An Unlikely Hiker?

Challenging the image of an average hiker!

“The switchbacks repeated themselves so many times I couldn’t tell what progress I’d made, but there it was, the last one before the crest…”

I really identify with Bruso, who calls herself and “unlikely hiker”. In her 20s she was wholly uninterested in the outdoors. In the years since, she’s has become an avid hiker who works tirelessly to challenge the mainstream’s idea of who recreates outside.

Like Bruso, CityGirl did not grow up recreating in national parks and forests. “We didn’t like the dirt, the bugs or feeling uncomfortable,” she says. “We would much rather watch TV or ride our bikes around the neighborhood.”

At 40 I hiked Angel’s Landing at Zion National Park. I echo Bruso’s sentiments: “As tough of a time as I was having, I was not immune to how beautiful things were and how they sort of sunk into me”. She marveled at the smell of the forest in the summer sun, the sight of fiery wild rhododendrons. On every hike I take I feel the same way.

I’m still learning my limits and building up the stamina and strength it takes to hike strenuous trails. I’ve had two ACL surgeries so my hamstring muscles and tendons are weak and I suffer from Semimembranosus Tendinitis (due to a previous ACL repair surgery). That means I have to pay special attention to my body telling me I’ve done enough.

I’ve read up on and made investments in proper gear. I educate myself on the trails I want to do ahead of time so I know what to expect. Most of all I enjoy reaping the benefits of being an unlikely hiker. My spirituality and mental health both benefit from being out in the wild outdoors surrounded by creation.

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Escape PTSD With Travel?

Escape? Well… maybe. Not escape, exactly, but just like literal medicine helps lessen or alleviate physical symptoms of an illness, travel can help with mental health. Just being outdoors among the trees (a Japanese public health practice called forest bathing or shinrin-yoku) has been shown to lower the heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of well-being. Mind and body are connected, so when one benefits the other does, too!

In this post, I want to share a how we use travel, spirituality, and mental healthcare to deal with our PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Both my husband and I have felt the words in the graphic below and we have begun to rise above them with the help of our new lifestyle.

if you could read my mind youd cry

Travel – I don’t have as many panic attacks, flashbacks, or nightmares when I’m traveling. It doesn’t cure me but it serves as a very effective grounding tool. I’m not in my own head when I’m hiking Mount Ranier, walking the streets of Venice, planning our next RV Campground stop in the US, or navigating the intricacies of a different culture or language. It’s mindfulness in action and I love it. It refreshes and recharges me in both an intellectual and spiritual way to see magnificent sights whether in the US or abroad. Spiritually I see the wonder of Jehovah God’s creation and it solidifies my faith that there is a source of life and love bigger than anything I can imagine. Intellectually it challenges me to understand and push myself to go outside my American CityGirl comfort zone.

travel

Spirituality – Many addiction programs ask you to work with the concept of a higher power. There is a strong correlation between addiction and trauma. So those who suffer from trauma based disorders like PTSD can also benefit from asking their higher power for help. I can attest to the fact that developing a relationship with my creator, living according to His standards, and communicating in prayer with him regularly helps me greatly with the ups and downs of life. To read more on how the Bible can help you if you are depressed, read this article for some encouraging scriptures.

The references below (1, 2) on spirituality and mental health affirm that “aspects of spirituality are associated with positive outcomes, even when trauma survivors develop psychiatric difficulties such as PTSD or depression. Research also indicates that healthy spirituality is often associated with lower levels of symptoms and clinical problems in some trauma populations. For example, anger, rage, and a desire for revenge following trauma may be tempered by forgiveness, spiritual beliefs, or spiritual practices.”

spirituality
Sunset over mountain range, Colorado, USA

Mental health maintenance – I have and use a medical team for my depression and anxiety. So does my husband, who suffers from combat-related PTSD. Just like you need treatment for diabetes or heart disease you need treatment for mental health disorders. Sometimes that means treatment in hospital. In general, a good daily routine of positive self-talk or affirmations, grounding/ mindfulness techniques, and using adaptive coping responses like journaling when needed. When the fear overtakes me, even before I realize I’m having an anxiety attack, I start grounding, try a coping response, and then take medicine if needed – in that order. Sometimes I still succumb to the overwhelming fear, sometimes I cry, sometimes I dissociate. But, as soon as I’m able to get myself grounded again I utilize the skills I’ve learned in treatment to keep moving forward.

Mental Health

 

 

REFERENCES

  1. Hood, R.W., Hill, P.C. & Spilka, B. (2009). The psychology of religion: An empirical approach. New York, NY: The Guilford Press, p. 179.
  2. VA National Center For PTSD. “Spirituality and Trauma”. (Website). https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/provider-type/community/fs-spirituality.asp
 love is greater than ptsd cbcg

Never Give Way To Doubt

When I read the text this morning I was struck by how close to home the message was. When facing issues of depression, anxiety, stress, or other illness symptoms I have been guilty of giving way to doubt. Cancelled service plans, avoiding text messages from friends who want to get together for an interchange of encouragement, lingering in the bed for hours after my chosen “wake-up” time of 8:30 AM… these are all things I have done because I felt like “I can’t”. But, I didn’t feel that way when I made the plans. This text brought the reason to light.

I made the plans for service because I felt like I could; I could face strangers in metropolitan witnessing or knock on a door not knowing who might be on the other side. Why? Becuase Jehovah expects me to. Because I dedicated my life to doing his will. Because it’s part of acting in concert with my prayers to ‘let Your kingdom come’.

But then… I give way to doubt (Matthew 14:31).

i-just-cant

Laying in bed at 11 PM the night before my 8 AM service plans I start to doubt that I can. I start to think that I can’t. I start to believe that I just can’t. Anxiety sets in. Panic begins. Fear takes over. So I send a text to cancel. I tell myself this is ok. That I have a medical reason. That my PTSD isn’t going to allow me to meet my commitment. That I am a failure. That I will try again tomorrow.

Honestly, there may be times when I just have to try again tomorrow.  However, if you read the paragraph beneath the scripture below and pay attention to the full transcript of the passage to the right, you might hone in on the same sentences I did when I read it:

“Peter… trusted that God’s power would support him…”

Perhaps, in addition to deep breathing, anxiety medication, and staying hidden when I have a panic attack, I can also remind myself (even repeat to myself) that Jesus and Jehovah will support me in all the ways I need support especially when I am giving my time in support of the Kingdom. I’ve spent time today in personal study of this span of scripture using the SOAP-JW method I modified and, let me tell you, it is just what I needed. I hope it encourages you as well.

If you’d like to get the daily text on your smart phone or tablet just go to your app store and download the free JW Library app. The screenshot below is of mine on an iPad mini.

 

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Breathing To Reduce Anxiety

BREATHE TO REDUCE ANXIETY

Imagine having an anxiety attack. Your heart races, palms sweat, stomach turns, and you begin to hyperventilate. In a moment of panic your breath can turn into an involuntary response.

Unlike your cardiovascular and digestive systems, your respiratory system can function both consciously and unconsciously. In a moment of panic you can change how you breath; you can change how your body reacts.

The next time you are in a moment of panic try to breath deeply. A great technique is the ‘massage breath’. This infographic explains this simple breath that can calm the body and mind in a moment of panic.

breathing spire

 

See whole article here: https://www.spire.io/blog/2015/10/13/breath-reduce-anxiety/#more-990

Achievement Unlocked!

Update: I’m a regular auxiliary pioneer as of May 1, 2016.

 

Sometimes desperate circumstances call for desperate measures. Then again, Jehovah adds no pain with his requirements. These great mental health tenets also have biblical foundations:

  • Keep things simple
  • Put everything in its place (my hubby has OCD tendencies)
  • Focus on the basics
  • One day at a time
  • Get fresh air, start exercising
  • Don’t isolate
  • Make thoughtful changes

The same ideas in the bulleted list above are taught in the Holy Scriptures. At Matthew 6:22 it states, “The lamp of the body is the eye. If, then, your eye is focused, your whole body will be bright”. The footnote lets us know that the context of the translated word “focused” is modern “simple”. So, keep your eye simple.

tiny house

Along those lines we decided to simplify our 5 bedroom house (we have a lot of stuff for just two people and it’s a constant source of stress for my husband), downsize our wardrobes, cut our ties with the 9 to 5, and lead a much more frugal life.

Crazy, right? Then I thought, maybe the way we live right now is crazy. The average American spends 1/3 to 1/2 of their income on a home that takes 15 years to work to pay off. 76% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Maybe living the “normal” way is actually crazy. What if we could live on less and instead of investing in a career and house we could invest in our personal relationships with our creator, each other, and nature?

Rat-Race

Next, I though about living vs. surviving. With PTSD it seems like the sufferer and their family just survive daily life. I want (and deserve) to see my husband really live, not just survive. What if by changing things drastically we could both get back to living instead of just getting through each day to face another filled with the same issues in the same spot?

dont just survive live

Another scripture that kept coming to mind is Matthew 6:33 which states, “Keep on, then, seeking first the Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.”  So we have decided to work on personal improvement so that we might serve God to the full extent that our own circumstances permit.

We start our mornings now with the daily text, a prayer, and either field service or medical appointments OR BOTH. We round out the end of the day with personal or family study, meetings, and housework. It’s still a little surreal, but I think that means we are on the right track.

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Survivors of Abuse

 

THE BIBLE CHANGES LIVES

Jehovah Has Done So Much for Me

Crystal, a victim of sexual abuse as a child, tells how learning what the Bible teaches helped her to build a relationship with Jehovah God and to find meaning in her life. Click the link to view her video:

https://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/activities/living-bible-principles/adult-survivor-child-abuse-video/ 

To watch a video on protecting your children from abusers visit:

https://www.jw.org/en/bible-teachings/family/children/become-jehovahs-friend/videos/protect-your-children/

An End to PTSD?

Traumatic Stress Will End!

(From http://m.wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/102001603)

PERHAPS you are a war veteran and you suffer from nightmares and flashbacks that make it seem as though the war has still not ended for you. Perhaps you are a victim of heartless violence such as rape and feel that a part of you died in the horror of the experience. Or it may be that a loved one died in a natural disaster or accident and continuing without that one is extremely painful.

Do you wonder if such feelings can be changed? We can answer with confidence: Yes, they can! In the meantime, all who suffer trauma can find comfort in God’s Word, the Bible.

Helped to Endure Trauma

Nearly two thousand years ago, the apostle Paul underwent terrifying, life-threatening experiences. His descriptions of some of these are preserved in the Bible. “We do not wish you to be ignorant,” Paul wrote, “about the tribulation that happened to us in the district of Asia, that we were under extreme pressure beyond our strength, so that we were very uncertain even of our lives. In fact, we felt within ourselves that we had received the sentence of death.”—2 Corinthians 1:8, 9.

While it is not known exactly what happened on that occasion, it was certainly traumatic. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27) How did Paul cope?

Reflecting on his ordeal in Asia, he wrote: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those in any sort of tribulation through the comfort with which we ourselves are being comforted by God.”—2 Corinthians 1:3, 4.

Yes, help for trauma survivors is available from “the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort.” How can you obtain such comfort?

How to Receive Help

First—ask for help. If you feel emotionally paralyzed, remember that others have felt that way too. Those who have overcome such feelings are usually glad to assist others. Like the apostle Paul, they often feel that the comfort they received from God during their trial needs to be shared with “those in any sort of tribulation.” Do not hesitate to approach one of Jehovah’s Witnesses—any one of them with whom you feel comfortable—and request assistance in obtaining help from Jehovah, “the God of all comfort.”

Persevere in prayer. If prayer is difficult because you have feelings of anger, ask someone spiritually qualified to pray with you. (James 5:14-16) When you speak to Jehovah God, remember to “throw all your anxiety upon him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) Over and over the Scriptures emphasize the personal concern that God has for each of his servants.

The writer of Psalm 94 may well have experienced something very traumatic, for he wrote: “Unless Jehovah had been of assistance to me, in a little while my soul would have resided in silence. When I said: ‘My foot will certainly move unsteadily,’ your own loving-kindness, O Jehovah, kept sustaining me. When my disquieting thoughts became many inside of me, your own consolations began to fondle my soul.”—Psalm 94:17-19.

Some sufferers of traumatic stress are especially troubled by “disquieting thoughts,” which can become at times an overwhelming torrent of panic or rage. However, heartfelt prayer can help “sustain” you until those feelings pass. Think of Jehovah as a loving parent and of yourself as a small child whom he lovingly protects. Remember the Bible’s promise that “the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 4:7.

Healing—whether physical, mental, or spiritual—is a gradual process. So it would be unrealistic to expect that prayer will bring instant peace to those seriously damaged by traumatic experiences. Yet, persistent prayer is vital. It will help keep the sufferer from being overwhelmed and driven to despair by post-traumatic emotions.

Read and meditate on God’s Word. If concentration is difficult, ask someone to read comforting Bible accounts with you. You might choose passages that reveal the depth of Jehovah’s tender concern for his faithful ones, no matter how depressed or despairing they may feel.

Jane, mentioned in the preceding articles, drew comfort from many Bible passages in the Psalms. They include Psalm 3:1-8; 6:6-8; 9:9, 10; 11:1-7; 18:5, 6; 23:1-6; 27:7-9; 30:11, 12; 31:12, 19-22; 32:7, 8; 34:18, 19; 36:7-10; 55:5-9, 22; 56:8-11; 63:6-8; 84:8-10;130:1-6. Do not try to read too many Bible passages at one time. Rather, take time to meditate on them and pray.

Unprecedented Distress Now

Sadly, it should be no surprise that rapes, murders, wars, and needless violence abound today. Why? Because Jesus Christ characterized our time as one in which there would be an “increasing of lawlessness.” He added: “The love of the greater number will cool off.”Matthew 24:7, 12.

In recent years traumatic stress has become all too common—often as a result of the very events that Jesus foretold. As recorded in the Bible in Matthew chapter 24, Mark chapter 13, and Luke chapter 21, Jesus said that in this world’s time of the end, there would be international wars, natural disasters, and increased lawlessness and lovelessness. Yet, as Jesus also observed, relief is not far off.

After describing a worldwide epidemic of trauma and the start of “great tribulation” to follow, note what Jesus said people should do: “Raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near.” (Matthew 24:21-31; Luke 21:28) Yes, as world conditions worsen, we can be sure that great tribulation upon this distress-causing system of things will culminate in the end of all wickedness and the ushering in of a righteous new system.—1 John 2:17; Revelation 21:3, 4.

We should not be surprised that our deliverance will come only after wickedness and violence have reached their zenith. God’s judgments in the past against the world of Noah’s day and the vile inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah followed a similar pattern. Those past executions of divine judgment show what will happen in the future.—2 Peter 2:5, 6.

The End of Traumatic Stress

If you suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you may wonder if your painful memories will ever be laid to rest. Yet, the answer surely is: Yes, they will be! At Isaiah 65:17, Jehovah God declares: “I am creating new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be called to mind, neither will they come up into the heart.” Although the psychological scars of past trauma may seem permanent, this scripture assures us that someday their power to disturb will be entirely gone.

Today, over one year after the attempted rape, Jane is serving as a pioneer minister (full-time evangelizer) of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “It was not until the trial was over and my attacker had been convicted—more than eight months after the attack—that I really felt like myself again,” she said recently. “This time last year, I could not have imagined the peace and happiness I now enjoy. I thank Jehovah for the beautiful hope of everlasting life and the chance to share that hope with others.”—Psalm 27:14.

If you are struggling with the despair and paralyzing emotional numbness of PTSD, that hope can help sustain you as well.

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Attending Christian meetings can help you to cope

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Reading God’s Word and praying can help sustain you

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Soon all trauma will be a thing of the past