Sunday, October 31, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (LIX)

Depression has been my lot the past couple of days. This time it went deep ... dark thoughts. I was feeling like a loser. I have been hopeless and helpless, or so it seems. I had 8 hours of sleep last night after finishing my evening reading "A little book on prayer" Brenda and Jim. My sleep was pretty peaceful, except for a weird dream or two.

Has depression ever hit you like that? Has the darkness of your thinking ever said, "I don't want to do this anymore?" Well Im afraid that's what its been like, even on the Lord's day. I did something I love when I took my son out to breaakfast this morning, it felt good to be out, pretending I had ther money to do it. Then guilt set in.

Church gave me a lot of encouragement this morning. Singing and listening to my Pastor was good for me. I talked to Janet for a bit (she is still in Colfax visiting our new grandchild and helping Beth with her two little boys and the baby. It was hard for her to focus, but I knew (and had agreed)her helping there was paramount and there was no good place for her to talk. She gave some encouraging words, and once again I was encouraged.

I am now home. Kind of numb. Depression is underlying. Football is on thanks to Jeffrey. It gets monotonous after a while but it is mindless enough and rarely distracts me, so I will set about to finish that little book. Considering I have my class tonight at church I'll make it through again and hopefully spiritually strive.

Oh Lord, protect me from those "darkest of thoughts."

Typos and all ... God bless you.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (LVIII)

I've been feeling some pretty signifiant anxiety today, It is not tied to a specific event or anticipation of anything. It is a sense of dread, if I had to name it. I don't remember this serious of an episode since the earliest days of this depression-anxiety "jag" Ive been on.

I've reached into my bag of tricks and used a couple of the ones marked "anxiety". It was a half-hearted effort I'm afraid. I've taken an extra dose of my anti-anxity medication. I've talked to a couple of members of my support team. It felt good to talk to them at the time, but as soon as the visit was over (within 1/2 hour) the feeling remained.

This is how some anxiety episdes are, aren't they. We can't put our finger on their origin or why they seem so strong and drawn out. That is the "hell" of it. Actually either emotion (depression-anxiety) can virtually "body slam" us with no, or very little, warning.

I need to say, I hate this. It feels like waiting for the other shoe to drop, but the first one hasn't dropped yet! This time it feels like I am emotionally anticipating "something"; its actually not like something has happened and I'm waiting for something else to happen. It is like this sometimes for me. I cannot gain clarity on what is going on. Like I said, this has happened before. Still I wish I could put a finger on it.

The strange thing about anxiety is that one of its properties is that many times we CAN'T put our finger on its origin. I have often imagined that there is a little guy in my head who is standing at the controls of my emotions. Like a one-armed bandit in Vegas this little dude just pulls the handle, the emotions scramble, three sevens appear on the screen and the bells begin to ring and the lights begin to flash for this evil little guy. The result is that I begin to experience in this case) anxiety.

You're never going to read my blog again are you? You're probably answering the title of the blog, "yes, you HAVE gone mental!"

This is an illustration for me... a way to think about my emotional upset. I really don't believe in the evil little guy in my head, really I don't! I do think of Saint Paul's words: Taking every thought capive to Jesus." This is probably meaningless to many of you and I still can't totally wrap my mind around it. I think it is saying that it is God will, for our own good, that we capture our thoughts, by answering them before they turn to difficult and harmful emtions.

This assumes our emotions are the result of our thoughts. If so I would say that this includes our "unconscious" thoughts, as well as our conscious thoughts.
I think I believe this. The theory is that our thoughts result in our in feelings and our feelings bring about our behavior.

If this the case, the affirmation pocket of our bag of tricks should become our first acivity when we feel depression-anxiety coming on. If so, that is where my self-soothing intervention fell short. I did the deep breathing (body) but neglected speaking the affirmations to myself (mind). Would this hve prevented or lessened my anxiety and sense of dread? Maybe. I don't know, but its worth a try next time or even now.

This may work. I'm glad we had this talk!

Typo and all . . . God bless you.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hae you gone Mental (LVI)

Things take on a different hue when things in our lives change. For me, at least, routine is important at this time in my life. I feel like I'm compulsive or ob- sessive or something like that. I depend on things being as they are to reduce my susceptibility to depression-anxiety. I'm speaking, now, of relationship proximity. Even though the "change" may be positive for me and the other person I find myself fearful and unsure of the outcome at times..

Janet drove to Colfax, Washington to visit our daughter and meet our new grandchild. Beth needs a little help already having two small boys in her home. Blake goes to school all day but Phoenix (not nearly kindergarted age) is a little pistol and demands a lot of attention and TLC. Janet is splitting her time between TLC and loving up on the new girl in the house.

I remember a time when having my wife gone for more than a few hours at a time kept me totally immobilized...depression and anxiety deepened and I was, generally, a basket case, sitting in my chair with my blanket watching TV and using my newly developing bag of tricks. Although I can feel the basket hovering over my little bald head it has not dropped yet and I do not expect it to. Whereas there are many other things that may "basketize me" for periods of time, this almost childlike dependence on my wife has dissipated tremendously ov er the past 10 months.

I can still feel the absence, though. She has been a true rock in my recovery and has loaned me some of her strength to make it as far as I have. We all probably have people in our lives like this; a spouse, a partner, a sister, brother, or friend. When there is not ready personal access to them anxiety sets in. We have become dependent (over-dependent?) on them. Don't get me wrong. The state of our recovery cannot be measured by our dimished need for people. That is, in part, what got us into this mess... not having a true confidant with whom to share our deepest thought and feelings on a regular basis. I know I isolated myself and this, added to brain chemistry, circumstances, and who knows what else plunged me into this hellish abyss.

My advice? I don't give advice. I don't tell people what to do. This I know. The person with whom we share everything is necessary to our lives and recovery from depression-anxiety. When they go away (even seven hours away) and the time away is going to be "lengthy" (only six days)our equilibrium can be set on its ear. Look at me, she has only been gone since I wished her a safe trip at 5:30 this morning and I feel something is missing ... her presence and wisdom. This is different than a statement of puppy love, it speaks of a relationship that has become more important over the last 10 months than ever before. It is a lifeline for me and I hope to her.

Although she will be back Monday night I will talk daily to her and probably access the others on my support team to try (in vain) to take up the slack. The boys are here, Mom is here. Although there is no lack of things to do as a distraction, nothing takes the place of our primary support person when we need them.

I need also to say that having this time apart is a good for her in many ways and good for me in one: learning to live in a positive, healthy manner without ready physical access to my prime supporter. There is sense in which I feel like a child learning to walk. This a good first step for me. I know all will be fine and she will return happy and refreshed from a different atmosphere and from being an upclose and personal grandma to the three kids. I am glad for her and glad for the growth it will stimulate in me.

Please don't think of this as something pathetic in your life. This is real life stuff we experience and grow from. Thanks for reading.

Tpos and all . . . God bless you.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (LV)

Drama. We've all been caught up in it from time to time. He said, she said. "Did you hear..." "What if?" and so on.

Those of us in recovery from depression-anxiety should stay away from drama. Much drama runs along the LINE of truth but tend to slip over the divide fairly easily if it will make the story more sumptuous. What we need to know is this: DRAMA IS A DISTRACTION THAT IS DANGEROUS for us.

There was a man who lived about 2,000 years ago who said, "Let your yes be yes and your no be no". In otherwords, set boundaries... be clear... Avoid drama like the plague because that is exactly what it is. It drains us of energy and sidetracks our recovery. Drama stimulates our depression and anxiety like nothing else when we get involved with it.

The best way to avoid drama is to stay away from involvement in gossip. Set this boundary firmly: "I will not talk about any one else." When they come with a good "did you hear?", say, "I dont want to hear this". The dramatic is scintellating (sp?), it can draw us in very easily. After all, if we get involved, won't we will be able to help the people involved? Very unlikely.

Picture yourself standing on a table. A Drama Queen or a Drama King enters the room with a juicy tidbit. You'd like to help them out of the "quagmire". You reach down to help them up out of the "quicksand". You begin to pull with all your might. What happens? They drag you down off the table with minimal energy. Try it in reality ... the person below ALWAYS pulls the person above down. You then enter the quicksand, too! The relative emotions: You suffer immediate depression and anxiety as a result of your involvement. They become more and more excited because they have aquired another person as a partner in their dramatic interlude. For the recovering person this is unhealthy and stupid (sorry).

Gossip and talking about people is the lowest form of communication. It does nothing but bring harm to the person who is the subject of the talk. That is its bottom line objective. Once again, keep this boundary firm and clear. "I will talk TO someone about a problem that may affect me, but I will NOT talk about a person in any negative manner.

The principle of avoidance as a strategy from our bag of tricks is a pretty good one when needed. Avoidance should be engagement in a healthy activity such as listening to music, yard work, reading, time with a healthy friend, and the like. It is NOT some drama that draws its strength from half truths or lies and is fueled by the negative (and hurt) feelings of others.

Can you hear this? It takes a degree of maturity to leave these things alone. As my theology professor said, "A WORD to the WISE is sufficient".

I'll let a man with a low IQ but tremendous wisdom (Forrest Gump) finish tonight's blog...

"That's all I have to say about that."

Typos and all . . . God Bless you.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (LIV)

It is Sunday, "the Lords Day". As a Christian this is the day when I take 1 1/2 hours to worship and to learn more about my life as a believer. This in addition to daily medication/contemplation.

This is an important time of meeting with my faith community to engage in fellowship, gain support, give support, receieve teaching from the Bible, and plan outreach to their community. This has become a very important part of my recovery.

One does not have to attend Church to be a Christian. The disturbing thing is that many of those who spurn "church" in order to call themselves "spiritual may not take the time each week in a community experience that brings them "closer" to God. The concept of church from the beginning has been an opportunity to gather with those of like faith to discuss higher power, experience fellowship, and plan outreach to their commnity.

Spitiuality is a popular concept these days. Christians believe that spirituality grows out a community experience. Spiritual experience is based on a commuity of "believers". It was never meant to be an individual, isolative entity that substitutes for a true spiritual experience.

Many among my Christian friends stand alone and do not gather with others on a regular basis to discuss their common faith. They believe church is unnecessary, this puts them in the company of those who reject the teaching of Jesus Christ.

My thought is spirituality cannot (in the long haul) exist apart from being involved in a "faith community". Spirituality recognizes a relationship with the spirit; and is an important CHRISTIAN beief. Those who say "I am spiritual" mean that they are not a part of any organized religion. In fact is it also an excuse to avoid going to church. Like I said, one does not need to attend church or follow any religion to be a Christian OR spiritual. The other side states that the Bible is full of contridictions and so Christinity is fallable. Christinity IS fallable (just like every religion) AND they believe that the Bible is the resource for faith and practice of our faith.

It is alarming to me the number of "Christians" who reject church as a valuable part of their lives. Attending church has been a mainstay for me for many years. Not just showing up, but being an encouragment to others and receiving help from others in my life, as I mentioned. The key of spirituality is being present to others. Somtimes the key to spiituality is to place service above self.

Christians are called to place faith in Jesus so we can be spiritual as part of a faith commuity. If one searches the pages of he Bible, one will be hard pressed to find a Chritian who is isolaed from a faith community.

Those who are separate from a faith ommmuity usually do not want to be a part of orginaed "religion", have been hurt by someone who is part of a faith community, and/or do not want to be held to any Christtian beliefs, and downright laziness.

On this Lord's day, re-consider the importance of a healthy faith community for your
"home base". This will provide a foundation of your spiritually. One can be spiritual and be part of a faith community. I would ask you to consider it whether you call yourself a Chrisian or not. Research and try out some faith commuitiuies. I prefer the small faith commuity. We have but 15 to 20 poeple who connect with one another each week. We pay our Pastor a small salary, pay rent in a store front business office building and say: we feature "hurch, but not as you remember it. We even hestate to call ourselves a church and prefer to refer to ourseves as the Fresh Faith Commity"

This IS an advertisement. NOT for the Fresh Faith Commuinty, but for you to consider becoming involved in a faith commuity whatever that may be. This will provide teaching, fellowship, and the constant opportunity to connect with others.

This works well for me. It is a positive thing to do and add to your bag of tricks. Give it a try!

Typos and all . . . God Bless you.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (LIII)

There are a variety of emotions involved as one tries to heal from any mental illness. When depression-anxiety is the disorder from which we suffer there are several. For example: Depresson, Shame, Anger, Fear, Agitation, Self-Harm urges, Anxiety, and Guilt. You may view this as the "short list".

How do you approach these difficult emotions? What skills can we bring into play? One is a form of meditation called "following your breath". Concentrate on your breath as you breathe in and out. Let noises and distortions go without concentrating on them. Do not force things out of your mind, just "allow" them to come and go as you follow your breathe.

Another is called "self-observance". When we experience an emotion like those listed above we can feel it and name it. Eg. "I'm feeling depessed now, I feel sad and like I need to eat something (eg.) to make myself feel better.) Think about how depression affects you, such as "when I"m depressed I feel self-destructive, or hopeless, or helpless (whatever fits). OBSERVE yourself.

A third skill is "acceptance and allowing". Our feelings are neither good or bad, they just "are". What gives them their character is what we do with them. What do you do when you feel anger? Do you want to hurt some in some way? Do you want to talk the problem out? Do you wish to think about it during a "time out" and then return to the conversation later (delay your response)? Which response is most like you? First accept and allow: I'm mad, angry, pissed off, irritated, furious. What should I do? The best answer is "DELAY your response. It is rarely profitable to just react. This usually turns the outcome to the negative side. I think of reaction as impulsive and immediate. I think of response as thought out and taking time to cool down. In most cases response is key in handling difficult emotions.

A fourth and final skill I'[d like to discuss is called "Self-Soothing". This skill involves thinking about what healthy activity or thinking will help me feel better. For me it is, usually, one of the following: 1) Following my breath; 2) Taking a Walk; 3) Calling a Friend; 4) Involving myself in a hobby (weightlifting, reading) or 5) Writing feelings in my journal.These are my top five self-soothing behaviors. You may have others.

It is important to have a game plan in mind for when difficult emotions come up for us. Its good to have a few to choose from. I'm glad I have developed several, including the five mentioned above. I wanted to share these with you to encourage you on your road to recovery from depression-anxiety. Discover what works for you.

I hope your weekend began on a good note tonight. Thanks for reading.

Typos and all ... God bless you.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Have you gone Mental (LII)

Have you ever felt like you do not contribute to your household? I often believe that about myself. Depression and anxiety close in and "withdrawing" is often the effect. It seems like I just want to curl up in my easy chair or engage in frenetic activity (cleaning, eating, etc.)around the house to try to self-medicate.

I hate the negative, self-deprecating feelings that arise so often. I know, in my head, that I make some contribution in my house work and being there emotionally for my son. The fact that I am not able to work now is often where my negative self-talk arises. I come from a household with a very strong work ethic. No matter how sick my Father was, he never missed a day of work. "I'll feel the same whether I stay home or go to work, so I'll go to work." This often kept me in a sea of guilt and shame whenever I missed work. It is amplified now that I am not engaged in gainful employment. I wonder what my Dad would say about it. I think, outwardly, he would be compassionate but inwardly wonder why I don't get up off my lazy a** and find a job.
I often wonder that myself when my mind runs amuck.

There are many ways to contribute to one's household that I needed to remember. My therapist called upon me to site several in my session with her today:

1. My presence in the home provides comfort and constancy to my children.
2. My mental illness has given my family the experience of supporting someone.
3. I do laundry, dishes, and cleaning.
4. I do little things for and encourage my wife in her work.
5. I model working toward healing as I use my bag of tricks to address my illness

That's about all I came up with, but it is "something"? What does your list look like, as you suffer from depression and anxiety? I am one who really gets down on himself and very easily. I need to almost fight to remember to use only positive talk. Sometimes I am successful. other times ...

Its difficult to believe in myself when I get this way. It kind of becomes a vicious circle. When I do not believe in myself, I feel like a slug (or worse) I then isolate myself from my support team and as a result I have another bout of not beleiving in myself. I don't know how well I've stated this, but I hope you get the idea. Believing in yourself and your potential is one of the basic skills you (I) need to practice.

Its really difficult because I know all this stuff. I worked as a counselor for over 25 years. In fact it is downright embarrassing to admit that I do much better helping others than I do helping myself. (Yes, people tell me that is normal.) I guess I don't want to be normal. I want to get well and get my life back but seem powerless to do so. I know this matches with the stories you tell about your experience.

I often wonder when I'll really get better and FEEL like I'm getting better. I get extremely depressed over this issue. Depression and anxiety are always with me, but it truly flares when I can look back on nearly 10 months of dealing with my illness and still can't see much progress. My wife is my greatest "reality checker" and can point out several areas in which I have improved. One is being able to drive myself. I went several months when due to my anxiety I needed to always ride "shotgun". Another example is being able to go to public places for short times and not have my anxiety keep me home. These are major. In terms of public places, I am always anxiety ridden but have chosen to act differently much of the time. I guess its one reason I keep my anti-anxiety medicine handy.

So there has been progress; I guess. I'm trying to believe this. Even though my disorders are always with me I am acting against them to try to grow in these areas.
Being a closet introvert probably doesn't help. Additionally in terms of driving I need to write down "where I'm going and why I am going there" in order to get errands done. I wonder how long this will go on. I ask your prayers for me. Sign on as a follower of my blog and I'll pray for you; whether or not you have depression-anxiety.

Typos and all . . . God bless you.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (LI)

Today a miracle happened. A beautiful baby girl was born to my daughter and son in law. These are the best times of our lives as adults; seeing the miracle of new birth. This "miracle" is my sixth grandchild! I meditated on this and prayed for each member in the newly enlarged family.

Having done that, after a few hours I began to think about birth in terms of recovery. Birth is an event. To recover,a process. Viewing recovery as re-birth is more to the point. Over days, months, and even years our poor choices, social learning, and genes brought us to where we are now. I, like many of you, suffer from depression-anxiety. This three fold cause comprises the birth of the recovering person. Our disorders are affecting us to the point it causes problems in one or more of the following: family, economy, social environment, employment, spiritually, and general well-being. This forms a life that cries out to be changed. This change is called re-birth.

Re-birth changes us from one kind of person into another from the inside out. It involves thoughts and actions we all know ... a decision to change and improve one's life. It involves the effort to support this change. It involves the assistance of a strong support syetem and some power beyond yourself (mine is Jesus Christ), and professional help. We can commit ourselves to these methods of improvement and practice them, but we are fallable.

My Christian faith involves being re-born to as a way to commit ourselves to God. Saint Paul wrote, "If anyone believes in Christ they are a new creation. Old things have passed away. New things have come." Even if these words do not describe your faith experience you can see their relevance to the recovery experience.

Being born again mentally and emotionally has similar properties. We examine ourselves ... our lives, and see depression-anxiety. We wish to rid ourselves of the power these have over us. We make a decision to work on ourselves and make a choice to take action. This is the beginning of our rebirth, our recovery.

Most of our recovery is in fits and starts. Some days we do well, feel our feelings and use our techniques to great advantage. We feel good and good about ourselves. However, many days, most days, are different. It is a struggle from beginning to end. Perhaps we use some other techniques and perhaps they have little or no effect on how we feel. Life for us with mental illness can be a true roller coaster.

Even so, we have experienced the re-birth. We have envisioned what a life without serious problems with depression-ansiety would be like and decided to develop that life. There are very good times and there are very bad times. We revel in the first and dread the second.

Remember, when the depression takes you down hard and when the anxiety penetrates your very soul. Remember when you feel serious physical symptoms in terms of a panic or anxiety attack, you have been born again... you are on the path of recovery. To make our way through these "attacks" you need to REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE! You have experienced the rebirth! Your decision was clear and sincere. The potential of recovery lies within you. At the risk of sounding like a New Age proponent (I am not) I need to state that often, what you say is what you get. Our recovery needs to be attended at every turn with positive self talk. Such examples we have already considered:

1) I am getting better
2) My depression in dimishing in its effect on me
3) My anxiety isn't as powerful as it used to be
4) I am getting stronger
5) My episodes of pain are getting less painful
6) This too will pass
7) Everything is going to be alright

This positive self-talk. No matter how difficult the day, is necessary to our recovery. We need to gain a vision of our recovery as being strong and in progress. The more positive the better.

It is a good thing to be re-born into recovery. It comprises a promise to ourselves that we work our tails off to keep. So keep working through the good times. Keep working through the pain. Work on yourself faithfully, consistently, and positively. We CAN recover. Recovery does not mean we will never again experience depression-anxiety again. It means that we have worked on our techniques to the point that we know what works and what doesn't. Recovery is living without fear of these emotions that are our present monsters so they don't so negatively affect each and every area of our lives.

Typos and all . . . God bless you.

Have you gone Mental? (L)

There is something very beautiful and a certain strength in the soul of a person in recovery. I think people who are trying to recover from depression-anxiety struggle with this issue at times. We forget through all our pain how much we are blessed and how thankful we should be. A short sentence by Saint Paul comes to mind "In everything give thanks for this is the will of God." This speaks to every one. The problem for us is, "how can I be thankful for the disorders I face?"

This is beauty and this is paradox. In EVERTHING give thanks? Have you gone mental???
The beautiful soul is the one who, on some level, experiences and expresses gratitude even when times are the most difficult. Its so hard to truly be thankful when depression and anxiety attack us. What is there to be thankful about? Lets be clear. Saint Paul's exhortation is not a call to be thankful FOR depression-anxiety. His emphasis is being thankful IN THE MIDST OF depession-anxiety.

Someone said, whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger. Its hard to "hang in there" for us who have depression-anxiety. When the winds of our illness blow the hardest we can experience gratitude and thus be strengthened. My daughter lives on the Oregon Coast. I mean RIGHT on the coast. Her front window looks directly out on the Pacific Ocean. You could walk out her back door and the first thing you encounter after trudging through the sand is the Ocean.

I am often in awe of the trees that stand on the shore directly facing the winds of the Pacific Coast to the south of her home. They stand there year after year facing the pummeling of the onshore winds of the ocean. When you stand on the sand and look back upon the trees on the hillside you can see several trees whose roots are exposed where the wind has eroded the earth and sand. These roots run deep and they run wide. You see this wherever strong winds blow. The more tumultuous the weather the deeper and wider the roots will grow. Its not that these trees cannot fall; they do. The point is, in nature, where there is opposition there will be evidence of strength.

When a tree that regularly faces wind topples over, you will see the depth and breadth of the root system. These trees rarely just snap off, they "fall" and the root system remains for the most part, in tact. The roots remain attached to the trunk. Most of us have observed this. The roots won't let go of the tree.

When we face the winds of depression-anxiety we use all the resources at our disposal to stand in the face of the storm. Then the winds die down, there is a break in the clouds, and the sun comes out. It is then that we assess the damage. As we do, we can feel our relative strength and revel in the wonder that is recovery. We have withstood another storm.

As I have stated so many times, sometimes the problem is depression and sometimes it is anxiety. Whichever disorder that dominates could be the wind. We have withstood the wind before. It is difficult to do so. The strength of depression or anxiety when they arrive together test the mettle of our souls. When both come at once (adding the rain to the wind)the metaphor is striking. On the Pacific Coast, the wind AND the rain many times comprise the storm. When depression and anxiety "hit us" all at once, We bend, but we rarely break. Our roots run deep and wide. We are grateful.

Give thanks in the midst of all things. When depression comes on, give thanks. When anxiety attacks, give thanks. When they both come at the same time give thanks. Thank God for the grace he gives you. Thank him for the strength. Thank him for the mercy he shows us that what we face isn't worse. Thank him for the peace of mind that expresses itself when the clouds part, the winds subside, and the sun shines upon you. Whatever does not kill us makes us stronger. We are not victimes. We are survivors. There is beauty in the soul of a survivor that grows out of determination, guts, and focused effort to recover. This effort includes what I have referred to as our "bag of tricks."

I want to say that the phrase "bag of tricks" is not meant to trivialize the many tools available to us to assist in our recovery. Just the opposite. These tricks... these methods and techniques keep us upright in the face of what we experience day after day. they allow us to bend but not break. We need to sharpen these tools so they are most effective when we need them.

I speak of exercise and healthy eating. I speak of reading and study. I speak of positive self talk and prayer. I speak of meditation and contemplation. I speak of accessing our support system daily. I speak of the power of positive outlook. I speak of getting consistent sleep combined with times of rest and solitutde. These are the roots of our recovery. They grow deep and wide surrounding the "tap root" of our spirituality.

So give thanks IN all things for this is the will of God. It will keep you focused on the task at hand and prepare you for the wind and rain that inevitably comes into our lives. Sometimes we experience sunshine and a gentle breeze. We do well to sharpen our tools during these times. The sharpening of these tools in prepation for the assult of wind and rain, will prepare us with a skillful use of them and an accompanying attitude of gratitude. We need to be so familiar with our tools that we can carry them with us wherever we go. One of these tools, let us not forget, is gratitude.

Let there be thanks!

Typos and all . . . God bless you.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (XLVIIII)

In less than 15 minutes I experience another milestone. I will be 58 years old on October 18th. The excitement of birthdays has long ago left my life, however they are a good time to reflect. This has an eventful year as I was buried in the quicksand of depression-anxiety. It has been difficult to try to function in the manner to which I've become accustomed while sinking slowly but surely in this quagmire.

Maybe some of you have felt the same way. In my case I see this as a "lost year".
I lost my job and lost my sanity, if you will. I felt at times like I could overcome this and then felt like I'd rather die and that my famliy would be much better off without me. What keeps me from following through on my suicidal ideation? My initial reaction is my family. Suicide is the ultimate selfish response to a difficult life. I was nearly that selfish this past year. My next response to the question is God. I believe God has a hand in my life and that He would not be pleased by my dying at my own hand.

There have been days and nights so dark and painful I despaired of life and felt it unbearable. These strengthened by the lack of hope that I would never, ever, get better. My wife and friends encouraged and bouyed my up in these times. The professionals that attended me brought me around to re-considering my psychic "death wish". I know my problem is not unique. I am not much different from anyone else. My problems are no more difficult; my trails no more severe.

I have seen many, I dare say hundreds over the years who had similar problems to mine and not even considered the path of suicide. Does this make we weak? I have been depressed so long I have lost track of what it is to feel "normal", to feel like life is fruitful and fulfilling on some level. My family and a small group of friends continue to try to convince me of this gently and tenderly. I am not now actively suicidal. It just hangs in the darker recesses of my mind; hanging in the closet of my awareness as a pair of slacks or a shirt. It is a choice I can make among all the others.

When I try to pull happiness off its hanger it will almost not budge. It is nearly immovable. Whereas time with my wife, children and grand children are wonderful for the time, when the time is over I find myself at the door to my closet to see what else I have to wear. I look and see love, joy, peace, faith, and hope. I love to be able to reach in and put those on. I can wear them for an hour or two, or even a half a day and then I feel them slipping off my soul and returning to the closet as options for another time..

You see, in this closet is also negativity, depression, anxiety, fear, and despair. These come off thir hangers much more easily. I sincerely have fashioned my bag of tricks to be able to employ them to be successful in my quest to "wear" the more positive of the clothing for my soul.... temporarily.

The effort goes on and with all the attendant discouragement but also great determination. I believe that this year, my 58th will prove to be one in which I make great progress in my journey toward mental health. I will continue to seek to wear the positive clothing for my soul and seek spiritually the presence and power of God. When October 2011 arrives I hope to be a different person. Generally positive, joyful, and enjoying peace of mind. I ame hopeful that faith will take the place of fear and hope will overcome despair.

None of us know what the next day will bring, much less the next year. I just want my family, friends, God and my readers to know that this is my goal. I want to become healthy enough to work at least part time. In my optimistic moments I can almost see it on the horizon.

Every day I thank God for my life occasionally through smling eyes and more often gritted teeth. I live and pray for freedom of my soul and spirit as so many of us do.
So now I wlll set forth on another year's journey hoping against hope that it will be the year that I notice genuine healing in my soul, spirit, and my life in general.

Happy birthday to me.

Typos and all . . .God bless you

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (XLVIII)

I went to the movie Toy Story 3 today. It was as good or better than the last two. The theme of this story was that Andy was going to college and wasn't going to be around to play with his toys any longer. Actually he had them stored in a treasure chest in his room. He put Woody the Cowboy in the box he reserved for his college room nick nacks and put the rest of the toys in a box to be stored in the attic. Well the attic stuff got accidently taken to the curb with the garbage by Andy's mother and the show was on.

Woody was the only toy kept by this young man going to college. Woody rescued the rest of the toys from the curb-side trash. As the story moved on, there were twists and turns that resulted in all the toys ending up in the possession of a little girl. Andy dropped them off and visited with the girl about how important the toys were to him. He had the most dificult time parting with Woody, but upon the girl's promise that she would take good care of him, handed him over.

There is a time to move on; a time to put away childish things. Relationally speaking, those of us who have depession-anxiety have care-takers. We may have those individuals in our lives who almost baby us. They make sure we are well taken care of and try to shield us from the difficult situations and cirsumstances of life. These people are precious, faithful, and in some cases wonderful to us. In other cases they are controlling, on again, off again (flaky), and horrible for our healing.

Moving on means taking some time to sort who stays with us, and who we need to "kick to the curb". This is the most important assignment we have as we move toward healing from our disorders.

We need to take some time to discern: Who are those precious souls that build our faith and self-concept; and who are those from whom we need to move on?" I know I've spent a lot of time and energy talking about our boundaries (how close to get to others). This is very important work. At times we may find certain individuals from either catagory from whom we need to move on.

The point is we have different boundaries with different people. Some we trust with our lives and our deepest, darkest, secrets. Most we trust to a lesser extent. When we're in recovery from depression-anxiety, we need to occasionally look at our "support team" and those who wish to be part of it. We, from time to time, will need to begin limiting our time with certain people because we've outgrown them. The key test of a person you need to "drop like a bad habit" is that you feel worse when you're in their presence. They just plain bring you down. They may try to control you, and you leave them feeling worse than when you began the conversation.

When we move on we do so carefully and methodically. We consider if we are progressing in our healing and who enhances our recovery. We also consider those who bring us down. Like I've said before, the first group is made up of assets. The second group is just half of that" (From my Old Pappy).

We need to take care of yourself
1) whom should I trust enough to let into my life?
2) how far should I let each one of them in?
3) whom should I now begin to move away (to move on)?

Moving on is a natural part of recovery and life in general. We need to learn how to limit our time with certain people and even stop seeing certain people because they are toxic to our lives. We have the resources within to discern this. We have the raw strength within us to recover. We need to surround ourselves with healthy people and continue to use the helpful techniques we have been talking about in this group of blogs.

Like Andy in Toy Story 3, our life and experience of our circumstances presents us with opportunities to move on into deeper and deeper recovery. Value those who support you, move away from those who don't support you because they are probably willing but are genuinely not able to do so. Such a person can be a parent or a friend but they are unable to understand the seriousness of your disorder. They are not good for you!

Take care of yourself. While many people in our lives may be willing and even voice willingness to support us they may not have the skills to do so. Some do and some don't. Keep those that do close to you. Keep those who don't at an emotional distance. It is a process we go through in which we learn what is the best for us, and what isn't.

This special discernment can move us forward to the "college of recovery"; taking those who are valuable with us and leaving those who are unable to truly support us behind, at least emotionally.

This sounds cold and even harsh. However, It echos the question of Jesus to the diabled man by the Pool of Saloam, "do you want to get well?" Taking this kind of action in our lives demonstrates that we really want to get well . . . and learn to heal from depresion-anxiety.

Typos and all ... God bless you.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (XLVII)

To negotiate the rough waters of depression-anxiety one must have a degree of courage. Anxiety will haunt you while depression taunts you. Sometimes they take turns. Other times they come together. I've written about many things we may want to have in our bag of tricks. Thinks such as a strong support system, healthy diet, daily exercise, development of positive affirmations, positive self-talk, writing in a journal and others. All these have uses at different times in our lives.

I asked one of my "care givers" if I was always going to be like this. I've heard that there is no real "cure" for depression or anxiety. If we are prone to these disorders we will struggle with them to one degree or another throughout our lives. As for my life to as I close my 57th year on this planet, I can attest to this; having suffered with both since I was a teenager. I had a terrible two year period in the late 80's in which I was so affected that I just plain wanted to die. My situation was a lot different then. I had lost my wife, my family and my job, due to my own lack of integrity and stupidity. I had a small support sustem, but most of them just wanted to fix me, or create me in their in their own image; not let me heal.

During this horrible time one person told me that if I didn't reconcile with my wife there is no way I could really be a Christian. I was a minister at the time of this path of pain, guilt, and shame. Even so, I did not reconcile. The individuals who saw me as a non-Christian treated me like a second class citizen and were trying their best with ineffective tactics to attract me to come back among the faithful. I never returned. I became embittered against those self appointed agents of God and the evangelical church in general. It took years for that bitterness to wear off! I never denounced God. I loved God but couldn't stand his kids. I am now involved in a very small church in Portland where we practice love, acceptance and forgiveness. What a freeing experience!

Maybe this story strikes a chord in your heart. Have your disorders led you into unhealthy behavior or negative relationships? If your like me, and I know I am, the answer is yes. It is interesting how the battle lines form. One side are the people of solemn truth who will guilt and shame you into following what they think is right. The other side are the people of the lie. They are the ones who cheer you on to justify and continue in your unhealthy behavior.

There must be a middle ground. There must be a place to which we can go to maintain our integrity and a quality life. When looking at two extremes, the best we can do is to learn to govern our lives from the middle. I do this by taking a break, emotionally, from trying to please either side. I do this by entering a season of solitude. I know from experience that this takes tremendous courage. To take time to be alone is difficult. Its important to take time to read inspirational literature, such as the Bible and other books that speak to you. It is important to pray to God and meditate on the truth that comes to your mind. I found it important to sit in silence each day, listening for the voice. I found it important to take time to reflect with no one else around.

This very difficult. I'd advise you to only undertake this course if you believe you are safe from self-harm and have a strong support system: a person or persons you can call if the going gets too rough. Silence and solitude are not much heralded in our culture, but I have found little else that gives me peace of mind more times than not. What do you say to the individuals who belong to one group or the other, as described above? Tell them you are taking a break for a week or so to sort things out. Part of this break will be your "retreat". When you receive resistance you will know whom to avoid in your life. You may not be able to trust them to truly be a supporter. When you receive a persons' "blessing" on your plan, you will know who you may be able to trust as a supporter.

Healthy relationships are those that recognize the needs and boundaries of others and allow them the space to do what they need to do. You may get lonely and that's ok. Take time for yourself. Go and do things that bring you peace and joy. Walk by the river or the ocean, hike in the hills, go visit one of the flower gardens in your area. We have two or three of these (probably more) in the Portland area. Lie down on green grass looking up to a clear blue sky and notice how green trees contrast with the blue above. I love this one. Look to beauty to heal you. God can be recognized and approached, for example, in nature. Find your peace and you will begin to feel what healing feels like. It feels good to get this glimpse of the healed life. It gives us a goal to aspire to. Once we taste peace (we Christians may say "taste the kindness of the Lord", you will develop a love for it. Your personal retreat may be a day or two or even a week. Take a break in a way only you know how... the kind of break that will best minister to you . . . calm your soul and spirit. Start small, an afternoon or morning for example, and work your way up to more time.

If this sounds too good to be true, you may be a great candidate to build this wonderful activity into your life. I like to take a day or two each quarter to be alone. Even in my ongoing depression-anxiety this feels like it is helpful, at least at the time. My point is that we need to develop a break ... or like Richard Dreyfus told Bill Murray in the movie "What about Bob": "You need to take a vacation from your problems!" A planned retreat can be just that if you have the time, the support, the safety, and the courage.

The prophet said, "Be strong and of good courage for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." (Its hard for a former preacher to leave out a fiting text or two.) Pardon me.

Typos and all ... God bless you!

Have you gone Mental? (XLVI)

Its 3:18 as I begin this morning. I woke up at 2:45 and haven't been able to go back sleep. I am wide awake. I wonder if the medication has something to do with this messed-up sleeping pattern. I take a medication at night that is supposed to be sedating, go to sleep by 11:00 and then wake up between 2:30 and 4:00 AM. At about 8:00 AM I go back to sleep for 2 to 3 hours. Then I get up and get on with my day.

As I think about this I surmise it may be my anxiety waking me up. Things are changing with our financial situation now. Maybe this is something that figures into the equation. Today I laid in bed for about ten minutes, got up took a shower and shaved. I hoped the shower would help with the warm water running on my body. Not today.

I took my handful of pills and came to the computer to write. I learned in treatment that trouble sleeping is a common phenomenah among many suffering with deprssion-anxiety as well as bi-polar disorder. I am trying to learn abour bi-polar because I evidentially have "it". Ths has been discussed with my psychologist and my psychiatric nurse practioner. (I wondered where those highs and lows were coming from!)

It seems I DO have "bi-polar depression and hypo-mania, the depresson can make me go very low into the darkness; where suicidal ideation is present. When my mood improves, it usualy manifests itself with some degree of anxiety which is part of what I am experiencing so far. A hypo-manic episode is where I anter a state which lowers my mania to a more managable level (hypo means low).

This hypo-manic episode is made up of several feelings: znxiety, irritability, increased appetite and a desire to frenetically clean the house (dishes, decluttering, vacuuming, and doing laundry.) Whereas my wife loves this, she also realizes it is part of my illness. I've pitched in for my fair share throughout our marriage, but this is different somehow. Its almost like a sense of urgency overcomes me. When we used to have some money (when I was employed) I think spending was the main symptom instead of the desperate neeed to clean the house. I still have urge to spend but no money to spend which is at one frustrating and empowering.

I also have, and this is troubling, a strong desire to please my wife. Whereas there is nothing wrong with this in general, I feel this motivation in my hypo-manic state. I love my wife and would do anything for her, but what I'm doing now is a bit over board. Its like I'm driven in this direction. She enjoys this for the most part, but sometmes my "help" at times can be irritating to her.

We are pretty different people. I like to do what needs to be done, right away. She, in the majority of instances, waits until the laat minute to start. This tendency of hers seems to have changed since she started back to school. Procrastination doesn't work when one is taking a lab science two evenings a week as English Composion 2 at 7:00 AM before going to her job for the day. She studies the magority of the time at home in the evening; for which I support her heartily. I am so proud of her. Since I am driven to help, this works out fine. Except when I put her cell phone in her purse and place it on on the dining room table. She goes to get her stuff in the moening and, lo and behold, it isn't there because I reorganized her life! This is one example.

She laughs it off now, compared to the beginning of this pleasing activity. And seems to enjoy me helping her to her car by carrying her book bag and other things. I feel like Mr. Intrusive at times and hope, for her stake, not to become any more driven to help than I alreay am.

This has been going on for months now and she is geting used to it and just lets me do these things along with her exortation to sit down and rest. Right now it seems this is not an option; its like I need to keep moving.

Well, its 4:45 AM and I'm going to go back to bed and try to catch a few winks before I get up at 5:30 and get the kids up and off to school.

I aplogize for blabbering on about this, but it is what I'm experienmcing at this time. I know someone out there is experiening the same thing as you suffer with depession-anxiety or bo-polar disorder among other things. This is fairly raw stuff fpr me. Its akin to when new skin (scab) is being removed from a wound. It seems like this is where I've been last few weeks. I may need some sort of sleeping pill if it continues. However I do not to want to take even one more pill. I am trying to titrate off one depression medication and replace it with another which may be helping me to some extent.

Well, I've gone on much more than planned. I thought writing about it would be healing for me and be an encouragement to others who are experiencing the same thing. I would encourage you that "this too will pass". Or s the old Gospel song says, "Let it be, Oh Lord, Let be."

Typos and all ...God bless you!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (XLV)

Today is shaping up to be a difficult. The Court is sending a real estate agent to assess our home for "Short Sale." I never thought this would happen. Yesterday I made arrangements with the bank to surrender our (newer} car. No one knows where this season of unemployment may lead. I am fearful of what happenanext. How long does a short sale last? How many days will we have to move out.

I am learning how the "other half lives." This time the "other half" is the thousands of individuals who are among the "have nots." I have often felt sorry for a family who is leaving their home because they can not make the payments. I am not trying to get people to feel sorry for me. I have faith in God that He will make a way where there is no way; that he will work things out for us to find a rental property. I am praying for dependability for the (much) older cars we bought. They are ours. We paid cash. We are slowly bur surely getting out of debt.

Regarding money we have a little left from my severence and are assisted by food stamps and the insurance we were able to get through DSHS, or wherever it comes from for the boys. Janet can get affordable insurance from her job. I have no insurance. I understand it will come with my SSD as soon as it is approved. I have not hit bottom yet, but feel the floor approaching as I free fall from the height I enjoyed for the last 21 years. I had great jobs; the highest paying job I ever had from my last employer. I took that for granted. No more.

I am now getting the idea what it feels like to live within my means. Janet and I are going through Dave Ramsey's program (Financial Peace University). I am wanting the peace! We are having the experience of bankrupcy and cutting absolutely everything from the budget we can. This a position I think many of you have had. It is at once a blessing and a curse.

Yy anxiety have been spurred these few months since I was given my "walking papers" from my last employer. It was a reduction in force for financial reasons. At 4:45 I have been up since 3:00 not so much worrying as wondering. The real estate person comes later today. I estimate three more months in the house. Then we will be renters...somewhere. It has been said that God never closes a door without opening a window. I am looking for the window. Yes, I am anxious, worried. What is my next step? I pray for this almost daily.

I do not wish to re-enter the working world in the field of alcohol and drug or counseling. The social service field is too risky. I need a change. I understand that I will be able to work part time after approval of my SSD. I'm sure it will be difficult to make this change, although my background may give me a "leg up".

I continue to try to get better. There are few things I can do that I was unable to do last January when this depression-ansiety hit me so hard. I can drive myself to certain distances, I can go to the store with out a chaperone. I am able to begin going to the gym a couple of times each week. I fear the crowd, but if I stay to myself I sm usualy ok.

I ask your prayers as one who is experiencing what so many are at this time. I don't want sympathy, just your prayers. I am going through somethimg I have never thought I would. So self assured, so secure and then the rug was pulled our from under me.
As my faith teaches me, I need not to "let go and let God" but to "take hold with God" I wish you God speed as you walk down your path. I have found that walking the path of a fellow traveler gives me a measure of peace and hope. I trust you are finding this in your story ss it unfolds for you.

I do not know the future of my life; I thought it would be much different than it has turned out. I have some strentgh within as I commit myself to Christ as my Lord. I think of the line of the prayer of St, Ignatius which he proclaims to Jesus: "with you by my side enough hss has given.: I know, in my spirit that this is enough. I need to give much effort to work this into my life.

Typos and all ... God bless you!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Hav you gone Mental (XVXIII)

Have you ever felt that your life is spinning out of control? Most of us with mental disorders have felt this way. It seems like we had no part in setting the spin in motiion. If we think awhile we may find the trigger.

One trigger is financial. Many of us have financial problems, especially if we are unable to work at the time. The stress in this case can be absoluely overwhelming. At this time I am still unable to work. We lived off the severence from my job for awhile. We saved some and needed to buy two used cars because our car is being returned to the bank. This type of pressure leads to problems in our intimate relationships.

The number one stressor that results in a couple ending up in divorce is financial problems. It is then we learn that we each have different priorities. It is then we need to be strict with our money, make a budget and live by it. Put some small amount of money away to serve as an emerency fund. We need to prioritize our spending to first pay those things we need to carry on life as usual: food, shelter, clothing, medical problems, and transportation. After that comes your Visa(s), other charge cards and then other bills, The kicker comes when we don't see eye to eye on a budget and the priorities of spending. You MUST move toward agreement for your financial matters as quickly as possible. If not fights will take place that could end up in divorce. So be reasonable and be prepared to have your "sacred cows" killed. According to one man, "Sacred Cows make the best hambergers.

Finally, the aim is build intimacy in your marriage and deepen your friendships. Depression-anxiety sufferers need support. We need a person or persons who can lend an ear when we are going through the worst of times. Mine includes my wife and four other people who "stand" with me in good times and in bad. They are availble to us. Some of us can "stack the team". The optimal situation, between all the members can involved, can result in someone who can be reached each day and night.

Of all those above, we need to keep personal support "nearby". Our support team can help hold us acountable in our financial plans and budgeting, as well as priority bill paying. Don't forget to make contact with them every day ... I do. Share yourself with trusted friends and let them help you.

There is no pill to take to keep our lives from spinning out of control. It happens to the best (and worst) of us. Prepare yourself. Don't let a spinning life become a downward spiral. Stay strong by following these simple principes. You can do it!

At other times the spinning is out of nowhere. We can think of nothing that brought it on. Those of us who have depression-anxiety may find this a frequent occasion. For instance, I wake up every morning with anxiety. It seems to be my experience. After I take my medication, it slowly goes away. Next depresson comes on; I have no explanation for this. I am getting pretty good at using my bag of traicks so I can oftem minimize this problem after awhile. Then thoughout the day either depression or anxiety continue to attack me; Sometimes without warning, other times due to a trigger.

Keep in mind when you have a triggering experience pull out deep breathing and affirmations. Take a walk. Pray and meditate or do other things that work for you. Take yourself in hand. Its not easy. Sometimes riding the wave of depression-anxiety may make us feel good and gratified we are sick after all! Many times we need to tell ourselves that we want to live! We want to be healed! We need to want to be healed to bring healing about. Say to yourself, I want to be healed! I want to live.

This is a good time to talk to one of your supporters...especially if the feeling is accompanied by thoughts of suicide or harming yourself in some way. You need to be able to ascertain if you need your doctor, your counselor, or a person from your support team. When I had my last serious suicide thoughts I held on to them and didn't call a soul (I was very ashamed and got a good tongue lashing when I got better from almost all my supporters.)

Your life is too precious. There is only one of you. Learn to love yourself and those around you. You are lovable and wonderful in your own way. God loves you and values you. Work to feel the same about yourself. Use good affirmations such as "I am a good person.", "I love myself.", My life is precious to God, to others, and to me." You may want to devlope some more.

Please be yourself and love yourself the way you are. I know its a hard assignment, but you can do it!

Typos and all . . . God bless you.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (XLII)

Have you ever played monopoly and landed on "chance?" One chance you take is to find the card that says "Go directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200." As I considered this funny little saying we have all heard I thought of it in terms of my depression-anxiety.

Have you ever felt like this disorder was like a prison from which there is no parole? I sure have. It seems sometimes that my whole bag of tricks is like keys on a large ring, none of which unlock the door. I do not stop using them because they lend some hope of getting out one day. I continue to follow my program and find relief time to time. I try to anticipate some relief each day and hope against hope that one of these days, one of my keys will open the door to this emotional prison which I have entered.

I just want to be free. I think its what we all want. I long for that blissful feelng of freedom that some of us get while walking on the beach watching and listening to the waves or lying under a blue sky near a grove of trees and gazing at the contrast of the green trees and blue sky. You may have other settings that afford feelings of freedom.

We all need this feeling once-in-a-while. Just a glimpse ... a fleeting glance at it. It may be a slight stirring in our heart when we feel it pass through us with its own soft and tender message of hope.

Look for this. Long for it. Pray for freedom or at least some transitory feeling of freedom. It may give you hope; the hope that one day the prison doors will fly open and release you from all that incarcerates your soul and spirit. That is my prayer for myself and for you.

Typos and all ... God bless you.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (XLI)

Friday used to be my favorite day ... when I was working. Now it kind of varies. The outstanding thing about today is that I went to the gym this morning. I was able to stay for about an hour. My anxiety was serious, but I went anyway. I haven't darkened the door of the gym since January. In fact because of financial reasons I had cancelled my membership.

A good friend, about a week ago or so, asked me if he could buy me a one year membership to a gym. He planned to pay this in advance. We went to the gym yesterday and he pulled out his check book and wrote a check so I could make my return,

I know how important exercise is to one with depression-anxiety. I have been walking for exercise, but my full body exercise had dropped by the wayside. I went and did sort of a circuit training: 3/4 mile on the tread mill, chest, back, bicepts, tricepts, and legs.

I can't tell you how gratified I was to have been able to spend an hour at the gym. It was a great accomplishment for me. I do not like crowds and being around people I dont know. That is what has been keeping me away. Today I forced myself. I prepared my gym bag last evening and when the boys left for the bus, I left... driving ... slowly. Upon arrival I sat in my car for a few minutes before going in. This was the gym I used to go to. There was a different person at the front desk. Aa I looked across the gym floor I found my way to the locker room and prepared to return to the floor. I went up the stairs and mounted the tread mill, set my time and speed and walked; watching the T.V. before me. (Don't be concerned, I'm not going to take you through my whole workout.) After the treadmill I walked down the stairs and saw a familiar face. It was Julie and her husband who used to work out at 24 Hour Fitness when I went there. It brought me some comfort and my anxiety lifted slightly as I continued my workout.

To some of you this may sound rediculous. Its a gym for God's sake. I could almost hear it in my head. Those of you who suffer from depression-anxiety know what I'm talking about. Some of the simplest things are very difficult. I've been a gym rat since I was about 19 years old. I love the gym, but today was a victory.

I think its important to take care of ourselves and I also feel its important to make some stretches for our own good, This is what I did today. I'm sure it will get easier as time goes on. There is probably something in your life you need to do for your own good, but cannot. I'm not judging you. I understand. Let me encourage you to take a baby step and do that thing; or part of it. I need to let you know how happy I am that I was able to go to the gym. It was a giant step forward to go. Altough my anxiety returned and gave me difficulty when I got home, I do not regret what I did. I am planning to try again Monday (and succeed).

So, if you are in the place where you think you might be able to handle something in your life that is healthy, and you have not done this since your depression-anxiety came on with a vengence... just do it... or part of it. It feels so good.

Typos and all ... God bless you

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (XXXX)

As you can see, I'm really lost on my Roman Numerals. There must be one that means 50but I'll have to look up. Speaking of not being perfect, what kind of presure do you put yourself under to maintain a flawless personna? Maybe you don't do that.

This blog follows up from last night's in which we considered the question "Who am I?". I have said for years, "I'm not perfect, but parts of me are excellent." While I think it is important to stretch ourselves toward doing life better, we will never hit perfection.

My old Pappy used to say, "If a job is worth doing its worth doing well". I interpreted this to mean when we do something we should commit ourselves to doing as well as we can, according to our ability, and to see the job through. Those of us having depression-anxiety may have trouble carrying jobs/tasks through to completion. We may violate our souls with negative self talk that puts us at risk for self-fulfilling prophecy. Things like this come to mind: "I'm not good at this", I'm not smart enough to do something like this.", "If I can't do a good job maybe I shouldn't even try." "I'm afraid I'll disappoint ________ if I don't do a good job".
Its better to just say "no" than put yourself through a bunch negative mental gymnastics and end up feeling horrible.

Its funny to me how many of us who have mental health difficultiies are perfectionists. I mean, what a trip ... usually a guilt or shame trip. We have fear of not doing a task flawlessly. If you say, "I could never do this job." you are probably right. There is power in our words. We, in many cases get what we say. If our self-talk and the way we talk to others is negative, we may well have a negative outcome. Whereas, if our self-talk and the we talk to others is positive, we may well reap a positive outcome.

We need to train ourselves to be positive (or at least neutral) in all we say. We need to think 'what I say often results in what I get'. Try some positive affirmations:

I am getting better every day in every way.
God is healing me.
My depression-anxiety is getting better
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me

Write out some of your own. Talk to yourself. Be the person God wishes you to be. I call it faithful and fallible. We are faithful to what we feel is asked of us, and we agree to do, AND we are fallible as we carry it out. God's measuring stick is faithfulness. The most important thing is that "a servant be found faithful". That is key.

So please take the backpack of perfectionism off your shoulders. Toss it to the ground. Look carefully at the task you wish to achieve. If you don't want to do it save yourself and don't agree to do it! If it is something you really want to do and you basically know how to do it, take it on! Remember to be faithful; see it through. Remember you are fallable and you may not do it perfectly. Drop the backpack!

You are Faithful AND Fallable... not Faithful BUT fallable. The difference is subtile.

Its funny how many of us suffering from depression-anxiety think we can do things perfectly. We can barely do our lives functionally sometimes! Give yourself a break. I don't give advice, but if I did I'd say: 1) talk positively to yourself; 2) talk positively to others; 3) Be faithful in whatever it is you agree to do; Remember you are also fallable and DO NOT APOLOGIZE for that!

You are a precious human being. Don't let perfectionism and negative self talk convince you that you are not. Or as it is succinctly said: "God don't make no junk!"

So with weird Roman numerals, typos, and all...

God bless you... You beautiful soul.

Have you gone Mental? (XXXVIIII)

How do we come to know ourselves? Many of us may have a handle on this but I'd wager that many who suffer from depression-anxiety do not. Who am I? Look behind occupation, social status, gender, political ideology, and the particular roles we play in life. Who am I? It is a question of being, not doing.

Let's think WITHIN the box. Who am I inside? Who am I in my soul, spirit, my inner beliefs and values, the innermost part of me? Who I am is reflected by the behavior I demonstrate. The difficulty in showing who we really are is greatly influened by what we think of the opinion of others. Many of us with mental disorders are well-guarded. We are afraid, on some level, that if people really got to know who we really are they would not like us, or accept us, or want to be in our company.

Who I am may be fragile, fearful, negative, sad, and chronically alone. Who I am may be depressed and anxious. It is who I am that defines me. Who I am is hidden inside of us. Most of us have perfected a personna or a "false face" to try to cover up who we are so we can fit in with others in our world.

Many of us dress for others, diet for others, say the right words for others; hiding our true identity. Who I am. Why am I afraid to tell you who I am? I want to appear "normal". Who am I inside is painful. It is often dreadful and terrible, at least in our own estimation.

I have tried, in this series of blogs to show who I am. What I do is not important except when it shows this. I know a man who is a wonderful person. He is a community volunteer and philanthropist. Who is he? He is generous, committed to the underprivileged in his community. He is the picture of love and grace; a person in whom the teaching of Jesus is manifested. That's who he is. His behavior demonstrates this consistently.

My conclusion? Be who you are. Don't be afraid to let others know. Be that inner self that is yearning to get out. Be honest in yourself and in the company of others. When we let others know who we are we will behave consistently with our inner self. This is not a New Age teaching. To be who we are, we need to be that person from the inside out.

How we discover who we are is in meditation and silence. We need to access our soul ... our spirits. But how? I read a page from the Hebrew or Chritian Scriptures slowly until something "jumps out at me." I usually use the teachings of Jesus, the Psalms and the Proverbs. I then write that phrase or sentence on a piece of paper or in my journal and meditate upon it by repeating it over and over in my mind. Then I enter the silence. This is one way to discover who you really are. Those who use other Scripture or spiritual literature can have the same experience. To find out who we are we need to access God ... the Other ... our Supreme Being... or as we Christans put it" The King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Great, the Mighty and the Awesome God.

It has been said that "silence is the language of God." Sit in silence holding the "who am I" question in your mind. The answer may come in that first session or it may take a week or a month, or a year. Its worth it. Be patient. It shall be revealed often little by little. Rarely is it revealed all at once. The more we meditate on Scriptures and sit in silence holding the question in our minds, the better the chance we will have of discovering who we really are inside. It is also the way to change our inner person to a more functional, more comfortable, more authentic person. Who am I? This may be an important key to mental health.

Typos and all . . . God bless you.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (XXXVIII)

Today the roller coaster continues. I go down at break neck speed and then, hitting somewhere near bottom begin the long ride at a much slower pace to the top. If you've ridden such a contraption you know what I mean. My favorite roller coaster was the one at Jantzen Beach Amusement Park in Portland,Oregon.

A friend and I rode it 10 times in a row on a day when it was a dime a ride. We'd save up $20.00 and then one of our parents would take us to the north end of interstate bridge over the Columbia River from America's Vancouver to Portland. This when it was a toll bridge. Neither his parents nor mine wanted to pay the toll for crossing the bridge.

Twenty bucks was more than enough in those days to do everything a young boy could want to do in an amusement park for about 6 hours. Even though I was much older, when the amusement park was torn down to make way for progress, I wasn't sure that "progress" was a fitting term for what they did to a place that holds so many memories.

When you ride the long climb to the top you are filled with anticipation and not a little fear because you know what happens next: a sharp drop with a curve at the bottom where many a lunch was lost (not mine!). My depression-anxiety works like this. The ride up represents the anxiety getting more and more intense. My head begins to ache, my skin becomes clammy and my chest tight. I hold on for dear life.

Maybe this is what I do with my anxiety I hold on to it hoping this will be the last and worst episode I'll have. When the level of anxiety reaches its apex I take a long deep breath.. there is pause, than I start the desent picking up speed. Faster and faster I drop to the painful solace below; I call it painful solace because I think anxiety is taking up more of my life than depression at this point. Perhaps the anxiety is so bad I long for depression. When I seem to be able to just feel the depression and reach into my bag of tricks for a temporary remedy the "curve" in the tracks appears when my depresson is at its worst. It appears that anxiety "turns into" depression. The car slows slightly and there are a few shallow valleys when depression comes to the fore. I don't know if I handle depression better or I'm just more accustomed to it. I pray, I cry, I rage against this horrible feeling I have experienced since I was a young teen that holds me captive each day.

Like the roller coaster, the pattern is set. This represents my life each day. My anxiety begins in the morning upon awakening. It calms down a bit after I take my medication, in about one - two hours. It reawakens about noon time and I take another pill. I am calmed more quickly now. It is not that the anxiety is gone. It is because the anxiety and depression become so close they kind of mesh. Maybe this makes no sense to you. It is a theory of mine about myself. The depression is with me always. There is always a significant "under current" that runs through everything I do. Many of you know the feeling. It is what quenches the enthusiasm in my life. It is why I don't enjoy things as I could. It is why my laughter is muted and my happiness is so temporary. It is the emotion I try to hide with my humorous personna. Many of us walk this path daily. I know I don't hold the market on this one. But even this is empowered by certain stresors.

This is how I am today, the anxiety is more intense as is the depression as I beg and plead for God to take away the power of my child's addiction. I hope against hope that there will be full surrender to the higher power called God. Sometimes I surmise that addiction is primarily a spiritual disease and to experience remission one must take a fresh look at one's spirituality. Further I feel that we may need to come to the point of desperation.

Having hit this point, we must pray that God will enter the innermost part of our lives and make the changes there that will help us recover. There are so many obstacles to overcoming addiction. The bag of tricks is not an approach that works, It involves self-knowledge which is impossible until one takes the vital step to stop drinking, using, gambling, or whatever holds them hostage. Once one stops the harmful behavior the healing process can begin as they "clear" and begin to see life as it truly is and accept life on life's terms. Overcoming addiction is a path one can only walk with much support. The hardest part is facing oneself. In the innermost part of myself, I know its true.

Typos and all ... God bless you.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (XXXVII)

We all have problems. I grew up in the house of an alcoholic Father. He was a good man who loved his family, nevertheless he was often verbally abusive. I know my Dad loved me for many reasons. He was the one the night I went to my 1984 hospitalizaton that said, "Jeff if you killed ... if you did anything like that it would kill me." Then he hugged me tightly with tears in his eyes. I think that was the day we began to accept one another for who we were and began our relationship anew. As I outgrew my childhood I became a good man too. I do not think any of the problems I am having were in anyway caused or authored by my father. I worked that out long ago. I am fully responsible for who I am today.

Dad worked hard as an owner and truck driver of a wholesale distributorship under the Standard Oil Company. I remember when I was a young boy about 10 when I asked, "Dad, will your trucks say Brockway and Son on the doors one day?" His response was powerful and impactful as I look back, although it sounded disappointing at the time. He said, "Son you're not going to be a truck driver. You're going to make something out of yourself." He seemed happy in his job, but somewhere down deep lay this seed of disatisfaction that sprouted into a little boy. HIS son would make something out of himself. That is why the high expectations, that is why the pride when I earned my doctorate. That is why the pride when I went to work for my last employer. To talk to him you'd think I was the CEO of the hospital for which I worked, although I never rose above middle management!

As vulnerable as I was statistically I did not become an alcoholic or an addict. I drank a few beers and quite a few gin and tonics over a few years, but never developed a habit or formed an addiction. In fact, one day I stopped all that. My drinking now is comprised of a (very) occational marguerita or pina colada and a hot buttered rum on Christmas eve.

Then it became my turn. I was raising kids of my own, beginning in my 21st year of my life. Erin, Kelly, Jon, Josh, and Jeffrey. Beth came into my life when Janet and I got married. She became much more than a step daughter to me and for all intents and purposes she is my daughter and I love her as such. Then there was Andy, my Great Nephew, who came to live with us when he was 5. Jeff (17) and Andy (14) still live at home.

Its difficult to think that your kids could develop an addiction. It absolutely breaks your heart. In my current state, I of course got overcome by my depression. I felt horrible as this addiction has developed over a two year period. I was in deep denial, not wanting to believe one of my grown kids was an addict. Maybe it was arrogance. Maybe I was naive. At any rate It happened under my nose. The feelings about this are new and they are still raw. I wish I could reach out and flip a awitch and the addiction would just leave. I wish I could take away the pain. The grief process will be a large part of the healing: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, fear, and (hopefully) acceptance. A good friend (the drug) will be left behind if all goes according to plan. Having treated addicts for 15 years, I know it reaches remission only sometimes. That realization brings me to tears. I know many of you have been through this (and worse) with addiction in your family.

As I sit here tonight, having talked through a treatment plan with his mom, my wife Janet, and one of my daughters. I am cautiously hopeful. The intervention has been done. The drug is very potent so detox is necessary. My depression tells me that he is doomed and my anxiety tells me that my depresson is right. It sucks. It has been a roller coaster since this came to light. Depression and anxiety; anxiety and depression; prayer, silence, hope, desperation, and fear. God help me!

That is what I'm facing tonight. I am sad when I think what my child is facing. My problems are probably insignificant compared to this young suffering addict. I know the problems are different and know if he accepts and applies the treatment and support meetings there is a good chance of overcoming his present pain and then entering recovery; not just abstinence. My role: encouragement, prayer, and compassion.

I am not a victim in this case. Do not feel sorry for me. As much as my depression-anxiety has been activated to new highs and lows I am not my greatest concern now. I am a Dad who may have been on the brink of alcohol addiction at age 32, when the Lord reached down and brought strength to me. He gave me the gift of stopping cold turkey.

Well all that aside, I hope you will pray for my child. Please pray that the heart will soften and the treatment that has been offered will be accepted and applied to life.

Thank you for your gracious prayers for this precious child of mine.

Typos and all ... God bless you.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (XXXVI)

Do you ever have stress in your life? If you are like me, and I know I am, you do. What stress does the "normal" person (the person who does not suffer from depression and anxiety) have? How do they face it? It motivates them to address the problem to overcome the distress.

What happens to those of us who have depression-anxiety when we're under stress? Many of us wonder what we did to bring this about. That's guilt. Many of us wonder what is wrong with me that I now find myself under all this stress? That is shame.
We of the depression-anxiety "set" may put ourselves through the "ringer". It is such a "ringer" that it brings about more destruction than the stressor itself.

What can we do when we are under stress? When we have depression-anxiety we need to take a look into our bag of tricks. First, pull out prayer. Cry out to God, "Oh my Father you see what is happening in my life. Give me the wisdom to think through this stressor and listen for your inner voice that will help me solve this problem"
[or something like this]. Pray every day about the stresor. Pray for the people involved ... PRAY.

Next change how you talk to yourself. Many of us who have depression-anxiety may say to ourselves some very negative things. "I'm such an idiot." "How could I be so stupid." "I've got myself into a situation I can never crawl out of." Instead of this, say, "I am a child of God." "I can seek the wisdom from God." "I am in a tough space here but God is the God of second chances, third chances, fourth chances, and (I hope) fifth chances!" SAY POSITIVE THINGS TO YOURSELF. Stay away from any negative self talk. Stick with positive, or at the least, neutral self talk.

Seek positive input from a friend, mentor, etc. We Christians call this "seeking Godly counsel". If we have stress, we need support. We do! I know its embarrassing to share about our stress. But we MUST! Ask the person you know if they can set aside an hour to talk to you about something and that we need someone to help us think through a problem we are having. SEEK INPUT. An ancient proverb says, "A problem solved is a problem halved." This means not that the person will solve half of our problem for us. I have been in the counseling business from 1984 until the end of 2009. Many, many people said to me. I feel better just having talked about it! I tried not to ever give advice. I helped people think through their particular problem and make a plan with which to approach it. SEEK INPUT ... you will most likely feel better, before you solve the problem!

Well that is all the "tricks" I wish to discuss. You probably can name five more... USE THEM. If you are under the weight of depression-anxiety you are at a disadvantage UNLESS you pull out your bag and use what is there. You have a life experience that "normal" folks don't have. You are already going through "hell" when something comes and throws some new dry wood on the fire we are affected. The difference is you are used to stress... it, to some extent, has taken over your life!
Take a deep breath (or ten): Pray (Talk to God); Talk to yourself (Positive or Neutral talk); Seek Counsel (Talk to another person).

Stress is one of the constants of the universe. If you have no stress ask someone to take your pulse. Life is partially made up of certain stressors that are common to every one of us. If we have depression-anxiety we may have more stress or what we do have hits us harder than it does others. So, take care of yourself. be good to yourself, be wise. Let God help you ... and help yourself with the techniques above or others you already know that will improve your situation.

Typos and all ... God bless you.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Havbe you gone Mental? (XXXV)

I am grateful today, as I often am, for my support team. I hope you have one too whether you have a mental illness or not. Me wife Janet is my primary supporter. She is a comforter, my empathizer (not sympathizer) and a wonderful encourager. She makes suggestions openly, but with a gentle touch. Janet is very intuitive. She speaks and I wonder if she has been reading my mind! She has a tremendous amount of wisdom. She says I talk in my sleep, but she knows far more than my midnight utterances that rarely make sense. She is a dear and I love her very much.

My oldest daughter Erin was around this weekend. She, too, is a comfort and an encouragement to me. It seems she is able to be the gentle listener as well as a master of exhortation. She can tell me when I'm not thinking right and asks pointed questions to bring me back on track. She can be a little stronger in her suggestions than Janet, much the time. I know she doesn't get that from MY side of the family! I was 21 when she was born and I'm ... older now and so is she. Maybe older than I am in some ways. At times I think she has a 36 year old body and a 57 year old soul.

I also need to mention my friend George. George was a First Sergeant in the Army and is now retired. Maybe enough said! He is very no nonsense. "How was your day? What were your last few days like? Troubles? What did you do about it? Why didn't you call me? What were you thinking!?! Simple, direct, drill sergeant like but also like the gentle "character giant" he is.

I also saw Peter this week. Peter is the (now retired)therapist and current minister who saved my life, literally, in 1984. I was at the end of my rope. My depression-anxiety was taking me closer and closer to a suicide attempt. When I made that attempt He was there, saved my life and got me admitted into a hospital for a "vacation from my problems." He was a person who truly cared about me, I believe, from the moment he met me. Over the years since, he has become not only my friend, but my mentor. He and I meet weekly and talk about his stuff, my stuff, and what's happening in this crazy nation of ours. He is careful with my soul and my spirit and is a true soul companion. A true brother.

These have been the closest people to me beginning last January when my world fell apart and my depression and anxiety got the best of me. When I thought I wanted to take my own life in late May all these people were there. Janet got me admitted to the hospital. I needed much more than a vacation from my problems this time. Janet also faithfully drove me to Portland to my Partial Hospital program and then my Intensive Out Patient program; lovingly and with great care. She, my loving wife, called this group together to support me

I hope I haven't bored you with the list of angels in my life. I guess if you were bored you'd have stopped reading almost instantly. Anyway if you're still with me, once again I hope you will gather one or two close supporters around you and love them as they love you.

Typos and all .... God Bless You!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (XXXIV)

I had a pretty good morning today. I ran a couple of errands and then came home and slept for two hours. My daughter Erin had spent the night, so when I awakened I heard the famiiar tap, tap, tap of her fingers hitting the keyboard. But its always a welcome sound coming from her. Erin in the house provies a great degree of comfort. I told her I had a problem, I had no candy. Admittedly not a priority, but I love to have a milk chacolate nugget on hand when I get the urge. She took me to Wal Mart for the hunt. I saw, I grabbed, and I conquered. HA! I just havent eaten one yet.

A scary feeling came over me when we returned from our short trip. I began to breathe heavily and got a distinct feeling of dread. My heart rate was getting rapid. My forehead was a bit clammy. My chest was tight.

When I told Erin what was going on she suggested I talk it out, I said there was nothing to talk out. It was non-specific and tied to no stimuli I could acertain. It just hit me. I was loving our visit. I would not call it a full-fledged panic atack. I call it an anxiety attack, which I've said before is not a technically correct disgnois, just my descrption. Now that the feeling of dread, the heart rate, tight chest, and rapid breathing has left me, I decided to blog. Its funny that after the chest relaxes, I can feel it after it stops for several minutes, alhough there is no pain associated with it.

This feeling had lasted about 10-12 minutes. I had the urge to call my wife who was not availble to the phone at her job. I told Erin which provided some comfort. Her suggestion to talk it out seemed a bit stange to me. I've never really done that. I've just allowed myself to feel the feelings, observe them and hold them in my body. I did some deep breathing, following my breath in and out. After about 3-4 minutes my heart rate began to slow down. My breathing, by force probably, began to normalize. The tightness in my chest began to subside. The claminess went away. The feeling of dread was the last to go at about the 10-12 minute mark. It was like (eg.)getting hit hard in the arm. The sensation of the assault is felt very strongly at first. With some physical intervention like rubbing and other movements, it begins to go away.

I know many of you have had full-fledged panic atacks. I feel for you and know this is very serious and painful. I just had a taste of a near panic attack and I was literally stuck to my chair for ten minutes. Did I actually have a panic attack? I don't know. These anxiety attecks are fairly infrequent (every week or so) however it was only four days since my last one. I don't know if this is a sign of getting better or worse. At first blush I'd say worse. When I think more I wonder if I could be getting better because I am becomning less disconnected from my feelings. This is a question for my therapist.

Well I'm keeping it short today. I'm still a little shaky and I've felt my feelings. I used a physical intervention along with a sentence prayer I didn't mention before. The prayer is "Jesus fill my life with peace." As I inhaled I'd say "Jesus fill my life." As I exhale I'd say "with peace."

The major onslaught is gone and only some of the anxiety remains now. I need to pray some more. I was wanting to see how it would be to write this experience out. With Erin here I felt safe in and through the bulk of the anxiety. There remained and still remains an under current of anxiety. The experience has been gone for about 25 mimutes by now. I feel depression beginning to set in. I'm going to return to my chair and see where this goes. I know depression well. It comes to support my anxiety
and to confuse me for the most part. It is a sneaky enemy (friend???). Im going to return to prayer and do some more deep breathing. A walk may also be in my near future. Yes that sounds like a good idea.

I'll write again soon. I am going to be a bit cautious here, but Jesus words. "Have faith in God" will go with me on my Prayer Walk.

Typos and all ... God bless you.