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Monday, February 22, 2016

When life gives you a snowstorm….make a snowman!



The past couple weeks have been a little too stressful for this bipolar girl!    As you will recall, a couple weeks ago someone hacked into our bank account and we were forced to freeze our primary account and reopen another.    Well, the effects of this issue kept snowballing, automatic deposits and payments had to be changed and it seemed at times that the right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing.    To make matters worse, my husband began to doubt my sincerity.   I can’t blame him, years ago as a direct result of my bipolar disorder I had made a mess of our finances.   I had taken out several payday loans, our house was in foreclosure and we knew our bill collectors on a first name basis.       We have worked hard over the past five years to restore financial stability and this issue with the bank triggered enormous doubt in his mind. 


My husband never deals with the finances and doesn’t understand online billing and the inner workings of debit cards and checking accounts.     There have been times, in my frustration where I've handed everything to him and said: "If you think you can do a better job, here it is!"    Needless to say, he gives it right back to me.    I have worked hard to pay our bills on time, spend wisely and keep a small cushion in the bank, but he always seems disappointed when I give him a financial report.    He repeatedly says “I thought we’d have more in the bank.   Where does all our money go?”     The stress of the banking situation caused my thoughts to be jumbled, my speech pressured and made it hard for me to explain what had happened.   He kept repeating “This doesn’t make sense!   Is there something I should know?  Are we okay?”    His fears were legitimate.   I had made a mess in the past, but the more he pressed for answers, the more I felt strangled by my anxiety and it just made me look “guilty” of a wrong doing.       Because his reaction to financial issues is always accusing, I have a tendency to try to handle the problem on my own which often appears to be deceitful.   So I’m in a pickle because he is angry no matter how I approach a financial problem.      Needless to say, I found myself back on the Bipolar Express heading straight to Crazyville!     To make matters worse, my husband was dealing with some issues of his own on a professional level.  Over the last 15 years, I have personally witnessed him pray, struggle and fight to repair the wreckage of his past and rise above what he was to become what God always intended him to be.   Just as things were at their brightest, the rug got tugged out from under us and the life we fought so hard to build was threatened through no fault of our own.           


I would rather experience turmoil or loss myself than watch someone I love endure any pain.    This brilliant, self-confident man, doubted himself and his abilities and it broke my heart.    My first reaction was anger!   Like a child, I cried out to God and asked “Why?   Why are you allowing bad things to happen to us?  We are doing everything right!”    I’m ashamed to admit that  I held onto my anger for a few hours and then the anger turned to confusion and then despair.    Why was this happening?  What lesson was God attempting to teach us?         Believe it or not, its’ good for me to be in the confused and despaired stage….God does his best work in me when I’ve lost all hope.     You see it isn’t until I don’t know where else to turn that I’m ready to give it to God.       When I’m confused, I ask God for direction.  When I feel despair, I lean on our Lord.   Pray, Trust, and Let Go…..Why is this lesson so hard for me to learn?   


I finally surrendered and last Wednesday, before I went to bed,  I gave the problem to God and I asked for some extra help from St. Jude, just for good measure.   The next morning, I awoke to this thought  “This is not a lesson for the one you love but for his adversary.   He is strong and just and able to stand true for what is right.   He is playing a part in their lesson.”     Well, either I’m now hearing voices and need additional medication or this was a message from God.    Because this “message” didn’t disturb me but put my mind at ease, I’ll go with God.   I realized at that moment that when bad things happen in our lives, it may not be about us!   Maybe God is using our situation, struggle or pain to instruct someone else.   Maybe we aren’t always the student, but the teacher’s aide!    


As I’ve said in the past, Bipolar people do not cope well with stress and the past couple weeks were trying.   My sleep patterns were out of wack, I was only sleeping about two to three hours a night.   I was experiencing panic attacks.   I was sad and weepy and then out of the blue a new symptom emerged,  I felt as if there was a tight band wrapped around my head.    It’s an odd and annoying feeling that only added more fuel to my emotional fire!      I found myself searching WebMd for symptoms of a brain tumor because I was positive I was dying!   The rapid heartbeat and feelings of impending doom came next and as the full blown depression hit, I found it hard to get up and move.     I spent seven days in this depressing, stress filled funk and then this past Thursday, I slept for the first time in over a week.   I woke up Friday morning feeling rested and renewed.   I’m not going to get too excited about this change in demeanor because I’m probably just hiking up “Manic Mountain”!   I’ve learned to recognize the signs preceding an episode but just as I’m learning to embrace the “Depression,” I’m learning to embrace the “Mania.”      Sometimes mania just feels good!


On Tuesday Northeast, Ohio got dumped with rain, ice and then snow.   It was a mess!  I shoveled out half the driveway so my husband could get to work but left the other half snow covered.     Feeling energized on Friday,   I went outside to finish what I should have done days ago and shoveled the rest of the drive.    I don’t mind shoveling snow, it's great exercise and this was just the push I needed to shed the funk and embrace the “mania”.    The snow was thick and weighted, but I just kept thinking of the extra calories I was burning.  You see, another thing I do under extreme stress is eat compulsively, so you can imagine the damage I did in just one week!   As I continued to shovel, I got this crazy idea, “Why don’t you build a snowman!”       I laughed to myself, where was this coming from,  I will be fifty years old on March 14th, I haven’t made a snowman in over three decades,     I’m too old to play in the snow!   So I continued with the “grown up” task at hand, removing snow from the driveway.    As I finished up the last strip of snow, the voice in my head screamed:  “Build a damn snowman”!     Okay!   Is this a new mental illness symptom I’m experiencing?   Have I finally cracked?        The sun was shining and the air was warm, about 40 degrees (a heat wave for Ohio) maybe I should succumb to the voices in my head and build a snowman! 


So I leaned my shovel up against the house and traipsed into the front yard and began to roll a big snowball to form the base of my man of snow.    I laughed a little to myself, here I am, a grown woman, alone, in the front yard, playing in the snow!    We have a very nosy old lady who lives next door.   She loves to gossip and makes it her business to know everyone’s business.    I glanced over at her house just in time to catch her spying through her side window.    When she realized I saw her, she quickly snapped the blind shut.     I chuckled…boy will she have something to talk about today!    I made the base of the snowman pretty quickly, the snow was a lot heavier than I remember as a child.    I guess it’s easier to roll a snowball when you have a friend by your side to help you push.    Ha!  Another lesson meant for me to learn.   I had a heck of a time making the second tier, but after some trial and error, I got the second snowball on top of the base.   By now I had my gloves off and I was carefully sculpting the snowman’s head from the cold snow.    I could hear my mother's voice saying "Put your gloves back on!  You're going to catch pneumonia!"  I waved at our mailman AKA “Grumpy Mailman McPhearson” as he passed by our house.   The poor guy probably thought I had lost my mind.   I grabbed some mulch from our snow covered flower bed and made the eyes, nose, and mouth.    I found a couple of branches in the yard for the arms and then grabbed an old blue shirt from our rag bag and fashioned a scarf.   The final touch was a bright red stocking cap.    I caught myself thinking, "You can't use that hat, you'll get in trouble!"   Then I smiled and thought "I bought the darn hat!"   By this time, I had caught the attention of just about every neighbor within eyeshot of our house.   If they didn’t know I was crazy before, they know it now!       I took a couple steps back to look at my handy work and laughed out loud, my voice echoed in our quiet neighborhood …this was the most pitiful looking snowman I have ever seen in my life!   


I snapped a picture of my deformed snowman and texted it to my husband with the caption "I'm channeling my inner child".      He sent me the standard “LOL” but I’m sure he was wondering what bipolar personality he would meet when he got home!  I texted him again and said, "If your lucky, tonight I'll channel my inner teenager!"    At this point, I don’t know whether I’m headed for a full-blown manic episode or if I’m only coming out of my depressive state but I do know that at this moment I feel good and I’m going to roll with it and embrace the “mania.”       I have given my problem and worries to God, I refuse to wallow in despair another minute.   Life gave me a snowstorm….so I built a snowman!       

Monday, February 15, 2016

Get Cleaned Up Before the Party!

Years ago all I knew to be true about the season of Lent was that on Ash Wednesday I got ashes on my forehead, I can’t eat meat on Fridays, I have to give up some vice I enjoy, and I have to feel guilty for my sins.    It wasn’t until I returned to the Church and learned more about my Catholic faith that I finally "got it!" ..... Lent isn’t about “me, myself and I,” it’s about Christ’s life, death, and resurrection!       

Let’s face it, if there was no resurrection, what would be the point!  If Christ had not suffered death and rose from the dead, then He was nothing more than a moral teacher with suggestions for living a good life.   If Christ had not conquered death, then every one of his faithful apostles (except for John) was martyred for their belief in a mere man.   Who would give their life for a mortal man?    Who would endure extreme torture for an ideal or philosophy?  As Christians, we believe that Jesus is God and Easter is the most Holy day in the Catholic Church.    

If Easter is the most important celebration in the life of any Christian, I know, as a sinner, I need to get cleaned up before the party!     Change is good and necessary for spiritual growth, but change is no picnic for this bipolar woman.    This year, I am no longer a Pastoral Assistant and my role has changed from facilitator to participant.   How do I navigate the season of Lent without my Liturgical Desk Calendar?  

The following are some of the things I will be doing this year to prepare for Resurrection Sunday in my new role as a participant.     

1)  Improve my Prayer Life:    

I’m no angel and I can slip back into old habits and old ways of thinking pretty quickly if I don’t do a daily Exam.    During the next forty days,  I’m going to practice “The Examen” daily.      The Examen is a spiritual exercise developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola some five hundred years ago.     There are many variations of this ancient mediation but I prefer to use the one below.   This simple tool, helps me to stay centered and find God in all things.    

The Daily Examen
  • God, I believe that at this quiet moment I am in Your presence and You are now loving me.  Come Holy Spirit
  • God, I acknowledge Your love for me in the various gifts for which I am very grateful.  Thanks be to God.
  • God, help me now to review the events of this day in order to recognize you in all parts of my life.  Lord, I want to see.
  •  God, please forgive the times I have fallen short, and strengthen my attempts to follow You.  Lord have mercy.
  • God, enlighten me so that my future choices praise, reverence, and serve You above all else.  Show me Your Way.
  • Conclude with an Our Father.
To learn more about the Examen, I suggest either downloading the free app “Jesuit Prayer” or visit the Jesuit website at www.jesuit.org     
 
2)  Get Active in my Parish:   

As you all know, I recently joined a new Catholic Parish and I was excited to learn of the Lenten activities and prayer services available.   My new parish offers a Stations of the Cross service every Friday at 9 a.m.and Lenten Simple Suppers and Prayer on Wednesdays.   I’m going to make it a point to attend as many of these events as possible.   

For the past four years, I have participated in the Stations of the Cross and it has enriched my Lenten experience.       For those who may not be familiar with this Catholic Tradition, I’ll give you a little Catholic 101.   Most Catholic Churches have a series of icons, painting or artwork on the walls of the church which depict fourteen events in Jesus’ last days on Earth as a man.   The Stations of the Cross or “Way of the Cross” service begins with an opening prayer followed by a musical verse.    A priest or prayer leader then stands before each Icon, reads a reflective prayer unique to that particular event, a short response is recited and a special verse sung by the participants and then there is a pause for reflection before the journey continues to the next station until all fourteen are visited.  

 The individual Stations of the Cross are as follows:
  •  1st Station: Jesus is condemned to death
  •  2nd Station: Jesus carries His cross
  •  3rd Station: Jesus falls the first time
  •  4th Station: Jesus meets his mother
  •  5th Station: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry his cross
  •  6th Station: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
  •  7th Station: Jesus falls the second time
  •  8th Station: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
  •  9th Station: Jesus falls a third time
  • 10th Station: Jesus clothes are taken away
  • 11th Station: Jesus is nailed to the cross
  • 12th Station: Jesus dies on the cross
  • 13th Station: The body of Jesus is taken down from the cross
  • 14th Station: Jesus is laid in the tomb

The musical verses sang between each station are usually sung to the tune of Sabat Mater.    Lyrics vary depending on the version of the service.  Below is the version my parish used on Friday.  

Hymn for Stations of the Cross 
Jesus, Lord, condemned, defiled,
May we too be meek and mild
As we tread your holy Way.

May we feel no bitter hatred,
When we too are persecuted,
Left alone to walk with you.

Now the cross as Jesus bore it,
Has become for us who share it,
The great cross of victory.

Weakened, prodded, cursed, and fallen,
His whole body bruised and swollen,
Jesus tripped and lay in pain.

Jesus met his grieving Mother,
She who made the Lord our Brother;
Now the sword her heart has pierced.

Simon stopped in hesitation,
Not foreseeing his proud station,
Called to bear the cross of Christ.

Brave but trembling came the woman,
None but she would flaunt the Roman,
Moved by love beyond her fear.

Prostrate on the dust he crumbled,
Flogged in body, he resembled
All our people poor and scorned.

May our sympathy for Jesus
Turn to those who here now need us,
May we see Christ bruised in them.

Jesus fell again in weakness,
Stumbling as we do, to lead us
Through our sorrow and our pain.

Stripped and jeered by his own nation,
Jesus stood in desolation,
Giving all he had to give.

Pierced the hands that blessed and cured us;
Pierced the feet that walked to free us,
Walked the hill of Calvary.

Life eternal, death defiant,
Bowed his head -- the world was silent,
Through his death came life anew.

Stunned and stricken, Mary, Mother,
In your arms was placed our Brother,
"Full of grace" now filled with grief.

Jesus, Lord, your gift accepted,
In three days you resurrected;
You did first what we shall do.

Jesus, risen, be our lover
In your food and in our brother,
Lead us home to heaven with you



3)  Read and Reflect:   

Last year, I incorporated a new tradition to my Lenten journey:  I read “The Mystical City of God” by Mary of Agreda.   This book changed my life and deepened my devotion to our Blessed Mother.  There are several translations of this book,  but I prefer the "abridged" version because it is easier to read.   

In 1627 at the young age of twenty-five, Mary of Agreda was appointed abbess of the Immaculate Conception Convent in Spain.  During the first ten years she held this office, she received a command from the Blessed Virgin Mary to write the history of her life.      In 1637, while her spiritual director was away, Sister Mary of Agreda finished her writing and presented it to the "acting" director.   The acting director instructed her to burn all of her writings, as women should not write in the Church.   Now, remember this text took her ten years to write.   In 1637, there were no typewriters, copy machines or flash drives; she wrote this account, by hand with a feather and an inkwell!  Being obedient to her superior she did as instructed and burned all of her writings.   When her regular priest returned, he immediately told her to rewrite the history.   She resisted at first but then received guidance from our Blessed Mother to re-write the history.    She wrote the book in three volumes and it tells the history of the first fifteen years of Mary’s life; Mary’s life with Our Lord; and Mary’s life after the resurrection.      

At first,  the writing was a little difficult for me to understand because it was written almost four hundred years ago, but as I moved through the story, the language became easier to comprehend and it read like a novel.  Never before had I cried while reading a book, but when I read the chapter about the Passion of our Lord, I was moved to tears.

Well, this gives you an idea of what I will be doing over the next forty days to “clean up” before the celebration of Easter.    I'm beginning a new chapter in my life; I'm no longer in "charge" of a Lenten program.  I'm not under the gun to create program flyers, send out mass mailings, facilitate Adult Faith Formation programs or prepare RCIA candidates for the Easter Vigil.   This year, I am simply a participant, and the worry and stress of the season are gone; the focus is where it should be, on our Lord.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Live, Love, and Grow in Him



I have spent my entire life in a hurry.     When I was a teen, I was always rushing to get to school, speeding through homework, running to a friend’s house and then racing back home to meet my curfew.   While raising my children, I was constantly rushing to school events, darting to dance lessons or baseball practices, working full time, and scurrying to get everyone fed, bathed and tucked into bed so we can start the whole crazy cycle over again.     I had the illusion that after the kids were grown, things would slow down, I would be able to read a book, sit on my deck and relax, or take the time to have lunch with a friend, but there never seemed to be enough hours in a day.     Then suddenly my world abruptly came to a halt.   When I resigned from my job in November all deadlines, time constraints and commitments stopped.   For the first time in my life, I had complete control over how I would spend my day; and it was terrifying. 

I struggled emotionally following my resignation.     For more than six weeks, I teetered between manic and depressive episodes and wasn’t able to do much but heal my mind.   Since I’ve continued to be off work I’ve been blessed to live in a supportive atmosphere which has allowed me to gain control of my thoughts and settle into a peaceful routine.

Until now, I was of the belief that I would work until I die!  Society told me I would be bored being "just" a housewife, but I'm here to tell ya society lied!  I have established a comfortable daily routine, and believe it or not, I actually enjoy housework.    Last week I was wiping down my kitchen counter and it occurred to me that I wasn’t just “hitting the high spots”; I wasn’t taking any shortcuts just to get the chore done.    I could take time and do the job properly because I wasn’t running out the door to my next appointment.    Surprisingly..I like to iron!    My husband’s job requires he dress in a button-down shirt and Dockers every day.   When I was working full time, it was nearly impossible for me to set aside two hours to iron five shirts and five pairs of pants a week.   I now receive great satisfaction from “getting the wrinkles” out of his clothes.   I feel a sense of pride knowing that my husband is neatly dressed and ready for his work day.   To some women, that might seem a little too submissive but that is something else I’m learning; it’s okay to let him take the lead.   For years, I have lived in fear of “relying” on a man to provide for me.     When I was previously married, there was a six-month period of time after the birth of my son that I didn’t work.     My then husband would give me a small dollar amount to buy weekly groceries and if I couldn’t get everything we needed in the amount budgeted, I would have to grovel and beg for more money.     I was often belittled for my inability to stick to his unrealistic budget.     It was a humiliating and life changing experience for me.  After my divorce, I swore I would never again put myself in a situation where I was reliant upon a man to survive.    Today, I am supremely blessed that my present husband; loves his wife as Christ loves the Church and I no longer fear my husband taking the lead.   

My husband and I reside near several Amish communities and we enjoy the company of many Amish friends.    The Amish don't own cars and travel either on foot or by horse and buggy.    If they need to travel outside a ten or so mile radius, they often depend on the “English” (That’s what they call us!), for transportation. The Amish do not have electricity in their homes which means no telephone.   Some do have small phone shacks on their property connected to a simple landline.   When I say simple,  I mean bare bones phone service; no call waiting, voice mail, or caller ID,  just direct communication to one simple telephone.    Often times, this one landline is shared among several families.     So you're probably asking yourself "Why is she giving me a lesson on Amish living?"     Well, on Tuesday, I was asked by an Amish friend to take her to the hospital for pre-testing before her surgery.    Her appointment was at seven o’clock in the morning so I needed to arrive at her home about forty-five minutes earlier to get her to the hospital on time.   I arrived at her house at “o’ dark early”, and waited patiently in the car.    When she didn’t come out right away, I went to the door to see if she was ready.      When she didn’t answer the door, I feared the worst and began calling out her name, then suddenly I look to the back yard and saw a light moving towards me in the distance.   My friend was walking back to the house from the phone shack with her flashlight in hand.    The hospital had just called to inform her that she didn't require additional testing and a trip into town was not necessary.   Fearing she had ruined my morning, she was apologetic and invited me in for a cup of coffee.    Normally, I would have said no, I would have already been planning my next task for the day, but this time, for some reason, I said, “Sure, that sounds fantastic.”  

I sat with my friend at her kitchen table and enjoyed a hot cup of coffee and meaningful conversation.    We talked about our children, grandchildren, our mutual belief in God and our worship traditions.   I didn’t stay long, maybe twenty minutes or so, but I was able to slow down and enjoy the moment.   I can’t remember the last time I was truly mindful.      For the first time in my life, I felt like a “normal” person. 

Later that same day, I met with my therapist and she commented on how well I looked.   I shared with her about the visit with my friend, and I told her that although I felt good, I was riddled with guilt because I wasn't working outside the home.   I feel conflicted.   My moods are balanced and I feel as if I can handle anything that comes my way.   Maybe I should try to reenter the workforce, but then again the reason I’m feeling “normal” may be BECAUSE I'm not working.   

The following day I was reviewing our checking account and found a suspicious check for $39.95.   In this world of electronic finances, I seldom write checks so I quickly opened up the link to view the draft and was shocked.    The check was said to have been authorized by me, it listed an old address that we hadn’t lived at for over ten years and I had never heard of the vendor.    I researched the fraudulent company online and found several complaints from people, just like me, whose accounts had been hacked by this same company.    I felt sick to my stomach.    I called the bank and was advised to freeze the bank account immediately.    I became overwhelmed with panic…freeze the account?   Did this guy have any idea what that would mean?    We have automatic withdrawals, automatic deposits, automatic transfers, I just bought new checks, we’ll have to get new bank cards!!   My mind raced with all the details, my hands began to shake, I felt a heaviness in my chest and my speech became pressured as I talked to the customer service representative on the phone.    I was having difficulty understanding the agent's simple directions and I kept asking him to repeat himself.     When I tried to explain to my husband what had occurred, I stumbled over my words nervously.      What was wrong with me?   This was a banking inconvenience….it was not a life-shattering event.   I had been an office manager, I handled greater problems than this, what had happened to me?   I spent the next few days, cleaning up the banking mess and with each step, I felt overwhelmed and defeated.    

After the banking problem was finally resolved, I reflected on the events of the past few days and tried to come to terms with what had just happened to me.     Then I was reminded of the anxiety and panic I experienced when working full time.    This past year had been filled with so many extreme highs and lows, it’s amazing to me that I didn’t end up in the looney bin.     I spent so many days, crying in the car on my commute to and from work, and full of anxiety about what I did or didn’t get accomplished in a work day.     On good days, I felt on top of the world and was able to scratch all tasks off of my “to-do” list.   Other days I would sit at my desk with disorganized stacks of paperwork around me completely overwhelmed and confused on how to begin.    Although I attempted to hide my anxiety, there had been times when the pressure was so great I emotionally broke down at work in front of co-workers and parishioners.   I wore a mask of smiles and self-confidence when on the inside I felt tortured, scared and alone.     This little banking mishap was a harsh reminder of just how “sick” I really am.   

Since I’ve been unemployed, I've experienced peace I've never known.   Perhaps I am not meant to return to work.   For the past few weeks, I’ve been writing about trusting God….it’s time I stop talking the talk and start walking the walk!     I have been praying for “Peace of Mind” and for the first time in my life I’m experiencing just that!    Thank you, God, for giving me a loving family, the support of friends and your daily guidance.   Thank you, God, for doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself.    Thanks, God, for clearing a straight path to peace for me so I may live, love and grow in You. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Yes Sandy, there is a reason for everything!

Having bipolar disorder I am often plagued with false fears and handle anxiety differently from most. For example, when my children will little, we lived in a house located just a few feet from a four-lane highway.     Trucks would speed up and down the road with little regard to the children who lived and played in the neighborhood.    My son was always full of mischief and perceived it to be great fun to run from me while we were outside and then squeal and giggle as I frantically chased after him.  

One day as we were leaving the house, he broke free from my hand and ran towards the road.   I immediately ran after him in terror as I saw a semi-truck racing towards him, all the while he was looking back at me laughing.   I grabbed his arm, pulling him out of harm’s way just as his little foot hit the edge of the road.   The panic I felt was a legitimate fear; the kind of horror any mother naturally feels when the life of her child is threatened.   A “reasonable” person would experience the fear, process it, learn from it and then move on.    

Now, let’s look at false fear.   Following the incident with my son, I began to obsess about the possibility of him getting hit by a truck.    I installed hook and eye locks high up, on all the doors in the house so that he could not open the doors and run out into the road.   Sounds like a reasonable solution, but my anxiety didn't stop there.       The feeling of panic I experienced in that single moment continued and carried over to my second child.    The thought of bringing them outside to play filled me with extreme terror.   What if they should run and I'm not able to catch them in time?  What if they fall and crack their head open on the cement?  What if someone traveling on the road abducts them?   I stopped bringing them outside to play, even in our fenced in back yard.   I would check the doors every ten minutes to make sure I remembered to lock them.    I never took my eyes off of them, even in the house.   I had trouble sleeping for fear that they would slip out of bed in the middle of the night.    Due to that one incident, I lived in constant fear for years.     

When I became involved in Al-Anon, false fears ruled my life.   I not only had anxiety around raising my children, but I also had fears about my husband's alcohol use.     What if my husband never quits drinking?  What if he gets a DUI?  What if he kills someone in a bar fight?   And then when he got sober the fears changed.   What if he begins drinking again?   What if he demands a divorce once he sees me through sober eyes?   The false fears led to crazy behaviors on my part.   I was constantly trying to control my world and everyone in it.    Fear is a natural God given instinct; a defense mechanism meant to protect you.  Imagine how exhausting it would be to your body, mind and soul to live in a constant survival mode.   

I learned in Alanon that most of my fears were false.   Alanon is known for their slogans and they taught me that FEAR is False. Evidence. Appearing. Real.   

“In Al-Anon, the answer to “What if? Is: “Don’t project! Don’t imagine the worst; deal with your problems as they arise. Live one day at a time.” I cannot do anything about things that haven’t happened; I will not let the past experiences make me dread the unknown future. “It is a vain and unprofitable thing to conceive either grief or joy for future things which perhaps will never come about.” (One day At a Time in Al-Anon pg. 193).  

This simple acronym for FEAR allowed me to stop and examine the emotion before it consumed my life.    A simple replacement for a defense mechanism that I no longer needed.

When I came back to the church, I implemented another FEAR coping tool…scripture and prayer.    I found great comfort in Matthew 6:25-34

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?   Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.   If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?  So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’  All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness and all these things will be given you besides.  Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.

These tools help me differentiate between false and real fears and better allowed me to accept God's will for my life.  

Last Thursday, I had an appointment with my psychiatrist at 7:30 a.m.    My psychiatrist’s office is about thirty minutes from my house so I left at about 6:45 just to give me a little bit of a time cushion.   I hate to be late for an appointment!     I had visited her office on two previous occasions so I was familiar with the route.   When I pulled into the medical complex I started to panic, I couldn’t remember which building she resided, they all looked identical.    I parked the car and rummaged through my wallet for her business card.   After a frantic search, which felt like hours, I found she was in building "H".   Whoever designed this medical complex must have been on “crack” because they had a Blue "H" north section and Green "H" south section.    So I drove around the stupid parking lot for ten more minutes looking for the correct building!     I’m sure my GPS thought I had lost my mind because with every wrong turn it was kept repeating, "You have reached your destination! You have reached your destination!"   At 7:31 a.m. I finally found the building and rushed in like my butt was on fire!   Luckily my doctor was very understanding and by 7:45 I was out of her office and on my way home.   

As I turned to merge onto Route 11, the traffic was at a standstill.    Immediately I was filled with anxiety.   I don’t do well in traffic jams.     My back and neck became stiff and my hands gripped the wheel tightly as panic began to rear its ugly head.    Suddenly I started thinking of  the scripture reading from Ecclesiastes 3:11  

“God has made everything appropriate to its time but has put the timeless into their hearts so they cannot find out, from beginning to end, the work which God has done.”   

I thought to myself....there is a reason.   So being bipolar the song by the Byrds, “Turn, Turn, Turn” popped into my head and I started singing along with the jukebox in my mind “To everything –turn, turn, turn, there is a season – turn, turn, turn and a time to every purpose under heaven.  A time to be born, a time to die…” You get the gist.   So as oldies were softly serenading my fears away, I was able to maneuver calmly through the traffic.   When I arrive at the source of the traffic jam, I saw a wheel from a car in the middle of the road, the rubber from the tire a few feet further down and then a car slammed up against a cement barrier.   The police had not yet arrived so the accident must have just occurred.   I couldn’t help but think that if I had left my appointment ten minutes earlier, I could have been in the middle of that accident.    Was this a coincidence or was it, God?   

Although this incident may have been insignificant, it reminded me that I am exactly where God wants me to be in my life journey.  A year ago, I thought my husband and I would continue to save money, retire in fifteen years and spend our golden years traveling in a motor home across the United States.    I never expected to find myself unemployed at forty-nine.  I firmly believe in the old adage; if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans!    Again I say, my plans are not necessarily God's plans but I am confident His way is best!  He hasn't let me down yet!    So I continue to trust and tell myself "Yes Sandy, there is a reason for everything!"

I'll leave you with this prayer from St. Teresa of Avila that I often turn to in times of anxiety.   It helps to center me and be more open to God's will for me.    He alone Suffices!   

Let nothing disturb you,
Nothing frighten you;
All things are passing;
God never changes;
Patient endurance attains all things;
whoever possesses God is wanting in nothing;
God alone suffices.