Bulimia: A Word For Those Who Struggle

by Donna Gibbs

Each week, I work with individuals who have unintentionally become a slave to a raging eating disorder. Eating disorders are challenging monsters, and they make for hard counseling work. But I must say that it is also some of the most rewarding work that I do. Seeing the transition in a person who has almost lost their life then become someone who can speak life into the lives of others is a privilege I can hardly describe. I’m going to invite you to have a taste of that experience for just a moment. Below is a letter written by one who has barely escaped the horror of bulimia…written to another who has just discovered that they are a slave to this wretched disorder. 

Hey,
You don’t know me, but I know you. I know you very well. I know the pain you feel, the hurt you have and the depths of despair and darkness that surrounds you. You’re in a dark place, that’s driven by anger, anger at yourself. You’re angry you can’t control certain things in your life. Angry you don’t know all the answers. Angry you’re not where you want to be or where you think you should be or where you think other people want you to be. Angry because you think that you’re not good enough and you don’t want other people to know that you aren’t. There’s this voice telling you you’re not worth it, you’ll never be worth it, you don’t deserve worth the way you are. It tells you in order to have worth, success, acceptance, love and control, you have to do what it says. It hurts you. It forces you to hurt yourself. It makes you cry and purge and eat and purge and cry. It tells you this is the way to get what you truly want. Yeah, you suck now, but just keep listening to that voice and it will make all your wants and dreams come to life. It makes promise after promise. But you always seem to come up short. There’s always another goal to achieve, and you always think that’s the last goal. But it never is.

But what it doesn’t tell you is that it hates you. It hates you so much it convinces you to hate yourself. This voice doesn’t want you to succeed. It wants to kill and destroy everything you have ever held dear. It will take everything from you. Your family, friends, job, grades. Your happiness, excitement, wonder, curiosity, attention, time. It will thin your hair, destroy your teeth, and weaken your fingernails. It will strain your heart, destroy your esophagus, and wreak havoc on your digestive system. But ultimately, it will take your life. It won’t just physically kill you, it will emotionally and mentally destroy you first until you are just wanting to die. It will become all consuming. Until you eat, breathe, sleep bulimia. It will become the only thing you care about, the only thing on your mind. Nothing else will matter.

Every time you purge, you flush away so much more than food. You flush away your life. You flush away any chance at true happiness. Every time you purge you fall deeper and deeper into the lie. Into the black hole that is bulimia. This black hole will suck you in and utterly destroy you. There is no such thing as happiness in an eating disorder. Only death.

I’m writing to you, not to scare you, but to show you there is hope. You can stop. You can recover. I have been in the nasty clutches of bulimia for well over 8 years now. I have been at the bottom of the pit just wishing to die. I’ve been to a lot of therapy, doctors and inpatient once. But here I am. Alive. I’ve been down the road that you are headed, and I can tell you, from experience, it’s not a trail worth taking. It’s not glamorous, or cool, or trendy. It’s only dead ends, smoke, and fun house mirrors. If there was anything worth having or keeping in bulimia, I wouldn’t have wanted to recover. It’s taken so much from me. More than you’d ever want to hear about. Don’t let it take another minute away from you. Your life is precious. You are so strong, and brave. Eating disorders try to take people who are strong and beautiful, and make them believe they are weak and ugly. Don’t let it lie to you. Don’t let it take over your mind and life. Throw that negative voice out and retake the throne of your mind and be the queen that you truly are. You can have control of your own life without purging. I hope this letter helps you.
You are worth it. Just as you are.

If you are reading this, and relating to the belief system described above, the obsession with bulimia (or any other eating disorder), the thoughts of worthlessness…please let someone know. I know you have worked hard to keep this a secret, but you have become a slave to an unworthy master, and there is help for you. The promises of the eating disorder are empty, but there is a hope that is rich and full of life! Reach out today! I promise you, there is a way out of bulimia! We at Summit Wellness Centers stand with you – it’s your time to take back your life!

Categories

ALL POSTSACCOUNTABILITYANXIETYBECOMING RESILIENTBIBLE STUDYBULIMIACHANGECHRISTMASCHRONIC CHALLENGESEATING DISORDERSGRATITUDEHEALTHHOLIDAYSHOPEINTERNETLUSTMARRIAGEMARYMINISTRYNEW YEARPARENTINGPEACEPORNOGRAPHYPURPOSERESOLUTIONSRESTSCHOOLSILENCING INSECURITYSUICIDETHANKSGIVING

Recent Posts

No One Wants the Successful Outcome of a Destructive Goal

Jan 11, 2019

Resolutions: “Better is the End of a thing than its Beginning”

Jan 3, 2019

New You in the New Year

Dec 28, 2018

Suicide: Let’s Better Understand.

by Donna Gibbs

Suicide. That’s a tough subject for this week. Most people aren’t even comfortable speaking this word out loud. This is a subject that brings discomfort, fear, insecurity, pain. We often stumble on our words when someone begins discussing suicide – we’re afraid of saying the wrong thing. We may be afraid to acknowledge our own thoughts of suicide, for fear of how someone will respond. So, we often say nothing at all. Truth is, in the time it takes you to read this brief blog, someone will make a decision to take their own life, and loved ones will be left to cope with the catastrophic and all too complex impact of that decision.

Suicide is on the rise. It is indeed a public health issue, and we at Summit Wellness Centers are not comfortable staying silent with such a life-altering statistic. Look around you….everyone you see knows a story about suicide. Many people have been directly impacted by a friend or a loved-one’s taking their own life. Some of you reading these words are curious about this blog because you yourself have experienced thoughts of suicide. Maybe you are experiencing those thoughts right now. You know what it feels like to be trapped. To be stuck. To be hopeless. To feel unworthy. It’s not that you want to die, you just need the pain to stop, and it may seem to you that there is no way out. 

A study of the Psalms reveals that even David, a man of loyalty, a “man after God’s own heart”, came to a place where he felt hopeless. With legitimate enemies pressing in, exhaustion, discouragement, physical pain – he saw no way out. He begged God to take his life. I don’t think David really wanted to die. I think he just wanted life to stop closing in on him, and he could see no end to the struggle. 

The suicide of a prominent pastor is in the news right now. I pray for Indian Hills church, and think of them often, as I appreciate the pain and confusion they are feeling. Naturally, we question how a man of faith could come to that place of brokenness. But I’m here to say that no one is immune. In fact, those in ministry may even be the most prone to discouragement. They carry a perceived weight on their shoulders, live in a glass house, are expected to be many things to many people, and often live isolated lives, with few places or people they can trust in their own pain. I recall the phone call I received years ago regarding the death of a good pastor friend. I remember weeping with a broken heart when I heard the word suicide. I drove to his house in disbelief. Surely this can’t be! You see, David Treadway was not just any colleague to me. He had been instrumental in the development of my counseling ministry. He understood the need for a safe place. He had survived the suicide of his own mother. But years later, after moving away and taking the position as a Senior Pastor, even he succumbed to hopelessness. You see, a person who commits suicide doesn’t do so as a selfish act. They do so as a perceived selfless act. They are disillusioned, suffering, and unfortunately, miss opportunities for help. While this is not the case 100% of the time, it is true that in most every case, if someone will reach out for help, the suicidal ideation will diminish, and they can begin to more clearly see a path of hope. 

As a community, as the body of Christ, we need to work together towards prevention – reducing risk and increasing resilience in those of every age group who are at risk. The vulnerability to suicide is a complex one, and we must be willing to take the time for tough, real conversations. (If you are in any type of ministry, recognize your risk. Get help before there is a problem. In fact, I would recommend making Christian Counseling a routine part of your general ministry self-care. Churches, I recommend you support this decision, and provide resources for this much-needed care. Just imagine the impact that could have on the mental health of those who are serving in the trenches!)

There is help. There is hope. There is healing. If you are contemplating suicide today, I want to challenge you to postpone your decision until you can think it through with a professional counselor. Seek them out right now. If you can’tlocate anyone, go to the emergency room of your local hospital – there will be someone there you can talk to about this decision. 

If you are a loved-one, suffering through the wake of the unthinkable suicide, I want to also invite you to reach out for help. You do not have to walk that lonely and confusing road alone. Reach out to a professional Christian Counselor or find a Survivors of Suicide (SOS) group. And don’t forget: There is help. There is hope. There is healing. 

If you are suicidal and need to speak to someone immediately, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Categories

ALL POSTSACCOUNTABILITYANXIETYBECOMING RESILIENTBIBLE STUDYBULIMIACHANGECHRISTMASCHRONIC CHALLENGESEATING DISORDERSGRATITUDEHEALTHHOLIDAYSHOPEINTERNETLUSTMARRIAGEMARYMINISTRYNEW YEARPARENTINGPEACEPORNOGRAPHYPURPOSERESOLUTIONSRESTSCHOOLSILENCING INSECURITYSUICIDETHANKSGIVING

Recent Posts

No One Wants the Successful Outcome of a Destructive Goal

Jan 11, 2019

Resolutions: “Better is the End of a thing than its Beginning”

Jan 3, 2019

New You in the New Year

Dec 28, 2018

Set Free: Reflections on Independence.

by Donna Gibbs

This week, we had the privilege to celebrate our independence. Independence Day marks the anniversary of the birth of America, and our gift of freedom. I wonder sometimes why I was awarded the unearned privilege of being born an American. I did nothing to deserve that gift of citizenship. I consider those who struggle as a result of their unearned birthing into a third-world culture. And, I wonder why I should be so blessed to live what I perceive to be an easier life.

With that said, I don’t know of anyone, on the left or the right, that doesn’t have concern about present-day America. With each day that passes, it seems to appear a little less like the America I was born into. My children do not experience the security of a terror-free country. The America they see has conflict. Chaos. Fear. Financial instability. It’s a country that no longer respects the God that got us where we are. It’s utterly heartbreaking.

So while I celebrate the fact that I still believe I live in the greatest country on earth, I still mourn. As I celebrate Independence Day, I will pray for America, the land that I love. And, while I am incredibly grateful to have been born with this citizenship, I will also praise God that my hope is in Him, and not in America. My freedom today, and my freedom for eternity, is not based on my country. It is gifted by my God. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery” -Galatians 5:1. (If you wrestle today with the oppression of an addiction, a debilitating depression, or an abusive marriage, or any other emotional struggle, I want to encourage you that you can have independence from that trial. You can be free. You don’t have to be a slave to an unworthy master. Remember, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free”.)

America’s freedom has never been bought by politicians. It’s been bought by the bravest people of America – those who gave their blood so that we could keep ours. We did nothing to deserve their gift. They gave it anyway. And, today, there continue to be soldiers standing in the gap for us, willing to give their lives for the good of America. I am so grateful for these heroes, and their sacrificial families!

Our hope for eternal freedom was also bought with an ultimate price. And, that freedom is an eternal citizenship that we could never have earned. It’s not that we were born into it. We made a choice to accept it, and were “born again” into that citizenship. If you don’t know Christ, and your only hope for freedom is in your country, I’d beg you to seek Him. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).  America may not always be free. But, God’s promises never fade, and freedom in Christ can be had today, and for all of eternity. For that, I am forever grateful!

Categories

ALL POSTSACCOUNTABILITYANXIETYBECOMING RESILIENTBIBLE STUDYBULIMIACHANGECHRISTMASCHRONIC CHALLENGESEATING DISORDERSGRATITUDEHEALTHHOLIDAYSHOPEINTERNETLUSTMARRIAGEMARYMINISTRYNEW YEARPARENTINGPEACEPORNOGRAPHYPURPOSERESOLUTIONSRESTSCHOOLSILENCING INSECURITYSUICIDETHANKSGIVING

Recent Posts

No One Wants the Successful Outcome of a Destructive Goal

Jan 11, 2019

Resolutions: “Better is the End of a thing than its Beginning”

Jan 3, 2019

New You in the New Year

Dec 28, 2018

I’m Anxious! Help!

by Donna Gibbs

This blog is always designed to be relevant to the struggles of everyday life, and to the issues that come through the door of our counseling centers. So when I considered the most relevant topic of the week, I knew this week’s blog had to be about anxiety. Without a doubt, this is a season that fuels the sparks of anxiety. The news is full of domestic and international unrest, causing even those not naturally bent toward anxiety to experience some of the pangs of fear. For those who are predisposed toward anxiety, or those who are vulnerable due to some previous trauma, these concerns can potentially fuel a fear that is crippling.

If you are experiencing anxiety regarding your current circumstances, or anything else in this tumultuous world, then you are likely experiencing some physical symptoms of discomfort: shallow breathing with rapid heart rate, nausea, headache, dizziness, sweating, and/or tingling. The genuine physical cascade of symptoms creates even more angst, often landing individuals experiencing these symptoms in the ER with concern of heart-attack or some other serious condition. I am going to share a brief checklist below of steps to take if anxiety is getting the best of you:

1. See your physician to rule out potential medical issues related to your physical symptoms.

2. Having ruled out medical complications, talk truthfully to yourself about your anxiety. A panic attack will feel like it can kill you. Truth is, it cannot hurt you. Reminding yourself of this truth diminishes the power of the bully of anxiety. Your season of anxiety will pass.

3. Avoid caffeine or other stimulants (yes – skip that much-loved morning pick-me-up coffee, your afternoon sweet tea, and your favorite chocolate dessert). These will only increase your unwelcomed symptoms.

4. Breathe deeply. Be mindful of your breathing, and allow your symptoms to calm. You can gain control of your physical symptoms, vs their controlling you.

5. Exercise. Exercise positively impacts areas in the brain that channel serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine (the great mental health chemicals in the brain). Exercise works like a med! While you’re at it, take advantage of the self-induced increased heart-rate, and get some practice lowering your pulse so that you have more confidence when you encounter an elevated pulse due to anxiety or panic attack.

6. Reduce unnecessary stressors. Some stressors of life are unavoidable. But unnecessary stressors invite unnecessary suffering. You’re already suffering enough. It’s time to simplify.

7. Tell yourself the truth. Much of anxiety is a battle of the mind. Tell yourself the truth, not a minimized or exaggerated version of the truth that creates angst. If you have difficulty discerning truth, seek help. A professional counselor can help you discern and replace destructive thoughts.

8. Assertively use meditation and repetition. Anxiety is fueled by repetition and meditation on destructive and false beliefs. Recovery is found in repetition and meditation of truth. As I often tell clients, “You get out the same way you got in”. Cling to scriptural truths. Agree with God. Test your thoughts against His. And then allow Him to “transform and renew your mind” (Romans 12:2). Your brain, and your anxiety, will literally be changed through the tools of meditation and repetition of truth. Neuroplasticity is a beautiful thing!

9. Consider meds if your anxious thoughts are obsessive and crippling (if they are interfering with daily functioning). Be cautious about use of acute meds which can be addictive if overused. Ask your physician to provide information regarding a group of maintenance meds, or SSRI’s, that may assist you in managing crippling symptoms. Remember, meds are not a cure-all; you’re still going to have to do the hard work.

10. Don’t allow anxiety to bully you! It will shrink your world if you allow. In fear of the next episode of panic, you’ll avoid the people or places that you fear will leave you vulnerable. This only empowers the anxiety. Instead, embrace opposite action. Don’t believe the anxiety! Rebel against the bully.

Finally, let’s remember that a little bit of anxious concern is good. Yes, it can allow us to be more pro-active, more focused, and more detail-oriented. It can keep our care at a healthy level. But, a good thing turned too high… is still too high. So keep check on your concern, and when it turns toxic, take some of the steps above to turn it down. 

Categories

ALL POSTSACCOUNTABILITYANXIETYBECOMING RESILIENTBIBLE STUDYBULIMIACHANGECHRISTMASCHRONIC CHALLENGESEATING DISORDERSGRATITUDEHEALTHHOLIDAYSHOPEINTERNETLUSTMARRIAGEMARYMINISTRYNEW YEARPARENTINGPEACEPORNOGRAPHYPURPOSERESOLUTIONSRESTSCHOOLSILENCING INSECURITYSUICIDETHANKSGIVING

Recent Posts

No One Wants the Successful Outcome of a Destructive Goal

Jan 11, 2019

Resolutions: “Better is the End of a thing than its Beginning”

Jan 3, 2019

New You in the New Year

Dec 28, 2018

Porn: It’s Time for a Frank Discussion.

by Donna Gibbs

It’s time for a frank discussion, don’t you think? It’s ironic that something as pervasive as pornography is treated with kid gloves. Pornography is not what it used to be! Technology has expanded its ease of availability and it has become more mainstream than ever before. It is now one of the most accessible and profitable industries in America. Pornography is a business that literally brings in billions. Yes, 100’s of billions. Do you know anything else that can compete with that kind of money? Not the NFL. Not the NBA. Not the MLB. Not even the NFL, NBA, and MLB combined!1 “More than Apple, Google, Netflix, Microsoft, eBay, and Yahoo combined!”2 The truth is, sex sells. And America is buying. Christian America is buying. In a recent Barna Group survey, an admitted 64% of Christian men and 15% of Christian women disclosed pornography use.3 But the cost is more than what meets the eye. 

There are now more than 300 million pornographic web pages on the internet. Most young people are exposed to a pornographic image by the age of 11. It’s difficult to avoid, even with the most aggressive blocks and filters. What are the consequences of this type of exposure? The truth is, pornography is not a friend, despite its lure. Porn is a highly destructive activity. Let’s talk specifics: First of all, pornography has a significantly addictive nature, often transforming users into slaves of an unintended addiction. 

Those who struggle with pornography addiction also often experience shame and depression. Neurologically, pornography impacts the brain, as repetitive exposure to pornography shapes the brain and creates pathways as hormones are released and the pornographic experience is reinforced. This is particularly concerning for young children and teens, whose brains are still developing. The global ripple effects of the presence of pornography are also tremendous. Consider the Ashley Madison scandal as an example, and the impact to the lives and careers of thousands of Christian leaders and business men. This was no small crisis, landing many families in counseling offices across America. The truth is, an alarming percentage of marriages in America are impacted by adulterous affairs today, often related to the presence of pornography. Those marriages are either destroyed completely, or at least traumatized and forced to battle a challenging road of recovery. Husbands, wives, and children endure the pains of this tragedy. In addition, because pornography use is also correlated with sexual permissiveness, millions of new cases of STD’s are being diagnosed each year. 

This is another concern of epidemic proportions, impacting our youth more than any other age group. Sexual trafficking is at an all-time high. Sexual abuse, now on the rise, impacts literally millions of children prior to the age of 18. Can you see the intensity of the issues and the level of destruction influenced by this very inviting epidemic? At Summit Wellness Centers, we see all too often the epidemic of pornography destructively played out in the lives of individuals and families. It’s a significant problem. A serious threat. And a tool of the enemy. If you are struggling with the lure of pornography, I want to encourage you to be honest with yourself. Pornography is not your friend. Consider how it is inviting harm into your life. Then confide in a trusted person. Accountability is imperative. If you are concerned about a young person in your home, take the time to investigate and invest in an effective plan for protecting your electronic devices. Don’t allow pornography to rob you or a loved one any more than it might already have! There is help and hope!

1. Lane III, Frederick S. (2001). Obscene Profits: The Entrepreneurs of Pornography in the Cyber Age, Routledge Books. 2. McDowell, Sean. (2017). “Porn and Parenting in the 21st Century.” Christian Counseling Today, Volume 22, No. 1 . 3. Barna.com, “The Porn Phenomenon.” February 5, 2016. https://www.barna.com/the-porn-phenomenon.

Categories

ALL POSTSACCOUNTABILITYANXIETYBECOMING RESILIENTBIBLE STUDYBULIMIACHANGECHRISTMASCHRONIC CHALLENGESEATING DISORDERSGRATITUDEHEALTHHOLIDAYSHOPEINTERNETLUSTMARRIAGEMARYMINISTRYNEW YEARPARENTINGPEACEPORNOGRAPHYPURPOSERESOLUTIONSRESTSCHOOLSILENCING INSECURITYSUICIDETHANKSGIVING

Recent Posts

No One Wants the Successful Outcome of a Destructive Goal

Jan 11, 2019

Resolutions: “Better is the End of a thing than its Beginning”

Jan 3, 2019

New You in the New Year

Dec 28, 2018

Your Daily March: Following Instruction from the Lord.

by Jessica Hatton

I was reading the story of Jericho to my 3 year old the other night. (If you don’t already have “The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name” by Sally Lloyd-Jones then you should get it, the way she weaves Jesus into every story throughout the Bible is beautifully artistic and wonderful for both children and adults alike.) As I was reading, every few sentences my daughter would interrupt and ask questions about the story. Typically my response was “shhh, let’s wait and see.” She is a very inquisitive child anyway, but these were some pretty good questions. I remember one question she asked was “what kind of trumpets are those and why did they blow trumpets?” I cannot tell you how much I love my daughter’s questions, but at this point I was getting tired and annoyed about getting interrupted so many times. I quickly responded with a flippant, “because that’s what God instructed them to do”, shushed her and went back to finish the story. This answer sufficed for her and she moved on. We finished reading, said her prayers and she went to bed. 

Not ironically, the next morning I was reading in Joshua and my next chapter was the fall of Jericho. It read…

You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.” Joshua 6:3-5

Can you imagine how the people of Jericho responded when they saw Israel march around their city on day 1? Day 1 they probably were pretty intimidated and fearful. I mean the word of Israel and their God had already spread across Cannan. But, as Israel retreated back to their camp after day 1, day 2, day 3 and then day 6 what about then? I imagine the people of Jericho were laughing at them, mocking them, getting pretty comfortable watching them march around their walled city. This battle plan made no sense. Meanwhile, Israel was following specific instructions from the Lord, and waiting for that perfect day when they knew that the walls of Jericho would come tumbling down. 

In scripture, 7 is often seen as a number of perfection, and here we see God instructing them to have 7 priests, 7 trumpets, 7 days, and on the 7th day march around 7 times. Talk about perfection! But what about the trumpets? It turns out that the trumpets that were used were called jubilee trumpets. These trumpets were used at feasts to declare the presence of the Lord. Here we see God’s chosen people claiming the land that God is presenting to them by blowing horns that declare His presence. (For more info on the trumpets see Numbers 10:10 and Psalm 24:7.) 

So what does this have to do with counseling? As believers, we are required to follow Christ’s instruction on a daily basis with little or no knowledge of tomorrow. This is a huge step of faith, but one that can bring monumental dependence on God. Perhaps, God was testing Israel to see if they would follow his instruction. They probably endured terrible amounts of mocking, ridicule, and possibly even doubt. But, they had already seen God show himself in miraculous ways previous to this and they followed His seemingly senseless instructions. In the end, the walls of Jericho fell and Israel recognized that it was nothing of their own doing that led to the capture of Jericho, but God who conquered the city.  My 3 year old had asked a pretty heavy question that night, and I didn’t appreciate the answer as much as I should have. But, Israel followed the Lord’s instruction even when it made no sense, and their reward was complete dependence on Him. Are you in the dark about how a specific situation may end? What daily instructions from the Lord are you following in faith, trusting that He will work His plan out in your life? 

Categories

ALL POSTSACCOUNTABILITYANXIETYBECOMING RESILIENTBIBLE STUDYBULIMIACHANGECHRISTMASCHRONIC CHALLENGESEATING DISORDERSGRATITUDEHEALTHHOLIDAYSHOPEINTERNETLUSTMARRIAGEMARYMINISTRYNEW YEARPARENTINGPEACEPORNOGRAPHYPURPOSERESOLUTIONSRESTSCHOOLSILENCING INSECURITYSUICIDETHANKSGIVING

Recent Posts

No One Wants the Successful Outcome of a Destructive Goal

Jan 11, 2019

Resolutions: “Better is the End of a thing than its Beginning”

Jan 3, 2019

New You in the New Year

Dec 28, 2018

Infertility: A Word For Pastors, Counselors, & Those Who Struggle

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, you’re not getting any younger.” “Isn’t 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 Mother’s 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 individual’s 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! 

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

ROLE OF THE PASTOR/COUNSELOR/MENTOR

*To 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 clients, 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. 

Processing Infertility Grief, taken from Water From the Rock, co-authored by Donna Gibbs (these are expected experiences of grief related to infertility) 

*Denial/Shock: “I can’t believe this is happening to me.” 

*Desperation/Panic: “I’ll 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: “I’m OK.” 

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

by Donna Gibbs

Clean Spaces and Clear Minds

by Donna Gibbs

Imagine the stereotypical teenage boy’s cluttered, stinky, disorganized bedroom. Most moms of teenage boys (I have three myself) cringe at the discussion of their son’s living space. Fortunately, my boys are capable of maintaining a reasonably clean space, but it still sometimes requires a reminder. Those nudges are typical for the season that is adolescence. 

But what if a cluttered and unkept space characterized all of your living and working spaces? Your entire home. Your office. Your yard. Your neighborhood? What if you lived your life in and out of seasons in a chaotic space? How might that impact you? 

For years, I’ve argued the point that our living space can positively or negatively impact our mental health. (If you’ve ever walked into the home of a hoarder, and then experienced anxiety, you understand this concept.) I remember years ago meeting with a young woman who was moderately depressed. After learning more about the chaos of her living space, and sensing that this was further oppressing her emotionally, I gave the homework assignment of the gradual decluttering of her home. She took the assignment seriously, enlisted the help of some friends, and made arrangements for a dumpster to be delivered to her home. She began the journey with the smallest room of her home, and then persevered for weeks with the support of her friends until the entire home was complete. The outcome? A measurable degree of relief from her depression. 

A few days ago, a friend emailed me the results from a recent study conducted in Philly. This study looked at the impact of dilapidated and vacated city lots on the mental health of nearby residents. After clearing trash, regrading, and landscaping 206 of these lots, they discovered an impressively positive impact to the mental health of those residents. I can believe it. These results are consistent with the results many of my clients have experienced over the years as they began the process of decluttering their own living spaces. (For more information about that Philly study, visit: https://www.treehugger.com/urban-design/amazing-things–happened-when-206-vacant-lots-were-landscaped.html

The lesson? You don’t have to love HGTV to enjoy the benefits of a clean, clutter-free, and organized space. While the decluttering of your living space can’t ever be a substitute to appropriate mental health treatment, it can most certainly be a helpful supplement! So put on some music, roll up your sleeves, pick a room (or your yard), and start digging in. You might even decide to help your neighbor do the same! 

Categories

ALL POSTSACCOUNTABILITYANXIETYBECOMING RESILIENTBIBLE STUDYBULIMIACHANGECHRISTMASCHRONIC CHALLENGESEATING DISORDERSGRATITUDEHEALTHHOLIDAYSHOPEINTERNETLUSTMARRIAGEMARYMINISTRYNEW YEARPARENTINGPEACEPORNOGRAPHYPURPOSERESOLUTIONSRESTSCHOOLSILENCING INSECURITYSUICIDETHANKSGIVING

Recent Posts

No One Wants the Successful Outcome of a Destructive Goal

Jan 11, 2019

Resolutions: “Better is the End of a thing than its Beginning”

Jan 3, 2019

New You in the New Year

Dec 28, 2018

Bioluminescence

by Donna Gibbs

A few months ago, I received the disappointing email that (for the second year in a row) I had lost the lottery for the Blue Ghost Fireflies Tour in Dupont Forest. I had so looked forward to this outing for my family. You see, for just a few short weeks, the Dupont Forest floor is covered by gorgeous blue candlelight. The blue fireflies have brought such fascination, and so many people, that they had to enforce a lottery in order to limit the number of guests. Why? Because the females can’t fly, and many of them were being squashed on the forest floor as guests trampled off the trails to get a closer look. There is something about a light in the darkness that draws us. We just can’t get enough. And these blue fireflies are a beautiful example of that truth.

Now to introduce the word, bioluminescence. What in the world does that mean? It is simply the emission of light by an organism. Blue fireflies are living light

That word strikes me. I too want to be a living light. You probably do as well. But we can’t be a living light unless we experience darkness. Struggle. Pain. Suffering. All of the challenges that are promised as being normal this side of eternity. We all wish for an easy road. A road that is full of light and laughter. But how would you ever see a beautiful blue firefly on a light-filled path?

So let’s accept that pain will be an inevitable part of life. Butlet’s also accept that God has created us to be a living light. Shine brightly my friend. Your light will be a fascinating and encouraging sight to behold to others in a forest of darkness!

Bouncy Ball: A Word About Resilience

by Donna Gibbs

Some of you heard about last fall’s book release, Becoming Resilient. You may wonder what it’s all about. What resilience even means. So I’m going to sum up resilience, and the book, Becoming Resilient, in one image: a bouncy ball. I’m simple minded. I grasp concepts with images like these. And when we’re suffering, we all tend to be a little more concrete in our thinking, so hopefully this will be helpful to you as well. 

Here goes…. An excerpt from Becoming Resilient that will put a dose of encouragement in your life today! 

When I hear the word resilience, I immediately think of a bouncy ball. I knowthat’s not a very sophisticated image, but hear me out. When you throw a bouncy ball onto the floor, it bounces back higher than its starting point. When the ball first hits the floor, it is compressed and changes slightly in shape. Then it springs forward with power and restores its shape. The harder you throw it down, the higher it bounces in reaction. The resilience of the ball defies gravity.

Can it be so with our hurts in life as well? Is it possible for our tragedies to propel us to bounce back? Could we ultimately spring back in better shape than we were before we were slammed to the ground? Absolutely! And I’ve seen evidence of this resilience thousands of times within the quiet walls of my office. Friend, you too can bounce back. I know you can, because I know the God who can lead you to resilience!

Of course, God works according to His timeline, not ours. He is a process-oriented healer, walking us through our hurts and our healing rather than around them or away from them. Will you trust Him to begin taking you through your pain? It’stime to bounce back. Give yourself the privilege of that opportunity. Just becauseyou’ve been stuck doesn’t mean you have to stay there.

Your hurts do not have to define you or dictate your future. Maybe your hurt occurred years ago, but you’ve lived with the residual effects for much of your life. You don’t have to wait for eternity to find healing. Restoration can begin today, starting now. When we are stuck in our sufferings, we cannot move beyond survival mode. We don’t have the chance to fully live our lives. But it is time now to live! To thrive! To heal! It is time to take our lives back. Perhaps God has led you to this book for this very reason. He desires for you to bounce back from the hurt that has been robbing you and shrinking your world. Indeed, He has good plans for you (see Jer. 29:11). He desires to use your suffering to create something amazing. To benefit you. To propel you to even greater heights. Because He loves you, he wants to strengthen your resilience. Like the incredible transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly, he desires to use your hurts to create something beautiful in you.

You do not need to fear suffering. You can abide in the One who promises the strength to endure. If you’ve been thrown to the ground, get ready to stand. Get ready to rise above your pain. Your suffering doesn’t have to cripple you anymore! In fact, it can propel you to the heights of joy and purpose.

I hope you have already started your healing voyage, and I cannot wait to hear your story of resilience. You are becoming a hero in suffering. And Lord knows we could sure use some more heroes.

Your homework assignment? Go find a bouncy ball. Take it outside into a parking lot, and throw it down onto the pavement with the same amount of power you feel your trial has thrown you down. And then watch what happens to that bouncy ball. Be refreshed with the comfort that God can also defy gravity in your life, allowing you too to bounce forward from your hurts! He can propel you to rise above your pain!


For an encouraging video from Donna regarding this blog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iETmYOH4Hqc&t=10s