Thinking Out Loud

June 12, 2018

The PTSD Aftermath of a Painful Loss

Filed under: books — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:30 am

Canada’s Andrea Calvert has just released Not Alone: How God Helped Me Battle Depression through Word Alive Press. She’s also the daughter-in-law of some close friends who shared some of her story with me. I’ve been following her on Twitter and also just became aware of her blog, Inspiring Life Chats, where she’s been writing for nearly a year.

I want to begin with the publisher’s synopsis of the book, and then share a short excerpt Andrea sent us just for readers here.

Publisher Info:

Angry and hurt, Andrea didn’t want to have anything to do with God. How could she when, one day shy of her eighteenth birthday, she had to watch her mother being wheeled into the operating room of Toronto General Hospital to receive a liver transplant? How could a God that “loved” His people allow them to suffer so badly? Why did she have to spend so much time in and out of hospitals, watching the strongest woman she knew endure test after test? Watching this happen, Andrea came to the conclusion that no god would do that.

Then, on April 27, 2011, it was time to say goodbye. After ten long months of waiting for a second organ donation, Andrea’s mother made the decision to let go-it was the hardest thing Andrea had ever dealt with up to that point. The loss of her mother led her into a downward spiral of depression, PTSD, and anxiety. Andrea lost years of her life and still battles to this day with keeping her depression under control.

Jesus reached down and opened Andrea’s eyes at the darkest point of her depression. Searching for a way to deal with her pain, she called out to Jesus, who answered her prayers and called her back into His loving arms. What He has done in her life is nothing short of amazing-Jesus gave her purpose again!

This is her story…

Book excerpt:

I saw a therapist and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. I’d never considered depression and anxiety as an “illness.” I always figured that if you were suffering from an illness, you had a problem with your physical health, not your mental health. Mental health related to things like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, and I didn’t have either of those, so I was fine.

I absolutely hated myself. My feelings of failure returned, and I withdrew into myself. It was like taking five steps forward and ten steps back. I went back into the darkness. Depression is often like this; once you’ve dealt with some past hurt, you only have a few days before the next issue rears its ugly head. It’s a constant uphill battle. Even when you think things are going really well, someone can trigger an old memory and you’re right back where you started.

There I was, back where I’d started, after five months of counselling and six months of medication. I had to start over. In essence, I was “back on the couch” for more sleep. In actual fact, I’d been couch-bound for about six months. I’d never really freed myself from the lack of self-worth, anxiety attacks, and isolation. I thought no one wanted to be around me, because I certainly didn’t want to be around myself.

Even at rock bottom there was someone there with me. He had always been there. When I saw Mom under a mountain of hospital blankets, He was there. On the phone saying goodbye to her before she went to Toronto that rainy October night, He was there. Through the ten months of sickness and the “Liver That Never Was,” He was there. And now, when I needed a lifeline from the depths of darkness, He was standing up, dusting off His white robes, and getting ready to extend His hand. Jesus. He was with me, and He was sending someone to me. He was bringing me back to Him.

The 118-page paperback is just the right size for those who find themselves in the aftermath of a traumatic loss that is causing stress and depression. Priced at only 11.99 CDN it’s also affordable to give away to someone in the middle of such a situation.

ISBN 9781486616107 | 11.99 US / 11.99 CDN | Distributed to stores by Anchor Distributors and Spring Arbor (US), Word Alive (Canada) and available for customer purchase wherever you buy books.

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December 29, 2017

Happy New Year!

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:18 am

This is the fourth of the four stories we’re presented over the Christmas season; two by myself and two by my wife.

by Ruth Wilkinson

At 10 minutes to midnight, Meg was sitting in the most strategic place she could find. On the couch in front of the TV, wedged between the armrest and an extremely affectionate couple. She hoped she was inaccessible, having spent the evening dodging the optimistic Ed, a friend of Joyce’s from work who Meg had heard quite enough about over the last couple of weeks.

‘You’d really like him,’ she thought. Ug.

Joyce had invited them both to her New Year’s Eve party, and Ed had decided, after a couple of martinis, that he did indeed like Meg. And with midnight looming, she wasn’t going to be in kissing range. Not that there was anything wrong with Ed, she just didn’t appreciate being set up and wasn’t going to play. As long as the affectionate couple stayed affectionate, she figured she could relax.

She balanced her drink on the armrest, laid back against the cushion. And yawned. She realized how tired she was.

The TV was set to Times Square. It looked like so much fun. She’d love to go, just once. But it was still on the to do list. Like a lot of things.

Like most of last year’s resolutions. She was going to exercise and eat better (including more chocolate) and call her mother more often and go to church more often and read more books and fewer magazines and and and. Most of which were on this year’s list of resolutions as well.

Next year was looking hopeful. Like a new job, maybe. Steadier hours, better money and more interesting, too. She had a good shot. She and Tony had achieved some kind of detente, which took the edge off a lot of things. Shane was doing well in school and wanted to be a vet. And, if she did say so herself, he was a nice kid. A likeable young man.

And, this party notwithstanding, she might be ready for a social life again. She’d see. No rush.

Because for now, here she was standing in Times Square with thousands of cheering people, wearing her favourite sombrero. She looked beside her and there was Mahatma Gandhi. He smiled at her and said something she couldn’t make out. She shouted, “What?”

The affectionate couple jumped and she woke up.

She smiled a bit, said “Sorry.” In the corner of her eye she saw Ed carrying two glasses of champagne looking for someone.

One minute to midnight, people were gathering around the TV. She fixed her eyes on the screen as the ball started to drop. 10 – 9 – 8 – 7…

•••

At 10 minutes to midnight, Tony surrendered. Shane had won. He’d just eaten his second scoop of the most painfully hot, the most searing, sinus mining salsa his son had ever made and just couldn’t manage a third. His cheeks were burning, there was sweat on his forehead and chin and nose and his tongue was on fire. He coughed and sniffed and waved across the table at Shane who laughed and downed another scoop.

It was almost not funny. Almost.

They’d just turned the TV to Dick Clark in Times Square. They’d watched movies all evening. A Matrix marathon. Shane had them memorized. This was Tony’s first time. They were pretty good. They’d invited Walt to join them, but he’d had other plans. Just as well, Tony figured. He probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it. Too much fighting.

Tony liked the idea about red pills and blue pills. You take a red pill and wake up in a reality you didn’t know existed, but it was more alive, more true than the one you kept living in if you took the blue pill. Blue pill — same old. Red pill — who knew?

Shane asked his dad which he’d take. Tony thought about it. The red pill had its appeal — adventure, a fresh start, the chance to be a hero. But —

He asked, “If I take the red pill, will you still be there?”

Shane frowned, “I don’t know. Maybe if I took one too?”

Hm. Tony thought for a second and then said, “Nah. Too risky. Blue.”

Shane told him he was boring, but he smiled. Tony thought he’d given the right answer.

One minute to midnight Tony poured them each a glass of sparkling grape juice. The ball was starting to drop. They toasted each other and shouted “10 – 9 – 8 – 7…”

•••

At 10 minutes to midnight, Walt was in bed with a cup of cocoa, the new James Bond novel and a plate of shortbread cookies Meg had given him Christmas Eve, baked by herself and Shane. Made with real butter.

Perfect.

The TV was on. Times Square looked crowded and noisy and glaring. He’d rather be where he was, with warm toes and his thoughts.

The boys had invited him to come watch movies, but he’d said no thanks. He’d already seen The Matrix three times. Loved it, but not tonight. Plus, he knew what Shane put in that salsa and there was just no way.

But mostly, he needed to face this one alone.

Last New Year’s Eve, he’d fallen asleep with the TV on and Esther beside him. She woke him up for the ball drop and kissed him and said, “Here we go again.” He replied, “Here we go again.”

They’d had over half a century of new years together. It was so strange for her to not be here. So wrong.

He put away the book and reached for her picture on the bedside table. His favourite picture. Those blue eyes and silver hair and the wrinkles at the corner of her eyes. She would have been a wonderful grandma. A wonderful mom.

He wondered what she was doing right now. Not watching Dick Clark, anyway. Too bad. She’d liked Dick Clark. He used to tease her about having a crush on him. She’d say, “Don’t be stupid” but Walt knew it was true. For a while, anyway.

He looked at the TV and raised his mug. “But she loved me, Mr. Clark. She loved me.”

Oh, God, he missed her. Just knowing she was there. That she was who she was.

He envied her. He’d always hoped he’d go first. Selfish, yes.

He’d never dreaded the new year before. This was the first one. But he really did. Another year of worrying about what the doctor might say, of taking that stupid cane everywhere, of trying not to be a burden to people who weren’t even family. Good people, but they didn’t owe him anything. Another year of being old and tired and alone and, if he was honest, angry. At the world that he was stuck in and the God who left him there.

One minute to midnight. He took a deep breath, squeezed his eyes shut and with his throat tight and his voice shaking, he said, “Jesus, you know I love you, you know I don’t complain much. But I don’t know if I want to be sitting here a year from now just the same, only worse. I’m not doing anybody any good. I’m not accomplishing anything like this. I don’t want to be… Blast, I don’t know what I want. You better know what you’re doing.”

The ball was dropping. …7 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1

He raised his cup again. And took a solemn sip.

On the screen Dick Clark gave his wife a kiss. Walt sighed, whispered, “Here we go again.”

He turned off the TV and the light and settled down to sleep.

The phone rang.

“Hello?”

A horn blasted in his ear and Shane’s voice, “HAPPY NEW YEEAAAR! Happy New Year, Walt!”

He had to laugh, “Happy New Year, Shane. And to your Dad, too.”

Tony shouted, “Happy New Year, Walt!” and blew his horn again.

Walt laughed again in the dark and said, “Go to bed, already.”

Shane said, “‘Night, Walt. Hey…”

“Yes?”

“I love you, you know.”

It took Walt an extra second or two to say, “I love you too. Good night, my boy.”

He set down the phone, lay silent for a moment and said to the darkness, “You think you’re so smart.”

July 14, 2014

You Hear Stories Like This…

Filed under: parenting — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:32 am

The stories like the one that follows are always anecdotal things that have been passed on from unknown sources. You find them in the back pages of Readers Digest or on email forwards or on Facebook. Never from someone you know with zero degrees of separation. Never knowing if the stories are true or just creative writing…

We got to know Jim Forde through a small group we attended a few years ago in Peterborough, a city about 90 minutes northeast of Toronto.  Since everybody was from ‘somewhere else,’ we tended to meet only every six weeks. Recently, I discovered Jim on Twitter and last night he posted this, creatively bending the 140-character limit.

James FordeA year ago a family in our church lost their son in a tragic boating accident. He was just 18. I was asked to do the funeral with the local community youth pastor giving a message at the end. He was the perfect choice to speak. The youth had been trying to figure out how to be a play hard and love God. The speaker nailed the message. Just perfectly.

The Monday before the funeral my wife made a meal for the family and explained to my 4 year old that I had to go meet with this family. She explained that a mommy and daddy lost their son and they were very sad. With very little said he walked outside and started to pick flowers. He picked until he couldn’t hold any more in his little 4 year old hands. He asked Leah for a mason jar. I was to take the flowers with me.

I arrived at the house with the meal another local pastor and this jar of flowers. The food was set on the counter with all the other meals (my town feeds the grieving well!) but the jar was given a special place. Their son loved picking wild flowers and putting them in mason jars for his mom. His way of saying “thank you” and “I love you mom.”

Two days after her son left without a chance for a good bye or “I love you” she felt it one more time with the act of a little boy.

July 29, 2010

For Those Who Have Suffered a Loss

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:05 am

Lisa Elliott is a mother of four, closing in on the first anniversary of her son Ben’s passing away due to cancer.     Her writings on Facebook (group name: The Ben Ripple) would — and I believe someday will — fill a book.

Ode to Joy

This past few weeks and as we draw closer to August 19 when it will be one year since Ben changed addresses David and I have been incredibly sad. This past Sunday in particular, for no specific reason, was extremely sad and emotional for me. It wasn’t my typical “tidal wave” of emotion that hit me. Rather, it was more like a “tsunami” and it took me under for most of the day.

But for those of you who are worried that I’ve lost my joy – have no fear. I find her every Sunday at church! In fact, she saves me a seat in the back row and remains with me until the last person has evacuated. Joy has been a gift to me. Let me describe her to you:

Joy understands the pain of losing someone you love. (Joy lost her father 14 years ago this past Sunday.)

Joy told me on Sunday that some days it’s easier to just be numb because to feel is to be in pain. (I thought that was very profound.)

Joy also knows that God can only heal pain when we allow ourselves to feel it.

Joy is soft-spoken and a woman of few words, but her presence assures me that no words can reach into the deep places of my heart that are meant for God alone.

Joy gives me the time and space I need to meet God in my pain.

Joy stands aside and doesn’t interfere with what God is doing in the deep inner recesses of my heart.

Joy doesn’t try to fix me. Joy has no words of advice for me. Joy just listens.  She fully realizes that the kind of healing I need, God alone can give.

Joy is okay with my pain.

Joy knows full well that sometimes there are just no words to describe my pain.

Joy lets me be real about my raw feelings and doesn’t leave my side just because I’m having a bad day.

Joy reminds me that although the pain never fully goes away, it will get easier to deal with in time.


Joy assures me that eventually I will remember happy memories of Ben with a smile on my face and not just a tear in my eye.

Joy demonstrates to me that life can go on, making new memories and learning new things about God as I do.

Joy rejoices with me and my small baby-step victories.

Joy has told me that it’s okay to want to be alone to rest, recover and take the necessary time to heal.

Joy has warned me to be real about my pain and not try to conceal it.

Joy celebrates the ways that God is using my pain to reach others and sees the potential of the “ripple effect” in and through my life.

Joy allows me to worship through my tears.

Joy sings alongside me and my pain in a beautiful harmony.

Joy lets me be sad when I’m with her and has shown me firsthand that joy and pain can truly co-exist.

Joy sounds an awful lot like another joy I know; the joy of the Lord. Yes, I have grown to love the person Joy but she would be the first one to remind me that the joy of the Lord that is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10)

“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence” (Psalm 16:11).

This is my “Ode to Joy”

“I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy” (John 16:20).

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