Day after Thanksgiving Gratitude

Thanksgiving Day 2015 was the first major holiday in 23+ years where the celebration was just me and my hubby. And it was a wonderful day.

Of course, I missed my kids and my extended family. And I am grateful beyond words for safe travels for my children as they drove to spend the day with a wonderful friend – she just took them in and added them to her holiday chaos and family and fun.  It was good to Facetime with the kiddos, but it will be better to see them in person in just a few weeks!

Yesterday morning I woke to the kitten’s antics – as always. Even when she has food, she seems to think that I only need 7 hours of sleep, so she starts our morning warm-up with nuzzles and purring and climbing on me and kneading her little claws into the back of my leg. I want to let my husband sleep in, so ok, I’m up!

I spent some quiet time with God, read through emails and blog posts and Facebook, had coffee, journaled a little. Our morning was pretty lazy – I read, blogged, knitted. We went to the pool and hung out for a bit. After having the pool area closed all summer, it’s so nice to have it open again, and to be able to relax in this place. I can’t believe this is in my neighborhood and not at some secluded spa!

lap and spa pool
lap and spa pools

I don’t write this to brag – it’s just that I love living in Florida – the warm weather and sunny skies bring me such pleasure! I get in the pool, the sun warming me, and lay back and look at fluffy clouds and palm trees in my periphery. Ahh! I feel so peaceful and content.

When we got hungry, we came back home and made a non-traditional Thanksgiving meal. Surf and Turf with Key Lime Pie for dessert – couldn’t get less typical for us.

Surf and Turf Thanksgiving 2015

    Surf and Turf Thanksgiving 2015

We’ll save the ham and sweet potatoes and green bean casserole and pumpkin and apple pies for Christmas – it will be good to share family tradition with the kids again.  Maybe they’ll let us add the key lime pie to our holiday dinner routine!

We enjoyed the rest of the day outside on the lanai (back screened patio) and watched a TV series until bedtime. Overall, a very nice day.

I thank God for family. For my husband. For my children. For friends far (most of them) and near (a few new ones). For good food. For sunny and warm skies. For my physical and mental health. For mental health help – my therapists, my psychiatrists. For writing and blogging and for blogging friends. For freedom to worship God without fear of persecution. For devotionals and journals and nice pens. For my computer. For my kitten. For beach towels and pool noodles. For my home. For life.

Depression tells me lies

I wish I had been able to write this last Wednesday. But I couldn’t – I was restrained by the voices of depression.

Those voices tell me lots of things, and none of them are nice. Please don’t misunderstand; I’m not hearing audible voices. These voices are actually just thoughts in my head. You know, the way I talk to myself. And I don’t say very nice things. I’m full of negative self-talk, and I judge myself very harshly. Even without depression, I talk to myself like this a little bit. But with depression, the voices are loud – they fill my ears and echo around in my head.

I didn’t write on Wednesday because my thoughts said that I have nothing to write about. I have absolutely nothing that anyone would want to read. I’ve read others’ blogs – they’re more eloquent, they’ve said all that needs to be said,… I have nothing of value to add.

[Side note: I’ve had several friends suggest that I write a book. But the depression voices tell me that I have nothing to write that hasn’t already been written. I should know – I’ve read lots of books about depression. I have nothing else to say, and certainly nothing original.]

The depression voices on Wednesday told me that all I could do was sit on the couch. They told me that I have nothing to do, nothing that I can do, no one to do anything with, and no one would want to do anything with me anyway. I played with my kitten and watched hours of TV, binging on Netflix, and playing ridiculous games on my iPad, one after the other. I had no interest in doing anything productive, in knitting, drawing, writing in my journal, going for a walk to take pictures, not even coloring a mandala pattern. Even though those are things that I used to enjoy, I can’t – I’m depressed.

The voices told me I wasn’t hungry, except when I was famished. But don’t worry about what to eat – it doesn’t matter anyway. I’m already fat and round, and therefore unattractive. No different diet, no change in wardrobe, no exercise, nothing will change the fact that my appearance is, well, maybe not ugly, but also not good looking. Don’t worry about eating healthy, don’t go for a swim or to the workout center – it won’t make a difference.

I don’t want to do anything – not see new friends on Thursday, not go out on Friday to meet a WI friend passing through town. I will do that, though – it will be good to connect with a sandbag.  But where should we meet? The depression voices remind me that even though I’ve been here 5.5 months, I don’t know my way around. What was the name of that place? Should I just invite them over here? Oh goodness, no! How do I decide? The voices point out that I can’t even make a simple decision – I need someone to tell me what to do.

I feel guilty about not exercising, not doing anything on my to-do list, about my non-activity and non-contribution. I’m lazy (“rotten, good-for-nothing…” – sounds like Yosemite Sam, but the sentence always completes itself as my own thought). I’m stupid. I’m selfish. I’m unattractive. I’m helpless. I’m better off staying by myself ’cause I’ll only bring others down. These thoughts go on and on and on.

BUT THESE ARE ALL LIES!

This negative self-talk is not truth. It is depression talking. And once I let the depressive voices start whispering to me, I can quickly descend into harsh self-judgement. I start believing the lies. They feed on each other, and I spiral quickly downward, further into the dark cavern of depression.

I’ve discovered that the key to silencing these thoughts comes when I recognize them as “not me.” And I have to be firm as I expose them. Not a wishy-washy “stop that.” No, I have to say “Stop! These are not your thoughts! This is not how God sees you! And what God sees and says is truth. So This Is Not Truth!”

When God looks at me, He sees the absolute opposite of these thoughts. He is full of compassion. Psalm 116:5 NIV.  He is gentle – He knows I’m hurting from the depression. Matthew 11:29 NIV  He loves me completely, entirely, passionately. I John 3:1a NIV  He says I am the apple of His eye. Psalm 17:8 NIV  He delights in me. Psalm 18:19 NLT. He rejoices over me with singing! Zephaniah 3:17  I am not helpless – I have His Spirit living in me; the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead – in me! Romans 8:11a NLT  And He has words He wants me to say, words that might bring comfort (2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT) or healing to someone who struggles with depression, maybe even with these same thoughts.

I have been told many times by both of my psych docs, by both of my therapists and by my husband, “Be gentle with yourself.” Cut myself some slack. Take the time I need to heal. Talk to myself as I would speak with a friend, not harshly judging.

Depression is an illness, and it brings negative thinking and harsh self judgement. But those thoughts are not mine; they are depression talking, telling me lies about myself. I can replace them with truth. And truth is what the Bible says about me as a Christ follower. Truth is obeying God. Truth is

… taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:5b NASB. 

How do you write?

How do you write – your blog posts, your journal entries, your papers for school or work? I’m curious about your process.

  1. Do you sit down every morning with the topic or a catch-phrase and put words on the page?
  2. Would you consider yourself a “disciplined” writer? I’m guessing for those of you who post every day, there must be some structure to it. Do you journal every day at the breakfast table? Do you draw up an outline for the paper you’re writing?
  3. Do you draft multiple pieces, writing as much as you can on whatever you’re thinking about at the time, and come back later to develop it?
  4. Do you walk around with potential topics, even particular wording, battling for space in your brain? (This is how it happens for me – part of it writes itself in my thoughts.)
  5. Do you jot down a title or theme, based on a passing comment from a friend or a clever phrase you read someplace?
  6. A different process completely? Tell me more!

There would be days and days in a row where I wrote in my journal. Then the next entry would start with, ” Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve written. In the past few weeks, I …”

I remember learning to write term papers in middle school – multiple drafts, scribbled on the yellow paper with the two red vertical lines on the left and 33 blue horizontal lines across the page. I’d write furiously, scribble, draw circles and arrows where I wanted to move phrases around, cross out – no, keep! I remember learning the process: paragraphs I, II, III. Key points per paragraph A, B, C. Sub points 1), 2), 3). Depending how long or detailed the paper was, there could be a), b), c), all under the sub points. If I got really fancy, there was i), ii), iii). Whew! We were often required to turn in several drafts per paper, the teacher red-penning suggestions and corrections and handing them back for the next revision.

The night before the paper was due, I’d fall asleep to the clickety-clack of Daddy on the manual typewriter, somehow reading through all the scribble on my final draft, and typing it for me. He is a fast typist – click click click zoom! (Listen here. Thanks, youtube.) Of course, the day came when we had to type our papers. I got my own typewriter for my birthday – the cartridge kind, where I’d pop out the ink cartridge to put in the corrector cartridge, and then switch again. That machine worked into my college years. Way before the cut-and-paste of a paper written with a word processor. When did that start?

So I’ve been wondering for the past several days exactly what is rattling around in my brain, and how do I “put it on paper?”

Part of the thought battling to be written down comes from my efforts at answering all the questions required for a particular blogging award. Quite frankly, I’ve been paralyzed by it. I got all the way to the last section and have been unable to finish it. So it sits in my DRAFTS. I like what I’ve written so far, but if I can’t finish the requirements to the award, how do I continue?

I have a DRAFT that I began back in April. I was clicking along as I wrote, and I found a good stopping spot for the night (I seem to start writing down my thoughts at 10:15pm, when I should be crawling into bed, like now!). The next morning, just before I was ready to finish and publish, I got some news from dear friends that made my post seem so inadequate compared to the pain they were suffering. So I left it for the future, maybe.

I have a DRAFT that is actually an email I wrote to someone. I really like what I said, I just need to generalize it a little so it’s not directed at any one in particular but to the general readership of my blog.

I have a story from my past that I long to share here, so I have key memories of the event jotted down in a DRAFT.

When I wrote my first blog post, I couldn’t find the DRAFT button, and was terrified that I was going to accidentally PUBLISH too soon. As it is, I make so many corrections – spelling, punctuation, active voice – and I save the DRAFT so often, each piece has – like – 20+ “revisions.” But I learned the importance of the SAVE button when I lost one of my first posts – poof! it was gone!

My husband and I were on a walk the other night, and I was telling him about being stuck on a particular post. And he reminded me that I don’t have to finish it. He told me that my blog is mine to write – or not write – what I want. I get to decide what I want to share, what I hope others want to read. So if I don’t finish a post I’ve started, so what? That’s my choice, my freedom.

Oh yeah! When I’m experiencing depression, it’s hard for me to think outside of the rules, whatever those are that I’ve established for myself. I get set in my ways; it’s very hard to think outside the box; I need to cut myself some slack. (Insert any other idioms that may apply.)

So, this is today’s post. The DRAFT acceptance for the blogging award will sit in my DRAFT folder – maybe I can rework some of it to be a regular post. Maybe I’ll finish revising the email-turned-post DRAFT – I really like that one. Maybe enough time has passed that I can feel comfortable posting the DRAFT from April.

But for now, I’d really like to hear your thoughts on writing. If you want to, in the comments below, choose 1-6 above and tell me a little about how you write. I’d love to know.

PS – this post has 22 revisions!

Trust Drop Acrostic

Today’s poetry blog class – acrostic,
Rhyming and writing this form.
Usually this timing is not my norm.
Simply right now as I’ve made this commitment
To write on the poetry class daily assignment.

Do you recall the trust drop?
Ready, set, fall into the
Open arms of the
Person who stands behind you.