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.

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Getting better 

I’ve been on my increased dosage of new meds for one week, but I think I’m seeing a difference. I think they’re working! I went from tears to apathy to caring a little bit. I’d say that’s improvement.

The doctors will say that a person won’t see any progress with meds for 4-6 weeks, but I know I often respond more quickly. I think I’ve seen improvement in just 7 days. My husband thinks so too.

I’ve had a busy week with work and the start of Bible study, and I managed it all well. I “put myself out there” at Bible study, initiating some conversations and welcoming others. I went to a friend’s Open House. I had another friend over for breakfast and socializing. I struck up a conversation with a stranger. I’m reaching out, and that’s a definite improvement over the isolation that depression brings.

I don’t see my new therapist for another week and a half, but I scheduled a distance-therapy session with my old therapist for Monday. I’m really looking forward to that. And there’s another improvement – looking forward to something.

When I’m in the midst of depression, it feels like it “will always be this way.” And that’s a very familiar feeling, like a comfortable sweater which I can wrap around me and cozy into. There’s no real desire to get better, because the illness feels familiar, and it’s easy. Getting better requires an effort. And effort takes energy, which I don’t have when I’m depressed. It takes energy to get out of bed, to shower, to care about the day. It takes lots of energy to engage in conversation, to be interested in what another person is sharing. It’s easier to isolate, to stay home in silence. To listen to sad music or nothing at all. To sleep and hide away from the day and its demands. To refuse invitations, to be alone. Those are all features of depression in my life.

But it’s worth the effort. It’s good to reach out, toward wellness. I’m a more complete person when I’m mentally healthy. I’m more interesting, and certainly more interested in others. I care about them, which is my real nature. Depression steals the real me away, and makes it seem like it’s ok. But it’s better to be the real me, to be invested in others, to pray for them and care about them and want to be with them.

I’m thanking God for these small improvements, knowing they will lead to bigger ones. Thanking God for medications. For my psych doctor who cares and keeps track of me. For friends who reach out to me even when I’m less than myself. For my husband who stands with me through mental illness and health. To Jesus, for understanding and loving me anyway.

Recent weekend adventures

So in an effort to live here now, my husband and I are taking in the local and not-so-local scenery.

Last weekend, we enjoyed people watching at the Shenandoah Wine and Jazz Festival at the Frontier Cultural Museum.  It was a hot day in the sun, but we found some wonderful shade, enjoyed a sangria and beer and some blues vocals. The Museum is an interesting place, too. Shows homes of the original settlers, their homes from their country of origin, not necessarily their homes here. We liked walking around and seeing the homesteads, and chatting with a young girl in Irish costume on the Irish Farm.

This weekend, we drove several hours to Colonial Williamsburg and walked the streets. It was very hot, but we saw some cool stuff. And it was amazing to be in a part of our country that is so historical. We also went to Jamestown and checked out the Fort and ships similar to those that landed here with the original settlers. Such small quarters for such a long passage! The Museum was very interesting, as it tracked Jamestown from the early 1600s, with the Powhatan Native American culture through colonization, and compared life in early America to England and even Africa.

We left the Fort and found an American bistro where we drank refreshing white wine and ate caprese salad, then stayed overnight in Williamsburg and got up early to drive an hour to Virginia Beach – got there around 9am before the crowds came. We sat on the part of the beach where the surfers were – that was fun to watch! The water was refreshingly cool, and we stayed for several hours. My oh my, the beach filled up! It was really crowded by the time we left. Probably typical for East Coast beaches, with their large populations nearby. Not what we were used to – the Florida beaches where we lived had more room.

Lots of folks standing in the surf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, the 4th of July, will be low-key. We’ll grill out for dinner and maybe watch a movie. Just enjoying the present.

Theme Word for 2017

Do you choose a word for the year?

I follow several bloggers who do this, and my folks do it, too – chose a theme word for themselves. A twist on New Year’s Resolutions, the word or phrase is something that they’ve chosen to represent what they’re looking forward to with God in the next 12 months. They pray about it, toss ideas back and forth, and eventually come to a one word or short phrase to sum it all up – their theme for the year. Examples: Return. Quiet. Finish strong. Happiness. Balance. Go bold. Rest. Pause.

I’ve been thinking – but only halfheartedly – about a word, and sort of praying about it when it crosses my mind. So I’ve not put real effort into this, but it seems that God is trying to get my attention anyway – He keeps giving me “contentment;”  the word fills my mind and Spirit. As if God is whispering to me, “Be content, my child. Stop yearning. Stop planning. Simply be with Me, and find yourself settled.”

Being content in my current circumstances – living in VA, working in my job, days of solitude, as empty-nesters, in the position of participant instead of leader, in parenting adult children, in long days of just me and the kitty until my husband comes home.

None of these things define me. They are simply where I find myself right now. God defines me, and He’s telling me to rest in Him. That I am His beloved, His daughter, His joy. I’ve entered a new season of my life, and He wants me to do that with Him leading the way. I’m to trust Him and what He says, and He’ll take care of all the details for what’s to come.

I do this by spending quality time with Him. Opening the Bible to see what it tells me about who God is and how He sees me. Praying His Word and my requests – bringing my honest self to our time together, and letting Him fill my heart with His love. Replacing my fears and insecurities with the truth about who I am in Christ.

Contentment will bring gratitude. Thankfulness for so many blessings of my life: my wonderful husband, my delightful adult kids, my home, my job and the opportunity to serve others, a church to worship with fellow believers, a Bible study to meet women who love the Lord. Living in a country where we can gather without fear for our lives as we worship and study and pray. For family. For friendships old and new and still to come.

Contentment will bring peace. Settling into my new hometown. Adjusting to my new roles. Not longing for the past or trying to figure out the future, but living in the present. Learning new things, new places, new people.  Being open to who and what God has for me each day, one day at a time. Paul said it in Philippians:

I am not saying this because I am in need, 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. Philippians 4:11-13, NIV

I can be content because God promises to give me the strength to do so.  If I have any success in my word for the year, it will be because He helped me do it – to Him be the glory.

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.