About Me, part two

I started blogging in January 2015 as a way to put some of my journal thoughts and advice on paper, or rather, on a blog. I want to share my journey, what I’ve learned about being a Christian who struggles with depression. I want to learn to write for an audience.  I want to see if my words can make a difference for someone, if I can offer encouragement. Writing for someone else helps me get the thoughts from bouncing around in my brain, or scattered all over a journal entry, into a form that (hopefully!) makes sense to readers.

One of my favorite things about blogging on Wordpress is the classes they offer. I’ve taken several: to learn to blog better, to add photography, to try poetic forms, to develop a habit of writing daily, to learn about HTML and formatting this space.

As I continue blogging, I’m learning to find my voice, and to lighten up my writing style. I don’t want my entries to be heavy, or dark, or too long. While the topic of my blog is dark and lonely, I want to write about depression with hope. The hope that I have is in the knowledge that Jesus has never left me alone in the depression journey.

I’m also learning about what Blogging Community is – I have some favorite bloggers, but this process strongly encourages me to find new ones. That is one of my favorite parts of this whole blogging world – reading different perspectives, different topics, different writing styles, discovering others’ talents. So let the blogging begin (again)!

And thanks for reading and commenting.

Lightness

Something happened a couple of days ago: I woke in the morning feeling lighter. Something in me had changed. I didn’t even realize it at first, and when I did, I was awed…and thrilled.

I’m not experiencing anxiety! Like… none! 

Sure, I have butterflies going into a new situation or with a new group of people, but that’s normal.

No, I mean anxiety – the friend that depression brought with it when it invaded my life 7 years ago.

For me, anxiety starts as pain in the pit of my stomach that moves upward to become pressure in my chest. My heart beats faster. The same sour taste at the back of my throat that I have with stomach flu. The shortness of breath, my shoulders pulled together, teeth clenched, swirling catastrophizing thoughts, crushing dread that relentlessly pushes me down.

It’s gone! No heaviness, no dread!

Maybe it’s because what I was dreading is here. I’m moved. I’m dealing with the grief and loneliness – the situation and emotions that I had been afraid of.

I told God that I’m in it now, and it’s ok. No fear or anxiety of it, because I’m here now, I’m living it, and I’m surviving!

I shared all of this with my therapist today; she asked when I last recalled the anxious feelings. It was a few weeks after our cross-country move. We went back to Minnesota for a special event, and I know I had it then. It snowed on the day we were flying back to Florida, and I remember telling my husband that I was ready to go “home.” And that’s my last memory of anxiety. My therapist pointed out that I “left it there.”

In Philippians 4, The Bible says

v. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 

v. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

That first verse gets thrown at Christian anxiety sufferers a lot. Just do what verse 6 says, and poof! your fears will be gone. For years, I prayed these verses, tried to practice them, held onto them tightly. And when nothing changed, I’d pray them again, practice them, hold onto them. Still no change.

It wasn’t that I didn’t believe God’s Word. I did, and I still fervently do! But Phil 4:6-7 isn’t a magic phrase that I do one time and all my fears disappear. I had always thought that if I practiced verse 6, then the next verse – the promise of God’s peace – would follow immediately.

I got tired of people quoting Phil 4 to me. I know already! I know I’m not supposed to be anxious. I know that I’m supposed to pray. I know I’m supposed to ask. I know I’m supposed to be thankful and express my gratitude to God. I know! Quit telling me – it isn’t working!

But now I wonder. I wonder if I simply didn’t understand the verses. Or had expectations that were incorrect.

Because I am experiencing ‘the peace of God which transcends all understanding.” But it’s been a long time coming. The second verse is a promise, but for me, the fulfillment of that promise took awhile.

God never breaks His promises. I did pray, and ask, and thank. Over and over again. And eventually, when God was done teaching me what I needed to learn at that time, He fulfilled His promise, and now I have peace.

God’s Peace. No heaviness. Only lightness. Spring in my step, spring in my heart.

I like lightness.

Counting Sheep

( Thanks, Mary B!)

On Monday morning, my alarm went off at 7:20am. I hit the snooze button. Beep, beep, beep – I like that feeling of lazily opening one eye and peeking to see – sure enough, 9 minutes has gone by. Did I fall back asleep? Did I dream? Beep, beep, beep – sure enough, 9 minutes later.  And then instead of snooze, I rolled onto my back and started praying – “Thank you, God, for helping me to fall asleep last night. For reminding me of Your Presence and Comfort. For prompting me with Your Word, with verses I memorized as a child – Your Word hidden in my heart.”

Let me back up a few hours:

Sunday night was tough. I had a crying jag – second one in 2 1/2 months, lasted more than 2 hours.

It started with me thinking of my daughter who had visited us the week before – oh, we had such a great time! But then the thought “I live so far away from her” flitted across my mind and my eyes filled with tears. Then I considered the thought a little longer, and the tears rolled down my cheeks.

And I kept crying! Every time I thought I was done crying, I’d think of someone else I miss. The loneliness was overwhelming (I wrote about this in Just Start With Where You Areand the water works wouldn’t shut off. But I allowed myself – this is me working through grief, and it’s a process, tears included.

Finally, when I felt like I was all cried out – it’s exhausting work – I got ready for bed. Looking in the mirror as I brushed my teeth, I saw swollen eyes and a red nose – not a pretty picture! This just made me want to cry again (haha), so I grabbed a couple of tissues to put by my pillow, just in case. And sure enough, I laid down and the tears wet my pillow.

“That’s enough,” I told myself. “But God, what can I think about instead of loneliness, so I don’t keep crying?” I wanted to focus on gratitude, but my heart felt too heavy and I was too tired to shift my thoughts. Then I began reciting Psalm 23 to myself, focusing on each line individually and meditating on the verse.

v.1 The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He is my provider – gives me everything I need. He directs my steps, doesn’t leave me to wander too far off on my own. And He’s my Shepherd – I know His voice; I will follow Him where He leads.

v. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He knows I need rest! 

v. 2 He leads me beside the still waters.  He knows I long for peace, and calm, and gentleness, and He can give me all those things. I started to feel myself relax, breathing slowing, muscles loosening, arms and legs sinking down into the mattress a little more.

v. 3 He restores my soul. Jesus is the only one who can refresh and restore me. I need Him to renew my heart and return me to our relationship. “I’m sorry, Lord, for not remembering that You are always with me. Please forgive my wanderings and restore me to a right relationship with You. Help me to trust You in the midst of my grief, and to know that you have placed me right where You want me.”

v. 3 He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. “Yes, Father, You are righteous.”

v.4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. I thanked Him again for being with me through years of walking with depression. For his faithfulness even when I am not.

I don’t remember the rest – I was asleep. Psalm 23 only has six verses, but I only needed four of them to be able to relax and sleep!

I shared this story with a friend via email the next day, and l love her response: “Well, you were in the arms of the Shepherd, so it was like counting sheep?!?!?”

It’s ok to be ok

(dedicated to Ted Stein, my therapist for 7 years – thank you more than words will ever adequately express)

I broke up with my therapist yesterday.

We’ve broken up before, a few times. And it’s always been hard.

But this time it’s really hard. I now live in a different state in the U.S. than he does. And even tho’ he’s accessible via text or email or Google Hangout, this time is really goodbye. (I’m crying now, writing this blog thru blurred vision and between tissues. Please keep that in mind as you read.)

I know I can text him if I have to. I know he’ll schedule a video conference if we need one, but we’re both hoping that won’t be necessary. Ok, maybe I’m kinda hoping it will be necessary, but I’m also really hoping it’s not – that this is goodbye. I’m still a mess of emotions, even after 7 years. But these are normal emotions. And I’m experiencing them to the fullest – that’s considered progress in therapy. Normal emotions at the proper time. Sadness at saying goodbye. Excitement for my new adventure. Trepidation as I reach out to make new friends. Grief as I miss those who have been – still are – so important in my life but now I live so far away from them. A little fear at leaving my support systems, yet knowing I can still call them anytime.

We’ve been working toward this – that’s always the goal of therapy, right? To take what I’ve learned from someone wiser than me, to take the tools he gave me, the insights into myself that I’m now beginning to understand, and to put them into practice in the real world, not just the sanctuary of his office. To find myself in a place where I am stronger and wiser, and ready.

Am I ready?

We both think so.

I didn’t think it would happen so soon. I thought there might be more of a transition. But how much more transition can there be than moving 5-7 states away? Yes, social media is an amazing thing, and can shrink those miles. But the reality is that the refuge of his office – the respite that it has been in my life for such a long time, sinking down into his couch, hiding behind the pillow I hold on my lap – all of that is now approximately 1570 miles away.

I’m strong. I’m healthy. I’m in a good place. I’m brave. I’m ok, and I’m going to be ok.

He made me say that out loud yesterday. He said what I couldn’t, that it’s ok to be ok, and then made me say the words. I’m ok.

I haven’t felt ok for soooo long. This is a big deal. A big thing to admit to. To reach out and grasp mental health instead of hiding behind mental illness.

It sounds funny, I know, but it’s comfortable, feeling unsure and unsteady, because I’ve felt that way for a very long time. This step out onto the narrow platform of health – this is scary. What if I waver? Worse: what if I fall?

Yesterday’s devotional from Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling – the same day that I broke up with Ted – said:

THIS IS A TIME IN YOUR LIFE WHEN YOU MUST LEARN TO LET GO: of loved ones, of possessions, of control. In order to let go of something that is precious to you, you need to rest in My Presence, where you are complete. Take time to bask in the Light of My Love. As you relax more and more, your grasping hand gradually opens up, releasing your prized possession into My care. You can feel secure, even in the midst of cataclysmic changes, through awareness of My continual Presence. The One who never leaves you is the same One who never changes: I am the same yesterday, today, and forever. As you release more and more things into My care, remember that I never let go of your hand. Herein lies your security, which no one and no circumstance can take from you.

How’s that for a reminder? I am not alone. Ted and I have said goodbye, but I am not alone.
God will never leave me. (Hebrews 13:15)
Jesus is the same yestersay, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
I don’t have to be afraid, because I am not alone. (Joshua 1:9)

Elegiac Fog

In 2009, I went through a “pharmacological brain meltdown,” as my psych doc adjusted my meds after I experienced a serotonin toxicity. My therapist recommended that I keep an e-journal, since at the time I was unable to write legibly. He told me to send them to him; I kept them for myself, too.

When we were given this writing assignment for Writing 201: Poetry, I immediately thought of this email.  These thoughts of fog come from there. I’m formatting it to (almost) meet the requirements of a (non-rhyming) elegy, but intentionally leaving the misspellings – this is the fog I was in then.

you’ll have to read through the lines –
the meds make it really hard
to concentrate,
and so I find
I keeep going bsck to backspace
and fix an errorr, and missing.

sorry.
too much
work to fix them all.

yesterday, i felt
like I was listing
to the left –

today – today, the tide
blows me to the right some.
I’ve lost 3+ weeeks –
don’t feel lkike I’ve gained.

Chrus says he can telll
I’m a little better
every day –
I dont’ see it.

How am I gonna drive
to work? Or ansswer
emails or the phone
or do my jpb?

Just sitting here,
in a bubble
that waves around me and
makes everything foggy
and out of focus –
wait – in focus –
no – out of focus
again.

Amnd what am I supposedd to do
with myseflf in thte menatme?
I’m tired.

I’,m incapabable
of doing anything
faster than a snail’s pace
(even then, I might trip
and fall down
or spill something).

What am I supposed to do?

Alll I am capapble of
is laying down,
and maybe crying
before I fall alseep.

How long will this go on?
I misssed two appoitnemnts with you last week –
I hope you got the messaage that I was
in the hopsital trying to fix meds.
sure wish you had come to see me.