Depression Is Real

depression-quotes

As the death of Robin Williams moved from breaking news to yesterday’s news to no longer news, I cannot help but focus on the reality of depression and how it plagues so many of us.

We see a funny, animated, energetic, successful man on the screen.  But behind closed doors, there is addiction, depression, and despair.

There are many of us appear to be happy, upbeat, joyful, and excited about the littlest things in life.  We may be clever, silly, and natural entertainers.  Our highs touch the sky, but our lows sink us beneath normal. This is exactly how I felt in the fall of 1995 when I started college.  This was before I knew much about anxiety and depression and that I struggled with it.

I felt like my mind was racing so fast that my body could not keep up with it. Recently I was watching Episode #4 of Disappeared in which an 18 year old boy who has struggled with anxiety and depression in the past leaves his home in a small Illinois town. Searchers find a note he handwritten in a state park in Wisconsin that says, “My head is too big for my body.  Finally I will get some sleep.”

This is exactly how I felt.  I did not want to commit suicide…I never got to that point…but escape the crazy consuming racing thoughts…I wished it for it every day.  There were days I thought it would be easier to transfer to another college, move to another state, quit school and move back home, or just sleep–but I knew my thoughts would continue and maybe intensify.

I felt like an entertainer.  I could be upbeat, funny, and energetic in large groups of people. I could always be found chatting with someone in the lobby or studying with someone in the study basement.  But behind closed doors I was an emotional mess and I had no idea how to express this.  I even wrote this poem in November of 1995:

My name is the Entertainer

I make people laugh with my jokes

Until they shove me away

If only they knew I was crying inside

Perhaps dying

My name is the Entertainer

And I am a walking liar.

I didn’t know what to do.  Every day got harder.  The thoughts did not go away but got faster and fiercer.  I became more lonely every single day.  I was losing friends.   I did not blame people for not inviting me to things or wanting to get to know me better because I didn’t really like myself either.

That is the problem with those of us prone to anxiety and depression.  We can be hard to deal with.  We can be a challenge to live with.  We are way too sensitive and you have to walk on egg shells around us.  You can raise your hand during “the prayer request time” in Bible Study and tell about your friend struggling with cancer, but we can’t share about our dark depression that is paralyzing our own life.

I remember walking into a counseling session nervous, scared out of my mind and believing at that time counseling was only for “the crazies.”  After my counselor told me I tested high for anxiety his next words were, “This is treatable.”

There is help, my friends.  There’s medication, support groups, exercise, dietary changes, job changes, counseling and more.  All these things helped me at one time or another.

But ultimately and most importantly there is God.  I believe he did not intend for us to live this way trapped in our racing thoughts.  I know our world is constantly saying, “this is who I am and I need to accept who I am.” People will try to pump you with self esteem messages that if you only love yourself a little more you wouldn’t be so depressed.  There might be a place for this in certain circumstances.

If we were born any which way, we were born sinful.  Sin entangles us and triggers our mind to succumb to anxiety. Sometimes we feel too weak to fight it.  God is fighting for us.

I healed because I came to a place where I realized all I had was my faith in Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:7)  It was a feeble shaky faith. I didn’t have to try love myself more and change myself into a healthy person because Christ already loved me with his ultimate sacrifice on the cross (Galatians 2:20) and changed me into a new creation.  (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I began crying out to the Lord asking for a way out of this.  I didn’t have many people to talk to and those I did talk to I had exhausted the relationship.  The Lord never grew tired of listening to my laments.  He answered my prayers.  Not overnight.  Slowly the thoughts died down, I found solid friendships, I could focus again, I could sleep again, and I found practical ways to live with my anxious prone brain.

I had setbacks.  I still struggle.  My moods are sometimes unpredictable and up and down.  But I will forever carry with me “a hope.”  (1 Peter 1:3).

My friends it’s so much more than loving yourself and loving others.  It goes beyond following Jesus’ teachings and trying to be like Him.  It is knowing Him.  It is abiding with Him.  It is trusting Him.  That my friends is where it needs to begin for us walking in depression.

 

Weeks #8, #9 & #10

Today was our last night of a 30 day pool membership and I feel like I am mourning the loss of summer…or maybe just the pool.  We have three full weeks of summer left, but it feels like the first hints of fall are in the air.

DSC09275

But since I have not blogged in a couple weeks, I want to back up.  Week #8 of summer was a unique week.  My husband and my oldest were on the other side of the country in Philadelphia with a small group from our church.  They helped with a camp “our sister church” puts on every year.  It was an amazing experience for both of them.  It was very strange having a full week with only my younger two, but I bonded with them as well.  We went swimming every single day.

DSC09282

Our main reason for getting a pool membership is we all love to swim.  I always envisioned spending hot summer days with my family at the pool or the lake even before I had kids.  Since we don’t live near a lake anymore like we did back in our Michigan days, this is the next best thing.  My son began the summer hardly being able to hold his head above water.  He was still wearing arm floats or a life jacket at the beginning of the 30 days.  

IMG_1257

The unstructured swim time was much needed.  He can now jump off the diving board without a life jacket on (which he was terrified to do only two weeks ago) and swim to the edge.  He can swim underwater and we’re working on floating on his back and blowing bubbles underwater…he will be back in structured swim lessons in a week.

IMG_1259

My oldest has progressed in her diving.  I am finally figuring out breaststroke and am not embarrassed to swim it when I swim laps with my friends.  The best part was quality family time which made the membership worth every penny.

DSC09295

While my husband and oldest were away, the younger two enjoyed lots of free play time. My son taught the youngest to play Stratego.  They play the board game version and then they go outside in the backyard and play their own reality style version and they are the Stratego pieces.  It is quite entertaining.

DSC09289

I am thrilled they have not outgrown Little People yet because I have fond memories of playing Fisher Price Little People as a kid.

The husband and the oldest came home very late on a Friday night.  The following Saturday I went on an 80’s cruise with friends from my mom’s group.  We were celebrating my friend’s birthday.  I think dressing up in the 80’s attire was almost as fun as the whole cruise itself.

DSC09296

 

I love that this group is adventurous and will try these kind of events.  Going out for coffee has its place and we do that too…but getting a little crazy once in awhile helps keep things interesting.

DSC09300

The cruise went from 11 PM – 1 AM.  I was home shortly after 2:30 AM.  I have not stayed up this late in a very long time and it took me a couple days to adjust to the lack of sleep…I’m getting old.

DSC09307

Week #9 of the summer was a very busy week for my husband.  After being in Philly and getting caught up again…and getting ready for two full weeks off.  He still managed to take the kids on a walk to get Slurpies.

DSC09308

It was wonderful to have the full family together again…

DSC09315

The highlight of my week was taking three of my middle schoolers and one adult from our church rafting on the Deschutes River.  I had not whitewater rafted since 2001 when I took the youth group I was leading at the time to Tennessee.  I loved being on the river all day.

DSC09314

I only fell in once and we were not in a rapid.  We were playing a balancing game our guide led.  We all climb to the back of the raft and he pulls a rope putting the raft in almost a ninety degree angle.  We have to be still and not make sudden movements.  On Attempt #1 two of my middle schoolers moved and took me and the guide in with them.  Attempt #2 we were successful.

Originally we were going to camp two nights, but unfortunately my co-leader broke his tibia while in Philly the week prior.  It was too late of notice to find another adult to replace him so we turned into a day trip instead.  It was still well worth it.

This past week which would be Week #10 is the husband’s first week of vacation.  It was the staycation week of the “vacation.”  Normally during staycations we take a break from “people from church” not because we don’t want to see our friends…but pastor families need alone time.  This week we saw quite a few people from church and I even worked on church projects which I swore I would never do when he’s off from church work…but I felt totally OK about it.  I enjoyed it.  For pastor’s families, I think so much depends how tired and exhausted you are from church projects, issues, or people.  Right now I don’t feel as tired.

We played street hockey Wednesday night with friends from church.  This is something we’ve done every Wednesday night when we are able since June.  

IMG_1276

 

Every Thursday night in August, our local running club hosts “cross country nights” at a local park.  They have four different races for kids and adults.  There are some very elite runners there–kids who can do 6 minute miles.  There are many running families who have kids that compete year around and travel out of state to meets.  We are not that family and never will be.  We just don’t have the talent to compete at that level and I am totally OK with that.  We love to run. We do it for the healthy benefits, the mental strength, and the time spent together.  My younger two did the 500 meter and did very well.

 

 

IMG_1285My oldest did the mile run.  I timed her at the track two weeks ago and she did about a 13 minute mile running the whole way.  I have no idea how to compare this because I never ran a mile at age 8–we just didn’t do that kind of distance back in the day.  I remember running my first one in seventh grade and getting 8:37.  

IMG_1289

 

 

Because she ran with elite runners, she started very fast.  She almost quit because she could not breathe.  She stuck with it anyway and shaved two minutes of her time and got down to 11.  I didn’t care that she was one the last.  I was so proud of her.  I’ve learned with athletics is not to try to be the person or family that you are not meant to be–but still push hard and do your absolute best.  Set goals and try to reach them.  

The younger two have gone to VBS all week at another church and the oldest attended a Christian theatre camp.  It was her second year attending.  She got more of a main part this year and loved it.  They did Winnie the Pooh and she played the part of Christopher Robin.

IMG_1293

 

Now it’s on to vacation.  Then a full week.  Then the following week I start child care already…just easing into it with one child here two or three times until school starts.  I haven’t done any back to school shopping yet.  I am still in denial.

Just another conversation in the van…

Me:  What story did you hear in VBS today?

4 year old:  Adam and Eve

Me:  What did Adam and Eve do?

3 year old friend:  They ate the fruit from the tree.

Me:  Then what happened?

4 year old:  Then the snake came.

Me:  Then what happened?

4 year old:  Then God came.

Me:  Did they sin?

3 year old friend:  Yes.

Me:  Do you guys sin?

6 year old:  Not really.  Well maybe a little.

Me:  How do we sin?

3 year old friend:  By breaking things.

6 year old:  Yeah breaking things.

3 year old friend:  Like breaking bones.

 

Dear Young Mom In the Summer…

Dear Young Mom In the Summer,

I know you might look us at moms with envy as we sit poolside finishing a good book while our kids play in the water.  You might wish you could actually sit on the bench and converse with another mom at the playground without having to chase your toddler everywhere.  Maybe you long for the day when your mornings and afternoons are not dictated by naps or potty training schedules.  Although you love family vacations, you don’t enjoy sharing a motel room with infants who want to start their day at 6:30 AM…or crazy toddlers who don’t want to go to sleep.

You want to roll your eyes whenever an older mom tells you how fast the years go by and before you know it your kids will all be working summer jobs…and you will miss them.  It’s hard to think like that when you’re covered in spit up and changing another stinky diaper.

Because my friend, in some ways it won’t get easier.

Yes, your kids will be able to dress themselves, play on their own, make their own lunches, swim without assistance from you, swing freely at the playground without needing a push, and riding their bike without training wheels.  That makes your summer days somewhat easier.

But you will enter a new world of sport schedules, piano lessons, friend issues, bullying issues, sibling rivalry, possible job issues, finances, discipline etc.  My point is there will always be SOMETHING.

If you are waiting for this magic moment, you might be waiting forever.

Whatever it takes, my friend strive for contentment in the role you have been assigned today.  In her book Calm My Anxious Heart, Linda Dillow says:

If we want to be women of contentment, we must choose to accept our portion, our assigned roles from God.  We must make the choice to dwell on the positive aspects of our role in life.  If we don’t, we’ll be discontent, always wanting something different from what we’ve been given. (65)

I’m not telling you to strap on a happy face and fake it.  It’s OK to get frustrated, angry, fatigued, and upset…I did plenty of crying when I was trying to juggle a preschooler, toddler, and infant.  But don’t live with your head so far off into the future stuck in a holding pattern that you miss the blessings of today.

Have you noticed how many people complain about the weather?  When the temperatures climb, it’s too hot.  When fall comes, it’s too cold.  It’s too rainy and then too snowy.  Start with the weather.  See God’s handiwork in the changing of seasons–the smell of the rain, the beauty of a thunderstorm, the pleasant feeling of a cool breeze and even the feeling of heat on your skin.

Stop looking at what God has given others.  While you may wish you were the mom with the elementary kids, she may miss your days of staying home with a baby and toddler.  Instead of carting her kids to swim lessons and play dates.

So hang in there.  Find one or two blessings each day and savor them.  This is the day that the Lord has made.  Can we rejoice and be glad in it?

Coast - With Derek

Week #6: Pool, pool, and more pool

I cannot post any photos from this past week because my camera is currently in Philadelphia where my husband and oldest are.  They are on a one week mission trip with others from our church.  It is very strange having three of us in the house…this is the longest I have been apart from my 8 year old.  

Last week started out in high temperatures and a surge of heat.  While everyone likes to complain about it, I welcomed it with open arms.  It reminds me of the childhood summers of Indiana and Michigan.  In Oregon we have little humidity so nights are comfortable for sleeping and mornings are cool for outdoor activities.  But now it’s the end of the week…technically the beginning of next week…and it feels like fall outside.  Cool temperatures and even rain predicted this week.  Can we have the heat back?

Last summer was the final summer of the backyard kiddie pool.  Then when my son decided to put a metal fence pole in the kiddie pool, it sprung a leak and the summer of the kiddie pool ended earlier than planned

DSC09074

I always imagined summer as a time to sit around the pool with kids. When we moved here, I asked about options for swimming and someone said, “We just don’t have it here.  There aren’t any natural swimming holes or public pools.”

So when the private pool down the street where my kids have taken lessons offered one month memberships, I seized the opportunity.  Since it’s 30 days, we’re milking it for what it’s worth and going every single day.  There are not a lot of activities my kids can do for over two hours and not get sick of it.  Friends of ours from my kid’s school got the same membership.  So my kids have friends to swim with and the adults can converse and hang out together.  My son is getting way more comfortable in the water with all the extra practice and swimming more without arm floats.  

We also picked blueberries and peaches last week.  I have made blueberry topping for pancakes, blueberry bread, blueberry muffins, blueberry parfaits and peach/blueberry smoothies.  Now I need to figure out what to do about the seven zucchini plants (and yes, I’ve gotten several “Why did you plant so many?” remarks) that are producing lots of zucchini.  There is only so much zucchini bread and muffins you can make. 

Yes I am ignoring every single Back to School sale and not downloading the school supply list because I am not ready to plan for the fall yet.

 

Busy Moms: Are We Really Out of Time?

time

In the past year or two I have asked myself the following question:

 Are moms more busy than they were a generation ago?  And if they are why?

After I read Bowling Alone by Robert D Putnam, I learned that people actually have gained MORE leisure time since the 1960’s NOT less.  This is based on time diaries and research.  As I shared this with a mom friend her response was:

“Where is this all this time?  When is it all going to get done?”

Hmmm…I didn’t have a great answer.

This spring I read Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte.  Schulte begins her book with some of the same questions I had. As I read further into this book, my emotions were rattled and I began to ask myself some deep heartfelt questions.

Why are our days so FILLED? Do I have to live this?   Why do you walk into a mom’s group and everyone is chatting about how busy they are?  It’s almost like we are “one-upping” one another.

Schulte says:

It’s about showing status.  That if you’re busy, you’re important.  You’re leading a full and worthy life.  There’s a real ‘busier than thou’ attitude, that if you’re not as busy as the Joneses, you’d better get cracking.”  (26)

What if you walked into a mom’s group and shared how you have very little on your plate or talk about the extended leisure time you spent with your kids or your spouse or by yourself?  You would get sarcasm like “Must be nice” comments or “Wow, I wish I had that kind of extra time.”

Have you noticed how many moms put on their Facebook status all the things they have to do today or how stressed out they are?  Somehow I question if we get the same kind of support from Facebook that we receive from face to face relationships we don’t have time for.

But the scarier question is what is our high stress levels doing to us?  And worse to our spouses and our kids?  Consider this study:

“For years, Suniya Luthar, a psychologist at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and her colleagues have been tracking groups of children, from both the impoverished inner city and the affluent suburbs of New York City.  What she found came as a shock:  Affluent kids are two to three times more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and high levels of distress than kids living in harsh, urban poverty.  And wealthy kids were more likely to use drugs and alchohol.”

 

I realized answering the “Why are we so busy question” does not have a clear cut a+b=c answer.  There are various reasons and these are some I discovered.

Overscheduling Our Kids

When I was a kid, the vast majority of the neighborhood children on my street played soccer.  And we all played soccer for the same soccer association because it was the only one that existed.  Many of us did not start playing on a team until around 3rd or 4th grade.  Now there are many more options for activities, traveling teams, club sports, and starting as early as age 3.  Children are burning out at younger ages.  Schutle says:

“Research shows that encouraging kids to participate in activities they like is important, but cramming more stuff onto the schedule is not better.  And there’s good evidence that it makes things worse.”

This was our first year of me working almost full time.  Looking back over the year we did OK scheduling our lives, but we made the mistake of over scheduling our oldest.  I am not too hard on myself because it’s a learning process for us.  But it came to mind one day when after basketball practice she said, “I just want to go home and play with my Lego friends. That’s what I have wanted to do all day.”  I realized she was not getting that time “to play.”  Playtime is extremely important.  Kids learn to problem solve, work out their feelings, and use their imagination in their play.  Watch or listen to your children play–it’s fascinating.

So I asked some moms who had kids college aged and young adult children if I should be signing my young kids up for multiple activities.  Was all this worth it?  I got a resounding, “No” and a “Wait until junior high or early high school” and “Don’t succumb to the pressure even if it’s the cultural norm.”  I told them my idea of doing zero activities this summer except for things we can do together like running at the track together, bike rides at the park, and swimming together in the local pool.  I said we would do a week or two swim lessons, but not until the end of the summer.  I wanted rest, regroup, ample hours of the day “to play.”  Honestly it has been the best summer ever…and I feel more connected to my kids than I ever have.

We don’t allow ourselves leisure

Schulte says:  

“As I began to think more about leisure time, I realized that I kept putting it off, like I would reach some tipping point…As if leisure was something I needed to earn.”

We moms think we can sit and read a book or go for a walk once the laundry is caught up or the closet is organized or the backyard is weeded.  But the truth is we are never caught up.  Ever.

Sometimes leisure itself is overwhelming because we don’t rest enough or get out and play.  I had a mom tell me she rarely goes out without her kids because she does not how to act.  She hardly knows who she is apart from her kids.  Another mom shared with me she doesn’t feel like she can leave.  Everyone including her husband is dependent on her to clean, get ready for the next day, and put children to bed.  Before you blame the husbands, a man shared with me:  “I wish she would go out more.  I encourage her but she always backs out at the last minute because she’d rather stay home because she’s too tired.”

We live in a Pinterest world and we don’t measure up

Consider this article Is Your Busy Season Becoming a Lifetime? from The Gospel Coalition written by Melissa Martin:

You throw a party to announce you’re expecting, a gender reveal party, a minimum of three baby showers, all graced with perfectly handcrafted decorations to capture your theme. Finally, the birth. Newborn, three-month, six-month, and twelve-month professional photo shoots. Year one birthday party? That was already planned before the kid was even born.

When toddler season arrives, craft days, themed play dates, spectacular birthdays, and multiple sport seasons will be carefully planned, then documented on Facebook, pinned on Pinterest, and joyfully tweeted for other mothers to follow, admire, and emulate.

Hear me when I say that none of those things is in and of themselves wrong or harmful. But I would like to pose the question: Is it possible that all of this work contributes not only to a dangerously child-centered home, but also to a season of life that simply never ends?

 

Kids love the simple.  They really do.  Some of my kid’s best crafts have been just throwing a bunch of recycleables, glue, markers, and crayons on the table and saying, “Go.”  Some of the best outings are to local parks.  I love hiking with my kids and one of the best perks is that it’s free! Pull out board games on a Sunday afternoon.  Make your own pizza and watch a movie.  Enjoy those moments for what they are.  Of course there is room to share your life with others, but don’t feel like you have to post everything on Facebook or Twitter.  Some moments are best left shared with the ones we love and savored as that alone.

Our world is not busier…it’s just moving faster

When I took my youth group to an amusement park many years ago, I vividly remember enjoying the train ride that circled around the park.  I lazily relaxed on my seat and watched park goers getting in line for rides or grabbing snacks at the concession stands.  I was at peace and I stayed on the train for one more ride.  Don’t get me wrong–I loved the fast thrill seeking roller coasters and went on them several times.  Your focus is different on the thrill rides with the fast paced dips and turns and adrenaline rush.  Sometimes I think we as moms are trying to make rational decision, have conversations with our kids, and get things crossed off our to-do list when we are riding the roller coaster versus the train.  And technology makes it worse.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a regular Facebook user, I check my e-mail, and I watch TV.  There was an afternoon this year I had five kids running around the house wanting to eat lunch, a dishwasher that needed to be emptied, and my son asking questions about what we were doing later that day.  I made the mistake of quick checking my e-mail and saw a message from someone I was writing an article about.  Even though it wasn’t an emergency I felt like I could quick respond.  But with the noise and the kids running around everywhere, I felt edgy and frustrated.  I got impatient with my son who I felt was asking questions that were irrelevant to our immediate situation.

Those who are not stay at home moms and not working moms, but work a paid job at home like myself need to compartmentalize our life.  Let work time be work time. Let computer time be computer time. Check e-mail, respond to Facebook posts when you’re free from distractions. If you try to do it all at once you’re doing very little effectively.  If you’re never free from distractions teach your kids to respect your work time.  If they are too little to under that, utilize times when they are sleeping or watching a short TV show.  Kids can play on their own without you needing to intervene.  They really can.  And it’s good for them too.

Have times in the day the computer is off, or the phone is kept in another room, or Facebook is unopened.  You’d be surprised how much easier it is to breathe and your life feels more in order.

Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day that the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.”  God gave you this day.  How are you using it?  Are you moving so fast that you are missing out on what is important?  Are you wasting your energy on being Super Mom when your kids simply just want “you?”  Are giving into distractions that are keeping you from living this beautiful day He’s given you?  Take a long hard look at your schedule and make changes if you need to.  It’s never too late.

*Schulte and Putnam both talk about time diaries.  They really show you how you are spending your time and you notice you have more leisure time that you thought.  I will post some of my own time diaries in the future, although my summer time diary is completely different than the school year.

 

Just another daily conversation in my world…

While listening to Tom Petty’s Free Falling:

6 year old:  Mom, why does he say he’s a bad boy?

Me:  Because he broke up with his girlfriend?

6 year old:  What does “broke up with your girlfriend” mean?

Me:  It means he ended the relationship.  Do you know what that means?

6 year old:  No.

8 year old:  It means they were boyfriend and girlfriend and now they aren’t.  So they leave each other.

6 year old:  They eat each other?

Me:  No.  No quite.

8 year old:  Yeah they do.  Like this. (grabs his hand)  Chomp.