a blog about daughters in crisis and the moms who love them

Archive for the category “Crisis”

Pulling Mind Weeds

a weedless gardenI admire my friends who grow beautiful gardens — the kind that bear baskets full of yummy food. I treasure the jars of jam, sauce and pie filling that arrive in the fall. Every bite is one to savor because I know how hard those dear ones work to tend their gardens, pick the food and then transform it into delicious preserves.

I know it’s hard work because I have a garden too. This is my fourth summer to plant one. The previous three didn’t turn out so hot. I can blame my poor results on heat, caterpillars, fungi, and drought, sure. But my friends contend with all of those things too. I can also blame it on a lack of expertise, which truly is a legitimate factor. However, the Internet is full of sage advice about growing food, so any knowledge I may lack is always at my fingertips.

The baseline reason my gardens fail to thrive is that I fail to adequately commit to them.

I get busy with work, family, errands, reading … stuff. Meanwhile, the garden is out there with the sun shining on it and the rain falling down. It’s busy too. A week can go by and I’ve barely given it a thought. But it’s been right where I left it, growing. It’s great to walk over on a Saturday morning and see how much bigger the tomatoes have gotten or how many cucumbers are ready to pick.

What’s not great is to walk over and see how much bigger the weeds have gotten.

The weeds are what seem to always get between me and gardening bliss.

It never has to be this way, though. In the spring, when enthusiasm is fresh and the air is still crisp, it’s actually fun to rip those tiny beginnings of weeds out of the ground, roots and all. It only takes a few minutes, too.

But as the weeks press on and the temperature goes up, the novelty dissipates. This is where my trouble starts. Once I decide to put weeding on the back burner for a week or two because I’m distracted or bored, my next trip to the garden is unpleasant at best. Two weeks of rainfall and nice warm weather means weeds high and thick enough to make me feel overwhelmed. Feeling overwhelmed leads to feeling like procrastinating. Inertia, passivity and undisciplined neglect are the offspring of procrastination. I know this too well.

As my garden goes, so goes my mind. The best time to pull negative, self-defeating, false or injurious thoughts out of my head is when they first pop up, when they are small and their roots are shallow. If I let them go, they grow.

Upsetness, misunderstanding, bitterness, offense, self-pity, selfishness, unforgiveness, resentment, withholding, withdrawing, anxiousness – those thoughts set up root systems and they multiply.

If I don’t commit to eradicating weedy thoughts and ideas, they’ll eventually overtake the good things my mind is meant to produce. They’ll drain the soil of my soul and rob it of its fertility. My mind will get choked and fail to thrive. Poor choices will be made. Emotions will overtake reason.

Unwanted seeds can lay dormant for a long time, only germinating in ideal conditions, such as:

  • Being hurt or mistreated, feeling hurt
  • Failing or perceiving failure
  • Rejection
  • Being oppressed or feeling oppressed
  • Frustration
  • Anger
  • Fearfulness
  • Dealing with difficult circumstances beyond one’s control
  • Negative peer or cultural influence
  • Believing lies

Weeds will ruin a good garden if left unattended.

So far this season, I’ve been keeping up with the weeds. It was touch and go after we returned from vacation and it had rained almost 12 inches while we were gone. The weeds were tall and thick when we returned, and it was disheartening. My husband, knowing my proclivity toward giving up at such junctures, extended me a great deal of mercy by pulling out the tiller and thrashing my weed problem. I love that man! He took me back to clean rows. A helping hand can restore motivation and reset one’s perspective. Ever since, I’ve maintained a weekly routine of weeding on Saturdays; I’m being rewarded with healthy plants and ripening food.

I have a routine for weeding my mind, too. It took a number of years to establish and wholeheartedly commit to, but it’s working. Curious? Ask me about it.

God knew what He was doing when He gave Adam the job of keeping and dressing the Garden of Eden. What a great teaching tool it was!

Moms Have Triggers Too


you never leave my heartWe know that people with life-consuming issues deal with certain thought paths or things in their surroundings that “trigger” impulses. Impulses lead to choices, and choices lead to decisions. Decisions. Well, they sometimes lead to dire consequences. Attaching the words “Trigger Warning” to graphic photos or videos of the effects of self-injury is an all-too-common way of backhandedly glorifying the behavior. It’s gore for gore’s sake.

Worrying about someone’s triggers going off is no fun either. In fact, the dance between cutters and the ones who love them is one that requires a great deal of relationship savvy. It’s all too easy to get caught up in a “walking on eggshells” scenario where the cutter holds more sway over everyone else’s behavior than is warranted. After all, who wants to be blamed as the reason for a new wound?

Less is said, though, about what happens to a mom’s emotional well-being or anxiety levels while living with a child whose triggers lead her/him to make heart-wrenching, self-destructive decisions. Since Mother’s Day is near, today seems like a good day to bring it up.

Moms have triggers too.

Sometimes it’s hard to reflect on how I became conditioned to a state of low-to-medium-grade anxiety, a “waiting for the other shoe to drop” sense of always-on vigilance. At best, it was distracting. At worst, paralyzing. If I could have stopped every risk from coming along, I would have.

Suffering can be as painful to witness as it is to endure. But I can’t be everywhere at once, can’t make the world stop spinning to get between my child and what might happen. Sometimes it’s misguided to try. Accepting this makes all the difference.

Still, although it’s been a couple of years since anything major has arisen at our house, I notice that when any of my kids has an emotional setback I feel triggered to jump back into Night Watchman mode and brace myself for the worst.

We’ve come a long way. But healing takes time. Recognizing what’s happening in my head and walking through the discomfort to find my peace again is part of the process.

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms everywhere. If you are living with a daughter in crisis, my heart is especially with you. Don’t give up and don’t stop reaching out for help when you need it.

Let’s Dissect a Myth About Cutting

I’ve never met a cutter who views it as an optimal long-term lifestyle choice or a best practice for coping or relieving stress. They ALL say it’s something they want to quit doing. This must mean, then, that it does not provide the lasting sense of relief, peace, or atonement it seems to promise in the beginning.

Cutting betrays itself as an unsustainable approach to managing one’s emotions and circumstances. Rather than it working better and better, the longer and more frequently people do it, they instead find it multiplies their problems and swells the weight of their burdens. Rather than a tool that makes life easier, it is a weapon aimed directly at the self.

Cutting does not lead to victory, but to defeat. Guilt and shame. Temporary relief. Obsession. A cycle that always ends at regret.

Jesus, though, really could say, “It is finished,” and mean it. He paid the price once and put an end to sin and death. His blood does have power. His wounds really can heal.

Not long after my daughter, Tessa, turned to God for help to stop cutting, she realized something profound: she was trying to accomplish on her own what Jesus had already accomplished for her. She realized that she had shed her own blood in an attempt to purge herself of what she saw as undesirable within herself. Although she initially felt better each time she did this, eventually the undesirable things piled up again and the urge to atone for them returned. Bloodletting became a circular trap she found no way to spring on her own. Short of perfecting herself, there was no way to permanently get rid of everything undesirable.

I’m grateful to Caroline Kettlewell for writing down and sharing her experiences with cutting. I read her memoir several years ago, near the beginning of my quest to find some way to comprehend something I’d never heard of or encountered before. She is a terrific writer and was willing to uncover a very difficult aspect of her life to help the rest of us understand what takes place inside the mind of someone dealing with self-harm. It was a comfort to me to find in her words a first-hand expression of what my intuition was telling me about self-injury and the path toward true healing.

I cut with painstaking, deliberate slowness and a mounting sense of —excitement? Anticipation? Expecting to cross, at last, some final threshold, to realize some permanent escape. A blood sacrifice substantive enough to articulate the depth and breadth and conviction of my despair …

… Once again, I wanted to kill something in myself, wanted to bleed it out until I was left with the bare, clean baseline, the absolute zero from which point I could rebuild a better version of myself. 

~Caroline Kettlewell, Skin Game

I’ll never forget the joy I saw in Tessa’s eyes when she described what it meant to know that atoning for her sin was not up to her.

Jesus — the Passover Lamb, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the Earth, the Lamb of God — offered Himself and His own blood on her (and our) behalf as the final sacrifice to atone for sin. No other sacrifice since that day has purged anyone of any sin in God’s eyes. The Book of Hebrews tells us all about this in detail.

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