Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A day in the life...

There are days in the life of a mom when everything feels like too much.

There are days when there is not enough milk in the fridge, money in the account, or coffee in the world.

There are days when kids are sick, and it's rainy and cold, and nobody likes what's for dinner, and everyone cries at one point or another.

There are days when school work is too hard, and the laundry is too far gone, and one kid is too loud, and another kid is too sensitive, and I am too tired to think about any of it.

There are those days.

But then sometimes, out of the clear blue, for no apparent reason, there are days like today. Days when breakfast is good and filling, and the kids eat it all. Days when somehow, by some miracle, I am able to carve out 45 minutes all to myself, in a hot bath, with a good book. Days when it's easy to ditch the "classroom" and head to the zoo.

Days with cool breezes and colorful leaves and bouncing pigtails and peanut butter smiles.

Days when the zookeepers light up at the sight of three little brown-eyed girls and take the time to tell us about their own little brown-eyed bears.

Days that include skipping, and strolling, and singing Christmas carols at the top of our lungs because no one is around except the flamingos.

Days full of exploring new places and taking our time and choosing - just for a moment - not to hurry to the next thing.

Days when we are sure we saw the real Santa and Mrs. Claus delivering a couple reindeer who are on loan from the North Pole.

Days when miracles happen, even if they are fleeting.

Days when the empty milk jug and the empty bank account and the empty coffee pot don't matter.

These days. They remind me why I'm doing this insanely hard parenting thing.

These days give me hope for tomorrow.

And I am grateful.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Do the Opposite

It's 8:42 this Sunday morning, and I'm at home with a sick baby. Low-grade fever, cough, runny nose... you know the bit.

Our church's live service doesn't start until 10am, and I am determined not to do housework since today is my Sabbath.

So I guess what's left is this. Blogging.

Can I just confess something? Writing about depression is HARD.  It's raw and vulnerable and putting-yourself-out-there-without-a-safety-net HARD.

I write. And I erase. And I write again. And then it sits in my "saved" file for a week while I try to decide if I'm going to hit "Publish." Then when I do finally hit it, I hover over the Stats page while I simultaneously Facebook my close friends with statements like, "Have I lost my mind?" or "Should I take it down?"

I have amazing friends who encourage me to write write write. Still... it's HARD.

So you'll forgive me if I take a few days (weeks, months, whatever) in between the posts?

Having said that... I do have another Tool in my Toolbox that I would like to share. This one isn't flashy or high-tech. It isn't fun, and it isn't magic. It's simple. And it's HARD.

But we can do hard things, you and I.


I walked into my first counseling appointment that fateful Wednesday afternoon at 4pm. And I talked and cried and poured out all the tears and emotions that I had bottled up over the previous weeks. 

I told him how I felt worthless. Life felt too hard. I told him how just getting off the couch hurt my whole body. I sobbed my way through explaining how taking a shower wore me out, and my arms felt like a million pounds as I tried to lift them to wash my hair. I felt like a horrible wife. I felt incapable of making decisions. I felt my life would be better spent on the couch than trying and failing over and over again. I felt like my children would be better off without me...

For fifty five minutes, I hemorrhaged feelings and tears and pain and exhaustion and all of the gross icky black that I had never allowed anyone else to see.  And when I was completely empty and breathless, my counselor spent the last five minutes of our session speaking a few words that I hung onto for life.

He told me I was not beyond hope, and that - despite my being convinced of it - I should not be committed. He recommended a book, which I will now recommend to you:

Feeling Good, by David D. Burns, M.D.

Then he told me something that has become my mantra when the depression demons sneak back around. He said: The thing about depression is that you can't trust your feelings. Your feelings are broken. Your feelings aren't proportionate to what's really happening. Your feelings lie. 

And if your feelings lie, then you have to do the opposite of what you feel.

Do the opposite.

It was simple. It was hard. But it was a lifeline.

For the following week, I felt like getting out of bed would kill me. But I got out of bed anyway. Putting on real clothes felt like picking up 100lb weights. But I got dressed anyway. Every muscle in my body ached for the couch, and I felt like staying upright would cause me to melt into the floor. But I sat up anyway.

It. Was. Hard.

It didn't make sense.

Every nerve ending in my body was FEELING and screaming for me to lie down and be still and just. give. up.

But I didn't. And through it all, I heard his voice (and what I now realize was the voice of my Father) saying, "Your feelings lie. Do the opposite."

So here's what I'm saying to you on this rainy Sunday morning. Do the opposite.

You may not be able to stop the fear, the anxiety, the pain, the hopelessness, the darkness, the emptiness.

But you can get up. You can pick up the phone and tell somebody. You can get dressed. You can survive this. You can.

You can do it when it doesn't make sense. You can do it when everything in your body says you can't.

You can do it afraid.

And eventually, over time, your feelings will slowly catch up with your actions. They will.

And even if you can't believe that last line, get up anyway. Because you can.

You can. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

I told somebody

This was the first, and perhaps the most important step in my healing process.

During that season, my husband and I were doing an internship at our church. It was an amazing year of leadership development, hard work, and growth.

In the midst of this internship, just as my depression was hitting critical mass, one of our pastors taught a lesson on eating spiritual meat. The idea was that, as seasoned Christians and leaders-in-training, we should not solely rely on the Sunday morning message for our spiritual food. We should learn how to feed ourselves through daily quiet times in the Word and not hold anyone else responsible for our own spiritual growth.

It was good. It was truth. It taught me things that I am still using to this day.

But in my twisted, depression-skewed mind, I heard this: You shouldn't need spiritual help from anybody at any time for any reason. And if you ask for help - especially at the church and especially if you are a leader here - then you are a spiritual baby, and you are disqualified.

That is not what they were teaching. But that is what I heard. And it confirmed in my heart what I already knew - no one can ever know about my depression. Not my family. Not my husband. And especially not my friends at church.

If you skim past everything else I'm writing STOP HERE.  READ THIS. Read it again. Let it sink in.

Depression's greatest weapon - our enemy's greatest weapon - is shame.

Because shame tells us to hide. 

Shame tells us no one can ever know. 

Shame makes us run from relationships, and from God. 

Shame tells us we're all alone.

I was so ashamed. And I couldn't bear the thought of anyone ever knowing about my failures. I was terrified of the judgment, the stigma, the label that would be slapped across my forehead for the rest of my life.

And so I was alone.

For weeks - FOR WEEKS - no one knew. I was spiraling into the pit, and not one person knew.

Finally, on that one morning, when I hit rock bottom, I made the decision to tell three people. Only three people.

I needed someone to take care of my house and family while I took care of me. So I called my mom. Forever my hero, she drove the eight hours of highway between us, then cooked and cleaned and loved on my family and loved on me and basically rescued us.

Next, because my husband would be at work until late that night, I sent him a simple text: I am really depressed. I'm going to counseling as soon as someone will see me. Mom is coming to help.

Finally, I called every counselor in the book.

In the midst of looking for a counselor, I called our church and asked if they recommended anyone. Through a series of my own miscommunications, I filled out the wrong paperwork. I thought I was requesting a private meeting with  a counselor. But I filled out a pastoral request - asking for a pastor to contact me regarding my depression.

When I discovered the mistake, I was mortified. I had missed my internship class for the past two weeks because of my "back pain," and now they would know the real reason why. Would they ask me to "take a break" from the internship? Would they question my spirituality? Clearly, I was lacking faith and a strong Christian walk. And surely, that would disqualify me from any leadership position at the church.

I remember walking through the doors of the church, begging the Lord to spare me a run-in with the pastor who had received my request. But lo, and behold, there he was, walking straight toward me.

I bit my lip in an attempt to hold down the vomit - literally. He walked up to me, put his arm around my shoulders, and said something like, "I got your request, and I want you to know we're here for you." Only it didn't sound like a canned response. It was genuine, and concerned. He went on to say that he had passed my information on to a pastor-friend of mine, and she would be contacting me. I pushed back tears and mumbled something like, "Okay, that's fine. I'm fine. Yep. Fine." And then promptly went to the bathroom and threw up. (It's ugly, but it's real y'all.)

But in that moment, something broke off me. Because there was nothing except love and compassion and concern coming from my pastor. There was no judgment. No lecture. No shame.

No. Shame.

And in that one connection, I gained a little boldness. A little fight. A little courage.

Because that's the thing about shadows and darkness - the only remedy is light.

Over the following weeks, I told a handful of close friends about my struggle, and I was shocked to discover how many of them had their own struggles with depression and PPD.

The enemy would have me believe that I was all alone in my depression, that I was isolated in the darkness.

But the more people I told, the more lights came on, and the more I realized that I was surrounded by "so great a cloud of witnesses." People who had gone before me and battled the depression demons, people who had never faced depression but who would stand in the pit with me and give me a leg-up, people who loved me, who supported me, and who knew - even when I didn't know - that this would not be the way my story ends.

And that was my first step out of  the pit. The moment I realized that I am not alone.

So tell someone today. Tell your best friend. Tell your spouse. Tell a counselor. Turn on the lights. And discover you're not alone. You. Are not alone.


"But you know happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light." - Professor Albus Dumbledore ;)

The Quote That Started It All...

I myself have twelve hats, each one representing a different personality. Why be just yourself? - Margaret Atwood