Thursday, September 30, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (XXXIII)

Just to follow up on the blog from a couple days ago, we attended the session of Bankruptcy Court on Wednesday and all turned out well. After this, I received an articulate and compassionate comment on my Bankruptcy blog from my daughters friend Crystal. It was written to Erin but she passed it on and it mightily lifted my spirits out of the shame I was feeling about filing for bankrupcy. God loves me and He loves us no matter what we do; even if we go bankrupt. Thank you Chrystal.

Tonight I have been thinking about the counseling session I had today. My Psychologist asked me, "What does it look like to be well?" I described it in the most shallow way possible in terms of the absence of debilitating depression and anxiety. She challenged me to think about this question in terms of not only what it looks like, but what reponsibility it would involve if I was healed.

These concepts bring to mind a story from the life of Jesus. Jesus is passing by the Pool at Bethsaida. A man sat there who had come to the pool over several years. The legend was that from time to time angels would stir the waters and whoever got into pool first would receive healing from their particular infirmity.

Jesus asked him a poignant question. "Do you want to be healed?" The man explained that he was not fast enough to get into the pool first to receive his healing when the angels stirred the water. Upon this explanation, Jesus healed him on the spot.
Those of us who have depression-anxiety should ask ourselves, "Do I want to be healed?" Healing would bring about taking responsibility for our lives when we got well. It would involve Re-entering the world, re-entering the job market, and work toward healthy living for body, soul, and spirit. Does that sound good? To me it does.

I have "always" worked. I love to work. I have "always" been involved in community service in this world of ours. I love community service. I have "always" believed in healthy living for body, soul, and spirit. I am seeking this even now! I believe I want to be healed. The question remains, what does healing look like.

Healing looks like exuding Love, Joy, Peace, Faith, and Hope that so fills our lives that it overflows. Healing looks like seeking work and being a productive member of society and a contributor to the financial situation at home. Healing looks like a move from self-interest to "other interest"; serving others. Does this sound scary?
Does this sound like you could begin a new "healed" life today? ... Me neither. Speaking for myself: Is the desire there? Absolutely! Is the potantial there? Yes! Is the current ability there? No!

I want to be healed. I want to work with the enthusiasm I used to. I want to serve my community the way I used to. I want to develop the fruit of the Holy Spirit in my life in the form of Love, Joy, Peace, Faith, and Hope. I want to be enthusiastic about life once again and be able to play with my children and grandchildren with energy and a sense of "wreckless abandon". I want to be healed.

Think about this question: What does healing look like for you? Do you want to be
healed? It can be pretty easy to really not want to be healed. In a state of mental illness we get cut a lot of slack. We are handled with "kid gloves". Many of us cannot work and are not expeted to. Many of us feel gratified by our disorders. These provide us, as adults, what several of us lacked in our childhoods: love, sympathy and caring treatment. However, let's in the present.

Do you want to be healed? Dump out your bag of tricks. Do they have the potential to bring about healing? Add some difficult things. Add prayer, exercise, meditation, journaling, and accountability to another person. Read spirtual/inspirational literature as well as books and internet articles about your particular disorders. In other words LEARN! I know you don't feel like it, because I don't. I fight with myself everyday to do these things. This blog is my online journal of sorts that helps me to no end and, as I've learned, ministers to others who are dealing with the same disorders I am.

So please contemplate these two questions with me:
1. What does healing look like for me?
2. Do I really want to be healed?

Typos and all, let's heal together ... God bless you!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (XXXII)

I have written about Prayer Walk as a way of drawing near to God and finding relief from the onslaughts of mixed depression-anxiety. Prayer Walk is an ancient practice for, as mentioned, drawing near to God and finding serenity. At least that is how I use it. There are several ways to go about Prayer Walk. I will say again I use a Christian approach because I am a Christian without reservation and without apology. If you practice another faith I am sure you can adapt this material to fit your faith base. This is not a power walk. This is a slower paced walk where you concentrate on your relationship with God.

1. The most ancient practice involves following one's breath. As I walk, I concentrate on my in breath and my out breath, being mindful of how the breath enters and exits my nostrils ... cool going in and warm upon exit. A variation would be on the inhalation to say to yourself: "Breathing in I receive the Holy Spirit, breathing out I release the Holy Spirit to the world." or "Breathing in I receive the love of God, breathing out I release Gods light into the world. This is a hybrid Christian-Buddist mantra.

2. Another one of my practices involves quoting scriptures from the Old and New Testament that you have committed to memory, as you walk.
a. "In everything give thanks for this is the will of God."
b. "Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God that surpasses all comprehension shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
c. "You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is centered upon you."
d. "Have faith in God."

3. Finally I'll mention another method I use. I take prayers or sayings I have found in Christian literature that minister to me. For example:
a. "Abba I belong to you, Jesus I belong to you. Spirit I belong to you." This is adapted from the work of "Brennan Manning. I repeat this entire statement three times before moving on.

b. Another is attributed to Dallas Willard. It is a prayer,
"Father, enter into the innermost part of me
and make the changes there
that will allow me to obey your son."

c. The Lord's prayer is also an excellent choice, also called the "Our Father".

d. Another prayer I use is by St. Ignatius Loyola (founder of the Jesuits):
It is called "Soul of Christ" and goes like this:
Jesus, let all that is you flow into me.
May your body and blood be my food and drink;
May your passion and death be my strength and life.
Jesus, with you by my side, enough has been given.
Let the shelter I seek be the shadow of your cross.
Let me not run from the love that you offer;
But hold me safe from the forces of evil.
On each of my failings shed your light and your love.
Keep calling to me until that day when with your saints,
I will praise you forever. Amen.

e. Finally I will share a prayer from Joseph Aldrich (deceased), former President of Multnomah School of the Bible"
I surrender my life into the hands of God,
Knowing he has predestined me for his best.
I will count the cost and by God's grace I will pay the price,
to become the best that I am capable of becoming.
I will hold to my course and by the power of the Holy Spirit
I will finish strong.

Thus is some of the content of my Prayer Walk. The context can be on a trail, on the grounds of a monastery (like the Grotto in Portland, Oregon), or around the block in your own neighborhood. Any place you walk can be sacred ground.

The Prayer Walk will not cure your depression-anxiety, but it will begin to open your heart, soul, mind, and spirit to healing.

Typos and all ... God bless you

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (XXXI)

Well this blog is one of the saddest of all for me. Tomorrow represents, in the minds of many, failure, irresponsibility, and even stupidity. Tomorrow we go to Bankruptcy Court.

As many who read this blog know, I lost my job during the fifth month of my current bout with mental illness; 4/21/2010. I was paid for a period of time as a generous severance from my employer. We saved as much as we could and also paid as many bills off as we could. At this point we are losing our home. We have purchased two older cars (1992 and 1996)with Cash. We will surrender our 2006 car to the Bank this week.

I have undergone a tremendous amount of shame as I've seen this coming from the time I lost my job. I was and am impaired to the point that I cannot work. I have applied for a mental health disability. It really isn't guilt (I made a mistake) it is shame (I am a mistake). I know this is not true. I know this seems like harsh words to assign to myself but I am just saying that this is the feeling I've been having about myself.

We are blessed. We will be able to live in our house until the foreclosure goes through and we have two cars for which we have no payments even though they nickle and dime us as older cars do. Everyone who has heard about the bankruptcy has been gracious and sympathetic. This has not eased the pain to any great degree. The sense of shame is too strong. After all, I'm a guy who pays his bills and gives to chairitable causes up until now. You may have some idea how difficult this is to write about. I know that a tremendous amount of bankruptcies take place each year. Maybe this difficulty has been a part of your life at some time.

Janet will get her first full paycheck at the end of next month (October). We have been living on the severance and have been able to stretch it to this point, but the well is almost dry. We will not be able to live on her salary even with the bankrupcy. That will neccesitate dipping into our small retirement account. The total of this is about half of what I made last year.

I know by now many of you have got out your violins and are playing "Ode to the Victim". That is not what I'm after. I am confident that there are so many who are worse off than I am. My past lack of knowledge and mishandling of finances are a part of this horrible end. I take responsibility for this. What I'm after is that my friends and even those who I've not met will pray for my family and me; that God will make a way where there is no way, which is supposed to be his speciality. I will pray for you as well.

I wish I had some upbeat narrative for you this evening but my mind is filled with sorrow as tomorrow approaches. As I mentioned I feel shame. Besides this my depression and anxiety are doing a "tag-team" match on me. If not for my support team I would be in a much worse place. I thank them for their prayers as well as their sympathetic and loving words.

I know I will live to "fight" another day. It is anticipating tomorrow that brings anxiety to bear upon me. It is thinking how I got to this place that fuels my depression. However, as Saint Paul wrote, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." That is my mantra at this time in my life. I used it as the foundation of my prayer walk this morning.

Thank you for reading this entry. If you feel you can pray for me I'd be most grateful.

Typos and all ... God bless you!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (XXX)

I was very busy again today. I won't bore you with what. Suffice it to say it was a grand tour of Southwest Clark County to accomplish all I needed to. I spent some time with my Mom who rode with me for most of these activities. The first one involved her.

My Mom is 83 years old. She is making funeral and burial pre-arrangements and asked me to take her to do so. This is a two or three part process involving the visit to the Funeral Chapel Office to get the particulars, taking the materials home to make decisions about each aspect of the process, and then re-visiting the Chapel's Office to put down some money and set up a payment schedule. Mom doesn't want her children to have to pay for her funeral.

This was a sad time to think about one's mother thinking about her own death. After 60+ years of raising and trying her best to launch (jettison) her children. Her life consisted of a fifty year marriage to my father; a man who died about three months after the celebration. It also included raising two children, a now 57 year old son and a 52 year old daughter. It was also fraut with the occasional grief of the lost child; her daughter Jackie who lived but four hours.

There is much more in my Mom's history. Its fun to ride downtown with her because she knows what all the streets used to be named and where businesses stood that have long since gone away. She worked at Jantzen Beach Ball Room, in Portland, and met some of the greats in big band and country music; even being invited to sing a number with them. Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Bob Wills and his Texas Cowboys,. and many others.

Mom has lived with us almost ever since my Father died... over 10 years now. She, of course, as a loving mother is very concerned about the last 9 months of turns, ups, and downs in my life. I've tried to explain my disorder to her in the most direct and non-clinical way possible. I decided not to lie to her. She asks me how I'm doing every day; how I feel. I am trying to tell her, "I feel very anxious at this point", or "My depression is really getting me down. Happy are times when she asks and I can tell her that I'm having a pretty fair day; my anxiety has let up a little, or some of my depression has lifted over the past couple of hours. Unfortunately, she asks mostly in the early morning when I awaken with the symptoms. Nevertheless I've resolved to be honest.

I do this with most everyone I know now. Lying to spare anothers' feelings, or how they feel about us, develops a pattern of deception in one's life that can easily lead to self-deception which none of us suffering from mixed anxiety-depression can afford. My advice is to get a mental handle on what's going on with you, learn to explain it in simple and concise terms; a script if you will. Once you've done this, use that explaination when someone asks you about how you are doing. No need to get dramatic ... and truly no need to say "everything is great!". Balance this with what my old Pappy used to say, "Dont ask someone how they are or how they're doing unless you want to hear an answer." In this case we are on the back end of the equasion. WE are the ones who will be honest about how our disorder is affecting us; if someone asks us, at least among those we know.

My point is about honesty, integrity, and self-affirmation. There is not some something fundamentally wrong with us, but I know I could not count on all my fingers and toes how many people will smile as they listen and then walk away thinking, "this guy is really out there." Thankfully, most will feel compassion and hopefully provide a word of encouragement and/or send a prayer up for us.

So don't be afraid to share when you're not doing well. I'm not trying to turn us all into drama queens here. I'm not trying to instruct others how to play the victim role. I am just asking those of you who are on the same path as I am to be yourselves as much as possible and as appropriate. If you work with the public I urge you to not launch into an explaination of your mental illness to a customer. It will usually backfire. These rules of thumb may suffice:

1. Tell those you know well and can trust with the information how you are really doing when they ask.

2. Tell those you dont know well very little or no information. Someone asked me how do I do that?!? "Fog them." When they ask you how you are or how you're doing say, "Hey, how are you doing?" Avoiding the question, sure enough, but most people don't really want to know. Howya doin' is more of a greeting than a question with many people. You can also tell them that, "My life has its ups and downs like everyone elses."

3. Don't tell anyone you don't trust with any information. They may see fit to turn and hurt you with it. You may want to "Fog them" with one of the answers above.

We need to learn to walk softly and carry a big bag of tricks. Don't purposely call attention to yourself or your disorder. None of us are experts; even on the particulars of our own disorders. Let us be wise about sharing our information with everyone. No one deserves to hear your story unless they have proven to you they can be trusted with it.

I'm glad I have such a person in my Mom and others of my close support team. All others get the abridged version. I hope you have a strong support system also. Mine is the best!

Typos and all ... God bless you and Be careful out there!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (XXVIIII)

It was nice to have my daughter and her family with us for the weekend. It is one of those gifts that a Father anticipates and tremendously enjoys. I sure seem young to have a daughter that old; of course when one fathers his first child at 21, I suppose that is the natural result.

My moods today were up and down as most days. I woke up pretty highly anxious as I do almost every morning. This lasted through breakfast, preparations to leave, and the arrival and one(+) hours attendance at church. After church we went to visit Janet's mom. It was there I crashed, I mean I slept almost the entire time. I was groggy upon my awakening and had a hard time getting up out of the chair to get out to the car. When we got home 20 minutes later I watched that last half of the Seahawks victory. When the game ended I went back to sleep for another hour or so before I needed to get ready for Janet's and my finance class we attend Sunday nights at 6:00. I was still wiped out, although I think attentive and enjoyed the experience. We drove home and I took care of a few paperwork things that needed to be done, helped my wife make the bed, and tucked her in. She has another long day tomorrow.

I now sit in front of my computer listening to my son's IPOD Touch... across the room. He needs to turn that thing down! Also on TV is another news program where some grey haired pundit (I guess I'd be a no-haired pundit)is still blaming President GW Bush after almost two years for all things evil. Geez, those guys really hold a Grudge! It's no wonder when Jay Leno described his version of the Democratic platform it was A-B-C, "B" was "Blame Bush". Wow, I wish I understood politics, well maybe I don't. Political process is kind of like hotdogs. We really like them until we see how they're made. My old Pappy used to say. "What you see depends on where ya stand." From where I stand looking at both parties I see a bunch of buffoons! Well thats the national news. Now back to our program...

Whether one has mixed depression-anxiety or bi-polar diaorder, a lot of your days, or even every fews hours, are up and down. My downs today came at several different moments. I'm not sure I can define what touched them off. On a couple of occasions
they brought me to tears. You must wonder what its like to live with me... anxiety, a few anxous tremors, depression, and tears ... what a blast, huh? Well its hard enough for me to live with myself. I can't imagine what its like for my family. I love them and pray for them upon my every thought of them throughout the day.

If you are a fellow sufferer with mental illness, pray for those who love and support you on a daily basis. Pray that you can somehow serve and encourage THEM. Give back to them what they bring to you in the way of love and encouragement.

What are the things you want in your life in light of your illness? My prayer and hope for myself is that I'll be filled with Love, joy, peace, faith, and hope.

1. Love can help us overcome negativity toward ourselves and others. Loving ourselves and loving others is key to recovery.

2. Joy can assist us to oversome our sadness and depression. Joy is an impotant by- product of love and unlike happiness, is enduring and not dependent on life situations.

3. Peace can help us overcome our worry and anxiety. Peace of mind is what we all seek. By now we all know it comes from within. Everything offered from the outside is transitory, temporary, and often contrived.

4. Faith can assist us to overcome our fear. Faith is interesting because it is a gift from God that flows from faith in God ... having belief in the unknown and the unknowable. Jesus said, "Have faith in God." Doing THAT can take away a truck load of fear.

5. Hope can help us overcome feelings of dispair that are part and parcel of the mental health disorders that continue to plague us. Hope allows us to think outside the box of these disorders. Hope allows us to think that someday in some way, we shall be healed. An expression of hope is when a person dares to think that healing is possible for "ME".

Typos and all ... God bless you.

Have you gone Mental? (XXVIII)

Hello everyone. Well the day started out pretty well. I spent time with my wife, my daughter and her family However, I was anticipating my appointment with my new psychiatric nurse practioner with a degree of trepidation. In a conversation we had a few weeks ago when we met to see if we could work together he asked me a question: "Has anyone of the professionals you've seen ever asked you if you'd been diagnosed with "Bi-Polar Disorder?" Bi-Polar Disorder! No! Absolutely not! My Psychologist, Psychiarist, and counselors in my Partial Hospital Program had spoken with me about my levels of depression, anxiety and suicidality, but no, not Bi-Polar Disorder.

For today's appointment he asked me to bring my wife to our appointment. We talked about this disorder of which I feel very afraid. Many of you who have this disorder have found the right medications and learned how to live with this problem. Some of you have not. During the conversation, I could not bring myself to imagine it and could barely hold the tears back.

The professional, in a very gentle way and the simplest possible terms told us that my psychiatrist had put me on medication that is usually given to those who have Bi-Polar Disorder. I had been afraid of this and was hoping against hope that I "only" had mixed depresson-anxiety and that was all that there was to be said. I learned today that may not be true.

I was in some state of shock and sadness from that appointment to the present time
(12:38 A.M.). I don't want to sound dramatic here. But I am afraid. "We" are going to increase some of the meds and decrease others to try to determine if a Bi-Polar regimen of types and doses of particular medications will bring us closer to the truth. I am committed to discovering my true diagnosis. I need to know the "enemy" (as I view it now) that I'm up against.

I need to say that I hate drama and anything that tries to stir the hearts and minds of people to try to get them to think things are worse than they really are (not that depression-anxiety is not enough!). I only ask for the prayers and positive thoughts of my family and friends as I go through this process of discovery that I began today.

Whether or not I have this disorder, I hold out hope for healing and for God to show me the path I need to be walking now to best nurture and serve him, others, and myself. I have seen the difficulties Bi-Polar disorder brings to the lives of those who suffer with this problem. Some suffer worse than others.

I will now begin to learn more so can help determine for myself if I think I fit within this mental illness. My heart and prayers go out to those of you who suffer thus and if one day I am truly counted among you, perhaps we can provide encouraging words and hold one another up with our prayers.

That's all I have to say about that for now.

Typos and all ... God Bless You.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Have you gond Mental? (XXVII)

Its been a pretty good day today; better than I've had the last few. I busied myself with some errands for my Mother and for Janet with a stop at the Post Office as part of the bargain.

I find that keeping busy is like my medication. It temporarily provides relief and masks some of the symptoms of my mixed depression-anxiety. This can be good because on a day like today, the things I did gave me some satisfaction, helped others, AND as a by product, tired me out... waaaay out.

A highlight of the day was my oldest daughter, Erin, coming over with her family from Seaside to spend a couple of days with us. Today she and Chris brought my little Grandson Cannon. Tomorrow they will go to Gresham and pick up Flannery who is staying with friends. It will be great to see her too.

It is almost always good time when they come over. It lightens my heart and always brings out some laughter. My son also had his girlfriend over today, which compltely filled up the house (in my estimation), but was great for everyone. I had some growing anxiety when the house kept getting more and more full. I did some deep breathing and found myself needing my anti-anxiety medication. Its ok. I had a good attitude about our guests being here and it was something I had looked forward to. I found for myself that there's usually a "down side" to those things we anticipate, but the positive anticipation tends to give me a lift.

After they had been here an hour or so I gave in to exhaustion I fell asleep for about two hours. I was exhausted from the activities of the day; which was only about four hours all tolled. As many of you have noticed, depression takes away our energy whether the symptoms are masked by medication, activity or distraction.

On a scale of 1-10, my day was probably a "6", which is a good day for me. It seemed that neither my depression nor my anxiety "got the best of me". There were a few moments when anxiety loomed, but was not debilitating. Depression mainly expressed itself as exhaustion. A few recollections of the past brought me down a couple of times; but that is normal for most of us.

I am seeing a new provider of psychiatric services who is working with me to adjust my medication based on a new or additional diagnosis. We'll see how that goes. All I know is that my anti-depressant medication hasn't worked well for a few years and all I've done (under Dr's orders) is increase the dose. Paul Simon's immortal words came to mind, "Make a new plan Stan." As you might imagine I am tired of taking five medications for my condition and hope we can find a way to cut back. It could be that "less is more". However, medication is necessary at this time in my life while I use my "bag of tricks" and continue to pray for healing.

Well, you've probably had enough pop culture sayings by now. Not to mention my circuitous narrative. I am, by faith, antipating a good weekend with minimal ups and downs. I hope you are too.

With typos and all ... God bless you!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (XXVI)

How do you approach your spiritual life? What does spiritual mean to you. What I mean by spiritual is "what it is that animates you? What is it "that gives you life and vitality."

I enjoy the commercial in which actors describe themselves. One said, "Im a Christian, another "I am a Jew", yet another, "I am spiritual." Spirituality does not refer to one's ideology as much as it refers to one's practice of that ideology.

I've staated my opinion that depression-anxiety is a bio-psycho-social-spiritual disorder. Spirituality is a term that has many defiitions. I do not wish to add another. I believe that spirituality is practice of a spiritual life. Keep in mind that this practice is likely little ir non-existant among those who suffer the most in those who suffer depression-anxiety. Some would say that mental health disorders arise from the lack of spiritual practice. I'm not sure I agree its that simple.

In my case I have been a practicing Christian since I was 16 years old and have suffered from two major depressive-anxious episodes in my life. The last was 20 years ago. The effects have continued, kind of below the surface, to the beginning of this long term (9 months in duration, so far). As I look at my life I can look back on practices that were hypocritical, selfish,and that ultimately hurt others in my life. I was a Pastor of a growing congregation at the time. My practice after being dismissed from my congregation, was so negative that one man accused me of not being a Chistian at all.

What comprises a spiritual practice that will help keep us on track? I believe they are as follows:

1. Reading and study of spritual literature to fill ones mind with spiritual truth. One needs to commit to their particular ideology (Christan, Muslim, Jew, or Buddist for ecample) because one's practice is partially dependent on which ideology he or she feels is truth. To float nebulously without identificatoin may cause disaster. Commit to one and practice those prnciples. God will show you if that practice is profitable (nurtuing)to you.

2. Attendance and involvement in spiritual groups such as a church, synogogue, or mosque would be examples. Other would be small discussion groups where the focus is sharing experience of the spiritual life. This could be. the "God" moments where you are certain of divine intervention in your life; as well as your struggles and victories in living by your convictons. Don't jump around. Commit to one and practice for six months to a year. Yes commit...

3. A third would be accountability. To be affective, any spiritual practice requires acountability. The formal and informal involvements are important AND finding a person with whom you can meet weekly or every other week and discuss the particulariies of your spiritual life. This can be as formal as contracting with a Spiritual Director or as informal as meeting with a friend who does not fear calling you on the carpet about your spiritual practices when they drift toward the negative.

4. Journaling and writing affirmations are "private practice". These things could be painful, but would be very profitable if mental health disorders represent a lack of spiritual practice and commitment. It follows that we add this to our lives. At any rate it is worth your time. Additionally these writings could provide discussion material with your Spiritual Director (or chosen accountablity person).

5. Prayer is important in order to connect with God or the univerae or whatever you
view as your "higher power". All individuals with whpm I speak, pray. How they pray and who/what they pray to seems inconsequencial to them. The fact that prayer is a vital part of spiritual growth is an almost univeral belief.

These are five aspects of spiritual practice that have been profitable for me. Each ideeology provides other practices. I am a Chritian and have tried not to push that ideology in this blog. I hope I've accomplished that; even though I think it is the best of the options.

Look into spiritualy if you have not already. Depresson-anxiety is, in part a spiritual disease.

Typos and all, God bless you.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (XXV)

When you have mixed depression and anxiety there is a feeling you probably will encounter... feeling like a loser. I just went through a day and 1/2 like this. It began yesterday when I got together with a long time (15 years) friend. He is an extremely successful individual, retired about 12 years "early" and is significantly involved in community service and philanthropy.

I felt no judgment from my friend as I described myself as having "gone mental", suffer from depression-anxiety, and have been debilitated by it. Only compassion was found in his affect when I said I had not yet determined when I could return to work. His words were gentle and sympathetic as we continued to discuss how much I miss my job, felt I could in no way (at this time) withstand the stress that went with it, and believe that I did not want to return to any kind of couneling or social service occupation when I (hopefully) am able to go to work.

In my depression-anxiety I looked to my past (almost always a mistake) and remembered having been "somebody". I managed an employee assistance program, a spiritual care service, and a chemical dependency program at a hospital. I was one of the "ultimate volunteers" in our community serving as a member on five social service type boards; some of which I had also served as president. I had a private practice in counseling from 1986 through 2009, and have almost always been an active participant in a faith community. I was very busy and, at the time felt, very fulfilled... I think.

Now I virtually do nothing. I am nearly idle. Almost all the things I once did, I do no longer. My Rotary Club and my Faith Community are all I can be involved right now. My involvement isn't really involvement, it is attendance. I am re-learning socialization and involving myself in a very, very small amount of service at this time. As I looked back... all I saw was a loser.

Let me say, in my more sane moments, I do not feel like a loser. I have a serious diorder that does not allow me to be so busy, to be among many people, and to be involved. I miss the people with whom I voluntered and those with whom I worked side-by- side in my job. I am certain none of these 100 +/- people feel I am a loser. I think it goes to show how much I identified myself as a "human doing rather than a human being". Some pop-psych author (who I can't remember) coined that catchy phrase.

I am not a loser and neither are you. I am starting over. There is a new plan for me that lies ahead. From my spiritual background, I feel God has another calling for the next (last?) 43 +/- years of my life. I truly think that I am not always going to be this way. One day as I follow my process, I will be set free from this painful disorder and be walking in a productive, new way. I pray almost daily for God to show me the way. I ask him to call me to a new life of gainful employment balanced with service. That's what I am trying to believe that will happen.

God, my friends, my family, and my professional care-takers all tell me that I will heal. (No, I am not hearing God speak to me.) I will be able to work again one day and I will work smart so I don't run myself down and open myself to major stress. This stress is able to play a part (along with a bunch of other things) and open me to another serious bout with mental health disorders.

I am hopeful and I hope you are too. There is much to look forward to. Although it is normal to have dark thoughts of death, I am trying to remember that I want to hang around and see what happens. As trite as that sounds I truly believe God is going to reveal what I should do next. I want to be available and ALIVE to experience it and see his plan unfold in my life. This may run counter to your spirituality, it is my belief and approach. I hope your spirituality opens you to hope and possibilities in your life. I have found my personal faith in a personal God does this for me.

Once again, I am not a loser and neither are you. Just becasue I can spend an entire day and 1/2 in the depths of depression in no way indicates I am a loser. I forgot that this huge hole exists on my path. Sometimes I remember to walk around, sometimes I fall in.

Typos and all ... God bless you!

Have you gone Mental? (XXIV)

Have you ever learned something you already knew? Yesterday I awakened with my usual anxiety and then depression joined the party. After the kids left for school and my wife left for her morning class. I decided to run some errands just to get out of the house and see something else besides the "four walls".

I went first to Wal Mart to pick up a couple of things. If that place can't cheer you up you must not have a pulse (Ha! just kidding). Then I drove to the Post Office down on Daniels to see what grand news awaited in our mail. Nothing real depressing there. I gave it a "7" on a scale of 1-10. "1" is a stack of bills we can't possibly pay, "10" is nothing in the box but a card from my daughter (which makes it a "20" actually) or, of course, nothing at all. No bills, no threatening letters from any company to which we owe money.

I then decided with nothing else to do and a diminishing fuel supply I'd go back home. When I got home Missy was waiting at the door. Missy is a Heinz 57 dog with some graying around the mouth and "head" ... kind of like looking in a mirror for me! I sat down in my chair, turned on the TV and who was there but Walker, Texas Ranger. I am a Chuck Norris junkie but even Chuck couldn't do for me what I so desperately needed was then that Missy came up and put her head on my lap and I began to pet her. I was so wonderful to learn what I already knew. Animals have a sense of things. They seem to know when someone is upset. Missy isn't our dog. We are "dog sitting" her for about a week for my Mother in Law, while she is away on a trip.

As I began to pet her and her tail wagged; I began to calm. My anxiety decreased slightly. My depression went into hiding. It was an experience I'd never had. (She just visited me for a pat on the head as I'm writing.) I'd formed a bond with a dog who seemed to really care. This may sound idiotic to some of you. However I knew from experience with my friend George, who had a service dog for many years that this was entirely possible. For instance George and his dog, Murray, had a special relationship. it was as if Murray knew the English language. He also had a sense of George's health. George is diabetic. When his blood varied from its healthy range, Murray would put his paw on Gorges knee. George would check his blood sugar and would find his blood glucose level was either too high or too low. Amazing!

This dog, not even mine, seemed to have the same sixth sense (if dogs have six senses). The comfort in time of need overwhelmed me. I was on the edge of tears as this animal ministered to me. She will return home today and I will miss her. Our relationship has grown over the 8 days she has been with us and I don't want her to go home. I think I will need to have visitation privileges.

I had heard how animals could calm the "savage" emotions of a human, but had never experienced it. If you are feeling anxious or depressive, and have a dog, take time to learn something you already know. I did and it was tremendous. I'll never forget what she did for me.

Typos and all, God bless you (and your dog)..

Monday, September 20, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (XXIII)

Dr. Thomas Marra, Ph.D, states the following in his excellent book "Depressed and Anxious", "As if coping with feelings of depression or anxiety by themselves weren't enough, clinical research suggests that as many as 60% of depresson sufferers concurrantly experience some kind of anxiety disorder. If you are in this group, it is quite common to simulaneously experieince profound loss of energy and initiative going on with substancial stress and anxiety. Caught between the push and pull of these two conditions, you might find that neither is easy to recognize, much less to cope with."

I have stated that I believe mixed depression-anxety is a bio-psycho-social-spititual disorder. Considering the statement above, it follows that the social element can exascerbate (make worse) or ameliorate (improve) your depression-anxiety.

The social aspect of this disorder is profoundly affected by dysfunctional relationships. These commence as children with fallable parents (of which I am one) and continues in and through adolescence when relationships are at their most difficult, on to adulthood when we begin forming dysfunctional families of our own!

I am not one who blames my parents for what I've become, or feel that is productive. It may be "better" having someone to blame, but my heart just isn't in it. By the time I came to adulthood I had aquired a sufficient amount of education and experience to make my own choices about what kind of person I would turn out to be. I accomplished this through genetic predisposition, social learning, experience, and experimentation within my many relationships throughout my life.

NOTE: I do not devalue nor am I not mindful of those who have survived sexual and psychological abuse and neglect. But that isn't my experience and isn't my focus here. I salute those who are among these brave, wounded souls and have counseled many over the years. I have been enriched almost to a person through this counseling relationship.

No matter what one's experience, it is my opinion that we ALL need to eventually take responsibility for our own lives. Our social experience is one of the things that set the tone in our lives but we are responsible to change the "tune" as necessary. The above describes in a nutshell, a brief glimpse of the social aspect of our mixed depession-anxiety disorder and how it affects us. How we affect it is described below in my experience.

How can we work within the social framework to move toward healing of our disorder?
I think social habits are a big part of improvement in our disorder.

We need to learn to be vulnerable to a couple of people with whom we can discuss what we're going through. This is our primary support system. It may be comprised of one, two or five people. These people are good listeners and do not try to fix us. They listen and positvely encourage us in a functional direction. They are interested in frequent and regular contact by phone or in person. I have five on my support team. I talk to two every day, one about every other day, One of these I talk to one or two times a week, and one each month or so. This is a good balance for me. These five love and care for me. There is no underestimating the power of a solid support team.

We also need to involve ourselves in a faith-based and/or some other community group. This social involvement helps us to "get social". Many of us with mixed depression-anxiety isolate ourselves (like me). We stay away from groups and gatherings. My faith community and my involvement in a Rotary Club have helped bring progress in my gradually developing sociability.

We also need to move toward some kind of service, in tandem with others, to share ourselves and give something back to our communities and those within our personal sphere of influence. I am fortunate because my Rotary Club and Faith Community are primary vehicles for this.

My first step toward improving my social skills as a person with this disorder after 2-3 months away was to begin attending my faith community and leaving the meeting when my anxiety overwhelmed me.

I then, a month or so ago, returned to my Rotary Club. After 3-4 months away I was able to attend at least part of a meeting once or twice each month. Now I endeavor to attend each meeting every Thursday. Between these two social groups I am getting a little more comfortable in safe groups of people whom I know. I can leave if I need to but I usually force myself to "stick it out". Kind of like "desentization" training.

I mentioned Financial Peace University in my last blog. My wife and I began attending two weeks ago (of the 13 week program). This is giving me the experience of meeting with a small group of people whom I don't know and even participate (however little it may be) in a group discussion.

I do not know when my anxiety in groups, crowds, and other situatons will improve to a significant degree. I just know I an trying in small ways to become comfortable and improve this social aspect of my disorder, because I think it is so important.

Depression and anxiety, for many of us, has an "anti-social" or socially resistant affect. I have found value in concentrating on this vital area to gain support and begin to give support to others.

Someone said, "A friend is one who walks in when everyone else walks out." We all need people in our lives of whom this saying is true. In this light, I am grateful to my five regular supporters, those who I call or meet with periodically from whom I experience mutual support, my supportive faith community, and my Rotary Club who all affirm me, have patience with me, pray for me and send positive thoughts my way.

Fellow travelors, this social effort is very helpful. I commend this to anyone suffering with depression and/or anxiety. I am not sure we can heal without it.

Typos and all, God bless you.

Have you gone Mental? (XXII)

One of the difficulties I've had throughout my life is how I handle my finances. This, I've found, is a universal problem. I lost my job in March and am not able to work now due to my mental and emotional problems. My wife is a para-educator. It so happens she works 9 months and gets paid nine months. This leaves us now (virtually) with no paycheck in July, August and September. We were blessed with a severance package when I lost my job and by now, even with careful and frugal handling, the well is almost dry. My wife will get a partial check the last day of September and then begin receiving full checks in October. This "forced frugality" has taught us how much money we have been wasting and what we can to get along without what we once thought were necessities. Because we have "found ourselves" in this situation we decided that now would be a good time to get some help.

We attended DA (Debtors Anonymous). I didn't like it and felt that we needed a more focused approach including education. We decided on Dave Ramsey's "Financial Peace University". After attending two sessions of our 13 week program we believe this is the program that is right for us for an investment of about $100.00. We are learning there is a process to getting out of the mess that we created without feeling overwhelmed (like we feel at the outset of the program.) It took us a while to get into this mess and it will take a while to get out.

There is no quick fix for this situation we have "created ourselves". We have decided to take this journey. Most of us know how much stress financial problems put us under both as individuals and couples. In fact problems with finances is, arguably, the top cause of marital problems that end up in divorce. This does not help depresion-anxiety. In fact it "supports" each disorder. For those whose depression-anxiety is situational it is a "killer". a serious problem. For those whose problems with depression-anxiety is an ongoing long term disorder, like myself, it adds one more devasting problem to our lives.

What is the way out of this mess? We are putting our eggs in the basket of Dave Ransey's material as we begin. His book "Financial Peace Revisited" is a great resource and provides a simple, well wrtten, account of the state we are in and practical steps to get out.

Dave's web site is Here we find practial help. Combine this with with Dave's "Finacial Peace University" and hope begins to form. It is easy to find the "Unversity" which is offered throughout the Portland-Vancouver area and other places through the US.

Let me encourage you to address this stressor in your life. Although this repesents a departure from my usual blog, I believe it is important enough to address as a part of our recovery from mixed depression-anxiety. Find a class near you, go to the first session and get a taste of the wisdom and see if this program is for you. I think you can find classes and locations at I heartily recommend it.

No program is perfect. Debtors Anonymous is free and many have found help there. This program requires us to make an investment of $100.00 which you may need to save up for. At any rate if finances is a problem for you as an individual or a couple, GET HELP. Commit yourself to a program, stick with it, until you find help.
Once again, this is my opinion and I stated that I think many of you find yourselves in trouble finanially. We are doing something about it and I hope you will too.

Typos and all, God bless you... to our health!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Have you gone Mental (XXI)

I said that mental health disorders expressed themselves and had their origin in a bio-psycho-social-spiritual framework. If one is to improve their functioning they need to address each aspect of this four-fold framework. Let me say I am not a psychologist (which you must have noticed by now). I am just a fellow travelor on this troubled path. What I write is based on my experience.

When I began thinking about the "psycho" aspect of my disease I must confess that I thought it was a fitting representation of what I was dealing with. I have at times referred to myself in this manner, which is not helpful by the way. When I think of working toward healing of depresson-anxiety, as a psychological entity I think of five behaviors I have introduced into my life that have helped me. These are Talk Therapy, Positive Self Talk, Reading, Medication and Routine. I will adress each briefly from my experience.

Talk Therapy means counseling. You will hear people refer to their talk therapist as a "therapist" or a "counselor" If we are to improve significantly, counseling will likely need to be part of that. Look for these letters behind the name of a therpist: PhD and PsyD. These are the degrees most psychologists earn in order to practice as a psychogist. You may also find other doctoral therapists, such as D.ED and D. Min. The next catagory of degrees are at the masters level. The letters you will primarily see behind these are: M.A. and M.Ed. One should look for someone who has either a Masters or a Doctoral level degree. Interview a prospective counselor and ask someone else (friend or medical doctor) for a referral and or their opinion of a particular therapist-counselor. There are a lot of quacks out who I wouldn't take my dog to for counseling.You need to be comfortable and "click" with your thereapist. Ask also about their certification(s).

Self Talk. Practice saying positive things to your self. For instane, "I'm am getting healthier" or somthing like "I am improving day by day". "This too shall pass." "Everything is going to be OK." You can see that these are affirmations
and in many cases statements of faith. It is important that you make up your own self talk "mantras" for your self and that they are positive.

Reading. There are many books on depression and anxiety. Go to a large book store and thumb through the books on these disorders in the Psychology section. You are looking for books that offer solutions to your particular disorder.

Medication. I guess I should have covered this in the "bio" section but it didn't occur to me at the time. Depression-Anxiety is affected by the functiton of our brain. You may get an evaluation from a Psychiatrist or a Psychiactric Nurse Practitioner who focuses on the psychology of the disorder.. They can then prescribe medication to help you. If you are resistant to taking medicaton please at least get an evaluation of your condition and what they may suggest. Many, if not most of these professionals are not good therapists in my experience.

Routine. Find a routine that works for you. Take your medication at roughly the same time(s) each day, set aside time for a private review of your affirmations each day at roughly the same time. If you like to write, set aside a journaling time each day or week. Try to set up your counseling appointments for the same time each week. You get the idea. This will help get you into healthy basic habits that will enhance your healing.

I hope this has been of help. I understand it is very basic but we need to start from the beginning in order to notice our progress in my opinion. These have served me well at diffrent times anbd I try to practice them consistently. They have provided some temporay provide relief for my mixed depression-anxiety. As with most things this is not a "magic" pill or miracle practice. Their effectiveness depends on your consistency, commitment an faith in these basic healing activities.

Hang in there. Do not give up. Work hard at these disciplines and/or others you have found helpful. You will learn many other techniques to add to your "bag of tricks" through the reading you may do.

With typos and all, God bless you and may you begin to see progress and healing in and through your practice and hard work.

To Our health!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Have you gone Mental (XX)

This morning was odd. I awakened with tremendous anxiety. I always wake up with a degree of anxiety, but this rivaled any anxiety I have had since last December. I began pulling intrventions from my bag of tricks (deep breathing, cleaning up a bit to distract myself, and going over some attribution in my head)...not a dent.

I decided to go for a 1/2 hour prayer walk. I just began having a conversation with Jesus; just like he was walking beside me. I then turned to stating positive afirmations that came to mind. Following that I began chanting my mantra (if you will) "Love, joy, peace faith, hope). To bring the walk to a close I began quoting the Christian Scriptures I could recall.

I turned into my drive way having had a nice walk with Jesus and filling my mind with positive statements. I had some residual anxiety, but this level is what I"m used to...underlying anxiety that haunts me like the ghost it is. I count myself blessed as I occasioally keep it at bay, well atleast partially.

My point is that we all need a "bag of tricks". We all need to be able to open the "bag" and pull out the "tricks" that are designed to help us in our time of particular need. In other words, there is little use in using a method that does not specifically address the difficulty we are going through. The interventon must be aimed sriaght and true to the overwhelming feeling we are having.

I got home and did some laundry. There is a book written from a Buddist perspective, I think, entitled "After the Ecstasy the Laundry". What I was experiencing was "After the Anxiety the Laundry... and the depression. I sat in a comfortable chair and ate breakfast as the depression set in. As I write this morning in this depressed state it is like journaling for me. I again take stock of words of Jesus "Have faith in God."

I took to caring for my wife (when she awakened) who has a serious back problem and has had for the past several days. It has been recurrent over several months. We have no insurance so she is taking ibuprophen and taking (sparingly) some Muscle relaxants the doctor prescribed in July when we were blessed by having insurance.

As I shared my "journey" of the past two hours she was glad I used my bag of tricks to its greatest advantage. I am still working on Jesus' words "Have faith in God" as I mentioned earlier. If things continue as usual, the depression will reduce as anxiety lies in wait. This just how it works for me and I accept the way it is, although I don't like it one little bit.

I apologize for a quite negative entry, but the fact is, for you and me, the good and the bad of mixed anxiety and depression is a reality with which many of us deal daily.

God bless you... typos and all.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Have you gone Mental (XVIV)

If you've been following this blog you have read that mental health disorders are defined as bio-psycho-social-spiritual in character. If this is true, I believe healing of a mental health disorder must recognize and address this combination of human functioning.

If a mental health disorder, like depression-anxiety, is in part a biological condition it would follow that we need to address this area to "achieve" improvement in our condition. How do we do this? Most of us know.

Exercise is extremely important. If we want healing, and if we are physically able, we need to "move it". We can walk, run, ride a bike, hike, swim, weightlift or perform a number of other movement activities. Some say we need to do an activity that would facilitate the raising of the heart rate to a certain level. I do not believe this. The point is achievement of the activity and progression in the particular physical discipline. To say "I walked for 15 minutes" on the first week of the month and by the fourth week to say "I walked 1/2 hour. Movement and progessive achievement is the point. As the TV commercial used to declare, "Move it and you'll feel better".

Healthy eating is also important. People who have depression-anxiety tend to experience changes in thier eating patterns. Some of us can't get enough to eat and others tend to significantly reduce our food intake. The main thing is to moderate how much we eat and what we eat. What I've always told clients is to increase protein and reduce carbohydrates. In my experience, the individuals with whom I worked had a high level of "carb" intake that accompanied thier depression-anxiety.

In my experience most people who came to me for counseling were overeaters, or identified themselves s such. Moderation is one key. The other is self-acceptance. Those who abhor their physical appearance need to accept where they are at the moment and at the same time desire an improvement.

This acceptance is key because to abhor our appearance affects mood. Common sense indicaes that over eateres reduce their portions. Look for small reasonable improvements. As stated, over eaters need to reduce their portions. Most who cut portions in half, eat whatever they want but eat smaller portions. For instance, If you usually eat four pieces of pizza (my favorite fun food) eat two and eat it slowly so you enjoy every bite. Most of us know how much we eat at each meal. Cut back by 1/2 if this is not harmful for you and you will feel better. As most writers say. "Consult your physician before beginning a "diet" program. This will produce results. Cut down and you'll feel better and above all accept yourself where you are and you will likely make progress in weight loss and in self image.

If you are an under eater, increase your portions by adding extra protein. I am not speaking of those with eating disorders here. You may accompllish this by consuming a protein drink (make sure the carbohydrate in the drink does not comprise the majority of the nutritional make up. Many so called protein drinks are very high in carbs. Beware of this.

Exercise and eating habits are two things over which we have "control"; although some would dispute this "control" ideas. To improve in these areas will assist us in facing our depression-anxiety. I know that exercise may be difficult for those with physical disabilities. I would suggest getting a book on isometric exercise for instance.

Realize that for every opinion there is a counter opinion. Do what works for you. The point is improvement that will likely increase your self-esteem and allow you to further accept your self where you are. Improvement (or beginning) good eating and exercise habits will make a difference in your life, and like in your disorder. When I was in treatment we were encouraged to take a walk between group sessions. Taking a ten minute stroll around the block cleared my head and the fresh air was wonderful.

As you know I have scarcely scratched the surface in these vital areas. Look further into what others have said about physical improvement. Make choices that make sense for you. Your physician may have other ideas. Judith Beck has a excellent book about dieting. It may be worth your while. There is a lot of wisdom in the program of Weight Watchers.

Move it and you'll feel better. Develop positive eting habits and you'll feel better. These are ways to address the biological aspect of depression-anxiety.

From one who struggles with these issues as many of you do... and may not know how to use Roman Numerals (see above). . . So with typos, mispelling and all,

God bless you.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Have you gone Mental (XVIII)

In my last blog I offered two ways to face one's difficulties with depression-anxiety. One was to fight the good fight for ultimate healing. The other was a sort of resignation to the disorder, telling oneself that "I may have this in my life for the rest of my life and I'd best get used to it. The latter is a pretty negative view.

It was brought to my attention that there is a middle ground; a more positive approach. It is called "acceptance". This means that I have to come to the point of accepting that I have this difficult thing in my life. This is how it is and this is how it needs to be for now.

The "truth" that undergirds this concept is that everything happens for a reason. In my case, as a Christian it would mean that God in his wisdom has allowed this to "happen" to me. My lack of self-care and lack of seeking help is in the picture also. It is not that God has decreed that I suffer, but for some reason it has been allowed.

I believe there is a purpose for everything in life; whether it be positive or nagative. In my case I am learning a lot about myself. I am gaining more and more empathy for those with whom I worked as a counselor over the last 20 years. I am now able to accept the ministry of others in my life. Do I like my depression-anxiety? No. Do I want to accept it? No. Will acceptance of my condition bring me more peace...very possibly. As I have contemplated "acceptance" today. I am becoming more and more convinced of its viability. I thought about the place acceptance has in the grieving process. Denial, Anger, Depression, Bargaining, Fear, and finally ACCEPTANCE. This is what makes it so dificult. It involves looking at a disorder as a process of loss: loss of self, loss in terms of self control, and loss of the pride in the humbling of one who thought he could handle life by himself. This is a grief process. It represents, in a sense, the death of me as I knew me. It is painful.

I am going to continue to contemplate acceptance. I am going to try to believe this time in my life has come for a reason and that there can be a good result for my life and the lives of others. In other words when I come to acceptance I will continue to see my life and my depression-anxiety as purposeful. This may be a tremendous departure from how I usually view my difficulties, but it is worth considering. If I can find acceptance yet do not find healing, it is my hope that acceptance would still be part of my attitude.

It is not a sure thing at this time that I can achieve acceptance. Whether I can or not I will continue the bio-psycho-social-spiritual disciplines that I think will help in my improvement of functioning. Perhaps this combination would be wise. Think about it.

God bless you all ... especially you fellow travelers on this difficult path.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hae you gone mental (XVII)

This has been kind of a crazy day. There were a few errands I needed to take care of. A couple of them truly overwhelmed me; errands that I could have taken in stride last November. It is kind of strange to think that I was somewhat normal a year ago. I was totally involved with work. In fact I smothered myself in work. I have figured out through therapy that I was pretty screwed up back then, but used work to cover the feelings I was having.

As you have read these blogs (if you have) you know I absolutely crashed about the middle of January. Since then my life has taken on a whole new focus. Instead of serving others and trying to take care of them through counseling and pastoral care, I was now the one who needed to be taken care of. I would cry out to my wife, "I know I'm not getting any better, when will I notice some progress!"

This evening I look back and see that I have had a hard day. Nevertheless I kept on moving on my errands. I was able to do them, but I was tremendously exhausted when I was finished. This evening I have a pain in my stomach which I recognize as a symptom of an ulcer.

Every day is not like this. "Some days are diamond, some days are stone". The diamond days are when I am more functional and my anxiety abates for periods during the day and depression is "all" I am dealing with, or vice versa. "Stone" days are when depession and anxiety continue to attack me like a couple of tag team wrestlers
on TV. Sometimes they both jump on me... the ultimate two on one. Many of you have experienced these feelings.

If this is a bio-psycho-social-spiritual disorder I know what I do. In fact I used to advise others on these principles. Sometimes my self-interventions work to some degree. Sometimes they (I) fall flat on my face. But its ok. I am committed to my recovery, no matter how long it takes.

This depression-anxiety and its multi-faceted "cure" can be dicouraging. Today I went on a prayer walk and for the entire time I thanked God for all he has given me. The prayer of Saint Ignatius Loyola kept coming to me; one line especially. He wrote: "Jesus, with you by my side enough has been given." I forget this waaaaay too often.

Whether God heals me or this becomes my "thorn" for a lifetime I hope I can hang on to this wise statement. I'll continue the fight even if it happens that this is lifetime disorder that is debilitating, causes lack of energy, and takes a lot of resolve to function. It could be that I will need to resign myself to living with this serious disorder AND carry on the fight with these "tag team wrestlers". From my past Pastoral encounters I am realistic. Sometimes healing never comes.

I am willing to resign myself and still carry the fight if this is what God has in store for me. If so I will do my best to help others by sharing my story and allowing them to identify with my illness so they will know that they are not alone. By prayer, mutual love, and concern we can stand together whether we ever meet or not.

Until next time, God bless you.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Have you gone mental (XVI)

I mentioned in a recent blog that I wrote that I use a spiritual and psychological approach to deal with my depression-anxiety. I've mainly addressed the psychological to this point.

I am a Christian. I put my faith in Jesus Christ when I was about 16 years old. The spiritual approach has advantages and disadvanges. The advantages surround the resource of prayer, the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, and the "godly counsel" available to me from spiritual leaders and peers I find in what I call my faith family.

The disadvantages surround the internal shame of being a Christian and still having a mental disorder. For some reason there is a strong sense of shame that is perpetrated by particular churches and denominations and individuals who believe that if my faith was strong enough, mental health problems could not overcome me. Others feel that Satan or my literal "demons" have been allowed to enter my life through my failure to follow Christ as I should; and this is responsible for my depression-anxiety disorder.

While I personally think this is garbage, it rages on. It is almost like there is an unidentified and relentless sect among those of the Christian faith who perpetrate this "shame game" and use it to control others or to allow themselves to feel superior to those who have a mental illness. The truth is that Christians and "non-Christians" both can use this as a method of personal dominance over other people. In other words, one does not need to be Christian to be a jerk or one who fancies oneself as superior to others.

Many of us have heard such things such as "why can't you just get it together", "Just think of good things.", "Snap out of it.", "You are just doing this to get attention.", "Why are you putting yourself through this?", or more damning... "What are you getting out of this that keeps you depressed or anxious?"

As a Christian I pray, write positive affirmations that I study relentlessly, I meditate, I go on prayer walks, I gather regularly with my faith community, I ask God every day to heal me. So far this has not happened. I believe this is not because I lack faith. This disorder is part of a bio-psycho-social-spiritual battle I fight daily. The disorder is due to a number of elements that converge, that we may call it "the perfect storm".

It follows that if the disorder is bio-psycho-social-spiritual in origin; healing must address each of these elements. It seems that none of these alone will resolve your issues; although they are important.

However, the most vital thing I wish to communicate is, do not give up your spiritual practice (whatever it may be) on your road to health. It will help to ground you and prepare you for the ongoing struggle... you may even find healing as this strand of "the spiritual" flows through your bio-psycho-social process.

God bless you.

Have you gone mental (XV)

I've been reading about healing for the person with mixed depression-anxiety.What does an individual look like who possess this disorder? According to Thomas Marra in his excellent book: "Depressed and Anxious" people who are experiencing the full brunt of depession-anxiety often include the following:

1. Procrastination

2. Doubt that my energy will result in any significant changes in my life

3. I depend on others provide things that are important to me

4. I dread change

5. The world frightens me and is not generally a safe place. I need to look for safe places to feel comfort

6. My feelings control my life. Depression or anxiety signal me to stop, label this as a bad day and virtually give up. These disorders are immobilizing.

7. I am poweless to control my life.

Many of these characteristics are or have been a part of my life. At some point, usually depression-anxiety renders one hopeless that they will "never get better". This seems like a rational thought to those who have suffered from this disorder.
I have certainly had this thought often, in my 20 year struggle with depression- anxiety.

I am taking a mixed spiitual-psychological approach to moving toward healing. I'll describe this approach soon in future blogs.

God bless you.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Have you gone mental (XIV)

It'S 3:50 AM. Its Monday morning. The newspaper carrier just tossed the paper on my front porch . . . she is supposed to be awake at this time. I ask myself, "But why me?"

I'm not seeking sympathy here, I've been curious. As I began to read about this, I find it is normal for those suffering from co-morbid depression and anxiety... GREAT! I wake up each and every morning in full fledged anxiety. I have nothing in mind this morning for instance. I awakened as if anxiety in its infinite wisdom decided to set its "attack" in motion. I think this may be called "General Anxiety". As I've said before, my anxiety seems to have a mind of its own. I do not awaken worrying about our financial condition, which has become tenuous at best. I awaken being overwhelmed by anxiety with "nothing" in mind.

I know there are others awake right now across the Pacific Time Zone (and beyond).
Some have problems with insomnia. I have not been an insomniac. Many awaken worrying about a number of things in their life situations, such as finances, relationships, etc.

At this time my chest is tight, my breathing is changing and my heart rated is accelerated. If the pattern holds true, as it has for years now, depression will join in, in about 3-4 hours after I've medicated for anxiety and depression; about 5:45. It seems that medication makes no difference. I believe this is NOT true. In fact I wonder what state I'd be in if I did not use medication.

So I carry on. Using prescibed medication and everything in my "bag of tricks" to combat my anxiety-depression which I, and many of you, live day in and day out.
Each night my Mother (who lives in our home) comes in from her attached apartment to say goodnight. She always says "have a good sleep". I tell her in my best comic voice, "Thats my intention! I'm sure it is for all ofus.

Its 4:33 and I'm going to go back to bed, do some deep breathing and pray. I need to get up at 5:45. Maybe, being very tired I'll get that hour.

Good night (morning). Have a good sleep.

God bless you.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Have you gone mental (XIII)

I've spent quite a bit of time writing about how difficult these mixed (co-morbid) disorders, anxiety and depression, have been. What does a good day look like? There are a few aspects of life that move me closer to having a generally nice day.

1) Fellowship; 2) Journaling; 2) Meditation; 4) reading over my affirmations; 5) An outing; 6) Spending time with my family (wife, kids, and grand kids.

By fellowship I mean either personal or telehone contact with my close support people. My journal involves recording my struggles and how I dealt with them. Meditation is a part of each day. This involves mindfulness, this may involve paying attention to my breath and contemplative prayer. I read over my affirmations (positive statements about myself and my life). My outings involve going places where there are not many people. This also means avoiding places where I may not know "anyone". Going to a familiar place. Each of these often involves being accompanied by my wife. Spending time with family is self evident: Communication, play, getting more comfortable with a room full of people.

If these, or most of these are in play, the potential exists for a good day. I also must include taking a walk and taking my prescribed medication and vitamins on schedule.

During a good day, there are at least as many periods of lightness as there are darkness. The darkness does not seem as heavy. I require signicant time of solitude. This is helpful in order to take stock of progress, etc.

Nice days are scarce, but they sure are helpful. Having totally bad days everyday is, as one person said, "not as fun as its sounds"! Each day I expect some lightness, although it seems brief. When I slip back into a negative place, I am grateful for the nice moments and what I have optimistically called nice days.

If you suffer from either or both of these disorders (depression and anxiety) I wish you times of lightness; days in which the good aspects of your life outshine the negative.

God Bless.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Have you gone mental (XII)

So I've asked myself, is there some "cure" for my mixed depression-anxiety? I alluded to the idea that medication only covers or masks particular symptoms. These symptoms seem to abate, but they run under the radar or return in waves first one, then the other, then both at the same time.

Is there a cure? I, from my over 20 year history, would have to say no. Psychology offers techniques or "bags of tricks". Psychodynamic therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy both have something to contribute. A recent therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, in the minds of many, shows the best promise. It comes with a bag of tricks that is far more detailed than the others. Sometimes the devil is in the details. In my reading of a book on DBT, it demonstrated to me that the detailed approach to depression-anxiety is extremely overwhelming. 'If this happens, do this. If that happens do that'. It is not that the insights and methods are not helpful, but the help is brief and shortlived because the mixture of these disorders is extremely complex. The difficulty remembering what to do in a given situation may involve carrying a 250 page workbook around to be able to use, much less master the techniques for the one who suffers... The feelings are pervasive and recurrent; they are chronic. Many times a bag of tricks is of little or no help.

There is some temporary relief for these mixed disorders, but long term cure; no... not in my experience. As a therapist (former???) myself I have helped many patients develop bags of tricks to ameliorate certain symptoms. But in most cases the current disorder(s) being experienced by the patient, ebb and flow for the long term. Bags of tricks are always limited in their effectiveness over time.

Looking back over this blog I can see it does not leave one much hope. I can only deliniate my own experience and wish it were different.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Have you gone mental (XI)

Depression fell hard the past couple of days. The dark thoughts, hopelessness, and helplessness. I couldn't shake it. Today, outside of my doses of anxiety, depression was kept to a minimum for the most part.

As I mentioned, I am taking several medications. They are designed to help relieve depression and anxiety, There is a mood stabilizer and a medication designed to add to the effectiveness of my antidepressant.

I take three eye drops each day for my glaucoma, diagnosed about 8 or 9 years ago. I also have diabetes for which I take two oral medications.

Both the glaucoma and diabetes seem to be stabilized or stabilizing. It is the mental health issues with which I struggle and am told I will continue to struggle for some time.

As those of you who have suffered with mental illness know, the biggest stress is comprised by depression and anxiety.

As an aside, I recently needed to stop my intensive Out-patient Program. I am out of money and have no insurance, although I am not ready to stop treatment. I was still benefitting from the program, but that's how things go. I am continuing in my community with a Psychologist and Psychiatric Nurse Practioner, I am getting good care, however, arguably not enough.

I remain hopeful that my condition will improve to the place where I can function better and even, God willing, begin part-time work at some time.

Once again I stand with you who are walking this path as I am, to one degree or another. Stay with it and do not give up. As you know, some days are better than

God bless you.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Have you gone mental (X)

Tremendous Labor Day weekend. My family spent the weekend at the Cannon Beach Christian Conference Center. We enjoyed, spiritual teaching, music and good fellowship. My daughter and son-in-law made it possible (financially)for us to attend. It was very uplifting. I almost felt normal for a few days. My mind was so occupied with the program my depression and anxiety abated for hours at a time... not so when I awakened (today) Tuesday morning.

Whether it was "let down" or a low day, today has been the most difficult day I've spent in weeks. Maybe you've had such days when nothing could bring you up, when the clouds drop to their lowest level accompanied by a sense of dread. This was such a day. I just haven't been able to pull myself up ... to rise to a level of function even equal to my state a month ago.

I am trusting things will get better. My medical regimen hasn't touched my mood today. Medication is not the answer, but I have hoped it would comprise at least part of it.

This feels much more like last February than the past weekend. Dark thoughts, hopeless, helpless, suicidal thoughts. No plan. No lethality. Just feelings, frightening feelings that visit me every so often. I hate them. Just like those of you who have experienced them.

I'm sorry for your pain.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Have you gone mental (IX)

As I'm almost certain I mentioned before, I have awakened with anxiety since early this year. It is a sense of dread, appoaching danger, and fear. There is often a tightening in my chest, difference in breathing, and shortness of breath. I do not think this constitutes a panic attack because it happens with several of these symptoms each and every day. These episodes occur at one level of intensity or another each day and they are not acute.perhaps better described as chronic.

Because of their duration and regularity some have called them "anxiety attacks". This is basically accurate, but to my knowledge anxiety attacks are a layman's description, not a formal diagnosis. Nevertheless "anxiety attack" works for me.

Fear is an immobilizing emotion. It seems to be at the heart of anxiety. Most of my fears are non-specific. There are some circumstancial sources, but these do not attend me consistently.

I do not suffer from paranoia. My anxiety seems to attack me; having a mind of its own, as I'm sure I said before. It is interesting as well as painful to sit up, and as my feet hit the floor, I am overcome by this emotion. I pick up my medication packet I have prepared the night before. This sits on my night stand. I proceed to the kitchen, pour a glass of milk and swallow several pills. One of which targets this anxiety, another a mood stabilizer.

As mentioned before the dose of medication is not a cure, but a mask or barrier between the disorder and my pereception ... for a brief time. At lunch time another anti-anxiety pill is introduced to my body as it is again about 6:00 (most days I take three of these) ... Daddy's little helper?

Don't get me wrong I need this medication and regard it seriously. If I feel ok and my anxiety is low, I do not take the third dose. Some days the afternoon mood stabilizer provides enough relief.

I have often dispared of life itself during times of anxiety, but a bumper sticker I saw a few weeks ago provided some solace. It said, "Don't be Afraid - God".