Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Return Guest Author Jennifer Scott

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“Jennifer Scott is a lifelong sufferer of anxiety and depression.  A single mom, she writes about the ups and downs of her mental illness on SpiritFinder.org. The blog serves as both a source of information for people with mental illness and a forum where those living with anxiety and depression can come together to discuss their experiences.”

4 Ways to Navigate a Significant Life Change with Your Significant Other

Anytime you and your partner go through a major shift in your daily routine, it can be challenging for your relationship, as well as your individual lives. However, it’s also one of the best opportunities you will get to make your relationship better. Not only does it give you the chance to know each other more deeply, but it also allows you to learn ways that you can better show your commitment to one another.

So, whether you’re self-quarantined for the next few weeks, moving in together for the first time, or going through some other significant change, here are some tips and resources to help you turn it into the best thing ever for your relationship:

1. Get Healthy Together

Now is the perfect time to think about making healthy changes together. This could mean preparing healthy meals, boosting your workout routine, or seeking therapy.

Cooking for Two: 33 Healthyish Meals for You and Your Boo

Use Fitness Trackers to Enhance Your Workout Sessions

12 Ways to Make Your Home Healthier

Reach out to Help for Healing for Compassionate Counseling

2. Make Time for One Another

No matter how busy life gets, it’s crucial that you make time for each other. Here are just a few methods you can try.

Tried-and-Tested Strategies That Busy Couples Use to Spend More Time Together

The Key to Communication in Relationships

Watch a Movie Together To Improve Your Relationship

3. Have Fun

When making plans to spend quality time together, think about activities you both enjoy, or try something new. These resources offer fun ideas including games and hobbies.

Why Laughter Is The Most Important Thing In A Relationship

Top 17 Fun and Romantic Games for Couples

15 DIY Projects for Couples

100 Hobbies For Couples To Do Together

4. Honor the Need for Solitude

Taking some time to yourself is just as important as being with your significant other. If you’re not sure how to go about this, refer to these suggestions.

The Art Of Solitude In Relationships (And Why You Need It To Thrive)

How to Get Better at Spending Time Alone

Things To Do By Yourself

8 Things to Know About Meditation for Health

A significant life change can be the best thing ever for your relationship. Make a point to get healthy together, spend time with one another, add fun to your relationship, and prioritize time in solitude. And if you need some outside assistance, consider taking up couples counseling, offered by Help for Healing. Not only will you be a stronger couple, but you will also be happier individuals.

Thank you Jennifer, and Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


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Reason, Season, or Lifetime

Have you heard that saying before? People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Sometimes we are surprised by which category then end up in. Mostly I think it’s when we expect people will be our forever friends. We can’t imagine our life without them. Lo and behold, they end up leaving our lives.

When I was looking at old home videos, I realized that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Endings aren’t always painful. Remembering them can be warm.

When I was in elementary school, we had the option of going Wednesdays on the bus to go to the local fire hall. Religion classes were held. Aunt Alice and Aunt Eunice were the teachers. Aunt Alice was this plump woman who exuded excitement. I remember raising my hand to say that yes, I accepted Jesus as my Savior.

My favorite time was the “Bible drills.” Everyone who wanted to play would hold their hand up with their Bible in their hands as Aunt Alice bellowed, “Draw swords!” Then she would ask a question about a Bible verse and the first one to stand and have the answer would win.

I’m proud to say I won often.

Even though my parents took us to church every week, it was Aunt Alice that got me excited about God. I would have never remembered it, but when I saw my 1988 wedding video, Aunt Alice and Aunt Eunice attended. What an honor that they came. I’m sure they have long since died, but they had such a great influence on my life.

Jim Gardner was another fond memory. He was my neighbor. He had diabetes, an artificial limb, and was blind. He was an inspirational speaker and taught about disabilities in several venues. I would clean his house once a week because his wife was super busy and exhausted all the time.

Well, I sort of cleaned. We talked most of the time. We talked about everything. Even though he was an adult, he wasn’t my parent so I could talk with him about life issues that I was afraid to talk to my parents about.

He wrote and recited a poem he wrote about me as the “toast to the bride” at my first wedding. In it, he talked about some of the memorable things my mom did for me. That warmed my heart too. I sang at his funeral a few years after that, but I loved seeing him again and remembering what a big role he played in my life.

Kent and Marci were my youth leaders throughout high school. I went to their house as often as I could. Marci played the organ and Kent read a Bible passage at my wedding. Every once in a great while, I will run into Marci. It feels like the 30 years melt away when I see her. I always wish we would re-connect more regularly, but it just doesn’t seem to happen.

I forgot that my high school friend Melinda sang at my wedding. We were “music heads” together in high school. Every few years we connect briefly. I saw another high school friend Diana recently. We both thought she didn’t attend my wedding but sure enough, we found video footage of her being there.

So the saying may be true. Some people come around for a reason (like a plumber), some for a season (like high school), and some for a lifetime (like your sisters when you realize they are also your friends.) But regardless, their influence can last a lifetime, no matter how much time they spend in person with you.

I’m grateful for all those people who helped shape my life for the better!


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Core Life Issues

A professor once said that our core issues are always our core issues. They cycle around as our life cycles around. Mine has always been not having a partner that loves me.

When I was looking at the video of my first marriage back in 1988, I remembered the years before the divorce. He told me he had not ever really loved me. I would pull out this box of letters from the summer we were engaged but not able to be together.

He wrote to me every single day. Sometimes, he wrote two letters. Seriously, would a guy really do all that if he wasn’t in love?

During the wedding reception, there was footage of our first dance together. You can see us talking but of course, you can’t hear the conversation. But I saw the non-verbals. He gave me a look and then squeezed me a certain way.

HA!! It had “I love you” all over it. You can deny it mister, but you did love me.

But the bigger AHA moment came after that. It was a present AHA as I sat on the couch. My issue isn’t that I’ve never had the love of a man. I absolutely have. More than once, actually. The problem is that love hasn’t endured. It has always changed in some way.

It got me thinking about all the messages I believed as I was growing up.

If love is true, it endures.

True love is perfect love.

Real love doesn’t leave.

I think those are dangerous myths to walk around with. If for no other reason, love can die because your partner dies. I’ve learned that too. Yes, love continues on in some ways, but let’s be honest. It’s not the same.

For another thing, only God is capable of perfect love. And even God turned away when Jesus bore the sins of the world on the cross.

My professor was right. Our core issues revisit it throughout life. But that doesn’t mean they don’t shift as our knowledge and experience grow. I’m working on watering mine and seeing how it develops.


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Enduring truths

Kathy, Oscar; photo courtesy of author

There are studies that show that sometimes even our strongest memories are inaccurate. We could swear such and such but if we had an actual recording, we would be surprised that things aren’t as we recall.

For years, whenever I was asked how I decided to become a therapist, I would tell them the way my story went in my head. I was going to be a missionary. Then I got married and my marriage went south. We started counseling. I was fascinated by the process I went through and what I learned about myself.

Plus, the missionary boards I had researched and chosen no longer wanted me because I was “divorced.” The big D. Also stands for “damaged goods.” Psychology made sense.

Then one day when I was scanning photo albums, I came across a newspaper article that was written about me when I was chosen to be “student of the month” in high school. In that article, I said that I intended to become a counselor.

Huh.

I could swear that went differently.

Now, remembering my story inaccurately is part of my story.

When I was recently watching home movies, I started with 1988 and my first marriage. Most of us girls dream about our wedding day from birth on. And choosing a lifelong mate is certainly an event of paramount importance. We all expect it to be our one and only wedding.

That’s why it cracked me up when I was shocked to find the video. I thought it had gotten lost, through no fault of my own. The minister who performed the ceremony asked to see our only copy of it and he finally came forward, embarrassed, to say he lost it.

Guess I remembered that story wrong because here I was watching it.

After the reception video was done, the wedding video started over again from another view. Oh yeah! We had two videos of the wedding, not one!

Then I had the “correct” memory.

It was my SECOND marriage video that got lost, not my first one.

Had to laugh at my own aging brain. It’s hard to keep all those marriages straight!

Some truths do last a lifetime.

For instance, truth be told, John (husband #1) was handsome back in the day. I had the chance to see him last year and he is still handsome 30 years later. He aged well.

John’s best friend Oscar gave the toast at our reception, just like tradition goes. Oscar was a close friend of mine as well and was the husband of my best friend Kathy.

I couldn’t believe how his toast nailed it. The enduring truths.

“John, you have a love for truth.” This was in the context mostly of faith and Christianity, which he later abandoned because it no longer seemed truthful to him. But Oscar was right. He searched for understanding. And he rubbed off on me. I take some of that passion with me to this day.

The other half of that toast was about me.

“Darcy, you have a love for people.”

Yep, still 100% true 30 years later. I would add that the next logical step is you love being able to help people and make a difference in their lives. It’s just natural when you love them.

Excellent job on the toast, Oscar.

And by the way, another enduring truth. Kathy and Oscar are still two of my favorite people in the world. They still get me in ways most people don’t. I treasure your continued presence in my life, you two!

(Not that they ever read my blogs…LMAO!)


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Home Videos

On a weekend away, I spent several hours looking at home videos. It started with my first wedding in 1988. I was pleasantly surprised that it was mostly a warm experience rather than the mournful one I was expecting.

Mom, Randy

I got a laugh out of my brother. He had very little hair back then. He has had new hair for so long now, I forgot why he got the implants to begin with.

Just a couple of months ago, my former mother-in-law found me on Facebook. We started messenging and she sent several that brought tears to my eyes. She wanted to read my books (which I was honored by) so I mailed her copies (this is why I never make money) and included a photo of us from the wedding.

me, John’s mom; photo courtesy of author

Seeing the actual wedding footage now, I was reminded of how serendipitous life can be. I just reconnected with her. Mom has been gone for 13 years now. I find any mother figure in my life to be so comforting. Glad she is back in my life, even though geographically distant. (Although, isn’t everyone distant, compliments of the pandemic?)

A sad moment was remembering that Mom and I were a bit icy during the event. I can’t even remember why. Was it because at the time I was adopting “another” mom? Was I busy getting to know her and ignoring the one who had birthed and raised me?

I didn’t let it bog me down with guilt, though. I know some mother-daughter conflict is “normal”. Mostly I think, it was because, at the end of her life, we were very close. She was my best friend. Whenever I expressed it, she would lovingly say, “Stop saying that. I’m not your friend. I’m your mother.”

LOL.

I’ve always felt like I’ve got an exceptional support system. It didn’t escape me as I looked at the bridal party and guests that so many people traveled across the country to attend. Even parents of friends. To me, that’s an honor.

As I watched on, the unexpected (and cruel) deaths hit me. First and foremost my beautiful niece, who was still darling despite missing a front tooth. She died in an automobile accident at age 10.

One of our groomsmen died just in the last couple of years. He had a motorcycle accident and then his wife went through several grueling weeks in the hospital, only to lose him.

The life cycle. Who would have thought looking back 32 years would have such a powerful message now.


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Looking Back

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is daves-birthday-8.jpg
Photo Courtesy of Author

Today is the ten year marker of my husband Tim’s death. I feel warmly in many ways, but when I see the picture of the last time we were all together, that is when I break up. Our kids didn’t need to grow up with a father. Especially David. He was only eight. He looks so very, very young.

Last weekend I went away with my friends for a night as has become the custom on this anniversary. This year, I added a day and night alone. I expected it to be a struggle, but it went down a completely unexpected path.

The weather was beautiful but I ended up never leaving the cottage. I hooked up our home videos and sat there for hours and hours. My depressed brain managed to process this without tears and allowed a very warm and grateful experience.

I decided to go as far back as I had videos for which brought me to 1988, my first wedding to John.

We planned every second of it. (Ok, it was me. No surprise there.) So many of the details were unique at the time. I loved watching it and thinking about how clever I was – LOL. We had our groomsman walk halfway down the aisle and escort the bridesmaids.

The kicker? We sang to each other. I still can’t beleive we did that.

The focus was definitely God. Every song, every reading carefully chosen. John even said the prayer at the end to bless our marriage. I chuckled because he went on and on. I remember his buddies giving him a hard time after.

We then brought our moms a bouquet of roses after the ceremony was over and escorted each guest out. That way we got to say hello to everyone. I was so surprised at the people who were there. And deeply grateful. So many of them had such an effect on my life and the direction it took. Family, people from high school, college and church.

And of course there was the obvious loss. It felt strangely like Mom and Dad were in the room watching with me. That didn’t bring sadness. So many of my relatives are now gone because it was over 30 years ago! There were other losses besides death. Lost friendships and relationships. Some faces I recognized but could not remember their lives for the life of me. Yet at the time, they were important in my life.

Those couples that got divorced. There were three in particular that were outright shocking when they happened. (Oh yeah, the fourth was my own!)

Speaking of that, I was surprised – and glad that I wasn’t sarcastic as I listened to the ceremony. There was no, “Oh yeah, right. Like you meant any of that.” The words and atmosphere reflected where we truly were at that point of our lives.

A little over a year ago, I was able to have lunch with John and his wife. There was no bitterness on either party, just the warmth of seeing someone we hadn’t seen in decades. Perhaps that contributed to the vibe I had as I watched the video.

More thoughts to come on this. I’m not sure if it is simply my own catharsis, but I do hope maybe someone reading this will find hope that our past pains don’t have to haunt us forever. There is meaning in loss when we look for it.


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Planned aloneness

I mentioned doing a silent retreat in one of my blogs recently. After my friend Summer called and laughed hysterically, I found out that retreat centers are all closed due to COVID. (Honestly, I don’t really get that. You are isolated and silent. How is that dangerous?)

This weekend is my annual Magical Misery Tour. That means it is the “anniversary” of my husband’s death. This year marks a decade. I can’t even believe it has been that long. Normally, my girl peeps and I go away for the weekend. For whatever reason (I blame it on COVID) I only want to go for one night. Anything more than that just seemed overwhelming.

Then it occurred to me that I can go a day earlier by myself and spend the night alone. That is the plan.

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I can’t be alone in a room. It’s not that. But I am definitely high-level extrovert. When I hit my low points, it’s when I don’t have a significant other- that kind of lonely. That is not the case this year.

However, I also have lots of intense things swirling in my mind. People to worry about, take care of, big decisions to make, and so on. When I really sit with my thoughts, they can get pretty strong. That’s when I need my peeps. First, because I’m a verbal person who needs to run things by others. Sometimes it’s several times with several people before I’ve worked it through. Secondly, if my thoughts are about myself and they are painful, I also need to touch base.

My goal is to spend time solely with myself and do my own self-soothing if and when I need it.

I plan to:

Enjoy the beautiful foliage and lakes

Paint my nails (without having to rush and ruin a couple because I’m trying to do something while they are drying). Won’t it be nice to just do it leisurely and enjoy it?

Play my favorite solitaire games (without being paranoid that someone will walk by me and think that I am being lazy)

Color (without feeling like I’m doing it to balance the chaos of my day)

Watch home movies. This will be a high-risk activity. My son turned 18 this summer and he’s “been so over” his mom for at least 8 years. We were incredibly close when he was small. I love looking at memories of him. It will be super great to do that. And it will also spark a lot of tears. I know it will. I grieve his childhood being over. I grieve all the mistakes I made after his dad died when he was only 8 years old. I grieve that we can never rewind and squeeze them all over again before they thought it was gross to be hugged.

Journal. I haven’t journaled in years. I’m just taking a notebook and seeing what happens. I’m going to think about a lot of those issues that trouble me. This is also a high-risk activity. I am not afraid of honestly looking at myself. I will take the truth, no matter how difficult it might be. But I can also come undone and need my folks to ground me again.

Wish me luck. I may end up calling someone and that won’t be the end of the world. But I am truly going to try and suck it up and rely on myself. It’s only for 24 hours. I can do it, right?


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Statistics and Numbers

Statistics was one of the hardest college classes I ever took. I passed it the first time. I passed mostly because I met one-on-one with the professor before every class. She had the patience of a saint.

Are statistics even helpful? It’s always been true, but especially now we have to ask if the statistics are even accurate or truthful.

One of the mantras I’ve adopted is, “It’s possible, but not probable.” In other words, just about anything – especially your worst fears – are possible. However, that doesn’t mean it is probable.

When folks struggle with anxiety, we talk about this over and over again as needed. The example I usually give is the possibility of a home invasion occurring while I am in my office (which is off my garage) seeing my clients. Yes, it is actually possible it is happening. It is also not probable. If I focus on the possible, I will go insane and have to quit work.

Believe it or not, this seems to help a lot of people. Statistics can help relieve our fears.

When you face a medical illness or diagnosis, the statistics can give us the hope we need to keep our spirits up. Such and such percentage of people recover with this treatment. Such and such percentage of people never progress to this level. If the numbers are good, we have more energy to cooperate and comply.

And statistics can be meaningless if your experiences go the opposite way. Statistics can destroy you.

Let’s say someone you love is given a terminal diagnosis. That’s bad news. But then the next round of tests come around and you find out they have the most common form of the disease. In fact, 99% of people that get treatment will respond and survive. Ninety-nine percent! Odds don’t get much better than that. Phew!

And then the next round of tests come back.

Their body is in the 1% of people who don’t respond. Their body isn’t getting better.

My God. No one gets in the 1%. Except that 1%. You can’t even believe it. You can’t even wrap around it.

And then you find out the patient is a beautiful, eight-year-old child.

Try and wrap around that.


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Control

Photo Courtesy of Author

Yes, I’m a bit OCD, but I feel like I put it to great use. First, there is my organizing business. Second, my house is in pretty good order. After dealing with a leaking roof, we took our already fairly organized storage rooms and made them even better.

There are worse vises to have, right?

I did see an online post that said, “You call it OCD. I call it put it back in its damn place.” Well, there was a harsher word than damn, but I cleaned it up for you. At any rate, it makes me feel better. Seriously, what’s wrong with being organized?

As the months keep going by, there is more and more that seems out of our control. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t think our world is a bit of a mess right now. Most of the time, there is nothing we can do about it. That’s why so many folks struggle with heightened anxiety.

Why not control what little we can?

I went away overnight to a friend’s cottage. I actually invited myself because I was desperate to escape for 24 hours. At one point, she and her friend went shopping and I stayed home.

It took about ten minutes and then the crying started. (This bodes well for the silent retreat I want to take soon.) I couldn’t describe it. The only phrase that came to mind repeatedly was, “I’m just not well.” I’m a depression veteran so I recognize it when it hits. There is some added dynamic I can’t pinpoint so I just credit the pandemic.

I’m not well. I’m not myself. I’m discombobulated. Thanks 2020.

A friend sent me a video that gently reminded me to access the greatest Power of all. It was talking about how “it depends on whose hand it is in.” You put a nail in your hand and it’s a tool. You put a nail in Jesus’ hand and we know that’s a different story entirely.

The ending message was to put your worries in God’s hands.

I’ve been trying to envision that regularly. I see God’s hands as these ginormous things. I hobble right into them like I’m trying to climb out of a pool. I figure to heck with putting my worries in God’s hands. I’m just plopping my whole body in there.

My entire self feels broken down and exhausted right now. God’s hands are big enough to handle it. Right?


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Block Schedules

When you are a little (or a lot) OCD, you might like to live by lists. I have lists for everything. There is nothing more gratifying than deleting something off your list. I would say 95% of the time, I don’t finish the list, but I usually come close.

On spurts where I have too much on my plate, I know completing the list is hopeless. I don’t even set up the expectation in my head. I know a big chunk of the list is getting moved to the next day. The next day is already over-filled but it’s getting another chunk of stuff anyway.

This last spurt has lasted a while. Because I know I have a tendency to be a workaholic, I also build things into the list to balance my life. The problem has been that many of the things that recharge me are not practical during a pandemic. All things added together, it’s a sure-fire recipe for my “Treatment-Resistant Depression” to flare up.

Sigh.

Today I sat for a while just looking at the lists. You know you’re in trouble when you spend more time rearranging lists than doing anything on them. I didn’t do that today though, I just looked for themes. Ok, I did rearrange the lists, but that wasn’t my endgame.

So I’m trying block scheduling like they do in high schools now. I divided all the desired (and not-desired) tasks into categories. Then I’m giving each category a block of time. There are a bunch, but some of them are work (thus this blog finally being written), the house, the yard, and yes! Personal care. I’m figuring out even little things like having a cup of tea to somehow get my gas tank off of “E” where it has been hovering for far too long.

You know that feeling when your gas light goes on and you know you need to stop soon so you don’t end up stranded. If you’re like me, you hope you get to that one gas station you really like so you push the envelope a bit.

That’s the feeling I’ve had inside for over a month now. I’m on “E” and I’m not sure if I’m going to make it to the station in time before the car dies. It’s an awful, anxious feeling.

There is a silent retreat weekend coming up for me. I don’t know when/where it will be, but I hope to set it up today. It’s on my “self-care” block. It will kill me to be alone and silent, but I think it’s the surgery I need.

So here’s to block scheduling. At least for the weekend. I’m hoping it has good results for this Type A, OCD, Workaholic, Treatment-Resistant Depression, worn out girl.

Isn’t it ironic that it’s Labor Day weekend?