Suicide Prevention: Life in My Brown Robe

Blog by Shelly Beach

© 2017

Sunday, September 10th marked World Suicide Prevention Day

While I never attempted suicide, I have struggled with depression and several periods of life when I struggled with suicidal thoughts. I’ve never written or spoken much about these battles, but perhaps my story can help someone gain perspective on their own depression.

I experienced a childhood sexual assault when I was around ten years old. I never told anyone what happened because of overwhelming fear and shame. I was in trauma therapy for weeks before I even remembered the experience. My most profound experience of abuse occurred when I was 19 and assaulted by a serial rapist. I experienced a number of symptoms of PTSD but did not receive counseling or treatment.

I was married within a year of my assault. Sex was awkward and triggering. Within six months of our wedding, I was pregnant. For the two years following the birth of our first child, I slowly became frozen. The slow onset of depression can be difficult to name when everything in life seems to be “fine”: a wonderful husband, a new baby, supportive family.

But my husband Dan and I call the years after our first child was born the years of “the brown robe.” I seldom dressed, unless it was necessary for me to leave the house. When I was home, I sat in a chair and stared at the television or wandered the house in a fog.

I didn’t have the words to identify depression. I didn’t know that the birth of a child could trigger depression after sexual abuse. I simply fell into deep guilt-driven depression over my lack of ability to be a “good” wife and mother.

Right about this time, Dan and I moved to a small farming community. He worked as a school administrator. I taught English. Community life was wonderful. Our friends were wonderful. We lived in a large country farmhouse with charm and character (and a few bats).

But I was deeply, deeply depressed. I was suffering from horrible migraines and had been put on new medications that I later learned could contribute to depression. But for hours at a time I fixated on how better off my family would be if I would be gone, that I was a failure as a mother and wife. I knew I was too cowardly to actually follow through, but I devised various plans for taking my life.

All this time, I never considered telling someone, asking for help, talking to my doctor. I simply saw myself as a failure. I didn’t understand that my depression was result of multiple untreated traumas, and what I was experiencing as common to many women.

I eventually went off my beta blocker medication, and my suicidal thoughts and depression faded. I began to study trauma and PTSD and understand what had happened. The shame and guilt lifted, and I found appropriate treatment.

Does this mean I never ever struggle with depression? No. My multiple sclerosis is also a contributor to depression, so I need to be pro-active.

So what can you do? I can tell you what helps me.

I monitor my self-talk. When it slips into negative thinking, I correct it with the truth–about who I really am.

I get out of the house. No matter how I may feel, I make time to see Christian friends who hold me accountable and speak life into me.

I listen to uplifting music. For me that’s a lot of Christian music, but it’s also beautiful music, fun music, and contemplative music.

I know my trauma triggers and manage my responses. For instance, I know that I can only manage a certain amount of grief regarding abuse. People naturally share their stories with me, but

I take anti-depressants when needed. This has actually been quite helpful since receiving my MS diagnosis. I don’t tolerate sunlight well and am susceptible to depression. A low dose of anti-depressant has contributed to my overall health.

I exercise. Moving elevates my mood and breaks the patterns of my circular thinking. And exercise always makes me feel productive and generates impetus for me to do the next proactive thing for the day.

Most importantly, I pray. I am a conqueror through the power of Jesus Christ, and I access the power of the Spirit through prayer and time in the Word of God.

What about you? Have you struggled with suicide and depression? What has given you hope?

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Online chat also available at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

 

The Our First Calling: Be Like Jesus

Blog by Shelly Beach
Author, Speaker,
& Consultant © 2017

Award-winning author of
The Silent Seduction of
Self-Talk, Love Letters
from the Edge, Precious
Lord, Take My Hand,
Hallie’s
Heart & other fiction & nonfiction titles

We’re imperfect people. All of us. Definitely me, and yes, you too. 

Even the most godly Christian you’ve ever known is an imperfect sinner. And if they’re honest, they can humbly point out their flaws because they know them well and do battle with them on a regular basis.

But we can’t be complacent about our gossiping tongue, bitter spirit, unforgiving heart, angry outbursts, private moments with porn, potty mouths, condescension toward (spouse, children, siblings, boss, MIL, you know who). Not at least if we claim to love God.

As Christians, our first calling is to become more like Jesus.

This is a lifetime calling. As long as we’re still on earth, we’re going to be working on “the sin[s] that so easily besets us.” You know…the moment when you say or do the things you regret the next instant. But as followers as disciples of Jesus, we should all desire to become like Him. This means intentionally assessing our motives, priorities, attitudes, and actions on a regular basis.

Accountability is a necessary, bittersweet part of growing.

Our love for God should compel us to please Him. He has made us complete in Christ, but we to become more like Him as the Spirit of God transforms us. This is a lifelong process. Unfortunately, we don’t go from sinners to perfect people the moment we receive Christ, even though positionally in the spiritual realm, God sees us as sinless and complete because He sees Jesus’ righteousness in place of our sin.

Instead, we grow as we learn more about God’s love for us. The more we know Him, the more we love Him and release the rights we have falsely believed we had to rule life our way. We begin to substitute His will for ours, which is the essence of Jesus’ heart. His every breath, word, motive, and act were to glorify the Father.

Doing “good things” has nothing to do with a moral checklist.

We measure “good things” by arbitrary preferences or personal and cultural biases. Or we do good things to bolster our pride, gain value in others’ eyes fit in, or for other self-serving reasons.

God defines doing good things as doing the things Jesus would do and being conformed to His character. Paul said, “This will continue until we are . . . mature, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like him” (Ephesians 4:13 CEV).

As believers, we all are works in process. God is on our side and wants to build our character so we become more like Jesus, not so we live from a list of dos and don’ts.

We become like Jesus as our minds are transformed and renewed. 

Transformation is more than following a list of dos and don’ts. It’s learning to live by the fruit of the Spirit–fruit that grows naturally from the spiritual nutrients that flow through our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.

We lost much of the divine image of God when Adam sinned in the garden of Eden. Jesus restored it on the cross, and our calling is to show the world God’s goodness reflected in Jesus as we bear His image.

What a humbling partnership and blessed calling. Amazing grace…

 

Raising Stalker-Savvy Kids: How to Keep Kids Safe From Abuse

Raising Stalker Savvy Kids: How to Keep Kids Safe from Abuse

By Guest blogger Dawn Damon, award-winning author of
When the Woman Abused Was Me

 

In June of this year, 51-year-old Wisconsin school bus driver was charged and jailed after keeping a 15-year-old girl on his bus, pressuring her to come home with him, and forcing unwanted physical contact with her. He was charged with child enticement, child abduction, and stalking.

This case and others like it are far too prevalent. We can bewail culture, poor parenting, the government, schools, the media, political parties, or the high school teacher who gave us that grade we didn’t deserve, but the truth is that predators exist, and most of them are good at hiding their predatory nature. So as parents and caretakers, we must do all we can do to raise safety savvy, stalker-savvy kids.

We want to keep our children safe.We hope and pray that bus drivers, coaches, teachers, friends, friends’ siblings, and our child’s friends’ parents don’t present a threat to our kids. But the truth is that no parent or caregiver can assure their child 100% safety in the world, just as we can’t assure them they’ll never be in a car accident or get cancer.

 

The world is a scary place. According to the FBI, in 2016, 465,676 children were reported missing to the National Crime Information Center (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children 2017). And since many missing children are never reported, there is no way to determine the true number. Then consider the additional one in five girls and one in twenty boys who become victims of sexual assault.

So what can we do to protect the children we love and care for from abuse?

First, it’s important to understand that no parent or caretaker, no matter how well-intentioned, loving, and responsible, can ensure that their child will never be harmed by someone. It is simply impossible to protect children from every possible scenario that exists. But the following guidelines can help you make the world a safer place for the children you love.

  • Begin early. Talk about sexual safety when your children are small. Teach young children the names of their body parts and that certain parts are private.
  • Teach privacy. Be sure your children know that certain parts of the body should not be seen or touched by others. Stay with your child for medical exams.
  • Teach your child to say ‘no.’ Children should learn to listen to their instincts. If they feel uncomfortable about touch, they should say ‘no.’ Let them know they can and should say no to adults who cross boundaries or make them feel awkward. Then reinforce it when you are with them.
  • Teach your child to tell. Children need to know that perpetrators try to trick kids. Roleplay different ways someone might lure them. Teach them that abusers lie and ask children to keep secrets. Teach them to expect to be told that terrible things will happen if they tell an adult. Let your child know you will protect them, and that telling is the best and right thing. Explain that telling is the only way to protect themselves and others and for the perpetrator to get needed help.
  • Assure them they won’t get in trouble. Experiencing abuse is never a child’s fault. Make sure they understand they won’t be punished if they tell you, and telling when someone is someone else is courageous. Be a safe place for your child.
  • Make time. Be available to talk about everyday life with your kids—school, sports, friends. What’s happening? Who do they spend time with? What are those people like? Listen to your child’s concerns as a regular part of your day.
  • Use your life. Give illustrations of safe conduct from your life or the lives of those you know. Or provide examples from the media. Talk about safety as the topic naturally comes up.

Warning Signs:  Children are often reluctant to talk about sexual abuse, even when asked directly, and understandably so. Be alert to changes in behavior, such as personality changes, anger, grades dropping, regression (bed-wetting, thumb-sucking, etc.), new fears, clinginess, acting out, nightmares/sleeping problems, or self-harm.

Most importantly, know that whether you are educating a child or responding to a child’s tragic story of abuse, your calm, loving, reassuring attitude will lay a foundation for healing, hope, resilience, and a sense of safety in an uncertain world.

#resilience #childabuse #childabusesafetytips #parenting #safetysavvykids #childpredators

 

Dawn Damon is the award-winning author of When a Woman You Love Was Abused and the recently released When the Woman Abused Was You. She is an

author, national speaker, radio host, and pastor. Her first book won multiple awards for excellence and is used by educators, community outreaches, therapists, and prisons across the country. You can find her at dawnscottdamon.com.

Childhood Sexual Abuse: The Choice to Heal

Childhood Sexual Abuse:

The Choice to Heal

By Dawn Damon, author of When the Woman Abused Was You:
A Guide to Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse

(material adapted from When the Woman Abused Was You)

 

Some women live for decades unaware of their abusive past. Others who were abused as children live in the shadows of shame, afraid to confront the monsters of the past. Still other women let their abuse define them.

But there is another choice: the choice to heal. The choice to heal can be difficult, yet it is the only choice that brings healing and new life.

So what things hold us back from making the choice to heal?

Potholes on the Road to Recovery

  • Fear: We are afraid we will slip into an emotional “hole” and never get out again. Or we’re afraid to give up our old coping mechanisms or to be seen as “weak.” Or we may fear going crazy, losing a relationship, or facing the truth or allowing ourselves to feel. No matter the fear, denial is destructive. Ignoring a wound only brings festering. Commit to honestly looking at your past and grieving your losses.
  • Pride: We’re unwilling to admit we have a problem. We’re not one of “them.” We don’t want to be identified as weak or a sexual abuse survivor. Everyone else has a problem. We default to control and manipulation, and we are afraid to trust people.
  • Negative Attitude: We develop a victim mindset. We stake a claim for what we believe we deserve and build a case for ourselves. But our attitude is our choice and the basis of self-control. We can refuse to think like a victim by refuting “thought saboteurs.”
  • Thought Saboteurs: anger, apathy, blame, criticism, depression, dishonesty, fear, guardedness, hatred, indifference, intolerance, irresponsibility, jealousy, mistrust, pessimism, pride, resentment, revenge, sadness, self-pity, shame, skepticism, suspicion, and a victim mentality.

Self Evaluation

Are you struggling with pain from your past? With childhood abuse? Is it time to take steps toward healing? Pray through the areas above and ask God to help you face your fears and recognize pride, negative attitudes, and thought saboteurs. You’ve taken your first steps toward healing, and your life will never be the same.

Thistles: Pulling Out the “Pricklies” in Our Lives

Thistles: Pulling Out the Prickly Sins in Our Lives

By Shelly Beach

© 2017 Shelly Beach

Recently I’ve come to enjoy pulling weeds. I’d like to think that this is an indication of growth in character, rather than old age. Luckily, our half-acre yard gives me lots of opportunities to weed, but usually the sun, heat, and humidity discourage me from spending more than a few minutes outside in the summer, due to my health.

On good days I work on one small area near the rose bushes, the garden bench I bought in memory of my mom, or in the back yard flower bed (more weeds than flowers, unfortunately). I enjoy pulling out weeds that come easily, room and all, with one quick tug the most. I don’t mind digging or yanking a bit. I expect a bit of a challenge, but I hate pain, and I certainly don’t choose it for a leisure activity.

I hate thistles the most.

They are prickly, ugly, and grow into monstrosities that are almost impossible to grip without being pierced—even if you’re wearing gloves. For this reason, thistles have been the last weeds in our yard I’ve attacked.

 

Tending the Garden

Many of us have a regular devotional life. We pray, read the Bible, pray, and even do so on a regular basis. It can be easy to focus on sins that have more shallow roots–the ones that don’t ask us to truly change or look deeply at our motives.

For instance, may drop five dollars in the offering plate but not want to honestly consider sacrificial giving to God.

We may say we forgive a friend but be unwilling to lay down the bitterness in our heart.

Or perhaps we fence off areas of our lives and justify behavior we know contradicts the Word of God, because we want to do what we want. These areas are usually deeply rooted in attitudes and motives that say

Thistles grow in all of our lives,
prickly, ugly sins we don’t want God or anyone to touch. 

Weeding Thistles

Weeding thistles takes more work and commitment than pulling out the weeds that have weaker root systems and  no protective thorns. The job requires special weed killer, thicker gloves, running the risk of drawing a little blood, and/or the effort of digging down to the roots of the weed.

Pulling out the thistles in my spiritual life has meant committing to honest self-examination and prayer, shifting my focus from other people to myself, focusing on God, and asking Him to change me. It’s meant constantly evaluating my motives and attitudes, and listening to God’s Word and Spirit for direction and correction.

Are negative attitudes, preoccupations, resentments, bitterness, anger, or ungodly behaviors choking your spiritual growth? Ask God to show you where the thistles have taken root in your life. Then pray and seek godly counsel about how best to uproot them.

 

 

Tips for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

Tips for Easing the Life of Someone with Alzheimer’s

By Shelly Beach, Author and Caregiving Expert

 

Most people recognize that Alzheimer’s disease causes memory loss. However, it may be more difficult to understand that Alzheimer’s also deeply influences one’s emotions, mental processing, and physical capabilities. As our loved one progresses through the disease, we and other family members and caregivers must begin to focus on helping our loved one live in the moment, because they lose the capability to reason and live beyond the immediate.

Alzheimer’s experts offer a number of recommendations for how to ease the life of someone living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. These tips are intended to lower agitation, enhance focus and communication, and give your loved one a greater sense of peace and safety. Alzheimer’s can be a terrifying disease; patients live without an awareness of where they are, why they are in a strange place, and who the people around them are.

  • Keep people with Alzheimer’s active and engaged.   

Cognitive and sensory stimulation is important for them. Check to see if your community offers adult day care for
those with dementia programming. Involve them in simple family chores. Create a small indoor garden for them to
tend or set up a paint studio.

  • Focus on process and not results.   If your parent does something incorrectly, don’t correct them. If your father begins eating with his fingers, let him. People with dementia need to feel that they are accepted and loved without judgment and are part of a group. If Mom folded the laundry wrong, thank her and do it over later when she can’t see you. If Dad cleaned the bathroom poorly, thank him with a smile and sincere tone and finish the job later, when he’s not around.

  • Let your loved one feel useful.

    Depression often occurs in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Experts estimate that up to 40% of those with Alzheimer’s struggle with depression. Your loved one is aware of their illness and feels as if they are no longer useful. Allow them to contribute—cooking, simple home repair jobs, helping with shopping or laundry, emptying the dishwasher, etc.

  • Never argue. Always agree and meet them where they are.

    Join them in the moment, in their reality, when you talk to them, especially when answering questions. For instance, “I haven’t seen Uncle George (who has been deceased for 7 years), but why don’t we get a snack and sit here and watch TV while we watch for him?” Rather than being a lie, this kind of answer diverts and redirects. It does not engage you and your loved one in an argument or you repeatedly answering that Uncle George is dead.  Adults with Alzheimer’s have lost adult reasoning and live in a hazy world, stripped of the ability to recognize and understand reality. Telling them the “truth” is often cruel and serves no purpose.

  • Give simple instructions.

    Offer no more than three options, and be sure than all of the options are appropriate. If you have a preferred option, list it last because the last option is the most likely to be chosen.

  • Never ask, “Do you remember?”   

    Always tell your loved one who you are and what your name is. If you reminisce with them, allow them to contribute information, but don’t ask them questions they may not have answers to. Asking questions only provides an opportunity for frustration. If you want to know what they’d like to have for lunch for instance, offer two or three options at a time.

  • Avoid things that could be upsetting.

    For many dementia patients, this means loud crowds, like basketball games, parties, or receptions. For my mother it also meant being in crowded waiting rooms. Many dementia patients also deal with Sundowning Syndrome, which means that agitation worsens in the late afternoon. My mom’s behavior quickly degraded after 4:00 in the afternoon, and she often became combative. When I took her to the doctor, we were taken directly to the exam room to wait (simple solution). And I scheduled appointments and activities for her before noon to minimize her frustration.

  • Learn what soothes.

    This might be music (hymns, vintage music, boogie, etc.), looking at pictures (children’s faces are often favorites), rocking or snuggling a life-like doll, old TV shows like I Love Lucy, or gardening. Sensory activities that calm your loved one should be a regular part of their routine. Learn what they enjoy: massage, foot rub, soft fabrics and blankets, a doll or stuffed animal, or something else.

It’s also helpful to learn about any events from your loved one’s past: Were they abused? Attacked by a pet or animal? Confined or incarcerated? Did they suffer prolonged illness? Lose a parent or sibling in childhood? Experience a near drowning? These events could become triggers for fear as their illness progresses.

Our goal as caregivers is to soothe the suffering of Alzheimer’s and dementia. This means doing all we can reasonably do to safeguard our loved ones’ physical, mental, and emotional well-being and to love them as we would want to be loved ourselves.

Partnering in Suffering

  Photo Credit: Pixabay

 

I hung up the phone and cried. I wasn’t guilty of my friend’s accusations, and my heart was broken.

At one time or another, we’ve all been unjustly accused, betrayed, abandoned, blamed, rejected, or used. Sometimes the pain seems unbearable. The world seems unjust. Our suffering seems pointless. and we often feel alone.

At times the world seems unjust

and our suffering seems pointless.

We can’t understand others’ anger because we know our words and actions were motivated by love but somehow met by misinterpretation. The result is agonizing. “What’s the point?” we may think.

God’s word promises a purpose in our suffering: to partner in Jesus’ sufferings. In other words, when we suffer, we are also suffering with Jesus.  “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:13 ESV

When we suffer, we are also suffering with Jesus.

Think of it like running a marathon at the side of a friend as an encourager and co-participant. This is one of the greatest purposes of our suffering–standing with Jesus in His suffering. What a privilege!

Jesus experienced pain beyond comprehension and gave His life for me. My perspective as co-sufferer with Jesus changes my attitude when I understand I suffer out of love for and in partnership with Him.

What about you?