It’s Easy

The thing about depression is – it’s easy.

No, depression itself is not easy – it’s actually a very hard journey. But descending into depression is a cinch. Easy-peasy.

All it takes is several days of feeling alone, using first-person depression language or beating myself up, poor diet and/or sleep, ongoing physical pain. A few negative components, and depression is within reach.

Of course, wellness should be reaching toward the positive, toward mental health, not illness. But sometimes, mental illness feels closer to my grasp.

This should make me fearful, or at least cautious. The problem is, it all feels so familiar. So it’s not scary; it’s almost comforting.

Which makes me scared. And that’s healthy.

I’m realizing that I’m often so close to the edge of the cliff – to the precipice of depression’s chasm.

That means I need to fight really hard for mental health. For mental wellness.

I need to initiate my ladder – the steps my therapist told me to put into place to help me when I find myself in this darker place. Step one – sit with the tears. Well, I don’t have any of those right now. Just a familiar sadness.

Step two – Tell my husband and best friend. My husband will be home shortly, after having been out-of-town for a few days – I hate to admit that this probably contributed to my current emotions. I’m okay with him being gone until about day five – then it gets hard for me. So that piece will improve soon!

Ok, time to be really honest here. Let’s back up a few minutes. Drinking wine does not help depression. I suspect that if I hadn’t had a couple of glasses of wine – which is a depressant! – I wouldn’t be feeling so negative right now.

I’ll write more about my ladder of self-care another time. The steps really don’t matter for this particular post. What matters is to illustrate that depression can be only a few choices away.

So I need to make wise choices. Initiate my ladder of self-care. Get good sleep. Eat a healthy snack, healthy meals. (Too bad I had to throw away that salad mix due to the recall – that was my healthy meal!) Get regular exercise. Be careful with alcohol.

Ultimately, I must remind myself of God’s truth about me, because that’s what really matters. He loves me no matter what. I am a new creation, because of Jesus’ grace. Depression is not who I am; I am a precious daughter of the king of the universe, the king of all creation.

Reminding myself of these truths are keys to fighting the familiarity of depression. Keys to fighting the lies of the enemy. Keys to my mental health.

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My “Why”

Watch this first (it’s short):

Michael Jr. Comedy – Know Your Why

My “why” – to reduce the stigma of depression, especially in Christian circles.

My “what” – to lead a support group for Christians struggling with depression; to blog about depression within and for the Christian community; who knows what other “whats” I have!

Lord God, let me follow your leading in my pursuit of this passion.

(Thank you, http://www.freshhope.us, for the link to this significant video.)

On Purpose

I started this blog post on June 5, 2016, but the theme is still running through my life consistently! The topic – my purpose.

My therapist pointed out to me years ago that I speak to myself in questions, so this post will be full of those. If you have any answers, please share in the comment section below!

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Draft written 1.5 years ago:

Yesterday, the lesson was about my purpose, and God got my attention from 2 different devotionals and a conversation. What is my purpose? I’m asking myself that anyway, again now while I’m in between houses, and trying to find things to do to fill up my days. I met a woman a few nights ago who talked about her job in a way that showed passion and purpose. At the same time, I’m asking myself about writing this book – am I supposed to be using my time to do that? And how does my bent – the way I need daily interaction with people – how does that play into my purpose? What am I supposed to do with myself? Should I be looking for a job? Should I be volunteering? If so, where should I focus my energies? Once again, I ask myself what do I want to be when I grow up? Where do my previous work experiences lend themselves? To families, I think. To mentoring or some kind of teaching. But what does that look like around here? In this place in VA? Do I find a job to “tide me over?” What if I don’t want to, what if that doesn’t feel right? Do I do it anyway, as a way to meet people? (thoughts inspired by Edie Wadsworth’s blog post, Jennifer Lee’s blog post, Holy Experience devotional, daily devotional from YouVersion, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young)

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So here I am today, still asking the same question – what is my purpose in this, the second half of my life? I know the Westminster Shorter Catechism – “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” But as a Christ follower, I can claim this already, What I mean is, what am I supposed to do with myself, with my time? Where do I put my energies?

I lived the first half of my marriage as “Mom.”  And I know that I will always be Mom. Therapists will tell you that this is not your identity, it’s simply a role. But after 26 years of it, it sure feels like identity. And now, with both kids grown, there’s a loss of this identity as it doesn’t take the time it used to!

I was recently asked what do I dream of doing? Problem is, I don’t really have a dream. I’m not sure that I ever had one, or even know how to.

Yesterday, I read a short book by David Ramos called What the Bible Says about Purpose, and I completed the shorter questionnaire, 5 Questions that Create Clarity. I put in writing some things I already know:

  • I need to be in some kind of leadership.
  • I need to be doing something with helping others.
  • I need to be connecting with people.
  • I’d like to still live in Florida, or alternatively, closer to my children.
  • I’d like to travel.
  • My closest friends live far away, though new friendships here are slowly developing.
  • I’m still not committed to a church body.
  • I might like to write a book. I’d certainly like to be more consistent in blogging.
  • I miss public speaking.

So how does all of this help me? I’m not sure, other than it gives me lots to pray about, and lots to process.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17, NIV (emphasis mine)

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)

5 a.m. Musings

I woke at 4 a.m., laid in bed for an hour. These were the things going through my head:

  • Jack Johnson’s Banana Pancakes song (just the words I know)
  • Does Starbucks have pumpkin bread or muffins? I have to take the car in this morning for a front end alignment; maybe I’ll stop first and treat myself to a mocha and pumpkin bread.
  • What should I take to S’s on Saturday? Brownies? Something pumpkin? (back to thinking about Starbucks)

Then I decided to focus my thoughts on times during depression when I felt relief:

  • Taking a nap at B’s house – I remember laying down on her couch, a throw pillow under my head, her blue chenille-weave blanket over me. I felt so safe and sleepy.  I must have made her whole family, including her two teenage boys, tiptoe around, because I didn’t wake for over an hour. I remember B doing dishes at the sink as I sat up. Her smile at me – just the best thing a weary friend could see. Do you remember that, B?
  • My husband’s arms wrapped around me. Standing in the kitchen with my back up against the counter, and he pulled me towards him. I tucked my arms next to my sides, so he was completely around me, and I put my head down on his chest, under his chin. I felt safe, supported, enclosed. I knew he was with me through this thing called depression – his hug, and holding me, proved I wasn’t alone. I still like that position of a hug, with me wrapped completely up in his strong arms. I feel so safe there.
  • Walking into Ted‘s office (my therapist) – the stillness of the room; the sensation of taking off the invisible heavy backpack with the weight and cares of the world, and laying it beside my purse; sinking into the cushions, usually clasping a throw pillow to my chest (part comfort, part protection of my vulnerabilities that I will be sharing). He sits across from me. He smiles and I can feel the tension of the world leave my shoulders. For a few times, I sat in the rocking chair with the cream-colored fluffy blanket – the rocking motion is still soothing to me. But I prefer the couch, where I can sink down into the cushions, put my head against the back, and slouch behind my pillow. Soft glow from the lamps. A candy dish on the table. Kleenex within reach. I look up to the windows at the top of the wall – stare out at the clouds and branches. The quiet is almost tangible, like the room is doubly insulated against the terrors and pressures of the outside world, where my depression has me in its grip. But this is a safe place, and I can talk about my fears and sadness here.
  • Later, walking into Elizabeth‘s office (my therapist when I moved to FL) – the beauty of the room, the cheerful patterns.  Though my need wasn’t as strong, she had throw pillows for me to clasp, to hide behind. Her gentle voice. Her soft words of encouragement and prayer.

Now, it’s almost 4:45 a.m., and I start thinking about my previous post on Scripture, particularly Philippians 4:6-7, NIV:

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.

I think more on this verse, and how it has helped me, just not when I was in my deepest depression.  In my “lighter” versions of illness, I can quote these verses and feel some relief. But I’ve also come to realize that the second part of this – the promise of God’s peace – isn’t necessarily an immediate response to the first part – the praying and petitioning. The peace comes eventually, but not necessarily immediately. This in itself is comforting to me, since I felt like I was failing somehow, when I didn’t sense God’s peace after begging Him to help me not be anxious, even after thanking Him for depression and all it was teaching me. To realize that I didn’t immediately feel peace, the peace promised in verse 7, I felt like I was failing at trusting God for my relief and His peace. But now, to realize that the peace of God, which is beyond my understanding, will come and take its place in my heart eventually, is great relief.

Now it’s 5 a.m. I think I’ll get up and write this all down.