Debunking Shame




Well, this is awkward. This is my first time logging in to my blog in eight months. Literally, the sentence on my dashboard reads “It’s been 8 months since…” It’s tempting to feel all sorts of shame and embarrassment:

  • How could you just not log in for 8 months?
  • What were you thinking?
  • What about your new year’s resolutions?
  • What about your goals?

To top off those questions, I’m reading a few books on shame and how to deal with that emotion, so now I’m shaming myself on feeling shame. Urgh. Where does the cycle begin and end? I’ll continue this discussion on shame, but I want to update you on where I’ve been the past eight months.

Earlier this year, I learned that my mother’s cancer (multiple myeloma, cancer of the bone marrow) had progressed to the point of her requiring treatment. Since learning of this progression, I have been her full-time caregiver. I haven’t had the time or the energy to craft an article on my blog, and I feel terrible about it. My apologies, especially as I endeavored to supply a weekly list of NCE study terms. While I may have my own plans, God has His, too. I moved home at the right time, and I was at a point in my career in which I could use this time to care for my mom.

Returning to the issue of shame, people often ask me if I have a job, and they try to prod me to find part-time work at least. I mean, I’m a year and some odd months out from having graduated seminary and am not working. Talk about shame. It preys on your circumstances and thrives in the shoulds (“This is where you should be,” “This is what you should be doing,” “You shouldn’t be doing that,” and the list continues.) People have dared to tout these shame-laden words, but to that I respond, “What else should I be doing? Should I just go on with my life as if my mom doesn’t have an incurable form of cancer? Should I have pursued my career regardless? That sure is selfish.”

If I didn’t agree to being her caregiver, no one else would be available to help out, and treatment for my mom would not be possible. Patients who undergo the extensive treatments for multiple myeloma must have a caregiver present with them.

However, when people press me about finding a job, they fail to understand that being a full-time caregiver is a full-time job in regards to the time and energy that it requires. During the short weeks in between treatment, you just don’t have the time or the energy to devote even to a part-time job because of the responsibilities you have as a caregiver.

Shame is such a silly, nonsensical contraption. If we’re walking in obedience to God, He’s not going to punish us. When we experience sharp changes in our plans, God isn’t going to judge us for adjusting to those changes. There is nothing shameful about deliberately choosing to follow God in seasons that are different than what we had in mind.

One thing I know for certain, despite what shame tries to tell me, is that God is faithful. He throws us into community with people who turn out to be your saving grace in crucial circumstances. I wouldn’t be able to care for my mom, and my mom wouldn’t be able to heal, without the prayers, faith, support, and encouragement from those in our community.

I don’t know what you are going through, but I do know that God is faithful and that we can trust His lovingkindness, especially in our toughest seasons. If you’re having to make hard choices, don’t let shame ensnare you. Debunk shame by trusting yourself to make the necessary decisions and by listening to what God says about you.

Thank you for reading.

When Life Throws You Curveballs

  
We all go through life hoping that it will run smoothly. We have this idea that the path to whatever we want will be easy to follow, streamlined, and void of any hurdles. Okay, sure, we might expect hurdles on a cognitive level, but most of us probably have this desire that maybe just for today life will run smoothly. When it doesn’t run smoothly and when we run into problems that seem like monsters, it can catch us off guard. I’ll list some of these monsters and then discuss ways to tackle them. The point of this post is to plan ahead in case these happen. You will invariably experience bumps in the road, and you need to have a plan for how to manage them.

1. You lost your job, got fired, or decided to quit. This one is a curve ball that many people have encountered. Obviously, these three are quite different from each other in terms of their circumstances. One of them might be expected, and the other two can completely blindside you. Scenario A: Your company decided to cut several employees, and you are one of them. You’ve worked at the company for a while, and it just doesn’t seem fair that they would cut you. Scenario B: Or, you could have made a mistake – or several – that cost the company. It may not be typical of you, and it surprises you that anyone would see you as that employee. Scenario C: You decided to quit your job because you found something that fits your dream journey and that better sharpens your skills and passion. What surprises you about it is how quick the change came about.

The common theme in dealing with these is that you have to be your own boss, your own HR person, your own brand, and your own company even when you are working for the other person. You need to get to know yourself and learn how to advocate yourself. What are your goals, dreams, and visions? What are you passionate about? What do you want to see when you get to the end of your life and look back on your work? You also need to have your own brand as a person. Obviously when you work for a company, you are expected to maintain the company’s brand, but you need to have a sense of who you are as well. The company doesn’t own you. Make a list of companies you would like to work for, network with professionals in those companies, keep your resume current, and even write cover letters ahead of time. Keep them in a file in your home. Even if you rewrite the letter at the time you apply, you at least have something to go by when you sit down to write them.

2. The class you need to register for in order to graduate is full. The way to avoid this one is to take the required courses early in your degree plan. If there is a course that everyone in your program has to take, go ahead and take that one early. Sometimes programs require you to take a certain number of elective courses, and all programs have specific courses that are required. If there are certain electives that are only offered during certain semesters, pay attention to that and plan accordingly.

3. You’re late for a doctor’s appointment, and you can’t find a parking space. To avoid this one, leave the previous place (whether it’s work, home, or lunch) in enough time to arrive to the appointment 10-15 minutes early. If it’s a new doctor’s office, you might find it helpful to drive to it a couple days before the appointment so you can get a feel for the parking setup.

4. You’ve moved to a new state and can’t stand the people. You know that you have to move. It’s a new job, a move for your family, a new place to live. There’s not really a way to know if you will like the people in the new location, but you can plan ahead for how to deal on those days that you just can’t stand the people. Not everyone in the new place will be the same. You can meet different personalities, which is a good thing. Even though there might be some people that annoy you, not everyone will be bothersome. Also, our level of tolerance for some people depends somewhat on our mood for the day. If we’re having a bad day, a lot of people may bother us that normally wouldn’t on a good day. Find those people who will be solid friends, and find them sooner rather than later. These are people whom you can talk to and not be judged or ridiculed. People who get you and don’t impose their opinions on you. (Granted, if you move to the South, people speak their minds pretty openly.)

5. You arrive at the gym at the only time you can go, and the workout machines are all taken. This might be one for Captain Obvious, but you might want to choose a different time to go to the gym. If you’ve just arrived to the gym and notice that all the machines are taken, don’t rush out the door just yet. Most gyms have mats where you can stretch. Do some stretches and take your time. You have to stretch anyways, and it might be that someone is almost done with one of the machines. By the time you finish stretching, one of the machines is bound to become available. You can also walk or jog on the indoor track, or you could pick a different type of exercise machine.

6. The pharmacy where you’ve had your prescriptions filled for the past several years no longer takes your health insurance plan. Health care is a beast. While it can be quite daunting to find the right plan, you also feel very accomplished when you have conquered it. Before your prescription runs out, make sure you have refills available. Call the pharmacy ahead of time and ask them if they take your health insurance plan. Also ask if they keep your prescriptions in stock. Plan to fill them at least a week before you run out.

7. Your new health insurance plan doesn’t cover the same doctor you’ve used forever. Call your provider and ask what doctors are covered by their plan. Do this as soon as you select the plan that you want. Once you have confirmed who is covered, go ahead and call to make an appointment with the new doctor. This will help you get established as a new patient. Fair warning, though: if your new doctor is thorough in his or her practice, he or she will ask you just about every kind of question they can about your health, including things that might be uncomfortable to talk about.

8. Through a series of complaints and interviews, you discover that a trusted colleague has betrayed you. This can be really tough. When trust is betrayed, you feel violated and deeply hurt. You try to think of how this happened and run through possible explanations, but you only end up feeling angry and bitter. While it is necessary to get to the bottom of why or how a conflict arose, it’s also healthy to restrict yourself from thinking about it too much. When we overthink things, that is usually when we come up with false explanations. This is when it is good to have a friend, mentor, or counselor to talk to, someone who won’t gossip about your situation, someone to whom you can vent about the situation. You might could benefit from conflict resolution skills and assertiveness training. At some point, you will need to have a conversation with that colleague, as long as you feel safe doing so. Make a list of all the things you want to say, run it by your mentor, and make sure you cover all points on the list in your conversation. You don’t want to leave anything out, because you don’t want bitterness and resentment to develop.

9. The new job you just got doesn’t allow long enough breaks for your appointments (doctor’s, counseling, etc.). Plan to take a day off occasionally and schedule all of your appointments for that day. Ask the scheduler of your appointments if there is any penalty for being late.

10. Someone steals your credit card. This one definitely makes you feel violated. One way to conquer it is to carry cash on you, or especially to places where your information could be compromised. Places that are vulnerable to credit card fraud are gas stations, grocery stores, drug stores, etc. Plan to bring cash with you and pay that way. You can also keep a prepaid card on you to use. This way, the card isn’t connected to your bank information, so if the number gets stolen, only the amount that’s on the card could be used.

The Worst Advice I’ve Ever Received


Giving advice is a tricky thing. People want to help, and they try to offer advice that sounds good and seems reasonable, but people often give bad advice. Usually people mean well when they give bad advice, but it would mean more if they would just keep their mouths shut. Here is a list of bad advice that I’ve received, heard, or read. I offer counterparts to each piece of advice.

1. Every career decision you make must line up directly with your specific field. While certain careers require specific educational tracks and work experiences, you might have to take a job at some point during the journey that varies from your specific field. You might do this for a number of reasons: extra cash, savings to pay off student loans, health insurance, benefits, development of certain skills, resume building, etc.

2. Your career path is a straight line. You might have a number of internships in college or grad school that have nothing to do with each other, or you might have some twists and turns in your journey to that dream career. That’s okay. You want to survey all of those and see what you learned from each one.

3. Wait until you make X number of dollars before you donate, tithe, or help out people in need. This is a big lie. Like with anything else in life that you spend money on, the bottom line is that if you don’t budget for giving, then either you won’t do it, or you’ll overdo it.

4. Don’t volunteer. I received this advice in college, and unfortunately, I took it to heart for a semester, but only for a semester. Worst semester ever. When you volunteer, you help organizations provide invaluable services to people in need, and you develop skills that you will likely us later on. Part of a successful, alluring business is the fact that they give back and that they care about more than just their bottom line.

5. Take everyone’s advice without filtering it. Filter advice you receive, including this post. Set up a grid through which you run other people’s input and ideas through.

6. Take no advice. Ever. This one is dangerous. While it’s good to stay focused on what you know you have to do, it is also wise to consider advice that other people give you.

7. In order for your dreams to work out, you have to take the same path everyone else takes to get the job of their dreams. Your journey is yours. It does not belong to anyone else. Just because someone did a, b, and c to land the job of their dreams does not mean that you have to take the same steps.

8. You can’t succeed in the same position for which someone else is known. This one can really trap people. You see someone who is really successful in the exact job position that you want, and you think to yourself, “Well, that person has already cornered the market there, so I need to change career paths.” That’s a lie. Just because Jane Doe is a successful news anchor does not mean that Sally Smith can’t be a successful news anchor. There is room for you to be successful, too.

9. Don’t take a course is something that is not related to your specific job. While I was in college and grad school, people couldn’t understand why I wanted to take certain courses. The courses were not in my degree plan, so why waste the time and money? Well, first of all, if you’re really concerned about the courses I’m taking, you can send me a tuition check, and then I’ll take your course advice. 😉 You have to look at the big picture. You are not a one-trick pony, and your career path is not just limited to one specific job. Undergraduate and graduate education are the perfect times in your life to learn more about the world and that which inspires you.

10. Only apply for a job when you’re ready to apply for one. This one can be true and false. You certainly don’t want to apply for a job that you would be miserable in, but you also don’t want to become a couch potato. If you really want a job, you need to apply even when you don’t feel like it. You need a job for all kinds of reasons, and in the meantime while you are saving up money and honing some valuable skills, you can look for something that will be more fulfilling.

11. Never seek out help from a colleague who is more successful than you. You see person in #8, and you start having jealous thoughts about him or her. Why talk to him or her for advice? The world is really big, and there are different niches. Just because that person might be more successful than you right now does not mean that you won’t be as successful one day. Everyone has to start at the beginning, and you need to glean as much wisdom from people who are more successful than you. That doesn’t make you any less of a person, and it doesn’t mean that you will be less influential. Take the opportunity while you have the time to meet with as many people as possible and learn from them.

12. You can’t ever buy what you want because you’ll never have enough money for it. You might not have the money right now to get what you want, but that doesn’t mean you can’t save up for it. One of the greatest rewards in life is saving up for something special and then being able to go and buy it.

13. You’ll always be stuck in your current position. I’ve heard this applied to jobs, to one’s current financial situation, to one’s current field of work, or to one’s emotional state, but it is a flat. out. lie. Figure out what specifically makes you happy and what would give you the greatest fulfillment in terms of career. Talk to a career consultant; make a plan; and go get what you want. When you get to the end of your life, what do you want to say about the life that you lived?

14. All of your decisions have to make sense to the people in your life. Some people may not understand why you are taking a year off to travel the world. They may not get why you would study in another country. They may not understand why you would take a college course in pottery, take a certain job position, etc. So what? They aren’t living your life. You are living your life. You get to call the shots. You get to make the decisions in your life. Don’t let anyone make you feel less confident in your choices.


Say, What?! 5 Frequently Misunderstood Counseling Terms

  
You’ve likely heard most of these terms. Whether in a counseling session, social media post, sermon, small group, book, journal article, magazine blip, newspaper column, or in a plain ol conversation, you will come into contact with them. We let some of these words fly out of our mouths without understanding what they mean, and we act all touchy and awkward when we hear other terms because we fail to recognize the meaning of these terms in their context. They’re arranged in order of how annoying it is to hear them misused.

Terms

Depressed: People often use this term to mean that they are really sad or that a given situation is really sad. Granted, one can experience sadness as part of depression, but sadness alone is not depression. With depression, you don’t enjoy the things that you have recently enjoyed; your energy is depleted even though you haven’t done anything to drain your energy; you either sleep too much or not enough; you notice significant changes in your appetite. If it runs in the family, you’re more likely to experience depression. It’s not simply a spiritual issue, although a healthy spiritual life can help you overcome depression. Focusing on what God says about you can help fight those feelings when you think mistakenly that you’re a total failure.

Addicted: This one is bothersome. People will say that they’re addicted to chocolate, shoes, coffee, cheese, eating, shopping, or a certain brand of clothing in an attempt to say they enjoy their given “addiction” beyond what is considered normal. However, in the context in which I hear many people use the term, they don’t mean it in the sense of a true addiction, because a real addiction will destroy your life. There are two distinctions when it comes to misuse of substances: substance abuse and substance dependence. The former occurs when a person is willing put himself or herself in life-threatening situations in order to obtain or use the substance. He or she may also put the lives of other people in danger (i.e., drunk driving, leaving needles around the around the house that a toddler can easily pick up). The latter – substance dependence – occurs when a person’s body adjusts to the substance to the point where they need more of it to maintain the same effect or to where he or she has life-threatening withdrawals without the substance.

Anxiety: I hear people use this term when they are referencing Paul’s admonishing to “be anxious for nothing” in Philippians 4:6-7. However, being anxious for something and having anxiety are two different things. Being anxious often is more synonymous with being impatient or worried, as if one cannot wait for a given circumstance to occur. An anxiety disorder, however, is more than mere worry, and there are actually several types of anxiety disorders. They range from specific fears (phobias) to a generalized anxiety. Most of them involve an unrelenting sense of worry despite a lack of any fear-provoking situation. Many of them involve physiological symptoms  such as rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, muscle tension, etc. In order to follow Paul’s advice, one could benefit from counseling to treat the anxiety.

Codependent: Maybe people who use this term really so mean it in the true sense of the word, but let’s still look at what it means from a counseling standpoint. I hear many people use this term to describe newlyweds who are “codependent on each other,” meaning that they are so in love and both depend on each other for support. They just add the “co” to “dependent” to mean that these are two people who equally depend on each other. However, this is not what the term means in the counseling world. In the counseling world, codependent describes a person who depends on someone else’s emotional stability before he or she will make any personal decision and who has trouble setting boundaries. It is not necessarily a two-way street, and the non-codependent may or may not have expressed his or her emotions about a given situation with the codependent. If you need a good picture of someone who is codependent, just watch a Hallmark movie. Usually the lead female character is codependent. Codependency is an unhealthy type of relationship.

Self-reliant: Any word with “self” in front of it automatically tends to threaten many evangelical Christians before they even take the chance to understand its context, because if you’re a Christian, you should rely on God for everything, not yourself. (Later I’ll address how certain phrases like this are misused.) One of the best ways to make sense of the prefix is to contrast it with codependency. Instead of waiting for someone’s emotional security to approve of the decisions that you have to make for yourself, you need to rely on yourself for that emotional support.

Push Through It: 12 Ways to Manage Depression during Gaps in Coverage

  
(Before reading this, you must realize that this article does not constitute formal, professional treatment of depression. These points are only for reading, and you would do well to consult with your mental health provider before proceeding with any of these.)

Depression sucks. One thing that sucks even more is not seeing how you can overcome it. It does not have to overcome you. You can conquer that beast. The ways to do it are simple, but simple doesn’t mean easy. There’s not some complex algorithm for conquering depression. It’s simple. What’s difficult about it is how you feel.

You feel awful. Is that the alarm clock? Snooze. You don’t feel good. How are you supposed to get your life together? Simple? Life ain’t simple. There goes the alarm clock again. Snooze. You think about the day ahead. Will anything be different today? Riiiiiiiiiiiing. Snooze. You think about the energy it will take to work on that project today, and you don’t even feel like you have enough strength to roll out of bed. The alarm clock rings. Snooze. You’re late for work…again.

Yep, you’ve gone to counseling and might even be taking some medicine to help. But what happens when you reach a gap in your health insurance coverage and have no way to get more refills on your prescription? What happens when you’re in between jobs and you cannot afford to go to counseling during that time? You know you need it, and you notice significant differences in how you feel without, but you have no way to get what you need. What do you do now? Below are some tips for making it through those gaps in your coverage.

1. Talk it out. Talk to your counselor and key people in your support system. Let them know your situation. Especially when you talk with your counselor, write down a plan of action listing specific things you will do to manage the depression. As soon as you start feeling bad, text someone in your support system. If you cannot afford counseling, ask your mental health provider if they offer counseling at a reduced fee.

2. Realize that this season is TEMPORARY. This season that you are walking through is only temporary. You won’t feel like this forever, as you WILL be able to get what you need soon.

3. Write down EVERYTHING that helps you when your depression symptoms flare up, and make a plan to do every. single. one. of them. Make a list of at least 10 things. Share these with people in your support system, and get one of them to ask you if you have completed them.

4. Exercise. I know. Trying to get to the gym when you are depressed feels like you might as well be climbing Mt. Everest. Let’s face it, though, you’re not climbing Mt. Everest. You’re probably climbing in your crossover SUV that has cushy leather seats that heat up within seconds of you pushing the button. There are two big cup holders for your YETI tumbler, you’re protected from the cold, and your favorite music comes on the radio. It’s gonna feel like the hardest thing ever to climb out of your portable igloo, walk in the gym and actually pull yourself onto the treadmill, but once you get into the flow of the workout, you just might convince yourself that the payoff is worth the effort to get there.

5. Write down EVERYTHING that you enjoy, and surround yourself with them. I know, right now you don’t feel like you enjoy anything, but you’re lying to yourself. There are things that you enjoy, but the depression is clouding that understanding. That’s why I’m telling you to do this exercise. Make a list of (have you noticed that I like lists?) 50 things that you enjoy. Yep. 50. Make yourself sit down and write out a list of 50 things that you know that you enjoy. You don’t need to have excitable feelings towards them right now in order for them to qualify for your list.

6. Surround yourself with light constantly. During your lunch break, take a walk outside. Sit near windows in your favorite restaurant or coffee shop. Turn on a lamp in your room. Look at beautiful pictures of nature on Pinterest. Surround yourself with bright colors.

7. Join and interact with a support group on social media. Don’t just join, write a post about how you feel and ask for help. When others write posts, comment on them letting people know that you actually understand what they are going through. You’d be surprised at just how supportive people can be.

8. Surround yourself with people who love you. Talk to family. Go to dinner together. Cook, go see a movie with a close friend, visit your local public library. If you notice that your symptoms start to worsen, seek help immediately. Contact your mental health provider, if you can’t reach them, call 911 or a hotline.

9. Educate yourself on depression. As I mentioned in the last point, get a library card from a local public library and check out books on depression. According to the Dewey Decimal System, books on depression are usually in the 616 call number section. Make sure the books are written by people who have worked with people who have depression (read the author’s bio). You need to learn the symptoms and specific things that target each of your symptoms. Your counselor can’t do all the work for you anyways, so while you have the time in between jobs or in between sessions, take time to educate yourself. Other ways to do so include following blogs that talk about depression, follow pinners and boards on Pinterest, read articles (use caution here) online about it. Ask your counselor and people in your support group or support system if they know of any resources on depression.

10. Communicate your needs to people in your support system. A lot of people think that they know what depression is, so they think that they know what is helpful. This can create stress, so one thing you can do to alleviate it is to inform the people in your support system about the things that actually help you manage depression. You might feel embarrassed to even have to bring it up, but the people who are in your support system want to help you because they really value your company.

11. Talk to your pastor or a leader of your congregation. Ask for prayer and support. If you are not connected with a group of people, sign up for a small group. Ask leaders of your congregation if they know of any support groups for people who have depression. While they may not know of any at the time, hopefully it will get them thinking that this is a type of group they need to provide for the members of their congregation.

12. Push through it. Okay, I know. This is one of those pieces of advice that many blogs advise against, and rightfully so. However, you  aren’t doing this in isolation of the plan that you and your counselor have established, and this is certainly not in the context of, “Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” There comes a point when you are dealing with depression that you have to acknowledge how you feel and push through the feelings of despair. Just like a flower has to push through the dirt in order to bloom, so you have to push through those difficult blahs in order to see freedom from depression.

You’re not going to feel great when you have to roll out of bed. You’re going to feel like the sky is falling when you realize that you really do need to go to the gym. You’re going to feel awful walking into the library to find books on depression. You’ll feel awkward approaching people in your support system or your pastor for help. You’ll complain that you don’t have anything to enjoy as you to write down the list from #5. But these are things that could help you overcome depression. Don’t you want to conquer your beast? Don’t you want it to subside? Well, then at some point, you’re going to have to look it straight in the face and say, “No. Not today. I refuse to let you keep holding me back today. Today, no matter how difficult it feels, I choose to get up. I choose to push through the pain. I choose to rise.”

Friend, choose to rise today. Choose to push through it.