Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: mental health

I want to live until I die

Age segregation begins in schools. As schools get bigger and bigger it is more and more difficult for a child to relate to those outside her own age group. At the other end of life, retirement offers freedom, but it is freedom with no purpose. Retirees associate with other retirees and strive to keep themselves amused. Eventually they go into retirement homes, which isolates them still more from other age groups. Then they go to nursing homes. As more people require nursing home care, those places become larger and more impersonal. I believe this is a recipe for dementia.

I have painted a pretty bleak picture and we all know people who have stepped out of that flow and lived a meaningful life in their older years. The way people cope with the aging process is a personal choice. Many don’t know what else to do but be carried along with the flow. I don’t want to be in that number. I want to live until I die.

I want to feel that there is a purpose to my life, that I am doing something useful to others, even as I withdraw from the workforce. To accomplish that, I will need to maintain a healthy body, a healthy mind and a healthy heart.

To have a healthy body I need to keep physically active. That doesn’t happen naturally any more, it has to be a deliberate choice. Walking is the best way to keep active, it is low impact and stimulates the whole body. But where I live, for about half of the year it is not very inviting to go out for a walk. So I need a treadmill or a rebounder. Regular, vigorous exercise maintains the health of the heart, the lungs, and the brain.

Having a healthy mind also requires making the choice to exercise it. Doing puzzles and word games is one form of mental exercise, but that is not enough. To prevent my mind from becoming fossilized I need interaction with other people, especially people who do not see everything in exactly the way that I see it. That means children, youth, all ages, plus people of different backgrounds and different life experiences. I need to read books that stretch the mind and help me see the world from a new perspective.

Above all, I need a healthy heart, in the spiritual sense. To maintain the peace and joy of being a Christian also requires exercise. That includes reading and meditating on the Word of God, not just an assortment of favourite passages, but the whole thing, in order to get the whole picture of what God has to say. It includes prayer, not just for myself and my family, but for others — friends, acquaintances, those in authority and those who are not so friendly. That is a very healthy exercise, the more we pray for others, the harder it becomes to say nasty things about them.

As I become more serious about writing, I am challenged to convey my thoughts in a way that is provocative, informative, and sometimes humorous. I need to exercise myself to recognize and avoid trite statements, pat phrases and slogans that no one outside of my bubble will understand. Above all, I need to speak the truth in love, with compassion and without biting criticism.

As a writer, there are times when I need to be alone in my cave in order to get words onto paper. But in order to have words to write, to know what to write and how to write in a way that will interest somebody else, I need to get out of that cave and be with people, all kinds of people. I need to talk to people, listen to people, observe people. The best anti-aging treatment that I know of is people. People who jar my thinking out of its customary rut and help me see things and understand things I would not think of on my own.

Social distancing – an unfortunate choice of words

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Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Epidemiologists say that to slow the spread, it’s important to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres between people. This is physical distancing, not social distancing.

In these times, people need social connection, not distancing. And this connection is not made by the so-called social media, like Facebook and Twitter. The connections that matter are a two-way communication, by phone, email, or in person if possible.

Being socially alienated from family, friends, and pastors is not good for emotional health, mental health, spiritual health, or physical health.

This time of isolation gives us the opportunity, even the responsibility, to contact others, especially those who we think could be weakened by events. Let’s talk to them, pray for them, and pray with them.

How I stay sane during a time of confinement

(Or at least try to)

  1. Talk to my cats. I know this probably sounds like I’m already losing it, but if there are not many people to talk to, cats are not a bad substitute. They are not persons, but they do have personalities, often a little eccentric, Both of ours are largely Siamese and they like to talk. Pookie is my Plautdietsch cat: he has blond hair, blue eyes and speaks a language I don’t understand.
  2. Drink coffee. I like A. L. van Houtte French Roast, from k-cups. I didn’t really like coffee before we went to Montreal in 1993, but driving by the van Houtte roastery on the way to church and inhaling the aroma changed that.
  3. Talk to people. That involves picking up the phone and dialing their number. It used to be hard to find my friends at home, but now they are in the same boat as I am and ready to pick up the phone and talk.
  4. Write to people. I get lots of impersonal emails and texts every day, I wish for more personal messages. Maybe other people do, too. There’s no better time than now to send a personal note.
  5. Exercise. I have a pedometer app on my phone and try to get 10,000 steps four or five days a week. At this time of year most of those steps are from jumping on my rebounder.  If our driveway ever dries I’ll do more walking outdoors.
  6. Try not to think about how late spring is this year. Complaining isn’t good for the state of my mind.
  7. Be thankful for every little spark of beauty in this dreary time.
  8. Be realistic about the Covid-19 virus. Ignore stories about conspiracy theories and quack cures.
  9. Find something interesting to read that takes me to a place and time where there is no Covid-19.
  10. Use this time to strengthen and deepen my relationship with God.

Is anybody listening?

Christians who suffer from depression or other emotional or mental distress often face disapproval if they try to find help in psychologists and pills.  It is true that there are dangers with both.  What kind of help are we offering them?

“Why do Christians shoot their wounded?” was the title of a book published some years ago.  The question is entirely valid.  Why do Christians in a fragile emotional or mental state find it so difficult to talk openly with fellow believers of their struggles?  Isn’t it largely because we are apt to make them feel worse?

I believe there is a time and place for professional help and pills.  They can help someone through a crisis.  But many mood-enhancing pills carry warnings that suicidal thoughts may be a side effect.  Some people find that these drugs make them feel worse.

These people need someone to listen to them.  That is probably the biggest benefit from psychological counsellors.  If you pay them, they will listen.  Why can’t we learn to listen to people with emotional struggles?  We may not be able to identify with their struggles, but would it really hurt to listen?

Our listening should not be passive, neither should it be judgmental.  We will make things worse if we tell people to just snap out of it and stop always looking on the dark side of things.  If they could just snap out of it, they would.  We need to remind them of God’s love and our love.

If sin is somehow involved, it needs to be faced and repented of.  But if we begin with the conviction that every emotional or mental disorder has a spiritual root, we will be miserably useless counsellors.

Years ago an older man began attending the congregation where we were members.  He had spent time in a mental hospital and had been given electro-shock therapy.  He was searching for peace, but in a horribly muddled way.  His strong point was that when he was in a struggle, he had to talk about it.  I was one of the brethren he called.  Sometimes we wondered if his mind was damaged too much to ever find his way through, but after several years and many struggles he found the peace for which he had been searching most of his life.  He had a peaceful and calm trust in God.  He was baptized and we enjoyed his fellowship for a few months and then the Lord took him home shortly before his seventieth birthday.

His son also got converted and was baptized, but in one crucial way his nature was the opposite of his father’s — when something went wrong in his life he would disappear.  He could not face the brethren and admit he had slipped.  One day I happened to meet a man who had known the family years earlier.  He said this son had always wanted to be strong, he exercised, rode a bike and lifted weights to increase his strength.  A light went on for me, he was trying hard to be a strong Christian, too.  He has hit some serious lows in life by always trying to be strong.  Things are going better today.

For twenty years now my wife has had almost daily phone conversations with a lady in another province.  This lady had a miserable childhood and seemed very paranoid when we first got to know her.  I will give my wife a lot of credit for the fact that this lady is doing much better today.  My wife has not agreed with the psychotic suspicions of this lady, but has been sympathetic and supportive and has repeatedly pointed out to her that God is more powerful than all the forces of darkness.

We need to let people know that it is OK to be weak.  The Lord told the apostle Paul “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

We are not being an enabler of another person’s unbalanced state of mind when we listen in sympathy.  Their suspicions, fears, and bizarre dreams seem like reality to them.  By listening with love and patience, not giving a lot of critical advice but rather offering them truths from God’s Word, we can help them discern between their troubled feelings and reality.

Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations (Romans 14:1).

We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves (Romans 15:1).

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