Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Gift


On a cold, dark winter night, I stopped at the grocery store for a few last minute items before fixing dinner for my family. There she was in the check-out lane, bent and frail, looking as if a stiff wind would blow her away. Knowing that she didn’t drive, I asked if I could give her a ride home.

She said that she would get a taxi, but I insisted, “I am going home in a few minutes, I can take you.” She conceded.  She lived just behind us across the back ally. I purchased what I needed while she waited on the bench beside the front entrance.

We walked together to my van and I opened the front door to help her inside, depositing the few things she had purchased at her feet. I helped fasten her seat belt and she quipped that it would have been easier to climb into a taxi. I just smiled and replied that I was glad to be there to help.

While we drove the few blocks to our homes, she searched in her coat pockets for her house key, but to no avail. It was nowhere to be found. She told me she had a spare outside the house she could use. I drove into her driveway and shone the van lights toward the house.

The thought occurred to me to invite her into my home for dinner, but I quickly dismissed it, not knowing the condition of things, having left my children alone while I went to the store. I helped her out, and stood holding her groceries while she searched for the key.

After several minutes, I offered to assist in the search. Again, the thought occurred to me that I should invite her to my home for dinner. I dismissed it once again, thinking that surely, she would be tired after her excursion to the store.

The key was not found. Both of us shivering, I invited her into my home to get warm and have a bite to eat. I helped her back into the van, and we crossed the ally to my home. I offered to take her coat, and fix her something warm to drink. She smiled and thanked me.

As I held her coat, I felt inspired to check for her key. There were some small pockets on the outside of the sleeves near the shoulder. There was the key! I held it up to her. She smiled and said, “How did you know?”

“God told me!” I grinned as I gave her a hug. With tears in both of our eyes, we thanked the Lord that the key had been found, and our friendship deepened. She was finally able to relax and enjoy dinner with our family. 

Afterward, I walked her home and helped get her purchases safely inside the house.
It was not long after that the dear woman passed away. I will never forget that night. The most important gift given was our time together with the Lord. 

Remember, we are not alone, for your emotional health!

Friday, December 13, 2019

Choosing Life



Everyone should spend a week in a mental health unit. It is literally a life-changing experience; at least it was for me. The first time I went, the doctor who admitted me swore that I wasn’t like the others there. How little did he know! It had taken years to stuff my bag of emotions and develop the distorted thinking patterns I was using.

I was admitted for other reasons. The medications I was taking for health problems were out of balance, and I was an emotional wreck. The goal was to adjust things gradually until I was back to “normal.” My husband purchased a greeting card that had a picture on the front that looked just like our doctor. It read, “The doctor says that you will be back to normal in no time.” The verse on the inside quipped, “That will be a first!” We both laughed!

Life at our house was anything but normal. We had seven children ranging in age from six months to twelve years. The roller coaster ride I was on affected our entire family. My doctor finally realized that I was going through menopause and started treating me for it, along with my fluctuating thyroid, hypoglycemia, asthma, allergies, and developing arthritis.

The sign on the nurses station said, “What you see here, what we do here, let it stay here when you leave here.” I think that is a mistake. If more people had a glimpse of what those with mental illness suffer, perhaps they would get help sooner. I know it made a difference for me.

During my week there, I saw what happens to people who try to commit suicide and don’t succeed. I heard the horror stories of dysfunctional families, problems with the law, and poverty. I saw the scars, both mental and physical, that they carried like battle trophies. It was then that I decided that suicide was not for me, no matter what happened.

The hysterectomy I had five years later allowed my physical health to come back to me. For over ten years, I had fought an emotional hormonal battle. Now that it was over, I thought I could do all of those things I had been putting off. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I did not know how to live.

The day I picked up the handful of paring knives from the drainer and saw them in my mind’s eye going into my chest, I was scared. The sun glinting on the cold steel brought me back to my senses, and I called for help. Choose life, for your emotional health!

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Deep Breathing to Reduce Anxiety



The teenager had been in my office before, but this time was different. His mother dropped him off at the door, and then was gone. Usually she waited in the car outside. He did not come directly into the room but paced back and forth in the hallway.

I waited for him to slow down a bit and then invited him in. He slunk into the nearest seat, his shoulders hunched over as if warding off a blow. I sat down across the table from him and scattered some colorful magnets onto the surface. I did not say anything, just built a three-dimensional figure with the magnets. Eventually, he felt comfortable enough to join me.

We talked about the problems he was having with school, his part-time employment, and especially his family. The more he talked the more relaxed he became and we were able to address the anxiety he was experiencing. I told him that there was something he could do at home that would help.

I had him lie down on the floor, flat on his back, and bring his knees up to form a tent, or upside down “V” with his feet flat on the floor. I told him to relax his shoulders, and put his hands on his stomach, then breathe in slowly counting to the number five.

His stomach rose with the inhalation, and then when he exhaled, we counted to five again. With each deep breath, his anxiety diminished and his tense muscles relaxed. The more he breathed deeply, the more well-being he felt. After only a few moments, he was ready to go forward and face the day.

We talked about how to use this technique, even if he could not lie down, the key being to breathe slowly, moving the diaphragm down and allowing the stomach area to expand. The vacuum created would bring air into the lungs. Then, as the diaphragm relaxed, the air would be slowly pushed out through the mouth.  

This simple action decreases feelings of anxiety by providing the following physical benefits:
  1. Concentration on the breathing action clears distressing thoughts
  2. The heartbeat slows down, decreasing pressure on arteries and veins
  3. The blood moves more slowly, allowing greater nutrient absorption in the muscle tissue
  4. Nerve impulses decrease, dissipating feelings of stress
  5. As the body relaxes, the spirit calms.

Not only did this young man feel the benefits of decreased anxiety, he was able to have renewed feelings of self-reliance. He had a tool that he could use at any time to help increase his feelings of well-being.

Give your soul a break today. Breathe deeply, for your emotional health!