Finishing Unfinished Business

I had an amazingly difficult – and amazingly insightful – appointment with my therapist yesterday. Did some hard work, cried lots of tears. But gained some understanding, too.

Therapists often help their clients work through “unfinished business.” Perhaps it’s a childhood memory or trauma. Maybe it’s unforgiveness or deep emotional hurt. Whatever the case, part of their job is to help the patient figure out what is incomplete, and work it through to completion. For me, “business” is relationships. And that explains my anxiety. It’s a conflict between the move to FL (three weeks from yesterday) and the uncompleted business here.

I’ve been keeping Ted informed of my increasing anxiety over the past couple of weeks, but especially intense anxiety in the past few days.  At yesterday’s appointment, Ted helped me sort it out so that it made some sense.

In every move we’ve ever made, I’ve had to leave behind deep roots. Sometimes, I was able to say goodbye. Sometimes, I was able to finish the tasks on which I was working, or hand off the torch for the groups I led. But moves have always meant the end of some friendships. This was true even when I moved 10 miles up the road – some friends couldn’t make that transition – it was like I’d moved across the ocean – and I didn’t see them for a very long time, if ever again.

I’ve “lost” other friends in other moves – “out of sight, out of mind.” Of course, I’ve also gained new friends too, some of them for a lifetime, some for just that time.

In this case, I’ve really been trying hard to wrap things up. I’ve got a notebook of all the things we need to do to move, and what we need to do to move in. I’m handing off a care group that I facilitate. I’ve found a good home for my cat. I’ve said goodbye to my Bible Study friends so many times, I almost wish I hadn’t been there at all this month.  I’m saying goodbyes – to some friends I’ve known for a few years, and to others I’ve known for 19+ years.  I’ve made coffee dates and lunch dates and get together dates, to be able to visit one last time face-to-face. To some, I’ve said, “See ya later.” To others, there is no “later” so it’s been goodbye. Either way, these are friendships – roots – that are hard to rip out of the ground. It feels like they are ripping out of my heart.

But the time is coming – and approaching quickly – when it won’t matter if I’ve said my goodbyes or finished up my commitments – it will be done, whether I’m ready or not. I will not be here anymore. And that makes me very very sad.

And it turns out, it makes me angry too. Not angry at anyone in particular, just angry at the situation. Once again, I pull up roots. So the anger builds – inwardly – as I grapple with the decreasing time. And here’s where anxiety rears its ugly head. I don’t know what to do with the anger – I didn’t even recognize it as anger! Ted said it’s not surprising to him at all that my anxiety increases as the time to relocate approaches – there is less and less time for me to finish business here, and remember, for me that’s relationships.

I’ll be so far away from my kids. I keep thinking I’m moving, then I’m not (that has been going on for over a year). I’ve said goodbye to some people for the last time – 3 times! Makes the uprooting process unpredictable, hard to organize and control. And I want to control it. I need to control it. Because I have no control of any of it.

*TRIGGER WARNING* I expressed my anxiety by trying to control my emotions, but since I couldn’t control those either, I took to snapping a rubber band. It hurts – it really stings. But I control the sting. I control how far back I pull the band, I control where it snaps. There is an immediate release of tension, a deep exhale, followed by the opportunity to self-soothe. To touch the welt, to feel how warm it is, to rub it and comfort it. This is not behavior that I am particularly proud of – hurting myself can seem more than a little ridiculous to those who don’t understand. But snapping the rubber band allowed me to release the pain and anger that was bottled up inside, and exert some control over it.

That’s not the way God wants me to manage my pain. (Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20) God wants me to bring my pain to Him, to lay it at the foot of the Cross, to express my need for God’s comfort, to ask Him to hold me, and to remind myself that no matter what, He is in control. (Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7)  A couple of days ago, a very dear friend whispered in my ear, He’s got you. He’s strong, and He’s holding you.” I needed that reminder. Thanks, Phyllis.

And I needed Ted yesterday. I needed him to help me figure out what was causing the anxiety and why I was angry. As he always does, he pointed me back to Christ. He thanked God for giving him insight into what I was saying so that he could help me sort it all out. He reminded me of tools to use to self-soothe that have nothing to do with rubber bands. He let God use him to bring me comfort (All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NLT).

Thank you, Lord, for Ted, for friendships, and for new adventures. Thank You that You go with me, that You are an everlasting friend who will never leave me. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.


Blog For Mental Health 2015 Pledge

Thanks to @michelleweber at WordPress for putting me on to this fantastic website where bloggers who write about mental health can be found in one place!

How wonderful to be able to write, and at the same time connect with like-minded folks who want to reduce the stigma of mental illness – I’m thrilled to find such a site!

Depression and me:

My journey into mental illness – depression specifically – started 7 years ago. It began as a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder, but when it didn’t resolve itself in a “timely” manner, it became Major Depressive Disorder, with some anxiety on the side.

Since the MDD diagnosis, I have ventured in and out of the valley of depression at least 6 times, perhaps more. The thing about depression is – the more episodes you have, the more episodes you will have. All through those years, I asked God to someday use this in my life for His glory. And He has – I’ve facilitated a depression support group at our church, I’ve told my story to the ladies at Women’s Bible Study on several occasions, and I’ve shared one-on-one about the struggle and victories in the battle against this illness. And now I’m blogging about it!

So after 7 years, I sometimes walk, sometimes stagger down the road to mental health, with MDD currently in remission. But it never goes away completely. It taunts me when events in my life are a mess. It threatens to take over my thoughts, to remind me of all of its promises – you are helpless, you are worthless, no one understands, stay by yourself, hide under the covers… all the lies that depression whispers in my ear.

My goal right now, as depression threatens to re-enter my currently chaotic life, is to recognize it if it comes and practice the techniques I’ve learned to keep it manageable until it passes. I need to remember that it does pass, ’cause it sure feels interminable in the midst of the darkness that surrounds me. I want to lean on Jesus, who has been with me every step of this journey, and on the promises that He will never leave me. I know I’m vulnerable – I’m headed towards another major adjustment in my life – moving across country – and I am trying so hard to not be afraid of what might happen.

This is why I blog. In the Old Testament of the Bible, I can see several examples of lovers of God who struggled with depression. In the New Testament, I read that Jesus knew grief when He walked on this earth. He understands the fear that we as humans face. He knows sadness. He died on the cross for our sins and for our sufferings, including depression. Even Christ followers can suffer from mental illness. And I believe that the more we talk about it, in the Christian community and at large, the more we can help each other to wellness.

“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2015 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”

Distractions and Intimidation

  • The phone rings. It’s my best friend, who lives 100 miles away. We talk for 90 minutes (feels like 10). I hang up and can’t remember what I was doing before she called.
  • There’s a knock at the door, a little guy selling popcorn. Of course I’ll buy some! Now, which one is the reduced fat? Or should I go for the caramel and chocolate covered? I place my order and close the door, and wonder if I was already walking someplace, or did I come to the door when I heard the knock?
  • I’m on my way through the living room to the office to pick up the form that just printed – I could write my name in the dust on the end table! Quick, while I’m thinking of it, get a rag! And polish, too – the coffee table is full of cat prints! The form I need to sign stays on the printer.

Distractions constantly take my attention away from the task at hand, and I often forget to come back and finish, or when I do come back, I’ve lost my momentum for the project. And I can’t write all of it off to age – sometimes, I’m intimidated.

I just realized this afternoon that I have 5-6 books started (all of them good-for-you books) and haven’t opened any of them in 4 weeks. So I don’t. I don’t open any of them. At the time when I first started them, it seemed like “it” was going to be a good read, maybe even helpful. But since it’s been so long since I’ve read them, I read none of them. Besides, which one would I start with?

That’s how this blog feels. I have so many ideas of what I want to write about – silly stories, poems, honest words, memories, questions.  In my first few posts, words poured out of me. And then I got distracted.  Again. By life.

Life can get busy; it can pull us away from the things we want to do. Since my last post, we bought a house. We’re excited, schedule the movers and book our tickets, coordinate the insurance and utilities. And through all those days, my computer beckons. We’re selling stuff on Craig’s List. We’re sorting, paring down, lightening the load so that we take what we need, but not lots more – no room to store all that we’ve accumulated in 27 years of marriage (plus those few things we each brought from our childhoods). “Come write it down,” I hear my keyboard whisper. We make trips to Goodwill and drop off expired medications at the police station, and why do we still have all the cell phones we’ve ever owned? They can be donated to the Women’s Shelter – I can drop them off on my way to meet my friend for breakfast. I make coffee dates, lunch dates, snack dates, trying to see everybody before we move. “C’mon. You could be writing even about this – ‘God in the Midst of Chaos’ or ‘How to Say Goodbye’ or ‘Running 12 Errands in 1 Afternoon.'” Ideas to write about, but I don’t.

The books, this blog – they bring up the same issue for me. I get distracted, and the longer I stay away, the more I can be distracted by other things. And the more distracted I am, the harder it is to make time for things I want to do, like read and blog. And then when I finally have the time, I discover that I’m intimidated. I’m not sure I can remember what I was reading – should I start the book over? I don’t know if I can write words down – who would want to read what I have to say anyway?

It can be that way with God, too. I can be distracted from my relationship with my Savior simply by letting life get in the way. I’m running late and so I skip my morning devotional. I fall into bed at the end of they day and begin to thank God, but I’m so tired I fall asleep before “Amen.” Days can go like that. Days that turn into weeks. And when I finally “have the time,” I’m intimidated. I have let God down. I haven’t started my day with Him. I haven’t worshipped with others in community. I haven’t opened my Bible, read His Word. Why would God even want me to talk to Him? I’ve neglected our relationship so badly.

But He wants me to come. He knows I’ve neglected our relationship – He’s been waiting for me. He longs for me to turn my attention to Him, so that He can prepare me for the day and help me throughout the day. To keep my eyes fixed on Him, to trust Him, to follow Him, to recognize when the distractions are just distractions or when they are actually Divine Appointments where He wants to use me to help someone else. He’s not trying to intimidate me. He misses our time together. And I miss it too. So I come to Him. He welcomes me with absolute unconditional love. He loves it when we sit down together, and I love sitting with Him. In His Presence. In His Peace.