Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sharing about Depression

This article explains what it is like to have depression.  I was depressed as a young adult, and it was just the way the author describes.  I lived in a beautiful city. It was frustrating to walk down the street, to see the architecture, the flowers, the people, to know it was beautiful, and not be capable of enjoying it.  I stayed in my room a lot. I felt ashamed for not being thankful.

I could describe the hikes I took, the sketches I made, the books I read, the music I sang, trying to pull myself out of that hole. I was in college. I changed majors, I moved colleges, I quit school.

I nannied for the sweetest little girls and the kindest employers in the most beautiful city. My family loved me and was concerned for me. They tried to help.  Church folks were amazing and wonderful. They accepted and loved me and were always glad to see me.  But nobody understood.

One day as I drove back to the city from a visit to my family and church, I realized I was imagining what it would be like to run my Honda into the barricade on the freeway and just end it. Life stretched out before me, decades of emptiness that I must fill. It seemed like so much work.  Then I realized I was contemplating causing an accident on the freeway. I could hurt others as well as myself. That was my thinking self. My feeling self was saying, "It hurts, it hurts, it hurts. Oh, the pain. Make it stop." I got very scared.

I decided I wasn't safe to operate heavy machinery. I returned my car to my parents. I told them I didn't need a car in the city, cars were a major cause of pollution, and it was too hard to keep it parked when I wasn't using it. I didn't tell them I was suicidal, which I should have, but I didn't.  I didn't want to worry them.  Instead, I told them I needed therapy for the eating disorder which was also going on.  I had done some therapy sessions when first diagnosed the year before, but hadn't started anything new since moving.

My therapist's name was Priscilla. She was lovely and so patient. Her voice was soft. She asked good questions. She never rushed.  She had a beautiful office in the beautiful city, and as I went to her, I began to enjoy the beauty again.  Talk therapy was wonderful for me. 

Eventually, I married Bradley. I began to live again. I've had other depressive times, and it has gotten bad, but never to the extent of that year, thank the Lord.  

I'm writing this because it is part of my story. I've not talked much about it because it is hard for people to hear. But there it is. I believe firmly in talk therapy. Talking things out helped me a lot. Some people need medication for depression, and if that helps, I say do it.  Also, if you have never been depressed or anxious, please be patient with depressed people. I know it's hard to understand, and it feels so helpless to watch and not know how to help.  But please. Be patient. Do research. Learn. See if you can maybe understand a little. Lay off the morality side of things a bit and simply listen.

If you are depressed, reach out. Keep reaching out until someone listens.  Message me if you want. (bwktbarr@gmail.com) And remember, you are here. We want you. Stay.  Live your wild and precious life. Redemption comes in strange places, small spaces... Stay.




Thursday, August 13, 2015

Shiny People, and Checklists, and Pushing Buttons

Lord Jesus, so often I am the elder son who is upset that the prodigal receives a blessing.  I've flipped it upside down, in that I now give more grace to people who tend to screw up. But I give almost no grace to the pharisaical folks, the good people who do things right and are harsh on people who do things wrong.*

And I do think the good people often get it wrong, insisting others to conform to some checklist of works before they will accept them. It isn't about a checklist of any kind. Throw away the lists!  It's not about a list, it's about love.  Serving You is an act of love, not some contest of oneupmanship with a prize of approval at the end. God approves all of his children because of Christ! Not because of anything we have or haven't done.  This cannot be emphasized enough.

But Lord, back to me and my sin. I am not a generous person, Lord. I'm still playing that game of oneupmanship in my head, only now I resent the shiny people with the checklists, and guess what? Here I am again, back to the resentful elder brother position. I am the thing I hate.

I will know I have changed enough when I cease to resent anyone, cease to be angry at anyone.  This undragoning process won't be complete until I am with You, glorified in Heaven!

But down here I can keep coming back to focus on you. I may hate others' behavior or attitude, but it's up to you to judge and decide whether consequences or mercy is the order of the day.  I'm not in charge of punishing anyone, not even with my attitude. I'm in charge of loving people, staying open and soft. Not soft on sin. Soft on sinners.  I want to help others be more like you, Lord. But gosh, I have a lot of work to do in that area myself!

When people cease to push my buttons, I will know I've changed. Until then, I've got plenty of work to do as I devote myself to you.  Lord, please help. Amen.

*I threw around a lot of right-and-wrong type words in this prayer because that is how I think.  But please understand, when I say those words, I am saying them from a human perspective. Also, this applies to any ideology, religious or otherwise. A person's checklist for rightness may include things like saving dating for adulthood, or voting Democrat/Republican,  or staying off cell phones, or even wearing pink on Wednesdays. Each of us has a very human list of standards, and we tend to judge others by these. But in God's eyes, without the blood of Christ, none of us are right; with the blood of Christ, all of us are.  For more on what I believe about God and salvation, see the right sidebar.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Itches

I came back from camp with mosquito bites, and boy did they itch. Some itched quietly: “Hello, just wanted you to know I'm still here.”

Others insisted on my notice, “Hey you! I'm HERE!” Those I scratched, which was supremely satisfying in the moment. Afterward, however, the bite was bigger, and the itch more insistent.

I've found the best strategy for mosquito bites is to focus to something else whenever they intrude upon my attention. Lotions and gels soothe a little, but even a small touch increases the itch for a time. Giving in is the worst solution. Giving in does not appease them. Giving in makes them bigger and noisier, and increases the possibility of infection. I hear some of my friends say, "Hey, there's an oil for that!" Haha, yes. Yay oils :)

Itches aren't only physical. A lot of time the itches I scratch are emotional, personal, sore and aching wounds of the heart.

I heard a minister say this weekend that the average person has around 55,000 thoughts per day, 80% of which are negative. I can attest as an intuitive introvert, that I have at least 55,000 thoughts per day, and probably more. If I have my stern face on, I'm probably thinking. Sometimes I wish I could shut my brain off.

Each of us has a mind, and, if we pause and consider a little while, can probably name several thoughts that flit through our heads every day. I struggled with anorexia as a young adult, trying to develop the perfect control I thought all adults had.  That's a story for another day, but one of the things my therapist did that helped so much was to have me write down thoughts. Until then, I had no idea the sheer number of negative voices in my head. (At that time, the thoughts were generally some variation of, "Not good enough, not good enough, not good enough.")

Thoughts lead to action.  As a young adult, my thoughts led me to starve myself and exercise compulsively.  But it's the thoughts we entertain, whether consciously or unconsciously, that lead to actions.  A friend insisted I get help, and I learned to recognize and then divert my thoughts to better channels. I eventually stopped the mad cycle of exercise, and began eating enough food to support my body.

Learning to divert your thoughts is huge. I recommend everyone who is a person (and that is all of us) learn to do this. Also, it will take honing as you get older because life gets more and more complicated. Trust me. It is an ongoing process your whole life.  One of the best strategies for diverting thoughts is found in Charlotte Mason philosophy.  Sonya Shafer has written a good article on the subject, found here.

We all have itches-- physical, mental, emotional. We examine them to see if anything can be done. We ask mom or the doctor or our friends or Google for advice.  But nope. They are just annoying itches that need to go away. We must let time and healing do their work. Scratching satisfies us for the moment, but as soon as we leave off, the itch returns more raw, prominent and insistent than before.

Also, guess what? There's an oil for that. No, really.  It's the oil of God's grace, which the Lord pours on our souls, even when we don't perceive Him there. Cling to that thought. It's happening.

And whatever-it-is will eventually subside, or at least get quieter, if left alone.  Easy to say, hard to do.

Caveat: If you discover you have a deep wound and not a mosquito bite, don't try to distract yourself from that!  Deep wounds require close attention.