All posts tagged depression

Just like the writer of Ecclesiastes said, there is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.

I am familiar with these seasons of life.  I’m sure you are too.  There are times when things are going along smoothly and there is laughter and joy and there are times when the proverbial rug is pulled out from underneath us and we can’t find our footing.

Hard times often come without warning and it is important in these times to remember these things…

1. The darkest hour is always before the dawn.

This truth has helped me to find my center on days when I have had a hard time seeing clearly. No matter how dark it is in your world right now there is light on the horizon. Don’t faint, don’t give up…just hold on until daybreak.  It’s coming!

2. Endurance leads to maturity

My experience has been that only once I have come through a major trial, can I see the areas in which I needed sharpening and maturing.  If I am being totally honest, given the choice I may have chosen to stay immature and a little rough around the edges rather than endure some of the darkness.  But now, having come through some rough waters I have gathered tools for the journey and maybe more importantly have gained a passion to deliver hope to those coming along behind me who may still be in darkness.

James says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

I don’t know if I was ever able or will ever be able to consider depression “pure joy” James, but I think I get it now. I want to be complete.  I understand what it means to be “lacking nothing.”  I have confidence now that whatever life throws at me I have all that I need to endure. I am lacking nothing. God is with me and never leaves me. Ever.

3. There will be dancing!

There IS a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. Unfortunately they are not always on our timetable. A year and a half ago I went through the darkest time of depression and soul searching I have ever experienced. I was mourning my mother’s death and dealing with past hurts and stuffed down pain that wreaked havoc on my body, soul and spirit. It took over a year to process through prayer and counseling. I would have liked for it to be faster.  I would have liked a fast forward button.  But healing takes time. It takes work. But once it comes…there is laughter, there is joy…and there is dancing!

I just returned from a 3 week trip to Europe with my husband and my daughter.  It was the most relaxing and joy-filled time I have had in a long while.  My spirit was free. My heart was refreshed and I was reminded of the truth that there is indeed a time to dance!

dance with balloons

Saying no more than yes is the key to staying sane these days.

I want to say yes to everything.

But I can’t do everything well.

Other people seem to be able to juggle more than I can.

One of two things is probably true:

1) They actually have greater ability to juggle than I do.

or

2) They do a good job hiding that things are slipping and they are completely stressed out.

That’s why I need to:

1) Be okay with knowing my capacity for “things I can juggle” may be less than someone else’s.

and

2) Stop comparing myself to others.

Comparison is the thief of joy and peace.

comparison

On Tuesday, I wrote a short blog on my Positively Depressed microblog that hit a nerve with some folks so I thought I’d give a little backstory here. It all started with this picture.
littleyou

I used to roll my eyes when I’d hear people talk about healing their inner child.  I was of the school of thought that the past is in the past and needs to stay there.  I didn’t think there was any point in going back and revisiting it.

I told my counselor as much the first time I met with her.  I told her, “I am not interested in rehashing the past.  I am ready to move on.” I told her, in the words of Carly Simon, “I haven’t got time for the pain.” She patiently nodded her head.  We began with what was going on with me in the present. Much to my dismay, within minutes we were revisiting pain from my childhood and young adult life. UUGH!

The problem with pain is unless you process it and get healing from it, it doesn’t miraculously go away. The great news is once you do, even though you will still remember it, you will not be held captive by it and it won’t hold you back from blossoming into the fragrant, most beautiful version of yourself.  Of course, there is always more work to be done but digging up bitter roots that cause damage is an absolute necessity.

After a recent session – I sent my counselor the above picture.  I thought she’d enjoy it since it went along with some of the things we had just talked about.  I didn’t expect her to ask me to actually write out how I would nurture my little self! Yikes. It took me a good long while to be able to articulate some of the things I needed to hear. This is a summary of what I wrote.

I would tell her:

That I love her just for being her spacey, disorganized self.

That I love her –  imperfections and all.

That she doesn’t have to try to fix everything.

That when she makes mistakes, I will be there to help her work through them.

That it’s ok to not feel strong sometimes and when she feels weak, I’ll be there to pick her up.

That she doesn’t have to push down her emotions but she can allow herself to feel them in order to process them.

I would tell her how proud I am of her

– just the way she is.

I realized, after reading it back to myself, this is precisely what God says to us in so many words… Knowing it is one thing, but speaking it over yourself and getting it to move from your head to your heart is quite another.

Humans do not always speak the truth our heart desperately needs to hear and if we rely on them to, we will be disappointed over and over. For those truths we need to listen to the One who created us. He loved us first, loves us still and always will.

Unconditionally.

Just like Little You needed to hear reassuring words of encouragement and love…Big You does too.

If you take the time to write out what your heart needs to hear – I’m willing to bet God has said them all to you.

I’d love to hear your feedback…♥

Time to heal, depression

 

The other day I had someone greet me with a gentle hello. Then he put his hand on my arm, leaned in, made eye contact and whispered earnestly, “How are you doing? Are you doing ok?”

I could have been reading into it, but the question seemed weightier than a casual “Hey, how are you doing?”  This person, who I don’t know very well and have never talked to at any great length, seemed genuinely concerned about me.

He was sincere and it was sweet, but it triggered something in me.

It made me realize that because I have shared my struggles with depression openly there are going to be people, for whom, it is their first thought when they see me.  It’s only natural. If their only frame of reference for me is through my blogs or what I have shared in a talk then it makes perfect sense.

But it bothers me.  It bothers me that they may not have the whole picture of who I am.  I worry that they may define me by my depression.

But it only bothers me for a moment because I have come a long way in letting go of what someone thinks of me. If I could completely let go then it wouldn’t bother me at all even for a moment.

Life is a series of crossroads. There are forks in the road.

Some time ago I came to one where the signpost pointing in one direction had a warning sign next to it that said “Vulnerability Ahead.” The signpost pointing in the other direction had no warning sign, assuring me that it was probably the emotionally safer route to choose.

I chose the path laden with vulnerability. As a result, others may form a perception of who I am based on some of the things I share publicly.

Vulnerability is the uncomfortable byproduct of being open with your life. I have allowed people a window into what was previously a very private struggle, not to gain pity, but in an effort to help someone else not feel alone.

That is my payoff ~ knowing that sharing helps someone else. It’s not really as noble as it may seem.  I get something out of it too: a sense of purpose.

How about you? Are you afraid that by sharing part of yourself, others will look at you differently?  In the big picture, does it matter?

live openly, vulnerability,

vulnerability

I thought that might get your attention!

But, it’s not what you are thinking. What I had was a vulnerability hangover.

Let me explain.

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to speak at my church. It was a message of encouragement but within the message I told the entire congregation about the fact that my depression had gotten so bad last year that I decided to treat it with medication. It was pertinent to the conversation because I was talking about shame – something I felt a great deal of and had to fight off. I felt good about sharing because even though I knew it would be uncomfortable, I believed it would help someone.

It went well and many people thanked me for my transparency. On Sunday night, I felt like I had accomplished what I set out to do.

Then Monday came.

I woke up and thought, “I can’t believe I shared such personal details with 3 services worth of people not to mention those who may watch the video.” I was experiencing a vulnerability hangover. I didn’t make that up. It is a term coined by Brené Brown, researcher of such topics as courage, vulnerability, authenticity, empathy and shame. Brené explains that a vulnerability hangover is “the feeling that sweeps over us after we feel the need to connect… and we share something deeply meaningful. Minutes, hours, or days later, we begin to feel regret sweep over us like a warm wave of nausea.”

I’m happy to say that because I have been sharing bits and pieces of my story for a while now, my hangover was not too bad. I was able to shake it off pretty quickly having learned these 3 things.

#1  It’s worth it.

The discomfort of vulnerability is worth it when you weigh it against the value of connection.  Connection, true connection is what people who are in need are looking for.  It doesn’t help them to see someone who acts like they have it all together all the time – it only adds to their shame and impedes their ability to open up and share themselves. When true connection is made, we share. When we share we heal.

#2  It’s not the critic who counts. (thank you, Theodore Roosevelt!)

At the heart of the vulnerability hangover is the fear of being judged.  Since depression is classified as a mental illness I battle the fear of being defined by my struggle. There are people who will disagree with how I choose to handle and overcome depression but in the end it is not those people who I necessarily feel drawn to connect with.  I have come to terms with the reality that there will be those who may not understand or have a different opinion than I do. I have resolved that I answer only to the One who has called me to share my story in order to help others.

#3  It’s not about me.

We live in a me-driven world. As a Christian and follower of Jesus, I want to live as He lived.  He lived His life entirely for others.  Notice I said I WANT to live as He lived. That doesn’t mean I always do, by any means. But when I am feeling exposed and vulnerable I remember that in order to live the way I claim to want to live, it requires dying to myself and living for a greater cause.  Ironically, it ends up being the best thing for ME. It is where I derive true joy and peace – so in the end it sort of is about me.  But that’s how God works.  The more we pour ourselves out on behalf of others the more he pours joy and peace into us. It’s a pretty good deal.

Final thought on vulnerability, again from Brené Brown. (can you tell I love her and her work?)

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness. 

Amen.

Have you ever experienced a vulnerability hangover after taking a courageous step to share a part of yourself?  I’d love to hear about it ~ please leave a comment!

This has been my year to be brave.

In the beginning of the year, actually at the end of 2012 ~ this verse leapt off the page to me and I didn’t really know just how much I would need to draw upon it until now.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged; the Lord your God is with you wherever you go ~ Joshua 1:9

For five years I’ve been sharing bits and pieces of my story and my struggle with depression but never in as much detail as this past Sunday.

A few months back my Pastor asked me if I would share my story as the wrap-up of a series called UNMASKED.  It was timely request.  After 7 years now of cycling in and out of rough bouts with depression I finally feel like I have a handle on how to cope with it.

Every time I make it through a rough patch I believe that I am done with it forever although I know that is not probable.  The difference now is that I feel like I have all the tools I need to fight. Until this past year I always felt like I was missing something. Now that I know how to combat the shame associated with depression I believe that I will never suffer as badly as I have in the past.

You can hear my story here. The message begins about 21 mins into the video.

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 8.47.23 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shame affects every one of us without exception so regardless of whether you suffer from depression or not I believe this message will encourage you.  At least that is my hope and the reason that I have chosen to be brave and share.  As always I welcome your feedback and comments…

On a daily basis I post a picture or encouraging word on our Facebook page for For the Girls International. To let you in on a little secret…I usually post things that resonate with me personally.  That’s how it works.  I see something that hits a nerve for me and I figure someone else probably needs it too.

Occasionally I check to see how many people we are reaching with our Facebook posts and the data I saw yesterday was very telling.  In case you don’t know how it works, the more people that “like” or “share” a post the more people it reaches.

The last 7 posts (not including the announcement of my incredible granddaughter’s birth – which generated a lot of interest!) averaged a reach of 284 people.

Then a few nights ago I posted this (because I needed it):

Tough times, hardship, depression,

The reach for that post rose to over 2000 just for that one post! I don’t have time to figure out the math (that would seriously take me several hours) but that is a huge increase in reach.

So why was that post so popular?

3 reasons:

Because we all have our struggles.

Because we all need to know it’s ok not to be ok.

Because we all need to know that God loves us and is working through our struggle.

This is a tough time of year for me.  Thankfully it’s not as tough as it’s been in the past but the process of writing my book causes me to unearth some past hurts and pain that stirs up some emotions that I struggle with.

Reading that post helped me take a deep breath and know that God is allowing me to go a little deeper and peel another layer off to become more and more whole.  He loves me that much.

Sharing that post helped me realize that the more we are transparent about our struggles the more we help others to know that it is ok that they struggle too.

I’d love to hear your thoughts ~ so please feel free to share.  It helps to know that we are all in this together :)

BTW you can subscribe to get these updates to your email by typing in your email address in bar at upper right.

I'm ok, you're ok, mental health, depression

And sometimes it’s ok not to be ok!

Yesterday I woke up feeling under the weather.  I was very tired even after a long night’s sleep. I still have a scratchy throat this morning and some aches and pains.  I must have a touch of a cold but the feeling was a chilling reminder.

It felt a lot like the way I feel when I am depressed.  Thankfully, I know that I am not but the physical symptoms were similar. 

The good thing was that it made me realize how GOOD I have been feeling for the past 8 months.  In that moment I was so grateful that I had come through that awful episode and it was behind me.  I’m grateful for what I learned through it.  I am grateful that what didn’t kill me really did make me stronger! 

I don’t have time to write much this morning but I wanted to encourage someone today.  Whatever it is you are going through – this too shall pass. And you will look back and see the value of the experience and be glad. I promise. But more importantly God promises.

Maybe you are in a good place today.  Take a moment and remember what God has done for you.  Now that I am feeling better, it is something I take for granted sometimes… so I need to make a point to remember to remember! 

depression, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, never forget

 

Last week my niece won two tickets from a radio station to a private listening party with Amy Grant for her newly released cd How Mercy Looks From Here and she invited me to go with her!

It’s no secret that I am a huge Amy Grant fan. I love her music, I love her soothing voice but more than both of those God given talents, I love her spirit. She has a beautiful, very real faith that intersects with very human experiences and raw emotions but remains strong and full of grace.

Grace, something we all need so very much.

During the listening party she chose a few songs and told the stories behind them. I loved them all but one of them caused that huge lump in my throat that develops when I am trying to hold back tears.

It was called ~ Don’t Try So Hard.

It hit home for me because I had recently gone through a period of time where I was trying so hard that I had worn myself out completely. I am not even sure how it happened or when it began because it snuck up on me. Gradually over time somehow I had developed this imaginary standard that I needed to measure up to.

The standard was perfection and although no one else expected it of me ~ I did. As the words washed over me I felt a few hot tears escape from my eyes. Not tears of painful emotion but of relief that the striving is over. It’s over in a sense but it is a battle that we all face every day as new pressures to measure up or fit in present themselves.  It is one of the greatest weapons of the enemy of our soul. Comparison.

I am glad that I was able to recognize the harmful practice of comparing myself to some made up standards that I could never achieve and just breathe and relax instead of fighting.

Here are the words to the chorus…

Don’t try so hard
God gives you grace and you can’t earn it
Don’t think that you’re not worth it
Because you are
He gave you His love and He’s not leaving
He gave you His Son so you’d believe it
You’re lovely even with your scars
Don’t try so hard

My favorite line is…”You’re lovely even with your scars…”

Do you believe that today? You are lovely even with your scars…don’t try so hard!

Here…take some deep breaths as you listen.

I grew up on Long Island.  Although I have lived on the west coast of Florida, which boasts some of the world’s most beautiful beaches for the past 20 years, Jones Beach will always be the most beautiful beach to me because it is home.

If I close my eyes I can feel the gritty sand in my toes and hear the seagulls and the waves crashing to the shore. As a little kid I would play on the shore line, building sandcastles and jumping over the remainder of the breaker waves as they rolled up towards the beach.  As I got older I became more adventurous and learned how to ride the waves in as they broke.

It is an exhilarating feeling to catch a good wave at precisely the right moment and get a nice clean ride in. But occasionally you can be blindsided by a wave and get pummeled by it because you weren’t expecting it. Sometimes in an attempt to ride a wave you can jump in at the wrong time resulting in being creamed by the force of the current. This is a scary experience.  In a matter of seconds you are being spun uncontrollably and it is incredibly difficult to find your bearings. It feels like the ocean is sucking you downward. If you are not accustomed to navigating the unpredictable activity of an undertow it is easy to panic.  I have been caught in some crazy waves that in the moment have made me wonder if I would survive.

Fortunately like most kids who are raised by the beach, I was taught at a young age how to handle such situations and even though it could be frightening I knew that if I followed some simple rules of survival the wave would eventually subside and I would once again rise to the surface and be able to breathe.

The first rule was HOLD YOUR BREATH AND DON’T PANIC.  The duration of even a huge ocean wave is shorter than the amount of time you can hold your breath. The tendency when we panic is to gasp for breath but if when the wave hits you just hold your breath and don’t panic in time the waters will smooth out and the air in your body will cause you to rise to the surface.

The second rule was DON’T FIGHT IT – GO WITH THE FLOW. Our natural reaction when we’re being knocked around and feel out of control is to fight to regain our footing but this is actually counterproductive when trying to react to a wave. All you will end up doing is completely exhausting yourself.  Instead the trick is to relax your body and let yourself go with it until the wave passes.  The force of the wave is far stronger than you are and fighting against it is futile. If you can calmly wait it out you will soon be released, your feet will find the ground and you will be able to push up to the surface and find your bearings. This is easier said than done when you are being tossed about by the waves!

Some kids (and grown-ups for that matter) having been pummeled by a wave once decided it was not worth the risk and do not engage in the joy of riding the waves. They didn’t learn the survival tips for managing the undertow and so they settle for just playing in the shallow breakers. They are missing out on the exhilaration of swimming in the ocean.  It is an incredible feeling to be carried by the rise and fall of the ocean swells and something thrilling about playing in the vastness of the sea.

Life is often like this. A series of waves, some invigorating and awe-inspiring and others downright frightening and disorienting. But it shouldn’t stop us from engaging. If we want to experience all the joy and wonder that this life has to offer we need to pack up our coping skills and dive in deep.

crashing waves, panic, depression, coping, fear

This is not me – but what a great picture!
photo credit
Young girl in the waves, Jones Beach, New York. July 1951, by Alfred Eisenstaedt.
www.entertaininghouse.com

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Instead of playing in the shallow breakers I am ready to dive in.  This is an unedited, first attempt excerpt from a short book I am writing. Stay tuned!

If you are in the swirl of an undertow please know that this too shall pass.  Hold your breath (or since you are not really in the ocean – take some deep breaths) ~ don’t panic.  Before you know it you will be in smooth waters once again. 

He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. ~ Psalm 107:29

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