Transformations – An Essay {Guest Post}

1 03 2015

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Meet my young friend Kyle. A few months ago, I had the honour to be interviewed by Kyle for a Grade 12 English project. The project consisted of him interviewing someone “interesting” and figuring out a theme for their life. When Kyle asked if he could interview me, I was shocked. Me…interesting?! Umm, ok. Wow.

As Kyle will explain in his essay, we first met when I was a leader for a student trip to Guatemala. We got to know each other quite well through the trip preparation process, and then the seven days in Guatemala. He eventually started affectionately calling me his “Gautemama”. I love it!

Through the questions Kyle asked during the interview, he came up with a theme for my life.  Transformations. What a great theme! His teacher was so impressed that Kyle ended up with a 95%! Awesome!  His teacher also asked if she could use his essay as an example for future classes. I am so proud of Kyle! He is an amazing young man.

Here is the essay Kyle wrote:

Transformations 

By Kyle Vanderstelt  

When I first met Linda Goodall, it was at a meeting for a mission trip I was going on with our church. Linda was going to be a leader on the trip and was getting to know all the kids at these meetings. At first I wasn’t sure about her. She was loud and outgoing, not like me at all. As the meeting continued, and as we embarked on the trip, I realized that there was more to Linda then met the eyes, and the ears. She shared her story with the team one night and it opened up my eyes to a whole new perspective on the world. Linda wasn’t always this loud, outgoing person with an infectious happiness about her. She had been through a lot and she had come a long way to be where she is today.  

If one were to rewind seven years, they would find a completely different Linda. A Linda who did not want to get out of bed some days, for whom each day was a constant battle to keep going and do her duties as a mother of three children. A Linda for whom her darkest thoughts consumed her and her mind worked against her. Linda battled depression for years. It was something that had been with her for years but had really hit hard after her third child was born. Some days it consisted mostly of Linda hiding in her room and from everyone. . .  

She pulled out of it because of the urgings of her friend Christine. Linda came to church, and after attending for two years, she became a Christian. She leaned on God and He helped her pull out of her slump through counsellors and relationships, friends like Christine, and her husband, Kevin.  

If one were to rewind even further back, they would see another transformation, the younger high-school and College-girl, Linda was a character. She had several relationships with guys, partied, drank, and did drugs. She explains her lifestyle in the following way: she sought relationships because of her “feeling alone and wanting to be loved.” This led to drugs and alcohol which were “an escape from reality and the pain that [she] felt inside.” Linda says that she always loved her parents, but she felt her parents never understood her. The fact that they did not realize the signs of someone being high, or under the influence of other substances did not help her. It did not help her stop the downwards cycle she was in. Now Linda realizes that these feelings of yearning for love and feeling lost were early signs of depression and a future struggle that would knock her almost completely out of commission. Like a typical teenager, at the time it was happening, she brushed it off and ploughed through. She never stopped to consider what the root of the problems could be.  

The many relationships and substance abuse were ways of searching for the love she yearned for. She wanted to be understood. When she met Kevin she found understanding from him. She found someone who loved her for who she was and cared about her. Kevin helped her transform from a life of partying to a more settled life. Later on in her life, in the midst of her deepest depression, her friend Christine helped her transform her further. Linda’s life was still a search for love to fill that void in her. She had the love of her husband, but she still was searching for something. She found this at church where she came to know God. She felt His love in her. After becoming a Christian, Linda began to improve, eventually recovering, becoming the woman she is today. She says that some days are still tough but she is able to keep pushing through them because she has friends, family and God by her side.  

Linda’s life has seen two major transformations. She transformed from a life of partying to a married life, from the life of a nonbeliever to the life of a child of God. She has battled through many things: guilt, shame and substance abuse. Later on, she battled through depression. The Linda that I have come to know and love has not become the charismatic, joyous, bubbly person that I know and love overnight. She has taken a rougher, tougher path. Now she is on the other side of her struggles and transformations. Her story is nowhere close to being finished. Maybe there are more transformations in store for her. But she has become better through her struggles and has become a person who understands more about herself and life. 

I am so proud every time I read Kyle’s essay.  It’s incredible how perceptive he is. I love how he said that my story is nowhere close to being finished.  That’s so true. God is definitely still working in my life and continuing transforming me through my struggles and experiences. I’m excited and look forward to where He will lead me next.

And wow! I mean, who ever gets a chance to see their life through the eyes of a 17-year-old boy?? Amazing.🙂





Concealed Depression: What Does Depression Really Look Like?

24 01 2015

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The hardest moments are not those when the tears flow from your eyes. It’s when you have to hide the tears in your eyes with a smile on your lips. Unknown

Thankfully, talking about depression is becoming more socially acceptable.  There appears to be less stigma and people are being made aware of the signs. People are beginning to express  their feelings of depression.

We have all read articles about the symptoms of depression and what it can look like. Here are a few well known symptoms:

  • too much or too little sleep
  • sad mood
  • loss of energy
  • weight loss or weight gain
  • loss of interest in life
  • suicidal thoughts

There are 350 million people today, who suffer from depression, according to the World Health Organization. Many continue to suffer in silence. That’s approximately 1 in 5 people. Think about that. If you are in a room with 20 people, there are four people suffering with depression. That’s crazy!

So, why don’t we see it? Why don’t we see all the systems loud and clear?

Well, because some of those who suffer with chronic depression have learned to conceal it. They put a mask on and hide behind a smile.

There was a really great article on Huffington Post called 11 Habits of People with Concealed Depression.

I love how the author used the term “concealed depression”. That’s exactly what it is…concealing your inner feelings from the outside world. The more we open up and talk about it, the more likely the ones who suffer with concealed depression will find the courage to ask for help.

I am almost not surprised anymore. The number of people, who you would never guess, suffer with depression. They hide it so well, that to the outside world they seem confident, friendly and upbeat.  I remember for years I’d be able to “hold it together” or “buck up” and I’d be able to keep a smile on my face.

But once in a while, you  get a glimpse of what’s really going on inside. It can be very dark.  It might be a few words spoken, or a look in your friends eye. Be sensitive when those situations arise and show love. It could mean the difference between the person suffering in silence, or finally getting the help they need.

Many celebrities, politicians, church leaders and musicians deal with mental illness. Some hide behind their fame so people do not see the “real” person inside. Too often their silent suffering ends in tragedy.

Let’s make it okay for everyone to talk.

Do you suspect someone you know may suffer from concealed depression? Reach out to them. Love them. Respect them. Give them a safe space to share. It could mean the difference between life or death.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).




One Word Creates Clarity, Passion, Focus, and Life-Change

5 01 2015

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Words creates clarity, power, passion and life-change. The simple power of One Word is that it impacts all six dimensions of your life – mental, physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, and financial. Simply put, One Word sticks.” One Word That Will Change Your Life 

Last year at this time, I came across a devotion about finding one word to focus on for the year. I wrote a blog post about it here.

My word for 2014 was “STILLNESS”. Throughout the year, I would return to my word, and remember that I needed to be still. It was a lesson in discipline for me, as I’m not very good at being still.  So, how did I do? Overall, I did well!

Here are my reflections of the year of stillness:

1. Morning quiet time

This is the most important part of my day. I love the early morning. The house is quiet before the chaos of the day begins. I have my hot coffee or tea in hand (usually made by my darling husband) and  I am able to be still with God. It starts my day right.

2. Running

For the first 6 months of 2014, I was planning to run a marathon. I started training, but unfortunately, my body wasn’t in agreement.  When halfway to my goal (21 km), my hip decided it didn’t want to run any more. I loved running. As I ran my mind was still.  I have yet to find a physical outlet that provides the same stillness, but I’m working on it.

3. Guatemala

Leading a group of teenagers to serve on a mission trip in Guatemala doesn’t really sound like an opportunity to add stillness to my life.  Truthfully, it wasn’t. We were on the go serving all day, every day. Being a leader, I was always “on”. However, every morning, I would get up around 5 am, go up on the roof and look at the incredible beauty of the mountains. There I was able to thank God for my life, pray for the students and the people we were there to help and just be still. It was perfect!

4. Life change

2014 brought a change of job for me.  This change had given me time to analyze and figure out who I am, what drives me, my strengths and my weaknesses. The development of humility, patience, leadership, direction, motivation and stillness have been incredibly valuable.

So, on to my new word for 2015. As I prepared my heart for what my new word would be, a theme kept recurring. I feel like 2015 will be another year of change, growth and renewal. But as opposed to stillness, I feel it be a year of action. Every scripture I read, every thought I had, kept coming back to the same word…RENEW

My ONE WORD for 2015 – RENEW. Renew my body, mind and spirit.

1. Renew – Body

Renew my health – Over the last six months that I haven’t been able to run, I’ve been on a downward spiral with my health. It’s time to kick start my health and take care of the body I’ve been given. I plan to get moving (again!) and make better food choices. No, I’m not going on a “New Year’s Resolution Diet”. I’m going to get back to my active, healthy self.🙂

1 Corinthians 6:20 For you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Isaiah 40:31  But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

2. Renew – Mind

Renew my confidence, dreams and goals – To some people, I am a very confident women. Yet, sometimes I  feel like a scared little girl inside, who doubts her abilities and is unsure of herself. I want to renew the confidence in my dreams and goals. Where to I want to be? What do I want to do? What makes me truly happy? What’s my passion?

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Ephesians 4:23 And to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,

3. Renew – Spirit

Renew my faith – Faith is a journey. We are always growing, learning and developing. This year, I want to renew my childlike faith. I want to deepen my understanding of the bible and continue to grow in my relationship with Jesus.

Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

I look forward to what 2015 is going to bring. I look forward to focusing on my one word and hope it will provide clarity, purpose and passion. Yes, of course I would love God to lay it all out on a calendar and tell me what’s next. (That’s the planner in me.) Yet, I’m okay with waiting. He’s preparing me and I want to be ready.🙂

Do you have ONE WORD? I’d love to hear your word for 2015.





A Message To Those Who Have “Healed” From Depression

29 12 2014

“Depression is like a bruise that never goes away.  A bruise in your mind.  You just got to be careful not to touch it where it hurts.  It’s always there, though.”  Jeffrey Eugenides

Has one of your kids/siblings ever poked you in a bruise?  They think it’s funny to watch you jump.  But even if the surface of your skin is starting to heal, underneith it can hurt.  And hurt bad!

This post is for all of us that have been “healed” of depression.  I put healed in quotations because one who has a chemical imbalance in the brain is never fully healed.  Depression always seems to lurk in the dark depths of the brain, waiting to pounce.

For those who haven’t suffered with this illness, hopefully you’ll learn something about the depressed brain.  I don’t expect you to fully understand, and that’s ok.  How can you truly understand something you’ve never experienced? However, please don’t judge. Be compassionate and understanding.


The thoughts can come at the weirdest times.  I could be driving down the highway and singing (badly!) at the top of my lungs, smiling to myself, feeling confident in my world. Then…boom! All of a sudden I feel like I’ve been smacked in the face. I don’t have a right to be happy.  I hear “Stop it!”. The clouds roll in and my world becomes dark, even for a moment.

I’ve learned to ignore those fleeting thoughts. They don’t own me and they aren’t the real me.

Yet, there’s comfort in the known. Those that have suffered with depression throughout their lives will understand. Even though I’ve been healed for almost five years, the thoughts are never far. It’s like they’re lurking just below the surface of my brain, waiting for a moment to break through to overtake me.

It makes sense for the thoughts to surface when I’m overtired, stressed or overwhelmed.

   
“You’re not good enough!”
“You don’t deserve this!”
“It was so much easier to be sad.”
“Who do you think you are?”
“You’re ugly,!”
“You’re fat!”
“You’re not worth it!

It doesn’t make sense for the thoughts to come when I’m in a really good space. It’s frustrating and truthfully it just plain ticks me off. It’s like Satan grabs hold of my thoughts for a brief moment. He tries hard to make them seem real. If I’m driving, I literally have to hold the steering wheel with two hands, forcing myself not to swerve into oncoming traffic.  It would just be too easy.

Thankfully, when I’m in a good space I have been able to overcome those passing thoughts. I use prayer and cognitive behaviour therapy .  Turning my thoughts to what is good and what is true can stop the bad thoughts in their tracks. When that happens, I feel powerful and strong!

“God loves you!”
“You are worth it!”
“You are beautiful”
“You are strong!”
“God’s got plans for you!  He’s not finished with you, yet!”
“You deserve this.”

I’m writing this post to those that have suffered and have “healed” as a reassurance. If you too have had those fleeting dark moments or thoughts, you aren’t alone. You need to protect the bruised part of your brain. Take the thoughts for what they are…just thoughts. But remember, if they become recurring thoughts and you feel yourself slipping, it’s time to get help. Call your counsellor and/or your doctor. You of all people know what can happen if you don’t.  You don’t want to go there, again.

If you are one that has “healed” from depression, have you ever experienced fleeting moments of darkness? If so, how do you overcome those thoughts?

Philippians 4:8 

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

 

 

 





Christmas…It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year! Or Is It?

23 12 2014

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It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you “Be of good cheer”
It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

 

We all know and love the classic Christmas song “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year”.  But for some…it’s not.  Sadly, it can be  the most difficult time of the year. It can feel so lonely…like being on the outside, looking in.

The Christmas season is filled with happy songs, lots of parties, tons of shopping, gift giving, gift receiving, children out of school, photos of smiling families in cute Santa hats, and so much more. But one thing that we all talk about is how stressful the Christmas season can be. And why is that? When it’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, we should be happy.

But for those that suffer from anxiety or depression, Christmas can be the most difficult, paralyzing time of the year.

Think about it. The pressure to go out in public, socialize at parties, tackle the malls, give the perfect gift, put up picture-perfect decorations, spend tons of much money and so much more. Yikes! Kind of overwhelming for all of us, let alone those who are suffering. And add anxiety into the mix, and people can literally freeze.

So, what can we do to help the people in our lives that are at a low period to enjoy and celebrate Christmas?

There is a great article called Navigating The Holidays When You Have Depression. This article can help those who don’t suffer to better understand their loved ones, as well. Check it out.

But mostly, just love them without judgement. They may already feel guilty that their anxiety is in overdrive because they aren’t happy about the holidays, or are saying no to the tenth party, or can’t find the “perfect” gift. Love them anyways.

Don’t pressure them to do something you want them to do. Let them guide you. Yes, offer suggestions to get outside, go for walks, volunteer to help in the community. For sure these things are helpful. But if they can’t, that’s ok.

And this is a great time to really put the focus back on what Christmas is all about. It’s not really about the decorating, shopping, baking, parties. It’s about the celebration of the birth of Christ. Help your loved ones (and yourself) to focus on God’s unconditional love and hope.

This is what we all need most of all. Not the multitude of gifts. God’s gift of love and hope.

When I was in my deepest depression 5 years ago, it was during December. Ugh. I remember that feeling of being overwhelmed, anxious, guilty, helpless. Even on Christmas Day, my husband and kids went to his parents house to celebrate Christmas, and I just couldn’t go. Yes, he was disappointed, but he understood. I spent the day curled up by the Christmas tree, reading books. Not my ideal way of spending Christmas, especially since I’m a people person, but it was what I needed. But I also remember that during this time was when Christmas carols started to mean so much more than just songs. They had true meaning. And that was wonderful.

Christmas. Yes, it is the most wonderful time of the year. But remember to be gentle and have grace for those (or yourself) that it may not be the most wonderful time of the year.

Have you experience depression or anxiety over the holidays? How have you dealt with it? I would love to hear!

Romas 15:12-13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

 

 

 

 





Transforming Through Transition

12 12 2014
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Unless you are prepared to give up something valuable you will never be able to truly change at all, because you’ll be forever in the control of things you can’t give up.” Andy Law 

Change means to transform. In order to move from one point to another a transition is required. It’s during the transition phase that change happens.

I love change. I love the excitement and anticipation of what’s next. I was one of those kids that moved my room around at least once a month, just for fun. However, big life change can be hard and scary.

Life change occurs in marriage, children, jobs, homes, faith, finances and health.  This year, as most of you know,  I’ve gone through a job transition.  It was not as easy as I thought it would be. Thankfully, I’ve been surrounded by amazing people who have been supportive and patient.  And I have allowed myself the grace to feel all the emotions of change.

I recently read an fantastic article by Ron Edmundson called 7 Emotions of Change.   He followed that article with The Absolute Most Common Reason Change is Resisted. 

These two articles resonated with truth. I loved my previous job, and I love where I am now, but transitioning from one to another was way more difficult than I had anticipated. I experienced every one of the seven emotions of change in some degree.

  • Fear
  • Grief
  • Enthusiasm
  • Anger
  • Confusion
  • Loneliness
  • Sadness
  • Numbness

Including the most common reason change is resisted:

  • A sense of loss (including loss of power,comfort, control, information, familiarity, tradition and stability)
Even though going through change is exciting, it can be scary, sad, lonely, confusing and numbing. Are you a new mom? Recently moved cities? Recovering from an injury/illness? Become a new Christian? I’m sure you’ve felt at least some, if not all, these emotions at some point. Acknowledging and trusting that it is a transition phase will help to build your character through the transformation. As Socrates said “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

Change takes time, energy, support, and patience (lots of patience!) to allow yourself to feel and accept the emotions of change. If you do, you allow yourself the grace to work through it. You have the peace of knowing that you’ve done what God asked of you.

God prepares us for what’s next in our lives through change. When we trust God throughout the transition phase, he trusts us with the next stage he’s preparing us for. It’s pretty awesome!

What change have you gone through lately?  How did you manage the transition?

Ecclesiastes 3:1
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven




Thank You For Sharing YOUR Stories

24 09 2014

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin.
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

~ Emily Dickinson ~

 

I am honoured.  Truly, deeply honoured, humbled and privileged.  When I started this blog, I set out to share my story, to help others.  What I have found, is incredible people that have opened up and shared YOUR stories with me.  And I am the one encouraged and totally inspired.  Wow!

This past week, I had coffee with a friend, listening and sharing stories.  I have been reminded why I started to blog.  And I’m so incredibly thankful for that reminder.

Every single time I go to click the “Publish” button, I freeze.  I’m scared.  “What will people think? Will I be judged? Will I seem incompetent? Will people understand what I’m trying to accomplish?”.

Eventually, I push past that fear, hover my finger over the “Publish” button, and say a prayer.  I pray that at least one person reads my blog and feels encouraged. It doesn’t matter if I get one view or 1000’s of views. It’s not about stats or becoming famous or making money.  It’s about the one person that needs to read my words at that very moment.

Then I click.  My heart races. I take a deep breath and sigh.  I thank God for giving me the courage and a voice to share.  Then I close my computer, walk away and let God do the rest.

I share my experiences because I know it has helped me when others have shared their experiences with me.  That’s why community works.  Whether it is school community, church community, online community, city community.  It works. Period.

People need people. We need to share. We are made to support and love one another. The more we talk, the less stigma there is. The less stigma, then more people can find the help they need.

I have had the privilege to hear every story imaginable. YOUR stories.

stay at home moms suffering postpartum depression
young adults cutting
teenage boys fighting porn addiction
alcoholism
hearing voices
marriage difficulties
rape
childhood sexual abuse
elderly depression
suicidal thoughts

I keep these incredible stories private, as they are not for me to share. I’m not a doctor, counsellor or a therapist. I have no professional degree to help people. And I definitely do not offer professional advise.  I just listen.  I listen without judgement or condemnation. I want to show compassion and love for every single story that comes into my life. Because everyone has a story, and everyone deserves to be heard.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for trusting me with your most precious, intimate stories.  I hold them in my heart.  I pray for each of you.  And I pray for people that I don’t know, yet.  Those that are still suffering in silence.

Thank you, my friends, for reminding me why I do what I do.

 

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (NIV)
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.