Too Little, Too Much

Blurry eyes

Burning hands

Foggy brain

Tired body

Torn emotions

Weary soul

No time to rest

I’ve given my best

Nothing left for me

Nothing left of me

A mothering grandmother who expresses frustration and anger more easily than love and tenderness. 

Learning to be domesticated

Putting on my own straitjacket, all for the sake of love.

I want them to know I love them. I can’t change how much I couldn’t love in our past.

I can’t make up for that loss and lack.

But, now, it’s so important for me to show them I have their backs.

Yet, it feels like all I do and am lacks…so much

I long to feel, just a touch

Of compassion and love

Is asking for gentleness too much?

Exhausted and tapped Out

I’m now in my sixth week of nonstop sciatic pain…

The level of this pain has triggered an ongoing flare of the pain and chronic fatigue of the fibromyalgia…

In turn, it’s wreaking havoc with the depression symptoms of the Bipolar II and the anxiety symptoms of the PTSD…

So I’m continually on edge and frustrated by everyone and everything, including the uncontrollable aspects of my six year old’s behavior and her impossible to soothe tantrums around her sensory sensitivities and incomprehensible frustrations triggered by her inability to cope with the disappointments when life can’t meet her expectations and desires.

Last week she told me that I scared her, hurt her feelings, and looked like Cinderella’s stepmother. Which didn’t feel good to me, but is actually a good sign that she is learning and growing despite the limitations of her high functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder.

It’s also compounding the distance in my relationship with my pregnant daughter, her boyfriend, and hindering my grandparening of their daughter.

Now my six year old is in the midst of a major earache that I can’t give her relief from for more than an hour or so. It started after clinic hours. I have a doctor’s appointment for myself tomorrow. I can’t cancel and reschedule again. Somehow I also need to get her in to get her ear checked out.

I’m trying not to be discouraged and down on myself for all of this and for what feels like shirking in staying caught up with dishes, cooking healthy meals, and taking care of the business I need to in regards to seeking services and pursuing vocational endeavors.

I simply cannot do more than I’m doing and what I’m doing is not enough.

I guess this means I’m blessed:

“The poor in spirit are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted. (‭Matthew‬ ‭5‬:‭3-4‬ HCSB)

Somehow, I have to do this:

Search for the Lord and for His strength; seek His face always. (‭Psalms‬ ‭105‬:‭4‬ HCSB)

Then I might experience this:

The Lord gives His people strength; the Lord blesses His people with peace. (‭Psalms‬ ‭29‬:‭11‬ HCSB)

Except, actually believing and trusting in these things feels impossible.

Immediately the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe! Help my unbelief.” (‭Mark‬ ‭9‬:‭24‬ HCSB)

Lord, help my unbelief. I’m at the end of myself. I’m weary and overwhelmed with the burdens that keep piling up. Help me to release them to You. Show me where You are in this. Let me see Your footsteps and know You are carrying me through this.

Please, God.

Steps to Anger Management: Identifying the Triggers

In yesterday’s post, I revealed to myself and the world at large that I have a rage/anger problem. That was an extremely difficult thing to realize about myself. I think it is also one of the hardest things to accept about myself. However, accept it, I must. If I don’t accept it, then I will continue to be at war with myself. Constantly fighting internal battles leaves little room for letting other people in or engaging in relationship with others in significant, meaningful ways which let them know of your concern and love for them in emotionally healthy and tangible ways. At least, this is what I am discovering has been a truth in my life and my relationships. If anger and rage are occupying the mental and emotional space, then anger and rage are the expressions which seep out or rush out into interactions with others, including, and sometimes especially, the ones we love who may be least deserving of anger being taken out or projected onto them.

I have a lot of anger triggers, most of them having to do with my children. A portion of that anger is triggered by how they interact with me. However, the largest portion is how they are treated by others. This is especially true when it comes to my six year old. That being said, how my 21 year old daughter is treated, generates a rage which is not just rage, it is fear and sorrow so intense that, at times, I feel physicaly ill. Since she is 21, a legal, independent adult, I have no say, and little influence, in her relational transactions. It is not within my power or my purview to protect her or decide what she accepts, receives, or allows into her life. All I can do is to make myself available and find a way to become a safe and stable source of unconditional love who can be trusted. I still have a lot of growth to do in this area. For the moment, my anger and rage which are triggered when she is mistreated, in my eyes, gets rolled into the triggers with my six year old. I think that may be because she is my last child, the last bastion of innocence in my charge.

At this point, it could be written off and accepted as the way a mother loves her children and never wants to see them hurt and wounded in any way by anyone. That is a typical and natural response . . . or at least the expected response. Yet, I know there’s much more to it. The volatility of my internal and, sometimes, my external reactions is indicative of a much deeper and personal connection. I’m realizing it stems from experiences in my own life, from childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood.

As a little girl, I seldom had any space that was mine. When I did have space which was mine, briefly for about a year, year and a half, between eight and ten years old, my room was the catchall for the clutter from the public areas in the trailer we lived in. I remember, at one point, I wound up sleeping on the floor of my room because all the other places were full of stuff my mother had shoved in there before company came over. Later, when my mother and I lived in a one bedroom apartment, there was so much clutter throughout our small apartment that she reacted in painful ways when she thought I was exposing the mess to the view of the outside world.

The prevailing memory of my mother was when I had barely turned 12. It was an extremely hot day. The apartments we lived in were connected to a motel in the front of the property. it was a collection of three rows of single story, stucco buildings, with two buildings in the front, which were placed 90 degrees counter to the other rows. One bulding faced the road and which was the small motel, the other faced inward and was a row of two or three apartments. That was the building in which we lived. Two other of family units we were related to lived there, as well. My grandfather and his wife lived several apartments down the first row our bulding faced. My uncle and his wife lived in the middle row, which faced the bulding my grandfather lived in and was catty corner to the building I lived in with my mother. We could see each other’s front doors. There was no shade, no grassy area; the pavement between the buildings were made of black asphalt and were the pathway and parking for vehicles. So, the heat was amplified and made going outside uncomfortable and unappealing.

We had only been in town a few months. I had entered the sixth grade at my newest school well after Spring Quarter had begun. I hadn’t made any friends whom I was connected to outside of school. As a matter of fact, I had incurred the ridicule and wrath of some of my classmates simply because I was an outsider and I was from a different part of the country, with an accent and peculiar ways of relating to my peers and the world around me. So, I was socially isolated. I was accustomed to this, as we had moved several times throughout my childhood and frequently found myself in a new school, in a new town, sometimes in a new city or state. So, I had no place to go and no one to hang out with.

Our apartment was hot and stuffy. It was too hot to have the windows open. Even if they had been open, the blinds and curtains would have been closed against both the sun shining in and the possiblity of others seeing the mess we lived in. I was restless and uncomfortable. I didn’t want to be inside, yet going outside wasn’t any better. So, I stood in the doorway, with the door held close to my body. I actually think my body was completely inside and I was holding my face between the doorframe and the door itself, so, my body would block the view of anyone passing by.

My mom was harping at me, wanting the door closed. She was anxious about anyone possibly seeing in. She wanted me to go completely in or completely out. She didn’t care which, she only wanted the door closed. I refused. Her voice became increasingly strident as I continued to resist her pleas and demands to close the door. I argued and tried to reason with her, according to my 12 year old logic. She finally became so distraught and angry that she yanked me in by my hair and pushed me over the arm of the sofa, closing the door, then sitting down on top of my legs so that I couldn’t get up and reopen the door. I honestly don’t recall what my emotions and thoughts were in that moment. I do know that the more I demanded and yelled for her to get off of me, the angrier I became. Finally, I sat up, bent forward, and bit her on the thigh as hard as I could.

Within a very short time, my uncle came over. He had seen my sudden departure from the doorway and the succeeding slam of the door.

A few weeks later, my mom and he went to a bank to notarize a handwritten note signing guardianship of me over to my uncle. Then she left to move back to where we’d come from and moved in with her mother. I never saw her again. She died of a reported suicide a few weeks shy of her 28th birthday, a month or two after our final altercation.

This cycle of instability, chaos, and out of control parenting has continued in my life ever since. I think a lot of my anger stems from all of my childhood, which culminated in this event. More of my anger is directed at myself. As much as I have attempted to disrupt and alter my perpetuation of this cycle, I have continued along this trajectory. I wounded my adult children in similar ways in their childhoods. I feel the intensity of my frustration with my youngest daughter. It scares me and hurts when I see hurt and fear in her eyes, even though I know I’ve changed how I act, she still senses it through the tone of voice, the look in my eyes, and the demeanor of my body. Earlier this week, during a huge blow out between me, my adult daughter, and her boyfriend, while the youngest was at school, my daughter stated that she sees little difference between her growing up years and her little sisters. Yesterday, my little girl told me she feels scared when I am mad at her. This breaks my heart. I don’t want to be that mom.

There is so much grief and sorrow within me I don’t know what to do with. I think it has been bottled up inside for the past 33 years, growing every time I put them through the things I went through, that it has been transmuted into the rage and anger that simmers and boils inside of me. I have to find a way to let the sorrow and grief be what it is and be expressed.

Matthew 5:4New International Version (NIV)

4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

Under Depression is Rage

I’ve heard it said that depression is anger turned inward. After 30+ years of depression episodes, which are part of the bipolar cycle, but, for me, are also associated with childhood sexual abuse, emotional neglect, and continual instability, I know this to be true.

Now that I have gained a limited distance from an 18 year toxic relationship with the father of my six year old, gotten the correct diagnoses of Bipolar II Disorder & PTSD, and have spent the last year being in therapy for these things, as well as starting medication, I’m realizing that there is a profound and deep core of anger inside of me. When I get triggered and the anxiety rises, this deep anger rushes into my brain, overwhelms my emotions, and feels like a herd of stampeding mustangs.

This is what happened a couple of days ago.

Much of the time I take deep breaths and swallow it down. I rationalize and justify why the people and the circumstances are they way they are, try to figure out what, if anything, I can do to change myself: my feelings, reactions, and attitude about it all. This is getting more and more difficult to do.

After 18 years in relationship with a rageaholic and living in an environment where the emotional and psychic energy was continually filled with the tension of daily, intermittent, and intense explosions of frustrated rage at the least little thing that didn’t meet unrealistic, unvoiced, and impossible to fulfill expectations, despite the fact that there was infrequent actions which caused actual physical harm, and the fact that it was often expressed in indirect ways, there was a continual sense of threat of harm. Since that has diminished considerably, I’m noticing a few things about myself.

The first one is that I’m scared of my own feelings of anger. I’m terrified I’m going to loose my grip, lose control, and do some real harm, both physical and psychological, to the ones that I love. After all, I did it in the past, before this toxic relationship and even a few times during the relationship. Spanking out of intense frustration and anger when my, now adult, children were in early and middle childhood, which progressed into physical intimidation or actual, physical power struggles when they were in their adolescent years. These are significant factors in the brokenness of my relationships with them now. I absolutely do not want to injure, bend, or break my six year old’s spirit in the same ways. Yet, every day, I fight, inside of myself, against the powerful impulses to yell, scream, threaten, and spank. Most days, I barely win those internal battles, but, I DO win them.

Secondly, I’ve realized that, for the majority of the past 19 years, I have externalized my anger and projected it onto the visibly angry and volatile person in my life – my ex. It was so very easy and simple to blame his anger for all that was wrong in our relationships with each other and my kids. Every feeling or outburst of anger that I or my kids had was blamed on his generalized anger and his resulting behavior and attitudes. As hard as it was to live in that way, it was so much easier than facing, accepting, and taking responsibility for the anger and rage inside of me. He and his anger became my scapegoat. Now that he is not a daily, physical presence in my life, there isn’t anyone else to be the face and focus of my anger. So, when people around me do things and circumstances arise which would justify a sense of anger in just about anyone, my internal anger response is actually rage.

What I’m also realizing is how closely related the anxiety is to the rage. I suppose that’s part of the lizard brain fear response of freeze, flight, or fight. I was frozen for many, many years. That cold neutrality is no longer an option, not that it ever was a viable one to begin with. All the emotions which were frozen deep inside of me, have had the icy, immobilizing layers melted and there’s no refreezing them. I’ve gone from frozen, expansive, empty tundra to roiling, boiling, billowing smoke and ash which precedes the volcanic eruption of fiery, destructive lava and the raining down of boulders. I feel as if the Tasmanian Devil is a whirling dervish of insatiable rage taking over my nervous system. Perhaps, if I had a safe space in the world or inside of myself to flee to when these things are triggered, it wouldn’t feel as unmanageable as it seems. However, flight isn’t an option, which leaves fight.

The things I’m fighting against are amorphous, diffuse, intangible. They live inside of my brain, my body, and my emotions. They are rooted in the historical events of my past, my children’s past, and the pasts of those who came before me. They are represented in the words, attitudes, and actions of the people I encounter in my everyday life. They materialize in circumstances beyond my control. I’m shadow boxing without being able to even see where the shadows are. The shadows are all around me and inside of me, merging and flowing into each other.

In Evangelical Christian terms, I feel possessed by the evil spirits of rage, hate, fear, conflict, and chaos. I’m in a lifelong war, engaged in daily battle: emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. It feels like I’m constantly losing ground. The strongholds often appear too tall, too wide, too deep, and overwhelmingly imposing. I’m continually being struck by “friendly” fire and striking back with the same. However, feelings aren’t facts. I know this.

1 Samuel 17:47 New Century Version (NCV)

47 Everyone gathered here will know the Lord does not need swords or spears to save people. The battle belongs to him, and he will hand you over to us.”

Ephesians 6:12 New Century Version (NCV)

12 Our fight is not against people on earth but against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world’s darkness, against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly world.

Now that I’m living in awareness of the beast of rage inside of me, it’s time to figure out how to do this:

Ephesians 4:26 New Century Version (NCV)

26 When you are angry, do not sin, and be sure to stop being angry before the end of the day.

Tools of Recovery: Self-knowledge and Ownership of One’s Crappola

Take your life in your own hands and what happens?
A terrible thing: no one to blame. — Erica Jong

In the aftermath of my Humpty Dumpty leap yesterday, my son called me. As soon as I saw his face on my phone, I started crying . . . again.

For those who haven’t been following along and don’t know the history, here is the not so brief summary: I had him when I was 17. I didn’t know the depression I sometimes battled was actually Bipolar II Disorder. By the time I was 19, I was single parenting him, homeless, and stuck in a state away from the dysfunctional family I’d run away from. I ran back to them. I didn’t know I had PTSD. By the time I was 24, I was single parenting two children and had lived through a near suicide episode. I knew I was a mess, I just didn’t know what was wrong with me. Throughout all of it, my parenting consisted of yelling, threatening, emotional neglect, and counseling efforts to change his behaviors. I fought for him with school authorities, but, he never saw that. I loved him with everything I had in me to love with. Unfortunately, that wasn’t much because of how I had grown up and the brokeness inside of me. When I was 26 going on 27, I found myself enmeshed with and attached to a man who had impulse control and anger issues. We were a match made in purgatory. My son was 10. There were some good times. However, the volatility of the bad times, which often accompanied the cycling of hypomania and depression, on top of a constant state of anxious hypervigilance, overshadowed the good times. I fought for my son to be free from the chaos and sought more stable environments and people who I thought could offer what I couldn’t. He experienced it as rejection and abandonment. Since he was 16, for the past 12 years, our relationship has been very rocky and broken, to the point that just under three years ago, as an adult, he went through an adoption process. He didn’t just change his name, he cut any and all legal ties to me. Human In Recovery was born out of my realization that I had to figure out what was going on with me and learn how to live differently if I was ever going to have a relationship with him, be able to have a healthier relationship with my oldest daughter, and, hopefully, parent their youngest sibling in ways that enable her to reach adulthood knowing she is loved.

He and I have been doing a reconciliation dance since 2012, with many, many missteps, lost connections, and outright cessation. However, I’ve taken risks and steps to be in community with him and his family of choice and faith. Since last May, I’ve been attending their weekly faith meetings. Since October or November, my attendance has been inconsistent for a number of reasons, and we had one of those breaks in November and December. So, I wasn’t sure how solid or shaky our relationship was, when the ugliness and conflict happened between me, his sister’s boyfriend, and his sister yesterday. I was fairly certain that, once he heard about the incident and found out that I’d behaved the way I had, that would be the end of any future relationship. I was fearful and heartbroken, not just that I had lost future relationship with my daughter and her children, but that all progress between me and my son would be gone and I would be cut off permanently. I posted something to that effect in a private Facebook group for the community members affiliated with his church.

To see his face on my phone, him reaching out to me, when his usual response to my screw ups, real or imagined, is to withdraw, was such an unexpected happening. All of the fears and hopes overwhelmed me and tears just flowed.

We had a long conversation. I told him my actions: the whys and wherefores. I described my perspective of the events and behaviors of the others involved. I tried to keep it to “Just the facts, Ma’am,” and I did my best to be clear about what my role and behavior had been. He asked me how I was feeling.

“Ashamed, sad, heartbroken, angry. Overwhelmed.”

He told me that, as hard as it was, I was dealing with this honestly and facing things head on. “That’s huge growth,” he acknowledged.

We went on to discuss the circumstances and ongoing events which had led up to this incident. Part of that conversation included me identifying and recognizing characteristics his sister has which are part of a generational cycle of dysfunction. I essentially trained her and, through my behaviors, attitudes, and actions during the course of my nearly 18 year relationship with the father of my six year old, my daughter internalized a lot of messages about what it is to be a woman in relationship with a man. Thankfully, she’s a more engaged and openly loving parent than I was able to be, and my granddaughter is joyful and happy. However, she and my six year old are pretty much the only ones. But, I digress.

My son advised me to let go of self-blame, let go of shame, and ask for forgiveness. Even if my daughter and her boyfriend don’t forgive me, God and Jesus will, have, and do.

This morning, I was thinking about the events of yesterday and I realized three things:

  1. Mistakes, even huge ones, don’t have to be cataclysmic and apocalyptic, even if they feel that way.
  2. Even if the mistakes set back relational progress, they don’t erase personal growth that has been achieved.
  3. I need to examine my past and identify the triggers and why they are triggers, so that I can plan how to preempt my ballistic reactions to them.

Learning to live what you’re born with is the process, the involvement, the making of a life. — Diane Wakoski

I am Humpty Dumpty: The toxicity of Bipolar II, PTSD, and Overwhelming Life Stress

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

All the King’s horses and all the King’s men

Couldn’t put Humpty together again

Bipolar II, PTSD, Sciatica, Fibromyalgia, hormonal fluctuations, poor sleep, battling in poverty to keep the electric on, household needs met, parenting a child experiencing High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder, and too many people in too small of a living space – that’s the wall I’ve been sitting on. Today, I fell, hard. Actually, it feels like I took a flying leap off of it. Only, I didn’t just break myself, I broke others too.

I just don’t know how to make things better. I keep trying, honestly I do. However, it often seems like no matter how much progress I make, I’m just treading water against the tide and the shore looks farther away than ever.

Today’s trigger was when I discovered that my oldest daughter’s boyfriend had not only used my youngest daughter’s bedroom as his escape space to hang out with a friend in last night, but that he had slept in there and all of his things, which my six year old doesn’t need to be around, were all still in there this morning. She may not sleep in her room, but, it IS her room. It’s where her toys and things are. It’s her go to space when she needs to fixate on her toys and organizing her internal world. It’s her treat in the morning before she gets on the school bus, if she’s cooperated and has gotten ready for school with enough time to play. It’s her space.

He doesn’t ask. He just goes in and “cleans” it by piling everything up and shoving it to the sides, in corners, and in the closet area. He’d taken over her TV when we were at her dad’s for three weeks, just because we weren’t here and she wasn’t using it. He didn’t text or call to ask if he could use it. He just appropriated it because he got himself a game system. Since I don’t do the things around the apartment he thinks I should be prioritizing: dealing with the clutter and deep cleaning, and he vacuums and sometimes declutters the living room in order to vacuum, by piling all my things up on the couch, which is also my bed, or straigtens up the bathroom and degunges the toilet, then I’m useless and not doing anything.

Nevermind the fact that I am continually taking care of their dishes. After three weeks of being away at the end of December, I came home to a fruit fly infestation and just about every dish in the apartment being caked with food, some with mold, the sink being full of standing water, dishes, and food. I spent probably 6-8 hours over the course of several days cleaning the kitchen. I still don’t have all the dishes done. Nevermind that they have only helped pay the electric bill one time in the nearly ten months they’ve been staying here. Nevermind the fact that I gave up the big bedroom so their little family would have at least one area that they could have some privacy in. Nevermind the fact that it took six months for them to get onto my food stamp grant because they wouldn’t get their own and, although they bought some food for themselves during that time, my ex and I both were helping to buy formula and I ran out of food stamps every month at least a week before the next allotment was due, because they still needed to eat.

There are five of us in a tiny two bedroom apartment, with a new baby on the way, due in the first week of March. It’s a Section 8 apartment. They aren’t on my lease. They brought a kitten in. No pets are allowed. I wasn’t asked if they could have the kitten. I just came home to discover it had been moved in one day.

He and I don’t communicate well. Him being him triggers all of my PTSD crap, all the time, even when he isn’t doing anything wrong, even when he isn’t being a 21 year old male from a difficult and challenging past. He tries to be a good guy and he does his best to be a good father. He wants to make things better. He just wants to do it his way, on his terms, in his time. That doesn’t work for me and I’ve spent a lifetime trying to please other people, trying to manage other people’s moods and emotions, trying to fix everyone’s problems. That isn’t working for me, either.

Last week, the first full week of January, after three weeks being gone and after realizing I had managed to go off of my mood stabilizer meds, I came home to the kitchen, the fruit flies, my youngest daughter’s TV being gone, a relatively clean living room, a cleaner kitchen floor, and a notice from the electric company I was on the verge of a utility shut off. My back started going out and triggered an episode of sciatica, which had happened exactly a month before. I had to push through it anyway. I reapplied for public cash assistance. I scheduled an energy assistance appointment. I met with my med prescriber and my mental health therapist. I went to the DHS Self-Sufficiency office three days in a row. I went to the Social Security office. I went to the Vital Statistics office to replace misplaced birth certificates for both daughters and get my granddaughter’s birth certificate. I did most of it on the public transit system, with my cane, hobbling because of the sciatic pain. A friend drove me around for several hours on Thursday to get some of those things done, as well as get some groceries. By Thursday night, the pain was so bad, when I contacted the advice nurse, I was told to go to urgent care or the emergency room. I went to the ER and it made things worse. The next day I hobbled to the doctor’s office for a follow up.

This week had a second, fruitless trip to the Social Security office, to attempt to order a replacement social security card for my youngest daughter. My back is still in pain. I’ve still been using the cane. Yesterday was the LIEAP energy assistance appointment. I also got a call from the Division of Child Support and notified my ex about it. The ensuing emotional conflict was not good. On top of it all, my hormonal cycle peaked during the last two days. I have decided that trying to find a job and maintain it while figuring out how to stabilize with the Bipolar, PTSD, and physical health issues, can’t possibly be worse than the stress effects of juggling all of this other crap in dealing with TANF/DHS, Child Support, jeopardized utilities, and never having enough to even get my hair trimmed at Great Clips. I don’t know how I’m going to do it or what I’m going to be able to find, but I have to do something.

Anyway, it all boiled over and came tumbling out of me this morning. Regardless of all the things he’s done or that I have perceived he’s done, I went over the top. I screwed up. I took things too far. I was justified in my anger, just not in some of my actions. It was loud. It was ugly. It was me being physically beligerent and threatening – although that was totaly pointless. He’s more than a foot taller than me, 20+ years younger than me, and much more physically fit than me. He was trying to be calm, but he was also saying things and using facial expressions and tone of voice to trigger me. My nearly 8 month preganant daughter tried to intervene and pull me away from him. I kept shaking her off and pushing past her. She was yelling and screaming in my face and was upset with both of us. My granddaughter was crying in the other room.

The TV? It got completely broken.

My relationship with my daughter? Well, it’s pretty broken too.

My relationship with him? Same as it ever was.

I forgot to remember that God is in the midst of all of this. I forgot to remember that I love all four of them. I forgot to remember that stuff is just stuff and not as important as people’s hearts. I forgot to remember that the emotions running amok inside of me weren’t about him at all, but about all the stuff I’m still needing to process from the past, the mental and physical health issues, and the neuro-biological issues I’m still trying to get the medication right for.

Justified anger doesn’t justify bad behavior. Period. Dot. The End.

Reversing the polarity: The blessing of burden

I read a HuffPost Good News article this morning, written by Scott Dannemiller, who is a writer, blogger, worship leader and former missionary with the Presbyterian Church, according to his byline. I love the title: The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying.

It’s a topic I’ve wrestled with for a long time; Blessing vs Burden

What do those of us who identify ourselves as Christ followers consider blessing and what do we see as burden? In the world and society I live in, material abundance, prosperity, and self-satisfaction are promoted as “blessing.” When the situations and circumstances of life consist of smooth sailing, happy relationships, financial security, satisfying vocation, and material wealth, even the non-religious may refer to themselves as “blessed.” Conversely, poverty, loss, and lack of upward mobility are stigmatized and judged negatively. Those who experience the painful, disappointing, unjust experiences of generational or situational poverty, addiction, loss of loved ones, homelessness, illness, broken relationships, and the like are considered to be burdened. The “chronically burdened” are frequently written off as “burdens on society.” Do those of us who call ourselves Christians think, act, and live with this understanding of blessing and burden?

I think, in many cases, the answer is a resounding, “YES!” As a matter of fact, if it hadn’t already been obvious from many of my posts in the past, it is pretty evident that this is how I have viewed and reacted to many of the things I’ve experienced in my life.

God’s economy reverses those two things: what we often think of as blessing bears a burden of stewardship and “charity,” while the things we’ve been taught to consider “why me, woe is me” events and circumstances as burdens, are actually things which CAN open us up to truly be blessed.

I especially related to the following:

“Second, and more importantly, calling myself blessed because of material good fortune is just plain wrong. For starters, it can be offensive to the hundreds of millions of Christians in the world who live on less than $10 per day. You read that right. Hundreds of millions who receive a single-digit dollar “blessing” per day.

During our year in Guatemala, Gabby and I witnessed first-hand the damage done by the theology of prosperity, where faithful people scraping by to feed their families were simply told they must not be faithful enough. If they were, God would pull them out of their nightmare. Just try harder, and God will show favor.”

I grew up, and continue to live, in the American brand of poverty. I experience Bipolar II Disorder and PTSD, which went unidentified and misdiagnosed for over two decades. These things led to actions and choices that were destructive to self and others. Broken relationships, chaos, and instability have been the consistent things in my life.

I was “saved” when I was eight years old. I have had an on again, off again relationship with God, through many different congregations and denominations over the past 37 years. Countless times I’ve gotten the message that my pain, my depression, my toxic relationships, my physical health, and my poverty were the result of my lack of faith in and relationship with God. I was repeatedly told to study and memorize scripture more, pray more, serve more, trust God more, etc. This was an oversimplification based on skewed understanding and beliefs.

I would cycle into unrecognized hypomanic highs and “catch on fire.” God’s was with me and in me in nearly tangible ways. I was “on track” and “in tune” with Him. Then the bipolar pendulum would swing me into depression. Emotional, intellectual, and spiritual static, interference, and disconnection ensued. The panic and anxiety from the PTSD I was unaware of was continually broadcasting a background signal. It would be low and subliminal, then something would happen and, before I knew it, my own personal Emergency Broadcast Alert was in full effect. My roller coaster brain took me on a wild and scary ride, sweeping innocent and not so innocent bystanders along.

Over and over again, the people of faith who were in ministry and had chosen a life of “service” and who I looked to for leadership, mentorship, guidance, and nurture talked about vacations, promotions, personal and professional rewards, recognition for achievements, new cars, new houses, savings, weddings, happily bonded familial relationships, and so on,as blessings, or manifestations of God’s favor.Conversely, their times of difficulty, pain, and loss were hidden, downplayed, and sometimes treated as if they were a consequence of losing faith and walking away from God.

When your life is overflowing with the latter and the former has a negligible presence, the message received and internalized is often, “I’m not blessed, I’m cursed, and it’s because of my lack of effort, lack of faith, and just, plain lack as a person/” This perception and viewpoint pulls the blinds, shuts the curtains, and locks the door against seeing, being open to, and receiving the blessings which can be experienced. This sounds a lot like I’m still putting the onus of being blessed on the receiver. I’m not, really. Those metaphors only go so far before they break down. What I am really trying to say is this: anything can be a blessing or burden, depending on how it is perceived and understood.

I know I have spent a significant part of my life, including 2014, viewing the challenges, difficulties, and hardships in my life as burdens. I’ve had a strong tendency to devolve into “victimized” thinking and reacting. I absolutely need to practice reframing my thinking and reversing the polarity of my perceptions.

Thoughts? What are things you have thought of as burdens which may have turned out to be “blessings in disguise?” Are there any “blessings” you received which created “burdens” for you or others?