Rough Day

Here’s the thing about living in the shadow of depression. It’s always there, lurking, waiting to take over.  Some days, I have to fight hard to not give up any ground.

I’ve been in a funk for a week or two, but today is worse. Lots of tears. Feeling unwanted, unimportant, unnecessary, unneeded. Very alone.  These are lies from the enemy, but they still feel true. I have to remind myself, again, that I am loved and cherished and valued by Jesus. Feelings are just feelings, not truth. God’s Word is truth, and He declares me His beloved child.

I’ve written the funk off to:

a) upcoming winter, including longer cold days

b) less sunshine

c) husband gone on 10-day business trip

d) hormones

But I’m afraid I’m spiraling again. Or could descend into depression if I’m not careful. I see my psych doc this week, so you can be sure I’ll tell him.

I tried a therapist here a few times – just didn’t click with her.

I’ve joined a couple of ladies’ groups. One through our church – I’m the youngest by 15+ years. Was hoping to find something more my age. But they’re all very nice, and I enjoy the conversation. The other group is sort of a Bible Study/book club. A friend and I are the outsiders to this group that seems to know each other pretty well. Hard to “break in.” But in both cases, I’m trying to reach out and connect.

Work is fine, though my already part-time hours are diminishing. It’s ok – I’m working to give myself something to do. I was hoping to connect with co-workers, but the job doesn’t really lend itself to that. Still, I like my students, and think I’m helping them.

I know that I have the power to make changes in my life – add volunteering or regular exercise – I also know that I’ve said these things before. I could pick up my knitting, but I made a mistake in the scarf I started and don’t know how to fix it. So the project stays in my knitting bag, where it’s been for several months. Even though part of me wants to knit again.

The problem is that I don’t have the desire to change. Apathy has a-hold of me. It’s easier to stay in my isolation, my long lonely days, than it is to try another new thing. So days like today, where I only have one late afternoon commitment, can drone on.

Brief sunshine, then the sun disappeared behind the clouds again. Literally and figuratively.

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Doyle’s River Falls Hike

My husband and I went hiking yesterday. I think this is the activity for this area – there are so many trails.  With the Shenandoah National Park, Appalachian Trail and Skyline Drive just minutes away, we can get to vistas and views any weekend.

We opted for a 3 mile round trip hike to the bottom of Doyle’s River waterfalls. Beautiful! There was a spring along the way, lovely flowers, a deer munching greens just off the trail. The light dappled between the leaves to the forest floor. After a bit, we were walking along the stream, and the sounds of the water over the rocks was almost dainty and musical. Except for boisterous groups of hikers running down the trail (we let them pass us), the woods had only woods-sounds.  The temperature was perfect, and there was a slight breeze. Ideal.

I should have known I’d be in trouble when on the way down, my legs began to shake as I had to step over big rocks. But I reasoned that walking down a steep hill wasn’t something my legs were used to, so of course I was working unfamiliar muscles. I didn’t really consider how incredibly steep this path was. I didn’t think about how out of practice I was – how many years it has been since I hiked a steep one like this.

We stood at the bottom of the Upper and Lower Falls and watched those who’d gone ahead of us scramble all over the wet rocks. They were barefoot and sure-footed, and squealing with delight at the cold water. There were hikers with wet dogs at the bottom – one dog got to the edge of the pool and just plopped down.  Another watched faithfully as his owner ate beef jerky, hoping for a morsel. My husband climbed down and dipped his hat in the clear water – a sure way to cool off from the descent.

The hike was 3 miles round-trip, but I think that is an absolute value, because I’m sure it was 1 mile in and 4 miles out. At least, that’s what it seemed like on the climb back up. Towards the middle of the hike, and the rest of the way up, I could take about 20 steps at a time and then had to rest.  I knew I was out of shape, but really….!

Round is a shape.

My problem wasn’t my legs, but my heart rate – I couldn’t keep it down.  So as I would hike up the hill, I would get about 15 feet and then have to stop to breathe deeply and get the oxygen to my head and muscles. A couple of times when we stopped, I actually “grayed around the edges” as I got dizzy. I prayed that God would help me not pass out!

I got discouraged a couple of times, and assumed that it must have been taking us several hours to hike up, but it was probably more like an hour. I don’t feel too badly about that! In fact, I’m only mildly embarrassed at the many stops I had to make. I’m proud of myself for doing it (what choice did I have?) and for taking my time so that I did it safely. And I’m grateful to my husband who supported me when I felt fuzzy, stopped me from going too fast, and shared all the water with me. He encouraged me every step – I mean every step in a few sections – of the climb back up.

Lessons learned:

  • If I want to live around here and enjoy the sights, I need to be able to get off-road and on-trail. Which means I need to be in better physical – aerobic – condition.
  • It’s great fun to share adventures with my husband. And he will always encourage me.
  • God climbed with me, and gave me the strength when I didn’t have any. It’s amazing the reserves He’ll pull from. (I think there’s a larger lesson there.)
  • Take more water. And snacks. (Man, that trail mix at the top of the climb tasted good!)

Unsettled versus contented

I’m not lonely or bored.

Except when I’m lonely or bored.

I wake up and think that I should stay in bed as long as possible, to keep a long day from starting. And I go to bed as early as reasonable, so as to end the long day.

And in the middle, I try to put structure to a day with hours alone while my husband is at work. It’s just me and the cat.

I go to the grocery store. I go to the drug store. I get a haircut. I’ve made appointments for a chiropractor and doctor and psych doc. I plan to join a Bible study that starts in July. I’ve emailed a woman about the local Moms In Prayer group (now on break, but hey, maybe she’ll talk to me anyway). I read. I knit. I do Bible study. I do laundry. I color. I flip TV channels. I call my mom. I call a friend.

I try to do something every day, but I need to add more to my very limited routine. I should be able to get on a treadmill most days per week. Maybe I can alternate it with hiking along the neighborhood walking path, or driving to Shenandoah National Park and hiking there. But it’s difficult to leave the apartment. Inertia: a body at rest tends to stay at rest…

I say I’ll write, but I’m having a hard time being disciplined about it – whether it’s to blog or work on chapters for a book. Can I even write a book? I’ve been told I have one in me, but getting it “on paper” has me intimidated.

I should write. I should exercise. I should go to a coffee shop and strike up a conversation. I should, but I don’t.

I know I wrote about stuff, and not having my stuff around me. But it seems like if I had my stuff, if I was in a house and not this temporary apartment, I might feel less unsettled. At least I’d have something to do – put everything away. Find a home for all the stuff in the boxes. Or get rid of the stuff in the boxes.

Meet the neighbors. Sit outside on my deck. Sleep in my own bed.

But I don’t want my stuff to be what brings me comfort. I want Jesus to be enough. So I’m trying, through prayer and study, to get there. To let go of being unsettled, and to settle into Him. To draw closer. Even closer. Closer still.

It’s okay to talk to Him all the time, so I do. It’s what He wants anyway. And He welcomes me bringing everything to Him. All of these thoughts of discontent that float through my head. I give Him all of my long days, and ask Him to do something with them, something that is good, something that brings Him glory.

I’ll put aside my unsettled self. I’ll rest in His perfect timing. I’ll tell Him about my day, throughout my day. I’ll trust Him to bring the relationships, the activities. And I’ll try to be content in the present moment.

I want to learn to live Philippians 4:11b-13:

…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

It’s a blah day, not a relapse.

For many mornings in a row, when the alarm goes off I think, “Why bother?” I get up because that’s what I do, not because I want to. I have nothing to get up for. And then I remember that I intentionally planned something into my day so that I will get up. Otherwise, I think I’d stay in bed all morning.

I’ve had several days of feeling “in a funk” – not really happy but not really sad either. A blah mood.

A year ago, I would have blamed all of this on the weather – the gray clouds of the upper Midwest that cover the sun for days and often bring snow and cold. But I’m in Florida now, and while it’s been unseasonably rainy, there was sunshine and even warmer temperatures today. So what’s my problem?

I think it’s because it is February. And traditionally, February has been a tough month for me. According to my old psych doc, even though it’s the shortest month of the year, it’s often the hardest emotionally. Not sure why. But perhaps I’m feeling the way I do because I’ve felt this way for the past nine Februarys. Emotional muscle memory.

It took me a few hours today to figure this out – this thing about February. I should have seen it sooner – I knew I was feeling less than good. I kept arguing with myself that the mood would simply go away, and I suspect it will, now that I’ve identified it and called it by name.

A blah day, or even a blah week, doesn’t mean relapse. It doesn’t mean depression again. It means I’m in a blah mood, and I’ll be in a blah mood for a few days, and then it will get better. To keep it from descending into depression, I’ll keep doing what I know to do – eat well, get enough sleep, exercise some, take my meds, reach out. Get up and do the day.

And if I need to take a day to stay in bed all morning, that’s ok too.

 

Being Motivated to Stay Motivated

I’ve recently written about steps I can take to keep myself emotionally healthy, and my goals for doing what is necessary. But I’m finding it hard to be self-disciplined, hard to do the things I’m supposed to be doing for good mental health. When I’m not accountable to anyone but myself, where is the motivation to do what I should? In keeping with recent posts, am I putting the pieces in place to stay healthy, the tools that will keep depression away? If I’m not, why not?

I’m thinking about this because I had a blood draw today, and a followup appointment to discuss results next Friday. I’m nervous about the results – the numbers were headed in the right direction last time, but it’s important that motion has continued, and I have no idea what to expect. I need better cholesterol numbers, while keeping my blood pressure and sugars where they were 3 months ago, or even improved. My weight has gone up and down during the time passed, and I believe that changes in my medication may have had an impact – I’ll know next week.

But I can’t blame my meds when I’m not being as proactive as I should. I have reduced my sugar intake, but it’s only recently that I’m really paying attention to food labels. I’m still not exercising, hardly even a little. This is ridiculous, since I live in a beautiful paradise where I can take a walk in the sunshine nearly every day. I could walk to the workout room or pool, or drive to the beach and take a long walk in the waves.

My writing would benefit from some self-discipline. Perhaps a schedule – for daily practice, for blogging, even for my personal journaling. Certainly some discipline of regular writing if I want to be working on a book!

My efforts to reach out to others is good but could improve.  I’ve wondered if I should have said “yes” to that job all those months ago. The answer of “no” was still the right decision, but at least a job would have put me in other people’s lives regularly. Instead, I can stay at home if I want to – don’t have to leave the house if I don’t feel like it. So I’m trying to build in regular commitments:  lunch dates with friends, a Tuesday Bible Study group, a weekly school prayer group that I rarely miss. The neighborhood friendship and prayer group restarted – I’ve attended two out of three times.

And I’m contributing at home, which is easy to do since we’ve become empty nesters and only have one pet. This was much more difficult with two kids, two cats and a dog! I keep house, take care of errands and make the space a respite for my husband and me at the end of his work days.

I’m building my own personal growth by reading about writing and knitting a blanket for the living room (the largest yarn project I’ve ever undertaken). I’m finding both of these things fun and fulfilling, and they stretch me a little.

But some days, on days I chose to not go anywhere, I wonder if I’m doing enough. I know women who do way more than I do in a day, certainly in a week. Working moms especially! It’s easy to write blogs about what I should be doing, harder to follow through in real life. Am I just lazy? I don’t like to think so – I think it’s part of my mental health need to keep “space” in my life, to not do too much. Still I judge myself.

God’s Word says that Jesus has given us everything we need to live a life that pleases God by getting to know Jesus in increasing measure (2 Peter 1:3). Am I living in a way that pleases God? When I have my daily quiet time, when I start by focusing on who He is and when I commit my day to Him, I can trust that I am doing what He has called me to, and perhaps I don’t need to question these things.

It’s always about priorities and obedience – letting God put order to my hours and then doing what He wants me to each day. He wants me to take good care of my body, to get exercise, to reach out to others and share Him, to care for my family. I can remember to ask Him for motivation and self-discipline, and then obey Him when I see He’s given me the time to do it.