Tears to Joy

Tears to Joy: July 2013

Monday, July 29, 2013

Anxiety Medication: To Take or Not to Take?

I've had so many hurting people come to me and tell me that they don't know what to do. They have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and encouraged to take medication, but their Christian friends and family discourage it, saying, "The Bible says to be anxious about nothing. You don't need medicine; you just need to trust God." What do you say to that?

I asked my sweet cousin, Sarah Kauble, who is a psychiatry intern to share with us on the topic. Here are her comments:

You heart is beating fast, its hard to catch your breath, you're sweaty and you feel like every thought is racing through you head. Many of us at one point or another have experienced this...Anxiety. Maybe you're like me and you lie awake at night thinking about what happened that day or what you need to do the next day. While all of us have experienced this at one point or another, for some this is daily life. For the Christian it can pose a dilemma.

As Christians how do we decided we need to seek medical treatment for our anxiety?  I would like to first make a proposition for you to consider. In Arthur Holmes book, The Idea of a Christian College he asserts that because God is truth, "all truth must be God's truth". Current research using MRI to study the brain have shown that certain areas of the brain are affected in a person who has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. These areas of the brain are responsible for the flight or fight reaction we experience when we are startled by something. These areas of the brain also release certain chemicals that increase our heart rate, cause us to sweat, and make us breath quicker, leading to  the physical symptoms of anxiety that we experience. At this point research shows that those with an anxiety disorder have chemical imbalances in their brain much like a patient with bipolar or schizophrenia. If we accept this research as truth then we must also accept that it is God's truth.

Symptoms of anxiety are sometimes due to a medical problem such as a heart condition, gland problems, or tumors. It is important when experiencing anxiety symptoms on a regular basis to the point that you are facing impairment in your everyday life, that you seek medical counsel so you can be evaluated for life threatening conditions. But what do you do when a physical cause for your symptoms has been ruled out as a cause for your anxiety? According to diagnostic criteria an anxiety disorder is diagnosed when anxiety causes impairment in the person's life and interferes with daily activities. Medication can be given to control the symptoms of anxiety, but research shows that medication in conjunction with therapy is the best treatment for anxiety disorders. Medication helps control the symptoms but does not get to the root cause of anxiety.

A counselor can help you discover what causes your anxiety and learn how to better manage it. Medication may not be needed for a lifetime with anxiety, it may just be needed short term to help the patient learn coping skills and get through a particularly anxiety ridden time in their life. Seeking the help of a Christian counselor can help you manage your anxiety in a Godly way and may even suggest when you might need to see a health care provider.  Philippians 4:7 says to cast your cares on God because he cares for you. We should pray when we are anxious and we should let God know how we are feeling. As a result of our sinful nature, disease entered the world. While we have to face the consequence of disease we do not have to live in bondage to it. The Bible says that Jesus came to give us an abundant life and that He came to heal us. I believe that because of God's great love for us He provides ways for us to overcome our illness.  We can rejoice in the fact that God has already won the victory over sin, hardships, illness and yes even anxiety.  He wants us to be whole, complete, and lacking in nothing.  He has endowed doctors and scientists with the knowledge to develop medications and to study disease processes to help us with our illness.

Kaplan and Saddock's Handbook of Clinical Psychiatry 5th Ed, Benjamin Saddock M.D. and Virgina Saddock M.D.;  Chapter 15: Anxiety Disorders, Wolters & Kluwer 2010.

The Idea of a Christian College, Arthur Holmes; Wm B Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1987

Philippians 4:7
John 10:10
James 1:4

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Dating as a Teenager

 I teach a Dating and Marriage course to high schoolers, and I am always reading about the subject in order to stay current. Most of the teenagers I teach, particularly the girls, believe that they will one day marry their current boyfriends. I recently read that out of 100 married couples, 22 said they married their high school sweetheart. Now before you say, “Ahhhh,” you should know that 17 of those got divorced. This means 5 out of 100 people between the ages of 18 and 89 are still married to their high school crush (Justin Lookadoo and Hayley DiMarco, Dateable:  Are you? Are they?).

Sadly, the way most teens date today teaches them little about marriage, but instead creates a pathway for divorce. They meet someone and they share their innermost secrets; they are way too physical. Then one day, the spark is gone. One breaks up with the other, and then he meets someone else. The cycle begins again. Subconsciously, the mind begins to believe that relationships don’t last. Eventually, even the good relationships go south because you begin to nit pick and look for reasons to end it, because you have come to believe that it’s not going to last (even if its subconscious).

I suggest that instead of getting entangled in serious relationships in high school, dating should be more about friendship and fun. It’s good to get to know another person, but you shouldn’t trust him with your innermost thoughts until you really, truly know him (for teenagers, Lookadoo and DiMarco suggest waiting one to two years before pouring your heart out). If you date knowing it has a probability of not lasting, it takes some of the pressure off and enables you to focus on the friendship. Do you really want a scorned ex who knows everything about you and who could blab it to the world?

Don’t even get me started about the fallout of physical intimacy outside of marriage. When you are intimate with another person, your soul becomes connected to that person whether you like it or not. God wired us that way. The more physical you are, the deeper the heart when the relationship ends.

If you choose to date in high school, and many will (I did), then do so wisely. Focus on becoming more Christ-like in your relationships. Find an adult you trust, and talk with them about your relationship. Give them permission to speak truth in your life, and listen.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Pastors Struggle with Depression, Anxiety, and Alcohol Use at Alarming Rates

It’s a long running joke that pastors don’t really work, but two days a week. Being married to a minister, I must say that nothing could be farther from the truth. Most pastors are on call 24/7 and are asked to help in a vast array of circumstances – from holding someone’s hand while they die to rescuing cats from clandestine places.

Sadly, many ministers have few friends and often carry their personal burdens in isolation. Pastors and their wives often fear that if their congregations knew of their struggles, then their jobs would be in jeopardy, so many suffer in silence. 

I recently read some disturbing facts from www.PastorBurnout.com and the New York Times (August 1, 2010).  Did you know that members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen, and that many would change jobs if they could?

    • 13% of active pastors are divorced.
    • 23% have been fired or pressured to resign at least once in their careers.
    • 25% don’t know where to turn when they have a family or personal conflict or issue.
    • 33% felt burned out within their first five years of ministry.
    • 45% of pastors’ wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual burnout.
    • 45% of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
    • 52% of pastors say they and their spouses believe that being in pastoral
    • 56% of pastors’ wives say that they have no close friends.
    • 70% of pastors don’t have any close friends.
    • 80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse.
    • 80% believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively.
    • 90% work more than 50 hours a week.
    • 94% feel under pressure to have a perfect family.
    • 1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure.

If those stats aren’t sad enough, doctors, lawyers and clergy have the most problems with drug abuse, alcoholism and suicide.

So why am I telling you all of this?  Because we are in a position to pray for and to support our pastors and their families. If you are guilty of slandering or gossiping about the pastor or his family – stop! They are imperfect people making imperfect progress, just like you and me. Instead of casting stones, we need to extend to them the same grace we want them to offer us. Clergy are on the frontlines of a battlefield and we need to pray for them.

My challenge for you this week is to let your pastor and his wife know how much they mean to you and find a tangible way of showing them that you appreciate them.

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Out of Deep Waters...a blog interview

I recently interviewed with a fellow suicide survivor, Leah Slack Stirewalt, on her blog. I met Leah a couple of years ago at SheSpeaks (a writer's conference). We both felt instantly connected as we shared our stories and enjoyed a sweet time of prayer together. She too, lost her husband to suicide. We have stayed in touch over the years, and it is so refreshing to see how God has turned both of our tears to joy. I consider it an honor to be interviewed on her blog. You can read the interview by clicking here.

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Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Sunday School Virus

Last week our Sunday school class had a cookout, and many of us left with more than a good time. Over twenty of us there left with a brutal stomach virus. It was like a scene in a bad movie --- we were all shocked at how contagious this virus was, and just how puny it made us feel.

As I reflect on this rapid spread, I can’t help but think about how quickly gossip spreads. What starts with one person can spread like kudzu. None of us went to the party intending to get sick. Likewise, there are times when we don’t mean to gossip. It might even start with genuine concern for another, but the more we talk, our concern slowly turns to slander.

Since the outbreak, I have cloroxed our house in hopes of killing any bacteria that might linger. We need to also be proactive to guard our tongue against malice. My middle school daughter has learned how hurtful gossip can be, and she has decided to memorize scriptures to help her guard against this evil. She’s written verses and posted them on her bathroom mirror to help her to watch her words. May we learn from her example!


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Home Sweet Home?

Many years ago, my mentor commented that I was never home. I laughed, and said, “My grandmother always said that my middle name should have been GO.” She didn’t laugh. With complete seriousness, she said, “Do you not like to be at home?”

The truth was that at the time our home seemed like a place of chaos; she was right. I didn’t like to be at home, because there I had to face the reality of Michael’s manic moods or depression. If “home is where the heart is” then I was in trouble.

Fast forward years later. After Michael died, I was determined to make my home a refuge, a sanctuary. With the help of friends, I painted every room in the house to more calming colors and began the journey to create an atmosphere of peace and rest. I love to play soft music and light candles --- makes me feel “Ahhhhh.”

Since remarrying in April, it seems as if our home is undergoing another transition. We’re rearranging, cleaning out, and bringing in new things all in an attempt for our home to reflect our family. I must say that I have grown to appreciate home; its not the stuff that makes it special but the love. I want the atmosphere to reflect love and grace.

My favorite place is our front porch swing. I love to curl up with a good book on the swing while listening to the rain and feeling the cool breeze.  Its a taste of heaven in my world!

What about you? Is your home a place of peace? If not, what can you change to make it more inviting? For those who answered yes, what have you done to create ambiance in your home? What is your favorite place in your home?


Monday, July 1, 2013

Are you prepared if tragedy hits?

Did you know that nearly half of all children with a single mother — 47.6 percent — live in poverty according to the U.S. census report?  This number is staggering to me. A friend recently told me that she heard a report that nearly 90% of single parent families end up homeless at some point. Granted, this includes families that move in with other family members, not necessarily families living on the street. However, this news really jolted me. Ninety percent! That is mindboggling!

I began thinking about my own life as a single parent. I never expected to be a widow at 30 years old with a four year old. If it weren't for Michael's life insurance and the generosity of our community, we could have easily been a statistic.

There are so many families out there who do not have life insurance as a cushion to protect their loved ones if something should happen to them. My husband recently started selling life insurance with Woodmen of the World, and I have learned just how affordable insurance can be for many families.

None of us expect tragedy to hit our families, but it is our responsibility to be prepared when it comes. If you do not currently have life insurance, I encourage you to consider buying a policy. Don't become let your loved ones become a statistic because you weren't prepared.

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