Coronavirus Lockdown Journal Week 7: May 4-10

On May 1st Yolo County extended the shelter-in-place order that started in on March 18th:

Some of the county is opening up, with certain outdoor activities such as golf and archery now permitted. Drive-in religious services are also open as of May 4th. 

Lori and I have been posting a weekly journal updated every day or two to mark thoughts, reflections, and news related to life sheltering-at-home.

This is week 7 of the lockdown.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

The Wonder Woman I Knew–A Mother’s Day Poem (Lori)

I will start with Beauty,
You always were that to me—
Green eyes, copper hair, and long flowing dresses,
The color of your lipstick and faint smell of hairspray,
Fill my early childhood memories with good things. 

Then there was the test of Strength, 
Mom, you got really sick. 
The doctors couldn’t figure it out, 
Some even believed you made it all up;
But we found a doctor who helped us understand 
As you lived with a chronic health condition for many years. 
You kept on going, living your life and in that resilience
Found a way to help others with similar conditions. 

Ohh my dear mother, you were the Love. 
I rarely had reason to doubt it. 
You were constantly by my side, 
Through every up and down I faced.
In my teen years you showed me that 
Love must sometimes be tough, 
But always believes and hopes for the best,
In me—your only child. 

The Grace and dignity you showed,
You extended it to many others. 
No one was excluded from your circle 
Of friendship and loyalty. 
You laughed with others in times of joy,
You held the hand of a friend suffering from terminal cancer. 
You taught me how to connect with people in meaningful ways. 

I speak the Truth,
I testify,
To these things that you were and still are, 
Even though you have left this earth. 
You never wore a cape or carried a lasso, 
But you were a wonderful woman,
A Wonder Woman to me.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Quarantine Nail Party (Lori)

Those who keep in touch with me on social media know I enjoy giving myself manicures. Manicures (and occasionally pedicures) are fulfilling to me in two ways: self-care and to show my creative side.  I am happy to share my most recent manicure in this entry. 

Why nail polish? Isn’t it sticky, smelly, time-consuming, and troublesome? If I am being completely honest, it is all of those things. If you can pull off the perfect at-home manicure, it seems to start chipping or peeling off as soon as you get it done.

Why bother? 

My struggle with anxiety began in childhood. I made a friend in elementary school who lived across the street from me for a few years. She and I became close friends almost right away. We had a lot of common ground—similar interests, of course—but namely we both found our home lives somewhat stressful. She had two older sisters and they were all within three years apart in age.

So, when I went over to play Barbies at her house, there was a lot of slamming doors and yelling between sisters. Over at my house, we watched TV in a home where a chilly silence had taken over. My family members avoided each other either physically and/or emotionally and I had no siblings.

We both struggled with anxiety—and both bit our fingernails hard and deep. Sometimes my nails would bleed and I needed to use band-aids. 

My friend and I shared some kind of deep understanding of our own personal struggles—not something nine and ten-year-olds are able to articulate but we could sense the feeling of deep camaraderie between the two of us. It seemed okay to bite my fingernails and I knew someone else who did the same thing, so why not? It relieved a lot of anxiety for me. 

When I started getting negative comments about my nails from family members and classmates at school, then I knew something was wrong. All the other kids in my class seemed to have short, evenly clipped fingernails. Not jagged, torn nails like mine or my friend’s nails. With my friend learning in a different classroom the next year at school, it gave me the space to consider how I could stop this habit. What could I do?

We both struggled with anxiety—and both bit our fingernails hard and deep.

Sometimes my nails would bleed and I needed to use band-aids. 

Enter the new girl into my classroom in the middle of that school year. She had short blonde, curly hair, an infectious laugh, easygoing manner and wore light blue nail polish. With glitter in it. Wow! I was completely enraptured by this.

I had seen my grandmother wear clear nail polish and my mom—on occasion for a fancy dinner—wear a pale pink color. I didn’t even know this light blue glittery color existed. I made friends with the new girl at lunch that day and I when I went home after school, all I could think about was that nail polish. I had to get myself invited to her house and grow my nails out long enough to paint them with the coveted color.

It took about three weeks of cold-turkey no-nail-biting resolve, but I finally had baby stubs for nails. And sure enough, she invited me over to play one afternoon and I polished my nails a glittery baby blue. I never bit my nails on a regular basis again. 

I decided to give myself another quarantine manicure two days ago. My last one chipped after doing lots of dishes, so I decided to start over. The main color is “Storm” by Zoya. It’s a black nail polish with flecks of multi-colored glitter in it.

I looked off and on for this nail color for a few years and finally found it at a local store. It reminds me of this uncertain time we are going through with the pandemic—sort of like a storm on the sea or in the sky. It suddenly comes and goes without warning. It is dark but there are glimpses of light and brightness during storms. That gives me hope.

The bright pink color on the accent nail is from China Glaze, a nail polish brand that I love. I didn’t realize it was from the Sesame Street collection they have until after I purchased the polish. Well, Sesame Street was born the same year I was and the color is named, “Fur Real Though.” It’s a happy color and I also have some daisies and miniature roses that are blooming in my garden in the same vibrant hue. 

I hope you have found some activities during this time of shelter-in-place that are fun and meaningful to you. And maybe after this is all over, I’ll put my 50+ bottles of nail polish on display. You can come over and borrow a bottle or two!

Monday, May 4, 2020

The Illusion of Control (Howard)

As long as I can remember I’ve wanted to control my environment and future. I attribute this neurotic personality trait to what felt like a chaotic upbringing. Outside of my home I experienced bullying for being Chinese and having a visible skin disease. Inside the home I felt unsafe for reasons I won’t go into detail here.

The chaos from without seeped into my heart in a way that led me to feel insecure and anxious within. The coronavirus pandemic and lockdown are showing me how far I’ve come, but also how much I struggle with control issues.

A Child Needing Order in Chaos

As I entered my teenage years I began to make more decisions for myself. I naturally sought to limit uncertain outcomes and surprises. Of course, I couldn’t control everything so I focused on a few areas.

I became a straight-A student, preparing tirelessly so I could do the best on the exam. I avoided awkward social situations. I stayed out as long as I could each day, mainly going home to sleep and shower.

The chaos from without seeped into my heart in a way that led me to feel insecure and anxious within.

In college I took classes designed to my academic strengths. I sidestepped courses that required oral presentations or long papers, opting for problem sets. This way I could minimize the ambiguity of subjective grading. Even though my psoriasis spread out of control, I diligently treated it everyday according to what my doctor prescribed. At least that much I could control.

Addressing a Lack of Control

At various stages of my life I’ve continued to try to control my environment and outcomes. I finally asked a therapist whom I saw in 2011 for about two months for a major depressive episode why I felt so angry and anxious about what I could not control.

He helped me see the ineffective ways I coped with the insecurity and fears in my heart. Some negative habits I could attribute to poor coping skills. But my strong drive to control outcomes and avoid risky situations appeared to directly correlate with my internal struggles.

A great example of my need for control came up in a therapy session. I planned to join my mentor on a trip to the UK to explore starting a project there. So much was out of my control: would I travel well alone; would my skin hold up on an international trip; would I adapt to a new culture (a car almost hit me on a country road when I looked the wrong way before crossing); would I speak well; etc.

[My therapist] helped me see the ineffective ways I coped with the insecurity and fears in my heart.

I wanted to know how to best approach this anxiety inducing situation. He told me I needed courage and faith.

Courage and Faith

As I look back on an incredible and productive trip to England a decade ago, I’m struck with how right my therapist was. I tend to shrink in fear when I enter a situation with as much ambiguity and variability. But facing it with the courage that God gives, an expression of faith really, I made it through that passage in much better shape.

In the coronavirus pandemic I’m once again faced with so many uncertainties about health, future plans, and family (Lydia took a Covid-19 test this week; we’re awaiting results). Once again I sense the need to call up the courage that comes through faith in an awesome God to face down these giants.

It’s a daily struggle, and I am genuinely fatigued like so many others with lockdown measures and fears of getting sick with Covid-19. Just a reminder to take life moment-by-moment as the veil that is the illusion of control is ripped off by this virus.

Coronavirus Lockdown Journal Week 6: April 27–May 3

On March 19, 2020 California Governor Newsom announced a statewide stay-at-home order. Here is a screenshot from my phone:

Currently the lockdown continues until May 1st, although the Yolo County site says that an extension is forthcoming. With the president and some states now opening up the economy, there is a glimmer of hope the lockdown will let up even more so in California and Yolo County in the coming weeks. 

Until then, Lori and I continue to post a weekly journal updated every day or two to mark thoughts, reflections, and news related to life sheltering-at-home.

This is week 6 of the lockdown.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

When Plans Change

“’Cause I told you my level of concern, 

But you walked by like you never heard, 

And you could bring down my level of concern,

Just need you to tell me we’re alright, tell me we’re okay.”

-twenty one pilots

I love Hawaii. And what’s not to love? Beaches, mountains carved from volcanoes, weather that changes from rain to sunshine in a moment, pineapple fields, the Aloha spirit of those who live there.

We are supposed to be in Hawaii right now. Celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary that was actually LAST August. We went to Honolulu for our honeymoon and have never been back.

A photo on my desk of Howard from our Honeymoon in Hawaii, August 1994

Our destination this time was supposed to be Maui. We’ve heard wonderful things about Maui from friends who have visited. I can remember how excited I felt when Howard booked the plane tickets. I thought, “Wow. This will be a time to really celebrate all we’ve been through together the past 25 years—to reminisce and enjoy time together in a blissful tropical location. Just the two of us.”

Now I am writing from shelter-in-place at home. After plane tickets and hotel reservations were cancelled. After the return home I thought I would be enthusiastically showing off my tropical tan, telling tales of snorkeling with fish, and boring friends and family with pictures. Lots of pictures. Proudly on display on my Facebook account.

Instead I’m rolling out of bed close to noon these days and wondering what to make for lunch. I’ve made so many lunches at home now—I don’t know anymore. Where is the lunch menu at the local Hawaiian barbeque place where I can just order from? 

The main thing I know during this time is that it’s okay to mourn the loss of this trip. It’s okay to realize flying off to Hawaii and basking in the sunshine would have been really good for my physical, emotional and mental health. It’s also okay to know that I had pumped up this trip in my mind as a “trip of a lifetime,” and none of those expectations were met. At all. 

The main thing I know during this time is that it’s okay to mourn the loss of this trip.

But my life in quarantine? It’s really good, actually. I have my husband at my side for most of the time. We pray together, we talk together, we roast and drink coffee together. I tend to my garden—it is probably the best Spring I’ve had in my garden. Ever.  

We have our son at home with us for now, and just knowing he is here doing his own thing and feeling healthy is a big deal. Seeing our daughters on FaceTime at least once a week and their smiling faces is huge. We have our dog and our kitten to look after and enjoy their company.

And really—when it comes down to it, I wouldn’t want to be in Hawaii by myself. I know that wherever I am with Howard is truly home.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Read the Bible in a Year (Howard)

Each year I attempt to read through the Bible in a year. This year, with a four-month break from work, and now shelter-at-home orders, I feel more confident I can accomplish it.

Here is a scan of the Bible reading plan I adopted some years ago with this year’s progress so far:

I know there are some great online/electronic Bible reading plans out there, but I like the simplicity and variety of this plan. Each day of the week focuses on a part of the Bible such as New Testament letters, prophets, and Gospels/Acts. I still need to catch up on the second half of Isaiah, but decided to keep going.

The best part of following a reading plan is staying in the Word each day. Over the weeks I’ve struggled with various moods and feelings related to the lockdown. Whether it is feeling sad, anxious, lethargic, fearful, or restless it seems like something I read each day helps me face the challenges of that time.

The best part of following a reading Whether it is feeling sad, anxious, lethargic, fearful, or restless it seems like something I read each day helps me face the challenges of that time.

I also enjoy sharing about what I read with Lori. Every day we spend a few moments reading Scriptures, singing praise songs, and praying. I like to reflect on highlights from my daily reading during that time.

I hope I can keep up my reading and meditation time after the lockdown ends and I’m back at work. For now it’s a needed and welcome activity that helps me through this scary and uncertain time.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

A Day at the Zoo (Lori)

There’s a lot of attention around “Tiger King,” which is arguably a very popular coronavirus pandemic viewing experience. Meanwhile, we’ve been managing our own small menagerie at home. 

When our kids were growing up and living at home with us, our youngest always wanted to try owning new pets. She would visit her friends’ houses and then want a similar pet to what she saw there; and, yes, some of them were definitely exotic.

Geckos, chameleons, turtles, snakes, fish, etc. were all requests that were presented to us with the pleading, “Please, Mom!”, “Please Dad!” I honestly didn’t know the first thing about caring for a chameleon, so we deftly talked her into fish and hamsters.

We’ve had hamsters rolling across the living room floor in their balls and knocking into furniture. Fish had their water changed from their tanks at the sink in the laundry room.

Follow the Coronavirus Journal Series!

Coronavirus Lockdown Journal Week 3: April 6-12

Coronavirus Lockdown Journal Week 4: April 13-19

Coronavirus Lockdown Journal Week 5: April 20-26

Teddy the Terrier 

These days, we have only our dog, Teddy, and our kitten, Pippin. It’s been fairly quiet until this last week. To be honest, I was so preoccupied with meal planning and preparation I didn’t even really notice they were in the house.

Then we observed Teddy getting really tired on short walks to the park and shaking his head from side to side.

Teddy wears a cone to prevent him from chewing his paws

So, I asked Howard to check his left ear and it seems his previously diagnosed condition at the vet office flared up again. Thankfully we still have the ointment we purchased.

Then I suddenly noticed Teddy was chewing his paws again until they were red and sore. I don’t know if this is from stress about his ear condition or plain boredom, but I made him wear a cone until his feet and ear started to heal. 

Pippin the Little Tiger

Pippin is a wild one. She came to our yard about a year ago as a feral kitten. We have domesticated her somewhat but she still climbs trees, onto the roof, and hunts all kinds of creatures—from pigeons to lizards to insects.

Pippin favors her right paw after an apparent bee sting

One day I noticed she pounced on—and killed—a bee that was buzzing near my budding lemon tree. I was momentarily concerned but then relieved that she didn’t get stung by the bee. 

Continue reading →

Lori’s Story: Watching “Dear Evan Hansen” Inspired Me to Consider My Own Mental Health

In this guest post my wife Lori discusses how seeing a musical on our trip to NYC led her to reflect on her own parenting and mental health journey.

Warning: Spoilers for the musical “Dear Evan Hansen” and sensitive content are included in this blog post. Please read at your own discretion. 

Howard and I had an opportunity to see the musical “Dear Evan Hansen” on Broadway in New York just a couple of weeks ago. Our youngest daughter highly recommended it to us—having seen it herself at the Music Box Theater the previous year. It was an incredible choice. 

I was drawn in from the first minute until the very end. I want to talk about the musical through the lens of a parent as well as my personal experience with depression/suicide as a young person many years ago. 

I Need a Parenting Map

The musical opens with Evan and his mom. It’s the first day of senior year of high school. Evan is nervous about it, but so is Mom. She chatters on, gives him a rousing pep talk, asks about his homework assignment from his psychiatrist, and anxiously hovers over him. Meanwhile we get a peek into Connor Murphy’s morning with his family. Mom is trying to push him to attend the first day of school while Dad and sister Zoe make snide remarks about Connor at the breakfast table.

I was drawn in from the first minute until the very end. I want to talk about the musical through the lens of a parent as well as my personal experience with depression/suicide as a young person many years ago. 

I could relate to the poor moms in this first scene and the opening song, “Anybody Have A Map?” They are trying so hard to keep their sons going—really pushing them through life even though the boys are both struggling with deep emotional issues. It is scary and confusing. They are trying, but at a loss as to how to truly connect with their children. I can relate. Both my daughters have struggled with depression and anxiety. 

As a mother, I desperately rooted around and grasped onto the familiar and found comfort in a daily routine. If my girls could just make it through school that day, then they could build on that day after day and everything would be okay, right? Life works itself out and my kids are gonna be part of that. They are gonna love high school and even thrive there. They are going to overcome personal obstacles and soar above it all. 

Even though I didn’t. 

To hear Lori share her mental health journey listen to the Brainsick podcast “The Lori Special”

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To an Awesome Wife on Valentine’s Day

Lori and I visited Universal Orlando City Walk during the InterVarsity National Staff Conference in early January, 2020.

A big happy Valentine’s Day to my wife of over 25 years, Lori. I’m grateful for not just the quarter century together, but more importantly all the ways we’ve grown personally and relationally since those early days of college.

I shared about how we met on my Everyday Health The Itch to Beat Psoriasis column titled, “How Psoriasis Helped Me Meet My Wife.” An excerpt from the top of the column expresses how connecting through sharing about my psoriasis and her spina bifida led us to develop an inseparable bond:

It was love at first talk. When Lori and I met in our last year at college, we connected immediately. Sure, there was a physical attraction — and we joined the same Christian group at the University of California in Davis. But the ability to talk openly about living with chronic health conditions bonded us from day one.

We still care for each other through the health ups and downs with listening ears and helping hands. I wouldn’t have wanted to share my life with anyone else.

For this our 28th Valentine’s Day together I would like to share a short letter to my best friend:

Continue reading →

A New Year of Milestones, Including 40 Years with Psoriasis


Happy Lunar New Year 2019! this year is my year, the Year of the Pig.

Happy Lunar New Year! Last week my family celebrated Chinese New Year with a family dinner and red envelopes filled with money from my parents. My mom gave clear instructions to place the red envelopes under our pillows on Monday evening. If we didn’t the money would not be lucky.

I looked forward to this year for many reasons, including being born in the year of Pig along with my firstborn daughter. If you can do simple math you can figure out how old I am (there are 12 years in the Chinese zodiac) and how old my daughter is. Someone wrongly said that I was twelve when I had my daughter (umm, add another cycle of the zodiac please).

It’s a year of milestones for the Chang family. 

Four Decades with Psoriasis

Forty years with psoriasis. I’m trying to let that sink in for a minute. I know it’s not a world record for longevity with this autoimmune condition. Yet, the weight of almost 15,000 days with itchy, scaly skin feels heavy on my mind and heart. So many of those days I felt depressed, beaten, and lost. Some days felt extremely long, like a week or month in itself.

I’m grateful today, though, for much better treatments and control. I’m glad for opportunities to write and advocate for others living with psoriasis for just a few days or years, to those who endured more decades than one can count on a hand. 

I also see that life marched on with psoriasis. I graduated from high school 30 years ago. I got married 25 years ago, and began pastoring churches 20 years ago. My youngest turns 18 in a few weeks, while my oldest turns 24 in a few months. These round numbers represent the passage of a significant amount of time and markers that beg notice as the days whiz by. 

Most of all, I survived. At times I even achieved goals and thrived. Through it all my faith sustained me. I’m not an overly demonstrative person, but this year it’s time to celebrate making it this far and all that is to come.


Fuller Theological Seminary Doctor of Ministry Commencement, 2016 

Calendar of Milestones

In looking forward to this year, 2019 and the Year of the Boar, here are some upcoming events we are all excited about.

Continue reading →

Why I Hate Asking for Help

This past week the pain in my shoulder landed on the chart somewhere between five and seven out of ten. I injured it in my exuberance to load my daughter’s new bicycle into the back of the CR-V. It’s nothing critical, but annoying enough that I can’t lift at certain angles or rotate in a full range of motion.

The primary impact of this pain in the shoulder is my inability to reach the upper middle part of my back. I normally stretch my arm to apply topical medications and moisturizers to those harder to reach spots. The psoriasis doesn’t pop out there as much, but recently my atopic dermatitis flared everywhere with the cold, winter-like weather here in Northern California.

Each morning and evening when I apply topicals I need to decide whether I will try to reach those spots myself or not.

I’m Going to Do it Myself

My attitude the entire week is to take care of myself—injury or not. In fact, I don’t want, or need, help.  The first couple times I tried to reach my upper back I winced. The next time, after sleeping on that shoulder, I yelped. I exacerbated the injury each time, too, which made me feel stupid and foolish.

One time I felt so much agony that I did ask my wife to apply moisturizer to my back. As she pulled her hand out of the jar of Cetaphil cream I immediately knew she had too much. Decades of applying creams trained me to extract just the right amount of cream or ointment for the skin surface area in question.

As an amateur she could not possibly know how much the skin on my back needed. But that was way too much. I thanked Lori. Then, once she left the room, quickly grabbed a towel to wipe off the excess moisturizer. My skin still felt greasy and uncomfortable after toweling it off a few times.

I determined to not ask her again.

Is There Another Way?

Last night my back became quite itchy with eczema rashes. I longed for a back scratcher but could not find one. I figured the primates at the zoo scratch each other’s backs, so I should at least see if Lori would scratch my back. But, alas, she fell fast asleep on the couch. I desperately needed to improvise.

The thirty-gram tube of hydrocortisone looked enticing. It gave me an extra few inches reach and had a not-too-sharp edge at the bottom. Like Job from the Bible scraping his boils with pottery shards, I soothed the itch on my upper back with that corner edge. Looking around to see if anyone observed my crude scratching technique, I put it down pretending like nothing happened.

My mind them began to brainstorm ways I could put medication and moisturizers on my back. I wondered aloud if anyone invented such a tool, and that if they had not, that maybe I could invent it. I thought, even without an injured shoulder, some people might not have the necessary flexibility and reach.

I’m still working on the perfect invention. If you know of some similar contraption let me know!

My Independent Streak Begins

Hurting my shoulder made it clear to me why I hate asking for help: pride and independence. I help others for a living as a pastor, husband, father, and friend. People message or call me to talk about or help solve problems. Mutual support is okay, but I believe that if you can do something yourself, then you absolutely should.

My streak of independence no doubt comes partly from necessity and parental training. My parents literally worked night and day to make ends meet as immigrants from China/Taiwan. My dad worked as an engineer in the day, then went to my mom’s small retail gift boutique in the evening to help with the family business. Mom worked seven days a week at “the store” for the better part of a decade after I started kindergarten.

As a latchkey kid I largely took care of myself, including applying my own medications. Back then, as an elementary student, I applied mild topical steroids and 2% LCD coal tar in Aquaphor on my psoriasis. My dad even taught me how to order medication by calling the pharmacy, and let me pick them up at the counter as he stood by to pay.

My strong sense of pride also derived from my desire to prove to others and myself that, despite having chronic illnesses, I could achieve great things with minimal support. I pride myself in hard work and perseverance no matter the obstacle. I earned good grades, and later advanced degrees, through consistency and determination.

This bum left shoulder, though, humbles me every time I need to reach those few square inches on my back.

Fine, I’ll Ask for Help

Now I’m determined to stop reinjuring my shoulder by overstretching its current limits. It needs rest, and it needs to heal. So, somewhat less reluctantly, I will ask my wife again for help after I take my shower.

The pain in my shoulder is a metaphor for life. Asking for help often connotes weakness, and no one wants to admit they are weak. Knowing when I need help, however, is true wisdom. Asking for support, while humbling, can lead to the greater good of intimacy through vulnerability. Reciprocity, when not demanded, becomes mutual care.

I also recognize I lose something when I don’t ask for help when I really do need it: the opportunity to connect on a deeper level with others. Sure I can do a lot by myself. But I lose out on sharing moments of triumph and loss, of joy and sorrow, and of journeyingup the tall mountain of life’s challenging peaks with friends who care.

Inspirational Verse: Galatians 6:2

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

I Picked up My Daughter from the Psychiatric Hospital for the First Time on Father’s Day

On June 20, 1995 Lydia’s birth made me a father for the first time. After a long two-day induced labor and delivery, she came out to welcome the world. The nurse prompted me to cut the umbilical cord and then let me hold her–my first act as a newly minted father. I could not wipe the smile off my tired and weary face as I stared into that tiny newborn’s sleepy face.

Lydia Dad Hospital

Lori returned to work ten weeks after giving birth to teach middle school students. I started seminary two months later with taking care of Lydia as one of my primary responsibilities. For the next four years I stayed home with Lydia while I worked toward a Master of Divinity degree. My days filled with studying, changing diapers, feeding bottles, and taking her with me to run errands.

Lydia Dad Home

Little did I know the bonds she and I formed in those early years would prove to be so vital in saving Lydia’s life almost seventeen years later.

Teenage Struggles or Something Else?

During her teen years Lydia experienced ups and downs that seemed typical for her peers. She did well academically and engaged in extra-curriculars like cross-country and service clubs. But she struggled with finding good friends. At home she felt the pressure of being the big sister with two younger siblings. At church parishioners held her to higher expectations as the pastor’s daughter.

Little did I know the bonds she and I formed in those early years would prove to be so vital in saving Lydia’s life almost seventeen years later.

Nothing set off red flags as the teen years certainly present a unique set of challenges for young people.

Then that dreaded red flag went up high in late March 2012. Lydia woke me up one morning before going to school to ask if she could skip school that day. Her eyes looked saucer-like and afraid. Her hands were shaking. I said of course. She then showed me multiple cuts that she had made on her wrists and arms. She expressed her suicidal feelings and need for help.

Up until that morning she mostly kept herself hidden from her family members, often locking her door. She would have kept her desperate situation to herself if it weren’t for one of her friends who convinced her she needed to reach out to us. She ultimately exposed her struggle to me becasue she didn’t want her family to find her in a pool of blood.

Traumatic Break-Up on Good Friday

Easter and Christmas hold a special place in the Christian calendar and at church. As a pastor I look forward to those times of remembrance and celebration. But they happen to be busier times demanding my devoted energy and time. Lydia’s first boyfriend decided to add to the stress of the Easter season that year by breaking up with her on Good Friday.

I never felt as afraid for Lydia as I did that Easter weekend. The previous weeks she started therapy, seeing a psychiatrist, and taking medication. She started to learn better ways to cope than self-harming. That weekend, though, she wanted to cut herself and felt suicidal again. Her psychologist thought we could handle her situation at home, but we needed to make some adjustments to keep her safe.

On Easter Saturday I spent half the night locking away sharp objects and medications. You never know just how many objects in a house can be used to cut until you intentionally search for every last one of them. Hours later, confident Lydia would sleep, I took a nap before heading out to church.

On Sunday, April 8th, I preached the Easter message on two hours rest with a flood of thoughts about Lydia on my mind.


Lydia and I at the Grand Canyon during our family trip in June, 2009.

Relapse in June

Those next weeks we learned how to better monitor and advocate for her. We went to multiple medical appointments a week around Los Angeles County. Her mood seemed much improved and stable, but then she relapsed in June while on our vacation

On Easter Saturday I spent half the night locking away sharp objects and medications. You never know just how many objects in a house can be used to cut until you intentionally search for every last one of them.

Originally, the family planned a trip to Yellowstone National Park via Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. Due to Lydia’s health we changed plans. Our caring friends in the San Francisco Bay Area, where we previously lived, opened up their unoccupied rental unit for us.

As soon as we arrived I looked for and hid any knives and scissors in the townhouse. I didn’t know at the time, but Lydia beat me to it. She grabbed a large kitchen knife to tuck away in the room she stayed in.

After a week in the Bay Area we started to drive back to Southern California. Instead of driving the four hundred plus miles in a day, we decided to stop in Monterey for a night. Lydia’s two younger siblings noticed cuts on her upper legs and thighs. I also noticed a number of cell phone calls from her phone to locations around the country.

At Fisherman’s Wharf she broke down in tears. A quick dinner near the motel turned into a long evening.  Lydia shared how she had been cutting again, with that knife from the townhouse, and now wanted to burn herself.

At Fisherman’s Wharf she broke down in tears. A quick dinner near the motel turned into a long evening.  Lydia shared how she had been cutting again.

The next day we piled into the minivan in the morning to make the final trek back home. Along the way I called a couple of her health care providers. Her psychologist suggested we take her directly to the emergency room at a local hospital. I thought if I could drive her closer to home the family could use home as a base to care for her. She sat in the back row of the minivan blasting music through her earbuds to ward off the voices in her head.

We finally arrived at our destination, Kaiser Baldwin Park Hospital, to meet my parents and dog, Teddy. My parents took the younger two children home while Lori and I stayed with Lydia at the hospital. Later that evening an ambulance transported her to to a psychiatric hospital in Cerritos, about 25 minutes drive away.

First Timer in the Psychiatric Hospital

She stayed in the psychiatric hospital for about six days in the adolescent ward. During that time we visited her every day during visiting hours, often battling LA commute traffic. We cleaned up her room, and gathered up several pairs of sharp scissors that had fallen behind her bed.

We didn’t tell the church or many friends about Lydia’s condition. We wanted to protect Lydia’s privacy first and foremost. In her mental state at the time she could not make a sound decision about whom to tell or not tell. We also didn’t know how others might react to her condition. Stigma related to mental illness continues today as back when Lydia first learned of her mood disorder.

On Saturday, June 16, 2012 we learned she would be discharged the next day, Father’s Day, in the afternoon. To not raise any undue concern or alarm at church I decided to continue with my morning duties. I preached the Father’s Day message that morning without anyone but my family knowing about Lydia’s hospitalization.

On Saturday, June 16, 2012 we learned she would be discharged the next day, Father’s Day, in the afternoon.

The family went to pick her up directly from church. Lydia gave me a big hug when we first arrived. After receiving discharge paperwork and directions we took our baby home from the hospital just as we had done seventeen years before.


The two of us travelled to Chicago together when I attended the HealtheVoices conference in April. It was her first time at Chicago’s O’Hare airport.

Bipolar Type 1 Diagnosis

That week after discharge Lydia’s psychiatrist confirmed her diagnosis: Bipolar Disorder I w/Psychosis. These past six years I’ve learned more about bipolar disorder and fathering than all the previous years combined. The continuing story of Lydia’s battle with bipolar is for another day.

For today, though, on this Father’s Day, I remember when I brought Lydia home from the hospital both twenty-three and six years ago. I thank God for His mercy and protection over our lives and feel confident that He will continue to watch over Lydia in the days ahead.

Lydia will enroll in the University of California, Davis in the fall to study psychology and animal behavior. Check out her blog Sincerelydia to learn more about her life and mental health journey.