Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Crazy, Crippled Success

You tell me there is no God, or that you only pray when there is a crisis.

I’ll give you a glimpse into how a personal relationship with Jesus can impact your life.

I am truly going through the worst season of my life. Two weeks ago, I was hospitalized – against my will – for taking 17 Xanax. Yes, 17 Xanax. Doctor’s cannot believe I am still alive. I had to stay in the mental hospital for 3 days for fear I may have seizures going off Xanax abruptly. Let me back up…

I was born with cerebral palsy but didn’t realize I was different until I went off to college where I knew no one. My mom (in God’s wisdom & plan) is a nurse who has physicians consulting with her because she is so medically gifted. My mom went against the schools, the doctors, and anyone who tried to give me a different life. She insisted I be treated like all the other kids, and the other kids did just that. They treated me like everyone else.

I grew up in a Baptist church where I always knew Jesus was Lord. I got saved with my brother, Mark, when a pastor said “if you leave this building and die in a car crash, you will go to hell if you haven’t accepted Jesus into your heart”. I got saved to secure my place in heaven – nothing more.

Fast forward 15 years when I went to Florida State because I wanted to start all over. I knew no one, and that’s how I wanted it. However, since no one knew me, I had to prove myself all over again. School was hard, people treated me ‘disabled’ and I was homesick. The first summer, I became severely depressed. Although I was studying to become a psychotherapist, I am still human. All the techniques and therapies in the world won’t help when you reach a certain pit. The church was of no help, saying things like “just pray about it” or “you don’t have enough faith!” My childhood pastor told me I needed to get married and he was sure SOMEONE would marry me because ‘even circus freaks find someone to marry them’.

Even though I had a lot of friends, I was empty. I didn’t know what to believe anymore but I ALWAYS knew God was there. I remember reading how suicidal people can go to heaven because the only unforgivable sin is not accepting Jesus into their heart. That was all I needed to know. I could handle cerebral palsy and Crohns Disease which had me hospitalized yearly. But the depression, no. I remember the therapist telling me “Go home and watch ‘Friends’” when I told her I wanted to die. No one knew how to handle me being suicidal. So I took lots of pills, and ended up in a psychiatric hospital for almost three weeks. They told me when to eat, when to sleep, when to poop.

All the friends I had left me, saying ‘we don’t know what to do or say, so we can’t be your friend anymore.’ Fine. I swore I would never let anyone get close to me again, and for almost 10 years, I kept my promise. My cats were/are my best friends, all that I needed. I stayed in the house, and started reading the Bible from scratch. I put away all that I had learned in church and started over… looking at everything from Catholicism to Judaism. Soon, the words became alive, jumping off the pages and into my heart. The more I read, the more I wanted. For the first time in my life, Jesus was an ever-present part of my life. I got to know Him. I wanted to be like Him.

But I had secrets. One was I took Xanax whenever life got too hard, which sometimes was daily. My mom knew, but no one else did. My mom told me how dangerous it was, but I shrugged her off, thinking “she just doesn’t understand’. Another secret was dating the wrong kind of men… men who were safe and wouldn’t get too close to me. Men who I could write off without any emotion.

I became successful in my field, asked to participate on more committees and panels than my calendar had space for. I was paid to speak all over the country. And I was a great therapist because I never told my clients to just pray or go watch TV. My life was perfect… just me, my cats, and Jesus.

Then the ‘latest’ man I fell for was a member at the church I went to on holidays. I started attending regularly so I could see him. I was asked to give my testimony, which meant I spent the weekend backstage with the Worship Team. God started showing me how life is about serving others and how He wanted to share my struggles with others so they could see Jesus in my life. So I began sharing my secrets and my weaknesses. And people began speaking more candidly with me, sharing their own experiences.

I began letting people in again, trusting and loving others, and through what can only be the grace of God, people liked me and wanted to be my friend in spite of my revealed secrets. But I still had one secret no one knew: I was becoming a drug addict. Xanax became more important to me than God. Instead of praying, I took pills. Then I was put in a job where my boss yelled at me over my speech. She set me up for failure. Co-workers told me they thought I was a freak because of my cerebral palsy… counselors with Master’s Degrees discriminated against me. I gradually became more depressed, and eventually suicidal. My brother came down and stayed until I could get to a psychiatrist.

Once again, friends walked away for ‘not knowing what to say.’ I had to quit my job, knowing I couldn’t put the needs of my clients before my own. That would be unethical and I just could not do it. So I quit with no income, no plan. Things worsened, I got mad at God and stopped speaking to Him. I told Him I wanted nothing to do with him. Praying is so much a part of my life, that I kept catching myself praying, and then would remember, “Oh, nevermind, I am not talking to You.” That lasted three days. That showed me what hell will be like. That made me realize, I can go through anything as long as Jesus is with me. I never want to be separated from Him again, and He reminded me I was the one who walked away… He never left and never will.

Two weeks ago, I was exhausted… I just wanted to sleep. I took a couple Xanax, then a couple more. I don’t remember anything that happened that night, but had texted someone “I am having trouble breathing… will you Google “17 Xanax” and see if it interferes with breathing?” I ended up in the hospital. This time, I had no Xanax. When friends walked away (as they did before), I had no escape. I had nothing to lose, so I began sharing my experience online. People thanked me… people told me they started going to church, wanting to know this “Jesus” I live for. Someone told me I light up when I talk about Jesus, and when they look at me, they see Him.

That is what life is all about, reflecting Jesus to others. As embarrassing as my life is, I will not hide what He has carried me through. I am His, and everyone can ridicule me, and walk away, but as long as He is pleased with me, none of that matters.

THAT is my God… knowing Him allows me to get out of bed each day. My relationship with Him makes life worth living. Despite popular belief, the Christian life is not easy. Depression is not a sign of weakness. Success is not measured in money or possessions. Success is living so that others want to know how you are at peace during a crisis. Success is loving others in a way that can only be explained by a relationship with Christ. Success is laying down your own life to live for Him.

I am still depressed. I still face poverty and homelessness. I still want to live in isolation, selfishly staying just with Christ. Yet I am no longer suicidal. Instead, I want to do all He has created me for, touching as many people as I can with how my Father carries me… everyday. The world may see me as crazy or crippled or too revealing… but I bet Jesus calls it ‘success’.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I Can Write Again!

I can write again! My penmanship has been unreadable since I had my Xanax incident. Writing and reading are my life! I always have colored pens, a notebook and my Bible with me. I’ve been truly devastated at my inability to do either one. A neuropsychologist friend of mine explained what is happening in my brain. Xanax slows everything down and since I have cerebral palsy, my brain wiring is incredibly sluggish right now. He told me I need to let my brain rest – watch funny TV shows, day dream, whatever, but avoid intense conversations, don’t drive, etc. Evidently, what I do the next several weeks will determine whether I have a full recovery.

So what do I do, laying in bed all day? I talk to Jesus, guilt-free… turn my phone and internet off, lay there for hours and converse with Him. You know, it’s nice to be free to be with Him… and I think He likes it too.

One prayer request: My Crohn’s Disease is acting up, so I have been dealing with gastro-intestinal problems too.

And a praise request: unbeknownst to me, 2 people from Facebook got together, found out what electric company I have, AND PAID MY ELECTRIC BILL! Thank you, Jesus… Thanks you.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Update

I just spoke with the neuropsychologist, telling him I am having more trouble everyday (can’t read, write, or drive). He explained the Xanax slowed down my whole system including my lungs which should have killed me. He said my brain needs to rest – the more I use it now, the less chance I will go back to myself. He said even heavy tv shows are bad, and just stay in bed for a few weeks... I need to rest. So I have another form to fill out – maybe Michele will help me.

God is good,

Friday, March 27, 2009

Not So Good

Not doing so good. I get lost when driving, can’t find my way home.

All the problems I had before I went into the hospital, I have them plus more. End of the month, bills are due again. Social Security sent me a letter back in December saying they were holding April and May’s payment to me because of an overpayment back in college. I sent a letter appealing their letter a couple months ago but haven’t heard back. We’ll see if I get a check 4/2. My bank called, telling me I need to bring my account out of negative $600, to which I assured them a deposit would be made by Social Security on 4/2. My electric will be shutoff if I don’t pay by 4/3. Not sure about other bills. My account is negative because I HAD to pay COBRA. Then I told the bank my church would be sending a check for my car payment. Things were delayed so the bank tried taking payment for my car out of MY bank account a couple times, racking up $100 worth of bank fees.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Poem- Post Hospitalization

Bills are due, neurotransmitters construed,
Unable to focus and remember.
Penmanship’s crap, can’t seem to adapt,
Feeling vulnerable, weak, and tender.

But what hurts the most, what keeps me engrossed,
Are two relationships that I’ve lost.
Must trust fully in Him, to live once again,
Forgetting the pain this did cost.
- Shelly Weiss 3/21/9

Contemplating Depression


What follows below is from IVP New Testament Commentary on Phillipians 1, and basically says he would rather die and be with Christ, but for the sake of those around him, he chooses to live so he can continue praising God, glorifying Him with His life. MY opinion: People who say suicide is selfish only sees one side of the equation... I believe (and I know I will get a lot of disagreement on this, which is okay BECAUSE THIS IS MY OPINION.) My opinion is what is even MORE selfish is people who expect you to suck it up, 'be happy' and go on living without understanding the hell you go through, sometimes minute by minute. Or people who promise to stick by you but walk away when they don't know what to do... leaving you in your own pit of despair, that to me is selfish. But since we are descendants of the fallen man, we are all selfish. So I CHOOSE to believe depression is a blessing in that it forces me to talk to Jesus about all the things no one else would understand, not even I can understand. Life is about denying oneself for the sake of serving others. If my transparency causes all my friends to walk away in discomfort while even just ONE person comes to Christ after hearing my testimony, then it will all be worth it. One day, Jesus will smile at me, hug me, and say, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Welcome home!"
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Why I am here: Phillipians 1
19for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.[d] 20I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.

The striking words "to live, Christ [Christos]; to die, gain [kerdos]" epitomize Paul's life since Damascus. Once Paul was apprehended by Christ Jesus (3:12), Christ became the singular pursuit of his life. Christ--crucified, exalted Lord, present by the Spirit, coming King; Christ, the name that sums up for Paul the whole range of his new relationship to God: personal devotion, commitment, service, the gospel, ministry, communion, inspiration, everything. Much of what this means will be spelled out in his story in 3:4-14. Such singular focus does not make Paul otherworldly; rather, it gives heart and meaning to everything he is and does as a citizen of two worlds, his heavenly citizenship determining his earthly.
... Death, after all, because it is "ours" in Christ Jesus (1 Cor 3:22), has lost its sting (1 Cor 15:55)… Paul now begins a personal reflection on these two alternatives, whose point seems easy enough. If he had a real choice between the two, he would choose execution, for clear christological and eschatological reasons.

Verse 22 is a clear follow-up to verse 21. Picking up on the first clause (to live is Christ), Paul assesses what its outcome will mean for him in the body (literally "flesh"), namely, fruitful labor. But rather than follow that up with a similar sentence ("if it means death"), he jumps ahead to reflect on what he might do if he in fact had a real choice in the matter. "I simply cannot say," he says; indeed, I am torn between the two, since it means Christ in either case.

The tension arises between Paul's "on earth" passion of serving Christ on behalf of others ( fruitful labor) and his personal desire finally to be with Christ "in heaven." After all, all of present life is given to "knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (3:8) while at the same time pressing "toward the goal of winning the prize" of knowing him finally and completely (3:14).
Thus for Paul personally, to depart and be with Christ . . . is better by far.

… In any case, Paul understood death as a means into the Lord's immediate presence, which for him and countless thousands after him has been a comforting and encouraging prospect. Very likely he also expected such gain to include consciousness, and for most believers that too has been a matter of encouragement--although such a conclusion goes beyond the certain evidence we possess from Paul himself. Life Is to Their Advantage (1:24-26) Although verse 24 is grammatically part of verse 23 (remain is in contrast to depart), with these words Paul first of all returns to what he began in verse 22 (to live in the body means fruitful labor). Paul clearly expects to remain in the body, precisely because that is more necessary for you. How so is what he takes up in the concluding sentence (vv. 25-26). In the end he yields to "divine necessity," which is also a way of saying that God's choice.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Progress

I am going to see my doctor today at 11:30. I am doing better with long term memory, but much worse with short term memory. Yesterday, I argued with Don about where Steak and Shake was. I thought he was messing with my mind because he was teasing me, saying, “When did you get a new car?” (I was in my same car) and I teased back, “Who are you? And how did you get in my car?” When he made what I thought was a wrong turn, I told him to stop messing with me and it wasn’t funny anymore. I insisted Steak and Shake was behind us as he drove right to Steak and Shake. I was confused, thinking of Chick Fila. Things like that make me think I am losing my mind.

Ann is taking good care of me. I went to my church to volunteer and Ann went with me. I kept telling her things I had just told her an hour before. I was frustrated at that and she assured me it was okay. The memory loss will get better. As we walked to our cars, Ann told me as long as I stay connected at my church and don’t isolate, I will be fine. They are so good to me at Northland. I love that place.

People on Facebook are helping me too, a lot of supportive comments. I’ve lost 2 friendships over this, but gained so many more. My mom and I talk several times a day now. We use to talk once every other month. Yesterday, she explained what the Xanax had done to me and my brain. She has been against me taking Xanax for the past 10 years yet did not say “I told you so!” at all. She has been so supportive through this.

All this will be another part of my testimony… another way God carries me. I asked Him a week ago to do whatever He had to do to help me remember I can do nothing without His power. He definitely has answered my prayer.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Starting Again

Words from a friend cut deep, statements overheard do pierce,
When hearing how others view you, the emotions stirred are fierce.
Let my heart forgive, so I can focus on what means more.
Give me strength to take the path I’ve never walked before.
A day of new opportunities, to mold who I’ll become.
What matters is where I’m going, not the places I am from.
I will mess up, but that won’t stop me from trying,
I’ll get back up to walk the path, despite the tears I’m crying.
I’m proud of who I am, regardless of what they say.
God only knows what’s in my heart, and He’s not walking away.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Poem From My Prayer Journal

Depression is Back


She knew as soon as I said ‘hello’. Despite my attempts to reassure her, my mom was disappointed to say the least. “Mom, this one won’t last long… I promise. This depression won’t last for years…it’s only temporarily, really.” She sounded like a whining child, “but you were doing so good!”
She didn’t ask what started it because she has learned there is no exact cause. She didn’t ask if I had been in bed all week and was taking medication to escape. She knew the answers. She has been through this so many times before.
I know I let her down, yet I also know this is out of my control. I’m sorry for her, for my friends who don’t know what to do, and for the friends who never witnessed this before.
My thinking changes, I become existential, questioning life and my role in it. I get these irrational thoughts when people tell me to move to my parents, who tell me to move to Mark’s, who tell me I need to stay with Northland… DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW THAT MAKES ME FEEL? If I am so much trouble, I have a simple solution. I am not afraid to die. But it’s not my time. God wants me to impact more lives… I just hope I am almost done with God’s to-do list for me.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Blessed


I've been feeling so drained lately, so down (even the concert wasn't uplifting as the lead singer quit and the group started singing BLUEGRASS songs!) that I need some time alone. I wasn't going to go to my Bible Study group on Esther this morning but one of the sweet ladies called me and told me I needed to come. Well, to my surprise, they had gotten together to "Celebrate Shelly" showing me with gifts, girly stuff, money, food, gift cards, a plant, etc. It was amazing - they are amazing... GOD is amazing.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Socially Drained

I have been blessed beyond measure this past year. I am so thankful to the people who have helped me, I want to do all I can to repay them. Since I have very little to give and my love language is 'quality time', I've been socializing much more out of obligation.

Me being an introvert and a loner, well, it is physically & emotionally draining me. I wrote the following, which sounds so horrible... but lately, this is how I have been feeling. I need some time alone.

Indifferent

I don't fit your mold, nor do I want to. Socializing is a no win
situation- either I have to appear to be someone I'm not, which
deceives you, deceives me. Or I am 'weird' with "funny" questions,
crossing boundaries when I finally relax enough to take of the masks.
I never asked you to tolerate me. Never asked to be your friend. You told me not to isolate, not to withdraw. So I force myself to go out "to be healthy". This ain't healthy, and if it is- let me be "weird"
and leave me alone.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Barenaked Ladies


So excited!! Twyla got us tickets to go see Barenaked Ladies tomorrow! I'm so pumped, it is motivating me to work toward earning an income with my writing! Amazing what depression keeps me from doing...

Believe in Grace: Naked Depression Previous post on how BNL have personally impacted me...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Poem - Fresh Tears and a Bow

“I do not walk or talk the same, I have a boo-boo on my brain.”
“Will it go away?” she asked. Unlike her sprain this would not pass.
“Deep inside, we’re quite alike… I can run and skip and ride a bike.
Understand I’m equal – my smiles and tears. Experiencing pain throughout the years.
Candy Land, Hopscotch, will you play?” She said, “No, sorry… not today.”
Running home without a glance. I found her bow, perhaps by chance.
I went to press the circled glow, and heard what I thought I did not know.
“But Mom, she’s nice, like me I’d bet!” “I don’t know what you might get.
She’s strange, stay away! Case is closed!” Silence on a doorstep, fresh tears and a bow.
---- Shelly Weiss

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Bitterness, Jealously, and Pedestals

People often tell me how lucky I am to have ‘everything always work out for me’ to the point that if I claim I am about to be homeless, they shrug it off as God always takes care of me so I’ll be fine. Yes, that is true, but it doesn’t mean life comes easy for me. Quite the opposite, I am on my knees continuously praying for God’s provision and thanking Him for all he has blessed me with.

Yet I am guilty of being jealous, even bitter, over friends who appear to have the ‘perfect life’. Everything appears to come easy for them. In fact, they seem to live not only sin-free lives, but temptation-free as well! Of course, I know that is not true. I have to constantly evaluate my motives when interacting with them since I unintentionally place them on a pedestal, believing they have no clue ‘what real life is like’.

While we are not to have idols or envy others, we do need mentors. Like everything else, we must look to God to help us keep a balanced perspective. After all, people on high pedestals tend to be there only by reaching relentlessly for God.
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Most of us would rather say, "Don't follow me, follow Christ!" We are too aware of our own inconsistencies and failures to set ourselves up as models for the Christian life. But this was Paul's way. He said to the Corinthians, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Cor 11:1). Paul was well aware that the imitation of Christ needs to be illustrated in the experience of our peers. Without mentors who show us what it means to follow Christ in the rough-and-tumble of our contemporary world, imitation of Christ often seems an otherworldly, unattainable ideal. But when someone like ourselves gives us a living model to follow, we have a tangible, realizable pattern to guide us. – IVP New Testament Commentary

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