Depression and The Power of Words

There are many forms of suffering in the world, but one of the world’s most silent of killers is depression. Depression at times can be unnoticeable, either because we as people don’t know what to look for or the person that is suffering becomes so good at hiding it, they seem fine altogether. Depression can often feel like a sinking feeling or wearing a weighted vest that only brings you deeper below the surface.

Depression while giving a person a sinking feeling, can also be very hard to talk about. One, because it can be hard to find a person that will listen to you, two, people feel as though they constantly must fix things, so often quick platitudes are given and 3) a hyper form of positive thinking is prescribed: “Just think positive and you’ll feel better!” Or faith-based crowds will say to pray away the pain.

Now, how we think or rather how we feed our minds does matter, and I’ll get to that in a bit. But first I’d like to speak to the quiet agony that depression can have on a person. Depression can be an unseen battle in the mind, you might not ever see it, but someone close to you can truly be getting their asses kicked mentally.

Largely what this can look like, is feeling as though no one cares about you, or that you’re a no good, untalented fairly that will never amount to anything. Much worse believing the lie that this world would be better off with you. Truthfully, this is a battle that I wouldn’t want anyone to live.

I myself have lived with this battle for 37 years, my depression is not bad year-round, though it totally seems that way. All the thoughts mentioned above are things that I’ve grappled with you. Therefore, I truly believe that depression is a spiritual war, because even if one does not believe in God or a higher power, when you go to therapy, you are primarily going there to combat the lies inside your mind.

Essentially as your counselor uses cognitive behavior therapy, their aim is to change how you think about yourself, and the rest of your future. In that the words that they say to you, have the power to change your thinking. This is why words are so powerful. Knowing this truth, changes how we speak to others and ourselves. Be mindful of how you speak to people on a daily, we humans are quite imperfect at times, but that should be a motivation to be mindful with our speech. I truly am convinced that we should spend more time building others up, encouraging, inspiring and serving others. As opposed to letting our mouths run wild and careless. Even apologizing for things, we didn’t mean or didn’t say exactly as we should.

Lastly, learn to counteract the lies and statements that pop into your mind ever so randomly. If your mind tells you that you’ll never amount to anything, remind your brain of the things you have accomplished. As with ever lie in the mind, learn to take hold of it and replace it with truth.

This might not seem like it works in the moment, or even every single time. But the more you reinforce your mind, the easier it is to fight. And on the days that really are difficult, know that they storm will eventually lift.

My One Regret With College.

When I got accepted into college years ago, there rested inside me a fascination of the mind. Why people acted as they did and more so what happens inside the mind that sent some people into deep cycles of addiction and destructive behaviors. My degree path of choice was psychology, at first (because of my interest in addiction) I felt a calling to working in that particular area of psychology.

And yet.. For some reason, something moved me away from that specific area into a more generalized focus in psychology. And you know what? looking back, I very much regret not pursuing that path.

It probably was the amount of time and money/debt that moved me away from it. God only knows where I could be now if I jumped into addiction counseling with all my mind, heart and strength. College these days though, seems to be a total joke to me.

As being an online personal trainer and nutrition coach, the last three years. I find that much of my four year psychology degree comes out in my daily practice. To some in my life, that four year degree that I got at a small faith based college was not the best choice. But from my vantage point, that “pointless” psychology degree was the best four years of my life. I learned so much, made some really great friends and truly bloomed in my faith.

I wouldn’t trade that for anything, I truly believe that those four years of my life was the way God ordained it. I guess at this point in my life, I’m trying to figure out what the Lord would have me do with this desire and many others in my heart.

This might seem strange to some, but I could easily see myself leading recovery meetings and helping others heal and break free from the hooks of addiction. I guess in a lot of ways I can relate to those struggling with addiction myself, because I am an addict in my ways.

And you know what else?

We are all addicts. The Bible has it right (as it always has) when it says that that we are slaves to something. Something, if not God has the attention and adoration of our hearts.

A Quick Response to Raphael Warnock

Some days ago, Rev Warnock tweeted and quickly deleted the following statement:

“The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” declared Warnock. “Whether you are Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves.”

Needless to say his statement troubles and frustrates me, one because it is not a biblically accurate statement. Take for example 2 Timothy 1:9:

9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,

Yes, the book of James even tells us that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26. But it is not as though he is saying that our works will save us. But that they are a response to the faith we have by Gods grace. Else where in scripture we are told that God has prepared good works for us (EPH 2:10).

Another reason this irks me , is because he is leading people astray. I have surveyed every religion the world has to offer. And nothing has brought me more peace and assurance than the grace of Jesus Christ. I did NOTHING to deserve this. Yet through Gods kindness was I brought to repentance.

You or I could never know if we have done enough good works to save ourselves, we in a sense would be slaves and would perform our supposed good works. Not because we wanted to serve others, but because we wanted to score points (enough points that is) to obtain our salvation. This is not good news at all.

Rambling on Depression

Depression sucks, especially the kind of been experiencing the past three days. It’s like something dark, just came and busted out a lawn chair and began to relax while it indulged in it’s favorite beverage and snack. Then I think to myself, “Hey, I didn’t invite you here” Then this dark creature replies “oh, but you forget I show up every year.. When you least expect it.” That you do, but it doesn’t mean this depression is welcome.

So I’m going to express and share about what I’ve been feeling without giving power to loathing and deprecation of the self. Which I have been prone to do. However it will be a goal of mine within the new year to really fight against feeling sorry for myself and speaking negatively about myself. Depression is interesting in the sense that, it can feel your mind with lies that you know aren’t true. And yet, because its so heavy it feels true all the more.

The depression will say that I’m a fraud, no woman would ever want to be with me again, I’ve made to many mistakes and that my life is as good as it could possibly get. Meaning I’m stuck and life as I know it. Is over.

Again, I know it’s not true, but as I said the depression makes it seem all the more real and powerful. I’ve been on different medications for depression, and been to various counselors and I’ve had bad experiences with both. Medications only seemed to make feel worse, physically and mentally and most counselors I’ve seen have cooking cutter responses to my pain. So I said screw it both.

For me I believe that nutrition and fitness are big parts of fighting it, but you can do all that and still grapple with depression, however short the duration. For me, I’d rather have short durations, than to be where I once was, where I was having a couple panic attacks a week, puking before classes in college and so on.

This year hasn’t helped, though I’m thankful because here, in small Nebraska were not that restricted by Covid. But it doesn’t help, hearing about it every day, having a never ending political battle. Moreover, having cerebral palsy doesn’t help at all. It’s not like I can just leave the house whenever my heart desires. It’s also difficult when you don’t have any friends who can readily come pick you up or hang out with you because of their own circumstances.

Which is why I’ve tried a lot to be happy with myself and my own company, this is not just my battle but for many with cerebral palsy. Depression doesn’t make you weak, I just choose to lower my head and keep moving forward, to keep taking the shots. I’m not directly apposed to seeking help- I’m more open to talk therapy than anything. I’d only like to find a decent fit.

In the midst of the depression and the powerful blows that it deals myself and others, I’ve learn to channel a deep warrior strength inside me. One that knows that this darkness will pass, I’m learning to notice the pain and darkness within, and yet not be over ran by it. I’m learning to not let the depression over ride the duration of my day.

I still manage to workout, eat healthy, workout etc in spite of the depression that faces me. One might say that that’s not healthy. But to me, I say that that’s making war against the depression. It’s me fighting, going down swinging no matter what.

My greatest anchor through all of this is my relationship with God, prayer and reading my Bible. That’s what’s bigger than any darkness in my life.

Reflections on psalm 1:1-3

Reflections on Psalm 1:1-3

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

The psalms have been an anchor for my soul in the last several months of my life. Many Christians turn to the psalms, and for good reason. Beyond the reality of beautiful poetry, one can find many emotions within each poem. Anger, sadness, rejection, loneliness, feeling forsaken, grief, despair and much more. It came to my attention, that my focus turns to the psalms around the fall season. Perhaps it’s the beauty of the season that make the words of the psalms truly capture my attention. I’d like to attempt to make a trek through the psalms, and share my reflections. I’m not going to make any promises, because I know that perfection will not be visible in this exercise.

That being said, lets start with the first three verses of Psalm 1:     Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,

Blessed. We are blessed if we don’t not follow the path of the wicked. Now, what does it mean to be a wicked person? In one sense, its living in direct opposition to God and the mandate the he has laid before us. Before I had a collision course with Christ, this was me. So, in no way am I implying that I’m better than anyone else, nor is that the actual intention of the scriptures. In my opinion, being wicked simply means to do things for purely selfish reasons and gain. Again, this was me before becoming a new creation, I did everything to make myself feel good and my gain. Not caring about the soul of another. The result for me was that my soul began to wither and I did not prosper, as it says in verse three. In simple terms, when a soul begins to wither, they have no color or fail to be vibrant. The same way the leaf looks stunning in the fall. The soul that withers is not living as they ought to be.

The tree planted:     

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

This section of the psalm stuck to my heart in a profound this, mainly because this tree is stable. Even in the changes of seasons, it does not fret because it knows that it will be taken care of. Now, I am not saying that a tree has emotion, but more metaphorically speaking. We humans have a very hard time being stable. We easily worry and give in to worry and every other desire and emotion when life becomes difficult.  Emotion is not wrong or bad, frankly emotions are a gift from God. However, when we constantly let our lives be led by them we fail to bare fruit in seasons. We don’t thrive. Rather than being dominated by emotion, we should learn to filter and delay our emotions. The opposite of that is constantly freaking out and always being in a state of panic. Is that how you truly want to live?

Furthermore , it is my belief that this part of psalm one is telling us to trust that the very God who planted us. Will not leave us to be destroyed by the various storms of life, but that he will not leave us and always-always provide for us. He feeds us, clothes us the same way he provides for the sparrows. The path of Christ is narrow, and sometimes in life our souls can wander, we get beat up spiritually, we doubt and yes sometimes we can find ourselves on the other side of the road where we are not meant to be. But, if your tree is rooted in Christ, he will never allow you go too far off the path. He’s amazing like that.   

Talking About Faith and Mental Health-again.

I’ve written on the subject on faith and anxiety before, but after my morning conversation with my girlfriend. It spurred me to want to write some more on the topic, as this is not a topic that can have a once and for all response. I’ll say it again, I have never appreciated how many Christians have handled the areas of mental health within the faith community.

Just pray more.

Have more faith.

Yes and yes..

But it’s not always that clean cut.

While it is true that people that live with anxiety or depression, should interact in their faith more with prayer and trust in God (if one is a Christian). That does not mean that all of our days with, anxiety, fear and worry are all over. They may get better, as we learn how to cast all our cares upon Christ- because he cares for us (1 peter 5:7), and learning different coping skills. Again, it simply does not mean that we will no longer have anxiety come up again in our lives.

When it does though, we will know how to defend against it, so it does not crush us. The biggest mystery through out my own faith journey, is while God chooses to heal some and not others. I am sure that there are some in which God has chosen to heal of anxiety, and others he has chosen not to.

And while this can be seen as a deterrent to faith, I choose to believe that there is sufficient reason for such thorns to remain. Simply because a fellow Christian still walks with anxiety and worry, does not always equate to a lack of faith or trust. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the whirlwind of our own mental health. But because our Lord is good, he always brings us back to the truth of himself.

And when we say to someone, “oh just pray and trust God more” we’re unknowingly making it about our strength and not God. As though we have to pray to drive our anxiety away, as though we have to muster up the strength to trust more. When it is God who spurs us to pray and gives us the ability to come our senses and trust him in the first place.

Sometimes what we say as Christians, in the context of mental health and faith is frankly unbiblical and even dangerous. If I went to a biblical counselor, I would hope and pray that they gave me a bit more than simply to learn to pray and trust more. I would hope that they would offer a listening ear, some compassion and empathy.

Christ told us that life would be full of hard times, but that he has overcome the world. -John 16:33, my faith tells me that Christ has already overcome all the darkness in the world, and with that, I know that all anxiety will be cast into the darkest parts of the earth. If you are one living with anxiety, big or small.

Jesus is not repelled by the anxiety that faces you, his arms are open to you. He loves you madly, his death, burial and resurrection say so. It is because of this, that we can cast all our cares upon him, along with our deepest trust.

Gods Grace

Gods grace is the single most beautiful, amazing and life changing gifts in my life and the world around us. Jesus Christ is the perfect, beautiful and amazing embodiment of that. His grace is all that I am and all that I have. Without his grace I am utterly lost, like a homeless soul begging to be let in to a warm home or begging for scraps.

gods-grace1His grace has changed my life, grace has rescued me from myself. Grace has given me the ability to discover my true self, it has given me the ability to live free from within and grace has taught me to smile regardless of what circumstances may be put before me.

The apostle Paul said that Gods grace made him what he is (1 Corinthians 15:10), the apostle Paul is most famous for his conversion in acts 9. Before his conversation, he hated and persecuted Christians, he had them thrown into prison and even killed.  Paul was a man who new the Jewish tradition inside and out, he even followed with utmost care and perfection it seemed. Though, he was a deeply religious man, he did not know true inner peace or who he really was or meant to be.

In my own spiritual journey, that following the commands of the Lord, is far more difficult when I am trying to do them out of my own strength and religious piety. But when I am operating out of a place of love and grace, things are more easy and light. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

You might be thinking: Okay, well how does one begin to operate out of the heart beat of grace? Great question, but I will first tell you that, at first, grace will not feel comfortable or even very “loving” why? Because grace has to break through the resistance of your mind, heart and being.

Again, this might be very comfortable at first, because God in his love, has to break through your pride, your self-reliance, your will, your desires everything. Basically in love, the Lord has to break you down to build you back up. He makes you a new creation.  He gives you a new mind, heart and will.

God did this in my own life, when he graciously allowed me to encounter his son Jesus. He melted me, he made me see all that I ever longed for and was longing for. He made me see, just how miserable I was and how horrible I was at playing god with my life. More importantly, he showed me that only he could be the satisfaction and peace that I so deeply longed for.

Feeling and knowing his amazing grace, spun me inside and out in the best way possible. I was happy and truly smiled! What I learned though, over time and actually on countless occasions, is that grace is much more than a feeling, but a true state of being, a deep anchor that a child of God can hold onto in the midst of life’s most violent storms.

No, I don’t always feel grace, but I have learned that it is so profoundly sufficient. Some days I am reminded of the sins of old, and the shame and regret that comes with them. Somedays I am so desperate to feel his grace, as though I am some sort of addict. I’m crying out for it.

In this time, Christ cries back to me saying I am the embodiment of grace! His life, death and resurrection is the all the grace I need, not a mere feeling. When I cannot feel the grace of God, he reminds me of what he did on the cross for me.

One) He took my place on the cross, and died the death that should have been for me (and you).

Two) He took my sin, shame and guilt. And in a great exchange, he gave me his perfection and made righteous in the sight of his father.

Three) While on the cross, he was momentarily separated from his father, so that you or I never have to be.

Four)  The resurrection of Christ, means that we have died to our old selves and that we have risen with him. Furthermore, it means, we will have a resurrection of our bodies when he comes again.

This is the only assurance we will ever need, in regards to his grace towards us. Even if we never saw another shred of evidence. Christ’s actions on the cross are more than enough evidence to show us the depth, width and breadth of his grace for us.

 

 

Cerebral Palsy. Body Image and Internal Healing.

I’m starting to see a correlation between cerebral palsy and body image, this correlation stems from being in contact with numerous people who live with cerebral palsy through social media. In this particular regard, I’m speaking about having a negative self image.

You may look at the image of me below, and not think that I am “fat” all, but when I look at myself. That is what I see.

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When I look at the sides of my stomach, I think “Ugh gross” then I start thinking or obsessing over what I eat and upping the intensity of my daily workouts. Which is not a bad thing at all. It is a problem though, when you are in the middle of your workout and you can’t stop dwelling on how disgusting you feel and look.

I posted that above photo on instagram a few weeks ago, lots of people said that I looked great, or that we all had those feelings, or even “that’s just skin!” The comments were heart warming and helped me to think more positively.. For awhile, but then I would find myself in the downward spiral of self destruction and sabotage.

My workouts have consisted of lots of burpees, probably two-four hundred every single day. Along with Kettle and Bar Bell lifting. I sweat a lot, recover well but am utterly hungry the rest of the day.  Nor am I afraid of eating my carbs, protein and Beer… My one beer after work.

The engine is constantly stoked, and I’m constantly pushing my mind and body.. But there is this area of my life, that needs change. I’m tried all the thought stopping methods, all the positive affirmations etc. And still nothing helps the crap shoot stop.

After CF today, I came home, ate and then went to wash my stinky self. There I was, looking at my body with contempt. And then I thought, “this has to stop!” Truly the only thing that gets me through life is my faith. So after redirecting my thoughts back to it, I whispered to God:

“God, you don’t want me to hate my body, I know that. Help me to see myself differently, as you do.” At that moment, something clicked on inside of me. I’m not saying that you have to do, as I do, that is something that you have to decide and work through for yourself.

What I am saying though, is that these destructive thinking has to stop, or at least be put in its rightful place. A vast majority of therapists would saying that working out is killing me, and steer me away from it as they would most addictions. But I don’t think that that is the end all be all solution.

Yes, some things might need to change, or pause. But this is less a physical issue, and more a mental, emotional and spiritual issue. And until those issues heal, nothing we change the way we long for.

So! We have to understand that this is going to be a long journey, with plenty of ups and downs and twists and turns. We have to accept where we are at. I know that this is something that will not want to be heard, you might spend lots of time in a wheel chair, and be on lots of meds. Okay, we can work with that, the fact is that we cannot give up.

There are plenty of exercises that can be done from a seated position, plenty of ways to even build stamina too. I should get on making videos regarding these topics. Yet the biggest component is learning to take care of ourselves from a place of love and not so much a “I have to” but an “I want to” there’s a huge difference.

Change your forward thinking: Think less on your image, and think more about prolonged health, mobility, strength and focus. So that we can be the strongest version of ourselves, not so much for ourselves but for others.

The internal healing is more tangible than we believe, more closer than we think. Much like any medicine though, it takes time for the benefits to show up, but rest assured. Through discipline and diligence change will come.

Blessings!

-Brandon

 

 

 

 

The Lies I Believe And The Power of Ephesians

Contrary to popular belief, or how social media my portray I don’t wake up with a smile on my face all the time. In fact, some mornings I wake up and it seems as though, there is a spiritual war going inside me. A war against regret, doubt, shame, hopelessness and so much more.

The lies I believe:

You’re not good enough

you don’t have what it takes

nobody actually cares

no women will ever want you

you’ll never be all that you dreamed of being

God hates you

Just give up.

There’s more lies in there I’m sure, but you get the point and maybe you can relate. Sometimes I’m not even sure how these thoughts enter my mind. I could just wake up that way! Wake up feeling like I’m in a fight for my life, my mind, my eternal destiny. I have to be reminded that I’m not hopeless, that the God of the university is for me and on my side. His eyes are ever upon me. The one thing that has caused me to hold on and fight back against all these thoughts, is the love letter of Ephesians. I could easily copy and paste the entire 6 chapters in this blog, but I think I will settle for Eph 1:3-14

eBlessed be fthe God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing gin the heavenly places, 4 heven as he ichose us in him jbefore the foundation of the world, that we should be kholy and blameless before him. In love 5 lhe predestined us2 for madoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, naccording to the purpose of his will, 6 oto the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in pthe Beloved. 7 qIn him we have rredemption sthrough his blood, tthe forgiveness of our trespasses, uaccording to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 vmaking known3 to us the mystery of his will, naccording to his purpose, which he wset forth in Christ 10 as a plan for xthe fullness of time, yto unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained zan inheritance, ahaving been predestined baccording to the purpose of him who works all things according to cthe counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be dto the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard ethe word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, fwere sealed with the gpromised Holy Spirit, 14 who is hthe guarantee4 of our iinheritance until jwe acquire kpossession of it,5 lto the praise of his glory.

I can think of no other writing in the world, that makes my mind and soul come alive in this way. I can think of no other spiritual or religious text that makes me want to put on my armor, grab my brave heart sword (metaphorically speaking) and start slaying these lies in my head. Because Christ has overcame it all for me. He has done the same for you, so that you no longer have to be chained to these crippling thoughts any longer.

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Rediscovering Discipline

For the past several weeks, I’ve been listening to a lot of Jocko Willink. He is a former Navy Seal and BJJ black belt under the legendary Dean Lister. I’ve found myself drawn to the fact that he talks so much about self-discipline, in fact, he says that discipline is freedom. I can remember being in college and getting up at 5 AM most every morning, usually because I was scared of waking up late and missing breakfast, class or whatever was on task for the day.

The fact that my father was in the military sure helped with this, and the fact that my mom, would have to get me up early to get ready for school only added to the fact that my body and mind would become accustomed to rising early and chipping away at the day. As a kid, I hated it, wanted to sleep in more and be a bit lazy. But eventually I got used to it. The early rise and grind is what would carry me through a huge majority of my life.

Because my parents disciplined me in such away, conditioned me to get the job done. Even when I didn’t want to. In college I would be done with assignments way before other people were. People would often tell me “I don’t know how you do it..” And at the time, the only answer I had was that God gave me parents to help train me to live in such a way. And that the Lord is faithful in waking me up each and everyday. Was I perfect at it, no way, in fact there were days when I would hit the snooze button once or twice.

Another way of saying it, was I went through the daily motions of life. I’ve always been taught that this was a bad thing, especially being a Christian. But Jocko says that you go through the motions and do it anyway.

Don’t feel like reading my bible? do it any way!

Don’t feel like praying? do it anyway!

Don’t feel like lifting heavy weight? do it anyway!

You’ll feel better having done it. Because the the things we don’t want to do, are the things we need to do the most. It’s how you get ahead in life and how you succeed. Living a life of discipline, I believe, is how we see a difference not only in ourselves. But others, meaning that we can greater help people wherever they are at in life. Living the disciplined life is how we combat our vices, the temptations, the addiction, the bad habits that only long to derail us.

Discipline wins the battle, discipline is wisdom. Discipline may very well be the voice of the grand commander and chief saying, “Hey, I love you, now get up, get on mission and get it done!

Discipline, from the Christian perspective, is not so much our own might. But His, but thats for another blog!images.duckduckgo