November 2019 Contributor: Lenzi Moak

Every month I will feature a guest blogger/contributor. If you would like to contribute, contact me at writtenbyalivee@gmail.com and we’ll talk!

“Of Depression and Christianity”

Most Sundays, I go to church in the morning and listen to the morning’s sermon. The title of this one was “No Longer…Sick and Tired,” and it talked about how we all say we’re “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” (And here I am thinking, “I’m so sick and tired of the phrase “sick and tired.” But that’s beside the point.)

The main story spoken about was about the woman who bled for twelve years nonstop, and how she thought was, “If I could just touch Jesus’s robe, I’ll be healed!” The pastor explained that while it was a big deal for her to bleed for 144 months, if you look at that time period, they were still living under Leviticus law. The Leviticus law stated that if a woman is bleeding for an extended period of time, she was considered unclean. So not only was she miserable, but she had to profess to others that she was unclean. If anyone touched her, they had to ceremoniously wash their bodies to purify themselves.

The pastor said, “Imagine how humiliating it was to have to do that! Imagine if you had to stand in front of everyone and announce your affliction to them, and if they touched you they thought they were going to get what you have!”

And all that went through my head were two words: mental illness.

(Funny enough, the example he used was “cooties.”)

We live in a world where the second someone learns you have a mental illness, they want absolutely nothing to do with you. They become scared and believe that if they make the wrong move, you’re going to attack them (even if your depression is more destructive towards yourself than others). They want to lock you in a cage. You could lose your job. You could be disowned by your family and friends, ending up worse off than when you started. And that’s just barely scratching the surface of the repercussions of what might happen!

You know who else face a backlash? Christians who suffer from mental illness.

Oh yes. I’m going there.

There are so many Christians in the world who feel like they have to keep their mental illness a secret because they know beyond a reasonable doubt the reaction they’ll get: “You’re not praying enough. You’re not seeking God enough. If you would just seek Him and pray more often, you wouldn’t have these suicidal ideations. You wouldn’t have anxiety. You wouldn’t have psychotic episodes.”

As a Christian living with depression on a daily basis, I’m sick and tired of hearing this. Yes, there are some instances when praying and reading the Bible and living for God are able to help. But when you already do these things and you still feel that heavy weight over you, it becomes discouraging. “Maybe if you just did more, you’d be healed. Maybe if you cried out to God more, He’ll take this away from you.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat on my couch or my bed or even laid on my floor and just cried out for God to take my depression or even my own life away from me. Just go ahead and get it over with! I’ve felt worthless and had trouble remembering what the point to my own existence is. For twenty years, I had considered myself God’s only mistake, a culmination of every spare part He had, and He pieced me together and said, “Well, I guess this is a thing.” My whole life felt like a penance I had to pay! The scene in Guardians of the Galaxy where Rocket just snapped and said, “I never asked for this”… I replayed that scene at least three times and absorbed every word because I could feel his pain. I didn’t ask to exist, and here I was, suffering.

I believe in God. He’s my whole world. If someone pointed a gun at me and asked if Jesus was my savior, I’d say yes in a heartbeat. I pray constantly. I read a devotional almost daily. And yet… my depression is because I’m not seeking Him enough?

Earlier this year, my best friend suggested I write down at least one positive thing about myself a day. I took it a step further and wrote three. Before doing that part of the routine, though, I’d look through my YouVersion Bible app and write down four verses about God’s love and about His deliverance. Four verses about what God said about me. One day, I was hit with John 9:2-3 (AMP):

“His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man or his parents sinned, but it was so that the works of God might be displayed and illustrated through him.'”

After reflecting on it, I replaced the blindness in my mind with mental illness. The same principle applies. Yes, circumstances can affect our mental stability. But sometimes it’s not what we did that causes these issues. Sometimes they just…are. Wonky brain chemistry, an inability to see or hear, an inability to walk. Those aren’t always caused by something we did.

Dare I say it, but I honestly believe living as a Christian with depression has actually enhanced my walk with Him. During those moments when I want to do is give up, I’ve cried out to Him and begged for Him to kill me, knowing He won’t do it. But what He does do is gently tell me, “You’re okay.” I don’t believe it at first. How could I? I’m freakin’ miserable over here!

But eventually (could be minutes or hours), I slow my crying, take a deep breath, and bask in the calmness that overtakes me. He doesn’t ever turn his back on me. It creates a trust, a bond that can’t be shaken. I know for a fact that the next time I fall into that pit of despair, I can call on Jesus’s name like He’s my only lifeline – because He truly is. And I know that the second He saves me, I’m going to turn around and tell others that He so mercifully saved me instead of just leaving me there to waste away.

So…as confirmation to the Christian with mental illness: Lack of prayer and/or lack of belief is not always the cause.

As people are fond of saying nowadays, it’s okay to have Jesus and a therapist. It’s okay to be on antidepressants or antipsychotics. You can use this to glorify God and lift Him up when the episodes end. You can use this to reach out to others and say, “I know exactly what you’re going through! We can face this together! You’re not alone!”

Remember: You are loved, always and forever. Keep holding on, and take care of yourself the best you can.

Lenzi Moak

Answering Your Questions, part II

I am answering ten more questions that I have gotten from readers and a couple that I looked up that seemed like they would be interesting to answer! Thanks again for all the responses!

  • What is on your current playlist and what does your playlist say about you?

My current playlist is all over the place. I’ve got a lot of different genres, upbeat, with a wide variety of lyrical topics, but mostly inspiring. I think my playlist says that I’m open to anything musically, but also trying to remain upbeat in my life currently. I have to say I am listening to a lot of Lizzo lately!

  • How do you show yourself love?

I take care of myself by remaining mindful of things that need to get done, but also being mindful of the food I eat, the amount of exercise I get (or don’t get) for the day, being mindful of the music I listen to based on my current mood… if I’m depressed, I do my best to listen to upbeat and inspiring songs. Mindfulness is key when showing yourself love! I always make sure to sit down for a few minutes, or shoot, even hours sometimes, and watching my favorite show or movie, listening to my favorite song, whatever it takes.

  • How do you stay productive?

Sometimes I have to make myself be productive, honestly. But other days when I know I have to get stuff done, like my homework, then I just do it. I think I’ve conditioned myself enough when it comes to homework to do it on certain days. Otherwise, sometimes I just have to make myself be productive, and I know that that is okay. I have to constantly remind myself that if I don’t have much of a productive day that tomorrow is a new day!

  • What were some red flags you saw that made you consider burning bridges?

Red flags are sometimes right in front of our faces, but we don’t recognize them simply because we don’t want to. I started burning bridges when I started realizing that my well-being and my mental health are worth way more than constantly being taken advantage of, lied to, cheated on, manipulated, talked about, etc. When someone truly cannot be happy for you when you succeed at something, there is a red flag. That means that they need that upper hand, that feeling of being the best, and you’re not allowed to have it. Or… they simply don’t care that you succeeded at something. That’s when you know that person doesn’t belong in your life. When you feel like you have to fight for their attention, and when you do get it, it’s a constant competition or a constant struggle to keep their attention, let it go. It’s not worth it anymore. When you’re never included in their plans but they get mad when they’re not in your plans, there’s another red flag. You don’t need that kind of toxic negativity in your life. Nobody does. But when those toxic people refuse to see their toxicity and try to fix it, let them go.

  • Where do you want to go, and what do you want to accomplish with your writing?

My writing started off as something fun, random, off the wall… I knew I was okay at it, but I never had any intention of doing anything with it. Now that I’m older and I’ve been writing for more than 20 years, I feel like it’s turned into something so much more for me. It’s therapeutic. It allows me to be vulnerable and advocate for something that means the world to me. I don’t have the talent of public speaking; that terrifies me to no end. But when I write, I feel like I can conquer anything. My main goal for my writing is to inspire people. When I realized that advocacy and helping people might be my purpose in this world, I turned my random, off the wall writing into something that might mean something to someone one day. If I inspire only one person to feel like they’re worth so much more than what their thoughts are telling them, I feel like I’ve fulfilled my purpose in the world. As for where I want to go, I love writing, I love research, I love analyzing data, so I’d love to use those things to my advantage. But I know I can also put those hobbies to use professionally and personally by hopefully helping those dealing with mental illness.

  • If you could invite three people to dinner, who would you invite? What would you talk about?

I’m going to assume this question means only real people and not fictional characters, and both alive and deceased.

If I could invite three people to dinner, I’d invite my best friend Katy that passed away last year, Kelly Clarkson, and my mother. I know it’s quite a difference there, but I’ve strategically picked these people because all three of them have had such an undeniable impact on my life and on my own mental health. I picked Katy because I feel like I’d have so many less regrets if I could just talk to her one last time about anything and everything. I picked Kelly because she’s my favorite singer, yes, but she seems like she’s such an amazing person to be around. I feel like maybe I could convince her to talk about mental health on her new show or something, I don’t know. As for my mother, I talk to her every single day and we still always have something to talk about. I just love being around her and talking about everything.

  • Where is your writing place?

Believe it or not, my writing place is always in my room at my desk. I rarely ever get inspired anywhere else. My little corner is my inspiration station!

  • Describe your writing process.

My writing process is somewhat all over the place, but I have a notebook with my notes in it. I look through the notes, start writing what’s on my mind and just let my fingers keep moving. I’ll go through and edit here and there, but I’m a perfectionist so I usually fix the errors right away. It doesn’t take much for me to just keep writing. I usually always have music playing, but I focus a lot better when I have my headphones rather the music just playing through my blue tooth speaker. My writing process is boring and not fancy at all, but it works for me.

  • If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?

Easy. I would get rid of the social anxiety. I know this is against the “rules,” but another thing: I’d go back in time and stand up for myself against the people that bullied me.

  • Who are five bloggers/writers that inspire you?

Ooh, five? This one is difficult.

  1. Matt Haig. He’s my favorite author and a fellow mental health advocate. I love his writing style and how transparent and vulnerable he is in his writing about his own struggles with depression and anxiety.
  2. Jarrid Wilson. He was a pastor and writer that was also a fellow mental health advocate. He recently died by suicide, which was so incredibly rough to hear about since he was such an incredible advocate for people struggling with depression.
  3. Jamie Tworkowski. He founded one of my favorite mental health organizations, To Write Love On Her Arms. He’s such an incredible writer. He’s open, honest, and compassionate in his writing.
  4. Lindsey Hall. She’s a writer of a blog called I Haven’t Shaved In 6 Days. I just recently discovered her and I love her writing style, but also how honest she is.
  5. Kati Morton. She is a writer and licensed therapist. Her book Are U Ok? was so helpful for me, even when I had known about a good bit about the stuff she was writing at the time I read the book (It’s hard to be in therapy and a psychology major and not learn a crap ton of stuff). She’s also a YouTuber who is one of two YouTubers I still actively watch.

That’s all the questions! Thank you for submitting questions and/or reading!

Ali Vee

 

Answering Your Questions!

On Facebook and Twitter, I decided to ask my readers to ask me some questions and I got a great response. With those questions and a few I found floating around on the internet, I am going to start answering them! This will be a multiple part post because I’m still getting questions from readers. I’ll do 10 questions each post.

  • What would you love to learn how to do?

There’s a lot of things I would love to learn how to do. I can’t limit it to a certain number of things, because I love learning. One major thing, however, would be to learn how to better socialize with people.

  • What are your favorite books?

My favorite book would definitely have to be Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig. The other four favorites would be Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty, From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty (I love her writing style, and she’s really made me respect the different cultures when it comes to dealing with their deceased loved ones), and Supermarket by Bobby Hall (aka Logic, the rapper).

  • What is your motto for life?

I have quite a few actually, but the main one is Stay Strong. I have it tattooed on my wrists for a reason! On a more silly side, I love the quote from my all time favorite television show, Parks and Recreation: “I stand by my decision to avoid salads and other disgusting things.” Ah that Leslie Knope is a wise one.

  • What is the next vacation you’d love to take?

You don’t know how many vacations I have planned in my head, ha! I have a couple planned to visit friends in south Louisiana and Texas and I plan to do some hiking while I’m there. The big vacation I’m saving up for is a trip to Los Angeles! My dad grew up in LA, so I have family there that I want to visit, and I’m an LA Kings, Angels, and Clippers fan so I’d love to see them. Hollywood sign, all that cool stuff.

  • What is the best gift you’ve ever received?

Oh, this one is easy. My dog, Finn, is easily the best gift I’ve ever received. I got him for Christmas in 2016, and we’ve been inseparable ever since. He’s my therapy dog, too. He was supposed to be my service dog, but he’s too friendly and wants to greet everyone and say hello and service dogs can’t do that; they have to stay focused. Haha. He’s my best boy and I joke with my parents all the time that they’ll never top that gift in the coming years!

  • What is your favorite memory?

While I talk about bad memories of being bullied, I have good memories too! Hanging out with my best friends, making comedy videos, travelling across the country… it was all so much fun. Travelling to Japan with my mom was pretty amazing as well. I got to visit my sister, brother in law, and nieces while we were there and hanging out with them while sightseeing was really an unforgettable experience!

  • What are the top things you’ve learned over the past year?

I’ve learned a lot in the past year. The top things would have to be to listen to my gut and don’t disregard the red flags about someone. I’ve known that since I was a child, but the past year I got slapped in the face with it. I have trust issues, so I need to continue to listen to my gut rather than wanting to give people multiple chances only to be let down time and time again.

  • What is your dream job?

I’d love to work in the criminology field. I love the psychology behind crimes and criminals, so after 27 years I found that it is what I need to work for in college!

  • What is on your bucket list?

So. Many. Things. I am almost 29 years old and I feel like I haven’t done even 10% of the things on my bucket list, so I’m working on it. Travelling the world, trying new foods, health related things, etc. My main item is to truly inspire someone, so I’m hoping I can do that for someone.

  • What are your go-to phone apps?

I admit I am on my phone too much! My go to apps are Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, and the camera app!

 

Thank you for the questions! I’ll answer ten more in another post soon!

Ali Vee

 

 

2018/2019… let’s do this

(Trigger warning)

2018 was a big year for me, physically and mentally. I can’t say it was all good, as I lost 6 people within my family and friend circle. I don’t think I’ve ever lost that many people in one year. It’s been a heartbreaking year, an eye-opening year, and a victorious year. I can’t believe how much I’ve accomplished. I went into 2018 with a different mindset that I had never had before. I honestly still have no clue where the motivation came from, other than working my butt off in therapy. I didn’t realize my mindset was changing until it hit me like a brick wall.

The year didn’t start off great; my uncle passed away on January 1. I wasn’t as close to him as I had been in my younger years since we lived a state away, but it was still a challenging time. My mother lost her brother, my cousins lost their father. We are now upon the first anniversary of his passing and I know it’s not easier for anyone. In July, I also lost my great uncle. It’s been a rough year for my family.

In previous years, my “new year’s resolution” always included losing weight, but it never worked out because, well, I never worked out. I would work out or diet for maybe a week, maybe two, then go back to my old habits. This year, that would change. I couldn’t lose weight on my own, so I talked to my doctor and she recommended weight loss surgery. I went for it and made an appointment with a bariatric surgeon. After 3 months of preparation, dieting, and exercise, I had the surgery in August. I haven’t lost weight at the pace I would have liked, but I’ve still lost weight and I’m okay with that. I still have a long journey ahead of me, but I’m still motivated to get the weight off.

As for the people I’ve lost this year, it was rough. I lost a few close friends and two family members. One of them, though, hit me like nothing has ever hit before.

I started my mental health journey in 2014, and I won’t get into details with that, because I’ve talked about it in previous posts. I was checked into a mental hospital and then immediately started group therapy after I was discharged. The first person that talked to me when I walked up to the door was named Katy, and she ended up becoming one of the most important people I’d ever meet in my life.

There were times during therapy and even outside of therapy that she would talk me through it and help me through it. I remember one day in therapy that I was called on to speak, and I ended up crying… hard. I couldn’t get through what I was trying to say. Katy sat next to me every day, and on this particular day, she looked at me and said, “I promise you that nobody here is going to judge you, and everybody here loves you, including me. I’m right here. Just talk to me.” Those words helped me get through the duration of my time in group therapy.

I learned that she had a lung disease when I would talk to her everyday, but I didn’t know how bad it was. She passed away this year, in June. The bad thing for me is that I didn’t find out until July. I missed her funeral, I didn’t get to say goodbye, and I didn’t get to tell her how much she meant to me. It was heartbreaking. I still think about her and cry. I have never grieved over anyone else as hard as I have grieved over her.

As much as her passing affected me, I didn’t let it slow me down. I couldn’t. I know she would want me to keep working hard on my mental health, so I have. I have progressed, I think, a lot in therapy. I’m working my butt off daily to stay alive. Everybody has bad days, including me, but I get through them. Finn (my dog) is definitely a huge help with that. I’ve accomplished so much mentally, but also physically. I made a lot of progress in school. I’ve been getting out of the house more, but one of the main goals I have for myself is to get out even more. I’ve got so much planned; hiking, dog park visits, walking trails, yard work, and even just sitting outside getting more fresh air.

Health wise, I am going to continue to take care of myself. For so many years, I put my health on the back burner because I hated myself that much. I wanted to die so bad that my life didn’t matter that much. But now, I feel like I need to stay alive, and I want to stay alive. Some days are very difficult, and I still have suicidal thoughts from time to time, but I don’t feel as if I would act upon them now. It’s even kind of crazy to think about because I got so used to thinking I would be better off dead.

Another goal is to blog more! I’ve had to take a few months off from blogging, but I’m back at it. I felt like if I had writer’s block, then it was going to happen whether I wanted it to happen or not, and I didn’t try to force anything.

With all of that being said, I want to know how your year was and how you want 2019 to be. If you had a bad year, it’s okay. Not everyone is going to have a good year. And its okay to have bad days! Even if you have perfect mental health (and no one does), everyone has bad days. Try your hardest to bounce back the next day. I know it’s easier said than done, trust me. Depression is no joke at all. But stay strong for me, for your family, for your friends, your pets, your spouse, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, but most of all, stay strong for yourself. Because you’re worth staying strong for. You’re worth the life that the universe gave you. You matter.

Happy new year, and let’s have a great 2019.