Thinking about writing

(Thank you to K at Walking After Midnight for the prompt.)

Thinking about writing and actually writing are not the same thing. I’ve been thinking about writing for several weeks, but I haven’t blogged for several months. And the longer I wait to write, the harder it is to write. After this long of a delay, do I even have anything to say that anyone would want to read?

I have a friend (https://theapplesinmyorchard.wordpress.com) who started blogging in the past several months, and she is doing a fantastic job of writing every day, something I long for but haven’t figured out how to do. She is a prolific writer, and I urge you to check out her blog – she’s got all kinds of fascinating topics, from education to home life and everything in between!

Can I write about things that don’t tie to my tagline? “I am not my depression.” Even though I have lots of subject ideas on living with depression, what it was like going through depressive episodes, the impact of depression on family life and work.  How to-s on living with it, living after it, etc. I have a whole file folder of topics I could address. I still think I want this to be my focus.

Then there’s just stuff from my day-to-day life. Granted, my days are pretty quiet. But as I’m learning to be content and appreciative of what is around me, I could write about those things. My backyard birds, the spotted fawns by the brook, the recent hikes I’ve taken. The peaceful days. The joy of sleeping in. Daily-ness.

I can write about special people in my life. My daughter who just graduated from college, and our fantastic weekend of family celebrating her. My adventurous son who took off for Europe for 14 days, then promptly moved west for his summer internship – where did he get such courage to take on these adventures?! My amazing husband could be part of lots of my stories – he’s in the center of my days.  My relationship with Jesus, and how our connection ebbs and flows with my effort. He is faithful – I tend to vary; so I could write about my journey with the Lord. Or searching for a church home. Finding friends. Settling into my job.

All topics of interest to… me. Anybody else?

Then again, why do I write? The question that every author must answer. Who is my audience? Do I write for myself, for clarification and release, or do I write to be heard or to start a dialogue? Maybe the answer is all of the above – something for everyone, anyone, or someone.

In which case, someone may read and identify with what I write. So I’ll write again. And I’ll start right now. Thanks for reading.

Gratitude thoughts

I’ve started something new in my journal. Instead of prayers or thoughts that are complaints, I’m ending those entries with thankfulness. And the more complaining in my writing, the more gratitude thoughts I need to record!

Some recent entries:

I’m thankful for my husband. He is an amazing man, and incredibly helpful and encouraging to me, no matter whether I’m hiking out of a waterfall valley or crawling across the floor with back pain. I adore and admire him, way more than 31 years ago when we first fell in love.

There’s a beautiful goldfinch who lands in the tree outside our living room window every morning. He is bright yellow, and sings a cheerful tune as he calls to his mate and then flies away. Gold finches are one of my favorite songbirds, especially for their haphazard flight path, chirping all the while. I didn’t have them nearby in FL, so it’s a delight to hear and see them again.

I love ice packs. And carbon-activated heat pads. And ibuprofen.

My cat Annabelle brings wonderful companionship, especially when she curls up at my feet for her morning nap.

I’m thankful for technology – for Instagram and Facebook and texting and FaceTime and cell phones.

And for family and friends around the world who use such technology to keep our relationships strong.

I’m glad for slow-paced mornings. I love my two cups of coffee, and my quiet time with Jesus. I like the devotionals on my Kindle and in my phone, and the prayer app that helps me stay focused.

I’m grateful that God is omnipresent, which means He’s with my kids even though I’m not. He comforts me when I’m missing them, and reminds me that He loves them even more than I do.

Practicing gratitude – a very good discipline, and a great way to combat negative thinking.

Order to my days

Aimless.

Days without structure.

Nothing in particular

to do.

Long hours stretch out before me.

Flipping channels.

Flipping pages.

Nothing holding my attention.

Reinvention?

Put a schedule in place.

Start my day with God

– read, pray, study.

Then exercise.

And errands

or phone calls

or tasks

or swim. 

There. A plan.

Sense of purpose.

My First Panic Attack

The morning sun was shining out from behind an occasional cloud. The air was cool – it was a typical Wisconsin Springtime day. The indirect sunlight meant I wore sunglasses, but the sun wasn’t glaring, just a little hazy.

The men were meeting at the north side Perkins to carpool to the airport, which was closer than all those days I drove him there. He’d been traveling a lot lately, but I was used to it. No big deal.

After he got into their car, I pulled out of the parking lot. I turned right instead of left and headed toward the water. My heart was beating a bit fast, and my stomach felt a little funny. “What if something happens?” I drove in a circle and back around into the parking lot. Now my hands were shaking, so I clutched the steering wheel a little more tightly. “What if something happens to the plane?” “Nothing will happen!” “But what will you do if something does?  What will you do? Who will you call first? What if..? What about..?”

The thoughts came suddenly, not even distinctly. They were more like a flash across my brain – in and out, here and gone. But they were enough to start the panic process.

I suddenly needed to walk, somewhere, anywhere, and fast. Walk fast. I pulled back out of the parking lot, and my hands shook harder. I drove down to Riverside Park and looked for a parking spot at the end of the walkway. Now my chest felt like it was shaking, like my whole body was going to convulse from the center.

I got out of the car, dropped the keys in my pocket, and grabbed my phone. The sun came out from behind the clouds, and I could feel it heating my skin. It shone down on my face, and reflected off the water and back up into my eyes. I squinted, even with my sunglasses on. The water was beautiful with the sparkle of the sun shining, with pinpricks of very bright light as it hit the river’s ripples. I hardly noticed.

My head was pounding, my hands were shaking, my heart was thumping hard and my breathing was getting shallow, as if there was a weight on my chest. I tried to dial my therapist’s office, but my fingers were too fat for the correct numbers. I tried again, and got his voice mail. I was desperate to hear his voice, to talk to him and have him talk me down off the ledge I was clinging to. His voice mail message helped – I could at least hear him. I stumbled over words. “I’m not sure what’s wrong. Please call me. I can’t think. I can’t breathe.” I hung up, dialed again, and hung up again.

Now my hands were shaking almost too much to hold the phone, my eyes were filling with tears, and I couldn’t catch my breath. My thoughts were coming too quickly to stop them, all negative. All ridiculous. Of course nothing was going to happen. No reason to plan for it. Stop that. Actually, it was more like, “Nothing…plan for it..stop.” all in one thought. No individual words or coherent ideas.

I remember praying, but the prayers were like my thoughts – arrows shot towards heaven with no clear-cut thought other than “Father God, please help me!” Later, I remembered how the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we don’t know what to pray (Romans 8:26), and I was thankful for that.

There were other people in the park and walking on the path. I couldn’t really hear them, though, and hardly saw them. It’s as if they were muffled and fuzzy, and their words were unintelligible over the sound of my heartbeat in my ears.

And then all of a sudden, it was gone. The panic, the racing heart, the sweating – stopped. I was better. Exhausted, but better.

I went back to my car and sat in the driver’s seat, trying to figure out what had just happened.  How had I lost the abililty to reason? Why did my body and thoughts go spiraling? I had been trying to breathe, to focus, but there was no way – I was out of control.

I sat in the car, trying to sort out my first panic attack, but not realizing that’s what it was. The sun continued to warm the dark seats, and I got hot from sitting there, so I drove to work, a little shaky yet. I was very tired and my legs were heavy, like I had just run a great distance. I slowly entered the elevator – there was no way I could walk the stairs to my office. Once I sat at the desk, I typed “Panic Attack” in the Google Search Bar, and read all about what had just happened. Sure enough.

 

How God Spoke to Elijah

I’ve always loved the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Ever since my first depressive episode, I’ve especially appreciated the part in the story after the Mount Carmel encounter. The story when Elijah is exhausted and discouraged and ready to give up, and God meets his needs in very specific ways.

In I Kings 18, Elijah had an amazing showdown with the prophets of Baal vs. God, and God proved Himself in a big way. The prophets of Baal were defeated and killed. King Ahab and Queen Jezebel were furious, and so Elijah “ran for his life.” He went into the wilderness, where he collapsed from exhaustion and asked God to let him die. Instead, God let him rest, fed him, let him rest again, and fed him once more. Then Elijah ran for 40 days and 40 nights, and he spent the night in a cave at Horeb, the mountain of God.

It’s not clear, but perhaps Elijah was hiding in the cave. Maybe he was still exhausted and discouraged. But God wanted to remind Elijah of His great power, and that Elijah was not without hope because God was still with him. He told Elijah to “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” (v. 11a)

First, God displayed His power to Elijah in a great and powerful wind, then in an earthquake, and then  in fire. But the Bible says that God was not in the wind, nor the earthquake nor the fire. Finally, God spoke to Elijah in “a gentle whisper.” After all that Elijah had been through, and his feelings of depression and defeat, God spoke to him in a gentle whisper.

When I read these verses this week, this really stood out to me. That God would speak to a man, hurting and tired and feeling alone, in a gentle whisper. That He is so kind as to be gentle. Not a voice in the wind, or earthquake, or fire. But in a gentle whisper.

Elijah was listening. And God was gently assuring, encouraging, and challenging. He reminded Elijah that he was in no way alone – there were 7000 others who followed God. He reminded Elijah that He was all-powerful God, and that He was with Elijah as Elijah served Him as prophet. He told Elijah of Elisha – his soon-to-be companion, assistant, and replacement.

God responded to Elijah’s battle with the prophets of Baal by exceeding expectations of proof of His existence as the only true God. He cared for Elijah with rest and food, equipped Elijah to run to safety, and spoke to him gently.

Such a personal God we love and serve. Meeting us at exactly our point of need, in just the way we need to hear.