Bliss can be many things for me – sleeping in, a beautiful path, a private personal retreat, a picturesque sunset, wine and cheese on the beach with my husband.
But Kitty Bliss, that’s complete!
Today, I chose not to get up early. Lately, I’ve been sleeping in. If I have nothing going on, then I can take my time in getting out of bed. There’s no rush to be anywhere.
Today, I chose not to attend Bible Study. I didn’t feel like putting myself out there, with the smiling face that says everything’s ok, that pretends to be interested in – well – anything. I like the study a lot, but am not connecting with folks. Of course, I have to attend to connect – I know. But some days that takes more energy than I want to expend.
Today, I chose not to go anywhere. I stayed home. This means that most of the day has gone by without me speaking to anyone. I didn’t go to the pool, nor to the workout room. I sat on the lanai this afternoon, and in my spot on the couch most of the rest of the day.
I realize that making these choices could lead me into self-pity and isolation, even down the path toward depression. But instead, today I simply enjoyed the slow pace of the day, the relaxation of studying my Bible on my own, completing a few small projects that needed attention and time, petting the kitty, watching TV.
I’m in a holding pattern, waiting for whatever the next thing is that God has for me. I think I am supposed to be writing, but I keep procrastinating, am feeling intimidated by the project. Then again, if this is what God has given me to do, I know He will equip me completely with what I need to get it done.
I just need to choose to do it.
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.
Many weeks ago, in commenting back and forth with fellow blogger Dawn Liz Jones, she challenged me with:
I would be interested to know why or in what ways it is hard to reach from mental illness to mental health. I know for me, it was definitely hard work, with God’s help and grace. Only if you’re ever willing to share. Would make a very helpful and insightful post. – dawnlizjones
Be sure to check out her blog – great Bible insights and personal stories – Inspiration with an Attitude!
How can I reach from mental illness to mental health? Why is it hard?
A major part of my struggle in reaching toward mental health is that health feels gradual, and my descent into mental illness – particularly Major Depressive Disorder with some anxiety – felt very sudden. Looking back on it, it wasn’t sudden; it was a slow decline over many months. But it was life changing for me. It’s easy to spot the negative, to see the low points – my hospitalization was a huge “defining moment” – and to focus on the illness part of my diagnosis. In many ways, I’ve allowed depression to define me, to become part of my identity. I have life before depression, the diagnosis and later hospitalization, and then the “ever since.”
My therapist Ted always wanted me to speak of depression as a different entity, not a part of me but separate, and name the friends depression brought with it (ie, anxiety, loneliness, negative self-talk). He wanted me to see that this was not me, not part of who I am, but instead an unwanted outsider who desired to take over my thoughts and emotions.
That’s great to say, and much harder to put into practice. My depressive episodes – for over 8 years now – are part of my lifetime experiences, and they help shape me. Whether I should or not, I define myself by them. I identify myself as a Christ follower who struggles with depression, may have it all of my life, and so am learning to live with it. That means recognizing my symptoms, my markers, and my triggers and responding appropriately to keep depression away as much as possible.
My mental health is not easy to define except as the absence of mental illness. Illness is much easier to name – depression and anxiety. So health must mean something different, or I will never again be mentally healthy, since I see myself as one who struggles with mental illness.
For me, then, mental health is more about learning how to live in the better moments of my illness or when symptoms have subsided and when I’m in remission, like now. Health also means learning to recognize those steps I can take that help with it – eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, following my treatment plan. Finally, health means recognizing signs that show something might be awry, that depression is fighting for a way in again. Recognizing those markers and triggers can help me take other steps needed to keep it away – giving myself permission to do less and rest more, bumping up my exercise, being more forgiving of myself and more gentle with myself in my own thoughts.
There’s another piece too, and that’s reminding myself to see me the way God sees me. He doesn’t define me as mentally ill. He defines me as His adopted daughter, His precious child, wholly and dearly loved, forgiven. Walking in this world with its troubles, but walking with His Holy Spirit as my Guide. Not alone. Not a mess. But beautiful in His eyes.
The awareness ribbon color for mental health is lime green, for depression it is green, and for mental illness it’s gray. Into the first few years of my depression diagnosis, I had my good friend Carol make a bracelet for me, a mixture of green and lime green stones – it is beautiful. I wore it proudly, as a reminder and hopefully a conversation starter about mental health and depression awareness. But then a few years later I read someone’s comment about the need to bring attention to mental illness, not specifically mental health, because mental illness is the taboo topic. I thought on that a long time, and it makes a lot of sense to me. We can talk about mental health, but that isn’t the issue – mental illness is. So I asked Carol to make another beautiful bracelet – this one is gray for mental illness awareness. I wear it a lot.
And they look good together, too.
I had the hardest time waking up this morning!
My husband had the opposite problem and couldn’t sleep, so he started his day earlier than typical and was out the door by 6:30am. He kisses me goodbye when he leaves, so I’m awake for that, and when he’s at his usual hour – an hour later – I often get up and begin my day just after he leaves. But no way did I want to start that early, so I rolled over and fell back asleep.
I woke just before 8am after some vivid and bizarre dreams. That’s almost always true for me when I fall back asleep after waking – weird dreams that go on and on and leave me a little befuddled when I finally become fully conscious.
I woke slowly, and had a hard time “coming to” fully. I rolled onto my back but dozed again, for a minute or so. And I did that several times – repositioned and closed my eyes. I just couldn’t stay fully awake, even though I knew I wasn’t going back to fully asleep.
Maybe it was because this was the first morning in over two weeks that there was no one else in the house. All the holiday company has gone home and the kids have gone back, too. So it’s just me and the kitty again. Maybe I didn’t want to wake to that alone-ness.
Probably because I knew I needed to run an errand before my 9:30 appointment, I got myself out of bed and moving. I would have liked to roll over and try for that fully asleep mode again, even if it meant more dreams. I would have enjoyed a little self-pity – poor lonely me so far from my kids whom I love so dearly and miss so much – but the day was already scheduled full so I needed to get up and get going. I probably scheduled today this way on purpose, to keep myself from the pity party and self-indulgent sadness. Way to go, me.
Maybe I’ll sleep in tomorrow.