Count it All Joy

- Beautiful Day at the Cemetery -

– Beautiful Day at the Cemetery –

So I’m writing this blog post on my phone. I’m trying out the speech recognition app so I don’t have to type with one finger. So far it hasn’t missed a word.

I was looking back over my blog posts this week, and at the end of one of them, WordPress suggested a similar blog post from another time. It was from seven years ago when my youngest son was six years old. It’s funny reading things I wrote a long time ago that encourage me today: Kindness & Encouragement

Along similar lines…

A couple of days ago I woke up discouraged. I would even say that I woke up depressed. When I was younger, a teenager or young adult, I used to get depressed often. On those days very little gave me any joy. Thinking back, it seems like many of those days where overcast, rainy days. Now that I know more about depression, I’m wondering if that isn’t a coincidence. It’s all connected, the spiritual, the emotional and the physical. Last night my sinuses started to hurt and my nose started running and this morning the weather says scattered thunderstorms. I can tell even before I’ve gotten out of bed or the sun’s been up long or I’ve even looked out the window, when it’s going to be a rainy day. My husband has said for many years that he would like to retire and move to Seattle. Would I die of a broken heart if we moved to Seattle? 😉

So, depression… What happens on those days? Well I wake up sad. It is a blank sadness. And it’s dark, maybe even black. There is just nothing in it. So, I would say I feel lonely as well as depressed. I could be surrounded by people and I feel lonely. It’s because I’m lonely and emotionally detached, like being in a little boat on a rainy day on the lake. On those days I’m just far enough from shore that I can’t talk loud enough for anyone to understand me. They hear me and I can hear them talking and laughing but I’m far away. The blank empty weight of depression continues to press down on my emotions. What do I do then? Well, like a lot of people with depression, I contemplate quitting. I think about quitting my job, quitting school. Quitting. It’s funny when I have to keep saying the word “quitting” so that my phone can understand what I’m saying. The phone thinks I am saying the word “winning”. I am starting to hear the word “pudding.” Now I want some pudding. OK. That’s a sure sign that I’m not depressed today even though it’s raining. Getting distracted by thoughts of vanilla pudding doesn’t happen on depressed days. But what does happen on those days? I’m probably running short of serotonin or some other chemical in my brain that the happy neurotransmitters need to function properly. I’ve always known that on depressed days it’s important to take care of the basics, but it’s so hard to get motivated to do it. I have to talk myself through it. My rational thoughts, whatever I have left of them, tell my depressed brain what to do. I negotiate, like talking to the kids when they need to do things they don’t want to do. “You need to get up and get dressed and eat breakfast”. -i just want to lay in bed today and maybe every day- “OK, you can lay in bed for a little while longer. But then you’re going to get up and get dressed.”

I have a book somewhere. I can’t find it right now, but it is one of my favorites and I believe I may have mentioned it in another recent blog post on depression. The book is entitled Change Your Life and Everyone in it. I think that’s a funny title. Anyway, it’s written by psychologist, Michelle Weiner Davis. She specializes in marriage and family counseling. She tells a story in her book about counseling a woman who struggled with depression. As an exercise to tackle her problem, the psychologist told the patient to explain what a depressed day looks like and what a non-depressed day looks like. Then the psychologist challenged the patient. The next time she woke up feeling depressed, she was to live out the activities of a non-depressed day, contrary to her desire to submit to the depressed day from the start. I use this technique. Could pushing back against the blank blackness restore the chemicals the brain needs to live a non-depressed day?

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” -James 1:2-4 ESV

So, from the emotional, to the physical, and now into the spiritual – If we consider depression to be a trial and temptation, we know our faith is being tested. This testing trains us in steadfastness. What is that? To be steadfast is to be steady, unmovable and firmly loyal. What is my strategy then, when faced with depression? I remind myself that I am in training. I push back physically, emotionally and spiritually. I get up at dark o’clock, drink the protein smoothie of steadfastness and train.

 “…Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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