Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Quieting a Noisy Soul

This post was written on April 3rd:
This afternoon Philip and I were sharing together and he asked me, "What is your analysis of what happened last summer?" That got the conversation wheels turning and after listening to my theory of what happened last summer I was able to ask him the same thing. Through the last 10 months it would have been so much easier (possibly)  if there had been a clear picture of what was happening medically but that wasn't possible because there was so much more happening than in just the physical realm. But what interested me was when Philip said, "It's good we didn't know everything going on medically because the temptation would have been to avoid the pain. God was using the pain too much in your (Marianne's) life, my life (Philip), the life of our family, our church family and beyond that to have "fixed" it would have shortchanged the magnificent, redemptive, work that He was doing."

And it's true. We seem to be hardwired to run from pain. Not just physical pain - any type of pain or discomfort. And whatever is necessary to get away from it, we try it. And it's different for every person. The places we hide and the the extent to which we try to run varies from person to person. But one thing running always does - it generates noise. The kind of noise that can temporarily numb the pain and make us forget whatever it is that is gnawing at our souls.

Confession time - the two places I've frequently hidden is food and sleep. Neither of these are wrong, both are a necessity. God has much to say about both.... and their moderation. So, it was no surprise that two issues I struggled with last year were being able to eat - the nausea was incredible! (Drug withdraw affects every cell in your body!) and the insomnia was so debilitating. The two places I used to run and hide were no longer options. As I've said previously, the situation was multifaceted to say the least. There were many things happening physically (due to surgery and drug reactions/withdraw), psychologically due to what the drugs did to my mind (extreme terror, anxiousness, irrational fear, loss of concentration and sense of normalcy, horrible sense of "lostness" and gut-wrenching depression) and spiritually (issues coming to the surface that had not been dealt with - we're talking a long list of wrongs, both true and perceived that had never been tackled, character flaws that I would never be honest about with myself). And the list could go on and on!

So the noise was deafening! Some of my own doing and some from other sources. The generation of noise is not new. We're living in a time in history when noise is at an all time high. If we're ever going to stop and have quiet we have to fight for it. I'm not talking about physical quiet (I live in a house with 3 boys....that's only possible between 9pm and 7am) but soul quiet. A deep, genuine, quietness of spirit that only comes through one channel. That's spending time alone, with God, listening to His voice, and allowing Him to renew our minds. Allowing Him to teach us how to view life and all of it's component parts from His perspective. As I blogged earlier, it's a type of peace and quietness of soul that calms the anxious heart, quiets our fears, and restores our joy.

That's really where this blog post begins (for those who are still reading :o). When I was "trying" to get better last summer I was trying to do everything to shortcut the process of what God was wanting to do. I wanted out of the pain, the withdrawal, the side effects of the medication, and God saw the only way to help me get back on my feet and be a stable person again was to allow the pain to be so severe that I would be quiet and listen. Because for many weeks that was all I could do.  Benzodiazipines cloke the nervous system and when that cloke got taken away every nerve was laid raw. I can remember when hearing the air conditioning running and watching the hands on the clock was overwhelming stimulation - almost more than I could handle. Absolute quiet was a necessity (which is why I lived with my in-laws for awhile - Thank God for understanding in-laws!). But it wasn't stagnant quiet.

Back in February I blogged about the book "God is More Than Enough - Foundations for a Quiet Soul" by Dr. Jim Berg. This book actually came out of his much larger Christian counseling program, "Quieting a Noisy Soul" a whole DVD, study guide (Taking Time to Quiet Your Soul), and program to deal biblically  with "overcoming guilt, anxiety, anger and despair". I cannot express adequately what this study has done for me. I'm not saying this study was a quick fix for dealing with some serious issues in my life. But it gave me the tools necessary for God to start working on the renewal of my mind and my situation. I'll admit...I read the short book first and so profited from it, but I'm always a little leery of "Christian Counseling". Main reason - much of it doesn't differ from secular psychology - and I'm not interested in trying to solve my problems apart from God's help and without His Word. But I read the testimonies of others who had been in a deeper place than I was and decided it couldn't hurt. And knowing Dr. Jim Berg, I knew he wasn't going to be saying anything heretical, and I trust his wisdom. So Philip purchased the program and I began.

I went to the quickstart option for panic attacks and anxiety issues since this was one of the most horrific side effects of the withdraw. It wasn't going to stop them but it would give me the tools to deal with them biblically and thereby minimize the psychological effects they were having. One of the things I like about the program is its balance. He talks about the importance of finding out first if there is a medical issue causing some of these problems. Then even if there is a medical condition, there are some strategies for helping you stay stable until the medical issue can be solved. It's not a reductionistic approach that all you need to do is "read your Bible more and pray." There is a whole section on starting a physical exercise routine that will help you  physically and pairs that with relaxation techniques. The DVDs were great for watching while I was walking on the treadmill. The MP3's were wonderful when the visual stimulation was too much and for listening to in the van as I'd be traveling. The workbook "Taking Time to Quiet Your Soul." gave direction for really digging into God's Word and evaluating my thoughts against God's reality.

At first I was a little overwhelmed-  24 sessions, very structured, and I was barely taking care of myself. But the beauty of the program is, you can work at your own pace. The way I used it was to watch/listen to all the lectures first and then started going week by week and using the workbook. Philip and I had some precious times of worship this summer as we listened to the lectures on God's character. One of the fist things I did was print off the STOP-THINK cards and write off the supporting Bible verses on index cards. I then put those cards in my pocket and carried them EVERYWHERE! When a panic attack to hit, I'd pull them out and preach myself a sermon (He teaches you how to do that if you don't already know how) and move on.

The overview page has some good video clips about the program and they have some very helpful information. Just this morning, while staying home with two boys who are in the croup dying stages, I listened to "Getting Grace from God" under the "further help" and "listen".

I give this recommendation to those who are on top and those who are looking up at the bottom. It's not a program that just helps a certain set of people but rather has something helpful for everyone. Husbands and wives would benefit from studying together, parents would learn to quickly spot improper thinking patterns in their children. It's beneficial to anyone who is learning how to handle the pressures of life from a Biblical perspective.

As we are approaching the one year mark, I look back and stand amazed at what God has done in this past year. Someone asked me several months ago if I felt like I was back to "normal" because their one concern was this experience would permenatly change me. What was "normal" is no longer where I want to return. This past year has changed me. But I don't think that's a bad thing. There is a large area of margin in my life (which I'll blog about sometime) that never existed before. I have more time for what's important because I can't keep the schedule I used to keep and I want my best reserved for what's important. It doesn't mean I'm always comfortable here. I chafe under the restrictions sometimes and must daily submit to my Father's gracious molding.

So, if you struggle with feeling overwhelmed, or have battled depression, or are involved in the life of someone who is at this point, this is a very helpful resource.


Anonymous said...

God's grace is evident when we can take seemingly negative (in your case, extremely painful, both physically and emotionally)and use it to draw us closer to Him and to bring Him glory. You portray this beautifully, Marianne. Thanks for posting this.

Laura said...

Thank you for this post, Marianne. Dr. Berg's program sounds like a valuable resource, and I'm glad to know about it.

The Dickinsons said...

Very good post! Sorry for all you suffered, but Glad that God is helping you. I'm learning that the difficult things that we go through...often times God uses for us to "be there" for others later in our lives.
May God give you a super day in Him!

Liz said...

I was so blessed to read this part of your story here, Marianne. Isn't it wonderful to serve a God who can bring us THRU!

The last year has been a real growing opportunity for Darrell and I as well. (Have you heard of adrenal fatigue?) Its good to know that He is guiding each step of our journey.

And thank you for the program recommendation - we are collecting ideas for group studies and this looks like an excellent one. Blessings on your family!

Charity said...

Thank you so much for sharing. I've dealt with panic attacks and they are not. fun. God has really helped me in dealing with them, but I've been wanting something else to help me Biblically. This sounds like a wonderful resource from a Godly perspective.

sarahmfry said...

Thank you for the great resource information, but thanks even more for sharing your heart so beautifully. I was on my way Tuesday to give a devotional on the Habit of Thankfulness...my mind went to three or four of the most painful things I've been through in my life. And I was thankful! Times of pain have shaped me, changed me. And you're right - we won't ever be the same kind of "whole" (or normal) again, but our brokenness is somehow stronger.

Thank you!

Andy, Dixie, Carson and Kenzie said...

Thank you for sharing this post!