Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Thank You for Your Help!

I’ve been blessed with so much love and care since my meltdown a week and a half ago, and especially since I wrote I Need to Ask for Help last Friday. Perhaps writing it was a form of doing what I had been told—ask for help. I’ve been so moved by the things people have said and written to me. Thank you all.

Samantha wrote in her comment:

“When we allow others to work at our sides, regardless of who will benefit from the work, we share time and part of ourselves with them. We accept their help and offer love and kinship in return--and those are priceless. No one can buy time or affection.

“So I've tried to do that over the past year, and more often than not, as I express gratitude for the help I've received, the person who has helped me has returned my gratitude and told me how important it was to spend time with me--no matter what the reason. Time and time again, I've been surprised.”

This is something I have wanted, but didn’t realize it could happen just by asking others for help. It’s amazing how something so obvious could be so difficult to see.

Several people told me they have the same struggles—I’m not alone. Others encouraged me to take baby steps as I work to overcome the fear of asking for help. Someone I’ve had no contact with for 38 years wrote:

You shared a lot of your story on your web page. Reading between the lines, I get the impression that you feel like you are in the fight alone. You are not alone. We, your friends by circumstance and in Christ cannot judge you. We support you and you are in our prayers.

I have no idea if he had read the post about the meltdown, but what he wrote moved me to tears and the timing was impeccable. Our God is like that, isn’t he?

One friend came to chat in MSN with both pistols drawn.

“That paragraph made me so angry!” she said. She was referring to this:

It wasn't just exhaustion. I was so mad at myself for being so weak, so incapable, so needy. I couldn't get rid of the dark thoughts and wondered if I needed the Mobile Crisis Unit. Was I going crazy? My writing, promoting my book, soliciting speaking engagements--who was I to think I could do any of this? I was scared.

“You were mean,” she stated. “Debbie and mean cannot be used in the same sentence. Not in my world. You would NEVER say those words to anyone else. Only the last sentence is true. You slammed yourself—first for being so weak, incapable, needy, thinking you were going crazy. Then you slammed your talent, your book, your talent as a speaker.”

“I wish I could see me as you see me,” I responded.

“Please don’t judge yourself at all. Feelings are not right or wrong. They need sorting but feeling it never makes it true. You are so far from incapable. You were afraid. Fear lies. That is why Jesus tells us over and over, ‘Do not be afraid.’ He knows.”

I protested. “You just see me here, online. You don’t see me here, in my home.”

“Okay then,” she asked. “Who is real?”

“Both. They are different parts of the same person.”

“Okay then. Treat each one fairly.”

“Meaning?”

“Do not talk to one in a condescending way. That one is the one that needs the most encouragement. When fear enters, shut up. You can’t think straight. That is when you L E A N.”

“I guess that’s what my doctor was saying/meaning when she talked about asking for help. Be willing to lean on others.”

“Yes. Support. I cannot fix anything but I can hold you while you walk through it. You have to do it yourself, but you don’t have to do it alone.”

Amazing words and amazing love.

She mentioned an article she had read quite some time ago, called “Depression is an Evil Troll.” She looked for it but couldn’t find it so I asked her what the article said.

“I think what I learned most was, [depression] is an enemy and will never tell you the truth. I almost gave it a character of its own which helped me look at it as a real enemy to do battle against and never believe it when it speaks. It was then I could look at my thoughts, or my distorted thoughts, and be able to say, ‘That is not true.’ I guess I gave it the identity of Satan and I will never listen or trust him, therefore my depression began to be something I would always fight against. I think it gave me power because there can be no respect for Satan. We can't even allow him in our head for a moment.”

“What are you telling me?” I asked.

“Do you accept the Debbie that cried for hours?”

“No. I don’t like that Debbie at all.”

“She is you. She needs you. Treat her with respect. Don’t judge her. When you get overwhelmed you have to pull back for a while. That’s okay.”

“I didn’t ask for help, except for Tom to take me home because I didn’t want anyone to see me.”

“But that is the lies that you hear. Don’t bother anyone. Don’t ruin their fun.”

“So you’re saying to not beat myself up because I fell apart and had to go home?”

“Would you beat me up if it was me?”

“No.”

“Well then, show yourself the same respect. And please don’t take away from me the chance to love and help. The key to happiness is risk.”

“It feels like I’ve taken so many risks in the past eight years.”

“You have, Debbie, you really have. But look at what you have received for the risk! Vulnerability is hard, so hard. But if we never risk, we never connect. I guess I want you to love the Debbie that was at camp as much as you love the Debbie that is a wonderful friend, a gifted writer and a good and kind person.”

“I think you like both Debbies a whole lot more than I do.

“I do. I love AND accept you no matter where you are. And you do the same for me.”

“I really don’t know why you do.”

“You are the most accepting person I have met. Why do you accept me?”

“Because you like me so much?”

“LOL! I have hurt you. Disappointed you.”

“Yes. I still like you.”

“And I am soooooo glad. Again, show the same respect for the Debbie that gets overwhelmed and went home. You did it for me.”

“I don’t know how. It’s not the same.”

“Yes it is. I got scared and ran. We talked about it. You forgave me, accepted my behaviour the best you could. Do the same for Debbie.”

“I think I have this idea that unless I’m ‘perfect’ or close to it, no one will like me.”

“Oh Debbie, you touch so many lives. Your past and the emotions that accompany it never go away and that is where you are sometimes. Then your old ‘tapes’ start playing and the fear takes over.”

“Yeah. I think that accounts for a lot of where I am these days.”

“Well, can you remember when the messages come, that you are dealing with a child? If there was a child in your life that had heard the same messages as you, how would you help them?”

I made an inconsequential remark and then added, “My mom admitted to me recently that her and my dad’s goal was to raise me to be a perfect child. And I was. Well, of course I wasn’t perfect, but as close as I could manage.”

“So, what would you say to a child that believes they have to be perfect? Write a letter to that young lady (you) from the person you are today and tell her that you know how hard she tried and that you understand and you are proud of her. Can you tell her you know she always did her best? She deserves a pat on the back. Someone needs to tell her.”*

I haven’t written that letter yet. Not sure if I will. Not sure if I can.

Amazingly, the sermon Sunday morning was a repeat of what my friend had said. It’s not online yet but it should be soon. You will be able to find it here.

The current series of sermons is “Nurturing your Inner Life”—the inner disciplines that help to nourish our hearts and help us connect with God. We’ve talked about generosity and forgiveness. This time the topic was love. Specifically, we were looking at what Bernard of Clairvaux called “The Four Stages of Love.” Bernard wrote:

...we must bear the image of the earthy first, before we can bear the image of the heavenly. At first, man loves himself for his own sake. That is the flesh, which can appreciate nothing beyond itself. Next, he perceives that he cannot exist by himself, and so begins by faith to seek after God, and to love Him as something necessary to his own welfare. That is the second degree, to love God, not for God's sake, but selfishly. But when he has learned to worship God and to seek Him aright, meditating on God, reading God's Word, praying and obeying His commandments, he comes gradually to know what God is, and finds Him altogether lovely. So, having tasted and seen how gracious the Lord is (Ps. 34:8), he advances to the third degree, when he loves God, not merely as his benefactor but as God. Surely he must remain long in this state; and I know not whether it would be possible to make further progress in this life to that fourth degree and perfect condition wherein man loves himself solely for God's sake. Let any who have attained so far bear record; I confess it seems beyond my powers. Doubtless it will be reached when the good and faithful servant shall have entered into the joy of his Lord (Matt. 25:21), and been satisfied with the plenteousness of God's house (Ps. 36:8). For then in wondrous wise he will forget himself and as if delivered from self, he will grow wholly God's. Joined unto the Lord, he will then be one spirit with Him (I Cor. 6:17). This was what the prophet meant, I think, when he said: ‘I will go forth in the strength of the Lord God: and will make mention of Thy righteousness only' (Ps. 71:16). Surely he knew that when he should go forth in the spiritual strength of the Lord, he would have been freed from the infirmities of the flesh, and would have nothing carnal to think of, but would be wholly filled in his spirit with the righteousness of the Lord.

Andy, the pastor speaking, said of the fourth degree: “Loving self for God’s sake gives me hope as a human being. It gives hope for our community." Then he quoted Bernard, saying,

As a drop of water poured into wine loses itself, and takes the color and savour of wine; or as a bar of iron, heated red-hot, becomes like fire itself, forgetting its own nature; or as the air, radiant with sun-beams, seems not so much to be illuminated as to be light itself....

“So we become completely immersed in God, entirely transfused into who God is. We become enraptured. Loving ourselves not for our own sake but for God’s. God has created each of us to be unique extensions of himself, the glory of God fully alive. [At this point in my note-taking, I began to personalise what he was saying.] I reflect who God is. He’s created me to be alive, to bring joy to the world. God says to me, ‘Enjoy who I made you to be. Be energised by what gives you life.’

“It is amazing that we can commune with the Creator of the Universe. He wants to speak to me, to give me life and to energise me—to be fully alive. It’s not about pasting a smile on the unhappiness inside. What makes me fully alive?”


I have to think about that some. I think one of the things that makes me fully alive is connecting with someone in need and showing them God—his love, his compassion, yes, even his sternness. It’s a wonderful thing when that happens.

Andy listed three barriers to loving ourselves:

  1. We don’t see ourselves clearly enough as God sees us. We don’t have access to the deep life of God.
  2. We don’t see God clearly. No matter what I’ve done, he loves me. We need to experience God’s love by opening ourselves to him.
  3. Greed. Hate is not the opposite of love, greed is.

Because I’m on the prayer ministry team, I knew the sermon would be followed by an invitation for prayer. Normally during these times I’m on the look-out for those in need of prayer but even before the invitation was given, I knew that since this sermon was so obviously meant for me, I must follow my doctor’s advice and ask for help instead of give it. Two women at church had spoken to me about my meltdown post and had shown empathy and care. My intention was to go to one of them. Before I could move, one had gone to someone she knew needed prayer so, getting up from the back of the church, I walked to the front row where the other was sitting and asked her to pray for me.

She had a picture for me. She saw an arching trellis with a gate to the beautiful garden beyond. But the trellis was so clogged with vines that nothing could be seen past it. She was pulling the vines up from the roots and could see the beauty beyond but she had to get past the mess of vines first.

Nothing dramatic happened—I didn’t suddenly feel any different—but I had taken a step forward; to go up to someone and say, “I need help. Please pray for me.”

So I say the same to you. I need help. Please pray for me. And thank you to all of you who have already been doing this, some for years. You are a blessing—an extension of God’s mercy. Blessings!

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