Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Blue Day

Today is a gloomy, cloudy day. Even Pikes Peak has the blues.
But I don’t. And that makes me smile!

A month ago, the weather would have affected me and I would have been down in the dumps. But, my Vitamin D levels must be where they need to be and therapy is obviously working. I feel normal and engaged in life without any depression today. Hallelujah!

This doesn’t mean I never have a blue day anymore. In fact, I had one a little over a week ago on a sunny day. And I learned something from it.

When we are recovering from depression, a down day can make us think, “Here I go again, back into depression. Will it ever go away?”

My therapist explained that the brain remembers the path it’s been down to depression, and once it has been down that path, it’s easier for the brain to go there. But, it doesn’t have to stay there.

On the day I was depressed, I left my house at 6:00 a.m. to take a friend of a friend to the airport in Colorado Springs. I was a little bit anxious about driving because I hadn’t driven to the Springs airport in many years. Everything went fine and I was home by 8:00 a.m. I sat down and fell asleep, woke up at 9:00 and felt blah. Kate left the house to go somewhere with a friend. I felt a little more blah.

By 10:00, I was just plain depressed. I did the things I know to do to cope with depression. I ate breakfast and lunch. Took my vitamins and supplements. Spent some time with God in silence and prayer. Got outside and took a walk enjoying the sunshine. But, the cloud of depression didn’t lift.

I thought, “Okay. Today I am depressed. So, I’ll just be depressed.”

And that’s what I did. I gave myself the grace I needed to accept that I would be depressed that day. I realized that going to the airport early that morning threw me off and had made me anxious. Kate’s leaving when I’d thought she’d be home had made me feel lonely.

I did what needed done that day and didn’t worry about what didn’t get done. I felt the depression and lived with it. I didn’t make it out to be worse than it was and I didn’t panic because I felt depressed.  Later in the afternoon, I watched a movie, something I don’t do very often by myself. But I enjoyed it and didn’t lay on the guilt for watching it.

John came home from work and Kate came home. I related that I’d been pretty depressed, but I didn’t run myself down for it. Just said that’s the way it was. Hopefully, the next day I’d be normal again.

I got a good night’s sleep and woke up the next morning feeling fine.
Looking back, the one thing I would do differently is call a friend and go out for lunch. That may have helped my loneliness and bumped me out of depression.

Accepting a day of depression seemed to take the power away from the depression. If I accepted it, I didn’t have to feed it with feelings of unworthiness or worthlessness. I examined my emotions and understood why I felt the way I did and it is okay to feel that way.

A blue day can be just that—a blue day. Nothing more, nothing less.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Where Anxiety and Depression Meet

Every once in a while, I open up my journal and look back at where I was when I started this journey. Wow, I have come a long way.

Today I thought I’d share one of my early journal entries. I had told my therapist that I feel really anxious when I woke up in the morning. Dr. Anna had asked me to write down an example of how I talked to myself. Easier said than done. It took several days to be aware of what I was saying to myself. But, then early one morning I caught myself.

I get up at 5:45 a.m. to make my husband breakfast and pack his lunch and then I go back to bed, because I am NOT a morning person. But, for some reason, I thought I should be.
On May 20th, I became aware of what I was thinking as I made John’s lunch. And I sat down and wrote it out after he left for work.

Lots of negative self-talk this morning. I want to go back to bed. But I’ve got lots to get done. I’ll go back to be and get up at 7:00. Yeah, right. You’ll sleep ‘til 8:00. You won’t get anything done anyway. I need a schedule or a routine. You never keep a schedule. You never do what you plan to do. You’ll plan it, but there’s always some reason you won’t do it. You never finish anything. If you schedule something, you’ll talk yourself out of it.

This is one paragraph of it. I remember sitting in shock after writing it. Did I really talk to myself that way? I wouldn’t talk like that to anyone else. There are two pages of this in my journal going over every task I needed to complete that day. No wonder I woke up feeling anxious! This verbal tennis match running in my head occurred every morning before I got out of bed and continued after I got up.

The first thing Dr. Anna did was give me permission to go back to bed and sleep. I obviously need my sleep. Sleep is important if you are depressed (and she said I wasn’t getting too much sleep –another symptom of depression). And, she gave me only one task for each day. My only check-box to mark is “What is your mood?” She also taught me to stop my thoughts. Realizing my thoughts were not normal or good helped me to stop them.

I learned to challenge a thought and ask its value. Is it true or not true? What’s the worst that can happen? What’s the best?

BrenĂ© Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, talks about scarcity – the thinking that we are never enough. She quotes Lynne Twist (author of The Soul of Money), “Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something.”

I am enough. I don’t do things just like everyone else. I am learning to be myself and be comfortable with me. And the verbal tennis match in my head has stopped.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Adjusting To Change

Last week, John and I spent the week in the mountains after a family camp-out over Labor Day weekend. We rode our 4-wheeler of Lost Canyon Road up above Twin Lakes and we rode over Tincup Pass. Fall is in the air and appearing in the aspen trees. So relaxing and peaceful. And then on Friday and Saturday we enjoyed camping at Camp Como with some of our church family.

I knew change loomed ahead and my 3:00 a.m. worry time woke me up on Saturday morning. Our adult daughter, Kate, would be moving in with us on Sunday. Kate sold her house and quit her job to begin a new chapter in her life with a move to another state in the future. But, for a couple of months, Kate, along with her 2 dogs and 1 cat, will be living with us.

What will this change do to my life? How will I adjust to the upset in the balance? How will this affect my depression and anxiety? So many questions and not many answers.

We moved Kate in on Sunday and she closed on her house Monday. Today I woke up at 9:00 a.m. from a dead sleep. I felt like I could have slept all day. And, I still have sore muscles from the packing and moving.

When you have suffered from depression, it’s easy to think on a down day you are slipping back into depression. But I have learned from my therapist to label my feelings and realize they are feelings and not necessarily depression. And it is okay to feel my feelings.

So, I knew I was exhausted and had good reason to be – both physically and emotionally. Feeling tired is not depression. I feel a little sad and unsettled. My home, my space that I value, is more chaotic with the animals adjusting to each other. Right this minute, I have a Yellow Lab and a German Shepherd mix wrestling in my living room. It’s not my normal quiet, calm space. Boxes are stacked everywhere, until Kate arranges for more storage.

Kate is also adjusting to her changes and I want to support her. We are dancing the dance that mothers and daughters do when daughters are grown. I try not to be the parent and tell her what to do. And she tries not to be defensive when I say something. Our bond is a delicate thread to treasure, not to break. We both know communication is the key.

I will give myself grace. I will give Kate grace. And I will give John grace as he adjusts, too. This isn’t permanent. In the next couple of months I will enjoy my daughter and our relationship. Rather than wishing for peace and quiet, I will embrace the here and now. I know what I need to do to take care of myself. I will find my space and my quiet, even if it is in the camper. Kate and I will enjoy walks together. And, I’ll enjoy walks by myself. We will go places and have fun together. 

I will treasure this time…before the next big change.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

All or Nothing Mentality

I painted my back deck last Friday.

Painting is not one of my favorite things. In fact, it’s about my least favorite thing to do. When I lift my arms above my head, I pass out. And I have a bum wrist. Throw in a heap of perfectionism. Yeah, I don’t paint.

But, for some reason, I can paint a deck. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t have to be perfect. Or, it’s because I can finish it in an hour or two and don’t have to lift my arms. And, I had a motive – I wanted a pretty place to sit and eat breakfast out in the sunshine.

I opened the bucket of paint and rolled a swipe of paint. Uh-oh. The barn red paint was more raspberry sherbet color. Oh, well. It will dry darker. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I finished the deck, but still had to paint the steps and railing. And, decide whether or not to paint the dog house raspberry red.

Saturday morning I painted again. It was a struggle to get going, but I did. I started painting the dog house and thought about my “all or nothing” mentality. Why do I think I have to be able to finish a project in one day? Why is it so hard to get it going again the next day?

I learned about my “all or nothing” mentality earlier this summer when I decided to practice my hammered dulcimer 30 minutes every day. I set my timer every day and played for 30 minutes. I saw it as a challenge to improve, not as a “should do.” But one day I didn’t have 30 minutes of time before a busy day. I only had 20 minutes. My first thought was, “If I can’t play for 30 minutes, then I don’t have time to do it.” All or nothing. Then, I realized how ridiculous that was. I played for 20 minutes and enjoyed it!

Much of my “all or nothing” mentality is my personality. I recently read the INFP’s prayer is “Lord, please help me finish what I sta…” Ha-ha! Yep, that’s me! If I don’t get all of it done right then, there’s a good chance it will never get finished. I also know I learn from whole to part and that is the way I work, too. It’s hard for me to break things down into increments and work consistently.

This is why it was totally conceivable for me to think I could write the second half of my book during a week’s writing retreat. When I only wrote one chapter, I gave myself grace and a high-five.

Becoming aware of when I am in “all or nothing” mentality, making a choice to do a part of it instead of all, and giving myself grace are new steps for me. Steps I will continue to take.

Oh, and I did finish painting. How do you like my raspberry-red deck? Come join me for a glass of iced tea.