The Potter- A Poem

The Potter
~A Poem by Melanie Moscicki
Mending the Soul 2014

Another year,
a million tears,
so many times she’s tried
To fix the broken little girl,
she buried deep inside.

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He says to her,
“Come follow me,
I’ll make you new again”
but the walls she built are far too strong
to ever let Him in.

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She hears the sounds of laughter,
of joy she’s never known
Could it be? A girl like SHE
should live on LOVE-alone?

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So many scars from trusting
cracks from being dropped,
cast aside as nothing
but an empty, broken pot.

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But He says He’s a potter…
The best there ever was,
and He says I’m HIS daughter…
and His work has just begun.

At the Bottom

Here I am at the bottom again. Depression moves in swirls and waves most of the time and each day I dodge the waves and try to ride the swirls. If I could learn to recognize when I’m caught in a wave, I might be able to see more swirls. But in the wave, the swirls seem unreal. The good things that are swirls seem small and insignificant- fake even.

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First comes that pleading to God to help me- straighten me out- get me back on track. Then comes the self-loathing. “I used to be better than this.” And the worry. “How do I get out of this?” All the while the riptide is shredding and shredding each piece of me.

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Finally, I am at the bottom, the muck and the weeds surrounding me, and it’s an odd place. At the bottom, I can’t see the swirls or the waves. It’s just me stuck in the quicksand and having to deal with it.

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At the bottom I am like a lump. There is nothing redeeming about me. I have accomplished nothing. That being- that person -I used to be with the self confidence and nice clothes and polished up social skills isn’t me at the bottom. She is just a figment – a has-been. Some would call this a crisis, but it’s bigger than that. It’s a nothingness.

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As a lump I should have no feelings of inadequacy- no regret- no falseness, because I am only clay. I don’t look like anything, I have no expectations, because at the bottom you can only see the bottom.

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Yes, ripped up in those waves that came before, there were mistakes that put me on the bottom, a wrong decision, a bad medicine combo, a relentless negative narrative that tells me I don’t deserve anything. A heartless barrage of should and musts that are never met.

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After days, hours, minutes at the bottom I spot a tiny little swirl. Is it an opportunity? Because I am this lump, could I be formed into something different- maybe not even something better which is what the world would expect from one on the bottom, but something different? Surely that would take a lot of work, because I am at the bottom. And how does that work even begin?

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“So I went down to the potter’s shop and found him making something on his wheel. And as I watched, the clay vessel in his hands became flawed and unusable. So, the potter started again with the same clay. He crushed and squeezed and shaped it into another vessel that was to his liking. In that moment again I heard God’s word for his rebellious people. Oh, people of Israel can I not do the same to you as this potter has done? You are like clay in my hands- I will mold you as I see fit.” Jeremiah 3-6

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The potter started “with the same clay.” He didn’t throw it away and get some good fresh stuff, some brand-new baby straight from the womb to start a life free from regret and shame and mistakes.

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Is the work to turn the clay into something “Of his liking” the job of the clay? Is the clay expected to fashion itself into a beautiful vase or statue of magnificence? No, the work begins with the potter and the clay just has to allow itself to be transformed.

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I see the swirl- the opportunity- to allow God to do something with me to His liking. I could take my lumpy arms and start to etch out a nice big long “To Do” list of what it will take for me to be that woman I was- or to be different from her. But I won’t. Not today, sitting at the bottom, I trust the Potter. I trust God to make me to his liking- what could be better than to be admired by God?

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So, my prayer is for Him to take full control of my life. I will again ride the swirls, but in a way that God sees me riding them. I will still be crashed by waves, but God will use them to shape me to His liking.

My job is to be the clay.

The Hospital

I was hospitalized three times since Tyler died. The first time was three months after his death. I spent the day at a casino, drinking and gambling away all my money. I drove, drunk, toward home but stopped my car at a dead-end road behind a bank and one by one swallowed a handful of benzos for which I had a prescription. I just wanted to be with him.

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Eventually, I put the car in drive and drove home. How I got there, I’ll never know. My husband, Terry, was angry with me and was asleep when I came home. He had no idea about the pills and was justifiably upset. After collapsing in the bathroom, I fell asleep and, in the morning, I was surprised to find myself alive. I didn’t take enough.
The next day I confessed to my husband and we both knew I needed some professional intervention. I still wanted to die.

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I was to spend that day with my boss, so I got dressed and met him at the assigned place. I was honest, and he prayed with me. I was to go on short term disability and check myself in- somewhere.

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We found a hospital in a neighboring town. The Lindner Center of Hope. One of the top wellness hospitals in the country. At intake they explained that once I checked in, I could not leave without a doctor releasing me. It was a locked ward. I said yes, even though my anxiety was screaming at me. I had to do it or I would die, which still sounded pretty good to me. Luckily my husband knew my mindset now and supported me. The hospital was close, he would come every day after work, the girls, my two daughters, could visit.

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The first thing I did was strip so a nurse could take full body shots of any bruises or cuts (I had none, except for a bruise on my hip from falling in the bathroom the previous night.) They went through my bag and sent all the prohibited stuff home with Terry. EVERYTHING was prohibited; pencils, pens, belts, rings, bracelets, necklaces, shoes with laces, make-up, and I was left with 2 pair of pants, some socks and a sweatshirt.

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My room was private with a single bed, mattress two inches thick on a smooth plastic platform, no metal, no screws, no nails. There was a desk but since all writing materials were prohibited, there was no use for it. When I first arrived I found a jigsaw puzzle in the common area and brought it back to the desk in my room. Within minutes, a nurse rushed in and took it away, explaining that all these items must be done in the common area under the careful watch of the nurses. I guess I could have eaten the pieces?

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I soon found out about very creative ways that patients use to hurt themselves. Nothing with batteries allowed- patients swallow them. I couldn’t get used to no clock in my room. When I would wake in the night I would have to walk down the hallway into the common area to see the time. And the mattress was killing my arthritic hip. They could get me a special foam piece, they said, but I would need doctor to prescribe it for me. Plus, only one Aleve! “The dosage is one,” I was told, when I was used to taking three.

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We colored in our free time. We were able to use coloring pencils and crayons in the common area. We had to ask for the pencils and when we returned them we were checked off a list. Same with silverware. When you were finished eating you were required to turn in your flatware directly to the nurse. Everything was counted.

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The staff was wonderful. Due to my grief, I was connected with the Spiritual Counselor who gave me a copy of Jesus Always, my first introduction to Sarah Young, which would become a lifelong study.

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Every day we had a schedule of group meetings. The staff taught us the basic principles of CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) along with how to care for ourselves and keep a positive outlook. There was Recreational Therapy which consisted of a game or craft. There were patients who were so sick that they were unable to communicate or attend group. They would be in there a lot longer than I.

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The center also performed ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy). Two women in my ward were going through this therapy. One, who I’ll call Jane, was an Academic. She was a scientist but when she spoke, which was rarely, she could barely be heard. She mumbled and often stared into space. I wondered who she used to be-before. The other, who I’ll call Susan, was so depressed that she could barely smile. One day, when Susan returned from her ECT session, I saw her eyes clear and her face bright. I told her what a difference I could see in her and she smiled at me and thanked me with emotion!

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We were woken at 7 every morning to eat breakfast, line up for our medicines and then start groups at 8:30. We would be called out of group individually to see doctors and therapists and nurses. I would be in this wing of the hospital twice. The second time was on the second anniversary of Tyler’s death

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After a week, I was released into a Partial Hospitalization Program at Lindner Center. I went every day from nine to four for DBT classes. I was able to stay at home and sleep in my own bed. I was able to eat what I liked and was under the watchful eye of my family. This was a two-week program and I was interested and excited about DBT. The program though, was too much in too little time, 4 to 5 worksheets a day. I was unable to keep the coping strategies straight and was unable to keep up with it on my own at home.

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On the anniversary of Tyler’s death, my daughter and I went to see a medium. I was desperate- grasping at straws and this was a way that I figured I could get in touch with Tyler. I was disappointed. I didn’t think the medium was “real.” I thought she took too much of what my daughter told her and then spun it for my reading.

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So once again I took pills. But this time I took the whole bottle, I was determined to see Tyler one way or another and since the medium didn’t work, well… My husband was awake this time when I collapsed, and he took me to the hospital. After I was stabilized they took me in an ambulance back to the Lindner Center where I began another round of treatment in the same ward as last time, same routine, new people.

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They taught us the basics of Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Setting goals, understanding that depression is a chemical reaction in your brain. I thought of it as “tricking” your brain to stop thinking of something bad and trying to replace it with something good. And basic things like taking a shower and eating right. “Who needs help taking a shower?” I thought, unbeknownst to me that in the not so near future, I would need to be reminded of just that.

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My final hospitalization was voluntarily. No more suicide attempts, but I wasn’t getting better. I had switched on and off with several different therapists and psychiatrists, but nothing was working. I had al but forgotten the DBT and CBT I had learned.

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According to Dr. David Brent, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the children of people who attempted suicide, “regardless of whether they have a mood disorder themselves, have a four- to five-fold increased risk of trying to take their own lives, according to a new study.”

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This information was a deterrent for me, because one of my daughters has bi-polar and I was very worried that she would look at me as an example and try to take her own life.
The Linder Center had a setting in the woods next to it’s main building. It was called Sibcy House and it did not take insurance. The program was meant to define a diagnosis and focus heavily on DBT, addiction counseling and CBT therapies. It was decided that I should go.

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My husband and I took a loan from my 401K and I was able to get in one July. This was a different type of program. I was still in a locked house, but we were given passes to go outside on their walking path between classes. We had yoga, mindfulness and pet therapy. There were field trips on the weekends.

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The rooms in Sibcy House were like hotel rooms. We were able to have pens and pencils and clocks, and the beds were good ones, with real mattresses on frames. There were extensive tests that I took and daily therapist and psychiatrist visits. I still see one of these psychologists who specializes in DBT on a weekly outpatient basis.

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My goals upon entering Sibcy House were to determine an accurate diagnosis, medication evaluation (I was on eleven medications!), learn new skills to help me deal with my problems/symptoms and address grief issues. I needed to be there because my anxiety was overwhelming me. It was hard to think of words while talking- what is this? Anxiety? Age ? Meds? And I was constantly moving my legs and arms. It was embarrassing.

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And although I no longer wanted to end my life, I truly didn’t care if I died from some natural cause or accident. At the time, I didn’t know that I had leukemia. It was like, “I’m ready,” to go see my son and be with God. So, you can see the kind of distorted thinking I was presenting.

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There at Sibcy House, I learned that I have major depressive disorder, recurrent, severe, with anxious features (no surprise), PTSD, Complicated Bereavement, moderate alcohol use disorder and Panic Disorder.

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But by completing the testing I also learned that I had not lost my ability to reason, think clearly, or plan. I just needed to focus my mind and filter out all the scrambling going on in there. The scrambling reminds me of the old days of cable television. If you went to a channel that you hadn’t purchased you could hear the voices and sounds of the movie, but the screen would be scrambled up with diagonal lines and blotches so you couldn’t see the picture. Nowadays, you just get a blue screen that says to subscribe to the channel call a number.

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Well, my mind was acting like the old cable stations and I would hear the sounds but not be able to discern the full picture. I needed to learn to focus my mind again, and mindfulness was instrumental in that.

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The staff at Sibcy House was extensive: Psychiatrists, master’s level social workers, doctorate level therapists, expressive therapists, nutritionists, internists, and neurologists. I thank God for that 401K that allowed us to afford this level of care. I pray for those who are not able, that God would lead them to really good experts to lead them through their grief.

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Daily, in between doctor visits, we had a curriculum that we followed. I went to every class. There were patients there who didn’t go to many of them. It was hard for me to understand paying that kind of money and not participating, but that was me judging; I know now that mental illness manifests itself in many different and unusual ways. They were doing the best they could do.

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Even though I brought workout clothes, I didn’t attend the physical recreation- or “gym” as we called it in elementary school, and I ate about three of the best ice cream sandwiches I’ve ever tasted every night! You see it: weight gain! But I was more concerned about my brain than about my appearance.

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At home, I had loads of self-help books. I had been really trying to “fix myself” but I had no direction- no guidance. I was hoping my time at Sibcy House could offer me a path. At the time, I didn’t even think about God providing the path for me. I believed in God, loved God, knew my deceased family was with God, but I viewed myself as tainted- not doing the right things to help myself, unaware of the countless Bible verses in which God declares that He will provide the path. That came later, in God’s time..

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I loved the psychological and intelligence testing! (Most of the time.) I have always been competitive. But I was less enthused on some days when my mind was foggy, and I had trouble doing something as easy as naming ten animals! This was the depression, which clouds your mind. I learned that this is linked to the loss of energy and motivation that comes with depression, and how depression can affect your brain in a way that causes the fog.

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I was very fearful of going back to work. My job was filled with grief triggers. I think it’s impossible to figure out why certain things trigger us after a close death. It seemed like I was being ambushed all the time at work. This was my PTSD. And the sad thing is that people seem to have an “expiration date” on grief- a time when after so many months or years, you should “Be Over It.” So, although my co-workers were nice human beings, they were getting tired of my outbursts. This was super scary to me!

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How would I ever go back to work in this minefield? I wanted to return to my life- to my work. That is the real reason why I focused on DBT so much throughout this time period. I needed some real coping skills to go back to work.

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Well, I didn’t go back to work, and I believe that this is the path God wants me to be on. I am reminded of a passage in “Jesus Lives” by Sarah Young:
“I want you to make your life a glorious adventure, but you must stop striving for a lifestyle that feels safe…People settle for mediocrity because it feels more comfortable. Meanwhile they continue to battle fear… A predictable lifestyle may feel safer, but it can shield you from what you need most of all-Me! … I will be with you each step of the way. As we venture out together cling tightly to my hand.”

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I eventually realized how true this is. God needed me to venture out, to have faith that when I ventured out that He would be with me every step of the way and He led me to a weekly DBT meeting which I attended for a year after leaving Sibcy House.

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There is a story in the Bible that I love. The Gospels tell about the disciples in a boat on a stormy sea right after they sat with Jesus and fed a multitude from a couple fish and some loaves of bread. They had just witnessed this miracle of the Jesus multiplying the food until all of the thousands of people were filled.

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So, they go out into this boat while Jesus was off by himself dealing with the loss of his beloved friend and cousin, John the Baptist. As Jesus came to the shore, he saw the disciples struggling in the choppy water to keep the boat upright. The storm really ramped up and it looked like they were going to capsize. They were so afraid that they didn’t even recognize Jesus as He calmly walked across the water to help them.

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I think about how many times I have not recognized Jesus when He has been trying to help me. When I don’t believe it’s His hand that is putting things into place for me. What strikes me most about this Bible story is that they had just been astounded by the miracle of the loaves and fishes, just that day! Why would they not see and believe that their Lord was walking to them? Over the water?

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In my life, I know of countless times I have been the beneficiary of His blessings, of His wise counsel, of His true love, yet, I still doubt that He is involved in my life to such a degree that He will NOT allow me to take on more than I can bear.

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Now, my favorite part of the story is when Peter calls out and asks Jesus to prove that He is who He is by allowing Peter to walk on the water too. Jesus doesn’t get offended by this but does exactly as Peter asks. Peter takes about two steps and then is filled with terror and starts to sink.

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How many times have I been given a God opportunity and did not follow through to receive the whole blessing? How many times have I doubted myself instead of trusting that God would do immeasurably more than all [I] ask or imagine?
How many times have I not ventured out of my normalcy– Or because of my mental illness, my ab-normalcy?

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The last hospital stay was well worth the time and money because it provided an expert path for me with DBT and through DBT, prayer and Bible devotions, I found myself much closer to God and ready to let Him take the reins.

Sensory Awareness in Crisis

An excellent DBT exercise when you need to calm down.

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Make a recording of your voice talking through this Sensory Awareness Step by Step. (Allow about 5 seconds between each step) Sensory awareness step by step

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1. Can you feel your hair touching your head?
2. Can you feel your belly rising and falling as you breathe?
3. Can you feel the space between your eyes?
4. Can you feel the distance between your ears?
5. Can you feel your breath touching the back of your eyes while you inhale?
6. Can you picture something far away?
7. Can you notice your arms touching your body?
8. Can you feel the bottoms of your feet?
9. Can you imagine a beautiful day at the beach?
10. Can you notice the space within your mouth?
11. Can you notice the position of your tongue in your mouth?
12. Can you feel a breeze against your cheek?
13. Can you feel how one arm is heavier than the other?
14. Can you feel a tingling or numbness in one hand?
15. Can you feel how one arm is more relaxed than the other?
16. Can you feel a change in the temperature in the air around you?
17. Can you feel how your left arm is warmer than the right?
18. Can you imagine how it would feel to be a rag doll?
19. Can you notice any tightness in your left forearm?
20. Can you imagine something very pleasant?
21. Can you imagine what it would feel like to float on a cloud?
22. Can you imagine what it would feel like to be stuck in molasses?
23. Can you picture something far away?
24. Can you feel a heaviness in your legs?
25. Can you imagine floating in warm water?
26. Can you notice your body hanging on your bones?
27. Can you allow yourself to drift lazily?
28. Can you feel your face getting soft?
29. Can you imagine a beautiful flower?
30. Can you feel how one arm and one leg are heavier than the other?

Crisis Survival

You are in crises when the situation is highly stressful, and you feel like you must act on or resolve the crises right now. It’s an intense feeling, one you can’t shake unless you do something this moment.

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It may be intense anger. You want to lash out at someone-something immediately, so you can feel better. It may be desolation. You want to end the feeling by using drugs or alcohol- anything that will make you feel better.

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It’s really hard to stop yourself. This is crises and one thing to keep in mind (if you can) is it’s usually short term. DBT states that crises survival skills (known as Distress Tolerance) should be used when:
1. You have intense pain that cannot be helped quickly
2. You want to act on your emotions, but it will only make things worse.
3. Emotion mind threatens to overwhelm you and you need to stay “skillful.”
4. You are overwhelmed yet demands must be met.
5. Arousal is extreme, but problems can’t be solved immediately.

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A really effective skill to use is called STOP. I’ve used it in times of anger when I wanted to lash out at my job. I wasn’t being treated right. I wanted to get angry at everyone. I wanted to say things I would regret. I just wanted to feel better- to justify myself.
The STOP skill works like this:
Stop. Do not react. Freeze and don’t move a muscle. Stay in control. Your emotions are telling you to act, but before you do, just STOP.
Take a step back. Take a break, a deep breath, take yourself out of the situation. Even for just a moment, do not act impulsively.
Observe. This one can be hard, but you have to notice what you are thinking and feeling as if you are watching it like a movie. What is the situation? What are your feelings about it? What are others saying or doing?
Proceed Mindfully. Act with awareness. Which actions will make it better and which actions will make it worse?

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Once we left for vacation on the anniversary of my son’s death. We thought it would be good to get away during that time especially since I didn’t handle the previous anniversaries so well. In the car I had a panic attack. The STOP skill helped me to take a step back and observe what was happening to my body. I took deep breaths and the attack seemed to end quicker than normal. I didn’t cope by using anything and I waited it out. I know in my Wise Mind that it would end. It always does.

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Distress Tolerance skills are especially helpful when we are out of control. Once I was so distraught during a therapy session that I was crying uncontrollably. My therapist chose to use a skill called TIP. Which is controlling through temperature, intense exercise or paced breathing with paired muscle relaxation.

We chose the temperature route and she got a pitcher of ice which I placed on my forehead with a paper towel. This calmed me down fast as the change of temperature changed my body chemistry. Fifteen to thirty seconds should be enough time for this “dive reflex” to set in. Some members of my DBT group have also used ice on their wrists or they held their breath and submerged their faces in cold water. As you do this, your blood flow is redirected to your heart and brain. This is for use when you are having a very strong, distressing emotion.

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Intense exercise can be used in the same way. Do some jumping jacks even if it’s for a short amount of time. Or run down the street and back. Expend your energy on something physical. People who run regularly often say that it makes them feel good, gets the endorphins going. This is the same principle.

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Paced breathing is slowing down your breath. Breathe deeply and breathe out more slowly than you breathe in. Pair this with muscle relaxation. As you breathe in tense your muscles. Notice where the tension is and say “Relax” in your mind as you breathe out. Let go of the tension and notice the difference in your body. Do a body scan while using this skill by starting with tensing your hands, then your lower and upper arms etc.

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It’s good to have these skills in your toolkit so when you are in distress you can try them and use whatever works.

Willing

When I was little I sat in a hospital waiting room for one of my sister’s many mouth surgeries and I came upon a Christian book of stories. One of the stories I read was about a little boy who was in the hospital and very, very sick, he was passing. A nurse came to the boy one night and told him that he just had to raise his hand and Jesus would take him to Heaven with him.

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The story was about giving yourself to Jesus to be saved. That little boy raised his hand and was saved that night. He went peacefully to Heaven. But in my child’s eye it meant that holding up my hand at night meant I would die- then go to Heaven.

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I was terrified! I slept on my hands for days and prayed that I wouldn’t accidentally raise it in my sleep and die. I eventually got over this, but that story stuck in my mind and I recall it always in hospital waiting rooms.

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Raising our hands to Jesus is a way of expressing our wanting to hold him. We express our need to hold His hand by opening our palms in what DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) calls “Willing Hands” posture. We raise our hands in praise during songs at church. Sometimes in mindfulness, I raise both of my hands high and turn my face upward in order to feel the joy of communing with God.

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This sign of willingness opens my heart to what God has to say to me, to the glory of His joy in me. That little boy in the story was willingly giving his life to Jesus, not being willful and denying the fact that he was dying, not refusing to accept the reality that he would soon leave the world.

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Part of being willing is to listen carefully to your Wise Mind (God). It is not refusing to tolerate whatever pain you are feeling, but rather bringing that pain to Jesus. It is not trying to fix every situation but allowing God to work His will through the situation. Willfulness is trying to be in control.  Willingness is to let God be God.

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Willingness is acting with awareness that you are connected with God. When willfulness is unmovable, ask yourself, “What is the threat?” Then bring that worry to God. With an open-ness to God you can think through your problem using His guidance to a solution, or if no solution is available be open to God’s time. God will answer your prayer- he promises- in His own way.

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“I will answer your cry for help every time you pray, and you will find and fill my presence even in your time of pressure and trouble. I will be your glorious hero and give you a feast.” Psalm 91:15

Choosing our Reactions

If the event had never happened I wouldn’t be feeling this way. True. It is our reaction to events that makes us feel stress, uncomfortable. Our lives sometimes can feel like we’re dodging things. “I don’t want to do that because it makes me feel this way.”

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With God, we can bring any event. Any emotion or feeling, and pain to Him and He will comfort us. As you react to something and it creates unwanted feelings or stress, bring it to God. Ask Him to let it pass through you instead of lingering.

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This is Radical Acceptance. I acknowledge that his event happened but, with God, I can choose how to react to it. In DBT, (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) the trick is to identify the event that made you feel a certain way. It’s called the “Prompting Event.” How does that prompting event make you feel? Worried, scared? You choose.

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When Tyler died, as you might believe, I had trouble accepting the reality of it. He is my child, born from me, and now he is gone from this world. You have read my struggles with this. Hopefully you have seen me grow with God through this.

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I read in Jesus Lives an entry in which Sarah Young paraphrases Jesus as saying, “Pick up the pieces of your broken heart- scattered all around you- and bring them to me.” She goes on to say, “Sit still in my Holy Light while I cleanse you from binding webs of discouragement.”

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I like that. What a picture of Jesus cleansing off my webs on a sheet of linen. “Though your disappointment is real, my Presence with you is even more real.” I know my emotions move like a wave through me. I am not always sad, missing Tyler. I can choose another emotion- gratefulness, praise, because he is in Jesus’ arms right now. I can pick up all those sadness feelings and bring them to Jesus.

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The verse that is associated with this reading is this:

“The Spirit of the Lord…has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” Isaiah 61:1

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Radical Acceptance is admitting that what happened, happened, accepting it with your heart, mind and body. It is accepting that life is worth living even if there is pain in it, but rejecting reality turns pain into suffering. We begin to go to the what if’s and should have’s when we reject reality, and that’s when the suffering comes in. We prolong the pain.

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I think that scene of Jesus cleansing me would be a great mindfulness exercise when I’m feeling sad. As I am cleansed of my grief I can come out of mindfulness knowing that God will never leave me, that He is working to mend my broken heart. I can come out of it refreshed and that is a change of emotion.

Indestructible

My word for today- “Indestructible.” Arrows have flown at me from all directions. Daily life has thrown curve balls at me. My emotions have ruled me. My depression has debilitated me. But my soul is indestructible. I radically accept that things might frighten me, sadden me, seek to destroy me but I am un-destroyable.

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Jesus said, “That’s what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who He is and what He does and then aligns with Him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time.” John 6:40

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I radically accept Jesus’ part in my life.

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The world is full of potholes- life is not meant to proceed smoothly along. It may seem that what you are facing is going to finally be the end of you, but that’s impossible if you are fixed on Jesus and believe His promises. It’s not going to happen, you’re not going to fall into the cavern of depression because even for one second if you call the name of Jesus then for that second you are free. One second turns into two seconds, then three, then four. So, for four seconds you are not in that cavern.

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It’s like exercising. Maybe on the first day you can only do five jumping jacks, but the next day you do ten. Eventually you are doing fifty jumping jacks. You have trained your muscles to endure. Training your trust muscles is the same. You call on Jesus once and receive his respite- if just for one moment.

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This unwanted emotion won’t last, they never do. Something will make you laugh, something will make you optimistic and pretty soon the veil of depression is lifted- if only for a moment. But Jesus says His job is to get us to the finish line- alive and well. The key is to keep your heart open to those moments.

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I call it “Getting my Faith on.” Just as I take a shower, brush my teeth, do my hair, I get my faith on. I radically accept the promises of Jesus. I accept His hand when He offers- and He always offers His hand. Willingness to accept is the first step.

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In DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) Willingness is “the readiness to respond to life’s situations wisely (God is Wise Mind), as needed, voluntarily and without a grudge.” Willingness is acting with awareness that you are connected to God. Willfulness, on the other hand, is insisting on being in control, it’s allowing yourself to fall into that cavern of depression and refusing to see that God has your hand.

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DBT tells us to “Turn our Mind” toward acceptance and willingness. I rely on God’s Word to help me to do that. With my book of promises I can look up my situation and find a verse that speaks to me. I can do my daily devotions and turn my mind toward what God wants me to know about Him today. I can get my faith on and turn to it in any situation.
My soul is indestructible. There is nothing that can come between me and Jesus. Nothing. He never ceases to be loving and kind, to come and rescue me.

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“And finally, He said to me, ‘My grace is enough to cover and sustain you. My power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Half-smiling and Willing Hands

Half-smiling is a kind of a trick for your mind, like it’s harder to be angry when you’re smiling. And Half smiling gives me a posture of joy when my inner being is feeling despair. An open posture, chest out and hands open, is often used in Yoga and meditation. DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) calls this Wiling Hands.

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It’s an attitude adjustment. Gratitude. Grace + Attitude = Gratitude

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When my parents were middle aged they began to frequent a Pentecostal church. At the time, I was newly married and pregnant with my son, Tyler, so I really didn’t have anything better to do on Sunday nights, what with my friends being partiers and all, so I joined them at the worship service.

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Wow! People were holding up their hands in praise during worship songs that seemed to go on forever. At this church there was new music that would compel you to just “be” in the presence of God. Some people just bent their elbows at their sides and cupped their hands up to receive and give blessings and praise.

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I connected this memory to the DBT Distress Tolerance skill of “Half-smiling with Willing Hands.” The process is to relax your face, let both corners of your mouth go slightly upward, and adopt a serene facial expression. Drop your arms to your sides, bent slightly at the elbows and unclench your hands turning your palms up with your fingers relaxed. This posture is very close to the congregants at my mom’s church, heads bent upward smiling with open hands at sides, facing Heaven.

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I’m not able to lay on the ground next to the physical being of Jesus like Mack did (see last post), but I can raise my tulip face to heaven and let Him light it up! I would smile if that happened, so it comes easily to think of that and get my face in the Half-smiling position. The willing hands comes so easily to me in this pose. I want His hands in mine and I readily make mine available. Then, I just bask in it. In His Glory.

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In DBT this practice is used when you realize and accept that you are in a situation that you cannot change, like my feelings of regret. In my daily life, as God brings me closer to him, I often read something in His Word that makes me break out into a smile. I call these thoughts up as I get into my Half-smiling posture.

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“Have faith in Him in all circumstances
Dear people.
Open up your heart to Him;
The true God shelters us in His arms.” -Psalm 62:8 VOICE

Regret is an emotion that I don’t want to keep around but it’s tough to eradicate. I’m reminded of my Mom’s own battle with regret. Before she passed, I got a very small peek into her heart when she was in Hospice. One day a Psychologist came to see her and knowing how important this was in the dying process, I tried to offer her some privacy by excusing myself into her bedroom as they spoke. I wasn’t listening in, but my Mom’s apartment was small, and I heard the doctor ask my Mom if she had any regrets. My Mom answered that she regretted she could never please her dad.

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I was astounded! My Mom was 82 years old and her dad passed decades before. Could she really still have regrets about that? It was quite a learning for me to realize there are some things that stick. Negative things can stay a part of our inner monologue for a very long time, even for our whole lives. These are things that may not be able to be changed. Certainly, in my Mom’s case, those events from her childhood could not be re-lived. Oh, how I wish I could have taken that feeling away from her!

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I guess right now what I am doing to help me with my regrets is to focus on Tyler in Heaven knowing how much I loved him. The facts are clear, I made certain decisions and I can’t go back and change them. Refusing to accept that will only keep the guilt fresh. And by re-reading what I’ve written I see a lot of “what ifs” and “If only’s.

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This clues me into the idea that I may be making a lot of assumptions about how Tyler saw everything.

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If I had changed the timing of my move, I probably wouldn’t be where I am right now. The girls’ lives would be different, I would be different, my husband’s life would be different and I won’t assume to believe that means better. God tell us that we are where we should be. He attends to our pain and he walks it with us. I need to be willing to allow him to heal my regret. I wonder if a part of me really doesn’t want to let it go? I can see that a long term project for me might be digging into that with my therapist.

“I will give you back your health and heal your wounds,” says the Lord.
Jeremiah 30:17 NLT

IMPROVE: SELF ENCOURAGEMENT

Robert Schuller said, “It takes but one positive thought when given a chance to survive and thrive to overpower an entire army of negative thoughts.”

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Do you love yourself? When you look in the mirror or examine your heart, do you appreciate yourself? I have a hard time with this because I think I’m hard-wired to find flaws in everything, most of all myself. Have you heard the statement that you’re “harder on yourself than you are on others?” That’s me. Lots of self-judgment going on in my world.

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I was in a class once during which we were asked to look at the alphabet and choose one positive trait about ourselves, one word for each letter. After writing 26 different words, we were then instructed to cut out each word separately and place the words in an empty jar. We got arts and crafty decorating the jar, so it would look pretty on a shelf. Sometimes, when I’m being self-deprecating, I pull out a couple traits that I wrote about myself just to remind me that I love myself. Frequently this works for me and other times I think the jar is dumb and it’s just full of a bunch of words.

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I’ve also used my prayer / meditation time to contemplate a particular trait that I want to emulate right now. Using Yoga Nidra, we are asked to make an “intention” and state it three times before mentally completing a body scan. My intentions are positive affirmations of who I want to be today, in this moment, such as “I am smart” when I am feeling the opposite. If you are interested, you can access some guided Yoga Nidra audio on You Tube.
I once drew a colorful calendar in my journal and every morning I wrote down the answer to I am…. “I am Relaxed, Grateful, Blessed, Honest, etc.” The only rule was that it had to be a positive thing. Subsequently I would try to make sure my actions throughout the day illustrated that word I had decided on.

“This is my command- be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

I use the skills for IMPROVE the Moment when I am deeply sad and depressed, tied up with anxiety over things that I cannot control. There are times that I don’t feel like using the coping skills. It’s so much easier just to give in to the negative. In DBT, (Dialectic Behavior Therapy,) this is called being “Willful.” I think this is one of the reasons why I didn’t consult God in daily prayer, as well.
I know that God is in control of what is happening next in my life, what is happening now and what has already happened. When things are really bad, it’s just so hard to believe that. I thought it was easier to stay in bed- to mindlessly watch tv- rather than drudge all that up to God. I also think I was afraid that He wouldn’t answer me. Isn’t it easier to act out instead of confessing?
I thank God that He provided these strategies to help me out of the gloom, as well as the experts who work with me every week.