“Just start with where you are…”

I wanted this blog to be one of encouragement to those who have in the past or currently do struggle with depression, as well as to those who love someone who is battling this illness. Where I could share my thoughts and experiences, and point to Christ. So readers could see that He was – and is – always with me. Even if I don’t feel Him, He’s there. That’s His promise. That’s truth, despite what I think or feel. He never leaves me.

But what do I write when I’m the one struggling? It’s not depression, not even Adjustment Disorder. I’m dealing with grief due to loss and loneliness, those emotions that come from change, from moving across the country. Still in the stage of getting settled and adjusting to my new home, environment, routine, and relationships (which are few). 

A good friend once told me, “Just start with where you are.” This was when I was facilitating a peer-led Christian depression support group, and going through my own personal time of difficulty – wasn’t sure I’d be able to “lead.” My friend/advisor reminded me that I could model transparency if I just shared from where I was. So that’s what I did – I shared honestly and vulnerably. God used that evening to remind me that the group wasn’t about me, nor was it important for me to “have it all together.” In fact, to share honestly encouraged others to do the same, and pointed them to Jesus’ presence and His strength in our difficult times.

Over the past 7 years, I have consistently journaled – almost every day – especially during depressive episodes. Most of my entries start or end as prayers though there are some that are just thoughts. But I consider those to be prayers, too; they are usually written thoughts directed to God. That’s praying without ceasing, right? Heaven-directed thoughts? Now I need to journal, and I find myself avoiding it – not sure why. Forced myself yesterday, wrote a few pages. But the intense emotions I’m experiencing right now (mostly grief and loneliness) – I think they are scaring me, and I’m not writing them out. And I know it would be helpful, but I’m not doing it.

I’m not blogging with the frequency I want. I had hoped to be at once a week, but it turns out to be 3x/month. I know that’s okay. It’s just that I have lots of topics I want to write about, but I’m not writing much at all. Self-imposed demands that I’m not meeting – have to fight the self-talk that says I failed because I didn’t reach my goal. It’s harder to see the victories of three blog entries rather than the failure of not writing four.

I think not writing is coming from fear – fear of facing these emotions of loneliness and loss and grief head on. Even as I write this, I can picture myself physically turned and facing a tangible orange blob labeled loneliness, and tears fill my eyes, threaten to spill over. Maybe next week, when my daughter has returned home and my husband is traveling. Maybe I need to plan time to experience those emotions, so I’m stuffing them until I can give them the attention they are going to require.

They really hurt. I’ve often dealt with emotions like this is the sanctuary of my previous therapist’s office. Somehow, though, I know I need to do it just with God. And I’m afraid. I’ve prayed about it some – shared them with God as I’ve cried, usually as I’m getting ready to sleep. I’ll tell Him, “I’m feeling lonely.” And whatever comes after that. But those times have been short, because I’m falling asleep. I think what I need to do is share them with Him when He, and they, have my full attention.

My new therapist gives me great assurances and wise instruction. She said I need to blog. She encouraged me to use this as a time to grow in my relationship with God – letting Him fill the voids in my heart. To spend time with Him, letting the Holy Spirit comfort me as I face the loneliness and loss, the grief. She reminds me that I’m doing ok. I can release all the self-imposed stuff, all the “shoulds.” I should be writing this much. I should be making more connections, should have more friendships, be in service at my church (we don’t even have a church home yet, so why am I imposing that upon myself?).

So for today’s blog post, I’m just sharing where I am. Starting with what I’m feeling and doing now.

And I’m reminding myself, and anyone reading, that I am not here alone. God is with me. He promised, and He always keeps His promises. So we’ll face the grief and loneliness together. Who knows? Maybe I’ll blog on that next week!

Sometimes my eyes leak

Does this happen to you?  All of a sudden, your eyes leak.

Maybe someone jumps out and shouts, “Boo!”

Maybe you say, “I love you.”

Maybe your song comes on the radio: “‘Cuz I can’t fight this feelin’ anymore…”

Maybe your son walks quietly to the front for his solo.

Maybe your friend is grieving, and you’re holding her hand.

Maybe your daughter walks across the stage.

Maybe you’ve hugged and said good-bye. Again. And again.

Maybe you wish you could see them one more time. Right now.

There are lots of times my eyes leak. Yes, all of the above times. And then more times. Sometimes, they are expected. Other times, they surprise me. In startle or delight. In reflection or regret. In my fear. In my pain. In someone else’s pain. In the dark, when the lights are off and no one can see them. In a crowd, where someone might be watching.

My eyes fill up. They burn behind my eyelids. It feels as if there is something that pokes, for just a second, into my eyeballs. Blinking can sometimes make them stop. Or I close my eyes and one drips down my left cheek. Or I squeeze my eyes tightly to keep them in, but they spill out anyway. Pouring down my face. Off my chin. They are hot on my skin. They drip onto my shirt. Wait, is that one on my nose, or is my nose dripping too? I’m going to need a tissue. Or the whole box.

I’m learning to accept them. For the longest time in my life, I would choke them back. “Deal with them later,” I’d tell myself. Then I’d forget to deal with them, so they’d stuff down. Repeat that procedure enough times, and they can get stuck.

I went through 5+ years of major depressive disorder (MDD) where I couldn’t cry. I wanted to. I was sure I would feel better if could just get the tears out. But it had been so long. And the depression had separated me from many of my emotions, leaving me feeling flat most of the time. So I couldn’t cry. Not the deep cleansing sobs anyway. I tried. I watched “tear-jerker” movies, read sad poems. Nothing.

It wasn’t until my therapist made me sit with them. I could feel them, but I’d gotten pretty good at shutting them down. He told me to sit with them, and with the thoughts behind them. We waited in silence. And slowly the tears came. The pricks behind my eyelids. The eyes tightly shut. And then all the rest.

It was as if the dam broke. I know that’s cliche, but it really describes it.

I became concerned that if I started crying by myself, I wouldn’t be able to stop, so I continued to hold them until I was in a “safe place” where I could share them. I’d share a few with a friend, or my mom or sister, or a prayer buddy, or a coworker. Someone close, who knew me and understood me.

Now the tears come easily. Usually unbidden. Often unexpectedly. And I cry, and stop crying, by myself. I don’t really share them with anyone now. With whom would I? I can’t pick up the phone and call a friend when I’m crying unconsolably. What can they do? Last time I cried really hard with a friend, they stood across the room. Didn’t approach me, didn’t hug me or comfort me. I don’t think they knew what to do. Or maybe they were crying their own tears.

Please don’t misunderstand – I share them with my husband. He knows how to comfort me and what to say as he hugs me close. But there’s no one else to share them with.

Wait – that’s not true. God is here. He helps. Always. I simply need to let Him remind me from His Word:

Jesus wept. (John 11:35, NIV)

He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; (Isaiah 53:3a, prophesy about Jesus, NASB)

You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book. (Psalm 56:8, NIV)

I’m not crying alone! Jesus is with me always, and He understands. The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, lives inside me. God cradles me on His lap. Someday, He’ll wipe all the tears away – there will be no tears in heaven.

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (Revelation 7:17, NIV)

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21:4, NIV)

I will turn their mourning into gladness;
I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. (Jeremiah 31:13, NIV)

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)

Whirlwind Of Busyness

Welcome back…to me, and therefore to you, my readers (thank you for reading, by the way!).

I’ve been away from writing and journaling and blogging and reading for a month, due to the whirlwind that overcame me as we moved to Florida. Yep – we made it. (See https://peggyricewi.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/florida-here-we-come-yet-still-waiting/ post from the end of January). But with all that has to happen in buying and selling homes – lots of paperwork, changing addresses, saying all of my goodbyes (that’s the hardest part of this process, for me anyway), selling furniture on Craig’s List, weeding out old books and clothes and craft supplies, giving liquids to neighbors and friends (liquids can’t be transported on the moving van), dropping off donations and hazardous waste – it was all-consuming.

And then there’s the flight to Florida, signing lots of papers, doing a little new-home shopping, unpacking the many boxes that come off the moving truck. And finding new places for all of our belongings – making each room feel like home instead of a forest of boxes. Hanging pictures, getting new drivers’ licenses, finding my way around town, unpacking a few more boxes (don’t look in the garage – there are still plenty yet to be emptied)…

It’s been almost impossible to find time to write. And when I do have time, I’m exhausted. And to tell you the truth, I’ve been a little intimidated. When I first started blogging in January (I’m a newbie), I was following instructions from the WordPress classes – classes that are designed to help new bloggers get off to a good start. I was really enjoying February’s Writing 201: Poetry, and had signed up for March’s Photography 101. I have all the assignments, I just haven’t done all the work.

And then those little voices started nagging at me. You know the little angel on one shoulder, reminding me how much I was enjoying my entry into the world of blogging. But you also know the little red devil with the pitchfork on the other shoulder, whispering to me that I’ve lost my momentum, won’t be able to blog again, the words won’t flow…Notice how he says so much more than the angel.  Or maybe I just hear him more loudly. I’m such a self-critic, so his words resonate.

So I’ve avoided journaling, and reading my friends’ blogs, and writing my own. I’ve also ignored my emotions, stuffing them down until I “have time” to deal with them. Admittedly, they’ve leaked out a few times, but I just choke them back – I don’t have time right now.

And I’ve neglected my time with God again. I’ve prayed a lot, but I haven’t taken the time to meet with Him, to read His words and listen for His voice. I’ve been busy, like Martha in Luke 10:38-41 (NIV):

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Please don’t misunderstand – the work Martha was doing was important. But her worry and distraction by the busyness of the tasks – that’s where her priorities went awry.  I want to choose what is better. I want to get back into the habit of starting every morning with Jesus.  The reality is that I’ve started this process with Him hundreds of times in my life, in our walk together. But each time, He is full of love and welcomes me back. And He’s never too busy – He always has time.

[Even as I wrote this, I knew it sounded familiar. https://peggyricewi.wordpress.com/2015/02/04/distractions-and-intimidation/. And that’s not surprising – God often teaches me the same lesson over and over. Sometimes, He takes me deeper in the lesson; other times, it’s a refresher course!]

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.