Light and Darkness

Recently I shared a story about cycling and depression over at ZwiftBlog.com. In the weeks that followed my world blew up a bit. People began contacting me left and right saying that they too deal with depression or another chronic illness. Some have said my writing has helped them understand depression a bit better. Person after person from the UK, Canada, Japan, Australia, near and far have been incredibly encouraging. “Ride On!” “Keep it up!” “Keep sharing!”

It got me thinking about the time I was spelunking in high school. We all turned our headlamps off and it was so incredibly dark you literally couldn’t see your hand just an inch from your nose. But then one little lamp came on further down the line and everything changed. You could see. It wasn’t bright, but it was no longer completely dark. I believe it’s like this for depression too. When you don’t talk about depression it stays in the dark and so do you. When you shine even just a little bit of light on it, it’s not as dark. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt as bad, or that it doesn’t hit as hard, but for me shining a light on it means it’s less daunting. It means I feel less alone. It means I can push through and make better choices through it.

Knowing there are many places in the Bible that talk about light and darkness I decided to look some up. One of my favorites is Psalm 139:7-12– “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,’ Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.” Can you even picture that? In that dark, dark cave where I couldn’t see my own hand He could see perfectly as though it was day. And in that dark, dark place my head goes to when I’m slumped on the floor wishing the depression would go away? He can see in and through me as though there is no darkness. I can’t run away from him! I can’t be too dark for Him! So thankful for that! So thankful!

So what is your story? Today you should share the part that needs some light shone on it. I started small. I started with one person. You can do that too. Share with someone safe and share it with God. Even though He already knows your story it makes a world of difference to speak it back to Him, acknowledging what’s going on.

Back On The Writing Wagon

Mildly humorous is the fact that “Silent No More” is the name of my first blog post, and yet I’ve written almost nothing over the last several months. That’s the funny thing about writing about depression…you have to have a bit of a functioning mind to write, and yet depression keeps your mind from functioning well. I liken it to God calling someone with only one leg to run a marathon. It’s possible, for sure. Just going to have some major things to overcome during the process.

I’ll slowly work my way back to writing regularly. I have a sign up next to my computer that says “I feel God’s pleasure when I write!” And it’s true. I do. And I long to spread the word some more of the very normal mental illness called depression.

I’m learning great things right now and I want to just spew them all over this page, but I think it’ll be too much, too fast. So I’ll leave you with this one saying that has resonated in me. A saying that my dear mentor Kathy spoke to me on our first meeting. A saying I want you to consider. What does it mean for you? How would it look in your life? Here’s what she said (and oh, how right she is!) —

“Let nothing, NOTHING, come between you and our Lord!”

 

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Ticking Off Your Daily Goals

I like to make goals (NOT resolutions) at the beginning of each year so that I can work towards something. One thing I know I need help with is being consistent with these goals. I’m in a monthly goal group where we all have our own goals and we all hold each other accountable to do them. I highly recommend YOU start something like this too, if you’re needing some accountability.

I also like visual helps in getting my goals done and I enjoy being able to check things off of a list. So I made a consecutive sheet of all the days in the year so I can watch it fill up. I made it generic so if any of you has goals (especially if you’re trying to do them daily) you can use it too. It’ll be cool to see an unbroken line of days marked off!

In the coming weeks I’ll really be figuring out what my goals are for the entire year. I’m never ready for January 1st because there’s too much going on in December for me to truly plot out an entire year. So my journey to be a better me will be put together in the next couple of weeks. I’ll share my plan then.

If you’d like to use the goal sheets I made, feel free. Pass them on to others. And give yourself grace if you don’t fill in all of the bubbles. I set them up so you can write what goal you have at the top (ie. Workout 4 days/week; Pray every day), and then cross off the bubble corresponding with the day you did the goal. Ideally you’ll see a string of checked off goals and be motivated to keep that chain unbroken!

Click here for the pdf:
goals-consecutive

Feeding the Soul Through Music

“Music… will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

In times of the darker depressions in my life I gravitate towards listening to darker, sadder music. It feeds my soul in a comforting and dark way to hear with my ears what I’m feeling inside. The confusion, the sadness, the paralysis enjoys a soundtrack that confirms and validates it all. It’s not actually helpful. I know that. It’s feeding a difficulty in me and keeping me where I know I don’t want to be.

So I try to force myself to listen to songs I can claim truth in. Songs that even though I can’t feel the peace or joy of I know I’ll really relate to someday. It might be tomorrow, it might be next month. But I need to listen to songs that mean more than just stagnant death and wallowing in my own filth. But man, it’s so much easier to wallow. At least at the time.

Below are some of the songs I enjoy. I need to listen to and claim the truth in them. These are the songs I need to play while I’m alone…so I can just be me and cry through, raise my hands through, be angry at, or do whatever else I need to do. Sometimes I don’t believe the words in these with my head, but I sing them asking God to please let me believe them.

What songs do you listen to that help you, even if you have a hard time believing them?

 

 

 

 

 

How to Handle a Depressed Person

“Do you want encouragement, or do you need me to slap you?” This is what my friend just asked me after knowing I’m struggling like all get out. And she was right to ask me. Because she didn’t know which I needed. Although, when I’m in the throws of this suffocating depression I don’t even know what I need. But the question made me laugh so I suppose I just needed a small bit of humor.

But what does a depressed person need? Let’s actually start with what you SHOULDN’T do–

don’t judge them. having depression doesn’t mean they’ve done anything wrong. it doesn’t mean they don’t believe in God. it doesn’t mean they are sad. it doesn’t mean they haven’t read their Bible enough. it doesn’t mean there’s unconfessed sin in their life. do not judge them!

don’t do to them what makes you feel better for you. you know, like hugging the person who hates hugs, or getting together with the person who needs quiet, or talking about the people you know who are dealing with depression or about that one time you were so sad. what do THEY need? it could be different than what YOU need. and it probably is.

don’t tell them how to “fix” themselves unless either a) you have been through it already and are giving them some ideas on relief, b) you’ve done a ton of your own research and are willing to walk with them through all of the ideas you’ve found, or c) you are willing to pay for them to get medical treatment. “you need to read your Bible,” “you need to think positive.” these are not helpful.

don’t tell them the logical reason why they shouldn’t feel bad. they know in their head all of the good that’s around them. they know they have a nice house, a good family, that the sun is out, that the coffee tastes good. don’t forget, they aren’t sad. they have a medical illness. just as soon as you can think your way out of a bout with pneumonia then you can expect them to think their way out of mental illness.

don’t tell them about the other depressed person you know in an effort to have them go through it together. depressed people can hardly help themselves, let alone someone else.

What DOES a depressed person need when they’re in the worst of the muck? Here are some things I’ve come up with (choose something that works for you and start there):

do an everyday task for them. make them a healthy meal. mow their lawn. do their laundry at your house and then return it clean and folded. if you’re close enough to the person, clean their house. pick the kids up from school (with their permission). everyday tasks seem like giant mountains to them that you can climb for them.

pray for them. don’t even worry about asking how to pray. just pray. pray for healing. pray for relief. pray for the people living with them who are in the trenches with them. pray that they make good choices even when it’s hard. pray. and if you are able to pray over them in person, do so.

be understanding. if they cancel their meeting with you, be okay with it. if you see them acting silly and happy, don’t question it. take your cues from them. remember the verse Romans 12:15? it says “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” they may not want to be around people, and that’s okay. just send them texts of encouragement so they can look at them on their own time. understand that they have an illness and work with it.

help their caregiver. most people already have a caregiver like a spouse or close friend. ask that person how you can help THEM. it can have nothing to do with the person dealing with depression. you could wash the caregiver’s car. you could take a load of garbage to the dump for them. you could take their car in to have the oil cleaned. you could clean their gutters. you could send them away to have lunch out while you watch the kids. if they don’t have a caregiver, check in regularly with them asking two simple questions.

go on walks with them. make them small at first, and convenient for them. walk for 10 minutes. even if it’s just a slow trudge. then add two more minutes every few walks. even if it’s raining. they need to be outside for a bit and they definitely need their blood pumping. be careful though. if you’re not someone they know well and trust completely you could turn into more of a nag each time you beg them to walk with you.

read up about depression on medical web sites. learn about it from a medical perspective so you can understand more. if all you know is from what you’ve heard or seen over the years then you’re doing your friend AND you a disservice. become educated.

send them notes of encouragement. whether through facebook or e-mail, texting or *gasp* snail mail, a word of encouragement can be powerful (just keep in mind the other tips above as you’re writing it).

As a depressed person it can be SUPER awkward to share the information above with friends and family. It’s like you’re saying “you’re not helping me right!” So if you could do the world a favor and share this post with YOUR friends and family so that it’s less awkward for the rest of us, that would be awesome!

Two Magic Questions

I have a really smart, upbeat and motivated friend who isn’t crazy. I mean, she’s crazy, but more of a “likes to have fun and make you laugh” crazy and less of a “diagnosed with a mental illness” crazy. Don’t get me wrong, she’s human and has struggles, but she and I struggle with different things and don’t expect each other to fix the other person, so it works out well. Recently she was telling me she has another mentally ill friend (we’re all over the place!) and she asked a wise and godly nurse how she can help this person. The nurse gave two questions to ask consistently. Two questions that anyone with any mental illness should be asked.

If you’re a person with a mental illness, or you’re the loved one of a person with a mental illness, you need to ask these questions regularly:

1. Is it time to re-evaluate my/your medication?

2. Am I/Are you seeing a counselor regularly?

Whether you take medication or not, your body is changing. You’re getting older, you may be gaining or losing weight, your hormones (even you men) are changing, your body could be tolerating your medications differently. Your body will not be the same every month or year. Your medication may need to be changed and you should be evaluating that regularly. But check with your doctor before doing ANY medication changes on your own!

Whatever your mental illness is it’s always going to be easier to go through if you’re able to sort things out with a counselor. Some of us will need more counsel more often than others, but all people with mental illness need to be seeing a counselor. If you don’t like yours, find it too inconvenient to get to, they cost too much, etc then change counselors. I live in a small town and there aren’t a lot of options for counseling, but that won’t stop me from finding a good fit. Be sure you’re not just shopping around or avoiding them because you don’t want to dig into your messed up insides. That’s not helpful. Go see a counselor.

That’s it. Two magic questions. Medication and Counseling. Go ask yourself if you need to add more or less of those. If you don’t know the answer, go ask your “likes to have fun and make you laugh” crazy friend and see what they say.

I Don’t Have Answers Today, Only Questions…

(Disclaimer: This post is about hostage situations, with all of my research coming from shows I’ve seen, not real life. I started to research hostage situations to gain a better understanding of what happens in real life and it super creeped me out. So you get the TV version.)

I realized recently that there’s a bit of a hostage situation going on quite frequently in my head. The problem is, I’m not only the Hostage-Taker, I’m also the Negotiator AND the Hostage. How is that even possible?

Picture, if you will, your favorite cop show…Blue Bloods, CSI, whatever. Picture the hostage, the perp, and the negotiator. The hostage often times sits there wishing and hoping and praying. They are fearful and just want to be released. To be free. They’ve probably thought of past failures or regrets, as well as relationships they want to mend, things they want to pursue but haven’t, a better and newer life they are hoping to have. They just want to be free again.

Then there’s the hostage taker. They are often frantic, demanding, psychotic, sweaty, paranoid. They have demands and have no plans to release the hostage or be taken into custody. They want certain things and they are clearly willing to do pretty crazy things to get them.

Lastly, there’s the negotiator. The one who seems calm, has ideas, makes deals, smooth talks, and decides how and when things will do down. They often times have resources and all the answers. They seem to control the situation from outside the building.

This is just about how it goes in my head too. One part wanting to be free, rethinking life. One part wanting to control, but acting erratically, scaring the hostage. One part seeming to be in control but just making deals that could go either way.

But I don’t want to be all three. Or at the very least I want to be the best part of each. I want to be thinking about doing life well, while working incredibly hard for what I want, while controlling the situation.

I don’t know how to do that though. How do I weed out all the yuck? And how do I take the good of each and leave the bad? Have you figured it out? What would you do? Have you ever been the full chaos of a hostage situation? Please, share!

Jesus In The Front Of My Vending Machine


Ice cream. Booze. Nap. Watch TV. Jesus.

I realized recently that’s basically been my go-to list for how to handle severe depression. While the list is quick and easy to read through getting through it in real life is usually an annoyingly long process. I start feeling the depression worsening so I’ll start with a full day of eating poorly (which generally makes me feel much worse). Then an evening where I’ll drink something terrible. I know drinking is never the answer and can lead to alcoholism, which is the reason we keep very little alcohol in the house. Napping is next and is SO appealing because not only does it seem you can sleep until you’re over the depression, but also because depression is physically exhausting! Literally! But I have jobs to do (like take care of my kids, make meals, and the like), so napping can’t happen much. And even when I am free to do it I feel terrible about my lazy self afterwards. It doesn’t help! And if it weren’t for my stinking New Year’s plan I’d then watch TV to feel better. But, like napping, I just feel terrible about my lazy self when I do move again. There really aren’t any more options in my book, so I will then try Jesus (usually DAYS after I start feeling the depression worsening)…prayer, reading a verse and/or devotional, and more praying (which often looks like complaining and begging all in one).

But I want to move Jesus up this list. What would it look like if He was the first thing I went to? Like I’m picturing a vending machine with just one slot, and the front of it used to have ice cream in it, then alcohol behind that, then a nap, TV and at the very back of that slot was Jesus. But what if when I loaded the vending machine I put Jesus in the front? That way, the next time I pushed A7 Jesus popped out first. And maybe after I met with Jesus and begged Him for help THEN I can go nap for 20 minutes. And then I can go eat something yummy. And then maybe I would put a few other things back behind Jesus in the slot…like exercise and veggies (well, maybe not veggies).

So, anyway that’s my plan for this month. September is when Jesus is in the front of my vending machine. And I’m going to write that all over my house so I remember. And I’m just going to leave the rest of the machine alone for now because let’s be honest, if I change too many things I’ll quit before the end of the month.

Who is with me? Will you move Jesus up one ring in your vending machine? He doesn’t even have to be in the front. Just up one little spot so when you push A7 it doesn’t take so long to get to him in times of despair.

Jesus? Is that You?

I heard from Jesus last month. It was kind of a big deal. He spoke directly to my heart in a big way. You may wonder what that looks like. And if you had to guess, you’d probably think He spoke to me in the weeks leading up to a camping trip we were going on. Those were weeks filled with me (mostly internally) freaking out because the last time we were at this same exact camping spot a huge Redwood Tree branch fell on our bikes, destroying them. But that’s not when He spoke to me. He also didn’t speak to me when we slept out in the meadow during the camping trip where it was 7000 degrees during some of the days. Nor did He speak during the 5.1 earthquake that happened.

No, it was while I was sitting all cozy in front of the fire listening to our Pastor speak on various parts of the Psalms. And Jesus told me I don’t focus enough on him. Especially on this blog. That’s it. That’s all He said. But it was a big moment that I was trying so hard not to hear. And I wonder if I heard Him right then because I wasn’t focused on me. I was focused on listening and learning and gaining and receiving and worship.

Anyway, I’m kind of a big obeyer when He’s so obvious about it. So now you’re going to hear a lot more about Jesus. More of the way He can and will help you and me with our depression crap! Which may mean the posts will be even fewer and further between. Because man do I have a lot of garbage to wade through in my head. But I’ll be keeping it real, as usual, and I’ll be trying to figure out how to bring more of Him in and less of me.

Take Action!

“Choose to be happy!”
“Read your Bible more.”
“Just don’t believe the things in your head!”

There are so many pieces of unhelpful advice that people with depression receive all the time! Toxic pieces of advice that make us feel worse. I’ve tried the things above, many times. Telling me to do them makes me feel like more of a failure. It also makes me want to punch someone in the face.

Depression can’t just be willed away. It’s an actual sickness. Would you tell someone with cancer to choose not to have it? Would you tell someone with a cold to read their Bible so it’ll go away? I would think not. Clinical depression is a sickness. Making your mind up about it isn’t what gets rid of it.

But because it’s a sickness I need to take action. What do I do when I have a severe sore throat? I may take medications, call a doctor, talk to a friend about it, google it. And if one of those doesn’t take the pain away, I try more solutions. If my doctor didn’t help, I find a new one. If the medication didn’t help, I find a new one. If my friend told me to quit being a baby I’d talk to a different friend. The point is, I need to keep looking for answers and help.

It’s the same with depression, friends. If what you’re doing isn’t helping, do something else. Keep fighting for health! For the love, if you haven’t done so, call your Doctor!

Take action! Please!
(if you need help to know what action to take, see this article)

my journey through depression