Another Acrostic

When I opened the Writing201 Poetry assignment, I immediately wrote an acrostic about depression, hoping that I could make it say that depression is a gift (the topic for Day 2).

But really, it’s not. At least not during the walk through it. It’s only afterwards that I’ve found depression to be helpful. Helpful to me as I process the experience and look back to see God’s Hand in it. And I hope helpful to others as I share what I’m learning.

Going through depression – multiple journeys – has given me insight into the pain of this mental illness. And while each person’s experience is unique, they all have common components. So here’s my poem of the descent into a depressive episode:

Depression returns.
Every emotion feels familiar.
Pain. Worthlessness.
Rejection.
Each negative thought and I
Spiral deeper.
So burdened by darkness.
Irritable.
Overwhelmed with guilt.
No joy.

Return of depression:
Exhausted.
Lonely.
Apathetic.
Pressing on all
Sides is hopelessness.
Each day gets heavier.

Elegiac Fog

In 2009, I went through a “pharmacological brain meltdown,” as my psych doc adjusted my meds after I experienced a serotonin toxicity. My therapist recommended that I keep an e-journal, since at the time I was unable to write legibly. He told me to send them to him; I kept them for myself, too.

When we were given this writing assignment for Writing 201: Poetry, I immediately thought of this email.  These thoughts of fog come from there. I’m formatting it to (almost) meet the requirements of a (non-rhyming) elegy, but intentionally leaving the misspellings – this is the fog I was in then.

you’ll have to read through the lines –
the meds make it really hard
to concentrate,
and so I find
I keeep going bsck to backspace
and fix an errorr, and missing.

sorry.
too much
work to fix them all.

yesterday, i felt
like I was listing
to the left –

today – today, the tide
blows me to the right some.
I’ve lost 3+ weeeks –
don’t feel lkike I’ve gained.

Chrus says he can telll
I’m a little better
every day –
I dont’ see it.

How am I gonna drive
to work? Or ansswer
emails or the phone
or do my jpb?

Just sitting here,
in a bubble
that waves around me and
makes everything foggy
and out of focus –
wait – in focus –
no – out of focus
again.

Amnd what am I supposedd to do
with myseflf in thte menatme?
I’m tired.

I’,m incapabable
of doing anything
faster than a snail’s pace
(even then, I might trip
and fall down
or spill something).

What am I supposed to do?

Alll I am capapble of
is laying down,
and maybe crying
before I fall alseep.

How long will this go on?
I misssed two appoitnemnts with you last week –
I hope you got the messaage that I was
in the hopsital trying to fix meds.
sure wish you had come to see me.

Finishing Unfinished Business

I had an amazingly difficult – and amazingly insightful – appointment with my therapist yesterday. Did some hard work, cried lots of tears. But gained some understanding, too.

Therapists often help their clients work through “unfinished business.” Perhaps it’s a childhood memory or trauma. Maybe it’s unforgiveness or deep emotional hurt. Whatever the case, part of their job is to help the patient figure out what is incomplete, and work it through to completion. For me, “business” is relationships. And that explains my anxiety. It’s a conflict between the move to FL (three weeks from yesterday) and the uncompleted business here.

I’ve been keeping Ted informed of my increasing anxiety over the past couple of weeks, but especially intense anxiety in the past few days.  At yesterday’s appointment, Ted helped me sort it out so that it made some sense.

In every move we’ve ever made, I’ve had to leave behind deep roots. Sometimes, I was able to say goodbye. Sometimes, I was able to finish the tasks on which I was working, or hand off the torch for the groups I led. But moves have always meant the end of some friendships. This was true even when I moved 10 miles up the road – some friends couldn’t make that transition – it was like I’d moved across the ocean – and I didn’t see them for a very long time, if ever again.

I’ve “lost” other friends in other moves – “out of sight, out of mind.” Of course, I’ve also gained new friends too, some of them for a lifetime, some for just that time.

In this case, I’ve really been trying hard to wrap things up. I’ve got a notebook of all the things we need to do to move, and what we need to do to move in. I’m handing off a care group that I facilitate. I’ve found a good home for my cat. I’ve said goodbye to my Bible Study friends so many times, I almost wish I hadn’t been there at all this month.  I’m saying goodbyes – to some friends I’ve known for a few years, and to others I’ve known for 19+ years.  I’ve made coffee dates and lunch dates and get together dates, to be able to visit one last time face-to-face. To some, I’ve said, “See ya later.” To others, there is no “later” so it’s been goodbye. Either way, these are friendships – roots – that are hard to rip out of the ground. It feels like they are ripping out of my heart.

But the time is coming – and approaching quickly – when it won’t matter if I’ve said my goodbyes or finished up my commitments – it will be done, whether I’m ready or not. I will not be here anymore. And that makes me very very sad.

And it turns out, it makes me angry too. Not angry at anyone in particular, just angry at the situation. Once again, I pull up roots. So the anger builds – inwardly – as I grapple with the decreasing time. And here’s where anxiety rears its ugly head. I don’t know what to do with the anger – I didn’t even recognize it as anger! Ted said it’s not surprising to him at all that my anxiety increases as the time to relocate approaches – there is less and less time for me to finish business here, and remember, for me that’s relationships.

I’ll be so far away from my kids. I keep thinking I’m moving, then I’m not (that has been going on for over a year). I’ve said goodbye to some people for the last time – 3 times! Makes the uprooting process unpredictable, hard to organize and control. And I want to control it. I need to control it. Because I have no control of any of it.

*TRIGGER WARNING* I expressed my anxiety by trying to control my emotions, but since I couldn’t control those either, I took to snapping a rubber band. It hurts – it really stings. But I control the sting. I control how far back I pull the band, I control where it snaps. There is an immediate release of tension, a deep exhale, followed by the opportunity to self-soothe. To touch the welt, to feel how warm it is, to rub it and comfort it. This is not behavior that I am particularly proud of – hurting myself can seem more than a little ridiculous to those who don’t understand. But snapping the rubber band allowed me to release the pain and anger that was bottled up inside, and exert some control over it.

That’s not the way God wants me to manage my pain. (Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20) God wants me to bring my pain to Him, to lay it at the foot of the Cross, to express my need for God’s comfort, to ask Him to hold me, and to remind myself that no matter what, He is in control. (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. – Philippians 4:6-7)  A couple of days ago, a very dear friend whispered in my ear, He’s got you. He’s strong, and He’s holding you.” I needed that reminder. Thanks, Phyllis.

And I needed Ted yesterday. I needed him to help me figure out what was causing the anxiety and why I was angry. As he always does, he pointed me back to Christ. He thanked God for giving him insight into what I was saying so that he could help me sort it all out. He reminded me of tools to use to self-soothe that have nothing to do with rubber bands. He let God use him to bring me comfort (All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NLT).

Thank you, Lord, for Ted, for friendships, and for new adventures. Thank You that You go with me, that You are an everlasting friend who will never leave me. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

 

Blog For Mental Health 2015 Pledge

Thanks to @michelleweber at WordPress for putting me on to this fantastic website where bloggers who write about mental health can be found in one place!

http://blogformentalhealth.com/

How wonderful to be able to write, and at the same time connect with like-minded folks who want to reduce the stigma of mental illness – I’m thrilled to find such a site!

Depression and me:

My journey into mental illness – depression specifically – started 7 years ago. It began as a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder, but when it didn’t resolve itself in a “timely” manner, it became Major Depressive Disorder, with some anxiety on the side.

Since the MDD diagnosis, I have ventured in and out of the valley of depression at least 6 times, perhaps more. The thing about depression is – the more episodes you have, the more episodes you will have. All through those years, I asked God to someday use this in my life for His glory. And He has – I’ve facilitated a depression support group at our church, I’ve told my story to the ladies at Women’s Bible Study on several occasions, and I’ve shared one-on-one about the struggle and victories in the battle against this illness. And now I’m blogging about it!

So after 7 years, I sometimes walk, sometimes stagger down the road to mental health, with MDD currently in remission. But it never goes away completely. It taunts me when events in my life are a mess. It threatens to take over my thoughts, to remind me of all of its promises – you are helpless, you are worthless, no one understands, stay by yourself, hide under the covers… all the lies that depression whispers in my ear.

My goal right now, as depression threatens to re-enter my currently chaotic life, is to recognize it if it comes and practice the techniques I’ve learned to keep it manageable until it passes. I need to remember that it does pass, ’cause it sure feels interminable in the midst of the darkness that surrounds me. I want to lean on Jesus, who has been with me every step of this journey, and on the promises that He will never leave me. I know I’m vulnerable – I’m headed towards another major adjustment in my life – moving across country – and I am trying so hard to not be afraid of what might happen.

This is why I blog. In the Old Testament of the Bible, I can see several examples of lovers of God who struggled with depression. In the New Testament, I read that Jesus knew grief when He walked on this earth. He understands the fear that we as humans face. He knows sadness. He died on the cross for our sins and for our sufferings, including depression. Even Christ followers can suffer from mental illness. And I believe that the more we talk about it, in the Christian community and at large, the more we can help each other to wellness.

“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2015 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”

Community & Connections

I really like writing in a blog, even though I just started. It’s different from writing in my journal. Most of those thoughts are written with no particular reader in mind. I could be angry and venting it all out on paper. I sometimes write out my prayers – for help or of gratitude. I might be feeling sad or lonely and wondering if it’s depression again. I make lists of things to discuss with my therapist. But my journal is mine.

Something that I didn’t know before I started this thing called blogging is about the blogging community itself. I hadn’t really understood how much support there is in the blogging world – writers are so encouraging of each other! I feel a tickle of delight when someone says something nice in the comment section. It’s amazing how constructive comments can affirm or challenge my writing – sometimes pushing me to rethink a topic or dig deeper. These things are good! I hope they will help me improve my writing. And it’s nice to connect to others who might share the same topic but a different story.

Depression doesn’t bring community and connections. It brings isolation, loneliness, the absolute assurance that I’m the only one in the world hurting like this. Depression, like a big dark cloud, wants to settle over me, push me down – maybe push me back under the bedcovers. It wants me to be alone. It often convinces me that I have nothing to offer anyone, so I might as well stay at home. It slows down my thinking. It redirects my focus so that I’m looking down at myself, not up.

If I can remember to look up, to turn my face towards Jesus, then He reminds me that I’m not alone.

for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!], Hebrews 13:5b, AMP

It’s hard to do, to look up, to call out “Help me, Jesus!” Actually, Jesus is the One who helps me look up, helps me call out His name. And if I’m listening, I’ll hear Him remind me that He’s right there with me. I can connect with Him. I can be in communion with Him. And many times, He points me to my friends, my community of fellow Christ followers. There, I can share my burdens (Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ., Galatians 6:2, NASB) , and they support and encourage and pray for me. Connected with Christ and in a community of Christ followers; I am not alone.