October 10, 2010

Stressed Out Living

What is stressed out living? In my opinion, it is when you can no longer functionally live without sometype of intervention, either medical (as in drugs) or physical (as in assistance) or mental/emotional (as in therapuetic). Stress can produce all sorts of unwanted side-effects, and long-term stress, can become physically and mental debilitating. A person who lives with constant stress can become so debilitated that they are unable to function in normal society. Psychologically speaking, they can become unstable to the point where they develop phobias or pscyhosomatic disorders (illness without a physical cause). In all cases, when the stress of daily living becomes overwhelming, the individual must seek help to resolve the problem. Unfortunately, many people seek help from the wrong source THINKING they are doing what is necessary, when in fact they are just prolonging the problem. For example, a person who is chronically unwell, but has been through every test and is classified as "OK" might consider seeing a DIFFERENT type of physician. If no physical problem exists, then the individual must consider a pyschological cause, and should seek counseling to determine another course of action. Many people, though, continue to go to emergency rooms, to their doctor's offices, and to friends for counsel instead of seeking a qualified counselor who is able to provide a more appropriate solution to them.

The problem with long-term stress is the way it develops and grows outward, incorporating those around the individual. Friends and family are the ones who will bear the brunt of the phone calls and hospital visits. They will rush to the side of the person who is ill, be there on-call, but come to find out time and time again, that the problem is not medical -- it is psychological in nature. At some point, it becomes difficult to stop this type of "rush in and save the person" behavior. Ultimately, friendships are worn down, and family relationships are strained.

I happen to live in such a situation, and I have first hand experience with stress and it's resultant strain on relationships. I suffered with PTSD for many years, and it took it's toll on my family and on my marriage. I sought counseling for it, and even though I was relieved with the diagnosis, and later various treatment options, it took years before I was able to say I was healed and free from it's control. I also have been through the psychosomatic illness aspect of stress, often suffering with excruciating headaches, backaches, and siactic pain. The cause -- is always nothing physical. I learned that my own mental atittude, my own approach to stress, was the root cause of most of my pain (yes, I actually do have spinal misalignment, and chronic headaches due to an old car accident). My pain has always been the result of stress, and I have learned to managed it. In fact, I have learned to live with it, and make the best of it.

I think this is why it bothers me so much whenever I see someone clearly suffering but who is unwilling to do what is RIGHT to help themselves. They choose instead to rely upon others to make them feel better, to serve and assist them, and to take their stress away. No one can take another person's stress away, no one can be the all-encompassing savior (little s). There is One who can solve the problem, One who can make the stress more manageable, and One who can liberate the sufferer from their suffering. He is the ONLY SAVIOR who is able to truly SAVE us from all our pain, all our hardships, and all our self-imposed prisons.

I came to Christ recently, and was SAVED. I was saved as a child, and then over the course of my life experienced an up and down relationship with Jesus. There were times when I was deeply devoted to the Word, and there were times when I was deeply devoted to myself. In between, I lived a life of whirlwind -- constant movement, constant bashing and barraging, and constant emotional swings (and physical ill as a result). It wasn't until I came to Him this time, and laid everything at His feet, that I became truly freed from all the tumult of my life. I learned to rest, and to have His peace with me at all times. I learned to stop doing certain things that caused me more stress, and caused pain in my back. I learned to like myself, and I learned to accept the truth about myself (and some of it was ugly and black). I confessed my sins, many deep hidden ones, and I came through the healing fountain of His blood. I discovered truth in my life, and I discovered that Jesus is MY SUFFICIENCY. He is my all in all, and that in Him I have everything I need to live out my life on this world. I also learned how to deal with other people, how to be in relationship with them, and how to be compassionate and caring WITHOUT sacrificing everything to serve another. I learned what it means to 'serve one another' with Grace, and I learned that I had not been serving with Grace, but serving with the attitude of duty, of servitude (like a slave to a master). I have only One Master, and His Name is Jesus. I serve others by serving my Master. This way, I don't lose my focus. I am able to serve Him in His Name, and serve others THOUGH HIS NAME. It is not a point of serving to please men, it is a point of serving to please the One who calls me by His Name.

As I have learned how to live with my own chronic stress, I am now better able to see how others are handling their stress. Some are doing better, some are doing worse -- some are not surviving at all. It is difficult not to rush in to save, but it is a matter of boundaries, and also understanding our responsibilities to other people. God has created an order of responsibility and it resides within families. Families are responsible for caring for aged parents or siblings who are unable to care for themselves (as in those who are mentally or physically challenged). Destructive choices though are to be avoided, and family members who have chosen to destroy themselves or their loved ones are in a different category than those who truly need help and cannot help themselves. We all understand about co-dependency, and therefore, it is important to understand what is a legitimate boundary, and when you are to stand your ground. Too many families have been ripped apart by flexible boundary lines. Too many relationships destroyed by one or more family members who choose to cross boundary lines, demand servitude, and expect constant care and companionship.

My heart goes out to families who are suffering with chronic stress. Some people have what I had, PTSD, and are learning how to deal with it through counseling and rehabilitative services. Some people live with chronic stress made by their own choices, their own behaviors, their own willfulness. These people often suffer at their own hand, and then want others to step in and save them. This should not be, but often the family or dear friend does it anyway. I would like to encourage those of you who perhaps are in this same type of relationship, always being called upon to rush in, to consider if your actions are helping or hindering the person in your relationship. Is there healing taking place? Do you see them getting better? Or is it just another go-round of the "same old thing" time and time again? If there is no healing, consider stepping back and dropping out of the "fall guy" position for a while. Let your friend or loved one learn to rely on themselves for a while. If things get really bad, they will seek help from professionals. If they continue to be misdirected and seek medical help when they need a counselor, allow the doctor or nurse to tell them so. Just stand back and let it be. I will promise you that in the end, you will be far more relieved, and your friend or loved one will get the help they need.

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