Thinking about the Past Can Cause Anxiety

I met with my therapist last Thursday. Overall, it was a good appointment. We talked about some tasks I had tackled over the previous week – investigating book clubs, knitting clubs, volunteering at a local Adult Care Center. It felt good to be proactive, and it was nice to share that confidence I felt with her.

We discussed my previous experience in participating and then facilitating peer-led support groups for folks suffering with depression. I told her how I would love to do that again, and we brainstormed some ideas on who to talk to about such a group. I’m excited to be thinking about such an opportunity. It’s been such a long time (3+ years) and I’ve really missed it.

We also talked about my darkest times – including the first time I told Chris I was suicidal.  She asked what I remembered about that moment, and I recalled it vividly – could picture myself at the counter in my pajamas and robe. I had just turned around from making a cup of coffee as he was walking towards me. I told him to come closer and hug me. I began to cry, and told him that I was thinking of hurting myself. Chris pulled back from me, his hands still on my arms, and I watched his eyes fill with tears as he told me he couldn’t bear it if anything happened to me. I felt his arms go back around me as he hugged me and I told him I needed help. He whispered, “We’ll get through this.”

Funny, I don’t really remember what happened next. I know my first trip to the hospital emergency room was soon after that (same day? same week?), when I experienced a sudden weakness in my whole body. But I don’t remember the rest of that day’s detail.

I shared with her, too, about the other time I told my husband that I needed help. I recalled the ensuing trip to emergency, waiting in a small room with a couch and examination bed – just me and my husband and the nurse who came and went, turned on the tv, brought water, checked on me. I remember the social worker coming in and telling us there were no beds available in the psych wards in town, and we told her we couldn’t go 2 1/2 hours away to the nearest hospital. She came back in the room and helped me write “a safety plan.” I told my therapist about my doctor friend, Jim, who came on call as I was getting ready to leave the emergency room, and how he assured me that he would take care of us if we needed to come back.

Anyway, after I shared those two stories with my therapist, we went on to talk about how hard it is to say those three words, “I need help.” And our appointment continued from there.

I haven’t thought about those two scenarios in a long time, and as I walked to my car at the end of our session, I suddenly felt anxious. That deep in the gut hollowness of anxiety.

I know that thoughts of the past can be positive or negative, pleasant or difficult. I was just surprised by my physical response to thinking back. It took the rest of the day to shake off that nervousness in the pit of my stomach. But now I know – memory is a very powerful thing.

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Early morning ponderings

I woke up at 1:30 a.m. and got up at 2:00 a.m. Not for any particular reason, like I couldn’t sleep. More like I just wanted to be up. Weird, huh?

I was thinking about a good friend in my old workplace who recently got a new job – I found out yesterday that she had changed employers. It made me excited for her. She’s the kind of person who would be great in a variety of positions, so I’m eager to chat with her and see how she’s liking it.

I thought about all the staff at my old job, how much I love our friendship even across the years and miles, how often and fondly I think of them, and how busy and tired they’re going to be as they install a new traveling exhibit this week. It’s a heavy one! I prayed for safety for them as they carry those large pieces into place. I wished I could be there for the chaos, and the satisfaction of a job well done, the smiles and giggles when the guests play with it all.

I began thinking about my sister and her family – we chatted earlier this week. But I forgot to ask if the clothes and books I gave for Christmas were a good “fit.” I sure wish we lived closer so we could grab lunch together and talk longer.

I thought about my girlfriend who lives far away and anticipated our weekly phone conversation tomorrow. I always look forward to our talks!

I was thinking about my friend Carol, who blogged yesterday about her day. I chuckled as I drank my mid-night tea (read her blog to understand why). Her husband has just started a new job, and I’m happy for the change of pace they will get to enjoy as a family.

Funny, three of these folks have seniors in high school. I thought about all those similar deadlines and events swirling through their heads each day as they plan and dream. Both the kids and the parents!

I’m enjoying the quiet of this early morning time. I think I’ll have another cup of tea and read on my Kindle.

Slumber on, world!

Feeling Good

A couple of years ago, I told my therapist, Ted, “It feels good to feel good.”

I met with my psych doc today, and told him that I think the new meds are working. Even after the wonderful Christmas break with the kids, and my concerns about sorting out the effect of the new meds vs. my family fun, I can say that the new cocktail is effective. Yay!

It’s sunny today, and I noticed! I feel lighter, more quick to smile. I actually asked after my doc, instead of making the appointment all about me. I’m signed up for a book club at the library. I’m looking forward to my week. I’m ready to try a new knitting project. I’ve inquired about a volunteer opportunity – I just need to pick up the application.

I really like my new therapist, Pam, at Valley Hope Counseling Center. At last week’s appointment, she challenged me to look at these different experiences, and try one. I came home and investigated all of them! Knitting groups, book clubs, volunteering at an adult care center. She pointed out that I’ve been talking about volunteering at the hospital for a year, but I haven’t done anything about it…why not? Good question, and I think it’s because I know it won’t result in on-going relationships, which is what I long for. But a couple of weeks ago, as I turned into the parking lot at the grocery store, I saw the Adult Care Center, and my curiosity was immediately piqued. Volunteering there – talking to guests, playing games, building relationships, maybe making a difference in someone’s life. Now that’s appealing.

The point here is that I have energy again. I have enthusiasm. I want to do stuff. Anhedonia is gone.

God is good. He is patient with me as I struggle in and out of depression. He is waiting for me to come to Him so that He can pour His love into me. He puts people and medications in my life to heal me (at least for now). And I’ll take it!

Finding a Church Home, part 2

(Follow-up to earlier post…)

I do not consider myself a consumer of church. I don’t go to be entertained. I am a worshipper, as I think Christ-followers are called to be. Yet finding a place to attend each Sunday has been difficult.

“Church shopping” is easier now than ever, as I can listen to local pastors’ sermons on their websites. I can hear the Worship Teams. I can read the local churches’ beliefs and mission statements, and see what they offer for discipleship and mission work. Still, we have to attend to really get the “feel” of the place. And that takes time – it’s not usually a one-visit kind of thing.

I’ve been doing a word study of “joy” from my Bible’s concordance. Not exhaustive, but many verses. I’ve been writing them out in my journal, as I seek to understand what joy should look like in my life. Yesterday, I had to stop with Psalm 42:4, NLT.

My heart is breaking
    as I remember how it used to be:
I walked among the crowds of worshipers,
    leading a great procession to the house of God,
singing for joy and giving thanks
    amid the sound of a great celebration!

It reminded me of Sundays in WI where we attended church.  How I miss being among friends at church, that “feeling connected” feeling.

The church we’re currently attending is more Pentecostal than anything we’ve ever been part of. This is a stretch, but I feel God growing me in seeing the work of the Holy Spirit in my life and others’ around me. The pastor is humble, and a good teacher. His sermons are soundly Biblical, he teaches from God’s Word, and there are lots of practical and spiritual applications to daily life. The women of the Connection Group I’m attending each Tuesday morning – while all are older than me – have been very welcoming and gracious.

I hate to admit this, but it’s the worship team where we’re stuck. That divisive, age-old issue of worship style. And actually, it’s not the style, it’s the sound. The music is at such a particular pitch and loud volume that it literally hurts our ears.

So what do we do? We like the size of the church, the people are friendly, and the sermons are solid. I may not enjoy singing every chorus through six times (no exaggeration), but I can pray when I don’t want to sing anymore. But what do we do about physical pain?

I’ve been praying that God will lead us to the local church where He wants us. Where we can worship Him fully, be fed spiritually, and serve Him faithfully. I’m just not sure if we’ve found it yet. 

Fellow Christ-followers, I welcome your insights and advice. Please.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  ‭‭(Hebrews‬ ‭10:24-25‬, ‭NIV‬‬)

I’m not sure yet…

As my previous post indicated, the doctor added a new medication – Rexulti – to my antidepressants cocktail. I started 3 weeks ago, for 2 weeks at 0.5 mg, then this week at 1.0 mg, and up to 2.0 mg before I see him in a couple of weeks. And he said that if I feel better at the 1.0 mg level, I can stay there.

But how can I tell? I’ve been having such a good time!

My kids have been here – my daughter last week and my son stayed on another week, so my days have been full of family and laughter. We had a wonderful Christmas Day, and my son’s birthday, and all the days surrounding. We saw the new Star Wars movie, played games, watched movies and shows on Netflix. We shopped a little, the guys went hiking on the Appalachian Trail, and we’ve eaten delicious food. We tried a brewery and a distillery. In my mood app, where I rate every day to keep track of mood trends, each day with my children here has been a 9. A 9! I usually live at a 6 or 7, so 9 is significant, especially for a full week.

So what happens when we all go back to normal? When my son leaves to go back north and my husband goes back to work and my days become just me and the cat? Where will my mood be?

The Bible reminds me not to worry about the future. That “each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34)” That “… neither the present nor the future, … will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)” It’s only a waste of my present time to worry about how I’ll be feeling in a few weeks.

It will be a week and a half from the time my days get quieter until I see my doctor again. That should give me enough time to assess my mood and any effect of these new meds.

In the meantime, I’m really enjoying the moments!

Wishing you a Happy New Year – full of physical and emotional health!