Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Fun Weekend Getaway with Friends


Splitrock Lighthouse Nat'l Park in Two Harbors, MN

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Can I Let Myself Enjoy Life?

A peak into my personal journal--from 9-22-09

Dear God,

I can't thank you enough for what's been going on. I could analyze it (OK truth be told, I already have: Let's see, am I content because of hormones, my transmitters are balanced, out of my own strength, my will to just "think positively", You rewarding me for ???, or any other number of reasons.) God, I don't know why I'm feeling okay, well, I guess, because of the many things I've accomplished: moving out, cleaning my old place, taking care of myself financially, trying to do the right thing with Matt, doing well at my new jobs, etc. But why is it that all these good things have to happen for me to be okay, dare I say, happy, joyful???? And what about when I feel intense pain, desperation for no rational reason. And what about when I feel "joyful" when I have great reason to be distressed? LORD, these feelings are so confusing; I just want to be stable and not have to question everything: motives, body chemistry, amount of faith, etc. LORD, when nothing makes sense, I'm glad to know that it's in Your hands and makes sense to You! Lord, I am happy and I want to embrace it, want to celebrate, what's wrong with getting excited?? It's the fears, lies that creep in, telling me I'm supposed to be miserable...WHAT?? I don't understand how I can believe that but it's a struggle I've dealt with as long as I can remember!! Fear of, well if I'm having fun, maybe I'm not working (i.e. today) and I'm not working, well, then I'm lazy. And I feel guilty as well. I'm using the government, which includes people way less off than me. I feel incompetent..." Yeah then it continues. Just because I applied for one week of unemployment doesn't mean I'm lazy; I still worked just not FT and this week I will have worked approx. 30 hours!! (between 3 jobs) Thank you God!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dumping Ground

Can feelings tell you any sort of truth? Because for all I know they are not a gift but a steaming sword aimed for your heart, right from the evil one. Because even when I am feeling the good ones, I know they won’t last. Because they will just get demolished by the ones that eat and rip out my insides, make my mind boil in agony and my skin crawl in irrational sweat. So unhuman. I feel this for even seconds and know I am in trouble if I feed into this feeling. They continually attack me, but I guess it’s not the feeling as much as the thought that started it all. Or is it the feeling first? And which is evil, if not all, or is it I that is evil? I cannot stop because I am a mack truck spiraling down an incline and a tornado burrowing over those I care about the most flipping them over, drowning them in the undertow. And yet, I am me. And I feel these feelings to be me. But not all the time.

Inside where no one can see, I see my self. The self I hate and know is not my real self. But I sometimes glimpse the real person I am and want to be. But the dark and eery creatures eat the real me alive and I am screaming, yelping to not drown under their cackling bodies. I literally call out “Jesus” but I must not be doing it right because they just come right back. Again and again when I least want them there. When my relationships just begin to mend and I feel like I once again have a purpose. I am burned and all I can see is that it was me.

But I want to celebrate this moment of peace I have been given. I don’t know why Satan chooses to come at one time and not another. Or is it because I am stronger now? I don’t think so. Is it because my chemicals are more balanced? Probably, but that might have nothing to do with the fact that I took my medication. All I know is I can’t see past this wretchedness. I can just see a whirlwind cycle. Up, down, pow, bam-bam-bam, circling, sniping, swimming back, forth. Then up, down, pow. All over again. And your mind is telling you you have to do something about it. But all you can do is slump over with a sigh because trying has just led to failure, again and again and again. And the Church is saying we don’t have to defeat Satan because he’s already been defeated on the Cross. Blah, blah, blah. What does that mean? What do I DO? How much is spiritual and biological or should I just assume it’s biological because the spiritual has turned it that way?

Am I eternally flawed? Is God looking down on me asking, ‘When will you get it?’” I really hope I get it soon. The God I know and love wouldn’t say that, but why would he really want us to be this desperate, hopeless and confused. I feel like I seek him, ask him for help so much he is probably so tired…and like, "Okay. I’ve already told you the answer. Are you really listening?!” Or does he say, “Just hang on. Just a little longer. The pain won’t last too much longer. You’ll only fail this many more times.” I am so damn tired of hanging on, God! I want it to be real and better. And I want to know my feelings as something more that just fleeting seeds flitting about by each breath of wind, knocking the air out of you as they pass by. I want to know hope and freedom. And not just today; but forever. Some people may say it's a choice. I would like to believe it too. Wouldn't I have chosen it by now?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I am Moving

I will be moving this Saturday. For the first time since the day has been drawing nearer, I have been allowing myself to get excited, rather than dread it. I am the kind of person who has really enjoyed living alone. I don't get lonely often. I like coming home, knowing everything is just how I left it. No dishes left around with dried ketchup on them. No unknown people at my house to freak me out. No tiptoeing into the kitchen and bringing my coffee grinder into the bathroom so as not to wake my sleeping roommates. No unwanted catfights. I can leave my dishes in the sink as long as I want. I can clean how I want, organize the fridge and dishwasher as I want, and best of all, I can choose when I want to be around people. I always know I can go home and be alone...just the way I like it.

But I will be moving in with two people. My close friend Theresa has a house she bought a few months ago. She lives with Jen, who I am still getting to know. Theresa's probably the closest friend I've had in a long time, so the fact that I'll be living with her freaks me out just a bit. I have had my share of heartache living with best friends.

But as the day draws nearer, I am thinking of...get this...the positives of this situation! I'm thinking of how I'll arrange my small bedroom (I have been spoiled with my large one in this apt). Mostly...how I will be getting away from here, a place that I love because it represents my independence, besides my and Matt's love of the hot tub (and pool), and because of the vast array of beautiful (albeit annoying) people of all ages and races. But I will be moving a little further away from the city, in a neighborhood where there's not constant horns beeping, car alarms scaring me out of my wits, radios blaring, kids screaming, dogs barking, or construction machinery howling. Where drunk people don't accidentally try to come in (and if they do, at least I won't be all by myself!)

Mostly, my moving means growth for myself, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, interpersonally. I can work on my skills of interpersonal effectiveness from DBT. As I said I have struggled in the past with girlfriends/roommates. Who hasn't? I worry about conflict because I hate it and tend to avoid it; that's why I have to create situations in which to practice these skills. I am worried about my and Theresa's first "fight." But all close friends have them, or do they? Maybe I mean more, our first disagreement. But the great thing about Theresa is she has demonstrated unconditional acceptance of me. She is one of those people I don't have to worry about offending and to whom I can tell anything. Not only that; it is not a one-sided relationship. She also comes to me, asking my opinion or sometimes just for an ear to listen. So...while praising God for this friendship, I also ask myself, will I mess up? Will it get ruined while living together (as past experiences have shown)? But I won't focus on that now.

I started off positively; I'll end positively: I can't wait to see where God will take me on this next leg of my journey! Now off to continue packing...

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Poem I Wrote

Here's a poem I wrote in High School.

Tuesday the Eleventh of September
A Poem of Remembrance
By Brittany R. Bettger
Written 9/16/01



Tuesday, the eleventh of September,
A horrific day that we’ll always remember.
Who knew this could happen?
Who could foretell?
As the towers collapsed
And the pentagon fell,
The words of our president rang in our heads like a bell:
“Whoever was behind this tragic attack
Will not succeed in this cowardly act.”


We’d never thought that our perfect lives in America could change.
It was evident afterwards that, yes, our lives would change
After seeing people crying amidst billows of smoke and debris,
Coming from the state that has always represented our liberty.


We grieve with the victims' families during this mournful hour.
A time when we feel our nation is slipping from its strength and its power.
It is hard to imagine their grief and their pain,
But something from their sensitive words, we can gain.
At a time of panic, calamity, and strife,
We are struck with the realization of what’s important in life.
The people we love may not be here for long, so please don’t wait
To tell them how much they mean to you or it might be too late.


After this day, it will be inevitably true:
We will question our safety and our freedom too.
How do we overcome such an event?
Will we ever live our lives the same again?
How do we get away from the hurt we feel?
Is it wrong to have fun again or to eat a nice meal
When others are dying, or lost or hurt?
Should we continue life as it was or constantly remain on high alert?


These questions we hope will be answered soon.
May we never forget those whose lives were ruined.
And as this gaping hole in our hearts once again becomes restored,
May this solemn and tragic day never be ignored.


We might never know what the future holds.
But right now is a time to pray and be bold.
Never forget what it means to be free,
To live in a place of joy and liberty.
Value the things you have and let loose the things you don’t need.
Know your friends and pray for your enemies.
Most of all, trust in the hope that our Lord will somehow make us see
That America will one day be all that it used to be.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Labels

Labels have always been a big part of my life because they have given me worth. Sad, but true. In each stage of our life, we have been given labels. It started with the family labels: daughter, sister, granddaughter, cousin, neice. Also, as long as I can remember, I was a "Christian." In school I was a "musician" and "good student." Those were usually positive labels but came with their own stigmas. Within myself, I was a "worrier" and a "perfectionist." Enter mental illness. (Well, some don't believe depression to be a mental illness, but regardless...) Starting as a late teenager, I knew myself as a "depression sufferer." Into college, along with the depression stigma, I gave myself a lot of other names, a lot of them having to do with Christianity and depression. The funny thing was the expectations I had for myself as a "Christian" and "depression sufferer" didn't seem to overlap often. I would get quite frustrated that I couldn't work my way out of my thinking boxes.

In college, I had new labels: "sister-in-law," "girlfriend", "youth leader," "professional", and "teacher". I dreamed of others: "aunt," "wife," "mom," ("stay-at-home-mom"), "college graduate" and "depression-survivor." When some of my "dreams" didn't come to be, I felt like a failure. I overlooked the fact that I was indeed a college graduate, a practicing teacher, a growing Christian, loving friend and thriving in the aftermath of a wretched illness. Instead I focused on what I was not.

Today, in my personal journal, I reflected not just on my changing labels, but those of people in my life. A few of my friends and my cousin are going to be moms, some have become teachers or missionaries. As a college-graduate, the number one question I get asked is (after they find out that yes, I have graduated), "What do you do?" I used to always say, "I am a Kindergarten teacher." But even then, I wasn't too proud. But at least it was something. Now I don't know what to say. I guess I could say a "teacher in transition." Because of a new job, I have acquired a label of PCA (personal care attendant). But PCAs aren't real jobs. They're transition jobs, usually people do them while they look for their real job, what they went to school for. I am not saying I look down on what I do; I am just saying, this is what society says.

I am learning to hate labels. Maybe some are inevitable such as a job title or the fact that I am a Christian. (That is, I am a "follower of Christ"--the literal meaning of the word, but I don't always like to associate with Christians). Some labels I am working on changing or "reframing." Maybe all that takes is to tell myself, "I am healing from depression, but I am not my depression. And not all the decisions in my life have to revolve around this."

Then there's the lack of labels, the ones I'd always wished I'd have by now at age 25: "wife" and "mom." This, I admit has been a struggle as I weekly hear of marriages, pregnancies and births of my friends/family members. (While I truly am happy for them, the Devil likes to come in and lure me away from happiness and towards myself with his lies.) The truth is, my worth is NOT dependent on my marital status. Yeah, yeah, it's so easy to say but I have to cling to this, looking back at all the wonderful things I have been given and saved from. I used to think "I don't want Jesus to come back before I have gotten married and have had children." I have grown so much since then! Life is not about your role in life. I am so selfish to think I deserve to be married and have kids, or whatever. I don't believe Christ wants me to suffer as I wait, rather he joins me in my suffering. If I grow closer to him because of this wait, then that will be a much greater gift then any other. Because of his mercy and clarity in my life, I am happy to say that I am comfortable being single (unmarried) much of the time.

While I still have dreams, I try not to let the labels that come with these dreams define who I am. I end up only more scarred and empty. The only label I now want is "daughter of the King."

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mental Illness and Christianity

I came across a blog, http://evangelicalinthewilderness.blogspot.com/ that shares my view on mental illness. I thought I would share a little snippet. I have lots of thoughts on this, of course... But I will leave you to your own for now.

If our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, fears and behavior are simply controlled by our moral choice, then, one would assume that if you have obvious mental illness it is sin because you have chosen to think badly.

Evangelicals love this paradigm, especially if their mental health issues are easy to hide. The reason is, they can look as someone suffering from, say depression (and they don’t have depression), and feel better about themselves. They like to think that they don’t have depression because they have more faith, pray more and etc. On the other hand, the one who does have the problem starts to feel more and more guilt because they too start to believe that their mental illness is simply a result of their bad choices.

One of the biggest movements in Evangelical psychology was Nouthetic Counseling. Basically the word Nouthetic means a type of confrontation. You confront the mentally ill person and get them to repent (or cast out the demon) and presto, they get better. In my personal opinion, and I was a great advocate for this movement for a couple of decades, is that it is pure bullshit. It has done a lot of damage to people whom god loves and gave his son for.

But in reality, mental health issues are based in the organic, concrete, brain. Even if the mental illness, such as PTSD, is a function of nurture . . . it becomes nature because the physical brain actually changes under the influence of extreme stress. I won’t go into that here.

So a better paradigm is realizing that these so-called invisible or spiritual attributes are founded in the physical (the incredible brain which God has made) then the approach has to be different. It is different because some disorders, just like a congenital heart defect or lameness won’t magically go away with a simple cure. So, baring a supernatural miracle, on the order of raising a stone-cold, decaying body from the dead, a schizophrenic will never be cured.But mental illness can get better and can, in most situations, be controlled. But it is more like redirecting a glacier than fanning steam. It is hard work. It takes a huge amount of energy and support and yes . . . often it requires medications.

The “steppers,” like Bill Gothard, are also a disservice to those who suffer from real mental illness. He has 5 steps to perfect everything. So, in his opinion, if you jump through hoops x, y and z your depression will be gone. So, in real life, when your depression does not get better then you have a choice of looking like a failure, or push your mental illness underground.

So in summary, while mental illness is a product of the fall, there is a very good chance that it has nothing to do with its victims’ moral choices. No one hates their mental illness more than those who suffer from them. There is not an infinite amount of disciplines that they would not do, steps that they would not take, to rid themselves of the disorder once and for all.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My Schedule

Matt and I are doing a lot better, thanks be to God. Saturday was a fun day. I went to the house of his friends from our church (who I am just getting to know), Doug, Colleen and their three daughters. Matt was there working on a bookshelf with Doug. I talked with Colleen, then played some piano and had lunch with Matt and their family. Then I drove through crazy state-fair and construction traffic to meet with the dad of the family for who I will be PCA-ing. (Personal Care Attending) and turn in the paperwork--I am hired through Lifeworks, a company helping those with disabilities. I will be working with their daughter on Thursdays and some weekends. So I got everything squared away, and look forward to that. I have met their 21-year-old daughter and really like her. Later I wasn't feel well, so I had to miss a party that night and church on Sunday.

On Sunday I completed my first shadow shift at the group home. I met the four men with whom I will be working. Three of the four men have CP (cerebral palsy) and another man has a Parkinson's-like condition. Since I have worked with this company before, I kept thinking of things maybe I "should" be doing. It was hard to relax, but I just kept trying to force myself. The men are great and put lots of smiles on my face! It will be quite different as 3 of the 4 men are verbal and the last group home I worked at, the folks were nonverbal. There are many other differences too. Coming from a different home that was more strict, I have to learn how to be more laid back--maybe that will be good for me! Overall, I think I will enjoy working here. I work again on Thursday.

So my fall schedule looks kind of like this: I will be subbing Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesday half day mornings, and Fridays; working at the group home Wednesday evenings, some weekends; and PCA-ing Thursdays and some evenings and weekends. Yes, a wee bit crazy, especially as I still have lots of trainings to complete. Then you throw in moving in a few weeks and I get a little freaked. But luckily I am totally in control of my subbing schedule-I can just choose not to work it I want! I am continually seeking God and feel at peace about the job situation. He is so good, and most of all, he is all-powerful and I need to continually surrender each moment to Him. As He demonstrates, He knows so much more than I do about what is best for me!!!!!! Thanks for prayers...