Depression, the Common Cold, and Royalty: What do They Have in Common?

by Donna Gibbs

Depression – it’s called the “common cold” of mental disorders, but how common is it really?

Depression impacts hundreds of millions of individuals across the world. Up to 20% of the population in America struggles with the sometimes debilitating symptoms of depression. 20%!! I’d call that common, wouldn’t you?

If depression is that common, then any of us are susceptible… a teenager, a mom, a dad, a senior adult, a person of any race or occupation. Your neighbor. Your co-worker. Perhaps even a King!

I enjoyed an invitation to speak to a local church some time ago regarding the topic of depression. Their specific request was that I address the possibility of depression in the life of David, the writer of many of the Psalms. So, we put David on the “Hot Seat” and posed two questions: 1) David, were you depressed? 2) Can a Christian be depressed?

But before we examine David, let’s first consider some general symptoms of depression:

*Sadness

*Crying Spells

*Loss of interest in once enjoyable activities

*Apathy – lost your “care”

*Letting go of self-care/hygiene

*Fatigue

*Irritability/Agitation

*Withdrawal/Isolation

*Changes in sleep patterns

*Changes in eating patterns

*Difficulty concentrating, or forgetfulness

*Chronic aches/pains

*Feelings of worthlessness

*Hopelessness

*Destructive Thoughts/Ruminations

*Suicidal thoughts/attempts

Who was David? As a boy, he was the youngest of his siblings. As a young man, he had a simple job of taking care of sheep. But God had a more extravagant role designed for David’s adult life. After a series of amazing events, David was ultimately appointed King of Israel. David became head of the royal family!

Did you watch the most recent royal wedding? Or follow the news of the recent royal birth? Wow! What a display of power, infamy, wealth, and lavishness! As King, David too experienced the extravagance of this lifestyle. But can someone who lives like that possibly experience depression? Someone who never has a financial care? Someone who never has to cook their own meal, or cut their own grass? Someone with access to the very best of all that life offers? Is it possible that even someone with this ultimate grandiose lifestyle could be vulnerable to the symptoms we identified above?

As if royalty weren’t seemingly enough to insulate him from depression, David also had a unique spiritual life. Indeed, he is historically known as “a man after God’s own heart”. He was far from perfect, but he had a rich spiritual life. Isn’t that enough to protect someone from depression?

David’s own words will answer our questions:

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night.

Psalm 42:1-3

Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy? My bones suffer mortal agony.

Psalm 42: 9-10

My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught…. My heart is in anguish within me…. Oh that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.

Psalm 55: 2, 4-8

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts, and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Psalm 13:1-4

Yes, David lived the life of royalty. Yes, David was a man of God. And, David met the criteria for depression. He felt downcast and distraught. He wrestled with his thoughts. He had ruminations. He had crying spells. He had spiritual disconnect. He had physical symptoms of pain. He wanted to run away from everything and everybody. He desperately wanted to escape. He grew agitated and impatient. Can you relate?

If you also wrestle with depression, I want you to take comfort in this: depression really is common. No one is immune. No one is insulated from pain. Whether through a genetic predisposition, a vitamin deficiency, a thyroid issue, a hormone imbalance, or a fiery trial of life, we are all vulnerable. Even me and you.

If you are wrestling in your thoughts today, know that you are in good company. Even a king, even a “man after God’s own heart” might say, “I can relate”. Rest in knowing that you are not alone! And then reach out for help. No need to suffer in silence any more.

Donna Gibbs

Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, her blogs are frequently shared in various media outlets, and she is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for more than twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse. 

Follow Donna’s author page at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGibbsResilience/ for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.

Infertility: Hope in a Lonely Journey

by Donna Gibbs

The wedding was beautiful. Lifelong hopes and dreams became a reality as the vows were spoken and the couple was introduced to those in attendance. The bride and groom started down the aisle, full of aspirations for a hope-filled, joyous life together. They pictured themselves living the American dream, with a beautiful home, a Volvo in the garage, and 2.4 children.

Time passed. One year turned into two, then three, four, and five years. Family and friends began to question, “When are you two going to have a baby?” “You know, youʼre not getting any younger.” “Isnʼt it about time you started having a family?” For this couple, infertility was soon becoming a harsh reality. They considered the time, energy, finances, and emotional strain involved in medical interventions or adoption. It was all so confusing and overwhelming. They prayed, questioning God, asking “Why?” Why were relationships becoming strained? Why was walking down the baby food aisle of the grocery store becoming unbearable? Why were announcements of pregnancies and baby showers so painful? Why was Motherʼs Day such a sad occasion? Why?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 11% of reproductive-aged women experience challenges in getting pregnant and/or carrying a baby to term. This is probably a low estimate of the many isolated, hurting couples with few places to turn with their grief. Infertility is a disease that creates significant grief, bombarding its victims with intense, inexplicable emotions. The grief process can be experienced from one extreme to another, all within a cycle of 28 days. Infertility attacks an individualʼs sense of self-worth, tempting them to compare themselves to peers who seem to have no difficulty achieving or maintaining pregnancy. Certainly, infertility can place great strain on relationships among family and friends who often, with no evil intent, have painful questions and expectations. An unresolved plea for pregnancy can also create stress and tension in the marriage relationship. Without question, undesired childlessness shakes our faith in a God who describes children as a blessed gift. Yet, there is hope! For we serve a God who makes promises. The promise for someone with infertility is not that they would necessarily have a biological child (though approximately 85-90% are able to conceive). The promise is that even this difficult trial will be worked for good. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). “All things” is an all-inclusive phrase: even infertility can bear fruit!

If you are wrestling through this tough journey, I pray you will look for fruit, and don’t lose hope! There are others who share your pain. You are not alone!

Wondering what the grief process of infertility looks like? Here are some expected experiences of grief. While grief is better described as “waves” vs “stages” these are some of the typical places that you may find yourself, based on where you are in your monthly cycle, and where you are in the overall process of infertility.

The Waves of Infertility Grief

*Denial/Shock: “I canʼt believe this is happening to me.” *Desperation/Panic: “Iʼll do whatever it takes to have a child.”

*Anger/Resentment: “What kind of God would allow me to go through this?”

*Sadness/Depression: “Why me?”

*Inadequacy/Guilt: “What is my purpose now?”

*Hope/Peace: “Iʼm OK.”

*Reconciliation/Integration: “May Your will be done.”

If you have concerns that you are stuck in your grief, please reach out to a trusted pastor or counselor. You are not alone, and you don’t have to walk this tough road alone!

A Note for Pastors and Counselors

In all likelihood, if you are a counselor or a minister, you have encountered couples who are experiencing the trial of infertility. Below, Iʼve listed a few tips for working with these couples and hope that these assist you in providing a supportive and effective atmosphere for them.

*Be well versed regarding the emotional, relational, and spiritual challenges of infertility, as well as reproductive treatment options. Just as we would want to be aware of cultural differences that can impact our clients, we need to be aware of the life and challenges of the couple experiencing infertility. *Normalize and validate the common struggles at each phase of infertility grief (see “Processing Infertility Grief”)

*Educate regarding gender differences in infertility grief and assist the couple in processing their grief without divisiveness.

*Refer couples to support groups if available, at minimum mentors who can relate in a non-threatening and supportive manner. This is particularly important due to the isolation that generally accompanies infertility. If no resources are locally available, advocate for the development of these resources.

*Educate couples regarding stress management techniques. Infertility is known to be as stressful for individuals as a life-threatening condition.

*Assist couples in making deliberate, well-processed decisions regarding their treatment options, taking into consideration spiritual convictions, financial obstacles, family dynamics, stress-levels, etc…

*Assist couples, through role-play, in communicating their struggles, needs, and hurts to family, friends, and co-workers as it relates to infertility. Assist couples in determining what they are comfortable sharing with others and in explaining what they prefer to be kept private, how they will respond to announcements of pregnancy, invitations to baby showers, etc… This type of rehearsal assists couples in overcoming isolation and resentment.

*Have couples journal their experiences and emotions and process in session.

Excerpts from this blog are taken from Water From the Rock (2002), co- authored by Summit Wellness Centers co-owner, Donna Gibbs.

Donna Gibbs

Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, her blogs are frequently shared in various media outlets, and she is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for more than twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse. 

Follow Donna’s author page at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGibbsResilience/ for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.

Listening

by Donna Gibbs

Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, her blogs are frequently shared in various media outlets, and she is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for more than twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse. 

Follow Donna’s author page at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGibbsResilience/ for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.

The Power of a Habit. Is Your Auto-Pilot Headed to the Destination You Desire?

by Donna Gibbs

“So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clear-headed”. (1 Thessalonians 5/6, NLT)

What a fascinating scripture. We’re challenged to be prepared for the day of the Lord’s return. To be alert and sober. But after an in-service earlier this week led by my colleague, Kevin Wimbish, I’m reminded that this scripture speaks to an even broader truth. The power of a habit! I’m going to share with you in this blog one of many truths that Kevin shared with our staff, with hopes that you too can benefit from the challenge to be “alert”.

Did you know that 40% of what we do each day is habit? That’s a disturbingly large portion of our life that is ruled by auto-pilot! Habits, both good and bad, can become entrenched. They develop into powerful pathways in the brain, marrying us to our habitual thoughts and actions, whether we intend it or not.

If my daily habit is to think on God’s truths, to consistently encourage my husband and children, and to make good choices in nutrition and exercise, then habits work in my favor. Unfortunately, many of our habits are better described as destructive. We habitually think critical thoughts regarding our situations, and habitually choose behaviors that sabotage our genuine goals. Why? Because we’re checked out. Asleep. We’re not clear-headed. We’re on habitual autopilot when intentional mindfulness is what is most needed.

“Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction”. (Proverbs 29/18, NIV). Without vision and specific direction, we are vulnerable to destruction. Without intentional thought, we are vulnerable to destructive thought. Without intentional action, we are vulnerable to destructive action. “But blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction”. Heed is a verb. It is action based on intentional decision; the opposite of being “asleep”.

Today, let’s examine our habits. Let’s consider if our auto-pilot is leading us toward the destination we desire. Let’s guard against complacent carelessness. How do we reverse a destructive habit? Through “repetitive thought and repetitive action”. This repetition develops new pathways in the brain, and creates the potential for new, healthy and purpose-driven habits. Practice this mindful examination every day, even if just a few minutes each day. Before you know it, you’ll have a new auto-pilot. One you’re more confident in having lead your life!

Donna Gibbs

Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, her blogs are frequently shared in various media outlets, and she is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for more than twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse. 

Follow Donna’s author page at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGibbsResilience/ for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.

Hope Rose! Resilience and a Burial Straight-Jacket

by Donna Gibbs

It’s Easter weekend. A time in which we often gaze back to the crucifixion of Christ, and the significance of His resurrection. If you are like me, you have read these accounts in the New Testament many times. Frankly, I don’t like to read this portion of scripture. In fact, I can hardly stand thinking about the death of Christ. It makes me physically sick, and emotionally disturbed. I try to read quickly through the crucifixion so that I can get to the resurrection. But this week, I took the time to contemplate something in the burial of Jesus that I have previously missed, because I was in too much of a hurry to get to the resurrection.

Following the crucifixion of Christ, Joseph of Arimathea received permission from Pilate to take down Jesus’ body. Nicodemus joined him, bringing perfumed ointment and spice. We often point to the fact that Joseph prepared his own tomb for Jesus, or the fact that these men boldly exposed their love for Christ by coming for his body in the middle of the day. But what I noticed, for the first time in this account that I have read so many times, is what the scriptures say regarding the actual burial spices. Of course, we know that Nicodemus brought Myrrh and aloes. These would have been commonly used in a burial in Jewish custom.

But it was not the presence of the myrrh or the aloe that struck me. It was the fact that together they weighed 100 pounds. That means that following death, Christ’s body was not just washed, but it was covered

in 100 pounds of a myrrh and aloe mixture, and was then wrapped in linen cloth. This makes His resurrection even more powerful to me. Following the journey of the crucifixion and the condition of his body unto death, he was weighed down with what would have become a heavy layer of a slimy, glue-like substance, and then he was wrapped tightly in linen. Consider the gravity of that condition three days later. Death, followed by the equivalent of a full-body cast, or a 100 pound straight-jacket.

But He rose! Death couldn’t hold Him down. And neither could 100 pounds of burial preparations. The day of His death may have been dark. It may have seemed that hope died. But Hope Rose! Indeed, Sunday is coming!

Today, you may be facing an uncertain future, or a dark and tragic circumstance. You may feel that hope is lost. Your life may resemble the darkness of the day of crucifixion. But keep your head held high, my friend. Because, Hope Rose! Christ was resurrected from death (and from a full-body cast of burial preparations!) That same power that raised Him from the dead is accessible to you as a child of God. Call out to Him – and trust in His power and care to meet you at your point of need. Resilience can be yours, because God has already demonstrated His power for ultimate resilience, the resurrection!

“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:19-20).

Donna Gibbs

Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, her blogs are frequently shared in various media outlets, and she is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for more than twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse. 


Follow Donna’s author page at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGibbsResilience/ for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.

National Stress Awareness Day: When Too Much of a Good Thing is… Still Too Much!

by Donna Gibbs

Did you know that April 16 is National Stress Awareness Day? The day after tax day – that’s fitting, don’t you think? April is also National Stress Awareness Month. I know, there is an awareness day or month for everything under the sun, but this really is an important one, so we are going to discuss it in today’s blog!

Though we always hear that stress is terrible for us, it is certainly inevitable this side of eternity. I believe that God created us with the capacity to feel negative emotions like stress in order to fuel a productive response. A little stress keeps us on our toes. A little stress can allow us to show more attention to detail, and to be more focused and efficient. You’ve probably even heard some people say that they work best under pressure.

But, what about a lot of stress? You guessed it – Too much of a good thing….is still too much! Truth is, chronic stress is down-right toxic. Our body releases chemicals and hormones that allow infrequent and low-level stress to have a positive effect, but when we receive too much of these chemicals they begin to build up, and are the culprit for many physical and psychological struggles.

So, today, let’s just take a moment to evaluate your stress levels. Where is a little stress working to your benefit? Are there some unnecessary stressors in your life that must be addressed? What emotional or psychological struggles are you experiencing due to chronic stress? What physical problems are you experiencing that are potentially related to elevated stress in your life?

If you are overwhelmed by the thought of facing your stressors, it’s time to reach out to a trusted friend, pastor or counselor. Other great stress-relief tips? Exercise, healthy nutrition, deep breathing and adequate rest are great physical skills. Prayer and bible-study will allow you to maintain an eternal perspective on stressors. Lastly, there’s laughter, which will connect you with others, and is “good like medicine”.

Praying you have a “stress-free” weekend ahead!

Donna Gibbs

Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, her blogs are frequently shared in various media outlets, and she is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for more than twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse.
Follow Donna’s author page at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGibbsResilience/ for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.

From Grief to Growth Tool Kit

by Donna Gibbs

Many are hurting and in need of hope. Sometimes reading a long narrative can be tough when you are grieving, so today we’ve provided a short, bullet-point tool kit for those who might be suffering the loss of a loved one. If you are grieving, we hope you find some tips that are helpful to you in this challenging season of life. 

If you are experiencing grief or trauma, these are some strategies that may assist you in healthy coping.

Since everyone grieves differently, find the tools that work for you.

  1. Be Honest – Every time you lie and say “I’m fine” when you really aren’t, your subconscious mind hears and continues to bury emotions. Deal with the pain as it comes, or it will leak out in more destructive ways. It is normal to experience waves of denial, anger, guilt, blame, sadness, and peace. At times, you may have difficulty concentrating or struggle with daily functioning. At other times, you may feel joy and may even laugh. The emotions of grief can be unpredictable. Be honest with yourself, and others, about what you are feeling.
  2. Lean into your pain – Grief is a normal response to loss, and it will wait on you. Rather than trying to avoid the pain, lean into it so that your recovery will not be prolonged.
  3. Buy a journal – Write out your feelings, questions, struggles, prayers, victories and praises. If you aren’t a writer, draw out your thoughts. Record your growth through the grief and trauma. This is an opportunity to “lean in” to the grief.
  4. Connect with others for support – Grieving sometimes leads to a desire to isolate, at a time when the support of others is important. Connect with a church or a support group that can address your grief effectively.
  5. Eat nutritiously – Grief and trauma are stressful to the immune system.
  6. Rest – Grief and trauma are stressful to the immune system.
  7. Exercise – Grief and trauma are stressful to the immune system. (Yes, there is a pattern here!)
  8. Spend time with friends and family – Talk about your losses, celebrate memories together, and begin building new memories. Communicate with your loved ones about how you are doing, the highs and the lows. Intentionally and routinely spend time with those who are safe supports – go for a walk, meet for lunch, continue living life together.
  9. Avoid making major decisions following a loss or trauma – Allow yourself some time to process your loss prior to making major decisions or purchases. Our emotions can sometimes make destructive and impulsive decisions for us.
  10. Create symbols for closure – Allow yourself to experience closure through some formal means. A funeral is a symbolic event. Other options might include creating a memorial, planting a tree, making a scrapbook, or some other manner of honoring your loved one. This allows you to feel you are actively doing something meaningful with your grief.
  11. Slow anger responses – Anger is a secondary emotion that goes hand-in-hand with grief and trauma. When you experience irritability and anger, consider what is going on emotionally underneath those reactions. Talk with a counselor, friend, or pastor, journal, or pray about those vulnerable emotions that are sometimes more difficult to experience than anger. Anger is our most powerful emotion, and can make an unintended mess if not fueled and managed effectively.
  12. Extend grace to yourself and your loved ones – Grief will bring waves of emotions you can’t even name, and to a degree of intensity you didn’t think was possible. You are not going to feel like yourself for a period of time. and may even feel that you are going crazy. Others who are grieving will grieve differently than you, and may experience emotions that you don’t. Things will get better, but until they do, a dose of grace for yourself, and others, will be helpful. Remember, grief is sometimes messy.

When to get help:

*When grief or trauma leaks into your daily functioning and monopolizes your thoughts.

*When you abuse substances or employ other destructive behaviors in an attempt to escape or avoid emotional pain (the pain will wait for you, and the substance may actually make you feel more depressed).

*When you experience ongoing physical symptoms related to the emotional strain you are experiencing.

*When you experience nightmares, flashbacks, or involuntary intrusive thoughts that interrupt your daily functioning.

*When you experience thoughts of harming yourself.

*When you experience ongoing numbing, isolation, irritability, or other emotional or psychological concerns.

Verses for Healing and Growth in Grief

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

Revelation 21:3-4

Matthew 11:28-30

Psalm 34:17-19

Psalm 103:11

Romans 8:26

Matthew 5:4

Revelation 7:16-17

Jeremiah 31:13

Psalm 18:1-3, 6

I Corinthians 10:13

Jeremiah 29:11

Lamentations 3:22-23

1 Peter 5:6-7

1 Thessalonians 4:13

Psalm 100:2   

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

2 Thessalonians 3:16

Psalm 42:5-6

Psalm 56:11

Philippians 4:8

John 11:25-26

Job 6:2

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Philippians 4:13

1 Corinthians 13:12

Isaiah 43:2

Psalm 23

Romans 8:38-39

Psalm 126:6

Psalm 68:5

Isaiah 63:9

Psalm 130:1-2

Jeremiah 10:19

Isaiah 40:31

Psalm 77:2

Jeremiah 15:18

John 11:35

Isaiah 50:7

Matthew 2:18

Job 1:21

John 3:16

Donna Gibbs

Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, her blogs are frequently shared in various media outlets, and she is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for more than twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse. 

Understanding Survivor Guilt, and How to Survive it.

by Donna Gibbs

The term “survivor guilt” has saturated the headlines this week following multiple suicides linked with previous school shootings. Our hearts sink when we hear of another suicide… and another suicide… and another suicide. We know that each life has a story, and we grieve for loved-ones who have been left behind. Those loved ones are now survivors in yet another club they never asked to join.

But what does survivor guilt even mean? And what does it have to do with this recent series of suicides?

The term “survivor guilt” was first introduced in the 1960’s in observation of survivors of the holocaust. Relatively few survivors were left behind, but those that remained shared a common thread. They were traumatized by the fact that they WERE left behind. Yes, they experienced symptoms commonly associated with PTSD, but they also experienced a crushing sense of unworthiness for their survival, and sometimes a sense of responsibility that they were to blame for the fact that they survived and others did not.

Survivor guilt can create intense unworthiness and relentless false guilt that leads to the kind of hopelessness associated with suicide. That means if we want to work toward suicide prevention, we must commit to effectively ministering to the genuine trauma of those who have survived unthinkable tragedy. You see, no one sets out to commit suicide with selfish intent. Someone who is suicidal doesn’t desire to hurt their family and loved ones, but they feel trapped by their thoughts and memories, and ending their lives seems the most rational escape. When a survivor of tragedy commits suicide, it may leave other survivors who are left behind feeling an even greater degree of survivor guilt, thereby increasing the likelihood of a pattern of suicides, otherwise known as suicide contagion.

The deaths that have been in the news this week were linked to survivor guilt in connection with school shootings. It is important to understand that survivor guilt is a normal reaction; it is the prompting critical incident that is abnormal. In the case of a school shooting, the survivor experiencing guilt can be a student who didn’t witness the scene, but was on campus and feels badly that they were “at the right place at the right time”. It could be a student who missed school that day, and feels that their protection from the entire scene was unfair. It could be a student who was in the same classroom, but somehow escaped the shooter. It could be a teacher that couldn’t get to the scene fast enough. It could be a parent who wasn’t even at the school, but who would always choose their child’s life over their own. It could even be someone who had encountered the murderer in some other recent context, having nothing to do with the shooting. In each of these situations, the survivor encountering guilt feels unworthy of their escape, feels they may have even done something wrong that led to their survival, and feels unable to sooth the guilt that haunts them.

But survivor guilt can also encompass a much broader range. A soldier may experience survivor guilt when they return home to family, and their buddy returns home in a body-bag. A first responder can experience survivor guilt following their response to the scene of a fatal accident. A patient with a terminal illness can experience survivor guilt when they go into remission, knowing that others with their same previous condition will not survive. A homeowner in tornado alley can experience survivor guilt when their home is the only one left standing on the street. In its mildest form and context, a degree of survivor guilt can even be experienced by a child who makes the team, when his friends are all left behind.  

Our first exposure to survivor guilt is found at the crucifixion of Christ. Can you imagine what the disciples felt upon leaving the cross? Their leader unjustly murdered. And they are able to walk away. Peter, undoubtedly reminded of his triple denial of Christ, hid in fear with the other disciples. They were likely anxious and depressed, haunted by feelings of unworthiness. The disciples likely experienced survivor guilt.

Gratefully, Jesus returned to them quickly, met them in their confusion and despair, and freed them from their guilt. You see, their guilt was never from Jesus. And if you are experiencing survivor guilt today, I hope you can be refreshed by remembrance of Jesus exposing his nail-scarred hands and His extravagant love to His disciples. You too can be refreshed by His sacrifice, and His comfort. His nail-scarred hands are still reaching out. His love for you is still outrageous. He desires that you be free of guilt, and free to rejoice in his salvation. Free also to rejoice in the protection you have experienced.

If you have survivor guilt following a tragedy, you are experiencing a normal response. The intense guilt likely squelches your freedom to rejoice in your survival. You also likely experience flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, anger or irritability, sadness and crying spells, and/or a desire to isolate. It takes some time to heal, but your healing will be more complete (and without additional, unnecessary suffering) if facilitated by a professional who is trained to help. A step towards healing starts with a simple phone call, and may be the most courageous step you have ever taken.

Donna Gibbs

Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, her blogs are frequently shared in various media outlets, and she is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for more than twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse. 

MONEY: “Printed Personal Energy” and “Liquid Life”!

By Donna Gibbs

Money, Money, Money! Money! That little jingle goes through my mind everytime I check out at the grocery store. If I told you our weekly grocery bill, you’d drop your jaw! We’re feeding a crowd of growing boys over here, and let me tell you, calories cost! But, I’m grateful for money. We’d starve over here without it.

Money is a topic covered heavily in scripture – over 800 times! I often hear people reference money as being evil. That is actually an incorrect quotation of scripture. The verse actually says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). It is our attachment to money, rather than money itself, that is a potential root of evil. We do lots of marriage counseling at Summit. We certainly see the potential of money to create division in a couple – disagreement over how to use the money they have (do we save it and provide security for tomorrow? Do we spend it on enjoyable things today because we can’t take it with us when we die?) Couples may have disagreement over debts, spending habits, spending addictions, or even what to do with an inheritance. Evil is just looking for a place to land….and sometimes money is that place.

My friend, Dr Dennis Swanberg, wrote a book that touches on this topic. He writes in “Planting Shade Trees” about the opportunity we each have to leave a godly legacy. He says that an “X” marks the spot, our spot, of planting a shade tree. A shade tree is something we create, that others can sit under. The “X” marks our point of legacy.

Swan says it better than I could, “The best way to look at money is liquid life, concentrated living, printed personal energy, engraved influence on a piece of paper owned by Uncle Sam. You work, you earn, you invest, you gain – all under the blessing of God. Although those bills have Hamilton and Lincoln and Franklin printed on them, they could just as well have your face printed on them. They are a concentrated evidence of your gifts, your talents, your thrift, your willingness to risk, your education, your influence, and your energy. Money is printed, concentrated life. When you take it out of your bank account and plant a shade tree with it, you have used your energy and your life to do something at the “X” that God has marked for you”.

I’m immediately reminded of an anonymous donor that we had at one point in our counseling ministry. Their anonymous gifts were used to provide assistance for counseling fees for many families. Though I never had the privilege of thanking them personally, they planted many shade trees that have provided hope and healing for their beneficiaries. Their money was used as “liquid life”.

Life is short. Do want to leave a mark? – Do you want to plant shade trees for others? Yes, money has the potential of creating devastation. But, it also provides “liquid life” and is a resource that can make a difference in the lives of others. Watch out for the pitfalls of money – even get help with it if you need it. Then, look for the “X” God has marked for you…and pour in some “liquid life”. That, my friends, is a healthy relationship with money.

For more information about Dr. Swanberg’s book, Planting Shade Trees, see his website at: http://www.dennisswanberg.com/


Donna Gibbs

Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, her blogs are frequently shared in various media outlets, and she is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for more than twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse. 

Follow Donna’s author page at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGibbsResilience/ for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.

Am I OCD? When a Challenge of Life Invites Mental Health Symptoms

by Donna Gibbs

This past week, my youngest son had a stomach bug. Gratefully, he doesn’t get sick often, and when he does, it is pretty short-lived. I managed this temporary stint of sickness as many momma’s do – checking on him every 15 minutes or so, and filling the air with Lysol in the moments in between.


Things were fine… until I noticed that my husband was looking puny. My typically healthy, energetic, and feisty man was red-skinned and lethargic. When he said he was going to the emergency room (which in 25 years of marriage I have never seen him do), I knew something was up. He got my attention. He was sick, and I was nervous. A couple of hours later, his visit revealed a positive flu test. My Lysol use multiplied by massive proportions. (Some of you can relate!)


The stomach bug and a positive flu test within a 24-hour span sent me seemingly over the edge. They say, “Ignorance is bliss,” but too many educational experiences regarding microscopic germs robbed me of my utopia. Instead, I could nearly visualize nasty germs on all the surfaces of my home; every door-knob, every piece of clothing, every box in my pantry. I was on a disinfecting quest! I displaced my son so that I could isolate my husband upstairs, and only went up to make sure he was alive and to deliver a meal (and I did that only when I could cover my face with a paper-towel “mask” and hold my breath while I was upstairs in proximity of my husband). A couple of times I almost instigated my own panic attack because I held my breath too long! (Don’t shame me – I bet you’ve exercised some of my tactics!)


While some of this is just an entertaining disclosure, the truth is some stressful situations really can induce a temporary season of mental health symptoms. If you had followed me around my home this weekend, you would have been convinced that this typically unworried person really had a serious case of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. For a couple of days, I met the criteria! It certainly gives me an even fresher appreciation for the kind of torturous daily struggles typical of those who sincerely wrestle with a lifetime of OCD. (By the way, OCD is perhaps the most easily treated mental disorder, so if you have experienced a long-term pattern of being stuck with obsessive thoughts, or compulsive behaviors, please know that there is help. You don’t have to live alone in that prison anymore!)


While my short season surrounded by sickness triggered some unwanted symptoms, there are many other seasons of life that can also trigger short-term mental health challenges. For example, if you are going through a divorce, you may also experience symptoms of depression. If you are facing a challenging diagnosis, you may also experience symptoms of anxiety. If you are in a challenging circumstance right now, you also have a set of mental health symptoms, and they are probably not
pleasant for you to experience. Those symptoms may make you feel that you are emotionally unstable.


This weekend I extended myself some grace, gave myself some appropriate boundaries, refreshed myself with an eternal perspective, and allowed myself a giggle or two regarding my symptoms. I even allowed some of my symptoms of hypervigilance to work on my behalf, preventing me from irresponsibly spreading lots of nasty germs (hey, a little bit of anxiety is a beautiful thing!). If you are in a season of struggle, I would encourage you to also extend yourself some grace. Allow yourself to feel the emotions of your challenge, but also put some reasonable boundaries on yourself. Refresh yourself with an eternal perspective. Meditate on God’s promises and biblical truths. Remember that your symptoms may be perfectly normal given the situation, and they may even work to your benefit if allowed. Lastly, don’t take yourself too seriously – a laugh or two may be just what the Dr ordered!

If your short-season of struggle (with short-term mental health symptoms) turns into an extended season of struggle (with extended mental health symptoms), then it’s time to reach out for help! That’s why we’re here, and we’d consider it an honor to walk alongside you in your unwelcomed season. Together, we might even find a way to laugh somewhere along the way!

Donna Gibbs

Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, and is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well.
Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse.
Follow Donna’s author page at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGibbsResilience/ for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.