Archive for the ‘mental health’ Category

Particular?   Leave a comment

Yes, thank you, I am.

But don’t for a minute think that is because I am deliberately being difficult or childish or selfish.

Assume instead that I am aware of my challenges and that I and my family have suffered because of the qualities I have.

Assume instead that I am doing the best that I can to fit into the groups of people I’m in and to meet the basic expectations of what it means to be human and interact with other humans in a meaningful and understandable way.

Yes, I’m particular.  That’s because I know what my limits are.  Unfortunately one of the most important of those limits is that I don’t do well with anything above mild chaos.  I try.  Life can often be chaotic, as other people require a person to live with and roll with some chaos.  Other people’s needs interact with my self maintained mental and physical order.

So what that means is that the things I can control, I need to control them.  The number of errands I do in a day.  The number of interactions I have in a day or week. The length of time I had handle being in a loud, large venue with a lot of people I don’t know.  Where I have my belongings put in my house.  How long I can entertain and how many people that can involve.  And so on.

I have to decide what activities I can get involved in.  I never got my children involved in all the things that most children in our culture do, because I could not handle the stress that would come with the endless demands, travel and events.  I evaluate carefully whether I can volunteer in the same way, or for the same amount of time as another person.  Most often, the answer is no.  I can do some types of volunteer work and find ways to help other people, but they aren’t going to look like what the average person can do.

If I don’t have the basic routine and protocol going most days, and most weeks, I will eventually lose it.

I will melt down, cry, explode, get depressed, feel horrible about myself.  I don’t want to do that to my family and friends.  It wouldn’t make sense to push myself that hard and end up a mess.

So yes, I am particular.

That’s because I’m using all my skills to compensate for my weakness, so that I can be a functioning, caring human being most of the time.

Being seen as particular seems a small price to pay.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted June 13, 2020 by swanatbagend in autism, mental health

Five Weapons against Anxiety   Leave a comment

There’s one for each finger of your dominant hand, just to make them easier to remember when you’re not looking at this blog.

First, choose to stay in the present, reminding yourself of your current situation and all that is right with it.  Say, “What IS?” not “What if…?”

Second, when faced with anxiety that casts doubt on your future ability to do what’s needed, evaluate truly what you have been able to do in the past.  Don’t jump to the conclusion that you won’t be able to do what’s needed.  Sure there have been failures in the past, but those were a few points in time in your life.  What’s all the other truth about what has happened and what you have done well?

Third, take each five minutes at a time.  Or less, if that’s what you need.  Tell yourself, I just need to live the next five minutes, and then do the task that belongs to that time.

Fourth, give thanks for something that is all right in your life.  If things aren’t going well, there will still be something that is all right in the now.  Just for the next little while, don’t think about the things that concern you.  Thank God for something you have been given.

And fifth, find a go-to verse or meditation or image that represents peace and hope to you.  Have that ready each time the fear starts, and repeat it, out loud if you have to.

I find these weapons to create a fist’s worth of defense against the terrors of anxiety.  Sometimes one helps but the next time it doesn’t; however, it’s much better to have these five on hand (ha!) than to have none.

Oh, and it goes without saying there’s one other weapon that’s the foundation of all.  It’s just a little fact, but true: anxiety is just a feeling, and a feeling is not the truth.

Posted May 5, 2020 by swanatbagend in mental health

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How Fully?   Leave a comment

Like most of you, I’ve heard before that you should appreciate each day and savor each moment.  Live life to the fullest, follow your dreams or your calling, thank God for every moment, and stay in the present.

I think that’s good advice but only to a point.

The problem I have run into is that it’s not possible to do.

Of course I have a tendency to take things literally, but it seems to me that’s exactly what “live fully” means.  Live fully.  In each moment.  Savor life.

I don’t know about you, but life itself prevents me from following this rule.  There are many times of doubt, fear, concern, and worry.  There are tasks that must be done.  There are routine times when you’re doing everything you can to follow the rule, but you know you’re not staying in the present and living fully.

For some people (me among them or I wouldn’t be writing this blog) that is setting a standard that is too high–impossible in fact–which just leads to guilt and shame.  I don’t want to waste the life God’s given me or the opportunities at hand.  I would love to stay in the present and do this live fully thing.  But the reality is that I can’t.  I do sometimes.  But I don’t do it all the time.

Bottom line is it’s not up to us.  God knows our frame.  Yes, we are personally accountable for our actions.  I get that.  But as with so much else, our living fully is entirely in his hands.  Thus, there is no shame or guilt for not doing it “right.”

Chronic or Acute   Leave a comment

Chronic struggles bring with them a dual challenge.  Acute situations naturally call out for support and practical help.  And they should.  But a chronic situation is just as challenging.

The first reason why it’s challenging is it’s dealing with whatever it is, disease, physical disability,  pain, learning challenges, mental health issues, all of the above.  You have issues that either aren’t curable or that you haven’t yet found a cure for.  You remediate as best you can if there is no cure.  You have ways to cope, or you sure enough are seeking them.

And there’s no particular end in sight.

People in this situation have to find a way to face the non-endingness of it.  It’s a cruel thing to face, and I believe this is especially true in our culture, where health and wholeness is worshiped.  Beauty and prowess are it.  If you were to believe the images we are saturated with, you’d think it is possible–if you just do enough.

The second reason is that difficulties are not and cannot be supported in the way they would if they were acute.  If the thing had an end, it would be more obvious to know what to do to help it get to that end.  You’d see the steps that could be taken and how a community could help.  But if it’s always there, it’s harder to be supportive.  There comes a time when it’s hard to know what to say or do, because the struggle still goes on.

For those with chronic problems, it goes on.

So it’s a gift when love also goes on.

Posted February 20, 2020 by swanatbagend in health, mental health, waiting

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How Normal People Are   Leave a comment

As I waltzed through a three and a half week period of feeling really great during my healing from depression process, I was so happy.  I was just so thankful to finally (I thought) be through with the pit of despair, any change was welcome and this was a truly wonderful change.

I had the energy to do projects I hadn’t had energy for.  I had the get up and go to clean the Florida room and sell and give away items nobody was using.  I did a lot.

And mentally, I enjoyed it.  Life was purposeful and I felt hopeful about various potential future plans.  I wasn’t overthinking the future either; it was just there and I thought about it occasionally and it seemed like a good thing.

It only occurred to me later that it’s possible that what I experienced for those three and a half weeks is what other people live all the time.

I don’t mean every person, all the time, because obviously some people have more issues than I do, some have fewer.   Some people’s lives are filled with material and spiritual difficulties so far beyond what I experience that clearly they aren’t living the dream.  Life is rarely that simple for anyone.

I just mean that feeling good, having lots of energy, having hope for the future might be other people’s normal.

My normal has usually been more subdued and less optimistic than that.  And I thought that was normal.  Maybe there’s a way to be in hopefulness and make it more of a stay than an occasional vacation.  It can’t be the goal of my life to get there, because I don’t have the power to guarantee that outcome.

But what that knowledge does is show me my variables: I regularly have to overcome them.  If I have to get myself to the front edge of motivation every day, that’s an obstacle.  If I have to sweep together enough energy for the to-do list every day, that’s an obstacle.  Those are real challenges.  This knowledge dispenses mercy, mercy on me and on every other person who doesn’t have a full load of energy, motivation and hope.

He came not for those who are well, but for those who know they are sick.  So if you need the physician–take heart.  He is for you.

Posted August 27, 2019 by swanatbagend in mental health, reflections

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Appearances   1 comment

Appearances can be deceiving.  Trite but true.

Over the last hundred years or so, image has become more important, more forceful in our culture.   Recently, of course, one of the main avenues for that is social media.

I’m thinking about this because I just updated my profile photo on Facebook.  We went to a friend’s wedding Saturday night and it was a cocktail dress occasion.  So I looked pretty good.  I wanted a photo of that because I almost never dress up like that.  I don’t usually wear makeup either.  So of course not only the occasion but how good I looked had to be commemorated by taking pictures.  Then once I had the great shot of me I had to use it on Facebook.

Well, I didn’t have to, but if you were 52, and you had a photo like that, and at that distance the wrinkles around your mouth were not visible, I’d lay money you’d have used the photo yourself.

So here’s the thing.  You get these compliments, and it’s nice to know that you look good.  But what’s inside?

At the same time that I managed to look pretty darn good, I’m still rolling through anxiety and depression, as I have been for the past 10 months.  It’s much better, yes.  But it’s still here and I’m still struggling.  But you can’t see that in the photo.

So how many of the other people out there that I think look great, either on their social media accounts, or that I see in person, and sigh because I can never, ever be as “together” as they are, are also struggling, suffering or silent?  Of course I’m never silent, but we’re not talking about me now.  Those other people you see every day.  Odds are I bet, they are fighting something.

…those “together” people.

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.

 

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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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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At the End of Your Rope   Leave a comment

You know what they say. “When you’re at the end of your rope–tie a knot and hang on.”

When I was a teenager posters were definitely in and I still have a mental image of a stock photo of an extremely cute kitten hanging on to the end of a rope.  Maybe I even had this poster in my room.

I hope not because that image really bothers me.  I know something about sliding off the end of the rope, and if you’re like me, at that moment you either don’t have the strength to tie the knot as you’re sliding downward, or knot tying is the farthest thing from your mind.

Good news: if you can’t tie knots, all is not lost.

You can even fall from the rope, and you will be caught.

Posted March 27, 2019 by swanatbagend in mental health, reflections