Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Sun, Me and Vitamin D

Sunrise from my home

We had a wet, cold, cloudy, dreary late spring and early summer here in Colorado. In May, we had 14 inches of rain – a far cry from our normal 2.13 inches. Now, I am not complaining. After years of drought and fires, the green grass and full ponds are so refreshing.

However, this was the time when depression came upon me full force.

I could feel the weight of depression descend upon me on a cloudy, rainy day. And, I could feel it lift when I walked outside into the sunlight on a sunny day.

I began taking a 45 minute walk every day the sun was shining. As it warmed up, I wore shorts and a tank top. I could instantly feel a change in how I felt as the sun’s rays hit my skin. And I began spending more time outside just to feel better.

At the end of June, I had my appointment with my family doctor. One of the tests she ran was on my vitamin D level, which came back low. She instructed me to increase my vitamin D intake with supplements. Which I have done.

What amazes me is the difference I can tell since I significantly increased my vitamin D intake. Although I still like walking in the sunshine, I don’t have the sensation of needing to soak it in to feel better. I feel better anyway.

If you are feeling depressed, be sure to consult your doctor and ask to have your vitamin D level checked. It sure made a difference for me!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Lord, Please Order My Day

“Lord, please order my day for me. I trust in You.”

As anxiety and depression took over my life, I found myself paralyzed. I couldn’t make decisions. I couldn’t even decide whether to go to the grocery store or not on a certain day! I had a to-do list each day that I woke up thinking about, agonizing over the “need to’s and should do’s.” Most of which went undone.

Several months after starting therapy, after I had learned to shut down my anxious thoughts or reframe them, I took a walk and thought about freedom, God renewing my mind, and ordering my day.

Asking God to order my day was a new thought to me. But the more I thought about it, the more I loved it!

  • ·         To trust that what I do is His will
  • ·         To trust that what I don’t do is His will
  • ·         To live in freedom and not in chains
  • ·         To live in God and not myself
  • ·         To trust Him with my time, my writing, my service to Him, my relationships
  • ·         To surrender my thoughts, my desires, my control, my anxieties, my depression to Him
  • ·         To be aware of this trust and freedom, this new way of living

I have been asking God to order my day for two weeks now. The pressure is off! The anxiety and worries are gone. I love waking up in the morning now feeling rested and having hope and joy for my day.

My prayer this morning:

Lord, please order my day. Let what I do be your will and what I don’t do be your will. Bring the people into my day you want me to connect with. Let our interactions be your will, not mine. Keep my ego – my manipulations and desire for control out of the way. Let me be my authentic self, the one You created. Let your light shine through me today. I trust in You, in You alone.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Life Is Like A 1960's Western Television Series

Forest Gump said “My momma always said, Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are gonna get.” Well, I think life is like a 1960’s television western series. Good things and bad things happen in life. You deal with it, and then move on to the next episode.
Just think of Ben, Adam, Hoss and Little Joe on Bonanza. They spent their lives protecting the Ponderosa from swindlers, land grabbers, and a crazy con-man who thought he could “row” a boat across the ranch and claim the land as his own on a technicality. They wooed women, fell in love and, ALWAYS, lost their loves in tragic accidents or murder. Or else she really loved someone else. And sometimes the men were caught up in a case of mistaken identity, jailed for a crime they didn’t commit.

In the shows, the Cartwrights lived, loved and laughed. They fought, struggled and persevered. They grieved and learned to live again. Isn’t that what life is about?

Now, imagine if Bonanza was a true story. A person could not go from tragedy to tragedy, drama to drama, or from love to loss to love to loss constantly. Think of the years of therapy and medication the Cartwrights would need to even get out of bed in the morning!

And yet, that is what we often try to do. Something major happens in our life, then a tragedy, and more drama. Rather than taking the time to process our feelings and thoughts, we keep pushing through. We don’t have the luxury to get everything settled in one episode. Or we don’t have the resources.

But, then the re-runs play over and over in our mind. The movie reel never stops. We become angrier, more anxious, depressed or helpless. We isolate ourselves. The re-runs become debilitating. Especially when more than one episode plays at a time.

That is where therapy or counseling helps. We can tell the story to a counselor, but this time we allow ourselves to feel the pain, the hurt, the anger we may have avoided. A counselor can help us navigate through the feelings and move us towards processing the feelings.

And then, the counselor can help us “reframe” our experience. How did we grow from it? What was the best outcome? Sometimes the best outcome is that we survived the experience. But even seeing that can be enlightening.

My family and I have been through a lot of stuff the last few years. Even a thunderstorm with wind and lightning can set my nerves on edge and leave me feeling helpless. On the minor side of events, our old 5th wheel camper blew over and was totaled in a microburst last summer and then our new one was struck by lightning this spring.

Through therapy, I have been reminded that just because something happened once, it doesn’t mean it will happen again. My mind has stopped replaying the episodes. I no longer drown in the pain, fear, panic, anger when I think about the past episodes. And I trust that whatever happens next is something we will make it through with God’s help. Because we do keep making it through.

Now that I’ve dealt with the re-runs, I am ready to face the new episodes. The good and the bad. Because that is life. Let's ride.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Conquering My Castlewood Canyon Bridge Phobia

Bridge? What bridge? I knew you would laugh when you saw the object of my phobia.

This is a photo of the Castlewood Canyon Bridge. I told you it takes 2-3 seconds to cross it.

When I realized I was depressed, the bridge was one of the things that came to mind. My box, my life, had become smaller. If I continued to cut things out of my life because of anxiety, then I wouldn’t even leave my house.

I managed to conquer my Castlewood Canyon Bridge phobia before I sought therapy. And it started with a fiction book, Dog Crazy, about an agoraphobic therapist who specializes in helping people who are grieving over the loss of a pet. In the book, the heroine overcomes her phobia using exposure therapy by taking a dog with her out the gate and around the block. She takes short walks over and over to desensitize herself.

Around the same time, I happened to catch an episode of The Doctors on phobias.  They had a man on who said he could make a phobia go away in an hour. I watched the show and one thing caught my attention. He said he “erases the emotional hard-drive.” That’s what I needed to do. Erase the bridge phobia from my emotional hard-drive.

When I thought about the bridge, I experienced the same panic again. I could feel my body clench and my heart begin to race. Over and over. I could almost see a red light flashing and a voice blaring, “WARNING! WARNING!”

I started by picturing the bridge in my mind and willing myself not to feel the panic. I imagined the beautiful scenery – the open highway, green grass, wildflowers, and Ponderosa pines. I saw myself driving down the road in my truck with some good music on and singing along. The bridge was coming, but I didn’t feel any panic. I focused on the highway on the other side, not on the bridge. And I did this regularly for a week or so, every time the bridge came to mind. Soon, I didn’t feel any panic associated with the bridge when I thought of it.

The day came when I started to Parker for an appointment and it was pouring down rain and hail. When I came to road 98, I planned to go straight. I didn’t want to cross the bridge in the rain. But, the weather was clear to the west and it looked like the hail continued to the north. OK, I would go over the bridge.

I started to feel the anxiety a couple of miles away from the bridge. I began to pray. Deep breathing – breathe in 1,2,3,4,5, hold it, breathe out 1,2,3,4,5. I turned on KLOVE radio and sang along. The anxiety subsided a little. The truck slowed to 55 as I neared the bridge. The wheels hit the seam of the bridge and I focused on the highway ahead of the bridge. Nothing. Nothing!!! I didn’t feel any panic! I couldn’t believe it. I knew the taste of victory.

Each time I crossed the bridge during the next month, I felt less anxiety. Now, I don’t even think of it when I cross it. I enjoy the scenery. And, now I know I have some control over my thoughts and my anxiety. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

My Bridge Phobia

Bonner Bridge to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Photo by my father, Ken Christison

You never expect to have a phobia. They just sneak up on you and shout, “Surprise!”

In 1990, we bought a 4-wheel drive Ford F-150 that was taller than the 2-wheel drive Chevy pickup I was used to driving. I didn’t think anything of it when I drove the new truck out east of town to our friends house. But I sure noticed it when I crossed the little one-lane wooden bridge near their house. Suddenly, the truck seemed like a monster truck with giant tires. My heart raced and I clenched the steering wheel. And I sighed with relief a second later when I reached the end of the bridge.

I didn’t think anything of it until we set out on a road trip from Colorado to North Carolina a few weeks later. I found myself watching for bridges when I drove, clenching the steering wheel over the bridge and sighing with relief when over the bridge. If the bridge happened to be on a curve, then I felt a little more panic.

Over the years, I began to drive less on our trips to the east coast. The bridges became BRIDGES (((shudder))) and I was certain the truck would decide to jump off the side of the bridge of its own volition. For some reason, I didn’t have any problem with my husband driving over bridges. The truck would only attempt suicide if I was driving.

First, I stopped driving in West Virginia. Then I stopped driving east of the Mississippi. The last trip we made, I only drove through Colorado and Kansas.

Thankfully, there aren’t many bridges in my part of Colorado and I don’t think anything about the bridges I drive over. Until last November…

I had a dental appointment in Parker and drove the back-roads to Highway 83. It started to snow a little. I happened to think of the bridge over Castlewood Canyon and thought I should have gone through Elizabeth. Especially with it snowing.

I started feeling anxious several miles before the bridge. I slowed down as I approached the bridge 65, 55, 45. My breathing became shallow, I clenched the steering wheel and my heart began racing the moment I hit the seam of the bridge. I expected to breathe a sigh of relief at the end of the 3 second bridge (yes, it takes 2-3 seconds to cross this bridge). The relief didn’t come. The panic stayed with me and gradually subsided.

In a matter of three seconds, my world changed. I knew I could not drive over the bridge feeling panic every time. So, I would no longer drive over the Castlewood Canyon Bridge. Case closed.

Stay tuned for next week’s Part 2 – Conquering My Castlewood Canyon Bridge Phobia