call for a sleepy granny came through. These people have no idea how hungry or sleep deprived we are. Aren’t you being paid? Although we often have to work through our breaks, think of all the times you have been paid to sleep or eat. It is tough sometimes not to be upset, but it is even tougher to defend yourself for being unprofessional on a call.

It isn’t our place to tell them that they shouldn’t have called. It is our job to tell them when they should call.

You don’t want to scare people out of calling 911. Most often, they thought about calling long before they actually did. Telling them they shouldn’t have called will only make them angry. Imagine taking a patient in to the hospital and the physician telling you that you should have gone somewhere else. Instead of blaming the patient for your lack of sleep, use this time to educate. Make the patient aware of their possible risk factors, and give them advice from a medical professional. Let them know of different reasons to call 911. This passive approach may in fact decrease the less-needed calls. If they are under the impression that going by ambulance will get them seen quicker, correct them. I often offload my cut finger patients in the triage waiting room which has to leave them wondering if they should have called 911. I’m not punishing them, just opening their eyes. The patients that should be seen faster, are seen faster, no matter how they get there.

They are our customers.

We aren’t salesmen at a dealership, but we do have something to sell. We have to sell ourselves and our service. If you wonder why EMS doesn’t get the due it deserves, its because of customer service. Public relations can and will determine the outlook of our organizations. When you are called upon, respond as you should. Greet the responsive patient, and get on a first name basis. Use a calm and reassuring voice. These two things will help you build a personal relationship with your customer, and you better believe they will want everyone to know how great their experience was. They will also want everyone to know how horrible their experience was, if you make it that way.

What would we do if it wasn’t for all the less needed calls? My agency could cut resources by at least 50% if we only responded to true emergencies. I like my job, and I will take anyone and everyone who would like to go. Even though it isn’t the best use of resources, most agencies have built up their resources for such call volumes. I’m not saying that I advocate misuse of emergency services, but I am thankful for my job. Take from that what you will.

For the matters of comfort, make them comfortable! If the lonely old lady needs someone to talk to, listen to her. If someone is complaining of pain, treat their pain! If they are cold, cover them up. If they have a headache, speak softly. If they are dizzy, for God’s sake, don’t walk them to the truck. If the only treatment you provide is hand-holding on the way to the ER, be the best hand-holder there is. Treat every patient as if you would want your loved one treated, and you will never go wrong.

We are professionals, and we should act that way. Our patients expect that we will know exactly what is wrong with them and be able to treat it appropriately. Don’t prove them wrong.

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Anything Can Happen – Planes Fall From the Sky

Posted on January 27, 2019 in Uncategorized

“Call me when you get in, ok, sweetpea?”

“Sure, Mom, I will,” my obedient son responds.

He’s on his way back to school in New York from our home in Connecticut. It’s a few hours on the train. A trip he’s made many times in his two years at college.

But, anything can happen, I think. He could miss a connection. Stand too close to the tracks and fall in while leaning over to see his incoming train. Or, someone could pick his pocket – or worse. There can always be something worse! The premonition of disaster is still in the back of my mind, though I’ve worked hard over the years to dissipate it.

Friends accuse me of being overprotective. One friend says she thinks I would like to enclose my son in a bubble and just let him out on weekends. That is pretty accurate.

Motherhood is strange animal. Even though my son is 20, it feels like yesterday that I could cradle him in one arm. As an infant, I often took him in the shower with me. In our first days together, it was the only way for both of us to get clean. He didn’t like being dipped into the water in his bath, and would cry incessantly. But, if I held him and washed him gently in the warm spray, his cries subsided. Holding tight to his tiny slippery body, I would feel his breathing slow as he calmed against me.

It wasn’t long after I had to let him out of that first protective bubble – the womb – that my internal warning sirens started blaring. I would have been happy to keep him in my belly. Warm, well fed, dependent on all of my decisions. Once he was out, my psyche took a sharp turn. Seeing the vulnerable little pulp of a human being, I knew that he would need my vigilance to stay whole. But, there was something else at work here too.

I had fought most of my life against my family credo – the world is dangerous place, anything can happen. We knew this because it happened to us.

My mother’s cautions throughout my childhood, about everything from crossing the street to trusting strangers, came from a deeper well of fear. I didn’t realize, though, that I drank from the same waters, in fact would have vigorously denied it, until I had a child of my own. But, now I knew precisely where my intense fear for the safety of my child came from. I inherited it.

My parents had one daughter taken from them much too soon. Before I was born, a freak accident killed their seven-year-old daughter, Donna, when a plane crashed into their house. Mom was taking cookies out of the oven, pouring glasses of milk when the roof literally fell in on her world.

My mother took this as a life lesson never to be forgotten. Certainly not when she had another chance with a new child – that would be me. So, you could say she hovered. I learned hovering at an early age. As a child I leaned away from it. As a mother I embraced hovering as my new religion.

After my son, Justin, was born, it seemed like my mother’s teachings had galvanized inside me even as I tried to ignore them. I could actually hear her voice in my head every time I left my baby with someone else for a couple of hours.

“No one will look out for your child like you will – no one,” she told me.

Even though she was there looking out for her child in her home, the unthinkable happened anyway. The commuter flight headed for Newark Airport, just three miles away, lost altitude and sheared the top off of her house. The plane spewed its nearly full tank of jet fuel into my mother’s kitchen. The flames came so fast, the structure around her crumbled so quickly, that she didn’t realize her older daughter was caught beneath a ceiling beam with her leg trapped under tremendous weight.

When Donna called to her that “The baby is on fire!” my mother instinctively ran to her two-year old in the front room and smothered the flames with a nearby blanket. She rolled the baby, Linda, down the stairs to the front door, thinking someone would be able to open the door and rescue her. But, the door locked just as Linda’s smoldering body landed against it. Mom ran down to unlock the door and found a man standing there. As she handed Linda over and turned back to get Donna, the man saw the ferocious flames inside the building and held her back. Almost immediately the top floor collapsed. The stranger at the door saved my mother’s life, Linda’s and mine.

Donna, however, was lost. Her final cries of “Mommy, mommy, help me. . .” echoed in my mother’s ears for the rest of her days.

Of course, that is not the end of the story. Linda barely survived, with third degree burns over 80% of her two-year-old body. She endured many years of reconstructive surgery. And, we all traveled with her emotionally every step of the way. My parents were both shattered by their loss, but bravely decided to go on and build a family. They decided to have me. But, that’s another story.

It was always clear why my mother felt that the world was a random place, that indeed, anything could happen. Planes fall from the sky -she knew that to be a fact of her life.

But, with my son’s birth, it was my turn to imagine every possible calamity that could happen to my baby in my absence. Whenever I would round the corner to my house, my heart would begin to race, my palms sweat until I saw that he was safely playing inside, or asleep in his crib. I was often close to a panic and my visions were visceral. I could feel him falling, cracking his little head onto the hard asphalt driveway. Blood spurting and ambulances screaming. It was graphic and physical, a weight in my chest.

I always tolerated Mom’s fears for me. Although, as I got older I would screen many of my activities that I knew would alarm her. I didn’t mention flying a glider until I was safely on the ground again. She didn’t need to know about the time I jumped out of a plane at all! Really, what would be the point?

Now, I understand what it cost her to let me go. To let me live my life free of the awareness of how tentative our lives are. The knowledge that we are held here with the stability of a mere twist-tie. Knowing that she could do that, after her loss – that she could still hold on to the hope of joy in everyday life, and ultimately give that to me, finally gave me the courage to do the same with my boy. To let him go, unhindered, into the life he chooses.

But, honestly, I am fine with it if he decides not to tell me about some escapades he knows may worry me. I’m pretty sure he already has a very sophisticated screening mechanism in place when it comes to sharing information about his travels. I believe I am now on a need-to-know basis. Which means, only if I have to pick him up somewhere!

When he has his own child — and these same kinds of fears inevitably unearth themselves from the deep freeze of his consciousness, I hope I can help him understand our legacy and move beyond it. Or, at least, hover gently.

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Depression Treatment – Tips That Really Help

Posted on January 17, 2019 in Uncategorized

8 Tips That Really Help for Depression Treatment

Disclosure: I am not a medical professional and you should not take this as medical advice. If you are suicidal please get immediate help by going to an emergency room, telling someone, or calling a help line.

Depression runs in the family. I recall at the age of seven watching as the ambulance drove my mom away. I instinctively knew when I found a vial of medication in the garbage what she did.

When she returned home from the hospital no one mentioned it, only “Mommy is sick, please leave her alone”. It was like it never happened. A memory I need to erase.

No one talks about depression and if they do it is most likely the common blues or lows that go with disappointments in life or serious changes like job loss or death.

It is easier for people to think of depression like that because it isn’t permanent, debilitating, and deadly. People come around, they awaken and go about their lives.

Depression, the way I and many others experience it, is constant. It doesn’t end with medication. Medication seems to control symptoms but the darkness that is chronic depression is still there. We may look okay on the outside but it’s usually a mask for your benefit.

I’ve been in treatment since high school – that’s a total of almost 30 years. Here is what works for me and hopefully will work for you, your friend, your child or family member.

1. Don’t Hover

I realize this is difficult especially for parents but it is important to give the person some space (within reason – see tip 6). Allow them to get through this period. Often times they will come around on their own without intervention, they just need space.

Try to refrain from ‘encouraging happiness’ or ‘thinking positive’. These things only help when they are outside of the hole of depression not while in it.

2. Encourage Healthy Interaction

Depression as a mental disorder is more of a thought disorder (my opinion). It feels like a cruel attacker is invading your brain. Someone who is constantly berating you, attacking you, showcasing dark images of death or hopelessness like a non-stop movie.

Your loved one or friend may isolate not only to wallow in self-pity but as a way to protect you from the chaos in their mind.

Depression wants to win and if it wins death wins. Despite what your loved one may say, visit them. Say hello. Offer to help with a non-invasive activity like laundry or cooking. If they say no, respect that and let it go. Often just sitting with the person without speaking is helpful.

If your loved one is hanging out with people to “drown” in alcohol or drugs try to intercept in a non-threatening way. A simple, “why don’t we go on a drive” or “would you like me to stay with you” is all that is needed to alter plans.

3. Shed Some Light

To an outsider it may seem that depressed people are lazy and sleep all day. This is true at times. Don’t think of it as laziness but recuperating. Depression is in the mind true but it is also a very physically draining disease.

If your loved one is held up in their room for days at a time, gently open a window to let some light in. They may protest loudly with harsh words but more than likely you have the upper hand because they won’t leave the safety of their bed to close it.

Note: Violent behavior is an expression of depression in some people. Skip this tip as your safety is important.

4. Give Support with Little Payments

Those suffering from depression need support but a little give and take is helpful. For example, if they want to eat but don’t want to get out of bed, offer to make a meal in exchange for them getting up and showering.

This shows that you understand they are going through a difficult time but won’t enable them to sink into a hole of self-pity.

There is a point in depression where the person can still fight, this is when this is a good tactic to take. This is right before they sink to the point where medication and/or hospitalization is necessary to get them out.

5. Be Patient

I know it is difficult for family and friends to watch a person suffer through this. It is especially heartbreaking to know that you can’t help them through it.

Be available. Hold the space for them when they can’t. This simply means sitting with them without speaking or “helping”.

6. Be Aware

Awareness is a great tool in helping someone with depression. Watch for changes in behavior.

Are there dramatic changes? For instance, weeks hidden and isolated with an immediate ‘happy, conquer the world’ attitude. This may mean that they have decided to end their life not fight for it.

I realize this isn’t the case for everyone but for most of my depressive episodes I hide behind an “I’m Okay” attitude for the sake of my family.

When I finally decide to end the pain that is depression (suicide) I get a burst of energy allowing me plan the next steps which gives relief and expectation.

Awareness about your loved ones temperament is essential.

7. Keep Your Advice to Yourself

Advice that may help you or someone experiencing the blues will not help the chronically depressed.

– “There’s always a silver lining”

– “God has a plan for your life.”

– “All things work together for good to those who are called according to his purpose (God)”

– “Just snap out of it”

– “Don’t focus so much on yourself”

– “Volunteer, it helps me”

– “Exercise more”

– “When I lost my friend I was depressed for months. Here’s what I did… “

I’m not discounting this advice. To a healthy mind it is actually good but to a depressed mind it can backfire.

It may drive them further into the pit. Guilt because they can’t snap out of it. Guilt for causing you pain and a whole list of other things that will pull the person into the spiral of darkness.

Very often this advice only solidifies the disordered thoughts and pushes the person closer to suicide.

8. Say I Love You Often

Throughout my adult life, my husband has been my support during my bouts with depression. He endures much for my sake out of love.

Even with my angry outbursts, he told me he loved me.

If nothing else, tell the person you love them. Simple as that. They may scoff. They may yell or curse but continue to say these simple words each day and often.

I love you – said without words – in a note, a look, or a smile is helpful too.

It might be a while before you get a return on this investment but know it does reach them even when they are deep in it.

Disclosure: I am not a medical professional and you should not take this as medical advice. If you are suicidal please get immediate help by going to an emergency room, telling someone, or calling a help line.

One more thought before I end. These tips are most helpful for those just outside of the suicidal stage. I can’t explain it in words but there is a point where you can reach a depressed person and one where only medical intervention and/or medication can help. For the later, I don’t recommend using these tips. Get help.

It’s been 13 years since hospitalization due to a self-inflicted attempt on my life. These tips help me. I hope this helps you or a person you know.

And now I’d like to invite you to read more on helping the mentally ill through my personal experiences.

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