depression revisited


10625749092483570_wuVFHSgo_bSometimes I think it’s hard for anyone reading my blog, to believe my depression was as bad as it was.  It seems that way to me at times, too. which is why I’m so glad I journaled during some of my worst periods. Sometimes I go back and read my entries myself just to remind myself how far I’ve come and not to repeat any of the mistakes. I decided it might be good to include one of the less-intense entries.  I figure it might offer hope.

My depression was very real and I experienced many bouts. I think you will see from this post that I was already deciding, even if I didn’t know I was, that pills weren’t the answer. Of even if they were part of the answer, there was much I could do myself.

You might find it very interesting to know that it was almost one year exactly from this date, that I did start to cut my medication while actively attacking my depression. There is hope for everyone out there if you’re willing to do the  hard work.

Even today, I have a friend I will be spending some time with and I hope an opporutnity arises that I can gently point out to her how she is contributing to her depression herself.  I will tread carefully as I personally know how advice of this sort has to be given ever so carefully.

When you read this excerpt, please remember that these were written when I was feeling a great deal of emotional pain. The references to wigs, scars and limps  were certainly not meant to diminish these illnesses or others like them.  I would never do that. But it was meant that I felt invisible where my depression was concerned because I didn’t display any visible marks of my illness. Most depressives don’t, by the way.

When I feel “safe” enough, and when I’m sure no one in my family will be harmed, I may include some of the more intense entries. ( Also, please feel free to “like” this. I’ll know what you mean.)  

anguished journal entry

July 7-2002

I’ve been pretty much depression-free for a long time now.  I was down to 10 mg of Paxil and I felt so liberated. But now, once again, I’m struggling to stay afloat till the increase of meds kicks in.

 Oh, God, why? It’s been such a good year-hasn’t it?  The Bible studies, my quiet times—all at a level I’ve not known before. This last year you’ve spoken to me, no shouted, so many truths and insights that at times my mind has wanted to say “Stop!”  And through it all, your quiet command, “Write.”

 This is so hard to go through this again.  Nobody sees the pain. I have no visible scars. I’m not wearing a wig. I don’t limp. There’s no visible impairment to garner some sympathy. No one asks me how I’m feeling. Why would they? They don’t know anything is wrong. The increased dosage makes me feel terrible. I feel a heaviness in my chest that is almost unbearable. I feel anxious and antsy.

 Depression is truly one of the loneliest illnesses. It’s seldom a topic of conversation.  It’s seldom a prayer concern. No one wants to admit it. I’ve only seen it on the prayer chain once in over twenty years.

 And even if I were to talk about with anyone, I’m sure they’d have an opinion about how to get over it. Somehow those who’ve never suffered depression seem to give the most inane advice. But these very same people would offer few opinions if it were cancer, diabetes, etc, because they’d realize they were woefully ignorant. Why do people think they are experts when it comes to depression when they display their own poor mental health habits anyway in the form of overworking, overdrinking, overeating, not exercising, too much TV, gambling, drug use, etc.

The hardest part is the not knowing when it might raise its ugly head again. After years of dealing with this illness, you’d think I would be an expert. But I’m not and it still catches me off guard. When it hits, it’s like I’m locked in a windowless room and everything of my former life is on the other side of the door but I can’t get the door open.  No matter what I do, the door and my future remains shut away from me.  I push and pull and wiggle the knob. Finally, I just give up and sit down in the corner with my face towards the wall, convinced I’ll be there the rest of my life.  I feel totally powerless. I feel like a gaping, oozing wound in a deceased body.

And then God steps in. How, I don’t know. He takes my little mustard seed of faith, concocts it into a salve and gently rubs it on my wound. He gently turns my head towards the door and I notice (Was it there right along?) a string’s width of light filtering through the bottom. The little sliver gives me hope. As I wait, the sliver of light appears more often. 

 This morning I was sitting in my garden, steeling myself for what I knew would be a struggle to keep my eyes on God. I sensed depression would be coming at me hard today.  My garden is beautiful and the work of my own hands.  I’ve planted everything that is here.  I’ve made the brick patio and the concrete retaining wall.  I’ve spread the mulch. Me. I’ve done it all. I usually feel pride about my garden.  Today it was just “there.” A painful reminder of better days, days when I felt energetic and creative.  Days when I enjoyed life.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(Not the part of the garden I was sitting in when I wrote this. This is another garden area where I concentrate on roses. )

I was journaling my thoughts when I heard a fluttering of tiny wings.  On the fence next to me, where the insanely tall Joe Pye Weed jutted to the sky, was a tiny bird chirping loudly.  Seeing birds in my garden is not unusual and I didn’t over spiritualize their meaning, at least not then.  Another bird flew over and I watched as they cavorted and played with each other. Eventually they moved on to another part of the fence.

I thought of my husband and how he’s always sitting on the fence waiting for me to play. I’m not much fun right now, you see, and I know it’s hard on him to see me like this.  But he sits waiting anyway.  All the rest of the day I thought about those tiny winged messengers from heaven and felt some hope. This episode would eventually fade away.  I would survive. I always did. Hubby and I would play again.

During depression, everything seems more significant to me.  I pick up God’s reassurances in the smallest, serendipitous events I would ordinarily see as ordinary. (Hmm, maybe that’s what I should be doing when I’m not depressed.) My sensitivities to everything are heightened. That’s why it hurts so much.

 I’m aware that while God is working overtime to keep me from slipping off the Rock, depression is working overtime to see that I do. The churning waters below beckon me and I struggle to keep my footing.

 My highly sensitive antenna means I feel rejection and criticism in the most casual of remarks. If my children don’t call, it’s because they don’t care. If my husband is preoccupied, it’s because he doesn’t care. If there’s a weed in my garden it’s because I’m a lousy gardener.  My self-esteem in all areas takes a nosedive.  I want to withdraw from everyone and nurse my wounds. How pathetic am I?

 But God has not left me to flounder.  He’s given me a bag of coping tools and I pull them out as needed. Some always work if only for a short while. Some work better than others depending on my symptoms. Some get thrown back in the bag because they’re not working at all this time. Some get unwrapped for the very first time.

I’m beginning to understand the part my pride plays in my depression. I hate taking anti-depressants.  I hate it. For a long time, I felt ashamed. Every time I swallowed a pill, I felt like I was betraying God. And the worst part is, the pills don’t really work. I experience weird feelings. It’s all I can do to keep taking them. But for right now, medication is the help God has provided me along with His comfort and strength. I still want to quit taking them but I guess for now, God has other plans.

 

 

 

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how do we know?


IMG_1160how do we know

……..when we’re making the right decision?

Sometimes, it’s so easy. Our thinking, our circumstances, God’s direction all fall plainly into view. We just know. I love times like that. I’ve always found decisions easy to make for the most part. I take the view, that making a decision is usually better than making no decision at all.

But then there are those times, like right now, when I’ve exhausted every possible avenue in my “tired of thinking it through” mind. I’ve thought through every possible angle, read every possible  Scripture verse that applies, been praying for days. I’ve decided one way and then another and found justificationion to support both opposing views. I’ve felt great peace and then no peace. When I made my final final decision, my hubby asked me, “Are you sure?” 

(Sure? Are you kidding?)

“Of course, I’m not sure.”

There are some decisions we will simply never be sure about. Even if everything turns out o.k.  And even when it doesn’t, it may not mean we made the wrong decision. No amount of Monday morning quarter backing will make it any clearer either. That’s why sometimes we just have to make our decision and live with the consequences of our decision. When it directly impacts others, we just need to be as sure as we can.

In this case, I’ve done my  homework. I’ve  worked through  every possible scenario. Unless God makes it clear I’m heading down the wrong path, I’m going on the assumption that my decision-making process has been directed by God and my decision meets with his approval. Everyday I ask for wisdom for whatever comes my way. God promises that wisdom is ours for the asking and I sure have been asking.

I know it’s possible to convince ourselves of anything but when I look back over the decisions I’ve made over the years, I feel a certain sense of confidence in my decision-making ability. Often those of the Christian faith refer to having “peace” about their decisions. But there is such a thing as a “false” peace.  We can talk our selves right into a  feeling that mimics peace but it’s not the peace that comes from God. (Jesus, whether you consider him savior or just a great teacher said there is his peace and then there’s the peace that comes from the world.) 

The peace that comes from God is almost never accompanied by a feeling. It’s more of a quiet confidence that he is in control because you’ve asked him to be. In fact, we can be making the right decision and still be  uneasy about it . God never says doing the right thing or making the right decision will always be accompanied by positive feelings. In faith issues, we too often let our emotions get in the way. I posted a few days ago about “dizzy” emotions being a good indicator of how we’re living our lives. I don’t have any of that “dizziness” going on inside so that makes me feel good.

We’re human. Most of us try to do the right thing.  Sometimes we do.  Sometime we don’t. We can feel good with the first and we can learn from the second.  In a few weeks, I’ll know the results of my decision. Whether it was a good or bad decision I will perhaps never know. Sometimes decisions are neutral. I’ll let you know what this was all about and how it turned out.

 

the dreaded class reunion

Aside


Duets (Barbra Streisand album)

Duets (Barbra Streisand album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

0h, no! the dreaded class reunion

Oh, no! Today is the day. The first (my husband’s) of two reunions (mine two months).  We’ve never been to one. We’ve always said if we wanted to see these people we would have.  We’ve tempered our thinking a bit and have decided there were some people we would’ve remained friends with had distance not separated us. We’re hoping they will be there.

We have no idea what to expect.  Will the snobs still be snobs or will life have taught them some needed lessons?  Will the homecoming queen still look “queenly” or will the years have robbed her of her good looks?  Will those who were “most likely to succeed” have succeeded or not? The biggest question, why does any of this matter anyway?

When I think about it, I wonder if I’ve matured at all if I’m worried about the impression I’ll make.  Really, haven’t I dealt with bigger issues by now than worrying about a high school reunion?  And yet I’ve shopped all week looking for the perfect outfit-casual but classy.  (By the way, I’ve found it. T J Maxx is getting weary of the buying and returning.) I guess the reason some of it matters is because all the people will be about the same age so naturally there’s that comparison thing going on. Have I put on too much weight? (I haven’t.) Is my hair the right style?  (Yep. I’ve colored my hair since I was sixteen and gave it up about five years ago.  It’s a really wonderful color-who knew?)

But what if someone asks me what I’ve accomplished, what will I answer? I ask myself, have I done the things I wanted to do? Have I realized some of my dreams? In many ways I have but not in the way most people would think. Most of my accomplishments don’t involve money, success or celebrity. But in all the ways that matter, I’ve accomplished more than I would have thought possible considering the messed-up, depressed teen-ager I once was.

Now that I’ve written it down I wonder why I ever was nervous. This is three or four hours out of the 4,380 twelve-hour days a year. Really?  I don’t even have to stay if I don’t want to.  So having got it all out of my system, I’m feeling better.

Perhaps I’m feeling better because of something I picked up in my research on depression. It’s called “acting as if”.  It’s a valid therapy technique and very helpful in dealing with certain areas in our lives. (like high school reunions)  It sounds contrived and fake but done in the right way and for the right reasons, it isn’t. (I will deal with this in more detail in future posts. I will be sure to title these posts “acting as if”.)  An example that readily comes to mind and which will prove very helpful for me tonight is the art of walking into a room. I don’t like large social functions, mostly because of the initial act of walking into the room. But if can walk into a room and act confident, I trick my mind into thinking I am just that. Consequently I quit shaking, my hands quit sweating and my heart stops racing. I can talk to people without being self-conscious. (This whole subject of how we can influence our body’s reactions through disciplining our mind is fascinating. By the way the Bible said it first-as a man thinks in his heart, so he is.)

“Acting as if” might sound very artificial and even dishonest but it isn’t really.  Barbara Streisand has stated that she is terrified every time she gives a concert. Barbara Streisand! But she does exactly what I do. She “acts as if” she isn’t afraid by walking on stage acting every bit the star that she is. Let me ask you, have you ever noticed her fear? No, because she’s acting as if she isn’t afraid and that process somehow rewires her brain into making her think she is confident. Thus her body and her voice respond to this message because the brain doesn’t know how to distinguish between the truth and a lie.

“Acting as if” is NOT a method to use to fool anyone or cause anyone any harm. It’s simply a way for you to find success in some situations that are important to you and have caused you problems in the past.  It isn’t always successful.  For example, I can “act as if” I’m a ballet dancer all I want and I’m never going to be a ballet dancer.  I might be more graceful but that’s about it.

What about you?  Is there an area in your life where this technique might work for you?  When I started to push depression back into its dark hole, this was a technique I used where it made sense. The more I acted like a person who wasn’t depressed the less depressed I was. (There were many, many other techniques I used which I will post about through this blog. I don’t want you to think that this one technique alone is going to change everything for you overnight. I wish depression was that easy to give the old heave-ho to. I’d be a rich woman!)  There’s so much more I could share with you but this post is way too long as it is. I promise that soon, I’ll be sharing much more about how you can beat depression or at least manage it.

Is there a simple area in your life you could try this “acting as if” approach? It might take a number of times before you figure out just how it works. It’s not easily explained in something as brief as a post.

(I’m still getting up to speed in setting up this blog.  I have figured out Zemanta as you can tell.  Yea!!!)