How I’m saving my own life right now…on living with Depression

I have a mental illness. It is called Depression.

I’ve probably had it my entire life, according to my doctor, but one day 10 years ago my life detonated and lay in shreds all around my feet…and then those pesky brain chemicals just couldn’t keep up anymore.

Before then, I was a pretty decent ringmaster of the crazy circus that made up my emotional life. I could alternatively hide what I was ashamed of about myself and fake control and happiness in front of others.

But then the worst thing that could happen, did. And my old wine skins burst.

And ever since then I’ve been living with “The Big D”.depression1

My Depression:

Maybe my depression is different than anyone else’s, but it has taken me 10 years to get to this place…where I’m ready to publicly acknowledge and write about my life with depression,

But more importantly, how I’m saving my own life right now.

I’ve always felt very ashamed of and embarrassed about having Depression. I’ve suffered from the stigma associated from it, of course. I’ve weathered well-meaning friends and family saying all the things that well-meaning (but not depressed) people tend to say.

(I liken it to taken divorce advice from someone who has never been divorced, parenting advice from someone who isn’t a parent, or weight loss advice from a skinny person.  All the books and courses in the world will not teach you what it FEELS like to be depressed.  And even how I feel with Depression may not be the same as how you feel.)

I take objection to even the definition of Depression.  They call it a “mood disorder”.  I don’t think of it as a mood that I’m in.  To use the term mood denotes something changing with the whims of the day, or something fleeting, or something insignificant.  Like I’m a hormonal teenager.  Like I’m being immature or cowardly or manipulative.

Instead, I’d call it a “thinking disorder”.  Instead of affecting my lungs or kidneys or another body part, it affects my thinking, which then directs my behavior and mood.  Thinking irrational thoughts IS the disease.  Thinking that you’re worthless, hopeless, replaceable, pointless, and better off dead IS IRRATIONAL and is part of the illness…and it is not the truth.  depression

My depression is being so happy on the inside, but not able talk to people at my daughter’s engagement party, so that people imagine I’m upset.

My depression is having to give myself a pep talk before performing mundane household chores.   And not having the will to give myself the pep talk a lot of days.

My depression is spending too much time on Facebook, watching TV or reading as a means of distracting myself so I do not have to think the thoughts in my own head.

My depression is…for some reason I can’t figure out…feeling like the only place to be is on the floor of my bedroom.  On these particularly awful days, I feel a physical weight in my arms and legs and a palpable exhaustion that makes me prefer to sleep than have to battle through it.  On the floor, I cry a lot and I cry hard and I wish that I could find a dark whole and crawl inside of and simply cease to be.  I call these “Attacks of Depression” because that is what it feels like…an actual assault…and I don’t always know what triggers them. And sometimes I do.

My depression is good days and bad days…sometimes lots of each in a row.

How I’m saving my own life…

First, it’s this…deciding to be transparent and authentic about my depression.  Yes, I’m still embarrassed.  Yes, I’m still worried about how others will react or treat me.  But I’m choosing courage over fear and today, at least, courage is winning.

Yesterday, for the first time ever, I texted a friend when I felt an attack coming on because I believed she would pray for me.

Right then.

I was really terrified to text her.   An email would have taken too long to craft and explain.  But a text? Maybe?

“Pray for me, please. Depression is rearing its ugly head and I am feeling paralyzed.”

I was feeling so very vulnerable and afraid.  I really didn’t want to talk at that moment and I was afraid that my phone would ring…

And the dots showed up as she was answering  me.  I could feel my heart quicken…

3-hearts

A wave of relief washed over me because I knew that somebody knew. And although I was alone, I didn’t feel alone in my pain just then.

And then I left my phone and my computer downstairs and I sat on the floor of my room and cried.  Hard.

But then, a thought that I’d never had before came into my mind.  It was, “You’re not worthless, you have a mental illness that makes you think that you are.”

And my tears slowed as I repeated that sentence over and over to myself.  And soon I was able to pray.  I said, “Dear Heavenly Father, please give me another perspective about myself than what I have about myself right now.”

And I starting thinking about my kids.  I thought about how my kids love me.

And how my husband loves me.

And my mom and dad love me.

And my former students love me.

And my friends love me.

And I started feeling that maybe, even though I don’t always feel it inside myself, that I am lovable because some really fine and wonderful human beings love me.

Lastly, I got up off the floor and I made myself some chicken salad and added some avocado and almonds for some healthy fats, and then I went to sit outside in the sunshine.

And as I sat there, eating a healthy lunch that I made for myself, sitting in the sunshine on a warm afternoon, I felt a feeling of pride…

I just saved my own life today.

I cared for myself.  Yes, I asked for help from a friend and from God, but it was my bravery and humility and action on my own behalf that did it.  I do know how to care for myself, and I feel like I can trust myself to be good to my physical body and my mental health.

I have to be real here.  I have a mental illness and that means I will have more sitting-on-the-floor-of-my-bedroom days in the future.  They will be awful and they will feel like an assault.

But I’ve equipped myself with some new weapons with which to fight…

I can text a friend so that I’m not alone in my pain.

I can pray for a new perspective and courage.

I can remember that I have an illness, and I am a grown up and I can take care of myself. Just like if I was sick with pneumonia or anything else, there is a medical protocol.  I need to visit my doctor, take my medicine, take vitamins, eat well, and move my body.

And just like I wouldn’t get mad at myself for having pneumonia or a kidney infection, I don’t need to beat myself up about having Depression.  I can rest when I need to without feeling guilty or ashamed.

I have to remind myself that this illness is an illness of my thinking.  It goads me to dwell on thoughts that are not true or rational.  I’m not always able to control it, and I’m not always aware that my thoughts are irrational.  The mantra, “You are not ____, you have a mental illness that makes you THINK that you are ___” was a helpful one.  I must have read it somewhere on the Internet once, and it came back to me when I needed it.

I can live with The Big Angry D.  And I can save my own life.  I did it and I can do it again, and again, and again.  And I will.

 

 

 

Why I Can’t Pray

Dear Pastor,

Last week you challenged us as a congregation to pray about how God has gifted us specifically and individually, and to reveal how He might want to use us to grow His kingdom.

I confess that I haven’t really prayed that prayer.  Maybe I’m afraid that He doesn’t really answer those kinds of prayers, or that He won’t…or worst of all…that He already has.

Prayer used to be effortless.

For a long time I was convinced that I was someone special in God’s eyes; a woman after God’s own heart.  Prayer came easy in those days.  I spoke to Jesus about my daily worries and struggles and insecurities.  I was sure that God would not only hear, but that He would send relief quickly and consistently.  I felt that God really cared about my lost keys, or my child’s nightmares, or whatever else was on my mind.

praying-hands

Along with the constant chatter with the Divine came an assurance that I was under God’s special vigilance.  I believed He would never let anything bad happen to me because I was His beloved.  I felt safe and secure, and certain I had the sweet life with God.

I was sincere in my faith.  When I look back on it now, I realize that I was arrogant and judgmental, but I honestly didn’t perceive myself that way.  I was thankful, and felt humbled that God had allowed me to learn about His “truth”.

Then, prayer became impossible.

I found out I was wrong.  God DID let something bad happen to me.  In fact, God allowed the load-bearing walls of my faith be swept away.

For a long time I was angry with God for “letting me go.”

I was mad at all the people…ministers, authors, fellow members of my flock… throughout my life who helped build a unquestioning faith on narrow interpretations of certain passages taken out of context and extrapolated to relegate God to a very limited, explainable construct.

Sometimes I still miss my old, easy faith that had all the answers.

Yet I knew that my relationship with God would never be the same.

I would never again be able to just trust that if I prayed about something, everything would turn out my way.

And that was the rub…          

I now have to accept that God is the Almighty Sovereign One, not my supernatural bodyguard king.

And maybe He has better things to do than make sure little me is “having it my way.”

I know that God allowed those things to happen in my life to move me beyond the simple, easily explained deity that my former church taught about so I could come to believe in the inscrutable Jehovah.

Yet, believing in a Sovereign God makes prayer a little tricky for me

So, do I want to know how God has gifted me specifically and individually, and would I like for Him to reveal how He might want to use me to grow His kingdom?  Oh, yes!  I would very much like to know!

I would love a clear-cut description instead of letting me flounder with all this trial and error stuff that seems to make up my life’s path.

How simple it could be if only The Lord would give me a singular flash of inspiration instead of allowing me to just serve in my general vicinity willy-nilly.

How simple a straightforward little whisper from the Almighty would make my life!

The snag is that learning the answer would be like going back to that old, easy faith that had all the answers.   Back when what I thought was faith was really certainty.

And certainty and faith are opposing ideas.

Faith is the conviction of things UNSEEN.

So, maybe God doesn’t answer those kinds of questions, or won’t, or already has because knowing would be the opposite of His unfathomable will.

What if God actually wants each of us to puzzle it out?  Maybe He wants us to be challenged by our individual gifts and our unique failures.

What if success and failure aren’t reckoned by God the same way I reckon them?

What if the journey IS the point? So we will make an attempt and endeavor to try and have a crack at it and give it a go.

So, pastor, no…even though its a beautiful prayer, I can’t pray that prayer.  I can’t really pray like that anymore.  I don’t need the answers to my questions anymore.  I don’t wish to be insulated so I can be secure, and safe, and happy.  I’m not in search of sure footing.

If you send me, will I hear you?  And will I go?

If you send me, will I hear you? And will I go?

I just want to thank Him for my beautiful life and all the many blessings I have.  I am so grateful for His unfailing grace and generosity. And I want the courage to say, “Here am I, send me.” And pray that when He does, I will recognize His voice and go.

7 Fool-Proof Steps for Not Quitting New Year’s Resolutions

I look forward to New Years because the wonderfully deluded feeling of hopefulness and expectation I get this time of year.

Beautiful-2013-Happy-New-Year-Image-01

Maybe I get oiled up on too much sleep.  Or maybe I get drunk on Baby Jesus and pine forest candle smoke and high levels of sugar.  You know, all that Peace on Earth and Joy to the World stuff can really clog your sense of reality, especially when you haven’t been to work in a couple weeks.

Every year it’s the same story.  I get all aspiration-crazed and then I go off and make some incredibly lofty, noble, BIG New Year’s Resolution.  And I really, really believe it this year…

Until about January 5…

So, of course, I did it again this year.

For the first few days of my New Year’s Resolution, I bask in the delight of how majestic it will be when I have achieved my goal.

What I will look like when I lose 50 pounds…or

What will I do with all of the money when I’m out of debt…or

How I will feel crossing the finish line of the marathon…

From January 1-4, I do all of that “visualization” stuff and make magazine collages and read a lot of blogs.  I do an Image search of Google for inspirational quotes.  I start a new Pinterest page to store those quotes.  I buy a couple of books off of Amazon.com and then sign up for a couple of online courses.  I get all set to succeed in the coming year.

Then on January 5, the last day before I have to go back to work, it’s time to actually BEGIN.  And that is where I fall apart.

I commence a major melt-down of overwhelming panic.  I think about the enormity of exactly what I have asked myself to accomplish and I…well…I bolt.  I rationalize that my vision wasn’t really attainable anyway.  I begin to make excuses, or distract myself, or become interested in something else.  And then I have another year much the same as I had the year before. I’m afraid that my life will be characterized by this quote…

Quote by Francis Chan

Quote by Francis Chan

So, this year, I am proposing a new strategy.  Let 2015 be known as the Year of Not Deserting My Dreams!!

I have come up with 7 Fool-Proof Steps for Not Quitting My New Year’s Resolutions.

This year, my cra-cra resolution is to get 5,000 subscribers to my blog.  I have 68.  This means I only have 4.932 to go.  No problem.

Pardon me while I hold a paper bag over my mouth and breathe deeply…

Suddenly, my head starts to swim.  I don’t know where to start!  There are a ton of blogs and books with their “10 Gagillion Simple Steps to Getting Blog Traffic,” but with a flood of options, which one is the most important and which one is a scam?

I should’ve chosen bungee jumping as my New Year’s Resolution!    At least with that one, the first step is crystal clear…and just about as likely to happen!  What am I thinking?

Step 1:   Cry

Yes, cry.  This should take about 30 minutes.  Do not allow yourself more than 30 minutes because it then it turns into wallowing and whining…and nobody can help you after you’ve crossed over into the line into despair.  Despair isn’t helpful to anyone.

Crying works wonders because it gets all of the irrational emotions out of the way so your head is clear to THINK!  If you are not a crier, like me, then maybe you need to go to the batting cages or take a walk or talk it out with your best friend or brainstorm in your journal.  Whatever it is, make a place for your bizarre anxieties or the horrific consequences you are imagining.  No matter what you do, though, do NOT stay at step one.  Set a timer if you have to.  Have some peppy music set up on iTunes or have your cry in the car on the way to a Comic-Con.  Those weird costumes should shake anyone out of the blues!

Step 2: Play with the Dog

This step will last in duration and energy depending on the age and breed of the dog, of course.  If you are like me and you have an 11-year-old grumpy Shih Tzu, this step should take you roughly 2 minutes.  Or alternatively, if you also have a deaf and blind 15-year-old Poodle, it will take a little longer because first you will have to get her attention.  Then you will have to go retrieve the ball yourself because the poor little thing will not be able to find it. (However, if you happen to have a 5 month old puppy, this step might involve walking around the block, scooping up poop, and taking a nap…in which case it will take your whole afternoon!)

If you don’t have a dog, then I imagine that a toddler or, possibly even a cat, will do.  (I can’t speak for the cat bit cause I’m not a cat person).  Anyway, be resourceful.

The reason to do this step is to remind yourself to be present in the moment.  THIS moment.  Stop thinking about the obstacles in the way of your dreams, and get back to the present.  Dogs and babies are magical at living in the HERE AND NOW, and we need to learn to emulate them…if only for a few minutes.  Now you are ready for Step 3

Step 3: Go Out for Sushi

You need BRAIN FOOD, and raw fish is an excellent source.  It’s best if you locate a nearby dive that isn’t too crowded, but that serves fresh fare.  Junk food is a definite no-no because it blocks your arteries and makes you lethargic.  Whereby a huge chain or a popular hang-out will just take too long.  This step should take an hour, tops.

Our favorite sushi dive

Our favorite sushi dive

Step 4: Log In

As soon as you get home from the Sushi place, Log In.  I have to Log In to my blog because that is how I engage in the community I am trying to attract and learn from.

When I was panicking about my New Year’s Resolution today, my husband asked, “Have you logged in to your blog today?”  The answer was obvious…”No, I had been too busy panicking!!”

If I want subscribers to my blog, then it follows that I must have something on the blog for subscribers to read!  It doesn’t matter what other step I take for building my blog if there is no content for subscribers to click on!

I think that idea applies to every other area, too.  If you want to accomplish any goal, FIRST, you have to engage.  You must connect with a community of like-minded individuals who want the same thing as you and/or who have the capacity to teach you new skills.  Learning from each other is a beautiful way to grow as an individual as well as grow a business or accomplish a goal. You need to Log In, however…

Step 5: Resist Distractions!!

                Logging in is the first step to fulfilling your dreams…OR a time suck and a total distraction from your goals!!

Distractions come under the facade of social media, or checking emails, or even the 60% off of all Christmas Lay-Away Items that Were Never Claimed Extravaganza of the Century Sale!!

Or the Opportunity of a Lifetime!!

When I logged on today, for example, my first step was to search eBay for vintage RV’s that I might be able to refurbish.  I even went so far as to put one on my “watch” list and get quotes for shipping it from New York State.  I’ve always wanted to refurbish a vintage RV.  NOT!

And how will spending $500 on a partially stripped RV help me reach my blogging goals???  Luckily, someone else bid $601.25 and saved me from myself!!  Or else I’d have had a crazy, fun project in the works rusty vexation sitting in my backyard for next two years!

For the Love of Pete, Lori…Learn to Say NO!!  And move on…

Step 6:Begin                                                                                                

Don’t look at the whole thing.  Don’t analyze the project in order to break it down into bite-size pieces.  Because when you do that…you are looking at the whole thing!  Then you are going to revert back to Step 1: Cry all over again and nobody has time for that!

The goal is just too big!  5,000 subscribers is a huge number!

50 pounds is a lot of weight!

26.2 miles is just over 95 Sear’s Towers!!

But there is one thing you CAN DO TODAY.  You can write your next blog post (as I am doing right now). You can turn on the treadmill and walk.  You can download an app for whatever goal you have in mind and do the first step.

Because, if you think about it…beginning is really the hardest part.  In the physical world, if you want to move an object at rest in any direction, you must first overcome inertia.  It’s the same for me.  I get emotional inertia and resist change…whether big or small.  I don’t like inconvenience.  I don’t like pain.

However, I do find that when I begin, soon the cravings go away.  Soon the runner feels his pleasure.  Soon, the blog gets a few more hits!

And at the end of the day, instead of disparaging yourself for yet another excuse, you can applaud yourself for taking one step toward your dream.

Step 7: Repeat for 364 Days

Okay, you can skip Step 1: Cry and Step 3: Sushi as needed.  You can keep them for emergency situations and weekends.

In 2015, I challenge myself to Not Quit My New Year’s Resolutions on January 5 and to do at least one thing each day that takes me closer to my goal of 5,000 Subscribers to My Blog.

andrew carnegie quote

And I invite you to join me.

I’d love to hear from you.  Please put in the comment section below…

What is your incredibly lofty, noble, BIG New Year’s Resolution?

What small step can you begin TODAY that can make that dream a reality in 2015?

Just Hang Upside-Down and Hold On!!

 I always wondered if caterpillars endure pain during their captivity in the chrysalis.   It seems that every growth or period of change is accompanied by pain and loss.  Do future butterflies ever just give up mid-metamorphosis?  Do they ever long for their caterpillar days?  Or do they instinctually know that the butterfly existence will be worth the arduous struggle? 

And yet, in every caterpillar’s life, there is a time to hang yourself upside-down and hold on!  The transformation will not simply glue wings to your existing torso; it will reduce your organs to soup, and then recreate them completely into a new creature who inhabits a different world. 

It seems God has a similar course of reconstruction for those He loves.  Consider Abraham being commanded to sacrifice the Son of Promise.  Consider Joseph being sold into slavery or Daniel taken into captivity.  Or even Lazarus who had to become sick and die, then lie in a tomb for four days.  All organs-to-soup tales before God shows up and explains the design He had all along. 

God’s plans are beautiful when you are looking in the rear-view mirror.  They don’t always look so attractive when your guts have been reduced to gumbo and you are peering headlong into an uncertain blackness.  Is that dim glow you see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel or the beam of an oncoming train?

All those children’s songs that claim “the blessings come down as the prayer go up” are wrong.  All those seeming promises that life would work out if you only followed the rules.  It doesn’t work that way, Caterpillar.  The Bible never, ever promises its followers safe passage to the next life. Sooner or later, you’re going to find yourself hanging upside-down by your toenails and wondering what you’ve done to deserve this treatment. 

And that is what faith really is.  Faith is trusting that even when everything you have believed in and sacrificed for and built in your life is reduced to rubble and waste and lies, He reigns. God remains sovereign and mighty and good, even when we are in unending grief.  He doesn’t ask our permission to do His will; as inscrutable and frustrating as it may be.  You are not abandoned by God just because you hurt; in fact, when you hurt, He is closer than ever.

This is what Abraham learned on the mountain.  This is what Joseph and Daniel learned in Egypt and Babylon.  This is what Lazarus learned in the tomb.  That is what I learned through divorce.  That is what the caterpillar learns in the cocoon of becoming.  Faith does not equal clarity and certainty.  Faith is the CONVICTION OF THINGS UNSEEN.  Even when we feel abandoned and forgotten.  Even though we cannot see our way through, faith is making one slight movement forward anyway, believing that one day, somehow, your foot will fall onto the silver lining. 

Reflections and Advice on Dating After Divorce

In the previous 3 posts, I got to the spot where I started dating again after my divorce.  I have a few reflections now that I am six years hence.

First, I need to confess that I joined an online dating site and lied in my profile saying that I was already divorced even though my divorce was not final yet.  That wasn’t right.

I clearly wasn’t ready to be dating no matter what I told myself at the time.  But if anyone tried to tell me that…and a few of my friends DID try to tell me that…I got SO angry and defensive.

I desperately wanted someone to tell me that I was still desirable and worthy of attention and love after my rejection of my spouse.  The attention I got from the men on the website was exciting and distracting from the pain I was experiencing, and I was thankful for the distraction.

The first man I met on the website was a dear, godly man who had experienced a lot of pain in his own life.  He was a good friend and encouragement to me in my time of need, and I hope I was somewhat of an encouragement to him, as well.  I was not ready to be in any kind of romantic relationship, but his friendship and advice was very healing to me and eventually helped me to be ready when I met the man who was to become my husband.  I am grateful for that experience.

On our one and only date, he learned I was not yet divorced and he ended our romantic relationship.  That experience taught me the importance of waiting until after your divorce is final to begin dating.

So, if I were to give anyone going through divorce any advice, I would say…please wait until your divorce is final.  I know that saying so might make you mad, but you need to think of the person you are going out with.

Its not all about you and your need to be seen and validated and accepted and listened to and desired.  A date is two people, and  the person you are going out with also needs to be seen and validated and accepted and listened to and desired…and YOU CAN’T DO THAT YET!

You just don’t have the emotional resources to give to another person.  And it’s not fair to put so much pressure on another person, especially a new relationship.

Think of it this way.  If you broke your leg, you need to let that leg heal properly before putting all of your weight on it and dancing, for example.  But, if you took Novocaine, you wouldn’t feel the pain of your leg and you could dance all night long on your broken leg!!  However, you could end up doing more damage in the end.

A new relationship can feel like Novocaine.  It can make you not feel the pain of your broken marriage and replace the pain with feelings of euphoria and happiness.  But you can be causing more damage to your emotional health than you realize.  And you could hurt another person in the process.

So, even though I didn’t do it myself, looking back on it, my advice would be to wait.  Wait at least until your divorce is final.

Healing from divorce means discovering the person YOU are meant  to become and recreating the life you are destined for.  Another person couldn’t do that for you in your broken marriage and another relationship, no matter how wonderful it may feel, can’t do it either.  Its YOU time now.  So take it and use it for your healing.

Learning as I go…out (Journal entry Nov. 30, 2007)

This is what R said to me, “Lori, you are a beautiful, adorable, desirable, precious, and wonderful.  You have a lot to offer.  You are a God-loving woman.”  Those words came from the mouth of a respectable, honest, gentle, and godly man!  And I know that if R sees these things in me, so will other men, Lord!  And someday, the right man!  My future husband.  The man I am dreaming of and waiting for.

In the meantime, I ask you to make me a blessing to every man I communicate with.  Whether it is because I pray for them, teach them something about themselves, encourage them either personally or in their spiritual life, serve them in some way, make a nice memory, or even just make them laugh.  I just don’t want to hurt or harm anyone, and I pray that for your name sake, that I am able to be a gift and not a detriment.  Even when there is no chemistry, please let me be generous in my smiles, encouragement, and friendship.

Of course, the womanly part of me wants every man I communicate with to feel attracted to me and want a relationship with me.  I know that is unrealistic – and some men are people I just don’t need to be around!  Please protect me and don’t allow Satan to harm me.

I know that you will not harm me by giving me something too soon or too late.  I ultimately know that my future husband will be revealed to me at just the right time when I will completely understand the timing.

In the meantime, dating is a new, scary, exciting roller coaster filled with possibilities and disappointments.  In addition to making me a gift and a blessing to the men I talk to, make them a blessing to me.  May I learn from them and benefit from knowing them.

Another thing I learned is that Savanna and even Warren do not need to hear the details of my dating life or even if I’m going out!  Its WAY too soon for them!  I didn’t tell them I was going out with J and since he hasn’t contacted me again, then why do they need to know?  I went out with a friend – end of story.