Food is Medicine, And Medicine Food

This summer, while I was struggling, my mom texted me this phrase, “Food is Medicine and Medicine Food.” On this side of things, I am seeing that this is SO true. Good foods can help heal the brain.
After reading the medical world’s view on my diagnosis, I felt so discouraged. There are things that can be done through nutrition. An excellent article can be found on this here.

For me, after experiencing highs, I often experience horrible lows. I’m taking it one day at a time, but through exercising and changing my diet I haven’t had the low after this most recent episode. I’m also taking supplements that my nutritionist recommended religiously. It’s rigorous and overwhelming at times, but again, the whole one day at a time thing helps.

This isn’t the whole solution, food. But it is a huge piece. Eliminating sugar has done wonders and going down to one cup of coffee a day has done so too. And, also…gasp…no alcohol. Alcohol is a major depressant and can interfere with the effectiveness of psychiatric drugs.

Here is a recipe for an excellent breakfast smoothie that will help with sugar cravings.

1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 TBS almond butter
1/4 cup raw cocoa powder
1/2 cup ice
1/2 avocado
1 TBS honey

Mix all ingredients in blender and enjoy!!

Dear Church, For You.

The church must play an integral role in caring for people with mental illness. In my experience, churches can either be toxic places or places of healing. The first thing I would say to churches is to become aware. Awareness is huge. According to statistics, one in five people in your congregation suffers. But most suffer in silence. And silence can be deadly.

Church it is your job to be a safe and restorative place. Not only for people with mental illness, but for all broken people. Unfortunately, this is not the case at times. However, I believe in the church universal. If each member of the church universal faces their own junk, both their depravity AND dignity in light of God’s LOVE, then the church as an institution will be a much healthier place.

Here are my thoughts…on what makes a church toxic and what makes a church healing for the mentally ill and for all who suffer.

The Toxic Church

Non-vulnerable. Leaders, this starts with you. Vulnerability from the pulpit and with fellow believers begets vulnerability in people. Your stories help. A church culture that is non vulnerable keeps things in the dark. And darkness is where all kinds of crap hides.

Black and White. We as humans often love to make things black and white. I do this myself, so I get it. Judgement is easy. Putting people on pedestals is easy. The healthiest place is somewhere in the grey. Where we are all in the sea of humanity together. It’s messy and mysterious. It takes a dependence on God and incredible self awareness to not be black and white. Like when someone has a mental illness or any other problem to chalk it up to their sin or lack of faith. It is so easy to put people in categories, I get it! We all do it. This is a call to stop doing it, because it is killing people and keeping healing at bay. It is a major sign of unhealth in the church.

Agenda led, not Spirit Led. It so easy to have dreams and hopes for what we want the church to be. I get it. We are currently helping church plant. Formats are good, dreams are good, but this is a call to personal intimacy. Non healthy churches have a bunch of people running around doing things in their own strength. Again, I’m guilty. Saying a quick prayer at the beginning of a planning meeting instead of inviting God into the planning. We all have agendas, but these agendas must be submitted to God and this should hurt. Intimacy with God and following the Spirit gets a little crazy. It can be scary, even. But this is what we are called to as followers of Christ.

Healthy Churches

Pray. In healthy churches, there is a culture of prayer. Like in the middle of the service having prayer offered or it can even be at the back of the church. Also in healthy churches, leaders have a vibrant prayer life. This has been modeled for us in our church. We are small, but we all have an equal voice in prayer. We practice praying together at each service and it is incorporated into our service. This is healing for all and unites everyone.

Testify. The stories and testimonies of people in the body make such a safe environment for the weak. (And that is all of us if we are honest). We need to hear others struggles to know that we are not alone. And their victories. This helps us know that God is real.

Are OK With Mystery. This is tough. Like I said in the Black and White point, we want to judge and categorize. But dear friends judging is God’s business alone. It takes so much off of us to not judge. This is a grace of God, which must come from the Spirit, who is very mysterious. We can’t understand suffering. We will go crazy trying to understand. The church has gone crazy at times trying to explain to us, point by point why we suffer. Often this goes straight into the land of putting things in a category instead of being in a place of mystery and allowing others to be in a place of mystery. The best place to be in my experience is trusting that God is good and even saying it out loud when I don’t believe it. Being ok with mystery on micro and macro levels leads to true worship.

My Mental Illness Survival Guide

Ok, y’all. I’m writing this for myself and I hope it will help others…both family of those who suffer with mental illness and those who suffer. I’m going to write five things that helped me battle through a nightmare. Here goes.

The Mental Illness Survival Guide

1. Meds. Don’t be afraid of them. They are good, if you are on the right one. You might not be on them forever, but NEVER go off without consult of your doctor. And that being said, make sure you have a good psychiatrist.

2. Diet/Exercise. I probably would be in a much worse state right now if I didn’t have the help of Melanie at Creative Health. If you can, it’s nice to have a nutritionist on the team. She put me on a variety of supplements and exercise. The right kind of food helps. I am on a gluten free diet.

3. Safe Community. This is HUGE. When I am not well, I tend to isolate. Caregivers, do your best to separate the illness from the person. The illness can alter personalities. I had close friends, in the midst of the battle, who saw me. For who I am. They spoke the new, the truth over me and saw me apart from the illness. Most importantly, do not judge and try your best, as scary as it is, to not fear. Fear feeds the illness. Be in the moment, speak thankfulness out loud, forgive over and over and trust that the storm will pass.

4. God. Simply, it can’t be done without Him. When one is suffering, it literally feels like all Hell is coming after him/her. I don’t understand this, but this is a spiritual battle as well. This summer, I was fighting for my life in both the physical and spiritual realm. I am convinced that there is a spiritual element to all of this. (But be wary of hyperspiritualness. This can be a symptom that someone is not well). There are simple things that can be done. And there is a continuum from saying prayers under your breath, to anointing your house with oil. I know it sounds crazy, but it worked for me, to anoint my house. And God met me through miracles, too. Like, on several occasions, I smelled a strong fragrance of lavender even though there was no lavender in the hood. It’s wise to pray light over someone, identity and love. This casts out the darkness. And laugh if at all possible. Laughter heals. And cry too. Because that also heals.

5. Schedule. In recovery from mental illness and even during the mental illness, it is crucial to have a schedule. It can be a very simple schedule, but it will save people (both sufferer and caregiver) a lot of hardship and mind wandering. Caregivers, you might have to help make a schedule and be there to insure that it is followed. The goal is to get the sufferer to get to the point where they can make their own schedule. The sicker someone is, the simpler the schedule needs to be. Here’s an example: Remember the sicker, the simpler.

Breakfast.
15 minute walk. (or longer)
Shower
Journal (if possible)
Go outside and sit for 15 minutes. (This helps mind relax and also provides Vitamin D)
Lunch.
Take meds.
Dinner.

Obviously this can be adapted to fit individual needs.

I sure hope this helps. It is helping me to type it. Please feel free to comment or email me at nwhitesell@gmail.com and I will do my best to try and respond. Peace and blessings..

Natalee

9/1

The new.

That’s what Jesus came for. His heart for us sees us both as we are and as we will be. The old was crucified with Him on the cross. What would it look like for us to see this both in ourselves and in each other?

Yes, there’s the muck. The muck must take its rightful place, though. In an ocean of newness, grace, mercy and love. If we could get a handle on this, the world would change and we would be the bride that we were meant to be. Equal, reigning, sharing, and a joint heir with Christ. You know, riding in the front seat of the getaway car after the wedding reception. With Him.

A friend of mine saw His face in a dream once. She describes it as the human face of a man who has suffered. She saw the pores on his arm. When He looks into our eyes, as we follow Him, he will too see deep chasms of the suffering that we have been through. And there will be a mutual understanding. This is what He wants. Friends who understand. And love him.

48He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

There is nothing better on the planet than a love relationship with God. All of Hell cannot stop this. The greatest counter attack to the evil that comes against us is knowing we are loved. What we’re left with when the dust settles is love in our own hearts for God. This is a pearl of great price.

I sit here today not understanding the suffering that we have had to go through. And I don’t think I’m meant to. His ways are higher, his thoughts not my thoughts. I am happiest when I stay in this place. Knowing that I’m new, that I cost something. That suffering exists, for some reason, so that we will be able to live and laugh and cry and understand in the ways that we were meant to in the same way that Adam and Eve did in the garden.

We are meant for fellowship with God. Walking with Him in the cool of the morning. It is the Source of all things good. We are also being trained. Trained to rule and reign in a kingdom by being led down low roads. And it is this mystery that must lead me to nothing short of worship.

8/28

“The best things are the nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hands, the path of God just before you. Then do no grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain common work as it comes certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.” Robert Louis Stevenson.

Yesterday, I woke up shaky.

It was the shakiness that comes from being in both a nightmare and a dream where you can fly. I didn’t know if I would be able to make it. Like, could I do the simple tasks of being a mother and picking up the kids from school after having been there and back again. Could I make dinner? It was in this place, that I had to surrender. And ask for the intervention of heaven. I shot off an email asking a handful of people to pray. It’s so easy to go the other place of depression and shame after going through such trauma. It’s what simply feels natural. Stigma is easy in a sense.

Last night, I was able to make dinner. A small thing, but nothing short of a miracle from the hand of God. I mean this.

He has been telling me to not think about tomorrow or the future. He’s been telling me to just keep walking, on shaky step at a time.

My steps today are less shaky. My heart is less heavy. Gratitude saves the day. Again.

It’s a wonderful thing to have gratitude just flowing through you. And love. To not have to muster it up. It’s a thing that’s refined in the darkest of places. The darkest dark is there simply to unleash the lightest light. Doesn’t every night have a dawn that follows?

So today, I am thankful. Thankful for things such as breath and the grapefruit nasal spray my doctor gave me to clear up the post nasal drip. Thankful that I had two feet to chase my chickens and take their feed to the coup. Thankful that I have a middle schooler who still tells me that I am pretty. Thankful that I hand the hands and the will to cook. Thankful for my friends who are still my friends and who can see past the beast that was trying to devour me. Thankful that I can actually laugh at myself.

Thankfulness is a gift. It can be practiced, and must be practiced. But one day, it just bursts forth like a dam. And the torrents of it are what come from the hand of God. The most severe of mercies.

8/27

It feels like waking up from a dream. A dream vivid with colors, images, pain, glory. A dream where one minute I am flying through the air and the next minute falling from a tall building, but never really hitting the ground. Equally intense amounts of grace are the nets that catch me.

Waking up is hard. Fragile. It feels disorienting, vulnerable.

The illness fights. It wants to be front and center. So I wake up, out of the dream, with the illness in my face. Stigma wants to win. And honestly, it feels easier at times to let it win.

Bi-polar is a beast. A disease.

But I am not that beast. Or the disease.

The irony is that through it all, I discovered a little bit more about who I really am. How heaven sees me. This is the gift that enabled me to stand. Along with the support of family and friends.

I’ve sat here this morning wondering what I need. I think the biggest thing is compassion. A gentle touch. I don’t need pity, from myself or from others. I need to see myself, at the core, with the illness being in its rightful place. Which is a mystery that I can’t understand.

Tied to a Plan. I have to remember the larger story. That this is all not just about me. It is somehow for the Glory of God. As I’ve said before, like the blind man in Scripture.

It is in this complicated reality that I must keep walking. One shaky step at a time. Looking forward. Who am I to understand His ways? The only confidence I have is this: He’s good.

Who am I to understand your ways?
Who numbers the stars, sets my days.
Hell comes, You are there.
The Storms rage,
You are asleep, without a care.
This is what you give to me.
Ears to hear and eyes to see.
So let the storms come, let them almost take me.
To be able to look into calm Eyes that know eternity.

My Stake in the Ground

Let me just tell you. The summer I’ve had.

I don’t type these words lightly, with a proud swagger in my fingertips. I don’t type out of some voyeuristic need. I type for myself, and for the many people who suffer with mental illness.

I’ve been manic. There I said it. Manic.

Hold on, though.

—————-

Three days ago, I was in my bed, sobbing. Thoughts swirled around in my head, but mostly thoughts of pain that I can in no way explain. That’s not the point of this. The point of this is that I was rescued. I was heard. My cries were heard. I called my new doctor and told him what was going on and he prescribed a new medication. I went and picked it up and took it. Immediately, the anger, the pain and the rage and the highs were gone.

Mental illness loves darkness. It fears being exposed. For four months I was in and out of mania, extreme rage, confusion. My marriage was falling apart. I was falling apart. Let me say this. God is who He says He is.

—————–

I won’t go into how it was the summer that I could have lost my life and my mind. I will go into how it was the summer that God rescued. He gave me scents of lavender when there was no lavender growing. He met me on an atomic level. He loved me through my family, through nature, through friends. At one point, He even told me how to ride my bike. Like switch lanes here. Stop there. He is so incredibly good.

So incredibly good .

I can’t understand this. I can’t understand suffering. But I know that the love that I can feel in my heart for Him makes this load that I have to carry a hell of a lot lighter.

There is light. Incredible light. There is darkness, incredible darkness that I can’t understand. And I am nothing short of thankful today. Thankful for my life, my children, my husband, my family. I put my stake in the ground. My stake says, “It is all worth it.”

That Day (from Isaiah 25)

Rows and rows of tables, candles, seats, pottery, china. A table set with ancient wisdom, an ancient knowing of each story behind each guest.

Purified tables on an atomic level. Chairs, steady and leathery and woody.

Column candles, tea lights burning. Both on the tables and in the air, like the banquet hall in Harry Potter. The stars in the sky seem low, within reach finally.

The air is dry and fragrant with smells that we have never smelled, mixed with the roasted lamb and other choice meats, fragrant offerings to us, to God. A little breeze laced with chocolate. A larger breeze pregnant with expectation, chilling to our strong bones.

Time, coming together. The past, the present. Wedded at last.

Family members that have been long gone. Victims of tragedy, martyrs, raised.

Music, dancing. The way we will be able to dance. With no urge to please anyone else, with no shame.

Wine. Wine that gets into skin, not just heads.

A mingling, rowdy party. Earth, sweat, breeze, completion.

Seeing Him. His eyes full of the fire of love. His garments fragrant.

Lounging and reclining. Having a Nat Sherman. He knows us.

Those who have stared at the face of tragedy, of death, of darkness, of mental illness, of injustice, of not being known in this life. Who have felt the anger and rage in their gut.

He enjoys our company. He thrives off our conversation. Phrases are completed in minds before they are actually spoken. There is laughter, victory, peace.

When we drive home, there will be no accidents. No more dark nights.

Robin Williams, “A Centurion of the City”

I’m clunkily typing and retyping this first line.

I’m having a hard time finding words, words that aren’t too angry, words that aren’t laced in judgement toward the voices in the Christian community that have judged the recent tragedy of Robin William’s suicide. Words that aren’t saturated with anything else other than trying to wrestle with my own reaction.

Here’s the hard, cold, reality. It could have been me.

I urge us, each and everyone, to take this as an opportunity to look at ourselves.

This is a hard thing to do and I don’t say this lightly and I say it with the utmost respect and love. Love for the beauty in us. And compassion for the pain that each of us has had to endure.

Depression can strike anyone at anytime. Its victims know no rank. If you have the privilege of looking at your own shit and coming out alive, get on your knees and thank God for life and the new compassion you will have on others. It is in the surrender that we actually wake up.

I urge the church, we beautiful people, us, (in the non-organized sense and organized sense) to wake up. This is actually the place that I’ve personally experienced the most rejection. It is also the place (through its members) that I’ve found the most healing.

We, the church (not buildings), have great responsibility to care for the mentally ill. It is a messy, risky, job at times.

It is in hard times, times of questioning, that knowing our identities and functions are of utmost importance.

My son said the other day, “Mom, the mentally ill are the centurions of the City. They watch over and protect it.”

Robin Williams was a centurion. He battled, he fought, he brought us great joy along the way. He kept our humor up and our hearts and minds inspired. This is how he should be remembered. Not as a victim of tragedy.

This is turning out to be longer than I expected. I would like to remind the Church Universal today, (speaking to myself), who We are.

We are:

A house of lovers.
A house of prayer.
A house of forgiveness.
A lover of ourselves first, instead of beating up ourselves and those who attend.
A respite.
A haven for the weak.
A speaker of LIFE into others, not death.
The FIRST place where people go to receive grace.
A place of humility, not power and people shows.
A seat of service, not of judgement.
Prophets. Priests. Kings and Queeens.
People not a production.

Centurions of the city.

——————————-

Summer Birth

It has been the summer from Hell.

And from Heaven.

Let me say this. There is Hope. And not only Hope, but Expectation.

Expectation that the King is coming. When we give God our Yes, Hell follows closely. But it is nothing to fear. Because God is much stronger.

I am here typing this after feeling immense pain today. There has been pain on all fronts. Pain, though, is the very conduit of Heaven, if we let it be. And feel it and let it do its thing and not walk away from it.

If we will all just look deeply at ourselves. At our pain, but only nestled in the wings of the Divine Yes. The Yes that Jesus said over us when He came to die and the Yes He will say to us when we meet Him face to face.

I am thankful. Thankful for the deaths that we have all had to die this summer, in order that the King may first be enthroned in our hearts, then on this earth.

When I was talking to Him this morning, releasing, sitting looking at the trees and the chickens in my back yard, He gave me the image of a party. And of a wedding. We fight…and rest…and stand…so that we will lounge on the leather couches at the Feast. Where every tear will be wiped away. And with every sip of New Wine, the old wine skins will be shed. This is our inheritance. He is our inheritance. If we suffer well, we will be able to minister to the very heart of God both now and on that Day.

I sit here as both a broken woman and an expectant one. Feeling the pangs of the in between and the push of eternity. The birth of Summer is upon us.

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