All posts by monica

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)

Describing Depression

I had a super crap 4 days last week! Horrible, horrible depression. And I tried to figure out how to describe the feelings I was having (or, at times, the lack thereof). I couldn’t. But I started reading a book that I won’t recommend because it has a lot of the F word in it, which I’m not a fan of. It’s a hilarious book but also can be serious. It’s Jenny Lawson’s book “Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things” and you’ve been warned, it’s crass. Anyway, here’s what she says about depression for her:

“There’s something about depression that allows you (or sometimes forces you) to explore depths of emotion that most “normal” people could never conceive of. Imagine having a disease so overwhelming that your mind causes you to want to murder yourself. Imagine having a malignant disorder that no one understands. Imagine having a dangerous affliction that even you can’t control or suppress. Imagine all the people living life in peace. Imagine the estate of John Lennon not suing me for using that last line. Then imagine that same (often fatal) disease being one of the most misunderstood disorders…one that so few want to talk about and one that so many of us can never completely escape from.”

This made me wonder how others try to describe depression, so here’s what I’ve found.

–“Having depression is like being trapped in a really bad thunderstorm. You don’t know when it’s going to hit, you never know how long it’s going to last, and when it finally passes, you’re left to survey the damages and pick up the pieces.” — Tiffany Johnson
–“Depression is frustrating. It’s knowing there’s so much to be grateful for and happy about and to enjoy, but you just can’t get there.” — Allie Griffin
–“It’s an inability to feel anything at all.” — Miriam McCallum
–“It’s like having a bully in your head.” — Nicky Limmer

From this Huffington Post article:
–Depression is seeing no future, and no answer for any of the problems in your life.
–Depression to me is like having your mind replaced by another one that makes me feel worthless and numb to life—even to my own husband and son. It deprives me of feeling anything other than a sense of perpetual sadness, never quite knowing the source of it but knowing that feeling well. Depression has stolen my confidence and now I no longer feel I am worthy of anyone’s love. Depression calls me names and makes me have awful thoughts, and there have been times when depression has won and I’ve taken an overdose.
–Multiple emotions: fear, despair, emptiness, numbness, shame, embarrassment and an inability to recognize the fun, happy person you used to be.
— Like mourning the death of someone you once loved—you. When you look in the mirror you see only dead eyes. There is no spark. No joy. No hope. You wonder how you will manage to exist another day.

“I’ll never forget how the depression and loneliness felt good and bad at the same time. Still does.” – Henry Rollins, The Portable Henry Rollins

“I was drawn to all the wrong things: I liked to drink, I was lazy, I didn’t have a god, politics, ideas, ideals. I was settled into nothingness; a kind of non-being, and I accepted it. I didn’t make for an interesting person. I didn’t want to be interesting, it was too hard. What I really wanted was only a soft, hazy space to live in, and to be left alone.” – Charles Bukowski

And then there’s this insanely great spoken poetry by Sabrina Benaim – “Explaining My Depression to My Mother”!

And this essay, called “This is What Depression Feels Like – In The Words of Sufferers.”

And now that I’ve read through all of this I feel kind of yucky. Not In-The-Mire yucky, but just feeling down because I can feel all the same things I just read about other people.

And now I’ve completely lost why I started this particular blog post in the first place. And I need a nap. Stupid depression.

The Four Ways I Cut Down My Depression

I’ve recently cut down my bouts with depression. And here’s a long story about how!

When I first found out I had depression it was a daily thing. Every ding-dang day! Crying. Staring off. Just so tired I wanted to sleep around the clock. Unable to move forward except to pick my kids up from school. Absolutely NO progress in any area of my life.

Eric “forced” me to go see my doctor. She confirmed that I indeed have clinical depression. She said I needed to do three things to get a handle on it. 1) take medication, 2) exercise, 3) see a counselor.

These made sense to me, so I did what I think most people probably do (especially in the beginning), I took medication. That’s it. It was the one I felt I could do at that time, and it showed me enough results (after a couple of weeks) to make me feel like I could get a handle on it by just doing that.

Months went by, maybe even a year. The medication was fine and made it to where I was functional again. But I was barely functional.
So I thought I’d add another thing the doctor told me to do. I went to a counselor. This counselor was wise, but I needed a little something more. So I tried a different counselor. And wow! I made SO much progress because of our sessions. He would give me homework and I decided I wouldn’t waste his time by coming back empty-handed, so I always did what he said (which sometimes meant there was a whole month between sessions).

I was feeling so much better and my bouts with depression lessened, but still, I wasn’t fully functional. And I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I may always deal with depression, but I wanted to feel better more often.
During all of this time I would go on walks. Eric kind of forced me to. But in a loving, but sometimes firm way. He gave me goals, he encouraged me, he went with me, he cheered for me. It started slow and small. Sometimes when I walked it was more of a march of defiance. “I’ll walk but I won’t be happy about it!” Other times I got caught up in the fresh air and the sun and the smell of the lake that I’d walk longer.

But then last summer Eric bought me a mountain bike. He was helping me to really pursue that last connection to health that my doctor told me about…exercise. Eric had taken up cycling and thought I’d enjoy it too. It was okay. I got places a lot faster than walking, but I mainly rode because he wanted me to and it gave us a little something that we both liked. It started slow and short. 20-30 minute rides at about 12 mph. It was the most I could do without quitting.

And then I got bit by the cycling bug. I don’t know what the bug looks like but when it gets you, it gets you. Between enjoying the freedom of cycling, coupled with having to take care of no one but myself, plus enjoying people thinking I’m awesome because I ride (I’m just being real here, folks) I just wanted to ride more. So I bought a used road bike and started riding more. And farther and faster. Don’t get me wrong. I still have to FORCE myself to ride, but once I’m on the bike I really like being out there.

And finally I was doing all three things my doctor told me to do. But here’s what really changed things for me (good heavens, could it have taken me longer to get here?)… I started seeing a nutritionist. She tested me to see what nutrients I was in need of. I saw results immediately after taking those supplements. A plan tailored just for me. After a couple of months of seeing her my days of severe depression are down to around 3 a month. And they aren’t as severe. And the rest of the days aren’t perfect but I’m very functional!

So ALL of that to say….I think there are 4 things everyone who deals with depression needs to do.

1) take medication. Some people can take it for a short time to just get through to the next stage of life, while others may need it for the rest of their life like I probably will.
2) exercise. Start with 15 minutes a day. You DO have 15 minutes that you can walk, ride, swim, jump over a rope, or whatever. Do it. Even on the good days, and especially on the bad days. Then after a while, add 5 minutes. But don’t think about that now. Just schedule in 15 minutes a day and do it!
3) see a counselor. Find someone who can help you. If you see some weirdo you don’t like, switch. See someone regularly and DO the homework. You don’t like feeling crappy, right? Then do something more crappy so you can feel less crappy.
4) see a nutritionist or a holistic doctor. They can test you to see what supplements your body needs. And if you don’t like the first one you go to, go to someone else. If you can’t afford to see someone, find a way to afford it. Sell something. Quit buying things you don’t need. Ask someone if they’d consider helping you (but don’t take a loan, you don’t need debt on top of depression). If this just CAN’T happen then do your own research and start eating better. Like no processed food.

You are an amazing person for just reading all the way to here! Go drink a giant glass of water now and decide on one of the things above to go do! You’ve got this!

Jumping Out Of My Teacup

I’ve been putting off writing on here, mainly because hello, I have depression. I put everything off. And then when I put whatever it is off it’s just a little too long since I’ve done that thing so it’s harder to start doing it again, so I put it off more. And that makes it even harder to start doing that thing again, so I put it off more. And then one day, I just realize that I basically gave that thing up and I have to live with the guilt and the wishful thinking of doing that thing again….and, well, it’s a vicious cycle. And one I’ve learned that if I’m going to get out of it I just have to jump out randomly (think of a spinning teacup at Disneyland where you suddenly jump out while hoping for the best). So here’s me jumping out of my teacup! SPLAT!

I’m going to write more. And it’s probably going to be mostly unedited, because that holds me back. Unedited means not only will sentences be a little annoying, but I’ll probably be a bit more crass. But then, is that really a bad thing?

Building Character One Right Choice at a Time

I’ve been thinking about you all a lot lately as I’ve been reading a new book. When I say “reading” I really mean devouring. Picture someone who hasn’t eaten in a long time with a giant plate of gooey ribs in front of them. Grabbing two in each hand, chewing off every little bit of goodness, not caring how messy their face, hands, clothes, table get. That’s me with this book. I’ve got so much to say about what I’ve been learning. Here’s a nugget…or one gooey rib.

John Maxwell’s “The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth”
Law #3: The Law of the Mirror
You must see value in yourself to add value to yourself

Point #5: “One of the best ways to build self-esteem is to do what’s right.
What happens when you don’t do the right thing? Either you feel guilt, which makes you feel bad about yourself, or you lie to yourself to try to convince yourself that your actions weren’t wrong or weren’t that important.
Every time you take action that builds your character, you become stronger as a person – the harder the task, the greater the character builder. You can actually ‘act yourself’ into feeling good about yourself, because positive character expands into every area of your life, giving you confidence and positive feelings about everything you do.”

I’ve found this to be EXACTLY spot on with my depression journey. On the days when I do drum up enough inside me to do something I should do I feel so accomplished at the end of the day. It doesn’t have to be the entire day that I’m doing whatever this thing is, it can be something small…making those phone calls I’ve been putting off, or finally cleaning that one corner of the room that always gets filled with junk, or pushing myself to work out (and then working out longer than 20 minutes!). On the flip side, when I don’t do the right thing that day, I go to bed feeling terrible about who I am as a person. Much negative self-talk runs through my head and I wake up the next morning still feeling it.

I don’t believe that depression comes from low self-esteem but I do believe that the longer I’m dealing with depression the worse my self-esteem gets. And I’m finding that the more I work to build my character the easier it is to make choices that help me, instead of making me worse.

So I ask you, what one thing can YOU do today that will allow you to go to bed tonight feeling the satisfaction that you did the right thing?

Doing Difficult Things. But Not That Difficult.

God gave me the worst New Year’s resolution for 2016! Usually I look forward to starting something in the new year. Even if it’s tough and I don’t stick to it to the end. But this year God clearly gave me a pretty bad one! He said I need to quit watching TV by myself. I can watch TV or movies with Eric (which is usually about 40 minutes each evening), but if Eric isn’t around and isn’t watching then I’m not watching anything either. The Whole Stinking Year! So I’ll fold laundry without TV. I’ll workout without TV. I’ll work in the kitchen for hours on end without TV. I’ll have NO way to give mental energy to shows. AND, because Eric will be watching the shows as well there will be no more “Survivor” or “Biggest Loser” or “Hawaii Five-O.” I know they are dumb shows, but they let me escape my own thoughts and they entertain me. And I’m not watching any of them for a year.

At first I felt like this was too much of God to ask of me. I’m home all day long almost completely by myself. Plus, I’m usually doing something productive while watching. But then I realized two things: The first is that when my kids have had a lot of screen time (video games, movies, texting, etc) they have poor attitudes afterwards. It made me realize I do too. The second is that God isn’t calling me to move to some hot, dusty, dangerous place to share the gospel with people who are about to kill me. He’s calling me to quit watching TV. I’ll survive.

Deep down I’ve always known that TV has been making my depression worse. I don’t know how or why, it just has. And there are other things that are making it worse. Like eating sugar, not exercising regularly, drinking coffee, and allowing clutter to build up in our house. So this year, even though I don’t think these things will get rid of the depression, I’m going to do hard things so that at least I’m not making myself feel worse than I already am. And it won’t kill me to stop watching TV. Truly it won’t. Even on days when my depression is the worst and I want to just sit around and veg-out in front of the TV I will survive without it. And I’ll probably need to come read this for the added inspiration to forge ahead.

I’d like to hear from you. What is it that you know makes your depression worse, but you do it anyway?