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Depression Inside vs. Outside   Leave a comment

When people ask how you are there ought to be a rating system you can use.  Sometimes it’s too complicated to explain how you are.  Sometimes it just goes back to the reality that nobody can see inside your head or read your mind.

So I think there need to be two scales, maybe 1 to 10 that you could use to let someone else know how you are, when someone who knows you fight depression asks how you are doing.  (Which, thank you to those of you who do ask.)

There is one scale for your functioning, the outside stuff others can see, the things that need to get done and how typically you are getting them done.  Is everybody clothed and fed at your house and can you find the car keys and take care of the cat and the toddler?  Can you drive the kids to soccer practice?

The other scale is how you really are.

That’s the one that nobody can actually see, the one that I’ve found to be hard to explain, the internal something is wrong that is not rational, the internal something that one desperately wants to be right again.  (I guess I’m not so much writing about circumstantial depression, i.e. depression that has a cause such as a major loss in your life.  I’m talking about the depression that visits you despite your doing a lot of things right, things you’re supposed to do to take care of yourself.)  This is the gray cloud that lands on you for no reason.  This is the goo you slog through on the way to the next bus stop in your day.  It’s the lack of interest in things you usually enjoy.  It’s the internal thing sapping your joy. 

It’s the internal reality that others cannot see, but that I think needs to be acknowledged.  I don’t know if it would help, but perhaps some sort of shorthand would, “Internal is a 5, external a 7,” or a 2 or 3 or whatever.  If you’re functioning, that’s great, we’re glad.  At the same time, we know that a lot of times in life you have to fake it til you make it.  The inside may not match up with the outside.  And that’s OK, it doesn’t have to right away.  It will someday.

But for now, there’s more to me than meets the eye.

Maybe this is obvious and there’s no point in blogging about it. We all hold things inside of us that others cannot see and don’t know about.  So those with depression aren’t the privileged few.

Maybe we all need an internal/external scale, a validation of the dichotomy we all live with at some level.  I think that makes me feel less crazy.  And that’s worth something.

 

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Posted June 1, 2019 by swanatbagend in mental health

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Life is a Journey   1 comment

Life is a journey, not a destination.  Right?  I tend to think that once a problem is solved, I won’t have any more problems, and nothing else will ever go wrong.

But of course, that’s not how life works.

With my recent time of depression and anxiety, true to form, I assumed when depressed that I would always be depressed.  Then when I felt better, I assumed I was home free.

When I got depressed and anxious again, pretty severely, I thought that I had been sucked back into the Upside Down and would never be able to find my way out again.

It all started last fall after about a year and a half of life stress and transitions, followed by a too big dose of stress, and from October until March I was seriously depressed and so anxious it was impossible to believe that things were going to get better.  I couldn’t see a way into the future.  Things appeared to my eyes to be falling apart.  These negative thoughts went so far as to take the form of obsessive beliefs that most of our household appliances were no longer working, that our van’s transmission didn’t work, that there was a leak in the water pipes and our pressure wasn’t high enough.  What else?  There was one truth in my thoughts–our computer was so slow as to be completely useless. Thankfully, dh bought a new one at Christmas, so that problem was solved.

At one point in November of last year I really thought that my house was rotting from within and that with all the rain we had been getting, and the green mildew decorating the siding, that it would just up and rot, and collapse into the forest.

Nothing would go forward, nobody would live to grow up and survive.

In March, after five and a half months of that, the cloud of despair just lifted one morning while I was watching the birds I feed out my kitchen window.  “Could this be it? Is this really happening?”  I went through the day thinking it would come back.  It didn’t, not for three and a half weeks.

Then it descended again over the space of about 20 minutes one evening in early April.  After another month, it has lifted again.

So, the obvious observation is, it will change.  Whatever it is now, it’s bound to be different, whether that’s good or bad.

But above and beyond that is the reality that my fears weren’t real.  God did keep me alive, and he’s kept me and my family through a horrible time.  It wasn’t me, because I didn’t have faith that I would get better.  I didn’t have any faith whatsoever.

However it doesn’t seem that my faith had much to do with my salvation from this despair thing.  Seems like God does the work and does the providing.

I don’t know what else will come, but I don’t have a choice.  I go on knowing the cloud could come back down.  One thing I know–God has brought me safe thus far.  So here’s my Ebenezer.

Posted May 15, 2019 by swanatbagend in mental health, reality

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Why Candles?   Leave a comment

I recently thanked a friend again for a lovely scented candle she had given me, vanilla nutmeg cardamom (I have no idea where she found such a unique scent).  She said, “You know, you like candles more than anyone else I know.”

This is why I really like candles and enjoy having them on my mantelpiece or on top of my desk.

1. I love the bright or soft colors of the wax.

2. I love the scent of a good quality candle–floral, foresty, fruity–but it does have to be good quality.  What I don’t like are candles that smell like cheap fabric softener.

3. I like the glow and flicker of the flame.

Put those three factors together, and I don’t know why everyone doesn’t love candles.

A candle flame is bright, warm, cheerful, and it lights up a room.  At the same time it is frail, feeble and small.  It flickers.  It moves in a magical way.  The color, the scent and the flame unify to speak to my heart about eternity.  The candle flame is both fragile and ethereal, and strong.  I can focus on a candle and think clearly.  The candle flame brings me to the center and calms me down.

A candle is my statement of faith.

That’s why the candle my friend gave me is almost gone.

Posted May 14, 2019 by swanatbagend in reflections

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Cheese Biscuits   Leave a comment

If you like the biscuits at a major chain seafood restaurant, here’s how to make them.

 

Preheat the oven to 450.

 

1/2 cup butter

2 cups flour

1 T. sugar

1 T. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1/2-3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese

3/4 cup milk

 

Using a pastry blender cut the butter into the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cheese.  Add the milk and stir until all the dough is uniform.  I always have to add a bit more water or milk to get most of the flour in.  Drop the dough by spoonfuls onto an un-greased pizza sheet.  Bake for 14 minutes until they look golden and crunchy on top.

In the meantime, melt 1/4 cup butter and add to that 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. garlic powder and 1 tsp. onion powder, stirring together.  Immediately after the biscuits come out of the oven, top each biscuit with a bit of the butter mix.

Posted May 11, 2019 by swanatbagend in recipes

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Breakfast on an Island   Leave a comment

Here’s a recipe I put together this morning for breakfast.  I hope it takes you away to the beach!

 

Mango Coconut Muffins

 

2 medium bananas, mashed

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp. almond extract

7 oz. whole fat canned coconut milk

1/2 cup Monin brand (or other brand) mango fruit puree

2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. sea salt

3/4 cup toasted flaked sweetened coconut

1/2 cup chopped cashews

 

Mash the bananas and then add the oil and sugar, mix well.  Stir in the egg and the almond extract.  Stir in the coconut milk and the mango puree.

Add the flour, baking powder and salt.  Then stir in the coconut and the cashews.  Bake in lined muffin tins for 20 minutes in a 350 oven.  Cool and enjoy.  Makes about 15 or 16 muffins.

You could probably add some crushed pineapple for even more of the islands, but I don’t think it’s necessary.  The mango puree and bananas make it pretty sweet so you may not need any extra sugar.

If you haven’t toasted coconut before, spread it out on a thin layer on a cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 for about 5 minutes, checking every couple minutes until it is lightly toasted.  Don’t leave it unsupervised because once it starts toasting, it toasts (and burns) quickly.

Posted May 9, 2019 by swanatbagend in recipes

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Forward   Leave a comment

One walks through any day of life one step at a time, but there are some times when the steps are harder to take.  I made upward progress throughout the winter while recovering from a six month long depression and rejoiced in every moment of normalcy.  However, the progress is definitely a process, and I’m not quite out of the valley yet.

When fighting anxiety and depression, the advice to live one day at a time can be helpful, or not so helpful.  You may feel like what you really need is some outside power that will walk with you hour by hour, minute by minute or maybe second by second, breath by breath.  It’s a fight to respond to the tiredness with “I will just do the next thing.”  It’s a fight to replace the idea that it won’t be possible to get the projects or work done with the truth that all you have to do is the next thing.  It’s a fight to remind yourself that the reason you don’t have many loving feelings for others is because of the depression, not because of you.  It’s a fight to replace the inner condemnation, guilt and shame for just being like this in the first place, with the truth that you are a dearly loved child of God.

It’s a struggle to remember the truths you knew and believed when you were yourself, when you weren’t covered by the cloud.  The mind comprehends truths that you know apply to every person you know, but depression makes it harder to believe they apply to you.

Depression blocks your view of what God has done in the past, and what you’ve done right.  We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses and so we run with endurance the race set before us.  When you’re feeling well, this seems like a glorious thing.  But when you’re in the cloud of depression and anxiety it just seems an impossible thing.

It’s a good thing that the final results of any battle aren’t in the hands of the fallible human who is going through the battle.  I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel yet, but I do believe that at some point in the future, I will see the light at the end of the tunnel, and eventually, I will come out of the tunnel and be on the other side.

One thing about depression and anxiety–or about any valley–is it sure keeps you humble.  You experience your weakness; you admit to others where you are.  To admit to others that I am broken in this way is humiliating, and it should be.  Not in the sense of depression being an unacceptable crime, but simply because being broken IS humiliating.  I don’t like it.  I want to be self-sufficient.  I want to be together.  I want to be the best at what I am.  I want to be some sort of encouragement or example or something.  Not this.

But that’s not where I am right now.

I’m looking forward to being on the other side of this.  I’m told that He who began a good work in me will bring it to the day of completion.  I’m looking toward that promise.

Posted May 1, 2019 by swanatbagend in mental health, reflections

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Cleaning Up   Leave a comment

We’ve gone through quite a few transitions at our house lately.  Some have been good, others more difficult.

My daughter graduated last June, and in the fall she took several college courses while living at home.  She wasn’t interested in going away to college and had not settled on a career path, so that seemed like a decent idea.  It didn’t turn out that way, because she discovered in the process that she really wasn’t all that interested in taking several random college classes.  This led to an existential meltdown for both of us.

Life transitions can do that sometimes.  They can push you to the edge.

It’s pretty terrifying when you’re at that type of juncture, and there is no obvious path into the future.  For that matter, there may not even seem to be an obvious next step into the future.

However, the sun rises, the sun sets, and you have to take steps forward, but only, apparently, when you are good and ready.

After Christmas break, my daughter decided with our agreement that she would take a break from classes until she knew more about what she wanted to do with life.  So, if she wasn’t at school, the plan was for her to get a job.

However, January started to pass away without any serious movement on her part (that I could see) toward applying for jobs.  I was a bit perturbed.  More than once I have mentally called her Bartleby, because when asked when she was going to make a step toward the future, the overall response appeared to be “I would prefer not to.”

However, she was very helpful at home, she was talking with and getting together with friends again, and she was doing a lot of extra cleaning chores that I really appreciated because I never get to them.

Then she started cleaning out her bedroom.

The closet floor had been a pile for years.  One step at a time, she tossed, recycled, re-gifted and reorganized that space.

Then, the Fisher Price toy castle that had been in her room for years went downstairs to the school room, where we keep age-appropriate toys for the children of friends who visit our house regularly.

A variety of other toys she had long since outgrown went to Goodwill or to the children of friends.

The large Plan Toys dollhouse and doll family that were the center of funny movies the kids used to make got moved to the empty kids’ bedroom.  She dusted off all the furniture and miniatures in it and shook out all the tiny rugs.  It didn’t get given away because we are not ready yet as a family to say a final farewell to the Fraw family, but, it’s not in her room any more.

Then, and only then, when her bedroom was updated to her adult sensibilities, did she start researching jobs.

Within a week, she had her first interview.  It went really well and she wasn’t even nervous.

Three more interviews followed and from start to finish the job hunting process was only three weeks. She has a job at Hobby Lobby, which is exactly where she wanted to be, and she loves it.  She’s driving herself to work and making all kinds of plans and taking on responsibilities that can only be described as adult.

But she was only ready, when she was ready.  She cleaned out her room and her life, reinventing herself in the process.

We’ve homeschooled since 2000, and I’m now in what you might call the home stretch.  I have only one student left and he will finish up his freshman year of high school at the end of May.  There are only a few more years to go; a mere 14% of the total time I will have spent homeschooling lies before me.  It’s been difficult to imagine what I will do after he graduates, although of course I do have some appealing ideas.  But mainly, graduating my daughter and seeing this future change coming has been mysterious and a bit scary.

However, I am finally ready to move on.  It took a trip downward into depression and the wrestling with my purpose to do it, but I too am cleaning out my room and my life.

I’ve wanted to really get the creeping Charlie and overflowing iris out of the flower garden for years, but just didn’t have the time.  It’s now done and I’m working on shade loving flowers to plant to replace the bare spots.

Getting back into embroidery sometime in the past twenty years would have been nice, but I never had the time.  Yesterday I emptied out my sewing bag and found a beautiful kit I never finished.  I washed the entire bag, which was covered with dust.  I gave away kits I didn’t want.  I threw away random pins and scraps of fabric that I knew I would never use.  And last night, while my son read to us, I was cross-stitching.

I cleaned out a magazine rack that was stuffed full of a wonderful magazine, long since ceased publishing, called Welcome Home.  I first subscribed twenty years ago.  It was just what I needed for encouragement to love and parent well.  The articles were so good, I saved every issue, thinking I would re-read them someday.

Twenty years later, that day hasn’t come.  I now have not just one but two adult children.

I donated the magazines to the library–when I was good and ready.

 

Posted April 29, 2019 by swanatbagend in transitions

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