Relationships and community

I met with my new therapist this past Tuesday. Nothing new, really, except that she and I are new together. I talked about loneliness, and told her the steps I’m taking to reach out to others to ease the alone-ness. She didn’t offer much, other than that I was doing the right things. She did remind me that I can quit the things that aren’t working.

So I’m giving myself permission to take the pressure off of Bible study. I’ll keep going, for the discipline of study, and sharing with other women. But I’ll not expect to make great friends there – that hasn’t worked so far, so I’ll lower my expectations. I won’t feel guilty about missing a week and going out with a new friend to visit and share lunch. I’ll keep it all in balance.

I have plans with another friend for breakfast together. I’ll go to work and meet with my individual students. I’ll enjoy my free time with my husband on the weekends and we’ll adventure out in our Mini-convertible.  We’ll occasionally meet his coworkers and spouses after work, for a drink or dinner/campfire. I’ll keep trying.

I had an epiphany while writing this post. I’m not just longing for relationships. I’m hungry for community.

When I had school-aged children, it was easier to have groups of friends, based on different activities our kids enjoyed. And I had my friends at work – we were a close bunch! But as an empty-nester, I’m needing to find new ways to meet people. I long to belong to a community.

I’d really like to get to know people at church, and the best way to do that is to join a small discipleship/fellowship group. But my job goes into evening hours, so that makes those meetings impossible. Maybe my work schedule will be different after the holidays, and I can try it then.

It’s taking so much longer this time.  Usually, by the time a year has passed, I can start to see roots growing, start to feel at home. For whatever reason, I’m finding it harder to do here. Harder to break into relationships. To feel settled and part of a community.

I hunger for that bigger connection. For deeper friendships. For people I can share my day-to-day with. Right now, I can thank God for the one person with whom that relationship is growing. We share about our kids, our churches. We talk about work. Our friendship is slowly growing deeper. So thank You, Lord, for her.

Maybe once my evening schedule is freed up, I can join a book club or knitting group. Or a connection group through church.

It’s just going to take more time. Lord, I need more patience!

Advertisements

New versus old

I met with a therapist today, on the recommendation of my psych doc. It was just intake, so it’s hard to judge how we’ll get along.

I miss my old therapist. The one who knows me better than I know myself. I want to talk to him and have him explain the thoughts in my head that I don’t understand, the thoughts that I don’t even realize I’m having. The thoughts that come with depression but I don’t recognize. I was with him for eight years – to say he understands me is a gross understatement.

I miss my other therapist – the woman who loved Jesus and let that flow from her onto me. The counselor who always gave Godly counsel, who pointed me to Christ each time we met. I only worked with her for a year, but she, too, was a huge help as I went through the transition of moving to Florida, and then a depressive episode.

I don’t want to start over with someone new. I don’t want to go through this depression with a stranger.

I had a phone call from a friend today, and she gave good advice to not compare. Not compare what I have here with what I had before. We were talking about churches, but the same probably applies to everything in my current life. I need to live in the present, and simply be grateful for the past, instead of constantly measuring everything by what used to be.

That’s so hard to do. I don’t have much in the way of friends here – one, really – though I’ve lived here for over a year now. I didn’t connect with women in Bible Study last Spring, but I’m going to try it again. Not having a church home is very distressing – leaves a huge hole in my life. I haven’t been in any kind of leadership role for over two years now – I really miss facilitating a small group.

So I look back at my friendships with longing. I miss my old churches. My old jobs. My old activity level. I don’t need to be going a thousand miles an hour, but anything is better than hours alone, which is what I face now.

I feel like these posts keep saying the same thing, so I can tell I’m processing this idea of living mindfully. Fully invested in here and now. So so hard to do!

It’s baaack.

I spoke too soon in July. Depression is back.

It shouldn’t surprise me that much. The doctor and I reduced one of my medications a while back, and I am very susceptible to changes in my meds. As it was, I felt like I had been on the cusp of a depressive episode ever since we moved to Virginia over a year ago. So that change was probably enough to send me into the depressive spiral again, just over these past 4-6 weeks.

I didn’t admit it to anyone, until my psychiatrist asked me at today’s appointment how I was doing. Then I burst into tears.

I’ve been hiding it from everyone, even from myself. Felt ashamed, really.  Which is part of the depression. But I kept thinking I could fight it off, that the symptoms weren’t really there. The doctor added them up and said “It’s back.” And there’s relief in not trying to fight it anymore, but just give in and let the new medicine do it’s work, stop living in denial and accept that I’ve relapsed. I have depression. I’ve had it before and gotten better. I’ll get better again.

The past several weeks, I’ve cried a lot. Been incredibly lonely. Going through the motions of stuff, but not really wanting to do anything. The biggest red flag, though, was increased sleep. I’d go to bed in the middle of the day, for hours, just to escape. And I’d still sleep fine at night. Would stay in bed as long as I could because there was nothing to get up for. Same with sleeping in the day – why not, since there was no reason to be up. I’ve got nothing going on. No one needs me. No one will miss me. I can stay in bed and no one is the wiser.

I can’t remember the last time I’ve been this lonely, if ever. And that’s been true since we moved here. The only bright spot in my day is time with my husband. The rest is drudgery.

I haven’t felt like doing anything, though I go through the daily motions of work and errands. I felt pretty good on the friends and family camping trip, even read a couple of books. But here at home, I’d rather sleep than read. It’s hard to concentrate (another symptom of depression) so even mindless TV is difficult. Sleep is the easiest.

That was my biggest clue that something was wrong. I’ve never done the sleep thing before, though I’d known it to be a symptom of depression. That, along with the loss of interest in normal things, the loneliness and teariness. The negative self-talk, especially shaming talk. I’m not proud that I go to bed. I’m embarrassed. I kept thinking if I would just look on the bright side, count my blessings, work on gratitude and pray for contentment. But those things weren’t enough, and I was ashamed they weren’t working.

And all of this is part of depression. I told my psychiatrist, who pointed out the signs and told me I’d relapsed. He says we’ll get a handle on it. I hope so. I always have gotten better before.

 

Not depressed

I haven’t been depressed for a while. But I said it out loud today. “I’m not depressed.”

The move to Virginia certainly brought up feelings like depression – loneliness, fatigue, a little hopelessness. For me, that’s different from depression, which is lots of hopelessness.  But the transition of moving was hard, like a mild depression without all the full-on depression characteristics. I wondered if the feelings would intensify and change to depression. I think I lived with some fear that it would come back due to the move.

But today, in my psychiatrist’s office, I told him that I’m not depressed.

We’re going to reduce one of my meds, which makes me a little nervous, because it’s the med that brought me out of depression in the first place. But it has a weird side-effect – chewing. I chew my teeth together all the time; I’m grinding my teeth all day. In an effort to keep this from becoming a permanent motion, we’re cutting that anti-depressant in half. I’m a little nervous about it, about the depression returning without the full medication to keep it at bay. But I think I’m in a better place emotionally, and so I’m willing to give the reduction a try.

It’s nice to not be depressed. My days are full of light, not grayness.  I can hear when birds chirp – the finches found my feeder, and seeing them flit around gives me a brief joy. I don’t dread each day, which I had been doing after the move here. I have energy, and am seriously considering adding exercise back into my routine. This was never a workable plan when I was depressed: I knew I should exercise, but couldn’t work up the energy to do it. I still probably sleep too much – I nap almost every day because I have nothing better to do. But I’m sleeping well at night, so I’m not worried about it – I’m napping from boredom, not depression.  I’m eating and sleeping well. I look forward to seeing people. Looking forward – that’s not depression.

I still have brief bouts of sadness or anxiety, but can usually recover pretty quickly with prayer. Getting my eyes off myself and back onto the Lord – who He is, how He sees me and loves me – eases those emotions. When I was depressed, I couldn’t lift my eyes from my misery, and sure couldn’t see God in it.  I had to trust He was there, because I didn’t feel Him at all.  I depended on the truths I knew from Scripture about God’s goodness, because I didn’t sense it, didn’t believe it with my emotions. I had great friends reminding me of His presence and companionship, His faithfulness and care. That’s the emptiness of depression – so self-focused that I was unable to see God with me. Those negative emotions have lessened. Now it’s just occasional – normal – feelings.

It’s nice to feel normal.

Loneliness

I’m writing what’s going on in my life. Which feels like nothing.

I am alone for hours. During the day, the time stretches in front of me like barren land. Some days I sleep in just because there is nothing to get up for.

I’m used to being busier than this. To having more social interaction. To conversations. To people. The silence is so loud!

I need a hobby. Or a volunteer spot. Or a good book. Or a Bible study. Something to do with my time. Perhaps if I filled the hours with reading. Or knitting. Or studying God’s Word. But I haven’t, so the hours drag by.

I’ve scheduled my week so that I get out around people most days. Three times a week, mid-afternoon, I go to my very-part-time job and talk to a few people. One morning I do the same. Another morning (for a couple more weeks anyway), I go to physical therapy for my back, so at least I talk to the PT.  But all of those appointments are an hour or so – not much in my long days.

I don’t really know anyone yet. My job doesn’t lend itself to getting to know the other trainers – we’re each busy with our own students. Joining an evening Bible study didn’t work out this past session due to the job – I’ll try again after the New Year. I haven’t found one that meets during the daytime. A small group would be a nice way to get to know others, so I hope that will work out.

How can I use this time – and I have lots of it – to bring glory to God? What can I do with this time and solitude?

Firstly, I need to receive it as a gift, not as a curse of loneliness. I need to shift my attitude of self-pity, and instead practice gratitude for this time. My life may not always keep this slow pace.

Secondly, I need to use it wisely, and in a way that honors God.  Letter writing, Bible study, praying for others. I do these things a bit, but perhaps if I’m more intentional…

Finally, I need to ask God to give me purpose for this time. To write about my depression experience. To study God’s Word as He reveals Himself to me.  To relax into a good book – my Kindle is full of them. To knit a new scarf, maybe even learn a new stitch. I have lots of choices to choose from!

I need to trade the “I’m so lonely” for “now it’s time.”