Tuesday, October 19, 2010

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.

1 comment:

  1. Wow Jeff, I really needed to hear what you wrote today! I'm so grateful for you and for your willingness to share your thoughts and your struggle with this awful disease of depression and anxiety! I've struggled with anxiety/depression for years as well, and your blogs are both encouraging and painful to read, but always touch my heart. Sorry you have these massive struggles to deal with, but Tim and I both understand on a very deep level the pain that mental illness brings. He's been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and depression as well. He's more in to self medicating with alcohol and other not so helpful activities, and so we are struggling with many of the issues you are. Money, marriage, job, faith, etc. (and aging parents) Right now, I am not able to see my psychologist of many years, due to money struggles (I'm unemployed as well) but your blog and thoughts help me to recall and utilize the "tools" that I too have stored in my bag of tricks to fight the anxiety! Tim doesn't trust anyone to help him right now, nor does he wish to "recover" and I watch his struggle and wish he could find a will to reach out and find a support system, for now, I'm it and I'm not so good at it either! The blind leading the blind as it were. Just wanted you to know that once again, you've blessed my life with your witness! Thank you for sharing and God bless you in your recovery!! Praying for your continued recovery (typos and all!!! ha) Pam Matthiesen