Signs of a Toxic Relationship

SIGNS OF A TOXIC RELATIONSHIP
By Deborah Tensley-Jones

Have you ever been so close in a situation that you didn’t recognize the danger signs or red flags that were present? This is often the case when in a toxic relationship. Something that is toxic causes damage to you, drains you, or depletes you. A toxic relationship similar, it is a destructive relationship that can definitely cause you emotional and psychological harm.

Being able to see a situation for what it is and accept that it isn’t going to change can be empowering. It gives you the ability to look at things through an objective lens and make a decision that is in your best interest. To help you get there, I have identified the biggest signs that you’re in an emotionally toxic relationship.

Signs of a Toxic Relationship

• Lack of Communication or Poor Communication. If your partner no longer communicates with you in a calm respectful manner, but is critical, says demeaning things or even calls you bad names.

• Hypersensitive and Defensive. If your partner is always on guard, hypersensitive to everything you say – taking it negatively and is defensive all the time.

• Lack of Encouragement for your passions. If your partner doesn’t take interest in or supports your interests and actually criticizes and makes fun of things that are important to you.

• Lack of Acceptance for your flaws. If your partner does not have tolerance and forgiveness of your imperfections. After all, no one is perfect and you will make mistakes. If your partner does not have tolerance for your human-ness and blames you for everything that goes wrong, that is a BIG red flag.

• Lack of Acknowledgement of your Friends/Family. No one person is an island, and you had friends and family before you met your partner. A toxic partner will want to isolate you from your friends and family. This is a method of control and manipulation – RUN!

• Lack of commitment. If your partner wants 100% commitment from you, but is unwilling to reciprocate – that’s a problem. The relationship is unbalanced and headed for trouble.

• Passive Aggressive Behaviors. Healthy relationships are built on mutual trust, open communication and each partner accepting the others’ true, authentic self. If your partner is not comfortable with you, and uses passive aggressive behavior instead of being direct, this is a path to unhealthy communication and behavior.

To create a safer, more secure relationship you need to know what a healthy relationship looks like. Healthy boundaries are identified by being able to;
• Say no without guilt
• Ask for what you want or need
• Take care of yourself
• Do things out of interest / desire not obligation
• Behave according to your own believes and values
• Be supported to pursue your goals
• Feel Energized and alive
Setting boundaries is difficult, but possible.

For more information regarding identifying and setting boundaries dealing with a toxic relationship watch for the upcoming workshop

Setting Boundaries in Toxic Relationships: Dealing with Hidden Abuse” offered by Gateway of Hope.
SAVE THE DATE: July 15th, 2017; 9:30 am – Noon; $40 registration fee.

Another resource for you, website on defining healthy boundaries.  Click here

 

Finding a Healing Journal Method

At GateWay of Hope, we have found journaling to be a wonderful process that leads us toward hope, healing and wholeness.journal

But sometimes, we need a new way to think about journaling and process our thoughts.

In his book, “The Listening Life,” Adam S. McHugh suggests the AHEN method.

AHEN is a simple yet wonderful acrostic for helping us find clarity about situations we find ourselves stuck in. As we process through the acrostic, it might also bring up other possibilities for clarity and growth we haven’t yet considered.

So how does this work?

A = ANGER:

We may hate to admit it, but most of us have some type of anger. We may have hidden it well through the years, or we may have masked it by calling it something else such as frustration, irritability or being ticked off at someone.

The tricky thing about anger is that if it isn’t acknowledged and worked through, it can bury itself so deep that it causes depression. Because depression has so many nasty side effects, it’s best to call anger what it is and deal with it.

So make a list in your journal of everything you’re angry about – then consider who you’re angry at. That might include yourself, a parent, a child, a church member – even God.

Once you start on your anger list, you may be surprised at the emotions that surface, but keep working on it. Acknowledge that anger and then move on to the next step of the acrostic.

H = HURT

When someone hurts us, we often develop anger toward that person or that situation. None of us likes to experience hurt, whether it’s emotional, mental, physical or spiritual.

But life is often filled with hurts and again – when we discover them and acknowledge the hurt – then we begin to deal with the effects of that hurt.

For example: are you isolating yourself from a certain person? Maybe that person hurt you and you don’t want to expose yourself to more hurt. That is self-protection, a valuable tool for setting healthy boundaries.

But is that isolation caused by the hurt someone did to you? And are you angry about it?

Journal through the hurts you may be feeling and consider how they might be connected to any anger you are experiencing.

Why does it hurt so much when people say things to us or do things to us? Because of the next piece in the acrostic….

E = EXPECTATIONS

We are hurt because we have certain expectations about people, about life, even about God. When those expectations are not met, we are hurt and that results in anger.

For example: when a woman dresses in her bridal gown and marches down the aisle toward her lover, she expects him to keep the vows – to love and cherish her until death parts them.

But if he breaks that commitment, that covenant, then her expectations have been shattered. She is deeply hurt and incredibly angry. She may carry that anger for several years, into divorce court and beyond – even to the point where she loses the ability to trust.

All because her expectations were not met.

What are some of the expectations that have failed in your life? How deeply did they hurt you? Did they result in any anger? Journal through these possibilities.

Why are expectations so important? Because they are based on the next phase of the acrostic.

N – NEED

We all have deep-felt needs, sometimes so deep we are not aware of them. Our needs then feed into our expectations.

In the above example, the expectations were not met for a lifetime of love and commitment. Why did that hurt so deeply?

Because women have a deep need to be loved. They crave strong arms around them, the security of a home and the presence of the man they fell in love with – all those years ago.

They need the intimacy of someone talking and listening to them at the breakfast table, a warm body to cuddle next to at night and the wisdom of a man who knows how to fix the flat tire and the leaking kitchen sink.

They long to be cared for, to be honored and cherished, to be the only person that man loves for a life-time.

When that need is not met, when that commitment is broken, then the hurt spawns other problems.

They may look for comfort in substances, even food. They may try to find intimacy in another relationship that ends in another tragedy or a lifetime of toxic communication.

Even worse – they may cover up the need so deeply that they become bitter and refuse to ever love again.

The expectations were not fulfilled, therefore the needs surface and become a stumbling block for the abundant life.

Do you recognize some needs that have not been met because expectations were shattered?

FINDING THE HEALING PLACE

Now that we’ve journaled and worked through this acrostic, let’s find how to work toward healing by starting backwards.

Our NEEDS are great and sometimes we are needier than we want to admit. But when we base the meeting of those needs on another human being, we will inevitably be disappointed.

Our deepest needs were made to be met by the God who created us. In fact, he promises, “I will meet all your needs according to my riches of glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

So the healing place begins by taking those needs right back to God. No matter what your needs are, God is able to meet them.

Do you need some encouragement? Ask God for it and then watch for the amazing ways he chooses to meet that need.

Do you need some help with finances? Ask God to give you the name of someone who can help you.

Do you need something more concrete? Clothes, shelter, food? God knows all the resources available at all times. Tell him what you need, then be ready to receive his blessings.

When we place EXPECTATIONS on another human being, we may be disappointed. Sometimes we need to speak about what we expect so that person knows how to plan for that need.

Do you expect your children to go to college? Then begin a college fund, make sure they do their homework and talk about the value of education. Still, they may make other choices, so you may have to change some of your expectations.

Be realistic. Most of us experience some shattered dreams in life, but that doesn’t mean we have to live in despair. It just means we need to set new goals.

If you need help with expectations, consider the Coaching services at GateWay of Hope.  We can help you set realistic expectations and then work toward meeting them.

All of us are going to be HURT sometime in life, because life is hard and some people tend to be cruel. That doesn’t mean we have to wallow in the hurt or surround ourselves with self-pity.

It just means we can expect hurts. But it’s what we do with the hurt that matters.

Again, God has a solution. “Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

We can bring those hurts to God and ask him to help us forgive so they don’t dig deeply into our souls and keep us from living in peace.

Some hurts ARE going to burrow deep, just because of how intense they are. If that is your experience because of abuse, then contact one of our Counselors at GateWay of Hope. They are skilled in dealing with many types of abuse.

So we’ve worked backward and now we’re at ANGER once again. But you may find that because you’ve journaled through this AHEN acrostic, some of the anger doesn’t seem so intense.

Now it’s time to let the anger go. Think of it as a visual – a box of yuck you’ve been carrying around. It’s become a burden and you don’t want it anymore.

Let it go. Bury it at the foot of the cross. Turn it over to Jesus and let him heal you in those deepest places of hurt.

Get rid of the anger so you can begin living in joy and peace. Then you’ll experience the abundant life and become the woman God has created you to be.

©2016 GateWay of Hope – Hope, Healing and Wholeness for Women

How to Interpret the Proverbs 31 Woman

All women need hope

She is held up as the perfect standard for women everywhere – this incredible female who keeps her family together, works outside the home, keeps her husband happy and is respected by the entire community.

Many of us stressed-out ladies tend to avoid studying Proverbs 31. We know we can’t measure up to this biblical powerhouse and we don’t want to.

But maybe we’ve believed a lie.

Maybe King Lemuel, the writer of this proverb, didn’t intend for us to think we have to be this kind of woman every day for the rest of our lives.

And if good old Lem wrote this proverb as a quote from his mother – which is the indication in scripture – then maybe she’s making an important point.

She’s actually telling Lemuel to be careful about the relationships he builds with women and to look for a woman of noble character.

Then she lists some of the qualities of that woman – not telling us we all have to be this type of woman all the time. In fact, during different seasons of life, our focus may be on the family and the husband – but in another season – we’ll focus on the workplace or a type of ministry.

Surely Lemuel’s mother understood how we women need to set boundaries around our hearts and our lives so that no one takes us for granted and we don’t find ourselves stressed out emotionally, physically or spiritually.

What if Lemuel’s mother told him the following:

“Listen, son – pay attention to the women you’re dating. A woman of noble character is worth more than any amount of money.

“Look for a woman who knows what she’s good at and uses her talents and gifts well.

“Find a woman who either likes to cook or knows how to buy healthy pre-packaged stuff.

“A woman who can budget money well is valuable. She’ll help with the household monies and she might even buy herself some land.

“Hopefully, she’ll be a woman in good health, but if not – then be sure you help her out and you treat her with compassion.

“Support her gifts. If she likes to sew, buy her the best sewing machine. If she likes to knit or crochet, make sure she has the best yarns. If she likes clothes, give her a gift card to Saffee’s.

“A noble woman will research ways to be a better parent and wife, but she’ll also take care of herself. She’ll make sure she has friendships outside the home. Coffee with girlfriends is important.

“Listen when she talks, because women of character speak with wisdom.

“If she wants to work outside the home and even if she is gifted to be a leader – then let her do that. God has created her to use her gifts, so support her in them.

“Treat her with honor, cherish her all your life and be faithful to her. She’s obviously a fabulous woman.”

Maybe Lemuel’s mother was trying to make the point that women can do a variety of things, but WHO they are is most important.

So let’s not draw a box around ourselves and think we have to be superwomen or that we need to follow this Proverbs 31 woman to the land of stress.

Use the gifts you have and the time you have for whatever season you’re in right now.

For a humorous take on the Proverbs 32 man, check out this Facebook post by James Watkins:

https://www.facebook.com/ipastor52?fref=nf&pnref=story.

©2016 GateWay of Hope – Hope, Healing and Wholeness for Women

How to Care for Yourself After Sexual Assault

saam - women 3By now you probably know that GateWay of Hope is honoring April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). In our first blog post this month we looked at who is affected and how it affects them. (Click here to read the previous post.) We also examined how to help prevent sexual assault/abuse. In our second post, we explored how both individuals and churches can offer support to survivors.

Before we consider today’s topic – caring for yourself – I want to add three more suggestions for walking beside a survivor of sexual trauma:

  • Acknowledge your own inadequacies – to yourself AND your friend. You don’t have to have the answers or solutions. You are not called to make everything okay. You are simply called to be there and offer love. It’s okay to feel weak and not know what to do. Now you know how your friend often feels.
  • Be willing to witness intense pain, multi-layered anger, and unanswerable questions. The kind of evil your friend has faced will be hard for you to hear and look at. You may be uncomfortable at times. You may also be triggered if you have your own unresolved pain. If that happens don’t ignore it, but take care of yourself. Know this will be hard for you as well as her.
  • Pray. Pray. Pray. This woman is in a battle for her life. She needs your prayers. But always ask her permission before you pray in her presence. She may be angry at God and not want to have anything to do with Him at this time. Don’t force God on her, but keep praying for her anyway.

Today’s blog post is for the woman who has survived the tragedy of sexual abuse or assault. If you don’t happen to be one of those women, thank God…but please keep reading. You too can learn something.

In our first blog post we learned sexual abuse affects our entire lives: bodies, emotions, relationships, thinking and spirits. In today’s post, I want to encourage you to take care of yourself in all of those areas! I know this will be hard because some of you may not think you are even worth taking care of. But that just isn’t true. You are valuable. You have worth. It’s time to take care of you.

  • Physically – Be kind and sensitive to your body. It has been through a lot and needs your care. But first you will need to acknowledge your body. For many of you who have faced sexual abuse/assault, you have disconnected yourself from your body to such an extent you hardly know it’s yours. Or if you do know, you may hate it. Some of you may be rolling your eyes or shaking your heads, but please hear me out. You know the basics such as: get enough sleep, eat right, exercise, but I want to go beyond this to include your attitude toward your body. Reconnect to and appreciate your body. Embrace yourself.
  • Emotionally – Acknowledge how and what you feel: rage, grief, fear, numbness, helplessness, discouragement. These emotions are normal. You don’t need to act on them; just accept them. Many survivors are adept at pushing emotions down, trying to bury them, deny or ignore them. It doesn’t work…at least not long term. Until you acknowledge how you feel, you can’t do anything about it. Try journaling or talking with a trusted friend or counselor. Do some artwork that expresses your feelings. Here’s an exercise for you – identify what you are feeling and then assign a color that represents that emotion.
  • Relationally – So many survivors of sexual trauma find it difficult to trust – men, women, God, anyone. They also find it hard to say “No.” They want to be in relationship, but to do so feels unsafe. They must take a risk to be in relationships. So it is very important to learn how to know whom to trust. Take small, very small, steps. Not everyone is trustworthy and safe; but neither is everyone unsafe. Consider reading “Safe People” and “Boundaries” by Drs. Cloud and Townsend. Or sign up for a Boundaries class at GateWay.
  • Cognitively – Lies, lies, lies. So many lies develop when you face trauma. Healing comes when you replace the lies with truth.

        In her book “On the Threshold of Hope” Diane Langberg writes, “All of our thinking has been shaped by the experiences and people in our lives.”  

Sexual assault impacts the way you think. Find a friend, pastor or counselor who can help you sort out the lies and then replace them with truth. Here at GateWay, we are ready to help you. And don’t forget to ask God to speak truth into your heart so you can displace the lies that are controlling you.

  • Spiritually – When scripture is twisted to sanction abuse, it keeps us from trusting God. Or when your father (or father figure) sexually abused you it seems impossible to trust God as your “Father.” But know that your heavenly Father is so very patient and, unlike your earthly father, God NEVER forces Himself on you. He will wait until you are ready. Be honest with Him because He can take your anger. Write out your prayers and questions to Him. He’d much rather have you be angry and honest than pretending to love and worship Him when you really just want to shake your fist and scream. I promise you, He loves you, even if you don’t love yourself. Please allow Him to comfort you in your fear, grief and pain.

If you are a survivor of sexual abuse, take care of yourself. At GateWay of Hope we are available to help you in any way. Please call 913.393.GATE (4283) or email (deborahs@gwhope.org). We are here for you.

©2016 Deborah Simon, LCPC – Director of Counseling – GateWay of Hope Deborah Simon

 

Celebrating Incredible Women

women holding handsAs we celebrate National Women’s History Month, we remember all the Christian women who made a difference. These were women of courage and foresight who marched against the traditions of their culture in order to follow their Lord. But who were some of these women?

We have, of course, the biblical histories of Mary and Martha, friends of Jesus who provided a place where he could rest. Legend tells us Martha was a wealthy widow and the homeowner who provided for her brother, Lazarus, and her sister, Mary.

Martha organized the work, supervised her servants and – as scripture implies – used her type A personality to get things done. We need the Martha’s of our world just as much as we need the Mary’s.

Other biblical women who exercised leadership and earned their way to biblical commendation include Lydia, Priscilla, Deborah, Abigail, Rahab, Jael, Mary Magdalene, Suzanna, Junia, Ruth, Joanna and of course, Mary – the mother of Jesus.

But what of the women beyond these biblical characters?

Many Christian women of history are listed as martyrs, those ladies who gave their all for the love of their Lord. Some of these noble warriors included Blandina (177 AD) from France, Perpetua and Felicitas (203AD), Faltonia (4th century AD) and Anne Askew (1546) an English Protestant martyr. Many others may not be recorded here, but they are definitely written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Tim Lambert has compiled a history of Christian women. Many historical women were noted missionaries who brought other people groups to Christ. To become a missionary in those days meant extreme hardship. These women truly left father, mother and homeland for the sake of the Gospel (Mark 10:29).

Some of these brave women include:

  • Ann Lee (1736-1784: a Quaker missionary)
  • Ann Judson (1789-1826: missionary to Burma)
  • Lottie Moon (1840-1912: missionary to China)
  • Mary Slessor (1848-1915: missionary to Africa)
  • Ida Scudder (1870-1960: missionary to India)
  • Evelyn Brand (1879-1974: missionary to India)
  • Gladys Aylward (1903-1970: missionary to China)
  • Elisabeth Elliott and Rachel Saint who helped reach the hearts of the Auca Indians in the 1950’s-60’s.

Other women have served in public service and government. Read about their accomplishments.

At GateWay of Hope, we see the courage and commitment of women every day. These are women who aren’t afraid to tackle some of the issues of their pasts and work with our counselors to find hope, healing and wholeness. They dig deep into their souls to find the places of first hurts. It takes a tremendous amount of personal courage to share how they have been shamed and to reach for the hand of hope that is offered them.

We applaud these courageous women.

Other women commit to coaching sessions and initiate plans for moving forward in life. They meet with our life coach to organize their lives, learn more about their core values and jump over the obstacles that once held them back. In spite of emotional upheavals, they stay in character – strong, living within their core values and moving forward. We admire these women of character.

Women in our groups dare to become vulnerable as they learn about authenticity and share their struggles. They find safety at GateWay whether they’re praying for their adult children, finding their place of significance within the pain of chronic illness or dealing with a spouse who is a sex addict.

These women of GateWay protect their hearts and fight against bitterness. They set healthy boundaries and learn better ways to deal with relationship conflicts. They use the giftings God has given them and refuse to be shamed just because they are women or because they have suffered the struggles of life’s circumstances.

During National Women’s History Month, we salute these brave women of the past who left a legacy of faithfulness. As their sisters, we step forward to serve God in whatever field He leads us to – for the glory of the One who created us to be His courageous women.

©2016 GateWay of Hope – Hope, Healing and Wholeness for Women

Live From Your Power

Sometimes, it is easy to habitually repeat negative phrases such as, “I can’t do this,” or “I’ll never be able to ….”power in rejoicing

And the “What If” phrases we use often originate from a place of fear. “What if this happens?” “What if I can’t …?”

But as Christian women, we are not called to live from a place of fear or negativity. In fact, we have within us the same power that raised Jesus from the grave.

The Apostle Paul makes it clear in Romans 8:11, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”

Think about what that power was able to do:

  • Take a bruised and bloodied physical body and make it whole again
  • Breathe life into stone-cold lungs
  • Make a heart start beating with strong and steady thumps
  • Infuse every cell with the life-giving features needed to pump oxygen, eat food and walk again
  • Allow that physical body to have spiritual qualities so that it could walk through walls and disappear at will
  • Reproduce the voice, behaviors and characteristics of Jesus so that his disciples would recognize him
  • Remove that human body from behind a heavy stone and transport it into the open air

Nowhere in scripture or in history do we find that Jesus stayed dead or that his new resurrected body lived in fear, dread or negativity.

On the contrary, he knew who he was – the resurrected Christ who had conquered death and was literally and completely filled with the Holy Spirit.

We need to also realize who we are:

  • Women infused with the same exact Holy Spirit who lived in Jesus
  • Gifted, talented, able women who can help to change the world
  • Chosen women whom God has pointed to and said, “You are my beloved.”
  • Mothers, grandmothers, single women – all able to mentor the next generation
  • Ezer Warriors (the word “Helpmate” [Ezer in Hebrew] used in Genesis to describe Eve means “Warrior.”) We were created and designed to fight the good fight and thrive.

So instead of wimping into a new year with fear or negative attitudes, let’s live from our power and march forward with strength.

Listen to this song, “The Same Power” by Jeremy Camp and live from your power.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InsifiZxVXU

©2016 GateWay of Hope

Hope, Healing and Wholeness for Women

Why is Miriam Crying?

Miriam Allen has written a poignant book titled “Miriam’s Tears.” In this personal experience story, Miriam shares how she felt when she found out about her husband’s infidelities.Miriam Allen quote

I can’t begin to describe the pain – my worst nightmare. I felt abandoned and ‘less than.’ I felt used and abused and worthless, unlovable, ugly and every negative emotion known to mankind…it felt like death by 1000 cuts.

Throughout her book, Miriam describes the difficult journey of facing reality, setting her personal boundaries and moving toward recovery.

In Miriam’s situation, she chose to stay in the marriage and work with her husband. But she also recognizes that choice is personal for every woman who is betrayed.

One of the triggers Miriam worked through was the negative thoughts that bombarded her. As she studied, counseled and moved toward recovery, she learned some steps for dealing with those negative thoughts:

• Tell the thoughts to STOP! Interrupt the negative thought or image by focusing attention on it and notice how it makes you feel.

• Take deep breaths, calm down and relax. The state of anxiety shuts down rational thoughts. You can’t move on until you’ve learned to relax the anxiety.

• Assign your “mental lawyer” to work for you. Is this thought reality and a fact or just something you are imagining? Can you change it? If not, assign it to the past and let it float away.

• Remind yourself that it takes time to heal from an injury. You will eventually make it through. You WILL heal.

• Escort the negative thought out of your mind. Refuse to take responsibility for its lies. Choose a new reaction and move toward the positive thoughts of healing.

Miriam has chosen to share her story so that other women will know what to do when it happens to them. Statistically, 50% of marriages will fail and a good percentage of those are because of infidelity.

But women CAN heal. In Miriam’s situation, she and her husband are still together, still learning how to respect each other and facing the reality of the situation.

Best of all, Miriam has learned new respect for herself. She has grown emotionally and spiritually. She is stronger now, able to set personal boundaries and draw the line that must not be crossed.

Her final words contain a challenge and a sense of her own victory, “It’s your life. Heal yourself and go forward to live YOUR best life. How you go on from here really is your choice.

©2015 GateWay of Hope – The Helping Place for Hurting Women
With gratitude to Miriam Allen, author of “Miriam’s Tears.” http://amzn.to/1MZCKcF

Facing Depression

depressed womanAs a new mom, I struggled with sleepless nights, wide-awake days, plus having an active toddler to keep up with. In addition, I tried to wear that plastic smile. I was exhausted.

Three to four months into my baby’s life, I realized I was not enjoying my time on this earth as a mom.

I vacuumed while my newborn baby cried in her crib, because I could not bear it that she was crying. I did not know how to take care of my child. I let her take care of herself. Who does that with a newborn child?

I had been raised in the church, and when I was 15 I received a Bible. I usually kept it somewhere near my bed. When I had this baby, my Bible had collected dust bunnies underneath the bed. One night, I thought about that Bible and wondered if I should pull it out… but I didn’t.

I had a newborn baby I was struggling to take care of. I couldn’t take care of myself. I was nursing her but I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t take care of her needs. She was losing weight, and so was I.

One night, before going to bed, I did pull out that Bible. Because it had been so long since I had read it and I had been so depressed, I didn’t know where to turn. I opened it to the center, to Psalms. “She will call upon me and I will answer her, I will be with her in trouble. I will deliver her…” (Psalm 91:15).

I laid my face down onto the Bible and said, “God…God…help me.” The pages were soon covered with my sweat and tears.

The next morning I had scheduled my daughter’s four-month wellness check-up. Everything checked out fine with my little girl, although there were some concerns about her weight. Then the doctor asked about me. I said, “Well – her mom is depressed, and she needs help.”

I started on a medical treatment plan that day.

Depression goes back four generations in my family. I can trace it back to a great-grandpa and to my grandma who died because she would not take care of herself. My sister, who passed away suddenly at age 29, struggled with depression most of her life.

At the doctor’s office, I thought, I am a mom, I have children who depend on me, I am depressed and I have this long family history of depression. Can I be helped?

I received a care package from a friend of mine who had been praying for me for years. Our friendship is as old as my childhood Bible. She had sent me a box of baby clothes, and inside were things for my daughter. Down in the bottom of the box was a book – a children’s book with illustrations. The title of the book was “Psalm 91.” Every page was illustrated for me –each verse – for me, like a child.

Around that time, I started attending a moms group. I sat with the other moms at that table, struggling.
As soon as I started opening up about my postpartum depression, more moms came forward and said, “Yes, I have dealt with that, too.”

That gave me hope.

Today, my daughter is a healthy 9-year-old. My prayer is that depression will not be passed on to her or to any of my other children. I am still in treatment for depression and believe that God is healing me.

2014 Shanna Groves, Volunteer
GateWay of Hope, The Helping Place for Hurting Women

How to Discover Creativity Within Cursive Writing

Cursive WritingAs a fifth grader in a country school, I learned about cursive writing. Each week, we were assigned another letter of the alphabet and instructed to follow the lines. The teacher made it clear that we were to fill in the carefully-bordered area in our Palmer Method books and make our letters look exactly like the images on the page.

Although I had been taught to obey, something about that methodology bothered me. I tried – for a while – to follow the instructions, but soon found that my letters bounded out of the lines and ended in curlicues or geometric figures places over the lower case “i.”

When the teacher graded my handwriting, he clicked his tongue and said, “Why do you have so much trouble following these instructions? Your writing looks like something fancy from a character in a novel, something you’ve made up.”

My parents were rather upset to see a C- on my report card next to “Handwriting.” Between my parents’ dismay and the teacher’s insistence, I learned to squelch my fancy lettering and follow the Palmer Methodology for Cursive Writing Rules.

I also learned how to stuff my creativity into a dark hole. My soul felt stilted. The pain calloused over for years as I hid underneath my desire for approval and my fear of rule-breaking consequences.

At the time, I didn’t know that a childhood trauma also shoved my creativity into that dark hole and kept me from becoming my true and authentic self.

It was only after much healing from God’s heart and reading a book titled, “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron that I realized the world would not fall apart if I celebrated my creativity.

I saw then how correct that teacher’s statement was. My writing looked like something out of a novel, because I was destined and created to write.
Following the Palmer rules stilted the joy of designing my own thoughts and patterns, skills that would someday become plots and characters in my own books.

As God continued to heal me and I continued to learn more about myself through therapy, other authentic people and my own exploration – I rediscovered the joy that had been squelched all those years ago.

The fallout from the trauma lifted as I wrote about my experience. My own words freed me from the dark hole of seeking approval and fearful consequences.

I embraced the artist in me and found my joy in creating new worlds through my books. I also began to share with other women the importance of finding their authentic selves. And in the sharing and the creating, I re-discovered me.

On April 25th, my second novel “Intermission for Reverend G” will be released.

I still don’t follow the Palmer Method for handwriting and you know what – it doesn’t matter anymore.

2014 Rebecca Thesman, Life Coach and Program Director at GateWay of Hope – The Helping Place for Hurting Women

Real Answers

She was so young, vibrant and blonde – with an infectious smile. But she had no idea what type of darkness lived in my mind.

She bounced toward me after church and said, “Isn’t it a beautiful day? Aren’t you doing wonderfully today?”

I decided to forego the usual, “Yes, I’m fine” response that people expect and told her the truth. “No. It isn’t beautiful today, and I’m not doing wonderfully.”

She backed away from me and seemed scared of the reality I had shared. That was the last time she ever approached me, the last time she even tried to understand.

My depression colored everything gray, even my face looked gray. Each day was a nightmare of climbing out of the bed in which I did not sleep, could not rest. Panic attacks rotated with moments of lying on the floor in a fetal position. I cried buckets of tears and couldn’t remember the last time I felt wonderful.

But eventually, I did move out of depression and back into the abundant life. Through counseling, nutrition and God’s outright miraculous healing – I traded darkness for light.looking up

Now to continue as an authentic woman, I try to stay real. When someone asks me how I’m doing, I don’t give the normal answer, “I’m fine”, unless I really am doing well. I want to tell the truth and hope that person won’t back away, won’t act afraid and won’t ignore me.

Real answers might include:
• I need a hug.
• Would you pray with me?
• I’m grateful that you asked.
• Today is a good day. I hope it is for you, too.
• I need a friend.

Depression doesn’t respond to easy answers, but we can help each other by staying real and honest. By reaching out to others and by responding truthfully, we can better deal with the circumstances of life and help each other move forward.

What about you? How do you answer real?

2013 Rebecca Thesman, GateWay of Hope Ministries – The Helping Place for Hurting Women