Sunday, November 28, 2010

Have You Gone Mental - 67

Too much of a good thing?
I had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. Wednesday, Thanksgiving eve, my daughter and daughter in law came over for a couple hours. I always enjoy this time, especially because they live so many miles away. Thanksgiving found me at my mother in law's home for dinner from about 3:00 to 7:00. The food was great and we had quite a few people over. Friday AM my wife and I did some "Black Fridaying" from 4:00 to about 9:00. At this point I came home for a nap before meeting my friend Peter for lunch at 11:30. I got home at one or so, watched some football and dozed in my chair. Saturday we had my brother and law and his wife over to watch the Huskies beat Cal 16-13 (I think that was the score). We then went out to Pizza with my brother and sister in laws and their spouses. My brother and law and his wife came over for pie before heading north to begin their journey home to Bellingham

These were all great times of fellowship, they were fun. I enjoyed each outing and time of being with those people and each night I would crash in my chair, totally exhausted.

The times were enjoyable to me but totally sapped me of my energy. It was too much of a good thing. I ended last night (Saturday) totally exhausted (physically. emotionally, and mentally in my recliner. I did a breathing exercise both during and after each time we were with someone, which helped a lot.

I use the words totally exhausted because the times of fellowship, as pleasant as they were, truly took almost all the emotional strength I could muster. This morning I will go to church. I have already meditated this morning and found some peace. I always look forward to attending our small church each week. We usually have 20 or 25 people in attendance to sing, spent time with one another, and hear some great teaching from Pastor Pete.

Although the weekend really took it out of me, it was not the people. This is important. I love all the people with whom I spent time. It was just having a day of depression-anxiety; due to my involvement in so many things, I was not able to "keep up emotionally". In other words, no fault lies at the feet of my family and "in-laws" I just took part in too much of a good thing. I am looking forward to today, watching football with my son and just relaxing. This will help me mellow out from the busy weekend. I with to extend a big thank you to those who invited me on their trips and to dinner. I love every moment of the time, took extra medication and tried to take care of myself in between.

I don't know if this characterizes your weekend, but I can tell you that my "no thanks button" was not working. However, I am thankful for all who love me and hope that next year will find me able to participate with a more relaxed demeanour.

Typos and all,,, God bless you.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Have You Gone Mental? (LXVIII)

Today is the day ... If you worship a personal God: Give Thanks

Today is the day ... If you don't believe in a personal God: Be grateful

Who are you are thankful/grateful for?
What are you thankful/grateful for?
Why are you thankful/grateful?

Set aside some time...even 5 minutes. Answer and act upon these questions.
Be thankful/grateful. Tell someone.

Give thanks with a grateful spirit, your soul will sing.

God bless you,


Monday, November 22, 2010

Have You Gone Mental? (LXII)

Life throws things at us nearly everyday. It seems that once we feel we're doing ok and have come to some sort of balance, BAM! Its not the sound of "the other show dropping" as it is both shoes dropping at once. We often exit the episode feeling like a squished bug.

It seems like there is no way to avoid this because it happiness to everyone whether they suffer from depression-anxiety or not. Those who don't, seem to handle things much better. They can feel the feelings, assess what happened and the ramifications thereof. They then organize their thoughts in the face of the stress, make a strategy, execute the strategy and move on.

WOW! That sounds great! Why can't I do that? Those of us who deal daily with depression-anxiety have the will but lack the how to. No that isn't true. We seem to lack the strength to carry out the "how to".

Depression-anxiety strikes at and affects our thoughts, feelings and our ability to take action. Its like the old proverb says, "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak." We want so badly to face our tribulations head on and successfully drive them away from our lives. Our spirits are willing. We want to have the ability to overcome our problems with faith and resolve. Our flesh is week. Depression-anxiety lies at the core of our want to with a resounding "YOU CAN'T". This is where our learned interventions come into play. I have called this our "bag of tricks." Remember just because we may have a cute name for this supply of interventions, it is a cache of powerful steps we can take to restore equilibrium in our lives. This coupled with the ability to "allow" (calmly feel our feelings as an outside observer)is a great combination.

I like to think through my bag of tricks daily and especially my affirmations. This kind of builds a safety net for me for when the storms of life begin to blow and both shoes drop on top of me. It is important to develop affirmations that are very positive. The point is to strengthen our self-esteem and our "I can do it" attitude.

The Apostle Paul said in the New Testament, "Everyone is affected by difficult things but God is faithful and will not allow us to undergo any trouble that is beyond our ability to bare." Paul believed that God is watching out for us and though the trials of life come crashing down he will offer us his strength if we can manage to trust in him while we use our personal interventions to take care of ourselves.

The idea that God has a purpose for our lives becomes lost in the quagmire of depression-anxiety. In fact some of us may not believe it. I do believe it ( as a Christian)and even so I have forgotten this "a gillion times". I seem to come back to it as I practice my prayer and mediation nearly every day. I like to be able to say, "This is a hard day AND God is with me."

No matter what your faith tradition, if any, successful handling of the trials of life is not for the faint of heart. Call upon God, the Great Spirit, your higher power, your highest self, whatever it is for you and ask for the faith to move through the particular trial you are facing. Allow this power (God) the latitude to minister to you, give you wisdom and strength and walk with you through the trial at hand.

This is very difficult, but when the tribulations of life strike, remember to use your affirmations such as "I'm getting better every day" "This too shall pass" or whatever helps you and trust in God to bring you through.

Typos and all ... God bless you.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Have You Gone Mental? (LXV)

As I've ventured down the rocky path I'm on, I have become more and more reflective about grief and loss in my life. Whereas there are several areas in which I've experienced this, I'll mention two..

ONE AREA is in the arena of friendship. Some of the best people in my life have chosen to move quite a distance from me. My daughter Erin (Seaside, OR); My daughter Kelly and son Jon (Moses Lake WA); My good friend Ric (Mukilteo, WA); and My good friend George (Goldendale, WA). Whereas these locations are all within "driving distance" and as close as my telephone these moves of supportive people in my life has been produced a great deal of grief.

There are several left who are still within an "arms length": One is my wife, without whom I would probably not still be walking around on this earth; Peter who one of my best friends just across the river in Portland. Brenda and Jim, are nearby and have encouraged me with their e-mails and two wonderful books they have shared. Then there is Suzanne and Marguerite who have also participated in my life and recovery by their prayers and kind words. This list comprises those with whom I have had signigicant contact over the past several months.

Its been nice to have telephone access to those who have moved, but it is not the slightest bit akin to being in their presence, sharing our lives and experiencing the warmth of a hug. This for me is loss. You may look at this list and exclaim, "geez you have some people who have had a profound effect on your life living nearby"! I would have to agree. Nevertheless every one of these people have their own special place in my life. Not having ready access to those who have moved has been difficult at times and unbearable at others. Maybe I want it all! I guess I do. I'm so grateful to God for each and every one of these individuals (near and far) without whose love and support I would be in very bad shape.

THE SECOND AREA is my work. As of about March 23rd 2010 I was let go from my job as a result of a Reduction in Force RIF. The job was the best I'd every had. It addressed each area of my training: mental health, chemical dependency, and pastoral care. I was the manager of the employee assistance program, the chemical dependency service, and the spiritual care service. This loss was and is very devastating, not only from a financial standpoint, but from a personal/professional one. If you've ever had (and lost) your dream job you know what I mean. This loss has not only been of money and profession, but the loss of the management team with whom I had become so close in the past 15 years. I think of these people often. I also think about my job and grieve the loss there (I guess I said that).

I suppose you may be thinking something along the way of the man who said, "I complained when I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet". I do have a wonderful cadre of people who care about me, AND the job is remains one of my deepest losses.

My life was a near "perfect package". It was as if I had it all. Now it is my task to work through my grief and my losses and try to make sense of my life. Which is no small task. It feels like I am trying to figure out who I am. I just don't know any more. I also wonder where I belong in the working world. What can I do on apart time level? I do NOT wish to return to "social services". Healthcare is not where I want to be. Every day I pray to God, "show me the way". The heavens are silent and the lack of God's voice is deafening. I love to work. I will not make the mistake of being so emotionally involved with my profession. The loss in this area sent me spiraling down to who knows where. Oh how I hope I've hit bottom!

Dependence on my job to define me is something I need to work on. I believe I need to work toward a profession that is fulfilling that does not define me as a person and from which I receive my self-esteem. This is a problem from which many of us suffer: over-involvement and/or co-dependency with our jobs, and becoming dependent on our jobs to produce self-esteem. I had a great deal of myself, too much of myself, wrapped up in my work.

So now I'm seeking answers, not as to "why" I sustained these loses, but to where I go from here. It is a balance I seek between those I love and a job that I love. I hope I can become a good husband and father, an "encourager" of my friends and a faithful hard working employee. I believe its what we all really want. I hope you have achieved it. Please pray that I can.

Typos and all . . . God bless you.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Have You Gone Mental? (LXIV)

I've been fighting depression the past few days. No that isn't right. I'll try to explain what I mean. While going to war with the emotion I learned fighting is not the key. I am just learning that for me, feeling the feeling, contemplating the feeling, prayer/meditation, and allowing the feeling to run its course (which it always does for me sooner or later) deserves some attention.

Like I said, I am learning more about my disorders and how to deal with them as I go along. This is a departure for me. Instead of reaching into my bag of tricks I have tried not to fight the feeling but instead feel it. This can be very painful. Tears often come. Sadness is paramount; especially the contemplation step. Contemplating the depression as to its cause and its extent has helped me to follow my chosen path while allowing the feeling. This is very painful, but I've found it worth the effort. You may disagree.

So I am running my experiment. Do not fight, but allow...allow when empowered by the Spirit. I've come to the point that some of my methods have limited success in the long run. The method I am proposing is to be a self-observer. I am, in a way, learning to detach from the depression. I have found some success in living in this new way. I am realizing this is more art than science.

I have noticed that the depression "hangs around" waiting for me to pay attention to it in the old way of fighting. My experience is when I fight depression it deepens. This may just be the character of depression in my own life. I am learning that when I just allow, through mediation and prayer, the desperation is taken out of the feeling. This is my experience.

Maybe allowing could be part of the bag of tricks, but it is not aggressive. It is a more peaceful approach. Joy is the opposite of depression. That is the goal... joy.
I am learning that when I fight depression joy does not result. Joy is more the result of calm allowing and acceptance of the disorder in my life. Its not that I enjoy depression, lord no. I just think this allowing and acceptance of what comes into my life is the result of knowing that there is a reason this "depression" is visiting me. What that reason is may or may not be revealed to me. The reality is, I'm depressed now and that is what matters.

So I allow myself to feel the depression, contemplate/meditate on the depression, humbly pray for release from the depression, go about my business and let depression run its course. This is difficult, I have found, when depression runs four days as it has so far. I'm sticking with my new method and I'll keep you apprised of my success.

The peaceful approach may be the key to receiving the joy we all wish for.

Typos and all ... Let there be joy ... God bless you.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Have You Gone Mental? (LXI)

My time at the beach last week was wonderful. There is nothing like a mixture of solitude and grandchildren to refresh you. My daughter's home is beautiful and affords a great view of the ocean on both levels of the home; nothing was present to obscure the view.

I've spoken about "tools" necessary for recovery but it seems like I've left one out... water. The ocean has a unique look and rhythm of its own, far different than a river, lake or stream. I love rivers, etc, AND I love the ocean. I grew up going to the "beach" every year for vacation with my family. I grew tired of this and came to the point where I dreaded every trip. In fact, I would go to the beach and never, never even go near water.

I guess I didn't know what I was missing; and didn't care. Over the years I have come to the point of loving to observe the waves flow toward the shore. I have also enjoyed looking out over the small waves to the large ones. The water rises out to sea to display the power and the fury of those waves and then abates as it reaches the shore to show the gentler side of its "personality".

This reminds me one of my anxiety attacks. Looking out to sea, one witnesses the sea in its tumult, angry and powerful. If one tried to walk, swim, or paddle out in this part of the ocean I can only imagine being tossed to and fro. I can imagine being submerged until I am gasping for air flailing and trying to get on top of the waves so I can ride them to calmer waters. The truth is, they ride me. They carry me along and finally throw me on the shore exhausted and injured. Then I am overjoyed to be out of the power of those waves and being able to take a breath and enjoy the gentleness of the water as it makes its way toward the dry sand.

If you suffer from depression-anxiety you know this feeling. You know what its like to feel the brunt of anxiety (which seems to have a mind of its own). You know the experience of the pounding heart, the increased pulse, the sweating, the shaking inside and out. You understand the fear and the terror of those times. You understand being this powerless. You know you need to reach into your bag of tricks and grasp a tool that will help you to the surface among the angry waves. You realize the harder you try to fight your way to the surface, the more difficult this terrible "ride" becomes.

Somewhere in the back of your mind you begin to realize that fighting is not the way to the surface and will not allow you to reach the top of the waves. You realize you need to let go; to surrender yourself to the mercy these waves and of God. You are thrown up to the surface and take a breath. You allow yourself to ride along and take a breath whenever you are able. As you submit to the flow of the water, over which you have no power, your mind begins to tell you, "every thing is going be ok"; you take another breath, then you hear: "this too shall pass". As your mind begins to feed you with these words of hope you find yourself in shallower and shallower waters until you, mercifully, are able to take breaths more frequently.

When you reach the shore the ability to breathe returns. The gentle movement of the water around you as you lie on the sand looking up into a partly sunny sky allows you to take deeper and deeper breaths. You feel the symptoms leaving your body as your breathing becomes more and more natural. The deep breathing is calming you, your positive self talk begins, and you start to feel safe, almost tranquil. This takes a significant period of time, but you begin to feel hopeful.

The remnants of the "attack" over time become a memory as you continue your deep breathing, self-talk and positive thoughts. You've been through the worst of it and have come out wounded but recovering.

I now love to walk along the shore feeling those gentle waves lap at my bare feet; I begin to draw peace from the waters that once tried to over come me. I whisper a prayer of thanks and continue to walk slowly on as my breathing becomes more natural and the power my mind takes over once again. This a feeling of relief and joy.

If you've had an "anxiety attack" you know the experience. The ocean, the waves, and finally the relief as you allow the angry power to move you toward shore as you submit to those waves.

Not knowing how to end this entry, I urge you to develop positive and effective self talk that will allow you to have hope instead of despair when these times come.

I now love the ocean as I sit in my daughter's living room,safe and warm, and cast my gaze to those angry waves and watch them dissipate into shallow water on the shore AND I am in awe and thankful.

Typos and all ... God bless you.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Have You Gone Mental? (LXII)

I am sitting in my daughter's dining room looking over the cove just south of Seaside, Oregon. I've been watching surfers trying to catch the big one and there goes four more. There have been no "big ones" today, but still they wait for the wave that will carry them from the sea to the shore. Its out there somewhere, but not yet today. Still they try over and over again in hopes that big wave will come.

As I watch the surfers I think of myself. Sometimes I feel I, too, am waiting, for the "big one" that would come into my life and somehow put all the broken pieces of my life back together as as though the wave is my solution. Actually there is nothing more pathetic than a person trying to find something to carry them through life. Those of us dealing with depression-anxiety know this all too well.

One may think, what about God? Doesn't he say he'll carry us through life? No. He promises to be with us wherever we go, He is NOT a wave. He is one who works with us to heal our lives. He may introduce things into our lives that will lead us in one direction of another, but he does not treat us as robots and promise happiness and a ready rescue from all our problems.

What most uf us need is forgiveness. Not forgiveness from God, but from ourselves. Let us ask ourselves, "Have I ever done anything wrong? Have I ever done something against my own values? Have I ever beat myself up about it? (Say "Yes" here). Of course we have! In most cases it is far easier to gain absolution (forgiveness) from others than from ourselves.

God will not carry us through this one. God forgives and even forgets while we go about feeling that this horrible pain we feel is somehow related to God. God looks on, as I have been doing at the surfers; knowing that the big wave of healing is not coming today. Seas are pretty calm. we need ro remember that our problem lies within ourselves.

The difficulty is that holding on to our lack of self forgiveness prevents our healing. Until we forgive ourself, there will always be something in the way of recovery from depression-anxiety. And what do you think plays into these emotions more effectively other than lack of self-forgiveness, self-hate, or whatever you call it.

I know what its like to hurt many, many people.When I was 20+ years younger I created victims who have now become survivors; my former wife, and the three children I had at the time.What I did not only caused a divorce, but hurt many many beyond my family, even causing a few to lose their faith. I'm sorry and have been for over 20 years. God forgave me at the time. Then I spent ten more years beating myself up. In fact there are times when my depression is at its height the monster returns and I give into his wiles and get out the old night stick and begin flaggulating myself.

Beating one self up is an art. It often comes on the heels of feeling sorry for ourselves. It is pointless and harmful to us and others. If this is something that you do, you need to stop. I suspect it lies at the very bottom of our bag of tricks under everything else. Lack of self-forgivess takes us to a dark place where we wallow in negativity, depression and anxiety. It is a bad thing. Search your bag for this most dysfunctional of techniques whereby you affect your mood. It may be in there, believe it or not. Its right along side the thought "since I gave up hope I feel better." How do these negative things get into our bag of tricks? Well, we may misplace them or more frequently, hold onto them so we can feel the full force of our depression-anxiety. They make it "hurt so good". The song writer was not referring to this of course, but somehow it creeps in. In these cases, watch your thoughts and your laanguage. Some itmes depression-anxiety don't feel like it should. Beating yourself up makes it hurt so good.

Hurting yourself does nothing positive for you or anyone near you. How much Better to grow in grace and self-forgiveness. This way you will not only help yourself, but others.

Typos, Roman Numerals and all. . .God bless you.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Have You Gone Mental? (LXI)

Good Morning all. My last post is still stuck in the cue at blogspot and will not publish for some reason. I will continue to work on this and try to get it out asap. I need you to knowe that I am not real computer literate. I've been able to hold my own for years, but evidently I need some help!

I had a good night last night spending time with my wife and her best friend at Buffalo Wild Wings. Stimulating conversation and much love. I am grateful for times like this. When I returned home I had what I call an anxiety attack. I could not explain it other than I was in a crowded place with a lot of people. Within an hour I was able to calm myself down for the most part. I believe I need to make myself do these things to try to desentize myself from agoraphobic tendencies that have been with me from the beginning of this bout with depession-anxiety. By the way I am looking forward to 3 days with my daughter and son in law next week. This will be kind of a retreat filled with reading, journalling exercizing and prayer. I'll have a private place in thier beautiful home.

I returned my car to the bank yesterday. My financial situation prevented me from keeping it. We have a couple of beaeters to deive. My wife has a cute litle Toyota Paseo (1991) and I have a kind of "beat looking" Subaru legacy wagon (1965). As many of you know I am still unemployed and we are living on my wife's salary which does not allow a car payment. It was difficult and illustrated to me how far I have fallen as a result of illness. After this incident of taking the car, I shed a few tears. I cried not because losing the car. Its just a car. I had a "loser attack". I've concluded now that I am not a loser. I am sick with a serious mental illness and cannot work. Bankruptcy was the option we were counseled to pursue. It is embarrassing and humiliating. Those of you who have gone bankrupt can identify with me. I take no pleasure in going backrupt. I'll spare you of the net gains and losses in this processes except to say I've learned to view possesions as temporary and with lower value than I used to. Going from my "good" salary and my wifes salary to one salary has been financially devestating. The "loser reflex" is something that is an unneccessary. Things are what they are and I have no control over them at this time.

Well I'll continue to work on my failing computer to get my last blog to publish.
Thank you for your loving words, thoughts and prayers.

Typos and all. . . God bless you.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Have You Gone Mental? (LX)

I have now just finished my sixth day of significant depression. I've became too depressed to write, kind of immobilized for a couple of days, although I truly enjoy it. This blog has become a journal, of sorts, that has traced my steps on my road to recovery.

I must admit that I have not felt like I was getting better for the past six days. As I begin my day at 5:00 AM I can feel the intensity of my depression beginning to subside. Why? I find myself at this early hour looking forward to a day in which there will be a few positive things.

I think, actually my "resurgence" began yesterday at lunch with my good friend Peter. He is the one person with whom I can talk about the feared topics: religion and politics. Our talks don't change the world, but they are very uplifting. Am I still depressed, yes. The difference is in the intensity. Up until yesterday I would say (on a scale of 1-10) I was about a 2. Throughout the day I increased significantly to a 6.

I also saw my therapist in the late afternoon yesterday. Seeing my therapist does not necesarily make me feel any better. In my sessions we take our picks and shovels and "dig' into my life in order to "mine" the material that will hopefully lead to a higher degree of recovery. I am, at this time, struggling to define "who I am". It has been difficult because I have come to the point to which I don't even understand
what "who I am" is! I have defined myself in terms of my occupation: manager, counselor, etc. This is how one writer defines my life: a human "doing" rather than a human being. I don't like cute little sayings like this, but it does seem to describe where I have lived the past several years. That is my journey at this point, as depressing as this hard work is. I hope that God will take mercy on me so I can solve this dilemma.

I began my day, yesterday, at 7:00 AM at my Rotary Club. The crowd is a bit anxiety producing, but I enjoy this meeting I now attend weekly. My club does a tremendous amount of community service from which my disorder has discouraged me from participating in. I have not served since late last year. Outwardly I am a RINO (Rotarian in name only). My club, knowing what is going on, has been patient with me.

After seeing this in "print" I realize why my day was better yesterday: Rotary, lunch with Peter, and a visit with my psychologist. I was involved in three activities which I could positively anticipate. This phenomenon seems to be helpful, temporarily at least, to my having a better day than usual. I appreciate such activities in my life. Mostly I do not positively anticipate the day.

I need, often, to reach into my "bag of tricks" and meditate, use distraction, exercise, make contact with members of my support team, and writing. These "tricks" seem to lighten my load a little, so I feel a bit better for a while after my use of these skills.

I don't know where my life and recovery is heading. I feel I should be a lot better than I am. I have described my progress as three steps forward and two steps back. I can attend some gatherings, which I could not do for months. I do so with a signifant level of anxiety but force myself, "acting as if". I can last about an hour before I feel like I need to "run for my life".

Well that's it. I've had a few victories and several losses. Life as usual. I can usually tell how I am doing, in some respect, by my ablity to write this blog. It usually puts me at a 4 or 5 which is a welcome relief from the difficult days at a 2 or 3. Having finished my 50th blog, I will continue to write this jounal and trace my steps through my process.

Typos and all . . . God bless you.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (LVIIII)

As you can see, I'm not very good with Roman numerals. Is that right? Anyway this is my 59th entry cataloging my journey in the midst of depression-anxiety.

Wow. Its been a rough week and its only Wednesday 12:40 AM. Have you ever just wanted to die? Sunday, Monday and Tuesday have been such days in which I wanted to give up. I'm not sure I have been suicidal... just weary of the battle. I've been inconsolable for the most part. I've been guilty of putting a "happy" face on a sad soul.

Many of us are good at "faces". When I say this I mean we can look and act like everything is ok when we are virtually dying inside; on the edge of tears. This is the best description of the last three days. I have no explanation. I haven't had any particular stressors bad enough to bury me in the depths of despair.

I took a walk Tuesday afternoon. A prayer walk. I said the Lord's prayer, I said the "Soul of Christ" Prayer. I made the request of being a person of whom negativity is relaced by Love, depression is replaced by joy, anxiety is replaced by peace, fear is replaced by faith, and desperation is replaced by hope.

These are the qualities I crave. I've experienced their polar opposites: negativity, depression, anxiety, fear, and desperation.

I think I have probably said enough for this time. I find myself exhausted but unable to sleep. I am planning to go to prayer for a while and then go to bed. I hold out hope that my rising will bring about restoring a measure of well-being. I plan to review my journey through my journal and expect God to fill my spirit with a fresh revealing of his presence.

Typos and all . . . God bless you