Category Archives: My Story

It’s up to you…

A life coach told me soon after meeting me that I was “visionary.” I just can’t help but see the “big picture” pretty much everywhere I look. I can see the good and the bad all at the same time. This can be frustrating if I see something (or someone) headed in the wrong direction. This can be useful if I am planning something. I can choose to use my personality trait for good, or for evil. In the words of Mr. Monk, “It’s a gift, and a curse.”

Personality traits are like that, a gift AND a curse. You and I were pretty much born the way we are, we didn’t have a say in the matter. We are like lumps of newly formed clay, ready to be shaped by family, time, and circumstances. Very occasionally that shaping forms a near-perfect human that can manage life well. But mostly, we turn out slightly misshapen, with an oddly placed handle here, or a slightly twisted rim there. Then we become adults. All of that molding and shaping that had been going on by the people in charge of us comes to a screeching halt, and, well, we are what we are.

Do you feel like this inside?

Then, we go through the fires that hardens the clay and solidifies the shape we were when we stepped into adulthood. Because life is like that. Trial by fire. Will we survive, or won’t we? Sure, we have to accept ourselves for who we are, and so should our loved ones. But, I truly think that this only goes so far. It’s hard to be around someone with an anger problem. It’s hard to keep throwing paddles and a boat out to someone who is stubbornly (yes, I say “stubbornly” because you and I can choose to be despondent, or not) stuck in a pond of despondency and despair.

We start to feel the the moments that the oddly placed handle gets in the way, causing all sorts of problems. We feel embarrassment when the slightly twisted rim keeps spilling the liquid inside at all the wrong times. Sometimes whole pieces fall off, or we are dashed to the tile floor and break. In many cases, people throw up their hands after several failures and say, “I’m never going to change!” We are what we are, right? Why bother trying? Well, yes, and no.

The truth is, we can’t change our genetic inheritance, but we do have a choice in how we use those traits: we can choose to stay the way we were shaped, or we can choose to, effectively, start over by smashing up the broken vessel and getting some fresh clay. You already have the ingredients you need: personality traits, learning experiences, belief systems, relationships, and etc. You can decide which ingredients you are going to use, and which you are going to throw out. You can decide how those personality traits will manifest in the real world. In other words, you decide who you are and how you behave. You get to choose the colors and the shape. That’s right. Shall I say it again?

YOU GET TO DECIDE.

Frankly, It really doesn’t matter what came before. All of those childhood experiences that brought to where you are don’t matter much. What matters is what you decide today. Do you struggle with fear (like me)? You can decide today to make a step toward freedom from that fear. Do you struggle with an addiction that rules your life? You can decide today to get yourself to the appropriate help according to your needs. It’s your choice. It’s up to you. You could change from the above to this:

Isn’t this beautiful?

Or not. It’s up to you to decide.

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Nosce te ipsum: Know Yourself

*Author’s note: Before I get started here, I would just like to say, I love it when you come to visit.  Yes, I mean you.  I would love to sit down and have a chat with you.  I would love to hear what you have to say on whatever I write about.  So, if you come by, why not leave me your calling card, or a nice little note that let’s me know you were here?  Frankly, it encourages me to keep doing what I’m doing.  In other words comments are welcome and encouraged here.  I generally leave a little question at the end as a prompt to get a discussion going.  You can answer it, or not, as you prefer.

I had a powerful experience on Saturday that got my juices flowing and the wheels spinning for my little bloggity once again.  The sucky experience that I am having is still sucky and I am still experiencing it.  But, I feel the need to talk about something that I feel is very foundational to overcoming emotional difficulties: knowing yourself.

In “The Matrix” Neo  goes to visit the Oracle to find out if he is “The One” (i.e. the savior of their world).  She points to her little sign in her kitchen (which says Temet Nosce, by the way.  This is just a variation of the phrase) above the doorway and explains to him rather bluntly that if  you are something, you just know it.  You don’t need to be convinced by your friends, you don’t need constant reassurance, you just know it.  I know that I am a good mother.  I know that I am an artist.  I know that I am gifted in counseling others.  I know that I am a Christian.  I don’t need other’s to affirm this, I just know.

I truly feel that I am meant to do this blog, and to write books.  But, one thing I have had a hard time convincing myself of is that I AM a writer.  As in, “this is my identity.”  As in, “Hi.  I’m Stephanie.  I’m a writer”  (Not that I would actually introduce myself that way.  But, I think  you get my point).  I feel a little surprised when people praise my work here on this blog.  Sometimes, I almost don’t believe them.  Silly, I know.

This is mostly because I find writing to be a difficult, sometimes agonizing, experience.    I’m not goo-goo eyed over writing like some authors.  It takes me twice as long as normal people to write anything of worth or significance.  I find it excruciating to get started most of the time.  I find it difficult to maintain my focus once I get going.  I feel guilt for spending 2.5 hours writing 600 words.  I have to manage my ADHD and other learning difficulties to finish my task.  In other words, I just don’t LOVE writing like I love doing other things.  I have asked myself more than once, “How can I BE a writer if I don’t LOVE it?”

This question has stopped me from moving forward in doing the things that I am meant to do.  I just couldn’t see myself doing the things I am meant to do because I couldn’t (or perhaps wouldn’t?) believe in my identity as an writer.

But Saturday changed all of that.  I met with about 4 other people.  2 of whom I have known a really long time, 1 I knew fairly well, and 1 I sort of knew a little.  We met together to encourage each other.  To help each other overcome the log jams stopping us from flowing in our gifts.  I spoke for a while about where I was on a few things, including the I’m-supposed-to write-books-but-can’t-get-started-because-I-don’t-believe-I-am-an-author problem.  The leader of our group (Rob Stoppard.  A great guy, you should check him out) said to me people get stopped up in doing what they are meant to do because they believe lies about themselves.    Lies like “I don’t love writing so how can I be a writer”, or “I am never going to change”, or “I can’t change”, or “I will always be (fill in the blank)“, or whatever you say about yourself.

The only way to combat this is to change your habit of lying to yourself, and start telling yourself the truth.  I think if you look deep in your heart you can find your gifts, your talents, and your identity.  It’s like a treasure box just waiting to be opened, and you hold the key to open that treasure box.  And, if you open it you have to decide what you believe about what’s inside.  You have to decide that the treasure is who you are, or not.  But sometimes, even we do this, we get lost on our way back.  Parts of the treasure get lost and never make it home.  Like me and this writing thing.

The group had me do an exercise that has forever changed my life.  They first asked me to look in the mirror and say out loud to myself, “I am a writer.”  I felt more than a little shy about doing this.  So, they offered themselves up to act as a sort of mirror.  I had to look people in the eye and say out loud, “I am a writer.”  They took it one step further and had me say, “I am a famous writer.”  And although it was a little difficult to look people in the eye and say these truths out  loud, I did just that several times.  I stated a few other things I have had a hard time believing lately as well.  As soon as I said these things, it’s like a spotlight was suddenly focused on my poor, lost treasures.  I could find them, and bring them home.  I could take them within my psyche and revel in the simple pleasure of knowing myself.  It was like being born again.

And now, I feel free to do what I am mean to do.  I believe that I am a writer.  That even I can be a famous writer.

And you are free to discover things about yourself you never knew.  You can go on a quest to find your treasure, to change your life into something better, to become who you are meant to be.

It’s your turn now…

Tell me something you know about yourself…

When circumstances drag you screaming down the highway of life

I haven’t been on here for a while, because a circumstance in my life pretty much sucks right now.  Out of respect for those involved, I am not going to divulge the details at this time.  Besides, this post is not really about the circumstance itself.  Rather, this post is about my response to the circumstance.

I’d like to start by saying that what I am experiencing is completely new to me.  The torrent of emotions is a bit terrifying because they are so strong.  At this stage in this current reality, I either feel everything, or nothing.  I’m either fully engaged in my terrifying emotions, or not at all.  I want to spend enormous amounts of time by myself.  I don’t want to cry in front of people (because I am already prone to crying at the drop of a hat, I cry about this without warning or much provocation) and have to explain myself.  I think you get the point that there is nothing in between either option.  Everyday is a fight to stay focused on life.  I have to be able to “do” my life according to it’s rules.  I still have a son to love and care for despite the circumstance.  I have a husband who needs my empathy just as much as I need his.

Life has taught me that new experiences feel awkward, strange, and scary. My brain has to store the new experience as memories and grow new neurons based on those memories so that the experience becomes familiar and part of my brain-scape.  Perhaps this is why a lot people dislike change so much, because the new experience takes time to get used to.  But, eventually one does get used to the experience.  One mostly knows what to expect, and (mostly) how to respond.  The stored memories and new neurons give us a structure to rely on.

Being the intuitive, introspective, deep-thinking sort, I will learn things from this experience.  After the worst of this is over, I will be able to look back and see the blessings, the bad stuff, the I-never-want-to-go-through-this-again stuff, even the happy moments.  Next time, I will know how to respond to the circumstance, and to my own emotions.  Next time, I might be able to find a middle ground between the terror and the numbness.

Despite the difficulties, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow.

I am grateful.

Trust is better than an orgasm. A blog post on taking risks in relationships…Part 2.

Yes, I said, “orgasm” out loud. I’m a Christian, not a prude.

Last week I wrote on why taking risks was a necessary part of relationships. As I wrote that post, it became evident that there was a second part of relationship risk taking that had to do with choosing who we take that risk with. I think this part really, really counts when calculating risk.

Let’s face it, in most cases our initial attraction to someone else is usually a physical one. We find that other person cute, or funny, or smart, or whatever, but we feel something inside. We feel a rush of excitement, perhaps a little breathless. The urge to find a way to talk to that person becomes tantamount. According to Wikipedia it looks something like this:

That crazy feeling called “love”…

All of these nifty little chemicals on the right side of this diagram give us mostly happy feelings. Nowadays, it’s pretty commonplace to follow our urges to their logical conclusion- a sexual encounter. The chemicals involved in that transaction also introduce a flood of chemicals that make use feel good.

Duh.

However, I think these happiness-inducing chemicals muddy our logic and our ability to think clearly. At the beginning, when we look at that other person we feel those same rush of sensations. And we feel happy. Eventually, those sweeping, romantic feelings, that rush of excitement subside to a degree. Then we are left wondering about this person we are with. Why do they do what they do? Why are they so (insert your word of choice here)? Then we are stuck between a rock and a hard place (sorry, no pun intended), we like how they make us feel, but do we LIKE them?

Relationships are complicated, messy affairs that require an inordinate amount of work to be successful. Trust, communication, compromise, negotiation, kindness, gentleness, are a few of things that make a relationship work. These things take time to build. You have to actually LIKE someone in order to start this process. Call me puritanical if you want to, but I think that starting a relationship based on sex shortcuts the process of getting to know someone, and really liking them for who they are.

In my humble, and unscientific, opinion using logic and thinking clearly are two key elements in choosing someone as a mate. Sure, it’s not as romantic (and fun) as all of the sweep-me-off-my-feet sensations, but I think it’s more important to make wise choices than to be swept off my feet by someone that I’ve just met. And here’s why: the risk of being hurt is higher when I base my desire to be with someone on a physical sensation. That feeling eventually rings hollow.

In my experience, you can be physically attracted to someone, and not even like them. And, if you don’t like someone how can you develop feelings of trust toward them? How can you even communicate clearly with the best interest of your relationship if you don’t feel it’s worth it to try? I mean, really, HOW can you? I don’t think you can. I know I couldn’t. I was physically attracted to my first husband, had sex, got pregnant, then married him. All bad decisions. He was the worst possible kind of person for me. We weren’t even close to being compatible. Yet, because of the sex, I convinced myself he was right for me. I convinced myself that we were “in love” (looking back now I would say we were “in lust”). Then I married him. And, he hurt me in a variety ways, the ultimate hurt being divorce.

I propose that people should take the time to get to know someone BEFORE they get in bed with that someone. I think that people should spend time getting to know that person’s character in a variety of settings. After you have spent some time doing that, then you can make clear, logical choices while calculating the risk of entering into a serious relationship with that person.

Even after you’ve done all of this, you CAN still be hurt. But, I think it less likely to happen because you know this person’s character. You know how they make decisions and why. You know their problems. You know why they are with you. You know if they like you. You know if they are going to stick it out, even when things are rocky. You’ve decided to be with that person based on their character and qualities. A relationship based on trust, is far better than a relationship based on sex. Which, to me, is more important than an orgasm.

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If you read this part, why don’t you leave me a note and let me know you were here? I love it when people say, “Hi!”

Anger that burned deep.

Hello again! It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time for another testimony about overcoming emotional difficulties.  I don’t have another person lined up, so I am going to dish on myself.  So here we go…

It’s kinda tough to pick just one experience that I’ve had in the past 22 years that highlights an emotional difficulty that I have overcome because a) there are so many, and b) they are all interconnected which makes them complex and difficult to articulate clearly.

I have mentioned that my mother was an addict.  Her last addiction was prescription painkillers, which ended up taking her life in a (presumably) accidental overdose.  She was secretive about her addiction, and it was not immediately obvious to me because I had no knowledge about addiction during my childhood.  However, the symptoms of her addiction problem were usually at the forefront of her parenting because she was either at best confusing, or, at worst, abusive.

For example, my mother would periodically become very angry with the rest of the family.  Why she was angry with us was almost always a mystery.  One of the confusing things she would do during these random periods of mystery anger was to not let my sister and I do the weekly cleaning.  She would storm around, bang things, with a face screwed up in anger doing the cleaning.  I would feel awkward and strange.  I was afraid to say anything to mother for fear of upsetting her further.  Richelle and I walked around as if the floor was made of nails (sharp side up) while giving each other furtive looks of confusion and despair.  After a few hours of this, I would be practically begging for her to let me do the cleaning.  Anything to ease the stress and tension I felt.  Then, just as mysteriously, she would get over it.  Very occasionally there was some kind of discussion that really didn’t make any sense or have anything to do with reality.

As a child, these sorts of events caused confusion and fear.  This started embers burning in my soul that would smolder into my adulthood.  As I began working through the hurts of my childhood in counseling, I began to see my mother’s transgressions with anger, hurt, disappointment, and frustration.  These emotions ignited the long- burning embers from adolescence into raging flames.  It took a lot of years, and work, before I could even consider forgiving my mother.

For me, forgiving my mother meant giving up the right to be angry with her.  And believe me, I had felt I had every right to be angry with her for her transgressions.  I think some of you may even agree with me.  However, if unleashed, my anger could be a destructive force that wreak havoc in most areas in life.  I was deeply invested in my rights.  So much so, that God, in His infinite wisdom, had to work every angle to help me to see that holding things against my mother was actually holding myself prisoner to my own anger.  He had some pretty huge mountains to move.  Fiery, raging, burning volcanos. He showed me that I would be paying the consequences for my for my self-righteous attitude, like so much volcanic ash.  I would end up psychologically and spiritually dead, like those poor people on Pompeii.

As God labored to show me the truth, the light began breaking through my eyes, which were tightly shut against it.  Truth always stand the test of time, regardless of what we think or feel about it.  I eventually knew I had a choice to make.  On one hand, my right to be angry with my mother, on the other, forgiving her and moving on.  Forgiving her meant giving up my rights, but it also meant freedom.  Freedom from the burdens of pain.  Freedom from the consequences of my choices.  Freedom to live life to it’s fullest.

As you can probably guess, I chose to give up my rights.  And, indeed, I felt freer.  The rage no longer held me captive, torturing me incessantly, burning me from the inside out.

Today, I mostly look on my relationship with my mother regret and sadness, but, I am (mostly) not angry.  If she were still alive, I might even attempt to have a relationship with her, which is saying something.

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Now, it’s your turn… Do you have something you overcame that you would like to share with the rest of the world?

Don’t clam up. A blog post on taking risks in relationships…Part 1.

Author’s note: As I write this blog, I am finding that there is really two parts to this topic: taking risks in relationships in general, and the process of choosing a person with whom to take a risk.  In the interest of not writing a REALLY long post on both parts, I am going to break this into two parts.

A dear, sweet friend of mine, whom I have known since childhood, has been hurt quite a bit lately by relationships.  As a result of her pain, this appeared on her Facebook page:

While can appreciate the reason for the sentiment, I’m not sure I agree with the idea behind it.

I got married at the age of 20, mostly because I was pregnant and I needed the father’s health insurance to cover the related health care costs.  We had convinced ourselves that we loved each other and that we could make marriage work despite the true reason for marrying.  Little did I know that that marriage would end in disaster.  While I was no angel in this marriage and contributed to the failure of our marriage, I felt I was treated horribly, including, but not limited to, adultery on his part at least once, probably twice. Then, I was left, and divorced, by the person who had pledged to stick with me through thick and thin.

Relationships are risky.   The potential for being hurt, or hurting another, is huge.  People often present the best of themselves at the beginning, then the worst of themselves comes out as time goes on.  Often, the worst of ourselves, and the other person clash, causing chaos in our relationships.  Unless the chaos is effectively worked through or controlled, the result is generally a split (or a divorce if one is married).  It has to be said than in some cases, there is no hope for the relationship, no matter how much work goes into the relationship.  Splitting up with someone you committed  yourself to can cause intense emotional pain.  This pain is akin to having a limb ripped from your body, even if the other person was horrible.  The suffering can go on for years afterwards.   Self-doubt can creep in.  Fear of being hurt again becomes the new paradigm.  Any potential future relationships are affected by past hurts. One can be come overly-cautious in their attempt to try out this new relationship while avoiding true risk.  Which makes the new relationship more likely to fail.  Like I said, it’s risky.

When my marriage failed, I was at the beginning of the long healing journey that I have been on.  Frankly, at the time my marriage failed, I was not capable of managing the hurt associated with ripping and tearing that was going on.  I did not understand myself, nor the reasons that my marriage didn’t work.  I was single for about 7 years before my current husband decided he wanted to date me.  During that 7 years, I had to do a lot work in counseling, and with God, to overcome the terrible feelings of loss, anger, and sadness.  For 7 years, I was a single, working mother struggling to make ends meet, and trying to manage my volatile emotional state and a child who severely struggling as well.

The idea of adding a husband, and stepfather, into the equation was downright scary.  Like so many situations I observed, adding a man into my, and my son’s, life was extremely risky and likely to result in chaos.  What if my son and husband didn’t get along (they didn’t for a long time)?  What if my husband committed adultery like the first one?  What if he left me?  What if he couldn’t deal with the emotional baggage that came with marrying me (he does with a ton of grace)?  What if we just couldn’t work out our problems?  What if one of us gave up hope (I’ve been close a dozen times or more)?  What if my marriage failed?  Taking that step toward marriage again was a huge risk.  It could end in disaster like the first one.

The desire to close oneself off to the world, to potential love, to other people becomes intense after a split with someone you once loved.  Wrapping yourself up in hard shell of safety really only results in a life half lived.  Sure, you are safe from harm, but you are also safe from joy, happiness, fulfillment, and a good, lasting relationship.  This hard-shell reality affects how you react to other people, how you make decisions, how you behave in relationships.  You cannot fully commit to another person when you live your life this way, even if the person you found is the best person for  you.

The heart of the matter is that while putting yourself in a position to not “be let down” feels safe, I believe you are actually risking more than if you allow yourself to take the risk of being hurt.  I think I have made that the point that taking risks is dangerous,  BUT (with capital letters no less), I believe that taking risks is a necessary part of living life to it’s fullest.  Sure, the potential for hurt is there, but the potential for joy is there too.  The hurts described above can eventually heal, if you allow that to happen.  That’s right, you can heal from the hurt.   I would like to add an addendum to this statement: I think that one can make poor choices in partners and end up going the healing process over and over again.  If that’s what’s causing you so much pain, I would question how you choose partners.  So, we are gonna talk about that in part 2 of this post.

You are not forever tainted by your marriage’s, or relationship’s, failure.  You can rise above the associated pain and suffering.  You can place yourself in someone else’s hand again.  And, if you get hurt, you can  heal, again.  Unless you allow yourself to take that risk, you don’t know how something is going turn out.  You can live a a full life with someone by your side.  You can put your trust and hope in someone else’s hand.  Let yourself out of your shell.

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It’s your turn: do believe you can be healed from the hurt caused by failed relationships?

Testimonial Tuesday by Richelle Knapp (my sis)

It’s time again for another installment of Testimonial Tuesday.  I am the oldest of four, and my sister is the second oldest.  She and I have been through a lot together.  Although we had different experiences and perceptions of our childhood experiences, we have been on a similar journey.  Each individual step in our journeys is invariably linked to the other person’s.  My sister describes a part of her journey in overcoming her difficulties.  So without further, I give to you my sister Richelle Knapp…

As I was growing up, my mother was hard to figure out, to say the least. She was very mean to me and my siblings most of the time. But other times, she was really nice and fun to be around. She singled me out for a period of physical abuse. She was a drug addict. She did not really know how to raise children.

I don’t think she intended to be this way. I don’t think she set out to abuse drugs. But her background was a big part of it. Her family was a mess with alcoholic parents. She and her siblings were ripped apart when she was very young. She was largely a victim of circumstance. But sadly she did become an addict. She was always in a deep grip of denial about her addiction.

Her life impacted mine in deep and profound ways. Everything that happened to her and to me as a result of her problems and our relationship resonated for years even after her death. When she passed it took me a while to figure out that I was not mourning her death, but her life. After her passing, I had many emotional and mental problems. I was losing touch with reality and regressing back to my childhood. I was having almost constant anxiety attacks.  I was also having flashbacks of things I did not understand. I had a vague feeling of ongoing fear and even terror at times. My poor husband went through it all with me and was my main support. I could not figure out how to function. I could not work or do much of anything else. My emotions were in constant upheaval. One day I would be okay, and the next I could not get out of bed. I was lost in a sea of mental and emotional problems, and I was drowning.

When things got really bad, my sister ended up coming out to help me. She brought me back to her house to stay for a month and to begin to get me the help that I needed.  I went through something called inner healing.  Inner healing is a way in which God is able to come in and make significant changes to a person’s spiritual landscape. I had Dissociative Integrative Disorder. Through the inner healing, process  God revealed the fragments of my psyche and integrated them back together again. When it was over, I felt whole for the first time in a long time. But I also felt very fragile, as if I could break very easily again.

Later in the year, I came in contact with a woman who was instrumental in helping me to become stronger emotionally, and mentally. During the time she counseled me, we did certain exercises to help me to better understand what was going with me. I realized I still blamed my mother for the majority of the problems in my life. I realized that I had not forgiven her for just about everything. One of the most important exercises we did was called The Vault. My counselor had me talk through a list of things I had made in a previous meeting that had to do with my life. I had to decide what I wanted to “keep” so that I could deal with it still, and what I wanted to “lock” in the vault and move on from. As I worked through the list I could feel myself suddenly getting lighter and lighter emotionally. It was a significant time for me, a real turning point. I left that session feeling completely different. I felt very nearly completely healed. It was finally a new beginning for me. For the first time in a long time, I felt free.

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I am 38 years old. I have been happily married for over 4 years. I live in Bear, DE with my husband. I believe that anything can be overcome if you are willing to do whatever it takes; if you are willing to do the hard stuff to be healed and ultimately be free.

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So, tell  me, do you want to write about so something you have overcoming?

The Paradox of Personality

Yesterday, I found inspiration in home group during our discussion on peace and God’s rest.  Someone was talking about how much they disliked certain characteristics about themselves and how that interferes with feeling any sort of peace.  That’s when a certain little belief I have popped into my brain.  I like to call it the “Paradox of Personality”.  You are what you are, but you are also what you want to be.

Paradoxes. They make my brain hurt…

I think that most people agree that each one of us is born with a certain basic set of personality traits that we inherited from our parents.  The mix that we get is unique to us and creates our own way of relating to our world.  Then life happens.  Learning and experiences happen.  We learn to respond through our personality traits to the world.  And this is where my little paradox comes in.

I believe that personality traits have a good side and a bad side.  Sort of like The Force.  We can use them for good, or we can use them for evil.

Let me explain:

Let’s say you’re a person that does not give up easily.  Let’s say you’re dogged and determined.  We’ll call that quality “tenacious.”  According to the New American Oxford Dictionary tenacious means:

  • not readily letting go of, giving up, or separated from an object that one holds, a position, or a principle : a tenacious grip | he was the most tenacious politician in South Korea.
  • not easily dispelled or discouraged; persisting in existence or in a course of action : a tenacious local legend |you’re tenacious and you get at the truth.


This is a good thing, because that means that you don’t generally give up easily.  You stay with the problem longer (clearly you are genius of Einstein’s caliber.  Don’t believe me?  See the quote on the left from dear Albert).

Now, let’s take a look at some of the synonyms for “tenacious”:

  • persevering, persistent, determined, dogged, strong-willed, tireless, indefatigable,resolute, patient, unflagging, staunch, steadfast, untiring, unwavering, unswerving, unshakable,unyielding, insistent; stubborn, intransigent, obstinate, obdurate, stiff-necked; rock-ribbed; pertinacious.

Now, let’s divide these synonyms into groups.

Good side:

  • persevering
  • persistent
  • determined
  • dogged
  • strong-willed
  • tireless
  • indefatigable
  • resolute
  • patient
  • unflagging
  • staunch
  • steadfast
  • untiring
  • unwavering
  • unswerving
  • unshakable

Bad side:

  • unyielding
  • insistent
  • stubborn
  • intransigent
  • obstinate
  • obdurate
  • stiff-necked
  • rock-ribbed
  • pertinacious

Do you see the difference?  Tenacious can either mean you are persevering, or pertinacious.  Persevering stays with a problem longer, pertinacious is simply, and foolishly, sticking to their guns regardless of reason or wisdom.  A persevering person knows when to quit, a stubborn person does not.  People who persevere keeps relationships intact, stubborn people do not.  You get my drift?

See?  Good side, bad side.  You are what you are, but are you are also what you want to be.

So, you can either be this guy:

Nanny-nanny boo-boo!

Or this guy:

The I-just-stay-with-the-problem-longer guy.

Because,  you have a choice.  You can choose to use your personality for good, or you can choose too use your personality for evil.  You are not a slave to your own personality.  It’s up to you.  Which do you choose?

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So tell me, do you have a personality trait you would like to flip over and use for good?

Climbing up out of the miry pit of depression

I remember reading a book, a work of fiction, that described a battle between two kingdoms.  The good king was defeated in battle.  One of his son’s was killed.  As punishment for being defeated, he was chained to the dead body of his son front to front, and left there to die.  Sorry.  I know that’s pretty gruesome, but I wanted you to get my point.

This is how depression can be for me.  Chained to a dead part of myself, wishing release would come for me.  It’s like living with one foot in the land of the dead, and one foot in the land of the living.  It is a half-life lived in terror of truly sinking into death.

Some days, I just want to be left alone.  Scratch that.  MOST days I just want to be left alone.  I want to be left alone to think and drown in my own pool of misery.  Me, myself, and I like our little pity parties.  I can get pretty grumpy if it goes too far.  I don’t get much done.  I hid and avoid like the best of them.  I become an emotional couch potato.

But life happens all around me, whether I like it or not.  My son still comes to me in the morning for snuggles and kisses.  He looks to me to succor and support him in these tender years.  He wants me to interact on a deeper level than I’d like to sometimes.  It’s not that I don’t love him, it’s that I sometimes I feel like an empty well: I have nothing to give.  It’s not fair to him to give him my scraps, and then hope he turns out okay.  He may later resent me for “not being there.”

My husband needs support too.  At our best, we reciprocate life to one another.  We share in the deep bonds of marriage.  Empty wells have not much to give into that sort of thing.  Not to mention friends, church, commitments, and so on.  Like I said, life happens, whether I like it or  not.

Some days it’s all I can do to focus on what’s going on around me.  Some days it’s all I can do not feel utter despair and hopelessness.  Some days  it’s hard to believe that life can be better than it currently is for me.  Some days, death would be easier than taking one more step up my metaphorical mountain.

Every day is struggle.  I have to make a choice.  I  have to choose life, or choose to be half-dead, or choose to be all dead.  It’s up to me.  ‘Cause you see, I believe there’s more to life than this.  I believe it can get better.  I believe I can be free of this some day.

Depression is one of the toughest things to overcome.  Depression turns in on itself and becomes an out-of-control tumbleweed of despair, loneliness, and hopelessness growing bigger and stronger day-by-day.  The more you see life through this lens, the more things look bad.  The more things look bad, the more depressed you feel.  It feeds on itself.  It grows exponentially.  One might think there is no way to overcome depression.

They would be wrong.

There are a variety of ways that to overcome depression.  My best, and first action, is get on anti-depressant when it is so bad I cannot see my way out.  I am chronically under-produce serotonin.  Prozac helps to keep serotonin in my synapses longer.  Next, is to seek out some kind of therapy.  Usually, I go to various counselors in my church for spiritual guidance and prayer.  Then, with the help of God and others, I keep working out why I am depressed in the first place.  I keep working at it till I feel good enough to come off the Prozac.  You can choose to manage your depression without medication or therapy.  But you have to be strong-willed to keep yourself at check.  You need to have a strong goal in mind.

These days, I have attempted to produce more serotonin by exercising regularly.  This method seems to be going okay, but I don’t recommend it for those who are inexperienced at managing depression.

Some people meditate.  I pray, which is a form of meditation.  I need to connect with my Divine Healer, with my Source of Life, with the Author of My Salvation.  Right now, Jesus is my Prozac.  I go to God, the same way, my son comes to me.  I seek succor and strength to keep on keeping on when the mountain seems to steep today.

Some people overeat (like me), attempting to fill their hole with food, especially food that falsely replaces the missing neurotransmitters (this is why people like chocolate so much when they are sad).  Some people drink alcohol, some do drugs.  Some have lots of sex.  These aren’t methods that I recommend.  They are false prophets that fill your mind with false goodness.  And it never lasts.  And it just reproduces negativity and despair.

Sometimes I use self-talk to snap myself out of my thick, soupy fog.  Quoting scripture to myself works for me.  Particularly Psalm 42 and the famous Psalm 23.  I literally talk myself out of depression.

Depression can be overcome.  Slowly, steadily, and surely.  Someday, I will get there.

You just have to choose to overcome…and get to work.

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How do you manage your depression?

You can stay in your little self-imposed prison, or not.

I was going to write something further about isolation, but that has fizzled out.  Sorry for the sudden left turn, but I have to go where there is  inspiration.  I was preening my ego (hey, when you  have an audience of 1, don’t tell me you don’t need an ego boost to keep on keeping on) by reading over my previous 7 posts.

As promised, I am going to beat you with my “Tough Love” bat for just a little while.

I went back to my first post and found the term “your little self-imposed prison.”

As in, “YOU chained YOURSELF to this wall.”

As in, “You have the key to get out of there you silly person, so use it.”

As in, “It’s time to move on.”

As in, “Enough is enough.”

As in, “Your only kidding yourself that this is a good idea.”

Let me explain.

Stuff happens.  People hurt us.  We hurt people.  We learn from previous experiences to react in a certain way  to a set of circumstances that have familiar features.  For example, I have always had a tough time trusting men.  I sometimes feel threatened by men who seem to be flirting with me, especially if they are significantly older men.  I would give them dirty looks, I would feel the “fight or flight” hormones coursing through my veins, my stomach would hurt, my thoughts would swirl out of control, I would feel fear.  I learned not to trust older men because my father sexually abused me.  He could not be trusted in so many ways.  I learned to fear him because he caused me significant pain.  As a child, it is normal and natural to feel fear in these sorts of circumstances.  God  made our brains to cope with painful events in particularly helpful ways (i.e. dissociation).  But what about when I became an adult?  Was feeling fear actually helpful?  Did I need to worry about being hurt EVERY single time? Every flirting, older man does not mean to harm me.  Reacting with anger and fear every, single time this occurs is not helpful to me now.  Being cautious is good, but I don’t need to overreact.

At some point, I had a choice.   I could stay chained to this emotional response, if I wanted to.  After all, I am an adult and have the right to choose (you did know that, right?).  What are the ramifications to reacting with fear and anger in this situation? Well, let’s start with the physical:

  • Production of the feel good hormone “serotonin” is disrupted leading to depression.
  • The heart is strained and leads to heart disease
  • There is an increased risk for stroke
  • The immune system is suppressed and prone to causing an inflammatory response
  • The risk of cancer is increased
  • Gastrointestinal issues arise such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Peptic Ulcers, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Eating disorders can develop which leads to weight gain, anorexia, or bulimia
  • Diabetes can develop
  • Body aches can develop
  • Sleep can be disturbed
  • Normal sexual function is disrupted
  • Memory, concentration, and learning is affected
  • Alopecia, eczema, psoriasis, and other skin disorders can get worse
  • Substance abuse can develop

(Information taken from an article located at University of Maryland Medical Center’s website)

Relationally, men in my life would constantly feel challenged and uncomfortable around me.  I would not develop any normal or healthy relationships with men.  Emotionally,  I would constantly pay the price for my poor choices.  I would be in constant state of turmoil.  I would always be uptight.

Out of an intense need for self-preservation, I could choose to live my life this way.

I could choose to be chained to my little prison of fear and anger.

Or, I could choose to take my key, unlock my fetters, and walk out of there.

I could choose change.

Change in how I approach relationships with the men in my life.

Work on being calmer around men in general.

Not give dirty looks to men.

Not overreact.

Not feel an adrenaline rush every single time.

How does one do this?

  • First you start by believing that you can change.
  • Decide that change is what you want.
  • Talk to yourself about this.
  • Talk to others.
  • Talk to God (if you believe in a helping God, like me).
  • Look for resources.
  • Work at it.
  • Don’t give up.
  • Understand the truth of the situation.
  • Use your critical thinking skills.
  • Remind yourself you wanted this change…

Believe me, unchaining yourself and moving on is the best thing for you!

Okay, I’m done beating you now.  Feel better?

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Be honest, are your chained up in your own little prison?