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.

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.

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.

 

Change – a certainty

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”  – Benjamin Franklin

And change. Change is for sure.

Our life is about to change again, as my husband starts a new job and we relocate to a new state. I know, we just got here. We’ve been in Florida for barely over a year, and we’ve loved it. But change is inevitable, so off we go to Virginia.

And it’s ok. We’ve discovered in this past year that we love the beach and the palm trees. We love eating our meals outside and opening all the windows in the house. We love sunsets and egrets and dolphins and alligators.

And I bet we’ll love the next place. The town is just a few miles from both Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive and The Blue Ridge Parkway. It sounds beautiful, and I’m looking forward to checking it out. There will be lots of mountain biking and hiking trails and historical sites. Another adventure with my husband. Another part of the country to see and explore.

Change can be difficult for me – I’ve never really liked it. It helps when I call it “adventure.”

I choose to assume that I will manage this adventure well. I am not worried about a depression relapse. I have this past year’s experience to know that settling in will take me some time – more time than I think it should – and I hope this will help me be more patient with the process. I will make friends. I will find a church home. I will learn my way around town. I will make my house into a home. These things I have learned.

And I have learned to trust God at another level than I trusted Him the last time we moved. I have learned – again, and on this deeper level – that I can trust God with all of these details. He is deeply interested in me and my relationship with Him, and He is continually at work in my life. His desire is His best for me, and He longs for me to put Him first in this move and everything else in my life.

The only thing that doesn’t change is God. He is immutable – rock steady, solid, unshakeable. He doesn’t shift like shadows. Everything that is true about God – that He is love, just, holy, caring, present, Savior, Wonderful, Light, life – these things are true about Him always. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Hebrews 13:8 So while my life circumstances change, my God does not. And there is great peace in that truth.

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.